My Veteran’s Day Story

Picture a soldier in the Dallas airport. He’s looking for a flight to Colorado Springs because he is headed home on mid-tour leave from a deployment to Afghanistan. The desk attendant says “there’s a flight leaving in less than thirty minutes, but I don’t think you’ll make it…” The soldier didn’t need to hear the rest, he books the flight and takes off at a run. By the time he makes it through security his name is coming through the airport intercom, informing him that this is the last call for the flight. He gathers up his combat boots, belt and other belongings into his arms, all of which he has had to remove to come through security, with no time to put them back on and takes off at a full sprint towards his gate. In socks, holding up his pants at the waist and holding on to his belongings for dear life he arrives breathless to see a neatly dressed, smiling gate attendant and says, “I’m trying to make it to my daughter’s 16th birthday party!” She smiles and reassures him that he has made it just on time and can board and she says, “Give me a sec and I’ll just upgrade you to first class.”

The soldier is midway through a tough deployment in pretty austere conditions. Their unit has suffered some big losses. His mid-tour started several days before and he hasn’t had a real shower or more than two hours of sleep at a stretch in over five days. His path has taken him through six or seven countries. He has refused to go to the tents with beds that are set up for soldiers coming and going on mid-tour leave. Instead he waits where they manifest the flights because he doesn’t want to risk missing any flight that can get him home on time.

His fifteen year old daughter and his youngest son don’t know he’s coming in that day. His oldest son will join the family in a few day’s time. Since his wife couldn’t be sure he’d make it on time for the big Sweet Sixteen Birthday party, she has decided to let his homecoming be a surprise. She and the kids are all at church on Sunday morning when his flight is scheduled to land. She slips out of service to pick him up. As it happens, the soldier and his wife make it back to the church just a few minutes before service lets out. The look on the kids’ faces when they see daddy for the first time in seven months is priceless. The little boy cannot believe what he is seeing.

After celebratory hugs and many congratulations from church friends, the soldier heads home with his family with just enough time to shower and change for the party. Six days, no sleep, one shower and a half a dozen or more flights and this soldier, this daddy is there, just barely to see his daughter celebrate turning sixteen. This day is not her actual birthday, its two weeks early. Her mom has planned it as best she could to be during dad’s mid-tour. Mid-tour is only ever approximate and can change at the last minute and this one has changed several times. But none of that matters, daddy is there.

Fifteen days later it is two days before Christmas and his daughter’s actual birthdate. The night before his 6 a.m. flight, with all three kids together, the family stays up all night, not wanting to waste the last precious hours together on sleep. They stay up playing silly card games, running on fumes and the pure joy of being together. While it is still very dark, the family gets in the car and drives to the airport. Security allows the whole family back to the gate to see the soldier off. A somber mood descends and they wait quietly together for the boarding call, the last few precious moments.

The Christmas holiday has been thoroughly celebrated without regard to the date on the calendar. It is celebrated with as much joy on December 22nd as it would have been on the 25th. The soldier is back in country by Christmas Eve, though not back at his place of duty. He wakes up Christmas morning and spends the day eating a Christmas meal with strangers who are brothers and watching movies in the MWR tent. December 26th he boards the first of several flights that will take him to his destination, deep in the mountains of Afghanistan.

 

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The Green Book

In the early 1950’s my grandfather travelled across the United States, from northern Michigan to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Presumably, he drove Route 66, since I-40 wasn’t built until 1957. Grandpa was a nice man, as honest as they come. He was a mechanic who wouldn’t fudge the truth even slightly in order to make a few extra bucks. He was willing to lose his job over it, if need be. He stayed faithfully married to the same woman for 72 years until her death. He could hardly spank his own children for the tears it brought him. He was tender and loving. He was a good man. And he was white. My whole family is white. Really white. From either side of my family, you can trace us right back to Western Europe, either Holland or Germany. That, my friends, is pretty white. This is significant because in 1950 my grandfather could get in his car with his family and drive across America without much thought.

I’d known all my life that my grandparents had made this drive to move their family from Michigan to New Mexico for my grandfather’s health when my mother was about 9 years old. And I had thought nothing of it until I watched a documentary called Abandoned. While the documentary series was interesting, one episode “Route 66” caught my attention. I should say one aspect of the episode captured my thoughts and haunted me for a long time afterwards. The host comes across The Negro Motorist Green-Book while exploring the now mostly abandoned highway. I was floored by the very existence of the publication and sad that it had to exist. The purpose of this annual booklet was to aid African-Americans attempting to navigate the United States by car since many service stations and motels along the way would not serve them. It may have been more miles between two Black-friendly service stations than the car had gas mileage and they often needed to carry extra fuel. Perhaps, a Black man, not unlike my grandfather travelled Route 66 in order to get to Albuquerque or even L.A. in 1950. He may have been travelling with his family at the same time as my grandfather. But, unlike my grandfather, this man would need a manual to help navigate the dangers along the road. Passing through the Midwest, he would find himself and his wife and children driving through not only many miles without a Black-friendly service station but also through many “sundown towns”—so called because they openly warned “n**gers” not to be caught in their town after dusk. There were no such risks for my grandfather and his young family as they travelled across the U.S. He was free to get in his car and go because there wasn’t a single motel, gas station or restaurant that was not open to him . The Black man, on the other hand, had to map his route with great care, making sure to be in the right place when the sun set for the safety of his wife and children. Jim Crow laws and lynching were very real things in 1950 America. These policies and practices were not limited to the South.

