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Archive for February, 2018

Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

— Lt. Gov. Casey Cable of Georgia, who aims to punish Delta Airlines for making a business decision

Not all tyrants look scary like Fidel Castro or Mussolini or President Putin. This happy-face tyrant who is the leader of the Senate in Georgia wants to punish a Big Business for — eek!!! — a business decision that is supposed to be judged and possibly punished by its customers, not by government!

There have been so many stories making me go “Wow!” in a bad way lately that I could comment on a dozen of them in the news today alone.

But I’ll just break down a fresh news story out of the State of Georgia. You can read it here.

The lieutenant governor there — supposedly a conservative Republican who is running for promotion to governor — threatened to deny corporate welfare in the form of a pending tax exemption to Delta Airlines.

This is because Delta had the audacity to make a business decision that the supposedly conservative Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who made the threat, didn’t cotton to.

Delta’s sin was announcing it will no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members to attend their annual meetings.

Delta also kindly asked the NRA to remove any references to their company from the NRA website.

The gentleman from Georgia sees this business decision and request by a Big Business, which was promised your typical corporate welfare in the form of a big tax break for jet fuel, as “an attack on conservatives.”

And he’s right, right??? Attacks on the NRA just don’t get anymore vicious, do they?

Heinous!

* * *

Oh by the way! Is being a conservative a requirement for membership in the National Rifle Association?

Does the NRA require applicants to swear that they are conservatives?

And if so, exactly how do they define “conservative?”

Does a member have to swear allegiance whatever the NRA idea of conservatism is in order to remain a member?

Maybe somebody in Cagle’s office can answer these questions.

* * *

But back to Delta Airlines.

Its decision to discontinue NRA benefits to customers could be construed by some pro-business conservatives like myself, maybe most genuine, principled, free-market conservatives, as a business decision Delta Airlines made.

It’s not as if Delta Airlines announced, “We have decided to do this because NRA members are Boobs and we don’t need their money!”

I would think some of Delta’s own shareholders are outraged, and that some are very happy about the decision.

But so it goes in the free-market system, right?

This just in to News Central: The way the free market works, Delta’s customers — and politicians in Georgia — are free to use some other airline if they don’t like Delta’s business decision.

That’s Capitalism/Free Market/Business 101 — or am I missing something?

Somebody please explain to me how I’m wrong if I’ve been so wrong about American capitalism my whole life.

* * *

By the way, United Airlines customers also have the right to stop flying with United, which has made the exact same business decision as Delta, along with many car rental companies, Best Western, MetLife and a growing number of Big Businesses (who are receiving welfare from governments from local to federal levels every day; how true-blue conservative government haters are OK with this has always been a mystery).

It seems to me as an American who is 100 percent pro-business and pro-capitalism — pro-ethical capitalism, that is, as opposed to what we have in runaway corruption in business today — that people in government like Lt. Gov.Cagle are tyrants.

I mean, this is what tyrants in government do, don’t they? That’s my reading of history and political history anyway. They punish people and companies (and supposedly corporations are people too, as dapper Mitt Romney says) when people aren’t 100 percent on their side.

I’ve argued for years that most of the modern conservative Republicans are not genuine, principled conservatives at all.

This proves my point one more time.

I mean, I might be wrong, but I don’t think it would ever have entered the mind of Ronald Reagan to punish any business, big or small, with the authority he held in government, because of some Big Business decision he didn’t cotton to.

This threat against Delta is the very kind government over-reach that conservative Republicans have condemned forever.

Delta’s corporate leaders, employees and supports should be afraid: Cagle might just be coming for their guns if they don’t get in line with him.

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“More Than any other [spiritual] discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface.

“If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately.
Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear, if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.”

— Richard J. Foster

Richard J. Foster’s excellent take on prayer, fasting, solitude, simple living, confession and other disciplines is all here in his classic book.

The Quaker Richard J. Foster* wrote a book decades ago that became an instant classic.

The universally respected spiritual-formation writer Richard J. Foster.

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, is one of those spiritual books I pull from the shelf many times a year to review one of the spiritual practice she covers.

Sometimes I’ll read, yet again, the chapter on prayer or worship, sometimes the chapter about mediation or solitude, and sometimes the excellent chapter that explains the many reasons for Christians to fast.

Foster plunges deep into the Bible to cover the multitudes of scriptures about fasting, as well as the history of it in early Christianity and beyond.

