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chateauchambordddcc“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God didn’t design our lives with a good-enough-to-get-by plan. His blueprint designs are pressed-down, shaken together and running-over kind-of-designs.  I don’t know about you, but my expectations are always short-sighted compared to his. I’d rather walk out God-sized dreams than my-sized dreams. Wouldn’t you?

Photo of Chateau Chambord, taken June 2017

 

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The Joy Bearer being Tossed into the Ocean

To Barrett on the Occasion of your 21st Birthday,

I’ve always said since you were a little boy when I gave you and your brothers spirit-filled names that we should have named you Joyful Barrett Bucher. God saw fit to give you an extra measure of the Joy of the Lord, equipping you to be a Joy Bearer.

Being a Joy Bearer doesn’t mean you always feel joyful. Just like an Everyman, you might struggle to always choose joy. Sometimes you might balk and rebel against choosing to find the joy God leaves for us in the messiness of everyday living. . . . but just like building muscles, I pray that you will train yourself to choose joy for yourself.

There is a difference between choosing joy and being a joy-bearer, though. Choosing Joy is about your internal happiness. Being a Joy Bearer is about carrying joy into another’s circumstances.

You are a God-designed Joy Bearer. You have a gift for bringing joy into any room, any moment, any situation – and you bring it in all different ways. You bring joy with a word, an expression,  an act of compassion, encouragement, service or insight. Sometimes it can be called comic relief – though it is not an entertainer-kind-of-thing. It can be called unconditional love, hero to the rescue, faith for healing, beautiful timing that redeems a conversation, or simply a hug. It looks and feels like God’s grace being inserted into a moment  or situation.

Today you are 21. Your life is your story now. You hold the pen and eraser. You are its editor. Dad and I are now secondary characters in your story. It’s a hands-off, hands-up time, meaning the greatest impact we can have on your story now is through prayer.

My prayer for you is that you continue to be a Joy Bearer as you grow into independence. Yes, The Joy of the Lord is your Strength ( Nehemiah 8:10 ).

This strength can only be built in his presence – and, as you spend time in his presence, you will hear his guidance: “You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Faith is maintained through real, intentional relationship with the one who created you. Maintain that belief that God designed (Psalm 149) you to be exactly who you are even when others don’t see what God sees or know what God knows about you, even when you don’t see it or feel it.

There will be those who don’t believe – from teachers to peers, to strangers to even family – but as long as you know God knows- and hold on to that knowledge, you will fulfill your God-designed life, and a lifetime of people will be blessed by you, the Joy Bearer.

While the Joy-Bearer carries God’s joy into other’s lives, he doesn’t leave the joy-bearer a solitaire individual. God has people – and those people are the friendships and mentors who see you as he does. You will find them in likely and unlikely places, expected, but most often, unexpected. If you can’t see them or find them, ask him and he will reveal them to you.

I have so many stories of your Joy-Bearing moments in our family. One of my most treasured memories is the time you sneaked up behind me in the kitchen – you were the only one who could sneak up behind me – and gave me a hug. I consider that moment my greatest mothering failure.I was cooking and fraught over a different mothering situation when you sneaked up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and gave me a Bear Hug. I shook off that hug saying, “Not right now.” I regret that shaking off and not just allowing myself to enjoy the complete hug. I regret how it possibly made you feel. You haven’t sneaked up to give me a hug since then. You were a Joy Bearer bringing joy into a space and to a heart that needed it. I learned a lot from that moment. I learned to let go of the messiness and accept joy, accept love when offered. Sadly, in that moment, for you, Joy-Bearing proved itself not always comfortable.

The lesson in that for you is to never under-estimate the impact of giving a joyful gift. You might not see the impact in the moment of giving. As a matter of fact, it might be shaken off. However, like a mustard seed, it can grow into something bigger and more  beautifully life-changing than you intended, estimated or imagined. Today that mother-fail moment is a treasured moment because it taught me to love better, to find, accept and choose joy in a fraught-filled moment. Being a Joy-Bearer might not always be comfortable, but I don’t think any act of kindness returns empty. Sometimes it takes time – and that is a faith and hope thing.

You have blessed our family for 21 years as a Joy Bearer. Like all of us, you will have moments of living life all wrong and moments of shining rightness. From the wrong to the rightness and in-between, choose not only to be a Joy Bearer but a Joy Chooser, redeeming the messiness of everyday living into the God-designed life he intended for you.

