Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles and appoint judges who would rule in favor of the Christian agenda.

I am not saying promoting Christian principles is a bad thing.  As a Christian who has been a Christ follower all my life, I long to see Christian principles be a strong part of the fabric of our nation.  I truly believe the Bible’s statement that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But my fear then – and my fear now – is that we are looking to a man and/or a political party to promote the Christian faith rather than looking to God for that.

As Christians we can work to see “righteous” laws that agree with God’s Word are made by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the courts.  Nothing wrong with that.

But laws do not make a person or a nation righteous.

God’s Word and the whole idea of our Christian faith speaks against that.

Look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  Led by Moses out of Egypt bondage, God Himself gave them laws.  If you read the Old Testament you see how many times they failed to follow those laws.  Why?  Because as God’s Word says “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

The story of the Christian faith is that laws did not work.  They could control the behavior of man to a point, but in the end, they always failed.  Man always found a way to ignore and/or disobey the law.  The nation of Israel wandered further and further away from the law because the law did not change their hearts.

So we can pass laws that make what we believe is sin against the law.  We can even persecute those who break those laws and send them to prison.  But how has that make our nation a Christian nation?  Granted it would mean that we as Christians might feel safer in a nation where everybody had to agree with us or go to jail.  We as Christians might enjoy a great safe and comfortable life.

But how would that change the hearts of the people?  How would that truly make us “all” Christians?

Jesus spoke about the importance of a change in our hearts, not just our behavior in that famous passage we call the “Sermon on the Mount”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

So – we can make laws against murder (not saying we should not do so) but we cannot change the hearts of people who harbor anger in their heart.  And sadly, I have seen on numerous Facebook posts where Christians have been so guilty of disobeying Jesus’ instruction as they begin to call each other “fools” when they disagree on an issue.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly Jesus was calling us to a higher standard than just setting up a set of laws for all to obey.  He was calling us to a change in heart.

Only God can change a heart.  All the “righteous” laws in the world, even if enforced by our courts, cannot change the heart of men and women.

My fear is that instead of trying to share God’s love and God’s truth to our neighbors, instead of reaching out to those who were planning an abortion, who were taking illegal drugs, who were living a lifestyle we felt was wrong, we looked to a man/a political party to pass laws that would stop them from that lifestyle or punish them for it.

What if we went to that woman contemplating abortion and asked what we could do to help her keep the child?  Could we pay her medical bills?  Could we help her find a good family to adopt the baby?  Could we help her gain skills to get a better job?  And, if in the end, we could not change her mind, could we show her love and compassion as we pray to God to change her heart and mind?

And what about Jesus’s statement:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

I am thankful that I have lived my life in a nation where many Christian beliefs have guided our country – and I’m all for promoting those principles.  But we must never think if we force people to live by our Christian standards through fear of persecution or punishment by the courts, we are making our nation a righteous nation.

No law – no matter how good – can change the heart.  That is the whole point of our Christian faith.

Just a closing thought:  what if we spend as much time praying – seeking God – sharing His love to those we do not agree with – as we spend arguing, debating and even attacking those who are opposed to our Christian standards – would that make a real difference?

Chalk Art, Live Music, Small Town on a Friday Night

Every year the small town where I live has a Chalk Art Event.  Local business owners sponsor an artist who designs a chalk drawing on the sidewalk in front of their stores. The small downtown turns into a great combination of chalk art, live music, food vendors and community engagement.  It’s a great way to enjoy a Friday evening meeting friends, grabbing a coffee, food from one of the street venues or stopping in the local cafe.

Artists come early in the day and make their design.  

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That evening a map is provided with a list of all the drawings with the artists and the business that sponsors their work.  Everyone is encouraged to vote for their favorite three entries and the top three with the most votes will receive a prize.

Who would you vote for?

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My husband who is an artist and participates in some of the art events around the community had to pass on this one.  His arthritic knees would never let him get back up if he sat down on the sidewalk to draw.  But we both enjoyed the evening sharing with friends and neighbors the beautiful Friday evening in our small town.  

 

 

Where Are the Peace Makers?

