More Snow! More Life!

It snowed last night and as I sit at Misha’s, a comfy coffee house in Old Town Alexandria, it has begun to snow again.  I’m so happy about the snow.  I played the tourist on my walk here by pulling out my phone to take photos.  That may be a tiny sign that I’m still new to the area.

I am approaching one year here (in 10 days to be exact).  I’ve passed a few road signs over this past year that prove I’ve been on this journey long enough to be changed.  I’m no longer cognizant of the details of the bedroom I wake up in each morning.  I don’t spend anytime thinking about what I need to get to furnish our condo.   I’ve got a routine for bringing shopping bags up from the garage and taking trash bags down to it.  When I walk to the grocery store I’m adept at knowing how much I can carry home.  I rarely get lost anymore.  I walk through familiar neighborhoods daily.   I don’t have to think about metro etiquette.  I can sight a tourist on the metro:  they’re making the same mistakes I made – they look confused by the metro maps; they don’t stand on the right on escalators to allow others to walk up the left side; they hold the rest of us up at the exit stalls.

Did you catch that?  I put myself in the group called “us”.

It was a no brainer that I’d have different opportunities here than I had in California.  High on the list is that I’m living 15 minutes from the capital of our country.  Our capital is gorgeous.  I’m interested in American history.  I enjoy museums.  I’m surrounded by sites that interest me.  I chose Alexandria to live in because it’s not comparable to a California suburb.  It’s highly walkable.  The architecture is entirely different.  It’s historic.  It is built along the Potomac river.  It’s a city with greater economic disparities than my old California suburb, more obvious needs, which make for greater opportunities to serve others.  I have not been surprised that life here is different.

Of course, there are still things that surprise me.  It’s actually more common place to meet a friend for coffee or lunch or a walk.  Somehow the busy city life is more conducive to friends getting together.  Maybe it’s because you have to fight for new friendships.  Maybe it’s because there are more transplants here.  Maybe it is because fewer women have family living nearby.

I’m also surprised by the many reminders of California that accost my eyes.  Yes, I know, accost is a rather dramatic word. I never realized that countless commercials are filmed at the beaches, in the hills, on the mountains, and across the deserts of California.  And for crying out loud (literally), did “La La Land” have to come out my first year away from California?  I know it showed California at its finest.  The smog, ugly inner city buildings, lack of trees and water, and crazy-mad congestion weren’t featured.  Even the scenes with traffic were glorified.  But California with its beauty, sun, sun and more sun, has been the setting of my story for all but this one year of my life.  Seeing it on small and large screens hits all kinds of nerves.  Oy!

Misha’s plays jazz in the background.  Right now my typing is accompanied by good ole Satchmo.  But the jazz isn’t taking me back to La La Land.  I’m right here in Virginia.  And it’s right that I’m here in Virginia.  Jesus keeps confirming that.  Even as I realize hopping on a plane to visit my parents isn’t as easily achieved as I desire.  Even when I miss family and California friends.  Even when I still sound like a foreigner.  (Did you know you’re not supposed to put the word “the” in front of a highway number?  For example, don’t say, “You take the 95 to get to Richmond”)?

On the day I moved here the Holy Spirit impressed on me that everything of worth has a cost and yet nothing is lost.  I’m so thankful for those words from Him.

The past year has brought about much gain.  God has shown me areas I’ve needed to grow in, repent from, and/or leave behind.  He’s also shown me purposes I needed to step into.  They were exposed by this move.  God has been giving me the more that he promises all of us.  The more only comes with my permission.  The more only comes when I keep letting go of control.  The more only comes when I ask God for eyes to see what He’s up to in my life and the lives of those I love.  The more only comes when I choose to get to know Him more and when I respond by loving Him more.

It has stopped snowing.  This newbie wants more snow.  More than snow, more than DC, more than Virginia, more than California, I want Jesus.  I want to recognize more fully what He has done for me and experience more fully the freedom He’s given me.  I want to thank Him more consistently by the way I live and the thoughts I think.

