Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Battle Fatigue From the Start

Trump was elected two weeks ago. I've been pretty quiet since then. The loud cacophony of voices filling the last two weeks rendered my tired voice pretty useless, I felt. I'm weary of the whole thing. In fact, I'm probably going to take a December fast from social media. (The fact that I'm not sure I can even do that shows me that I desperately need to do it.)

But before I go, I'll say a few words -- to those who voted with me. Whether you voted with enthusiasm or, like I did, with heartache.

The temptation may be to breathe a sigh of relief. "Now the nation is safe from those dastardly liberals wanting to impose their socialist, atheistic agenda on us. We're good. The battle's over."

Not a chance, cupcake. The battle is just starting.

We should take no pride in this victory. We put a man in office who has a very good chance of shaming his position and shaming the country.

"But . . but Hillary . . . but . . . " Oh, hush. She's out of the picture. Now we have to deal with the abominable mess that we created when we decided to play games with the political process during the Republican primaries. He's there, he's got potential for MANY problems, and we're the ones who have to stop them.

First, acknowledge the fear that marginalized groups feel in this country. Yes, it feels to us like it's over-the-top (like the black boy my pastor encountered the day before the election who had been told that if Trump were elected, all the black men would get put in jail -- ??!?!!?). But honestly, it's no more over-the-top than the rhetoric we would have heard about the country turning into Cuba if Clinton had won.

The man has said and done some atrocious things. Don't defend or belittle them. Don't give them cause to think he represents us in that. Acknowledge the atrocity of it, and stand firm that freedom still reigns in this country because the people make it so, no matter who is the president. The people angry enough to put him in office will be angry enough to get him out if that's what it takes. Nobody needs to fear for their civil liberties on our watch.

Second, don't get all joyful about Obamacare being repealed and such. Obamacare happened because Republicans ignored the healthcare crisis for so long that the people were willing to try something radical, just so something -- SOMETHING -- was getting done. (Kind of like the exasperation that swept Trump into the White House, really.)

Repealing Obamacare will not solve anything. We've got to come up with something better. And it really has to be BETTER -- not just different. Don't get on the anything-but-Obamacare bandwagon. Make this a debate that actually leads to something good for our country.

Third, don't act like the man is a Christian and is going to protect our religious freedom. Maybe he is; maybe he isn't. God knows his heart; we only see his behavior. I see nothing in his behavior yet to give evidence of his submission to God -- much the opposite. That said, I don't think we can safely expect him to keep any promises he made during his campaign. We have to stay on our toes.

Yeah, yeah . . . he's seemed a bit more subdued and presidential the last two weeks. He also took to Twitter to make some idiotic, rash comments about the Hamilton cast's manners. Whether or not you agreed with him, the man just needed to shut up. He has bigger fish to fry. (Seriously, somebody just take his Twitter account away!! And take some of his billions and buy him some thicker skin.)

The rancor and division in this country are getting to me. I wish it wasn't. I wish I could have faith and move on. But I'm tired.

You know what I want? I want both sides to sit down and be quiet for a while. I want both sides to admit that those who disagree with them are not necessarily evil incarnate. I want people to start looking for what we can agree on and working toward that. Compromise. Peace.

I also want to weigh what I did when I got married. I have no optimism for either prospect. Just pass me the caramel popcorn and turn off my Facebook account.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Effectively Shutting Me Up

About a week ago, I was at a church meeting and a speaker made a political joke. I started to feel myself tensing up . . . but everyone just chuckled good-heartedly. Then he made a comment about the fact that among his friends at the church, he is the resident Democrat and kind of gets playfully teased about that. (Honestly, that surprised me a bit -- I'd gotten the impression that Republicans were the minority at my church, but maybe I was mistaken.)

I thought about that for quite a while. I was trying to remember the last time I heard politics discussed light-heartedly. The last time I was in a group of people who I knew disagreed with me politically and felt comfortable making my views known. The last time I didn't feel that people who disagreed with me politically were judging my character because of my political beliefs.

It's been a long time.

It was at least before the Obama administration . . . before San Antonio and Iowa, in our family's
story. It was probably sometime in New Jersey, because I went to church with many liberal friends there, and while I don't remember many political discussions with them, I also don't remember being afraid to say what I thought or any of us judging the other for what we thought.

When did this animosity start? And why?

Well, looking at my personal experience, I suspect a big part of it is that, by chance, I haven't had a lot of liberal friends that I see face-to-face since I left New Jersey. They're all on Facebook. So any political discussion that involves disagreement is happening in online statuses and comments.

More than that, I think I can pinpoint the chronological beginning of this tension, at least my personal experience of it: Obamacare.

I remember so well the hurtful reactions I got from FB friends when I questioned the wisdom of Obamacare online. They didn't question my opinions; they questioned my character. Not all of them, but many of them. I was told that I obviously hated poor people, that I was a spoiled rich girl . . . and those were some of the milder remarks. It hurt -- seriously. Don't these people know me better than that? Is this really what they think of me? Behind all of their smiles and surface-level compliments? They REALLY believe I disagree with this because I'm hateful . . . because I'm selfish . . . because I'm stupid . . . because I'm racist . . . really???

These same friends (these are the really passionate ones) over time are increasingly posting a lot of negative things about conservatives in general: things that, again, slam the character of anyone who could possibly disagree with them . . . which includes me. They are also the first to jump on anything remotely political that I personally post and argue against me, and they get personal.

Again -- not all of them, but many of them. And I have ugly conservative friends who do the same thing to their political opponents, for the record.

Most of my friends (liberal AND conservative) simply don't bring such topics up anymore. I suspect they probably feel like me: they're afraid to have their character brought into question publicly for what they say. It's like a don't-ask-don't-tell environment. My daughter told me the other day that she just doesn't want to know ANYONE's political leanings -- it affects what she thinks of them and what they think of her. The result of all this is that the reasonable people stay silent, and the only political discussion that happens is the ugly, hateful, divisive stuff.

That's so sad. How did we get this way?

I blame Facebook. If we're going to have passionate discussions about important issues that we have strong disagreement about, those should probably happen face-to-face. Where you can hear the tone of their voice and react to the pain in their eyes. Where you are kind of forced to take the time to at least make small talk about other things, things that you have in common, things that show some interest in and concern about the other person.

This election has been emotional for me. I take my vote seriously, and I'm quite distressed at my choice here and what it's going to mean for my children's future. I really would have liked to have talked about this decision in this blog; in the past, I've used this as a place to hash things out and get feedback from a variety of respondents.

