A Craving for America

I already published this very post a month ago for the 4th of July, but in the wake of the recent Chick-fil-a controversy, I wanted to rework it a little and share it once more, in the hopes that it will pull our eyes off of the ridiculous spectacle that is being fed to us on television and through social media. It might seem like America has gone off-the-charts crazy, but go outside and look down your street. Everything is alright. Keep standing for your rights, eat some chicken if you want, but remember how our battles are really fought…in the voting booth, in the education of our children, and in our rational and gentle discussions with those we meet face to face.

~

We were pulling into a parking spot at Chick-fil-a last month when our 5-year old son, Gideon, reverently breathed from the backseat…

“Papa…I’ve never been this close to a ‘Kuhmerican’ flag before…”

Looking out the window, my eyes landed on a flagpole next to the fast food restaurant that went up, up, up…

and at the very top gloriously waved a humongous American flag.

My heart melted a little.

It doesn’t take much, does it, to capture the wonder of a child? Their little eyes have a way of appreciating the simplest things in life, and I was reminded in the midst of our busy day to look up for a moment and gaze upon the beauty of our country’s flag waving majestically in the wind.

“Do you want to touch the flagpole?” Mr. Gore asked him.

“Yes!” Gideon exclaimed, and all thoughts of lunch were momentarily put aside as our family took a tiny field trip to the Chick-fil-a flagpole, to reach out and touch the metal that hoisted that very important statement of our freedom seemingly all the way up to the sky.

It was a brief and random moment in an otherwise hectic week, but it seated itself in my heart and fanned a longing that I’ve been having as our nation continues to wade through murky political turmoil…

I’ve got a craving for America.

Not the one that is found in the partisan arguments between liberals and conservatives on news channels…

Not the one that is written between the lines of the biased and sensationalist story shared in the newspaper…

Not the one that is found in every other status update on Facebook…

Not the one that is found in the ruthless and hateful comments following every article and blog post on the internet…

The voices of the people on my television and computer screens have become so loud and so vitriolic that I don’t know who to believe anymore. I have grown callous to their arguments and suspicious of their intentions ~ do they really care? Are the statistics they are sharing from an unbiased source? Do they truly want change or are they trying to make a buck or a name for themselves? What is their agenda, really?…

And I’m not the only one who feels that way. The spirit of my countrymen has become so bitter and jaded that few are really listening anymore; we have become like partisan robots who immediately agree with everything our political party says or we vehemently disagree with our opponents. On every. single. issue.

When we don’t get our way on those issues, we become fatalistic, as if America is dead. Freedom is dead. The “land of plenty” is a cursed wilderness…

But I’m looking around me, and even though I strongly disagree with many of the views our President stands for, and even though laws are being passed that cause my heart to painfully groan within me, and even though there are a thousand things I would change if I were given the power to do so, this is what I see…

I have good roads to drive on.

The mail is delivered to my mailbox every single day.

I am free to worship God as loudly and as consistently as I choose.

I have thousands of people I have never met who are training or are already trained to protect me – with their lives – if the need arises.

I have the right to school my children at home, and if I change my mind, there is a fully-equipped public school minutes from our house.

There are no bathrooms or water fountains in my town or my state or my country that can be used by only one race.

There are police officers, and firemen, and medical professionals a phone call away if I need help, day or night.

There is a grocery store down the street that contains more food choices in its tiny square footage than people have probably ever had in the history of the world.

I am a stay-at-home mom who is married to a pastor of a small church, and with our modest income, we still fit in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people. Because we’re Americans.

And no matter what the media says about which way our country is going, I still have my vote and I still have my freedom of speech.

I’m sure a Christian from ancient Greece or a suffragette from the 1900’s or a black man from the enslaved South or a Jew from Hitler’s Germany would absolutely love to trade lives with me, even if just for one day.

And so here’s what I want for my country as election day draws near…

some solidarity.

some patriotism.

some gratitude.

some respect for the office of President, no matter my political party.

some kindness.

