Wednesday, December 21, 2016

willpower.


Over time, I have gotten pretty good at laying my burdens at the foot of the cross. I have laid my overwhelming fears, my traumatic past, and my wanderings there.

Or so I think sometimes. In reality, some of those things have been laid down, for sure, but I'm also pretty sure I didn't lay them down. My willpower is too weak.  I do not claim any success in this; God has taken them from me in my weakness.

There is no doubt that I am living without the fears, the trauma, and their legacy. My life is indeed redeemed! But not by me, by God. My willpower is much too weak.

I know this because I can't lay down my irritability, my self-centeredness, my weak faith. I've tried. I've even improved. But my willpower will never be strong enough. It's not even strong enough to make me get up early in the morning to pray and read the Bible!

It's when we rely on our own willpower that we fail. Eventually. Every. Time. Instead, we need to rely on His Will.

God's Will. Not our willpower. I began living without fear when I said to God, "Please take this fear away from me. I cannot get rid of it!" The "power of positive thinking" had taken me nowhere. In my weakness, He spoke redemption. I began to live, day by day, in less and less fear. I relied upon God more and more as I healed. 

Yes, I said to God, "Take this trauma away from me! Let me not live in it any longer!" But even more, I said, "God, help me to want to live without identifying as a victim. Work inside me to make Your Will my truth because my willpower is too weak to even want it." Who would I be once I wasn't defined by the past trauma in my life?

Turns out, I am defined as a child of the One True King! Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is working in me to remake me in His image. Not because my willpower is so great, and I am competent to change, but because I am seeking His Will, in His power and grace. 

I am still working to lay burdens at the foot of the cross, but I'm starting with this: "Almighty God, work in me to make me want Your Will. I am so weak that I can't even really want it without Your action." I am finding that He is working in me to make me want more and more of  His Will. Praise God!

Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Slave of Fear

Over Thanksgiving, our family traveled to visit one of our children and two of our grandchildren. We had a wonderful visit: Playing at the zoo and the beach, Hiking up a small mountain, and Preparing the Thanksgiving meal together. It was a time of creating memories and enjoying each others' company. I pray that you had similar opportunities over Thanksgiving; family is such a blessing!


We had one other amazing experience while away from home: We worshiped together at their church. Now, it's always delightful to worship with my pastor husband; we don't get the opportunity very often! But this service touched me deeply. The Bible was preached strongly and effectively. Praise music filled the air to begin the service. In particular, "No Longer Slaves" by David and Helser touched my heart. The lines from the song that brought tears to my eyes were, "I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God."

You see, I was a slave to fear for much of my life. That happens when a child is raised in a home with an abusive parent. My fears blossomed, even after a divorce which freed me from physical abuse, because my remaining parent was severely depressed. She even attempted suicide when I was nine years old. It wasn't explained to me because all the adults thought I didn't know, but I did. And I spent the rest of my childhood fearing to do anything that would upset my mom because then she might kill herself, and I would have to go live with my dad.

This was totally unhealthy, as I'm sure you recognize. And since no one knew my fears, no one could reassure me. When my mom remarried, my fears eased but didn't disappear entirely. I went off to college, still deeply afraid to make waves of any kind. This no longer made any rational sense, but the patterns that we develop as children are hard to break.

I ended up dating and then marrying a controlling, arrogant man. It felt right to me because I was so afraid of making mistakes. He knew what was right, right? Well, as it turned out, not so much. He ended up sexually abusing at least one of our children. Thankfully, I didn't listen to my then-husband's counsel about keeping the secret in the family. I knew better. I reported him; he went to jail. We got divorced.

And still, I was afraid. My faith was growing, but my fear wasn't diminishing. I was afraid of being alone, afraid of changing things, afraid of making decisions that might upset someone else. Finally, I began to ask God to remove my fears. After all, His Word says "Fear not, for I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10).

And He did. As I turned my fears over to Him, asking Him to remove them from me forever, He did. I began to turn to God and pray instead of being afraid. In the past 12 years, God has freed me! I am no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God. When I heard those words in the song last Sunday, I recognized how fully true they are for me in this season of my life. God completely redeemed my life and my soul, bringing me to this life full of love and peace... and no fear. A life where I am serving Him with joy and thanksgiving.


Thank you, God, for this gift of redemption.

Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving


Yesterday, our family celebrated Thanksgiving at an extended family gathering of a church family. They have graciously invited us to celebrate several holidays with them, and we have been blessed by each gathering. Later yesterday, we joined a different family to celebrate a child's birthday.

We are delighted to be so often invited to participate with friends and family in various celebrations here. It strengthens our ability to minister, and it bolsters our spirits.


Thanksgiving is a time to share our blessings and express our gratitude for them. And people are definitely our greatest earthly blessing. It is, of course, a greater blessing to have eternal life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But here on earth, the people in our lives are delightful gifts.

I am thankful for all of our family, and we have many family members! Even though most of them are far away, God promises in Mark 10: 29-31 that those who leave family, land, etc. for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel shall be rewarded. And He has done so. We are able to visit our families; we can talk to them regularly; and one of our siblings has joined our household! It's wonderful to have extended family here with us.

In addition to extended family and friends, I have personally received the blessing of many children in my life. I am teaching our daughter and two Jicarilla boys full-time. Plus, I teach a Science class and a New Mexico History class to an additional 6 children. Following class, they all play together before going home. This has made my life bountiful in so many ways! I am teaching in the most flexible and joyful circumstance ever. My three full-time students also participate in a larger homeschool co-op that focuses on outdoor education and experiences. I have made many friends among the parents there.

And, of course, there are the blessings that come with marriage and parenthood, neither of which I expected at this point in my life. My first family ended in a "nuclear blast," which landed my first husband in jail. I never expected the joy of a God-given, God-respecting marriage; it goes beyond all of my previous understanding! Even after I remarried, my husband and I never planned to be parents together. We have been blessed beyond all expectation, beyond all hopes, in a way that only God could have conceived! What complete JOY to parent this delightful young lady!

There are, of course, physical blessings in this world that I am thankful for, as well. But truly, the people in my life, here and elsewhere, are my greatest earthly blessing. Thank You, God, for these exquisite relationships in all their complexity.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The End of the World

A few days ago, I wrote about the upcoming election. Today is "the day after," and we know who won the presidency. But honestly, I think if either major candidate had won, the situation would be the same. It turned out that Trump is the successful candidate, but if Hilary had won, it would be the same cries of despondency from a different group of people.

The winner's proponents are celebrating the "saving of America." And the losing candidates' supporters are bemoaning "the end of the world," or at least the end of the world  as we know it. I supported neither major candidate, choosing to vote for someone rather than against someone. (If you personally believe I "wasted" my vote, that's your opinion; I strongly believe that I should vote for someone that I want to see in office.)

