Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hope and Change - The Real Way

Everywhere one looks these days, people are giving their commentary on 2010 and preparing for a new year. The significance of the events of 2010 vary depending upon who is talking and what they consider important about the quickly fading installment in time we call 2010. I know you think I'm about to jump on that bandwagon, but not so. There is little any of us can do about the past, but there are ample opportunities to construct for oursleves, our families, and our God a future that will be far superior to our past.

Among all the outcomes of 2010 over which you had control, what outcome displeases you most? What would you change about 2010 if you could? Once you have identified your life's displeasures, you have a starting point to begin to fashion a new outcome for 2011. The adage is true: "If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got!" If that's what you want, don't change a thing. If that's what you want for your church, don't lift a finger. But I suspect you are not totally satisfied with your life or the life of your church and would love to make constructive changes. You have not made these changes in 2010 either because you thought they were too difficult or because  you lacked the personal commitment to make the change. Now, if you are ready to do things differently, I have a few suggestions that will make you a better person,  a better citizen, and a more effective Christian. Whoa, you say? You think I'm meddling in your personal life, huh? Not like you think. I just want to motivate you to improve mentally, physically, and spiritually. All of us need to do all of those things, so stay with me. You have nothing to lose but a few minutes of a has-been year that will soon be gone anyway!
  1. First, take time for yourself and your family. Block out the time on your calendar, iPhone, Android, or whatever if you need to. Stress is mental before it is physical, so take time to relax and renew yourself regularly in 2011.
  2. Second, do something regularly to exercise your mind: puzzles, reading, thinking, and discussing what's going on in the world. You stay sharp and have enjoyable, relaxing interaction with family and /or friends. A side benefit here is that those of us who know very little about what's going on in the world will become better informed on many topics.
  3. Third, be active. Scripture says the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, but most of us are guilty of treating our bodies more like a dump than a Temple. Some of us work out regularly, while others wish we could motivate ourselves to work out at all. You say, "I lost my job and can't afford the gym or YMCA." Walk! Get a cheap pedometer and walk, setting whatever goal challenges you and then pushing to meet that goal. Too cold? Walk at the mall. Too far? Walk around your house! Your fitness for duty in the kingdom is directly proportional to the degree to which you take care of your mental and physical well being.
  4. Prepare yourself to grow spiritually. There are many things we all can do to improve our spiritual fitness and connectedness with our Lord and his church. Those listed here are a but few of the important ones.
    • Find a daily devotional such as The Upper Room or Our Daily Bread and read it every day.
    • Take time to read scripture every day. Read it in conjunction with your daily devotional or follow one of the many Bible reading plans you can find online. I'm not an advocate for just reading the Bible through from cover to cover, but rather reading the scripture with the prayerful expectation that God will give you a fresh word from a verse you may have read many times before.
    • Pray. Pray to stay connected with God, so you are always sensitive to God's leading in your life. God knows your needs and is working out his plan if you are connected. Patience. Things happen in God's time. And remember, there are no coincidences - just situations in which God chooses to remain anonymous. Pray for others. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for your church, its leaders, and its ministries every day. Check this for more on prayer.
    • Join at least one small group for study and/or fellowship. Whether it is a weekly Bible study or a knitting group, being with others who share your interests is stimulating anf fulfilling.
    • Find ways to serve the needs of others who need your help. It is more difficult to get depressed or self-centered when you are focused on serving others.
    • Give your resources to God through the church of your choice. God established the church on earth as the instrument through which needs would be met and people would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. He requires the first one-tenth as our tithe to him. Our 'offering' is the amount by which we exceed our tithe. What? You cannot afford to tithe? You tithe and more to the waiter/waitress at the restaurant. Is God not more important? Friend, you cannot afford NOT to tithe. Try giving God the first ten percent for the next two months, and see what happens. Don't wait until YOU think you can afford it. That day will never come. But if you give on faith, God will honor that gift, blessing you and the ministry to which you give. Besides, ALL of it is God's anyway, so get out of the way.
    • Find a place to serve God in the church. Regardless of your passion, there is likely a fulfilling and needed place for your gifts and abilities in God's church. Not sure? ASK! "Well, they did this survey, and I volunteered; but no one ever called me." Don't wait for someone to invite you. God already did! He tells us all to "GO and make disciples." Call the church office. Find a way to get involved in 2011. What? You don't have time? You have as much time as anyone else - 168 hours every week - and YOU decide how to use them all. Try using your time more efficiently, and see how much God can do through you.
    • Share your excitement about what is going well in your life and the life of the church where you are, and go light on the criticism, unless you have a solution or wish to be a part of the solution. Remember, most of the workers in any church are volunteers, and all of us make mistakes. So find the grace to overlook the failings of others just as you hope they will when you come up a bit short. 
These thoughts are NOT resolutions. Resolutions routinely fail because we view them as rules or imperatives and not as a chosen better way of living that we WANT for ourselves and others. We do what we want; we spend what we want; and we find time for what we want. The best guage of your faithfulness is your calendar and your check register. They reveal your real priorities. If you view the above list as a set of rules for 2011, you will end up like the Pharissees whom Jesus condemned. The rules will be a burden. You are looking for new hope, strength, and joy found in totally serving the Lord who created you, saved you, and sustains you. Find peace and rest in God, and then serve the One who is the best with your very best. You will be surprised at the change that can happen in you and in the church through which you serve if you can live consistently a life that honors God in 2011. Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

