My song has no melody, so I hope you like the words

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waiting For the Autumn Dance

Okay, so my last few posts have been a bit on the heavy side… time to lighten up!

It’s been rainy and windy here for a few days now; the ground is finally getting the soaking it needs before curling up for a winter nap. The leaves on the trees are tinged with red and orange even though the air is still warm and moist. I can almost hear them saying ‘we’ve been hanging here long enough!’ I’m ready for cooler temperatures myself; the heat is not my friend. The old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold winter, which would be welcome after the scorching hot summer we just endured. I have to remind myself that we moved back east partly because we missed the changing seasons, and that both Winter’s chill and Summer’s sweat are made worthwhile by Fall.

Waiting For the Autumn Dance

The leaves atremble with delight
Their colors soon so bright
Excitedly they sway while still held fast by wood
They soon will fly like a child’s bright kite

Wait now, but not for long
The music of the skies will form their song
Their summer homes will soon set them free
To dance amid the breezes strong

As air is cooled by Autumn’s kiss
All creation glows with golden bliss
The trees grow quiet to reach roots below
And leaves are jewels, not one amiss

Filling skies with silent laughter
They celebrate their freedom in a blur
Then just as quickly they settle into brown
And rest on colder ground with honor

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lack of Knowledge, continued...

This Pew Forum study just gets more and more heartbreaking the closer I look at the results:

Only 19% of self-identified Protestants knew that salvation by faith alone was a tenet of their own faith. Only 9% of Black Protestants knew this.

Only 50% of Christians could correctly name Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the 4 Gospels of the New Testament, and only 60% knew Genesis is the first book of the Bible.

43% of Christians did not know that 'the Golden Rule' is NOT one of the Ten Commandments.

On 12 questions specific to Christianity and the Bible, Christians got an average of 6.2 correct answers, and atheists and agnostics got an average of 6.7. How can we "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have"[1 Peter 3:15] if those we would witness to know God's Word better than His own followers?

Every Christian teacher and pastor in this country should hang their heads in shame! What are they teaching from the pulpit if their sheep do not know even these basic facts???

Religious commitment level [how often one attends services and how important religion is in one's daily life] did not make a significant difference in the scores, which surprised me. The only variable that made a big difference was educational level. When all other factors were statistically removed, a subject with a college degree answered an average of 7.2 more questions correctly out of the total of 32 than a subject without a high school diploma. This included questions on world religions and geography, so doesn't necessarily mean the same results would hold true if questions were limited to those about Christianity.

I have often taken the 'lazy way out' in my faith, believing that just having the faith of a child was what God desired. That allowed me to feel that increasing my knowledge of scripture and the world around me wasn't very important. After all, a child doesn't have a lot of knowledge, just trust, right?

Today I realize how wrong I have been. Funny how the Lord was already convicting me of this, BEFORE I saw the results of this study. I guess He really wanted to get my attention! Clearly I need to be better prepared, and this study suggests I am not alone.

Lack of Knowledge

"My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. Hosea 4:6

You can click on the post title for a link to take the quiz used in the survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. There are questions on world religions, but quite a bit of it is based on facts from the Bible.

It saddened me to learn how few of my Christian brothers and sisters knew such rudimentary facts. Even worse, atheists and agnostics did considerably better. These words from Hosea strike painfully close to home tonight. The average score among Americans and Protestants was 50%. Many people who called themselves Christians could not even name the 4 Gospels in the New Testament, or correctly identify that the 'Golden Rule' is not actually one of the Ten Commandments.

Lord, please give us a hunger for your truth!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A New Day, Another Chance

I’ve been feeling guilty lately for not spending more time in God’s Word, and noticing that the well has run dry as far as writing anything worthwhile as a result. Tonight I wandered over to and read the verse of the day, Matt 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Talk about a direct hit!

That one verse pretty well sums up why I’ve felt ‘out of synch’ lately – I’ve been so busy trying to be active and engaged in the world around me that I lost my focus. The rest of the chapter talks about giving and fasting and praying without drawing attention to your actions, and not going after or worrying about treasures of this world. All things I know, but apparently needed the reminder to practice.