But I've been afraid to. The very fact that I didn't see the choice as obvious would be seen as a sign of my stupidity and ungodliness (yes, really) to many friends on BOTH sides of the aisle. I don't have it in me right now to defend myself against that. So, I just shut up.

The ugliness in our country right now has led me to pray mightily for my children -- among other things, I pray that they will not only know right from wrong, but will have the courage to stand up for right when the national mood is against them. It occurs to me that I'm not modeling that courage right now.

So, for those of you who don't know, I'm a conservative. And here's a link to an old post I wrote explaining why. And for the record, I don't know what I'm going to do when I get in the voting booth this week.

I have only a few days to decide. And maybe I'll find the courage to blog about it. I just hope the people who claim to be my friends will believe in me enough not to question my integrity based on my vote. Getting kind of tired of that . . . getting ready to hit the unfriend button.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I Won't Take For Granted

Thankfulness is a spiritual discipline, and it's one I have a hard time cultivating in times like these when my sleep issues are at their worst. What's more, I've found that the term "thankful" has become too trite to be useful for me. Particularly in Christian circles, it seems (and for everyone once the month of November hits), we talk so much about being thankful that it almost becomes nothing more that a rote recitation.

I am reminding myself lately that there are things in my life that I must not take for granted -- things I have right now that I have not always had and will not always have, and I MUST make a point of appreciating their presence while I have them. Here are a few:

Hot Showers: Hubby and I are still entertaining the idea of living out of the country during retirement. And we learned during our week in Panama a few years ago that very few homes there have hot water for showers. Let me tell you, people: cold showers are such a miserable experience for me that I might rather just let myself stink. The vast majority of the time I take a shower anymore, I let myself feel the wonderful hot water on my body and take a minute to stand there and just flat out enjoy the feeling. A time may come when I will long for this, so I don't want to take it for granted now.

Breathing: When I get a cold, nine times out of ten, it settles in my chest, and I end up coughing for weeks -- many miserable, exhausting weeks. I avoid sick people like the plague because a cold just isn't a minor deal for me. I have caught myself many times, while lying in bed in the morning getting ready to get up, taking big, deep breaths and just loving the feeling of air flowing through my lungs smoothly. I know that at any time, I could be exposed to germs that will temporarily disrupt that. I make a point now to appreciate the times when I can breathe.

Being Able to See Enough to Read: My mother had macular degeneration. My eye doctor reminded me the other day that I should probably take some eye health supplements to head off the possibility of having similar problems. Macular degeneration manifests itself in blurry vision right at the center of where you focus, which means it makes it difficult and eventually impossible to read. I am a serious reader. Reading is integral to my life right now: I read books, magazines, student papers, scripts, online articles, emails, my own plethora of to-do lists . . . not being able to read would alter my life profoundly. I like my life. I want to be able to read. And since there's a chance I won't be able to someday, I treasure every day that I can now.

Being Able to Think Straight; My father had Alzeimer's disease. Since there seems to be a genetic component to that, I have always known that there was a possibility of my developing the disease as well. The older I get and the more my father's siblings become similarly debilitated, the more I think about that possible future for me. Someday, I may not be able to remember things or understand what people say to me or keep my own thoughts straight. I want to appreciate the ability to think while I have it.

My Daughters' Presence: This is a biggie. I have a twenty-year-old and a sixteen-year-old. The oldest could very well have chosen to go away to college but didn't. The youngest may very well make that choice in a couple years. I have never enjoyed my daughters more than I enjoy them right now: they are intelligent, caring, thoughtful, FUN young ladies, and wonder of wonders, they seem to enjoy spending time with hubby and me. I know I am blessed. I know someday they will have families and careers, and Mom and Dad will move down the priority list . . . which will be as it should be. So I welcome every moment I can have with them now and treasure up these times in my heart.

Someday, these blessings may be gone. And because I serve a loving and gracious God, I know when that time comes, there will be other blessings to appreciate. But I refuse to get to that day and realize I didn't appreciate what I had while I had it. No matter how crazy my days get . . . no matter how grouchy I am from sleep deprivation . . . no matter how discouraged I am about the direction of our nation . . . I must never, ever take God's gifts for granted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Needing Deep Water

In looking for a passage to use in class next week as an example of good writing, I pulled out my Susan Wise Bauer book The Well-Educated Mind and flipped around a bit. And I found this beauty. She's been discussing the various channels where you might gather information about, say, a recent bombing on the West Bank. Then she says:

"But in order to be enlightened about the suicide bomber on the West Bank, you must read seriously: history, theology, politics, propaganda, editorials. The ideas that impel suicide bombers cannot be gleaned from websites or interactive media. The causes of such desperate actions cannot be made clear to you through a picture and a moving headline while you eat your toast. These things must be expressed with precise and evocative words, assembled into complex, difficult sentences. To be enlightened – to be wise – you must wrestle with these sentences. Technology can do a great deal to make information gathering easier, but it can do little to simplify the gathering of wisdom. Information washed over us like a sea, and recedes without leaving its traces behind. Wrestling with truth, as the story of Jacob warns us, is a time-consuming process that marks us forever." 

Oh, so true. Wisdom takes time . . . requires wrestling . . . needs depth to swim in. I'm all too aware of how shallow my life gets too often.

This shallowness has been a theme popping up a lot lately. Amy, the BSF teaching leader, noted last week that, when you forget your identity, life becomes all about completing tasks rather than fulfilling your purpose.


My life lately has been about completing tasks. I've always been a big fan of to-do lists, but they have been my lifeline for a few weeks now. The more busy I am, the more dependent I am on those lists. For a while there, I had a handful of them lying around, cross-referenced with each other. It was the only way I could possibly relax -- otherwise, I was afraid I would forget something important and I'd be thinking about it constantly.

Completing tasks. Gathering information. Shallowness.

I've been feeling a lack in my life. And I'm realizing now that it may be a lack of depth. Busy-ness forces me to skim the surface of so many things just to get by. I heat up a frozen lasagna for the family dinner because taking the time and effort to actually pull out genuine ingredients and assemble them into a home-cooked dish seems like a waste of energy. I quickly throw together a checklist for my daughter's school week because actually sitting down and discussing what she's learning with her feels like a luxury I can't afford right now. I slap a quick grade on my students' papers because figuring out the whys and hows of the errors they are making takes too much time at the moment.

But the quick fixes are shallow. I miss the purpose. I forget my identity. I lose the chance for wisdom.

I need depth. My legs are cramping for room to stretch, stretch, stretch, and still not touch the bottom of the pool. I want to stop dog-paddling in desperation and swim with big, wide strokes, feeling the bigness of the water around me and realize I'm still being held up.

