Thursday, November 29, 2012

Childlike wonder

I am often reminded of the innocence of youth. Having ten nieces and nephews affords those kinds of constant reminders. There is something sweet and precious about a childlike wonder that kids epitomize. The world can be dark, evil and uncertain, yet to a child those matters are as far away as Pluto. What takes center stage to them is the latest American Girl magazine, upcoming holidays and newest addition for their Lego collection. The politics of the day, the dreaded "fiscal cliff" and the crumbling of moral values in society don't make it to their radar screen.
This is cute when you're a kid. Not so cute when you become an adult. Ignorance is not bliss - especially once you pass the age of obtaining a drivers license, and even more so when you have the legal right and responsibility to vote in elections. When an adult shows a lack of understanding or concern for serious matters that shape and influence the future it is labeled as pathetic, not endearing.
Yet, here we are in a world full of the pathetic. Adults, like young children, don't seem to understand that what happens in their government, community and society ultimately affects their own lives. I am constantly hearing people on the news show their lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to issues that directly effect their very lives. The health care bill? Ask people on the street and I doubt many could give you three solid facts on the law. How about the nation's debt, which each and every citizen is carrying around (whether they realize it or not). I doubt many people could give even an approximate dollar amount. And even if they could, would they understand the true meaning of $16+ trillion? That means over $51,000.00 billed to YOU. Yes you, young thirteen year old worrying more about a break out on school picture day. Yes you, Grandma recovering from hip replacement surgery. Yes you, college graduate with student loans from here to eternity and a job that barely covers the basic bills of food and shelter.
But people don't get it. They choose to live with their eyes shut tight or, even if they are open, they stick their head in a cloud. Either way the result is the same. They are missing reality. They are missing the stark, cold, hard truth of the world in which we live.
And this is when I want to be an innocent kid again. Wouldn't it be nice to escape, even just for a day, into the world of a child? How relaxing and refreshing it would be to truly slip into the innocence of youth. I can only imagine how their minds are turning - not with thoughts of responsibilities or concerns for the future - but with thoughts of which toys to play with next and the newest game to create with the kids in the neighborhood.
When we get older we lose this innocence and we lose the right to it. Instead, it becomes our job to protect that innocence for the young so they can enjoy it as long as we did. We are given the responsibility to protect them from the burdens of adulthood so they can revel in the joys of youth. If we abdicate this responsibility we rob them of a gift they will never be able to possess again. It is a one time opportunity that, once lost, can never be regained.
I know that I can never go back to the days when I didn't think about the seriousness of the world and the problems it faces. I can't go back to not understanding moral decay and Christian persecution. I can't go back to the days when I believed in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny. At some point, all of those fantasies come to an end. Reality hits. You can't rewind. All I can do is pray for the innocence of my ten nieces and nephews to be protected. I can pray that they enjoy a peaceful and happy childhood, just like I had. I can uphold the Christian values and morals that I hope they too will carry into adulthood and throughout their lives.
I can't go back to being a kid. But I can protect the kids in my life. They shouldn't have to grow up any faster then is necessary. Let them write wish lists to Santa for as long as they can because a day will come when they understand that Santa was actually Mom and Dad and that elves didn't make a single toy that showed up under the Christmas tree. That is a sad day for every child and for every parent. Until then, we can embrace the children in our lives and help to ensure that each day they spent in their blissful stage of youth is a memory worth cherishing. We can only do this by stepping up to the plate and taking hold of the responsibility of adulthood. If we don't arm ourselves with knowledge and the understanding of those serious matters facing our lives and world, we don't do the innocence of the young any favors. We only ensure that the world they will some day inherit will be fraught with problems that we didn't want to face. Is that the legacy we want to pass on?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Growing Pains

All around me the holiday season is gearing up and before you know it the sounds of Jingle Bells and Marsh-mellow World in the Winter will be in every store. The Christmas tunes will be inescapable and the cheer will be in every store window and on the lawns of houses throughout America. I love this time of year. The season kicks off with a hearty dose of thanks and then the joy rolls on through the celebration of the birth of Jesus and tops off with a welcoming of the things to come in the new year. It is a whirlwind of excitment and activity. What's not to love?
