True Wisdom

"the LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just
than when we offer Him sacrifices."
                                                                      -Proverbs 21:3

I'm concerned with the level of aggression I see everywhere I look. "Being right" has leaked from our politics to our personal lives and these days we are desperate to have the last word. Self-righteous indignation is becoming everyone's favorite past-time, and there are fewer and fewer of us listening to each other in humility. Instead, our amygdalas have been hijacked with our own blustering opinions and our obsession with all-things-media inches us to the razor's edge of civil unrest turning from fiery words to physical weaponry and civil war.

The Proverbs speak wisdom amidst such chaos, timeless transcendence to the cyclical repetition of civil war within & without. Solomon reminds us, God is not pleased with death. Now, whoever you believe God to be (or not to be),  you cannot help but observe a historical pattern of human bloodbaths (war) rising up in every generation. Genocide, colonialism, democratization, resistance... words that insidiously emerge into bloodshed in every generation, and often, in the name of god, freedom, rights, and/or progress. And yet, the regressive result (mass death) is proof that we are NOT following God at all if we perpetrate this response.

If Solomon is to be believed as the wisest man of his day, we can vouchsafe that we have continuously misunderstood the character of God. He is not like us at all. Rather it is our propensity towards hatred of self & others that perpetuates the very war we project onto Him. Something inside of us is at war, and it erupts externally because we fail to address it internally. We determine that we must war against "the other" because we allow our intolerance to swell to a fever pitch, and so choose 'sacrifice' instead of doing what is MORE pleasing to God--what is right and just.

What is right and just?


Though we cannot believe someone could see things differently, we forgive. Though we are mocked for our worldview, forgive. Though we are bombarded by -isms, we forgive. Though we are resistant, we forgive. Though we are defensive, we forgive. Though we are goaded to attack, we forgive. Though we are burning with the fire of free speech, we forgive. Though we are sure of our perspective for righteousness and justice... we forgive.

Let me remind you, that there is no other way to deescalate a generational cycle of bloodshed. There has never been another answer righting every wrong and bringing justice to our inner brokenness. There has never been another solution which leads to the laying down of arms, and the transformation of souls. To err is human, to forgive, divine.  We see this by the Cross, the story of forgiveness... where justice and mercy kiss, where grace swallows judgement whole, and life declares the death of death.

Forgiveness frees us! The forgiver finds freedom to pave the pathway of peace for all who are weary of war. We can choose to turn down the noise of every internal grievance, and ask instead for the quiet sublimity of compassion. And in so doing, we reverse the curse of incivility.  

I pray for anyone reading this, that the noise inside of us would surrender to our counter calling to forgive. We are filled with conflict, but there is a fountain filled with love available to those who will give it freely. God reveal who you really are because we want to stop the vicious cycle of hatred we see in and around us and we cannot do this without understanding what is right and just. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Are You Still Listening? (Two Weeks till the Vote)

Are you as sick as I am of the 2016 presidential election coverage? It's never-ending and the lows that our country has stooped to have forever changed our political reality. We know WAY more than we ever wanted to about everything the candidates have said and done and now we must choose between two sinners who have sullied the American dream of a melting pot where all nations can fuse into one under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

I've spoken about the glaring contradiction of this election where the people of America have actually stood together in droves at Bernie/Trump rallies to protest the corruption of Washington. However, it is now clear that Trump's authenticity is simply an acknowledgement that he is no better than the sleaze of DC. He understands the place because he is implicated in it. His words and actions are detestable to all and his rhetoric is tactless and divisive. The problem is... Clinton's rhetoric hasn't helped either, literally dividing the democratic party by fixing the democratic nomination against Bernie (with aspersion and media collusion), while labeling half the democratic party as basement-dweller-dependents and half the country as deplorable Trump supporters.

The renewed interest in our democratic process of a government "for and by the people" is now a cluttered mess of clandestine backroom deals, video taped hit pieces, extreme deafness and extreme segregation between "liberals" and "republicans" which don't even exist anymore because they're the same thing... corrupt. And worse, we're the ones who've believed the lie that our opinions (social media) give us higher ground than our neighbor who disagrees. In short, we've all become elitist in our positions and we've stopped listening to each other.

