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The Blessing of Music

 

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

                                            “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

And on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2: 13,14  NIV    

From wee toddlers, our girls loved to sing. If given a choice, our evening devotionals would consist solely of their favorite songs. Their angelic voices rang loud and clear throughout the walls of our tiny home.

As they grew older and began playing piano, their mini-concerts became a regular part of our Christmas ritual. Joy to the World and Silent Night, two of the first songs they learned to play, provided accompaniment for their sweet, tender voices as they sang together, often breaking out into three-part harmony.

The tradition continues today with their children. Observing the beaming faces of our grandchildren as they sing their little hearts out to Jesus often brings us to tears.

This past Christmas our family, once again, caroled Silent Night; this time accompanied by cello, flute, piano, and guitar. As we lifted our voices in worship, my mind wandered to the night Jesus was born. I realized we were doing just what the angels did at His birth. How astounding for those in attendance to have actually heard those angel voices! God’s blessing of music allows us just a little taste of heaven here on earth.

Lord, may your gift of music draw us closer to You this Christmas.  

 

Welcome Home

With our Toyota Venza tightly packed with luggage, boxes of organic produce from a recent co-op order, a power saw, and a myriad of tools, we prepared for an early morning departure. Our kids, recently back    from living abroad, had returned to their home. Six years of renters had taken its toll and their house needed some TLC. Happy to answer their call for assistance in preparing their place to feel like home again, we began our three-day trek from South Texas to Northern Virginia.

It was nice of them to choose my favorite season to move back to the States! The leaves, just beginning their remarkable transformation, already flaunted dazzling shades of golds, oranges, and crimson. Our lackluster South Texas autumns couldn’t compete with this show of brilliant colors, still two weeks from its peak performance. Stuck in the car for hours and hours each day, uninterrupted by the distractions of daily living, I had hoped to get a lot of writing done. But the beauty of the drive hijacked my attention for much of the drive.

As we pulled up to their house, four kids, squealing with delight, madly dashed out the front door. They practically knocked us down as we got out of the car. What a nice feeling to be greeted with such gusto! I found myself wondering if that nice feeling may wane just a little after ten days together with five kids, four adults, and a dog under one roof.

Nope, don’t think about it! Just decide now to lower idealistic expectations of that perfect week where all continually find delight in the presence of the other.

Living in China and Colombia had been an adventure for our daughter’s family. It’s remarkable how quickly deep bonds develop in relationships among temporarily displaced expats. Employed in their own countries’ foreign services, families, homesick and eager for connections, instantly gravitate toward each other. We had experienced this same phenomenon during our years in Vienna, Austria. Our grandkids, sorely missing their friends, spent time every day video chatting. The ability to just click a key on the computer and communicate face to face anywhere in the world still blows my mind.

As our kids prepared for this exciting adventure in foreign lands, there was no way of knowing how the next six years would forever impact their family.

In China they were asked by an American social worker from their church to temporarily foster a Chinese baby, abandoned on the street. They said yes. We all fell in love with that scrawny little baby boy with the big smile. The Chinese government, realizing the extent of his disabilities, decided he wasn’t a keeper. So, the “throw-away” baby came to be known as Hudson Taylor. God has richly blessed our family with an extra measure of joy in this special little guy, lovingly referred to by his brothers and sisters as Huddy Buddy.

Their dog Isa, a Colombian addition, arrived in Virginia soon after we did. After two days of being cooped up in a crate on an airplane, she was overjoyed at her new-found freedom in the great outdoors. They lived in high-rise apartments in both China and Colombia so  neither she nor the kids were able to leave their apartment without an adult escort.

We had put much thought into goals for the week, so we each knew well our individual roles, but with limited resources, I was skeptical how much we could actually expect to accomplish. Due to delay of their shipment of household goods from Colombia, resourcefulness would definitely need to be employed. After the first day, I was impressed by a sense of organization, even in the midst of bedlam. This “organized chaos” had brief frantic moments that caused fleeting flashes of:

 Whatever were you thinking when you said yes?!

After the calming effects of a cup of tea, I reminded myself:

What in the world do you expect with five kids and a dog, running in and out of the house, dodging packing boxes and piles of items longing for a permanent home.

