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The first time I think I ever did anything that could be considered “activist”, in the commonly understood sense, was back in the 80’s.  When the opportunity presented itself, I joined with a group of up to maybe ten people who peacefully picketed the local abortion clinic one Saturday morning a month.  We carried signs with pro-life messages, occasionally carried on conversations with each other, silently prayed as we walked, and gratefully gave thumbs up or acknowledging waves to people who honked to affirm the message of life.  My husband and children usually spent that time at the public library, located kitty-corner from the abortion clinic.  (I wonder what their recollections of those Saturday mornings are.)

My friend Janice was the catalyst to my involvement as a political activist.  She urged me to “run” for a precinct committeeman position, and that was my initiation into the way grassroots politics work.  I have to admit that I’ve spent a freezing cold first Tuesday of November morning or two with my school-age children (civics education!), standing outside a polling place, telling voters that the candidate I supported would appreciate their vote when they pulled the lever/pushed the button. (Not legal to do that anymore–I hope it was then.)  I have made phone calls and knocked on doors in GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts.  Sometime my candidate won, sometimes he lost.

I got goosebumps and tears when I attended the huge support-the-troops Rally for America up at the Kruse Auction Park in Auburn, IN, several years ago when the Afghanistan/Iraq War on Terrorism was just heating up.  I don’t know that my school-age son recalls the event with great fondness, but it was the right place for our family to be on that day…

dscf01682That’s how it was today.  I attended the local “Tea Party” to add my sign and my voice to those of my fellow Americans who have had enough of what is currently trying to be passed off as “government” and who stand ready to act with courage and persistence to bring change that will preserve and advance liberty, not deconstruct and weaken it.  (There’s an album of images from the event on my Facebook page.)

I don’t list these things here to brag or boast.  But I was trying to analyze if they have a common thread.  I think they do.  It is…belief.  I believe life is sacred and that, from the moment of conception, that which it is politically correct to call a “fetus” is a living human being–a baby.  I believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people.  I believe the men and women who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to purchase and maintain my freedom should have the support and undying gratitude of all their fellow citizens and their government.I believe in the republican form of government that has been established in the Constitution of the United States of America and that it does not come without cost, without eternal vigilence and a focus on what is true and right.  So…I act.  I speak.  I affirm.  I persuade.

Question to myself:  Am I as ardent an activist for the Cause Which Matters Most?  I believe in God, and in His Son Jesus as the only Savior and Hope for sinful mankind.  I believe in grace offered to all who believe that Jesus died to take the punishment that all of us who are sinners–that’s everyone, Folks, if we take the Bible’s word on it–deserve, and that it can be mine if I accept it as a gift I can’t repay from a God whose love for me knows no bounds.  That is everyday belief for me.  So–what is my everyday activism that goes along with it?  I know this–a sign or a picket or a rally won’t cut it.  This belief is bound up in relationship with the Creator God of the universe and His Son, the Savior of the world.  So my activism must follow suit–it must be bound up in relationship with those with whom I interact, those to whom I speak, with words affirming and persuasive.

What does it look like to be an activist for that belief?

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Saturday I was grandmothering at a Bible quiz meet.  I helped one-year-old-learning-to-say-lots-of-words Melanie eat her hot dog lunch while her “Mama” and “Dada” were busy coaching quizzers.

“Do you want a bite of banana?”

“‘Nana” says Melanie.

“Do you want a bite of hot dog?”

“Woof!” says Melanie.

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Cease Striving

I generally face life’s changes with tears.

They may be tears of frustration or relief.  They may be tears of joy or grief.  But, trickle they will (or, in the quiet solitary moment when no one but God sees, they may burst forth as from the great deep in voluminous sobs and torrents). 

So it happened this morning, this first day of sending my baby (Sorry, Zach–you’ll forgive this once, won’t you, since I’ve mostly broken myself of the habit of calling you that in public?) off to public high school.  This is a day of firsts in many ways:  first day of high school; first day of public school-ever, for any of my kids or for these parents; first day of school when I’m not the teacher; first day of school in my twenty-four and a half years of motherhood when I haven’t had a child of mine in the house (I transitioned from classroom teacher to motherhood, so “first day of school” is a biggie in my heart and life, in case you can’t tell).

