Election Day prayer

After what seems like the longest two years in the history of man, it’s finally here: Election Day.

The day when all of the political ads will finally cease. When our Facebook feeds can get back to pictures of cute kids and funny memes, instead of articles pointing out why you should or shouldn’t vote for a certain candidate. When we can talk to our extended family and hope the phrase “who are you voting for?” doesn’t pop up (just in time for the holidays, too, since nothing kills a family celebration like a discussion on politics).

Yeah, right.

You see, as much as I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and having life get back to normal, it’s not going to. Tomorrow, there’s going to be a person that we call “president elect.” And there’s going to be a whole lot of people who aren’t happy about who that person is.

I feel very blessed that I live in a country in which I can vote, as a citizen and as a woman. I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18. I like the adage, “if you don’t vote, then you don’t have a right to complain about our government.” I vote so I have a right to complain if I don’t like the way things are.

But you know what? I’m not sure if that attitude is going to be very helpful come January 20. No matter who wins this election tonight, there’s going to be a large population who is unhappy about the person who will be sworn to uphold the constitution and the ideals of the United States. There will be people who will privately and publicly disavow this person. There will be people who resort to violence to vent their frustration that their candidate didn’t win. There might even be people who call for the death of that person, and might possibly even try to carry it out.

And that’s just the people on the losing side.  On the winning side, there will be arrogance. There will be poor decisions made in the name of “party” politics. There will be refusal to work with the “losing” party.

Sadly, I don’t believe most of this is unavoidable, as vitriolic as this election cycle has been. But you know what we need most right now?

prayforourleadersUnity.

Come tomorrow morning, and on January 20, we need unity. We need people willing to put aside the hate-spewing, and the dirty names, and the horrible, awful things that have been said about either party, and just learn to work together. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican or any other person in the White House. What matters is that the parties work together to bring our nation out of the darkness that has consumed it for far too long.

So, I think instead of complaining about my government (because, after all, perhaps I didn’t vote that person into office!), my time would be much better spent in prayer. Praying for the president-elect. Praying for the people who didn’t support that candidate. Praying for the people who will be leading our nation over the next four years, that they make wise decisions, that they put their personal agendas aside and work toward a common goal. Praying that our leaders will seek Christ first.

Because no matter who is the next president of our United States, Jesus is still King.

Who can You Trust?

Yes, we are all growing weary of this campaign season. We are bombarded every day with new information about this candidate or that one. Choosing the person who will be seen as the leader of our country is an ominous responsibility. It all boils down to this- Who can we trust?

As a Nation, we have grown so distrustful. One by one, every authority we have relied on is betrayed. We hear of corrupt teachers, religious leaders, policemen, judges. Even in the world of sports, the fans do not trust the officials who are close to the action. They want to see a replay on a huge screen so that they can make the call.

Why is this? We have grown so unsure of any authority figure, that we want to decide for ourselves. As if we are the ones who are most qualified to decide. With the advent of the internet, we think we can find proof to back us up, but if we examine those sources, we become even more confused. Just because something has been shared millions of times, that does not make it true.

So, we are back to the question of trust. When making any decision, we must have a final authority. Someone we put all of our belief in, someone we can rely on to never betray us.

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding.” Here is our base, our foundation. With much prayer and faith, we can make every decision. He is the authority. The next verse gives us a promise. If we share with others the source of our strength, He will be with us. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He will direct thy paths.”

Trust in the Lord. He will direct you.

Sweet!

I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice cream!

I’m sure you’re familiar with that little saying. There are very few people who don’t have a weakness for the cold and creamy concoction.

That’s why I decided to base a new Bible class event at our church on ice cream. I wanted to call it “Tis so Sweet”, but my son said, “Mom, not catchy enough. Just say, ‘Sweet!'” So, that’s what we named it.

Our Bible class event is four weeks long and has topics like “Life Lessons from an Ice Cream Sandwich.” It’s based on

Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”

Preparing the lessons has given me a lot of opportunities to mediate on this verse, so if you’ll stick with me for a moment, I promise to get to my point. Yesterday, I brought a container of Kemp’s Pumpkin Pie ice cream. I held it up for the kids and told that I just wasn’t sure I wanted to try something new. What if it didn’t taste good?

Then I pointed out that I was familiar with the brand and I knew they made good ice cream. But did that mean for sure I’d like this ice cream. We looked at the picture on the front and admitted it sure looked good, but did that guarantee I’d like it. Finally, I read the ingredients and told them that they sure sounded delicious.

“But how can I know if it’s good?” I asked.

