Friday, November 28, 2008

Thought for the day...

It's always easy to settle your position on any issue...until you sit down for coffee with a person who thinks differently.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I love this poem...

I'll let you try to figure out why...

Contraband
by: Denise Levertov


The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That's why the taste of it
drove us from
Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It's toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was
Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable – but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn't
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in – as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote of the week... (one day late!)

Silence is difficult for us. Barbara Brown Taylor has some profound thoughts on this in her book When God is Silent.

"Sometimes I think we do all the talking because we are afraid that God won't. Or, conversely, that God will. Either way, staying preoccupied with our own words seems a safer bet than opening ourselves up to either God's silence or God's speech, both of which have the power to undo us."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What would Jesus do?

I found this a while back and I really can't remember where. It's written by Andy McPherson, who is a writer who also serves as a care worker for people with disabilities at Bethesda Christian Homes. All I can really say is "ouch" and even though I know Andy goes over the top in his satire, we have to admit that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction...

Protecting the Neighbourhood
By Andy MacPherson

I have heard the call. I have accepted the responsibility, and I thank God my family has been chosen to be a model of justice in my neighborhood. We are a light that shines in the darkness, and darkness shall not overcome us. There is a wonder working power in the goodness, the idealism, and the faith my family possesses. We will use whatever means necessary to defend our freedom and to make our neighborhood secure. We are here to defend the hopes of all mankind and to eliminate evil.

The other day I saw my neighbours moving some stuff around in their house, and I said to myself, “Dear God, they are making a bomb!” I knew this, because these people had towels wrapped around their heads, and we all know what those people are like. I called some of my friends over and showed them, but they weren’t too sure. They suggested I wait and see before I busted in their front door and started shooting. I told them I was confident we would find all the evidence we needed once we were inside.

“Are you with me?” I yelled in an inspiring shout for freedom.

“No, it’s illegal!” They yelled back, then went home.

“If you’re not with me, you’re against me,” I shouted after them. One British guy and his family from across the lake stuck around, but that was it. “We are fighting evil here ,you bunch of cowards. We are fighting for peace,” I said to no one.

We armed our children and surrounded our neighbour’s house then demanded they let us in to check the place out.

“No bombs here,” the leader of that household said in broken English. He was lying, because, as we all know, people who can’t speak English properly are habitual liars. I insisted a neighborhood delegation be allowed in to check it out. Finally they agreed, but we couldn’t find much. All this proved was that they had lying down to a fine art.

“No bombs here” he lied again, obviously insulting my intelligence. So we blew in his front door, back door, windows, and roof. I was proud to watch my boys rock the neighborhood with massive explosions. Our wonder-working power put on a hell of a good show. We shattered his house with technical precision, although, unfortunately, we had to shoot some of his children who got in the way. It was good chance to try out some new guns though.

“It’s like a giant video game!” My youngest shouted with delight as the front porch disappeared in a ball of fire. Some of my sons carried video cameras instead of guns to keep us all updated as to what was happening. Another son compassionately edited out the really gruesome scenes, because if there is anything I hate, it’s gratuitous violence on TV. Once the house was secure, we turned the place inside out. We tore out walls and dug up floors.

“No bombs here,” one of my sons reported in perfect English after the dust settled and we had the head of the house under citizens’ arrest.

The neighborhood had all gathered to watch the show. “We haven’t found any of the bomb stuff yet, but we’re sure it is here somewhere,” I assured them. “What we have found though is evidence that he was beating his children.” Unfortunately, just at that moment, some of the children we had just killed to restore peace to this suffering household were carried past. This seemed to distract our neighbours from fully appreciating the safer neighborhood we had created for them. Their ungratefulness really hurt, and I just could not understand why they hated us so much. I figured they were feeling guilty for not helping, so I offered them a second chance. “How would you guys like to help with the cleanup, repairs and perhaps some childcare? I don’t think it’s fair that we have to do everything. After all, we’ve made the neighbourhood a safer place for everyone, not just our family.” But they just shook their heads and went home.

