Restarting, with what could be the final post

I am back to writing, and have built a new page design as part of the re-launch.  But the cartoon below may make all future posts irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Wondermark cartoons for a while.  Intellectually irreverent.

2015-11-20-1176politicWondermark

This also explains why I’ve (almost completely) abandoned Facebook.  More on that in another post (if you really think that this was the end, then you don’t know me very well 😀 )

 

Reflections on “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home”

I just read “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home”, and thought I’d share it, as well as add some thoughts of my own.  The article brings up some good points, and some that I’m guilty of in my own parenting.

I spent too much of my life telling my kids that my job was to ensure they “grew up to be productive members of our society.”  I was wrong, and my only defense is ignorance.  For most of my kids’ formative years, that was my understanding of life.  As the author linked above states, “The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches.”  I didn’t realize that until about nine years ago.  See, God’s goal is not to teach morality or ethics, so that we can be strong, upright citizens.  I didn’t know that; in fact, I spent most of my life thinking that was the goal, and our reward for attaining the goal was a ticket to heaven.

The author quotes Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer, who said:

“We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true.”

That first sentence describes me, and everything I taught my kids (except I was pretty light on the third part–mine would probably read more accurately if you substituted “Sunday school stories and Veggie Tales” for “gospel”).  But I’m afraid that the author of the blog goes too light on what he proposes as the antidote.  He says:

“or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.”

While I don’t disagree with his point, I think that his description of “Christ’s offer of grace” still points to a message of “personal salvation,” one that tells you that if you accept Christ as your personal savior, your sins are forgiven, and you get to go to heaven.

Jesus didn’t die so we could get a ticket to heaven.  Jesus didn’t preach personal salvation.  He preached the Kingdom of Heaven.  That’s not a ticket for your afterlife, that’s a new life, starting right now.

I believe that so much of the hopelessness we see in our world, particularly in kids raised in the church, is that we are told, “pray a prayer, get ‘saved,’ then after you die, God will make everything better.”  That’s not what the BIBLE says!  If you read the whole book, it’s not just a collection of morality tales, but a comprehensive story, a metanarrative of how the Creator God has planned since the beginning to make things right in his Creation, and how each one of us, under his Lordship, can participate in that story.

I made a mess of things when I tried to do it on my own, and when I tried to use God, the church, and Veggie Tales to make my kids “productive members of society.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got amazing, God-loving children, who have grown up to become productive members of society, and of whom I’m very proud.  However, I way too late in life discovered that “the Protestant work ethic and the American dream” weren’t enough.

What makes my life exhilarating, and fully worth living is the fact that God wants me to be a part of his Kingdom, that he made a way for me to not only be a member, but to be an active participant in the Greatest Story, the one where he brings his fallen Creation back to relationship with him.  That purpose was what I was looking for all my life, and only recently discovered.  My hope is that my kids have that same purpose, and that other parents out there can raise their kids with The Story, rather than just the “ethics and reward” lessons I taught.

Radical Change

It’s been seven months since I last posted in this blog.  A lot has changed in my life in seven months:

  • I’ve moved from one end of the continent to the other (Alaska to Florida)
  • My daughter got married in June
  • My son has moved and bought his first home
  • I went from being extremely busy in a well-paying job to relatively unbusy in a non-job.

Technically I’m not “unemployed,” since the formal definition of that term requires one to be looking for a job.  I’m not.  After a lot of discussion, prayer, and doubts, my wife and I decided that I needed to “take some time off.”  If it were a more formal arrangement, one might call this a “sabbatical,” but I don’t have an end date, and I’m not going back to my old job (as far as I know, anyway).  We’ve relocated to an idyllic place where I can spend my time decompressing, studying, thinking, and learning how to relax (which is the toughest task I think I’ve ever had).

One of my goals for this time has been to spend a lot of time thinking and studying, and then writing on a fairly regular basis.  We’ve been in our new home now for a little more than a month, and we’re settled enough that I’ve embarked on the studying, and was starting to feel guilty for not having written yet.  My biggest challenge hasn’t been motivation or finding a topic, but rather to distill all the thoughts into something singular to post about.

“So what are you going to write about today, Brain?”
“The same thing I do every time, Pinky:  How to fix the world.”  (1990s cartoon reference in honor of my kids)

While topics such as the Affordable Care Act, the federal government shutdown, NSA spying on pretty much everybody, and others are interesting potential fodder for future posts, I want to start with what I see as a meta-theme and my approach to it.

