Thursday, February 27, 2014

Questioning Our Priorities

I have set and watched the ongoing saga/debate of gay marriage and now state legislation to allow businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their sexual preferences for months. And honestly,  I am amazed at the amount of time, energy, and money that is being poured into it all. I have to wonder if it is necessary and if it is as much of a priority to God as it is to some of the folks heavily involved who call themselves doing His work. For years preachers have refused to marry people if they did not agree with the situation. I know of preachers refusing to marry couples they did not think were prepared for marriage and because one or the other was divorced. I do not recall anyone getting sued over it.

And further, it seems like much of the argument has come down to comparing sins. My studies of the Bible have concluded that sin is sin. There is no big and little sin. One is not worse than another, and God hates ALL sin. Lust, gluttony, adultery, lying, cheating, and yes homosexuality are all equal. Unfortunately as humans, we can accept our sins and ignore them as slight indiscretions,  but we are repulsed by the sins of others.

Andy Stanley said in an interview (read it here) this month on the subject of the legislation to allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual persuasion that if we wanted to be like Jesus then we would serve everyone because that is what Jesus did when He was here. He served everyone - thieves, prostitutes,  lepers. I cannot argue with that point. And "Christians" have questioned his theology and want to stone him for making that statement. Sorry, but I cannot join in on that campaign, because Jesus proclaimed love not public stoning.

Read the story of the woman caught in adultery: 

John 8:2-12
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

He did not stop the stoning because it was an acceptable sin. He stopped it because of His love and forgiveness for her. And He called out the crowd and encouraged the sinless to throw the first stone which demonstrated that He saw all sin the same.

My question is this: Are our priorities and agendas in line with God's priorities?

What is REALLY more important? How do we ignore modern day slavery and families starving all around us while fighting same sex marriage? Right now there are 27 million people in slavery worldwide including the United States.  Read about it here: CNN and here: EndItMovement

Right now in the United States 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger. That is more than 49 million Americans starving all around us.  Read about it here: FeedingAmerica. In Forsyth County where I live, approximately 11,000 children get one meal a day - school lunch.

How can we ignore these types of situations and spend our time, energy, and money on same-sex marriage?

Aren't we commanded to?

Matthew 25:37-40
 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

 What could be accomplished if those resources were focused on hunger and modern day slavery in the United States? If Jesus was walking the earth today, which would He be addressing? Are our priorities properly aligned with His?


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Begging for Garbage

Monday was a federal holiday and observed by my day job which gave me a day to address things for the nonprofit. I had received a request from an individual that worked for a local chain restaurant. They were dismayed by all the food being thrown away each evening and wanted us to talk to them about donating the food. So I drove down and asked to speak with the manager. I introduced myself, explained what our organization does, and explained the need in our community.   He called his supervisor,  had a brief conversation and then told me I would have to contact corporate marketing department. I returned home and filled out a generic contact form on their website. I sat and marveled at the difficulty of getting a business to quit throwing away food and instead receiving a tax deduction and helping struggling families in their community.

I cannot count the number of these conversations I have had over the last three years. The responses are incredible.  Liability concerns despite federal and state laws that protect food donors from any liability claims. Concerns that employees will intentionally waste more food to increase donations. Concerns that it will take too much extra effort to donate. The popular response is that their management team carefully monitors inventory and usage and they have absolutely zero waste.

Last month we received a phone call from an anonymous individual that works for a local grocery store chain. They had seen a newspaper article about our organization's work to eliminate hunger in our community and daily watched hundreds of pounds of food going in the dumpster. So I drove to the grocery store and asked to speak with the manager. I spoke to one of the managers who told be the Food Bank picked up all of the meat and an area church picked up all of the bread weekly and "everything gets donated and picked up". I smiled and thanked her for her time all the while knowing they daily throw away cut fruit and vegetables.

I am dumbfounded on the insistence of business owners, operators, and managers that continue to throw away perfectly edible food everyday like clockwork. Don't believe me, pick a restaurant and sit in the parking lot at closing time and watch the cheeseburgers,  chicken fingers, hot wings, heads of lettuce, cut fruit, and pizzas being thrown in dumpsters 55 gallon bags at a time.

