Archive for the 'Hope' Category

04
Oct
11

Frail Honor, the Most Dangerous Kind

Well THIS is not what I wanted to write about. But there it is, Freshly Pressed, all about the protest on Wall Street and the virtue of the down trodden. Our future is in a lot of trouble. Seeing all these young Americans out in the cold to support their cause reminds me of an accidental moment of clarity I experienced in high school. It was Veteran’s Day, and instead of enjoying our new snow, I was sitting in English Lit. I’m pretty patriotic, so I had the thought that reading Lawrence Furlenghetti may not be the best way to honor our precious vets. I stood up and mentioned to the class how our time spent studying poetry was indeed undermining the sacrifices made by generations of veterans. Within minutes the tempera paint and posterboard were pilfered from the art room and we had some respectable signs. We paraded through the halls and quickly gathered a following that represented the ENTIRE school. Every student left class to support the Veteran’s Day cause. There we were, in the falling snow, on the side of the highway drinking hot chocolate and shouting something about freedom and sacrifice. The media was there within the hour and we clambered for their attention as they expounded on our devout patriotism.

Obviously, we were all lying. But the question is, were we lying to the media and our teachers? Or were we lying to ourselves? In that moment, every one of us was convinced that it was our teenage duty to honor the veterans. I was a little proud of my act of rebellion. As a teen, I was NOT rebellious and this would go a long way toward redeeming my straight-laced reputation. However, the pride was tinged with a nameless fear. I knew very well that the only reason the entire school walked out behind me was because they wanted to. I had successfully appealed to their inner-most wishes for a day off and I made it look honorable. At that moment, human nature stripped a layer and I discovered the simplicity of manipulation. Turn a person’s frailty into that which makes him honorable and he will stand for much less than he could be. It is easy to recline in one’s excuses, but so difficult to live up to an expectation.

Now, I see these protesters on Wall Street and all over the country, youth who were traded honor for mediocrity, and I am sad for our future. I would like a youth that is prepared to rise up and embrace the challenges ahead, enjoy the freedom of our new found globalism, and spread a better way of life to the truly downtrodden masses (not the ones being fed organic veggies and pasta in the street). Unfortunately, what sleeps on Wall Street right now is only bringing this nation further into despair. With it goes the hope that would bring prosperity to those who need it most.

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21
May
11

Time to Unpack

I’ve called it History’s Quandary. The Middle East, where enemies and allies change by the day and the best we can ever hope for is choosing the least unfortunate. Right now, our president is standing in fallout that is too deep to sort through, and for that he deserves our sympathy. Presidents before him have acted on the best knowledge to make the best decisions only to be judged by generations of history.

Right now, though, the President is not only drowning in the fallout from the troubled Middle East, but also at home. His Israeli peace plan has brought nothing but controversy over a steadfast ally. I have a knee-jerk opinion on what he said, but I like to do a little research before I speak out on the Middle East, so I’ve spent two days reading the blog circuit regarding this speech, Hamas, Abbas, Netanyahu, the Muslim Brotherhood…Finally I came to a conclusion.

It’s time to unpack, America, or our baggage is going to drown us.

Every comment stream I read turned into a circular argument of name-calling, blaming, excuses, and hate. Is this what our great nation has become? Golda Maier said that there will be war until Palestinians can learn to love their children as much as they hate the Jews. What about us? After reading all I have, it occurs to me that Americans are so caught up in rhetoric, we cannot reach a viable solution on any issue. In the name of being right, we have forgotten that love fosters growth, but hate destroys everything in its path. The Israeli conflict is an appropriate backdrop for such a realization. Israel, though a small and young nation, has grown more than many of its peers in the area. The nation is democratic, based on a general concept of freedom. It’s peers are bent on destruction. Nothing can destroy and intimidate its way to prosperity – not governments, ideas, egos, or armies.

We Americans inherited a legacy of peace and prosperity that we have squandered. Now that it is threatened, we are up to our ears in blame and hate that jeopardizes our future. We cannot even agree on good an evil. When we reached out to the Katrina victims, there were criticisms. The Gulf oil spill? Not an environmental tragedy, but a political blame-fest. We fight about gunmen in our schools and killings on the border. Obama compared children being blown up on school buses with the humiliation of occupation and NOBODY SAID A THING. Children are being killed, people, and we have turned it into a political debate without spending a moment to grieve for humanity.

