Monday, June 7, 2010

i've changed my mind on immigration reform

You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD.

ezekiel 47:21-23

if you've spent 10 minutes on my facebook page, you've probably noted a bit of controversy over topics of faith and life.  somehow the journey i've been on has led me to conclusions about my role in God's Kingdom on earth that are fairly opposed to the way i thought of them for much of my life...and the way many of my friends view them.  i sometimes joke with my dear friend, joe, that when we left our common church several years ago, and i went to the city and he went to the edge of civilization :-) , that our points of view went with us.  we shared 15 years of pretty much the exact same brain and heart.  since then the journey has been mostly divergent, although we're still good friends and can talk easily about all these topics that sometimes draw great ire.

one topic that's recently caused more than a stir in the US and my facebook page is immigration and what to do with a national problem.  some view it as a legal problem.  some view it as a people problem.  some prefer not to view it at all, believing it to be too complex a problem to be solved in a way that anyone wins.  interestingly, it seems like many of the issues in today's world fall under that "complex issue" category.

before this past weekend (june 4-6, 2010), i set myself in what i would have considered a middle ground position on the topic of immigration reform.  while i was not for mass deportation, or any sort of raid-based campaign that caused undocumented people to live in terror, i also believed that there needed to be some sort of plan to bring these people into a citizenship process, legal status, or compassionate plan to get them back to their home countries with visitation of family, etc. and to slow the unregulated flow of people into the country.  such a plan, such a middle ground situation would be very difficult to develop, and probably even harder to implement.  and, i must admit, this standing in the middle was partly to deal with the fact that i could not see amnesty for all as an option.  it was easy enough for me to see that deporting 13,000,000 people had massive negative repercussions attached to it, but i also saw amnesty some sort of easy way out, let's just get it over with sort of solution.

then came June 4-6, 2010.  this was the weekend of the River City Community Church retreat.  our second annual such retreat.  this year we had Reverend Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil as our saturday evening speaker.  she spoke on the first 11 verses of Ezekiel 47.  this was a familiar passage to me, as our pastor, Daniel Hill, had spent a few weeks last year going through this passage, and i had written a song "Run, River" that we did during one of those weeks.

on sunday morning we all gathered in our meeting area and had about an hour of people sharing what they had encountered over the weekend.  i sat in the back row with my iPhone bible opened to the passage in Ezekiel.  i decided to read the chapter again as people talked about solitude and family and rivers and being bottle up.

as soon as that great vision of the river ends in verse 11, there comes the sort of text that we, or at least i, often like to skip over.  much like the "begat" verses in the beginning of Matthew, these verses commanded Israel in how they were to divide up the land.  (nate's paraphrase) "you get that from this river to that sea.  they get that from this tree to the barn on the right side of the road."  nine verses worth of setting borders.  i was getting bored...and then came verses 22-23.

"You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel."

i've read lots of verses where God calls Israel to welcome the stranger and the alien.  they were core to my need to find a middle ground.  i may have even read these verses, although i don't recall it.  still, something new hit me that morning.  God blessed Israel with an amazing land, full of resources, and He commanded them ("...declares the Sovereign Lord" at the end of vs. 24) to share their inheritance with the alien who had settled among them.  He commanded them to consider them as native-born be given a piece of what what rightfully Israel's blessing.

i'm regularly amazed at the ability of the brain to calculate instantaneously.  a thought leads to a thought leads to a thought leads to a thought.  in less time it takes to realize it happened, the mind journeys and concludes things that would take hours to explain.  i contemplated aliens, citizenship, borders, God, the US, christianity, immigration...all in a few seconds.  and when i started letting my mind settle into what just flashed through it, i came away with this stance-changing conclusion.

it wasn't heritage that made the Israelites the people of God.  if it were, then no alien could share in their inheritance.  God was willing, and in fact commanded, that non-Jews were to share in the blessing, even to the point of being considered native-born.

the God who commanded this is the same today as He was then.  His words for His people then are applicable for His people now.

i am a citizen of His people now, not native-born, but welcomed through His son.

my citizenship in this community...this holy nation, chosen people, royal priesthood...this citizenship overrides any other i may or may not ever have here on earth.  i do not swear allegiance to anything formed on earth, as my allegiance is sworn to His Kingdom.

if i am a part of His people, and He has commanded me to welcome, and consider to be native-born, the alien living among us, then i will consider them to be as citizens.

so...where i have taken middle ground before, where i have found legal issues to be reasons to stand for compassion and justice on this issue, i will now simply, and probably not so simply, choose to stand for it because the heart of my God is for the alien living around me.

i will support amnesty and full citizenship for all undocumented people, and the US as a place where aliens and strangers can come to share in the blessing i have been afforded through the miraculous hard work of...being born here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

tell me about freedom

i have had this longstanding thread in my brain and heart about freedom. not any particular application of the word...just freedom in general. i am getting ready to write on it. i've started, even. but i would like to hear, through the use of the comments on this post, what you all feel about freedom. it doesn't matter if you think of the USA, no fear, liberty, living in some unfettered fashion, or life in Christ...any way you think and feel about that concept of no constraints...or not...i'd like to hear what you think.

if you have something written or a favorite piece that someone else did that captures your feelings, feel free to post that in your comments, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

what do you get the person who has everything?

i first saw this video a couple of days ago. i'm not a huge oprah fan. i'm not a huge oprah critic. i just don't pay much attention. however, this video brought me great joy. i thought to myself "self...there is a person who could buy anything in this world, but she couldn't buy that." and it showed on her face. she's got, what, a billion billion billion? and yet...21,000 people dancing for her. not just dancing like "woohoo! i'm at oprah's shindig!", but learning a dance that was part of a surprise gift to her from her staff and the Black Eyes Peas.

if you watch her reaction, you'll see they succeeded in the surprise. i think you'll also see that she's seeing something she just could not have created. she could have assembled 21,000 people. she could have paid them to dance for her. but that would have been buying the love. she could have asked them to dance for her. they would have. but, still, it would have been asked for, and expected. of course they would dance for her if she asked. she's oprah and they love her.

but there's something deeper in all of this. first, whatever one's personal feelings about oprah may be, the people who pulled this off, the people who taught, and the people who learned...they sought to do something not asked for. they looked for a way to express how they felt without payment or request. and the result shows in oprah's eyes and smile and body language. it's going out of one's way to express the joy and love that they have for someone.

there's something else. where i come from dance was sort of a no no. dancing caused pregnancy, i think was the general line of thinking. i always wondered about that...partly because i wanted to be relatively normal (a lost cause, i'm sure) but mostly because i saw so many references to it in the Bible which was supposed to be the basis for the faith in which i was growing up. i don't think i knew it then, but this is what i think i missed. there is a joy and unity coming from this celebration that causes all other divisions to cease existing for a few moments. the people dancing cross probably nearly every cultural and subcultural line we could ever think to draw between us...color, creed, economic status, gender, faith, etc, etc...and for a few hours learning and a few minutes dancing they ignore it all. it is humanity as it is supposed to be. united and with a common goal...celebration and praise and worship. and that got me to thinking about one more level of what i see here.

someday, i believe that a part of my eternity is going to look a lot like that, only milllions and billions of people in the crowd, with some pretty amazing worship leaders calling the crowd together. and while God will likely not be surprised by anything, i do believe the expressions might not be all that different as His people, not for payment or for being asked, celebrate, praise,and worship the One who has given life so easily to the greatest of gods we exalt on earth down to the smallest of those we neglect while giving up that exaltation. and we will dance in unison, people from every tribe and tongue, and the whole earth will be filled with His glory.

that's gonna be fun!

beauty and brokenness

i owe this blog several posts. my brain works no less. it's just had some trouble connecting it to the fingers lately.

i spend a lot of time around some of the uglier sides of society and culture. truly it can be overwhelming at times. i think sometimes that the heartbreaking stories in the world can cause my heart to scar and make it a little tougher than i'd like it to be. but, somehow, as often as i'm distressed and distraught, i'm just as often completely caught by the beauty of this world. it makes for a strange tension.

