What Freedom Sounds Like

It’s like the kids’ game, “telephone,” to use a cliché example. If you go by some headlines, tweets, facebook memes and your neighbor’s reaction, you may have missed the truth about the speech given at the end of the Hamilton theater performance, directed to attendee, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence .

But I think this is one of the best things I’ve seen post-election. A first, I just thought the actor’s words were intelligent, well-spoken, respectful. But the more time passes, I think it’s much more than that. THIS is a great example of discourse–both in the way Actor Brandon Dixon delivers his words-and in the way VP-elect Pence responds.

This is the highlight for me–the first glimmer of hope I’ve seen post-election–an example of communication well-done. Watch this if you haven’t actually seen the footage:

Excellent. No accusations, no insults, no name-calling. Just an honest appeal that Pence will listen to their concerns. Everything about the way he addresses the VP-elect is also respectful, and he appeals to his heart and intellect. Bravo.

This is what I do: teach people how to communicate. In many facets of my life, past and present, whether as a writing teacher, public school English teacher, Sunday School teacher, tutor or editor: I’m always trying to teach others how to communicate effectively and respectfully–not just because I believe it is honoring to others and God-honoring to talk to others with respect (even those who haven’t earned it), it’s also advantageous. This is when you stand the best chance of people actually hearing you.

(Facebook is a proving ground for this. When people start slinging insults, well, the usefulness of the poster’s attempt to converse takes a nose-dive. I’ve seen some really fantastic communicators be able to redeem it and something productive happens, but most often, I see the dive descend to the point of no-return, and everyone seems to shut down and leave the “conversation” angry and self-righteous, with starting opinions only further cemented with negative emotions.)

I’ve heard/seen people decry this theater speech, calling it deplorable as they bemoan how “the left” is awful and unrelenting in its protest-but I seriously had to wonder if those critics listened to the speech, both its tone and actual words. For people wanting to make their voices heard, this is spot-on, well-done.

As a teacher, I teach students how to air their grievances with me in a respectful, constructive way. Kids/people need to have an outlet for engaging authority figures and be heard. This is an awesome example.

Not only did Pence say he was “not offended,” I love what he reportedly told his daughter as they experienced this night at the theater, amidst both jeers and cheers: “This is what freedom sounds like.” And as for the speech by Dixon, I’d venture to say, that is what progress sounds like. Imagine how every-day people would understand each other if we all could converse as Dixon and Pence, with respect, using ears to hear, and not getting offended when someone voices an honest concern from their vantage point in life.

Other posts:

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

I Didn’t Tell My Kids Which Candidate Got My Vote

Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?

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I Didn’t Tell My Kids Which Candidate Got My Vote

Two of my kids even went with me to the polling place and watched me cast my vote. One was about hip-high and couldn’t read, so I let her see the screen. But the other is nine, and I made him stand to the side, beyond the voting box, so he couldn’t see.

He’s been bugging me. He asks in increasing sly ways that he hopes will get me to answer. But I’m saying, “Not now.” Further down the road, when it’s not a hot topic, when other kids won’t judge him for the answer of whom his mom voted for, when the hate and anger isn’t so strong, I’ll tell him.

In recent weeks, he’s been bombarded by kids in his social circles, kids enthusiastically on the bandwagon for one particular candidate or another. And the rhetoric is very black and white, which kids naturally glom onto. The worst for him was when kids of faithful families gave ultimatums, “You can’t really be a Christian and want ________ to win!” And I’ve heard supporters of each candidate give the same judgement. My son is very confused by all this, yet lacks the maturity and level of thinking to really work through it.

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Kids are kids. They don’t often even understand the issues, even if they can throw around terms like abortion or supreme court justice or the environment or the economy. They so easily absorb adult talk and repeat. I get that. And then it becomes a sort of play ground gang up against the kids who says his parents are voting differently. Kids easily create divisions; they seem to like to divide themselves in binary fashion, always looking for categories by which to do this. Glasses, style of clothes, weight, now parents’ politics.

My oldest became overwhelmed about how strident kids could be about politics, confused by the tidbits of dirt kids shared about one candidate or another. And when kids asked how his parents were voting, he just stood there and stuttered that he didn’t know. I told him that’s why I’m NOT telling him. So he can honestly say he doesn’t know and get back to playing basketball. Back to being a kid who doesn’t have to know what p**** is or partial-birth abortion or FBI investigations.

Let me be clear in saying, as a  former kid myself and a teacher, this is normal–this phenomenon of kids repeating adult talk, taking on stances as identity even before they understand them. This is normal.

I guess I was just surprised at the level of emotion behind it. But then, if kids are reflections, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they reflect the very strong emotions of adults around them in this very volatile election. (It was just really surprising because in places where I’d previously heard NO political talk among people I’ve known for years, suddenly it came out ferociously a couple weeks ago, and it was apparently all the preteen set could talk about.)

(For the record, as a parent and teacher, I also give grace and don’t judge parents by what a kid repeats necessarily. I’ve been embarrassed before when my kid heard part of something I said, misinterpreted it, then repeated his interpretation as gospel truth from the lips of Mom!)