Everything Foster writes — and he’s a prolific writer and editor — is presented in scholarly detail, but in clear, vivid language. He’s a scholar and writer for the masses as well as clergy and theologians.

Foster cites three primary reasons for fasting — and he focuses almost exclusively on abstaining from food — I’ll share with you today.

1. “Food,” he writes, “does not sustain us. God sustains us.”

Foster’s book covers many spiritual formation practices, such as study and reflection.

This brings to mind Jesus’s response to the devil: “Man [or woman] cannot live by bread alone.”

Foster emphasizes that the purpose of fasting is to get our attention focused entirely on God. It helps us become aware of our reliance on God for all that we have and need. It reminds us that the healing of our sinful, broken nature is available through the healing power and grace of Christ.

Fasting is not a masochistic exercise is self-flagellation. “In our experience of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as feasting in the word of God.”

2. “More than any other single discipline,” Foster has written in an article adapted from his book, “fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.”

To be transformed, the man said!

We hear so much from preachers about the need to be “saved in our Lord Jesus Christ,” and that’s good as far as it goes.

But being saved — confessing and repenting of our sins and surrendering to God with our mouths in a one-time event — is not the same thing as being transformed!

I’ve always believed we don’t hear enough sermons or generally hear enough about transformation in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Transformation requires the spiritual practices of which Foster writes so brilliantly.

Transformation is more along the lines of what John Wesley described as “sanctification,” which is a lifelong process required after giving ourselves over to God and asking Him/Her to come into our hearts for all time. (And it’s my guess that Foster, by the way, refers in his books more often to Wesley’s works on fasting, prayer and other spiritual disciplines than any other spiritual giant he refers to other than biblical figures.)

But back to Foster, who says . . .

    “We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting, these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately.

    “David said, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’ (Ps. 69:10).

    “Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear — if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.

    “At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we know that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us.”

3. Foster says fasting helps us keep our balance in life.

    “How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need — until we are enslaved by them.

    Quality time reading and reflection on the Bible, and the study of books like Foster’s, bring us peace, well being, and wisdom, among many other spiritual dividends.

    “Paul wrote, ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything’ (1 Cor. 6:12). Our human cravings and desires are like a river that tends to overflow its banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channel.”

There you have the skinny on Foster’s detailed and in-depth chapter about fasting in his classic book. It’s available online and bookstores like Barnes&Noble.
—————
*For more about Foster and his many highly acclaimed spiritual books and resources, go here. Foster is the founder of Renovaré USA, a nonprofit that provides Christians with an enormous selection of books and other resources for spiritual formation.

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Attributed to the giant of 20th century Christian theology, Reinhold Niehbuhr.

“Accepting . . .Enjoying . . . Surrendering . . . “

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Why Fasting? (Lent, Day 9)

Christian fasting isn’t some kind of self-flagellation; it’s not an exercise in gritting our teeth for 40 to get through pain and discomfort we aim to inflict on ourselves.

Fasting, whether done during the 40 days of Lent (which don’t include Sundays) or at any other time, is an exercise in laying bare all the stuff we bury deep inside ourselves.

I make the case in my book that the poor and powerless are being blamed and scapegoated for all of America’s social ills. And just as sure as it’s a personal sin to lie or kill or commit adultery, scapegoating the poor is a social sin.

It’s like pulling down a periscope and taking a hard look at all the stuff we’ve pushed way down deep inside ourselves. In denying ourselves something we crave to the point of mild or severe addiction — be it sweets, or our two and more glasses of wine every day when the 5 o’clock bell rings — or even something as addictive as Facebook and Twitter — we bring that which is getting between us and our relationship with God into clear focus.

All of our inner “stuff” tends to bubble up to the surface and we awaken to how that stuff has put distance between us and the Lord.

Furthermore, fasting isn’t just about giving something up; it’s about giving, period.

The spiritual discipline of fasting isn’t just an exercise in giving something up. It’s about deepening our prayer life, taking “a closer walk with Thee” (to quote an old hymn) — and giving to the poor.

Father James Martin, the Catholic priest and wonderful, contemporary Christian leader who has a gift for reaching people of all faiths and no faiths, says this:

    I’m not sure if you’re Christian or not, but for most Christians this is the period of the year known as Lent. And if you know nothing else about Lent, you probably know that people give things up. And in general, that’s a noble practice.