I want to be heard without being labeled a close-minded conservative or a bigot or a nutcase Southern Baptist and I want to share my honest opinions and heartfelt beliefs without being called “judgmental”.

I want to hear the opinions of others with compassion and understanding, even if I know in my heart I will never agree with them.

I want to be well-informed and knowledgeable about our country’s state of affairs without being used as a pawn in a political game or to increase a show’s television ratings.

I want to use my most important tool of freedom, my vote, with pride and conviction.

I want to use my most important tool for lasting change, prayer, and faithfully beseech God on behalf of our nation and my fellow citizens, every single day.

I want to instruct the children in my sphere that change, in a democracy, always begins with you, not the folks in Washington D.C. or the people in high places.

I want to treat President Obama and his lovely wife the same way I wish my beloved G.W. and Laura would have been treated, disagreeing without disrespecting, keeping scorn and bitterness from my heart, and always remembering that presidents are not kings and will not sit in our White House forever.

I want to have faith and hope in a system of checks and balances and in a democracy that swings one way and then usually the other.

I want to enjoy hard work and stay busy enough that I stay out of trouble, and I want my neighbors and townspeople to do the same thing.

I want to worship the Creator as faithfully and boldly as I can while the opportunity is mine.

I want to study the unadulterated history of my country and teach it to my children, learning from our mistakes and celebrating our God-aided triumphs.

I want to use my rights to speak up – in a kind and effective way – for those who have no voice, specifically for those in the womb.

And mostly, I want to feel safe within my borders. Safe to speak, safe to live, safe to raise my children how I see fit, safe to worship, and safe to continue my personal pursuit of happiness.

And the funny thing is, when I tune out the voices on Fox News or CNN or in the comments sections of blogs and internet news stories or from the more out-of-touch celebrities on talk shows, I notice something: America, in my neck of the woods, is almost exactly what I’m looking for.

Of course there are things we must improve. There are freedoms and reforms we must continue to pursue like hounds. There might even be as much wrong as there is right…

But for a moment, I want to celebrate the good things, and thank God for this unprecedented chance to live in a free America, while begging Him for grace and guidance to use my freedoms and my blessings wisely and efficiently and, most importantly, generously.

I encourage you to unplug yourself from the talking heads (and mayors!) today and see with fresh eyes and a grateful heart what you’ve been given.

A beautiful homeland…

previously unheard of freedom and democracy…

a local community to support you…

hope for change…

and the most beautiful and breathtaking “Kuhmerican” flag that waves on nearly every corner, just for you to enjoy. Whether you are supporting Chick-fil-a in the weeks to come, boycotting them, or neither, I hope you’ll at least take a minute to stop and touch their flagpole…

And, if this post resonated with you, I just have to say it: “My pleasure!”

~

As ever, feel free to share your thoughts with me, but I will only publicly share comments that will be edifying to my readers. Save the drama for another blogga.

Operation: Pilgrimage

I love it when all of my recent convictions and revelations find articles and Facebook statuses and, yes, Pinterest pins that spur me on…

For instance, I saw this precious statement on Pinterest last week:

“This.” I thought. “This is it. We are, by the grace of God, waking up to this very idea…”

And then I read this little article from Desiring God ministries, that added a Biblical foundation to that thought up there, and spurred me on in what I have been learning this past year.

Which goes a little somethin’ like this…

Great and secret joy is found when the unseen worldview that has clouded your vision and deceived your heart is obliterated by the work of the Spirit and the truth of the Bible, leaving freedom and confidence in its wake. 

Let me explain.

I had no idea until recent years that, for the better part of my life, I was living, moving and breathing under a worldview that was much more American than it was Christian.

Let me explain.

Rat race. Social ladder. Financial security. College. Retirement. Success. Accolades. Comfort. Vacations. Fashion. Make more, spend more, consume more. Bachelors degree before marriage. Travel before kids.

Let me take that a step further, to the realm of motherhood…

Lavish birthday parties. Tricked-out scrapbooks. Matching Christmas clothes. A spotless house, Country Living style. High homeschool expectations (of wanting my kids to be a certain level of smart, in other words, smarter than everyone else’s kids).