I worry a lot about our country, and how far we have drifted from our foundations. It is humbling to realize that I can so easily be set adrift myself. I want to be a part of the solution, and yet have no strength to act. As the verse says, I need to stop worrying about all of that, and focus on God’s kingdom.

The next thing I noticed was an article on the website stating the statistics on the top book searches there in the past month. They listed the top 10 cities that accessed the site, and the top 5 books of the Bible searched from each city. There were only 8 books listed, with Psalm 23 showing up in all but one city. The books and chapters, in alphabetical order, were:
1 Corinthians 13,
Genesis 1,
James 1
Jeremiah 29
John 3, 17,
Proverbs 2
Psalms 23, 46, 91, 146
Romans 8
(Matthew 6 didn’t make the top 8)

It made me wonder about my own reading habits. In the richness of what God has given us, 66 books that teach us who He is and His plan for humanity, how often do I barely skim the surface? These are all great scriptures, but I hope that I don’t become complacent, just referring to these familiar words over and over again. I want to know God better; I want to be overwhelmed and humbled by His glory.

Forgive me, Lord, for losing sight of what really matters. Thank you for giving me another chance, another day, to seek you with all my heart.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Equal Rights, not Equal Results

Suppose your neighbor sees that another neighbor has no car yet you have 2 cars in your driveway. The well-intentioned neighbor then decides to give one of your cars to the man who has none. Would you agree to this, or would you call the police to report the theft of your car?

If it is not legal for your neighbor to share your vehicles, how is it that we allow the government to take your property to meet another's need? I am borrowing this analogy from the 5,000 Year Leap, mentioned in other posts here. The Founders of our government wrestled with these ideas as well, and determined that if the government does not recognize the property rights of ALL individuals, it will result in a loss of rights for everyone.

This is not to say that the Founders rejected the biblical command to be charitable. But personal, intentional charity is not at all the same thing as government theft of one man’s property to give it to another. Not only is there no Constitutional authority for the federal government to provide welfare, it is in fact unconstitutional for the federal government to do so. According to Samuel Adams, “the utopian schemes of leveling and a community of goods…are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional.”

The government’s sole obligation is to protect the equal and unalienable rights given by our Creator, not provide equal results for all. When we forget this, and give the government power to do otherwise, we all suffer.

Mr. Skousen quotes Benjamin Franklin on the idea of charity needing to be given wisely as follows, “Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good” [5,000 Year Leap, page 120]

The author goes on to summarize the Founders principles for ‘circumspect’ charity, and ends with this, “The first and foremost level of responsibility is with the individual himself; the second level is the family; then the church; next the community; finally the county, and in a disaster or emergency, the state. Under NO circumstances is the federal government to become involved in public welfare. “

I believe that as a people we have failed our responsibility to be charitable, and have left a void that is now being filled by force. We cannot remain free while at the same time asking the government to do what we should be doing for ourselves. When free Americans choose to live responsibly, we will begin to restore our government to its proper place on our lives.

Give generously and wisely, and thank God for the unalienable rights He has bestowed on His people.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seasons Change

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:19-21

We did some decluttering here this weekend, trying to make space for things we actually use on a regular basis. I talk a good line about having ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ but the reality is I have trouble letting go of things when their place is ‘not here.’

I am sentimental to a fault, and still have almost every card any of my children made or bought for me. Multiply 5 sons times 30 years of Mother’s Days and birthdays and random other holidays, and you can see the problem. Yes, in theory these things all have ‘a place’, but my file drawers are bursting at the seams, and won’t fit this month’s checking account statement.

My tendency to hold onto things beyond their useful life isn’t limited to paperwork. I also hold on to items that once were necessary tools for activities I no longer participate in or hobbies I once enjoyed. None of which matters, except it explains why one particular closet here is always stuffed to the brim. It is the closet where I store supplies for volunteer work I have enjoyed. This treasure trove of sweet memories, samples of craft projects, books and games reminds me of who I used to be, not who I am today.

