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Monday, November 25, 2019

Dancing with the … Devil?

It’s the time of year when we hear the big push for being thankful. We usually do so feasting over food and football. Oh, and giving gifts to ourselves as if we deserve early Christmas presents. Such is the modern day Christmas spirit.

We have a favorite local ministry that sends out annual requests for sharing holiday meals with the men and women whose lives have been filled with misfortune. A lot of it comes from their own doing. But, hey, I’ve done my share of bad decision making. So I gladly send a gift to help these hurting folks.

Truth is, this ministry truly is a ministry! What I mean is, from the start they have clearly outlined their purpose as a “Christian” ministry. They are serious enough about their love for God and for others to give their lives to caring for people. While they accept people as they are when arriving at their doors, the hope is that spiritual awakening will bring them new life.

Compassionate caring for others and accepting people does not mean accepting lifestyles that are contrary to biblical teaching. That would not be love. That would be license. So this ministry has parameters of behavior—as all solid ministries should.

Just like the Salvation Army should. And has. And is now paying the price.

Sadly, that price has come in the reduced contributions from a company that has long supported the ideals of ministries like the Salvation Army. And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And the Paul Anderson Youth Home. All three (and perhaps others like them) have lost important funding from Chick-fil-A in a recent realignment of their donation policies.

It seems like Chick-fil-A has made a decision to broaden their options (at minimum) for generous giving. The question remains, was that move actually in response to the ridiculous charge that the company is “anti-gay?” Liberal media hypes any protest or rejection of the brand from locating at an airport or college campus. The discerning mind clearly knows liberal thinking on “family.”

Can’t a privately held company have its own core values as it relates to supporting the traditional family structure and marriage? No. Not in the minds of the truly prejudicial gay radicals. They want total acceptance of THEIR values.

CNN recently published a column by author and writer Richard Morgan. Here’s what Morgan said, “[Chick-fil-A] didn't mention any shift in its views on homosexuality. [The new policy] would perhaps be more convincing if Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's CEO, acknowledged as wrong, and directly apologized for the comments that he made in 2012 about the company's belief and support of the ‘the biblical definition of the family unit.’”

Bottom line, Morgan charges Chick-fil-A with bigotry and homophobia even after the modified giving policies. And he doesn’t want Dan Cathy to eat more chicken. He wants him on his knees eating crow!

Go into ANY Chick-fil-A, and you will quickly discover a team of friendly, helpful people who don’t discriminate against anybody. Management is totally “tolerant” of others' beliefs. The term “bigot,” often applied by the Chick-fil-A haters, means “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.” Get it? That’s a description of people like Richard Morgan and his ilk.

The sad part of this story is that with Chick-fil-A’s new donation policy, many people of faith believe they’ve lost a corporate friend. The Bible-believing faith community feels betrayed. Perhaps unnecessarily. But it is what it is.

Here’s a hard lesson about business. Mess with your core customers and you begin a dance with the devil.

And that dance partner will eventually leave you on the floor all alone.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Solitary Soul

Back in the 1990s, I was encouraged by the manager of the radio station at which I was employed to take a one day personal retreat. His thinking was that, like many in the radio business, I had heard the advice to “just be yourself” when on air. Often, however, we are impacted by those who have achieved significant success. And it’s easy to try and use their “techniques” to build your own profile. It doesn’t work. You lose the authenticity of who you really are.

So the one day retreat was to get alone and dig deeper into the person God created me to be. A more reflective search would also yield some very honest appraisals of the fears or self limitations that I might have placed on myself. Giving yourself such a hard mirrored look and journaling about it is rather uncomfortable.

Frankly, time alone will often allow things to surface that otherwise are hiding in your soul. Because sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, it’s possible to allow those negative impressions to keep us from moving forward. Many a motivational speaker has made a living out of helping people get beyond these self limitations.

I found some important lessons on the value of solitude recently in the New York Times. The article, "Why You Should Find Time to be Alone with Yourself," cites Robert Coplan, a developmental psychologist and professor of psychology at Carleton University. He notes, “Historically, solitude has had a ‘pretty bad rap’ because it is sometimes used as a form of punishment.”

It’s common for  people to say something like, “I need some alone time.” This is not to be found in a car ride by yourself. And the benefits are not likely to occur sitting by yourself in a park surrounded by others. 

This time alone would better be described as getting away... to a cabin in the woods. My one-day internal discovery experience took place in a motel 30 miles outside of town. No computers. No television or mobile phone distractions. Just a quiet environment where hours can be spent in honest contemplation.

How often should this be done? I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer on this. When you determine that life has delivered you too many challenges and not enough down time, you should consider a short retreat. Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist quoted in the Times article, says “getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” Good advice.

Too many “time outs” like this might send some yellow flag concerns to others. It could signal that you are having serious emotional difficulties when that might not be the case at all. Like I said, there’s no perfect program for solitude.

I’m convinced of this. Jesus of Nazareth found such alone time essential to His well being. Apparently He would be gone for hours—off by Himself. If the Creator of the universe found such breaks necessary (primarily for prayer), then it must have real value for the rest of us.

In a blog from the website “Soul Shepherding” by Bill Gaultiere, he writes “The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.” All…in solitude!

One final benefit. I find that after a short period of being alone, I’m refreshed enough in perspective to enjoy the company of others. I can even handle times with difficult people better!

So once in a while, take a break from the crowded life. Isolate and get to know yourself. There’s probably a LOT there to like.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

An Oath for Truth

Today is Veterans Day. It’s become one of my favorite special days of the year. For a very long time, veterans were recognized and given appreciation on this day. More recently, a wide swath of restaurants and do-good businesses have jumped on the “honor the vet” bandwagon and give away stuff to past and present members of our armed forces.