At any rate, no matter who won, the sentiment would be the same: the opposite camp would be declaring that the election ended the world as we have known and loved it. In my previous post, I explored the idea that the disintegration of our nation was happening long before the election. In this post, I want to say something different.

To those of you who are celebrating today:

Please be sensitive to the insecurity that is being widely felt by racial and religious minorities today. Even in the best light, Donald Trump has said and done some things that rightfully make many fearful of his intentions. Our almost-10-year-old asked if her birth dad and her sister (both Black) would be okay since Trump was elected. She had seen some hateful speech video and is fearful for her loved ones. Thankfully, she hasn't seen the video of Trump discussing women as objects for sexual conquest, but many worry about how to explain these things to their children.

To those of you feeling like it's the end of the world:

Please don't jump to the conclusion that every Trump voter is racist, sexist, cruel, and/or narrow-minded. I'm sure those voters exist, just as those sorts of people existed before Trump came along. But the vast majority of Trump supporters voted for him in spite of  his unsavory characteristics. They voted based on what they felt would be best for our country, either in future Supreme Court nominations, fiscally, or some other issue(s).

To Everyone:

Americans have collectively spoken in this election. Donald Trump, no matter your views on him, is the president-elect of our country. That means that the next four years will be shaped, in part, by his policies. It does not mean that only those Americans who supported him in the election have a share in the work to be done during those four years.  You are not off the hook for the future of our nation if your candidate did not win!

Let me say that again: You are not off the hook for the future of our nation if your candidate did not win. (Or if he did!)

The future of our nation is not in Donald Trump's hands, nor would it have been in Hilary Clinton's hands had she won the election. The future of our nation is in our hands. Our working hands. Our loving hands. Our praying hands.

If you are cheering today, make plans to join in the efforts to achieve what you believe in!

If you are grieving today, make plans to join in the efforts to achieve what you believe in!

And no matter who you've supported or how you're feeling today, lift Donald Trump and Michael Pence in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 

We can all do that. Pray for our elected leaders at all levels of government. God can work in (and through) anybody!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Who Will Win on Tuesday?

On Tuesday, we Americans will elect our next president. Many people believe that our nation will disintegrate following the election of the "other" candidate.

 I think our nation is disintegrating already. We are treating one another with disrespect while discussing the election, to the point of losing friendships and normalizing hatred. Police officers in Iowa (and other places) are hunted down and assassinated. Suicides among children are the highest ever. Our African American loved ones are terrified of being stopped by the authorities.  The Standing Rock Nation, and all indigenous peoples, are continuing to face hostility toward their inherent right to exist and thrive. They face the marginalization that has marked the US response to Native peoples for centuries.

And that's just the problems in the USA that come to mind without thinking!


Wednesday won't be much different. Neither will next January after the inauguration.

Things won't get different until we get different. Until we remember that among the United States' fundamental beliefs are:

1. Out of many, one (people);
2. In God we trust;
3. Liberty;
4. Equality; and
5. Diversity.

Until we begin to live like we believe that others are as important as ourselves and that being different doesn't mean that a person is worse, our country will continue to disintegrate. And yes, I deeply believe we all need to trust in God, but I also respect the rights of others to believe differently than I do.

As a Christian, there is one more vital thing to remember as we approach the election: God is in control. Always. In all ways. We know how this story ends; we know that we are in God's arms. So let's rest easy in that fact. Let's treat people who trust the "other" candidate with respect. Let's not get into arguments about which is the "Christian" candidate. Let's not try to bully others to agree with us.

Make your decision. Remember it's yours.

And vote, so that your voice is heard.

And alongside that, treat each other with love, as Jesus commands, and with respect, as Jesus demonstrated through his life.

God will still be in control on Wednesday, no matter who wins on Tuesday.



Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Busy Season

We all have busy seasons in our lives: Young children, Teenagers' activities, Major celebrations, New jobs, Etc. Yesterday I realized that I haven't blogged in well over a month... And the only excuse I have is that it's been a busy season.

Of course, school started. That brings only 2 full-time students for me these days, but there is still preparation to make. And I had a third student for a while, trying to help a child in need of a safe and nurturing space. Plus, I'm teaching Science to my 8 kiddos and New Mexico History to 5 students. I'm having a blast, but it's keeping me very busy!

We had a visit from five top leaders in the RCA, our church's denomination. They came to talk to our congregation and leadership about the changes in funding that are coming our way. The denomination has funded this mission church for 102 years, through the years of the sanitarium, the boarding school, the mission house, roller skating, until today's church mission here in Dulce. Over the next three years, the denomination will lower funding to zero. The group that came to speak to us was addressing how we meet our financial needs through fundraising within the denomination. It was a good visit, with many great ideas that are exciting, but it was... well, busy.

AWANA started this past month, also. I love AWANA, a multi-church youth ministry held at our facility. But it certainly adds to the craziness of our world. We serve between 20 and 35 youth each Monday, teaching them Scriptures, giving them an anchor for those times in their lives when they face difficulties.

During this same period of time, one of our adult siblings and his dog came to live with us due to life circumstances. Adding another human to our household hasn't been too difficult, but the addition of a large dog has been challenging for our two cats! We've had everything from cats-hiding-in-the-basement-for-days to the dog clambering down the stairs so fast (on a leash!) that he rolled down the final couple of steps. We rigged many of the doors in the house to be open just far enough for a cat, but not wide enough for a dog, and we're starting to see the cats more often.

The dog created another set of craziness this past week. A couple of Rez dogs have been hanging around watching him, and they finally decided to come and bug our Smokey. Smokey took off after them, breaking his leash connection and dragging his rope. The rope got entangled around one of the Rez dogs and he got hit by a car. Smokey was tangled, of course, and he was whipped around and hurt, too. We didn't know which dog lay dead in the street and which hobbled away until we ran down the street to find Smokey. Smokey is recovering, but he's a little slow and quiet! (Our cats are enjoying this part of it.)

Add in the normal tutoring, dentist visits, putting in a new dishwasher (which was donated by a friend of the church!), taking down the pool, funerals and potlucks, revivals, marathons, glasswork, and tween sleepovers, it's been pretty busy.

One thing I've learned in the past three years in New Mexico, is to go-with-the-flow and pray for peace. Fifteen years ago, this busy season would have stressed me out! Not so anymore. I am able to adjust and accept the chaos, leaning on the peace that surpasses all understanding. This busy season has had many blessings!

Please pray for our church as we make the transition to raising our own funding. And pray for AWANA, that more children and youth will attend and that we have sufficient adult volunteers each week.

Thank you!

Monday, August 29, 2016

But He is Strong

I have debated about making this post a long time. The subject is unpleasant, and I certainly don't want to brag about how we overcame this difficulty. But God keeps nudging me toward sharing this story to show HIS strength.

