Archive for September 2011

Rewriting History and Other Things

September 28, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 28, 2011

of my reading projects for the past couple of months has been reading James
Battle Cry For Freedom, his extensive 900 page
masterpiece about the Civil War. It’s a fascinating work that exposes some
situations about the Civil War that I never knew. For instance there was the
Fugitive Slave Law, which gave a slaveholder the right to go into any state that
his runaway slave had escaped to, and claim his slave as property. In 1842, when
a slaveholder from Maryland sent a man into Pennsylvania to bring back his
escaped slave, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that a slaveholder’s right to his
property overrode any contrary state legislation. In another situation,
President Millard Fillmore threatened to send federal troops into Boston to help
retrieve a couple that had run away from their Georgia owner and been in Boston
for two years.

I was
also amazed to find out that Jefferson Davis, when he was a U.S. Senator, led an
effort to purchase Cuba from Spain to try to make it into another southern
slaveholding state. There was an effort afoot to increase the number of states
where slavery would be legal. In doing so it could tip the voting balance in
Congress. On the other hand, there were apprehensions expressed about any
possible new state being added. These concerns were from pro-slavery Senators as
well as Senators who were abolitionists.

don’t remember a lot of the things that McPherson writes about being taught in
my U.S. History class my junior year of high school. Perhaps I was sleeping.
After all, class was right after lunch and our teacher’s voice was infected with
“extreme monotone syndrome!”

As we
look back at that era from today there is a tendency to summarize the situation
by saying the South wanted slavery and the North was against it. It makes it
easy to remember, but misses much of the history.

I am
constantly amazed today at how people frame their explanation of a problem on
the basis of what will make them look right. People, and talk radio hosts
especially, rewrite and reconstruct current events not so much to look right and
knowledgeable, but rather to make the other side look out-of-touch and

you see, I also think we dangerously “rewrite Scripture” to say what we desire
it to say. It seems there is a tension these days between “culture” and “the
written Word.” It is foolish to think that we are able to look at Scripture
without any filtered culture lens–and it is also foolish to allow culture to
dictate what it is that Scripture is saying.

essence, we allow our culture to be the double-edged sword that determines who
is going to get cut and where. Our leaning is to figure out what I believe and
then find Scripture to support it, or interpret Scripture so that what I believe
does support it.

are many things in Scripture that people cannot come to agreement about, and I
don’t think we should expect that. The community of Christ should expect to have
interesting and diverse dialogue. As long as there are Yankee and Red Sox fans
in the church there will be debate on God’s opinion about pin stripes.

However, it seems that editing the Word and rewriting it
has gained new momentum in the midst of polarized people.

that I wonder, although I won’t be around to discover the answer, how history a
generation from now will summarize the Christian movement of the present?


September 22, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 22, 2011

God has been impressing upon me in recent weeks the urgency of prayer, and also the opportunity of prayer. The more I’m learning the more I feel like a prayer rookie.
It’s similar to my football coaching days. I’m in my seventh year of coaching middle school football. I was the school’s basketball coach (Still am for 10 years now!), and the Athletic Director cornered me in a coffee shop one summer morning and asked me to coach football. I played football through my freshman year of high school, but things were not complex back in those days. Now as the head coach overseeing the program for the 7th grade and 8th grade I feel like such a rookie. Football terminology is like New Testament Greek. It requires a lot of coffee to help in the comprehension.
That’s how prayer has been seeming to me lately. I’ve prayed for almost my entire life, but it seems like God has been teaching an old dog new tricks. I’m having a lot of “a-ha moments”, but I’m also having a lot of “I just don’t get it” moments.
Prayer is a part of the relationship. It’s like the steam coming off a hot cup of coffee. It’s a part of the experience. After a while the steam becomes less, but then the server comes around for a “warm-up.” That’s a picture of the heat and coolness of our prayer. We need continual warm-ups.
So much of prayer emerges out of the wrong motives. I’m aware that I have a tendency to pressure God with my own agenda, not that God can actually feel pressured. It’s like I’m my own lobbying group peppering him with my needs and initiatives.
“God, open the wallets and purses of the people to take care of this budget deficit.”
“God, grow our church!” (Notice the word “our!”)
“God, the lawn needs rain. It’s losing it’s greenness!”
“God, get that nagging person off my back!”