“You always show me the path of life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will make me happy forever at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11)

We love you. Happy 21st Birthday! Praying you have blessing, joy and sweet surprises as you write your story!

Love Mom and Dad

Below are some of my very favorite posts about the Joy-Bearer in our family:
The Center of the Brotherhood and Commemorative Poem
Lemonade Joy
Not Everybody Can Whistle; Not Everybody Can Wink
The Freshness After the Storm
Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head
The Owl and the Puppy Dog
Mother Words

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flag“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend” ~ Thomas Jefferson

The mission statement for my blog is “the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men.”   I’ve talked about bullyingbelief intimidation,  and the demonization of our young men. This isn’t a political post so much as it is about teaching my sons to stand up for what they believe in an environment that increasingly tries to silence their voices. Today, I want to talk about not just the dangers of silencing our beliefs (not just political but our faith-in-God beliefs), but silencing our beliefs due to oppression and suppression, and yes, how that looks in an election climate.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.

A young college student stood at the back of the crowd, talking to some friends a few nights ago. Coolness wafted through a wall of humidity just before a storm front came through. A band played a set of Merle Haggard favorites in our small town amphitheater.

Some children danced with luminescents, grandparents, parents, young mothers and fathers sat in their folding chairs just enjoying a summer evening. It was a sweet evening in America.

The young man, though,  kept pulling his grey Indian-cotton short sleeved shirt close, as if to hide his t-shirt. I was standing, fidgeting. Maybe if I’d been snuggled down into those comfy sports chairs, I might not have noticed his t-shirt. But I did – and it looked like a Trump-for-President t-shirt.

It saddened me that he was trying to hide it.

As we turned to leave, I stepped a few feet closer and asked about his Trump-for President t-shirt – congratulating him on wearing it. I thought courage should be encouraged.

He said, “Yeah – it’s a Trump  for President t-shirt, but I’m wearing this shirt over it because I don’t want to incite anything.”

I told him about the t-shirt one of my sons gave me for my birthday and about how I was concerned to wear it out, even grocery shopping – concerned even to put a sign in my yard.

He said he had a magnetic Trump-for-President bumper sticker for his car because he was a student at the college. Magnetic, so he could take it off because he didn’t want anyone damaging his vehicle because of his presidential choice. I imagine he also didn’t want his college GPA negatively affected, either.

We talked for a few more minutes – and I left, saddened for both of us. Saddened about the fear and cost of freedom of expression and speech, even in our small town.

This fear-inspired hiding of a t-shirt is the result of A Little Tyranny. A Little Tyranny is made up of little persecutions, like a scratch on your car, a lower grade, intellectual condescension in the form of patronizing disdain, name calling, all of which is in contrast to A Big Tyranny, which negatively affects physical safety, the ability to keep ones job because of different points of view over constitutional beliefs, and ultimately, individual freedom. Little Tyrannies risk growing into Big Tyrannies.

Tyranny has trickled down to small-town America – and it is sad. It is sad that an American boy about to vote in his first presidential election feels the need for caution – caution, not because these beliefs do not belong or deserve to be broadcast, a caution developed from reading about, watching those who have acted nation-wide to shut down through fists, blocking streets, venues, shouting down speech to close down the freedom to gather peacefully for an exchange of ideas, for an exchange of speech, for an exchange of freedom they might not agree with.

Our revolutionary forefathers fought battles so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this. The greatest generation gave up much of themselves so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this.

Tyranny is an exercise of power over others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice. It is associated with cruelty and oppression. It can be harsh, unjustly cruel, oppressive. It seeks to take away the voice, the beliefs . . . the rights of each citizen.

Followers of tyranny use tactics of intimidation, physical and intellectual bullying, oppression and violence to silence opinions different from their own. It does not scoot over to make room for anyone thinking differently.

The enabling of tyranny is evident in the “safe spaces” created for college students because different opinions scare them. This type of intellectual enabling of students, a type of encouraged self-imprisonment, atrophies intellectual development, resulting in a myopic understanding of the world, their country, their state and even their neighbors. If differing opinions can’t be faced, how can students and citizens understand the objective history of differing opinions, why people have those differing opinions, why differing opinions existing together provide a healthy environment where freedom grows. If students and citizens don’t understand, then they cannot respect differences – and if differences cannot be respected, intolerance develops. Intolerance then leads to tyranny.