I, Nana, took on the role of chief cook & bottle washer. Since there would be few kitchen accessories, I had ordered from Amazon a round carbon steel paella pan, large enough for one meal dinners (chicken pot pie, lasagna, etc.) to feed all nine of us, plus an occasional visitor or two. At times, it seemed like a never-ending job. I had just finished cleaning up from one meal, and it was time to begin preparations for the next one! But, thankfully, I loved the challenge and the fun of it.

Pop commenced to a’ sawing & a’ hammering. His saw horses provided legs for a large piece of plywood on which he sat his compound miter saw. The screened back porch housed all the tools. The boys, showing interest in the building projects, were given scraps of wood, an electric drill, and screws to create their own masterpiece designs. Thankfully, this kept them busy for hours at a time.

An acre of land to accommodate a garden and wide-open outdoor play spaces took priority over a more spacious house. Simple beds and desks needed to be designed and constructed to maximize space in the small rooms. Our daughter, anxious to be part of the building projects, finished unpacking all the boxes from storage in just a few days. After minimal coaching from her dad and DIY instructions from Pinterest, she launched out on her own to build queen and double bed frames. I’m pretty sure she inherited her dad’s woodworking gene.

Our son-in-law  tackled the basement, painting the floor in preparation for the onslaught of storage boxes. On the nice days his attention was directed to the severely overgrown yard, now covered with a heavy layer of colorful leaves.

Each of the four older kids (ages 8-14) took turns tending their five-year-old special-needs brother: “Huddy duty”, as they affectionately dubbed it. I loved to watch as they smothered their little brother with attention, never complaining or looking at it as a chore. They absolutely adore him and he is always happy to be with them.

I treasured little snippets of daily time spent with each grandkid:

  • A long walk with Delaney, breathing in the crisp Fall air and admiring the beauty of God’s handiwork, while discussing important matters from the perspective of a twelve-year-old young lady.
  • Reading over and over Hudson’s favorite book to him, followed by a tickle session. This boy doesn’t talk, but his language of laughter had all within earshot in hysterics.
  • Special tea time with Aidyn, a budding young woman, about to turn fourteen. As we sipped the nectar of the gods (as she refers to it), she was eager to glean everything she could from my organic gardening experience. In the Spring she plans to build a deer-proof cage for her own garden. She researches the amount of produce it will take to feed a family of seven.
  • Watching Anderson and Sheppard, on the sofa, deeply engrossed in a book or movie, while Hudson lazily lounged on their laps. Often he became so relaxed he would fall asleep.

One excursion with all five kids, searching for a pumpkin patch we never found, stretched into an hour car ride. Somewhat embarrassed by my direction-impaired brain, I quietly prayed that the winding, scenic country road with the same name as one near their house would take us back to where we needed to be. Thank goodness, it did. I imagined their conversation with their parents after we left:

“We think Nana may be coming down with old-timers disease-she took a million wrong turns and couldn’t even find the pumpkin patch!”

More than happy to pose for a snapshot by the giant box of pumpkins in front of Walmart (not exactly the pumpkin picture I had in mind), they knew perfectly well that the reward for self-indulging their picture-happy Nana would be a special treat from inside the store.

Our grandiose goals, coupled with the chaos that goes hand in hand with a big move, could have easily created the perfect storm, but God’s blessings of patience, understanding, and ability to overlook things turned that impending storm into a joyful event. Visits with friends and relatives, sandwiched in between our busy days working on house projects and late evening rest and recovery periods, resulted in ten days that flew by.

We had fallen in love with the Northern Virginia area when we lived there for three years in the late nineties. Close bonds, formed in the church we attended, have continued over the years. In our short time living there, God beautifully arranged the union of two of our daughters with the special young men whom we now proudly call our sons-in-law.

We sadly said our goodbyes, not knowing when we would see each other again, and headed down I-66. My spirit, lifted by sweet family time and all that we had accomplished by working together, plus our excitement in anticipation of visits with other family and friends along the way, provided incentive to look forward, with less dread, to our long drive home. 

The beautiful drive to Virginia, combined with daily walks on quiet streets lined by lofty trees, radiantly clothed in their multicolored dress, impressed an unforgettable picture in my mind.

