Archive | January 2013

Sitting Still at Zero

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Abba Father,
You are the I AM, the God of Creation, the Giver of Life and the Author of our lives!  You know each breath we take, each scar we bear, each tear we shed.  You understand what we need before we do and wait as we flounder around before recognizing it ourselves and asking for the blessing You have ready for us.  Heavenly Father grant me time in Your presence this morning.

It seems like the world has gone crazy Lord.  Every news cast is filled with the violence and pain mankind inflicts upon one another.  Fear causes many, self included, to want to hide away from the world.  Perhaps if I can keep my family and I off the radar I can keep us safe? 

Yet Your word tells me I am not to have a spirit of fear, that perfect love casts out all fear and that You are always with me.  You also gave me instructions to GO OUT INTO THE WORLD, sharing You and Your love, the gift You gave upon a cross so that WE, that I might spend eternity in Your presence. 

It’s hard Lord, but You know that.  You knew that when You first charged Your believers to GO.  I cannot do anything to turn the darkness into light in this world Lord but shine Your light, allow it to shine through me. 

I am here Lord, ready to go but sitting at zero.  I plea Your instructions, send me Lord where You can use me to shed Your message, Your light to those ready for Your seeds of truth to be sown.

I love You Lord!  I praise You Lord!  To You be all honor and glory!  You are awesome in all places Mighty Father!

Amen

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…a time to laugh…

Before reading this please know that if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, grief and any number of other difficulties in life that seeking professional help is not only advisable it is most likely necessary.  I do not advocate EVER using tools such as laughter, praise and prayer alone to help ease the burdens of depression and other such illnesses.  There is NO SHAME in allowing God to use all His resources to help you.

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“…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes 3:4 (N.I.V.)

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”  Proverbs 15:30 (N.I.V.)

The dearest friend I could ever have and I have been separated by hundreds of miles since 1998.  During the times we have those “catch up conversations” it is a time of sharing the troubles of our lives but also the joys.  Those reunions are seasoned with love, enduring friendship, caring, understanding, compassion and a healthy sprinkling of laughter.  We giggle (yes, grown women can giggle) and that compassionate laughter of recognizing the challenges of our own growing up (yes, we are all still maturing) and our surviving.

We laugh at our reactions to the events that have occurred in our families.  (Oh the stories our families give us to share!) We laugh at what we were thinking at the time and how it seemed perfectly acceptable then, but which we have to acknowledge now, were impractical or way off base.

Yesterday as we hung up from just such a conversation I realized that one of the things I value and love most about Pattie and the friendship we share, is that we can be so honest with one another and laugh at ourselves through the eyes of the other.  We are both “serious” people (well, most of the time) but together we always manage to find reasons to laugh!

The laughter we shared yesterday was much-needed by me and I don’t have a doubt Pattie as well.  We are both in stages of our lives where our children are rapidly growing up, our husbands are knee-deep in their careers and we are transitioning ourselves into new stages of life, aging (oh the horror of that realization) and new self-realizations.

Laughter sometimes has to be sought in life.  If I allowed myself I could sit and drown in the tears I shed in mourning the loss of the woman I was…mourn the loss of my left leg, my job, my independence…and I confess there are days, sometimes stretches of days, that I do.  I sob.  I hide away.  I MOURN, I grieve and I wrestle with God over the losses, the changes, what I want, who I was and who I am becoming.  But, no matter how hard, I do try to find something positive, I try to allow Abba Father to nurture the flame of hope that my relationship with Him fuels.  Laughter is often a huge part of that.

My challenge to you today dear reader, no matter what you’re going through is to find some reason to laugh!

MC900434743If you need help rediscovering joy then –

  • Spend some time with young children as they play.
  • Call an old friend and catch-up, share your sorrows but try to find some joy to share as well.
  • Put on a CD you love with some upbeat music and dance!
  • Crank up the stereo in the house or car and sing to an audience of one!
  • Entice your child to share some karaoke minutes with you and laugh at both of you as you sing and dance together!
  • Look at some humorous stuff on the internet.
  • Pop in a funny DVD and lose yourself in the comedy.
  • Watch puppies play.
  • Pull out your child’s joke book, the one they read to you and you moan at the bad puns and weak punch lines and read it with the mindset of your child.
  • Sit down with someone for coffee who has a cheerful outlook on life and just bask in their being who they are for they are people we need in this world for just this purpose among others.

