Contributing Factors and Solutions

Standard

Jesus speaking:  “‘So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.  Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others'” –John 13:34-35 (The Voice translation).

Boko Haram.  ISIS.  Syria.  Gaza.  Russia vs. Ukraine.  Ferguson.  Our world looks bleak.

Boko Haram continues to kill and kidnap people in African villages with no apparent end to their terror.  More than 200 Nigerian girls remain missing.  Some of the original 276 kidnapped girls have died.  Some, the abductors reportedly have married off.  After their abduction in May, hope for their release or rescue diminishes by the day.  How many of us continue to remember them?  Because no new activity in the story appears to happen, our news has moved on to more current stories.

The terror group, ISIS, has become more powerful than we imagined.  In America, we don’t believe that they can make good on their threats … yet … but adding them to the many disturbances in the Middle East certainly complicates our world.

President Putin and his bold attacks presumably to take over Ukraine border on insanity.  Especially when we remember it all started under the shadow of the Olympics.  Seriously?  The one time in 4 years when all the world’s countries celebrate camaraderie  and goodwill?  As your country hosted said athletic events?  That seemed like a good time for you to invade another country?

Ferguson, MO, and all it represents.  Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the 1960s.  Have the last 50 years of civil rights changed nothing in the hearts of our countrymen?  I have no idea about the legality of the matters in MO, TX, AZ (with the profiling of hispanic people) and all the other places that racial prejudice seems to influence the laws and courts.  But, I hope we can all agree that we can do better.

We must do better.  But the issues are so global, where do we start?

We start with ourselves.  We learn to grow up and act like adults, regardless of how anyone else acts.  We learn to forgive and show grace–not because anyone who slights us deserves it, but because we deserve to live without the baggage of bitterness.  We need to realize that we are not big enough to handle the world’s problems on our own … nor are we able to handle our own problems by ourselves.  Part of the problem in our world is our own arrogance.  Embracing humility and admitting that we don’t have the capacity as human beings to fix global terrorism and hatred without the help of God is a good first step.  In all of human history, we have not figured out how to live peaceably with other cultures.  Isn’t it time to confess that we don’t have it in us to figure it out?  But, maybe if we actually pray and contemplate the sacred teachings of God, we may feel more peace within ourselves–and if more and more people live peacefully with themselves, perhaps more and more of the world’s cultures will live at peace with each other.

We give up the ‘us vs. them’ mentalities.  Peace doesn’t happen because one side proves itself ‘right’ and the other side ‘wrong.’  Peace unveils itself when we concern ourselves more with understanding and less of jumping to conclusions about situations.  Few, if any of us, have enough information to pass judgment on any of the situations in the news.  The complexity within the borders of Israel transcend our western ideologies and theologies.  Yes, educate ourselves.  Yes, read the articles.  But, allow ourselves to read opposing viewpoints with an open mind and heart.  We may grow and mature in our understanding of all that is at stake.  We lack empathy in our world of right and wrong information.  We need the stories of real people to help us show compassion to all.

We do our homework. We research rumors and refuse to post inflammatory rhetoric that we have not confirmed. So much of what we get riled up about has little basis in fact. Educating ourselves and looking for multiple credible sources before passing misinformation on to others will go a long way in curbing revenge-seeking passions in our hearts and minds. Also, we must discuss more of world events and less of Kim Kardashian’s fashion. How many of us still carry a passion for the Nigerian girls who remain missing? How many of us sigh and turn the page looking for a nicer story than ISIS teaching children how to behead people? If we don’t insist on action at the global, governmental levels, how does our government of the people, by the people and for the people decide how to prioritize the atrocities taking place?

We look for solutions.  Most of us can’t go to the international conflict hotspots (and we have nothing to offer, if we could go); but we can go downtown to the homeless shelters, the soup kitchens, the domestic violence agencies, the animal shelters, the low-income schools, hospice care, the hospitals and volunteer our time and skills.  A smile, a kind word, offering hope to someone who sees only hopelessness in life goes a long way in changing our own attitudes toward people in the world, as well as those whom we help.  The leaders in those organizations need people who lighten their load.  We can give money to ministries and groups who have credibility to affect change within local and international circles.  A quick search on the internet lists thousands of reputable sources.  Believe that we can make a difference and change our world.  Accept that change may take years.  Celebrate the small victories–the children that are saved from sex-trafficking, the laws that equalize the rights of all, the countries that educate girls, the leaders who sacrifice so much to negotiate for peace.