Why is this important? 1950 was almost 70 years ago, after all. And most white people in the United States feel completely removed from these things. Many of us want to just move on and feel that we had nothing to do with that stuff that happened 70 years ago. But, an African American my age would have been born only seven years after the last of the Jim Crows laws officially went out of effect. That means that this person’s parents would have spent the entirety of their school years in Jim Crow America and that her grandparents would have spent a good deal of their adult lives under it as well. If this imaginary person were born on my exact birthday, the last known living slave would have died less than a year earlier. As a matter of fact, the grandchildren of former slaves could still be alive today. What is the point? The point is, slavery, segregation and Jim Crow are not as far in our past as we’d like them to be.

It is my contention that we must alter our expectations. Remember that those with African ancestry were systematically enslaved for roughly 350 years. Following that enslavement, it wasn’t as though America became a friendly place to be Black. As mentioned above, Jim Crow segregation ruled the land, as far west as Los Angeles. You cannot heal 400 years of in institutionalized injustice in 60 or 70 years. And many would argue that institutionalized injustice is still intact. Before you build your argument, beloved brothers and sisters, please, take a moment to lay down that right and die to yourself and listen. White Christians, those that are deeply patriotic and believe wholeheartedly in American Exceptionalism, boot-strap pullin’-up, ‘Merica loving folks, would do well to remember that your experience of America is not the same as others’ experience of America. We often look at the glorious history of the republic through rose-colored glasses. I would argue that America was founded on the most fundamentally free principals of any nation before it. And no matter your ethnicity, gender, class or religion it is the freest and most inclusive place to live in human history. Yet, there are deeply red, bloody stains on the history of America. The words from Lincoln’s second inaugural address written on his memorial in Washington D.C. highlight the ugliness of the sin of systematic, racial slavery. The legacy of white people in America is one of self-determination and freedom of movement. The same is not true of everyone. While everyone enjoys those freedoms now, we are not so far removed from when they didn’t and definitely not far from the wounds that long-term injustice inflicted on a people.

I will not be bringing up any statistics for a specific purpose. I listen to a lot of talk radio, political, social and faith-based and in all of them I hear statistics which are often either exaggerated or minimized to make a point. Statistics can be skewed in favor almost any point a person is trying to make. But I am not talking about statistics, I am talking about people.

And even more importantly, as a believer, I am talking about members of our family as the body of Christ. I am addressing the self-segregated church, which, by the way, was purposely segregated by whites during the early 20th century. And that is why I only have the ground to address the primarily white portion of the church. I want to make clear, I am not talking about white guilt, or white shaming, either. That is why I mentioned my grandfather, a white man and a good man. He never sought to harm anyone or knowingly participate in the systematic oppression of an entire people group. Like every person ever born, he did not decide to be born nor did he decide the circumstances of his birth. And I, a white woman, have not purposely segregated the Church, nor consciously and knowingly oppressed anyone. I have never attempted to “leverage” my whiteness on purpose. I didn’t choose anything about the circumstances of my birth. I’m just here, living my life as the person I was born.

Nonetheless, we are born into a set of circumstances with which we must contend. And that is a huge part of why God gave us the instruction in His Holy Word. So that, first we can know and relate to Him but also so that we can know and relate to one another. The number of verses which ought to guide us when it comes to relating to one another are many. Especially when it comes to brothers and sisters of a different cultural and political background. Christianity is not political conservatism. Neither is it political liberalism or progressivism. The Bible acknowledges the existence of government as an institution for the good of the people, there to enforce the law. Aside from that, it doesn’t say much, therefore, we may presume some level of personal choice. And before anyone gets on their high horse about what and who their political party does and does not support, just remember that nobody’s political hands are clean. No, not one. I’d love to say here that our hope, as Christians, is not in a particular leader or even a particular nation at any rate. We are citizens of that Far Country. We would do well to get that straight in our minds before we get too militant in defending a position.

We can certainly argue political ideologies, however, there is no political position I need to defend with such ferocity so as to alienate or dishonor my brothers and sisters of all political, cultural and ethnic backgrounds who are counted among the body of Christ. There are things that are worth fighting for, but is it more important to fight for a political or cultural position or to fight for the things God says are important? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also love one another.” (John 13:34, ESV). “Love one another” is the command of Christ. That is what we need to fight for. Fight to love one another. Fight your sin, your need to be right, fight whatever you need to in order to love your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Brothers and sisters, this is a matter that God takes very, very seriously. Read these words form 1 John 3:14-18. “We know that awe have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Now, ask yourself a question:
How do we know we have passed from death to life? Because we love the brothers. Notice it says, whoever does not love, abides in death.
I want to take a look at a couple of verses from 1 John in the Amplified version. Verse 11 says, “For this is the message which you [believers] have heard from the beginning [of your relationship with Christ], that we should [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another. “ Following that, verse 15 says, “Everyone who hates (works against) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer [by God’s standards]; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Everything you believe politically and culturally must be weighed against the above standard. That which does not meet the standard must be thrown out like so much garbage.

