Monday, December 31, 2007

Dump the Dude!

I thought we were finished with the term "dude" after the surfing craze in the 60's. Then there was Fast Times at Ridgemont High with Sean Penn. He was also a dude . . . a So Cal dufus. Jeff Bridges was the ultimate "Dude" in one of my favorite films, "The Big Lebowski." The word "dude" seemed to fit all those genres. But now the term "dude" is totally out of control or haven't you noticed?

"Dude" is in vogue as a title for anyone-mostly male but also female . . . .! There are people whom I only know as "dude." Here's the upside:
If I forget a name, I never lose by calling them "dude."

For the sake of common ground and accuracy here's the wikipedia definition of "dude": The term "dude" is an American English slang word used informally to address a male individual. The word may also be used in the same manner for a female as its counterpart, 'Dudette.' "Dude" may also be used alone in a sentence, serving as an exclamation; denoting a feeling of surprise, happiness, disappointment, amazement or other emotions."

My initial response to the term is that it's harmless.

Yet the more I ponder the term, the more I realize "dude" is a dangerous term. It's a home wrecker . . . capable of ruining friendships . . . destroying all gender distinctives and able to rip away at the very fabric of our culture. Check that out, Dude!

So what's the big deal with this word? Why am I so hung up about "dude"? Here are several examples where "dude" has infiltrated our culture and knocked it down a few notches.

Fathers. Men have to make a decision whether they want their kids to love them or like them. In a must see film for fathers, Life as a House, Kevin Kline has a rebellious, drug addicted son who cannot stand the sight of his dad and tells him he doesn't even like him Kline responds, "I don't want you to like me; I want you to love me."

A lot of fathers are fearful of such language. Dads today want to be liked by their son; they are best friends. They are buds.

Guess what! Your son-whether he is 5 of 15 is not your buddy. He's your son. By calling that precious boy your buddy, you are placing yourself on his level as an equal.

Sure, you should be friends with your kids. But the relationship of father and son is not a buddy system. As a Dad you're to guide, nurture, challenge and hold him accountable to obey your directions and expectations. That doesn't happen with your "buddy." Before you know it, your sixteen year old looks at his "buddy Daddy," and tells him to shove off. He has figured it out: like one of his peers, he doesn't need to obey. Dads, as your son's buddy you've reduced yourself from father to fool. Your son is not your equal. You are the father; he's the son; you are an adult; he's a child. By calling each other buddies, you are teaching your child to disrespect you.

I wince when I hear a 7 or 8 year old call his father by his first name, "Hey John, what do you want to do this afternoon? You are not "John" to that boy; you are "Dad." When my twelve year old slips and calls me "Dude", I don't respond to him. I go totally deaf to his requests. I am not "dude". I'm Dad. I'm not one of his friends or one of his dudes. I'm his father and I have been placed by God in a position of authority in that boy's life. "Dude" does not give off the idea of authority. It's more like a hipster dufus.

Women. Why are girls suddenly calling each others "dude"? I even witnessed two females on Gray's Anatomy call each other by that wretched term. I am speaking of two heterosexual women addressing each other as men; can you see 2 guys calling one another "girlfriend"? Are girls trying to look tough or putting themselves on the same plane as men?

Guess what! It's not sexy nor appealing for a woman to be a "dude." At that point a woman who wants to be called "dude" starts spiraling downward into a dud. Women today are so fearful of their femininity that they must take on masculine terms. I say "dump the dude" when it comes to women. I

Children. My twelve year old is into the "dude" culture. Every one of his friends is now "dude." I asked him recently if his friends all have real names. Are they all "dude"? I wanted to know how they tell each other apart. Yes, the word "dude" is replacing first names. Thank you Sean Penn!

I think parents should spare themselves the agony of naming their kids and looking through baby name books. Make it easy and call him "Dude." Eventually, if this culture stays on the same road for the next twenty years, he will be called "dude" anyway. Name him "dude". Name every male "dude." Dude for President! Glad to meet you President Dude.

Officials. Will we reach a point in our culture where we will call officials by the term "Dude." Can you imagine getting stopped by a police officer and you fail to address him as "officer" but you refer to him as "dude." Are you going to talk Officer Dude out of a traffic ticket? I don't think he's going to buy your story. Sorry Dude!

Bottom line: let's start laying off "dude" and return to names that demonstrate respect like Dad or Father. I want to hear first names drift back into our culture and women show respect for one another. Finally, fearing the "dude revolution" may never stop, I fear the day when kids call their teachers and other respected officials, "dude"

You can guess where this is all heading: Our Dude who art in heaven . . . God forbid!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

People Get Ready . . . There's a Train a Coming

The New Year is almost here. It's time for resolutions, commitments and vows of restoration. 2008 is an opportunity to make new decisions to change our ways and to take off on new ventures

This week I heard a sermon by Alistair Begg that seemed to affirm my thinking about the New Year. Begg said, "God gives you the ticket for the next leg of your journey only after you start the journey."

Alistair used the example of Corrie Ten Boom who, as a young woman, planned to take a trip by train in several months. Corrie told her father about the trip and asked him to purchase the train ticket in advance. He did not seem to be in a rush as his daughter was. So he put off buying the the ticket.

Corrie reminder her Dad about the ticket almost every day. By nagging her father it appeared she did believe he would buy the ticket. She wanted the ticket in her possession before she embarked on the trip.

Finally, the day of the trip arrived. On the day she actually began her expedition, Corrie's father gave her the ticket.

Begg commented, "God only gives you the ticket you need after you started on your journey."

If you want 2008 to be a year of stagnancy, my best advice is to wait. That's right. Do nothing. Just wait and you will enjoy 365 days of inertia. You will spend the new year, looking for a ticket, asking the Lord to give you that ticket in order to make that journey into a new career or to fulfill a dream you've been talking about for almost a decade.

You know what I mean. Each year you hear yourself say, "This is the year, God is going to hand me that ticket. This is the year!"

Let's try something really new this year.

I suggest you spend the year hanging around train stations . . . without a ticket. What do I mean?

If you want to change your career, spend this year researching that new occupation; interview people already in the career you want to enter; arrange some way where you can offer your time volunteering to help in an office where you can see your dream job in action; and live as though you are already in the job and see if it is a good fit.

In other words, begin the journey before you get the ticket.

If God is who He says He is. He will be on time to give you that ticket. However, you have to spend time hanging around the station.

Whatever it is you want from the Lord, do your homework. Become an expert on a town or state you want to move to. Become as smart as a doctor on an illness you want to see God being healing to.

If you're interested in a person for a possible relationship, find out who he or she is. Tear down the walls of illusion and fantasy. Ask around and check this potential mate out through the eyes of others. You might discover you really don't want to embark on any journey with that person. He may turn out to be a total dud!

The same is true for financial decisions or making major purchases such as a house or new car. Do your homework. Don't settle for anything else but the real thing. Don't make a sour deal into a good one just because you really want it.

So, let's agree to not spend the year waiting for a ticket. Begin the journey.

Even if there's no train in the station, it is going to come. Yes, you'll need a ticket. But once the train pulls into the station, be sure this train in headed in the direction that matches the desire of your heart. God will honor your choice to step on the train, knowing you did your research and made a wise choice. He will also honor your decision to not step on that train, knowing you're not operating out of impulsive emotions but out of wisdom and a solid trust in Him.

