Two Celebrations Today For Our Family

Dad SinclairAnother 4th has arrived. Many will enjoy a day off. Barbecues will be blazing, picnics festive and fireworks magnificent. It’s a day most Americans immensely enjoy and which brings  a sense of pride, thanks and solemnity towards those who battled for our freedom.

I have to admit it’s tempting today to challenge those who have benefited from our liberties and yet publicly trash our leaders, standards and traditions. But that must be for another time.

Today I want to also celebrate my dad. He would have been 100 years old today. He loved having his birthday on the Fourth of July reminding us every year that the whole country was celebrating it.

More importantly he was also one of those who fought for the freedom we celebrate today. He served in the military for four years, a significant portion of that time in combat overseas in Germany. He won the Silver and Bronze Stars for bravery, something our family didn’t know until after his death, rescuing several caught under fire.

I’ve heard a few interesting stories about places he went and people he met during his service. There’s the German lady who introduced him (and later us indirectly) to shortbread. Thank you, ma’am! There were the famous landmarks he visited and a few of the souvenirs he brought back.

But we never heard about the bad parts. Maybe that’s why we never knew about the medals. We learned more later discovering there was much he kept inside like so many who served and faced the horrors of battle. They just didn’t want to talk about it.

Instead he came home, married and had kids enjoying that freedom that he fought for.  He didn’t gripe about the leaders or bemoan the fact that this country wasn’t perfect. He got a tear in his eye when he heard a patriotic song or a fireworks display.

So today reminds me of how good we have it in America. But it also reminds me of people like my dad who gave so much for us to still have a very special place to live today. No, it’s not perfect. My dad wasn’t perfect, but I hope we’ll appreciate it a little more this year and thank God that we get to live here.

Happy birthday, dad.

 

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Are You Trying Too Hard To Do It All?

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I read today where a teenager was hospitalized with an usual and possible deadly disease. The cause wasn’t drugs, eating contaminated food or catching a rare bug while traveling. He’s in the hospital with rhabdomyolysis caused from working out too much.

Of course there could be many reasons why his commitment to regular exercise became obsessive, but it makes me wonder what drove him to excess. I also wonder why so many today seem to express their drive to hurry, get more and do more in similarly dangerous ways.

Families juggle myriad extra-curricular events, drive at blinding speeds around town endangering others and themselves and feverishly add new possessions, degrees and other accomplishments to their personal portfolio.

And yet, what’s being accomplished? Are marriages and families getting closer? Are workers more satisfied? Recent studies suggest they are not. Are churches generally getting healthier? If we’re honest, while there are always positive, balanced people, groups and organizations doing amazing things, it appears that in the big picture, culture in general isn’t faring that much better than several decades ago.

What’s missing? Well, there’s certainly no magic pill or silver bullet that has caused or can fix it all. But in my opinion one component of family life has disappeared for the most part. Rest and margin.

We still don’t know how or won’t choose to slow down. We continue to believe that more is better – more events, more accolades, more money, more stuff, more knowledge, more everything.

And yet, Jesus said it well when He expressed in the New Testament, “What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?”  Important question yet today. What does the soul crave?

Meaning, purpose, affection, appreciation, value, significance. And it will certainly be a major loss if we never understand that our current hunger for more is actually being fed at the wrong restaurant. More of the above will never fill us up. The things we long for will only be enjoyed as we slow down and begin to seek after family, rest, faith, friendship, etc. that will provide more of those soul-filling nutrients.

But we’ll never even taste them at 100mph.

Respect: Lost Under The Blanket of Disagreement

respectA year or so ago, I wrote an article for my Safe At Home blog about how respect in our country is almost gone. I urged parents to make a concerted, even passionate attempt to keep teaching and modeling respect for others to their children, especially those with whom they disagree. Here’s a link to that post if you want to read it: https://bit.ly/2q54AA7

Just because we don’t see eye to eye with politicians, business leaders, neighbors or even family is no reason to then trash their character, personality or view in public or private. When we lose genuine expressions of respect, we lose a vital part of our culture’s fabric, vibrancy and strength.

One year later I can easily say that respect for others has dropped to new lows. Late night television and awards shows have substituted people bashing (generally of conservatives but not entirely) and preaching about social views for the entertainment the public looks to them for year after year.

