Moment of Silence

In the wake of the horrible terrorist attack in California, the attack in Paris, and mass shootings across the country, many seem to be asking, “Where’s God?” The front page of the NY Daily News shouts “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”  Political leaders are boycotting calls for a moment of silence by refusing to stand in observance. They claim a moment of silence isn’t enough.  As a Christian, I agree. It isn’t enough.

Imagine the insurance commercial that depicts three grandmas viewing a wall of pictures in one’s home. The owner is describing the “friends on her wall.” The grandma in the know tries to correct her, but she is quickly told, “I unfriend you.”  In her frustration, she exclaims, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works!”  As I watch scenes of hatred unfold in our social newsfeeds and our world proclaims God isn’t listening, I want to yell, “That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!”

Let’s be honest and really say what it means to have a moment of silence. It’s a politically correct way for anyone who wants to speak telepathically to the deity of their choice, or stand very still for 30 – 60 seconds as a symbol of respect for those immediately affected by the tragedy at hand. Sixty seconds of the game 1,2,3 Quiet and Still.  That, my friend, is not how prayer works.

According to The Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance, the word “pray” is written in 109 verses in the NASB.  This does not include other versions of the word, such as praying or prayed.  Most of these verses relay a specific request. In Genesis, Jacob prays to be delivered from “the hand of my brother.”  Moses prayed to see God’s glory and later for the healing of Miriam.  Jesus tells us in Matthew to pray for those who persecute us. The commonality among most of the 100+ verses is the specific nature of the prayer to our Heavenly Father.  Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to sit quietly and still before He entered the Garden of Gethsemane. He told them to specifically pray they would not enter into temptation.  As Christians, we are to pray our governmental leaders will make decisions according to God’s will – whether they realize God’s will or not. We are to pray for His guidance in all aspects of our security and well-being – whether those with the power recognize His guidance or not.

Unfortunately, being specific, however, does not guarantee an answer. One of the biggest misuses of a bible verse is Matthew 7:7 which states, “Ask and it shall be given to you…” The intent of this verse and others like it in the New Testament is that the petition is made from a heart in tune with God’s will.  In fact, God said He wouldn’t listen to the requests of those who have rejected Him. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,” Proverbs 1:28-29.  As we call out to God, are we examining our hearts? Are we in tune with His will so our cries will be reflective of His desires for us? I urge each and every one of us to not only stand in silence but fall to our knees. Pray for our government to find and implement solutions to the crises at hand, but most importantly pray for the hearts of ALL participants on both sides of this battle. After all, Paul was a terrorist too – until the transformation of his heart.

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Worthy of Mercy

It seems the world is full of anger these days.  Someone accidentally cuts another driver off in traffic and the end result lands the cutoff driver in a court room for attempted murder.  Kids are posting videos of classmates fighting on social media and the video is watched hundreds if not thousands of times for entertainment.  Others are choosing to end their life as a better alternative to whatever struggles they are facing.  I often find myself in tears watching or reading the news as my heart hurts for a world of people who are so lost.  When did anger overtake our culture?

This question has actually been on my heart for several months.  What has happened to humanity?  Why do we feel the need to retaliate and serve justice to those who offend us?  Then, as I was disciplining my two younger children, it dawned on me that I am part of the problem.  My youngest daughter is tiny, not only petite, but tiny.  She is 18 months old, and we are still dressing her in 9 month old clothing.  Recently, we purchased life insurance on all three of our children and the insurance agency almost didn’t cover her because of her size.  Had she not been to the doctor only weeks before and given a clean bill of health, her policy would have been denied.  However, you know the saying “dynamite comes in small packages.”  This fits her personality.

Our three year old towers above her peers.  She ranks on the top of the charts for her height, and those who do not know any different assume she is much older than she actually is.  She also has the sweetest heart I have ever seen.  She loves everyone.  Her little sister sees this as a weakness and for what sometimes seems as no reason at all will scratch, hit and pull my three year old’s hair.  After trying time out, a quick swat on the diaper, a swat on the hand and taking away toys, my husband and I sat the two together and told our three year old to pull the little one’s hair back.  Her tearful eyes widened, and she looked at her little sister holding a handful of her hair.  She looked back at her daddy in questioning disbelief.  My husband said again, “Go ahead sweetie.  Pull it back.  She’s not going to learn unless you teach her the lesson.”  She looked back at her sister, back at her daddy and started crying again.  She whispered, “I can’t Daddy.  I just can’t.”  She then hugged her sister and ran to her room.  Our three year old ended up teaching us the lesson.  We were teaching retaliation as the proper response to an unacceptable behavior.  Which, retaliation too is an unacceptable behavior.  As parents we don’t want our children to be the weaker child or the one that is getting picked on or bullied.  We teach them to stand up for themselves, hit them back, provide the justice we feel the bully deserves.   Is this Christlike?

We’ve all heard (and most of us said), “An eye for an eye!” The origins are found in the Old Testament. But Christ’s death and resurrection established a New Testament with His followers. 1 Peter 3:8-9 says, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will grant you His blessing.”  In fact, our perfect example is Christ Himself. As 2 Peter 2:23 states, “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”

Oh how better the world would be if we followed His lead when we felt belittled or insulted.  If only we swallowed our pride and left revenge in the “hands of God, who always judges fairly.” Would the senseless killings subdue? If all of us who call ourselves Christians refrained from hurling insults and worked to keep a tender heart, the end result would prove less violence. After all, isn’t that what God has called you to do?

 

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A Mother’s Heart

She held the infant tightly and kissed his newborn head.

She knew their days were numbered for the king wanted him dead.

She saw that he was beautiful and prayed to never forget his face.