I find it appropriate that the whole parade of holidays begins with Thanksgiving. It is fitting, don't you think? It puts our focus on what is important - an easily forgotten truth when the sales abound at the mall and shopping threatens to take over every spare moment. But on Thanksgiving we aren't worried about the stores (unless you happen to work at Wal-Mart or Target this year - but that is another matter). For most, Thanksgiving is a day set apart. It is special and sacred. It puts our thoughts on the blessings we enjoy. In this world it is easy to get caught up in what we don't have and our Christmas wish list but not on the last Thursday in November. On that day we look at all we have and thank God for it.
In anticipation of this day I have been mulling over what I am especially thankful for this year. Each year at Thanksgiving dinner every member of the family writes down on a scrap of paper what they are thankful for. We keep the papers anonymous and throw them all into a bucket. Then each person draws out one of the papers and reads it aloud so the rest of the family can guess who was thankful for that particular blessing. Sometimes it is silly like "The coin shop" (I can see my brother Danny writing this) and sometimes they are serious, such as "God's forgiveness" (my pick two years ago). I love this tradition. I think my niece came up with it or maybe it was an adult. I don't remember. Nowadays the kids in the family spear head the tradition.
So, what will I write this year? This is a big decision. I only have one scrap of paper and I need to make it count. But narrowing down my options is proving difficult. How do you pick one single blessing to be thankful for above all else? Every time I turn on the TV I realize that I have a million and one things to be thankful for. The world around me is full of turmoil, sadness, destruction and unrest; yet my little world in Erie, PA is so comfortable and peaceful. Sure, there are uncertainties and circumstances that are less than ideal but when I take account of my life I find that I am overflowing with blessings and reason for thanksgiving.
Thank goodness I don't need a million scraps of paper to give voice to all the things I have to be thankful for. I have a computer.
- I am thankful for Pippy. She gets me up and out, enjoy nature and the great outdoors.
- I am thankful for my bed. Hands down, the most comfortable bed: EVER.
- I am thankful for fuzzy slippers. I just looked down, saw my sheep skin, Acorn slippers. They keep my feet toasty no matter what the temperature.
- ....a warm cup of coffee....
- ...a book of witty humor and quirky remarks.... (thank you Lisa Scottoline)
- ....Oswald Chambers....
-.... Parkside Church....
-....American Thinker (website - check it out)
- .....a house full of books - from history to humor to Christian inspiration and a host of magazines, our house is a library....
My list could go on but I've already decided what will be written on my scrap of paper this Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful for the past 3 years I've had to spend at home. It seems silly to say, but I wouldn't trade these 3 years for anything. This isn't how I expected my life to go. I thought I'd do the 4 years of college thing like most others I graduated with, but that wasn't my path. To be honest, I couldn't be happier about the road I've been taken on. I've been given experiences for spiritual growth that I would never have had without the trial of ill health that has forced me to add patience to my faith.  Without this time of struggle I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to spend countless hours with my Mom; crying when times were tough, traveling around the country for answers to the health mystery and simply enjoying each others company over thousands of lunches and too many good books to count. I cherish the time we've had together.
This Thanksgiving when my family is mulling over their multitude of blessings, considering which to write on their scrap of paper, I will have mine prepared and ready. It hasn't always been easy to be thankful for this trial I've faced, but in the recent months I have been given eyes to see the wonderful gift it truly is.
You don't grow when things are easy. You grow when you are stretched. I guess that is why they call them growing pains.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Five Days

The countdown is on. Five days to go. Five days left to grin and bear the onslaught of election rhetoric and ads. Only five more days of polls and pundits calling the election for "so and so" before polls are even closed. Thank God, only five more days of this election cycle.