I have to admit I find it frustrating, and it causes me to question why I continue to struggle with it all. But then I remember the 16,740 adults and 11,000 children in our community that are struggling with hunger and deserve someone to work to help them. I remember the volunteers at over 29 churches who spend countless hours trying to help these struggling families that deserve some help and support. This weekend, our campus pastor Clay Scroggins delivered a message "Choose to Lose". In it, he said that when we are doing what we are called to do, it often feels like losing, but that choosing to lose is exactly what Jesus did for us. He chose to lose for our sake. That was a pretty timely message that hit home with us.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Pressure Is On

(Image Source:
It was just another one of those routine medical checkups. The kind I would just as soon avoid. I have enough going on I really do not need another appointment on my agenda, but I agree to make these albeit begrudgingly. So here I sat on the end of the exam table that is too short to lie down on unless a medically trained professional pulls out that silly extension for my feet. I peruse a two year old copy of Car and Driver while I wait in the bleak solitude. Soon a 20 something nurse pops in the room that seems just a little too happy for a doctor's office and begins the inane battery of questions. How are you feeling today? Are you getting plenty of rest?  Exercise? I can hear Charlie Brown's teacher, "waa waa waa". She takes my blood pressure which has always been a textbook example of 120/80, but apparently not today. She deflates the cuff, furrows her brows, and seems to suddenly lose her effervescence. "I'm going to try this again", she says. As a former volunteer firefighter/EMT, I see this as pointless. She is just going to get the same result a second time. And as I expected, her effervescence does not return. Apparently my blood pressure is high today. Swell. One more thing for me to worry with everyday. Peachy.

The nurse disappears out the door. I imagine her scurrying the intricate maze of hallways in search of her lost fountain of happy. A few more minutes of flipping through the tattered pages of the obsolete new car reviews and my doctor enters the room. He reviews the notes that Nurse Rainbows and Unicorns entered into the computer and comes over and picks up the blood pressure cuff. Here we go again. "Hmmm", I hear him mutter. He elects to take it in my other arm. Still no difference. He gives me a talk about dangling my arm and takes another reading with identical results. Finally,  he tosses in the proverbial towel and tells me that he is going to prescribe me blood pressure medication. Great.

A few weeks go by and I develop an irritating dry cough. At my next appointment,  I mention the cough to the doctor who immediately recognizes it as a side effect of the medication and changes me to another prescription. In the meantime, I decide that I need to see if I can work myself off the medication altogether. My charming wife recommends alterations to my diet and drinking more water. I begin to consider factors contributing to the levels of stress that I operate under daily. I identify several stressors not all under my control. I begin what I now refer to as my stress reduction diet. Getting up early, staying up late, and surviving on 4 or 5 hours of sleep was my norm developed when I was racing. I read somewhere that you really need 6-8 hours of sleep for ideal health and wellness. I decide we could start shooting for 6 and work from there. We begin walking three times a week. I begin to evaluate my job and other activities as well as my calendar noting what activities are essential and what can be eliminated.

I begin to consider decompression weekends and three day holidays where I can unplug from ringing cellphones, twitter, facebook, 5 email accounts, and text messages. One trip is a 5-mile hiking venture in the Appalachian mountains to an inn that is beyond cellphone and data service reach. Add a one week vacation at the beach with no preplanned agenda. Just five days of sleeping late, walking on the beach, and sitting in swings enjoying the view. I begin evaluating relationships. If there is nothing but drama and nothing positive coming from the relationship,  I need to remove myself from it for my better health and welfare.

The hypertension or high blood pressure diagnoses came almost three years ago. Six months ago my doctor took me off blood pressure medication completely. Last week I was in for an annual physical. My blood pressure was 114/80 with no meds. I share this story not to brag but to encourage. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension,  do not give up or lose hope. Begin to evaluate the stressors in your life and determine the ones you can change or eliminate. Start making the changes that can lower your stress levels. Start taking an annual vacation. Start taking occasional weekends away and unplug. You can manage your stress and lower your blood pressure.