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Archive for September, 2008

1.  You might hear his heart.
2.  He might get a backrub out of it–how can you refuse that smile when he’s just bared his soul to your mother heart?
3.  You might hear him say, without any prodding from you, that it would be a good use of time between classes to pray as he goes–if he could remember to do it.

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Here and Beyond

One of the things I like about praying aloud with others is what it does to my mind.  I guess you’d say the Holy Spirit takes my thoughts places they might not otherwise go if I was just thinking my own thoughts.

I was praying with a dear sister this morning and found myself talking to God aloud about His being “here and beyond” every situation in which we find ourselves.

I think often about the idea of “…and then God…”  How often have you found yourself in a particular situation–a predicament, a frustration, a point of despair, a deep loss–and then you looked Up?  Always in those moments our eyes meet the same Loving Gaze–abounding in compassion, peace, comfort, full of complete and total knowledge of my need and the needed remedy for that moment and every moment that one touches on.

I guess that’s what I was thinking in reflecting on God being “here”.

Then there’s “beyond”. 

I imagine whatever aspect of Himself He applies to the situation I’m praying about as extending infinitely beyond whatever it is.  I’m covered, taken care of.  And He goes/has gone before.  Think about it for a moment:  aren’t most of our fears anchored in prior knowledge which leads to dread or the unknown which leads to dread?  And yet, I have a Father in heaven who is beyond the limits in either direction–so I don’t need to fear, to dread. 

I still do.  But in my more rational–actually, my-more-tuned-in-to-the-Spirit-of-God-who-possesses-me–moments, I am assured that I don’t have to do that and I can rest….simply rest.

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Sunshine: Ellen Kathleen

We didn’t really pick her name for its meaning.  Coincidentally–or perhaps providentially–Ellen means “light” and Kathleen means “pure”.  Ellen, our only daughter and middle child, turns twenty-three today.  And, throughout those twenty-three years in which her life has graced ours, she has been sunshine.

My best friend Kris has three wonderful sons.  In the next couple of years she will be getting a wonderful daughter-in-law when that middle son marries the lovely Lauren.  But I’ve always felt a little bit sorry for women without daughters.  And that’s because of my Ellen.

I could go into some long reminiscence here about being Ellen’s mom (in fact, I just deleted the start of that part of the post).  Suffice it to say that whether I think about girly pink clothes, pink sponge rollers, long blonde braids, dollies, tea parties, little girl arts and craft projects, daddy/daughter baking events, fierce volleyball or Bible quiz competitor, competent student and employee, glowing bride, or maturing mama, when I think of my daughter there is one overarching quality that is always there:  she is like a ray of sunshine in our lives.

Ellen has the ability to add to any situation in which she finds herself.  Some people are clearly takers and, sometimes, only takers.  But Ellen, with her ready smile, smart thinking, efficient hands, and giving heart isn’t usually at the front of the line.  

Ever since she was a child, when it came time to give a gift, Ellen’s choices have always reflected insight into the recipient’s heart and desires.  It is always a better day when Ellen appears at my door with a smile.  I have been helped out of many of jam at the computer by my willing tech-savvy daughter.  The only time she ever really expressed an interest in leaving our home school for another school was when she was thinking about needing to find a wider circle in which to be the light of Jesus to those who needed to know him.  

I could do a week of posts on Ellen, but today, as she celebrates life and on Thursday when we spend the evening together to celebrate belatedly, I just want to say that I love being her mom, I’m blessed to be the mother of a daughter, and it’s a joy to watch her blossom into a woman in her own right–a wife, a mom, a professional woman.  

Oh, and one more thing:  Happy Birthday, LN/Sweet Pea/Dearest!  xxoo

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Now that I’ve ventured into the political waters on this blog, I’m being carried by the current of the party conventions.  Something I heard on the radio this morning calls for yet another political commentary.

According to the report I heard, over $1 billion have been spent on this election–so far.  I rolled that figure around in my brain for just a few seconds before becoming amazed that the figure is that small.  After all, this campaign season seems to have been underway since about January 21, 2005, the day after George W. Bush was inagurated into his second, and final, term as president.