God does not push people onto trains nor in the path of oncoming trains. You've heard the Christian cliche: if you don't want to go to Africa to be a missionary, then that's the place God wants you to go. What rubbish! So when we speak of God giving us the desires of our heart as in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart," are we to think He really means to say, "He will give you the desires of His own heart and discount your needs?"

Why do we play such games with God? He made us and He knows our talents, skills and passions. He works in accordance with the person He has made us to be. We are not robots or God's puppets. Trust Him that when you step on that train to your next destination, it will be a choice both pleasing to you and to Him.

My New Year's resolution? All aboard!!!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holiday Season from Joseph, Mary and Jesus

It would be shocking to receive a Christmas card from Joseph and Mary showing the family posing for a group portrait. There's baby Jesus being held by his proud mother showing off her new infant.

In fact, I take it the only family who really have any bragging rights on their child during this time of the year would be the parents of the Messiah of Israel.

Yet during the Christmas rush I receive card after card portraying lovely families with beautiful, happy children. On some cards, if the kids are off to college or married, a photo of husband and wife is satisfactory.

The greeting that accompanies the card usually says: Greetings during this holiday season! Love from the Gutenberg family."

Some cards come with those much anticipated updates on a year's full of antics by the kids. . . their school activities, grade, honors and trophies and extra curricular events such as baseball, soccer and karate. Some newsletters describe Aunt Sally's goiter and Uncle Tom's prostate infections and changing bowel habits. A full-on description of how the family's house is being decorated and how Dad received a promotion . . . Give me a Christmas break!

I often ask, "Do I need to know all this information about your family during Christmas?" Isn't this time of the year when we should really only about one child. . . and one special family.

Most of these family portrait cards say nothing about Jesus or mention any biblical truths drawn out of the early chapters of the Gospels describing the Messiah's birth.

Am I dense? I don't get it. What does a family portrait card have to do with Christmas and this holy time of year?

How about this suggestion? Pass a federal or state law making February 19th or any other date, "Family Day." On this day we send all our friends cards with family portraits with three page newsletters describing how Johnny's front teeth fell out and little Cindy's had her first dance recital. That would be wonderful.

But when it comes to Christmas, I wonder if Jesus is saying, "Hey you, get off my cloud." This time is about Him not your kids or my kids. Why send cards that say nothing when Christians have a greatest message in the world?

What did the angel say to the shepherds? Listen carefully: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11 NIV). Now that's a Christmas card. Joseph and Mary could take a portrait of themselves and print those words from Luke 2 and make that their Christmas greetings.

Now some followers of Messiah are afraid to offend secular people or their family by including in a card any allusion to the New Testament message of the birth of Christ. My response? Don't send a card if you can't be honest about your beliefs. No one is going to discover "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son" by looking at your family all decked out in your front yard wearing reindeer sweaters and Santa hats.

I know . . this year the cards have gone out. It's too late to make a change. But during Christmas '08 let's be sure to send cards that say something about the Lord instead of postcards that say something about us. The name of the holiday is "Christ"-mas not "Family"-mas.

Perhaps if we treated Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus and our observance of the incarnation (God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth), secular people would respect our spiritual choices. How can they believe the good news unless they hear the message?

Thank God the first chapter of Matthew and the first two chapters of Luke's gospel were not presented on a postcard from Bethlehem showing the adoring parents of Jesus admiring their son with the message: Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year from Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Where would we be if that's the message the parents of Jesus decided to send the world?

Seriously . . . I wish you all a joyous Christmas. Thanks for reading my blog. I desire you all have a Messiah centered celebration of our Risen Lord Yeshua and a wonderful New Year giving honor to and serving Him.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rear Ended by Another Language

I'm driving North on the 101 Ventura Freeway. It's 5:10 pm. It's dark. The traffic is heavy . . . stop and go. A typical Wednesday night drive in overcrowded Los Angeles.

I cross the intersection where the 405 meets the 101. I travel about 1/2 mile and notice an ocean of red stop lights before me. I come to a stop safely behind a vehicle. I look into my rear view mirror, and I see the car behind me is coming full speed right at my car. It doesn't look the vehicle is going to stop. I brace myself for the impact. I place my foot on the brake to see if I can prevent my car from hitting the auto in front of me. At least I can spare myself some frontal damage as my car is about to absorb some heavy impact.

The collision occurs. I am hit hard. Metal crunching metal. I am so upset. I calm down after the impact. I am wearing a seat belt, and I'm in a Volvo. A winning combination for an LA guy from New Jersey.

I pull over to the shoulder of the road, hoping the other car will follow suit and not take off. It's LA . . . remember. The other vehicle, a Mercury van crosses the lanes to the right hand side of the road. I get out of my car and four Hispanic women exit the other vehicle.

None of them speak English. I've been rear ended by another language. This is one of those times when it would really help if we all spoke the same language. . . specifically the tongue of America . . . English . . . as a first language.

I knew I needed to get insurance information, the driver's California driver's license number, her phone number and license plate number. But for them not knowing English, this was going to be interesting and very frustrating.

I asked for the basics. Instead of responding to me, they spoke to each other trying to figure out what I was requesting. So I took over. I asked for the woman's purse and copied her driver's license info. She could not understand my request for her insurance company's name and policy number. The car's license plate was a no brainer.

But the experience was frustrating. For those in California who feel Hispanics do not need to learn English, here is a prime example of a situation where the lack of communication was a hindrance. When I spoke to the claims adjuster at Allstate the next day he asked me all kinds of questions I could not answer because I could not ask any of these women due to the language barrier.

Thank God her husband knew some English. While at the scene of the accident, she called him on her cell phone and we spoke. I was able to retrieve some more information despite his partially English accent.

He was also a very honest individual who called me the next day and gave me the rest of the information I needed.

So do people from other countries who come into the USA, need to learn English? Should a grasp of the English language be a requirement to become a U.S. citizen?

My response is predictable. My Jewish ancestors who came to America from Eastern Europe to escape whoever was persecuting them, thought learning English was a the greatest privilege. To these immigrants, the ability to speak the language of America was a cause for pride. For the one who spoke English could truly boast with pride, "I'm an American now!"

We've lost this sense of American dignity in the name of sensitivity and political correctness towards Latinos. Why are they getting a free pass? Why do English speaking people need to sidestep the reality that it is frustrating to have to communicate important information to people who can't understand a word we're saying.

English is the language of the United States. Spanish is the language of Mexico. If you are going to be a citizen of either country, one should be required to learn the native tongue.

if not, the next time you or I are rear ended, you might need some vital information that cannot be gained. What if the driver was hurt, needed medical attention and was allergic to some medications? Are the paramedics going to be required to speak Spanish to gain important medical data? Will they have to take an interpreter with them? What if there is a Hebrew speaking person who is injured or a Chinese individual? Will we need to bring an ambulance full of U.N. interpreters to accompany the paramedics every time they answer a 911 call?

Let's stop the political correctness rhetoric and not allow ourselves to be rear ended by another language.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christians Forgiving Muslims. What's Next?

