The Intersection of Politics & Religion

The way I see it, there’s a four-way stop at the intersection of politics and religion.

In order to move forward, everybody in every lane needs to come to a full and complete stop, look both left and right (double-check those blind spots) and proceed with caution…

Otherwise there’s bound to be a horrific crash.

(With casualties.)

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying the two shouldn’t intersect. I’m simply saying we should be cautious. I cherish the far-reaching rights our democracy has afforded us, including freedom of speech. We are a country of ideals and ideas. (And yes, a handful of idiots too. < Let’s just try to ignore them.) You have the freedom to believe what you like and speak your mind about it, anytime, anywhere. And so do I. And that’s a good thing.

But we need to be careful or we’re going to lose the graces of mutual respect and collective strength in all of our clamoring to be heard and heeded.

Once upon a time, common courtesy was…

Common.

*sigh*

In the heartbreaking aftermath of 9/11, we witnessed something truly extraordinary. The profound comfort and consolation our country found in this one (big) little gift:

Togetherness.

(Remember that?)

Somehow that solace succumbed to an outbreak of sputtering, spewing, ranting and reviling in the public square. Cable news became a round-the-clock purveyor of angry rhetoric, relentless accusations, and irresponsible/inflammatory/biased/bombastic reporting. And the emergence of social media provided a platform for all sorts of strife.

It’s an alarming cultural shift…

And it’s effectively eroding the “United” in our States.

There’s a rising tide of “us” versus “them,” rather than “we the people.” And it’s threatening to flood/drown/destroy America the beautiful… from sea to shining sea.

I know there are some folks that share my faith who struggle to accept those who have rejected it. (And as much as I’d love for everyone I know to experience the amazing grace and peace I’ve found in Jesus, I willingly acknowledge that each one gets to decide for themselves who He is and what they believe.) Many of those same folks can’t fathom how other people who do share their faith can disagree with their positions and politics. Christians on both sides of the political spectrum seem stunned that their brothers and sisters could possibly oppose what they perceive is the “right” way to think and vote.

And that’s when they/we/I tend to get reckless, run a red… and T-bone a big blue Buick.  Underneath all the wreckage, there’s a mangled mass of pride, prejudice and judgment.

Not saying our deeply-held convictions shouldn’t influence our political views. Not at all. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t be trying to manipulate our theology – or worse yet, scripture – to “fit” our political views. (Though some try mightily, manipulating God is not an option… Thankfully, He cannot and will not be crammed or contorted into a manmade container.)

Abraham Lincoln said this during the Civil War, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

And I daresay the only way to know what and where God’s side is… is to walk with Him.

Pray. Soak up His word. Follow His example. (If we really want to know WWJD, we can read His authorized biography in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.)

In order to align with God’s cause, we’ve got to abide by His Book. We have to search it, study it, ponder it, pray it and (here’s the hard part) live it. The whole of it… not just the “sliver” we select to serve our purpose, promote our cause, advance our agenda.

There’s a notable difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. One is subject to the whims of mere mortals. The other isn’t.

“Will Christians turn once again toward an approach that imposes its will on the rest of society? By doing so we would betray our founder, who resisted a temptation to authority over “all the kingdoms of the world,” and who died a martyr at the hands of a powerful state. In the words of Miroslav Volf, “Imposition stands starkly at odds with the basic character of the Christian faith, which is at its heart about self-giving—God’s self-giving and human self-giving—and not about self-imposing.” ~ Philip Yancey, Christians and Politics: Uneasy Partners

I think there’s some pretty clear directives in scripture about who’s supposed to do what around here. And I think some people (myself included, more often than I care to admit) think it’s their responsibility to do God’s job. But the older I get, the more I understand that I can’t possibly. (I don’t have enough foresight, strength or smarts. And besides that, I’m sorely lacking in mercy and patience.)

So I’ve decided to let God be Judge…

Jesus be Savior…

His Spirit be the One who corrects and re-directs.

(None of the above is in my job description.)

My mission is simply this:

Love God.

Love people.

(All of them.)

Whether we agree or not.

In middle age, I’m finally learning something I wish I’d learned a long time ago:

How to lovingly disagree.

Loving well doesn’t mean never getting angry. Jesus did… particularly in the face of hypocrisy, injustice and greed. At one point, He got so furious He flipped over tables in the temple and drove out hucksters trying to turn a profit in the name of religion. (Hmm. A handful of media-mogul/mega-church preachers might want to keep this in mind.)

Absolutely, there’s a time to fight for what you believe in.

But I’m convinced that some people want to fight about everything. They don’t choose their battles; they invite – or incite – conflict. (Not sure why. Attention-getting? Anger problem? Power grab?) They’re habitual pot-stirrers/troublemakers/flame-throwers… and that’s not doing anybody (including them) any good.

But here’s the beautiful thing. We don’t have to take the bait.

We can simply ignore the insults/irritation/idiocy and just keep swimming…

Surfing…

Scrolling.

And if we choose to engage in meaningful, constructive conversation – and why bother with anything else? – we need to…

Listen.

Really listen.

And learn the fine art of loving disagreement.

Or we’re going to do ourselves in.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ~ Jesus 

Listen, we don’t have to agree to stick together. We don’t have to share political views to care about one another. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue to stay united. We don’t even have to like each other… to be respectful and kind.

May we pledge ourselves to remaining…

Indivisible.

May we celebrate both our diversity and our unity.

To those with whom I vehemently disagree, I just want to say this (loud and clear):

I’m happy to be stuck with you!

Wendy

P.S. “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” ~ St. Augustine

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Survivor: Summer Break Edition

It’s officially, finally, happily SUMMERTIME! (Except on the East Coast where they prefer to keep children holed up in stuffy classrooms until nearly – literally – Independence Day. May God help those wild-eyed, desperate… teachers.)

Now I know it isn’t actually summer summer. It’s the tail end of spring. But school’s out, pools/parks/playgrounds are packed, grills are fired up and the ice cream truck is making its rounds.

I’ll take a raspberry Sno-Cone, please. I know, I know… artificial colors and corn syrup.

(That crunchy ice, though.)

Despite the fact that the same kids who’ve been whining and fussing and moaning and complaining about school have finally been released from the routines and rigors of formal education, it’ll likely only be about 10 days – give or take – before they start whining and fussing and moaning and complaining again.

