Friday, May 11, 2012

More than an issue or two

Now it starts.
Romney is against gay marriage. Obama is for it. And if I’m reading it all correctly battle lines are being drawn around one issue.  Big mistake. There’s more than one issue. How about … immigration, poverty, terrorism, health care, race relations, civil rights,  the deficit, life issues , the global economy, crummy schools, and violence on our streets???
I’m interested in all of the above. But many will be driven to one or two issues only and dismiss the rest. That’s a mistake.
Recently a prominent Southern Baptist pastor endorsed Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States.  Here’s what the news report said: …the pastor … says “he still doesn't believe Mormons are Christians.” But he says voters will have to choose "between a Christian like Barack Obama, who embraces non-biblical principles, and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces biblical principles like the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage."
As soon as I read this I began thinking “Oh no, here we go again.” 
So, Romney gets the pastor’s endorsement partly because he’s more Christian than Obama it seems. Or in this case, according to the pastor, he’s not really a Christian because of the Mormon thing but he acts like a Christian should. Obama, a professing Christian, doesn’t act like one or at least the way this pastor defines it.  So, he doesn’t get the endorsement. Confused?
I don’t mind a pastor endorsing a candidate if he/she chooses and I’m willing to cut the pastor a little slack. I’ve been interviewed and thought that the entirety of what I was saying wasn’t covered well. With that said, I do worry that the phrase ‘embraces biblical principles like the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage’ will be just the start of  a litmus test parade of narrowly defined issues that any candidate wanting the Christian vote will need to adhere to. If a candidate checks enough boxes then Christians can vote for that candidate.  And God help a candidate that happens neglects to check certain boxes. (For the record life and marriage issues are important to me)
Have you ever had someone hand little checklists out at your church during election time? On it you find someone’s opinion of the proper Christian position on issues of importance. Check enough boxes and you’ve got your candidate. Many people take these little checklists into the voting booth and dutifully vote for the right man or woman. I’m not a fan of those lists.  Here’s why.  Not all the issues that should be of importance to Christians are on the checklist and the definitions of the issues that are on the list are often inadequate.
Elections are more complicated than a check list.  Honest.
Personally, I’m interested in candidates who are thoughtful about all the vital issues of the day and I’m curious about whether or not there appears to be some prayerful reflection on how these things play out in our life together.  There has to be some coherent ethic of life and faith that weaves through a candidates thinking for me to sit up and take notice.  In all honesty, I don’t think any candidate is going to agree with me 100%.  But I’m interested in their breadth and depth of response.  Is their point of view broad enough to consider the magnitude of issues before us?
I happen to think that both candidates do embrace biblical principles and consider them as they think through policy positions. At least that’s what I like to believe. Call me an optimist. I also think that both can be amazingly shallow, at times, in addressing breadth and depth issues. I also believe that they are under crazy pressure from interest groups of all stripes and that they can easily choose to appease the loudest voice promising more votes. That’s scary.
What I’m looking for this year is someone who is consistently, morally thoughtful and brave. When I cast my ballot I don’t want to be voting for a sound byte accompanied by a scripture verse and an endorsement.   Neither do you.  That’s not good citizenship. The issues are many and amazingly complicated.  Look beyond the check list, beyond the endorsement. Do your homework. Ask the hard questions. Pray like crazy. Get involved.

Friday, April 06, 2012

In Between Time

How many times in your life have you lived with a sense that ‘something is changing’?  You might sense a subtle change in a spouse’s behavior, a friend is less available, or you might find yourself further out of the loop in the workplace.  Something is happening.  You’re sure of it but if asked for proof you don’t quite have anything concrete.  It’s just a feeling, a sense of something that’s out of the ordinary.  Your antenna goes up.  If you do confide in someone they might think you’re trying to borrow trouble but deep inside there is a gnawing unrest that can’t be explained away. There’s enough evidence to satisfy your gut feeling but not enough to persuade anyone else.

