Thursday, October 28, 2010

Azariah and Polling Places

Next Tuesday's going to be a big day. One of my favorite morning radio hosts, Barry Young, keeps saying that this could be the biggest midterm election of his lifetime. I'm not sure about all that, but I know I am excited for it. My handsome hubby won't even let us get mail-in ballots...there is just something too invigorating about physically going to the polls on election day, he says. I secretly agree.

Politics are divisive, and not just for the same old reasons. It actually seems to be a pretty divisive topic in the church, too, which is really too bad. I'll admit - even I used to be someone who questioned getting "involved" with politics as a Christian. I heard a friend recently say that Jesus never said the word "politics" so we should all just go on our merry way. I'm sure my buddy had/has the best intentions, but I want to explore this a little bit tonight.

I've been deliberating over 1 and 2nd Kings for the past 6 months or so. Some chapters are bloody and violent and dramatic, and others seem to be just a rattling off of facts, always ending with the subtly snotty "as for the rest of what this king did.... are they not written in the annals of the kings of Israel?" (That seriously always cracks me up. I feel like the writer is yelling at me. I didn't ASK you what else he did, guy! It's ok!) But the main story line right now is that God's people have basically split into two 'nations', Israel and Judah. Israel has given to idol worship, building a false god, Baal ,and creating all these weird worship rituals and appointing 'preists'. This is an absolute affront to God, obviously, and He is heartbroken over them. Judah, however, continues to "do what is right in the eyes of the Lord" - for the most part.

Here's what I was reading last night:

"In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam King of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother's name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house."
-2 Kings 15: 1-5

("The high places" is referring to the altars Israel had built to worship Baal.)

And all at once I couldn't blame God but I also couldn't not tell him how much that rattled my "fairness" meter. How could he hold Azariah responsible for the sins of Israel? And not just hold him responsible - but plague him with such a terrifying disease?

I don't want to get into a discussion of God's judging one person for another, because I'll be honest with you - I haven't read enough on the subject and I'm not sure I know just exactly what God has to say about it. But hear me - I want to go in a slightly different direction with this, and it's a direction that points right to politics.

Azariah, though not king of Israel, was in a place of power as king of Judah. And during his time of power, Israel was continuously perverting, offending, satirizing, downplaying, mocking, and disobeying God; who not-so-long-ago had saved them from Egypt. Azariah was not doing those things - but he did nothing to stop them. And apparently God found that so disgusting, he saw fit to plague Azariah with leprosy. Not a subtle statement. And maybe there was a point when Azariah's left arm had the sores but his right arm didn't. I bet that right arm would have done anything to stop it from getting to him if he could have.

Listen. Anyone can sit and stare at a blank wall and after 24 hours, claim to have spent a day without sinning. But what's holy in that? I've been memorizing Proverbs 31, which described a 'noble wife.' Verse 27 says she "does not eat the bread of idleness." There it is again. 'Not sinning,' if accomplished by doing nothing, is also 'not doing anything good,' friends.

I don't want to get off on a rabbit trail. I also don't want to imply that we are responsible for wrong decisions our government makes - especially when they make them against our will. BUT - I do think that when we see something going wrong, we are obligated to at least try to stop it. God must value that - because in the absence of it, in Azariah's case, He felt that the appropriate punishment was a deadly disease and a cutting-off from society.

Moreover, we, just like Azariah have power. Luckily for us, we live in a democratic society, which asks for our vote. That is our power. I have heard so many people shrug off getting involved in politics as Christians, quoting Jesus when He said "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" and interpreting that to mean "we should leave government alone." But in the case study of the United States, what does a democracy, our "caesar," demand? Involvement. Give to Caesar.

I would also make the argument to someone who says we should leave government alone that in this day in age, as Christians, government is not leaving us alone; and we can't sit by like Azariah. I want to say two more things about this. The first is that I don't think it's always clear how we should vote. I am not trying to say that as Christians, we should all just blindly vote Republican and call our duty done. I am also not trying to liken our government right now to Israel. First and foremost, I am just saying we should vote. I can't stand when people try the whole "when did you hear Jesus say the word 'politics'?" thing. That's just semantics and it's pretentious. I didn't hear Jesus say the words "grapefruit juice" either but I don't think it's a sin to drink it. And since when didn't Jesus plead with us to change the world? Isn't that the reason He made us; and left us here in this crappy situation, even after it became crappy? Because he thinks we can make it better? And isn't that the Great Commission - to love each other, and look out for each other, and try to give everyone the freedom to live as He lived? Look around, sweet friends. It's starting to get a bit harder to live as He lived. It's harder to give to the needy of our own volition when a family with an income of roughly $60,000 a year is forecasted to have their taxes increase by an extra $2,000 next year. It's harder to help Phoenician associates living in poverty visit the doctor when they're sick when their HSA cards won't even cover over-the-counter meds anymore next year. (Rabbit trail again - but you cannot possibly imagine how many people depend on those accounts for over-the-counter lifelines like allergy meds and even shampoo. Starting January 1, they're SOL.) It's harder to stand up for life when a president doesn't even acknowledge that that life exists. If we don't get involved and we think we're 'doing good' by staring straight ahead, I think Azariah would have a different story for us.

