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Privileged?

We’ve been hearing a lot about “Privilege” lately.  It’s been thought provoking for me.  If it hasn’t for you, if you’ve rejected the concept or just ignored it, then you are coming from a place of privilege.  I know that I am privileged in many ways, in some others not so much.  I also know what privilege looks like from the other side because I’ve been there.  

When I decided this subject should be my next post, the first thing I did was go looking for a dictionary definition.  The fact that I had so many sources easily available is another sign of privilege.

“A separate and personal advantage.” From the Webster’s abridged edition that I keep on my desk.

“A right or benefit that is not available to everyone. 2. the advantages enjoyed by an elite group.” From the Microsoft Encarta Dictionary that was a required book for one of my college courses.

“A special or peculiar benefit, favor, or advantage. 2. An exemption or immunity by virtue of one’s office or station.” From the Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary that lives on my reference book shelf.

A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.” from dictionary.com

Then I began to make a list of all the ways I know that I, personally, am now and have always been privileged.  It got very long.  As I thought about it, I realized there are also ways that I am privileged now, but wasn’t always.  There are even ways that I used to be privileged that no longer apply.  

As I was leaving home to day to pick one of my toddlers up from preschool, I was still mulling over the subject and saw a perfect example of a complexity of two.  I was backing out of my driveway in the mini-van I purchased specifically to have room for multiple car-seats, another evidence of my privilege. 

As I looked behind me, I saw a young girl, maybe 11 or 12, walking down the sidewalk across from my house.  She looked cold and miserable.  Her arms tight against her side, hands folded in front of her, strings of blond hair blowing in the chill wind.  She was obviously heading home from school, her backpack slung from her shoulders, in the middle of the day.  Behind her walked a woman, equally unhappy looking.  

I wondered whether she was sick or in trouble.  You couldn’t really tell from their expressions.  It could have been either.  What was evident was that the school had called for someone to come get the child and the woman had no transportation so she had to walk to the school, then back home again.  If the girl was in trouble, her situation got worse.  If she was sick, she wouldn’t improve walking 6 blocks or more in the cold. She looked at me from the corner of her eyes without turning her head and I had deja vu.  

Only I was the one on the sidewalk, waiting in the cold or the rain for a city bus because I didn’t have a car, watching the people in their cars sail past, and feeling such envy, bitterness, misery.  For a brief moment, I was right back there and I realized, even then I was enjoying privilege. This small town has no bus system for people who don’t have cars to use.  It’s either walk, pay for an expensive taxi or beg rides from others.

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I was fortunate to have access to public transportation, to have a job which made it possible for me to afford the bus, and paid for a place to live along with food for my daughter and myself.  There are many other people in this country who don’t have those things. Even then, at one of my lowest points, I was enjoying privilege.

There are a million ways that we enjoy privilege every day without noticing. We just take for granted our safe homes, warm beds, hot showers, clean clothes, etc.  We walk out our doors without feeling the need to scan the street first to be sure it’s safe.  We get into our cars and drive to our destinations without concern for roadside bombs or blitz attacks.

Privilege.  I think this is going to be a series.  I feel the need to explore all the ways privilege can apply without the person enjoying it even realizing it exists.  Some people would claim that they have earned their security and comfort but, as I continue, I hope to demonstrate that being able to earn it is another sign of privilege.

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Searching for Prayer

Over the years, I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer thousands of times.  I’ve taken part in study groups that discussed it.  The consensus being: we frequently tend to simply recite it without thinking about the meaning of the words.  The second factor being: it was never meant to be an actual prayer, but an example of how to pray.  I was looking for a book that would take this idea and expand upon it. 

This month, I’ve been using “Lord Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days” by Kay Arthur for a kind of devotional study.  I bought this book a couple of years ago and this is my third attempt to finish it.  Each time before, I’d get bogged down or distracted, start letting it slide and, eventually leave it on my nightstand to be buried under other books.  This time, I made a commitment, as part of my Lenten observance, to finish it.  I am nearly there.  The book has 28 chapters, obviously, plus four sets of group discussion questions at the back.  Perhaps I would have gotten more out of it in a group setting.

This time, I scanned quickly through the earlier chapters and my notes on each.  As I looked back over them, I found the Lord’s Prayer breakdown I have studied before in Days 3 through 5. It didn’t vary much from previous classes, but it didn’t really expand on them either.  Days 6 through 8 seemed to be general information about the names of God and why we should worship Him. Interesting, but not what I was looking for. Day 9 is where I started to part ways with Arthur.  It was here that she first said, basically, that non-Christians have no right to pray (page 53). The furthest I ever made it before was Day 9. I think this idea may have been the reason I quit reading last time.  I decided that I should give her a fair hearing.  Even though the book wasn’t what I hoped for, I am strong enough in my belief to listen to other points of view.

After my quick review on Tuesday, I started with Day 10 on Ash Wednesday.  I am now on Day 18 and, while I still intend to finish it, I am not in agreement with much of what I’m reading.  Arthur makes some interesting points and I have found some value in what she is saying, but, during this last section, I find myself frequently disagreeing with her premises. I don’t mean to say the book isn’t valuable or that what she says is, necessarily, wrong.  I am simply saying that I don’t agree with some parts of it and, overall, I am not finding it helpful to my current purposes.

