July 17, 2015

Graciousness vs. Tolerance

For at least 16 years, we have heard people preaching tolerance.  Tolerance of religions, tolerance of people's lifestyle choices, tolerance of different standards of truth.

And yet, for all that, I am finding so many examples of intolerance in my Facebook feed and in my news feed.  For example:

  • On Facebook someone posted a picture of a black woman on the East Coast who started a group to stomp on the American flag publicly.  Along with her picture was an exhortation to not hire her EVER  because of her leadership in this group.
  • Someone  posted another picture of a black woman on Facebook who posted her exultation that some white policemen were killed right after a string of black men where killed by white police officers for really petty crimes or even non-criminal activity.  Enough people on Facebook contacted her employer asking them to fire her that she lost her job.
  • An executive working for a small company in Arizona a few years ago posted a video of him being rude to a Chik-fil-A drive-through employee and criticizing her for working for such a horrible company because of the Chik-fil-A's owner's stance regarding same-sex marriage.  The man was fired within days and has been unable to find a job for two years, in spite of "learning his lesson".
  • A mom was publicly shamed on a national level for letting her daughter spend some time in a tanning booth, causing her to get sunburned.
  • The owners of a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  But telling all their friends about the bad service and encouraging them to boycott the bakery was not enough for the couple.  They had to sue the business for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the company's rejection.
These are just a few stories.  I bet you have more.  Now, I am not saying that the people who were publicly shamed were blameless.  There is no one righteous, not even one of us.  Especially not me.

I point this out because I think that being tolerant is setting the bar too low.  The Merriam Webster definition of "tolerance" that seems to apply is this:  "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own."  This is a definition that would seem to make us all nice people, if we could hold to it.  However, I think God had and continues to have a better plan:  being gracious.  The dictionary's definition of "gracious" is "marked by kindness and courtesy; marked by tact and delicacy;"   Even man's definition of grace seems a lot better than tolerance.  Isn't it better to be kind than to be indulgent?  However, God's definition of "gracious" is even better:  Graciousness is showing favor or love to those who don't deserve it, which is, basically, everyone on the planet, including me.  Two of the many examples of graciousness in the  Bible include Matthew 5:45 and Psalm 103:8-12.  Jesus tells his followers in Matthew 5:44 to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  And Psalm 103 describes a God of compassion, a God of forgiveness, a God of restoration, a God of love.  

So my goal is not to be tolerant at all.  It is to be gracious and loving toward people, asking God to help me to show His extravagant love to all people in all His ways as much as it is possible for this sin-riddled, selfish, intolerant person to do. 
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)

June 27, 2015

Tandemingtroll's Guide to Choosing a Candidate--The 2015 guide

It is now summer of 2015 and since the candidates for president of the United States are starting to campaign, I thought I would update this list.  A situation in the news this week has made me realize that my list is incomplete, because apparently, common sense is being replaced with posturing and pride.

