Guns, Gays, and Abortion Vs. the Poor, the Widow, and the Orphan

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Being raised heathen has some enormous spiritual advantages, but you do miss many important little details of Christian doctrine that would otherwise seep in through cultural osmosis.

Sometimes when one of these little doctrinal nuggets finally slips into place, it’s an ‘Aha!’ moment, as half a dozen nagging little confusions become clear all at once.

Other times it’s an ’Um… what?’  moment, leaving me vastly more confused.

One of the biggest shocks of my early adult life was the phrase ‘Guns, Gays, and Abortion’ in connection with American Christianity.

Most of the Christians I knew growing up were afraid of guns, opposed to abortion, and ambivalent at best on gays, while my wholly irreverent atheist non-believer father (1)  was an avid shooter who favoured anything related to decreased population, and considered other people’s sex lives none of his business.

I naturally assumed, therefore, that the ‘Guns, Gays and Abortion’ refrain referred to What Christians Stand Against.

I hadn’t picked up, from a fairly thorough acquaintance with the Bible, that God particularly wanted his church to be known for what we were against, so this was a little confusing.

Imagine my surprise, and even deeper confusion, when I later learned that ‘we’ were against gays and abortion, but for guns!

As a religious identity! Naturally, this was not to be my last shock with regard to Politico-Christian doctrine, but it was quite an introduction.

Unfortunately, Guns, Gays and Abortion  left me with a few gaps in regard to how the Church’s mission in this world is best defined.

Firstly, there is no mention of guns in the Bible.

This isn’t unusual of course, there is no mention of rutabagas or telephones in the Bible either.

But that something not mentioned once in the Bible should be one of three top things the Church was supposed to be known for struck me as odd.

And, frankly, there is a heck of a lot in the Bible that would indicate that if God HAD expressed an opinion on guns he’d be pretty supportive of moderation in our passion for them.

Then, to further complicate my contemplation, there is no mention of abortion in the Bible!

Now, no, I do not think the lack of reference to abortion in the Bible means that God supports it. I doubt very much that this is God’s preferred path for any woman or girl, or for her child.

However, I eventually had to consider the implications of this curious silence.

If abortion was never once mentioned in the Bible, what were the odds that this was one of the keynote points God wanted me, as a representative of his Body, to focus on?

Then finally GAYS.

PAY DIRT!  On this one the Bible did, in fact, actually have something to say!

And, it is absolutely true that what the Bible says is not favourable! (2)

I’m not going to argue that here. Justifying God’s words is far beyond my capacity or authority.

Many of God’s words are hard to take, and if you are gay and and a follower of God, I have to assume that there is a lot of soul searching and confusion, possibly even some painful sacrifice involved at many points in that walk. I don’t know how to respond to that. I wish I had something better than that, but I don’t. God bless and keep you.

HOWEVER, for this discussion, for my trying to wrap my head around the church’s supposed primary concerns, was the fact that the Bible mentions homosexuality, and that God’s words about it are not supportive, the answer to my quest?

Not so much.

For, while the Bible does, as far as I can understand it, tell me that I can’t practice homosexuality without being out of God’s will for my life,  it seems to prioritise a whole lot of things a lot more highly.

What then, HAS God prioritised?

I’m sure my title gives a strong hint in that direction, but as I see this post is in danger of becoming a Russian novel, and I am really out of time anyway, I’ll have to chatter about that piece next time.

NOT, of course, that you have to wait for MY two cents on it!! Grab a Bible and give it a scan! Until next time….

Be well. 

 

 

(1) Although I am not a fan of cross outs, this is one place I will employ them, as my dear father has corrected my facts thusly:

“I’m not sure if I would call myself an atheist as opposed to “born again non-believer”  I don’t necessarily deny the existence of a god but haven’t found any evidence to support my own belief in one.”

As is probably evident, he remains wholly irreverent, dare I say sacrilegious, even blasphemous, once he gets warmed up.

 

(2) Yes, I am aware that numerous people have reinterpreted the passages dealing with homosexuality questioning their intended meaning, and interpreted other passages to show support for homosexuality. Becoming a scholar of ancient Greek and Hebrew is definitely not within my little time-and-energy allotment, so I’ll not engage that argument either. I have no desire to make life, or Christianity, harder for any image bearer of God, this just isn’t an area which my aptitudes suggest as a logical focus. If you sincerely believe other interpretations to be more correct, God bless you, and it’s not my business.

The Poor, the Widow and the Orphan Vs. Guns, Gays, and Abortion: What then, HAS God prioritised?

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Okay, did anybody peek?

In my last post I talked about how the American Church is known for very strongly prioritising things that, frankly, don’t come across that heavily in Bibilical prioritisation, but I didn’t make it to the things God DOES prioritise.

So what does God prioritise?

The Poor and the Vulnerable

God makes a big deal out of these folks.

In fact, God prioritises the poor and vulnerable – specifically, making sure they have justice and meeting their needs –  more than any other specific group that I can find. I get the impression they are more important to him than pretty  much anything else except our relationship with HIM.

And actually, I suspect one reason they get so much Biblical air time is because of what our treatment of them says about our relationship with him.

How we treat those  who can’t certainly repay us, or enforce any demand upon us, says a lot about who we are, don’t you think?

God also mentions the rich a fair amount, but in not one single place does he say ‘You, my disciples, should do everything you can to be rich, or to make sure the rich get richer.’

In fact, he’s got some fairly disturbing things to say about Christians focusing our energies on the rich.

And what he says TO the rich is frequently a warning to be very, very careful because wealth and godliness are a tough combination to get right. *

Justice and Mercy

This is another focus to which he gives pretty solid weight.

Interestingly, from the wisdom of the Proverbs, through to the specific and very clear instruction in Isaiah, and on to pretty much every word Jesus ever said on earth, God, who is both completely just and completely merciful, reserves most of the justice work for his end of the deal and focuses our work largely on the mercy end of things.

I suspect this is because he is perfect, trustworthy, and objective in all things, and we are not.

When God does discuss justice in reference to our work, I generally find that he’s on our case about the fact that we are preventing others from getting that justice – usually, you guessed it:  the poor, the vulnerable (widows, orphans, aliens in our homelands), and such.

So where does that leave me?

In a philisophitheologicadocrinal show down between Guns Gays and Abortion Vs the Poor, the Widow and the Orphan, what’s a poorly trained Christian girl to do?

In my case, the answer so far is go with what you know. 

And what I know, so far, is that it makes sense to prioritise the most important parts of your message, so it probably makes sense to devote my greatest energy to those things God emphasised most.

And what I see God emphasising, old testament and new, is:

These things not only don’t reinforce a Guns, Gays and Abortion stance as the right priority for a girl seeking to live as a Christian, they are painfully opposed to much that has resulted from that view.

And my policy, when caught between God and Man, is go with God every time. (I’ve read the end of the story; God wins.)

SO, I after a couple years of reading the real Bible, and using my real God-given brains on what I found there, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some of the views and beliefs I had picked up from my Christian culture, just as I had had to do with my larger societal culture.

  • I started looking at policies, personal choices, values in light of what I saw there. And I changed what I put my energy into.
  • I changed how I pray.
  • I eventually changed how I vote –  started choosing political candidates based on the whole of their platform, and on the BIG PICTURE impacts of it, not just their rhetoric about THE BIG THREE.