It’s a time when ‘what was’ starts to slowly morph into ‘what’s next’.  But it’s a troubling time. It’s what I call ‘in between time’.  It can be simply awful when fears take over, strangling any attempt at forward motion.  Or it can be a time when someone can stare their fears in the face thwarting whatever force is trying to take them down.

Things change.  All the time. 

I’m writing this on Good Friday.  If we were in Jerusalem on this day way back when we’d certainly see and smell change in the air. What we knew was ending.  Some else was brewing.  Jesus goes into the tomb.  And ‘in between’ time begins.  “What’s next” had to be the primary thought going through the mind of anyone close to Jesus.  Was it all over? Had we just wasted three years of our life?  Death is pretty final. The Romans and the Jewish leaders appear to have the upper hand.  Now what?  Am I next? Where can I hide?

Who knows what happened in the ‘in between time’ starting late Friday afternoon and ending on what we now knows as Easter morning?  How many tears were shed and how many fingers were pointed?  How much faith was left? 

It’s one of the great unknowns of scripture.  My guess is that fear was present. There was a great cloud of unknowing hovering.  Some may have shown false bravado and others might have acted as if they had been crucified and buried, not Jesus. We don’t know.  All we do know is that anyone close to Jesus had to live in and through this ‘in between time’ where ‘what was’ no longer exists and ‘what’s next’ has not yet been completely revealed.

I’m thinking about this a lot lately.  I see lots of people going through an ‘in between time’.  Most struggle mightily with it.

As we look at Scripture the time between the death and resurrection of Jesus doesn’t have a whole lot written about it.  We don’t know what was going on in the hearts and minds of those who loved Jesus the most.

Here’s what we do know. After Jesus died some took it upon themselves to take the next best step.  They asked for the body and did what they could before Sabbath to do a burial.  There wasn’t time to do it completely right but they did what they could.  This was a courageous step by the way.  They had to overcome fear in order to do what was right. 

Those who didn’t bury Jesus seemed to have gathered together in accordance with Sabbath customs.  They relied on religious and cultural habit to order their time.  Sometimes in the ordinary practice of what we know is true and good we can find ways to live in the ‘in between time’.

When Sabbath was over, the women went to finish the task of preparing the body.  They put their life into motion, doing the right thing as prescribed by their faith.

So in the ‘in between time’ between death and resurrection we see some courageous action and reliance on religious habit even in the face of doubt and pain. Faith and Action. Action and Faith.

What do we do when we face the ‘in between times’ of life?  We do the next right thing, in the right way, with the right attitude.  And we fall back into the faith habits of our life hoping that in the familiar things God will speak to us. We put our life into motion and rely on what we know is true, and good and noble to guide us.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Easy to Hate

Have you ever thought about what Jesus's command to love enemies and pray for persecutors is all about? It's a tough passage of scripture. (Matthew 5: 38-48) It's almost counterintuitive or at least countercultural.

It's easy to hate. Just look at the world around us. Go to the middle east and witness what centuries old patterns of hate and an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth have wrought. Read the the stories of the violence recently in Chicago. Over what? A corner. A grudge that had to be avenged. A misspoken word. Turn on a talk radio show and listen to the unreasonable ranting and raving and you wonder if there's any sanity left in this world. Watch the political ads and if you don’t cringe when you hear the attack dogs barking …well, something is wrong. There is an appalling lack of impulse control these days.

And often, we as Christians are right in the mix.

I once worked at a bible church and received a call from someone who knew I had grown up Roman Catholic. "Hey, Mike, we're staring a group for ex Catholics and wanted to see if you'd like to attend?" I said, "Sure, but you need to know something. I'm not angry. I thank God for my upbringing and for the men and women who helped shape me." "Oh," the person said. "Well maybe this group wouldn't be for you."

We like to pick sides, choose teams, argue and debate. And much of that is so healthy. But I'm convinced that the rapid demise of civility is the result of us not desiring to love in the radical way of Jesus. And so what we do instead is marginalize those who are different and/or difficult and label them our enemy.

