Sunday, August 13, 2017

Making America Good Again: Have We Lost Our Ever-loving Minds?

I had another article ready to share with you today, but the news from Charlottesville, Virginia demands a response.

Have we lost our ever-loving minds?

I can be as passionate about the things I hold dear as anyone.  I have participated in protests.  I have waved signs.  I have signed petitions.  I have written letters to the editor and called my Congressman.  But never, ever would I deny someone else the right to let their beliefs be heard. Never, ever would I throw a rock, shoot pepper spray or drive a car into a crowd, let alone destroy property or shoot someone as has happened at other protests.

It makes me uncomfortable to judge what is in other peoples hearts, but it seems to me that hate filled both the protestors and counter-protestors in Charlottesville this weekend. They all showed up spoiling for a fight.

A group of hate-filled white supremacists used the removal of a Confederate monument as an excuse to gather and protest.  They admitted to being angry at how our politics is divided by race, gender and the rest and are demanding their "fair share."  They insist that white people are better than anybody.

So who were the counter-protestors?  Alas, they belong to another group of hate-filled folks that we have seen participating in violent protests before, including elements of  Black Lives Matter and the Anti-fascist movements.  While their cause is justice, their methods are anything but just.  Remember the BLM and Anti-fa folks who have caused death and destruction in Ferguson, Baltimore, New Orleans, Charlotte, Berkeley, and Washington, D.C. in the past couple years?

Allowing these groups to come together was also an error of epic proportions. Why did the police let these folks get within throwing distance of each other?  Why weren't more people arrested? Why did the city government allow them to protest on the same day?

Have we lost our ever-loving minds?

Yesterday made me feel like we are on the cusp of another Civil War.  Haven't we learned anything from that bloody war and its aftermath?  Don't we know our own history?  Why are we still dividing ourselves up by race?   Shouldn't we know by now that there is no place for racism and bigotry in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God?  Shouldn't we have learned that there are better ways of resolving our differences than with death and destruction?

I want to believe, deep in my heart, that most Americans want nothing to do with the groups that showed up in Charlottesville yesterday, be they KKK, BLM or the anti-fascists.  I want to believe, deep in my heart, that most Americans see their fellow citizens as human beings.  I want to believe, deep in my heart, that most Americans want to resolve our differences without violence - through conversation, the Courts and Congress.

Before the rest of us lose our ever-loving minds, please pray.  Pray for those who are filled with hate to be filled with love.

Pray for those who died yesterday and their families.  Pray for the healing of those who were injured.

Pray for the people of Charlottesville who want to live their lives and raise their children.  Pray for those attending the University of Virginia this semester and their anxious parents.  What does the future hold for America's youth?

Pray for the tourists who were there to visit the home of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and the author of our Declaration of Independence.  How ironic that such a protest would happen so close to the place honoring the man who wrote:  "all men are created equal."   We may not have completely lost our minds yet, but we surely have lost a firm grasp of America's foundational principles.

Pray that you don't become infected with the hate that swirls around us. All those who gathered in Charlottesville yesterday deserve our distain, not our praise.  Do not pick a side in this fight, even if part of what they say resonates with you. Their hate destroys whatever good might be in their message. Pray for our country to solve its disagreements - and they are many and deep - without violence.  Pray for healing in our country before another war within our borders takes hold.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Making America Good Again: Passion

No, I'm not going to write about sex today.  Passion is about more than lust. The root of the word passion comes from the Latin that means "to suffer" and was first used over a century ago to describe Jesus' suffering and death.  You have probably heard this referred to as The Passion of Christ.  While the meaning of "passion" has morphed over the years to  mean any kind of strong emotion, there is still a sense at its core that we are passionate about things we are willing to suffer for.

What are you passionate about?  What stirs your soul and sparks your emotions? Where do you want to focus your time, thoughts, talent and treasure?  What are you willing to suffer for?

As children start school, look to see where their passions lie.  Are they intrigued by science or sports?  Literature or mathematics?  Art or architecture? History or hanging out?

As you look at businesses in your community, you will find people passionate about their professions and their products.

As you scan the news, you will see our President passionate about making life safer and more prosperous for average Americans.  You will also see those who hate Trump  passionate about destroying his presidency.

I am passionate about proclaiming God's gift of liberty to all mankind.  That's why I write these articles.

Our passions and the suffering that goes along with them have a purpose.  Students will suffer as they struggle to learn.  Entrepreneurs will suffer as they build their businesses.  Politicians suffer as they strive to make their ideas become law.   Writers suffer each time they look at a blank page.

Jesus suffered, as the book of Hebrews tells us, for "the joy that lay before him."  That joy is you.  Jesus suffered, so you, and the whole world, could be forgiven and restored to our rightful place in God's family.

