Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

Looking for the Christ In Christian

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

At the risk of sounding self-important, or worse yet, all “Jesusy” as Anne LaMott likes to phrase it, I find myself with a lingering taste of anger and injustice that borders on moral outrage. I know, I know… “moral outrage” comes dangerously close to hyperbole, but it’s the phrase that comes closest to describing my feelings after reading a survey sent to my husband by a conservative Christian lobbying group.

And no, this is not a political rant. My husband is the politician; I am not. Since this is my blog and not his, I’m not writing about politics so whether you lean left or right, it’s safe to keep reading.

I am not overly political. I am, however, a Christian. Not a great one – certainly not one that feels morally superior enough to push my faith onto others. Most often, I find myself embarrassed by the made-for-TV televangelists who preach prosperity or conservative patriotism as tenants of the Christian faith. I don’t believe in that kind of religion – but I do believe in Christ.

To put it more succinctly, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…” My theology has enough room to accommodate those who raise their hands and speak in tongues along with those who raise the chalice and believe in an epiclesis that results in trans-substantiation. But my theology, let alone my patience, has no room for any form of faith that does not hold at its core “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” Stated another way, faith is defined as loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

When my husband received a survey from a conservative Christian lobbying group for their voter guide, I expected their questions to reflect these priorities. I expected they would want to know of those running for political office in Arizona their stance on improving quality of living factors in our state. It seemed reasonable they would want a thoughtful answer on difficult subjects such as subsidizing health care for poor kids or improving social services that increase child safety and prevent child abuse.

I was wrong. Not one question addressed the more than 1 in 4 children who live in poverty in Arizona. Not a single question about how to serve more than 12,000 children in our state foster care system. There was no opportunity to address the 29+% of Arizona’s children who experience food insecurity – a polite way of saying they don’t have enough to eat on a consistent basis. No question was asked about how to improve our state unemployment rate of approximately 9% – more than 17% when you factor in those who are underemployed or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Instead, they asked the following. “Please indicate whether you support (S) or oppose(O).”

  • Prohibiting touching or tipping dancers and fully nude performances in sexually oriented businesses.
  • Prohibiting abortion except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.
  • Allowing slot machines and table games off Indian reservations.
  • Government granting unmarried domestic partners the same employee and health benefits as married couples.
  • Amending the United States Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
  • Extending the current 60-day waiting period for divorces that involve minor children in order to encourage reconciliation.
  • Passing state laws that authorize local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

No questions about feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. No questions about caring for “the least of these” in our state and society. Just a simple – one might say simplistic – “support” or “oppose.” Yes or no. Black or white. No shades of gray. No space for discussion. No room for mercy.

Their voter guide won’t have any information about my husband. He didn’t bother to fill out their survey. That’s okay. Their survey doesn’t have any information about the God I know.

As he’s campaigning, I’ve asked my husband to keep his focus on what Scripture defines as important. Widows. Orphans. The hungry. The naked. The “least of these.” Unfortunately in Arizona, it’s a list long enough to keep him busy for years to come.

As far as I’m concerned, this “Christian” lobbying group can keep their voter guide. I’ll make my voting choices based on people serious about ensuring Arizona’s kids go to bed educated, safe, and fed. Politicians will earn my vote when they make “the least of these” their priority. Once we’ve solved these fundamental priorities, we can then afford to turn our attention to the wisdom of amending our nation’s Constitution and deciding on whether or not to tip nude performers. Until then, we have real problems and real issues to address – both as citizens and people of faith.

That’s the real Gospel. The real priority. That’s the Christ I expect to see in anything that bears the title of Christian.

The List

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Perfect days begin with a cup of coffee and a long soak in my hot tub. Watching the sun peek over my roof, its light wakes up my garden and the warmth of the light and heat of the swirling water brings life to me. It’s one of the pleasures of calling the West Valley home in January.

This New Year began with one of these perfect days, allowing me quiet time to reflect on what I want to accomplish this year. Tumbled, tangled mental lists of everything I’ve failed at began to spill out. Resolutely, I determined to put them at the top of this year’s list. The more I drummed up, the dimmer the day became.

And then I stopped; realizing my fists were now tightly balled and my muscles were tense, despite the warm water and pulsating jets. Resolutions are supposed to make my life healthier and better, not give me a stomachache. Thinking long and hard for a moment, I opened my hands and let my list go. I watched the tangled mess swirl and drift away from me; it’s troubles eventually dissipating like the bubbles in my hot tub.

I allowed my mind to drift through moments when I’ve felt good about myself, proud of my outcomes. More of these moments should comprise my list. So this year, creating everyday graces in the lives of those I love makes the list. So does kindness. Civility. Compassion. Quietness. Mindfulness. My to do list became a “to be” list. And the day grew bright again.

Soaking in this concept, creativity and joy bubbled up, unbidden. And my hands, tightly balled just a few minutes earlier, were open and relaxed, eager to embrace what this New Year holds.

Shift Happens

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Stream of consciousness writing is something I diligently attempt to avoid – at least publicly. I have a rather eclectic amalgamation of immediate and extended family members, clients, Christians, atheists, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics who read my ramblings, which means that without an edit button and carefully crafted words I’m guaranteed to offend virtually everyone. However, I’m crazy tired – the kind of tired that causes me to drive several miles past my exit on the freeway because I’ve zoned out or circle three times through the grocery store because I can no longer remember where to find the cinnamon. And it’s been ages since I’ve written anything except what my clients pay me to write and there’s a lot of life going on right now so I’m going with stream of consciousness musings and will ask for forgiveness when I am less crazed and more well rested.

For those who care, we’re roughly three weeks into Lent. I will confess that I have a love/hate relationship with this season of the church year. It’s akin to that old joke that assures you, “after it stops hurting, it’s going to feel a lot better.” I usually like what I see as a result of this 40-day season, but the actual 40 days just suck. I really should use better and more spiritual vocabulary and tell you that they are a time of discipline… introspection… focused austerity. Sometimes that’s true – but, at least in my life, it’s almost always true that they suck. Even before I was aware of Lent, I can look back in my life and see that this general timeframe has consistently been a season of great upheaval and internal reorganization in my life.

This year, my Lenten observance has been overshadowed by the unrelenting demands of life. Over the past few months, I’ve become keenly aware of how exhausting it is to keep all of the bases covered and all the balls in the air. In this economy, earning a living is difficult. As a single mom who is self-employed, it is overwhelming. Even the tiniest shift of the scale can create a tipping point that upends everything, leaving me flailing as I try to regain my balance.

Finances are uncertain and money is scarce. Tip. Megan was in a car accident and is having continuing challenges with concussion symptoms. Tip. Her car is totaled and I have to buy a new one. Tip. My mother-in-law likely has only weeks to live and funeral arrangements and costs have to be addressed. Tip. The scales of life keep shifting and tipping and I find myself off balance. I think this year, my Lenten lesson is abundantly clear: Shift happens. The question becomes how to respond to the shift. (And yes, the pun is intended!)

If I was a more insightful writer, a more spiritual person, or perhaps less tired, I might have an answer. I don’t. Perhaps that’s part of the lesson. Each time I feel myself seesawing as life tips the scales, I find myself praying. In my better moments, the prayers are in complete sentences. Mostly, however, it’s simply me breathing in and out, whispering for God to somehow help… somehow show up… somehow keep me from falling. And somehow, when I reach my tipping point and I feel everything giving out from under me, God provides a counterbalance – a person who helps, an unexpected client project and income, or simply a moment of divine mercy when I’m able to catch my breath and find my footing, even if it’s only for a few moments.

It’s not sermon material and it definitely won’t end up in any of my client writings, but it’s the truth about these weeks in my life and this Lenten season. Shift happens. So does prayer. Somehow God shows up and keeps the scales from tipping. And, although I am bone weary and desperate for solid ground, I find myself so profoundly grateful for God’s provision and presence in the midst of a topsy-turvy life.

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