It was mainly the biology class (of course, if it hadn’t been that, I’m pretty sure it would have been something else.).  Through some administrative glitch (reminding all that we are not in heaven yet), Zach’s class schedule had to be totally reconstructed at registration.  One result of this was that he ended up in a biology class that will be, in part, populated by kids who are having to repeat the class, which, in my teacher mind, translates to “kids who really don’t want to be there” which translates into “trouble”.  I had let my heart be troubled over this to the point of fretting through my tear ducts this morning.  

So, knowing that this was a lack of trust on my part (I think it is Biblical to believe that “everything happens for a reason” but my heart had not yet caught up to my head), and not wanting to take the shine off the first day of school or to put the jitters into it, as I went about the kitchen getting breakfast ready, I began to talk to the Heavenly Parent about it–to the One who also had let a child go to a place where He might not be (and was not, it turned out) as well-loved as He was at home.

And my Father began to remind me of fifth grade, Mrs. Griffiths’ class.  Ah, yes, Mrs. Griffiths’ class…Everybody knew that Mrs. Trader was the “tough” teacher in fifth grade, so I should have been glad not to be in her class, right?  But, most of my friends were there, and I felt “stuck” with the less academically inclined half of my class (I was an all-A student at the time).  God, however, does not make mistakes.  It was in that class that I learned a very important life lesson that probably kept me from getting in much worse trouble in junior high and high school–another post for another day except to say that I learned it doesn’t pay to talk back to a teacher…important lesson for one whose tongue is problematic to this day.  And, because I was a good student, I got to/was assigned to help other students, and had time to do fun things like put up bulletin boards–and, looking back, I think maybe it was then that I really began to think seriously that I might like to be a teacher some day (although I think that was wired into me from birth, really).  So, what looked like one big fat mistake simply wasn’t, and I can see now that God did know what He was doing by putting little old me in that class, and He hasn’t changed since Zach ended up in this particular section of biology class (and there must be something to it…the teacher’s last name–I kid you not–is “Oakleaf”…).

So, being somewhat recovered by breakfast time, at the end of the meal I am brought to tears again–only different this time; not those of the fretting mother, but now those of a child who weeps at the great and tender love of a Father’s heart displayed–as Michael begins reading this day’s devotional thought:

Nothing surprises God.  What puzzles us is permitted by our Lord, for reasons too profound to grasp.  It is put together in the counsel of His own will so that it fits perfectly into His plan for His glory and for His purposes.  As His servant, I say in response, ‘I will not fear.  Though I don’t understand it, I will not fear.  Though You take something that’s deeply significant to me, though You allow a catastrophe to strike, I will not fear.  I will not blame, I will not doubt, and I will not question.'”

And then, the kicker:  “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Each new school year seems to have its theme verse. I think God handed me this year’s at breakfast today.

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The grandbaby is walking.  She successfully took three or four unassisted steps in my direction on Wednesday; later in the day, she treated Uncle Gabe to the same demonstration of her new skill. 

In case you haven’t spent much time around a baby lately, let me refresh your memory of the process and significance of those steps:  For months, all of her “peeps” have encouraged any activity that appeared to be remotely related to the eventual walking skill.  Since she was only several months old, she has indicated the desire to be pulled up on her feet from a sitting or even lying position–and, of course, we have all thought that was Wonder Baby stuff and have cooperated with meeting that “need”.  Her mama has said over and over, “We want to encourage her to ‘cruise’ around the furniture at your house as much as possible, because we don’t have so many good places for her to do that at our house.”  In more recent days, any family gathering has included two adults spacing themselves a short distance apart, facing one another.  The baby is stood on her feet in front of one adult, facing the other, who gleefully holds out his or her arms, in hopes that this will encourage Baby to take those much-awaited first steps.

And now, it has happened.

Imagine the following:  Now that Melanie has taken those first steps, we totally stop encouraging her walking in any other way.  We get irritated when she chooses to crawl instead of walk, even though for her it is more familiar and faster at this point in her development.  As the weather gets cooler, no shoes or boots are provided for those little feet which will more and more often carry her into life’s adventures (Last winter, she was carried everywhere.).

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.  I was pondering the parallels in spiritual life.  Don’t we who call ourselves Christ-followers sometimes do the same thing with those who are just beginning to walk with Jesus?  We invest lots of time and encouragement before they begin to walk–we call it being “seeker friendly” or “doing evangelism”.  Then they take those first steps and we are all excited.  We may even keep track of the dates and of the numbers who start walking.  Then, far too often, we do the spiritual equivalent of the above paragraph–we stop encouraging, we get impatient or irritated or critical when our “baby” reverts sometimes to pre-walking activities, we fail to provide the tools for that new walker to make it successfully and safely through the challenges faced by all who walk. 

