Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Criminal Record

At about 10:30 am yesterday, I was in my wheelchair, stopped outside our local Library to wait for John (we were meeting there, as we customarily do, before taking a bus to Boston). Two police cars pulled up, and one officer got out, asking if I needed assistance. I said I didn't; that I was waiting for my husband. Because I have a speech defect, he didn't immediately understand, but I assured him I was okay. That should have ended the matter.

Instead, the officer wanted my name and address. At first, I reminded him (a bit defensively, I admit) that I hadn't done anything wrong, to which he replied that he simply wanted to be sure I was okay. He again asked where I lived, and when I said told him, he condescendingly commented that I was a long way from home. He again demanded my name, address and date of birth. I complied, though I believe asking for any such information violated my rights.

As he was radioing in my information, my John wheeled up. The officer explained to him (as he should have to me) that a "concerned citizen" had called, evidently troubled by the fact that I was out by myself. I had broken no law. I was neither blocking an entrance nor obstructing a sidewalk. My chair had not tipped over. My only "crime" was that I have Cerebral Palsy.

As I see it, disabled citizens of this town don't need to be profiled. Had I been able bodied, no one would have thought anything of my being there. Had I been black or Hispanic, the officer would have been guilty of racial profiling.

Upon returning from Boston last night, instead of doing the Cyber Monday shopping that I'd looked forward to enjoying, I spent the time typing an email to the Chief of Police, explaining what had happened. I told him that I now feel unable to roam about our town unaccompanied, lest I again be subjected to interrogation. I am a adult with a  college degree, a voter and a tax-payer, yet I now feel as if I have no freedom. This feeling is wrong, and the Police Force of our town should not treat persons with disabilities as suspects. Had I engaged in suspicious behavior, I could understand the officer needing my name, address and date of birth (what did my date of birth have to do with it?). But I was waiting for my husband. Able bodied wives do that all the time.

To correct this violation, I told him I want a letter of apology, assuring me that I will, in the future, be allowed to drive my wheelchair on the sidewalks of our town without fear of police interrogation. Further, I strongly suggest that all officers go through sensitivity training, so that citizens of this town with disabilities will be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else.


When I checked my inbox this morning, there was no reply to my email. John called the police, who defended the officer, and said we could call the Inspector at 4:30 this evening. I wanted to take a walk this morning, since going off alone usually helps when I'm angry (and believe me, I'm about the angriest I've been in many years). All he could say was that the officer had a legal right to ask my birth date.

So John called a Town Council member who knows us personally. This man agreed that I'd been wrongly treated, and said he would call the police chief immediately. The chief just called, apologizing (while defending the officer...so not a complete apology), and promising a written apology. He also said he'd retrain the officer, who just joined the force four months ago. I'm hoping they've learned from this incident. All I've learned, sadly, is that I'll never be accepted as a functioning adult.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunflowers By Day

In the summer of 1964, Granny decided to sell her house in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mom arranged to help her prepare it for sale. Since Granny refused to travel by airplane, train travel was the only option. Between San Rafael, California and Jacksonville, she had a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and another daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Overland Park, Kansas. She'd been living with us for nearly a year, Daddy having died unexpectedly a few weeks after she'd come to visit. So the plan evolved that she, Mom, my sister and I would take a six week vacation.

Stopping in Albuquerque, we spent a week visiting the Santo Domingo Pueblo, horseback riding, and enjoying my uncle's practical jokes (which were usually aimed squarely at me). I remember riding double with my uncle, and suddenly breaking into a gallop to chase my sister's horse, who had inexplicably run away with her. I can't remember whether she was frightened or delighted (she was only 8), but afterwards she'd speak lovingly of "her" horse. I wondered at her forgiving attitude.

From there, we went to Kansas, where my sister and I would stay while Mom and Granny went on to Jacksonville. Both my aunt and uncle worked, so their college-aged daughter took charge of her two brothers, my sister and me.

Time won't allow me to go into detail about that glorious month in Kansas. Most of the memories are just fragments. I remember Debbie, a girl just my age who lived across the street from my aunt. We were inseparable, and she brought other girls our age over to play with me. If I recall correctly, she was the one who invited my sister, my youngest cousin and me to Vacation Bible School, where we made paper mache maps of Israel.

I loved living in a house with stairs. My uncle would have to carry me up, of course, but I could "bump" myself down. Indeed, I'd be quite indignant at the mere suggestion of being carried down, as I took enormous delight in my independence, as well as in the stairs themselves.

One day, my oldest cousin had to attend a sorority rush, which left her teenaged brother in charge of us three "little ones" (ages 10, 8 and 7). Said teenager, evidently fond of conducting "experiments," decided that creating a peanut butter and raisin pizza would be a good project. (Way too much sugar in our recipe, by the way.) To say that my aunt was displeased would be a definite understatement. She punished us by making us eat  it (which is how I know it had way too much sugar).

Our days were filled with trips to home construction sites, where we'd get wood and tile scraps for my uncle to form into a house for my Troll doll. Each afternoon, my oldest cousin would read to us: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty and (our favorite) A Wrinkle in Time. My uncle took us up in his plane one day, and Debbie slept over one night. We saw sunflowers by day and fireflies by night, and basked in having my uncle fill the void that Daddy had left nine months earlier. There were stairs and basements, laughter and hugs. And I was happy.

