Letting your “yes” be “yes”

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Do commitments mean anything anymore?  Too often we say things like “I promise”, “I love you”, and “Yeah, sure” without giving any thought to what that means and what cost might be associated with fulfilling the meaning of these words.  The evidence of this is all around us and something has to change.

**Disclaimer: political thoughts below**

It is for this reason that I was at first interested in checking out, and am now a full member of, an organization that seeks to remind those that have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America of what that oath, and the document that the oath is stated to defend, really means.

Whether or not you have ever taken the oath as a public servant or defender, I would encourage you to look at this organization if you value the Constitutional freedoms and responsibilities that are granted to those citizens of the United States of America.  See if it lines up with your thoughts.  If it does, we would love to have you join with us.

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About Oath Keepers

 Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders  who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution itself, is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and Oath Keepers declare that they will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” in violation of their ancient right to jury trial. See the Oath Keepers Declaration of Orders We Will Not Obey for details.

 Oath Keepers reaches out to both current serving and veterans to remind them of their oaths, to teach them more about the Constitution they swore to defend, and to inspire them to defend it. 

 Our motto is “Not on our watch!

For more information about the Oath Keepers, including what we are, what we are not, and our bylaws that let you know how we operate, check out the organization’s official website at:

http://oathkeepers.org/oath/about/

Blessings!

World Vision’s Decision To Allow Employment For Same-Sex Couples, The Fallout, and Why It Matters

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UPDATE:  World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Same-Sex Couples

The following post is my original response to World Vision’s initial decision to allow same-sex couples to be employed within the company.


For more than six decades, World Vision has been providing humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it.  Since its inception, World Vision has had a policy of hiring only those that agree to adhere to a certain set of beliefs/principles- including a strict lifestyle agreement.  Among those things has been the requirement to abstain from sex outside of the marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

On March 24, 2014, that changed.  On March 25th, we found out about it.

To be clear, Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, states:

“I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone.”

In a nutshell, someone in a legal same-sex marriage/union would not be excluded from employment provided they agree to follow the other lifestyle guidelines and can affirm either the Apostle’s Creed or World Vision’s Statement of Faith.

World Vision views this move as a another step in their corporate journey toward uniting Christians and serving the poor. This is one of many divisive issues within the church that World Vision is deferring to the local church authority to provide theological guidance on.  Other issues include whether or not to allow female clergy, the issue of divorce among clergy, whether or not baptism is required for salvation and how it should be administered in either case, etc.

In their words, “It’s been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church,” he said. “It’s tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We’ve got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity.”

Now, those are the facts.

As you can imagine, this decision is being loudly praised by one crowd and loudly condemned by another- leaving many in the middle confused and tired of hearing all of the back-and-forth yelling over the issue.

So, I’ll try to provide a calm, rational opinion that will hopefully spark more calm, rational discussion through this thread.

As a basis for my opinion, let me begin with:

Matthew 25:31-46 (NLT)

The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man[a] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[b] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[c] you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[d] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I’ve been up most of the night wrestling with how I’m going to respond to this issue.  For the purposes of full disclosure, my wife and I support children through world vision and have for years.  My response as a pastor has the potential to have an effect beyond our personal feelings, so know that this is not a knee jerk reaction but is truly a heart-felt response.  And while the issue is complex on a number of issues, I believe the response shouldn’t be.

In the above Scripture, Jesus tells us that our faith in Him will produce tangible results.  These results include caring for those whom society has determined to be undesirable.  If our Christian Faith allows us to care for only those that think and act like us, we have a problem with our Faith.

Some might argue that this issue isn’t about providing charity toward the gay community, but employment, so this issue wouldn’t apply here.  I would respectfully disagree.

Jesus didn’t say that those who gave a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty at a church-approved function would be blessed.  Jesus didn’t put limitations on our requirement to serve others.  It might make one person feel better (read: PROUD) to help to minister to the suffering gay homeless man on the street, but if we limit ourselves to serving in that capacity aren’t we missing the point entirely?

