You Call This A Storm? It’s Time for a Showdown! (why Lt. Dan might have been right the whole time)

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Something caught my attention this morning as I walked through the garden, harvesting the morning’s asparagus.  I went out a bit earlier than usual today because we are supposed to have some potentially destructive storms come through our area and I wanted to protect what I could and harvest what I couldn’t protect.

Then the wind picked up, the storm clouds began to swirl, and rain drops began to fall.  It was at this moment, I noticed it.  Maybe I noticed it before, but it never stuck with me like this.

At the moment I was trying to shelter “my” plants from the storm, they were reaching out toward it.  Each plant was standing at attention with its leaves stretched skyward, waiting for the nourishment that this storm would bring.  That got me thinking…

How often do we cower and try to wait out the storms that come into our lives?  If we learn from our surroundings, the plants respond to storms in a completely different way than we instinctively do.  They don’t cower from storms like they do from a hot sun.  They “know” that within the storms lie a perfect opportunity for growth; an opportunity that they aren’t going to miss.  So they reach for it… making themselves vulnerable to being destroyed… taking such a risk!

And it never fails!  After each storm I don’t see dead plants in my raised beds, I see plants that are full of life and energy; plants that are ready to produce what they were created to produce.

So the next time you feel a storm of life approach and you start to feel a bit nervous, consider the plants.  What potential is there for growth?  Fulfillment of such potential doesn’t come without risks, so maybe… just maybe…

Instead of hiding and waiting for the storm to pass, maybe it’s time to reach out for the opportunity for growth that this storm might bring.

You might be surprised how full of life you are when the storm is over.

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.

giraffe

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?

 

Finding Your Way to Paradise Falls Without the Balloons!

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Here I sit.

Wondering… dreaming.

An adventurous spirit caged in the frame of someone more than twice my age.  My Ellie still lives, but the end result feels much the same.  This dream that has been long sought after, I’m afraid, is waning away.

Each year- as physical limitations make their presence more painfully known- the likelihood of taking my wife by my side and reaching that Colorado mountaintop to finally live the dream of homesteading in a very real and tangible way seems less and less achievable.  We are getting too old and our bodies too worn down- unable to bear the physical load required to create a life in such a remote place.

More likely than not, it seems as though these dreams will wind up as a box containing a deed, house plans, and detailed diagrams of things once discussed with hopeful anticipation.  I fear this box will sit on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust, until a painful day, many years down the road, when this box is opened- only to reveal things that could have been.

Or will it?

The dream was to live a unique and remote lifestyle that would showcase the beauty of hard work, of relying more on what you can do (or learn to do) and less on what others do for you, and of a holistic lifestyle devoted to caring for those people and things around you while learning to enjoy the simplicity of making a life without forsaking “life” in order to earn a living.

Of course, having acreage on the top of a mountain in Colorado provides a pretty great view while all of this is going on!

That said, I’ve come to a realization.

Where we are is determined, not by where our feet are, but by where our eyes are.

Let me explain!

You see, while our feet are only a few hours from the Eastern coast of the U.S.A., it was only recently that our eyes were located elsewhere.  Still confusing?  I’ll clarify.

While are eyes are focused on our feet, we will not move beyond our current situation to realize our dreams.  It is not until our focus shifts that we begin to see where we truly are and where our path is leading.

If I focus on my feet, I am located in Central Georgia, USA.  I am many hours away from this place in our dreams.  I do not have the resources necessary to make this dream a reality.  I don’t even have a wilderness adventurer knocking at my door looking for a badge in helping others.  In the movie “UP”, Carl at least had balloons to help float his house across the Americas to wind up where he ultimately wanted to be.  I HAVE ZERO BALLOONS!

But what I do have is this:

While I am located hours away from a physical location, I realized that I am already living this dream today.  How so?

  • We are involved in planting a church for families with special needs.  Our lifestyle doesn’t get much more remote than that and hard work is definitely required!
  • I am living in a house full of windows (natural light is a key component in our Colorado plans).
  • I just finished planting 9 of 10 raised bed gardens at our home (also key in Colorado plans).
  • This home is equipped with a chicken coop and goat shed (you guessed it- Colorado plans).
  • This home also has multiple fruit trees, space for the kids to play, and clean air (again, check).
  • While we could still remove ourselves from more technology, a simple life doesn’t have to mean a life devoid of electronics.  Simplicity is a choice. (doing good so far)

It seems to me that the key to finding my Paradise Falls without having to have all of those pesky balloons boils down to one word:

contentment

I wonder how many of us are closer to realizing our dreams than we think?

I wonder if Paradise Falls is more about a journey than a destination?

I wonder where you are?

Do you even know?

If you feel like your dreams are a bit beyond your reach, keep digging- but not just where your feet are.  Sometimes taking a moment to shift our focus is all that we need to see that we don’t have far to go.

And sometimes… sometimes we’ll find that we’ve been there all along.

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