What are you passionate about?  Not sure?  It seems many folks find their lives so busy, or filled with boredom or despair, that nothing stirs their hearts.  If that is where you find yourself, spend some time looking at the world through God's eyes.  Where do you see the greatest need?  What breaks your heart?  Where can you pitch in?

I've recently heard a lot of great speakers talk, very passionately, about helping people learn from their failures, about the need for clean water,  about discovering the talent that resides in each of us.  For all of these people, their journey began with looking at their needs and the needs around them.  They were open to the possibilities.  They all discovered God was with them pointing the way.

Make America Good Again by finding your passion and pursuing it!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making America Good Again: Motivation

What motivates you?  When despair and dismay threaten to overcome you where do you turn?

Sometimes we are motivated to change by a fear of failure.  Sometimes we are motivated to achieve something new by the satisfaction we hope comes with success.

We've all listened to motivational speakers that either frighten us or encourage us.  They challenge us to see new ways of looking at our circumstances.   They inspire us to  change our lives or habits, but so often our good intentions to follow their advice falls short.

Motivation is a complicated thing and different for each of us.  I shouldn't assume that what motivates me will motivate you.  How many times has someone tried to give you a needed kick in the pants but they said exactly the wrong thing?!?  With the best of intentions there will always be people who try to motivate us in ways that just don't work. Sometimes the opposite is true.  How many times has someone's attempt to discourage you given you the motivation you needed to prove them wrong?

Being a preacher, I think a lot about what will inspire folks to believe in God as revealed in Jesus Christ.  For some, it is a fear of hell and death.  Others are encouraged by the promise of heaven.  For even others, they come to believe because of the peace in knowing God loves them and is with them. Jesus talked about all three.

Each of us knows what motivates us.   Given what challenges are facing you right now, what will drive you to act?

Will the joy of a potential reward motivate you?  Praise, money, power, sex, food - all powerful incentives.  Perhaps focusing on the promised joy of heaven will make all the difference.

Will the satisfaction of of achieving a positive goal do the trick?  Like wanting to be able to wear those favorite jeans again.  Perhaps what motivates you is doing the right thing.

Or, are you motivated by the fear of a negative outcome? For example, did you study hard in school simply to avoid bad grades rather than trying to learn something?   Perhaps what motivates you is the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and feeling the guilt that comes along with that.

Or, is the best motivation for your current situation fear of potential punishment?  In your past, did you behave so your parents wouldn't spank you or (later) take away your car keys?  As adults we often change our behavior to avoid losing a job or going to jail.  Perhaps the motivation you need today is fear of hell.

All of these motivations, both positive and negative, have their place and can be effective in helping achieve our goals.  Sometimes that initial spark of motivation comes from hearing someone say the words we need to hear.  We all need to surround ourselves with people who speak to our deepest needs, who spur us on in the ways that encourage us.   I've been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to find the right words to motivate my sister-in-law Kate to work extra hard in therapy.  While I am praying for the right words to say, I have also realized that the ultimate responsibility lies with Kate.  Please keep praying for us all!

At the end of the day, the words that will actually motivate each of us comes from within.  The voice that has the most power to challenge us or encourage us is the voice inside our own heads.

My favorite scene from The Sound of Music is when Maria sings "I Have Confidence" on her way to the von Trapp family home.  Her Mother Superior planted seeds of encouragement, but the rest is up to Maria.   She knows God is with her and she trusts Him with all her heart.  This has been my "theme song" whenever I started a new job or faced a new challenge.

I have confidence in sunshine,
I have confidence in rain.
I have confidence that spring will come again!
Besides what you see I have confidence in me.
Strength doesn't lie in numbers.
Strength doesn't lie in wealth,
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers,
When you wake up, wake up!
It's healthy!
All I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own!
I have confidence in confidence alone.
I have confidence in confidence alone!
Besides, which you see, I have confidence in me!

What motivatesyou when despair and dismay threaten?  Listen to those around you, but most of all follow your heart.  You, and you alone, can make the difference.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Making America Good Again: Stop Borrowing Trouble

Are you feeling overwhelmed these days?  I am, and it's causing me to waste a lot of time "borrowing trouble."

Borrowing trouble happens when we think about all of the awful things that might happen.  Today, I find myself worrying about American culture and politics, the church, my family, the weather, and what's in the refrigerator.  It doesn't matter if it's big or small issue, I can lose sleep over it. What if?  What if?  What if?