The last thing I want to say - while trying as hard as I can to avoid another rabbit trail - is that it is a crime, a betrayal, and plain willful ignorance to ignore the abortion issue. You can't get around it. You can't pretend it's not there, or that it's not a giant tragedy, or that it's not a black and white issue. Whether a person is a person or not is not a moral question. It's a scientific one. And there is only one answer, friends. I'm not a question mark if one person thinks I'm real and another one doesn't. I either am or I am not. If a baby is a baby, then there are no questions left. You cannot not get involved. Whatever other questions you might have about Christians in politics don't apply to this. I hope that you hear me.

There are so many facets to the Christians-in-politics issue, but I just feel encouraged that God read 2 Kings 15 to me last night. I hope my rambling about it encourages you, too, and I hope this election next Tuesday pleases our Guy in Charge.

P.S. Shameless plug - if you live in AZ and you're still on the fence about some candidates, check out my gorgeous husband's brainchild, the AZ Voter Guide. And hey, donate to CAP while you're at it! ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Some days I feel magical. Then, other days I feel like everyone else is more magical. And then on really rare days I feel like everyone else is magical, and I am colorless. I may get flak for this, but I always chalk those days up to being somehow related to my womanhood. I am sure they are. Because Aaron never feels colorless - not that he should. But so many women do, don't we?

Today I don't feel so magical, but I certainly can see that everything around me is. So let's talk about that.

Autumn in Arizona is quite different than the chilly, cloudy, cozy autumns in Ohio. But I am still mesmerized by it all the way out here. Right now I am sitting at our kitchen table with every single window in our apartment open around me. Do you realize that that hasn't happened in almost 7 months? The heat usually keeps them closed and sun-blocking curtains drawn, but today they are wide open. And we have A LOT of windows - it's the first thing we loved about this place. Tonight it's a bit breezy out, and the crickets are really at it. Jethro keeps running to the back door to see what's going on out there - such a watchdog. The other night we were woken up by coyotes right outside our window, so I think he is feeling a bit hyper-alert.

Today after work I could feel that it was Ohio football weather - I would say it was around 65 degrees in Ohio talk, but that translates to about 81 out here. (They really do feel the same - it's the lack of humidity). So I knew I couldn't let the opportunity pass. I got Jethro hooked up to his leash and made a mad dash out to the street, and he and I went on a 45 minute run around the mountains up here. The sun set while we were out, and it was purple and pink and orange and magic. By the time we got back to the apartment it was downright chilly out, and I had a good stretch on the porch and got in a hot shower.

Now there are pumpkins sitting on our hearth, and a jar of apple butter on the counter, and the open windows are making it just cold enough for me to need a blanket. Aaron Michael is in bed... he's been getting sleepy earlier and earlier lately. He must be getting old. ;) It's quiet and dim and dark and chilly in here, and even though I don't feel magical, tonight certainly does.

If I were magical today I would have something profound and simple and enlightening to say, or a story to tell, or a verse to tie in my feelings and what-I've-learned-today. But I'm not, and I don't. I'll just let you know that if you're not here, I wish you were, and I wish you could try out an Arizona autumn because it's quite charming. We found this in Sedona two weeks ago.

Perhaps in a few days something will click.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 13

All day today, I've been thinking, "I've GOT to write a blog today." Because I always write something on October 13. Ever since the real October 13 in 2004. When Pastor Phil died.

But I'm not quite sure what to say; on the 2010 October 13. Sadness speaks for itself and it's not fun to write under, and it's not new. My sadness has changed over the years though. Now instead of being sad for Pastor Phil, who is done with the pain that his cancer caused him and undoubtedly singing God's praises with the best of them, I am sad for the people that knew him and miss him, and the people that might've come to know him. But that's the way it works.

His beautiful wife Carole was remarried a few years ago to Tim, who is just about the coolest guy on the planet. And now in addition to Carole and Phil's two too-cool-for-school boys Jared and Jordan, Carole and Tim have the cutest baby on the planet - and I really mean that. You know how some people think you're supposed to say that all babies are cute, on account of them being babies? No. I don't think so. We all know there are un-cute babies. But Ty is seriously the cutest baby I have ever seen. THE CUTEST. His nose makes me giggle uncontrollably. The adorableness is that overpowering.

