Archive Page 2

12
Sep
10

The Most Dangerous Weapon

Freedom of speech was supposed to protect citizens against an overgrown and biased press. There is a lively debate over just how free our press is right now, and I hold that the free press is easily found, but must be pursued. Unfortunately, the press that is offered without pursuit is beholden to ratings and being able to provide desirable interviews, and is much less free than it should be. The free press has eloped with our government.

The marriage of our popular media and our government has replaced our ability, or, more aptly, our desire for objective thought. For every issue that arises, there are 27 pundits to tell us what to think about it and how to react. The daily news covers portions of stories, leaving us shocked with every detail that a decent pundit can reveal, and, therefore, use to earn trust.

This is almost a useful service in our busy world. Except for one huge detail. Virtue. Our politicized media tells us to be virtuous but fails to define the standard. There is none. Those who tell us how to think, to feel, and to spend, bully us into a belief system of charity and guilt but they refuse to stand up and define the solution. They fail to stand on an absolute, yet they ask us to stake our livelihood on their wavering expertise.

Ayn Rand says that the most dangerous man is one who uses pity as a weapon. Stop. Think. Have truer words been spoken? Think of how we all felt when the stimulus package passed. Think of the way we were told to consider healthcare. Remember the pleas of the sick, the emotion involved in this nation-altering decision.

I challenge the media to define virtue before they ask us to be virtuous. In fact, I’ll supply the definition, then they need only stand by it. Virtue lies in the protection of human rights at any cost. Equal rights belong to the rich and the poor, to every race, creed, and gender. Make no mistake; this is not an endorsement of furthering our welfare state. The problem with Marxist theory is that “from everyone according to his ability, to everyone according to his need” requires mere humans to define ability and to define need. Invariably, the definition of need expands as the definition of ability contracts. It’s a slope of destructive enabling that panders to human whim. If we are to settle on such a standard, will we recognize the men and women worthy of ruling, those who are willing to offer definitions blindly and uphold them with the same impartiality? I highly doubt it. Impartial virtue has been labelled cruel, or unfair. And nobody is willing to wear such a title. Rather, we compromise. We compromise all that is good in the name of virtue and we are left with a welfare state that corrodes such virtue.

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01
Aug
10

Last weekend, I traded my fresh cut suburban paradise for a moonlit forest high up in the mountains. When I arrived at the campsite my family had set up, it was dark and all I was aware of was moonlight and a crowd of very concerned loved ones (we spent two hours lost in the forest on the way). Morning unveiled a spectacular view of rocky peaks jutting up over the treeline and reflecting in the lake below. It unveiled something else, too, something unexpected.

Freedom.

After years of wondering why anyone would leave the security of paved roads, stoplights, and Target just to get dirty in the woods and sleep on the ground, understanding settled around me like Superman’s cape. Up here, there were no cellular towers (something we rued the night before as we wandered over miles of backroads). I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t bring any make up, and in the interest of keeping warm, my clothes were mismatched. My dog was off a leash and my children were exploring the wilds of the forest. There were no child molesters to worry about, no schedules to keep, and, in the greatest paradigm shift I have experienced, there were no social standards to maintain – nobody to impress. For these moments, I had no persona to maintain, but plenty of time to ponder the person I wished to be.

Looking over the quiet of the morning lake, I fantasized about building a cabin with all the beetlekill pine. By hand. I would piece business suits and cocktail dresses into quilts and curtains. I would start a small garden, then grow it into something bigger until we had gourmet meals cooked on the open fire. The children would learn all they needed right by my side. I would never be beholden to anyone or anything. This only lasted until the coffee kicked in. I wonder how many regrettable decisions were made pre-coffee?

I hate it when people say that we don’t actually live in a free country anymore. Americans enjoy freedoms that others don’t even have the privilege to fathom. However, there is truth to the statement. Free will was bestowed upon us by our Creator. For just one moment, contemplate the implications of this. It is this very will that gives us the power to doubt, that drives us to find our own answers, that pulls us away from faith and strips our need for trust.

Yet, it is this gift of the will that completes the Creation as we become ourselves. We choose our beliefs, our ideals, and our priorities. Then we guide our lives accordingly. But with what compromise? That is when priorities become the issue. By the time I finished that contemplative cup of coffee, I was not just willing, but anxious to apply make-up, put on uncomfortable shoes, shove my lower half into pantyhose, and and run under the crack of a gun just to have running water complete with privacy.

Free will, properly regarded, is that which makes us great. It separates us from the animals and even from the angels. But we often fail to regard. We were given a perfect, Godly gift, but we are human and The Gift was brought down to us. While the human spirit is great, humanity is not. Humanity is guided by the physical and the physical bears limitation. In the years since the founding of this nation, we have seen the human spirit thrive. In a mere 500 years, this land has gone from savage to productive and wildly developed because of the spirit of greatness. We can travel the globe in a matter of hours and can have the world at our fingertips in a matter of seconds. Untold fortunes are made and lost each day from ingenuity, hard work, or greed. Is the great fortune our great failing? This is where spirit meets physical. An ability to do the great things of our imagination shrouded in responsibility and stewardship. What is the cost for amassing such fortune? How many compromises are struck each day as a man says the end justifies the means? Every compromise erodes greatness and yet, because of this society we have built, success is not possible without compromise. We have compromised greatness for that which we already know and in so doing, we have redefined success to fit a media mold. We forget to follow the pursuits of imagination because we believe we know what is beautiful and we have disguised success as such.

Today, we reap the rewards of all that has been sown. Every plan is laid with a plan B close behind as we anticipate failure along the way. Athletes, once national heroes, are in no way great. World leaders fail us daily, constantly. Business men are not moral pillars. We accept this and account for it in our daily lives, making our own plan B. Then we forget the failure and compromise the standard, which lowers yet again. We compromise for comfort, for success, for a future that grows more bleak.

We know what is great. Instinctively, looking over that lake, I momentarily glimpsed the true freedom that bore such enterprise, the very enterprise that has shackled us since. The time has come to stop settling. We can no longer excuse those who force us to compromise for their agenda. We must strive for greatness and forget Plan B.

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

20
Dec
09

Midnight Clear

I think the point was lost in all my thoughts yesterday. The point is, the gifts of Christmas are grace, unconditional love, hope, and forgiveness. Unfortunately, these gifts are not ours to give. We have instead found what we can give, thus depending on retailers for Christmas joy. In our best intentions, we substituted material giving for the true blessings bestowed by a relationship with Jesus. Being steeped in the uncertainty of recession, coupled with having everything under the sun, has forced us to look deeper for meaning this year. I think it started last year, but everyone was reeling as the markets crashed around us and banks closed at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. This year, we’ve had an opportunity to adjust and regroup.

Now I have found some clarity in this season. As we boycott retailers that refuse to say “Merry Christmas” and argue amongst ourselves over the origin of tradition, we leave behind the truest Christmas gifts. There is no grace in a retail boycott. Unconditional love? We have taught our children that they are only worthy of gifts if they behave. Redemption has disappeared in the holiday shuffle as we strive for perfection in an effort to impress.

The Christmas season offers us so many opportunities, more than any other, to show the world the love of Christ. We, though, are guilty of being caught up in worldly trappings, pointing fingers and bickering over verbiage while around the world, people still starve and suffer oppression. Not having our holiday recognized by the government is not oppression, slavery and unfair caste systems are oppression, this is where we should bare our teeth. Giving gifts is lovely. It is a wonderful expression of love, but as I said yesterday, we must check our motivation. The shopping part of Christmas is far removed from the birth of Jesus part of Christmas. Shopping is not ordained in the Bible as part of any celebration. Yet we have tried to turn the shopping part of Christmas into the holiday itself.

Our fight for Christmas is a dangerous and slippery slope. The struggle over a nativity scene on the courthouse steps can easily keep the world from seeing that very child who lay in the manger, even if the struggle is “won.”

20
Dec
09

What Happened to that Silent Night?

We are living in unprecedented times. In the last year, I think we have all seen our priorities change. When priorities begin to change, we are forced to re-think. We cannot change our motives without taking a serious look deep into our lives. Now, even as we find ourselves standing among the ruins of our lives, time moves on. Ready or not, Christmas is here.

This year, I had no hope for the season. Nothing is as it should be and I’m still reeling from the last year’s mini-breakdown in the Barbie aisle at Target – the sad moment when I realized BOTH my daughters had outgrown not just Barbie, but pretty much any toy that doesn’t recharge. There was curiosity in my despondence, though, as I anticipated something miraculous. My lottery tickets did not pan out. BUT, as I shuttled two breathless girls from party to party, I had the opportunity to watch them, so grown and beautiful, as they foster these relationships and fill their lives with beloved friends. They are making their own Christmas magic and it has a lot less to do with me than it used to. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with toys and presents and everything to do with the people they care about.

While I miss Barbie and baby dolls, I am happy to usher in a much less materialistic phase. Christmas is complicated. Spending is monitored. We worry about leaving people out and hurt feelings. We worry about gifts without reciprocation. We worry about overspending. I was listening to a discussion about this on the radio and I wondered why churches don’t help us out with the gift giving dilemmas. Pastors make efforts to be relevant, but gift-giving among feuding families goes untouched year after year.

Oh wait – that’s easy. CHRISTMAS GIFT GIVING IS NOT BIBLICAL!!!! This was a dangerous thought. It made me reconsider our Christmas traditions and the very tradition we call Christmas. First, I love Christmas. I love to celebrate the birth of Divinity on Earth. I love to give gifts, and I love the traditions. It is worth considering, though, what we lose in this holiday melange. Worrying about which neighbors to gift and if the office gossip should be invited to our Christmas cocktail party completely saps the meaning from the season. It is ironic that selfless giving is the gist of the season, yet it is also the great distraction. I submit that the distraction comes from motive. As we worry through this season, we are truly worrying about reputation and there is nothing Biblical about that.

In fact, Christmas could be the time of year Christians behave the worst. We fight for Christmas then brag about what we’ve done. I myself have written letters to retailers begging them to keep “Christmas” in place of “holidays.” But Christmas 2009 finds me in a different place. Now I fear that Christians aren’t fighting for Christmas, they are using it as a weapon to fight with. The Roman Catholics “declared” Christmas in the first place to distract from pagan celebrations. Now we expect the masses to use the word “Christmas” in marketing, greeting, and relating. It doesn’t make sense to expect a person who is not celebrating the actual birth of Christ to acknowledge it. In fact, it lessens the impact. When we do this, it makes me wonder if even we Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, or our personal triumph at being in a majority that has some political clout.

This year, I am celebrating the birth of Christ, a miracle too great to be turned over to retailers and caterers. I am not interested in leveraging my beliefs into retail dollars. I am even less interested in asking someone who does not hold this season dear to go through the empty verbal exchange just to salve my sensitivities. I am thrilled to celebrate the Santa season with everyone who cares to partake, but the Christmas part is much more personal. This day, this entire season, actually, is sacred to me and I want to celebrate Christmas with Christians who want to rejoice with me. This celebration could never be measured on a Black Friday balance sheet.

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.




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