I’ve struggled mightily to try to accurately define this meta-theme that I see prevalent throughout our society, and I’m still not sure I’ve done it accurately.  For lack of a more accurate term, I’m going to initially refer to it as a “spirit of offendedness.”  It seems to me that we have a strong tendency to be offended, and in fact, that we often seem to seek reasons to be offended.  Whether it’s in traffic, or an encounter with a neighbor and loose dogs, or collectively in our political tribes, or in just about any group encounter, we are offended by the actions of others.  It seems to be our default position.  Note, I’m using first person plural throughout this description, as I’m seeing it in myself, and not just trying to pin it on everyone else.

I think there’s a relationship here between the “spirit of offendedness” and the divisiveness plaguing our nation, but I’m not sure exactly what that relationship is.  But the combination of our proclivity to be offended, and the divisiveness in virtually all aspects of our country seem to be at the root of much of the troubles we’re facing today, at the macro and the micro level.

I’m not going to try to defend my argument today; that’s not the point of my post.  Instead, with this new start to my (hopefully) regular blogging, I’m committing publicly to try to defuse this meta-theme in my own actions, thoughts, and writing.  Further, by putting it here, I’m giving you permission to call me on it when I come up short.  Finally, I’m inviting you to join me.  See, the more I consider it, the more I realizing that I’m trying to draw on one of the most significant moments of my life, when wisdom it me so hard in the nose that it still stings 30 years later.

Early in my Army career, I had the extreme fortune to be assigned as the platoon leader’s RTO (although at the time I saw nothing fortunate about it at all).  We had jumped into an exercise at sundown, then moved all night before setting up in our patrol base.  Normally that would mean time to get some sleep, but my PL wanted me to help him build a sand table to prepare to brief the operations order.  I was tired, grumpy, and generally being a punk private, and went into a profanity laced tirade about how hosed up everything was.  As I was about to hit my rhythm, LT Miller bellowed, “Walker, Shut the f*(& up!  You’re real good at telling me everything that is wrong, but you never say a single word about how to fix it.  Until you have a viable solution, I don’t want to hear another word out of you!”  My immediate response was to close my mouth, although I’m sure my brain went into a nonverbal tirade about the obnoxious know-it-all-lieutenant.  But after the red drained out of my face, I realized he was right.  If all you’re doing is telling everyone you see what is wrong with what’s going on, but you’re not doing anything constructive to make it better, you’re just bitching.  That seems to be our new national pastime.  I’ve probably failed at following LT Miller’s advice more than I’ve succeeded, but I’ve tried to make it a maxim to live by.

So here’s the deal:  I am going to try not to take up offense, or to be divisive.  Instead, I’m going to work here, and in all aspects of my life, to try to unite people, to find common ground.  I’m going to work, when I see something that bugs me, that I don’t like, or that might actually inconvenience me, to try to understand the reasoning behind the other position before I assume that the other is trying to ruin my life.  I’m not going to begin with the assumption (or the perceived “fact”) that the person or group that is offending me is a selfish, or worse yet devious idiot who is determined to ruin me, my country, or my drive to the store.  Maybe they know something I don’t?  Maybe they have different (which does not mean wrong) priorities?  Maybe they just made an honest mistake (rather than a devious lie designed to deceive)?

I’m not saying I’m not going to debate, or disagree–just that I’m not going to disagree from a point of offense or divisiveness, but from a point of trying to achieve understanding, and seeking common ground.

For me, that’s pretty radical.  Want to join me?

Gobsmacked!

Shocked. Stunned. Dumbstruck.

Tuesday night I sat down and posted some very deep thoughts on my sleepy little blog page, with the expectation that I was going to spark a little thought and conversation amongst the handful of people who read my stuff, primarily my Facebook friends.  Prior to that post, I had 590 views over several YEARS, and most of those coming from a Twitter bump I received while attending a Compassion Conference a few years ago.

In the first 24 hours since that post, my site had 2800 views!  That blew me away.  Today I’ve had almost 5000.   From over 15 different countries, on every continent except Antarctica.

For one of the few times in my life, I don’t know what to say.  Hence the title:  gobsmacked.  This awesome word can’t be fully appreciated unless you hear it first from a Scotsman.  I had never heard it in my life, but when a co-worker used it in a conversation 6 years ago, I immediately knew what it meant–stunned beyond the ability to speak, or even think.  I think it’s one of the greatest words in the English language, and it is definitely the most appropriate to describe my response to the way my last post took off.

One more word describes my reaction to this amazing response to my posts:  Humbled.

I am incredibly thankful to all of you for taking the time to read and consider what I had to say, and for so many of you–friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers–who thought my words were worthy of sharing.  Pretty much all of the traffic came from Facebook shares.  That’s cool, because I’m a big believer in relationships; however, I’m bummed because I missed out on much of the conversation.

