Friday, August 31, 2012

My Fellow Americans...We, the People are a Hot Mess!

Since this blog was originally started to leave a legacy behind for my kids and to chronicle their childhood life and times from my perspective, I feel like I can't shy away from this topic any more. What I am about to say may make some of you uncomfortable but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway. Besides, It's just my opinion. Okay, here goes...

First of all, I hate politics. I love America but politics give me an Excedrin headache. Usually I like to stay out of politics mainly because I'm not under the illusion that I know it all, unlike so many others I see blowing hot air all over the internet. Since I am aware of my intellectual shortcomings, I try to do a lot of research about the issues because the mainstream news media is, for lack of a better word...whack. Since this is an election year which I believe is crucial to the well being and the very future of the country I love so well, I have rolled up my sleeves, removed my rose colored glasses and taken a hard look at both candidates and the issues whirling around them. In this case, I am an inquiring mind and I  really want to know. What I am discovering is that politics are not necessarily the underlying problem. The problem, my friends is none other than We, the people.

Before you get all indignant and outraged and whatnot, hear me out. I will admit that I am very blessed to have a loving husband, 3 healthy children, a home and safe vehicles to drive around in our safe little city with a great school district. I worship God freely in a church I love. I am here, at this place in my life by the grace of God, the incredible integrity of my hard working husband, some sacrifices made in the early years of our marriage and some hard choices we, as a couple and individually, have made along the way. Some may look at my life and say "Must be nice to be her." Well, quite is. I am immodestly proud to say that because, well... it wasn't always 'nice' to be me.

If you've read my blog you know I've been on my own since the age of 16 and there was a time in my life when my 71 Chevy Chevelle was my only  home. I existed on Fritos and baloney sandwiches and the kindness of my friends' parents and sometimes even total strangers. I have worked at countless minimum wage jobs doing all kinds of manual and service oriented jobs. I know what it is like to have plenty and I know what it is like to have next to nothing. Homeless is about as poor as you can get. So...when I hear people saying that if someone is a Conservative (which I am), then they must automatically hate the poor and are out of touch with social issues and are just a wealthy, Bible thumping bunch of windbags, stepping on the heads of the downtrodden to climb the ladder of success, I must respectfully call BS on you. I will point out that you are unfortunately doing something that I believe is systematically unraveling our society and that is: judging an ENTIRE group and placing them into a category which you judge to be despicable. You denounce them and dismiss them all outright, refusing to listen to them, without taking a moment to realize that we are all INDIVIDUALS with our own story and experiences. Conservatives and Democrats and other political parties are all doing this. I see it every day and it makes me furious. It also makes me sad.

Here's one reason why I think we do this. And remember I'm stating my own opinion based on my own experiences, here. Some people...lets call them fringe groups...get so 'in your face' while trying to recruit others to adopt their philosophy that they go off the deep end. Westboro Baptist Church is one of them. Complete lunatics who have no shame and commit hateful acts in the name of God. They don't speak for Christians and are a disgraceful hate group. Here's another example: I was astounded to discover that there is group of women, who call themselves feminists, dressing up and parading around in (and I'm sorry to say this out loud) vagina costumes in order to call attention to their feeling of victimization because they want the government to, and I quote, "stay out of their wombs." This kind of childish nonsense is not serving anyone and basically sends the message that women (by their definition) are apparently only the sum total of their girly parts. If you don't believe me, I'll show you what I'm talking about. I'm sorry in advance for the tacky nature of this picture but I didn't think you would believe me unless you saw it for yourselves. I find myself helplessly giggling in horror at the absurdity of this image. Who thought this up? Why did anyone agree with it? Where does one purchase a pattern for a vagina costume? So many questions....

"Code Pink" activists
Is this the most constructive way to make a point for your cause? I think not. Though I suppose you mean well, I'm a woman and I say: Change your clothes, grow up and do something more productive and appropriate with your time. You are embarrassing yourselves, which is your right. Still, I'm sure a lot of women wish you would stop it.

I'm going to give it to you straight, ladies. There is no 'WAR on Women.' What a ridiculous notion. We may strongly disagree on issues of abortion and paying for women's birth control pills and other female reproductive issues. We can debate that thoughtfully and respectfully and most importantly with the most powerful resource we have...the right to VOTE. Please don't buy into the assertion that anyone is at WAR with women. To do so is an insult to anyone who ever served, fought, lost their life or lost a loved one in combat. War is war. It is hell. Debating women's reproductive rights is a difference of beliefs and opinions that is being considered and (whether we agree with the outcome or not) will be legislated by our elected officials. That's the way our system works. It is not war, it is a constitutional debate. Get that straight in your heads, please. (P.S. Condoms are cheap and abstinence is free).