Another command we are given as believers is this: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10). This means that we not only speak highly of one another but that we also listen to one another. “Know this my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20, ESV).
Hear me, please. Listening doesn’t mean you have to change your political affiliation. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means, before you assume you know the reasons for why someone votes republican or democrat or why they choose the activist causes they do, you need to see them as a whole person who deserves dignity. Listen. Understand to the best of your ability. Perhaps you will walk away unchanged in your political view, but I pray to God you will walk away utterly changed in your view of the person and their motives.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24, ESV).
Be reconciled. For the Sake of the Gospel of Christ. Lay down your rights. Lay down your strong opinions. Listen. Be reconciled.

Beautiful Body

Beautiful Body

My body isn’t beautiful

Because it’s 5’11” and 35-22-35

Or even 5’11” and size 10

My body isn’t beautiful

Because it only wears 21 years

Or because it’s free of scars

And extra flesh

My body isn’t beautiful

Because of what flashes past on

The Silver Screen

Tested and molested and ogled and analyzed

By those that count themselves powerful

And Important.

My body is beautiful

Because it is strong enough to climb mountains

Give life, bear scars, feel pain

Yet walk on.

My body is beautiful

Because with its eyes I have seen wonders,

with its feet walked city streets, and run countless miles

With its arms

Carried heavier loads than I thought I could bear,

Held sweet babies,

Hugged my children,

And Loved my husband.

With its hands

Spoken, held flowers

And served those I love

My body is beautiful

Because with its nose

I have smelled the fragrances

Of my childhood home

Distant lands and simple flowers

My body is beautiful

Because with its mouth I have tasted

The glorious sweet of delicacies,

The bitter and the sour and the spicy.

My body is beautiful

Because it is a gift

From my Maker

To experience this glorious and frightening

And magnificent world.

My body is beautiful

Not because you say so

But because I say so.

 

Knocking Each Other Down in the Race

hamblin dagostino 2

My family loves the Olympics. My husband and I plant our chubby bodies firmly on the couch and watch super-athletes perform the most incredible feats, while we eat ice cream topped brownies with hot fudge. As we watch these young people compete, we are truly amazed what a human is capable of. But sometimes, something really special happens in the Olympic games-and it isn’t always about winning a medal. British runner Mo Farah, for example. Coming into the 2016 games he was the reigning men’s 10,000-meter gold medalist. During his race he stumbled and fell. A fall usually means a runner can say goodbye to a medal, don’t even think about the gold. But Farah understood that the race is long and you for sure can’t win the prize if you stay down, so he got up. And then he won the race.

But an even cooler thing happened during the women’s 5,000-meter qualifier. Two runners, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States collided causing both runners to hit the ground. Hamblin, dazed, was unable to immediately get up. Still in shock from the sudden fall, she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice say, “Get up, we have to finish this.” Of course it was D’Agostino. With this encouragement, Hamblin was able to get up and continue her race. However, once they were both running again, that is when it became clear that D’Agostino had sustained an injury. Hamblin hung with her a while, but then had to go on to complete her race. After crossing the finish line, Hamblin turned to see the D’Agostino was still running. She was injured, she was limping, but she kept going until she crossed the finish line-where Hamblin was waiting and cheering, ready to embrace D’Agostino when she crossed that line. By choosing to help one another, both allowed precious seconds to tick off the clock towards the goal of making the finals. D’Agostino did not yet know how injured her leg was. Hamblin hung back to make sure D’Agostino would be okay before moving ahead with her race. As a wannabe runner who has run a few races, I know that D’Agostino would have urged Hamblin to go on with her race.

The Bible likens the Christian life to an endurance race. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Philippians 2:16 talks about not wanting to run in vain. 2 Timothy 2:7 says, “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” So, if we think about the Christian life in these terms, what is the takeaway? It is important to note here that Hamblin and D’Agostino ran into each other. Actually, it is very likely that D’Agostino is the one who ran into Hamblin, given that within the crowded pack of runners it was D’Agostino who was running just behind Hamblin. In the end, though, they caused each other to fall. We often think of falling more in terms of Mo Farah’s situation. He stumbled, whether it was a faulty foot fall, shoe lace, whatever it was, a circumstance lead Farah to fall and he got back up and finished his race. And that is a great analogy. But very often the reality of walking out our Christian faith is much more like Hamblin and D’Agostino. They were in a tightly packed crowd of runners, everyone staying tight in so as not to lose ground. These runner packs are the most dangerous times for runners because of how close they are, it is extremely easy for one runner to inadvertently trip another runner or even collide with anther runner. It happens all the time. The same is true in our own race as believers. When we are running close together, it is inevitable that we will accidently trip each other up. Miscalculations happen. Sometimes our timing is just a little off or our judgement slightly skewed. But what is important is what we do after the fact. When I saw the photos of those two runners, the one reaching out a hand to help the other up, then embracing at the end of the race, I thought-that’s it! That is exactly how the Christian life should look. When D’Agostino tapped Hamblin on the shoulder and said, “Get up! We have to finish this,” there was no discussion of who tripped who, no worry about how helping the other would affect their own chances at a win, there were simply two fellow Olympians standing back up to finish the race. This is much like the Scripture which tells us “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV). We do not run our race alone. God expects us to run the race together and He knows that we will cause one another to stumble, so he gave us a long list of “one anothers” to cover every circumstance:

  • Accept one another-Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Rom. 15:7)
  • Admonish one another-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
  • Bear one another’s burdens-Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
  • Put up with one another-Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. (Eph. 4:2)
  • Build up one another-Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Rom. 14:19)
  • Care for one another-So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • Comfort one another-Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • Confess faults to one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be Devoted to one another-Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Rom. 12:10a)
  • Encourage one another-Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Fellowship with one another-But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 Jn. 1:7)
  • Forgive one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Be Honest with one another-Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices . . . (Col. 3:9)
  • Honor one another-Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10b)
  • Be Hospitable to one another-Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet. 4:9)
  • Be Kind to one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Love one another-Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . . (Rom. 13:8)
  • Members one of another-So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom. 12:5)
  • Pray for one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be of the Same Mind with one another-May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves (original=same mind among each other) as you follow Christ Jesus . . . (Rom. 15:5)
  • Serve one another-You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)
  • Spur one another on-And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
  • Submit to one another-Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)

Within these verses is the forgone conclusion that we will need to practice what they contain. These verses are not talking about how we treat the world, (though that is important as well) they are talking about how we treat each other! We will need to confess faults, forgive, encourage, pray for, serve, be kind, build up, put up with and love one another! And when we knock each other down, let us, like D’Agostino and Hamblin, waste no time with vain arguments and blame but rather “Spur one another on to love and good deeds.”

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16, ESV)

It’s a Hate-Hate Relationship: Social Media and the Political Season

On this 14th 9/11 commemoration I am taking a break from my marriage series to reflect on some other issues that have been on my mind recently.

Earlier in the week I read a post that clearly stated that the entire constituency of a particular political party “thinks poor people are poor because they are lazy.” Presumably this statement is aimed at conservative republicans. While it is true that there are constituents of the party that are simple-minded enough to boil poverty down to one reason—laziness, it discounts the millions of party members that understand that poverty is a complex issue, that it blends a mixture of long-standing social and governmental constructs that contribute to its perpetuation in our culture. I point this out only to say that we, all of us, have a tendency to over-simplify how others, with views differing from our own, see and understand the world. For instance, I subscribe to a couple of conservative blogs. I never re-post their articles because know them to be insulting to liberals and an over-simplification of some of their views. One of these blogs frequently refers to Hilary Clinton as “Hildebeast.” I am no supporter of Hilary. Indeed there are issues over which I so deeply disagree with her and concerns I have about her that the divide will not likely be bridged. Yet I refuse to dehumanize her with those kind of insults. This is a dangerous game. The more you simplify how another sees the world and the more you dehumanize them the more likely you are to create a divide of hatred between yourself and that person. This will happen in your own heart and it will happen in the other person as well. You really don’t have to agree with or believe the same thing as another person in order to hear them. And you don’t have to shout out (or click out) insults in order to be heard.
Freak out gif
This brings me to some grave concerns that have been roiling in my spirit the last several weeks. I have this sense of greater hatred and deeper divides than I have felt in my many years on the planet and in this country. It feels more racially divided. It feels more politically divided. It feels more philosophically divided and certainly more socially divided. It feels like different groups and factions are moving farther and farther into their perspective corners. Each one seems to send out a fighter to beat living crap out of each other in an all-out philosophical brawl. It seems like since the advent and proliferation of social media the divide has grown again to a greater extent than it has since the days before and during the civil rights riots of the sixties-though I wasn’t alive then, so I couldn’t truly say how things were.

Here’s the thing about social media. It is so easy to click those keys and say the most outrageously insulting things to one another or about one another. It is easy to grab images and memes and GIFs, laugh at and share them. These images, memes and GIFs almost always boil down an issue a person or a group into one thing and rarely ever take into consideration the complexities that lead any given group or person to their beliefs, philosophies or situations. Then again, I have seen people post images supporting a group or person or idea and have seen others respond to that post, greatly offended merely because of the fact that they didn’t agree with the idea, group or sentiment. It wasn’t because the sentiment was particularly offensive toward any other person or group but merely a post that was positive towards a particular person or group. Fights and divisions then crop up because people take offense that you dare to support something that they do not.

So, now we find ourselves well into the campaign season for the upcoming presidential election. I both love and hate the election season. I love the election season because every few years we are given an opportunity to make changes we believe need implementing, to start fresh, so to speak. Or we are given an opportunity to continue with policies and elected officials we believe are doing a good job or are perpetuating our particular political philosophy. It is a time that can and should be filled with great honor, considered a great privilege and be filled with optimism. Instead, it has become a time of anxiety, anger and hatred. Facebook feeds suddenly become filled with those very memes and GIFs I was talking about earlier. Those broad brushing, sweeping statements that insult an entire group and paint them in the worst possible light.