I’m going to keep on observing and pondering this process–I’m pretty sure I’m going to see a lot more than a cute little sweetheart delighting her family with her latest trick!   

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Yesterday, Zach and I went to visit the principal of the public high school he will attend next year.  The main purpose of our visit, other than to meet this very nice gentleman, was to determine if Zach would be able to enter as a sophomore, based on the high school credits he has earned thus far in our home school. 

I had no doubts when I turned in the detailed course of study and transcripts required when Gabe and Ellen, my now 24- and almost-23-year-old offspring, were going through their college admissions process five years ago at this time.  I knew that their high school academics had been rigorous enough to stand scrutiny. 

It was a little different with Zach, in that, not having planned on this turn in the road, I had structured his high school course of study a little differently from that of the big kids, and he has only completed one year of that plan.  (Someone laughed at me the other day when I used that term “big kids”.  I grew up in a family where the space of a few years separated the older two of us who were only 15 months apart from the younger three, who were 18 months apart–a single followed by twins.  So, it has come naturally to me to call Gabe and Ellen the “big kids” since they are separated in age from Zach by 9 and 7 years, respectively.)  A couple of Zach’s courses from this year were intended to be part of course work that we would complete later on in his high school course work.  Nonetheless, I wrote the documentation of his credits up the best way I could and went off to our meeting with the principal.

The upshot made my day: Zachs’s credits will transfer, which means he can enter public high school as a sophomore.  (This was a significant thing; he had said that if he had to enroll as a freshman, he might not want to go away to school after all.)  And, though it was an unexpected turn of events, his grades will not transfer.  In the big picture, this seems like a good thing:  he will establish his grade point starting with the classes he takes there.  This makes sense to me; even though I have always tried to be objective when giving grades to my homeschool students, accepting my grades would create something of an apples and oranges situation for Zach’s new school.  This way, his grades earned and his high school diploma awarded will reflect totally the school’s academic program.
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I was driving Zach to work at midday today.  As we passed a downtown hotel and were about to round the corner, a pedestrian caught our attention.  He was dressed in a very fine manner, was pulling a piece of wheeled luggage, and was practically dancing as he moved down the sidewalk with a big grin on his face.  As we passed him, we could see he was talking on a cell phone.  I wondered what he was hearing that was putting such a spring in his step.  Zach’s comment was:  “That guy just made my day.  Don’t say anything about him, Mom.”  I think Zach’s message to me was:  Just let me appreciate that little bit of seredipity, that unexpected joy spot in this day.  Point well-taken, Son.
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My friend’s daughter is getting married on Saturday.  Said friend came over this afternoon to firm up my responsibilities at the reception (another mutual friend and I are in charge of beverages.) and, maybe, for a little moral support from a former mom-of-the-bride.  She had told me earlier in the week that a dear friend of hers, who was going to sing at the wedding and was also in charge of setting up the table decorations for the reception, had just been diagnosed with what is believed to be lung cancer and is not up to either of those tasks for Saturday.  That has been an added stressor and low point emotionally in my friend’s week, as you can imagine.  Today, the mother-of-the-bride told me a very cool “God thing” that happened:  She went to a musical activity at her church last night and one of the leaders said to her, “God pretty much told me I needed to ask you if there was any way I could help you out with the wedding.”  When taking on the task of the reception decorating was mentioned, the leader was more than happy to help and that is one more thing that the mother-of-the-bride can roll off her own shoulders.  Not only did the lady who was listening to God’s voice bless my friend, but she served to encourage the friend with lung cancer as well, reminding her that God has a way of taking care of things and,  more importantly, of us.  

Doesn’t that just make your day?        

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For once, I did it.  I managed to get some lilies of the valley cut and to carry them, with their indescribable fragance, into my house before the rain and warm May days turned the short-lived bell blossoms brown.  Ah, I think heaven should smell like this!

Speaking of heavenly smells–I had an experience a week ago Friday that I don’t believe I’ve ever had before.  I was mowing the grass in our backyard and, honestly, the scent of lilacs wafting from the neighbor’s bush across the alley was nearly intoxicating.  I don’t think I’ve even enjoyed a lawn-mowing session so much!