My soul, feeling peace, granted permission to focus on other matters, like writing, on the journey home. I must record my thoughts before they escape this “old-timer” brain!

 

 

So, What Are We Going To Do Today?

Grandchildren bring joy into my life-a kind of joy I can’t really explain. I just know that when they are around, I feel energized and happy.

As empty-nesters, this Nana and Pop live in a home that is at times, deafeningly quiet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the peace that the quietness generates, but when those grandkids come bounding through the door, their youthful spirits bring  a contagious enthusiasm for life. My tranquil world is temporarily interrupted, but, somehow, I don’t mind at all.

I have come to expect what the first words out of their mouths will be:

“Nana, what are we doing today?”

To which I answer:

“I haven’t really thought too much about it yet.”

These days, kid’s summers are filled with a lot of “going and doing”- usually in the form of some sort of “screens” or going somewhere “cool” to eat or attending camps (football, golf, soccer, robotics, music….)

My old enemy, doubt, begins to nag at me again.

“How do I compete with all of that stuff?”

Electronics are forbidden (with parent’s blessings) at the grandparent’s house, with the exception of an occasional quick game of Hangman (educational, of course) on Nana’s ipad.

Plagued by doubt again, I wonder:

“What in the world were we thinking when we banned devices?”

The 100 degree day isn’t exactly conducive to outdoor play. So, off to the library we go.

I feel the Spirit’s leading today as I immediately spot an old familiar movie from the hundreds of DVDs crammed onto the crowded shelves. “Sounder,” a 2003 release-an uplifting story of one boy’s faith, strength and dogged determination. San Diego Union Tribune hailed it as “Simple, Yet Enormously Grand.” Yes, this is the one!

The boys, having discovered the Star Wars books, are busy leafing through their pages. Across the aisle from where they squat, I spy the craft book section.

 “Hmm…how do I choose one that will retain the interest of both a ten and eleven-year-old who hold very different interests?”

I pick up a few books, but quickly return them to the shelf. Then a book entitled “Recycled Science”  catches my eye. I eagerly pick it up and read the front cover:

“Bring out your science genius with soda bottles, Pringles cans, and more unexpected stuff.”

As the boys scan the book, their eyes begin to dance as they discover a few fun projects that pique their interest. Looking at the list of supplies for three of the projects, I realize I have everything but tongue depressors and chip cans.

      “HEB, here we come!”

I never cease to be amazed. How could getting to have their own can of chips be so exciting? And for the special price of $1.25 per can! I’m sure these chips are full of good nutrition. Right! But hey, we are the grandparents, after all! We even find a bag of tongue depressors in the craft section for $2.50.

Back home, the boys are anxious to watch the movie. They are immediately drawn in, captivated by the story for one and a half hours.

Next on the agenda is to make a solar hot dog cooker  and ice cream maker using the now empty chips cans and a cork launcher requiring a clothes pin, tongue depressors, wine bottle corks, glue gun, and a rubber band. The projects, very simple, keep them busy for quite some time.

Following lunch, it’s reading time. If you have grandsons, you must have on hand a copy of “The Action Bible,” illustrated by Sergio Cariello. Its pages read like a graphic comic book. Most visits after they leave I find this book laying open in the middle of the floor, a good indicator that it has been read.

      “One day down, two more to go!”

The dreaded question pops up again as I tuck them in for the night.

      “Nana, what are we going to do tomorrow?”

Fumbling for words, I reply:

“Uh… oh… well…It’s a surprise!”

Oh boy! I guess I have the rest of the evening to figure out what the surprise will be!

The next morning I utter a little prayer of thanks for kids who are now of the age to actually want to sleep past eight o’clock.

A favorite breakfast of the grands at our house is ABC, 123 waffles (my mom found the coolest waffle iron at a garage sale that has letters on one side and numbers on the other.) This morning, a bit of a surprise math lesson, as Pop shouts:

“Look, I only have a 7 left. What kind of a number is that?”

This sparks a spirited mini-math question and answer session on prime numbers.

Before the worst heat of the day sets in, with football in tow, we drive to a nearby park. This is the ball of choice for today, since one of the boys has just begun playing on a football team.