I want more.  I’m confident that I’m gonna get it, because with Jesus there are no dead ends.  There is always more around the corner.

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A Bunch of Lovable Hypocrites

I’ve marched in 2 protest marches within 7 days.  If you’d ask me to sum up why I marched, I’d say to proclaim the worth and dignity of women.  Both marches gave me hope.  The Women’s March on Washington renewed my hope that people (masses of people, huddled together like sardines!) are offended by morally corrupt, disrespectful attitudes and bullying.  The March for Life renewed my hope that large numbers of people are not numb to the irony and tragedy of sacrificing the right to life for any other right.  Both marches renewed my hope that there are great numbers of people who believe our personal choices do affect our society.

One little girl that I met on the subway, as I made my way to the Women’s March, had made a sign that summed it all up, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”.

A lot of people who are against the Women’s March on Washington have argued that those of us who are offended by Trump’s moral short comings are hypocritically offensive ourselves.  I’ll admit there were some sketchy signs at the march.  And, Lord knows I didn’t agree with the politics of every person in that march.  However, I’ve never seen people squished together for such an extended time show such patience and consideration to one another. The predominant mood of the march was one of joy and love.  The joy radiated out of a belief that people of good will can make a difference.  The love radiated out of a conviction that all people are of enormous worth and deserving of respect.  This was not applied to the unborn, so after accepting there is no perfect forum of expression for me, I chose to also march in the March for Life.

My experience at the March for Life was similar to the march six days earlier.  There was camaraderie, respectfulness, joy and love. There were great signs.  There were a few not so great signs. There were people I politically aligned with.  There were people I do not politically align with.  There were vast numbers of people younger than me (in their teens and in their 20’s).  There was more singing than chanting.  No one chose to be vulgar.

There are a lot of people who would argue that the ProLifers at this march and in general, do not spend enough time considering the needs of the women who have unwanted pregnancies.  They believe that “so-called” ProLifers are only pro unborn and don’t care about life outside of the womb. What about the woman’s financial and emotional welfare?  What about the massive disruption to her life?  There are also a lot of people who are offended by ProLifers because of reasons that only apply to about 1% of all abortions.

It’s tempting to list my answers to the nay sayers of both marches.  But if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it is that very few of us are open to truly hearing arguments against our tenaciously held convictions.

What I am interested in exploring is the notion that hypocrisy is an immovable roadblock to the dream destination of unity among American citizens.  We all look through lenses, (life experiences, faith communities, personalities, families, town/city/state environments), that inform how we define truth.  Even if we do have an immense amount in common we still have huge differences on what is right for our country.  For instance, as a believer in Christ I have marked political disagreements with fellow Christ followers.

One thing all followers of Jesus believe is that we all fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, none of us are perfect.  We believe all of us make mistakes and none of us knows everything.  So, why do we think everyone at these marches had to be our definition of perfect in every way?  Why can’t we look at one another’s opinions having some measure of validity?  Why are we so prone to throw the hypocrite accusation at those with whom we disagree and therefore throw the baby out with the bath water?  What’s with our all or nothing self righteousness?

These marches have led to me making choices.  I’m choosing to say no to my anger, my judgmental attitudes, my hopelessness, my fear.  I’m choosing to accept the obvious:  we’re all a bunch of hypocrites.  And I’m choosing to acknowledge that the mass majority of us are good intentioned, lovable, hypocrites.  I’m choosing love.  This isn’t a once and for all choice.  It’s a choice I have to make with every newscast I watch, with every social media post I read, and with every thought I entertain.

In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  He’s not telling us we shouldn’t have an opinion or hold a conviction.  Heck, he gave Christians the authority “to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy”.  We’re meant to fight for truth.  But we better be clear about who the enemy is.  It is not the lovable or not-so-lovable hypocrites around us.  Nor the hypocrite that is us.

I will concede that some relationship are just not good for us.  When we’re trying to get a handle on not judging them but the relationship remains toxic because they can’t or won’t stop judging us, it might be time to kindly part ways.  We just can’t demand unity.