I feel like I have a unique perspective on this because I was educated as a democrat, attended a liberal arts college and was taught to keep an open-mind to all perspectives. My search for truth lead me to consume all angles of the diamond, people with ideas from every background and creed. I learned how everyone is shaped by their roots... how our perspective is sacred because it reflects our life experience. I learned to listen to opposing views and give the benefit of the doubt to others even when words came across aggressively or judgmentally. Liberalism taught me patience and generosity of spirit for all human beings and all ideas. But, I can't help notice one idea is unacceptable to my humanistic upbringing. The idea that is off-limits is exclusivity. Those who make truth claims of exclusivity are tolerated at best and branded hateful at worst. I notice my liberal friends stop listening if any idea is cast as exclusive. This is particularly challenging for me because I believe Jesus' words "I am the way" and that offends my friends. And yet, I can't help but observe the inherent contradiction, that my liberal education condemns exclusivity while embracing it by excluding Jesus.

That's why it was encouraging for me to come across audio of Michael Moore's one man show based on his new documentary Trumpland. Though he does not hide his implicit support of the democratic platform, he never shut himself off from listening to the other side... so much so that he includes their viewpoint and says it must be legitimized in the eyes of his fellow liberals--if liberalism is to be authentic to it's aversion to exclusivity. Basically he says, we can not simply call each other names when we do not like each others ideas. True liberalism is listening to others with generosity and graciousness so that we understand the heart of our brother rather than projecting our hatred of exclusivity upon him.

Though I may not like Michael's use of offensive language, I understand that it is for effect because we are too easily offended by words instead of listening to the heart of the other. The other is us and if we are to be united as a country we will need more and more listening to the opposing side of our opinion. We will need to refrain from casting aspersions, caricatures, and demonisations upon those who disagree with us because they are our brothers/sisters... human beings entitled to their ideas, their perspectives, and their vote.

Michael says this of those people who oppose his views during this election season, "They're not racist and rednecks, they're actually pretty decent people... and after talking to a number of them I wanted to write this..."

(WARNING :: If you are offended by cuss words or Michael Moore, you will not want to listen to this audio... you have been warned).

I haven't made my mind up yet about who I'm going to vote for because I am still listening. I have been offended by both candidates so many times I can no longer count. Honestly, I have gone back and forth because from week to week I'm appalled by one side or the other. The effect of this is extreme apathy and/or extreme partisanship. But, I am committed to listening until Nov. 8th because more will be revealed. I am also committed to embracing people who may disagree with me whichever way I choose because one exclusive idea Jesus taught me... people are more important than ideas and love covers all.

The Political Smell Test (WARNING content & language may not be appropriate for all viewers)

When I watched this video for the first time, I laughed so hard I cried. I know it's immature, but I've come to terms with the 10 year old boy in me who never grows up. Any yet, even my inner-ten-year-old is increasingly alarmed at the likeness this video has to our current political reality. Everyday our country's vision is descending further and further into blindness. And tragically, instead of turning on the lights, we attempt to overcome the darkness by championing our sense of smell. Not tracking with me? Let me explain.

The corruption of Washington has never been more factually incontrovertible. Our leaders are immersed in a cesspool of secrets, lies, racism, xenophobia, injustice, cowardice, extortion, bribery, pay-to-play, optics and lawlessness. Wikileaks, cyber-hackers, youtube and facebook are filled with first hand accounts of how our political leaders are rigging the outcome of modern elections and portraying a story-line that is fictional--that Americans are rallying behind the two remaining presidential candidates. Democrats are paying hundreds of thousands of seat-fillers to make their convention appear unified. Republicans are half-heartedly endorsing their "lesser of two evils" candidates and it doesn't matter who you support... we can all see no one's hands are clean. Every day our newspapers, media, and social news-feeds reveal that our most senior leadership (and those vying for said leadership) are--at best--aiding and abetting unlawful behavior. At worst, our highest elected officials are ensconced in purposeful criminal avarice for personal enrichment at the peril of democratic governance. In short, every American now knows at the highest level--beyond a shadow of a doubt--our government is untrustworthy.

