Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Faith in His People

My heart has sunk low this week. It is trembling-in-waiting. It is groaning in prayer. Yet, it's also refraining from pouring out an awful mess that would destroy more than heal. News about mistreated children always does this to me. Heck, fiction about children being mistreated does this to me. But, I've never been so physically sickened by it as I have these past days, when there are thousands of children affected, and there has been a blatant refusal to do anything about it.

After thrashing about, typing posts, then erasing them, crying out to Congressmen and my husband and my pastor...I wear my brain out. I am helpless. I sour with the bitterness that seems to spew from my darkest thoughts. Then I walk away, then I return again to the same neurotic pattern of thrashing about, typing posts, writing my Congressmen and blurting out to my husband...eh. Finally, after all that back and forth, the whiplash of my mental well being, after every thud of my heavy heart, I see God waving His hand over "there", trying to get my attention. He meets me in my hysteria. Only He can distinguish the love from fear...wisdom from foolishness. And only He can unwind the fleshy mess from His strands of Grace within me. Once I have taken a breath and calmed myself, I catch a glimmer of a surprise that I did not expect in my anger. It has jolted a startling heartbeat of peace within me. These past hours, I've witnessed God's people, a DIVERSE multitude of His believers, uniting in heart cries of one accord. No matter their doctrine, or differences, their cry is the same as mine. And in these dark hours, I find quiet for my soul. Even for just a moment.
Because of the love I've witnessed, the pleasant aroma rising from friends, family, sisters, and even places I had sworn off--people who'd once tripped me up--I've discovered that I am part of this magnificent whole. I am united to the heartstrings of others in a significant way.

There is power in that.

There is a strength larger than borders or councils or cages. For, I know--I have to believe--this type of Power will prevail. When the real life nightmares rattle my spirit and bring bouts of weeping--perhaps, I can still cling to hope. I can hope in change. I can hope in the fact that as much as I cry in anguish, the Lord's cry is even louder--and by the witness of His People, I believe it is so.

People of God, pray now. We must pray for changed hearts in our leaders...I truly believe the issue of refusing to release children isn't one of law or policy (I know there are some who see policy/politics differently...and many of them love God with all their hearts. If that's you, I am not against you...I am not talking politics right now. I am addressing the willful inaction to release children. You can think one thing about policy, and still stand by the humane act of keeping families together). Whatever side of the aisle you perch on, can we ALL still agree that these babies need their mamas? Can we please consider in this moment--ONLY the child, ONLY the reunion? I beg you, let's get those babies back to their mamas.

 Pray. Act. Call. And pray some more.

 United we stand...as a People of the God Who LOVES.

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Mom in America


Look through my window and see me, I'm a mom in America. And this is what it's like:

I kiss my kids goodbye and watch the school bus pass my house.

And then I hold my breath, try to remain distracted for seven hours, until I rush across the school parking lot at dismissal, a sigh of relief escaping me when I securely grasp my child's hand.

Am I the only mama in this country who's been dancing this ritual each day lately? 

I cannot escape the fabrications in my mind that this could be my last goodbye, that the next phone call could be notice that the epidemic of school shootings has come home to us...that, if I go too far in my imagination, I am sobbing and shaking and hating, and realizing the worst is only a headline away.

I am trying to get a grip, I really am. I am writing this to aid in that effort. My heartbeat is uneven, my breath is sporadic, and the ticking clock is knifing at my peace. If only I could talk myself out of my irrationalities...if only I could believe that my irrationalities were irrational.

I am beginning to wonder...and I am beginning to have a very difficult time coming to grips with my notions these days...

First notion: Prayer is all I have. I know the power of prayer, I know the peace that comes with it. But, I still don't buy it completely. Not now, not in these moments of crisis when kids are being sheltered by desks, and teachers, and school lockdowns. Of all the hundreds of children who've been shot at school, there had to have been a prayer, or ten, said by a mama just like me, asking for protection of her baby. The baby she mourns now.

I hear the arguing, the media, the excuses, the brokenness, and I just feel...prayerless, hopeless, helpless.

The question rattling around in my mind in situations like these is: When do we trust that prayer is all God wants, and, when do we realize He is giving us a nudge (or an all out shove) begging us to do something? Seems to me, a school shooting per week is a pretty clear sign that it's time for action. And I am glad that half of the country sees action as a means to an end, how a solution could be met.
But, at the end of the day, action is not happening, and beyond prayer, I am devastated that it all comes down to depending on lawmakers, squawking journalists, and the ginormous gun industry to change their hearts. Changing those hearts through prayer? I believe that. In theory. But I also think there's a season for doing something.