Hanging on to those things makes me feel more secure, as if their tangible existence verifies that I have done something that mattered, proof that I did something of value. The problem with that attitude is that it is a burden to carry all of my past, so heavy that it keeps me from being flexible in the present. It reveals my insecurity, and a lack of trust in my Creator.

God doesn’t ask me to prove my existence or worth to him by storing treasure of past accomplishments; He loves me today, in the present. Instead of grieving over what I can no longer do, God wants to reveal what he is accomplishing through me today. Seasons change, but God’s plan is eternal.

I’m happy to say that the closet is now swept clean, ready for whatever adventure God has planned for my future. Next time I’m feeling really brave I will tackle my file drawers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Constitution Day!

On this date, September 17th, in 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed our Constitution. Celebrate by reading your Constitution with your children and sharing what you learn with your friends and family. If we don’t know how our government is designed to function, we won’t know when our political leaders are misrepresenting it.

When I was being trained as a bank teller, the way we learned to recognize counterfeit bills was by handling the real thing so often that we knew immediately if a bill was different. The same principle applies to the Constitution; if you don’t know what it says, you won’t be able to tell when it is being undermined. At the bottom of this post are a couple of good links for online copies of the Constitution and explanatory notes. I’m sure you can easily find more.

I’m not going to print the whole document here, just the preamble to whet your appetite:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Remember that in the original, those first three words, We The People, were written in huge letters because the founders wanted to remind us from the very start that this republic was not formed by a ruler or ruling class. It is up to ‘we the people’ to protect and defend our legacy.

I was going to try and give you a sort of ‘crib notes’ version of the Constitution, but decided I couldn’t do it justice, and that most readers here already know far more than I do. Instead, I encourage you to look over this brief outline as a reminder and preparation for going to one of the websites listed below.

Article 1 describes the responsibilities and structure of the legislative branch
Article 2 does the same for the Executive branch
Article 3 does the same for the Judicial branch
Article 4 does the same for The States
Articles 5 through 7 deal with how amendments can be added, federal responsibilities for treaties and oaths and defining ratification of the Constitution itself

The one note I would add here is the importance the founders displayed for the legislative branch by putting it first. This is the most immediate way for the citizens to engage in politics, because the lower house is chosen by the people every 2 years. Unfortunately, Amendment 17 (Senators Elected by Popular Vote, ratified 4/8/1913) undermined the founder’s intent to have the Senatorial body reflect the will of each individual state legislature. Senators are now no longer accountable to the governing bodies of their states. I believe this is a dangerous step toward pure Democracy, rather than the Republic described in the Constitution.

The founders recognized the need for clarification and further protection of individual liberties, which led to the first 10 amendments all being passed on 12/15/1791. They are briefly described as follows:
· Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression
· Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms
· Amendment 3 - Quartering of Soldiers
· Amendment 4 - Search and Seizure
· Amendment 5 - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings
· Amendment 6 - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses
· Amendment 7 - Trial by Jury in Civil Cases
· Amendment 8 - Cruel and Unusual Punishment
· Amendment 9 - Construction of Constitution
· Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

I think that a clear understanding of and respect for this last amendment would go a long way towards limiting our headlong rush into overreaching federal control. Unfortunately, our president seems to contradict the intent here, and claim that powers not specifically delegated may be claimed by the federal government, when the amendment clearly states the exact opposite.

The entire Constitution through Amendment 27 can be fitted on 21 typed pages – why do our representatives now need thousands of pages for bills?

These 2 websites are a good place to start your own exploration of this wonderful document:

God Bless America!

PS As long as you're here, please go to the bottom of this page and vote for NNYM in the Pepsi challenge

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pray For Our Nation

Last night’s primaries were a wake up call to those who are comfortable with ‘politics as usual,’ but if we don’t take advantage of this moment then all of the efforts made to win those races will be lost. I believe we need to be focused on the only certain cure to our ills, and that is by fervently praying and asking God to heal our land.

