What’s The Problem With Mr. Rogers’ Advice?

After the shooting in Orlando, people posted over and over the quote from Mr. Rogers where he has observed tragedy and his mother advises him thus,

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Now, I love Mr. Rogers. He was a big part of my youth and I cherish the gentle lessons that he and his puppets taught. To be kind. To be a good friend and neighbor. To be aware of those around you and value each person’s usefulness, be they a police officer or the person who runs a machine at a factory. He had great lessons to teach us.

The problem comes, however, when we are unwilling to BE a helper. Fred Roger’s mother’s advice is only useful if she herself was willing to do a share. There is precious little online about Nancy Rogers, but the one piece you find, besides this quote, is that she knitted the cardigans that are such icons on the show. It was through this act that her son would see her sharing her love and birthed from that love was his ability to so wonderfully communicate love to others. It was the clear communication of that message which raised him from his youth into someone who didn’t just gripe about how much he hated tv, which he did, but to become a person who would step into the very thing he hated and make an effort to make it better from within.

I in no way want to minimize the important role his faith played in his life. He was schooled to be a minister, so obviously this was a big part of who he was. But I want to point out to the very little we do know of Nancy Rogers, one example where she is telling her child to look for a helper, and another where she is actively being a helper herself.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (KJV)

This is not just by instruction but by active behavioral example.

If a child sees a parent reading, has time where they are read to, and has books made available to them, they will read. Any school teacher will tell you that the children of parents who are involved in their education, who come to conferences, who volunteer in the class, who invest in their education, those children will have an advantage. The child sees the that education matters to their parent, and so education matters to them.

If a child sees a parent serving the church and others, are brought alongside their parent to serve, and are given opportunity for service on their own, they will serve. I can only imagine any minister whose been in the church for a career, would tell you that those most likely to serve faithfully are the children of those who served faithfully.

Don’t imagine that your child will just easily develop the willingness to be a helper, a volunteer, someone who takes time away from what might be flashier and less costly, if you, yourself, are unwilling to do those things. 

And stay your loud applause for those who only volunteer during times of tragedy. If I go to stand in the gap with angel wings on, to block hateful words, but every other day of my life I don’t give a second thought to doing the work of angels to my neighbors, my impact is minuscule at best. If I post moving articles and pictures on Facebook about mental health and gun violence, but I make no effort to take time out of my busy life to do what I can do, go to a class on gun safety, volunteer with a program that serves people who struggle with mental health, intervene in the life of at risk youths, my social media action is useful only for eye-rolls and sighs.

If you want to impact our world for the future, impact a child, and do so by impacting yourself. If you want to raise a helper, be a helper. Every day. Be like Fred Rogers and be kind, be a good friend and neighbor and see and value those around you, no matter what their job is.

Be like Fred Rogers.

Or be like Nancy, and raise a generation of Fred Rogers.

A Controlled Burn

A few months ago the mountains were on fire and the news continued to talk about what the percentage of containment was. There was a struggle within many of the people I talked with to reconcile the feelings of awe and horror, impressed by the beauty of the fire and horrified at the destruction. We prayed with our children for rain and sat and complained about the smoke over lunches. We bought donations to take to the fire station because it made us feel like we could do something when we wished we’d had some training and could do anything useful.

The comfort that softened our concern and the joy that bolstered our interest was the notion that the firemen were allowing the fire to burn, to approach paths set up where the fire would naturally slow itself, to spread with a purpose. We heard promises of the benefits of forest fires, nourishing the ground, burning away disease, preventing overgrowth which could create larger future fires if not managed. We saw pictures of previous forest fires followed by testimonies of incredible blueberry crops and new flower and tree growth, healthier and more beautiful than before.

We have times like this in our lives, times where the fire comes, time where we burn, time where those we love burn off in the mountains while we stand at the base and watch, wide eyed, wishing we had the training to do something, anything useful.

It is in that moment that you pull to mind that burning brings richness to the earth, richness to our lives. While the fire feeds itself, gaining ground, we sit and pray for rain, pray that it reaches its boundaries and becomes contained. We have moments of laughter, which rings inappropriately loud but is unstoppable and moments when our stomachs find a way to drop lower than the point they’d previously bottomed out.

And we return again and again to the one who controls the burn.

Division: Math and the Church

What I remember from learning division is this. After a good year and a half of practicing our multiplication tables, 2×2 is 4, 2×3 is 6, 2×4 is 8, and playing Around The World and doing multiplication color by product sheets, we began division. We took out our plain notebook paper and drew that little diving board and worked and worked. We found remainders. We left room halfway down the page because long division takes up space. We did not play Around The World. We did not do coloring sheets. Division is serious work.

There will be no joy in division.

That was just one of the lessons I learned in 5th grade at the catholic school where I attended. It was during those years that I began to feel very less than. I was not cool. I was not the brightest. I felt left out when the other kids in my class went up to receive communion and I couldn’t. I heard the messages of a certain older priest who had very little compassion for the two kids in the class who weren’t Catholic.

My mother had prayed for me before I was born that I would have Jesus in my heart. I was brought up in a Presbyterian church, very active in anything that was available to me there. When I went to Catholic school I was always top in religion, often receiving marks of over 100 because I did the bonus work.I did all the work to be confirmed into the Catholic church, because it was for the religion grade, but wasn’t confirmed. I loved the work and so I put in the effort, even though I knew I wouldn’t get the reward.

For years, I thought this was a Catholic problem, making me feel like an outsider, and I resented Catholicism as a result.

I went through high school and in my senior year, I decided to make my faith my own. At the time I had walked away from the church of my youth, tried a Catholic youth group, a different Presbyterian youth group and finally found a spot in an Episcopalian youth group led by a Young Life leader filled with kids who wanted to be there of their own accord. I went to college and was involved in a non-denominational campus ministry, went to a PCA church while at JMU and a “bible” church when I was home. I got married, and we went to a Church of Christ and a Methodist church before finding a home in a Church of Christ in Christian Union. Then we picked up and moved and landed in, after quite a bit of church shopping, a Nazarene church.

Through that journey I found that in almost every building I walked into, there was a decidedly us vs. them mentality. I would find that in one church I would never feel like I could wholly grasp where God would lead me, because I was a woman. In another, I would be ineligible for membership because I’d been sprinkled not dunked. In another, I found that grace ruled over the pursuit of holiness, and any encouragement to pursue righteousness would mark you as the next Westboro member. Some more so than others, but in nearly every church I’ve gone to has been hard nosed people so committed to their theology that they’ve lost sight of their first love.

But there sitting in the same pews are people like my mom and my aunt, both Catholic, who though they knew my time in that private school had stung and left me bitter, loved me through it, showed me that their devotion was as true as mine and softened my heart. There was a camp counselor who taught me the quote “in the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; but in all things, charity.” (Which has it’s faults, but is in my estimation, a good starting point). A very dear pastor who answered a frustrated email from me telling me that no, I didn’t have to be dunked to attend or join that church, and that I was welcome to come, as I was, and be as involved or uninvolved as I wished to be and they’d be happy to have me with them.

Those kind of  people have always brought to me the understanding that reconciliation is multiplication. It is coloring and games and joy that spreads.

I’ve been reading Corinthians, which begins speaking about divisions in the church. 1 Corinthians 12 says “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

As someone who has walked into such a variety of denominations, that I struggle to call myself a title other than just Christian, this is so sweet to me. It allows me to go into any church and listen for the voice of God.

Saturday evening I dressed and went to mass with my mom. The scripture was read and I heard, “In Christ there is no Greek or Jew” and in my mind I added, “no Catholic or protestant.” I listened to a homily delivered by a young deacon who is journeying towards the priesthood on the theology of suffering that was timely and offered nourishment to my spirit. I got up the next morning and went with my dad to his Presbyterian church and sang sweet standard hymns and listened to the preacher encourage his congregation out of dull dry faith. I came home and read a section of The Ragamuffin Gospel and listened to sermons from a preacher from a nondenominational church.