Which brings me to the political smell test. You see, our sense of smell is a wonderful and very powerful thing (in fact, it becomes even more pronounced when another of our senses is handicapped). Over our lifetime, we are given multiple and varying inputs as it relates to the political atmosphere. Family, media, college and religious organizations (to name a few) may tilt us one way or the other. We come to conclusions about political parties, cultural views and, which candidate we will support, largely from these unique inputs. And, however we come to our conclusions, we believe our opinions are anchored in something even more unbiased than these inputs : our ability to smell crap. Yep, Americans believe we have the unique ability to recognize when something or someone stinks... and we rely on this ability even more deeply than whatever social inputs may try to sway us. How else do you explain the fervent political buzz of shared opining which dominates all current communication & media? We all have an opinion and we all want the world to know.

Over the past few years, I haven't been a very active member of social media. It's more of a grocery store for me--a place I'd rather have my wife go because she has the amazing ability to weed through all the junk food and bring home the healthy good stuff. I love my friends and I like to know what's going on in their lives but lately I get too distracted by the plethora of political opinions obscuring the real you and the real me. I find myself getting angry with something you said, or something I wanted to say in retort and then I think, what happened to me? I was perfectly happy just moments before I saw that meme you posted, that video you linked to, those comments you left on someone else's page. But now I'm hot with quick witted remarks, and unimportant foolishness. My amygdala has been hijacked and I want it back!!

All of us want to showcase our ability to smell crap, so we point out bias where we see it. At first, we speak eloquently about this or that politician who is clearly more "smelly", thinking that justifies our support for their counterpart. But as we encounter opposing beliefs we get hijacked by our sense of smell and forget to employ our sight. We are not unique because we call a spade a spade. We are not special because we can smell a fraud in political candidates. The truth is : this election stinks so bad that we've all passed the political smell test with 100% accuracy. The problem isn't our sense of smell, it is our inability to see ourselves becoming spellbound in odor.

I am in full support of freedom. I love our constitution and it's protection of our speech & our right to articulate stinky smelling politicians. However, before you and I post another diatribe opposing some political candidate, let's take a look at ourselves and consider whether our opinions are becoming as stinky as the corruption we are against. You see, we cannot fix our country by pointing out it's problems any more... they are obvious to all. It is time we begin owning the problems as our own, and remembering what makes America great. Government by the people for the people. This means we ARE the government, and our politicians are a reflection of who we are. You may have aced the political smell test, but the personal smell test is much more difficult. You and I aren't very good at smelling our own BO (or BS), and we need to see ourselves first, so we can be part of the solution.

By all means, vote for whichever candidate you find to be the least smelly. And then please, please, please take a long hard look at yourself and ask the people around you, "do I stink?" Let me give you the answer ahead of time... yes, we all do. Then, let's turn on the lights in our own lives and do the real work of cleaning our hearts--of discord, jealousy, rivalries, divisions, factions and hatred--so we stop boasting about our ability to pass the political smell test while continuing to wander around in the darkness.

I'm with America

Stephen Colbert nailed it last night, "Hillary Clinton is currently beating Bernie Sanders in every measurable category, except how many people 'woo!' when you say her name." His audience participation/demonstration of Bernie vs. Hillary (+superdelegates) is a beautiful illustration of a growing American awareness of political manipulation, and the importance of reclaiming our democratic responsibility as citizen servants. 

