Remembering The Fallen

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‘Come, gaze, fix your eyes on what the Eternal can do.  Amazing, He has worked desolation here on this battlefield, earth.  God can stop wars anywhere in the world.  He can make scrap of all weapons: snap bows, shatter spears, and burn shields.  “Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God”‘  –Psalm 46:8-10.

Having lived the military life for most of our marriage, we have seen our share of people and families who ‘paid the ultimate price.’  I think on a few of them during Memorial Day weekend.

Bob, and a couple of others, introduced Jud to Jesus and discipled him during his Air Force Academy days.  Jud asked him to be his best man at our wedding; but Bob had commitments overseas and couldn’t make it.  Shortly after we married, we got word that Bob had the honor of going to Red Flag (an elite air-to-air combat training).  His plane hit a ridge on a blind turn.  His funeral introduced me to the reality of military service.  Seeing the folding of our nation’s flag that had rested on his coffin in slow-motion tenderness and honor by other Air Force men took my breath away and reduced me to sobbing.  I prayed for his girlfriend for years, knowing from Jud that Bob would have probably proposed to her had he lived.

Mark, the son of a general, married his Air Force Academy sweetheart right after graduation.  Both he and his wife graduated with Jud.  I got to meet them in Germany when we all attended the same home fellowship for church.  His wife and I forged a friendship while our children played at parks or in our homes together.  We prayed for her and through her house when Mark was away on a mission and she had some odd happenings.  We found that in countries with long histories and longer memories, many odd occurrences disrupted daily routines.  Sometimes I think the liminal space between earthly and spiritual realms is thinner in places like that.  When they moved to Italy and we to Alabama, all of us had hopes of the future!  When I got the phone call from another friend that Mark’s plane had gone down in a fireball over the Adriatic Sea, I prayed through my sobbing that God would send a miracle and allow Mark to actually live.  When no miracle came, I mourned with his widow and children.

We know others who didn’t physically die, but have emotionally and mentally paid the highest price.  My cousin who fought in Vietnam and kept the nightmares and horrors to himself with more prescriptions and pill bottles than my mom had ever seen, until he couldn’t keep his demons at bay any longer and eventually took his life.  Others who suffer from PTSD, amputated limbs, memories of comrades who died, and prayed for death themselves.  I think of my grandfather who fought in WWI.  He lived through the war; but he was gassed in the trenches and developed stomach cancer when he returned home.  He died when my father was a child.

I don’t want this post to make anyone depressed; but I do hope you will take a sober moment this weekend as we bar-b-que and enjoy camping, time with family or great shopping deals to remember the price paid by many in the military and their families for our county’s freedom and standing in our world.

Pray for them.  Ask God to lead you to families who have lost through death or damage husbands/wives/fathers/mothers and offer your service to them in yard work, childcare or just a listening ear of friendship.

Pray for our world.  Ask God to raise up nation leaders who will commit to diplomacy and broader thinking than their own selfish desires.

Pray that we will figure out a way to live peacefully with others and we won’t have to remember new names on the white headstones in the national cemeteries in the coming years.

I’d love to hear from you!!  Who do you remember on Memorial Day? 

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Through The Decades Of My Life

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‘Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete’ –Romans 12:2.

This week, I turn 49 and will enter into my 50th year on this earth.  My birthday always finds me reflecting on who I’ve become and how the world is different.  In 49 years, I’ve seen technology explode our planet and make the world much smaller.  I remember the computer room my dad would take me to at the university where he worked.  That computer took up more space than my bedroom in my house.  I think it might have been bigger than my parents’ room, as well.  I remember fully embracing the risen Jesus–not just loving the Bible stories, but really and truly loving Him.

That would have been the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I remember women’s places changing from home to career.  I remember the first woman professor in my dad’s engineering department.  My dad didn’t know he taught me inclusivity by respecting her work.  He never got on a soap box; but he lived his professional life without feeling threatened by women.  I developed the belief system that as a woman, I was equal to men–even within church positions.

That was the 1970s.  

As a teenager, I remember listening more to what my parents talked about with each other.  As children, we observed more of how our parents lived than what they tried to tell us.  As a teenager, I had enough brain development to understand more of what they  talked about.  I learned how to treat people with compassion and how to live my life with integrity–mostly the same person in public as I am in private–by watching how they acted in public and at home.  I learned what to look for in a politician and what to look for in a life partner.  I remember the list I wrote before God of what I hoped He would provide.  Jud embodied that list.

That was the 1980s.

As my life progressed and my view of the world broadened, I understood more of my mom’s perspective–especially in raising children.  I found how daunting a role ‘Mother’ is.  However, I still believed that I could find answers in a book that would give me the formula on how to raise godly children.  I still believed a formula existed for most of life’s endeavors.  I still believed a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way existed for marriage, children and church.  I began to understand just how wrong my beliefs were.