And let me tell you... it was ALL HIS strength that made this possible, for on my own I could not possibly have dealt with this situation.

Recently, the local police stopped by to ask if we knew where a traveler could stay. Brad talked to them for a long time before they left. He had told them he knew of nowhere. I know he didn't volunteer our spare room because it wasn't really "spare" anymore; my brother was moving in with us a couple of days later. I had his room clean and ready to go. I appreciate Brad's protection of my work, but I said, "Well, the person could stay here..."

So Brad called the police back and made the offer, and the police brought the traveler to our door. We've had strangers stay with us before, and I'm sure we'll do so again. Usually, the traveler is a Native man, hitchhiking his way to see his mom, his kids, or to get to a job. Usually, the traveler is reasonably clean, reasonably sober, and very appreciative.

Usually.

My mother has a wonderful gift of hospitality, and I think I learned what I know of it from her. Generally, I enjoy being a hostess, providing meals, a bed, a shower, and laundering clothing and bedding for their travels. Jesus' words on how we treat "the least of these" inspire me to be genuinely happy for these opportunities, even if they're sometimes slightly uncomfortable.

Usually.

This time was different.

When the police dropped off the traveler, I was shocked. I couldn't tell whether the person was a man or a woman. (woman) She was dressed in multiple layers of ill-fitting, disgustingly filthy clothing. She had a t-shirt around her hair and much of her face, leaving few clues to her age. (74) She was toting a ripped-up trash bag and a handled tote-bag, which she deposited on the floor of our kitchen. Our cats immediately began sniffing around in them; I was afraid they would urinate on the items, marking their territory.

And the smell... I have never smelled anything like it before in my life.  Seriously.   Never.   Ever.    It was the worst stale-urine-on-a-bedwetter smell combined with the worst BO and some other smells I never want to experience again. She had obviously been using her clothing as a toilet for weeks. Her pants were even wet as she entered the house. My eyes and throat burned as I greeted her. My stomach turned over as I watched her sink into a chair in my kitchen, and I dreaded the idea of her even in my house, let alone in a bed in my house.

And I sent up a silent prayer, begging with God to give me His love for this forlorn soul because I could find none in my heart.

And He did.

I was suddenly calm and unbothered. My physical repulsion at this woman's condition was removed. I was able to serve coffee to her, chat with her, offer her (with genuine joy) food, bed, shower, laundering.

It is not a testament to me or my strength, ability, or faith. Absolutely not. I could not possibly have succeeded in suppressing my revulsion. It was a gift from God. My peace of mind, my strength of stomach, my ability to actually love this traveler were given to me, complete, from Almighty God.

After she went to bed, I sanitized the chair and table where she had sat. Yes, it was that bad. But I didn't do it out of disgust, I did it to protect my family.

And when, in the middle of the night, we were awakened by the overwhelming stench of her using the toilet (removing her clothes made the smell so strong that we were suddenly awake, eyes and throats burning at the far end of the hallway), I was able to thank God that she felt safe enough to use the toilet instead of her clothing.

I got up the next morning, cooked bacon and eggs, determined to send her on her way with a good meal. I awakened her gently, thanking God that she slept on the bed instead of in it. She started with fear, then realizing where she was, asked if she could stay another night. Since my brother was in need of the room, we said no, but invited her to breakfast. Then my husband drove her halfway to her destination, where she would likely be able to hitch the rest of the way before nightfall.

After she left, I was left with the delousing, bleaching, sanitizing, washing, and deodorizing... but I was also left with the love of God for this unfortunate soul who wandered through our lives. And the absolute knowledge that...

I am weak.

But He is Strong.

In all things, depend on Him. He will provide all we need. The Lord is my strength and my shield and my righteousness. It is only in Him that I can do His will in this world.

I am weak.

But He is Strong.

Amen.

And Amen.



PS There are no pictures for this story because I refuse to utilize any homeless, desperate (or any other) person for my own purposes.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks the third anniversary of our arrival in Dulce, New Mexico. I suppose it's natural to review "what we've accomplished" and to "set new goals," but that's not really how I think of our three years here. I have learned and gained so much more than I've given or accomplished.

Living among the Jicarilla Apache people has taught me many things. I'm still confused at times, but I've learned a lot! If you've ever lived outside of your native culture, you understand what I mean.

What have I learned?

I've learned that differences within the culture are almost as large as the differences between my (White, mainstream) culture and the Jicarilla culture. The Jicarilla people have many interpretations of what certain cultural practices mean; if I ask several people what something means, I get a better, fuller understanding than if I simply ask one person. This is even true with language pronunciation and use! Slowly, I am coming to an understanding of what things mean, but I am still ignorant on many topics.

I've learned that it's okay for me to take photographs in most situations since I am a member of the community. I still ask permission to post any pictures publicly, but I do that among my White friends, too. And I never take my camera to cultural events such as a keesta (girls' coming-of-age ceremony) or go-jii-ya (annual fall festival). Many of the parents of Kat's friends appreciate my photography hobby and love seeing what their children are doing while playing.

I've learned that ministry is all about relationships, especially here among the Jicarilla Apache. The time we spend with our Jicarilla friends opens the door to service and witness, besides being fun. Relationships take time. Among the mainstream culture, time is often more important than people; that is not true in Dulce. Here, if someone drops by (yes, this actually happens!), you stop what you're doing and settle in for a visit. It's delightful!

I've also learned that much of the ministry here is not done in the church or even with the church members. Much of our ministry consists of being welcoming to strangers who wander through our yard and our lives... of making plates of food for hungry wanderers, who are often intoxicated... of simply sitting with those who are distressed, depressed, or suicidal. This church was "the" church among the Jicarilla Apache for about 50 years; this means that families who aren't connected to another church often come to Brad for a wedding or, more often, a funeral. Brad is very good at consoling grieving family members and proclaiming the gospel at funerals.

I've learned that northern New Mexico is a long, long way from the Midwest. That when a parent is ailing, it's very hard to be so far away. That it's too expensive to go back as often as my heart would like. And in all this, I've learned that God provides for them in our absence. Neighbors, friends, and church family have all connected to support our parents. Accepting this blessing is difficult at times, but it is a good gift. 

We've discovered that we absolutely delight in the weather in the mountains. We love the cool summer nights and warm winter afternoons. We love the snow... and the fact that it usually melts within days. On our travels back to the Midwest, we feel the humidity, that's for sure! The dry climate is welcome when we return.

So, as we prepare to begin our fourth year in service here, we look forward to learning more about ministry, more about the Jicarilla Apache, and more about ourselves. We thank God for bringing us here, and ask Him to give us many more years among these precious people of His.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sunflowers

We've lived in Dulce for almost exactly three years, and for most of that time I have taken a daily walk. My walk leads me through town to the high school track, around the track, and back through town to our home. On my route I recently noticed that some of the sunflowers were full and beautiful... and some were missing all their petals, leaving just the middle section.

