Open Letter to Betsy DeVos

I highly doubt she will ever read it, but in light of recent developments within the Department of  Education of which she is the head, I was compelled to at least voice my outrage.

“Betsy DeVos…

On February 16, 2003, while I was a senior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale Michigan, I was raped by a football player who I thought was my friend. Thinking of the other female students on the campus who might also fall prey to this perpetrator, I went immediately to the campus police and submitted to a rape kit that was almost as invasive as the actual rape itself. Keep in mind, I could have remained quiet and gone on about my educational business, but I felt it was my DUTY to remove a rapist from campus.

I mistakenly assumed that since I was the “good guy”, the pendulum of justice would swing rather quickly and in my favor. (I admit to being very naive). Unfortunately for me, this individual had helped GVSU secure a national championship that the school hadn’t seen in years, and it became obvious that school officials were more interested in keeping a possible pro athlete there than little old me. After all, I contributed nothing to the school–other than the fact that my parents paid my tuition and I was involved in numerous organizations that did, in fact, bring positive regard to the university.

The investigation was almost as humiliating as the rape itself, and I found myself being blamed for being victimized. What had I been wearing? What was the nature of the relationship between myself and the rapist prior to the incident? How many sexual partners had I had prior? The investigation was not to ascertain whether or not my complaint had merit. It was to solicit information that could be used to deny me justice.

In the end, the prosecutor used the answers to those very questions to decide not to take any legal action against my rapist. Seeing as though it was my senior year, and because I thought I was tough enough to handle the scrutiny, I refused to leave GVSU. I did everything I could–contacted the right people, kept the right documentation–only to have my rapist leave on his own accord. I was told that if he tried to re-enroll, I would be notified, and before he was allowed to return a judicial review would be held to determine his eligibility as a student.

Naive still, I believed them.

While preparing to attend summer courses, I was surprised to find that my entire course schedule had been dropped. In my four years of being a student, this had never happened. I re-registered, and the classes were mysteriously dropped again. When I demanded to know a reason, I was told the classes were dropped because no tuition payment had been received–which was garbage because no tuition bill had even been generated yet. EVEN STILL, my parents were happy to pay, and I re-registered for the classes AGAIN and went to buy my books.

As I was walking into the bookstore, I almost walked right into the guy who had raped me.. He was carrying a bag of books that he had obviously just purchased. It was safe to assume that my classes had been dropped on purpose, don’t you think?

Mrs. DeVos, do you think that was acceptable? Do you want rapists to have free roam on campuses? Do you want to prevent survivors of rape from coming forward? Do you realize or even care how much of a setback that was in my life? I had to leave GVSU during my senior year and basically start over at a new university, and I have racked up considerable student loan debt because of it (and you’re screwing with that too!). I can’t even begin to list the psychological ramifications that come along with being a victim but not being looked at or treated like a victim.

With that being said, you are the head of the Department of Education, and since being sworn in you have taken some abhorrent steps in your position. I am absolutely appalled at some of your proposals, but the idea of rolling back the civil rights investigations as related to sexual assaults at schools is possibly one of the worst I’ve seen yet. I know that GVSU has been investigated for mishandling sexual assault cases–your administration does not want to make the list of universities that have Title IX complaints lodged against them public; can you explain the rationale behind that? Shouldn’t potential college students be aware of which universities to avoid like the plague?

What is wrong with you????”

 

I am most bothered by the actions of a woman who claims to be a Christian. I have seen NOTHING yet to convince me as such. When you put on that full armor of  Christ, when you are baptized and you receive that new fresh spirit and strip off that “old man”, people should be able to SEE a difference within you. You should not have to tell people you are a Christian. They should just be able to see your light without you telling them it is lit. The BEST evidence I get of how I have changed is that people approach me with their burdens and fears before they even know I am a Christian because there is something about me that is approachable and encouraging. People can know me for a very short period of time and see that there is a LOT of love within me for people in general. But I am having a DIFFICULT time loving these hypocrites that claim to be of God but are so easily swayed by little green pieces of paper to take DUMPS on those less fortunate. Everything Mrs. DeVos has proposed thus far would negatively impact vulnerable students, and I strongly despise her for that. And I am extremely angry.

Pain, pain, go away…come again some other…oh wait no, don’t come again…

I absolutely love baseball.

