It’s World Kindness Day! How Are You Celebrating?

It’s World Kindness Day! How Are You Celebrating?

Today is World Kindness Day. I wrote another blog post about it yesterday, but the real question is this: How will we mark this day?

We all know from experience that…

A good seed planted in darkness can burst forth to produce a tree large enough to host entire communities in its colorful branches.

Things that start small can become big.

So what seeds of kindness will you plant today? Tomorrow? For the rest of this month? I want to know.

Are you making soup for a neighbor?

Giving more than usual to a charity of your choice? Which one? Why?

Mending a relationship because you know you’re not guaranteed tomorrow?

In November, we focus on gratitude. And gratitude is good. Very good.

But it isn’t enough to be thankful – to sit around enjoying the fullness, ruminating on all that’s pleasing or teaching us. We are called to share what we have and know.

If we have love – we share love.

If we have hope – we share hope.

If we have means – we share our treasure.

If we have time – we give hours or moments – with intentionality.

If we have hands, or feet, or ears, or eyes…..If we’re alive, friends! (so that’s all of us) we offer ourselves. Whole and present when nudged to do so.

When you hear the whisper in your heart….Help her. Go to him. Say this in peace….Do it. And make a mental note.

This is God’s work in the world.

And then, please share your stories with me. I’m saving them for an end-of-the-month blog post, where I’ll offer a few tips about the ways we’ve all found to share love throughout the Christmas season and beyond.

Your kind acts will inspire others. And wouldn’t more love and kindness be a nice gift for the world?

Tomorrow’s “World Day of…”

Tomorrow’s “World Day of…”
Photo by Dawn Lamper. creationswap.com

Do you know what tomorrow is? November 13?

It’s World Kindness Day.

Haven’t heard of it?

Neither had I.

Not until I saw it on a “Content Calendar” created by Amazon for bloggers and other creatives like me. But apparently it’s been around since 1997 and even has an official flower, the Cosmos bipinnatus. Pretty little thing.

(In other news, National Button Day is coming up on Friday, November 16. Don’t miss it.)

Humor aside, perhaps we really do need a day every year to reconsider the merits of kindness. Especially now.

For clarity’s sake, let’s review the word’s definition.

Kindness is the quality or state of being kind – and that is, having a sympathetic, helpful, forbearing, or gentle nature. (Combined definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.)

We can all think of someone we know whom we consider to be kind. And a few whom we think are not.

We also know what it feels like to extend kindness, and to be on the receiving end of such a gift.

(A door held open, a garden bouquet, or some of Mom’s fresh cookies come to mind.)

And all too often, we write off certain people as “unkind.” The truth is, they probably do the same to us. We can all seem cold and unfeeling at times.

We know what kindness is and what it isn’t – and that we don’t see true kindness nearly enough.

In today’s world, strength and power are prized over self-sacrifice and humility – two components that are necessary to make an act kind.

Kindness goes farther than tolerance, which is also touted as a modern virtue. But tolerance of others – simply living side by side with them without doing them harm – does not require the deeper level of compassion that kindness brings to interactions.

Kindness creates connections; when it’s sustained over time, it builds bonds.

Kindness is about extending grace and love. It’s meaningful because it’s a movement of the heart.

The giver’s heart touches the heart of the receiver, and both feel the tug of something more.

A vastness…the Truth.

Our hearts are connected to our souls, friends, and our souls know what’s what….

That every person is to be valued beyond measure. Every person is imprinted with the eternal.

We are here to love and be loved. And acts of kindness remind us of that.

Few of us are actually cold as stone. Most of us beat with warmth at our core.

Imagine…. if we were really convening with our hearts, souls, and Maker before we set out each day….

If every decision was based on the principle that each person unequivocally mattered….

If we always took the time to look into one another’s eyes….

And listened for as long as necessary to find common ground until we could say in all sincerity, “I sympathize. I understand.”

That would be a kind world. We wouldn’t need World Kindness Day.

“They” – It’s a Bad Word: My Thoughts After the Shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue

“They” – It’s a Bad Word: My Thoughts After the Shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The tiniest phrase in a recent article about the latest massacre – the one at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – infuriated me.

It said the shooter “raged against Jews.”

Who are these “Jews”?

