Everyone loves a good story. In fact, I would go one better, and say we need stories. It’s in our DNA. The ancient Greeks passed down myths about their various gods in an attempt to better understand their world. And while books and movies are the primary medium of modern storytelling, I am happy to report the oral tradition is alive and well in Florence, Alabama. Over the weekend, I went to a storytelling festival and heard tales that were both entertaining and meaningful.
We all have our own stories, don’t we? These are the collection of our “greatest hits” that we use to tell others who we are and what’s important to us. And then there are the stories that we only whisper to ourselves. These are the secret stories that are still unfolding; the ones that give our lives meaning and context and purpose. In these stores, we are each cast as the heroes or heroines. In virtually every good story, a hero or heroine must overcome a series of challenges in order to obtain something he or she truly desires. In like manner, we have all valiantly tried to achieve some goal set beyond us. Read the rest of this entry »
I rarely go to the movies, but I was curious about “Oz – the Great and Powerful” – in 3D no less. It tells the pre-Dorothy, back story of the Wizard of Oz, along with the origin of the good and evil witches. I don’t think it requires a “spoiler alert” to tell you the “Wizard” is not really a “wizard” at all; just a showman and a bit of a conman. And, while this wizard can’t actually perform magic, he still gets the job done by using his ingenuity, skills, and the resources he has at his disposal, although it should be noted that the Munchins do most of the actual work.
A few nights later, the original Wizard of Oz came on TV, so I watched that again, too. I was struck with how true to the original the prequel was – and how far special effects have come in seventy or so years. Both movies essentially have the same message: whether it’s bravery, brains, a heart, or even a ticket back to Kansas, we already have all we need. The notion that simply believing in ourselves may sound a little hokey, but I think there is a certain amount of truth to it and something I needed to hear. Read the rest of this entry »
Meditation does not come easy for me. I find it boring and get restless and distracted. Some might say that’s exactly why I need to meditate; to slow my mind down and to learn to stay in the moment. So, the other day, I was trying to be silent and still and I recognized the clear image of an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. I’ll call him Mike, even though that’s not his real name. I only knew him for a brief period, but seeing him brought back a flood of memories: some good, some horrible. So, I share this story, of learning how to meditate, the hard way.
Years ago, I was living in North San Diego County, trying to figure out my next move in life and searching for any sign from God. The start-up company I had been working for had run out of money, so I was working the swing shift (3:00 to 10:00 pm) at the front desk of a local resort. In the mornings, I spent my time reading, trying to surf, and hanging out in coffee houses. One day, at a coffee house in Encinitas, I met a girl from Australia. We both seemed to be “seekers” and she told me about this person she’d found in the desert who had all the answers. Intrigued with this supposed wise man (and this attractive young woman), I agreed to drive out with her and meet “Ray” (not his real name either). Read the rest of this entry »
Okay, this is an easy one. I was getting tired of all the polling and endless speculating before the 2012 elections. Two days after President Obama was re-elected, the Republicans were threatening to run us off the fiscal cliff and were still trying to find a cover-up in Benghazi. It’s draining and, frankly, I’m bored with the same old arguments that bounce around the media echo-chamber by the same old talking heads. I feel like I’m watching one long rerun. So I’ve decided to give up politics for Lent. (Just in case you think I’m getting off easy, I’m also giving up eating chips.)
It’s not that there aren’t important issues that are being decided, such as how to reduce the national deficit, how to create more jobs for more people, instilling reasonable gun control laws, and reducing carbon emissions. The list goes on and on. I’m just not sure I have the wherewithal to stay emotionally connected with the outcomes, much less all the political wrangling to get there. Read the rest of this entry »
I know my list of New Year’s Resolutions is a little late, and that’s okay (see my Resolution #1). This is not a laundry list about getting that promotion at work, or climbing Mount Everest, or losing weight (although I could stand to lose a few pounds). There are only three goals on my list and, while they may sound simplistic, that doesn’t mean they will be easy. If I take them seriously, they will require that I constantly have to stop and refocus my thoughts. These resolutions will take effort, discipline, and patience. But, hopefully, if I stay with them, they will change the way I think and act. In 2013, I want to slow down, be more mindful of my present circumstances, and invest more in people.
1. Slowing down for me is a personal challenge. I tend to rush. I can eat two to three bowls of cereal before my wife has finished one. I’m in a big hurry to get to the next place, even though there’s almost never any real urgency. Yes, I can be that obnoxious guy who honks his horn when the person in front doesn’t instantly see the traffic light turn green. Read the rest of this entry »
I wish I could write a nice piece about the miracle of the season, but the Newtown shooting ripped away any remnants of a Norman Rockwell Christmas. Because the primary targets were young children, it was a stark reminder of the madness that exists in this world. Of course, every day, children are forced into war, slavery, prostitution, and extreme poverty… So, Newtown is not a new or unique story. Even the Christmas story itself has a bloody postscript of Herod slaughtering all the male babies in and around Bethlehem.
While Americans have mourned the victims and embraced the survivors, there are disturbing signs that evil continues to thrive among us. Just over the last few days, there have been more threats, some against schools, others railing against the government. Most of these people are probably just venting or seeking attention, but when police investigate, they often do find caches of weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
This post comes courtesy of Michael Collis. While I’ve never had a guest blogger before, I believe Michael has a powerful lesson for all of us in this season of Advent.
As we light the first candle of Advent, called Expectation, I am pondering if anyone here has wanted something to happen? You waited and were very patient for it to happen, yet it never does, or at least not in the way we think it should. You wonder, “What is wrong?” and start second guessing yourself about your life. I’ve done it, many times. What do we do when crappy things happen or happy things don’t happen when or the way we want them to? Do we give up, throw in the towel? Do we forget that our expectations, especially around this time of year, are sometimes unrealistic, or worse?
I remember being in a group of young people who were being chosen in teams for our attributes of intelligence, physical strength, and physical beauty. Being disabled, I was chosen near the end of the process; those with greater physical beauty and physical ability were chosen before me. This procedure really made me feel as though I was nothing; that I was worth less than Linda, John, or Charles. I began questioning myself and God. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we have to be grateful for, such as family, friends, and faith. This year, I’ll have to add the election to that list. I know better than to put too much hope in a man, much less a political party. At the same time, the people we elect can make a real difference in peoples’ lives. While we don’t know how the economy will fare over the next four years, or what will happen in the Middle East tomorrow, these are some of reasons I’m thankful for the 2012 election:
1. In spite of voter suppression laws, the people overcame new requirements and long lines to fill out a ballot. It was as inspiring as it was depressing to see voters standing in mile long lines on Election Day. The democratic process in the United States should be an example to the world, and yet, some Governors made a conscious choice to make voting as difficult as possible on their own citizens. Never-the-less, people overcame the shameful hurdles that were put in front of them and made their voices heard in record number. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m ready for this election to be over. As with most hotly contested campaigns, it’s been full of half-truths and outright lies. And, while I have my opinion on the source of the vast majority of deception, the casual observer may simply see partisan bickering and endless gamesmanship. The result can be a cynical electorate who loses interest in the whole political process. I’ve noticed many Christians who seem to fall into this category. Already suspicious of politicians, they hear the hypocrisy espoused in the campaigns and no longer trust either party to be a viable part of the solution.
In an attempt to transcend the right and left, it can be tempting to avoid making any choice at all, leaving less scrupulous elements to pick our leaders and determine our policies. It’s true; Jesus sidestepped politics. He talked of feeding the poor and showed compassion for the sick and suffering. He admonished us to take care of the least of these and warned about the love of money. He even paid taxes without complaint. At the same time, he avoided questions about Roman rule. Of course, Jesus had a much more important mission; one that takes place in hearts and souls. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I tagged along while my wife took her mom, Bonnie, to the DMV so she could get a photo on her valid driver’s license. Sixteen states have recently enacted restrictive voting laws, and Tennessee is doing its part by requiring most people (although there are exceptions, which I’ll mention later) to have a photo license to vote. While it may not sound like a big deal; it was a very big deal for Bonnie. She has fought back from two strokes in three years and suffers from high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Never-the-less, she was determined to make the trek in order to exercise her right to vote.
Arriving at the DMV, we quickly got a number; then sat down to wait… and wait. After an hour, Bonnie was getting weak and, even though she wouldn’t admit it; her back was hurting. We finally figured out that you can go a kiosk to get processed for a new license. You need to be pretty handy with touch screens to navigate through the IPads, and my wife and I got stuck on one question and had to ask for assistance. After filling out multiple pages and paying an $8.00 fee with a credit card, we rejoined Bonnie in the waiting area. In just a few minutes, Bonnie was called up to the desk to have her picture taken and issued a new “photo” license. Read the rest of this entry »
Say what you will about Mitt Romney; he is a devoted to his religion. A mutigenerational Mormon, he has held high-ranking leadership positions and donated millions of dollars to the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). For many, religion goes to the core of their belief system, so what does it mean for Mitt to be a Mormon? Of course, Mitt is not just any Mormon; he inherited the special status that comes with being the son of a wealthy Governor. Looking into Mitt’s religious experience might provide some insight into his character and an explanation to some of the things he says on the campaign trail.
