Category Archives: Thinking out loud…

Acceptance / Approval

Since I made some confessions in my last post I’ll start this one off just the same.  Confession: no, I haven’t spent more time doing research on current social and political events than I have watching TV.  It is not excuse but Barbara and I have discovered “West Wing” and are binge watching our way through its seven seasons.  Wait a minute!  Can I count that as doing political research?  If that is the case then I am doing great.  It’s all in the metrics and how you interpret them.

So, let me use that as an example.  I never watched “West Wing” because of my perception of its liberal bias.  There is a liberal bias to the show but the White House administration had to be one or the other and they have done a pretty decent job showing both sides of the issue, though that seemed to be more prevalent in the earlier seasons than in the latter ones.  Did you notice that I said I didn’t watch it because of my perception of its liberal bias.  I didn’t even give it a chance because of that perception, not because I actually watched the show and was told it had a liberal bias, but because I was told that and never bothered to investigate for myself.

And that is all too often the case with all of us and part of my extreme frustration that prompted this line of blogging to begin with.  We are being told what horrible things President Trump is doing just as we were told about all the horrible things President Obama did from the other side when he was in office.

So, what I have been doing is I found a website (White House) that lists all the executive orders and other artifacts for this administration.  There are over 55 web pages of executive orders and it is going to take some time to get through them all.  But instead of reading what others are saying about all this I want to actually see what is being done, insofar as I can, and form opinions based on that.  We are back to that thing I have been trying to avoid all along, the work it is going to take to get beyond what everyone else wants me to think and to form opinions based on my own review of the facts.

Which brings me to the title of this blog.  One of the things that ideologically driven people lose sight of is that to accept someone is often far different than approving of them and how they behave.  In particular, many evangelical Christians are afraid their acceptance of another will be interpreted as approval of a particular lifestyle or orientation of any kind.  Yet that is one of the most un-Christlike behaviors we can have.  God demonstrated His acceptance of us through Jesus Christ in the context of radical religiosity, governmental brutality, and the sinfulness of us all.  Thank God.  If God needed to approve of everything I think and do I would be up the proverbial creek.

Once again, I need to go (this time to work) but let me conclude this mental meandering with this.  I don’t approve of the petty behavior I see from President Trump.  Just last night I watched a bit of the news where he belittled an opponent calling them stupid.  Name calling is wrong no matter how much appeal it may have to “them” out there.  But I haven’t decided yet whether or not I accept his leadership.  I will let you know as I work through his executive orders, and I will comment on what I see after I have enough of them under my belt to have an informed opinion.

You Said What?

Over the last week I have been corresponding with two friends. One from California and one from Norway.  So, suffice it to say, not heartlanders from the central part of the country.  The conversation has been around their reactions to President Trump and the course of our country under his leadership.  Confession #1: I am not sure I want to spend the time and energy to sort through all the stuff that is flying around out there to try to sift through all the swirl to arrive at a real conclusion about just about anything in the political world.

Confession #2: I feel guilty about that but I also feel overwhelmed.  I talked to a friend several years ago who seemed well read and settled in his opinions about current events.  I asked him how he arrived at his conclusions and he told me that he read everything he could find on a subject from every political perspective and then looked for the common themes that emerged and formed his opinions from that.  Who has the time and energy to do that?  Did I mention that he is not married and doesn’t have children.  I guess that helps.

Confessions #3: I am disturbingly uncomfortable with what is happening in my country, the United States of America, with the radical polarization that seems to be growing.  I cannot watch any of the news channels without becoming disturbed at the vitriolic and condescending language I hear.  I don’t care if it is Fox or MSNBC, the dismissal of any opinion that differs from the view of the news source and the seeming assumption that anyone who views things from the other perspective is a raving idiot is just more than I want to deal with.

So, what am I going to do?  I want to retreat.  I want to just avoid it all and keep on living my life and hope it will all work out.  But we live in a constitutional democratic republic. And if we, the citizens of that country refuse to engage then professional manipulators of the system will.  That is the risk we all incur for the freedom with which we live.  By the way take any one of the words out of constitutional democratic republic and you get a twisted understanding of who we are.

