My Honest View of Faith vs. Trump

Every once in a while I have a discussion with my thirties-something son about politics. This intelligent and thoughtful man child has observed that there’s a divide among evangelical Christians regarding Donald Trump as commander in chief. Apparently generations below my own do not understand why conservative Christians enthusiastically support Mr. Trump. They looks straight through the person and see all of the purity issue failures in his past. They also observe evangelical support of him as blatant hypocrisy. My son (and many in his age group) are curious (and somewhat appalled) why a true Christian would openly embrace or support such a person?

Early in our discussion I made it known that I’ve never personally liked the individual holding the highest office in our land now. This person behind the office doesn’t embody the type of person that I would ever admire. A 3 time husband and father with multiple marriages and likely affairs he doesn’t embody the kind of man I would befriend or admire. He’s an odd mix of liberal social thought coupled with a seemingly solid current family unit. Perhaps the man closed the book on his playboy lifestyle some time ago and settled into being a committed husband and father? Maybe he lived his early and middle life off the rails and then somehow found his way back to the tracks?

This businessman turned president has traveled in circles with the rich and famous globally. He’s rubbed elbows with elite and powerful people all of his adult life. As a reality TV show host he displayed his brash and bold business style. He made many of us cringe to think we would ever have such a boss who would fire people on a whim.

He is a mover and a shaker. He’s made things happen in the business world that few could ever claim. And he brags about it. Most of us were taught to keep our bragging rights to ourselves. He uses his infamous tweets to springboard his ideas into our media frenzied society. I said early in his presidency that he lights a firecracker with his words and then while the critics and pundits rail on for days he moves on to the next item on his list while the arguments ensue. His bully pulpit really stirs the pot.  He enjoys lighting the firecracker and then watching his detractors run and squeal. He fuels a debate and then while everyone is all stirred up he moves on to make another deal.

Donald the businessman appeals to people with big money because he provides them places to visit and enjoy. With fabulous golf resorts and fancy hotels in exotic locations he pleases the wealthy nicely and is rewarded handsomely for his efforts. The people who are able to visit his properties aren’t concerned with the cost. They are the ones looking for the opulent choice. Such places might be a dream to mainstream America because they (we) might never have the opportunity to be one of his customers.

Mr. Trump has found a friend in rural and urban America. One reason I think he has gotten this grassroots support is that he is not afraid of poking people in the eye for what many of us see as injustice.  He sees the status quo as stale and outdated. In business and international affairs he ferrets out bad deals and shatters them. He calls people out. He shoots from the hip and says what many were already thinking. His way of relating to the common man in America is unique in modern politics. He appears to “get” how many are feeling and masterfully taps into that with a folksy off-script style. He draws and energizes crowds more than we’ve seen in generations. And his audiences are lock-step with him, flaws and all.

He is a capitalist to the core. Capitalism is freedom – in its truest sense. Individualist freedom is what made America great from the beginning. We were given the opportunity to create and live and thrive by a group of people who had been under bondage. They paved the road of independence and we traveled that road. If you think up a product or service which others might need or enjoy, you have the freedom to create a business and if you do it well, you can soar.

When we elect someone to public office it is natural prospective voters to review every aspect of a candidate’s life and background. They are sized up to see if we like who they are as people. We also (rightfully so) evaluate them on the merits of what they might bring to the table in skills and expertise, based on the office they will hold. We do no elect a president as if we are choosing a pastor, priest or rabbi.

In the case of Donald Trump we find his willingness to take on the status quo (in both parties). That appeals to many who are tired of political gamesmanship, that’s been part of our landscape WAY too long. If capitalism is something we embrace then the office of the presidency should lead the charge for business, whether we like it or not.

Trump may not be my candidate of choice based on my social or personal view of him. We elect someone to preside and command. When he was elected in 2016 I rather doubted that he would embrace conservative values and programs. My greatest hope from his election was the hope and possibility that he’d be able to re-balance the Supreme Court. Gladly he did follow that path and his choices kept the court from straying too far left. In my opinion, the balance of the court was the most important aspect of the 2016 election, period.

It’s my belief that evangelical believers have been watching closely to see if this president really supports conservative values by actions, and not just words. So far he’s done that bidding in big ways. Those same watching Christians would never employ his  tactics in own their pursuit of change. I think Trump’s personality seems to be viewed like a Goliath facing and taking down Giants in the political arena (on both sides).