I say that if you have to broad brush my political viewpoint, religious beliefs or philosophical stand using insults then you must have a very weak argument to support yours (or lack thereof). This political season I would like to post support for my chosen candidate from time to time. I am excited about a few people in the field of candidates. I am a political conservative. I am a Christian. I never want to misrepresent myself or what point of view I will defend and uphold with my support and vote. There’s nothing that forces me to tell you that. I want to tell you that because I welcome honest and respectful discourse.

I want to commit to something this election season. I hope to encourage others to commit to the same thing as well. I commit to posting things that are in support of my chosen candidate(s) that make a positive argument for my political point of view. I will refrain from posting insulting or broad brushing posts about any other political party or candidate(s) with opposing views. I do not promise to refrain from asking real questions about candidates that ought to be asked of each of them. But the questions will be regarding real issues that have to do with their integrity, stance on issues and ability to lead, not in an accusatory or insulting way, but in a way that gives anyone the opportunity to give a real answer. Sometimes the answer to the question will be that a given candidate is indeed weak in a particular area or there may be a valid answer.

I want to encourage anyone who will listen, begin considering what you are posting before you click. Is it worthwhile? Does it openly or sarcastically insult entire groups of people? Does it promote unity, does it further knowledge, or does it bring laughter or a smile? If it does, great, post it. If it tears people or groups down, if it promotes greater divide, if it promotes violence or hatred then please, ask yourself, is it really worth posting? And when someone else does post in support of something you disagree with, ask yourself if you really need to respond viscerally before you’ve had a chance to take a look at the world from that person’s point of view. They probably didn’t post their support in order to directly insult or oppose you. They just wanted to show support for a cause close to their hearts. See that—understand that before you fling the insults.

Having said all this I am sure I may still be tempted when an issue really fires me up. And It sure is hard to resist making fun of one particular candidate. I won’t say any names but he may have floppy hair. See what I did? I’m not perfect. Nonetheless I shall endeavor to both support my party, my faith and my philosophy with all of my heart while practicing the principles I laid out here. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we, in America, have a long history of political satire in our country. If you are really skilled writer and satirist, then have a go. But you probably aren’t. You probably just sound rather ignorant. So be careful!

Lastly, this election season as I reflect upon 9/11 my mind keeps turning to the picture of a woman, trapped above the impact floors. She stood in her business skirt looking now over the raw and jagged precipice created by the destruction, making a choice. Burn to death or jump to my death? She took her fate into her own hands and rather than be consumed by the flames she chose to jump. As she did so, she placed her hands on her skirt to stop it from flying up. How exquisitely human, this gesture of modesty even in the face of certain death. As I think of this I think about the many suffering and hurting humans in the world today, I think about the things that make us feel so divided, about where we have come since that horrible day. I reflect on the fact that social media has contributed to this divide, people willing to say the meanest things at the click of the button or to broad brush entire groups of people based on the actions of some. And I think today, I want only to reach a hand across a divide and say, I know you don’t think exactly like me, we may even vehemently disagree on some issues, but I acknowledge your inherent value as a human being. No matter what. This doesn’t mean I think the world should be consequence free or that all ideas are equally beneficial, it means only that all humans are of equal dignity and value.

Particularly this morning, I read a post that said “NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE.” To “never forget” I say, yes! Yes, never forget the sheer magnitude of loss that day. Never forget the decimated potential. Never forget what hatred, unforgiveness and enmity causes. It causes 9/11. To “never forgive” I say vengeance should not be the motivation for chasing down terrorists with extreme prejudice. Love is the reason we do it. Love for those that are in harm’s way because of the bitterness and hatred in men’s heart. So, no, I will not hold the credo “never forgive” in my heart because I always want to leave room there for both love and peace whenever it may be had. It may not always be had, but it will not be because I chose to hold on to hatred, it will because someone else did and innocent lives need protecting. It will be because good people cannot stand by and watch while evil insinuates itself on the world. So I encourage you to speak out on issues you hold dear. Fight for your values, stand up for your principles but never do so at the cost of dehumanizing someone else, even if you feel you must take a very strong stand against them. May THIS 9/11 bring you peace.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

“Do not accuse anyone for no reason– when they have done you no harm.” Proverbs 3:30

Marriage Cancer: Sarcasm (Part 3 in a series)

