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On the Good and Bad Economy (Reposted)

While listening to the radio today there was a repeated theme of government entitlements and bailouts.  In June of 2010 I wrote an article in response to an article that appeared in TIME magazine.  Since there are so many new readers to FeelMyFaith.com, and since we are in an election season, I thought it would be apropos to repost it.

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Michael Crowley’s entry into this week’s TIME magazine, “The Good and Bad Economy” outlines the difficult agenda of economic recovery facing the Obama administration as it deals with not only conflicting economic data but also with an electorate sharply divided philosophically on how to end the current recession.  There is a looming fear of the “double dip,” that after some signs of growth our nation’s economy will shrink once again.  Although the nation’s economy has “double dipped” a few times since, the dreaded “double dip” is most often associated with 1937 “when a U.S. economy fighting its way out of the Great Depression crashed a second time, requiring the massive industrial effort of World War II to rejuvenate it.”  In any historical period the “double dip” signals a long excruciating recovery from recession.
Even after an $862 billion stimulus package, soon to run out, the economy remains in peril.  The Obama administration, left minded economists, and Democrats believe that without more government stimulus spending, massive layoffs and budget cuts are a certain future.  “But Obama and his advisers know their hands are tied.  Polls show that voters either don’t understand – or don’t buy – the long established economic theory ofJohn Maynard Keynes, which calls for more government spending (even if it means running up deficits) to help the economy through hard times.  Instead, the public is in the mood to smack big Washington spenders hard this November.”
There are two assumptions that permeate this entire article: 1) If you are against the left/Obama/democrat agenda for economic recovery it must be because you are ignorant and 2) the government is the only answer.  I resent both of those assumptions.  True, I do not know who John Maynard Keynes is, but I manage a church budget and most of the people in our congregation manage their finances both at home and in business.  From my own experience borrowing money may serve as an immediate stimulus to my living room or my driveway, but borrowed couches and cars come with much larger price tags and longer periods of payment than ones paid for with actual cash.  I understand this reality clearly.  While the working man may not understand macro-economics, he is forced to manage his own paycheck week to week; if indeed he is currently drawing one at all.  It is presumptuous to assume that if the electorate “smack big Washington spenders hard this November” that they did it without really knowing why.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about economics both at a personal and national level.  People need jobs.  Man is meant to work.  None of us should expect something for nothing (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).  The entitlement philosophy that pervades our current culture is burdensome, debilitating, and an economy killer.  People need to work.  Indeed this is the central burden of the recession.  How do we put Americans back to work?
The Bible outlines two approaches, one Egyptian (sort of) and the other Jewish.  According to Genesis 40 and 41, Joseph (serving as Prime Minister of Egypt at the time) interpreted dreams that led to the nation storing up during 7 years of prosperity.  Good economics.  After prosperity, there was famine.  In an agrarian society famine=recession.  When 7 years of famine struck the land the people ran out of money.  To stimulate the economy the people exchanged their personal wealth and businesses (land, livestock, etc.) for a government bailout check.  The end result was a massive exchange of private ownership for government control (Genesis 47:23-26).  When the government is the answer to recession the result is an exchange of power, from private ownership to federally funded, heavily taxed, and regulated institutions.  Those who are against the left/Democrat/Obama doctrine of recovery via government spending are not ignorant, but fearful of a less privately owned and more government controlled America.  What has happened to the banking system in recent days is only a first fruit of what could come from reaping such philosophy.  It is the slow, methodical death of the private sector and the expansion of government.      
The other Biblical paradigm is the Year of Jubilee outlined in Leviticus 25:13-17.  The economic philosophy of Leviticus 25 guaranteed there would be no bad loans.  It protected both the lender and the borrower.  The idea here also emphasized private ownership and personal worth.  It gave people a right to wealth while at the same time protected the poor and encouraged generosity.  Instead of penalizing success it created a climate in which everyone had an opportunity to succeed.  To recover or to succeed, one needed only an opportunity to work.
The government, through regulation and deregulation creates an economic climate.  Yet, Biblically speaking it is not the duty of government to create wealth, it is rather the duty of government to punish evil, protect human life, and assure its citizens that they can live quiet and peaceable lives (Romans 13:4, 1 Timothy 2:2).  When the government becomes the coffer of the people the end result is an undue tax burden, the exchange of private wealth for government control, and people who either do not have a mind to work or who do not have the opportunity to work.  People need loans, fair ones, private ones instead of government ones.  Much of this recession can be blamed on bad loans created by a bad governmental ideology.  Why repeat what has already failed?  These loans not only put the lender at risk, but the borrower as well.  The greatest evidence of this is in the collapse of the housing market.  Instead of more stimulus spending and loans for bureaucratic pet projects, American business needs less of a tax burden and more opportunity to employ people who can, in the spirit of Leviticus 25, relieve themselves of debt (from good loans), work in the private sector, and build personal wealth.   
Biblically speaking the path to recovery is through hard work, not government bailouts and stimulus spending.  According to Biblical texts like Genesis 47 and the lessons of history at large, the American people have every right to fear big government spending.  It is not an issue of ignorance, but one of precedence. 
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A Hot Cup of Culture - Reposted

