Examining the Types of Friends in the story of Job

Here’s a few examples of the types of people or the type of conversations we often face in our friendships. The old saying is some people are in our lives as a blessing and others to teach us a lesson.

1.The “I got a word” friend: (Eliphaz)
Job 4:12-17
“A word was brought to me in secret; my ears caught a whisper of it. Among unsettling thoughts from visions in the night, when deep sleep descends on men, fear and trembling came over me and made all my bones shake. A wind/spirit passed by me, and I shuddered with fear. A figure stood there, but I could not recognize its appearance; a form loomed before my eyes. I heard a quiet voice: “Can a person be more righteous than God, or a man more pure than his Maker?

This person is often injecting their ideas of what God is doing or expects us to do. They want to direct us instead of offering up their thoughts for us to discern as helpful or not. They try to speak for God. It’s often a controlling issue that reflects a unsafe person. 3 out of the 4 friends were wrong according to God in the end of the book. Only one friend, Eliphaz, wasn’t rebuked by God. Think about that when you analyze the voices that you have given authority in your life.

2. The “if I were you” friend: (Eliphaz)
Job 5:8 “However, if I were you, I would appeal to God and would present my case to Him.”

The friend who always has to say something and usually ends up turning everything we are going through into some story about themselves. These people are consumed with themselves. They use us to help themselves and are rarely there for us. Their advice is usually demeaning.

3. The insensitive, clueless or cruel friend: (Bildad)
Job 8:4“When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.

These types of people, often wound us deeply through connecting our pain and suffering with their idea of sin. Every bad thing that happens is a direct connection to our failure somewhere. These types can often find pleasure in our pain. Like a beauty pageant contestant taking pleasure over the prettiest getting a zit on her nose. The others problems become stepping stones for our exaltation. They use us, even our sufferings to make themselves feel better to advance their own agendas. These people often leave us first in dark or trying seasons.

4. The ‘You just haven’t prayed enough friend. (Bildad)
Job 8:5-6
But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.”

The hyper-spiritual friend whose worldview is cause them to think in dualistic ways. Things are either good or bad, God or the devil, black or white. These types think all the challenges of life have spiritual roots. They often build their own sense of importance or acceptance from others and God on their religious performance and then judge others if they don’t measure up to their own standards. Superstitious like ideas and practices often follow these types and faith seems more like magic than a relationship. All of life becomes about accessing the powers and trying to control one’s world through various tricks and tips. Spirituality is often reduced to accomplishments and external signs or achievements. Who we are and how we appear to be, becomes more important than walking with one another. Conquering life becomes more important than covenant and community. They will walk with you, as long as your walk validates theirs.

5. The “God’s ways are higher than our ways’ friend: (Zophar)
Job 11:7-9
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above – what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below, what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”

This person hasn’t taken the time in life to dig into the marrow matters. They rely on shallow and simplistic answers. They want to move on and move away from anything that is difficult, confusing or makes them feel bad. Other people’s sorrows are something to fix, so we all can just get on with our happy lives. They often fall for the prosperity gospel or superficial christianity, because it feels better or is more fun. These circles are not for intellectuals.

6. The “stop sinning” friend: (Zophar)
Job 11:13-15
“Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.”

This person sees our suffering directly connected to our sin. They can’t accept unmerited suffering and they likewise struggle in life to accept unmerited grace. These types gravitate to law based churches or demanding people. They thrive in systems that provide ways to prove ourselves better or more worthy than others. Perfectionist types are often found in these circles. They see the whole of life through a performance grid. To them acceptance is based on performance and the best are those who try the hardest and the losers are just religious collateral damage.

Here’s the audio of the sermon for those interested: “Healthy friendships are foundational to living a life of meaning and fruitfulness. God said at the dawn of human creation that is not good that we are alone and that all need helpers. (Genesis 2:18). Unfortunately we often hurt more than help one another in life. This sermon examines Job’s friends and the types of signs we can see in their words that will help us determine if we are building friendships that truly help or hurt us.” http://www.jacobswellspokane.com/?p=967

Job, Florida shootings and a fool’s hope

The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Our gathering of the church at Jacob’s Well is currently working through the book of Job. It’s a fitting piece of literature to be neck deep within, in light of the Florida shootings and the aftermath of suffering, sorrow and denouncements. Unlike Job’s friends, we do not sit in silence in the face of horror and pain, we quickly jump to raging against one another, existence, God and our own vulnerability in it all.

I find that the words I am reading are a release for my own emotions, frustrations and perplexities, kind of like lancing a swollen, red to the touch, infected wound. To be honest, I can’t seem to find anger in the bottom of my emotional barrel, it seems it has also fallen victim to the tide of terror. In this moment, I have…

Turned away from people, because…

“…how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!” -Job (21:34)

I turn to God but…

Job 23:5-6,8-9,16-17
If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.
Would he vigorously oppose me with great power?

But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me.
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
by the thick darkness that covers my face.”

I turn to the sages of the past but…

Oh, all that my pitiful earthly Euclidean mind can grasp is that suffering exists, that no one is to blame, that effect follows cause, simply and directly, that everything flows and finds its level –but, then this is only Euclidean nonsense. I know that and I refuse to live by it! What do I care that no one is to blame, that effect follows cause simply and directly and that I know it –I must have retribution or I shall destroy myself. And retribution not somewhere in the infinity of space and time, but here on earth, and so that I could see it myself. I was a believer, and I want to see for myself. And if I’m dead by that time, let them resurrect me, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely the reason for my suffering was not that I as well as my evil deeds and sufferings may serve as manure for some future harmony for someone else. I want to see with my own eyes the lion lie down with the lamb and the murdered man rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly finds out what it has all been for.
-The Brothers Karamazov by by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

Like a restless night of numbing insomnia, I keep turning over and over, praying for the night and it’s nightmares to end. I wake in hope, but sometimes it does feel like, a “fool’s Hope”.