People brag about being sarcastic all the time. They place an “I’m really good at sarcasm” medal around their own necks and show it off like a badge of honor. But the truth about sarcasm is that it is nothing more than thinly and purposely veiled insult. Sarcastic people use it as a tool to say what they really want to say without actually saying it. They like to use sarcasm so that they are not held accountable for their words. It is a tool that is used to manipulate, belittle and shame another person. Then, when feelings are hurt, the remark is dismissed as “just kidding! Can’t you take a joke?” Like it or not, that is the real truth about sarcasm.Oxford online dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Mirriam-Webster defines it as “a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual,” and “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” The word sarcasm has its roots in the Greek word “sarkamos” which means “to tear flesh in rage; to sneer.”
Bring the attitude way down and also—be nice to people. Sarcasm truly is like a cancer eating away at the free and open communication and intimacy of any relationship, including marriage and it is not okay to use it to get your way in an argument. Can I be frank? If you cannot “win” an argument by presenting a reasoned case for your point and you must resort to sarcasm, then you very well may not have a valid argument in the first place. Listen, any two people living together will run into some troubles. They may be relatively small or they may be overwhelmingly huge problems. It does not really matter the severity of the trouble, you will not solve it with sarcastic, caustic remarks toward your spouse.
The damage of sarcasm. Sarcasm does a number of things none of which are actually beneficial.
Sarcasm belittles. It shames the recipient into feeling stupid. Be honest—sarcasm is really an insult. God’s word tells us, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matt. 5:22 (ESV).
Sarcasm divides. When you are in the midst of issuing sarcastic remarks, you are not thinking about how to come into agreement with your spouse. You may be trying to get your spouse to come into agreement with you by making them feel foolish, but there is no true reconciliation at the heart of sarcasm. Instead, it creates a greater divide. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV). We are also told in the scriptures, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matt. 5:23-24.
Sarcasm controls. Sarcasm is a tool used to manipulate and bend another person to your will. If you can make another person feel foolish or stupid for his or her point of view then they have a hard time holding on to it—even when their point is perfectly valid. Perhaps your spouse is just not as adept at making cutting remarks as you so you find yourself winning a lot of arguments. Even if you get your spouse to agree via this method they are only agreeing in order to avoid further cut-downs. Nobody likes to feel stupid. And when we are made to feel stupid we will often concede the point since to hold on to it would further the feeling of stupidity. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV) If you are popping off witty sarcastic remarks, I doubt you are practicing the “slow to speak” principle.
Sarcasm inflames. Sarcasm is fuel for the fire. It escalates an argument rather than resolves an issue. Prov. 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Think back to our definition of sarcasm. It is meant to “convey contempt” and depends upon “bitter and caustic language” for its effect. “The power of life and death are in the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov. 18:21. This verse doesn’t actually tell us not to use the tongue, it simply lets us know that we will eat of the fruits of our words. Are you feeding yourself death or life with what you say?
Sarcasm seeks revenge. There are really only two goals of sarcastic remarks. They are used to control or they are used to purposely insult in an act of revenge. The revenge may be for something your spouse did or said to hurt you. Perhaps you are perfectly justified in your hurt. Or you might just be ticked because your spouse won’t agree with you. But if you choose the path of caustic remarks to inflict pain upon your spouse, realize that you are contributing to a cycle of hurt that can spiral out of control. The enemy wants you both to add fuel to the fire and say worse and worse things to one another so that a divide between you can grow and grow until it is unbreachable. Every caustic remark, even when you have a right to be mad, places another brick in that wall. Jesus admonishes us in the book of Luke “forgive and you will be forgiven.” Once those words are out, you can never take them back. And they speak volumes. “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Your spouse will always know you were thinking that about him or her.
Sarcasm is more than just a joke. When you employ sarcasm in your relationships, whether you think of it as “joking” or whether you use it to cut people down to size to get your way understand that it simply a mask for insecurity. In the first case it is a form of self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. If you aren’t insecure, why do you need to show off how wittily you can cut another person down? Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In the second case, you are using sarcasm to control a situation and get your way. Needing to have your own way is a manifestation of insecurity. Letting another person be right or letting their way of doing things be good enough threatens your identity.

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We are accountable for our words before the Lord. Jesus tells us, “But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgement for every careless word they have spoken.” Matt. 12:36 (ESV-italics added). That is a sobering thought isn’t it? You may still be thinking, “Jeez—take a joke. It’s not that big a deal.” First, your words may be hurting someone more than you know. They might laugh at your sarcastic jokes, even the ones pointed towards them, but it very well could be a façade covering their real feelings. When you cut somebody down to size, you are cutting down a person made in the image of God and he clearly takes that very seriously.
Don’t worry, you can still tell a good joke! Sarcasm is only one form of humor. And the honest truth is, many people don’t actually mean sarcasm when they brag about being sarcastic. What they really mean is that they are facetiously witty. What many people call “sarcasm” would actually be classified as being facetious. Here’s a definition of facetious, “not meant to be taken seriously or literally: treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor.” It comes from a Latin word meaning “jest, witticism.” We can think of this form of humor as “sarcasm light.” We are a family that loves to laugh. We joke around and tease each other all the time. We are adept at a well-placed joke to lighten the tension. And I wouldn’t ever want to change that. Humor is, in fact, a key to a healthy and happy relationship. But humor at some else’s expense is not helpful, it’s harmful. Try removing sarcasm that is pointed at any other person from your arsenal for just one month. See if anything changes in your relationships. I think you will be surprised. And if you truly are the master of sarcasm and you simply must get it out of your system, make sure that you are the butt of your own jokes. People who can make a little fun of themselves are often the most well-liked people in the room anyway, so it’s a win-win. You can stretch your sarcastic legs and nobody gets hurt.

Marriage Cancer: An Unbalanced Sex Life (part 2 in a series)

When two people meet and feel an attraction for one another, they can scarcely imagine the future in which they are married with children and barely have sex any more. At first, all is sunshine and happiness. It’s always that way. You can’t wait to be with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You think about that person all the time and the very thought makes you smile. You’ve never been so happy. So, naturally, you decide to get married. And then, woot-woot! Let the good times roll.