for a world that is broken and has so much pain and hurt, it's remarkably full of breath-catching sights, smells that draw us into long forgotten memories, flavors that pause time, and sounds that can soften the hardest of hearts.

in the middle of some very tedious work tonight i decided to listen to a version of The Water is Wide that my brother found. i've loved that song for a long time, especially by Eva Cassidy, but this version, as he put it "is the best i've ever heard." i ended up taking a bit of a break, listening to probably 15 different versions. one of them had some water and boat scenes in the video and i just sort of went off to my happy place.

water is my favorite part of nature and after a few minute of thinking of the places from where these photos were taken and letting my mind drift with the music, a thought came to my mind. someday this scarred heart and all the damaged places of this world will be redeemed...and my heart jumped to think "what more beauty could there be in a fully reconciled world? my senses reel at the dimly seen much more will i well up when seeing all as it should be?"

i am blessed even to see much of the beauty present in this world as it is. so many will never taste, hear, smell, feel, or see the things that life in a developed country or in a privileged life bring. i do not want to soak up all i can now at the expense of fighting the brokenness that wearies the soul at times. there will always be more to see and taste and smell and hear and feel. it would be a useless challenge to seek it all. instead, i will relish the chances i do get, and work to bring reconcilation to the brokenness in and around me through the one who gives beauty and heals pain. i know one thing for sure. i'd rather have both ends of the spectrum than live somwhere in the middle and never touch either. after all, both beauty and brokenness already live in me..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Great 1

this began as a VEEEEERRRY long long that i could not get my thoughts in order. it was full of the ponderings of several weeks and months. it was too full. so i'm gonna make it a series of entries. they may not roll out quickly, and they may be interrupted by other things, but they will come.

the study is fear...fear and faith really. of how one culture seeks to set us free from fear, whether terror, lack of control, or anxiety, or any manner fear uses to manifest itself. of how another culture holds us captive through it, playing on all forms to conform us to a lifestyle that scarcely resembles the one we see as that of the followers of Jesus we read of in the Bible.

fear may not be the only form of slavery to which we are bound, but there's likely nothing more encapsulating as far as being the opposite of freedom. and yet, when we are presented with the idea of freedom as mankind sees it, it is freedom that is often used as the basis for instilling fear. nothing, in this country, is more sure to spark vigorous action than the idea that one's freedoms are being infringed upon or taken away. watch the Town Hall meetings going on around the country over the universal health care plan being assembled in Congress. there is an overwhelming sense of fear running through the dialogue and diatribes. "this is not the america i grew up in", "we're turning into russia", etc are consistent complaints. it's based in a fear that's been pushed hard by certain groups since before the presidential election. that fear is "you will take away from me and give to someone else."

i want to look at that fear today. i see a deep incongruity in the life of a follower of Jesus being held by that fear. it's an incongruity that will find it's way into several of these pices on fear. i guess i'll just make this the foundation of my whole fear/faith position. God is who He says He is, regardless of our response to Him. the incongruity ls this. we say we believe He is all that He claims, but our fear belies that. it cannot be that God is sovereign, we are faithful followers, and we fear. oh, in our humanity, we will be afraid. moments of fear are unavoidable. but to live controlled by fear...this is incongruous with a live in pursuit of the Kingdom culture.

so, on this first fear...the loss of what we have, what we have worked for, what we have saved, what is ours...and not some lazy or illegal or _________...fill in the blank with whomever comes to mind when you think of those who would benefit from your loss. if we work in the premise of the fear, certainly it makes some sense. we have expenses that come close to meeting our receipts...and many times exceed them. we live in a precarious balance, with debt pulling from one side, desire pulling from another, and a still, small voice pulling from yet another. we want, get, and pay. we live well in that tension, finding time for church and small group, movies and vacation, and 60 hours of work. it lets us give a little to each side that asks for more.

but what of...maybe the rich young ruler? was he desirous of following Jesus? there was something of an interest, if he could control the way it went down. Jesus saw that...sell all you have and give it to the poor. he went away sad. (on a side note, we do very well with the answer from questioner #1 that asked "what must i do to be saved?" you must be born again. we are generally solid on that one. but questioner #2? "what must i do for eternal life?" sell everything you have and give it to the poor. when's the last time we heard that preached? when's the last time we wrestled with the weight of that one? hmmmm...) i believe we walk away sad every day. not because we don't sell everything every day and give it to the poor, but because our minds and hearts should be on providing for those who go without, and yet we're terrified that a life of that will find us short in our ability to pay or play. or life safely. or send our kids to college. or have a retirement account with with we can live out our days. or...

Jesus said of the Father...will not your heavenly Father take care of you? birds don't fret. flowers don't fret. yeah, but flowers don't have three maxed out credit cards, a mortgage, 4 kids, disneyland on the 28th, and on and on. and a small voice asks for the 70th x 7 time...draw to me and away from the debt and desire. let me change your heart to mine. my life is hard, but my burden is easy.

do not mistake man's freedoms for the freedoms of the Kingdom. in our pursuit of man's freedoms we will lose the freedoms of the Kingdom...we will do what we want, instead of what is best for those oppressed. but make no mistake, if we choose the freedoms of the Kingdom, we will lose the freedoms of man. we will shop differently, although it means getting less for more. we will seek to free up the resources we fear will be taken...and give them away anyway. we will look differently at those man looks at as different, and welcome them into our homes and lives without fear of what might happen to friends, family, and possessions. we will use our time differently. instead of so much focus on ourselves and those who are just like us, we will find time to stand up and speak out and inform ourselves and make a ruckus for justice, rather that to perpetuate a lifestyle and culture.

truthfully, there is nothing that can be taken from us that should cause us to fear. it hardly makes sense and surely goes against what we've been taught throughout our lives. but follow the lives of the Jesus followers. whether it was money, position, work, family, or life itself, they did not allow fear to keep them cloistered in a safe little community of believers away from the dangers of life. in fact, the dangers of life caused them to come together...but it didn't stop them from going back out.

Beware anyone, any talking head, who tells you "be afraid!" it is completely opposed to the word of God to your heart and soul. do not be afraid, for our God is with us whether in green pastures, or the valley of the shadow of death.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the two S's

this entry was originally on my Xanga blog from 2006. nobody, including me, goes there anymore, and as i needed to link to it, i'm reposting it here.

it's funny how perspective changes things. four or five years ago, i'd have thought that it was a sin issue causing all this automobile/financial pain. that for this much to go wrong must be a sign that something isn't right in my life. now, don't get me wrong...there's always something not right in my life. but i don't believe that's what this is about. i think it's about giving up...about letting go...about realizing that to follow Jesus, really follow Him, means that i'll live with less, hold on to less, desire less. at the same time, i'll suffer more, need more, and rely more on the One who had no place to lay His head.

i believe two S words have held me captive in my life, and probably much of the western church. stuff and security. i am not mobile with stuff. i cannot move instantly anywhere when encumbered with stuff. and there is a never-ending supply of it. as i've gone through the decision to sell all of my video game systems it's been easy to do with all the old, antique systems. but the xbox has been a difficult one to say goodbye to. why? because there are so many cool games that are always coming out. great chances to hop online with friends and have a pseudo-communal time. i love that...i enjoy it very much. but hours go by and weeks go by and months and years go by and there's always a new game or a new system. there's furniture and cars and definitely clothes (i can't even remember the last time i bought new clothes)...a never-ending stream of stuff to have. most of it's totally benign, too...innocuous. and each thing is another difficult thing to shed when God says "move...I've laid out what I desire from you already in Scripture. do not wait for some special dispensational "calling". THIS is what I require of you..DO justice, LOVE mercy, and WALK humbly with me." or Isaiah 58...or Matthew 25, or any one of the 3000 places in His word to us where He says to move on behalf of those that lack.

the other word is security. this is a feeling gained by stuff. from the the most a million places in's being insulated from need because need is covered by all these things. is there a difference between our fulfilling our needs and God supplying them? maybe not, at the bottom level. God is good and gives us work and health, and allows our needs to be met. but are we losing faith when we build up stockpiles of things to counter need? is it wrong to be secure? is it different than being wise with what we're given? i think so.

