I was asked to talk at a men’s group today, and I was honored to share some things about spiritual habits that can really help us. They would help me a lot more if I did not get so distracted at times. It takes less than 30 minutes to listen to, and a lifetime to implement.
This story below was originally written to be shared at my church.
When I think back to my childhood, I have fond memories of my parents, my interaction with them, the priorities they modeled. Now that I am an adult, and a parent, I even remember painful moments of discipline as a net positive experience. I come from a relatively large nuclear family. Two parents with ten children; eight boys & two girls (I am the second oldest, if you attend Edgewater Covenant Church you may know Uriel & Cuyler, they are the fourth & the sixth, respectively). My parents were married on July 7th, 1973 are are still married today, nearly forty years later.
My parents met at a church youth winter retreat, married young as relatively new christians who wanted to do life differently than they had experienced it,
It seems that a lot of my posts here are an overflow of what seems too long to just share on a single Facebook comment stream. I was engaging with a friend who seems to be subscribing to a lot of atheist news feeds that pump out lots of quotes and zingers about how God can’t exist, those who believe in God are stupid, or if God did exist, he could not be worth worshipping, because he does not turn us into a utopian society incapable of harming each other. I normally try to avoid getting into arguments just for the sake of arguing, but this friend has been willing to discuss beliefs in a civil manner in the past, so I feel pretty free to discuss these things with him.
I read Genesis 45 today, and was thinking about how nice it would be to have such a generous offer as this:
“You are also directed to tell them, `Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’ ”
-Genesis 45:19-20 (NIV)
Because my family can’t be replaced, but all of my possessions can be.
Once I have a possession that replaces another, the unused possession becomes relatively useless to me, and simply becomes a burden to manage.
My first thought as I imagined this offer from Pharaoh was to think of it as a generous company sponsored distant move. Any distant move at this point would not be very appealing to me. I really like living in California.
After further consideration, I thought: God did make this offer to me. He is preparing a place for me and I am encouraged to invite my family to come, but not to worry about bringing my possessions, because He has more than I could ever earn to provide for me and my family in this new place. I may have to wait a lifetime before I leave, but it will seem like only a moment in history.
Possessions Are not worth worrying about
Pay attention to the king
There is at least one better place than California
I am a Christian. When I say that, it means I keep trying to be and think like Christ. He got angry at religious hypocrites, loved all people, but hated their sin. He did not care what you thought of him when he hung out with otherwise rejected people. Unlike Christ, I am not successful at doing everything right, but that does not mean I do everything wrong either. The biggest challenge is recognizing when I have done wrong so that I can change it. I don’t like how criticism feels at times, but I welcome it. Respect demands listening with consideration.
There is a movement of “Angry Militant Internet Christians” who would like to coerce me into thinking that there is a “War on Christmas” and so I should not smile and greet those who greet me with a “happy holidays” cordially, but should instead be insulted that they have omitted the name of Christ on our sacred holy day. Perhaps I should reply with a snarky, “Merry Baby-Jesus-Christ-mas to you, fine heathen!” Because that would show the love and intentions of the Prince of Peace himself, yes? No.
Maybe there are politically charged folks out there just looking to debate everyone and slam the beliefs and practices of others. I just don’t want to join them. It is too easy to get all wrapped up in that sort of thinking, and makes peacefully relating to everyone else entirely too difficult.
I was reading in the news about Congress and The President who are in a time sensitive standoff about what sort of compromise can be had to avert the impending ‘fiscal cliff’ (that refers to hitting the debt limit of the United States while spending continues to rise). When nobody respects each other, everyone suffers.
Foreign policy around the world has a similar set of issues. Countries go to war, terrorists attack, sanctions and tariffs are levied. Generally because someone else has what they want, is benefiting unfairly, or is not playing by the rules the other party made up. Selfishness encourages more selfishness.
