"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Planned Parent at the Y?

UPDATE:  I wrote a letter to the Y.  They called to tell me they are changing their policy about vetting who they invite to have a display at the Y.  Seriously they were wonderfully responsive!  In fact, they didn't just call me back but tracked me down, since I had been away for several days and they couldn't reach me.  Impressed.


Original post:
Friends do tell me if I'm being crazy.  In this culture and age its hard sometimes to tell.  But I've been pondering this for about a week now...

Last week I went to my local YMCA to catch some swimming time with a friend.  As I walked in, I found, in the front lobby, a table manned by Planned Parenthood.  What was in the process of becoming was an evening health fair in which several members of the community representing health services was invited to have a table and make contact with those of us who were traipsing through the Y that night.   An open house.  A few insurance companies and the like turned up later in the evening, by the time I was done swimming.

But there was Planned Parenthood, complete with cute young women wearing shirts that said on the back something about pregnant women not being accommodated in the workplace.  And an older guy in a tie, looking very professional behind the table.

And just everything seemed wrong about that picture.

Here was the supposedly "pro-woman" organization being led by a man in the attire of authority while young women were clad in matching pink tee-shirts proclaiming their feminist values.

Here was a supposedly health fair giving voice to an organization whose sole function is to end healthy embryonic lives and to suppress healthy reproductive function with medical dysfunction.

Here was an organization which proclaims sexual freedom for women while still leaving them bound to bear the brunt of side effects of hormonal birth control (some of which can be life altering or threatening) in order to be more sexually available for men whose freedom from consequences these products proclaim.

And here is my local Y, a supposedly pro-family organization giving voice to the most anti-family organization in America.

I ask myself what does the YMCA have to gain from giving such a platform to Planned Parenthood?  What is in it for the Y to have an organization there which would surely make some of the Y's existing clientele feel uncomfortable, invaded?  Is the Y unaware of Planned Parenthood's documented history of racially directed abortion services?  Are they intentionally blind to Planned Parenthood's role in covering up abuse and sexual trafficking?  Do they not know that Planned Parenthood advocates drugging girls with birth control and inflicting abortion on their developing bodies without their parents knowledge or consent?

And if they YMCA is aware of these things, are they not then being complicit in giving Planned Parenthood access to any teen girl who may walk into the Y that night?

I'm not interested in being unnecessarily combative.  I don't expect my religious convictions to be taken seriously in the secular public square (despite the C in YMCA standing for Christian... I shan't call them out since the Y and M stand for "Young Men's" and I am neither... my Y is a secular community organization and if I were telling myself otherwise I'd be fooling myself).  I don't expect the Y to kowtow to my comfort zone.  But how does one graciously ask an organization whether its values are perhaps in conflict with the neighbor to whom they've given a platform? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Flags... really, people? They're flags.

I swear, if I see one more controversy about a flag, I may do something goofy.  Maybe I'll sew a bunch of them together into a big old quilt with all the ones that represent groups that don't like each other next to one another.  A public art installation.  Except I don't sew.  And really, I am past the point of wanting to learn.

But I guess "past the point of wanting to learn" is kind of what sums up America when it comes the the flag debates.

Gosh, folks.  I'm FROM the South.  Let me tell you something about the Confederate flag.  Its the flag of a dead nation, however a beloved one.  But the one thing that still holds true about the South is, as Lewis Grizzard said, "we don't care how you do thing up there in Cleveland."  Don't tell the South what to do with that flag.  For some it is the flag of hate, for some it is the flag of heritage.  But nobody south of the Mason Dixon wants to hear what that flag means in Cleveland, or Philly, or New York.  The South doesn't like being told by outsiders what to do.  That's the story behind that flag's origins.  That's the "restoration" story that followed it.  That is the only meaning behind that flag we all pretty much agree on.  Its a flag, let it go.

But I am from the South and I am also a Christian.  If it causes your brother to stumble, throw it out.  The voice that says "throw it out" has to be a Southern one, and mine is as good as any, though I've lived away half my life and never had much of an accent.  I grew up on sweet tea and know what "bless your heart" really means (and it isn't what you Yankees have been told it means).  I knew from the time I could walk "what's the difference between a Yankee and a damn Yankee."  My daddy tol' me.  And so I will say, that flag, though it means a lot of things and not all of them hurtful, causes our brothers to see hate they have received and causes others to see hate they'd like to dish out.  Let the flag go.

