Sunday, November 29, 2015

Suddenly. It's winter here in Michigan. Last week we had days that felt like the coolness of summer. I was riding my bike!

Then, out of nowhere, came six inches of snow!!

The above maple tree seemed to have missed the memo. I don't know that it dropped a single leaf before the snowfall. I can't blame it. I scarcely knew how late we were in the season myself. Now our sidewalk looks like this.

Do we shovel snow? Rake leaves? In the end, we did neither, following the tree's example. I guess all of nature has its procrastinators.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Good Samaritan Keeps Coming to Mind....

Recent discussions of Syrians seeking refugee status in the United States raise serious questions for the Christian. We are called to welcome the stranger in our midst.

The levite and the priest who passed by the injured man were identified by Christ as examples of not loving one's neighbor. Were they callous people, uncaring, lacking in compassion? Perhaps. They may also have thought that they did not have the resources to care for him. Might they have been scared that he would harm them, that his lying there was a trap? Perhaps. We don't know what was happening in the minds and hearts of those who passed the man by.

We do know that the Samaritan was held up as the example of Christian charity.

Yes, we are also called to use good judgement and to protect ourselves and our families. And nations have the right to protect their borders.

But let's consider the plight of the Syrian refugees. The Christians, in particular, have been horribly persecuted. More than 400 of their churches have been destroyed. The St. Eliane Monastery, over 1500 years old, was completely destroyed by ISIS. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been kidnapped. Seventy-four children were executed by ISIS. Children. Two of them were crucified for not fasting during Ramadan and their bodies were put on display.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has reported that children have been tortured, buried alive, used as suicide bombers, and sold as sex slaves.

The people of Syria and Iraq are enduring unspeakable horrors. Is our concern for the possibility of admitting members of ISIS pretending to be Christians or moderate Muslims justified? Somewhat. There is the risk of that happening. We certainly have a right to insist that our government very seriously vet these refugees and to explain in detail what the vetting process is. Is the risk great enough to warrant a refusal to accept any refugees from Syria?

Of all foreign travelers to the U.S. the refugee is given the highest level of scrutiny. The application can take as long as 18-24 months. There are much easier and faster ways to gain admittance to the United States. Let's not forget that the recent attacks in Paris included nationals of Belgium and France, both countries that are visa waiver countries. You don't even need a visa to enter the United States from visa waiver countries. Jihadi John of the infamous beheading video was from the United Kingdom, another visa waiver country. The Tsarnaev brothers from Chechnya came here on tourist visas with their family and their father later sought asylum here. The 9/11 hijackers were here mostly on tourist visas. One had a student visa.

Clearly, not admitting Syrian refugees to this country is not going to prevent jihadists from coming here. They are in numerous countries throughout the world, including this one, and there are other simpler methods available for entering the United States that do not include the scrutiny given the refugee.

The president has proposed that we admit some 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, of which 10,000 would be Syrian. By the end of 2014, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan had taken in over 3 million refugees. We are talking about 10,000 coming here from Syria.

It's a complicated question that involves very passionate opinions on all sides. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to take in refugees. In the case of Syria, where our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered so horribly, we have a particular obligation.

Is there a risk? Yes. Does our responsibility to be the Samaritan outweigh the danger? I think it does.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Momnipotent Book and Study by Danielle Bean

Author and editor Danielle Bean, herself a mother of eight, offers in her book Momnipotent a heartfelt encouragement to all mothers. Momnipotence, she explains, is “the kind of strength and power that belongs uniquely to women. When we deny our call to motherhood and fail to recognize its intrinsic dignity and worth, we deny the very gifts that make us uniquely female.”

Danielle Bean knows that she is expressing an idea profoundly countercultural and addresses the issue head-on.  “One of the fundamental tenets of modern popular thought is the rejection of traditional marriage and motherhood as cultural clich├ęs that enslave women and rob them of their identities.” Indeed, this tenet underlies much of current discussion on the status of women and, sadly, it is rarely challenged openly. 