Gandalf put his hand on Pippin’s head. “There never was much hope,” he answered. “Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Why I talk about my Depression.

If you listen to the audio of my sermon: “God & Darkness: Why a Christian can be spiritually healthy and mentally Ill”, you will hear me go into my personal story a bit. (https://www.crowbarmassage.com/…/god-darkness-why-a-christ…/)

I did this in order to give some context to why I felt I had something to say about mental illness, particularly the matters of depression. I felt that if I was going to ask people to tell their stories then I would have to share some of mine. It was a step out of the comfortable emotional closet where we all hold our cards tight to our chest. But in order to strike a few more blows to the stigma wall, I felt I needed to share my own battles too.

As leaders and friends, we have to find ways to lead in meaningful matters and I have found that God often brings small streams of healing from the sources of our greatest pain.

It’s the crushed petal that brings out the fragrance, the broken grape, the wine. Such ideas make great Pinterest quotes but in practice, it takes much more courage and conviction to allow others to place their finger in our wounds. I follow the risen Christ who still has signs of suffering on his body. Those who suffer in doubt and unbelief about the stories of people being able to come back from the dead, need to see and touch the wounds of resurrected ones.

Christ gives new life but it is not a new life that bears no visible trace of the hell we have passed through. We are not to be ashamed of the stretch marks of new birth anymore than the ones a woman bears on her own flesh. They are signs of suffering that bore new life or attempted to bring it into the world.

I pray that the Church can make more room for people to bear their sufferings together. It’s a hard dance between becoming a hospital with no physicians and physicians with no patients. We are all seeking greater healing, the fullest wholeness possible in the plan and will of Jesus for our lives.

This is a new song off of Brandi Carlile’s upcoming project, I thought fit the whole subject well:

Lyrics from ‘Sugartooth’:

“It was hard to hide that his heart had scars
He would stay up late talking to the stars
People tried to blame him for making bad choices
When he was only listening to the voices
He’s searching for some kind of deeper truth
Between the lines in the Bible and living proof
There’s no point now to judge him in vain
If you haven’t been there, you don’t know the pain.”

His life became more than he could take
He found a bad habit he couldn’t break
Nothing could tame him and nothing could hold him
He only took the pills when the doctor told him
Looking too hard for the something sweet
To make his life feel as incomplete
What in the hell are you going to do
When the world has made its mind up about you?

God & Darkness: Why a Christian can be spiritually healthy and mentally ill

Here’s the Audio if you want to listen instead of read: http://www.jacobswellspokane.com/?p=964

There’s a Russian expression: ‘If you wake up feeling no pain, you know you’re dead.

For anyone who lives with or has struggled with seasons of chronic mental illness it’s hard not to look at Job and not conclude that he too suffered from serious anxiety and depression.

Are not my few days almost over?
Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy
Before I go to the place of no return,
To the land of gloom and deep shadow,
To the land of deepest night,
Of deep shadow and disorder,
Where even the light is like darkness.
Job 10:20-22

Job 3:25
“For the thing I feared has overtaken me,
and what I dreaded has happened to me.”

Read Job Job 3 & Job 7:1-4, 13-19

We might be tempted to just brush off the descriptions of Job’s dark despair because of the magnitude of his ordeal. In the West, we are often spared from such devastations due to the advancements of science, the prosperity of our time and the safety nets of our social systems and community care. So we read of his trials and the seem magnified in a manner that is so out of proportion to what we see around us in day to day life. Sure we know bad things happen, but for some reason, when Job it brought up his story evokes low hush tones and a desire to move quickly to another topic.

We all know that life deals out pain and suffering no matter who you are, Christian or not, but there’s an idea in our brains that Job’s sufferings are exaggerated for some kind of story effect. Or we see it as a suffocating molase of moralizing, meant to pacify or silence the people who are always so heavy, negative, whiny or perpetually in need. A stop-gap for the wounds, so all this bleeding can be cauterized and we can move on to the abundant life we are all supposed to be experiencing.

We cynically read the story as some kind of harsh and dismissive response from God or the religious community that’s an equivalent of the “Well be glad something worse didn’t happen to you!” Or we read it through a jaded lens developed from other people’s well meaning but clueless attempts to ease our pain. Yes, the dreaded response that always begins with: “AT LEAST….” “Oh you lost and eye? “Well at least…you have another one!” Oh your spouse died? “At least…you still have your kids.” Oh, you got cancer?” “At least we live in the modern era that has chemo!” On and on it goes.

But these are the troubles of everyday life in many places in the world. Job’s sufferings, his sickness and disease, the loss of his property and provision by violence, war, greed and corruption. The Sudden death brought on by chaotic natural disasters or the impact of poverty on public and private infrastructure in underdeveloped countries.

We read Job through the eyes of our culture and shrink back at the horror of imagining ourselves having to go through such pain and suffering, while many people wake up every day with such realties being their norm. Job isn’t unique, he is the average man. We fool ourselves, if we think he is the anomaly, in reality, anything less, is the exception to the norm. We too easily dismiss one another, we push aside one another’s stories, judging them irrelevant because they’ve suffered too much or…too little. But before you jettison this book onto the pile of irrelevant Bible moralisms that just add more questions than answers, allow me to offer up another way to look at this story.

I understand that when you are suffering from an executing headache or an actual, clinical migraine, you don’t want to hear stories from anyone who says they have also had an headache too. No, you are in no mood to go philosophical or theological either, you are in pain and you want to stop the pain…now. There’s no comfort gained hearing someone pontificate about their deep existential conclusions or contemplations when you are frantically, scrambling through the medicine cabinet praying to God there’s one more Imitrex!

