Saturday, September 24, 2011

When Government and Environmentalism are the Cultural Idols

The following post is long, could probably be turned into a series, but, it’s my blog and I’m not overly concerned with following the conventional blogging wisdom. I’m trying to work out some thoughts I had today, and if you care to read through I’ll eventually get to the reason for the title, though I’m aware it takes me quite a while to get there. Feel free to follow along, or not, as you wish.
I don’t typically write much in the way of political ponderings in this space. Not that I don’t have them, I just don’t share them here often. Part of the reason is that I am working through how to properly live with and hold onto a very real tension between the now and the not yet. I love my country, to be sure, and I am very grateful to live here and for the sacrifices that have been made so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy and believe to be important. I find current events stimulating, engaging, and important. However, I think it is unwise to become too caught up in this world system. I am not saying it is unimportant to care about our politics and unimportant to be involved and to vote and be engaged citizens. Not at all am I saying that. I am saying, though, that I am uncomfortable with being so overly concerned with what happens here in the social and political sphere that we somehow lose sight of our overarching purpose for being here, namely to be concerned first and foremost with the gospel and with being citizens of that city that is made without hands, the Kingdom of God. We live here in the Kingdom of Man, and as citizens, we are biblically charged with submitting to the authorities and being good citizens and, in our society part of that is expressed by voting our consciences and by finding responsible ways to positively influence our culture and speak for things that are right. 
Not to spark debate, and way, way, way beyond the scope of this post, I have come to have some qualms about whether the revolution that was the beginning of this great country and which we celebrate, was actually something that someone who truly wants to live biblically should have supported at the time. And, I think a valid argument can be made that many of our founders were motivated much more by the Enlightenment and the exaltation of human reasoning than by a truly Christian worldview, and an argument can also be made that this has led over the years to more of a negative influence in American Christianity than a positive one. Like I said, way beyond the scope of this post, but my thinking for today where I am right now and with what we have to work with at the moment is that we err when we get so focused on politics and the social injustices that we think that the answer is found through political and social activism first, however. The answer is the gospel, and that is where we must have our focus in every endeavor. 
Having said all that, I do think that we Americans have a unique gift in the country we’ve inherited, and though not all of our founding fathers were necessarily Christian, they did have some good insight into human nature and the dangers of a too strong government that it’s not a bad thing to remember now and again. But, when I quote the founding fathers, I do it with the earlier caution in mind.
What prompted this post was a story I ran across this morning. You can see it here, and you need to read it to understand what spurred this train of thought. Actually, it piggy-backed with something I was already thinking about because of my study for my Sunday school lesson for tomorrow, as I’ll explain.  So, my thinking after reading about the EPA forcing OTC asthma inhalers off the market due to ‘environmental concerns’ went two directions. One worldly, one much more important. I’ll deal with the temporal first.
First, here are a few quotes from some of the founders of our country that I find quite interesting, and with which I agree:
“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge fore more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.” ----John Adams, Novanglus Letters, 1774
“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” ----James Madison, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention (June 16, 1788)
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” -----Thomas Jefferson
I believe that less government, not more, was the goal of those who founded our nation.  After reading that story I linked to, I have been thinking that it is just one more symptom of the wrong-headed thinking that government needs to micromanage everything. I also find it frustrating to listen to liberals go on and on about how we need the government to manage our healthcare because people can’t afford it, but then in the next breath they go making something that lots of people need MORE expensive and hurtful to the same people they claim to be protecting in other conversations. They talk out of both sides of their mouths, and they don’t seem to even see it. The people who insist on shoving more and more government intrusion into our lives in the name of helping people fail to see how instead of helping, they hurt and make things even worse. The role of government, biblically speaking, is to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (1 Peter 2:14) In a word, to keep order. I am not an anarchist. God instituted government and it is He who is sovereign over it. I also believe that biblically we Christian citizens are to peaceably submit to government, even when it isn’t what we think it ought to be. We are to be salt and light in our culture and to reach out to others in the name of Christ and for the sake of the gospel, so please don't hear me saying we are to ignore social issues. I 'm not saying that. We can use legal means to bring about changes we believe are good, but I don’t believe we are to rebel. The Bible is clear about this. But I also do not think it is wrong to speak up about what we believe is the best way to govern, especially in our country which was founded on the principle of free speech.
Now, to the more important point that struck me forcibly today and the actual reason for writing this post and what I really want to be the ‘take home’ thought. What I originally thought when I saw this story, along with bemoaning the breath-taking arrogance of big government, was that this is what happens when we forsake a biblical worldview. Man was created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth, not the other way around. We were not created to serve the earth, the earth is not our ‘mother,’ and extreme environmentalism consistently gets this out of whack. God created this world, He has a plan and purpose for it and He will do it. God will take care of the environment, and we are just plain wrong, unconscionable even, to downplay or endanger the health of people because of negligible effects on the environment that scientists can’t prove and don’t even agree upon. We have become a people who worship the earth rather than its Creator, and this is what results. While preparing my lesson for tomorrow, I came across this:
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
That was GOD speaking in covenant to Noah, and He hasn’t rescinded it. Yes, we need to be responsible stewards of the creation, but we need not fear to the point where the environment becomes more important than the human life it was created to sustain. 
So, while that article I linked is just one story, and not even a gigantic one, for me it shows what happens when we allow big government and environmentalism to become idols. We look to government to take care of us, protect the environment, tell us how to live rather than look to the One who created us. We value the environment more than we value the life that was created in God’s image. In short, we neglect God, the very One who gives us life and holds that life in His hands. It is God alone who sustains our life and the Creation He spoke into existence.
And it is in Christ alone, in the gospel, that we find hope. Government cannot ultimately overcome the evil that is in man’s heart, and being ‘green’ will not preserve the environment. All of Creation is groaning for the restoration that will come when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords brings it. Only in repenting of our sin and bowing before King Jesus, our Savior, can the evil in our heart be overcome. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Afternoon In Facebook Status Update Format or Laughing About My Afternoon in the Kitchen