When it comes to candidates, to limit how much research to do to pick qualified candidates, I look first at their campaign strategy to see if I can eliminate anyone.  This is my criterion for elimination:
  1. Does the candidate pick a certain group as the source of our nation's problems as the focus of their campaign?  The group can be the opposite political party or a group based ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.  If the candidate is targeting a particular group of people you shouldn't vote for them for several reasons.  First of all, if they start blame-shifting as part of their campaign, what is the likelihood that they will accept responsibility while they are in office?  And if they don't accept responsibility, then they emotional children in the guise of adults and we don't want children running our country, state or city. And if they are targeting one particular group, they are oversimplifying the situation, which means they are incapable of critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Furthermore, if they target one group, what will keep them from targeting your group in the future?  After all, fifteen to twenty years ago,  we were told how horrible coconut oil was for our health and how the evil movie theaters were secretly trying to kill us by cooking popcorn in coconut oil because it was addictively delicious. And now what are all the health experts saying about coconut oil?  Soviets were the evil empire during the Cold War, then they were okay during Glastnost and now they are working themselves into the evil empire again. 
  2. Does the candidate spend all of their marketing money attacking their opponent rather than offering solutions?  If all they can do is tear down and attack, they will have a difficult time working with other people because they cannot be trusted.  Also, my experience is that most of the attack ads misrepresent the candidate's position or an incumbent's voting record, which makes them liars, which means we can't trust them, which means we shouldn't vote for them.
  3. Does the candidate employ tactics designed to play upon your fears and worries?  Don't vote for that person because they are snake oil salesmen and snake oil salesmen are liars.
  4. Have they been in office more than twelve years?  Politics shouldn't be a career path.  It should be a temporary detour to serve your country and should possibly include a vow of poverty.  People who have been in office more than twelve years should step aside and let other people step up and serve, getting income from the private sector, not the public's tax money.   Besides, the longer people stay in office the more used to power they get and we don't need people making laws to serve their own need for power and control.
  5. Are they making promises that sounds too good to be true?  Are they spouting off catchphrases and twitterfodder that is devoid of meaning?  Are they responding to a situation in a knee jerk reaction?  Then don't vote for them because they are either making promises they don't intend to keep in order to look good, which makes them liars or they don't have a firm grip on reality, which makes them unstable.  I think we can agree that neither are good attributes for lawmakers. 
  6. Does the candidate throw a temper tantrum when criticized for what he or she says and requires retribution equivalent to an arm for an eye when embroiled in conflict of his or her making?  Do we really want someone who acts either like a toddler or bully to have control of our nuclear codes or being the head of diplomacy?  It makes me sad that I even have to write this.  
At this point, you hopefully have at least one or two candidates whom you can research.  If these five qualifiers eliminate all candidates, then maybe remove one (or, if necessary, two) of the five disqualifiers that are least offensive see which candidate is available.  Realize that no one candidate is going to be a perfect fit and they are most likely to make mistakes while in office.  Give them the same grace you want other people to give to you. And please vote in your state's primaries, even if you feel that your candidate doesn't have a chance because not voting becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. 

Happy Voting!(?)

June 8, 2015

Deliverer by Matt Maher

This is a lyric video I put together using Movie Maker.  Matt Maher has written some really lovely and powerful songs.  My all time favorites of his are "Alive Again", "Christ Has Risen" and "Lord I Need You."  This is a recent addtion to my favorites from his latest album, "Saints and Sinners".  And, just as in FYI, he is even better in person, creating a powerful worship experience in both concerts I have attended.

For this video my daughter created a painting that I thought would work nicely with the lyrics.  The painting was inspired by a story from the Nepal earthquake of a rescue worker finding a baby still alive in the rubble.  I broke her painting into two sections.  The background with the handprints is the left side of the painting and the painting with the baby being held by his/her rescuer is the right side.  I just love the expression she put on the baby's face.  I hope you enjoy it!

May 25, 2015


In my last post, I promised to show you pictures of Chiricahua National Monument.  However, my wonderful husband has taken some amazing pictures and rather than steal his thunder and duplicate his efforts, I thought I would send you to his blog, ATrollInTheWoods.  Instead, I will be sharing my opinions about a book I just finished reading called Unoffendable by Brant Hansen.

The author is a radio DJ, formerly of Air1, now on NGen, which includes more Christian heavy metal and rap in its line up than Air1.  His style is what some people would call quirky.  He and his producer, Sherri sometimes hand out "accreditations" for anything people want.  You want a degree in collecting clutter?  They will hand one out.  Every year, during the March Madness College Basketball competition, he has his own "Brackets of Awesomness" and people vote on, for instance, whether Benedict Cumberbatch's voice is more awesome than fresh warm donuts at Krispy Kreme (or not).  My personal favorite, however, is his "If Jesus Had a Blog" blog.  It is exactly what the title implies, taking stories from the Gospels and putting them sort of in our time; however, the genius of the blog is that Brant includes the comments he thinks people would make in response to Jesus' blog.  If you want to know more about him, his story is found at I Am Second.

