Thursday, January 14, 2021

Teaching critical thinking skills to your kids...and maybe your friends

Suppose you catch your 9 year old breaking one of the family rules...maybe it's hitting their little brother, or stealing their sister's Halloween candy, or drawing on the wall with a marker.  When caught, they begin to deflect from their behavior with cries of "it wasn't my fault" or "little brother didn't get in trouble when HE did it" or "why am I the only one you punish?".    In our house, those arguments don't go very far.  It may be true that little brother did the same thing, or that another kid ALSO was at fault, but the in THIS moment, for THIS conversation, we're talking about YOUR behavior.  

For quite some time, I've believed that one of the most important lessons we can teach our kids is how to apologize.  We value that because it's an important biblical practice.  Being able to acknowledge and confess our sin and ask forgiveness is at the center of our faith.  If I can't apologize for being a jerk to my husband, how in the world can I confess my sin of disobedience towards God?  And if I can't admit I've done something wrong, how will I ever get to the place of being GRATEFUL for the price Jesus had to pay for my sin and disobedience?   So the "I'm sorry, but YOU..." or "I'm sorry if YOU felt offended when I said that" don't pass the test in our house.  What I'm looking for as a parent is a clear "this behavior was wrong.  I am guilty.  I am sorry."  No "buts", no addendums, no finger pointing.    This is what it means to be a grown up.  To own our junk.  To have integrity.

I think that's one of the reasons this season of political strife has been so frustrating for me.  As someone who doesn't identify with either political party but is an interested political observer, I long for honest, nuanced discussions about what's going on in the world around us.  To be able to have a rational discussion about whether the particular statement or action or vote of a politician or police officer or activist was true or right or helpful.   Those conversations can't happen without people who are able to say, when appropriate, "I was wrong".  "That was a bad decision".  "I'm sorry for the thing I said." "They were actually right about that".

Until that happens in our discourse, I'm not sure what hope there is for the United States.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

 I am not a Democrat.

And yet, when I express disagreement with President Trump and his policies or disappointment with his actions and his character, people assume I am.

I am not a Republican.  

And yet, when I express a value of defending the life of the unborn, or am known as a "Bible-believing Christian", some will assume I am.

You will not hear me use either of those labels to define my political beliefs or behavior.   As a follower of Jesus, the only labels I want to wear to define who I am come from my relationship with Him.  May my name tag never reduce who I am to a political party platform or stereotype.

Don't get me wrong.  I love politics.  I love observing it, discussing it, even debating it (though that seems to be a lost art these days).   I have a Master's Degree in Political Science and the bulk of my graduate research was on the topic of "How Religious Beliefs Affect Political Behavior".   I love seeing how a relationship with God and understanding of what that means moves people to respond in different ways.  I love how Blacks and Evangelicals and farmers and state employees all have different ways of viewing political issues and working to make change or protect the vulnerable or grow and prosper.

To further disrupt any labels you may have wrongly placed on me: 

- When I worked in politics, back in the early-mid 90's, the legislators I worked for were Democrats.  They were also both Pro-Life.

- The legislator who helped me get my first foot in the door in politics (Gordon Ropp - Bloomington), was a Republican.

- I've probably voted for more Republican candidates in my life than Democrats.   (I even flirted with the idea voting for Ross Perot, just to see what would happen in a Perot administration).

- When I heard there was a shortage of Election Judges this year, I jumped at the chance to serve in that way.  But because I don't identify with a political party, I'm not eligible.

But while I value my right to vote and participate in voting, I also recognize that politics is not the thing that will bring the Kingdom of Heaven any quicker.  It will hopefully ensure that we have highways and clean air and schools and protection for the elderly and those without a voice....but in the big scheme of things....the mission God has given to me and to you to love him and love others doesn't change whether Trump or Biden are in the White House.

There are people who want you to believe that if you are a Christian, you have to vote for _________.  If you are Pro-Life, you have to vote for ______.      They're listening for the secret code words so they can put people in a political box.  I'm hearing some frightened people worrying that the election of one or the other candidate will cause destruction.   I'm afraid those fearful friends have forgotten who God is.  They have elevated politics over the Name that is above all names.

The truth is, it's much more nuanced than a Christian box.

So do your research.  Turn off CNN and Fox News.  Talk to your friends about politics (over coffee or dinner, not over Facebook).  Listen to different sides.   Vote the way God leads you.  