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” That old rhyme is simply true. And babies are an amazing blessing to a marriage, however, this is frequently when the sex life starts to break down. Kids come into the picture, bodies (and hormones) change. Mommas are in danger of becoming more interested in their infants than their husbands. In addition, life starts to become more and more hectic. Kids come with needs. And with age and experience, responsibilities at work, in our social circles and at church also begin to increase. This can be the very space where the cancer begins. Ignore it and it will grow. Practice some preventative medicine and you can save you marriage from the brink of disaster.

Stereotypes, whether we like to admit it or not, usually contain at least a modicum of truth, even if exaggerated. When you think of the typical sexually unbalanced couple, you picture a sex-starved husband and an uninterested wife. And this kind of couple does make up the greater number of unbalanced couples. But not all. There are many women out there, suffering in silence and feeling very alone precisely because of this stereotype. They likely feel the rejection with a higher degree of intensity because it seems like everyone’s husband is a horn-dog that can’t get enough, everyone’s, that is, except their husband. This woman might actually be very attractive. And let’s be real, she sees very average looking women have to hold their husbands off with a stick, so she is left to wonder-what’s wrong with me? Just like a woman can have hormone imbalances or other sexual dysfunction that may come from a difficult sexual history, so too can men. Though it can be very hard to wrap your head around, one partner’s lack of sexual interest has much more to do with their own physiology or inner turmoil than with the other partner. Knowing that doesn’t necessarily solve your problem of achieving a more active sex life, but maybe it can take away just a bit of the sting of rejection.

Before discussing this topic further, let me make it clear. If there is a history of sexual abuse in one partner’s history OR a true medical issue, these are serious matters over which there should be no guilt and should be treated by professionals. If you CAN get healthy, you SHOULD get healthy. Sexuality is an integral part of marriage. In the rare circumstance that it is medically impossible, I encourage this couple to find creative ways to include physical intimacy in the marriage.
So, let us suppose you are one of the myriad of couples who have different sexual frequency needs. Let’s say, one partner would like to have sex every day. The other could easily go for once a month. Whether the difference were three times a week compared to three times per year or twice a day and once a year, the principle here is basically the same.

Here’s the principle: neither of you has the right over your own body any more. I know that goes against what the world would tell you—that you belong to you and you do whatever makes you happy. Let me make it very clear what I am saying. You have no right to withhold sex from your partner. You don’t have the right to say “no.” (Please understand I don’t mean someone should be forced or that concessions are not to be made in cases of illness or whatever, I’m talking in a general, regular sense). Conversely, if you are the one with the greater appetite, you don’t have the right to seek sexual release outside your partner and you don’t have the right to demand a frequency that suits only you.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
A church I went to for years did a series on marriage. The Pastor’s wife shared the following thought and it has stuck with me ever since. She said, “You are your husband’s only legitimate sexual outlet.” We could substitute “partner” or “spouse” for husband here. We need to understand this. Really understand it. Too often, those with the lower sexual appetite too readily dismiss the needs of the other partner. Because it is not a big deal to the one, there is an assumption that it ought not be a big deal to the other. That is not true. If it’s important to your spouse, like it or not, it just became important to you. That’s marriage. You said the vow, you signed the paper.

There is a huge danger here. I cannot caution you enough. You can create a situation in which your partner constantly feels at your mercy. Is that a way you would want to live? Suppose one partner has the power over the food. You do not get food except at your partner’s leisure. And you cannot get it unless you ask nicely, in a way that doesn’t get on your partner’s nerves and when you do ask, even when you wait until you’re so hungry that you can’t stand it, what you hear is “you’re too fat.” How would it feel to be absolutely famished and have zero idea when you may get to eat again? It could be days. When you withhold sex from your partner and nine times out of ten reject sexual advances you are essentially starving your partner slowly to death. Not only that, because sexuality is so tied to our view of ourselves, you are making your partner afraid. Asking for sex becomes a scary prospect because more than likely, your partner is about to experience rejection. It should not be so in a marriage.

Let’s say you find yourself at the center of a vortex of infrequent sex and an unhappy marriage. Looking back, you find it hard to pinpoint exactly which came first-the unhappiness with one another, the frequent arguing, the silent treatments or the lack of sex. Likely, the two grew in proportion to one another. When speaking in generalities-we could look at sex’s place in marriage like this:
• Women need to be at peace with their partners first, then sex follows, i.e. everything needs to be okay between us before we can have sex.
• Men need to have sex to feel they are at peace with their partner, i.e. I know everything is okay between us because we had sex.
So what do we do to fix this imbalance? How do we stop the vortex from spinning out of control and landing you in divorce court? There are a few very practical things both partners can do.

1. Understand that sex doesn’t start in the bedroom. It starts with a spirit of service. Suppose dad comes home and his wife has three little ones clinging to her and she hasn’t been able to finish dinner or the dishes. Maybe she has been touched by three pairs of tiny hands all day long and her touch meter is maxed. Without an agenda, help with the kids. Help with the dishes. Give that mom a break so she can breathe and have a little space. It will help her feel better. Whatever the practical need here, fill it. Daddies who play with and take good care of their children and do a few dishes are sexy. Trust me on this. Also, hug your wife sometimes just to hug her, not to cop a feel. Then she feels she is getting affection for who she is as a human being and not just for what she can do for you in the bedroom. It will make a difference.