I have, however, received quite a bit of feedback, the vast majority supportive, from people on both sides of the discussion!  That is really cool!  I have to say that I didn’t expect that; I figured those who supported gay marriage would take offense to me asserting that homosexual activity is sin, along with those who don’t believe in YHWH taking additional exception to my Christian perspectives.  I also expected many of my Christian friends to take exception to my assertion that we quit judging homosexuals, and focus on loving everyone.  To my surprise, and delight, even those who strongly disagree with things I have said did so with respect (for the most part).

All of this newfound attention to my writing has been tremendously humbling, and I’m greatly appreciative that each of you thought my message was worth sharing.  The attention has also introduced new challenges:

1) I have had to balance keeping the comments moderated with some degree of timeliness, while doing my day job.  My smartphone got a workout today!  But it was important to me to keep the conversation going.

2) I had to deal with my first really derogatory commenter today–I learned new features of the comment moderation tool… WordPress is pretty intuitive and useful, for any of you who are looking to start your own little worldwide conversations!

3) I now am faced with the challenge of determining the topic for future posts.  I don’t want this to become a “gay marriage debate” blog, or a “Christian doctrine or polity” blog, or a “Greg” blog…  If you took the time to look back on any of my posts, I hope you saw that I try to discuss things that seem relevant to me (at the Holy Spirit’s leading), but I don’t want to preach at those who don’t follow Jesus, because you can find that lots of places.  I want it to be a place to engage each other, to exchange ideas, to consider the perspective of others, not so one can shout down one’s opponents, but instead to seek to understand, even if we respectfully disagree.

Right now, I don’t have a new topic, so I’ll leave you with this:

Thanks.  And God bless you all.  Feel free to check back whenever; my 15 minutes of fame has lasted for almost 48 hours now, but if you want to hang out, talk, ask challenging questions in a respectful manner, then I’ll be here.  If you never make it back, thanks for listening.  You made my day!

Greg.

This ought to be interesting…

I just deleted my Google account.  I now no longer have a Gmail account, my Blogger identity (where my old blog was hosted), a YouTube account, Google docs…

I was surprised that Google offered a button on their account settings that let me delete my entire account, but they did!  As I posted earlier, I don’t like the way Google decided that they can link everything together without my approval.  Truth be told, I like having a lot of my online info linked together, but I want to make that decision, and not to have it done for me for the company’s marketing purposes.  So, the “Google Greg” no longer exists!

I’m going to go in the other room now and see if my dog can still see me.

Restart-again!

First, I just discovered that the settings on Facebook that allow this blog to post in FB were set so that it posted on my page only, so most of you probably haven’t read the past several days’ posts.  To summarize:  I have moved to a new blog host, away from the Google-based Blogger site (starting to separate myself from Google due to my disapproval of their privacy policies).

Second:  I’m in Baton Rouge, LA, where Kelli and I are attending the Greater Things Conference, a gathering of some great Church leaders with a heart for loving our community and world.  Last night we heard from Joyce Meyer as the keynote speaker.  Today was filled with some AWESOME speakers, including Mark Batterson from National Community Church and Christine Caine, leader of the A21 Campaign to fight human trafficking (YES, it’s a huge problem–did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than there have been at any other time in human history?!).  Joshua Dubois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships spoke about how the Church can work with the government to eradicate hunger in our communities.  Also heard from Miles McPherson, a former NFL player-turned pastor, and a phenomenal speaker.

Tonight was topped off with Matthew and Tommy Barnett, two pillars in the Church, who are changing their communities, and changing the world.  Matthew Barnett leads the Los Angeles Dream Center, an example of what the Church can do when it sets its heart on loving the community, not preaching and judging the community.

In between all the speakers we attended workshops on how the Church can practically get involved in serving the community.  I’m excited, but also concerned.  Right now, I’m ready to take on the world, but I could very easily fall back into my rut when I get back home.  I’m praying that God keeps the burden real in the future that feels like a 50# weight laying on my chest right now.  You have my permission, and even my encouragement, to challenge me in the weeks ahead to find out what I’ve done with what I’ve learned this week.  Because I don’t want to follow the pattern of too many churches and Christians in our country today–developing a lot of head knowledge, but not having any impact on the world.

Migrating my blog

Now that I’m done with school, I’m hoping to get more frequent in my blogging.

I’m also not appreciative of our friends at Google who have decided that they’re going to decide how to share my data and interests across all of the platforms they can, which included my Gmail account and my old Blogger account.

So, I’m starting a new site!  I’ve moved to WordPress, and have set up my own domain, at Seek-1st.net

The bad news is it might take me a day or two to master the new site/format, so bear with me (I’ll try to delete all the tests and not waste too much of your time).

It’s kinda bland right now, but that’s what they gave me as a default layout.  I’ll play with that some too…