That was the 1990s.

At the turn of the century/millennium, I remember knowing that I had become a farce–as a mother, a wife and a church-goer.  I had played all the games, followed all the ‘rules’, and read all the books; but none of those things made my life turn out the way the ‘teachers’ said life would become.  I no longer found the presence of God in church, I couldn’t live up to the suburban-soccor-mom stereotype that people lifted up as the godly way to live, Jud and I had to re-learn what it meant to have a ‘christian’ marriage by re-learning how to be a wife/husband to each other–not the one-size-fits-all husband/wife rules of all the ‘christian’ marriage books, classes and seminars.  God began to reveal that sometimes church can have its own ‘world’ attitudes.

That was the 2000s.

Now, in this next decade, I can take all I’ve learned from the previous decades and transform even more.  After learning some facts about Bible interpretation and scholarship, I’ve had to re-learn how to read the Bible and accept its limitations.  I’ve found that by accepting the limitations (and many months of confusion, throwing a book or two against walls, and a few screaming matches with God, followed by some not-speaking-to-Him time), the Bible has more meaning, relevancy and depth than I ever dreamed.  Frankly, the stories have become so much more interesting and passion-filled–especially stories about Jesus.  I’ve learned to welcome and embrace the humility of broken living. I’ve learned to allow churches and pastors the same broken-ness.  Transforming my mind, God has developed a deeper sense of compassion, justice and a fuller belief in His power and work in this world. I look forward to having more and more revealed to me and our world about God’s heart, thoughts and ways for us.  I look forward to the struggle, the heartache and the joys as we become more and more like Him.

These are the 2010s.

I’d love to hear from you!  How have your views of yourself, life, God changed over the decades?

 

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My Children, My Heart

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‘His mother continued to store these memories like treasures in her heart’ –Luke 2:51.

Last year, I celebrated all women on Mother’s Day.  This year, I want to celebrate my own life.  Jud and I have successfully raised 3 semi-adult children (well, more successfully than not).  ‘Proud’ doesn’t fully express how I feel about their burgeoning independent lives.  They all have awe-inspiring stories that involve growth-inducing challenges and, most importantly, live out their lives before God and others with compassion, grace and wisdom-in-the-making.

When I entered college, I didn’t expect to get married at the end of 4 years.  I had dreams of writing the ‘Great American Novel’ and taking the publishing industry by storm!  When Jud and I got married 3 weeks after I graduated, I knew a career in publishing was no longer an option; but I believed the novel was still in my sights.  I found, as the years moved on, that writing fiction didn’t enflame my writing passion like it had in high school and college.  So, I put writing aside and focussed on giving my children a stable, nurturing home while we lived the constantly changing military life.  Some would say that I ‘lost’ myself in those years.  I may have said that a time or two.  Looking back, I see a different perspective.

What I ‘sacrificed’ in those years led to relationships with my children that swell my heart and soul.  I’ve often said that as a parent, I’m constantly working myself out of a job.  I’m not the typical stay-at-home-mom who baked cookies, sewed costumes and made crafts.  Goodwill provided excellent costumes for most of the dress-up days elementary school years demanded.  I kept a craft box filled with old cards, glue guns and glue sticks, felt, sparkly glitter, stickers, pipe cleaners and anything else that caught my eye when I was at the store.  When my kids cried boredom, we brought out the box and they created masterpieces.  We watched old movies–especially MGM musicals–and the Doughnut Man videos while the floors dried after mopping.  We had picnics and beach trips.  I remember every new place we moved, the kids would ask, “Mommy, are we going to get ‘lost’ today?”  Which meant we would drive around unfamiliar neighborhoods and figure out how to get home.  Usually those trips involved milkshakes….  And we read stories and books.  I miss reading out loud with them.   Of course we sang, too.  With the singing came impromptu dancing …  Then the laughing would start … Till our stomachs hurt.  I miss those times too.

All the carpooling with cross country teams, track teams, club meetings created space for us to share lives.  It’s hard to have ‘quality’ time without quantity of time.  I’ve enjoyed watching them grow, mature and become more independent.  I continue to remember them as young children and wax nostalgic when I see them all grown-up; but the nostalgia can’t overshadow the joy that my job is changing in their lives.  This Mother’s Day is my last with a child in high school.  In a couple of weeks as he walks the stage to get his diploma, I will have graduated high school four times in my life.  An end of an era.  All of my children will officially be ‘adult.’  Gone are the days of homemade cards, dollar-store or garage-sale treasured presents, and expectantly hope-filled eyes looking for praise.  I’ll never stop being ‘Mom’ to them; but that relationship doesn’t mean what it once did all those years ago when I snuggled them, sang and read to them and spoon-fed them.

