Archive | November, 2012


23 Nov

As I sit on here on so-called “Black Friday,” I consider the irony of our culture. We set aside a day to supposedly give thanks for all we have, just so that the next day we can get a bunch of new stuff that we didn’t have the day before, yet wanted. Seems similar to the concept of “Fat Tuesday” to me, where people decide to load up a bunch of sins from which they will abstain during the Lenten period beginning on the very next day—Ash Wednesday.

There are few things that must flow logically from this concept. The first is that we are not (as a culture) truly thankful. I like to think of it in these terms. When my child says, “Dad, thank you so much for what you’ve given me. Can I have something else?” I follow that they don’t really want what I have given them, though I am happy that they were at least nice about it.:) I would assert that the only way to be truly thankful is through the regenerating work of Christ, but that is food for a different meal.

The holiday of Thanksgiving itself is a weird one. There are some out there who attempt to spiritualize it, which I believe is a good thing mirroring the very nature of God. On the other hand, I feel that many who do this believe that Thanksgiving itself, as celebrated in this culture, is Christian or of distinctly Christian roots. I believe just as important as taking something devoid of Christ and injecting Christ into it is the reality of understanding what is actually occurring. We must see that the American culture itself is not crying out to God with thanks on this holiday.

Perhaps it is an over-bias of mine, but I feel like it is a real problem that we have a set of people attributing to God the mandation of the American Thanksgiving Day. The holiday was officially recognized by a President who didn’t even claim to be a Christian. The main reason of the holiday was for the earlier boost it gave the economy with earlier Christmas shopping. This is clearly not the championing of a new Christian cause. Further, even the element that seems to be the genesis of this argument (the giving of thanks) is distinctively wrapped in language that completely removed Abraham Lincoln’s allusion to God in his hope decades earlier.

All of this to say that this should be one of the good things about the holiday for us. As Christians we should be distinct from the world and their practices. Living in a culture so addicted to consumerism and the infatuation with “things” to make us happy, it should be easy for a group of people whose only sufficiency comes from Christ to stand out. We should be able to easily be seen as the group that gives thanks in ways that are different.

As we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, we should live in state of thankfulness for the Lord and what he has done 365 days a year. When we get this down, then we will know what a holiday called Thanksgiving actually should be about. And maybe we could start on transforming our culture to look to a God who gives us peace, instead of the “stuff” we can accumulate, which is forever being augmented. This is where I am really trying to focus on the concept Richard Parker taught us at the Men’s Recharge Conference last week. The Bible tells us to count it as joy WHEN WE ENCOUNTER VARIOUS TRIALS.

This is the true meaning of what our thanksgiving should be. When we can be thankful for the trials we are put through, when we can be thankful for all the things that our “Tough Providences“, when we can be thankful when culture considers us outcasts, when we can love in spite of attacks on the very core of what we believe, when we can be thankful enough for what God has given us that we don’t covet the sales on Black Friday, when we can be blameless and harmless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, then we may shine as lights in the world and be celebrating a Thanksgiving that God would have for us!

Don’t Provoke your Children

21 Nov

There are countless verses on this in the Bible, because I think this is our tendency as parents. As children, we want to rage against the machine and fight the power. We just don’t want to obey, because, as humans, we naturally dislike authority. Yet something strange happens along the way. We get some authority, and all of a sudden, we want to assert our authority.

Our kids work hard on some things. Sometimes it is in areas we encourage and sometimes it is in areas where we might prefer that they not devote so much energy. It is vitally important that we help focus them on the proper things. At the same time, I think it is important that we not frustrate their purpose.

I was watching some television where the parents were attempting to get their child to “behave” and it was clear they were thwarting her joy. While they were legitimately trying to teach their child a lesson, it was clear that more than a lesson they were teaching her that they were unreliable and that she could not achieve the things she wanted.

Now, I do not think that children should be completely isolated, but acts that seem arbitrary or confusing do not assist the growth of our children. While it is clear that it easier for me to see this from the outside, I find that it is true to life. There are many people I know who frustrate their children with unbalanced discipline and questionable tactics.

I am sure that I fall into that category as well, and I need your help to point it out. But the thing that absolutely frustrated me is when I see parents, whose kids have been rightly encouraged to do something. Then those parents seemingly become inconsistent by not allowing their child the ability to capitalize on that work.

To me, it’s like Archie Manning telling Peyton that he couldn’t play in a football league after teaching him all the reads a quarterback needs to make. It sends a mixed message and is not beneficial. Archie would have been better served to tell him nothing about QB reads. And I have seen this several times recently. Sending children a consistent message is something on which I am sure I fail, but at the same time, I see others failing in grand fashion.

The lives of children are hard enough. We should do what we can to give them a consistent message and not provoke them to not know to what they should listen and what they should disregard. And if I am failing my own easy test, please let me know!

Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

14 Nov

Last week, I wrote a blog post about Zaxby’s and their terrible customer service. For some reason, it was one of my most popular posts. Most of the email replies fell into two camps. One, I agree with you and your boycott. Two, you are correct, but I put up with their atrocious service because their product is good.

I have become convinced that the reason so many of us put up with terrible customer service is because it is so prevalent that it doesn’t stand out. Bad public relations and customer service are everywhere. As I think about the things I have consumed in the last week, I realize that I am generally treated poorly. Now, I still believe that Zaxby’s customer service is above and beyond (or should I say, below and before), and I am continuing with my boycott conclusion, but this is chapter two of my complaint corner.:)

This time my complaint is about Teco Peoples Gas. They are the local provider of natural gas in my area, and yes, they are a complete monopoly. Now I don’t really like the idea of protected monopolies, in general, but I do understand how the prices of utilities are, in general, benefited by doing so. Nevertheless, I had my second run-in with them in the past few years (though since they only bill once a month, that’s relatively frequent).

This happened after I paid my bill during the extended weekend. They then decided that this (Wednesday) afternoon was the perfect time to turn off our gas. Everyone makes mistakes, and I am willing to forgive, but apparently, they feel we need to pay them to turn our power back on. They concede that we paid the bill. They just say that they didn’t have time to update the records to the guy who was turning off the gas. Yet, their records being the issue, I figured that we would not need to pay a “re-activation” fee.

They told me that I should be more prompt in paying the bill. That is probably true, but they don’t mail out bills (this is another pet peeve of mine). They only let you pay online. I’m not really offended by that, but I have no idea when the bills come. And if I do decide to pay, they have assigned me a password that I cannot change to what I want to change it to. So, in order to pay online, they have to mail me a new password (wouldn’t it just be easier to mail the stupid bill?).

I guess this situation is better than the last time they frustrated me. That happened when they disputed that I actually paid the bill. I showed the money coming out of my bank account and yet, they refused to credit me the $30 and made me pay the $70 reconnect fee. I guess the worst part is I CAN’T boycott them, unless I decide to only take cold showers and never run the heat. As motivated as I may be, I think that is cruel to my children. So, I put up with it. But I don’t have to like it, do I?

Dissent is not Disloyalty

9 Nov

Faithful are the wounds of a friend. In the sub-vocalization of Scripture in my mind, the voice-over I hear is my father’s voice. His voice is the voice of many, probably only ranking behind my own squeaky childhood voice and that of my sister quoting chapters to me, but this is one that I think of often.

Fortunately, I hear a lot of Scripture clunking around in my head. But this verse, in particular, is one that I think needs to be accented. As I am alluding to the famous Murrow quote, so many of us feel as if loyalty is shown only in agreement. Agreement is not a virtue. In fact, mindless agreement, is in my mind, a waste of energy.

If you read the second half of the verse, you see that those who mindlessly agree (even rising to the level of “kisses”) are enemies. The fact is you won’t agree with someone on everything. I’ve written over 250 blog posts, and if you don’t disagree with one, you probably haven’t read very many. The fact is even those who love us most will occasionally disagree with us, if they are attempting to be close at all.

The thing that needs to be understood is that disagreement doesn’t have to be the end of it all. In fact, as I always tell my wife (and anyone else who will listen), “If one situation can ruin your relationship, your relationship wasn’t that solid to begin with.” A relationship based on agreement is less of a relationship and more of a contingency connection.

I have often written about the things on which we need to stand firm. Nevertheless, if we recognize someone as a friend, the fact that they are willing to tell us when they disagree, is a blessing. The fact that we are held accountable and willing to have someone continue to sharpen us is a blessing. And the Bible tells us that we should count those people as faithful.

So, the next time you have a friend who says something that makes you revolt or just flat get irritated, remember the need to talk to one another about it. Be willing to, in love, tell that person your disagreement. That is a way to be a faithful friend.

Fewer People Should Vote

6 Nov

I started to talk about voting during the primary, but today I will focus on the fact that I believe we should allow fewer people to vote. Voting is, by its very nature, taking a set of factors and determining which are the best way to take a country (or state or county or soil & water management district or city or…). Obviously, it is exceedingly rare that two people will agree on everything (to quote Joel Hunter, “When two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary”). Therefore, we must determine whose foibles with which we can most readily live. That is what we do when we vote.

Now, as I went to the polling place surrounded by people who couldn’t speak English, I felt like we need to re-institute literacy tests. Of course, they are currently illegal in this country, but it seems to make sense to me. If you can’t read the ballot, you shouldn’t be allowed to fill it out. Sort of like the person who can’t answer the SAT practice questions correctly, if you can’t read a basic ballot, why should you get a say equal to mine?