I've seen this before and never really thought about it, but this particular morning it struck me. I looked a little closer.

My inspection of the sunflowers revealed that the pretty ones with bright yellow petals had small immature seeds in the center. The bare sunflowers held fully mature, robust seeds. And that got me to thinking...

It seems to me that we Christians are a little like the sunflowers. When we're immature, we hold potential, but it is undeveloped. Our actions for Christ may look pretty; they may draw attention, but mostly to ourselves, not to Christ. I know that I personally have had times in my life when my work "for the Lord" was more self-serving than I'd like to admit.

And the plain sunflower, with all the petals lost, is a mature Christian who is full of the promise of new life. None of the attractive glitz. Just the seeds of faith. Just the seeds of Christian growth. Just the seeds of God's will.

Sometimes people will be drawn more easily to the bright beauty of immature faith, but patiently growing into maturity as a Christian brings eternal joy. So don't worry if your Christian service isn't a blazing parade with myriad onlookers and followers. Instead, continue to allow God's Spirit to change you, to develop you into the deep and mature follower of Christ that will serve God's Kingdom in everything you do.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ha dee an sii

We have been so very blessed here in Dulce, NM. God has provided everything we could possibly need, especially friends. Recently, we were invited to go along with some friends to pick choke cherries. I don't know much about choke cherries except that they taste really good when made into jelly or syrup. So we jumped on the adventure of picking choke cherries.

It turned out to be a delightful evening of picking choke cherries, climbing ridges, exploring, and laughing with our friends.

We also have a couple of friends who have been teaching us some of the Jicarilla language. We stumble through some of the sounds that make up the words, learning bit by bit. We can greet people, and we know a few words. Not much more. I do have a book with language information, but it seems like most of the words we already know are somehow different in the book.

Today I learned something that opened my eyes, my ears, and my heart even more to the Jicarilla culture. After one says "Danzho" (hello) to someone, the next statement is "Ha dee an sii?". This has been translated as "How are you?" for us. But today, in the children's message at church, it was defined as, "Do you need anything?"

Wow. What if we asked each other that every time we greeted each other? Do you need anything? Yes, I need someone to hold my baby while I take a break. Yes, I need someone to mow my lawn. Yes, I need some food. Yes, I need a hug today. Yes, Yes, Yes!

This deepens my understanding of the cultural expectation within the Jicarilla of providing for each other. For helping each other out. For giving of themselves when there is need.  And it strikes me that Jesus would like this.

Do you need anything? Yes. I need someone to care about me. I need someone to reach out to me. I need someone to love me.

Jesus does all that. Jesus tells us to do all that in the great commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It's amazing how God has blessed us in bringing us to the place. We came to be servants and to bring God's good news; and yet we are receiving God's good news at least as much as we are bringing it!


Monday, July 25, 2016

Just Another Day

I just started laughing out loud in our kitchen... all by myself...

Then I realized that what we take for granted, most of you don't know about at all, and so this post was formed.

My family hosted a pastor from India this past weekend; our children's offering supports his work with a dozen orphans in his city of Imphal, Manipur, India. He was an easy guest, very appreciative and gracious. On Saturday, before he left, 50+ people arrived to do mission work here on the Rez; about half are staying at our facility, in classrooms. The other half are staying at another church here in Dulce. They doing some work around each of the churches and parsonages, as well putting on a VBS (at the other church) and a basketball camp (at our church gym).


Well, except there is a funeral at our church today. And the funeral luncheon is in the gym. So the basketball camp is going to be held.... somewhere else. We have tried to secure another gym in the community without success. The decision-maker isn't available yet this morning. The visiting group's pastor and I made a back-up-back-up plan a few minutes ago.

Oh, and the church sewer line backed up this morning... with 25+ guests and a funeral. Thankfully, Tribal Maintenance was able to come and is snaking out the line. My husband has done this in the minutes before a previous funeral, though. Hopefully, snaking will fix the problem; with 100+ year old buildings we've had to dig up the sewer line to the house and replace it. I'd rather wait till we had no guests to replace the church line.

In the midst of this chaos, I opened the dishwasher in our kitchen...

to find it full of water that hadn't drained out from last night's dishes...

And that's when I laughed.

What a blessing it is that God brought us here to this place at a time in our lives when we've learned to let the little things go without stress and with humor. Thank you, God, for preparing us for this delightful, interesting, wonderful place!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just-Do-What-You're-Told-And-You-Won't-Get-Shot


I am writing this for my White friends who deeply believe that racism is dead. I know I have them, and honestly, I'm glad I have them. I welcome people from all walks of life into my life, and I learn from each and every one of them.

So, to my friends who believe that racism is dead, that #BLM is unnecessary and divisive, I plead with you to read this entire post, to give it consideration, and to pray about the truth/non-truth of what I say.

The two pictures shown in this post are the same section of the same glass piece (Good, created several years ago). The experience of Black persons and White persons in our country are as different as these two photos of glass are different. They have some surface similarities, but the characteristics of the image are totally different. One is shiny, multi-colored, and reflective. The other is deeper, the light comes through it instead of reflecting, and shows completely different colors.

Both are true images of the glass panel, but if  you are looking at one of them and listening to someone describe the other one, you may think the other person is crazy!

I believe we can say the same thing about racism. Our personal perspective can be so very different from another's personal perspective that they seem crazy to us. Since I am speaking specifically to my White friends who believe racism is dead, I urge you to consider that the experiences of Black people who speak of racism are true, just as your personal experiences of non-racism are true. I have had some unique experiences that have allowed me to function on "both sides of the fence," and I can tell you that I do see the existence of racism today in America.

When I say that I see racism in America today, I include those folks who truly believe that Black people are worth less than White people. They are sick and wrong, and I'm sure most everyone would agree with that. But...

And here's the real difficulty...

But, I mean more than that. I mean that well-meaning police officers who truly want to do the right thing, who are out there protecting us in a dangerous job, who would never say they're out to get Blacks, that those police officers are more likely to react to a Black man with deadly force than to a White man in the exact same situation. That the assumption in our society is that Black men are more dangerous than White men. An assumption held by these good police officers, by the White woman who clutches her purse a little tighter when a Black man gets on the train, by the teachers who think that "those kids" (Kids of color, especially Black kids, especially boys) need a tighter discipline than White kids, by the shop owner who follows the Black children around, but not the White children...

THAT is what I mean by racism, in addition to the creeps who yelled out the N word to my six-year-old daughter as she walked on their sidewalk. Those racist creeps did not hurt my daughter nearly as much as the well-meaning folks who say they're "color-blind" and ignore the institutional racism that she faces every day.

Today, I awoke to a news story that sparked this post. Please, please take the time to read and watch this news story, as it is a reality that my Black friends and family face daily. It may be very different from your reality, but it is a true reality. There is no way to criticize what this Black man did, from everything I have seen and read. Perhaps something will come to light later, but even then... If a White man had been in this situation, he would not have been shot.

I pray that this country can move past this division and work together to create a better society, one in which all men are created equal.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Divided We Fall

Just after I posted yesterday about the police killings of two Black men, calling for people to pray, speak up for the oppressed, and listen to each other, four gunmen targeted, shot at least 12 uniformed police officers, and killed 5 of them. I am horrified. I am shaken. This morning my older daughter said, "It's like we're on the brink of a civil war!"

Civil. War.

That is what it feels like. And not just about this issue (police violence toward Black men), but across the board! The political scene is peopled by candidates that express only the very far Right and the very far Left positions. The statements being made by Donald Trump are hate-filled and inflammatory. Hilary Clinton supports late-term abortions, is being investigated by the State Department following an FBI investigation that brought evidence but no charges. And these are only a few of the objectionable characteristics that many people, even their supporters, find in each of these candidates. Social Media is filled with hateful statements on both sides of every issue. People aren't even civil in their disagreement... they don't even consider that the "other side" might have some truth in it.

Our nation is more divided than I have seen it in my lifetime. We can't even seem to agree on what the statistics are, let alone what the statistics say. Wealth is more concentrated than it has been for decades. (More information here.) Home ownership is down; rental rates are up. (More information here.)

So what?

Divided we fall.  That's what.

Abraham Lincoln and the book of Mark (3:25) agree on that. Divided we fall. Our country has stood strong for 240 years. The Civil War of 1861-1865 was fought to maintain unity, among other goals. We have joined the world fighting against oppression in two great wars. United we stand.

Divided we fall.

And so I risk angering people who support my stand against the oppression of minorities by calling the slaughter of police officers evil. I truly believe that the majority of Americans do not want violence of any kind. Not toward Blacks. Not toward Police Officers. Not toward the LGBT community. Not toward anyone.

It is morally outrageous for people to target the men and women in uniform who are doing their jobs. The Bible directs its followers to respect the authority of government (Romans 13:1). Some on the far Left would use Corrie ten Boom as an example of a time when it's appropriate to disrespect governing authority because it is immoral, but I believe that the institutional racism that has led to so many police shootings of Black men is not conscious. I truly cannot believe that it is stated government policy anywhere in the US to seek out Black men for assassination. Therefore, we must fight against racism, not against the police.

I believe in the American people's morality. If we can make the case that racism exists and is detrimental to persons of color in our society, the majority will support the change that is necessary. I understand this is slow and painstaking work, but I believe that it is essential.

If we rely on violence to "change things," all it will beget is more division... and...

Divided we fall.

I absolutely understand and share the anger of our citizens regarding violence toward Black men. I just as strongly and absolutely understand and share the anger of our citizens regarding violence toward Police Officers.
Americans, we are better than this. Let's UNITE against all forms of violence. Let's STAND for the oppressed, but without violence.

Again, I ask Christians to give serious consideration to the cause of American minorities. I ask you to pray for the victims of violence. I ask you to pray for the perpetrators of violence. I ask you to speak up in UNITY, not in DIVISION because

Divided we fall. All of us.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Close to Home

If you have read my blog posts over the years, you know that I have written about race several times (MLK, institutional racism, my own family, Trayvon Martin's death, and probably some I've forgotten about. I've been outraged by the deaths of many young Black men, the lack of punishment for their killers, and the institutional racism that causes these deaths.

Today, it got personal. I woke to the outrage on social media regarding Philando Castile's murder. I commented forcefully on a woman's reaction which totally negated the concern of a woman worrying about her Black son. I prayed for the families of the deceased men (Yesterday Alton Sterling was shot to death in Louisiana.), and I prayed for the police officers who shot them. These are my normal responses to this kind of news...

And then my phone rang.

It was my (Black) 29-year-old daughter. She was so distraught I couldn't understand her. After some time, I realized she was talking about Philando Castile and his girlfriend and baby: They are my daughter's friends.

My sweet, intelligent, capable daughter was sobbing over the senseless loss of her friend. She was terrified to be driving. She was afraid that her brother (also Black) would be killed by the police. My baby was shaken. And this mama bear was MAD.

MAD at a world which allows such injustice. MAD at White people who abase the concerns of Black people. MAD at a society which accepts that Black men are dangerous. Just plain MAD.

My nine-year-old daughter asked what I was upset about and got an earful. We've talked about these issues before, and she understands the concepts of White Privilege and institutional racism. She was mad too, but then she said, "Mom, do you remember Betsie ten Boom in The Hiding Place?"

Yes.

She went on, "I think we need to pray for the people who believe that Black men are dangerous. We need to pray that God will work in their hearts, just like Betsie prayed for the Nazis." And she went on to lead a prayer for us.

Led by a babe.

My anger has been laid at the foot of the cross. By experience I know that it will return, and I will have to lay the burden down again and again.

This does not mean that I am at peace with the status quo. I am not. I will not be content with the situation until Black men and women can trust they will live through a traffic stop. I will not stop speaking out until my White friends and family understand that institutional racism is endemic in our society.

Christians, please open your hearts to the possibility that White privilege is real, that Black lives DO matter, that the oppression isn't imagined. And pray.

Pray for the victims and their families.

Pray for the police officers and their families.

Pray for those who are angered by the idea that racism still exists.

Pray for our Black children's and young adults' safety.

Pray. Try to understand. Speak up. Listen.

Pray.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Perfect Lie

Almost a year and a half ago, we lost our two-year-old granddaughter in a tragic accident. (More here) I was astonished and appalled at the vehement accusations that flew toward her mom and stepdad! How could anyone be so cruel in the midst of such tragedy?

This was all brought back in the past month or so, as the parents of a 4-year-old who fell into a gorilla's enclosure and the parents of a 2-year-old who was snatched by an alligator were all lambasted publicly in their grief. Where were they, after all, when their child had such a horrific accident?

Because, of course, we parents are expected to protect our children in every situation, right?! 

That's the lie. The perfect lie. 

We are, indeed, supposed to protect our children. To provide for them. To meet their needs. But we are not supposed to make the world perfect for them. This is not a Biblical belief in any way! The Bible clearly says that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33, Job 14:1). So we need to prepare them to meet the trouble with faith; that is our charge as Christian parents!

If we are busy trying to make life perfect for our children, or for ourselves, we are missing the boat entirely! I am not a perfect mom... and when I sin in anger toward my daughter, she knows that I ask for God's grace and for her forgiveness. When she sins, we help her ask for God's grace and for the forgiveness of the one she offended against. This is what Jesus tells us is necessary for our Salvation, not perfection!

Our society has expectations of perfection, especially in parenting. We're supposed to provide exactly the right experiences, lessons, and vacations to produce the perfect children. If a parent decides their 12-year-old is old enough to stay in the car while they work out, someone will report her and the parent will be charged with neglect. This is nonsensical! It's a lie. Life is not perfect. Parents are not perfect. 

Our job as parents is to "train up our children in the way [they] should go"(Proverbs 22:6),  to teach them how to live as Christians. And Christians aren't supposed to expect perfection from this life, we are supposed to anticipate the perfection of eternal life with Christ (Philippians 3:20).

So, step away from the Perfect Lie. Have grace and support for parents who experience tragedy, not condemnation and accusation. Stop trying to make your child's life perfect. Begin to help your child(ren) to cope with this life's imperfections faithfully, in God's grace. We are not of this world (John 15:19).

Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Renegade Sheep

A few weeks ago, we were on the Navajo Reservation for a marathon (My husband runs, not me!). My daughter and I did our usual: Cheered for Dad at the start, went out for breakfast, and went back to watch the race finish.

When we came back to the finish, I parked the car on the side of the road and got out of the car to see a racing sheep within arms' reach! I had never before seen a sheep run so fast! I giggled, guffawed, and yelled for my daughter to look as the sheep sprinted away. I also grabbed my phone and caught this image:

I have laughed about this many times in the past few weeks, showing it to several of my friends. One of them said, "Oh! That's just like usisn't it? 

Yep. Just like us.

Over and over, we run away from God. Sometimes we sprint... sometimes we meander... sometimes we follow the herd...

And we find ourselves far away from God. From our refuge and our strength. From the blessings He bestows upon us so freely.

We might end up in a relationship that doesn't glorify God (Been there. Done that.). We might find our selves deep in the mire of a sin we thought we had "conquered" long ago (Done that, too.). We might just realize that some activity, interest, or person has become an idol (Yep. That one, too.). But in every case, we find that we are far, far away from our eternal salvation.

What do we do then???

Just like the Prodigal Son, we turn back to find our Father waiting to envelop us in His loving arms. He is ready to restore us at any moment! He is there to shepherd us back to safety, to blessing, to refuge.

We return with nothing. He again gives us everything, including salvation. Praise God Almighty! Turn back. Ask Him to rescue you.

Life is waiting! His life. Eternal life.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sowing

"In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good." Ecclesiastes 11:6

This verse holds my heart in this place. We are often called to serve here, with no knowledge of whether our work will matter or not. Making a meal for an intoxicated person does not sober them up or bring them to church on Sunday. Giving a ride to folks doesn't guarantee that they'll see it as the hand of Jesus. Planning for AWANA (our children/youth ministry) doesn't necessarily bring children and youth to the church on Monday night.

But reread Ecclesiastes 11:6: ...for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. It is not our place to convert people; that is the Holy Spirit's work. It is our place to obey Jesus: "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15.

So proclaim the gospel! In all you do, from laundry to serving meals to the homeless, do all in the name of Jesus! Plant those seeds and let God Himself water them and make them grow. Reach out to the drunken wanderer; perhaps you'll sow a seed that will come to fruition years from now. Offer help to the broken; you may find out later that your words prevented a suicide.

As Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Serving the least of these is ministry. And Jesus calls the least of these his brothers. We are called to serve them, whoever they are.

Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guarantees

"There are no guarantees in life, so take advantage of the opportunities you have to love the people around you."

This statement, or one like it, is something I see frequently in my news feed... and it has some merit. We should be loving toward those around us.  And we don't have a guarantee of how many days we (or our loved ones) are allotted on this earth...

But...

But...

As Christians, we do have guarantees:

Joshua 1:5 says: "I will be with you. I will not leave or forsake you." God will always be by our side. Always. Even when a friend or family member is terminally ill or the victim of a deadly accident. Even when we are faced with tragedy or turmoil.

1 John 1:9 states: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrightousness." Confession is one piece of the bedrock of a Christian life. None of us lives sin-free; and God promises that when we confess, we are forgiven... cleansed.

A Commissioned Piece
Matthew 6:30-31 assures: "If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"  God will provide for our needs.

John 14:27 reminds: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. And the peace I give isa gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." We know that when we turn to God, His peace fills our lives. Even in hard times. Even when peace seems highly unlikely. Even now, whatever now includes.

Phillipians 1:6 gives us confidence, "...that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." When we fail so miserably in living a Christian life that we are without hope, we are promised that God isn't finished with us yet! We will grow into the Christians God wants us to be; He will complete this work in us. Hallelujah!

And joyously, Romans 6:23 says: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Salvation is a gift! Eternal life awaits us!

So, on days when our lives seem broken beyond repair or reason, look to God's guarantees to see the beautiful picture he is creating in our lives. It is beyond any brokenness we see or know. It is eternal and perfect!

Our hope is in Him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Broken

Life's circumstances are sometimes just too much. I know we're supposed to cling to Jesus, pray for patience, and all that. But sometimes it's beyond me, I'm so broken by the events of the day (or month or year).

I know I'm not the only one.

I have a dear friend who is desperate to find help for her young, mentally ill son. Today she is swimming upstream yet again, seeking available treatment for him.

I prayed last night with a young child whose prayer broke my heart. This little one was praying that her mommy and daddy would stop drinking so they could take care of her.

I know three young women who are fighting for their lives against cancer. All three have small children who need them desperately... and all three are suffering greatly from chemo and other cancer treatments.

And I'm there today, too. We've had much difficulty finding medical care in this area that our insurance company would consider "in network." We thought we had it all figured out, and began to pay off the $1000+ bills we had accrued. Well, today, we received almost double that in more bills that were rejected by the insurance company.

Ugh.

Money problems are minor compared to so many issues, but today I feel defeated by these medical bills and my inability to make progress on paying them off.

So what do we do when we're too broken to cling to Jesus? When the pieces of our lives feel so very unpeaceful? When we don't have the energy or ability to pray?

We trust the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:24 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

I don't know about you, but that is a great comfort to me. Wordless groans are about all I've got today. It's good to know that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, intercedes for us when we don't have it in us.

When we're broken, God steps in. And we can trust that.

Amen.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seasons





To Every Thing is a special piece to my heart. I designed and built it 8-9 years ago, and then dedicated it in honor of two people who changed my life many years ago through their love and acceptance. This five foot by five foot screen is on display at Little Swan Lake Winery and Bed & Breakfast (You can find their Facebook page here) in NW Iowa. You should definitely go there and enjoy the place!

Obviously, this piece references the "seasons" Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. And the older I get, the more I understand this Scripture.

I haven't been doing much glass work in the past couple of years. I have felt guilty about it often... But not anymore!