It’s yet another opportunity to not fit in ANYWHERE!

But then I’ve gotten used to that over the years.

And it makes it possible for me to vote, and live, and think, in ways that reflect what I really believe, which takes a remarkable amount of stress out of the Christian life.

Every once in a while I even remember that God is omniscient and omnipotent and could probably run the whole thing without my input!

 

 

* Just a smattering of those verses:

Proverbs 22:16

Proverbs 23:4

Proverbs 28:8

Proverbs 28:20

Matthew 19:23

Luke 12:15-21

James 1:9-11

James 5

Revelation 3:17

 

Protest

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I try to make a point of writing on topics about which I actually know something, but this week I’m breaking that rule.

One of my dearest friends is also a Facebook friend, as is her lovely 16 year old daughter, whom I will call K. Just over a week ago I opened Facebook to find a frantic note from my friend asking K to get in touch, because a shooting had occurred at K’s school and  reports were that two young girls were killed.

Naturally this caught and kept my attention until everything was resolved and my friends were both safely home.

I’ve been keeping in touch with the situation a little bit, because when you’re 16 years old, having two fellow students, kids your age, whom you might even know, die in a violent way can be pretty disturbing. And having to wait for news, and to see your daughter in such a situation can disturb moms a bit too. I’m happy to say that my friends are strong healthy people who are doing pretty well with this.

In following this event though, I came upon an entirely separate  disturbing situation.

While this group of high school kids walks through the confusion and fear and grief associated with having two people that they know suddenly dead in a violent way, there are protesters standing outside their school waving signs condemning the two girls, and apparently the whole school, because the two girls who died were  lesbian. This disturbs me because it’s hurting my friends, but it also really confuses me.

Firstly, a 15 year old child, in a moment of apparent emotional despair choose to end both her life and that of another child.  Two families are grieving the loss of their children. One of them has the added horror of knowing that their child took the her own life.  And the life of another human being.  Is the question of these girls professed choices about sexuality really the most significant concern at a time like this?

Secondly, dear protester, what is the intended outcome of this is protest? 

Are you trying to convince these two deceased young girls that they shouldn’t be homosexual? If so, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, and possibly further paining any of their loved ones who may read this, IT IS TOO LATE to affect the choices of these girls.

Are you trying to convince the school or the other children in it not to have lesbians in their midst? [note] On the chance that any Independence High School student should ever happen across this post, I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect in my use of the term ‘children’ in describing you here. I chose this term to make a point, and because it is the legal status under which most of you fall. My experience of you is limited to only one example, but if she is any indication, you are a mature, competent, and thoughtful group of people; certainly this has been indicated by your compassionate and dignified handling of this recent tragedy at your school. [/note]  I’m pretty sure the school doesn’t get to choose whether or not to educate people based on their sexual orientation.  And frankly, what benefit would there be if they did? Uneducated people with whom you disagree will remain just as distressing to you, and I’m doubting that rendering them unable to get a job, support themselves, pay taxes will improve that any. And as for the students, they need to grieve the luxury of believing ‘things like this only happen to other people or on TV’, which they no longer have, regardless of how they individually may have felt about either of these girls.  And they need to grieve to remain human in an inhumane world.

Is the point to publicise what the Bible says about homosexuality? This is the United States, love, anyone here who isn’t already clear on this almost certainly doesn’t care what the Bible has to say about anything.  But if you truly feel the need to educate people on this particular Biblical stance, there are ways to do so that are humane.  And I suspect you’ll get a better hearing from people who haven’t been alienated or traumatised by your cruelty in their time of horror and loss.

Or to convince those who do not agree? Seriously, does this strike you as the logical or quick path to influencing people’s hearts? If you’ve done nothing else in this protest, you have created solidarity among these young people, with each other and with these two young girls who have died.

People who probably never gave a thought to the moral rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, or even hold similar views on it to yours, now have a more thoughtful and empathetic perspective because in their tragedy they’ve been forced to pull together to face a common enemy.  You.

Is the point just to have your views expressed? If so speak with the principal – in his or her office. Picket a school board meeting. Make an appointment with your state senator. Or surely, in a place as large as the Phoenix metropolitan area, there must be at least one gay rights activist organisation. Run by grown ups.  Grown ups who have dedicated themselves to this issue. Speak with them. 

Not with a bunch of traumatised school children. 

Is the point just to inflict pain? I get that. I do. Sometimes life just sucks and nothing helps, but at least if someone else is miserable you aren’t alone. Not the most noble stance, perhaps, but we’ve all been there. But you know, even in pain we can maintain a degree of decency. There are adults you can lash out at. Or you can speak with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. It is not necessary to hurt confused, grieving children. There isn’t a Geneva convention for emotional warfare, but we can choose to live as if there is.

It isn’t easy to choose kindness and decency over anger or cruelty when your most crucial beliefs are challenged, but it is possible. And it’s right. And I strongly suspect it is designed to be the most effective way to connect and gain common ground, too. 

 

 

 

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

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We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.  TobyMac

 

This quote came through my Facebook feed back when I was first trying to figure out how to shape this blog. I knew a lot of what I wanted to write about was this really high controversy stuff, and the last thing I had the energy for was devoting a large chunk of my very precious free time to inciting contentious brawls. 

Mr. McKeehan’s comment reminded me that tough topics have to be talked about, but how you talk about them can make all the difference.

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

Splendid! I had, thankfully, grown into this concept prior to Mr. McKeehan’s note, but I’ve got to tell you, it didn’t come naturally.

I was pretty familiar with the ‘Do Anything, Agree With Everything, Rather Than Face Any Conflict’ camp.

And I had always been more of a fight than flight kind of girl, so while I didn’t view disagreement as necessarily scratching and pulling hair, brittle civility was a much closer image than kindness.

I did eventually meet people who somehow had the gift of standing their ground but still being lovely, and loving, people. I’m not quite one of them yet, but by my 90s I may have it down. 

At just this point in writing this post, I found myself in a Facebook comments conversation on this very topic.

Most of the commenters were in agreement with a meme about being kind whether we agree or not, but one woman, who had been terribly hurt by really appalling racism was adamant that she could not be kind to people on ‘the other side’. From the comments that she related, I could certainly understand why; I was embarrassed just to share skin colour with the people who had said these things to her.

This conversation gave me a lot of food for thought. Belabouring the point with a complete stranger in serious pain just for the sake of my research didn’t seem quite, well, kind, but I thought I’d ask everyone here: 

What does it look like to be kind when we, perhaps vehemently, disagree?

I definitely do not believe in placing oneself, or remaining, in a situation where someone demeans or abuses you. I don’t believe in pretending to have no opinions just to avoid conflict. I do not respect people who do not, by their character and actions merit respect. But I think I do have an obligation to TREAT them with respect – which I define as being decent and kind to them.

To me this looks like arguing the issue rather than attacking the person. Like not insulting or belittling the person I disagree with, or trashing them to others. It looks like treating them with human decency throughout, and despite, the argument. Listening in an effort to understand. Speaking quietly and calmly, if I can; apologising and regrouping if I can’t.

For Christians, I also see it as praying for them – and NO, not just that  prayer for God whack them upside the head! I mean truly seeking God’s best for them.