Jesus told the rich man, "sell all you have and give it to the poor...then you will be saved." but then who would take care of the rich man? well, i believe God answers that all through Scripture. He will provide as need arises. i cannot create a place so secure that it cannot be stripped away (see Job) in no time. i can create a place that is secure enough in my mind that i don't need anymore. security has stripped me of need, and now i am the rich man. and i tell you truly, as sad as that rich man was at the thought of giving up everything, so am i. it is a hard layer to peel away. in fact, i believe that the rich man would have struggled just as much if Jesus said give 1/2 of it away because he would have had to choose which among his possessions he would give up. so i now have to ask myself every day, and sometime even more frequently.

what is it that i would not give up in order to live in a way that lets me live like Isaiah 58 describes. what earthly dreams, hopes, or desires are more important to me than life in the Church as God commands. what safety will i need? what value must i gain? what limits will i impose? to be honest, i don't beileve that i can hold to anything and follow Jesus. it is a journey, to be sure...layers of resistance and self peeled away. but Jesus stated in Matthew that to follow Him meant being willing to leave everything behind. does it mean walking out of my house and heading for zambia? or mexico? or chicago's englewood neighborhood? leaving my family? selling my car? giving up everything? well, let me ask me (and you) this? what will i not give up? what is there to gain in this world that will not be far exceeded in value in the next? is sacrifice, and i mean to the point of pain, here worth it? can i live without a nice home with a view and a wife and kids and dogs, insulated away from the overwhelmingly obvious needs in this world? will i trade an eternal reward by my father for something to which i cannot hold...which may make it through this life with me or be gone tomorrow, but will certainly not join me at the Judgement Seat. am i willing to live counter-culturally?

Jesus' ministerial role was one of honor and glory as the other men in His profession saw it. they lived above most in that time and carried on with only a token compassion for the suffering. Jesus gave up standing and stature among the world, and lived with poor, common, or less than common folk. He spent His time with sinners, the sick, the downtrodden, and as He himself said, had no home to go to. He did not only give up everything when He went to the cross. He gave it up long before then. there was no security in His existence. and there definitely wasn't any stuff. if He is the model i am to become...the image...the benchmark...then i have a long way to go.

as if i didn't already know that...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

it's been prison for me lately

i spent last thursday evening listening to a PhD from University of California, and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Loyola University discuss the prison system in the US. the stats are ridiculous and at some point i'll probably write more about that, but when they're combined with the stories of those oppressed it starts to become much clearer why God has to speak directly to His people about how we treat prisoners.

i'm pretty sure that the command to help prisoners isn't restricted to the common idea of introducing them to Jesus, with the "obvious" result being that they'll all become upstanding, rehabilitated citizens. i'm not knocking that. people need Jesus. but what about people who don't belong there. or people that don't deserve what they got. i know...none of us deserve what we get. but you gotta admit, some people seem to get a lot more of what they don't deserve than others. some of it's life. but some of it is more than that. some is people and peoples and groups of people that have power, and use it to advance their own lives at the expense of people and peoples and groups of people that don't have power and are literally kept from advancing anything.

this story hit the AP wire today. when you combine this with government officials who don't think they need to pay taxes, or government officials who think they can sell importance, or bankers who take powerless people's money, run it into the ground, and then take more powerless people's money from powerful people and dole it out in bonuses and such...well...i think a pattern can be shown to exist.

please don't not want to know about it. please don't think we've got enough to deal with in our own lives. it's oppression and it's got to stop. Jesus as savior is not the only Jesus. there's Jesus in the temple tearing down the profiteers' tables. there's Jesus telling parables about who actually is our neighbor. there's Jesus who lived with no place to lay His head, eschewing comfort for gospel. there's Jesus who knew that a full barn would be a huge problem for people that wanted to follow Him. want to know. want to learn. want to stand against. this kind of thing cannot go on...

and here is "this kind of thing"

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles' records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County's juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, "I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame." Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts — a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million — was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

"Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands," he said. "These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies."

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters' constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups' worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

"I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?" said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

Laurene Transue said Ciavarella "was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children."

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn't know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

"Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed," said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

"I got a raw deal, and yeah, it's not fair," he said, "but now it's 100 times bigger than me."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a serious loss of perspective

rod blagojevich, illinois' illustrious, soon to be ex-governor, has said and done many things in the past few months to cause one to wonder how in touch with reality he is. my personal guess has been absurd arrogance, but there have been moments where his impassioned claims of innocence have caused me to remind myself that our country must prove guilt.

but then when my thoughts of megalomania start to dissipate a bit Blago pulls this out of his posterior. in an interview with Good Morning, America (part of his whirlwind tour of strange interview defenses that will replace his being present in Springfield for the impeachment trial) he said that on the morning he was arrested by the feds, his first thoughts went to his children and wife. his next thoughts were comparing his situation to that of Mandela, Dr. King, and Ghandi...

really? Rod...did you maybe forget Abe Lincoln? he's from illinois, too.

he does not equate selling a senate seat as an act of oppression, using his power and position for his advantage at the expense of those he governs. he views it as his being oppressed. this is his serious loss of perspective.

truth is, it's not uncommon for privileged people to adopt the position of the victim. sociologists and psychologists say this is a very bad place for privileged people to be...probably not for them, though. it's bad because if the people with power feel they're being wronged, usually it's by people without it. the common folk bear the weight of it.

you don't have to listen closely to hear Rod say that he was fighting for the people of illinois in everything he did. without hearing the rest of the charges that will be coming from the federal investigation, the recorded conversations regarding the selling of the illinois senate seat show that his interests did not lie with the people of illinois. they lay with him. and if that doesn't fly in the face of legacies of self-sacrifice on behalf of the oppressed...legacies left by men like Nelson Mandela, Dr. King, and Mahatma Ghandi...well, than i guess i'm the one who's lost perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

this was no ordinary day

i have lived through moments that will forever mark my memory...9/11, the fall of the berlin wall, the space shuttles explosions, and both iraq wars, to name a few, but today stands apart and above them all. this time, every iteration of the swearing in of 43 previous presidents has new in the inauguration of the 44th.

whatever your political persuasions or religious convictions, this day marks a different inaugural event. while the work of making the words "one nation, under 6od, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" true for people of across all lines of color,gender, class, faith, and education is still a long way from reality, there has been no clearer evidence of a country tired of life as usual than today's proceedings.

there will still be struggle. there will still be inequity. there will still be many...many who face injustice...who live apathetic to our interconnectedness and interdependency...who oppose the gains of some because they know it may mean their loss. still, today exposed something different.

there is new and renewed hope. there is new and renewed awareness. there is new and renewed excitement. today, one out of every 260 americans withstood the cold of winter to reveal a warmth of brotherhood possibly never felt in this nation least not in the way it was felt today.

today a new voice cried out. not just the voice of our new president, but of a nation slowly realizing (in the sense of making real) what it declared to be true on the day it was formed. that voice joined the voices of heroes of all ages, colors, nations, and genders who gave their lives, figuratively and literally, to the belief that God created all men are created equal. this new voice was of women and men who stood with that renewed hope as they watched something they barely dared to dream 50 years ago. this voice sprang from the new hope of young people who could see not just a visage of access to everwhere and everything, but a physical representation of it. it came from the renewed awareness of people who grew into adulthood in this country knowing little of any culture outside their own. it called from a generation who tired of legacy left them by their parents and their parents' parents that said freedom was for everyone, but killed or stood by while everyday life proved otherwise. and it sang with the excitement of old and young, red, yellow, brown, black, and white who stood 1.4 million strong together to cheer a day unlike any in our history.

it was no small historic moment. my parents remembered exactly where they were when they heard the JFK had been killed. many can say the same for MLK Jr. i will not forget rising to WBBM radio saying a plane had just crashed into the first Trade Tower. change rose out of all those events. and change will rise from this. some will fight it with every bone in their body, but this will be difficult to slow. it's not the voice of one man leading the charge. it's those reverberation of the old voices and the exuberance of the new voices who have come together it a choir declaring it to be a new day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America is not....

a city on a hill.
a chosen people.
a royal priesthood.
a holy nation.
a tree planted by water.
the hope of the world.

i write this as a reminder to me and the people that voted for Barack.