You know how you read status updates that people intentionally write cryptically, causing you wonder what in the world they mean? Here's what my afternoon would be like if I had chosen to Facebook my dinner-making progress:

I was something of a disaster in the kitchen today.

Buttermilk was everywhere!

Everywhere, I say.

If you're going to make a mess, might as well go all out and make it spectacular.

Dinner was such a success, we wished we'd ordered pizza.

Well, that last one probably isn't true. I have no doubt the dinner itself will be just fine. It was the producing of it that was rather eventful.

And just what, pray tell, caused buttermilk to be all over the kitchen?

That's where the cryptic nature of the post comes in. Frustrating, isn't it? :-)

Yeah, I don't like those kinds of cryptic status updates, either.

So, in case you're wondering and in the interested of public service, always make sure the cap is on the buttermilk before you shake it.

But the banana bread will still be yummy.

Have a nice day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Frazzles

Welcome to the second edition of ‘Friday Frazzles,’ a collection of tangentially related and fairly random thoughts unworthy of a solid blog post, but plopped out here to keep the blog limping along as they wander through my brain. Can’t promise this will become a regular Friday feature around here, but here’s another one, anyway.
I’m loving the Fall weather we’re having. Windows open, crisp air. Need to be outside soon and enjoying it with the kiddos.
I also love that my house is nice and cool and that the AC isn’t having to run to make it so. I am a fan of Fall.
Pizza dough is rising in the pans for homemade pizza Friday. Yum.
Really enjoyed volunteering in a second grade classroom at my kids’ school yesterday morning and this morning. Second graders are so sweet. It’s going to be fun volunteering in there this year. 
Enjoying teaching the second and third grade Sunday school, too.
My son brought tears to my eyes when, after drilling him really hard on his math facts, he said, “Thank you, Mom,” and gave me a big hug. I’m feeling all kinds of mommy guilt for not getting on top of his math struggle sooner. We’re working together on it, though, and it seems that he appreciates it.
I’m thankful for my husband, for lots and lots of reasons, but I’m thinking right at this moment how thankful I am that he can support and cheer for his son at football without being the kind of jerk another dad was as he yelled at the coaches and made pretty much an idiot of himself treating nine and ten year old football like something much more important than it is. I’m thankful my husband isn’t that guy. 
Enjoying the book I’m reading, but ready to finish it and move on to the book that arrived in my mailbox from Amazon the other day. That is the newest installment in a series the boys and I are reading together that we had pre-ordered months ago. Looking forward to reading it before oldest son slips and tells me anything about it since he’s already finished it. Also looking forward to reading the series we ordered from his book order. We’re not just ordering books for the kids anymore, now I am enjoying a lot of them, too. Fun!
Reviewed Philippians this morning, and am glad I still have it memorized. I love it.
That’s about it for now. Time to enjoy the afternoon. It’s one of those days outside where you just feel glad to be outside. Have I mentioned that I love the Fall?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fear Not

