What seems to be missing in this whole debate surrounding "#My2K" and the taxes is the reality that the Bush Era tax cuts were sold to us as temporary. Now everyone feel entitled to keep them in perpetuity. I am an advocate for allowing the tax cuts to expire for everyone. We can't continue down this road that continues to divide us. If, after allowing them to expire, we need to look at rewriting the tax codes to help out the middle class then let's do that. However, we must all admit that we will all have to bear this burden together. The current course is clearly unsustainable. However, for folks who want to say that "Obamacare", Medicare/aid and Social Security alone are what's "the drag" on this economy I simply disagree.

Folks on "my team" have to be willing to bend and folks on the other side of this debate must be willing to bend. Democracy is the art of compromise. If we come to the negotiation table with all of the things that we are not going to give on then we just as well have stayed home.

We had an election and, as the saying goes, "Elections have consequences." Folks on the political right must get the point that they lost and with that lost should come the realization that "the American people" did sign off on the President's plan on getting us back on track. However, folks on the political left must understand that the Constitution gives the House of Representatives "the power of the purse" and since that body is under the leadership of the GOP we can't expect that they are going to give everything and we give nothing.

We need adults in Washington who are willing to lead for the good of this nation and not for the good of our respective political parties.

Let me finish with a quote from a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. :

"We must learn to live together as brothers or die together as fools."
MerryHallowHappyChrsitmasWeen! This seems to be what has occurred this year. Before Halloween was over, we were all ready for Christmas. Don't hear what I am not saying, please. Our best friends absolutely LOVE Christmas. They love to decorate. They love the times with family and friends. They love to give gifts to folks as an expression of their love and appreciation for them; there is nothing wrong with that. I love Christmas, too.

I fear, however, that we have lost what Christmas is to be. I fear that we, the Jesus people, have exchanged the beauty of Christmas and have become the Mammon people. We completely pass over Thanksgiving. We forget that we are to thank God for each of the many blessings that we enjoy. We should take Thanksgiving as a time to spend enjoying our families and friends. Instead we make Thanksgiving Day more of "Thanksgiving Afternoon"--to borrow a term from Michael Slaughter. Not only do we shorten the time that we get to spend with our families; we make it impossible for folks who work in the service industries to spend with their families. The other day I was remembering that my mom often cooked holiday meals the night before the holiday. I was thinking it was because she always cooked SO much food. But when I went further back into the memory bank, I was reminded that was not the only reason. You see, my mom worked in the service industry as a cook. She often had to cook the day before because she was required to work on Thanksgiving day. These folks do not get the opportunity to spend the times with their families because we really *must* get one of the twenty 32" televisions that will go on sale on Black Thursday.

Am I saying that we should not shop for gifts? No. I am suggesting that we, the Jesus people, take a long look at our part in the commercialization of Christmas. I really cannot be annoyed or surprised by folks who do not claim to be a Christian indulging in the God of this nation: materialism (Mammon) but when we are complicit I think we should pause and check ourselves. I am suggesting that when we do give gifts and shop we never allow that to overshadow the incredible miracle of Jesus. Jesus. This God-man who--as we profess--left his celestial home to descend into this (in comparison) hellhole we call earth. This guy, Jesus, came so that we might be reconciled to God. Jesus. The miracle descended so that we might have hope from our despair. Jesus came so that the most lonely and depraved person might know that he or she is someone worth dying for. On this day we celebrate that. On this day we re-align our perspective back to that.

I pray that you nor I  lose sight of this incredible gift. I pray that we do not blur the lines of capitalism in the West and the Bright Star from the east. I pray that you nor I ever are guilty of trading the incredible gift of salvation for the mammon of capitalism and greed. I pray that this season we pause and have a different kind of Christmas.