Yes, I know it’s hard!  Yes, for some of you I know what I’m asking seems impossible!  Believe me I KNOW!

  • I KNOW life can bring you to a place that you feel as if you are down for the count and just can’t get up again!
  • I KNOW depression, anxiety, fear and a multitude of other feelings and things can immobilize us!  I KNOW my friend, I know.
  • I KNOW depression’s heavy blanket can suffocate!
  • I KNOW addictions, any addiction, erodes your energy, it takes all of you to fight it.
  • I KNOW grief is overwhelming your soul!
  • I KNOW you hear that countdown and giving up would be easier, it would be a relief but DON’T GIVE UP!  Do this, it won’t make all the ugly go away, I know, but it will help your heart, your spirit to survive.
  • Trust me, I KNOW!  It’s not a magical phrase or giggle that will erase whatever it is you’re surviving but IT CAN HELP you cope!

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“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”  Proverbs 15:13 (N.I.V.)

-Faye

P.S. I know one more thing, someone is reading this today and tears are pooling in your eyes, grief is tearing at your soul and I want you to know, I pray for you even as I finish up typing this last sentence.  God bless!

Car Wash Prayer

 

Two minutes of solitude.  Two minutes of isolation.  Two minutes of being shielded from all eyes.  Two minutes of good smelling detergent and wax and a car clean again.  Joy! Yes, the car wash.

We have a favorite automatic car wash and for reasons that are difficult to explain just getting to go through it is a time of rejoicing. A two minute celebration, a mini-party breaks out inside our car, we are curiously happy.

Just waiting in line fills us with anticipation, excited to be readying to have our car washed. From the moment the green light bids us to enter we seem to hold our breath for the part we love most. First though there is the preparation for those most cherished moments…the undercarriage is sprayed, tires prepared, car misted down. Stronger jets of water loosen dirt and grime and the white soap is applied in a foamy blanket. Flapping non-bristle brushes slap at the lower torso of the car body removing caked dirt and roadway deposits. Harder storm like waters pour over the car, running down the car in rivers of dirty waters, freeing the cars exterior of the clingy evidence of life’s journeys.

Inside our vehicle we are eager for the cleaning to occur, to be over. It is only then when the joyful part of the carwash happens. The light flashes on the progress menu signaling that the poly triple wax is at last going to be applied to the car’s exterior.

With the first yellow, blue and pink streaks of polywax shoot like eruptions onto the vehicle we begin to chant, “Ice cream on the car! Ice cream on the car!”

Our arms wave, our joy is evident as we party for 15-20 seconds through this cycle of the car wash. “Ice cream on the car! Ice cream on the car!”. Then the final rinse, we move to the blow dryers and feel the powerful blasts as water beads and is blown away.

A simple, ordinary chore becomes a celebration. A never-ending anticipation of something amazing lifts our burdens for a brief two minutes. Lovely! Amazing!

Prayer is like the car wash. Yes, it’s true. Your heart approachs the throne of God, the light of Jesus bids you to come. The perfume of the cleansing soap greets your senses, the initial waters prepare you for the onslaught of washing waters. Prayer beckons you to cleanse your heart and soul.

Like the brushes that slap the dirtier, more grimy roadway gunk away so is the confession of your soul. Then like the flow of forgiving rivers of love your sins are washed away beneath the innocent blood of Jesus Christ.

Once clean you have a layer of protection, preparation and praise to rejoice in as mats of joy fill your soul. The tears on your face are dried beneath the strengthing of a healing wind. Your soul exits, ready for the journey again.

Finally the heart and soul are returned to its functional state of existence. Your heart and soul are ready for your mission to share Jesus now, ready for life’s roads again.

Joy remains, the perfume of God’s love, forgiveness and mercy waft around you, “Not my will but thine O Lord, not my will but Thine!” echoes in your soul. The soulwash is complete until again you bring yourself in from a renewed desire for a touch from God Himself.

