Friday, November 30, 2012

Rahab: Beauty for Ashes

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.  (Heb 11:31)

I've always felt kind of sorry for Rahab because she is forever saddled with the moniker, "the prostitute".  Talk about not being able to live down your past.  But she's actually a pretty inspiring person.

If you're not familiar with her story, you can find it in Joshua 2.  The Israelites sent spies into Jericho to check things out before attacking, and Rahab hid them and snuck them out of the city.  Her reason?

She tells the spies that everyone is in great fear of the Israelites because they've heard of the miracles God did for them to bring them out of Egypt and into Palestine.  And she, Rahab, is convinced that "the Lord has given you this land . . . for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below."  Interesting that everyone in Jericho was afraid of this God, but only she switched sides.  Only she had enough of an inkling of who the Lord their God really was to be willing to submit to that God's will.  Nothing but an inkling, perhaps, but it was enough, and she acted on it.

I was really struck by the fact that she referred to him as "the Lord your God."  He's your God.  He's clearly greater than my God, but he's not my God.  However, her name appears in the geneology of Christ as the mother of Boaz, so apparently she made her home with the Israelites after this and, presumably, did the Ruth thing: "Your people will be my people; your God my God."  Interesting enough, three of the four women mentioned in the Matthew 1 geneology (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) were known for their immorality -- specifically their sexual immorality.

Personally, I find it encouraging that God can take someone from a place of ugly sin and use them for his kingdom.  We don't even have any certain record in the Bible that these women really turned their lives around or anything, although I think most theologians presume that they did.  But maybe they didn't.  God still used them -- how much more can he use a broken me when I do allow him to turn my life around?  But in any case, God intentionally wanted the names of these overtly sinful women included in the human geneology of his Son.  He wanted us to see how he can create beauty from ashes.

That phrase is Biblical, too -- from Isaiah 61, the passage that Jesus read in the temple to announce his purpose for coming to earth:  to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Folks, we can never dig ourselves into a pit too deep for God to pull us out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


“While living in South Florida, I considered hurricanes to be mistakes of nature. However, I soon discovered hurricanes are necessary to maintain a balance in the environment….”
 I copied and pasted this paragraph recently so I could ponder it some more.  I hated to remark on it while Sandy was so in the forefront of our minds. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy the source, so I can’t give credit for who is speaking here.  But I want to write about it anyway.  I find I need to regularly be reminded of the value of the hurricanes God allows to wreak havoc in my life.
“We all know the devastation these monstrous storms can cause, yet scientists tell us that hurricanes are also tremendously valuable because they reduce a large percentage of the oppressive heat that builds up at the equator. I haven’t looked up the etymology, but surely the word oppressive comes from the same root as pressure.  Heat – tension – friction – that results in pressure and oppression that builds and builds . . . yes, this feels very familiar.
“In fact, hurricanes are indirectly responsible for much of the rainfall in North and South America.”  Interesting how rain in moderate amounts, spread over a reasonable time span, is not only helpful but crucial.  We must have rain.  Living things can’t survive without it.  But it is more beneficial when it comes as a long-term drizzle than as a torrential downpour.  The drizzle can be emotionally draining, but the earth needs time to soak in the moisture a little at a time to make use of it.  I’m trying to learn to accept rain in my life in drizzle format so it can do its work.
On the other hand, there is a cleansing quality to the torrential downpour.  Every spring in New Jersey, there was a massive pollen dump one day that left an ugly dusting of yellow powdery gunk all over everything outdoors.  It really freaked me out the first time I saw it.  Within a couple years, I learned that the only way to completely get rid of it was a good hard rain.
 “Meteorologists no longer use cloud-seeding techniques to prevent hurricanes from being formed because they are convinced that hurricanes actually do more good than harm.”  Here’s where I suspect I run the danger of extending a metaphor too far.  Hurricanes, when they come, come only by God’s permission and with a purpose to accomplish.  But I won’t go so far as to encourage anyone not to try to prevent them from forming.  If one can find a less destructive way to release the oppressive heat, by all means, find it.  Accept the drizzle when you can, and avoid the storm.  The storm’s precipitation may help us grow, but the wind will always leave scars.
On the other hand, the wind can also make us strong . . . force us to grow deep, sustaining roots . . . shape us to fit our environment and thrive there . . . it makes us who we need to be.  God is perfectly capable of stopping the hurricane, but perhaps he sees the good that he can bring from it far better than we do.  No, I’m never going to stop trying to prevent hurricanes in my life.  But when they come – as they inevitably will – I will choose to get the benefit from them rather than lay down and allow them to break me.
And for the record – yes, friends, I’m well aware that this theme keeps cropping up in my posts.  J

