My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 3

So we made this choice, a very physical/practical choice, that had a significant impact in the way I perceived who I would be going forward.  I am sure there are other men that have very different triggers for their own inner transitions.  For me, this was mine.  I hoped that putting it to writing would help me process my own thoughts, but also that other men that had not yet found their own thoughts might find some solace in our common struggles.

Let me rewind a bit.  We started the conversation about the procedure back in the late winter/early Spring.  It was roughly 6 months later when I acted on it.  I think I believe I started processing the transition much earlier, but did not fully understand what and why.

Generally, when a significant life transition occurs, we, as humans and particularly male humans, tend to find something of perceived significance to throw our energies into.  Some choose hobbies, some choose new girlfriends, some choose extreme sports, some choose travel, some choose work, and some just choose to escape.

Out of some mixed sense of nobility, I chose my job as my area of focus.  It was almost not discernable at first.  I began thinking about the future of my team, our programs, my organization… and it evolved into projecting what I would need to do, be, and choose to best ensure success for all.  I clearly felt the threats of what was going on with government funding and the later shutdown, but also saw few others lining up to carry the torch for the next generation of providing solutions for the marginally housed.

Over time, this shift in thinking weighed more and more on my soul.  I felt the inaction of the upper levels of management clawing at my desire to move the organization into a better position for the future.  When we lost momentum or a significant effort was thwarted for some insignificant or bureaucratic reason, I felt like I was sinking and losing hope.  There was one critical moment when I had invested significant time, probably 60 hours or so, and upper management chose to blatantly ignore my opinion and the opinion of the other mid-tier leadership.  I was almost directly told that my opinion did not matter, and whether or not it was directly said, action was taken confirming how little value was placed in the effort and thoughts of mid-tier leadership.

I felt shattered.  At first, I felt great anger for upper management.  Legitimately, I felt like the communication and decision making process was exceptionally poor.  Objectively, that was true.  I could argue all day long about how poor the process had been.

Though I had other moments in the past where poor decisions had been made or my opinion had been ignored, so why did this feel so much more impactful?  Why did I feel the need to escape my own thoughts when I came home from work?  Why did I feel the need to mentally argue with upper management every time I allowed my brain to drift?  I was letting upper management live in my thought life far too frequently.

It took more time to process the why’s than I would wish it would.  Perhaps it was because I was busy with the family.   Perhaps it was because I was fighting the good fight (or at least so I thought) for the future success of others.

It took two bouts with sickness, nearly back-to-back to get me still enough to perceive my own agitation.  I knew I was angry, but I did not realize how much it had grown to dominate my emotional state.  I should be better at discerning this by now, but I am still learning.

It was sometime on day 3 of 102 degree fever, stuck on my bed, too bored to try to distract myself with anything else.  I had exhausted Netflix, Hulu, and any video games I wanted to play.  I finally began to process what had happened over the past 7 months.  I knew I was facing this transition physically, but I had not really understood that in my own desire for a new sense of significance, I bet hard on my career.  And my career had knocked the wind out of me and clearly did not love me as much as I was trying to love it.  It just wanted to be friends… or more like acquaintances.

Years ago, I had a season where I lost everything, or nearly everything.   I was fragmented.  I lost money, relationships, my own sense of personal self-worth, and my view of the world.  I think I still fear that I will be blindsided again.

I made my career, at least in the place it was occupying in my own soul, the place of stability and significance for my future.  I am sure that mixed in there was a noble desire to provide for my family, and I do truly, truly believe in giving my life to create opportunities for others to change their lives.  But, my level 9 Richter scale soul earthquake had little to do with feeling loss over those two areas.  I can always get another job, and I know myself well enough to know that I will try to help others throughout my life, even if it is not part of my job description.

So I am trying to think differently about my career.  I have a helpful post-it note stuck on my monitor, “Just a job”, as a reminder.  Some people need to push themselves to invest more deeply in things.  Generally that has not been my problem.  I tend to try to make situations work much longer than I should.  It has been a pattern in my life that I need something to fall apart in front of me, to cause me to re-evaluate what I am investing my time and energy toward.

Maybe I will change my career.  Maybe not.  I do not really know now, but I do feel a palpable sense of peace about my day-to-day soul strain at my job.  It’s just a job.  It’s not me.

I have found a new joy in dreaming about what could be next.  I am not a “grass is always greener” person.  I am way too pragmatic to think any change is good change, but maybe I want to be someone different down the road.  And that potential new adventure is exciting to allow my imagination to savor.

I share all this in hopes it will help someone else that is having their own level 9 soul earthquake.  If you objectively know that your situation does not justify the intensity of emotion you are feeling about it, create some space and allow yourself time to process the why’s.

My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 2

To be honest, after the procedure, the physical recovery took far longer than I anticipated.  It was a pain that was distinctly different than other pains I have previously experienced.  I was planning on being up to speed 3 or 4 days later, and probably over-exerted myself.  A word to the wise, plan on this taking several weeks to feel fully normal again.  It was roughly 10 weeks later before I truly stopped noticing the random pain.

Women seem to universally talk about this as if it is a simple procedure where there is obviously no reason for their man to feel really bothered by it.  My wife did a good job saying little, but I heard ample feedback, nearly all from women, that getting snipped was an insignificant thing.  So men, just prepare to not be understood.

I experienced a tremendous amount of inner turmoil both before and for several weeks after the procedure.  Partially, it was physical.  I was uncomfortable with what would be done, the risks, and the much slower than expected recovery.  Though as I reflected I realized my turmoil was more about this signified.  This marked a tremendous transition for my future.  It meant that the family I had, at least biologically, was the full sum of my family (barring some surprise).  It meant that I was no longer working toward the family I would some day have, and instead was accepting the family I had.

Thinking about what this transition meant required accepting where I was at in life in an entirely new way.  I did not have regrets about the life I had.  In fact, quite the opposite…  I have a wife and two daughters that are a delight to me.  I am exceptionally grateful to share my life with each of them.

Rather, this meant that I had to accept there would not be another member on Team Burton.  From a rational standpoint, I fully agreed with the choice.  Our family has committed to maintaining enough space in our life and budget to share with others outside our family.  We felt like we had reached a point where we still had some of us left to share with others, but were uncertain that more children would still allow us mental, emotional, and financial space.  I know other families have other points at which they feel they have reached the point of being complete.   For us, we were there.

But still, I had to allow myself to accept what this meant.  I was no longer the young man building.  I was now the father raising, caring, supporting…

In other areas, we made choices that seemed to only amplify the transition:

  • We used what we saved on birth control to buy more life insurance.
  • My wife bought a lumbar pillow for more comfortable driving.
  • We upped our contributions to our retirement accounts.
  • We have talked about what the next family vehicle might be.

All of these are reasonable things, but the transition seemed so sudden that it caught my adventurer heart by surprise.

I found myself looking for security and significance.  Who would I be in this next season?  If I wasn’t the young man building, who would I want to be?

(to be continued)

My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 1

Were my blog a cactus, it would not have survived.

I could name about 43 reasons I have not been writing.

At the top of the list would be a picture of a frantic Josh… trying to be all that I can be:  a growing career man, a fully present dad, a contributing part of a community, a husband who actually sees the awesome things his wife does enough to thank her for them, a handyman, an informed contributor to society, a kickbutt virtual assassin that saves the world when called upon, an indie music aficionado, a thirty-something that has not yet given up on caring for his body, and more.

This has been the year I am no longer trying to build the life I might some day have:

  • I have my degrees, probably enough to get by (though I do get tempted by the occasional doctoral program).
  • I have a house that sufficiently meets the needs of the family that is currently occupying said house.  If they made a self-cleaning / self-repairing model, I would upgrade.  But until then, it is a blessing to have a space to share with so many we love.
  • I have my family.  This was the year we decided that two was enough.  My wife felt really strongly that two was what she had space for in her heart, mind, and energy.

Years ago I surrounded myself with young men that talked about how they were going to change the world and win a woman.  Gradually that shifted to conversations about an epic proposal.  Then we debated about when to start a family.  Apparently 2013 is the year all the cool kids are getting snipped.

So I did what thirty-something married men do when they realize they are done adding to the population.  I decided I would celebrate arriving at this grand new season of my life by giving up the functionality of some of my organs!  All while having awkward conversations with people I hardly knew.

After getting the referral from my doctor, I went and had the consult with the urologist.  If you were ever slightly uncertain about what you were embarking on, they do provide a list of everything that can go wrong, and make both you and your spouse sign off on it.  Perhaps the most awkward compliment of the day was the nodding approval of my manscaping from my 60+ year old urologist.

We did our homework, soberly signed away my boys, and the day of the procedure arrived.  The urologist was scheduled to move into a new, state of the art facility between the date of my consultation and procedure.  I showed up at the brand new building exactly on time, and not a minute early.  I debated about taking a flask for courage with me as valium does not agree with my stomach.  At the last minute, I chose to tough it out.

The electronic doors whooshed open upon my approach to the shiny, new facility.  Inside I met a confused looking administrator sitting in the entryway.  She asked if I been informed about the box fire and the surgery that had been relocated 30 miles away.  She handed me an illegible Mapquest photocopy, and I headed out, grateful I chose to skip the bourbon in the parking lot.

40 minutes later, I arrive to an exceptionally crowded facility (another urologist offered for the week while the building was repaired).  40 of us stared awkwardly at the walls, so as not to make eye contact…  except for that one A-hole that was watching a movie on his phone without headphones, directly below the “Do not use cell phones” sign.

Two hours later, they called me back.  I sat down in one room, waited 20 minutes, and tried to chit chat with the nurse/assistant when she came in.  She looked to be exactly the age of my wife, and very similar in attractiveness and build.  Unfortunately, she was not my wife, and so I faked my confidence and began having conversations with a complete stranger about a procedure I had begun questioning somewhere during the two hours in the “waiting room”.

20 minutes later, they moved me to an identical room, and I was greeted by another urologist I had not met yet.  He seemed to be exactly my age, funny, and very conversational.  I thought to myself he’s the kind of guy we’d have over to a barbeque or share a beer with.

What was not at all expected was that the new “better” room they moved me into apparently had none of the supplies we needed to proceed.  In some weird version of a scavenger hunt, the new doctor and nurse literally went cabinet-to-cabinet, door-to-door, yelling as they found one of the 20+ items they needed for the procedure.  It felt like some awful episode of survivor, with my dignity on the menu.

All the while the hunt was progressing, I was sitting prepped in a chair with the 200 watt halogen lamp highlighting what God gave me.  I think I was darn near to a sunburn when the urologist and nurse agreed that they finally had all the supplies they needed.

After liberally applying the industrial aftershave to my freshly shorn, now nearly sunburned source of awkward conversation, the procedure itself went normally.

I was fully awake throughout the process, and I had not really spent much time thinking about how I would fill the time during the procedure.  So despite the occasional moments of stabbing pain coming from my groin, we had a pretty decent conversation about life, college basketball, family, and what makes a good marriage work.

I still have this gut-wrenching fear that some day either the nurse or doctor are going to show up at our church or to some event, and I am going to have to recover from how we first met one another as the foundation of our friendship.

(to be continued)

Finger Lickin Fury

August 1st, 2012 was the day that morality and freedom of speech in America was saved by the mass consumption of chicken and waffle fries.  Lines poured out of Chick-filA establishments around the country as religiously motivated citizens waited 45 to 60 tortuous minutes to consume their greasy Constitutional endorsement.  In a moment of good sportsmanship, many gays arrived just a bit too late to hold back the torrent of hungry evangelicals and acknowledged that indeed they had lost the battle.  “Oh, you got us good this time…”  one flaming, magenta-cloaked almost customer remarked, as he backed out of the parking lot to find another source of gay-friendly fried chicken he was now craving.  In a moment of true embarrassment, a few key officials with the ACLU were caught having waited at a drive thru in the DC area.  “Oh, that was today…”, as they hid their honey mustard crusted faces in shame.  Like urban seagulls, many politicians flocked to their local Chick-filA establishments to secure their endorsement for November.  The sheer force of the Eat Mor Chikin party will be seen later in November.  Many are concerned that their quick access to quality sources of protein and carbs may give them an edge over other activists, but one competing party leader was quick to remind about their oh, so delicious milkshakes and the likely sugar-driven comas that will follow for many.

In other news, America is still desperately in need of people who are willing to invest their lives in building loving, supportive communities for people being shaken to the core by crisis and fearful questions about their value.

Hope

There are days when I question whether what I do matters beyond the immediate people I love and the needs I meet.  Were this to be my last day, would I leave behind something of value that others would truly benefit from?  Has something in the way I lived or loved changed others? Or am I merely growing older a bit more each day?  Were I to be honest, I would acknowledge my deeper questions about whether I have a unique value in the eyes of God, and not in some self-obsessed fashion of wanting God to be as absorbed in the details of my life as I am, but rather, on the whole, have I reflected even a bit of the goodness I have been given with enough effectiveness that someone would wonder at its source?  I have lived in the perspective of needing a God that was absolutely caught up in my every move, and while I doubt I go unnoticed, I don’t also need every moment to be a crescendo.  I am okay with the lulls, and the stillness at times.

Further, there are times when I feel pinned down by life, by surviving, by showing up again and again, by others still maintaining personal distance or choosing to relate in ways that minimize their personal exposure, but leave us all feeling isolated and alone at the end of the day.  I grow weary of professionalism.  I am tired of quick hello or “like” on a status, but then still finding that we are all  so busy in our own little worlds to find a more meaningful way to connect.

I am tired of the news, and particularly the polarization and political soundbites.  I hate how much emotional energy so many spend getting worked up over something that was designed to tweak their fears and not prepare them to live together in a better way.  I hate that it is somehow more socially acceptable to notice an outfit a celebrity recently brandished than it is to be aware about how our family, our neighbor, or our coworkers are truly doing.

What does hope look like when it is not primarily self-purposed, self-deceived, or a reaction to our fear?  How do we choose to believe that tomorrow will be better when we know it is 99% more likely that we will all spin our wheels until then and not really change how we live, think, or love?  How do we hope when we have trained ourselves to be so afraid of what we might lose rather than sacrificing together for what we might be?

I am tired.  I am tired at the expense of hope, the cost of blocking the assaults of fear, the weariness of living in isolation while surrounding myself with tasks and people.  My family has  invested in others and risked our time, energy, and resources in the hope that we can move to a better place together.  Perhaps tomorrow we will see the fruit of that hope, but today, I feel tired.  

I want tomorrow to be different.  I want us to be different.  I want that those who have experienced true love to reinvest that love in a transformational community.  I want us all to not feel so alone or afraid.  I want us all to know that we are more valuable than the latest gossip, soundbite, or fad.  I want us to live like we found the best thing in the world, and not need to have our lives stripped to a minimum to see that what we had at our fingertips.

A new framework for sin and restoration

Our framework for understanding sin is changing.    For far too long sin has primarily been assigned a definition around a measurable set of actions, where if they were to be mitigated or halted altogether, the world would suddenly be made right again.  So much energy has been invested in understanding the source of sin, the ranking of various sins, and the appropriate amount of sin that indicates “you are working on it” or “you aren’t really ready for church yet, are you?”.  Sin has been linked to bodily fluids, demonic influence, sexual differences, and on and on over the centuries.  Sin has been misunderstood.

Whether you embrace the story of the Garden of Eden as an exact representation of historical, chronological fact or a retelling of the majesty of creation in a form we can somehow wrap our heads around and understand, it is crucial to truly perceive where the root of sin actually enters this world and what is manifested out of the sin.  In Genesis, we see the first man and woman interacting with a world that was designed to reinforce their value.  Each new day of creation, with greater and greater intentionality and detail, builds to the appearance of man and then woman.  When they enter the scene, they are given the job of caring for this world and learning of the Creator and themselves as they worked.   Adam and Eve were secure.  They were at peace with themselves and the world. (see reference below)

Then enters the serpent, who merely poses a few questions about what God really communicated.  It tempts them with the desire to be further like God.  It is important to recognize at this point that Adam and Eve already had the ability to choose and act independently, as what follows would not be possible without them possessing the ability to act independently from what was best for them.  Thus, sin is not fundamentally about the ability to choose or act independently from God.

Adam and Eve consume the literal or allegorical fruit, and their eyes are opened first and foremost to themselves.  Their immediate sensation was that of shame, insecurity, and feeling out of place in their own skin.  Their first reaction was to scurry about their environment to find something that would hide their sense of shame, in this case a few fig leaves.  It is in this reaction that we truly see what sin is.  Sin is not primarily about actions, but rather actions are a symptom of the presence of sin.  Sin is better understood as a disease, a state of being.  And what is this new state of being?  As mentioned earlier, Adam and Eve previously lived secure in the world, knowing of their value from the dirt in which they dug their feet and the voice of God who they knew with familiarity.  This new state of being left them ashamed to such an extent that they hid from the presence of God, and they placed more value on their new sense of self-awareness than they did in the voice of God that they heard calling for them.

Thus mankind lives infected.  We carry the disease of the voice of shame that drones out the voice of our value that calls us to live at peace with ourselves and the world.  We reach out unendingly for things to bring a silence to our insecurity.  Unlike the rest of creation, we rarely fight for survival, territory, food, or water.  Rather most of our personal and grander wars stem out of our disease that dares us to make this world establish our value, even at the expense of others or that which we need for life.  We do not live at peace with a world that screams you are valuable, so valuable that the environment itself surrounds us with nutrition, recreation, harmony, and beauty.  Rather we bow our personal motivations to the greater fear and insecurity that rules our actions, and we take, we demand, we fight, we scheme, we wound, we run, we hide, we hate, we perform.

Acts of sin can much more readily be understood as symptoms of the disease, and our investment of our lives  in these symptoms furthers the influence of the disease on our souls.  Were someone to say to you, “Would you like to know how to add a guaranteed 10 years to your life?”, we would all line up to hear about the magical cure to stretch our existence.  But if in listening to the cure we were told we needed to stop doing certain things (smoking, overeating, sitting too frequently), we would balk at the audacity that someone had for telling us how to live our lives or walk away discouraged at the personal cost.  If someone said, “Would you like to know how to restore inner health and bring new life to your soul?”, similarly many of us would balk at a list that limited our freedom of choice.  However, I think this is a better way of understanding repentance and how we walk out of the influence of the disease of sin.  This is a battle of influence of the defining force in our lives, the emptying enslavement of shame and insecurity or the surrender to the security of a more stable voice of love.  False control of that which breeds shame or a surrender of our right to demand, control, and fight for ourselves in exchange for accepting the always stable value the divine has placed in us.

Almost ironically and sadly tragically, all too often the response to the shame-motivated symptoms of the disease of sin have been greeted with ever increasing shame and isolation.  We have created the need for a false appearance of having it all together in order to participate in many communities of faith.   There is little healing and freedom brought to our infected brothers and sisters by furthering the influence of rejection.  Rather, we should invite, beckon, beg others to follow our communal path because of the process of restoration and healing we are also walking through.   Does this mean calling the disease good or the symptoms of the disease good?  Of course not, but this does mean that the value of the person infinitely and forever exceeds the “value” of the disease they are fighting.  In the same way, we would weep and embrace those fighting cancer, so should we stand with one another against the devastation of sin.

So is it weakening the Gospel to not call someone to full and immediate repentance for every sign of sin we see working through their lives?

1)      Our ability to properly and fully diagnose another’s soul is limited at best.  I believe we can stand with others to the degree we understand them and our own brokenness, but it is important to understand that we are not the Healer.  We may be more familiar with the patterns of the Healer, and we can graciously share what has worked for us and others we have loved.  But I believe the posture of this is as an advocate and not an expert.

2)      In the same way that the cure to our natural diseases require rest, nutrition, time, and multiple regimens of treatment, it is a process of healing and restoration our souls have embarked on.  We are BEING saved, though have yet to understand the freedom or full restoration and security.  It is not due to the weakness of the cure, but rather our own frailty that we embark on a process, a journey of healing.

3)      Fundamentally, our understanding of our value is not a characteristic of our individual value alone, but is only fully understood as we see the value of others.  Our own process of healing requires that we see our place within the world and understand the value of our community.  This cannot be achieved through an “us vs them” mentality.  It is only through seeing our common struggle and loving others on their way to healing that we can be restored.  If we believe we can attain restoration or holiness through control of our own behavior and thoughts, we fundamentally misunderstand the value of holiness and restoration.   Light is not the absence of darkness.  In the same way, the work of love and radiating goodness is not the product of an isolated journey of cleaning ourselves.  The fullness of good is bigger than any of us will ever understand on our own.

Sin and restoration need a new framework.  The way we engage one another for far too long has been about furthering the power of shame at the expense of our communal restoration.

From Genesis 3:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.””

Vote for Jesus 2012!

One of the most detrimental developments in American Christianity has been the emergence of the association of a specific belief system with a specific political party.  Christians have not consistently played well with others.  In some cases we have reached out to tragedy-stricken people and restored them, giving them another chance to survive with dignity.  In the worst cases, we have led the charge for book burnings, preserved racial stereotypes, and abused others in the name of maintaining power.  I think you can easily argue that the latter situation clearly is indicative of someone claiming Christianity as a social status, while not embracing the teachings of Christ (to love your neighbor).  But still, the impression exists that we bring both life and death, both healing and judgment.  We embrace political action that endorses the sanctity of some life and policies that reject others.

The two-party system in America has limited innovation and encouraged defensive political posturing.  Rarely are ideas new, factual, and all too often are reeling from a spin.  The story is told (by the media, the politicians, their staff, etc.) that there is only one source to our problem and only one answer.  Further, it is spun in such a way that we are led to believe that our communities are on the verge of falling into anarchy or poverty if the problem is not addressed.

 In most cases we are given such lobotomized versions of the facts, that the generally uneducated and self-interested public assume what they are told is right, true, and actionable.  We have formed alignments around buzz words and soundbites.  We mentally and emotionally cut off the opinions of our neighbors if they use a vocabulary that we have recognized as that of the enemy.  We mentally consent that all of _______ is bad and all of _______ is good.  Rarely does life play out that way.   In the name of recognizing the threat of the enemy, we liberally apply labels to diagnosis any thinking that does not conform to that of our team.

In the name of influencing the system from the top, many religious leaders attempted to get their interests heard by appealing to whichever party would embrace their special interests.  Hot button issues like gay marriage, abortion, and illegal immigration became the polarizing issues.  Simply put, it was easier for the masses to embrace a few issues and claim that they are voting with their faith rather than evaluate the breadth of a faith that encompasses the fullness of love and the magnificence of creation.  Rather, a few factoids on why X is the party of those that love babies and why Y is the party of  those that eat babies is sufficient for most.

By catering to the partisan spin, you continue to empower the polarization of problems and solutions.  By training your heart to react in fear, hatred, and disdain to those with different opinions, beliefs, or vocabulary, you further division and endorse abuse.  

Far too often ignorant, lazy Christians throughout history have embraced the spin from the top, and only the passage of time has revealed the rampant abuses allowed by their endorsement through cowardice.  I am not calling for a revolution, but rather love for the sake of peace, and education for the sake of understanding.  Our communities cannot and will not be rebuilt when we are willing to endorse policies that fundamentally enforce suffering and endorse only scraps of our faith at the expense of cutting off love.

I would recommend one of two choices.  Either:

1)  Turn off all news, pray, meditate, and take a walk around your community.  Vote from a place of peace and not fear.  If you do not have the desire or resources to educate yourself, then at least guard your motivations and make a decision that is motivated from peace and security.

or 

2) Invest in loving your neighbors by educating yourself from multiple sources.  Train yourself to be as shrewd as a serpent, but guard your heart to remain your innocence and hope.  Then from a place of seeing a broad picture, pray, meditate, and find peace in God.  Vote for whomever you believe will maintain peace in the midst of diverse and trying times.  Vote for policies that long-term will bring restoration and hope.  Guard yourself from voting for the policies of the moment that are particularly framed in fear, threats, and intimidation.

Further, more than anything, I would encourage Christians around America to get off their ass and love their neighbor (whether or not you vote).  There is no great battle that will ever be won by attempting to legislate your specific interpretation of a moral code while those that live around you see nothing but judgment and a lack of relevance.  Influence is not to be stolen from the spotlight, but rather won as you demonstrate that your love is greater than your fear in practical, intelligent ways.  

If we really want to change in 2012, this will not be accomplished by catering to the same problems and answers we have been provided for the past decades (albeit in different fashions and with different spokespeople).  Change will not come by meditating on fear of all we might lose if we don’t vote to protect what we hold dear.  If we really want something different in 2012, we need to reorient our own priorities, carve out time, finances, and mental/emotional/social resources to give our lives to represent the love of Christ, a belief in redemption, and a hope that is not threatened by the political spin.  We need to invest more energy in intentionally loving others as we have been loved by our chief official, our King.  We have been forgiven much, and we should overflow with gratitude to such an extent that in the midst of a crisis, others look at us and long to understand the security we have found that is not tied to each  new passing breeze of policy or political spin.

This year I would ask you to participate in the political process differently.  When you find yourselves caught up in a conversation with co-workers that have bit the baited hook of the recent spin, stand for peace, hope, and love in their midst.  Listen deeper than what they have been told is threatening them to hear what it is they love.  However you vote politically, you may find that what you hold dear, they also hold dear.  Let us make the conversation about hope, community, cooperation, and love that will not quit despite what this next administration looks like.  We will not win by putting our dream team in office.  Let me say that again.  We will not win by taking over government or dissolving it.  We will win when we make love our Lord and impeach the fear that has reigned over our minds and impeded our love for our neighbors.

 

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