Barack will not save the world. our work is the same as it ever was. it may be a little easier now. it may be a little harder. or a lot on either side. but it's the same work.

i write this as a reminder to the people that voted for John.

Barack will not end the world. your work is the same as it ever was. it may be a little harder now. or a little easier. or a lot on either side. but it's the same work.

and to all of us.

the nation does not need MORE prayer. the president does not need more prayer. they need prayer. the only way "more" should be attached to it is if there was no prayer in the first place.

we...those who follow Jesus...are the light of the world, a city set on a hill, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.

if there is change that needs to happen, strive to make that true first.

don't only do it for it corporately.

warn each other of sin.

spur each other on to good works.

encourage each other

disciple each other.

exhort each other.

do justice together.

be like trees...not a tree. stand in groves that are filled with all kinds of trees.

learn to worship in ways that don't include music.

learn to worship in ways that make you tremble, whether for your safety here on this earth, or for your safety before an awesome and mighty God.

be stewards, not savers or spenders. stewards. stored up treasure on earth is useless. you can't take your stuff with you. what a time to show a different mindset toward your material world!

and pursue His heart for others. one side of these political line is filled with people who believe the main call is to save souls. one side is filled with people who believe the main call is to work for the oppressed. one Man lived to show that there are no sides. there is salvation. the good news to be shared is for soul...and it is for the Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

if you're gonna put it out there...

one of the things i'm willing to accept as part of blogging/posting, is an alternate point of view. my mom threw one up on my uberlong post last night, and i was grateful for it. i didn't agree with her assessment of why i was voting the way i did. but i was appreciative of her views, and her reminder of God's heart and anger expressed in Jeremiah. i'm fully in agreement with her on that, so no worries there.

so...this was put out there today by a friend of mine who attends a christian college here in the city. actually, he might be done now, but that's beside the point. it would probably not have illicted a response were it not for one word he assigned to these 10 points.


i guess the original author, a conservative christian pastor born late last century, originally called the The Ten Cannots, likely a play on the ten commandments. here's a little paragraph my friend posted about him.

William J. H. Boetcker (1873 – 1962) was an American religious leader and influential public speaker. An outspoken political conservative, Rev. Boetcker is perhaps best remembered for his authorship of a pamphlet entitled The Ten Cannots. Originally published in 1916, it is often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln.

by now some of you probably think i look for the word conservative and go chasing after whatever i find. not true. i really would probably have looked past this as something written many years ago, in a pre-civil rights a time still massively dominated by white males politically, socially, and spiritually. i know where the author is coming from. like i said a few posts ago...i'm from there, too.

but my friend wrote at the top of his note, before listing the 10 cannots, that "These ten truths are timeless, but are especially pertinent today as we elect the next leader of these united States."

what made me bristle was that word truth. they are being presented as absolute truth...they are timeless...they are proven...they are espoused originally by a christian preacher who was also a political conservative...which makes them near gospel in this day and age. a couple of these are true...the ideas behind them are straight out of scripture. but several of them have no basis in scripture, and would more likely be counter to what the Gospel really is.

here are the 10 cannots, followed by my thoughts on several of them. truth, in this case, is based on where you stand, or live, or work. truth for the author and for my friend is not the same truth for me, the people around whom i work and live, and millions of others. these things would be hugely important to mull over and meditate on if you were on the upside of these 10. but if you were on the downside, it would be hard to swallow these whole without the massive amount of sugar that usually accompanies such thoughts.

The 10 Cannots

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.

You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

i understand where the thoughts are coming from...the mindset. but it remains that these are thoughts held by people with resources, not by people without them.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

this had been the cause of rebellions throughout history. this country was founded by people who gained strength by weakening the strong. the trouble is, since that founding it's been primarily used (the quote idea) to keep people in their place. slaves were told it would be better for them to not resist. women were told to keep their places and their tongues. workers were told that if they didn't continue to work in whatever manner or length of day the strong wanted, that they would lose their jobs and new people would be found who would put up with it. this of course happened after the "free" labor we "imported" was no longer available...whether african, irish, chinese, or whatever. resistance to this phrase was the birthplace of civil rights, suffrage, and labor unions believe me, there are many people who think we'd be better off without all three of those things.

You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

another one used to keep wealth with the wealthy. it's not about giving. it's about oppression. those with decide, while those without live in the consequences. recent history has banks and brokerage houses deciding, leaving those without to suffer. and the message sent down via a 750 billion dollar bailout package was "you cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich." but the poor man will suffer either way through this. they do not say to themselves "well, i am poor and i suffer, but at least those with money will not suffer." they say "i am poor and i suffer and it does not matter what i do, i will always suffer." and the rich man does nott say "why, look at the people suffering. i should help." for the most part they do not think of those people at all, as they are able to spend their lives primarily without ever coiming in contact with them. and if, by chance, they are moved to give, they endow the arts and parks and things which are disappearing which need to be preserved. i'm all for that preservation. but God's heart is for the preservation of the oppressed.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

class hatred already existis. and it is not solely poor hating rich. in fact, most poor long to be like and hang out with the rich. most rich long to stay away from, be removed from the poor. their plight is their own fault and they are "fill in the blank." it's a little funny. Jesus told of the man in temple who looked over to see a poor man and his prayer was "thank you God that i'm not like that guy." i was in staff meeting today and our vp said, regarding a discussion we were having on abortion, pregnancy, welfare..."the upper classes hate these people." they definitely don't love them. at best they hate them. at worst, they're indifferent, having no thought toward them at all.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.

this has been the rallying cry of privileged people everywhere. in other words, "welfare is the blight of the land. we have created people dependent on handouts, and have kept them from developing the good old anglo work ethic." the trouble is, if you look at people with privilege, you'll be more hard pressed, in my opinion, to find character and courage than if you look at people regarded as lacking initiative and independence. this one could have a book written on it...already has, i'm sure. and independence...why is a christian espousing the idea of independence? that's an individualistic, personal piety view that regards each man as responsible for their own plight. that will not be found in scripture. instead you will find a lot of God continually asking his people to fight for care for the needs of naked, hungry, thirsty, oppressed people. the church, as described in acts 2 had people who were apparently dependent on others to give. and people did it. sure, they weren't forced, as you stated. but i assume that you're talking about taxation when you talk about the money we're forced to give. well, you gotta give that either way. free market capitalism isn't the way of the Bible. it's share the wealth. it's not well, let's build character and courage into these people by not helping. that character and courage will come from discipleship, and i daresay we in the church could just some massive doses of both.

You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

again, i think small men might disagree. few big men in history have been servants. more have been oppressors. more have imposed injustice. and if we are to do justice, which is action, as stated in micah 6:8, and not just not do injustice, which is passive, then that means tearing down some big men. it might even mean tearing down some big men who really help keep things the way we like them because the way we like them is oppressive to small men. migrant workers, and the businesses that support them, and our love and need for low prices comes to mind. corporate activities that allow us to have what we want at the expense of the rain forests or oceans or foreign workers comes to mind. tearing down these big men, even presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of defense who fabricate causes for war and who orchestrate massive deception for any number of reason...oil, colonization, etc. and hide it as humanitarian while uganda and sudan and a dozen other places suffer atrocities that are unmatched...even they need to be pulled down. it is the hope of big men everywhere that small men will believe that line.