We can keep on marching!  Keep on marching for the cause of love!

Getting the Right Answer Takes Asking the Right Question

I’ve been asking the wrong question.  I wonder how often I miss out on getting clear direction from God because I’m wallowing in negativity and my whining is forming the wrong question?  Over the past week I’ve made myself all mopey because I wanted the Women’s March on Washington to be a protest against misogyny and disrespect toward other marginalized groups of people.  I discovered the agenda was wider than that and I fumed.  I fumed and I wrote an essay for my blog.  After fuming I began asking God if I should still go march.

Over the last 24 hours I’ve been turned off by my whining.  And, not so humbly, I’ve been fearing I’ve been turning others off with my whining.  This morning in the midst of repeating the question to Jesus, “Should I walk in this march?”, I stopped short and practically shouted, “Am I asking the wrong question?!”  His answer to me was, “Yes, you’re asking the wrong question.”

So then the question became, “What should I be asking?”.  I quickly realized the question I needed to be asking.  “What am I going to do with my disappointment?”  My disappointment is not just over the agenda of the organizers of this march.  My disappointment is over what has led up to me wanting to have a march I could participate in.  My disappointment is really plural:  disappointments.

President Obama said something in his last press conference that really convicted me.  I believe God used it to nudge me into realizing I’ve been asking the wrong question.  When the president was asked how his daughters reacted to the election results he said, in part, “my daughters are not mopers”.  I don’t know that in general I’d define myself as a chronic moper.  But yikes, moping is a common temptation for me.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit I’m able to fight it for the most part, but the temptation visits me frequently in hopes of taking me down. And I succumbed to it over the last couple of days.

I struggle with my memory.  After the primary election God showed me in many ways, including the preaching of my pastor, conversations with friends and through blogs I read, that my response to my disappointment needed to be love.  Love in action.  Protest has its place but protest isn’t going to strengthen my heart for life here on earth. Love will.  I forgot to let this comfort me in my disappointment over The Women’s March on Washington.

Over the last few months of 2016 I purposed to do my part to expand love.  1 Peter 4:8  “Above, all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins”.  I choose to remember that now.  Yes, rightly, a heart still grieves that the world is not what it was meant to be.  A heart still grieves bullying, injustice, and unkindness.  And we are called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

The answer for the question God gave me today, “What am I going to do with my disappointment?”, is the same for the question “What am I going to do with my grief?”  It’s the ultimate balm.  It’s what Jesus said is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  And the second greatest he said is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s not an ethereal answer.  It is substantial.  It can soothe my soul and move me into action.  I’ve got opportunities to love by helping feed the hungry on Wednesdays at my church, reaching out to friends going through tough circumstances, writing notes to a friend who is terminally ill, praying without ceasing, showing interest in the checker at the grocery store, sharing a joke with the parking attendant who spends his days in the bowels of a parking garage, etc., etc.!

Lord, help me to remember to ask, “What should I be asking?”  That is one powerfully healing and life giving question!

A Message for the Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington: How ‘Bout Respect for ALL Women?

When I first got wind of the Women’s March on Washington I thought it might be a positive, healthy outlet for me.  I’ve been disgusted by the language used as our president-elect campaigned for what ironically has been called the bully pulpit.  I’ve been heart broken by the sexual violence suffered by some of the women I love.  I’ve been outraged by the inequities within our criminal justice system.  I’ve felt fear for marginalized groups of people in our society.

My initial impression of the march was that women and men were coming together to protest disrespect shown toward women and others who feel marginalized. I can say YES to that!

I wanted to believe that all the sad divisiveness of the past year had risen up a movement to bring women of different backgrounds, political beliefs and faiths together, with common goals of respect, peace, dignity and a desire to build bridges.

My daughter and some of her friends plan to march and I was thrilled that they have this forum to display their power as women and voice their right to respect.  “Why not me?”, I thought, “I need an outlet too and I want to show solidarity”.  However, as a 58 year old woman I’m sorely aware that for decades, major women’s groups have a track record of speaking on behalf of all women with the arrogant assumption that all women have the exact same beliefs.

