Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Educating of Life Education

April 7, 2023

None of the textbooks in my classroom provide the resources to address the subject matter. It falls between the cracks between language arts, social studies, math, and even science and is caught by the ears of the observant teacher. It is the learning about life that comes in the moments of a day and the events in a week.

The educating of life has become the necessary non-curriculum-based course for young students. It’s the learning about how the world functions, the challenges of our times, and the opportunities that the future holds. The wisdom of teachers is elevated above math calculations, dangling participles, and essay formulas, during the educating of life.

In recent times, our school and two others, experienced the discovery of an individual, several years removed from his days as a student, who was planning an attack. It hit the news, so there has been no need to keep it under wraps. Law enforcement arrested him before his plan had been fully developed and put into action, but it was still a life education experience for our students about the evil that lurks within some people’s hearts and minds. It was not a situation that could be answered with a “Why would a person want to do such a thing?” It goes off the page in terms of common sense. Simply put, there will always be some “crazies” in the world. Do we live in fear of them or let the crazies teach us things like being aware of our surroundings, trusting that feelings of uncomfortableness are warning signs to not discount, and the vitalness of keeping each other safe?

Or there’s vaping. It’s filtered down from high schools to middle schools. Telling kids to not vape is only one point in the conversation. Helping them to have the willpower to turn away from behaviors that will end up in bad ways is another point. Helping them to see that wisdom is a great quality that will lead to be life that has value is still another point. That kind of education comes in the conversations that occur at lunchtime or during moments spent in the outdoors while getting some fresh air. Helping kids realize that there are people in the world who want to ACT (Emphasis added!) as their friends, while sucking them into behavioral habits that will lead them toward destruction and despair, that’s life education.

And then there’s loss. I’ve had a few students lose family members this school year. Losing a grandparent who has always been present in their life is an emotionally debilitating event. For a couple of my students, it was the first time they had experienced the death of a family member. I didn’t have answers for them, but rather offered guiding questions that led them toward a healthy grappling with grief. Nothing we learned about the American Revolution in those days of class were even comprehended by the grieving adolescent, but perhaps they picked up some tools that helped them deal with the brokenness in mourning.

And finally, another life education scenario has been the lack of motivation that some students wrestle with. They have felt a pervading apathy, but also guilt because of the apathy. A lesson on “grit” for those young people was more vital than the poetry elements of alliteration, hyperbole, and metaphor that we were learning. “Grit” oozed onto the pages of a few of the poems they created, but it’s something that can never be plunged into them like a flu shot.

School shootings, addictive behaviors, social media bullying, death and loss, a culture that is more about speaking than listening, and minimizing rather than respecting. There has been a year’s worth of educating about life education. For most students, it is what they will remember long after the harshness of the 1765 Stamp Act imposed by the British on the American colonists has been forgotten.

Transferring Loyalty

March 29, 2023

Although creativity is a part of my DNA, I’ve never been accused of being progressive in my viewpoints. Perhaps that goes back to the strong connection with my dad, who saw the value in change but also the necessity for common sense. Change that had no root in common sense was not held in high regard by him.

He, and me, valued loyalty and dependability. Come to think of it, dependability was wrapped up in the jacket of loyalty. It was meshed up in the fabric of our culture.

Somewhere along the line, things changed for the quality of loyalty in our culture’s viewpoint. Loyalty went from the front seat to getting pushed into one of the corners of the trunk, wedged in between faithfulness and integrity.

Many would disagree with me on this next view, but I’m not offended in the least. The college transfer portal system for athletics is the new world where loyalty has been replaced by “let me leave!” Athletes, blessed with scholarships that cover the cost of a college education, change schools as often as airlines change flight departure times. I’ve noticed that TV game announcers even put in little blurbs about the past resumes of players, letting the viewers know that #11 has been at two other schools before his present one. It’s now said as naturally as someone ordering cheese for his hamburger.

This morning I noticed that the sidebar on the ESPN web site consisted mostly of one-liners about current players who had decided to enter the portal. I’m fully aware of how quickly coaches can get hired, fired, move on, or move out. Athletes should have some of the same freedom, but it’s becoming excessive.

Being a season ticket holder for Air Force basketball, there’s no one transferring in. Who is there as an incoming cadet is who will be there for the next four years, except for those who decide the academy is not for them. Of course, the academy’s values begin with integrity and service before self.

