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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lessons from 1912

I found a link the other day to an exam given to 8th grade students in 1912. So, because the girls and I were sitting around bored, I started quizzing them.

Good heavens. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So I laughed – a lot.

We laughed more and more as the night went on. The funniest moment for me was when I asked them who invented the cotton gin. "Martin Luther!" my eldest called. "Kabalevsky!" the youngest screamed. I decided to just content myself with the fact that a good number of kids their age don't know who Martin Luther is to even offer him as a joke answer, and even less have probably even HEARD of Kabalevsky.

But to be fair, I wouldn't have passed the test either. Not even the grammar section, and we all know what a grammar diva I am. "What properties have verbs?" Yeah, right. And I took some comfort in the fact that these 1912 kids had one hundred years less of history to learn than we did. So, I don't mourn my inability to "sketch briefly Peter Stuyvesant."

It also has occurred to me, when I've seen such items in the past, that we can't necessarily compare those kids to ours. While I would argue that we need to do a better job of educating our children these days, still, comparing public school results today to public school results in 1912 is like comparing apples and oranges.

In 1912, they did not have this lofty goal of "No Child Left Behind." America has decided that every single student in the country needs to be equally well-educated. That was not the goal in 1912. A much smaller percentage of students were attending school back then. Many did not have access to schools . . . many had to work to support their families and couldn't take the time for school . . . and many, frankly, just couldn't cut it in school, and they quit. And they were allowed to quit. It's much easier to hold your students to a higher standard when you don't have to worry about getting EVERY student to that standard.

That's the thing about high standards: they sometimes give the illusion of grand success, but they often reflect a reality of selective success.

My daughter had a different reaction to the test, however. In the car the next day (after finishing her history assignment for the morning over the second World War), she said, "You know, it's weird to think that those kids in 1912 knew nothing at all about either of the World Wars."

They didn't. They had no idea that these stunning, cataclysmic, world-changing events were just around the corner in their lives. Life probably seemed to them pretty calm, pretty smooth, pretty much like this is how it has always been and always will be.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? In thirty years, what stunning, cataclysmic, world-changing events could disrupt the calm, smooth lives of MY teenagers?

I almost shudder to think.