Mom returned to Kansas without Granny, who stayed in Jacksonville presumably to sell her house. We took the train home, stopping in Albuquerque long enough for my uncle to get in one more practical joke (again, directed at me) before heading back to San Rafael. But I treasure all the memories of that summer. I enjoyed reliving them today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

365 Days Of Cheerios

Whew! The 2011 Christmas Newsletter is written and ready to email/mail. Writing it each year, while feeling like a chore, does help me look back over the past year to see how much the Lord has blessed me and John.

Funny, don't you think, how we can meander through 365 days, drinking coffee, making sure floors are vacuumed, paying bills and eating Cheerios without seeing how many blessings the Lord has flung into our laps? We focus on the repetitive, mundane tasks that pull us through each week, almost forgetting the delights of a new Bible Study group, walks to the North End, or seeing the Stanley Cup. And it takes sitting down to compose a Christmas Newsletter to remind you that the year exploded with all sorts of treats.

So I'm glad I do an annual newsletter. Yes, it's work, but it's a good way to count blessings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Preparations

It's the Friday after Thanksgiving. Tradition mandates that I commence working on our annual Christmas Newsletter, which started as my annual Christmas Newsletter in 1978 (practically 20 years before John found me in a chat room).  So I've spent most of today on Paint Shop Pro, creating my digital painting for this year's letter.

Click to view full size
Working on this piece reminded me that, as I see Christmas approach, my first response must be one of worship. I can get caught up in all the cultural expectations of newsletter writing, gift shopping and decorating, and those activities are good. But before anything else, I need to maintain an attitude of worship. Like the wise men, I must see this season as something that calls me to Jesus Christ in adoration, acknowledging that He is worthy of praise, honor and glory. Join me! Let this Christmas be a celebration of Him!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Only ONE?

Sometimes, after feasting on the customary turkey dinner with John's family (usually a small gathering of roughly 40 people), we'll go around the table to let each person say one thing they're thankful for. Obviously, with such a large group, we really need to limit it to one "thank" per person, but for me, the limitation is somewhat frustrating.

The Lord has given me so many wonderful blessings. He's given me, for instance, the best husband imaginable, who fills my life with joy and inspires me to be a godly woman. That's typically the blessing I mention at the Thanksgiving table. I offer it sincerely, because John is everything I always wanted in a husband (only better), and I've never been as happy as I am being his wife! But also, his cousins love hearing me say it, so it's pretty much expected. Hey...if I can be honest and please 39 people in the process, that's a good gig!

Of course, there are so many additional reasons for me to give thanks. Like living near Boston, which I love more than any place I've ever been. And I'm thankful that I've been to so many places, from Hawaii to Wales. I'm thankful to have seen live bull-riding at midnight in San Antonio, and gentle hills in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. I'm thankful for a zany bus tour through Manhattan and a three-day river rafting trip on Oregon's Rouge River. I'm thankful for seeing Big Ben in London and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. But oh, Boston has my heart, and I give thanks for the strolls through the Public Garden, the Freedom Trail Walking Tours lingering at the Old Granary Burial Ground, the cannolis at Quincy Market, and rolling back to South Station down the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

I'm thankful for my mom, who raised me to live beyond my disability, and encouraged me to study writing. I'm thankful that my sister and I were close in age, and therefore able to share so much of our childhood together. I give thanks that, at age 14, I was finally  mainstreamed (if only part-time) into 7th Grade at "regular" school.

See? I've only scratched the surface of reasons to give thanks, and wish I could keep going! The Lord has done so much for me in 58 years--He deserves more thanks than I could ever hope (finite being that I am) to give Him.

But if I could only thank Him for one blessing, it would be for His gift of salvation, which He gave me through Christ's crucifixion and Resurrection. That salvation will allow me to spend eternity with Him, joyfully serving Him and gazing into His eyes. Even then, I'll never be able to thank Him enough! But of all He's given me, this salvation is by far the greatest treasure, because it means I'll always be with Him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Land Of Faith

Linda Smith, a good friend of ours (and director of  Joni and Friends--Greater Boston), bought a wheelchair van several years ago for the purpose of helping her friends who use wheelchairs have recreational outings. In August of 2004, John and I were blessed to go with her to Plimoth Plantation, a re-creation of the Plymouth settlement as scholars believe it was in 1629.

I thought, as Thanksgiving Day approaches, that it might be fun to blog about that excursion with Linda, reflecting on how those early settlers, who came to America seeking to build a Christian society based on Scripture, lived out their commitment to God's principles. Sadly, I've long since lost the email I'd written to friends and family describing the experience, but I'll try to recount a few bits and pieces, peppering them with some of the photos that John took.

The houses on the plantation, interestingly, are quite wheelchair accessible, obviously because they replicate the actual structures that the Seperatists (they didn't call themselves Pilgrims) built. As we entered the first house, I was surprised that the interpreters were dressed, not in the somber tones that most people associate with them, but in bright, cheerful colors.
As anyone who knows me would expect, I was just slightly shy of obnoxious, excitedly asking a wide array of questions. I felt as if I was a guest at a huge banquet, looking over a vast table of choice meats and delicious desserts, and I wanted to make certain that I sampled as many dishes as humanly possible!

One of my questions was "How do you take care of disabled people?" After converting my inquiry to 17th Century terminology ("Oh,,,you mean cripples!"), the man in gold explained that the community (or, to use his word, "parish") cared for its own. I remembered that this plantation was based on shared faith, and wondered if they would approve of a state-run attendant care programs.

As you can see by the above photograph of me and Linda, the beds were in the main room of each house, usually opposite the open hearth used for cooking.

One of the women explained that their woolen skirts protected them from flying sparks when they cooked meals, and that our bare legs would easily be burned. Another man, responding to our question as to his opinion on how we dressed, wittily replied, "I did not want to be rude in speaking, but I figured you had fallen on hard times to be so poorly clothed."

At one point, we asked them their beliefs on education. One man told us that they made it a high priority to teach children (both boys and girls) to read, so that they would be able to read the Scriptures for themselves. How sad that now, almost 400 years later, public schools do all they can to discredit the Bible, not permitting children to have them on campus!
Still, I'm grateful for those Christians, who sought to have a land where Christ would rule. Although their vision perished, and America crept steadily toward the secular land that now marginalizes those who consider the Bible to be anything more than "great literature," I rejoice that the Seperatists at least tried to establish a land that honored the Lord.

Thanks Linda, for taking me and John back to a time of simple living and deep faith.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Should We Thank?

This time of year, people traditionally list things/people/circumstances for which they give thanks. And that's good. Perhaps our country would better better off if we dispensed with our entitlement mentality and realized that everything we enjoy (down to the very air we breathe) is a gift to us, not a fundamental right that we can claim. I believe I'm a more mature person as a result of shifting my focus from what I don't have (and would like) to the abundance of blessings that flood in, around and through my life. Being thankful has, in short, counteracted my dissatisfaction with life. I feel less entitled to things.

But aimless thankfulness still misses the mark, it seems to me. Thankfulness requires a benefactor. Someone is responsible for providing these blessings.

God.

Well, yes. But can we define our terms? Is God an undefined spiritual energy which conforms to whatever spiritual expression suits a given person? From my observation of American culture, particularly in the last 50 years, that certainly appears to be the prevailing attitude, even among professing Christians. This all-inclusive entity makes no personal demands, and can be conveniently fashioned into whatever image fits our ideals and lifestyles, so that he/she/it exists for our benefit. It's all very comfortable to thank such a well-mannered God. He/she/it is wonderfully tame, and doesn't much interfere in our lives (bothering us with such nuisances as values and--gasp--commands) unless we invite his/her/its intervention.

Of course, the true God is a definite Person Who reveals Himself in the Bible. He lived in Israel for 33 years in the early First Century, and died for our sins, only to be raised three days later as evidence that the Father accepted His sacrifice. Having accepted the punishment for sins that we committed, He rightfully claims authority over us. Those who willingly yield to His authority easily recognize how abundantly He bestows His blessings, knowing how little we deserve anything good. How thankful I am!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Food, Prayer And Demands

Today's Adult Sunday School virtually exploded with joyous recounts of yesterday's astounding experiences with the Brookville Basket Food Pantry, a ministry affiliated with (but broader than) Brookville Baptist Church. The Food Pantry, in addition to providing food for the hungry in Holbrook, MA and its surrounding towns, will celebrate its second anniversary this coming January. Yesterday had been the most exciting, as well as the most exhausting, day in the Food Pantry's young history, as a record 198 clients began lining up outside the church at 7:30 am...2 1/2 hours before the Pantry opened its doors.

For over 15 minutes, Michelle Yundt (who directs the ministry that she began in response to the Lord's dealings with her) and other members of the Food Pantry's all-volunteer staff eagerly told stories of 6400 (nope that second zero is not a typo) pounds of food being distributed yesterday, of the crowd in the Eubanks Prayer Room who heard the Gospel being presented, and of the 36 people who (after receiving their food) filled the upstairs classroom to attend the optional Bible Study.

From that point, our Sunday School teacher launched into excited narratives of past Food Pantry "glory stories" (to use Brookville Baptist Church vernacular). He told of praying for a woman who had a brain tumor. The next time she came to the Food Pantry, she joyfully informed him that the tumor had disappeared! He told us of a new mother whose baby was still in the hospital and not expected to survive, asking him to pray with her for the baby. Two weeks later, she came back with her baby, who was perfectly healthy!

Michelle then affirmed how lavishly God answered her prayer for money yesterday, as she felt overwhelmed by the enormous influx of clients lining up all the way to the corner of the street. Clearly, she'd need to buy more food. As she prayed, a co-worker from the bank that employs her drove up, offering her a substantial check for the Food Pantry. At the end of the day, Food Pantry volunteers were begging clients to take extra meat!

Finally, my husband again brought us back to the passage of Scripture that we'd been considering  before the discussion on the Food Pantry broke out. James 4:1-3 says:


1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Undoubtedly knowing what I'd been thinking, John contrasted the Brookville Basket Food Pantry with the Occupy Boston protesters who demand a $20  minimum wage, free college education and forgiveness of student loans. They are not humbly asking the Lord for resources that they can use to offer practical and spiritual assistance to the truly poor. They are instead demanding that billionaires (many of whom give generously to charities) be forced to give them a bigger slice of pie.

Somehow, I believe the Brookville Basket Food Pantry honors God. Occupy Boston? Well, ask yourself how they hold up against James 4:1-3.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Righteous Is My Indignation?

Because my father passed away just before my tenth birthday, my memories of him are rather scant. In general, I never used to associate him with anger, instead focusing on his abundant love for me. I can recall, for instance, the amused paternal pride in his eyes when I said something funny, and his faithfulness to warm my leg braces on the radiant heat floor each winter morning so they wouldn't feel cold when he put them on me. A favorite memory is the father-daughter pool party my Girl Scout troop had, when he and I ate a whole bowl of potato chips all by ourselves.