I realize that this is a season in my life. It's a season I didn't expect to revisit, but the adoption of our granddaughter seven years ago brought this "kid-busy" season back to me for an encore. Instead of creating God-honoring stained glass, I am...





Taking kids outdoors to hike, play, fish, or throw mud at each other...




I am....






Enjoying taking kiddos to Easter Egg hunts in
30 mph winds...



I am....






Teaching science to eight homeschooled kids, then watching them play outside (or inside) without any structure...


I am...





Making memories with our daughter: visiting art museums, feeding pigeons (while checking out their cool orange button eyes, so well described in the book Wringer), and watching the hippos open their mouths so wide you could drive a car inside!!!



This is what God has called me to do in this season of my life. Through my entire life, He has prepared me for this, and best of all: His yoke is easy and His burden light. I love this season!!!

I am still creating glass pieces; selling them pays for our homeschool curricula! But my primary call in this season is different than it was just a few years ago.

I am blessed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Little Lost

Have you ever felt a little lost?  Of course you have! I believe that we all feel a little lost once in a while. It happens when our circumstances suddenly change, especially for the worse. Or when we've been in a busy season of life and that "big event" is over... leaving us wondering what to do today.

Whatever the reason, I think we've all been there, done that.

A little lost. 

It's easy to try to fill that time, cover those feelings, with busy-ness. Clean the house. Run errands. Go on a trip. Escape into a movie or a game.

And when that distraction is over, we can hope the lost feeling is gone, too. 

Or we can turn to our True Hope. Even when we're only a little lost, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Instead of running errands, run to Him! Turn to the cross and find your way.

This piece is framed in a vintage window frame. It is 17x28". The price is $225.00, plus tax and shipping (if needed).


So, the next time you're feeling a little lost, try reading your Bible, try talking to a Christian friend about your feelings, try praying. Only God can fill that empty place in your heart... in your life. He has already found us!!!

Praise God!



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gifts

I've been doing a different kind of artistic work lately due to a knee injury. I am crocheting a replacement blanket for my 9-year-old; the first one I made fell apart (because I didn't know what I was doing)! I can crochet while I sit with my leg elevated, so it's an easy way to spend some time.

I have crocheted many blankets for our grandchildren and our daughter, and as I crocheted I prayed for each recipient. This blanket is no exception.

Crocheting in a circle requires me to increase the number of stitches in each "row." I was having a terrible time doing this uniformly; I kept losing count. Then I started trying to memorize the gifts of the spirit from Galatians 5: 22-23... and instead of praying randomly for our daughter, I started praying for her to receive and exhibit these gifts of the spirit.

It has been a powerful experience! I pray for her to receive love: the love of God, the love of all four of her parents, the love of her future husband, and the love of her friends. I pray for her to exhibit love: to learn to show love, even when she's angry.

Praying for her to receive and exhibit joy... and peace... patience...

With "patience" I realized I could also pray for me to exhibit these gifts toward her. So I prayed for kindness toward her to overflow from my heart, for goodness to be something she remembers when she thinks back on her childhood... for faithfulness to be shown to her through us, not our faithfulness, which leaves a lot to be desired, but God's faithfulness, which never fails.

Never.

I pray that she knows gentleness from us, and that she develops self-control over her lifetime. And then I start again: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.

A powerful way to pray.

I'm glad I'm not done with the blanket yet... It may be enormous! And when I make some more of our grandchildren blankets for next Christmas, I will be praying through the spiritual gifts then, too.

Give it a try!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Even in THIS?

A year ago on this day, we received a phone call telling us that our 2-year-old granddaughter was being airlifted to the Mayo Clinic after a tragic accident. She later died. If you want more details about the events, I wrote about that experience here.

But, as anyone who has experienced any kind of loss knows, the grief isn't done when the events are over. Not by a long shot! Any time a "memory" of Raelyn pops up on Facebook, tears fill my  eyes. Whenever we talk about Disney World (we were there at the time of her death), a veil of sadness covers the good memories. Her birthday. Christmas without her. And just random waves of sadness.

Any of these things can trigger the grief. You never "get over it." I'm sure most of you know this truth. Today I am living in the season of Raelyn's death, and memories of her keep coming to me...

Into this sadness come the quotidian events of this day: brushing teeth, going for a walk, having school, playing with friends... Each one has connections to grief. But when my daily Bible devotional said "Give thanks in all things," I rebelled. I couldn't imagine begin able to give thanks for the death of our sweet granddaughter!

I've prayed often today. I've tried to wrap my brain and heart around "Give thanks in all things" and finally I realized...

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances," not "Give thanks for all circumstances."

So, I'm not expected to give thanks for Raelyn's death, I'm supposed to give thanks even though Raelyn died.

And I can do that. I am thankful that she was in our lives. She was funny, sweet, loving, sassy, and adorable. She was well-loved. Her organ donation saved at least two lives. Her family seems to be holding together and living well, even after her death.

And even though I'm sad today, I am thankful for my life, my family, the beautiful place we live, my friends... I am thankful for the faith that God has graciously given to me. And I am grateful to know that Rae is with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Joy of Jerusalem

This piece is for sale: $225
My husband and I are reading Nehemiah right now. We started the habit of reading the Bible together each evening more than eight years ago. I can't remember how many times we've read through it, but it remains a treasured tradition which brings us closer to each other and to God.

A couple of nights ago, in Nehemiah 12, we read yet another long list of difficult-to-pronounce names. Then came verse 43: And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. (emphasis mine)

That was the last line of what we read that night:

And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

The "joy of Jerusalem" at the time of Nehemiah was the rebuilding of the wall. But today, there is a "joy of Jerusalem" that is far, far better: Jesus.

Jesus, Emmanuel, Our Savior and Lord!

That is the joy of Jerusalem for us. The joy that overflows from knowing that we are redeemed by Jesus Christ, that we have a place before our Heavenly Father, righteous before Him by the cleansing of Jesus' sacrifice. Talk about Joy!

And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Reluctant Tadpole

This is Tad. He lives at our house and has since we did our "Life Cycles" unit in Science in August. Our cats enjoy him very much! (Thank goodness the tub he's in has a lid!)

Tad is a reluctant tadpole. He will eventually go through a metamorphosis and become a leopard frog. According to the directions that came with him, it should take 12-15 weeks for a complete metamorphosis...

Count that out... He's been here since August...

Tad is apparently a bit reluctant to go on to the next stage of development. His back legs are minute. He has a bulge on one side for his supposedly-developing front legs, but not on the other. His back legs have not grown at all.

I started feeding him fresh salad in addition to his commercial tadpole food (Yes, there is such a thing!). I figured out a way to warm up his water a bit, hoping that he would eat more and develop. And he IS eating more; he loves the lettuce leaves! He's more active, too.

