Category Archives: Politics

Wisdom or Folly?

“If I only knew then what I know now, I would have approached my life back then so differently.” I bet almost all of us have stated that lament at one time or another, either on looking back at high school, college, or maybe that first job. Ah, wisdom; that wonderful gift from God that opens our eyes to a grander plan than we could ever comprehend on our own. Wisdom helps us realize that life is a much larger picture than even the wisest among us can perceive at any given time, and although we cannot see the entirety of that big picture we know it exists. As we gain in wisdom we begin to look beyond our own well being and seek the well being of others. We begin to realize that the world wasn’t created solely for our benefit, but we were created to serve the world around us. If we seek wisdom we can find it.

“Then I saw that there was more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.” Ecclesiastes 2:13 

Why, then, do some seem to choose to wallow in folly? What is folly, anyway? Merriam-Webster defines folly, “the lack of good sense or judgment; a foolish act or idea; foolish behavior.” Truly, folly is all around us. Now, to be fair, I must confess that I have spent my share of time pursuing folly. I remember making decent grades in high school without having to put in a whole lot of effort. I remember making the Dean’s list my freshman year of college – not the list of students who excelled, but the list of students whose admission was in possible jeopardy because of a lower-than-acceptable GPA. It seems that my studies in “Texas Dance Hall” my freshman year did not support my major at Concordia Lutheran College. I remember the early days of my working career, in which my priorities included occupying my favorite bar stool at the local watering hole. “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Succinctly stated, folly gets us nowhere constructive. Pursuit of folly keeps us in darkness; it is a barrier to success both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, folly often presents itself as the path of least resistance, thus it is relatively easy to follow. But following folly’s path is like starting down that hiking trail that ventures into the woods. At first the path is wide and easy to follow. As we move deeper into the woods the path grows narrower, weeds begin to obstruct the way, and we soon find ourselves standing in the middle of the woods with no clear sense of direction as we wonder how to get out. Having followed folly’s path, we find ourselves worse off than we were upon beginning folly’s journey.

Our country seems to have embraced folly these days. Our national debt climbs at an alarming rate with no effort by our government nor demand by the people to reverse the trend. We seek after short-term pleasure without seeing the big picture of the long-term consequences of those choices. Have we killed the cure for cancer or the next great composer through abortion? As we continue to whittle away at our moral foundation, shouting slurs and insults at one another along the way, are we not sacrificing the long term health and well-being of our nation? As we, in our passivity, hand over increasing amounts of power to our unelected Supreme Court, are we not squandering the freedoms that thousands of men and women fought and died to win and preserve? Folly, indeed. It won’t be long before the path vanishes into the weeds and we find ourselves standing alone in the dark, cold woods wondering how in the heck we got there and where do we go now.

The United States is headed down a dark path, but it is not too late to change course. I choose wisdom. I choose Light. I choose to share the virtues of those things as I shun the foolishness of folly. I don’t want our nation to look back at today from fifty years hence and lament, “If I only knew then what I know now…”

What say you?

Ecc 213

Independence Day 2015

Much of historical significance has happened in our country over the past couple of weeks. As I peruse my Facebook and Twitter feeds and watch America’s news networks, a very disturbing picture begins to emerge; a picture of a nation on the brink of collapse.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Matthew 12:25

Social media presents an amazing opportunity to reconnect and renew old friendships. It is also a forum in which we can participate in our national conversation with people from all over the country. Unfortunately, we are squandering that opportunity. All too often, we throw barbs at one another, not seeking understanding or even fruitful discussion, but only seeking to advance our position over those with whom we disagree. It gets so bad, that I sometimes log off of social media for a day or two just to get relief from the insults flying back and forth.

I used to be a fan of Fox News until I got sick and tired of watching panels of so-called experts, presumably gathered together to discuss a topic of interest from their different points of view, reduce themselves to yelling over each other to be heard with the host not allowing those expressing opinions in dissent with his own to complete their thoughts. Other so-called “news” channels are guilty of the same useless banter. It is not at all helpful; instead, it serves to increase the divide that is growing ever larger by the day.