This election has consumed my thought life. No longer can I park myself in front of an evening of sitcom reruns or goofy reality TV that follows brides down the aisle in dresses that cost as much as my car. Music with lyrics that repeat over and over just bore me. Fluff reading can't hold my attention. My every thought is consumed by the decision that will be made by our country on November 6. I know that giving it my entire attention does nothing to change the outcome from a practical point of view. I am not calling voters, designing ads, knocking on doors, driving voters to the polls, running a registration booth, or busing college students to the nearest polling place (like some political parties are apt to do). But I am reading and becoming more informed. The more I read the more I feel that I must read. The more I listen to about the campaign the more I am drawn to listen longer and harder. And what is the result of taking in all of this new - and sometimes much repeated - information? I am reminded to pray.
I wake up in the morning with one thought on my mind: November 6. And I remember to pray. I turn on the TV to Fox News, hear the lies spewing from the Obama campaign and I am reminded to pray for the truth to win out. I go on the internet and check my email. The daily news updates come pouring in from Life News and the Daily Caller. Both remind me that the issues that face our country are of utmost importance. Life News reminds me that this isn't just one political party against another. This is a fight for life. This is a fight for the most fundamental of moral principles: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without these bedrock beliefs, our country can never thrive. It is doomed to utter decay and ultimate destruction.
It is a favorite phrase of the a-political to say that, "The election won't affect me" or "All politicians are the same" or, even more common, "All politicians are liars". But I believe those are misguided traps of ignorance that threaten the liberty this country is so famous for. When you stop believing in the function of your government and the ability of it to have true influence, you give power to someone else. Who is that someone else? That someone else must be someone who is looking to gain power. That is the trouble with the direction of our country. So many have abandoned the political process with the lame excuse that it doesn't matter; while others have abandoned principles for emotional rhetoric and uninformed opinions. The gap that they have left behind is being filled with power hungry politicians who aren't seeking office for the betterment of our country, but are looking to further their own agenda and personal egos. Americans have stopped holding politicians to the standard of civil servant. Instead they have become the servant to a political ruling class.
They may call this the land of the free and the home of the brave, but with each election that we fail to take ownership of the principles of this country we give away more of our future as the United States of America. We degrade this great country because we have stopped truly caring about how exceptional it is. Have the American people forgotten how unique an experiment America was and continues to be?
This country was built by people who were so invested in being free and having the right to pursue a better life that they risked everything in order to gain the liberty they couldn't find anywhere else. No other country afforded them the opportunity to pursue their dreams and worship their God.
Now that is all on the line. One person wants to control every aspect of the American life - from craddle to grave. For starters, he wants to control health care. What could be a bigger power grab? Giving control of the physical body over to a governing, ruling class is asking for trouble. It is singing over your right to yourself. Is that what this country was founded for? I think not.
The other person running for office wants each individual to have the freedom to pursue their own life and their own success. He wants people to be able to take risks, make a name for themselves, choose their own future and enjoy the promise of liberty.
So, do you see why I can't get my mind off of November 6? The decision that will be made is one of utmost importance to the future of this great nation. I want the country that our founders fought for and designed with great care. I believe that America is unlike any other place on earth because it values the individual and the unique attributes each person can bring to a community. I believe America is great because it was created to respect the rights of each and every person. I believe America is great because it values each life as special and worthy of opportunity.
If November 6 comes and our country goes down a road foreign to the Constitition and foreign to its founding principles it will be a very upsetting day in our history. Yet, I know that no matter what happens on election day our God in Heaven will protect his own. He will not abandon us - he never has and he has promised he never will. The days ahead may be bleak and feel dark and isolated under the oppression of a government taking control of our lives, still God will be a protector and father for those who seek him and trust him. Will that mean we will be immune to the evil and corrupt ways of the government? No, we will suffer along with those who voted them into office. But God never, ever forgets his own.
We must remember that God allows each elected official to take their place of power. Some times it is because the people need to learn a lesson the hard way. I pray that this country has learned lessons from the past four years. I earnestly pray that they see the corrupt direction this administration has taken our country and wants to continues upon; and I pray that we, as a people, want the original America back. I pray that transforming this country will not be the intent of the voters on November 6, but that their intent will be to uphold the greatness of our founding.