Tuesday, August 31, 2010

setting the table

here's what's bouncing around that small filing cabinet above my shoulders. will see if any of these become posts over the next few weeks:

Why is that people with higher incomes give less?

The Google machine makes it easy to search, post and link to a multitude of essays that expound what you believe. But does that simple fact that you agree with the conclusion make ithe author a genius?

Many people are talking about the need to Restore America. So I wonder, are we just romanticizing the past? Are we better off putting this car in drive or reverse?

If you have any thoughts you want to share, let me know. Otherwise stay tuned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

just a little over 100

The 100 Thing Challenge dares you to live for an extended period of time with only 100 possessions. What you “count” as yours is really up to you. The idea is simply to de-clutter and de-stuff your life so you can make more room for reflection, relationships and the important things.

I have not started my 100 Think Challenge, but was intrigued enough by the idea to take inventory. Surprise, surprise, I came in just over 100. Well, actually the total came in at 458. And that’s not counting several sweaters (in the attic), my “skinny Ed” pants (in boxes) and all the books, CDs, DVDs, photos and videos I’ve accumulated over the years.

Here’s a top-line inventory:

23 Baseball Caps
13 Pair of Shoes
32 Ties
3 Gloves
2 Winter Hats

43 Sweatshirt/Sweaters/Coats
13 Suits/Sports Jackets
50 Pants/Shorts
140 Shirts
63 Socks/Undergarments

16 Rings/Cufflinks/Pins/Watches
7 Memorabilia/Gifts
8 Golf Trophies

12 Household Items (Toolbox. Frying Pans)
11 Sports Related Items (Golf Clubs, Mitt, Bike)
9 Personal Items (Wallet, Razor, etc.)
Many Books, CDs, DVDs, Photos, Videos
Sleeping Bag and Tent

5 Consumer Electronics
1 Car
1 Bible

Some tidbits.

Yes, I own a Barbie Doll (a UVa collectible). There are six watches in my bureau, none work. Of my 300+ articles of clothing, nearly 25% have not been worn in the past year. There’s a golf-ball marker that was used once about a dozen years ago. And a “Milennium” bottle of Bud that has aged a decade in my closet.

Not sure what’s next, so stay tuned. But I can say that I was a Rotary Club meeting last Friday and they were selling club gear – a hat and a T-Shirt for $25. And as I reached into my pocket, it dawned on me that I had 23 baseball caps sitting at home. So I passed. For now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a message from god

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21 (NIV)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


This past weekend, a man drove down to a trail in town that is popular with bikers, joggers and dog walkers. He set up a table at a juncture—a spot where many start, end or turn around. On the table sat a pitcher of lemonade, some bottled water and a sign that read “FREE—cold drinks”.

Some people asked what cause he represented, or what he was selling (‘there’s always an agenda’). Others walked by the table, intent on never looking over—because eye contact was dangerous.

But most people smiled and thanked this man. In fact, many were overwhelmed by what was truly the most simplest acts of kindness. Others stopped to chat… their day suddenly changed for the better. One jogger remarked how cold the world had been feeling to him. Another woman, who returned from a six mile run, said ‘I was so hoping you would still be here when I got back’.

After two hours, the man packed up his table, the cooler and his sign and took inventory. He had served a total of five drinks: two lemonades and three bottles of water.

And yet he came away knowing that many more drank that day… for what he came to learn was that people are not thirsty for water or lemonade… they thirst for kindness. They thirst for love.

How indifferent have we become to our brothers and sisters? How often do we go through days with blinders on, focused only on the next destination? How cold has the world become, that such a simple gesture—a glass of water—can mean so much? How have we allowed so many people in our community get so thirsty?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

me and teh gay

I visited a church on Long Island last month. The service was most enjoyable, but when the pastor went into a rant condemning the sin that is homosexuality, I found myself distracted. Disturbed by both the tone and content of his sermon.

I wrote down the scriptures he quoted, and promised myself that I would look them up later. As an evangelical Christian who believes in gay marriage, gay love and gay life, I find myself often scribbling down scripture verses for further study.

Things were much simpler in my early life. We attended the church of the holy convenience, where truthiness ruled and my moral compass could be aligned according to the most prevalent winds. While I certainly knew gay people, it was not a topic of discussion. The only times I used the word gay was in making off-hand insults to one of my brothers or close friends. (Being called gay, you see, was not exactly a compliment.) Actual gay people? Well, what they did was their business.

