New word for the week: Cheeranny

Definition: the time and space when, under the guise of claims to freedom, cheerleaders take over. Word in context:  Kountze, Texas, appears no longer to be a democracy, but a Cheeranny. A judge ruled yesterday in favor of the Kountze High School Cheerleaders and their right to print whatever they want, including Bible verses, on […]

Terminology Muddle

unlostI would like to propose an adjustment in Christian terminology.  I mean, after all, approaching someone who isn’t Christian and hanging the title “Lost” around his or her neck isn’t really very inviting, is it?

As I drove down the highway past some set of car dealerships the other day, I once again noticed that we don’t call used cars used anymore.  Now we call the “pre-owned.”  The implication being that someone owned, rather than merely used them before.  And we all know that with ownership one takes on some level of responsibility, right?

Reading this morning some articles about the Gosnell trial in Pennsylvania, I was plunged anew into the abortion debate in America.  Here, too, I found adjusted terminology.  The “unborn” are now the “preborn.”  Apparently, in the battle over terminology, abortion opponents believe that the word “preborn” evokes more and stronger feelings of connection and empathy than does “unborn.”

This, of course, is just the latest step in the terminology battle regarding abortion.  Surely you’ve noticed the tendency to refer to one’s own position as “pro-” something and the others as “against” something.  Hence we have pro-choice v. anti-choice OR pro-life v. anti-life.

I wonder if non-Christians among us would take more kindly to being thought of as “pre-saved” or “pre-redeemed” than the word we have historically come to use regarding them: “lost,” “unsaved,”unregenerate,” etc. (Pre-regenerate has a certain ring to it…)

Car dealers and abortion supporters and foes are surely onto something; the words we use affect how we understand issues.  Sometimes these words follow from a position, sometimes they draw us toward one position (or away from another).

Here’s my request for the day: are you willing to make your claims in a discussion using the terminology of someone with whom you disagree?  Rather than battling over words, I believe that if we make an attempt to communicate with others using their words, we are far more likely to reach a place of understanding.

could saying NOTHING actually be saying EVERYTHING?

can sayingOne of the clear, specific memories I have from seminary was this bit of wisdom: If you don’t know what to say, please don’t force words. I wanted to place quotes around that, but I am afraid I haven’t captured the exact words with which Dr. Don Joy shared that wisdom.

The point being, of course, that sometimes, in the presence of great pain and suffering, forcing words fails to support or encourage.  Forcing words may indeed have the opposite affect; we have no business telling someone that “it will make sense some day,” or that “God meant for this to happen to you,” or any of the numerous other trite phrases that spew out of our mouths when we force ourselves to put words where there are none.

Sometimes silence and presence is the best message we can offer another.

This is a week that we all want to offer words.  The Boston Marathon bombing.  The explosion in West.  Events that have shaken, for many literally, the peace that we want to associate with day-to-day life.

Many, many people are on the ground offering help in both these places.  Many more are on high alert to be called upon at a moments notice.  Still many more are praying.

I should have expected this as West, Texas is not far from me, and even closer to Waco, where I spent the last 15 years before moving here in June.  When I checked my newsfeed on Facebook, almost all of the posts offered words of hope, reassurance, or promises of prayers for West. Most of the same people have posted similarly about Boston.

The temptation for me was to get into the fray and offer the same, or very similar words. Would anyone infer from my NOT having so posted that I am apathetic towards either of these recent tragedies?

Don’t read this as opposition to social media; I would not be so obviously hypocritical.  I am, however, left wondering if the proliferation of social media these days leaves less space in which saying nothing can be received as support and encouragement.

Forever turns 20

Some people would have you believe forever is a long, long time.  On the other hand, it may not be quite out of its teens. I clicked on a link in an interesting tweet about PC Sales: The PC market is looking ugly. How ugly? About the worst it’s ever been, IDC shows. I was […]


In youth ministry purpling is decidedly NOT a good thing.  In the larger realm of those who follow Jesus and are US voters, it IS a good thing!

Boys being represented by blue and girls by pink, purpling in youth ministry refers to the mixing of the two. Politically, on the other hand, red has come to represent Republicans and blue Democrats.

Last night we were one of many churches around the country to hold an Election Communion service. Communion, a sacrament for many Christian groups. is a celebration and remembering of Jesus’ life, teachings  death, and resurrection.  Importantly, it is also a time of calling us together as a community.

As divisive as this election has been, I felt it was valuable for us, as a congregation, to celebrate communion on election day.

As I sent out a facebook reminder about this service, I was struck that color of the grape juice we use is purple – a combination of blue and red.

My prayer today is that Christians, and, for that matter, all USAmericans, will realize that whether we as individuals identify as red or blue, we really have to be purple as a people.


When belief in God isn’t necessarily a good thing

I began watching Chris Yaw’s interview with Diana Butler Bass on last week. I found it intriguing (though I still have not listened to the conclusion).

Early in the conversation, Dr. Bass noted that the percentage of Americans who claim a belief in God is down and dropping further.  She cited a study that reported this amazing (to me) point: the percentage of Americans under 40 who claim a belief in God is below 50%.

My first response was that this could be a good thing.

In polls past, belief in God always rated north of 99%, according to my memory.  For the 30 years I have been attempting to follow Jesus, this has always struck me as misleading.  It turns my attention to James, who wrote that “even the demons believe.” (James 2:19)

In other words, belief that there is a God and $3 will get you a cup of coffee.

How many of the 99% who claimed (in the past) to believe in God would have claimed that such belief made any difference in their lives?  Of those who did, would their friends and neighbors have concurred?

For years, claiming belief in God has been, in the US, a cultural thing to do.  Whether or not said God was worshiped, sought after prayed to, or otherwise taken notice of was irrelevant to the questions – or at least to the answerer.

If less people are (now) claiming to believe in God, perhaps they are, at least in this way, being more honest with themselves and with us.

I happen to believe that people being honest with themselves is a good thing, across the board.

Could a decrease in belief in God be a good thing for reasons other than increased honesty with oneself?  I think so, and will tackle that tomorrow.


Something to do on 9-11

Among all the other remembering you and I will do today, I want to encourage those among you who are eligible to donate blood and live in the DFW metroplex to consider this opportunity.  The Dallas chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is holding a blood drive today to show “that Islam stands for the sanctity of life.”

If it is true for Muslims, isn’t it true for Christians?

This past Sunday I preached about corporate worship. (I don’t mean the worship of corporations, but worshiping together with others) I chose not to approach it from the angle of being requiredor commanded, but rather stressing the benefits, the need, the value of worshiping together.

It turns out the Federal Bureau of Prisons agrees with me; there is power in worshiping together. John Walker Lindh, well known a decade ago as a young American convert to Islam who went to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban, is part of a group suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the right to pray together. They are allegedly allowed to gather, to talk politics, football, etc., but not to pray.

I told you there is power in gathering for worship and prayer!

Happy Tax Day!

Tax Day is a good time for all of us to consider what a fine mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Though some people want to pay more taxes, many others remind us regularly that they perceive their tax burden is too high.

Here’s an article from yesterday’s Washington Post that reminds us the problem is not easily relegated to “them.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a Democrat, has cost taxpayers approximately $800,000 for weekend flights home to California.  Panetta made these same flights as a congressman; at which time he flew commercial and paid his own way.  As Secretary of Defense, though, a George W. Bush era policy dictates that the military fly him wherever he goes.

This is not a partisan issue.  I hope next time you think or talk about taxes, taxation, tax rates, etc., you will remember this.

Everybody can name something they don’t want their taxes to pay for.  Some of us can name a lot of things.  At the same time, considering all the infrastructure and security that taxes have paid for over the years, we all also have to admit that not all taxation is bad taxation.

I don’t think that the real issue is taxation.  I think the real issue is trust.  We don’t trust the entities to which our taxes go.  We have all fallen victim to sound bit political science that proves just how untrustworthy “they” are.

I suppose trust has always been a big issue for many people.  I don’t know for sure because I realize I pay attention differently now than I used to.

Almost every young person in our care here at MCH has justifiable trust issues. One of the things we do try to help them restore their ability to trust.

Once upon a time I urged them to trust me and the rest of the staff.  I soon realized this might not always work.  Then I realized that the most important step of being able to trust is to be trustworthy.

So, today, Tax Day 2012, try this one:  Ask not how much you should trust the USA; ask rather how much the USA can trust you.

Tech plus 50

Tech Tuesday

Yesterday (February 20, 2012) marked the 50th anniversary of the first American to orbit the earth.   Everyone knows this.

The part of the story I hadn’t known until yesterday is my topic for this week’s Tech Tuesday. Apparently John Glenn became such a national hero for orbiting earth that NASA grounded him. They (we) didn’t want to chance losing him.

With all the technological advances since then, can you imagine the US seeking to protect someone in a similar way? What might it take now, 50 years later, to make someone such a national hero?