Point Made, Now What?

Everyone seems to have an opinion. Interestingly, many opinions are being accepted as fact. I have a few opinions I’d like to share.

For example, the media and many voices on social media seem to be telling me the only way to prove I love my country is by pledging my allegiance (repeating a prescribed set of words). This presents an interesting dilemma for a non-credal person. And how quickly do the words lose their meaning when they are said in a fashion of mindless repetition. Do the words still apply? Do they apply to everyone?

And, if I love my country, I will demonstrate certain behavior when a specific song is played. A song few know the words to, or that there are verses we don’t sing. A song that has a melody that is difficult at best to sing. A song that has been a source of controversy since it was written and instituted as the “national” anthem.

Troubling.

It seems to me that my country would be better served by living consistently the precepts that make this country special—a good place to live.

To begin with, I would vote. Recently in my community of 21,249 (according to SIRI) a vote was taken on an issue and only 2,300 people showed up at the polls. If we love our country, wouldn’t we take an active role in the establishment of its governance.

If I love my country, I would be more involved in the process of making this a fit place for all to live, instead of letting those with the money making the decisions. Systems at every level are broken and rather than merely complaining shouldn’t we be working to fix things? This is true at all levels from local to national.

Why do we pass things off, hoping someone else will step up? There is no good reason. I believe this is why we are offered so few choices at election time—resulting in the need to vote for the lesser of evils rather than the persons who will truly represent our best interests. And, why the same people are entrenched in leadership. But this is a matter we can discuss later.

Arguing and resorting to emotionally charged words solves nothing.

I fully believe the principle, “All behavior serves a purpose.” Our country values the right of its citizens to disagree—even protest. Instead of insisting that people stop protesting, wouldn’t it behoove us to address the problem or issue rather than to focus on the method of getting attention, or denying that there is a problem at all?

I believe it was Mr. Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, who suggested that one of the things yesterday’s protest demonstrated was that when people work and stand together they can accomplish much (my paraphrase). But it was equally moving and impactful to witness the dedication of one man, Alejandro Villanueva (the military veteran and Pittsburgh Steeler who chose to come out and stand at attention during the anthem). Neither those who knelt or locked arms, nor those who saluted were wrong. They were each making a point.

So the points have been made. If we merely continue to protest without dialogue and moving toward change, we appear as petulant children. We deserve better—our children and future generations deserve better.

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Heavy Hearted

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Apolitical. That’s how I would describe myself.

Early in my ministry, I was told that this was the route I was to take, and the lot I was to accept. Over the years, I have often wondered how so many of my colleagues missed that memo.

During political campaigns I have dodged nearly all the polarizing conversations. I have avoided endorsing candidates or issues. Rarely, if ever, have I even had private conversations on such matters. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to express myself. To the contrary, I have had to bite my tongue or leave the room on numerous occasions.

Perhaps that’s why I find writing this right now so difficult. Maybe it’s also why I have been recently struggling to write at all. I’m a jumbled up mess of feelings and opinions with no outlet. I have had no voice, and now I’m afraid to speak.

Yet, here I am.

And you might find it humorous where and why I found my motivation to break my silence.

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Star Trek, Next Generation.

My husband is a Trekkie from way back. Yesterday, on his day off, there was episode after episode on our TV. And episode after episode explored topics of importance and interest in ways that laid out the issues and left the observer to come to their own decision and awareness. My suggestive mind then dreamt the entire night in Star Trek fashion.

As a result I woke up this morning in a exceptionally malleable state. Not always a good thing for someone as naive and impressionable as myself. And probably not the best time to go scrolling through Facebook.

But I did.

And what I read nearly broke my heart.

First, there’s this whole health care mess. I read a lengthy post by my friend Jules in KC. She has an amazing way of piercing my heart with her words and her photographs. Her honest response reminded me of an exchange I had at our local hospital as I paid a bill that I could not afford. I looked at the clerk, who was only doing her job–and in a completely professional manner (this wasn’t about her at all)–and said, “It might be cheaper to just die.”

I couldn’t believe I used my ‘out-loud’ voice in such an inappropriate manner. My mother would have been appalled.

But it’s how I felt…and that feeling came back in a overwhelming rush as I read my friend’s response to a proposed bill that’s being rushed through congress.

You see, I’m one of those people whose life defines pre-existing conditions.

Then, in the comments of her post someone made a statement about the way we shuffle people off to nursing homes and rely on expensive medical procedures others ultimately pay for (like knee replacements) instead of just sucking it up and plodding on. I’m not sure what planet this guy lives on, but my mother’s husband has severe Alzheimer’s disease, is military veteran, and they can’t get any assistance, nor can they afford to put him someplace where professionals can keep him safe and deal with his erratic mood swings. And my husband has lived with chronic moderate to severe back pain (think bulging and herniated discs, spurs up and down his spine) since the 80’s because we have never had insurance coverage that would have allowed us to address any of it.

And I know our situation is a drop in the bucket compared to others. We are aware of loving couples who have had to “divorce” or been forced to live together unmarried (both which go against their personal convictions) to be able to just cover medicinal needs.

Our system is broken and it doesn’t seem anyone knows how to fix it.

So today my heart is aching and breaking…unfortunately, it is a pre-existing condition.

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Pursue Peace

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(This was written right after the tragic events in August in Charlottesville. I thought I posted it–perhaps it needed to percolate a little longer and be posted on International Peace Day. Perhaps.)

I will confess, I wrestled with God yesterday morning as I woke early and headed to my computer to make the revisions I received as He roused me from my comfortable slumber.

Before I climbed into bed I had been watching and reading all the news coming out of Charlottesville. My heart and mind were troubled…confused. I don’t understand hate–especially not the kind I was seeing and reading about.

I made it through the service…prayerfully and not without tears. Heavy-hearted, but less afraid. God is still in control–even if I don’t know how that will play out–and I choose to trust.

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Earlier in the week, when the focus was on the crisis with Korea, a phrase from an old hymn came to mind: “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

The song came back to me this morning. I know it’s a “Christmas” song, but the words (feelings) are powerful and poignant.

 

Bottom line: God is not dead nor does he sleep. The awareness and presence of God is what is truly supreme.

I’m holding onto that and looking for places where I can plant seeds of peace, of healing. I want my life to be one of those ringing bells the song speaks of–waking and alerting others to the God of peace.

Lenten Thoughts: Bubblin’

(This post originally appeared as a note on Facebook seven years ago. While I wrote it on a Monday, the truth applies to every day.)

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It’s Monday morning. And if that’s not enough, it’s the Monday morning after spring time change. So this morning, I’m not feeling very bubbly. I have been accused of having an effervescent personality, which sometimes (like on Monday mornings) is described as annoying.

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Enthusiasm and eagerness should be words that describe us all as believers. According to Paul, “He (Jesus) gave himself for us to set us free from every wrong and to cleanse us so that we could be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good deeds (Titus 2:14, ISV).

There are certain words I have discovered over the years which have impacted my faith and practice as a Christian. The Greek word for enthusiastic or zealous is one of them. It’s a word that conjures up the image of frothing over. One of the first pictures that comes to mind is the classic volcano science experiment many had to do as kids. Adding the right ingredient, at the right time, in the right quantity resulted in an erupting volcano.

The ingredient making all the difference for us as believers is Jesus. He embodies everything we need. When we take him in, we experience a cleansing, a bubbling up that results in a bubbling over of eagerness and enthusiasm to serve him.

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Now when I think about being enthusiastic and eager I don’t think about waiting to be asked. Enthusiastic believers look for, and anticipate ways to serve–to do good things for the Kingdom. A few weeks ago one of the staff members at church was inviting people to fill out a survey to identify ways they were interested in serving through the Church. She kept describing it as a pool of volunteers. In my mind, I had this image of the community pool in summer. Remember how we had to get out every now and then and rest? We would be watching the clock and counting down, eagerly anticipating getting back in the pool. That eagerness should be what we feel as we think about serving: it’s so hard to wait!

It’s still Monday, and I’m still a bit tired, but I’m also excited! This new day holds all kinds of possibilities for service, some I’m aware of and planning for already. But there will be others that just present themselves to me. Tired or not, here comes the bubbling!

Do you remember the old Sunday School/Camp song: Jesus love is a bubblin’ over….babababubblin’…babababubblin’…..

Do No Harm

First, do no harm.

Quick! Where’s that from?

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Hippocratic Oath? That’s what I thought.

Nope. After doing a little online reading, I found it’s not in the original Greek version. There’s a phrase in the Latin that might come close. It is believed the phrase came into acceptance somewhere in the 17th century.

Why does this matter? What drove me to even look?

I’m glad you asked.

Yesterday, on my drive to visit some folks who are completing a drug rehab program, I had a heart to heart with God.

At first I was trying to anticipate conversations and how I would respond. Okay, I confess I think these kinds of thing through for all kinds of encounters. I’m an old Girl Scout: I tried to always be prepared.

But the rehearsals in my mind were going nowhere.

So I stopped—talking not driving.

And I confessed how foolish I felt and I asked God what I needed to do.

Yes, I’m a trained pastor (two different Masters degrees for that) and a trained counselor (Masters degree and all kinds of continuing education), but we’re facing a giant of an enemy in this heroin epidemic.

This must be how David felt when he faced Goliath. (Okay, go ahead think current Pepsi commercials. See video below if you’re unfamiliar.)

God, I don’t know what to say. I want to offer your kind of lasting, life-changing, life-giving help. How do I do that?

 I know, not a very eloquent prayer—didn’t even say Amen at the end.

But God heard. And God spoke: Do No Harm.

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This is a huge request for an ESFP with ADD. I am not like my introverted friends who think and then overthink and maybe think some more before they open their mouths to speak. I think out loud. Words tumble out of my mouth faster than I can check them.

How do I do that?

Here’s what I did:

I listened. A challenging thing for an ESFP with ADD.

Listening requires intentional focus. Trust me: this requires more energy than a 30 minute workout at CURVES.

But I did it.

And I shared what I knew to be true.

This included some of my own struggle, but also a couple of my foundation scripture promises and fundamental counseling truths.

I’m not sure if we slayed the giant…but we did some serious damage. I left those appointments whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Jesus.

These were divine appointments and I was just along for the ride.

Check back for the next post where I’ll share one of those fundamental counseling truths.  (How’s that for a teaser?!)

 

**ESFP is a Myers-Brigs Trait Inventory designation (MBTI). When I take the inventory I identify as an Extrovert who takes in my surroundings through my Senses, makes judgments through my Feelings, and organizes Perceptively (which is kind of like no organization at all—think scattered).

If you want to check out the test just google it. You can take it online and receive your information.

**ADD is a psychiatric identification, Attention Deficit Disorder. My brain typically runs in scatter mode. I act before thinking. I get overwhelmed by too many instructions. I am highly distracted…squirrel!

 

 

Samuel and a Teachable Moment

I have spent so many hours watching the Olympics this past week. I have let my reading and writing slip to the periphery.

Then I read my friend, Evelyn Mann’s article about an incident that happened with her son. Read it here: Miracle Man

If you have children, work with children, or live near children take time to consider Evelyn’s suggestions for ways to bridge the wonderment and answer the questions.

Samuel is an amazing child. Catch his joy!

 

Ordinary Moments with God: Laughing at the Unexpected

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I get the munchies sitting at my desk. I’ve been trying to eat better. I was debating between baby carrots and banana chips this morning. Banana chips won.

I reached into the cupboard looking for the opening bag, but I couldn’t find it. So I threw this bag in my lunch bag and headed out the door.

Later when the munchies hit, I pulled out the bag. I kept trying to rip off the top. Isn’t that the way most of these bags open?

Where was the tab? I didn’t want to ruin the zip closure. I like zip closures.

Why wouldn’t it it open?

I was about to grab my scissors when I realized: I already opened the bag. The pull tab couldn’t be found because it wasn’t there.

I opened the bag and poured out some chips to snack on–all the while laughing at myself.

The bag didn’t open the way I expected. I’m used to tearing off the top–so something must be wrong with the bag.

The answer was staring me in the face, but I couldn’t see it.

How many times do I respond the same with God?

Truth be told? Way more than I care to admit.

The verse that came to mind as I contemplated not trusting in my expectations was Proverbs 3:5-6

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If I want to get things right, surrendering my way of thinking, expecting, and understanding is the way to go. His path not mine.

PRAYER: God, I get so used things being certain ways. I’m comfortable with the familiar. Turning loose of what I know and understand is not easy, but it makes the most sense in the long run. Direct my paths and help me to be more “open” to the unexpected. Amen.