This loving our enemy stuff doesn't mean that we don't have disagreement and even vigorous debate around culture and moral issues. It doesn't mean we become a doormat. It does means that in the midst of the heat of the battle we are to bear in mind that Jesus calls us to a higher standard and that's to love our enemy and to pray for those who persecute us. To see all people as having worth because they are made in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus, in scripture, tells the Jews to suffer the humiliation of being forced by a Roman to carry his gear for one mile (a law by the way) and to offer to take the gear another mile yet.Why? One commentator says that by "offering to go a second mile you'd be saying that you can't insult me because my life is secure in the beautiful kingdom of God. And so, let me give you a taste of God 's amazing grace. Let me carry your burden one more mile."

And therein lies the secret. We can love our enemies and pray for our persecutors only as a response to what God is doing in our lives. And even then, I do admit, it can be a difficult road to travel.

We live in a world desperately in need of extravagant love. Martin Luther King Jr. once said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. "

This is an important word for us at this time in our history. We've got to quit hating and we've got to stand up to the haters. We gotta quite believing that our hate will solve problems. Perhaps we should follow the advice of a British pundit who said ..."Perhaps the only people we should try to get even with are the ones who have done us good."

Love builds the bridge. Nothing else. Love. Period. Love is a process and always a decision. It's a decision to look long and hard enough to see the image of God in a person. It's a decision to move towards them, often starting with prayer.

Hate locks us a prison of bitterness and revenge. Love frees us. To often we can find ourselves in ugly battles with people …always analyzing who’s up and who’s down, always seeking the upper hand, analyzing every slight …that’s no way to live. And Jesus offers a way out of that …love. And then he makes a striking promise …When you love even your enemies …then you will be known as my sons and daughters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Thinking about Technology

I was reading in Leadership Journal and this statement was made by 29 year old Jonathan Merritt in an article entitle ‘Outlooks on Outreach’: “… racism was a blind spot for my dad's generation. But at least now they do see it, and people like my dad have confessed it as a sin. I'm not sure my generation even sees our blind spots yet. For instance, my generation is addicted to our technology, but we don't have a clue how this is affecting our spiritual lives.”

I don’t think it’s just a younger generation that is addicted to technology and I believe that most of us haven’t figured out whether or not technology is good or bad for our soul. And for those who believe soul care care benefits from technology I wonder if some thinking has to be done as to when enough is enough.

My own experience with technology lends me to believe that it has the ability to consume me.  I am hugely wired compared to many.  I have four email accounts, I tweet occasionally, and  I blog, Facebook is a must see every day (often every day). I have a Kindle, an ipod, iphone and an ipad. I love my Apple TV.  And I don’t like to check into a hotel that doesn’t have internet access.  So, is all this good for my soul or not?

My admission. At first blush  technology takes me further from God and doesn’t bring me closer to Him. It has often kept me from eye to eye contact with people I care about.  The time I spend randomly accessing random things could be better spent in some rather old-fashioned things like prayer, reading Scripture, helping others, and face to face conversation.

So, am I ready to go back to a rotary phone, an abacus, and a typewriter?  Hardly.   A second look at my technology habit makes me realize that all too often it controls me instead of my controlling it.  When I control it, technology is a great tool.  A really great tool.  When it controls me then it becomes my priority instead of  being the means to a greater end.

Dallas Willard talks about having a Vision, Intention, and Means for our life (VIM).  My vision for my spiritual and relational life is not to have it consumed by technology.  Instead, it is to cultivate the habits necessary to grow my soul and my friendships. I want to expand my potential in each area and not limit it..  Deciding how to use technology wisely and in appropriate time constraints can help me in my soul cultivation and relational connectivity.

If I don’t have the proper intentionality I will be guided by the tyranny of the urgent.  And one thing technology is adept at delivering is the notion that everything is urgent and important.  It’s not.  Much of what I do with technology has no importance whatsoever.

