Category Archives: faith

faith

Brand New Day

I’ve written here before about May being like December because of its financial outlays. This year, May reminds me of December for other reasons, too.

rabbit, rabbit, image credit:

rabbit, rabbit, image credit: notsogoodphotography

There’s the over scheduling of events. End of school programs, concerts, field trips, parties, sporting events, conferences, graduations—all squeezed into a few weeks, just like at Christmastime. There are weddings, retirements, and going away parties. There’s May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day, not to mention the lesser known holidays like Candied Orange Peel Day, Frog Jumping Day, and Dance Like a Chicken Day. No kidding.

In some parts of the country (Kansas), the seasons are changing. The weather’s finally beginning to level out, if gale force winds can be considered leveling out. At least it’s sunny. Flowers bloom. Winter wheat fields turn from brown to green. Bunnies the size of my dog saunter about the yard. Nature’s in flux, pressing on to summer.

Add to that a stressful life event or two, like moving, and you could wind up dancing like a chicken. The one that flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Yes, change is stressful. Even good change is stressful. We’re allowed that, I think.

We go to sleep in some of the darkest winters of change. We wake up to clouds, gray, drizzle, snow, cold, bleh. Night comes again. Then gray. Then night. Then gray. Again and again. We get up. We sojourn on. Maybe for years.

Then one morning, a little light. The twinkle of an idea.

The whisper, “Hey, this could be the beginning of something beautiful.”

robin

robin, image credit: cruadinx

The next morning, a little more sun. The wink of possibility. The glimpse of a robin or a rabbit, rabbit, creature of habit.

Another morning, and the sky is the brightest shade of blue. The sun, oh, the sun is shining and we are warmed by it. Sweet promise of a brand new day.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NIV

Hold On by Selah. Originally by Evie.

What are your hopes on this brand new day?

photo credit: notsogoodphotography via photopin cc
photo credit: cruadinx via photopin cc

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Dodging Tornadoes

It’s not been the best of weeks. 

the perfect gift from Kansas

the perfect gift from Kansas

My house smells like cardboard boxes from packing. Stuff isn’t where it should be. I wonder if it ever will be again.

My thoughtful, kind, generous neighbors threw me a party. They gave me gifts from Kansas. I will miss these ladies. Our neighborhood has been one of the biggest blessings of our short time here. It’s hard to say goodbye.

Our son’s school and teacher this year have been huge blessings, too. His class performed a Salute to America program this week. They sang patriotic songs and gave speeches as famous Americans. They ended the show with a fitting quote from Ronald Reagan:

“I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

the stage is set

the stage is set

Could you just absolutely weep?

The program was noble and right and good. It’s what American elementary school students should be doing. I will miss this school. It’s hard to watch my child say goodbye.

A family member in North Carolina was unexpectedly hospitalized for most of the week. It’s nauseating to know that although we’re so close to being there, we’re not there now when we could possibly help. It’s hard to feel helpless.

I worked on writing a challenging assignment this week. Wrote my little heart out, or at least it seemed to me like I did, and I’m not sure it matters. The question of what will Aimee do when she grows up remains outstanding, unanswered, and flapping in the wind.

Life feels out of control and unsettled. So I wave my white flag.

medium_2673925463

surrender, image credit: portobeseno

Not my will, but Yours. Not by my power, but by Your Spirit. Help me to trust that in my weakness, You are strong. I give You my worries because You care for me. Wrap Your care around me and help me to stand.

But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

White Flag by Dido is one of my favorite songs. I know she says she won’t wave a white flag and I just wrote I will, but neither of us is giving up, so there you go.

Who helps you dodge life’s tornadoes?

photo credit: portobeseno via photopin cc

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Beyond Holy Week

While I was on my spring blogging break, I checked the feed during Holy Week to discover the internet was in shambles.  

window bride

window bride

Lines were drawn in the sands across America. The days leading up to Easter saw pundits throw off their gloves to strangle each other in hand-to-hand combat. Facebook profiles hemorrhaged red equal signs matched by a flow of crosses. Twitter burned with the carnage of our civil discourse about gay marriage.

People ridiculed the Bible and took cheap shots at my faith. Folks in some religious circles seemed to suggest Christians just sit this one out. Political strategists advocated surrender, declaring the issue a lost cause in a zero-sum game. Do we want to be right or win elections? 

