Monday, July 29, 2013

How Rich People THINK

My final post over this over-generalized but discussion-generating list of things that rich people do.  The items on the list that seemed to me to be the most important:

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal.  Only 12% of the poor do this.

9. 67% of the wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor.

16. 74 % of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% for poor.

And the key ones to me:

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% for poor.

18.  76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% for poor.

The majority of wealthy people believe that what they do now makes a difference in their future -- they feel some personal power over their fate.  Apparently very few of the poor believe this.

I remember becoming aware of this when I taught high school.  I spent half of my day with honors students and half of my day in the at-risk student program.  I was always amazed at how similar the two groups could be in actual ability -- the differences in their success rate at school had little to do with intelligence.

Three factors seemed to play into their school failure the most:  1) lack of parental support, 2) an unwillingness or inability to play the "school game", and 3) a lack of real belief that any effort on their part would make a difference in their grades anyway--often because it hadn't seemed to in the past. 

How is it that people come to believe that their position in life is completely a matter of fate, that nothing they do will make a difference?  Well, for some people, it's because they are in situations where there are genuine forces in the "system" that hold them back, no matter how hard they try, and the belief comes legitimately.  I've never contended that there weren't "undeserving poor", people who struggle to get by because of no fault of their own.  And these people need our help.  Many Christians forget that this is a clear Biblical mandate to help the vulnerable.  You can't be a genuine Christian and not do so.

But there are others who could make a life for themselves if they put some effort into it, but they seem to have picked up the fateful thinking of their fellows.  And we all know some of them, too. 

I had a student named Aisha once who wanted to be a doctor.  At least that's what she said.  She seemed to have no other "goals" in life -- other than to graduate from high school. which was a profound enough goal at that point seeing she'd be the first in her family to do so.  But when she talked about being a doctor, even she seemed to think it was nothing but a pipe dream.  She didn't display any of the behaviors that she would need to do to make this dream come about:  working her butt off for excellent grades, taking higher level math classes, looking for college financing and scholarships - or even looking at colleges at all.  She muddled along through life very casually, just hoping that her wish of being a doctor would somehow fall upon her magically.

Now, honestly, I don't know if she could've been a doctor.  But she certainly could have been more than the minimum-wage worker she probably ended up being (or the "fat, poor stay-at-home Mexican mama" her friend Armando teased that she was going to be). But she had picked up the mental mindset of her peers ("success is not a matter of work -- it is a matter of luck or privilege"), and so she went no further.

And maybe God had great plans for her as a fat, poor stay-at-home Mexican mama.  Maybe that's exactly where he wanted her to be -- praying for and nurturing the next generation.  But I hate to think that her options were so limited to her because we were unable to convince her that even if she had to work harder than Suzy Honors-kid in my other class, she could have a very different future if she tried

Friday, July 26, 2013

Don't Listen to your Heart

Back to this list.

There was one item here that stood out to me when I read it -- I think because I associated it with a phenomenon I have been discussing with my daughter a lot for the last several months.  A quality I have seen in many of her friends.  I don't know that I specifically connected it with being poor, but more with being immature and unwise . . . although both of those characteristics have also led the affected into financial struggles, from my forty-five years of experience with humanity.  Here's the item:

11. 6% of wealthy say what's on their mind vs. 69% for poor.

Isn't THAT an interesting one!

Again, there's a lot unsaid here that is important.  How do we know they speak their mind?  Is this a self-report?  Because some people like to say they are the type of person who speaks their mind when they really aren't, and vice versa.  And when they say what's on their mind, do they do it respectfully or rudely?  There's a way of stifling your inner thoughts that is neurotic and there's a way of stifling your inner thoughts that shows wisdom.

Nevertheless, when I read this, I was immediately reminded of what I've been cautioning my daughter about regarding many of her friends: they are ruled by their passions.

Now, I know some people see that as a trait to celebrate.  We are taught all of our lives to "listen to your heart". And I'm not advocating living a passionless life.  But to "listen to your heart" in the extreme sense . . . to be led by your selfish desires and impulses . . . to be ruled by your passions and not your brain . . . is absolute foolishness.  It is immature and unwise and, I have no doubt, is highly likely to contribute to a life of financial struggle.

