"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Monday, March 18, 2013


A recent statement made by a friend has come back to haunt me today. He said that "Teaching is more often something we are learning than something we have learned." The incredible thing is that, when parenting/teaching your kids, you often find that you are learning something that you didn't realize you didn't know.

Today was one of those days when I found out that something I had been taught - a simple, pithy, taken-for-granted philosophy that is frequently thrown about - was dead wrong. It is one of those many things you repeat without thinking too deeply about it. A belief that seeps into your subconscious without your notice simply because of its pervasiveness. I wonder how many more of those I will have to "teach" my way into seeing for what they are?

Today's lesson: "Respect is earned." 

How many times have we heard that? Said that? Crossed our arms defensively and spat it between clenched teeth as someone demanded respect from us that we didn't feel had earned it? Grudgingly put our hand to the plow and trudged on in an effort to make it true of ourselves when someone refused to pay us our due? Preached it to our children from whom we felt we had rightfully earned it by way of our position of authority and many sacrifices made for them? And at any point, did we hear...did I hear what I was saying? That respect is conditional. That I have an excuse to set some standard to which you must aspire before I grant that grace to you. That I have a right to demand it of you because I feel that I have achieved some standard that you should recognize. That my attitude and behavior toward you can acceptably be determined by your treatment of me.

Today, my kids got into a big, dramatic fight with some of the neighborhood kids. No, they weren't the first to hurl insults but they were pretty handy with the comebacks. And what did I teach them? Did I say it was okay for them to mouth off and be ugly because the other kids did it first? Of course not! I told them that each person is responsible for their own attitudes and actions. I said that just because someone else is disrespectful and ugly, it doesn't excuse disrespect in return. They heard that it is absolutely not okay to base their choices and actions and treatment of others on ill treatment toward themselves. I even pulled out the old "two wrongs don't make a right."

As I discussed it with them, I carefully unpacked the truth that even people you love - and who truly love you - will sometimes say and do things that hurt you, but that it is always your choice how to respond to them. Treating others with respect is a choice. I choose to respect you not because of you, but because of me. Because of the person I desire to be. Because I believe that it is right to respect. Because decency is good and acceptable; because rudeness and pettiness and payback are not. Because who I am should never depend on who you choose to be. And if that is not your choice, if you choose to disrespect me, I will continue to treat you with decency. Not in order to show you that I am the "bigger person," or to shame you into being kind, but because my choice to be a  respectful person does not allow me to place demands and expectations on you. It only allows me to accept you as you are.

After my conversation with the kids was over, apologies had been made and accepted, and the friends were all happily playing once more, what I had taught them kept rattling around in my brain. There was something there that needed fleshing out, some aspect that was eluding me.  That's when that little, seemingly insignificant phrase popped into my mind. "Respect is earned." It is commonly accepted wisdom and yet it flies in the face of all that I had just said to my kids. Oops. I have acted many times on that little gem and suddenly I realized that "respect is earned" is simply an excuse used for my own poor attitudes. I justify ugliness in my heart toward another person because, after all, they haven't earned my respect. I make demands of others - my children, in particular - because, after all, I have earned deference and obedience. That phrase is an expectation, an invitation to find fault and offense in others and thereby give myself a convenient pass for a rotten attitude. Conversely, it is an invitation to become puffed up and self-important as I catalogue the many things I have done to earn respect for myself from others...and a dangerous and destructive pitfall if I am not properly acknowledged as I suppose I should be. Neither side of that phrase leads to a good end.

True respect comes not from carefully dissecting who others are being at any given moment and choosing to grant them favor based on the results of that analysis. It is, rather, a gift given of self with no expectation of return whatsoever. It is a choice to view and act towards other human beings in a way that is benevolent simply because it is right. Respect is a combination of several character traits: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control...fruits of the Spirit within us. These things are outgrowths of who we are, not conditional actions we take based on circumstances.

So the next time I'm tempted to demand that you respect me, or to gasp in astonishment that you of all people would expect me to respect you, I hope I'll stop and think about what I taught my kids today. I hope that I'll examine what my attitude of expectation or willful disdain says about ME rather than what it says about you.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Of Guns and Governments

I have been hesitant to publicly wade into the whole Gun Control debate. I hold my views. I hold my peace. I have no desire to draw undue attention to myself or my family. I have no interest in inviting argument, defending my stand, or condemning those who may disagree with me. Again, it is one of those things about which I wish there was a more common culture of respectful public discourse because I do believe it is an important issue for our nation.

