Friday, October 24, 2008


"When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, 'I would like some meat,' then you may eat as much of it as you want." - Deuteronomy 12:20

I was so excited when I read this verse--God sanctions indulgence! Whoopee! Later on that day, I was driving to the hospital to see my mom, and I wanted to stop for a mocha. After all, I reasoned, I deserved as much expensive coffee this week as I wanted.

But even with a verse about indulgence running in the back of my head, my spirit was checked. Was this really the time for feasting? Has God brought me to a place where his promises are fulfilled? Actually, we are in a time of asking God for healing for Mom. We have not arrived; in fact, we are in the early stages of the journey, and the trail is not downhill.

I have practiced and wrestled with fasting for several years now, and recently God used Romans 12:1-2, a verse I have known a long time, to nudge me: "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. . ." Fasting, for me, is a way to offer up my body to God--not an animal slain on an altar, but me, denying my appetite, to wait on him. On the way to the hospital, was it time to indulge, or time to fast?

God himself is my food. When I turn to him in prayer, he stills my heart. He is my peace, and while it is easy to seek all sorts of things to steady my soul, he is the only one who satisfies me. The coffee is not the point, nor is God a religious bandaid to slap on top of how I am feeling. He is my shelter, and when I run to him, I am safe.

Sometimes, Jesus and I even sit down to a cup of coffee together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Discussing the candidates

This post simply continues my thoughts from the last post. They are presented in reverse order, but I trust that you, my two readers, can figure it out. :)

If I felt that there were reasons to criticize Obama's character, I would. I believe that you cannot predict all the situations that will arise in an office like the presidency, and the character of a leader affects how he or she will respond to certain crises. However, I don't find very much to criticize in Obama's character. As far as politicians go, he seems pretty clean.

Yet I would criticize Obama for his political views. I hear him talking about giving 95% of Americans a tax cut without cutting much government spending. He said in the last debate that people like himself and Warren Buffet should be willing to give a little bit more. Is that what kind of country we want to live in? Where only the very rich contribute generously to the government? If my church were financially supported by only five people, wouldn't those five people have a large say in what is done? And if you are very rich, there is a chance that money is not your main goal--you might be more interested in control & power. Yet even with larger contributions from the very rich, does his plan seem like it will balance the budget? I really believe that fiscal irresponsibility, from Wall Street to ordinary Americans overusing credit cards, have led to the financial mess we are in. Our government needs to cut back, and begin spending responsibly. So do you and I.

He wants to increase the government's responsibility over people's lives. He wants the federal government more involved in education. By and large, I don't agree with federal controls. There is a homeschool group in my town that I cannot join because they do not support parents who choose to place their children in public school. One of my daughters goes to public school; two are schooled at home. When I explain to friends who are members why I cannot join this organization, it pains them--they want to support me as a member of their community. Yet they cannot choose to let me join because the organization is governed by national guidelines. National rules break down community and remove the individual's sense of responsibility. Instead of this local group deciding to change their bylaws, they are faced with a large national platform that they cannot easily dialogue with, so they are left helpless.

I disagree with Obama because he leans towards socialism. I think his motives are good, and I like a few of his ideas. I am watching his campaign closely because if he becomes president, there is some legislation he will advocate that I want my representatives to oppose. With a Democratically controlled legislative branch, however, there may be little we can do to stop these policies from becoming law. Such is majority rule.

As for McCain, I agree that he often has a rather painful public presentation. (Obama looks so presidential.) But do presentation skills always coincide with leadership skills? I was impressed in the final debate when Bob Schieffer asked McCain specifically, what government spending would you cut, and he began rattling off item after item. We know McCain--he has served intelligently and faithfully in the Senate for decades. His plan to veto any bill that comes across his desk with pork built in, to name names & stop this practice, is the first plan of action (not just policy) that has excited me in a presidential candidate since the Reagan era. And I think McCain is gutsy enough to do it. This action would be political suicide, unless Americans rallied around him and said thank you for finally controlling the run-away government. I wonder if we would? Do we want a responsible, limited government, or do we the people just want to be taken care of by a large parent?