Finally, we recognize that we can influence only one person at a time.  Global change starts with us and how we treat the person on the street, in the store, or driving in a car down the road.  Preaching to myself here.  I want peace to all the world’s problems; but I want everyone in my little corner of the world to cater to me.  How much more peaceful would I live if my neighbor didn’t practice drums, the person in the store didn’t stand in my way, the guy in the truck didn’t cut me off.  All of that brings us back to the beginning of this post.  We start with ourselves.  I start with me and my attitude toward others–even when I’m right and they are obviously wrong.  I take responsibility for how I contribute to the selfishness in the world.

We may or may not end terrorism in our world.  But, if we begin to implement some of the things listed in this post, maybe our world will become less scary and terror-focussed.  Bridges built between cultures start with humanizing the cultures … one face at a time.

I welcome comments!  Please remember to keep them respectful and constructive.

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

God Help Us!

Standard

‘The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live’ –1 Timothy:1-3 (The Message).

Remember the guy who wrote ‘All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten’?  I want him to run our government.  After reading a newspaper article this week that we shouldn’t expect Congress to accomplish much when they return from their vacation and before they break in August, it doesn’t take a genius to realize our nation’s leaders need a sanity check.  We pay them more than most of us who actually have to accomplish tasks on a daily basis make.  Why do we put up with their political tantrums and pouting?  How have we made it okay for them to collect their sizable paychecks and yet not improve our country or move it forward for months at a time?  Why are we not firing them during elections and hiring people who might actually play nice together and work toward the common good?  Why do we not insist on laws for term limits so that ‘politician’ ceases as a career path.  Our forefathers created our government with the idea that politics should never become an elitist occupation.  So, how do we-the-people take back our power in government?  By voting.

I would vote for a few teachers.  Those teachers who have won awards and have proven that they know how to handle students who have given up.  The teachers who inspire movies and believe our nation still has so much untapped potential.  The teachers who won’t allow Congress to just limp along, content with living far away from the constituents who voted them into office.  Teachers who would hold government accountable to focus on the good of the country and not the schoolyard scuffles of politics.  Teachers who haven’t stopped learning and respect the wisdom that youth bring to the table.

I would vote for a few business managers who have pulled their companies out of the landfill and created work environments that encourage productivity because they remember real people work for them and not just automatons.  Small business owners who sacrifice their own comforts to make payroll every month deserve some recognition in government–those bosses who understand the lives of their employees and know when to show grace and when to prune some dead branches.

I would vote for a few mothers who have successfully raised children to live productive lives.  Moms who have developed workable budgets and kept the checking accounts balanced.  Not to leave out fathers, I would also look for men who have a team mentality toward their family.  Men who exhibit an ability to share in the joys, responsibilities, successes and failures with their partners in mentoring children and setting a nurturing, disciplined home environment.

I would vote for some minorities who understand what it’s like to have your voice diminished and have risen above their circumstances.  People who have experienced all the -isms we have in our country and have found a way to succeed without malice toward those who have made their journey more difficult.  People full of grace, confidence, compassion and wisdom.

I would vote for a few people who have worked hard in blue-collar jobs, paid their mortgages, put their kids through school, paid their bills on time and struggle to make ends meet in retirement.  The ones who understand the power of humilty.  The ones who have known shame because they never made it to the financial or corporate level our society deems successful.  The ones our society may look down upon because they don’t epitomize our dream of a ‘Hollywood lifestyle’ with big homes, seemingly unlimited resources and $300 jeans.

So, that’s my dream government and the character qualities I will look for as political ads begin to inundate our lives.  As a new election season kicks into high gear, I hope we will listen to what candidates say and how they communicate.  We need people who are willing to work together.  We need more than party-line politicians.  Our country deserves leaders of the people, by the people and for the people.

May God help us as we vote and our leaders as they serve.