That said, you may come to a place in life where medicine, medication, meditation, diet changes, increased exercise, sitting in the sun, drinking more water, laughing and having sex, counseling and support groups ease but don’t eradicate your illness. You may come to experience a place when you discover that prayer, fasting and bible reading might help…but don’t always heal you. It is in those seasons that you will find there is wisdom for your pain and suffering in the book of Job. God intentionally put a book about pain and suffering and the impact it has on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual life. It exposes and highlights how friends and family can often hurt instead of help us when we face acute or chronic pain and suffering.

This book is here for you, his story, how he felt, how life hammered him, his fears, his agony, his horror. The loss of support from those you love and the over involved and intrusive care of his friends. How others viewed him, what they said and just how they said it. His darkness, self loathing, the pain, suffering and his utter sense of betrayal and abandonment. the stream of words and the long silence at the end. His anger, exhaustion, ambivalence and hopelessness. His reasoning and unending questions. The discovery of God in the whirlwind, the revelation of creation, the surrender and the defence and restoration. The naming of the new, in honor of the old. Joy mixed with sorrow, restoration among the ruins.

It’s all here for a reason, and I believe that purpose is not to torment you, or placate you. It’s not here to trivialize or dismiss the struggles of your sufferings, whatever the source or size. All of us will experience Job a bit differently, but I truly believe all of us can find God waiting for us in it’s pages. It may or may not be the God we expect or even sometimes want, but He is there, waiting to meet us in the raw and unedited horror of it all. And if you come, you just might find grace that can hold you, even if it doesn’t heal you…yet.

Can a Christian Be Spiritually Healthy and Mentally Ill?
There is a real challenge talking about mental Illness, especially in some religious circles. We don’t seem to equate illness of the mind like we do with illness of the body. Today, people don’t generally think someone suffering from physical sickness or disease are spiritually unhealthy or sinning in some capacity. But when someone talks about mental illness, there’s an assumption that you can’t be spiritually healthy and suffer from a mental illness.

There’s a shroud of misunderstanding, judgment, confusion, ignorance and fear around talking about mental illness. Psychiatry is often maligned, dismissed or demonized in some religious circles. For some people they read the gospels and think the miracles of Jesus tell us that anything not as it should be, could or should be set straight here and now. If Jesus healed it, than the church shouldn’t accept it or make room for it. This can end up creating an atmosphere of low tolerance for anything that doesn’t change quickly or doesn’t change at all. It can lead to a shift from mercy and compassion to questioning, frustration, judgment and even ostracizing someone who doesn’t respond or perform as we think they should.

We Christian’s want answers not questions and that is one of the reasons some folks have such a hard time with Job. They don’t want 42 chapters to that story, it’s just too long and when people are around suffering, they want it to end quickly, be it their own suffering or the suffering of others. We have no patience for people who won’t get well in the manner or time frame we want or need them too.

This is a deeply problematic pressure that arises in religious circles. We don’t really want a crucified savior, particularly as Protestants. Christ Crucified is for Catholics, we are people of the Resurrection! We are people of the book but we are prone to jump to the end when the stone is rolled away, we have no place for a Holy Saturday as Protestants.

How can it be that God would allow Christ to be crucified, let alone descend into hell. Such contemplations are often quickly abandoned as ancient or medieval Milton or Dantesque dark fantasy. Sunny Countenanced Christians turn sour as soon as someone reads the second half of Job 1:21 “The Lord gave…and the Lord has taken away”.

Unfortunately some churches and christians are not always safe places where people can speak the truth about ourselves. According to a recent survey by LifeWay Research discovered that: a third of Americans and nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians believe prayer and Bible study “alone” can overcome serious mental illness.

This means that whenever a vulnerable person shares their story among us, they are in danger of becoming the target for ministry or fixing by well intentioned and good hearted people. But that isn’t always the response that has been helpful for people suffering from mental illness. I am not saying that I don’t believe in the power of prayer or scripture, but in these matters, we need to maintain safe spaces for people to begin to reveal the realities of their lives without the pressure to perform for others and without the anxiety of being labeled as a project or problem but given place as a person with dignity, a story and real suffering.

The Suffering Community Among us:
Mental disorders are the number one cause of disability in North America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health and other expert, about 1 in 4 adults–a little more than 25% of Americans ages 18 and older–suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. One in four, That equates to around 50 million people in the the United States and that is only in a given year.

Serious Chronic mental illness is less common but still present among 6% of the population, or 1 in 17 adults. That’s almost 12 million people in the United States. Those mental illnesses considered “serious” are major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illnesses as “medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning and often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.”

According to the US Surgeon general, every year, an estimated 20% of children in the United States are at least mildly impaired by some type of diagnosable mental illness. And about 5 to 9 % of children ages 9 to 17 have a “serious emotional disturbance.” That’s between 3 and 7 million children in serious trouble and millions of families in crisis.”

If your church is typical of the US population, on any given Sunday 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children sitting around you are suffering from a mental illness. Many of them under the influence of powerful antipsychotic drugs and their side effects.

As we’re busy enthusiastically delivering meals to suffering people, we are largely ignoring the afflictions to 25% of our population (fighting mental illness). That’s about equal to the total percentage of people diagnosed with cancer each year, those living with heart disease, those infected with HIV and AIDS and those afflicted with diabetes combined. No wonder some call mental illness the “No-Casserole illness”. IN contrast to the care we provide for others, we have very little patience with those whose diseases happen to attack their minds. And many people suffer in silence.

