Saying Good-Bye to Life as I’ve Known It

or…What Empty Nest Looks Like to a Stay at Home, Homeschool Mother

or

What it Feels Like to Retire from Being a Full Time Mom for Thirty-Six Years

or

How Fearful is it Really to Lose Your Lifelong Dreams

or

How God Redeems Even in the Midst of a Great Unknown


It feels a bit like this big, endless, scary expanse of nowhere. Yes, loss and gain, fear and hope, dreams and death, all can and do coexist for those of us who choose to live a real life in a real world. I doesn’t get prayed away, wished away, claimed away, or declared away.

It simply is. 

It’s not about how much faith you have a don’t have, how much obedience you have or don’t have, it’s not about being one of the called or chosen, or “blessed to your socks.” It’s about real life living out your life with all its mistakes, failures, pains, unmet plans, and loss of expectations before a very real God who is present through it all. It is about conforming to his life and his image and not our own.

It is about crying and yelling and swearing and laughing, and dancing – all in the presence of a God who laughs, cries, yells, (without swearing) and dances with us. 

It’s about feeling his embrace when there is nothing left to feel, and reaching for his hand in the dark knowing he will grab it. It is about holding on with all your might knowing he is holding on tighter – and will never, ever, let go.

It’s not about sin or shame, or regret, or guilt.

It’s about Jesus.

It’s about redemption.

I’m reaching. I’ve been reaching for a while. He’s been holding even longer.

My mothering days are almost over and we don’t have roots anywhere. We’ve moved too many times for my kids to really call any one place home and so they are scattered.  Vermont feels most home-like to me. The only job I’ve known is coming to an end without any children or grandchildren who will be close enough for a cup of coffee. This is not normal empty nest as most “normal” people either hold jobs, don’t homeeschool for over thirty years, don’t have children twenty years apart, and don’t  move twenty times in thirty-five years. There is a lot of loss of dreams and expectations.

Then there is the loss of plans that Dave and I held for our beyond middle ages. We were going to be established enough that all of the sacrifices would pay off and his many weeks of vacation would allow us to visit the kids, even if he couldn’t retire for many years. Then retirement from IBM would give us enough to get by…

The dreams didn’t include job losses, IBM screwing their employees with retirement and an economy that produced layoffs. Or that retirement for thousands of Americans would be a thing of the past. All that’s OK – few countries have retirement – but with a tanked economy that makes life itself tough – this country aint what it used to be.

But God…

So today as I stood in the vast and endless Oklahoma sky waiting to see one of my kiddos tomorrow, I took pleasure in knowing that no matter how small and insignificant I felt in that endless landscape, the speck who is me was precisely located on God’s GPS.

Though the looming horizon was scary and bigger than life, it also seemed to speak of endless possibilities blowing in any direction with the power of the wind. 

The power of the Spirit hovering over the land and beckoning it to grow, and move, and be. 

We enjoy each moment as held by an infinite God; the future is his palette and Dave and I still have lots of bristles left on our brushes for laying down the colors of our lives.


The future is out there under blue skies and thunderstorms just waiting to be revealed. Just like this signs,  I have a fixed position within the sprawling expanse called life and God is always fixed beside me. 

Around me.

Within me. 

 When I stop, I can almost hear a still small voice rustling through the grass.

 

The American Dream as Personal Salvation

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Throughout the world there are many obvious aspects of culture that affect religion. This is evident in any critical analysis of countries and religions worldwide and a contributor to the diversity and functionality of people groups. What happens when it affects societies and the church as a whole, and is the evangelical church in American willing to examine its own “folk culture” to see what has been added to the gospel in pursuit of the “american dream?”  

As I’ve been studying Ministry to Sexually Exploited and Trafficked Children, my heart has been even more deeply burdened for the brokenness of this world which abuses the most vulnerable for financial gain, and perverted power.

Sadly, it begins here in the land of the brave and the home of the free.  

This extends from using children in slavery, to the self absorbed organizational and political powers that still believe any race or gender should be given power or control over another. Why did it take a graduate course to hear and learn about the enormity and depth of this problem which should be at the forefront of american society? After two hundred-twenty-nine years since the writing of our constitution why are we still fighting to be a republic and witness freedom for all? It’s an imbalance of power in a country that still claims to be predominantly “Christian.”

The issues begin with the heart. Our hearts should be compassionately leading the way in peace and reconciliation. The “American Dream” appears to have become a dream of personal gain. The American Dream for many Christians seems to have become deeply rooted in a personal salvation experience.