-Faye

Fast Food Fodder for Babeling Planks

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As I was working on this particular blog this morning my husband came in and began to talk about a Facebook posting made by a mutual friend.  Sarah** had posted on Facebook that sometimes there were posts from people who made her want to puke.  She didn’t say why or whose but I immediately felt such relief that there was someone who had the same feeling I did about some posts that I jumped on her bandwagon without even knowing which ones she meant.  Confession, I had to go back and delete my response to her post.

The conversation between my husband and I continued with me admitting I had responded to Sarah’s post before thinking much about it.  Feeling justified in my response because I struggle with particular kinds of posts even though Sarah hadn’t mentioned any particular kind herself.  My husband however, pointed out that shouldn’t we be uplifting one another, not condemning them?  OUCH!  Divine intervention considering what I was writing about today.

MM900283044If there is nothing else that modern life supplies us with it is fast food fodder for jokes, judgment and jesting.  Our egotistical “it can’t happen to me (or mine)” mindset rears its head quickly.  Our fingers can’t seem to stop themselves from trashing someone via all the many electronic communication forums at our fingertips.

You know the fodder I’m talking about.  The same things that we all have condemned in people for centuries are now wide open to our “two cents worth” in a far more public arena.  The unwed and pregnant teenager, the son arrested for D.U.I., the spouse who has an affair, the spouse cheated on, the public servant who steals our money, or the public official who accepts bribes, the sports hero who has domestic violence problems or a girlfriend who doesn’t exist.

“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:6b-11***

Yes it is plain our technology and electronic formats for keeping in touch come with a great number of positive and negative attributes.  The cutting edge of the sword is that we are quick to rush to judgment, proclaim that verdict and publicly announce it.*

Just because we can exercise our right to Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean we should.  Just as because we can do a lot of thingsMP900316436 that are legally protected and “approved” by society doesn’t mean we should do them.  It may be your right to do something, it may not be to your benefit or anyone else’s for you to exercise that right.  I have the right to write what I want to, including quick and profitable immoral things.  I choose NOT to exercise my right in that arena.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”  Romans 14:19-23

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

 Romans 12:1-3

What happens when we bash the latest celebrity for their D.U.I., domestic issues, their downfall from the top, or the same things in our neighbors?  The very thing we begin condemning –such as sex outside of marriage – becomes the “norm” not the exception.  How?  Because after a while it is such an everyday occurrence we no longer think of it as unusual.

We’ve gone from a society that so heartlessly condemned unwed mothers, forcing them to hide away, raise their children as their younger brother or sister, give up their children for adoption or abort them illegally to the other far extreme when a pregnancy outside of marriage is barely is a blip on the radar and neither is the aborting of a life than is inconvenient to our own.  (Unless of course you are a public figure and it serves your opponent to tout that by this occurrence in your family for it proves you are immoral and unfit for public service.)  But before I can condemn a young woman who becomes pregnant outside of marriage I have to think twice, for there but by the grace of God go I.

Everyone has sin in their life, EVERYONE and at the top of that list is my own name.  I make decisions that are disgraceful to me, my family and above all else, the God I have promised to serve.  And, I am as guilty as anyone else for publicly condemning people I perceive as being in the wrong such as the mayor convicted of accepting bribes to assure certain companies receive big money contracts for example or the Facebook posts of those whose lives seem too good to be true.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

 I John 1:8

MP900433157I do think we show no mercy, no compassion, no understanding when the event, happening or relationship in another’s life is one we are so sure we’d see as a fake, set-up, or giving into a weakness we could easily conquer.  In the lives of public figures, we can argue that they accept the “glass bowl” when they accept the public office or spotlight for they must also accept the scrutiny of the public.  But in the lives of our neighbors what argument can we present in our defense when we condemn them?

People with evil intentions can deliberately exploit a person’s vulnerabilities, those secret needs we attempt to hide, the scars over wounds that will never quite heal – we all want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated.  It’s far easier to fall prey to such a trap than we want to acknowledge to ourselves.  Even for people who have “it all” in our viewpoint from the stands.

“The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”

Genesis 8:21

Firmly rooted in my understanding of myself is the knowledge that in the right circumstances I have the capacity to do great harm to myself or other people.  I have vulnerabilities that if exploited open me up to the evil intentions of other people.  There, but by the grace of God, go I.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

 I Corinthians 15:10

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

 Hebrews 3:13

So I’m going to try really hard to be more of an encourager than one who condemns.  When I see someone who has fallen I want to be someone who lifts them up, not stomps them down.  Come to think of it, didn’t Jesus speak on this?