What about you?  What type of person would you like to see on the ballot?  What qualities are important to you in a leader?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Leading By Example

Standard

My goodness!!  Sometimes I wonder if we truly live in the 21st century?  I’ve read several articles about the Voting Rights Act, Paula Deen (and several other ‘celebrities’ who have let loose with racial and offensive slurs) and Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman over the past few weeks.  I can’t say that I understand much about the Voting Rights Act issue.  Being from Arizona and born in the mid-60s gives me little frame of reference for racial prejudice (illegal immigration didn’t really touch me back then).  Visiting my mom’s stomping grounds in Texas and living in Alabama for 4 1/2 years in the 1990s give me some perspective.  As a child, I remember the days-long road trips to Texas and staring out the car window in boredom.  I saw many signs on restaurants that read ‘Members Only.’  When I asked my parents what that meant, my mom responded, “Only white people can eat there–it’s how they get around the laws.”  Once, when I felt overly-bored of the car and hungry, I said, “So we could stop and eat in one of those places?”  Both my parents stiffened and said, “We will never go to a place with one of those signs.”  At 7, I began to understand prejudice and where my family stood.

Because of those experiences, I understand, from an ideological view, why the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act.  However, in order for that view to be just and fair, I believe we must repeal the electorate, have each individual vote counted and the majority vote of the people decide our elections.  “Our country has changed,” explained Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.  I want to believe that theory.  But, how can I?  I’ve also read many articles about Texas immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision putting into effect a voter identification law that previously had been blocked.  I read articles about egregious racism by international chef and personality Paula Deen.  The Trayvon Martin case breaks my heart.  And, so my friends from the South don’t think that I’m picking on them, a contestant from Philadelphia on one of my favorite summertime shows (MasterChef) tweeted some really offensive, racist remarks.  Don’t get me started on Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson or the many other celebrities who while inebriated or just in rage have let loose indefensible insults.  Has our country changed?

Transitioning takes so much time.  I think of all the moves we’ve made with the military.  It took about 3-6 months to feel settled.  It took about 3 months to adjust to our first child, 6 months to adjust to our second child and 18 months to feel like we had control with three (notice I said ‘feel.’  I’m not sure we ever had control….).  Changing a whole nation and culture takes decades; but it does happen.  I look at South Africa, where we have dear friends, and how far they’ve come in 30 years since apartheid and how far they still have to go.  Our friends have said that they are not sure what will happen when the ailing Nelson Mandela actually dies.  He symbolizes grace and forgiveness in a volatile state, much like Gandhi did for India.  Much like Martin Luther King, Jr. in our country.  My heart grows weary and heavy when I think that many of our ‘symbols’ become martyrs.  Mandela’s long life is an exception to that rule.

So, I worry over the implications of not having the Voting Rights Act to protect minority voices in our nation.  I worry that our country’s stability rests on laws and not in the hearts of its people.  Discouragement surrounds my heart at all the injustices I see and feel.

But, I do have hope.  I read multiple articles about the first integrated prom in Wilcox County, Georgia.  How students at the high school went against the adult views of having a ‘black prom’ and a ‘white prom’ since the 1970s and organized their own prom.  My heart almost burst with pride at the courage and tenacity of these students.  I know so many youth and young adults who protect their peers who are bullied.  I cheer on the multitudes who will not accept another suicide in their towns and have befriended the ‘fringe’ kids in their schools.  May we learn by their example how to ‘work at living in peace with everyone … [and to] look after each other so that none … fails to receive the grace of God’ (Hebrews 12:14, 15).

Our country has a long way to go before we see stability with all the transitions.  We won’t know if overturning the Voting Rights Act corrupts the democracy process until we have an election.  But, I know our youth and young adults can accept the challenges that our generation gives them.  We have raised an incredible generation of young adults capable and willing to take ownership of their culture.  Let us celebrate our children and our children’s children as they learn to lead our country and our world.  Let us encourage their efforts to build bridges and seek to live in peace.  Let us stand confidently alongside them as they discover that the foundations we laid are actually springboards for them to go farther than we dreamed possible–just as we have grown past our parents’ and grandparents’ expectations (and perhaps desires).  Power and control are hard to give up; but for us to move forward, we must make room for the next generations to show us where to go.