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.  

Those words are from Jesus as He spoke to the crowds about what it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God.

Where are the peace makers?

We are so divided as a nation today. So many divisions.

  • Democrat vs. Republican
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Trump is “God’s Anointed” vs Trump is evil
  • CNN’s version of news vs Fox’s version
  • pro-abortion vs. pro-life
  • “We need more gun control” vs. “You ain’t taking my gun!”

These divisions in and of themselves are not wrong.  That has been one of the more amazing benefits of being an American.  Freedom to think – and to speak – as you feel.  May that freedom always be.

But over the past few years there has entered a very ugly element in our conversations.

Growing up in the America of the 50’s and 60’s it seemed to me when people disagreed the attitude toward the other party was basically ‘ “you are wrong, you don’t have all the facts, your logic is faulty .”  But there remained an element of respect for the person with the different opinion.

Today it seems when two sides disagree there is no debate on the reasoning behind the different opinions.  There is no trying to understand where the other person is coming from.

The answer to disagreement now is to call the other person names.  Names that imply the other person is stupid – or even worse – evil.

I grant you when I find myself debating an issue with someone sometimes that thought of “stupid” or “evil” does enter my mind also.

But what bothers  me is how Christians are falling prey to that temptation to call those with whom they disagree names and belittle them instead of debating the actual issues.

I see it so much on Facebook when a controversial post is made.  How quickly the two sides end up not really debating the actual issue itself but saying the other person is “crazy” or “evil.”

What ever happened to the peace makers?

No matter what the “other side” does or says, as Christians we must remember who we claim to follow.

Years ago there was a saying “WWJD”  (what would Jesus do).   It got a little overused, but I wonder if we should not revive it.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the volatile political season coming on us as we enter into the 2020 election, may I ask my fellow Christians please remember that Jesus said the sign of a true disciple was not which side of the political fence they walked, but rather was

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

By all means share your opinions, your ideas, vote as you please, but remember that Jesus died for liberals and conservatives.  He loves Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi both – as much as He loves you!

And also remember Jesus said:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Have You Done For The Least of These?

According to the National Retail Federation, a group that compiles information about consumer spending for major American holidays and events, an estimated 165.3 million people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

They break the numbers down like this:

  • 39.6 million will shop on Thanksgiving day
  • 114.6 million will shop on Black Friday
  • 66.6 million will shop on Small Business Saturday
  • 33.3 million will shop on Sunday
  • 68.7 million will shop on Cyber Monday

When looking at Black Friday, it appears there are two opposing groups.  There is the group that loves finding bargains or just enjoys the social aspect of hanging with family and friends.  For many in this group it has become a family tradition that they look forward to each year.

The other group thinks anyone who will stand in line for hours or jostle with other shoppers just to get a bargain must be a little crazy.

Before I continue I must confess I belong to the later group.  I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I try to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving and avoid the stores as much as possible from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Dealing with crowds is just not my idea of fun.

I certainly understand the many who love to shop and who enjoy the social aspect of the day, but I must confess it bothers me a little to see all the money we spent buying more “stuff” when our homes are already full while so many in other countries do not even have clean water to drink.  Or, in our country so many are homeless.

Think of the number of wells that could be dug in Sierre Leone or other countries for the money spend this weekend.  Think of the food that could be donated to food banks here in our inner cities.

I certainly hope I do not come across as a Scrooge trying to take the joy so many get from Christmas shopping.

I just try it might be good when we start writing down our Christmas shopping list to go beyond thinking of our immediate family or circle of friends and look around to see those in need.  Perhaps we could cut down on our own shopping list and help others.

Just a few suggestions:

  • Check out your local food bank or homeless shelter and see what they could use to help the needy this winter.

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  • Check out https://www.worldhope.org/ and donate to help provide clean water or healthcare to those not fortunate enough to be born in the USA.

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  • Check out https://www.compassion.com/ and sponsor a child so that they can go to school and get nourishing food and healthcare they need.

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  • Check out Mariatu’s Hope on Facebook and give clean water to a village or help for a new born.