That changed about a decade ago when I came to know Jesus. To find out that the creator of the universe loved me and wanted to have a personal relationship with me, well that changed everything. I wanted to know everything I could about God. Sunday services was not enough… I needed mid-week services and Bible service.

And one of the things I picked up handing around church people was that being gay was a sin. A gay person could certainly come to church, but they could never serve in a leadership position. And I guess that point of view sunk in. For a while there, I came to believe that being gay—while no worse than being a gossip—was something of which God did not approve. Civil unions, that was okay. But marriage? No way.

Then something happened.

Are you ready? I actually got to know some gay people.

On Facebook. Interacting on blogs. And yes, in real life too. And we would talk about life, and movies, and politics, and families, and work. Over the course of a few years, two things became abundantly clear.

One, the Christian-led opposition to gay marriage caused tremendous hurt and pain. It led to confusion, and in many cases, drove people away from God. Christians spending incredible amounts of resources to drive people away from God.

Two, for gay men and women who were in long-term, monogamous relationships, the love between these two people was as real and warm and magical and blessed as any other relationship I have witnessed. From the spats and hugs to the tears and morning coffees, gay love was simply love.

Over time it became evident that opposition to gay marriage was anything but Christ-like. So where was the disconnect?

The pastor in Long Island who condemned the gay quoted Romans 1: 27-27.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Now I don’t recall ever thinking that the love I have for my wife could adequately be described as “inflamed with lust”. And the gay men and women I know have never used that term either. So I can only wonder… is Paul not condemning the fact of being gay… but rather a specific type of behavior? Is he talking about reckless sex and lust without love?

(I could also mention that Romans 1 is followed by a discourse on why no one should judge anyone else, but I digress.)

You could have similar debates regarding word choice and meaning with most of the other scripture verses used to blanketly vilify gay men and women, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and Jude 1:7.

Leviticus is another story. Lev 20:13 reads: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

I will not venture to wordsmith this passage, but will make two quick remarks. The people I know who swear by the first half of this verse do not believe in the second half. More importantly—and I don’t mean to use this as a Christian crutch—but Jesus changed everything. His life. His death. His resurrection. Everything changed.

So here’s where I am. Is being gay a sin?

Jesus spent a lot of time with both religious leaders and the “non-church crowd”, and he had nothing to say on the topic. But what he did was promise that he would send a Counselor… and that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved – and when you are saved, the law will be placed on your heart.

The law is on my heart. When I wake up in the morning, I have a clear understanding of what I should do—and not do—to both share and proclaim the love I have for God. And yes, God finds ways to ‘raise the bar’ on these expectations over time.

So today, I implore my Christian brothers and sisters to stop wasting their breath discussing what is right and wrong with others and simply focus all of the energy on helping people fall in love with Christ. Just help people fall in love with the one who loves them more than anything.

There is right. There is wrong. And I have complete confidence that anyone who walks toward Christ with love in their hearts will be able to discern right from wrong on their own. I invite you on this journey.

In the meantime, I just want to say thank you to the men and women who had the courage to share their lives and stories with me over the past few years--stories, i imagine, that were not always so easy to share.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

muslim = terrorist

Given all the brouhaha about the Park 51 Project (aka Cordoba House, aka Ground Zero Mosque) – what we are really talking about is something quite simple. Many if not most Americans associate people of muslim faith with the terrorists who attacked this country on 9/11.

muslim = terrorist

Even in today’s “politically correct” world, more than four in ten Americans will readily admit that they are prejudiced against Muslims. One would image that others harbor such thoughts, but are not willing to admit that on a phone call survey.

muslim = terrorist

When American leaders such as Newt Gingrich equate a mosque to a swastika – the comparison could not be any clearer. He is sayting that the symbol of faith for 1.5 billion people is no different than the symbol associated with the most vicious, cold-blooded killers of the past century.

muslim = terrorist

People who lost friends and family in 9/11 must live with that loss every day. To me, it doesn’t matter whether or not it is “appropriate” if a mosque in lower Manhattan will bring back memories of 9/11… the fact is, for many it will. For many, 9/11 may be their only direct engagement with Muslims. While the association between muslims and terrorists may not be rational, no one can say that it is not real. The pain is always real.

muslim = terrorist

This week’s The Economist opined: It is impossible to be sensitive both to those who see the mosque as an affront and those who see opposition to it as proof of prejudice.

