4.29.2016

Rain

Rain interrupts us.
Slows us down and causes pause.
Plays with perception.

4.17.2016

Tire store ambience

The stains run down the front of the garbage can, suggesting a stench. Next to the can sits an untouchable carafe, while on the television, a bear dismembers a salmon.

The "free" wifi doesn't work, and the extension cord is covered in paint.

But the tires smell wonderful. And the marketing images evoke a sense of confidence.

At an auto-body shop we wouldn't have it any other way.

4.10.2016

poet comedians before liars for hire

"that's great, it starts with 
an earthquake, birds snakes, airplane
Bruce is not afraid"

"eye of hurricane, 
listen yourself as you churn
world serves its own needs"

"you serve your own needs"

"wire in a fire 
represents a seven gauge 
In government rage"

"end of world as known
it is the end of the world
as we know it is"

R.E.M. said it 
first but being good Christian
heard D.C. Talk's cover

put away old things
then rediscover and take
back what was before

chase truth like water.
poet comedians before
liars for hire

3.26.2016

Holy Saturday

holy Saturday
dawns with indifference for most
myself included

we sit in the cold
next to a fire warmed
freezing and burned

our back to the one
our face to the other one
unsure which is which

we long for the holy
and profanity in spades
unsure which is which

God from Nazareth
have mercy me a sinner
lost and searching here

3.03.2016

Why some of us Evangelicals will be voting for a Democrat come fall

In many circles it goes without saying that Evangelical Christians can vote for any reasonable candidate on either side of the aisle, and that this is a large and diverse group of people. However that truth is not understood everywhere. There are those both in the movement and outside of it who think of this branch of Christianity as a singular monolith. Because of that I want to put into writing an alternative perspective, an explanation as to why some Christians with Evangelical religious beliefs vote for Democrats.

In addition, I think this explanation is in order because, while there has been a necessary outcry about Donald Trump, others have reasonably pushed back and said, but what about the Democratic candidates and their support of abortion? Aren't they just as immoral as Donald Trump if not more so?  That is a fare question, assuming abortion is immoral. 


Here is our answer.

We have become disillusioned with the notion of a Christian candidate. We no longer believe what we have come to see as amoral conservative propaganda, peddled in and around church.


We are not under the illusion that a vote for Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders is a vote for God's candidate, but we are concerned about those that think a vote for any candidate that calls himself a Christian or an Evangelical is, even if they are authentically evangelical. Effective public policy is not directly tied to ones beliefs about God.


Because like all evangelicals, we read Scripture, understand Christ's value for life, and refuse to check our values at the door, we value all policies that tend to create life, and disagree with all policies that tend to cause death. Because of this we are pro-creation, anti-death penalty, anti-war, pro-criminal justice reform, and in favor of a strong social safety net including access to healthcare that tends to reduce abortion.


We don't think "pro-life" rhetoric is enough. We think that Christ's parable about the brother who said he would not, and then did, vs the brother who said he would, and then did not, matters.


If a vote for a Republican directly caused all abortion to cease, we might vote for a Republican, but it does not.


In short, those of us who were raised steeped in an evangelical culture that wraps the cross with the flag no longer believe that narrative. However having seen that failure, we are not about to bless the DNC. 


We may vote for a Democrat. We may not. But we are fundamentally opposed to the unholy alliance between the Evangelical church and the state as defined by the GOP.


As someone who continues to hold on to my faith in Christ, I mourn for my friends who have jettisoned the faith all together because they see the church's support of a singular party as deeply immoral. 


We believe the church should stand apart from the state, while holding her accountable. 
(This is different than individual Christians who of course may be involved in politics, and may have a unique calling there.) We believe that good Christians can disagree, but that no one party is synonymous with an Evangelical perspective. 

It may be that in some cases a more conservative market oriented approach to solving a specific problem proves to be the most effective approach. But we don't believe that such a position is fundamentally Biblical or inherently right in all circumstances. We don't believe that less government causes people to flourish, in fact, we think it is often the opposite. We believe there are a host of a priori assumptions that go into being conservative that are not necessarily true, and certainly not Biblical. For this reason, we won't be voting for a conservative candidate, and we might be voting for a Democrat.


My apologies that this comes across a little strong. I say this respectfully but forcefully to counter a level of certainty we have come to expect from conservative evangelicals.


To be clear, who one votes for is not the most important thing to me. Statistically, one's vote is irrelevant, so I don't think who one votes for is a pressing moral issue. I think a number of policies are pressing issues, I just don't see the act of voting as pressing. But I wanted to take a few minutes to defend my fellow evangelicals who are openly (or secretly) voting for a Democratic candidate and who in some circles, may be getting peppered with questions as to why.

4.13.2015

Homecoming

Men, women come home.
Filled with pain, regret, and hope.
Pretending forget.
But better and wise,
for their time in disguises.
Volunteered defense.
At the behest
of a nation torn apart.
They too, torn apart.
Reflections on watching the conclusion of The Pacific, and our own long decade and a half of war.

4.10.2015

La Crosse

La Crosse Wisconsin,
sits between river and bluffs.
People have gathered

for five hundred years;
playing games, and war, and peace.
French pale skins arrived.

Noted game with sticks
that resembled a bishops
crozier or la crosse.

3.22.2015

Thoughts on Integrating Faith, Politics, and Public Policy

There are two things one does not talk about in polite company, religion and politics.  I happen to have a passion for both, and to various degrees, my professional life has moved in both circles.  Integrating these passions well then, is something I care about, and that leads to the question of how that should be done.

My goal here is not to set out a treatise for all people at all times.  Rather, I just want to share some thoughts based on my journey.

On the one hand, I do not think there should be a separation of church and state that extends to one’s own soul.  Nor do I see the state as the primary vehicle for extending Christ’s reign on earth. How then should a Christian live an integrated life when it comes to religion and politics?  And if I don’t see the state as the primary vehicle for extending Christ’s reign on earth, why care about it all?  I think the prophet Jeremiah gave a beautiful answer to this question, when he addressed the Jews who had been carried away into exile. He said, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

10.15.2014

On Doing Corporate Philanthropy Well, Or not

Some thoughts on corporate marketing and philanthropy.  I am increasingly uncomfortable with us and our corporate/non-profit partnerships that seem to be all about marketing and appear to have little substance behind them. While I blame the companies in part, I think we may be a part of the problem as well.

I was reminded of my discomfort last weekend at the Vikings game, and with the NFL's promotion of breast cancer awareness month that will start tonight. Several times last weekend, the Vikings highlighted their work to stop childhood disease, and support soldiers. The work is good. I have no problem with that. But as they gave it prominent play, and the whole stadium stood and applauded, I felt very uncomfortable. Something seemed off, as if what we were all doing, the Vikings and us the fans, was ultimately all about us.  Is this something we really care about, or is it about simply appearing to care?  Am I wrong? Is this a necessary part of fundraising and making people aware of worthwhile causes, or is there a hidden narcissism going on that starts with us?

To be clear, I get that in some respects it is primarily about marketing.  And for a for-profit entity that may be ok.  For me it is more a question of authenticity.  Is what you are promoting core to who you are or not?  Which matters, because I think many consumers can sniff out a lack of authenticity.  If the philanthropy is infact sincere, and I certainly hope it is, then the communicator needs to take care that that message is effectively communicated.  At the Viking game a few weeks ago, the partnerships didn't seem authentic.  I didn't get the impression that the Vikings core concern was childhood disease.  It seemed like they just wanted me to feel good about what they were doing in the community.  And it seemed like a lot of us were perfectly fine with that.  We stood and applauded, costing us nothing.

This is in contrast to, for example, an outdoor company that sells sporting goods, and also takes practical steps to nurture the environment.  If a CEO or owner clearly has a passion for the outdoors that drives both his business and his philanthropy, that I can get on board with.  If a metal fabrication shop puts their own time and effort into making things to help the handicap, say a kick-ass wheelchair for a wounded vet.  That is exciting.  They are proving their passion with their time, and asking me to get on board as well.  Ok. I like it.

But if it is just about perception.  Save it.


7.02.2014

Everyday Negotiating

We've had a little extra drama in our lives of late, but we have made the most of it.
A week and a half ago a guy decided to take a left turn in front of me, while I had the right of way. Collided going 25 or 30 mph. Since our 01 Civic was technically only worth $3200, they totaled it. Been shopping for a new sedan ever since.

Purchased a gently used Certified Honda Accord on Monday, (the last day of the month) and I have to say, while they said they have a no-haggle policy, (almost all dealerships in the cities do) somehow the price came down $500, the interest rate moved, (Came with a bank offer in hand, and balked at their first offer that barely beat it.) and a whole lot of things got thrown into the deal.

It wasn't about being tough. I think it was about building rapport, and asking, not demanding. Joey playing the part of the bad cop probably didn't hurt either.

A while back I read a book on negotiating, and it had a chapter on retail-negotiating. The book suggested that you really need to spend time with the salesperson. Let them do their job. Let them educate you. Play along even if you already did your research. If you come in and start making demands, you will likely get a flat no. Instead, spend an hour or two with them, (more or less depending on the situation, we spent multiple hours with our car guy.) Then, when you make the ask, (a reasonable one) they will be invested in both you and the sale. They can't afford to spend that kind of time and get nothing for it.

While I'm no expert, the advice certainly proved true on Monday, and while the context is different, it seems to work out when I'm negotiating child support and other family law issues as well.

6.01.2014

Scripture on Judging Others

There is a tension in scripture on the use of the word "judge."

For example, John 7:24, and many other similar passages say things like, "Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
 

While in contrast, Romans 14:4 says, "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand... You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat."

And yet, 1 Corinthians 6:2 says: "Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"

This all seems like it could be a problem.  Taking a look at the full context of each of those passages helps, and I think the Apostle James offers further assistance. Judging rightly is closely related to teaching, admonishing, and loving others well, and James has this to say about teachers: "Not many of you should become teachers (which inevitably involves making judgements), because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. [Remember] we all stumble in many ways." James 3.

And Paul says this: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Philippians 2:1-4


In my judgement, many Christians are like this blogger, who writes at length on why it is ok to judge others, without looking at the tension in scripture, or talking about how to do so well.  (He lists nearly every passage that says judge, but never looks at Romans 14.)

Exercising discernment, care, concern, teaching, or judgement without humility is an effort doomed to fail, and too often, that is exactly what happens. (For me in particular.)  That is one of the reasons non-Christians, and former Christians, and Christians who often don't identify as Christians, and our culture in general disdains judgement so much; they rarely experience it combined with humility and graciousness.

A Memorial for those who fell in Afgaistan and Iraq?

I recently spent some time at the Vietnam War Memorial in Duluth. While there, it occurred to me that our generation needs to build some memorials for those who have fallen during our wars.

I did a quick google search to see if anything was in the works.  It seems Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery is the closest thing we have at the moment.  And some have pointed out that we just recently got the WWII memorial built, so it might be a while in the making. 

If and when something does get underway, I want to contribute in some small way.