Scant little was said about how we might address the actual issue: Can we as a nation find a way to extend legal protections to long-term, monogamous gay couples while at the same time protect the religious liberty of those whose faith prohibits homosexuality? I could have missed it, but I haven’t heard much from either side about an equal-but-different, civil-union-type solution.

Maybe we don’t want a solution as much as we want a fight and a Supreme Court verdict like Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, we all know how well that settled the abortion debate.

My sweet father-in-law served two terms as a county commissioner. During his first campaign in 2000, we discussed Roe v. Wade. He expressed to me the frustration of pro-life Christians who felt blindsided by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling. “It happened,” he said, “and we did nothing.”

I naively thought this marked his generation’s legacy with silence and inaction. After Holy Week this year, I think I understand a little more of how he feels.

Proponents of gay marriage think they’re right and that this is a question of equality. If you express a different opinion, you’re labeled a bigot. On the other hand, many Christians think gay marriage is a threat to First Amendment freedoms and that this as a question of religious liberty. If our federal government “redefines” marriage to legally include both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, where does that leave the church? Where does that leave religious schools and institutions?

Will there be exceptions? Or will the state cross the line and require all churches to perform same-sex marriages, hire homosexual staff, and censor the first chapter of Romans or face prosecution for discrimination and hate crimes? Think it could never happen? Private sector examples like Hobby Lobby, Sweet Cakes Bakery, and Arlene’s Flowers show how eagerly religious liberty is being challenged. Is this too a zero-sum game?

The tidal wave of little equal signs and crosses on Facebook and the tumult of mainstream media bias during Holy Week chilled the dialogue of regular citizens. This debate has instilled fear in people to voice their convictions.

But bullying the opposition into silence isn’t progress.

rick warren quote

image from Pure Purpose on Facebook

Some of us are straight. Some of us are gay. All of us defy GodWe’re all guilty; that’s why we’re all in need of Christ. No one is in a position to condemn. But what does it say about my faith if I’m scared silent to speak what I believe?

EstherShadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Daniel are in the Bible for a reason. So is the account of Jesus before Pilate. There is Truth that stands alone and isn’t relative to our whims, preferences, culture, courts, or circumstances. 

flag in Reagan National

flag in Reagan National

I disagree with the idea that engaging in the political process and conversation means you’ve traded faith in Christ for faith in government. God has blessed American believers the gifts of freedom of speech and religion, among the many other gifts of our Constitution. We are called to be good stewards of those gifts as much as we are called to be good stewards of all the resources God has given us. Use it or lose it.

No one enjoys being the object of ridicule, spite, and retaliation. We hope bullying doesn’t happen and we answer it with grace as best we can when it does. Christ promised that people would hate Christians the same way they hated Him. In all this, God is sovereign; His plans will be accomplished.

Americans may never unanimously agree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. But I hold out hope we can find ways to live alongside each other in peace, with respect for our different beliefs, and under the protection of our Constitution. 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. John 18:36-38 NIV

How are you processing the events of Holy Week?

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Heart of the Matter

Boomer, my yoga instructor, faced a life crisis earlier this spring when her 50-something husband had emergency bypass surgery.

faceted heart

faceted heart

She’s the more talkative of my instructors. Responsible for phrases like Vikings and temple dancers, bellies on vacation, and the duck index.

I like the banter.

“Stretch the myofascial tissue.”

“Stop carrying enormous handbags.” 

“Stand up straight or you’ll end up with a hump on your back and a walker!”

He survived the surgery. She missed a week or so of class. I don’t think she realizes it, but a new theme has surfaced in her coaching.

“Engage your thighs. You should feel them working, pumping blood up, strengthening your heart.” 

“Open your chest. Don’t let it close over your heart and lungs.” 

“Remember to breathe…” 

And then last class, this one.

“It’s amazing how easily the heart gets involved with everything.”

Yes, dear teacher. It is.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Nothing Is Wasted, my new favorite song by Jason Gray. Listen. Take courage.

 What’s on your heart today?

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When We Have No Words

We turn to the One whose words never fail.

Psalm 91:1-2

Please click to read the full text of Psalm 91.

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Necessary Violence?

I’m finally reading The Hunger Games. Only five years and one movie late. No spoilers, please. Oh, and I’m tweeting my favorite lines as I discover them, probably to the chagrin of the handful of people who follow me on Twitter.

mockingjay pin

mockingjay pin

I’ve read through Part I: The Tributes. It was tragic, but not really violent. The violence is yet to come. Ever since I wrote Jeremy Spoke last month, I’ve been thinking and rethinking how violence in our culture influences our behavior. While I don’t retract, “Garbage in, garbage out,” I’m struggling with this in light of our stories.