By then the kids were yelling, “Taste it!”

ice-cream-chase
My grand nephew Chase tasting the pumpkin ice cream.

I asked them to taste it with me and my niece passed out little cups to each child and then we all tasted it. It was really good, and most of the kids loved it.

Then, I was able to make my point. We can know all about the Lord. We can look in the Word and learn about it, but until we have a relationship with the Lord–have Him in our hearts and lives–we can’t really taste Him.

Of course, the kids don’t completely understand, but hopefully, we are planting a truth in the heart. God invites us to “taste and see” that He is good. Think about it. He wants us to have personal experiences with Him. Over and over, He wants to show us how good He is.

When we understand and experience His goodness, we can’t keep it to our selves. It’s just too exciting. A SWEET message to share about a good God and His SWEET BLESSINGS.

When have you “tasted” God’s goodness lately? What happened? Let’s encourage each other and share.

I DARE YOU TO ACT

Statistics show that two of every four children in school are bullied. Statistics also show that only a small portion of those who are bullied actually report the incidents. (Both statistics per the National Bullying Prevention Center)

That means that half of our children who go to school are bullied.

And if you ask my opinion on that, I’d say that statistic is low in reality.

We teach our children when they are toddlers and in that MINE mindset to share, be kind, let someone else have a turn. How do we get from that to where half of our kids are the victims of bullying? It’s incredible.

I’ve been guilty of telling my boys to ignore it, or ignore the person. Ignoring a bully in theory takes away their power (you don’t react to their words or actions which is the effect they are hoping for), but does it really? Does inACTion ever really cure an ACTion? In theory, maybe. In reality, not so much.

What it takes to overcome this kind of mindset is to change the mindset. Now, I realize nothing can reach everyone, as some bullies have come from a background of bullying, or inequality, or condemnation of some kind to make them use force to feel powerful. But taking the focus away from negative ACTs and giving the power to a positive ACT will erode their footing. But it takes ACTion.

I saw a video a while ago about a Canadian school that enACTed something called SAY MY NAME CANADA. It was a 30-minute challenge for kids to be kind for 30 days, and to keep track of their “kindness ACTs.” And I thought it was a really cool idea.

The students put post-it notes on lockers with words of encouragement. It made an impact with those students, and got them talking about the notes, instead of talking about less productive subjects. It also helped the students when they took exams by relieving some of the stress.

How simple can an ACT of kindness be? Write an encouragement on a post-it and stick it on a locker. It reinforces the positivity of being kind, and lifts up the person who receives the note.

So, this next week I dare you to ACT. Write someone a note to give them encouragement. Get your children in on the ACTion. Have them write notes to someone they know to spread the kindness.

Watch the video for SAY MY NAME CANADA here.

Creating Community

I’ve been watching a lot of movies on these hot sultry evenings (and yes we still have ridiculous heat and humidity even though fall is officially here in two days – gah!) I’ve been getting DVDS from my public library (shout out to well-stocked libraries everywhere! Woot!) Anyway, I came upon 42 : The Jackie Robinson Story. I’m not a baseball fan, not any kind of sports fan really (except figure skating and equestrian events) but I am fascinated by the civil rights movement and really, that’s what Jackie’s story is all about.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d encourage you to do so. It really impacted me in a powerful way. I ran the full gamut of emotions as I watched and the pacing is impeccable. I’d go from outrage to full-blown laughter in a nano-second. My heart alternately plummeted and soared as I became immersed in Jackie Robinson’s story and I had quite a few ‘uh-huh’ moments through the course of the movie.

One of those takes place in a crowded stadium. There’s a close up of a young white boy eagerly anticipating the baseball game. It’s the perfect all-American image. The boy is bursting with excitement as he watches the players take their positions. The crowd cheers…or wait…make that jeers…and suddenly this little boy is surrounded by the rowdy catcalls and filthy profanity being hurled at the only African American player on the field. The boy’s happy expression turns to one of confusion as he glances around him. The camera cuts to Jackie on the field and then back to the boy on the stand in time for the viewer to observe the transformation from childlike innocence to steely resolve. And then the boy begins to chant right along with the crowd. Ugly words that fire a feeling of hate and intolerance the like of which he’s never experienced before.

It’s a short snippet in the movie – a few seconds out of two hours – but, for me, it was as if time stood still and I hovered in that moment as the impact of it consumed me. Because that image became the illustration for the message my pastor has been preaching for the last couple of weeks. He’s been talking about creating community. About our need to connect with one another in order for us, both as a church and personally, to thrive. It goes like this:

Jesus breaks down barriers in order to connect with us.