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Luke 6:37-42

Abba Father, please, help me see the plank in my eye.  Help me love the sinner yet not the sin.  Help me beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing without losing all trust in my fellow-man.  Teach me to discern a person’s spirit, love them anyway, and reach out to help them without falling in the pit myself.  The power of Satan is strong Lord and I am weak.  Please be my protection, shield and strength.  Help me not to condemn but encourage.  Help me use the amazing technology you’ve allowed man to develop for Your edification, Your glory not to sin. – Amen

Faye

*August 1, 2011.

**Name changed to protect privacy.

***All scripture from the New International translation of the scriptures.

Defined in the Last Row

1000318841Happily settled in the first desk of the first row in front of the teacher’s desk, with her permission, on the first day of school I was alive with excitement.  I could barely contain my joy.  That all changed when Cheryl Samson* walked in with her mother and stopped in front of me announcing she wanted my desk.  Mama not only forced me to move to the last desk in the last row in the corner but also to apologize for having taking Cheryl’s seat.  I was defined in this moment as being unworthy to sit up front, I belonged in the far corner. 

A spark of joy returned soon when I was called to the teacher’s desk for her to see how many words or letters of the alphabet I could recognize.  Happily I told her that I already knew how to read, my mother had taught me!  I rattled off the titles of the books I had read already, the majority of the Bobbsey Twin and Donna Parker series as well as Huckleberry Finn.  Not believing me she handed me the Dick and Jane reader and told me to read out loud.  After I read several pages my teacher stopped me. 

“Your mother,” she told me, “has obviously taught you not to read but to memorize books.  You’ll have to learn again.”  Cheryl snickered MC900439405behind me.  “Memorizing the words on the pages doesn’t mean you can actually read!” the teacher said as I quickly went back to my seat.  I had never known Dick and Jane existed until a few minutes ago.  I was defined in these moments as unintelligent, misinformed and as a liar. 

At home, annoyed by my why questions about Cheryl and the desk and having to relearn to read, my mother mumbled as she peeled potatoes. Finally she sent me to my room saying, “People like us aren’t like people like her.”

“People like us”?  Why were we “people like us”?  What did Mama mean?   I was defined now as less important, belonging to some “people like us” that I didn’t understand.

Homecoming at school brought the opportunity to be the First Grade Homecoming Princess.  All I had to do was enter, sell baked goods and juice during recess for three days and collect as much money as possible from my family.  If I collected and earned the most money I could be the Princess.  I earned myself first runner-up.  Cheryl won the Princess title.

MC900432659I was pleased somewhat to be the runner-up.  I would still get to be part of the Homecoming Court and walk out onto the field at the football game half-time.  Only I blew that by trying to mimic Cheryl and failed miserably, embarrassed my family, received a spanking, lecture and hearing the story repeated through the years, the humiliation fresh every time.  I was defined as foolish and bringing shame to my family.  I was defined as a “runner-up” not a winner.

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To make everyone happy I learned to pretend.  I pretended not to know how to read and pretended to let the teacher teach me all over again.  I pretended to be less intelligent.  That I didn’t want the very things I wanted the most.  That my home life was just as normal as anyone else’s home life was.  That I deserved to be last in everything, that runner-up was the best I’d ever be.  Through the years I learned to settle for less because I had pretended so long to only want and deserve the least that I didn’t even try.  I was wearing the assigned masks given to me and defined by them regardless of their truth.

MP900382637These three events, all too quickly defined me to myself as what I was given the message I was to be.  I recognized all too soon that what made Cheryl one of “those people” instead of one of the “people like us” were the following things:  Beauty, money, expensive clothes, intelligence, importance, lineage, and social status.  Money, I acknowledged as the years passed, could buy it all.  Or at least buy you the ability to fake it.

Reality was that there were a lot of things that set me apart from other kids.  None of those were any of the reasons my mother had cited, or my teacher insisted upon or that my childish mind connected to.  All that these false definitions of me did were to enable me to hide away.

