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…the boys…

24 Oct

For two years now, my grandson Cameron has been the baby of the family. His two older brothers were frequently referred to as “the boys.” His mom and dad would leave each other messages like, “I’ll pick up Cam and the boys on my way home.” Sometimes one of them would watch Cameron while the other went somewhere with “the boys.”

Yes, they were all part of the same family, but Cameron was the baby. He was in a league of his own…so he wasn’t one of “the boys.”

A few weeks ago, however, Cameron’s life changed course. You see, on that day, baby Christian was born…and Cameron ceased being the baby of the family. No longer would he be granted priority in the family’s pecking order for attention.

But just when he ceased being the baby, he became one of “the boys.” We noticed Cameron’s change of status on the very day that Christian was born. Our daughter, Chapin, called to ask if we could bring “the boys” up to the hospital. She wanted them to visit “the baby.”

We didn’t attempt to explain things to Cameron…we didn’t have to. He seemed to sense that he had somehow graduated from babyhood into this tightly knit club called “the boys.”

He was skeptical upon entering the hospital…sporting that “deer in the headlights” expression that frequently comes when encountering any life changing situation. But I’m personally confident that he’ll make this transition rather smoothly. Fourth grade brother Caleb, who is strongly and conscientiously protective, will guard Cameron with a sentry’s conviction. Second grade brother Logan, who is sensitive and compassionate, will make certain Cameron receives attention and empathy.

You’ll be fine Cameron…especially now that you’re one of “the boys.”

 
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…honest to God #6…

08 Oct

Several times, I’ve been requested to sign a petition on Facebook to have prayer returned to our public schools. I find it hard to sign their petition which claims “that american people want there rights back to pray and speack out freely about what there faith is.”

I refuse to sign any educational petition that fails to capitalize the word “American” and that misspells the word “speak.” Adding to the grammatical incorrectness, the petition also wrongly substituted the word “there” for the word “their.”

But I didn’t decline to sign the petition just because it was riddled with misspelled and misused words. We need to understand that all prayer is not banned in public schools. The only prayers banned are state-sanctioned or mandatory prayers, which would violate our American principle belief in the separation of church and state. Students can still pray in school. They always have…and they always will.

I have rather strong theological beliefs that I attempted to share with my children. Although many of their school teachers were fine, upstanding citizens, they did not necessarily share my religious and theological tenants. I would not have wanted any of them to have directed my children’s prayers.

I was quite comfortable, however, trusting those same teachers to nurture my children in the areas of science, history, and countless other fields where my knowledge is sorely lacking.

 
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…ma’s porch swing…

26 Aug

We’re 12 years into the new millennium, and I’m beginning to realize that our world is too busy for the front porch swing. In fact, we’re too busy for the front porch!

When we lived in Indiana 30 years ago, many of our friends had swings on their front porches. The swings were always made of wood, and hung from the porch ceilings with chains. The swings were always sized to fit two adults comfortably…or two adults and a small child even more comfortably.

Folks would enjoy the swings on summer evenings as they watched the neighborhood kids play games and ride bikes. Many would relax on the swings on Halloween nights as they distributed goodies to the Halloween trick-or-treaters. When the weather turned cold, rather than disconnect the swings for storage in a garage or basement, many homeowners would simply shorten the chains so the swing could hang close to the porch ceiling…and out of the weather.

Twila’s parents had a great porch swing which we inherited 15-20 years ago. We were thrilled with the gift since it held so many fond memories, not the least of which included the hours Jared used to “swing and sing” with his “Ma.”

Although we’ve moved several times over the years, the swing has never been positioned onto one of our porches…since we’ve never had a porch large enough to accommodate it. We can’t imagine ever selling it since it has so many great memories, so it’s remained stored in one of our garages.

You see, very few homes today have front porches. Oh, some homes have “faux” porches that can accommodate a few chairs and a small table. But newer homes rarely have a front porch large enough to welcome any quality time with lively conversation. Today’s front porches only allow a small place for visitors to stand while waiting to enter the home.

I can’t help but think that life would be better today, if we had more front porches…and more front porch swings. Life would be better if evenings were spent visiting with friends while keeping a protective eye on the neighborhood kids at play. Life would be better if we had less “virtual” and more “reality,” and if reality were viewed from the front porch rather than on the television.

I can’t help but think that life would be better, if Ma’s swing hung on our front porch.

 
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…they couldn’t feel the love…

05 Aug

I’m not gay…I’m just an embarrassed Christian who feels a responsibility to follow the teachings of Jesus. After all, it was Jesus who challenged us to set “at liberty those who are oppressed.” And it was Jesus who commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And so it is that I’m embarrassed.

I’m embarrassed, partly because of my own silence. You see, I’ve been rather quiet these past few weeks concerning the hoopla surrounding Mike Huckabee’s “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” In all seriousness, I really thought his whole idea would just sort of fizzle out. (I mean, face it, we’re talking Mike Huckabee here!)