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Our Beloved Country, Divided

Standard

I considered writing a light fluffy article this week.  I wanted to write something sentimental, funny, carefree … unimportant.  But,this year, Jud and I have declared ‘the year of living brave, but afraid.’  The year that we choose not to let fear determine what we try.  The year we take the risk and face possible rejection or failure.  The year we begin to remember and act on dreams.  The year we ‘fan into flame the gift of God, … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’ (1 Timothy 1:6-7).  With such a passionate desire to throw off the chains of the past, how can I ignore the historic moment of the Supreme Court overturning DOMA this week?  Why would I want to gloss over such an important event?

Because I’m afraid.  But this year, I vowed to live bravely.  Despite fear.

I wept with others, as I read their stories in news articles.  People who finally had hope.  People who had fought so long and for decades to have our great country consider them equal and not separate.  I heard voices rising up strong, reminding me of the 1960s Civil Rights advocates.  I wept because laws cannot change hatred in hearts.  I wept as I heard fear gripping so many as change sweeps across the country.  I wept for the innocence that once was, the turmoil that is and the hope of peace that is to come.  I wept with joy, triumph and prophetic understanding of the real battle to come–the battle for unity in our country.

In remembering history class, conflict surrounds most, if not all, of our nation’s history.  The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage, The Great Depression, Vietnam, Civil Rights and countless other political battles.  Unity does not equal agreement.  My dear friend, Jules, and I have known each other for more than 25 years.  We met at church during our college days.  She was one of my bridesmaids and we’ve kept in touch over the years.  We share a deep love of the Bible, Jesus and living His gospel in this world.  We have different ways of viewing some scriptures.  We have different approaches in living out those interpretations.  Yet, we love and respect each other like sisters.  We share unity regardless of our heated debates, because at the end of the day, we know each other’s hearts and we love each other.  We’re family.

In Sunday school, back when I viewed the world more innocently, the stories swelled in my heart.  Yes, the adventure stories of people who followed God’s call and faced death and destruction for that obedience.  I love action and adventure stories!  But the ones that I continue to mull over and that bring tears to my eyes even though I know them by heart explode with God’s passion for all of us.  Stories of the people Jesus healed and took time to know.  Stories of the people who the religious leaders called ‘unclean’ and ‘unworthy’; but Jesus proclaimed God’s true nature of inclusiveness–not exclusiveness.  Stories of ‘the least of these’ becoming leaders.  Stories that go against all our human wisdom so that we look to God with sacred wonder and treat each other humbly and graciously.  Stories that remind us that because God created us in His image, we stand united–even when we disagree–because we share His DNA.

Most of the time, we feel the need to demonize people standing on a different side than our view.  If we create an ‘us vs. them’ environment, we don’t have to acknowledge that maybe we have accepted an overly simplistic view.  We draw lines in the sand and say, “Anyone on the side where I stand is right, good and intelligent.  Anyone on the other side is delusional, deceived and our enemy.  They deserve whatever it takes as long as we make our point.”  Anyone on the other side of our line is fair game.   Some of us have forgotten how to play fair.

But how can we stand united with such strong emotions on both sides of any given issue?  How can we ‘reach across the aisle’ when our leaders don’t guide us?  Perhaps we can acknowledge the fear in many that we have neglected what our forefathers originally desired for their new country.  Perhaps we can try to defuse the anger by calling out the fear in tenderness?  Perhaps we can acknowledge the gaping wounds from intentional or unintentional attitudes.  Perhaps we can try to ask each other to tell our stories.  Perhaps we can see each other as neighbors and love each other as ourselves.  Perhaps …  perhaps … Please, God, let us live the ‘perhaps.’

So, I weep.  I weep tears of deep gratitude and victory with my brothers and sisters who finally got a bone thrown to them.  I weep tears of great empathy with my brothers and sisters who fear so deeply what they do not want to accept.  I weep because I feel the victory and discouragement simultaneously.  I weep because I feel the relief of souls at peace, who had labored long and hard and will never know the fruit of that labor.  I weep for all my brothers and sisters who have ‘suffered mocking, and flogging and even chains of imprisonment…  [Who] went about…destitute, afflicted, mistreated–of whom the world was not worthy…  And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect’ (Hebrews 11:35-40).  I weep for unity.

Will you allow yourself to weep with those in this country who are weeping over this decision, and at the same time rejoice with those who are rejoicing over this same decision?  Divided we have no choice but to fall.  United we have a shot at standing and overcoming our differences–ushering in a greater United States of America, one nation under God.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page