Wasting our lives and glorifying God

Wasting our lives and glorifying God
Notice God's unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say - God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is. ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, August 10

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fear and Shame and the political divide

This is a post of political observations that will deal in generalities. So, please, spare me the anecdotes of cases where it doesn't hold true. Not hard fast rules, only observations about trends.

Both sides of the political divide, liberals and conservatives, claim moral superiority. And they go about trying to make converts by claiming that their side, and their side alone, takes the moral high road. The tools in this endeavor are fear and shame.

Example #1: Immigration.

Conservatives employ fear in order to control perceptions. If we are afraid of foreigners, we will reject them and protect ourselves. We'll be safer if we are more fearful. Such as this, now famous meme:

(I like this line from the movie The Tale of Despereaux, "Oh, Despereaux, this world is full of wonderful things to be afraid of, if only you realize how scary they are.")

Liberals employ shame to make people "do the right thing." The talking points create straw man arguments to make people feel badly for being heartless savages.  Religious people are at the top of that list. If you were truly a decent person you'd be more open, you jerk.

Example #2: Abortion.

Liberals employ fear. If pro-life legislation is passed, if a pro-life person is elected, if a pro-life judge takes the bench women will be victimized, there will be back-alley abortions and bleeding in the streets. Women will lose their autonomy and we'll all be relegated to being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen again. 

On the flip side, Conservatives employ shame. Emotionally and morally charged language. Instead of women being victims and disenfranchised and scared and vulnerable, they are "mothers of a dead baby" and murders.

And the labels the groups are given are often, at least partially, misnomers. Pro-choicers are not pro-all-choices. Just check to see which democrats voted to take away the freedom of parents to choose whether or not their children are vaccinated. There's a serious war brewing in California as parental rights and choices are taken away by big brother. You can choose to have an abortion, but if that child is born alive you don't have a choice whether or not she gets the highly controversial Gardasil vaccine.

Pro-lifers are often not pro-all life (There are exceptions, such as socially active Roman Catholics.). Just look up which Republicans still support the death penalty. (see the UCSSB's pro-life prayer) Or the NIMB attitude as it applies to taking in refugees. (NIMB = not in my backyard) Sometimes pro-lifers are pro-birth or pro-some-life. It's a painful truth that we need to 'fess up to.

And you can see examples of this everywhere if you just take a moment to look at your Facebook or Twitter feed. Just today I logged in to see several of my friends post the same FB post that stated if you didn't join the "Women's March" you probably have never been the victim of a sexual crime, are not an ethnic minority, an immigrant or lack health insurance. Because if you have experienced any of these things, you'd support the march. Well, guess what? I have been a victim of sexual crime, I am an ethnic minority, my husband is an immigrant and I have actually never had health insurance in my life. I did not support the March. But, that's what I mean about claiming moral superiority. It's a false narrative. All the decent people on one side of the line and all the degenerate on the other.

I have found this past year that everyone wants to think that they take the high road and are open to people that are different than they are. Everyone wants to think they are comfortable with diversity.  It's always the other side of the aisle that is full of intolerant bigots. Until they encounter someone truly different, someone who doesn't support their pet causes, who does not see things the same way at all. Then the struggle gets real. I am no exception.

I have seen so many people this year unfriend and block people on social media or lash out at their neighbors that it breaks my heart. The media, the culture, the 24 hour news cycle perpetuates this fear and shame so that we feel quite justified in saying, "I'm done with you" as we paint with broad brushes and repost unnuanced memes and opinions. We feel vindicated to make "power of the people" to mean power against certain people.

But, what if....

What if we stopped using fear and shame as our primary motivators and the cornerstones of our arguments? What if when we encountered someone who is truly different we didn't shut them out, but we extended our hand instead? What if we could say, "You know, I don't see things that way, but I respect that you do. Would you like to discuss this sometime?" Make cookies. It always helps the awkwardness. 

The truth is that if we try to banish fear and shame there will be a vacuum. We have to replace it with something. 

I would suggest love and humility.

It's not easy. For anyone. And it's certainly not easy for me. I claim no moral superiority in this. To look into someone's eyes who not only is different but may be, in fact, antagonistic towards you and your way of life or deeply held beliefs, and to say, "I see in you someone made in the image of God and I choose to treat you according to that truth." Pour tea.  It helps the humble pie to go down easier.

