Candor Ahead

After all, if I can’t be candid with you folks after almost 14 years, I can’t be candid with anyone.

I don’t write much anymore.

This is tough for a writer to admit.

I know it’s a kind of writer’s block, and last night I figured out/admitted which one it is.

Fear.

Not fear of failure, but of unintended success. I’m afraid that once I start, it will all come tumbling out, burbling in words of anger and frustration and sorrow at the way the world is and shouldn’t be. I’m afraid I will successfully communicate the way I feel using the words I normally wouldn’t use and I will cause wounds and rifts and pains that would at least be minimized if I keep holding them in. I’m afraid the words will take on the power of incantations that alienate and destroy.

No, you’re right; keeping them in is probably not healthy. And I do share them in prayer, very candidly, but I don’t get a lot of response these days.

So I keep on not writing.

And that is probably not healthy either.

I fumbled along in a writing job graciously offered for several years, earning part of my keep by maintaining a web site as well, but pretty much incapable of writing to meet the needs of my employer and audiences. I will always be grateful for that opportunity, and saddened that I wasn’t able to live up to the challenge.

Sure, there thousands of texts out there that say “You were able! You are now! Just try! Just do it! Be a Nike sneaker!” and people like me buy them thinking that somehow they will be the needed kickstart and magically boot the chockblock from in front of the wheels. But they don’t.

The old magic isn’t there, because unleashing it would level Hogwarts.

So it’s best to chain it in the dungeon with the three-headed dogs and gigantic spiders and monstrous serpents and just say it isn’t there.

At least for now.

Until the spell can be found to keep it disciplined and under control.

Advertisements

State of the Union

Tonight, President Donald J. Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address.

He will tell everyone how great everything is in America, and how it has all happened because he is so great.

And all of his voter-fanboys will agree with him.

He will not say that the United States is perhaps more divided than it has been since the Civil War because of policies that support white supremacy, misogyny, funneling more wealth to the wealthy, religious bigotry, fear and paranoia.

He will not say that the United States is failing to respond to the threat of election encroachment by foreign powers.

He will not say that the United States cannot be protected by a wall or a military force with billions more to spend or by temporary immigrant ban after ban because the greatest threat to her is from within her — a citizenry with no self-control and total self-interest, virtually no moral compass, frustrated by the ongoing economic oppression of oligarchs and armed to the teeth.

He will not say that the United States’ hopes lie with freedom of information, a free press, a population united by concern for each other through charity and volunteerism and genuine faith … in each other; in our Constitution; in a real and actual God rather than just the invocation of a name.

He will not say that the United States becomes a stronger nation by maintaining good relationships with other nations and caring deeply about the issues which concern them as well, even if sometimes that means we do not monetarily profit by caring.

He will not say that moral purity and grace and kindness and humility and forgiveness are all key components of citizenship and a nation’s character.

He will not say these things because he does not believe them.

And a significant percentage of the country agrees with him.

Some even believe that God agrees with him.

And that is the state of our disunion.

Democrats: Here’s How To Win

You go ahead and do what you want to. But if you want to win the single-issue voters you’re losing over the issue of abortion, consider this.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.Stop positioning yourselves as “pro-choice.” Stop supporting taxpayer-funded abortion centers, which is a violation of first-amendment rights of those who see abortion as murder for religious reasons. Stop playing into your opponents’ hands as they paint you to be baby-killers.

Start positioning yourselves as “helping make it easier for women to make better choices.”

Tell your story.

Tell voters you support a living wage, making it possible to have and rear children without having to have several part-time jobs.

Tell voters you support child-care, pregnancy leave and sick leave benefits, making it easier to have a child and return to work.

Tell voters you want to make good health-care affordable for all – including birth-control coverage for women – so that the cost of safely having a child or not having a child is not prohibitive for anyone, ever.

Tell voters that you support a culture in which all people are respected, and especially women – who classically have not been – and that sexual mistreatment and assault will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies due to rape.

Tell voters that you support equal pay for equal work, making it more economically feasible for women (as well as couples/families) to have and raise children.

Tell voters that you will support adoption efforts for those who want but can’t have biological children and women who choose to have their children but give them through adoption, so that this option becomes more streamlined legally and affordable generally.

Tell voters that no law criminalizing women who have abortions or abortion providers is going to stop or even necessarily reduce the number of abortions in our country; that women choose abortion out of genuine medical need, financial difficulty, personal desperation and a myriad of reasons. And that sometimes it actually is necessary, rare though it might be. It’s going to happen.

The best response to that fact is to help make it easier for women to make better choices by providing better options.

Fact is, you were already following a lot of these recommendations when your person was in the White House. And it was working. The abortion rate was down to 14.6 per thousand women – the lowest since Roe v. Wade.