There is no great, compelling story without conflict and crisis. That conflict is most dramatically manifested in violence. 

Lord of the Flies is violent. So is The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. Les Misérables. Star Wars. The Godfather. The Matrix. Gone With the Wind. The Gospels. And so on.

Is some violence necessary in our stories? What makes it gratuitous? Should we shield our children? What flips the switch to unleash violent behavior in some people, but not others?

A few years ago I took a film analysis class at church. Yes, church. There’s no better place to consider human culture than within the context of God’s redemptive work for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

We critiqued the messaging of movies. We examined what a film’s story and cinematography say about God, humans, our society, our destiny. We wrestled with themes Christians might shy away from: violence, nudity, profanity. We found our thresholds to be individual and subjective.

I think the point of a class like that, and a post like this, isn’t necessarily answers. Rather it’s to get us to pay attention.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

We all break God’s law. There is none righteous. No, not one. Left to its natural course, our law-breaking gets worse, not better. We’re capable of horrific behavior. God abhors those who love violence. The One Hope for our depravity is a core change from death to life.

Maybe the message of Heathers was satirical and Pearl Jam’s Jeremy was a warning. Maybe the conflict, crisis, and violence of our stories, fiction and nonfiction, serve to spur us on to the Redeemer.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
You, the righteous God
Who probes minds and hearts. Psalm 7:9 NIV

The Hunger Games movie site where you can watch the official trailer.

Is some violence necessary in our stories? Where’s your threshold for viewing or reading it? How does violence in our culture influence behavior?

photo credit: damnyeahnich via photopin cc
photo credit: cinderellasg via photopin cc

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Peacemaker President

President Obama’s second-term inauguration has come and gone. Even though I didn’t vote for him, he’s still the president of my country. He represents all Americans, including me.

peace sign

give peace a chance

Last month, my friend Amy wrote about picking a theme word for her life in 2013. Her post inspired me to think of a theme word for my hopes for President Obama’s second term. The word I chose is peace. If President Obama can usher peace into America’s contentious political environment, he’ll secure his legacy along with a place in the hearts of many Americans—maybe even those like me who didn’t vote for him.

We can argue, liberals and conservatives, about whose behavior is worse. Each side blames the other for gridlock. Mud slings year round, not just during election season. From where we regular folks sit, Washington looks like a bad episode of 90210. Vindictive. Scandalous. Popular people posing for the cameras one minute and stabbing each other in the back the next. Meanwhile, constituents wait for them to do their jobs at the Peach Pit. A ridiculous and imperfect analogy, I know, but you get the idea.

90210 formal

90210 formal

How could President Obama or anyone possibly be expected to instill  peace in the midst of infighting like this? He can’t do it alone. None of us can. But as the leader, he’s in the best position to change the tone.

Conservatives like me must own our part of the conflict. Our disagreement with President Obama’s policies, actions, and words often translate as personal attacks on him, much the way liberals’ criticism of former President George W. Bush did. I want to be more careful to clearly debate differences in belief, and I hope other conservatives and liberals will do so going forward. I also want to remember to pray for President Obama as our leader, and I hope other people of faith will, too.

Peace as a top-down change is powerful. I challenge President Obama to be the first to attempt reconciliation and bipartisan compromise. I don’t expect either side to cave on the values of those they represent. But if a solution simply cannot be reached, I hope President Obama will encourage Congress to dig deeper to come up with another option. Rather than rushing to an ill-conceived decision or executive order, go back to the drawing board and do better.

be the change

be the change

Peace in speech and countenance is healing. I challenge President Obama to visibly demonstrate willingness to work with others who believe differently than he does. Religious freedom is an issue close to my heart. I hope President Obama will deal peacefully with those whose faith beliefs are different from his and not use policy to force citizens to act against their faith or support actions they find morally reprehensible like unrestricted abortion on demand. There is room for mutual respect. We can protect the religious liberty of all Americans including Christians.

Peace can make a good leader great and create a legacy worth remembering. If he leads with peace, President Obama has a unique opportunity for greatness in his second term. By extending the olive branch in our broken country, he can transcend divisiveness and revive the civil discourse that may actually lead to solutions to the problems we face.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 NIV

All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance, by John Lennon.

What are your hopes for Obama’s second term?

photo credit: ginnerobot via photopin cc
photo credit: alicetiara via photopin cc
photo credit: danny.hammontree via photopin cc

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