Monday, August 22, 2016

An Open Letter to All Politicians

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our election season is barely underway and I am already being bombarded with hate, slander, and mudslinging on TV, the radio, and online.  It makes me sad for our nation.  How can we stand together when we are told that one half of the nation is supposed to hate the other half?

I have one wish and prayer for every election season.  I would like every candidate to focus on what they would like to do.  We don't want to know what you think of your opponent.  We don't want to know how corrupt, inept, or downright evil that you think they are.  When all the campaigning is negative we have to choose the lesser of evil.

It would be so much more helpful to hear your hopes, and dreams, and goals.  What would you like to do if you are elected?  What do you believe?  What do you stand for?  What are your priorities?  How do you plan to work WITH others to get things done?

It would also be helpful if you knew what powers of your office entails.  World Peace is a wonderful beauty pageant answer, but it is not in every politician's job description.  If you promise things that your position doesn't allow you to do, then the voters feel let down, even when it isn't your fault.

Finally, could you try to see your opponent as a human being?  Assume that even though they disagree on ideologies and methods, that they might want what is best for us, just as much as you do.  If you tell us what you would do and your opponent does the same, then we can make an educated choice on who we feel is best for the position.

I pray that some day I might not dread election season.  I dream that candidates will be civil and honest.  I dream that the parties learn to work together again and stop villainizing each other.  I believe that our communities, states, and nation are still a wonderful place to live.  I know you do too.  So, I ask you do do your part to make it a positive and productive election.

Thank You,

Karen Estes

Thursday, June 25, 2015

To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub,

OK, just to give credit where credit is due...  My title is a quote from "Hamlet."

I have discovered a weird phenomenon on-line lately...  There are so many celebrity death hoaxes that when someone really dies, people don't believe you.  It is an Internet boy who cried wolf syndrome.

I personally have never thought the death hoax stories were funny.  I was sad briefly thinking the world had lost another piece of my childhood until people started calling me stupid and laughing at me...  Then, I got mad.  Never did I find them amusing.  OK, maybe the "Betty White Dyes" article was a little funny, because the spelling alone should have told me something was up.

Today, Patrick MacNee passed away.  He played John Steed in the "Avengers" TV show in the 60s.  JP and I did a cosplay of Steed and Peele a couple of years ago.  So I was saddened to hear of his passing.  But burn me once, shame on you.  Burn me twice, shame on me.  So when I first read it, I went to research it first to make sure it was true.  The BBC, the Telegraph, and his own personal web site all confirmed that he died this morning.  I noted this on the post as I shared it...  Still, more than one person posted a link to an article saying it was a hoax...  So, I checked again.  The Associated Press, ABC, CNN, and the entertainment magazine Variety are all now confirming it.  Still, people are linking back to an online magazine I have never heard of and saying that all of these news sources must not have checked their sources, because so and so assures us that he is alive and well.

Personally, I think I will trust the dozen or so legitimate news sources that are required to do their research rather than a random person on the web.  (Yes, I know I am also a random person on the web, so feel free to believe me or not.  But at least I try to check my facts.)

So, what I am wondering is why is there suddenly such an obsession with celebrity death hoaxes?  When someone really has passed on, why tarnish their memory by posting a hoax that it is a hoax?

Maybe it is the fact that much of our culture fears death and wants to avoid it at all costs.  As a Christian, I don't fear death.  I do not necessarily want it to come soon, but I am not afraid to go when it is my time.  I know that Jesus promised that he went to make a place for us.

At funerals I tell people that it is OK to be sad.  A person you love is no longer there and you will miss them, but do not be sad for them.  They are safe in the arms of the Lord.  They have earned their heavenly reward.  They are in the presence of their Lord for all eternity.  It is a good thing!  They are happy and at peace.  I believe that I will see them again when I join them in glory.  That is the Good News of the Gospel.

So maybe we need to be less obsessed with death while we live.  We should live like we know where we are going and spread grace, love, and peace rather than hurtful rumors.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Messed Up Priorities

I have spent the past several days ignoring the thousands of posts about Bruce Jenner's sex change.  I am not going into whether it was right or wrong, but seriously folks...

It seems that every conservative Christian publication or broadcast is now focusing all of their time and energy on preaching against Bruce Jenner's "sexual deviancy."