And your opponents, the Republicans – though they run and win on the issue decade after decade – have not passed one law effective at reducing abortion in as many opportunities as they have had. The last thing they did – the Hyde Amendment, in 1976 – was good law, prohibiting federal funding of abortion. But there’s no data that shows it had any effect in reducing the number of abortions in the U.S. at all.

But if you want to go ahead by falling into the trap of just automatically opposing everything your opponent stands for, you go right ahead. It’s no skin off my teeth. The only reason I bring it up is out of respect for my late wife, a devoted Democrat, whose only hesitancy at supporting your party was this singular issue.

For me, it’s enough hesitancy to prevent me from supporting your party or any party.

But you just might be able to win me over this way.

Me, and a few million others.

Original goal

Too many Restoration Movement churches want to restore things to the way they were in the 1950s.

Restoration Movement churches of the 1950s wanted to restore things to the way they were in the first century.

First Century churches wanted to restore relationships to God through Jesus Christ.

So I’m thinking, Why are we spending our time and effort on trying to reach goals that are not the original?

Straw God

I don’t want to sound like a jerk about this, but I probably will anyway, so here goes.

cosmic-christThe vast number of oh-so-clever arguments that I see and hear from atheists are, at their core, straw man arguments.

“Straw Man” is a logical fallacy used to reach the desired conclusion, in this case, that God doesn’t exist, because He doesn’t meet your requirements.

For instance, “God doesn’t exist because no all-powerful being who is truly good would create evil and suffering.”

If you’re going to argue against the existence of God logically, you have to argue against the existence of the God that believers believe in, the God of the Bible, the God who not just created everything, but redeemed it after the fall of mankind at the cost of His Son’s life.

But He didn’t create evil. Someone else came up with that, and He knew it would happen from the beginning, and He had a contingency planned for it in advance. That’s what scripture says.

Work within the mythos, if you you believe it to be mythic, but work within it as a matter of integrity.

You can have all kinds of theodicy-based problems with God — believers do too; welcome to the club — but if you’re going to argue against His existence logically and honestly, then argue against the same God that believers believe in.

If you accuse God of being evil because He allows heinous evil in the world, you’re not accusing the God of scripture. The God that believers know embodies good and yet allows evil to exist because He is good. It’s not an oxymoron: He gives His created children a real choice between good and evil because having a real choice is good for them.

We chose wrong, and hideous evil infests the world to this day because we continue to choose it — to choose self; to be our own gods in our own lives — and He allows it so that we can learn from the real consequences of our real choices to wise up and choose good instead.

The God of scripture doesn’t delight in suffering, but He does suffer along with His children when they perpetuate suffering. He became human to experience it first-hand. He loved His children enough to suffer the consequences of sin — including death itself — just as we do, even when He had not sinned at all.

But there’s the sticking point: That word “sin.” If you’re an atheist and there is no god in your life beyond yourself, there can be no “sin,” can there? Whatever you choose is right and good, because you’re in charge of your own life and you determine where the moral high ground is.

And that pretty much vanishes if you turn that job over to Someone infinitely more qualified than yourself.

So, the thing to do is create a god in your own image and discredit that god according to your moral code, which is better that Straw God’s code. And that justifies your choice.

Sorry, your logical slip is showing.

I know, because I’ve made it and worn it myself, a hundred times, even as a believer in the real, genuine God of scripture and grace and the universe.

Been there.

Done that.

It doesn’t work.

Just trust me on this. Be honest. Argue with the God of scripture, and if He still doesn’t measure up, be willing to dive in deeper and study more cogently and accept it if you get an answer that doesn’t elevate your code of morality above His.

And let me share with you what always brings me back the real, genuine God of scripture and grace and the universe:

When He was tortured to death at the hands of those He loved, He forgave, and died, and death could not hold Him because ultimately death is a consequence of self-indulgence that He could never deserve — because He created us, and loved us more than Himself even though we love ourselves more than Him.

God is ever so much more than any attempts to make Him a Wicker Man of straw.

He is God, and though we may never fully grasp what that means, He is also Jesus of Nazareth, scourged within an inch of death, pinioned to a cross, buried in a tomb, raised to guarantee that life need not end.

And that is His argument for Himself that you must discredit, if you discredit Him at all.

Sorry if it makes me a jerk to point this out.

But not very sorry.

It ain’t over

I’m not in denial about Christmas. It’s over. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I don’t have the kind of let-down, blue feeling that I have had after the holiday in some years past.

You know that feeling, don’t you? All the pressure and shopping and wrapping and cooking and decorating and then … it’s all done. You get a consolation-prize holiday in a week — New Year’s (oh, boy; resolutions, losing weight, being a better person) — but the big glass ornament has really dropped at Christmas and you feel like you’ve gone down with it … Like you’ve had a software failure causing an emotional systems crash.

cosmic-christI really think that following the study of Advent has done its work on me this season: keeping up with the velcro Advent calendar in the kitchen, reading the Revised Common Lectionary readings, focusing on hymns and carols of anticipation as well as God’s delivery on His promise.

