Non-patriotic?

I think I am opposite from the definition of patriotic: having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. I have become less and less patriotic the past 20 years or so. Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day all hold little meaning for me. When 9-11 happened I was so on fire for our country. But within ten years the disgust I felt for the deceit of our government had grown so much that I didn’t even want to vote.

“There is no thing as a Christian nation other than the body of Christ.”- from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton

Many churches have twisted their brand of religion and patriotism so much that it is hard to tell them apart. Being a “good American” does not make me a Christian. But, being a Christian should make me a good citizen. Can I be a good citizen without being patriotic? I think so.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.” I think I’ve fulfilled that requisite, but there are others I struggle with.

Most lists of "Good Citizen" qualities include the following:

Obeys the law / Respects authority.
Contribute to Society and Community/ Performs Civic Duty.
Loves his/her country/ Patriotism.
Courtesy and respect for the rights of others.
Trust worthy and Honesty.
Tolerance.
Accountability.
Moral Courage.

I am thankful to be an American. I treasure the land and I delight in its people. But, its government and ideals are harder to hold dear.

The Valley of vision #4: Strength

I’ve read statements from unbelievers that think Christians are weak. That believing in God is a sign of weakness. That is so very far from the truth. This line I read today from The Valley of Vision struck me so profoundly:

“Strengthen me that I may cling to Thee and not let Thee go.”

Juliette, summer, 2019

Think about that. It takes strength to hang on. Physically speaking, if I had to hang on to a building or a mountainside or even the monkey bars, I would not make it. My arms are like jelly. (Unlike my granddaughter who has muscles I don’t even dream of). Thank God I have not been left stranded in that way.

But, spiritually speaking, I have felt helpless and sidelined. I could not have held onto God on my own, but He strengthened me and held onto me. He made me to hang onto Him.

What a comfort.


He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

O Come O Come Emmanuel

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“When Christ was born as a human baby, he ensured that He would die, because death is something that comes to every human being. But because Jesus Christ was wholly God as well as wholly human, He rose from the grave, to the astonishment not only of the Roman overlords and the powerful Jews in the Sanhedrin, but to the astonishment of all those who had been with Him during His earthly life. The Resurrection, too, is beyond the realm of fact and bursts into the realm of love, of truth, for in Jesus, truth and love are one and the same.” – from The Rock That is Higher by Madeleine L’Engle.

I enjoy the lights and presents and coziness of family as much as the next person. But, I also have a sadness in my heart when I see so many who don’t know this Christ that Christmas is supposed to be about. “Away in a Manger” for most is a cute song kids sing in little choirs, along with “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

Listen to a song that tells more of the story of Christmas

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Lessons from a southpaw

There seems to be a day for everything. In August alone there is a day to celebrate ice cream, watermelon, root beer floats and S’mores (we celebrated that one a few days early). There is also a day for baseball, relaxation, black cats and eating outside. So, today is Left-Handers Day.

My husband was a left-hander as am I. Growing up I was no athlete, so I never mastered much except for riding a bike. I could do other things like skating, swimming, tennis and bowling, but was just average. When we had to play baseball (or probably it was softball) in PE in high school, if I ever caught a ball, I would pull off my glove and throw it. I was using a glove for right-handers. I didn’t know much and the coaches obviously didn’t notice. After we married, my left-handed pitcher of a husband taught me how to to it all properly.

southpaw

My beloved southpaw taught me so many other important lessons.

He taught me to stop holding grudges. It was a lesson he had to learn, also, and he helped me by example and encouragement.

He taught me the importance of being in God’s Word. I am learning this even more now after his death as I find notebooks full of scripture passages and notes. There are also index cards filled with verses and catechisms. I knew he spent hours reading and studying, but now I have some of the fruits of his labors to help me. 117583984_624356968284379_3935415109455524714_n

He taught me to live for the eternal. Over the years most of our moves revolved around the Gospel. We moved to go to school at Clearwater Christian College in our first year of marriage. We went from Jacksonville to Orange Park to be nearer our church. We moved to Georgia when Chuck was called to pastor a church. We moved to Winter Haven to be a part of the church there. We often lived hand to mouth, but we never went hungry, we never lacked clothing or shelter. I worried when I should have trusted, I put my eyes on the earthly when I should have been leaning on Christ. He taught me to trust the One who provides.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  –  Matthew 6:25-34

I am thankful for the lessons – the gifts that keep on giving. 

Happy Left-Handers Day.

Being upheld

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“Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.” – Psalm 54:4

 

My husband got me a copy of Gordon J. Keddie’s Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life.  Today I was struck by this verse. I thought of those in my life that God has sent to uphold me, to support , stand by and sustain me. Beginning with my mother, who though we didn’t always agree, she never left me. I think of Marshall Heath who supported Chuck spiritually and arranged for some financial support for us when we went off to Clearwater Christian College. During that time, Ann and Moose Wacker also gave us financial support and sent encouraging letters, one of which I came across recently that brought them back to my mind.

Years later, Chuck’s Aunt Amy did the same when we moved to Georgia. Her financial help was a reminder of her love for us and support of our ministry. So many others, too, have helped us and loved on us over the years. They have upheld our souls in prayers and in preaching. And God, our ultimate Helper, has allowed us to to the same for a few others along the way.

 

 

 

Magic or Meaning?