I am choosing to engage the conversation and commit to spending more time reading all perspectives than I do watching television.  Did I really just write that? What if everyone who reads this makes a commitment to spending one minute more each day studying all sides of an issue rather than numbing our brains with television and movies?  After all if you watch a so called news station it is really very little about news as opposed to numbing opinions about any given story.  That is part of the curse with 24 hour cable news stations.  You get 5 minutes of story about what is really happening and then 25 minutes of opinions about those facts.  We wind up letting the talking heads think for us.

Then those damn algorithms come into play.  I have been working in the health care business for the last four plus years.  Algorithms are wonderful things in terms of predictive analytics and helping us understand disease progression and early interventions that can make a real difference.  They are horrible when they figure out what our viewpoint is on Google or Facebook and start feeding us only the stories that reinforce what we have already chosen to believe.  Hey, Google, Facebook, how about using your algorithm to figure out what our viewpoint is and make sure your feed us stories with the opposite perspective at least 25% of the time?  That would shake some things up.

Well, its time for me to get in bed to get ready for another week of work.  But, I am choosing to engage, spend the time and try to arrive at a more objective view of the seeming insanity that is going on around us.

Let me close with this thought from Teddy Roosevelt, “The reason why our future is assured lies in the fact that our people are genuinely skilled in and fitted for self-government and therefore will spurn the leadership of this who seek to excite this ferocious and foolish class antagonism.  The average American knows not only that he himself intends to do what is right, but that his average fellow-countryman has the same intention and the same power to make his intention effective.”

I don’t know if that is still true today, but it can be true for you and for me.  How about it?  Are you wiling to try?  The alternative is pretty bleak.

It’s Complicated…

Source: It’s Complicated…



All are labels. In the arena of human discourse they are completely counter productive.  We put labels on people to pretend to understand them.  “Oh, you are (pick your label) therefore I know you think this, and that, and so on and so forth.”  Once the label is firmly affixed to a fellow human being all meaningful conversation stops because we “know” who that person is and discovery becomes unnecessary.

I have been so labeled.  I’m sure anyone reading this has been as well.  I remember being very open with someone I was adding to a leadership team for which I had responsibility.  He was asking a lot of questions and as far as I was concerned that was a good thing.  Yet something was nagging at me and I was uncomfortable.  I finally asked him, “Are you asking questions because you genuinely want to understand the context of all that we are engaging, or are you asking questions because you have already made up your mind and you are gathering intelligence for your agenda in the future?”  It turned out to be the latter and as soon as he had a position on the leadership team he went to work undermining what I thought was our common agenda.

Putting a label on someone means we have already made up our minds who they are and what they will say and why.  It’s just too easy and doesn’t require us to actually have an exchange of ideas.  Let’s get rid of the labels.

First, stop using labels on others.  Ask them what they are thinking and why.  I spoke with a friend of mine within a couple of days after the presidential election.  He was very upset. We had a lengthy conversation about what he thought electing Donald Trump as our new president meant and the results he anticipates as a result of that election.  While I don’t agree with his conclusions, after listening to him if I interpreted things the way he is I would be profoundly upset as well.

Secondly, when someone uses a label on you ask them to get specific.  If they accuse you of being a racist ask them to specifically tell you what you said or did that made them think that is true of you.  Be prepared to listen.  It could be a word you used intending one thing that they interpreted differently.  Nine times out of ten I am going to guess that when you ask for specifics most people won’t be able to come up with them.  But if they do really listen to what they have to say.  You may discover a behavior or way that you talk that is being interpreted incorrectly by them and you might actually be able to mature in some way.

If they have something specific but it is genuinely a misinterpretation ask them if they would like to hear what you really meant, or your thinking behind the word or deed.  You should be able to gauge whether or not they are open to hear you.  If so, have the dialogue and see what you can do to find common ground somewhere.  Even if you respectfully agree to disagree you have created civility and healthy dialogue.  If you can see they aren’t really interested in what you meant, my suggestion is to drop the conversation rather than escalating an emotional non-discovery conversation.  There is an ancient proverb that says, “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city.”  If the offense is there nothing you say will have any value to the one offended.  It is best to just walk away from the conversation.

I am going to do all I can to leave my labels behind.  Frankly, I don’t think liberal and conservative mean a whole lot these days.  Liberal about what and what is being conserved anyway.  I want to know what people really think.  What are the circumstances they are dealing with?  What dreams and hopes do they have and what are they afraid will keep them from living  into that hope?  I would invite you to join me and let’s see if we can restore real conversation motivated from real concern and caring into our public conversation once again.