We make a quick stop at the Sweets Shop for a treat to take along to the park. Feeling generous this morning, we allow each boy to have their own huge piece of ‘moist and succulent’ chocolate cake.

      “Drool… drool….!”

Only requirement will be a Pop & Nana tax, which they readily agree to.

At the park we choose an out-of-the-way table under a nice shaded gazebo. The boys quickly snap open the boxes and wolf down their special snack. Then they take the ball and disappear. I, writing journal in hand, sit dreamily, far away from the screaming kids, and breathe in the quiet. Then, I see two moms with their eight little “ducklings” following in a perfect row behind them walking my way. Surely, they are just taking a little hike around the park and my perfect little place is not their final destination. Wrong! They all squash onto two benches of the adjoining table.

      “Mommy, is this going to be a snack or lunch?

      ”How long will we be at this park?”

      “I need to go potty!”    

      “Do I have to share with Sofia again? I want my own drink!”

The incessant chatter shatters my train of thought.

The boys, drenched in sweat, return to the table with a new friend. He loves football! Of course, he does! As they awkwardly straddle the bench, their conversation goes something like this:

      “How about that JJ Watts?”

      “Which team is your favorite, the Texans or the Patriots?”

      “If I were to choose I’d say the Texans.”

      “Did you hear about Rob Gronkowski?”

      “Is he in?”

      “Yep, but the Browns still suck. They have a decent running back and a somewhat good defense.”

Then they’re off again to practice their game.

One of the moms and four of the little ducklings take off toward the slides. The wind gusts and blows my drink can off the table in the direction of the remaining mom. This sparks an interesting conversation about her life as a missionary wife in Venezuela. I sense she is a little down and try my best to share a few encouraging words with her.

The moms and their “melting down” little ducklings decide it is time to go.

Now I know why I brought my journal. I would have never remembered all those sports figure’s names and teams!

Once again, I sit alone in peace and despite the pandemonium of the last thirty minutes, a calm washes over my spirit.

Life is good!

Grandchildren are a joy and blessing!

And, nope, I have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow!

Our Joy Boy

As I at on the sofa in the living room my attention was drawn to the inspirational words on the wall: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” Overcome with emotion, I peered down at the baby in my arms and then, again, to the inscription on my daughter’s wall.

God, please give my daughter and her family the strength and energy to meet the challenge of caring for this child.

I tried to imagine the night this sweet baby boy in my lap was relinquished.

Did his birth parents feel they had no other options? Was he born with brain damage or did the malnutrition cause it? Where did his parents abandon him? Why did he end up in a hospital instead of an orphanage?

Read More →

SHEPPARD FAMILY 2016 HIGHLIGHTS

20161113_115920

In early January, our long-dreamed-of family vacation to Hawaii finally became a reality (just 1- 1/2 years before our first grandkids graduate high school and scatter to the four winds). The plan was for all of our grandkids and their parents to go, but…

erin-selah-sarahGod’s plans to surprise the lonard-kids-christmas-pictureLonards with a pregnancy prevented their making this trip. We dearly missed them, but our 13th grandchild, Sarah Elizabeth–our little miracle baby–has already blessed our lives beyond measure.

We also celebrated Greg’s parents’ 65th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Wow!

garden2Greg built our first garden at our Texas house in March. It’s critter-proof because we don’t want to share our organic produce with the deer!

mom-bd-lunchCelebrating Mom’s 82nd birthday at a luncheon in Kerrville.

 

 

choppedsummer-kidsJune was glorious with all the kids and grandkids coming for a visit. One of our favorite activities when together is doing a “Chopped” (the tv cooking show) session. The kids paired off and came up with some tasty creations, all on their own.

nana-hudson-castgreg-hudson-readingWe had the joy of spending Thanksgiving in Bogotá, Colombia with the Turk family. We supervised home school of the older four kids for a few days while the youngest (Hudson-4 years old) underwent surgery to fix his dislocated hips. His full body cast adds extra challenges. We are all praying he will now be able to walk.

des-mom-dadA huge blessing in our family occurred this year when, following years of prayer, we reconnected with our daughter, Deserea. God is good!

 

As we reflect back on 2016 we feel blessed and thankful for you, our family and friends.