Our State of the Union address this past January saw one entire party (minus one brave senator) sit on their hands during the speech by the President. There was not one moment of applause from them even for comments and initiatives that would totally support their agenda. And yet during a previous administration’s speech one representative from the other side offered an inappropriate in my opinion outburst during the presentation.

The firestorm of negativity from the press and the sitting-on-their-hands this year group burned hot for weeks. Respect? I don’t think so.

And of course the lack of respect is not limited to politics or media. We see it from sports stars, through protests about the military to school demonstrations.

In fact, we now observe what I would call one-way disrespect. I can make fun of you for your views but you dare not make fun of mine.  We protest today largely over one side of an issue’s story, but not the other.

Some protest (and show disrespect) against police who have killed their loved ones. and they have a right and purpose to do so.  But they don’t protest against their own who kill far more within their city!

You see R-E-S-P-E-C-T must go both ways. We can respect each other and our views without trashing each other. Someone is not necessarily a bad person because they don’t agree with us.

Our leaders can still be shown respect when we don’t see eye to eye on their politics or business practices. When’s the last time you heard anyone in public say,“I do disagree with Senator Jones views on this but I respect her, her leadership and her right to have that view.”

Are we teaching our kids to feel and act the same way? Looking at our recent school events and responses I would say probably not. But that can change if each of us will do our part to keep respect a part of the dialogue and disagreements that we enter into this year.

Perhaps unity could come from modeling it rather than demanding it. We’ll see.

 

Reflections About “Billy,” America’s Pastor

billygrahamI had only been married for four months in 1976 when Billy Graham came to the Pontiac Silverdome for a crusade, something those events were called back then. That huge stadium holding 80,000 people, was the home at the time of the typically hapless Detroit Lions, who God knew could certainly use all the prayer and religion they could get, even vicariously. Apparently it didn’t help.

Nonetheless, I was excited to attend this historic event near where I lived at the time. I was also there to serve as one of the counselors for those who would come during Billy’s famous altar call/invitations. It was an incredible, hard-to-believe scene, even for a 26-year-old newlywed, seeing the stadium quickly filled with people beforehand. More amazing was the rapt attention given to every component of the evening and then the thousands who flocked to the field in response to his invitation to receive Christ.

I remember thinking, How is this happening? Why would so many come and then respond as they have? My only answer at the time and still is now is that God was there and these were holy moments ordained for that time and through a man everyone called ‘Billy.'”  I truly think we were standing on holy ground.

Will such a personal and accompanying phenomena occur again?  Maybe. Nothing is too difficult for God. But I doubt it. Our culture has changed. People respond, connect and communicate in very new ways today. God is still at work but through other means.

But the man bold enough to be used in this way and sadly, to be criticized perhaps most by other Christians much of the time, is now gone. He actually quit preaching over a decade ago, his health failing, but He has now had a face to face encounter with the one, Jesus, who He proclaimed so valiantly!  Wouldn’t that have been something to see? Will Heaven have instant replay or On Demand?

Somehow, I have to believe Dr. Graham has already heard those famous Biblical words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

I do find myself wondering what his long-time critics, ones who questioned his leadership, theology, acquaintances and teaching style among other things for decades from pulpits, college chapels and popular periodicals, are saying today. I will be saddened, even angry to hear more of what has been for the most part pompous rhetoric void of its own evangelistic fervor, strategies or commitments in sharing the Gospel, even if Billy’s vehicle and organization might have been at times flawed.

But think about it.

What Christian has known and impacted more U.S. Presidents than Billy Graham? Lyndon Johnson, likely not on Billy’s side of a lot of issues, requested that Billy officiate at his funeral at his Western White House. He did.

What person, including most U.S. Presidents, has had more meaningful, deep, eternity-focused relationships with world leaders than Billy Graham?

Who in the last 150 years has had a helping hand in more personal decisions for Christ than Billy Graham?

Many of those who were criticizing Dr. Graham in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s or later have themselves passed on. I hope that their heavenly re-connection with Billy will put aside the past and joyfully become a rich discussion and thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to them all. Those who remain I trust have mellowed.

You see I don’t think Billy Graham ever wavered from the unchangeable truths of the Gospel. But more importantly He never wavered from his love of an unchangeable God and Savior who he knew always was far smarter than him.

Perhaps one of Billy’s famous quotes says it best:  Knowing we will be with Christ forever far outweighs our burdens today! Keep your eyes on eternity.!”  And he is doing that today.