We can’t put our faith in political parties or ideologies any more than we can worship individual leaders. It is the Lord who works in the hearts and minds of those that he has placed in positions of authority over us. We are commanded to pray for those leaders, and I believe that praying for God to change their hearts and minds is the most honorable way to do that.

Our Constitution defined a very different system of governing than what we have allowed to develop. I’ll write more about that on Constitution Day, this Friday September 17th, but today my focus is on our individual responsibilities.

When we hold too tightly to our own comfort or desires, I believe we are failing in our duty as American citizens. Matthew 22:21 “…Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." My standard comment to those who do not vote or participate in the political process in this country is that one of the principles our nation was founded on was citizen participation in the political process. That means that in the US, part of what we ‘give to Caesar’ is our informed vote.

For some of us, what we will be called to give is serving in public office, and for others it will be supporting those who strive to be elected. We may have to put our own plans on hold for a time, or do things that stretch our faith, but they are worth doing. We need to be active in the public square, talking about our ideals and principles as they relate to public policies.

Some of us may be the lone voice of virtue in their sphere of influence; others may find themselves ridiculed by friends or family for their beliefs. Our nation is in deep trouble right now, and if we don’t begin to put country ahead of our personal agenda, we will have only ourselves to blame. John Ratzenberger (the actor who played Cliff Clavin in Cheers, but don’t hold that against him) just said something interesting on Fox: “I don’t think any of the soldiers at Valley Forge stopped and paused and thought, ‘Geez, what about my career?’”

If you fall into the trap of thinking that your vote doesn’t matter, or that your voice won’t be heard, remember something else that Mr. Ratzenberger reminded us of today: only 3% of citizens in Colonial America really wanted a revolution and to be independent of England, but they moved mountains!

Throughout history, God has used individuals to make enormous changes in His world. How will God use you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Votes have Been Counted

Fox News is calling the Delaware primary the upset of the night. And the national Republican party bosses who supported RINO Mike Castle have already thrown a temper tantrum. They decided to take their ball and go home by announcing that they will not support the winner of tonight's primary.

Wow! They didn't even wait an hour to make the announcement, which means that decision was already made.

Mr. Castle is pro-abortion, and voted for cap and trade as well as most of the rest of President Obama's agenda. I heard him state at a public meeting that he doesn't worry about the US Constitution, because the courts 'take care of that.' Christine O'Donnell may not be a great candidate, but my only option today was someone who thinks his political party is more important than life or his nation's founding documents.

Now the race to Election Day in November. I think O'Donnell is going to surprise the 'conventional wisdom' folks. She has enthusiastic support from the Tea Party Express, Sarah Palin, and Jim DeMint's PAC. This is a mid-year election, which means that turnout will be low in general and particularly among disengaged Democrats. A majority of Delaware Republicans are fired up, and I think even those who voted for Castle tonight will hold their noses and vote for O'Donnell in November.

Her opponent is a well-known and liked Democrat, but when I met him several years ago he set off my "creep meter" alarms, so even if I was a Democrat I couldn't vote for him. He is likely to win even without my help, but I don't think it will be as easy as the pundits are claiming tonight.

Even if O;Donnell gets trounced in November, I am glad Castle is out. We need to 'retire' more career politicians and send some concerned citizens to Washington.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Are You Ready to Vote Tuesday?

The polls will be open in Delaware on Tuesday 9/14/10 from 7:00am until 8:00pm.
Here are a couple of last minute websites to check out before you vote in tomorrow’s primary:
This website is geared to just Delaware voters. They have a scorecard, and links to find your polling place if you don’t know whereto go tomorrow.
The official government website for all election details.
A list of DE candidates on state races, and links to candidate’s websites. You can look up any state from this page.
An independent PAC that supports and raises funds for a slate of 11 candidates from different states. They have set up a single site for donations to any of these chosen campaigns. The candidates, chosen by Sen. Jim DeMint, all have committed to 8 conservative principles described on the website. I encourage you to support some of them if you are able.