So today, I celebrate Em, J and Jon because they made me able to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I celebrate the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating who they are and how they transform in the future.  I may shed a tear or two as their lives persistently move away from mine; however, I know they remain in my heart and I in theirs.  And I know we’ve built relationships that will continue to bring them back home.  They know both their parents love them wholly and are on their side.  They know I will always be their ‘Mama.’

And they like my cooking….

I’d love to hear from you!  You don’t have to be a parent to influence young lives.  How have your views on parenthood changed through the years?  What are some of your joys/sorrows in watching little ones grow up?

 

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Family Resemblances

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‘Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth—the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, the domesticated animals and the small creeping creatures on the earth’ –Genesis 1:26.

I have my maternal grandmother’s nose and my father’s eyes.  I look more like my father’s side of the family.  Some have seen my maternal grandmother’s picture and thought that it’s me as an old lady.  I hope I look like her in my 80s–she was ADORABLE!!  I hope I reflect all the good parts of both sides of my family in my temperament; but I know that stubbornness runs on both sides.  Thankfully, that trait skipped a generation with me…. I do hope my heart reflection continues to change into more of what I think Jesus looked like on earth.  I definitely can’t claim even a smidgen of perfection in that area; but I hope people see me growing and learning.

I took a Bible study years ago that I hated.  I don’t use that word lightly.  In it, the thesis statement was, ‘There is no feminine in the Godhead.’  Not shocking why I hated the study.  Every lesson reminded me that the core of my being is not found in God.  I had many … um … discussions … with the leaders of the study.  Finally, unable to hang with my mental and scriptural gymnastics, they pawned me off to one of the pastors.  He was doing a study by the author’s husband on men.  He told me that while he hadn’t actually read the one on women, the one on men was terrific.  “I’m sure I’d love that one too–you get to relate to God!  According to this study, we are an anomaly to Him!” I replied, forcefully.  He didn’t discuss much with me after that.

I’ve read several articles about racial inequities in churches.  I recently listened to an interview with Muhammad Ali where he talked about why he became Muslim.  He humorously asked some poignant questions about the ‘whiteness’ of Christianity.  I had pondered some of the questions before, but not really understood the significance of the messages that are sent to minorities.  Since I belong to the group in power, I never had the images we present act as a dagger in my spirit.  I never internalized the messages that because of the color of my skin, God would not use me to the same degree as He would white people.

Until I took that study.  I finally understood what it felt like to have my voice diminished.  I finally understood what it felt like to have people say that God doesn’t look like me.  That I don’t look like God.

This week, I started to globalize that thought more.  It’s what underlies all our culture wars and gender wars in the church.  Some churches would say (probably not out loud), “We don’t want God to look like a woman; therefore, the Bible clearly says that women are not to lead men.”  Others might say (probably not out loud), “God can’t look like a person of color; therefore, we will exclude their voices from the music industry, from our upfront ministries, from anything but their own churches.”  I actually heard people in the South say, “Why would black people want to come to our church?  They have their own.”

Why would we want God to look like anyone who makes us uncomfortable?

Is this attitude one of the reasons we don’t want to consider that we have it wrong with Christians who are gay?  Are we afraid that God might look ‘gay’?  (Whatever that means….)  Have we chosen to interpret a very few Bible passages in a way that excludes some because we don’t like what the repercussions are to our view of God if we look to broader interpretations?  One pastor of a mega church said that we had feminized Jesus too much, and he couldn’t serve a Jesus that he thought he could beat up.  What disturbed me most was that this Christian pastor actually thought about whether or not he could beat up Jesus.  I realized that I’ve mostly thought of Jesus in an asexual sort of way.  But, I consider Him cutting-edge when it comes to honoring and respecting the voices of His society that those in power diminished and abused.

So what image do those who do not look white or act heterosexual reflect?  Do we tell them covertly that they do not reflect God’s image?  Yes.  We do.

It may not be consciously or with evil intent.  But the message rings through, nonetheless.  Those who identify with Christ should never feel excluded within churches.  We have to do a better job of using our power for including all people–because all people carry God’s image.  And we need all those reflections of God’s image so we can see the fullness of God’s heart in our world.  Will this make us in power uncomfortable?  Probably.  But isn’t a little discomfort worth the freedom of Christ for all?

It may scare us.  It may make us uncomfortable.  But only for a time.  Soon, all of the fear and shame would dissolve as we see the beauty of God’s full image.

I’d love to hear from you!  What does God’s image look like to you?  Have you subconsciously created God in your own image?  

I recommend The Shack, if you want to see a broader image of God.

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