More than just loving baseball, I love helping my son to also love baseball. Watching him grow into a pretty decent player is extremely rewarding. I remember how upset he was when he didn’t make the basketball team at school, and how I tried to remind him that because of complications from his asthma, he had never played basketball further than gym class allowed him. I question whether or not we made the right choice to keep him from organized athletics, because he has always desired to play sports, but we held him back, especially when he was first diagnosed. Now, he kind of has to play catch up, but in terms of basketball and baseball, I think Jayden is exactly like me.

I loved watching basketball (now I only watch the playoffs. I get annoyed by the innumerable foul calls and the theatrics that take place when players are breathed upon hard enough to cause them to fall to the floor in a huge, six-foot-tall heap. I loved playing. However, basketball was just something I did for fun. I wasn’t a standout. I rarely got the ball because the point guard I usually ended up with in the game was a major ball hog, but when I did get the ball I could score a basket. My strong point in basketball was defense. Although I was usually one of the shorter people on the court, I have always been physically strong. I could guard people taller than me and get rebounds.

Softball is where I shone. Softball was more than just a game to me–it was a necessity. Even now I watch college softball and Olympic softball and get excited. I pay close attention to the pitchers, because that is what I was. A week ago, I managed to feign feeling good long enough to go to the batting cages to help Jayden with his batting. While there, I cracked a few good ones myself. Still got it…

After beating himself up for striking out during the first two games, Jayden’s practice finally paid off. In his last game, he went 3-3, with each of his hits being doubles, and got several RBIs. He also scored three times, helping his team reach their first victory. After the game he was awarded the game ball as his teammates chanted his name over and over and picked him to do the countdown leading up to them screaming their team name jubilantly before they ran off the field. He looked so happy. And I was so proud of him.

My dreams of participating in an adult softball league may not be actualized. My physical pain has kicked it up a notch, and I don’t know why. My feet feel like I am walking on broken glass. Every single muscle and joint in my body aches. My jaw even hurts when I speak or chew sometimes. My hands feel like they just want to draw up into fists. The tops and sides of my feet are tender to the touch and ache like crazy. And the back pain? I can’t even get comfortable enough to sleep. I looked up the term to describe that, and of course there is one–painsomnia.

painsomnia

Apparently there are tons of conditions that are related to this painsomnia phenomenon. All I know is, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I can’t think of many things more frustrated than being exhausted but unable to sleep. I’ve been a special kind of  crabapple in the morning in particular because of it. I have been considering giving up coffee but there is just no way I can conceivably do that. A quick cup of coffee is just about the only thing that evens me out in the morning. It’s not like I can get up and ease into my day. No, I usually wake up because one of my kids (or two, or all) have woke up and need something.  Since both my son and daughter are now playing baseball (more on her tomorrow because she has a game then), we are at the field almost every day for games and practices; church and choir rehearsals also take up a significant chunk of time; and of course I like to try to keep them academically involved and have a morning routine of Bible study and lessons. It would be impossible to get through my days without coffee. Well, possible, but somebody would come out of the day with some scratches, cuts, bruised egos and hurt feelings.

It even pains me to practice with my kids, but I am happy to do it anyway. Having to sit in a tub of boiling water just to get my muscles to relax and then hopping straight into a cold shower because now those heated muscles are twitching and I’m about to overheat and falling asleep with my feet hanging over the bed into my massaging foot bath with a heating pad under my back is worth moments like these.

Even though I might be frustrated and looking for answers, for my own sanity I can no longer dwell on certain things. Apparently whatever this is, it’s here to stay. Okay, some days are going to suck. There is no way around that. In order to not appear flaky because I am constantly canceling or rescheduling plans, I have been a lot more honest with people about how I am feeling. I do not like feeling weak, but the people who really love me know that I am not. I am sick. They know my pride would not allow me to feign an illness that would render me helpless in any sort of way.