I don’t know that I can encourage anyone to contemplate this passage in Corinthians, but I hope you will. My prayer is that God will bring reconciliation, multiplication, and apply it to our church in America. My hope is that it won’t take each member of our nation’s churches the 20 plus years it took me to understand that our heart should be to preach Christ crucified and resurrected, and not to seek only the intellectual high ground. My hope is that there will be people who are heard when they say “It is not important who does the planting or who does the watering. What is important is the God makes the seed grow.”

Can I Be Real?

Yes, yes I can.

Can you?

Yes, that is an available feature on all of us. It is not some trick setting that only decent people know how to switch on.

Yet somehow so many people walk around so concerned about their image, day in day out, check the stats, check the win column, check them out.

My first year of substitute teaching I came into a classroom and found a note that was being passed. This note trashed a girl’s reputation and was being handed up an aisle and laughed over. As I took the note I read and found that not only did it trash this girl’s reputation, the situation discussed was orchestrated by a cool kid with some money who found an insecure young boy who worried about his family’s finances and used that money to push the boy and that girl into a situation that was cruel. I was shaken.

In fact, I was shaking. I cried in front of those kids and tore into them. I told them that it doesn’t matter if you are the coolest, the smartest, the best athlete, the best looking, the most popular. If you don’t have character, you are lacking. The idea that kids would pass that and laugh and not stand up for those two kids broke my heart. I told them that each person who had that note in their hand had held an opportunity to show character, and by keeping silent they had made the wrong choice.

I know that I left an impression. Occasionally through the following 4 years that I subbed,  heard kids reference my speech, if it could be grand enough to call it that. In the moment, it felt like a tirade.

Today I heard another story, a story that shows the character of a man. Not just any man, but a leader, and a man who claims to be a Christian. I have to swallow hard not to scream the story here and there, to force this person to claim his actions. I know that I don’t even exist to him, but I have heard stories of him since I moved here. Time and time again, cheating, underhandedness, slander, just opportunity after opportunity this person is given the chance to show character, and fails.

It is not disheartening only because I see the ramifications of his actions, but also because he claims to be a Christian. I know that being a Christian does not ensure a moral high ground or mean that a person can never fail.

Here is where I want to get real though. Being a Christian should mean more than the graphic on your tee-shirt. They’ll know we are Christians by our stats, by our stats….? No. I think even those who weren’t brought up in the church singing the old hymns can finish that.

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

John 13:34-35 says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Step it up, people. Or step out. This is as real as I want to be. If you aren’t down for keeping it real, for being decent, and at least putting some effort into living your life just a little better than you could, then walk away. Or at least take off the Jesus tee shirt. This is exactly the stuff that sets our cultures teeth on edge, sours them against Christianity. Hypocritical people. It’s not repentant sinners. It’s not even the no fun holier than thous. It is the hypocrites. The people who make a point to shove their faith in your face, claiming to follow the God of love, and yet they walk around and treat people like trash.

If you get to the end of your season and you only have checks in the win column, but you played dirty the whole time, not a single one of those victories is to your credit and it is a loss to God. I would go so far as to say, if you get to the end of your season and can’t point to a single win on your own scorecard, but you’ve mattered to the people on your team, changed lives, encouraged others, that’s a record that has left room for God to work with.

We only get one season. Don’t waste it being fake.

 

Not All My Words…Just a Few

 

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When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

This photo is of the finest log in all of Glenn Helen Nature Preserve. This is where I spent my 9th anniversary. Kermit and I had gone out for a nature celebration, knowing that we’d have to be reasonably quick about it as storms were predicted for later that afternoon.