2. Make appointments to have sex. It really is okay to make a plan. See, we have this Hollywood version of what sex should look like and it’s a lie! A lie from the pit of hell, I tell you. It says that the only legitimate sex is born out of being first extremely turned on. There has to be a big romantic scene that gets you in the mood. And if that does not happen, then no sex. But here’s the truth, sometimes you have sex because it’s Wednesday. Wednesday is sex day. It’s an appointment. This may seem cold or to lack spontaneity, but that’s only because you are still clinging to your childish fantasies. If you come to your sexual appointment with your spouse rolling your eyes and bothered by it then it will be a cold and less-than-useless experience, it will be a harmful one. But if you come to it with love for your spouse, ready to put aside the troubles of the day then guess what, you don’t have to be in the mood before you start! You can get in the mood. Light some candles, put on something sexy. Put on some nice music. Maybe you need to take a shower because you feel grimy from the busy day or maybe put on a little make-up to feel prettier. Whatever. You can actually decide to participate and end up having a good time. Here’s the deal. Remember the starvation scenario? These appointments help each partner to feel like he or she is not starving to death. Each knows that their appetite will be satiated making it easier to bear with sexual temptation.

3. Compromise on the frequency of sex. It is extremely likely that one partner will want sex more frequently than the other. That fact is extremely common. I don’t have stats but I bet it would be somewhere above 90% of the time. Philippians 2:4 says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This means that each partner must take into consideration the needs of the other person. This means we need to be grown-ups and be able to talk with one another about sex. It is very important that both be able to speak their needs without the other responding in shock or disdain! The man says “twice a day.” He’s not a weirdo or a pervert and should not be treated as such. He’s simply got a very active libido and lots of testosterone and sexual hormones surging-hey and maybe he thinks his wife is super-hot. The wife says “once a month.” She’s not an ice queen. Maybe little kids touch her all day. At any rate, clearly twice a day would wear the one out and once a month would leave the other in the lurch, struggling to stay pure. What can you both live with? My suggestion here would be at least a couple of times a week, but each couple must come up with a compromise that suits their life situation. Let me encourage-and I do mean strongly encourage the partner with the lower libido, initiate sex sometimes without being prompted. Decide to surprise your partner with a sexual encounter. Just having you initiate sex even once a month (more often if you want!!) will go a long way in your partner’s self-esteem. It gives the person a feeling “I was too sexy to resist” and thus will boost the person’s sense of well-being immensely.

4. For the partner who has the greater sexual appetite, don’t be offended that you have to do more of the asking. It’s really not you. It really is mostly just a hormone level thing. Your partner loves you and thinks highly enough of you that even if his or her hormones don’t dictate the need for sex, love for you does.

5. Get a sexual attitude adjustment. Honestly, sexual boundary setting could get its own article. However, understand that the Bible actually has some things to say about this matter. Read the Song of Solomon. It has some pretty sexy things to say about the marriage bed. We all grow up with baggage and idea about what is dirty and what is not. If you feel dirty about most sexual activity, you may need to renew your mind. Likely, we all need at least some renewing of our minds about sex anyway, even if we’re fairly healthy. Let go of your pre-conceived notions and come at the subject with an open heart, willing to fulfill your spouse’s reasonable desires and be willing to have your perception of “reasonable” adjusted. Having said that, there are some non-negotiables. Your sex life includes two people and one Holy Spirit. That’s it. No more. No less. Everyone needs to feel respected. Beyond that, explore what the Bible has to say and read what well-respected marriage and intimacy experts have to say. Joe Beam, president of Marriage Helper has written and spoken much about what is okay and what is not sexually speaking. You can read more at marriagehelper.com.

6. Treat your spouse like you’re still dating. That means you should take some care with your personal appearance. You don’t need to feel any pressure to look twenty when you’re forty. But do take the time to bother about your appearance. If you’re going out with your spouse, look nice. It communicates something. It says, “you’re worth the bother.” Do fun stuff together. Do stuff the other one likes. My husband and I go to baseball games and the theater. I watch one football game a week during football season. I could live without it. But it doesn’t kill me to watch and show interest. We went to see a performance of Shakespeare recently. It was long. He paid attention anyway. And discussed the pros and cons of the performance afterwards. And dream together. It’s good to talk about your dreams and aspirations together and to have goals as a couple.

Good marriages start with service and sacrifice one for another. They culminate in fulfilling sexual union. The two are so intertwined so as to be impossible to separate. Trying to do so will literally break down the structure of the other. Don’t wait until your partner gets better at serving before you increase your frequency of sex and don’t wait until your partner starts having more sex with you to increase your service to him or her. If you want a better marriage, you will do both. Now. The joy and satisfaction in each will grow simultaneously. Romans 12:10 says “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV) Put this into practice both inside and outside the bedroom and your marriage in guaranteed to grow.