So we can become satisfied and fully connect with God.

So that we can be secure and freely connect with others.

42 : The Jackie Robinson Story reminded me that there are many ways to connect with people – not all of them pleasing to God. In these tumultuous times there are forces at work that would see us disconnect instead.  I pray that I might be an influence of good, not evil, of acceptance, not intolerance. That my words and actions might reflect the Savior’s light. And that light might lead to connection with others which, in turn, will lead to a community of love and peace.

jackie-4

Where’s Your Treasure?

Do you have any collections? Teapots? Shoes? Gold coins hidden in your basement?

For the last month, I’ve been sorting through my parent’s rather extensive antique and collectible collection. Comic books, primitives, jewelry, Union Pacific china, depression glass, cut glass, pressed glass, and toys–oh, the toys! And did I mention the 150+ Campbell soup collectibles?

img_0190I’m cleaning, sorting, cataloging, and pricing these treasures in preparation for an antique estate sale at the end of October. Of course, the family will also take some of the antiques as keepsakes, but none of us could possibly house this collection.

My father, a railroad employee and farmer, was a savvy buyer, and he saw buying antiques as an investment. When they started collecting, they changed the garage into an antique room. Since we had a farm with other buildings, we didn’t need the garage. Collecting was something he and mother enjoyed doing together, and it fostered a great appreciation for history in all of us.

362As I’ve gone through these items, the memories have flooded in. Seeing what my mother loved at 50 now through my own 50 year old eyes, made me appreciate her anew. She loved beautiful plates. They were pieces of art to her. As a teenager, I remember thinking it was strange anyone would stare at a hand painted plate, and yet now, I find myself doing the same thing.

My siblings and I have talked about how we know that these things don’t hold the memories; our hearts do. Still, it’s hard to let the treasures go. Then I remembered that my parents also knew where their real treasure was. It was in Christ Jesus, and the beauty they are seeing today is so much greater than can be captured on any plate. That’s the real treasure they left us.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”–Matt. 6:21

 

Where’s your treasure? What is going to last? What items do you own that belonged to your parents or grandparents do you cherish?

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

It seems like in our crazy, crazy world many of us are so busy we barely have time to breathe. We run ourselves or our kids from one activity to the next, our schedules so full we have to pencil in something as important as eating supper as a family. We begin to wonder how we can do it all.

It’s not only our bodies that are busy but also our minds. Our thoughts are filled with worries like health scares, family problems, financial insecurity, or that persistent political thorn in everyone’s side this election year.

Hurry and worry. They are a pair. We try so hard to make our lives perfect that we forget how to live for Christ. The anecdote is spelled out simply for us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

How simple is that? Yet how often do we remember it? I know I’m guilty for not following that verse nearly enough. If our minds and our bodies are constantly busy, how can we ever hear God speaking to us? His words get jumbled up with all the other crud stashed in my brain, things that I can’t fix, no matter how hard I try. Things I’m not even supposed to fix. Problems that God has promised He will handle. So why is it so hard to be still and turn it all over to God?

Because I am human and a sinner who needs forgiveness.

bethesda churchDear God, help me to be still so I can hear your voice and feel your loving presence. Help me to put all my baggage in your care, for you alone are our protector from evil. Let me be still and trust in you. Amen.

I Dare You To…Encourage

ENCOURAGEMENT. We all need it, some days more than others. It’s something that everyone can do and it doesn’t cost a penny.

A couple of months back I read a Facebook post about my high school track coach and teacher who had been diagnosed with a DISEASE. This disease ROBS her of her mobility. She’s a fitness guru, she always has been. My heart BROKE for her.

A couple of weeks after that Facebook post I got to see her face to face at my son’s track meet. She was (still) helping coach my HS alma mater. I wanted to give her some ENCOURAGEMENT, because she was one of the few teachers I felt ever really CARED about me when I was going through some of my toughest moments in school. She made me feel like I BELONGED and that I had VALUE. This was my chance to give her some SUPPORT since she was going through a tough time.

What I found was that I wasn’t the encourager. She was. I was staggered by her FAITH, which had rekindled in her life. She was thankful for so many things, even the illness, which had brought her closer to GOD.

WOW.

Encouragement quoteShe said that my kind words to her were an encouragement. But I believe in my heart she encouraged me more than I did her. NO CONTEST.

But, what if there was a contest to encourage? What if society put such an emphasis on encouraging others as they do looking young or getting rich? How great would that be? How much pain could be eliminated by one small act? It’s IMMEASURABLE.