Should Christians be the least offendable people on the planet?  Should we be the most difficult to anger?  That is the premise that Brant Hansen proposes in his book.  He takes 24 chapters divided into several sections per chapter to discuss all sides of anger and taking offense.  He brings passages from the Bible to support his claim, as well as funny stories and the upside of releasing anger quickly.  He notes that anger and being offended is not a Christian problem or a non-Christian problem, it is a human problem.  I am going to share a few ideas and quotes from the book:

  • If righteous anger is okay, why isn't it listed as a fruit of the Spirit?
  •  Is there any such thing as human righteous anger or will it always be mixed with sin?
  • Holding onto anger is tiring.
  • What about those verses that say "In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger?  Isn't that saying it is okay to be angry as long as you don't sin?
  • Anger is natural.  Forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness is counter-culteral.
  • Letting go of anger allows you to receive peace and joy.
  • Anger is like the One Ring (from "The Lord of the Rings").  Except instead of one ring that needs to be dropped into Mt. Doom, there are six million.  Drop yours now.
This was a very convicting book to read, but Brant's humorous stories and often self deprecating humor, makes the content more palatable, giving you the notion that he is coming alongside you to encourage you as a fellow person who has struggled with anger and still struggles.  I am reading it to my kids, a section at a time and talking with them about it.

April 21, 2015

A Hiking Family: A Fabulous Portable Lunch

Lately, most of our exercise and fun activity has involved half day hikes, though some children might take exception to my definition of "fun".  We have two reasons:  the weather is still nice and cool in the morning (and by cool, I mean less than 80 deg) so that we won't risk sun stroke;  and my hubby and oldest will be hiking down into the Grand Canyon on a rim-to-rim backpacking hike as part of their Boy Scout Troop in October, so they need to train for it.

We have also been hiking as a family more.  Last month, we camped at Picacho Peak, about 90 minutes southeast of Phoenix just off of the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson.   We were planning to hike the trail listed as strenuous for those in reasonably good shape and insanely strenuous for those of us who have been slacking lately.  We knew this trail would require a lunch stop, requiring at lest four hours to get to the pinnacle and return, so I went to my Pinterest Camping board to see what I could find for portable lunches.  I found a series of lunch recipes from Wild Backpacker and decided upon trying out the Ford Wrap, which is the second from the bottom.  It is basically a flour tortilla with cream cheese and smoked salmon, which is easy to prepare, doesn't take much space in the backpack and isn't overly filling.  I added fresh spinach for some extra iron and crunch.  We ate it as a lunch just before we began what became a rather arduous ascent. Immediately, we all felt so much better as the salmon provided salt and protein and the tortilla added carbs and we decided to make this our staple for long hikes.

This weekend, we camped at Chiricahua (pronounce Chih-ri-KAH-wah) Nation Monument, where a mountain rises from the desert valley hiding so many beautiful standing rock formations made of weathered ryolite (petrified volcanic ash).  We stranded together trails eight miles long, mostly downhill. It involved being driven to a peack called Echo Point by our friendly, neighborhood Forest Ranger and walking to the base of the mountain, where the campsite lay.  Once again, because we knew this would take us past lunchtime, we brought ingredients for the Ford Wrap.  This time, instead of cream cheese, I decided to use a garlic white bean paste recipe from A Little Bit Crunchy (A Little Bit Rock n'Roll), the last five ingredients.  The pannini recipe is also fabulously tasty.  The white been paste added some extra flavor and some extra carbs.  Once again, it gave us a lot of energy and it didn't have any milk products for those in our family who are mildly lactose intolerant.

My next blog post will have more details about our hikes with pictures.

January 16, 2015

Forgiveness vs. Restoration

This post is a result of several memes and conversations involving forgiveness.