Starbucks is a cultural phenomenon, especially here in the South, the Mecca of culture. The southern man owes much to Starbucks. It is the power of a cup. Without ever attending an opera, or an art gallery, or actually reading a book the southern man can proudly raise his Starbucks cup, the one with the trendy temperature sleeve, and suddenly the good ole boy is cultured. That cup of coffee imported from Seattle, described only in Italian, is nothing but a hot cup of culture. The cup can make a man wearing a Dale Earnhardt jacket suddenly look executive. Early in the morning, on his way to the lake, the southern man no longer swings by Hardee’s for a 99 cent biscuit; he now goes to Starbucks for a three dollar cup of coffee. And there, on a secluded lake, he sits in his bass boat with a hot cup of culture.

In thirty-four years I had never tasted coffee, and so until recently I was still an opera credit away from being cultured. As cool as Starbucks people appeared, I could not break into the fraternity. I was a Starbucks outsider; until July. Standing on the sidewalk of a strip mall, waiting for ice cream a mom of five girls pulled out a Starbucks card and sent her three youngest girls for a frappuccino. I was totally repulsed by the thought of a decent mom feeding her five year old coffee. I expressed my dismay.

“A Vanilla Bean Frappuccino has no coffee”, she said defending her decent momness.

It was an epiphany. Suddenly I no longer needed an opera credit to be cultured, I needed vanilla bean frappuccino. Vanilla Bean Frappuccino – a very cool sounding Seattle/Italian drink, a freezing cold cup of uncoffee culture.

That cold cup of culture got me through the early fall. As long as the weather was hot my cold cup of culture told the world around me that it was too hot for coffee in Alabama. Little girls everywhere agreed. While the weather is hot, frappuccino is in. Thanks to vanilla beans, I was in.

For a couple of months I consistently ordered little girl drinks at Starbucks. But the weather cooled. It would not be long until I would be exposed. By November everyone would know I was a poser, a fake, a southern man hooked on little girl drinks. As the nights began to cool I could feel the pressure mounting, the vanilla bean would soon be out. If I were to retain culture it was either opera or a bean of another sort, the coffee bean.

Coffee smells good. It smells very deep, very robust, very cultural. But I had never actually tasted it. Smelled it, but never tasted it. Apparently we taste what we smell, or is it that we smell what we taste? People taste things and compare them to things they have smelled but have never actually tasted. I think there are several flavors of slushies that taste like suntan lotion – smells. Not that I have an intestinal SPF. I have never actually tasted suntan lotion, but I have had slushies that taste like suntan lotion – smells. Little girls love slushies. I have never tasted paint. But fish cooked weird can sometimes taste like paint – smells. Maybe it’s the lead.

Coffee smells cultural. Coffee smells manly. It was time for me to put down the little girl drinks at Starbucks, embrace winter, and become a cultured southern man. It was time for coffee. I enjoy the smell of coffee. Surely I would not be disappointed by its taste.

While driving through South Carolina I pulled off of I-85, found a Starbucks, and determined to purchase my first hot cup of culture. I poured over the menu, rehearsing the Italian words silently so as not to give myself away as a coffee newbie. I listened to others as they ordered and smiled along with them subtly signaling to them that I agreed, they had made a fine choice. I was with them. I was Starbucks. So it was my turn to become a man. The counter was mine. My subconscious subtly reminded me to act like I had been there before, exude confidence. I had been there before, for little girl drinks.