Signs to Look Out for in relationship to Depression:

From a modern day medical point of view, if a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month:
-deep sadness or emptiness
-apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
-agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity
-sleep disturbances
-weight/appetite disturbances
-diminished ability to think or concentrate
-feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness
-feelings of fatigue or loss of energy
-morbid thoughts of death or suicide

Suicide:
Most experts claim that at least 90% of people who do die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. People with schizophrenia are 50 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Among people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at least 25 to 50 percent attempt suicide. Among people with major depression, the suicide rate is 8 times that of the general population. For anyone to self-righteously tell such people they do not have a medical condition that requires treatment, and that more rigorous religious activity is all they need, is inexcusable.

What Comfort Can We Find in the Bible for those suffering from Mental Illness?

(In the audio, I extrapolate more on each of these points.)

1. God stands with you and will defend you: Job 42:7-10

“After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the Lord commanded them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. 10 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”

2. God won’t abuse you: Matthew 12:15-20

“Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he left by another way. Massive crowds followed him from there, and he healed all who were sick. However, he sternly warned them not to tell others or disclose his real identity, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: Take a careful look at my servant, my chosen one. I love him dearly and I find all my delight in him. I will breathe my Spirit upon him and he will decree justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or be found yelling in public. He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken. He will be gentle with the weak and feeble.”

Charles Spurgeon:
What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoldering wick? A reed that grows in the marshland—let a wild duck land on it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle or whose existence is more in jeopardy than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoldering wick—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame.

3. God won’t’ abandon you: Romans 8:38

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

4. God is the anchor of your soul: Hebrews 6:13, 19-20

“Now when God made a promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater than himself, he swore an oath on his own integrity to keep the promise as sure as God exists! And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakeable hope!…We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us. He is now and forever our High Priest…”

5. God can bring meaning out of our pain and suffering: Isaiah 58:9-12

“Then when you do call out, “My God, Where are You?” The Eternal One will answer, “I am here, I am here.” If you remove the yoke of oppression from the downtrodden among you, stop accusing others, and do away with mean and inflammatory speech, If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need, then your light will shine in the darkness, and even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day. The Eternal One will never leave you; He will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength.
And you will grow like a garden lovingly tended; you will be like a spring whose water never runs out. You will discover there are people among your own who can rebuild this broken-down city out of the ancient ruins; You will firm up its ancient foundations. And all around, others will call you “Repairer of Broken Down Walls” and “Rebuilder of Livable Streets.”

Professor John Lennox on Science and God

This discussion with John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics (emeritus) at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford is a plunge into the pool of mind bending discovery of the interrelated necessity of Science and God. If you are of the inclination to believe that science and God are irrelevant issues to commingle or have struggled with versions of Faith that seem to require you to stop thinking, than please watch this discussion, you will not regret it.

Part one of this conversation will touch on:

-Is the mind, the brain?

-Mathematics and physics as an apologetic defense & proof of Mind.

-Ontological reductionism.

-Scientific naturalism and materialism and the problem of mind.

-Why knowledge is not material and why that is a problem for atheism.

-How language is a stumbling stone for scientific materialism.

-The Church, Aristotle and Galileo and why Galileo was more biblical and how the church sided with the science of the time and it took a believer to lead them to ultimate truth about reality.

Here is part 2 of this interview, which just explodes like the big bang into a satisfying feast of intellectual, scientific, theological and philosophical delicacies.

Here are some of the topics covered:

-Stephen Hawking, gravity and something from nothing.

-The moral question of is to ought?

-Is the God of the bible just one more ancient God to disbelieve in?

-How do you get something from nothing? You redefine, nothing.

-Science’s misunderstanding of God and tilting at Windmills.

-Einstein vs Hawkings on the death of philosophy.

-What makes tea boil?

-Materialism and morality.

-The fine tuning argument.

 

Part 1 of the interview: https://youtu.be/gDjNv-ea56E

Part 2 of the Interview: https://youtu.be/Tr3ghb6JG6A

Here’s Professor Lennox’s website: http://www.johnlennox.org/

Here’s his books: http://amzn.to/2BJj5NU

(Professor John Lennox is also an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School, Oxford University, and teaches for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme. In addition, he is an Adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, as well as being a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum.)

C.S. Lewis: “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

 

The Home of Tom and Goldberry Bombadil

One of the elements of Tolkien’s books that made a deep impact on me were the pages of the story that described, home. I dug into Middle Earth as an escape after my parent’s divorce and the subsequent troubles that descended on our small world. C.S. Lewis used a german word called: “Sehnsucht” to describe what we often feel reading such narratives. It’s a difficult word to translate into English, it’s close to our word “nostalgia, melancholy, wonder or yearning. It’s basically a word that captures that inner sense of displacement, longing or ache.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, there is a chapter in the Fellowship of the Ring that introduces the enigmatic characters of Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry. I’d like to focus on Goldberry and her homemaking, singing, cooking and care. Here’s some of the rich narrative, packed full of nurturing and numinous imagery:

“I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.”

“Then another clear voice, as young and as ancient as Spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills, came falling like silver to meet them:

“Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water:
Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!”

And with that song the hobbits stood upon the threshold, and a golden light was all about them.

‘Enter, good guests!’ she said, and as she spoke they knew that it was her clear voice they had heard singing. They came a few timid steps further into the room, and began to bow low, feeling strangely surprised and awkward, like folk that, knocking at a cottage door to beg for a drink of water, have been answered by a fair young elf-queen clad in living flowers. But before they could say anything, she sprang lightly up and over the lily-bowls, and ran laughing towards them; and as she ran her gown rustled softly like the wind in the flowering borders of a river.

‘Come dear folk!’ she said, taking Frodo by the hand. ‘Laugh and be merry! I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.’ Then lightly she passed them and closing the door she turned her back to it, with her white arms spread out across it. ‘Let us shut out the night!’ she said. ‘For you are still afraid, perhaps, of mist and tree-shadows and deep water, and untame things. Fear nothing! For tonight you are under the roof of Tom Bombadil.’