Our nation appears to have lost the ability, maybe even the desire, to have open and honest discussions with one another. I believe that, if this continues, this will be the demise of our great nation. We Americans must stand up, rise above the fray, demand quality reporting by our media, and resist the temptation to cast stones at one another.

The First Amendment to the Constitution preserves our right to speak freely, among other things. What does that mean? I’m no Constitutional lawyer (I’m not a lawyer at all, actually) but based on my understanding of American history and my understanding of the intentions of our founders, I believe there is intent here that we Americans have the freedom to speak our minds. Obviously, given the fact that we are all humans and none of us possess perfect knowledge or wisdom, we are going to disagree from time to time. Can we not, out of respect for our fellow citizens, allow such disagreements to take place without shunning the person with whom we disagree? Do any of us really want to live in a society in which we can lose our jobs for sharing an opinion with which some disagree? Can we not disagree with one another, even on important topics of national interest, without attacking each other personally in an attempt to reduce those on the other side of the issue to the ranks of the stupid and uninformed?

Today we celebrate Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, a nation was founded on the principle that people’s rights are inherently theirs by virtue of their Creator, not granted by government. We were founded on the principle that we are not subjects of our government; rather, our government serves at the will of the people. I’ll bet there were some heated discussions as the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were developed. Whatever disputes arose were negotiated and worked out, and the American people won. Friends, let us not effectively shred those documents with trite and fruitless banter. Let us not allow those who seek to divide us (they’re out there, and they seek power only for themselves) to succeed. Let us unite as Americans, understanding that each of us has worth in the eyes of God, knowing that at times we will have to agree to disagree, but also understanding that a nation divided against itself will not survive.

I love my country, I feel blessed to be an American, and I know you do, too. Let’s start now to rise above the fray and come together to save this great nation.

Happy Independence Day and God bless America.

On My Mind: A Car, A Meeting, and A Conversation

Here is what’s on my mind this evening. I hope it adds some value to your day, but even if it doesn’t I’m happy to get this off my chest.

A Car: Ode to a Prius

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

If you had told me three weeks ago that I would trade my nice, luxurious 2007 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer SUV for a Toyota Prius I would have told you that you don’t know me very well. I purchased my Expedition in December, 2013 and was instantly taken by it’s massive size, comfortable ride, and luxurious appointments. Even the meager average 15.4 miles per gallon fuel consumption did not mitigate my affection for that vehicle. It also didn’t hurt that the Expedition won me instant credibility among the Fort Worth elite as I parked it in the Justin lot at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo alongside the vehicles of other rodeo volunteers.

As I write this today, I am the proud owner of a 2015 Toyota Prius V and, yes, Texas Toyota of Grapevine gladly accepted my Expedition in trade. I drive a lot in my job, and in just over a week’s time I put almost 700 miles on my new Prius, averaging just over 40 miles per gallon. My Prius is stylish – and that’s not just my opinion. Every colleague and prospect I have driven thus far has offered that feedback. The car is smooth, quiet, and equipped with cool gadgetry that I am still learning to operate. Based on my simple math, I have saved 29 gallons of gas – about $75. The gas savings alone will cover over half of my monthly payment and I am pumping significantly fewer toxins into the air. I’d say that’s a win all around.

A Meeting: The Value of Face-to-Face

"These dogs are barkin'!" ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

“These dogs are barkin’!” ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. June, 2014

I have been blessed to enjoy a wonderful career in corporate risk management. Topics that many would find dull, such as safety protocols, claims management, and insurance terms & conditions are quite interesting to me. In Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Neal Page said something along these lines in his rant against Del Griffith’s boring stories, “I could sit in an insurance seminar for days and listen to them drone on and on with a big smile on my face. People would ask me, ‘how do you do it?’ and I’d tell them, ‘because I’ve been with Del Griffith.’” On that point I disagree with Neal Page; I thoroughly enjoy those seminars!

I enjoyed some great meetings today; meetings in which we discussed strategies for safety and claims management and how sound practices in those areas can enhance the work experience of employees and the customer experience of guests. During a break this afternoon I was struck by the fact that we humans were created to be relational; to interact with one another, to shake hands, smile, agree and even disagree. Technology has led us to a fast-paced business tempo in which we often communicate via email, online chat, or conference call. Even our social relationships are moving more online as we interact with friends and family via the plethora of social media outlets available at the click of a mouse. Those things have their place, but after a day like today, I’m reminded of just how important it is that we engage our world without the barriers of pretense or technology. Nothing replaces sitting down and talking.

A Conversation: Why Don’t We Talk Anymore?

Speaking of sitting down and talking, I was once a Facebook Ninja. At least, that’s the best term I can come up with to describe a person who pages through his news feed and pounces on others’ comments on topics upon which I disagree. Often, those posts would launch a rather ugly exchange that served no purpose but to tick one another off. I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways over the past year or so, and while I am still tempted to drop a vitriolic comment every now and then, I’m happy with my progress to this point.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn's.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn’s.

We are living in very historic times, and we are quickly losing the ability to talk to one another about things of extremely great importance. The media no longer reports news; it spins statements and circumstances in an effort to drive ratings. In my opinion, the so-called news channels and the national and local network news outlets offer very little of substance or value to the American people. We the People are no better, for we readily consume the kool-aid offered up by our favorite TV spin doctors, regurgitate bits and pieces of it on social media, and commence to attacking one another for being stupid and uninformed. As all of this plays out, I fear we are squandering the greatest nation that ever existed.

I have good friends from all political persuasions. We sometimes trade barbs on social media, but I haven’t talked personally with many of them for years. I’ve often toyed with the idea of hosting a “Friend Summit”. It would be a weekend to gather friends from various walks of life and political ideals and discuss the issues of the day – everything from taxation to immigration to gay marriage – not necessarily to try and change each other’s minds but to arrive at least at an understanding of where our perspectives are coming from. But most importantly, my aim would be to reinforce for each of us that we are all children of our Creator, we all want to live a good life, and we all need each other. I’m still kicking this idea around in my head; I wonder if anybody would come.

Abuse and Use of Power

American politics seem to be getting nastier by the day, from both sides of the political spectrum. I am disappointed in the Grand Jury’s decision to indict Texas Governor Rick Perry, not to mention the fact that charges were brought in the first place. I am equally as disappointed in John Boehner’s talk of a lawsuit against the president. This sort of activity – seeking any means by which to take down political opponents – will bring this country down. It is a waste of taxpayer money as it distracts us from the important issues playing out day by day. Such activity is in no way good for the country – it is intended only to forward the personal agenda of the individual initiating the divisive action.

We voters must wake up and rise above the partisan kool-aid being served up by both political parties. We must demand true leadership from those we elect to serve in our state and federal governments. We must stop drawing conclusions based on social media soundbites and the so-called “experts” on the so-called cable news channels. We must expel from office those who abuse their power and demand real leadership from those whom we elect to serve us. They work for us – never forget that.

Friends, we have the power of the vote. We don’t have to agree on everything, but for the health of our great nation we must agree on this: we must agree to use our power of the vote wisely. We must dig deeper than Facebook, Fox, MSNBC, and the rest. We must reject the partisan kool-aid and insist on facts. We must demand that those elected to serve do so for the good of the nation, not to forward their own selfish personal agendas. On this, each of us, whether liberal or conservative, should be able to unite.

Who’s on First: Money or Life?

At a recent campaign event, I participated in a conversation that I found quite troubling. A Republican candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner stated, among other things, that he is “pro-life, pro-God, pro-gun…” etc. Upon concluding his remarks, I was introduced to a young lady who was quite upset that the candidate mentioned his pro-life stance. She said that Republicans must drop the abortion issue if they want to succeed in unseating and defeating liberal Democratic opponents. She said that restricting her right to choose an abortion is contradictory to a truly conservative pro-Constitutional stance. If government is to leave us alone, she said, it should not meddle with a woman’s right to choose. She told me that she is a fiscal and a social conservative, but further said that most Republican women, unless they are Evangelicals, are pro-choice. She said the party risks losing their support if conservative members of the party continue to make abortion an election issue.

As I was about to engage her points, which were well conceived and rather persuasive, a gentleman joined our conversation and agreed with her. He said Republicans must put fiscal issues first and avoid discussion of social issues. In other words, if we don’t get our financial house in order, none of the social issues really matter (not a direct quote; rather, my interpretation of his main point). I’ve heard this song before, and I’ve never liked it, for I consider this perspective to be completely backwards.

So what, really, is fundamentally important? Does the accumulation and management of wealth top the list, or is there something even more important than money?

I understand the logic behind the “fiscal first” mentality, and I believe it is well intended. Without a strong economic base and a responsible fiscal policy, our society will ultimately meet its demise. This is, in large part, the burden I carry for our country. Our federal government is grossly negligent in its management of its financial resources. It has constructed an onerous and punitive tax system. It spends far more than it collects. Those whom we have elected to lead, Republicans and Democrats alike, have failed to offer long-term solutions. If we continue down this road, we will surely lose our country.

As much as I agree with the need to elect leaders who will insist upon fiscal responsibility at all levels of government, I do not agree that this is the issue of most importance. America’s social values have evolved over the years, but not for the better. What some call “progress” I call “travesty”.  In the United States, it is legal to terminate the life of a child in the womb for any reason. We euphemize abortion by labeling it as “the right to choose”, an issue of “women’s health”. We rationalize it by arguing that it is somehow compassionate to terminate an “accidental” or “unexpected” pregnancy by not bringing an “unwanted” child into the world. What wiser people would have once considered twisted logic has embedded itself into society’s mainstream to the point at which many who once fought to defend the defenseless are abandoning that fight in the interest of the “fiscal first” philosophy.

Even worse, people on both sides of the abortion debate use this issue as a means to divide and conquer their political opponents. Rather than focus on the innocent lives that are taken and the women whose lives are forever impacted by their decision to abort, we instead use these victims of abortion as ammunition in our political battles. Even as I type these words, I am amazed at how cold and callous our society has become.

Is there something more important than money? Yes, of course there is. You are more important than money. I am more important than money. People are more important than money; yes, even that “unwanted” child who is growing and developing in her mother’s womb is more important than money. If we who advocate for life succumb to the temptation to abandon the fight in favor of “fiscal first” we are no better than the abortionist who coldly takes that innocent life with his instruments of death.

I believe very strongly that a society that advocates and celebrates such misguided social principles cannot survive long-term. For that reason, I will continue to support only those candidates for office who advocate for life. Might we lose a few battles along the way? Perhaps. But in advocating for life I believe we will ultimately win the war.

Advocating for Life: Following Jesus’ Example

Abortion is about as polarizing an issue as we have in the United States. On one side are the pro-life advocates seeking to protect those who are alive in the womb and unable to defend or speak for themselves. On the other side are the pro-abortion advocates who consider abortion nothing more than a women’s health issue and a choice to be made; the fetus is not living and therefore is not entitled to protection. Because we are so polarized over this issue, the American abortion dialogue has, to a large extent, declined into a miry pit of mudslinging and name-calling on both sides of the argument. The issue gets lost in the personalities of those discussing it as the waters are muddied with personal attacks. This is unfortunate. Such a dialogue plays right into the hands of the pro-abortion crowd while innocent children continue to die.

Abortion Memorial

Abortion Memorial (Photo credit: DrGBB)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 18% of pregnancies in 2009 were terminated through abortion (227 abortions for every 1,000 live births). In total, 784,507 lives were terminated by abortion providers in 2009. This is the most recent year for which the CDC has published such statistics. While these are sobering statistics, they also report that the abortion rate steadily declined from 2000 through 2009; a small silver lining perhaps, but for those whose lives were taken, a tragedy nonetheless. (source: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/#Abortion)

I am a pro-life advocate. Like other pro-life advocates I believe abortion on demand is a sin and an American travesty. Unfortunately, our message is too often lost in the delivery. Many of us on the pro-life side of this issue profess to be Christians. Why is it, then, that we often tend to leave our Christianity at the door when we embark on a discussion of abortion? How would Jesus handle such a discussion?

I believe the answer to this question can be found in a real-life encounter Jesus had with a woman in Samaria:

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” ~ John 4:7-26

Jesus and Samaritan woman

Jesus and Samaritan woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus exhibits several traits in this encounter that we modern-day Christians would be wise to emulate – not just in a discussion on abortion, but in any circumstance in which we encounter sin:

  1. Jesus addresses her directly and with respect. Although He knows what she’s done, He doesn’t look down His nose at her, nor does He speak to her in a demeaning tone. He speaks to her as One who loves her.
  2. Jesus is honest with her. As He talks with her about her marital history, 5 husbands and all, He does so in a no-nonsense manner but in a manner in which His message is crystal clear.
  3. Jesus never puts her on the defensive. He listens and answers her questions. At no time does He call her names, belittle her, or send her on a guilt trip.
  4. Jesus tells the woman who He is. After this scene the woman leaves the well and heads into town proclaiming that she has met the Messiah!

Now fast-forward to 2013. A pro-abortion advocate tells us how shortsighted and selfish we are. He proclaims that we pro-lifers hate women because we want them to resort to coat-hanger abortions in back alleys. She calls us male pro-lifers a bunch of chauvinistic pigs that care nothing about women’s health. They say that science teaches that the fetus in the womb is nothing but a mass of cells, no different than a tumor. Of course, none of these things are true. But as they malign us for standing on our faith as we advocate our pro-life position, how do we respond?

Abortion card001

Abortion card001 (Photo credit: John Ensor)

Our response can either contribute to the polarization, thereby impeding the advancement of our cause, or it can be a tool through which, one by one, we may persuade the pro-abortion advocate to understand our position and perhaps even come to embrace it alongside us. If we call them murderers, sluts and whores are we emulating our Lord? If we bomb abortion clinics, as some have done, do we really expect to win them over? Do we have any chance whatsoever at persuading them to change their minds through such discourse and action? Of course not! Such rhetoric and action backs them into a corner as it fuels their anger. Instead of gaining ground we lose it as they point to us and call us a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. When we respond in this manner, they have a point. And when respond in this manner, we galvanize their position even as our behavior disappoints our Lord.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, known as a "King o...

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, known as a “King of abortion”, would later be an active member of a pro-life/anti-abortion organization. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we approached the pro-abortion advocate with the same traits Jesus exhibited at the well in Samaria? What if we treated him with dignity and respect, even if he hurls vile accusations our way? What if we share our position honestly and respectfully, with an attitude of love? What if we are careful not to attack her personally as we speak against abortion, instead being sure to focus only on the issue and not on the messenger? What if we speak honestly about the sin and God’s offer of forgiveness through His Son? I am convinced that a unified pro-life message articulated in this manner would one day turn the tide and ultimately lead to legislation that would, once and for all, protect the preborn from dying in her mother’s womb at the hands of an abortionist.

Abortionists took 784,507 lives in 2009; that is an average of 2,149 lives each and every day. This is a moral travesty that we Americans must address with a sense of urgency. If we pro-lifers continue to allow the discussion to reside in the dark reaches of human depravity, we will never win the battle for these precious children. Let us instead resolve to stand firmly on God’s Word with the same attitude of love and respect that Jesus showed the woman in Samaria. It’s not just a recommendation; it’s a command:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Matthew 12:28-31

My Prayer This Evening: Dear Heavenly Father, my heart aches for the children whose lives have been taken through abortion. I pray that you would move our nation to an attitude of confession and repentance. Help me, Lord, to advocate for these children out of Christian love for them and for those who are considering abortion. Guard my mind and my tongue, Lord, as I seek to glorify Your Son in all that I do. It is in His name I pray, AMEN.

I Place My Trust…

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1

This is the man I yearn to be: one who trusts completely in the Lord. There is a significant element of peace that comes with standing firmly on The Rock, even as the world around me embraces sinful ways. My heart aches for my country and for the church, but I take great comfort in God’s sovereignty: no matter what happens in American politics or church polity, Jesus Christ has won the battle over sin. On that promise I stake my life. May God help me live a life that consistently witnesses to this Truth and may He give me the ability to lovingly and respectfully share this Good News with a world that so desperately needs to hear it.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

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