Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Worship Wednesday: Definition of a heroine

They had been married only 14 months when they traveled from Nashville to New York for a wedding.  It was August 14, 2015, and in a matter of moments, their life together was irrevocably changed.

Harrison Waldron is 23.  His wife Hayley is 22.  On August 14, Harrison was involved in an ATV accident that left him with a severe brain injury.  The Waldrons are former members of my congregation.  Like thousands of others, I learned of Harrison's accident on Facebook, and I followed the Waldrons' posts as they rushed to be with Harrison in a Pennsylvania hospital.

Harrison's mother posted, the only hope we have is a miracle from God.

Fast forward to November 21, 2015, in a hospital room at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

On that day, Hayley Waldron looked at an iPad screen and saw three sentences--sentences that perhaps most of us would take for granted, that we would expect our spouse to say, but which Hayley would not--and perhaps never will again--take for granted.

They were:

"I love you."
"I have wanted to say that."
"My wife is the best."

Hayley's response was to burst with joy.  As did everyone else who read her status update that day.

More than anyone, Hayley, this 22-year-old wife, has born the brunt of this journey she is making with Harrison.  She has sat with Harrison, listened to doctors' prognoses, watched nurses as they cared for him, seen therapists work with him.  She is living in the house of a very generous and hospitable couple.  Daily, she gets up, spends her days with her husband, and then returns home.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

For Hayley, there was no question that she would journey with Harrison.  She has chronicled this part of their lives in numerous Facebook posts and in videos, and in a journal she is keeping for Harrison.
The Christian Chronicle told their story in this article, published in mid-November.

For weeks, her prayer request was for Harrison to "wake up".  Friends, relatives, and even people who didn't know them used #wakeupharrison to spread the word.

He began "waking up" when he started pointing to "yes" and "no", when he started pointing to words, when he was given an iPad and let people know in no uncertain terms that, on that day, he was done with therapy.

We knew he'd awakened when he told his wife he loved her.

Later, his parents--who now live in Honduras as missionaries--asked him, what do you want us to bring you from Honduras?

His answer:  "Coffee."

Then he was asked, how long have you been able to hear?

He said, "I have been able to hear since Pennsylvania."

And then he apologized for making everyone worry about him.

Hayley has documented all of this.  She's been our window to this journey.  She shows her faith and courage daily as she reports on Harrison's progress.  She demonstrates faith as, day by day, she travels to the Shepherd Center to observe Harrison, to talk with him, to watch his therapy sessions, to visit with those who come to see him.

They are due to go home on January 27th.

Hayley and Harrison's journey will not end when they leave the Shepherd Center.  There will still be therapy, still be care, still be challenges to face.  In a sense, they are trying to walk from Washington state to Washington, DC.

For Christmas, Harrison arranged to give Hayley a ring and bracelet with opals (his birthstone).

She framed a copy of their wedding vows and, in a video she posted on Facebook, read them to Harrison.  She said it was a reminder of what she'd promised him on their wedding day.

In a day and time where wedding vows are broken for superficial reasons, Hayley has refused to give up on her husband.  She takes seriously the portion of the traditional vows that state "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live, until death do us part."  She chooses daily to remain by his side, to join him on the walk he is taking.

I have spoken much about deeds, faith and courage.  I realize, as I am writing this, that I've neglected to say where Hayley's faith comes from and from where she draws her courage.  Over and over and over, she has credited God, expressed faith in God, poured out her heart to God, requested prayers on Harrison's behalf.  She has chosen to reach outside herself for what she needs day by day.  Her faith is not in any strength or courage that she has mustered up, or in any "positive thinking" that she may be able to create.  She knows that, day by day, only God can fill her with what she needs.

The website defines heroine as "a woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities."

Look up that definition, and you ought to find a picture of Hayley Waldron.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Manic Monday: Next week at this time . . .

Next week at this time, I'll be writing my first political blog post of the 2016 season.

I'll be honest:  I'm worried about this election.  I've been worried about the last two, and I'm worried about this one.  Our country is in serious trouble.  We have a major debt problem (heading towards $20 trillion). Even though we've been told that we're "in recovery", our economy is still shaky.  One of the reasons the unemployment rate has been going down is not because more jobs are being created, but because people have given up looking.

We are a people deeply divided.  No one wants to listen to the other side.  The other side is automatically "the enemy".

I don't have a lot of optimism when it comes to the political future of this country.  Everyone wants their own way and no one is willing to give an inch.  Or, there is complete capitulation by one side to the other side.

I've seen several reports recently of shootings and disturbances at malls.  And you can't get away from the reports of violence that daily dominate our newspapers.  We're sitting on a powder keg, like Europe was in 1914, and it's only going to take one match to light the fuse.

I have a countdown clock on my blog to the days before Iowa and New Hampshire, and the days before this election.  Frankly, I'll be glad when it's over.  I'm going to need a virtual HAZMAT outfit because of all the mudslinging that will be going on!

Brace yourselves.  The ride is beginning!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy birthday, Jesus . . .

Luke 2:1-20
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Worship Wednesday: Christian trappings

A while back, I downloaded the free Logos Bible app and more recently, I have been using it to organize my prayer lists and do some Bible study.  What annoys me about Logos, however, is that if you want to use certain features--like, say, the interlinear Greek option of some translations--you have to buy a Logos software set, the cheapest of which is $250!

I may, someday, invest the $250 in Logos software.  I'm sure it's worth the cost.

But my experience with using Logos has me wondering about the different "trappings" of Christianity.

I live in a Christian culture.  I get to use a Christian software app in order to read and study the Bible. I can go down to Family Christian Stores, or Lifeway Books, and look up the latest Christian books and/or other media.  I listen to Christian praise music.  I go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and sing on a praise team.  I read (and write) Christian fiction, as does my BFF.  There are loads of Christian notebooks, tips on how to have a good "quiet time", version upon version of the Bible, videos to entertain the kids with clean, Christian entertainment, and, to top it off, Christian decor to place on your walls and on your shelves.  I've done a number of Bible studies where you get the workbook, fill in the blanks, have group discussion, and watch the accompanying video.  I can, off the top of my head, name several prominent Christian authors/celebrities:  Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, John MacArthur, James Dobson, Max Lucado, etc.  If you can afford it, you can send your children to Christian school or Christian colleges.  Or, you can homeschool your children using a Christian curriculum.

What would happen if all of these "trappings" of Christianity disappeared?

Is the faith of the average American Christian based in Christian culture?  Or is it truly based in Christ?

I hear, at this time of year, the gripes about the supposed "war on Christmas" and how "Jesus is the reason for the season" and how Christians are supposed to be offended and to "stand up for Jesus!" when someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".  Never mind that, during December, there's also Hanukkah, and that Kwaanza starts the day after Christmas.  (And today marks "Festivus for the rest of us!" the annual airing of grievances made popular by Seinfeld.)

I also hear the usual screaming about how "God isn't allowed in schools!" and how things would be oh, so much better if we could just put God and prayer back in schools.  As if God slams into an invisible wall whenever a believer steps onto a public school campus and deserts him/her, only to reinhabit him/her when the believer steps off the campus.