    [But in] ancient times, people would give things up not only to live healthier lives, and prepare themselves spiritually for Easter, but also for another reason: to give money to the poor. The idea was that if you spent less money on things like meat you could give what you saved to those who need it. That’s why fasting and almsgiving and prayer, the three pillars of Lent, are all connected.

    So as you pray the examen [spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius], and think about the ways that God is at work in your life, you might ask yourself another question: How is what I’m doing helping the poor?

Indeed, when I was growing up, the Methodist Church provided members of congregations with packets with pockets for inserting a dime during every day of Lent. The packet of dimes was given back to the church at the end of Lent for giving to the poor. One of my parents would give me a dime every day to add to it. (And 40 dimes went in long way in feeding the poor a hundred years ago.)

I’ll have more about the spiritual discipline of fasting from the great spiritual writer Richard Foster in Monday’s Lenten reflection.

Go high, not low.

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Jesus famously entered the Temple and nicely said to the moneychangers, “Come on, you guys. With all due respect, I think this is wrong what you’re doing.” He didn’t mean to offend them when he turned over their tables and cracked the whip over their heads (without hurting anybody, by the way). Of course the truth is, Jesus was not nice at all. [Painting by Scarsellino]

In yesterday’s Lenten piece I cited the passage from Mark 10 where people were taking their little ones to Jesus. (See here if you missed it.)

Today I want to underscore something from verses 13 and 14 in that same chapter:

    People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.

    When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.

Jesus was indignant.

Jesus was mad.

Jesus was pissed.

If a disciple or any witness to his outburst was offended, he was plenty welcome to leave, to go follow one of the false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing who were around. They were everywhere in those days — as they are now and will be.

Jesus never lost one minute’s sleep worrying about whether anybody liked him. It was not his purpose in life to be Mr. Popular to all people at all times.

Nor is it any Christian’s purpose in life to go along to get along while the Caesars and the Pharisees — who come along in every generation and will to the end — stand on mountaintops of lies, maintaining order through fear, intimidation, condemnation, killing and greed.

I’ve often said that Jesus was not some happy-face swami who holed up in a cave. He didn’t put out the word through his devotees that all comers were welcome to come hear him hold forth with teachings about how to be gentle and peaceful and nice to one’s self as well as others.

“And the truth shall set you free.”

Jesus would have no truck with the happy-Jesus preachers like Joel Olsteen or fools like Jerry Falwell III — or, for that matter, those like the joyless, hyper-judgmental Franklin Graham.

Nor would Jesus go along to get along with whatever Caesar was passing through for a blip of time in the White House. (No less a Christian leader than Billy Graham learned just how seductive and corruptive American Caesars with all their power can be. Nixon completely snookered him and brought out the worst in him.)

Jesus took to the dirty, dusty streets and touched the untouchables. He entered the polished synagogues where the leaders who were about power and control kept the icky, nasty, dirty, sick, homeless and mentally ill people down.

It can’t be said enough that our Lord challenged the powers-that-be with righteous indignation at every turn. He did so with the divisive sword of truth, the only sword the aggressive pacifist ever wielded.

From the creator of Peanuts.

He wasn’t even all that nice to his own devotees and his own family, for God’s sake. He once declined to go outside a door and greet his own mom and brother, who from all that they’d heard about him, thought he he’d lost his ever-loving mind!

Yet simultaneously, he was overflowing with love at all times. He loved his disciples even when they pissed him off as much as any 10 Pharisees and Caesar ever did.

Jesus was overflowing with love in spite of his angry side.

Just as I’ve written often about Jesus not being a swami sitting on a bed of flowers, I’ve often written about how I try — and all too often fail or forget — to monitor how I’m relating to people during a day. That is, how I’m relating to others in terms of what Paul called “the fruits of the spirit” in Galations 5:22-23.

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I try to monitor myself often to check on how I’m doing in terms of love, joy, peace and all the rest.

I’m nothing if not passionately opinionated. But if I feel I’m being terrible in calling B.S. on something or somebody, I’ll try to catch myself and take a deep breath, swallow my pride, and apologize — or at least tone down my indignation.

But note that Paul didn’t cite any kind of 13th fruit suggesting that being nice at all times and in all circumstances is part of discipleship.

To the contrary, Paul could wax every bit as indignant as our Lord. One only has to read the entire short book of Galatians to see how not nice he was to the Galatians — this after greeting them with blessings of grace and peace! And he did end his epistle on a graceful note as well.