So, this week I DARE you to ENCOURAGE. Talk to people around you and find out what’s going on in their life. And then encourage them. If there’s nothing you can do to help them, LISTEN. Sometimes all we need is to be HEARD. It’s encouragement enough. If someone’s life is going great, REJOICE with them. I assure you it’s a form of encouragement, and you may be surprised to find it encourages you back.

It’s FREE. It’s an amazing GIFT you can GIVE others, that will eventually come back to you tenfold. You never know what you might find. I DARE you to try it.

I DARE YOU TO ENCOURAGE.

Worth Dying For

I’m a big fan of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Yes, I know it’s kind of corny, somewhat anachronistic, and Kevin Costner’s hair and lack of an English accent are distracting, but I have to admit, I still love it. The movie came out in 1991, and I probably saw it about a dozen times when I was a kid and teenager. When I found the DVD in the $5 bin at Walmart, I scooped it up.

I’m not sure what draws me to it: Robin’s journey from angry rich boy to weary crusader to lovable outlaw, the adventures of his Merry Men, the righting of wrongs done to the downtrodden, Alan Rickman’s absolute crazy, over-the-top portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, or Maid Marian’s amazingly curly hair (oh, how I coveted that hair as a child!). Not to mention a killer theme song, (“Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams.

SilhouetteA different aspect in Prince of Thieves is the addition of Morgan Freeman’s character Azeem, a Moor that Robin helps escape from a Turkish prison. Azeem tells Robin that he owes him a life debt, and follows him home to England in order to repay his debt. Throughout the course of the movie, Robin finds out that Azeem was in prison for loving a woman. He doesn’t understand why Azeem would be willing to die for any one, especially not a woman, and laughs at his friend. But as the film progresses, Robin falls deeply in love with the Maid Marian, admiring her courage to defy the Sheriff and help the poor. At the climax of the movie, Marian has been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Robin rushes to her rescue. Held behind a high castle wall, Robin risks a daring maneuver to scale it, frantic to save his lady love from the evil Sheriff. Azeem then asks Robin, “Is she worth it?”

His reply? “Worth dying for.”

For some reason, that line really struck me on a recent viewing of the film. Isn’t it romantic to think that Robin loved Marian enough to possibly die for her? Is there someone out there who loves me enough to find me worth dying for?

CrossOf course, there is one person who loves me enough to die for me (and I’m not talking about my husband here, although I hope he would be up for it, too). Jesus Christ didn’t just say he would die for me. He didn’t just fight the bad guys and win. Jesus actually fought the bad guys and died. But he rose again three days later, and in doing so, he defeated Satan and death and everything else that was keeping me from living by his side. He died for me and for everyone else on earth because he knew we were worth it.

I’ve done nothing to deserve that kind of love. And I’ll be honest, there are a lot of days that I don’t feel worth the love of my own friends and family, let alone worthy enough for Jesus to die for. That’s the beauty of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us: on our own, we aren’t worth it, but His blood changes all of that. It makes us worthy just to be in His presence.

And that means I should strive everyday to be worthy of such love and sacrifice. Are you?

Walking Humbly on Social Media

Many writers choose a word to guide them through the year, and Christian writers usually back it up with a verse of scripture that will guide us. This year, my word was “Walk”. My verse was Micah 6:8. “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I saw it as a call to action. I read the whole book of Micah, and realized that the times the prophet dealt with were very similar to the ones we live in now, in the United States. Here was a nation of people who should have been so grateful to God for bringing them out of bondage. Instead, there was war, strife, violence, division. Abominations to God’s promise and his Word.

I chose the word Walk because it was an action verb. I could no longer just sit around and be just, merciful and humble. I needed to get up and Move.

Lately, though, I am realizing what it means to walk Humbly. So many posts about one political candidate or another prompt a strong reaction. I have learned that commenting on these posts almost always causes an argument. But, I rationalize, I have a right to express my opinion and everyone wants to hear My opinion, right?

So how should I “walk” during an election year? As an aspiring Christian author, my job is to encourage, to entertain, to comfort and strengthen. I use social media to try to fulfill those tasks.  How does creating division or dissension check off any of those jobs?

I have been on the verge of firing off a comment more than once. I do feel very strongly about many things. I also respect and believe in the American system of choosing a new leader. It is important for all of us to listen, pray, and choose carefully, and then be sure to vote. We must be sure that the freedoms our forefathers worked so hard to establish continue.

But, my role will be to do this all with a humble attitude. It will keep everyone happier if I keep my opinions to myself. I don’t have a problem sharing my opinion if I am asked, but let’s take that conversation offline.