There are Christian brothers and sisters that don't have the "trappings" of Christianity that we think are so important in American society.  In Iraq, Iran, China, and other places, they don't have access to Christian bookstores and many of them may not have even heard of the Christian teachers I've named above.  Possession of a Bible is a crime in several countries.  Confession of the name of Jesus can, and sometimes does, get you killed.  Just ask people in ISIS-held territory.

What would the average American Christian do if they wound up in a country without a Christian culture?  What would they do if they only had a Bible and nothing else?  Would they keep their faith, or would it wither and die?  Would they complain because their children couldn't pray in public schools, or not hear "Merry Christmas" from a store clerk?  Or because there are no Christian schools to send their children to?  Or because they can't get their latest copy of a Beth Moore study?

I really wonder, at times, where is the faith of the average American Christian based?  I ask this question of my faith as well.  Without the "trappings" -- without the "Christian" culture that I am so accustomed to -- would I lose my faith?  And if I did, how strong was that faith to begin with?  What was my faith based in?

Our fellow Christians throughout the world seem to do just fine worshiping God without Christian trappings.  Can't we do the same?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Manic Monday: Education and the little blue penguin

(I'm trying to get back to a regular schedule of blogging.  Life and other things have gotten in the way.)

When my niece was in the second grade, she was assigned a report on the little blue penguin.  I would figure that, as a second grader, she would be required to go to the library, look up a book (or something on the Internet), write up a report, and read it aloud to the class.

Uh, no.

What her teacher wanted her to do was to, among other things, make up a diorama AND a display board about the little blue penguin.  She encouraged her class to "get the whole family involved."  In fact, the only way my niece could finish the project was to "get the whole family involved".  My niece's stepfather ended up making out a schedule for her to follow so she could get the assignment finished.  (Just a side note:  My niece asked her stepfather to adopt her.  I think that says a lot about their relationship.)

I can understand this sort of assignment as a way to learn more about the little blue penguin.

But in second grade?

I've wondered for some time if the reason for our abysmal performance in education is that we expect too much too soon from our kids.  I can remember, in first grade, reciting the ABC song.  Now, kids are expected to know their ABC's when they hit kindergarten, if not sooner.

We're pushing our kids too hard, too soon.  We don't give them the time they need to learn the fundamentals, because they have to go on to the next subject.  Hurry up, hurry up, we have requirements to meet!  Our teachers either can't or won't take into account that each student will learn in a different way.  I tend to think that they can't because they are under pressure from their higher-ups to get through a curriculum, so their students can get through a test.

I wonder, too, if so much of this emphasis on our poor educational system is because of a true concern for our students . . . or only because "America must be number 1 in the world because we are America."  We are a great country.  Although we have made our share of mistakes (see slavery and discrimination), we are also known for our compassion, for being the land of opportunity with freedom of speech, assembly etc.

But do we want to be "number 1" simply for the sake of being "number 1"?  And are we willing to do anything, including sacrificing our children, to be "number 1 in the world"?  Are we going to force second-graders to do a diorama on the little blue penguin just so we can meet some sort of arbitrary standard to make us "number 1 in the world"?

Education is vital.  I think teachers are underpaid and underappreciated.  I think they have lost power in the classroom, and I also think they are used as pawns in a system that is more concerned with results rather than the methods used to get them.  I want the United States to have a good--great--educational system that turns out excellent doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers; and also plumbers, electricians, auto workers, etc.  (Those of us who look down our noses at blue-collar workers--where would you be without running water, flushing toilets, or electricity?)

But how are you going to do it?  Are you going to impose a curriculum on everyone that demands the same performance whether the kids can meet it or not?  This has been one of the main--and understandable--criticisms of the No Child Left Behind program.

I may or may not have a valid voice in this debate.  My son is in special education.  He has what is known as an IEP, an Individualized Education Plan, which sets out goals and objectives according to his strengths and weaknesses.  He's been very fortunate with his teachers, also.  I can think of only two bad teachers he's had in his life, and one of them was "bad" simply because she was dealing with some very difficult personal circumstances in her life.  I don't know the ins and outs of "regular" public education.  I do know, though, what I hear from other teachers and workers in the school system.  My father was also a public school teacher until 1992, when he retired due to illness.  (He died in 1993.)  When I asked him if he regretted not teaching, he said, "No.  It was getting pretty bad."

I also remember being a public school student in the 1970's, and even then, public schools were having their problems.  Discipline was a big one, as it is now.  When you tell a student to do something, and they say no, and you have no leverage with that student . . . what do you do?  I experienced this in 1989, when I briefly worked in an inner-city public school as a librarian.  I had no way to maintain discipline, and the students knew it.

I cannot remember what year this was, but during the first day of final exams in high school, we were given the opportunity to have some sort of a break, or privilege, during that day.  Many of the students abused that privilege, and as a result, our principal came on the intercom and announced our punishment:  We were going to have less time to do our finals the next day . . . which meant we were going to get out of school earlier.  


What kind of consequence was that?

And it's gotten worse since then.

My niece is now 20, a college student, and doing well.  Her experience with the little blue penguin apparently hasn't harmed her.

But I wonder how many other students, in the name of "educational excellence" have been left behind? How many other students have paid the price for our desire to be "number 1"?

When are we going to learn to find out what our students are capable of, and fit the curriculum to their needs, instead of expecting them to do something they may not be capable of yet?  Why expect our second-graders to do a diorama on the little blue penguin?  Surely that can wait until third or fourth or fifth grade.  Why do they need to know it in the second grade?  Do the people who expect that out of second graders even know if the average second-grader is capable of that?

I believe in setting standards for students to reach for.  But there's a difference between asking our students to stretch and asking our students to grab something that's totally out of their grasp.  And I fear we are asking our students to do the latter.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

One group, two news stories, 37 years apart . . .

On the morning of January 24, 1978, probably around 5:30 a.m., I was lying in bed with my radio on.  My room was dark because it was very early in the morning, and while I knew I'd have to eventually get up, I didn't want to.  My radio was on either Y95 or Q105 FM, and I'm pretty sure it was Y95.

I was listening to the half-hour news.  After a commercial break, the newscaster came back on.  I still remember his words and my exact reactions:

"One of the members of the group Chicago . . ."

I smiled to myself, because they were my favorite rock band and I always enjoyed hearing news about them.

" . . . has accidentally killed himself."

Bang!  A hit to the gut.

"31-year-old --" and I hit the dial knob.  I didn't want to hear it.  I was thinking to myself.  "Not Terry.  Not Peter.  Not Bobby.  Please."

I turned the dial down to Q105 because I knew they had news on at a quarter to the hour.  And I made myself listen this time.

It was Terry Kath, lead guitarist of Chicago, dead at 31 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  He was playing with a gun, pointed it at himself, and said, don't worry, it's not loaded. The clip was out of the gun, but a bullet had been left in it.  That was the bullet that killed him.

It was Chicago's low point.  They were never the same after that.

I was 14 years old, and heartbroken.  And I told no one.  My daydreams to that point had included being a member of a rock band, and one of the bands my fictional band would meet and play with was Chicago.  Both before and after Terry's death, my little-girl diaries were filled with information and daydreams about Chicago.