In the teenagers I'm referring to (and usually their parents as well), this has a lot to do with "delaying gratification", an ability that mental health experts usually put in their list of characteristics of mentally healthy people.  It is part of being a grown-up and living a healthy life that you are able to put off until later something you really want and willingly take up something distasteful to you that needs to happen right now.

But it's also about living only for the present.  The List also says that the wealthy are far more likely to have a to-do list and to write down goals.  They are more likely to be thinking ahead and planning for the future. 

And this is also about impulsiveness.  I want this computer game.  It's for sale in front of me.  I have the money for it in my pocket right now.  So, I will buy it.  Forget the fact that I really need a car, and that money needs to go toward it.  I'm not thinking about my future -- I'm not willing to put off the pleasure of playing this game for the sake of improving my life situation with a car, or healthy food, or a college education -- I want the game now, so I'm buying it.

Of course, just to stave off the defenders of the undeserving poor (and I have never said there weren't undeserving poor!), I need to emphasize that not every poor person is ruled by their passions.  But I contend there are far too many people, wealthy and poor, who are.  As I said, this is about maturity and wisdom.  But there's no doubt that a lack of each can pave the way to the poor house.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Who Wants to be Rich Anyway?

I want to talk more about this list I referred to last time (which, by the way, seems to have had its spelling errors cleaned up, thank goodness) . . . but I need to make something clear. In offering this list for discussion, I don't mean to imply a causation relationship in all these items (although I won't speak for the list-maker). Loving to read is not a cause of wealth. But if the statistics are accurate, the two seems to be at least correlated and I'm curious as to why. 

If it's true that dramatically more wealthy people than poor people enjoy reading, why is that? Does a love for reading give you an edge that helps you succeed financially (as I suggest may be possible)? Does a distaste for reading mean you spend more time in other activities that lend themselves less to financially beneficial skills and behavior? Is it as simple as poor readers struggle in school and therefore can't get good jobs? I don't know. I don't think it's as simple as that.
In addition, I don't present this list as a prescriptive or even judgmental thing (again, however, I won't speak for the list-maker). When I said the wealthy and the poor seem to have different mindsets, it doesn't necessarily follow that one is “right” and one is “wrong”. In fact, there are aspects of the “wealthy mindset” (if there is one) that I would say are decidedly unrighteous.
There is, in fact, a case to be made against wealth.  Proverbs says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."  Although yes, the Bible shows God offering his people wealth as a reward for their obedience, it is always wealth to be used as a testimony to who He is (in the Old Testament) or to build up a people to build His Kingdom (in the New). Scripture is clear about how money -- either the abundance of it or the extreme lack of it -- can become a snare that pulls us away from God, the only thing we can truly possess in this life.
For my husband and I, money is first and foremost about security.  I'm not going to say we don't enjoy the leisure and luxuries that our comfortable financial state offers us, but that's not what motivates us to earn and save.  My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when I was twelve.  He retired when I was fourteen and was in a nursing home by my first year of marriage when I was twenty-one.  Then he ended up out-living my mother by a year, passing away when I was thirty-two.  He suffered with Alzheimer's for twenty-one years, and during those twenty-one years, my mother used the money he had systematically saved and invested over the years to live on and to pay for his expensive care.  I know the importance of saving for a rainy day.
But for all the wisdom there is in saving money and being prepared for an unknown future, I find that this security we think we've created for ourselves also hinders us spiritually.  It keeps us from ever being in a place where God simply has to come through for us or we are sunk . . . and we therefore don't ever have the faith-building benefits of seeing God comes through for us. 
"If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained... then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high." (Job 21)
As I said, the actions of the wealthy are not necessarily those to be emulated.  But then neither are the actions of the poor.  I present this list merely as something to analyze and learn from . . . to learn about the nature of people and how our behaviors and thought processes affect our life situations.
And I'll do more of that analysis next time.  (Still hoping to verify where these stats came from . . . )

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Rich People Do

So, I read the most FASCINATING article the other day:  "20 Things the Rich Do Every Day".  (Personal note: for anyone who actually looks at the list and knows me well -- yes, the misspellings made me crazy.  What reputable person posts something like this online with these kinds of blatant errors?  Is your spellcheck broken, buddy?  But I was able to separate the content from the errors and focus on that.)

I couldn't find the original source of these statistics to verify their accuracy (and I would like to -- I always wonder how anyone "knows" these kinds of things), but if they are accurate, they invite much discussion.  I may spend a few blog posts on this topic.

