Prayer Where?

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I’ve had some downtime from writing. Blips in my personal life interfered with my creative endeavors. It’s been hard to put the words on the page. During this time I’ve scrolled and read many posts about needing to put God back in schools. This old person has other ideas. You might not agree but different opinions posed constructively lead us to examine our beliefs if we keep an open mind. And on some occasions great conversation.

I don’t remember prayer being in my public school when I attended classes in the 60s. Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance was said when appropriate, and there were religious songs sung and played at concerts. Christmas programs were Christmas programs, not religious programs but church songs were not excluded. I have no idea what all the complaining is when it comes to God in our public schools, except it’s a great mem on Facebook and other Social Media platforms that get our ire up. We pass it along without actually thinking it through.

What I do remember is prayer at mealtime in our home when the family would sit down together. The same happened in my friend’s homes. I remember attending church every Sunday because our parents made us and they went too. I remember religion classes on Saturday and Wednesday nights. I remember prayer at bedtime with my parents. i remember my Grandmother sitting in her wheelchair by the window with her rosary in her hand praying every day. I remember my Aunt Mary with her Bible on her lap in prayer after supper. I remember holidays where our schedule was built around the church. There was no choice between attending school activities or church activities. School activities lost every time if there was a conflict.

The same happened when my kids were growing up. No matter what activities they were in we always sat down for a meal together almost every night. It might not always have been at the same time but we found some time. Church activities came first and so did church on Sunday plus Sunday School and confirmation Wednesday nights and Saturdays. I remember when my daughter was in high school and we had tickets to the Broadway show Phantom of the Opera and it coincided with a confirmation trip. Yup, she went on the confirmation trip, and guess what, she survived missing the musical. Were my kids ever upset with us because of the choices we made when it came to church activities…all the time, yet they’re still speaking to us.

Parents are blaming schools for the lack of God in the school but perhaps they need to take responsibility for the choices that are being made for the lives of their families also. Churches have changed the way they teach because Sunday School, Confirmation, and prayer aren’t a priority in families lives anymore. It takes a backseat to whatever fun activity is happening in the community. Thirty minutes a week is not much for churches to teach kids about the role of God in their life. The churches have caved to societies worldly pressures.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I hear you when you complain that you don’t have a choice because all these activities in schools are planned for nights and weekends that used to be reserved for church. You ask, “What is a parent to do?” Parents don’t want their kids to be left out of the game or miss good times with their friends. They don’t want their kids penalized because they made them take part in church activities instead of practices or games. Parents want their kids to be well-rounded with activities that will take them into the future. They don’t want them bored and the church is occasionally boring. Somehow I think learning about God has been taken out of the phrase well-rounded.

School boards are under fire because people are protesting mask mandates and vaccine mandates. Does that say where priorities are? I haven’t heard any protests of parents being upset because of all the activities that take away from their kids learning about God in their homes and their churches. Yet the complaints of God not being in school are all over social media but it doesn’t seem to translate to the source of the problem. I would say that is a choice that has been made by families all over the United States. It’s time to own it and quit blaming schools for taking God out of the schools. We did it to ourselves when we let schools take our church time or made the choice to prioritize fun time over church time. We did it to ourselves when we quit praying as a family at mealtime or at bedtime or when we quit having faith conversations with our kids.

You might think I/m passing the buck but I’m not. I have to own my own mistakes. I’m a believer in prayer. I pray, sometimes it’s conversation but it’s a prayer. I’ve lost my desire to attend church the past year, not the church’s fault, but my own quest for examining what I believe and somewhat laziness, but I will go back. I didn’t quit praying. It was ingrained in me by my parents, by my relatives, and by my different churches. I can’t imagine a life without prayer. Prayer has saved me many times when I haven’t had anywhere else to turn.

Covid has left me finding so many online resources for my faith. We all struggle and have our ups and downs and my family is no different. I have fallen back as a parent encouraging my adult children and my grandchildren in faith and I see the results. Recently my eyes were opened when a family member told me they didn’t pray. That is a concept I totally didn’t understand. My heart dropped when I heard it. That brought me back to the kind of role model I’ve been the last few years. I may not have been in church but I didn’t leave God or prayer, but we didn’t talk about it. I haven’t had those conversations with the people I love. The role of a parent in teaching our families about God doesn’t end when they turn 18.

I also admit I was shocked a few years ago when directing a Christmas Program in church and a couple of the children that only came to be in the Christmas Program had never heard the story of the birth of Jesus. Recently, a friend told me of another young person who had never heard of the creation story or the Garden of Eden. Somewhere there is a disconnect and I have to feel it starts with us as Grandparents and parents and yes churches.

As for churches, it’s not a competition or it shouldn’t be. I never wanted my kids to learn about God in school. I felt it wasn’t the schools or the teachers’ responsibilities. It was ours as parents. I also believe it’s time for churches to teach and set the bar higher for expectations for the kids. Stop being afraid people will leave or people will get mad and do what churches are supposed to do. Be a respite for the weary, Kids are weary too. Take care of the ones that are there, and help them know what they believe and why they believe it, so they can go forward and take that knowledge to teach the next generation. Prayer will be with us for a lifetime. History has shown us prayer has kept people alive and given them hope in the most dire conditions. Don’t we want that for our children?

The next time you pass along the mem of putting prayer back in schools, examine what that means and if it was ever there. Maybe change it to “Put Prayer Back In The Home.”

The Art of Persuasion

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If you have a way with words you have the art of persuasion. That may be a positive or a negative trait depending on your character.

I loved speech class in high school. It was where I first found my voice. Before that class I was easily intimidated and wasn’t much for speaking out. I did not have faith in my abilities. The high school counselor questioned my choice as it didn’t seem to fit what others saw. I fell in love with speech and writing. I remember when I got an A+ on a humorous speech; I was amazed. I had agonized over the assignment. I was not a funny person. Apparently somewhere inside of me when it came to writing I could be funny. That speech pulled something out of me I never knew I had.

Fast forward to 2021. We seem to be in the throws of being persuaded by the words of people we do not know and we give them unswerving loyalty. They are good speechmakers, influencers, and persuaders. It’s funny but we tend to believe those whom we do not know over people we formerly trusted, all because of good verbal persuasion. We don’t see the need to check out the facts.

It’s apparent in society today. Some are pursuaded to send money to men or women overseas who they form a relationship with on the internet. They trust what they are being fed in the beautiful words they see on the screen or hear on the phone. The talk shows and news reports are full of people being scammed all in the name of love.

We pass around on social media those ads that say Kohl’s or Best Buy are going to give us $500 just for sharing a post. We share and no one sees the money. We believed without questioning that if a company did this they would be broke. The scams are rampant all because we believe charismatic words of a stranger.

Recently someone made the comment, “He’s such a Christian man.” The comment was made about a politician that said a beautiful prayer at the right time in front of millions of people. I’m not saying this person isn’t a Christian man. But the conclusion was this person prays a lot in public it and makes him someone we should believe and follow. But do we really know that? Do we know them in person?

There are televangelists that woo us with beautiful prayer, and dynamic sermons. If you look at their bank account you know they are successful at persuasion because people are tossing a lot of money at them. Maybe they do good things with the money but if you look at their lifestyle, it is a very lavish life they are living. Yet we don’t protest their power of persuasion. Their power is growing and our churches in our communities are floundering.

I am not a flowery prayer person despite being a writer. If I listen and read all these beautiful prayers in all the media today I tend to feel my prayers may not be good enough. I’ve gotten over that for a few reasons.

My faith has been built not on flowery prayers but on actions of people I love and trust, not by those that are always in the public eye praying for all to see, or persuading us with their charismatic speech.

When I think of the Christians in my life that have influenced me I think of my Grandma Krock. She could speak no English but she had a big impact on me by her actions. Each day she would sit by the window in her house or by the wood stove with a rosary in her hands praying the rosary. I don’t remember many conversations that I understood but I understood her faith and her rosary. I watched this until she died when I was 17.

Grandma Krock

I think of my Aunt Mary who every night after supper would sit down with her Bible, read it and pray quietly in her living room. I was young when I noticed that and I remember it still today.

I think of my friend Jan, who endured 24 years of cancer. I never heard her complain. She treated everyone with kindness and respect and I saw her live out her faith in her church attendance, her music and private time with the Lord. Plus keeping her faith always while enduring much.

These people who affected my faith life, didn’t shout it in public, didn’t shout their faith from the rooftops but by their actions they brought their faith to others in a way that was humble.

These three are only a few examples of the people in our lives that quietly lead us. I can’t say someone is one thing just by the words they produce in public. I know too many people who are one way in the public eye and another in private. Some may see me as that way. Perception. Can we view something honestly, if we only have the glitz of the public eye?

That doesn’t mean I don’t follow and read some prominent Christian writers. Max Lucado is one of my favorite. Do I think he’s a good Christian man? Yes, I do but do I know? I don’t know him personally. That doesn’t stop me from liking what he writes but also viewing it with an eye that knows there may be more underneath that isn’t what I read, so I know not to believe unconditionally. I write fiction for a living. What I write is my perspective, to be read with a watchful eye and mind knowing it is fiction. In today’s world I probably could convince someone that fictional Fuchsia exists.

Churches, our churches, have a hard time maintaining members. We throw money at online preachers but starve our churches. We believe charismatic people and belittle our Pastors. We put our trust in strangers words but don’t believe the words of those we know preaching in our hometown churches.

If you’re looking for church, most of our local community churches are now online. Listen to those you trust. Are they perfect? No. But you know them. You know their imperfections and their strengths. Put your trust in those you know personally.

Having said that I will tell you I love my church being online. I get why we follow popular online preachers. We can listen without getting involved in church politics. When I watch my church services online I love sitting back and hearing what is being said and sung, with my eyes closed savoring the words. I am not distracted by anyone else.

In my old years, thinking back, I realize some of the greatest controversy in my life has been church politics, arguing about things that don’t matter. I am not referencing biblical beliefs but insignificant things that gain too much importance in our home churches, such as who didn’t stack the silverware or who isn’t dressing in the correct way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “It isn’t done that way.” In fact I’ve been told at one time my opinion on whether a group could meet in our church didn’t matter, because we weren’t one of the top givers. So I get it. Online we don’t have to deal with the church politics that are man made. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to believe and follow the people who are eloquent speakers that we don’t know because we don’t have to get involved.

At times, I have the art of persuasion. With it, comes a responsibility. My advice, look to what you know, the people you know and respect in your life. Look deep at how they live their lives. That’s the best persuasion.

Thank you Grandma Krock, Aunt Mary and Jan for letting me know what it means to be a Christian person. It’s up to me what I do with that.

Over the River and Through the Woods

It is that time of year again. Christmas decorations sparkle in the windows of businesses and homes and stores are ready for those Black Friday deals, but first…first…we need to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives. I wish I could go over the river and through the woods to my grandmother’s house again. In fact, I wish my mom and dad could share Thanksgiving with me. Their spirits will still be with us as we give thanks on Thanksgiving day.

Usually my family gathers at my home for Thanksgiving, but this year plans have changed, and we will celebrate on the Friday after Thanksgiving. No shopping for me on Black Friday. It will be all about family. To me it doesn’t matter what day we get together but that we get together. Not everyone has someone to share Thanksgiving or the days afterward.

I am thankful for this past year, the good and the bad. Without explaining, I know our lives are going to change this next year and our celebrations in the years to come will be different. It is the passage of life and passage of time.

Families change. Divorces, illnesses, death and time and distance change the family dynamics and our celebrations. We need to cherish what we have in the moments we have them.

I do not know where my husband and I will be Thanksgiving Day. I may fix a duck for the two of us as the turkey will be served the next day. We may find a restaurant in the neighboring town since my community will not have their usual Thanksgiving meal for the community. Or we may pop in and visit a neighboring community dinner. Whatever we do we will be thankful for all God has blessed us with in family, friends, a place to live and food on our table. I may opt for hot dogs instead of duck.

Churches, communities and shelters at their Thanksgiving meals are a great place to meet new family. Even those venues have changed as more and more takeout meals are ordered, not for the housebound but for those who don’t want to mingle or cook. If you have a community meal this year in your town and you are alone or aren’t cooking, don’t order takeout unless you physically can’t attend. Take a chance, get out there and mingle. Have a conversation, share some laughter and enjoy excellent food.

Volunteers give their day to cook the meal but they also enjoy meeting and talking to those who attend. You can also be one of those volunteers. I must say I used to volunteer and then life got in the way. I have never attended these meals in our community because I always had family. This was going to be our year to either volunteer or attend, but I waited too long. The community meal in my community is not happening. I took it for granted as we do for many events that are always just there, we count on them but don’t pay attention to what we can do because they always do get done. Many hands make a happy heart and we can be a part of that and we only realize what we are missing until it isn’t there.

Tradition has dictated in the past that holidays are for families and they are. What that family looks like is up to us. Yes, many of us have our immediate families of mom, dad, kids, and grandparents, but family can also mean good friends, neighbors, or a church family. We live in a time when media tells us that holidays are meant for celebration, family, shopping etc., etc. and it makes many feel lonely. I know in spite of having family, when we have been alone on the holidays, I have felt it. I had those feelings because of past memories of the time when my parents were alive; we had uncles, aunts and cousins and I missed them. I felt that way when my kids couldn’t come home, and yes, occasionally I cried, but no more. I realize the holiday will be what we make it, not what the media makes us feel.

Whatever your plans are for the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you will feel the blessings of your life in both the good times and bad. I hope if you are alone you reach out or enjoy the peace of the day. The day is about being thankful, but remember we should be doing that 365 days of the year. Happy Thankfulness Day.