We were not expecting to get lost.
And we were not expecting the force of that storm.
And we were not expecting the Ranger we called on our cell to say “Take cover. Is there a cave nearby?”
And certainly weren’t expecting him to say that he had to turn around and wouldn’t be able to come out or send out anyone to find us until after the storm subsided.

Kermit, my love, feeling extra sentimental I think because of the whole anniversary thing, let me take the closest thing to a shelter we could find….a hollowed out log. I climbed in and texted a friend to pray for us, that we were lost and that at least I was scared. When the storms came, according to the weather report we’d seen earlier, they were supposed to last all night. I was not happy thinking of staying in a log all night in a place where wild animals would also be looking for shelter. Also, my phone was dying and I don’t know how you entertain yourself when you’re in a log for who knows maybe a whole night, maybe a weekend, maybe forever, but without candy crush, it would be a boring dragging span of hours. There was no conversation to be had, since talking required screaming over the wind and pounding rain.

Eventually there was a break in the storm system and a ranger came, found us, and led us back to the path we could follow. We were ok. We had a story to tell for years to come.

Tonight I feel a little like I’m back in that hollowed out log, wondering how big of a storm is approaching, how long it will take to pass, wondering how I can keep my mind occupied. I am drawn back to that moment, in that log, when I remembered thinking that if I came through this unscathed I would have a moment to cling to, to remember that God is there, even in the scariest storm. That I am married to a man who will let me have the hiding place. Remembering to wait for the guide to lead us safely through.

That when we’re in a hollowed out log, we’re not alone.

That there is a path out of this.

Checkmate

Lately I’ve heard a lot of talk about who means what for my life. When good things happen, God means x,y, or z. Or when bad things happen, x,y and z again but this time the devil comes on the scene with what his intentions may be. How they intend situations and experiences in my life to impact me and what great mystical knowledge or power I might derive from those experiences.

There is always this notion of God and Satan in deep combat over the chess board, God moving and then Satan takes a turn and then God counters and sure, God has the foresight to stay ahead, but it is a back and forth with us as the pawns. It’s a concept I’ve heard my whole life, whether it be chess or a sports comparison, back and forth, one then the other.

I heard a message from Dale Sutherland that talked again about this idea, but he said “The truth is, if the chess game is our illustration, you should understand, God owns the chess pieces, he owns the chess board, he owns the table and he owns both people playing the games, because God is sovereign.”

That really resonated with me. It has been hanging over me in the past week or two, this chess board philosophy, but more and more I see that perhaps it’s not us which are the pawns, but rather our events, our stories which move about the board and impact one another, but the difference is, I decide which team to allow to control the moves.

Of course Satan has bad intentions. He wants to block our paths, he wants to confound us. He wants to break our spirits and he wants to destroy us. Of course. And of course God has good intentions. The ultimate goal however is victory, not my victory, but God’s victory, His glory. Achieving that will have cost.

When those events are in front of us, while we are staring at the cost, we can decide, is this a black piece or a white piece? It doesn’t change the maneuver allowed to the piece. It doesn’t mean that some pieces won’t be sacrificed. It just matters how you will allow that to impact you. You can choose to say “I will allow this pain, this fear, this situation in front of me to be a piece I’ll allow God to use.” Then you look for how He works it out.

We don’t need to look for signs where the twists and turns in our life originated. It is so sweet to look for the ways we’ll see glory out of it all.

The Crazy Way Facebook Is Killing Your Pet

This is alarming, but when I read what she had to say down below the ellipses and fade….

…..

My jaw dropped….

……

Come on, Facebook, get your act together! Do you know that I clicked an article last night ready to find out the SUPER weird reason why Meg Ryan isn’t getting cast anymore? Meg Ryan. Who doesn’t love Meg Ryan? She was in every movie when I was a teenager. And at the end of the article I wasn’t any closer to knowing why no one is casting her and there was NO super weird reason anywhere in the article! There was a suggestion that maybe it was because she cheated on her husband thus making her unmarketable to a rom-com audience or that maybe she retired. Or that she had slightly too much plastic surgery.

I’m sick of it!!!! Facebook knows I’ll click on these stupid articles and so it feeds me more. It’s as if I’ve started to drink straight of the Slurpee machine and the lever is jammed. I can’t stop even if I want to because more just comes out! Self control?!?! Who needs it! I need to know what Jane Goodall thinks about the Cincinnati gorilla thing.

Which brings me to my next point. Of course I need to know what Jane Goodall thinks, because she is the LAST PERSON ON EARTH to go on Facebook about it. I have these conversations with real live people in real face to face interactions (remember those?) where they talk about how sick they are of seeing people post and fight about that. And yet, I know who supports gorilla rights, who would jump in the habitat no matter who held them back, who is anti-zoo, who supports the poor misunderstood mother and the heartbroken zookeepers,  and who supports old school parenting. Not only that, those things that seem to apply to the issue at hand, but I know who supports the pro-life movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, who is pushing for awareness of autism, sex trafficking, anti-drugs, anti-street violence, transgender and women’s rights in light of how sad it is that we care more about one gorilla than the thousands, millions, billions, impacted by those issues. But I already knew which of my friends supported what, now I just know also that I should feel bad about being sad about a gorilla and possibly bad if I thought the situation was preventable. If we’re all sick of these posts, then why are we still posting and reading them?

I will say, that at least it gave Facebook a week long break from the constant posting about Trump/Clinton/Sanders. Do we not know how evil Trump is, how big a liar Hillary is and how Bernie is going to save us all with his ultra-love? And how many of you are voting based on something you read in a Facebook post? No one will claim that. They will all claim deep serious research while feeding right into the emotional monster that is social media. Vote for Trump! Kill a puppy and all your ideals! Vote for Hillary, or lose your right to say you’re a woman or a serious minded political person! Vote for Bernie! You’re not a socialist, you’re just more caring than anyone else! Post your opinion or reply to someone else’s and then stomp off to the break room to refill your coffee mug and complain to your coworkers that people post to much political nonsense on Facebook.

Also, can Facebook not pull together and set up Facebook mall where there is a tab so if you want to buy stuff you can go peruse the awesome things our friends are selling. That tab could be right above the arcade where we can go and click to refill the lives of all our friends who have to wait 24 more minutes for another Candy Crush Life? Which will be right above the tab for Facebook Gym and Facebook Cafeteria? I want skinny-spiration and also recipes for how to make the world best cobbler cake using soda, cream, brown sugar, oreos, cherry gel, bacon, Nutella and Muselix, but when I scroll from one to the next in my feed it makes me feel kinda hopeless.

Facebook used to be like a great Thanksgiving family dinner. All of us gathered together laughing and enjoying each other’s company with occasional nonsense from that one crazy uncle, but now it’s like we’ve all taken a page from crazy uncle’s book, lost our sense of social decency and are sitting at the table screaming about what we care most about with our fingers in our ears so that none of us actually hear the other or the one person left who’s just sitting there asking for someone to please pass the salt.

Can we not do better than this? Can we not make Facebook great again? I’ll try if you will. I’ll post positive things. I’ll like your positive things, your side by side pictures of how big your kid has grown in an year and pics of your toes in the ocean. I will click sad face when you post about how there’s an evil bunny attacking your pintrest worthy garden. I will heart when you get a new job or post something super inspirational. I will angry face that someone didn’t take the coffee grounds out of the machine and so there is mold in the pot on this yucky Monday morning. I will if you will.

Please, just no more gorilla posts.

Oh, and in case someone fells that I’m Meg Ryanning this article, let me tell you the CRAZY way FB is killing your pet. There was this guy in Nevada who was so sucked in by facebook that he didn’t feed his pets for like weeks and they all died. Also he was an animal hoarder. Also they were all exotic or woodland creatures that he’d obtained illegally and was housing in a secret underground zoo which was totally wrong wrong wrong. This is true because you read it on Facebook. Totally legit.