Because if you've read here for a while, you know I find this topic fascinating.  I have friends who struggle with money on a regular basis who are very wise and intelligent in many areas of their lives . . . but I've seen them make decisions about their money that made no sense to me.  I'm certain there is a mindset behind poverty and one behind wealth that the other simply can't relate to, and understanding each other's mindsets will go a lot further toward ending economic inequities in this country than all the various government policies being touted out there.

Several on this list of twenty seem related to me.  For example:

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people. (A lot of things could play into this one -- the nature of one's commute, one's access to audio books and means to play them, etc.)

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.  (I have always contended that teaching kids to love reading early on is critical.)

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% for poor.  (I wonder, though, how many of these wealthy have jobs that require such reading and how many of them are choosing to do so.)

13. 67% of wealthy watch 1 hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% for poor. 

And the kicker for me:

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% for poor.

Now, I know people who are quite successful financially who don't enjoy reading.  And I also have very poor friends who are book fanatics.  And as I said, I don't know the source of these statistics.  But it wouldn't surprise me if this is accurate.

However, there is a lot that is NOT said in this statistic that I think is important.  For example, do these people not love to read because they are poor readers (being a poor reader often leads to a lack of education which leads to poverty) or because they just naturally don't have that inclination?  I know that my husband and eldest daughter fall into the latter category; they are both very intelligent and good readers, but they rarely choose to read for pleasure.

Also, what do these people love to read?  Do they love to read fashion magazines, celebrity websites, and romance novels . . . or do they love to read newspapers, histories, and Tolstoy?

In any case, reading is the primary means in our society of communicating information and carrying on a national conversation about important topics, so a lack of desire to read also indicates a lack of involvement in this conversation and a lack of information about . . . well, everything.  And it's easy to see how this could contribute to financial problems.

More to come . . .

Friday, July 19, 2013

Driver's Ed. UGGHHH.

There are reasons why my 17-year-old daughter is only now taking drivers' ed, and reasons why we are doing the "classroom" part of that instruction online from home, but that's more than I want to go into right now.  For the purposes of the rant to follow, simply accept that it is so.

And I probably could have found a higher quality online program if I'd had the time, resources, and inclination to dig more.  I chose PTDE 101 (Parent Taught Driver's Education), the program created by the state of Texas, because it was a third or less of the price of the others on the approved list -- and because it was created by the state, so I felt secure it would meet the necessary requirements.

But this program.  UGGHHH.

We read.  We read pages and pages of information that is not only irrelevant to 90% of the people taking driver's ed, but information that is written like a lawyer's brief.  Then she takes a quiz -- with questions that are either ridiculously obvious or questions about minute details that are, again, irrelevant.  And for each section, she has a writing assignment where she finishes three sentences describing how she will use the information she just learned to be a safe driver, a courteous driver, and an environmentally friendly driver (note that there has yet to be anything in any of the information presented concerning environmentally friendly driving).

I mean, I'll be honest: I'm not a great driver.  But I'm an experienced driver and certainly an adequate driver.  More than that, I am an excellent reader.  I'm a former English teacher, for crying out loud, with a graduate degree.  If someone like me is having trouble understanding what the heck they are talking about when I read the lessons, then there's a real problem here.

If an opportunity came up, I would offer the state my services in re-writing their curriculum.  [On a personal note, many instances have come up lately -- as they have come up throughout the course of my adult years -- when I find myself looking at someone doing something and thinking, "Ugh . . . I could do better."  Almost always it's in a teaching and/or performing and/or administrating capacity.  I'm trying to decide if this is arrogance on my part -- something I should deal with -- or if it's an urge I should indulge, because such thoughts have often led me into some great experiences.  But I digress . . . ]

I think the problem here is the mistaken notion that teaching someone to drive should involve extensive "classroom" time.  It shouldn't.  Yes, there is a set of information to be communicated, but you learn to drive by driving, not by reading about how to drive.  Actually, I think the deal is, they want to give the impression that they are ensuring safer drivers by having extensive requirements for people to get their licenses . . . but it is a hassle for everyone involved to increase the in-car instruction time (the part that really makes a difference in the quality of one's driving), so they increase the in-classroom instruction time instead (and add a bunch of gobbledy-gook and extraneous information to beef it up and make it last longer). 