We aren't suppose to just sit still. 

Second notion: I am in the greatest country, after all, the pros outweigh the cons.

I seriously had the thought today that maybe hubs could put in for an overseas transfer? Maybe then we can escape the ludicrous garbage of gun lobbying and second amendment battle. Wipe my hands clean of the fatality of clinging to tradition and losing sight of common sense. (I truly don't mean to offend, I mean to express my heart on this page...the thoughts that I am wrestling with, the view from which I am looking through the window.)

I love this country. I love what we've stood for at our shining moments in history. I adore our Constitution, and its protection, and what it represents. But I hate the one-sidedness, I hate the extremism, I hate the pride of each side in each issue, and I hate that we are killing each other instead of listening to each other.

I hate that the unity our forefathers represented, has been obliterated because of our bickering.

The pros have slipped, the cons are growing great, and I just don't see how we can toot our own horn much longer. Fleeing this country is not going to help any greater good, I know this. I know that I can be a minute inch toward change, so, I must convince myself that it's worth the fear.

Third notion: Pull them out. Just do it, Angie. Pull them out of school, out of their classrooms, out of the hardship of socialization, out of the care of acquaintances, out of the government-run school system...just pull them out, and decrease their risk.

I don't have faith in that, either. I don't have faith in myself to give them the amazing education that they now receive. I don't have faith that in doing so, they won't miss something I can't give them. I don't have strength for the battle with my youngest who LOVES school so much, and gains SO much out of it...I don't have the self-control to not imagine life ahead, and all the regret and resentment she might have because I kept her home when she was flourishing at school.

And, I have always touted, "Not going to give into fear." I said that when we hopped on a plane to Europe, days after September 11, 2001. I said that when I pulled my kids from Christian school and enrolled them in public school. I said that when I debated walking away from my marriage for fear of the consequences of an unbelieving husband, an atheist father for my children.

Nope. I believe it still. Not going to cave in to fear.

So, I sit here, shaking in my skin, trying to catch my breath, seated in a very palpable pool of fear, wondering what it might look like to stand up and walk out of it?

There's a mustard seed of faith left in my soul. I might hold my breath for the next eleven years of schooling in America, but I am going to have faith that change will happen, I am going to be sure to not just sit idly by but take action, and I am going to love my kids fiercely, and fight for them and their future.

And pray.

I will never stop praying. Never stop praying on days of faithlessness...never stop praying when I am filled up with trust. Just gonna pray because in the end, my soul goes there involuntarily...the Spirit moves regardless of my fear. But prayer is not all I'm going to do.

If you want to join me in doing something about this crisis in America, check out Moms Demand Action. It's not about taking away rights, it's about being responsible with the rights we are given. Let's take action together. Let's protect our country, and our kids.










Friday, May 18, 2018

Who Is Undesirable?

What cataracts do I look through to see my fellow man? Is it a careful construct of bias, wealth, health, and elite? Do I choose my friends based on their sameness? Do I avoid a path down a street based on the human I'll have to pass, in all their brokenness, all their outwardly undesirable state?

It is easy to know what is good or bad in this culture--even if each is an imposter of the actual Truth.

Money = Good
Power = Good
Success = Good
Luxury = Good
Indulgence=Good
Blemish = Bad
Weight = Bad
Poor = Bad
Sorrow = Bad
Displacement=Bad

Yet, a man walked the earth centuries ago, and turned these history-old equivalencies UPSIDE DOWN ...



How devastating that we haven't learned--I haven't learned. I hear excuses of, "Well, I worked hard, I deserve...", or "It's just not right, why should my kids deal with that kid..." or "they don't belong here," or  I say to myself, "This is where God put me, and I shouldn't worry about...not my problem, not affecting me."

I think it's history-old because we've had the ugly in our human existence from the very beginning. I look through history-- B.C. to A.D.--and I see it. And the past is NO BETTER than the now, and the now is NO BETTER than the nostalgic days of old. And I saw it in my childhood, in my teen years, in my college years...in my now years. I see it as my children grow and in their friends and in their classmates. And then I see the kids who stay on the fringe, trying to just survive the next minutes, hours until they have a reprieve from the "good" ones...the accepted ones, the desirable ones.

How is it that, after the most influential man declared those fringe wanderers as His FRIENDS...two thousand years later they are still on the fringe?