Isn’t providing a job to “the undesirables” of the world better than waiting until abject poverty to provide assistance?  Isn’t it accomplishing the same end- except one requires that we swallow our pride while another allows us to flaunt it?

Now, I am not arguing for these policy changes to be made within the local church body.  These local churches should have the freedom to be directed by their own religious belief systems.  I am a firm believer and supporter in that.

In our church, we will not be hiring those who are living in a same-sex relationship.  I see it as living in a contradictory state to say you are a Christian and are refusing to modify behavior as called for in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.  This is true whether you are in a same-sex relationship (legal by the State or not), sleeping around, cheating on your taxes, abusing your spouse, or attempting to profit off of the suffering of others.

World Vision isn’t a church, though.  They are a corporation that is trying to unite people around a common goal of serving people like Jesus did.  They are not trying to direct the affairs of your church.  They are not sending your money to activist organizations that are trying to destroy your way of life.

So, as you might have guessed, I am okay with World Vision’s policy change for their company.  I will not be pulling my support from my adopted children through this organization.  I will err on the side of providing relief to those that others refuse to- whether through charity or acts that prevent charity from being required.

And I would encourage you to do the same.

Care to share a calm, rational opinion on the matter?  I’d love to see them in the comments below!

For the complete interview with Richard Stearns, visit World Vision Interview: Same-Sex Marriage

Selfies, Roses, & Zombies (and Why Giraffes Were Right All Along!)

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Can we stop the insanity already?!

I am absolutely perplexed by this fascination OBSESSION with taking selfies.

Every day, I see image after image of people- mostly 20-30 somethings- on my Facebook timeline that document each step of their day.  I guess it wouldn’t be quite so bad if these photos were actually interesting, but what is being documented in this photo explosion? Is it documenting the world and people around them?  Things in society or nature that speak to them or highlight beauty?

Unfortunately it isn’t that interesting.  In fact, it goes a little something like this:

1. Take selfie highlighting groggy smile while still in bed- time stamped to document the fact that we overslept (despite the fact our boss will hear only about the “bad traffic”).

2. Take selfie in the bathroom documenting the the pre-shower state- proof that in spite of sleeping late, we really did need that shower.

3. Take selfie documenting freshly showered state- hair obviously not done (see boss, still more work to do!).

4. Take selfie showing work clothes for the day. (see boss, I AM on the way!)

5. Take selfie showing the grand achievement of actually making it to the car (late for work, but plenty of time for a selfie!)

6. Take selfie after arriving at work to let everyone know we arrived and didn’t change clothes (this inevitably creates an awkward situation while filling out time sheet that says our arrival time is much different that this picture would suggest).

And the list goes on…

Can we stop already?

Our culture has become so obsessed with self, that we ignore the beauty around us in favor of us emphasizing our importance in our own eyes.  The phrase “stop and smell the roses” has changed to “stop and selfie while crushing the roses so we can take advantage of the soft light”.

We have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we can’t just enjoy, but we have to distract ourselves from in order to snap a selfie and find a good cell phone signal so we can share with everyone else how good we look at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we are going to start enjoying again after this image finishes uploading!

We are turning into social zombies.

We no longer relate to one another as humans.  Conversation is becoming a fine art form that few are skilled enough to actually engage in.  It seems that if we can’t engage our fingers on some tech device, we have nothing to say and nothing we can relate to.  Instead, we choose to highlight our social ineptitude by taking a selfie in a lobby full of unique people with unique stories that are waiting to be told- if only they had someone to share them with.

We walk around aimlessly, focused on something other than what would be considered healthy and normal by any rational third person standard, looking for that thing that feeds us- US.  The inability of these social zombies to positively contribute to society as a whole leaves those of us that aren’t infected frustrated, tired, and even worried about how we need to protect ourselves from the madness.

Think I’m wrong?