I choose not to be saddled by such limitations. Instead, I choose to be embolded by Donna Marsh O'Connor and the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a coalition of more than 250 families which recently endorsed the mosque.

"I can understand people saying that this is a slap. This does hurt. But we don't change fundamentally what our nation is about because it will hurt people,” O’Connor said. “We're a family who is forever changed, certainly forever scarred, but we're not the victims of 9/11. Our daughter was the victim of 9/11 and we don't want to see our nation fold.”

muslim = terrorist

Unfortunately, our nation has a history of folding time and time again… when you look at the American math over the years, you find periods where:

indians = savages
blacks = animals
jews = greedy filth
japanese = kamakazi killers

And yet… as we learn more about the people we so freely hate… we always come to find out that we were wrong. We are always wrong. But eventually, we figure that out. And so too we will again.


Monday, August 16, 2010

we're gonna need a bigger boat

There is no doubt that illegal immigration is a serious problem in America.

This past weekend, I was thinking about the 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws, where Chief Martin Brody looks over and suddenly realizes the full scope of the challenge he and his friends face and utters: "we’re gonna need a bigger boat."

That is America today. And yet, our ‘bigger boat’ should not take the form of a bigger fence or a bigger club. What we need are bigger minds and bigger hearts.

Illegal immigration came to the forefront earlier this year with the passage of SB1070 in Arizona. The problem with this approach has nothing to do with illegal immigrants (the key word there being illegal) but rather the tens of millions of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants of Latino descent—who become more likely “suspects” purely because of the color of their skin.

Now some want to amend the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution—the same amendment that ensured that my mother (and her children, including me) were considered citizens of the United States.

Given that we already have laws on the books outlawing illegal immigration (again, hence the word illegal), how does harassing US citizens of Latino descent help solve the problem? Does vilifying newborn babies somehow eradicate the flow of Mexicans across our southern border?

No one, it seems, wants to talk about the real criminals responsible for illegal immigration: the U.S. business owners and homeowners who provide under-the-table jobs to individuals who have no right to work in the United States. Here’s the fact: if there were no jobs, there would not be a lot of immigration.

The anti-immigration site Immigration Counters reports that over 11 million skilled jobs are provided to illegal aliens. Other sites report that the unemployment rate is actually lower among illegals than native born Americans. Who is at bigger fault? The man who wants to feed his family and needs to earn more than the $7 a day wage prevalent in Mexico? Or the greedy business owner who can pad his profits by hiring undocumented day laborers at below-market wages?

My daughter can’t register for her junior soccer without producing a bona fide birth certificate and proof of residence. Why is it so hard for businesses and employers to request that new hires validate that they have the right to work in the United States?

Here’s my plan: fine every business $100,000 per day for every undocumented worker. Fine every homeowner $5,000 per day for ever gardener, pool boy, nanny or maid they pay.

But no—we don’t attack people who could very well be our family or friends. It’s the “outsiders” we attack. The people who are not like us. They are the problem. It’s all their fault.

We ignore the sins of those in our little club and complain about the sins of everyone else. Think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

setting the table

Did you hear the latest joke? A gay, a muslim and an illegal immigrant walk into a bar...

Recent events, including the overturn of Prop 8, the plan to build a mosque in NYC and discussions around SB1070 and the 14th ammendment, have fueled--sometimes heated--debates.

These are all complicated issues that cut across many boundaries for me, including my faith, my country and my personal relationships. Over the next three weeks I will use this space to do some thinking and put on paper where I stand. Feel free to point me in any direction... I am open to ideas.

(And now that I wrote that I am going to do this, so it will be done!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the '100 thing' thing

This article in the NY Times business section caught my attention this weekend. It tells the story of Tammy Strobel who, emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.

With my laptop (personal item #1) and the old Google machine, I came across the 100 Thing Challenge – which motivated me to take a quick glance into my closet this morning. For starters, found:

- 23 baseball caps
- 30 golf shirts
- 11 pair of shoes

It took me all of 30 seconds to count these items. Plan is to do a more complete inventory of “my stuff” over the next week. Not sure where this is going… so stay tuned for more!

Monday, August 9, 2010

rentry into the blogosphere

getting ready to resume my web log. there's definitely value in getting things out of the small filing case above my shoulders.

will probably cover a broader range of topics going forward. will continue to report on my desire to walk with Christ (along with the all-too-frequent detours) but will also expand to cover other topics that i spend time pondering... from politics, movies and sports to family life, relationships and current events.

see ya next week...