Monday, May 11, 2015

Thank You For Making Me a Mother.....

I've been "journaling" here and there, now and then throughout my life...stuff too private or boring for a blog post. I've also been hanging out on Pinterest quite a bit lately and it seems as if there are several million journaling/writing prompts to choose from. I've randomly picked ones that strike my fancy. Yesterday the one that caught my eye was....

What decision or choice had the biggest impact on your life?

I thought my answer might make a good blog post in honor of Mother's Day. 

What an appropriate question (and answer) for this particular day (that just happens to be Mother’s Day!) Without a doubt or moment’s hesitation, the decision to have children was the choice that had the biggest impact on my life. Matthew, Beth and Emily. For me it was a north pole/south pole life changing event, as showstopping and breathtaking as the demarcation between BC and AD. Before Children. After Delivery.

There were so many unparalleled heights and depths of emotions; doubts, frustrations, anxieties, worries, joys, surprises, dreams, disappointments, fears, discouragements, encouragements, inspiration, annoyances, elation, drudgery and downright life altering delight that entered my life when I became a mother.

“The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat….,” That was the tagline from The Wide World of Sports, a TV show from yesteryear. It applies to mothering just as much as it applies to the guy on skis wiping out. Mothers enjoy victories. Mothers endure defeats. There are times we tumble painfully, head over heels, down Motherhood Mountain. But thank goodness there are times we have reasons to pump our fists in the air…. victorious, proud of our accomplishments and our children.

I’ve known both the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory. I’ve had some pretty big mothering fails….but I’ve had some victorious fist pumping moments too.

When Matthew was born, I was stunned to find out there was a kind of love, a depth of love I never knew existed. before I became a mother. An “I’d die for you,” kind of love that made my comfort, my feelings, my well being secondary to his. And for about 21 months….almost two years….he was the sole recipient of my love.

When I found out I was pregnant with Beth I had this nagging concern that my supply of mommy love was already almost all used up on Matthew. Silly me. I didn't realize until after she was born that motherly love is not a finite thing. It grows exponentially to encompass and include every single child. I loved her just as fiercely and passionately and maternally as I loved Matthew. By the time Emily came along, I knew there would be plenty of love to go around….and indeed there was.

Motherhood changes you. It deepens you. It broadens you. It enlarges your heart in unexpected ways. It awakens your instincts, tries your patience, builds your endurance, and increases your empathy.

Motherhood impacted my life in so many ways .I know more and I love more. I am a better person because I am a mother and the thrills of victory have more than made up for the agonies of defeat. It has all been worth worth it.

A special thank you to Matthew, Beth and Emily for making me a mother....for putting up with my defeats and loving me through it all....

Monday, April 27, 2015

WWJD Revisited....

On a Christian blog called Formerly Fundie, in a post about the mistaken notion that Christians should try to “take our country back,” the following paragraph stood out.

Instead of just blindly following religious leaders off a cliff, Jesus people should always be asking and wrestling with the questions of, “But what did Jesus say about this? What did Jesus do? What example of Christ have we to follow?”

May I respectfully suggest that this is not rocket science. We can figure it out if we want to. After all, Jesus lived it out in real life situations for us to see. It’s not the knowing that’s hard….it’s the doing that’s sometimes damn near impossible.

There are four gospels all telling the same story (give or take a few minor contradictions). Jesus displays the same behavior, values, compassion, morals, faith, beliefs….sets the same example….throughout all four of the Gospels yet we struggle to figure out how a Christian should behave.

During the recent upheaval in Indiana, John Pavlovitz, a popular blogger, wrote these words that Jesus might say to modern day Christians:

You were designed to do this, to be this.  My kindness, my goodness, my forgiveness; you were created to be the method of transportation for all of it.

My beloved, I placed you here, not to defend or protect or replace me, but simply to reflect me.  That has always been my most critical commandment and your most pressing obligation; loving God and loving others. I thought that I was clear on that, when I was asked this before.

The thing is, he was clear. He was very clear. Could it be that we just don't like what we see....?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Me? Why Not Me?

I wrote the following this past weekend - just now getting it posted.

I am in Ellwood City this weekend visiting my mom. I left yesterday afternoon from work, made the four hour trek across Interstate 80 and arrived at my mom’s in time to visit for a while and watch a few “as seen on TV” preachers that she’s taken a liking to. I enjoy visiting my mom even though I hate the drive and the lack of an internet connection here in her apartment.

I can venture across the street to Burger King, or a few blocks farther down to the city park on the main street where Armstrong cable provides free internet, or to the library a few blocks farther or across town to McDonald’s. That is a lot of free wifi choices for a small town like Ellwood City.