But the idea of flocking (pardon the pun) to show support of Chick-Fil-A didn’t fizzle…it ignited. And it didn’t just ignite…it burned brightly. Chick-Fil-A support burned so brightly, and so hotly, that it wounded and scarred many of those neighbors that we’re supposed to love. They didn’t feel the love, they felt the burn.

So, I’m also embarrassed by my association with the Christian community. I’m embarrassed that Christians failed so miserably at loving our neighbors in the GLBTQ community. Once again, we failed to liberate those among us who are oppressed. Once again, we failed to love others as we love ourselves.

Oh, I know, most of those who ate chicken sandwiches on CFA Appreciation Day don’t hate the GLBTQ community. But if I were gay, I would have felt hated when I saw the lines of well-meaning Christians supporting a company that wants to deprive me of my human rights. If I were gay, I would not have felt the liberating love of Christ on CFA Appreciation Day.

If the GLBTQ folks did not feel the liberating love of Christ on CFA Appreciation Day…then we who are Christians failed miserably in our Christ given assignments.

 
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…Welfare, drug testing, and equality…

22 Jul

I keep receiving emails and Facebook postings that celebrate and encourage drug testing for welfare recipients. On one hand, I agree that the federal government should not share my hard earned tax money with those using illegal drugs. But seriously, testing TANIF (Temporary Assistance of Needy Families) recipients is barely scratching the surface of those who receive a share of my tax payments to the government.

If we’re going to drug test food stamp recipients, then shouldn’t we also test my farming friends who receive federal agricultural assistance? And shouldn’t we test all college students receiving educational grants…and scientists who receive research grants?

And while we’re at it, since my tax payments are used to bail out banks and automotive industries…let’s drug test those executives and board members too.

It’s fine with me if we drug test welfare recipients…but let’s be fair. Farm subsidies, research grants, and bailouts are also just another level of welfare. If we place limits and restrictions upon one…we need to place the same limits and restrictions on them all.

 
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…a Christian nation…

02 Jul

Hardly a month passes that I don’t hear someone, somewhere say something about the United States of America being a Christian nation. These statements usually come from more fundamentalist Christians who consider any current legislative or judicial decisions to be in conflict with the wishes of our “founding fathers.”

It’s funny really. Most of American’s founding fathers weren’t Christians at all…they were deists. Deists believed in a supreme God who removed himself entirely from the world after creating it. The Deists of that day rejected many of the Christian teachings such as the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus, the power of prayer, and even the divine inspiration of the Bible.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, James Madison, and James Monroe were all Deists. They were NOT Christians! Those who preach that America was founded on Christian principles have, in reality, failed to accurately grasp American history.

That being said…I truly wish our country were a Christian nation. Not a nation that demanded its citizens to each believe in Jesus…but a nation that followed Christ-like ethics and morals.

I dream of an America that cares for and supports “the least of these.” I dream of an American where people of all faiths are respected, and where all people receive equal rights. I dream of an America where tent cities for the homeless are considered inhumane, rather than bothersome and unsightly. Only when all people are equally loved and cared for, will America become a Christ-like nation.

 
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…forgiveness and baggage…

06 Jun

I believe strongly in forgiveness. Our faith teaches that our past is indeed past…and that God is always ready to give us another chance.

And I have experienced forgiveness. I have a loving family and many gracious friends who have forgiven me for my numerous mistakes, missteps, and failures.

Yet neither I, nor those who love me, can ever completely leave my past behind. I have some baggage that will always be with me. But though my baggage will always be by my side…I do not have to bear its hefty weight alone.

Have you ever noticed airline passengers using the airport “people movers?” The enormous conveyor belts are designed to give those passengers, who are walking from one airport terminal to another, a brief respite from carrying their burdensome luggage. Most passengers step onto the enormous conveyer belt and set their luggage next to their feet…thus giving their aching arms a brief rest.

But I’m always surprised at how many passengers continue to hold their luggage while standing on the “people mover.” They ignore the assistance that’s readily available to them.

Please pardon this trite analogy…but being with God is not unlike using the airport’s “people mover.” When in God’s presence, we’re encouraged to set down our personal baggage. There’s no need for us to carry our past mistakes, while God is carrying us. When God forgives us, God carries our baggage for us.

 
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Honest to God #5 …the little church in shambles…

14 Mar

“We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.” These were Rick Santorum’s words as he campaigned in Florida recently.

OK…as he sees it, Protestantism is gone from the world of Christianity. His implication, I suppose, is that the Roman Catholic Church is still spot-on when it comes to following Christ and that all others who claim to be Christian are missing the mark.

Maybe I need to take a closer look at the Catholic Church. Maybe I missed all those statements from Jesus where he directed the church to establish a religious hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Maybe I missed those times when Jesus directed the church to build elaborate cathedrals and establish their own country. Maybe I failed to understand Jesus’ directive to suppress the leadership of women and to exclude homosexuals and pro-choice advocates from their fellowship.

But I’ll give Santorum the benefit of a doubt when it comes to Protestantism…it is indeed in shambles. And speaking as a Protestant, our movement probably isn’t very close to the church Jesus envisioned. I’ve yet to meet any Protestants who have sold all their possessions and given their money to the poor in an attempt to follow Jesus. Very few of us Protestants bring good news to the poor, provide healing to those who are ill, or liberate the oppressed. And when was the last time any of us visited someone in jail?

The little church where I worship God probably doesn’t do everything just the way Jesus would prefer…but we’re doing our best. We package meals for those who are struggling with HIV/Aids, and we really don’t care how they contracted the disease. We package food for the local food bank to distribute, regardless of the race or nationality of the recipients. We open our chapel doors and our communion table to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, political opinions, or criminal background. We even love people who don’t smell so good! Maybe we’re too open, too easy to join. Maybe we’re too tolerant…too soft on the issues of the world.

Rick Santorum’s probably right that our church is in shambles. But Jesus didn’t call us to be a smooth running corporate machine…he called us to be a church.

We’re called to love God…and to love neighbors. And strangely enough, it is in the shambles that many of us find our God and our neighbors.

 
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Honest to God #4 …dressing down for America…

11 Jan

We can all agree that these are difficult economic times. Four years ago, many of us hoped that Barack Obama would be the President who could turn our country around. We hoped he would eliminate the petty partisan bickering that had for so long stifled any genuine political change in the United States. We hoped that he might somehow lessen our national debt, improve our job possibilities, and solidify our shaky economy.

His election was akin to a religious frenzy. But that religious-like fervor has passed…and we still have difficult economic times. It is no surprise that the Republican Party is now frantically searching for the political savior that Obama failed to be.

I’ve personally found the recent Republican campaign antics to be a ridiculously futile attempt of wealthy politicians to relate to the American middle class, let alone to our country’s poor. Some of us still smile at the memory of Mother Teresa gingerly fingering the lapel of President Ronald Reagan’s suit. “Mr. President,” she noticed, “you paid too much for this suit.”

Are we Americans so naive as to overlook the fact that all of our politicians paid too much for their suits? I suppose that’s why we see them sporting jeans and open collar shirts on the campaign trail. I suppose that’s why Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain all exaggerate their humble beginnings. Even the wealthy Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney claim they understand the pain of being poor, since their ancestors were poor…back in the day.

Wake up America. All of our politicians paid too much for their suits. And they all dress down in a feeble attempt to feign camaraderie with the rest of us. There is no conceivable way that Newt Gingrich, who receives $60,000 per speech, can even remotely understand what it feels like to be poor.

I refuse to ever accept as a political savior, anyone who has to dress down in an attempt to relate to me. I refuse to accept as a political savior, anyone who was not born in a stable, amongst the stench and dirt of reality. My savior was more poor than wealthy, more refugee than ruler, more ridiculed than elected.

My savior didn’t have to dress down to relate to me. And for what it’s worth…my savior was more political than any Republican or Democrat will ever be.

 
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Honest to God #3…when faith and hope are lost…

04 Jan

His son is an adorable little boy…a precious gift from God. Like most little boys, his son is sweet and loving one minute…yet uncontrollably mischievous the next.

But his son is not like most other little boys. His son was born with a chromosomal deficiency which results in autism, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, speech delay, and countless behavioral challenges. His son is not like most other little boys, since there are only 300 other children in the world with this disorder.

It is no surprise that his faith and hope seem lost. It’s hard to have faith in a God who allows such things as chromosomal deficiencies. It’s hard to grasp that single thread of hope, when a steel cable seems vital for a family’s survival.

I’ve personally learned not to blame God for what some wrongly consider to be “mistakes” of nature. My friend’s son is not a mistake…he’s a miracle. I believe in a God who created the world through evolution. And I find it absolutely amazing that the cells, chromosomes, and DNA strains that God created have combined and evolved into these miraculous beings we call human.

Obviously, over the evolving generations some anomalies and abnormalities have occurred. It is up to each of us as to whether we consider these anomalies to be miracles or mistakes. (I might ask if Elizabeth Taylor’s violet eyes were a mistake…since violet eyes are more of an anomaly than autism.) My friend’s son is a miracle…to consider him as anything else would be a mistake.

I don’t worry about my friend’s fragile thread of faith…surely God understands the frustration and concerns which continually flood the caregivers of special needs children. I worry about his desperate need for hope. His son’s chromosomal deficiency is not some silly phrase that will be outgrown in time. The deficiency is lifelong. The medical community doesn’t offer much hope. The educational community struggles to offer guidance and hope, but funds are sorely lacking.

My friend has promised to read this posting. I’m sure he anticipates my providing him with more hope than I’ve been able to provide here. Maybe you have a few words of hope to share with him. If so…please comment. He’ll be waiting…

 
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