Let’s have a Chat!

Hey Everybody. It’s Tuesday and it is apparently time for me to write my blog. And I’m not feeling it. Sometimes this blog feels narcissistic. It’s time to write about ME again. Uggh. 

 

So, let’s make this about someone else tonight. How are you all doing? How is life out in internet world? Are you crashing at the end of the day and seeking some mindless relaxation on Facebook? Right now I am sitting in my little boys’ room, waiting for them to go to sleep. It’s Andy’s night off and I am solo parenting. 

 

How are you coping with the holidays? Are they a fun-filled nostalgic time for you or are they a non-stop hectic, stressful race to the end? I seem to seesaw back and forth on that one. I am trying to have a slow, peaceful holiday month, but life keeps interrupting. 

 

How are you feeling with the shorter days and winter weather? (If that applies to you, maybe it’s summer in your part of the world.) For me, I love winter, but the cold weather gets to me. Maybe because my kids don’t want to be out in the cold, so then they’re running around the house, shooting nerf bullets at each other, or literally, climbing the walls, trying to see if they can make it up to the ceiling. 

 

How’s your peace doing? Is all right with the world or does everything feel out of whack? Me? Well, I’m in that interesting place where everything is out of whack, but despite that, I’m at peace and can feel God’s presence in all the craziness. So, I guess it’s good. I’ll tell you what, Jesus is the only one that can do that for me! I hope that you can find peace in your craziness too. Cause, if I’m being realistic, there probably isn’t anyone of you out there that doesn’t have some level of craziness going on. 

 

How are your dreams coming along? It’s taken me years to even give myself permission to have dreams. For a while there, just taking care of little kids was so overwhelming, I did not have any time for dreams. It’s not a great place to be. Feels a bit dead. I’ve been trying to let myself dream again. One dream is to be a full-time piano teacher. I had four piano students this school semester and it was really fun. We had a little recital of sorts last night and it felt good to see how well they did. It’s a small dream, but I’m taking steps towards it and that is nourishing to the soul. I hope you can find a way to, first of all, have a dream, and second of all, pursue it in small ways tucked here and there in your busy life. 

 

Let’s see, we’ll just skip politics. And sports. Read any good books lately? I found a new author I like, recommended by a friend, Amy Harmon. Fluffy, funny, PG, but also some stuff to think about. Just what I’m looking for right now. I’ve also been reading 1,2, and 3rd John, in the Bible. I found 1 John to be very comforting for my perfectionist self. I am never sure if I’m doing enough, being enough, striving enough etc. And the main point I took away from the book was, Obey Jesus’ commands. This is his command. Love God, Love People. The End. And that doesn’t seem too burdensome. It seems like a joyful task, not a hard chore. And it also feels like a load of expectations dissolves off my shoulders every time I read it. Good stuff. 

 

Well, if you were sitting right in front of me, this is about the time I would start digging for the nitty gritty stuff, how are the relationships in your life? How are you feeling about yourself? How’s your spiritual life? What’s making you happy these days? What’s dragging you down? 

 

So, you should come on by when you can, sit at my kitchen table, where the kids will run around us, kind of like a rock sticking out of the current in a river. We’ll drink some hot tea, I’ll dig up some cookies, or carrot sticks, depending on where you are at with your diet, and we can chat (with plenty of interruptions, but it won’t matter!). 

 

Good night friends, let’s talk again soon!

 

Thoughts From a Bewildered American

I have been paying a bit more attention to the news lately. Not my most-favorite thing to do. I tend to ignore the news, avoid it as much as possible. I hate all the in-fighting of our politics. I hate the fact that I no longer feel like I can trust any of the news services, as they all seem to be reading off the same propaganda sheet, one for the left, one for the right. My cynicism tells me that everything the news says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. 

 

And then there is the upcoming Presidential election to look forward to. I have friends who love Donald Trump. They hail him as the only person who can fix our country, and are full of praise for the things he has accomplished so far. Then I have friends who despise Donald Trump. He is a dangerous, foolish, racist, untrustworthy, white supremist, nationalist who deserves the death penalty. Can anyone say Polarized Politics? 

 

Just to give you an idea of where I stand, I took one of those tests that tell you where you are on the political spectrum. I was dead center in the middle. Not republican. Not democrat. There are lots of things from both parties that I like and lots of things from both parties that I don’t like. 

 

I don’t think I am alone in finding myself stuck in the middle. Yes, there are some things Trump has done that I agree with. Probably the biggest one has been his helping to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization whose roots began in eugenics, with the specific desire to eliminate the black race. It has now turned into a billion dollar industry that sells body parts of aborted babies for money. So, yes, Yay Trump. On the other hand, I find his constant Tweets to be very embarrassing to read, not the level of diplomacy and maturity that I would expect from a President. Not to mention a bunch of other things he’s done that I don’t agree with.