Sometimes it means agreeing to disagree; sometimes it means agreeing to not touch on that topic to preserve the relationship.

And for those who truly are abusive and uninterested in civil discussion, I see it as walking away from them, the argument, without having to attack them as human beings, without having to hurt or humiliate them, simply doing what is necessary to avoid them harming you or others. (*see footnote though!!)

But my brief conversation with this lady on Facebook reminded me that it doesn’t look the same to other people.

So how about it?  

What does it look like to you to be kind to one another even if we disagree?

Is it even possible?

Do you think it has merit?

 

 

 Let me be clear, I am talking here about normal disagreements between people who have the same degree of power, which have turned nasty in the heat of the argument; not about  actual physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional abuse. True abuse does not necessarily obligate you to be cruel to the abuser, but PLEASE do whatever is necessary, physically, and legally, to stop the abuse and prevent it from happening again. And seek support to recover from it, and whatever made you vulnerable to it.

Holy Week

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How are you celebrating Holy Week?

Or, if you are like me and come from a background that barely knows there IS something called ‘Holy Week’: What are you doing for Easter?

I am not doing anything especially fancy, but I have come to really relish holidays and celebrations as time set aside to just focus. I find it a special treat to just have one thing to do at a time, especially when that one thing is slow, peaceful enjoyment of friends or family, or being fully present in the celebration of the important things.

And to just focus on restoration, renewal, being freed, being made holy when I could never possibly manage that myself; this is an especially lovely ‘set apart’ time! : )

I have never been a big fan of huge crowds, so I seldom attend Easter services, even when I am more fully connected to my community than I am this current one, but I will certainly plan some peaceful times of reflection and find some ways to make the day special, and the weekend itself a little more special than the usual chores-and-errands.

I wish you great joy in whatever you do through the rest of this week and the Easter holiday!!

Be well.  

Faith

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

 

Sound familiar? (If not, that’s Hebrews 11:1.) It has an inspirational feel to it, don’t you think?

But what exactly does it mean?!?

What IS faith? Believing that God exists? The Bible says that the demons accomplish that much, and that they are a good deal more impressed by it than we are. As with many important things, it’s easier to know what faith is than to define it.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But from time to time it becomes important to me to really understand it. In other words, to actually be able to define it.

For my own use, for myself. I’m not about settling eternal questions for all of humanity. But for my own understanding, when the storms come and hell in a hand-basket doesn’t sound so amusingly distant, what does it mean to have faith?

It does, of course, mean that I genuinely believe in God. So I know I’m at least up with the demons in the faith department.

And beyond believing IN God, I found that it meant to BELIEVE God, which is a different thing: to take him at his word.

I was always really good at faith. That’s not a point of pride; absolutely not an accomplishment for which I put forth heroic effort. It was just a fact. As a result of my upbringing, my personality, my understanding of God, faith was simply an inborn talent.  A gift. Something I just did well, with little effort.

Then it wasn’t.

For most of my life, when the storms came, my faith buffered them and saw me through them, so I assumed that I had all the pieces I needed.

And maybe I did. I think faith can be built incorrectly, not having all the pieces to start, but now I also wonder if faith can be damaged in the storms. In the swirl of all the hell, with the hand-basket long since splintered and scattered to the wind.

I’m still not sure if faith can be injured or if injury just points up the areas where my foundation was weak, but I know that two storms in my life – by no means the biggest, or the longest, or the hardest, ironically –  left me with some water intrusion and a handful of shingles missing on my previously rock solid faith. Clearly I needed a better understanding than I had.

I’ve had to really go back through my thoughts and views on God, my relationship to him, my understanding of him, my views on how he leads me – the whole shebang.

In the midst of that I happened upon a definition of faith in the Amplified Bible that really struck a cord. Ye old Amplified defined faith as “an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.”

Hmmm….

The power of God was never a question for me.

And wisdom? When you are omniscient, I’m content to throw in wisdom as a given.

But according to the Amplified, faith also, inherently, included the goodness of God. Not the greatness. Not the righteousness, or the justice, or the perfection. But the goodness.

Did I believe God was GOOD?

Well of course I did! How could I not!?! What kind of Christian would not think God is GOOD?!??! 

One of the big inconveniences of being a scientist is that you feel compelled to look for some evidence behind your assertions.

And the evidence showed a girl who, somewhere along the way, had gotten a bit shaky on the goodness of God. Talk about a blow to my pride! Now I had broken faith AND broken pride! There’s a mess for you.

I did actually still accept that God WAS good, intellectually. But to do so I had to transform my definition of good so profoundly that it ignored all the ways God defines good. Could God be good and cruel? Of course! God is God, so if he’s cruel that must be ‘good’. Could God be good and compassionless? Of course! God is God, so if he’s compassionless that must be ‘good’.

But that isn’t what God calls good.¹

Conundrum. A conundrum, it turned out, of faithlessness.  A conundrum that therefore had to be resolved.

Because Hebrews has other things to say about faith too, like, without it, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. That one is a little less nebulous than ’substance of things hoped for’. And a little more intimidating, when you come to really think about it.

So, I’ve been pondering faith, and me, and God, for a while now, trying to dig myself out of the mess that got me here, as well as the mess that ‘here’ is. And I found that searching more deeply into who God is, regaining a perspective on what ‘goodness’ is from God’s commentary on it, is bringing some clarity.

Make no mistake, I don’t think that God being good means that everything that he allows or does in my life is going to be an unremitting delight. I understand that pain, hardship, distress are natural parts of life, and that God is not a genie in a bottle whisking it all away. But knowing that God permits, and uses painful and difficult circumstances is very, very different from coming to think that God is not trustworthy, and that harm and trouble are his will and intention for me.

So I’ve been studying how he says he treats and thinks of us. The promises he makes. The attitudes he displays, and the attitudes he requires of us. And this little amplification on faith has come to be a real help in my journey.

Faith is an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.

That sure fits with the end of Hebrews 11:6 “…for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

So try these babies out with that perspective on faith:

Hebrews 11:6  “And without an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Or

Hebrews 11:1 “Now an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Or how about this little gem: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God…”

It adds a little richness, don’t you think?

I like it anyway. I find it challenging, but also clarifying. Faith seems a little less nebulous, a little more defined.

One of the things that always used to confuse me was times Jesus praises people’s ‘faith’. The examples range from dogged persistence to down right insolence, but they were never what I thought of as faith. They begin to make more sense if I define faith this way.

If I have an inherent trust, and enduring confidence in the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, I’m going to be pretty darn persistent about getting to him with my need. I’m going to be pretty bold about seeking his help and direction.

And while I’ll always be cautious, not wanting to treat the God of the universe like a cosmic gum-ball machine, I think that as long as I define faith this way I’ll stay more real about what good is, and I’ll look a lot more closely, when I start doubting God’s goodness, to find what is really going on.

Now, when I hear the frightened, confused ‘Well, God must be good, even if he doesn’t act like it’, I have a little alarm telling me that my faith might need some attention. And it points me in the direction of what faith really is, so that I can more clearly see where that attention is needed.

It’s a new path for me, but it seems to be healing so far, and I hope to be able to make the big important changes I’m seeking a lot more effectively through it.

