Monday, June 21, 2010

But How Will I Live?

“Mom, how will I die?” Joshua, then barely five years old, asked as I was tucking him into bed. With all the honesty and confidence a startled mom could muster, I replied, “I don’t know.”

(Before you are concerned about one so young worrying about dying, just know that our family had recently held death in our hands so it was heavy on his mind.)

Snuggling even closer and not wanting to leave it at that, especially at bedtime, I continued the conversation. “You know, Josh, there’s no way you can really know how you’re going to die, but there is something more important about life that you can decide. You get to choose how you will live.”

I went on to explain how none of us usually have the choice about how we die, but the choice about how we will live is completely ours.

Will I live my life for fun and pleasure, for that which seemingly brings me a measure of happiness? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’d rather sit and watch Survivor than do anything productive.

Sometimes I’d rather sit and stare out the window watching the chickens (now doesn’t that sound quaint) than do the work that is on my kitchen counter. Yes, sometimes I’m lazy.

Sometimes I ignore issues with my kids because addressing those things will require time and thought (and prayer!) on my part. Sometimes I pay the consequences of that choice.

Sometimes I’d rather stay at home all day, avoiding any meaningful interactions with people outside my family. Relationships with other people can get pretty messy. Sometimes.

Most of the time, though, I remember that I live my life for a higher purpose, a purpose given to me by God. So most of the time, I will push through the tedious tasks on my schedule for the day, because I choose to have joy in serving my family.

Most of the time I will realize that I’ve been watching the chickens too long and go do the dishes and even cook for my family.

Most of the time I will stop whatever I am doing to instruct or encourage one of my children. Most of the time I reap the benefits of that choice.

Most of the time I will choose to intentionally invest in the lives of others, to volunteer, to get involved with society in general, even if it gets messy. Most of the time I’m the one who is more blessed by that investment.

Death - be it by water, fire, cancer, car accident, crime victim, whatever - it’s not really up to me. But how will I live? How will you live? That is completely a choice each of us will make for ourselves.

Galatians 2.20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Does Anyone Know?

(A guest post for the blog at Re:Vision North Carolina)

Walking through my local big box store, I see the United States flag all around. Is it really “what so proudly we hailed” if it’s in the form of a bikini top or swim trunks? At $5, I did have to buy my son some swim trunks. I figured they were colorful and I could easily spot him in the crowd. Seeing all the flag paraphernalia, though, made me wonder.

Does anyone know what is significant about June 14? Anyone? Anyone? Ok, well, it’s not usually a day off work or anything, but it is one of the observances I learned about as a kid. It’s Flag Day!

I remember spending significant time in elementary social studies (a few weeks is significant time in elementary school) learning about the flag: appropriate handling, appropriate display, appropriate storage, and appropriate disposal. Education about the flag included the history and a few legends.

One particular legendary quote remains somehow tucked in the crevices of my grey matter. From the poem Barbara Frietchie by John Greenleaf Whittier:

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country's flag," she said.

Purportedly, 96 year old Barbara Frietchie boldly said those words to Stonewall Jackson after proudly displaying the flag from her attic window and Jackson’s Confederate troops had just shot the banner at his command. At risk of her own life, Frietchie would not allow disrespect of the Union flag!

It used to be that wearing the flag on items such as those I saw at the store would be considered disrespect and desecration. There’s still a little, a very little, debate about the appropriateness of wearing the flag. I can remember when I was a teen in the 70’s that a young man was arrested for wearing a shirt made from flag fabric.

Apparently, societal shifts have brought social acceptance to wearing flag apparel. Covering oneself in the Stars and Stripes is now viewed as patriotic rather than disrespectful. T-shirts with the American flag would make me feel well-dressed at July 4th activities (and on Flag Day for that matter!)

But does anyone know the Standards of Respect due the American Flag?

Some instruction in the etiquette of the American flag, according to

The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms.
To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.

When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

I don’t remember all the Standards of Respect from my social studies class, but I did remember today is Flag Day. So, tell someone you know that today is Flag Day. Your friends just might not know.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Check Point

Instinctively I hit the brakes! The next step was to look at my speedometer. Whew! I’m not speeding….this time. Really I’m not speeding most of the time. Well, not too much….you know, the “too much” where you cross the “absolute” line that will get you a ticket. What is that line, something like four miles over the speed limit? (Don’t tell me if it’s more....I’ll stick with four.)

I love policemen, especially since I have friends who are policemen, so why do I have the same reaction every time I see a police car when I’m driving?

Instead of getting nervous, though, I need to remember that the police car sitting in the median is more of a reminder for me. And since all people need reminders from time to time, the goal is accomplished merely by the policeman’s presence. See the police car, check my speed. Good to go.

Seeing the policeman the other day made me wonder about other check points I might have or might need in my life.

That’s why I have a daily time reading my Bible. That’s my spiritual check point. I am a forgetful woman. It could have something to do with having kids….I can’t remember. Daily reading is a great check point for me to check my speed, check my direction, check to see if I’m still on the right road.

Deuteronomy 8.11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

I also think I need a civic check point. I can tell you the last time I read through the United States Constitution. That would have been September of 2006 when one of my older daughters, Sarah, then a junior in high school, audited an American Government class at a local college. She needed help analyzing the Constitution the first week, so we dissected it together.

But I am forgetful. I think I could quote the preamble (thank you Schoolhouse Rock!) but I only remember a couple of the “famous” amendments from the rest of the document. It’s not that I don’t care. Like I said, I’m forgetful. And busy.

How else, though, am I going to know if and why I agree or disagree with politicians’ actions? How will I know to be concerned about their actions? How will I know when we as a state or nation have crossed the line? Or when I as an individual have crossed the line?

Reviewing our governing documents would serve us all well. I just showed my younger children the Schoolhouse Rock Preamble on YouTube. I will also go to the Tools link on the Re:Vision North Carolina website to review our founding documents for myself and do a better job of passing that information on to my kids.

I want to set up my own check point, and not wait until I see a reminder waiting in the median.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Few Steps

As a somewhat bright, but very timid second-grader, I sat firmly glued to my seat. Having already figured out the riddle, I jittered inside at the thought of approaching Mrs. Miller’s desk to tell her the answer. The answer….which would come with the benefit of a special surprise. The answer….I knew it….all I had to do was take a few steps.

Hesitation. For what seemed like an hour. Then none of it mattered anymore. Sweet little blonde haired Kim went forward and whispered the answer to the teacher. I watched, disappointed in myself, as Mrs. Miller gave Kim the nickel.

Don’t laugh. Back in 1969, five cents bought a full-sized candy bar from the snack cart! And that was a rare treat for a little girl who lived up the “holler.” Taking those few small steps would have made a difference, if only in a small way in my life for that day, but still a difference. That small loss that day taught me a monumental lesson.

Fast forward to 2010. I’m still (debatably) somewhat bright. I am still a little timid, but nothing like the paralyzing shyness in second grade. I might get jittery if I was asked to approach someone in a higher position. But now I know that if I don’t act, I will lose the candy bar.

It was just a couple of months ago that my husband, Mike, and I were having a conversation lamenting the state of politics in general in our country. We think of ourselves as politically informed, but we haven’t been politically active for a long time.

During that discussion, we each decided that even though we don’t know what we can do, we need to do something, take a step or two, however small, to make a difference.

Will it be a phone call? Will it be a knock on a door? Will it be a financial investment? Will it be consistent prayer for those who govern? Will it be some out-of-the-box action? Will it be….? I don’t know which direction my steps will take, but I do know I will take a step.

I’ll walk to the teacher’s desk and share the answer. I’ll seek direction from God, because I don’t want to take a step in any direction which He does not lead.

Psalm 119.05 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

After all, it’s not a candy bar at stake this time. And the prize won’t be just for myself. It’s our country that needs involved citizens. My children and grandchildren will benefit from my efforts.

That five cent candy bar I missed out on in second grade now costs 99 cents and I’d probably be bold in going for it, but America is way more valuable, definitely worth me taking a few small steps.

(This is the first in a series that will be posted on the blog at the website
Re:Vision North Carolina)