And then into “church life”…

Majorly decorated VBS displays. Thousands of dollars on church camp. Wedding showers, personal showers, baby showers. GA’s, RA’s, Awanas, Bible Drill, Sunday School, Children’s Church, Discipleship classes, programs, programs, programs.

Please don’t get me wrong.

Most of these things, in and of themselves, are not wrong – there is nothing wrong with enjoying fashionable clothes (just ask my closet), there is nothing wrong with pouring your heart into decorating your Vacation Bible School room, there is nothing wrong with creating beautiful scrapbooks for each of your children, and there is certainly nothing wrong with hosting a lovely shower for your engaged or pregnant friend – obviously, many of these things are actually quite praiseworthy.

But when the line is crossed in these areas, and the master becomes slave and the inanimate becomes master, then, Houston, we most certainly have a major problemo.

One day, as I was completely stressed out and flustered over getting the house clean for a birthday party I was hosting, it hit me with startling clarity that almost 100% of the deadlines I run up against are almost 100% unnecessary and 100% created by me. I had this tendency to allow what was supposed to be an expression of love turn into a stressful duty that was ruling me, stealing my joy, and turning my children’s mother into a distant and harried psychopath. “I know its your birthday, sweetie, but go upstairs and get out of my hair before I go ballistic!”

My wordly worldview had deceived me into thinking I HAD “to have”, “to do”, and “to be” a number of things that were either extra- or unBiblical, and that I had to have, do, and be them NOW! In five minutes!!

But, by the grace of God, the reality has been creeping into my soul that hardly any of the things I was getting all flustered about were really essential to fulfilling my life’s purpose…

On the contrary, they were causing me to waste my life and to wish away beautiful moments and days on stress and self-absorption, sacrificing endless opportunities for worship and joy for the sake of nonsensical filler and busywork.

And, as my Biblical worldview continues to be formed, I see that all of those things that I had (at times) made myself a slave to are being replaced by ONE thing:

Pilgrimage.

The life-changing realization that life is a journey from point A to point B, from birth to death, with one goal, one purpose, as stated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

What freedom is found in this singular purpose!

In other words, “so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This beautiful truth takes my focus off of events and worldly goals, and places it instead on my attitude and my heart as I experience those events and work to achieve those goals. It reminds me that, whatever I choose to do today, my purpose is to do it in a way that brings glory and honor to God, in a way that displays Christian fruit, and in a way that brings peace rather than strife.

It gives me the freedom to say “no” to nonessentials, even if it goes against the way things have been done for years and years and years, and the confidence to opt out of what society says my family and my children need to be happy, whole and socialized.

It teaches me that, no matter what my culture says, I can be madly in love with my husband until the day I die, that I can welcome sticky fingerprints on my windows, that I can be poor and ridiculously happy, that I can host events without being uptight, and that worship of God is the most simple and beautiful (and, best of all, FREE!) pleasure that life has to offer.

It proclaims to me that I don’t have to live my life like the world has told me to.

And my life, when lived this way, looks a little something like this (yours might look totally different)

Impromptu dance parties after supper, shredded cheese and ground beef still littering the floor as we stomp through the house with our instruments.

Lunchtime picnics on the landing of the staircase.

Leisurely soaking in my slipper bathtub while my kids bang on the piano in my room (and the Baby throws Cheerios on the floor from her playpen).

Going to bed with my husband every night when there are a million things that could be done to the house or to the blog.

Postponing team sports for now, but always playing soccer or baseball in the front yard when our son asks.

Sweeping with a smile instead of a furrowed brow.

Watching my son take up the offering with a pirate eyepatch on and not freaking out or worrying what “people will think”.

Eating pancakes for lunch because I was grouchy and needed to apologize to my kids and start the day over again, breakfast and all.

Being prepared in my heart to greet class after class of music students at Vacation Bible School with honest gladness and sit in a circle and talk to them about Jesus, not a decoration in sight (until Wednesday with the help of great friends).