Could I live without technology? Certainly.  But I do love some of the simple pleasures it brings to my life.  I love carrying a huge library of books and music in a tiny package.  I don’t miss pay phones.  And typing on a laptop beats that old typewriter any day of the year. So, getting rid of technology is not something I’m yearning to do.

But hear me.  Technology is problematic for me.  Maybe for you too.  It’s not just some kind of neutral force.  It has an ability to snatch our time and energy.  It’s use gives the appearance of productivity. It becomes, all too often, the means and the end.  It defines our vision instead of serving it.  It can become a god of sorts. That should concern us.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lives Refocused

There are times when one can only smile.

Two or three times a year a group of people walks into our church seeking to refocus their lives.They are wounded. Broken. Life has thrown them a curve ball and they don't know what to do.

For a few it was thirty years ago or even more when they stood at an altar and said "I do" and "til death do us part." For others the memory is more recent. No one dreamed on the day of their wedding that one day they would walk into a workshop admitting that their marriage is beyond fixing. That admission paves the way for their healing.

I spent this weekend with people needing a hefty dose of both care and challenge as they dealt with the end of one of their dreams. On Thursday evening they walk in wondering why they even bothered to come. On Saturday afternoon they leave believing that God just might have a hope and a future for their life. That's why I smile.

People who attend our workshop are brave people. It's not easy to face failure. Almost all have been hurt badly. Trust has been broken. More than a few carry deep resentment as a constant companion. Anger is just below the surface. They are angry at God, themselves, and especially the spouse who chose to walk away.

Some come from churches that treat the breakup of a marriage as something akin to the leprosy in biblical times. There is much judgment and not much grace. Our church has decided to err on the side of grace and leave the judgment to a good God.

It's funny about divorce and the church. We know divorce is not God's best for our lives.
We allow it because Jesus said we could under certain circumstances. But God help those whose circumstances aren't spot on. In many churches if one divorces poorly then they have committed what is tantamount to a sin that can't be forgiven. It would be better to be a murderer in their eyes. I even know of people who pray that their spouse commits adultery so they can have a church sanctioned 'out' on their unhappiness. Oh, what we do to manipulate scripture to fit our purposes.

Our church believes that even poorly constructed marriages are not beyond the healing touch of God. And marriages do get put back together. But not often the ones of the people who come to the workshop I co-lead. Not those marriages. Often it is too late. And the people who walk into the room come in alone. Its hard to heal a marriage when only one person wants to save it. But God cares not just about a marriage he cares about the people of that marriage. And so we deal with the 'one' who shows up and we help them deal with the pain of it all. Even those whose marriages end without the biblical trump card neatly being played.

So, we talk for three days. We talk about how anger can create bitterness, the power of forgiveness, of drawing close to the God of all comfort, of preparing to write the next chapter of their life. And slowly, we see a flicker of hope arise. The somberness begins to fade. Community develops for a time. God ministers to parched souls, convicts people of sin, and wraps men and women in arms of love. It's not easy. Who wants to embrace their pain, deal with their own sinfulness, and confess their failures? It's much easier to point a finger at someone else instead of taking responsibility for our own life. But pointing a finger is not what God calls people to do. He wants us, instead, to face up to the current reality and with His help to take steps (baby steps if necessary) towards writing a redemptive story for the rest of their lives.

When that story starts to be written ... who wouldn't smile?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be. Thoughtful.

There’s some things off limits to discussion in just about every church. We find it hard to talk about war, poverty, justice, immigration, abuse, politics, Israel, and life issues.  Why?

In just about every church there is an assumption that just about everyone is in lockstep on important cultural and theological issues.  After all, most church folks believe, we (our congregation) has landed on the correct biblical and theological landing place for just about everything.

And so at many churches one dares not utter a contrarian viewpoint in fear of being shunned or labeled.   And one learns quickly not to ‘think out loud’ lest they get pounded on by the gatekeepers of church order and decorum. That’s actually why a lot of people leave churches.   They feel they have to conform to some ‘group think’ in order to be accepted. 