Somehow, I still feel that sense of anticipation even though the ghost of Christmas is now past.

Jesus is coming … again. He’s conquered sin and death, and there is no sting for those who follow Him. It won’t be in an humble manger or from a dusty tomb the next time, but all will see and hear His parousia … and the close of mankind’s history … and the full inbreaking of the Kingdom in the new heavens and earth. It’s enormous! It’s cosmic! It’s humanity and divinity; temporal-meets-eternal; imperfect-being-perfected stuff!

It’s really something spectacular to look forward to!

And although the season’s giving of gifts and the feasting on plenty (and the airing of grievances and the feats of strength, for some of you!) are over now, I’m in no rush to take down the decorations or stop listening to the music or cease lighting candles when I wish.

I guess the traditional time for that will be Epiphany, January 6, and that’s as wise as the Magi as far as I’m concerned … even though I’ve had decorations up since before Thanksgiving. (I had to get the cottage ready for my new hometown’s Tour of Homes on December 3.)

Now, having missed two Sundays in a row of worship with my church family here (one due to snow/ice; one from being at my old church home in Little Rock on Christmas), I’m having that sense of anticipation also that’s captured in the phrase we usually see and hear around Easter: Sunday’s coming.

Sunday IS coming. Good-Lord-willing-and-He-don’t-come-back, there will be 52 of them in the year to come … and that, too, is something to look forward to with joy!

But the bigger anticipation — He-DO-come-back! — has awakened within me and is starting to take over as the firmware on which the operating system software of my life is running. It’s basic and necessary and vital to everything else that I think, do or say. Life 2.0 — my OS since my baptism — is getting an upgrade to 2.1, I think.

And it ain’t over till it’s over.

The election is over

And I am dealing with its aftermath the same way I have tried to deal with the buildup to it and the day of it: through prayer.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.I committed many months ago to praying for the two major party candidates — neither of which I could vote for, in good conscience (nor any of the other minor party candidates). Today I decided to renew my commitment.

One is in over his head.

The other must surely be down within her heart.

Both need prayers. Do I need to quote scripture for my fellow believers to explain why? All right, then, I will:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior … — The apostle, Paul; 1 Timothy 2:1-3ff

Even if you consider them your political enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. — Jesus of Nazareth; Matthew 5:43-45

The days ahead will be challenging for our nation and the world as we all adjust to a radically different political paradigm. This is not your usual party-to-party transition; this is from party-to-outsider-only-tenuously-connected-to-party. So pray for believers. Yes, believers. It is through believers that the world can come to know the Father, and they can come to know Him best by the gospel of His Son.

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” — Jesus of Nazareth; John 17:20-25

I know it seems like we should just pray for our nation and the world and leave it up to God, but that’s the lazy way — and it’s not what God had in mind. That’s why Jesus prays for believers: because God believes in them and will empower them to do the work of making him known to the world.

Yeah; I don’t know why. I don’t know why God still believes in us — as messed up as we are, and as confident in ourselves anyway, and as convinced as ever that somehow our salvation is in a particular flag or border or army or leader or party. But He does. He expressed that faith in us through His Son and we need to pray to be strong and courageous in order to be part of the solutions to the problems this world has stupidly chosen and sinned its way into.

The day after the election, I took a little flack for posting my thoughts on Facebook:

We go forward from here.

We do better.

We commit to each other that we will participate more actively in the government of our own nation and of our own character.

We do not slough off all responsibility to elected officials.

We take it and run with it.

We bind up the wounds rather than salting or reopening them.

We respect each other.

We come together.

We fight together, not against each other, but against the divisiveness within and the antagonism from without that would gleefully destroy our Republic.

We live up to our pledge — not to a single person or party or even a flag of cloth — but to each other:

“ONE nation under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for ALL.”

No excuses.

But I make no apology for what I believe. Some of my friends whose candidate lost were hurting, and perhaps I should have given them a little more time and space to hurt. Others were plainly gloating, and deserved a little deflation to the party ego and the divisiveness they were displaying.

I am clearly no party animal, and it will require a willingness to unite and heal this nation if we want to be able to stand on the world stage and not appear weak, divided, partisan and yet still claiming somehow to be “Christian” with all of our bitter infighting.

And we will not be able to do this by ourselves. We need God’s help. We need humility. We need penitence. We need reliance on His power to show a Christlike nature to the world and to agree on what that means and to glorify His name above our platforms and parties and plans and presidents.

We need to pray it.

We need to live it.