Underdogs seem to find a strong friend in Donald Trump.

So we are left with a choice. As I told my son, I just don’t see anyone on the other side side of our political spectrum promoting hopeful or encouraging plans that would lead  our country that I can positively embrace. So for the time being this right-wing social conservative deplorable will stay in his basket with a flawed guy who oddly enough wants to make America conservative and Christian again.

Grace and Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking long and hard about grace and forgiveness. I’ve watched friends and family dish these gifts out capriciously. In my mind I was pretty sure these wonderful things were reserved for those who were lined up with God’s standards of goodness. I was sure these favors were reserved for people whose lives followed the goodness rules established by the Methodist, Baptists, Presbyterians, or even Catholics. These have to be limited to those who’ve completed a prescribed set of guidelines or rules or even scriptures?

Over the years I’ve watched what I thought were well-meaning Christians apply the grace and forgiveness gifts in reserved ways. They’ve been doled out to some and kept back from others who both appeared to have needed them. At times it’s seemed that the ones who may have received these blessings needed it much less than the ones prevented from receiving them.

After careful thought I’ve come to the conclusion that neither camp should be giving or getting any grace or forgiveness at all. Those who’ve been giving or applying grace and forgiveness have no right whatsoever to be giving away something reserved for God who sits in heaven.

There’s a reason it’s called God’s grace and forgiveness because it’s His alone to dispense. And when he casts those gifts over his children he does so with such lavishness that it almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? God owns it all and owns us all. He decides when, where and who gets the salve of his love.

I have family and friends who have severely fractured relationships. Some are heartbreaking. Broken relationships are always hard to understand and even harder to decipher and accept. People claiming to know and serve our gracious God have become judges, juries and executioners. Husbands, wives, fathers, sons and daughters have been given what seems like death sentences with no possible reprieve. If I’m grieved about it, can you imagine how God must view this mass destruction and hatefulness?

I write this in the hope that someone reading might realize this error and end any war that you are a party to – this very moment.

Love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven you. Anything less is a hurdle and hindrance in your pursuit of God. You cannot serve God completely when something is so openly wrong in your life.

They Had No Clue

And when his friends had gone away and night had fallen they took him and ridiculed and slandered him. Charges were trumped up against him in late evening when few were aware or present. He was alone with his enemies. And things got terribly worse for him. The wounds inflicted on him seemed more about hate than retribution.

Yet he gave no defense because he’d done no wrong. The world didn’t understand him so they viewed him as a threat to their own politics and power. They had no clue who they were really dealing with. He allowed them that night to do with him what they wished. He didn’t fight back or rail. He knew his purpose. He paid a heavy price that night. He carried a weight beyond measure. 

The next day there was surely a hush over the landscape. The preacher had been put down and silenced. He would not longer be able to gain the attention of the masses. His friends, no doubt, would now be quiet and go away.

How or why did this escalate to the end of the gentle healer? Through a blurred and salty vision this man that night saw past the offences of his revilers. He saw them with a compassion and love that they couldn’t know or ever embrace.

Unbeknownst to all, those darkest hours were ushering in a new light that would never fade or fail. Waiting, hoping, longing – they all waited in silence not knowing the direction of the future for all. They all just had to wait.

Life Was SO Much Simpler

Life was so much simpler – when we were less informed.

With the advent of social media and electronic delivery of news, we are instantly aware of things that would have taken hours, days or even months to filter down to us. Life (as we used to know it) moved at a slower and happier pace. Reaction times to news or events barely crawled along. We had to roll out the morning paper or listen to morning radio or TV to hear about national or world events. Things took time to soak in. Once things were known interactions between people happened face to face or voice to voice. Discussions were had around the water cooler or in the break room. We interacted with one another on a person to person level. We were a much more tolerable people because of that. Interactions with friends, co-workers or relatives included every other aspect of life, and not just about the most recent political scandal or salacious affair in Hollywood. We were rounded in our dialogue.