 

But then I look at the up and coming Democratic Candidates and it makes me shake in my boots. So far, every single one of them has said that they support late-term abortion. If an adult can look me in the face and tell me that they think it’s ok to violently kill a baby that, if allowed to be born, could live a full life…if that person can tell me to my face that they believe that there is nothing wrong with that…how on earth can I trust this person to rule our country in a way that would line up with my morals or my world view? 

 

So, what is a person supposed to do? I look at our government and from my small perspective, it looks broken. It looks like a humongous, gigantic, enormous machine that is running at full steam, bulldozing over anything that gets near it, and it doesn’t work any more, and there isn’t anyone to shut it down and fix it. I am beyond believing that we just have to vote in the right candidate and he/she will fix everything. I don’t think it can be done. Look at Trump. According to his supporters, he’s fixing things. Look at how much resistance he has. They’re trying to impeach him for heaven’s sake. If Trump is supposed to be our “Saviour” then I think we should all be getting worried about now. 

 

I feel very much like I am in a position of No Power. Yes, I can vote. But, even if my vote actually counts for something, I don’t even know how to cast my vote. Last election my choices were Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hilary is tied to one of the biggest coincidences in history: anyone who has had dirt against her or her family has somehow had a sudden urge to commit suicide or somehow got involved in a fatal vehicle accident. Not exactly who I want to be my President. Then there is Donald Trump. Someone who’s public character and personality are the kind that I point to as an example to my children of what Not to Be. I went to the polls last election and ended up not casting a Presidential Vote because I couldn’t put my name next to either candidate. 

 

So, what do we do? While my Trump supporters will continue to support him, and my loyal Democrat friends will vote for their candidate, what about the rest of us? The people who don’t associate themselves with either Republican or Democrat…Are we resigned to simply watch, helpless observers, as our country continues to fall more apart? After all, history has proven that Third Party Candidates don’t seem to ever have a chance. 

 

This is one of those posts where I don’t have an answer. Just a bunch of questions from a Bewildered American. 

 

(I know this is a political post, I would love to hear your comments…let’s just keep it polite!)

 

I Can’t Do It

Do you all remember “The Prayer of Jabez” ? It was really popular about 18 years ago. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book, “The Prayer of Jabez, Breaking Through to the Blessed Life”. It became so popular that someone even gave me a “The Prayer of Jabez for Little Ones” book to read to my little kids.

I always had a problem with The Prayer of Jabez. The prayer is supposed to be understood in 4 parts. The first part Jabez asks God to bless him. The next part he asks God to increase his territory, the third part he prays God will be with him, and the fourth part he asks God to keep him from harm. That is my very simplistic explanation. While I’m sure that this prayer and the book about it has been a blessing to people, I would always get hung up on the “Increase my territory” part. (Which I interpret to mean, increase my circle of influence.) No. Please don’t increase my territory. My territory is quite large enough thank you. In fact my territory feels so large right now that I actually feel a bit like I’m drowning. In fact, I’m a little overwhelmed that there are people walking around who actually feel like rising to the challenge to ask God to increase their territory. It makes me feel like a loser, an underachiever.

Along the same line, there’s another story in the Bible that Jesus tells. A parable about the “talents” (a measurement of money). So, a man goes on a journey and he entrusts his property to his servants. He gives each servant the number of talents that he thinks they can handle. One gets 5 talents, another gets 2 talents, another gets one talent. Each servant takes the money, invests it, and manages to double the amount, but the servant with one talent goes and hides his talent in the ground and does nothing with it. The master returns, the good servants show him how they’ve increased his money, he’s happy and he says, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” Except for the servant with one talent who gets punished for not even trying to do a little with the talent. This story also disturbs me. If I’m going to be honest, I would kind of rank myself as a two talent kind of person. I’m not going to hide my talent, I really do want to achieve something, but I’m not overly ambitious. I am often not a very hard worker. I don’t see myself as one of those super-successful people who just push themselves really hard until they become CEO of the company. That’s not me. If I were to join the business world I would find a low-stress job that kept me happy enough and I would call it good.

Sometimes…Just sometimes…I kind of feel like God made a mistake and slipped a couple extra talents to the low-talent girl.  I feel like saying, Hey, you made a mistake, here, you can have those talents back. I’m good with just one or two.