Thoughts About this Crazy 2016 Presidential Race

The current presidential election contest is disturbing on a number of different levels. As far as I am concerned both of the candidates from the leading parties are profoundly disappointing irrespective of their political philosophies. Granted, with the proliferation of all kinds of media one can find “evidence” of just about any judgment already made. I put “evidence” in quotes because often what passes for evidence is imaginative speculation based on very sparse facts. That said, there seem to be enough substantive facts to show that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the caliber of person I want leading my country. As some have noted, 320 million people in this country and they are the best we can do?

As a follower of Christ there are several things I want to say to those who claim the same. The first is that the United States of America is not a nation ruled by Biblical law and values. Though we have been closer to that in the past then we are now, we were never fully there as evidenced by the compromise built into the constitution to accommodate slavery and the political disenfranchisement of women. While a number of the founding fathers were indeed followers of Christ others were deists. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe the foundations of our government are as good as it gets. But perfect? No.
Let us settle once and for all that Christian hegemony is a thing of the past in America. It is not my purpose to debate the good or ill of that here (by the way I think there are arguments on both side of that ledger) but rather to urge us a Jesus’ followers to accept the political and social reality in which we live and stop longing for a return to the past. Deeply engrained in the Biblical message is that we are all moving toward a redemptive fulfillment of God’s intent with His creation. Let us hold fast to the faith, not Christian hegemony. Paul wrote that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Does that stop being true because Donald or Hillary become president? If so then it is a very shallow promise indeed.

For as long as I can remember there have been the rumors about behind the scenes confessions and professions of faith that we’re going to make all the difference in the soon to be elected president. I have heard of prayer meetings, anointings, prophecies, and more. I am not even questioning that they really happened, but the fact that we so badly want them to be true says we are putting much more hope in the human purveyor of power than in the true source of all power over all, God. This ties into the point made in the previous paragraph. We don’t need a “Christianized” Donald or Hillary. They are what they are. God can work with either of them and as far as I can tell has quite a bit of work to do with either. My hope and faith is that He will, just in the same way that I have hope and faith that He is still working in me and you. No one is out of the reach of God’s hand. But let’s not make their conversion the source of our hope.

Right now, I trust you are not seeing what I am writing as fatalistic and without hope. I have a great deal of hope indeed, but let’s place it in the right place and not in a crumbling, ineffective political system. I am also not advocating that we give up on that system, but work for its betterment in every way that we can. We should be doing that in every system of which we are a part whether it be our neighborhoods, our places of employment or the civil government of the communities and country in which we live.

My thoughts are drawn to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. It bears reminding ourselves of the context for this book. The nation of Israel had been conquered and taken into captivity by the Babylonians. That, in and of itself, was pretty bad. But this was a crushing psychological blow to the people of Israel because they were convinced that they were God’s chosen people and that something like Babylon could never happen to them. Daniel was a child of one of the leaders of Israel and very likely saw his parents killed along with most of the other ruling families of Israel. Recognizing something about him, he and three of his other Jewish teenaged captives were selected to serve in the king’s court. As the story unfolds we find Daniel time and again both serving the ungodly Nebuchadnezzar and finding favor with him. If you think Donald and Hillary are bad neither can hold a candle to Nebuchadnezzar. He had raw power with complete human authority and was completely above any limitations on the use of that power. In addition he was a massive megalomaniac going so far as to make a statue of himself that he required all in the land to worship. Take the worst things you have heard about Hillary and Donald and they all and more roll up into the reality of Nebuchadnezzar.

The drama hits a high pace in the third chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar made a stature that was about 90 feet tall and made of gold. Whenever the bell sounded every one was required to bow down and worship the image. Failure to do so was punishable by death resulting from being thrown into a fiery furnace. Daniel’s friends did not, were maliciously accused, enraged Nebuchadnezzar, were thrown into the fire and survived unscathed. We have all heard the story many times. I think that was the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar coming unhinged. 

The next chapter is him relating his own story of having a disturbing dream which Daniel interpreted. The long and short of it was that because he had grown so full of himself he was going to go stark raving mad for seven seasons living like an animal out in the wild. And what was the purpose? “…till you know that the Most high rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (chapter 4, verse 25). This same phrase is repeated again in verse 32. The same phrase shows up again in another context in the next chapter in the 21st verse.

So this is where I am landing with the upcoming election.