One Thought About Guns To Add To The Con(flict)versation?

 


gunAnother shooting in Florida has brought the usual round of easy answers about how to avoid these tragedies once and for all. And while many of the arguments are grounded in passion, grief and a sincere sense that things are out of control most of them miss guidance that can be found in more complex perspectives.

Some believe that all the tragedies would be averted if we just returned prayer and the pledge to our schools. And while those things might be helpful their absence in many schools did not cause the shootings. There were extensive problems in schools decades ago even when practices like those were in place. Others suggest greater police presence and that may be needed. Worth some more consideration.

But similarly, the calls for severe gun control, requests that clearly impede our Constitutional freedoms, are not an easy or only answer either. Guns will be acquired whether they are legal or illegal. Guns are not what kill people. People kill people for all sorts of horrible reasons.

But let me use an oft – referred to illustration in this vein that might help us consider some common ground on gun control. Consider cars. People driving cars kills tens of thousand of people each year. The results are tragic. But I hear no one suggesting that we ban most cars or severely limit the kinds of cars we can drive.

However, what if I suggested that because there is freedom in this country to have a car I want to own and drive a NASCAR level auto through town.? Imagine what I could do on I-465 getting around Indianapolis with 600HP or more!

However, there are rules (wise ones, by the way) that prohibit owners from having a car with that kind of power. I could argue, “But what if there were an emergency and I needed to rush a family member to the hospital? Wouldn’t it be better to have a faster car?”

And the obvious answer would be “no.” I can still have a car, I can even buy pretty fast ones, but a NASCAR level car isn’t going to be legal on our streets. Will a ban on NASCAR automobiles stop all the killing on our roads? Hardly. But we would be saying that there is a limit and we’ll put more restrictions on too much power for the average person. We can avoid some deaths that way and that is both a doable and wise choice. It’s one we’ve made for years.

In fact we’re not even banning high-powered cars from all usage. No one should be asking for NASCAR to completely shut down. But the limit would make sense. Only those capable of using those cars in an appropriate setting would be allowed to have them.

In the same way, we could find some middle ground concerning guns, limiting some of those higher powered, too much power, guns from getting into the wrong hands, the hands of people who are incapable of using them wisely. That seems to make sense and I think would calm some of the criticism concerning some people not willing to make any limits on guns. Let’s hope the conversation and some wise, corresponding actions are a result.

Think about it. I’m open to hearing what you think, too.

The Power of a Thanksgiving Note

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In case you’ve forgotten Thanksgiving will be here this week. Plans for turkey, football, family and friends are undoubtedly underway, well at least for most people. I know that if I lived alone and wasn’t near any family I would probably have a package of sandwich turkey, half a dozen rolls and two pumpkin pies in the fridge.

Anyhow, some families also try to continue traditions of saying thank you, you know going around the room and asking people to think of something they are thankful for. And these can be meaningful times but often the preschoolers are most thankful for their beds or stuffed animals, the teens their significant others or electronics and the parents of course for their wonderful families, even though they drove them nuts all morning.

But sure, do whatever is still special and meaningful for you. We can’t say thanks enough.

However, let me suggest you add one little thing this year. How about writing a note to just one person who has been extra special, kind or even not so noticed the last twelve months?

We’ve lost the tradition of actually taking a piece of paper or note card and putting a few caring thoughts there that we actually send to someone in the mail. Why would a thank-you card make a difference?

First of all, the person knows you took time to single them out. This wasn’t a group email from the office. You noticed something about them for which you are thankful and made the time to say it. That’s going to mean something.

Second, it will  most likely be the only one they get that day perhaps the whole season. When a person gets an email it’s usually one of ten, twelve or a hundred that must be sorted through to decide which to read. Not with your note. It will stand out especially above the ads, bills and magazines and perhaps even read first.

Third, it took more effort than other forms of communication. You can’t write a meaningful note very quickly. You have to think about it, take your time and actually put your words in an envelope and mail it.

There are lots of people who never get thanked and who would remember a note from you all year long. Try it. You still have time. I’ll bet you have some unused cards laying around somewhere, don’t you?

 

Honoring Our Causes While Not Harming Our Culture

takekneeI’ve been hesitant to jump into the kneeling/standing/athletes fray since so much has been written, said, argued and even flaunted from many different perspectives, angles and passions.

