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Archive for February, 2009

Well, I was supposed to leave for West Virginia in about 45 minutes with Max to go and pick up an LCD-TV that my parents bought for us.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  Unforunately, I got a call at about 9am that Max had thrown up at school.

I picked him up, got him some Motrin and some Gatorade.  Got him home, put him in bed with a movie in the laptop and a few minutes later he rushed to the bathroom for another go-round.  Poor kid.

Stomach illnesses are my weakness as a Dad.  I don’t do well with cleaning up the end-results.

I was reminded of a very disgusting story that I’ll tell in short form – only because I have nothing of any real seriousness laying on my chest to write about today.  A kid in my first grade class threw up on the way back from lunch.  Within in about 30 minutes, more than half of the others kids in the class (including me) had also thrown up.  One nasty chain reaction.

So, here’s hoping that Max’s stomach illness (which hit Sydney earlier in the week) is the last link in the chain.

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Reminder:  the posts at this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the church where I serve as Pastor.

On Inauguration Day, I sat with my 5 year old son at home watching Barak Obama become the first African-American President of the United States.  While many of the President’s political policies do not reflect my own sentiments or principles, I was hopeful on that day for two reasons:  (1) we had taken a step closer to what the pundits and pop-culture sociologists refer to as a “post-racial” society and (2) I genuinely want President Obama to be a successful President.

After hearing President Obama speak so eloquently about hope, I listened to the inaugural address wondering who had absconded with his hope.  I then took a glance at his op/ed piece today in the Washington Post and found the President of “hope and change” beating the same “doom and gloom” drum.  I believe the phrase from the op/ed piece was that without this stimulus bill, the American economy might be irrecovably damaged; meaning that without this particular stimulus bill and this particular effort by the federal government, America will fall a part.

This kind of rhetoric annoys me.  It is not the federal government that has made America an exceptional nation.  It is the blood and sweat of hardworking, dedicated, honest Americans that have made this an exceptional nation.  Our rescue from the jaws of economic disaster will have little to do with President Obama, our elected officials and the trillions of dollars worth of useless bills they seem more than ready to print at the drop of a hat. 

Rescue from the jaws of the so-called impending economic disaster will come from the hearts and hands of the everyday bread makers and bread winners who will double down and roll with the financial punches so that the American (and subsequently the global) economy will again flourish.

President Obama would do well to encourage us to double down, roll with the punches and do what Americans have always done:  slap some old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity and elbow grease to the problems that ail our national economy.  Instead, the new President has successfully convinced us that we are a weak and misguided people who have no real capacity to make it through times like these.   He continues to convince us – if not by his words, by the substance of his policies, that the federal government, and an increase of its powers and influence, are the only things that can pull the weak, poor, misguided American masses into a new age of enlightenment.

I was trained as a counselor and it seems to me that a quick glance at some time-tested principles of family systems therapy highlight one of the gross flaws in the President’s philosophy and the policies he is basing on that philosophy.

Without a doubt, humans are shaped by the communal networks (systems) in which they are involved.  We are all a product – to some greater or lesser degree – of the relational systems in which we are involved. 

A government of the people, by the people and for the people that forsakes those who are in trouble is a system that will fall apart. 

At the same time, we know that one of the key ingredients of a healthy relational system is the ability of the individual members in that system to self-differentiate.  Self-differentiation is the process by which members of a relational system develop an individual identity that is strong, confident and secure a part from the relational system. 

Self-differentiation of an individual member within a relational system usually happens when others in that system cease to “carry” that individual and instead behave and act in such a way  that the individual is forced to build his or her own identity with a healthy deference to the relational system. 

This process is what happens when a 16 year old gets a driver’s lisence.  Because he can now drive himself around – and no longer has to rely on his parents to do so, the 16 year old builds an identity apart from his parents.  It is the development of this identity that helps create a strong and confident individual who will then benefit the relational systems in which he or she is involved rather than draining those systems.

President Obama’s policies go well beyond the kind of steps that will create confident individuals who will benefit our national relational system.  Instead, these policies will create codependent individuals that will erode the national relational system.

President Obama, with his oratorical skills and the current goodwill of the American people, has a “once-in-a-couple-of-generations” opportunity to signficantly move America away from an increasingly dysfunctional way of being a national community toward the very kind of national community that founded, built and has sustained America for more than 2 centuries.

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I have two upcoming sermon series that are teaching me something simple and yet somehow very new (at least new to  me).

Some time ago I decided that I would do a two part series called Busting the Money Myth and then a series during Lent that focused on hope.  This series will be called The Anchor, based out of Hebrews 6.16-18.

A lot of times I develop a sermon or a series of sermons thinking about the spiritual needs within the church or because a particular passage of scripture is really intriguing to me.

I always have a key passage of the Bible that each message is focused on and I usually begin my study by asking lots of questions.  But as I have looked at the passages for these two  upcoming series, I am finding that the questions go beyong the typical exegetical, preacher kinds  of questions.  The questions this time are personal.  It is not the first time that I have brought personal questions to the study of a passage for a sermon, but the personal questions this time are far more intense.

Busting the Money Myth, for example, has me thinking about how much my security rests in my financial self-sufficiency . . . I keep asking myself if enough (which would be absolutely all) of my security is really tied up with God and his promise of provision and care?  I keep wondering how faithful I would really be if I lost everything that I had?

The Anchor has also lead me to some similar questions.  When the fading of the things that bring supposed security (like money, jobs, etc.) create stress, why isn’t the hope that I have in the promise of the coming of God’s new creation or the promise of the guiding presence of Jesus Christ enough to keep me from going into freak-out zone?  Why does my hope fade and grow depending on the relative security of my circumstances?

As I think about these series, I can make no guarantee of how they will turn out as “sermons”, but I know that the personal depth of my questions will not leave me untransformed by the time all I have to say is said and done.

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