First off, people are calling him horrible ugly names.  If you think he has committed a horrible sin what do you think Jesus would do?  Would Jesus call him names and be all hateful?  Jesus loves sinners.  Jesus loves us enough to die for us!  For those who are quoting their Bible all over the place, "You who are without sin, cast the first stone."  Stones are being thrown all over the internet!

More than that, is one man wanting to become a woman really the worst evil going on in the world right now?  Really?

What about everyone who is being murdered by ISIS?  What about the Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and Africa?  What about the innocent children being sold into sex slavery all around the world?

Then again, if you would rather focus on the positive things we should be doing as Christians rather than the negative things that need to be preached against...  How many natural disasters have occurred over the past couple of months?  There are people who have lost their homes or even their lives in the floods in TX.  That is just here at home.  Where could we be using the internet to get people to do positive things to help those in need?  Where could we be bringing attention to "the least of these?"

Over the past couple of days I have actually been embarrassed on behalf of Jesus and God's church.  All I saw was ugly, mean spirited, name calling, and rock throwing.  That is not what we are about as disciples of Jesus Christ!

As Ron Weasley said in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", "[We] really need to sort out [our] priorities."

May Christ's Peace be with you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When It Is Hard to Pray

I had a really bad morning.  Actually, it started last week....  Our account one one of the ones affected by the Home Depot hack, so we were already having to deal with that.  This morning I discovered that our bank account was hacked Friday.  It is not that we are careless.  My husband has an app monitoring all of our financial accounts that is supposed to alert him to every large transaction and anything irregular.  We use extremely long, complicated passwords like we are supposed to.  We do everything right to keep ourselves protected.  Still, we wind up victimized.  I hate feeling like a victim.

After a long detailed phone call with the bank, we have begun the process to get the problem fixed.  I should say a prayer of thanksgiving that I caught it so fast, and that the bank says that everything will get straightened out and our account will be fine.  I should thank God that I had the presence of mind to stay calm and do what needed to be done.  Or at the very least I could have prayed a prayer of lament asking why do things like this happen.

But I didn't want to.  The odd thing was that I was aware that I didn't want to talk to God right now.  I am not sure if I was mad because God let this happen to us, or embarrassed that we had been victimized, or if I was just wanting to feel sorry for myself for a while.

I actually picked up my prayer journal at the time I would normally pray and said, "no" and put it back down.  I just didn't want to talk to God, like a rebellious child who doesn't want their parent butting in.

So what do you do when you just don't feel like praying?  What do you do when you are feeling angry with God and the world, or guilty over something you have done or left undone, or are just feeling distant?  Prayer isn't a punishment.  Prayer is a lifeline to grace, love, acceptance, strength, and forgiveness.

It is when you are feeling the most disconnected (or dare I say ornery) that it is the most important to keep the line to God open.  God is always there and listening, even when you wish God wasn't.  God knows what happened.  God knows how you are feeling.  You can't hide anything from God by not praying.  All you are doing is isolating yourself (or myself as the case may be.)

So, I forced myself to pick up the journal and picked out an obnoxiously cheery colored pen.  It started out slow at first, and a but grumpy.  "You already know all this.  I don't know why I have to tell you..."  But as I wrote my prayer all of the pain and frustration began to pour out.  I railed about how unfair life is.  I cried about why stupid things like this happen to good people.  I complained about how I hated to feel like a victim.

I started to feel better.  I was finally able to see the light in the situation.  I did catch it early.  The bank assures me that they will straighten it out.  We will get our money back.  I was able to thank God for standing beside me even when I didn't really notice or even want God there.

Experts all say that it is really bad for you to bottle up and hold onto bad emotions like anger, guilt, and hate.  They eat you up inside.  Have you ever felt like you didn't want to talk to God... that you would rather God left you alone?  Maybe you have something bottled up inside that needs to come out.

You can be mad and yell at God.  God is big enough to take it.  You can admit your failures and mistakes to God.  God already knows about them and understands.  You can scream and complain about injustice and the unfairness of our world.  Believe me, God empathizes.  There is nothing you can't say to God.  Look at the Psalms there is some major grumbling going on, or better yet the book of Job.  Job lost everything and told God all about it, and God heard and responded.

Believe it or not, once you have finally prayed about it you may feel better.  It is like sharing your burden with a trusted friend.  You may even find grace, and hope, and peace for your situation.  So, pray continually, especially when you DON'T want to.

Grace and Peace!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's Not the Zombie Apocalypse

Silly me, I subscribe to the local Oviedo page on Facebook.  Tonight it is all lit up with people in full panic because the news said that there has been one case of Ebola found in the US...  In Dallas...

OK, first off, I am glad that I am in Florida...

But Chicken Little, do not assume that the sky is falling.  Everyone is assuming that the  disease is going to spread like wild fire and bring about the Zombie Apocalypse with only a few surviving humans who will need to band together to kill all the infected???

First off: Listen to the facts in the report.

Ebola, also known as Hemorrhagic Fever has been around for a long time.  Our troops had to deal with it in the Korean War and it didn't wipe out the US.

One person who contracted the virus in Africa came to visit his family here in Dallas...  He was determined to NOT be contagious while he traveled. The CDC have isolated him and are watching EVERYONE he came in contact with for 21 days... way longer than the incubation period...

According to the CDC there is NO risk to the general populace.

So, either you believe in conspiracy theories that the government is lying to us and... (Insert whatever end of the world Sci-Fi movie scenario you like) OR you take a deep breath and realize that it is beyond your control.

There were plagues in the time of the Bible, in the Middle Ages, and believe it or not still today.  We have been blessed to live in a country with a very high level of health care.  We have not had to deal with rampant disease.  We probably won't because, as I just said, we live in a country with a very high level of health care...

In any case what will worrying (or freaking out and preparing your Zombie Apocalypse Kit) get you?  There is nothing that we as average citizens can do about it unless you work in health care or something.  So, wash your hands.  Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and pray for serenity or at least sanity.

God has watched over humanity since the beginning of time. God has loved us through good times and bad.  God has stood with us in times of sickness and health.  If this earthly existence was it, that is a rather sad thing.  I believe that there is a world beyond this one where there will be no sickness or death and God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

So let's all take a deep breath and be sensible.  Do what little you can to bring hope, cheer, and joy to those you meet and leave the panic and rumor mongering to those who have no hope.

Blessings and peace!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Happened to the Moderates?

I know it has been a long time since my last blog...  With the move and everything, it got placed on the back burner, and to be honest, I wasn't feeling very motivated...

So today, I am coming back with a dangerous blog.  I am going to do something I never do: talk about politics.  So, please keep an open mind and read all the way through...  Do not judge me on opening statements...  Our political system has serious problems and I want to honestly consider if it is even fixable.

(Dangerous statement #1)  I have been a Moderate Republican voting for the Republican Candidates for 39 years now...  As I saw a bright eyed and bushy tailed youth bouncing around our neighborhood with a big button on his chest proclaiming he was for the Republican Candidate and a clip board in hand, all I wanted to do was ask, so how far off the deep end has this one gone?  I know that the poor youth wouldn't understand my question.

Over the past several years both parties have become more polarized.  The moderates have been getting voted out in the primaries by the extreme Right or Left Wing Candidates.  I have been disappointed and occasionally embarrassed or even disgusted by things my party has said and worse yet voted on...  There is no one left in the middle!

When I started voting there were Republicans and Democrats all over the spectrum.  There was Jesse Jackson on the Left and Rush Limbaugh on the right, and everyone else fell somewhere in between.  In fact there were some Republicans and Democrats that sat right on that middle line.  It was OK to be moderate and somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes a politician might actually agree with some bill put forward by the other side and that was OK.  Not anymore.  If you like something that the other side puts forward you are publicly called a "traitor to your party" and don't have much longer before they drive you right out of office.  There now seem to be a whole lot of people way further right and left of  what I used to think was radical and extreme.

Lately I feel like everyone is voting for the "lesser of two evils."  That just stinks.  At some point both sides will go so far off the deep end that there will be no "lesser", both choices will be evil.

(Dangerous statement #2) I think that most politicians today need a refresher course on "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" By Robert Fulghum.  Seriously, they have forgotten that to function in society you need to learn to share, to compromise, and to respectfully listen to people that you don't agree with.  The PC(USA) has had a bit of trouble with this concept too... It has only gotten better because some churches have decided that they don't need to listen, compromise, or love their fellow Christians anymore and have left for more conservative denominations.

Compromise is NOT a dirty word.  Both sides of any argument have good points.  It is OK to agree with someone on the other side.  If you don't agree it is OK for your opponent to have an opinion different from yours.  We are all human sometimes we will be right and sometimes we will be wrong.  The world will not come to an end if one party doesn't get every little thing on their agenda (no matter what the political adds say.)

(Really Dangerous and somewhat scary statement #3) If both the Republican and Democratic Parties keep getting further and further polarized then those of us left stranded in the middle may need a third party.  We need a party that can listen to opposing opinions and make their mind up without having to check with their party's stance first!  We need a party that is thinking about us, their constituents and what is best for the people rather than their party line.  And for goodness sake, a party that can be civil to their opponents and refrains from mud slinging.  So, I propose the founding of the Moderate Party for both those Moderate Democrats and Republicans who no longer feel represented by their own party.

We will need a mascot...  What is half way between a donkey and an elephant... Maybe that is the wrong tactic.  Maybe we need something new.  How about a dove for peacemaking?  No, that might offend the military...   How about a turtle for slow and steady win the race?  Or we could be historical and go with Ben Franklin's turkey.  It seems to represent most politicians pretty well anyway.

So, as we head toward the next set of elections I will again pray for some moderates somewhere to make it into office...  Until that day, grace and peace to you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coincidence or "God-incidence"?

They say that hind sight is 20/20 and I know that is true.  When you look back on your life you often find meaning where at the time you thought it was random events or even needless suffering.  My hind sight has also convinced me that there is no such thing as coincidence for a believer.  Looking back through my uncertain times I see God's had everywhere.

One random example:  When I was looking at colleges I wanted to go to the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt SO bad.  It didn't matter to me that Baylor University was offering me a free ride and letting me design my own Musical Theater major.  Then, Blair turned me down.  I was devastated.  So, I said "Fine!" and went to contact Baylor.  I know when I am not wanted...  Only, Baylor had lost all records of my existence, scholarship offer, and everything.  I thought my world was ending.  (OK keep in mind I was 18, so it didn't take that much to shatter the earth in my point of view.)  That same afternoon the dean of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt called literally begging me to still come to Vanderbilt and consider another major.  If I still wanted to be a voice major he assured me he would find a way to get me in once I was there...

Off I went to Vanderbilt...  Here comes the God-incidences:  If I had gone to Baylor, I would never have met Jon-Paul, the love of my life.  I would never have met Mark DeVries, dear friend and mentor who helped me confirm my call.  I would never have become an intern at First Pres. Nashville who awarded me a full tuition scholarship to Columbia Theological Seminary.  But my very favorite one (which shows that God knows so much better than I do):  If I had been a voice major I would have had to be in the Blair Choral and would have been FORBIDDEN to join the Vanderbilt Concert Choir or Chamber Singers.  My time in those two musical groups were the best thing that happened to me at Vandy beside meeting JP.  When I thought my life was out of control and nothing was going right, God had me right in hand and knew where I needed to be going.

Every time there is an earth shattering or even just life changing event, I can look back at my life and see God's hand.  That gives me the courage to take the leaps of faith that are needed on my journey.  If you look carefully at the Psalms, that is what a good number of them are doing, especially the laments.  "Things are bad right now, but God was faithful in the past.  I trust that God will be faithful and take care of me now."

Here we are at another life changing event.  I am excited for Jon-Paul and his new opportunity.   But to be honest, I really hate moving.  I hate having to evacuate our home any time someone wants to look at it.  I worry that like the last two moves we will have to buy a house before this one sells.  (Two mortgages on top of moving expenses are really no fun.)  This time we will sort of be leaving Martin behind.  The next school year he will have his own apartment in Texas while we are in Florida.  He may never actually live under our roof again.

All that being said, I believe in "God-incidence".  God is in control.  When we came here I didn't know what God had planned for me.  I thought we must have made a mistake, but then I got to fill in for Sharon when she needed a sabbatical.  And in time God led me to DeSoto where I discovered the joy of 1/2 time ministry and learned that I could serve God and be a mom at the same time!

I don't know exactly what the future brings, but I believe that God is guiding us.  Even when we make wrong choices or go the wrong way, God can get us back on the path and use us where ever we wind up.  "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His Purpose." Romans 8:28

God has a church or ministry in Orlando that is waiting just for me to come and serve.  God has someone lined up to take over here in DeSoto to lead this church into the future.  God will be with us as we move and with Martin as he heads out on his own journey.  There is no coincidence for me, because the Lord walks beside me along my way!