But he's not developing into a frog.

I was joking about the tadpole being reluctant to mature when I realized that at times I've been reluctant to mature, especially as a Christian. Maybe  you have, too?

When we choose to skip reading our Bible daily, but we have time for Facebook, Twitter, etc, we are choosing not to mature as Christians.

When we attend church passively, attention drifting through the service, we are choosing not to mature as Christians.

It takes intention to mature, at least for us. I'm not sure that Tad needs to want to turn into a frog...

But for us, we have to make choices that lead the direction we want to go. We have to choose to attend Bible Study, even if there's a big game on. We have to intentionally set aside time to pray. We have to consider the consequences of a flippant remark on Facebook.

I don't want to be a reluctant tadpole Christian. Do you?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hanging On

It just took me 2 days to make a phone call... and 15 minutes to throw away a post-it note. The note had just this on it: "Weertz Funeral Home, Thursday 4-6." It also had the phone number of a local florist. I ordered flowers for my dear aunt's funeral visitation and funeral this coming week.

And it was hard.

Oh! So. Hard.

We're not the only ones suffering from this particular loss, nor is this loss the only one happening today. I have a friend who lost her brother this week, after losing both of her parents within the last year or so. There are many here on the reservation who grieve. Grieving seems universal.

And it's so very difficult.

This morning, in my tears, I asked the Lord to comfort my grieving heart. I turned to the Bible for a word about grief. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16 came up when I searched for "grief." These words from those verses bring me relief: For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

My aunt knew her Lord and Savior. She was a living example of faithfulness. I know she was received into the arms of Jesus when she closed her eyes. This promise in Thessalonians reminded me that she is God's first, not mine. And that she will be raised with the saints when Jesus comes back.

Hallelujah!

I am still sad saying good-bye to my aunt, ordering funeral flowers, and throwing away a post-it note. Canceling the phone line we've carried for her for several years brought me to tears again, but I know she is with our Lord.

And that is comfort indeed.

Peace, comfort, blessings, and sure knowledge of our Savior is what I pray for each person grieving.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Aunt Della

My Aunt Della passed away this morning. 
Everyone should have an "Aunt Della" in their life. Aunt Della was my mother's oldest sister. She was in her teens when my mother was born, and her older children were about my mom's age. 

She was no stranger to tragedy; her second child (her only daughter) died of cancer when she was five years old. My Aunt Della had two more children, both boys. I was the next girl born in the family (13 years and many boys later!), and my aunt doted on me. I was so very blessed to be her niece.

My Aunt Della was a woman of deep faith, and she lived it. She spent many years studying God's Word and serving others. She was a mentor to many, and always had wise words to share. Until the last year, she was still sewing clothes and diapers for a mission in Haiti!

She was also a woman of great joy. She was still doing cartwheels regularly when she was 74. When people visited her in her 90s, she insisted on giving up her bed to the guests. She always seemed to "roll with the punches" and come up praising God.

We knew Aunt Della was failing; she was 94 and had a brain aneurysm. We had visited her in August of last year, and I'm so glad we did. Even then, she was witty and happy. She asked about my brother, and talked about silly things we had all done over the years. It was bittersweet to hold her hands in mine and tell her I loved her so very much. That she was a joy in my life.

One of the highest praises I could receive in this world is to be told, "You're just like your Aunt Della." I pray that I can be a beacon of light to the world around me like she was. I pray I can be helpful and loving and serving through all my years. I have been greatly blessed by having her in my life, and I am buoyed by the sure knowledge that she is with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK in the Days of #Black Lives Matter

I was born in 1961, which means that Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive and actively working for civil rights during my early childhood. I remember seeing him on TV with crowds of people surrounding him.

I also remember my (White) police officer (birth)father standing by the door in uniform, beating his nightstick into his hand saying, "I'm gonna go beat n*%$#* heads in!" (c 1968)

And I remember my (White) mom sharply reprimanding him, "Don't say that in front of the kids!" And I started paying more attention.

I remember learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. in high school history classes and seeing photographs that were in my memory from live TV. And I remember teaching about MLK, naively assuming that the "Civil Rights Movement" was history.

And then I became a mom to two African American children.

The world shifted as I realized just how much prejudice there still was in the 1980s and 1990s. I started seeking out and listening to people of color. I began to teach more children of color and realized that their world was vastly different from mine. And my world changed as I raised children of color; when I was with my growing AA children, I was treated with less respect, with more suspicion, and sometimes outright discrimination. And I know this was nothing compared to what my children have faced as adults.

And then came Trayvon Martin... Michael Brown... Eric Garner...Walter Scott... Sandra Bland... Tamir Rice...

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has become the new Civil Rights Movement. People of color and their allies are organizing protests to the institutional racism that permeates our society.

The thing that "gets" me is the almost universal backlash from the White community. I know (and love) many people that think that #BlackLivesMatter is frivolous. That there isn't racism anymore; after all, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement "fixed it all." Right?

Sometimes I am infuriated by the unwillingness of many Whites to accept the testimony of people of color who are living the discrimination. How can so many refuse to believe the personal testimony of people of color?! The privilege of ignoring racism belongs only to those who don't experience it.

I find myself wondering today what Martin Luther King, Jr. would say about #BlackLivesMatter. So I looked back through his speeches, quotes, and writings. Here's  a bit of what I found that seems to be relevant(MLK quotes are in red; my comments are in black):

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. It is not easy to respond to accusations of racism with an open mind, but that is the challenge for the White community. Yes, it's controversial, but the least we can do is listen. So, I challenge you to open your mind and read one of these posts from Black writers: Why I'm Absolutely an Angry Black Woman, Make it Personal, After Ferguson, or watch this video. Or read and listen to activists of your choice.

One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. MLK would completely support the BLM protests in Minneapolis and St. Paul which closed roads and the Mall of America. King would be in jail with the organizers. He would not condone the violence of rioting, but he would certainly understand the anger behind it.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a warm-fuzzy, "let's all get along now" kind of guy. He knew the price of resistance, and he paid it in full. The problem is that the "bad check" marked "insufficient funds" from the "bank of justice" still is not paid. (references from King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963) King would not be satisfied with today's racial statistics in education, poverty, and incarceration, not to mention the pattern of violence directed toward Blacks from police across the nation.

Shallow understand by people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Read that again. King condemned shallow understanding by people of good will. He would condemn #AllLivesMatter. He would condemn those who believe being "color-blind" is the answer. He would condemn feel-good commemorations of his life. He would demand that the injustices were seen.

I don't have any easy answers. I don't think there are any easy answers to institutional racism, generational poverty, and police violence toward people of color. But I do think we need to listen, to actively resist racism, and to work for justice.

Start by listening.

Really listening.

Not to me. To the oppressed.