The political pundits are saying that they expect a very small turnout in the Republican primary. That means your vote will carry more weight, so PLEASE, make time in your day to VOTE!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mary Had The Right Idea

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 9:41-42 NLT

Johnny Cash reads to me almost every night at bedtime. Sort of. My Ipod is loaded with him reading the New Testament, and most nights I listen to a couple of chapters to help me rest. Better than sleeping pills, the Word of God eases my heart and mind, and Johnny reads it in a soothing way.

Last night these words from Luke jumped out at me, because my mind was racing about a million details and challenges. There are many things nowadays that are difficult for me, and I get frustrated and fall into the trap of stressing about what remains undone. This is not what the Lord desires, I just need frequent reminders!

Most of my life I have acted more like Martha, staying busy and "productive." I was comfortable with my never ending lists, and reveled in checking things off one by one. Rarely did I rest in the peace that passes understanding, and my life was poorer for it. Rather than focusing on knowing God more each day, I focused on doing for him, just like Martha.

All of those achievements will be forgotten, and what will be left is what Mary had all along - love. Lord, please help me to focus on what really matters, and let the rest fade away.

PS - Please vote once a day for National Network of Youth Ministries at the bottom of my homepage!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Touching Tomorrow

Please scroll down to the very bottom of my homepage here and click on the link for helping find mentor's for youth. It will cost you nothing, and could very well make a difference in our future. Remember - as scary as it sounds, those crazy teens today are tomorrow's leaders!

You can vote once per day, so please click on the link each time you visit here through September 30. It gets easier to vote after the first time you do it.

Two friends of mine are on the staff of this wonderful organization, and I'm happy to introduce you here. NNYM also provides support and training for youth to organize the annual 'See You At The Pole' prayers every fall.

Coming Soon to a Clinic Near You

I went to the Post Office this week. One of those annoying little errands that keeps getting postponed because something more urgent gets in the way. I had unearthed a stash of odd stamps that were not marked with any numbers to indicate their value. They were the ones that are first issued after a rate increase, but had been sitting long enough I wasn’t sure what they were worth anymore.

It seemed simple enough; walk into the Post office and ask a clerk how much each stamp was worth, then buy stamps with the difference so I could use them to mail letters. It was annoying not to be able to know the value of the stamps, and even more annoying to wait in line to find out.

There was plenty of time to think about the inefficiency of the system, because there was only one clerk on duty despite there being 4 very nice, modern registers available. I waited 30 minutes for my turn at the counter. I was racking my brains trying to think of why it would be so crowded when the woman behind me in line informed me that it is always that way at this office: Lots of modern, expensive machines, and one clerk.

I quickly depleted my small talk repertoire, and used the silence to focus on the inefficiency of issuing stamps with no value printed on them. I wonder how much money the government spends to produce those stamps? How much postal employee time is spent telling customers what the stamps are worth? How much is spent processing mail that is sent with the wrong amount of postage because consumers guessed wrongly?

If something as straightforward as mailing a letter can be so wasteful and confusing, imagine what it will be like applying this same methodology to health care:

You walk into the clinic for your appointment. All you want is a refill for medication you’ve taken for years. You don’t know what the visit will cost, because they calculate it based on a complicated formula using your income, and you have to give them all of your personal financial information in advance. You still aren’t sure if you have been granted an appointment, or the value of the doctor’s time to see you. You see that the waiting room is full, and look for the receptionist so you can sign in. There is a brightly lit reception area at one end of the room with several desktop computers visible, so you go there with your financial documents, birth certificate and social security card. You don’t see anyone because the only receptionist is on her break, so you wait. You don’t know how long you will be there, but you can tell it will be a long time and you’re glad you aren’t ill.

Since there is only one clinic available, you wait all afternoon to ask the doctor for your prescription, knowing that you will face a similar line at the pharmacy tomorrow. The visit itself is “free”, but you had to take a day off of work. The combined union wages for the doctor, receptionist, nurse, pharmacist and store clerk who played a part in this drama, added to the building overhead costs for clinic and pharmacy, plus all other related costs came to $327.00 and the drugs you need cost $42.00 to produce. The medicine costs you $1.25, which just happens to be how much I spent on extra stamps to mail my letters, and the remaining $367.75 is paid by the 47% of Americans who pay Federal Income Tax.

