24 Sep

By Their Fruit…

By Their Fruit…
I confess, I’m a bit of a political junkie (or “wonk” if you prefer).  I’ve been at least minimally involved since before I was old enough to vote-actively lobbying for the “18 year old” vote back in the ‘60s.  And yep I was sort of arrested for it too.  At the time, I was 17, married to someone serving in the military (this during Viet Nam war) and who was also 17! It just didn’t seem fair that he could serve but not vote.  BTW, I was also honored to serve a little bit later.
Over the years, I’ve continued to follow the major elections and in the last few years as I’ve gotten older, continue to be somewhat active in the campaigns of the candidates of my choice.  I consider myself an independent moderate and register and vote that way too.  I love my country and am so blessed to have been born an American with the multitude of freedoms that we have…freedoms that aren’t available in a lot of other places in this world.  My most precious freedom is to worship as I choose and I have chosen to follow Jesus, His teachings and all that is written in the Bible.  Truth be told, I love God and by His strength live this way each and every day.
OK, so now you have a bit of background on where I stand.  My priorities in life could be stated simply as 1.) God (as a Christian) and 2.) Country (as an American).  For sure, I have a lot of others but for the purpose of the thoughts to follow, I’ll leave it at that. When entering the voting booth, these two priorities are fundamental to my choices.
If you haven’t already noticed, we’re at the beginning of what promises to be a very contentious election season although the actual voting isn’t for almost 14 months…and already the competition to be the next president of our USA has gotten heated.  The political party hoping to gain the job currently has 8-9 contenders and so there have already been a number of televised debates.  Have you watched any of them?  While I’m not happy with the current economy and overall state of our country (been out of work myself for quite awhile), I have been unhappy with some of what I’ve heard from these hopeful politicos.  And so I will likely choose to re-elect our current president. (Just trying to be honest here…I like what he’s trying to do…most of the time.  I read his book “The Audacity of Hope” and have no doubt of his love of country (or his birthplace and eligibility to hold this highest office). I agree with where he’d like to see our country go, what his hopes were and likely still are.
That being said, I also want to hear what those seeking the office have to say-with a completely open mind.   Quite a few of the candidates freely profess Jesus, and claim their faith and beliefs in Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, during a few of these debates I was shocked at some of what was said, and also by what was not said, when many of the audience cheered for things that are so out of line with His teachings. 

A few examples…

Most recently, an active duty U.S. Marine was booed after asking a questions about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” change in policy. While the candidate later said he would have said something if he’d heard the crowd, I’m afraid I have to wonder.  What really scares me is that someone who freely and truthfully discloses something as personal as this-to an outwardly and supposedly gung-ho patriotic and “Christian” audience was so vehemently aggressive in their distaste for homosexuality. I have to wonder what the response might have been if this soldier hadn’t disclosed his orientation.  I realize that homosexuality is not something God wants for us….But is there one person out there who hasn’t sinned?  I don’t think so (Romans 3:22–25).  
In another debate, a candidate almost bragged about his state executing more people than any other. ..And again, the audience cheered. The same was true when a candidate spoke about allowing a person who can’t afford or doesn’t have medical insurance to just die.  Again, no protest from the candidates. And these are the same folks who generally disagree with the idea of folks needing to purchase this same insurance.  Can you say hypocrite?
Needless to say, I’m confused. These candidates and their supporters are fond of saying this is a Christian nation.  They talk of values, and morality and ethics and yet here they are showing no love, no mercy and no compassion!!!  I just don’t get it-where are their priorities-REALLY?  Are they truly followers of Jesus and desire to live by his teachings or is that conditional on how popular their words make them? And the audience? It seems to me that when their favorite politician tickles their ears it shows more about what’s really most important to them and their true, deeper feelings.  I could go on with other stuff but I think you get the idea. 

