And So He Begins

Our country has a president.

Some will be delighted; others, not so much. The beauty of having the opportunity to participate in the democratic process is that we get a chance to voice our opinions over who should be the one person who will sit as our leader in the Oval Office.

For all the things that have been said over weeks and months of ads and campaigning, this job is not easy. There are those who long for the position, but it comes with a cost. Being President of the United States is a huge responsibility that will require fortitude, wisdom, compassion, and confidence to work with people who don’t agree with him.

Our Commander in Chief has a huge challenge for a leader, to work to draw together the troops and cast a vision for a unified and gracious country. 

It won’t be easy.

President Biden faces a country rocked by anger and divisiveness. There are those who have been vocal; there are many who have chosen to stay silent and are simmering. But whichever we are, we are called upon to be respectful of our leadership and the role he now has to bring the many parts of this country into a unified whole that proclaims the hope of our democracy.

He can’t do it alone.

God admonishes us to honor those who are in authority for they’ve been granted an enormous responsibility. Not just for themselves, but for those they’ve been entrusted to lead. Our president now embraces the needs, protection, and provision of the people of this nation.

Not a job for one person.

In a nation still hugely divided, we find ourselves at an impasse. We need to pull together as a nation and stop allowing our differences to separate us. We need to focus on how we become stronger together. If we don’t, we only hurt ourselves.

Jesus very clearly stated, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:24-25. He showed us that dissension and unrest from within are much harder to deal with than an enemy outside our own borders. We have the chance to change the trajectory of our nation. Will we do that?

The truth is this president–as every other president has in the past–will disappoint people. He will fall short of expectations because he cannot do the job perfectly. He is a person who is as imperfect as the rest of us.

We need the power and presence of God to help us move forward in an unselfish and caring fashion. Where we can genuinely and generously open our arms to all who are not like us and have the conversations that will allow us to grow together.

Apart from God, we will continue to focus on what makes us comfortable and turn our backs on what we disagree with. 

Our new president and vice president need all the help we can give them to operate with a sense of right relationships and a perspective on justice that allows decent relationships to thrive. 

This isn’t easy; it’s heart work, not about policies; the hardest kind of work there is.

That’s what will make America a great nation. 

 

 

What’s Wrong With Purple?

It’s been said of late that the blue has never been bluer nor the red redder.

If I was speaking of Crayola crayons, this would not be a huge issue. There may have been more color put in the vats as the crayons were formed.

But watching our political climate, especially now as the election has taken place and everyone is waiting to see who will actually occupy the Oval Office, this is a problem greater than color.

There’s a disparity of viewpoint that holds no possibility for compromise.

I’ve seen the ads, and I’ve heard the rhetoric, the strain, and pressure which have weighed on everyone. The complaints among voters, the discrepancy of what each side thinks, the accusations that have flowed freely all have made this a stressful season for all.

Then add COVID.

With the decision of who will be president not yet made, many still feel the pressure of waiting, worrying, becoming fearful their candidate won’t win.

What is true?

There will be a winner and a loser. No matter how long the process takes, only one person will sit as Commander in Chief at the White House.

We still have a Constitution that has outlined what our basic values are as a nation.

We still have three arms of government to provide checks and balances so no one individual can become a dictator.

We still have many freedoms that have made our country a desirable place to live.

God is still God; He hasn’t changed or left.

The problem doesn’t begin at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It has more to do with us as citizens of America and our willingness to value all who live in this remarkable country. Our ability to see each other as equal, to value what each and every individual brings to the table, and to care for one another more than we do ourselves will make this nation go forward no matter who is in office.

We have been given a unique opportunity by God to live in a place that allows us to voice our differences, that encourages freedom of speech and worship, that allows us to pursue dreams that we may become better than what we are now. We are not limited by anything other than our imagination and choosing to live with others in harmony.

A God-given gift of hope.

Rather than seeing what’s wrong with the “other” side, why are we not pursuing listening to one another so we may find common ground to begin our work together? Why aren’t we doing what we can to help everyone have the freedom to dream and hope?