I keep thinking now that the play is done . . . now while I have a week off of school . . . once I get caught up on my sleep . . . I can get the multitude of little things done and then have margin again to dive deep. But maybe that's not going to happen. Maybe I need to force myself into the deep waters anyway, despite the complicated, cross-referenced to-do list lying on the kitchen table. Because maybe the workout my limbs get in the deep waters is what strengthens them to get through the shallow waters, too.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What I Learned

I just finished a six-week stint directing a play at Crystal Sea Drama Company. This is a youth theater company, so it's supposed to be an educational experience for the young people involved. However, I find that it's just as much an educational experience for me.

What I Learned Directing This Play:

1. How limited my theater knowledge and experience is. I've done lots of drama . . . not as much actual theater. I can put people on a stage with a script and get a good performance out of them. Everything else that theater involves, I'm pretty clueless about.

My costumer asked me what period the costumes should be. Period? I dunno. It's the Clue game characters . . . they're in a castle . . .

My set designer asked what kind of castle. I dunno. German? Siekfurst is a German name . . . sure, it's German. I don't have a clue what a German castle looks like. What kind of kitchen table in the kitchen? I have no idea -- what can you give me?

He also asked if I wanted to keep the round proscenium platforms or take them out. I don't know -- what do you want to do? I'm not used to dictating what my stage looks like; I'm used to being given a stage and having to work with what I have.

My stage manager asked to use my script with the cues written in it. Cues? Umm . . . how exactly would you like those cues written? (She ended up writing cues in her own script.)

I think I should take the tech class at CSDC.

2. How little attention I pay to detail. Did I like the earrings Fillie was wearing in Act 2? Was she wearing earrings in Act 2?

Do I want the rafters painted to match the trim? Uh . . . rafters? Oh, those. Sure. Maybe. I can't even picture that in my head.

I work with people here who are the type who would notice that this suitcase is a completely different style than all the other suitcases and cringe at that through the whole show -- where I'm happy that we found a purple suitcase at all. I'm grateful to have people who pay attention to those things because I know there are audience members that pay attention to those things, and I just don't see any of it.

3. How little control I have over anything. Actually, this was not news to me -- I'm reminded of this every time I direct a play. I'm convinced this is why God has me doing this.

I have NO control over who auditions for my play. (And I didn't have enough people audition, but God brought us the people we needed.)

I have NO control over how hard my actors and crew work. (But my people worked very hard for me this time around -- even got their lines memorized in a week and two days.)

I have NO control over the health of my actors and crew, or their well-being and safety outside of my rehearsal time with them -- and sometimes not much DURING my rehearsal time with them. (And this was my first play where those things really became issues.)

I have NO control, once the symbolic curtain rises on opening night, over what ends up happening on that stage. There's a point where it's all out of my hands.

4. I love these kids. I can't tell you what a great group of actors and techies I had for this play. I enjoyed them thoroughly. They put on a great show. They reminded me why I do this . . . and made me want to do it again.

Sometime. After I get the house cleaned and get caught up on my sleep.

Friday, July 29, 2016

War? What War?

Yeah, maybe there's something wrong with me.

When Obama officially became the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, I remember thinking that, although I didn't want him to be president because I disagreed with him on so many things, it was a pretty cool thing that a black man was on a major party ticket. And on the day of his inauguration, I got a bit choked up at the meaning of the historical moment. A black president!

Last night was historical, too. Historical in a way that directly affected me more, since I'm a woman. But I wasn't fazed. Maybe if Hillary is inaugurated, I'll get emotional about it at that point, but I kind of doubt it. And I don't think it's a factor of disagreeing with her politics. Because again, I disagreed just as much with Obama's. I just can't get excited about a female presidential candidate. Seriously -- it means nothing.

I don't quite understand myself. "Women's rights" just isn't an issue that resonates with me. I don't at all feel like a victim in any kind of war on women.

It's not that I don't think women should get paid equally. It's not that I don't have a problem with cultures that treat women as property. I get that there are all sorts of injustices happening to women around the globe, and something should be done about them.

But . . . I don't know. I can't get myself riled up or excited about it.

Maybe it's because I don't think it ever once occurred to me in my life that I couldn't be president if I wanted to just because I'm a woman. I don't think there has ever been anything that I wanted to do that I haven't been able to do because I'm a woman (other than, you know, lift heavy objects . . . and that's not really because I'm a woman: that's because I'm a wimpy woman).

Maybe it's because my mother was never a big women's rights person. I don't remember her ever discussing it at all. She was a very contented homemaker and probably never felt held back by her gender either. But I'm also quite sure she was one of the ones encouraging me there was nothing I couldn't do in my life. As if gender just wasn't an issue -- not that it was an issue we now had victory over.

Maybe it's because, while I have experienced (not personally) blatant racism in my life, I have not experienced or even witnessed blatant misogyny. But I have certainly heard females cry "misogyny" when I thought the charge was quite unwarranted. (Of course, I've heard unwarranted cries of racism as well, I guess. I think it's sometimes easier to believe there's injustice in the way you've been treated than to believe that you yourself were somehow at fault or inadequate.)

I don't know. I don't get myself. I felt no swell of pride or relief or joy at the idea of a woman heading a major party ticket last night. I heard no glass ceiling shatter. I never saw a ceiling. I don't think I was looking up there -- I was busy looking elsewhere, I guess. Maybe someone will say I'm not ambitious enough. I think I just figure that God builds my house; he designs the layout, determines the number of bedrooms, and sets the heights of my ceilings. And He builds our houses to individual specs, based on the work He has for each of us. My ceiling is where it needs to be to do the work He has for me to do.

Too simplistic? Too lethargic? Maybe. But there's something to be said for contentment.

So while I'm wondering about myself today, I have to say that I'm not that bothered by my reaction -- or lack of reaction. I'm mostly concerned what I might be communicating to my daughters. Should I be worried that my lethargy on the matter is a negative quality that they will pick up from me and that will be a detriment to them for the rest of their lives? Am I hurting them in some way by not instilling them with a pride in their gender and in how far their gender has come in our society and a determination to move their gender further?

I don't think so. I think they have a pretty healthy view of gender. It matters where it matters, and it doesn't where it doesn't.

And in politics, we don't think it matters.

Friday, July 8, 2016

On Hope and Wisdom and Fathers

My father was a deeply intellectual and profoundly faithful Christian man. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when I was twelve . . . retired from teaching when I was fifteen . . . was in a nursing home when I was twenty-one.

Which means that by the time I was old enough to recognize the wisdom I wanted to glean from him, it was no longer there for the gleaning.

