Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

15
Aug
11

The Lower 48

It’s time to call it. We have lost a decade. Now is the time to sacrifice ourselves, tighten our belts, and save the future. When my grandchildren read about this time in history, I want them to be thankful we got something right. I sigh audibly or even gasp out loud every time new financial numbers are reported. Then I chuckle out loud when the revised no-need-to-panic numbers are released. It’s hard to imagine sustaining a more trying economy, but here’s a gasp-out-loud number – 48%. THAT is the graduation rate in our inner-city schools. I discovered this because our national average graduation rate is 70%, which I found to be unbelievably low since I don’t know a single high school drop out. For the record, the suburban and rural graduation rates average about 88%.

From my rural high school, I worked on a gang violence task force, and had a pretty solid, though distant, understanding of the plight of the inner-city student. As an adult, I took that knowledge and used it to ensure that my children had the best education available. I chose their superior (though under-funded) school and congratulated myself on avoiding those treacherous public schools. Then I slept really well, dreaming of the Ivy Leagues. I happen to have the inside scoop on my peers and I know they have behaved in a very similar manner, shaking their heads sadly over the drop-out tragedy that is not their problem.

I’m thinking now, though, that regardless of where my children go to school, this lackluster graduation rate is absolutely my problem. It may be our biggest problem, in fact. Our economy is in a death spiral. Inner city kids have met nothing but failure – their parents failed them, churches failed them, authorities failed them, and their schools fail them. Now, we have a hopeless situation that strips hope, dignity, and prosperity from a MAJORITY of this population. There is a solid MAJORITY of inner-city dwellers who will be incapable of supporting themselves. A MAJORITY will be dependent upon Government Assistance, turning the United States into a crippled welfare state.

The math is simple. A minority simply cannot support a majority. The problem, however, is complex. This problem cannot be funded into oblivion. We have a family unit that is unrecognizable, so there is no Focus on the Family for them. There is no support, no accountability, no discipline, and no hope for these children who don’t even have the stability to dread their tomorrows. It’s an emotional issue, and therefore open to exploitation, but it is too critical to be treated with such flippancy. This group is disappointed and angry. They carry bigger guns than the police, and they have the bravado of the hopeless. Revolution is the soup du jour, and though I don’t think our inner city children are going to overthrow the White House, I do think that we should keep an eye on the London riots. These youth expect more than the government can afford to provide right now and emotions run high throughout our country. They are surely more intelligent than their schools are capable of recognizing and unrest is imminent in a mind that is under-utilized.

If we are going to save this nation, it’s time to run clean-up. We’ve inherited so many unsavory problems that we are forced to deal with. Children, though, should never be treated as problems. In them, we find an opportunity to save a generation of indeterminate promise. Not only that, but access to a bright future may be the only thing that can save this bleeding nation.

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01
Mar
11

History’s Quandary…Choosing Sides

The Middle East is History’s quandary. Today’s dubious friendships are the bloody enemies of tomorrow. The enemies of today are the benefactors of our tomorrows. As the Middle East slides into even greater chaos, I am suspect of anyone claiming to have a thorough understanding of the situation. I am even less trusting of someone who claims to know what should be done. This is uncharted territory for me. I like to choose sides, and I like to know enough to choose the right side. I don’t know if there is a right side in this situation.

This could be the moment that millions stand on the crumbling wall that has held them captive for so many years. Or, it could be the moment that millions stand on a crumbling ground and fall deeper into turmoil. Historically, revolutions have not been good for the people. Think of Cuba, France, Russia, Germany…The list goes on. In fact, I cannot think of a people’s revolution that can match the one staged on our behalf. The success of 1776 and the long-term implications defy human nature. It is difficult to look at the American Revolution and the foundations it laid, however bloody, and not acknowledge divine intervention. This is a cautious statement, for I believe that every revolutionary at some time called upon the name of his god, and the results were not necessarily benevolent. But consider the success of our great nation – luck? Extreme wisdom? Favorable conditions? Good weather and a great corn crop? No need to be cheeky, but is there any explanation other than the foresight and wisdom of great leaders? There have been few such leaders in history, yet we had seven of them in our time of need. It’s inhuman when one considers the frailty of our race.

As for the Middle East, we should hope for no less, and we should pray. There is no courage in a refusal to believe our prayer will be heard. War is bloody, and there is evil committed in the name of God every day, but the name of God is invoked by the ego, by the self-aggrandizement that is counter to all God stands for. The evil in the world, particularly in a leader gunning down his own unarmed citizens, should serve to force the hand of the atheist, to deny that the will of man gets to rule this Earth. Pray. Pray for the freedom of Mideastern wives, daughters, sons, brothers, and husbands. Pray that this bloodshed we see is actually the birth of a legacy, that newborn cries of freedom will be heard throughout the Earth and the mountains will shudder against this power that is free will ordained by a Loving God.

17
Jan
11

Soul Force – Lest We Forget a Great Man

“As my wonderful wife @Rep_Giffords continues to make progress, let us all pause and reflect on this MLK day,” Tweet from Mark Kelly.

The words themselves are not profound, but they are well-timed. The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. is exactly what this country needs right now. Perhaps tensions were somewhat cooled by the holidays, but as gas prices, food prices, health care prices, and interest rates rise this spring, we are bound to find ourselves suspended in revolutionary tension once again. As with any unspeakable tragedy, there are lessons to be taken from January 8th, lessons that meld beautifully with MLK’s legacy, if only we take notice.

