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.