Friday, September 21, 2007

American Freedom

This week our family went to Williamsburg, Virginia with Classical Conversations, the company for which my wife works. (They provide home school curriculum and tutoring.) We took a day to visit historic Williamsburg. I was amazed.

Now I had been to Williamsburg when I was probably 10 years old, but I remember little from that visit. I was amazed this week because the founding of our country is so fascinating and inspiring, yet I learned so little about it in school.

The Founding Fathers longed for something beyond religious tolerance. They fought for religious liberty. Tolerance was granted in that era to those who did not participate in the state-sponsored religion. Such citizens could be tolerated if they would jump through certain hoops created by government regulation. But the colonists wanted real freedom of faith.

Taxation and representation were also important factors in the revolt, of course. But the British abuses in these areas offended the colonists’ sense of freedom – freedom that comes from God.

Listening to the rhetoric of today’s society, I had come to wonder if it was right for the colonists to revolt. What could be worth starting a war? Now I understand better what was happening. They did not want a war, but they knew they must have freedom. Patrick Henry’s cry – “Give me liberty or give me death” – fell upon many cautious, hesitant ears. But the growing abuses and coercion of the British government became too much, and the colonists stood up and took arms.

We can’t afford to forget the lessons of our country’s founding.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Me and Time

I learned something about myself. The way I view time needs to develop. I have always been slow. Not running—I guess I’m an average runner. But it takes me some time to do things. I often am the last one to finish a meal. My college suitemates made fun of me for taking 20 minutes in the shower. I could spend an hour folding a basket of clothes while jamming to music.

Sometimes I’m slow to understand things, too. My 7th grade math teacher described me as a “late bloomer.” I can get there, but it takes me a while. I often walk away from a conversation thinking, “I should have said this,” or “But what about such and such?” It’s like having a hundred questions for the doctor, right after he walks away.

My concept of time needs improvement because it keeps me from moving on. I sometimes get focused on doing a task and fail to focus on COMPLETING the task. Folding clothes is not a permanent state of being.

And then I expect holidays to last forever. I feel betrayed when the time is up. “I’ve been waiting so long for this to come. How can it be over already?”

I want to enjoy the moment, but I need to find the right balance. Time is not for me or against me. Time just is. It will keep moving on with or without me. If I will focus on completing tasks, I can get more done. I can savor the important things and move on through the mundane.

Oops. My time is up.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Responding to Islam

A columnist recently applauded a pop musician in Indonesia who is sounding the call for moderate Muslims to take a stand. The lyrics to his songs encourage love rather than hate. Many of the lines actually come from the Koran, they say.

Not being an expert on Islam, I rely on what others say about that religion. Some say that the only way to interpret the Koran is that Muslims must wage holy war against non-Muslims, in order to bring them to their faith. Others will say that Islam is a peaceful religion. I’m not really sure which brand is authentic. I don’t believe that every Muslim is out to kill me. But I know that there are many Muslims who would die to kill any American.

Should we be glad that moderates in Islam are calling for peace? Certainly we don’t want more terrorism. What bothers me is the belief that peaceful coexistence is the goal of religion. If a set of beliefs “works,” then we should be glad that people ascribe to those beliefs…right?

Actually, faith should be about truth. The good and gentle religions of the world may help people feel good and live together. But these religious are substitutes for the truth: That only Jesus restores us to our rightful place of fellowship with God, and with others. Remember the greatest commands: Love God, love your neighbor.

It is much easier to see that Jesus is the Truth when those of other faiths are committing mass murder. When they teach Jesus’ ideals but ignore his claims to deity, then they can gain good will and perhaps gain followers. But they really miss the point.

But maybe those who dare live the Lord’s ideals will eventually realize that Jesus is the Truth. Those who truly seek truth will always, eventually come to Jesus.

The Biggest Obstacle

Comic strip character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

That truth came home to me some years ago, and I’m still trying to fight the battle. I came to realize that the biggest obstacle to my success was my mind. OK, no wisecracks about my brain. I don’t mean my intelligence. Though I’m not as smart as a lot of people I know, the size of my IQ is not the issue.

My biggest obstacle to success – in just about anything – is my thought patterns. So often I fall into stinking thinking. I constantly find myself believing that I can’t do something. I fall prey to paralyzing thoughts such as: You have already blown it; It’s too late to get it right; They won’t like me; You are not prepared; It will never work out; You may as well quit now; It might work for other people, but it won’t work for you; etc.

The problem with these thoughts is that they usually are not true. The Bible tells us to watch how we think. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true…think about such things.” I get off track when I dwell on things that are not true.

Another problem with stinking thinking is that it is based upon myself. When I dwell on what I know or my preparation, I’m being proud and believing that all life depends on me. But my life really depends on God. He’s the one who really makes things work out. He’s the one who has all knowledge. He’s the one in charge of the timing of events. He’s the one brings me favor in the eyes of other people. I get short-sighted when I think that I’m the one who makes things work out.

This bad thinking is orphan thinking. “I’m all alone. No one cares about me. If I can’t work it out, then it will all fall apart. I’ve got to work things around so that I come out on top.” This orphan thinking really dishonors Christ. He gave me life as an adopted son of God. I’m never alone.

Good thinking dwells on the fact that God is in charge. He will make it all work out. He won’t let go of me. He is my advocate. In Christ I am perfect. I have nothing to prove. Paul talks about taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

When I dwell on these thoughts, life’s setbacks don’t knock me down so badly. God doesn’t need me to be productive for his kingdom. He loves me just as I am. His love through Christ frees me to live by his power. His power trumps all the negative thoughts. He frees me with his truth. He frees me to live. And by his grace, he uses me to build his kingdom and bring him glory.

That’s fun.