Read the whole, wonderful letter to the misguided Galatians here.

Speaking God’s truth to power — even speaking truth to one another in a forceful, indignant way — is vital in a time when we’re deluged by the minute and hour with brazen lies, half-truths and misrepresentations. Not not only from political leaders, but from religious leaders who’ve sold their souls to an American leader who surely makes God weep with his determined lack of repentance for his sins or regard for the people he steamrolls with his hard words and actions.

One of the great works of the genius John Donne, known for such lines and poems as “Death, be not proud,” was his Satire III, which you can read in full here*.

Donne’s satirical poem manages to warn those who fail to see the importance of spiritual truth, and cites the need to follow one’s conscience at all cost.

And discipleship does come with heavy costs.

In these particular lines about the need to “be busy” to seek the truth, Donne warns us to seek God and God’s truth and Christ’s ways now, without delay.

This because it’s later than we think.

    . . . though truth and falsehood be

    Near twins, yet truth a little elder is;

    Be busy to seek her; believe me this,

    He’s not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.

    To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,

    May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way

    To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;

    To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,

    Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will

    Reach her, about must and about must go,

    And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so.

    Yet strive so that before age, death’s twilight,

    Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.

    To will implies delay, therefore now do;

    Hard deeds, the body’s pains; hard knowledge too

    The mind’s endeavours reach, and mysteries

    Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.


————–
*Go here to read more about the meaning of Donne’s poems, including his very Christian Satire III, here.

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13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

— From Mark 10

How do we lose such loving innocence as this? And how am I responsible as an adult for the loss of any child’s innocence in such a small, global world as the one we live in now?

Photographer Marco Mancinelli shot this arresting photo in an inner-city Montessori school for The Detroit News, which published it full-size on the back page.

For today’s Lenten meditation, sit with the picture and reflect on it a while.

1. What does it say about us all being born as innocent children of God — about us being created in the image of God?

2. It goes without saying that a child’s growth and earliest formation can only begin in, near and around the home. That said, the world is small now because of constant, instant communications, news and information.

So I wonder . . . . If it takes a village — that is, a loving, nourishing community as well as loving parents or caretakers in the home — to raise a healthy, well-adjusted child who knows right from wrong and wants only to do what’s right, what does it require of us all beyond that village as spiritually mature, Christian adults in such a “small world?”

3. We might ask ourselves: How spiritually mature have I been this week, this year — in recent years. Am I in the same state of mind, body, spirit and soul I was 40 years ago? 10 years ago? Last year? Am I stuck in the same old ruts, spinning my spiritual wheels?

Or have I grown more self aware of my flaws and faults and my propensity for certain sins?

And back to the children . . . . am I the kind of spiritually mature Christian any impressionable child anywhere in the world would want to emulate? I’m I committed to doing everything I can to build up the kingdom of God on this earth as it is in heaven?

Or, having always been aware of my flaws and faults and propensity for certain sins, how have I managed them lately?

We all have those bad habits and patterns; the great St. Paul himself lamented the hardship of managing his sinful repeats, confessing that he did the very things he wished not to do.

John Wesley didn’t believe we’re saved in any one event in time. He believed that once we’ve achieved salvation, we can easily sin it away no matter how much we deceive ourselves into believing we’ve been given a one-stop, one-way ticket to God’s welcoming banquet.

The path to the divine requires constant growth, and that requires child-like awareness of what love in the world looks like.

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There is so much to be said about Billy Graham’s life and legacy that I’ll just focus here on one aspect of that amazing life: his early advocacy for civil rights and his lifelong friendship with MLK Jr.

Billy Graham’s push for equality was a profile in Christian courage.

On what is Black History Month, I’m not sure how many Americans are aware that Graham insisted on integrated crusades way back in 1952–long before the most liberal of white Christians were courageous enough to jump on the civil rights crusade.

I wonder how many Americans are aware that Graham and Dr. King once held a crusade together in the fifties? How many people know that when King was arrested for a civil rights protest in 1963, it was Graham who paid his bail.

Graham declined 20 years’ worth of invitations to preach in South Africa, refusing to accept the invitations until they were integrated.

The courage it took for the great white preacher to be so bold in his push for equality was a profile in Christian courage for sure.

May he rest in perfect rest, perfect peace.

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