My point is, I don’t want my kid to go to bat for MY political opinions. He shouldn’t be answering for his parents’ convictions, especially when he doesn’t even understand them. He’s a kid. I don’t want him saddled with labels that other kids bandy about, from both sides of the political spectrum.

Today my seven year old also came and asked, “Mom, who did you vote for? My friend wants to know.” I told him the same as his older brother. “I’m not telling you now.”

I also don’t want my kids to know and then likewise use that in their own social interaction to divide their friends into categories according to MY convictions.

Because my kid would be tempted. He’s at that age where social life is everything.

I never intentionally planned this, but it’s just that my husband and I didn’t share in a lot of political talk around the kids.  My oldest did see commercials in the last week of the election, and THAT gave him an (unwanted) education of the unsavoriness that has characterized this election. THAT was more than I wanted him to be aware of at his age. It’s hard to explain moral right or wrong when the entire issue itself is of a maturity level my kids haven’t reached.

So while I didn’t plan to keep my vote o myself, I’m not glad I never had a chance to let it slip.

When he’s old enough to have his own convictions, he can stand up for them. But no need for him to defend his parents’ choices on the playground.

This is my first time having kids this age during a presidential election. I just didn’t see this coming. A bit blind-sided, really….

Were any other parents surprised by similar things? I’d love to hear others’ experiences and solutions.

 

Other posts:

Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?

Dealing with Election Results: What Can I Do to Help Heal the Divide?

Recognizing the Good Days (and My Son’s Fascination with Medieval Korean Pottery)

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Dealing with Election Results: What Can I Do to Help Heal the Divide?

In such a close election, no matter who wins, roughly half the country will be really, really disappointed. Even scared, anxious.

I expect emotions to be high. We may see anger, suspicion, and/or fear. I admit, there aren’t many chances for a scenerio in which I’d be ecstatic myself. But despite feelings I may have, I am writing down my code of ethics. People say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So I’m planning my response ahead of time. It’s just a beginning as to what I can do to help a divided country heal in the immediate time right after the election. The very beginning.

(And yes, if you read my rules for Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season), you will notice some of my points are the same. I think that maybe is part of the point. Even very unfavorable results shouldn’t change my code of right and wrong.)

My 10 rules for myself, post-election:

1. I will be careful what I say to my children, or around them regarding whoever wins and loses. Just as I did–sometimes with great difficulty and temptation–during the election.  No lie, it was sometimes tough. But I want to teach my children to respect others, not because they have earned respect, but because how we treat others is a mark of our character, maturity and understanding.

2. No name-calling the future president of the United States, even if I’m not a fan of him or her. Even if I want to share disagreement, I can do so without name-calling.

Image result for patriotic photos

3.No name-calling other people, for how they voted, or for their response to the results, etc.. Idiot, moron, etc., are off the table when talking to or about others. No matter how much I cannot see how they possibly believe a certain viewpoint. I don’t want to allow myself to estimate my opinion or rightness so highly that it permits me to denigrate another person and crush their being under my harsh words. And yes, there are a few issues I feel strongly about, things that are black and white moral imperatives–and still, I don’t see, based on my faith, where I have the right to insult people during political or other debate. (And yes, I’ve seen the popular meme floating around turning WWJD on its head, mentioning what Jesus said and did at the Temple when he threw out the money-changers. Jesus exhibits righteous anger and does judge men’s hearts with harsh words that cut right to their character. But there are many things Jesus does that does not fall in into my job description as a Christian; for instance, I also cannot grant forgiveness and send a criminal to Heaven, as Jesus did on the cross. Likewise, judging peoples’ hearts is not my job; I’ve not found any scripture telling me so.) My faith tradition gives me lots of directives as to my role: honoring others, loving them, encouraging them, restoring them gently. I am working on those. Matthew 5:22 gives very strong words for someone insulting or calling someone made in God’s image a “fool.”

4. If I approve of the winner, I will not gloat. A lot of others will be experiencing genuine panic, fear and hopelessness. I am called to think of others first and their concerns. I need to be sensitive to that. It’s also good sportsmanship.

5. I will not get stuck in blaming, holding grudges or disdaining fellow Americans. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of the blame game. That won’t help heal rifts in our nation.  I don’t want to be ruled by emotions, least of all hatred.

6.I will not ridicule or judge others for their vote. (For a whole post on why and how it freed me to do this, read Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?) Another reason is that I want to assume the best in others rather than assuming they have lesser intelligence and reasoning ability than I do. It’s often a lack of our understanding the other person that accounts for our hasty judgement of someone for their opinion. Yes, there are right and wrong answers to things, but when it comes to complex societal issues, declaring someone stupid for not knowing or believing what we do can often be a reflection more on our heart than their intelligence/education.

Former President Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint… understand what he is trying to do… nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.” If we dealt with people by their intentions and honored that and thereby showed we actually listen and have a heart for them as a person, two things can happen. You will have more success in actual conversation; that person may actually hear you–and you may learn something from them.  My aim is to respect and treat others  according to the assumption of good intentions until proven otherwise.

7.Don’t use sarcasm or condescension with Facebook friends who state beliefs or views I  do not share. (Sarcasm is ok for truly funny things that aren’t about heavy subjects such as beliefs, religion or politics. Sarcasm is not insulting only when used among friends when you already know are on the same page and share viewpoints or you know each other’s hearts/intentions.)

8.Don’t post vulgar or distasteful images or words in order to prove that something/someone is vulgar or distasteful. 

9. No snide remarks or memes that are vulgar, nasty and cutting, even if they reveal an idea or belief I agree with. Nope.–no matter how perfectly delicious it seems for retaliation against an idea I don’t like, and I’m angry. Because I don’t want to be like that. Speak life. If I cannot speak life about that topic, then let’s find someone who is doing something worthy on that topic and illuminate that. There are enough people pointing out the bad; that job, if it needs to be done, is already being done.

10. If disappointed, I will remember the God I serve. Because I am a person of faith, I will not lose hope because of the results of an election–because His kingdom is the goal of my life on Earth, and no president was never meant to be my savior. If the Apostles could believe as they wrote to the Early Church, that God ordained rulers, then as hard as the implications can be, it’s something to take seriously, coming from the source it does. We’re talking about people who lived through Roman occupation that crucified Jesus and subjugated God’s nation of Israel. Peter and Paul were not flinging around platitudes; they did not tell Jesus followers to respect leadership because they were of the benefitting ruling class or found it easy. They lived in a time of persecution and those afterward experienced even more. But their conviction that God was working through it all did not waver. No matter who gets into the White House, I beleive in a God of miracles who has a plan for redemption that will not have changed. And meanwhile, we help by loving others.

Post-election add-on:

11. Pray for unity of Americans. My concern, now that we know the outcome, is for the people who feel genuine fear and anger, as well as people enthusiastcally elated. I pray for compassion to rule all so we can be neighbors and community to each other, despite divisions that seemed really pronounced last night.  United we stand, divided we fall.

Other posts:

Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?

Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season)

Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 for Classical Conversations

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Dealing with the Outcome of the Presidential Election: How Can I do My Part to Unite Such a Divided Country?

No matter who wins, roughly half the country will be really, really disappinted. Even scared.

I expect emotions to be high. We may see anger, suspicion, and/or fear. I admit, there aren’t many chances for a scenerio in which I’d be ecstatic myself. But despite feelings I may have, I am writing down my code of ethics. People say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So I’m planning my response ahead of time. It’s just a begining as to what I can do to help a divided country heal. The very beginning.

(And yes, if you read my rules for Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season), you will notice some of my points are the same. I think that maybe is part of the point. Even very unfavorable results shouldn’t change my code of right and wrong.)

My 10 rules for myself, post-election:

1. No name-calling the future president of the United States, even if I’m not a fan of him or her. Even if I want to share disagreement, I can do so without name-calling.

Image result for patriotic photos

2.No name-calling other people, for how they voted, or for their response to the results, etc.. Idiot, moron, etc., are off the table when talking to or about others. No matter how much I cannot see how they possibly believe a certain viewpoint. I don’t want to allow myself to estimate my opinion or rightness so highly that it permits me to denigrate another person and crush their being under my harsh words. And yes, there are a few issues I feel strongly about, things that are black and white moral imperatives–and still, I don’t see, based on my faith, where I have the right to insult people during political or other debate. (And yes, I’ve seen the popular meme floating around turning WWJD on its head, mentioning what Jesus said and did at the Temple when he threw out the money-changers. Jesus exhibits righteous anger and does judge men’s hearts with harsh words that cut right to their character. But there are many things Jesus does that does not fall in into my job description as a Christian; for instance, I also cannot grant forgiveness and send a criminal to Heaven, as Jesus did on the cross. Likewise, judging peoples’ hearts is not my job; I’ve not found any scripture telling me so.) My faith tradition gives me lots of directives as to my role: honoring others, loving them, encouraging them, restoring them gently. I am working on those. Matthew 5:22 gives very strong words for someone insulting or calling someone made in God’s image a “fool.”

3. If I approve of the winner, I will not gloat. A lot of others will be experiencing genuine panic, fear and hopelessness. I am called to think of others first and their concerns. I need to be sensitive to that. It’s also good sportsmanship.

4. I will be careful what I say to my children, or around them regarding whoever wins and loses. Just as I did–sometimes with great difficulty and temptation–during the election.  No lie, it was sometimes tough. But I want to teach my children to respect others, not because they have earned respect, but because how we treat others is a mark of our character, maturity and understanding.

5. I will not get stuck in blaming, holding grudges or disdaining fellow Americans who voted for someone I think may have been harmful to our country. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of the blame game. That won’t help heal rifts in our nation.  I don’t want to be ruled by emotions, least of all hatred.

6.I will not ridicule or judge others for their vote. (For a whole post on why and how it freed me to do this, read Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?) Another reason is that I want to assume the best in others rather than assuming they have lesser intelligence and reasoning ability than I do. It’s often a lack of our understanding the other person that accounts for our hasty judgement of someone for their opinion. Yes, there are right and wrong answers to things, but when it comes to complex societal issues, declaring someone stupid for not knowing or believing what we do can often be a reflection more on our heart than their intelligence/education.

