Yearly Archives: 2010

Christmas Affections

I am heartsick and hopeful as I pen these words. Colleagues and friends have shared tragic stories of emotional and physical pain. At the same moment I am absorbing their concerns, I am happily awaiting the arrival of my adult children for Christmas. My heart is bursting with gratitude for my family and breaking with empathy for some friends.

The affections of Christmas have always been paradoxical. Michael Card said it well in one of his songs, “Behold the mystery, fantastic and wild: a mother made by her own Child.” We have angelic choirs viewed by humble shepherds. We have aristocratic scholars from Persia dealing with a devious King Herod. The family dwelling was full of older relatives, so Jesus is born in the first story room with the animals and sleeps in a feeding trough. The newborn King, the Savior of the world, will evoke worship from the humble, provoke an evil King to murder, move the hearts of an elderly prophetess and prophet, and ultimately split history in two as he grows and fulfills his mission to atone for sin and bring eternal hope.
These paradoxical affections are also fueled by current events in our nation and around the world. The followers of the Bethlehem Babe are growing in number around the globe and transforming the social and spiritual landscape in scores of nations, even while the entire Christmas Story is scorned in the elite corners of the West. Thousands of innocents are dying at the hands of murderous thugs while arrogant fools debate on how to spend money we do not have. At the same time, millions of people are giving sacrificially so that the victims of earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis can have water and food.
All of these feelings incite a deep longing for peace, rest and stability. The promise of Scripture is clear: there is a Day coming when swords become plowshares, lambs and lions lie down together, and there is no more war and want. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am invited to bring this future into the present. Christianity is not a nostalgia trip. It is not a romanticized look back. God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ is a reign of joy and justice perfected in the future and participated in today. Every reconciled relationship is a window into a Day when all tears are gone. Every child fed and loved is a glimpse into the glory of heaven. Every war that ends anticipates the Day when the King of Kings ends all wars.
How will I celebrate Christmas? I will enjoy family and friends and laugh as much as I can. I will pray for my colleagues and friends and try to help. I will feast on great food and help make sure others are fed. I will love my wife and kids and seek to build communities where no one is a stranger. I will long for heavenly peace and do my best to bring it on earth. I will demand integrity of politicians and be honest in all I do.
Christmas affections are powerfully paradoxical. We have Eternity stepping into time; the Almighty is forever a human being. We discover that real authority begins with service. Transformation is not just behavior modification. We need a relationship with Christ, a loving community and personal purpose to be whole people.
Merry Christmas friends – may we all celebrate and serve in a spirit of faith, hope and love.

A Message for the Thoughtful

When I observe the shenanigans in Washington DC – on both sides of the aisle – I feel like I am living in an M.C. Escher print or a Salvador Dali painting. Nothing is as it seems. We have Nancy Pelosi berating Republicans for adding debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back to China. Of course, her leadership only added about $3 trillion to the price tag! We have “conservatives” making sure their earmarks are in place. It feels like Nero is fiddling while Rome burns.

I do tilt a bit toward the conservative side; however, our problems are not solved by histrionics or vague appeals to principles. President Obama meets with sympathetic billionaires while small business leadership is ignored. Meanwhile, extending the current tax rates becomes a flash point for berating the rich, while basic economic realities are ignored and our foreign policy is in shambles.

The Holiday Season of good cheer is not the time to introduce austere realism, but here are “thoughts for the thoughtful” that I hope will stimulate intelligent and passionate communication from the grassroots to the “representatives” in Washington, D.C.

  • Americans are allergic to socialism. We are not adverse to government activity, but we have an organic allegiance to personal liberty and property.
  • Americans do not want to be part of a “global governance” scheme where self-appointment elitists (Soros, et. al.) tell us what we must do as a nation.
  • Americans are compassionate. We want to help those in need and the unemployed need assistance and training.
  • Americans love the military. Waving flags, wistful strains of Taps, and the courage of women and men stir us deeply. We also want our troops fighting battles they can win. Bring them home with dignity, Mr. President.
  • Americans are self-starters. We want equal opportunity, not a system rigged by social engineers.
  • Americans are religious, but they do not want a government cowering in the face of radical Islam or regulating what can be said in the public square. We are especially upset that Judaism and Christianity can be excoriated while Islam gets a free pass from the Left.
  • American love scientific and technological innovation, but not at the expense of humanitarian principles.
  • Americans are learning to leave racism behind and live joyfully with diversity. We do not need to be reminded daily of past transgressions. We want to build a better future.
  • Americans believe in traditional marriage. Utah left polygamy behind in order to enter our Union. Redefining this term will ultimately open a Pandora’s Box of confusion and state control.
  • Americans are tolerant. People of all faiths or none, and people of all orientations can live peaceably with their deepest differences. This is what the First Amendment is about.
  • Americans are children of immigrants and we are hospitable. We just want entry and participation to be legal, safe and non-subversive of our national principles. Secure borders and opportunity for all the “huddled masses yearning to be free” are compatible.
  • American believe in balancing the checkbook, even though they have been on a credit-card binge for half a century. Hopefully our leaders at City Hall, State capitals and in Congress can set a new tone.

As we welcome longer days, remember the courage of the Maccabees and celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, let’s open our hearts and homes, looking for ways to encourage each other, honor the dignity of each person and create a better future.

The Perception Wars

We now have a President in favor of tax breaks for all…and the Republicans are again on their heels in the perception game. Add to this the earmarks that even Rand Paul is approving and you have the pathway to a Democratic victory in 2012.

The lack of courage by both sides is appalling. Democrats will not fight for their constituencies and the newly-elected Republicans seem unwilling to make the hard choices that will turn the economic ship around for the long-term.

We do need dynamic dialogue that will forge new solutions. We should not expect much of a lame-duck session close to the Christmas break. We should be alert, however, to Executive Orders and appointments that circumvent normal channels and represent the despotic tendencies of those afraid of losing power.

There is no way forward without serious sacrifice, including deep cuts in certain facets of military spending, major adjustments for Medicare and Social Security and an overhaul of federal and state public employee pensions. Our elected officials should not be set for life for serving a few years in Washington. They should not receive waivers from the new health plans. At the same time, we do need oversight of corporate ethics, banking practices and reasonable environmental policies that allow for wealth creation without regulatory strangulation or rapacious exploitation.

As we make systemic adjustments to global economic realities, we need to re-empower local and state governments and remind ourselves that we are a nation conceived in reverence for God and respect for the sovereignty of the people. We need to retrain millions for the 21st century and invest in the future. Our path ahead is difficult but doable and “politics as usual” will not work. I call on millions of Americans to have the courage to speak out, act compassionately and generously and hold our leaders accountable for OUR national checkbook!

Today is December 7th – a special tribute is due to all veterans and to the surving WWII vets that witness to a courageous moment in our nation’s history.