May 21, 2012

2012 The Summer of Love






Summer time is here. This is the kids last week for school and then we have about 3 months give or take a week of vacation. Each summer I agonize over how to not let my kids spend their downtime in front of the television, video games or computer. This summer as I was making my game plan for "rules" about the screens it became more clear to me that just because I limit what I don't want...doesn't make happen what I do want. As soon as I limit the time, all the kids then feel like they need to use all the time they have to the minute. So even when it might be a day they wont turn the TV or Video Games on, they feel it necessary to get that time in. I am sure there is a psychological reason for this, maybe it's like going on Weight Watchers and knowing you could have a certain amount of points, how many of us have decided...ahh, I just wont use my points today, I want to eat a salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not many. So I think it is the same principle for screen usage.

In the past I have done "reading for your TV time," read a certain amount of pages and you get a certain amount of time to sit mindlessly in front of the TV. But still, is reading a sci-fi novel what I want my kids and I to take away from summer? The reading part is good...but I want more than that for myself and for them.

So after much deliberation, this summer I have dubbed...The Summer of Love, 2012. Rather than limiting the screens being the end goal, we will purposely live this scripture each day. Some days we can work together on our Summer of Love projects, and some days they will be independent. Each weekday we will be purposeful about:

1. Loving the Lord with our heart by serving someone else. This could include doing a chore for a sibling or parent, writing a letter to a family member or friend who could use encouragement, baking treats and delivering them to bring a smile, mowing a lawn, serve at Love and Care....
2. Loving the Lord with our mind...learn something. This could be through reading a non-fiction book, looking up something on the computer, taking up a hobby to learn about each day such as astronomy...
3.  Loving the Lord with our soul...read a bit from the Bible, prayer and quiet time with God.
4.  Loving the Lord with our strength...moving our bodies, walking, going to the gym, lifting weights, playing a sport...

It sounds like a lot, but we can tailor each day to our time and activities.

And then for the drum roll, please.... I am not limiting screen time, once these transforming acts (aka criteria) are met.

We would welcome anyone else who wants to join us in our 2012 Summer of Love, and even work in collaboration, too. We will start, Monday, May 28th.

My plan is to take a cell-phone picture of the different acts of kindness the kids do for others, then print them and paste them to a poster board, so that they can look back and see the amount of service in pictures. Not to pat themselves on the back, but to see that small acts each day do make a difference, and by the end of summer they will have faces to look back on, people to remember in prayer, and days to treasure in their heart (Ok, that last one might be pushing it for them...but I sure will treasure each summer day in my heart).

1 week and counting until the Summer of Love 2012 BEGINS!!!!!!!

May 11, 2012

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I have had thoughts rolling around in my head about this weeks current gay marriage controversy. Obama came out for it publicly, I think the first time since he had been elected President. Then, numerous states voted against civil rights/marriage rights of gay couples. There are SO many reasons I don't like politics and one of them is that it takes something that is so personal to many, and turns it into a cause, a huge ball of mumbo jumbo. Who's for it? Who's against it? Who thinks that they have the right to push their beliefs on others, just because they think they are right?

Homosexuality has so much to do with identity. Scripture says we should find our identity in Christ, but really how many people do that? Your identity might be wrapped up in your car, your home, your happy marriage with 2.5 children. When a political machine starts rolling to swing votes, they are happy to use any personal issue to increase their numbers. The Right will use homosexuality as a fear tactic, vote for Mitch Romney as he believes in keeping the family between a man and a woman. As much as I have enjoyed Focus on the Family, I have heard too many times that the gay and lesbian community is threatening American family's. What? The issue of Same Sex Attraction has been around for centuries, thousands of years. What has changed is it is now being used as a political ploy to frighten people to vote for the conservative candidate or visa versa to vote for the liberal candidate. Focus on the Family can claim Same Sex Attraction is weakening the traditional family, they probably wont lose too many contributors, and they will certainly rally continued support when they talk about this issue. But really, what is weakening the American family? It is divorce and the lack of two parent families. But there are a lot of religious right and Focus on the Family check writers out there that this issue comes a bit too close for comfort. If we can claim homosexuality is the big bad wolf, then all who don't struggle with the issue can stay pious and safe in our own little world.

For me the issue just boils down to respect. I can thump the Bible and what it says ALL day on someone's head, I can quote scripture over and over, I can tell someone that their lifestyle doesn't please God...but where is the blessing for anyone in that? It is no wonder that when non-believers and even church going younger generations associate the church with being anti-homosexual. I personally would rather be known for who I love than who I hate. Or we could say, love the sinner, hate the sin. But as I already noted, Same Sex Attraction is tied in with identity. So the perception is we hate the person, unless they change into what we think they should be. I am not comfortable with that. There is a good chance that the person with SSA has prayed, cried and pleaded to have heterosexual desires. We are asking something that is impossible for them to do in most cases. And so then we say, just live a celibate life, like that is no big thing.

I am also not comfortable being swayed by the media, the book I just read for my Christianity in Culture Class, Tempting Faith by David Kuo, speaks to the fact that Washington insiders thinks that outsiders are idiots. And especially Christians...So when a political player looks at the easiest way to sway a vote and decides they can scream and shout about the pro's and con's of any issue to move the mob they will attempt to do just that.

I definitely think all people are entitled to respect, it shouldn't be an us or them. Why can't we just leave the mob mentality and look at people individually and be in each other's lives. God works that way, He is blessed when we love His creation, whether we agree with them on everything or not. Whether or not gay marriage is legalized, that has not one ioda of a claim on whether God chooses to recognize that marriage. Our Christian argument to not allow Same Sex Marriages is an extension of fear, like we have to protect God. He doesn't need our protection, I think He would much rather we be an extension of His love, and leave the judgement to Him.

And when we are afraid that if we aren't the one to tell the gay person who has walked into our path that their way of life is sinful they might not ever know, we can rest easy and know that the 200 other Christians before us did just that, and we can just be a friend.

Each person has value, each person in the United States has rights, it is what our country was founded on. We couldn't say that if we lived in Iran or Iraq. No equal rights amendments there. But here, we have rights. It is easy to want to make a law that will affect an entire population when you haven't cried with an individual that this is a life affecting choice.

There are not easy answers when you choose to embrace the human condition, our human nature is to want to wrap it all up nice and tidy in a bow. Difficult issues generally do not work that way, and that is OK. God's love has won it all. Those of us who believe that Jesus died for our sins, and is calling us to follow Him, and we have done just that, can rest in that overflow of love that He has for us and share His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. How many of those attributes do we see in our Presidential candidates? Let's be that for those around us.

















May 03, 2012

Being brave makes me cry.





This has been a difficult semester for me outside of school. There are things that happen in life that one can't prepare for, nor would we wish them on our worst enemy, but when bad things happen, we have a choice...make lemonade or turn into a lemon and become bitter. Thanks be to God (and God alone) I haven't chosen the latter, but I am trying for the first time in my life to deal with my emotions.

My nature is to smooth things over, trying my very best to not upset anyone or anything around me, and just put on a smile and walk in a forward direction. I grew into this method of dealing with difficulty from being a child of an alcoholic. Every day was a time bomb, almost every day brought tears, but the next day we would wake up and no one would talk much about the explosion of anger, or the sadness from the day before. My dad was real good at telling us to look at the positive side, no dwelling on the past, look to the future. That certainly served him well, as he was the one that was inflicting the pain. I have allowed fear and habit to paralyze me well into my adult life to a place of avoiding conflict, if I do enter into conflict, I normally start to cry. And because I don't want to cry all the time, I just put on a happy face and run from conflict. This type of behavior does have it's good points, positive people are generally more resilient than negative people. One can look at a glass and decide it is half full, even if there is a slow leak. There are always people around you enduring circumstances of greater pain than your own. When Jack was sick, these were certainly coping mechanisms that I relied heavily on. Someone at church once called me the Jolly Green Christian, always smiling, always positive. I am glad to be happy, I am glad to be positive, and I have thought in my older years that even though I learned these things through dysfunction, they have made me resilient in many ways, and for that I am grateful.

But I think there are times when the rose colored glasses must come off and one must give oneself a serious reality check, and face struggles and pain head on,... knowing that with conflict, healthy conflict, tears will fall. I must be brave enough to cry and let my heart show. I must be brave enough to lament. I must be brave enough to not smile if it means hiding what is broken. I must be brave enough to let truth rise to the surface. I must be brave enough to look deeply into myself and see what hurts.

Bravery is not acting without fear, it is acting in spite of it. I am no great mountain of strength, I have however come to trust that God is. I trust that He has my back, and if I face difficulties and allow myself to feel pain and speak truth, that He will protect me from my invisible fears. These fears are self-inflicted. These invisible fears, have built invisible walls, that I totally convinced myself are real. This is new territory for me. In many ways it feels selfish, but it's not. It definitely hurts, a lot. But God tells us that He brings beauty from the ashes, and I believe Him. I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? It comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He is my Reward. On earth my reward will be learning to stand strong on truth, no matter how hard it is.