I am not suggesting that you necessarily change your beliefs. I can tell you for certainty that you will not take my Christian faith from me. I am not just a Christian in name. It's part of my very DNA, I assure you. I am head over heels in love with Jesus. I can't turn it off. I broke off the switch long ago. But, I will share a meal with you and listen to you, even if you are Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, or just plain not sure. My faith tells me that you are made in God's image and likeness, whether or not you acknowledge Him.

Humility goes a long way. St. John Chrysostom said, "Humility is the root, mother, nurse foundation and bond of all virtue." The book of 1 Peter in the Bible commands us to love each other deeply. Because love covers a multitude of sins.

Does walking in love mean that we never stand up for controversial causes or speak tough things? Of course not. Love must be tough as well as tender. But true love should give us the courage to carefully negotiate and live in the tension of truth and love. It's messy. It's painful at times. It's tricky. It's also beautiful. Speak the truth...in love.

As people of good will, can we move the cultural conversation from Us vs. Them to We Are All In This Together? Can we love through the differences and listen and speak up and be brave and be vulnerable and be true?

Fear and shame are motivators, but make a terrible foundation. Love and humility are really the only way.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Israel's Bar Mitzvah

A few days ago our son, Israel, was welcomed into the world of men.

We celebrated him in a homemade Bar Mitzvah ceremony.

He was in on the planning from beginning to end and prepared himself heart and soul for the very real transition he faced.

The evening started with appetizers of flatbread pizzas (potato/herd/asiago, brie/raspberry/caramelized onions and roasted maple vegetables/fontina) and Italian sodas.

Then we played a montage that Meg made of Israel's life.  Of course I was weeping by the end.

Then Israel recited--from memory, no notes!--all of Joshua chapter 1.

Reciting Joshua Chapter 1

Then the blessings began.  Each family stood to bless Israel.  Words, Scriptures, prophetic gifts.  Those that couldn't be physically present (especially his Godmother, Mary Beth---we missed you!!!!) sent their blessings to be read or played on video.  It was powerful.  And long.  The blessing segment of the evening took a good 2.5 hours.  But, looking back it was just as it should have been.  There was no one I would have edited.  A step of this significance should not be rushed over.  In our culture, even our religion has become slave to convenience.  A church website I was on recently made great pains to advertise the fact they they have a 65 minute service.  Wouldn't want our service to the Lord to put us out.  But, I digress.....

Coffee and tea and mismatched cups. Matching is overrated.  In the back there are bookmarks Israel made for his guests with the Prayer of St. Francis.
Sarah and Sarah

Papa and Israel

Nana and Papa blessed Israel with "tools"--a knife and leatherman, instructing him to use them wisely, just as he does his spiritual tools

Reading the blessing from his Godmother who couldn't be there

Higashi family, who blessed Israel with a knife, instructing him to grow in his manhood and that God would bless him with greater weapons later on.  They prophesied about the times and seasons.

Titi blessed Israel with a special cross--courage to wear it and to not be afraid to stand out and be different.

Saraa popped right up with a gift and card all her own doing! Mommy didn't even know about it!  So heart-warming!

Lucas, whose name means "bringer of light" presented Israel with a lighter, engraved with a special message, "Always your bro."

Anna, a friend, and our God-daughter, who blessed Israel with a special prayer and Scripture

Auntie Kristy and Uncle Jordan, who blessed Israel with a Four Seasons cookbook, telling him to mark the times and in his growing into manhood to retain his gentleness and grace and love of beauty, for these, too are masculine gifts.

Gina (his art teacher), Isabella and Vincent. Gina drew a special image for Israel and a bracelet with the Shema 

Israel's best friend Aaron placing his own yarmulke on Israel 

Auntie Micha blessing Israel is a double portion blessing and affirming his as a watchman on the wall, represented by a watch.  It was beautiful because Israel was wearing his grandfather's watch.

Alice, blessing Israel as the honorable man that he is

Bierbrauer family presenting Israel with a scroll (handwritten by Israel's other best friend, Moriah) with Psalm 23 and a Kiddush cup, over which Joshua prophesied Israel's life like a cup overflowing.  They also gave Israel binoculars, so that he can watch and keep his eyes open for what God would show him

Tuya-egch blessing Israel with a long and happy life

Shifu Rae, Israel's Kung Fu instructor and long time mentor blessing him.  

Afterwards, Israel present Rae with a photo book of memories of their seven years together

I spoke a blessing over Israel, only cried a little and presented him an Elijah's Cup, double portion blessings.  I hope one day it sits on his own Passover table 
My baby is a man

Gana's blessing for Israel, calling him up and imparting his heart

Gana presented Israel with a prayer shall with symbols of the 12 Tribes on it

After the blessings, Israel gave a speech, essentially taking a public stand and an oath to live as a man of God.  There were tears--from guests and Israel himself.

