Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Thinking Tanks

At what point did our thinking tank?

Was it when we abandoned our work ethic and became dependent on handouts from the government? Maybe it was before that when we refused to curb our spending because of our own personal and corporate greed. Could it have tanked when we accepted the proposition that government really does know what is best – rather than the individual? Or was it in the midst of all of this when we simply stopped believing that our voices could even be heard within the sea of corruption that stymies Washington?

Regardless, it appears that many of us haven’t let the collective brain melt bother us too much because we don’t think that politics affects us immediately or personally. The sad thing is we are wrong and unaware of the degree to which it does. So we plod along through our days, weeks and months wholly unconscious that we are being stripped of our liberties one by one – a little here, a little there, just so that we barely notice. Sadly, when we finally do notice we may find that the decisions made by those in power affect us much more personally than many of us ever imagined they would.

For our part, I think we tend toward one of these three schools of thought.

One, we are in agreement with big government’s policies and don’t take issue with whatever our party thinks is best. “After all, they must have our best interests at heart.” We reason, “Those who disagree are against progress and motivated by self-interest not the good of the whole.”

Two, we just don’t want to get involved. We tell ourselves, “It takes too much time. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to speak to those issues. I’ll let the person who handles those kind of things handle them. Surely someone is holding them accountable. I have a business and a family to manage, why should I concern myself with the bureaucracy of people out of my scope of reference.”

Three, we are scared – scared of the implications if we stand up and speak out. We ask, “What if I’m wrong? I don’t have all the answers. When is it right to speak up, and when should I just be silent? What kind of response will I receive?”

For many I have noticed the tendency to jump on the bandwagon of popular thought, or that thought which everyone applauds as forward and inclusive. But for the one who differs on politics or issues of faith there is often no parade. Fear may cause him to tiptoe through a landmine of friends whom he is worried about upsetting lest he bring a firestorm down on himself along with the label intolerant. This same fear may keep others from coming to his aid.

These paradigms are nothing new. They play out day to day, from decade to decade, which is why this at some point ceases to be about politics or even current events. For at the end of the day all politics is folly, and every society a vapor, a breath. Every man’s reason is flawed and every man is subject to his Creator.

With this in mind we must ask ourselves. Are some ideas superior to others? The answer is yes, because truth is non-negotiable. Are some governments superior? Again, yes. It must be so because absolutes do exist. There are universal, physical and moral laws that we are bound by, and they demand adherence. Above all we must value the right of individuals to live their lives and sustain their liberty in peace. The entanglements of an invasive government choke out liberty. Therefore the government which protects its people without encroaching on their liberties is a superior form of government.

Let us not forget these words penned by our forefathers, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence 1776

These men believed we each have a right to the pursuit of happiness but not necessarily to happiness itself or to another’s pursuit of happiness on our behalf. We lose ourselves when others begin making decisions for us. That is why we have a bill of rights.

George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

More recently Gerald Ford stated, "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows us that as a government grows, liberty decreases."

We can no longer be bullied by a power-hungry government. We must no longer allow our taxes to be spent on stimulus packages the government can neither afford nor implement. No matter how good they are for us.

Is it my job to care for the widow and the orphan? Yes it is, but it is not government’s job to make me care for the widow and the orphan. This is the responsibility of the church and the individual. And we – the church, have failed on many fronts. First we have failed to speak truth with boldness, clarity and love, and secondly, we have been slow to follow through on Jesus’ command to take care of the least of these.

Are we selfish? Yes, we are, and we should weep over this sin. But the answer to our problems does not come by throwing money that we do not have at these problems. It certainly does not come from giving our earth more attention than we do her Creator. It comes only through repenting as a nation over our sin. This sin has been committed, not against the nations of the world, but against our God whom we have ignored. It is then and only then that our thinking will begin to rise from the gutter in which it now stagnates.

Maybe we should take our cue from the Old Testament which reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're Invited to Dinner

In many families the dinner table is a traditional space for sharing. One is likely to find laughter, inane banter, discipline and the recalling of events from the day.

Our family embraces this time-honored tradition; so one evening in accordance with dinner table bylaws I asked my 9-year-old son to tell his dad what he had done that day. Always the joker he responded with a crooked smile, “What do you mean Mom? I did a lot of things today.”

I gave him the look – the look that all moms give their irreverent children. I held his gaze for a moment before my easygoing husband interrupted, “Why don’t you tell me about your day, bud. How did it begin?”

With what appeared to be another stunt from his playbook my son tilted his head and spoke thoughtfully, “My day began by getting up. I never know whether to get up or stay in bed. I think it’s because I’m always so tired.”

I was prepared to pounce on his impudent reply before I recognized the sincerity in his voice. There was no hint of humor or sarcasm. In fact, it was as if he had been waiting all day for someone to come along and unlock the vault of his mind. My husband had cracked the safe with just the right combination of words. What he found was a wealth of information provided through a detailed accounting of our son’s rather routine day.

Moments like these remind me that my kids are interesting, fragile, and more than ready to share. However, I do not always find myself as tender and ready to listen. Their demands are so many and so frequent that I have difficulty maintaining a proper perspective where they are concerned.

I struggle consistently with how to block out the distractions children bring without blocking them out altogether. I want to hear my kids without it requiring a meltdown, a mediator or a disciplinarian, but too often this is exactly the point where I step in. Unfortunately, the result is that I sometimes miss the precious moments, the moments of innocence.