We who are followers of the Nazarene have been called as “friends” to walk beside a man who gave up ultimate power to show us The Way to ultimate love. He said the one who “loses” his (or her) life will gain it and proved it by giving up his own life for us. It is a different calling than the “take back,” “me first” rhetoric that is spoken today.  There is a total lack of attention given to modern day slavery that far exceeds the 1800’s still deeply rooted in our country through pornography, patriarchal, and cultural exploitation. Where is the voice that cries out against the serious issues of injustice and basic human rights instead of inflammatory political jargon that only stirs up strife?

A personal salvation experience that says “I say the prayer, I get saved, I now go to heaven” isn’t found anywhere in the bible, or spoken in any way by Jesus. Instead, we see people coming to an awareness of the needs of their own sin and selfishness and bringing that freedom and passion to others for the sake of their families and communities. This is the norm in the majority of the world where communities stay in tact for generations. The early church risked their lives to share the gospel of Good News with the “other.”

Now we have the american dream well established in the church – not only do we get to live in prosperity and relative safety within our own home with our property, cars, possessions, family, and “church” cared for first, we also get to live this great life for an eternity because I confessed Jesus as my Savior, and hold to certain doctrinal truths and political ideologies. 

 

Could we have exchanged the law of love for “laws” of tithing 10% to the local church, how many bible scriptures we can quote, membership to our chosen denomination, faithfulness to Christ equated with regular church attendance?  All good principals, but often treated as laws.  Live by one law, then live by them all. Are we more worried safety from the “other” within my own home, church, community, and nation, than embracing the “other” for the sake of Christ? To live is Christ to die is gain. 

We have developed our own folk culture. One of the first things an educated missionary will do is study the culture, ideologies, and how a people group has come to believe the things they do, because their beliefs are the foundation for how they act. As we study the people groups we are involved with, we also have to examine our own closely held beliefs. It is always easier to see the misconceptions of others because our views are not what we are thinking about, but the grid and perceptions we think with.

My views have changed 180% over the majority of issues in the last 20 years because I have sought to see through the eyes of Christ despite my own desperately broken lenses. It’s not that I now think I am right – quite the contrary – I am willing to say that outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the historically and widely accepted truths of the doctrinal creeds – I may be quite utterly wrong.

If you had asked me fifteen years ago you would have heard quite a different story. You would have heard a self-righteous, arrogant, know-it-all, spewing my doctrinal truths, completely assured if was ever required to,  I would DIE for Christ. My kids were raised waiting for the “End Times,” to come, and told that to deny Christ with a gun to their head would mean hell for eternity. I now consider that emotional abuse and certainly NOT a gospel of Good News. I like to think that I would still die for Christ, but I’m not so afraid of hell anymore. Instead I am passionately trusting the God who loves me – more in love with Jesus than in fear of flames. I used to worry that I would be asked to choose between a confession of belief over my child, and scared to death that I may someday be forced to watch my child die that I may be “faithful” to Christ.

No greater love – If I was ever called upon to deny Christ to save the lives of my grandchildren or children, I like to believe I would risk hell instead. That is the greater love. Yet, in risking, I trust in the Amazing love of an Amazing God.

There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.

So where is our love being revealed in our culture today? Is it evident on social media and in sociopolitical and religious debates? Or are we still living a personal salvation in grasping our american dream ideology?

I would rather err on the side of grace and love and follow in the steps of the God-Man who came to earth, owned nothing for himself, and died to model that love –for all people, at all times, in all places, cultures and communities…than to hold up my shield of 57 years of white, female, middle class, educated, american, cultural folk perceptions.

Maybe I am completely wrong. 

Why Black Lives Should Matter to Christians

Watermarked_Love Sign (2)I am the mother of a white policeman. I am the mother of two white soldiers and mother in law to another. I am the mother of an Asian son. I have been the foster mom, respite provider, shelter, or temporary home to White, Black, and Asian children. I have friends that are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Christian,  Muslim, Hindu, Jew…  I believe that before God all lives matter. 

I also believe that although we are ALL created in the image of God, Jesus modeled a special heart for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized.  He went out of his way to minister to those who were culturally unacceptable, religious outcasts, and gender oppressed. He didn’t stand up for those in power, instead he rebuked them.

All lives matter – Jesus modeled that. He also modeled that until there is an all inclusive cultural and racial equality, both inside and outside the church, we are to speak for the marginalized. 

Timing is everything – when black lives are snuffed out unjustly – that is not the time for “All Lives Matter.” When police are snuffed out, that is not the time for Black Lives Matter. It is a time of empathy for all people. 

This is empathy training 101 – jumping down in the hole with others who are in pain instead of minimizing what they are experiencing. It’s why you don’t reply to a women who has just lost a child, “I lost a child too…” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle…” or “All lives matter.”

Imagine what empathy would like like across cultural, racial, economic, political, geographical, and religious boundaries. It would look like the hundreds of scriptures that encourage followers of Christ to care for the poor, weak, marginalized, oppressed, orphans, widows, hungry...