Then we feasted!!!  Lasagna, garlic knots (made by my friend Kristina), salad with greens, cranberries, golden beets, candied pecans, and blue cheese....with awesome dressing made by Kristina's daughter.  For dessert we had chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars and milk and a Russian Cake brought by Gana's cousin Tuya.  There was bubbly--champagne and sparkling cider.

There's so much more that there isn't room to share.  And I've tried to remember all the gifts and essence of the messages, but I know that I've left things out.  Please forgive any omissions, they are not intentional.  The evening was truly overflowing with blessings and God's grace.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Free Saeed!

The Bible gives us a very important admonition that we so often overlook and many of us have never really considered.  In fact, I don't know that I've ever particularly heard a sermon on this passage, and what a shame that is.

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them--those who are mistreated--since you yourselves are in the body also.  Hebrews 13:3

And then there's this other verse, that likewise doesn't capture a lot of our attention:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Proverbs 31:8

Today we have an opportunity to remember those who are chained and to speak up for those who cannot do so for themselves.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is an American citizen who is imprisoned in Iran for the crime of being a Christian.  He faces daily beatings, being threatened at knife point, and life-saving medication is withheld.  He is being kept in the same cell as violent criminals--murderers and rapists.  This gentle man is a husband and father of two.

In the U.S. negotiations with Iran over their nuclear plans and possible sanctions, the plight of Pastor Saeed was not addressed at all!  He was never even mentioned.  This is an injustice!  How can we leave one of our own left to die, his only "crime" being that he loves our same Jesus!


How can you do this?

Well, start by signing these petitions:

ACLJ's Stand For Pastor Saeed Petition


Be Heard Project's Free Saeed Petition

Watch the following video for other ways to get the word out!


God hears our prayers on behalf of those suffering for His sake!  Lift up your voices!  Storm heaven, asking for his safe release and for his strength in this trial!  Pray that the powers that be with act justly!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tegshee Walker's Birth Story

Tegshee Walker was born on July 19 into Daddy's loving hands.  7 lbs. 6.5 oz.  21 inches long.  For those that like birth stories, his birth might best be told in pictures.  So, here you go:

My due date was officially July 31.  But, I knew the baby would be coming earlier.  I just had that feeling.

My Dad came to visit for a few days on July 15.  On the night of the 16th he took us all to the movies.  Throughout the movie, River kept wanting to nurse.  Which gave me intensely strong contractions.  I couldn't wait until that movie was over so we could get out of there!  I just wanted to lay down!

The net morning, July 17th, I woke up to water pouring out of me.  It was 6:40 AM.  I told Gana, we congratulated one another, we cleaned up and then I told my Dad.  Who called my mom.  Who called my sister.  Who loaded up the kids in the car.  And everyone got ready for a baby!

I called my midwife and friend who would be coming to the birth.  And I told everyone, "I am not yet in active labor.  So, don't fly here like your hair's on fire."  Did anyone listen to me?  No.  Everyone gets excited for babies in my family.  And I have been known to give birth before they arrived (Captain's 2.5 hours start to finish labor!), so they had good reason not to listen to me.


After a breakfast of eggs and fish roe and a cup of coffee I decided to do some prenatal yoga just to get everything stretched and get some more consistent contractions going.

Saraa joined me.  Notice the chux pad to catch the water which flowed continually.  Things got going, rather slowly.  But, that's how I like it.  Peaceful and slow.  Time for visiting and talking about what the baby will be like, what we should name him or her and all that.  

But....maybe this was a bit too slow.  

12 hours into labor. 

Feeling a wee bit nauseated, hence the bowl.  Just in case.
Still you have to enjoy and laugh now and then.
The kids like to feel how the baby moves during contractions.

My sister feeding and entertaining the 11 children on the porch.

Grandma, waiting patiently for her 18th great grandchild
I took a shower to refresh myself.  Glancing at myself in the mirror I said, "Wow.  I really should have tweezed my eyebrows before I started labor."  Gana said, "That comment right there lets me know we've still got a long ways to go."

Keep calm and labor on, my friends.

Sometime late in the night I got the children to pray for me.  And Lucas blew his shofar!
Totally felt the presence of the Lord!

Things got quite intense during the night.  We thought for sure the baby would arrive before sunrise.  Meg was determined to stay awake the whole night.  Instead....