God, who has made each of us in His beautiful image, giving us intellect, emotions, and a will to choose, has also given us the mandate to love one another as we love ourselves.

We can do that by first loving Him and allowing Him to fill us with His perspective on others.

Rather than seeing the definitive red and blue, why don’t we come together and celebrate the purple in each of us? That part of us that is just like everyone else.

Can you imagine how much we could accomplish together with a fully purple map?

 

 

 

Best Day Of Our Lives!

 

I’ve never been fond of Halloween. Not since the time we lived in a place where cats were killed and left on the streets for kids to see the next morning.

This year, though, was the best Halloween ever.

Since I’m not into the scary, spooky stuff, it’s always been about kids dressing up in fun costumes and having the chance to parade around the neighborhood for the neighbors to ooh and ahh over the cuteness of the littles.

That and the collection of candy that causes every dentist to cringe.

Since we have quite a few of the littles around us, we had a gathering on our porch. Dinner and games. 

Who knew digging in a bowl of cold spaghetti to find small plastic animals or dipping your hands in slime with tiny jelly balls would be so much fun?

There is a perception of what Halloween is supposed to be. Ghoulish parties, trick or treating for the littles–and sometimes the bigs–and the celebration of all things spooky. With COVID, what had been could not fully be. For the first time in years, we had no one coming to our door looking like princesses, stormtroopers, ballerinas, or firemen. In our neighborhood, the streets were empty.

Adjustments were made. 

It was good.

The games were definitely a highlight. Messy, slimy, sticky. Completely fun.

The best part of the night was how to creatively give them the candy they wouldn’t be able to acquire in the usual fashion. We first had a pinata, which delighted everyone with the strength and prowess of small hitters. More candy was passed out by adults in the house, which was completely darkened. The kids had to go from room to room with tiny flashlights, trick or treating where they could barely see. 

“Best day of my life!” was heard several times.

Too often today we’re in situations where we can’t do what we’ve always done. It’s easy to become stuck in disappointment and discouragement because life isn’t treating us fairly. 

But when has life ever been fair?

We long for fairness, for everyone to have an equal opportunity to do what they choose and have success doing it. Equal opportunities with equal benefits. As we have seen, again and again, life is anything but fair.

God knows all this. Having given us free wills to choose what we do and who we follow, we’ve often chosen poorly, without thought to anyone else, without considering how our actions might hurt others. 

What we need is to change our perspective and our attitudes. Instead of seeking to be treated fairly, maybe we could treat others with kindness. Instead of demanding equal opportunities, we might help others by providing them with a chance to prove themselves.

It doesn’t have to be about us.

Choosing to follow Jesus gives us power and perspective to live beyond our small expectations. Rather than acting with entitlement, we could act with grace and mercy toward others. In Him.

COVID has changed many things in our world, but maybe it’s given us the chance to change as well. 

Being better people?

Best day of our lives!

 

 

 

Press In To Who You Are

 

We gathered on my porch and in my yard, social distancing and grateful to be together.

Women need connections; coming together meets needs in feminine hearts that zoom can’t accomplish.

Sharing with one another provided the backdrop for a chance to be creative. Each woman was given several packets of magic clay and was challenged to create a shape that could express where they were now. Their red dot experience; just like in malls with the map and the dot that pictures, “You are here”.

Some hesitated, not feeling very talented nor having inspiration for what they could shape. Others began molding immediately with a purposefulness that gave energy to what they imagined.

Conversations never slowed, but almost everyone made something. The talk moved into sharing what each piece meant.

The sharing became deeper, more intimate. Molding a shape with your own hands that expresses where your heart is can be heady. What may not be easy to communicate with words becomes easier with clay. Authenticity was revealed within the shapes, and when they had the opportunity to talk about what they’d made, it made the truth easier to share.

