Archive for October, 2013


Sorry. It was my fault

It’s finally over.

            After 16 days of government shutdown and partisan wrangling, a short-term agreement to re-open the United States government and raise the debt ceiling got hammered out in the late hours of Wednesday night. WHEW!

            Of course, it is an agreement that only gets us to January, 2014 and then it (potentially) starts all over again.

            In the midst of the wrangling and posturing and bickering, I found myself getting pretty annoyed with both sides. There seemed to be an inability or unwillingness to put the good of the country ahead of party platforms and find common ground. Instead of meaningful dialogue it degenerated into a torrid tennis match of sound bites and bumper sticker rhetoric.

            But the worst part of it all was when I had to stop and recognize my own part in the whole unseemly business.

            In much the same way that businesses only sell us products we have demonstrated that we want to buy and TV stations only produce programs that we’ve told them we want to watch, politicians carry on their conversations in strict accordance with our demands and expectations.

            Most people (and I sadly must include myself in this category) don’t have time for in-depth analysis and thoughtful exploration of complex issues. Collectively we seem to have the attention span of a gnat… unless it has to do with our favorite sports franchise or the lifestyle of a Hollywood personality.

            We insist that our “truth” be boiled down to bite-sized pieces and coated with enough high octane flavor so that we can quickly consume it and spew it back out. 

            Politicians line themselves up neatly in rows of “bad guys” on one side and “good guys” on the other because we have asked them… no, DEMANDED… that they do so. Everything needs to be either black or white. We don’t want even the tiniest hint of gray to show up in our consideration of the issues of the day.

            And calm conversational tones are completely unacceptable, too. If there is an important subject to be discussed, it can only be screamed at the top of our lungs! Nothing personal you understand. That just shows our PASSION.

            And one of the greatest tragedies about engaging one another in this bombastic way is the way that it makes all of us “less than.” You are no longer a multi-faceted, complex and nuanced blend of unique life moments and relationships. You are a “conservative.” Or a “liberal.” A “redneck,” or a “tree-hugger.”  (On a little side tangent here, I wonder if that is one of the underlying reasons for the huge surge of interest in zombies and all things zombie-related… i.e., because of our tendency to treat one another as mindless and one-dimensional destroyers of all that is good. Hmmm. Lemme get back to you on that one…)

            I am sure I am “preaching to the choir” when I say this, but all of us need to go the extra mile in our relationships with one another… even to, and maybe especially to those who are strangers. Or even “enemies.” Let’s remember Psalm 8:5 as it tells us that God made human beings (ALL human beings), “… a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” And Psalm 139:14 that says we are each, “… fearfully and wonderfully made.” And then we turn to God and say, ” … Wonderful are your works!”

            Let’s try to remember that “those politicians” are not some alien species, completely disconnected from the world as we know it. Sadly they stand before us as sobering reminders of the dark places living inside each one of us; dark places yearning to be exposed to the healing light of Christ.

Keep praying. Keep repenting. Keep seeking Christ.


Tollbooth Theology

tollboothA couple of weeks ago I had to drive to Topeka for a meeting.

I like driving to Topeka. It is a good interjection of quiet time in my week and is also not a punishingly large amount of “windshield time” to endure.

I chose to take the turnpike route on I-70. This meant taking my ticket at the booth at Bonner Springs and then stopping to pay my toll at the Topeka exit.

My toll was a little less than $3.00, but all I had with me was a $20 bill. So while the man in the booth was making my change, I decided to strike up a little conversation. The sign on the side of the booth told me the toll collector’s name was D.J. so I said, “How are you doing today, DJ?

DJ said, “Blessed!”

How cool!” I thought to myself. “A man of faith here on the Kansas turnpike!” And so, responding from my Wesleyan framework and understanding of prevenient grace, I said, “That’s great! Me too!” And then after a little pause I added, “I guess we’re really ALL blessed, aren’t we?”

This was apparently the theological intersection where DJ and I parted company. Without any hesitation at all he said, “We are if we know the Lord!”

By this point DJ had returned my $17.25 change to my extended left hand. And as I glanced in my driver’s side mirror I noted at least three cars queued up behind me. I really wanted to push back with DJ a little bit and explore his statement, but I thought this was probably not the place or the time. Besides, I was not sure the people behind me in line would appreciate being late for their appointed rounds because DJ and I chose that moment to engage the subject of God’s Plan of Salvation for Humankind.

So I politely thanked DJ for his time, wished him a good day, and motored off to my meeting.

As I headed off west, I could not help but be impressed with DJ. First because he was obviously an enthusiastic believer. Secondly because he had figured out a way – with a job that MAYBE gave him eight seconds of face time with any single individual – to make a statement about his faith.

And third, because as eager a Christian as DJ seemed to be, he was not pushy or obnoxious. If I had merely grunted in response to his “Blessed!” answer I am confident he would have let it drop right there.

But I ultimately left saddened. Saddened because the door that had swung open so graciously with his, “Blessed!” answer suddenly slammed shut with the tight boundaries DJ had decided to impose on God’s grace.

Last week’s scripture passage brought the reminder from God that, “I am a jealous God…” who is not at all cool with people who worship other gods. But as Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount, “…for [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45, NRSV.

I don’t believe that God’s blessings are confined to those who believe. The blessing of each new day, the blessing of the miraculous human body and its intricate inner workings, the blessing of nature’s beauty, or a child’s laugh are showered abundantly on each of us, whether we deserve them or not… whether we express gratitude for them or not.

I do not believe that God sends blessings in greater abundance to us when we decide to recognize and worship him. That would make our worship conditional… as long as God delivers the goodies, we’ll deliver the praise. What we DO receive is the “peace that passes all understanding” of knowing there is a powerful creator and redeemer who loves us more than we can ask or understand.

And that fact alone should be reward enough, shouldn’t it?

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