But Danielle Bean does just that.  She writes, “Betraying authentic femininity and squashing our true nature as women does not sound very empowering to me.”  Nor does it to me.  She goes on, “Motherhood is seen in some circles today, and those circles seem to be expanding, as demeaning to women because it removes them to such an extent from what is valued as really important, which is to say, the conspicuous achievements in society.”  Those who hold such views, of course, deny the very essence of what it means to be a woman. Bean continues, “If we ridicule and belittle the role of motherhood, the very place where women exercise their greatest strengths and find meaning and purpose for their greatest gifts, how can we expect happy and fulfilled individuals to result?

Rich with quotes from Pope Saint John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatum (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women)  Momnipotence offers an honest look at our uniquely feminine gifts and how they lead us to true happiness in our motherhood, a gift from God.  And Bean makes clear that all women are called to be mothers, not only biological mothers. She is including religious sisters, single women, and women unable to have children. All women are called to motherhood in the spiritual sense. To be a woman is to be maternal.

This book is about the gifts and importance of motherhood and about achieving balance in our everyday lives. Each chapter discusses a strength of motherhood and how its misuse can become a weakness. Simple five question quizzes at the end of each chapter help us to see where and how we can become more balanced and thus more conformed to God’s image of motherhood.

An eight week study can also be purchased with Momnipotent, including a DVD set entitled Momnipotent: Finding Peace, Balance, and Joy in Your Vocation as Mother.

With all of the negative propaganda about mothering in our culture today, this book and study will offer real encouragement to women. Motherhood is indeed a great gift from God, and Danielle Bean has helped women to truly appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Warning: Political Post....My Two Cents on the Debate (For what little it's worth)

I don't know why I thoroughly enjoy these debates but I do. I love the give and take, the exchange of ideas, the thinking on their feet.

Last night my husband indulged me by watching most of both debates. I bought our favorite candy bars as treats for both of us. (When you get to be as old as we are, it doesn't take much to entertain.)

At the first debate, I had the following impressions:

Rick Santorum: I love Rick Santorum. I love his policies. I think he's a good man. But he did not really shine at the debate. Looks defensive when he starts reciting his political resume.

Chris Christie-- I thought Christie did quite well. He was forceful, logical. Good performance.

Huckabee-- He always comes across as a nice guy. Nothing remarkable last night.

Bobby Jindal-- Very forceful. A little too combative towards the other governors. Unbecoming.

At the second debate:

Kasich-- Interrupted too much early on, when no one else was doing it. It was annoying. A little too much pontificating. Wasn't convincing.

Bush-- I'm afraid Mr. Bush, like his father, is a bit too much of a gentleman to make it with this lineup. He seems capable, but weak.

Rubio-- Rubio continues to shine. He has a lot of facts at his fingertips and delivers them well. He's articulate and impassioned.

Trump-- Trump. What do you say about Trump? He just doesn't have the knowledge I like to see in a candidate. I'm not really sure how conservative he truly is. It's so hard to listen to someone so full of himself. Plus, as Kristie did in the last debate, he called out Fiorina for interrupting, even though all the candidates were interrupting. Made me wonder, in both cases, what their motivations were.

Carson-- Here is a sincere, devout, intelligent Christian man. People love him. I'm not sure he communicates accurately enough for the political fray, but I love to see him rising in the polls.

Cruz-- Cruz is a great conservative. Bothers me a little that he seems to think deporting every illegal alien is a position on which no compromise could be reached. He also seems a little too rehearsed, almost not genuine, although I think he is sincere. Just comes across that way and I think it's to his political disadvantage.

Fiorina-- I think Carly Fiorina is the most articulate and most knowledgeable candidate on the stage. She may also be the most courageous. I would love for her to get the nomination because she could run circles around Hilary in a debate. She is the only candidate I've given money to.

