We've Been Summoned

Joel 1:14  “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly.  Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.”

We’re just days away now.  With five of our six immediate family members registered voters this year, November 6th is a pretty big event in the Crane household.  As Christians living in America, we’re earnestly committed to defending righteousness, so it naturally follows that we’re equally committed to ensuring that the government to which we pay taxes, and the leaders whom we elect to represent us, adhere to the Founding Fathers’ historic Judeo-Christian standards.   Admittedly, the stakes are pretty high next Tuesday.  

And yet, I must confess I’ve been struggling with “voter fatigue.”  The spin, the rhetoric, the constant droning and debating can deflate even the heartiest of citizens.  Dr. Dobson himself admitted he’d been “vexed” the past several months, overwhelmed by the wickedness swirling around us as this national election approach.   Can you relate?

It was within this context that we welcomed National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force leader Shirley Dobson and two of her colleagues to our Family Talk studios this past Monday.  What a breath of fresh air…suave to one’s soul!   It was as if God Himself was saying, “Take a deep breath and exhale, LuAnne.  I’m still on the throne.”

In the broadcast, “Prayer for this Election and Beyond,” the NDP team enthusiastically described how a contingency of 300 prayer warriors descended upon Washington DC recently as part of a movement dubbed “The Summons.”  Mrs. Dobson pointed out that this was the same number of fighters that God gave to Gideon when they descended upon Midian (Judges 6-7).  Coincidence?  I think not. 

These dedicated men and women were not in our nation’s capitol to sightsee or petition their congressman.  No, they rolled up their sleeves and went about the hard work of prayer.  From 8 am ‘til 1 in the morning, these God-followers spread out across the city: from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, the White House to the Rotunda, humbly and earnestly interceding for the Lord’s sovereignty to be manifest throughout our land.

Most of the Congressmen themselves were back home in state offices, but their young “twenty-something” staffers on the Hill opened doors and hearts and welcomed the team in; parched souls soaking up the sweet aroma of God’s presence in an otherwise secular world.   Amazingly, a remnant of prayer warriors remain there to this day, having secured a permit to camp out (literally “camp out” – they’re in a tent) on the ellipse of the White House, continuing this fervency of prayer right up until the election next week.

Other prayer movements have arisen as well, many capitalizing on a “40 Days of Prayer” theme leading up to this election.  Perhaps you’ve joined one.  Bless you.

We're keenly aware that at times in history, God no longer heeds our prayers.  The prophet Jeremiah was told by the Lord, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people….I will not listen to their cry”  (Jeremiah 14:11-12).  And yet, on other occasions, as we learn from the story of Jonah, He relents.  Who knows what hour the U.S. finds herself in now?  “The Summons” group reported they did not sense the voice of the Lord saying, “I’m done with America.”  So, in obedience, we press on.

I’m convicted to join in this chorus of prayer and cry out to the Lord on behalf of my country this weekend, perhaps even fasting a meal or an item as Joel suggests in the Scripture noted above. This is one summons I simply cannot ignore.   

To Halloween or Not To Halloween: That is the Question

I must have been about 16 the year my mom rigged up an incredible “Sliding Ghost” for Halloween that came flying down our entry staircase whenever the front door opened. It was a thrill to every trick-or-treater in the neighborhood who darkened our doorstep. I also remember the year a few of us joined our Youth Pastor in playing tricks on other teens as they made their way through a local cemetery on a nighttime adventure. It seemed like a goofy, silly season that let us all act like kids for a few hours.

Make no mistake: I grew up in a profoundly Christian home with two parents incredibly committed to raising their brood in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We never felt like we were selling out or compromising; Halloween just wasn’t a big deal. We enjoyed the fun of bobbing for apples in a friend’s barn, dressing up in wacky costumes, and eating way too much candy.

But then, I became a parent and things seemed to change. The innocence and silliness of the season began darkening, revealing more disturbed and violent sensations. Scarecrows turned to vampires. Ghosts turned to demons. Clown paint turned to oozing blood. Animals showed up tortured or missing. Death abounded. Evil lurked.

So here’s the question: Has the season actually changed...or have I? Probably both. As my children grew, I became increasingly troubled by the tone of this holiday, which I was seemingly supporting. I was personally confronted with a simple decision: In the precious few years I have to mold my children, do I want to spend even one day a year dancing with darkness?

It’s a quandary for parents. I appreciate the churches that throw those wonderful “Fall Festivals” for kids. Thanks to them, we have some adorable photos of our kids dressed up like Sylvester the Cat and a ladybug. I also applaud the home schooling groups that emphasize the “All Saints Day” aspect of the season by assigning papers on heroes of the faith. They’ve wisely chosen to follow Scripture’s direction that we “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

For me, it comes down to that foundational truth outlined in Ephesians 5:16. I intend to “be very careful, then, how (I) live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17). For this reason, we've chosen a pretty limited course when it comes to participating in Halloween festivities.

I’m curious: How have you settled this issue in your home? What does your family do when October 31 rolls around on the calendar? I’d love to hear about it!

NOTE: If you’re interested in exploring this issue more, check out an intriguing approach outlined in the book Redeeming Halloween, authored by Kim Wier & Pam McCune.

You Shall Not Pass!

One of my favorite lines from the "Lord of the Rings" blockbuster trilogy appears in Part One when the magnificent gray-haired Gandalf leads the fellowship of hobbits and humans, a dwarf and an elf breathlessly scurrying thru the Mines of Moria running for their lives.  The defining moment occurs as Gandalf comes to the realization that this chase can no longer continue.  Traditional battle tactics have afforded no victory and it’s time to confront the evil, the filth, the utter destruction – yes, the beast itself -- dead on.  

Our hero whips around 180°.  Straightening his frame to his full height, Gandalf squares his shoulders and faces the enemy eye-to-eye.  Thrusting his staff onto the rocky corridor between them, a defiant wizard shouts from the very core of his being, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!”

It’s time for more Gandalfs in the world.  Certainly here in America.  And especially in our homes. 

Just think of it:  On the world stage, our US Ambassador to Libya is brutally tortured and dragged thru the streets in mockery of our Judeo-Christian values; In America, our leaders on Capitol Hill refuse to defend a 200-year-old commitment to one-man/one-woman marriage.   And here in my backyard, under the beautiful backdrop of the Colorado Rockies, a crazed madman goes on a rampage in a theater senselessly murdering twelve innocent people. 

Why?  Perhaps because as Christians we’ve been running, primarily playing defense.  We’ve resigned ourselves to glancing over our shoulder hoping we can outwit, out-run or out-maneuver the enemy using traditional battle tactics.  We can’t.  We must turn and face it.

I love the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Corinthians:  "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

As a mom, I'm called to wage war on a culture which brazenly tries to seep through the cracks and snare my family.  I must daily stand at the door frame of my home and with Gandalf-like boldness declare to the enemy, “No more!  You shall not pass!  You’re not getting my kids, you’re not getting my marriage, you’re not going to destroy my faith.  Enough!”   I will stand between the evil and my home and engage the battle.

Tough?  You bet.  Daunting?  Oh yeah.  And yet, I could never undertake such a calling with my own strength or my own resolve.  I'm neither a warrior nor a wizard; I'm a mere flawed human.  No, this battle for my family will only be won utilizing that divine truth cited by Paul.  The Old Testament sums it up succinctly:  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6).  But wait -- it gets even better: Moses reminded the Israelites: “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you...."  (Deuteronomy 1:29)  Fight for me?  You mean the battle's already been won?  Yes.  

Ahhhh.  Therein, my friend, lies the victory.

Crackers and “Grace” Juice

Our pastor had just wound up a terrific message on parenting by pointing out the importance of a grace-filled home for our kids. He beautifully explained that while, as parents, we most certainly need to identify the weaknesses and sins of our kids and work to correct them, our home also must serve as a safe house. When our sons and daughters mess up, they need to know the door is always wide open - that we will embrace them with unconditional, and often undeserved, love. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear a thing that he said after that.

As a poignant way to close out the service, he had beckoned the ushers to head down the aisles and “deliver the elements” (a liturgical way to say “hand out grape juice and crackers.”) I took the large tray and passed it to my teenage son. He removed his cup, but upon pivoting to pass it to his dad, promptly bumped his arm spraying the entire ounce of bright purple liquid all over on his father’s khaki trousers. Yes, light khaki trousers. I jumped to reach for some tissues under my chair to help clean up – but in the process managed to knock MY juice all over my Bible and my shoes as well!

Needless to say the sobriety of this spiritual moment was lost on the Crane family. I madly dove into my purse searching for the emergency “Tide pen” (a staple in a home with 3 boys) and we attempted to mop up the mess.

As I sat there amidst the solemn congregation, the irony wasn’t lost on me: Wow, what an opportunity to extend grace, eh? Seated next to me was a boy who, in his haste and immaturity, truly messed up. Yet, his dad didn’t respond in anger or frustration. He didn’t even gesture wildly with a nonverbal “What do you think you’re doing!?” reprimand. He simply wiped down his trousers to the best of his ability, and then put an arm around the lad. And while my son’s wide eyes definitely registered a degree of shock and surprise…his mouth soon twisted into a wry grin. No fear. No anxiety. No worry of a slap to the face or a stern rebuke. That child was secure in the love of his dad.

Looking back over this week alone, I’ve certainly erred far beyond a mere spill of grape juice in my own life. I’ve been impatient. Selfish. Yes, even a tad arrogant at times. And yet, when I look into the eyes of my Father, what do I see? Grace. Compassion. Undeserved favor. Over and over and over again, He is my “safe house.” Oh, to be THAT kind of a parent to my children.

The Handwriting on the Wall

A few weeks ago my son bounded into the kitchen and casually mentioned, “Hey Mom, can I write on the wall? I responded just like you would: “Are you kidding me?!!” Now, number one: If you’re going to deface primary property owned by your parents, who, in his right mind, would ask for permission? And number two: what parent would give it?! (I still remember coloring my Yogi Bear bedroom curtains as a 7-y-old because that black outline of the pine tree was just begging to be brought to life. And I most certainly did not ask for prior approval.)

You see, my house is old and beginning to show signs of wear-and-tear as it is. The walls need a new coat of paint, a few windows are cracked, and the carpet is stained - especially on the well-beaten path up and down the stairs. I fight a constant state of entropy. And as my children are getting older, I was beginning to think we could actually get a handle on things and freshen up the place – NOT spiral further downward.

However, (sigh) – this particular child is an artist and, as Dr. Dobson would say: “Choose your battles, LuAnne.” After all, in the grand scheme of things, if scribbling on a semi-gloss pumpkin-colored bedroom wall keeps him off drugs and out of jail, who am I to stand in his way? So, I relented. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure.”

He never brought it up again, and I assumed he’d either forgotten about it or lost interest, so I dismissed the conversation. A few days later, I was tossing his cross-country shoes through the doorway of his room and happened to glance up above his bed. There, freshly painted in crisp white lettering appeared the simplest of phrases: “He must become greater. I must become less.  John 3:30” THAT was the essence of my son’s graffiti rebellion. I was instantly convicted that I had nearly silenced such a profound expression of truth.

This same young man now lives 758.10 miles away at college. I miss him terribly. The room is stark and void of life. As parents, it's tough to pour your entire being into an eternal soul for 18+ years...only to release him or her. So, every few days I'll peek my head around the corner and be reminded of the cry of his heart, and realize anew that my children are never truly "mine" anyway - that the Lord simply loans me these little people. I'm blessed that my son has not only etched truth on the walls of his room, he's daily embedding it on my heart as well.

Oh Lord, may I embrace this handwriting on the wall every day of my life: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Quadrupling My Vote This November

I just quadrupled my vote for next month’s Presidential election. Nope, there’s no voter fraud going on here (who can forget ‘hanging chads’ from 2000?), but with a little extra effort, I helped make it possible for three more Cranes to cast their ballot.

You see, in 36 days my husband and I will head to the Retirement Center around the corner from us where we’ll stand in line clutching our precious fill-in-the-bubble paper ballot. (Somehow I just feel more empowered when I grab that little black marker!) We’ll exit a few minutes later proudly displaying “I VOTED” stickers the rest of the day.

But, for varying reasons, three other men in my life are unable to join us this year; my father-in-law is physically limited, and our two college-aged sons will be up to their ears in “New Testament Survey” and “Seismic Analysis and Design” classes on Tuesday, Nov. 6. All three earnestly want to participate but are encumbered at this season of their lives. And yet I quickly realized that all it took was someone saying, "Hey, let me help you with that! I’ll help you update your voter registration and request those mail-in ballots!" A few minutes online, a couple of signatures and…..Voila, done! They felt empowered -- and I just multiplied my vote.

I urge you to take a moment and think about your own family members. Is there a college student who’ll be out of state on Nov 6th? How about an elderly saint who has moved and needs to re-register? Maybe you’ve even changed your name or moved across town. Don’t be caught off-guard. Here in Colorado, the deadline to register is October 8th and in most other states the clock is ticking as well. It’s easy! You can get started at http://championthevote.com/

At times like this it’s good to reflect on a few verses of a rousing song that served as one of our nation’s de facto anthems before we officially adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931. “Verse Four” seems especially pertinent right now.

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee
by Samuel Francis Smith

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.