 

If you happen to celebrate Passover, which begins this evening, or Earth Day, which will be in full swing at the time this posts, may they be blessed. 

 

 

Be well. 

 

¹Mostly. I’m still working my way through some Bible stories that I wish weren’t there, but for now I’m going with the most prevalent expressions of God and of ‘good’ as defined by him throughout the whole cannon.

 

The whores all seem to love him

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There’s rumors He even thinks Himself a king, of a kingdom of paupers, simpletons and rogues; the whores all seem to love Him, and the drunks propose a toast. And they say, “Surely God is with us. Well, surely God is with us.” Rich Mullins, Surely God is With Us, The Jesus Record.

 

It’s easy to rewrite Jesus. At least, it seems to be easier to rewrite Jesus than to live with the reality of him.

I’m fascinated by the ways Jesus gets rewritten. 

Some of us tidy him up, making him much more respectable than he apparently chose to be during his time here, while others water him down, making him far less passionate and real than the Jesus his contemporaries would recognise.

I am not sure why blowing up part of the image of Jesus and minimising or blurring the rest works for so many people. I suppose it provides a more comfortable fit, if you don’t look too closely at what you’ve done. But to me, it robs the story of a lot of truth, and a lot of opportunity.

A cozy, manageable Jesus who accepts all beliefs, all choices, all actions as equally true or correct, who doesn’t mind much of anything and doesn’t want to offend anyone, doesn’t fit the Jesus of the Bible.

That Jesus would have had little reason to endure excruciating torture and execution to reconcile a fallen world to a perfect God.

That Jesus wouldn’t have said such uncomfortable things as ‘No one can come to the Father except through me’. Or even ‘then neither do I condemn you‘ – I mean, what would there be to condemn?

Unfortunately,  a proper, respectable Jesus doesn’t quite align with the record either.

Jesus didn’t generally associate with ‘the best people’. In fact, when he did happen to run into the best people, he usually so deeply offended them that they promptly set about considering how hard it would be to  bump him off.

I know I’m not the only one who cheers when Jesus rubs the noses of the Bible Story Pharisees in their arrogance and legalism.

But far from being an example of wrong in their day, the REAL Pharisees were the best and brightest of the religious Jews of their time.

Rich, successful, educated, and deeply religious, these were the folks you’d only dream of being if you were a good dedicated believer of their time. The megachurch pastors, the celebrity Christian writers, the Bible scholars of their day.

And the people Jesus hung out with?  The poor, the illiterate, the uncouth. The town whore. Brawlers and thieves. The homeless guys panhandling at Judea’s intersections.

Our stated goal as Christians is to be like Jesus.

But let’s be real: if asked to select our dinner companions from a lineup of wealthy Christian celebrity, renown Bible scholar, town whore, a couple of homeless guys, and an unscrupulous IRS agent, who would we REALLY pick?

I’m not suggesting that Christians ditch all our current friends and realign our social calendar to look like Jesus’, but it does kind of make me wonder if my view of ‘acceptable’ or ‘valuable’ is more narrow than is safe under that pesky ‘judge not’ clause.

Much as I prefer to look at my own sin and think “Well at least I’m not as bad as… the town whore … the drug dealer… the politician …”  according to everything the Bible says, I am.

Compared to the perfection of God, there’s no difference between me and any of them.

Or any difference there is, seems to be much less important than my similarities to the Pharisee!

 

(By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Rich Mullins’ music, the rest of that song quoted above is even more delightfully, irreverently thought provoking. As is ALL of his music.)

Someone Else’s Words: Reposting a blog that I think is relevant here

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Good day all,

I’ve thought long and hard about how to discuss this topic, and how to address an excellent blog post that I ran into a few weeks ago, and the best solution that I can come up with is simply to add my support to what Dr. Coyle has written by reposting it:

A Letter to my Christian Friends who are Anxious about your Religious Liberty

 

I hope you’ll take a moment to look through it.

I’d happily just repost the full text here, with appropriate attribution, and leave it at that, but I suspect there is some sort of blog ethic against that.

The author makes many valuable points. And she indicates a path out of fear about the current state of our world, out of striving anxiously about our rights. A path that is correct, that is based in eternal promises.

The most significant point, to me, is that other people having civil rights and liberties is not the same as mine being threatened or taken away.

I feel sometimes that we are so very far from understanding what it means to be oppressed that we’ve come to view any risk of discomfort as an assault.

It’s no longer enough that I have the right to believe as I believe and practice my beliefs so long as they don’t harm you. Now  just knowing that you have the same rights I have, though you don’t believe the way I do, is an assault on my civil liberty.

That is a dangerous place to get to.

The concept that church and state should be separate except when it’s MY church, is all fine and good when MY group happens to be the majority. But I can’t be sure that will always be the case.

At the risk of being melodramatic, it’s a bit like the Niemoller statement

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I don’t want to get to that place.

But even if that were not risk, I agree with Dr. Coyle that I have a responsibility as a Christian to not put others in that place either.

And for more than one reason.

I AM obligated as a Christian to treat others as I’d want to be treated, yes.

I’m also obligated to display the image of Christ.

But perhaps the most important reason comes in Dr. Coyle’s note:

I must say to my fellow Christians that lots of people are tired of hearing us whine and blame and squabble and demand our own way. People will be much more inclined to listen to us when they can actually see us:

partnering across divides to feed the hungry;

advocating for a hopeful future for all children;

demanding justice for the oppressed;

challenging the abuse of our planet;

working to include the marginalized;

and maybe even baking cakes for our neighbors’ weddings. 
Maybe even “bake for them two.”

Call me crazy, but I just can’t shake the suspicion that living as Christ commands us to is meant to be the key to our success as his image bearers.

Be well. 

Blessings in the storm

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My goodness it’s been an intense week!

Last week was such a whirlwind – getting the news about my job ending at the end of September, numerous meetings about that, and having to get myself back to CA, on top of two projects with deadlines – that I really didn’t have any time at all to process the reams of information about my job disappearing.

Or even the FACT that my job will be disappearing.

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind too, but at least I have the 10 hour drive (11.5 with CA traffic jams) and most of the deadlines behind me.

So now I’ve at least caught up on the ‘What to expect as your job disappears’ paperwork, and I’ve begun to actually FEEL all the feelings swirling around this latest crisis.

I am EXHAUSTED by the end of most workdays! Which, I guess that at least prevents laying awake nights worrying. 😀

One of the most unexpected things about this little crisis has been the blessings within it.

I imagine I’ll do more than my share of whining and maybe even raging over the course of this latest adventure, so I want to take at least this one opportunity to acknowldege the BLESSINGS.

My boss sent out a general announcement about the restructure, and within hours the man I respect most in my whole organisation (and one of the men I respect most in the world) had sent me a note asking how it would affect me, and expressing concern.

Since then I have received a number of similar notes from people I admire all across our organisation. Not just people I work with each week, but people who could easily go a month, many months, without ever thinking of me. I don’t think I felt so honoured when I GOT the job as I do by these expressions of concern and support!

As soon as another colleague heard, she skyped me to say that if I need any help processing things, or just want to chat, she is there for me – and I know for a fact that this woman has been working 75 hour weeks lately due to more work than people to do it.

