Tag Archives: North Carolina

Reflections on #NCCPilgrimage16

This week, my 13-year-old, Mary, shares her thoughts and reflections on this year’s Pilgrimage, a weekend-long worship extravaganza for United Methodist youths. 

I had been looking forward to Pilgrimage 2016 since last year, when I went to Pilgrimage 2015.  The youth conference was only for United Methodist youth and was located in Fayetteville, North Carolina at Crown Coliseum.  The youth could bring friends, which almost all the youth in my small church youth group did happily last year.  We arrived in high spirits and had a joyous time singing and worshipping together with 5,000+ United Methodist youth from all over North Carolina in one place, youth of different colors, languages, and pasts.  I learned that we all made “Pilgrimage clothespins,” which were plain, wooden clothespins with inspirational messages on the sides.  We would then clip them onto the clothing of other people and merge into the crowd, knowing later they would read it and it would make them smile.  Getting clipped was an amazing thing, reading at night encouraging and uplifting messages of hope, love, and God.

This year, I began to count down the days until Pilgrimage 2016.  I was excited, as was my entire youth group.  This year, we didn’t bring friends and instead of a hotel we stayed in a camp.  We were looking forward to arriving at the coliseum for a life-changing experience, as we had last year.  I spent half the summer making Pilgrimage clips, painting them in bright colors and putting brilliant life quotes and Bible verses on the sides.  My buddy and I passed out a few of our clips Friday night, feeling grand knowing we made people smile.

Saturday morning, again, my buddy and I passed out clips, giving away my remaining twelve.  We sat down, ready for the hope of an amazing second session of Pilgrimage.  Instead, we were told that if we had a Pilgrimage clip on our being we would be immediately sent home.  The speaker of this year’s Pilgrimage sessions dished out hate at the clips.  Everyone was told to throw away their clips at the trashcans near the entrances; whether or not everyone did and instead risked their time pocketing the clips, I don’t know.

That evening, when we arrived at the coliseum, the cheerful atmosphere was missing from the entire building.  Everyone was more subdued than normal, not much chattering was going on, everyone in almost a thoughtful silence.  Passing out those clips was tradition, and in fact, taking that away angered many adults.  The knowledge of not being able to do that anymore took out half the joy in Pilgrimage, because with those clips, you knew you’d make someone smile.  We all took our seats half an hour before the third session started.  Once it had begun, one of the Pilgrimage coordinators went onstage and explained why we couldn’t have the clothespins.  A few Hispanic, Latino, and Asian youth groups had gotten bullying pins that said, “I love Trump!” on one side and “Build that wall!” on the other.  One of the chaperones from a Hispanic youth group – Stacy – got up and took the stage.

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The beginning of Stacy’s speech was good, explaining how she felt unwanted because of harassing clips her youth group had received and stares that greeted her the day before.  She made mention of how she’d grown up being bullied and understanding how it felt to be an outsider.  In school, she had to teach herself English, because her family didn’t know the language.  During recess, when everyone was playing dodgeball, people would say, “Get out that Mexican girl!  Get her out so she could return to where she came from!”

She explained how hurt she felt as she walked into the coliseum when people were looking at them as if to say, What are you doing here?  You don’t belong here.  However, then she started to make comments, such as how “the message of the red hat and the message of the wall is not the message of the gospel.”  A few youth that greeted her were wearing red Make America Great Again hats, which she found offensive.  “The message of the red hat was not a message of inclusion and welcome; it was a message of disinclusion (sic) and discrimination.”  More of the speech told us that the hat represented a person whose message was unwelcome and discriminatory toward women, Latino, African American, and Hispanic people as well as others.  “And this is not the message of the gospel,” Stacy told the many thousand youth listening.  “So today, we wanted to tell you, if you really believe that the Holy Spirit is here, if you really want to welcome the Holy Spirit, then take off your red hats.”

Being a true American citizen, she had a right to say that.  The freedom of speech is still true, no matter where you are.  But many of us believe that she was speaking to the wrong people.  Here we were, in a place supposed to be a destination to learn more about God and worship together, only the chaperones able to vote, getting politics in our faces.  It seemed as if all us Caucasians were labeled as Trump supporters and racists, even though there were only a few people at fault.  We were labeled as haters towards anyone who is darker colored, and I know that that is not the truth about most of the youth present that night.

See, as Christians, we are supposed to be loving towards everyone, not just people with the same skin tone as us.  Stacy judged us in her own stereotypes, taking the little she knew from the few minutes they stayed the first night and running and accusing all of us of being like that, when I know that loads of youth groups there would’ve welcomed her in.  She tried to blame us all for something only a few people did.  You don’t know the past of the youth who wore those hats.  No one in our youth group saw them.  They might have been using them as warmth, given that inside the coliseum was still really cold.  They might not have had much money, so since it was cold around the coliseum and outside, that one hat may have been the only one in their family.  We never know what the inside story about people are until we get to know them, but we often don’t take time to and instead make snap decisions.  Stacy was willing to tell us about her back story, but she didn’t take time to know the stories of others.  We as people have our own opinions, and if we want to wear a hat with our opinions on it, why should we be stopped?  What Stacy did was right in the respect that she did have freedom of speech, but wrong in many respects.

1) Wrong place, wrong time.  She should not have thrown politics into the matter.  She started off strong, but she quickly fell.

2) How many of us youth could vote?  That’s right, next to none.  Again, she shouldn’t have put in politics.

3) She didn’t respect the fact that we all have our own opinions.  Instead, she made a bigger issue out of it all.

4) She labeled us all incorrectly instead of just the people with the hats.  She labeled us all as haters and Trump supporters, not Christian people who would welcome everyone gladly.

I was grateful when our livid youth leader said that we were leaving after the speech was over.  We decided that since the Pilgrimage pins were taken from us, we would make up some and return to church the next day where we knew we’d be accepted lovingly so we could clip these pins on people.  We were up bright and early Sunday morning to get on the road, and we had fun clipping others.  I have made up my mind that every time I visit that church, I’m going to clip a handful of people.  I can also do it at general places such as grocery stores, restaurants, and gatherings.  I can spread love easily through a simple clip.

On a closing note, I believe that our image of what the weekend was going to be was different from God’s plan.  I was really grateful that we returned to church early, because we made many people smile with the joy we shared and the enthusiasm we brought with us at the sheer idea of returning.  Our pastor was absolutely livid, something I’ve never seen before in my life, and she explained that what happened should not have and that there was no place for it in a church setting.  Everyone went out of their way to show us some extra love after the horrible time we’d just had.  We all learned things from that experience, but the most important of them all was just how it feels to be labeled as one thing when only a few people were the cause.  Such as how Hispanic people are all being labeled as illegal, lazy, and/or drug dealers, when I know many who are perfectly legal, have great jobs, and hate the idea of drugs.  We think that Muslims are in support of ISIS, and that Blacks are associated with gangs and ‘hoods.  But really, it’s not true.  There are White gangs as well, and yet we never want to look at them.  What we don’t want to realize is that there are actually only a few immigrants who are illegal, and yet we want to say that every one of them is here illegally and subject to deportation.

 

My Thoughts About Bathrooms, Hate, and Transgender People

I tried to stay silent about this as long as possible, but my “as long as possible” didn’t last very long.  At the end of March, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special legislative session to push through a law, HB2.  That law was passed in both chambers and signed off by the governor before the 11:00 news.  It went into effect on 1 April 2016, and things have gone downhill since.

HB2, aka, “the Bathroom Bill,” says, among other things, that people must go into the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.  This means that, a transgender male – imagine someone 5’8″ tall, buff, bearded, and visibly male – who has not had gender reassignment surgery or had their birth certificate changed, must go into the ladies’ restroom.  Am I the only woman and mother of young daughters who’s not comfortable with this?  I have nothing against people who are transgender; as I’ve said before, I have friends who are transgender.  My problem is, now I don’t know if that man described above is a transgender male obeying a civil law, or if he’s a sex offender taking advantage of the ease of going into the ladies’ room this law provides in order to attack my daughters or me.  Should I wait and see if he’ll go into a stall, or if he’ll pull out a knife or gun, by which point, it’ll be too late?  So, thank you, NCGA, for creating the very opposite situation of what you claimed to be after and putting ALL us women and our children at risk for sexual violence – not at the hands of people who are transgender who are just in the bathroom to do their business, but at the hands of violent sex offenders who don’t care about laws and never have who can now walk into public bathrooms claiming to be transgender.

As a result of HB2, my state stands to lose federal funding for education.  So much for our General Assembly and governor being “about the children.”  My state has lost businesses.  My state has lost wonderful, tax-paying citizens who no longer felt safe living here who have moved to other states.  North Carolina has already lost a significant amount of revenue and stands to lose billions – yes BILLIONS, with a B! – more.  My state no longer allows people who get discriminated against at work based on religion, gender, age, race, or orientation sue for discrimination at the state level; those suits now have to go to the federal courts to decide, a process which takes an easy three years, far longer than the 180 days the state gives for resolution in such matters.  HB2 prohibits teachers from going into students’ bathrooms in schools.  Hopefully that mean, nasty bully isn’t beating your child to a pulp in the bathroom between classes, since the law is so about “keeping children safe.”

And in the most ironic element of this law of all…  In HB2, the state prohibits individual cities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws and their own minimum wage laws.  In case you haven’t figured it out, yet, the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor are all far right conservatives.  You know, smaller government?  I’m sure they thought it was an abomination when the US Supreme Court decided that gays and lesbians have equal rights and made this federal law the law of the land, totally overstepping states’ rights to govern themselves in this matter.  Yet, the North Carolina government is doing the exact same thing in our state to our counties and cities!

Obviously, when this law came out, there was talk everywhere.  To be honest, I finally had to step away from Facebook for a while, because the plethora of “Pat McCrory saved our children!” posts were going to cost some friendships, and I try to respect my friends’ views, even if I disagree with them.  Over against that was the continued hate speech against transgender people, mostly the result of manufactured fear by the media and ignorance.  Here’s the thing – transgender people are so much like you and me.  They get up in the mornings, go to work, fulfill their responsibilities to their bosses, come home, spend time with family, go to bed.  They pretty much live under the radar, just like the rest of us do.  And they’re fine with that.  In fact, they feel safer under the radar.

The transgender people I know (that I know are transgender) – both women – are smart, attractive, bad-ass, loving people.  One is married; I went to her wedding 3 1/2 years ago.  There, incidentally, is where I met the other, who is engaged.  In fact, I just found out the married woman is transgender about five weeks ago, and the latter, last year.  These women live their lives, do their things, take care of their loved ones.  The fact that I’d known them both so long before knowing their backstories should tell you something:  Neither of them flamboyantly advertised the fact they’re transgender.

And I think that J and S are typical of almost all transgender people in America – and the world.  Caitlyn Jenner is not the face of and spokesperson for people who are transgender, and, personally, I don’t consider her brave or admirable.  Bruce probably went to some extremely private hospital in another country with the top gender reassignment specialists in the world, took a six-month “vacation,” and came back as Caitlyn.  Now, Caitlyn claims she wants to “be just like everyone else.”  Maybe she should give up her cadre of body guards and come hang out in a state where transgender people face police harassment, threats, government-sanctioned discrimination, and threats of and actualized bodily harm – all because her physical, outer self didn’t mesh up with her mental/emotional inner self.

Pediatricians and geneticists are now recognizing that people who are transgender could have genitalia, brains, and chromosomes that don’t match up.  For example, a person could have male genitalia (“look” male), but have female chromosomes and female brains.  Brain science research is now providing us with a reason why transgender people, even from an early age, may “feel” like they’re the wrong gender.  At birth, doctors determine gender only by outer genitalia, not chromosomal testing.

For those of us in the church, this presents something of a theological conundrum:  Did God make a mistake?  Short answer – No.  Do we look at a child with Down’s Syndrome and think that God made a mistake?  Of course not!  Do we think God messed up when a child is born with a deformed arm?  Never!  God doesn’t make mistakes in how God makes us.  Each and every one of us is created in the image of God.  The Psalmist says, “I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  This goes for all of us.  Sometimes, we face challenges in how we’re made – life challenges – and those challenges will either break us if we try to rely purely on ourselves; they’ll give us a source of strength and determination; or through our uniqueness, we will allow God’s love to appear to others.

If I may borrow from my younger daughter’s favorite Disney movie to wrap this up…  “Love is stronger than fear.”  As we are made in the image of God, and God is love, then we also are called on to love our neighbors who are transgender.  You may see them differently than I do, and that’s OK.  But for heaven’s sake, get to know someone who’s transgender.  If you’re going to profess Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, then (literally) by all that is holy, act like it and love even those who you feel are unlovable.  And you know what’ll happen?  (This is great!)  You won’t be afraid of them anymore, and you won’t hate them anymore, and you’ll begin to recognize all the bull crap the mainstream media and social media outlets are spewing for what it is.  And you will please God.  I’m thinking that’s a win all the way around.

Let me take a moment to direct you to this great article I drew some from, written by a fellow Baptist: https://baptistnews.com/2016/05/13/seven-things-im-learning-about-transgender-persons/#.VzgsSsiznvB.facebook.

Leaving a Legacy

Lord, we thank thee for this food and all blessings we receive.  For Christ’s sake, amen.

Every meal at my Grandparents Streib’s house began with this simple prayer that my grandpa would say.  I learned Saturday that my Great-Grandparents Streib didn’t bless meals, but my Great-Grandparents Wethington (Grandmother’s people) did, so when my grandparents got married, Grandpa asked Grandmother to bless so that he could learn the blessing.  The other beauty of this blessing is, it recognizes that God gives us our blessings – all of them, both big and small – and that we thank God as part of our connection to God through Jesus.  (Remembering this blessing has helped me over the past week to appreciate my own blessings more, modest though they may seem to someone who’s more materialistic.)

Grandpa died early Friday morning peacefully in his sleep after a very long, rich, blessed life.  The memorial service was today, and it reflected his values.  The service exuded the faith with which he lived his life, and he, a decorated WWII vet, received military honors.  He didn’t like talking about the war, and it’s said that he never really forgave the Japanese (knowing Grandpa, I have a hard time believing that).  However, he was very proud of his service to his country in the US Army.  Plus, if he’d never gone off to war, Grandmother and he would never have met.

Grandpa was a gardener who could create rich, loamy soil that produced abundant crops.  He was a builder with parts of several churches in their area to his credit, as well as their home.  And he was a master carpenter, building clever toys and expertly crafted furniture.  One piece he made is a box.  Grandpa crafted this box from wood from trees from the family farm in Ohio and their home here in North Carolina.  It’s gorgeous.  Two types of wood worked together and lightly varnished with a cut-out double heart on the front.  The inside holds his ashes.  When Grandmother – his wife of 67 years – dies, her ashes will join his.  They will be together in death as they were in life.

In the same way Grandpa tended and  cultivated his garden, he also tended his marriage.  He epitomized the description of how Paul says husbands should treat their wives, loving them completely and sacrificially.

What great lessons he left to his children, grandchildren and all those who knew him!  And what an incredible legacy of love, sacrifice, and quality work he left!  I got over 40 years with Grandpa and was able to see him shower my daughters with his warm, quiet, genuine love.  I watched him talk woodworking and fishing with my husband, a man after his own heart.  We will miss him, but we know he’s fishing in a far-away Crystal Sea and hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Mistress of my Destiny

Wipe our Debt

Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

So, it happened.  Obama was re-elected president and many peope are unhappy about it.  Personally, and if you’ll pardon a moment of crudity, I was pretty certain that, whoever was elected, the American people were in for a major butt-screwing.  Between Obama’s spend-happy ways and Romney’s reputation for outsourcing jobs, I wasn’t seeing any end to the current economic mess the country’s in.  Because I frankly didn’t trust either candidate to turn the economy around, I started planning months ago how best to keep my business and household going, even during the economic mess.

First, it doesn’t matter who is in office, and it doesn’t matter who is sitting in Congress.  The bottom line is, only I control my money.  I control my spending and my debts.  I control how I spend my money and how I save it.  The country might be in debt, but that doesn’t mean I have to be.  The government may decide to spend money recklessly, but nothing and no one is making me do that.  You see, just because the government may do something or the majority of my fellow Americans may do something does not mean I have to make those same choices.  (Yes, debt is a choice.)

Second, I control my business.  I own a small business, and the products I make are made in America, in a small lab in North Carolina.  While I, as a citizen business owner in my state and my nation, am responsible for paying my share of taxes and fees, ultimately, I am in charge of dictating how I will run my business.  I’m the one who decides my business structure and determines my plan.  All too often I’ve heard small business owners complain about how the economy is hurting their businesses.  Hey!  Guess what?  I’m a small business owner who’s running her business in these same troubled economic times, and my business has shown slow but steady growth over the past five years and is doing very well.  The economy shouldn’t be an excuse for business failure; it should be the catalyst for business growth!

Third, I’m responsible for leaving my daughters a legacy of success.  A lot of political pundits will say that our children and our children’s children are inheriting the debt of the current administration, and that’s probably true.  It’s no secret that the national debt has risen astronomically in the past four years.  However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t teach my children wise asset management and guide them in biblical principles relating to money and debt.  Seeing us on our financial peace journey will hopefully empower them to be good stewards of what they have.  I want to leave my children a fabulous legacy – not just wealth, but a right attitude toward money and how much good it can do to serve others.

I encourage and empower you to decide what you’re going to do in order to take care of your future.  Taxes are outside of our control, but they don’t have to drive us under or prevent us from getting ahead.

New Trend in Social Networking?

Friendship

Friendship (Photo credit: Iguanasan)

It starts simply enough.  You’re hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, responding to posts, chatting with people, and just enjoying connecting with people who may live across town or across the world.  The friendship starts online, but then develops to the point where you’d dare anyone to say it isn’t real.  Perhaps you can laugh with this person or even call them up in the middle of the night when things are going wrong.  You may call and end up speaking to their spouse or child, and vice versa.  The connection grows.  In some cases you may send a text meant just for your friend that gets intercepted by her teenage son and embarrasses the heck out of him.  (Oh, good times!)

Then you have an opportunity to meet.  This is especially valuable when your friends and you live states away from each other.  Last year, a friend from New York (we live in North Carolina) had to drive home at the last minute from her Florida vacation due to weather-related flight cancellations.  She needed a place to stop overnight, and without thinking, I offered her mom, son and her beds for the night.  Their visit was way too short, but I knew they were ready to get home.

When your online friends live in-state, then you have better opportunities to see each other on a more regular basis and become real-life friends.  This brings me to what I’m seeing as a new trend…

Once your online friends become your real-life friends, then you want to integrate them into your real life.  You want them to meet your family, and you want to meet theirs.  It reminds me of how, when we’re children, we’re so proud of both our parents and our friends that we want to introduce them.  We love them both, and we want our friends to meet our awesome, loving parents, and we want our parents to meet our way cool friends.  We want to know that part of our friends that exists away from just us.

I have a friend with whom I’ve been spending some time this Summer, and this friend happens to have a daughter the same age as my older daughter.  They’ve become great friends, and Bobby‘s daughter has even adopted my toddler as her baby sister.  Likewise, my toddler hears my friend’s name and says his daughter’s name.  (Got all that?  It’s confusing without names.)  He’s become like an uncle to my girls, especially since their blood uncle never contacts them.

The time has come for Bobby and his daughter to meet my family, and for my girls and me to meet his family.  Last Thursday, I met Bobby’s mom.  I was understandably nervous, but Bobby assured me his mom would love me.  I’m not sure I’d quite go that far after just one meet and a few posts back and forth on Facebook, but we do get along quite well and are already making plans to get together again, probably with my girls along.

Likewise, Bobby and his daughter may soon have the opportunity to meet my family.  Bobby’s not at all nervous about it, which surprises me, given he’ll be meeting a lot more of my family than I met of his.  Honestly, I’ll be a little nervous about it, too.  It’ll be fine, and we’re going to have a fun time.  We have reached the point where we’re saying, “You’re a special part of my life, and I want you to meet some other important people, too.”

Have you had an online friendship move toward real life?  What did that look like for you?

Why I’m Voting Against

North Carolina State Line: Warren County

North Carolina State Line: Warren County (Photo credit: taberandrew)

I’m going to dare to tackle a very controversial issue – that of North Carolina’s Amendment One.  This amendment would deny rights to unmarried couples of all orientations that married people currently have.    These rights include:  The freedom to speak to a partner’s health care wishes; the right of both partners to maintain guardianship over their children; and the right of domestic partners to seek legal protection in the case of abuse.

Who are these people who should enjoy these rights?  The defeat of this amendment would grant these rights to pretty much all unmarried people living in domestic partnerships currently and going forward.  If Amendment One were to pass, then here are some of the “social advances” we can anticipate:

  • Children born to unmarried partners could be removed from their parents and placed into foster care, further burdening a system inundated with children.
  • Abused partners in domestic partnerships would have no protection under the laws of the state.
  • Senior citizens who are living together in order to protect their full pension and Social Security benefits would risk losing part of their benefits.
  • Unwed partners would be unable to speak for each other’s health care wishes.

There have been a lot of conservative Christians coming out and speaking for Amendment One, but I am unsure how anyone can call themselves a Christ-follower and support the sheer lack of compassion inherent in this bill.  Have we become so horrendously legalistic that we have to have a law that says we don’t care about the welfare and rights of a large percentage of the state’s population?

Those who are ignorant of exactly what this law entails argue that Amendment One “protects marriage” by not allowing homosexuals to marry.  That’s not even an issue in this law.  In North Carolina, it is already illegal for homosexuals to marry, and the defeat of Amendment One would not overrule that law.  What the defeat would do is grant domestic abuse protection for those in these unions.  The defeat of the bill would enable one partner to speak on their loved one’s behalf in the event of a medical situation, and it would protect their families if there are children in the home.

In the months since Amendment One passed through our state’s General Assembly, I’ve heard some of the most ridiculous statements:

“If Amendment One doesn’t pass, then gays would be able to get married.”  I’ve already addressed that one.

“If Amendment One fails, then gays having rights would threaten the faith of this great state.”  Huh?  One, there is no “state faith“; two, if a mere law can present a threat to your faith, then you’ve got some serious issues already that have nothing to do with the rights of others.

“Gays getting married are a threat to the institution of marriage.”  Am I the only one who thinks this is one of the stupidest statements ever?  As I’ve previously stated, homosexual marriage is already illegal in North Carolina.  Can someone please explain to me how two people who love each other and are committed to each other can threaten that love and commitment for everyone else?  This sort of goes back to what I said about gay marriage being a threat to the faith of North Carolinians.  If two people living together and loving each other present a threat to your marriage, then your marriage has very serious issues already that no law would impact.  However, since this bill isn’t about gay marriage at all, this point is moot.

I encourage all those who strive to live and love as Jesus would to VOTE AGAINST Amendment One.  Jesus told us to love everyone and to judge no one.  The defeat of Amendment One would show Christ’s love and compassion to so many North Carolina citizens, from the very young to the very old.  It would also show the compassion and love of Jesus to the vulnerable and the sick, those very people to whom Jesus said we should show his love.