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Remember Jesus told us:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

Even My Husband Speaks “Southern”

I’m still laughing today!

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All my married life my husband has teased me about my “southern twang.”  There are many words that I clearly do not say correctly – that is – if your standard is the “General American” accent.

Brendan Houdek, a Speech Coaching Associate at New York Speech Coaching and the Head of New York Speech Pathology describes this manner of speaking as:

“this term is typical when referring to a dialect that is clearly American, but has none of the distinctive features that categorize a particular region, ethnic group, or  socioeconomic status. Upon hearing someone speak with this particular dialect, it would be difficult to determine where he or she is from, other than being from the United States of America.”

Although I was born in Illinois (southern Illinois) all my life people have consistently asked me what part of the south I am from.  They usually guess Tennessee or Kentucky.

When I purchased a smart phone and began using the app that allows me to speak my text, it was hilarious some of the ways the app interpreted what I was saying.  One text  repeated a phrase I said – but the phrase came out totally different from what I said and was using what I would call “bad language.”  My youngest daughter who received the text, knowing how much I frown on “bad language,” had to forward it to her siblings with a note that basically told them:

If you get a text from Mom and she is swearing at you, she has not had a stroke or become senile, she is just using voice translation for her text.

They all had a good laugh at my expense.

Following up on that I recently discovered that much of the way I speak can be traced all the way back to my Scot-Iris ancestry.

Check out my story:

Smart Phones and Southern Twang

So, for years my husband has had fun laughing at my accent.  He always has this big grin on his face when people ask me where I was born and comment on my accent.

But this weekend it was my turn to laugh.

We ventured out on a road trip to a nearby town and checked out the art galleries and antique stores.

Entering one store, I quickly found a collection of old books.  I’m a book lover and my attention was all on the books.  My husband, who never meets a stranger, struck up a conversation with the owner of the store.  I had not said a single word when I heard the owner ask my husband where his home was.  Telling her he was originally from Illinois, her response made me laugh.

“It must be southern Illinois.”

She indicated she heard a southern twang in his voice.  He was speechless as he had never been told that he had an accent.

After all these years – I’m laughing at him.

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A Town Paul Bunyan Would Love

In 2017 my husband, along with our youngest daughter and our granddaughter made a trip to Casey, Illinois to see the small town that boasted:

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While there we saw nine creations by Jim Bolin that have made the Guinness Book of World Records.

You can read all about that visit and see pictures of the world’s largest wind chimes, rocking chair, wooden shoe, gavel, mailbox and birdcage in my post.

Big Things in a Small Town

Since then Bolin has added more big things.  There will be a big celebration on September 28 as Guinness officials will arrive to certify the latest biggest things Bolin has made.  They will be looking at the world’s largest teeter-totter, barber pole, Chevrolet truck key, twizzle spoon and golf driver.

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The spoon is more than 11’6” long and was hot-dip galvanized to give the spoon corrosion protection.

When Guinness Book of World Records has confirmed it is the largest spoon, it will be placed at a bar and grill in downtown Casey, Brown’s Place.

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World’s largest golf tee

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My little granddaughter looking out from the world’s largest mailbox.

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World’s largest knitting and crochet hook.  These 25 pounds needles were actually used to knit the square piece shown here.

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World’s biggest pitchfork

There are many other “big” things that, while not in the Guinness World Book, still are big and interesting to see.

The downtown area where many of these large items are is also beautifully landscaped.

There is also a neat place to have lunch.  Richards Farm Restaurant combines great food with antique farm furnishings.

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The funniest time on our trip was when we had been on the road about two hours and our little granddaughter wanted to know when we were going to get there.  She was puzzled why we were traveling on far to go to Casey’s when there was a Casey’s store right in our own town.  (Casey’s is a quick shop in the Quad Cities area and she thought we were going to one of their stores – did not realize we were going to the town Casey.)

Memories I still treasure from two years later.

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If you are ever in the area of Casey, Illinois you must take time to visit this special small town.

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It’s a town where Paul Bunyan would feel at home.

 

Change is the Only Constant in Life

Sometime ago I wrote about my desire to have a forever home and the realization that I will not find that home until this life on earth is over.