Here’s what I mean. I feel like God went ahead and increased my territory, loaded on the talents, when I wasn’t asking for him to do it. I want to stick with my tiny circle of influence. I want to just a keep a talent or two to fool around with, and maybe just coast my way on through life. Of course, some of you may be scratching your head and saying, Umm Esther, I think that’s what you have already. And yes. It’s true. I’m not leading any big ministries. I’m not a public figure. I don’t have any titles attached to my name. Haven’t written any books. Lead any online groups. But here’s the thing. I have TEN children. 10. Ten souls that have been entrusted into my care. Ten people who will one day look back at their childhood and either bless me, curse me, or find me so inconsequential that they won’t even think about me. Whether I like it or not, what I do with my kids is going to have a life-long influence on them. Either an influence that will bless them throughout their life, or an influence that they will struggle to heal from for the rest of their lives. Or, more realistically, maybe a mix of both.  I feel like God said, hey, I know you just wanted to take care of your own yard, but instead I’m going to put you in charge of Knox County. Or, I know you just wanted one or two talents, but here, I’m going to give you ten instead.

Overwhelming. Sometimes to the point of panicking. Sometimes I want to just hide from the responsibility. I can’t do it. Doesn’t God understand that I’m not “That Person”? “That Person” is the lady I know who writes out thirty minute incremental schedules for her entire large family and then makes sure that everyone follows the schedule. I’m standing here scratching my head, saying, hmm, what should I do today? “That Person” is the lady I know who plans out her entire menu a month in advance, pre-cooks everything over one weekend, freezes her meals, and feeds her large family quickly, efficiently, and with a super-small budget. And I’m standing in front of the fridge at 6 o’clock at night, still not sure what to make for supper, and often just running down to Little Caesars to get cheap pizza instead. “That Person” is the one who has her children reading through the entire Bible every year, memorizing whole books of the Bible at the age of five and leading hour-long sessions of praise and worship and intercession with her children while they use their interactive-map to pray for unreached people groups. I’m over here, bribing my children with candy to memorize verses, stopping in the middle of my prayers to yell at the 4 year old to be quiet and sit still, having family devotions when I can make it happen, but certainly not on a strict schedule. I am not “That Person”. Doesn’t God understand this? How on earth am I going to not majorly fail at this undertaking called Motherhood???

There’s one more verse in the Bible I guess we should talk about. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul is talking about a “thorn in the flesh” that he was asking God to remove from him. God didn’t remove the thorn and instead said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Over the years, that verse has ministered to me in many situations. I am the definition of weak. Not overly disciplined. Not a poster-child of anything. And yet, somehow, God’s power is made perfect in me. When things happen in my life that are good, when things amazingly turn out right, that was not me. That was God’s power being made perfect in my weakness. Let Him get all the glory. Let people scratch their heads in amazement and say, well, the Esther I know isn’t capable of pulling off those results, that HAD to be God.

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is the other verse I cling to. When I was giving birth to my 9th child, it was time to push and he got stuck. I was pushing and nothing was happening. This went on for a while and the doctor was starting to get concerned, especially since my typical deliveries usually saw me pushing only a couple times before the baby came. I started to panic. What if they decided that I couldn’t deliver and we ended up with a C-section, what if there was something wrong? By this time I was deep in that place where the world faded out and it was just me and my body, trying to conquer this Herculean Feat. That verse popped into my mind. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It became my mantra. In my head I repeated it over and over again as I pushed again. And this time something shifted, the baby started moving again and soon he was safely delivered. Tears of relief. Thank you God, thank you. Your strength, not mine.

Yes. I will remind myself of this again. I am weak, but because of it, I’m a perfect vessel to bring glory to God. God has overwhelmed me with the responsibility that he has placed on my shoulders. But he’s also promised to be with me, to strengthen me.

Listen. If you ever see something admirable about me, you can just start giving praise to God, because I can’t think of anything good I’ve ever done in my own strength. I will continue to stagger along with my over-large territory, my heavy burden of talents, and I will continue to remind God that I am weak, I can’t do it. And he will continue to remind me that it’s His Power, His Strength that’s going to make it happen. May my weak, inadequate life bring Glory to God.

 

Facebook, Politics, and Respect

Respect has been on my mind a lot. I’ve thought about it as I’ve scrolled through Facebook, I’ve thought about it as I’ve read a whole bunch of political jokes. I’ve thought about it as I’ve listened to some of my kids’ complaints about various school teachers. I’m looking around, and I’m not seeing a whole lot of respect in our culture.