Former President Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint… understand what he is trying to do… nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.” If we dealt with people by their intentions and honored that and thereby showed we actually listen and have a heart for them as a person, two things can happen. You will have more success in actual conversation; that person may actually hear you–and you may learn something from them.  My aim is to respect and treat others  according to the assumption of good intentions until proven otherwise.

7.Don’t use sarcasm or condescension with Facebook friends who state beliefs or views I  do not share. (Sarcasm is ok for truly funny things that aren’t about heavy subjects such as beliefs, religion or politics. Sarcasm is not insulting only when used among friends when you already know are on the same page and share viewpoints or you know each other’s hearts/intentions.)

8.Don’t post vulgar or distasteful images or words in order to prove that something/someone is vulgar or distasteful. 

9. No snide remarks or memes that are nasty and cutting, even if they reveal an idea or belief I agree with. Nope.–no matter how perfectly delicious it seems for retaliation against an idea I don’t like, and I’m angry. Because I don’t want to be like that. Speak life. If I cannot speak life about that topic, then let’s find someone who is doing something worthy on that topic and illuminate that. There are enough people pointing out the bad; that job, if it needs to be done, is already being done.

10.I will remember the God I serve. Because I am a person of faith, I will not lose hope because of the results of an election–because His kingdom is the goal of my life on Earth, and no president was never meant to be my savior. If the Apostles could believe as they wrote to the Early Church, that God ordained rulers, then as hard as the implications can be, it’s something to take seriously, coming from the source it does. We’re talking about people who lived through Roman occupation that crucified Jesus and subjugated God’s nation of Israel. Peter and Paul were not flinging around platitudes; they did not tell Jesus followers to respect leadership because they were of the benefitting ruling class or found it easy. They lived in a time of persecution and those afterward experienced even more. But their conviction that God was working through it all did not waver. No matter who gets into the White House, I beleive in a God of miracles who has a plan for redemption that will not have changed.

Post-election add-on:

11. Pray for unity of Americans. My concern now that we know the outcome is for the people who feel genuine fear and anger, as well as people enthusiastcally elated. I pray for compsassion to rule all so we can be neighbors and community to each other, despite divisions that seemed really pronounced last night.  United we stand, divided we fall.

 

Other posts:

Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?

Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season)

Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 for Classical Conversations

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?

Provocative question, huh? This is the first election in which this has occurred to me. I’ve always assumed in the past that there is one candidate God preferred,and therefore, everyone who follows Him should vote for that person.

Maybe this is not a new thought for you. Maybe I’m late to the party, but at least I got here.

If you expect this post to persuade you who to vote for, this is not that kind of post. I won’t even talk about who I plan to vote for or mention any candidates or their policies. If I do this well, you will no idea who I think I’m voting for, because it would nullify my point in writing this.

My post is for believers who live their lives by trying to please God and get His input on how to live their lives. I pose the question and suggestion that it might really be possible for one praying person to hear the God telling him/her to vote for a candidate, and another praying person to hear God say to vote for a different one. If this seems implausible, hang with me a bit.

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This election has been the most divisive I’ve ever seen among the people in my life. I’ve never seen more strident opinions and quick judgement and name-calling, “If you don’t vote for ____, you’re ______.”

Of course, it’s kind of a given, sadly, for a group of people who believe they are voting “on God’s side,” the confidence that they are right can often make them assume all others are wrong. And here is where I halted recently, breath stopped. And not just because the thinly-veiled disdain and judgement and poor conduct sickened me and made me want to weep for the way I witnessed people treating each other. And not just because I think, first and foremost, we are called to be humble even when we really believe we’re hearing God; we are called to honor and love each other above ourselves (Rom. 12:10), called ot encourage (I Thess. 5:11), so on and so forth.

I’m questioning the narrative I’ve just assumed my entire life. Because God is so big. His concerns are much larger than just what happens in this election and to this country and for the person who wins. It somehow escaped my thoughts that God’s hand is not in only to processes of the winners of elections, but also perhaps just as much in a host of other surrounding events and candidates, etc. What happens with candidates who do not win an election? By how much they win or lose has great effects on future developments, and I daresay it stands to reason God has an interest in them just as much. They are all threads of the much bigger story which we believe God is fashioning all the time. If God uses believers who follow him to get a candidate to win, I don’t see why some believers might be truly led by God to reach other ends too that are just as much God’s plan. We might see the race in completely human terms, fixated on the one person who will be deemed the winner. I suspect God sees much more than just this race and His goals may not be ours. What we see as the Big Race might not be to Him. We might all want to back the best horse to win the race, but what He’s orchestrating might be (must be!) so much bigger!

Let me clarify that I’m talking not just about the race between the 2 major contenders, but also the smaller parties on the ballots this year. Some people have speculated this was the year maybe a 3rd party could potentially to make an impact as big as when the Republican party edged out the Whig party in the 1800s.  Right now, the Libertarian party and the Green party both have candidates on most state ballots, and Evan McMillan, a rogue Republican running, has garnered some attention with a strategy.

While it truly seems unlikely any 3rd party candidate could ever win, their presence is changing, and has potential to further change, the future of politics. I submit that who wins is not the only occurrence of importance; by how much matters, and how much the 3rd parties garner matters. These factors influence what will happen in the future; they have the potential to influence the will of the people and the direction of even the winner as well as all future campaigns.

I dare say there is a lot more going on than simply which person wins. And I don’t see God as partisan. His only party is His kingdom, his only plans are His own and for His glory. If a candidate is meant to win, for whatever non-obvious, mysterious reason we may never know at the moment or during our lifetimes, it’s obvious from the fact that the parties have been taking turns in the White House that God is working His hands and will through more than one party.

This just all came to bear on me recently in realizing that if I pray and seek God’s guidance on my vote, I should not be surprised or doubt that I heard right simply because what I believe God tells me doesn’t match what another praying Christian says.

For those of us who live by the Spirit, seeking God on voting decisions should be our resource. This election has challenged so many of my assumptions, so many of by political thoughts.

I do not feel represented; no one was really who I wanted. So, should I vote at all? Should I vote for one moral issue or prioritize even when the candidate’s plans violate many other moral issues? Should I vote my conscience even if that means knowing my vote will not back anybody with momentum? Or as some say, ignore character (because it’s perhaps negligible considering the two main choices) and vote solely for platform? (In the mail, I got a post card from one party that would not even invoke the candidate’s name. It simply said to vote for “the party” in order to defeat the other party.) Should I vote to defeat what I dislike most, no matter who that leaves as the winner? Or is this the time to vote 3rd party? Should I vote toward a strategy? Or for the lesser evil? How on earth can I choose wisely when everything seems either ineffectual or morally gray?

My intellect has no answer for that. There is so much more going on than I can ever possibly know. Even if I were the most brilliant political analyst and did an amazing level of research on each candidate, and had eye-witnessed all the allegations put forth and therefore know the truth, there would still be so much I’d not be aware of. I feel the only answer I can get is from the Spirit.

And here is really my point: if you’re a believer, don’t vote in this most infamous, most extreme election to date WITHOUT seeking God’s guidance. What you hear Him tell YOU matters more than a national church leader’s assessment or prophesy. (And we know there are multiple, conflicting ones of those, too.) Do what God tells YOU, if you want a take-away from this article. I do believe we can get it wrong. Even if God orchestrates the leaders of government as the early Church was told by Apostles, we are each still morally culpable for what we help or hinder. I can get my vote wrong. If it’s not what God wants me to do, then I don’t want to do it.

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Voting who your community and neighbors are favoring doesn’t count. Voting how your family does doesn’t count. Even voting how your pastor does, or your church, doesn’t count. Following what other people say they’ve heard from God IS NOT the same as seeking God’s guidance for you.

When my church’s pastors shared who they planned to vote for, the point in the message that day wasn’t that each of us would vote as they were, but that we would do what they did: ask God.

May I confess how hard this really was for me? Pride. I have a lot of ideas. I have strong convictions, preferences and changes I want to see. What if God wants me to vote for someone who doesn’t represent the changes I want to see? (Which honestly isn’t hard to imagine, since I don’t think I agree with more than half of anyone’s platform.)

And for any voting choice I could make, there is at least one group of people I respect saying why that is a terrible, harmful idea that will surely destroy the country.

With all these voices, it has not been easy to get to the place where I could lay down my own conclusions, worries, preferences and ideas for how America can get itself out of its mess, and say, “God, tell me where to place my vote.”

I had such a revulsion about a particular candidate. What does it take to get to the mental place to say, “No, really, God, I will vote whoever you say to–even if it’s ____.” Ugh. Can I tell you how many times I prayed and didn’t hear anything? I left the prayer feeling no guidance, no peace. Because I wasn’t able yet to hear God at all.

I could ask the question, but inside, I couldn’t silence the little voice inside me that was like Harry Potter under the sorting hat saying, “anything but Slytherin.” It was like my heart was a fist, so thoroughly against what a certain candidate stood for that I could not hear God’s voice over my own; I could not open my heart to honestly hear anything.

It took many prayers before I could get the panic rhythm of my heart to slow. Many days lapsed before I could start to believe the truth; that whatever God has to tell me, I need not be afraid of it. Why would I not want to be moving with God’s kingdom? I had to walk myself through what I feared as the worst case scenario, and remind myself that if God asked me to do even that, why would I not? It felt like a real Jonah moment. He wasn’t just afraid to go to Nineveh. He didn’t think the people deserved the forgiveness God wanted  them to get. I felt a bit like that. I didn’t want to help a candidate win if I don’t think he/she is worthy of it–so what if God has a plan to work through them.

Once I finally could trust God on this, and my heartbeat wasn’t the loudest thing in the room, I could actually begin to hear His guidance. In some ways, what He revealed to me was shocking, in other ways, not at all. And freeing.

In the end, the person who gets my vote will be roundly denounced by many Christians. Honestly, no matter where I cast my vote, that could truly be said. There is no one unified “Christian vote.” But for the first time, I’m wondering if that too is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps not an indication that one group was following God’s lead all along and the rest all missed it.

So I urge each believer reading this: Pray. Seek. Listen to God with trust so you can hear him. Don’t let others around you say sway you. Just because what you believe God is telling you doesn’t match others around you, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve misheard. If you question it, reconvene with God. And likewise, if you are planning to vote what the majority of believers around you are saying, don’t let that sway you, either. Go check for yourself.