According to Dhimmi Watch Christian leaders recently signed a document in response to an open letter from 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals affirming the common ground between the two faiths. The Christian response to this letter was to ask Muslims to forgive Christians for their past and present transgressions against the followers of Muhammed.

The Christian document started off saying, "We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors."

According to the description of the Muslim letter contained in this article, the Islamic authorities spoke of the common ground between Christians and those of the Islamic faith. The Christian letter goes on to say, "We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbours."

It all sounds wonderful and warm and thoughtful. In fact, the signers on the document range from Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church to a Vineyard pastor. Jim Wallis of the left leaning Sojourners is included along with Robert Schuller and a host of other evangelical and liberal Protestant types. Most distressing is to see the names of evangelical greats like Bill Hybels noted pastor of Willow Creek Church, theologian John Stott of All Souls Church and the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Mouw.

I find this to be quite amusing since the Crusades did not happen under the auspices of the Protestant Church but the Roman Catholic Church. It was in 1095 Pope Urban II who preached the First Crusade and inspired the Crusaders to capture Jerusalem in 1099 from the Islamic Turks. Shouldn't the Pope be the one who is apologizing to the Muslims on behalf of the Roman Catholic militants who attacked Jerusalem?

Since these Protestant dignitaries feel the need to ask forgiveness of a religious faith (Islam) that attacked Western Christendom for centuries, how about these Christians ask forgiveness on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the way they mistreated and killed Jewish people during the Crusades? Synagogues were burned to the ground with Jewish worshippers inside while Crusaders sang Christian hymns. Rick Warren, Robert Schuiller, Jim Wallis, are you ready to ask forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church for their butchering of Jews during the Crusades?

Do these men have any idea of what they are doing? Have we now reached a place in evangelical Christianity that all we need to do is to say the word "forgiveness," and we have a willing crowd ready to sign on the dotted line? As a US citizen should I apologize to a Brit for the American revolutionaries rebelling against King George? I remember attending a Promise Keeper event where Christians were asked to stand and ask God to forgive us for the way we as Americans treated Native American Indians. I was bewildered. My Jewish ancestors didn't do a thing to Native Americans. I refused to stand.

If one reads Christian history, it is painfully obvious that Muslims need to apologize to the Christians for sacking Jerusalem over and over until it fell to Islamic rule. In essence it is the Islamic leaders who need to apologize for destroying all of Christendom in North Africa and the Middle East and Spain. It is the Muslim leaders who need to ask forgiveness for forcibly converting everyone in their path, from Berber pagans to Afghani Buddhists. For those who would not convert to the Islamic offer of an All-Merciful Allah, the alternative was death.

For the record it was in 807 that Caliph Harun al—Rashid orders the destruction of non—Muslim prayer houses and of the church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem. Has any one heard any Muslim apology for the destruction of a Christian house of worship. God to Jihad Watch and read the list of Muslim aggression against Byzantine Christianity that went on for centuries until the Christian Crusades rose up in response.

If anyone should apologize, it should be these evangelical leaders for putting forth such a preposterous offer of pardon to a bloodthirsty religion that has done far worse than Middle Age Christianity has ever done. At least present day Christianity has reformed itself and no longer seeks the threat of death as an evangelistic tool!

Don't forget that these Christian men also extended forgiveness for the "excesses of the “war on terror”". I want to fall over faint when I read that absurdity. Yes, there have been excesses at Abu Grahib and Guantanamo. But it was aimed against political prisoners and suspected terrorist not newspaper journalists like Daniel Perl. Where are the apologies for the televised Islamic inspired beheadings? Where is the outcry from Islamic clerics for the repeated car bombings against Iraqi civilians and persecutions against Christians in Iraq?

My Christian brothers like Rick Warren and Jim Wallis need a history lesson on what took place in the holy city of Jerusalem after the Romans razed the city. Where is the apology from the Italians to the Jews for destroying Jerusalem?

Why are Christians so ready to offer forgiveness when there is no repentance? Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The key motivation for forgiveness in these verses is repentance. Have I missed out on an Islamic request for pardon with a full on repentance for all its atrocities?

Also, I am waiting for an Protestant Christian offer of forgiveness to the Jewish people for the Catholic led Inquisitions during the Middle Ages which included forced conversions and baptisms, torture and massacres aimed at the Jewish inhabitants of Europe. Did I miss that too?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don Imus is Not the Problem

Eight months after the controversy that made Don Imus a national lightning rod for accusations of being a racist, the radio personality has returned to the air.

Imus, according to news reports, was contrite and spoke of his error as "reprehensible" in using a racist and sexist slur in referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos." Back in April when he made his thoughtless comments, Imus met with the female athletes for four hours. He vowed after that encounter to "never say anything in my life that will make those young woman . . . feel foolish that they forgave me." Despite his contriteness, Imus' comments led to his quick dismissal after just one week.

Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters for America, said to the Washington Post of Imus, "Don Imus has an opportunity to show the American people that he has learned from his experience -- that the bigoted insults he once leveled on a regular basis have no place on the public's airwaves." Assuming Imus makes regular ethnic slurs on the airwaves, he cannot be excused.

I do not excuse Imus' irresponsible comments made eight months ago. Philip Nobile, a freelance moralist, noted that "Imus needs to apologize for a lifetime of bigotry." Yes, Imus has an issue. A serious issue.

But he is not the issue.

The real and deeper issue is the consistent usage of these racist comments by African American rap singers.

When the Imus storm broke, Oprah invited to her show the Rutgers Women Basketball team plus several music industry moguls and a "clean" rap star. The take away from the show was a promise made by the music industry crowd to host meetings to discuss the usage of offensive language in rap songs.

On a recent Hannity and Colmes show, Sean Hannity asks some of his guests whether any rap stars were fired in the past eight months because of racially offensive language in their songs. The guests evaded any answer.

So what we do conclude from this white/black interchange of racial comments? Are African American rap singers held to a lower standard of intolerance than whites? Listen to the lyrics of the rap star 50 Cent in his song ,"That Ain't Gangsta" (please excuse the repeated references to the "N" word):

How you gonna take this? like a Man or a bitch?
you gon' get it on nigga or you gon' snitch?
I represent niggas in the hood gettin' rich
man, I stack chips and I unload clips
after 3 Summers in the joint I thought life was hard
some niggas started fightin', some niggas found God
you know me, started sellin' leek in the yard

Offensive enough? He makes Don Imus look like a pussycat. Why is 50 Cent allowed to use the "N" word? Just because he's black? That doesn't matter. It's a racist ugly term whether it comes from the mouth of an African American or a Caucasian. Unfortunately, the term has become commonplace among blacks and used as a greeting. I grew up in Newark, NJ in the sixties. Unfortunately, I speak as an eyewitnesss.

As a Jew I would be highly offended if a fellow Jewish person said hello to me using the "K" word or any other antisemitic term. I have a lot of Italian friends and the only time I have ever heard an ugly word used to describedanother Italian is when they are angry at that person or the other individual did something despicable. I've never heard an Italian refer to another Italian using a racial slur in a commonplace manner.

The problem is not Don Imus. The problem is a lack of respect among African Americans in how they speak to one another and how the rap artists sing to each other.

I could never imagine Martin Luther King referring to his staff using the "N" word. Listen to the speeches of Bill Cosby asking blacks to stop using the "N" word.