The challenge(s):

  1. Join me in committing to have a different kind of Christmas. Go over to Amazon and get the devotional, A Different Kind of Christmas, and let's commit to begin it the first Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2012) and read it into the New Year.
  2. Commit to not shop on Thanksgiving Day; spend the time with your family. Also, maybe if we do not all flock, like moths to a light, to the stores next year service-sector workers might get to spend at least Thanksgiving with their family and not have to go into work.
  3. When buying gifts, make efforts to be creative. Instead of giving another senseless gift that will soon lose its luster, maybe give a gift/buy a gift that will help to bring real lasting change...for time to come. Here are some of the places where I would suggest giving in another's name: (Click on the images to get more information)

I know that we can have a different kind of Christmas. I know that we, the Jesus people, can beat back this take over of Christmas. We can--and must--resist the allure of mammon.

Happy Thanksgiving!
When you love folks the imprints of them will forever be on your heart. I have been so blessed to do life with so many amazing folks. About three months ago I left a community of believers at Christ Church to join the team of a new group of believers at a fine church in Charlotte.

Three months later, the imprints of so many folks at Christ Church--especially the Fairgrove Campus are still on my heart. The Campus Pastor is one of my best friends on this planet; tonight I joined his wife (another of my best friends) and son (my godson and heart) over at the FG Campus to clean and reset the chairs. When I walked into the foyer of that campus where I worshipped for almost three years I was immediately struck by the smell of the campus. I know that sounds weird but those smells flooded my nostrils which then prompted me to remember so many great memories there. When I came to Fairgrove I was a wreck. I was an emotional and spiritual wreck.

Kelly and I moved to Hickory after a very low point in my life. Low point in my spiritual life, personal life and  ministerial life. Weeks before moving to Hickory I was on a downward spiral emotionally. I was in deep depression and my anxiety was the worst it had been before that point or since that point. I recall being a mess in the Children's wing of FG while talking to Jess. I remember cussing and being at the end. I remember feeling like my life was over; God could never use me again for his Kingdom. 

I decided that I would not serve in a leadership capacity until I was healthy and in a good place in my personal walk with God. I initially served on the Levite Team at FG; it was the team that served by cleaning the church on a weekly basis. This was such a great thing for me. I looked forward to going over on Saturdays; often alone. I would go over into the sanctuary and vacuum, pray and get into a good place with God. Then while cleaning the bathrooms, I would think of all of the folks who would use those bathrooms. Some of them may not know the hope that was so possible with Christ at the center. Slowly I was remembering who and whose I was. 

The best thing that ever happened to me there was my lifegroup. My lifegroup filled with such an eclectic group of folks. We did not have tons in common. We probably would not have chosen randomly to be in the same group. But week after week...little by little, we started to know each other. We started to be real and not care if we were crying in front of each other. We got a chance to experience what community was. We learned to get through our differences and love each other. I have served in many leadership capacities over the years but leading that life group rates among my highest honors. I learned from them. I was challenged by them. I was loved by them...and continue to be. 

As we continue to make this transition from Christ Church to University City, I am struck with the reality that I have to look with fondness on what God did in my family and me at Christ Church. I must be grateful that I was able to be healed there and serve there. I must come to the reality that now I must press into University City. I have been reluctant to let go. I have been scared of what is in the future. Tonight, however, I am convinced that I must be "all there" at UC. I must look with anticipation toward the new folks with whom I will do life. I must trust that God has called us to serve, love and lead at University City. There are folks who will love us and share life with us in Charlotte. I told Jess earlier tonight that I am scared to truly move on. However, this week, God has reminded me that fear is not from him and it is not for me. 

So this week, this month and this year, may we be thankful for all that we have been through. May we be grateful for all of those who have touched our life. May we look--with anticipation, hope and faith--into the future for all that God has for us. May we live loved. May we live with passion and in such a way that it is always difficult for us to leave. May we have a furious love for others. May we share our lives with folks and love deeply.

To do those things makes it hard to leave. But the alternative is far worse. We are never known; we never know. We are never loved; we never love. We never take risks with relationships; we never experience the beauty of deep and abiding relationships.

So, go, as will I, headlong into the future and the calling that God has for you. Go into the great unknown with the confidence of a child who leaps into his father's arms.
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