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I bought one of those Mad Libs books at a book fair at my school. Remember Mad Libs? It had some kind of story with lots of blank spaces. In the blank spaces you filled in whatever it told you, like a noun, or a color, or a famous person. After you had filled in all the blanks, you would read the story and it would sound ridiculous because you had changed all the keywords in the story. I was so excited about my Mad Libs book. I was visiting my Grandma and was doing a Mad Lib with one of my cousins. One of the blank spaces we had to fill in was a famous person. We were young and innocent and the only famous people we knew were from the history books, so we put in Abraham Lincoln. We finished filling in the spaces and then I began reading the story out loud. The story featured Abraham Lincoln (our famous person) and it was ridiculous. Well, my Grandma had been listening to what we were doing and she marched over to me and lit into me. She was mad. She was mad that I was disrespecting Abraham Lincoln, one of our countries fine leaders. She thought it was outrageous that we would use his name so lightly and make fun of him and she put the fear of God in me to ever talk disrespectfully about one of our leaders again. I can’t say that I liked her methods, she scared me to death, but the lesson stuck.

As politics continue to get nastier year by year, I have been confronted with the idea of, “Their actions make them unworthy of respect.” They are liars, cheats, frauds, ridiculous, aren’t doing their job properly, people with an evil agenda. The idea is that these faults make someone unworthy of my respect, which means I can say whatever I want about them, because, after all, they are not worthy of respect.

Ok, let’s look at the definition of respect. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines respect, the verb, as “To consider worthy of high regard: Esteem”. It gives synonyms for Esteem: worth, value.  Our Declaration of Independence says that “All men are created equal”. The book of Genesis, from the Bible, says that “God created mankind in his own image”. When we look around at all the people around us, we’ve got to realize two things. First we are all equal, there is no hierarchy where some people are allowed to look down on others. Second, we are created in the image of God. He made us special. He made each one of us. He happens to like what he made.

I can hear all the excuses being thrown out, because I’m thinking them myself. If someone does not act in a respectable manner, then I don’t have to respect them. I’m going to put out the theory that really there are two kinds of respect. The first one is just common decency that every human deserves because they are our equal and because God created them. The second level of respect would fit more with the Merriam Webster definition of respect, the noun, (as opposed to the verb) “expression of high or special regard or deference.” Yes, there are people who rise above and do things that we admire, have character that we admire, have accomplished great feats that we admire. Yes, these people are worthy of respect, in a level that goes above the general respect you get just because you are human. Perhaps a better word would be admiration.

But we have forgotten that general respect that people should get, just because they are human. I have noticed it most with our media. I don’t watch TV, so I’m out of the loop, but several years ago I was sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office and they had the news on a big screen TV. The room was small and there was no avoiding watching what was playing. It was supposedly a news show, but what they showed was a clip of an elderly woman who was pulled over by the police. The woman was clearly confused and started to be very aggressive with the police. The news anchor people showed the clip and then sat there and made fun of the elderly woman. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe that they were sitting there mocking and making fun of this poor elderly woman. What happened to respecting your elders?? Nowadays it’s Memes on Facebook about our President. I’ll go on record and say, I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m not a Clinton supporter either. But these are people! And right now Trump is our President! I’m blown away that people think it’s fine to be extremely disrespectful about him, or on the flip side, extremely disrespectful about the the people who oppose him.

I am not saying that you need to agree with our current administration or with any other political leader. It is not disrespectful to point out things you see as mistakes or are just plain wrong. But it can be done respectfully. Mature adults having a conversation. I don’t think it’s wrong to protest, but it can be done respectfully, sticking to the issues instead of trying to tear down individual people.

Here’s the thing I’ve been trying to drum into my teenagers heads. When you act disrespectfully towards someone, all it’s doing it pointing out a lack of character in yourself. When you are willing to stoop to a level of name-calling and mocking, all you’ve done is made yourself a lesser person.

I’ll end with this. One of the things I love about my husband is that he treats all people equally. I am always made most aware of this when I see him dealing with homeless people. My husband works downtown and his construction sites are close to the homeless shelters. He runs into a lot of homeless people. I’ve seen him. He talks to them, shakes their hand, shares any spare change he has, looks them in the face, wishes them luck. On occasion he has reached out and helped some of them get a job, get help. Here’s the thing, he doesn’t believe that he has some kind of “ministry” to homeless people. They’re just people that he runs into on a regular basis, and he’s just treating them like normal people. Because they are. We all nod our heads and say, yes, it’s good to be kind and respectful to homeless people. Y’all, politicians are people too. We are welcome to dislike their political agendas, but we should not be welcome to malign them, make fun of them, and treat them as lower-level humans. And here’s why. If we want racism to end, if we want violence against women to end, if we want sex trafficking and slavery to end, then we have to get rid of the idea that some people are worthy of respect while others aren’t. We have to throw out the notion that there are different “levels” of people. As long as we feel like certain groups are open game to mockery and belittlement, we are never going to achieve true equality.

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