One day when Angry Militant Internet Christians have lost their “War on Christmas” and used up all their remaining grandfathered influence on society, they will be humbled outcasts in need of undeserved respect and acceptance from those who are inspired to love unconditionally and inspire others to do the same, just as Jesus did.
During this season of giving, think about how to be generous not just with your money toward family and friends, but also be generous with your gratitude, be generous with your willingness to love those who call you an enemy, and be generous with respect towards those who think differently than you do.
Most people I know believe that poverty and helplessness are sad issues that should be addressed. What many don’t agree on is how they should be addressed.
Politics polarize these people to judge each other with labels and accusations that others don’t care as much as they do.
To simplify the arguments, I hear that liberals accuse conservatives of not caring about the poor because of a general lack of support for government programs that give to the poor.
Conservatives accuse liberals of not caring about traditional morals because of their lack of support for laws that would enforce a more a more strict set of values involving marriage and sexual conduct. They also criticize efforts to remove prayer and references to God in schools and other government buildings.
I do see a pattern in this. One party criticizes the other for not giving power to the government that the other sees as a personal decision that should not be legislated. A fiscal conservative may say, “Don’t force me to give through the government. It would be better to protect selfish people’s right to choose where they give than to reduce my freedom to be generous to organizations I fully support. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I give.” A liberal may say, “Don’t force your morals on everyone. It would be better to allow some to live out their beliefs in a way you don’t like than to force your values and restrictions on everyone. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I live.”
I used to believe that the government should just do whatever I thought was right. In a democracy, it is the people who are responsible for the decisions of the government. Although I still believe in that idea, I see government and legislation as a wasteful and ineffective conduit to implement many of these ideas. I believe in generosity and selflessness, but the government takes away something more than revenue when it assumes the role of distributor from me. It takes away a felt compassion from the giver to the receiver. I believe in self control, loyalty, monogamy and modesty, but when the government dictates what substances are legal to have, what the terms of marriage are, and what a pastor can and can’t say in a church, it takes away the responsibility of individuals to make many decisions for themselves about what is wise, what commitments they are willing to make, and have the freedom to say things that are not popular.
For the Republican party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having an embarrassing friend who is seen as a bully, picking fights and stirring up trouble for everyone and causing unnecessary & expensive drama, even though they mean well, and just want to make things right as they see it.
For the Democratic party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having a well-meaning friend who wants to give gifts they can’t afford to give and help everyone out using their credit card, not realizing how much of a mess they have left things for everyone involved.
I believe that the government should solve more problems than it makes. When the government oversteps what it is good or efficient at, it will create more problems than it solves. Right now, I believe that the US government is bigger than it needs to be, and its role and our expectations of what problems it solves should be reduced. Some believe that voting for a third party candidate is throwing my vote away in a two-party race, but I think that believing that a two-party outcome is always inevitable would be throwing away my vote. I am voting my conscience from now on, and I hope you do also.
When some read, their goal is to understand, while others want to invalidate that what they are reading is worth their time.
I get it, I do that with junk mail. Perhaps I would read through what i saw as junk mail, if there was a passionate person who really cared about it enough to discuss how it really changed their life in some way. I could be convinced they were worth listening to because they respect my opinion and my time. Respect is the great adaptor for challenging ideas and sharing knowledge. Without respect, ideas cannot pass effectively. The greatest respect is shown through a willingness to also have an interest and listen to my ideas or beliefs. So far, it seems junk mail is only a low cost way to mass market products and services for businesses. The motive seems pretty plain and simple.
There have, however, been passionate people who have come to my door and I do hear them out, and I let them keep coming to talk more and discuss their ideas. Eventually, their passions and motives are made plain and we have a sort of mutual respect for one another, even without agreeing about everything we believe. I am not threatened by hearing or reading about different beliefs and ideas, and I love being around others who have a similar confidence or curiosity about what others think and believe, and what their reasoning is to come to such a hope or certainty in their view.
I only hope to come across this way to those I write to online as well, because there is a sort of coldness to digital communication that many times is taken as disrespect or condescension. I aim to both love and to understand.