I’ll tell you who “they” are. Over the course of my life, people – who happen to have Jewish heritage and espouse a time-treasured faith – have been to me one or more of the following: family members, neighbors, classmates, teachers, doctors….friends.

They are people I love, respect, and deeply admire – just as I would anyone of integrity and goodness who seeks to do unto others as he or she would do unto himself or herself.

And over this week, as I cried for the beautiful people who lost their lives while worshiping God, I considered the state of things…a nation where “raged against Jews” still seems an apt phrase.

Our world repeats many lies to its constantly thrumming drum, but the biggest one is this…

There is a “they” – separate from us – that we can treat as “other.”

The list of self-identifying groups and sub-groups is endless….Christian (i.e., Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical and hundreds of denominations in-between), Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Democrat, Republican, Men, Women, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Straight, LGBTQIA+, Graduate of Such-and-Such College, Having X Degree, No-Degree, Hard Worker, Slacker, Pro-this, Anti-that – you follow?

Add on your own tags – the ones you apply to yourself – as many as you can think of – and stand in your circle to see how many fellow humans are left there with you. One? Two? None?

When we push outward we discover we are all alone.

There is NO “they.”

They are us.

And we are them.

Mother Teresa said it best when she declared, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another.”

I don’t know much about the shooter at the Tree of Life Synagogue, but I do know this: his hatred was homegrown and it started as a seed in his heart.

The call to action for us as citizens of the world is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

There are no caveats in that.

No exclusions if we think the person has strange ideas, smells, does her hair in a funny way, or is infringing on our space.

And whether you happen to agree with me when I say that God created each person – and in His own image – formed to be imperishable for all eternity, unique and sacred as an individual – I would venture this…

Deep down you know that freedom from self-absorption and egotism – those inclinations that isolate us and proliferate fear by pushing others away – means reaching out and extending the thing we all want most. Love.

We all play a role in making this world the place we want it to be.

Call out the darkness and bring it to light.

The darkness within each of us is where the battle is waged.

There is no THEY.

There is only US.

And LOVE that surpasses us all.

When ‘Me Too’ Doesn’t Apply, But Your Heart is Full of Empathy

When ‘Me Too’ Doesn’t Apply, But Your Heart is Full of Empathy
Photo by Jake Hills. Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton, United Kingdom. Unsplash.com

You’ve seen it this week. The steady stream of women coming forward on social media to say, “Me too. I too was a victim of sexual harassment or assault.”

I can’t say that I was.

I was not raped.

I was not assaulted.

But I can’t think of a single woman who hasn’t felt “objectified” at some point – seen as a thing, rather than as the person she is – beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

And so, like you, I sit in the storm and yearn for healing and hope, praying for those who continue to suffer.

I also caught myself thinking back to a time when I felt more vulnerable than I do now.

Twenty-six years ago I was dating a film buff who believed Martin Scorsese’s art should be appreciated at the first available opportunity. So, one Saturday night, we went to see his 1991 remake of Cape Fear. Not far into the film, a young woman named Lori (Illeana Douglas) is brutalized and raped by the ex-con and murderer Max Cady (Robert DeNiro).

By the time we got to the scene, I was already nervous. Scorsese’s cinematic tendency to jerk the camera around gives me headaches, but then, the gratuitous display of violence on a woman completely unraveled me.

I cupped my hands over my ears, bent my head down into my lap, and tried to drown out her screams.

When the scene ended, my body was shaking from head to toe.

With a quavering voice, I said to my boyfriend, “I have to leave. I can’t stay here.”

He said impatiently, “So go out. But I want to see this.”

I want to see this.

FULL STOP.

In that moment, I knew something was wrong.

There was a disconnect between my reality and the fantasy world he was living in, and he wasn’t going to come to my aid.

He stayed.

I left and waited for him in the PG movie next door.

He chose the virtual, horrific storyline over the real woman who needed him.

And me?

I had identified with the woman on the screen.

‘And why?’ I asked myself.

I had not been raped.

I struggled with this issue for years afterward, trying to talk myself out of my body’s response – trying to ‘think’ my way out of it so that I could steel myself for the barrage of visual assaults that were sure to come in the future.

But I never succeeded.

And now I understand.

