I’m tired…

I am tired…emotionally and spiritually. And it’s not the kind of tiredness that can be resolved by a good night’s sleep.

It’s a tiredness that is deep in my soul.

I’m tired of our refusal to acknowledge our part in creating the hostile and violent environments that many people are fleeing, hoping to find a better future for themselves and their children…only to be met here with violence and separation.

I’m tired of all the gun violence. I’m tired of the news opening up with how many murders have taken place overnight…

I’m tired of wondering when the next mass shooting is going to take place…how many people will die…how many families will be destroyed.

I’m tired of “thoughts and prayers” that aren’t linked to a willingness to have the hard discussions about ways of making weapons less available…of common sense ways of decreasing the violence, even if it doesn’t stop it.

I’m tired of the anti-intellectualism that says that people who have studied areas of science for years somehow really don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m tired of the refusal to make changes that will help our earth heal.

I’m tired of the hatred of “the other”…of anyone who doesn’t look like us…doesn’t speak the same language we do…doesn’t worship the way we do…doesn’t love the way we do.

I’m tired of the ideologies that place one race on a pedestal built on the backs of another race…that says that only one color of people have rights.

I’m tired of women’s health concerns being negated…of others making decisions for them who have no ideas of the struggles they are going through.

I’m tired of the domination of those who call themselves pro-life…but who are comfortable cutting the programs that would help support women during pregnancy…and babies and families after birth.

I’m tired of hearing the God I worship being used to attack others…a God of love who created all of us in God’s image. I’m tired of having my faith misused by those who would claim that “God hates…” (insert any one of a number of groups there).

I’m tired…and sometimes I want to just give up. It seems so difficult to open up any kind of dialogue, because we seem to live in completely contradictory world views that don’t have anything in common.

But I can’t give up. If I give up, then I’m letting the hatred…the division…win. And because I believe in a God who gave us minds to use…a God who wants us to work together to heal the world’s wounds…a God who calls us to be good stewards of what God created…a God who has given me the choice to be a divider or a healer…I have to continue trying to build bridges.

I don’t know if I will succeed. I may never know that. But all I can do is keep trying…because I follow a Carpenter who builds bridges.

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said.

“Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.

The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing.

About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped.

There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge… a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.

“You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more bridges to build.”

Let’s stop the welfare cheats…

I’ve heard some variation of this statement for quite some time now. And while on the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this sentence, there are problems with the rationale.

First of all, let me say that I am fully supportive of going after those who “play” the system. However, that’s really only a small proportion.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 90% of government benefits go to people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households–not to those who are able to work but who choose not to.

Food stamps…another source of “welfare cheats”…right? Wrong. According to the USDA, 76% of households that receive food stamps include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. According to the National Council for Children in Poverty, about 22% of the children in the United States live in poverty…and another 23% in low-income families. Are we really willing to deny them the basics of life?

As we are moving into this next political season, I’m hearing lots of talk about “Christian nation” and “biblically based principles”…but our actions sometimes say otherwise. The Christian principles I want to follow deal with taking care of the poor and the vulnerable.

Yes, there will sometimes be those who will take advantage…and we do need to do our best to resolve those situations…but not at the expense of those who are truly in need.

Peppermint ice cream!

peppermint ice creamWhen I was a kid, we used to make a lot of ice cream during the summer. I can remember cranking the old ice-cream maker, just waiting for it to get difficult enough to know that the ice cream was ready!

My dad loved to experiment with various flavors. Some turned out really well; others didn’t. When he tried making peanut butter ice cream, the peanut butter froze in little chunks rather than blending in. And when he tried licorice ice cream, he couldn’t taste the flavor enough, so he kept adding more to the mixture. When the ice cream formed, it was a strong enough licorice that even Dad had trouble eating it.

But one major success–at least as far as I was concerned–was peppermint stick ice cream. Whenever he asked what kind we should make, that was my answer. It didn’t take too many times before my brothers rebelled. They were tired of it and wanted something else.

Years have passed since then, and ice cream flavors have come and gone. Occasionally I could find peppermint, but not very often. Then a few years ago, either my eyes opened wider…or more people decided that peppermint and Christmas really do go well together–and peppermint ice cream started showing up on store shelves. Usually from around Thanksgiving through (maybe) mid-January. Not a large window of opportunity, but at least it was available then!

So now, for me, the Christmas holiday starts when I first see peppermint ice cream at the grocers. I could buy enough to try to make it last all year, but that would spoil the special-ness of it. So instead, I buy 3-4 half-gallons of it. That lasts the holiday season and satisfies my craving.

Isn’t it interesting what things are special to us around the holidays? what brings back those special family memories?

Hooray for peppermint ice cream!!

Thanks-living

The place I work has an employee Thanksgiving lunch each year–just a time to share and fellowship together. No one has to worry about bringing food–it’s catered in. And it’s a typical Thanksgiving meal.

But this year, the invitation read a little differently. Rather than an invitation to that “Thanksgiving” lunch, it was an invitation to a “Thanks-living” meal. Just one letter difference, but it got me thinking…

Thanksgiving is a once-a-year experience…a time when we focus on family, turkey, football…and maybe remembering to give thanks for various aspects of the past year. But once November is over, we begin to get engrossed (if we’re not already there!) with Christmas preparations, and Thanksgiving is put aside until the next year.

But Thanks-living implies a state of mind–a year-round focus. It calls me to be aware of those things on a daily basis that I am grateful for–to see with new eyes.

There is so much bad news–it’s definitely not hard to find! But positive news stories catch my eye…precisely because they seem so rare.

What would happen if I spent every day in an attitude of thanks and praise? How would I be changed? I know that a coupld of years ago, when I stopped waking up to a news station on my clock radio and began waking up to hymns / praise songs, my attitude toward starting out the day changed. I woke up looking forward to it rather than being in a down mood because of all the negativity I heard first thing in the morning.

So…as we go into the day of Thanksgiving, I’d like to challenge us all. Yes, let’s enjoy the day–the family time, the food, even the football… But let’s also decide that we’re going to do “thanks-living” year round! Wonder what that will mean for next Thanksgiving?!?

Obsessiveness and weight…

I’ve often wondered what starts young women down the road of bulimia or anexoria. Can they not see the harm they are doing to themselves?

I know there are a lot of factors involved in those diseases–but in the last few weeks I’ve begun to realize how easy it would be to get sucked into that situation…

I’ve been working out with both the WiiFit and EA SportsActive software, alternating between the active workout with the SportsActive software and the balance games and yoga with WiiFit. Both programs have ways of tracking your progress; since I started with WiiFit, I’ve kept my exercise record there. (Next time I start the 30-day challenge with EA, I may do more there, but this is my first time through that program.)

The WiiFit allows me to record the amount of time I’ve spent with their workouts as well as entering “activity credits” for exercise I’ve done in other ways. It also–through its “body test” allows me to check my standing center of balance, weight/BMI, and agility/balance. The first and last of these tests are fun and interesting…

But…I’ve discovered that as I check my weight/BMI, it’s easy for that information to become a center of attention. The numbers are staying pretty consistent currently, and I’m okay with that. I feel good where I am–and it’s a healthy weight/BMI.

However, a few weeks ago, as I was focusing on losing a few pounds, I realized I needed to be careful! I was intrigued in watching the line on the graph go down–and found myself thinking, “I wonder how much further down I could get it to go…”. Not good! So I’ve had to intentionally refocus on why I’m checking that information–and to realize that it’s just a tool, not a goal.

My personality, though, tends to have at least some obsessive-compulsive elements in it…and it’s certainly helped me to realize how easy it is to get sucked into situations that could create significant health problems–especially in light of all the emphasis on what it means to be “beautiful” in today’s culture.

I’m not sure what the answer is, except to somehow help people realize that true beauty comes from the inside.

Truly blessed…

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house–with all the local family present…Mother, son and grandson, daughter and son-in-law, and grandson and new granddaughter-in-law. I had decided that I wanted to do most of the cooking this year, and one of the things that made it possible was that I was able to take all week off of work (I had some vacation I needed to use or I would lose it).

So…Wednesday I got several of the dishes ready…cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet potatoes. All I had to do with them Thursday was put the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes–and then bake the ones that needed baking.

Thursday morning was putting the turkey in at 7:00…then setting the table, and getting the green salad ready…baking the casseroles and the mashed potatoes…and waiting for the rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies to arrive with other family members.

We had everything ready for eating at 2:00–and asked my 87-year-old mother to offer the blessing…not just on the food, but for our gathering.

While the food was delicious, what was more important was the fellowship. We shared family stories, initiated the new member of the family into our tradition of hand-knit Christmas stockings, played several games of bowling with the Wii–including getting the matriarch to bowl a game (and she bowled a respectable 124!)….

We were–and are–truly blessed. Our family members all like each other, and we live close enough that the immediate family can get together at these special times. But even more than that, we are blessed to live in a country where we can feel safe…where we have freedom to gather…

And so…as we shared together–and were also aware of the news coming out of both Bangkok and Mumbai–we realized again the blessings that are ours…and give thanks.

Being a Good Steward…

This has been one of those weeks from hell…you know, the kind where you have meetings every day from morning to night, no time to get anything else done, no time to eat… Then this weekend was the annual Peace Colloquy that my denomination holds–and I was also heavily involved in that.

For me, while I enjoy the fellowship that takes place during those weeks, they do wreak havoc on my body. I have to have a nap every day for health reasons (I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1976)–and quite often the only time available is while everyone else is eating lunch. So I decide that I need the sleep more than I need the food–because I can always catch something later (but often don’t).

And when I’m involved in playing the piano or organ (or otherwise involved in upfront ministry), I also go lighter on my fluids…

So by the time those weeks are over, I’m hungry–but I’m also not. And what sounds good initially to break the self-imposed fast is not always the best choice.

You’d think I’d learn after all these years! But I did it again today…ate lunch at a local Chinese buffet. The food was delicious–I took my favorites…General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken, orange chicken, cashew chicken, crab rangoon… Most of the way through, I decided that my eyes had been bigger than my stomach (which has shrunk during the week–again). But also, my stomach was letting me know that my choices had not necessarily been the wisest.

Got home–ready to take my nap. But my choices began to haunt me. When I’ve been under stress, that also factors in–especially when I begin to let down after the event has finished. And that was all true again this afternoon.

Good thing I have a lot of reading material in the bathroom!!

It keeps me thinking, though…I believe that I am called to be a good steward–and that includes taking care of my body. In some ways I do that well…but there’s also a long way to go! One of these days–hopefully–the “head knowledge” I have about what it takes to be a good steward will fully become a part of my choices…