Redefining who I was would take years.  Slowly it happened. 

I learned I did have the ability to earn A’s by earning them in master level classes.  I learned I could do, at least someMP900432927 algebra, by teaching myself from my daughter’s textbook and the online tutorial lessons to help her.  I learned to be a parent that gives her child wings to fly and roots to let her know she is always loved and always has a home, instead of clipping her wings and binding her with her roots.  It has taken years of on and off therapy to peel away layers of pretense, hurt, shame, wrong definitions and forbidden anger and I’m still redefining myself as one of God’s creations.

1001224892Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 have reminded me “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”   And again in I Corinthians 15:10 Paul’s words have given me courage, “But by the grace I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 

King Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” repeatedly whisper to me that the bad times will pass and the good will come, all in God’s time.  While Jeremiah in 29:11 has told me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jesus’ has instructed me of my mission for him in this life in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” 

We all have defining moments in our lives…defining scriptures that have awakened us to who we are in Christ…what moments have defined you…what scriptures have awakened you?

Faye

*Name changed for privacy.                                                                                                         All scripture from the N.I.V. translation of the Bible.

Ironic is it not?

  • That courageous has “rage” at its heart?
  • That therapist is spelt “the rapist”?
  • That two wrongs don’t make a right unless it’s a multiple choice test with only three answer choices and you can keep answering until you get it right?
  • That rarely do you get to take a test and keep guessing at the answers until you get them right, even in the above possible situation?
  • That you may be alone or lonely but it can’t be done without one?
  • That together needs “to” but not “two”?
  • That subway is an underground train, a type of sandwich and a restaurant?
  • That popcorn chicken, popcorn shrimp, lollipops, soda pop and popovers don’t have corn in them?
  • That Washington D.C. needs a good washing and a ton of soap probably wouldn’t be enough for the job?
  • That angels were created by God to worship Him and yet many humans worship them and not Him?
  • That Satan masquerades as an Angel of Light but swallows a soul with darkness?
  • That scented markers smell like fruit but can’t be eaten, while fruit can be eaten but doesn’t make a good crayon?
  • That love and hate are four letter words, the first is often spelt T-I-M-E and the latter takes love and time away?
  • That your conscience isn’t a little cricket but both can keep you awake all night?
  • That billions and billions are spent to create new movies and television series but it’s the same ones over and over again?
  • That silence is golden, old friends gold and new friends silver but you can’t deposit either in your checking account?
  • That upon breaking up with a special person you hear “Don’t worry there are plenty of fish in the sea!” but no one talks about all the trash in their too?
  • That insomnia will cause your mind to focus on ironic tidbits like this?

I Believe

I believe in The God

The Alpha and Omega

The Author and Creator

Of all life

Of all that is good.

I believe in the resiliency

Of a Believer’s heart

Of a Redeemed soul

For they seek God

For they heed His voice.

I believe in Love and its power

Love that transcends

Love that extends

Itself in grace

Itself in mercy.

I believe in God’s Word

From Genesis to Revelation

From Creation to Christ’s return

Every word a piece

Every piece a whole.

I believe life has value

Value to God

Value to humanity

What He gives is

What only He should take.

I believe in marriage

One woman, one man,

One vow, one team

Two spirits united

Two cords bound in three.

I believe in children

Who need love and direction

Who need guidance and prayer

To receive the inheritance

To walk in God’s light.

I believe even when I forget

To focus on Jesus

To trust in God’s provision

When the storm rages

When darkness falls.

I believe in faith

In faith that hopes

In certainty of the unseen

Because God is here

Because He is alive.

I believe what matters

Is not what I believe

Is what YOU believe

In this moment

In this day.

-Faye at fvbf (faith view by faye)

EVIL? Or not?

White House at Night

Wednesday, January 16, 2013  the President of the United States announced a two-fold plan towards gun control in America.  Part one of his plan calls for actions based on “Executive Actions”, which allows the President to bypass Congress and put into place policies as he sees fit.  There were 23 of these actions and The President avoids a Congressional blockage that might have prevented the policies from going into action.  (For details on these actions, please see the end of this blog.)