Almost every politician I have ever heard is willing to have the government come to your aid if you clamber for it. Politicians are elected by making us, the constituents, happy, and the place you see this at work the most is in the tax code. Today's "tax break for small business" that gets someone re-elected becomes tomorrow's "loophole for big business" or "tax break for the very wealthy." They spend all their time playing around with very complex tax law to manipulate us so that they (and a few savvy people and organizations) benefit--sometimes financially, but also in terms of power. Power is addictive, and the founding fathers wanted to limit its intake by those who wielded it. We have moved very far from the limited government our constitution intended us to have.

No one proposes what I would like to see: a flat income tax. Let every American pay 2%, from the wealthiest to the poorest. You get a postcard in March showing the amount you owe; you pay it. Everyone has ownership in the government, so that the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy are concerned with how our money is spent. We the constituents are diligent, instead of demanding. We are not manipulated by the language of class warfare that is so often tossed about in campaigns because we all play a part. Think of the government savings we could net by cutting down the IRS. That reduction alone might create a skyrocketing unemployment, until we could find some way for these former government employees to support their families.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Discussing politics

One of the things that disturbs me about our culture is the apparent inability of people to have a discussion. With the talk show hosts & blogging & email, we have lost our politeness. At a time when we are most connected, we have learned to only connect with those who are like us. We have lost our ability to reach out to learn and share and really discuss.

I admit that I'm not all that good at discussion. I've spent a large part of my life thinking I'm absolutely right. But now that I'm gaining years, I'm realizing I don't know everything, and behold, listening to others is a good way to learn. And frankly, listening to real people is more pleasant to me than listening to Rush Limbaugh. So here's my two cents on this year's political race. Please feel free to leave comments. That would be kind of like. . .discussion.

I'm am a bit disgusted with the emails I have received from the evangelical, Republican camp that strike hysterical notes about Obama being a Muslim. It is not difficult to go to Snopes and check out the veracity of these claims. There are many sources of information on the web, but an email claiming to be true because of some list of sources is only true if you check the sources and they are accurate. Often I find that the sources contradict the presentation of information in the email. If someone approached you and said, "What I'm about to say is true, I read it in the newspaper..." would you automatically believe them? You might believe a friend who told you that their statement was true "because of this newspaper." But what if they said that a friend of a friend of a friend who knows someone who read it in a newspaper said something? This is the definition of a "forwarded email".

I am tired of the smearing of Obama. I personally believe the man's claims about his Christianity. Why would you be willing to believe McCain or Palin's Christian claims, but not Obama's? Perhaps we believe the Republican but not the Democrat because we cannot believe someone would love Jesus and disagree with us on something so significant as abortion. I disagree with Obama's pro-abortion stand. But I have also known Christians that I disagreed with, and this experience gives me a platform for understanding how someone could love Jesus but still differ from me politically.

This post is getting too long. I will stop now and leave you wondering if I am a scary liberal cloaked as a Bible-belt evangelical.

Tunnel vision

Several of you, who are reading the blog about my mom's trouble, are wondering how I am doing. The simple truth is that I am not thinking very much. God has blessed me with the warm, snuggly blanket of shock and numbness and the gift of tunnel vision. My whole life used to be a balance of kids, husband, parents, friends, church, school, writing, housework, yard work. I was a spinner of plates, and I like that life. Now, my life has two states: taking care of something for Mom, and not taking care of something for Mom. There are times when she needs me to call the doctor or update the blog or handle some thing, and that is what I do. When I am done, I find something to occupy me (reading political blogs, listening to a friend's problems, crunching numbers for my church's preschool ministry) until she needs me again.

Those around me, who are not as emotionally engaged in this situation, can probably speculate about what we are facing. But I am in a plane whose engine has cut out. I have a problem to address, and I will consider the why's and wherefores later, after the plane has safely landed. Talking to me now about my mom serves little purpose, but I am very appreciative when someone hands me a screwdriver or yells out the reading on the altimeter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God redeems

Crappy things happen in this life--and I don't mean the little fish. One of the prime examples in my own life is how sick I became with each of my pregnancies. For three months I couldn't move or talk without vomiting. I lost 10-15 pounds each time, and was hospitalized for hyperemesis two times. Day in and day out suffering is hard to endure, especially mentally. You get so sad or angry or just bored. It is a misery unlike having a cold or breaking a bone.

