Monthly Archives: July 2016

I Wasn’t Gonna Talk Politics, but I Can’t Be Quiet Any Longer

I prefer to keep my political views offline, but 2016 has proven to be a whole other ballgame. I love being an American. I love learning about our country’s history (the good and terribleIMG_1751), I love voting and following the political process, I feel so blessed to live the comfortable and safe life I live (unlike war-torn countries or those with a lack of freedom). And I really want to be on jury duty. (Like really, really bad. I just get so jazzed up by participating in a historical process. I feel like I’m making history – because I am.) I even made “USA” watermelon treats for a 2012 summer Olympics watch party. Because: ‘Murica. And J and I LOVE attending rodeos. I feel like we’ve talked about this before, so that shouldn’t surprise you.

But lately, being American has not been…easy to be proud of. The violence happening in our country and the ridiculous rants coming from the presidential election and some protests are sending me into sadness, then rage, then…what are the five stages of grief? I feel like I might be somewhere in the middle…

So I had to speak up. I believe it’s important that we all speak up in favor of bringing good things to all people. But this election season has been and continues to turn a hateful corner, especially during this Republican National Convention. I know all election seasons are heated, but the hatred-filled words coming from men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus (and many who are not) are really missing the boat on what it means to be a messenger of the Gospel – or just a kind frickin’ person.

If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you should recognize God’s greatest commandment, as cited in Matthew 22: 36-40. Some context: the Sadducees and Pharisees were testing Jesus with all kinds of questions about Jewish (Old Testament) law. A Pharisee asked:

“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

It doesn’t say to spite people groups because of their sexual orientation, or gender choice, or race/ethnicity, or religious choice. Sure, you can find Bible verses that support hating things (that’s a whole other conversation, and one which I hope to blog about soon), but the key piece of information so many fail to recognize is: hate the sin, not the person. And Jesus tells the people to love – and not judge.

How can a pro-lifer encourage a scared, pregnant woman when shouting, “Abortion? The Supreme Court also legalized Slavery” (seriously – I found this suggested slogan on a pro-life website. But to give them credit, there were a ton of slogans listed with very supportive messages. So it’s not all bad and many are providing outreach in a helpful, positive manner). Then I found a website that sold super offensive bumper stickers, including one with a slash through a rainbow-colored “equal” sign, and another that, I kid you not, said: “My Apologies! If you look like a fag, walk like a fag and act like a fag, I naturally assumed…” WHAT?!? I about came unglued. These all communicate to me: not approachable. And that’s the nicest phrase I could come up with for right now. Which I think is rather generous.

Jesus shows himself living the great commandments when an adulterous woman is about to be stoned to death. Jesus stops the crowd, asking, “…Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7b).

I know this verse well because my dad would recite it to my siblings and me often as a child. Missing Catholic mass in my house was not an option. And if you were too sick to go, you got sat on the couch and watched “The Hour of Power” on TV. Not Catholic, but close enough to meet reparations, at least in my parents’ eyes. Even on vacation, my mom would scout out the Catholic church and mass times of the town we were in. Not keeping the Sabbath is a sin, according to the 10 commandments (it’s #4, followed closely by #5 – Honor your mother and father). And we weren’t missing. But my mom didn’t bug my dad about missing – and it really only happened a few times a year, to give the guy some credit (“I was an altar boy. I’ve done my time.”). As soon as I started ragging on him about missing church, he’d all, “He who has no sin cast thy first stone,” me. And I’d have nothing. Oh, it’s a darn good verse to get you out of trouble.

And one American Christians need to start praying about. We are all sinful. I’m not perfect (though I wish I could be). We all fall short of his perfection. But we can all love. And when we greet Him one day in heaven, as a result of my love for others (which I fall way, way short of doing everyday people. I’m super judgy. It’s a problem. But I’m trying), I hope He will say to me: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”

That Time Islam Helped Me in My Christian Journey

The holy month of Ramadan for Muslims came to an end last week. One of the most interesting news orgs I follow, AJ+, profiled a woman who participated in Fasting for the First Time, even though she is not a Muslim, but wanted to understand the majority of the population where she currently resides, and just spend time with her friends.

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2004 with my fasting friend

This video really resonated with me because I had a similar experience during college. At my small, liberal arts Nebraska college, there was…one Muslim. But she was devout – and bold. She invited anyone on campus to join her – not in practicing Islam, but in fasting. And I was all in. 

I remember the first day. No food from sun up to sun down. She allowed us water (which is cheating, but she knew we were weak), but no food til about 7:30/8pm. And I was hungry. Desperately hungry. By 10am. I think you can see where this is going…So I started praying. And focusing on anything but my stomach. And when we got to dinner that night, I felt almost too unwell to eat. Obviously Muslims have figured this out and “break fast” with dates. I was nervous because I had never had a date (seriously, the new experiences my freshman year of college are really astounding) – and I loved them. I don’t know if I actually loved them, or if I was so hungry that even mud would have tasted good. (Ok, that’s a little extreme. But you get the point.) I should really try them again…

At any rate, the eating began. And oh sweet relief. Then: I made a plan for the next day. I set my alarm for 5am and woke up to eat three granola bars. It’s called preparation. And it’s probably cheating. But I never asked.

I started my morning better because I wasn’t totally on empty. But by lunch I was starving. So, again, I started praying. It was the the only thing that could keep my focus away from the hunger. And it was the only thing that helped me through the rest of the week. Seriously. It is wild how much prayer refocused my mind to not think about hunger. And as a result of all the extra praying for fasting (for 5 whole days y’all!), I grew in my relationship with the Lord.

While being reminded of this experience and sharing it with my Bible study group, someone brought this insightful tidbit to the conversation: Whatever you think of first when you wake up in the morning and last before you fall asleep at night represents who your God is. Well, isn’t that just tweet-able. Because it’s so dang true.

Which prompted me to consider: what do I think of first and last? …The List. It’s always on my mind (hello! I’m a Martha, people! See the About page for more details). And is obviously a cause of stress (I’m no joke writing this in the chiropractic office right now because my shoulders are in such pain). So this week I’ve been trying to focus on God right away in the morning and at night. Trying to let him refocus me. Trying. I’m not gonna lie; it’s going pretty poorly. I just can’t stop thinking about all the things I need to do. But at least I’m trying. And I’ll always have the memory of the time Islam helped me in my Christian journey. 

What do you think of first and last in your day? How does it reflect your priorities? What do you want to think of instead?