In my convos with God, I just continue to pray for answers. I suppose I should pray for healing, but I really haven’t… Not that I wouldn’t mind being completely restored to my old self, but I just trust God–that if this is something He has deemed me to have, it is for a reason and just like all of the other trials and tribulations I have endured in this life, it is to teach me something or reach someone else, or both. So, although I don’t always “grin and bear it”–I am beyond hiding my pain so as to not make other people feel uncomfortable–if I am hurting, you’re probably going to see winces and cringes every now and then–I am in a better place than I was several weeks ago. My depression has lifted somewhat because I stopped focusing on things that were out of my control. I attempted to speak with my student loan servicers and got nowhere and pretty much had to just say forget it. I’ll send them what I can. I’m thisclose to getting a work from home job and getting my driver’s license back.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” One of my favorites from James 1:2-4… I  have used it in this blog multiple times because it is just so applicable to this very difficult Christian walk. If things were always easy, would we learn to lean on Jesus? No. How will we build our faith to maximum strength? By testing it. Or should I say, by having it tested. My mood might fluctuate, and sometimes I might wonder what God is doing and why, but there is no doubt in my mind that He is still in control.

I’m already wondering when school starts.

It’s terrible, I know.

As were most parents, I was excited when Jayden went back to school in September. Around February, however, my mood was changing just a tad. I was tired of packing lunches, ironing uniform clothing, keeping track of permission slips, gym shoes, school shoes, textbooks, which medications needed refills,  and being a living schedule book that was expected to remember each project due date, each assignment, each special assembly, lunch balances (my son drank a carton of milk each day and it wasn’t free, so we had to remember to put money on his account for that), etc.

Jayden has only been out of school since the 16th and my patience ran short with him and his little sister today and I am pretty sure it will be a pattern I will deal with over the summer. I even actually checked the school calendar to see when the next semester starts so I could begin my countdown. It’s awful, I know. But if they could get along the entire time they were together, I wouldn’t be having these second thoughts.

My older sister’s birthday is today, and while I listened discreetly as my two older kids bickered about something absolutely ridiculous, I had to appreciate the fact that she and I never argued about anything as kids. Never. My kids have their own rooms, while my sister and I shared a room until I was ten and she was fifteen, so for the life of me I don’t understand why, when they get tired of each other, won’t they SEPARATE from each other and go to their rooms and chill out for a minute! No, instead, they stay in the living room or whoever’s bedroom they are in and make little dumb comments to each other. As I mentioned, on several occasions I’ve listened in “discreetly”. Why? Because they like to lie on each other. When I go investigate the cause of an argument, unbeknownst to them I already know who did what and who said what. I just wait to hear it, and wouldn’t you know it, they lie on each other a good 90% of the time. So in addition to their stupid arguments over stupid stuff, I get lied to about it as well. Usually they both end up in trouble.

Speaking of birthdays, my sweet baby is ONE now! Her first birthday was yesterday, and I don’t think she could have cared less. The night before, Jayden and I worked feverishly to put together several desserts (my husband’s idea. Of course he comes up with the idea and doesn’t have to put in any of the work)–a Snickers cheesecake cake, a strawberry cheesecake cake, and an Oreo Surprise. The day of her birthday she woke up in a bad mood, having teething pain, and was in a pretty bad mood most of the day. Even with her party guests, she was in full diva mode, howling when just about anyone looked like they might want to even speak to her. It was pretty hilarious.

The most action we got out of her was when it was cupcake time. She dove into her cupcake and came back with two fistfuls of yum and wasted no time shoving them in her mouth. We were prepared for such a mess, so after the cupcake she changed into her second outfit of the day. While we were opening her gifts, I attempted to read her birthday cards as she sat on my lap. She was not interested nor impressed. She snatched each card out of my hand and flung it across the room. Now, the actual gifts themselves, she was happy with those, but the cards… what does a 1-year-old care about cards, you know?

Exhausted, the Birthday Diva fell asleep before the party was even properly over, and stayed asleep while the rest of us went to Layla’s t-ball game. She was late starting, and is just getting the hang of it, but what I like about her and her other little teammates, all of whom are around her age (5) is their willingness to learn and give it a go. When they make mistakes, they recover quickly. They listen to their coaches. They hustle. My son’s team, on the other hand (he plays baseball–it’s his first time ever playing on a team since we just really got his asthma under control) sometimes swing the bat like they don’t expect it to connect and run bases like they really don’t care if they make it there or not. I jokingly said perhaps they should practice with Layla’s team LOL.

I guess my patience with my older two monsters is short too because I am tired and in a ton of pain. I took a pretty decent fall this morning, and much to my chagrin, my husband heard it, came into the room and had to pick me up off the floor. But yet, nothing is wrong according to the doctors… Go figure. Regardless of what they (or should I say their tests) say, there is no way in the world I should be in this much pain every day at the age of 35.