If you have never heard me talk you are missing a treat. God called me to preach, to talk for a living. And so to keep the Almighty entertained He raised me in North Georgia and gave me a brogue that makes “Gone with the Wind” look like it was filmed in South Detroit. Therefore, Italian is a challenge for me, so is English. And so to the very cool, very cultured college aged guy behind the counter, my ordering a Tall Caramel Macchiato with a shot of Espresso must have been an adventure in linguistic audio.

Proudly I walked through the store out to the sidewalk where several people, all cultural giants, sat looking very cool sipping Starbucks. And I smiled, because for the first time in my life I held a hot cup of culture with a Starbucks logo on the temperature sleeve. This was not a little girl drink, this was espresso.

I took a drink.

Not that I have ever actually tasted these things, but I have smelled almost all of them. So let me tell you how coffee tastes.

Coffee tastes like jet fuel.
Coffee tastes like sulfur.
Coffee tastes like lava.
Coffee tastes like burning leaves.
Coffee tastes way stronger than it smells.

I do not like coffee.

I tried for several miles to get there. I sipped, gulped, and drank for half an hour, but with no success. I looked so forward to legitimately entering the ranks of those who pay more for a cup of coffee than they do for a gallon of gas. I too wanted an addiction that required fluent Italian. I wanted to be perky in the morning. I wanted to ruin the interior of my car with Starbucks stains. I wanted robust breath. I wanted to be cultured without opera, but my body could not handle the taste of hot culture. My stomach sent a signal that if I took another drink I would indeed destroy the interior of my car.

So here I sit and write, reflecting on failure, sipping green tea. Green tea looks like an eight ounce cup of anti-freeze, but it tastes better. Not that I have actually tasted anti-freeze, but I have smelled it. Green tea is not a little girl drink. Green tea is a big girl drink. But I like it. If I ever lose my tongue in a freakish accident like a forest fire or a lightening strike I will try coffee again. But this winter I will Google opera tickets and long for the heat of summer, when I, along with many little girls, can again be cultural and legitimately order frappuccino at Starbucks.
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Learning to Dance - Reposted

This is the week of the year when people publish their "top tens", reviews, and resolutions.  For the final week of the year I will offer some of my favorite posts - reposted.  Feel My Faith.com has been online a few years now.  It is time to bring some old material back to the top.
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2 Samuel 6:14 says that “David danced before the LORD with all his might.” If David were a Baptist the Bible would have said he made a casserole before the Lord. If David were Baptist he would not have danced. 

I can’t dance. But that’s O.K. because I’m Baptist. Being Baptist takes some of the pressure off people who can’t dance. Baptists are not much for dancing. I have never read the official doctrinal position on dancing, but from everything I have heard said about dancing through the years, I’m pretty sure we’re against it. Honestly, it is not hard being against something you can’t do. Calling your lack of talent sin can actually work to your advantage.

I have always hated the people who put pressure on you to dance. In High School I enjoyed going to dances and standing, just standing. I was awesome at standing while everyone else danced. As long as I was standing “at” a dance I felt cool. But someone would always destroy my cool standing by putting pressure on me to dance. Some lame Junior High DJ who made me feel convicted because I wasn’t dancing. When they call for dancing it scares the cool standing people. Because you know as soon as you start dancing everyone will know you’re Baptist, and you don’t do much dancing. But if you stay off the dance floor and convince people it’s a doctrinal problem and not a total lack of muscular control, you’re good, people will leave you alone. You let those people who can dance, dance. You just stand there; you are Baptist, you have an out. 

I hate not being able to dance because people who can dance are cool. John Travolta, I think he is a Scientologist, which is weird, but as for dancing, he is very cool. All those kids in High School musical, extremely cool, and probably not a Baptist in the bunch. Remember Michael Jackson in the ‘80’s? He was Jehovah’s Witness and a great dancer. My wife likes old musicals. There is a ton of dancing in old movies. There are probably a lot of Episcopalians in old musicals. Baptists are fine with riding horses. There were probably a lot of Baptists in westerns. 