Before long, washed and refreshed, the hobbits were seated at the table, two on each side, while at either end sat Goldberry and the Master. It was a long and merry meal. Though the hobbits ate, as only famished hobbits can eat, there was no lack. The drink in their drinking-bowls seemed to be clear cold water, yet it went to their hearts like wine and set free their voices. The guests became suddenly aware that they were singing merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking.”
-The Fellowship of the Ring, LOTR Book 1, Ch 7, In the House of Tom Bombadil

We live in a day when these ancient silver threads Tolkien wove through his story are under appreciated, ignored, maligned or trivialized with modern distractions, conceptions and contraptions. The deep, nourishing waters of place, experience and homemaking are often substituted with malnourishment replacements, meaningless substitutes or empty pursuits.

My prayer and hope is that in the latter years of my life, the songs sung by Tom and Goldberry would be heard swirling around our table. That the ministry of presence and place would be a refuge of light, love, laughter and learning to hungry, frightened and tired adventurers. That people would find their ‘voices’ among us and ‘singing merrily’ would be effortless and natural as they gather under our roof. May the word ‘home’ be a word that easily slips off the tongue of stranger, friend and family alike.

Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.” -2 Samuel 7:28-29

Navigating the Parenting Maze

People often ask for a map but in reality we only get a compass. There are no easy shortcuts in parenting and all those tried and true ‘tips & tricks’ that worked for others, don’t always work for your kid.

If you’ve been around Bible teaching homes or churches, you have heard this famous parenting verse: Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This verse is often shared in such a manner, that one assumes that there’s some guidebook somewhere that if you follow the directions exactly, you are guaranteed a certain desired result. That’s the problem with proverbs, they are like recipes for cooking but everyone knows that even when following recipes, there’s lots of variables that can affect the outcome of the dish! In our home, we are still trying to nail down the perfect no bake cookie and we’ve been doing that for a couple decades! It seems like one batch comes out perfect and the next has some aspect that falls short. It can be maddening when you follow all the steps and are just positive that that next batch is going to be perfect and…it comes out a disappointing glob of goodness but not an example of masterful chefery.

General principles, derived at from watching a subject over time can help us, but learning to navigate the stormy waters of parenting requires more than charts, we need a good compass. Charts and maps of other people’s journeys are critical to have, but in life, sometimes we just seem to have general directions instead of a Siri like voice telling us when and where to turn. That reality can be very frustrating when we hit difficult times, when all our ideas or previous practices fail to deliver the results we hoped for in our homes.

No child comes to us with a owner’s manual, and even the honest Bible reader knows that it’s pages contain some very confusing collections of parenting stories that no postmodern parent would find very helpful or encouraging. That is not to say the Bible doesn’t contain the wisdom from God for parents, but let’s not sell it as a fail proof text to turn to for every question from potty training to social media boundary setting. I believe the Bible’s principles, doctrines and central message about salvation through Christ are foundational to fruitful parenting but too many people oversell and underserve when it comes to parenting advice. We need to be careful of quick fix, magic-minded, short-term props to parenting that leave no room for the long game, the tough valleys, the disappointing seasons or the endings that can break a parents heart. Parenting can be brutal and beautiful, and being equipped to move through all those seasons is crucial to maintaining a positive attitude, faithful presence and fruitful outcome in your home.

I am not a pessimist in parenting but I am a realist, and I have watched many parenting stories play out over the almost 3 decades of pastoral life and not all turn out as we would hope. Christian parents struggle and suffer too. Together we can equip ourselves to handle the challenges and opportunities of parenting without perpetuating fantasies instead of reality. Faith isn’t a recipe for success, but it is a foundation for fruitfulness no matter what you might face in your parenting journey.

My goal in hosting our first Parenting Matters Weekend is to distill a lot of parenting advice and biblical wisdom down to 8 principles for navigating parenthood. These eight compass points are broken down to four primary and four secondary points to help you figure out your way forward with joy, hope, confidence and faith. These are meaningful principles that can give you the assurance that you are doing the best you can, without setting you up for devastating disillusionment when life doesn’t always go as you planned.

There are no perfect parents or perfect kids, just sincere people trying to do their best to not screw up their children! I can promise you that what you will learn at our Parent Matters Weekend will help and not hurt your kids and in this day, that’s the best guarantee you can get!

Sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/342896159493724/

What about Martin Luther’s Tongue?

Christians have a responsibility to contend for the truth of Christ without betraying the way of Christ. We must learn to walk and talk in the manner and with the same convictions and compassion of Jesus. 

Our cultural context requires being wise in discovering what to tell people, but also ‘HOW’ to tell them. Many people strive to win debates at the expense of losing their relational platforms by how they win those engagements. Wise people have learned that one’s right view can lose the hearing of others by going about sharing it in the wrong way. We must learn to engage one another in meaningful ways that are faithful to the truth of Christ and the way of Christ. “We must make sure it’s our ideas that offend and not us, that our beliefs cause the dispute and not our behavior.

But when is it right to fight? Martin Luther was without a doubt instrumental in the Reformation and he did not always seem to bridle his tongue. Here’s some example’s of him talking about his own talking.

“I was born to wage war against sects and devils..I am the great woodcutter who has to forge a path and therefore I have to destroy so much”

“Master Philip(Melanchthon), he cuts with the precision of a knife. I simply swing the ax.”

“Wycliffe and Huss assailed the immoral conduct of the papists, but I oppose and resist their doctrine. I affirm roundly and plainly that they preach not the truth, to this I am called. I take the goose by the neck and set the knife to its throat.”