This has been a regret of mine. I have several times over the years mourned the lost lessons I could have learned from my father. This week is one of those times. Today, I wish I could ask my father this question:

How do you maintain hope?

My father had very high expectations and strict morals. I remember him telling me, with disgust, about the students in his college years who attended school dances -- such things were quite inappropriate, in his mind. I can only imagine the horror he felt at the moral decay he saw happening as a professor on his college campus during the 60s.

He was a naval officer in the Pacific in World War II. I can only imagine the frustration he felt at the anti-war protests of the 60s and 70s.

And I specifically remember his spitting out the label "crook"  when referring to Richard Nixon.

Between the sexual revolution, government corruption, civil rights violence, and Vietnam, it had to feel to him like the country was imploding. Going to hell in a handbasket.

Just like it feels to me now.

How do you maintain hope, Dad?

Intellectually, I can know God is in control. I can know that the country has been through worse and survived. I can know that God's plan and purpose are bigger than our country.

But I'm tired of feeling sad and hopeless.

Did Dad feel like God was judging the nation, like I feel? Did he cry out to God for mercy for a people who never deserved the grace He has shown them, like I do? Did he sit and think that there must be something to be done . . . something he could do . . . some answer to the crises . . . and feel lost when no answer came to him but pray, love, pray, speak truth, pray, pray, pray . . .

. . . like I do?

We need wise fathers today. Wise mothers. God grant us mercy, and grant us wise fathers and mothers. And grants us ears to hear them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Je Suis Elijah Under the Broom Bush

My pastor preached on 1 Kings 19 last Sunday -- the story of Elijah running away to Horeb after his big victory over the prophets of Baal (in chapter 18). This story has been a meaningful one in my life: God used it in the past to teach me about my depression.

You see, Elijah is depressed here. "He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die." That's depression. And one of the first things to note here is that it came after a mountaintop moment . . . which is not uncommon. We should brace ourselves for a possible crash after a spiritual high, especially if we know we are naturally susceptible to such crashes.

But what's the first thing God does for him? He let him sleep. He let him sleep a lot. He slept, then he woke up to eat, then he slept again. I've learned that for me, a lot of my depression is connected to sleep deprivation. I'm TIRED. I need rest. Just getting a good nap usually helps my outlook significantly.

And what's the other thing God does for him right away? "All at once, an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.'" He gave him food. The man had been running for his life and presumably had not stopped to get any nourishment. In fact, the angel fed him twice: sleep, eat, sleep, eat. Taking care of my body -- so important for my emotional health. Depression is a physiological thing to a great degree; it is profoundly influenced by maladies in my physical self. A change in diet often improves my emotional state.

Now, note what Elijah says in verse 10 when God asks him what's up:

"I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."

Poor Elijah. It's all about him, isn't it? Now, in a sense this response is understandable in his situation, but if you keep reading, you notice that he makes this exact same speech again in verse 14. The man seems to be rehearsing this lament; he's got it down, memorized to the word, ready to spout to anyone who asks. Meditating on your laments will not pull you out of the doldrums.

So God does one of those awesome things that He did with Old Testament prophets that we often wish He would do with us: He came to Elijah, directly.

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

My pastor said on Sunday that the phrase "gentle whisper" is sometimes translated "the sound of silence." Often, I realize that my depression is exacerbated because I am paying so much attention to the storm and noise. God speaks in the sound of silence. I need to ignore the noise and listen to God in the silence.

So, what does God do next for Elijah? He gives him a job -- three people to go anoint in His name to take over important roles. In other words, stop moping around and do something productive, something for someone else.

Then He filled Elijah in on something he actually probably knew but just conveniently ignored in his self-pitying rambling: "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel -- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him."

Elijah wasn't "the only one left" like he claimed. There were seven thousand more Israelites staying faithful to God . . . Elijah just wasn't paying attention to them. He went off into the wilderness, even leaving his servant behind, and pouted alone. Isolation increases depression. We were made to need each other.

One of the things about the Bible is that it doesn't idealize its heroes. Peter denies Christ, Moses kills a man, David commits adultery . . . we see the spiritual giants in their worst moments as well as their best. God needed us to see, first of all, that these were real people with real problems and failures, just like us. And He also needed us to see models for how to deal with these problems. When I'm under my broom bush, praying to die (which, praise Jesus, happens far less these days), I need to stop obsessing over my misery . . . get a good night's sleep . . . cut the sugar from my diet for a while . . . make a plan to get something productive done . . . and get out of the house and with some friends.

Don't tell me the stories of the Bible are not practical for our times.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jesus and Girly Tea

There is a pile of little girly things on my living room floor right now. As in little things that are very girly.

We're babysitting a little girl this week, so my daughters got out their old toys. Mini Barbies . . . mini princesses, of every type . . . mini tea sets . . . mini vanities . . . mini carriages and horses . . . and there's probably a unicorn in there somewhere.

Oh, the memories.

I miss the little girly days. I mean, I miss my daughters being little girls, but it's more than that. I miss when I was able to get lost in their world for a moment and life was all tea parties and horse rides and ball gowns and hairdos.

Cheesy as they are, I kind of miss the old kiddie shows when the good guys were all beautiful and nice and got good things in the end and the bad guys were all ugly and obvious and got their come-uppance . . . or saw the light and switched sides.

Bad guys are not always ugly and obvious. Good guys do not always win, at least in this life.

Our world is so broken. Humanity is so broken.

It makes me tired.

I might have, at one time, said that it makes me depressed. But I have learned over years of dealing with my own particular brand of neurosis that many of my emotional problems are a result of mislabeling. I have physiological feelings in my body that mimic what we feel when we're sad, and if I label them as "sadness", then I start to think about things to be sad about and get genuinely sad.

I am sad about the state of humanity, but that's not what I feel at the moment. I feel tired. I know the end of the story for our world, and there is hope for the good guys, so my sadness is tempered. But I also know there's a long, difficult road still ahead before we get there, so my tiredness is magnified.

I'm tired of fighting ignorance. I'm tired of fighting selfishness. I'm tired of fighting self-righteousness. I'm tired of fighting inaccurate depictions from others of what the stinking fight is even about.

My sleep deprivation is also a cause of the fatigue, but it only exacerbates my soul fatigue. I'm ready for rest . . . even eternal rest.

I know there are some who find it morbid and disturbing to wish for heaven and the end of the world. But when you have confidence in the justice and grace of the One who holds the end in His hands, it starts to sound very inviting. I want the brokenness healed, and I know there's only one way this will happen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. I'm ready for a tea party with You . . . in a beautiful ball gown . . . as Your Beloved.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Story and Being Human: Imago Dei

In a quiet moment last night with my hubby and youngest, I sat looking at our bookshelves upstairs. We have bookshelves in many places in our house, but these particular shelves have my daughters' old books. Some that they read on their own after they became independent readers, but many that hubby and I read to them at bedtime over many, many years of their childhood.

