Tuesday, November 11, 2008

All My Angles

I chopped my hair off on my 31st birthday, about 2 months ago, and so far, I really like it. The only trouble is, I am having a hard time taking a good picture of it. Well, actually, it's me I'm having a hard time taking a good picture of.

You know how some people are just hyper-photogenic and you cannot take a bad picture of them? I am not one of them. I blame it on my angular, squarish face. I'm not complaining about the way I look, just the way I look in pictures. For me, the light has to be just so, and the angle has to be just so, and the magic picture fairy has to come sprinkle some kodak-dust on me for the picture to turn out right.

So, I was trying to get some good shots of my hair to send to my family, and asked my husband to snap a few while we were dressed up heading somewhere. He complied, then handed the camera back to me for review. Of course the angle was wrong and I looked like a muppet, and I grumbled, "Well, I hope that's not the way I really look, because if it is, I don't know why anyone is friends with me!"

Seriously. That's what I said. He just looked at me like I was crazy (because I was).

After I got over myself, I got to thinking deeply about this. (cue cheesy music) Sometimes my view of myself is just a snapshot, and I focus on the most negative part of that picture. Such as, I am such a procrastinator, I can be so opinionated, so critical, and so on. And maybe that's the way I project on other people as the way they see me. But my friends don't see me as a snapshot, they see the whole me and love me for all my angles, even if I really do look like a muppet. It's pointless to focus on the bad angles of myself or others, because that does not represent the truth and it condenses the value of a person to the presence or absence of known flaws. That's crazy.

I'm grateful that God put people in my life, like my husband, who represent to me the way He sees me. I want to be like that to others, to love them for a value beyond what's on the surface- even the hyper-photogenic ones!

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Election Eve Wishes

'Tis the season! The expectation and excitement in the air is as visible as the brilliant colors that dominate this time of year. You can’t walk into a store without it being in your face and though we’ve been waiting for it for so long, we can’t believe it’s almost here. We look to this day and think that somehow our world will be magically different afterwards. That hope is probably more myth than actual, but we Americans love our fairy tales! So, since I have some strong feelings about this day, I will share with you my wishes. No, not for Christmas, that’s an entirely different blog for another time! These are my Election Eve wishes, as much an indictment on myself as anyone else.

Wish #1That the media had covered more of what an Obama or McCain presidency would look like than how their campaigns were going.

Was I really supposed to base my vote on where their rallies were or how much money they raised? If a campaign was a real measurement of presidential qualifications, one of the candidates wouldn’t even have a chance. Now granted, specialized media did more in-depth coverage on the issues and where the candidates stood on them and what their plans were, but overall, most media coverage was simply on the campaigns and polls. Most mainstream media left the issue talk to pundits, with representatives from either party shouting it out, talking over each other, leaving the viewer with no real sense of how that issue would really impact their lives. As we got closer to the elections, we started to see documentaries and articles about the candidates, but I think it was too little, too late. It seems they took the easy and lazy way out, and we should’ve held them more responsible for it.

*Disclaimer – the following wishes are based in my faith in Jesus Christ. If that’s going to offend you, please stop reading now!*

Wish #2 That Christians didn’t only get fired up about the issues every 4 years (or election cycle)

I have worked hard to keep the e-mails from flooding my inbox, but I’ve seen them anyway. From both sides, sometimes factual, sometimes completely far-fetched, emails either praising or demonizing both candidates. These really drive me crazy, but it makes me wonder, where is the passion and fervor the rest of the year? It is kindof like Christmas in that you wonder why people can’t be that nice and friendly to each other all the time.

I have some friends who are fasting and praying for this election, and I am so thankful for them. Our country cannot get enough prayer. And I’m grateful for a milestone that we have to pray towards, it’s definitely harder for me to stay focused without an end goal. But I’m convicted (and I wish others would be too) that I should pray for abortion to end, and for righteous judges, and for our leaders to honor God, and as I Tim 2: 1-4 instructs, and not just take up the cry leading up to the first Tuesday in November, but every day afterwards.

I think this “election mentality” makes Christians easy targets for our votes on "hot button issues", then easily ignored and marginalized afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, our votes our important and our prayers even more so, but what if over the next four years we did more than vote and hope our politicians get it right? What if we used our other constitutional rights and spiritual authority to “be the difference we want to see in the world?”

Wish #3 That we had a more Biblical guide for measuring our political leaders

This is almost directly aimed at a handout I got when visiting a church in Texas. It was called the Presidential Voter’s Guide developed by an organization called WallBuilders, stating “To help cut through the noise and the haze of the campaigns, WallBuilders has prepared a Presidential Voters’ Guide that reviews fourteen positions held by the candidates.” What it should’ve said is: “Here is where the candidates stand on issues important to Republicans.” Besides the four issues centering on abortion, I had a hard time with the other issues selected to be presented to the church body.

I have no problem with churches educating their members on the issues or the candidates, and I think pastors should be free to speak their mind about whatever they choose. However, I do have a problem with the selective nature of Biblical values presented in terms of the candidates’ policies.

If I believe in Jesus and claim to be His disciple, then I should care about the things He cared about, focus on the things He said, and in the political arena, use the Bible as my standard. So, what is the tie between being a Christian and gun rights, the war in Iraq, parental rights in education, and off shore drilling? Obvious Republican values, not so obvious Christian values. And if these should be my Christian values, then why wouldn’t you, oh developer of Presidential Voter’s Guide for churches, show me where God talks about these things?

Instead, why don’t the issues I’m supposed to care where the candidates stand as presented in this voter’s guide actually come from the Bible, especially if a church is endorsing it? Surely somewhere in this great book we could find a standard of measurement that transcends party platforms that change with society? How about the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, or Paul’s requirements for overseers and deacons (I Tim 3). I’m not picky, just give me chapter and verse (in context of course!).

There is nothing on this voter’s guide about the poor, an obvious concern of Jesus and early disciples (see Luke and Acts!). Likewise, there is nothing about compassion, equality or how we interact with other nations, which I see as heavily taught on subjects by Jesus and other early church leaders.

All I’m saying is that if you are going to tell me to pray and vote God’s will, don’t turn around and give me a flyer promoting a poorly-disguised Republican platform agenda. Give me Scripture!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did help pass out similar flyers in the Virginia governor’s race in 2002. I don’t remember what the flyers said, but I’m sure they were similar. My views have changed a bit since then!)

Wish #4 – That, as believers, we were as informed, concerned and involved in other countries’ elections or governments

I’ll be the first to admit, I am for the most part uninformed and unconcerned about what is going on in most other countries, and it’s my own fault. There is enough going on in my own country to occupy my time and thoughts, and to be honest it’s my own life that takes up most of my actions (like 2 hours to write a blog!). But I look at my role in the body of Christ, and as a daughter of God, part of a big, world wide family, whose mission is supposed to be getting everyone else into our family, and I am embarrassed and ashamed that I don’t know about or pray for the governments that oppose, persecute and sometimes kill my family members.

It’s like if the governor of Oklahoma started imprisoning people with the last name of Siegel, you better believe I’d get angry and start sending out emails and blogging like crazy to get the law changed and help save my family. But the government of Somalia is virtually non-existent and a 13-year-old girl just got stoned for claiming she was raped, with an audience of more than 1,000! This happens all the time, all over the world, and it is just a headline, if that, then gone from our attention spans.

I mean, it’s not just Christians who should care about this, but shouldn’t we especially care? I remember back in the late 90s seeing the emails circulating about the oppression of women in Afghanistan, including details on female circumcision and other Taliban-imposed rituals. There was an outcry, but it took going to war to give these women a chance at the rights and freedom they deserve.

I know there are a lot of complicating factors as to why we don’t get reliable, international news on a grander scale and what we can actually do about it, but if I could take the measure of all my prayers for my country and apply them to Somalia (or pick a country), then I think America would be just fine. We are so blessed. I mean, if we let gay people in California get married, can we stop ethnic cleansing elsewhere? Yeah, probably not, but I’d be willing to do it if it would work!

Well, I hope I haven’t hurt or offended anyone. These are just things I’ve been thinking a lot about and want to change the way I think and act about. I want to see America stand as a beacon of light and not squander the abundant gifts we’ve been given. I want to see the church, the worldwide church, start acting as a body and not squander the time we have here on earth.

What are your wishes on this election eve?

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