My discomfort – the way my stomach clenches, adrenaline surges, muscles tighten, and I prepare to run – this surge of physical empathy whenever the topic of rape emerges is a form of crucial wisdom; it is a God-given sensitivity that has heightened my awareness of the preciousness of the gift of Life itself.

Each person on the planet is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).

Any violation of another human being is the desecration of something holy. And if you’re paying attention to real beauty in the world – if you haven’t lost your natural in-born ability to marvel at the wonder of creation – your own and others’ – you can see that.

Back in the theater, my shaking body was pleading with another soul to walk away with mine from the glorification of rape. To walk away from the depiction of the sacred being violated.

At the time, I didn’t know that’s what the moment was about.

But whenever we stand up and say – “Let’s not make this person an object. Let’s not pretend she (he) doesn’t have thoughts or feelings. Let’s not give this unnecessary and graphic violence a nod. Let’s not portray her (him) as less than,” we are one step closer to clearly seeing the divine in every person. We are one step closer to creating a safer world for women, men, and children alike.

Can you glimpse God’s reflection in the person sitting next to you?

Let’s ask for the eyes to see.

Let’s speak up for what’s good, stand up for what’s holy, and walk away from what’s not.

Thoughts on What’s Happened in Orlando

Thoughts on What’s Happened in Orlando

We were in the 8th grade and sitting on a school bus in Florida when my friend, Michelle, gave me special gift.

I opened the tiny white box she pressed into my hand and found a gold “Chai” pendant. The look of surprise and questioning must have been all over my face. image

Michelle explained that in her faith tradition, Judaism, people often wore the “Chai” – pronounced similarly to “hi” in English – on necklaces. It is the symbol of life. The Hebrew word consists of two (2) letters in the alphabet: Chet (ח) and Yud (י).

“I thought you should have one,” she said, leaning her face close to mine, as she often did when sharing something deeply personal with me.

“But I’m not Jewish,” I said.

She merely shrugged her shoulders and smiled,

“But it means life,” her dark brown eyes twinkling.

As I asked her more questions about it, I learned that her deeply religious parents were very surprised by her desire to give me this. And that it was basically only worn by Jews.

In retrospect, I think Michelle was a sort of ambassador. She equated “Chai” with Love, the kind that God has for every person on Earth, and she was sharing His love in a way that seemed perfectly natural to her.

Shiva.com – The Resource for Jewish Mourning explains it this way:

The Symbolic Meaning of Chai

Traditionally, the Jewish religion, similar to many other religions and cultures, place an emphasis on the significance of life. As such, the literal translation of the word “chai” to “life” is meaningful on its face. In addition, individuals who observe Judaism or identify with the religion are generally guided by basic principals which include characteristics such as kindness, thoughtfulness, selflessness and remaining good natured, both morally and ethically during life on Earth. 

I wore that pendant every day for years, and I was very sad when I couldn’t find it this morning to share with you.

Many people, of many faiths, backgrounds, races, creeds, nationalities,  sexual preferences, and so on display the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and selflessness, and adhere to moral and ethical codes that celebrate life in all its fullness. But as humans, we are quick to draw lines and boundaries where none need exist.

My first thought on the public reaction to the deaths of 51 people in Orlando was: Where is the empathy?

Social media is usually lit up with cries of prayer and pain for the lives that were lost and the families and friends affected, and yet it seemed comparatively quiet in the last two days. We could blame it on the fact that this happened over a weekend, but I believe it’s because people don’t want to step out of their comfort zones to extend sympathy to a group they don’t understand. We’re hearing lots of words about the hate that fueled the attack, and more calls for gun control, but not enough words of Love.

The LGBT community is reeling in shock and trauma right now, and the beautiful people in it deserve our compassion, concern, and endless prayers for peace.

While we may not always share the same experiences as our neighbors,  every single person alive is called to be an ambassador of Love.

“Chai” means life. It’s a gift that was given freely to all of us. And it is meant to be cherished, honored, and preserved.

‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

-Mark 12:31

Election Conversation

Election Conversation
Photo by Michael Browning, www.unsplash.com.

My goodness the candidates and pundits are busy these days. The election conversation just never ends. TV, social media, magazines, newspapers – everyone is putting in their two cents. It has never been easier to promote your point of view, or to ask questions intended to make someone else defend or reconsider theirs.