The only thing wrong about Imus' comment is that it came out of a white mouth. If he was Black, that would not have been a problem . . . so it appears.

How do I know? Listen to the lyrics of Soulja Body in their recent 2007 song Crank That Soulja Boy:
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank It
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

Do you see the "H" word? Isn't this word a put down on African American women, calling them "hos"? Why does Soulja Boy get a free pass referring to Black women with a term that got a white man fired from his job? Something is wrong with this picture. . . terribly wrong. I call it "injustice."

Meetings among music industry gangsta rap executives will not change a thing. As bold as WABC was in firing Imus, there needs to be more courageous firings in the music media.

Martin Luther King use to warn of the ideology of gradualism, the idea that eventually and gradually using meetings and speeches, civil rights for Blacks with eventually change. Dr. King rejected that idea and called for immediate action. When I hear African American record executives speak of dealing with racially offensive language in rap songs by having meetings, it's gradualism all over again.

Want to make gradualism go away? Stop buying rap artist's CDs until something changes. I am speaking to white suburban types who purchase this music. I am speaking to the African American community and their need to rise up with the likes of Bill Cosby and say, "Enough is enough. Clean it up. No more "N" words in your music. Stop accusing whites like Don Imus for using racial slurs while you use them yourself." It's an issue of self-respect and the Black community has accomplished quite a lot to be proud of and has produced some incredible leaders and intellects to create a deep sense of pride.

As a white man . . . a Jewish white man . . I say "Stamp out the 'N' word from Rap music." The time is now.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Do Women Wait Longer Than Men?

At first I thought it was preposterous. The article from was entitled, "Waiting for Good Joe." Tim Harford's premise is that women are shabbily treated when they go to coffee shops like Starbucks.

I thought to myself, "What in the world is this guy talking about?" I spent all last summer in a Starbucks 6 days a week banging out articles on my laptop while fermenting in Starbucks. I never saw any women being mistreated or handled like a second class customer. In fact, I would go out of my way to give a woman my place or demonstrate any sign of respect and kindness to a woman waiting in line for her java.

Here's what the Slate article puts forth:

American economist Caitlin Knowles Myers, with her students as research assistants, staked out eight coffee shops in the Boston area and watched how long it took men and women to be served. Her conclusion: "Men get their coffee 20 seconds earlier than do women."

Since I am not a woman, I am not sure whether an extra 20 second wait constitutes discrimination or just complaining. If I consistently had to wait an extra 20 seconds because I a man, I might get frustrated. Would I launch a study to figure out why this is taking place? No! I'd complain to the management, call Starbucks corporate and voice my displeasure. Then, to shut me up, they would give me a year's worth of drinks and everyone would be happy.

That's a guy. But for twenty seconds? What's twenty seconds?

One skeptic surmises that women have to wait longer because women order froufrou drinks. The researchers on this study at Middlebury College in the Boston area, report that men order simpler drinks. Since women order more fancy drinks, they are forced to wait longer.

The study debunked this proposition: The delays facing women were larger when the coffee shop staff was all-male and almost vanished when the servers were all-female. Hmmmm! Was it the longer wait due to a male contempt for women or was the all male staff slowing down the pace just for the opportunity to flirt with female customers.

As the study was done in Boston, a Yankee fan's "favorite" town, I looked for the first chance I got to slam Bean Town. I posted a comment on the blog saying, "Guys in California and New York would never treat women like that. Perhaps men in Boston just don't know how to give preference to the fairer sex. That goes for the baristas and customers. But then I concluded I was just being mean and still disgruntled about the Red Sox 3-1 comeback against the Yankees in '04. Darn that Schilling! So I backed off my anti-Boston bias.

I proudly said to myself, "Though I am not a native Californian, I know this would not happen in LA."

So I sauntered into Starbucks at the Glen Center. I was all set for a quick in-and-out. Two women were ahead of me. One ordered a Non-Fat Latte and the other a Carmel Something or Other. I ordered a Grande Green Tea Latte . . . my signature drink. The barista was taking her time prepping the drinks. You will notice I said "Her time."

Perhaps she was new on the job. However . . . the two women and I waited a long time for our orders to filled. It was longer than twenty seconds. The women had a look of exasperation on their faces as they glanced at me. I smiled back knowingly. Their drinks came up on the bar and the two women left. When my Green Tea Soy Latte was up on the bar, the barista apologized to me-not to the women-for taking so long. Then she hands me a card entitling me-a man-to a complimentary Starbucks drink the next time I walk into the store. She didn't offer any complimentary drinks to the women and they waited as long as I did. So maybe there is something to this discrimination in coffee shops against women.

However, the so-called discrimination was aimed at two women by a female barista. So economic students of Middlebury College, you need to come to LA and research the impact of females waiting on other females to determine if females discriminate against each other and favor men.

So now I am on the lookout when I go into a coffee shop. The next time a similar incidents happens when women appear to be mistreated, I will not launch a study but I will open my mouth and draw attention to the fact an extra twenty seconds wait for any gender is intolerable. After all, we all need to get out of this coffee shop and drive to our jobs where we often wait on people all day or cause people to wait on us . . . sometimes even longer than twenty seconds.

Share your comments. I'll be waiting for you . . . but for only so long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What To Do with Email Overload

Here's a question for you. What percentage of the email you receive is actually important to you? If you're like me, about 20% of my emails are really significant and need to be responded to. Well . . maybe I don't need to respond that day and maybe not 25% . . .

When Wall Street Journal readers were asked "What proportion of the emails you receive at work are actually important to you?" 43% of respondents admitted only 1/4 of their emails at work are important.

What does this say about us? Are we just filling up our email boxes with written distractions?

In a Wall Street Journal article entitled, Email's Friendly Fire," Rebecca Buckman lays out the sad state of cyber mail:

"Email overload is now considered a much bigger workplace problem than traditional email spam. Inboxes are bulging today partly because of what some are calling "colleague spam" -- that is, too many people are indiscriminately hitting the "reply to all" button or copying too many people on trivial messages, like inviting 100 colleagues to partake of brownies in the kitchen. A good chunk of today's emails are also coming from brand new sources, like social- and business-networking sites like Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn Corp., or text messages forwarded from cellphones"

But supposedly there's hope because now we can purchase email software that will help us deal with our email overload:

"Unlike previous email-technology companies that only addressed problems like external email spam or offered narrow products that screened messages for certain content, new companies are now springing up to deal with the email-overload problem and help sort the deluge. Silicon Valley start-ups including ClearContext of San Francisco and Seriosity Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., are specifically tackling the problem of internal email overload. Meanwhile, other start-ups like San Francisco's Xobni Corp., are trying to help people better organize and search the email and personal-contact load they already have."

Our sad state of affairs is expressed in the same WSJ article: "Last year, the average corporate email user received 126 messages a day, up 55% from 2003, according to the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto market research firm. By 2009, workers are expecting to spend 41% of their time just managing emails"

I actually don't want software that will place my emails in separate folders so I don't need to see certain correspondences. Just the fact that I know the folder exists is enough to drive me crazy. What if there are 200 emails in that folder? Am I suppose to feel good about that?

What I do need is a program that will stop unnecessary emails from ever entering my inbox.

