When Passion Quashes Courtesy

Today I did something I’ve done only once before, I publicly demonstrated against an issue about which I feel very passionate.

I attended a rally in the small town of Batavia, IL with about 100 other people directly in front of my congressman’s office, Rep. Bill Foster. We were there wanting to speak to him about the health bill working its way through congress. Sadly, at the date of this blog, he has not planned any public meetings to discuss the issue. Maybe in another blog I’ll explain my concerns about the bad  implications of that bill, but this blog is about something sad I experienced at this rally.

Here’s how the day played out.

My youngest daughter who struggles with the effects of four brain surgeries due to a tumor was at the hospital this morning. My access to our country’s top-notch medical care and insurance is, by God’s grace, the reason she is alive today. Today, however, she wasn’t sick, but was visiting patients with her dog LuLu that she trained to be a therapy dog. She loves serving God this way and she and LuLu have brought great joy to over 100 patients in the last two years.

I picked her up at the hospital, dropped her off at our house, and then drove to Batavia.

After I parked, I joined the group and quietly held up my sign. Several people gave short speeches through a bullhorn and we applauded after each person spoke. About thirty minutes into the rally, a tall, lanky guy in shorts and a t-shirt spoke up from the crowd with a dissenting opinion. Immediately a few people around me began to boo him. The man who was speaking at the time responded politely and offered him the bullhorn, which he refused.

After a couple of minutes, though, he walked to the front and began to passionately make a point. Unfortunately, a guy close by made a snide remark and ridiculed him in front of everyone. Several of us spoke up and told him to let this guy speak his mind. However, because a few treated him so rudely, he walked to the back of the crowd and didn’t make his point.

After the rally I felt so bad about how he was treated that I walked up to him and said, “Listen, we most likely don’t agree about the government’s role in medical care, but I want to tell you that you have every right to speak your mind. I’m sorry you were treated rudely by those two people.” We chatted a moment more and I learned that he had simply happened by the rally. As I left I told him my name and he told me his. We shook hands and our eyes locked for a moment. If his eyes could speak, they would have said, “Thank you for caring.”

Here’s my point. Everybody in that crowd felt passionate about a political issue. Fortunately our constitution affords us all the privilege to voice  uncensored opinions. It’s a freedom I cherish and that I hope every American also cherishes. However, a higher calling constrains every Christian to govern our passions. Passion must never quash courtesy and respect for others who may disagree with us or hold differing opinions. Matthew 20 records how Jesus modeled this concept.

Once He was in a large crowd with His disciples as he left Jericho and two blind men by the roadside realized it was Him. They began to cry out to Jesus for mercy. Amazingly, the crowd rebuked them and told them to shut up. They were interrupting things and voicing an unwelcomed message.

Jesus, however, disregarded the crowd and spoke to these two men. He asked what they wanted and as you might expect, they said they wanted to see. The Bible tenderly describes what happened next. The Message paraphrase says, Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes. They had their sight back that very instant …

His sensitivity to the individual over the crowd changed these guys’ lives forever. Apparently they became follower of Jesus as a result.

I hope that for the rest of my life I will remain passionate about many things (including political views). However, I pray that I will never quash respect and courtesy toward others who don’t embrace those same passions.

What do you think?

Luke 6.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV)

Are We Trying to OutTweet Others?

I’m new to Twitter but really enjoy it. In 140 characters or less I can say something I hope is meaningful, funny, or encouraging. I’ve also  linked Twitter  to my Facebook so that my tweets appear there as well. It’s always cool to see feedback from a tweet.

I follow several church leaders and writers and I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern.

Often tweets appear to tout an ‘unforgetable’ service, ‘incredible’ worship, a ‘fantastic’ leadership meeting, or a ‘great’ book someone is writing or has written. I confess that when I see these posts I’m tempted to tweet about something that would make me or my church look good as well. I think I did it twice this week.

What do you think?

Do we sometimes use Twitter to bolster our egos or am I overstating this? Is ‘OutTweeting’ real or simply a mirage?

Compassion Illustrated…you will need tissues for this one

My daughter, one of the most gifted writers I know, served two weeks in Thailand last year with her husband, Charlie. They served those caught in sex trafficking there. She posted something on her Facebook one morning that brought me to tears. As you read it let your heart be touched.

_______

I found him under the wide, leafy arms of the langan tree.

