November 10, 2012

Good Post-Election Prayers and Thoughts

Instead of joining in those who are wailing or celebrating election results, at the local, state and federal levels, I am going to let God do the talking, though I am taking the liberty of highlighting some of His words.

For those that voted against the people who ended up being elected, this is what God told the Isrealites to do after they had been carried away to Babylon in defeat:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 
Jeremiah 29:  4-7

If God wanted the Isrealites to pray blessings for their "enemies", what do you think He wants us to do for our government representatives who are doing what they feel is for the benefit of our country, even if we don't agree with them on what constitutes a benefit?

A second example is found in Psalm 61:

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah
For you have heard my vows, O God;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Increase the days of the king’s life,
    his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
    appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
Then will I ever sing praise to your name
    and fulfill my vows day after day.

Several sites offering historical background for this Psalm seem to feel that David wrote it while running away from his own son, Absalom, who had organized an insurrection against his father and was seeking to kill him and all of his followers--a horrible betrayal of the deepest trust and a potential severance of all family ties of love.  Okay, if you have read the story, you know that Absalom and David weren't very close and that David had banished his son for fratricide in an earlier incident.  Still, David prayed for the next king's benefit and blessing, even when the king was seeking his demise.  And in that really hard place, David knew who to turn to for help.

Finally, we have instructions from Jesus, son of God, God-With-Us, King of Kings, The Redeemer and Savior, who WILL one day return to set up his eternal kingdom and end all political turmoil:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45

As I have said before, Jesus doesn't just talk the talk:  while he is on the cross, he asks God to forgive those who called for his crucifixion.

So here are three distinct walking orders from God to stop moaning and whining about the election results, and calling those in the opposite political camps all sorts of names as if you are stuck in middle-school mentality/maturity level.  Suck it up and show respect to the people that God has put in power over us.  This doesn't mean that we have to be silent when we see abuses of power, lies being presented as truth, injustice or skullduggery.  It also doesn't mean that when someone of the opposite political persuasion repeatedly voices their opinion just to make sure that you know where they stand, you are not allowed to express your opposing opinion.  I would just ask that you do so respectfully, knowing that the other person is also made in the image of God and dearly loved by God.  There will be other elections in which we can work to get the people we want in office.

And for those who are celebrating because your candidate(s) won and ESPECIALLY for those people who were just elected/re-elected, remember this:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

May God bless you and keep you!

November 6, 2012

A Foretaste of the Future?

Those of you who know me, know the details of where we have lived.  For those of you just tuning in, I am keeping the location details 'under wraps' because this story can happen in any state, including the one in which I am currently residing.

Four years ago, my husband was one of thousands of people laid off at his company.  Enough people were laid off that it triggered a federal law requiring the company to give three month's notice to those who were released.  This particular company decided to give the employees three month's salary in a lump sum, along with severance based on their years of service and told to go home start looking for a job.  My husband, along with every other employee let go, was told to immediately apply for unemployment.  This didn't seem right to us because we had three months pay in our bank account and didn't really need the unemployment money.  Why not wait until we had the need?  The HR person assured us that not filing for unemployment immediately would be perceived by the state government as equivalent to not looking for a job immediately.  Do you see fallacy #1?  Anyway, we dutifully followed HR advice.  This was the same HR department that, at a later time, misfiled the paperwork with claims that those who were laid off had been on the company payroll for the three months.  The state unemployment office could have contacted the HR representative to verify whether the paperwork was truly representing the situation.  This would have saved the state a LOT of money. Instead, they sent out letters to the thousands of people who were laid off notifying them that they falsified claims.  That is hundreds of dollars in stamps to harass people who might still be unemployed.  It resulted in thousands of people filing appeals, requiring someone's time to review the paperwork and additional time to hold the hearing and even more additional time filing the follow-up paperwork detailing the appeal's findings.  More wasted money. However, it DOES provide job security for the folks working for the unemployment office.

Meanwhile, God had graciously provided a job for my husband 1,800 miles away within four months be being released.  He dutifully notified the state unemployment office that we would no longer be needing their money and gave them a change of address notification so that future communication would be sent to the us.  The group of people who handle problems with claims is separate from the the group that pays out claims.  Apparently, paperwork isn't shared.  So when that former group sent out the mailings accusing us of making a fraudulent claim, they sent it to our last known address in our former state rather than taking the considerable time and energy calling the claims department to see if there was an address change (warning:  heavy sarcasm in use).  They also did not allow the post office to forward the notification in the off chance that we had moved because, apparently, all that matters is that the notification is sent--they are not responsible for ensuring that the information is actually received (Note:  This is my sarcastic interpretation of their motives and does not represent the bureaurocracy's actual thought process).  Result:  we never were notified by the state that it had filed a claim of fraudulence against us.  Our notification came three years later, when the state requested that the federal government garnish our federal income tax to re-pay our "debt" and the federal government happily complied, notifying us of the transaction.