She dreamed of watching him grow old but grieved – he must leave this place.

Twelve weeks she kept him in the darkness and delighted in his touch.

But the ability to hide him grew to be too much.

Her heart broke into a million pieces as she covered the basket with pitch and tar.

She cried out to God to save him – the king’s men were not too far.

She held the basket tightly as she prayed for strength to let go.

His sister stayed to watch and returned saying, “Lo! The daughter of Pharaoh!”

The princess’ maidens fetched the basket and revealed the inside.

Behold the boy was crying.  The princess wiped his eyes.

She would make the boy a prince but couldn’t provide his food.

His sister humbly said, “I know a mother to help – a servant Hebrew.”

She held her infant tightly and kissed his tiny head.

Tears of joy stained her face – her God had a different plan instead.

She praised her King for His faithfulness.

And watched her infant become historical greatness.

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Baking Bread

Do you still get those annoying chain emails that ask you simple questions and your job is to answer them as creatively as possible before sending it on to the next person?  I’ll admit when I’m needing a break, I will still complete the questions at times with the silliest answers I can think of at the moment.  For example, one recently asked the usual, 1. Name…which I put my nickname as a high school student (that I will not list for the world to see).  2. Work…and so forth.  Two questions actually made me cry.  Both were simple really, as one asked “favorite childhood smell.”  My serious answer, “coffee and onions.”  The following question was “favorite childhood activity.”  My serious answer, “baking bread.”  I wonder how many people associate the aroma of coffee, onions and baking bread as favorite childhood memories.  If I had to pick the best part of my childhood, I would easily list these memories.  I had the pleasure of growing up near one set of my grandparents.  We were neighbors.  Every Saturday morning I waited anxiously for a phone call.  Every Saturday morning I received that call.  I can still hear the sweet voice on the other end.  “Anna,” my grandma would say, “come give it a good punch!” which would be followed with her silly laughter as I hung up the phone and raced over.

The back door was always open playing sounds of my grandpa polishing his gems in his rock room before I reached the house.  The aroma of coffee brewing since 5:00 AM hit my nose before I reached the sink to wash my hands and take the towel my grandma patiently held.  I then would turn to the table to perform my weekend task.  Sitting on the table was a large ceramic bowl with risen dough all but spilling over the sides.  I climbed in a chair to stand over the bowl, push up my sleeves and give it a good punch.  Every Saturday it was the same routine, and every Saturday my punch received a loud, heartfelt laugh from my grandma.  We would kneed the bread together and talk about the important stuff in an eight year old’s life.  I remember spending my Saturdays with her, watching her, learning from her.  I was always amazed by her hands.  She was a tiny woman, with crooked, arthritic hands, but those hands were her eyes.  They glided gracefully over everything providing the vision she had lost long ago. She could do anything in her kitchen.  She knew how many steps to each area in her home.  She even knew where her large dogs normally lay.  I watched her prepare for the day as I chopped the onions for my grandpa’s lunch. (He had onions at every meal).  I always giggled when she took a giant step over the spot (directly in front of the sink) where the biggest dog normally lay; however, on Saturday mornings, he wasn’t there.  He slipped out each time I slipped in through the opened back door.  Each Saturday was the same, and each Saturday I couldn’t wait to get that phone call.

As more time passes in my life, I spend more time thinking of our weekends together.  A few years ago, I found a picture of my grandparents.  It was a beautiful picture of the two of them in their last years in this world together.  My grandma sat with her big brown eyes looking in the direction of the camera.  She was laughing.  My grandpa sat next to her, but he wasn’t looking at the camera.  He was looking at her, smiling a smile full of love.  He loved her with all of his being.  We all did.  She made it easy to do.  She overflowed with love…..like the risen dough spilling over the sides of the ceramic bowl on her kitchen table.

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Small Town Heroes

I’ve lived in a small town since the age of three.  As a teen, I couldn’t wait to move from my parents’ home and live the big city life.  Now, at thirty-three, my heart desires nothing more than to raise my children with small town roots.  One of the many things I love is the donut shop on Friday mornings in the fall.  Packed with old men drinking coffee and young, high school football players proudly wearing their jerseys, the air is filled with the buzz of the upcoming game.  The old men offer their wisdom regarding the night’s opponent while the young men politely answer, “yessir” – whether they agree or not.  Little girls run around wearing their brother’s number on their tiny cheer uniform.  There is an added spring in everyone’s step during football season, and the young players are heroes if not only for a few months.

This past Friday, I was reminded of one of the major reason my home will always be a small town.  A young man was coming home and the community was banding together to give him the proper welcome he so deeply deserved.  This was the second homecoming of its kind within the last few months and only one of many over the last few years.  Unfortunately, the homecoming was a somber one.  The young man was a fallen soldier who lost his life fighting in a war to protect our freedom.  Local businesses closed their doors and school children were bused to stand on the route the young man would take on his final trip home.  I stood silently next to the soldier’s fiancé.  Her face was red, eyes swollen and her body trembled as she sobbed.  A few moments passed, and we heard the rumble of the motorcade escorting the hero.  Even the school children fell still and quiet.  The young fiancé wiped her face and stood tall along with all of us as the hearse carrying her love passed us by.  As the family’s car approached, I saw the face of the soldier’s father.  He had lowered the window and was nodding his head to each individual bystander and mouthing the words, “Thank you.”  I was deeply moved.  I did not know this soldier personally, but I am forever connected to him and his family.  Not only do many young men and women willingly give their lives for my freedom, but fathers and mothers give their sons and daughters as well.  It seems small towns produce many of those citizens who so proudly love and serve their country.  I am proud to be a part of a community who appreciates and supports such sacrifices.

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