Oh, the books. Oh, the memories!

Narnia and the Pevensies. Laura and Mary in their Little Houses with Ma and Pa. All the American Girls. Junie B. Jones (the B. stands for Beatrice, but she just likes B and that's all). Anne of Green Gables, the whole series. The Magic Tree House. The Babysitter's Club. All sorts of Dear America history books. Charlotte's Web. Stuart Little. The Mandie series they got from their older cousin.

Oh, I wanted to go back. For a moment, I wanted to be sitting on a bed with one of their heads lying on my chest reading about Aslan singing the world of Narnia into being. I'll be sharing that book with my 6th graders this fall, but no -- it's not the same standing at the front of a classroom as it is snuggling at the head of a bed.

One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling was all the reading I got to do with my daughters. They did read on their own, but I also read literature aloud to them, stuff that was a step above their independent reading level to move them forward. I remember reading Julius Caesar with my eldest when she studied the Roman Empire in fifth grade or so, skipping a few unimportant scenes, stopping to explain stuff as we went, but reveling in the language and reciting my favorite speech of Antony's with mucho gusto. To this day, she claims that Shakespeare is one of her favorite writers.

An article I just read yesterday reiterated what I have heard and known for many years: one of the best things we can do to help our children write better is spend years reading high quality literature aloud to them. Let them hear the rhythm of mature language so they can replicate it naturally.

But reading high quality literature to them is also one of the best things we can do just to help them live better -- to help them become truly Human. The root of the word "educate" means "to draw out." We often think of schooling as a matter of pouring information into someone's head, but no -- it's a matter of drawing out of them what is there so that they can use it well. Which means something has to be in there to be drawn out.

Now, I believe there is a core of "knowing" that God has already instilled in us. It's a part of our being made in God's image. What is lacking is a "language" to couch our knowing in. Does that make sense? There are a lot of things I know, in a sense, but until I draw it out, until I can explain it in words, it is of no use to me. Most of those are spiritual things; thus, they are the most critical things to be educated in.

And this is where stories come in. Stories are a vehicle of knowing. Ideas and concepts can be communicated through story sometimes far more effectively than through exposition. Those inner things we know from God but cannot yet use can become accessible to us through narrative.

When I read about Laura's relationship with her Pa, it rings true in my soul, because somewhere in my soul, I already know about the security of a father's love, whether I have a father or not.

When I read about Anne breaking her slate over Gilbert's head, it rings true in my soul, because somewhere in my soul, I already know the extent of humanity's foolish pride, whether I'm conscious of my own or not.

When I read of Aslan's death on the Stone Table, it rings true in my soul, because somewhere in my soul, I already know the nobility of and need for sacrifice, whether I recognize my personal need for it or not.

Man has always told stories -- around the campfire, in books, on screens, on stages, in poetry, in song, always and everywhere. Jesus himself told stories to communicate the truths he has to tell us. When I teach my students about the story elements and the plot chart and such, I emphasize to them that this isn't stuff that people made up. We write stories that way because that's how God created story to be. That's how He made our story run. When we tell a good story well, we're imitating God. Imago dei.

Read to your kids people. Read to yourselves now. Read. Read. Read.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Visiting the Family Farm

I spent my Memorial Day weekend at the Family Farm. (And on the LO-O-ONG drive to and from the Family Farm.) My dad's family had a reunion this weekend. So did my husband's mom's family, but just he and the girls made it to that one -- I stayed at the Family Farm for a memorial service for my aunt who died suddenly Friday morning. (This required some complicated arrangements for me over the weekend, but that's another story.)

Anyway . . . the Family Farm. In Gem, Kansas, just outside of Colby. Western Kansas. Farm country. My sisters, being older than I, spent a lot more time at the Family Farm with Grandpa (who died when I was a baby), Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. I went to a couple reunions there when I was young and occasionally visited the aunt and uncle who moved in when the grandparents moved out.

But I'm a city girl through and through. The Family Farm was kind of an abstraction to me. A nice place to visit, but I didn't necessarily feel a personal connection to it, as much as I appreciated the idea of it.

At this visit, however, I was an adult . . . and the weekend was all about remembering my aunt and dad and grandma and hearing others remember other family members who have left us that I never knew . . . and it was much more meaningful for me than past visits.

Things That Stood Out to Me This Weekend About the Family Farm:

- My grandparents apparently first acquired this property and started living there in 1921, two years before my dad was born. I'm not sure why that fact was so remarkable to me, but wow. A lot of history there.

- There's a gas pump by their driveway. I never noticed this. Apparently, that was a "duh" thing for everyone else there. Of course they have their own gas pump. Gotta fill up the tractors and so forth. Geez, so much I don't know about farm life.

- My aunt had a big shadow box on the wall (see the picture to the right) with things that, out of the corner of my eye, looked like dried flowers or weeds. Nope. Turns out, those were crocheted items made from . . . the hair of my deceased female relatives. No lie. It seems this was a common thing back then. Women would save the hair from their hairbrushes and use them like thread to crochet decorative items, like these little flowers and such. Several had labels attached with the name of the woman whose hair was used for that item, but all but one label were faded now. Kind of cool and kind of creepy at the same time.

But it reminded me of how differently the Greatest Generation lived. My parents lived through the Depression. They used everything until it completely wore out. I remember my mother rinsing out plastic bags and hanging them out to dry so she could use them over and over again. That was a bit extreme, but the wastefulness of my generation is extreme, too.

- As I said, I never knew my Grandpa. I only know him from pictures. But in most of the pictures I've seen of him, the bottom half of his face is very, very tan -- so brown that he almost looks like the old comics who did blackface. His forehead, on the other hand, was white. A farmer's tan, from wearing hats out in the fields all day. That's the image of my Grandpa in my mind.

And I was struck this weekend, while looking at old pictures of my dad and his siblings when they were young, how often the boys had the same white foreheads. Early twentieth century farm families . . . the boys worked on the farm all day, too. We have lazy, privileged kids these days. I'M a lazy, privileged kid.

- The farmhouse seemed so small. I realize that this was because for most of my visits there, I was so small. But I couldn't quite imagine how a family of nine had lived here. (And in fact, my mother told me that when she met my dad's family, the farmhouse wasn't even built yet. They were all living in the basement.)