Do I really need to receive all those Fw:Fw:Fw's? if we can just get people to stop sending recycled stupid jokes, chain emails and warnings about computer viruses, we might slim down our email intake.

All this emailing, even if it is ever resolved, has got to take a toll on your soul. Do I want to spend 40% of my workday corresponding?

But this email overload carries into our homes and social lives outside of work.
Well-meaning individual depend on emails to make dinner plans and appointments. They assume everyone is glued to their laptop just waiting to clap with glee when an email comes in.

The time spent at home reading emails and responding to them can be put to better use.

But what is the real problem with our e-overload? Too much email dehumanizes us.

Do you know the feeling you get when you call customer service, and you are forced to transverse through an endless menu and you are dying to a hold of a living human? Sometimes in this e- and i-world, it's nice to hear a human voice. I am fearful that all this email is pushing us further away from one another as we speak with virtual beings through the words, "You've Got Mail!"

Yet, I have made a choice to join the e-generation through AOL, Earthlink, Gmail and

I will still check my emails 25 times a day. I will still answer mostly all of my personal emails. However, I have to stop and ask whether I am losing something precious in the process. It's true I write to more people than I ever have in my life. That's a plus. I can shorten business transactions and correspondences because of emails. That's also a plus. So I cannot complain too much.

However, I still want to need the sound of a human voice. But most of all, I want to hear silence. The silence of God's analog voice above the cyber-din. With God I know He'll never resort to email and that He'll never send me a Fw:Fw:Fw of the Book of Jonah. God is our last hope to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of being a human. Only in God's presence can I find the stillness that brings rest of my soul. God's touch in my life is personal and never spammed to a million other people. He knows me and my needs and hurts.

What can we do? Keep it simple.

Take a week off from emailing. Stop filling up each other's inboxes with email "television" . . . . wasting time flipping through silly correspondences that deluge us daily.

You may not be able to control your email activity at work, but at home it's another story.

Keep on reading literature that does not appear on your computer screen. Poetry. Classical lit. Poignant newspaper articles. Keep on enjoying non-computer generated art. Allow yourself to be bathed in the beauty of an afternoon Sunday string quartet concert. Learn a musical instrument. Write. Be creative.

Remember the beauty of life that once existed outside the internet. That world still exists.

Stay alive. Stay human. Keep in touch with your own soul and the beauty of what God has placed within your tired, spammed frame.

BTW: my email address is . . . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where Have All Our Heroes Gone?

We are at a loss for true heroes. Our diminishing of heroes is especially prevalent in the sports world. Barry Bonds breaks the all time Home Run record amidst the hovering stench of accusations of steroid usage. Political figures are accused of financial improprieties. Entertainment divas are succumbing to drug and alcohol addictions left and right.

A few years back NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barclay claimed he was not a role model. Does that go for Barry Bonds or Michael Vick or Brittney Spears? Does anybody want to take responsibility for their actions?

In a World Net Daily article Star Parker addressed Barclay’s shrugging off responsibility as a role model: "If Charles Barkley, with all the blessings this country has cast his way, took a humble moment to look at reality, there is no way he could flippantly dismiss his responsibilities as a public figure."

Parker continues, "His {Barclay's] claim that responsibility for children's behavior should reside exclusively within the family shows he hasn't bothered in any way to look at his own black community. Very sadly, in most cases, black children have no intact family toward which to turn. Children will look somewhere for guidance. Where does Charles Barkley think these kids are getting their values – and where does he think they are formulating their views about what life is about?"

So where do we go for values? Where are the heroes of our society?

Let me pick a present day hero for you: Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez.

When Ramirez was a young man, he became fascinated with the Marines. He saw ads to join the Marines on billboard. He felt a sense of power from the Marines, especially the uniforms with the crossed swords.

Soon after the U.S. went into Iraq he announced to his family he was going to enlist in the Marine Corp. He was only 16. His mother prayed the war would be over before he was old enough. He finally joined the Corp Infantry when he was 19. It was all he thought about. His father, a veteran of a local militia during the Salvadorian civil war, tried to talk him out of it. Young Ramirez felt his father was interfering with his needing to grow up.

After overcoming the protests of his parents, Marine recruiters formed the next obstacle for Rogelio. They told him he needed to pass a GED-general equivalency diploma-exam and complete 15 credits.

His mother felt relieved since she assumed her son would not want to go back to school. Over the next year Rogelio showed the discipline necessary as he had never shown before. He was determined to become a Marine. He went to night school and earned a GED. Then he entered Pasadena City College taking Spanish, Italian and math.

After finishing school and poised to enter the Corp, Ramirez discovered he still owed $1200 in truancy fines from his days of ditching high school. This dampened his chances to enter the Marines since the Corp doesn't take recruits with lending legal problems.

One other obstacle for Rogelio was about to be scaled. He found a night job at McDonald's while attending college during the day. It took a year . . . but he paid off his fines.

One other thing . . . Marines also don't accept recruits with certain tattoos. Ramirez had a tattoo on his left hand which showed he was a member of a gang. He never was a member of a gang but he got the tattoo a number of years before as a prank. With a scissors he painfully removed the tattoo himself.

Ramirez passed the Marine entrance exam and left for induction right before his birthday June 30, 2006. A year later in July he was sent to Iraq. He became a machine gunner on an armored vehicle.

On one occasion, the night of August 25, Ramirez had gone out on patrol. When his convoy was attacked, he was able silence several insurgent machine gun positions, providing cover that allowed Marines to evacuate the wounded. The next day officers asked for volunteers to go out again the night of August 26th. Rogelio volunteered to go out a second night when most soldiers would have passed.

On patrol that night an explosive device hit his vehicle and Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez was killed instantly.

Ramirez had left behind a child he had with his girlfriend Carla Lopez.

Four days before he left for the war, he had these words by English philosopher John Stuart Mill tattooed on his right side:

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." That's my hero. A man with purpose. Determination. A role model. Who needs Charles Barclay when we have Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez.

The heart and sacrifice of this young man demonstrate to me that we still have heroes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Come and Get it or Come and Give It

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why? No gifts. Little shopping obligations. No holiday cards. No one is offended by how much was spent on a present or what kind of present. Not many Thanksgiving songs constantly playing in the malls. It's an easy holiday.

But I am a guy. So I don't want to discount all the hard work put in by the women, the Moms, the wives, sisters and girlfriends when it comes to preparing the meal. Once in awhile I've purchased the turkey, cleaned out the gizzards and entrails. I've stuffed turkeys and carved them. So I am not a total stranger to the incredible amount of work women do on what is essentially a guy's day off to watch football and wait for the dinner call, "Come and Get It!"

But there's always an emptiness at the Thanksgiving table. yes, there are plenty of compliments about the food, the mashed potatoes, the gravy, the sweet potatoes pie, the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie with whipped cream adorning it.

Yet some people manage to complain on Thanksgiving. The turkey's too dry or not cooked enough. The turkey's never as good as it was last year. Someone is bound to throw out, "Did you make this pumpkin pie or buy it at Marie Calendar's?"

Moist turkey or dry . . . something is missing. It's thankfulness.

Does it ultimately matter where the pie comes from or if the stuffing has enough walnuts or too many? When we complain about food, Thanksgiving suddenly takes on the materialistic vibe of Christmas where we find a myriad of things to gripe about. Yes . . . you're right. I am complaining right now. I know it. But then I'd have nothing to write about.