Since I was in Washington when I got this news, I had to call my friend who lives there, whom I had been expecting to spend more time with, and tell her that I was leaving two weeks early and couldn’t say now when I’ll be back.

And she immediately offered that I could come stay with her if I need a place to live. No questions, no strings, no time limits, just ‘If you need this, you have it’.

Do you have any idea what that does for the soul on the receiving end?

If I get nothing else out of life’s lessons, I pray that I get THAT lesson well enough to do the same for someone else down the road.

And my lovely housemate, who will arguably be most affected by this if the worst comes, made the same offer! She also took me to my favourite restaurant for lunch the day after I limped back from Washington.

Who has friends like this?!?!

Actually, I hope you ALL do. I hope I am so good a friend.

If not, I hope I grow up to be.

Yesterday this same housemate came home with a special edition of of my favourite workout magazine, focused on stretching and strength. “Because,” she said “you’ll need to be taking good care of yourself during this time.”

I am also one of those blessed people who has a truly supportive family. They do not all pray, but those who do have all offered prayer support. And ALL of them have offered emotional support, wisdom, and help whenever I need it. I know that not everyone has that and I do not take it lightly.

Even the fact that I have a fairly long notice, and some options, and an emergency fund, is a blessing. I know that some people lose their jobs with no warning.

So, this isn’t the most peaceful of times, and I have moments of horror and despair, yet I am richly blessed.

I do not, yet, have the whole picture of my ‘abundant life’, and yeah, this latest crisis even looks a bit like going backwards; yet my life is pretty abundant.

 

 

Be well. 

A Retrenchment* Observed

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Has it really been only  two month since I stepped onto this merry-go-round? Time flies when you’re having chaos!

Well. Last week I interviewed for one of the jobs that will be replacing my own.

It wasn’t a perfect fit, I knew that going in, my boss knew that too. But, it was a job I could do, a job I could find value in. And, well, it was also A JOB.

Which, when facing the end of my current position in 3 weeks …. you know how that goes.

This week I learned that I did not get the job. The feedback on my interview was remarkably complementary, I am grateful for that. But that fact remains that this job wasn’t a perfect fit, and they hired someone they hope will be a more perfect fit. I hope so too.

And I hope a more perfect fit for me awaits.

I know that if this has to be one of those awful tales of going from  a great job I enjoyed to a series of terrible jobs I do to pay the rent, I can survive it. But I don’t want that.

So, the real adventure starts here. Should be a good test drive for my newly rebuilt faith!

The most unexpected thing about this little crisis remains the blessings within it.

 

The extraneous falls away. 

I can’t remember the last time that my job was focused on so few things! And all of them legitimately high priority! I love having my work focus narrowed to only the essentials.

Also, the little frustrations – a technical term that we routinely misuse, a policy I disagree with – they don’t matter anymore. Any change I will make in this organisation, I have already made. Now my only job is completing the essentials.

At home too, the extraneous at least recedes. So many projects, concerns, and decisions must be on hold during this ‘mean time’ that is my current life.

Faith grows. 

As I’ve said before, I’m so I am grateful that this came now, not during the LifeWreck, or in the time I spent recovering from it. But I was worried: Would this be too much for my so-recently-rebuilt faith? So far, no.

If anything, this has brought a lot of clarity about God, my relationship with him, and my place in him. I have had remarkable peace, all things considered.

Reconnection.

One of the things that I did several weeks ago, to try to ensure that my faith DIDN’T crash again with this new storm, was to reach out to my wonderful friend and pastor, Pete, and that has been a huge blessing.

Pete has of course helped me in practical ways, like the excellent pastor he is, but also it’s just been a blessing catching up on his life, his ministry (while he remains my pastor, because that’s what he is at heart, I’m not technically part of his congregation, since I live some 800 miles away) his family, and his ever new understandings of God’s work in our world.

I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a colleague who is going through his own retrenchment process. I wouldn’t wish this on him in a million years, but it’s been a blessing to be able to share this journey with one who is going through it too, but not in my own team.

The ever amazing kindness of friends.

I’ve talked before about how amazingly my friends have come through for me in this crisis, with offers of places to live, of help, with prayer, etc.

I have a dear friend named Greg whose beloved brother died just days before I found out about my job, so I didn’t mention the job crisis to Greg.

Well, this past week I finally had to ‘fess up’, and immediately Greg responded asking if I had savings, and what they could do to help. “We would not leave you stranded.” he said.

I stand amazed that I have this many friends who would sincerely offer so much. I hope with all my heart that I live up to that class of friendship!

So, I am interested to see where this adventure will take me, but I’m grateful too, to see where I’ve been, and what richness I possess.

 

Be well. 

 

*  I’m still not clear if ‘Retrenchment’ is a term commonly used in the US, or only by fussy international organisations who use British English in their business. In case the latter, Retrenchment means the process of being laid off. Sounds so much more elegant though, doesn’t it?  🙂

You are not invisible

I really don’t know what it’s like to feel invisible. I was 6 foot tall before I was 16 years old, so I’ve always stood out in (or at least above) a crowd. I would often have loved to be invisible.

But I certainly know what it’s like to feel that life is painful … that life is disappointing … or that I don’t matter when, or how, or to whom, I NEED to matter.

And while I may have WISHED for a little invisibility from time to time, I know that for someone to truly feel invisible, is a terrible wound to the soul.

To anyone who has dealt with the other end of the ‘visible’ spectrum, a reminder, and an assurance:

 

You are not invisible.

Who you are MATTERS.

YOU matter.

Even when you don’t think so.

Even when someone important has told you you don’t.

Even if the voice inside tells you that every day; it isn’t true.

You are NOT invisible.

You are not forgotten.

 

Your life, your story, they matter.

YOU MATTER.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This week has been National Suicide Prevention Week. Whether you feel invisible or not, if you ever think that the world would be better off without you, or that the pain you feel will never get better, please know: THOSE ARE LIES.

Please

listen to the stories of others who have found that ‘life after’ can be amazingly different, and worth living

https://twloha.com/blog/you-are-enough-too/

https://twloha.com

https://Iamsecond.com/struggles

talk to someone who knows what it’s like and KNOWS HOW to help… 

Call 1-800-273-8255 

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx 

http://www.crisistextline.org 

trust that the darkness can be conquered…

don’t give up!

 

To Write Love on Her Arms also has directories of local groups who help people get through a crisis:

Resource page, to find local help, by state: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/

Resource Page to find help based on the problem for which you need help: https://twloha.com/find-help/help-by-topic/

Please note that they also have a section specific to Veterans on the topic page.

You can also find the numbers for local and national, 24 hour, free helplines on all the local pages.

If you happen to be someone who needs some hope, needs some help, today, it’s worth it. YOU are worth it. 

 

 

And if you are concerned about someone else, the resources above can help, but this article also has a simple process to make it a little less stressful to offer help:

If you know someone who might be suicidal

 

 

People amaze me.

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People amaze me.

Now frankly, when I say that  I often do NOT mean it as a complement!

But sometimes I do.

Sometimes I am simply stunned by the creativity and … just… the awesomeness of ordinary people.

I’m unusually blessed that in my work for the past decade I’ve gotten to travel in developing countries and see how shockingly innovative and brilliant people are when they can’t fall back on buying their way out of every need.

But even in my own country, even during the last glimmers of this dreadful election, I’ve been impressed again and again.