- The farmhouse seemed so sweet. I don't think I thought much of it when I was young, other than it seemed old and it had features I was completely unfamiliar with, like the big heating vent on the floor you had to be sure not to step on with bare feet in the winter. But this weekend, it felt cozy and homey and sweet. I kept thinking, I could live here. And I know I've never thought that before.

- The air is so fresh and clean. We had perfectly gorgeous weather for the reunion, and the windows in the house were open so a breeze could blow through every room. Lovely. Refreshing. I want to live like that.

- The world is so huge. The sky is enormous! Until you've stood on a dusty road in western Kansas and scanned the horizon in every direction, you simply can't conceive of how big our world is. I remember traveling with my dad in forested and mountainous areas and hearing him complain that you couldn't see anything because all the trees were in the way. I always thought that was the most bizarre statement; I get it now.

One of these days, my aunt and uncle are not going to be able to live on the Family Farm any longer. I kept hearing this weekend that one of their sons would be moving in then. I'm glad. All of a sudden, it is very important to me that the Family Farm stay in the family.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Value of Theater Education

Goodness, it's been a while since I posted. But with good reason. The last two or three weeks have been dominated by Crystal Sea Drama Company's production of Seussical, which my daughter was in and with which I assisted the director. As my involvement in CSDC increases, this may become the new pattern for my blog: two or three weeks of silence toward the end of every show.

It has been a crazy couple weeks. But wonderful, also. And watching all these students -- about sixty overall between the cast and all the tech crew -- reminds me of why theater is such a valuable thing for kids to be involved with.

- They learn to be comfortable with public speaking. And to be good at it: good volume, comfortable pacing, expressive delivery. I think public speaking still ranks high on the lists of people's greatest fears -- it may even be number one. But almost everyone will have some occasion to speak to a group sometime in their lives (best man toasts? praying at church?), and you may as well feel comfortable at it.

- They interact in an intimate way with art and literature. There's much to be said about exposing your kids to art: taking them to museums and shows and concerts. But there's much MORE to be said for their being actually involved in the creation of art. To let them see the whole thing from the inside out. To engage in the act of creation, one of the ways we are made in the image of God.

I think every kid in the country reads a Shakespeare play at some point in their education, but how much more impactful would that be if they were actually performing it? It is drama, after all; it's meant to be performed, not read.

- They learn empathy. When you are in a play, you become another person. You have to think what they would think, feel what they would feel, react as they would react. No better way to step into another person's shoes and see life from their perspective. Such skills transfer into the real world. And such skills are more important than I can even express here.

They learn to accept criticism and feedback with grace. Part of the rehearsal process is having the director give you feedback on your performance and learning to apply it. Without taking it personally. Without feeling like a failure. Without copping an attitude. Without resenting the critic. And that's something they will need to do for the rest of their lives.

- They learn teamwork. Those sixty kids I mentioned earlier? Only a handful of them were lead roles on the stage. Some of them had a multitude of little roles. Some of them ran spotlights. Some of them helped actors with quick costume changes. Some of them opened curtains at critical moments to make set changes go quickly so the pace of the play wasn't disrupted. Every single person was critical to the production. And the run of the show was a success because every single person took their part seriously and did it with excellence.

- They make great friends. When you spend this much time with people, you get close. You become a family. It's wonderful.

There's so much more. I'm so grateful for the time I spent in theater when I was young, and I'm so grateful for the opportunities my own children have had. If you're a parent, I urge you to find a play for your kiddos to get involved in. At least once.

And if you're a San Antonio parent, may I recommend you look into Crystal Sea Drama Company? They have a couple summer camps coming up. Well worth it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Je Suis Bilbo

My middle school students are assigned a "Home Reader" each quarter, a book they are supposed to read at home and complete a response form about. I don't choose the books for their Home Readers, and several of them were new to me this year. I've spent a significant amount of my reading time keeping up with my three grades and all of their readers.

The 7th grade class read The Hobbit third quarter. That's one I have read before, a long time ago with my eldest in homeschool, but I didn't really remember any of it. And I only saw the first of the movies, so I figured I'd better go through that one one more time.

And . . . it was alright. I think that, for whatever reason, J.R.R. Tolkien just isn't my cup of tea, which surprises me, because he sounds like something I would be all about. Hubby and I tried to watch the first Lord of the Rings movie and never finished it – which is something we never do. It just didn't grab us. I probably will try reading the books sometime and see if I like them better.

But returning to The Hobbit: as I said, it was . . . alright. Some fun parts, some dull parts, nothing that jumped out and really inspired me, frankly.

Other than Bilbo. I can relate to Bilbo. You know what it is about him that I can relate to? He had absolutely no interest in going on an adventure. He was quite content sitting in his little hovel with a very calm, predictable life for the rest of his days. It was comfortable. He liked comfortable. I like comfortable.

Now, once he got out and experienced some excitement, he enjoyed it. He was proud of what he was able to accomplish on his adventure. But when it was over, he was quite ready to go back home to his calm, predictable, comfortable life.

I can't say that I'm happy about the fact that I'm like Bilbo. That's not the kind of person I want to be. I see these people with all this energy and enthusiasm doing all these exciting things and kinda wish that was me. But not so much. I need a shove. I need a Gandalf to come in and say, "What's wrong with you? We're going to do this. This is what you were made for. Let's go."

Lately, it seems to be my kids that inspire me to get out and do. Too often, it has been the case that if I want something available for my kids -- a homeschool drama program, an English class at their school, a book club, a Bible study -- I have to go out and make it happen myself. I'm much more likely to put myself out there for the sake of my kids than for my own sake.

'Cause I'm Bilbo. The comfortable.

But someday soon (too, too soon!!), my girls will be gone, and I won't have that shove. What will I do then? 

Maybe when I get my sleep problems taken care of (when? if? not holding my breath), I'll have more energy and want more excitement in my life. Right now, I love my home and my sofa. I love them a lot.

"Bother burgling and everything to do with it! I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!"

Me, too, my hobbit friend. Me, too.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reading "The Hiding Place"

One of the things about teaching English is that you have to read all of the books you assign to your students. And when I'm in the first year of teaching four different levels of English (6th, 7th, and 8th grade at my school, and my 10th grade daughter and a couple of her friends at home), that means I have to do a lot of reading to keep up.

My daughter and her friends were assigned – by me – the autobiography The Hiding Place to read a couple months ago. If you're not familiar with Corrie ten Boom or her story, you really must read this. She and her Dutch family were sent to a concentration camp (where her father and sister died) because they hid Jews from the Nazis in a secret room in their home, along with a great deal of other dangerous work they did for the Underground in the Netherlands.