However, living in a country in which free speech, dissent and protest are welcomed in  proper settings is going to garner ongoing clashes of individuals, groups and societies. And we must continue to navigate and hopefully use those times in healthy, helpful ways rather than take actions that alienate and even dishonor others, intentionally or otherwise.

And that’s the main problem I see with the current, very public and in my thinking misguided choices of athletes and others of late as they have been making their sincere protests visible. Let me suggest several problems with using athletic contests to make political, personal statements.

1.  Their demonstration is out of context and one-sided. If they were protesting their athletic pension fund, too little concussion research or the cost to attend games that would make sense. Instead, their issues became clouded and actions disrespectful because they simply chose a platform the rest of us don’t have. It also unfairly suggests that their issue affords this kind of attention and disruption of a major event while others apparently do not.

2.  The demonstrations are a needless distraction. People paid high dollars to bring their families to watch a game. Many of the children are not old enough to understand the issues anyway and for parents to explain it further at the game or at home will not help either. Rather than add to the fun of the day, for which they are being paid handsomely in most cases, the players merely added to the confusion for many.

3. There are better platforms and actions that will accomplish far more. If you want to protest, go where that protest will actually accomplish something. Go protest before meeting with city officials to help solve the problem. Go protest by rallying others to do the same and actually make a difference. Go protest by cleaning up some of the problems in neighborhoods or businesses that are exacerbating the problems.

4.  Remember where your freedom came from. To protest during the anthem for a country in which you have the greatest freedoms and largest rewards of any country in the world to do what you do only dishonors the people who have worked hard, fought valiantly and protested appropriately in the past to give you those benefits. We can still protest without hurting or defaming others in the process.

Imagine if a seven-year-old boy or girl were having a birthday party with lots of friends and their parents. And right in the middle of the party, one of the parents puts up a sign on the wall of the room expressing their views about the new taxes that the local community is going to assess.

Wouldn’t we say that this was the wrong context, that it was a needless distraction, that there are better platforms for his comments and that this person was actually dishonoring the child at the party by protesting in this way? Of course we would. It’s common sense.

So maybe we would be wise to add a little more common sense to our discourse and disagreements by finding better ways to make our statements while welcoming those of others. And let’s let the games be that . . . games.

What I Won’t Do Out Of Guilt on Facebook

facebook-posts-11We’ve all gotten them, haven’t we? Those lofty petitions from our friends and acquaintances begging us to please post something so that they feel more loved (remember Sally Field at the Oscars?), appreciated, listened or noticed. And maybe those people mean well, but I’m just stubborn enough to refuse to respond even if my wife sends one (which she does not).

Sorry, but I have better things to do and in my mind so do you but that’s your issue.

I guess I just felt compelled to try and change a few minds (okay, I won’t) and hope that at least some of you will  understand why I don’t take your passionate challenges.

Perhaps my most poignant reason for refusing to respond is that I’m pretty convinced that no one else cares about:

Whether anyone else reads your posts. What the eight or tenth or fiftieth picture is in your photo album. What color, movie star, animal or pop tart you or I might look like. And I’m too old now to even remember some of my friends names much more where I met them and again no one cares.

And actually it’s often after getting more of these posts that I do think of a word or two that reminds me of you who ask, but they are words I probably can’t use on Facebook

Are you seeing a theme here? This stuff doesn’t matter and few care or only people who don’t have a life do and so maybe you don’t want them for friends.

So yes, while Facebook can be a place for sharing lots of memories, fun moments, pictures of our food (really?) and other pictures of places we’ve gone believing that others not as important as us won’t go, could we skip the guilt-driven demands to our FB friends guilting them into things just because we tell them to feel bad if they don’t?

Can we quit suggesting that others are not nice, spiritual, Christ-loving or passionate about changing the world because they don’t jump on our cute and clever bandwagons of interest or our idea of what matters most to God?

Although while I’m thinking about it maybe you could share this post on your Facebook page for me. I think it’s really good.

 

I Just Had My Coffee And Now I Must Kill You . . . Well, Maybe.

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A new study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that people who prefer their coffee black often show psychopathic or sadistic tendencies.

The study, published in the journal Appetite, surveyed over 1,000 adults about their flavor preferences. They also took four different personality tests that evaluated  traits like narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, and aggression.

But you see,  I must ask if is this a fair and accurate study.  And I think Dr. Phil would back me up on this. First of all this research was done by people who yodel.