As I strolled along the cobbled pathway to our “jungle bungalow”, I spotted something startlingly black against the mocha-colored earth. As I stepped closer and kneeled down to investigate, I found myself peering at a tiny baby bird, covered in silky ebony fuzz. He lay on his side as red ants swarmed over his little body. Thinking he was long dead, I grabbed a nearby banana leaf resting on the ground and touched his lifeless form.

To my disbelief, his gangly legs feebly pedaled the air as his tiny wing shivered.

Immediately, I scooped up the barely-alive little creature into my hands as I brushed the ants off his body. He was no bigger than a small tangerine. He had two long black legs, four spindly toes at the end of each foot, and a tiny beak tipped with yellow. He was listless in my cupped hands as I marched hurriedly back to our kitchen to help him.

I filled a small saucer with water and dipped his beak gently into the cool liquid. Thirstily, he began to drink. After several tiny gulps, he started to regain his strength. His large black eyes blinked open as his tiny head pivoted side to side to observe his surroundings.

The Curse of Comparison

This morning I got a tweet that a large church in the southeast was starting another campus in the county where I started a church over 20 years ago. This church will probably start out with over 2,000 from day one. The church I started finally reached 500 after 14 years.

I must confess that unpleasant feelings crept into my heart when I read this tweet. I can’t exactly pinpoint them, but they are probably an amalgamation of sadness (that I never achieved mega-churchdom), jealousy (I’m being honest), and an emotion that circles lack of competency (I probably don’t have what it takes to be a mega-church pastor). Although I’ve been gone from the church I started over 9 years now and I serve a good church of over 1,000, the curse of comparison still sometimes rears its ugly head.

Our fallen human nature naturally tempts us to compare ourselves with the more successful, the prettier, the smarter. I believe we often do so to build ourselves up do we can feel significant. No matter your vocation, position in life, or size of your ministry if you are a pastor,  you probably face this same curse.

I don’t have pat answers, but a few choices have helped me avoid the vortex of discouragement that comparison can bring.

 

  • I must remind myself that my identity comes not from my performance, but from my relationship with Christ.

 

 

  • I must do my best with the opportunity God gives me right now and if I do, I will please Jesus. Jesus commended the guy who returned 10 talents back to him the same way he commended the guy who returned 4. They each had different levels of giftedness, yet they both were faithful to the task they were given.

 

 

  • I must believe the words of Paul when he said that ultimately, it’s not what I think of my performance that counts, but what the Lord thinks.

 

2Cor. 10.18 (MESSAGE) What you say about yourself means nothing in God’s work. It’s what God says about you that makes the difference.

I’m restarting my blog

I’ve not blogged (or is it bloged) since my trip to Haiti last year. I’ve focused my writing on finishing the book which I did two weeks ago. I plan to be more consistent. I’m sitting on the swing in our back yard as I look at a wall of green, green grass and green leaves. As the wind blows through the leaves, and the temperature hovers below 70 (in August!), I’m beginning to feel that fall is just around the corner.

I just returned from five days in Georgia visiting my parents. Boy, was it hot, hot, hot. Add heat to humidity and it’s a killer, especially trying to run. But it was a good visit, complete with five visits to get Chick-fil-a ice cream.

I’m really wrestling with the direction of our country. The new hate crimes bill, if it passes, will put a chilling effect on what Christians can say about the biblical view of homosexuality. The House even voted down a provision that would exclude child molesters from having a special federal shield around them. Who would have ever thought that.

I just read Mark Levin’s book, Libery and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. It’s a great book that shows the shocking, disastrous direction our government is taking under the current administration. A well documented book, it’s a must read if you are concerned with the direction our country is taking. 

I just started reading Catastrophe by Dick Morris. I couldn’t believe that the former right hand man to Bill Clinton has written such a book extremely critical of the current administration. I’d also recommend this one, but be ready to be shocked. As one reviewer wrote, if this stuff is half true it is scary.

Even though my world view framed by Judeo-Christian values is being assaulted at all levels today, I must rest in the fact that God is in control. It is not surprise to Him that things are happening as they are. Even so, I believe Christians should not sit idly by and watch things unravel. We should speak up, write our congressmen, write our thoughts on blogs, and even run for office. I’ve thought about doing that, but as a pastor, I’m in a tough position to even consider it.