I read an article this week about a girl in New York who worked through her depression by writing letters of encouragement and love and leaving them around NYC for complete strangers to find.

How do people come up with this stuff?!?

I’m as mental as I ever hope to be, and thank God at least I don’t have depression to get through, and I can’t even imagine thinking up such a cool response to this crisis!

I’m happy to get through the day with my work done, clean laundry, and the meals cooked, and here’s this chick transforming lives during her darkest moments! 

I found this incredibly inspiring. Not the least because I’ve been looking for ways to give back a little, bring a little hope, with the very limited energy I have. Even I can write letters, for goodness’ sake!

Then I ran across an article about this family who bought a desk on Craigslist, and when they moved it into their home found nearly $100,000 CASH in it – and called the seller to return the money.

People like that give me hope for my species.

 

Closer to home, I recently received a LinkedIn connection request from a colleague I hadn’t seen in four or five years. I was excited to reconnect with her, so I sent her a note to say hello.

And her immediate reply was ‘I noticed your update, I’m so sorry about your job; I’ve been there. Could we get together for coffee or something and see how I can help you?’

I want to be like this woman when I grow up.

 

Even in this election itself, which causes me real concern about how the future will look for ordinary Americans, I find cause for hope.

Four states voted to raise, some nearly double, their minimum wage. And at least one was a staunch Republican state!!

Other states and cities passed laws to improve health in various ways – not the huge reforms we need, but hope to carry on, at least.

And on the lighter side, I was DELIGHTED when I saw a notice on Election Day about donating pizza for those standing in line to vote!

It’s a small thing, but it still proclaims: love wins.

 

So, from a fairly rocky beginning, I end this week with a bit more calm, a bit more hope, and far more respect for my fellow human beings.

SOOO many people are opening their hearts to fight the negativity and stand up for those who are at increased risk. I’ve seen people reexamining their own cultures and beliefs and reaching out make changes. I think we’ll make it. 

 

Be well. 

 

Monday Musing: What if it’s not as hard as we make it?

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Do you secretly think the life you really want to live is too much to ask for?

I’ve kind of always thought that way.

I have no idea why.

It’s not like God has certain contractual obligations to me: ANYTHING I ask for is a gift, no matter how small or large!

Recently I found myself wondering… 

What if my gifts, passions, and deep needs and preferences are meant to lead me into God’s intentions for me?

Okay, sure, all of these can be corrupted by my selfish human nature. But maybe I shouldn’t just assume that they are!

If I’m obeying God, and seeking his will, perhaps my first thought should be that he’s given me these as markers to light the way.

I know that he wants me to use the gifts he’s given me. So, why don’t I also assume he wants to meet the needs that he has given me? 

Or that he  might just have designed my passions and interests to haul my lazy self to his goals for me?!

In my pursuit of abundance therefore, I’ve added a new criterion:

If a need or preference is sustained, consistent, and not inherently opposed to God, I will faithfully, prayerfully consider whether it is part of God’s direction to me.

I’m kind of excited to see the results! 

Be well. 

Make New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

New Year’s Resolution time!

Don’t you just love the fresh-slate feeling of a new year?

It’s like the first page of a delicious new book! I love slowing down a bit in the final days of the year to reflect on the months just past, and ponder those just coming.

And I LOVE New Year’s Resolutions!!

As with many things in my just-not-like-the-other-kids life, I was shocked to learn that many people don’t share The Delight of the RESOLUTION! 

I finally traced at least part of this startling revelation to one curious fact: People set resolutions for things they don’t want to do.

What an awful way to start a year!

Oh sure, maybe they want to look the way they think they’ll look 10 pounds lighter. But they don’t want to eat differently, or go to the gym 8 days a week, or run ten miles before breakfast each day.

So they don’t. At least, not after February 19th.

Yet another Resolution FAIL. And they feel guilty about that.

And worse about themselves. And this does not help at all with the extra 10 pounds!

Especially if they drown their guilt in Ben & Jerry’s.

So here is my patented, nearly fool-proof, indispensable method for making New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep:

Make resolutions you actually want to keep.

Really.

If you want to lose weight, but you HATE the gym, and you definitely have no interest in changing your diet, don’t set those as your resolutions!

Instead, make resolutions to increase things you DO love.

Things that add to your life, but perhaps get pushed aside in the hurry of the day, the stress of the week.

Or things you think you shouldn’t get to do until you meet some imaginary goal or conquer some arbitrary quantity of shoulds.

Devote your New Year’s Resolutions to things that build your soul, not things that are already crushing it two weeks before the year officially starts!

What do you not make time for that you delight in when you get to do it?

THAT is the thing that sustainable Resolutions are made of!

So resolve to make time to drink coffee at a proper coffee shop.

Or walk in the park.

Or watch chick-flicks or action-adventures once a week.

Whatever your thing is.

Maybe you’ll resolve to talk on the phone more. If that is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Maybe you’ll resolve to train for a powerlifting competition. And if THAT, really, and truly, is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Or what is something you have been longing to try?

Not an “I know I should starting doing that.” but a “Man, how I wish I had time for that.” ?

THAT is the thing sustainable Resolutions are made of!

But don’t stack the deck against it! If you’ve never tried painting, or horseback riding, or origami, don’t resolve to master it by February, or do it three times a week for the rest of your life. And definitely do not buy a horse!

No.

Resolve to try painting.

or get an origami book from the library and see if you like it.

or schedule a trail ride at the local stable, or ask a horsey friend to show you what it’s all about.

Resolve to set aside a little time each week just to inch closer to trying it, if you need to! 

Then, even if your new passion turns out to be not your cup of tea, you’ve kept your resolution perfectly! GREAT JOB!!

CAUTION! Be sure you are adding things that you really delight in!

Things that really feed your soul; NOT just the things you usually do to compensate for your poor soul’s hunger-induced fatigue!

So, if surfing channels or scanning Facebook all evening REALLY is what feeds your soul, resolve to devote one or more evenings to that GUILT FREE! Write it in your calendar! DO IT!

BUT.

If that is just a filler because your soul needs downtime and isn’t getting what it REALLY loves, then resolution time is about TAKING BACK YOUR DOWNTIME!

Sure, we’ll all still do the mindless surfing from time to time, but make your RESOLUTIONS about the really good stuff.

Sacrifices will need to be made from time to time, but make those after you’ve built up a reserve of delight by succeeding with resolutions you WANT to keep!

 

Okay, but what if you really, really, do have to make a change even though you really don’t want to? And RIGHT NOW, for whatever reason, is the time you have to make it? I’ll cover that next week.

I wish you a safe, blessed, and happy Christmas, Hanukkah, and Holiday Season.

 

Be well. 

Prayers for my new President.

I want to be like Daniel.

One of my favourite scenes in the entire Bible is when Daniel is called in to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:

Now, good ol’ Nebbie is the king of  Babylon, who has completely crushed Daniel’s country, sacking their towns, carting their ‘best of the best’ off into captivity, dissing their temple, and God with it, and  generally wreaking havoc.

Undoubtedly friends and family were injured or killed in this conquest, and Daniel, with the other best and brightest of Israel, has been dragged off from his homeland to serve in the King’s court.

So, Daniel might have some pretty legitimate grievances.

