Five Minute Friday: Burden

Neighbor

Gentle Reader,

Attended my first homeowner’s association meeting last night.

Handy that that experience lends to a lot of thoughts around this prompt.

Kate says: burden.

Go.

Chris usually goes to the meetings because, honestly, I just haven’t cared to. As long as my neighbors keep their yards clean and are generally quiet (meaning no blaring music at midnight), then it’s all good. Do your thing. But Chris couldn’t go, and we got a passive aggressive letter from the HOA board in the mail that annoyed me, so I forced myself to remain in real pants past 6:30 p.m., signed myself in and sat at a table in a crowded American Legion hall.

The first hour-ish was boring. A lot of complaining about sprinkler systems that none of us have control over. Because Idaho is all about de-regulation, the designers of the neighborhood apparently didn’t have to file irrigation plans with the city, and some of the irrigation boxes are actually on private property, so a good chunk of them can’t be located by the landscaping company, who have been fired because of expenses, etcetera, etcetera. Riveting.

Then came the discussion about the people who have failed to pay their homeowner’s dues. As the young kids say, it was lit.

I get it. There are always going to be those who feel they are above the rules. They should be held accountable. Of course. No problem.

But what about those who experience sudden job loss? Idaho is a “right to work” state, so anyone can be “let go” at any time, for almost any reason. What about those who are sick and struggling to pay medical bills? If it were me, and I had to pick whether to pay the hospital or the HOA, I’m paying the hospital. What about those who have to choose between setting aside money to pay a yearly fee and using that money to provide for their children? The kids win, hands down.

So, I asked the board what the communication process looks like. I believe that we all tend to assume that other’s life experiences are much the same as our own. We theoretically understand that the poor are always among us, but we don’t always move from the theory to the reality. Does the board reach out to the individuals? Do they take the time to listen to the stories? Could we set up a separate fund that homeowners can voluntarily contribute to throughout the year to help cover shortfalls? Maybe that fund could function as a scholarship that those who are struggling could apply for?

Did you know that if you ask those kinds of questions, you are a socialist?

Jesus makes it super clear that loving others often entails coming alongside them, helping them shoulder burdens when appropriate and, if necessary, teaching and empowering them to make better choices in the future. We do exactly nobody any good when we sit there in our smug superiority and shame them. As if we are immune to sudden devastation! Any one of us can lose everything at any time. Nobody is guaranteed a trouble-free life. Nobody is even guaranteed the next breath.

I am weary of living in a culture, both secular and church-ly, that grows angrier, blinder and harder by the day. God, open our eyes to our selfishness. 

Stop.

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Today, Tomorrow and the Next Day

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Over the last month, there have been scores of articles written, stressing the importance of voting. This midterm election has taken on a weight, an importance, that I don’t recall seeing before. We are all Chicken Little, but instead of the sky falling, we fear, and even believe, that our country is coming to pieces.

I look out my front window. We have new neighbors. They’ve been here since early September. I’ve yet to get up the courage to go and introduce myself. They’ve been busy getting settled, anyway, running loads to here from whence they came. When I do cross the street and extend my hand, my first question will not be, “Who did you vote for in 2016? 2018?”

Because who wants to start off a relationship like that?

Politicians have sold us a great lie: The neighbor is the enemy. This simply isn’t true. Unless you live near a Neo-Nazi, chances are pretty good that those in the homes within shouting distance want the same things you do. A job, good schools, safe neighborhoods. Chances are also pretty good that everyone up and down your street disagrees on how to achieve those things, and just what role the government should play in the achievement, but down at the base level, where it really matters, people are just people.

We forget that. All of us, so tuned into what our leaders have to say, find our sinful, baser natures rising to the forefront. Fears of “the other” and “the different” and “the invader” have been stoked, and blatantly. It behooves those in power to stir us up and create suspicion. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, the house that is divided shall not stand. He uttered these words in 1858, on the eve of civil war, when brother took up arms against brother.

Do we want to repeat this history?

Yes, I believe that if we do not check ourselves, we will wreck ourselves. Violence is the natural, logical conclusion when people feed on fear and hate. Perhaps not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But eventually.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I won’t even tell you to vote. As I write this, the polls open in less than 24 hours and I have yet to decide if I will be among those waiting for a ballot. Not because I think voting is pointless – I don’t. It matters a great deal. A couple of weeks ago I was sure; now, I feel a heaviness knowing that, once again, it will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

Is that a choice that a Christian can or should make?

Wrong is still wrong, isn’t it, even if varied by degrees?

You’ve read here of my love of politics. Long have I been fascinated by the history, the personalities and the processes. Today, I am sickened instead. Waves of nausea wash over me as I ponder what lies before us. Nobody knows exactly what tomorrow holds, but it is not too far a stretch to make an educated guess. More anger, more division, more trouble.

Unless we choose differently.

We legislate morality. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Murder, robbery, abuse – all sinful, all penalized. What we cannot do, and must stop attempting to do, is legislate Christianity. This marriage of faith and politics, this reckless and futile attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, right now, in the United States, as a distinct physical and political entity (read this as a jumping off point), must stop. There will be no utopia before the return of Christ. And His return certainly isn’t going to be forced by us.

Before you go to sleep tonight, examine yourself. Take a good, long, hard inventory of your heart and mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal both cherished and hidden sins. Ask Him to grant you the strength to repent. If you choose to vote tomorrow, be sure that you do so with His agenda squarely in focus.

Because that’s what we are to be about. Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Let us choose differently. Vote, don’t vote – that’s not an answer I have. What I can tell you is that, whatever the results are, we have to learn that sanctification is a process meant to change all parts of our lives. Nothing is to be held back from the refining fire of the Spirit’s touch. For some of us that might mean choosing to listen to the stories of an immigrant family (legal or otherwise). For others that might look like turning off the obnoxious cable news and reading the Bible a little longer than usual. I don’t know what God is asking of you, but I know it’s something, because that’s what He does.

Listen. Oh, please, let’s listen. Let’s choose Him, over and above all else. Like Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael. Let’s not go with the flow. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated. Let’s not give into fear and hate.

Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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Five Minute Friday: Repeat

Push (1)

Gentle Reader,

Look up the word “crabby” in the dictionary. See my picture. Send me chocolate.

Kate says: repeat.

Go.

I’m working on a second novel. (Yeah, I wrote a first novel. And never advertised it. Because I’m really bad at promoting things. But you can buy it if you want). “Working” may not be the right word, because I haven’t touched it since February. This year has been creatively difficult; there’s a nasty voice inside my head that likes to tell me how much I suck and that I shouldn’t even bother trying to write. It’s been quite loud for months. So the file has lain dormant in my laptop, a symbol of the struggle that I have been losing.

Today I decided I would get back to it. I would ignore the voice. I would push past all the doubt. Clicked on the Scrivener icon. Waited for the project to load. The first chapter appeared on the screen. I read it. Made a change here, a tweak there. Really, it was pretty good. I thought, Well that’s nice. I’ll keep going.

Something seemed off, though. Four chapters sat in the sidebar. I was sure there were more. There was a scene that I distinctly remembered but couldn’t find anywhere.

More clicking and searching led to the recovery of two more completed chapters and several that had been outlined. But the fifth chapter? It’s gone.

Gone.

Cue the urge to throw my laptop across the room.

I searched the backup files. Dug out my external hard drive and opened every existing file. It’s nowhere.

Whhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy.

So I get to repeat. Get to go back and do the work again. Maybe that’s okay. Not ideal. Not progression. But okay. Write it once more, Perhaps new ideas will flow. There’s a chance I could have a whole book written here soon.

Even if not, at least I’m writing.

And at least it’s Autumn, whose weather always makes me want to snuggle under a blanket, hot beverage by my side, as I spin a story.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Moment

Moment

Gentle Reader,

Do you like tuna casserole?

I know. Stupid question. Who doesn’t like tuna casserole? It’s made of love and sunshine.

My husband absolutely hates it because he has no taste. So when I found out that my mom was making it for dinner last night…and Chris is in Alaska visiting his brothers…of course the dogs and I were there. It was scrumptious.

Kate says: moment.

Go.

Banana bread bakes in the oven, filling the air with its enticing scent. The house is completely still. Chores all done, ferocious beasts napping. Outside my front window, bold red leaves reach for the gray sky above, as if challenging the heavens to put on a more beautiful display, confident that such a thing is not possible.

The fragrance and the quiet of this October afternoon, a balm to my tightly-wound soul.

Moments such as these are treasures we often overlook. Our culture teaches us to look for the next thing and long for the more. The simple pleasures of warm socks, an empty laundry basket and a tidy kitchen are lost on us. Are these daily things really blessings? Is it possible to be content, even joyful, in the mundane?

Pause. Take a look around. Ask God to give you eyes to see the gifts that He has given you, no matter how small or insignificant others might find them. Is it the blanket draped across the back of the couch? The text from a friend? A good article you read?

Life is overflowing with good things – even while it is extremely hard. There is always, always, something for which to be thankful.

Enjoy the moment.

Stop.

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