 “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Followers of tyranny make no room for opposition. Those followers will shut it down any way they can – and when an existing government fails to protect the freedoms like those in our Constitution, then the environment will have been created out of which will grow persecuting intolerance – like Mao’s intolerance, Stalin’s intolerance, Hitler’s intolerance, Castro’s intolerance – all who imprisoned, tortured and eradicated millions and millions of people who didn’t agree.

I’ve always told my sons – and my college students, you need three reasons to believe something. In this election season, I have my three reasons for why I’m voting for Donald Trump.

  1. Non-persecuted Christianity can only exist under the umbrella of Capitalism. The umbrella of socialism/communism makes no room for Christianity. Where freedom for Capitalism exists, freedom for non-persecuted Christianity exists.
  2. Trump’s daughter is Jewish, and as such, will support Israel. “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I also believe that God has a history of using unlikely men to lead his people out of oppression into a fully redeemed relationship with him (read Judges).
  3. Trumps supporters/followers don’t resort to tyranny in order to shut down the freedom to express differing opinions. If a candidate’s followers make no room in a political debate for differing opinions, most likely that candidate will make no room, if elected, for ideological, religious or personal differences either – and what was once individual bullying will become government-endorsed bullying to ensure differing opinions won’t exist to challenge their use of power.

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter” ~George Washington, first U.S. president

The America I know does not persecute its citizens into silence. The America I know does not persecute its people into hiding their beliefs. The America I know was created so that no one would ever need to build priest holes to hide their religious leaders or freedom fighters.

“Let us not give up in freedom what we would never give up  in persecution” ~ Nik Ripkin, The Insanity of God

Tyranny in a free country gives birth to government sanctioned persecution that seeks to silence differing opinions permanently.

My father-in-law used to say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying over what your actions are telling me.”

If you can tell much about a man by whom he surrounds himself, then surely you can tell much about a political candidate by who his followers are. If one man’s followers seek to shut down another person’s beliefs through fists, destruction and bullying, and the second man’s followers don’t persecute those who believe differently, though they disagree, I would choose the second man every time. The second man will uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved,” ~ Father Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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Sometimes we can’t see where God is taking us
because we cannot see past where we are ~ Blue Cotton Memory

When I first started blogging in 2009, my niece sent me a message that blog posts are supposed to be short. For the life of me, I couldn’t do short. I am a sit-long-talk-much person. Story-telling is not a short thing – at least not for me. However, since I was hospitalized with pneumonia at the end of February, something inside changed.

The words didn’t come until a two weeks ago, so I most often posted some of my very favorite posts. I knew God wasn’t calling me to quit; he was just calling me to quiet as I readjusted to inside-and-outside God-shaping changes. On the outside, these changes aren’t even recognizable – it’s been an inside job affecting the outward structure of my day and weaving old and new responsibilities family, business and God has give me.

During this non-writing time, I didn’t freak out. God’s been training me for quite a few years, preparing me to handle moments like this. It was more like God took me on a side-road journey – and I was tucked into the side car. Words weren’t required on this side-road trip. I trusted that the quiet, where the words didn’t come, was his plan and that they would return in his time, so I did what I thought he wanted me to do – I focused on living – and those living the daily with me. I steeped in the story, my place in that story and all the characters moving through it. Or maybe I was living it like someone standing in a field, arms stretched out wide, just letting it blow through me – watching it come, feeling it hit me, and letting it go.

My photography came back first – and I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook with brief blurbs. Something curious happened. Members of  my sons’ soccer team discovered my Instagram account. From what my boys said, “Whose mom has an Instagram account? With their grandma name?” Their teammates started reading those blurbs out loud to the team in the playful way young men like to rib each other – except this turned out a bit differently. What they were reading out loud to the team was scriptures and encouraging quotes. After that, I decided to become more consistent with those photos and quotes. I even started creating “homemade” quotes when I couldn’t find what my heart was trying to say. Word (on the street) has it some are still reading my posts. Word (God’s) has it that God works like that in unlikely ways. Some of those young men still read those blurbs today.

This side-road trip is over. He’s merged me back onto the main journey road. The words have finally come back – the sit-long-and-talk-much story telling will be here on Mondays- but the bite-sized photoblurbs won’t be leaving either, but on Fridays, I will be posting one from my week on Blue Cotton Memory (The will be only one to two sentences).

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There’s a new type of shaming in our country today. No – it’s not body shaming, gender shaming or race shaming. It’s belief shaming – not just religious belief shaming, but political belief shaming.