Pastor Phil's last words were "I love you Jesus, I worship you." Have you ever, in your life, heard of that being someone's last words? Well you have now. And if it doesn't give you goosebumps, well, you're on your own.

And here's another cool thing that Pastor Phil did for us. Every year on this day, a group of friends that are now scattered all across the map always seem to take a minute for each other. Texts, e-mails, facebooks messages, phone calls. I was part of this group, and they changed my life and made me feel loved even when I didn't comb my hair and I couldn't stop humming Copeland. Even though October 13 was a gut-wrenching day for us, we went through it together and it seems like it just might always stay that way.

Thanks, Pastor Phil. I hope you're enjoying yourself. I'm sure you are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anniversary One

Today we've decided to open all the blinds in our apartment. We don't normally do this, on account of the heat it usually lets in. Actually, I can't think of the last time we did. But it's very sunny and bright in here again. It feels like a new apartment. And a new day.

My heart is aching a little bit though as we watch the Packers game (and Steelers game on Packers' commercial breaks. I know the rules). It's 52 degrees at Lambeau Field today. Perfection. If I were there I might even wear gloves.Anyway, it's still over 100 degrees here in the southwest. It feels like nothing has changed in years. Like it's been summer since we got married a year ago. There are positive things to it, but I think seasons are good for my heart. They give the feeling that time is moving. Like you're going somewhere and getting things done. And really, you just can't underestimate how much I love a good hoodie.

I just can't help but daydream about OU, with it's brick streets and green hills and rainy days this time of year. Ohio is so quietly beautiful. If you've never been there, go once for me.

BUT. Last weekend my bud and me got to discover another breathtakingly beautiful part of our country. It was our first anniversary - look how He loves us!- so we took Friday off work and road-tripped out to Rancho Mirage, California. Since I work at The Phoenician, we get 50 % off at all Starwood hotels, so we booked a room at the Westin Mission Hills. Our Assistant Director of HR, Stefanie, just started at The Phoenician and came from this Westin. So she called her friends over there and got Aaron and I upgraded to a suite. :)

The drive out west on the I-10 was beautiful...the sky got bigger and bigger the farther west we went and the mountains got taller and the sun got hotter. We listened to the Fleet Foxes Pandora station and drank Sunkist. And then, as we got closer, these huge, white spikes started shooting up out of the sides of the mountains. And then we got closer and realized what they were - wind turbines. I have to say, they were a little unnerving. There was literally no other sign of civilization in sight - but suddently these huge (I can't describe how big, honestly), ominous, strange-looking turbines. It felt strange to look at them. Futuristic. Do we believe in that technology enough to build such huge structures? I know that sounds ignorant, but that's truly what I was thinking. And I want to take you on our trip with us for a little bit.

After we checked in to our suite, we realized that we were playing the greatest game of "let's pretend" in, let's pretend we have enough money to be doing this. So we put on "Blankest Year" by Nada Surf and jumped on the bed like 12 year olds. And I smiled like a 12 year old. So did he.

We ate at the beautiful restaurant, got drinks at the lobby bar, took lots of walks, sat out on our deck and sipped champagne in our robes, got HEAVENLY massages at the spa, had margaritas at the pool, ordered tons of room service, and even closed the curtains a couple of times to make our room pitch black and put on some movies. It was so perfect.

On Saturday night, we had a knock at the door from room service. They had an amenity for us. The ladies in my HR office had ordered us a box of chocolate and... a boom box? The server walked in, plugged it in, pushed play, and left. And Nickel Creek singing our wedding song came on. We danced.

Normally I wouldn't write about all the details of a trip like this. Because I like to have a little life between Aaron and I that is only ours. But I have been reading Kate McDonald's -er, Kate Andre's blog - about her recent wedding and honeymoon and I've just felt so inspired by it and so grateful and God lets us experience love like this. And our trip just shook my soul and I wanted to write about it. I truly can't believe how much I love Aaron, and how much more I love him every day. On Saturday night we were sitting out on our porch. I had just taken a shower and my skin smelled so clean, and I sat there in my robe holding Aaron Michael's hand. It was completely silent outside. Only crickets and a huge full moon. And Aaron told me something that I will never forget as long as I live. I'm not going to write it in here; because it is a part of our secret life. But it broke my heart and mended it at the same time. It made me cry and laugh, and it made me know that I had always been going to find Aaron, and he had always been going to find me. And that he loves me in a way I will probably never understand. I don't know why I'm so lucky, but I won't question it.

It was a beautiful trip. Here's to many more years.

The outside of our suite

Bella Vista, the restaurant

Part of our room...

Where we took our walks

The Pool


My guy :)