In this time of change and disruption, our hearts are being shaped by more things and experiences than we’re often aware of. Fear tends to shape us smaller; joy expands the size of our hearts. Worry creates ripples of skepticism on our surface that cause us to lose the smoothness and elasticity of our emotions. Celebratory experiences deepen our color and glow. Arrogance ignores all other shapes around us, spreading us thin with no real impact on anyone. We become flimsy and superfluous.

With the pandemic and the unsettling issues with an upcoming election, it becomes easy to shape our hearts smaller so we can’t be hurt. To minimize what’s happening around us so we won’t be affected. But those fears tighten our grip on what we can’t control and cause us to suffocate our hearts in ways that can permanently impact them. 

But God.

God is the Potter, and we are His clay. Made in His image, formed by Him for good works to do for the good of others, we are not small, insignificant ceramic pieces that mean nothing. We are beautiful jars, and if we allow Him to fill us with His truth and grace, even with our cracks and chips we are spectacular.

Because of the Potter’s hands. 

We do have a choice of who will and how we want to be shaped.  We can allow random people with ideas we may not completely agree with shaping our thoughts and actions. We may also embrace cultural norms because everyone else is doing it.

Or we can allow the wisdom and love of the Potter to be the One that adds shape to our lives with His kindness and understanding. God knows us perfectly. His truth can help us form solid thinking and clear actions. We don’t have to be buffeted by the storms of life or the harsh hands of hurtful people and experiences.

He promises He will never let go of us until we become all He knows we can be.

His hands are gentle with the sweet pressure of love.

 

 

 

A Little Flame Goes A Long Way

“It’s always a good time for s’mores!”

Isley is passionate about chocolate and melty marshmallows. Add a graham cracker and it’s an invitation to sweet bliss. 

We hauled out our fire pit–a few months and several degrees early–so we could have a fire for roasting marshmallows. The weather cooled a bit, and we were able to avoid massive amounts of sweat pouring off our bodies in front of the flames.

Isley was the watch person who reminded everyone when their marshmallow was getting too crispy. Her warnings of, “Blow it out now!” were heeded by everyone but Ryken. He’d glance at her, let it sit a little longer, and then blow the flame on his marshmallow out.  

My kids and grands alike have had a fascination with fire. Cal at two requests YouTube videos of volcanoes all the time. Molten lava, magma, and eruption are words my kids didn’t know until they were much older. His enjoyment of fire-spouting mountains made me realize how we all have a certain allure for things that burn us.

When the flames were lit, there was a pause when all eyes were on the fire. Like a bug zapper, we were drawn to its glow and warmth, the dancing flames, and the brilliant colors. Then came the warnings: “Don’t get too close to the fire!”

We’ve all experienced fire in our lives. Maybe not the heated flames, but the things that draw us in yet are never good for us. Those things that can singe us if we venture too near; if we draw closer still can consume us. The things that aren’t healthy for us, that take our focus away from what’s good and right, the things that compromise our hearts and cause us to overreact to emotions rather than seeing people and true need. 

For me, I typically get burned by not believing the best of others. If I find I’ve not been included in a gathering or am not part of the group activity, it’s easy for me to feel overlooked and unworthy. My mind fills with the lies of my insufficiency. The reality is I don’t need to be part of everything. That’s not a sustainable model of life. 

Culturally, our world is focused on the flames of divisiveness and critical attitudes. We’re drawn too close to the grumblings and complaints of those who feel disenfranchised from others by lack of opportunity or recognition. The reverse is also true: there are those who are frustrated with the disenfranchised. The fire of fury with what we see and experience around us can only burn us and cause more pain. Healing comes from stepping away from the fire.

Jesus reminded us that this world is full of trouble. There will always be problems, always be those who don’t have as much as others, always those who are in pain. This is a broken world. 

Jesus is the only answer to the pain of rejection and heartache. He offers love and forgiveness in a world burning with anger and unforgiveness. He offers hope when the world offers disruption.

Fire always burns. Learning to stay back and not be consumed is a challenge. 

Unless you have the ultimate Fire Fighter on your side.