Today the war of words is hateful, spiteful and full of half-truth and innuendo. No longer do we spar or duke things out with multiple rounds to determine the clear winner. Both parties of any argument people now go for the jugular within seconds. We don’t talk things out with honest conversation or debate. We pass judgment immediately based on “clear” lines of distinction. Those differences are usually spelled out with two simple letters – D or R. If you are a D you are labeled immediately as a wacko left-wing commie radical with not an ounce of patriotism in your body. If you find yourself with an R next to your name you are branded as a right-wing extremist bible-thumping gun-toting intolerant hater who thinks refugees should be pushed off of the boat.

In the real world both sides have a handful of people that go to the extreme in their views (left or right). But for the most part our society has a mix of ideas and values that make us land somewhere  between those two dreaded letters. A distinct problem with social media (and instant messaging) is the fact that whoever is the quickest, sharpest and craftiest deliver a stinging message that’s portrayed as pure and honest fact.  The ones who get the most attention are those who yell a quick unverified half-truth, peppered with underlying deceit and deception.

Political correctness has gone amuck. If you dare say anything about race, religion, national origin, sexual preference, or anything that is a social hot point you risk your fortune in a matter of hours. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true or moral. It only matters that you have no right to inject your belief system, especially if it steps on toes of any special interest group. And those “special” groups garner less than 5% of our entire people group.

I consider myself a technical progressive. And that’s a feat for someone my age (early sixties). Many of my peers have only given up their flip phones after the carrier no longer supported their dated technology. I am all for the latest and greatest wireless remote applications that automate everything. I’m waiting for the day that an app can buy, season, cook, and hand feed my food to me (that day is coming!).

But how can we roll back the information age to a saner, kinder and gentler time?

They Took Him Down Alright

The Lord Jesus Christ had an excruciating week leading up to his death. The religious leaders couldn’t take him any longer. He was a threat to their way of life. They thought that the laws they so carefully tried to follow were being mocked by this man. Yet he looked beyond the detail of the law and saw people and he saw their need. He knew people didn’t need a strict adherence to a set of rules and regulations. They needed a kinsman redeemer.

They found a judge in that Thursday night who probably owed them favors. And with a trumped up trial after hours they brought their so-called charges against this man Jesus. With the help of a kangaroo court this sinless man fell in the hands of an angry mob. They handled him as if he was less than a human. Little did they know he was much much more.

Yet this man who’d loved others beyond explanation submitted himself to torturous pain. He could have ended this horror with a single word or thought. Yet in the dark of this night he would allow his mocking crowd to do their bidding. In the crowd that night there were possibly some of the very people who’d witnessed him heal a blind man or raise his dead friend from a tomb.

Anguish and humiliation continued through the night. This man was not getting away with his crimes of passion. A determination had been made to end him, once and for all. So they took him down alright.

They probably wondered how this man could’ve endured the beating that he’d already taken and still be alive and conscious.  In his final hours he still had the compassionate thought to reach out to another condemned man. The doomed soul beside him realized that this man Jesus had to me more than just a common man, not just by the way he lived by by the way he was dying. Even in his final agony this common thief received the passion of the Christ, and he believed.

So under the watchful curious eye of bystanders the execution of this Galilean carpenter came to an end. Even in his final gasps of breath he was asking his father to forgive his executioners. This was evidence enough to show that he was more than just a man. So they had their way took him down.

This story must be over.

Passion Week – What Does that Really Mean?

By many, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is referred to as Passion Week. For some the word passion might be a confusing term, especially in the world in which we live.

For me that word has a much deeper connotations than just a sensual human response. One definition of passion says “having a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something”. Another is “intense, driven, mastering a feeling or conviction”.

I admire musicians who have true passion in the way they display a total surrender in the the way they perform. They can convey a message with such force that you are left with little doubt about the importance of the message. They just lay it all on the line with unfettered emotion. If you cannot sing with passion, why bother?

People are passionate about many other things in life too. They can encompass the entire spectrum of humanity. Even in the realm of business there are those who are totally engulfed with a passion for their goods or services. The truth of the matter is, if you bring a passionate zeal to your work or avocation, you will excel and exceed in whatever you do. Regardless of your craft, people will follow and respect you because of your depth of commitment.The intent of my writing today is to examine a passion that far outweighs all other human pursuits or desires.