Yes, this is Meg, konked out in the co-sleeper.
My mom and Gana fell asleep at the foot of the bed.

Everyone fell asleep, including me!  In the morning Meg said, "Oh man!  I didn't make it all night!"  I said, "Don't worry, honey, neither did I!"

That second morning I was tired.  Just tired.  Not in pain.  Not really upset.  Just tired.  I put my head on Gana's shoulders and cried my eyes out.  After a few minutes I was all better.  And I had a little breakfast.

I asked my midwife for my first vaginal exam.  What was going on?!  She checked and I was about 5 cm dilated.  OK, that's nice.  She also said that the baby wasn't in the best position, slightly posterior.  

After my water being broken for 24 hours and my contractions totally spacing out and becoming mild again, we decided to bring in reinforcements!  NURSING THE TODDLER!

That got contractions really kicking along!  We thought for sure the baby would be born before the day was over. Yet.....

Here we are about 40 hours into labor.  Notice how many costume changes I've gone through!

My midwife, family and friends have the utmost patience.  They let me quietly labor and do whatever I wanted.  Bath.  Walk outside.  Nap.  Eat. Worship. Pray.  Nice to be around people who don't freak out when I burst out speaking in tongues and weeping to a Jason Upton song.  

On the second night of labor I sent all the children to bed.  No staying up watching me.  My mom and grandma went to bed.  Meg slept next to me on the floor of the bedroom.  The midwife and my friend slept in the living room.  Gana slept next to me in the bed.  When I needed to feel his strength I just reached out and touch him.  He didn't even have to wake up.  I just wanted to feel his strength near me and at the ready.  That helped me to stay calm.

I lay or sat on the bed in absolute silence.  I labored for hours in the night and into the morning.  By myself.  It was peaceful and calm.  My mind was often in a completely different place.  I wouldn't say I was delirious.  But, I was only sort of half-conscious and yet...somehow fully aware.  That makes no sense, I realize.  But it was exactly how it was.

About 5am I put on some Andrea Marie music and just relaxed into that peace.  

About 6am (nearly 48 hours after my water broke) I felt pushy.  So, I woke up Gana and asked him to get our midwife from the living room.  She came in, watched me through a couple contractions.  And I asked her to check me.  She did.

"You still have about 3 cm to go.  But your cervix is very soft."  

And in the next moment I said, "My body is pushing by itself."  She responded so calmly, something like, "I see that."  And Gana set about to fetch the rest of the family.  We had promised the kids and my mom that we wouldn't let them miss it!

But he didn't get a chance to reach everyone.  He had to just scream for everyone. (Thus confirming that I can't be trusted to tell people when to come to my births.)  I screamed for Gana.  "Gana!!!!!!"  He rushed to me.  And in one second stage contraction, I pushed out our baby, straight into Daddy's hands!  

There is a picture I can't really show you because it's totally not decent, but as the baby is coming out, I am laughing!  Yes, laughing!!!

The cord was tangled around his neck and body.  I unwrapped him myself and Gana put him on my stomach.  Then he said, "Meg, you owe be 10 bucks!"  Which she knew meant, "It's a boy!"

My Mommy, my baby and me

Me and my two nursing babies: Tegshee and River
The kids went with the midwife to examine the placenta and have a little science lesson.  Plus, using all the midwife's equipment to check one another out.

We knew we wanted to call him Tegshee, which is the Mongolian word for "Straight" as in the "straight and narrow."  But, all along the pregnancy we could not think of a middle name.  As I sat in the rocking chair with him when he was about an hour old, I suddenly said, "What about Walker?"  Thus the full meaning of his name would be, "One who walks straight."  

Right after that, my friend who was supporting me through labor said, "The verse for today is Deuteronomy 30:16, 'In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.'"

That settled it.  Tegshee Walker was his name!

Nana B, Del the midwife, and Tegshee

Grandma and Tegshee

We celebrated with a BIRTH-day cake:

Getting his first chiropractic adjustment at home with Tio.
The whole thing from water breaking to birth was just minutes shy of 48 hours.  But the whole thing was very peaceful, very calm, and pretty much painless.  It was work and it was exhausting, but it was beautiful.  I was surrounded by loving and supportive people, but was able to labor as I wanted--sometimes all alone, sometimes being very social.  And my baby was born into a total atmosphere of joy.

In fact, beginning the second day, Tegshee started laughing--out loud!--in his sleep.  So sweet!  He must have some beautiful dreams.  And that makes Mommy and Daddy so happy.

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