I don’t remember much about September 11th. Fifteen days earlier, after my water broke at only 27 ½ weeks gestation, my daughter Isabel was born, weighing only 2 pounds.

It is September 12th I remember, when I drove nearly an hour to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. As I drove past the hospital toward the parking area, I noticed that it seemed like everyone, doctors, nurses, and patients, was outside of the hospital. I asked someone what was going on, and they told me that there had been a bomb threat. My two-pound daughter, her wrist small enough for her father’s wedding band to fit it like a giant gold bangle bracelet, was still inside the NICU, one of only two departments not having yet been evacuated. The only parking spot I could find was at the Stanford mall, and I ran, c-section scar not entirely healed and all, breathless and crying, and told the security guards posted at the hospital door that I had to go inside because my daughter was still in there. Somehow they let me in, and I waited, anxiously, with my daughter and the nurses, pretty much the only people left, until we were assured that all was clear (how do they really know that, anyway?). Days later, someone told me the incident was instigated by a prank call from a Stanford student.

In the days and months that followed, with all of the fear and trembling we as individuals and as a nation had to endure, George W. Bush made me feel safe, like I could rest well at night, because he had things under control.

Six years later, after my husband was laid off from his high tech job, and we went from a six-figure income to digging for change on the floor of our car to have enough money for gas, George W. Bush vetoed providing health insurance to my uninsured, formerly two-pound baby.

A lifelong Republican, I am looking for, as the Poison song goes, “Something to Believe In.” Yes, I know that politicians are human, and disappointment is inevitable, but there seems to be a core of integrity that some people possess, and others don’t. While some Republican issues are important to me, like abortion, I think it’s important to face the fact that it’s extremely unlikely, after 35 years, that Roe V. Wade will be overturned. Other issues, like loving the poor, have been virtually ignored by the party I have been told embraces my values. (How does a “compassionate conservative” deny health insurance to any child?) The agenda set by the moral majority these last many years doesn’t accurately reflect the Bible I read. In the end, the only way to change people’s behavior is to change their hearts. You can’t legislate that.

Partisan politics don’t appeal to me. I don’t think I am alone. Proverbs 13:12a says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and I think there are a whole bunch of us out here tired of being heartsick. We want to hope again, believe that we can be more than we are, while also stopping along the way to lend a hand to the oppressed and the overlooked. We want to dream again, listen to a president whose words send chills down the backs of our legs, whose speeches make us cry and remember who we are. In the end, our country is not simply an intellectual exercise in democracy, but rather an enterprise in which we invest our hearts, souls and minds. It’s time to fall in love with America again, and we’re looking for someone to light the spark. Obama’s the one.

Michele Franks

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I have been upset for about a week after reading in the appendix of a Christian book on motherhood the author’s words of advice on plastic surgery (she has had at least one surgery, and offers advice from her own plastic surgeon on how to select a plastic surgeon). I was horrified. How does plastic surgery fit into the Christian’s life? (And how does a discussion on plastic surgery fit into a MOPS book about being a mom?)

I have scoured the internet to find words of wisdom on the topic, to get a definitive Christian position, and today I realized I am looking in the wrong place. I need to look at God’s word.

First of all, let me say, that if you are saved by the blood of Jesus, you are covered with immeasurable grace, as am I, and our screw-ups, mistakes, and even rebellion, can be forgiven. In addition, surgery to correct some disfiguring condition is not what I am discussing.

What I found on the internet is that there are Christians using all kinds of Bible verses to both justify and condemn plastic surgery. (One Christian woman in a panel discussion questioned how her teenaged daughter was to find a mate if she did not make herself as attractive as possible, even using plastic surgery, if necessary.) In short, to those who want to advocate plastic surgery, grace allows it, and we need to make ourselves attractive to be winsome Christians; those who oppose it cite admonitions to be self-sacrificial and not proud, and to use our God-given resources more wisely, like to spread God’s word, or to love the poor.

As followers of Christ, how then shall we live? What is our focus to be? Are we dancing up to the edge of wordliness, asking what is okay, what we can get away with, trying to justify our self-centeredness, or are we so preoccupied with being more like Jesus that we just don’t have much time to look at how the world, even our brothers and sisters in Christ, are doing things? (And, by the way, if we weren’t watching so much television, looking at so many magazines, following so many Hollywood celebs, where would we have gotten these notions about beauty and aging anyway?)

I think this falls into the Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV) category, “these things” referring to what we shall drink, what we shall eat, and what we shall wear (and plastic surgery and our appearance also kind of loosely falls into that “what we shall wear” category, doesn’t it?). How I need to look, over all, can be left up to God, can’t it? I’ll still highlight my hair, put on my makeup, and shave my legs, but you see, all of these things are temporary, daily maintenance sorts of things, and I just don’t think that having someone cut your skin to pull it tighter, or sucking fat out, quite falls into the same category.

(By the way, the Christian woman who wrote the book on motherhood advocating plastic surgery indicated that surgery was one of the “options available when no amount of stomach crunches” would “do what you really want to have done.” After Googling pictures of this woman, I can say, with confidence, that she certainly doesn’t appear to be someone who has done very many stomach crunches.)

The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the time to come” (v. 25, ESV). She is way more preoccupied with taking care of her family, and honoring God and her husband by how she lives her life than she is with vanity about her appearance.

Caleb, Joshua’s right-hand man, was described in Numbers 14:24 as having “a different spirit,” (ESV)” and following God fully. Caleb says in Joshua 14:10-11, “Behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.” (ESV)

This strength described by Caleb sounds like the kind accompanying glowing, good health. When I take care of my body and am in reasonably good shape, I don’t think about getting plastic surgery or about changing this or that about my body. Do you? If we live lives constantly seeking God, and care for our bodies as the temples that they are, we will have far less time to devote to the pursuit of vanity, because we are spending our time actually doing something worthwhile! Seeking God, and living our lives in a way that honors him, I believe, will make us glow from the inside out!

As a woman who has struggled with weight problems and body image my whole life, if I can trust God with my body, anyone can.