Does anyone really believe this is a sustainable or efficient way to handle health care?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Supreme Excitement!

Last year my son and I joined a lawsuit against the US Government because our right to constitutional representation has been violated. I am thrilled to announce that the case has now been appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Court will decide in early October whether or not to hear the case, but we have strong reason to believe it will proceed. I am excited and proud to be a part of this ‘history in the making’!

The Background: When the Progressives were in power in the early 1900’s, they decided that the US House of Representatives was big enough that they would just vote to freeze it at 435 members to maintain their position. Over time, this arbitrary number has resulted in state representation becoming more and more unequal. Delaware is now one of the 5 most under represented states in the nation.

Our Case: The suit demonstrates how smaller districts will result in more equitable representation in the US House of Representatives, the body designed by our founders to reflect the will of the people. Not only will smaller congressional districts result in restoring the constitutional principle of ‘one person, one vote’ but they will also produce smaller government and more individual freedom.

More Info: The website gives much more information in written and video formats, and I encourage you to check it out. The purpose of the nonprofit organization, from their website:
1) Achieve equal and appropriate representation in the U.S. House of Representatives for current and future generations,
2) Educate American citizens about the Constitution in general, and House apportionment in particular, and
3) Promote the benefits of smaller congressional districts resulting from an increase in House membership

Personal Note: Michael Farris from HSLDA is the attorney, and he offered to represent me in this case last year. Not only are we headed for the US Supreme Court, but I just received a very cool bound edition of the claim filed there, and I will be able to sit in on the proceedings if/when the Court decides to hear the case. Supreme Excitement!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One On One

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me…
139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Isn’t it wonderful to be known, and loved? God doesn’t love us in the abstract, or in a general ‘love for mankind’ sort of way. He loves each one of us as His unique creation, knit together by His loving hand. Let your heart be filled with this truth, savor it! Then ask God how you can share that love that is overflowing in you.

Since we are loved as individuals, doesn’t it make sense we should love others in the same way if we are to love others as God loves us? Look around you today at the people in your life, and marvel at how they are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” (v14). How can you love and honor them?

Each one of us has been given a variety of gifts to serve the body of Christ, so the ways we express our love will be as unique as we are. For some, it is a smile and encouraging words, for others it may be meeting physical needs, and for others it is revealing or teaching truth in a way the other person can understand. There is no one ‘right way’ to love our fellow man, as long as we are focused on loving the specific person.

For example, if someone is hungry, that might not be the best time to share a word of prophecy with him or her. A more loving response would be to feed them, even if you’re not a good cook. (A caveat here – if you cook like I do, it might be more loving to buy take-out food!) Loving someone means meeting him or her where they are, not where you are comfortable.

Loving others does NOT mean enabling them in their sin, or doing for them what they can do for themselves. It simply means to love them because God loves them, and to cherish the individual.

When we love others as God loves us, it brings us joy because that is what God designed us to do. This past weekend I had a chance to show love to someone dear to me, and we were both blessed. I did it by showing him new possibilities, and then walking with him through the first steps to reach that future. I met him where he is, and showed by my actions that he is loved as a unique and wonderful creation of our loving God. It was a good day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Giving For a Reason

I recently read something that made me think about WHY I give more than WHAT I give. In some ways it is a comfort, but it was also convicting. By ‘giving’ I am not referring just to financial donations, but more to the way I share all of the gifts I’ve been given - my time, my talents, and my love. The comment was that how much we give away is irrelevant if our motive isn’t right. This goes beyond God’s love for cheerful givers, because sometimes we may cheerfully give for all the wrong reasons.

If God is not leading our decisions about where and how much and what to give, He won’t bless the results. And that is what convicted me. Tithes and offerings have been a habit for me for long enough that I take those for granted. I cheerfully ask God to direct where my money should go to meet the needs He sees. Where I stumble is the giving of my time and talents. More than once I have felt I didn’t have enough to give, or wanted to give of myself for all the wrong reasons.