As little girls do, I grew up, and I put away the daydream of being part of a rock band (although I still sing).  But I never forgot Chicago.

This morning, at about 10 after 5 a.m., I was lying in bed with my radio on.  My room was dark because it was very early in the morning, and while I knew I'd have to eventually get up, I didn't want to.  My radio was on WSB-FM, 95.5.

I heard the opening riff of "25 or 6 to 4" and I suspected I knew what the news was.

"Chicago is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

I pumped my fists and whispered, "Yes!"

Thirty-seven years, ten months, and 23 days after the shattering announcement I heard as a little girl, I got to hear what I hope is Chicago's high point.

I was 52 years old, and delighted.

For years, Chicago fans like myself have seethed over Chicago's exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Their first album was released 46 years ago.  They have long since met the criteria of having released their first album 25 years ago.  Their fans are legion, and the group still tours to this day to rousing applause.  It's been said that a member of Chicago insulted Rolling Stone founder Jann Werner, and that Werner, as a result, wouldn't let them into the RRHOF.

When the most recent nominees were announced a few months ago, Chicago was there.  I don't know how they got there, but they were there.  Eager fans, including myself, raced to their official website and voted over and over and over and over . . . When the fan voting finished. Chicago ranked #1 with 23% of the vote.  (Yes, I know that plenty of people voted more than once; I freely admit, I voted multiple times.)

The fans spoke, and apparently, Jann Werner and company finally listened.  They will be inducted in April, 2016.

(For the record, the five new inductees are Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and N.W.A.)

Okay, perhaps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is nothing but a popularity contest and a shrine to the ego of Jann Werner.  And this blog entry will probably mean very little to anyone except those who are Chicago fans; those who, like myself, enjoyed their music from the 1970's, and others who have more recently discovered them.

But I find it fitting that at Chicago's low point and high point, I was in exactly the same place:  lying in the dark, listening to the radio.

From a little girl who loved your music who grew up to be a woman who still loves your music, congratulations.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, December 11, 2015

It. Has. To. Stop.

It. Has. To. Stop.

This hysterical fear, this hysterical crap, poop, muck, slime, rubbish, garbage, insert your favorite four-letter descriptive term here -- It. Has. To. Stop.


This week since the San Bernadino shootings has been filled with news items about K-1 visas, radicalization, immigration policies, Muslims, terrorists, and fear, fear, fear.  Donald Trump wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.  Today, a CBS News/New York Times poll reports that 79% of Americans believe that a terrorist attack is likely or somewhat likely in the next few months.  Count me in that 79%.  I do think we are going to get hit by a 9/11 style attack sometime soon.

The word "terrorist" has as its root word "terror."  Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines "terror" as  1) a state of intense fear; 2a) one that inspires fear, 2b) a frightening aspect, 2c) a cause of anxiety, 2d) an appalling person or thing ("brat" is listed as a synonym here; my sister can testify that I was a terror in my younger years.); 3) violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.

"Terrorize", according to Merriam-Webster, means: 1) to fill with terror or anxiety, 2) to coerce by threat or violence.

"Terrorism" is defined as "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion".

"Terrorist" is defined as "a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims".

We are living in fear.  We are living in terror, in that state of intense fear and anxiety.  We are ripe for being terrorized, to being coerced by threat or violence.  And there are those who are going to exploit that fear for their own personal gain.  There are the terrorists, who will use terror systematically to coerce people into doing what they want.  There are the politicians, who will use the fear of terrorists to push through their own agenda.

I don't want to be naive.  There are terrorists out there who want to kill Americans.  There are at least four groups of Muslim terrorists--ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas--who regularly use acts of terror and threats of terror to intimidate and coerce the population into doing what they want.  The two people who shot up a holiday party in San Bernadino were "radicalized" Muslims who may have been inspired by ISIS (i.e., not necessarily ordered by ISIS to do this shooting but who thought it was a good idea to do it; and who may have been planning other attacks as well).  I believe there are Muslim terrorists in this country who want to kill Americans and they may be planning to do so.

I also believe there are other terrorists, not Muslims, who want to use acts of terror to intimidate and coerce people to do what they want.  (If you take this definition to its logical conclusion, bullies can be classed as terrorists as well.)  If someone is suspected of being a terrorist, they need to be investigated.  If a mosque is promoting terrorism, it needs to be investigated. (Same with a church or synagogue.)  If a suspected terrorist wants to get into the US, he or she needs to be kept OUT until it can be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this person is not a terrorist.

I do understand the need for thorough vetting of those coming from the Middle East.  And, unfortunately, I do get the impression that this current administration is more interested in protecting the reputation of Muslims than protecting the safety of all Americans, Muslims included.  And I am tired of this undercurrent of political correctness in this country that makes people afraid to level legitimate criticism towards members of certain ethnic, religious, political, or other groups for fear of being "offensive".  Guess what:  there are times when some people NEED to be offended!

But this hysterical fear, this hysterical crap, this frenzy, these screams of "No more Muslims, they're all terrorists!", "No more refugees, they all want to come and bomb us!", "Close all mosques, they're nothing but hotbeds of terrorism!" -- It. Has. To. Stop.

Not long ago, I was listening to a Spotify playlist, "All Out '80's", when I came across a song by John Farnham that expresses much of what I am trying to say here.  I've posted the video below.  The lyrics are here.  Please read them.

I refuse to live in silence.  I refuse to live in fear.  If we live in silence, if we live in fear, the terrorists have already won, just as surely as if they have bombed us into submission.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Family Friday: And THIS is what he was worried about?

Right now, I'm just plain tired of all of the hysteria and fear in the world.  So here's a funny:

I have been working on a novel for some time (a rewrite of something I did back in 2005), and I am TWO CHAPTERS away from finishing a first draft.  (One thing that is interrupting my noveling is doing proofing work that I get paid for.  Noveling doesn't pay anything.  Yet.)
I've been posting chapters over an an online critique group, and I have gotten good feedback from them.  In fact, that's one reason I've kept writing.  They want to know what happens next!
The main character in this novel is part Hopi.  He also is doing his dissertation on the Hopi language.  One phrase (word?) he has taught his wife to say is Nu' umi unangwa'ta, which means "I love you".  
In a couple of places, as I was writing, I just didn't want to look up the word, so I wrote it in the manuscript as [Hopi for I love you], as a note to myself to go check it later. To be honest, I was just too lazy to put it in and wanted to get the writing done.
Well, someone put the following comment on the last chapter I posted: 
I couldn't stand it anymore so I went and looked it up on the Internet! grin emoticon
I said, "Boy, all the stuff I had in that chapter, and THAT'S what you were concerned about??"
I loved it.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

After yesterday's shootings, I am lamenting . . .

I am tired.
I am numb.
I am in grief.
And I am lamenting.