Colbert's illustration crystallizes the feeling we have about this bizarre political primary season--"something smells fishy." Whether the paid punditry, news media, established oligarchs and career politicians like it or not, Americans are more and more aware of an organized, intentional, shenanigan-ridden, power-grab effort to "cook" the election process, and Americans are speaking-out clearly on both sides of the isle. On the Republican side, vote stealing, delegate buying, media circus-ing, facebook censoring and never-ending-failed-predictions could not keep the silent majority of Republican voters from validating their candidate Donald Trump. And now, on the Democratic side, superdelegate Chicanery, FBI e-mail investigatory, CNN Bernie censoring, Bill Clinton debauchery and scripted-major-media Hillarity, is close-to-convincing a silent majority of Democratic voters that it's time to tip over the Clinton-cart.

And though we are being told our country is divided, let me see if I can convince you of the contrary viewpoint. You see, inherent in Colbert's illustration is a comedian who "gets it," and doesn't want to alienate his audience by pushing propaganda no one is buying. It doesn't matter how many million votes Hillary has... we just don't believe she is for us. And so, Colbert is accessing a metric that doesn't care about numbers... he is registering emotions. The result is obvious, Bernie is winning the hearts of Americans. And yes, any score-keeping, stick-in-the-mud-politician can say "it's the numbers that matter" but they would be wrong because we don't believe the numbers--at all. The emotions tell us Bernie Sanders is winning and we're discovering that democracy means--no matter how many pundits tell us other wise--we, the American people, are the government. And Americans will choose our country's leadership, especially when it means replacing career bureaucrats who have ignored our voices and fattened their pocketbooks at our expense.

You see, whether you're a Democrat, Libertarian, Republican or you watch CNN, MSNBC or FOX... we are unified as Americans--that things in Washington DC are broken. As Americans, we're tired of being called "divided" by News Media that has tried to sell us Bushes and Clintons for 25 years. Think about it? If the News Media had gotten their way in this election, we'd be choosing between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Yuck! As Americans, we've "been there and done that" and frankly, I hope Democrats will give 'ole Bernie a chance--even if he is a socialist.

At least then we'd have a true democratic debate about the merits of Capitalism vs. Socialism, which is at the core of our current popular psyche. But first, we want justice for those who have purchased inflated numbers and rigged our republic. Our message is clear... we remember the Constitution, and it begins with us. "We the people of the United States of America in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice..."

I understand Trump, and I understand Bernie. Yes, their ideologies are sharply different, but "we the people" have chosen these two because we feel they are for us. I don't know how things will shake out at the democratic convention, but I hope delegates and superdelegates alike, will listen to the people and recognize we're done with "her"--where "her" is the corrupt siren call of slimy conniving media-endorsed Bush/Clinton operatives who bow at the altar of self. America wants justice on the right AND on the left... who am I with?

I'm with America.


This week our church is having our first ever Baptism Sunday. That's not to say we don't baptize people often, just that we haven't dedicated a specific day for the purposes of Baptism before this in our church's history--and for good reason. The church I'm apart of doesn't believe you wait until a specific day to get baptized because that means you'd be following some religious tradition rather than choosing to make a commitment to follow Jesus whenever He calls you. The church I'm a part of says "there is no creed but Jesus." We're not trying to get you to follow a list of rules. We're not trying to clean you up and get you more religious. We're definitely not trying to get you to practice empty rituals and long-winded liturgies. We're just trying to point you to Jesus.
It's simple. Jesus died for all of us, for the forgiveness of our sins.

We don't need to look very hard to discover we're covered in mud. If we can't see it on ourselves, we can turn on the tv or consider a broken friendship or relationship we're still wrestling with. Someone's sin is at the heart of every argument, wound, broken relationship, politic, newsreel, and heartbreak. And though we'd like to believe we're not that bad... the standard we hold others too is hypocritical because we can't even keep ourselves from messing up. None of us is perfect.

But there was One who lived a sinless life. We still hear about Him as a good man. His words are never very far from the highest example of integrity and wisdom... "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The golden rule is the standard of perfection because it embodies the life of Jesus. "Christian" used to mean a person who modeled their life after Jesus--a "little Jesus". But let's face it, people don't think very highly of Christians anymore. We've all seen too many "Christians" contradict Jesus... we're seeing it all over the place right now in the Presidential campaigns, right?