And so I’m learning that I often approach prayer with a wrong mindset, wrong questions, and wrong motives. I’m a rookie trying to understand.
On the other hand I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a “prayer chiseled-veteran.”

Facebook, Netflix, and Others With God Complexes

September 21, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 21, 2011

It is a common occurrence in our culture that when something gets popular it teeters on the edge of unreasonable. The escalator has been taken to the “exalted floor” of the mall. Quite often many of us get taken with it, or perhaps a better way of saying it in hindsight is “got taken.”
New ideas spark new ways of seeing the world, but sometimes the new ideas come to a point where they believe that are the new deities, above questioning and inspection.
Netflix got that idea a few months ago when they raised their monthly membership by up to 60%. In other words, they were saying “We’re awesome! You can’t live without us! Here’s what you’re going to pay, so deal with it!” When my trash company raises it’s fees by $5.00 every three months I can deal with it. When milk prices jump a quarter I can deal with it. But when a “lay around time” activity thinks my life will not be complete unless I chalk up more money so they can increase their corporate profits, I jump off the escalator.
Just to clarify, I’ve never been a member of Netflix, but the tactics and entitlement seem to be filtering down into our cultural systems more and more.
There’s a difference between leading new initiatives and bleeding constituents.
Like the $62 a seat Nuggets tickets I bought at a silent auction last year for $25 a piece, and then I discover that our seats are at a certain place in the arena where the shot clock on our end of the court obscured our ability to see the basket at the other end of the court. I think I’ll just cough up $10 and go to the Air Force game. Believe me, there are no obstructed view seats there.
Or that mega social media giant “Facebook”, which recently made changes because they just wanted to, and people can’t get along without them…so there! Facebook now determines, in a social networking kind of way, who your most important friends are, and who aren’t that necessary. I don’t understand it, but, of course, I don;t understand Farmville either. When it comes to social networking I’m more like Abraham, “going not knowing.”
I remember hearing a presentation by Tony Campolo years ago about the principalities and powers that oppress people and destroy lives. Campolo at that time was focused on oppressive governmental systems and Gulf-Western, which raised sugar cane in the Dominican Republic. I remember him talking about an orphanage his organization was running in Haiti because of horrific poverty situations that caused me to weep. He would quote Colossians 2:14-15: “…having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he (Christ) took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The Cross of Christ showed the tendencies of our culture for what it is- drunk with power, ADD in their concern for the have-nots, selectively tuned-in to the problems of their customer base.
Could it be that the principalities and powers of today are those institutions, corporations, and even individuals who think the world revolves around them; and that you and me can’t survive without them?
Let’s bring it home to the church! As a community of faith I hope we never enter that area called “entitled.” That is, a church that is an expression of the “living Christ” isn’t beyond reach. It never thinks that the community is privileged to have us, even though the community is better because of what we’re about. It’s not a people of privilege, but rather a people privileged to live out the call.
As a people of faith there needs to be an owning up, an acknowledgment that even though we are the community of the living Christ, people have been living without us.
Netflix learned that they weren’t as high and mighty and a necessity as they thought they were. Facebook may find out the same thing (Anybody remember “MySpace”?) The church, the messengers of hope for the one true God, will be more and more vital as it proclaims who the one true God is!