Years later, as I directed rehearsal for a Sunday School Christmas play, I caught a glimpse of Daddy in myself that shocked me. The kids had been unruly that year, and I'd warned them that if their behavior didn't improve, I'd have to cancel the play. Well...suffice it to say, they didn't amend their behavior. But instead of calmly informing them that they'd just forfeited their privilege of being in the Christmas program (which, I see now, would have been the best way of handling their disobedience), I flew into a tirade which concluded with the shouted words: "I don't want to look at your faces!"

As those vicious words left my mouth, I immediately flashed back to Daddy yelling the very same words when my sister and I did something that he didn't like. I'd learned, apparently from his example, to control people with my rage.

Throughout my life, I've continued using anger to bully people. Thankfully, the Lord has patiently been teaching me to exercise self-control, and I see progress as my outbursts decrease in frequency, length and intensity. Sadly, I still have a long way to go in  repenting of this sin, but Jesus is  slowly but surely having His way. I cling to Him in this matter, knowing that I'll easily fall back into old patterns if I'm left to my own devices.

In my struggle to repent of anger, I've learned some ugly things about myself. One discovery is that, in many instances, I rationalize it by spinning it as "righteous indignation." When I unleashed my fury on the Sunday School kids that afternoon, I convinced myself that I was teaching them the seriousness of disobedience. Through my explosion, I reasoned, they would learn that misbehavior had serious consequences. Yes, I thought in proud self-congratulation, I had actually done them a service!

Never mind that the lesson would have been infinitely more effective if I had calmly canceled the play.

Seldom is my anger truly righteous, though in many cases I deluded myself otherwise, Even anger against societal sin, whether it be Joe Paterno's shortcomings in reporting Sandusky's abuse of children, corporate greed such as Solyndra accepting a government bailout, or the countless unborn children slaughtered at taxpayer expense since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, must be held up to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. In my anger, righteous though it may be, am I trusting God to bring judgment in His time, or do I believe I have the authority to exercise vengeance on His behalf? Have I forgotten Romans 12:17-21, the passage of Scripture that attracted me to Jesus in the first place?

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

  

      “ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
      For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

  
 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Lord is, I assure you, continuing to move me into repentance regarding anger. As much as I still love my earthly father and see qualities in him that I'd do well to emulate, I want to have a temperament that instead reflects my Heavenly Father. I want to trust Him, rather than myself, to correct the very real wrongs in the world. Perhaps He should begin by correcting the very real wrongs in me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Speaking Against Injustice

Sunday, in my zeal to make a point combined with inadequate sleep the night before, I grossly overstated an idea that had been germinating in my mind a few days prior to my post. I wrote; "The Bible explicitly teaches that, even though injustice abounds, fighting against it simply draws us into different, but equally reprehensible, forms of corruption." My good friend Kim, who has always been faithful to correct me when I've deviated from Scripture (I love that about Kim), challenged that sentence. Throughout this week, I've known that I needed to own my irresponsibility.

The Bible does teach than human anger, by and large, is tainted by sin. When I wrote my sentence, James 1:20 served as my inspiration:

for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

And that's obviously an important Scripture in light of the Occupy Movement. I concede that the protesters, in some respects, are trying to address corporate greed, which is a real evil (though I believe they're overreacting and countering it with demands that would devastate our country). However, their anger is becoming destructive, as I noted yesterday. As understandable as their indignation is, they are now showing their own corruption. No where, in this protest, do I see godly righteousness.

Yet, juxtaposed against the story of the Occupy Movement, we grapple with the terrible silence of Penn State's Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary, who didn't take reports of Sandusky's sexual abuse of children beyond the school's administration. When the school turned a blind eye to Sandusky's crimes, Paterno and McQueary had a legal (not to mention a moral) obligation to take their allegations off-campus and to the police. Hopefully, they were incensed at the sexual exploitation of those young boys. And such outrage, being the only proper response to such reprehensible child abuse, should have compelled them to be relentless in making certain that Sandusky was fired and prosecuted!

Would not reporting such things as the sexual abuse of children fall under God's command in Isaiah 1:17?

Learn to do good;
      Seek justice,
      Rebuke the oppressor;
      Defend the fatherless,
      Plead for the widow. 

Yes. Of course it would! And whether or not Kim had the Penn State scandal in mind when she questioned my statement, the incident definitely illustrates that there are times that anger should motivate decisive action, especially when inaction puts innocent people (vulnerable children, at that) in harm's way.

Does Kim therefore think that the rage that the Occupy Movement displays is pure? She is invited to speak for herself by posting a comment on this post. But based on all I've known in my 14-year friendship with her (wow, Kim, has it been that long since Memphis?), I tend to doubt it. I appreciate her challenge because she called me to use God's Word accurately...and I suspect she wanted to see His Word honored more than she wanted to see our shared views on the Occupy Movement defended. I agree!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Boston Harbor And Manhattan

It's 4:06 PM, EST, as I begin typing this blog post. If everything went according to plan, thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters shut down the subway in New York City this afternoon as a demonstration against corporate greed and economic inequality. Earlier today, those same protesters unsuccessfully attempted to close several banks in Manhattan, as well as shutting down the New York Stock Exchange. After I publish this post, I guess I'll check the news to see what really happened...