The Women’s March on Washington is billed as a march for all women no matter who you voted for, no matter your color, no matter your religion…no matter.

So I got on the website for the Women’s March and read the organizers “Unity Principles” and realized, sadly, this is not a march for ALL women. There is one “matter”.  I am a Pro Life woman and there is no room in these “unity principles” for respecting my right to my values.  My Civil Rights (as written in these principles), including “freedom to worship without fear…freedom of speech…protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability” have a proviso:  rights and respect don’t apply to women like me – women who don’t want their government involved in “affordable abortion”.

I’m wondering how this jives with the Catholic immigrant women, the Muslim women and the black Christian women this march purports to be standing up for?

No wonder our public discourse has become so angry, rude and contemptuous.  The very citizens who organize a march that ostensibly has a mission and vision to “stand together…recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country,” isn’t really open to the diversity of women’s beliefs.

The mission to “stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us” falls flat to me when “all”  is not “all”.

Can’t we listen to President Obama this once? “Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued. They quarreled. Eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”

I long for women to accept that we are not all alike in every value and opinion but we do need to have “a basic sense of solidarity”.  We are all in this together.  We will rise or fall as one.

I did not want to march for policies or politics.  I wanted to march for human dignity and solidarity.   But with the agenda set out by these organizers, if I still march I’ll be marching with a sign that says:

RESPECT FOR ALL WOMAN

INCLUDING

PRO-LIFERS

Sorry, I mean, Thank You

I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions because I tend to set myself up for failure.  I’ve skipped the whole notion for a number of years.  I have, on a number of years, asked God for a word for my year.*  That was more profitable.  But I haven’t been consistent with that practice either.  On December 30th, a FaceBook friend (that’s you, Karen S.) posted a suggestion of setting the goal to say thank you more often than saying sorry.

At first reading, those of us who are inclined to hold high regard for the willingness to apologize, might find this goal less than noble.  But both the explanation given in Karen’s post, and the outcome for me as I’ve acted on that suggestion, have proven to be positive.  The post in part says, “it’s not only shifted the way I think and feel about myself but also improved my relationships with others who now get to receive my gratitude instead of my negativity”.

I’m realizing that the words “I’m sorry” can become as rote as “how are you?”.  Just a sloppy habit.  Sometimes we say “I’m sorry” for something out of our control, e.g. being late due to traffic caused by an accident.  It’s refreshing to say, “thank you for patiently waiting for me”.  That acknowledges your friend’s positive attitude and lifts some of the frustration of being stuck in traffic!

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment to have a cavity filled.  I have a smaller than average mouth.  No broad smile for me!  But I do have squinty eyes that let you know my heart is smiling broadly.  Anyway, when the dentist and her assistant finished working in the confines of my mouth I said, “thanks for not complaining about the size of my mouth”.  Normally I would have said, “sorry about my small mouth”!  My thanks brought about some chuckles and an acknowledgment that it was a challenge to work on my molar, but she could see I was struggling also.  The exchange felt positive!

Now, you may think I making a wisdom tooth out of a molar, (I know, you’re rolling your eyes).  But think about the cumulative effect of saying a lot more specific thank you’s this year and fewer meaningless sorry’s.  We’ll be forging a year of gratitude instead of fostering needless negativity.

By all means, we need to stay aware of any time we may offend and make amends (in part) with a sincere apology!  Let’s just do away with needless groveling, shame and negativity; let’s become aware of how those around us give us a multitude of reasons to be thankful!

We can dole out the good feeling of a pat on the back and we’ll have a better attitude about common mishaps.

Wish I was the originator of the expression, “turn that frown upside down”.  It would make a good, syrupy ending to this essay.  Sorry for the corny tone of this essay.  I mean, thanks for reading my thoughts, corny humor and all!

*http://www.ransomedheart.com/podcast/discover-gods-theme-you-2015