Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Ramblings

So, now it’s only been two months since my last post. Is de-proving a word, meaning that someone is not improving?

Well, the good news is, that things in the real world have picked up recently. I’ve become the social maven of our new town. It all started with the first “real friend” I made, in the library of all places. After my last post, I decided to do something about what I wrote. I had been planning on attending a couple of library story time sessions at several different libraries.

The first couple of times I went to story time, I felt like I couldn’t really try to talk to anyone there. They just weren’t really interested, or we got there late or left early. Or maybe it seemed like they already had friends they were meeting there. Well, I was staying from a 9:30 story time until a 10:30 story time, and noticed someone else with kids a bit older than mine who was doing the same thing. So I went out-cognito! I can make up words all I want, it’s the internet…

My new friend and I have met up several times since then and texted back and forth quite a bit. And my social-ness continues to grow. I’m proud to say that I’m significantly more in community now than I was before. We’ve finally settled on a house and an area of town (hopefully, we are supposed to close on it this Friday). Now that we’re settled on an area of town, we have mostly settled our church hunt and are starting to find a foundation to continue to grow from. I even attended the Zumba program at our apartment complex a few times and met a few new people there as well.

We’re still “in flux” in a lot of ways, waiting to close on the house, waiting to move, but waiting isn’t always a bad thing. We have been really impatient lately, but when I do realize my impatience I stop to think about how amazing it is to live in this country and be impatient for such impossible things as a nice home to live in, enough cars to make traffic on the roads, the health of two little boys who run screaming through our lives.


So this St. Patrick’s day post of rambling, should obviously be finished up by pointing out the fact that we live in a country that 100 years ago fought against Irish immigrants, and now celebrates a national holiday based on a missionary to Ireland. Be a missionary wherever you are, and remember God has a plan for your life, whether you are paying attention to it or not.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Incognito

Fortunately for me, I don't think anyone other than close friends or family read this blog. So, probably no one really noticed that I went missing for a month. My close friends and family probably knew the main reasons why. If anyone else happens to be reading this blog, I'll fill you in, we just moved our whole family from Kentucky to North Carolina. This may not seem like a big move to some people, but we had lived in our current town for over 7 years, building friendships and church family and community. It has been a really hard month making those separations and preparing to put our house on the market.

I've officially been in North Carolina a week tomorrow, and I can already feel the effects of the lack of community. Compounding this sudden move is the fact that one of my children has gotten very sick this week. It started with a cough on moving day (last Saturday), which I didn't worry too much about, and then Sunday night developed into a mild fever, which again I didn't worry about, then Monday and Tuesday were high fever days where  he mostly sat around feeling miserable and napped off and on. There were lots of requests for "someone to snuggle with" and obviously we were limited to the house since he had such a high fever.

Of course, when you're away from your community, you don't have someone to ask about which doctors offices might be open late on a Tuesday night for your child whose fever suddenly spikes to 104, So you panic and fret, and eventually wind up going to the Target clinic closest to you where there's a 1.5 hour wait and by the time he waits that long his fever is gone. Isn't that always the case, that as soon as you go to the doctor, they get over whatever they had?

But now the baby is grumpy and coughing, no fever yet, but I feel like I'm sitting around waiting for the next bomb to drop. If he gets sick, then I'm looking at another 5-7 days before I can finally get started trying to put community together in this new place.

So, for now, it feels like I'm living an incognito life. Struggling through the days as best I can. My bad attitude towards my kids has no neighbor or friend to tell me I'm wrong, and despite being closer to family (my in-laws) I still feel far away from the friends and neighbors I've left behind. I wonder how many others are living incognito right now? How many of my neighbors in this apartment complex for our temporary housing, how many students at low-performing schools, how many single moms or dads with no one to help them out when things go wrong, how many rich homeowners in their gated communities who don't even see their own neighbors?

Maybe if we all put just a little more of ourselves out there, when we have the time, chance or opportunity, we could live a little bit more life together.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Christians Should Never Hate, and Why We Do Anyway


This is mostly a post based on Paul's famous statement of "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Romans 7:15. I've mentioned this verse before, but I do have a slightly different take on it this time. Basically, I want to use this verse and a brief explanation to try to explain why Christians are often perceived as "hypocrites".

My premise is this: If there is one thing a Christian should never do, it's hate or dislike or talk baldy another person. Yet, most of us fail every day of our lives.