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I walked home from Yeoman’s Service Center this morning after taking the car for an oil change and look-over before our little road trip next week to Gettysburg and D.C.  (My brother and sister-in-law live in Frederick, MD, so staying with them instead of a motel is the only way we could even begin to think about this sojourn given the current price of gas.  Thanks, David and Karen!)  I walked down the opposite side of the street from the one I usually do on this particular walk.  I noticed houses I haven’t noticed before.  And I was thinking.

I don’t live in the richest neighborhood in Fort Wayne.  People driving around town who live in more affluent parts of the city might even call this a poor neighborhood.  But, over the years, I have seen there are riches here that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.  I see them when extended families are laughing and sharing a summer evening together on their front porches.  Flowers blooming in unexpected places–around the foundation of a house in dire disrepair–show that someone, sometime had an eye for beauty here. 

My eyes have learned how to focus differently in the 18 years this neighborhood has been home.  Today, I passed by a house–with a little clump of red tulips cheerfully heralding glorious spring at the corner of the front porch–that was in a state of great neglect.  A broken down car sat in front of a droopy garage.  The front porch was filled, not with a porch swing and potted plants, but with black garbage bags of who-knows-what, assorted and abandoned children’s toys, and other stuff I didn’t take time to analyze.  A big ladder was on its side, leaning up against the house’s north foundation.  My first thought was “This is a dump.”  But my second thought, which came quickly, was that things have not gone as hoped here.  Perhaps this is the home of a single mom who is scratching out a living for little ones and hasn’t an ounce of energy left to do anything when she gets home at night.  Maybe someone lives here who moved in with great hopes for making this a lovely home–thus the tulips?–but has fallen on hard times and laughs scornfully at the idea of providing for more than food on the table and the ability to keep the utilities from being turned off due to delinquent payments.  Maybe the inside of the house is filled with shadows as an occupant dies of some wasting or debilitating illness–who cares, then, about the mess on the front porch or in the driveway? 

That was the extreme view on my morning walk.  But it pushed me to prayer and to more widely-open eyes for my remaining steps.  Show me why I’m in residence here on East Rudisill Boulevard and, God who loves every person who lives in every house I passed this morning, don’t let me miss the opportunities you put in front of me every day. 

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If you want to read words that will tingle your spine and lift your spirits all at the same time–but do this only if you are willing to pray for a sister and brother in need, for the urge and desire will be irresistible–go to http://cramerworld.wordpress.com/  This is where friends (a former pastor and his wife) are updating their friends and family about their journey in the face of cancer.  I am humbled and inspired every time I visit this blog. 

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A blessing:
As you go on your way, may Christ go with you:
May He go before you to show you the way.
May He go behind you to encourage you,
Beside you to befriend you,
Above you to watch over,
Within you to give you peace.
Amen.

 

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Melanie\'s First Zoo TripYesterday was my granddaughter Melanie’s first visit to the zoo.  Thanks to our handy-dandy zoo pass (one of the best bargains in Fort Wayne if you visit the zoo more than a couple of times per summer), daughter Ellen, Melanie, and I could all get in without paying additional entrance fees.

It is good to see a familiar sight through someone else’s eyes periodically.  Ellen and I got just as tickled by Melanie’s responses as she did by the things that she was seeing for the first time.  Her first delight inside the zoo entrance was watching the spraying water in the frog fountain area and seeing the other children at play there.  (That’s when I snapped this pic.)

This may be an analogy carried a little too far, but I made another interesting observation about Melanie’s enjoyment of the zoo:  We visited after lunch, so the longer we were there, the closer Melanie was to nap time.  Yet, as sleepy and out of it as she was becoming, she seemed to perk up and truly enjoy the animals each time Ellen or I picked her up out of her stroller and held her so she could see what was around her.  Aren’t we like that?  We get a much better perspective on life from the secure, re-energizing place of the Father’s arms of love wrapped around us. 

Ellen and I talked about how much fun it will be to see Melanie’s different responses every time we go to the zoo, as she becomes more aware of her surroundings, as she begins to be more verbal, as she (just think–next year at this time!) is able to walk about on her own.  (That part of the discussion led to the anticipation of needing a “leash”, Ellen called it; as a  young mom, the device we used with toddlers at the zoo was called a “hand holder”–much more humane sounding…and looking).  Just as we anticipate those responses that will change with growth, so I’m guessing our Heavenly Father awaits our changing, maturing responses to His wonders in our lives too.

 

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