What the Bible says…

So, here are a few things from the Word that color my choices.  I hope you will take it to heart and know that I’m not picking on a particular party, candidate or political ideology.  I just don’t like double minded folks and hypocrites and neither does the Lord!
  •  Matthew 7:15–16 They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  (Read Matthew 7:15–23 for context)
  •   Galatians 5: 22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (sound like a politician to you?)
  • Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lordrequire of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
  • John 3:16 (If you don’t know this one…shame on you! ) Emphasis for me is “so loved the WORLD”
  • Mark 12:31 with Luke 10:30–37.  …and who is your neighbor?
·         In Matthew 23 (and elsewhere) Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. 
I suppose I could go on forever!  Scripture is so rich with guidance on how to use the privilege we have of choosing our leaders…especially if our first priority as Christians is truly following Christ. To sum up and (finally) get to the point—I have two issues that really upset me during the political season. One is hypocrisy and the other is that it seems that so many believe everything that these “would be Caesars” say without verifying and/or listening to multiple views. I am hoping that you’ll read this and comment whether agreeing with me or not. I WANT to hear your views.  I want to know what criteria you have for choosing our leaders.  More than that, I hope you will put your faith before your politics, and really evaluate the one you would choose-and decide what is more important to you-God or country…and act on it  as you think Jesus might. (And don’t forget to register to vote!)
I leave you with this:
1 Cor. 13:13  (again, read the full chapter for maxium value) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
07 Sep

Ten Years After…

WARNING: This is a VERY long post-almost a novella…
About this time last year, I wrote a post about why I hate September…and yet it keeps coming around for some reason, still trying to be my friend.  I try, I really do try to get over it, get past it but to me 9/11 is more than just an emergency number or a date…and I suspect that it’s the same for most, if not all of us.
In the decade that has passed so much else has changed, also.  The least of which is I’m ten years older!  How did THAT happen-especially since that day so long ago seems to be frozen in memory even now.  I’ve been essentially unemployed for the last 3 years and due to an extended illness have stopped even looking for the time being.  Since getting laid off at my financial services job in February of 2002, I’ve never been able to find a similar position-even though I’ve tried. I DO try to get into the City a few times a year and just went the other day-right to what is now called Ground Zero and saw the progress of what will someday be 1 World Trade Center.  Admittedly, every time I go there and up the very long escalator that once was IN Tower Two, I can’t help but think of that day-and I wish I could escape.  While on the way to my final destination, it just so happened that a commercial plane flew overhead and again, my heart pounded.  Silly stuff I know and you know too, if you’ve had to stand and get practically undressed and poked and prodded and scanned in an airport.  
All that being said, I have watched a few of the programs that are currently rampant on Discovery and NatGeo, and think I’m using it to anesthetize myself for all that is coming.  I’d like to say that tears no longer well up; that an airplane overhead doesn’t cause me to look to see where it’s going and most of all that it would just be another day. Ah well, maybe next year!
Many of you have asked me to share my 9/11 experience so I will tell it today.  Keep in mind that it has been awhile and I do see things differently than at that time.  Hindsight is 20/20.
As I’ve said in the past, I was working on the corner of Broadway and Exchange Place, once short block and directly across the street from the New York Stock Exchange.  Sometimes I took the PATH Train and sometimes I took the ferry-both eventually got me a short 15 minute walk to the office.  On that day, I took the ferry.  It was an easy day, so I was in casual dress and even my sneakers.  
As I got off the ferry, at the foot of Wall Street (and South Street) I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly blue the sky was. To this day there is no better word than that it “sparkled” in the clarity.  As I walked toward the office, around 8:45 AM, I hadn’t noticed anything, or heard anything either and starting winding my way through a couple of back streets toward the office via my “usual route”.  As I got to Hanover Square a LOT of ash started falling and I knew there was a big fire somewhere.  I was wearing a white button-down shirt and another commuter and I ran under the eaves of the nearest building.  He shared a section of his newspaper as we both decided to go for it and get to our respective offices.  I got there about 5 minutes later and asked my receptionist if she knew what was going on and we quickly tried to see what we could see from our 10th floor windows.  I got back to my desk, booted up and decided to call my husband who works for CBS News to see if he knew anything.  It was at that time that I learned that a plane had run into the building… and as we were on the phone, the second plane hit-9:02 AM.  
Almost instantaneously, the announcement came to evacuate the building and boy was I glad I wasn’t wearing heels that day!  I was also glad that I was only on the 10thFloor and going down instead of up!  I met my boss and other fellow employees downstairs and got the go ahead to try and make the “last ferry” back home as we had all heard by now what had happened and that officials wanted the area clear.  Not sure to this day why I thought it, but I was in a huge hurry to catch that “last ferry” that was due to leave at 9:30 for my destination.  
As I crossed Broadway it seemed the crowd was driving me nearer and nearer to the WTC and that is NOT where I wanted to go.  New Yorkers are notorious “looky-loos” and to see this tallest landmark on fire was definitely an event.  I eventually got up against a wall and made my way to Wall Street and toward the ferry. ..Back-tracking my earlier walk.  As I came to Hanover Square, I saw lots of debris and paper, and machinery and yes, sadly, human parts.  I don’t know why but I picked up some of the papers (and still have them) which were from Cantor Fitzgerald –a firm on the 105th floor.  Also, a funny thing, despite the impossibility of getting cell phone calls in or out, my sister was able to get through and I stopped and let her know that I was ok, going to get the ferry home and to tell my dad and kids that I was safe.
As I continued toward the ferry I stopped to try to get the use of a pay phone to tell my husband what I was hoping to do and eventually gave up.  The crowds were starting to get rude and anxious and violent and I just didn’t want any part of that.  I was also still fearful that I would miss that last ferry.  As I made it to the docks I realized that EVERYBODY was there that wanted to get off the island.  Overhead, on the FDR it was a scene right out of a horror film.  I remember thinking of the original Godzilla movie as Tokyo was evacuated.  And then—the first tower fell and people were running all over and I once again took refuge against the side of a building, huddled with so many others.  I couldn’t believe it at first, when people told me what had happened.  This was the first time I realized how afraid I really was.  I RAN the last couple of blocks to get to the ferry terminal to try to find out how to get back home.  By this time I also learned that taking a ferry was the ONLY way to get out of Manhattan as all trains were stopped.  I was blessed in that a ferry usually went right to our waterfront development as well as to other New Jersey destinations across from the city.  The majority of people were covered in the now infamous “tower dust” and most had that “deer in headlights” look too.  I’m sure I must have as well.  I hadn’t previously noticed but my white shirt was now brown and had quite a few ashy burn holes.  I later learned that they’d been there as a result of the initial falling ash – before I’d gotten to the office.  Soon I heard an announcement to my destination but it would be awhile.  
As boats came to the docks, they quickly filled up and left and another would take its place.   I can’t say how long I waited and then I saw it.  Roaring down Wall Street directly in front of me, another huge cloud was coming-seemingly right at me.  If you’ve ever seen video of a volcano erupting and the ash roiling down …well that’s what it looked like.  It was right then that I knew it could be “my time to go home” and I just closed my eyes and prayed- Out loud and with a multitude of others!  As this monster reached the floating dock me and 500 others were standing on, it rocked ferociously and it was just plain too late to try and get to solid places.  As it passed, and the dust was clearing (and on its way to Brooklyn), we couldn’t see it but we heard a jet roar directly overhead.  I can smile at it now but have you ever seen half of New York go to their knees in the “duck and cover” position all at the same time?
Around 11:30 AM I finally was able to board a ferry that would take me home.  We have a small commercial area that includes a deli/liquor store where I stopped and got three packs of smokes and two very large cans of beer and I’m not even a casual drinker.  What strikes me now is the blank, shocked faces of all those who were around me. Covered in the dust of what used to be the World Trade Center, it reminded me to of pictures I’d seen of those taken when the concentration camps of WWII after liberation.  We were now safe but what lies ahead?  Is this really happening? Where are my loved ones?… My friends and co-workers?  After just hanging with Sammy, the deli proprietor, for awhile, I made my way to our apartment.  While the phone wouldn’t let me call out, I was able to receive calls-and blessedly, I had the internet, though it was a whole lot slower.
My beloved Scott was eventually able to contact me, as well as my family.  During that time, I took photos from my balcony and first got to know my neighbor Anna. I often walked down to the deli for coffee and stayed glued to the news, my heart breaking as the reality of the devastation and loss of life tried to seep into my psyche -and still not fully believing.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much, dozing on and off and switching between the news and “Saturday Night Fever”, “Stayin’ Alive” playing over and over in my head.
Scott got home late on September 12th and I finally let loose all the tears that I’d kept in.  I can’t fully remember what I said but I do remember just clinging to him and thankful that I wasn’t alone anymore. I later learned that he’d had his own time of panic and dread (via co-workers).  He knew where I might be when the towers fell and until he was able to contact me, thought I might have been lost.
In the days that followed, a few things from then stick in my brain: a friend whose husband worked at Cantor Fitzgerald asked us if we could go to Liberty State Park to see if her husband might be there. Initially, a place had been set up for survivors to be taken for care.  Unfortunately, just as the many hospitals were also preparing for survivors, the services went unused. What do you say to someone who still has a thread of hope that her husband survived when the news shows differently?  To get away from the house, we decided to drive to Hoboken a few days later just to be around others I think. While we may not have said a word, we needed others; we needed to see life after this horror.
One of my most striking remembrances is all the cars parked along our main street to our development. It had rained a few days after and so many of the same cars were still there. Dust and mud and grime covered them now and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those that had driven there to catch the ferry would never return.   A few days after I also checked my phone and realized there was a new message-a call from my son John (31 at the time) who had previously worked with me and knew my daily routine…and had a few friends at the Commuter Bar where he stopped after work. While I don’t have the message anymore, the fear in his voice at the time of the call (9:15 am on 9/11) still brings tears at times.  
I returned to work about two weeks later for one day.  I was supposed to be on vacation and just had to go back to check on co-workers. We had kept in touch as much as possible via the net but there’s nothing like seeing them alive and well.  There was so much dust and debris still around.  Cables laced the streets as did a huge armed police and military presence.  And the smell permeated everything for months afterward.  
Believe it or not, I actually flew out to Idaho for my youngest sons’ wedding celebration two weeks later.  I met my dad and son John in Salt Lake City.  While there was definitely a security presence, it was like being on a different planet.  I really think that I was glad at the time. I needed to run away I think and that’s pretty much what I did. 
In the years since-I’ve tried to get over it, get past it.  For a time afterward I was really angry with God.  In Feb. 2002 I was laid off and truth be told, haven’t had a really good job since.  I still fear planes flying overhead and I shudder at most any loud noise. While it has gotten better, I still tear up whenever I see photos or video of the towers burning.  I try to avoid them and at the same time still force myself to watch to try and anesthetize myself in the hope that one day September 11 will just be another day on the calendar.  So far it hasn’t quite worked.  Physically, the burn scars have almost faded, though I still get rashes at times.  I was told that breathing the air down there may be why I wheeze so much-and even after quitting smoking, it seems that when faced with this day I start up again.  STUPID!  I try not to cry and to be strong, mostly for those around me.  In my family I AM the strong one so maintaining that façade helps-sometimes.
My family will be here tomorrow (9/8) and we have plans to go to the newly opened Memorial.  I will make a point of looking for the name of my friends’ husband and saying a prayer for her and her little one. Of course I’ll take photos-and yes, I’m sure I’ll cry.   I’m not angry with God anymore which is the best part of surviving. In the years since “that day” I’ve actually drawn closer and regularly visit Trinity and St. Paul’s churches where I used to go on my lunch hour to help out.  Best of all, I’ve learned more about forgiveness. ..But Lord please, help me to never forget!