There was a lady at my polling place that voted for only three people on the whole ballot. The problem was all three were running for President (Roseanne Barr, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama). They got her another ballot. Should we really be bending over backwards to get that person a say in who the next President in the United States is? I can handle someone disagreeing with me (like the ref in the Steeler-Giant game), but it’s another thing entirely to leave the decision with a group of people that have no clue. Like if they had polled people in a Bangladeshian bar for that football call. The call may be right or wrong, but those people should’t be making it. Why is this lady allowed to potentially be the deciding vote in swing state Florida?

As they begin to pass out sample ballots to the people who want one, and as people are reading it for the first time, they ask questions that should allow their vote to be disregarded. I literally heard, “Is Dowdy the guy who had that nice girl in jeans waving on the way in?” asked as someone was reviewing the ballot. People were asking if 8 were a prime number to determine their vote on that numbered amendment. My wife has a rule that I like. If you don’t know what you’re voting before you get there, you can’t vote on that issue or race.

My next soapbox is early voting. I am wholeheartedly against early voting. Now let me make two big disclaimers. Do not confuse early voting with absentee voting. I am in favor of, and have even taken advantage of, absentee voting. It allows for people who might have another commitment (ie, those with a life) to accommodate that. It also mandates that you follow certain rules and procedures to get your vote in. I like it. Additionally, if your state and/or district allows for early voting, I have no problem with your taking advantage of it. It is a right given and, if exercised, feel free to do so.

Contrariwise, the very premise of early voting is to make access to voting easier. I believe access to voting is something that should be limited. Congress Standardized Election Day in 1845 and while I am fine with that date being changed, why should individual counties and states be able to overrule Congress? The argument that today’s society needs greater access is absurd. In 1845, many people missed three days of work to vote (one to vote and two to travel [one day each way]). The reality is getting around to voting is easy enough. It is further undisputed that the more restrictions put on voting, the greater the education level of those voting.

This recent concept I commonly hear, “It doesn’t matter for whom you vote, so long as you vote” is just silly. The thought that increased numbers in voting means superior things is ludicrous. Do 5,000 additional votes on either side do anything rather than tax the people and equipment used for voting? Keeping those early voting facilities stocked adds expense to the taxpayer without a benefit other than arbitrarily increasing the number of votes.

All that having been said, it is great to live in a place where voting happens and there is a legitimate competition (as opposed to votes in, say, Cuba). I just wish the people voting were actually held to some standard so that the vote actually represented more than a coloring contest.

Walking Worthy, even in Voting

2 Nov

As I celebrated Reformation Day with some fellow church family members, I began thinking as we spoke about a myriad of Reformers. We talked about their boldness in proclaiming the gospel, and I felt too timid. We spoke of the volume of Scripture they had memorized, and I felt inadequate. We spoke about the sacrifices they made to better our lives, and I felt blessed.

The more I considered these great men of the Reformation, the more I began to think about the conversation I had recently with a fellow Christian. She felt that you should look to Christ for an example and looking anywhere else was problematic. Coming out of the Reformation, where worshiping others was somewhat normal, I see the point.

By the same token, extrapolating from that situation that judging someone else is stepping out of bounds and indicates that you are being haughty or self-righteous is just not correct. I seem to hear a similar sentiment often these days. And while I wholeheartedly agree that we should always be looking to point others to Christ, I disagree with the point that we should point people away from us.

The apostle Paul says that we should do the things we see him doing. We should live our lives in such a way where we feel comfortable telling people that they need to emulate us. Doubtlessly we will make mistakes and we must be aware of our own depravity, but living a life that mirrors what God wants should be the major part of our reputation. And we shouldn’t be ashamed to have people watching us.

It is a balancing act, to be sure. It reminds me of something else we need to balance—political elections. We need to be concerned with elections. In four days there are a series of elections, which I think are very important. And if you want to know how you should vote, I’ll be happy to tell you. Voting is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Those of us who reap the benefits of living in a republic should play a part in upholding said republic. Voting is part of our stewardship to use all the resources we have been given in ways that honor God; to waste a vote is to squander a gift over which we should be stewards.

On the other hand, to think that we are in control of the world, merely because we vote is a mistake. As Joe pointed out earlier this week, we have a way of turning things into gods. When we think we are in control, we tend to put faith in our ability. Maybe we can convince enough people to vote the correct way, so that we may experience better life. While noble, the reality is that we are failing (whether we “win” or “lose”) because we are putting our trust in our own strength.

Finding that proper balance can be exceedingly difficult. Fortunately, I know that I can trust in God. I know that He is working to change me so that my actions and my voting mirror Him. Most of all, that I recognize that He is in control, no matter how messed up I feel things are, is important. Perhaps one day we can, as Joseph did, say that the things which were meant for our destruction were ultimately used for God’s benefit.