It’s hard to be a liberal in most evangelical churches.  And try being a conservative voice in a church with a more open theology.  It takes a bit of courage to be that ‘other’ voice.

I once mentioned CNN in a sermon and was chided by someone who said “we’re a FOX church”.  Really.  I thought we were a Jesus church.

I once had a group of evangelicals walk away from me because I told them that I first met Jesus in a Catholic Church. They couldn’t handle it. It shattered their paradigm of  proper conversion. And so instead of grappling with it they just chose to dismiss me.

We don’t like to hear things that shatter our illusions of what’s right.  And frankly there are a fair amount of illusions of rightness all around us.

All the big issues of the day need to have ‘thoughtfulness’ woven in and through every discussion. Christ followers need to be part of that discussion.  But how many Christ followers are thoughtful enough to consider someone else’s viewpoint as having value.  Too few. Why?  Because we’re too wrapped up in our notion of being right.

And here’s the big, bad, dark secret of the church.  Much of our thinking is really, really, really not biblically informed.  We’ve latched on to a word, a phrase, or a verse to make simplistic applications that support our version of the truth around very complex issues. Worse yet. We grab on to a political or economic point of view and try to make it seamlessly tie into scripture. That’s crazy.

And here’s another secret.  We are unwilling to be faced with another way of looking at things.  In fact, we look for churches filled with people just like us.

I’d like to start a movement called “Be thoughtful”.  In order to join the movement one must pledge to read widely (that means outside your comfort zone), to seek out other good people who think differently and actually have a conversation where you spend most of your time listening for understanding, and to purposefully listen and watch news shows that just might tick you off.  To ‘be thoughtful’ means to intentionally become informed beyond what you currently know even to the point of possibly changing your mind.

We need each other.  We really do. But if we sterilize our thinking and limit our access to differences we will only surround ourselves with tame people who will only parrot back to us what we already know.  That’s really not much fun.

Perhaps we’ve been taught to stay away from controversy.  That’s very sad. What if we all became safe enough so that talking and more importantly listening our way through an issue became the norm?  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow, Tebow, Cowardice and other Brain Blurts

We had a modest snow in Chicagoland last night Enough to snarl traffic and compel me to rev up the snow blower. I actually don't mind shoveling and snow blowing. It's actually one of the few things I do that has a sense of finality to it. I can look at our walks and driveway and can actually say 'well done'. I can see the result of my labors and I like what I see. If only all of life were so easy.

Interesting to hear the Republican front runner claim that he didn't make much last year from his public speaking. Only a shade under $400,000. Chump change I guess. Think people. Think.

It's said that fear can make cowards of us all. We saw that play out tragically in the cruise ship disaster in Italy. Of course, I wonder what I might have done. The impulse to save our own skin is pretty strong. I do think we have a world full of cowards who stand up for just about nothing but sure can talk a good game at a cocktail party, on a radio talk show call in, or around the water cooler. I'm asking myself this week if their are any 'ships' I'm currently abandoning. Who needs me to get 'back on board'?

It looks like 2012 might be an economic roller coaster. News from around the economic world isn't bright. Who or what am I trusting these days? Not the euro, not the dollar. Thinking that we're all going to need to hunker down with God, in community, and with our eyes alert for helping out those in need.

I'm not looking forward to the 2012 elections. It's going to be nasty. Nasty isn't the means to the end that we need. There are some fundamental issues at stake this time around. I have a sneaking hunch that the way we talk about issues and to each other is going to need to change. Nothing on the immediate horizon leads me to believe that either side is going to look for win/win solutions. How have we lost the ability to sit down, at opposite sides of a table, and civilly make progress on issues?

I like Tim Tebow. I'm not sure if he'll ever amount to much more than he already is as a quarterback but I love his heart and his genuine love for those on the margins of life. May his tribe increase ...along with his arm strength. And for all who make fun of his love for God I'd love to hear you articulate your core beliefs in some sort of winsome way.