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Teenage Boys

Having a lovely 16-year-old girl in my home has resulted in my being exposed to an interesting array of goofy teenage boys.  Okay, so the goofiness isn’t always a primary quality of their characters, but they definitely have their goofy ways.  I so often find myself wanting to sit these boys down and fill them in on things.  Particularly on the ways of women. 
Of course, I resist the temptation.  I don’t want to be THAT mom.  Both of my girls would probably be mortified.  But I have a blog and can write what I want here, so here goes my lecture:
Boys, you stress about the wrong things.  Looks just aren’t that big of a deal.  Yes, get a decent haircut, take care of your skin, pick your clothes with a bit of care, and bathe regularly.  But the girls who refuse to date anyone who is not drop-dead gorgeous are not the kind of girls you want a relationship with anyway -- they will constantly be looking around for a better-looking guy.
Being fit and active is attractive, but wash-board abs are pointless.  Scrap the stupid photos of yourself shirtless in front of the bathroom mirror.  Nobody cares – and again, the girls who do care are not girls you want.
Money – meh.  It comes and goes.  Same with all the material things – cars and such.  Athletic ability is admirable, but no more so than any other ability.  No, I'm not kidding about that.  I know it seems like the jocks get all the attention, but that's just because their ability is out there for display more.
You want to know the number one quality that makes a guy attractive to a girl?  Here it is – the magic formula:  CONFIDENCE.  Not arrogance – that’s something else entirely (don't miss that crucial point).  When a guy is confident . . . when he knows who he is, what he can do and can’t do, what he values, what he believes, where he intends to go in life . . . when he can stand up to criticism without wilting, when he can accept challenge as a welcome opportunity to grow . . . I'm telling you, this is almost irresistible.  I have seen some really homely-looking men fighting off beautiful woman after beautiful woman because of the air of confidence they have around them.  To a woman, they feel solid.  Reliable.  Strong.  Safe.  A rock.  Don’t under-estimate the strong female need for security.
Now, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that girls your age are mature enough to pick the average-looking confident boy over the arrogant, popular jock.  They are still in high school.  They are still immature.  But I will tell you that they will respect you more, and they will come to you when their arrogant jock boyfriends let them down -- which they always will.  AND, I can almost assure you: once you get to the later college years and beyond, you will have it all over the shallow pretty-boys. 
Confidence is key.  Start building that confidence now -- not by acting confident when you have no reason to be so (that's arrogance), but by doing the legitimate work to become a man whom a woman would want someday.  Get an education.  Figure out what you're good at and get better at it.  Find your weaknesses and work on them.  Have a vision for your future that is realistic and exciting.  Be passionate about something that matters.  Do hard things.  Find an identity that has nothing to do with who's crushing on you.  Know thyself, as Socrates says.  Get to know the God who made you so he can fill you in about what you were made for.
And be patient.  You'll thank me someday.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Stupid Human Tricks

I can't write about Thanksgiving today because my heart is genuinely too full of the things I'm thankful for to write about them.  I can't write about Black Friday, because it will make me angry enough to drive away the heart of Thanksgiving which I'm not ready to give up yet.  So, despite the fact that the holidays gave me an excuse to take a break from my Hebrews 11 faith portrait series, I'm back again learning from Moses:

By faith, he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (v.28)   Thematically, I couple this with verse 30 a little later: By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after the Israelites had marched around them for seven days.

These fall into the category of "Stupid Human Tricks God Asks Us to Do".  There are many times God asks us to do things that, in our human understanding, make just no sense.

A wife friend of mine realized that God wanted her to leave some major family decisions in her wishy-washy husband's hands, even though she was convinced he would crash and burn.  God consistently told a man I know to reveal something he'd hidden from his wife, even though he knew it would hurt her and ignorance had left her in apparent bliss.  Two more wife friends felt led by God to wear only skirts or dresses during certain situations with their husbands, as a physical reminder to themselves of the different roles between them.  Such stuff doesn't make sense. We have such arrogant dependence on our own perspective of a situation, refusing to rely on God's knowledge of the spiritual underpinnings we can't conceive of.