Vote and participate in the election. Vote for Hillary, vote for Donald or for one of the off candidates. Make you best choice and vote accordingly. Voting is your responsibility as one of the stewards of American democracy. Do not bail out on the process.

Vote for congressional candidates and your local candidates as well. Talk to them if possible and get engaged to whatever level you can. It is your responsibility as a steward of American democracy.

Don’t put your faith in the political process. Jesus eschewed both political and ecclesiastical power. If we are His followers that should be a challenge to us. There are those who are called to serve in both those realms but neither have been pathways to the peace of God that passes all understanding.

If you call yourself a person of faith, then be one. Have faith in the one who is faithful.  And add to that faith good works. Find the sphere in which you can bring love, life and service to others. Let there be a groundswell of people acting as Jesus Christ acted in caring for those around them. Work to redeem the system but don’t let the corruption of the system keep you from being redemptive in every possible human encounter, because that is where the rubber truly meets the road.

One final thought for now. Instead of looking at all the gloom and doom in the media, look around you. What do you see. I see mostly people genuinely trying to do the right thing and caring about each other. I see people in the corporate world trying to be responsible and create a work culture that is better for the customer and for those doing the work. I see parents loving their kids and being good neighbors.

I know there are some who live in far more troubled environments than do I. But, I am convinced there are far more examples of people caring for each other than there are of those who do not. Let’s let our experience of reality be stronger than what we are told about reality.

Another final thought came to me. If we believe that God is watching over all, working in the midst of it all to bring about peace (shalom) the let us believe that He can stitch together every effort that any of us make to create a fabric that will bring about his canopy of love over every human being on this planet.  

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief. 

Conservative/Liberal: Do we need each other?

For some time now I have been disturbed by the tone of our public discourse.  I recently listened to this Ted Talk by AArthur Brooksrthur Brooks.  (A Conservative Plea: Let’s Work Together) Mr. Brooks is passionate about eradicating poverty and about the value of responsible capitalism.  He maintains that responsible capitalism is about aspiration rather than accumulation.  When he first became concerned about issues of poverty be started researching and discovered that starvation has actually declined by 80% over the course of his lifetime and he wanted to discover why.  He discovered five causes for that dramatic shift: (1) Globalization, (2) Free Trade, (3) Property Rights, (4) Rule of Law, and (5) Entrepreneurship.  Having said that, we still have a long way to go.


IMG_0109I arrived home tonight after a full week of work ready for some relaxation for the weekend, to the news report of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. I am unable to describe all that I am feeling right now. I am writing glued to the television. I want to turn it off. I want to go out to a movie or watch something funny on the TV, or read or do anything but watch the unfolding story, really listening to reporters with video running of milling around responders, the side of an ambulance, dark blurry figures.
I feel like a voyeur, sitting in the comfort of my safe home, but if I turn it off then what else am I going to do. I can’t do anything else. It would seem the height of narcissm to do anything other than be with Parisians and others there, even if only with my prayers and being an ocean and 1,000 miles away in the heartland of America. I want the reporter to shut up, and I want him to tell me more.

France has just declared a state of emergency. Pictures of motorcycles parked with police standing behind them. I feel sorry for the announcer. He has to keep talking, no dead air is allowed. He has to keep talking when he doesn’t have anything new to say. It’s his job to talk. He is saying the same thing over and over again because there is nothing new to say but he has to keep talking.

I have dear friends in France. One is often in Paris. I hope not tonight. All I can do is send him a message and wait until he responds or doesn’t.  I just checked.  Nothing yet, and it is now 2:00am Saturday morning in Paris. He often takes a long time for him to get back to me. I hope not so long this time.
I am not going to try to explain any of this right now. No sermonizing about reasons why, or calls for peace, or love or understanding; though all that is need and must be done. Now, only human outrage at the malicious evil that seduces any man, woman or child into a way of thinking that can in any way justify violence targeted at other men, women and children just like them.
I am going to have to turn the TV off sooner or later. I will go to bed and sooner or later sleep. Tomorrow the horror will already begin to fade for me and most, but it will only grow for those who loved the ones now dead. Lord, help us all to grow aggressive in our gift of peace to as many as we can. And may your peace one day reign among every person on this planet, all of whom are loved by You.


I just read a blog from an old friend who has been actively sharing the gospel with Muslims for a number of years.  He brings a perspective worth the read:  Thinking Biblically About the Muslim Threat