I long to really see my children and to see myself praising them for who they are and what they have done right rather than finding fault with them in their moments of weakness. Clearly, I must pay attention. I must resist the urge to say, “No, not now – later,” and I must not assume that my kids are headed down the path of mischief and mayhem. Why borrow trouble? There will be plenty of opportunities to correct them without anticipating imagined infractions.

Luke writes:
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.Luke 6:37-38

I am challenged by this scripture. These very words give me pause when I am tempted to withhold from my children the grace which is extended to me each day.

While addressing this challenge our family will continue to set the table with exciting stories serving up both grace and correction along with a fair helping of sarcasm and wit. Beyond that my hope is for our table to be an open forum where family and friends linger and laugh. Isn’t that what we all desire – a warm space to share our lives and the freedom to be ourselves.

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”Proverb 17:1

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Beautiful Mind

My daughter loves arbitrary numbers. When the dogs are barking she will frequently say something like, “Maybe they’re barking at something 22 miles away.” When driving somewhere she often asks, “How much longer till we get there?” If I answer, “Just 30 minutes,” her reply is, “Well, at least it’s not 142 minutes.”

Optimistically put.

This fascination with numbers has an origination point I’m sure. But each time I come close to unraveling the mystery that accompanies my 3 foot 9 nine inch enigma, she throws me a blistering curve ball.

The other evening my husband and the boys were gone to soccer practice while the girls and I sat happily munching on pizza. Between bites my five-year-old chirped. “I’m smarter than Joel Caleb.”

Now this was a bold statement because Joel Caleb is one smart kid not to mention four years older than she is. Still I was curious to hear her logic; so attempting to guard her fragile ego I asked, “Why do think you are smarter than Joel Caleb?”

“I know I’m smarter because Joel Caleb doesn’t know that I eat paper.”

I sat there slack-jawed as she continued, “I try not to, but sometimes I still do eat paper,” she said with a mischievous grin.

Pushing the paper-eating comment to the back of my mind and trying to introduce reason I posed, “It’s not nice to say we’re smarter than somebody else.” But she couldn’t be stopped, so I gazed in amazement at my fiber-friendly munchkin while my seven-year-old giggled at the exchange.

“Well, I know I’m smarter about me because Joel Caleb doesn’t know what’s in my head. So I am smarter about my head.” She then elaborated on the anatomy of her brain. I must tell you; it was fascinating. “This part of my head is always counting, and it is so annoying. My forehead is always telling me to play my piano, and this part is telling me to take a bath,” she said while pointing to the different parts of her head.

She seemed exasperated after recounting the various functions of her brain. I just couldn’t get past the phrase, “This part of my head is always counting.” Ever trying to resolve the number mystery I wondered aloud, “What is it always counting?”

“It’s counting to a million,” she said reasonably.

“Do you even know how to count to a million?” I countered.

“No, but my head does!” she smiled.

So the number mystery remains hidden in an annoying region of my daughter’s brain. I can only assume the random number we hear at various times during any given day is not really random, but a number plucked from a series of numbers as her head cycles through one million over and over again.

Yes. I guess that would be pretty annoying.

Monday, October 05, 2009

When is it OK to Exploit Children?

Have you heard of Roman Polanski? Let me introduce you...

The filmmaker/pedephile was arrested Saturday, September 26th, regarding a three-decade-old underage sex case as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival.

Celebrity, Debra Winger claims that the event was “exploited in an unfair fashion,” but last I recall it is the thirteen-year-old victim who was exploited – through use of drugs, alcohol and forcible sexual relations by a forty-four year old man who then fled to France the evening before his sentencing. This man now seventy-six is unrepentant and just “not sure if anyone was hurt.” Yes, those are his words.

His advocates claim we should let bygones be bygones. Others state that, “It’s really no big deal because we have so many other important items to deal with.” Since when is justice a choice? Do we give someone a pass because they are popular, or because they claim to be an artist given to the radical circumstances of the times?

We as a society should condemn those who support a pedephile like Roman Polanski. And I mean we should be taking down names! I’m disgusted by some of the articles I’ve read listing celebrities and public officials who support this fugitive of justice. I’m shocked by the people I’ve heard call into radio programs to justify Polanski’s actions and attack our justice system’s recent arrest.

How is it that we reward criminals and admire their outstanding achievement in business while ignoring their moral depravity? This man was set to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work as a director in film. He has scores of followers crying out for his release. But where are the voices crying out for the children? Where are the voices that demand justice?

Let me be clear. This is not about Roman Polanski.Is it any wonder that there still exists in our world the wholesale exploitation of people through the slave trade? We have set the table for the appetites of those who continue to degrade women and young children. We need only look as far as our own computer and the bloodlust of the Porn industry. To borrow a quote from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent UN address, “Have we no shame? Have we no decency?”

Below are a few statistics concerning modern day slavery and human trafficking. I would ask that as you read them you first consider your own children, and then that you please pray considering how learning these statistics might move you to action.

Lord have mercy on us. We have excused ourselves through ignorance for too long.

An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery worldwide, meaning there are more people enslaved in the world now than were taken from Africa during 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

After drug trafficking, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing. (hhs)

Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide. (Dept of State)

In the United States alone, it is estimated that there are 200,000 slaves.

The average price of individual slaves is less than a new cell phone or about $90. (nfs)

By 2010, Human Trafficking will be the # 1 crime worldwide. (Dept of State)

Every 10 minutes, one person is trafficked into the U.S. Around the World, a victim is exploited every minute.

Each year, more than 1 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. Approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. (Dept of State)

The majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. (Dept. of State)

13 is the average age of entry into pornography and prostitution in the USA. (FBI)

(*Source for statistics
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