One More Stocking for Jesus, Mr. Chairman!

This is a busy time of the year. Nevertheless, I take the time to check in on what the so-called "lame duck" session of the 111th Congress is doing. There is rhetoric and indignation that numerous significant matters are still on the table with a little over two weeks left, if you count the two holidays! Oh there are good reasons for not having done the nation's work sooner. They put those reasons out with straight faces and expect us to believe that all of them have had the nation's best interest at heart all along. Any thoughtful person would know better. We have our intelligence insulted by those who claim they are doing their best, but some other member or some other party is "blocking" the actions that could change the world as we know it.

Criticism has been stern and steady from all political persuasions for the fact that Congress is still wrestling with issues that could have been decided months ago. Yet many who are critical also know well the problem of putting off decisions that can have long-term impact - indeed decisions that could change the world. Decisions made in haste often are faulty, and decisions made at the 11th hour are more susceptable to error than those thought through and arrived at through prayer and counsel. When we try to postpone the important decisions of life, no decision becomes a decision in itself. Even when we are paralyzed by indecision, that inability to act becomes the effective answer to the issue at hand.

Some decisions are more consequential than others. Ratification of the START Treaty and action on taxation levels for 2011 and beyond are arguably more important that energy subsidies and earmarks that appeal only to small segments of the population. Extension of unemployment benefits may be the most important issue to those who have lost jobs, but that could all change when they land that new and maybe better job. Perspective depends on where you are and what is important to you now. Our perspective may not be a thoroughly thought out decision point but rather a set of ideas that are appealing which we could not defend if we had to.

When people of faith procrastinate on decisions of faith, the results are almost never good. We are at the end of the year almost. What have you and I done this year to make the world a better place? What have we done to make God more real in the lives of others. How have we encouraged others? How have we met the financial and spiritual needs of those around us? What?! You don't like the answers? You wish we had done more earlier? I expect many in Congress feel that way about their situation, too. But doing the right thing late is almost always better than never doing it at all.

Whether we revisit this tardy dilemma next time is a product of our commitments to the responsibilities we have assumed and will assume. I wonder if church members and leaders were rated like Congress and the President, how high would our approval ratings be? What would be the criteria? While we are critical of our political leadership, let's stop and ask if we have done better as people of faith. Are we willing to go on the record with our faithfulness decisions. Can we defend the decisions we have made to give or not give, serve or not serve, care or not care, love or not love. We don't often consider the options to be so clear cut, but they must be. When we are tentative, it changes our world but not for the better.

A colleague, Rev. Chris Bryant of City on A Hill United Methodist Church, posted the following comment on Facebook today:

"What if we hung up 1 more stocking... for Jesus? What if before we opened presents we first gave a personal gift to him? What if we put in the stocking a small piece of paper sharing a committment to God? No one ever need see it. The small pieces of paper would stay in the stocking year after year, piling up and with it so could our commitments. What if our whole family did this? What might happen? What if...?"

What if, indeed! Decisions made for a higher purpose and faithfully lived out can change us and truly change our world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hope For A Fearful World

Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, in response to a question about the latest Wikileaks dump of national secrets said, "We are the United States of America. We are not afraid of a man with a laptop who threw down $35.00 for a website." My first reaction is that Mr. Gibbs does not really understand fear. Perhaps he is correct in the collective sense that these leaks will not bring down the United States government. But what about the families who have loved ones in diplomatic service and intelligence services around the world? Do they not now fear for the safety of loved ones?