There was a lowly man who took up residence on earth and walked among us. He was from humble beginnings and led a simple life. This gentle man of whom I speak had a calling and a purpose. He may not have been a master builder or a great musician of ability or craft. But his goal and purpose pushed him to the ultimate level of passion. His resolve was born out of who he was. He was bred as a servant. His DNA fully tilted him to love people with a unique passion unknown before he came. His strong resolve led to his ultimate demise very early in his life. You’ve probably guess that I am speaking of Jesus, the Christ.

When he looked people in the eye, his gaze went directly to their core. He saw them where they were, yet loved them in spite of who they were. He was a magnet to those around him. He exuded a passion for life, but it not his own. The compassion he had for people was powerful enough to make rugged fishermen drop their nets and follow him without reservation. He just commanded a presence about him that was inexplicable. And he still does now.

For those of you who know and follow this man Jesus, he still has that magnetic draw and power. To become like him empowers you. To walk with him encourages you. To know him changes you.

As we ponder this week of “passion” we should be reminded how far his care and concern took him. It led him to to an early grave as “religious” leaders declared him their enemy because he obviously had a greater influence than they. Those same people took him down, or so they thought. There’s more to this story. Stay tuned.

Survivors

There are times in the human condition when life throws stuff at us that we’ve never dealt with before. Illness, financial woes, strained or broken relationships, co-workers that make your life less than perfect and a myriad of issues that test the very fiber of your soul. Even the most balanced and grounded person can lose equilibrium and find themselves flat on the ground. It is just a reality that life is never perfect.

I’ve witnessed family and friends go through what seemed insurmountable pain and suffering. There were times that the only thing they could successfully do was cry. Every season of life seems to bring its share of heartache, yet humans just keep on going. Kids and family and even friends depend on us. We have bills to pay and lawn to mow. We just keep on keeping on.

We were blessed with a desire and a will to succeed. And if we find a true passion for something we can  even excel in what we do. Although created from the smallest of cells and molecules we somehow ended up with everything needed to become persons of value and worth.

There is a hope that each of us might become productive citizens one day after adulthood comes crashing into our worlds. At conception we were lavished with so many amazing potentials by our creator. Among the many wonderful things He gave us the ability to think and learn. He also gave us an innate need to love. Even when selfishness clouds our way we seem to find something down deep inside that causes us to have empathy and compassion on the other sojourners around us.

Most of us have been blessed to be parents. Once that happens we practice for years to get that right, or at least close. We scrimp and save and finds ways to provide, when there seems to be no way. And it all just comes natural for us to love and care for our mates and the broods entrusted to our care.

So if you are reading this I must assume you are a survivor. You’ve faced things that made you want to quit. You’ve given up so many times, only to wake up with a new resolve to putting your shoes in a forward direction.

Was it the cry of your child after a bad dream that gave you wings to keep flying? Was it the hoped promotion at work that pushed you? Did the strings of your heart renew your desire when you finally found that someone special? Did your best friend kick you in the teeth or lovingly lead you to renewal? Or maybe you were such sick of your position in life?Regardless of the reason you dusted off your boots and you just kept going.

Whatever make makes us survivors, it is must be a powerful force?

God. Is He Someone I can Pray to?

God is our Father and our creator. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. That is something I was taught in my upbringing.  Since God is our Father, that makes him in essence and in character, our Dad.  Being a perfect Father, we know that he must enjoy the interaction, respect and reciprocal love from his kids.

Long ago in my life experience I gained a great respect for God. That was even before I could say that I had a personal “experience” or relationship with him. As a child, when others would pray, I was taught to bow my head and close my eyes (simple I know). But if I knew nothing else personally about God, at least I knew to respect Him and revere who he was.

When we speak God’s name, mention him in passing or even simply think of him, he is acutely aware of us and at full attention and ready to hear from us. The scriptures instruct us to pray without ceasing. I think we all know what that really means. It means that in every situation we should have God’s name on the tip of our tongue asking him for guidance, comfort, and every other thing we could possibly need. Prayer is reaching out to God. It is also acknowledging that He (and he alone) is our source and strength. I’m a guy who loves fun and find some sort of humor in anything. It’s just how I’m wired. But mixed in with my humor there is a serious side to me as I think of who God is.

God expects us to call on him in thick and thin. I think it has to be a wonderful thing to him, when we call on his name to a simple conversation with him and lovingly thank him for being who he is. This conversation can be equated to telling our earthly father – I love you daddy.