“It is the duty of every Christian to accept the implications of the faith, understand and defend it and denounce everything false.”

“I have, to be sure, sharply attacked ungodly doctrines in general, and I have snapped at my opponents, not because of their bad morals, but because of their ungodliness. Rather than repent this in the least, I have determined to persist in that fervent zeal and to despise the judgment of men, following the example of Christ who in his zeal called his opponents “a brood of vipers,” “blind fools,” “hypocrites,” “children of the devil” [Matt. 23:13, 17, 33; John 8:44]. Paul branded Magus [Elymas, the magician] as the “son of the devil, … full of all deceit and villainy” [Acts 13:10], and he calls others “dogs,” “deceivers,” and “adulterers” [Phil 3:2; II Cor. 11:13; 2:17].

“If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stinging and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul. Who is more stinging than the prophets? Nowadays, it is true, we are made so sensitive by the raving crowd of flatterers that we cry out that we are stung as soon as we meet with disapproval. When we cannot ward off the truth with any other pretext, we flee from it by ascribing it to a fierce temper, impatience, and immodesty. What is the good of salt if it does not bite? Of what use is the edge of a sword if it does not cut? “

The very term Protestant means one who protests. The growing impact of Rome’s persecution ignited a movement of reform that often had unexpected outcomes. The preaching, teaching, debates and prodigious amount of publications and their dissemination across the continents spread the fire of reform. Protestant martyrs, Hugh Latimer, famously bid Nicholas Ridley, who was burned with him, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man: we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England, as (I trust) shall never be put out.” That light has spread across the globe but It is disingenuous or purposeful religious or historical spin, if one doesn’t acknowledge the place that fiery, explosive and contentious rhetoric had in the reformation.  

The unfortunate nature of anger, wrath and even righteous defense of truth can be the broad swath of the reformer’s axe. It often ends up hitting everyone in the vicinity of the pugilist’s work of reform. It can become indiscriminate of people and strike down all in it’s berserker-like rage.

Reformer John Calvin wrote about this issue with  Luther, when other reformers were getting hewn down in Luther’s battle with Rome, he wrote:

“I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us. On the present occasion, I dare scarce venture to ask you to keep silence, because it is neither just that innocent persons should thus be harassed, nor that they should be denied the opportunity of clearing themselves; neither, on the other hand, is it easy to determine whether it would be prudent for them to do so. But of this I do earnestly desire to put you in mind, in the first place, that you would consider how eminent a man Luther is, and the excellent endowments wherewith he is gifted, with what strength of mind and resolute constancy, with how great skill, with what efficiency and power of doctrinal statement, he hath hitherto devoted his whole energy to overthrow the reign of Antichrist, and at the same time to diffuse far and near the doctrine of salvation. Often have I been wont to declare, that even all though he were to call me a devil, I should still not the less hold him in such honor that I must acknowledge him to be an illustrious servant of God. But while he is endued with rare and excellent virtues, he labors at the same time under serious faults. Would that he had rather studied to curb this restless, uneasy temperament which is so apt to boil over in every direction. I wish, moreover, that he had always bestowed the fruits of that vehemence of natural temperament upon the enemies of the truth,and that he had not flashed his lightning sometimes also upon the servants of the Lord. Would that he had been more observant and careful in the acknowledgment of his own vices. Flatterers have done him much mischief, since he is naturally too prone to be over-indulgent to himself. It is our part, however, so to reprove whatsoever evil qualities may beset him, as that we may make some allowance for him at the same time on the score of these remarkable endowments with which he has been gifted. This, therefore, I would beseech you to consider first of all, along with your colleagues, that you have to do with a most distinguished servant of Christ, to whom we are all of us largely indebted; that, besides, you will do yourselves no good by quarreling, except that you may afford some sport to the wicked, so that they may triumph not so much over us as over the Evangel. If they see us rending each other asunder, they then give full credit to what we say, but when with one consent and with one voice we preach Christ, they avail themselves unwarrantably of our inherent weakness to cast reproach upon our faith. I wish, therefore, that you would consider and reflect on these things rather than on what Luther has deserved by his violence; lest that may’ happen to you which Paul threatens, that by biting and devouring one another, ye be consumed one of another. Even should he have provoked us, we ought rather to decline the contest than to increase the wound by the general shipwreck of the Church. Adieu, my much honored brother in the Lord, and my very dear friend. Salute reverently in my name all the brethren in the ministry. May the Lord preserve you, and more and more increase his own gifts in you. My colleagues very kindly salute you.”

From my sermon:

The Pugilist: How to contend for the Faith without being contentious: http://www.jacobswellspokane.com/?p=948

The Pugilist: When’s the last time you threw a punch?

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” -Jude 1:3

So how do we ‘Contend for the Faith’ without being caustic, close-minded, narrow, judgmental jerks? How do we enter the arena of ideas and competing truth claims and wrestle, fight, dialogue and debate without becoming the type of people that might be right, but do it all wrong? Our goal is to reach people not repulse people. Is there a way to be an Christian apologist without becoming a ranting and railing, inhospitable, mouth-breather?

Yes, but it won’t happen without a fight. This day demands a certain type of person that is willing to take and throw intellectual punches in contexts that demand mental and spiritual strength, passion and purpose. There’s too much internet and social media sucker punching going on today, where people attack and retreat like keyboard cowards. The online world is also full of patrons looking from their seats, anticipating blood from a few over-trained gladiators or under-trained innocents dragged into the fight as fodder for the crushing. Our classes, churches, coffeeshops and the blogosphere are coliseums full of relational carnage. The ground is littered with the bodies of men and women who were never trained for the war of ideas or world-views but instead were rooted in religious experiential feelings, social community needs and relational boredom.