I would love to be pregnant and miss being sick (something that has never happened to me). I think that would be a great experience! But God has truly redeemed that time of illness for me, especially now when my own mother is suffering pain and nausea on an almost continuous basis. She is taking the same medication I took with my third pregnancy. I can say to her, "I know what this is like, Mom" and she knows that I know. It is immensely comforting to know someone else has had to walk the road God has placed before you. I have been much more empathetic of people suffering with long term illness because of my own pregnancies, but now to get to be there for Mom--I wouldn't trade the knowledge for the easy path.

I'm not sure that walking the easy path is ever helpful to other people. I have a great marriage. But I am rarely able to counsel and comfort from the platform of "my life is great." Good counselors almost always have the empathy of "I have also suffered." It's as if suffering is God's school to fit us for service.

Maybe if the goal was being perfect, those who "do it right" could help the rest of us. But I think that life's greatest lesson is that God redeems our screwups. So when someone has failed or suffered, and God has pulled them through. . .that's the person we learn from. That's the lesson we are all required to learn.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


The situation with my mom is dominating my life right now. It is so hard to wait. I thought when we had an appointment, it would get easier, but today has been hard. She is in a lot of pain, and didn't sleep last night. Waiting for Monday seems like eternity.

I keep thinking, none of this caught God by surprise. When I am numb, or crying, or angry, that one truth keeps running through my head. He is God.

I don't believe in having faith in faith. My own faith is fallible. I can't perform well enough to make something happen. But God is big, and he rules the universe. I don't always understand him, but I trust him. I hate the illness ravaging my mom, but I know that God is and that he loves us.

That said, I still wanted to break all my dishes today. Good thing I wasn't home when that urge came over me.

I think I'll go rip up my sunflowers now. Lovely weather outside.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


At ninety my grandmother begins
to recount stories we had never heard.
How her mother screamed when Ann
was born, at home, no drugs, and
my Mimi whimpered at nine, brave
enough to hide it all these years.
I always knew that she, the oldest,
was responsible and linked by duty
to a woman who was unsafe by
our standards, sad and lonely, who made
great stuffing and biscuits. Mimi
has lost her baking at ninety but still
pays tribute to her mother, who
(we now learn) buried a fetus
in a shoebox, made her eldest help
and promise not to tell the other six,
a promise Mimi kept to her death.
The miscarriage, the blood, who knows
how far along she was but not
too far—enough to deliver
something dead, at home, no drugs,
and handle it. Like Mimi has always
handled things, like each of us, a line
of the oldest, responsible, and tied
in some way to women stringing back
who screamed, bore children, made biscuits.

My child bounds in my womb,
a daughter, a promise. What will I say
at ninety, that she will scratch down
in the morning, things I have hidden
now flushed into light by my own
aging and leaving, my desire to live
in the stories I tell.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bad things, good people

People ask, why do bad things happen to good people? This question is usually posed as some kind of judgment against God, for letting things happen to us or someone we love.

It seems to me that bad things happen to everybody. If you live long enough, something "bad" is going to happen to you. Life has a lot of suffering to it. My question is, do you want to go through the bad stuff on your own, or with God? I don't remember God promising us a rosy life if we walk with him. But he does promise to be with us. His presence and involvement in my life is a huge comfort. I cannot imagine tackling all the bad stuff without his help and his perspective.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Your Father in heaven...causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45). This is the same part of the sermon where Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Maybe God is just doing what he told us to do--loving those who hate him.

And the sun rises, and the sun sets. My mom is currently being tested for cancer, and is probably looking at surgery for an ovarian cyst. I believe that no matter what the "sin level" in my life, how many good deeds I stacked matter how sweet and kind my mom is, or whether she lived a debauched life, we would have to live through this week. A cancer test and waiting for the doctor's appointment on Monday. For me, I like to wait with God sitting next to me, his arm around my shoulder, than to start thinking at this point, "Hey, what are You doing?" He's worth wrestling with, because when you reach a "bad" point, it's not the best time to start working out what you believe.