Also this week New York’s governor signed into place what is touted as the strictest gun control laws in the United States.  Those include limiting gun ownership from specific types of guns.  The aim is reportedly to get rid of any assault weapons possessed by the general population.  (I understand the laws left out provision for law enforcement to have weapons already in use so that is going to be added before the entire package goes into effect.)

In the Sunday, January 13th edition of the Birmingham News this blogger learned further information on the ongoing debate of whether or not to place firearms in Alabama schools, who those guns should be handled by or whether more resource officers in each school were called for.  There were many questions, scenarios and possibilities and way too few answers.

Two very hot topics right now that feed off each other are school safety and gun control.  Both of which I find difficult to pinpoint exactly what God’s Word tells us to do about.  The Old Testament is filled with reports of wars, God telling leaders what to do to defeat their enemies.  The New Testament doesn’t discuss this as much, it seems to me it’s aim is to instruct us on how to live our lives focused on a relationship with Jesus Christ and how to help others find their relationship with Jesus.  I want to know where God stands on this, not only to know how to navigate these politically charged waters of our nation but because they took on new emphasis for our household on December 19, 2012 when these two issues walked in the front door of our home.  (Symbolically, not physically.)

(For the record, our household does not have a firearm in it.  Not that we’ve ruled out the necessity but more for financial reasons we’ve not purchased a gun.)

But on Wednesday, December 19 our daughter woke up sick and was at home with me (it was the first time I’ve been grateful for my child to be sick) when I learned that a 21-year-old male had been arrested for making a terrorist threat against a school by the Blount County Sheriff Deputies and Oneonta Police.  He made the alleged threats via Facebook and some of those who saw the postings continued to encourage him to continue his online venting and others told him it wasn’t a good time to be talking along the lines of being frustrated enough to shoot up an elementary school in view of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

This young man, who has his defenders and accusers from multiple sources, was being held without bond until a mental evaluation could be conducted.  Whether or not he has been released on bond at the time of this posting is unknown.  There was no follow-up on what is now a three-week old story.  Some say because the young man didn’t say he was “going to” but that he “could” shoot up an elementary school or that he said, “…God knows no one would have made it out alive if I was the shooter…” and not “when I am the shooter” means clearly he was joking.  Others read his postings and decide it is a threat period.  I would also note, from my interpretation of the comments posted on al.com that the most do agree that the timing of the posts on Facebook were insensitive and that this young man apparently lacks the ability to decide what is appropriate “joking” material and what isn’t.  Some, even those defending him, label him as acting with stupidity, being a jerk and a few other names this blogger won’t repeat.

I was puzzled most by the lack of media coverage to our threat, reminded of how I felt the night of the day my mother passed away.  The world had kept turning, people went on about their lives when it felt as if my world ended.  Part of me recognized that the rest of the world didn’t know my mother and it couldn’t be the same for them as me.  So I tried to be rational.  In view of what had occurred at Sandy Hook a Facebook threat was minor.  It was hard.

Recognizing that our school system is rural and small it still seemed like an under-reaction to me for this event not to receive more than a couple of news stories on the al.com website and no televised coverage that I was able to find.  What really changed my perspective this week was when I was searching for follow-up information for this blog post on al.com and I found the second article about this December 19 threat which gave a brief description and links to other stories in Alabama the week of our scare.  Including the Blount County threat there were six arrests in Alabama of persons ranging from the age of 12 to 55 who made threats of terrorism against a school.  Six in ONE week.

  1. In Anniston a 12-year-old was overheard making a threat against the school and was placed in the custody of juvenile authorities.
  2. In Dothan, Tuesday, December 18 a 55-year-old woman caused Jerry Lee Faine Elementary school to be in lockdown from 8:06-9:20 a.m. and was arrested for making a terrorist threat against the school.  She was being held at the time of the article on $2500 bond.
  3. In Huntsville a student was arrested at Pinnacle School (an alternative school) for making a terrorist threat against the school and he did so in the presence of a police officer.  He too was in the custody of juvenile authorities.
  4. In North Courtland an 18-year-old student was heard threatening to harm “little kids” and his overheard statement earned him the experience of trouble with law enforcement.
  5. In Birmingham, Tuesday, December 18 a 29-year-old male was being held on a $15,000 bond for making a terrorist threat against Phillips Academy.
  6. In Cleveland we had our own experience as I’ve already stated.