Let me share with you some great reasons to start practicing true thankfulness during this Thanksgiving celebration.

Be thankful for what you have but also be thankful that what you have is more than you'll ever need. For instance, a typical Starbucks' latte is $3.50. 5 cups would be $17.50. That's what I usually spend each week. But $17.50 can also be used to help prevent malaria for an entire family in the Congo.

Be thankful for when you go out for dinner especially with another person. The two of you will rack of a tab of at least $35.00. For $35.00 you could pay for tuition and food for one child in Uganda for an entire month.

Be thankful when you are able to gas up you SUV for $200 a month. That's enough to pay for the education of 100 students in Ethiopia.

Be thankful when you are able to enjoy a plethora of entertainment: $20.00 for a movie; $50 for cable TV pumped into your house; $130 to go to a theme park and $200 to attend a music concert. For $400 four water purifiers can be bought to pump clean water to a village in Thailand.

Be thankful for your wardrobe. Three pairs of pants costs $150; Three shirts would set you back $90.00; three pair of jeans would ring up at $200 and one jacket should cash out at $150. So for a new wardrobe, you are putting $590 on your department store credit card. You might be so blessed you can pay cash. But for $590 you can feed four children in Uganda for life.

Be thankful for all the wealth we have in America. $60,000 in the U.S. buys one month for food for 250 Americans. In the Sudan, $60,000 buys a month worth of food for 4700 Sudanese. I assume that includes the Cool Whip on their pumpkin pie.

Be thankful for the access we have to a cornucopia of clothing stores. $175,000 in the U.S. will buys a year's worth of clothing for 200 children. In Rwanda $175,000 will clothe 19,500 children for a year or more.

A dry or moist turkey seems ludicrous at this juncture. Let's be truly thankful this year. We are rich and we have all we will ever need. If you can't truly say that, I suggest you use your Christmas money and take a trip to the Sudan and get a reality check.

Do want something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Listen to the Psalmist:
The LORD is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
All of your works will thank you, LORD,
and your faithful followers will bless you. (Psalm 145:9-10).

In the midst of the wars, HIV/AIDs, poverty and suffering, be at least thankful you for what you do have. But take it one step further. Start supporting organizations and ministries that reach out to the people in Uganda, Rwanda, Thailand and the Sudan. This year, cut down on the Starbucks, the new wardrobe, your hunger for more and more entertainment, and all the rest. The money you save might save some lives. Then you'll learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Does God Ever Step Outside His Will?

I can hear it now. Blasphemy! How can you utter such words? Are you still a Christian, Louis? You've been in the ministry for over three decades. How could you?

Exactly my point. I've been in the ministry for almost half my life and I've seen it all. I've seen the best and I've witnessed the worst.

So once again, we ask, does God ever make mistakes? Are you ever truly disappointed with the way your life turned out . . . even though you believe you are in God's will?

To not admit we toy with this question is dishonest. We dare not tell anyone. We're afraid of what others might say. We fear the wrath of God. Yet deep in the recesses of our souls, my question reverberates with yours. Admit it.

It's a mental game, isn't it? Here are the rules. No matter what God allows in your life . . . no matter how bad your life ends up . . . and no matter how miserable you are, God is always right-His will is perfect-and you're always wrong to question Him.

Read the Word of God. Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Sure, you can play around with the Hebrew and Greek so that they refer to God's completeness. Still . . . He is perfect. His will is always correct. . . right?

So stop thinking. Cease all your questioning and get on with your life. Stop complaining.

I can buy that response if I was an atheist. Ultimately I would be responsible for everything that occurs in my life, right? So who's your Daddy? No one. Not God. It's all me. It's life. It's circumstances. Stuff happens! The universe is indifferent to your happiness.

But I am not an atheist.

Here's our dilemma. We have to live in an imperfect universe; fractured people struggling with illness, undeserved suffering and financial woes surround us. Then I am supposed to say, "God's never wrong." Yet deep in my soul, there's this nagging question: Can I really stand behind God as I watch this mother bury her 14-year-old daughter killed in a senseless car accident?

For Christians it can be a one-way conversation. God allows bad stuff to take place and I cannot question Him. Something is not right with this picture.

I know all the prescriptions Christians write out for my disbelief: God allows suffering to accomplish His will, to mold our spiritual character, because of sin and disobedience, since we live in a cursed world and to ultimately give Himself glory when He delivers us . . . if He does.

I guess you can't do much better than these explanations. If you say all disappointment and suffering is our fault and all the blessings belong to God. That’s a cop out. It's circular reasoning. Here's the argument: God is perfect. Whatever He does is perfect. Imperfection is all around us and impacts our lives. Therefore, anything imperfect cannot be from God.

God is off the hook. We are left alone trying to figure this out. Very alone and scared. Yet I wonder if the problem is not really God but the way Christians represent God.

Christians feel they have to defend God so He always looks righteous and perfect. This is where we get into trouble. Does God need us to defend Him? If He allows cancer into the life of an infant, are you going to try to make up some cockamamie explanation because you must run in and save God from embarrassment? I stopped doing that a long time ago.

I was a pastor for many years. I reached a point where I looked at all the hurt and disappointment and could no longer try to explain God to people. He has to get His own defense attorney . . . Himself. I'd rather live with mysteries in the universe rather than offer someone a cliché about tragedies that come into their lives.

Perhaps the best explanation for those times when we wonder if God has stepped over His own boundary line is, "I really don't know why you're going through this horrific time." Rather than take the risk of saying something stupid and superficial, this is the better approach.

No, I do not believe God makes mistakes. But I don't believe it is up to us to front God with a reason or explanation for our suffering. Regardless of the insights offered to Job by his three friends, it was only when Job himself went toe-to-toe with the Lord that the patriarch received his answer. God's response was not too pretty, but at least it came from the Lord Himself. It's a lot better than a bunch of Biblical speculators starting each sentence with "Maybe God is trying to . . . or Maybe He is teaching you . . . When we remove the "maybes' from our spiritual vocabulary and wait on God to hear His voice, then we're cooking.

It's not that God makes mistakes; it's when we try to explain or defend Him we make Him look like He doesn't know what He's doing.

I would love to hear what you have to say. Maybe . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Moral Enough to Hate

I don't get it. Why do Christians become arrogant about their morality? When you became a follower of Jesus, you sang these words, "I once was lost but now I am found". Somehow along the way, we forget ever being lost; somehow we discovered ourselves to be moral people and are quite proud of it.

Here's the dilemma: Jesus died for our sins, "while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:8). On the other hand we read in 1 Timothy 1:15, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." "Of whom I AM the worst." Do we ever forget who we are? Do we ever leave behind the fact that we are saved by the grace of God and if not for the Lord's mercy, we would still be doing the "mess around?"

Several decades ago God delivered me from a gripping drug addiction. I know deep down I did not deliver myself from these mind-warping drugs. God performed that supernatural blessing. Ever since, I have not touched any psychedelic drugs (I do take Tylenol if that's okay). Praise the Lord. Do I now have the right to be arrogant about my lack of drug addiction? Can I look down on someone still psychologically hooked on pot? Does anyone have the right to be arrogant about their spirituality and resulting morality? I don't think so.