Supper: a giant watermelon on the porch with a fork for everyone. Dessert: popsicles.

Making hot dogs for a group of rowdy church kids every Wednesday night and not caring if they tell me “thank you”.

Training myself to listen to sermons with my kids beside me at Sunday worship, crayons all over the floor and on the pew.

Driving an old (free) golden minivan with gratitude and without wishing for a new car.

Buying one awesome dress per season rather than five.

Desiring one thing for my children’s future: godliness.

Shouting praise to God on the front porch as long-awaited rain falls on our town, and laughing as my children follow my lead and learn how to pray. For reals.

Learning to give my possessions away to someone who will find more joy in the object than I will. This is much more fun than I thought it would be.

Dying to myself. Dying to myself. Dying to myself. And watching with wonder as those around me learn to do the same thing.

These are, of course, on those glorious days when I remember my purpose and live “in the moment”. I long to have more and more of these days as I continue to grow in the faith.

So yes, I still get to host birthday parties. But if I am hosting birthday parties in a way that fails to display the patience and kindness of Jesus to my family, I’ve grievously missed the point.

I can still deck my room out for VBS if I want to. But if I am cross in the process, and get stressed as time runs out, I might as well have left that room empty.

I still HAVE to do the dishes. But I can perform even this seemingly tedious duty in a way that glorifies God. This might mean stopping midway to read a book to my child who is in serious need of some attention. It might mean doing dishes as a family so we can spend more time together, even if the floor gets wet in the process. It might mean doing dishes with a happy heart, while my kids make racket and messes all over the house. Or doing dishes while I mull over Sunday’s sermon. Or doing dishes during nap time so my kids can wake up to a clean house and a ready-to-play Mama. Or putting my feet up while my husband graciously does the dishes for me. Or giving away the dishes to someone who needs them. Or buying new dishes because we want to and have been good stewards of our money. Or, on rare occasions, not doing dishes at all.

But regardless of how things play out, days just take on a different hue once you realize you don’t have to live like they told you to live.

Freedom (in Jesus Christ) is sweet, is it not?

May we never waste a moment by returning to our chains.

~

So tell me…how are you going to spend this blessed day of pilgrimage?

A Fourth of July Craving

 

We were pulling into a parking spot at Chick-fil-a when our 5-year old son, Gideon, reverently breathed from the backseat…

“Papa…I’ve never been this close to a ‘Kuhmerican’ flag before…”

Looking out the window, my eyes landed on a flagpole next to the fast food restaurant that went up, up, up…

and at the very top gloriously waved a humongous American flag.

My heart melted a little.

It doesn’t take much, does it, to capture the wonder of a child? Their little eyes have a way of appreciating the simplest things in life, and I was reminded in the midst of our busy day to look up for a moment and gaze upon the beauty of our country’s flag waving majestically in the wind.

“Do you want to touch the flagpole?” Mr. Gore asked him.

“Yes!” Gideon exclaimed, and all thoughts of lunch were momentarily put aside as our family took a tiny field trip to the Chick-fil-a flagpole, to reach out and touch the metal that hoisted that very important statement of our freedom seemingly all the way up to the sky.

It was a brief and random moment in an otherwise hectic week, but it seated itself in my heart and fanned a longing that I’ve been having as Independence Day draws near…

I’ve got a craving for America.

Not the one that is found in the partisan arguments between liberals and conservatives on news channels…

Not the one that is written between the lines of the biased story shared in the newspaper…

Not the one that is found in the ruthless and hateful comments following every article and blog post on the internet…

The voices of the people on my television and computer screens have become so loud and so one-sided that I don’t know who to believe anymore. I have grown callous to their arguments and suspicious of their intentions ~ do they really care? Are the statistics they are sharing from an unbiased source? Do they truly want change or are they trying to make a buck or a name for themselves? What is their agenda, really?…

And I’m not the only one who feels that way. The spirit of my countrymen has become so bitter and jaded that few are really listening anymore; we have become like partisan robots who immediately agree with everything our political party says or we vehemently disagree with our opponents. On every. single. issue.