I walked to the library earlier today. It is consistently the noisiest library I’ve ever been in. Every. time. Loud librarians, boisterous meetings, noisy patrons and today they were hosting some kind of American Girl doll event. Quite a few little girls showed up with their mothers and grandmothers holding their American Girl dolls by the hand. It was kind of cute and since it was a first for me, I enjoyed it but it was still noisy. Just Noise (my favorite white noise app) blocked out the hub hub.

I tuned into Facebook and was surprised to find a status update from a friend of mine about a shooting last night in Williamsport. Five people were shot as they left a local bar called Imbibe. An earlier altercation in the bar seemed to be the starting point of the attack, but none of the victims were involved in the dispute and were merely innocent, probably drunk, targets leaving a bar at closing time. Been there, done that.

Come to find out that my birthday boy (25 years old yesterday) was celebrating at the very bar not too much earlier. They left for more celebrating at another bar in town. My daughter, who works around the corner from where the shooting took place is sometimes part of that closing time group of partiers. She was out of town with her boyfriend.  

Nobody died although there were two life threatening injuries that involved Life Flight. Suspect is still at large. I am thankful I was not one of the moms who received an emergency call at 2 a.m. My offspring are not lying in a hospital bed at Geisinger. But it could just as easily have been one of them. Different timing, different plans and it could have been a whole different scenario. But for the grace of God, there go I. Figuring out why it wasn't is above my pay grade but I am infinitely grateful.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Love is a tenet of the Christian Faith

The other day, I listened to a sermon by Adam Hamilton entitled, Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. He used an illustration about an encounter between Billy Graham and the Clinton’s that took place at a public event during the firestorm of the Monica Lewinsky/”I did not have sex with that woman” debacle….

My father is so accepting, so nonjudgmental," says eldest daughter, Gigi Graham Tchividjian. During the height of the Clinton scandal, she was her father's date at the 75th anniversary celebration for Time magazine. The Clintons were also in attendance.

"Daddy sat with the Clintons and was so warm and gracious," Tchividjian told Charisma. "In the limousine going back to the hotel, Daddy and I were talking about how difficult it must be for the Clintons with so many people gossiping and judging them. His comment was: "It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict; it's God's job to judge; and it's our job to love."
The excerpt above is from a Charisma article

I love that exchange…

I never really paid that much attention to Billy Graham in my BC - before Christ life. Oh sure, my grandmother used to watch his crusades on her little black and white TV when I spent my summers with her. She would cry during his altar calls when folks came forward in droves. I didn't pay much attention to him after I became a Christian. He was getting old. His crusades were fewer and farther between.

A few years ago, I came upon an article on one of those cult watcher blogs about a conversation between Billy Graham and Robert Schuller that smacks of universalism. It resonated so I wrote about it in a post called A Vortex with a Different Name.

I remember other here and there reading about Billy Graham; his reaction to a close call on an airplane (he was very afraid but trusted God with the outcome). And I’ve been reading snippets this morning, my curiosity piqued by this story of his encounter with the Clintons. He had/has his critics. Many criticized his seemingly lukewarm commitment to integration. Others point out that he was either too involved or too UNinvolved with politics. I’ve read some quotes, perhaps taken out of context, that are questionable. Sometimes he seemed to waffle back and forth on some issues.

But the encounter above illustrates a key component of Christianity. As Billy Graham points out, a Christian’s job is to love. You know, the greatest commandment...the command that sums up all the law….love God, love your neighbor as yourself.

Greg Boyd repeats this same sentiment in a video from 2012 during the time a vote on a gay marriage amendment was taking place in Minnesota. Greg Boyd is not one to back away from controversial issues (as he is accused of in the comments) and has taken infinite slack about his opinions and beliefs.

(Probably) More of this rambling, somewhat disjointed discourse to come…..

Monday, April 6, 2015

“CYA” is not a tenet of the Christian faith

The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it.” – Oscar Wilde

Well, yes and no….

In the recent and ongoing battle taking place in Indiana, we see a spectrum of human nature on display. Unfortunately a lot of it is just ssdd….same shit, different day. Different decade...different bias, but at the heart of it is the human tendency to sort people into categories….us and them.

Are Christians being treated unfairly in this country….even persecuted? One big issue I have with this persecution thing is that it seems many Christians are crying wolf. For so many years, Christians were the king of the hill. Now, when the law requires them to extend the same rights they enjoy to others, some cry persecution. Not being able to force our views and beliefs on others is not persecution. Having to give equal rights to religions and lifestyles we disagree with is not persecution.

But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Christians are losing their rights these days and they are being persecuted. Why does this comes as such a surprise… outrage to Christians. It’s not like Jesus did not address this when he said, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you”(Jn. 15:20).

The recent law in Indiana is meant to protect religious folks from being sued for refusing service that goes against their sincerely held religious beliefs.  When it is factored down to its lowest common denominator, it seems earmarked to protect Christians who refuse to provide their services to gays….specifically at a gay wedding. The law is vague and there are tons of loopholes that seemed to allow businesses to refuse service almost on a whim. There is an amendment in the works that is a bit more specific but it still seems to be motivated mainly by prejudice and a “cover your ass” mentality.