I am borrowing some words from the book of Daniel, from the book of Ezra, from the book of Habakkuk, and from my own thoughts.  For what it's worth, this is Tina's Psalm of lament:

Oh, God, I am too ashamed to lift up my head to you.  For we have acted wickedly.  We have not kept your commands to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I shake my fist and demand to know why the way of the wicked prospers.  And yet, I know this is not your fault.  It is the fault of us, who go our own way, ignore you, ignore what you would have us to do.  We ignore your love.  We ignore your commands.  We wish to go our own way and do things our way, what seems right in our own eyes.  We do not look to you for guidance.

My sin is great and the sin of my people, of this country, is great.  I struggle with pride, with prejudice, with judgmentalism, with believing that I am better than others.  And I struggle with believing that you will listen and answer prayers according to what is best.

We honor what is vile among men, and that is why wicked people freely strut about.

I cry out for the souls of those who were lost yesterday, for the souls that have been lost in too many shootings this year, for the souls of those who commit murder, especially those that commit murder and acts of terror and claim that it is in Your name.

I cry out for those who would heap blame on groups of people when it is only certain members of those groups that are guilty of such acts.

I cry out for those who are fleeing evil, and for those who don't want "those people" anywhere near them.

I cry out for your justice, and for your mercy, and for your action.

Please listen.  Please, if it is your will, please save this nation before it is too late.

For us who are Christians -- for me, because I claim to be Christian -- make us, make me, your hands and feet.  It is only in that way that we -- that I -- will ever be able to show the love of Christ, the love that compelled him to die for us, and the love that compels us -- that should compel me -- to love him and to serve others.

Help us not to hate.  Help us to be fearless in condeming evil, but compassionate towards those who commit the evil.  Help us to erase the hate and the prejudice.  Help us only to commit love in the name of Christ, not evil.  Help us to be prudent, and yet compassionate and fearless.

I weep.  I lament.  This is a time of lament and not of rejoicing.  It is a time of grief.  For we have sinned, for I have sinned, and we -- and I -- desperately need your forgiveness.  We -- I -- do not deserve your grace that you give as a gift to us.  But we -- but I -- need it.

I can do nothing more but throw myself upon your mercy as a compassionate and merciful God and pray, and beg, please listen.  Please act.

I know that the Lord is good, and his mercies are from generation to generation.  As angry and impatient as I get with you, and as angry as I have often been over events in my life, time and time again you have shown your mercy and your grace by granting me blessings I do not deserve, by answering prayers in spite of my attitude and my unbelief.

Your mercy is great, and you are a God of compassion.
You are holy, and cannot tolerate sin.
I grieve, I lament, for my sin; for our sins.
Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

In the name of Jesus, may this be so.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#BrusselsLockdown for the win!

On Sunday, police in Brussels, Belgium conducted a massive search for terrorists who may have been planning a Paris-style attack there.  As of this writing, the search continues.

Residents were asked to stay away from windows and refrain from using social media to broadcast anything that might give away police positions.

So what did the good citizens of Brussels do?

They let the cat out of the bag.

They proceeded straight to the Internet, where they tweeted pictures.

Of cats.

Yes, the good citizens of Brussels, Belgium took to the Internet to post cat pictures.

Cats are the most posted, most tweeted animal on the Internet.  A popular website, I Can Has Cheezburger, boasts what is probably the most comprehensive respository of cat memes in cyberspace.  Grumpy Cat is an Internet icon.  And who doesn't enjoy just a sweet picture of a cuddly cat every once in a while?

In this case, cats were used as the new weapon of mass destruction.  Instead of cowering in fear and hiding in terror, the good citizens of Brussels dug down deep and found their sense of humor.  I'm not exactly sure how it started, but within an hour after authorities requested that people stay off social media as a security precaution, photos such as the following started flooding the net, tagged with #BrusselsLockdown:

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!  You're my only hope.

Hmm, let me study up on the subject . . .

As a thank you, Belgian police posted a picture of cat food with the admonition to "help yourselves!"

In the midst of a climate of fear, people responded with a sense of humor and refused to let fear overpower them.

#BrusselsLockdown for the win!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Manic Monday: "Do not be afraid . . ."

(I have been blessed with proofing work, which is why I have not regularly written on the blog lately.  But I did want to get this in before I started today's assignment.)

"They're coming for us."
"ISIS is here already."
"They're going to sneak in with the Syrian refugees."

These, and other expressions of fear, are what I've read on social media in these days that have followed the attacks on Paris.  Yesterday, a crowd of people paying tribute to the victims at the Plaza de Republique ran screaming in panic after what sounded like gunshots.  They turned out to be firecrackers.  Police activity at a Paris hotel also turned out to be a false alarm.

People are afraid, and I'm not surprised.  In the days that followed 9/11, people were afraid.

I don't underestimate ISIS.  I think they do have more tricks up their sleeve.  It would not surprise me one bit if they had plans to attack the United States somehow, somewhere.  They may already be here.  I don't know.

But somehow, I just have this gut feeling that these responses of fear are just plain wrong.  We're missing something.  We're leaving something out.

In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 6, there's a story of the prophet Elisha and his unnamed servant.  At that time, the king of Aram was at war with Israel, and Israel seemed to know every move that Aram made.  The king was told, "Elisha the prophet tells the king the very words you speak in your bedroom."

The king's response (paraphrased) was, "Go get him!"

Which the army did.  They found Elisha and his servant in Dothan.  When Elisha's servant looked out the window, he saw the army and cried out, they've surrounded us!

Elisha told him, don't be afraid.  There are more with us than there are with them.  And he prayed that God would open the servant's eyes . . .and when He did, the servant saw chariots of fire around the army.

I don't know if God works the same way today as he did in the Old Testament.  I haven't seen chariots of fire lately.  And it may be that he won't protect the United States of America the same way that he protected Israel, or Elisha.

But I do believe that, for those who belong to God, there are more with us than there are with them. Maybe those that are with us will supernaturally protect those who belong to God.  Or, maybe they will just walk with God's people as they experience whatever hardships they experience.

I'm reminded of a song we sometimes sing in church by Don Moen, He Will Come and Save You:

Say to those who are fearful hearted:
Do not be afraid.
The Lord your God is strong
With His mighty arms
When you call on his name
He will come and save.

He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Say to the weary one
Your God will surely come
He will come and save you.

Say to those who are broken hearted
Do not lose your faith
The Lord your God is strong
With His loving arms
When you call on His name
He will come and save.  
He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Lift up your eyes to Him
You will arise again
He will come and save you
He is our refuge in the day of trouble
He is our shelter in the time of storm
He is our tower in the day of sorrow
Our fortress in the time of war
"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Today, we are all French

After 9/11, a number of nations said, "Today, we are all Americans."

Today, a day after 3/13, the sentiment is, "Today, we are all French."

I sat in front of the TV and the computer last night and watched in horror as the death toll from six attacks went from 18, to 100, to 140, and currently, the official death toll is at 128, with over 300 wounded.  Six of the 128 were the attackers.  Two of them blew themselves up with suicide belts as the police closed in.

Right now, I have no words.  Just a compliation of facts and feelings that are rather difficult to put on a computer screen.

Yesterday morning, President Obama sat in a chair and claimed that ISIS has "been contained".