You can check my story at:

Waiting for My “Forever Home”

Six months ago my husband and I moved to Michigan from Illinois.  We followed our daughter and her family to a small town called St Johns.  Our daughter had accepted the position as pastor of a church in the town and we chose to join them.  We said we would give it a year’s trial and if it did not work out for us, we could move back to Illinois where our son lives or to North Carolina where another daughter lives.  But it has proven already to be a great place to live so we have purchased a condo and will be moving next week to our new home.

According to the popular stats blog, FiveThirtyEight, the average American will move 11.4 times in their lives. This means we can assume 11 homes are lived in over the course of an American’s lives.   I clearly beat that average.  By the time I graduated from high school I had already lived in 12 different houses and in six different towns in Illinois.  With this move I will have lived in 30 different houses in four different states and in two different countries.

And moving around like that has meant my school years were also full of different schools – I was always the “new kid on the block.”

  • In six years of grade school I attended five different schools
  • In two years of junior high I attended three different schools
  • In four years of high school I attended two different schools
  • And for college – I attended three community college and three universities.

Sometimes I have felt jealous as I saw people who had lived in the same town all their life – some in the same house they grew up in.  It would be nice, I have thought, to live where you know everyone and have friends from grade school.

But, then I realize I must have gypsy blood because as I think about that – I can’t imagine how boring that must be.  To see the same sights year after year, to never know what is just over that hill or around that corner.

My life may have been a little chaotic at times, but it has never been boring.

Even when we travel we love to just get in our car headed in a general direction and stop whenever we see something that looks interesting.  While moving around and always be the new person means I may not have a multitude of friends wherever I am currently living, I imagine heaven will be great because I already will know so many people I have befriended over the years.

Wandering keeps me interested – and hopefully interesting.

“Not all who wander are lost.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien

“Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it not what ships are built for.”  – John A Shedd

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost

So – hopefully this is my last move until the final one to my forever home.

But who knows?

As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said:

“change is the only constant in life.”  

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

When I wrote this post I was only thinking about downsizing to make life a little easier. I had no idea that it would really pay off when we moved several months later – not just to a new home, but to a new state. I recently read statistics compiled by The SpareFoot Storage Beat that were amazing: there are between 45,000 to 52,000 self-storage units in the USA – much more than there are McDonald’s or Starbucks stores. The annual revenue for the industry is $38 million. Almost 10% of households rent a self-storage unit. BecomingMinimalist.com shares that 65 pounds of clothing are thrown away annually by typical Americans. Having less is proving less stress for me!

Grandma's Ramblings

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I have been “death cleaning” but did not realize it!

Over the years I have watched my friends fret as they anticipated turning 30, 40, 50 or 60.  I never understood why they got so up tight.  To me those milestones were just another birthday.

But this spring I turn 70 and that is a milestone I find hard to accept.

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70 – I can no longer count myself in the middle age group.  I’m old!

Thinking about this milestone in my life I have found myself looking around at all my “stuff” accumulated over the years and suddenly it just seems like too much “stuff.”  I have had an irresistible urge to clean house – to declutter.

While I certainly expect to live many more years I have looked around and thought:

Why am I hanging on to stuff I no longer need, want or use?

Why leave all…

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Anyone Remember the Icebox?

Long before electricity came to my grandmother’s house she had an icebox.  This was a wooden box usually lined with straw or sawdust that sat in the kitchen or pantry.  The ice man would come around with a 25 to 50 pound block of ice.

My mother grew up with the ice box and even after she got a refrigerator, she referred to it as the ice box.  So that is what I called it.

Until one day my daughters suggested I needed to come into the modern world and call the appliance by its correct name – refrigerator.

As a pastor’s wife I was supervising a church meal and asked a young girl if she would get the salad out of the ice box.  A few minutes later one of my daughters came to me laughing.  The young girl had come to her and said, “Your mother asked me to get the salad out of the ice box.  What is she talking about?”

It took me awhile, but I finally learned to say “refrigerator” not “ice box.”

Anyone remember the ice box?