So at our church, we don't hold people to an impossible standard, we invite them to a Perfect person--Jesus who is fully man, and fully God. How do we know? Because Jesus didn't just live a sinless life and forgive our sins by His death and burial... He rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. Hundreds saw His scarred hands and feet, and told the world--even when they were murdered because they would not deny what they had seen. And now everyday people tell how Jesus encounters them, through the conviction of our sins, the mystery of the Jesus's living Spirit, and the Scriptures that come alive in us as we walk in His Spirit.

Baptism is a picture of this spiritual life. Jesus believers are baptized for "the repentance of our sins". Our submersion is a symbol of our death to sin. We are no longer slaves to our whims, our angers, our temptations, our selfishness--our sin. Our emergence from the water is a portrait of rising from this death... our new life has begun. We're choosing to follow Jesus now, allowing Him to teach us what it means to live gracefully, love fully, forgive intentionally and ask for forgiveness constantly. We will never be God, but He promises to live in us so that the world can see the difference He makes in us. Rather than saying "{your name here] is so perfect!" people will say "{your name here] is so different!" And the difference is the invisible feeling we have around this person... they're more loving, joyful, patient, peaceful, kind, faithful, self-controlled, gentle and good.

This doesn't happen because there is anything special about the water. It's just faucet water, and it won't change anything about us. It's meeting God that has changed us, seeing that He has pursued us by sending His Son Jesus to show us what love looks like.

I remember my baptism at 21. Though I'd been baptized as a kid, I knew it hadn't been my decision, and my early adult years had been filled with hypocrisy. I was that "Christian" who looked nothing like Jesus. I had some religious ideas, some bible talk and some family tradition... but I hadn't met Jesus myself. And then, while at college partying myself into trouble He broke through my fog. My conscience was quickened, my heart was stirred and my sixth sense was aware there was a lot more going on around me than I could see with just my eyes. There were times I should have died, but somehow I was rescued inconceivably. There were coincidences I couldn't write-off, and miracles that filled my mind with wonder. And one day it was all too much and tears streamed down my cheeks because I felt there was a God and whoever He was, He seemed to be trying to get my attention. So I set out to learn who He was, reading the Bible and the Hebrew Scriptures from cover-to-cover, reading all the books that challenged His existence, and asking questions of anyone who claimed to have met Him. From 18 to 21 I uncovered every rock, and finally concluded there was more to this life than me. All the religions I studied were too... religious. But, when I read about Jesus, He was different. He wasn't trying to establish a cult. He wasn't out to grow a following. He said He knew the truth about the way the world was put together... that He had been there with God when it was created. The Hebrews scriptures taught me that God knew the number of hairs on my head, and loved me so much He would send a Messiah to save me... to save everyone. And only Jesus proved that He was the One. He was the only one to return hatred with kindness, to trade His life for mine, and to overcome death with His resurrection. I knew Jesus was unlike any other god. And when I sensed Him confirming my search... I asked, "what do you want me to do now?" And His answer was simple.

Follow Me.

So I did. And one of the first things He said to do in the Scriptures was to be baptized. It's a day I'll never forget, filled with tears and relief. The symbol still makes me smile now from ear to ear. Covered in His love, drenched in His forgiveness, and marked with His Spirit. I'm different now and everyday with Jesus is filled with incredible gratitude for what He has done and does miraculously through daily life.

Baptism didn't save me... Jesus did and does. Whatever He says to do, I'm in because I've watched His words bring other people so much joy, life and even salvation. I know one thing is true for all of us, Jesus's Spirit tugs at our hearts to know Him. That's one of the reasons I like sharing my story because maybe God can use it as His voice in your life today. If you hear Him today, don't be afraid... you're not crazy. God is real and He is very good, you just need to trust your sixth sense and do whatever He tells you. Who knows, maybe one day you'll follow Jesus into the water of Baptism too? One thing is for sure, God loves us dearly and He wants us to know Him definitively.