Doctrine aside, for me dancing is more of a physical issue than a doctrinal one. There is something wrong with my right foot. I played a lot of soccer growing up and actually still have a strong right foot. My right foot is good for jogging, walking; performing most normal right foot functions. But when it comes to dancing, my right foot won’t move. It gets real heavy. I am not sure if it is some sort of selective palsy, but when it comes to dancing my foot just gets heavy. When you can’t move your right foot it takes several dance moves out of the arsenal. Actually, it takes every dance move out of the arsenal. 

My daughters love to dance; and with the shades drawn I join in. My youngest daughter, she’s three, has never said anything about it, but she knows I have a problem with my foot. Sometimes she stares at it. For our ten year anniversary my wife and I took a cruise. One night they offered Salsa dancing lessons. The instructor was a Latino guy named Elvis. He was a great dancer, very cool, and more than likely Catholic. His job was to teach me to dance. It didn’t work. Salsa is very hard to do with palsy in your foot. Elvis was smooth. I looked like I needed to go to the doctor. I think I embarrassed my wife. When I walked off the floor a lady smiled at me and said, “I saw you out there dancing.” I just smiled back and said, “I’m a Baptist preacher.”

If I took the time and learned the steps, when and where to place my heavy foot, I am confident I could learn to dance. I may be as smooth as Elvis . . . the Latino version. If I learned to dance, and this pastor thing does not work out, I could probably get a gig on a cruise ship.

In 2 Samuel 6 David danced, but a man also died. David had placed the ark of God on a cart pulled by oxen, and when the oxen stumbled a man put his hand to the ark to steady it. When he touched the ark God struck him and he died. The music stopped and David was afraid of the Lord. He wondered, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” He needed answers. Later, he realized his mistake, “the Lord broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order (1 Chronicles 15:13).” David had forgotten the steps. So he read the Word of God, found the order, and danced.

Learning to dance is about knowing when and how to move. Dancing is coordinating movements with rhythms, a body with music. Dancing is paradox. It is a constrictive way of learning to move freely. 

Reading the Bible is like learning to dance. It is about learning the things the Lord despises, and equally as much about learning what the Lord loves. 

We should not have sex outside of the covenant of marriage.
God wants us to learn to truly love.

We should not murder.
God wants us to learn the value of life.

We should not make the name of God meaningless.
God wants us to learn what it means to be completely His.

Reading the Bible is taking the time to learn what the Lord loves. It is consulting order, law, and doctrine. It is about learning the steps. It is about learning to coordinate soul and body with the rhythms of life. It is about learning how to respond to things in such a way that you can stand before the Lord and dance. When the things you believe move your feet, that’s cool. Because David consulted God’s Word, 2 Samuel 6 moves from a man dying to a man dancing. The Bible is paradox. It is a constrictive way of learning to move freely.

Reading the Bible is like learning to dance and I desperately need some lessons.
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Black Friday - Reposted

This is the week of the year when people publish their "top tens", reviews, and resolutions.  For the final week of the year I will offer some of my favorite posts - reposted.  Feel My Faith.com has been online a few years now.  It is time to bring some old material back to the top.
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The Friday after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday.” What an ominous name. They say the name is due to the fact that on this day retailers move from profit loss (red) to profit gain (black). While this may be true, I believe the origins of the name are more gothic in nature, more evil and representative of something far more sinister. Black Friday is retail Hell, a day choreographed by demons. I am sure of it. On Black Friday, 11/28/2008 I entered the black soul of retail. My wife took me to Wal-Mart in Fort Oglethorpe, GA at 4:30 a.m.

Maybe it is called Black Friday because it is indeed very, very dark at 4:30 a.m. But we were there by invitation, summonsed like sheep to the slaughter by a 12 pound edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press the day before. On most days the newspaper weighs about an ounce and a half, but on Thanksgiving Day, a holy, godly day, the devil sends out invitations to death. Glossy, full color, captivating sales booklets all of them nothing but publicity posters for a human cockfight that will begin at 5 a.m. the next morning. Every store plans its own human cockfight. From Walgreens to Best Buy, flannel shirts 5 for $5 to Blue Ray DVD players, the devil stages human cockfighting arenas all over town. It is a well crafted scheme. The invitations read “while supplies last” and the humans know this means that the manager at Goody’s has ordered only seven 21 inch LCD televisions which he will sell for almost nothing. There will be seven televisions, there will be 112 humans ready to fight. The devil knows you will be one of them, rising from the dead long before the chickens, emerging from the darkness to take your place in line along with a woman carrying a meat cleaver in her purse. She is fully prepared to make sure you pull back a nub if you dare to fondle her doorbuster.

We emerged from the darkness of the dimly lit Wal-Mart parking area and entered the door labeled “food” on the left end of the super-center. Though there were a quarter of a million people already there, it was quiet. Quiet to the point that the only sound was the shuffling feet of the walking dead and the buzz of massive fluorescent light fixtures illuminating the sprawl of human cock fighting arenas. Our human cock fighting arena was near the automotive section. We went there without question. At 4:30 a.m. a man is so drunk with the reality that he is actually at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night that he has no fear of women or meat cleavers. He has no problem being called “lefty” for the rest of his life if he can but for one day be a hero to his daughters as he presents to them a doorbuster won in a cock fight; a doorbuster for them to unwrap on Christmas morning. 

We passed many arenas. Stations of wrapped doorbusters piled on pallets arranged across a pearly white floor that would soon be splattered with blood. It was so quiet, shuffling feet, the buzz of lights. The half-dead all gathered in clusters facing toward their chosen doorbuster much like religious zealots facing east at prayer time. Their eyes were sunken deep into their skull. Women with no makeup, hair in curlers, wearing pajama pants, desperately needing a smoke - poised to kill. Fathers, good men, reduced by the hour and by their wives into blobs of spineless submission. Each of them peering at their hands, romantically counting their fingers knowing there was a good chance that when the clock struck 5 he would never point in the same way again. I whispered as I slithered by as to encourage them, “Hey lefty, that doll on that pallet pees in its pants, your daughter will love it. The batteries you need are on the endcap at register 7.” And I held up my index finger as if to say, “This is a number one kind of experience isn’t it?” But what I really meant by the gesture is “Look at my finger, in ten minutes it will be on the floor.”

We clustered near our pallet/human cockfighting arena. Our arena was deep in the automotive section. So deep that we could not see the other clusters. Our view of the coming maylay was blocked by a row of nicely displayed 75R 15 Michelins. The Wal-Mart full of zombies continued to house the ominous quiet. How would the silence end? What would signal the brawl to begin? I am not sure what the signal was, but just seconds before 5 a.m. a subtle roar began to sweep over the store like a wave. The wave seemed to form near the frozen food section 1/4 mile away and grew more intimidating as it neared automotive. Within the wave was the sound of tearing paper, tearing limbs, meat cleavers, machetes, four letter words, women screaming, and ever so subtle as if to be its own undercurrent I swear I heard the hiss of the devil arise from retail Hell.

I gathered our item on a hand truck and bolted for the door. I felt a sense of fear and dread sweep over me. I had escaped the human cock fight with my finger, but I had inadvertently sprinted away so fast I had left my lovely wife for dead. Would she survive? Drunk on 4:30 it seemed logical that losing my wife but saving $150 was a fair trade. A man thinks differently in darkness. But she was there, just barely there. She kept pace with me, laughing in stride as she slowly slipped a meat cleaver back into her purse. 

I survived retail Hell. Black Friday is a day orchestrated by Satan. Wal-Mart is Satan’s super-center. I am a survivor. Merry Christmas.
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Cheerleaders and Nuns - Reposted


This is the week of the year when people publish their "top tens", reviews, and resolutions.  For the final week of the year I will offer some of my favorite posts - reposted.  Feel My Faith.com has been online a few years now.  It is time to bring some old material back to the top.
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We once had a daughter who was not much more than a giggly blonde roll of baby. She had no ankles or wrists, just creases where connections with hands and feet should be. One morning as I was slow roasting a pop tart she descended the stairs – stairs she has descended often, as a princess, as Kimberly Locke, as a fashion diva, as a two year old who missed the first step and had a miserable experience with gravity – but at some point during the descents she changed. In five years cataclysmic metamorphosis had progressed so daily that it lulled me to sleep and rendered delusions that I was still the father of a baby girl. The giggly roll of blonde baby had moved away and a much taller, more slender, sandy blonde with a fashionable haircut now called me dad. She had wrists and ankles. One day she will descend the stairs a lady; at such point I will be a mess.

Little girls become something far different with age. Who will she be?