When we don’t get our way on those issues, we become fatalistic, as if America is dead. Freedom is dead. The “land of plenty” is a cursed wilderness…

But I’m looking around me, and even though I strongly disagree with many of the views our President stands for, and even though laws are being passed that cause my heart to painfully groan within me, and even though there are a thousand things I would change if I were given the power to do so, this is what I see…

I have good roads to drive on.

The mail is delivered to my mailbox every single day.

I am free to worship God as loudly and as consistently as I choose.

I have thousands of people I have never met who are training or are already trained to protect me – with their lives – if the need arises.

I have the right to school my children at home, and if I change my mind, there is a fully-equipped public school minutes from our house.

There are no bathrooms or water fountains in my town or my state or my country that can be used by only one race.

There are police officers, and firemen, and medical professionals a phone call away if I need help, day or night.

There is a grocery store down the street that contains more food choices in its tiny square footage than people have probably ever had in the history of the world.

I am a stay-at-home mom who is married to a pastor of a small church, and with our modest income, we still fit in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people. Because we’re Americans.

And no matter what the media says about which way our country is going, I still have my vote and I still have my freedom of speech.

I’m sure a Christian from ancient Greece or a suffragette from the 1900’s or a black man from the enslaved South or a Jew from Hitler’s Germany would absolutely love to trade lives with me, even if just for one day.

And so here’s what I want this 4th of July…

some solidarity.

some patriotism.

some gratitude.

some respect for the office of President, no matter my political party.

some kindness.

I want to be heard without being labeled a close-minded conservative or a bigot or a nutcase Southern Baptist.

I want to hear the opinions of others with compassion and understanding, even if I know in my heart I will never agree with them.

I want to be well-informed and knowledgeable about our country’s state of affairs without being used as a pawn in a political game or to increase a show’s television ratings.

I want to use my most important tool of freedom, my vote, with pride and conviction.

I want to use my most important tool for lasting change, prayer, and faithfully beseech God on behalf of our nation and my fellow citizens.

I want to instruct the children in my sphere that change, in a democracy, always begins with you, not the folks in Washington D.C. or the people in high places.

I want to treat President Obama and his lovely wife the same way I wish my beloved G.W. and Laura would have been treated, disagreeing without disrespecting, keeping scorn and bitterness from my heart, and always remembering that presidents are not kings and will not sit in our White House forever.

I want to have faith and hope in a system of checks and balances and in a democracy that swings one way and then usually the other.

I want to enjoy hard work and stay busy enough that I stay out of trouble, and I want my neighbors and townspeople to do the same thing.

I want to worship the Creator as faithfully and boldly as I can while the opportunity is still mine.

I want to study the unadulterated history of my country and teach it to my children, learning from our mistakes and celebrating our God-aided triumphs.

I want to use my rights to speak up – in a kind and effective way – for those who have no voice, specifically those in the womb.

And mostly, I want to feel safe within my borders. Safe to speak, safe to live, safe to raise my children how I see fit, safe to worship, and safe to continue my personal pursuit of happiness.

And the funny thing is, when I tune out the voices on Fox News or CNN or in the comments sections of blogs and internet news stories or from the more out-of-touch celebrities on talk shows, I notice something: America, in my neck of the woods, is almost exactly what I’m looking for.

Of course there are things we must improve. There are freedoms and reforms we must continue to pursue like hounds. There might even be as much wrong as there is right…

But this 4th of July, I want to celebrate the good things, and thank God for this unprecedented chance to live in a free America, while begging Him for grace and guidance to use my freedoms and my blessings wisely and efficiently and, most importantly, generously.

I encourage you to unplug yourself from the talking heads this Independence Day and see with fresh eyes and a grateful heart what you’ve been given.

A beautiful homeland…

previously unheard of freedom and democracy…

a local community to support you…

hope for change…

and the most beautiful and breathtaking “Kuhmerican” flag that waves on nearly every corner, just for you to enjoy.

Happy Independence Day, from Mrs. Gore!