On the eve of transition, a game of “Would you rather?”

I religiously click on the BBC and Economist for news and have watched two looming administrations about to switch office.

 

The first is in my own country.

 

My favourite president of all US presidents is being swapped for someone who terrifies me to the depth of my being. The day after the election, I had to take the day off work to cry. This was after staying up all night for the results and getting horrified condolence calls from England and the middle of the Atlantic from a Navy boat, and long text convos from Germany and Iran at crazy o’clock. I woke up in a daze a few hours later and cried all day.

I didn’t even vote for Obama the first time around and I find myself 8 years later, so grateful and appreciative of the man I have called President, it makes me cry to think of his two terms being over. Despite the critics, (and I don’t even agree with everything he has done) I think he will go down as one of the greatest US presidents. I love him.

Check Pete Souza’s amazing photos of the president here:

skeptical-infants-peer-at-the-potus-through-a-windowphoto credit: Pete Souza

 

It makes me cry very different tears to think of the man replacing him.

I am not allowed to talk about politics so I will move on quickly.

 

 

Across the ocean, an acquaintance friend had to leave The Gambia this week because of the dangers of the transfer of powers in their own presidential election.

the-gambia-map.gif

 

The country is very unstable right now.

The Gambia’s “President” Yahya Jammeh (<cough> dictator <cough>) of the last twenty years has said he would “rule for a billion years.” He lost the election in November and quickly moved the goal posts telling their parliament to extend his term.

Yikes.

This week, the newly elected president Adama Barrow had to swear in as president outside of his own country as Senegal begins to send in troops to force the old president to leave so the people’s president can take over.

Pray for the Gambia right now. These things can get ugly.

Back on the homefront, amongst all the other things I was worried about in this election, the fact that Russia has been identified by the CIA and FBI as a manipulator of the emotions and opinions of our population through targetted online rhetoric and hacking is more than concerning. It is devastating. Don’t think emotional espionage and manipulation isn’t worse than other kinds.

But then I think of our history of involvement in other nations. The US is not guiltless. We have had a hand in overturning other country’s elected leaders, so maybe as one of my Latino friends says, “we are getting our justice.”

It is still disturbing.

In the US, we like to think we are safe from all of that corruption and a foolproof system.

 

We are not.

 

I  worry about the dignity and safety of women, the rights and protection of immigrants and refugees, the fueling of radical Islam by a man that wants to alienate American citizens through targeted profiling, how many of my dearest non-white friends don’t feel safe or welcome anymore even if they were born here, our stewardship of the environment, education, health care, human rights, Israel and Palestine, and foreign policy in general.

However, President Obama in his last address reminded us that a “peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”

“peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”.png

Flash over to The Gambia this week. How many nations around the world have elections and don’t know if the sitting leader will actually leave without a military coup or help from other nations? This is the way of elections for a significant part of the African continent very sadly.

No, I will take Obama’s gracious stepping down because his limit of two terms is up and a new leader has been elected any day over the election dysfunction of so many other countries.

It is good that we can transition peaceably.

It is a mark of distinction for the United States.

 

Protests are scheduled around the country this weekend.

 

Wait a second. What about a peaceful transition?

 

Can we protest and still believe that a transition of power peaceably is possible? Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?

I have watched the social media world critique those who protest harshly that “the election is over” and “people should shut up about it.”

However, I think the silencing of dissent is wrong.

I think if we do, we are doing a disservice to what it means to be American.

A healthy American election will mean that those leading the country will transition power peaceably. The president will step down. The military will not get involved. We will not need to have the sitting president forcibly removed by the UN or Canada so the results to an election can be carried out.

 

However, the first amendment of the Bill of Rights states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Speech, the press, the right to petition about grievances with government and the right to peaceably assemble are ours.

These are more American than apple pie. They have quite possibly existed longer than we have been eating apple pie. (I think Apple pie is actually from Europe).

We don’t want to be like The Gambia. We want our leaders to move on and let the election process move on peaceably.

However, we also do not want to ever prohibit or discourage peaceful marches and protests. Petitions nationally or to government officials about the concerns that we have not had a legitimate election if there has been foreign interference and of course that we are concerned for the appointments that have been made and the character and fairness and qualifications of the one who is to represent all of us are good petitions and complaints. They are not good that we need to do them but they are good that we are able to do them. We want the press to be free to question authority without being jailed or dismissed. These are all of what make us America.

We need those or we become another country where speech is suppressed and where dictators rule.

So play with me a game of “would you rather?”

Would you rather we get the leader the majority wants and a terrible exchange of power happens or we have a weekend free of protests?

I choose neither.

I choose peaceful transitions and protests abounding. 

A president that won fairly by a minority and a good president willfully stepping down all the while a weekend of protests and complaints around the nation continue is what makes us distinct and makes us American. It is what makes this country an oddity.

It is the system working and our freedoms being lived out.

We can debate the Electoral College another time.

 

 

 

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4 Tools for Reflection and Growth

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions as a general rule. I am far too much of a rebel and a non-conformist. I joined a gym during a March, not January, five or six years ago and have stuck with the pattern of it wherever I am. When every 8-year girl in America had New Kids on the Block lunch boxes and posters of Jordan on their wall, I thought the band was lame and had a subscription to Dog Fancy. Doing my own thing. Nonconformity.

It started young.

I can also freakishly identify rare breeds of dog on sight due to my misspent youth.

However this year I have almost considered resolutions. Not quite, but almost. I do love the idea of being intentional and I love the idea of growth despite rebelling against the first of the year. I love facing junk in life squarely and repenting, changing, starting fresh, growing from and not avoiding and all of those actionable steps that are involved in a life that does not stagnate. So I have some things I am being intentional about this year.. um.. I will still rebel from calling anything a resolution.. but ya… know.. some things I am working on might be in the cards but some are just carry ons from a few months ago.

To kick off 2017 I spent the last three days giving a little space and time to some tools I have found really helpful for growth. You might like them too:

1.) The Allender Center Podcast 

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I love all things Allender Center including the podcast, blogs and any books that Dan can write. They have had a huge influence in my development and overall healthiness as a person. I was happy to see a new podcast was up over the weekend with some helpful questions to reflect on the year we leave behind so we can move forward into what is next. Proper endings are necessary in order to begin again. Have a listen to the whole podcast but these were the four questions Dan has you dig into. I listened to the podcast a couple times to take it in while I was driving, journaled out the questions and am going to carve out an evening this week to journal what comes to mind with each of these. In the last year what are my:

1.) Themes – Compelling issues that came up again and again that I need to grapple with.

2.) Moments – What 5-8 moments from the year linger and have stayed with you?

3.) Heartache – Where was your heartache? Where did you weep? Where was there war for your heart over believing the goodness of God?

4.) Surprises – Where were you surprised? This is often where our core way of looking at the world gets upended and we get a more refined lens through which we look at it. It can be good or it can be very painful. Joy-filled, sweet, or terrifying.

 

2.) Tools for growth – the Birkman 

The Christian organization that I work for loves all things in the realm of assessment/development so I have taken the Myers-Briggs (twice), Strengths Finder, DISC, Birkman, and probably something else I have forgotten about. I chose one, my Birkman and pulled it out yesterday to read. The Birkman is one of the more complicated and I find harder to explain assessments but really a really good tool especially when evaluating decisions on where you are going. It showcases both what your motivators are as well as your stresses. I found it helpful yesterday even at a glance to then look at my life and work now and evaluate what has been good and bad and what needs to change. You can look into it here.

 

3.) The Enneagram: walking towards an honest look.

I didn’t list one more assessment I did with work. It wasn’t one of the mandatory ones but I asked if I could do it on hearing someone refer to it in a talk. While the other assessments tell you how you excel, the Enneagram is different. It has the uncanny, disturbing ability to show you your worst self.

Why would anyone want to do this to themselves?

Reality, is your friend someone once said to me.

The Enneagram showcases a few nice things about you, but mostly, it shows off your neurosis, your disturbing behaviour, your weaknesses, or as one missionary put it to me, “the sin in your life and when you are not walking with Jesus.” Sometime after having my enneagram done I brought it up to my counselor and she recommended a book. We talked about it a bit in counseling but that was awhile ago so I pulled out the chapter for my “type” today and read it.

It made me squirm a bit.

We can’t grow by burying our heads in the sand.

If you want to do some heart checking and get a great place to apply some growth pressure take your enneagram for $10. Do some reading about your type. You can probably pick up this book from a library. Mine was from Amazon. If you are a Christian, take it before God and pray and reflect. If you are not a Christian or are you can still read it and ask others around you for feedback. Is there some places in your life you need to repent of or change, where do you need to meditate on truth?

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One of the things I connected as I was reading this was that one of my strengths in the Strengths Finder is Includer.

That’s great. I am looking out for other people.

But what the enneagram does for me is ask,”Why? Why am I an Includer?” It’s not always for good reasons. When I am doing well and am healthy and secure and know God loves me, this part of me will shine and shower grace and love on others.

But when I am unhealthy and not doing well?

There is a part of me that needs people to love me and can be driven for approval so much that I will draw other people in, they feel showered on and adored but it is not coming from genuine love and freedom in me but from a manipulative need for other people to like me. That is where I will go when I am unhealthy and not believing truth. I am really tempted to delete those last few sentences.  But.

Reality is your friend right?

The Enneagram will show a range from when any type is healthy and thriving and their best self to the darker sides they hold if they are unhealthy. I like the enneagram because it’s a good place to go to dig into your heart and to be honest. It’s good to be able to spot warning sides. It’s good for repentance and understanding where you are likely to be tripped up by sin.

I’m going to carve out a bit more time over the next few weeks to give myself a heart check.

 

4. Digging into the Bible (my heart needs to be shaped by God’s word)

I have listened to a couple sermons dealing with some heart issues I am finding challenging at the moment since Sunday.

The last few months I read through all of the Old Testament because of a class I was taking. It was so good to sweep over such a big chunk of the Bible, but I think this semester I am going to spend a few months digging deep in just one place, meditating on God’s word, letting it sink in. I am taking a class on Hebrews, a book at the end of the New Testament so it will be that book, which I am looking forward to reading.

If you’ve never read the Bible, I’d suggest picking it up, finding the contents page and opening up to Marks gospel. Ask, “What does this teach me about God? What does this teach me about us? What should I do after reading this? Is God saying something to me here? And for those who are very much skeptics, “What if all that is written here is true?”

My experience with the audio bible to help me read the Old Testament this autumn was great. If you drive a lot, get the Bible.is app and have a listen in some big swaths.

Desiring God is great for Bible resources, sermons, free books, learning how to read the Bible, short answers to hard questions etc.