And just when I think all this hooplah is fading away, while everyone looks to the flag of a dead nation and fails to notice live burning churches, live hurting hearts, live difficult discussions.... just when I think we've set it all aside... some yahoo decides to fly a "Christian" flag over a US flag on church property in North Carolina.

Do not get me wrong, I'm not offended by the order.  The church is, at its best, a foreign embassy on US soil.  The state does not reign nor does it give us the authority to be the church.  I'm offended instead by the presence of the US flag at all under it.  The US flag likely has no use at all on church property, but less so flying in a way that intentionally provokes our  neighbors.  Again a flag causes our neighbors to stumble.  Throw it out.   Your idea may be technically correct, but it is not helpful.

The church has never been without controversy, but only this modern church seems to enjoy causing controversy for its own sake.  Poking at dragons.  I'm not saying hide your faith under a bushel; but I am saying that loving your neighbor is the opposite of provoking him.   Its time we stopped flying banners and hollering about colors and opened our eyes to our neighbor, our brother.  Its time we started seeing that our brother under the banner of Christ is suffering the world over, including in our back yard.  Churches are burned, the faithful are outcast, martyrs are made daily the world over.  Unwrap yourselves from the flags that bind you and like Lazarus, come out of the grave, Christians.  Come out.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Seasons change....

My first child graduated from homeschooling this weekend. 
Done.

I find it hard to believe that: I could be this old, he could be this old, we finished the race, he's going away to college... all of the above. 

My second son is firmly entrenched in Catholic school.

My third may go to Catholic school too, not this coming year, but possibly the next.

And I find it hard to imagine myself not homeschooling.  And I find it liberating at the same time.  What will I do?  Of course, always the planner, a few ideas have crossed my mind. 

Become fluent (really fluent) in a foreign language.  French first, then maybe Korean.
Get a full time job?  A PhD and a real teaching gig?  Plant an Anglican high school in western PA?  (Anybody want to help with that??)  Start a non-profit organization for language and cultural exchange with people in nations who have no other access for cultural exchange but need good English skills in an ever changing business world?  Again, all of the above.  Really.  but no, that's impossible.

So maybe over the course of the next year, if you'll indulge me, I might wonder aloud about who I need to be for the next phase of the journey.  And am I too old for this (whatever "this" is).  I never realized I'd still be in the process of "becoming" after 40.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Advice for Students

Coming up on final exams in so many school contexts has me thinking about what advice I would give to today's college and seminary students.  A word from the other side of the desk or computer screen, perhaps, is in order.  So if the reader would allow me to be so bold:

A word of advice for students (especially online students, especially my online students):

1.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Ask me to clarify an assignment or an idea.  Your success is my success, quite literally in this field.   Your questions enable me to succeed and my answers should do the same for you.  An instructor who doesn't understand the difference between being an active question-asker and being a nuisance has no business teaching human beings.

2.  Do not be afraid to disagree and read critically.  Your grade may be lowered by knee-jerk responses, but a well thought out and crafted disagreement should be respected by any instructor who hopes some day to welcome some of his students as peers and colleagues.  You do not have to love the textbook I assigned.  In fact, I may not have loved it either to have considered it important for you to read. 

3.  Show your enthusiasm.  Students who are excited about the material and want to discuss it with their professors and classmates are not pests, they're why we are excited to start work every day.  Be one!

4.  Turn in papers early and often.  If your instructor has time to give you feedback before the due date (we don't always, but many of us will try) take it!  Papers where the instructor has invested his time and expertise will always be better papers and be more kindly graded.

5.  Engage your senses.  When material is hard to understand, read it out loud.  It slows you down and engages both the eyes and the ears in reading so that your brain can marinate more in the material.  Best advice I ever got from the meanest professor I ever endured.

6.  Seek relationship.  Even (perhaps especially) in online classes.  Don't just come to class, do your thing and leave.  Connect with your classmates.  Kvetch with them if you like.  It lets you know you weren't the only one who found that last quiz to be a challenge, that last paper a bear.  Stay after class to ask the prof a question if you have one.  Find a study buddy, even if that person is in another state or country.  Read your instructor's and fellow students' biographies in their online profiles; learn what you have in common outside of class.  Connections like that will keep you at the table when the going gets rough.

7.  If at first you don't succeed, swallow your pride and ask what you did wrong.  Teachers who "bleed" all over your papers do so because they care enough to see you do a better job next time.  If you don't get timely feedback from your instructor, it is your right and responsibility to request it.

8.  Not all red ink is criticism.  I love to talk to my students in the margins of their papers.  Some of it is a serious show of enthusiasm.  And I do grade in red.  I'm old school, and I like my words to stand out.  Don't just look at the final grade and the length of comments and toss the paper aside.  I cared enough to read your paper, you can care enough to read my comments.

9.  Despite the old saying, it is better to ask permission than forgiveness.  If you need an extension on a paper ask for one, don't just turn it in late.  If you have a serious cause, many instructors are gracious and will work with you so that you can keep the standard of the course and your sanity, both.  Do not expect a free ride, but in serious cases you can expect us to facilitate your best work.  If you ask, the worst that can happen is a "no."  If you don't ask, the best that can happen is a late penalty.

10.  Google with caution.  The internet is a vast clearinghouse for material that could not be legitimately published anywhere else.  There are some amazing resources out there, but also a lot of junk.  Online students often suffer from a lack of access to a good scholarly library and good internet resources can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Ask your instructor for trustworthy direction and for goodness sake stay off of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A weather sijo.

Looking out my window, I watch the soft, white, heavy snow
Drip, drip, drip, melting away into nothing, little by little.
Victory at last!  At least until I check the forecast.

Police: Man Conspired To Have His Unborn Baby Killed « CBS Pittsburgh

Police: Man Conspired To Have His Unborn Baby Killed « CBS Pittsburgh



So lets think about this for a minute...

A man attempts to hire someone to murder his unborn child.
And its a "horrific crime."
Says the news reporter.
And she's right.  It is.


A woman attempts to hire someone to murder her unborn child
And it is legal and an advertised "service."
Its a "choice."
The people say.

But how, from the point of view of the child, is it different?

In a way, it is the ultimate sexism.  The man is held responsible for his actions.
The woman gets handed a tissue, they pat her hand, and say "there, there, dearie, you couldn't help it."

Friday, February 27, 2015

God didn't ask what you think....

In Bible study last night with my congregation, we were focused on the passage "present your bodies as a living sacrifice."  Somehow I tweaked out the notion that "your bodies are worthy and good and beautiful."  There was a sense in the room that nobody had been told this before.   That nobody thought of heaven as physical and worship as incarnational and sacraments as material.  That this was new.

And the big question that hung in the air was "really? my body?"  Most of them have aches and pains (our church meets in a nursing home, so what do you expect is our demographic?) and don't think of their bodies as beautiful or good anymore. 

Beauty, after all, has become a lie our culture sells us.

But funny, back in Genesis 1, God didn't ask our opinion.   When  declaring all creation good, even very good, he didn't turn to Adam and Eve and ask, "so what do you think?"  Eve didn't get to ask to be skinnier.  Adam didn't ask for Eve to have longer hair and rounder hips.  Adam didn't get to look in a mirror and flex a bit before declaring his consent to the layout of his muscles and bones.  Nope, just here you go, its very good. 

We worry a lot these days about body image and public opinion.  I think we may be fundamentally wrong.  For the Christian, your body is good.  God made you to bear his image.  Jesus took on your physical nature and bears your image into paradise.  You can work, worship, and play. 

Suffering is not good, and you may suffer in the body.  But the reason suffering is no good is that it stands in contrast to what your body is.  Your body is good, noble, beautiful.  You are a hand painted icon of God.

And you're called to be a steward over that body.  You can never make it not-good, but you can cause it to wear out before its time. 

I think as so many of us try to give up chocolate, sweets, during Lent, secretly hoping to lose weight to make our bodies more "perfect" this may be a helpful thought.  Your body is good, very good.  You may need to discipline yourself to lose weight to steward that body (and perhaps Lent is a fine time for that, if it is a matter of worship and faithfulness) but not to shape it, carve it into what the fallen world thinks is beauty. 

Because you are already beautiful.  It is very good indeed.