I am an American, a capitalist by birth. No problem, we’re all born somewhere under some system, in some culture. I lucked out and got the richest country on earth, or did I? Don’t get me worng, I love America, and I’m not packing to leave. I love the diversity of our people, the contributions from people who’ve come from everywhere. I love the geography that includes everything from scorching desert to high mountain monoliths to storm-split plains. I love the sounds of folks from the south and the north, the east and the west. I love the history: Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, the Alamo, the trails and missions of Father Serra, Abe’s log cabin, George’s false teeth, the comeuppance at LIttle Big Horn, and the cave dwellers of Arizona. I love that my great grandfather fought in the Civil War, my father and father-in-law fought in WWII, and my husband in Vietnam. I love that my son-in-law served in the Army and their sons in the Air Force. I love the pumpkins at Halloween, the turkey at Thanksgiving, the Christmas lights, and fireworks on New Year’s and the Fourth of July. It’s us, and it’s me.
But there’s something bothering me. Our need for money has become our love of money. Too often I hear decisions made by how much money they will make. I don’t think that’s about capitalism. I thought capitalism just gave every person the right to work how they want, where they want, making whatever amount of money they’re able to – the freedom thing. But now I hear money used as a divider. “I’m not hiring that … ” or an environment destroyer, “It doesn’t matter, look how many jobs it’ll create.” We need to make a choice. Are we still one nation under God, who cares most about us loving Him and loving each other , or are we one nation scraping for the most money?
It isn’t too late to turn back. I start with myself, and you start with yourself. I don’t make money at the expense of time with my family and friends, I don’t buy things that cause me to have to make more money, I vote for government officials whose first priority is the good of the entity they serve, I share my wealth with those less fortunate. That’s a good start. That puts my behavior to the truth that God is God.
It’s going to be one of those over 100 degree weeks in Modesto – where we are known for water, wealth, contentment and health. I bet you’re wondering why I stay here, aren’t you? (Truth is: when I have to get out in this heat, I wonder why I stay here.) However, Modesto is a good town, mostly. We still smile at you on the street, most of the time. We still have an A&W. Our movie drive ins have given way to theatres with recliners. I wonder if that’s a response to the graying of the nation. We have a Costco and a Winco, and what else do you need? Gallo Winery is here and we’re in a valley that grows a good deal of the food consumed in the whole world. We have a junior college and the four-year is right down the road a bit. You can get frozen yogurt to beat the heat or you can swim in one a bazillion pools. And we’ve got a whole bunch of churches, I mean lots. All good.
But why I like Modsto the most, past that most of my kids, my friends, and my doctor are here, is that we look out for each other. I think that has to do a lot with there being a whole bunch of peope who love God in Modesto. We’ve got Love Modesto in April when thousands get together and do projects all over town. But that’s once a year. We also help relocate refugees through World Relief, care for the poor through a bunch of agencies. Lately, we’ve set up MOES, a tent city for the homeless, and people all over town support that, too. The Shower Shuttle folks, who offer free showers to the homeless in these really cool, decked out vans, have just added a laundry van, so the homeless can get their clothes clean. Imagine if you were on the street, how much those two blessings would mean to you. I like this part of us most because Jesus said to look out for the little guy, the one who can’t help himself. The one who, when you do something kind for him, can’t pay you back. We don’t need organizations to help us do that, by the way, or government. We can pull on our boots and do it on our own. Just a thought.
So yesterday we bought vegetable plants and flowers. It’s spring all right. We bought red and blue flowers for the blue pots – I don’t recall the names, but I’ll put a picture in here. We bought a pink rose tree to replace one that died last summer. And we bought tomatoes of all kinds, peppers of two kinds (I have to keep the hubs under control) and summer and zucchini squash. Then God rained on it all last night. Some were pretty dry, so this morning their arms are reached to heaven in thank you. Will throw in some Swiss Chard and green bean seeds for good measure. A radish or two if there’s room, green onions. My garden has gotten smaller as I’ve gotten “up there.” So there is a stopping place.
Here’s a thought. Before I put any of this in the ground, I have to prepare the ground. If you plant in weedy ground, those picker weeds strangle the good stuff. Makes me wonder about things Jesus said. He pointed out that weeds choke out good plants, but when the disciples asked Him if He wanted them to tear out the weeds, He said no, because it would tear out the good stuff too. Hmm, get the weeds first. Rocks, too. Though we don’t have much trouble with rocks. However, those weeds are prolific. Even if you thought you had every last one, just give it a week, and you’ll see you didn’t. Then I guess you gotta get them while they’re babies to avoid pulling the good stuff. But I’ve noticed they seem to mimic baby good plants. Is there a sinister force behind that? Could be.
So, what’s the point? For me, it’s about thoughts and who I am. Yeah, pretty fur stretch. But think about it. If we take a little time to converse with God before the day gets going (before we plant, so to speak) clean out the weeds, we’re going to have a better day. Then as the day goes on we stay mindful of what we’re thinking. Pick the baby dumb thoughts and toss them. What will God do with a mind garden so carefully tended?
I have held many incorrect assumptions about grace and truth. For instance, I believed at one point that telling the truth was wrong in many cirumstances because it hurt people’s feelings. On the other hand, I thought it was a percentage then between grace and truth, like if you have 80% truth, then you have 20% grace.
So, I have been studying the relationship between the two because I suspect that what I’ve thought is incorrect, but I haven’t know how. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I think we can figure out our boundaries using a combination of grace and truth. I believe we don’t have grace without truth or truth without grace. I believe it is loving to speak the truth with grace.
I’m working on this for myself and for the next novel I’m going to write, Queen of the Third Grade. I think the prep work will take a while, but I’m excited. My guide is Jesus, full of grace and truth.
As a new year begins, a thought to essentials seems appropriate. Prayer is essential for a zillion reasons.
Getting direction from God is the most obvious reason to pray, but probably also the most overlooked. By that I mean that many of us tell Him what we’re thinking, engaged in, worried about. Then we walk away without slowing to hear His responses.
But it can be worse. Throughout my life I have so often galloped into a good thing. When it came to me that I should have talked it over with God, I looked over my shoulder and said, “What do you think, God?” I have only recently realized that makes me guilty of the same thing as Satan. Wanting to be God. Darn it! And yet, because of His love for me and His grace, He longsuffered my ignorant self-interest. I wouldn’t say I’m real good at going to Him first yet, but at least I know I should and do sometimes. That’s the definition of success — heading in the right direction.
Another thing about prayer is that when we pray together, the sharing of each other’s concerns glues us together like nothing else. If the church wants unity, prayer is the answer.
God loves us beyond our understanding. He wants us to turn to Him, always. Any time of the day or night, anyplace. He wants to accept us as we are and give us a secure, purposeful, valuable relationship with Him. A relationship is hard to maintain if you don’t talk.
And finally, Jesus prayed and He taught us to pray, encouraged us. His life bought us freedom — doesn’t seem like much to ask in return. Have a great 2019.