Just days after the kids have emptied their cubbies/lockers/desks and ditched their backpacks/lunch sacks/socks/alarm clocks, parents will hear that dreaded refrain:

I’m bored.

‘Tis the season.

The wearisome, exasperating, sweltering season of sunblock, bug spray, Band Aids, and… inexplicable boredom.

Mornings seem to last seventeen hours… and afternoons stretch for days. By dinnertime, Quiet, Calm, Kind and Compliant have vacated the premises. And their wicked cousins Whiny, Messy, Loud and Unruly have settled in for the evening.

If not for babysitters, central air and Advil, very few parents would survive until TFDOS. (The First Day of School… cue the Hallelujah Chorus.)

Don’t get me wrong. Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can spark creativity, increase focus, forge friendships… and give parents good reason to assign extra chores. And while I always maintained that it wasn’t my job to be a summer camp counselor/cruise director/party planner, I didn’t want to be a total killjoy either.

Once upon a summertime, I made a list (both because I’m a compulsive list-maker and because summer always seemed to suck the creative/playful/fun right out of me) of indoor and outdoor boredom-busters. Essentially a “bucket list” of activities, adventures and outings for the preschool/primary set. When the natives got restless, I’d turn to my strategic summer survival guide for ideas – and relief. Here’s a sampling:

Backyard picnic. (Basically – lunch outside on a blanket). Amazing how a change of scenery magically distracts and delights. Bonus: no spills or crumbs on the kitchen floor.

Coloring or drawing contest… or a painting party (for those who like to live on the edge).

Wash the car, water the flowers or clean the bikes. (Who cares if the plants get watered or the car/bikes get cleaned?) Keep a stack of towels by the door.

Make your own pizza. Got mozzarella and tomato sauce? I used to buy pre-made crusts, but if you’ve got flour, olive oil and such, let little fingers knead dough for a homemade pie.

Catch fireflies. Give the kids a clear glass mayo/mason jar and send them on an early evening expedition in the backyard. 

Snail mail. Write a letter or send original artwork to the grandparents or the troops.

Dance party. Create a playlist of favorites… and let ’em dress up and wear themselves out!

Lemonade stand. Proceeds to a children’s charity. (Let your kids deliver their donation.)

Photo contest. Hand over the iPhone, choose a theme (colors, nature, shapes, favorite things) and let them take 10 photos. Print and display the best photos on the frig.

Sugar cookie decorating. (Not for the faint of heart, but a tablecloth or tarp makes the frosting and sprinkles cleanup a little less daunting.) 

Blanket fort or bedsheet teepee. (Climb inside and read some books by flashlight.)

Leaf prints and flower pressing. Easy, artsy, frame-worthy fun.

Ice cream-for-lunch day. (Make sure it’s a nice day, so they can “detox” from the sugar buzz outside.)

DIY project: homemade play-dough, slime, suncatchers or birdfeeders.

Busy bags. Filled with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, stickers, puzzles, glow sticks and bath toys.

Plenty of (free or inexpensive) places to go too:

Library (story time). Nature trail. Outdoor concert or theater performance. Factory tour. Farmer’s market. Fire station visit. Free movie or museum days. 

Pool or water park. Pack up those floaties, sunscreen, beach towels, pool toys (including those unwieldy giant noodles), ear plugs, nose plugs, swim diapers (for heaven’s and health inspectors’ sake, please do not forget these), snacks and water bottles, swim shoes, change of clothes… Never mind. Just stay home and turn on the hose. Everyone will still get wet. And hopefully wiped out, so… naps for all. Including the parent(s).

I wryly (and somewhat wistfully) refer to 1990-2005 as the nap-and-tuck years.

Partly because I felt like I was constantly counting the minutes ’til nap time… or wishing for bedtime tuck-in. And God-willing, a little peace. (And quiet.) But also because…

Is there anything sweeter than watching your little one sleep?

Honestly, back in those rough-and-tumble, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, feeding/ folding/sighing/crying, cleaning-up and carting-around, daunting and desperate days, I soaked up every single sweet, snuggly, blissful and lovely moment to be had… and stored them in my heart for safekeeping. (Those little graces helped me soldier on.)

But the real game-changer/life-saver/sanity-preserver of the nap-and-tuck years was this:

Putting MYSELF on time-out.

Not. Even. Kidding.

When my strength was sapped, morale low, bedtime still hours away… and I found myself utterly emptied of kindness, compassion, patience, gentleness and anything resembling self-restraint, I’d drag myself into our closet… and lock myself in… until my agitation and aggravation subsided. (Yes, I was sometimes on mommy-time-out for an hour. And only twice did a minor catastrophe take place in my absence.)

I remember the kids staring wide-eyed the first time I informed them I was giving myself a time-out. They were stunned into relative tranquility… or maybe they were terrified? Either way, it got eerily quiet all through the house and I made a break for the stairs.

Sometimes, you just need to step away… exhale (or cry)… pray… and regroup.

And remember that (in the words of my dear mother and other sages):

“This too shall pass.”

Those really hard days will fade into distant memory. The endless summers will be a blur. And believe it or not, you’ll fondly reminisce about this. All of it. (Even the sticky fingerprints.)

You know why?

Togetherness.

Because someday those little people are gonna grow up.

And leave you.

(Oh sure, they’ll probably come back from time-to-time – for holidays, home-cooking or a much-needed hug. And, trust me, your heart will soar when they do.)

But they will lead increasingly separate lives. Just as they should.

Just as you raised them to.

Yes, dear parents of littles, the days are excruciatingly long… but the years fly by.

And someday… you will miss this.

More than you can imagine.

Wendy

P.S. If your kiddos are lucky enough to have devoted grandparents, godparents, aunts or uncles who are nearby/helpful/involved, thank the good LORD… and them. Often.

 

The Mother Lode

Sunday is all about the mommas.

And that’s a good thing. Because if you’re a mom (young, old, or somewhere in the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, daunting, desperate middle) pretty much all the other days are about… well… everybody else.

*********************************************************************************** Now I realize that Mother’s Day isn’t happy for everyone. (Because… grief, infertility, abuse, abandonment, addiction, estrangement.) And I don’t want to just blow past all that pain and suffering, because I know some of you can’t either.

I see your bruised and broken hearts. I do. And I pray somehow, some way, sometime very soon God’s grace and peace will find you… and hold you. Close.

*************************************************************************************

Mother’s Day may feel like a hassle, chore, or cheesy Hallmark holiday to you. But if you’ve been gifted with a loving mother, Sunday is cause for celebration.