“What would Jesus do?” I called after them as Jesus’ smashed body was carried past to be stacked with the rest of the collateral damage.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Roe V. Wade

This last election in the US has changed the way that many Christians (myself included) seek to address the issue of abortion. Let me clearly say that I am anti-abortion/pro-life and find that to be implicit within the gospel. But my methods have undergone some re-thinking. Scot McKinght of Jesus Creed gives a good example of why that is in his response to this letter. In a nutshell Scot reminds us that...
"The obsession with changing the law needs to be met with an obsession to reduce abortions alongside that law-change battle. (Note: I did not say "instead of" but "alongside.")"
I, like Scot, would like to beg the church to think clearly about this issue. Jesus said that we are to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. For those who struggle with the the number of Christians who voted for a pro-choice Obama, lets not jump to the conclusion that their vote means they favor abortion. In Scot's words let's realize that maybe we are...
"...pursuing the same goals with a different strategy. We'll see if it works. Let's work together to reduce abortions."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perspective...

Thanks to Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight for this You Tube clip. Sometimes the truth is so painfully obvious that we need someone like this to remind of the things that we already ought to know...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quote of the week...

Even more radical today than when it was originally said. Just sit with this one for a while and then ask yourself, "What if I actually did that?"

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Jesus - Mt. 5:43-44)


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Miserable...

Miserable is a cup of coffee.

Bitter, but with some work

You can develop a taste for the stuff.

Almost before you realize,

Your day seems incomplete without it.

Funny...painfully so...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Okay, just one more...

...post about the election. I wasn't going to write any more about American Politics, but then I run across this post. Jared Wilson says what I've been thinking. The answer to the needs of the world isn't the right politician. Regardless of how you voted in the election, these words are worth hearing...

Whether you are disappointed in the results of the recent election or elated by them, if you are a follower of Jesus, your allegiance is due Christ's kingdom, your hope is to be in his governance. The government shall be on his shoulders, the prophet tells us.

We only need one messiah.

We are citizens of heaven, and the duty of the Body of Christ is to testify in word and deed to this citizenship, not speak and act as if any politician or government is representative of our real citizenship. We may vote responsibly and wisely, and engage in the political process to the extent at which it is neither our hope nor our driving passion. But punching a ballot is not the fulfillment of righteousness or the hope that we confess.

If it is change you want, if it is the kingdom you hope to build, if it is God's will done on earth that you are after, the best way to do this is to believe the gospel, hope in its Author, and get your hands dirty loving your neighbor.

Road Trip 2009

We are contemplating doing a "loop" of the US and part of Canada in summer 2009. Any thoughts?


View Larger Map

Monday, November 10, 2008

NEW - Quote of the Week!!!

I wanted to start something new here called...drum roll please..."Quote of the Week". As most of you know I do a fair bit of reading and always come across quotes that I really like. I usually write them down somewhere and then later take some time to mentally chew on them a little more in depth. So every Monday, at least I hope every Monday, I'm going to post one here for you to savor right along with me. When I start missing Mondays I'll just change the title to say "Really Good Quotes" or something like that. So here's the first one...

"I suppose that since most of our hurts comes through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside." (Taken from The Shack, by William P. Young, P.11)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Rumors of my death...

...have been greatly exaggerated.

I'm not sure what has kept me from posting here. I could say it was general laziness, but I feel better if I say that I didn't want to enter a huge discussion on the American political situation. Now that the election is over, maybe there will be other things to talk about. So here I am. If you want a short summary of how I feel about American politics and Obama's election let me share with you the closing of a letter that I wrote to one of my nephews. It kind of sums up my thinking and also points a bit of the way from here forward.

So I do love America, but I also (at least try to) love Iraq, even Afganistan, North Korea, and all the others. Jesus calls His followers to live that way. He offered forgiveness to those who beat, humiliated, and killed him. And then He said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you…” It’s not theological rocket science to see how that can really mess up a person’s life. “You are not your own, you were bought with a price…”. You’ve heard it all before…but we all need to wrestle with the way this truth impacts the way we think about politics.

Bottom line is that the hope for the world is neither Barak Obama nor John McCain. As much as it may pain us to say it, it’s not the United States of America, Canada, or even freedom. It’s Jesus. And if we take the time to read what He says in the gospels…and really wrestle with how we live that out, we begin to be used by the Holy Spirit to change hearts. And that’s what I want to give my life to. I am far from thinking that I have all the answers. I do know that I should vote. As a Christian and an American citizen, I need to think through the issues, study the candidates, pray for guidance, and vote my conscience. But the future of the world depends more on how I follow the example of Jesus in my day to day life than in how I vote one day out of every four years.