I fight this all too human urge to "borrow trouble" because it is a colossal waste of time.  Jesus said:

"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  (Matthew 6:31-34)

This isn't a call to ignore real problems but to put things in perspective.  When Jesus tells us not to worry about eating, he isn't telling us to just sit back and wait for someone else to feed us. He is telling us to put God first and do our part as well.  Jesus said:

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:28-33)

What are you worrying about today?  What can you do about it?  In my days as a nursing home administrator, I would try to anticipate problems so that I didn't have to run around putting out "fires."  Crises will happen anyway, so I worked hard to avoid the ones I could.

Here's another example.  I live in Florida.  Hurricanes are a part of life.  I could get all worked up and watch the Weather Channel 24/7 every time a storm approaches, or I could stock up on food, water and supplies, have a plan to evacuate, and check on the status of the storm every few hours.  Then, when a storm comes my way, I'm as prepared as I can be.

But what happens when one of life's storms comes unexpectedly?  I'm thinking here of my sister-in-law Kate's accident.  Again, thanks for your prayers.  Do those who love her worry about what her future holds?  Absolutely.  And our concern doesn't have us cowering in a corner but is motivating us to help.  We are doing what we can by praying for her, encouraging her and doing the things she can't.  Kate is focusing on what she can do by working hard in therapy.  Somedays I have to remind myself that this struggle is like eating an elephant....we can only do it one bite at a time.  But do it we will!

What are you worrying about today?  Do you worry about retirement?  Start saving.  Do you worry about your health?  Go for a walk. Do you worry about what Congress is up to?  Call your Senator or Representative.  Do what is in your control to do.    

No matter what situation you find yourself in, don't allow worry to consume you.  Look to God for guidance and then do what you can.  And if you are worrying about something over which you can have absolutely no control or influence - let it go and trust God.  I may sometimes "borrow trouble" but I never despair because God is always with me.  Hope is always in my heart.  And then when crises hit, and they will come, I can face them with strength and calm.

My advice:  stop worrying about things you have no control over and concentrate on the things you can do something about.   Focusing on what you can control, rather than what you can't, will help you turn despair into hope and anxiety into peace.

Andy Stanley offered a great prayer that goes something like this:  "Heavenly Father, help me see trouble coming long before it gets here.  Then give me courage and wisdom to handle it. Amen."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Making America Good Again: Perseverance

Perseverance is much on my mind these days.  Thank you to all who are praying for my sister-in-law Kate as she perseveres in her goal to walk again after a spinal cord injury and for her family as they seek to find and provide the best care for her.  

I read through the Bible every year or so and each time a different theme seems to grab my attention.  This year that theme is "perseverance."   I could give you lots of examples:  Moses, Job, Jeremiah and, now that I'm in the New Testament, Paul.

Watch this video for some more contemporary examples: "Famous people and the perseverance: 2.59 mins will change your life forever."  All of these people overcame great difficulties, their own failures, and the opposition of others to achieve their goals.

 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BF04JExesYw

How did they do it?  What is the "magic" formula?  It's not magic at all.  There are two ingredients:  accountability and a goal.  As a Preacher Girl, let me put this into terms of faith, but I think all of you will recognize what I mean.

I know I am accountable to God who has a plan for my life.  That means I must do my best to not listen to the negative voices and circumstances that distract me from my goal of being who I believe God created me to be.  Deep inside, you know who you are and what you are supposed to be doing with your life.  Call it your conscience if you don't want to call that voice God, but listen to what you know is good and true.

Magic Johnson knew he was an athlete; Oprah Winfrey knew she was a communicator; Thomas Edison knew he was an inventor; Abraham Lincoln knew he was a leader of men.  They persevered because they knew who they were and didn't listen to the naysayers; they didn't give up when obstacles blocked their path;  they didn't surrender when their own failures got in the way of progress.  They persevered.

I'm sure you can think of other examples from history and from people you have known.  Perseverance is one of the traits that describes much of the American spirit, from explorers, to settlers, to inventors, artists and entrepreneurs.  It is a key to their success and the success of America.

So what about you?  Are you ready to be among those who will keep on keeping on, stand your ground, leave no stone unturned, stay the course, plug away and stick to your guns?

As Marie Curie said:  "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

To Make America Good Again, we must persevere as individuals, families and a nation.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Making America Good Again: Independence Day

What are YOU celebrating today?   The founding of America?   Freedom?  The brave men and women who have kept us free for over 200 years?  A day off from work?

These are all good reasons to celebrate, but let's also celebrate the Declaration of Independence itself.  Take some time today to read it. You can do it while you are heating up the grill!  It will take you less than ten minutes. Here is its most famous paragraph:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -"

The entire Declaration can be found here:  http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.

Sadly, one of the great divides in America is how relevant the Declaration of Independence is to us today.

Are you among those believe that America has progressed beyond the Declaration's claim of self-evident truth that our freedom and rights come from God?  As CNN's Chris Cuomo said in an interview with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore a couple of years ago:  "Our rights do not come from God. That's your faith. That's my faith. But that's not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise."

Does that ring true for you?  Do you believe that the Declaration is a beautifully written document of historical significance, but one with little relevance to us today.?   Perhaps you embrace its principles of freedom and equality but believe that these are enlightened ideas society has developed and that God has nothing to do with it.

Or are you among those, like me, who believe the self-evident truth of the Declaration is true today and will be true tomorrow.  The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and those rights further outlined in the U.S. Constitution come to us from God and it is the government's responsibility to protect them.

In America, you are free to believe what you want about God.  You are free to not believe in God at all.  But America, and its laws, are based upon the premise that God as revealed to us in the Bible and in Nature:  God is our Creator; the giver of moral and natural law; the Supreme Judge to whom we are all accountable; and the One on whose Divine Providence we can rely.  These are the four references to God in the Declaration.  There is no mention of Yahweh, Jesus or Allah.  How we worship God, how we understand God is left to each of us.  But that God IS, is a fundamental principle of our government.

Which side are you on?  Is the Declaration relevant today? Do our rights come from God or government?  Is the Declaration, and the principles it upholds,  the law of the land or is the Declaration a quaint historical document America has outgrown?

All of the division we are experiencing, the vitriol and violence we see daily, has at its root this question:  what is the source of our freedom and our principles - God or man? Our nation is as divided over this question today as it was over slavery.  We are in the midst of a civil war of words and protests.  I pray that America, the America of the Declaration of Independence, will survive.

Those who seek to separate the Declaration from the Constitution and assign it to "quaint historical document" status are wrong.  Dead wrong. The truth is that removing the Declaration from our government's guiding principles is like trying to remove the spirit from a person while leaving the body intact.  The result would be a dead body. The American Experiment will end if this trend of removing God from our life together continues.

The Declaration of Independence - all of it - is the law of the land.  It is as much the law as the Constitution is and all other law must flow from it.  The freedom we celebrate today is given to us by the hand of God, not the whims of government.   And we the people must do all that we can to see that it stays that way.

This Independence Day take a minute and think about the Declaration of Independence.  As you drink beer, eat hot dogs, wave flags and watch fireworks, know that it is time to choose.  Are you celebrating the creation of a document that is dead - or are you willing to fight for one that is very much alive?

And please continue to pray for my sister-in-law Kate. She is making progress but has a long way to go.  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Making America Good Again: Hope and Healing

Thank you to all who checked this blog and FB page to see if I'd posted something new.  We've been traveling and then our world was shaken.

While we were away, my sister-in-law injured her spinal cord in a fall and was paralyzed from the neck down.  She has since regained some feeling and has significant arm movement, but she has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her.  She is an inspiration to her family and friends with her optimistic outlook, sense of humor and sheer determination.  How would you respond if you woke up one morning and your life was so dramatically changed?  I hope I would respond like Kate.

Her accident immediately drove my husband and me to pray for her complete healing.   Jesus encourages us to pray with persistence (Luke 18)  and with "shameless audacity" (Luke 11).  I just read last night how Peter and John healed a lame man: "Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And the man went with them, walking and jumping and praising God. (Acts 3)   I can just see Kate doing that now, especially the jumping and praising part!  "Kate, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth walk!"  My husband and I, along with many others, continue pray to God for Kate throughout the day with persistence and shameless audacity.

Our prayers are accompanied by helping Kate and her family in the ways that we can.  We've also taken a deep breath and recommitted ourselves to what is important.

Love life.  It is short and precious.  Treat it as the valuable gift from God that it is.  Don't waste your days on things that aren't important.

Be grateful.  Thank God each day for what you do have and what you can do.  Our natural inclination is to ask "why" this happened and perhaps seek to place blame, but that is counterproductive.  Don't wallow in negativity.  Instead, embrace the positive wherever you can find it.  God is there with us, if we will only seek Him out.

Have faith.  Look for good to come out of this.  My husband's family has faced many tragedies but something good has always come out of them.  Often they didn't know what that was until long after the time of sadness.  Since I met them, I have been amazed at how strong, steady and optimistic they are when bad things happen.  They are living proof of Paul's statement:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  (Romans 8:28). We have faith that the same thing will happen.

Hold on to hope.  Hope is the most powerful of healers and the greatest of motivators.  Our hope is anchored in the love of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and the love we have for each other.   It is not a wishful optimism but a firm reliance on the Creator and Savior of the Universe.

Please pray for my sister-in-law Kate and for yourself.   Take a deep breath and recommit yourself to what is important:  faith, hope and love.