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Last year was hard. This year seems harder. “Celebrating” without extended family isn’t  easy. Some are gone, some just don’t come around. I read articles that say this:

“Maybe in that year, or in a string of years, it feels like Christmas just doesn’t work for you. Maybe while everyone else is enjoying the season and dancing to jingle bells it all rings hollow to you. ”  -from When Christmas Loses Its Cheer 

or this:

“What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.” from Christmas Is For Those Who Hate It Most  

I read these articles and find a glimpse of hope. My mind and heart begin to connect a bit more. All I know but have set aside in sorrow comes back to me.

“I’m not going to put it up anymore,” Mom told me as she sent me home with her two-foot tree after Christmas in 2017. We hadn’t put up a tree since we moved to Birmingham, so I thought it would be perfect. I didn’t realize how her words rang so true; less than two months later she was gone. She wouldn’t ever put up a Christmas tree again.

Today I thought, ‘What would mom do?’ So, I climbed up to the attic and got the little tree. And the wreath. And my decorating is done. I’ve made cookies and wrapped presents for a little girl I may never meet and mailed  a few gifts to my kids. Now I have my tree and wreath. But I have so much more. I just need to be reminded of it every now and then.

wreath

 

 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I have been purging papers from my old trunk and elsewhere the past few weeks. I can’t believe all the stuff I’d saved. I took pictures of some things and sent them to people who I thought would appreciate then or get a laugh out of of them. I sent my friend (junior high, HS, college, still) pictures of sorority articles, the napkins from her wedding, newspaper clippings, thank you notes, shower invitations. My kids got pictures of pictures they drew in first grade and poems they wrote in high school. And I’m not finished yet.

In the process I reconnected, via facebook, with my sorority big sister and a former student who is now about 30.

One humorous item I uncovered was written by Elizabeth, a fourth grade student from my earliest years of teaching. She had evidently heard something in church. (Some punctuation and capitalization added)

 

Once there was a man named Jonah. He woke up and a voice came out of his window. It was God. God wanted Jonah to build an ark. It was going to rain 40 days and 40 nights. They were going to build an ark but Jonah hided from God and everywhere Jonah went God was there. He was sending men to build the ark.

“The rain is going to come in five minutes,” said the men.

Everybody was coming to the ark. People were coming and people were packing their stuff. The rain was coming. The rain finally came. There were floods. The floods were like an ocean. God made waves and a big fish came out of the ocean and swallowed Jonah. 

Pet Sins

I’m not talking about sins that pets commit. Pets can be bad and do things that are mighty inconvenient, but they can’t sin as they have no soul. Sorry, Virginia, but all dogs don’t go to heaven.

I’m also not talking about those sins that are our favorite little secrets. That’s for another day.

I’m talking about the ones that are the favorite ones to bring up in church. The ones we can mention over and over because we don’t think we’ll be stepping on any toes in the process. We can talk about how horrible abortion is, because surely there isn’t anyone in our fellowship that has ever had an abortion, right?

Homosexuality is another favorite, for surely there are no homosexuals sitting in our congregations. So, lets just make examples of those two horrendous sins so we can all nod our heads in agreement while patting ourselves on the back. Of course, we can occasionally mention gossiping and envy because we all agree we are a little bit guilty, you know, like, everybody does it. And it’s okay sometimes to bring up drunkenness because drunks are just plain funny, you know?

Just don’t go talking about divorce or gluttony because you might just offend too many people.

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Puddles or Living Water?

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Oak Mountain State Park – February, 2017

“My soul thirsteth for God, though I misinterpret my thirst, and, like a hot dog upon a road, try to slake my thirst by lapping at any puddle of dirty water that I come across in my path. There is no satisfaction there. It is in God, and in God only that we can find repose.” –   Alexander Maclaren

I can visualize this so well. Yesterday as Ruby and I were on our return route at Red Mountain, we passed several puddles on the south trail. As she walked through them, her head went down to get a lap or two of water, orange from the clay. I didn’t stop her, knowing she would only get a smidge of a taste, and knowing that I’d already given her fresh water when we’d taken a break a little while before this.

How often do I take those little tastes of “any puddle of dirty water” when I have a spring of Living Water to slake my thirst?

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water – Jeremiah2:13

Sav-A-Life Abides No Hatred

I have been so burdened down this past week with all the negativity on social media about abortion. I know I could just not read it all. But something in me is screaming out for the other side. Groups I am a part of on facebook have surprised me with the level of opposition displayed toward Christians. The picture below from Nick Anderson depicts what I hear so many people saying.

 

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I would like to show a different side. There is a group here in Birmingham that truly embodies the expression “Abide No Hatred”. It’s called Sav-A-Life. I know there are other similar organizations out there. I want to tell you a little about this one.

Yes, they are pro-life. They are this and so much more. They offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasound, prenatal assessment, STI/STD testing for men and women, childbirth education classes, parenting classes, and fatherhood programs. They provide counseling not only for the woman who wants to keep her baby or put it up for adoption, but for the one who chose abortion and needs help dealing with that decision, also. They have  mentors and offer support groups. They furnish assistance through the Stork’s Nest, providing clothes for mother and child, baby furniture, diapers and more. They have ongoing classes from basics such as diapering to finances and budgeting. Sav-A-Life also refers clients for community resources such as housing and Medicaid.

Watch this video to get a look at some of what Sav-A-Life does.

 https://vimeo.com/214742032