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

unions would disagree. now, unions have become just as corrupt, but the fact is that wage payers exploited wage earners badly before unions. and wage payers now fight to keep from seeing unions happen in their businesses. see walmart, a shining example of the big man wage payer if there ever was one. but we love them because our grocerly/clothing/electronics bill is so much lower. what we would like to remain ignorant of is that those discounts are costing someone. and they are not the only ones. coca cola was hit about 10 years ago with a 150 million dollars judgment brought by women of color who were not paid as their counterparts were...who were passed over for promotions. and now, because coca cola took that 150 million to heart (money drives it all), they are now in the top three companies in the country with regard to diversity and equity in pay and promotion regardless of race or gender. wage earners taking to the wage payer.  a study of Foxconn in China might also help explain why this isn't true.

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. (find it in proverbs)

You cannot establish security on borrowed money. (find this one in proverbs, too)

but be reminded, you cannot establish security with money, period.

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

this is the old "God helps those who help themselves" verse. except it's not a verse. it's just a ideology. God doesn't say stop helping if the people won't help themselves. none of His commands like that regarding caring for the oppressed, marriage, working, whatever...none of them come with a "do this, if..." statement. it's a way out of the loop for us. we say, well, they just won't learn, they just won't get motivated, so i'm done with them. it's a messed up ideology. but it's easy for us. because it, again, makes everything individual...everything their responsibility. we work. we earn. we save. so we are taken care of. but we think we know the ideology of the oppressed..that they are looking for handouts. that they want to be paid for doing nothing. that is a worldview we hold because we haven't experienced the truth close up. we gather and guess from a distance. a safe distance. because safety is key.

i don't know this guy's life story...this William Boetcker. but i can guess pretty well, him being a white conservative evangelical. actually, i don't have to guess. i was one for most of my life. the funny thing is, i'm still white. i'm still conservative (theologically, not politically), and i'm still an evangelical. i just couldn't be further from the 10 truths this guy wrote. they may be truths, but they're not absolute truths. their relative truths...relative to where he stood. i'm standing somewhere completely different.

Monday, November 3, 2008

get a cup of tea...this is gonna take a while

so...politics, eh? how 'bout them candidates? how 'bout this election? i am backing a candidate...hoping he wins. me and 250 million other americans. me and 100 million evangelicals (so says wheaton college...a number i'm highly skeptical of).

where i come from, there's really only one viable candidate. and there's really only 2.5 reasons why. i believe highly in those 2.5 reasons...and yet i'm going to vote against those 2.5 reasons. not without some amount of wishing i didn't have to choose in such a manner, and not without a considerable amount of huffing and puffing from the places from which i come.

it is the places from which i come that have landed me on the other side of the imaginary line drawn by politicians, pundits, and pollsters. actually, i think they just took up sides on a line drawn long ago. the line was drawn by the church. Glen Kehrein's work on the Church, primarily the white evangelical church (those numbered at 100m) in the country, is an excellent historical look at when and how the Church split in this country...when and how it went in two different directions. one group went "right" and opted (and i'm summarizing greatly here) for a personal piety faith. it was one of a personal relationship with God. you can hear that all across the country still today. it spawns lengthy worship services with hands raised, praising God. it causes people to have difficulty in different worship styles because they don't "connect" personally in that style.

the other side went "left" and they could not understand how a person could claim to know God and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries of those God had so clearly told us to help. what was personal piety if widows, orphans, prisoners, infirmed, workers, naked, hungry, and thirsty were left to their suffering. they rejected the rationale that because God said "the poor will always be with you" that there was nothing that could really ever be done. and in their pursuit of a corporate responsibility for "the least of these" they began to ignore the part of God that called each of us into relationship with Him.

over the past 100 years, this dividing line became a gulf. still today, in many churches, mention the words social justice as a viable extension of the Church, and you'll be told you're slipping into liberalism. the implication is that social justice causes include acceptance of homosexuality, acceptance of abortion, and a disregard for the sanctity of marriage. these are the 2.5 things the right cannot stand for (the sanctity of marriage/homosexuality thing have some overlap). and truthfully, i cannot either. i am clear on what the Bible says about each of them, and i fully agree with that. but the truth remains that they are 2.5 things out of many. it's also true, in my opinion, that the conservative (right) church has mishandled these 2.5 things..along with a couple thousand other things. nobody's perfect. i get that. but my disagreement over that, combined with the mindset of the conservative right on the balance of the social justice issues is enough to sway me the other way. it's enough to make me desire core change in how they view the world, this country, the church, and themselves.

i do not guess at this mindset. i come from it. i know there are many different swathes of thought even among the broad stroke that is this evangelical right. it can run anywhere from the extremes of "let's cause disruption in the middle east because it's the land of armegeddon and such, and prophecy shows that when a certain series of events happen there, the end will come and Christ will return" (if you doubt it, just look across the won't be hard to find) to those who believe that America is the new Israel, and that God has put a special blessing on us because of the people and the way in which this country was founded. most don't have specific thought-out positions on those sorts of things. what they do have is the main points of a worldview that is the interweaving of the Kingdom of God, and the American Dream. it gives us access to God in a deep, meaningful, personal son and daughter kind of way, and lets us live comfortably, knowing that God blesses those with whom He is pleased.

there is no doubt that God blesses His people. but we have come to equate blessing with comfort...with lack of pain. and we have come to equate pain with lack of a close relationship, or at worst, a testing of our faith. James does tell us to count it joy when we encounter pain, because the testing of our faith produces endurance. he never says that the pain will end...not here. but we have made a life free of pain the goal. and for many of us we've acheived it...for the most part. that gives a numbness to the pain of others...and it gives us a reason for why they have that pain, whether it be poverty, poor health, lack of education, or consistently facing a different heirarchy of jurisprudence than the rest of us. the reason is simple. a lack of a close personal relationship with God. if it was there, He'd bless those people. after all, this blessed nation, founded on clear biblical principles, has, as one of its benefits, the equal chance for success for every person who lives here. why, we even know some people who own a __________who came here just 10 years ago with nothing. it's proof positive that the system works. it's God's system, after all. freedom, free will, the ability to make it, to become self-sufficient...which is what we are. God helps those who help themselves. pull yourself up by the bootstraps like everyone else had to do (which is entirely not true) . the evangelical worldview places clearly the responsibility...and blame...for anyone's condition on them.

unfortuntely what's missed in that personal relationship with God, hand raised, songs sung, prayers lifted, is the thousands of places God tells His people to care for that long list of "the least of these". if you ever want to try to justify your stance on this, take a long hard look at Matthew 25. it's not talked about too much. we hear all about the time Jesus said "you must be born-again." we've adopted that phrase to more clearly describe the process of salvation. but Jesus does tell another man who inquires after salvation "sell everything you have and give it to the poor." that guy went away sad. and from what we know, he never did it. back to Matt 25. Jesus says, in that chapter, that our salvation will hinge on that list of people. we don't believe it. we're saved by grace, not of works, lest any man should boast. but what of "you show my your faith without your works and i'll show you mine with it"? another James quote. read those verses in Matthew 25 and try to figure out a way to follow Jesus (as if just simply living like He did wouldn't take care of this) without involving yourself with "the least of these". american theologans are making a living at it. they turn out pastors who turn out sheep who know nothing of the seriousness of this call. in fact, most would probably say they're doing something...serving, giving, whatever. the stats don't back it up.

christians give less than 2% of their incomes charitably, and that includes to the church, where they're being told to give 10. the white evangelical church is loosely connected, at best, with homeless, imprisoned, poor, oppressed workers. there are missions trips for a week once a year. there are serving trips to make dinner once a month at a homeless shelter. but connection? knowing the least of these? caring for the least of these? fighting for the least of these? it's not happening. if we serve, we usually find ways to do it in the church...the church full of people that look, smell, work, behave, worship, and love just like us. i know. i did it. for a long time. i still get the urge to do it sometimes. it will probably never go away.