People like to say that this election year is “the worst,” and in some ways, it just might be. The characters are sure colorful, and the mudslinging seems to be getting worse every day. But then again, my own personal history reminds me that division along political lines is nothing new, and it often becomes ugly because arrogance and self-righteousness run deep in our human hearts.

Around 8 a.m. on November 8, 2000, I went to my voting precinct in Arlington, Virginia. There were, of course, many candidates on the ballot that day, but two were attracting the lion’s share of attention. Bush. And Gore.

The line to the precinct door snaked around the side of the building and then back and forth in gentle curves like a fat roll of ribbon candy. I got in line and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be there for awhile.

About 10 minutes into my wait, I somehow started chatting with the elderly black woman in front of me. She was a beautiful, petite woman with salt-and-pepper hair, bright eyes, and an easy laugh. We talked nonstop for at least 30 minutes about where we’d grown up and our current lives in Northern Virginia. Naturally, she told me all about her grandchildren, and I could see how proud she was. I felt a deep enough kinship with this sweet woman, that when we ascended the steep steps leading into the building, I was perfectly comfortable encouraging her to be careful.

A yard or so from the precinct door, she looked at me with an earnest smile and said, “So I guess you’re voting for Gore.”

“Uhm, no actually,” I replied.

Her eyes grew wide. She seemed startled.

Then, she turned away from me.

As she squared her shoulders and faced the front, I heard her murmur under her breath, “I thought you were nice.”

I stood there – stunned and uneasy – for the next few minutes until we were finally admitted and each assigned a voting booth.

At the time, I worked for the Close Up Foundation, a nonpartisan civic education group, and I wrote books about federal policy for high school students. Our texts were designed to encourage young minds to think about issues from myriad points of view before forming political opinions. From that experience, I learned that issues are not simple. There are no easy answers. And NO candidate is a perfect choice. We all do the best we can with the small minds and limited information we have, and the experiences that form our consciences.

At Close Up, I worked with many people whose political opinions differed from mine, and a few of them became beloved friends.

Because when you live in close proximity to others and take the time to listen – really listen – to their stories, it’s nearly impossible to develop resentment and hatred toward them.

If we think we know more than the next person…

If we think we have perfect solutions…

If we think ‘our guy’ is going to make everything better…

then we are arrogant.

And we are wrong.

“Those people” – the ones I don’t hang out with – the ones who seem different from me – God made them, and loves them, and has called me to serve them with His Love.

So before I enter into another tense conversation, before I send that snarky email or post an incendiary link, I’m going to think…

What does Love require of me?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” 

-John 13:34

How to Speak the Truth Boldly

Sometimes I’m still surprised I’m writing this blog. I always said I’d like to write something, someday. But I hadn’t the foggiest idea what.

What on earth would I say?‘ I thought. ‘Where would I find my muse? And why would anyone read my words?’

I marvel at how far I’ve come. Just 1 1/2 years ago, I heard the whisper to “Try this.” There were obstacles. First, I had figure out what exactly a blog was and then how to start one! It was a messy debut, for sure.

But in this short time, much has changed within me. Today, I write freely about subjects that make many people squirm. Faith. God. The Father. The Son. The Holy Spirit.

And I have grown more comfortable with the idea that this is His will for me. That I write – about Him – for his glory. And the process is indescribably satisfying. Every day, I grow a little bit more into the person I believe He meant me to be. onedropoffew

If you knew what I used to think – about Him – and especially about His followers, Christians – you’d marvel at the transformation happening in me, too.

Some time ago, I said and thought …

Did Jesus really exist? 

Devout believers in Christianity are simple-minded; they cling to illusions and are ignorant of the way the world really works. 

Some even seem uneducated. They can’t think through issues clearly. 

Christians are bigoted. They don’t practice what they preach. 

I clung to these ideas, ignored the teachings of my Christian childhood, and singled out believers who had erred in the most egregious ways as representative of the whole lot.

And yet – I was baffled. Everywhere I looked, Christians persisted in proclaiming the Gospel message. Where did their confidence come from? Especially since there seemed to be so much “evidence” to support my criticisms.

When I remember these old beliefs, I get a dull pain in my gut. It’s almost like I’m hearing Jesus’s words to Saul (renamed ‘Paul’ by the Lord himself), spoken directly to me: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

My railings against God and his Son Jesus held me back from opening my heart to Him. But what’s worse is knowing how my thoughts and words must have made Him feel. And we know that He does feel. If He can love, He can be hurt.

Consider the physical pain, the emotional betrayal by friends, and the spiritual separation from the Father that Jesus endured on the cross, and you get the basic idea that we don’t know the first thing about how much He can hurt – and did – for each one of us.

A week ago Sunday we celebrated the resurrection – the COMING BACK TO LIFE  – of the real, in-the-flesh, man, Jesus Christ. And when He climbed out of his three-day grave, did he set out to get revenge for all the injustices he’d suffered? Did he say, “Look what you did, you fiends!! After all I’d done for you? Guess what? I’m back. You messed with THE LORD. You’re going to get your comeuppance now.”

No.

Instead, he forgave us. Granted us His peace. Made us spotless before God the Father. And presented us as believers with the incomparable gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to become what we could not be on our own – forgiving, loving, gentle, kind, patient, joyful, faithful, self-controlled individuals.

But that’s the miracle of Grace. It’s given to those who don’t deserve it.

So why is this on my mind today? Because there are millions of Christians all over the world who have been given the Holy Spirit, yet don’t acknowledge it. They celebrated Jesus’s resurrection on Easter morning, but once the feast day was over, they left their faith at the altar. They haven’t embraced Him fully in their hearts, minds, and souls, so they can’t plunge head first into the job that Christ has for His followers.  “[Y]ou will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

But there is hope for these dormant Christians. Just like there was hope for me.

When we open ourselves up to Him, when we step off the ledge of disbelief and decide to trust Him, he not only catches us, He makes us bold. 

The apostles Peter and John – two men of humble means – experienced this just after Jesus’s return. Standing before the ‘world’ of their day – “the leaders, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem…the high priestly class,” they proclaimed the Truth about Jesus. (Acts 4:5-6)

Observing [their] boldness and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed…Peter and John… said to them in reply, “…It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:13, 19-20)

So how did I come to write about my faith experiences? It was impossible not to.

I had turned my heart in His direction, and He had shared so much of Himself with me, that I wanted only to sing His praises. And still do.

The Lord “enables [His] servants to speak…with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29)

Now, picture a world in which every Christian allows the power of God to be conveyed through his or her abilities – with boldness.

Just imagine that kind of hope and light in this dark place.

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  -Saint Catherine of Siena

Hocus Pocus Diplodocus

imageLast Saturday morning I was hanging up the kids’ towels which had been strewn on the floor, when my daughter walked into the bathroom with a red plastic cup full of murky water.

“Whatchya got in there?”

“Just stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

She gave me a coy smile.

“Don’t laugh. It’s water with a lot of salt in it. I’m trying something.”

“Hmm. A science experiment?”

“Sort of.”

I left her alone and not too long after heard murmurings of some sort. So when I was doing her hair for a dance performance that afternoon, I asked her about it.

“Oh, well. It was nothing. But I might try it again.”

“I heard you talking. What were you saying?”

She got very quiet and as I studied her reflection in the mirror, I could tell she wasn’t sure what to say.

“Did that stuff happen to be some kind of potion?” I asked.

Her eyes darted around peevishly and she suddenly burst out, “Yes! But it didn’t work!”

I knew where she’d gotten the idea. We’ve been having a wonderful time reading Harry Potter together, and who wouldn’t? Fantasy is fun. But that’s what it is – fantasy.

“Well, of course not!” I said. “And you know this – we don’t believe in that kind of thing. We trust God. And only God. He has the power. Not potions, or lucky charms, or horoscopes. None of that stuff. The Lord is the ONLY one we rely on.”

“I know. But I just wanted to try it.”

I smiled at her.

“I understand. But it doesn’t work. That’s what you found out.”

“Yes. But can I try it again?”

“If you want. But I know you’ll get the same result.”

She gave a resigned shrug. And dismissed the idea.

I know how she felt. In third grade a boy gave me a rabbit’s foot dyed blue for “good luck.” It was soft. And creepy. And my parents told me the same thing I told my daughter. “You can keep it. But it has no power. It’s just an animal’s foot on a keychain.” But I wondered. And kept it in a box. Until one day I let go of thinking it could “do” anything for me, and threw it away.

Our desire to control is deeply ingrained. We want to have a leg (or foot) up on our circumstances. And the idea that we ourselves can conjure some sort of power, predict or influence the future, is very tantalizing. This lie is exactly the one the serpent told to Eve in the garden. “God well knows that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know…” (Genesis 3:5) (emphasis mine).

This somewhat latent desire is most often expressed in subtle ways. I have heard countless adults over the years make statements like, “I didn’t want to say anything, for fear of jinxing the situation,” or “Cross your fingers for me.” I’m guilty of this too. We might say we’re just voicing these things in jest, but more than time half the time, we wonder if there isn’t a possibility that we actually are affecting people, places, or things.

Our words reflect what’s going on in our hearts and minds, and we must be very, very careful. The reality is – in and of ourselves we are powerless, and we can easily be led astray from the Truth by human-created fictions. God is far bigger and more powerful than anything we could imagine, and He doesn’t want us messing around in the serpent’s muck. Scripture is clear on this in multiple places. Here are just two:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  

-Deuteronomy 18:10-11

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

-Colossians 2:8

So how do we fight this? How do we check ourselves?

I start by filling myself up with the Word, which is a sword in the battle against the world’s influences. Grafting the words of Scripture onto my heart gives me strength and confidence to stop the ideas that run counter to God. I particularly love this verse:

We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ…

-2 Corinthians: 4-5

Arresting every thought before it becomes a spoken word is a first step toward changing our ways.

Yes, we want to be like God – to have the power of God. But that power comes only through our acceptance of His perfection as proven by the ultimate gift – the sacrificial self-giving love of His Son, Jesus. And with His power – which we’re given with the promise of His eternal help, presence, love and salvation – we can live in the only way that will satisfy us. His power in us conquers the crafty deception of the world. 

What more could we possibly ask for?

 

My Facebook Problem

IMG_8563

2009 was the year. I signed on to Facebook and so did just about everyone else I knew. It seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork. Men and women from high school, college, jobs I’d had, and my community, all became ‘Friends.’ It was nifty really, to find that despite all of the dreaming, planning, and working we’d done, we had similar lives. In essence, we all cared about the same things.

Like most people, I typically only post good stuff on Facebook. Or the things in my life for which prayer or consolation are appropriate. I hope they are events that my ‘Friends’ see as relevant and noteworthy, because we all want to find that others relate to us. But we don’t need to share everything. No one wants to see dog vomit, right?

Several years ago, my dad asked me how many ‘Friends,’ I had. When I answered, he probed a bit.

“Do you actually know all of them?”

I told him, “Yes. Or I knew them fairly well at some point in my life.”

That all changed sometime in the last couple years, because now I have ‘Friends’ of Friends. They are people I have minimal knowledge of. People who really don’t know me. You probably have some ‘Friends’ of the same sort.

If, in real life, I would usually have no idea that ‘Jen So-and-so’ vacations in the Caribbean twice every year, why in the world am I spending time viewing photos of her beachy getaways? And if ‘Dave What’s-his-name’ has political opinions that unnerve me, why am I allowing his caustic comments to get under my skin? I have learned to switch my news feed settings, but there is A LOT of stuff out there that doesn’t pertain – in any way – to me.

I justify my time on Facebook by acknowledging its value. There is useful information that helps my writing and guides my reading. And if it weren’t for this social medium I wouldn’t have known that an old, dear friend lost her niece to suicide, or that the prayers of thousands are helping to heal another friend’s husband – a Marine who was gravely injured overseas. I want to know what’s going on, and if I can contribute something worthwhile to my friends’ lives, however remote they might be.

But instead, I am sucked in by catchy (though not original) everyday truths about coffee, friendship, parenting, or the mourning process. ‘LIKE’ and Repost if You Agree!

Last week, I shared my woes with a friend. A “real-life” “in-the-flesh” “we met for coffee” friend. Together we renewed our vow to only look at Facebook at certain times and for certain reasons (mine having to do with participation in a writer’s group). My efforts have been valiant, but I am still not following through on that promise. I have wasted time – scrolling.

This morning, the Word spoke to me loudly.

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.

-Ephesians 6:10

As a Christ follower, I have been made a new creation and given the enormous power of the Holy Spirit to overcome my flesh, which is prone to stray from the abundant life that He has envisioned for me. If I’m struggling in my inner battle, it’s because I have NOT relied on Him.

This life is a concrete, physical life – NOT a virtual one. God designed it that way. He gave me, you, and all my ‘Friends,’  bodies with which to taste, touch, smell, hear and see the physical world. In these ways, we can truly experience the richness of life, and by extension, the richness of Him.

Lord, renew me today. Help me to dispense with the wasted time I spend dabbling in worldly chatter – which I KNOW diverges from the fullness I have in You.

 

No Punching

“NO!” I yelled, a bit too forcefully. “That is NOT funny.”

I turned to face my little boy, whose eyes grew large with trepidation.

“We DON’T say things like that. We DON’T do that. EVER. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mommy. I’m sorry, Mommy.”

Admittedly, I was only half-listening moments earlier when he was telling me about a kid in his class who had been annoying him that day. He was reenacting the schoolroom scene with typical little kid smiles and giggles, and fantasizing about how he could respond, when suddenly he said, “And then I’d punch him in the face.”

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I try not to overreact to my kids being kids. But when a line is crossed, I want them to know they’ve crossed it, and violence is NOT funny. Left unchecked, childish dreams of handling situations with fists can slowly and subtly become acceptable possibilities. And until I can have rational discussions with them about self-defense and what might constitute a “just” war, they need to know that hitting someone is not OK. They need to learn self-control.

That said, I probably overreacted because I’m feeling a bit raw.

I don’t want to wade too far into political talk, here. I am not versed in government theory and feel rather inadequate amidst political discussions. But I do vote and therefore believe it is my responsibility to stay reasonably informed about issues affecting my community, state, and nation, and I have to say that this year I am more disheartened than ever before.

It all came to a head last night when I saw a clip of Donald Trump at a Nevada rally saying he would like to punch a protester. ‘I can’t believe this,’ I thought. ‘I just dealt with this here in my kitchen 4 days ago!!!’

Some would say Trump was just speaking off the cuff and didn’t really mean it, but I’m teaching my kids to mean what they say and – call me idealistic or overly-sensitive – I expect the same from a presidential candidate. This man’s behavior is decidedly un-presidential. It is childish.

Don’t think for a second I’m letting the other candidates off the hook. I’m falling back on my values of hard work, honesty, fairness, generosity, freedom, and goodwill to all people – regardless of age, race, gender, religion, income, or status – and I’m not finding anyone who should get my vote without me significantly compromising on the ideas I’m trying to instill in the 3 members of the future generation who live in my home. Instead, I see candidates who are appealing to an angry nation. And this is an even bigger problem.

People are angry. And under that anger, lies fear. Fear of the future. Of new laws. Of old laws being revised. Of new people. Of protected people becoming unprotected. The list goes on and on. As a nation, we are fearful of change – change in any direction.

Where do fear and anger reside? In the heart.

And what is the remedy? Divine intervention.

Scripture resonates with one message more than any other, and it is this: BE NOT AFRAID.

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God.

I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.  

-Isaiah 41:10

To find peace – freedom from fear and anger – it is up to each one of us to recognize that we are not in control. That we don’t even dictate the beating of our own hearts. That there is Something greater.

In recognizing this, we become aware. We develop an appropriate perspective. We become “right sized” in relation to this Greater Power, and we see the same relationship between other people and this Power as well.

The experience is humbling. It is also enriching. Because no longer do we look to other people as our saviors. Or our servants.

The uneasy truth of this life is that people – ALL people we will ever know – will let us down. Only the Something Greater – Someone Greater – could not.

Only a perfect God could promise that He would strengthen us, provide for us, and protect us. And the only way to really know Him, is to allow Him in.

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

-Revelation 3:20

How do we know that we’ve really allowed God into our hearts? No amount of adherence to earthly laws can confirm it. The evidence is found in the yield of our lives.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy….[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

-Galatians 5:19-26

If we reap what we sow, we get what we deserve. And the roster of candidates represents our fruit.

Shame on us.

It is time to once again open wide the doors of our hearts. To humble ourselves and connect with Perfection. And to ask that He will forgive our failings and renew us – each of us – as individuals – once again.

 

For another article on Christian responsibility to critically view candidates positions, consider this:

Before Donald Trump, the sad history of when Christians anointed another political bully