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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I can't believe it has been so long since my last writing. I can assure you it is not because I don't have anything to say. I sometimes am amazed that people like to read this thing--that somehow my thoughts and feelings matter to anyone else. On the other hand, I know how much it has helped me when others have been transparent about their feelings and thoughts as they walk through life. I pray that my words can somehow challenge someone to feel a little more normal, a lot more hopeful and maybe feel like the "chaos" of life can be made a little simpler.
One of the things that has broken my heart over the last two years is the fragile state of relationships in America. We've all heard the statistics about 50% of marriages ending in divorce and stuff. But it goes way deeper than that. For the last two years, the different "hats" I wear as an individual have allowed me to see some things that have saddened me. As a pastor, I have been involved with dozens of struggling marriages. I have seen men and women who are hurt deeply by the rejection of their love or betrayal of their commitments. These are good people. They are people like you and me. I hate watching it happen--for them and for their kids. There have been so many instances where I just wanted to sit down with one spouse or another and say, "Do you see how stupid or selfish (or you fill in the word here) you are being?" Honestly, I think I have done that a few times.
Then, as I dad, I have watched from the sidelines of my kids games as children "performed" to meet the pressures of their parents (just one symptom of broken relationships between many parents and their kids). Before any of you women get riled up and jump on all the dads, I have discovered that there are mothers who are just as bad. And there are also kids who you would never know had parents. They are shuttled off to the games with neighbors or friends and then returned and deposited at their doorstep so that they can report the day's activities.
Finally, as a single man, I have come in contact with hundreds of men and women who are longing for intimacy with the right person. Tragically, I see men retreating to bars and pornogrpahy to grab their comfort. Meanwhile, women retreat to churches and volunteering at their schools hoping to find their security and their meaning. What usually happens is that, women who have no support system and no accountability, wind up compromising their values just to have a man. Men, on the other hand, discover that there are enough women willing to do that so they don't have to commit to anyone. They don't have to give up the bar scene or the corporate ladder or the games they play. Sadly, until we get the men back in church and support the women enough so that they can wait on the right man, the two of them will never find each other on the right turf.
I've talked a lot about relationships and doing life together in these blogs. I think this is another area where it is crucial. Not only does shared life help strengthen the good, it helps hurting ones to recover and to stand again. It shows young kids what normal relationships look like. It models for adults what parenthood should be and what their marriages could be. When we do life together, we learn from each others mistakes. We are emboldened by the prayers we pray for each other. We are challenged by the stories that we hear and the ones that are lived in front of us on a daily basis. I guess what I'm trying to say in a nutshell is this, don't do life alone. Don't give up on relationships. Know that God has something better than a broken home, a battered friendship, or a bruised ego. Man, does God have so much more than you and I are usually settling for! But, to get there means that you must surrender, you must give 100% of who you are to Him in order that He can make it what it should be. The restoration process is not an easy one, not a short and, most definitely, not a comfortable one. But it is well worth the journey!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I hate election time. I don't think I'm the only one based on conversations I have with other people. It's not the whole democratic process or the responsibility of voting. I love those privilegs and do my part to take advantage of the liberties we enjoy. It's more about the "ugly" side of human nature. Even the most wonderful people turn into political pundits or biting critics of their opponents. And the truth is, it's not about voting for the right people anymore. It's more about voting for the lesser of the evils. Every candidate has a nasty trail leading to their past. Every candidate (it would seem) has been a liar, a cheater, a thief or an adulterer (this one doesn't seem to bother people as much anymore). What usually happens is that some of the best candidates for office choose not to run or run again because they don't want the shame or the embarassment that it would cause their families, their supporters and themselves. Who can blame them? Our political races are a reflection of our culture. The one with the quickest cut down is the funniest. The smartest comeback or the best retaliation wins more votes and respect than the actual qualities of the candidate. How can the good guys win (just an expression, ladies, I know there are good women candidates as well) when no one can really tell who the good guys are any more?
Which brings me back to thoughts of faith. Is the church any different? Is it any wonder that some of the best leaders have cowered from using their gifts because they are afraid that some self-appointed critic will tear apart their character? Worse yet, how about those who want to follow after Christ but are afraid that submission to Him would cause others to question their intentions or to bring up their past? The Bible says that Satan is the "accuser of the brothers" (Revelation 12:10). It is his nature that causes us to want to hurt, to condemn, to convict and to judge each other. Isn't it refreshing when we find a church where people are free to admit their failures and to find strength to follow Christ? That's what doing life together is all about. It's not our place to condemn or judge the eternal destiny of others. Our job is to surround each other with the encouragement it takes to run the race in spite of the failures that plague all of us. Let us commit to follow after Christ, together, enabling each other to untangle from sin and run more freely. "How can I help you" should be a mantra for every believer? Funny thought. What do you think it would do for our political races if every candidate humbled himself and asked that very question? After all, they are "public servants?"