We The People, part 1

There’s a burneIMG_6773d-out house on a quiet street where I often ride my bike. It’s been empty for months, with just plywood over windows and a dumpster in the driveway. What caught my attention was the American flag still flying by the front door. The house is going to need major overhauling, but the flag still flies.

It reminds me of our country. The mess becomes more and more evident during an election year.
But patriotism is still evident. Americans still love their country. Sometimes they just don’t know how to express that.

I am a registered Independent. I am a compassionate conservative. I am an American. But most importantly—and this is what should make all the difference—I am a follower of Jesus.

I am not in favor of big government. I think it has come about because the church has failed to do its job of helping the poor and loving the downtrodden. I think this big government has created a state of dependency and has not encouraged hard work.

In order to come to some sort of conclusion about what I believe and for whom I will cast my vote in November, I began to ask myself what the role of government is. I took a look at the preamble to our Constitution:

“We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”

I tried to define what each of those meant and how that looks today. I am not a Constitutional lawyer. I am not even a Constitutional historian. But I’d like to share what I came up with in a two-part post.

In order to form a more perfect union, a government must

Establish justice: A country must have laws. We’ve seen what happens when lawlessness reigns. Businesses are vandalized, property is demolished, barbarism comes out of the depths of dark hearts. But people need to be able to trust the system. Man’s justice will never be perfect, and there will be those who are corrupt, no doubt about it. But even man’s imperfect justice has got to be given a chance. In order for people to trust the justice system, everyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or affluence, must be held to the same standard. Corruption in our court system must not be tolerated.IMG_6772

Insure domestic tranquility:  I see the need for the rule of law in order to insure domestic tranquility. But I also see a need for compassion and caring. I see a need for the underprivileged to be given a voice and an opportunity to improve their circumstances with dignity. But I don’t think that’s the government’s job. It’s the job of the neighborhood church. Government is impersonal. It’s people who need to fill this need. There are so many non-profit agencies right now devoted to helping those in need. Instead of disallowing and discouraging faith-based organizations from pursuing such endeavors by enacting laws against them or threatening lawsuits if they don’t comply with restrictive guidelines, the government should embrace those who are trying to help insure that domestic tranquility. Laws only insure domestic tranquility if they are helping the people be more content and happy. Laws that are enacted to stifle anyone’s voice, be they faith-based or not, are an over reach of the rule of law. If the marginalized are heard, peace is much more possible.

Provide for the common defense: I believe in a strong military, which I think aids in providing for the common defense. I believe it is the government’s job to protect its people from its enemies, foreign and domestic. Some people call that being nationalistic. I think it’s called being the government. A quote that has been ascribed to several different people including Donald Rumsfeld, Vladimir Putin and Bobby Jindal is, “Weakness is provocative.” In order for a government to protect its citizens and its union, it must be strong. The weakest in the pack is the one that gets eaten.

My next post will cover the last two points: Promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. Hope you’ll stick with me!

 

We The People, part 2

img_6772I rode by that burned out house yesterday that I mentioned in Part 1, (read that here before you continue: We The People, Part 1) and there were workmen there and they had the front of the house torn down to the studs. The word that came to mind when I saw that was “rebuild.” Seems apropos.

As promised, here is the second part of my examination of the Preamble to our Constitution. Previously we looked at establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense. Use the link above to read that post.

Promote the general welfare: To me, this is one of the biggest issues. I see the need for compassion in order to promote the general welfare, but not entitlement and dependence.  Allowing for the killing of unborn children,  attacking the traditional family, legislating parenting rather than encouraging faith-based organizations to help teach good techniques doesn’t promote the general welfare. Promoting the general welfare means doing what’s best for everybody. I think the role of government is to ensure that everybody has the ability to prosper.

Making sure quality education is available to everyone helps promote the general welfare. Giving handouts does not. Arresting parents who let their kids play in the park a block from their home does not. Policing in such a way that people of color are afraid to have an encounter of any kind with law enforcement does not. Encouraging anger when those angered don’t know what to do with that emotion does not.

But again, if man is sinful and separated from God, and people’s views of what is best differ, then hearts need to be changed before the general welfare is going to be achieved.

Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Liberty. Freedom. We have a Bill of Rights. I think the role of government is to ensure that those rights are upheld. Once those rights start being revoked, the blessings of liberty fall by the wayside. I fear that our bent toward not offending those who are utterly too offendable is trampling on those rights. When we have freedom, we actually look out for each other better. Or at least that’s how it should be. The Bible says, “Don’t use your freedom as license to sin.” Oh man, those are good words. There is no blessing in a “me-first” attitude.

People need to be heard and they need to believe that they are cared about, and they need IMG_6771to be taught to stand on their own two feet. That’s a part of the government’s job. But that’s also the church’s job. The two entities absolutely must work together instead of being poles apart. People have so misrepresented the idea of the separation of church and state that the church has become a shell of what it was intended to be: a force for good in society. The separation of church and state was enacted so that the state didn’t take over the church. That’s why the Pilgrims left. The free exercise of religion is essential. If only the government would see the good that the church could do, and not be so afraid of it. If only the church was bolder and less concerned about popularity and more concerned about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Nothing short of a revival is going to heal our land. I don’t think our nation can be great again without it. The question is, which leader is more likely to lead us in that direction? And who is willing to give the church a kick in its collective butt to do what it’s called to do?

Rebuilding. That’s what we need in our country.

And revival in our own hearts.

God bless America.

I’m open to civil discussion on any of these matters. Feel free to comment, but keep it civil.

Longing For Lake Tahoe

FullSizeRender-1I have been battling with discontentment this summer. Last summer I got to spend several weeks driving to and from Colorado and hanging out in the mountains. This summer, with sweltering temperatures and cloying humidity, I sit at home, not wanting to venture out past 9 in the morning.

Maybe some people like living in Florida in the summer; I would not be one of them.

And yet that’s where I’ve been for the past 24 summers, with small breaks here and there to be elsewhere.

I long for elsewhere. I long for Lake Tahoe.

When I was younger, my family and I spent many a joyous vacation at Lake Tahoe. Whenever I smell pine trees I fly back in time to that log cabin nestled in the woods that we shared for oh-too-brief vacations with my grandparents. Version 4

The beauty of the mountains, the coolness of the water, the serenity of the lake.

It was idyllic. But I was a child and didn’t have the responsibility of cooking or packing or planning. I just got to enjoy the scenery.

Why, Lord? Why Orlando?

I guess it’s not all about me.

But I long for the beauty, the outdoorsyness, the cool nights sitting on the porch. How did I get to be this person who doesn’t even want to venture outside?

Version 3Would it have felt better if I didn’t have Facebook shoving it in my face that so many other friends get to be elsewhere?

Pennsylvania. Paris. Milan. Minnesota. Washington. Wales.

I see the photos. They draw me.

But here I sit watching another afternoon thunderstorm. Remembering that God’s grace reaches Orlando, too. Maybe my city needed me this summer as it bent under a terrorist attack.

Maybe my daughter needed me as she took another step closer to maturity. As she finally got her braces off. As she struggled with the wherewithal to follow through on her desires of the spring.

Maybe my middle child needed me as he toured college campuses and tried to figure out what he wants to do after graduation. Maybe he needed me to listen to his fussing about his online class, his summer reading, his hatred of math.

Maybe my eldest needed me here as he navigated a breakup with his first girlfriend. As he applied for and started another job. As he took his first online summer class for college.

I am here for a reason. I can whine about my circumstances or I can embrace the plan Version 2God has for me. In Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The plenty of beautiful surroundings and the days of my youth. Being brought low to where I don’t even want to step foot outdoors through the long days of summer. I know this isn’t exactly what Paul was referring to, but it’s how I feel.

IMG_5602I can do this. I can live in Orlando for another summer. Or 2. Or 30. If this is where the Lord has me, then He will strengthen me to live in it.

And at just the right angle, the retention pond could actually look like a lake.

With Liberty and Justice For All

Gavel-and-scales-of-justiceBy now, everyone has probably heard about a couple of things: the shooting by police of a black man in Louisiana and the escape from prosecution for one very privileged white woman who also happens to be running for President of the United States.

It appears that justice was not served in either case.

Granted, I wasn’t in on the FBI investigation, nor was I present when Alton Sterling was shot, but sometimes appearances aren’t deceiving.

From what FBI Director James Comey said, the evidence they found while investigating Hillary Clinton would be enough to warrant charges in many other cases. She was extremely careless and could very well have caused secrets to be discovered by foreign agents. Why they didn’t press charges against her is purely a matter of conjecture at this point. But it certainly looks like favoritism was shown. Had this been some underling, they would be gone. Where was the justice for America?

In the terrible case of Alton Sterling, it certainly appears that the police officers did not hold back. I understand split-second decisions have to be made. I understand when an officer tells you to do something, whether you think you’re in the right or not, you just have to do it lest something tragic happens. But I also understand that deadly force is something that should be handled very, very carefully. Where is the justice for Mr. Sterling?

The news this morning nearly brought me to despair. But I have been reading in the Psalms these days, and I am assured that God is still in control. “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:2). “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath” (Psalm 62: 9). And verse 11: “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God.”

Justice only comes when God is involved. The world will never satisfy our need for things to be right. It’s built into us because we are made in the image of God. Alton Sterling was made in the image of God. Hillary Clinton was made in the image of God. As are the members of the FBI, as is Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as are the Louisiana officers involved in the shooting. “. . . to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work” (v.12).

We won’t see it in our lifetime. Only God’s justice is pure. Anything we see on this earth will fall vastly short.

Praying for the Sterling family. Praying for the officers. Praying for Mrs. Clinton. Praying for America.

Good Ground, Bad Ground

ibisWe’ve all seen it. We’re driving down the road and see a poor, pathetic, smooshed animal. Sometimes recognizable, sometimes not, victim of a speeding vehicle.

Road kill. Vulture victuals. Victims of their own unthinking action.

The other day when my daughter and I were riding our bikes around a nearby neighborhood, a small group of ibis, very common birds in our part of Florida, meandered across the road close to the entrance to the subdivision we navigated.

As is her wont, my daughter encouraged them along: “Hurry up, get to the side, let’s go, let’s go.” The last thing my animal-lover girl wanted to see was a car coming their way.

They made it across and I commented, “You think they’d learn, hard ground bad, soft ground good,” referring to the road and the grass. Morgan came back with, “That sounds like the story in the Bible.”

Genius.

She was referring to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9:

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Hard ground bad; soft ground good.

Is my heart hard? Am I in danger of becoming road kill, letting the good seeds of God’s Word shrivel up and die in my stone-filled heart? Are the vultures of the world circling, just waiting for me to drop dead? Oh, wouldn’t they then rejoice.

How do I keep that from happening? “He who has ears, let him hear.” Let God’s Word dwell in my heart so that it changes me. James, the brother of Jesus, talked about this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1: 22-24).

Rich seed, wonderful fruit, a feast for the soul. That is what God’s Word holds for those who hear and obey, who have hearts like soft ground.

Don’t be spiritual road kill.

When Terror Came To My Town

I live in Orlando and have for the past nearly 25 years. I can distinctly remember where I was when the attack on September 11, 2001 occurred in New York. I was shocked and appalled because this was the first terrorist attack on American soil and I watched it play out. I remember reading about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, but I live far from there. I used to live in San Bernardino, so I paidP1030009 a little closer attention to that attack.

Sunday was a whole different story.

I don’t frequent the downtown area. I live about a half hour away. I had heard of The Pulse nightclub, but had never seen it before. I don’t know anyone who was killed or injured in Sunday’s massacre. But I have friends who were directly affected. And every time I open any social media app, I’m bombarded with images or words. This time, terror came to MY town.