Try driving during rush our with some of these zombies who are paying more attention to turning for the camera than using their turn signals to let society know that they are changing lanes at 70mph on the interstate.  When this happens, you begin to worry about how you can safely make it back to the sanctuary of your zombie-proofed fort.

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And THIS is why giraffes have been right all along.

They spend their day immersed in the world AROUND them.  They instinctively recognize that if the focus totally on them and how great they look reflecting off of the local watering hole, they will fall victim to a predator that is willing to take advantage of this very distracted prey.

Giraffes work to find food and shelter and they enjoy social gatherings- recognizing their benefit not just as companions, but as a safety net.  A lone giraffe is a foolish giraffe. They live in a state of beauty and grace.  In fact, their existence inspires people all over the world to travel just for the opportunity to take pictures of them.

So I guess it all boils down to this for me:

More than my desire to see selfies eliminated from society, I desire to see social zombies come to life and live lives that others would find inspiring enough to photograph, document, and share.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned for my age.  Maybe I’m just not up into “tech stuff” they way I used to be.

Is it just me or can others out there relate?

 

Renovate the Right Way

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This week has been spent making plans, assembling necessary items, and beginning work on a small home renovation project.  We live in a home that was built by the previous homeowner and while many things were done well, other things have been uncovered that reveal cut-corners and quick-fixes that gave the appearance of being complete, but the workmanship in these things leave much to be desired.

This got me thinking.

Proverbs 10:4 (NIV)

“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

 

In my last post I wrote about the Importance of Pruning.  This entire process has me thinking about the effort put into “getting the job done” vs “getting the job done the right way“. This is true of pruning just as it is in any project we undertake.

Typically, projects are started with good intentions and motivations.  When we start things, we really intend to do them to perfection.  We have grand ideas and grand plans.  We simply cannot wait to see the finished project!

 

Then life happens.

 

We get tired.  The project takes more time, effort, and expense than we initially thought and we cannot wait until it is done… for a completely different reason.  We’re sick of the process and the end result doesn’t matter as much as the end itself.

At this point, we have a major decision to make.  If we allow ourselves to rush through the end of a project, we feel a momentary sense of relief because the process is done.  Often though, this leads us to a sense of regret instead of a sense of accomplishment.

Whether or not others can see our mistakes, we see them.  Years down the road we still glare at these shortcuts and try to hide or ignore them until we get to a point where we’re so sick of looking at them that we rip them out and begin the process of completing our initial project.

This is true in home renovation, gardening/landscaping, and in fixing flaws within us.

Sometimes the process is tedious.  Sometimes it requires more time, effort, and expense that we initially thought it would.  But giving the effort to do it right the first time will give us a much longer lasting sense of satisfaction and eliminates the need to have to go back and fix it again and living with regret until we decide to finally do that.

So take time to do it right whatever you’re doing.  It is well worth the hassle.

Proverbs 10:4(NIV)

“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Blessings!

The Importance of Pruning

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Image courtesy of [adamr] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

prune

verb (used with object), pruned, prun·ing.

1. to cut or lop off (twigs, branches, or roots).

2. to cut or lop superfluous or undesired twigs, branches, or roots from; trim.

3. to rid or clear of (anything superfluous or undesirable).

4. to remove (anything considered superfluous or undesirable).

Ah, finally!  The weather is now showing signs that spring is rapidly approaching central Georgia.  For most of the USA though, winter is still trying to maintain its firm hold on the weather patterns.  The threat of frost is still too real to fully commit to most outdoor planting, and surely many are growing tired of the cool, damp days and are longing for the warmth that comes with the spring sunshine.

That said, instead of moping about inside and wishing for things to come, now is a great time to invest in ridding our fruit trees of unwanted growths making sure that the tree isn’t hurting itself by getting its branches crossed.

Pruning is an extremely important step needed to help ensure proper growth, development, and sustainability in fruit production.

Pruning can sometimes be very easy – requiring only the removal of things that are obviously damaged.  Often though, pruning requires a much more discerning approach. It can be confusing at first, but with experience the process becomes much easier.  While not necessarily enjoyable, the rewards are well worth it.  So take time to learn about your fruit and how to best prepare it for success.