Are such actions analogous to those of the Sons Of Liberty dumping caseloads of tea into Boston Harbor on December 6, 1773? I suppose so...especially in their minds. In both situations, anger compelled people towards destructive activity. The difference between the 1773 protest in Boston and the 2011 protest in Manhattan, however, is that ordinary citizens in Colonial Boston were merely deprived of tea, whereas today's demonstration interrupted lives of thousands of New Yorkers who, by going to work or shopping, all play a part in keeping the economy going. Additionally, today's protest threatened public safety, not to mention costing taxpayers goodness-knows how much money, in contrast to the Boston Tea Party's purpose of standing against oppressive taxation.

Our Founding Fathers never opposed protest as a way of redressing grievances, but I'm unsure that they would have condoned protests that threatened to harm free enterprise or jeopardized  the safety of ordinary people. Maybe one could make the case that the Revolutionary War, in fact, did both those things temporarily for the purpose of freeing America from England's tyranny, but I would suggest, as a counter-argument, that the goals of Occupy Wall Street (if I understand their website correctly) would actually result in the tyrannical system of Socialism. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll prefer Boston's protest, praying that no New Yorkers suffered more than minor inconveniences today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beautiful Ending

It's getting cold, despite the fact that yesterday was near 70 degrees. I'm guessing that our Boston Adventures may be over for a while, though I'm more than willing to be surprised. We visited the Boston Public Library, wanting 1) to be indoors and 2) to see its exhibit, Torn In Two, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, emphasizing Boston's part in the conflict. We didn't take pictures, being unsure if doing so would be permissible.

Oddly, but thankfully, the library has a small cafe, saving us a trip to the Prudential Center. After lunch, we left the library to find that temperatures had become very pleasant, so we scratched our plan to take the Commuter Rail from Back Bay Station to South Station in favor of driving our wheelchairs through the Public Garden. We definitely made the right decision, as evidenced by these photos John took:


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Response, Bible-Style

So, we've agreed with Occupy Wall Street that banks and corporations (even "green" corporations like Solyndra) misused Stimulus monies. Not all big banks, perhaps, and not all corporations; let's be careful not to paint with too big of a brush. But yes, abuses did happen, and denying that fact would be worse than dishonest. I do still believe that some lenders pocketed money in efforts to recoup losses incurred when government regulations forced them into giving mortgages to low-income people who couldn't afford houses, and I have a hard time begrudging them their profits. But yes, there were abuses, and that fact must be acknowledged.

It does not follow, however, that squatting on public property while taxpayers finance the police protection for encampments (and in some cases) pay for riots as major seaports are closed and property is damaged constitutes an appropriate response to the sins of Wall Street. At least, not for those who claim to be Christian.The Bible explicitly teaches that, even though injustice abounds, fighting against it simply draws us into different, but equally reprehensible, forms of corruption. As I see it, the tent city on Boston's Dewey Square visibly depicts how a beautiful public park, which people used to enjoy on sunny afternoons, can be...well, corrupted by protesters on an indefinite camp-out for which they have no permit.



Urban Beautification?
But both the occupiers and those of us who just want our city parks back need to understand that injustice is inherent in sinful humanity. As we live with its stench, we must remember what the Holy Spirit said through David in Psalm 37:7-11.

7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
         Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
         Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
         Do not fret—it only causes harm.
        
 9 For evildoers shall be cut off;
         But those who wait on the LORD,
         They shall inherit the earth.
 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
         Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
         But it shall be no more.
 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
         And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What? No Justice?

The story I shared yesterday always irked me, especially once I'd become a Christian. "Of course there is justice," I'd fume self-righteously, thinking of Christ's return. And I had a valid point. When the Lord returns, in all His splendor, He will judge all of mankind throughout history, executing a justice that we really don't want, showing mercy only to those whose sins are covered by His blood. Those who reject His mercy, falsely believing in their own "goodness," will experience a terrible, but perfect, justice. That's why I plead with people to confess their utter sinfulness and cling to Him as Savior. His blood shed for the remission of sin has satisfied God's justice!

But the Occupy movement has caused me to revisit my relative's story, this time taking it as a lesson for this present life. While true justice is with the Lord Jesus Christ, we rarely see His justice played out in the world. We see exploitation, deception, greed and unfairness. Scripture tells us that all these maladies result from Adam's rebellion, which has turned all of creation against the Lord. See Romans 1:18-32 for God's indictment against humanity. (I'll wait while you click the link.)

As I meditate on that passage of Scripture, I see that all the corruption on Wall Street is quite inevitable, as is the anarchy in Oakland, California. Without the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence only in the hearts of those who surrender their lives to Him, corruption is a forgone conclusion. Admittedly, not all people show themselves to be corrupt. Many, in fact, appear quite altruistic. But as 1 Timothy 5:24 says, some people's sins are visible now, while those of others won't be seen until the day of Judgement. Either way, it's useless to expect anything less than corruption in a society that's comprised of sinful human beings who reject the Lord's authority over their lives.

We can shut down the Fed, establish socialism, capitalism (or a hybrid of the two), and congratulate ourselves for striking a blow against economic inequality, but it won't take long for corruption to reappear. The real problem, you see, is in each of our hearts, and can only find resolution when Jesus Christ returns to reign over the whole earth. Until He comes, the words of my relative's high school principal must help us through the inequalities that always accompany life: "There ain't no justice."


Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lost Perspective

One of my family members, famous for her stories of growing up in the South during the Great Depression, often told me the story of getting a bad grade on a high school paper she wrote. She was usually an excellent student, unused to poor grades, but her outrage really wasn't the wrath of a spoiled child. She had worked especially hard on this particular paper, and absolutely knew it deserved higher marks.