So maybe we could just do that. Immerse ourselves in the teachings and life of Jesus and then ask God to make what we see in Him also true of us. I have a sneaky suspicion that if we did that two things would happen. We'd be able to navigate politics without too much difficulty (except from those who refuse to listen to Jesus) and we would begin to make a Spirit-led impact on the world around us...one life at a time. Now wouldn't that be something?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A letter to my nephew...

This was written as a culmination of many things, but primarily it was a response to one of my brilliant nephews who was wondering what we thought in regards to the current election.

So Thomas, as Ang said, I wanted to weigh in on this a bit. I have hesitated to do so, and am still a bit reluctant, but I have thought a lot about this…as have you, and would like you to see some of the thought processes that I’ve gone through in regards to American politics. I am very impressed with all you Mocksville Kuhn boys. When I was in High School I don't think that I even know who was running for President. It's obvious to me that you care deeply and are thinking through the issues in a way that is way beyond your years. I'm writing this not to necessarily challenge your choice for President, I just want to stoke your thinking a bit. So here it is…it’s long. Don’t feel that you have to respond unless you want to…

Let me start by saying that you know me...I'm your uncle, the Baptist pastor who believes fully in the authority of the Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus. I am also an American, and extremely thankful for all that growing up in the US has offered me. If you are troubled by some of the things that I write I hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt and just sit with what I am saying instead of writing me off as a liberal who doesn't care about the US. I think the essence of patriotism is being willing to think clearly and deeply about the actions of your country, and then having the courage to raise issues, regardless of the personal implications that may come out of your thoughts and actions. I have been wrestling with some of these things for years. My time in Canada and throughout Latin America has given me an "outsiders" perspective that has challenged most of my assumptions and, I think, has forced me to think at a deeper level than at any at any other time in my life.

I guess what I'd like to do is just think specifically out loud for a minute with you, especially in regards to some of the main issues that seem to keep surfacing during this election. There are three specific ones that trouble me, and they are really inter-related in a million different ways.

Perhaps the easiest one to address is the fear of a different theory of economics taking root in the US. There have been many accusations of “socialism” batted around in the recent weeks. This is also related to the struggle over the government providing health care. One of the assumptions is that there really only are two options - free market capitalism and socialism. You must be one or the other. While I am definitely far from an economic genius, I can say that Canada is still very much a free market capitalistic country with socialized medicine and some other aspects of socialized government. What is amazing to me is that the economic structures of Canada have weathered the recent economic storms much better than US institutions. Just because someone begins to propose news ideas in regards to taxation doesn't always mean that they are an underground communist. The current methods of economics in the US have spawned an almost 10 trillion dollar debt and the weakest economy in many years. A thinking person must at least entertain the idea that a new approach, or at least a modified one, is probably at least a reasonable idea. If my way of running my household finances was destroying our financial stability I would begin to seek a new way of thinking – tweaking, changing, adapting... Maybe I'm naive, but I'm not sure that Reagan style economics can be maintained over the long haul without serious difficulties.