It would feel like Christ.

Watermarked_Statues (2)

Empathy is silently saying, I don’t understand what you going through, but I know you’re hurting and I’m here.”  It is doing for others what they can’t do for themselves in that moment, or that culture, or that time.

This is the time for the racial reconciliation and equality that should have happened a lifetime ago. 

I was raised in a white middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960’s and 70’s, in New Jersey, and though my sister in law is black, my parents held onto racial prejudices. Though they strongly disapproved of hate groups like the KKK and spoke about equality, they didn’t want us to “bring one home” for dinner either. My in-laws held to strong racial prejudices – to the point of seeing only differences.  Big differences. That was my husband’s heritage.

It’s real. 

When I was in grade school, both my brothers and the neighborhood boys liked to mess with my mind. They told me how a little white girl like me was going to get beat up when I went to my mixed race high school. I was a scrawny white kid and was sufficiently terrified.  I had to fight the same racial prejudices of my upbringing because of ignorance.

 Ignorance. 

Two years later I was dating a young black man (hiding it from my mother) and beginning to learn that there were differences in our lives that I would never fully understand because of the privilege I was born into.

I was comfortable in our own American caste system. 

There was a reason Jesus modeled why we are to enter into the world of the marginalized. He understood the imbalance of power and the favor that goes with the status quo and privilege. 

The first time that racial prejudiced touched my life was when my Asian son was about seven years old. He went to play nearby with some children at his brothers soccer game and after a short while he came back crying that the kids had called him “ching, chong, cho.” My mothers heart broke and I was livid. (I wanted to smack the little beasts to be honest). I can empathize with the anger that rises up from injustice.

Those of us who hold power and privilege simply because of our race, economic status, or geographical location already understand that our lives matter. This country caters to white, Judaeo-Christian mores. Fact. It was our foundation. Fact. Those mores do not always reflect the truth of the gospel of Good News or of Christ. Fact. 

My Asian son is going to be a licensed driver soon – if he was black I would be anxious. I wouldn’t want to think about him getting pulled over. I have friends in mixed marriages who have told me about police stopping them to make sure they aren’t being kidnapped.

I fear for my son – he’s a good cop – a just cop – his life matters. He is on the side of right. He speaks out against injustices – especially within the church.

The political climate is creating division and hate and the church is hoodwinked into following along. We are a country torn. A people torn. A church torn.

Social media has become an Adrenalin pumped, addictive place for people to spew vile comments and push ideologies. As disciples of Jesus, we are to stand for love – to agree to disagree – to be a blessing to the nations – to others. We were not called to protect ourselves and to think only of our own rights and privileges, but to lay down our lives for our neighbor – Muslim, White, Black, Jew, Arab, Hispanic, Hindu…

Jesus didn’t “save” us for a get out jail, take care of myself, country-club Christianity, but for radical transformation that changes lives – beginning with our own.

We were called to speak out against injustice and fight for the oppressed and marginalized. Instead the American church often appears to be filled with groups of self-righteous indignant people with an attitude that says, “It’s me against the world, my own nationality, nice house, comfortable lifestyle, personal ideologies, and abundant prosperity, is more important that maintaining a posture of humility and reconciliation towards others.” 

I have had a teeny, tiny, eansy, weansy, sampling of what injustice feels like as a female pastor/ chaplain. I have stood by as men were referenced by titles despite my never being called that way (and I don’t want to be, but it’s the principle), or given positions of responsibility with less qualifications, or threatened by my education, age, or experience. I haven’t always handled it as well as my Asian son has. It hurts. My strongest mentors have been women of color and minorities who are also pastors. Women of color who know what it is to pray, pray, pray, and pray some more, for the safety of their loved ones, or lean into forgiveness towards those who deem them poor or uneducated on the basis of their skin color. I aspire to be like them – to live in the love and forgiveness that Christ modeled when he turned the other cheek and said, “Forgive them Dad, they are clueless.”

I mourn for France.

I also mourn knowing that the flags will fly, the prayers will flow, and the support will be strong – as it should be – but it will be much stronger and much more present than it was for the terrorist attacks and murders in the Middle East, or Africa, or  other developing nations that don’t represent our Western ideologies.

Maybe in “praying for repentance” in our nation our prayers should begin by asking that our hearts will break over the imbalance of power in races, gender, nationality, and cultural biases – that we will see humanity as Christ does. 

A good place to start discovering your racial prejudices is this site below. You may find out that you are more prejudiced than you realize – or you may find out that your prejudiced attitude has been transformed by releasing your deeply rooted western ideologies as you cry out to love others more than you do your own life.

Understanding Prejudice

“Our Lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  Martin Luther King Jr. 

May we never be silent.