I’m sure it’ll get better as we start doing more things to actually enjoy the summer. We do have things we intend on doing. Picnics, museums,  water parks, splash pads, etc. This week is our rest and relaxation week, and hopefully next week we’ll be doing more to get out of the house. Maybe then they won’t get on my nerves as much.

Maybe.

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(Never mind the lighter on the floor–we used it to light her little candle).

Isn’t she cute 🙂

The Divided States of America will continue to burn.

divided states of america

The “F” stands for “fiddlesticks”.

In all seriousness, today was a particularly disturbing and bloody day in America. As I’m sure you all have heard, there was a shooting in Virginia that resulted in Rep. Steve Scalise now being in critical condition and three other individuals wounded (not to mention the shooter is dead, but oh well); four people were killed and three injured at a UPS facility in San Francisco before the shooter turned the gun on himself (last I checked, no motive was given–I wonder if the shooter was a disgruntled employee, if he had beef with coworkers, or if problems at home had brought him to a breaking point. Not that any of those things are excuses); a man was shot in New York after some type of altercation; apparently the US is responsible for the deaths of countless civilians in Syria; and I am sure there are other instances of violence of which I am currently unaware.

You know what’s messed up about all of this? Twenty years ago, I think Americans would have been in some type of unanimous panic about the violence that has swept our nation. But now, we’re so divided among racial lines, along political lines, along socioeconomic lines, that we can’t even agree that there is a problem. As I perused the message boards associated with the miscellaneous articles about the chaos that was today, I was disheartened by the bickering taking place. The main theme involved conservatives blaming liberals and liberals blaming conservatives. I am beyond SICK of those two terms. To say I am SICK of them is actually an understatement. In most of the exchanges I could not tell if grown people were talking or if a couple of eleven-year-old boys were arguing. It was absolutely pathetic.

America was built on division. We haven’t yet overcome it, and we’re getting more and more divided. All throughout her painful history, in a struggle for power, there has always been one group pitted against another. I have not yet figured out all of the reasons why, but I can say the pursuit of power and money and this thing called capitalism are major players (honestly, would capitalism work as well if there wasn’t a single group of people that could be exploited??), but I can say the tone from our nation’s leadership has not helped.

In the Bible, we saw examples of how leadership affected the nation of Israel in particular. Each time Israel had a Godly leader, the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity. When they had an ungodly leader and fell back into idolatry and complacency, there was warfare, strife and suffering. See the parallels?

My mind is weary, so I’m going to attempt to watch something light-hearted and relax. I’ve got my feet propped up, as a new symptom has taken hold within the last few weeks–especially in the morning or when I’ve done a lot of walking, it feels like I am walking on broken glass. I don’t know what it is, but I am too fit to be tied with yet ANOTHER unexplainable symptom.

As I close for the night, I have to wonder how more people are not paying attention. The Word talks to us about this very thing. God has to be looking down upon us with major disappointment. I don’t think he is going to allow this humanity experiment to continue much longer. Second Timothy 3:1-5 tells us this:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Am I the only one seeing this manifest? Or how about this one:

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…”  (Matt. 24:12).

Isn’t it obvious that these divisions arise because the love people used to have for others has grown cold?

I guess the question that I will ponder for the rest of the night is this:

How do we get it back?

America cannot continue on this path.

 

 

Love-Hate Relationship with Numbers

Not the book of the Bible… I actually like the book of Numbers, the fourth book written by Moses between the years 1440 and 1400 B.C. that documents the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. What I am referring to is actual numbers.

Number one, I am not a math person. I don’t do well with mental calculations and I feel that makes me look stupid when I’m really not. I have always had a tendency to switch numbers in my head. I have never been tested nor diagnosed with dyscalculia (it’s like dyslexia but involves numbers), but I have always had a problem with number order. If I write a math problem out on paper, as long as I know what I’m doing I’m usually easily able to solve it. But I cannot do math in my head, and it’s gotten worse as I’ve battled this ever-present Mystery Illness (so the next time you’re in the store and you give a cashier more change than what they expected, perhaps you ought to consider the possibility of some type of learning disability before you berate them. I get sick and tired of older people assuming that folks are stupid because they can’t make fast mental calculations).