It's an illusion.  It's what government does.  Why we let them get away with it, I'll never know.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Being Born Blind

I think I've mentioned before how I like to memorize.  In second grade, I memorized the Gettysburg address, just for the fun of it.  My best friend in late elementary school was the same way, so we memorized together.  We memorized the Greek alphabet (although we didn't know how to pronounce the letters and now they're forever stuck in my brain with the wrong pronunciation).  We memorized the bones of the body (my friend is a doctor now -- at least she's using that information).

We learned the alphabet in sign language, just in case we went deaf.  (Sign language appeals to me greatly -- it's a blend of language and dance, two of my passions.)  We also learned braille, just in case we went blind.  Braille didn't come to me so easily.

The idea of going blind used to terrify me.  The quiet things that could be going on around me that I wouldn't know about . . . objects sitting in my path for me to fall over . . . people in the room I'm not aware of . . . facial expressions being exchanged that I'm not privy to . . . it makes me tense just to think about it.  I'd much rather be deaf than blind.

I consider sometimes how bizarre it would be to have been born blind.  To have no concept of what vision is, of what it means to see.  People around you would talk about this other way of "knowing", this other way of perceiving things that would seem just magical to you.  They would talk about an object having "color" -- how could this not seem like a ridiculous made-up notion, this idea of "color"?  This shirt is blue and this one is red.  So what?  What difference does that make?  What possible good is "color"? 

And blind people have to be so dependent on the seeing for so many things.  How do you learn to have that kind of faith?  I guess if you're born blind, you learn it from birth, so it's just natural to you, but really -- that's a lot of faith you're putting in strangers who claim an alternate form of perception that sounds totally imaginary to you.  I mean, sometimes you would have to put your very life in their hands.  You have to trust them that, yes, you can cross the road now because "the light is green".  Green.  Of course.  That elusive "greenness" makes the crosswalk empty. 

In a way, it's kind of like learning to trust God.

We're looking at houses again.  And with our limited five senses, there's only so much we see about them.  But God "sees" so much more.  He is not limited by time or space.  He sees the erosion in the foundation that will cause problems years down the line (and decides if those are problems he can use in our lives beneficially).  He sees the neighbors and how they will or won't interact with us (and knows how he can use that to grow us, either way).  He sees us walking in that house in that moment . . . and us sleeping in that house this fall . . . and us eating in that house in next summer . . . and us entertaining in house for Super Bowl 2015 . . . and he sees it all in one glance.

"Sees" it.  That magical "vision" that we can't even comprehend -- we just have to learn to trust.  After all, one of the Biblical names for God is El Roi:  God Who Sees.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Updates . . .

And so we start our new life in San Antonio:

- It is HOT in San Antonio.

- We got here Saturday afternoon and have been moving our stuff into hubby's apartment.  It should be very interesting to have the four of us living together in a two-bedroom apartment for a while -- particularly with the girls sharing a room.  Our eldest has already informed us that she expects to punch one of us in the face before it's all over.  Something to look forward to.

- I am much more comfortable trying to navigate the traffic here in my own vehicle than I was driving my husband's on our previous visits.

- I went to the grocery store yesterday to buy food for us for the week.  Two observations:  one, I know it's always a bit disconcerting to shop in a new grocery store, but this HEB was huge and quite intimidating.  They even sell clothes there.  You know how Walmarts started adding groceries?  This was like a grocery store adding a Walmart.  I couldn't believe how long it took me to get the shopping done.

And two, it's amazing how much food you need to cover the basics for a family of four for a week.  You don't realize how much stuff you just assume is in stock in your well-stocked kitchen until it isn't in stock anymore.  Starting from scratch is costly.

- And it is really hot here in San Antonio.

- However, the mornings and evenings are rather pleasant.  I brought a couple folding chairs and hubby and I sat out on the balcony last night for a while.  Noisy traffic in front of our faces, but at least there is one big tree there blocking some of the view.  It reminded me for a bit of our first year of marriage when we lived in St. Louis, both of us finishing school -- young, poor, newlywed students.

- The youngest is going to Novice Speech Camp this week (and Novice Debate Camp next week).  She was supposed to go to a drama camp this week, but it was cancelled -- and she was very disappointed.  She's not so sure about this Speech camp because she doesn't like making speeches.  But I think she will like the interpretive speeches -- that's basically acting.  We'll see if she likes it (and debate) enough to join the team in the fall.  I kind of hope she does just because I always wished I had taken speech and debate.  Valuable skills to be learned there.