(Go ahead, make her day.)

In recognition of the most excellent (exhausting/exciting/ excruciating/exhilirating) job on earth, here’s my (loosely adapted and wildly re-imagined) take on the “best mom ever” as described in Proverbs 31:

Do you have any clue how tough it is to find a woman who’ll become an incredible partner and amazing momma? Young bucks, you’re far better off spending your time looking for her IRL, than scrolling/snapping/swiping night and day. Find and invest in a true gem, rather than a gadget, guitar, truck or car. You won’t regret it.

If you make a good match, you’ll have a lifelong lover, trustworthy advisor, fierce warrior and tender comforter by your side. She’ll bring blessing upon blessing. And one day, you’ll realize how rich you truly are. Because your woman will look out for you in ways you can’t imagine. She’ll make your house a home, your home a haven, and your heart happy.

Ever after.

She’ll be a helping hand, hard worker, wise investor, bargain hunter. Maybe a natural athlete or artist, savvy businesswoman, teacher or techie, master gardener or gourmet, gifted fashion designer, fisherwoman or physician, accomplished musician or mechanical engineer, brilliant architect/actuary/ author/astronaut. Or maybe she’ll simply make every day brighter, lighter, more festive and fun… because she’s a breath of fresh JOY. But whatever her talents and training, her teamwork will complement, hone and heighten yours. In short, she’ll make you a better man.

That’s the kind of woman you want by your side… for the adventure of a lifetime.

She’ll be captivating, no doubt. But it won’t be a bunch of razzle dazzle and designer dresses and photo filters and false eyelashes. (Charm is deceptive, aging is inevitable, and soap – and real life – have a way of washing away the razzle. And the dazzle too.) It’ll be true grit and amazing grace and a little bit of divine glory that shine in her… and enchant you.

A true beauty will be luminous and lovely… because her soul is.

She’ll be resourceful, resilient and relentlessly hopeful. Even in the daily grind.

Even in the worst of times.

She may be battle-weary but she’ll soldier on. She may be covered in spit-up and Paw Patrol stickers… but that won’t dim her radiant smile. She may be facing her fourth snow day in a row, but everybody’s supplied with warm flannel and hot chocolate and bedtime prayers.

And when the chips are down and the going gets rough, she’ll be tough, tender, true blue.

She’ll show compassion to friends and strangers alike. She’ll be generous and conscientious and confident and capable. So much so that at some point you might wonder if she really needs you at all. Don’t worry; she will. Because you’ll be the one holding her heart for safekeeping. (Careful there, pal.)

All the guys in the office, on the field, at the course will know and respect you. (And she’ll deserve a fair amount of credit for that.)

She’ll be kind, brave and wonder-full.

She’ll possess a sharp mind, a good sense of humor, and a wealth of sound advice. (If you’re smart, you’ll be humble enough to take it… and appreciate it.)

She’ll be a natural at nurturing and a pro at problem-solving. Again and again, you and your children will benefit from her foresight, fortitude, forgiveness and faith.

And you’ll give her props for all of the above. 

(‘Cause she deserves it.)

Pretty tall order. Truth be told, there isn’t a mother in the history of humankind who’s nailed it. Not even close. (So… moms, toss the inferiority complex. It’s not your color.)

But if your mom even vaguely resembles this maternal force of nature, you have every reason to be grateful. On Sunday and every other day of the year, too.

If you got a gem (by birth, adoption or divine intervention), you hit the mother lode.

And if you’ve yet to find that elusive, exquisite – and affordable – Mother’s Day gift, I’m here for you. Here’s what Mom really wants.

You’re welcome.

(And blessed.)

Wendy

 

Postscript to Z, M, J and T: It’s true what they say. A good woman is hard to find.

Look for her. Pray for her. Wait for her.

And in the meantime, get busy making yourself worthy of her.

(I trust you will.)

xoxo

 

 

The Only Question That Matters

In 100 years, you and I will both be dead.

And the only thing that’ll matter is our answer to this question:

Who do you say that I am?

(Jesus asking.)

He really wants to know what you think of him. (Well, technically, he already knows. But maybe you aren’t really sure?) Now before you quit reading because I’m getting all Jesus-freaky again… let’s switch places.

What are your big questions? Do you ever wonder…

Who am I?

What is the meaning of life? 

How did I get here? (And the followup: How do I get outta this mess?)

Where can I find a little peace?

Good questions. Hard questions. (Trick questions?)

Any idea where to get an answer key? Amazon sells some, but I’m not sure they’re what you’re looking for. If however, you like to do algebra in your free time, you’re all set.

Many years ago, I had the enormous joy (and occasional splitting headache) of teaching Sunday School to a giggly gaggle of first- and second-graders. Early on, I noticed they were eager to answer questions. I’d ask for responses, and a bunch of waving, wiggly hands would fly into the air. At my invitation, they’d gleefully pronounce their answers.

Love!

Jesus!

The Bible!

God/The Guy Upstairs/Art! (Slight misinterpretation of Our Father – who’s Art – in heaven.)

Me, me, me!

No matter my question, most of the time I got one of the above answers. I heard other guesses too:

The Bible!

A prince(ss)!

Pastor Clem!

Pray, pray, pray!

Every once in a while, a “creative problem-solver” would offer an alternative answer:

Holy buckets!

Grape juice and crackers! 

This little light of mine!

The zombie apocalypse!

And you know what? Most of those kiddos’ answers were. Spot. On. (Minus the zombies.)

Who am I?

A prince(ss)!

What are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. ~ Psalm 8:4-5 (CEB)

What is the meaning of life?

Love.

…And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. ~ Ephesians 3:19 (AMP)

How did I get here?

Me, me, me!

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. ~ Isaiah 53:6a (MSG)

How do I get outta this mess?

Jesus.

The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23 (NCV)

Where can I find a little peace?

Pray, pray, pray.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB)

Turns out the Bible is the answer key for…. well… pretty much everything.

Don’t believe me? Open it up and read it for yourself. (#justdoit)

Now, back to the original question…

Who do you say that he is?

(One of these days, you’re gonna have to answer that one.)

If it’s multiple-choice, you’ve got plenty of answers to choose from:

A. Brilliant teacher.

B. Religious zealot.

C. Obscure Jewish carpenter who happened to gain a lasting and faithful following. (Pretty impressive sans social media and cable news.)

