Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Supreme Division

There are no winners in the Brett Kavanaugh melee. The U.S. Senate had to make a Hobson's Choice. You know, that's when "You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

As it stands, with the Senate's confirmation, the United States now has a Supreme Court justice who will forever live in the shadow of the events of the past two weeks. Maybe he's a sexual predator. Maybe he's a pawn of right-wing special interests. Will he ever be able to render impartial judgments on sensitive legal questions? Will there be more accusations of sexual misconduct? Will he use his judicial rulings to exact revenge against his accusers and their political interests?

But consider the alternative. If the Senate had rejected the nominee on the basis of the accusations, then politicians would be emboldened to use accusation as a weapon. By finding one person to make uncorroborated accusations, politicians can mount a campaign against any nominee for any position. Truth becomes a secondary consideration in the battle. If the accusations are true, that is fine. What matters is whether the accusations work.

As some posted on social media, "Anything to stop the confirmation of Kavanaugh." Really? Anything? 

Politicians have led us to this point of division. We have willingly followed. May God have mercy on this divide country.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Threat of Urbanization

According to National Geographic, by 2050 66% of the world's population will live in cities. Most Americans probably greet that news with a big yawn. We have seen the trend of urbanization here for decades.

But we don't consider what comes with urbanization. As people coalesce into cities, there are inherent challenges and problems. All people have needs for food, water, and shelter. When a population is spread out in villages, the land can more easily provide for those needs. Crops and livestock provide for the dietary needs. Streams and wells provide adequate water. Natural building materials can be used for constructing homes.

But when millions of people live in close proximity, the immediate area can't support the population. Food must be shipped in from far away. Local water sources must be supplemented with water piped in from other locations. Sewage must be treated and returned to waterways. Garbage must be hauled away.

As the world's population becomes more concentrated, more fossil fuels will be needed to transport food and garbage. Clean water will become more scarce. Sewage will be more difficult to dispose of.

We need to consider what large cities do to the environment. If the trend around the world mirrors what we see in the United States, there could be significant issues ahead.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What I like about Fall

I like all the seasons. I like it hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and in between in the fall and spring. I feel gypped if winter goes right into summer, or if summer lingers so long that you need air conditioning at Thanksgiving.

It's been too hot here for October, so this blog post is an effort to hurry autumn along. These are the things I like about fall.
  • Stew--The cooking, the eating.
  • Harvesting--I've actually got a few grape tomatoes still ripening.
  • Cooler temperatures--duh
  • Crisp, night skies--The stars shine brighter in the fall, it seems.
  • Going to the Blue Ridge Parkway--I don't always make it in the fall, but it's a great time to go.
  • Fires in the chimenea--I love to sit around the fire and listen.
  • Driving through falling leaves--It gives me such a charge to drive along, cutting a path through the drifting leaves.
  • Apples--Fall is the season for apples, and we have some great ones here in NC.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Team Preaching and "Holy Double-Take!"

For the past few weeks, my wife Lisa and I have had a blast preaching together! It's kind of a tag-team effort, as we share different perspectives and applications of the scripture. Here's a look at what's coming up.

Often God catches us by surprise. We have to look at God through fresh eyes as we come to know him more and more. He really likes to challenge our assumptions. He also challenged the conventional religious wisdom of many people in the scriptures.

Our series "Holy Double-Take!", explores the surprising experiences of Bible characters. This coming Sunday we will explore the experience of Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). Matthew has to do a double-take when Jesus calls him to follow. A tax collector in league with the hated Romans seems like an unlikely candidate to follow a Jewish Messiah.

On October 14 we will dig into the double-take of Pontius Pilate. He really doesn't know what to do with this hated but apparently guiltless prisoner named Jesus.

Holy Double-Take!, a team preaching experiment
October 7, Confounding Common Sense, a look at the disciple Matthew
October 14, Transcending Authority, a look at Pontius Pilate

Image may contain: Lisa Bailey and David K Bailey, people smiling, hat, outdoor and closeup

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Moments of Clarity

The moments are all too rare, but sometimes it all makes sense to me. I envision myself with feet firmly planted on the ground, standing on the solid Rock, connected with God through his power. In those fleeting episodes, this world, and God's plan for it, seem good and right. I feel my place in the heart of God and the work of God.