Whatever the sin the Lord delivered you from-sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying, stealing, violence or being an expert con-once you've allowed His grace to touch your life, you give up the right to be prideful, judgmental and boastful about your present moral state.

Don't you love it when Christians become all high and mighty judging the sins of others and naming calling people who commit crimes or rebel against the Lord? After God has worked for years conforming us to the image of His Son, do we now take His supernatural work and make it our own?

We kick God out the picture, beat our chest and cry out, "Look at me! I'm not gay. I never had an abortion. I never committed fornication. I never stole money. I'm perfect and godly and a wonderful Christian. I'm Ned Flanders!"

Baloney! Where is the grace of God in this kind of attitude? Where is a sense of the Lord's mercy on our lives in His forgiveness of us? I pity the people who are fighting a losing battle against certain sins. Is there room for them in a church filled with arrogant moralists? Is there any space for these honest souls who can't seem to find victory over their vices? Instead, they receive condemnation, isolation and turned up noses by other Christians. I'm sorry but that is not Christianity. It's moralism, and I believe some Christians cannot tell the difference.

Jesus did not die to make us moral. God has saved us to be holy like Him through His power. But that fact is to keep up humble not puffed up. A prideful self righteous Christian is a contradiction. A moral Christian who looks down at others has not taken their sins to the cross. They sidestepped the cross, took the moral principles of the New Testament and now are empowered to hate others who cannot conform to the standards.

How do you hate or look with disdain upon anyone committing heinous sins? Are you any better? Yes, you may answer. But why? Who made you better? God did! The Lord changed your heart. You better get on your knees before the Lord and thank Him for your deliverance and get up from your knees in humility not pride. If you are still filled with pride, get back on your knees. You still haven't gotten the message of Christianity.

It's the people who know their sins and are candid enough to admit they need the Lord to make it through every day, who are the honest Christians. The rest of us are hypocrites, still unable to see ourselves as we truly are. Of course, I am a hypocrite for judging people who are hypocrites and critical moralists. At least I know I am still a sinner. Praise be to God.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Christian Hate Speech" from Anne Coulter

The slinky blonde in the black leather mini-skirt is at it again. This time Anne Coulter has used her Christian perspective to offend Jewish people.

According to NewsMax Coulter, a conservative pundit told CNBC’s Donnie Deutsch: “We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say … Christians believe the Old Testament (Jews) don’t believe our testament.” Asked by Deutsch if she believed everyone should be Christian, Coulter twice replied “Yes.”

Two observations strike me. First, Anne used the term "perfected". I assume she meant converted . . as in converted to Christ. Second, by believing everyone should be a Christian she is mirroring what every other evangelical Christian believes and what the New Testament teaches. In a sermon given to a Jewish audience, Peter said in Acts 4:12, "salvation is found in no one else [Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

Am I coming to Anne's rescue? Of course I am. This time Coulter is not just partially right (pun intended) but completely right (intended once more). I agree with her 100%.

To top it off, Coulter is being charged with uttering "hate speech." Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, condemned her comments, calling them “hate speech” and saying: “How does someone who says that Judaism should be thrown out, that Jews should be ‘perfected’ and that America would be better off were everyone Christian continue to receive a megaphone and platform from the news networks?"

Advocating that Jewish people need to accept Jesus as their Messiah is not hate speech. It's actually love speech. To not tell the people of Israel they need to accept Yeshua as their long awaited Messiah is "hate speech". Here's Paul the Apostle's heart on the Jewish need to embrace Jesus: I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh . . (Romans 9:1-3). To wish someone to accept eternal salvation through the Messiah and offering his own eternal salvation in exchange for theirs is not hate speech but heart speech.

Is it hate speech when Muslims wish Christians and Jews accept Mohammed as the final prophet and Allah as God? Is it hate speech when Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons argue their their literary sources or interpretations are the Word of God and that Jews and Christian are devoid of the truth unless they accept these respective positions?

Personally, I think Mormons and JWs are erroneous in their viewpoints. But I would not accuse them of hate speech.

Here was Coulter's position when she was interviewed on Hannity and Colmes the other night. I paraphrase, " All I am doing is standing up for my Christian convictions. I believe Jesus is the only true way of salvation and I am willing to stand up for my beliefs." Colmes accused her of being arrogant. However, isn't it arrogant when Jewish people declare there is only one true God when they recite the Shema on various religious occasions. The Shema makes no room for Hindus or any other polytheism. Is that hate speech?

Hate speech is now boiling down to one's expression of faith. To demand Christians or Jewish people or any other group refrain from espousing their beliefs because these doctrines go against the grain of other religions is closer to hate speech.

Will Jewish people become eradicated if they are all "perfected" as Ira Forman fears? Not really. The Apostle Paul holds out the hope that "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26). Then in the next verse he argues that Jewish salvation is a sign of God's faithfulness to Israel when He honors the covenant to remove their sins (Romans 11:27). Israel is not eradicated according to the New Testament but affirmed as God's people through their Messiah Yeshua.

In addition, Revelation 7 and 14 refers to Israel as existing in the future end times and Revelation 11 mentions an existing temple in Jerusalem in the last days. In no way is Jewish identity "eradicated" once a Jewish person or the nation accepts Jesus as their Redeemer.

Of course, pre-millennial Christians believe all the Old Testament prophecies that promise a blessed future for Israel in the Messiah's 1000 year kingdom on earth. That does not sound like eradication to me!

Is it hate speech to say Jewish people need to accept Jesus as Messiah? I'll let Jesus answer this final question: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [including Israel, author's comment], baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Monday, October 29, 2007

The God of the Good Life

Who said Christianity is an easy life? Some Christians do: They claim you just need to pray and God will answer your prayers as your expected. If not, they argue, then you've probably failed to exercise faith or you have an unconfessed sin that's hindering God's blessing. All you need to do is get rid of these problems and your prayers will be answered.

For the sake of discussion I divide Christianity into two echelons of believers. One level is composed of Christians who claim God is always performing miracles on their behalf. This is the God of the Good Life, as I call Him. These Christians observe God's hand everywhere and in everything.

The other group of Jesus’ followers seems to always struggle in life. They live with illnesses that linger and marriages that only become worse.

I've actually never met anyone in the first category. Well . . . yes, I have. I have encountered Christians who claim to hear from God on a continual basis. Every event in their life is another indicator of God's intervention. Yet these believers have just as many problems as anyone else . . . sometimes even more.

While the poor starve in third world countries and suffer with the HIV-AIDS epidemic, God is finding these higher echelon disciples prime parking spots in glorious malls so they can purchase the latest fashions from DKNY or Bebe's. Don't you just love how Jesus reinforces our self-indulgences?

Most people I know are patiently waiting on the Lord to answer their prayers, heal an illness or help them find employment. These are the people who rarely hear from God but tough it out day-by-day praying, trusting and growing in their trials. They don't seek the Lord for parking spots but for healing from malignant skin cancer. They are fed up with prayer gimmicks, formulas and the chanting of scripture passages to try to convince God to answer their prayers. They refuse to utter meaningless repetitional prayers that are somehow suppose to catch God's attention and motivate Him to care. To these faithful devotees, God is the God of the Good and the Not So Good Life . . . the real life .