I’m one of them. So my four glorious years in the Air Force continues to yield benefits. I’ll pick up my free haircut card after I get my free cup of coffee and my free favorite donut. Later there will be complimentary lunch and dinner at a couple of generous restaurants. Like I said, it’s a great time to be a veteran!

Those entering the military must take an oath. The oath for both enlistment and re-enlistment is the same. A superior officer administers the oath by first reading it and then the person being sworn repeating it. Here’s what is said:

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

It’s well established that people holding positions of public office are asked to take an oath as well. This applies to federal, state, and many local government offices. Some of these require the oath be administered with a hand on the Bible, an idea some find unimportant or even offensive.

This causes me to wonder about those who proclaim a loyalty to Jesus. The ones who openly claim to be His followers. Would they be willing to take an oath? And if so, what would it say?

I pondered this as I read an article about a fast rising political candidate. A veteran of our US military. His name is Pete Buttigieg. You’ve likely heard of him.

If you see him today you could say, “Thank you for your service.” The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, spent six years as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves. He also commonly references a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. He’s in that post 9-11 group that volunteered to serve.

I was more interested to read the Christian Headlines article titled, 5 Things Christians Should Know about the Faith of Pete Buttigieg. Here we discover some interesting history about Pete. For example, he grew up and was baptized Catholic. The son of a former Jesuit, Buttigieg attended a Catholic high school. He admits that he didn’t truly understand his faith until he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He wrote his 68-page undergraduate thesis on puritanism. Smart guy.

Today, Buttigieg is an Episcopalian. St. Augustine is one of his spiritual influencers. As for prayer, Pete says “…I do find that ritual organized prayer makes sense because it is a way to tune my own heart to what is right.”

All sounds well. Until the alarm bells go off. After his military deployment, Mayor Pete decided to embrace his homosexual leanings. One is almost tempted to be sympathetic to his yearnings as he claims, “…I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.” And so, in June of 2018, the openly “gay” mayor hitched himself to another man—

What makes Pete Buttigieg a highly problematic candidate is his credible military history, political savvy, and the intangible gift of like-ability. Makes you want to cheer for him. Unless your better judgment about what is right and wrong informs you clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that loving someone is a beautiful thing—until you take it beyond what God ever intended.

My view on truth seems to be losing ground in this age. But truth should never shift because of public opinion. Or because the deniers are “nice guys.” No matter how bright or savvy they might be.

In the meantime, no need to make an oath on a Bible you don’t really trust for truth.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.  

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Trophy Turnoffs

The Christian music industry recently held their annual party in Nashville. In fact, it was the 50th Annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards. Perhaps you’ve heard of it even if you’ve never watched it.

Of course, the GMA folks have made it a challenge for a television audience to see. They held the actual awards event on October 15th. Then they announced that viewers could watch the whole thing “exclusively on (cable channel) TBN, October 20th, at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT.”

Who does that? Not the Grammys. Or the Academy Awards. Or the Tonys. You watch the show when the goodies are given out! But not in Christian trophy land.

For many years, it was also a given as to who would win best female vocalist. Sandi Patti. Or Amy Grant. The two dominated the available talent pool. Michael W. Smith was a frequent winner for best male vocalist along with Steven Curtis Chapman. In fact, Chapman is now the “winningest” male Dove award winner in their history. He can launch his own flock!

I attended the Dove Awards several years ago when I worked at a Christian radio music station. Something about the big production seemed out of place for me. I know it’s not intended to be this way, but in my mind I could not help but think the awards contestants were backstage thinking, “I hope MY song about Jesus beats HER song about Jesus.” Or his. Or ours, if it was a group.

A famous older Christian song (hymn) states that, in heaven, “my trophies at last I lay down.” I wish they would lay them down now with those Dove Awards. There’s got to be a better way to recognize Christian musical talent.

More awards show intrigue was added to this year’s event. It came in the form of the very talented Kirk Franklin. He’s won more than 20 Dove Awards and has been nominated several times more. Franklin has also won at least 8 Grammys.

This year, Kirk won another Dove for Gospel Artist of the Year. So let’s get Kirk up on stage to graciously accept yet another award. But….wait! Kirk didn’t show up! What happened?

Call it what you may, in my book it became an issue of “politics.” You know, the kind of thing that has made most awards shows unwatchable. Rather than thank the little people and money managers for helping the artist succeed, these shows have become a platform for telling America where we’re messed up. And who’s fault it is!

Side-note: I must mention that I got to “hang” with Kirk Franklin once. It was at a function where he was performing. At one point, he came off the stage and into the crowd during one of his very popular and hip worship songs. Kirk came to my table, had me stand, and I was able to try out my dance moves with him. He chose not to use me as part of his Kirk Franklin and the Family team. I was not completely shocked.

Anyway, Kirk has, like many of the stars, a heart for certain people and causes. He wanted to use the Dove Awards as an advocate against injustice. Go back a couple of years. In the 2016 Dove Awards, he called out the "civil unrest" highlighted by the killings of Philando Castile and Walter Scott by white police officers. He also called out the killings of five Dallas police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson, who was black.

When his acceptance speech from that year aired on television, his civil unrest comments were edited out. Kirk was NOT a happy man. This year, Franklin took to Instagram so he could explain his decision to stop attending the Dove Awards, which he describes as "the Christian Grammys.” Call it a boycott.

Okay, I get it. But I don’t like it. Mega stars in any field already have a platform they can use to promote their causes and vent their frustrations. Americans are not watching awards shows for lectures on social causes. Period.

Would I still dance with Kirk Franklin? Of course. He’s a brother. He just may consider some of my moves, or views, a turnoff.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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