Everyone of these events cited that the tragedy of Sandy Hook contributed to the reactions of either the ones making the threats (copy cating) or the ones receiving the threats (school systems).  Face it, no one wanted to risk not reacting strongly enough and being wrong.  However, one school system did say they hadn’t changed their policies, the threat at any time would have received the same reaction because no one wants to start making adaptations from a knee jerk reaction to a tragedy such as what had occurred at Sandy Hook.

Not surprisingly I was also sent a link to a YouTube video with media clips that “prove” reports around the Sandy Hook massacre were made up, covered up and plots of government officials to force gun control down America’s throats.  I watched the video and my logical “think of this from all angles” mind immediately wanted to say, “Couldn’t these “errors” you’re citing have stemmed from the chaos and overwhelming emotions of the event in the first stages?”  Which of course is exactly what the main stream media is portraying, that in the first time frame of the killings things were said, people were chased as being potential suspects, the shooter was wrongly identified because human beings were reacting to the horror and made honest errors.

Yet, no one can manufacture the 26 people who died.  No one can alter the fact that one gunman set out to kill people that day.  He did so with guns owned by his first victim, his mother.

No one can alter the fact that even in the Deep South of Alabama, middle of the “Bible Belt”, in small rural communities evil lurks.  No one state, city, town, community has the lock on being the place evil does not exist.  It’s everywhere.

No one can change human beings, except the people themselves with the necessary help they need, who have what I perceive as distorted reasoning, horrible social skills, twisted senses of humor or seemingly lack enough intelligence to know you shouldn’t even tease about killing anyone.

No one can go back in time to when the Constitution of the United States of America was written and speak to the men who wrote it, who devised it, who fought to have the right to establish it to know what their mind sets were.  Personally, I’m tired of people who say things like, “The forefathers never intended….never thought…” to strong-arm the taking of our personal rights which also include the RIGHT TO THINK BEFORE YOU ACT, the RIGHT TO USE AND HAVE A CONSCIENCE.  I don’t see how we can logically expect our ancestors to have conceived of the need to have a Constitution or Bill of Rights or anything else that covered every possible situation and scenario.  I don’t think they could conceive of the world in which we are alive today period.  Not with all its technology or the way our government and overall population are acting and thinking.

My Bible tells me to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matthew 22:15-21), to pray for those who persecute me (Matthew 5:43-48), to obey my masters (Ephesians 6:5-8), obey my leaders and submit to their authority (Hebrews 13:17), that as a Christian I am not living up to the world’s standard and I do not fight this world’s evil with weapons of the world (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).  The Old Testament laws of an eye for an eye were abolished by Jesus telling us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, to walk an extra mile with one who forces us to walk one with him (Matthew 5:38-42).

Yet it also offers me hope for EVERYONE of us has been given the greatest gift possible.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 N.I.V.)

What is the answer to assuring the safety of our children whether they are at home, at school or church, the movies or mall or anywhere else doing anything else?  I DON’T KNOW.

But I know this, I know the ANSWER GIVER and I know the only way to KNOW what the answer is can only be by more people turning to GOD than away from GOD.

-Faye

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

EMBARGOED UNTIL THE START OF THE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS

January 16, 2013

Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

Today, the President is announcing that he and the Administration will:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

EMBARGOED

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

______________________________________________________________

20 Women

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow CounterHere in Alabama where I live The Birmingham News, Birmingham Magazine and Red Mountain Theater Company are having a contest to find 20 women in Birmingham who are making a difference in the city or lives of the city’s population.  The woman can come from any walk of life.   I wonder who will be nominated and the cynical part of me thinks that the ones who are nominated and probably win will be those already in the spotlight.  Local politicians, media personalities, successful business women, women known for the worthy causes they support…the “A” list I suppose, those women who are known widely because they quite often are in the media spotlight already.  Don’t get me wrong, those women are surely making a difference, a positive, uplifting impact on the Birmingham community.  It’s simply that I think of the women who are making a difference who don’t get recognized at any other time.