D. None of the above.

E. All of the above.

Some people simply say he was a preacher or prophet. Some say a pretender… or pariah.

I’ve noticed that most people (including myself) tend to define him based on what they’ve heard about him rather than what he’s revealed – in scripture, in nature, in love.

Jesus is who he says he is:

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

(And no one comes to the Father except through him.)

He told people straight up that he’s the Son of God and the Son of man. The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. The bread of life and the light of the world. The Savior, Healer and Messiah.

He’s all that. (For real.)

And if you don’t believe him, you must think he’s a brazen liar or a total loon.

As I’ve gotten to know him better, finding him in the pages of scripture and talking to him in prayer and inviting him into my everyday, I’ve discovered he’s also…

My rescuer.

My confidante.

My favorite artist.

My freedom fighter.

My solace.

My trail guide.

My fallout shelter.

My lighthouse.

My life coach.

My joy bomb.

My hidden treasure.

Jesus is the brilliant writer who’s woven together hiStory and mine.

He’s the One who sees my every failure, flaw and frailty… and adores me still.

He’s the One who gave me life… and laid his down. (Not only for me, but you too.) He endured betrayal, wrongful conviction, taunting, torture. He suffered the worst imaginable death penalty surrounded by mockers and murderers. He bore the weight of every last sin, unbound hatred, darkest despair…

Bloody hell.

But perhaps the worst anguish was caused by the One he trusted most. Forsaken by his own Father, Jesus died utterly, excruciatingly alone.

Because love will sacrifice everything for its beloved.

And that’s who you are.

You know why there’s an epidemic of identity crises in our culture? Because we haven’t discovered our own backstory.

Who am I?

Here’s a clue: “I Am” shows me who I am.

And he explains everything else too.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else. ~ C.S. Lewis

Without God, things are pretty tough to explain.

Why is the earth’s orbit precisely timed and mapped to sustain life? Who thought up the Leafy Seadragon and Magnificent Frigatebird? How does the human eye work? What prevents all the clouds in the atmosphere from breaking open at once and flooding the entire planet? If there was a big bang, who triggered it?

How could mere mortals account for all the inexplicable coincidences and rapturous wonders of life? How could human beings possibly pull off all the death-defying rescues, stunning mercies, miraculous recoveries? How is it we get glimpses of amazing grace and transcendent glory and true love? Do we really think we can take credit for all that?

If we’re going to take credit for anything, we should probably start with our mistakes. And we’d do well to remember that there are villains in this story too. (Which is why God really shouldn’t get blamed for all that’s hateful/horrifying/heinous/hellish.)

Not interested in a theological debate here… I know I’m not smart enough to outwit the shrewd intellect of someone determined to disbelieve. In fact, I’m often surprised when people expect me to be able to articulate the marvelous mysteries of the Christian faith or the unfathomable wisdom of my God. If I – with my feeble mind and limited vocabulary – were able to oblige, my God would not be worthy of my awe, wonder and worship, would He?

I can’t explain him. I can’t even wrap my mind around a fragment of who he is. I just know… he is.

Savior. Son of God. Creator. King.

The one who loves me most and best.

It’s the one-question final exam of life. And your answer will resound for all eternity.

Who do you say that he is?

As for me, I have no doubt.

He is…

RISEN.

Wendy

P.S. Please don’t judge Jesus based on the people who claim to follow him… including me.  We fall (woefully) short. If you want to get to know the real Jesus, you can read a firsthand account of his life written by one of his closest friends here.

Especially Needed

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This one is for every momma and daddy chosen by God for special assignment.

The parents of the kids who live/learn/look different than most. (You know, the ones the playground bullies call misfits or freaks… or worse.)

The parents of students too often perceived as slow or stupid, deemed “unable” or “disabled” and marginalized in many of the fine arts, athletic and extracurricular opportunities afforded most kids. (Which makes them feel – nearly every day – less than.)

The parents of the ones targeted by verbal abusers, who hear the “R” word on the regular, who grow accustomed to sitting alone, staying quiet, staring at their shoes. The kids trying to survive school (days… years), sometimes without a single true friend.

This is for every mom who’s had to leave a public place mid-errand because her daughter – diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – had a full-scale meltdown due to impulse control problems, sensory overload or debilitating anxiety.

Every dad who spends hours shooting hoops with his son – diagnosed with an emotional and behavioral disorder – because none of the neighbor kids invite him to play. Ever.

Every mom who makes three different meals for her kids because they have different diagnoses – oral-motor difficulties and sensory processing disorder – and their tastes, texture responses and chew/swallow capabilities vary widely.

Every dad who spends hours each week helping his adult son – diagnosed with dyspraxia – shave his face because fine motor problems make that task nearly impossible. (Or a bloody mess.)

Every set of parents who has spent countless hours caring/comforting/correcting/ protecting/advocating/intervening/teaching/researching/scheduling and meeting with doctors, therapists, psychologists, special educators, social workers and tutors so their child can know his worth, find his way and reach his potential… or “just keep swimming” upstream in the mainstream.

This one’s for you, weary momma. (You too, sleep-deprived daddy.)

I see you. I get it. I’ve been there. Right where you’re standing. Or kneeling.

(Or curling up in a fetal position.)

On hard, holy ground.

And here’s what I want you to know, love.

You’re not alone.

And neither is your kid.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up… Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Thank God. Help is (on) the Way.

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. And here’s what all of us parents of autistic and developmentally-disabled kids wish everyone else knew:

Every kid has special needs. Our kids’ needs aren’t more or worse. They’re just different.

Our kiddos get hurt when your kiddos whisper, point, stare and/or steer clear of them. Encourage your kids to get to know ours. (Start here: Smile. Say hi. Sit nearby.)

Just because our kiddos struggle with social cues doesn’t mean they don’t want friends.  And it also doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to teasing, taunting and other mistreatment. No one should ever be called a “retard” or a “reject.”

Ever.

Our kids may not be able to do what your kids can do. But they are extraordinary too… and able. Able to connect. And care. Able to feel. And fill a place in this great big world that no one else ever could. Able to learn and laugh and love (BIG). Able to find joy in the simplest things. Able to reflect beauty and bravery with stunning clarity.

The bottom line is this:

A diagnosis or disability shouldn’t define a person.

Labels are for clothes, containers and canning jars… not people.

People are God’s masterpieces, that’s why.

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. ~ Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Exquisitely created by God. Made for good works… and meant for the good life.

All of us.

Not just those who sit still or speak clearly or happen to perform well on standardized tests.

Every body.

Our incredibly special kiddos want to be seen, not stared at. Heard, not hushed. Treasured, not tolerated.

If we want to be more like Jesus, we need to celebrate every kind of diversity. Developmental, intellectual, chromosomal, and cognitive too.

Because wonder comes in all kinds of packages.

(And God doesn’t make mistakes.)

“Learning differences” doesn’t simply mean hidden strengths or undervalued abilities. It means unique perspectives, priorities, vision, and passion.

A fresh outlook. Invaluable insight. Infinite worth.

Because God said so.

And just like He does, we ought to cherish our children. Celebrate the best in them (and bear the worst). Embrace the possibilities. Affirm all the divinely-appointed potential.

Let’s keep encouraging, uplifting, applauding.

Let’s give blessings and big hugs and high fives.

Let’s savor every step and stride. (Each one is a tiny-but-mighty miracle.)

Let’s treasure every triumph… and honor every tear. Like our Father does.

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8 (TLB)

Our God sees, knows, cares… comforts.

My son has a laundry list of diagnoses, but none of them mean anything to him. Or us. Zack is funny and fiercely loyal. Passionate and particular. Humble and kind.

Zack is adamant about fairness… but he’s also the first to forgive when he gets shafted or shorted. Zack is strong and healthy… but he cares deeply about the weak, the sick, the suffering. Zack knows the power of words. He feels (deeply) every blessing. And curse.

He’s a big fan of college sports, country music, cheeseburgers and naps. And he’s good at putting things together.

When he was little, it was 100-piece Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles. And now it’s electrical and industrial pre-fab assemblies. He’s good at this stuff. Really good. Come to think of it, he’s a lot like the LORD that way. Taking things in pieces… or falling apart… and putting them back together. (Like Father, like son.)

But you know what Zack really wants?

He wants his life to count. Wants to contribute and connect. With God and other people.

Despite his learning disabilities, Zack is a gifted teacher. He taught me how to be a mom. He guided me away from controlling tendencies and conditional love and toward faith and compassion. He tutored me in persistence and patience. (And yes, he tested it too.) Honestly… Zack has taught me more about mercy and goodness and good humor than any professor, pastor, teacher or counselor I’ve ever had.

To me, Zack isn’t “special needs.”

He’s especially needed.

In our family.

And in the world.

Z ~ I love you all the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Momma

P.S. If you or someone you love is a young adult who lives with the label “autistic” or “developmentally disabled” and wants to lose the label – and find an awesome community of friends and mentors, let me know. To learn more about our nonprofit, Seeds of Hope (which provides mentoring, vocational training and jobs for young adults like Zack), please visit our website.

Collateral Damages

How the hell did we get here?

(Actually, I think I just answered my own question. Hell led us here… and we followed.)

Yesterday, pending legislation which would have required medical practitioners to provide care for newborns (who survive an abortion attempt) was voted down.

Sorry, kid. Can’t help you. RIP.

A measure intended to prevent infanticide was blocked by 44 senators who voted against it. (I won’t list them here, but feel free to look them up, call them up and vote them out.)

Here is H.R. 4712 (the bill also known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act):

This bill amends the federal criminal code to require any health care practitioner who is present when a child is born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion to: (1) exercise the same degree of care as reasonably provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age, and (2) ensure that such child is immediately admitted to a hospital. The term “born alive” means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut. Also, a health care practitioner or other employee who has knowledge of a failure to comply with these requirements must immediately report such failure to an appropriate law enforcement agency. An individual who violates the provisions of this bill is subject to a criminal fine, up to five years in prison, or both. An individual who commits an overt act that kills a child born alive is subject to criminal prosecution for murder. The bill bars the criminal prosecution of a mother of a child born alive for conspiracy to violate these provisions, for being an accessory after the fact, or for concealment of felony. A woman who undergoes an abortion or attempted abortion may file a civil action for damages against an individual who violates this bill.

So… exactly what part of this is objectionable?

I welcome real reasons, thoughtful comments and legitimate objections. I truly do. (Thus the “comments” section upper left.)

But I recoil when I hear the tirades claiming this measure is an overt attempt to violate reproductive rights or privacy/protection/personal choices related to women’s healthcare. This has little or nothing to do with women’s rights or their bodies… because the person in question (the survivor) is living outside and apart from said woman.

This is not a conservative or liberal issue, people. This is an ethics issue.

We have anti-cruelty laws in place to protect voles, for heaven’s sake. (Rodents.)

Oh wait, I forgot… the loophole is (in the words of the governor of Virginia) an assurance that “the infant would be kept comfortable…”

While they (mother and doctor) decide whether or not (s)he should be left to die.

What have we become?

I’m no doctor, obviously. But 35 years ago, I began a rigorous pre-med program at Northwestern (which I later abandoned due to said rigor and an ongoing love affair with words). At the time, I planned to become a pediatrician but based on the later discovery of my revulsion at the sight of bodily fluids – blood, mucus, stomach contents, etc – I think I made the right choice. (Paper and pencils have never once triggered my gag reflex.) At some point in my studies, I stumbled across the Hippocratic Oath, part of which reads:

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.

Tread carefully indeed. A sobering reminder…

Above all, I must not play at God.

(Mic drop.)

Once upon a time, every physician took this solemn oath, swearing to uphold it for every patient, in every circumstance.

More and more med schools are abandoning that practice too. It’s outdated, they argue.

Apparently so.

Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” 

Lord, have mercy on our soul.

He knew we’d end up here.

You are headed for trouble! You say wrong is right, darkness is light, and bitter is sweet. You think you are clever and smart. And you are great at drinking and mixing drinks. But you are in for trouble. ~ Isaiah 5:20-22 (CEV)

This is what happens when we make ourselves gods and goddesses. We worship the self, drink to our shrewdness, celebrate our selfishness/satiation/sin. And in so doing, we make the whole world darker and more destitute.

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  – Mother Teresa

Yes, it is.

The littlest ones have become the collateral damage in our pursuit of happiness. Apparently now, it’s the newborns who survive a botched abortion and must suffer the consequences of their parents’ “choices.” Especially those babies deemed “defective.”

In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman wrote, Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” 

So, what messages are we sending, exactly? (With the ones we allow to live, I mean.)

It’s a haunting question.

One that kept me up last night.