Martin Luther King led a revolution. This nation is forever changed for the better, thanks to his leadership. As a rule, change without violence happens slowly. Without his peaceful example, it could have taken decades to recognize the human cost of racism and segregation. For years, we could have suffered the damage wrought by an oppressed population as the nation crumbled economically and spiritually. With the competing Black Panther movement of the day, there may have been widespread bloodshed, leading to fear and desperation. Desperation takes hold when mankind is rent of the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Believe in The Almighty or not, it is accepted wisdom that a man threatened by captivity is a dangerous man. Freedom is a gift straight from the Lord, the gift of freewill. History shows that men will more easily lay down their lives for freedom than any other force.

The human desire for freedom is the beast to appease. That which gives strength to fight to the death is also the greatest weakness. Every infamous leader has understood the precious weight of freedom, and the ability or inability of the citizens to carry such weight. Do Americans still have the stamina to uphold this? Jared Loughner, like Timothy McVeigh and even King’s assassin James Earl Ray, was convinced he would protect freedom, but the violence did nothing but impede his cause. Every time someone abuses his rights in the name of preserving freedom, freedom is compromised.

As in Martin Luther King, Jr’s time, I believe the US stands precariously. We are threatened by economic and social challenges as the world around us changes more quickly than we can react. Our superpower status has been eroded and will continue to do so unless we can unite under an ideology of greatness. As we talk about our fight for freedom, we should understand that the way to freedom was paved for us. Centuries of sons were lost on battlefields to accomplish the conditions under which a nation like ours could be founded. The United States carries a mantle to protect these conditions, to ensure that people can live, trade, and thrive freely throughout the world. We need to protect our economic prowess by reigning in spending and we need to be peacekeepers.
Finally, we must define greatness. It is obvious that we have forgotten the meaning. Greatness is that which allows us to be free – it is strength, courage, justice, and the responsibility to uphold these virtues even above personal interest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a legacy that possibly sustained us as a nation. He gave us this: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline… Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

14
Feb
09

Driving Around the Big Love Billboard

I have nothing to say.  I don’t even know why I am here, on WordPress, on this day with nothing on my mind.  This holiday, Valentine’s Day, is the worst.  Tension rests over our house today like London fog.  My husband is lying on the couch, not knowing what to do.  He wanted to go to the movies and I declined, obviously hurting his feelings.  I just feel bad about it.  But this day is just a big reminder, a billboard we can’t seem to drive around, forcing us to recognize what we do not have.

For the last few years, well, 14 of them actually,  pretty much since the day we woke up as husband and wife, we have abused, neglected, and mistreated our marriage.  Finally, we decided to stop behaving so badly.  But it’s not that easy to just about face in a relationship.  We tiptoe around each other, praising the progress we’ve made like a cancer patient who finally starts to re-grow wisps of hair.  She is becoming herself again, but it will still take so much treatment and care to restore her that she may not survive.  Those last four words, I think, are destroying the relationship my husband and I have.  As we have tried to mend our relationship, it has been a joy to feel like a family.  We attend events together, eat together, and watch some TV together.  But we both know that if we talk, the pain is going to surface and that is something we just may not survive.  When we go out, we go with books.  When we watch TV, we are each on our laptops. 

Today we have to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Somehow we have to address the state of our feelings.  Overall,they are good  – better than ever.  But if we misstep and are forced to look underneath, we may find ourselves back in chemo and I don’t think either one of us is strong enough to weather it this time.  It is somehow lonelier to be in a tremulously healthy relationship than it was to be in the dying one, the one filled with fighting and selfishness.  Now, all that is exposed is how far apart we are and how difficult the journey will be as we try to find each other again

07
Dec
08

Magic Rediscovered

You know when you fall asleep on the couch and you are perfectly comfortable until suddenly you’re freezing, but not enough that you wake up and do something about it?  If you are lucky, you can reach a blanket in your sleep.  If you’re even luckier, someone will come and cover you up so you can snuggle back into your pleasant dream.  Well, that’s Christmas.  For years I have been freezing, but I finally found a blanket. 

The freeze started in the Barbie aisle at Target on Black Friday.  I realized that the years of Barbies and other dolls were long gone, yet I hadn’t once captured the magic that was the promise of the season.  It was not for lack of effort.  Every year I began shopping on Black Friday and finished on Christmas Eve, rushing from work to home to mall to boutique to big box store seeking perfection tied up with a bow.  I swore it off this year.  I resolved to cut the shopping back long before the economy tanked but I had no expectation that I would be able to stand my ground against the four color glossy ads.

But today the reinforcements came and helped put up our tree.  It was the first time we have managed to do it as a family from start to finish.  In true Norman Rockwell style, we listened to festive music, laughed, and reminisced all day.  Once the stockings were hung and the halls were decked, we continued to giggle around the breakfast bar where we snacked and teased my older daughter about her new love (she has her very first boyfriend).  Then, the cheese fest continued as we played Christmas carols and sang by the tree.  When we finally modelled the last tree skirt and untangled the little one from the lights, we cuddled up to watch “Elf.”  Then, we topped the evening off by tucking the little lovelies into the empty space under the tree where they are now sound asleep.  Even the older one at fourteen thrilled a the idea of sleeping under the tree.  It’s empty there right now, but particularly beautiful.

That empty space under the tree is exactly what I wanted for Christmas.  I never would have found it at Target.  I don’t know how I missed it for 14 years, but I’m grateful that I finally got it in the nick of time.  My normal routine is to decorate without involvement from the girls so I can get it done quickly and get out to find perfection tied up with a bow.  All that hunting and the Christmas magic I longed for was right here at home.  It was even waiting for me but I was way too busy.  It concerns me that I was convinced I had made my loved ones a priority this season because of the time I spent shopping for all the perfect gifts.  Surprisingly, the gifts were the true priority.  That’s where my time went.  Giving is lovely, but it is completely different from loving.  And despite what the retailers have said, loving is the true magic of the season.




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