Our religious gatherings are often missing the sounds of training, the crash of weights, the thud of a bag, the groans and grunts of strain and reach and the moans of defeat. Sparing has been replaced with praying, saying and playing. We’ve removed the evangelistic and missional context that study, the disciplines, prayer and even worship are meant to equip us to engage. Somehow a religious rec league has replaced what once was a gym full of bare knuckled, hungry street fighters.

Supposedly today the most loving thing to do is leave people alone in their lives. A great movement of Courteous Christianity have swept over the pulpits and pews. The great denominator of our time is tolerance, which in practice, is really a ploy for silence. Camouflage has replaced body armor in the bunker of battle and everyone wants to hide instead of hit…it’s all butterfly…but no sting. 

Repentance is a wound…not a massage.

Men and women are brought to their knees by the blow of truth and love to their pride, self-sufficiency and crippling need. The hammer of God is not used to destroy but to build, but it must be wielded with strength, purpose and power. Pulpits should be lighthouses of fog penetrating way-showing, not nightlights for convenience. The confrontational Jesus has been edited out of the gospels, leaving us with a message that’s all pain reliever with no surgery.

Training means you need to have a plan, a coach, a gym. A place where you are going to called on to step up when you want to step out. A lot of the  ‘at home’ spirituality needs to be confessed for what it is…unaddressed wounds, resentment, fear, worldliness, pride, rebellion, laziness and ease. Too many people have bought a lie that deep and substantial health can be gained in private without any public context. It’s untested. Christianity isn’t golf, it’s more like rugby. It’s a full contact sport that depends on a well trained team of high performance pursuing individuals. This takes a commitment to formation and that means all of us doing what it takes to prepare ourselves privately and publicly.

When it comes to learning, many people say they don’t read today, yet, read all day long in bits and chunks online. People say sermons are too long or that today’s attention spans wont handle messages over 25-30 minutes in church gatherings, but people sit and binge watch multiple seasons of tv shows. On iTunes and Youtube some of the most popular podcasts and video casts are sometimes an hour or up to two hours long, like the Joe Rogan Experience. People want to learn, explore and engage, yet, too often leaders and institutions dumb it down, shut it down or tone it down to a level of easy disinterest.

Appetizer size conversations, touching talks or bible bits tweets, do not produce thinking abilities that grow and nourishing of mind, heart or spirit. If you set the bar so low, no one will train to get over it, because there is no challenge. We don’t have athletes of the inner world because we provide little places to compete, conquer or challenge. We’ve reduced spiritual disciplines and community faith practices down to microwaved minutes that produce very little soul penetration or saturation. We’ve replaced learning with inspiring and deep-rooted theology with shallow, spiritualized pop psychology.

I think one of the main issues today is writers are boring, especially a lot of Christian writers. It’s rehashed, sanitized, mushy stuff for toothless people. Cotton candy doesn’t produce virile and virtuous men and women ready to wrestle with the mainstream undercurrents. I also think there’s way too much money/market driven standard publishing that just releases safe, middle of the road stuff. The indie publishing has a dismal reach. It’s just hard to weed out all the garbage that is either filler or toxic these days. Filtering out the masses with their everyone has a platform and everyone is an expert is way too much for most people to wade through. I hope book dealers and bookshops, especially religious ones, will become fermenting centers of knowledge, reflection, interaction and meaningful action again.

In‘’The Pugilist’ my upcoming sermon at Jacob’s Well, I will dig into how the advancements in printing and publishing and the courage to use them, were at the heart of the reformation’s impact and reach. Getting the message out to the most people, in the most places was instrumental in spreading the reformation’s message and work like wildfire. We need more fire starters and less firemen today.

The times call for people willing to lay down their lives, reputations, shallow acquaintances, compromises, dilly dallying distractions and crippling trepidation. The call is out for people willing to enter the dangerous ring of life, laced up, oiled up, alert, prepared and passionate about all that is true, good and beautiful worth fighting for in life and eternity. There’s a seat for you…but it’s in the corner of a ring. 

The President’s ‘Hook in Mouth’ Problem

Yet again, our President has gotten a hook stuck in his own mouth due to his reckless rhetoric.

I am not calling the President a fool, but his choice of words has been foolish at times and such undisciplined actions are undermining the very agenda his voters elected him to accomplish. 

A fool’s words bring strife, and his mouth invites fighting. A fool’s mouth is his unraveling, and his lips entrap himself.” -Proverbs 18:6-7

This proverb of biblical wisdom needs to be shared more often at those congressional bible studies going on up there on Capitol Hill or around the White House. Maybe Paula White, one of the President’s spiritual advisors should take some of that ‘All of January paycheck” seed money she’s asking people to donate to her and use it to buy a good Proverbs bible-study to lead our leaders through for the sake of political and social sanity. (https://paulawhite.org/firstfruits).

A simple biblical truth about communication is that our mouths can set the world on fire for good or bad: “The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” -James 3:6

This last week in a meeting about immigration reform, President Donald Trump questioned why he should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa, instead of places like Norway.

The resulting firestorm is evidence enough of the truth of Proverbs! People on all political sides and from numerous different nations have exploded in anger, rage, rebuttal, frustration and disappointment. As the newscycle unfolds there have been responses from the President and congressional members who were present that contradict or confirm various narratives of what actually took place.

The President’s response was: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”

Hopefully we can get some clear transcripts of what was specifically said and in what context those statements were made. The Context matters to me, even if, his statements were wrong, rude or reckless.