One that ought to keep us (praying types) on our knees. And compel everyone who cares about human rights to vote accordingly. Because we’re on a very, very slippery slope.

In this country. In the world. In history.

Even so, God is good.

Even when a child dies at the hands of a doctor… by the choice of his/her own mother… His love cannot be terminated.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~ Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Whether welcomed into the world or ripped from it, every child is wrapped in love.

Because… little ones to Him belong.

And heaven belongs to them.

Wendy

P.S. A brilliant author and illustrator once wrote: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” (I couldn’t agree more, Dr. Seuss.)

 

 

 

 

Crazy Little Thing

Love is in the air.

It wafts through February with not-so-subtle notes of fresh-cut roses, chocolate truffles and pricey cologne.

(And occasionally, a hint of desperation.)

Valentine’s Day looms, casting its candlelit shadows and sultry melodies, rendering hopeless romantics everywhere… lovestruck.

Quick PSA: If you haven’t procured a token of affection for your sweetheart, you’ve got about 24 hours to bring the magic. And a giant teddy bear with big brown eyes and a red velvet bow is – sadly – devoid of magic… unless the object of your affection possesses the emotional maturity of a third-grader. (In which case you have have much bigger problems than finding the right Valentine’s Day gift.)

Since there seems to be a fair amount of confusion (and endless debate) about what love is and isn’tI thought I’d try to sift through some sentiments/platitudes/poems/prose and toss a few of the fantasies/fallacies/falsities/fables.

(In honor of Saint Valentine, of course.)

Love is never having to say you’re sorry. (Erich Segal)

I disagree. Humility and mercy are pretty essential to love’s survival. Say sorry, mean it, make amends… start again.

Love is blind. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Nope. True love gazes intently, sees clearly… and loves anyway.

Love is friendship set on fire. (Jeremy Taylor)

Don’t really think so. I get the gist but… fire burns down. Love builds up.

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. (William Shakespeare)

Smoke vanishes. Love sticks around.

Love is a game and true love is a trophy. (Rufus Wainwright)

If love is a game to you… you’re a player. (And a jerk.) Thank u, next.

Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same. (George R. R. Martin)

Wrong. Love shouldn’t be toxic. Ever. (If it is, run for your life.)

Love is a flower; you’ve got to let it grow. (John Lennon)

Sweet sentiment… lousy analogy. Flowers wilt. Love is ever green.

Love is a serious mental disease. (Plato)

No, psychosis is a serious mental disease. Love, on the other hand, heals.

Love is a battlefield. (Pat Benatar)

Wrong. Life is a battlefield. Love is a bunker.

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. (Robert Frost)

I’m thinking this sounds an awful lot like objectification. (And isn’t that what we tell our daughters to avoid at all costs? Thought so.) It’s devotion – not desire – that lasts.

Love is a reciprocal torture. (Marcel Proust)

Nope. Love doesn’t inflict pain. It endeavors to ease it.

Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably s&*#. (Smart, Alec.)

Actually, I have no idea who said this. (I just really wanted to attribute one of these quotes to the aforementioned fictional character.)

While these sayings are oft-quoted (and make catchy memes), none of the above is actually, well, true.

And I daresay it’s not what love is that matters most. It’s what love does.

Love rescues.

Love rights wrongs.

Love banishes fear.

Love bears the worst… and believes the best.

Love never double-crosses or quits or falters or fails.

Love lasts. Forever and ever. Amen.

That’s real love. And there’s only one like that.

God’s.

(But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

God’s love is pure… profound… perfect.

And nothing in the entire universe can stop it.

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8:38-39, TLB)

It’s utterly indestructible, startlingly tender.

It can be shunned, mocked, betrayed, rejected or reviled… and it isn’t deflected, deterred or destroyed. In fact, it isn’t dimmed or diminished in the slightest.

In love, God fixes His adoring gaze on us – even at our ugliest and worst. (Which, let’s be honest, is often far more unsightly than what we allow to seep out into the public eye.)

Love refuses to be spurned. It simply… waits.

It doesn’t flinch in the face of rejection or rage. (Or even turn away.)

Because with God, there’s no such thing as “irreconcilable differences.”

In fact, there are no conditions for God’s love whatsoever… and no reciprocation necessary.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Who could possibly love like that?

Not a single soul on this spinning blue ball has the grace and guts to love that way.

Love is… and love does…

because…

I AM.

Love isn’t just God’s idea. It’s His very nature. It’s who He was, who He is… and who He will always be.

And since He’s the inventor of love, He’s the one who gets to decide what defines and distinguishes it from all of its imitators: attraction, affection, camaraderie, chemistry, compatibility, flattery, obsession, esteem, loyalty, lust. It isn’t just sweet talk. It’s truth. And it’s true blue.

He shows us the essence of love by example.

Quite simply, He lives it.

(In epic proportions.)

Who He is… is what LOVE is:

Incredibly patient, exceedingly gentle, consistently kind. Strong and steady and wholly unselfish. Refreshing, resilient, restorative, relentless.

God lives and breathes love. And let His only Son die to prove it.

Because love will sacrifice everything for its beloved.

Jesus bore the shame and blame and excruciating pain, and He did it for those who were inflicting it. (You and me and all the rest of humankind.) He did it with no guarantee that we’d ever appreciate – or even acknowledge – His incomprehensible sacrifice. He did it, knowing we might never return His affection and adoration. (Or pass it on.)

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

God is love. (1 John 4:7-16, The Message)

Turns out that crazy little thing called love is… a crazy big thing.

The biggest – and best – thing ever.

Wendy

P.S. Be(Love)d.

 

Vitamin Sea

*Isak Dinesen was right.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

I recently tested this theory, and the results were positively conclusive.

A tough workout, a good cry, a long soak in the sea… Chances are, one’s the remedy for what ails you (and me).

(Given the choice, I’ll take the beach. But you Crossfit freaks… You do you.)

There’s just something about the sea. It’s at once soothing and spellbinding. Its beauty hypnotizes and heals. Tides rise and fall, and the waves change color with the changing skies. The surface is windswept, wild. The ocean roars, unleashing its fury… and then, after a time, it’s lulled once again into reverent calm.

Dazzling like diamonds.

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Below the surface, the sea teems with the most exotic creatures: sea urchins and sea turtles, anemones and octopi, oysters and eels, jellyfish and starfish and humpbacks and hammerheads. Fish shaped like lions and horses and spiders and bats. . . and patterned like leopards and tigers and zebras. Oh my!