God will never ask us to give more than we are able. That doesn’t mean we give in our own strength, it means that ‘whatever God calls us to do, He also equips us to do’. I have to remind myself of this frequently, since I tend to run off in my own strength and wonder why I fell flat almost as often as I balk at giving what I believe God is leading me to give.

If pride, guilt, a desire for attention or gain, or even fear, is motivating me, then whatever I give is irrelevant at best, and destructive at worst. I can’t count the number of times I have given of my time or energy because I felt obligated, only to have it blow up in my face. Clearly my motive was wrong in those situations, but I couldn’t admit it at the time. As a stay at home mom, I tend to think that I ‘should’ have time and energy for all of what I think are worthy goals. It is much easier for me to tell others not to ‘should’ on themselves than it is for me to recognize it in my own actions.

The reality is that I am not the superwoman I wish I was. I am not able to do many of the things I see others doing, and I tend to dismiss the ways I can contribute. I want to argue with God, and say that what He asks of me is not important, or not enough. He gently reminds me that if I am doing it for Him, it matters. For whatever reason, he has placed me here and now, and what matters isn’t how much I accomplish but for whom I am accomplishing it in the first place. Some days it feels like very little, so I have to remind myself that if I’m following His lead, God can take my meager offerings and create something wonderful.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Primary Primer

I don’t know if it is this confusing in other states, but Delaware doesn’t make it easy to figure out who you are voting for. Our state primaries are being held in 11 days, and though I know the candidates I want to support, figuring out where they are listed can be confusing. The state mailed me a helpful “Delaware Polling Place Card” telling me where and when I can vote on September 14th.

My choices will be limited, because only voters registered for a particular party can vote in that primary. That means all of you unfettered independents will have to wait until the general election to vote for whoever is left, because only those who are registered as Democrats or Republicans can vote in the 2 closed primaries. I swallowed my independent pride a few years ago when I figured out that I wanted a voice in the selection of conservative candidates, and that often happens in the Republican primary, before the general election. On Election Day in November, I may wind up voting for the third party candidate, but on September 14th I can just support “mainstream conservative” candidates.

First listed on the helpful card is my Electoral District. Delaware only has 3 electoral votes, but my electoral district is #8. Go figure. Somehow that number, combined with my State Representative District, determines where to find my polling place. All 41 State Representatives are elected every 2 years. That means your vote in the primary may help determine who will be on the ballot in November. In my State Representative district, #27, the lone conservative [and only Republican] is running against a proudly “progressive” labor leader and the incumbent who is bragging about how many new laws and regulations he has helped pass in his short tenure. Since there is no other Republican in the race, he is unopposed and will not be on the primary ballot. I can put up a yard sign for him, or encourage people to vote for him in November, but my energy for now is on contested primary races.

Next is my State Senate District, which is #10 out of a total of 21. My State Senator is not running this year, because only ½ of those positions are on the ballot every 2 years. I’m stuck with my current State Senator for 2 more years. If you live in a district that IS on the ballot, you can learn who the candidates are by going to the following link:

For the single US Senate seat up for a vote this year, there are 2 Republican candidates, 2 Third party candidates and 1 Democratic candidate in the race. Since the Democratic candidate has no competition, there is no Democratic primary for that position. Same for our single US Representative, there are 3 Republicans vying to run against the single Democratic and 3 Third Party candidates. These 2 races will determine who speaks for us in Washington for at least the next 2 years, or 6 years in the case of the US Senator. Please prayerfully consider whom you will support and if you are registered as a Republican, please vote on September 14th!

There are several other races in Delaware this year, depending on which county AND which County Council or Levy of Deeds district you live in. Those marked with a “ *” will have a primary in one party or both on September 14th.