Today, in following a story link provided by my brother and after browsing through the responses, I found a man who had eloquently shared my thoughts on the subject without venom or defensiveness. He just stated the position and left it at that. I am copying his statement here. In my opinion, it is a well-thought, well-stated position worth considering. And I, too, will leave it at that. Thanks, Finn; your words are fitting and I appreciate being able to share them.

"First let me preface my remarks by stating that I am not a 'gun guy'. I do not hunt. I do not target shoot. I do not collect guns. I do not belong to the NRA. I do not live in a 'rough' part of town. I own no guns, nor have I ever needed to have one. The last time I fired a shot in anger was in 1968.

That being said, there are many people today, (myself included), who have a deep, (and a legitimate), distrust of the government. 

They believe that it is in the nature of governments to accumulate and to concentrate more and more power over people's lives. More power leads to more control.

It has always been so. As Lord Acton so famously stated, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Meaning that those who are given power over others will use that power.

Even if the government is not specifically intending to do so, it is the nature of large governments that this occurs.

Now the government may espouse their desire to help the citizenry, but when individuals disagree with what the government determines is in their best interest, then those in power use coersion. Sometimes subtle sometimes not so subtle.

This concentration of power and increasing coersion can be gradual (like slowly turning up the heat on a lobster in a pot), or sudden (like dropping him into boiling water).

One need only be a casual student of history to see the process at work again and again and again.

The Second Amendment is *our* garauntee that this loss of individual freedom and increasing control of our lives cannot be done with impunity.

One need only look at what is occurring in Syria today or in Mexico, or any of a dozen other locations around the globe to see examples of what happens when the government controls the people and when the people are defenseless to resist.

Now you may feel that this distrust is not warrented, or that it verges on paranoia. Many might agree with you. However many more, would not.

The Founding Fathers believed fervently that ordinary citizens needed to be protected from an oppressive government. If they had not, then there would not have been a Second Amendment in the first instance. 

They were *very* distrustful of the concentration of power into the hands of the few. They set up safeguards against it by diluting that power into different branches and different levels. They tried to define precisely just who could do what, and what things they could not do. They added further protections in the Bill of Rights.

The Founding Fathers, I am certain, would be aghast at the degree to which the government controls the lives of Americans today. Indeed, they went into rebellion over transgressions less onerous than what we today have allowed to be imposed upon us.

Read the Declaration of Independence. Look at the reasons that are enumerated there. They speak of an oppressive government seeking to impose it's will upon the citizenry.

The Second Amendment was NEVER about what type of arms citizens might own or about what the technological developments of the future might bring. It was not about hunting. It was not about home defense. It was not about target shooting. It was about the ability of citizens to oppose and resist the oppression of a tyrannical government.

There are those Americans that honestly feel that this point of view is not applicable to the 21st century; that such concerns are the things of history. They label those like myself, as 'gun nuts' or as paranoid, even dangerous.

If you are one that believes that this distrust is stuff out of a dusty history book, and has no relevance in the 21st century, then I urge you again to to look around more carefully. 

Those of us that support the Second Amendment feel that it's relevence is as valid now as it was when it was first penned."

Monday, December 17, 2012


There are so many things I have on my heart that are begging to be written. Our family has been so blessed in the last several weeks.  Our joy in our faith is being renewed as we celebrate Hanukkah, the miracles of God, and the Advent of Emmanuel among us.

In contrast to seeing the Light of the World grow brighter with every candle we light, we have been witness with the rest of our nation as darkness has sought to extinguish the light. Families are in mourning. A horrific act of violence against childhood innocence has sent shockwaves throughout communities around the world. Many are in fear that this darkness has the power to overcome us.  Fingers are being pointed at everything from guns to government conspiracy to mental illness. Action is being desperately called for to give us some sense of security; some feeling - however deceptive - that legislation, societal awareness, *something* can effectively assure that nothing like this will ever happen again.

But the truth is that it can. The sad reality is that it probably will. It is the ugliness of human history. Light has always contended with Darkness. Sometimes the Darkness finds an individual, sometimes a group, uses a lie, or a promise, or guilt, or jealousy, or pride, or any number of things that can motivate the human heart...and it strikes a blow against the Light. And it is terrible to behold. Yet the light refuses to be extinguished. Hope lives. Good flickers on. It may be a very small ember struggling alone, but eventually the flame blooms again and the Darkness must retreat. It has been beaten, after all.

We must be cautious to live in Truth during this time when Darkness and fear seek to propel us headlong into false hopes and assurances. Our Hope exists in the finished work of Jesus Christ. All else is illusion.

Two quotes have been particularly meaningful as I have processed current events in the context of Truth and within the timeline of our Hanukkah and Advent celebrations. My hope is that as I share them, you may ponder them and find the ember of hope kindled in your heart and the cold grip of fear powerless in your life.

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."   
 -Henry David Thoreau

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
-Ephesians 6:12

May we be wise enough to strike at the root of evil and strong enough to endure the scrapes from its branches.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent: n. onset, beginning, commencement, start

Sometimes I think the contradictions and paradoxes within us make finding a balance impossible. And yet balance is what I desire. Balance in our approach to homeschooling. Balance in responsibility and utterly abandoned fun. Balance between self-sacrifice and self-respect. Balance between work and home. Balance between family time and alone time. Balance between social interaction and solitude. Balance between introspection and spontaneity. 

Perhaps the biggest personal struggle for balance I have fought of late has been that between the desire to instruct my children in faith, give them meaningful traditions, and yet not bind them in chains of religious obligation. I feel the responsibility so very deeply to teach them the freedom in Christ, the deep love of the Father, the redemption that was paid for, and, yes, the willing and grateful submissive response that should evoke in us. But I am loathe to instill in them any obligatory service, any guilt or manipulation-driven duty, any empty religiosity. It is a grave danger and causes me to walk a tightrope. Especially in the season of holy days. I want to give them a foundation - to give myself meaningful celebrations and reminders of the God I choose to worship - but it is requiring a careful evaluation of what I have done, why I have done it, and if it is worthy of continuance. 

This struggle has not been so great in recent years because, frankly, financial and spatial resources to make celebrations have been limited. This year, however, there is a new home. Room for a Christmas tree. Finances, albeit limited ones, to purchase special gifts or ritual components. But which are worthy? What do I want my kids to take away from this? What carries meaning for us? It has been a process.

 God has brought a dear friend into my life that has been a joy to examine this with. Interestingly, she does not share our Christian beliefs...but our conversations about our respective faiths, their traditions, the pitfalls of their organizations, the things we hope to pass on to our kids...these conversations have been such a blessing to me. It has been an eye-opener to me, someone who always hung out with other Christians, to have to answer her questions. Why do I believe certain things? What is meaningful to me? All too often I have just done whatever was accepted Christian practice in my circle of Christian friends. OF COURSE we do this activity...OF COURSE we celebrate in this manner...but why? Because it's always been done that way? This year I have had the joy of discussing with my husband what is of import to us. And deciding how to pass those things on to our kids. Together. In the context of our home and life in our community. It is a humble beginning, but I believe a blessed one. 

We have chosen to put up a Christmas tree this year. Partly because our kids requested one and partly because the few decorations that survived the massive downsizing form a sort of family history. They are things from my childhood, my husband's childhood, decorations made by our children's little hands; it is a testament to the redemption and rebuilding that we have undergone which was only possible by the healing and forgiveness made available in Christ. We have also chosen to introduce the Advent wreath. We aren't following a "set" liturgy in this; we are not doing it on Sundays. Our weekends are Tuesday and Wednesday, so we began the advent wreath with the candle of hope tonight. We had a short discussion of the prophecies of the Messiah and the hope of the captive Israelites in the Savior that would come. 

We are beginning to lay a foundation for our kids. A reminder to ourselves. It is a simple tradition that we begin. I hope that we can find the balance in it. That we can pass on the mystery of a loving God and His redemption without binding our kids in chains of tradition and obligation that lose their meaning. 

With the candle of hope that we light tonight, my prayer is that Emmanuel, God with us, will truly come to our home. That the hope for faith without religion, redemption without guilty obligation, love without expectation will be realized as we learn to live better in the reality of Emmanuel. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Theft with a Shiny Bow on Top

You know how you think you're totally over something?  It's been worked through, prayed over, forgiven, resolved, and it's in your past... and then something comes along that brings it back up to the surface again and it blindsides you?  Yeah, that's been happening to me this week. And I'm not particularly proud of the range of reactions my thoughts have been serving up.

What's got me all in a dither? The whole health care as a campaign issue thing. I deliberately do not publicly get into political views and debates. Much like in the church, I feel that too much condemnation and judgementalism gets into too many of those conversations. I hold my beliefs. I live by them. I vote by them. And I am content to let you do the same. I will talk with you about them but I am well over trying to prove that I am right, you are wrong, and that if you don't see it my way you deserve a tongue-lashing. Civil exchange of ideas, I'm all for...but that's a rarity in today's culture.  To explain what I'm dealing with, however,  you're going to have to hear a bit of my political leanings. Please, please, please, do not view this as an opening. It's not meant as one. It's merely by way of context.

I don't like the idea of the government-mandated health care. I've disagreed with it's passage from the beginning. Yes, I'm totally aware of the expense of health care and the number of people living in poverty; I have been one of them. But I'd still rather have my own money spent my own way seeking my own doctors rather than have you force me to give you some of what I've earned so that you can choose the health care that is best for me. Why? Because I had that choice stripped of me before. I had an organization tell me that my family was to be - to quote a much-quoted Illinois candidate - "gifted with a health care plan that we were forced to purchase."  The problem was that I had already set up my budget in an adult manner, knowing I had no health coverage, and setting aside funds in reserve to pay to the doctors that I would see on a private-pay basis. I knew my family's unique health needs. We had no maintenance medications, we rarely became ill...but we did, in fact, plan to have babies. So we knew the cost of maternity care and were planning accordingly. We made adult decisions with our money based on the agreed-upon salary arrangements with our employer.  But then those funds were forcibly taken from our salary - while I was pregnant, no less - to pay for our gifted health care plan that HAD NO MATERNITY COVERAGE. So...an organization that found out that we hadn't purchased medical coverage became appalled that we didn't have what it perceived we needed, then didn't bother to ask about our needs or our reasoning, and bought us something with our own money that didn't meet our needs, so we still wound up paying out of pocket for what we did need.

Fast-forward to this election cycle.  I'm seeing many people from that same organization decrying the fact that now federal mandate is doing the same thing to them. Really? It was okay to do to me. You knew what was best for our family but you want to be treated like thinking adults who know what's best for yourselves? I know. Bitterness has no place when forgiveness has happened. No part of me should be asking, "So how's it feel now?"  But an ugly part of me is saying just that. God and I are having to deal with that.

 Part of me is begging them to open their eyes and see how deeply hurtful it is when we decide FOR OTHERS what they ought to be doing/thinking and then force or manipulate them into it. Organizations - religious, political, and otherwise - need to think carefully when they begin imposing themselves - even their well-intentioned selves - on the freedoms of individuals. Sacrifices great and small have been made to secure freedom in both spiritual and political realms. There was a reason for that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Little Things ARE the Big Things

Today I had to take a quiet mommy-moment behind closed doors so the kids wouldn't see my tears and ask about them. They would have rolled their eyes and made the crazy-sign with their finger around their head, anyway. As will some of you, maybe. Because I was in tears over this:

Yep. My son standing with a cute look on his face, wearing a pair of jeans did me in. He picked those jeans out on a trip to a thrift store yesterday. Yes, they have a hole in the knee and will probably wear out very quickly. But you don't understand: he was asking to buy a pair of jeans!! 

One of the most pronounced sensitivities Michael has had is a sensitivity to clothing.  Texture, fit, how it feels when he moves - it's a big deal. Very rarely does anyone in the family buy clothing for him because we have learned that if he doesn't choose it, he probably won't wear it. For years, it had to be very tight. As a five-year-old he had to be pressed to purchase clothing that was larger than a 4T; he felt secure when it fit snug. Over time, we have seen him relax about the t-shirts (look at how loosely that one fits!). But pants? Oh, no. Pants are non-negotiable. They must be slightly high-water with elastic waists. And they are worn hiked up. Until yesterday/today. Suddenly, with no known trigger, Michael has chosen a fitted pair of jeans, worn low on the waist, with a fitted waistband. He's adjusting to how they fit instead of rejecting something different. He likes them and is proud of them, although a bit embarrassed at how proud he is.

And I'm in tears. Little things are a big deal. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Many thanks to my Mom for sharing a blog that speaks that for which I had no words. Follow this link. Please. No matter where you are today, what circumstances surround you, may the Truth of the Hope that lives, of the Light that is eternal, pierce and banish any darkness that threatens to overtake you.