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans) swimming over reef, 20 feet deep, Red Sea

(In case anyone’s wondering, snorkeling in Belize is indeed on my bucket list. And I’d gladly travel this afternoon, since we’re currently enduring subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills in the Midwest. And – adding insult to injury – we just got a fresh dump of snow. Anybody want to share their miles? Anyone? Buehler?)

Nearly anywhere in the world, a walk along the seashore will bestow exquisite gifts.

Reverie.

Reflection.

Rumination.

Revelation.

Our hopes crest and crash like waves, only to rise again… lifted by some hidden grace.

The water beckons and few can resist. We wade in, stepping gingerly, tasting sea spray.

Out of the blue, a rogue wave tosses us headlong. We scramble to find our footing, regain balance, break the surface… breathe.

And occasionally we get stung. (Who knew there was something lurking beneath the surface, tentacles laced with poison?)

The sea mirrors life itself…

Ebb and flow. Tumult and tranquility.

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It whispers its backstory.

A Spirit hovers. The waters obey. They are drawn, poured, gathered, stilled.

Vibrant with life. Voicing love divine.

Vast and deep.

Something about the sea summons wonder and worship.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky…

(Lyrics from “The Love of God” by MercyMe.)

Yes, it’s true.

The breadth and beauty of the sea reflect a loving and brilliant Artist, Author, Botanist, Biologist, Chemist…Creator.

And may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.

And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.

~ Ephesians 3:18-19 (TLB)

The sea is magnificent and a little mysterious.  It is powerful, unpredictable, sublime and serene all at once.  It invites us to glimpse the glory of the One who first imagined it.

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In his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis unveils Almighty God in the character of Aslan, the lion king of an otherworldly place called Narnia. A young girl named Lucy inquires about meeting Aslan but worries that he might not be safe, and a native Narnian responds this way:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is good. Like the ocean He created. Good, but not always safe. Worthy of our fear and awe.  Alluring… and sometimes angry. Inviting us to great adventure and gifting us with hidden treasure. Breathtaking and captivating and utterly terrifying too. Full of countless secrets yet undiscovered.

The ocean beckons. Wander, wade, soak, splash. Stroll along the shore. Walk and talk with the One who cups the waters… and calms the storms.

Let the sea spray work wonders.

Let the Healer cure what ails you.

Let the skies proclaim God’s glory.

Stay salty, friends. (It’s good for you… body and soul.)

Wendy

P.S. If – like me – you’re presently suffering a miserably cold, dreary winter in some landlocked northern state, I highly recommend you take in the surfcam views of places like Perth, Portofino, Palawan, or Phuket. Click here or there to catch some waves. (You’re welcome.)

 

*Isak Dinesen is the pen name for Karen Blixen, who wrote (and lived) Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. From now on, I will be using the pen name Vivienne Cross. Just FYI.

 

Yes I Am

White and privileged, that is.

And frankly I’m dismayed that some attempt to deny it. They fuss and carry on, claiming “white privilege” doesn’t exist.

“White privilege” is a lot like it sounds:

Being white and being privileged. I am what I am. And denying it is absurd. (And bordering on delusional.)

White.

Lily white. That’s me.

To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”

Fair-skinned with a smattering of freckles and a tendency to burn in direct sunlight.

Privileged.

Yep, that too. I grew up and got my degree in the comfort and security of upper-middle-class suburbia. Intact family. Good education. Quality healthcare. Resources galore.

The fact is, so many of us in this nation are privileged. In some cases (to some degree) because of whiteness; in other cases, perhaps not.

Let me be clear.

Being white and privileged doesn’t mean your life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you never had to strive/strain/struggle. It doesn’t mean you didn’t have to make tough decisions or be resilient/relentless to attain certain things. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had to work hard/smart/long to pay your bills or sacrifice mightily to get where you wanted to go. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve never been a victim of misjudgment, mistreatment, crime or calamity. It simply means ethnicity hasn’t been one of your hurdles.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.” (Not sure who said this, but… #realitycheck.)

My whiteness automatically places me in the majority in the U.S. And in many cases, it identifies me with the “people in charge” around here. Can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure my whiteness makes me less likely to be viewed with discomfort, fear, or suspicion, at least by the rest of the majority. (I daresay there’s less presumption when you walk around being white… than any other color. Safety in numbers.)

And while pride and prejudice aren’t strictly white “diseases,” they still run rampant in some circles.

Ugh.

No one is better than anyone else, period. (Let alone because of color.)

For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

Sadly though, there’s a lingering air of superiority in a few of the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhoods I’ve visited. I know I’m not the only one that can smell that stale stink… Can we open the proverbial windows and let in some fresh air, for heaven’s sake?

Because a superiority complex is ugly… and ungodly.

As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

See?

And on the heels of superiority come its partners in crime and co-conspirators:

Suppression. Oppression. Hate.

(And when hate happens, things get ugly… quickly.)

As far as I can tell we’re all descended from the same original bloodline. So in essence, that means there’s only one race:

The human one.

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(And btw, can we please try to keep the “kind” in humankind?)

How about we start here? Take a few steps outside our comfort zone. Befriend someone outside our demographic. Listen, if my only friends were white, middle-aged, married, Midwestern, mom-types (the list could go on, narrowing my circle based on identity politics and personal preferences)… my life would be so sad and small. And frankly, the more I spend time with people who – at first glance – seem vastly different from me, the more I realize how much we have in common. (When I make a frittata, it doesn’t matter whether I use brown eggs or white ones. Breakfast is fantastic either way. Because what’s inside the shell is… the same.)

So, what if we just quit labelling our neighbors and start loving them?

For real.

Instead of pot-stirrers, let’s be peacemakers.

Listening to each others’ stories and learning from them. Welcoming our neighbors – black and white and every color in between – into our lives, homes, hearts.

Instead of “us” and “them” – let’s be… we.

Collectively, we’ve got to resist the temptation (however weak or strong) to  judge/label/belittle/demean someone simply because their complexion (or community) is a shade different than our own.

I think Benjamin Watson said it best: “Racism is not a skin problem. It’s a sin problem.”

Discrimination = sin. Disdain = sin. Divisiveness = sin.

Yes, we’re all sinners. You, me, every human being that’s ever been born. But you know what I want to be when I grow up?

Revolutionary.

A revolutionary for love.

