Sunday, September 30, 2012

Genealogy Shop

If I won the lottery I'd open a genealogy shop. Sometimes I just want something that represents my interest in family research, but when I try to shop for fun things online there's no really cool central place to get these things. You can go to etsy or zazzle and find things that individuals have made... and then you can find some really dated looking things on other random websites. But wouldn't it be great to have a shop (both online and in real life... maybe Downtown Grapevine?) that carries all things genealogy? Books, scrapbooking, software, t-shirts, jewelry, etc.? And even a research room where people could come to get started? And a meeting room where the genealogical society can meet? This would be the greatest thing!! Wonder how much that would cost to get started? I don't figure it would be profitable, but if I won the lottery I wouldn't need the money... right? *sigh* If only...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rant

I think it's highly inconsiderate to post a picture on Find-A-Grave when someone else has already claimed it and not tell them that you did.

So today I go out in the rain to get a picture of a headstone that was requested in Bear Creek Cemetery. I claimed it the day the request was posted. Today is three days later. You are asked to take pictures within two weeks of the day you claim them.

When I get to the cemetery (which, by the way, was NOT on my way to anywhere today), I pull up the Find-A-Grave site on my phone to verify the name and vital stats of the person I'm looking for. And what to my wondering eyes did appear... but two photos of said person's grave! Thanks, Todd Peters (contributor #47844210). If you had taken a moment to just shoot me a message saying you'd already taken care of it, I could have saved myself a rainy trip! OR even post the pictures through the "fulfill" link on the request.

Common courtesy: a thing of the past.

Rant over.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Right to Be Fat

Obesity. This particular issue is something that hits close to home for me. Not only have I been overweight all my life, but many of my family members and friends are as well. As I look back on my life, I can point to several instances in which I was insulted for my weight. I have often been told that I would be happier and healthier if I was thin. And there's no shortage of messages that tell me (and everyone else in the world) that fat is bad and thin is good. But in reality, fat is just a description, not an indictment. I'm brunette, with blueish eyes, and lots of fat.

Recently, I have become aware of a group of people called "Fat Activists" who are working hard to convince the world that fat is okay... That fat people are people too... That "declaring war" on obesity is declaring war on actual people. It's the new [old] discrimination. In fact, it's one of the few ways in which the general population thinks it's okay to discriminate.

Something that troubles me greatly is that our First Lady Michelle Obama is spear-heading the attack on a group of people of which I'm a member. I wonder if she realizes that her "war" is hurting people.

One of the fat activists I follow is Ragen Chastain. She has opened my eyes about this issue and helped me to understand that hating yourself because you're fat is counter-productive. I have read many of here posts, her book, as well as the book Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon.

Now, of course, this is not really a political issue at its heart. But because the First Lady is anti-fat-people, it has become a political issue for me. It's also a healthcare issue. I pay 150% health insurance premiums because of my body-mass index (BMI). My blood pressure is picture-perfect, as are my blood sugar, cholesterol, and all other provable indicators of good health. I am the first to tell you I could be healthier because I don't exercise enough to have great flexibility, stamina, etc. But I'm still healthy, even though my BMI is very high. But I still pay extra premiums (and have for 7 years) because of my weight.

I don't want to reinvent the wheel, so I'm just going to post some links to key articles on Ragen's blog that may be enlightening to my readers. I know they were for me.
  • BMI was never intended to be a measure of good health. "Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet devised the BMI equation in 1832.  He created the formula to be used as a statistical tool across large populations, he never intended for the number to be used as a measure of individual health.  When people say that BMI is a poor measure of health, that’s not accurate.  The truth is that BMI is not a measure of health at all." read more...
  • "You may be healthy now, but eventually it will catch up with you." People say this a lot. The truth is, everyone dies. But regardless of what kills me, someone is going to say it was because of my weight. I can live to age 103, have perfect stats, perfect blood work, etc. but as long as I'm fat, my fat will be blamed for my death. read more... 
  • "Are we doing enough about obesity?" You've done plenty. Quit already. read more...
  • Fat shaming sucks. Do you realize how many anti-fat messages there are all around us? You may not think about it (especially if you're not fat). But I would encourage you - if you're my friend, if you love me - each time you hear or see one, think of it as an "anti-Melissia" message. read more...
  • Pay attention to what you think is funny.  I am guilty. I have laughed at those "People of Walmart" pictures. I have said "oh my!" to a picture of a particularly fat person (even though I am one). I've been convicted, and I'm trying to repent. read more...
  • Fat people cost more. That's just silly talk. There have been some studies that have suggested that. But if you take a close look at the studies (as Ragen Chastain has), they are silly in and of themselves. read more... and here... 
  • Diets work. No they don't. read more...
  • War? On me? What did I do? Nothing, but there's a war on me anyway. read more...
  • Reasons to stop focusing on weight are HERE.
Well, I could go on... but that's quite enough reading. I've already read them all, and don't have any idea whether anyone else will care to. So I'm stopping there. 


Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money | #4 - Exceptionalism or Superiority? | #5 Wuv, Twue Wuv

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wuv.... Twue Wuv...

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togevah today...."

Okay so maybe no one else finds a Princess Bride quote appropriate. But... marriage is what has brought me to this blog today. I'm going to try to make this one short and sweet.

Republicans: "We believe that... marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard."

Democrats:  "We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections."

There's no question where the political parties stand on gay marriage.  There is some question as to where Christians stand. I know a lot of Christians who support gay rights. And I know even more who don't. This one... I don't really even have to think about because I already know what I think (and you probably do too).

Here's why I support gay marriage:

  • Christian marriage is supposed to be about one person loving the other. God is love. Wherever there is love, there is God. Heterosexuals don't have the monopoly on love. (Clearly, love is not a pre-requisite for being married... There are a lot of people who hate each other and still stay married to each other. But presuming that it's about love.... gay people can and do love each other.)
  • Legal marriage is about rights. If marriage were about religious beliefs, then the government should have nothing to do with it. But the state of being married grants someone a number of legal rights. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are 1,138 rights that are denied to gay couples. Unless you are willing to deny those rights to everyone, they should be granted to every couple who wants to enter into the contract of marriage.
  • Gay people are people. I probably wouldn't have thought twice about saying "no" to gay marriage a few years ago... because I really didn't know any gay people. So it didn't matter to me. I think everyone who holds a certain stance should get to know someone who it affects. Then tell me those couples don't have a "real" family, or can't raise their kids properly, etc. 
I really don't know what the problem is. Discrimination is anti-American.


Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money | #4 - Exceptionalism or Superiority?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exceptionalism or Superiority?

One of the tenets of the RNC platform is an embrace of American Exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. There is quite a lot in the RNC platform statement on this point... it covers everything from fighting wars to supporting veterans to being involved in human rights issues around the globe.

When I first heard that American Exceptionalism was a tenet of the RNC platform, I balked. Why? Because I think many people in the United States think they are better than everyone else in the world... and this belief is rooted in exceptionalism. (Read more about the concept...) We are better because we are the experts on democracy and liberty and everyone should just do everything our way. It is this belief that drives us to invade other countries for the presumed purpose of freeing them from evil dictators... whether they want to be freed or not. It is this ideology that makes it okay for us to go into third world countries and boss people around, telling them that our way is the best way and their way is just stupid.

As you can see, it doesn't take much to move from "exceptionalism" to "superiority."

BUT... if the ideology of American Exceptionalism gives rise to the end of human rights abuses... gives aid to the hurting... frees people who are slaves to their circumstances... then, well I kind of like that idea!

The RNC platform states:
Americans are the most generous people in the world. Apart from the taxpayer dollars our government donates abroad, our foundations, educational institutions, faith-based groups, and committed men and women of charity devote billions of dollars and volunteer hours every year to help the poor and needy around the world. 
I agree. But I think we should be very careful that our patriotism doesn't become bragging... that our beliefs and ideologies don't become the proverbial Bible that we bash people over the head with.

World Vision worker Joy Bennett wrote last week about the needy in America vs. the needy in other countries (in this case, Sri Lanka). (read her blog post)  Some of her words reminded me of the superiority complex that is the danger of exceptionalism. Like this excerpt:
If you do think that somehow Americans are better or more valuable or more important, have you ever considered how that attitude leads to things like anti-Semitism, white supremacy, male chauvinism, and ethnic cleansing? Do these comparisons disgust you? Do they offend you? Good. They should. The root of those ideologies is the hyper-valuing of one’s own people (race, ethnicity, gender) and the devaluing of others. These horrible attitudes are the logical conclusion of such ideas. Let me be clear. I am not saying that if you have pride in your country of origin, that makes you a bigot. But if your national pride leads to seeing others as somehow less, you should stop and think it through a little further. (emphasis mine)
Maybe it's all semantics, but I would rather use the word "unique" than "exceptional" when describing America. We do have a unique ability to help others. That doesn't make us exceptional (i.e. better than everyone except us), what it makes us is responsible... responsible for helping other people that are not as fortunate. Maybe we should call this ideology "American Responsibility." But if we did that, lots of people wouldn't buy into the idea anymore. That sounds too much like selflessness. (Oh! Did I just get sarcastic? Sorry.) The Democratic platform calls it "American Leadership." That has a nice ring to it.

Another quote from Joy Bennett that I really liked was this: "I’m not saying that we in America have it all. We have our own special kind of poverty: a poverty of generosity, of compassion, of connection and community. These are things Sri Lankans are rich with." Ouch. I'm totally guilty of that. I'd rather sit in my house and play on the computer than get out and volunteer my time and actually have to interact with other people. Guilty, guilty, guilty.


I think what I'd really like to say about this is... every country, every people group, every ethnicity has something to teach others. Americans have a lot of financial resources and a unique perspective on freedom. Other countries have a unique perspective on building community. Others have the resource of intelligence or ingenuity or historical context or beautiful scenery or natural resources or surviving with little/nothing. Every country has something to offer. We can all learn from each other.

Americans have a reputation for going into other countries [as tourists] with their ego on full display, expecting everyone to cater to them. If we can be just a little bit more humble, ask questions and try to learn from others, then we as a people will be known as exceptional without having to try to prove it or persuade people that we are. Regardless of what our government is doing... next time you go to another country, try doing things their way without complaining about it.


Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money


Monday, September 3, 2012

Money Money Money

There is a lot of talk about taxes.... tax breaks for the poor, the middle class, for the wealthy, for corporations. I couldn't even begin to decipher the tax code, the economics of national debt, the pros and cons of the Democratic or Republican economic theories. (I could give it more effort than I have, but numbers bore me and it's not a priority to me, as I'll explain further in a moment). But I would hazard a guess that both parties have a hefty percentage of factual information laced with an equally hefty percentage of spin. I don't believe that either party has the solution to all of our economic and financial "woes" or that either is going to have the magic formula that will make everyone else happy.

The thing that struck me while I was listening to the speakers at the RNC was how much of the rhetoric was about money, economics, wealth, prosperity. I wouldn't say that these are exclusively American values, but they are distinctly American. Somehow the American dream of being free has been transformed into a dream of being wealthy. We want our money. We earned it. It's ours. Mine. I earned it on my own. By myself. Through my own hard work, sweat, labor. NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE MY MONEY!!!!

I understand the sentiment. I know that I, for one, would love to be financially stable. Although it's not my top priority, I worry about money. Like most Americans, if I lost my job I'd have trouble if I couldn't replace it immediately. I have a long way to go before I'm out of debt. I have a long way to go before I can just go out to the store and buy whatever my heart desires. It will be a long time before I really have a "rainy day" fund.

But up to this point wealth hasn't been a priority in my life. If it were, I wouldn't be working for a church. (Don't get me wrong... I'm not complaining. I'm just saying I would be more financially stable if I worked a corporate job.) I consider myself an intelligent person, but the accumulation of wealth has not been important to me.

I also know that focusing on my own money, my own problems, my own right to be wealthy (is that a right?) does nothing to make me happy. If anything, it makes me stressed out. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What I don't have is lots of extra money. But I AM WEALTHY. I woke up this morning in a comfortable bed, in a three-bedroom house that is mine (and the bank's), with two dogs who eat better than probably 95% of the world's population. I have flowers to take pictures of and Diet Cokes in my fridge and a computer to write blog posts on (not to mention the Kindle(s) and cell phone and TV). I have running water. Electricity. About 30 pairs of shoes. Clean clothes (or at least a washer/dryer in which to make them clean). I have stuff. And I am wealthy.

The government takes about 10-15% of my income each year. They use it for an unknown number of government programs, some of which are run efficiently and frugally (I'm sure there are some) and others of which are wasteful. I have paved roads to drive on. I feel safe, and when I don't there's a number for me to call to get help. I have an education that was provided (for the first 12 years anyway) by other people's tax dollars. There are people down the road from me that get their food from the government. I don't, but I pay for them to. There is so much infrastructure that goes into making a viable society... and all of those things cost money. I am happy to pay my part, because I don't think it's feasible for me to do it all by myself. I don't have the resources to do it alone - most of us don't - but together we can pool our money and support our demanding society. Money comes out of my paycheck each month, and much of it goes to help people that are less fortunate than me. I'm okay with that. I know it's not perfect, but nothing is.

What bothers me about the Christian "right" is the focus on the distinctly American value of accumulating wealth rather than the distinctly Christian value of sacrificing one's own right to "MINE, MINE, MINE" for the common good. When Jesus asked his disciples to feed the hungry, their first reaction was to say, "This is our money. OURS. We should keep it for ourselves and send these people to buy their own food." But in the end, they followed his instructions and the masses were fed. You would never have heard Jesus say, "I earned this money. It's mine. You can't have it." Never. He would have said something more like, "Do you need this money? Here, take it... and take my food and my shoes and my shirt too." I admit, that would be far easier to do in Jesus' day, when you could almost guarantee that there would be someone in your neighborhood that would invite you in for dinner and give you a new shirt (since you just gave yours away). But we don't really have that confidence today, do we? We know that if we don't take care of ourselves, no one else will. And so we hoard money. Understandable, I assure you.

We hoard money because there is no good answer to the question, "How much is enough?"

I don't see an easy answer to the haves/have-nots dilemma. There will always be people who don't do their fair share, who take advantage of the system, who take advantage of the generosity of others. And there will always be people who are in need, just like there will always be people who have more than enough. I want there to be wealthy people in this country... because those are the people who will have extra money to buy the products everyone else is selling... to give generously to their local food pantries and churches. But I also know that if we relied totally on the charity of the wealthy (i.e. if the government did not step in to help the poor), then many of the poor would be left to fend for themselves. I'm not okay with that.

You may be thinking, "If they would just work harder and not be lazy, then they wouldn't be poor." I understand the thinking, but unfortunately that's just not true. There are a lot of people who work really hard and are still poor. Many work several jobs. Some people aren't as smart as you, and therefore (through no fault of their own) really can't manage a job that nets them six figures. Some people have health problems, or mental problems, or addictions or *&!- happens and they end up unemployed, in debt, on the street, etc. If we lived in a utopia, maybe everyone could pull themselves up by their own boot straps and become Donald Trump. But we don't. As I said yesterday, we're dealing with reality here... and the reality is, some people are poor and need help.

So what to do, what to do?  For one thing, I think we can start by being humbly thankful for what we each have. If you live in America, you are better off than many in the world.  Secondly, I think we can try to face some of the fear that makes us want to hoard money. We can say, "Okay, God... I'm going to set my fear aside. I trust that everything is going to be okay... so I'm going to take this $20 that's in my pocket and give it to someone who is homeless or hungry or sick." What's the worst thing that could happen? You could be broke, then homeless, then die of a curable illness because you can't get healthcare. Really, that's the worst thing. But that's probably not going to happen to anyone who is wealthy enough to be reading this blog.

I'm not a big fan of taking a scripture reference out of its historical and social context and using it to support my theories, but on this point I don't think context changes the meaning and intent. Here are some scriptures you could read that would point you to a few instances in which people were prioritized over wealth:
  • The story of the loaves and fishes, which I alluded to above, can be found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.
  • Jesus tells a rich man to sell everything he owns to follow him in Mark 10:17-27.
  • 1 John 3:17 tells us that a person who has material possessions but does not help their neighbor in need "has not love."
  • Proverbs, the book of wisdom, tells us that, "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." Proverbs 14:31
  • Other Proverbs that speak to prioritizing the needs of the poor: Prov. 21:13, 22:9, 28:27
  • 1 Timothy 6 speaks in spades about trusting God, not wealth... about being generous and helping others, etc.
Obviously there are many, many more... but I'll leave it at that. 

I'm not suggesting that you sacrifice your own well-being or that of your family, sell everything you own and live on the streets. Then you would be a part of the problem, not part of the solution. What I am asking is that you... 1) love the people around you more than you love money and 2) consider whether your political leanings are grounded in faith or in fear. Have you placed the desire for wealth above your desire to love your neighbor? Are you making the needs of the poor a priority in your life, your wallet, your vote? 


Note: This is the third in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Choice? Life?

Abortion has been at the forefront of social debates for as long as I can remember... my entire lifetime, for sure. Most people separate this debate into two sides: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. But what is one to do if they are both pro-choice and pro-life? In fact, my faith tells me that God is both pro-choice and pro-life. I would venture to say God is pro-choice because he* - to a fault - always lets us choose. But he also created life, and therefore I would imagine is pro-life.

And so the debate goes 'round and 'round. Every life has value. Every woman has the freedom to choose what to do with her body.

Let's look at the politics. The Republican party stance is:
"The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." Republicans oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or to fund organizations that perform or advocate abortions. It says the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage. They state that they "stand firmly against it" [i.e. abortion]. The Republican 2012 platform uses the word "abortion" 19 times. The platform never clearly states that they would ban all abortions. However, they state in various ways that they would extend the definition of life, health coverage, etc. to fetuses in the womb and legislate various measures that would, in effect, make it next to impossible to legally obtain an abortion. (i.e. 14th amendment coverage, remove funding, limiting access to information, instituting waiting periods, requiring parental consents, etc.) "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage." So, basically... yes they would make every effort to ban abortions.
As for the Democrats, their official (i.e. full searchable pdf) platform for 2012 is not yet online, but I imagine nothing has changed since the 2008 edition, which reads:
"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. The Democratic Party also strongly supports access  to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."
One of the articles that got me started thinking about this issue in earnest was Wayne Self's post on his blog Owldolatrous"Akin, RNC Comments and Policies Remind Us: Abortion is a Gay Issue." It's an interesting read and even points to a couple of scriptures of relevance to the Pro-Choice stance:
In the Bible, even the idea of an immortal, individuated soul is confused, at best, since the ancient Hebrews had no such concept. Instead, they had ruah, the “breath” of God, which gave life to flesh. This concept would suggest that life might enter the body at the moment of first breath, not conception.
In fact, it was the presence of ruah in the newborn that explained the Hebrew’s valuation of newborn over unborn. In Exodus, the penalty for killing a baby was death, but the penalty for killing the unborn was this:
“When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.” – Exodus 21:22
The concept we have of the soul today–immortal, imbued with a sense of self, and separate from the body–came from the Greeks, not from the Old Testament. This may explain why the Greek-influenced Jews who wrote the New Testament gave us a diversified and perhaps confused view of the soul, and why there are many Christian traditions today that deny the existence of the immortal, individuated soul.
Even where the immortal soul was mentioned, the concept invited an indifference to the body (or zygote), not a special effort to preserve it:
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
As for my opinion... I have never been asked to accompany a friend to have an abortion, but I do have friends who have opted for an abortion. I don't like the idea of abortion - there are so many people who would love to welcome your child into their home as their own - but I believe 100% in a woman's right to choose it.

Your first question might be: "How can a Christian not believe abortion is wrong?" I didn't say that abortion is the correct choice. I said I believe in a woman's right to choose it. I also didn't say that abortion is the wrong choice. I believe there are circumstances that call for it.

I don't presume to know the point at which the soul enters the body, or the exact moment that life becomes life. I'm not God. But I do know that there are many, many circumstances in which an abortion is the best choice for the well-being of the woman. Whether the need is because of the source of the pregnancy (rape, poor choices, abuse) or health problems with the mother or fetus... there is no way to allow for all of the possible contingencies within the law. I believe that there is no fair and compassionate way of banning abortions.

In an ideal world, people would choose life in every situation. But our world is not ideal, and we must deal in realities. The reality is: if abortions were banned there would be great detriment to the women who are desperate enough to choose that option. By granting protections to a fetus, you effectively dehumanize the woman and remove her most basic right of controlling her own body, her own life, her own self. She becomes less-than-a-person... a slave to the will of society and laws and legislation. In order for her to regain her basic human rights, she is now compelled to make a decision which will risk her life and liberty... either by forcing her through the pregnancy or forcing her to break the law.

In Rachel Held Evans' article about learning how to follow Jesus, her first mantra was, "Love the person in front of me." In this case, the person in front of me would be a living, breathing person... a woman who has the unthinkable choice of doing away with a part of her. It's no easy choice. She'll labor over it and cry over it and eventually come to some resolution about what to do. And if she chooses abortion, our job is to love her through it and help her - in some small way - to find peace.


* Note: Some readers may take issue with referring to God as "he" because of a held belief (which I share) that God is neither male nor female. I use male pronouns in reference to God for convenience, not because I'm saying God is male. I would feel odd using the gender-neutral "it" in reference to God, and "she" would be saying I think God is a woman. I know, I know... can of worms.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Quest for Clarity


This is how my morning started... I posted the following as my status update on Facebook:
I tried really hard to sleep in late this morning... but my thoughts kept drifting back to that man who's living in his truck while waiting for his first paycheck from a new job (that probably pays minimum wage). My privileged mind just couldn't keep laying in my queen-sized bed, in my air-conditioned house, with my better-off-than-most-people dogs. Issues are weighing heavily on me after the the past week of blog-reading, listening/reading about political platforms, and sitting in my office trying to imagine how that homeless man is living with such a positive attitude. I feel some blogs coming on. Not that writing will change anything, but it will help me get my thoughts out of my head. Time to get started.
A few things happened this week that have me pensive. Here's the list:

  • In staff meeting we heard about a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. We also heard about Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
  • I read this news report of the recently-released Republican party platform.
  • I read this article in Salon by Paul Campos: "Anti-obesity: The new homophobia?"
  • I listened to some key speeches during the Republican National Convention. I can't think of another time in my life when I've done that, but I'm really trying to hear both sides of the story.
  • A man came in to the church office with this story: He is living in his truck. He has a job at the school (which just started, so his job just started). He doesn't get his first full paycheck until the middle of September. While he was changing clothes in the Wal-Mart restroom, someone stole the rest of his clothes and personal items out of his truck. 
  • I read this blog post by Ragen Chastain: "People of Walmart"
  • I ate lunch with a friend and found myself talking about worrying about money. While eating at Olive Garden. Really, Melissia? You have sooo much to be thankful for. Why do you dwell on little insignificant things?
  • I read this blog post by Wayne Self: "Akin, RNC Comments and Policies Remind Us: Abortion is a Gay Issue"
  • I was reminded by blogger Dan Pearce of a quote that I keep in my "About Me" section of Facebook, but too often forget: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~ Aristotle
There are probably other things, but that's what I can think of just off of the top of my head. And each of those things have reminded me of something I read last week by Rachel Held Evans... "How to follow Jesus…without being Shane Claiborne"

You may be thinking, "Melissia, you should really stop reading stuff." But... I guess I just can't do that. The problem is... the more I read, the more problems I see. The more I think about problems, the more overwhelmed I become. And being overwhelmed can be a slippery slope into hopelessness. Instead of being overwhelmed by the issues of our day, though, I decided this morning to get out of my comfy bed and start writing. So... if you frequent my blog looking for genealogy posts, you're going to be disappointed for a little while. I'm going to spend a little time exploring my thoughts and the thoughts of others about key moral and social issues in our society. This is a good time for reflection, since elections are coming up soon.

If you'd like to follow along, a good place to start would be by reading the linked items above.

* Just so you know, I don't claim any political party affiliation and in general don't like to talk about politics. But since politics seems to be the realm in which many of our society's issues are debated, here I go...