I was looking for something that gave me guidance on constructing prayers, on breaking down that Lord’s Prayer “outline” and using it to make my own prayers more meaningful.  Arthur’s purpose seems to be more about getting measurable answers to prayer.  Knowing that God answers prayers is great.  Being able to point to a given situation and say, “Here’s God’s answer!” would be amazing.  But, that’s not what I’m looking for and, as I said, I find myself disagreeing with her opinions at times.  

I know she is a well respected religious teacher and award winning author but, I was raised with the idea that we are not to have blind faith in our leaders.  Each of us is responsible for reading the Bible and drawing our own conclusions.  At the end, we are the ones who must answer to God and He will not excuse us for our sins because we listened to someone else’s interpretation of His Word. So, by my understanding, I have, not only a right, but a duty to disagree.  

First of all, I don’t believe that God doesn’t listen to sinners, that “prayer is a privilege reserved for those that are truly children of God.”  I believe that we are all children of God.  Some of us have a better relationship with Him than others, but He still listens even to those who have turned their backs on Him.  Such is what Jesus meant when He told the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 3-32).  He wanted so much for us to understand this precept that he gave us all three examples on one occasion. 

Secondly, I believe that God hears all prayers.  I can even say I believe that He answers all prayers.  It’s just that we don’t pay enough attention and that we don’t want to accept that sometimes He says, “NO.”  Arthur quotes several verses that, basically, say “Ask and ye shall receive,” but she seems to gloss over the “Thy will by done” aspect.  She appears to think that, if we don’t get the answer we want, it’s because we aren’t real Christians. I can’t begin to address how wrong that seems to me.

I am not finished with the book.  I still have ten more days to go.  Perhaps she will address my conflicts later on but, what I’ve read so far doesn’t seem to agree with my ideas of what the scripture teaches us.  Nevertheless, as I have said, I have found value in some of what I’ve read.  The fact that I disagree with some of her conclusions means she has made me define more clearly my own beliefs and that also has value.

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Beginning My Lenten Journey

Today is Ash Wednesday.  I’ve begun my Journey to draw closer to God.  I am no expert, but I humbly offer my feelings and interpretations of the current study.  The Lectionary readings for today are: Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 51:1-17, 2nd Corinthians 5:20-6:10, and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.  

Isaiah speaks to looking for the spirit of religious practice instead of simply following the “traditional” forms.  For me, this hit a political note.  It’s how I feel whenever someone says, “Make America Great Again,” while striking at the foundations of the things that have made us great, like freedom of the press, free speech, support for the poor, and equal rights.   

In my opinion, America is still great.  Those “good old days” weren’t really all that good.  We just hid all the problems behind closed minds.  The results of this election may be a blessing in disguise.  Perhaps we were becoming too complacent.  We thought all those bad old prejudices had been overcome.  Now we see they were just being hidden behind “political correctness.”  Apparently, a large percentage of our citizenry still held to those hateful ways of thought and feeling, they were just afraid to speak out because it was unpopular.  The festering boils of their bigotry, anger, and hatred needed to be lanced and drained.  Hopefully, this will lead to a healthier America.   

The Psalm passage is about the need for God’s forgiveness, the necessity of cleansing ourselves of sinful ways so that we can be forgiven.  This also touched home since we, as a nation, obviously need to cleanse ourselves of prejudice and selfishness.  

2nd Corinthians tells us that we, as Christians, are to be Ambassadors for God.  That it is our job to set examples wherever we go as to the way Jesus taught us we should live.  America has always set an example of equality and opportunity for the world.  We were a symbol of hope.  Lately, we seem to be the opposite.  We need to once again exemplify the words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Matthew tells us not to perform acts of charity or worship in the hope of public acclamation.  Christ said, if we go about seeking praise from mankind for how religious we are, then we’ve gotten our reward in this life and have none in the life to come.  He urges us to pray in private and to keep our charitable contributions to ourselves so that we “lay up treasures in heaven.”  We are to be humble and serve the Lord, not bragging about what we do for others.

I’m sure there are deeper philosophical meanings buried in the text.  I know that I am not adequately prepared to understand the full meanings.  I still feel the sting of Literature classes that dug symbolism and allegory out of what seemed to me to be simple stories.  This is one of the reasons I am embarking on this journey.  I need to make an effort to more fully understand the scripture.   I still intend to go back to school and finish my religious studies degree but, that will have to wait until all my grandchildren are all old enough for school.  In the meantime, I will struggle along on my own.  I have many resource books.  I’ve been collecting them for the past four years.  It’s time to stop collecting and start studying.

 

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Lent Is Upon Us

The Easter season has slipped up on me this year, in spite of the fact that it’s later than usual.  It’s hard to believe that Lent starts on Wednesday.  The year is flying by.   My time is usually freer now, but I’ve gotten so used to not having time to write that I’m still letting things slide.  I have, however, been reading again lately.  I usually have two books going at once.  One in the living room for when I’m sitting there with the kids as they play and one beside my bed for winding down at night.  I also have something open in my Kindle app on my phone for when I’m stuck somewhere away from home with nothing much to do.