*Full disclosure: In a previous draft, I used the word “colorblind.” My intent was to convey impartiality, fairness, justice… but instead, I unknowingly “erased” the uniqueness and value of all of our God-given beauty and diversity. My sincerest apologies to those whom I offended. (And many thanks to a dear friend who turned me on to the phrase “revolutionary for love.” I dig it. And I’m aiming for just that.)

I think that was Dr. King’s dream for all of us. To be love revolutionaries. To look at character instead of color. To see aspirations not appearances. To treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of skin tone or eye color or body type. Regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic or immigration status, sexual orientation, genetic differentiation, diagnosis or disability.

Fair and impartial treatment. Common decency.

That’s what I understand social justice to mean.

Dr. King was a preacher and an activist. The Bible was his instruction manual. (Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.) He believed it and taught it and lived it. He wasn’t flawless, but he was forgiven. He wasn’t perfect… but he was prophetic. He wasn’t fearless… but he was free.

Free at last. 

The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave a speech at a church in Memphis, and he talked about things that would/could/should change the world right before his – and our – eyes. He taught scripture. He preached fairness and forgiveness. He promoted radical humility:

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness, he said.

He spent a good deal of time that evening re-telling Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan – who risked life and limb to aid a stranger in need, when others (“religious men”) would not. He talked about sacrificial kindness and compassion and what might hinder it.

Busyness, bigotry, “blindness” to the victim’s plight.

Or perhaps…

Fear.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about… 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight.

And that’s the question before us still.

Are we willing to show sacrificial kindness and compassion to others – black, brown, fair or freckled? Or are we going to let our own fears or busyness or bigotry or “blindness” to others’ needs get in the way of love and mercy?

We were put here to help. Not simply help ourselves to whatever we can grab. But how willing are we to use whatever resources (and yes, privileges) we possess for the good of others? Even if it’s inconvenient. Or costly. Or difficult. Or downright dangerous.

Dr. King didn’t hesitate. He just did what God told him to do:

Justice.

Mercy.

Humility.

( ^ See Micah 6:8.)

Because he knew the eventual (eternal) outcome:

Glory.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the LORD!

The man who spoke those words the night before he was murdered knew that his dream and his mission could cost him his life. But he was undeterred and unafraid. This was a man willing to practice what he preached. And what Jesus lived (and died) to demonstrate…

Dangerous unselfishness.

Hello, my name is Wendy. I’m white and privileged and determined to live dangerously. (Honoring Dr. King… by following his King.)

Chasing the dream,

Wendy

P.S. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 90th birthday, and I have no doubt the celebration is heavenly. (Jesus prepared the place.) The Promised Land has plenty of room… and everyone’s welcome. Join us?

 

That’s a Wrap

Only 362 days ’til Christmas!

That’s right, friends. Christmas Past has passed. And Christmas Future is way out there. But the Christmas Present remains.

Steady. Strong. Faithful. Gentle. True. Always true.

Immanuel… God with us.

His presence is the present. And it never gets lost or broken or outdated or recalled. It doesn’t dissipate, won’t depreciate, and can’t be destroyed.

Of all the promises God has made to us, the guarantee of His ever-presence is the one I cling to most. Whether I can sense Him or not, He’s near. Never distant or disinterested. He has proven Himself to be intensely personal, endlessly forgiving and full of surprises. (The good kind: joy, adventure, humor… and one day, HEAVEN.)

You surround me – front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. 

Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean – even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:5-10 (CEB)

The gift of Christmas means we never, ever have to be alone.

Behold… and be held.

…But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” ~ Luke 2:10-11 (TLB)

That wonder-filled, worldwide birthday extravaganza we just celebrated? It’s for Him. The Savior/Messiah/Lord. The babe in the manger.

We wrap our gifts because God wrapped His.

And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” ~ Luke 2:12-14 (NLT)

The gift – God’s one and only Son – swaddled and given to us.

His birth signaled the beginning of the end for all that’s wrong in our world: war and poverty, pride and prejudice, sin and sickness, hate and hopelessness. And death itself.

The gift of Jesus is the gift of a lifetime… and forever after.

It’s a gift that calls for an all-out, everybody’s-in(vited), wildly-celebrated, centuries-long, universally-propitious holiday!

Extra merry, if you please.

And presents too… under the tree, inside a stocking, tossed on the porch or stuffed in a mailbox. (I hope St. Nick gave naps and PTO to all those weary postal workers. Bless them.)

One of my son’s favorite presents this year was a heated blanket (a Chanukah gift from his Auntie Jo). As it turns out, that present is a brilliant metaphor for God’s gift of Jesus, who surrounds and protects us… and gives our lives weight and warmth.

Jesus is – in every sense of the word – our covering.

He who lives in the safe place of the Most High will be in the shadow of the All-powerful.  I will say to the Lord, “You are my safe and strong place, my God, in Whom I trust…” He will cover you with His wings. And under His wings you will be safe. He is faithful like a safe-covering and a strong wall. ~ Psalm 91:1-2, 4 (NLV)

Maybe that’s why we call Him Comforter.

That newborn baby – born to an unwed mother in a smelly stable – proved to be the mightiest and most storied King, Creator, Counselor (and yes, Comforter) of all.

A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us. He will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 (NCV)

He covers us and consoles us. His presence wraps around and warms us from within. Gentle, soothing, serene.

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)

The help and comfort He offers are lifesaving… and everlasting. Jesus didn’t come to pat us on the back, give us a pep talk and watch us march to our deaths. He came to rescue and resuscitate us… and redeem all we were bound to lose. He lived and died, all for us.

As C.S. Lewis observed:

“Jesus came not to make bad people good but to make dead people live.”

The gift of Jesus is life.

Invite Jesus to wrap you up in His mercy. A blanket of forgiveness and freedom. Freedom from fear, shame, loneliness, pain… and whatever else litters your past (mine too).

The gift of Jesus is love.

Invite Him to drape you in His tender loving care. The kind of love that means you never need to feel alone, afraid, ashamed or abandoned.

The gift of Jesus is joy.

Invite Him to tuck you into the sweet serenity and bountiful blessings of His presence. When Jesus is near, there’s no lack of rest or refreshment. No shortage of grace or peace.

The Christmas Presence is yours for the asking.

Unwrap… and enjoy.

Wendy

P.S. Wishing you a comfy, cozy, warm and wonder-filled New Year!