Bullying is a huge buzzword these days. I don't know how often I mention it when talking about school, kids, culture. And often I hear people say, "It wasn't like that in my day," but I remember different.

I remember bullies. I remember hurt. I remember angst. I remember walking the fringe. 

But, if I am completely truthful, I want to be part  of the "good" ones. Sure, I am a bleeding heart and often weep for those downtrodden on the news, in the books, in the articles...yet, I too avoid those downtrodden in person, in the grocery store, in the crowd of strangers when I just want to fit in.

What would it look like if I walked into church one day, and instead of the sameness as me, I was faced with the poor, the displaced, the unclean, the healthless, the wealthless, the forgotten? Would I stay, or would I say to myself, "This is not safe, this is not good, this is not my people"?

Would I walk away like the young rich ruler who just couldn't see past the cataracts of his life, because who would want to give all the worldly "good" up, for a man who loves the undesirables?

Who is really undesirable now that we are living upside down?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Everyday Stories


We tend to seek out the extraordinary, the glamorous, the miraculous to discover a greater meaning to this life we're living. Personally, I find myself slipping into the blues when I think about how my life in the present is leaning toward the mundane-twenty-first century-task oriented-daily ritual of running kids around, cleaning floors, washing another load, and trying to consider exercising when my body is just too tired from my late night Netflix binge.

Yeah, everyday life is nothing to post about on social media. Hmph. And yet, I do...and everyone cheers me on, and I think we've all relented to the fact that this is it, and we may as well celebrate the likeness we all share--even if it's about hacks for getting that dirt stain out of our kid's baseball pants. 

This morning, I sat and read Philip Yancey unpack the facades history and people have piled upon the first century Savior in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, and I came across this:

"...I doubt I would have left any encounter with Jesus feeling smug or self-satisfied. I would have marveled at Jesus' parables, a form that became his trademark. Writers ever since have admired his skill in communicating profound truth through such everyday stories. A scolding woman wears down the patience of a judge. A king plunges into an ill-planned war. A group of children quarrel in the street...There are no fanciful creatures and sinuous plots in Jesus' parables; he simply describes the life around him."

I wonder what parables Jesus would use if He chose this century to share the love of God to the world? How great it would be to have Him come into each encounter and mold it into a truth-bearing lesson. What if I took my everyday and made it extraordinary--not by forcing extravagance or manipulating success--but by simply living it with a keen eye for deeper truth? Maybe deeper truth as simple as this--I am living and breathing by the grace of God.

As a fiction author, I often brainstorm how to hook the reader, and how to create the next unique plot twist. But, as my writing friends and I often lament, there really is nothing new under the sun (pardon the cliche). While it's all been done before, as authors we can only share the same stories with a fresh perspective, thus imprinting our story as unique in the eye of the reader. One Great Storyteller, far greater than anyone before or after Him, told stories that have lasted through wars, cultures, eras, and billions, and they were just ordinary stories with an extraordinary perspective.

Yancey goes on to say, "The parables served Jesus' purposes perfectly. Everyone likes a good story, and Jesus' knack for storytelling held the interest of a mostly illiterate society of farmers and fishermen...years later, as people reflected on what Jesus had taught, his parables came to mind in vivid detail."

Vivid detail.

To have a reader remember a story told with vivid detail is a great feat. It's what any author strives for. But to have a story of everyday life be so impressive and heart-changing that centuries later we can apply them to our modern lives, is something only an annointed Savior could possibly do.

But in Yancey's point about the tool of parables, I also find a lesson for me as a person sitting here, blogging for satisfaction of getting my words out, for hope that I am not just writing for myself, but for a like audience who understands me. The lesson isn't just for my faith or my own storytelling. But it's for my living too.

What details will I remember of this everyday life? Will I look back and see a striving, thrill-seeking, bored, wishy washy gal who grumbled about housework because she just wanted to be entertained?

I want to remember this time of my life with vivid detail--even in the daily routine. I am glad we celebrate the mundane together in Facebook statuses and happy tweets. I want to go one step further and discover what God could be telling me in those moments. What would Jesus say to elevate the simple to profound? 

 If I keep my eye focus on seeking out the extraordinary and successes, I'll miss the life that I've been given...the whole life, not just the shiny moments. But, if I allow my presence to be the gift, the simple place where deeper truth might be found, life might be a little more extraordinary with each step, and I might find God among the everyday stories.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

My Take on "The Future is Female"

I never grew up thinking of myself as less than a man. My parents never told me, "You need to be submissive to your husband and stay home." Actually, they encouraged me to reach for the stars...to go to college...to attain that dream career path. I received a Bachelors for a five year program, and now have two books published. I have two sisters--one has a PHD, and one has a Masters and a new, second career path that is blossoming. And we all have families, too. We got the cake and ate it...and are enjoying life without the hogwash of "I am just a girl".