Fear is a paralyzing emotion when it grips us and holds on so completely. Some people never realize their potential because they are afraid to take that risk that might propel them to the success they envision. Investors today are reluctant to spend their cash because of uncertainty about the future of the economy and economic policy in the US. I know, 'uncertainty' does not sound as threatening as 'fear', but are they not one and the same? Whenever any external force causes you to pause, hesitate, become paralyzed as it were, there is an element of fear there. Ironically, this fear is the opposite of what the nation has sought in the past two years. We looked for hope and change. We got half of that package. Now is the time to look for hope.

Hope is difficult to see when there is no money to buy food. Hope is difficult to conjure up when 40 percent of the month  is left after 100 percent of the money is gone. Hope is a distant idea when the landlord says your family has to go on Wednesday when you both know you will have the rent money by Friday. Most of us do not face such deprivation, but we are afraid nevertheless. Will my job and benefits still be there next year? How will I educate my children? How can we make it on one salary? Will there be war on the Korean peninsula - again? How will I pay for my health care? Will my doctor take Medicare next year? Will there be a job for me after I graduate? Will increased spending result in a period of hyper-inflation that will outpace my income? There are so many circumstances seemingly out of our control. Often we are not bold to stand up and be counted on the issues of the day because of the polarized political climate we have had in this country for over a decade. We are consumed by fear and resignation: Fear that actions we take to protest the way things are will result in adverse reactions from our friends and those whose opinions we value; reprisals from our employers, professors, government officials, or even the IRS. Resignation because of a widely held view that one person's voice no longer matters. We fatalistically acquiese to policies and ideas we know will harm us and others because we feel powerless to do anything about it.

We are in a season of hope. Did you notice? No, not hope that we will get one gift over another at Christmas, but hope that there is a power in our world that conquers fear and adversity. The people of God had endured a difficult history. In the first century they were occupied by powerful and brutal Rome. There was little to hope for, since this occupying force seemed to be entrenched indefinitely. In the midst of economic hardship and military oppression, hope came into the world in the birth of Jesus - God with us. That seemingly insignificant event, told to the poor shepherds first, would transform the world. Nothing would be the same. Yes, there are still economic hardships, and there is still military oppression and wars, but there is hope. In John 14, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives give I to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." The idea of "fear not" and "do not be afraid" appears 365 times in in one translation of scripture. That's no coincidence. God wants us to know every day that even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil for God is with us. (Psalm 23).

Did anything I just say change your circumstances? Probably not. But the idea that we do not have to face any adversity alone should offer a new perspective. It's not us against the world. John Wesley, in his dying words, said, "Best of all, God is with us." God is with you and will give you strength and direction to get through whatever is causing you fear and anxiety today. He told us that he has "overcome the world." There are no exceptions. The God who conquered even death can meet your needs in spite of the uncertainty of the world. The angel told the shepherds, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy..." As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, know that hope is born in your life when you allow the power of his Spirit to help you through it all. We may not be afraid of a man with a laptop, but we are afraind of much the world hurls our way. God will never leave us or forsake us. Bring your fears to God and trust God through it all, and you will find hope in the midst of the darkness of this world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Price of Freedom

The political landscape of this nation changed on November 2, 2010. Whatever you think of the outcome of that election, you must agree that the election of 2010 - indeed every election - happened because of those who have served in the Military Services of the United States of America. We continue to have peaceful transfers of power because brave men and women over the decades have signed up to die if necessary for a cause greater than any one person. I can hear you saying that those who were drafted didn't exactly "sign up". True, but history records how they responded to their nation's call. From colonial days until today, the people of the United States have taken up arms no less than 26 times to defend the cause of freedom somewhere in the world. Those freedoms have been preserved at a terrible price over the centuries and must be defended still against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Freedom is God-given, but it ours to preserve. In John 15:13, Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." Few of us are ever called upon to make such a sacrifice, but our Veterans willingly made that commitment over and over again to secure the blessings of liberty to "ourselves and our posterity" as Jefferson phrased it. 