I mainly chose this book for the kids because I wanted them to read at least one biography/autobiography this year, and they covered the Holocaust in history that month, so it seemed appropriate. (Yes, my daughter also read Night by Elie Weisel, in case you literature buffs are wondering. She wrote a fascinating essay comparing the two stories: how Elie lost his faith in the camps while Corrie found hers.) And I constantly heard great things about Corrie ten Boom and her book when I was a child.

The hidden room in the ten Boom house.
So, of course, I had to read it first. And now I understand what the fuss was about.

Oh, my gosh, this book.

I would read one chapter and then have to stop and think and pray. So many things God had to teach me through the reading of this book.

For example, I was struck by the character of Betsie, the author's sister. She was almost too good to be true. In fact, my daughter mentioned that she thought it was a good thing Corrie wrote the book and not Betsie because the reader could relate more to Corrie and her struggles and doubts. Betsie's faith was so rock solid. Her compassion, even for her enemies, was unfathomable. Upon hearing the name of the man who betrayed them to the authorities, she said, "I pray for him whenever his name comes to my mind. How dreadfully he must be suffering!"

Oh, Lord, give me Your love like that, to desire the best for others despite what they've done to me.

I will probably never forget the story of Betsie leading Corrie to thank God for the fleas in their new barracks – because scripture told them to give thanks in all things. And of course, not until much later do they find out that the fleas kept the guards from coming into their barracks, which allowed them to hold Bible studies in there, among other things. A valid reason to be thankful for them.

Lord, give me that kind of faith, that everything in my life is ordained by You and deserving of my gratitude.

While I read, I kept thinking, I could never do this. I could never be this strong or this brave. I could never put myself on the line like this. But then I read how, at the end, when she was released from the concentration camp, Corrie tried to go on working for the Underground and couldn't. She was seized with fear on her first "mission." That's when she realized that the only reason she and her family had been able to do what they had done was because God had empowered them with the strength and courage to do it. Now, He had different work for her, and so the power for this particular work was not there anymore.

Lord, help me always remember that I don't have to fear whatever trials my future may hold, because You are already empowering me to face them when the time comes. Fresh manna for each day . . . with none to save for tomorrow.

I really need to read more biographies. I never seem to put them down as the same person I was when I picked them up.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Players With No Lines

In the past eight years, I've written four full-length plays, six one-acts, and a boatload of skits, which have all been performed before relatively good-sized audiences. So, I suppose I could call myself a playwright. I still don't quite feel comfortable assuming that label, though. Just looking at those numbers – and remembering the conversation I had with a friend about a year before this binge began in which I stated emphatically that "I am not a writer" – I don't feel like I can really take credit for much of that. This has been a God thing. Every time I sat down to write another drama for somebody, I wondered if this would be the day that the spigot would run dry and God's work would be done in that area of my life.

However, I bring up my play-writing experience because it explains why I think I reacted so strongly to a quote I read in an article a while back. The author was referring to a book about prayer by Paul Miller (which is now on my gift list – Mother's Day is coming up, and my birthday is in August, ahem). Here is the quote that stuck with me:

When we have a praying life, we become aware of and enter into the story God is weaving in our lives. . . . Prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center. . . . We are actors in his drama, listening for our lines, quieting our hearts so we can hear the voice of the Playwright. . . If you are going to enter this divine dance we call prayer, you have to surrender your desire to be in control . . .

God is the playwright. He writes the script of our lives. Our job is to "listen for our lines" so we can submit to his storyline.

That listening can be a challenging task, however. I don't know how many times I've wished I had an actual printed script in hand, with my lines and stage directions written out for me. The Playwright's voice is difficult to hear some days.

But I recall certain times in my writing when a character kind of took over the script – not in a bad way or spooky way. I mean, I created a character, and then I created a situation that the character would be in, and from that point, the lines and stage directions seemed to create themselves. I was almost taking dictation as I wrote – I simply copied down what that character would naturally say and do in that situation. Only if I had a twist to insert for the sake of my greater theme did I inject myself as playwright again. But that often wasn't even necessary; if my characters and situation were set up well, the drama wrote itself.

And I'm wondering now if that isn't something like what the Great Playwright does. He creates us . . . more than that, He continually RE-creates us, if we put ourselves in His hands to do so. He orchestrates the situations around us, a profoundly complex choreography of plotlines and conflicts and climaxes that all promote his general theme. And at some point, when we have submitted to His molding and will, He no longer needs to feed us lines. We can improvise, based on who He has made us and where He has placed us. We do what is natural to us.

So, we don't need to be so worried about saying the right things or doing the right things . . . we just need to be worried about being the right person, being the person God is re-creating us to be. And we know who that person is by knowing who Christ is.

Get to know Him intimately, and the rest falls into place. Know Him well enough to know that you can safely give Him control. That's doable. That's a manageable goal when the world is falling apart around me. Just know the Playwright. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Conquering My Fear. Kind Of.

Root canal.

Are you quaking in your boots? The term epitomizes a horrible experience – how many times have you heard someone say, "I'd rather have a root canal than blah blah blah . . . "

I've had some pretty awful dental experiences in my past. I have terrible memories of my mother holding me down in the dentist's office while they tried to pull three stubborn teeth that weren't coming out on their own. It took hours. They would get one out and we'd all take a break before starting in on the other. And the main problem was that nobody believed me when I said I could still feel all this!!

I finally got a dentist in Hutchinson who told me that when I get nervous, my adrenaline neutralizes the novocaine.  He had to give me two or three times as much as his other patients to keep me numb. Finally! Someone who believed me! He recommended, when I moved, that I never again settle for any dentist who wouldn't give me enough meds to really numb me.

And I haven't. Dr. Ringler empowered me. When my first dentist in New Jersey sat back disgusted at my continual yelps while he tried to drill in my mouth and said, "Well, just what exactly do you want me to DO for you?" I left and found another dentist. (I wish I'd said to him, "I want you to stop patronizing me like I'm a child who doesn't know the difference between pain and pressure!!" But I didn't have quite that much courage yet. Walking out was a big enough deal at the time.)

So, surely it's understandable how scared I was going to see an endodontist last week for a scan to see what needed to be done with tooth #21. And surely you can sympathize when he said "root canal and surgical procedure" . . . and that he could do the procedure right then . . . and I started to freak out internally.

Because I knew I should do it. It had to be done or I'd lose the tooth (which is an option I considered, believe me, but they said that would be even more painful and expensive). I was on spring break, so I had no reason not to just get it done immediately. If I waited, I would just work myself up into more of a panic about it. Better to get it over with.