Second, it seems to me that if some of those in the study DIDN’T have their black coffee we might observe far worse problems like binge shopping at IKEA, extreme urges to eat rice cakes or watching whole seasons of Big Brother in one sitting.

I have friends who if they have not had strong coffee by 7am might actually tune in to MSNBC.

However, the Austrian research also found that individuals who enjoy milky or sugary coffee, and other sweet flavors, generally tended to have more agreeable personality traits like sympathy, cooperation, and kindness. What was not mentioned is that they also tend to like the Hallmark Channel and have seen Sound of Music (also filmed in Austria) at least seven times.

If black coffee actually does cause these severe reactions, then perhaps, like with guns, it should be required that anyone ordering straight up java must first fill out government paperwork and not receive their beverage until after a three-day waiting period. They would be then have been registered and fingerprinted to help expedite future purchases.

But the real question is: can’t we just leave well enough alone when it comes to our little moments of joy that aren’t really hurting anybody? Do we have to keep doing studies that potentially add more angst to such other guilty pleasures as downing whipped cream right out of the container, eating a whole quart of Haagen – Dazs or polishing off a complete box of Cheez Its and calling it dinner?

And frankly, when are they going to share results that suggest something most people don’t like is bad for you, huh?  Just once I’d like to hear . . . Today a study from the University of Fargo has proven that eating even one lima bean, maraschino cherry or black olive can have you in the grave in mere weeks! More on the evening news with Scott Pelley.

Now that’s a study I want to read more about while I’m drinking my morning cup of brew. Black. Sure, I can wait. You gotta pen?

 

Why Entitlement Is Hurting Our Culture Today

635840221397714875-66215785_577354We’ve all seen it and embraced it at times. I’m talking about entitlement which Webster’s Dictionary defines as: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something. To be sure entitlement in its purest, most basic sense isn’t something evil. Rights were included in our country’s founding documents, for example.

There are certain other logical rights that simply make sense and are reasonable. If you pay for something you should get and keep that something in return. If you are invited to speak to a group of people, you are entitled to be heard and uninterrupted.

Our government, rightly, wrongly or some of both, offers entitlement programs such as social security and Medicare. And it seems reasonable that if we pay into those programs that we are entitled to at least some sort of benefit even if it can be argued that those entities are a poor use of funds or have been mismanaged for decades.

But entitlement today is rapidly moving to another threshold of expectation that has now gone well beyond the practical, fair and wise intent of Webster’s definition. Let me start with a few examples to illustrate my point.

Many people who have received government benefits for what were initially good reasons feel entitled to those benefits even if they no longer need them.

Many workers believer they are entitled to health insurance even if their employer can no longer afford that insurance or never promised it to them in the first place.

Millions believe they are entitled to the benefits and resources of another country even if they are not citizens or never earned the privilege of those benefits.

Children and teens often feel entitled to whatever possessions (especially technology) their friends have such as phones, summer camp experiences, the right clothing, etc.

Even in churches people often feel entitled to know everything the leadership knows, to have their preferences about music, teaching, who leads the church and how the church is led adopted and enforced. Some even act entitled about programs that they want or ministries they believe must be adopted and become angry when the church doesn’t deliever.

But this level of entitlement is not only harmful – it’s dangerous. Let me suggest several reasons why:

  1. It breeds selfishness. It loudly proclaims, Listen people, I”m the most important one in this business, organization or church so give me what I demand.
  2. It fosters disunity. Organizations work best when people work together, have common goals and share resources. Entitlement steals unity.
  3. It distracts the group from its most important goals because the ones feeling entitled are making demands generally unrelated to those goals.
  4. It reproduces more entitlement as young children especially see the adults in their world expecting so much to revolve around them.

How do we battle against unhealthy, unwise entitlement? First, we share our perspective without demanding. We offer to be part of the solution, to join the team that could help us get closer to our goals without ignoring the bigger goals and vision of our organization.

Second, develop a more thankful heart. Entitled people are generally not very thankful people. Instead of demanding more from those who lead or serve you, go thank them, tell them how much you appreciate what they’ve done. If there are issues that need addressing do it in a grateful context.

Third, remember that everything we have is on loan from God. We don’t deserve it anyway. God has lavished us with so much, especially in America, that we would be wise to count our blessings and when those entitlements come along anyway we’ll appreciate them a lot more.