Attorney General – 1 Democrat, Joe Biden’s son, is running against 1 Third Party candidate
*State Treasurer –2 Democrats, 1 Republican
*Auditor of Accounts – 2 Democrats, 1 Republican
*LC CC - 2 Republicans in District #3 primary [My LC CC is #6, no primary since both parties have unopposed candidates]
*Sheriff for New Castle County –2 candidates each party primary
Sheriff for Sussex County - 1 candidate in each party, so no primary
*Recorder of Deeds, Sussex County – 2 Democrats in primary
Recorder of Deeds, Kent County -4 candidates in 4 parties [it must be an important job downstate!]
Registrar of Wills – 1 candidate in each party, so no primary

I have probably missed someone here, and encourage you to do your own homework. This is an ‘off year’ – in 2012 there will also be elections for governor, Lt governor, insurance commissioner, Clerk of the Peace, etc.

In case you missed, your first opportunity to cast a vote in the 2010 elections is coming in just 11 days, on September 14th. Please exercise your right to vote!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

“Freedom Under Siege”

This title comes from a program I recorded several weeks ago and just got around to watching tonight. It was John Stossel’s eponymous weekly program on Fox Business channel, and I highly recommend checking it out.

This episode was focused on how too much regulation causes harm to our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. He showcased the 70,000 pages of government regulations passed in just the past year, and reported on several specific cases where those regulations reduce our freedoms. When our government is making so many decisions for us, our own freedom to choose is threatened, and we should all be wary of sacrificing our liberty for a false sense of security.

Some of the examples he cited verge on the absurd. For example, did you know that is now against the law to have a bake sale fundraiser in the NYC schools? The reason? Obesity, called a problem that, “will dwarf 9-11”, according to a former Surgeon General. Really? Selling cookies to raise money for the school band is akin to an act of terrorism? I think someone has fallen off the reality rails. Given all the problems in the NYC public schools, I would think they have more important issues to spend their tax revenues on solving.

In California, one county has outlawed the action figures fast food restaurants put in their children’s meals, because it unduly tempted the children to eat fast food. I must admit to taking that one personally – my children played with entire collections of happy meal figures when they were young, and I resent the government telling me that makes me an unfit mother.

If this attempt to shield us from our own poor choices was as far as it went, that would be insulting enough. Unfortunately, the reality is much worse. He spoke with one of the authors of a book called One Nation Under Arrest and cited several cases of heavy-handed government interference that made my skin crawl. In one case, an elderly grandmother was actually arrested for allowing her hedges to grow over the 2-foot legal limit. In another, a 12-year-old girl was arrested for eating French fries on a subway, and a businessman was arrested for importing lobster in the wrong package.

Being arrested is scary enough, but then he went on to interview people who had been jailed for breaking a variety of regulations. One man and his wife grew orchids in a small greenhouse in their backyard. It was their hobby, and as a small cottage business they also sold some of these orchids at fairs. They legally imported some of the orchids, but apparently misplaced some of the paperwork. Remember – older couple, growing flowers as a hobby: their home was ransacked by federal officials, and the husband served a year and a half in federal prison, after spending $100,000.00 in legal bills.

Another man tearfully explained his own experience. He was a ‘science geek’, the kid who always won the school science fair. As a young adult, he was tinkering with inventing an efficient fuel cell in his own home. He used something called ‘metallic sodium’, which my scientist husband tells me is quite explosive. He ordered more than he needed, so he sold one pound of this substance online [which, btw, is NOT illegal] The federal enforcers instead charged him with the “environmental crime” of abandoning hazardous materials, even though they were safely and properly stored on his private property. He served 21 months in federal prison. How likely do you think he will be to engage in any more inventive pursuits?

Paraphrasing Mr. Stossel, politicians and government appointees think the laws they pass make our lives better, but there are always unintended consequences. How likely is someone to risk doing something new, if there are too many laws and regulations to understand? Most people will tend to play it safe to avoid breaking the law, and we are all poorer for it.

Right now there are over a million federal employees in this country, not counting military or Postal service. This nation founded on the principles of freedom is becoming a ‘nanny state’. It is time for us to let our elected officials know that we value freedom over the false security of government control.