I think the premise is pretty easy to understand, God is love, yet Christians and "the church" fail at showing this. Every day people are turned away from churches or their Christian families, or their Christian acquaintances, friends, or co-workers. Even Christians who are in the same church, life group, or Bible study may dislike or talk badly about each other. In fact, that may be the most prevalent spot for this type of malcontent.

Why do we act this way? Shouldn't we know better by Jesus's example? Jesus found the people who most needed him, the "sick" and said that he was the only doctor. Why hasn't our Healer already healed us completely?

The short answer, He has healed us completely. The long answer, we are on a journey. If we are Christians, we have eternity ahead of us. Part of our life here on earth is discovering, learning and growing. If we stop learning and growing completely, then something is very wrong in our lives. Yet, however hard we try, we are still so broken that even 100 years on Earth will not "fix" us, but only the grace of God. Because of Jesus, we are already healed in the eyes of God. Whatever the sin or the condition of our hearts, Jesus's blood has covered it in the eyes of God.

So what do we need to do about the sin that is still in our lives? Ignore it because it's covered by grace? As Paul would say, "By no means!" Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us, so take a few minutes to think of some changes you can make in your life. Don't feel guilty for your failings, use them as an opportunity to continue doing what we were made to do: learning and growing through grace and knowledge. If the Spirit is working in your life to show you a sin you struggle with, work with Him, not against Him!

I think of the incredible growth that I've experienced in the past 10 years or so, and I marvel at how far I still have to go.

As one example of how far I've come, I used to deal strongly with feelings of worthlessness and shame. I have gradually realized over time, that many of those feelings were bound up in my own inner dialogue about other people. When I judged them internally, I was also judging myself. If they "should never wear that outfit" then what about my outfit, was it "good enough"? While I'm not perfect, I have come to realize that my inner judgments of others were causing me to see myself in a more negative light. So now I try to catch those judgments before they form and accept people for the beautiful and unique creations God has made.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

What is a Zoranian?

I hope that no one is offended by the name of the website for my blog. I'm not actually calling anyone a moron, it just rhymed. So what is Zoron or what is a zoranian (my web-moniker of many years). Well, it all started in the 7th grade (or maybe a year or two earlier). I don't remember the exact year, but I can tell you that I was in the foyer at the church I grew up in. It may have been our regular Sunday night meal/fellowship time. Or maybe it was during a youth group event or even our "All Saints Eve" celebration. I do know there were Tootsie Rolls that day for some reason, so maybe it was "All Saints Eve" (or Halloween to any non-liturgical denominations).

Either way, I was talking with one of my friends and asked whether or not they could hear the Tootsie Rolls singing. I am not schizophrenic, and was not actually hearing voices or sound, I was just bored and thought it would be a good conversation starter. Well, that discussion somehow led to me saying that I could only hear them because I was from another planet, the planet Zoron. Well, by the end of my 7th grade school year, the planet Zoron had grown in my imagination to be the planet just beyond Pluto, with 2 suns, and only women lived there because we exiled all the men to the planet's moon and visited and used them whenever we wanted something or wanted to have kids. Also, your eye color was different on the planet Zoron because of the two suns. So anyone who had green eyes on Earth had purple eyes on Zoron, etcetera.

So, that is why I've titled my blog, Zoron for Morons. It's a brief glimpse into the craziness that is in my brain for the people who don't live in my head and are interested. I think that we all have creativity and fun inside of us, but sometimes we end up squashing it because it's "not cool" or we don't "fit in". I would encourage everyone, regardless of their age, to pick one part of their life they are "ashamed of" and share it freely, openly, and proudly with a friend, acquaintance, relative, or neighbor. You might be surprised that your awkward conversation starter could open up a whole new world, literally!

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's Not Always About Race

Let me be clear here. I'm not saying there is no longer racial tension in this country. I'm not saying racial profiling doesn't exist or white privilege doesn't exist. However, there are actually two issues that are getting mixed up together in most people's minds: 1) ongoing police brutality and 2) black communities tend to have higher crime rates and lower income.

Let's take the first issue. We need to get a better system of checks and balances in place (which is what our country is built on). For example, in the Eric Garner situation, the internal police department has not fired or suspended this man despite clearly violating protocol. I'm not arguing that police officers shouldn't have the right to use force when arresting someone or that any specific laws were broken. But there is clear, visual evidence that an internal police protocol was broken, which contribute to a man's death. Arguably, the two other officers involved should have also stepped in to stop what was going on and they should face some type of fine, training, or administrative assignments.