And then go on with your life - loving people and proclaiming the Good News.   God will continue to be on the throne, regardless of who is in the White House.

Sunday, October 04, 2020


In Matthew 8, Jesus is walking through the country of the Gadarenes, and as he approaches the tombs, he's confronted by 2 demon-possessed men who Matthew describes as "so fierce, no one could pass that way." 

Side Note:  Does every childhood include a Boo Radley (To Kill A Mockingbird) type of neighbor?  When our girls were little, we had a neighbor who lived alone in "the scary house".  The house was hidden from the road with overgrown trees and was in need of some home repair.  The older man that lived there didn't seem to drive, but could occasionally be spotted on a bicycle with a small bag of groceries hanging from the handle-bars.  Every time the girls quickly walked past his house, more made-up stories would be told about children disappearing or animals dying...

I imagine the demon-possessed men were the subjects of stories that swirled around the region and were repeated around a campfires with descriptions of their torn, filthy clothing, wild eyes, erratic behavior, and rumored acts of violence.  Townspeople had surely re-routed their normal paths to avoid the men and warned children to stay away.   If they'd had a Nextdoor app, I'm certain there would be several threads airing complaints and discussing ways to deal with the neighborhood nuisances.

As Jesus encounters the men, the evil spirits know what's coming and beg him to send them into a herd of nearby pigs instead of whatever other fate might await them.  Jesus complies and the pigs immediately run down a steep bank into the sea and drown.  

The evil spirits are gone!  The terror of the neighborhood has been taken care of!  I imagine something like the Wizard of Oz when everyone sings "Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead".  Hurray!  Right?  

But Matthew reports that when the town heard about what happened, they came out to beg him to leave.

Some people will be too scared of the disruption to experience the Kingdom of God.

Jesus heals the tormented men, frees those who leave nearby from the evil has terrorized them, and demonstrates his incredible power.   But the townspeople are so fearful that Jesus might destroy their way of life as farmers, might disrupt their ways they've found to cope, might cost too much, that they send him away.

Jesus came to disrupt the status quo.  He will most certainly disrupt our views on politics, how we spend our money, the media we watch, the clothes we purchase, our understanding of race, or even the way we vote.  

I don't want to miss the Kingdom of God because I'm too scared to risk what I've always known.

When "Cancel Culture" cancels Justice

One of the treasures of quarantine is extended time at the dining room table....eating, lingering, then clearing the table for a way-too long game of Settler's or Bananagrams....and the conversations that emerge with my adults-in-training.  They teach us things about Tik-Tok and we try to take advantage of opportunities to slide in one more bit of parental advice without them knowing.  

Tonight's topic:  Cancel Culture.  My daughter who gets the majority of her news on Tik Tok tells of the most recent "campaign":  A business owner in Kentucky has a sign on the door that says "We don't sell to N#$*%&" and the Tik Tok community sets out to punish the owners, shut down the business, and teach this racist a lesson.  

Except....what does the racist learn?  Are they convicted of their sin?  Repent of their racist beliefs and behaviors?  Or are they further emboldened to get revenge on the liberals or Democrats or the "N#$*%&" who ruined their business?

What is our goal in a cancel culture?  

There seems to be alot of satisfaction in our culture for ruining someone's reputation or career or earnings when they don't speak or behave the way we want them to.  I think we'd call that vengence.  Getting back, making them pay. 

The problem is, that's not the same as Justice.  Justice is about making things right.  Making things right might look more like the business owner repenting of their racist beliefs and changing their ways.  Cancel culture doesn't leave room for repentance.  There are very few 2nd chances.  It seems that restoration of a person, or reconciliation isn't expected or even desired in many cases.  

But for the Christian, 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says we've been given the ministry of reconciliation:

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you

The problem with Cancel Culture, the idea of "cancelling" a business or a person or an organization because we don't agree with them means we miss out on what is God's best, which is for us to be reconciled, to come to agreement that people shouldn't be mistreated because of their skin color or their gender or their economic status; for us to agree that our society needs to take care of the vulnerable, the poor, the unborn, the undocumented.  

The Gospel, the Good News, is that God doesn't cancel US when we miss the point, act like idiots, screw up, again.  Instead, in Ephesians 2, we read that he preached peace to those those are far...

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

The Cancel Culture doesn't reflect the heart of the Savior.  True justice is about making things right and the reconciliation of all things. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Very Early in the Morning....