It was not many mornings later that I caught a Southwest jet to New Orleans. Their motto is, “You’ll like where you sit because you can sit where you like.” I’m not sure that is the Southwest Airlines marquee motto, but it is the last slogan you read on a well placed placard before boarding the plane. I think the idea works for the first 157 people on a 160 passenger plane. Being passenger 158 the slogan becomes, “Please be seated.” When you’re in the fifth grade and the last kid to be picked up by the bus in the morning the slogan becomes, “Sit by the kid that will torture you all the way to school”, for his is invariably, daily, routinely the only seat left. When you’re thirty something the slogan for the last kid on the plane is, “Please sit by the nun.”

I flew to New Orleans with a nun.

Whenever you hear a line containing a Baptist preaching and a nun you are looking for the other part of the comedic trinity – an Indian, a Polish guy, a Rabbi, or a blonde. The third part of this comedic trinity would be a flock of cheerleaders, about thirteen of them, and ironically all of them about the age of thirteen.

The nun (passenger # 6), and I (passenger #158), sat in the seats we liked – surrounded by cheerleaders (passengers # 53 – 66). For the sister and I, liking where we “sit” would become a spiritual journey.

Nuns and cheerleaders come from the same biological substance – little girl – but they are not the same. 

Apparently cheerleaders have weak, tiny bladders, are somewhat hearing impaired to the point they only hear only very high, shrill, annoying frequency tones, are mildly bipolar, and are not proficient in science, biology, or physics. The sister and I tried to read – me the Book of Esther, and she some sort of Catholic prayer book. The sister tried to explain to me the nature of her prayer book, but as she spoke in a low and holy tone cheerleader number seven announced to her daddy (4 rows away), that she needed to go potty. We (in this instance “we” no longer designates the sister and I but the entire rear section of the plane) heard this announcement just before takeoff, at 10,000 feet, at 20,000 feet, at 20,010 feet, at 29,998 feet. With each announcement the urgency of the request grew. At 30,000 feet we were all rooting for daddy to let the child go.

While she was gone we enjoyed several other high pitched conversations from cheerleaders 1 – 6 and 8 – 13.

· When you flush the potty of a plane does it rain in Mississippi?
· What is it in gum that makes your ears pop?
· According to cheerleader number three, cheerleader number nine had a serious need to grow up.
· Cheerleader number seven provided us a spirited description of the airline bathroom.
· With every passing song on her iPod, cheerleader eleven went from expressions of euphoria to downright disgust. Cheerleaders twelve and thirteen for the most part agreed with her musical critiques, adding their own. Never has there been displayed such a pantheon of emotion. Observation 1: No one has ever told cheerleaders that headphones piping highly amplified music in your ears will encourage you to talk much louder than normal. Observation 2: No one has ever told cheerleaders that the purpose of headphones is to privatize your musical experience. Theoretically no one else can hear the music as you hear it, therefore no one is enjoying your singing.

You get the picture; the sister and I were surrounded by high pitched, emotional chaos. According to Southwest Airlines, we liked it.

In the midst of this the sister and I talked religion. She told me about her holy life, I told her about mine.  I was in jeans, she wore a black habit. As we talked a male flight attendant approached and explained to the sister that he had gone to Catholic school back in New York some thirty years ago. As he continued to recount the experience I would learn that apparently nuns can be violent. He told us how many times he had his knuckles rapped with a ruler and that he still has sinus problems from the chalk dust that was dislodged as he was hit upside the head with an eraser – repeatedly over the span of several years. He did sound a bit nasal.

I grew nervous. I smiled because I was apparently in a seat I was destined to like.

After he walked away I tucked my hands into the folds of the seat cushion/ flotation device and the sister began to instruct me on how to be a good shepherd to my congregation. I listened with seminarian intensity. She was wise, very godly, very dedicated, and apparently proficient with rulers and erasers – neither of which, because of terrorists, is allowed on a plane.

Honestly, I really enjoyed our conversation. Honestly, the cheerleaders were comical and entertaining on an otherwise boring flight. FYI – my wife was a high school cheerleader back when iPods were called Walkmans and used tapes.

So what will my little girl become? Where will she fall on the scale of woman between cheerleader and nun? Biology and slow roasted pop tarts will shape her body, but God has made me, for now, the steward of her heart. With every inch she adds to stature, it seems that innocence slowly erodes. She is learning that people can be mean, not everything can be believed, and that some people deserve a well placed eraser upside the head – but it is illegal in the Alabama public school system. Public education needs nuns. My daughter loves Hannah Montana, but as heart steward the last few public appearances of Miley Cyrus have made me nervous. Her life is becoming a commentary to my daughter on the dangers of growing up in a beautiful world. It is my responsibility to interpret the images. In a media driven culture it is impossible for me to shield her eyes, but it is my duty to instruct her heart.

She is learning. I must take the time to teach.

If God wants dads to raise godly girls, why does He make them grow so fast? She is on a dash toward woman; my only hope is to make a hard charge toward God. As her heart is shaped, so must God hold mine. I must be diligent to read His Word so that I can rightly interpret and discern the messages and images of our culture. She is good with the label “wrong”, but she also wants a list of ingredients, “why is ___________ wrong daddy?” It is really hard for me to pull a parental cop out and tell her to ask the preacher. She knows him. She sees him. She reads him daily.

Dad, your child is growing ankles, changing, morphing, reading, learning, watching (you and Miley Cyrus). Don’t give your child’s heart to Disney. Be God’s man and shepherd the heart of your child.

*** Props to nuns and cheerleaders for being so inspirational to dads with daughters and blogs.
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Tales of a First Grade Atheist - Reposted

 

This is the week of the year when people publish their "top tens", reviews, and resolutions.  For the final week of the year I will offer some of my favorite posts - reposted.  Feel My Faith.com has been online a few years now.  It is time to bring some old material back to the top.
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“If I can’t see God, how can I believe in Him?” I could tell we were progressing past the usual questions of curiosity that we had grown accustomed to for the last six years. You know, the questions designed to make parents squirm. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I know God laughed. “Daddy, why is my sister in mommy’s belly?” And before I could clear my throat, “Daddy, was I in mommy’s belly?” “How did I get in mommy’s belly?”
 
“Well, um, honey. . .it just. . .you see. . .when a mommy and a daddy. . .” and now that God is laughing, by His grace, in the infinite expanse of time and design, by His predestined purpose, before the worlds were framed, He placed a Chic-Fil-A, with a playground, and ice cream in your path. There you make a hard left, “let’s play on the playground.” And the child screams with glee. The secrets of biology are safe, preferably until she’s thirty.
 
But this question scared me, not so much due to the question, but because she’s only seven, and she was serious. If the eyes are a window to the soul, I could see deep within her, and I could not see God. I could only see a soul that had been thinking consistently about this long before she asked me about the existence of God. And my soul, her daddy’s soul, panicked. And it panicked hard. Has my first grade beauty become an atheist? Is public education truly a tool of the anti-Christ? Is that lump in my throat more than nervousness, could it be the early stages of cancer? I can’t breathe, do I have asthma? Could it be true that my child was not only losing baby teeth, but also losing her faith?
 
I have read tons of Norman Geisler, Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, and Francis Schaeffer. I was stunned, but I was armed – and so I fired. Picking up the nearest Junie B. Jones volume from her nightstand I said, “Have you ever met this lady who wrote this book, Barbara, have you ever met Barbara?”
 
She stared at me.
 
“Well don’t you believe Barbara is real even though you haven’t actually seen her?”
 
And I did that with a dollar, with a doll, with a Disney princess. I did that with almost every artifact which cluttered her floor. Every toy, book, and doll became a part of my apologetic arsenal. Tonight the tools of theology, tomorrow she must clean her room.
 
That’s theology, that’s great apologetics, that’s something that no seven year old in her right mind could refute; the fact that even though we cannot see these people, and have never met these people, the proof of their existence is clearly seen by the evidence of their creations. And so I proudly waited for the seven year old to surrender, for the intellectual dust to settle, for the daddy of theology to kiss her goodnight, say her prayers, turn out the light, having once again successfully explained the secrets of the universe to a seven year old. And this time without a Chic-Fil-A bail out.
 
The dust settled, and in her eyes, in her soul, only doubt.
 
This went on for several days. She played on the swing set, I taught her how to hit a softball, she pretended to be a princess, she took a bath, she went to bed, and she became an atheist. The eyes of her soul full of doubt, the question consistent, “If I cannot see God, how can I believe in Him?”
 
How can this child not see God? I am a pastor, we own a hundred Bibles, we go to church – even on vacation, we pray – a lot, how can this child not see God?
 
And as the nights progressed my soul began to break. And it was hard for me to see my child at seven begin to lose her faith. It was hard for me, in this, to see God.
 
Isn’t there a formula for raising born again kids? I know there are books about it. I took a family class in Bible College; I know we talked about it. I am sure I have heard or preached a sermon with a sure fire list of five, three, or eight ways to raise born again kids. There must be a formula – perform a list of steps, pray a certain prayer, memorize a chapter, claim a verse, have twenty minutes of quiet time a day, never let your daughter see you screw up (at least not very much), and even go to church on vacation – and you should be guaranteed that God will not plant a child in her mommy’s belly that will turn into an atheist – at seven.
 
But it wasn’t working.
 
There have been a number of things in my life that have brought me to the conclusion that there is not a formula for spiritual things. I can teach, model, preach, suggest, advise, regurgitate, talk about faith with my daughter, but only God can make faith come alive within her. And I needed God. So my prayers about this matter began to lose formula, and moved to soul cries of a dad who desperately desired to see faith bloom in the heart of his little girl.
 
But she continued to question me, and I continued to question God.
 
Why will God not flip the switch, plant the seed, make faith simple – seven year old simple, again? There are a lot of things in my life right now about which God is silent, and for some reason, He will not move. But this was, to me, the cruelest of all, for God to allow me to lose grip on my daughter’s faith. Why?
 
And I grew closer to joining her, wondering why do we believe in a God I could not only see, but I could not hear, that I could not feel, and now seemed would not answer? Do I believe? And the battle moved from her bed into mine. Deep into the night I prayed and I wondered about my own faith.
 
She dressed a doll, she played with her Gameboy, she ate a pop-sickle after supper. She took a bath, she went to bed, and there it was again, those contemplative, empty eyes – a doubting soul.
 
And so I reached down into my soul and grabbed it to see what was there. “Morgan, I believe in God. I have given my life to Him. I believe Jesus died for me on the cross, that He loves me and that he has saved my soul. I may not understand everything about God, and I may never be able to really answer your question, but I believe in Him. And Morgan, I pray for you every night, that God will give you faith and cause your heart to long for and believe in Him.”
 
She hid her face under the covers. All I could see was the bow I had forgotten to take out of her hair. And then I heard her cry. My heart broke.
 
I begged her to tell me what she was thinking. I could tell, whatever it was, it was coming from a place deep within her. Finally she sat up. Wiping her tears, clutching her pink patchwork quilt, broken and teary, she pressed it out of her mouth, “Daddy, I’m just so happy to know you pray for me.”
 
I grabbed her in my arms and held her tight. My eyes grew watery, the lump in my throat – growing. She shook in my arms and I could feel her tears now saturate my shirt. But I must confess, the unregenerate, sarcastic monster that lives within me wondered where she had been for the last seven years as her mother and I have religiously prayed for her? Seven year olds – a mystery.
 
I am a pastor, I go to church. . .even on vacation. I can turn Bible passages into formulas, put them on PowerPoint, and preach them systematically. I own a ton of Bibles. I overreact. She was nowhere near atheism, but her faith was challenged, and so was mine. If my little girl cannot look into my eyes and see that my soul is connected with God – why would she believe? At seven, she understands religion is my job. And there are times she looks into my eyes, and that’s all she sees, a job in religion. What she wants to know is that her daddy knows God and actually talks to Him about her. Not in formula, but in conversation. When my girls destroy my nap, pounce on my outstretched stomach, crushing my vital organs, and begin to “waller” me to death – can they sneak a peek into my eyes, my soul, and see God? I wonder how many times, praying over green beans, have they actually been listening to my voice, listening for it to connect with God? When I pick up the Bible, do they wonder if I have truly met the author – or is our relationship strictly apologetic?
 
I saw God in my daughter’s eyes again. Her faith and my faith, a little more elastic, stretched, and growing. I realize she and God have something in common. They are wondering if I believe in someone I cannot see.
 
Dear God, come alive in me.
Dear God, come alive in her.
God give us faith to see You.
BB
Gal. 2:20
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