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14

 

Finding Real Peace In A Not So Peaceful World

What a glorious evening with our young mommas! We, the patina moms in our home church, cherish these once a month occasions to fellowship with and love on these precious young women.mentoring-moms-christmas-2016

Last night we sat outside wrapped in blankets while sipping  hot chocolate and  listened to a segment of  “Lake Wobegon Christmas” by Garrison Keillor. We laughed a lot. I suspect most of us identified with at least one of the humorous life scenarios depicted when this family came together for the holidays.

It is easy to laugh, at least for now. But, will we still be laughing as the month progresses and the stress of the season is upon us? So much to do! Decorating, cookie baking, finding that perfect gift, school programs, all while meeting the normal and sometimes unexpected needs (that don’t take a vacation) of our family

Then it’s here, the time we have anticipated for months, when all the family comes together. We have lofty expectations-like the Norman Rockwell portrait norman-rockwell-tablewhere all, dressed in their finest, are peacefully and cheerfully gathered around  a table with the perfect holiday dinner spread.

 Oh, this  will be the best Christmas ever.

Then it happens!

The pie requires a spoon or that obnoxious relative says something that ruffles our feathers and we just can’t resist the urge to respond. Worse yet, our kids are actually acting like kids!

Unfortunately, we live in a world of chaos. But thankfully, we are not bound by the world’s madness.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

We can have confidence that when God’s grace rests on us, we will know a peace that goes beyond understanding. The peace that comes because Christ came into this world and put things in order, beginning with his birth, completed in his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.

He brought a real and lasting peace that the cares of this world can’t steal. His act of total selflessness is the reason that we have freedom to experience such calm in our souls, even when everything around us is crumbling.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

As the pressures of the season wear you down, take time to breathe. Grab a cup of  tea, sit and bask in peace, real PEACE from THE ONE who has already overcome.

 

 

 

Reflections of 9/11

As I reflect on the events of 9/11, this song by Paul Simon speaks to my heart:

Sound of Silence
Sound of Silence

We replay the images of that day over and over-they are permanently imprinted in our minds. We remember where we were, as if it had happened yesterday.

Our thirteen grandchildren will only remember from what we tell them. I am thankful they were spared the horrors of that day. But, it is a different story with their parents.

Two of our sons-in-law were working in Washington DC, very close to the Pentagon area. Living more than a thousand miles away and unable to get through to our daughters (due to jammed communication lines), feelings of alarm and distress gripped my heart.

God spared our family heartache on that day, but the faces and cries of those who lost loved ones still haunt my soul. The media showed all and it was heart-wrenching to watch.

So, on this beautiful, clear morning, with a hint of coolness in the air, a day much like that fateful day, I sit quietly and reflect as I watch a video of Paul Simon singing “The Sound of Silence”, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.

A few lyrics from “The Sound of Silence”:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

 My heart aches for those in the audience at this commemoration. Even though I don’t know them, I weep with them. They have all come to honor their loved ones who lost their lives on that horrific day. They will tell you that not a day goes by that they don’t think about it. But today, they gather, sharing a common bond with many they have never met.

Together they:

Reminisce

Grieve

Pray

Heal

The encouragement of this day will provide hope to keep going.

MAY GOD HEAL AND BLESS OUR COUNTRY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Trump, Never Hillary

A  guest post from my husband, Greg, summarizing his thought processes on how he will vote in the presidential election. 

Far be it from me to tell you how to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

This year, more than any other in my memory, we face a choice between two major candidates who are so deeply flawed that I have anguished about the vote I will cast in November. Your perception and clarity of vision may have allowed you to reach a conclusion without much angst, but for me it was not easy.

HillaryUltimately, I have come to the conclusion summarized in the subject line of this message: I will not vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whether I will pull the lever for another candidate or write in a name is not yet decided, but I can not–I will not–vote for the candidate of either major party.

Because I am adamantly pro-life, favor limited government, and believe that public officials should be held to the same standards (or higher) than those who report to them (think: security and classification), the reasons I can’t vote for HRC are obvious.

Below, I share with you some of the articles and essays that have informed my decision against supporting Trump.