Important Lessons At Three Year Old’s Soccer Games

September 14, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 14, 2011
I took in my three year old grandson’s first soccer game last Saturday morning. The men’s bible study group I lead extended some grace to me and pushed me out the door so I could catch the second half of a delightful time.
Three year old soccer isn’t about the game, as much as the experience and the post-game snacks. My grandson had a hat trick- two goals in the other team’s net and one in his own. He was all smiles no matter what. As long as there was a net on the back of the goal he was all giggly.
I learned a few things as I watched and savored.
It’s okay to have fun playing a kid’s game, even though adults are watching. Kids have fun playing when there aren’t any adults watching; and sometimes kids have no fun when adults are watching. It’s possible…just possible…if the parents can allow it…for the kids to have fun even when mom and dad are there. Sometimes the church needs to become more child-like and less childish, more laugh-filled and less demanding.
It’s okay to pull to the side for a moment even when the game is still going on. Our grandson, as well as many others, would take a tumble, get up and run over to mom or dad to get some consolation about the fact that he had some grass stain on his “waist high” socks. After his parents assured him that it would be okay, he was back at it. It was more like a pit stop during a NASCAR race. The race went on, but it was okay for him to stop for a brief intermission. It made me think of how infrequent my own pulling to the side happens.
In 3 year old soccer there is no “Them and Us”. If the ball is going towards the other team’s goal there was a fifty-fifty chance that the team on the defense will keep kicking it in that direction. Three year old’s aren’t as aware of the right direction as they are of their right foot. Right and wrong have been defined in different ways. “Right” is stopping and helping someone back on his feet, or saying how nice his shoes look. “Wrong” is pushing or hitting another player who has fallen on top of the pile; or saying something mean. In other words, right and wrong have not been defined by the white line boundaries, or which goal to shoot on, or even refraining running onto the field to help stop the ball even though you aren’t in the game. A soccer game with three year old’s is more about grace than law, freedom than constraints.
In a soccer game played by three year old’s there is joy. One of the coaches had tied a smiley face balloon to the top of their goal. The result was that both teams were often heading towards the smile. Three year old’s are attracted to joy. I need to learn that as a principle of life: Aim for joy. Detour away from scowls and disgruntlement. I need to consider the question: What really brings joy to my life?

And so it ended! The game was over. Not one of the three year old’s knew what the score was. I’m sure a few parents probably did, but most of the observers also saw life lived on a smaller field with excitement, delight, and laughter.
May the adult generation get a sense of that as we play on our larger fields!

Polar Opposite Closeness

September 9, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 9, 2011

Carol and I went to see The Help on Labor Day. Loved the movie! Extra butter on the popcorn! It was an enjoyable afternoon!
We arrived at 3:10 for the 3:10 showing, but when you arrive at the time of the showing guess what you watch? About 20 minutes of “Coming Attractions!” At least the theater no longer has the dancing candy box waltzing with a hot dog and a Coca-Cola cup across the screen, but most movie previews now don’t really get me excited.
What I noticed was the wide differences in the movies that were previewed, and I especially noticed this. There was a preview about the film Courageous. It’s a faith-based film from Sherwood Pictures, the movie-making ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. It’s the same group that produced Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. The new film, which arrives on September 30, is about four law enforcement officers, who are highly effective on the job, but struggle in the roles as fathers at home. It focuses on the urgency for fathers to invest into the lives of their kids, the vitalness of loving relationships between parents and their children.
The theme of the movie is clear.
The next movie preview that blasted onto the screen after that was the polar opposite. It was about one night stands, the non-commitment to another person when it impacts my personal comfort and convenience, and rapidness with which many people move from one relationship to another.
Don’t get me wrong! This is not about the moral decline of Western Civilization, or a lashing out at the brevity of present-day loving relationships. No, this is about the closeness of polar opposites that I sense is meshed into our culture today. Many of the same people who go to see Courageous, will go to see the other film the week after that.
There will be little recognition of the conflicting life perspective and values between the two films. Many in the audience will take in both films, remembering a touching father-son scene in one and a mad dash for the bedroom in the other.
It is perplexing, but also troubling to see the fluidness of our beliefs. It seems that we’ve become more and more flexible. We can sing praise music in one moment, and think like hedonists the next.
I’m not bitter, or even trying to be judgmental. I’m just a little bewildered.