Mark 15:1-41
"Very early in the morning, the chief priests made their plans..."

I read this, and I think of priests and scribes and leaders jumping out of bed, telling their wives they didn't have time for breakfast, and scurrying out the door.....much like children running down to the Christmas tree in the living room to open presents.    Did they have trouble sleeping the night before?  Toss and turn?  Keep replaying possible comebacks and conversations in their heads?  Things they would ask Jesus?  Arguments they would make to Pilate? 

Those middle-of-the night plans are usually indicators for me that I'm obsessing about something.  I think I have control over something and can/or have to "fix" it.  The lack of peace I feel on those nights has alot to do with the sin that accompanies the obsession. Wanting to be right, proving others wrong, vindication.....

So my own experience helps me understand these men.  They were tired of Jesus questioning their authority or their leadership.  They wanted control again.  They wanted to be right and prove Jesus wrong, and they got up at the crack of dawn in order to do it.

It's a little different from the excitement of the women in Matthew 28.  Verse 1 says "At dawn" they went to the tomb. This response was FAITH.  This was LOVE.  I wonder, did they toss and turn?   Play over what they had seen in their minds again and again?  Wonder if they could've stopped it?  Changed things?   Were they beginning to put together the pieces of things Jesus had said to them yet?

The chief priests got up early out of fear.  The women went early out of faith.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Imago Dei - Genesis 2:15-25

The last week has been awful.

Well, Sarah and Caleb had a beautiful wedding, but other than of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck, while Floyd repeatedly says, "I can't breathe".  Protests, Facebook posts, Riots, Talking Heads with a variety of opinions and speculation.   There is just a blanket of sadness and angst hanging in the air.  

It's frustrating.  
And exhausting.

And at the same time, I recognize the importance of staying "in" it, instead of fleeing.  Instead of moving on.  My black friends can't just move on, and so regardless of my privilege which would allow me to sweep it under the rug and find other things to focus on, I choose to stay.  

It's hard to get to the root of some of the arguments I'm hearing.  
It's about police brutality
It's about respect for the rule of law
It's about ALL lives
It's about systemic racism
It's about looting
It's about injustice

And in these all these arguments, perhaps we're missing the point.  When it comes down to it, the thing that is making most people angry, on both sides of the issue, is how we VALUE people/things.  George Floyd's murder is heinous because he has VALUE as a human being, made in the image of God.  Some are more concerned about the looting than the racial injustice, because they VALUE order and rules more than human life.  Some value themselves and their way of life....others value justice and equality and fairness.

In Genesis 2:15-25, we see a clear difference between the value of animals and of humans.  Animals are made from the dirt (super cool, btw), but HUMANS are made in the image of GOD.   Distinction between animals and humans.   But there is NO distinction between humans.  We are ALL image bearers of the most high God.  We ALL have his stamp on us.  We ALL resemble our Father.   

And that is why this week has been so hard for me.  I am hurt for my black friends whose value has been questioned again and again and again.  I am frustrated with people I know and love who can't see how hurtful their words and fearful rhetoric are.  Black lives matter.  White lives matter.  All lives matter because we're all the same in the eyes of God.  But right now, it's the black lives that are in danger, so we stand.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Spirit Hovered: Genesis 1:1-13

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  Genesis 1:1-2

It's hard to imagine what it was like before the creation of the world.  How do you imagine nothing? I've always been intrigued by the fact that the earth was empty, and. yet there was "the deep" and "the waters".  LATER, God created the waters, right?  So what was present in V. 1?   

But the part I love most about these verses is the idea that "the spirit of God was hovering over the waters".  What was that like?  Was it like an eery mist covering a lake early in the morning?  Was it just like a swarm of little gnats that all move together at the ballfield during the summer?   Maybe it was like the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night in the desert with the Israelites?

Then I think....does he still do that??   I mean, I know I have the Spirit living inside of me, which is overwhelmingly amazing....but does he still hover in our midst?  Like the mist over a meadow....was he hovering yesterday when over 3000 cars joined together in a Procession of Solidarity for Black Lives?  Or at The Villas in Sherman, as they've been suffering through a COVID outbreak?   Does he hover in our midst...listening, moving, responding?

Teaching critical thinking skills to your kids...and maybe your friends

Suppose you catch your 9 year old breaking one of the family rules...maybe it's hitting their little brother, or stealing their sister&#...