Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good to Great Government vs. none at all

So I am reading this article about Obama and the 2012 presidential race. In particular, the conservative direction it.  The opinion writer mentions a Mitt Romney campaign trail quote, “This is an election not to replace a president but to save a vision of America,” he declared. “It’s a choice between two destinies.” ...he urged voters to ask: “Who are we as Americans, and what kind of America do we want for our children?”

See the article here: E.J. Dionne Jr. writes about Obama the conservative in the Washington Post

E.J. Dionne goes on to write that Obama is defending a tradition that sees government as an essential actor in the nation’s economy, a guarantor of fair rules of competition, a countervailing force against excessive private power, a check on the inequalities that capitalism can produce, and an instrument that can open opportunity for those born without great advantages.

Here is what I can say about who I am as an American and what I want for our children.

I want what Dionne articulates Obama wants.

I am a strong, hardworking, dedicated mother who was raised to believe that my role as an American is to grow myself, my skills and talents, share them for productive value in my community, prosper, thrive, and nurture a family. My job is to leave this place better off than when I arrived and to ensure that I have grown the resource base of the nation and the earth rather than diminish it.

Theory teaches us that the purpose of government is to intervene where private markets fail or fail to exist. More specifically, government's role, according to some, is to provide public goods and redistribution. Since market systems allow for individuals to create and allocate goods and services for private benefit at private cost, the social benefits and costs have to be accounted for with certain goods. These public goods are the ones typically inadequately supplied in the private sector. Education, pollution control, and national defense are common examples in the economic textbooks.

I rely on government to educate my child because I choose to work full-time and thus am not free to educate him myself. The purpose of government , what it used to be, what it is, and what it should be could be a great conversation for this nation to have. I have tended to believe that presidential elections were indeed a big part of that conversation.

Granted, what is needed from government today has evolved over time and through marketplace advancements that have been faster than public sector evolution. The way our governments work, what they provide, and how they provide it is an ongoing and important political debate. Yet the politics of 2012 are not about that.  They are about whether government needs to exist at all. There are many places where government works well but not necessarily efficiently and my response to that is increase efficiency. There are places where government does not work. Questioning whether it should work and how it could work is an important part of any consideration about the role of government. Yet defenders of government are so beat up and on the ropes, that kind of nuanced discussion gets lost. The fight is government or no government.

I'd rather the fight be about good government or great government. I am not fooled. Romney and other candidates are not really in a sincere debate about who we are as Americans. He and others are in a debate about some Americans versus other Americans. These Americans getting over because of, or at the expense of, those Americans.

I'll also note that government is a word, a term, that actually refers to layers of public sector participation. Typically all of them are thrown together as one big, bad monster when it is convenient in the midst of debate. Yet there is also a regular pattern of separation, when it is politically convenient, to acknowledge the power and strength of the states. Then the debate becomes one about the big, bad, ugly federal government versus the little, efficient, wonderful states. BUNK I say! These are false and unproductive distinctions that have more to do with trying to knock the guy out of the White House than any real valuable and important economic or social value.

We are going to have to pay closer attention than we have done before. If we blink or snooze we are going to wake up on some new form of the plantations of old.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's got the President's tongue?

When I saw this email subject line in my box at work, I first thought., "Yes, what, or more specifically, who has his tongue? " then I opened it to see the playful picture.  Yet I am left wondering who is speaking for the President? or, rather, who is the President speaking for ? 'cause if he thinks he is speaking for me he needs to speak up!

 The White House <> 12/27/2011 12:05 PM
Your Daily Snapshot for
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011
What's got the President's tongue?
Eight-month-old Cooper Wagner grabs President Barack Obama's face while taking a picture with his parents, Captain Greg Wagner and Meredith Wagner, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama visited with members of the military and their families during Christmas dinner at Anderson Hall. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
In Case You Missed It
Here are some of the top stories from the White House blog:
Hanukkah at the White House: History of the 2011 Menorah
Watch this video that tells the story of the lamp at the center of this year's White House Hanukkah celebration, which was created in a displaced persons camp following WW2 and dedicated to an American general.
Behind the Scenes Roundup: Holidays at the White House
Some of our favorite videos take you inside the White House for the 2011 holidays.
Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Thank our Troops for their Service as we Celebrate the Holiday Season
The First Couple offer a special holiday tribute to some of the strongest, bravest, and most resilient members of our American family – the men and women who wear our country's uniform and the families who support them.

The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary, Did You Know? and Pam, Do You?

As I listen to the words of a beautiful Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know”, the words touch my heart and move me to tears.  The music is absolutely elegant and the message is phenomenal.  It includes a phrase

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

And to some extent, I think the bible teaches us that she had a clue.  I cannot imagine what kind of parent she was. What did she do when Jesus wandered out into the path of horses or other animals in transit? how did she raise him? discipline him? protect him? what did she feel? was she scared day in and day out? worried? faithful? Did God talk to her regularly and remind her of her son’s purpose? Did she feel empowered by that purpose ? or frightened by it?