a friend recently posts a couple of status updates on his facebook page disparaging the idea of the redistribution of wealth. it was worked over in the media, and by mccain, as well. socialism...that's what it was branded. to take what one has earned and give it to another...that's definitely not capitalism. that's definitely not free market economy. what it is, oddly enough, is the Acts 2 church. what it is is Jesus telling that man to sell everything and give it to the poor. it's not socialism. it's gospelism. it's just not the church doing it in this case (see the stat below on how badly we don't do this), it's the goverment.

the governement will take our taxes either way. and Jesus told us to follow through with that. so...if the government takes our taxes either way, then do i want them taking taxes from the poor to give to the rich? the "trickle-down" theory? reaganomics would tell you that works really well. but go ask the people who were affected by massive, unprecedented cuts in social programs while that money was taken from them and given back to the corporations and the rich. find out how they felt about it. a word of warning. you're gonna have to leave your neighborhood/suburb to find the people affected. no...i think i'd prefer that if the government is going to tax me either way, that the first people to benefit from it are not oil companies and brokerage firms, but school lunch programs and music/arts programs, and legal aid attorneys and health care for kids. i feel the personal responsibility people getting rankled at that. the idea of welfare will raise the blood pressure of your everyday average white american. you know what? it bugs christians more. why? (well, for the best answer, go read Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson) because it's their fault those people need welfare, and it's their fault they don't have or want jobs. if they'd just take some responsibility for their lives, they'd be living a much better life.

i have also been amazed and appalled at the things i've read linking sarah palin to esther, from the Bible. what does this have to do with "the least of these?" you ask. first, it comes out of that idea that we are a christian nation...that america is God's chosen nation...God bless america and all that. the quotes i've seen and heard have God speaking to pastors telling them that sarah palin is His chosen instrument. they have people applying the "for such a time as this" line from mordecai to esther, saying that this evangelical woman is the instrument God has called out for this time of salvation. could she be? sure. is it likely? no. is it probably a gross misuse of scripture? yes. and here's why.

first, america is not God's people. it is not the new Israel, or the new Jerusalem. christians are God's people. Peter says we, believers, are a chosen people, a holy nation, and a royal priesthood. if sarah palin is chosen for such a time as this, the drawn out application would be that she was going to be put in this place to save her people. that's us believers. from what are we being saved? we have the greatest freedoms of christians probably ever on this planet. do we need to be saved from the judgement of God because of the increased acceptance of homosexuality and abortion, and increased disregard for marriage? maybe. but there are some interesting places in the same Bible that lend a lot more thought to why God is not hearing the cries of His people, if He indeed is not. read Isaiah. the whole book. but specifically read Isaiah 58. it's a dear chapter to me. those who know me know that much of the rebuilding of my faith came from reading Matthew 25 and Isaiah 58 and realizing i did not know those people, and yet i offered my songs, fasting, and worship, wondering where my blessing was.

Isaiah 58 is to the God's us. it was Israel back in the day. it's us now. not america. believers. america has nothing to do with it. but you do, christian. you who wonder where your blessing is. you who lift your hands in 3 hour worship services, loving to sing with all your heart and might, soul and strength. you who fast before the Lord to let Him know how deeply you desire Him, or the thing He can give. and what does He say in response to that fasting, praying, worshiping? it's the proverbial slap in the face. it's what He somehow communicated to Cain. it's "you think this is what i want? then you haven't been paying attention to the hundreds of places I've spoken to you telling what i want." and then...essentially the same list found in Matthew 25.

how is this a plan for the rescue of His people? how is this more applicable than sarah palin? He tells us. if you stop oppressing your workers, if you care for the widow, if you seek justice for prisoners, etc, etc, then your salvation will come like the dawn. then you will be like well-watered gardens. then you will rebuild cities and walls. not sarah palin will bring your salvation like the dawn. but we choose a vote and a verse because what does that take compared to an altered life? nothing. we can hope that mrs palin gains power and changes the course of history. and we can sit in our cars that are too big and cost too much, park them in houses of the same, and do a little something here and there. and never, ever see our salvation come like the dawn.

and so i choose to vote for a candidate whose message says we need to do more for each other. it's not a perfect situation. i am troubled by the 2.5 things. abortion is awful. homosexuality is a sin. marriage is sacred. but these things will not be solved by a conservative vote. mccain will not reverse roe v wade. the agenda promoted by the GLBT group will still be pushed, on a state level, if the federal level doesn't succeed. and marriage will continue to lose it's hallowed position as an instution given by God. but that institution is failing at the same rate among evangelicals as it is everywhere else. homosexuals have been singled out by the Church as commiting a sin that is intolerable. but when God listed the reasons He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the perversion was not first on the list...or second...or third. the first things on the list were that the people of those cities had no regard for those in poverty and who faced injustice. and while we cry out against abortion as murder, we, as believers, aren't even caring for the mothers, fathers, and babies who didn't go that route. and why would we? they made their choice...if they only would give their whole hearts to God, then they would be rescued.

i believe in the interweaving of the personal and corporate responsibility to God as followers of Jesus. unfortunately, the "right", which has the personal down, has lost touch with any idea of a corporate conscience. i have issues with the "left", too...lots of them. i have not added liberal theology when i decided to vote with what is commonly thought to be the liberal candidate. the closest truth is that Jesus is my candidate. i will follow Him regardless of what person wins tomorrow. but when it comes to the election, i will take my conserative theology, which i believe includes more of what liberal politics is about, and i'll make my choice by that.

this is the Right?

this is an AP article published today. why don't i hear the Moral Majority speaking out about the underhanded tactics that their party is using? i'm neither democrat nor republican, but i don't hear this sort of thing from the democratic party. i don't get endless emails written by "well-meaning" christians questions every part of John McCain's life. i don't get one whiff of subterfuge from them. but i have read...and deleted...some 100 emails, mostly forwards, over the past couple of months.

any person with a brain could tear apart the mostly very bad lines of reasoning in these emails. but they're not sent for those people. they're sent for people gripped by fear (that they'll be arrested or deported, or that the apocalypse is 10 minutes away if the wrong guy wins). they're sent for people gripped by hate (who judge others by any number of criteria, all of which are designed to divide). they're sent for people who do not want to lose what they have (control, power, position, privilege).

as i said, i am neither democrat nor republican. i am not registered on either candidate's website (i am in an obama group on facebook). i don't believe either party is the answer. i believe Jesus and his people...the the answer. that doesn't mean i won't vote, and that i don't already know for whom i'll vote. i've had family and friends wonder how and why i could vote the way i will vote. i will simply say that my choice was not made due to one issue...or two. i did not seek to apply bible passages (for such a time as this...for sarah palin) to a candidate. what i did seek was how each party would affect what i feel is a culture of personal responsibility in this country, and in the church. i believe God is clear on corporate responsibility for those in need. and while personal responsibility is important, there are HUGE holes that are created in faith and following if equal attention is not paid to the corporate. i'll write more on this soon.

anyway, here's the article...


In the hours before Election Day, as inevitable as winter, comes an onslaught of dirty tricks — confusing e-mails, disturbing phone calls and insinuating fliers left on doorsteps during the night.

The intent, almost always, is to keep folks from voting or to confuse them, usually through intimidation or misinformation. But in this presidential race, in which a black man leads most polls, some of the deceit has a decidedly racist bent.

Complaints have surfaced in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia where fliers have circulated, warning voters they could be arrested at the polls if they had unpaid parking tickets or if they had criminal convictions.

Over the weekend in Virginia, bogus fliers with an authentic-looking commonwealth seal said fears of high voter turnout had prompted election officials to hold two elections — one on Tuesday for Republicans and another on Wednesday for Democrats.

In New Mexico, two Hispanic women filed a lawsuit last week claiming they were harassed by a private investigator working for a Republican lawyer who came to their homes and threatened to call immigration authorities, even though they are U.S. citizens.

"He was questioning her status, saying that he needed to see her papers and documents to show that she was a U.S. citizen and was a legitimate voter," said Guadalupe Bojorquez, speaking on behalf of her mother, Dora Escobedo, a 67-year-old Albuquerque resident who speaks only Spanish. "He totally, totally scared the heck out of her."