Today, ISIS has claimed responsibility for this horrific attack in Paris.  That doesn't sound very "contained" to me.

I do not want to be hateful towards Muslims.  I believe that most Muslims wish to live in peace.  But the current terrorists out there who are causing the most damage are Muslim.  They conquer and kill in the name of their religion, and they show no mercy towards the people they conquer.  You convert, submit, or die.

There are people out there that just do not get it:  You do not negotiate with terrorists.  You do not give them an inch, because they will not only take a mile, they will take more than a mile.  What happened in Paris, what is happening in Syria and in other parts of the world, is the result of what happens when you think you can "lead from behind" and only croak your denunciation, instead of waging a "pitiless war", as French President Francois Hollande has sworn to do.

Last night, I read posts saying that, "This will happen here.  They are coming for us."

I do not want to be afraid.  I will not cower in my house and wait for Islamic terrorists to attack.  But I do feel fear.  It worries me when we either think that we can negotiate or dialogue with these terrorists, or when we mentally decide, there's nothing we can do, and just let an attack happen.

Last night, I remembered a verse in 2 Kings 6.  In this story, the king of Aram was at war with Israel, and the prophet Elisha was telling the king of Israel "the very words [he spoke] in his bedroom."  In response, the king of Aram sent troops to capture Elisha.

When Elisha's servant got up the next morning, he saw the troops and was terrified.  Elisha's answer was:  "Don't be afraid.  There are more with us than there are with him."

This is what I want to think.  This is what I want to believe.  That there are more with us than with him.  I want to believe that God is with people--that God is with me--and therefore, I don't need to be afraid.

In the meantime, I pray and I mourn with the people of Paris.

Je suis Paris.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Manic Monday: A Whovian take on war and revolution

I'm a Whovian.  For the ignorant and/or uninitiated, 'Whovians" are fans of the BBC science fiction program "Doctor Who".  The Doctor, as he is known, is a time lord who travels throughout time fighting enemies and helping people.  There have been twelve doctors in the 52-year history of the program.  The latest Doctor is played by Peter Capaldi.

The Doctor traditionally travels with at least one companion, and that companion is, more often than not, female.  His most recent companion is Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman.

In the Doctor's latest adventure with Clara, his enemy is an alien race call the Zygons.  As part of the plot, one of the Zygons has commandeered Clara's face and is looking for something called the Osgood box.  In the climax, there are two Osgood boxes with two buttons:  Truth or Consequences.
Push the wrong button, and serious consequences would ensue for either the Zygons or the humans.

The fake Clara and another character, Kate, are facing each other, ready to push the button.  

And at that moment, the Doctor delivers one of the best speeches I have ever heard on war and revolution:

I found a transcript of the Doctor's speech that someone posted at, and I'm using it as part of this blog post:

The Doctor: Ah. And when this war is over, when -- when you have the homeland free from humans, what do you think it's going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you're very close to getting what you want. What's it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? What'll be holidays? Oh! Will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who will make the violins? Well? Oh, You don't actually know, do you? Because, just like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don't actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you've killed all the bad guys, and it's all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
Bonnie (fake Clara): We'll win.
Doctor: Oh, will you? Well maybe -- maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keepts turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.
 * * * * * * * * *
The Doctor: Because it's not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it's always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who's going to die. You don't know who's children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they're always going to have to do from the very beginning -- sit down and talk! Listen to me, listen. I just -- I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It's just a fancy word for changing your mind.
Bonnie: I will not change my mind.
The Doctor: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box. You could walk right out of that door, and you could stand your revolution down.
 * * * * *
The Doctor: I don't understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war, this funny little thing? This is not a war. I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine, and when I close my eyes... I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight... Til it burns your hand. And you say this -- no one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will ever have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.

Here's what got my attention:  What happens when "it's all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it"?
What happens with those who support Bernie Sanders, an avowed Socalist, when they have it "perfect and just and fair", the way they define "perfect and just and fair?"
Or what happens with those who support Hillary Clinton, and who support what she thinks is "perfect and just and fair"?
What about the conservatives in the Republican Party, and their definition of "perfect and just and fair"?
Each group can get their world "perfect and just and fair", but what do they do with the troublemakers?  What do they do with those that don't agree?  What do they do with the people that don't think that everything is "perfect and just and fair?" 
Right now, according to the coundown on my blog, there are 364 days until Election Day in the United States.  Although I say "each side", as if there were only two sides to this election, there are really multiple sides right now.  I'll address this to all sides:  
You have your definition of what is perfect and just and fair . . . but what are you going to do with those that don't agree with your definition of perfect and just and fair?  Because right now, on all sides, there are people who don't agree, don't even like, other's definitions of perfect and just and fair. 
Face it, there will be no definition of perfect and just and fair that is going to make everyone happy. Not with conservatives, who are unhappy with the current state of affairs in the Republican Party. Not with moderate Republicans, who think conservatives are too rigid.  Not with Republicans vs. Democrats, who both see the world through their own particular lens and believe that if one or the other party is elected, the United States of America is headed for certain doom.  Not with differing wings of the Democratic Party, with Bernie Sanders as a socialist and Hillary Clinton defending her record as a Senator and Secretary of State.

We may think that war and revolution are going to solve everything.  Each party, or group, may think that when they're in charge, the world is going to be perfect.  Socialists believe that if everything can be divided equally, then the world will be just and fair and perfect.  Conservatives believe that if everyone is given the opportunity with as little government interference as possible to better themselves, the world will be fair and just and perfect.
I happen to fall into the latter category.  Socialism has not worked in the countries where it has been tried.  I believe we all are intelligent enough to take advantage of opportunities and that we have the responsibility to help others along the way, without being coerced by a law that will force us to do so. True charity comes from the heart.
But on both sides, there are the "troublemakers".  There are those who don't think that conservatism is fair, just, and perfect; just as there are those who don't think that socialism is fair, just and perfect. And that's because no system is fair, just, or perfect.  Not even systems I believe in, such as conservatism, or democracy, or the US Constitution.  
The Doctor spoke more about war than I have covered in this blog post.  My question to consider is: Do we really think that the world is going to be perfect, just, and fair when we get everything exactly the way we want it?
Answer:  No, it will not; because we will always have the dissenters and the troublemakers.
How, then, do we learn to work together?
That's a question that only we can answer when we, as the Doctor has said, learn how to think.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Manic Monday: I actually agree with Boortz!

While Neal Boortz has retired from talk radio, he has not retired from talking.  Boortz had a talk radio program based in Atlanta, GA, until 2013, when he retired.  Since then, he's been traveling the United States in the "Boortz Bus" when he's not enjoying retirement in Florida.

He does a short daily commentary on WSB Radio, and I actually agreed with a recent one.

Boortz and I don't agree on certain things.  But this commentary, I agreed with.  He said that soon, no one will want to be a police officer because, when it comes to a white police officer vs. a young black, the young black is ALWAYS in the right, no matter what the circumstances.

I don't know of any way to write this post that is not going to sound racist or incendiary.  So I'm going to write it the best I can and let the chips fall where they may.