I hope that you will pardon me for opening this rabbit-hole door that, should you choose to go through it, will lead you on a chase that could consume hours of your time. I believe that the authors of these pieces are particularly insightful, and they helped me to clarify my thinking about this most unusual election.

With those disclaimers issued, therefore, here are links to some of the more thoughtful pieces I have read:

On April 21, 2016, Matt Walsh warned us that, if Trump is the Republican nominee, Hillary will be in the White House. He pleaded with Republicans (especially Trump fans) that they not nominate Trump, and declared that he, along with a large majority of other voters, would not vote for Trump. He demolished the “a vote not cast for Trump is a vote for Hillary” argument by asserting that, because Trump is absolutely not electable, it would be a grave mistake to make him the Republican Party nominee. And if Trump were to become the Republican nominee, then he will lose–and the responsibility for that is on those who made him the nominee, not on those who take the principled stance that they will never vote for Trump.

Well, now that Trump is the nominee, I had to decide whether I could hold my nose and vote for him. The absolute unacceptability (to me) of the leading alternative (HRC) is unthinkable, and that, more than any other reason, is why I considered voting for Trump.

I was briefly swayed by Wayne Grudem’s arguments for why voting for Trump is a morally good choice. He makes a compelling argument that, due to the fact that the next president will be appointing a Supreme Court justice to fill Scalia’s seat (and probably one to three more!), the country cannot afford to entrust that responsibility to HRC. She almost certainly would stack the SCOTUS with liberal justices who would abolish all abortion restrictions, further restrict religious liberty and freedom of speech, and criminalize dissent from the Left’s liberal agenda. Also, her commitment to big-government approaches to the economy, education, and public health would likely exacerbate the issues we are seeing due to Obama’s liberal policies. Grudem concludes that “the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court, thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations, thousands of the poor who will never again be able to find high-paying jobs in an economy crushed by government hostility toward business, thousands of inner-city children who will never be able to get a good education, thousands of the sick and elderly who will never get adequate medical treatment when the government is the nation’s only healthcare provider, thousands of people who will be killed by an unchecked ISIS, and millions of Jews in Israel who will find themselves alone and surrounded by hostile enemies. And you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.” With those considerations taken, Grudem concludes that his conscience and moral judgement compel him to vote for Trump as the candidate most likely to do the most good for the USA.

New York Times columnist Tom Nichols is a stalwart in the never-Trump movement, and decries the notion that conscientiously opposing Trump’s ascent to the White House invalidates his credentials as a conservative Republican. He argues that the Republican party could tough out four years under HRC, but that neither the Republican Party nor the conservative movement could survive even one year under a President Trump. He colorfully characterizes Trump as not just politically incorrect; he’s “an uncontrollable fire hose of offensive lunacy.” To hold his nose and cast his vote for HRC as he has vowed to do, then, is to concede a battle to the Democrats in order for the Republicans to live to fight another day. It seems to me, however, that it would not be necessary for Nichols to trouble his conscience and vote for HRC in order to stop Trump, because, at the rate he’s going, Trump will have no chance of winning, anyway.

In the Witherspoon Institute’s website, Public Discourse, Matthew J. Franck discusses the weight of a single vote and the burden on one’s conscience for casting it, and concludes that he can vote for neither Trump nor HRC. He poses the question, “What is more important, your conscience or the outcome of an election?” Franck argues that he cannot, in good conscience, vote for either of these “ludicrously unacceptable” candidates because that would be “an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.” Choosing the lesser of two evils only works when one of the choices is, in fact, not really evil. Franck provides an interesting historical summary of instances in which the electorate faced a “lesser of two evils” choice, but none of them sunk to the level of our 2016 options. He concludes with the exhortation to “vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character. Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.” Indeed. After all, because our ballot is secret, we have to live only with ourselves regarding how we cast it.