We don't have to look in the Bible for examples of God asking things of us that make no human sense -- life is full of examples.  The nice thing about the Bible's examples, though, is that most of the time, we are given the perspective to see the ultimate whys in the strange requests of God.  God brought down the walls of Jericho to convince the people of Israel from day one of their conquest of the Promised Land that He was the one doing the conquering -- their only role was to praise and obey, teaching them the nature of their covenant and relationship.  God gave the passover ceremony to Moses and the Istraelites to observe on a yearly basis to be an annual picture in their faces of what he'd later be doing with his Son, so they'd recognize him when he came.  (A Jewish believing friend in a Bible study pointed out once the significance of the specific hours mentioned during Jesus' crucifixion -- that the hour he died was exactly the hour that the Passover lamb which the priests sacrifice in the temple to atone for the sins of the whole nation was being killed).

At a BSU Bible study in college, the leader made a statement that at the time was revolutionary for me: "Sometimes God's will flies in the face of human common sense."  Which, if He is truly God, only stands to reason.  But as I said, it was revolutionary for me at the time to consider that I had been limiting God by forcing him to fit into my own puny human reasoning.  Yes, our brain power is from God, and we are insructed to "always be prepared to give a reason", but we need to also accept that truth can be beyond our reasoning and still be absolutely true.

So how do we know what's true?  The same way the Israelites knew what was true.  They obeyed.  They were sure of what they hoped for and hadn't seen -- they were sure that God was God -- and acted on that, marching around a walled cities for seven days.  In a sense, they didn't really know until the walls fall down without their touching them.  But in another sense, they knew from the first step they took to march.

Praying in this holiday season that all of us will have the faith to continue to march and blow our trumpets -- and to give only God the glory when the falls wall down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

That Sweet, Innocent, Little Baby . . .

I wrote something a while back where I asserted that we are all born selfish and sinful, and a friend on FB took offense at the remark.  I told her I'd try to write about that sometime and explain myself, and another FB friend gave me the opportunity yesterday.  She posted to my wall a 60 Minutes story called "Babies help unlock the origins of morality."  A perfect launching pad for this discussion.

The story describes research being done on children, particularly infants, to look for how a sense of morality develops -- or more accurately, what morality we have innately.  But I want to start by stating my natural suspicious of any and all scientific research I hear about anymore.  Objective science is like objective journalism -- an ideal we all hope for and desperately need, but virtually non-existent.  We do best to approach both entities with a reasonable level of suspicion, perhaps all the more when they seem to support views we want to believe.

Anyway, here are some of the conclusions this research comes to:

1) Babies, even from just a few months old, have a natural preference for moral behavior (that is, for puppets they observe who display moral behavior).

2) Babies, even from just a few months old, have a natural preference for people who are like them, even in the most superficial commonalities (actually, they are only able to study the most superficial of commonalities in baby preferences).

3) Children's preference for commonality over-rides their preference for morality; they prefer bad people who are like them to good people who are different from them.  (The story implies that this is a basis for racism -- I think that's an interesting hypothesis, but I also think it could have a lot to do with a child's limited abstract thinking ability.)

4) Children at a very young age will choose an unjust situation that favors themselves over a fair and just situation that is better for everyone involved; being one-up to another person is most important.  This tendency, however, decreases as we mature -- which they attribute to societal teaching (but, again, I suspect may also relate to maturing thought processes).

Overall, nothing here is surprising.  Interesting, yes, but not surprising.  The Bible teaches that we are created in the image of God, and therefore, a recognition of and desire for righteousness is in our nature.  In fact, the fact that we do have an innate sense of what is right and wrong despite how we may be taught or raised is the basis for our judgment in the eyes of God. The problem is that we consistently fail to do what we know is right.  As much as we admire morality and hold it up as an ideal, we still act in accordance with our selfish, immediate desires, even when our consciences condemn us.  Yes, we may get better with maturity (some of us . . . ), but not too much better -- frankly, what we really get better at is rationalizing our selfish behavior, making it look good to others and sound good to ourselves.  (And, by extension, rationalizing the selfish behavior of the fruit of our loins.)

Romans 3:10 says, "There is no one righteous, not even one."  Not even one.  "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51.5)  All appearances and wishful thinking aside, I still contend that we are born selfish little snits.  Adorable, but selfish.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Who's the Obedient One?

A Jewish friend at church in NJ once loaned me a book from her child's Hebrew school, just because I was curious to see it.  I remember a story they used to introduce the theme for one lesson.  Here's the gist of it:

A woman in a great moment of crisis and need wandered into a downtown business office at almost closing time when there were only one woman and one man left working.  With tears, she recounted the troubles she was experiencing and humbly asked if they would be willing to give her some money to help her pull through.  The businesswoman stopped her work and sat beside the distressed woman, holding her hand and listening attentively and compassionately to her story.  The man, however, glanced up from his work with a contemptuous grunt and gave her little heed.

As the two women were tearfully discussing the situation, the man packed his things and, on his way out the door, handed the needy woman a substantial check -- then left without a word.  The businesswoman sat with the woman longer, crying with her and encouraging her -- but soon sent her on her way without giving her any money.

Which person obeyed the law's command to help the poor and needy?  The man, said the book.  You are to give, period.  Your feelings about the matter are of no consequence.

On the one hand, I saw a valid point here.  All the compassion in the world didn't meet that woman's immediate financial needs.  And there are certainly a lot of us who shed literal or figurative tears over the needs of humanity without lifting a finger to alleviate them, even if just to mail a check. On the other hand, if this is an accurate interpretation of the Torah's teaching (and I really wonder if it is....), it is teaching that is altered in the New Testament:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)

Your feelings about the matter are important.  Not only does your compassion lift the heart of the one you help, but it shapes your own heart.  God is concerned not only with material poverty but with spiritual poverty -- in the giver and the receiver.  If necessary, He could zap down a pile of cash on the needy woman's kitchen counter to meet her needs.  He chooses instead to have those needs met through another person because THAT meets not only the material needs but also the spiritual needs -- of both people.

I become more convicted every day of the primacy of relationship . . .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seeing the Invisible

By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Heb 11:27)

Moses saw him who is invisible -- that is, God, of course.  How did he see him?  The burning bush, I assume.  He didn't see a physical being that was God (only first century folks living in Palestine had that privilege), but he saw a physical, material phenomenon that had no explanation and heard God speaking to him to authenticate the vision.

Kind of like how nobody can see the wind, but we do see the tree branches sway.

I wish God would make himself evident in this physical, material way more often.  It has happened to me on a couple of rare occasions.  Nothing as dramatic as a burning bush that is not consumed, certainly.  But a couple of honest-to-goodness material happenings here on earth that had no other explanation than that God reached down and acted in our measly human affairs.  Moments when I was sure of what I hoped for -- certain of what I could not see.

Here's the difference between me and Moses:  he saw him who is invisible, and it caused him to persevere.  I saw him who is invisible, walked in a spiritual high for a while, then gradually grew less and less certain of what I had experienced.  Moses is an example of faith.  I am an example of . . . something else.

I wish those experiences happened more often; but if they did, frankly, my spiritual walk wouldn't require much faith.  More physical manifestations of God would not strengthen me, I suspect.  They would make me reliant on the physical manifestations, not on faith.  (Remember: without faith, it is impossible to please God....)

Jesus came to earth and did miracles as initial evidence to those first century Christians of who he was -- but then he left, and they were expected to persevere.  Impossible in our human frailness . . . which is why he sent the Spirit.  Really, the church just doesn't teach enough about living in the Spirit . . .

In any case, I am thankful this morning (during this thankful month) that God, in his omniscience, knows when we need to see him who is invisible and meets us -- literally -- at our point of need.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:13)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who's Out There?

This is a very selfish post.  Here's the thing: when I look on my Blogger stats every day, to see who's reading my posts, I find pageviews from places that boggle my mind.  Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Australia, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago . . . I had 16 pageviews in one day from Latvia!  I'm not even sure where Latvia is!  My post a month ago about Abraham and Aslan has gotten 150 pageviews and gets more, literally, every day -- which I find amazing.

I post links to my new blog posts on Facebook, but other than that, I have no idea where my readers are coming from.  I have no acquaintances in Latvia.  And lately, I've been burning with curiosity to know. 