There was another war that we dare not forget. It resulted in the death of an only son in the cruelest and most painful way possible. It was all out war between good and evil. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and in dying, he won the victory over all the world and even death itself. Freedom from sin is ours for the asking. As we pause this Veteran's Day to salute our Veterans, please don't forget that freedom always comes at a horrific price. And it must be preserved with diligence and faithfulness.

God always calls us to some cause, some goal, or some idea beyond ourselves. He asks us to stretch to achieve the seemingly impossible sometimes. Accepting those challenges separates the faithful from those looking to see what's in it for them. Keeping it all in the perspective of God's will for his world helps us with the faithful part. In February 1991, Hal Hughes wrote these words from the Iraqi front to his friend back home: "If you're praying for people over here, that's fantastic. Just remember to pray for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, and even Iraq. You may think that's not right, but remember, God created the whole world, not just the United States. What you can pray is that God would work through their lives to show them the truth...." Hal Hughes was a Veteran making the world a better place by living and encouraging others to live in a way that leads to true peace - a noble cause much bigger than himself.

Our Veterans deserve our heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices made by both them and their families to keep order in a world that otherwise would fly apart. In maintaining the peace and prosecuting the wars, they have continued to be prepared to fight evil in whatever form it presents itself. "Thy Kingdom come," Jesus taught us to pray. God's Kingdom can come only where people are free to accept it as a way of life. That freedom is still ours because of the Veterans we honor today. Say, "Thank you!" today to someone who served.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Can You See It From Your House?

Being in the North Georgia Mountains is special even in the rain. I was reminded of that last week when we spent time together there renewing our vision. Things look so different when we immerse ourselves in God's creation and try to catch a glimpse of God's vision for us. Proverbs  29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I know. I hear you protesting already. You have a vision but it really does not include God or his church. Don't you realize that if your vision - for your world, your nation, your community, your family, yourself - is too small or too dim, then it will never be realized? You need faith to have a vision, and if you have faith only in yourself or in the things of the world, you are automatically limiting your vision of what might be. What is vision anyway? I don't know who said this, but I like this definition of vision: "Foresight with insight based on hindsight." Another good one is, "Seeing the invisible and making it visible." That's the faith element. See God's purpose for your life and make it real in your experience starting today.

We have so many competing visions in our world and in our churches because people work hard to bend God's vision for us into something we can be comfortable with and tolerate. God never called us to be comfortable or tolerant. He called us to be faithful. That might mean disagreeing with our politial and community leaders. It might mean taking a stand at church when there are scripturally based theological differences - even with clergy and other church leaders. You see, I don't think God gives faithful followers competing visions. If we are at odds, it is because we have different levels of understanding and clarity of vision. We must work together to find God's will in the messes we call our lives and bring God's vision for us into clearer focus. What IS is often so good, we dare not dream of what could be. And when we do not answer God's invitation to our future, it does not materialize.

Jesus took his future church leaders up to the Mount of Transfiguration and revealed his glory to them. (Matthew 17:1-13). In the North Georgia Mountains another group of church leaders got a glimpse of his glory. We are not alone. The fire of God's Spirit is alive and well among us, but if the best vision we can muster is based on our own desires, not much will be accomplished for the Kingdom. There is power in a God-inspired vision when we embrace it. Greater things are in store for this body of believers if we continue to develop leadership and ministries that will make a difference in the lives of battered, the broken, bruised, and bleeding people. When we are willing to pick up the souls the world has left to die in the ditches of our world, God will give us the ability to make his vision our reality.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us

I'm concerned that we simply do not know enough to engage in effective dialogue anymore. Ample evidence exists that we are uninformed about our faith and our form of government. This is an alarming reality as we face perhaps a watershed election in a little over a week. This apparent deficit of knowledge deserves some thought on our part.

A recent Pew Research Center Survey found that, while Americans are deeply religious, less than half of us know much about our faith. The study further revealed that atheists and agnostics know more about the Christian faith than professing Christians. We also learned that there is almost no difference in the knowledge of faith between those who attend church once or twice weekly and those who never attend church at all. We didn't see that one coming, did we?