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 10:28-33

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

When things seem darkest here, we are not left without hope. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the anchor for the soul who lashes his or her life to Him.

On a day when we remember a dark day in our country's life, when we weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, amid calls to never forget, may this be at the forefront of our minds to never forget:

"This is my Father's world
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:

Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

An Evening Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord, my soul to keep,
My words were sharp, my temper flared
No one in my wake was spared
Though I ask forgiveness still I know
The words forever hang there, so
Please, O gracious, Father, I pray
Grant me the wisdom to watch what I say.
Let the law of kindness be on my tongue
And let my actions match the songs I have sung
Let me think on Your word and fill up my mind
With Your law of love and teach me to ever be kind
And love You with my whole heart, soul and mind

I desire to live in the light of your grace
And point others to Jesus, to delight in Your face
My Savior, my Lord, I'm saved only by Your grace.
What I want to do, so often I fail
But Your mercy, everlasting will avail
To kill the hypocrite I find so often in me
And growing and trusting and just like a tree
That's planted by streams of the living water, made free.

As far as the east is from the west
So humbling to know You forgive me, Who knows me best
Now as I lay this day to rest
Please help me remember how very blessed
To belong to the Shepherd Who leads me beside
Still waters and green pastures and walks by my side
The Shepherd who will lead me home
And cause my heart to forever cease to roam. 

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23:6

"As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him." Psalm 103:13

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26

May it be so, Lord, in life and in blogging. I think maybe I like me better when I wasn't blogging as much there recently. May I learn to be critical of the right things in the right way and to keep a lot more of my musings private rather than public. I've deleted a post that fits that category, though it's so long past that any who may read it already have. Some things are better left in the prayer closet. And, oh the shame of a too quick tongue and too sharp sarcastic comment at home. I am tempted to shirk responsibility and say it's so much harder to keep my cool when husband is out of town, but really the responsibility for my unkindness is my own. Let me learn, O gracious Lord, to speak less if what I say is not wise and to be kind, even in the midst of necessary discipline or rebuke. 

And thank You, Lord, for this: "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Maybe I Shouldn't Blog Every Big Thought I Struggle Over

You know, even though I struggled over the last post for several days, and I thought it was okay to publish, I'm wondering if maybe it's one that I should have kept to myself. I've been thinking that the curriculum, though not perfect at all, gives me a lot to work with and I'll continue to pray for wisdom to teach it well. And now that I'm calmer and have taken the time to study the lesson on Adam and Eve more thoroughly, it actually does a better job in the adult prep part than I realized at first glance. Yes, I wish they'd done better, but it's not as bad as I first thought. I can't worry about what everyone else does with it, but I can be faithful to teach what God has graciously taught me through His word and allows me to learn from others who faithfully teach His word. I am responsible for the class I have to teach here and the children I have to raise in my home, and I need to be faithful here. As for all the rest, I'm praying.....but I need to be venting and complaining here in this blog space much less. Sorry, y'all.  I'll get this blogging thing figured out one of these days.

And, if anyone is interested, Sunday school was good today. I enjoy these kids, am so glad for the opportunity to teach them, love it when they seem to engage with the lesson, and I really hope some seeds are being planted that God, in His mercy, might allow to take root. May He use my imperfect offering for His glory. That really is my desire, and, flawed as that last post is, that desire is what motivates my passionate reaction to what I wish was better.