Election reform has been volleyed about and scored on a great deal in the recent political history of our country.  I’m not sure how much it has helped–some of the regulatory moves seem to have done more to infringe on free speech than to clean up and streamline the electoral process.  

In light of the current flawed system, I’d like to make a rew proposals:

1) If there are going to be limits within political campaigns, how about limiting the time the whole process can last?  I wonder how much work of the American people hasn’t gotten done in the past four years while Congress has been distracted by thinking about the 2008 election.  It seems like the current way campaigns are carried out makes governing totally a matter of politics, instead of one of leadership and statesmanship, as our Founding Fathers viewed it.  What would be hurt by not allowing any candidates to declare earlier than a year out from the actual election?  I know there is the matter of fundraising, but if everyone was held to the same requirement, there’d be a better chance for an even playing field, even on that count.

2)  Why not have one nationwide primary election day?  Don’t you think the candidates would operate differently if the prize wasn’t doled out piecemeal as state-by-state delegate votes are tallied during the course of the primary season?  It might motivate greater voter participation as well, if people thought their votes really counted for something other than simply saying “Amen” to a foregone conclusion.

3)  Maybe the major parties should hammer out and present their party platforms before the primary season begins instead of at their anticlimactic conventions.  That way, candidates would have to decide before declaring as such and hitting the campaign trail whether they will be true to the party they represent or whether they will strike out on their own and risk becoming known as “mavericks” and “rebels”.  So much of modern political life is centered around personalities, opinions, and spin, rather than on truth, facts, and principles.   Positioning candidates to stand for something specific right out of the gate would almost certainly strengthen the political parties (and, ultimately, their decision-making) and would help the citizenry of this country see beyond charisma or lack of it when making their electoral decisions.

4) Finally–and this is more of a question than a proposal–is there any way in the world to do SOMETHING about the national media during elections, without tromping on free speech?  You cannot legislate or even regulate integrity–that’s really what change would boil down to.  One answer is for people of integrity, interested in truth, to go into those fields of endeavor.  Meanwhile, I wonder sometimes if other countries look at the USA and laugh, observing that our public officials often seem to be chosen by the journalists and broadcasters of this country, and we don’t even realize it.

…Now, that that little rant has escaped, I will watch tonight’s Republican Convention in peace…that is, until the first commentator opens his or her mouth.

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This is something of a lightweight post.  On the other hand, since it has something to do with family relationships, maybe not so much…

In email correspondence about a Christmas present for my mom and dad, my youngest brother recently threw out an idea “to see where it sticks”, as he said.  (New expresssion to me…) He proposed that we siblings (five of us) forego buying Christmas gifts for one another this year and let the focus of our gift giving within the extended family be on the nieces and nephews.  At least one sister has seconded the motion and has raised the question about the age range–we have nieces and nephews ranging all the way from age 34 to the newest baby (daughter of my nephew) who will be just a couple of weeks old when we gather for our VanKampen family Christmas celebration in mid-December. 

This is what we’ve done before:  Way back, we drew names.  Personally, I didn’t like it–the worst was the year I had to come up with a robe for my brother-in-law (we drew his name and my sister supplied the wish list); I love my brother-in-law but it is challenging to shop for someone whose taste in clothes is seldom evident because we normally see him in his farm work clothes.  Then we moved to buying for the nieces and nephews and, somewhere along the line, coming up with family gifts given between the siblings–usually some food package or something to be used by the entire family…and the same thing for everybody from each individual family.  (Makes for an interesting lineup under the Christmas tree–all these multiples of identical gifts) 

I’ve never gotten too hung up about extended family gift-giving at Christmas, after the first few years of being married.  We kind of fell into our pattern and plan and that was fun.  We are four generations when we gather–my parents, five kids and spouses, plus our children and a growing batch of grandchildren (up from 0 to 5 in the space of 3 years).  Our feeling is that it’s not about the presents anyway when we get together at Christmas; it’s about making memories and enjoying one another’s company. 

So, I’m not planning on starting now to get all bent out of shape about this.  I’ll be good with whatever makes everyone else happy. 

However, I am curious:  What do other extended families do to make their Christmas celebrations fun and meaningful when they get together?  How are gifts handled?  What creative gift-giving alternatives have people come up with?

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