Rules change. No more timeouts in the last two minutes of any game. Coaches should teach their players how to adjust on the fly in all kinds of game situations. Pet peeve of mine. That's one of the reasons soccer is the world's game. It depends on the players being coached up so that they have to think for themselves in tight situations.

Speaking of sports. I get tired of coaches who are applauded for their 16 hr. a day work ethic. I'd prefer that they get a life, keep their marriages strong, and know their kids. Why do we desire role models who live insanely?

I was listening to a Christian radio station the other day and every inference was that political conservatives are good and liberals are bad. Who made that rule? Those kind of inferences don't play well in most Christian circles. Nor does any inference that liberals have everything wired and conservatives are all whacko.

I was listening to a sports talk show last week. Some of the callers really do need to get a life. Is it possible to care too much about a game? The answer is _____________?

Reading "The Hunger Games". Bravo. Well done. Nice punchy style, moves well, riveting story line, and raises heaps of issues very much germane to what we're facing in the good 'old USA and for that matter the entire western world.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

To not lose track ...

Author Frederick Buechner once said "To lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually."

Tomorrow, many will have a holiday. It’s in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr..  And, I for one, am glad we honor his life and accomplishments. I don’t want to lose sight of his story.

The life and work of Martin Luther King paved the way for much of what we enjoy right now.  Every time I see a group of young women play high school or college sports I am very thankful.  I grew up in a time when young women didn’t have access.  As I sit with co-workers at Breakthrough around a leadership table I’m thankful that there are not just white faces looking back at me.  When we toured the Martin Luther King Center a few years ago in Atlanta I had to chuckle.  Our guide was a white man. And he was blind. He wouldn’t have had that job unless others stood their ground and demanded equal access to opportunity.  Martin Luther King would have been smiling and proud.

These things are the good result of what civil rights workers called ‘the struggle’.  The struggle for opportunity.  The struggle for access.  The struggle for color blindness.  The struggle to see all people as having worth.  The struggle to help the spiritually and morally blind to see again. The struggle to wrestle power from those who abuse power. And it was done, not for the hope that someday, a national holiday would be proclaimed and schools would be closed.  No it was done with the hope that America could live into its belief that all men and women are created equal.  That they are children of God.  

King and the civil rights community believed that every person deserved to be free, to be treated as persons not things, and to be valued as full members of the kingdom of God. And in order for that to happen people like us would form a ‘beloved community’ where diversity is embraced, where the content of one’s character is more important than skin color; where love, justice, and peace emerge as the preeminent norms for all relationships; and where institutional power is humanized by moral values so that justice reigns.

That struggle is not complete.

There are great divides still in our world. In big and small ways we find people at odds. Sometimes it’s economic divides, sometimes geographic, sometimes ethnic, sometimes sexual and still there are racial divides.  We cannot sit comfortably, in our world, when we know the world is a mess for others.  And I think God wants us to walk into the midst of those messes by standing against injustice and by changing the world through one act of love after another.

The civil rights movement was a turning point in the life of America.  It opened doors, clarified mission, and called an entire nation to reconsider what it means to be the home of the brave and the land of the free.  It would be a shame if we lost the meaning of this story for in many respects the ‘struggle’ continues. May we choose to be part of it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Leaning right?

I'm a conservative. Maybe not in the way you define it but I'm pretty well convinced that I lean to the right. You see, I have a high regard for what happened long ago. The lessons of the past need to inform the here and now. If not, we're doomed to keep repeating the failures of the past. I believe government needs to serve the needs of the people and to do it with grace, dignity, and some degree of frugality. Smaller government is better unless it can't get the job done. Then bigger might be necessary.

And because I am a conservative I value the life of every individual. Those unborn. Those on the margins. Even immigrants. Whether they are here legally or not. Whether they are working or not. I care about gay people and straight people too. I care about those who act stupidly and those who are hurt because they are surrounded by abusively mean people. I'm a big fan of the Christian scriptures. Those words tell me that all people matter to God. All people. In fact, I matter to Him. And there are times when I wonder why.