Nowadays, it’s not so much about service and sacrifice, but about oneself. Thus, transferring loyalty from one higher institution of learning to another is as easy as switching jerseys. Some players are more concerned with making sure they get their desired jersey number, then they are about the teammates and fan base they left behind.

Once again, it’s just one of the many indicators that loyalty is not what it used to be. Back in my very younger days, I used to pretend I was Louie Dampier, Dan Issel, Pat Riley, and Larry Conley playing against Tennessee. My arena was the school’s basketball court down the street from us. I’d do the play-by-play as the Wildcats took it to the Volunteers. I knew the names and even their shot selection.

Not so anymore. I couldn’t tell you who played for Kentucky this year. Most of them arrived in August and will depart in May, not long enough for me to even figure out how to pronounce their names…and finding it hard to even care.

Tipping Grace

March 27, 2023

 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

When I was a lot younger, college days in fact, I worked a few hours a week at the Ramada Inn across the street from Judson College (now Judson University), in Elgin, Illinois. A few other Judson students and I would serve at banquets, working hard as we served as many as 300 dinner patrons. Our “tip” was determined by the cost of the meal being served, not much for breakfast but a nice sum for a steak dinner banquet. No matter who the guests were or what the menu was, we hustled and served at hyper-speed. It’s what we did. The hotel banquet department expected it of us, but more than that we expected it ourselves.

However, I’ve noticed that the gratuity concept that we call tipping has changed. It’s become the expected. Yesterday, I was at a store that served Starbucks coffee. If all you wanted was a cup of Pike Place, there was an urn to the side. You ordered, the cashier handed you a cup, you paid, and poured your own cup of coffee. She was as pleasant as a welcome breeze on a July afternoon, but when I scanned my credit card (Since it was a cashless business. Huh!!), the screen asked me what percentage tip I’d like to add to it. I punched the 15% button because I felt a combination of Baptist guilt and the need to take care off my fellow man, but the situation perplexed me. My $4.00 cup of coffee had jumped to $5.00 with the tip and taxes…and the only part of the work experience the cashier had performed was to hit two buttons on the register and hand me a cup.

Before you classify me as a penny-pincher and tight wad, my wife and kids would tell you that I over-tip. I suppose it goes back to my Ramada days and the sympathy I have for restaurant servers and staff. It seems, however, that tipping has been redefined to mean “the expected, regardless of the service and effort.”

Tipping is now taken for granted. What was once a gesture of kindness, a gift, has become part of the payment. I wonder if Dave Ramsey has any episodes on tipping philosophy.

That tipping mindset has seeped into our shallow understanding of the grace of God. Grace has slipped into the wading pool of expected actions. Its days as a gift have drained away. It’s not thought of as a special category of compassion that God has for his created, but rather a tax added on to the cost, no questions asked.

Our culture has erased part of the equation. That is, the cost of grace has been scratched out. The gift of Jesus, crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, has been minimized in importance. The work behind the grace has been forgotten.

I know, I know…all this simply because of being handed a coffee cup, told to pour my own cup, and presented with the option of tipping. Well, I think it’s a proper analogy of the view we have plummeted to in our view of God’s grace.

And by the way, I had to pour my own cream and sugar into the coffee, as well!

The End of The Never-ending Quarter

March 19, 2023

Yesterday it finally came! The last day of our middle school’s third-quarter. There are certain things in life that you think will never end: a college basketball game where one team keeps fouling to stop the clock, completing your tax return, the drive-through line at In-N-Out, political commentaries, and the third-quarter of the school year.

Our third-quarter begins after the Christmas break and runs to the exhaustion line of March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, but even leprechauns don’t have that much energy to finish it. Eleven weeks, populated by a multitude of teacher-pleaded prayers for a foot-and-a-half of snow to be divinely-dropped on our school district.

In the midst of student and teacher mental exhaustion, there had been numerous moments of absentmindedness. It was as if we were driving through Kansas with Dorothy and oblivious to the school hallway tornadoes of carelessness and chaos. We trudged on, the “E” light (Education) begging us to stop. I went from 4 cups of coffee a day to 6, felt no remorse for a few students who were home sick, thus reducing the number of hyper-active bodies sitting in front of me. Quite honestly, there were a few days where I came home in need of an attitude adjustment.

During the never-ending quarter, I intentionally threw in a few lessons for shock value to shake up those who were expecting the ordinary. There’s nothing like a good class period right after lunch on the cannibalism of the Donner Party to cause the consumed lunch nachos to bring some indigestion, or create uncertainty about that cheeseburger that tasted a tab different. If I would have thought of it, I would have dressed up as Bela Lugosi, complete with fangs, to add another element of surprise; or maybe I should have fixed a platter of barbecued chicken legs for students to munch on.

We were able to read the book The Cay and then watch the 1974 movie of the same that starred James Earl Jones. The visual effects in 1974 were a bit less sophisticated than what the students were used to, but they seemed to enjoy watching what they had already read. And a couple of weeks ago they did their own 30-second pitches, where they made up an idea or product, recorded their pitch, and then tried to sell me on what they were selling. The creativity was a nice break, but also prepared them to do their own 2-5 minute speech in front of the class.

But there were other signs of boredom rising to the surface in the midst of the student population. Restroom antics, cafeteria chaos, hallway pranks, Little Johnny discovering he could say four-letter words that would make his mom blush, and the emergence of “couples” and hoped-for romantic interests. The spring sex-ed classes should have been placed in the midst of the third quarter…right after the Donner Party!

One day at the end of school, one of my students pilfered my candy stash. A couple of pencils have been broken on purpose. My room phone rang several times, asking me to send a certain student to the office. On a number of occasions, that student did not return to class…for a few days! Our security officer, Mr. C., has kept busy watching video from the security cameras to identify the “guilty” in various escapades. The office has been in need of a number system like at the DMV, where students pull a tab and wait until their number gets called.

The never-ending quarter has taxed patience, damaged friendships, caused pizza to seem tasteless, sent teachers searching for available flights to tropical climates, and had our custodial crew pray for certain numbers in the mega-million lottery to be drawn so they can hire someone to clean up after them.

Of course, there needs to be a P.S. at the end of the never-ending quarter. It will come on Monday in the form of a few students falling to their knees and pleading for grace in the form of excusing missing assignments and the D letter grade miraculously being turned into a B. I’ll look at them and reference the Donner Party: “Bad decisions sometimes are remembered for generations to come. For you, however, whatever was eating at you in the last quarter can be solved by the new adventure and effort of this final quarter.”

Pleading faces will become indignant and further practice of four-letter words will commence out in the hallway.

Hankies and Middle Schoolers

March 12, 2023

I have come to realize that I am a creature of habit, as well as a reflection of my past. Those two news items in my bio don’t really cause any eyebrows to rise in amazement, unless there is a handkerchief involved while there are eighth-graders in the vicinity. You see, I’ve always carried a handkerchief in the back right pocket of my pants. The back left pocket is for my wallet. Depending on what I’m doing, my left hand reaches for the wallet and my right hand reaches for the handkerchief. Once I switched the two items, but kept pulling out my billfold to wipe my nose.

I learned the handkerchief thing from my dad. It’s what he taught me back in the days when there wasn’t a slew of tissue boxes around. Handkerchiefs were used to wipe the sweat off your brow, unscrew the top to check the car’s motor oil level, stop a blood flow, handle evidence at the scene of a crime (Okay, I guess my dad never used one for that, but he would have!), and blow your nose. Handkerchiefs were practical, as necessary as your underwear and socks. In fact, I have double the number of handkerchiefs than I have of boxers!

But now we live in an age where students and tissue-addicted adults don’t use handkerchiefs, don’t carry handkerchiefs, and don’t think handkerchiefs have any purpose except to gross thirteen-year-olds out. For my students they are listed in that column of gross that includes picking your nose, picking your teeth, and using the gym locker room showers.

Here’s the thing! When I sense a sneeze is coming, I don’t have to run halfway across the classroom and grab a tissue. I reach in my back pocket, pull out my hanky, and capture the moment. That sequence makes no sense to my students who watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while munching on popcorn saturated with butter.

So we have discussions about the different ways we were raised, family traditions, and how we are reflections of our parents. They don’t understand handkerchiefs and I don’t understand pants that have more rips than fabric. They don’t understand why I tuck my shirt in and I don’t understand piercings in noses and eyebrows. They don’t understand why I go to bed shortly after the 9:00 chimes occur and I don’t understand why they think midnight is a good time to cook up some nachos and watch Tik-Tok. They don’t quite understand the grey in my hair and I don’t understand their purple, orange, pink, blue, and tutti-frutti colored-hair. I don’t understand why so many of them don’t eat breakfast and they don’t understand why I do. Thus, I get asked for granola bars several times a day, something I keep a box of close at hand.

I’m a creature of habit. Part of the habit is not being able to NOT think about what needs to happen in the coming week. Last week I took two days away from the classroom TO WORK ON TAXES, mind you! However, I found myself thinking about school, what the kids were doing, hoping they weren’t driving my friend, Ron McKinney, crazy, and pondering lesson plans for the next day. Every time I pulled out my handkerchief I could see their disgusted faces in the corners of my mind.

Strangely enough, it brought a smile to my face.

The Apathy of Comfort

March 4, 2023

I recognize I have been infected with the “Baptist Mom Guilt Syndrome”. It’s this condition that develops in your thinking, decisions, and emotions in your growing-up years that continues to reoccur throughout adulthood. There is no known cure, even becoming a Unitarian (which I ain’t!). The BMGS hit me yesterday when a lady and her son in the parking lot of Safeway approached me with a sign that said, “Please help! We need money to buy food!” I said no and felt BMGS all the way home.

On the other side of the argument, BMGS has its benefits, because in much of our American culture today there is an apathy that has come as a result of the comfort level of our lives. Comfort is nice. It’s our preferred grazing grounds. It’s like that recliner a person always…and I mean always…sits in when he watched TV, and then one day he comes home and finds his oldest grandson sitting in Grandpa’s usual spot. Comfort just left the room. Grandpa is confused, maybe angered, and unsettled.

Comfort is where we live, white picket fence, the smell of barbecue, and characteristic of the good life. Just have the doorbell ring when you are in the midst of your comfort zone and take note of the immediate change in your demeanor.

The world has been pierced with crises and tragedies that become 30-second news blurbs. Earthquake in Turkey, a tornado in Kentucky that devastates a town, hurricanes in the Caribbean, shootings everywhere, Ukrainian heartache…the list goes on page after page. We see and hear and go for a walk around the block to stretch our legs.

I wonder if Jesus had a comfort zone. He seemed to be the happiest when he was sharing a meal with people or encountering those who needed encouragement or a momentary touch. I can not pick up any sense of apathy that was a part of his life. Anguish, anger, anticipation…yes, those were some ‘a-words’ that resonated with Him, but not apathy.

And now I go back to my BMGS. Seeing an image of my mom with her hands on her hips, giving me the look that brought cringing and correction…that look that electrified me with the error of my ways. Maybe I need a new dose of that. Maybe I need some recliner-repentance and a heart stab concerning the hurting.

If not me, who?

Creative School Restroom Rules

February 26, 2023

I’ve learned that school restrooms have become the new hot spots in schools. Students congregate there to avoid the classroom discussions on semi-colons and essay formulas, or having to do algebra equations. Spending time in the midst of a room populated with urinals and stalls seems more appealing. Weird, I know, but not too far removed from the truth.

Back in my growing up days at Ironton High School, we had a group of students who would congregate in a small area outside the gym to grab a cigarette between classes. Smoking was allowed back in those days outside the building. It’s where smokers went and others avoided. Since I never smoked, I didn’t hang out there. My guess, however, is that the conversations did not revolve around the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 or slope triangle calculations.

In our middle school, with there being security cameras in the hallways, gym, cafeteria, and outside areas, restrooms are the new uncharted territories. Schools still see them as spaces deserving privacy, rightfully so. Unfortunately, they attract lunacy. Stupid things happen inside the door. It could be the studio for a spinoff show of that TV series “Jackass.”

I’ve tried different things in the past to separate the urgent from the unnecessary. For a while, I had two Beanie Babies, one for each gender. A boy signed out and took Roam the bison with him to the restroom. Girls had a penguin called Waddles. That worked for a while, until Roam came back wet one day. I didn’t want to know how he got that way. After that, I had the designated Beanie Baby placed on the restrooming student’s desk.

And then the school went to restroom passes on lanyards. I took Roam and Waddles back home to safer surroundings with their old Beanie friends.

Since a no-cell phone policy went into effect in January, students can’t text their friends about this, that, and the other useless informational things. BUT there’s the restrooms! A little hallway conversation during the four-minute passing period is a good time to arrange a mid-class rendezvous in “Stall Town.”

So now I’m thinking outside the box about the situation. Last week I went back to 6th-Grade passes, where a student gets a limited number of restroom passes for the rest of our quarter, and only one student is allowed at a time. We still have the classroom sign-out sheet, plus the restroom lanyard, and now the individual signed sheet.

But I’m not sure that’s enough, so a friend of mine and her eighth-grade daughter gave me some new creative ideas. They suggested that I have a full-size cardboard cutout of myself made. I’d need to get the school administration to sign off on the idea, but what a great way to separate those who really need to go from those who just want to avoid being educated. I can envision someone coming into the restroom and seeing two other strange-looking feet inside one of the stalls, and maybe make my cut-out tall enough that part of me is also above the stall.

My friend also suggested a front and a back. That is, for someone’s first visit of the day, my cutout is of my back, not paying attention to “their business”, but if it’s a second visit for the day, have my other cutout facing them. Awkward! Maybe even have my cutout having my hands on my hips and looking disgusted at the student. The problem is my cutout would probably have something unfortunate done to it about three days in. I’d lose a limb, have someone draw sunglasses on my fake face, or give me tattoos and piercings.

Another thought is to go back to what we did when I was in elementary school. The whole class lined up in the hallway and we took a few minutes to take a restroom break…as a class. I’m sure that would go over well with eighth-graders who would have to stand there quietly…without their cell phones.

Another idea is to have some kind of hand attached to the lanyard. It could be in collaboration with the art classes! Maybe a laminated hand. When the student comes back to the classroom, I would ask him if he washed his hands…all three of them?

Here’s the challenge! Students are deceivingly creative. The educator’s creativity is matched with their dark humor. It’s like a chess match without the board. One move gets countered by the new plunge into tainted behavior. I guess the encouraging thing is that they’re thinking, organizing, planning, and developing new strategies. It’s definitely a new education for this old guy. It makes me long for the days of the old smoking area outside Ironton High School.

The Perfect Imperfect Church

February 20, 2023

From Scripture we learn that most of the early churches that the Apostle Paul and the writer of the book of Revelation, John, encountered had issues. Rich Corinthians were gluttonous, allowed their worship of God to become experiences of confusion, and made leadership a popularity contest. Most of the seven churches of Revelation that John wrote letters to had the word “nevertheless” inserted halfway through his message to them, and what followed that word was not complimentary.

The church has always been an institution comprised of imperfect people. That shouldn’t surprise us. Paul stated it clearly in his letter to the church in Rome that “all of us fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)We have been offered salvation by the grace of God through Jesus. As Paul said to the believers in Ephesus, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In essence, as the church we are who we are, trying to be reflections of Christ but knowing that we will have times of failure, falling short, in our pursuit of that. Thus, the quandary! We strive to be like the One who had no sin and was perfect, but have a hard time admitting that we are imperfect. Not that we condone our indiscretions, but rather we pretend they aren’t a part of who we are.

Too often, the church, a fellowship of the fallen, shoots its wounded instead of restoring the injured. Instead of treating the broken, the church has a habit of making the imperfect the scapegoat sent out from the flock to roam, weep, and wonder if it is possible that God can forgive him, since the church doesn’t seem to be able to.

That might sound harsh, and it is, but it’s also what so many followers of Jesus have experienced. They’re like the students who have been cast out of the classroom and sent to the principal’s office where the other castoffs are huddled.

Repentance and confession have always arisen in the midst of a spiritual awakening, but confession is hard to do in the midst of a church that feels it has nothing to confess, or, maybe more precisely, is afraid to confess. Being able to live out the motto, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner”, is too hazy for many Christians. Because of Jesus, we live under Grace but we find ourselves operating out of the Law. Jesus is our Standard, and yet we have unwritten but strictly adhered to standards.

Many years ago, a good friend of mine began attending a church where he was warmly welcomed, conversed with, and made to feel a part of. Feeling accepted, one Sunday he opened up to the small group he was a part of about the struggles of his past. Almost immediately, he felt that someone had turned down the group’s thermostat. It became as cold as the North Pole. His vulnerability had been greeted with social shivering and icy looks. He decided he would go to a different church and be upfront with whoever talked to him about the troubles of his past and the hope that walking with Jesus had brought to his life. Thank God that the one middle-aged lady who talked to him at the end of the worship service responded to his confession of who he was and where his life had been with the words, “Well, I’m glad you’e here and I hope to see you again next week.” Her words were like ointment on a burn. If she would have shied away from him after he had spewed on her, he may never had become a part of any church of his life. But she didn’t. She lived out Jesus to him that day and almost 30 years later, he continues to live out the hope of Christ.

That story gives me hope about what the fellowship of the fallen can be: an imperfect church that holds on tightly to the robe of the perfect Christ.

Giving Confidence To The Convinced

February 19, 2023

Sometimes we live up to our expectations, but sometimes we also live down to them. When the expectations are low to begin with the challenge is getting people who have close their eyes to open them up and see the possibilities. It’s applauding their efforts to break through into new territory that they didn’t believe they could ever enter.