When we received this notification from the federal government, my husband called the state unemployment office to see if we could file an appeal.  The person told him where to go to download the paperwork and within a day, he had faxed the completed forms to the fax number he was given.  We waited.  We received no notification that they received the paperwork.  Six months passed.  I suggested that maybe it was time that we contact the state to see what the status of our appeal was.  The contact person my husband reached told him that the appeal was never filed and was closed because of no activity.  At this point, my very wise and calm husband asked to speak to a supervisor (I doubt I would have been as gracious).  During the course of the conversation, in which my husband stated our situation, the supervisor gave him his direct fax line and told him to re-apply for an appeal and fax it directly to him.  Within a day, my husband completed appeal paperwork a second time.  This time, he was notified by mail of our hearing date within a week.  The envelope originally had the address that we haven't inhabited for nearly four years printed on it, but that address was crossed out and our correct address was written on it.  During the appeal's hearing, my husband was told that one of the "findings" was that our appeal was not made in a timely manner.  Fortunately, the person handling the appeal was understanding and noted that we had never been notified by the state.  The end result is that the state ruled that we were not responsible for paying back the entire aid we were given, but that some residual charges apply and they are in the process of determining if those charges exceed what was garnished in the federal taxes.  We are not exactly sure WHY we have to pay for the state's ineptness, but if it means an end to the situation and it doesn't involve a lot of money, we are grateful.

This situation prompts the following question in my mind:  if there is a problem with how the government is operating, whether state, local, or federal, who can you appeal to?  If the supervisor had refused to re-open our case, or if the person handling our appeal was being unreasonable, where could we have gone to appeal?  If the problem involved a privately held company, we could file a claim with the Better Business Bureau, put something on Yelp or Google or Yahoo reviews and the company, if it continued having bad business practices and racking up complaints, would eventually go out of business or be put out of business by the government.  And the situation we were in REEKS of bad business practices that would put a privately held company out of business within a year.

My personal answer is that I would, and did, appeal to God and He answered us by giving us a compassionate supervisor and a favorable person handling our appeals hearing.  And I am sure that there is always the option of suing the government if it ever came to that, but that takes money.  We have money, but what about people who can barely afford the basics?  They wouldn't have the resources to sue the government for negligence or fraud and would just get exploited and overlooked and overcharged.

And then I think of the future healthcare insurance to be administered by the same governments that are administering unemployment insurance.  And it will be directed and funded by the same government in charge of managing our Social Security benefits.  So as evil and as hard-hearted and profit-driven as insurance companies are, I have NO confidence that the future government bureaucrats that will be in charge of health insurance decisions will be any better.

The truth is that government officials who tell you that the government will eliminate health care problems are overselling their capabilities, just as PPOs and HMOs in the 1980's oversold their capabilities.  The government welfare system that was supposed to eliminate poverty still has people fall through the cracks AND, simultaneously, allows people to scam the system.  Both private and public institutions are run by seriously flawed people and seriously compassionate people.   But private organizations are more directly accountable to their customers than the government is.  And they have the government to watch them to make sure they are following fair business rules.  But who will watch the watchmen?

November 1, 2012

Spiritual Alzheimer's disease

God has been speaking through three blogs today about walking and sharing His grace with my immediate family on a daily basis and with people in general.  One of my long time favorite bloggers is Matt at The Church of No People.  He wrote about how Americans are becoming more intolerant.  Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like discusses why Christians are such jerks.  And at Prodigal magazine, Michael Perkins confesses that he is the problem  that causes the Christian church to get a bad reputation (though I think I make equal contributions).

All this as a song resonates in my brain as the possible solution to Christian jerkiness, intolerance and judgement.  I have tried unsuccessfully to embed the video several times (the embedded information seems to disappear when I hit "update", so I am providing the link here.  Please watch the video before continuing to read.  Pictures are provided so that you don't "peek"  :-).
Kyle ready to make a play.  This is what
you wear in October in AZ

Staying warm in the early morning
before my first 10K race.  The kids needed it, not me.
Elz is thrilled as you can see.

Finishing my first ever 10K run.  My "partner in crime"
is the woman on the far left of the picture.  Finishing was my goal.
Mission accomplished.

And now back to the original thought, involving man's jerkiness...
The video speaks of belonging to God, being his beloved child no matter what I do.  And this awesome love and grace is what can flow out of me when I keep my focus on Jesus Christ throughout the day and on his grace and mercy and love.  But I forget, as if I have a spiritual Alzheimer's disease.  And in another video, the singer says that he wrote this song because he, too, forgets and needs to be reminded of his position in Christ.  And I think every Christian out there has the same disease, as well as every human on the planet.

The Good News is that God can reverse the debilitating and destructive effects of this disease as well as its progress.   It is called "the work of the Spirit" and it happens when we shift our attention from the fleeting shadows of this world and fix our eyes on the solid light of Jesus, our ears to God's still small voice, and relax to let the Spirit lead us.
John 15:5--I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:9--As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.  Now remain in my love. 
Galatians 5:22-23, 25--The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.