Our paw owns it all. He’s really a rich guy. He lavishes his wealth on us each day. At times I feel like a spoiled brat the way he blesses and cares for me, even when I’ve been a fool. But in his goodness he knows what’s best for us. He also knows full well when to withhold his wealth from us and correct us.

The next time to have the need to reach out to your father for advice or strength or even to just thank him, don’t hold back. Speak his name, call out to him boldly. He will hear your voice and respond to you in grace and love.

God inhabits the praises of his children, all day – everyday.

Progress is Slow – But it’s Still Progress

Finding your sea legs after something crazy as a tornado hitting your home is a difficult task. Being patient and being placed “on hold” is something I don’t’ do well. I manage my personal affairs with a “full hands on” for most things. Being dependent on other people and waiting for dominoes to fall does not come naturally for me.

We all hate insurance, until we need them – to pay off. The constant battle is this – Do I or don’t I trust the insurance company? Currently I do trust them. They said the right things. They seem to be on our side and in our corner.

Storm follow-up and repairs are slow, especially in such a hard hit are like North Texas. I am learning a great lesson that I’ve heard about before- That this is going to be a marathon not a foot race. We are taking a very LONG foot race. it will be about endurance and hanging in there. The word race will now be replaced with journey.

It has been an emotionally grueling 3 weeks since our world flipped over. Emotions change every day or two. It goes from shock to sad to mad to hurt, and then bits of each all over again. At least now I don’t take those big nose dives after visiting our home. The hurt is being replaced with “OK, let’s get this ball rolling and get it all done”.  If you don’t like simple auto damage claims, you’d not believe all of the elements of a catastrophe dwelling claim. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by it all. So many decisions face us in the months ahead. But the alternative is homelessness! We are grateful for small things that we took for granted before.

We are on a quest to find joy in our journey. We’ll look back one day and know what we should have worried more about, and what we should have done differently. We hope we’ll be better people for this chapter. We can’t help but think there is some grander purpose in this all. We just know it.

A Cold and Starry Night

Do clear, cold, starry nights make you think of days gone by like it does for me? Something is mystical and magic about gazing in into the heavens on a winter night. I think it is awesome to realize that the sky we view on any given night is the same exact view that we’ve surveyed our entire lives. And on a grander scale, that sky has been the same for a really long time (like forever)!

On a cold night in a distant past most of us know of and accept the story that there were men who had a simple yet important job of tending sheep. And on that special starlit night these wranglers realized there was something different about that fluorescent sky. These stargazers had much experience with night skies. They had an intimate knowledge of the details and scope of the horizon. They had they viewed that same scene night after night for a very long time. Other than watching for predators and strays, I’m sure these fellows spent considerable time talking among themselves about a myriad subjects. But on this night they had something big and new to think about and discuss.

For them to see a new light in the sky must have more than just a passing interest. It would be equal to us hearing or seeing an unidentified object of unknown origin flying in our direction. It was, no doubt, one of those things that would shake anyone to the core. These sheepherders probably didn’t know what to make of what they were witnessing? They, along with countless other night watchers, must have been talking about this new light in the sky for weeks and months to come.

This new light in the sky seemed to somehow be focused and directional, unlike the other sparkles in the sky. The special light seemed to be shining towards a place. Even with the sky’s visual rotation, this particular light stayed in place and pointed in a direction. It didn’t lose its intensity as the night faded.

I may be spending a great amount of effort in painting a scene that would have been present in that night, and that sky. There is great reason for the concern and special wonder of this night sky, and that star. For you see the light that was burning brightly in that night sky pointed to the place where a human kind would become supernatural royalty. This great light and event was because of the birth of single child. The child of which I speak was more than just the pride and joy of new parents. The great illumination pointed to a hope for all mankind.  For you see, God became flesh that night, as the savior of the world was being born. This single event signaled to the world that something was new and different. I’ll bet there was electricity in the air and an excitement that was inexplicable.

So the next time you gaze the night sky, see if you can imagine what it might have been like to see that Star of Bethlehem that night. That star still shines but it is now visible to all who believe in the baby toward whom it pointed. He later became a kinsman redeemer and king. Jesus the Christ was born and is still our star and guide.