Paul--I do not agree with Rand Paul on several issues. But he is a true conservative and I like his boldness. I was impressed that after Trump had gone on and on about China in response to a question about the TPP, it was Paul who mentioned that China was not in the TPP. Good point. I think Rand Paul would be doing much better if he didn't so often seem annoyed, almost smug, as though he can't believe the voters don't comprehend that he has all the answers. (Maybe it's not that, I don't know.)

I would like to see a Fiorina/Rubio ticket. Yes, Fiorina for president, with Rubio as a running mate. That's my choice, so far. (Only because I don't think Santorum is going to make it.)

Moderators: Excellent questions, although a couple were rather long winded. Glad they did not have the dog-and-pony-show atmosphere or the let's-see-if-we-can-make-them-fight atmospheres of the previous two debates. The only pointless question seemed to be What democrat to you admire? None of the candidates answered it, so there was no time wasted it. I did wonder why they never asked the candidates to stop speaking out of turn. As a substitute teacher that bugs me. Raise your hand if you want to talk. :-)

May the Lord, in his mercy, give us not the candidate and president we deserve, but rather the president who can take us back to goodness.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The GOP Nominating Process-- Still a Lot Up for Grabs!

Karl Rove has written a very interesting commentary in today's Wall Street Journal entitled, The Path to a Wild GOP Convention, about the presidential nominating process for the Republican Party. Subtitled "Primary rules open the possibility that no candidate will win a majority of delegates," it explains how there is still an awful lot up for grabs.

OK. I know some of you are thinking.  What happened to the heartwarming posts about baby showers and family events? Well, those of you who know me also know that I love following politics. Feel free to exit now, if you don't. But I encourage you to keep reading because this will be a very important election. This is our country. And civic responsibility requires that we pay attention to what is going on and that we participate in the process.

Rove points out that this is the largest number of GOP contenders in U.S. history. Wow. So we have no precedent for how this scenario might play out.

Did you know that the Republican Party has a rule requiring that states and territories voting before March 15 must award their delegates proportionally? There are 28 of those. And there are 8 other states that also award their delegates proportionally. According to Rove, some 60% of the convention delegates will be allotted proportionally.

Of these states that award proportionally, some require that a candidate hit a floor of support. That will eliminate some candidates.

Additionally, 8% of delegates are unbound and may vote for the candidate of their choice.

Indeed, Rove makes a good case that we may not have a candidate with a majority of delegates before the opening of the convention.  This could be very interesting.

A lot of variables remain in this nominating process. No candidate is near a majority. There is still a lot that could happen.

For those of us who are not real happy with the state of polling right now, these variables are very encouraging.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Another Baby Shower-- The Ongoing Celebration of the Gift of Life

My daughter Anne has a wonderful mother-in-law, Colette, who also gave her a baby shower. It was lovely, starting with these wonderful table settings.

The fall centerpieces were assembled from items gathered on a nature walk by Zach's sister and sister-in-law. Aren't they lovely? I understand the linen napkins were sewed by Zach's brother. All the little autumn details were just beautiful.

The food was exceptionally prepared by Colette herself. There were numerous selections, all delicious, and even accommodations for us poor souls who suffer from food allergies.  There were soups, sandwiches, salads, and a number of delectable desserts. We were so indulged!

 The four adorable daughters of Sam and Vanessa, Zach's brother and sister-in-law, together with several equally adorable cousins, were the living accents of what the gift of human life means. They made everyone smile.

Aunt Brenda's gifts of wardrobe items spanning every season and a wide range of sizes were another example of her generous, kind spirit.

And when this baby boy wears his Foundation Chiropractic dress shirt matching his dad's, everyone's heart will melt. (Great idea, Colette.)

There was the baby afghan crocheted by longtime friend Janet Holtz.

And many, many other fantastic gifts and kind, encouraging words by friends.

And here is my daughter, now well into her third trimester, talking to my very good friend Patti. I thought Anne's profile was so darling I just had to snap this shot.

God is good. All the time.