1. Mormons are expected to spend a couple of years as missionaries and, when Mitt’s time came, he was sent to France. While in France, Mitt was involved in a car wreck that killed his supervisor’s wife. When his supervisor went home for the funeral, Mitt was left in charge of the French effort. He immediately moved from the countryside to a home in the wealthy district of Paris complete with artwork and servants. By all accounts, the young Romney led a heroic effort of converting over 200 French people to a religion that prohibits drinking any alcohol, including wine. If Mitt seems undaunted by taking unpopular positions (i.e. more tax cuts for the wealthy), it could stem from his days of selling austerity to the French. Read the rest of this entry »
As a break from the political topics, I’d like to write about my recent trip to the Wild Goose Festival. For those that aren’t acquainted with the festival, it is a gathering of progressive, “emerging church” Christians in North Carolina every year. This year, they decided to have a west coast version in Corvallis, Oregon, so I traveled cross country to see what Wild Goose was all about and, maybe, sell a few copies of my book, Hometown Prophet.
When I arrived, I was a little disappointed to find hardly anyone there except a few volunteers who were busy setting up. It turned out I got the dates slightly off and arrived a day early. That was okay; my patient wife and I wiled away a day checking out the picturesque college town (Oregon State Beavers) around the Williamette River. After the festival, we would spend a few more days traveling along the coast and staying in Portland where my early suspicions would be confirmed – I really like Oregon! Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this month, the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro opened its doors after a two year feud with a few concerned citizens. Some of the members of the Islamic Center have lived in Murfreesboro for over thirty years and always felt at home; that is until they needed a larger mosque. A soon as they broke ground, they became the subject of protests, vandalism, arson attacks, and a bomb threat, as well as being dragged into the courts to defend their religion. The source of the contention was summed up by Joe Brandon, the attorney representing the anti-mosque contingency, “We don’t want Sharia law.”
Sharia law refers to the rules in the Quran that cover a wide range of topics, such as fasting, prayer, pilgrimage, trade, inheritance, marriage and divorce. It’s the most sensational parts of Sharia that get the most publicity, i.e. men’s right to unilaterally divorce or cutting off hands for a robbery. Of course, the Bible has many extreme rules in it too (stoning adulterers and rebellious children to death) and, like the Bible, Sharia is interpreted and followed to varying degrees by Muslims. Never-the-less, the word “Sharia” conjures up fear in the hearts of those who are bracing for an all out jihad. Read the rest of this entry »
I will admit, it when I read Atlas Shrugged several years ago, I got caught up in the scrawling epic with bigger than life characters. Apparently, Paul Ryan enjoyed it too; so much so that in 2005, at a banquet honoring the author, he said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” While he has since tried to walk back from those remarks, it’s clear that the Vice Presidential candidate’s political ideology has been heavily influenced by Alisa Rosenbaum, the Russian immigrant otherwise known as Ayn Rand.
What I initially missed in Atlas Shrugged was the underlying themes of superiority of the successful and a disdain for the less fortunate. In Ms. Rand’s novels, the poor are basically lazy dullards who deserve their lot in life. Actually, they deserve worse, if only the government would get out of the way and stop propping them up with hand-outs. The Paul Ryan budget proposal, which propelled him to national prominence, reflects the same basic belief system. If the Ryan plan were passed, it would deny eight million people food stamps, thirty million people access to healthcare, and send two million kids into poverty; all the while giving even more tax cuts to the wealthiest in society. Read the rest of this entry »
High profile shootings occur every year or so; Gabby Giffords, Treyvon Martin, Virginia Tech, and Columbine come to mind. The latest chapter was played out in Aurora, Colorado where a disturbed young man took his automatic rifle with a 100 round drum of bullets out on as many people as he could put in his cross hairs. Of course, other countries have mass shootings too (Norway and Finland), but they typically enact tough gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Not so in the US.
The NRA and their supporters have been very effective in shouting down any movement toward common sense gun control. The United States leads the world in gun ownership and, as a result, we have twenty times more gun-related murders (10,000 annually) as other high income countries. Afraid of a backlash, preachers and politicians typically sidestep the topic completely, leaving us doomed to repeat the same cycle of violence over and over again. Read the rest of this entry »
As fires roared through Colorado a couple of weeks ago, Pat Robertson and the other self-appointed interpreters of God’s Divine Will were strangely quiet. They are often quick to point the finger of judgment at places that they feel have been deserving of a good smiting; far-away places like Thailand, Haiti, or even New Orleans. Colorado, on the other hand, was a little too close for comfort. With organizations such as Focus on the Family headquartered in Colorado Springs, it has been called the Evangelical Vatican. So, was some sort of miscalculation made in the heavenly realm?
It’s hard to fathom God sending cataclysms to punish people who don’t have much more in common other than an area code. But, perhaps, there is a more obvious message to be gleaned from these increasingly frequent natural disasters. God allows me to suffer the consequences for poor decisions I’ve made in my own life, so why wouldn’t He let the human race reap what we’ve collectively sown? This would include actions such as clear cutting whole forests, stripping mining and mountain top removal, fracturing through shale, and pumping pollutants into the water and air. Read the rest of this entry »
I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.