Women who make a difference live right next door to us and across town from us.  They are in our homes, our churches, our schools, our work places, our courtrooms, our medical facilities and everywhere else.  Most of them rarely, if ever, hear they make a difference in someone’s life.  Sometimes the person is a woman we meet at a crossroad in our own lives and we don’t realize the difference she is making and then we never see her again.  Sometimes we are so use to this woman being in our corner we forget how extraordinary the woman’s presence is in our lives.  Sadly, so many times we recognize her but it simply never occurs to us to acknowledge the difference she is making.

These women may be mothers or may not be.  They may be married or may not be.  They are someone’s wife, significant other, mother, aunt, daughter, friend, cousin, sister or niece.  That’s the point, they can be any woman.  They could be you.

The contest I read about in the January 13, 2013 Sunday edition of The Birmingham News specifies that the contest is for women in the Birmingham, Alabama area and it is limited to 20 winners.  I wonder how many essay entries the paper will receive?  More importantly, I wonder how many women I could nominate who have made a difference in my own life but who also probably won’t make the “in Birmingham” criteria.

What about you?  Can you name 20 women who have impacted your life in a positive way?  Who make a difference?  Perhaps not just in your own life or the lives of your family but in your community?

PROVERBS 31:10-31 N.I.V.

(Though the Scripture is written using the word “wife” this passage can apply to all women regardless of their marital status.)

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.  She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Follow Your Heart? Follow Your Mind? Follow Your Faith?

On the surface it seems like the best advice to tell someone making a big decision in their life.  One suffering in grief.  One anxious over a job situation.  One in the midst of their first attraction to a member of the opposite gender.  One fearful of how decisions today will effect tomorrow.  So we say, “Just follow your heart!”

I’m old enough to have learned a few things and one is that the heart is filled with feelings and feelings can be deceiving.  I’ve also come to understand that as a Christian faith is not always logical.  This means I’ve learned one more thing, to seek the answers in the place I know the answers are honest and steadfast – the Word of God.

My NIV dictionary tells me that the heart (for modern usage) is the seat of the affections (Gen. 18:5; Ps 62:10) and the seat of the intellect (Gen 6:5) and of the will (Ps 119:2).  According to  Genesis 6:6 it also signifies the innermost being.  The word heart is used over 900 times in the Word, almost never literally with the exception of Exodus 28:29.

As Christians we encourage and seek people to “let Jesus come into their heart”.  We use the analogy that Jesus is knocking on their hearts door waiting to come in.  Faith, we know, often defies logic – for that is the wonderful and freeing part of faith.  And of the 900 plus references to the heart in scripture I found:

  • Mans heart has got him in trouble (or her) since before Noah.  Genesis 6:5-6 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (NIV)
  • Deuteronomy 4:29 reads, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • The Lord doesn’t look at how we look outwardly but at the person we are on the inside in our hearts. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:29)
  • Proverbs is rich in instruction about the heart including 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
  • Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 and in 15:18 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things make a man unclean.” as well in 22: 37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As believers in Jesus we can’t “just follow our hearts” alone for clearly a heart out of sync with God is going to lead us to decisions that are outside of His will.  To keep a heart capable of knowing and acting upon the word of God we must fill it with the same.  That means not merely giving lip service to Him but having a RELATIONSHIP with Hm and yielding to His guidance.  We also can’t approach our faith life from an intellectual viewpoint alone either.

Faith defies logic.  Faith says wait when our hearts say go.  Faith holds on in the storm when our hearts seek the first possible refuge whether it is of God or not.  Faith is walking the other road when society walks another.  Sometimes our faith conflicts with our heart and it is those times we must cling to our faith-based on what our heart knows and not on what our minds tell us.

I’ve gone through such a faith crisis many times and I once wrote, “Faith is walking into the largest, darkest room with your fear because you know there is a light on the ceiling and a switch on the wall.  But I got 1/2 way across the room and simply can’t go any further.  It’s not the absence of God it is the absence of me.”

Had I listened merely to my heart’s emotions I would have given up.  Had I listened to logical thinking I would have given up.  But in listening with faith in my heart entwined with God I found myself belly crawling across that dark room until I reached the wall and though I floundered, God guided my fingers to the light switch.

To each of those who stumble through a faith crisis I urge them to not stop seeking God’s answer in His Word.  I remind them that God can handle our questions and our doubts.

What about you?  Where does your heart and your faith meet?