I want to capture those moments of clarity, because I always descend again into the fog. I capture them as best I can by writing, or just deciding to remember. Then later I read or recall. There are times when I understand what worship is, how evangelism expresses the heart of God, how God absolutely works everything to his glory and our good.

I can't manufacture these moments. But I can provide opportunities for them.

For example, when I'm too busy or overwhelmed, I live with a buzz in my head, static that reduces me to shallow reactions to challenges. So, I need to find time and space to be quiet and still.

When I'm tired, I become thin in my soul. I don't have the bandwidth to process. So, I need to rest.

When I allow resentment to grow, I become critical. I can't tolerate the weaknesses of others and I feel the frustrating burden of fixing them. So I need to find the source of my resentment and forgive--myself or others.

The better I keep my soul, the more moments of clarity I experience. The more I unclutter my soul, the better my spiritual vision. This is how I want to live every moment. I can almost see it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Kavanaugh, Ford, and Whom to Believe

I couldn't avoid seeing the circus last week. And of course I've heard countless analyses of the proceedings, most of them predictable. You know exactly who will take which side.

But what bothers me is the way people choose whom to believe.

There was a time when a woman's testimony was considered suspect at best. There was a time when an African American's testimony could never compete with a white person's. People were categorized, and considered trustworthy--or not--based primarily on the group to which they belonged.

So, the content of the testimony mattered less than the external characteristics of the witness.

Today, Kavanaugh cannot be believed because he is a white male. Of course they are sexual predators. Of course they lie about it.

And Ford can't be believed. She's an opportunist. She's confused. She's a Democrat.

Now, someone is either lying or confused, for sure. But let's not dismiss either party categorically. Can't we listen and weigh evidence? Do we have to ridicule? Do we have to make the ugly scene fit our prejudices?

We need to step back from the vitriolic accusations and care about people, even people with whom we disagree.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hardship and Softship

Everybody has problems. We grow the most through the difficult times. Everybody knows that. But no one wants the difficult times. They just come as a part of life.

And no two people experience the same level of difficulty. Some people scavenge for food, dodge bullets, face chronic pain, deal with depression, cope with financial pressure, struggle in relationships, fend off criticism, dread the future, or regret the past.

For others, life is easy. The bills are paid, people are healthy, work is rewarding, problems are few, the future looks bright.

Everyone experiences hardship and "softship." The degree of each varies with every individual. Sometimes I wonder what the perfect balance is.

And we actually do have some level of control in our balance of hardship and ease. We can load up our schedules with challenges. We can attempt difficult tasks. We can push ourselves to the limit with exercise or academics or business goals. When we do this, we create our own hardships, and we create opportunities for personal growth. Remember, we grow the most through the hard times.

So, we challenge ourselves and we grow.

But sometimes the challenges are not of our choosing. We have an accident, contract an illness, lose a job, lose a loved one. Or we lack education, live in a crime-ridden community, find ourselves betrayed.

Similarly, some good things are not of our choosing. You can't choose where you are born or your family of origin, whether good or bad. And, of course we all know people who just get all the breaks. They get the promotions, the looks, the health, the opportunities. They make the good grades without even trying. Everything comes so easily for them. Not much hardship there.

So, how do we find the balance of hardship and softship? Here are my thoughts.
  • Go for the challenges. Sign up for some hard things.
  • Embrace the unwanted struggles. You don't want them, but you can leverage them for powerful growth.
  • Trust God to bring the right balance. He wants you to thrive, and he wants you to grow.
  • Don't rob others of the growth that comes through struggle. Don't rescue too much.
Ultimately, the balance between hardship and softship is a mystery of life. We want to avoid the hard things, but they are the source of soul transformation. It's where we become all that God created us to be.