Shaming is done by someone with one set of beliefs to someone with a different set of beliefs. It’s done to elicit changes in thought and behavior. It is done to shame into silence. It is intolerance; it is bullying.

“A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which  or modesty prompts us to conceal” ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary.

Disagreements handled with generosity of spirit are good for our country. It sharpens our vigilance. It holds in check for healthy balance. It has the ability to stimulate goodness becoming better and enables love to be all-encompassing.

Group think is never healthy – in a company or in a country.

Recently, someone in my nest was belief-shamed: politic-shamed. My husband and I were there while he handled it with grace, kindness and firmness. Because he believed we needed healthy borders and was a Trump supporter, he was labeled a racist, a hater and ignorant by someone older and in authority over parts of his life.

Differences in how individuals think about scientific theory, literary interpretation, grammar usage, history, and politics doesn’t leave one side a lover and the other a hater, one side brilliant, the other side stupid beyond belief. Those are false arguments designed to shame into silence. Those arguments in themselves are intolerant.

“It is clear that the individual who persecutes [shames] a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster[bully]” ~Voltaire.  Tolerance makes room for a different opinion, breeding respect. It is not just generosity of spirit – it is the American spirit.

“Children learn at an early age the principle of the limitation of individual liberty. It can usually be fixed in the mind by the epigrammatic statement, “My right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins” ~ Walter B. Hill, 1902,  Chancellor of the University of Georgia at a meeting of the National Educational Association.

Yes, I support capitalism over socialism. Yes, I support healthy borders and the enforcement of laws. Yes, I support legal immigration. I support free speech and the right to bear arms.

I unabashedly love my country and how it has grown to encompass freedom for all men. Yes, I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I love America and the potential it affords its people.

The growth of our country is similar to the growth of the individual soul – the individual soul may fail in its efforts to love perfectly, but the individual soul keeps its eyes on the one who created it, picks itself up and keeps trying. Not only is the growth of our country’s soul similar to the individual’s souls growth, but America’s figurative soul is a reflection of the soul of its people.

It is full of people with generosity of spirit, a love-thy-neighbor kind of love – and passionate differences of opinion.

During this election season, let’s not politic/belief shame. Let’s not diminish a person’s intellectual ability. Let’s not doubt the moral state of their souls. Let us choose love – maybe an exasperated love, but still love.

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may” ~ John Wesley

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gardenliliesSome of my best thinking happens in my garden. Today’s thought?

God created man and put him to live in a garden. Ever since falling out of the garden, mankind has tried to recreate that garden in their own backyards, maybe wondering if they did, that God in the evenings would come walk through that garden with them, and the world be made right again.

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I admit it. I read book endings first. If I don’t, then I rush through the story, details, the words. When I know the ending, I slow down, savor the details – wait with grace for the story to unfold. . . . because I am assured the ending.

“Don’t pray for God to give you patience,” people say.

I say bring it on.

Patience is the living between right now and Christmas morning,

. . .or between right now and the first slow sip of a chocolate soda, just a hand-reach away or a block away.

It’s everything in-between praying that God’s angels encamp about us during the day, letting others know about the love of Jesus with our words and actions, all the details in the daily, and everyone’s shoes kicked off by the back door, feet standing around the counter, waiting for dinner.

Patience is what I fill my mind with from the beginning of a three mile walk to its end, how I chose to live in every waiting moment – every until

. . . like chosing to wait for that first kiss, the wait from the asking, “Will you marry me,” to the ,”I do”, to the delivery of every child, or the long wait to see a child or loved one on the other side of heaven, to the timer buzzing the chocolate chip muffins are ready, to even a child-growing’s salvation, or for a fever to break .

It’s how we live grace, faith and hope in the journey of a prayer sent to Shaddai; Patience is the wait for a prayer’s fulfillment. How we live that wait changes everything. . .

Patience is not just waiting with grace, but living faith in that wait with grace, thinking, speaking, battling the doubt in our minds to live hope like we believe it.

Patience how we live in the time it takes for God to redeem the big and little happenings in the daily of our lives.

Patience is head-time thinking in in-between moments like walking out the door to walk Sadie, our golden retriever, through the water puddles and wet chill to when we burst through the back door.

Patience is how-to live all the in-between times, the big and little, tough and easy, and the seemingly empty moments that need filling.

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (2 Peter 3:9)

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