Second would be one that is a biggie – what exactly does it mean to be pro-life. (This one will trickle into #3 as well – My thoughts on the Iraq war and health care.) Once again, you know me. I am pro-life. I believe that life is sacred because all of humanity is created in the image of God. It is not “above my pay grade” to know that life begins at conception…and to back that up with plenty of Biblical references. While my convictions haven’t weakened, my methods of implementing them are changing. I am not convinced that stacking the court to overturn Roe v. Wade is the best way to deal with the issue. While that would be a great thing, no one thinks that it would end abortion, just end the legal practice of it. What I think the church needs to be focusing on is undercutting the need for abortion. We need to be reaching out to unwed mothers in any way possible. We need to be adopting, we need to be supporting financially, we need to be covering their medical bills. There are some specific facts that we need to consider as we seek to live with a pro-life, anti-abortion mindset…
• Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.
• Almost half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion.
• The most frequent reasons given by women seeking an abortion are that a child would limit ability to meet current responsibilities and that they cannot afford a child at this point in their lives.
• Unintended pregnancy has increased by 29% among poor women while decreasing 20% among higher-income women.
• Women below the federal poverty level have abortion rates almost four times those of higher-income women.
• Between 1996 and 2000, while abortion rates for all other groups fell, abortion rates among poor and low-income women increased.
• The majority of women having abortions are in their 20s or younger.
• Nearly half of all abortions in the world are performed in countries that have made abortion illegal.
• The lowest abortion rates in the world - less than 10 per 1,000 women of reproductive age - are in Europe, where abortion is legal and available.
• By contrast, in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, where abortion law is most restrictive, the regional rates are 29 and 31 per 1,000 women, respectively.
• These countries are also much poorer than the U.S. and provide fewer social services; and a larger proportion of their population lives in poverty.
• In Western European countries, in contrast, where more social services are provided and fewer women live in poverty, the abortion rates are consistently the lowest rates in the world.
(Source: Guttmacher Institute, "An Overview of Abortion in The United States" )

I know that sin is the ultimate cause of abortion, but the reality is that economic issues play a huge role in those who seek an abortion. And my fear is that even if we overturn R v. W, if we fail to address some of the pragmatic financial concerns, we will have only intensified the problem. This is even supported by Catholic researchers…the most pro-life people that I know (see below)

• Overturning Roe Vs. Wade, a long time goal of the pro-life movement, would not end abortion in the United States, it would simply send the decision to the states.
• If states with more than 45% "pro-life" sentiment chose to outlaw abortion, this would only impact 16 states accounting for 10% of abortions nationwide, or less than 100,000 abortions a year.
• Women in these 16 states would still be able to travel to seek an abortion in another state, or seek an illegal abortion, making the impact likely less than a 10% reduction in abortions nation-wide.
• States with the highest abortion rates in the country, like California and New York, would be unlikely to outlaw abortion in their states.
(Source: Catholics United Study "Reducing Abortion in America: Beyond Roe v. Wade.)

I hate the fact that Obama is “Pro-Choice”. I know the way he has voted in the past. I have read his justifications for his votes…some I found compelling, others not so. My problem in making this my watershed issue is that while the Republicans are committed to overturning R v. W, I haven’t seem them act in any other ways to alleviate the financial pressure that often leads to abortion. As much as we would like to ignore this fact, health care is a huge issue here. I live in a country where, contrary to American perceptions, socialized medicine is a phenomenal program. And yet I have seen the Republicans do nothing, especially in regards to healthcare for infants and lower income mothers. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to implement tax breaks for people who are willing to adopt children carried to term? There are a million strategies to reduce the number of abortions that the government could seek to implement…and yet they seem only focused on Roe v. Wade. While the truth here is black and white (abortion is murder), I think that the strategies are a little more complex for helping these babies make it to the birthing room.

My third issue is still “Pro-Life”. As a Christ follower I am called to hold life sacred - even the lives of those who would harm me. “Love your enemies”, Jesus said. Not a good political stance. Although I am not na├»ve enough to think that the Government could function this way, I do know that I am supposed to, and that the government, while having the right to bear the sword, better take the responsibility very seriously. I agree with you that Sadaam was a horrible dictator, albeit one that we empowered to do what he did as we sold him many of the weapons he used against his people. And I am happy that he is no longer in power. But we entered that war for different reasons. The US said that he and Iraq were tied to Al Queda, (not true at that time, ask any Islamic scholar.) and that he had WMD’s (now known to be manipulated and untrue intelligence, even acknowledged by the Republicans). I think it is a great thing to defend the poor and defenseless against violent dictators, but if we are willing to go into Iraq, why not Rwanda (937,000 people killed in 100 days, April-July 1994), or Sudan (many estimates say 15,000 people currently die every month in Darfur alone)? And even if Sadaam is out of power, conservative estimates are that 250,000 Iraqi civilians have died thus far. We’ve also contributed to Iraq becoming a hotbed of Al Queda activity as they pour across the border to practice their tactical maneuvers against the US forces. And it appears to me that there is no good way out. Even in the best scenario, there will still be further loss of life. If we are really pro-life…we have to be consistent. This includes seeing war as a last resort. It includes caring (i.e. health care) for all people, regardless of their age or ability to provide for themselves. (I know that this grates people who think they are paying for those who are taking advantage of the system, but the real issue is whether Jesus would want people to have access to health care. I think he would. Will people use the system? Yes. But is it worth it to allow people the care they need? I think so. In Canada I am happy that my taxes mean that no matter your ability or financial status, you will have access to the care you need when you need it. I really wouldn’t want a bigger bank account if it meant that people were dying because of it.)

Being consistently pro-life involves an honest assessment of how we care for the whole of life, and not just life before leaving the womb. I think that especially in regards to the Bush administration, I would gladly say that they are anti-abortion, but fall short in being pro-life as I define it. I have little hope that McCain would be vastly different in this area.

One of the most challenging things I have seen in this regard comes from my time in Latin America. I would encourage you to do a little digging about American foreign policy in the past, especially in regards to El Salvador and Guatemala. Did you know that in the 1950’s that the CIA (The US admits this) led the overthrow of a Guatemalan president who was elected by the people in a free election? He was threatening to return land to peasants that had been taken from them by the US based United Fruit Company. The US thought that looked a little to much like communism, so they organized his overthrow…and consequently threw Guatemala into a 36 year civil war, some of it funded and trained by US defense spending. So much for freedom to vote… Also in the late 70’s and early 80’s in El Salvador, the Salvadoran army (controlled by a few wealthy Salvadoran families) spent much of their time completely wiping out vast pockets of poor people and taking their land. Once again, the funding was provided by the US under the guise of combating communism in our hemisphere. Lest you think I am a trying to be partisan here, a lot of this happened in the Carter administration. Or if you want more current info, read some of the documents you can find online about the “Project for the New American Century”. This was a group during the Clinton administration made up of guys like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and others who wanted to see the world dominated by the US. One of the first key tactical steps they laid out was to establish US presence in the Middle East to maintain control of the oil there. There was even a reference to the fact that their strategy was so controversial that barring a major international catastrophe that the people of the US would probably never go for it. Dig around. Look carefully. The truth that I have realized, as cynical as it sounds, is that people in power tend to manipulate information in order to protect their power, status, and wealth. It happens in every government…and is the result of original sin.

I am just asking you to really listen to people that you disagree with. Be willing to withhold judgment until you’ve really tried to see things from their perspective. When I was in the US I talked to many people who couldn’t understand why there was a growing hatred and distrust for America in the world. After I have seen what has happened around the world I understand.

So I do love America, but I also love Iraq, even Afganistan, North Korea, and all the others. Jesus calls His followers to live that way. He offered forgiveness to those who beat, humiliated, and killed him. And then He said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you…” It’s not theological rocket science to see how that can really mess up a person’s life. “You are not your own, you were bought with a price…”. You’ve heard it all before…but we all need to wrestle with the way this truth impacts the way we think about politics.

I know this whole thing may make you mad, and you have probably have points to refute what I am saying. And that’s okay. In “fighting it out in love for each other” we both learn, are challenged, and grow. Bottom line is that the hope for the world is neither Barak Obama nor John McCain. As much as it may pain us to say it, it’s not the United States of America, Canada, or even freedom. It’s Jesus. And if we take the time to read what He says in the gospels…and really wrestle with how we live that out, we begin to be used by the Holy Spirit to change hearts. And that’s what I want to give my life to. I am far from thinking that I have all the answers. I do know that I should vote. As a Christian and an American citizen, I need to think through the issues, study the candidates, pray for guidance, and vote my conscience. But the future of the world depends more on how I follow the example of Jesus in my day to day life than in how I vote one day out of every four years.

So thanks for listening. Please know that I respect your thoughts too. You come from good breeding. Your dad was and always will be one of my greatest heroes…much of what I know of Jesus I have seen in his life. You are blessed to have a man like this to follow. Just continue to think, and don’t be afraid to question or offer a dissenting opinion. Seems to me America started because people weren’t afraid of dissent. Don’t demonize those who disagree with you and seek to learn from them.

And finally, know that I love you and will always be proud of the man you are becoming.

Uncle Jeff[