But something hit me last night as I watched “How to Train Your Dragon 2” with my husband and daughter. If you haven’t seen the movie, the following is a spoiler, so you may want to skip a few paragraphs. In the story, Toothless, a Night Fury dragon, is held captive to a “spell” by the alpha dragon of an evil tyrant bent on destroying pretty much everyone. Toothless’ best friend, Hiccup, tries to reach him, but the hold is strong. While under this “spell,” Toothless attacks and kills Hiccup’s father, Stoic.

Understandably, the attack devastates Hiccup and he lashes out at Toothless, angry and grieved. But Hiccup’s mother tells him that she knows Toothless didn’t mean to. He was just under the control of the alpha and couldn’t do anything about it. The draw was too strong.

In the end, with love, gentleness and patience, Hiccup reminds Toothless of their love for each other: “I’m right here, Buddy. You’re my best friend.” Toothless is released from his spell and is able to help vanquish the evil one.

What does this have to do with a terrorist attack? Or a lunatic killing an innocent singer, or anyone who hates and kills and destroys?

Because, believe it or not, those who do such things are not our enemies. Omar Mateen is not our enemy. Radical Islamists are not our enemy.

Satan is our enemy. Satan has taken control of some. And Satan is in our city.

Have you heard hatred and blame spewed on blogs and Twitter in the past 4 days? That’s not Jesus speaking. That’s Satan.

In the Bible, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples writes, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

Omar Mateen was devoured by Satan. Like Toothless, he had no choice but to do what he did because he had allowed hate to fill his heart. Those who have hate filling their hearts can do nothing but evil. Make no mistake, I believe Mateen is responsible for his choices, and he has lost all hope of redemption because he is dead.

But for all who still have breath in their bodies, there is hope. Hope that good will overcome evil, but only if they put off all evil in their hearts. Do not, I beg you, give Satan a foothold by listening to his lies and perpetuating them.

Do Christians hate gays? No. But Satan does. Satan hates everyone.

The thief (Satan) comes to steal, kill and destroy. Sound familiar? But Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Choose life. Tell Satan he can’t have your city. How do you do that? By living like Jesus. Serving, loving, valuing life.

Oh, and I’ve read the last chapter of the Book.

Satan loses. Jesus wins.

The Robe

The last time I saw my mom alive,IMG_6503 9 years ago this month, she was wearing her favorite big, fluffy bathrobe. Undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, she sensed her struggle was coming to an end and she didn’t have the wherewithal to get dressed most days. While I was with her, a hospice nurse came in and talked to us about the future. We arranged for Meals on Wheels to bring food several times a week. I talked to the postal deliverer about bringing her mail down to the front door because her mailbox was at the top of a steep driveway.

She was still sleeping in her bedroom which was on the lower floor of the house where I grew up, so she had enough energy and strength to climb the stairs every morning. But she was growing weaker.IMG_6502

I didn’t know that was the last time I would see her.

After she passed away, my sisters and brother and I went through all the things in the house (my dad had passed away 16 months previous) and chose what we wanted to take home with us, what would be donated, and what would be thrown away.

I chose the robe.

That old robe is getting a little ratty, but I can’t see myself ever wanting to let it go. It doesn’t smell like her anymore—she’s been gone too long—but it still looks like her, and that’s enough for me.

Would I rather hear her voice over the telephone line? Of course. Would I prefer to get a letter in the mail with the latest photographs of whatever she wanted me to see? Absolutely. But instead, I have this old robe. And it’s precious to me.

IMG_6501Miss you, Mom. You would be proud of your grandkids. The one who had a baby almost a year ago and would have made you a great grandma. The one who graduated from college this year and already has a job. The ones who got married and are making new lives for their families. The one who opened his own business and has been written up in several publications because of it. The one who started college and wants to be a law enforcement officer. The one you never met, who learned to tie his own shoes and loves Star Wars. The one who loves horses just like I do and takes riding lessons and has been in horse shows. The one who will be a high school senior and is trying to figure out where he wants to go and what he wants to do.

And so I wear the robe. It holds me close when my mom no longer can. No matter how ratty it gets, that robe isn’t going anywhere.