Hold that thought as we reflect on recent commentary and critique of the political discourse in the present political campaign. In the Delaware Senatorial debates this week, there was a lengthy discussion about the Constitution. Candidate O'Donnell had difficulty explaining the purpose of certain amendments to the Constitution. The she asked her opponent, Mr. Coons, "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" The audience laughed. Her opponent then gave an uninformed response reflecting that neither he nor the audience knew that the doctrine of Separation of Church and State is not mentioned in the U. S. Constitution at all. In fact, when he was pressed on the point, Mr. Coons was unable to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps the most important fact in that exchange is that the audience laughed. Neither of these candidates was knowledgeable about the founding document of this Republic, but the audience did not know it.

We are practicing our faith and selecting our government in relative ignorance. There is no way we would tolerate this level of incompetence in our doctors, auto repair technicians, or electricians. Why is it less important to know what we are doing in making decisions of eternal sigificance? Unfortunately, too many of us are uninformed and apparently are content to be. God's word tells us in Proverbs 9:10 that fear or respect for God is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 8:35-36 speaks of wisdom this way: "For whoever finds me (wisdom) finds life. But whoever fails to find me (wisdom) harms himself; all who hate me love death." Knowledge and understanding are given to those whose lives attempt to honor God. So one must wonder if there is a correlation between the apparent lack of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in our world and our failure to even attempt to live in ways that honor God.

What do we do to change this fateful and fatal trend? (1) Read God's word and internalize the wisdom contained in it. Using these principles, build a life that honors God. If you need help or are not sure what passages in scripture mean, ask your pastor if you have one. If not find a church, and ask for the pastor. Don't leave until all of your questions are answered. Join us on Thursdays as we continue the study of Paul Thomas' book Falling Up: A Focus on Christian Honour. where we are discussing the tools necessary to build a life that honors God. (2) Vote. All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Learn what the candidates stand for. Vote for those who most closely exemplify a life that honors God. These are the people whom God would have us leading this land. But you know, God loves us enough to allow us to elect those who have no clue about our faith or our government. That would be terribly unwise, but God will let us do it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Inspired by Fishbait

Friday, we went to the Cobb County Library book sale - great fun for me and the church's Media Center Director, and a benefit to the church. As I examined the thousands of books there, I realized how fleeting popularity really is. Of course there were current titles. There always are, since these are books that have been donated specifically for this sale. But there were also biographies of those whose contributions are now dimming memories. Diana, Princess of Wales; the Kennedys, Tim Russert, Henry Kissinger; and the biography of Fishbait Miller. Who? Many of you may not remember Fishbait, but I do. I've had that book on my shelf for many years. William "Fishbait" Miller served for 42 years on Capital Hill and was the Doorkeeper of the United States House of Representatives for 28 of those years. His departure signaled the beginning of a departure of dignity and decorum from that great body. Many have served since, but no one has been able to intone that memorable, "Mistah Speakah! The President of the United States!!" as he introduced the President to a joint session of Congress.

Why do I mention Fishbait at all? He was one of the more insignificant players on the world stage, but I remember what he did and how well he did it. Many of the persons represented by the books on those tables yesterday are, as Lincoln put it, of little note nor long remembered. Yet as I looked at the combined wisdom represented in those books and the collective impact of the lives represented, there is no question that the world is a different place because they lived.

The same is true of the us. Our individual achievements do not often seem to be of much consequence, but we are not asked to serve in isolation. Our faith is an indiviual commitment which by necessity is lived out in the collective presence of the church and the society in which we find ourselves. Fishbait introduced the President at his last State of the Union Address with the same enthusiasm that he had at the first. The most important part of his job publically was to introduce the leader of the free world to that Constitutionally mandated meeting of government.

We are called to introduce others to a great leader as well. We are not so effective when we attempt to do so without the help of others. We need encouragement to stand up and belt out the news for all the world to hear. Jesus has been forgotten by many, and some have never known him at all. We have the opportunity as a collective body of believers to introduce again the most important one who ever lived. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus pronounced that the best work we will ever do. Our work does not have to gain recognition and popularity. In fact, it is better when it does not. We simply are asked to be faithful as children of God and faithful as witnesses to the power of his presence. Out of the thousands of people present in your life every day, maybe someone will pick up on something you say or do and get curious.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Seeking Truth

So let me get this straight: Integrity is optional; Truth is relative; and Wrong is only wrong when someone else does it? We are encountering these ideas at every turn as we speed toward that bi-annual exercise of the American experiment we call elections. As we see candidates and others abandon personal integrity and truth in exchange for anticipated political gain, we gaze in amazement that intelligent men and women could have such a distorted concept of right and wrong, truth and its opposite, whatever you care to call it, and expect us to believe it! As followers of Jesus, we have a clear understanding of truth. Jesus tells us in John 8:31-36 that he is truth, and only a knowledge of that truth can make us free. So why are we so tolerant of those who bend the truth beyond recognition for apparent personal gain?

Do we understand what truth really is? Without exploring a lengthy discussion of the many philosophical nuances that contribute to our concept of truth, let’s just say that truth is a statement or standard that is consistent with a recognized reality. That’s easy to differentiate, and it's the dictionary definition. Is it real? That's the question. But what do we do when those we trust and those who would be our leaders misrepresent the facts - military service, votes on the floor of Congress, facts in their personal lives – facts about which there could be no confusion – and then tell us that the prevarication was unintentional, or worse still that it did not happen? They lie. In our world, a lie unchallenged takes on the attributes of truth very quickly; and we buy into the idea that we can beat any rap if we tell the lie often enough for the lie to become accepted.

Often we look the other way in the face of obvious untruths because we have been equally disingenuous with others and would like to get out of it with a similar well crafted phrase, too. We see too much of our own human condition in the flaws of would-be leaders and others and opt for leniency rather than accountability. We delude ourselves into thinking that reality has changed just so we will not have to be accountable for our own lack of faithfulness. We can justify our own infractions and the lies of others by asserting that “everyone does that” or that “it really is no big deal” or “it isn't that important.”

From Exodus when God gave the Ten Commandments, to Jesus who fulfilled them, to today, the faithfulness and truth of our witness has mattered to God. We pretend that truth is relative at our peril. God gave us the freedom to choose to be untruthful with each other, but God is very clear that it is outside of his will for us to do so.

Even before Jesus, the Greek philosopher, Socrates, taught not to accept existing thoughts as true. He encouraged those around him to step back and reevaluate the truth and veracity of opinions and beliefs. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NRSV). God’s word clearly provides the standard by which we measure, evaluate, and attain truth. Caring and loving hearts cannot be dishonest and take advantage of others.

A good servant leader has integrity and the desire to be truthful and open in dealings with others. The people of God must hold leaders and others accountable for the truth of what is said and done. From family members to your church leaders to those who aspire to other leadership positions in our land, set the standard of truth before us, and hold us accountable for our words and deeds. Get real, people! When we tolerate what God will not, our witness is disingenuous, and that may be the ultimate failure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Choosing Sides

This afternoon, I watched what I thought would be a great football game between the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina. I'm a Tarheel by birth, as most of you know, and they won today. But I like Alabama football. I lived there for a number of years and will always enjoy that storied program.

When we first moved to Alabama, I knew little of the football rivalry between Auburn University and the University of Alabama. When I was asked which team I wanted to win, I told my co-workers that I wanted them both to win, unless they were playing each other. Wrong answer! You see, even though I knew about the great tradition of these schools, I had not lived it. When it came to living in Alabama, I had to make a choice and be loyal to the team I chose - win or lose.

It occurs to me that the same is true of living a life of faith. We can't be for everything until they come into conflict. We have to choose. In the game of life, we choose God, or we choose something else. We can't have it both ways.

Roll Tide anyway....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on Faith in a Crazy World

As I begin putting words to space, I do so with the uneasy knowledge that matters of faith are under increasing attack in our world. And those of us who hold a faith commitment must speak. With the imperative to speak goes the responsibility to have something to add to the conversation. I have begun this blog as a place where we can engage the ideas and controversies of our day in the context of our faith. So much of what goes on in our world is informed not by faith but by the narcissism of those who have our attention. Oh, how we love to be told we are important and that power and authority have our interests foremost in their minds. That idea should not appeal to servants of Jesus Christ. That idea should be counter to anything Christians desire or want from this God-given life. As we identify the tough questions and attempt to shine the light of God's presence and will on them, I invite you to join the conversation. We will not always agree. Some of us may never agree, but that does not diminish the value of the conversation. Together we can focus on where God is calling us, both collectively and individually, and tackle the issues that we see as obstacles to that purpose in life. Sometimes the answers will be simple and easy, but often they will be thorny and difficult. God created us, so the dialogue is worth the effort. In the process, we may get a glimpse of truths that have eluded us and some that have faded into our distant memories. No matter, we will take a fresh look at our human experience and see if God is in it. Join me on this journey.