Thursday, November 27, 2008

G-dub on T-day

"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors."

–George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dam Thankfull

There is a rather large dam in south-central Kentucky that has been leaking since 2005. To say this is a problem is an understatement; Nashville is not too far downstream and Lake Cumberland has enough capacity to cover the entire state of Tennessee with three inches of water.

In response, the Army Corps of Engineers dropped the water level 40 feet and started making repairs. As the water dropped, islands disappeared, and trash and debris emerged, clinging to the widening shore line like dehydrated marshmallows on the inside edge of a hot chocolate mug.

Who knew what was hidden in the depths? During a fishing trip in the summer of my 7th grade year, I remember watching a friend of mine submerge his empty 7up bottle, sending it to a watery grave on the lake floor. We watched the descent together, staring silently as if attending a junk food funeral. As the shades of green merged and it faded out of sight, he reasoned, "Who will ever see it?" Twenty years later the Corps estimates there is about 84,000 cubic yards of trash to be cleaned up. That would have been enough to fill the first five floors of one of the World Trade Towers. I guess a bunch of other 7th graders had the same idea.

So now we have a leaking dam, with a $300-600 million repair bill, and mounds of trash to clean up as well. Many people much smarter than myself have concluded that the country's financial systems are in a similar situation: the long ignored cracks are seeping seemingly beyond repair and there's a big 'ole mess left behind to clean up. I'm sure many of you have already felt some of the strain of the financial crisis, but this is not the first time our nation has hit upon hard times.

During the great depression, Harry Truman was serving his first term as a senator. He believed that the underlying problem was avarice, or "wild greed."

We worship money instead of honor. A billionaire, in our estimation, is much greater in these days in the eyes of the people than the public servant who works for public interest. It makes no difference if the billionaire rode to wealth on the sweat of little children and the blood of underpaid labor…. We worship mammon; and until we go back to ancient fundamentals and return to the Giver of the Tables of Law and His teachings, these conditions are going to remain with us…. There is no magic solution to the condition… but one thing is certain – no formula, however scientific, will work without men of proper character.

While reading the Bible with my son one morning this week I was encouraged by Paul's example in the midst of crisis. When locked in prison for proclaiming the peace of Christ, what did he do? He sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving. He was a man of character, with his hope firmly rooted in the "Giver of the Tables of Law."

Giving thanks is such an amazing antidote to so many ills we face. Upset that you wrecked a car? Give thanks that you live in a country that has cars. Perturbed that your spouse burned dinner? Give thanks for an oven. In a lousy job? Give thanks for a job! Most of us are so overwhelmed with material blessings that we don't have a proper perspective on what is and what is not a crisis (this is a real crisis).

As we approach this Thanksgiving, our family wants to be intentional to give thanks for all God's favor in our lives and continually recognize his goodness. Here are some of the things we are thankful for:

  • That in the midst of so much unknown he has given us the opportunity to adopt a baby boy in January.
  • That we can serve with a ministry seeking to heal some of the hurt that so many families have suffered. This will become increasingly important as many families suffer extra strain during times of financial difficulty. I’ve been working to help update our small group studies to give couples more tools for strengthening their marriage. I'm also helping with a new video based marriage conference. We hope to have a pilot ready in January, so pray for wisdom.
  • That there have been 13,000 people attend a Weekend to Remember conference since August, with 500 of those indicating a salvation decision. One couple sent this comment after attending: "Five years ago our marriage was in serious trouble and through your morning broadcasts I was encouraged to pray for my husband. He was involved in a relationship I was not aware of. We went to a Weekend to Remember and things started to turn around slowly. Thank you for your resources and wisdom."
  • My Son told me this week that he is thankful that it is "finally cold outside." Day time highs in Phoenix are still in the 80s.

This Thanksgiving, take time with your family to give thanks. While you're eating, take turns around the table to express gratitude for something. We've found Barbara Rainey's book, Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember helpful. Read all or portions of it. If you have lots of preschool children, paraphrase the story. The important thing is to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving, and for each person to be thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Man Trying on the Radio

Last week, One Man Trying was featured on the "Phoenix Seminary Presents" radio program, sharing about male spiritual leadership in the home. The program is in two one hour sessions.

For all the guys who are 'trying', you can download the programs here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A First Time for Everything

This morning I was given this book by a homeless man who was digging through our dumpsters.

We had a nice conversation, discussed some Phoenix history, and he informed me of the best dumpsters in the area, such as the motherload of book dumpsters just a few blocks from our house. His advice? "Head over there, get some books, and start building a library." If he only knew. As we parted I asked him his name, and he just mumbled "I'm only a bum." But he stopped to riffle through his well organized shopping cart, reaching to the depths of the basket to extract the above book. He handed it to me in a way that said, "if you were smart, you'd get over there right now, and this book is proof that you are missing out on your calling in life."

All my paradigms for homeless people continue to be blown away here in Phoenix. I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever been given anything by a homeless person.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Politics or Family

As you prepare to vote today, keep these words in mind:

I hate the negative advertisements just like everybody else.
But those advertisements work on the ignorant, and it gets simple thinkers heated up. We just have to have the discipline to be civil. Many of my friends will vote for McCain, and members of my family too. But it doesn't matter to me. Family comes first, and so do friends. When I'm on my deathbed, Barack Obama and John McCain won't be there, but my friends and family will. So they come first, and they are more important. I just won't let myself get too heated about this stuff. It's not worth it.

These are the words of Donald Miller, popular Christian author, who is actively campaigning for Obama. I don't agree with all of Miller's political views, in fact, I think he has many factual errors in this interview (read the second comment for a response to Miller's statement about Obama actually working to reduce abortions), but i certainly appreciate Miller's perspective on the priority of politics. Keep it mind to day as you vote and discuss politics with friends and family.