With the righteous indignation that is so pronounced in teenagers, my relative marched into the principal's office, demanding that he read her paper. She sat in front of him as he read, struggling to conceal her impatience. At last, he finished reviewing it. She looked him, afraid he would back her teacher, yet hoping he would agree with her.

As she searched his face pleadingly, he admitted, "Well, you're right. This paper deserves a better grade."

"Then you'll make her change it?" My relative was giddy with the euphoria of vindication, and felt empowered against her teacher's tyrannical misconduct. Right was on her side, so justice would simply have to prevail!

But the principal shook his head, saying sadly,  "No, I've decided to let this grade stand."

Understandably, the girl  was now more outraged than ever! She fought her Irish temper, but found self-control to be both elusive and, to be quite honest, undesirable in the face of such an obvious affront. As her young body shook under the building rage, her eyes flashed with the potent mixture of defiance and frustration, betraying her determination to win this battle. From deep in her soul, she yelled, "But it's not fair!"

Saying her name in a way that instantly calmed her, the principal explained his decision: "This school has taught you to read and write well, and your paper proves it. But there's a lesson you need to learn from this incident that I believe is much more important, and will prepare you for adult life. If you remember nothing else from your years here, I want you to remember these four words: There ain't no justice!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Completed Project

Ten months ago, I started drawing a portrait of a very special lady. As usual, I procrastinated quite a bit, especially over the more detailed aspects such as the facial features and the scarf, knowing such detailed work is both tedious and nerve-wracking.


I prayed daily to be more consistent in following through on this project, but then invented all sorts of convenient excuses to avoid doing so. Playing Bookworm seemed much more of a priority when I reasoned that word games keep one's mind sharp. And, after all, I've reached that age at which mental exercise is important. Never mind the fact that drawing the details of a scarf also offers a good mental challenge...in fact, it offers substantially more of a challenge than playing Bookworm does. Yes, well...


So, I finished it today. Before I show it to you, however, I need those of you who recognize this lady to promise not to identify her, even by innuendo, in any comments you may offer. I drew this portrait to express my love and respect for her, so it's crucial that her privacy also receives the respect of both me and my readers.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Government Would Work?

An octopus is slimy, curling its tentacles in odd, haphazard directions. And usually, according to staff members at the New England Aquarium, it retreats from those who would study it (even on a cursory level). In short, putting pantyhose on one, while perhaps good for showing agility and courage, makes for a task that is both daunting and overwhelming.

Eventually, I hope to address more of the grievances and demands of Occupy Wall Street. Of course, I'll first need to search my heart, making sure I'm not doing so in an effort to show myself as a clever debater. The truth is that I'm not an economist. John has helped me understand basic things, and Townhall.com has verified many of his assertions. As a former Democrat (oh yes...I rode the Donkey most of my adult life), I remember flinching when people questioned entitlement programs or asked why the wealthy should pay a higher percentage of taxes than they already payed. John, Townhall.com, and other conservative sources have challenged my liberal politics, and I believe I'm more educated on how the economy works than I was as a Democrat. But I'm primarily a student of theology, not politics.

And so, as much as systematically dealing with #0WS point-by-point might flatter my ego, I must be honest about my shortcomings. I'm studying the issues the protesters raise, and will continue studying, but I can't claim expertise. But neither, I suspect, can most of the protesters.

What I can claim, however, is that I know Scripture. Within that claim, I can unreservedly say that capitalism, socialism, democracy and monarchy are all flawed forms of government, and doomed to failure. I'll say it another way: all man-made governments, no matter how altruistic  their beginnings may be, will ultimately fall to corruption because humans are...well, corrupt. Left to ourselves, all of us are greedy and perverted. Not just Wall Street. Not just Capitol Hill. But you and I.

Segments of the Religious Right hope to make America a "Christian" nation. As much as I believe the Puritans who first settled New England had that vision, and as sad as I am when I visit their graves and tombs at King's Chapel Burying Ground, I know that any Christian government this side of Christ's Second Coming will again unravel. I pray we will retain Judeo-Christian values in this country (if nothing else, out of respect for our Puritan forefathers), but human effort can never really contrive the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, His rule is, ultimately, the only real answer. When He returns, true righteousness and justice will prevail.  Not because human beings have brought corporate America to its knees, or because entitlement programs have been abolished, or even because prayer has been restored in public schools. No, righteousness and justice will prevail because Jesus, our very Creator, will at last bring His rule to earth. When that happens, there will be no need to address the grievances of Occupy Wall Street...or anyone else!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deep Waters And Flame

Although I would like to re-enter the "Hymns vs. Praise Songs" debate, I'm not sharing the following hymn lyrics as a way of pleading my case for incorporating more hymns into church services. At least, not in this blog post. I may, in the future, explore that topic, probably to the consternation of several friends from various churches I've belonged to over the years, but today I want to share my favorite hymn as an answer to all the social, economic and political upheaval going on in the world right now.

First, I'll post a YouTube video, allowing you to enjoy the soothing melody, with its hint (as I see it) of Irish cadences.


As I sang this song in my head at 3:30 this morning, the security it depicts startled me! Based mostly on God's promise in Isaiah 43:1-2, "How Firm A Foundation" reminds us that, even though the Lord will allow us to go through the deep waters of sorrow and the fiery trials of life, we can lean on Him.