In Pennsylvania, e-mails appeared linking Democrat Barack Obama to the Holocaust. "Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, Nov. 4," said the electronic message, paid for by an entity calling itself the Republican Federal Committee. "Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake."

Laughlin McDonald, who leads the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said he has never seen "an election where there was more interest and more voter turnout, and more efforts to suppress registration and turnout. And that has a real impact on minorities."

The Obama campaign and civil rights advocacy groups have signed up millions of new voters for this presidential race. In Ohio alone, some 600,000 have submitted new voter registration cards.

Across the country, many of these first-time voters are young and strong Obama supporters. Many are also black and Hispanic.

Activist groups say it is this fresh crop of ballot-minded citizens that makes some Republicans very nervous. And they say they expect the dirty tricks to get dirtier in final hours before Tuesday.

"Oh, there's plenty of time for things to get ugly," said Zachary Stalberg, president of The Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based government watchdog group that is nonpartisan.

Other reports of intimidation efforts in the hotly contested state of Pennsylvania include leaflets taped to picnic benches at Drexel University, warning students that police would be at the polls on Tuesday to arrest would-be voters with prior criminal offenses.

In his Jewish neighborhood, Stalberg said, fliers were recently left claiming Obama was more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israel, and showed a photograph of him speaking in Germany.

"It shows up between the screen door and the front door in the middle of the night," Stalberg said. "Why couldn't someone knock on the door and hand that to me in the middle of the day? In a sense, it's very smartly done. The message gets through. It's done carefully enough that people might read it."

Such tactics are common, and are often impossible to trace. Robo-calls, in which automated, bogus phone messages are sent over and over, are very hard to trace to their source, say voting advocates. E-mails fall into the same category.

In Nevada, for example, Latino voters said they had received calls from people describing themselves as Obama volunteers, urging them to cast their ballot over the phone.

The calls were reported to Election Protection, a nonprofit advocacy group that runs a hot line for election troubles. The organization does not know who orchestrated them.

"The Voting Rights Act makes it a crime to misled and intimidate voters," said McDonald. "If you can find out who's doing it, those people should be prosecuted. But sometimes it's just difficult to know who's doing what. Some of it's just anonymous."

Trying to mislead voters is nothing new.

"We see this every year," said Jonah Goldman of the advocacy group Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "It all happens around this time when there's too much other stuff going on in the campaigns, and it doesn't get investigated."

In 2006, automated phone calls in the final days leading to the federal election wrongly warned voters they would not be allowed to vote without a photo ID. In Colorado and Virginia, people reported receiving calls that told them their registrations had expired and they would be arrested if they showed up to vote.

The White House contest of 2004 was marked by similar deceptions. In Milwaukee, fliers went up advising people "if you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election." In Pennsylvania, a letter bearing what appeared to be the McCandless Township seal falsely proclaimed that in order to cut long voting lines, Republicans would cast ballots on Nov. 2 and Democrats would vote on Nov. 3.

E-mail assaults have become increasingly popular this year, keeping pace with the proliferation of blogging and Obama's massive online campaign efforts, according to voting activists.

"It is newer and more furious than it ever has been before," Goldman said.

And Republicans are not exempt. "Part of it is that election campaigns are more online than ever before," said Goldman. "During the primaries, a lot of Web sites went up that seemed to be for (GOP candidate Rudy) Giuliani, but actually were attack sites."

New York City's former mayor and his high-profile colleagues Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney were also targeted in fake Internet sites that featured "quotes" from the candidates espousing support for extreme positions they never endorsed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

while waitng for one of my 4 drafts to get finished...

here's a few things i wrote back in '05. my friend, kim, and i each wrote 3 and they were done as monologues during a church service.


I am walking through this world
A journey of neon, gold, steel, and flesh
Shiny things catch my attention
And I go where I look

My eye is drawn to reflections of me
Me with money, me with security
Me with control, me with every heart's desire
...and I go where I look

My hands keep me busy
Acting as blinders to narrow my vision
I see only beauty...I avoid ugliness
...and I go where I look

But there is another on this journey with me
Who sees beyone the reflections
Who knows the condition of my heart
Who turns my head, as a rider might, toward things loved deeply
And leads me from the stately to the humble
To broken homes, broken, hearts, broken minds, broken spirits
Even the occasional broken bone
...and I go where I look

Each tug of the reins leads me closer
To becoming the reflection of He who waits for me
At the end of the journey
...and I go where I look

An Almost Voice

Sometimes I am talking to God...
and someone answers

Sometimes I am talking to myself...
and someone answers

Sometimes I am not on speaking terms with anyone...
and still someone answers

Oh, it's annoying enough. Mostly I just like
the sound of my own voice. You
arguments, monologues, and what-not.

And so I talk...and if I run out of things to say
I turn up the radio, or watch TV, or hang with friends
ANYTHING to keep the volume above the threshhold
of that "someone who speaks"

But then comes that sneaky moment when my guard is down
and the questions of my life are present in my mind...
...and someone answers

Only this time I listen
And for a while I wonder why I would ever let any other
voice or noise cover the sound of this someone who answers
And I resolve to listen more often
more intently, and more deeply least until my favorite TV show comes on

You're a Nut

Your heart is hardened

Ok...hardened. Like steel?

Your heart is a walnut

Didn't you just say...oh...hardened like a walnut.

Yes. Do you understand?

I need a minute here. Let's see...walnuts are indeed hard...but...they're not all hard. And they're not unbreakable. And there's good stuff inside.

Yes. And how do you get to that good stuff?

A hammer! Or a nutcracker. Wait...this is beginning to sound like a painful process. Isn't there a gentler way?

I am Living Water

Hmmm...yeah. So...uh...if I drink, I'll be softened?

It will start the process. Do you know the power of water?

Over time, it can wear away very large or very hard things. Ooooh! The constant and steady effect of water works wonders on the hardest of things.

Do you understand? heart is...immersed in...a stream of Living hard shell can be worked away without necessarily needing crushing pressure to crack it.

Yes. Your heart is hardened

Like a walnut...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

16 thing you need to know...or not

so i was reading my sister's blog (top o' the list to the right) and she was "tagged" by someone to do this 4x4 list...four questions on four different topics. it seemed a little "MySpacey". i read the list...she's so cute...and enjoyed myself as i always do reading her blog. then at the bottom, she tagged me.

i don't know if you do or did MySpace, but one of the frequent things to come up was surveys. 100 questions, 32 questions, find out how much your worth questions. i'm not over on MySpace much anymore, so i can't say if people are still doing this, but this 4x4 things 2007. and that's making me wonder what will come along next year that will make blogging passe, or facebook...God forbid! anyway, it may seem like i'm down on surveys and 4x4s (i am on the gas drinking sort) and such. ask tia and meghan. i couldn't resist a good survey. i go. thank you, georgia, for tagging me. i know it's love that causes you to do so! :-)


Four Things I Did Today - (I will write about yesterday, as it's just now 8 am and i haven't quite got the selection as compared to what turned out to be a full 24 hour day yesterday.)

1) I built just about the best computer money can buy...for my part time job boss. He wants a Home Theater Personal Computer. This will control his very large LCD tv, his 7.1 surround sound stereo, and will come complete with a Blue-Ray player AND an HD-DVD player (nobody makes HD DVDs anymore, but just in case he decides he wants to pick up a used copy of King Kong or Backdraft). The total cost for parts was 1500.00 which is pretty amazing considering what's in this thing. By the way, if you're so inclined, you can get a Blue-Ray player for your computer for just over 100 dollars, which is a lot less than the commercial ones out there. then plug your computer into your tv, and you're High Def just like that...unless your tv is low def.

2) I tagged photos of Dave and Sarah's wedding on Facebook. Who are Dave and Sarah, you may ask? Very dear friends...get yourself to the city of Chicago and meet them. Dave's blog is also listed to the right, to the right. to the left, to the left. (sorry...remnants of dance floor shenanigans from their reception. holy ADD, batman!) ok...back to the pictures. i had a great time shooting some of my own pics. i have some really great shots and some not so great ones. but i don't pick through and hide the bad ones. get to see them all.