The goal of relationships is to keep building upon them, whether family or friends, because Jesus told us that our #2 job as humans is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  But everyone is full of sin and so there are times when relationships are broken by selfishness.  When something happens, confession (acknowledging your sin/mistakes), repentance (a desire and effort made to change your behavior), and forgiveness can repair the damage and restore the relationship.  Jesus commands us to forgive others because, through his sacrifice, God forgives us our sins and he tells a story to demonstrate how seriously God is about requiring us to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  Here is a really funny video that tells Jesus' story:

However, I don't think that forgiveness always leads to restoration of the relationship, or at least not immediate restoration.  Some hurts are deeper than others and need more work from God to heal.  Some relationships are unhealthy because one person is a user or a bully and either they don't see it or they are unapologetic, which is functional unrepentance.  They are not safe people.

I had to drop a friendship this week that had started in the summer because the person revealed herself to be a bully who wouldn't listen.  The start of the conflict did involve me--I was a guilty party;  however, I acknowledged my poor behavior to her, apologized to her, told her I would change and made the changes.  I did all I could to restore peace and the relationship.  Her subsequent actions toward me, all antagonistic, demonstrated that she hadn't forgiven me.  As a result, the relationship was broken.  Each time she was unkind, the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to live out Ephesians 4:31-32 and forgive her unkind words and deeds because there was going to be a day when we had to work together.  The day arrived.  God blessed me with the ability to see the humor in the situation and gave me His love for her so that I was able to make peace overtures to her.  She responded with appreciation.  A couple more phone calls followed and she seemed to welcome the chance to talk about what happened.  I desired to meet with her in person and made a phone call to set up a time and place.  The phone conversation became troubling.  Instead of respecting my request to have the conversation in person, she started throwing accusations at me, for which I had already offered an apology.  The few minutes I was able to speak and give her my perspective, she responded with justifications for her actions and followed up with a renewed attack on me.  She demonstrated that she was unwilling to listen to or acknowledge the role she played in the conflict and in turning a resolvable issue into a raging inferno that burned everyone involved.   My trust in her, which was already waning because of the past problems absolutely disintegrated.

So I am in the process of forgiving her for stuff said in this conversation, and forgiving her again of her past hurts, which were resurrected as a result of the conversation.  I forgive her even though she is unrepentant, because I know that by releasing her into God's hands, I am freeing myself from her influence and can receive God's peace.  And because I want grow up to be just like my Heavenly Daddy, who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

But in this case, restoration is not likely to happen.  The consequences of her behavior and attitude is that I have no desire to speak to her and she lives far enough away that it is possible to successfully avoid each other.  I am grieving, as much for the end of this relationship as for the fact that it will likely also affect our daughters, who became good friends over the past nine months.  Before I came to this conclusion, I did pray about it, because I know how much importance He places on relationships.  He reminded me that at the cross Jesus forgave his enemies because he knew they were blind, pitiful fools, but when he rose again, there is no Biblical record that he visited the people who had called for his crucifixion.  And yet, I also know that with God, anything is possible, and if he can bring a dead man back to life, he can resurrect a dead relationship.  I am leaving it in His capable hands.

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
--Isaiah 26:3-4

January 1, 2015

Not Another Resolution Blog

Last week, my husband challenged the family to set one goal, which is NOT the same thing as a resolution.  His explanation is that a resolution is something that you are going to try and do.  A goal is something you work to achieve.  In the past, I have tried to focus on one thing, through encouragement via oneword365.  Last year, the word was presence and the year before, it was joy. Looking back, I think I focused better on joy in 2014 than 2013.  This year, I didn't do very well with presence, though we made steps toward that goal near the end of it.  It is very hard to practice presence when you are overloaded with things to do.  I know people who can do a lot more than I can and part of me feels like a wimp for not being able to do so much.  But then I remember that there was a time when I was doing as much as they were and it made me impatient, grumpy, unable to focus and eventually, sleepless.  So now I am dialing it WAY down to recover before slowly, prayerfully, adding more things to do.  This year, my goal is focus--focus on my family, focus on small, daily activities and no more than one goal during the year.  Focus means that I need to get off the computer because it has become the enemy of being focused as well as the enemy of being present, at least the way I use it.  So you will be seeing me less on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media and maybe even less on the blog (though I am not very consistent on this).  What I need to do next is write down all the things I would like to do and figure out my goal for the year.

Happy New Year!