As far as I can tell, Jesus never taught this. “CYA” is not a tenet of the Christian faith.

I’ve wrangled with this since the day it was announced and Facebook and the internet lit up with indignation. I’ve read articles and blog posts both pro and con. This is a big topic that goes beyond the situation in Indiana. It deals with what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I plan to share some of the stuff I’ve been reading, with my two cents worth thrown in at no additional charge.

More to come…...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Changing beliefs is not costless

Changing beliefs is not costless…..Eric Raymond

This quote reminds me of something I stumbled across not long ago. In the comment section of an article about what God expects from us when our spouse is wounding our marriage, a woman posted the following:

My husband of almost 20 yrs. decided this past year that he no longer believes in an eternal hell and has left our church.

She goes on to say that he was an elder in their church for 18 years and that that prior to him straying into new age beliefs,they agreed on spiritual things.

He is still committed to me and our 4 kids, but has wandered in new age thinking etc.

Apparently, “godly men from the church tried to reason with him to no avail.” She is depressed, anxious and tired of going to two different churches on Sunday mornings.

This change of heart has not been without cost for husband or wife.

Really? How sad that not believing in an eternal hell is such a game changer in a marriage. Where exactly is that verse in the Bible that declares we have to believe in eternal conscious torment forEVER to fit in at a church? Is that really such a deciding factor in our relationships with other Christians?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Equal and Opposite Reactions....

From my last post:

……..because of the enlightenment and several subsequent movements that have “dissed” scripture, fundamentalists pushed back in a Newtons Law kind of way…...for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Now that is a really interesting thought….this push back thing. When I first heard it (in the sermon by Adam Hamilton) the light bulb lit up. Isn’t that the truth! Yes, indeed, I have witnessed this, both at large in the whole wide world and specifically, in my own little corner.

At large, I have seen people take on a do or die attitude when an idea questions, threatens, or discredits one of their sacred cow beliefs. Ideas and beliefs that might not have seemed all that important become hills to die on or at least issues that merit taking a firm stand on. And of course, I have seen this same law at work up close and personal in my relationships, my job and within myself....

The birth of the Five Points of Calvinism, TULIP, comes to mind. What a great example of this push back.

The controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism arose in Holland in the early 1600’s. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560–1609). He studied under the strict Calvinist Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603.  Gradually Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings. The controversy spread all over Holland, where the Reformed Church was the overwhelming majority. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles (written by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers.
The Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. But the official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held to consider the Five Articles from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 581–596).  

That rather longish quote above is from John Piper’s website, Desiring God….and hey, if anyone knows Calvinist doctrine and history, it is John Piper!!

The so-called Five Points were not coined by the Calvinists to clarify their beliefs for their own benefit and edification. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose five points of reformed doctrine to oppose.

Isn’t that interesting? The beliefs of Arminius were birthed, very likely, as a response to his ultra-calvinistic education. That led to the 5 point Remonstrance…..that initiated a response, the Counter-Remonstrance.

I’ve seen this “law” of Newton’s played out in real life….my own life and the lives of those around me. There are many things that affect and form our beliefs and behaviors. This is just one of many subtle, often unconscious, factors. Nature/nurture, cognitive biases, prejudice, cultural influences, maternal instinct, mimesis…..and so on and so forth....

Obviously, the formation of our opinions and beliefs cannot be oversimplified or “boiled down” to a theory of physics or to any ONE theory, bias or influencing factor. However, thinking outside our own personal box of beliefs can lead to introspection that can lead to a startling clarity also known as a wtf moment. Sometimes it can even lead to a change of mind/heart. But not necessarily because we tend to be very comfortable in our own state of "belief inertia."

I came upon that term while looking for interesting quotes from people wiser than me to beef up this blog post. I found two new to me blogs that struck my fancy.

Eric Raymond’s blog Armed and Dangerous and Less Wrong, a Community Blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.

The temptation is always to claim the most points with the least effort. The temptation is to carefully integrate all incoming news in a way that lets us change our beliefs, and above all our actions, as little as possible. John Kenneth Galbraith said: "Faced with the choice of changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." And the greater the inconvenience of changing one's mind, the more effort people will expend on the proof.

The effort people expend on the proof is the "equal and opposite reaction" part of Newton's Law.

In response, Eric Raymond opined that belief inertia (which happens to relate to another one of Newton’s Laws, the law of inertia) is also due to the fact that:

Changing beliefs is not costless, and may commit you to a decision procedure that is too heavyweight to be worth some very marginal gain in utility.
This post is getting long so I am going to end with another quote I found and continue with this same topic in my next post.
 If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated. Wilfred Trotter