I'm 52.  Within my lifetime, you can find accounts of blacks being savagely and unfairly mistreated by white police officers.  Go to YouTube, search for "selma news coverage", and you'll find news footage of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by law enforcement.  Look for "civil rights movement" and you'll find account after account of similar encounters, either of law enforcement turning dogs or water hoses on peaceful demonstrators, or of whites abusing of blacks while law enforcement did nothing to stop them.  Denying this part of history is on the same level as denying the Jewish Holocaust.

And while legally sanctioned discrimination is largely a thing of the past, I'm also sure there are cases where white law enforcement HAS been guilty of mistreatment of blacks.  The shooting of Walter Scott at the beginning of this year is just one example.  And "mistreatment of blacks" is a gross understatement in this case--the man was shot in the back as he ran.  The officer was indicted by a grand jury in June of this year, and justifiably so, in my opinion.

My minister has an adopted son who is black.  He's spoken of times when his son was unfairly treated by law enforcement.  (He addressed this subject in this Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast.)

I don't want to ignore the very real problems that are faced as the result of a history of systemic discrimination.  And I fear that I, as a white woman, just do not "get it".

But does the tragic history of discrimination faced by African-Americans justify certain events in Ferguson, MO?  In Baltimore?  In other places?  Are riots in the streets EVER justified?  I don't mean peaceful protests.  I don't mean gatherings at places like Centennial Park in Atlanta where angry people blow off steam without destruction of property.  I mean, looting, burning, attacks on innocent citizens at the mere hint of police mistreatment without trying to find out the facts first.

We are fast becoming a country where if any officer dares to show any force against anyone, especially if that officer is white and the other person is black, that officer is automatically going to be accused of some sort of police brutality.  And while police brutality against African-Americans was and is a historical reality, I fear that there are some who use that history as an excuse for tolerating and justifying violence.

Is there no way for us whites to acknowledge the very real history of police brutality and mistreatment towards the black community, and current cases of police mistreatment and brutality towards blacks (or anyone else, for that matter)?

Is there no way for certain members of the black community to realize that not every encounter between a white officer and a black person is the fault of the white officer?  That, sometimes, maybe the black person really is guilty of a crime?

Is there no way for us to understand?  To work together?  To drop these masks of suspicion that we just automatically seem to have towards one another?

If we can't find a way to acknowledge the systemic abuses that African-Americans have suffered, and also acknowledge that whites are not always the guilty party, we are soon going to be a society that will be ripped apart at the seams, and I fear that our calls to 911 will go unheeded.

Because no one, black or white, will want to even attempt to enforce the law in such circumstances.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Family Friday: Is there a life sentence for murdering plants?

According to the Daily Mail, I am a murderer.

Yes, dear, gentle, Tina Seward, wife, mother and Christian, stands accused, tried, and convicted of murder.

All because I am a plant eater.

This article in the Daily Mail online cites a study done by researchers at the University of Missouri that says that "plants can 'hear' themselves being eaten.

So, a carrot can hear the munch, munch of a rabbit using it for a midnight snack?

Well, not really.  At least, I don't think so.

The study discovered that plants can identify nearby sounds--such as the sounds of eating--and then react defensively.  

Specifically, the study followed the behavior of a plant called Arabidopsis, described as "a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard". The people doing the study placed caterpillars on Arabidopsis, then used a laser and a small piece of reflective material on the plant's leaf. Scientists could then measure the movement of the leaf in response to the caterpillar as the caterpillar chewed on the leaf.  (I assume that the caterpillars they picked had not yet had their lunch.)

The scientists then played back their recordings of "caterpillar 

feeding vibrations"
to one set of plants, but played back only silence to another set of plants. 

Later, at their next meal opportunity,

the caterpillars were allowed to eat on both sets of plants.
(Perhaps their caretakers realized that said caterpillars needed to gain some weight or be better nourished?)


during this meal, at least one set of caterpillars was disappointed and may have gone away with their appetite unsatisfied. 

Because the researchers discovered that the plants exposed to "feeding vibrations" produced what are called mustard oils, which is a chemical that caterpillars

do not like. 

However, plants exposed to other vibrations, such as wind or different insect sounds, didn't produce mustard oils. Conclusion: plants can "distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration."  In other words, the plants knew that they were about to be eaten and secreted the mustard oils in self-defense. 

Today, I made a smoothie with the following ingredients: one apple, one carrot, a handful of spinach, one banana, some yogurt, and milk. As I turned on the blender and listened to the sound of my smoothie being prepared, was what I heard the whirring of my blender as it grated and pureed the ingredients into a delicious drink made solely for my enjoyment?

Or was it, instead, the sounds of horrific screaming as the plants realized that they were spinning towards their inevitable doom?

None of the plants secreted mustard oils.  At least, not that I was aware of.  At least, I didn't taste anything that tasted like mustard oils.  So, it's possible that they were never aware of their ultimate fate. 

But does this mean that I will never be able to enjoy a smoothie again without feeling enormous guilt over the murder of defenseless, innocent plants that gave their lives so that I may be better nourished? 


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Family Friday: Oh, rats!

After seeing this article in the Daily Mail about the burgoning rat population in New York City, I only have one thing to say:

The rat race is over.
The rats won.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Manic Monday: Liberal and conservative frustration . . .

I'm a conservative, which means I believe that Americans are smart enough to run their own lives without all that much help from the goverment.  Government is needed to protect the public safety and provide certain public services.

I disagree with those who "lean left" about the role of government in certain areas, like health insurance, Social Security, environmental protection, and others.  But I also admit to some frustrations with both sides of the aisle.

There are people who need health insurance and who will either go bankrupt from trying to pay for health care or die without it.  How do they get insurance if they're unemployed or can't afford to pay the premiums?  That was one of the points of the Affordable Care Act, to get insurance into the hands of those that needed it.  What I objected to was the way it was pushed through Congress.  Also, I think trying to address so many health care issues in one bill was biting off more than one could chew.  One thing I would have liked to have seen in the bill was the ability to buy health insurance across state lines, which may have made obtaining health insurance easier.

And there are people who are disabled and can't work, or who can only work in certain jobs.  I know families who deal with seriously disabled members--people with cerebral palsy, or severe autism, or severe mental illness, or Lou Gehrig's disease . . . I could make an endless list.  How do you get medical treatment for these people?  And how do you support the caregivers of these families?

The IRS, TSA, and EPA are probably the most hated governmental agencies in America.  There are legitimate concerns about all three of them--overreaching authority, audits that might not be necessary, patting down people that don't need to be patted down, and other concerns.  But there are people who cheat on their taxes, or who innocently have made mistakes and need help.  The environment does need to be cared for, because dirty air, dirty water, contaminated land--all of them are health hazards.  (And as a Christian, I am called to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to my care.)  And, as much as we might not like to think about it, there are terrorists out there who want to kill Americans, on American soil, and we do need to find them before they can do their job.

On the other hand, we have 18 trillion dollars in debt, and it's fast rising.  Social Security, Medicaid, and other government programs eventually will run out of money.  You can tax and tax all you want, but unless Congress gets out of the habit of spending more than they receive, none of the financial problems of the US will be solved.