Certainly. my flesh is tempted to fear the repression that will come as America moves toward greater degrees of socialism, which should explain my apprehension regarding Occupy Wall Street, Obama's Health Care bill and other items favored by liberal politics. As I've been forced to rely on entitlement programs, I've experienced the restrictions and regulations that go along with them. (Citing those restrictions and regulations would violate family privacy, so I am not at liberty to divulge them on the Internet.) I believe that, as government increases its role in subsiding the populace, many American freedoms will necessarily be erased.

From what I see, those with liberal political leanings (and remember, I used to be in their camp) fear economic disaster as much as conservatives do. As I fear government control, they fear that a wealthy "class" will consume too many resources, leaving an economic disparity like the one experienced in the Great Depression.

Both groups fear economic collapse. Well, no matter which group "wins" the power struggle that Occupy Wall Street has brought to the public's attention (they didn't create it; they merely brought it to light), I believe that collapse will come. Whether Wall Street triggers it or Washington does, we will go through some very dark days.

For those who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, the hardships (though very real and horrible) can't totally break us. We know that there's a future after physical death, and that He will use our present suffering to prepare us for His Kingdom. He has given us the firm foundation of His presence, promising it to us in His Word (the Bible). And that's a profoundly better foundation than either government or the economy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another World Of Politics

As disturbing as the Occupy movement is, the Lord has been challenging me about my attitude towards it. No, I'm not abandoning my conviction that capitalism, despite its flaws and abuses, is preferable to the socialist model inherent in the protesters "unofficial" demands. These demands, I believe, would seriously hurt our nation, without truly abolishing a wealthy 1%. As I see it (partly based on contact I have with people in Eastern European countries), socialism would further oppress the 99%...especially those of us who are disabled and/or elderly.

But as I've prayed about my attitude towards Occupy Boston and the Occupy movement as a whole, several Scriptures have come to mind, causing me to reevaluate just how much I should invest myself in political matters in the first place. I've remembered that Jesus came to a people that expected the Messiah to be a political Savior, liberating them from the tyranny and oppression of Rome. How disappointed they must have been when He then conceded that they should (instead of overthrowing their oppressors) obediently pay taxes to that ungodly, brutal government! Matthew 22:15-22 records the incident:

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”
So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

The context, clearly, is that the Pharisees were hoping to "out" Jesus, either as an insurrectionist (thus turning Rome against Him) or as a false messiah (thus impotent to bring deliverance). To their great frustration, He instead offered a model of living humbly by the laws of human government while having primary loyalty to God's Kingdom.

At His trial before Pilate, who assumed he had ultimate power to either free or condemn Him, Jesus stated:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”~~John 18:36

Although Jesus had legions of angels at His disposal (see Matthew 26:51-53), He had an eternal purpose in refusing to fight both the Jewish and the Roman systems that had, in a peculiar alliance, become the agents of His crucifixion. He could have established His Kingdom in power, decimating both corrupt systems. But He instead voluntarily submitted to the abuse, determined to pay the penalty for your sin and mine, for the sin of the greedy CEO and the Occupy Boston protester on Dewey Square, by shedding His blood on the cross.

I don't approve of the socialist ideas that the Occupy movement represents, but neither do I believe right-wing politics will save the world. No human system could hope to overcome poverty and injustice. Both Wall Street and the Occupy movement are consuming taxpayer dollars, further steering our country to certain economic disaster. It encourages me, therefore, to remember that Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. I think I'd do best to obey Christ's command in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
 


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Octopus' Head Examined

A dear friend has kindly sent me links regarding  corporate greed and abuse of stimulus monies, allowing me to deal with the strongest tentacle of the Occupy Wall Street "octopus." Yes, I've looked at several of the links already, and I'm learning. I'm not afraid of the truth, even when it contradicts assumptions that make me comfortable. If abuse is as prevalent as the Occupiers claim, of course I want to face up to it. At the same time, agreeing with them that Wall Street probably acted corruptly doesn't necessarily validate the general attitude of their protest.

As I understand their websites, placards, and media sound bytes, they're angry that 1% of the country is wealthy, while 99% struggle to make ends meet. They feel entitled to some of what the 1% has, so they are building encampments on public property, consuming tax dollars in the form of police overtime and public utilities (at least in Boston's Dewey Square) until wealth is "redistributed" to give them (among other things) a $20 minimum wage, debt forgiveness and free college educations. Gee--that certainly is a nice wish-list!

The problem I see in their movement is that they envy people with money. Even if the rich acquire money through bonuses and kickbacks, the sin of envy on Main Street is every bit as corrupt as any shady deals on Wall Street and Capitol Hill. To these protesters, I'd present the challenge to cast out logs in their own eyes.

Comparing themselves to the affluent 1% is, I concede, a natural human tendency. I can remember the envy I nurtured in my heart during my two years in Memphis, listening to my co-workers talk about their homes and marriages, and feeling resentful that I was single and living in a nursing home. When they encouraged me to be grateful for a roof over my head, food in  my belly and people to get me up each morning, you bet I felt like smacking them! But, as angry as I was that I couldn't have the goodies that they had, I was even angrier that their comments exposed my sin of ingratitude.

Rather than comparing myself to my co-workers, I believe the Lord wanted me to compare myself to the blind, non-verbal quadriplegic two doors down from me whose mother wouldn't even touch him when she visited. Or the woman who had been disabled when a drunk driver smashed into her car, killing her baby and damaging her mind and body so severely that her husband immediately  filed for divorce. Or all those with Cerebral Palsy that had spent their entire adult lives in that roach-infested place, with no hope of getting out. Had I contrasted my life to theirs, I think I would have been much more grateful for all the Lord had given me.