But in this story we see Nebbie having this really disturbing dream, and calling in our hero Daniel to provide an interpretation.

And Daniel is so horrified by what the dream predicts is going to happen to Nebbie, that we end up with the Nebbie comforting Daniel, saying (slight paraphrase) “Listen dude, don’t freak out. It’ll be okay. However awful this thing is, just tell me, and we’ll get through it.”

 

I love that.

I love the heart of Daniel. I love this relationship of trust and concern.

Let me be clear, in case you don’t happen to know my man Daniel: he was by no means a brown-noser! He risked his life on more than one occasion when the demands of his conquering employer went against his obligations to God.

But, except for the few occasions when true essentials were at stake, Daniel did his very best for Nebuchadnezzar.

But I’m not like Daniel.

Maybe someday. It’s a goal. But I definitely tend more toward opposition than diligent objective assessment. It’s ALL personal to me! And VITAL! EVERYTHING!

Alas.

 So it’s handy that praying for my leaders is not optional.

God has been very clear about my responsibilities toward my leaders; good, bad, or anywhere in between. And the outcome promised certainly fits into my ‘essentials’.

 

So, on this inauguration day, one I hoped never to see, I will certainly pray for, and FIGHT for, those most at risk, and for the things I value that this administration endangers. But I will also pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the cabinet they will assemble to help guide them.

I’ll ask God to bless and guide our new President and Vice President. Giving them wisdom to lead, and bringing them wise advisors, as well as the humility to listen to the advice.

I am frightened of the harm that this administration can do to my country and this planet, but I’ll ask God to shape even this period for good instead of evil. And to use the trials that this administration will undoubtedly spark to awaken and energise the American people.

I’ll ask him to multiply and reward the good work that they will also do during their term(s) in office. Even if that takes more faith than I have right now. God has enough faith for both of us.

And, judging President Trump as I do, and having little knowledge of Vice President Pence, I’ll ask him to bring them to know and serve him if they do not, and conform their hearts and minds to his will.

And to conform my heart too, because I do not want to pray for, or support this administration in any way, and in some areas I should support them, even as I diligently oppose them on the essentials.

And I’ll keep praying. For as long as it needs to be prayed. And expecting it to build my faith and change my heart.

And remembering who is the ultimate source of power, I will trust.

Thy will be done.

Be well. 

New Life Resolutions: Kicking it into High Gear

 

Just a few short weeks ago, I laid out the plan for this year:

  1. Focus FIRST on getting more of the kind of work that I really want to keep doing.
  2. Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.
  3. GAIN health in the coming transitions.
  4. Shape my life so that one year from today my own life is more abundant and I’m more of a catalyst for others’ abundance too.

And so far?

 

Number 1, a little intimidating, but giving it a decent run.

The lack of immediate ‘security’ is nowhere even remotely near my comfort zone, but I’ve been able to stay the course. I’m learning a lot, and though I still don’t know what the outcome will be, I’m doing the work!

I’ve gotten through the career coaching. And numerous training courses. I’ve learned more about small businesses, and resources for them, than I previously even imagined there was to learn. I’ve chopped down my budget and spruced up my resume. My head spins with the skill-related knowledge I’m brushing up on.

I’ve even found some options for jobs that fit within my goal!

Number 3, I haven’t been doing too badly on either.

As mentioned, transitions are NOT my happy place, but I’ve managed to keep up on a workout routine that is at least holding me together, and I’ve (mostly) managed to stick to it even when deadlines loom.

Chronic Pain: Not as bad as it could be, and even improving some.

Mental Health: Not where I want it to be, for sure, but it could be, and trust me, it has been, far worse!

Faith: Holding up decently, and 10,000 times better than in the midst of the life wreck.

Number 4, of course, is a longer term outcome.

But even here, I feel that all the things I’m learning, and the progress I’m making ought surely to be of use to someone else down the line. And some days I even remember what it’s like to have the energy to contribute!

Which leaves us with:

Number 2.

Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.

You’d think with the improved faith, decent mental and tolerable physical health, nearly a year of warning, and even the courage to try something as radical as working for myself, this one would be much easier by now, wouldn’t you?

Not so much.

 

Apparently the power of Horrible Move PTSD transcends well-rounded progress across the rest of life.

Once again, my landlords are preparing to sell the house I live in.

This time it’s for sure.

This time, it’s time to move out, and on. Forward.

Which is nearly paralysing.

Strange how you can have so much horror about leaving a place you never wanted to be!

Because it isn’t that I like where I live now, or that it’s a good fit. It is that this is a known evil.

It’s that my BETTER, BIGGER, HEALTHIER faith still isn’t perfect faith, or anywhere near.

So it’s still hard to expect hope instead of horror.

But, as with the other three, if I’m going to accomplish this one, well, I just have to do it. I have to move forward, even if that means inching forward. Because paralysed isn’t one of the options.

So, what abundance lessons have I learned that I can apply NOW?

Not a bad start.

Will that carry me through without a qualm? Probably NOT!   🙂

But if it at least carries me through despite the qualms, it’s a good start.

 

 

Be well. 

Why is that? Against vs For

I recently saw a headline about a proposal to sell an ‘Anti-Abortion Fundraising License Plate’ that would benefit “organisations that oppose abortions”.

After a short period of staring at the screen, blinking, I thought about how painfully ineffective we are.

Instead of being always against, why aren’t we FOR?

Why aren’t we fundraising to help support and protect people carrying unplanned pregnancies to term?

Why aren’t we fundraising to support babies whose parents cannot raise them?

Why aren’t we pushing to ensure that every American has access to high quality education from the earliest stages of life up through a decent college education?

Or to ensure that access to contraceptives is free, or very, very cheap?

(“But Kat!”, you say, “if people have access to contraceptives they will be encouraged to have sex!”

Maybe so. I have my doubts about this assertion, and  clearly plenty of people are having sex anyway, but for me that isn’t the important point.)

For me the important question here is, which do you really want to do: reduce abortions, or control other people’s decisions and actions?

That isn’t a trick question, but do give it a moment’s thought before answering.

Because if what you really want is to reduce abortion, then it’s time to focus on the practices, processes, and resources that really DO reduce it. And pushing our country deeper and deeper into poverty, inequality, divisiveness, and desperation aren’t part of the solution here.

But as I mentioned earlier, there are many really effective parts of this solution – they make a big difference in abortion rates.

And they do it in ways that don’t require abusing, or alienating,  desperate people who feel trapped in circumstances far beyond their ability to manage.

(Which also sounds a bit more useful to the mandate of the Christian, according to my reading.)

And if what you really want is to control other people, at least be honest about that, so you aren’t burdening those who are actually fighting abortion. (And perhaps, let’s be realistic too: You can’t wholesale control other people’s thoughts, choices, or actions. I’d suggest focusing on what IS possible.)

I strongly suspect that most people who consider themselves ‘Pro Life’, view abortion as something sought by irresponsible high school or college kids. And undoubtedly some are. I have no idea of the actual proportions.

What I do know is that when I worked in a crisis pregnancy centre, EVERY ONE of the clients I saw who was actually considering abortion was a married woman who felt that she and her husband simply could not afford to support another baby.

My experience may be unique. I’ve sometimes wondered if God hand picked each of these clients to transform ME.