So . . . again, this is selfish.  But if you're one of those readers (even if you're here in the good 'ole U. S. of A.) who does not know me personally but is reading what I write, would you drop me a line and let me know how you happened upon this blog?  Like I said . . . I'm soooooo curious . . . :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Men

About fourteen or fifiteen years ago, details began to surface in the media indicating that Bill Clinton had had an affair with a young intern while in the White House.  Clinton denied every allegation, wagging his finger with angry self-righteousness at the press -- and by proxy, at the American people -- telling us all, "Now you listen to me: I did not have sexual relations with that woman . . . "  As information started coming out of the woodwork, he and his people (including his wife), blamed it all on a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to bring him down.  And the stories continued to swirl.

Only when the entire country seemed to be thoroughly convinced of his falsehoods did he make a public confession of sorts.  A calculated statement that vaguely confessed to doing something "wrong" and urged the country to let him deal with that on his own and move on.  He continued to insist that what he had done did not qualify as sexual relations, quabbled about the meaning of the word "is", and continually blamed his political opponents for choosing to make this an issue and not "moving on".  We moved on with impeachment proceedings which divided the country and allowed this man to appear a martyr to the liberal cause.  And ultimately, even though his womanizing ways have become a national joke, he is one of the best loved (??) and most listened to (!!) former presidents alive.

This is called self-marketing and chutzpah.

In the last few weeks, details have apparently been surfacing behind the scenes at the CIA indicating that Director David Petraeus had engaged in sexual misconduct.  Little is known as yet about the details of this thing, but before any of the rest of the world had heard boo about it, Petraeus was in the President's office offering his resignation.  He immediately made a public statement to the country confessing specifically to his lack of wisdom and an extramarital affair.  He humbly admitted to his wrongs and accepted the disgrace that would result.

This is called humility and integrity.

That is the way to do this, folks.

Just sayin'.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moses and the Hard Path

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.  (Heb 11:24-26)
So here is an example of an extreme kind of faith:  faith that leads you to choose suffering when you don’t have to.  To choose the hard path rather than the easy path.
Not to toot my own horn (because it really doesn’t deserve much tooting in this arena), but I have experienced an occasion of this.  The month before we started our first year of homeschooling, my eldest and I were at each other’s throats.  She was extremely trying and I was maddeningly impatient, and I was genuinely afraid I would kill her by February.  Every day, I pondered how easy it would be to send her off to school again that Tuesday after Labor Day.  Why was I doing this to myself?  But ultimately, I had faith that God really had called me to do this, that he really was going to teach us how to get along, that this really would be the best thing for our whole family in the long run.  By the next September, I watched the school bus drive by on the first day of school and was so grateful that my daughter was not on it.
But this can hardly touch what other people choose to endure for the sake of Christ.  There are converts in other countries who are killed because they refuse to deny their Lord.  But even if we look closer to home and less to the extreme – there are people who choose to give up easy, luxurious lifestyles to live in impoverished areas to minister to the people there.  I recently heard a friend tell about a medical mission trip she went on where a couple of the volunteer medical personnel were accidentally exposed to HIV-positive blood.  They knew going in that they were taking that risk – but they chose to go anyway.
And here I’m proud of myself for choosing to spend all day in my comfortable house with my own difficult daughter.  Psshhht.
Going back to the beginning of this chapter, to the definition of faith:  faith is being sure of what is hoped for, certain of what is not seen.  The passage above says Moses willingly endured what he did “because he was looking ahead to his reward.”  What he hoped for, what was not seen, was the reward waiting for him at the end of his trials.  And there’s where I have trouble having faith, I think.  Believing that there will be a reward at the end of my suffering (wimpy suffering, though it is), and that the reward will be better than what I’m giving up.
Many years ago, there was a book out (the title of which escapes me) about a "Christ-centered approach to weight loss".  At the end of one of the chapters, the author described a moment of weakness she experienced where she so desperately wanted to stuff her face with something sweet and fattening, and she cried out to God, “Lord!  Show me You can satisfy better than these!”
That’s my cry.  “Show me You can satisfy better than these!”  Again, what I’m constantly reminded as I’m writing this series of posts is that I don’t really have faith that God can satisfy unless I choose to give up other candidates for my satisfaction.  Faith is not faith unless it is acted on.
And now it occurs to me that choosing the hard path isn’t maybe as extreme a kind of faith as I thought.  Maybe it’s the essence of faith after all.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bring It On

I was determined not to write about the election this morning, no matter what the results.  But the despair floating around my FB newsfeed from conservative friends prompts me to speak -- although I'm not sure what to say.  My own emotions are feeling a little raw, but I think they would have felt this way even with a Romney victory.