I’ve got more than a dozen books I’ve downloaded from Amazon or Overdrive this past year that I haven’t read.  As part of my effort to get myself more organized and back to writing, I’ve started working on them.  Some of them are fiction or self-improvement things, others are religious research materials, or cookbooks.  One I’ve just finished is “Confessions of a Prayer Slacker”  by Diane Moody.

The title of this book hit home for me.  I frequently feel guilty because I don’t spend enough time with God.  He gets pushed aside with my busy schedule.  It’s not that I don’t think about Him or try to follow His rules and live by His precepts.  It’s just that I tend to do it all while multitasking.  I know I need to focus and listen sometimes, but it’s usually second, or third, or fourth….and somehow it doesn’t really happen.  To emphasize how bad it has gotten, I downloaded this book on March 16, 2016.  Yes, nearly a year ago.  

So, I finally got around to reading it at a time when I was thinking I’d do a devotional series as part of my Lenten commitment.  I tried something similar last Easter with “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst.  Some time ago (I really don’t remember how long) I bought “Lord Teach Me to Pray in 28 days” by Kay Arthur.  Yes, this has been a long term struggle.  

The Terkeurst book was a daily devotional covering 60 days.  I did manage to finish it in a timely manner, although, there were times when I had to combine several days together to catch up.  The Arthur book has been on my nightstand for, at least, three years.  I have started it over twice.  I still haven’t finished it.  So finishing Moody’s book in less than a week seems like a big step forward.  Now am working on putting it into practice. 

I own a medium sized Dayrunner that I used for notes and keeping track of meetings when my brother, Jim, and I were actively working our web design business.  It’s a really nice binder in brown leather with a zipper.  I loved using it, but it’s been laying on my desk for a while now.  I have ordered new calendar pages and dividers and I intend to use it for my Lenten devotionals.  I spent nearly $60 on the daily calendar pages, monthly dividers, notes pages, and pockets for storing odds and ends.  I am hoping the expense will give me the added incentive to stay the course.  

I’ve printed out the Lectionary  for March on note pages so I can keep it in the binder.  One thing that Moody recommends is to read a portion of the Bible each day with a goal of finishing the whole thing.  I thought I had read it all, but recent Bible study groups have brought passages to my attention that I don’t remember reading or even hearing before, so I’ve been thinking I need to go there again.

Although this is starting as a Lenten commitment, I hope to develop it into a year long, then a lifetime habit.  As part of that, I plan to do a weekly summary here of what I have discovered along the way, about the Bible, God, and myself.   My plan is to post here on Wednesdays.  Join me, if you are so inclined.  Let’s see if we can build a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father. 

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Struggling to Manage Time

So, since my last post, I have added 3 more toddlers to my daily activities.  My granddaughter, Tracy, and her husband have moved here from Richmond, Kentucky.  They both work and I take care of their three little ones, along with the two who live with me, when their schedules coincide.  The days and times vary greatly.  Damion and Elaina love having them here and, after a period of adjustment, they love being here.  I am glad to have the opportunity to build a closer relationship with them, but it does make managing time to write or exercise more of a challenge.  

One which I was already having trouble accomplishing.  So, once more, I am exploring ways to assure I make time to do both.  As when I eliminated gaming from my life, I think the only thing that will work is to design a plan and then go at it “cold turkey.”  I have tried since the first of the year to find a way to do it in steps or start small and gradually increase efforts, but those ways haven’t worked out.

I’ve recently bought several diet and exercise packages.  I’ve made a few small posts.  But, it always falls apart before long.  So, I am looking at the packages and making a workout schedule to begin with.  It cannot depend on time slots because my free time varies too much.  So, I am making a commitment to a certain kind of workout on certain days for, at least, 15 minutes.   The time of day will vary with my other responsibilities, but I will do it sometime even it it winds up being right before I go to bed at night.  The goal is not just to lose weight, but to be stronger and have more stamina.  The diet part will not be as difficult, once I make the key decisions, because I eat pretty healthy anyway.  

As to writing, I am simply making a promise to myself to find moments of quiet, like now, to put words together.  I’m not waiting for inspiration or scheduling a time slot because those things haven’t worked. I am doing religious research because I want to use this blog to explore the Bible and Christianity’s relationship to other religions.  However, there is so much information out there that the research could take a lifetime.  I need to begin the work while I search.  So, I’ll be starting, not as an expert, but as a student searching for answers.  

I’m not sure what timeframes will work, but I am making a promise to myself, to you, and to God that I will begin.  I feel His call to be a small voice crying for common ground in the wilderness of suspicion and conflict that is our current state of affairs.  As a Christian I must answer that call. At the moment, I think that answer will consist of an exploration of the Bible.  When and how it came to be.  A historical background of each book.  A look at what real “experts” say about the meaning of key passages and, sometimes, a personal interpretation of how it relates to my faith.  

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Categories: Current Events, Health, Inspiration, Updates | 1 Comment