Neither liberals nor conservatives seem willing to work with each other to solve the problems we're facing.  Nor do they seem to be willing to crawl into the other side's skin to try and see things from the other point of view, lest they be accused of "compromising".  Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, while they disagreed with each other philosophically, had drinks together.  At least they were willing to work together.  When was the last time John Boehner and Barack Obama had drinks together?

I'm frustrated with both sides of the aisle, which is why I often think, "A plague on both your parties!"  Both sides of the aisle make decisions about which I can do nothing, yet I have to live with many of the consequences of those decisions.  As do the rest of us.

Is there just no way for both sides to work together without one side completely caving to the other, or one side being accused of "compromise" with the other side?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Family Friday: Birthday

I am 52 today, and I've spent the day enjoying myself.

Things are challenging . . . but I am still alive!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Little footprints

"In 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important." -- The Doctor, "Doctor Who"

This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today, specifically, is set aside to remember those who were a moment on this earth but forever in the hearts of those who loved them.

Some years ago, I "met" a woman on CafeMom, a social media site, who was grieving the loss of twins.  She lost one of the twins early in her pregnancy and then lost the other to a stillbirth.  Later, she became a Facebook friend and once told me, "No one ever remembers."

She's no longer on Facebook, but I've always remembered her saying that.  So I want someone to remember.

Here are those I remember:

Bobbie Lee
Hope C.
Hope K.
John William
Sarah Grace

I know there are many others whose names I have forgotten or I can't remember.  I remember them, too.

There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Worship Wednesday: "Proving" it

"Everyone believes they are right, and everyone can 'prove' it by Scripture."  This is one of my major complaints about modern Christianity.

Arguments about doctrine are nothing new.  They've been around since the 3,000 were baptized in Acts 2.  In Acts 15, we read about the Jerusalem Council, in which the question "should Gentiles be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses?" when they turned to God and accepted Jesus as the Messiah?

I'll take baptism as an example of "proving it".

The word "baptism" in the New Testament comes from the Greek "baptizo", meaning "dip, plunge, immerse".  My own church, the Church of Christ, practices baptism by immersion.  Baptists do, also; and I believe Pentecostals do.  I'm sure there are others of which I am not aware.  Churches of Christ use Acts 2:38-39I Peter 3:21Romans 6:3-7, and others to "prove" that baptism is necessary, and use the Greek to "prove" that is must be by immersion.

There are others who practice baptism by sprinkling (Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and others).  Isaiah 52:15 is used to "prove" that sprinkling is okay; also, Ezekiel 36:25.  (I pulled these from this website, written by a Methodist minister.)

Some use pouring (which is probably also referred to as "sprinkling"); i.e., pouring water on top of the head.  The Amish, among others, do this.

If you look at the website by the Methodist minister, you can see that he uses Scripture to "prove" his points.  On the other hand, I have been in studies with Church of Christ people who have also used Scripture to "prove" their points.  And, anyone that wants to tell me that "the verses on sprinkling are from the Old Testament, and Christ fulfilled the Old Testament, and the church was founded on the New Testament--may I point out that, at least in the tradition of the Churches of Christ, the Old Testament is used to justify several practices?  (Nadab and Abihu, an Old Testament account, is often used to explain why Churches of Christ don't do certain things.)

I could probably use other examples:  instrumental music, women's roles in the church, speaking in tongues, divorce, homosexuality . . . but for me, they all boil down to one thing:  Everyone has a Scripture to "prove" that they are right.

So who is?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Manic Monday on Wednesday: Last night's debate . . .

I didn't watch last night's debate.  But I have heard news coverage and read social media, and while the news consensus seems to be that Clinton won, I've seen at least one poll where Sanders was declared the victor.

I heard about discussions regarding Obamacare, free college education, paid family leave, etc. etc. What I'm not finding, though, is a serious discussion of how it's all going to get paid for.  This is what I see to be a major problem with certain proposals:  where is the money going to come from to fund free community college, paid family leave, etc.?

You can "tax the rich" all you want, but you can only "tax the rich" so much; then you either have to stop funding for the programs you want, or redefine who is "rich" so that you get more money.

Sanders openly admits that he is a socialist.  While socialism is about "equality for all" and looks good on paper, take a look at the countries where socialism has been tried.

Like Russia and Eastern Europe.

How'd that work for them?

(And before you mention Scandanavia, check this article.)

What people fail to understand is that there is no such thing as "free".  I love having "freebies", I confess; and in the interest of full disclosure, my son did receive a so-called "freebie" through Medicaid.  He, as well as many others, received Medicaid coverage through the Katie Beckett waiver, a special waiver allowing medically fragile children to qualify for Medicaid when the parents don't otherwise qualify.  (Most parents use this as secondary, not primary, medical coverage.)

In writing about Medicaid, I feel the frustration:  I know there are those who desperately need medical insurance.  I know that there are those who will go bankrupt without medical insurance. (That was the main point of Obamacare--to get insurance into the hands that needed it.  I just think that the Affordable Care Act was the wrong way to do it.)  And there are others who will make valid arguments in favor of the very things Clinton, Sanders, and others want.

But I also know that someone has to pay for the freebies.  And I don't think people are thinking about that part of the issue.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My name is Tina, and I have OCD . . .

You may have heard someone say, "Oh, she's so OCD; she alphabetizes her spices."  

Or, "I'm so OCD, I must have the place totally clean before I can have anyone over."

Or, "He's so OCD, he has to have a neat desk all the time."

People smile and laugh at those statements.

Except, when you really have OCD, they aren't that funny.  

My name is Tina, and I have OCD.

OCD stands for "obsessive-compulsive disorder."  According to the website at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 2.2 million people suffer from OCD.  It's more than just a desire for an organized house, or a neat desk, or the desire to get something done by a deadline.  

The NIMH website goes on to describe people with OCD:  "[they] feel the need to check things repeatedly, or have certain thought or perform rituals over and over.  [Those] thoughts and rituals . . . cause distress and get in the way of daily life."

The difference between someone who just wants a neat house or a neat desk, and the person with OCD, is this: The "neat freak" will probably devote a Saturday to housecleaning, or an afternoon to organizing their desk. The OCD sufferer will scrub a floor over and over, yet it's never "clean enough". Or, they will straighten a desk, but it's never straight enough; and a box of paper clips placed on the wrong side of the desk causes anxiety. Or, they will imagine that if their desk isn't totally clean--or, if the paper clips are not arranged in piles of three and five (for example)--something horrible will happen to them as a punishment.   Obsessions--the thoughts of anxiety and fear, and other unwanted thoughts--and compulsions--the behaviors people use to relieve the compulsive thoughts--control people with OCD. The obsessions, and the compulsions, are often debilitating, and they end up interfering with daily life. (Any of you that have ever seen the series "Hoarders" have seen a manifestation of OCD in action.) The people who do these rituals don't like them. Rather, they're driven by the thought, "I have to do it. I must do it. Something awful will happen if I don't do it."

I don't, to my knowledge, engage in compulsions. My OCD is what is called "pure O"--the distressing thoughts without the accompanying compulsive behaviors. I won't go into all of the details of what I call "the thoughts". 