But my disdain for numbers comes from more than my poor mental math abilities. I’ve grown weary with how one’s success is measured by numbers. I’m sick of test scores, credit scores, income status, productivity measures, shoot I’m even tired of weight. All of these things mean nothing in the grand scheme of things but are taken to mean everything. And it’s stealing people’s joy.

With that being said, I understand WHY these things need to be measured, to an extent. I do not like all the testing that is done in schools; I do not feel that the tests measure children’s knowledge, since all schools in America do not have the same resources and all children do not learn or test the same. On the contrary, I can see the need for schools to do some type of testing in order that they may gauge a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses in order to craft them an appropriate learning plan based thereupon. I also understand that colleges and universities want to see some type of evidence that incoming students have achieved at least a basic understanding of the concepts upon which a college education is built. But I do not like this whole concept of credit in America and how it is used to keep lower-income people in the same bracket (can someone explain to me the point of charging someone who is already of lower means more interest? I understand they’re considered a higher risk, but does a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding one’s credit history truly appropriate? The only thing damaging on my credit report (in addition to the fraudulent charges associated with identity theft) are my ridiculous student loans. So I’m not creditworthy because I believed in the American dream as a naïve teen???). But I understand that one’s productivity at work is going to be measured. I understand that it IS important to maintain a healthy weight and BMI. But what I don’t like is how people have erased the concept of a person being a PERSON and hold people to numerical standards.

Personally, I don’t care if a person is 300 pounds (other than being concerned about their health), has a 500 credit score (other than the fact that that puts them at a financial disadvantage and to the extent that a Christian person IS supposed to pay his debts), or got an 800 on his SATs in high school. I care about who they are as a person and that their needs are being met. More importantly, God does not care about those things.  I know there are certain numbers that hang over my head every single day that give me pause–my weight, my credit score, that ever-increasing amount of student loans that I will probably never pay off. I know personally how these numbers weigh on my self-esteem. But at the end of the day, if I am doing something that benefits someone else, do they care about those things? Nope. Is God measuring my adherence to His commands with those numbers? Nah.

These kids are being impacted by numerical standards as well. They see tons upon TONS of information disseminated by social media on weight and body standards in particular. They are under tons of pressure to maintain a certain grade point average and achieve certain test scores knowing that their academic performance will make a difference on how much they may eventually end up paying for college (I just read that Congress is going to allow student loan interest to increase by 18%, and I was flipping furious).

Are we reminding them that development of their moral character is just as important? Are we focusing on their mental health as well? I suppose that is my major problem with these numerical standards–that people look at them instead of the person holistically.

Numerical deficiencies mean the world in today’s society, but in the kingdom of God, you are more than just the numbers that are associated with you. Regardless of whether you have the ideal body weight, the perfect credit score, the best grades, the highest productivity rate at your job, or the best test scores, God has given you some type of ability you can use to advance His kingdom. So don’t get bogged down by society’s measurements and standards. You are not mediocre in God’s eyes. And it’s okay to be average. All throughout the Bible we see God using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That should give us all confidence and erase the self-doubt this world can bring.

numbers hatred

Beauty worth preserving.

People claim that science and religion, particularly Christianity, are often at odds.

In a way, they are, but only because people have decided to make it so. In my opinion, scientific knowledge proves even further that there definitely is a God.

It is absolutely amazing to me that this planet earth is laid out in a manner that has supported various life forms for centuries. It is absolutely amazing to me that God worked to form the earth and then formed humans so that everything that we need to survive and thrive can be gleaned from it. The majority of our body mass is comprised of water; water is absolutely essential for human life. About seventy percent of the earth is water. Coincidence? I think not. We need clean air to survive. Despite man’s deforestation and industrialization, trees are still in the business of filtering our air. If people really stopped to think, they would realize that it is absolutely amazing that there is enough water for all of us to drink, and that there are methods to keep it clean and drinkable, and that the air remains safe for us to breathe despite our best efforts to pollute it. If people really stopped to think, they would realize that it only takes very minor changes in the composition of our water or air to sicken or even kill us, and that there must be a very loving God who looks past the fact that we are ruining the planet that He made even before He made us and continues to sustain it.

I saw the majesty of God’s creation in a manner that is not typical for me this past week when my husband and I embarked upon a Carnival Cruise (the Victory ship) with my sister-in-law, her boyfriend and my mother-in-law. We had a short plane ride to Miami, where we stayed in a Doubletree Hotel (where we saw some of the biggest cockroaches we’ve ever seen in our lives–I’ve been to Alabama enough times to be more familiar with them than I’d like to be, but living in Michigan, we don’t see roaches, and if we do, they are NOT that big) before we boarded the ship. As we hung precariously in the air, I marveled at the sparse clouds that were suspended in the atmosphere; the layers of pastel-colored sky as the night fell; and the fact that people had ever gotten smart enough to create this beast of a machine that could conquer such a feat. At the airport there were hundreds of people who looked rather unimpressed by the fact that they were, in fact, about to board an airplane. Perhaps because it was only the second time in my life that I’ve had the opportunity, I was overcome with adoration for God. Scientific innovation was given to man by God for our benefit. Science doesn’t go against God. The only reason people act like it does is because they fail to give God the credit and glory for scientific discovery. What people fail to realize is that there is far more that we don’t know about this planet and the things in it than God has allowed. Man will never be able to fully explain or even understand the inner-workings of all of God’s creation. But God has allowed man to become brilliant enough to figure out altitude, to create the parts that eventually become a plane, and to figure out how to navigate it.

And let me interject this–God bless pilots and flight attendants. Our first flight to Miami was smooth, the one back, not so much. We encountered slight turbulence, but that pilot had that under control. As for me, there is no flipping way I would EVER want the responsibility of controlling a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds and has hundreds of people, who are someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, mother or father, on it. Especially not one that is in AIR. Too much pressure. And there were the flight attendants, walking around the plane like there was solid earth underneath handing people snacks and coffee. I’m sitting there with my seatbelt firmly buckled most of the time (admittedly because I missed the memo that I could take it off) and here they are calmly walking back and forth with pushcarts like they’re busboys in a restaurant.

But I digress.

We spent a day in Nassau in the Bahamas. If we go back in the future, I’d like to do more activities, but in the meantime we did have a great time at the beach and walking through Nassau and its shops. I was able to see creativity and skill firsthand as I watched an elderly man carve a wooden fish sculpture with hand tools and a woman weave my daughter’s name on a little coin purse within seconds. Everyone was very friendly. I’d love to go back.

As our ship cruised the seas, I often sat out on the balcony of our cozy stateroom in wonder. I wondered how many feet deep the waters beneath us were, what creatures made their home there, and whether or not there were any shipwrecks (perhaps I’ve watched too many movies where people find trunks of gold and treasure at the bottom of the sea). As the captain propelled the ship along, I was again amazed and even further convinced of God’s careful planning of this earth and thankful for His omniscience.

This planet has immeasurable beauty that is worth fighting for, worth preserving. Some Christians want to be blind to climate change, either denying the science behind it or denying that it could actually bring us harm. Christians who deny science are limiting God’s abilities and desire to impart a measure of His knowledge to us so that we might do better at taking care of this planet and each other. To deny that it could bring us harm, by saying that we should just pray and God will take care of the problem, is irresponsible Christianity right there. Just because we CAN and SHOULD pray for God to fix the earth does not mean that we shouldn’t also do OUR part to prevent continued damage. I was aghast when Trump made the reckless decision to pull the United States from the Paris Accord. In a time when cancer and respiratory illnesses are on the rise when they shouldn’t be, we should be doing all we can to explore whether or not those problems are related to environmental factors.

I want my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and beyond to be able to experience this. It is maddeningly selfish that a group of adults made a decision that will impact our most vulnerable.

sky view

 

There is no exclusivity in Christ Jesus!

gods compassion

Today in Sunday school my class and I wrapped up a set of lessons based on the book of Jonah. Certainly everyone knows the story of Jonah, particularly the part during which he was swallowed up by the big fish, but my charges were unaware of the REST of the story involving this Old Testament prophet. The book of Jonah is not typically preached from in most churches, I boldly say, but the lessons that can be taken from the book and applied to society today are INNUMERABLE.

There is so much in this wonderful short book. We see the consequences of anger, disobedience, and even racism. We see grace and mercy and an illustration of God’s compassion both on Jonah and on Nineveh. It is not a book to be ignored.