Because they did transform me.

But regardless of whether my experience was typical, or just God’s underhanded machinations, it does point to the fact that many women are considering abortion due to the exact conditions which most Pro Life Americans consistently work to preserve in our country: low wages, expensive or limited access to health care, reducing (of all things! What on earth?) access to birth control options, poor quality education, and limited support for families raising young children.

If that is all we have to offer, I don’t think we’re going to achieve this goal.

Hope and opportunity are a much better foundation from which bargain for the life of a child than are poverty, judgement, and continually diminishing opportunity to thrive.

So what’s up with this disconnect?

Is it really that we care more about controlling other people’s choices than that we care about saving lives? I hope not. That doesn’t speak well of us, and if it is so, I think we need to get our heads on straight.

But my guess is that isn’t all of us. At least not when we are paying attention.

I suspect that when we see media hype about one topic, we don’t necessarily make all the connections to other topics.

We may see the recipients of Head Start or school lunches or Food stamps as people with no connection to us. OTHER. THEM.

And maybe we never realise that these may be the very same people we are praying for when we pray to end abortion.

 

When we see that THE OTHER SIDE supports abortion rights, we may close our ears to everything else they support, and never realise that a great deal of what they support has direct, and significant impact on reducing the likelihood that a couple will ever even consider abortion.

For that matter, when we judge THE OTHER (or THE OTHER SIDE) it probably doesn’t occur to us that no one has ever changed our own beliefs by judging us, so probably we won’t change anyone’s views that way either.

As for me, I’m still against far more things than I ought to be, but I’m going to at least be for every viable part of the solution that I can manage.

 

 

Be well. 

 

 

Rebuilding

Image: cobblestone path

I worked for years for an organisation that helps people rebuild their lives after disasters, so I’ve devoted a fair amount of time to the technical and logistical pieces of this process.

THEN I spent the last couple years rebuilding my own life after my own personal little LifeWreck disaster. That baby really taught me that the technical pieces are just short stretch of the darn long road that is Rebuilding!

I’ve been thinking about the many ways that the folks in Texas and Florida (not to mention the other countries devastated by hurricanes and other crises in the past few weeks) will have to rebuild their lives.

There are so many kinds of ‘rebuilding’. You can rebuild a house, a city, a bone that you’ve broken, a life, your health after a serious illness.

And so many things that can force us into having to rebuild: Hurricanes and earthquakes of course, but also injury, illness, the end of a relationship, selling a home, losing a home, losing a job,  the death of a loved one … you likely have others you would name.

What do you have to have to rebuild successfully?

It varies by situation, and participant, of course, but regardless of the specific rebuilding to be done, I’ve found that –

You need TIME.

Houses take a long time to rebuild, and that is a stressful time. Broken relationships can take even longer. Broken bones need to set, and serious illnesses may require long periods of convalescence.

Rebuilding the physical stuff – from infrastructure to bones – is often the easy part in a crisis. It’s the sense of security, and our trust in the future – which we can usually take for granted – that can be most difficult to rebuild.

And, honestly, it takes some time just to become able to rebuild. The water has to recede, the emotional wound has to heal up a bit, your faith has to gain a little strength –  before you have the energy to go forward.

And resources.

Some of these might be physical, some might be emotional. An insurance settlement and a truckload of lumber are important in some types of rebuilding. A mourning process might be necessary in all of them!

Shelter, a hot meal, warm blankets, may be the start of a rebuilding process. In others, counselling, and a support group might be where the rebuilding begins.

Support and security, in my experience, are at the very top of the list of resources you need when life hits you harder than you are prepared for.

You need help.

LifeWreck, regardless of the form it takes, is not the time to go it alone!

For one thing, the much-needed brain power behind all good rebuilding efforts may be completely absent as you start the rebuilding process! Instead,  a thick, cold fog invades your brain, and only about ½ the thoughts can make it through the fog at all. FOR AGES.

Whether ‘help’ looks like engineering experts, trained trauma counsellors, a freezer full of casseroles, a neighbour who cuts your lawn or takes the kids to school, or just people around you helping you get through this one hour – that depends on the crisis. But none of them can best be conquered alone.

And you really do need that spark of hope.

If you don’t happen to have that spark left, that’s actually the biggest thing to  to regain.

Because if you don’t have hope, all the rest of it is Just. Too. Much. You need to have hope that the future is better and that it is worth the effort.

Rebuilding is an act of hope.

Some people will move away from where their lives have been destroyed, because they don’t have faith for that place anymore, but they do have faith that they can be safe again and that their lives can be good again.

Crisis is not something that you get over, it’s something you work through.

People who are rebuilding are ALWAYS courageous – simply moving forward after life has crashed down around you takes great effort.

They, we, deserve compassion, respect, and support through the process, because they, we, are doing heroes’ work – no matter how quickly we manage it, or how many times we stumble along the road!

Rebuilding is a time to cut people – including ourselves! – a lot of slack, grant them a lot of time, and extend a lot of grace. It’s a good time to change things that didn’t work before. It’s a GREAT time to build community.

 

 

Be well.

Kat’s Traditional Holiday Survival Guide.

Happy DECEMBER! 

What?

How is it already DECEMBER?!?!

Oy.

 

How you holding up out there?

I know,  I know, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except when it’s not.

And even when it IS wonderful, it’s not stress free, is it?

 

The holidays can dredge up pain, flare up tempers, magnify loss, and drown us in overwhelmed fatigue.

I hope sincerely that is not you! I hope you’re that person harmonising with Bing Crosby while adding touches of tinsel to any last neglected corner!

But, on the off chance that some part of your holiday season tends more toward grim than glittering, I offer:

Kat’s Traditional Holiday Survival Guide.

During the holidays, if at no other time, take good care of yourself!

Drink plenty of water! (Yes, coffee may be needed, and vodka becoming progressively more attractive, but add the water in too. Really.) Dehydration is like an ‘Extra Power’ button for all of your trials and tribulations.

Exercise.  “WHAT?”, you say, “Have you gone mad?!?

We’re not talking an hour of powerlifting here! Stretch decadently for 5 minutes, stroll aimlessly for 10. Dance through White Christmas.

(Or White Wedding, if, like me, you reached your carol limit on 1 November.)

Just anything to move your body. It heals your mind.

Be REAL. About who you are, what you like and don’t like, and how much you can handle just now.

AND about what you can afford to spend! Debt never lightened anyone’s heart.

Say no if you need to! (It’s absolutely fine.)

Do one less thing. (If you find that works for you: do it again!)

Or perhaps do one MORE thing, but only something that feels like a glorious escape for your soul. (And cancel something draining to make the time!) Repeat as needed.

Cut yourself a lot of slack.

Cut other folks some slack too, if you can manage it. Perfect people don’t happen, and requiring them just ups your cortisol.

Avoid people and things that drain the life out of you. (Yeah, even if they are relatives.)

Pause, meditate, pray –  whatever looks like peace to you  – once a day. Even if it’s just 3 minutes.

If you need more support than you have, during this season, PLEASE reach out for it! Here are a few options.

And if you’ve already hit crisis level? Darlin’ this is SO not the time for stoic endurance!

Save that for late spring or something.

Here are some  more immediate options.

AND remember, we are not in this alone:

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalms 37:5

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Be well