What exactly do I mean?

Some things might look visually appealing at first glance, but upon further inspection you’ll notice that if these things are allowed to continue growing on the current pattern, it can actually be quite harmful, not only for that tree, but it can introduce disease and weaken all of the trees around it.  These things are sometimes hard to reach and painful to remove, but their removal is essential to the health (and sometimes survival) of the tree.

You know, now that I think about it, it is not too different from us on a personal level.  Things that might look good at first don’t always turn out to be good for us.  In fact, sometimes these things can be downright harmful to us and those around us.  Sometimes things are easy to spot as being bad and we remove those easily.

Sometimes though, it takes an experienced eye to let us know that we are headed for problems.  These things are often painful to remove and are hard for us to reach.  They are also very important though and, if not removed, can weaken everyone around us.

Before the weather is warm and we are distracted with all of the attractions of spring and summer, maybe it would be a good time to do a once-over of ourselves and see if there are things we need to nip in the bud to prevent harmful patterns from developing.

May the fruit in your garden (and the fruit in your lives) be plentiful and healthy this year!

Blessings!

Breathtaking: Making You Autistic in 2 Minutes

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Sometimes I feel the need to add “words of wisdom” to make something ordinary seem profound.

Today, I feel the need to let this speak for itself.

Please take 2 minutes to see Autism through the eyes of one who deals with it daily.

We’re back! (and why I didn’t miss you)

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It’s been a week since my last post and I’m sorry, but I didn’t miss posting at all.  In fact, I didn’t miss anything by not taking the internet and all of my devices with me.  Not having those distractions was a wonderful break from the scheduled reality that will set in as soon as my other child wakes up for the morning and our home school routine starts once again.

But last week…. last week was something much different.  My wife and I got away for the first time since getting married 11 years ago.  The Army changed our plans from the start, so a honeymoon didn’t happen.  Then kids started appearing and before you know it, a decade had passed us by.  This trip was a great opportunity to reconnect and remember how much we actually like each other all these years later.

Asheville, NC was a great place for us to go.  There was much to do and much to see.  We did visit The Biltmore, but there is so much more to Asheville than that.  Now- this is not to understate how gorgeous The Biltmore is, it is simply to say how great Asheville is.  Visiting The Biltmore is definitely on the “to do” list if you visit this area.  As far as I’m concerned, the long and winding driveway is enough to warrant the cost of admission, let alone the spectacular house and grounds.  The trees were just starting to open up and prepare for spring.  Everything seemed to be waking from the deep sleep of winter and it will all be in full bloom in just a couple of weeks.

We stumbled upon community theaters and art galleries on just about every block of downtown.  I was pleasantly surprised to see downtown was full of local shops and not chain stores that have overtaken much of the U.S. these days.  Oh… and we had great food!  You MUST stop by The Red Stag if you are in town and have a special occasion to celebrate.  It is a little pricy but both the atmosphere and menu are so unique, it is well worth the cost to check it out. And… with a reservation you get free valet parking.  That was a nice perk!

In fact, the only disappointing part of the trip (which still confuses me) is finding both a coffee shop and a pastry shop full of employees, but closed for business at 9:40 in the morning.  I’ve never heard of such an atrocity!  Coffee and pastries unavailable at breakfast-  For shame!  After halfway joking about our very first-world dilemma, we laughed and thanked God that we would be so blessed to be in a place that had these shops to begin with.  We trekked back the few blocks we walked to find the closed shops, climbed in our car, and we started our journey back home.

I’ve always heard about how great getaways like this are.  Being a special needs family, we weren’t afforded the ease of finding childcare or funding for things such as this, but it was such a refreshing change of pace I’m sure it won’t be 11 years before the next trip.

Now, it is time for another cup of coffee and and time to get back to a sense of normalcy which, as I think about it, isn’t that bad.  I’m feeling very blessed today.