I’ve experienced this in a variety of ways during the course of my life and, as I look back on it, what occurs to me is that I had certain people at different times who said they believed in me, believed that I could do whatever it was that others had told me I couldn’t do.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of my students at lunchtime about various adolescent items of interest. In the midst of our conversation, she made a statement that caused me to pause and clarify a false assumption. She said, “We’re the dumb group, aren’t we?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Our pack (the name given to our section of students) is the dumb pack. That’s who we are.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I heard that’s why we’re in this pack, because we’re not the smart kids. They put us in this pack because of it.”

“Let me correct you on that. Students are not grouped together in packs on the basis of who is smart and who isn’t. Quite frankly, you may have the dumbest language arts and social studies teacher in the school, but you are not in this pack because your chances of being successful are less.”

She smiled, grasping the fact that I believed in her ability to be awesome. It was a defining moment for me. In this year where this writer, a pastor for 36 years, has been called upon to guide a pack of eight-graders in their pursuit of education, I realized that my purpose, my aim, is to instill confidence in this following of students. I am called to them to believe in themselves. In the midst of teaching them how to construct an essay, I must convince them to believe in themselves.

Having coached basketball for close to 30 years, one of the things I would say frequently to my players who were reluctant to trust their ability to do a left-handed layup is “What’s the worse that can happen?” The response almost all of the time would be, “I’d miss it.” “Exactly”, I’d say. “And I’m okay with that. What I want you to know is that you have there ability to do it. It may take a few times, a few days, but I believe you can do it. And if I believe you can do it, why don’t you start believing you can do it?”

For the last three months of this school year, I’m going to preach over and over again to my flock of 57 students, “I believe you can do it. There may be people who have convinced you that you can’t, but this voice is telling you that you can.”

“You may have decided that you can’t and, as a result of that conclusion, you’re making it your goal to succeed at not succeeding, to be successful at being a consistent irritation to your teachers, as well as your classmates, but I believe you can achieve what has been pounded into you that you aren’t capable of.”

“And just like in coaching, where I sometimes have to have a refocusing activity of running a few sprints to get my players back on track, I’m not going to allow you to not reach what is easily in your grasp. Why? Because I believe in you! In all the noise of the voices who are telling you that you can’t do it, I’m going to yell “Yes, you can!”

The Simple Gospel

February 15, 2023

The “He Gets Us” campaign that aired a couple of commercials during the Super Bowl has created more debate than the controversial holding penalty on the Eagles did at the end of the game. The commercials focused on loving all people and being childlike in our treating of one another, two aspects that Jesus lived out in his ministry. He touched the untouchable, dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, and used despised folk (the Samaritans) to elevate the sacredness of caring for those who are different from us in some way.

But the “He Gets Us” commercials got turned into a symbolic tog-of-war for the different political factions to begin pulling and straining against one another. Jesus had suddenly become the rope in the middle, yanked back and forth like a toy between two pre-schoolers. Some of the accusations had merit to them. I AM uncomfortable with how some conservative evangelicals have “buddied Him up” with Donald Trump. You would never see such a theme emerging in own Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus Yoder, who taught at a Mennonite Seminary, had a completely different perspective on Jesus relationship with the political establishment.

On the other side, however, the liberal side of the fight ring has blamed Jesus, simply because conservatives have photobombed themselves into the picture with Him. In essence, the simplicity of Jesus’ message and mission has been complicated by both those who don’t believe in Him, as well as those think they can use Him for their purposes. The simple gospel has been translated into something that rivals the IRS tax code.

Whether you agree with the message of Jesus and His purpose, He didn’t ask for this. He came as a Suffering Servant, the prince of Peace, and the Lamb of God. He identified Himself as a shepherd, a vine, and the Bread of Life. He offered Himself as the Light for a dark world and the darkness that invades a person’s life. He gave up His life in order to create a bridge between the Creator and the created. There was something terribly wrong with the world and He offered Himself up as the Way back to life.

The simple gospel tries to be footnoted by the “Yes, but” folk who desire to put their personal paraphrases into the story. In the world of instant communication, everybody has an opinion (instantly) and very little time decimated to introspection and reflection. To use an analogy, it’s like having Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, in the room, and suggesting that he use your ideas for his game plan. He would be justified in drawing a mustache on your with a marker.

Jesus kept things simple. We are the ones who cheapen His message with our own personal biases.