The Occupiers don't possess the level of wealth that the 1% enjoys, and many do face genuine struggles. But do they (when the aren't occupying public parks) have small homes with dirt floors, like the boy in Indonesia that John and I sponsor through Compassion International? Do they die alone in unsanitary Kenyan hospitals, like the AIDS patients a friend of mine helps day-in-and-day-out? Do they look forward to one hot meal a week, like the lepers in Tanzania that another friend of mine feeds? If they want to cry out against inequity, why don't they join world relief organizations?

In His time, the Lord will judge corrupt bankers. But He will also judge those who, consumed by envy, throw indefinite camp-outs at tax-payers' expense, demanding their slice of the billionaires' pie. Regardless of how much corporate America may or may not have lined their pockets with stimulus money, the unbridled envy the protesters boldly demonstrate also grieves the Holy Spirit. Wouldn't gratitude, followed by actions to help less fortunate people be more appropriate?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Being Teachable

Some people have defended the Occupy Wall Street movement against my criticisms by making broad allusions to "corporate greed," mentioning CEOs that have lined their pockets with stimulus dollars. As surprising as it may be, I'm sure some abuses did indeed occur. But, having seen little actual documentation of such fraud, I naturally have questions.

Which CEOs, for instance, pocketed monies? Which ones were given exorbitant bonuses? Why were such bonuses given? How much of this "misuse" happened simply to recoup losses incurred as a result of the Community Reinvestment Act? Are all banks culpable? Why isn't Obama equally culpable?

Thomas Sowell, one of my favorite columnists, raised some points in today's column, Democracy Versus Mob Rule, that countered Occupy's allegations of "corporate greed."


Among the favorite sloppy words used by the shrill mobs in the streets is "Wall Street greed." But even if you think people in Wall Street, or anywhere else, are making more money than they deserve, "greed" is no explanation whatever.
"Greed" says how much you want. But you can become the greediest person on earth and that will not increase your pay in the slightest. It is what other people pay you that increases your income.
If the government has been sending too much of the taxpayers' money to people in Wall Street -- or anywhere else -- then the irresponsibility or corruption of politicians is the problem. "Occupy Wall Street" hooligans should be occupying Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.
Maybe some of the bankers or financiers should have turned down the millions and billions that politicians were offering them. But sainthood is no more common in Wall Street than on Pennsylvania Avenue -- or in the media or academia, for that matter.
Actually, some banks did try to refuse the government bailout money, to avoid the interference with their business that they knew would come with it. But the feds insisted -- and federal regulators' power to create big financial problems for banks made it hard to say no. The feds made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Agreed, Sowell failed to substantiate his points too (I'm considering sending him an email to ask where he gets his information). As a disabled person forced to rely on government subsidies, however, I tend to believe that the feds forced the banks to accept bailouts. Call it intuition based on experience, why don'cha.

All this to say, I'm still studying this tentacle of the octopus, and I need help from both sides of this argument. Please send me links supporting or refuting Occupy Wall Street's claims of malfeasance and corporate greed. I'm not as educated on this point as I should be, and I'm very willing to learn. Hopefully, all of us are.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Understanding My Place

Addressing the concerns raised by both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party must be done, and done with careful responsibility. If either side makes claims, let them offer substantiation, instead of assuming their allegations are established facts that should be universally accepted uncritically. If I continue blogging about the Occupation, I will require myself to research Occupy's claims, but I will insist on documentation supporting their grievances. Hard work, I know! And perhaps I'll discover that some of what they say has validity. Let me rephrase that: I'm certain I'll discover that some of what they say has validity!

Having said that, I believe I need to get this entire matter in perspective. As I prayed during my time with the Lord this morning, using the prayer list that I've created on e-Sword, I took a moment to think seriously about a prayer that I pray on a daily basis:

That I'd set my mind on things above, being conscious that my inheritance is in heaven. That I'd live in awareness that I'm a citizen of heaven, and therefore an alien to earthly things. That I'd gain an eternal perspective, realizing that this present life merely prepares me for eternity with Jesus. That my time in God's Word would increase my anticipation of heaven.

I began praying this prayer in response to my study of 1 Peter, which emphasizes our alienation from this world, which operates on human principles (and thus will always be flawed at best). Peter's main theme in his epistle is that those who have been begotten of God  have an eternal inheritance that lies well beyond the politics and customs of man-made societies, and consequently we must view ourselves primarily as citizens of heaven. 1 Peter 1:3-5 sets the tone for Peter's thesis:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

My prayer also drew on Colossians 3:1-2, which is one of the passages of Scripture I've memorized:

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

This present life is imperfect, in part, to stand in contrast to all that the Lord has in store for those who belong to Him. Therefore, looking for a perfect governmental system, or any type of societal justice, before Christ returns to establish His kingdom, automatically consigns us to profound disappointment! Tea Party proponents (with whom I sympathize for the most part) can never really create an America of limited government and Judeo-Christian values. But Occupy Wall Street, if they succeed in creating a Socialist America, will find that their utopia just oppresses the 99% all the more.

So, while I hope that our great nation swings its pendulum  more in the Tea Party's direction, I need to remember that the United States is only a temporary dwelling place for me. I will spend eternity where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father's throne, ruling with justice and righteousness. Until then, all human government will be disappointing, and no amount of political revolution (from any ideology) will satiisfy us. So if I continue blogging about this current attempt at American Revolution, let me keep my focus on the coming King and His agenda.

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