Yesterday morning, I almost wrote a friend of mine (one my husband and I have recently dubbed my RLF -- "Reasonable Liberal Friend") to ease his mind of his anxieties over a Romney administration.  If Romney wins, I was going to say, it's a small victory.  I'm quite confident your side will win the war.  I didn't write it, because it sounded so defeatist and pessimistic, not qualities I like to encourage in myself.  But the truth is, there is some optimism in my defeatism -- I'm just having a hard time explaining it.

Several ideas from my readings and all have been swirling and converging in my mind in the last couple days.  I've been searching frantically for the ultimate "aha" moment in their convergence, but I don't think I'm there yet.  They still swirl . . . the idea from one book that we are bondservants of Christ, and the many things that title entails.  The premise from a book I'm reading with my youngest encouraging teenagers to defy the low expectations of our culture and "do hard things".  The memory of a man I heard from a former Soviet block country speaking of how weak and shallow the faith of the church in his land had grown since the persecution subsided, and his cries to God, asking, "Why did He take away the blessing of persecution?"

I've read -- and re-read -- a book this year called Radical: Reclaiming Your Faith from the American Dream.  It opened my eyes to how much we have tried to mesh the holy and separate life God calls his bondservants to with the unholy, carnal life that America glorifies.  How our country, in whatever image we create our ideal country, has become an idol, replacing the true God who calls us to something else entirely.

And I'm remembering a speaker from many, many years ago, talking about planting an evangelical church in Salt Lake City and going in with a Daniel form of ministry, as opposed to a David-and-Goliath approach.  David fought Goliath as a warrior attacks an intruder.  Daniel, on the other hand, was a guest in a foreign, pagan land.  He simply lived his life of faith quietly and courageously, praying for an opportunity to testify to truth when his neighbors noticed the difference in him.  This rings true to me more and more every day.

Here's where I am, I guess.  I fully expect the Obama vision to continue its march in America.  I fully expect the U.S. to eventually lose most of the great qualities that distinguishes us as Americans.  Like Israel asking for a king to be like all the other nations, we will cry out for Western European lifestyles so we become like everyone else . . .  kidults that we are.  This makes me sad for my country. 

Yet, I'm not in despair, because while I'm proud to be an American, my true citizenship is elsewhere.  And somehow, deep down, I suspect that this may be what needs to happen for the church.  The church in America is soft, wimpy, indistinguishable from its various counterparts in anything but the most surface level, meaningless qualities.  I think we could use some genuine persecution.  I think we need to do be forced to do the hard things.  I think we need to humble ourselves and "be made new" again.  And I think it will take a dominant secular culture to re-define us -- to separate the true bondservants from the faithless sycophants.

I awoke this morning sad that our wimpiness is revealed.  I awoke this morning ready for revival, whatever is necessary to make it happen.  And I awoke this morning ready to polish my armor and weaponry.

Bring it on.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I'm Voting for Romney