- The eldest is still in mourning, but at least in quiet mourning.  We've got to get back to our online driver's ed class so she can start taking the in-car lessons soon now that we're here.  I wish she wanted to drive as much as we want her to drive.  Now the youngest . . . she's itching to get in a car, but she will have to wait an extra year for her permit here in Texas.  And don't you know she's not happy about that.

- And folks, it is darn HOT in San Antonio!!  But then, it looks like it's pretty hot all over the Midwest these days.  Thankful for a pool in the apartment complex.

House-hunting this afternoon . . . gotta find a house . . .

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On the Road Again

The first post I posted on this blog was on October 8th, 2008.  I wrote it from a hotel in Somerset, PA on the first night of our trip driving from New Jersey to our new home in Sioux City.  I realized that last night as I talked to a friend about our leaving Sioux City today for our trek to our new home, San Antonio.

Something feels a little surreal about that.

I started this blog strictly for a way to keep our Jersey friends informed about our new lives, so I didn't have to write fifty or sixty emails to all the people who wanted to know how we were settling in.  Certain topics invited more personal reflection on my part, and I soon got feedback on those posts that my friends were really liking them.  My pastor even read part of one during a sermon, I was told.  So when I got to the point that we were settled in and there wasn't much transitioning to be reporting about, I let the blog kind of evolve into something of a public journal . . . fully expecting to lose most of my readers.

I didn't.  And as the years have gone by, I've gained many, many more.  I've said this over and over: I never cease to be amazed that there's anyone out there who is interested in the weird workings of my brain. 

So this blog has, in a sense, helped define my time in Sioux City. Now that I'm leaving, it makes me wonder if anything will change in the blog.  I was tempted to sit down last night and read through all of my posts, just to relive my Sioux City experience . . . but there's 652 of them, and I've got too much packing and cleaning to do.  But just glancing through some of the titles reminds me of how much I -- and the rest of my family -- have grown and changed over these five years.

I'm going to cry as I drive away today.  Closing doors and ending seasons is always hard.  And I have a daughter who will be grieving in a serious way who will need my strength and comfort.  But we've done this before, and God has always been faithful.

And in all honesty . . . I can not WAIT to see what God has in store for us in San Antonio!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Justice and Mercy

I got a ticket on the way to King's Pointe waterpark last Friday.  The irony is that I was in the middle of an informal driver's ed lesson with my youngest ("A double yellow line means no traffic can pass; when the line is dotted on our side, we can pass;" etc.) when I saw the cop's lights start to flash and he turned around to pull up behind me.

The road had just narrowed from a four-lane highway to a two-lane highway, and I hadn't noticed the speed limit went down from 65 to 55.  That makes 67 in a 55 sound not as bad, right?  In theory, I suppose.  But I was bracing myself for a big ticket.

The policeman was very friendly. He was also very kind and merciful.  When he brought me my ticket, he explained that he wrote that I was driving 60 so the fine would be less.  Now THAT's something I've never experienced before.  I thanked him appreciatively and inched back on the highway slowly and carefully.

"That's was nice of him to write down a lower speed," I commented to my daughter.

"But . . . it was a lie.  Isn't that wrong for him to do?" she asked.  

Sigh.  Well, maybe so.  But I explained that he was being merciful, and mercy is a good thing -- and she seemed satisfied.

But it did gnaw at me a bit, because the truth was, the policeman was probably wrong to do that.  He wasn't being just; he wasn't dealing with me as my transgressions deserved.  Yeah, I know we can start talking about my intentions and my past driving record and the severity of the crime and the obscurity of the speed limit sign, and we can find all sorts of ways to rationalize that I didn't deserve a ticket for 67 in a 55.  But the truth is, that's exactly what I did, and the law prescribes a specific penalty for that, and he did not uphold that law.  Not that I'm complaining, but it's a fact.

We like to think of justice as being a bit squishy when it needs to be applied to us in our transgressions and as rock hard solid when it needs to be applied to us in our victimizations.  But a just judge simply applies the law rightly every time.  I commented quite a while back about a Tim Keller book where he explains a cultural difference in the way we view God in our world.  In the Western world, we are troubled with how a loving God could punish someone severely.  In other parts of the world, they are troubled with how a just God can NOT punish someone severely for great sin they committed.  That wouldn't be just.