But I started to cry when I told the endodontist to go ahead. And I was embarrassed at my tears. Forty-seven-year-old woman! The tears just came – I couldn't stop them. I couldn't believe how terrified I was of the potential pain.

The procedure ended up taking forty-five minutes longer than they said because an instrument broke off inside my mouth and they had trouble getting it out (good grief – that WOULD happen to me). Fortunately, I was on nitrous oxide and completely oblivious. Gotta love nitrous oxide.

The good news? I didn't even hurt the next morning. Hallelujah, Thine the glory.

The bad news? A week later, I'm hurting and my gums are swollen. Gotta call the endodontist about that. Ugh.

The worst news? My bill. Good grief.

Monday, March 14, 2016

On Writing and Thinking and Adulting

So, it's been quite a while since I posted. And I'm sitting here trying to figure out exactly why.

I know in the last couple weeks, it had to do with my laptop. It's kinda dead. Kinda. The battery won't charge, only it's not the battery; it's the place where the charger cord connects. I've been borrowing my daughter's laptop for a week or two now, and so I try not to take it from her any more than necessary because she's being really sweet about it.

Before that, I think it was the play she was in. Well, not "in" -- she was the stage manager for The Importance of Being Earnest. Stage manager means she runs the whole show at performances, and she did a great job. I was so proud of her. But the run of a show is a crazy busy time, and I didn't get to my blog then.

Beyond that, though, frankly, I just haven't known what to write about. And that's kind of unusual for me. I always can come up with something to say. And that's been one of the reasons for keeping up this blog . . . to make myself keep thinking about things that matter and trying to communicate those thoughts to people.

I come up with thoughts during the week. The election process gives me all sorts of fodder to write about. Church and Sunday School usually inspire thoughts. Stuff happens in school, and during homeschool, etc. etc. But I don't ever seem to have the time . . . or inclination . . . or computer access . . . to sit and type those thoughts up when they occur to me. And when Monday morning rolls around, I'm dry as a bone. Tired and just forcing one step in front of the other to get started on my morning.

My sleep problems may be a factor. I've noted that my cpap machine doesn't seem to be fitting very well anymore.

General busy-ness is a factor, also. My to-do list is quite long right now. And most of the items on that list are mental items -- things I need to sit and think about. Lesson plans. School plans for next year. Drama plans for summer and fall. Writing gigs. Homeschool plans for my daughter. Oh, the thinks I must think.

Think time requires big chunks of time. And it puts me in a mood -- a self-absorbed, living-in-my-brain mood. And I don't feel like communicating with anyone about anything, unless it is directly connected with my current think.

So, anyway, my apologies for isolating myself from you (if any of you noticed or missed me!). This is spring break, so maybe I'll get caught up on my thinks and writes and have stuff to say when the week's over. I know others of you have spring break this week also. Enjoy your time, and head back to life refreshed next Monday!

For the rest of you who are adulting this week without a spring break, good for you. The world needs more adults. Might you consider jumping into the presidential race?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Really, South Carolina?

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Thus begins the 27th Psalm, which my pastor preached on yesterday and which I have memorized in the past. I was glad for reminder of the precious words in this passage last night because I have new fears as of Saturday evening.

I'm afraid of Trump being the Republican nominee for president. More than that, I fear a Trump presidency.

I'm thoroughly stunned at how this has progressed. The man infuriated me from the moment he entered the race, but my husband kept assuring me that there was no chance he would get the nomination. It just wouldn't happen. He's not that reassuring anymore.

But you know . . . I'm not so sure that my greatest fear is what will happen to the country. Frankly, I accepted the pending demise of our nation long ago. As much as it will sadden me, and as much as I will fight it, I have no doubt that the America I knew -- and certainly the America my parents knew -- will not be here for my children. And I can accept that as God's sovereign will here because I know that America is not integral to the kingdom of God. In the vast scope of eternity, America is a blip on the radar. There are far more important things than "the American dream."

No, that is not what distresses me. What distresses me is that Donald Trump won the evangelical vote in South Carolina. The church, the people of God, the body of Christ on earth looked at this arrogant, selfish, petty, vindictive, manipulative man and believed him to be worthy of the most powerful political position on the planet -- deemed him the best hope for our nation among the alternatives. What could they POSSIBLY have been thinking??

In light of the results of the primaries so far, I am less concerned about the future of America than I am about the future of the American church. Have we truly become so blind? Have we truly become so short-sighted? Have we truly become so deceived?

Because America is not the hope of the world; Christ is. And if the body of Christ on earth is thinking and behaving so abysmally, we are all quite lost.

And so I return to the 27th Psalm, grasping for hope, just as the Psalmist was. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord. Have mercy on me and answer me. . . Do not hide your face from me. . . Do not reject or forsake me. . . although we deserve it. Although we've turned from your face. Have mercy, Lord.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord.

Be strong, take heart,
And wait for the Lord.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Curse of Productivity

My eldest informed her father and me the other day that we are the reason she despises the word "productivity."

Well, good heavens. "Productivity" is one of my favorite words. Productivity is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Productivity is next to godliness, for crying out loud. I generally define the quality of my day by how productive I have been able to be.

Yet I have caused my daughter to despise the word – and presumably the concept. I'm aghast.

I blame her personality type. In fact, this was the context of her remark – we were talking about our Meyers-Briggs types. This daughter is the lone "P" in a family of "J"s. I was just explaining to everyone that I had read an explanation of those labels that was new to me. J's prioritize the importance of making a decision, getting something done. By contrast, P's are more concerned with acquiring all the necessary information, continuing to consider, tossing around the possibilities, etc.

So, she comes by it naturally, this lack of urgency to get things done. Or so she claims. Whatever.

For my part, I can't imagine NOT valuing productivity. It is so ingrained in my nature – in my very being. Life is about getting things done. If you don't get things done, what bloody good are you? What have you accomplished? What are you here for? What do you have to show for yourself?

Yet, even as I type that, I recognize that I am, perhaps, the opposite extreme to my daughter, and that's not necessarily a good thing. I should NOT define the quality of my day by how productive I have been able to be. It is possible to have a day where I cross nothing of significance off of my to-do list, and yet I might have still managed to be right in the center of God's will for that moment.

Perhaps I interacted with people. That's not a to-do list item, but it is important nonetheless.

Perhaps I regenerated my spirit. Again, quite necessary.

Perhaps . . . well . . . I'm sure there are other things. (My daughter could probably help me out here.)

So, I'll acknowledge, a happy medium may be in order here. I probably need to figure out how to knock the idol of productivity off of the throne of my heart without condemning myself to the ranks of the useless and ineffectual.

BUT . . . my eldest also needs to learn the value of getting things done. Yes. She does.