And I really love my local church and it was a great morning of worshiping our God together today.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Status Report - September 2011

Following... the lead of my friend, Lisa, and writing a Status Report on this first day of September, and wondering why the word "September" doesn't look right today. Does that ever happen to you? You know, where you spell a word correctly, the way you've always spelled it, but it looks wrong? I'm having that kind of September day. the computer desk in the kitchen, watching the clock until I have to get the pasta going for dinner.
Thinking...that two posts in one day is quite the unusual occurrence around here these days.
Enjoying....the nice weather....wait, that was earlier this week. It’s hot again and looks like it may continue so into the weekend. But it was nice enough to make me long for fall.
Anticipating...the nice fall weather so much I made pumpkin pie the other day. It just had to be done. Pumpkin pie is good no matter what time of year the calendar says it is. I think Fall is my favorite season. 
Hoping...allergy season this fall isn’t too troublesome. I quit taking the allergy medicine I was taking because I suspect certain side effects I was experiencing will go away if I quit taking it. So far, day three sans allergy rings fit again, I haven’t yelled at anyone today and don’t feel nearly as cranky as I have for the past...months..., I’ve written two blog posts because I finally don’t feel like I’m in foggy-thinking-land and I’ve been sleeping better. I think a stuffy nose is the lesser of all those evils.
Working...on a blog post that I’m really struggling with how to write. In fact, I’ve been pondering whether I’m done with the blogging part of my life altogether.That may have been the allergy medicine induced funk talking, time will tell. Anyway, one of my biggest struggles with blogging is being concise. That and the suspicion that it won’t matter if my posts are long or short, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I’m hoping to write soon about my soapbox issue: how the curriculum I’m using for children’s Sunday school misses the point too often, and I’ll attempt to do it without naming any names.  That’s not controversial at all or anything. 
Reading....Tuck, the third and final book of the King Raven trilogy by Stephen Lawhead. I’m really enjoying this series. Also reading A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. Also waiting on a book my kids and I ordered from Amazon, plus some books we ordered from their book orders. The boys are finally old enough to be wanting books I want to read, too. And I ordered To Kill a Mockingbird for my oldest boy when it appeared in his book order, because it’s just about my favorite book and he needs to read it.
Hearing...the water beginning to boil, which means it’s about time to wrap this up and go fix dinner. Hungry family to feed.
Happy September! 

Learned Desperation

"Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life."
- Miller, Paul (2009-05-15). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Kindle Location 1519). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

I read that quote this morning while reading the book referenced above. As I read it, I was reminded of Matthew 5:3-4, where Jesus tells us, "Blessed are are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

What is 'poor in spirit'? Recognizing that I have absolutely nothing to offer God. Recognizing that my very best offering is filthy rags in light of His holiness. Recognizing that I need Him. I am desperate for grace. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to His cross I cling.

What is mourning? Recognizing the wreck of sin in my life. Recognizing that even in my very best attempt, I have fallen woefully short of His glory, I have tainted every offering with my own pride and lack of understanding of just Who He is. It is bowing before Him, in awe of the grace that would save one like me.

I like the idea of learned desperation. I want to be a praying woman. I want to recognize daily what a debtor to grace I truly am. Why learned? Because I am so steeped in the 'can-do', me-first, individualized, psychobabble 'you-can-be-all-you-want-to-be-if-you-just-work-hard-enough', self-help, self-actualization, positive-thinking, name-it-and-claim-it culture all around me that I must learn to shut out those lies and learn that what I need is not 'self' actualization at all but to study God's word and look intently at Who He is and bow before Christ Jesus the Lord and submit to His conforming me to His image.

In recognizing that, in learning that kind of desperation before my Savior, is where the greatest joy and rest are found. Whatever good works He has prepared for me to do, saved me to free me to do for His glory, He will give the grace to do it, by His power and His Spirit working in me to conform me to the image of His Son as He sanctifies me, sets me apart to be free to walk in obedience to Him.

This realization, that it is all of Him, all of His grace, that I am saved purely and only for the sake of Jesus, gives me the freedom to cry out to Him in prayer and to learn to trust Him daily.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!