To this point in this case I’m building for how I will vote, I have made no overt appeals to the Bible. Because I am a Christ-follower, however, I must ask myself, what would He want me to do? In moving toward an answer to this question, I have been aided significantly by the scripture-based arguments made by Samuel Whitefield, of the International House of Prayer. In his powerful essay (also attached as a pdf), Whitefield raises four issues related to Trump and the church. (In this context, when Whitefield refers to the church, he is talking not about any specific denomination but about Bible-believing Christ-followers who trust Christ as their savior. That is the way I will use the word herein.) In summary, those issues are:

 

  • Wrong is wrong, no matter the political party or other social construct. I’ve already touched on the “lesser of two evils” conversation, and how choosing not to vote for one candidate works to the advantage of the other, more evil, candidate. That argument has a certain logic, but it is crushed by the weight of the fact that some things are just wrong. Trump’s (recent) embrace of a pro-life position does not make up for everything else he stands for (misogyny, infidelity, bigotry, profanity, deceit, pride, arrogance, rudeness, and on and on).

 

  • For Christians, the conversation about Trump is much bigger than just the issues because he claims to be one of us. Scripture tells us to assess a tree by its fruit, and Trump’s fruit provides almost no evidence that he is a true follower of Jesus. If the church embraces as its candidate a man whose life and actions are, in almost every way, antithetical to the character and teachings of Jesus, then it loses its prophetic voice in our culture. “Despite his wickedness, many Christians are being rallied to Trump’s cause by the idea that we must do anything to prevent a Clinton presidency. However, … a Clinton presidency is not the biggest thing at stake in this election. The biggest thing at stake in this election is the church’s prophetic voice to the culture. The church’s role in the national discourse is at stake and that is far more important than who the next president is. … If the church breaks her slavish ties to the political system, and recovers her prophetic voice in the culture, that would be far more valuable than avoiding a Clinton presidency.” When a man like Trump claims to be a Christian, for the sake of the gospel we can’t go along with it, and we certainly can’t endorse him as a fellow disciple of Christ–else we have no defense when the culture charges us with hypocrisy.

 

  • We read in the Bible that God uses a wayward nation’s adversaries and leaders to humble its people and bring them to repentance. We should reflect on what “season” our nation is in, and consider the possibility (likelihood?) that God is using our leaders–as well as international influences–to chasten and correct us. If, indeed, God is moving us into a season of decline from “American exceptionalism,” then to rally behind Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is to choose to defy God’s sovereign plans. “If the Lord is humbling the nation, Trump represents something entirely different – pride, arrogance, and tolerance of sin. Promoting and embracing Trump is a statement of our trust in human strength at the cost of decency and morality.”

 

  • Like Daniel, Christians should be participative and influential in government, but we should not put our hope in it. Every four years, the church seems to succumb to the temptation to seek its security in a political savior, rather than in The Savior. It may be that, this election cycle, we “are faced with two unqualified options because the Lord wants to break our search for a political savior.”  “In the absence of a focus on the beauty of Jesus, the ‘lesser of two evils’ and ‘anyone but Hillary’ arguments have created a context where most of American Christianity is being fearfully motivated to remain essentially subservient to Republican politics. Now is the time for the church to break free of every political machine in order to become a prophetic voice to the nation.” “Both candidates are morally compromised. Both parties are breaking down. If we step outside the political fervor we may just hear God’s voice inviting us to recover the church’s voice in the culture by once again setting our hope on the one true Messiah.”

In summary, despite the hysterical cries to the contrary, this too shall pass. God is on His throne, and we are not responsible to effect change by determining who will live in the White House. God will effect the change He wills, and we must be His voice in our culture. If we are compromised by our adoption of a supportive stance for a candidate who defies God, then how can His voice be heard through us? Might our nation’s obsession with finding a political savior result in less comfort in the lives of Christians? Might there be efforts to restrict our “rights” accorded by the First Amendment? Might we be persecuted for taking scripture-based stands on cultural issues? Might that persecution be imposed even by our government? Yes to all of these. The greater question is whether–like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah–God’s people will be faithful to Him above all else and preserve our standing to speak prophetically into our culture. May God lead and bless His people, and may we find the words and the courage to point our culture back to Him.

 

On Turning 40

Another daughter turns 40. I appreciate her tender heart. She has agreed to guest post on my blog. So, thank you, Erin, for this timely reminder of what’s really important. 

I’m turning 40 this week and here is what I know:

God is real and He loves us. 

These ‘family values’  hung on our wall when I was growing up. family values ‘God is real and He loves us’ was the first value and I’ve thought about it often these last few years. I have lots of questions about God and His ways. I don’t understand a lot of things about Him. He doesn’t answer prayers in the way I think He should sometimes. He is silent sometimes.

But, sometimes He does answer. Sometimes He isn’t silent. And, sometimes, He gives gifts not even on our radar. And, often, those are the sweetest gifts of all.

Also included in our ‘family values’:

People are more important than things.

How disheartening this world is lately. Gun violence, war violence, domestic violence….it’s just gut-wrenching. I get discouraged. I don’t know what the answer is. More gun laws? Fewer gun laws? More war? Less war? Sit ins? Walk outs? Protests? Silence?

I have no idea.

No answers.

None.

All I know is that people are more important than any of it. And if we valued each and every person and taught our children to do the same then maybe things would be better. I know, I know, it’s not that simple. But, what if it was that simple? What if life meant something? What if every life was valued and what if we showed people they were valued?

A few weeks ago, the kids and I, stopped at a traffic light, observed a homeless man walking up and down the middle of the street with a sign. We watched a boy-maybe 12 or 13?-abandon the bike he was riding and run across the intersection. He dropped several bills into the homeless man’s paper cup.Homeless man and boy3 Then, we watched as the homeless man wiped tears from his eyes. And I wiped tears from mine.
Oh, I hope my children value life like that-not just that they notice, but that they act. I want to meet that boy’s mother.

Maybe I’ll have things more figured out when I’m 50, but this is pretty much all I’m sure about at 40:

God is real and He loves us.

People are more important than things.

And, the way I want to respond is to love God back and love people better. As I enter a new decade, I’m really excited to do a better job of that.

 

 

On Turning 60

Welcome, brother, to the 60s club! I am proud to be your sister, but mostly, I am proud of the amazing man of God you have become.

Congratulations! You now qualify for senior citizen discounts. Not trying to make you feel old! Really!

As I recall memories of our childhood, certain snapshots are still vivid in my mind.

I was 5 1/2 years old when you were born, but clearly remember the excitement that cute, little red-headed baby boy brought to our family. You turned one-year old the month before I began first grade in Natalia.sherry, ken, me as kids

Daddy fenced in a giant play yard (palm leaves spread over the chicken wire roof to provide shade) in the front yard. You rode your little trike and played with toys, as Mom cleaned the house, periodically checking on you. How times have changed! I doubt that in this day and age a toddler would be left unattended outside, even briefly.

One day I came home from school to discover you had caused a little excitement in the neighborhood. Convulsions, brought on by a high fever, had given Mom (along with a few neighbors she summoned for help) quite a scare. Needless to say, you were pretty lethargic the remainder of the day.

I believe apologies are in order for the times your big sisters were less than kind to you. I’m not sure what possessed us to come up with the wicked idea to convince you that the eggs in the henhouse were in jeopardy of not hatching unless you sat on them in the absence of the mother hen. Shame on us! But, it did provide a few chuckles. I sincerely hope you find it in your heart to forgive us!

The year we moved to Devine, you entered 1st grade. Sherry was in 3rd and I began junior high as a 5th grader. With the birth of Brian the previous year, our little house in Natalia was busting at the seams. The new house on Transportation Drive in Devine seemed like a mansion. The acre of land, complete with an old barn, offered ample space for hours of outdoor exploration.

Strangely, I don’t have as many specific memories of you after we moved to Devine. I recently read some old letters I sent Greg during my times home from college where I wrote about taking and picking you up from school and activities.young ken I believe you were just entering high school when I was in my freshman year of college. Greg and I married in-between semesters of our sophomore year. By the time you were in college we already had two kids and Greg had accepted his first employment position in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

A special memory of mine is that of you and Brian walking arm-in-arm ken & brian down the path at his wedding and the picture I have of you, Brian, and me. brian, ken, me

So, now here we are, in our 60s, with much to be thankful for-solid marriages, amazing kids who have given  us beautiful grands.

Richly blessed in so many areas of our lives!

I thank God for you and pray that our relationship continues to grow stronger  in this “Autumn stage” of our lives.

Oh, yes, and don’t forget that the 60s are the new 40s! We still have a lot of life to live!

Happy 60th Birthday, Ken!

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln