Thursday, September 25, 2008

Underneath the Economy

I've been noodling a bit more about this economic situation.

There are some issues we need to raise in our churches, neighborhoods and all circles of influence.

We need to raise questions about greed.
We need to raise questions about dealing with fear.
We need to raise questions about entitlement.

Greed fuels the economy. Fear creates adverse market responses. When we feel 'entitled' we get fearful that we're not going to get what greed can get us.

It gets ugly real fast.

Greed, fear, entitlement are spiritual issues. We might be able to rescue the economy in the short term but as long as we're dealing with core spiritual issues we will have long term problems.

I work with a lot of Christians.

They feel entitled.
They're greedy.
They react fearfully.

I know because I'm one of them.

Officially Concerned

I'm having a gut check. It's about the economy. If you're not thinking about it yet, please do so. This is one of the national moments where we're going to need everyone's full attention. The American Dream is being channeled down Nightmare Lane.

Here's what's scary. I get the feeling that no one, I mean no one seems to know how to fix what ails us. Economists are shaking their heads and CEO's are weeping into their golden parachute. Some politicians are even speaking straight knowing that now is not the time to posture.

Bill and Suzy middle-class are looking into a very uncertain future and the poor are going to see some support networks ripped up from under them as non-profits see income slip. It's hard to even think of what happens to the poor in under-served countries around the world.

So, it's a scary time. Gut check time.

Where does my hope rest?

It's not in politics.
It can't be the economy.
It can't be in my already meager retirement plan.

My faith?

Is it big enough for a time like this? Do I really believe all those things that I proclaim? Is my God bigger than this economic crisis?

Is Jesus enough?

Those are big questions.

Do me a favor. Start to pray. Really pray. Our country is in a bind. We need God's wisdom and discernment. Get down on your knees and pray. This is scary stuff.

Pray that government leaders will work in non-partisan ways and quit the inane finger pointing.

As God for a bigger portion of faith. We're going to need it.

Ask God to show us how to be 'community' with one another. We might need each other in ways we never had before.

Pray that resources will be poured out to the underesourced in miraculous ways.

Pray for hope.

Pray that all this might help our culture to see that we can't be our own God. It silly. We do need the Lord, to lean into His wisdom and compassion. To understand that He's God. We're not.

This could be the time when our faith is tested. We'll find out what's real and what's not.

Monday, September 22, 2008

At the moment of choice

So, how do we get well, chart a new direction in life, develop new habits ...?

How? Try this. At the next moment of choice decide to act with all the integrity you can muster. Do the right thing in the best way you know how. Do that moment after moment, decision after decision.

The world is changed by good people doing good things at the moment of choice. It's an over and over again process.

Most of us aren't superheroes nor superachievers. We're ordinary people who live fairly ordinary lives. In the midst of the 'ordinary' of life, however, we influence dozens of people daily. We buy groceries, we go to doctor appointments, we do our work, go to the health club, attend a class, go to a bible study. These are all places where we can choose to be God's people caring about others who God loves like crazy. We can make that proverbial difference in someone else's life. It's one decision at a time. Doing the right thing in the best way we know how.

It's not about seeking advantage.
It's not about positioning ourselves the right way.
It's not about spin.

We've seen where that gets us in today's world.

Nope. It's about doing the next right thing, with the right attitude, in the best way we know how.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Road to Recovery

25 people. 25 broken dreams.

It was 'Divorce Recovery' weekend. The people who attend are Christian and not. Some have been married for five years, some for over 40. Most feel they've been dealt a bad hand. There's spiritual damage, emotional distress, relational wreckage, practical roadblocks ...all need to be dealt with in order to heal up.

The people who attend are brave. They've made a decision to 'put their life into motion', to get well.

In order to achieve wellness they will all have to be honest with themselves, admit to their own failures in the marriage, forge a new identity, get right with God, and deal with that hard, hard issue of forgiveness. Can they ask God for forgiveness? Can they forgive themselves? Can they ever forgive their 'ex'?

This is not easy stuff.

I got to be there, with my team, to watch the hurting take their first step towards the rest of their life.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Journey Towards Justice

Listened to yesterday and today. Check out their archived programs. Anita (my wife is executive producer and co-host) actually was a guest along with Alvin Bibbs and Pierre Chastang. The three of them (me too) along with 45 others went on the Justice Journey in June.

The Justice Journey is a bus trip to major civil rights sights in the south. The group was half African American, half Anglo. It's truly a journey into history and towards self-discovery. It's about looking at and coming to grips with the racial divide in our country, all done within the context of a shared faith in Christ. It's fun, intense, thought-provoking, emotional ...

This is worth listening to. Honest. Better yet, try to go on the Justice Journey.

Let me know what you think.

Interesting take on our economic crisis

Greed in the Economy: It's the Morality, Sinner by Jim Wallis

Everyone has heard the famous phrase, attributed to James Carville, which supposedly won the 1992 presidential election for Bill Clinton: "It’s the economy, stupid!" It’s still good advice, especially as the shocking collapse of the financial markets has turned the election campaign into a much more serious and somber discussion than lipstick on pigs.

But the issue is deeper than just the economy. I would now rephrase Carville and say, "It’s the morality, sinner!" And I would direct it to the people who have been making the decisions about the direction of this economy from Wall Street to Washington. Here is the morality play:
Aggressive lending to potential home-buyers using subprime and adjustable rate mortgages led to "mortgage-backed securities" being sold to investors at high returns. As housing prices dropped and interest rates rose, homeowners got caught, fell behind on payments, and millions of foreclosures followed. That resulted in the mortgage-backed assets losing value with banks unable to sell the securities. So the subprime lenders began to fail. Asset declines then spread to investment banks. We have now seen the sale of Bear Stearns brokered by the government, and last week the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as mortgage defaults threatened them. Then Lehman Brothers fell into bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold. Now another bailout, this time of AIG, the largest insurance company in the country -- whose potential demise threatened the whole financial system even further.

During the height of the lending frenzy, many people got very rich, as they did during the previous technology bubble. Now with the collapse, experts say the most likely result will be further tightening of credit and lending standards for consumers and businesses. Home, retail, and business loans will become more expensive and harder to secure. And the consequences of that will spread to most of America.

In the accounts and interpretation of these events, a word is slowly entering the discussion and analysis — greed. It’s an old concept, and one with deep moral roots. Even venerable establishment economists such as Robert Samuelson now say, "Greed and fear, which routinely govern financial markets, have seeded this global crisis ... short-term rewards blinded them to the long-term dangers."

The people on top of the American economy get rich whether they make good or bad decisions, while workers and consumers are the ones who suffer from all their bad ones. Prudent investment has been replaced with reckless financial gambling in what some have called a "casino economy." And the benefits accruing to top CEOs and financial managers, especially as compared to the declining wages of average workers, has become one of the greatest moral travesties of our time.

In the search for blame, some say greed and some say deregulation. Both are right. The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America — that markets are always good and government is always bad. But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with government and business. The climate seems to shift between an "anything goes" mentality and stricter government regulation. The excesses of the 1920s, leading to the Great Depression, were followed by the reforms of Franklin Roosevelt.
The entrepreneurial spirit and social innovation fostered by a market economy has benefited many and should not be overly encumbered by unnecessary or stifling regulations. But left to its own devices and human weakness (let’s call it sin), the market too often disintegrates into greed and corruption, as the Wall Street financial collapse painfully reveals. Capitalism needs rules, or it easily becomes destructive. A healthy, balanced relationship between free enterprise on the one hand, and public accountability and regulation, on the other, is morally and practically essential. Government should encourage innovation, but it must also limit greed.

The behavior of too many on Wall Street is a violation of biblical ethics. The teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths condemn the greed, selfishness, and cheating that have been revealed in corporate behavior over decades now, and denounce their callous mistreatment of employees. Read your Bible.

The strongest critics of the Wall Street gamblers call it putting self-interest above the public interest; the Bible would call it a sin. I don’t know about the church- or synagogue-going habits of the nation’s top financial managers, but if they do attend services, I wonder if they ever hear a religious word about the practices of arranging huge personal bonuses and escape hatches while destroying the lives of people who work for them.

We now need wisdom from the economists, prudence from the business community, and renewal courses on the common good from the nation’s religious leaders. It’s time for the pulpit to speak — for the religious community to bring the Word of God to bear on the moral issues of the American economy. The Bible speaks of such things from beginning to end, so why not our pastors and preachers?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not sure I get it

So, the U.S. government (which handles its finances so well) is taking over an insurance company because of that company's inability to handle its finances.

Don't completely understand it.

I know it has something to do with trying to avoid a total collapse of our economy (which would be a bad thing) but where does all this end?

We're in deep. So, who do we blame? That's the game isn't it? Who gets the blame? Who can we pin all this on?

Maybe us.

Maybe we've been asleep at the citizenship wheel, caring more for about what we want, not enough about what's really needed. So, when we get what we want, we get fat and sassy and think everything is going along just great.

It wasn't.

There was financial slight of hand.
The poor were getting burned.
The economic divides were getting larger.

And as long as we knew the rule to the slight of hand, and we weren't poor and we were on the right side of the great divide ...everything was OK.

Now what?

The slight of hand is being shown to be what it is ... dishonest.
Everyone is getting burned.
The have's might become the have nots.

It's going to get interesting.

Are you ready?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time to Panic?

So, let's get this straight.

Wall Street is in turmoil.
The 'greed is good' credo is found to be faulty.
Follow the leader is not a good financial strategy.

It sound like we're in trouble, doesn't it?

A lot of attention was paid to 'getting the American Dream' quick. Not enough attention was paid to the means that was going to get us there. It's staggering to think that our best and brightest could develop economic strategies that would end up leveling some of our most prestigious financial institutions.

Did individual financial gain trump time-tested values? It did.

We're all going to pay the price.Maybe this is an opportunity to step back and mourn what we've lost. It's more than diminished savings plans. It's more than a stumbling and tumbling stock market. We've lost confidence. Confidence in leaders. Confidence in institutions.

What should cause us to reassess (not to panic) is our seeming inability to establish our decision making in solid values rooted in some sort of authoritative source. It's happening not just in our financial marketplace but everywhere we gather. It's about me needs, my desires, my hopes, my dreams little about the 'us' ...the common good. Until we start thinking about the 'us' we'll be subject to the whims of individual decision makers who can't seem to get beyone their own needs and desires.

The big question I have revolves around whether or not 'good people' will be willing to step forward to lead us into whatever comes next. It's us ordinary folks who have to reinvolve and reinvest ourselves into the social and cultural framework. We're going to have to learn to talk to each other.You see, I think we're entering a 'brave new world'. The old rules aren't working very well. We're going to have rethink everything again.

I want to reengage, reinvolve, and reinvest. It will come with a price.Part of the price I'll pay is taking the time to understand what I believe. It's back to my 'authoritative source' ...the Scriptures. It's time to dig, to pray interact with God's word putting aside my pre-conceived notions and biases. If I'm going to both participate and lead in the great cultural and social conversations that need to take place I need to have both God's wisdom and presence 24/7. If I don't, then I should start panicing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Saw a speaker Craig Groeschel at Willow Creek Summit. He talked about the 'it' factor. Probably pretty close to the 'wow' factor ...same continuum anyway.

What is 'it'?

We've all experienced 'it'. You walk into a church and walk out knowing they've got 'it'.

You meet someone and are totally engaged in what that person has to say. He/She has got 'it'.

Some people say Barak Obama has 'it'.
People who've met Bill Clinton (even his enemies) proclaim that he has 'it'.
Sara Palin looks like she's got 'it'.
Oprah might have 'it' and if she doesn't she'll buy 'it'.
Bono has 'it'.
Wrigley Field does.
So do the Cubs.
Not the Sox (sorry)
Joe Biden? Nope
Mother Theresa had it.
So does Mandela.
Not Prince Charles.
Some people walk around as if they have 'it' but if they have to show 'it' off they probably don't have 'it'.

So, what is 'it'.

It's a spark.
It's a charism.
It's intuitive.
It's disarming.
It's a God thing.
It's obedience.
It's grace under pressure.
It's looking beyond limitations to opportunities.
It breeds optimism.
It cultivates effectiveness.

So if you have 'it' could you lose 'it'?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So much anger ...

So, I talked to this guy about Obama. He almost flipped out.

And then, I talked to this woman about Palin. I thought she was going to throw up.

So, I started reading some blogs. Everyone was throwing up and flipping out.

Turned on talk radio. Lots of ranting, not much listening.

Where's all this anger coming from? Why can't we talk about things?

Last night I had dinner with two friends. We talked about politics. No ranting. No raving. Nice discussion. The three of us weren't in lock-step agreement. I learned some things. Maybe they did too. It was a good exchange with lots of civility.

That's what we've lost ...civility.

I dont' think Obama is the anti-christ.
I don't think Palin is the scourge of womanhood.

When we lose civility we buy into rants and raving. Blood pressure goes up. We lose the ability to have civil discourse. Anger fuels more anger. It's killing us as a culture. We're the worst for it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sacred Echoes

I've been reading a book called 'The Sacred Echo'. It's written by Margaret Feinberg.

Margaret says: "As I’ve been growing in my relationship with God, I’m finding that I’m not listening for the whisper as much as I am the echo. Often when God speaks, He will say the same thing through a sermon, a passage of scripture, a chance conversation, or an unexpected encounter. When we begin looking for these “sacred echoes” then we are better able to recognize God’s voice in our life and more confidently walk in the fullness of what God has for us."

I've been trying to think about the 'echoes' in my own life, those persistent, consistent messages from the Lord. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Make a difference (leave a footprint)

I'm enough. (abide in me)

Let it go (live fully in the present)

You worry too much (what good has it done?)

Show up (be a presence)

Speak up (don't go small)

Use your gifts (I've gifted you)

God does speak. Because we are often inattentive and He's persistent ...the Lord will keep at it, trying to get our attention in a variety of ways.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Baggin' Faith

Whether it's on Facebook, 1 on 1, or through conversations with a friend who saw so and so awhile back I'm beginning to realize that a lot of people I know are baggin' faith.

For some reason, the faith they grew up with, the Jesus they met in adolescence, the 'yes' that was once deep in their heart appears to be more shadow than substance.

I wonder why?

Maybe some are walking away from religion, finding it stifling and close-minded.
College probably did major damage to some.
Some are taking their faith to a different place ...practicing spirituality, experimenting with other forms.
Others are trying to reconcile long held beliefs with newly found political ideals.
Some, perhaps, have found new language.

It's all these things.

And yet I'm bothered.

You see, I still think Jesus transforms lives. Apart from Him, we're less, not more.

I understand what religion does and doesn't do. I can appreciate having to 'try out' stuff throughout life. I can appreciate the tug of idealism on our faith.

But I'm bothered. Wondering what God is nudging me to do as I encounter the 'wanderers'. Wondering how best to start the conversation, to show love, to engage people in this 'faith' discussion.

Friday, September 05, 2008

So, what questions should we be asking during the election?

Most people ask very obvious questions during an election year. Those questions center around a common theme: "Who's going to make my life better?" "Who's going to care about my stuff?"

It's a 'me' world.

I have a problem. It has to do with reading Scripture. The more I read the harder it gets to focus on me. Scripture tells us that it's all about the Lord and the things he cares about. And even though he cares about me (a lot by the way-he's very fond of yours truly)the Lord wants me to look around and maybe ask some less self-centered questions. Like these.

Who's crying themselves to sleep at night?
What about justice?
Why do I have so much, others so little?
Do I need to make a lifestyle adjustment?
Why the racial divide?
What can we do about educational inequity?

Maybe if I ask these kind of questions ...I can hone in a little better on the kind of questions I want the candidates to answer. Reading through the Scriptures's hard to ignore where God's heart is ...and it's not about making me richer and giving me a cushier lifestyle.

So, I want to ask the Lord for the grace to evaluate candidates not based on what they can do for me but rather is there any indication that their hearts breaks over the things that break the heart of God.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wondering about this election

So, I watched Sara Palin last night. Watched Barak the other night. I've seen McCain. I'm familiar with Biden.

Here's my take. I think Barak, more than McCain, is going to have to go to battle on two fronts. One, he's going to have go head to head with McCain. Plus, he's going to have to wage a generational battle with someone who can match his charisma. That's Palin. It's going to be interesting to watch. Really interesting.

As someone who loves listening to really good speakers I'm delighted to have both Obama and Palin around. Both have mastered the teleprompter. They know how to interact with an audience beyond just saying the words. There's a chemistry. They know how to 'speechify'. I just pray that none of them (all four) allow their handlers to suck the essence of who they are away from public view. What's so attractive about this election is that there are some great stories, interesting personalities, and some deep philosophical/political divides. God help us if we sanitize the personality out of this election.

If you're reading this and you are person of faith please make this election a matter of prayer. Pray especially that all the candidates continue to speak their mind and their truth. Pray that the questions on your heart will be answered. Pray for the safety of these candidates. Pray that the electioneering high road will be taken and that citizens will thoughtfully discuss the issues before they vote. Pray that you'll be open to being surprised and willing to have your mind changed.

Let's see what God does.

Monday, September 01, 2008

More election stuff

Thought this was interesting. It's a post by Margaret Feinberg. I think Margaret is one of the best writers in Christendom these days. She lived in Alaska for five years and her husband was born and bred up north. Check out her website.
I've been asked this question countless times since the news hit Friday of Palin being selected as McCain's running vice-president. And it's a great question.

A while ago, I was invited to weigh in on a round table phone conference with McCain advisers about reaching young evangelicals. My mind danced with what I would say, but one key issue kept coming up: McCain needed a sports car of a vice-president--someone who represented everything he was not. The phone conference has been delayed until post-RNC, and now I can't wait to applaud his choice--one I never thought the McCain camp had the guts to make.

Palin surprised everyone (including all of us Alaskans and former Alaskans) when she was named to the Republican ticket. It's no secret that Palin is a strong leader, faithful Christian, and forcefully pro-life. She's conservative and hugs family values so tight and so close that maybe even James Dobson will be able to bring himself to vote Republican after all.

In Alaska, when Palin first entered politics some friendly Republicans told her to pack up and go home. She refused. And over the years climbed steadily up the political ladder until she became Governor. She has been bravely outspoken on the corruption surrounding many political leaders in Alaska--some of whom are under investigation and/or have been indicted (though in Alaska they're often voted for anyway).

I have friends who have known Palin for many years. They've gone to church with her. Received her encouraging notes. And had the opportunity to spend time up close and personal with her. They simply can't rave enough.

In Juneau, she spoke openly about moving the capital to Anchorage. While efficient for political purposes, the capital move would cost tens of millions and on the short-term hurt the economy of Southeast Alaska since many businesses are dependent on the winter legislature (which meets January through April) to survive. Now you have to understand that even whispers of moving the capital sends shock waves through the housing market so for her to speak openly made those in southeast antsy. But to the rest of the state, and there's a whole lot of state in Alaska, it made perfect sense. When a legislature only meets four months a year, it just makes sense to have it in the place where most of the members of the legislature live.

The irony of all this is now she'll probably land a huge percentage of Juneau vote. Those who were against the capitol move will want her in Washington, DC come November, because then the Lt. Governor will take her place (assuming he doesn't win his own run for Congress) and hopefully he won't move the capital, and make movers and map makers everywhere rich.

That said, I think McCain couldn't have made a better decision. As a woman, I'm excited that we're seeing progress on the ballot on both the Republican and Democratic tickets.

As far as the election, I'm wondering if we'll wake up to a new president on November 5. Or if it will still be too close to count...because with Palin on the ballot, make no mistake, this is going to be a tight race. Regardless, the dust will have settled by January 20th when we usher in a new President of the United States...and I'm excited for that day. I think we all are. Feinberg (