Since I am dealing with children, I always try to keep in mind that, although it is of extreme importance that they understand the background of each set of Scriptures we use in Sunday school, that they also are able to find some relevance within those Scriptures to their every day life. Certain approaches don’t work well with children. For each lesson, I give them a very brief background of the author of the Scriptures, for instance, and perhaps the setting and purpose of the book from which the Scriptures have come. Why brief? Because honestly, the kids get bored by too much detail. The bulk of class time is spent on dissecting the Scriptures themselves and what the kids can take away from the Scriptures.

Of course to those of us on the outside of the Bible, Jonah comes off as a cold-blooded guy. His unfounded hatred of the 120,000 people of Nineveh was so strong that he preferred to die than to go and deliver the message of God’s impending wrath and possibly afford the people the chance to repent from their sins and be saved. Jonah was selfish, and racism is a selfish attitude. It is racism that makes a person believe that they are superior to another person or group of people. The only Old Testament prophet charged with delivering a message to Gentiles, Jonah did not feel that the people of Nineveh, which was indeed a wicked city, deserved grace and mercy. Yet, he completely forgot that technically, NONE of us do.

Grace is when we are given a free gift that we do not deserve. In terms of Biblical principles, God gracefully gives us salvation. Mercy is when God withholds punishments that we do deserve. In order to further explain those concepts to the kids, I asked them about occasions in which their parents rewarded them with something they did not deserve, and if their parents had ever withhold consequences for bad behavior. I wanted them to think of how good that felt, and to be able to appreciate God’s immeasurable love for us that is manifest in the concepts of grace and mercy.

Jonah is also an example of anger handled incorrectly. The children were initially under the impression that anger itself is a sin. That was until we turned to Ephesians 4:26, and found out the anger on its own is not a sin, but the way we express anger has the potential to be sinful. Jonah’s anger toward the people of Nineveh led him to disobedience. I find it baffling that at no point in time did Jonah consider that among the 120,000 Ninevites there might be some decent people within the midst… Another calamity of racist thinking. This is why I did not support the proposed Muslim ban. Call it what you want, that’s what it was. We cannot lump all Muslims into one group. As a matter of fact, who do people think are the ones reported suspicious, potential terrorist actions to the police or Homeland Security?

Other Muslims. It was other Muslims who had reported the loser who bombed the concert.

To further drive the point home of how God’s compassion is not reserved for one group of people, we talked about the people who were involved with the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK (it’s messed up that we have to discuss things like that, but we do. They are aware). I asked them if they thought those individuals deserved God’s compassion. They honestly said no. That led to another discussion about how we should have compassion for them, because they know not what they do and know not where they may go. I’ve seen and heard people talk about hell as if it’s going to be this fantastic mishmash of illicit sex, drugs, alcohol, ungodly music–all of the things that people today think are FUN. But those of us who read our Word know that hell is not going to be fun at all, and it should disturb us to think of any human being, created lovingly by God, might end up in eternal darkness and torment.

Another of Jonah’s problems appears to be that he may have misunderstood the concept of sin. Yes, the sins of Nineveh were great, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he was sinful as well. As Christians, we cannot place ourselves on a pedestal. We can’t help people if we are looking down upon them. When I asked the kids if they thought there was any one sin that was greater than the other, I got two good answers. My son felt that killing another person was the greatest sin one can commit. Another very astute young lady said that denying Jesus after you’ve already accepted Him (she gave the example of being faced with death unless you denied Christ) was the worst sin.

Luckily for us God doesn’t operate that way. Sin is sin. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I doubt God has a chart that shows escalating sins and their corresponding punishments. That is why none of us have the right to act holier-than-thou. We have done things that are contrary to God’s will too. At some point in time, someone decided we needed to hear the Gospel. We heard it and received it. Now, of course, everyone is NOT going to receive the Gospel. Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about that part. We just have to make sure there is enough compassion within us to be willing to talk to people, even those who we have decided don’t deserve grace and mercy, about the love of Jesus Christ. If the only people we talk to about Jesus are other Christians, we are sorely missing our purpose and being disobedient to the Great Commission.

Racism/prejudice, disobedience, anger… I couldn’t think of a more timely set of lessons.

Be blessed and have a wonderful rest of your day. I thank God for everyone who reads any part of my blog, even if you don’t respond.