5..."3, sir!" 3) i worked on the i58 website. yes,'s coming! and soon. if anyone wants to come hang out with me and help resize and apply shirt designs (very tedious), please drop me a line. i've got about 1000 to do...arrrgghhh!

4) i watched Baby Mama. i know...stupid, right? you can tell by the name it's gonna be stupid, right? well...not stupid. really good! i spend a lot of time avoiding movies that come out with the SNL crew in them. well, not a lot of time. it's not like i wake and plan how to not come in contact with SNL movies. i don't duck and cover when the grocery store has Ladies' Man for 2.99 at the register endcaps. i just pretty much won't watch anything with them. i don't even watch SNL..although i might consider it if someone would chop the last two minutes off every sketch. they just don't know when to stop. but i digress. there is a shining SNL star...or was. she is Tina Fey. and Amy Poehler is pretty good, too. so...this movie, while not groundbreaking or anything, was really good. steve martin lends a hand. so does greg kinnear. and the actress whose name nobody remembers but is on ER and was on know who i'm talking about. tina fey makes me laugh. she's not reliant on off color humor (you should know that for some reason i'm compelled to spell that humour, as i am with colour, but since i have no readership from the UK, i resist the urge) or fart jokes. she's got a great wit, finds the funny in the me. and Dave (from thing number 5). so watch Baby Mama. i think you'll like it. and someday i want 5 minutes of uninterrupted eye contact with each of you.

4 Things on My To Do List - (this one's easy)

1) Make To Do List

2) Put Things On To Do List

3) Read To Do List

4) Ignore To Do List

there could be Lose To Do List, Find To Do List, Crumple To Do List, and Shoot Hoops With To Do List Into A Mostly Empty Coffee Mug Until It Finally Goes In, but we're only supposed to do four. hey, i'm unstructured, ok?

Four of My Guilty Pleasures

1) facebook. i'm pretty sure a poll of americans between 4 and 108 would find that 100% of people list this as number one.

2) reading blogs. i like to read what other people write. it started at a young age with books. don't get me wrong...i still do books. but blogs are books by people who should be publshed and aren't. well, some shouldn't. want a great example of that? (the first part...not the addendum) check out Jessie's blog...right under my sister. she's an amazing writer...and thinker...and is so aware of the moments around her.

3) my xbox 360. we got an atari 2600 when i was 12. it had a cartridge called Combat. it was like 48 variations of 5 different games. you would have hated me if i played you on that game. invisible, guided shots, fast, didn't matter. i was a savant. (some would argue i later added the idiot piece) so, then came intellivision and nintendo had Zelda. Goldeneye, WWF, Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, etc... i'm a part of an elite group of video gamers. we're not known for our skill, unless you try to take us on in Combat. we're not known for our keen eyes, or amazing hand-eye coordination. we're the Geezer Gamers, and we're known for not calling each other names online...for not quitting if we lose...for not cheating...stuff like that. the local chicago area crew has some of the guys that used to come over every monday night from 6pm til 1 am for 16 player halo matches. we, and another 10-12 guys get together once a year at the very large home of one of our members and we start playing at 10 am and don't quit until around 2 am. there's lots of brats, beer (good stuff...bill is a home brewer) and comraderie. there might also be the need to fumigate the basement when we're done, but you didn't hear that from me.

4) speed. i'm a little removed from this one as i sold my car this summer and my motorcycle was stolen 3 summers ago. i bike everywhere, unless the weather calls for public transit. but i do love a good 3 digit run. motorcycling is my favorite thing to do in the world (see longing post several months ago) and i hope to find one again next summer. there's just something about a great four wheel drift, or pulling .9 lateral g's, or dragging one's knees rounding a turn on a bike. and while one might say this is dangerous, and compared to walking a dog it definitely is. but i've been nearly killed many more times this summer on my bicycle than ever happened on my bike. in truth, i think those days are behind me. i'll be looking for a cruiser this time around. they're built for comfort, not speed. but i will miss the speed...maybe i'll take up the luge.

Four Random Facts About Me

1) i can't speak spanish. this may not seem random to you, but i live in one of the most latino-populated neighborhoods in chicago. i taught esl for 2 1/2 years. my students told me i have exceelent spanish reading and pronunciation skills. i just don't know what i'm saying. oh...i get the odd word. sabor=flavor, panadaria=bakery, and a few i've heard that i can't say...or write. but in spite of reading every spanish billboard, knowing many mexican, puerto rican, and costa rican people, and eating many burritos, tacos, and flautas...and churros...i'm no closer to speaking spanish than when i moved here almost 6 years ago. i just don't get it.

2) i love board games. in a world where "have fun" is the creedo for most everyone (although that creedo is changing to "stay solvent" right now), i just don't understand how board games have disappeared from social gatherings. sure, i can count on the mandatory game of Risk at my brother-in-law's place every thanksgiving and easter. but somehow mcdonald's became the only place to play Monopoly. and Chutes and Ladders is more common in a gentrifying neighborhood gutted rehab than a friday night gathering of friends. Mousetrap? it just doesn't cut it when our rats stand on their hind legs and box poodles...and boxers. i miss board games. and when you're paying 250 dollars a week for gas, why not stay home from dinner and a movie and spend the evening on Park Place...although that's kind of expensive, too. i'm more of a Baltic Ave guy, myself.

3) i love british comedy. don't know why. never been there. don't have any particularly close british friends (although i did spend an evening relaxing with Matt Redman when Gladiator was out and he said at least 20 times *read in british accent* "have you heard the one about the woman who was eaten by her pet crocodile? he was Glad 'e ate 'er." this joke works much better in british english than american english. we'd say Glad He Ate's just not as funny). i think it started with seeing Monty Python and the Holy Grail when i was about 15. it's still one of my favorite movies. Life of Brian, Meaning of Life, and all the television episodes just had me rolling. now there is Simon Pegg...he of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Run, Fat Boy, Run. he's done many other things, like Spaced, which i also enjoy. and i can't forget Fawlty Towers (which my dad loved, too) and all of Rowan Atkinson's work on Mr Bean and Black Adder.

i think i have PBS to thank for bringing those shows to the US. and i am so grateful. i still watch Monty Python on my PC, as well as Spaced. I have DVDs of The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Meaning of Life. i'll have them eventually for the Simon Pegg movies.

4) i will be going to NYC for the first time in my life in a month. i have to work with a church out there from the 7-9th and i'm hoping to stay out an extra couple of days to take a peek around. i'm not much on touristy things. i want to get off the beaten path a bit and see things like times square, a letterman show, and the monument that was supposed to be built, but is not yet built, to the sept 11th tragedy. i'd like to see rare things like a cabbie honking his horn, or yelling out the window...or a pedestrian giving a traffic cop the bird. yes, i'd like to be an extra on a Law & Order shoot, or go to the Port Authority and ask him who made him so smart. i want to go to Ellis Island and if they've put up a fence there, too, or just left that to CA, AZ, and NM. i want to ride in that XMen jet that is so much better than Wonder Woman's jet. i want to see the house that Ruth built. i knew baseball players were underpaid back then, but i didn't know they held down two jobs. i hope to go see the First City improv troupe. i bet they're awesome.

so, definitely looking forward to going. i'm sure they've got so many of Chicago's issues worked out already. i'm going to take a pen and notepad and jot down ideas that i can give to mayor daleywhen i get back.
****************************************************************** that's 4x4. i have a feeling that when i read this later i'll regret most of it. but that's what i get for writing first thing. my brain is not yet working.

oh, and i'm supposed to "tag" four more people to do this. how about the first four people to volunteer in the comments section. maybe you're just itchin to spout profound thoughts about yourself. or inane thoughts. anyway, you claim it, you own it.

i promise, i'll have something productive to say soon.