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.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Making America Good Again: Cherry Picking Christians

On the front page of my local Sunday paper, a courageous woman working to revitalize her neighborhood asks:  "How do you say you love the Lord and don't love His people?"  I agree with May Lizzie Jennings wholeheartedly.  However, it is also time to ask the question in reverse:  "How can we say we love His people and not love the Lord?"

Loving each other is an extremely important Biblical principle but not the only one.  Right before Jesus told us to love our neighbor, He told us love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Further, He linked loving God to obedience:   "Love one another, as I have loved you." And "If you love me you'll keep my commandments."  Love like Jesus.  Keep all his commandments, not just some of them.  We don't get to choose which, we need to love God AND people.  'Both/and' not 'either/or.'

Sadly, it seems to be part of our human nature to want to listen to things we agree with and tune out those things that we don't.  For some reason I don't completely understand, some of us lean toward "conservatism" and some to "progressivism."  Whichever way we lean is the lens that determines how we view the world, what things we choose to believe, and ultimately how we respond to its problems. Each of us "cherry-picks," if you will, the things that confirm our biases and ignores the things that don't.

We all need to take a step back and look at how we can best love God AND all of His creation, including people.  God tells us how through Scripture, the universe around us,  and the lessons we learn from history.  The Declaration of Independence refers to this, "the laws of Nature and Nature's God." Admittedly, there are times that it seems Scripture contradicts itself.  Then we are faced with the greater challenge of working together to see what God intends, focusing on both/and and not either/or. Often we will find there is a new way open to us if we only do the hard work to find it.

I am growing increasingly frustrated with Christians and non-Christians alike who "cherry-pick"  Biblical principles to support various and sundry political points without struggling with the WHOLE of God's revelation.    

What put me over the top this week was all Scripture floating around over Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.  Many who supported the agreement pointed to God's delegating responsibility for the planet to humanity and our obligation to be good stewards. Others, focused on how the agreement hurts the people on the planet, pointing to the agreement's restrictions on ability of many to provide for their families in exchange for little climate improvement.   There is also another opinion out there that says we don't need to worry about climate change because God is in charge and won't let us destroy the planet. All of these views contain part of the truth, but not all of it.  Our discussion should be about how we can be good stewards to the earth AND use the earth's bounty for the benefit of all, recognizing all the while God's sovereignty.  Emphasizing one principle over the other is a false choice but, alas, easier than doing the hard work of uniting these principles to find a path forward.

We could have the same discussion in many areas of our life together:  do we help the poor by supporting them in their poverty or helping them out of it?   Do we welcome everyone who comes to America or insist that they be here legally?  Do we love and care for women, or their unborn children?   Do we love people whatever their gender and sexual inclinations, or acknowledge that God created male and female to enjoy the blessings of marriage?   And as the news of another terrorist attack comes out of London,  do we love our enemy or protect the innocent?  The hard answer is both/and.

Let's stop cherry-picking Scripture to make our political points and do a better job of loving God and each other by looking to the whole testimony of God, in the natural world, in Scripture, in history and in our hearts.  As much as I love God,  I confess that I am guilty of cherry-picking as well, so don't call me a hypocrite but help me do what is right.  We all, including me, need to intentionally open our eyes and ears and listen to God - and each other.  We won't always get it right, but we will do a much better job of dealing with the mess our world is in if we at least try to follow the Creator's plan.  God created us, and loves of us, and yes, our Heavenly Father knows best.  

So stop with the cherry-picking, or at least recognize that you are doing it. Let's all work a little harder at getting the logs out of our own eyes (like Jesus told us to), and start looking at all that God wants for us - not just the parts that we like.

Let's Make America Good Again.