Prayer in the hands of the miracle-seeking crowd has the potential to become cruel and heartless. The God of the higher echelon is a God who wants to heal and bless but His hands are tied by our limitations. Such a God is impotent and useless. His ability to help us is bound because we don't have the faith the size of a medicine ball, or we just haven't attended the right healing meeting or been prayed over by the right prayer warrior.

How shallow life becomes when all the disappointments we face become our fault. It sounds like the philosophy of "The Secret" with its law of attraction. Such philosophies reduce God to a weakling who is controlled by the negative and positive things we say or attract. He doesn't know whether He's coming or going. In fact, if God is limited by my negative or positive attitudes, then I am more powerful than God Himself and I've reduced Him to a wooden cosmic puppet.

In contrast, the God of the lower echelon heals people who have no faith and allows people with great faith to die in pain. He cannot be reduced to a formula. This deity does not run from hurt and disappointment. He sticks around when the parking lot is full and there are absolutely no parking spaces.

I love the God of the "lower echelon" because He allows us to be real. He permits us to cry when the hurt of loneliness is too much to bear. He holds us close when the radiologist delivers bad news about our x-rays. He's near in death and in life. He's the God who stands near us when our hurt is so unbearable forcing us to spew out a string of curses . . . some aimed at God Himself. Yet He is also the God who can perform a supernatural intervention when it will bring Him glory.

Sadly, the God of the Good Life is only near when healing is granted but far away when death knocks at our door. For those who only seek the God of miracles, perhaps you're missing out on who God really is? You see, your trust in God runs out when there are no parking spaces that open up. Your God can only cast blame on your lack of faith or your failure to launch yourself into the supernatural.

As for me, I'll take the God who lets me be real. I want the God who catches my tears and speaks warmth into a heart cold from being too alone.

When the parking lot is full, I will keep my motor running, and keep on seeking another spot even if I need to walk a few blocks to my destination. I'll thank Him either way and know at the end of the day my relationship with Him is as honest as can be.

I don't need to rationalize or scramble for a reasonable spiritual explanation for why things do not always work out. Maybe I'll never know. But in my heart I know I am under His care whether I walk from that far away parking spot in the bright shining sun or in the dismal driving rain.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I'm a Real Boy Now!

Christianity is my faith of choice. Depending on your theology, Christianity is also my faith in being chosen. I started walking with the Lord three decades ago. I embraced Jesus as my Messiah, Lord and Redeemer out of a deep need for inner wholeness.

My life was spinning out of control. I lost my moral compass and was wandering through the late sixties. At my moment of faith I had nothing to bring to God. No sense of personal righteousness. No religious jargon. No list of random acts of kindness. I offered God a life I had screwed up through involvement with drugs and stupid relationship choices. What attracted me to Jesus, or Yeshua, as I call Him, was that I didn't need to get religious in order to get spiritual. No pre-salvation clean-up. No need to change my political party. He did not even ask me to cease and desist from my debauchery until after He empowered me with the capacity to make changes.

At a time when I no longer loved myself and gravitated toward self destruction, His love for me drew me to Him.

I approached God with fear. I wondered, "Would He want me? What could He do with me?" I'm not perfect. My foul mouth. My sexual indiscretions. My over-the-top mentality. My attraction to living high.

I started off in the messianic faith with a sense of gratitude and humility. I always reflect on the moment when I first opened my heart to Jesus. My first few years of walking with the Lord was real, honest and vulnerable.

Then I entered the ministry . . . After nine years of college and graduate school I was immersed in evangelical Christianity. I became a seminar speaker. A pastor. A college professor. I loved serving God and others in these capacities.

My relationship to my faith changed. In order to be in spiritual leadership I was required to be an example of transcendent spirituality to others. Not only was I following Jesus; I had to be Him. Peopleexpected to look to me as a shining example of the character of God at work in a human. Always truthful. Holy. Righteous. Persevering. Faithful. Pure in thought and deed. Spotless in speech. Even secular people expected me to be Mr. Christ.

Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. Loneliness. Loneliness. Loneliness. Dishonesty. Dishonesty. Dishonesty.

"Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets"—Paul Tournier. Alas, so many Christians live in spiritual loneliness afraid of their secrets, forgetting God already knows the truth. He is waiting for us to run to His arms finding His love and mercy. Yes, I decided to be a secret agent instead of an honest Christian.

After awhile I realized i was living a double life. Outwardly, I had this facade of Christianity that made others feel good: at least someone seemed to be taking Jesus seriously. Inwardly, I struggled like anyone else. In my heart I was this person who decided to follow Jesus 30 years ago. The inner person cried out to be released because he is THE real person. My transparent self. The self that always needs Jesus. The external, plastic pastoral identity doesn't need Jesus. He is banking on his own self righteousness.

For the sake of spiritual survival, I decided the double life had to come to an end. Now I am no longer a pastor. However, my relationship with God and others has become more real. I can be honest about my moral struggles. I no longer need to live for what others think about me. I feel free. I am like Pinnochio who was released from being a puppet by his creator Geppetto and cried out: I'm a real boy now! Now I say, I'm a real Christian now! No more strings.

Too many followers of Jesus look good on the outside. They say the right things. Refrain from cursing. Shun discussion about sex. stay away from R-rated films. Only listen to sacred music. Read G-rated books and live in a Christian bubble while trembling at the thought of being tainted by the world. Their social life consists of church, bible study groups and small groups. They are several degrees of separation from mainstream living. They showcase a life most secular people are not attracted to. Outsiders fail to see Jesus in these well-intentioned Christians. They see self righteousness and self induced piety. It all looks good on the outside but it is on the inside-the heart, soul and mind-where Christ is the most real.

Give me an honest, sinning Christian who admits his struggle with sin and inhales the grace and mercy of God on a daily basis, and I will show you a true New Testament Christian.

So much more to say on this subject. For those who are tired of the Christian cultural veneer of perfectionistic Christianity, your voice needs to be heard. Too many Christians settle for lives of quiet desperation. You and I need to speak up and say it's okay to be real and vulnerable. God can handle it. He's handling me and I am still amazed He's still hanging around!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Music Capitol of the World

I live in Los Angeles, the hub of the music industry.

I came to LA in 1969 when the rockin' bands were the Doors, the Byrds and Zeppelin. Radio was free form. It was album driven and the DJs were able to play whatever they wanted. Any cut. Any band. Any album. The focus of music shifted from AM to FM. Commercial free FM radio played deep into the night. What I never understood was that LA radio hardly played any Dylan apart from "Like a Rolling Stone" or more of his pop stuff.

Now LA Radio rocks to the beat of Clear Channel. The local stations play what sells and they sell out on what should really be playing. Mostly, I find the best music on XM Satellite listening to Fred, Ethel and Lucy. Several podcasts from around the country play some incredible indie bands. Accidental Hash is a great podcast to find out what is brewing beyond the walls of the music industry and the controlled atmosphere of Clear Channel.

I am glad we have choices. Clear Channel is necessary. However, LA radio fails to give the listener much choice. A few alternative rock stations exists-KROQ and several college based stations. Yet this is the music capitol of the world. I love the music industry but the moguls need to start listening to what the people are listening and not to what the tweenies are buying. The good music will survive . . . it always does.