My fellow Republicans, this is for you. Democrats should not be recklessly characterized as atheist, socialist, tree hugging, activist, hippie intellectuals. Members of my family are Democrats and are some of the smartest, funniest, socially conscious, responsible and hard working, sweet, and loving people I know. They are amazing parents. Though we may not always agree, I respect them and their views. I learn from them. I am certain that not all thoughtful and intelligent Democratic or liberal women agree with the kind of spectacle shown in the photo above or advocate these women speaking for them. Why? because it detracts from their message and makes them look foolish.

The same goes for the other side. Todd Akin said some painfully ridiculous things about his cockamamie ideas about rape. It made me cringe. It made 99.9% of Republicans do a nationwide, simultaneous  groan and eyeroll. Let me make this abundantly clear: Just because a bunch of women dress up in nutty costumes doesn't mean all Democratic women are supporting them. Just because Todd Akin is foolish and irresponsible with his words, doesn't mean all Republicans agree with his outlandish comments. Do you see where I'm going with this?

We the people spend way too much time shouting our own message and too little time listening to each other. I mean listening with the intent to understand. The thing is, opinions by their very nature can't be wrong. It's just a personal belief that is expressed. They are just opinions. Why argue over it? Listening to each other, especially our differences, that is how we learn. It's all about respect. We need a lot more of that if we're going to come to a better understanding of one another. After all, we are called the United States of America. If we're not careful we'll just be the Divided States of America.

One more thing. When President Barack Obama was elected, although I did not vote for him, I stood in front of my TV and tears came to my eyes as I saw him take the podium for his victory speech. It was a momentous event in American history. I was proud for him. I was really rooting for him. Praying for him to succeed. I was hopeful for the change he wanted to bring about. It sounded so great. Four years later, I am sad to see that he was unable to move the country forward as he thought he would. Through research, I've learned more about him and his background. I don't agree with many of his core beliefs and don't believe he has proven to be an effective leader. Some say he wasn't given a chance. I have to wonder how many years worth of a chance a President should be given. We are beyond the point of blaming this side or that. There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle. I'm voting for Romney/Ryan because what is going on now is not working. I feel we need a President who has a better understanding of the way business and finance work in the private sector. Here's another thing...I am not a racist because I'm not voting for Obama. Casting a vote for the other guy does not make someone a racist. Voting for someone strictly because of the color of their skin would more likely fall into that category. I'm not doing that. Please don't assume that about me or anyone else.

Life and death are in the power of the tongue. As a nation, I pray we will come together and stop talking so loud that we drown each other out. Of course as a believer, I'm trusting God and His will for our country. Whoever wins the election, I will do my best to stand behind them and do my part. I'll try to be careful with my words and opinions. I will listen and give others a fair hearing. The Bible tells us to do that. As you can see in my comments above, I don't suffer fools gladly. It's not always easy but the most important lessons never are.

I'm hoping and praying that by the time my kids read this they will be able to say "Wow, I'm sure glad people started behaving like responsible adults and cleaned up that hot mess they had back in 2012." I hope they look up to our generation with gratitude and pride in the same way we respect and admire the generations that came before us. Don't you?

Peace and Blessings


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Meteors, Adam and Eve and the Wisdom of Children

Many of you who know me would probably agree that I tend to turn just about anything into a party with my kids. If there is a thunderstorm, we go out into the porte-cochere with snacks and blankets and have what we call a 'Boomer' party. We count down from the lightning strike until the thunder crack and then raise our hands and yell "TOUCHDOWN" at the top of our lungs. This is big fun for us because we're essentially a bunch of dorks. We have family movie night, epic Nerf gun battles with the neighbor kids (David is the instigator and director of these battles), geode rock busting parties and various other really cheap and fun activities that the kids enjoy and since I get to participate in my pajamas, it's a win/win.

So...when an event like the recent Perseid meteor shower comes along I immediately think: Shooting Star Party. We arranged all of the deck chairs into what we decided were the ideal positions for meteor observation, David popped popcorn, I made lemonade and we invited some good friends over to hang out. Overall, it was really fun and we got to see quite a few meteors. The kids watched in awe for a while until their attention spans gave way to other more exciting pursuits. We all made some great memories and to me, that's all that is required to call any party a success.

The most poignant memory I'll take away with me from that night doesn't really have anything to do with meteors, though. It will be of my son Michael and his ability to 'wow' me on occasion with the way his amazing little mind works. We were gazing up at the night sky and together we recited the old rhyme "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...I wish I may, I wish I might...have this wish I wish tonight." At the end, I asked the kids what they had wished for. Mattie (being Mattie) said "I wish I had a million dollars." I can't say as I blame her. If you're making a wish, might as well make it a big one, right? Then it was Michael's turn and I'll never forget this. He said quietly, while still looking up at the stars: "I wish God had forgiven Adam and Eve right from the beginning because things would have been a lot easier from then on."

Wow. I wish I could report to you that I had some meaningful response to this statement. I really don't remember what I said because honestly, I had never even considered this observation in that context for some reason. He got me thinking. 'Yeah...why didn't He forgive them? Michael is right. It would have been a lot easier. If God is such a forgiving God, why didn't He just give them a pass? He knew they were going to eat the fruit. Why did it matter so much? Why 'THE FALL' and the sinning, and animal sacrifices and the wars and chaos and plagues and pestilence and punishments? Why the ultimate torturous sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross to reconcile us with the God who created us and loves us? It could all have been avoided if He had just forgiven Adam and Eve on the spot, right?' Kinda makes you wonder...

I prayed on this. I pondered this. Eventually, I even Googled it. The answer came one morning while I was out walking our dog, Lucky, and was having my prayer time. I felt God speaking into my spirit and then it became clear to me. In order for us to have what God wants most from us, which is relationship, there has to be free will. The God of the universe had to give us the choice to reject Him. To let us 'go it alone' and then return to Him freely if we desired to do so. Imagine someone saying to you "Love me because I said so." Doesn't work that way. Real love means we choose to love one another despite our faults or imperfections or regardless of how powerful or powerless the object of our love is. To be loved, chosen for love, is probably the most enriching human experience of all. I believe it is what we were created for. Love. Praise. Honor. Worship. Cultivating relationship. With each other and with our Creator.

I see this fallen world as something like boot camp to prepare us for everlasting life. Without the experience of loss or grief, how could we ever fully appreciate life and how precious it is?  Without sadness, how would we measure pure joy? Without feeling lack we would be unaware of the blessings of provision. Without sickness and pain in our bodies we wouldn't comprehend the perfection of our heavenly bodies to come. Without the bondage of sin we would never understand the unimaginable gift of grace, mercy and freedom in Christ. Trouble and difficulties, even emotional pain, cultivate our faith and teach us obedience and surrender. It all makes sense to me. Easy isn't always better. I am learning to be more grateful for the ongoing refining process of life. Nobody said it wouldn't get hot and uncomfortable in the furnace. The promise is that we will come out more clean and more pure and more beautiful than ever before. I can live with that. God knows what He is doing. After all, He's been doing it forever and in the infamous words of Prince...that's a mighty long time.

Our children have innate wisdom. They say things that confound us, challenge us and sometimes even push us to seek out answers we never even knew we had the questions for. My children are such an incredible blessing in so many ways. Once, Patrick, my oldest, said "Mom...why do people have the urge to do things that they already know are not going to be good for them and then do them anyway?" That one struck me dumb for a moment or two. I don't remember what I told him other than "Wow, that's a really good question. I might have to get back to you on that one." I don't think I ever did. Last year, Mattie was sitting in my lap on the couch and said "Mommy, why do people always say they are seeking God and that He is invisible? I see God all the time. All you have to do is look into the eyes of His people and that's us." I remember hugging her with tears running down my face and thanking her  for sharing that with me. There's such wisdom in children hidden underneath all of the dirt and the noise and the sticky fingers and such. Yes, there is incredible wealth there that I am enjoying digging into every day. Such is the joy of parenthood.

Mattie explained that we can see God in each other's eyes and I am a witness to that fact. On a clear summer night, not long ago, as ribbons of light brilliantly streamed across the sky, I looked into the awestruck face of my eight year old son and clearly saw God's perfect love shining in his beautiful blue eyes. That's life, isn't it?



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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does This Chicken Offend You?

I swore to myself I would stay away from this one. Guess I need to stop swearing, huh? I really wanted to just stay out of the whole Chick-fil-A vs the same sex marriage debate. Why? Because there is so much misinformation and religious hypocrisy and hate and political posturing in that pool that I thought I'd be better off just sitting in a deck chair sipping a cold drink as I observe the last vestiges of American common sense slip down the drain.

Well, I changed my mind. I do that a lot. You'll get used to it. I've decided to weigh in with my OPINION which is worth exactly what you paid for it. If it offends you, you are free to close your eyes,  read no further and then hit the delete button which is your RIGHT. I won't mind. Actually, I won't even know. We are all way too easily offended these days which is what led to this latest brouhaha over what the president of Chick-fil-A, Mr. Cathy (no relation) said in an interview in The Baptist Press about his stance on traditional marriage. If you have not read the interview (I had to look for it...I didn't even know there was such a thing as The Baptist Press) and you have commented on this issue in some social media outlet, then you are not using common sense. Sorry, but you should get your facts straight before you form an opinion. Then you can actually have what is referred to as an 'informed opinion' rather than a 'random opinion' which (in my opinion) is pretty worthless and potentially even dangerous. Here's the interview in which Mr. Cathy was speaking to a reporter with The Baptist Press which I'm guessing he probably assumed would be read mostly by...well...Baptists:

That's it. He has said out loud in front of God and everybody that He built his company on Christian principles and believes in 'traditional marriage.' He means between a man and a woman in case anyone is confused by the reference to the bible. (Some biblical marriages were between a man and a harem full of women...I think it's safe to assume that since he was talking to a Baptist publication, he wasn't referring to that.) That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Hello, teacup.

I never saw anywhere in his comments that he was anti-anything. Or that he refused to serve anyone or hire anyone based on their sexual orientation. (Apparently they don't discriminate in either area). He was simply stating what he believes in, which is his right. He can model his American built company on any principles he wants to because last time I checked, this is a free country. He can give his charitable donations to anyone he wants to, as well. But don't worry. Here's the good news: When you build your multi-billion dollar company from the ground up, you can give your charitable donations to whomever you choose because that will be your right just as well. Nobody says you have to like what he says. If Chick-fil-A offends you, don't eat there. That is your right. Don't eat there every day!! That'll show 'em! Simple as that. However...When the mayors of two major US cities jump into the ring and threaten to keep this company from getting permits to build new locations there based on this man's beliefs, that IS discrimination. It is also illegal. It is also bullying and it scares the snot out of me.
 **By the way, if you are going to base how you spend your money on where businesses stand on moral or political issues that don't line up with yours, you might as well just start walking everywhere, growing your own food, live in a hut and give up Slurpees forever.

Now, let's flip the switch for a moment. To all of my Christian friends out there...I feel ya. I know where you're coming from and I understand the feeling of desperation as we see traditional values and morality and respect for our Christian beliefs being attacked and taken away in the name of political correctness. I get it. But what are we supposed to do about it? Million dollar question, right? But let us take a deep breath and a step back. I must now be completely cheesy as I say to you: What would Jesus do? Let me say this clearly. As a believer, we know that Jesus died to reconcile our relationship with God. Every single sin was nailed into the cross with Jesus that day. This includes but is not limited to lying, cheating, adultery, murder, stealing, gossiping, coveting your neighbor's wife and his shiny new boat et al. If you are a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin then it was covered too. So, you say (with a plank in your eye) Living in sin is wrong! We are supposed to hate sin and reject it!! Is that what Jesus did? The way I read it, the bible tells that Jesus approached sinners and was a friend to them. He loved them and healed them and forgave them day in and day out. That was His ministry, for heaven's sake. Hate the sin but love the person. Our relationship with God ultimately will come down to Him and us. As a body of believers, we are to spread the gospel (good news) about salvation and the amazing fact that it is free for ALL. Yes, fellow Christians I said all. How about we focus on doing what we were called to do as believers and trust God to shake things out as He sees fit? Just a thought.

So where do I stand on same sex marriage? I think it's a lot about semantics. Demand the word 'marriage' and you'll have a fight on your hands. Same sex unions? I believe in the right for people to choose who they love and for them to be allowed rights that other unions are allowed. Doesn't really matter if I agree with it or not. Don't we have free will to live our lives on this earth as we choose, especially in America? There are consequences to every choice we make. Still, my choices will result in my own consequences as others' will for them. We all have to live with that. I try to live as best I can by biblical Christian principles. Still, I'm a sinner. In word and deed more often than I care to admit. I'm not anti-anything. I'm pro-human and pro-love. I'm pro-Jesus. Furthermore, I think anyone's sexuality is a personal subject that I would rather see remain a private matter discussed between the individuals involved. For the record, if you are gay and Christian people are mean to you, or belittle you I'm sorry on their behalf. Please forgive them. They know not what they do.

Now, remember...this is my opinion. You don't have to agree with it or like it. But I get to say it anyway and if you are an intelligent, decent person you will respect my right to express it.

Let's all take our common sense out for a little exercise. We could all use it. Tolerance is a two-way street. If something offends you, walk away, turn away, tune it out and let it go. Forgive the shortcomings of others. Give yourself the gift of not taking everything so seriously. Pray for the sinners and the broken hearted. Live and let live and let God be God. Believe me He is way better at it and it's too big of a responsibility, anyway. Eat the chicken or don't eat the chicken. There's no need to be offended by the chicken. God's will prevails either way. If you don't believe in God, that is your right. I will still love you and pray for you because Jesus said I should.

Peace and Blessings,