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be taking my youngest for a civics field trip – to the voting booth where I will vote for Mitt Romney.  I’m sure my presidential choice is not a surprise to any of you who read this blog regularly; nevertheless, if you'll indulge me, I would like to take a moment explain to you why I’m voting for Romney.
It’s not because I have a particular affinity for the man.  I suppose he’s likeable enough in his presentation of himself.  But most people out there experiencing his kind of success in business and/or politics have a strong streak of ruthlessness.  They’re not generally nice guys in practice, even if they appear one on the surface.  And he has played the politician’s game of saying what needs to be said to get elected.  I’m not sure of his deepest convictions on social issues.  I'm not confident what his view of the role of government is.  I don’t have a good grasp of what he specifically intends to do to fix the economy.  I’m not certain what he plans to do with his four years in office.
But here’s the thing:  I’m pretty confident about what Obama intends to do with four more years in office, and this is why I can’t vote for him.  Obama may be a decent enough guy on a personal level, but I’m not happy with the direction he has taken the country while he’s been President. 
I never thought the stimulus plan was going to help the economy, and it hasn’t.  (Interesting to me that my husband said almost from the very beginning of O’s administration that he would get re-elected no matter what, because by the end of four years, the recession was going to work itself out and start back on an upswing and he would get credit for it.)  Obamacare is a very bad idea, in my opinion – and from day one I argued that we simply couldn’t afford it even if it was a good idea.  The national debt is . . . oh, my gosh, there aren’t words.  Beyond a disgrace.  It’s inconceivable the mess we have gotten ourselves into. 
 The “worldview” that Obama promotes does not mesh with mine.  I am a conservative; I may even dance close to being a libertarian.  I believe that it is not the government’s job to make people’s lives better – it is the government’s job to ensure that everyone has the freedom to make their own and their neighbors’ lives better.  Unfortunately, that means we also have the freedom to be selfish and heartless, but if our government is not a religious institution – and it most certainly is NOT – than it is not in the business of making people less selfish and heartless.  In fact, I consider it very dangerous to assign that task to the State.  Giving government the power to do all the “good things” that the liberals want the government to do (and even some of the good things the conservatives want it to do) means also giving government the power to do a lot of bad things.  We will regret it someday.  Most of us conservatives already regret the power we’ve given the government in the last century or so.
I don't doubt our president's sincerity.  I don't suspect him of selfishness or power-lust or even necessarily of stupidity.  I think he genuinely believes that he is making the country a better place.  I just believe he is very mistaken.
Romney isn’t a certainty (nobody would be), but I’m confident his administration will be closer to what I want than a second Obama administration will be.  He is the lesser of two evils.  One of these days, I hope to have the opportunity to vote for someone whom I really believe in.  This is not the year.  But I do have the opportunity this year to vote against a vision for the country that I definitely disagree with.
All this said, I am thankful for a video shared with me yesterday (by a non-Christian friend, interestingly enough) which reminded me that no matter who is president, a Sovereign even greater is in control.  My President is not my salvation.  My country is not my salvation.  My salvation comes from the Lord.  I refuse to despair.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What a Year

We interrupt this Friday Faith Portraits series for an important announcement:  it's SHOW DAY!

Today I'm directing 26 2nd-5th grade homeschoolers in a little play that I wrote called "Wemmicksville" (free performances at 4pm and 6:30pm at Sunnybrook Church, for any Siouxland readers who want to join us).  I'm kind of a flutter of mixed emotions today.

"Wemmicksville", a play based on
Max Lucado's children's books
To start with, I'm amazingly NOT nervous.  I was nervous yesterday for dress rehearsal, which was weird.  I usually have a brain-numb, body-jittery feeling all day the day of a show.  Maybe that's still coming (it's early), but right now, I'm good.  This is as polished as this show is going to be.  About two-thirds of these little ones are making their stage debut today, and I expect some baubles, but it'll all be good.  The kids are cute, and they've come a long way.  I'm proud of them.

I'm also feeling a little melancholy because I expect this to be my last show with FOCUS Players.  But then, I expected the spring one to be my last one.  And before that, I expected last fall's show to be the last one.  Honestly, I never DREAMED we'd still be in town to do a play this school year . . .

Which brings me to the other emotion I'm dealing with, one which I can't quite define.  It was the night before the FOCUS play last fall that hubby told me his job at Blue Bunny had been eliminated.  It's been a year.  And such a year.  If you had told me then that we'd still be waiting for employment after a year, I would have cried.

But it really hasn't been terrible.  My husband has been wise in how he invested our money, and we have been wise in spending over the years (insert political comment here), so financially, we are okay and should be okay for still a while longer, if necessary.  I expected he and I to be at each other's throats being around each other all day long, but we haven't been.  In fact, I enjoy having him around. 

The hardest part has been not being able to plan much for the immediate future.  The start of the school year was tough -- we hadn't expected to be here and didn't expect to be here long, so we've been reluctant to commit to activities, groups, etc.  (Even the play -- I had another director lined up ready to step in and take over if we had to leave mid-course.)  But frankly, I think this has been good for me.  I'm not naturally a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow person.  God has forced me into that mindset this year.  I'm having to depend on him day to day.  I'm having to live in the moment -- do what feels like the right thing to do right now, not worrying about the long-term issues.  I can't do anything about them anyway.

Amazingly, I can say now that this has been a good year.  A year of adventure (hit the Panama link to the right to read about that), a year of togetherness, a year of growth, a year of challenge.....

But I'll admit, I'm ready for less challenge.  I'm ready for a job for hubby.  Prayers appreciated.