I cannot answer the question I posed in my title. But the idea that it’s logically possible is freeing. And considering the possibility encourages the most Biblical advice: seek God for your decisions as though it’s the most important thing you can do. It also frees me to not worry about others’s opinions more than God’s direction. It frees me to keep this between me and God alone.

It also frees me from something else: arrogance and the temptation to judge what I cannot know. Now I look at others around me planning to vote differently who say they are choosing that vote because of their faith. In the past, I would have doubted that because that’s not what God was telling me. But who am I to know what God tells someone else? I cannot be the judge of their hearts. Now that I realize their vote not matching mine is not an indicator of the strength of their relationship with God, I am free of the tendency to doubt and judge. I am free to not get offended at them, free to not blame them from holding our country back from the progress I think they are hindering by not voting my way. Free from considering them less well-educated or less spiritual. Free. That’s what happens when you seek God, listen and obey His voice and stop assuming that what God tells you has to be what He’s telling every other believer in the country. And for that, I am thankful.

 

Other things I write about:

Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season)

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Recognizing the Good Days (and My Son’s Fascination with Medieval Korean Pottery)

 

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Recognizing the Good Days (and My Son’s Fascination with Medieval Korean Pottery)

Are there times you KNOW profound information or data to lead to a better life–but realize you don’t actually benefit from it…because you’re not doing it??!

Case and point: I feed my family really well, with lots of vegetables, and for snacks, we eat fruits most of the time. Then one day I realized my kids got a great diet, but not me. While my kids had apples with peanut butter for snack, I had: the peanut butter I licked off the knife, the one apple slice with the funny brown spot no one wanted, and then, getting too busy to make myself a snack, I ate no fruit at all that day (and maybe even scarfed down a handful of chips or part of a chocolate bar at eleven PM!) And yet, for a long time, I believed I ate an exemplary diet, because I KNEW about nutrition and even BOUGHT the right foods, and prepared it so often for others.

The same phenomenon occurs for me in one of my jobs: homeschool teacher. I’ve had some opportunities to slow down in recent weeks, due to some weekly commitments being cancelled. A month ago, we started working with clay as we read The Single Shard, a novel about a orphan boy apprenticed to a potter in Medieval Korea. Because of extra time in our week, we had an hour and half block to devote to clay-building interspersed with reading the book (when I could find opportunity to wash my hands and touch the book!)  Spending that much time exploring something–that’s what the freedom of homeschooling is all about! I KNOW that, but I don’t always benefit from knowing it because I often overschedule or let myself prioritize other things. But a few weeks of that taught me to schedule that kind of leisurely, long chunk of time every week. Those days are often the days I think I’ve hit the sweet spot as a homeschooler.

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Sometimes, we just have to acknowledge the good days. The days we feel right where we should be. Days where my knowledge meets my practice and we BENEFIT from my knowledge! (Because parents and teachers all know there are plenty of days our lesson plans fail, attitudes derail progress, and many ways we feel we missed the mark!)

These good days I can observe the following: Moments my kids are laughing as they misunderstand something in Spanish that amounts to hilarity. As they keep drawing/writing in their journals long after I’ve dismissed them from the table, and show me their comparison of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Galileo’s contributions to astronomy. When I did not assign it. Much less with portraits of each scientist. (So he did get something out of that lesson?!) When my daughter whips out a definition of something I’ve taught her older brothers. When they love each other. When I get to see evidence of spiritual growth.

Because we sunk serious time into exploring something more deeply, my younger son, on his own, decided he wanted to try to make his own Celadon vase modeled after the famous artifact of the 1,000 crane vase from the 1300s, Korea.

If I’d assigned that from the beginning, he’d have balked at not being able to choose his own project. But when we read the end of the book, he wanted more, so we searched online to find the real pottery that inspired the story and looked through photos of museum collections. That exploration made him want to create his own celadon-colored vase. He even did a presentation on medieval Korean pottery and the process of making it for the classes he takes through Classical Conversations.

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Though my older son didn’t want to make a Celadon pot (choosing a different style of pottery), when his brother and I, on day 3 of the project, started trying to mix the elusive color of Celadon, he did get involved. He’s a painter, so I guess he couldn’t resist trying to solve the mystery and arrive at just the right shade of blue/green/gray.

As we learned from A Single Shard, the technique from this time period involved potters carving designs in the partially dry vessel, as the first picture shows. After it hardened, my second son and I both tried to complete the technique of filling in the grooves with color. Traditionally, the fired pieced ended up with white and black designs.  The pictures above are of my project. My son won’t let me take a picture of his because he wants to repaint it! (I also need to get the clear-coat to apply to them.) But his is the little squat pot two pictures above, in the center, partially blocked by a pain bottle. You can see the little blue-ish green lid to the right of it.

Doing something exploratory and at a leisurely pace that emphasizes creativity blasts energy into my kids’ experience of learning. May I never forget this! May we continue to BENEFIT from this knowledge–rather than resting on the mere knowledge as if knowing it alone, or intending to value it, means my kids actually get to do it.

Yep, there are moments, days, weeks, where homeschooling is bliss. We may often dwell on the difficulty ad challenges of many aspect of juggling schooling with running a house when everyone is under your feet all. day. long. But just as true, there are moments, increasing as we get deeper into this journey, where I sigh for contentment for the privilege that I get to do this, that they are growing and thriving, and there is joy in sending the days with my kids. And I thank God for all this.

Other posts:

Facebook Etiquette: My List of Rules  (especially for election season)

How I Talk to My Students about Drawing on Day One

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire Review

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Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season)

Nothing like an election week can demonstrate how quickly all the personalities unleashed on social media can run amuck. What I’ve seen lately is a desperate cry–a full-throttle wail–for help; we all need a standard of etiquette informing our behavior online.

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Can I tell you how many private pages I’m part of, full of educated adults, bonded through a common interest, have had a moderator shut down political posts because of people carelessly or stridently mishandling words?

During this election year, I know some people who would trade Facebook for the Pony Express, which means it could take months to hear from family or friends who don’t agree with them. People who never have before are blocking friends on Facebook for because of vicious verbal attacks in what used to be a place of amicable social exchange.

My rules for Facebook are not what I’d say everyone should adhere to. This is my own rule book. Not all of my rules of etiquette would be appropriate for others–for instance a friend who works in DC in politics and who makes her professional work commenting on such things. This is what is right for me; I am not someone seeking to guide others in political decisions or have a platform where sharing my viewpoint on heavy issues is a call on my life. My list below reflects who I am–it’s a reminder to myself to be true to myself and not to, in the heat of the moment, betray my better instincts or convictions.

(And yes some of these are things I’ve learned NOT to do the hard way–I’ve already done them and experienced the consequences…)

MY RULES FOR FACEBOOK

1.Don’t post about politics or controversial subjects often. I read a great many articles, but I hesitate posting them because, while I sometimes like to share things that make me think, though I may not necessarily agree with 100%, I’ve decided I sometimes just don’t want to spend time debating/discussing points others may pick out that were not the ones that caught my attention in the first place.

2.Don’t post articles on controversial subjects unless you trust the source. The reality of this lately means I don’t often share articles. For instance, I found a really persuasive one the other day. It included sources and links to back up its claims. When I followed them, those sources seemed watertight–very reputable people authoring the source material.  But when I intentionally searched for pushback on the source’s claims, they existed. Another highly reputable source denounced the data collection method as well as the interpretation of the data. In the end, I don’t have the expertise to tease out who is correct, so I cannot pass on that really persuasive article.

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3.If I’m sharing about politics (though rare) I want to share positives, not negatives. For instance, instead of why to hate particular candidates, I’d rather post why I’m for a different one. I think there is a place for denouncing the immoral, but I don’t want that to be all my voice is for. I’d rather use any voice I have to shine light on answers and hope and better options.

4.No name-calling. Idiot, moron, etc., are off the table when talking to or about others. No matter how much you cannot see how they possibly believe a certain viewpoint. I don’t want to allow myself to estimate my opinion or rightness so highly that it permits me to denigrate another person and crush their being under my harsh words. And yes, there are a few issues I feel strongly about, things that are black and white moral imperatives–and still, I don’t see, based on my faith, where I have the right to insult people during political or other debate. (And yes, I’ve seen the popular meme floating around turning WWJD on its head, mentioning what Jesus said and did at the Temple when he threw out the money-changers. Jesus exhibits righteous anger and does judge men’s hearts with harsh words that cut right to their character. But there are many things Jesus does that does not fall in into my job description as a Christian; for instance, I also cannot grant forgiveness and send a criminal to Heaven, as Jesus did on the cross. Likewise, judging peoples’ hearts is not my job; I’ve not found any scripture telling me so.) My faith tradition gives me lots of directives as to my role: honoring others, loving them, encouraging them, restoring them gently. I am working on those. Matthew 5:22 gives very strong words for someone insulting or calling someone made in God’s image a “fool.”

5. No name-calling even politicians, presidents, public figures. I repeat the above. Still not okay, even for people who won’t ever know I said it. I don’t want to be part of this kind of rhetoric. One can speak truth and express disagreement without name-calling.

6.Assume the best in others rather than assuming they have lesser intelligence and reasoning ability than you do. It’s often a lack of our understanding the other person that accounts for our hasty judgement of someone for their opinion. Yes, there are right and wrong answers to things, but when it comes to complex societal issues, declaring someone stupid for not knowing or believing what we do can often be a reflection more on our heart than their intelligence/education.

This quote from Harry Truman aptly sums up the conviction I was given years ago that allowed me to see people better rather than condemning them for differing opinions: “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint… understand what he is trying to do… nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.” If we dealt with people by their intentions and honored that and thereby showed we actually listen and have a heart for them as a person, two things can happen. You will have more success in actual conversation; that person may actually hear you–and you may learn something from them.  My aim is to respect and treat others  according to the assumption of good intentions. No amount of discussion or debate will amount to anything if I “have not love” for the other person, and love always starts with respect for them as a person, regardless of their opinions and vote. (I Corinthians 13:2)

7.Never comment on a stranger’s wall post. About anything. Even if you can see it. You’re a stranger. Stop it. It’s creepy.

8.Never comment on a stranger’s wall post with an adversarial or provocative view on a controversial topic. Sometimes strangers’ posts show up on my wall merely because a friend of mine commented. I find it inappropriate for me to comment–it’s like walking into a conversation you’re eavesdropping on, butting in and telling them why you’re right and they’re wrong. But I’ve seen it happen to my friends because I commented on something, and my other friends were privy to it because of my comments–and some took the liberty to argue with someone they never met. (Maybe it’s a passive-aggressive way to reply to my comment and without really addressing me–I don’t know. But it’s really bad form and like a home invasion.)  It’s not merely rude, but it’s also the fastest way to make someone disregard your words, however good your points may be. So if you actually want to succeed in influencing someone’s opinion, don’t choose the suicide of this poor social behavior.

If you disregard the above, certainly don’t join forces with another commenter who is your friend and gang up on the poster. I’ve seen it. Two or more friends insult and degrade someone they do not know. Trolling behavior at its worst, but from people you know! It might even be a really good cause–to get someone to see the light on a political topic you feel the media has deceived them about–but if you try to change people’s minds by ganging up with insults to someone’ intelligence, well, you may convince readers of something– about your behavior–but likely not the issue up for discussion. Whether done with malice or with well-intentioned concern, I’ve never seen this achieve the presumed goal: someone giving a listening ear. It comes across as bullying or petulant when strangers attack personal beliefs someone wrote for friends.

9.If you REALLY feel compelled to reach out to a stranger whose post you saw, because you think you have information that would really benefit them, consider another way of reaching out other than commenting unbidden and publicly. I cannot think of a political instance in which I would do this, so I’ll use a more typical-me example: I may see that a friend commented on her friend’s post about nursing a baby or Lyme disease treatment–things I know a lot about and feel passionately about. But however tempted I may be to  give advice, I have to remind myself: though I may have valuable information, I am a stranger doing nothing less than crashing the party. It is not my place. (If I felt super strongly that my intervention could help someone’s well-being–there are better ways. Contact the friend that stranger knows and try to make a connection to get a chance to talk privately with the stranger whose post compelled you to speak.)

10.Don’t use sarcasm or condescension with your Facebook friends who state beliefs or views you do not share. (Sarcasm is ok for truly funny things that aren’t about heavy subjects such as beliefs, religion or politics. I use sarcasm a lot for mommy stories about child-rearing. Sarcasm is not insulting only when used among friends when you already know are on the same page and share viewpoints or you know each other’s hearts/intentions.)

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11. Criticism is NEVER for the public arena for your friends or their friends. I’ve seen friends castigated by a Great Aunt Mary who just had to rip them apart, telling them all the reasons why they’re a bad parent when the girl asked for advice from fellow moms about how to get help with kids sleep patterns or quitting the pacifier. I’ve cringed at things people say publicly that I wouldn’t even say privately with such a tone or air of superiority. Even when that person has asked a question, begging for others to give advice, it is still prudent to  reserve words for private messages to avoid awkwardness publicly, for them or me.So no matter how small or big, my rule is, no criticism in front of others! Good rule for life outside fb too.

12.Don’t post vulgar or distasteful images or words in order to prove that something/someone is vulgar or distasteful. If I wouldn’t post it under other circumstances, let me remind myself that I still shouldn’t to my audience of Facebook friends, family, acquaintances, former students, and neighbors,  because I’m ticked off about an occurrence. Yes, this comes directly out of this election. Whether we’re talking about leaders with a national following or leaders at a local church, seeing people who speak against using certain words or consuming certain types of images repost them–! This was really the low point in this election for me; seeing the lows people resorted to in order to defend or attack exposed vulgarity. Crass images are unnecessary if the goal was really to make a point about an issue. The effect on me was counter-productive.

I remind myself this counts for snide remarks on memes that are so spot-on nasty and cutting. Nope. Not posting those either. If it’s poor taste, it’s poor taste–no matter how perfectly delicious it seems for retaliation against an idea I don’t like, and I’m angry. Because I don’t want to be like that. Speak life. Not vulgarity.

13.Remember boundaries. There are just things you don’t say to people unless you have the level of relationship that warrants that much candidness. If ever in doubt, send a private message rather than posting.

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14.Remember you’re unlikely to change anyone’s mind with a Facebook post–especially a negative, insulting post. People look for, and will find, posts that reinforce their already-held beliefs, and they tend to stay there. For anything truly valuable or important, it is best discussed in a more personal way. Some things just aren’t right for the platform of Facebook, period. Politics may be proving to be one of those things for many, many people if they continue to mishandle words and people as is evidenced right now.

15.Remember respect. Funny, when I was a first-time teacher, I thought, “You know, that rule sums up everything. It’s the only classroom rule I need.” Ha ha! This list above demonstrates what I learned in teaching classrooms of students: while I may understand that respect does encompass everything, the specific behaviors and examples of how to respect people do often need to be taught. Not everyone understand what is respectful to OTHERS. They may have their own definition, but that is literally quite useless because the object of respect is the other person. Hence, we need some rules of etiquette to help us.

 

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