Part of the way my OCD manifests itself is in a disorder called scrupulosity. The dictionary definition of "scrupluous" is "diligent, thorough, and extremely attentive to details; very concerned to avoid doing wrong". Scrupulosity, the disorder, is described as "pathological guilt about moral or religious issues." This is not the same thing as the concern over getting things doctrinally correct. There are legitimate concerns about false doctrine addressed in the Bible, and I think it's important to line up what I believe with what the Bible says. Where scrupulosity comes in for me is the constant concern of, "But what if I'm wrong?" and nothing--no research, no sermon, nothing--will alleviate that fear. 

My OCD began when I was around 14. I was sitting in church, and all of a sudden, I suddenly started thinking swear words.  I think one of the words may have been the one that takes the Lord's name in vain. I was horrified. I mean, "thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" is one of the Ten Commandments--and this was happening in church, of all places! So I said a quick prayer: "Dear Lord, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do this. Please forgive me and help me not to do it again. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen." 

What was the next thing I thought? The word. Again. So I prayed another prayer. But the prayers didn't make the thoughts go away. 

Part of my scrupulosity, I believe, came from a form of Christianity that emphasized the "don'ts"--no swearing, no sex before marriage, no exposing yourself to things that are "bad" or "unholy"--and if you even think about those things, you've committed a sin and you need to ask God for forgiveness. After all, there is such a thing as sinning in your thoughts. (Didn't Jesus say that anyone who merely lusted after someone had already committed adultery in their heart?)

It's not wrong to not swear (I don't like the language and I try not to use it), and abstaining from sex before marriage is something I strongly recommend. And there are some things, such as pornography, that I won't go looking for. But pure O is different. These are thoughts that drop into your head with no warning. 

In trying to control the thoughts, I attempted self-censorship. I tried not to read books that had swear words in them, and when sex scenes came on TV or in the movies, I wouldn't look. Same with scenes that were overly violent or bloody.  I can remember blanking out words in a book I was reading in an attempt to not read swear words (a form of Bowdlerization).  And when people swore in front of me, or in movies, I got very offended (probably self-righteously so.) 

When I became a Christian at age 18, it was only a matter of days before "the thoughts" returned. In fact, I remember going to a prayer night, or devotional, and making a list of things to pray about. The number one item on my list was, "My swearing--stop!" The prayers didn't help. The thoughts still remained; in fact, they got worse.  I confessed "the thoughts" as sin a couple of times.  I still struggled with them.  

For years and years, I thought that "the thoughts" were just simply sin; sins against God.  And I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Christians didn't think like I was thinking.  Christians weren't obsessed with swearing and other "bad thoughts".  Didn't Jesus take away sin?  Didn't he help with resisting temptation?  So, why wasn't He helping me?

I can't remember when it was that I did a Google search about "the thoughts" and discovered the term "pure O".  It sounded so much like what I was dealing with, and yet, I was reluctant to say, "I have OCD."  Didn't OCD sufferers wash their hands 20 times a day, or stuff like that?  I didn't do that.  I couldn't have OCD.

One book I discovered that was helpful to me was by Lee Baer, called The Imp Of the Mind:  Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts.  That was where I first learned that "thoughts" were just that--they were thoughts.  They were not good, nor were they bad.  The stuff that simply dropped into your head--they just were.  (Of course, if I were to pursue the thoughts, that would be another story . . .)

I've been in counseling for a number of years, with different counselors, about different issues, and I don't think I ever brought up the issue of "the thoughts".  So they could never be dealt with.  Finally, though, I swallowed, and during a counseling session with the person my husband and I see, told them both about "the thoughts", and told them that I thought I might have "pure O" in the form of scrupulosity.  The counselor said that I might be on to something.

I swallowed again, did some research, looked for a counselor that took my insurance, was pretty close to me, and specialized in OCD . . . and found one.  And since the counselor had email; I used that.  I mean, do you know how hard it is to pick up the phone, call an office, and say, "I think I suffer from reoccuring bad thoughts"?

The person I'm now seeing confirmed that "thoughts" were just that, "thoughts".  Thoughts that drop into your head don't make you a bad person.  Everyone has them.  Unfortunately, because of the way my brain is wired, and because of some things in my background, I end up obsessing over them; and trying to resist "the thoughts" only makes it worse.  That's not sin.  It's an illness.  (I worry that I am using OCD as an excuse to sin, which I don't want to do.  I think it would be a sin if I pursued some of the thoughts.)

Right now, we're working on reprogramming my brain.  I wish that "the thoughts" would leave me alone.  They have not.  But these days, I don't see "the thoughts" as threatening or sinful.  They just are. With some of "the thoughts", I take them to an extreme, to see just how ridiculous they are.  The more ridiculous I see "the thoughts" as being, the less power they have over me.   I believe this is the "help" that God provided and that God is using in my life.

I'm trying not to be offended by swearing, although I still don't use the words, and I'd rather people not swear around me.  (There are times I understand the feelings behind the language.)  I still dislike swearing and graphic sex scenes in books, and in my own writing, I prefer not to use them.  On the other hand, I also think that my efforts to "shield" myself from "sinful" things seriously boomeranged where I was concerned.  Not cussing didn't make me not think about cussing.  Nor did attempting not to think about sex keep me from thinking about sex.  It's also occurred to me that even Jesus heard swearing, and he even saw some pretty nasty stuff while he lived on this earth.

(I think we're seeing this "boomerang effect" in the case of Josh Duggar.  The Duggar boys were taught to look away when a scantily clad woman walked by.  The girls were taught to dress "modestly".  Josh practiced courtship, instead of dating, with his wife Anna.  This was the "recipe" for a successful Christian life . . . and it didn't work.  Josh ended up molesting his sisters and cheating on his wife.  This effort to "wall off" the "sinful world" backfired in a serious way.)

What are the answers to OCD?  To scrupulosity?  How do you handle "the thoughts" and not fall into sin?  I don't know all the answers to those questions.  In my opinion, if you're a Christian, and a bad thought drops into your head, and you're horrified by it and didn't seek it out--the odds are very good that you won't act on it.

I'm on medication for depression, and one med is supposed to be helpful for OCD. My main form of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a way of re-teaching the brain healthier ways of thinking.  I see a counselor weekly.  Other people with OCD may need more intensive therapy.  

This week is OCD Awareness Week.  I'd like to think that the stigma from mental health doesn't exist anymore; sadly, that's not true.  "Willpower" and "just getting over it" won't help mental illness. Telling people with OCD, "Just don't think about it," or "just don't do it", isn't going to help, either. People with a mental illness need help, not just words.

If you have OCD, even if it's "pure O", you don't need to suffer in silence and shame.  There is help. I used Psychology Today's website to find the person I'm seeing now.

If you're a Christian and dealing with OCD, you're not suffering from unconfessed sin.  You have an illness, and it can be treated.  There's no shame in getting treatment.  Getting treatment doesn't mean that you have failed God or that you have allowed yourself to fall into sin.

It just means that you are a person who has OCD.

Just like me.

My name is Tina, and I have OCD.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.