I have written a lot over the last 12 years about refugees, immigration and racial reconciliation (https://www.crowbarmassage.com/2017/12/18/my-thoughts-on-chain-migration-and-the-religious-and-political-debate/). It’s subject that I have been involved in on many levels, personally and professionally. I am a friend of, an advocate for, people at the margins of society. I have also written and taught on the difference between cursing, vulgarity and cussing:

https://www.crowbarmassage.com/2018/01/03/the-difference-between-cursing-vulgarity-and-cussing/, which seems particularly relevant in light of who many times people have said S**hole this week. Even putting ** in words is ridiculous to me, but for the sake of not adding more gasoline to the fire, i’ll refrain from writing it out.

These issues matter to me and my life investment in work and witness regarding people and policies is evidence that my thoughts are not media shaped moral outrage but sincere values. When I engage these issues, I do so with human stories in mind, people I know, situations I am working with that touch all the threads of these debates.

I did not vote for Trump in the primaries, but I did in the general election.

I did so based on party platforms and the social agendas at war in the American culture. But my vote doesn’t determine my voice. My conscience calls me to speak the truth, work for the most good for the most people and deal with the realities that face me in the community where I work, witness and worship and what the President said and how he said it were wrong for a number or reasons that I want to explain.

Courage and conviction shouldn’t be reserved just for our political opponents. If people can only challenge or rebuke political parties or leaders that they don’t align with, than I question the real depth of the moral outrage being expressed.

I stand against any actual racial bigotry, all irrational demonization of groups and the stubborn, adversarial posture that’s acts contrarian just for the sake of legislative obstructionism and political partisanship. When President Trump does or says something that is wrong, I think it should be called out and addressed in a manner that is right, just and good. But I reject news driven hysterics, fake moral outrage, or political one-upmanship from troublemakers. Being a peacemaker means we work to build bridges not barriers in our day to day lives. That doesn’t mean that such work is placid, scourged and sanitized, trepidatious or politically correct but it does mean we work to understand, communicate and act with conviction and at times compromise.

I am thankful for the push back and advocacy for free speech that has been at the forefront of this election cycle. Because there’s been so much helicoptering and overly-pensive word-policing going on that actual dialogue and debate is getting shut down. A suffocating communication culture of breathless nannying, feigned niceties and nauseating hyper-moralizing has to be challenged for the sake of raw truth, a free press and freedom of speech, even speech that some people don’t like.

What I hope comes out of this latest firestorm is the ability to judge the differences between ‘What is being talked about’ and ‘How something is talked about”. Unfortunately right now what matters the most to me, the ‘WHAT’ is being eclipsed by the ‘HOW’ and that is a lesson this President can’t seem to learn or is unwilling to change. For the sake of the policies that matter to many of the people who voted for his agenda, I hope he will adjust the sights of his political bravado, to better hit than miss, the desired political targets.

As for the actual Immigration debate about ‘merit based Immigration’, we need to discuss and debate the merits of incoming refugees or immigrants from dysfunctional, dangerous or depleted nations. But in examining these nations, we need to be humane and historical in working to understand how a nation became a S**thole.

In the case of Hait, the President’s denigrating remarks need to be enlightened with more information on how Haiti got to where it is in light of the historical geo-political actions and policies that have shaped Haiti. As well as the impact of slavery, natural disasters, resulting poverty and impoverishment due to corruption, crime and failed humanitarian policies and projects that have disenfranchised and disempowered local, indigenous action and responsibility. These conditions do not mean that Haitians or any other ethnicity can abdicate their personal responsibilities in the past or future, but if you had eight of your fingers severed off, your capacity for action is dramatically reduced. Such observations seem to be lost in debating these issues. The President lost an opportunity to encourage and empower, instead he chose to denigrate and demean, even if the realities do reflect substantial failures, challenges and prolonged problems in the future. He could or and should of done better.

That said, can we have a little less knee-jerk rooster crowing about racism and more rational debate about reform?

Organizations like World Relief, put out statements rebuking and calling for increased dialogue and debate:

World Relief and its leadership are grieved and disheartened by the President’s reported comments and believe that while there is a robust debate to be had about immigration policy in the United States, disrespectful and derogatory comments spoken about specific countries—regardless of who is making such comments—only hinder the productivity of the debate.”

https://www.worldrelief.org/press-releases/as378hl1usqrglw3dpebz0jfkus362

Evangelical publications like Christianity Today weighed in as well:

Why We Need to Talk about Trump’s Haiti Remarks

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/trump-remark-immigration-haiti.html

These groups and many others have offered up scathing critiques and passionate pleas of advocacy, civility and action. I hope that such ‘courageous conversations’ will include non-partisan platforms. We need just and unbiased voices in and among those benefiting or suffering from the outcomes of policies. All should be welcome to the table to discuss and debate but let’s be honest, you wouldn’t have pastors chair the committee to reduce their own salary. Such vested interest makes the whole subject suspect at very critical points, a fact that not many people seem to be willing to acknowledge or admit.

I find it fascinating that in our day to day life we accept critical comments about people, places and projects but when we nationalize these conversations they get charged with thought crimes, racism or hate. Business and employers choose who they want to work for them every day. They base these choices on the merit or the possibilities of the person applying. Our educational admittance world is or used to be, based on performance. People are paid based on productivity and accomplishments, both what they do and how they do it matters. Families make discriminatory decisions when they choose to buy a home and they ask questions like: ‘Is it in a good neighborhood?” Or we talk about a area having ‘Good schools’. When did it become racist to ask these types of questions? One can judge a nation and not be judging an ethnicity, such political hyperbole is unhelpful in having productive debates about the issues.

As we navigate the s**tstorm from the President’s ‘S**thole’ remarks, let’s not lose our way in all dust stirred up. Let’s be discerning and not divisive as we work for a more prosperous and secure country for all, not matter where they came from in the world. And remember in the end it’s our walk, not our talk that matters most.

Everyone’s got an opinion; be an example.” -Bob Goff