Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miss California

I really empathized with Miss California in April. I know about losing a title because of one pageant question.

Many years ago, I was a contestant in the Miss Teen Kankakee pageant. I felt the crown was within my reach. That is until I came to that pesky question section.

They asked me some question about being a lawyer. "Hey," I thought. "I don’t want to be a lawyer. The other contestant, Lisa, wants to be a lawyer. That question’s not for me."

I stumbled and bumbled through an answer, totally taken off my game by the unexpected question. I ended up with the second place trophy and stayed in bed mourning the next day, until my father finally told me to get up.

That question had cost me the crown.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, said she believed she lost the Miss USA crown when celebrity blogger judge Perez Hilton asked her if she believed same-sex marriage should be legal across the country.

“Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage,” Hilton said. “Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not?”

Prejean, like me, also seemed to bumble a bit and be caught off guard at first before she gave the following answer:

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other," she said. "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

In the end, Miss California was named the first runner up, but ended up getting more attention for that one answer than Miss “What’s Her Name” who actually won the crown.

Later, Hilton described Prejean as a dumb “b” (rhymes with itch). She has been lauded and lambasted for her answer. She has been interviewed and appeared in commercials defending traditional marriage. Photos of her posing in lingerie have been posted on the Web.

It’s strange to me that someone would be publicly derided because they state a belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. How did we come to this point? For all of human existence and in every culture that I know of, marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman. Does it now make you an oddball to say what has been the case throughout human history or that would have seemed a few years ago to be an obvious and ridiculous question?

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures American citizens certain rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Perez Hilton asked the question and Miss California gave him an answer. She expressed what she believed. By the way, her answer was the same basic answer that has been given by President Barack Obama and other politicians including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when asked about same-sex marriage.

I do not see same-sex marriage as a question of civil rights. I believe in equal rights for all citizens. An adult person of sound mind should be able to leave their property to whomever they wish. People should also be able to say who they want to make health choices for them if they are incapacitated and who they want to receive benefits from their death.

But I also believe in the Bible. I believe that God’s Word and his law supersede man’s law. And I believe, like Miss California, and many others, that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that marriage is not a civil rights issue but an institution ordained by God. It always has been and it always will be.

Man may change his laws. The California Supreme Court recently upheld Proposition 8 which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. One day, that may not be the case in this country. Man may redefine marriage. But whatever man may say, what God says will remain and be true-- yesterday, today and forever.

"And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Genesis 2:22-24

Service vs. Status

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 14:11(NIV)

One Sabbath, Jesus was dining at the home of a prominent Pharisee. He noticed how the guests were jockeying for positions at the table.

He gave those there a bit of advice. He told them when someone invites you to a feast, don’t sit yourself in the seat of honor because you might be asked to move. Instead, Jesus said to take the lowest place and let the host sit you in the seat of honor.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Jesus said.

If Jesus came to some of our churches today, I’m afraid he would find the same scenario.

Many people are jockeying for positions of power. Some are always clawing and scratching to be on top. They cherish their position, but they don’t have a heart for people. They want to have big names and be recognized. But they don’t want to spend time and energy doing the real work of ministry.

They want to have status, but they don’t want to serve.

It’s human to want acknowledgement and appreciation. But what is the motive of our service?Are we looking for status or to serve?

Jesus said the greatest in his kingdom are those who serve. Jesus was the Son of God. But he could wash his disciples’ feet. The Creator could crouch down and wash the dirty dusty feet of his creation. Jesus was able to do this because he knew who he was and he knew his purpose.

Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

When we know our purpose and our value in Christ, we don’t have to claw and crave for recognition. When our emphasis is service, not status, Jesus himself will place us in a seat of honor.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just a Mom

“Mom, when are you going to get a job?”

“I have a job. I take care of you.”

“No. I mean a real job.”

So went the conversation with my son Malik and daughter Imani. The next day was “Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day” and I figure my children were feeling deprived. They didn’t have a place to go. Dad worked as a professor downtown in the evening, so they knew they couldn’t go to work with him. Although Malik suggested he might go to Starbucks with Dad, a place he knows his father often does a lot of writing during the day.

“I work from home,” I explained.

“But when are you going to get a real job?” Malik asked.

I went into a brief dissertation of what the “job” of motherhood involved, but to a 7-year-old boy, being a mom was not a real job. A real job entailed getting up and going somewhere every day. A real job was not what Mom did.

I understand. For him being a mother was not a “job.” It was who I am.

I used to have the same conundrum when people would ask me “What do you do?”

For many of the last 17 years, I have been a stay-at-home mother. And sometimes I felt dumbfounded when asked the question, “What do you do?”

In my own mind, I figured the expectation was to have a sterling resume of accomplishments, awards and accolades. It almost seemed like a disappointment or that I was living below my potential to say I was a stay-at-home mother. Many times I felt like a failure because I could not say my professional accomplishments.

Although we pay lip service as a society to motherhood being the most important job in the world, so many mothers are made to feel that what they do is not significant.

I met a young mother in Florida in February who was raising two pre-schoolers. Her husband lamented that when she met people and they asked her what she did, she would reply, “I’m just a mom.”

“She’s incredible,” said her husband. “I try to tell her that what she does is the most important thing in the world.”

Just a mom. How often do mothers, whether stay at home or “working” mothers who go outside of the home every day and bare the awesome privilege and responsibility of motherhood feel that way.

I’m glad to say now that I was able to encourage that mother and tell her how I had felt the same way.

I don’t know exactly when it changed. I don't know exactly when I stopped feeling like I had to almost apologize for being "just a mom." Maybe I just stopped caring about what others definition of success and expectations were and started feeling comfortable in my own skin and about my own life decisions. Maybe I just decided to believe that God’s Word was true and that my worth was not determined by what I did but by who I was and whose I was.

It’s not just about the question, “What do you do?” I think the more important question is “Who are you?”

What do you believe in? What have you invested your life in? In 100 years from now, what will you have left that really matters? I believe our character and what we have poured into the lives of others are the some of the things that will stand the test of time and that transfer on to the next generation and beyond.

My son wrote me a pre-Mother’s Day card the other day. It read, “You’re a cool mom. I decided you need a cool card.” Inside the card was a drawing of him and me driving in the car under a sunny sky.

I’m just a mom. A cool mom. Just a cool mom with the best “job” in the world.
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