I believe, however, that people who matter to God often do things that show their disdain for Him. And I believe we all will reap what we sow.

I'm not a big fan of taxes except when a police officer arrives quickly and the roads I travel are smooth. Then I thank God for the opportunity to pay for those comforts and am willing to pay more.

It doesn't matter to me that children don't pray publicly in public schools. For I know millions pray privately and that private prayer is not something that can be thwarted.

As a conservative I vote for both red and blue. Who really believes one party embodies all that conservatism embraces? Only ideologues I'm afraid.

I embrace term limits except for those office holders who are doing a really, really good job. Then, I'm open for more of the same.

As a conservative I believe that when a government official apologizes for national arrogance he/she is quite possibly doing the will of God. My country right or wrong has always been a silly mantra.

I believe that people and nations need to be reconciled to each other. I believe that's what the Bible teaches. I'm conservative enough to believe that God trumps country and that any attempt to place country on the same mountaintop with divinity is an exercise in both futility and idolatry. And yet God wants us to be good citizens.

I'm against entitlements but understand why some are necessary. And I'm wise enough to know that whatever is supposed to trickle down the economic pipe all too often ends up getting stuck somewhere and stays stuck.

As a Christian conservative I know that the church isn't up to the task of caring for the needy. Anyone suggesting otherwise has never compared church budgets to the gross income of its members. There's a gap between rhetoric and pocketbook.

As a conservative I believe that God helps those who helps themselves except when they can't and then I'm expected to step up to help. If I'm too busy conserving only my way of life then I'm way too busy.

As a conservative I'm embarrassed about what happens on Wall Street. I don't believe that prosperity is a signal from heaven that God loves us more. If anything, prosperity is a signal that we should be giving more.

Shrill conservative voices lack thoughtfulness and groundedness. I cringe when I hear them. I believe that complex problems are not easily solved by cutthroat decision making.

Am I really a conservative? I think so. I believe that choices should be rooted in an authoritative source. That source is consistent with all that is good throughout history. And it beckons me to live within what Jesus called the unforced rhythms of grace.

Perhaps that's what it's all about. Graceful conservatism. An appreciation of all that has been good and noble and true and a desire to build upon all that goodness, nobility, and truth ...gracefully.

Of course, graceful conservatism isn't that many degrees separated from graceful liberalism. Nor should it be.  What's lacking in our lean to either right or left is a grounding in something/someone that anchors our thoughts, our dialogue and our action.  My hunch is that most people who lean to the point of almost falling over don't know why they believe what they believe.  And it shows in their interactions with anyone who believes differently. Therein lies the problem that plagues us.  We just don't know anymore.  And our unknowing is creating quite a mess.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

I Have Issues

Two words have been in the back of my mind for awhile. I'm beginning to think they are God's words for me in 2012.

The first word is ...deeper. I think it means to go deeper in the things that matter to God.
Deeper in those things that will make a difference in my own life and in the life of those I care about. Things that will help me to think, pray, and serve with more effectiveness.

In order to go deeper there are some things I need to deal with. They are things that prepare me to live quite well in the shallow end of the pool but totally unprepared to dive into the deep end. In other words, I have issues. For those of you who know me well that doesn't come as a huge surprise. It doesn't surprise me either. The big question is whether or not I will remain content to play in the shallows even though I know I'm being called to the deep. Maybe you can relate.

The second word is ...bolder. I have seen a distressing habit developing in my life. I'm holding back too often. I'm not saying what needs to be said. I'm not writing what needs to be written. I'm not acting decisively when decisiveness is needed. If there is a valley that needs to be crossed on the way to 'wimpiness' I fear I might just be smack dab in the middle of it. It's not a good place to be. It's a place of fear.

It's interesting, In order to be bold I will need to go deep. In order to go deep I will need to be bold.

Two words. Good words and desires for 2012. Let's see what God does with it all.