However, I would like to present a few other cases to show that excessive force has been used across color lines. For instance, there's the case in Missouri of Jason and Laura Hagan, a homeschooling family who were being followed up with by CPS based on a previous complaint of a "messy house". When the Hagan's exercised their Fourth Amendment rights to refuse to let CPS in, the local Sheriff's office was called in. Without a warrant or justifiable cause, the parents and dog were pepper sprayed, tasered, and attacked in their own home (despite being on the phone with a lawyer at the time, so that was pretty dumb). A lawsuit has been filed, and the Sheriff has been fired.

Also, at least two Justice Department investigations have found systemic police brutality and use of excessive force (Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Cleveland, Ohio) without a specific finding of racial profiling or racism. In Albuquerque, for example, a homeless white man was shot (allegedly armed with a small pocketknife, but complying with police). I think the #blacklivesmatter should really be #livesmatter. If the local police are being excessive, it should not matter what color you are, they should be reprimanded and action should be taken internally. If that's not happening, then we need an external group to step in (whether that's the Justice Department, or some other entity). Cameras aren't going to help, and making it all about race is only going to cause more black lives to be lost.

Now, to fix the problem of inequality, you have to go a bit further. Why are most of the police brutality cases against black victims/suspects? Going back to a previous blog post, even the black President of the United States indicated a direct correlation between "some communities of color" and "high crime, low income neighborhoods". So, if you want to fix the underlying racial tension, that is the problem that needs to be fixed. I don't think that anyone is going to call our President racist, but isn't he indicating the same type of bias as the local police departments? If even the President assumes that some "communities of color" can be synonymous with high crime, low income areas, why would we be upset that police make the same assumptions?

So let's fix the high crime, low income areas. Obviously, the answer to that isn't easy. However, I think it's about fixing the education system, getting people off government assistance and into jobs, and providing support and resources for new parents or stay at home parents in low income areas. The way the system works right now, we are encouraging young, low-income parents to have children (because they can't get most benefits otherwise) and then not giving them the support and education they need to raise their children. Then, we are encouraging them to work (because you can't get most government benefits without working) without giving them quality childcare, leaving tweens and teens wandering the streets without purpose. Our education system is failing, because it's expected to be the parents and child-care provider as well as educating our young people.

Here's one radical solution: Provide optional at-home preschool/parenting services for all low income families (with children ages 0-5). Increase the length of the public school day, while decreasing the number of "educational hours". The school day for elementary students should be 5 hours (required) with up to 4 hours of optional "childcare" provided at no cost after school. Class sizes should be 15:1 during "educational hours" with additional support for Kindergarten classrooms (10:1). "Childcare" coverage should include tutoring services, physical activity, and just letting kids play. School should also be "year-round" to prevent the "learning slide" and higher crime during summer.

In addition, we need to fix the Welfare system (again). Right now the way the system is set up, encourages single parents and renters and discourages homeowner's and stay-at-home parents. We should provide temporary, emergency support only, and instead of paying to rent low-income housing, we should provide low-interest loans to help get more families into stable housing and fix up areas of our cities with low-property values. Also, any man who wants should be able to get a job (similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps).

We should have a system in place to provide job related experience and training to anyone who is unemployed. If they've been incarcerated they need to be given a second chance through supervised training and experience. No more two years of unemployment for people who just don't want to work. Limit "unemployment" to 3 months, and if you haven't found a job by then, you'll be given one, which you have to work at to get paid. Also, stop paying for childcare. It makes no sense to me to employ the women of this country for $8 an hour and pay someone $10 an hour to provide childcare for them, And yes, I'm being gender specific, but that's because one of the main reasons for the high crime rate among black men, is that they aren't given any other roles. We've assigned them the roles of "dead-beat dad" or "at risk youth" and we've never given them a better place in society. Expect them to step up, and they will.

Let's look to our culture to make the changes and not the government. Support programs to educate black youth. Support Big Brother/Big Sister or Habitat For Humanity, or whatever local programs in your area help with education and job placement. Ask your Senator to make changes that help this country, but don't rely solely on their progress, start making your own. All lives matter, so let's fix the two separate issues: police brutality, and the "low income/high crime communities of color".