And God is both just and loving.  The fullness of both extremes, as I wrote recently.  This dilemma is the meaning behind the cross.  A just God could not allow sin to go unpunished.  A loving God had to provide a way to save his children.

After nearly 45 years of churchy life, it's amazing how much I keep coming to understand about the cross.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fourth

Just a few memories of past "Fourths":

- When I was a kid, we lived half a block from Cessna Stadium, the football stadium on WSU's campus where the local ABC affiliate hosted a huge Fourth of July celebration each year.  My sisters and their families would come over every year, and we barbecued and watched fireworks.  We could see the fireworks from our backyard, but trees obstructed a full view, so we usually went up to the church on the corner and watched from their lawn.  Or some years, we fought the crowds and went to the show in the stadium.  Great bands, air force flyovers, just an awesome rousing show.

The fireworks there were the best I've ever seen in my life -- the "Concert in the Sky" they called it, everything timed and coordinated to the music, like choreography.  I think I heard later that the company who put on these displays was the same one who did the famous firework display at the Statue of Liberty for its anniversary.

This defines Independence Day for me: grilled burgers, mom's potato salad, homemade ice cream, and an amazing Concert in the Sky.  Nothing since has ever equaled it.

- My husband's family lived in a neighborhood that had a tradition of getting together for a neighborhood potluck breakfast on the morning of the Fourth.  We have been there a couple years to participate in this, and I thought it was a great tradition.  We decided to try it in New Jersey one year, and it was a good experience there, too.  Our family made biscuits and gravy for the potluck.  I was amazed how many of our NJ neighbors had never had biscuits and gravy . . . and how many of them were reluctant to even try it.  Seriously?  The best breakfast ever.

- This isn't necessary a July Fourth memory, but it is one I remembered last night when they played Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".  I was in my first year of teaching at Blue Springs High School when the first Iraqi war began in 1991.  In fact, I was eating out with teacher friends, celebrating the last day of the semester, when we saw the news story on the restaurant's TVs.

The next day was a teacher workday to get our grades finished and turned in.  All the teachers were at the school, working with their radios on in their rooms, ready to hear the latest on the attacks. It was a somber and heavy day. I walked by the room of one of my friends (one whom, incidentally, my youngest is named after) and saw she had put down her pen and papers, had her head in her hands, and was crying.  From her radio I heard, "And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today . . . "  She had become overwhelmed with the words of the song and couldn't continue grading.

For some reason, that image will always stay with me.

- Last night, we went to the Sioux City Explorers game.  I suppose an evening of America's Favorite Pastime is an appropriate way to spend the holiday, but . . . you know . . . baseball.  It's three or four hours of sitting for a few moments of wahoo-ing scattered here and there.  And this game went to twelve innings -- the last two hours of the game, they were tied 3-3.  It finally ended with one of our boys hitting a homer out of the park -- and yes, that was darn exciting.  But worth the two-hour wait?  I dunno . . .

The fireworks, though, were worth the wait.  Although they were no Concert in the Sky. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Done Fighting

The president of Exodus International recently put out an apology to all gay people who have been hurt by the actions of his organization.  In that apology he makes this statement:   "I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself."

The bold emphasis is mine, because many on both sides of the gay marriage issue made much of that statement -- much of which I think ignores the statements before and after that one. In any case, I sympathize with what he is saying here.

While visiting San Antonio Christian Schools as we considered enrolling our daughters there (we decided against that), we were given a copy of the year's final edition of a student-published magazine.  A young man named Daniel Kishi (whom I wish I knew so I could congratulate him) wrote a fabulous and brave article explaining why he has changed his stance in the gay rights debate.  He has not changed any of his beliefs about marriage or homosexuality, he states, but he has become convinced that "politically opposing homosexual marriage hampers our ability to fulfill our calling."  He says it so much better than I could:

To vocally oppose such legislation is to burn down the bridge that might connect a believer to one of God's lost sheep. . . We harden their hearts and their potential receptiveness to the message that could result in eternal life.  While the traditional family community is standing up for Biblically sound principles, too often they get caught up in the debate and talking points.  They forget that there are more important things than public policy in the United States of America.  They forget that our goal is to lead people to Jesus Christ. . . We must do this by fellowshipping with those who are lost, revealing to them the absolute truths of the God-breathed Scriptures, and earnestly praying that the Lord works in their hearts.  By politically opposing the homosexual agenda, we greatly hinder the possibility of fellowshipping with those who have not been saved . . .


I was never very vocal in the gay marriage debate because I had inklings in my heart of what he expresses here.  And now I embrace those inklings.  I don't care anymore if gay marriage is legal in America.  I understand the consequences, and it's certainly not my preference -- but God is still sovereign, and I have bigger fish to fry.

I have received great encouragement from the book Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill.  (There are apparently other similar books out there; I just haven't read them.)  Hill's message is basically this:  "I am attracted to men.  When I met Christ, he didn't change that; I may always be attracted to men.  But I believe that God tells me in his word that he has better for me than to indulge that attraction, that acting on those impulses will be bad for my life here on earth and will stand in the way of my relationship with him.  And I am confident that he is telling me the truth -- and I am confident that an intimate relationship with him will be more satisfying than any other relationship.  So I choose celibacy for now, and God is daily giving me the grace to do so, difficult as it is."

I am encouraged by that not because his testimony is another weapon to use in America's pervasive "culture war".  I am encouraged because I have my own pet sins that stand in the way of my relationship to God (we all do), and my battle with them isn't nearly as public or difficult as the one Wesley Hill is waging . . . so his faithfulness increases my own. 

This is my hope for my homosexual friends: not that they give up a gay lifestyle because I or anyone else on earth has convinced them it's wrong -- but that they come to know God intimately and passionately.  I'll let God deal with their sex life.  He's quite capable.

And now I'm tired of this topic.  I'm moving on.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows

I read yesterday some interesting facts about colonial America.  We tend to look back on the Puritan era as a time when the church dominated society, for better or worse.  But apparently, it wasn't necessarily so.  In 1776 only 17 percent of the people living in the soon-to-be United States were members of a church congregation.  And even in very Puritan New England, about a third of all first births that happened between 1761 and 1800 came less than nine months into the marriage of the parents.

Just goes to show that we tend to look on the "good old days" with rose-colored glasses (if one could consider the Puritan era as religious good old days . . . but that's another post).

It was an interesting coincidence to read these statistics yesterday, because I knew I wanted today to write about the following point that Ed Stetzer makes in his  article I referred to in my last post:

Fifty years ago, Christians comprised the mainstream in America and were fully accepted as a cultural majority. Many during that time did not stand up for those who were weak and marginalized. The "good old days" so often longed for were also times of racial oppression, gender discrimination, and theological confusion. So, pining for those "moral" days of yore is like chasing a mirage. The past simply wasn't that great for many when Christians had more influence.

Yeah.  We forget those things.  If there are those out there who fear a Christian-dominated nation, we may have given them good reason for that fear.

Every time we move and start looking at other churches, I find myself initially attracted to churches that feel like the one I grew up in.  And there were wonderful things about the church of my youth -- I wouldn't change that aspect of my early years at all.  But having grown up now, I am aware of the things I wasn't aware of at the time.  The tension and discomfort the very few black members of the congregation felt.  The strain on my sister's homosexual friend.  The marriages that were falling apart behind the scenes, or staying together more for appearances than for any other reason.  The generation of young people who were not getting the grounding in their faith they needed to continue. 

Christians who rail about the moral condition of our culture today need to remember three things.  One, the unregenerated are going to behave like the unregenerated.  Just what else do you expect of them?  That's exactly how you would behave if you were in their place.

Two, there are far more unregenerated within the church walls than we want to believe.  Church folk may have their own lingo and "secret handshakes" that separate us from the world, but too often, that's all that separates us from the world.  I believe the last statistic I heard about divorce had the divorce rate of church-going Christians slightly higher than the general public.  Shameful.

Three, the situation today grew out of the situation of yore which you are fighting to maintain or restore.  The happy, traditional, Christian world you seek where you can float through life as happy, traditional, Christian people never existed . . . and never will.  The world is a battleground. It always has been.

As Stetzer says, we didn't do a very good job of things when we were "on top" -- and that's why we may be losing the culture war now.  I just thank God that the "culture war" and the fight to keep a "Christian nation" aren't the fight God calls us to wage here.

But that, again, is a topic for another post.  :)