Then I wonder what kind of parent would I be, how different than the one I am now, if God told me what he told Mary. Would I have more discipline and self-control and never lose my temper? Did Mary? Would I never grow weary from work and school, and cooking, and cleaning, and .......... ? Did Mary?

 (which I played more than 50 times on Christmas Day)

Another line in the song states,

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

I have no doubt that the work of parenting changes me, changes us all, and has us work to bring out the very best in us in ways that no other relationship or experience ever can.  Come hell or high water, I am totally transforming year after year and I always assume it is God’s plan. Within that assumption is the notion that what I was before is what I am being delivered from... and there is someplace special, better, that I shall be delivered to.

The song continues,
Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

While I believe God is within all of us, I am rarely present to the feeling that emanates from that belief. The lyrics suggest a tender, gentle image, one that fades as the baby becomes a boy, losing some innocence and becoming more knowledgeable of man’s worldly ways. As my son approaches his ninth birthday I rarely get to kiss his face let alone feel the divine presence within him.

How easy it is to be caught up in the day-to-day living that we lose sight of the divine! It seems so hard to me to keep the forces of commercialism and capitalism at bay in respectable yet distant places so that my household focus can be on the quality of our relationships, the substance of our knowledge and intellect, and the vitality of our spiritual, physical, and emotional health. It is so easy to work just a little bit longer at the office and then justify that time lost with the paycheck that buys the stuff we consume, a portion of which is not needed at all. But how tired does that job make me? how much less energy do I have for my child because I give extra at the office? What did Mary do? what kind of energy did she have? How loving, gentle, tender, patient, and gracious was she with Jesus?

The song ends with the following lines:

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

As a parent, I have many instances of feeling the weight of a life, a young heart, in my hands. I can be too serious and significant at times, but I am not wrong. The decisions I make, behavior I exhibit, all of it fuels my parenting, models a role for my child, and makes a way (or not) in the world for him. Shouldn’t I err on the side of more serious than less? I fear intrusion from television and media, the character development I am at work on is under construction and vulnerable to outside influence. Shouldn’t I assume the work is serious in case this boy one day rules a nation? He certainly thinks he can be the next Barack Obama and I am not saying anything to the contrary.

What if she was none of those things?

How come we don’t all act like our children might be Jesus coming back? Do we need to?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I Pray This Prayer


I ask for You to lead me, to guide me as I surrender all. These words I recite almost daily in my prayers but what do they really mean?

Lead me suggests I follow Him. Where is He? How do I know it is Him? What signals does He give?

Guide me suggests He directs my path. Which way am I going? How do I know He wants me to go that way? How do I separate what way I want to go from His way?

Surrender all suggests I am detached from all things, people, and outcomes. I care about certain desires, certain hopes and dreams but I allow the actual events to go the way they go even if not toward my desired outcome. I do not intervene. I set the event in motion after thoughtful prayer and meditation. I check my awareness to discern whether there is more for me to do. I step back from the action and wait on the Lord. I am patient.

I go on my merry way with the rest of my life and let that other thing rest. Sort of like a well cooked piece of protein has to rest first after coming off of the heat. The juices have to redistribute and settle before the protein is plated and cut into. If insufficient rest takes place, the full flavors do not get their chance to penetrate all the right places and create a succulent morsel in the mouth and on the tongue.

So too for waiting on the Lord. When I wait for it, whatever it is, to be right; when I feel as though the thing is done and it is my time, I usually experience a feeling, a sense that all was divinely timed. Whether the outcome was double or triple what I expected; whether the problem was way more minor than anticipated; whether the expected loss was avoided or, in the alternative, a gift received instead... I always know. There is that sweet moment where I close my eyes and say "Thank You, Lord. I know this was Your doing. You have blessed me once again and I am grateful." It is in that moment, that sweet, joyful moment, that my heart swells and feels full. Sometimes it stays that way for minutes. Sometimes for days.

And so I pray my prayer and ask to be led, guided, and to surrender.

By the way, I always know when I have not properly surrendered too. It is easy to see. Just like someone handing me some money that they really don't want to let go of.... That last little bit of grip on the bill that forces me to have to jerk or yank it away. I can tell when I am surrendering but not quite fully letting go. Always. I imagine He smiles at me because He is always gingerly about yanking my stuff from my hands. This last time, I set the matter at the feet of the Lord but did not take my hands off of it. I said I surrender it but not really. Ours is a loving God that is so kind a to wait and let me get tired and stiff down there n my knees unwilling to let go. By the time I actually took my hands off of it and stood up to go, I could not walk right and had to hobble away. I can laugh at myself now. I know I was afraid. I had to surrender but was so afraid that the outcome might not be the one I want. I still don't know. What I do know is that God has always blessed me and kept me in His care. He has prospered me and guided me and my life is a blessing to me and to others. I trust Him and I let go. Whatever comes next, will be perfect for me... even if I do not desire it, did not expect it, and wanted something else.

What a magical wonderful feeling to know that the goodness of the Lord is nothing magical at all; rather a sure, solid, dependable gift always available, unending, unwavering, unimpeachable, and unequivocal.

with deepest gratitude,


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Morning Prayer

Good Morning Dear Lord,

Thank You for waking me up this morning. I feel blessed and ready to impress!

I pray today and everyday to be a blessing, for myself and others.
May Your glory be in my every thought, word, and deed, now and always.
May Your guidance be leading me.
May I always be attentive to it and to You.
May I always discern Your will from my own.

These things I pray in the name of Your Holy Son, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Daily Word today is Free!

The Daily Word today says, I choose thoughts and words that are free of disapproval or the need to be right. I choose activities that nurture my body and mind, expressing the freedom of my soul. I choose to treat others in ways that reflect an attitude and spirit of freedom and love.
I used to live my life that way.... that was the pre-parent-Pam.  Now, as Pam, the parent , I have drifted steadily backward. Away from the free thinking, warm feeling self that was unconditionally loving, kind, and generous. In my role of parent, I have adopted the "old school model." The model I grew up with involved the adult telling the kid what to do and how to do. There was a right and a wrong, a good and a bad. That's the parenting I am familiar with and so that is the parenting I do.
Today, I want to parent differently and yet the natural pull is toward that past... toward the familiar way. I disapprove of my son's behavior and I say I am evolved because I am not disapproving of him. Yet he feels disapproval. and when I ask, he feels disapproved of. Separating himself from his behavior is a tough, abstract task to ask of a seven year old. Intellectually, he gets it and understands the distinctions. Emotionally,  it does not matter whether it is him or his behavior... he just feels badly. One could argue that if he feels badly he will learn the lesson and do better next time. That may be true. But what if, after doing better the next time, he does not feel good about himself. Or worse, what if he only feels good about himself when he is doing something good (rather than all of the time). 
How do parents correct behavior in a way that does not do long term damage to self-esteem? and How on earth do we know what does and does not cause long-term damage to self-esteem?
I could argue that I am doing a good job.  My son is bright and talented, a sharp thinker and a well mannered boy who knows right from wrong and still manages to run free as a wild child laughing and screaming and chasing a ball with friends joyfully. He manages to resolve conflicts with friends over whose turn it is next with whatever toy or gadget. He can focus and pay attention to teachers and coaches and learn what is being taught. He can remember and process information and he can read and write.  
But he bites his fingernails...and chews on his fingers when the nails are gone.... what does that mean? 
I am noticing the absence of a handbook to tell me how far back I should step, and when, to allow him room to grow. I could choose to relax. According to the Word, I have the freedom to choose. How do I parent with a sense of freedom and love? and what does that parenting behavior look like when the boy will not stay in bed and go to sleep on a school night? Should I ignore him, as some parenting books suggest? and let him suffer the consequences of being tired the next day at school? and then do that night after night until he gets it? or should I lovingly persist in insisting that he go back to bed? and then do that night after night until he gets it?
Where on earth is the parent's manual for Kid Jackson? and who is going to enforce the 10-year or 100,000 mile warranty that came with him? oops. that warranty was for my tires.... not the kid. oh well. 
I guess I will have to sit here and continue to freely choose to wonder if I am doing it right! Lord knows, I will not know for years to come.  At least at work I receive annual and mid-year performance reviews. Who is it that administers the parenting performance reviews? I mean, I know if I am a bad parent, the police, the teachers, the family services agencies will all weigh in. But if I am not really bad, then who then?
He receives evaluation as a student... which reflects as an aspect of my parenting... but not the whole of the job. And, if, as was my case, he is quite successful in life academically and professionally because he was constantly seeking approval that never fulfilled him, then what? 
I guess the easiest way to stop that behavior is to have him feel approved of, always, and be inspired to grow and prosper because his destiny is to be the best he can be.....
Oh, and I never found my owner's manual for Kid Jackson, so I bought a book from it looks promising but it is just a book.... not an owner's manual.

From the on Monday, September 20, 2010 
I choose thoughts, words and actions that set me free.
Why does one driver smile and relax in traffic, while another is tense and irritable? It is a matter of choice. Freedom of choice is an expression of our spiritual freedom, and it affects our attitudes and experiences.
Today I have a simple choice: I can be held captive by irritation and restrictive ways of thinking and being, or I can practice genuine spiritual freedom by expressing love in all I think, say and do.
I choose thoughts and words that are free of disapproval or the need to be right. I choose activities that nurture my body and mind, expressing the freedom of my soul. I choose to treat others in ways that reflect an attitude and spirit of freedom and love.
You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.--John 8:32

Monday, August 23, 2010

Watching Spike Lee's If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise

According to Governor Blanco of Louisiana, Mississippi had 25% of damage from Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana had 75% of the damage.

Yet, President Bush's FEMA administration granted 50% of federal funds to each state rather than granting funds proportionally.

President Bush, a Republican; Governor Blanco, a Democrat.... guess what party the governor of Mississippi belongs to?

I wonder what Obama would have done....

 Spike Lee's HBO Special - If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise