Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be ready

1 Peter 3:14-16 (New International Version)

14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The theme of the first week in Advent is hope. Hope is what keeps our your head cool. The hope of salvation is part of the full Armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. No matter what we have to go through or put up with, we don't have to be afraid. God's love drives out fear. Only Jesus gives us this kind of unflappable hope. We have hope because He saved us and we now belong to Him.

The first candle on the Advent wreath is the prophets' candle. Isaiah, Michah, Zecheriah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, these old testament prophets had hope because they knew that God was sending His messiah to Israel. Today, God asks us to prophesy (to speak His Words) to others. 1 Peter 3 tells us one way we can do that- if we have hope , especially at times when so many around us are driven by fear, we should be ready to explain where our hope comes from.

Mind you, (maybe a little like the disciple Peter) I know that I haven't always been great about doing it with gentleness and respect- but if we can manage that, to not just speak the truth but to make sure we speak the truth in love, then our most ardent opponents won't get far when they try to defame our characters.

Even pirates can serve God as His modern day prophets when we share the hope we have in Jesus. And by the way, with the exception of Jonah, most of those Old Testament prophets didn't come to outsiders, they came to Israel. Sure, God wants us to evangelize, to share Jesus with the un-churched, but He also calls us to speak His Word to our fellow Christians. When they come to you motivated by fear, of the unknown, of people or things they don't understand, of the end times, of the world and of the Devil, be prepared to answer those fears with the hope Jesus gives you- hope because the victory is already won, hope because He reigns with love and grace, mercy and forgiveness, openness and acceptance.

Does this sound familiar? Sure it does. President Elect Obama is not Jesus and he's not some kind of savior. If anything many of us are heaping way too many expectations on him, but he ran a campaign (yes, like Ronald Reagan's) based on confidence and optimism. He even had the audacity to use the word "hope" as a slogan until settling on "change" as a dominant buzzword. Coming from the faith traditions of the Black Church, he was comfortable with the concept of prophecy being something for the church in the here and now, not exclusively for the ancient Hebrews or for people desperate to divine the future and forecast the second coming. Maybe that's why Christian leaders from that same tradition, like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke not only of Heaven and the Judgment Day, but of how we can positively affect the coming of God's Kingdom now, in our own communities. Because they served as God's advocates, His prophets, to their congregations.

This Christmas season, apply this kind of language and this kind of thinking in your personal life, and in your fellowships and relationships. Don't let it be catchy campaign rhetoric that's left behind on election day. Let it transform your thinking and guide your behavior.

Overcome fear with hope, and be prepared to tell people that Jesus gives you that hope.

First week in Advent; Hope

"Light One Candle" by Natalie Sleeth

Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope, He brings hope to every heart,
He comes! He comes!

Light one candle for peace,
One bright candle for peace,
He brings peace to every heart,
He comes! He comes!

Light one candle for joy,
One bright candle for joy,
Every nation will find salvation
in Bethl'em's baby boy.

Light one candle for love,
One bright candle for love,
He brings love to every heart,
He Comes! He comes!
He brings love to every heart,
He comes! He comes!

From Dec. 2004 column

There’s a lot of debate lately about “keeping Christ in Christmas.” Some people are dead set against saying “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas,” because they think “Happy Holidays” is too politically correct. The irony is that people started saying “Happy Holidays” in order to avoid offending people, but now, all kinds of people are terribly offended when you do say it.

I loved one Christian editorial writer’s point of view. He actually thought that we SHOULD take Jesus out of Christmas, because Christmas has become a shameless exercise in materialism and commercialism. This writer thought that we should just let it be the shallow, selfish thing-fest that it has become and make Easter more Spiritual, and focus on Jesus’ birth, ministry, passion, and resurrection all in the Spring. His point was that it was sacrilegious how blatantly we exploit Jesus’ birth in December.

That may be a little culturally extreme. I’d rather just wish people a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays interchangeably and not worry about who’s offended or who’s not. Why apologize for a good thing? Just because you don’t believe in a good thing, that doesn’t make it a bad thing.

I’m sure that if you shared any of the following greetings, someone, somewhere would probably be offended; Congratulations on your new baby. Way to go on passing that exam! How d’ya like your new car? I’m so relieved that you’re feeling better.

But in the interest of Holiday understanding, allow me to take you on a quick Christmastime tour:

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of lights. "Hanukkah " is Hebrew for "dedication.” The first evening of Hanukkah starts after the sunset of the 24th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.
Greek invaders wanted to stop Israelis from worshiping the true God, they wanted them to worship their gods instead. A Jewish family, the Maccabees, defeated an overwhelming enemy, and rededicated the Temple.

After the occupiers had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees took down the pagan statues and restore the Temple. They needed ritually purified olive oil to light a Menorah to rededicate the Temple. However, they found only enough oil for a single day. They decided to use it until they could get new oil purified. Miraculously, the one day’s oil burned for the eight days that it took them to press new oil and ceremonially bless and present it. That’s why Jews light one candle each night of the eight-day festival.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of life, family, and community based on the principles of African culture. Kwanzaa was established in aftermath of the Watts Riots, provoked by cases of police brutality. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Ron Everett, a professor at California State University, Long Beach. Everett wanted to preserve, continually revitalize and promote American culture through African rituals.

Kwanzaa celebrated by some African Americans for a week between December 26 and January 1. It’s not a religious holiday, but a cultural one, based on various elements of “first harvest” celebrations celebrated in Africa. “Kwanza” is Swahili for “first fruits. Each of the days symbolizes one of the Seven Principles: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

Back in my hometown of Phoenix, luminaries mark the route from house to house. Luminaries are small candles sitting in paper sacks filled with sand. In Mexico and parts of the Southwest, “Las Posadas” are nightly processions enacted the nine nights before Christmas. Each night, children dressed as Mary, Joseph, and shepherds knock on neighbors’ doors, singing a ritual song that begs entrance to the posada (inn), only to be turned away. Grown ups dressed as the Devil chase the children with sparklers and roman candles. On Christmas Eve, “El Bueno Noche” (the good night) the family at the last house sing a welcome song, and the whole parade enters for a party with fruit punch, tamales and piƱatas.

And of course Clark W. Griswald (Chevy Chase), was the first American to light his house up like an airport runway so that Santa Claus could tell where to bring the presents. And so that the hoards of Vikings could know where the credit card customer lived, so they could bring the devastatingly high interest rates.

But, yes, the most important festival of lights will be the one that sheds light on the true meaning of Christmas. So may I suggest that the family that prays together, stays together. And a “Christian Nation” begins at home. Instead of worrying about how “un-Christian” Christmas seems to be getting, why not make your own Christmas a little more Spiritual and a little less superficial. Why not start reading devotions and praying nightly during the festival of Advent.

Advent means “coming.” It is a season when we prepare for Jesus’ arrival. There are five candles in an advent wreath. 3 purple or blue, and one pink, and one white. Purple symbolizes both His royalty and our repentance.

It is a circle, which has no beginning and no end. Pine is used because it is "evergreen," also representing eternal life. However, the wreath is also foreshadowing of Christ's passion. Pine needles and/or holly leaves represent the crown of thorns and holly berries and/or poinsettia flowers represent the blood He shed on the cross.

The first violet candle is the “Prophets candle” and symbolizes the hope that Old Testament Jews had that a Messiah would one day come.

The second violet candle is the “Bethlehem” candle and represents the peace that the new God/Man savior would bring, ending the long spiritual rift between God and mankind.

The pink candle is the “Angels’” candle (or in some traditions, the “Mary” candle) it symbolizes the joy of Heaven that a Savior was finally to be born.

The last violet candle is the “Shepherds’” candle and represents the love or adoration of those ready to accept the gift of the Christ child.

The large white candle in the center, often lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve is the “Christ Candle” and represents Jesus as the “Light of the world,” or the Epiphany, God on Earth.

I hope this column was enlightening. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday indeed

A Wal-Mart worker died early Friday after an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors and trampled him, police said.
When the madness ended, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was dead and four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured.
Roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Wal-Mart's doors in the predawn darkness.

Chanting "push the doors in," the crowd pressed against the glass as the clock ticked down to the 5 a.m. opening.

Sensing catastrophe, nervous employees formed a human chain inside the entrance to slow down the mass of shoppers.

It didn't work.

The mob barreled in and overwhelmed workers.

When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, 'I've been on line since yesterday morning,' They kept shopping."

Are culturally sensitive people who say "Happy Holidays" really waging war on Christmas? Maybe... we have met the enemy and he is US.

Where Would Jesus Shop?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"It's the kind of magazine you might find in a doctor's waiting room next to Cosmopolitan or Reader's Digest. On the front is a pale face heavy with mascara. A flick through throws up striking images: urban flooding, a Nigerian abattoir, a girl eating noodles, a pooch in a limo.

It's only when and if you get round to reading the text that the incongruity strikes you: "Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven." What kind of problem page is this"

Read the whole article from the BBC at

When he was translating the Scripture into German vernacular,Luther said that "The language of the Bible should be like a mother talking to her children."

I know that some argue that some translations are too influenced by Calvinist interpretations or that paraphrases like the Living Bible and the Message are too watered down, but I figure- whatever gets you started. Call it an entry-level drug before they move on to the hard stuff, but package it any way you like so long as people start reading the Word, let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Mind you, eventually they have to get weened off of spiritual milk and move onto meatier study. But why not a graphic novel for starters. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Go sow the seed at the porno shows!

Making sense of the meaning of life

I was crammed into a middle seat. The guy in front was practically in my lap, and I had my arms drawn in tightly as I pecked furiously on the keyboard. God glanced over. ''What are you working on?'' He asked.

''A column,'' I said. ``About you, in fact.''

He lifted an eyebrow. ``Oh? What did I do now?''...

The captain announced that we were about to land. We were asked to shut down and stow our electrical equipment. The guy in front returned his seat to its full upright and locked position. The baby kept squalling. Moments later, the plane touched the tarmac. It had been an awful flight, and I was glad to be home.

''Thank God,'' I whispered.

''You're welcome,'' He said.

Read the entire story at

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a new columnist at the Miami Herald and I really thought he did a great job on this one that ran in today's Sioux City Journal.

Buy Nothing Day; NOV. 28

Suddenly, we ran out of money and, to avoid collapse, we quickly pumped liquidity back into the system. But behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?

There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.

It will take a massive mindshift. You can start the ball rolling by buying nothing on November 28th. Then celebrate Christmas differently this year, and make a New Year’s resolution to change your lifestyle in 2009.

It’s now or never!

As the planet starts heating up, maybe it’s time to finally go cold turkey. Take the personal challenge by locking up your debit card, your credit cards, your money clip, and see what it feels like to opt out of consumer culture completely, even if only for 24 hours. Like the millions of people

Buy Nothing Day is an informal day of protest against consumerism observed by social activists. Typically celebrated the Friday after American Thanksgiving in North America and the following day internationally, in 2008 the dates will be November 28 and 29 respectively. It was founded by Vancouver artist Ted Dave and subsequently promoted by the Canadian Adbusters magazine.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Vancouver in September of 1992 "as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption." In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, which is one of the top 10 busiest shopping days in the United States. Outside of North America, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated on the following Saturday. Despite controversies, Adbusters managed to advertise Buy Nothing Day on CNN, but many other major television networks declined to air their ads.Soon, campaigns started appearing in United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

While critics of the day charge that Buy Nothing Day simply causes participants to buy the next day, Adbusters states that it "isn't just about changing your habits for one day" but "about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste."An example of an event celebrating Buy Nothing Day is a Buy Nothing Day hike.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another one from December 2004

Actual Bible Verse:
He (God) upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

~Psalm 146:7-9
Republican Approved Version:
He upholds the cause of the corporations and gives tax cuts and tax incentives to people with the means of production, in order to stimulate the economy.
The LORD uses the Patriot Act to justify holding prisoners indefinitely without indictment.
the LORD repeats suggestions often enough until people are blind to the facts, (say "Saddam Hussein" and "9/11" together in the same sentence whenever you can).
the LORD lifts up those who are successful, and if you work hard enough and "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps," maybe you could be more successful too.
the LORD hates "slimy liberals," fags, lesbos, Jews, and "people-of-color," especially "Rag-Heads.
The LORD watches over everyone with surveillance cameras and Internet tracking software and requires people to sign loyalty oaths before being permitted to enter his campaign rallies,
but He frustrates the ways of Ohio voters, especially in minority neighborhoods.

hoping to ruffle some feathers and provoke some cognitive dissonance. Sorry if I went too far and offended anyone. That's why it's just on my blog and not in my actual column.

You have to admit, the "Moral Values" expressed in Psalm 146 do sound a little more akin to the Democratic party than "Compassionate Conservatism."

"Better Dead than Red (as in state)"

Found on my main blog in November 2004

Matthew 7:15-23
Beware "Conservative-Christian" friends! Religiosity is politically expedient. Don't be surprised if Bush and the Neocons sell you out. For all their talk about "moral values" like gay-marriage bans and overturning Roe v. Wade.

'Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character.

'Knowing the correct password--saying 'Master, Master,' for instance--isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience--doing what my Father wills. I can see it now--at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.' ~Matthew 7:15-23 (the Message)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hannibal rode an elephant

Jesus Rode a Donkey

Dr. Linda Seger is the granddaughter of a Lutheran minister, and a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She holds an M.A. in Religion and the Arts from Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, a ThD in Drama and Theology from The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, and an M.A. in Feminist Theology from Immaculate Heart College Center, Los Angeles, California.

She recently wrote a book that I'd really like to read. Maybe I can ask Santa for a copy. She calls it "Jesus Rode a Donkey."

"You have neglected the weightier matters of the law - justice, mercy, good faith." Matthew 23:23

What would Jesus do? "As the One who accepts and loves, he would be...volunteering at soup kitchens rather than granting tax cuts to the rich. He'd be planting trees instead of strip-mining national parks. He'd be working to take care of those who have trouble surviving in our society, rather than rewarding the rich."

During the last election, Christian Democrats often heard that the Republican vote was the values vote, that good Christians were Republicans, and that Democrats attacked people of faith. Yet, my understanding and prioritizing of the many values of caring for the poor, health care, over-coming discrimination, creating sound fiscal policy, working for peace, caring for the environment, overcoming governmental corruption - all are founded upon my Christian faith, and have led me from being a Republican to becoming a Democrat.

Jesus Rode a Donkey shines the light of Scripture and theology on policy decisions of both the Republican and Democratic party, and looks at the many ways that, I believe, the Republican party has lost its way -- by giving more tax breaks to the super-rich than the poor, by cutting back on environmental policies that protect the environment, by not caring for the poor, the needy, the have-nots in our society, by fueling the war rather than creating peace, by creating an attitude of fear rather than hope, by not being honest with the American people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Christian Democrat? Hell yes!

Here's part of a column I wrote back in 2004 to explain better-

Plenty of people can’t understand how I can call myself a Christian and remain a registered Democrat. That blows my mind. I mean, I can understand why some Christians would choose to be Republican, why can’t they accept that some Christians may disagree with them on a myriad of issues and that God’s okay with that?

What tactful language should we use to talk about our distinctions? Republicans and Democrats? NeoCons or “Righties” and Progressives? Conservatives and Liberals? None of those labels really work because none of them is clear enough, black and white enough.

Case in point, I strongly believe that massive deficits are grossly irresponsible. That’s a fiscally conservative point of view.

Meanwhile I also think it’s irresponsible to not have any regulations whatsoever on automatic weapons. I happen to think that’s socially conservative- but right-wing Republicans would accuse me of being a liberal for wanting to protect my family from gun violence.

Now, I get that many people identify themselves with the Republican party because it appeals to their religious convictions, their “family values.”

The values of “the right” include personal responsibility, personal morality, living a pious and righteous lifestyle. Traditional families, opportunity, justice, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, free-market competition, defending our way of life, not forfeiting our sovereignty to outside forces, and support for Israel based on what some consider false interpretation of Bible prophecy.

I totally admire and respect most of those values, heck, I share some of them. But please, my dear Republican friends and family members, please allow me to suggest that Democrats actually have values too, and some of them are acceptable:

The values of “the left” include social-responsibility, social-morality, social-justice, fairness, progress, moral leadership in the world, self-government, and community.

The right has literally turned liberal, compromise and tolerance into dirty words. I appreciate that no one should have to compromise their principles, but democracy is about balancing diverse interests, and sometimes pragmatism, practicality and reality require compromise.

I appreciate that we shouldn’t tolerate sin, terrorism, or perversion. But God wants us to tolerate people who are different from us, and people who we disagree with. Jesus ate with the prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors. Jews of His day didn’t even associate with Romans or Samaritans.

I hear you asking, “what about homosexual marriage, what about abortion?” You know what, I’m a Democrat, but I’m not an advocate of gay marriage, but I don’t think we should discriminate against gays or demonize them or allow violence against them.

I’m a Democrat, but I consider myself pro-life. I’m much more comfortable than many liberals with bans on partial birth abortion and the Lacy Peterson law. Safe, legal, but rare.

But I know Democrats who say that they’re pro-choice, not because of feminism or privacy, but because of poverty. They say that they support Roe v. Wade because they hope to reduce unintended pregnancies. That may be misguided, if like me, you consider the baby a life, but as misguided as it is, I can respect it. When you’re a public school teacher you see hundreds of kids who are neglected and abused, their so-called families are plagued with divorce, adultery, drug and alcohol abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe than any child is an accident, God loves each and every one, but Republicans would have to agree that not everyone should be a parent.

I may disagree with my pro-choice friends, but I can try to understand that their opinions are just as based on compassion as mine are. Years ago the GOP tried to distance themselves from the religious right by referring to themselves as a “big tent” with room for everybody, but my experience has been that the Democrats are the real party is a party of inclusion. They respect my individual conscience on difficult issues like abortion.

Former Republican Senator Bob Dole wanted to put inclusion into the 1996 GOP party platform:

“While the party remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing its historic principles and ideals, we also recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing views on issues of personal conscience like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not as a sign of weakness, and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues. Recognizing that tolerance is a virtue, we are committed to resolving our differences in a spirit of civility, hope and mutual respect.”

Unfortunately the Grand Old Party declined Dole’s proposal, it was adopted in 2000 as part of the Democratic Party Platform.

So, how can I be a Democrat and call myself a Christian? Because the historic principles and ideals the Democrats advance are the same as these in Psalm 146, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

No, I will never say that you can’t be a Christian and be a Republican, but I wish that people will stop writing me off as stupid and illegitimate or less of a Christian because I’m a Democrat. We both love our country and what what’s best for it, we just have different notions of what that means. Last time I asked Him, Jesus was still an independent.

Sheep Dip

This Sunday's Old Testament Lesson, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 was fascinating to me. It seems to me that God wants to protect His children from bullies. It also sounds a little bit like sometimes, WE sheep ARE those bullies. Makes you wonder (& worry) sometimes whether you're a sheep or a goat (Matthew 25:31-46).

I say, when in doubt, try being humble and putting other people first. And since we all get things wrong, I say better to fault on the side of the Gospel than on the side of the Law. Does that make me a "Gospel Reductionist?" Then I'll "sin boldly," on the side of grace.

Ezekiel 34:
11 " 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness... 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice...

20 " 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21
Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Show a Vet you care

When doing your Christmas cards this year, take one card and send it to this address.
If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful special people who have sacrificed so much would get.

When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please
include the following:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,NW
Washington , D.C. 20307-5001

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pray for Sylmar, CA fires

Yikes! How bad is it? Are the Townends in trouble? Is LHS in trouble? All we hear on the national news is about the Montecito fired. Jenn Perlich's post on Facebook is the first I'd heard that Sylmar was dealing with this.

What do you guys know? Do they have it contained? Have many homes been lost? Has the school been closed this week?

Friends and former students- please check in and let us know you're okay

LHS Alumni, and EVERYONE, please pray for the thousands of people who've been evacuated and those losing their homes. And please pray for the safety of LA Lutheran MS/HS!!


An explosive brush fire driven by 60-mile-per-hour gusts ripped through the northern San Fernando Valley today, burning homes before leaping both the 210 and 5 Freeways...

More than 2,500 acres had burned by 5 a.m. Saturday morning, with more than 1,000 structures threatened by uncontrolled flames and more than 10,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Forest for the trees

Love or hate? Hope or fear? Acceptance or rejection? Forgiveness or judgment? Grace or Religiosity? Gospel or Law? Spirit or Letter?

Here's an idea:
It’s not our job to change people so that God will accept them,
It is our job to accept people so that God can change them!

Weren't you listening?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free Jesus!

Neal Obermeyer, editorial cartoonist for the Lincoln Journal-Star drew this after reading Cal Thomas' column on the religious-right last Sunday. I thought it was awesome.

"Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative Evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?"

Read the rest at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


"...all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things." ~Kurt Vonnegut

Today, pray for our service men and women and all veterans. And, even if you disagree with an administration's policies or misuse of our military strength, please thank a vet for their service. I know it doesn't always make sense to say that someone fighting in Iraq these days is "fighting for our freedom" but they are- no matter how wrong the politicians get it, our soldiers never risk or sacrifice in vain.

Pray for peace, but most urgently, pray for the peace, strength and comfort of our Vets, current soldiers, and their families.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord

I have been trying to say this to my fellow Christians for the last 25 years, but they wouldn't hear me because I'm a lefty. Cal Thomas is notorious arch-conservative columnist. Surely they might just listen to him-


Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative Evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.

Read the entire article on Thomas's official website

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reflections on Grace and the culture wars

Grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, kindness. gentleness...

These come from a place of understanding, of not mere compassion but from empathy.

It's tragic that some of the people who least practice the American ideals embodied in the Declaration and the Preamble are the most nationalistic and pumped full of what they imagine to be patriotism. Just as some of the most zealously claiming to be Christian are so often the least Christ-like. Ever since I attended a Lutheran College, I've seen that some of the least Lutheran people are Lutherans.

Maybe this is what Ghandi meant when he said that it is necessary to be a non-Christian to see the true beauty of Christ.

The problem with the chosen, is that like the good brother who stayed home in the story of the prodigal, we become resentful. Christians want (desire) to understand a simple, clean, black and white universe. And (like adolescents) insist on our understanding of justice. In short, we desire to be in control. In essence, Christians want to be God.

The Irony is that the very people who claim to have God on their side, are even MORE under the rule of sin than all the so-called "sinners," whom they wish to change, control, punish, or eliminate. Because the original sin is thinking that we know better than God, that we are His equal.

Isn't that sad? We judge the Pharisees in the Bible when we read stories about Jesus and think, at least I'm not like THEM- but we do the same thing that they did. So busy shouting God's message that we fail to hear Him speaking, so busy administering His justice for Him that we don't see Him applying mercy. So busy building walls and turrets to defend His kingdom that we miss His call to work in His kingdom.

So busy telling people that God hates homosexuality that we forget He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, lepers and the demon possessed, gays and illegal immigrants. So busy arguing that abortion is the commission murder that we allow murder by sins of omission to multiply exponentiation without a care.

Like Jonah, we're all incensed that God doesn't smite all these evil-doers.

The point of this blog is often to try to explain to Christians that hey, many so called liberal values are God's values too. And sometimes when we think our moral issues are ones that God want us to force on others, we might need to reconsider.

I don't think it's wrong to doubt or question. If anything, it makes our faith stronger. But obviously, not every Christian agrees and they like to tell me so.

The Bible says to let your light shine before all men, but Elaenor Roosevelt warns that "What is to give light must endure the burning."

Sometimes being salt and light, means rusting the fancy paint job that they were so proud of and then exposing that corrosion so they can see it better.

I have no doubt that God has definitive opinions, that there are absolutes in the universe- however, how dare I (or anyone) be so arrogant as to assume that I/we/they have the unarguable, inerrant, monopoly on knowing what His absolutes are 100% of the time on 100% of the issues! THAT is one of my problems with the religious right, we all have logs in our own eyes, so how dare we dig for the specks in the eyes of others. Is this relativism? Then I guess you'll have to excommunicate me and assume I'm damned. But God's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, mercy, and desire that people on the left not be alienated and chased away from His family by people on the right burns in my bones like fire. I want to keep silent, but I can not.

If you don't like it, then by all means, stop reading my blogs.

Prayer Request

Please pray for one of my former cheerleaders, Audrey (Lave) Meadows and her two little boys. Her husband was crossing the Little Sioux River outside Onawa Friday AM. It was icy and he slid off the road and rolled several times. Unfortunately, he did not survive. Audrey lost her sister to cancer this year. I can't tell you how awful I feel for her an her family. PLEASE lift them up in your prayers, grant them peace and strength and help them get through this. Ask God to remind her that they are in His hands and that He will never let them go.

James 5:13-16
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Whoever says, "I am in the light," while hating a brother or sister,
is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light.

- 1 John 2:9-10

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The 800 pound Gorilla in the room

I posted 'Dear Republican friends, neighbors,' a paraphrase of Lincoln's inaugural address, which Barack Obama quoted last night in his speech, on Facebook. Now, honest to God, I meant it in a genuinely conciliatory spirit. I truly believe that to heal our nation, Republicans and Democrats need to work together and try to find common ground on whatever issues we can. Well, someone must have felt like I was being condescending or gloating or something because the next thing I know people are posting comments on my note back and forth getting in a big heated argument over abortion (which I never mentioned, I deliberately go out of my way never to mention it if I can ever help it). Holy guacamole!

Look, I'm not in favor or abortion on demand, but I'm also not prepared to deny abortions to victims rape or incest. Clinton and Obama have had the same position, "safe, legal, and RARE." To assume that Obama is going to force everyone to support abortion is just as irrational as to assume he's going to take away all our guns and raise all our taxes and make us all godless socialists or punish us all for segregation and slavery.

Please, if you're staunchly Pro-Life, don't let yourself be gripped by fear and hatred of everyone on the left. As a matter of fact, you may discover that we value life too. My personal problem is that it has sometimes seemed like, at least the Bush administration claimed to want to protect the rights of the unborn, but totally disregarded the rights of anyone who's already been born.

Some statistics have suggested that the number of abortions in the United States dropped during the Clinton administration. I know it's hard to accept, but what many Democrats and Christians on the left want to do is discover the conditions that lead women to consider abortion as an option and reduce the number of abortions by addressing those possible "causes."

I don't know how to be careful about this next thing I have to say, but I want you to know that I really mean it, I'm not trying to just be flippant or glib- Maybe abortion activists need to rethink their alliance with the Republican Party. There was a time when George W. Bush and the Neo-conservative movement controlled all three branches of government and yet they didn't overturn Roe v. Wade, pass sweeping legislation or executive orders prohibiting abortion or amend the constitution. Instead, the tapped phones, conducted torture, politicized the Justice Department, and unilaterally and preemptively started a war in a small country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Is it possible, perhaps, that the Republican Party, or at least the Bush Administration only used your passionate belief about abortion to take advantage of your political leverage?

I don't know a lot. I know my children are miracles and blessings from God that I would never trade. I believe that like a Grandpa, God loves babies. I know that using abortion callously as a convenient alternative to birth control is vile. But I don't know when life begins, is it before conception? At conception? When there are brain waves? When the baby is viable outside the womb? I'm not prepared to declare definitively for everyone because I am not God. I don't even know if Roe v. Wade should be overturned. It seems to me that Republicans used to be the party of States' Rights and the original argument against Roe was that whether abortion should be legal should be left up to the individual state. But I also know that far fewer women have died in back alleys from having wire coat hangers shoved up them since abortion has been a professionally supervised medical procedure nation wide and I know that I for one don't want to go back to those days.

Am I wrong? Plenty of you may think so.

Does that mean that we can't work together to dig our way out of the mess our country is in after the last eight years of mismanagement? Does it mean that you can't be friendly or neighborly to me? Does it mean that you can't bring yourself to pray for our new duly elected President because you can't see him as anything but some kind of vicious baby killer?

Wow, what a shame if it does.

I'm not trying to be pious or holier-than-though when I beg you to remember the words of our Lord: "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you."

If you think that I'm under the Devil's control, or you seriously fear for our nation because Obama just got elected. Please, lean on love not hate, on mercy not anger, on Gospel rather than Law- If you think I'm wrong, don't judge me, pray for me. Don't curse the new administration, pray for them. Leave it in God's hands.

"Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you."

Dear Republican friends, neighbors, and loved ones,

To paraphrase Lincoln, "Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the a conservative bent that by the accession of a Democratic Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection."

I hope that ALL Christians will pray for our new President elect, no matter how vehemently you opposed him.

Lincoln said a great deal in his first inaugural address that is valuable for us today-

""Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty...

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of so called 'culture wars.' The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
I am loath to close. (as Sen. Obama pointed out last night)We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Please ask God to help ALL of us seek what is best and how we can find common ground.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

An edifying experience

I have no doubt that the Legion will never ask me to speak on Memorial Day or deliver the Gettysburg Address- if not because I've never served in the military then because of my decidedly left-leaning politics. Because I'm so outspoken and have written about my political opinions in a local newspaper, it may also be unlikely that I'll ever get to teach History again rather than just Art and Yearbook unless we move to some other state. But I recently had the honor of reading a very moving patriotic piece at our ms/hs band/choir concert. It was a lot of fun, and it should give us all something to think about this weekend.

Read about it here: