Friday, August 24, 2012

To Stand Alone

Today (August 23), in 1305, Sir William Wallace was executed for high treason against the king of England. To commemorate his life, and to recognize the ultimate price he paid for the freedom of his native country, we watched the movie "Braveheart" starring Mel Gibson.

The very theatrically compelling (though somewhat inaccurate) story paints the portrait of a man who, before he dies, truly lives.

Watching the movie through the eyes of a mother who encourages her children to be willing to stand alone, it gave me a whole new perspective on character. It is easy to celebrate William Wallace from my side of the television screen, seeing his passion and understanding his heart. The thought that distracted me from the story and captivated my imagination, however, was how did people perceive Sir William when they didn't share my view? He was ruthless, pillaging and murdering people where ever he went. The English were right to fear him. To borrow a 21st century term, he was a domestic terrorist!

I'm not sure how I'd respond if William Wallace was fighting for freedom today. How would my perspective be changed by the media, which side of the battle I was one (my husband is a descendent of Edward I), and whether Sir William murdered anyone in my family. Would I respect him? Would I consider him a hero?

What about the convictions I hold? Some of my convictions are unpopular; I'm traditional compared to some, but very liberal to others. What if I had to make a choice between submitting to authority (my normal tendency) and living out my convictions? The answer isn't nearly as clear in real life as it is in technicolor on a tv or movie screen.

I wish it was. I wish the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black, and it was obvious when I was tempted by compromise. But it isn't.

Honestly, though I've sought to teach my children to stand alone if necessary, I'm realizing it is much easier to talk about than it is to do. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has their perspective. And everyone seems quite willing to share when they think you are doing something wrong. How can you know truth? The king of England believed he was right. The executioner believed he was right. William Wallace believed he was right. So who really was? And how has our perspective be affected by our culture? Would we still see Sir William as a hero if we couldn't, as a nation, identify with his heart-cry for freedom? What about places where the freedoms we take for granted don't exist? Do they see Sir William as a hero? Do they even know his name?

To stand alone is to invite ridicule, opposition, and persecution. Knowing when to stand requires wisdom. To pass that wisdom and courage on to my children is a much weightier responsibility than I had, to this point, understood. May I have the strength to do my job well, regardless...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First World Problems

Everyone knows the challenges faced by those living in the "Third World;" abject poverty, dismal living conditions, almost non-existent health care. Just getting a drink of fresh, clean water can be more of a challenge than getting a taxi in NYC (though I don't personally know how hard it is to get a cab in NYC). The struggles of those living in the terrible Third World are well documented; just turn on the evening news and you're almost guaranteed to see heart-breaking photos of small children (flies buzzing around their faces) with big, rotund tummies filling the camera's lens.

But we don't live in the Third World. You can turn on the tap, and (generally) safe water comes flowing out. A simple flip of a switch fills the room with light. The grocery store shelves are filled with every manner of treasure, edible and otherwise. Yes, there are starving children in Africa, but it doesn't really seem to impact our daily lives. After all, we don't live in Africa, and our children aren't starving.

We do have problems, here in our First World home. Just ask the Occupy Movement members, or anyone struggling over the income inequality in our country, or someone (like our dear neighbors) who is losing their home, or someone can't find a job (or a job for which they've trained), because of the economic difficulties in our country. These problems are very really (well, income inequality isn't really a problem - it just makes for interesting headlines and effective political fodder), but they are nothing compared to the tragedies faced by so many around the world.

I was reminded of that truth recently. Our power has been going out. It has helped me with some very valuable perspective. I really like electricity. Flooding a room with light at the flip of a switch, pushing a button for climate control, or twisting a dial to get heat for cooking are all wonderful benefits of living in a developed country. And because I've lost the blessing of such conveniences recently, I appreciate them that much more.

Even the health challenges we've experienced over the last eighteen months have been "First World" health challenges! In most of the "undeveloped" or "Third World" infant mortality is significant. Life is harsh and general survival (finding fresh water, having enough food, avoiding ruffians and war lords) is much more important than helping (mildly) crippled boys learn to walk or anxious little girls avoid panic attacks. I'll take the problems I have any day, thank you.

Celebrating Small Steps

The last eighteen months have been pretty brutal. It started with a difficult pregnancy, then a family plague. Then, the baby arrived. Thus began our descent into the chaos of illness, health challenges and the labyrinth of medical professionals and their various opinions.

Now, in addition to medical diagnoses, we've  entered into the netherworld of psychological diagnoses as well. For the better part of two years, survival has been our focus; not thriving, not overcoming.

Just. Simple. Survival.

Success continues to be redefined. Simple milestones haven't been so simple. I've celebrated small victories. But, in celebrating small victories, I've been able to celebrate! We have had victories, small and otherwise, well worth celebrating.

Life is beginning to change. It isn't necessarily that much easier; actually, we have more issues now than we did at this time last year, and more kids with issues. But, I have changed.


In a way, it feels almost like I've hit my stride, if that makes sense. That feels very, very good. Kids still cry, problems (and the ensuing medical appointments) continue to develop. But, I no longer feel so completely overwhelmed or out of control. It is a wonderful, exciting, and rather freeing, feeling.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Not Greatly Shaken

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 62. Though I don't know the exact time it was written, I do know that it was written by David, probably after he became king.

The psalm starts with the words, " For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation." It goes on to say, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken."

It has always been my opinion that the reason David said he was not greatly shaken was because he had been shaken. He was struggling with something difficult. The reason I am of that opinion is because of what David writes a few verses later, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

So what takes David from not being greatly shaken to not being shaken? The answer is in the previous verses, where David explains where he is placing his trust; in God alone.

Faith has been described as confidence properly placed. God is a rock. He is faithful and and a safe place to hide. Faith (or confidence) in Him is properly placed. It can be difficult to choose faith at times, though.

Tonight, I was shaken. I made a mistake, which isn't that uncommon. But tonight, my mistake could have been deadly. As I contemplate it now, I was greatly shaken. My choice (and one that I'm honestly struggling with) is whether I'm going to turn to God, who is my rock, or keep my focus on my failures, wallowing in the slime of self-pity.

The "Faith Process" is a powerful tool that I learned from an amazing couple. The first step is to review the definition of faith, "Faith is choosing to live as though God's Word is true, regardless of circumstances, emotions, or cultural trends."  The second step is to ask myself the question, "If I'm going to live as though God's Word is true, how will I live in this situation?" And finally, ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to live out what is true.

This post is actually a result of putting the Faith Process to work. First, am I going to live as though it is true that God is my rock and my salvation, or not? Second, if I'm going to live as though God is my rock, how am I going to respond to this mistake I've made?

God has given me another verse; Zephaniah 3:17. "He (God) will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will exult over you with loud singing."

I don't feel like something to be rejoiced over you, or exulted (another translation says "delight"). I feel like an irresponsible horrible person who should be exiled for the safety of society. It is a WAY over-the-top response to something that truly isn't that terrible (when someone else does it), but feels terrible to me. Yet, God delights over me?! He rejoices over me with singing. Wow. If I'm going to live as though that is true, I'll certainly not wallow in the pit of despair. If God really is my fortress and my rock, I don't have to be shaken! And God IS my fortress. God is my salvation. And He delights over me (though I don't understand why), with singing!!

So, like the psalmist, I say because God is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be shaken. Instead, I'm going to cry out to my precious Savior for comfort, receive His love, forgiveness, and grace, and go to sleep. My stomach ache is gone, my sense of panic and fear is gone. Finally, more than five hours after the event, I'm feeling sleepy and ready to rest. God is good and I am forgiven. Thank you, Jesus!