When I became a young adult, I heard mention of the glass ceiling, but I didn't really pay much attention. After I graduated from college, I got five job offers with reputable firms. I worked with men and women alike. Sometimes, I heard negative comments about women, and maybe I wasn't making as much as the guy in the next cubicle...I can't really be sure because I never asked. But, I never felt "less".

I will admit, the first time I found myself exploring the gender-superiority battle was in Bible studies. Other women and I would wade in and out of passages about submission, women as leaders in church, and the examples of Biblical characters. One cannot go very far into these ideas without finding out that there really is a deeper level of truth--there really is this amazing God who created us EQUAL. Different, but equal. I'll not get into that right now...it deals with original language, and history, and interpretation. If you want, explore it. You'll be surprised at the beauty of equality in mankind.

When I stepped into motherhood, and became a mama of three small boys, I never thought of them as being superior to my friends' little girls. I assumed they were on the same track of opportunities and successes as every other little boy AND girl. But then...I had my daughter. And, my eyes, and ears, and heart were tripped up by the gender-sided comments about "that's for girls", and "pink is a girl color," and, "stop being a girl". As my daughter grows, and my sons become young men, the comments have evolved to, "girls rule, boys drool," and "girls are better than boys," and "girl power".

I have three sons with amazing potential to do great things. I have a daughter with amazing potential to do great things. And they are being raised against a backdrop of culture that shouts, "GENDER EQUALITY"...which I totally agree with. I raise my sons to know their sister can achieve just as much, can work just as hard, and is to be respected and honored just like anyone else.

Every once in a while, though...the scales tip, and my sons begin to slide down, my heart begins to quicken, and my language gets muddled on my tongue and I wonder whose identity I need to protect most?

The other day, I walked into Target and there was an end cap with a sign doting,

"The Future is Female."

Huh?

How is that for Gender Equality?

Um...yeah, it's not. And, my eyes are being opened more and more each day to this growing idea. I have a son who tells me that girls at his school respond to his comment, "Ladies first," with, "Don't assume my gender" (no joke)and I have a son who comes to me perplexed because girls are saying that they are "better than me because I am a boy."

Of course, these are just kids being kids. OR are they?

Have we overcorrected as a culture striving for equality? 

I get it. I get the invigorating ability to finally feel unbound by old sentiments and break free of some stifling cultural norms. Women have so much to offer. We've always had so much to offer, and the gender has been ignored and abused and oppressed century after century...it is about time we stood up and said:

NO MORE.

We need to level the playing field. But, I don't feel like it's level.

Who are we marginalizing in our wake? Why does it have to be girls vs. boys? I promise you, my
sons aren't the chauvinists who suppressed women in all the centuries before. I promise you that because my husband is male and my sons are male, and my father is male, they don't expect girls to "run like a girl," to "dress in pink," to "waste a career on homemaking"...or whatever old sentiments are being slashed to shreds by "girl power" (even though I align with all three of those sentiments without hesitation, and without thinking I am "less" LOL. But my little girl...she runs fast, and hard, dresses in pink, red, blue, and yellow...and LOVES playing house, and school, and spies, and whatever else her heart desires in the moment.)

My boys try to understand the world just as much as the girl...and all the kids who are misunderstanding what gender equality means. And because of this false interpretation, my boys are being told they are less...that the "future is female"...that because of centuries of chauvinists it's "about time that girls are dominant." Huh? That is not okay. That is two wrongs not equaling a right. It is messed up and broken and infuriating to this EQUAL RIGHTS advocate--this EDUCATED mama who has researched and understands the sickness of oppression and discrimination--this 21st century parent who understands the BEAUTY OF GENDER differences, and views the boy and the girl as two creations making a whole unifying society. Different, equal, and purposefully made alongside each other...to pave a glorious future together. NOT to edge each other out.

Equality will never happen if one side is trying to prove itself more than the other. Raising boys and a girl, I could never justify the worth of one child over the other. I would never assign value to a human being based on stature, skin color, or culture. Why would I expect the value of my child to be considered worth more based on gender? Especially after all we've fought for to prove EQUALITY RULES.

So...just...why?