America has always stood for what is right and good. She has been a bastion of freedom and solace. Right now, though, America doesn’t know what is right and therefore cannot stand. Instead, we have replaced good vs. evil with red vs. blue and are battering both to the ground. I promise that our skirmishes over things like abortion and clean water will look luxurious when we are fighting for existence. If we cannot come together and remember that a dead child is a tragedy no matter who her parents were and that injustice is a scourge, we will fall from within.

Right now, we are carrying our own versions of history in heavy backpacks that weigh us down, hindering our movement and keeping us out of the fight. We have got to unpack those so that we can step up and remember that good is worth fighting for. The enemy is powerful, but he should be easy for us to recognize – he’s the one threatening our future and that of the world. Usually, he has less problem saying he is bent on murder than we have believing him.

01
Mar
11

History’s Quandary…Choosing Sides

The Middle East is History’s quandary. Today’s dubious friendships are the bloody enemies of tomorrow. The enemies of today are the benefactors of our tomorrows. As the Middle East slides into even greater chaos, I am suspect of anyone claiming to have a thorough understanding of the situation. I am even less trusting of someone who claims to know what should be done. This is uncharted territory for me. I like to choose sides, and I like to know enough to choose the right side. I don’t know if there is a right side in this situation.

This could be the moment that millions stand on the crumbling wall that has held them captive for so many years. Or, it could be the moment that millions stand on a crumbling ground and fall deeper into turmoil. Historically, revolutions have not been good for the people. Think of Cuba, France, Russia, Germany…The list goes on. In fact, I cannot think of a people’s revolution that can match the one staged on our behalf. The success of 1776 and the long-term implications defy human nature. It is difficult to look at the American Revolution and the foundations it laid, however bloody, and not acknowledge divine intervention. This is a cautious statement, for I believe that every revolutionary at some time called upon the name of his god, and the results were not necessarily benevolent. But consider the success of our great nation – luck? Extreme wisdom? Favorable conditions? Good weather and a great corn crop? No need to be cheeky, but is there any explanation other than the foresight and wisdom of great leaders? There have been few such leaders in history, yet we had seven of them in our time of need. It’s inhuman when one considers the frailty of our race.

As for the Middle East, we should hope for no less, and we should pray. There is no courage in a refusal to believe our prayer will be heard. War is bloody, and there is evil committed in the name of God every day, but the name of God is invoked by the ego, by the self-aggrandizement that is counter to all God stands for. The evil in the world, particularly in a leader gunning down his own unarmed citizens, should serve to force the hand of the atheist, to deny that the will of man gets to rule this Earth. Pray. Pray for the freedom of Mideastern wives, daughters, sons, brothers, and husbands. Pray that this bloodshed we see is actually the birth of a legacy, that newborn cries of freedom will be heard throughout the Earth and the mountains will shudder against this power that is free will ordained by a Loving God.

17
Jan
11

Soul Force – Lest We Forget a Great Man

“As my wonderful wife @Rep_Giffords continues to make progress, let us all pause and reflect on this MLK day,” Tweet from Mark Kelly.

The words themselves are not profound, but they are well-timed. The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. is exactly what this country needs right now. Perhaps tensions were somewhat cooled by the holidays, but as gas prices, food prices, health care prices, and interest rates rise this spring, we are bound to find ourselves suspended in revolutionary tension once again. As with any unspeakable tragedy, there are lessons to be taken from January 8th, lessons that meld beautifully with MLK’s legacy, if only we take notice.

Martin Luther King led a revolution. This nation is forever changed for the better, thanks to his leadership. As a rule, change without violence happens slowly. Without his peaceful example, it could have taken decades to recognize the human cost of racism and segregation. For years, we could have suffered the damage wrought by an oppressed population as the nation crumbled economically and spiritually. With the competing Black Panther movement of the day, there may have been widespread bloodshed, leading to fear and desperation. Desperation takes hold when mankind is rent of the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Believe in The Almighty or not, it is accepted wisdom that a man threatened by captivity is a dangerous man. Freedom is a gift straight from the Lord, the gift of freewill. History shows that men will more easily lay down their lives for freedom than any other force.

The human desire for freedom is the beast to appease. That which gives strength to fight to the death is also the greatest weakness. Every infamous leader has understood the precious weight of freedom, and the ability or inability of the citizens to carry such weight. Do Americans still have the stamina to uphold this? Jared Loughner, like Timothy McVeigh and even King’s assassin James Earl Ray, was convinced he would protect freedom, but the violence did nothing but impede his cause. Every time someone abuses his rights in the name of preserving freedom, freedom is compromised.

As in Martin Luther King, Jr’s time, I believe the US stands precariously. We are threatened by economic and social challenges as the world around us changes more quickly than we can react. Our superpower status has been eroded and will continue to do so unless we can unite under an ideology of greatness. As we talk about our fight for freedom, we should understand that the way to freedom was paved for us. Centuries of sons were lost on battlefields to accomplish the conditions under which a nation like ours could be founded. The United States carries a mantle to protect these conditions, to ensure that people can live, trade, and thrive freely throughout the world. We need to protect our economic prowess by reigning in spending and we need to be peacekeepers.
Finally, we must define greatness. It is obvious that we have forgotten the meaning. Greatness is that which allows us to be free – it is strength, courage, justice, and the responsibility to uphold these virtues even above personal interest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a legacy that possibly sustained us as a nation. He gave us this: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline… Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

14
Dec
09

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

I call it the Blaze of Glory. It happens when one does not simply transgress, but actually fails so miserably in an aspect of life that he is forever changed. Not just him, but those around him and those who know of him. Such is the life of Tiger Woods right now. I don’t want to pick on Tiger because any of us could find ourselves in such a predicament. He is simply a good example of what we all are capable of. Though I generally dislike celebrities, Tiger was on my good list. Watching him play and interact with fans and press was reassuring, that good people can make it and stay good.

Then he was found in the street next to his SUV and everything changed – Blaze of Glory. His just keeps on blazing, too, brighter and brighter with each porn star that flares up.

So is Tiger really a bad man? Near the end of Matthew 7, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives some of the most famous Biblical advice. He says that a wise man builds his house on a rock so it can withstand the wind, the rain, and the flood. The fool, he says, builds his house on sands that shift and it will not survive. Of course, this is good advice. With 2000+ years of construction technology under our belts, it is common sense. We all know to come in from the rain. Our houses are built on the rock and churches are full of hurting people who have come home to escape the storm. A few chapters later, James goes so far as to say that a trial is an opportunity for real joy. He is right. This is when we grow, when we learn, and when we live under a certain restraint.

What Jesus failed to mention, though, is our love of fun in the sun. When life is good, we leave the shelter of home and we go to the beach. We settle into the sand, taking advantage of its shiftiness to install a flimsy umbrella, then we bask in the goodness of it all. The trouble with the beach is, if a sun bather falls asleep, her toes will be wet as the tide changes. She will probably be burned, too, unless she used good sunscreen. In these good times, it is easy to forget the Lord, and there is real danger in the sand that shifts beneath us. When times are difficult, we retreat to him. We pray. We ask for guidance and wisdom, and I would be willing to say that the wise take steps to avoid temptation. When things improve, though, we venture out, forgetting our prayers, feeling wise in our own right, and lacking any guidance. We go to play in the sun and it feels so good. It is far too easy in these good times to find ourselves lost, burned, and maybe even regretting foolishness. Funny that the trials James speaks of can bring joy into our lives and these easy times can burn us. So much better if we could just remember that even if we stray from the Rock itself, we should still remember the sunscreen.

22
Oct
09

Aahhhh…Seventeen Again

The plot may be Hollywood’s most worn out cliche, but I can’t help but love the movie “17 Again.” Regardless of the overdone plot, it is fresh, witty, and heartfelt with a message that is almost foreign to Hollywood.

Plus, the cougar in me is quite taken with Zac Efron (eewwww…that was my outside typing).

Beyond the young, young hottie, though, is an interesting contrast between youth and maturity. Youth is bombastic. I wish it were contagious. Children are nurtured and encouraged and in these conditions they flourish. As they hover near adulthood, they are full of bravado and really can take on the world. Pepsi has an amazing commercial right now that portrays the spirit of youth as that which moves a nation and I don’t think that they are far from the truth.

Then it happens. It happened in the movie when Zac’s character made the very grown up choice to raise an unexpected family. I’m sure we can all remember when it began for us. First, Adulthood lures us away with the freedom to make some choices for our selves, but before we know it, it has us tangled by our feet. One choice leads to another, then we have to take responsibility. Then comes the most vicious assault, the point of no return, self-doubt. This is where the adult falters and what steals the bombast of youth.

While a solid self-check is a good thing, self-doubt is destructive. It steals the confidence we had to make dreams come true and even to stand for principle. Choices that seemed simple from the protection of our youth become more and more difficult when the mortgage is stares us down from the first of the month. We trudge through adulthood with the tattered memory of youthful verve.

What if it were different? If we could hold onto that hope and the uncompromising innocence that comes with it, would we be better off as a society? I think that we would. I would never suggest that we walk away from personal responsibility – ever – but I strongly feel that if we can hold onto something inside that is empowering, we will be much better for it. It is detrimental to allow our youth to be ripped away from us; instead, we have to let go, making decisions along the way. We have to mature with intentionality that gives us the control we thought we had when we were young. Only then can we protect ourselves, the id, according to Freud, with the love and care that we deserve. When we make the effort to care for ourselves, we can extend this to those around us. If we fail and our lives are in tatters, it is impossible to live in true selflessness.

20
Oct
09

Joy is in the Journey

Sometimes just sitting in church is overwhelming. I go to a church that nearly 10 per cent of my city attend. It’s huge and I never know who I will see…the mayor, presidents of banks, scandalized newsmakers, teachers, friends, and even enemies and convicts. Once in a while, I glimpse a moment for one of these people – a tear or a hug more emotional than just hello – and I realize that we are all journeying together. Regardless of station, good or bad, every one of us is a human being with very similar feelings and struggles.

Sunday was one of these days. There is genuine concern in these times. Children are at war, homes are being lost, and the future is uncertain. Pain is everywhere. Then I wonder how many people walked into this church, hanging their hope on a Sunday school promise that God will take their troubles away. Because of this pretty and simple package, how many will leave this building in a bitter sadness, defeated and even angry at a God they have never met?

I hold the church responsible, in “recruiting efforts,” for painting this simple picture of a joyful life lived with the Lord. I believe in this picture, but it stopped being simple the first time life got hard. When life got hard, I discovered that the Lord Himself does not just hand us a colossal aspirin and pain-repelling umbrella tied up in a red ribbon of exuberant joy.

What he does do is reach out a hand, often times from across a chasm, and promise to take the walk with with us. Unfortunately, when we have been promised a fluffy cloud will carry us along – over the hard parts – it’s hard to understand a God who still makes us take the long way. I worry that this is where people are lost, when they hoped to float over the chasm so they don’t take the hand and make the frightening leap.

Real life with the Lord is exactly that – real. The joy part of it is learned, through trials that are conquered because our faith is placed in a God who is unchanging. He never promised to remove the trials, he promised to make them smaller. Feeling the Love of God on my life reminds me most of being a child. There were scary times and sad times and so many times that I didn’t understand. In those times, there was my dad. He would pick me up, or put an arm around me, and nothing around me changed, but I felt safe. Somehow I knew that whatever came of us, at least something would be the same – my dad.

My dad was certainly not capable of fixing all the trouble that found its way into my life, but he made it more bearable. God cannot remove trouble from our lives, either. If He did, it would mean taking our free will, which is a dangerous but crucial blessing He gave us. He gave us rules to make the climb a little less painful; our obedience is up to us.

That is why there are so many severe warnings against sin. It is not to make us feel guilty or give us restrictions. As adults, we understand that there are just behaviors that are destructive. It would be miserable, if not even impossible, to live as eternal beings in a pattern of sin. And that’s where we got the provision, through Jesus, to give us the opportunity to live as was intended. God grieves that any of us perish, surely grieves in a way we cannot even comprehend. His love for us was the original first love. It is fully passionate, exciting, and hopeful. It never goes away – it may be put away, stashed comfortably in a recess of our heart, but it is never gone. He carries a torch for the world as we carry a torch for those we first loved, a torch that will never be extinguished.




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