Political Headaches

So, I’ve heard that the quickest way to lose friends is to talk about money, religion, or politics. So far on this blog I’m 2 for 3 on that. And today… I’m still going to leave money alone.

Anyone else already tired of the 2016 US presidential election? I know, it’s still 2015 and there’s a long way to go, yet. The only reason I bring it up is I’m already starting to watch Christians and others separate out into their different camps to prepare for the long siege that is election season. Sure, this is a grand old American tradition where we throw verbal grenades from one side toward another, slapping one another with insults while calling it “debating” or better yet “educating.”

Be aware that children do pick up these things. I’ve heard children criticize Presidents with some pretty harsh language. I have to come to one of two conclusions about that: either these are incredibly precocious children with a penchant for detailed political analysis or they’ve heard the phrase of the day at home and can now spout it loudly and proudly.

Fact: I have not agreed with every policy choice made over the past 15 years.

Other Fact: Critical thought and careful discussion are very different than gut-reaction and bile spewing.

Last Fact: Children often take on not only their parent’s religious views but their political views as well.

So, wouldn’t it be much better to state clearly why you disagree with an elected official rather than angrily repost a meme or share the latest angry post? Or let me ask it this way: would you rather hear your child thoughtfully and respectfully disagreeing with someone, or hear them name-calling and shouting others down?

Especially in this Internet age, it’s very easy to simply forget that the Facebook pictures and posts on the screen are attached to very real people with very real emotions. Teaching your children to respond to others with patience and respect will be crucial as they become more and more involved online. The Internet’s culture as it stands is one of hatred, misinformation, and cliques. Help your children learn good skill in thinking and responding by modeling those behaviors yourself.

And, hopefully, when my children or students run across this post later in life, they’ll say, “Yeah, he did that.”

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Giving What You Have

What do you do when you’re faced with over 5,000 hungry people miles away from any town? If Jesus’ response is any indication, the answer is to ask politely for a small child’s lunchbox and then proceed to hand it out enough to where multiple Bi-Lo sacks are left over.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking: this is where we call in the Dinner: Impossible guy and have him yell at us for several hours until we can cater this thing correctly. But then, again, that kind of misses the point, really.

In the story, the disciples are faced with the monumental, seemingly impossible task of, “You feed them,” from Jesus. Completely flummoxed, the disciples stare at him in disbelief until he asks the question, “What do you have?” There’s the key. Jesus doesn’t point out the disciples’ inability to handle the situation, he asks what resources they do have. Once they hand the meager offering, Jesus breaks it, blesses it, and gives it back for them to share.

NT Wright pointed out something cool here. When we are faced with some nearly impossible task, Jesus invites us to go through this process ourselves. Instead of pointing out our weakness and lack, Jesus asks, “What do you have?” Then, when we hand over our meager talents, abilities, and resources, he breaks them, blesses them, and gives them back for us to use.

It takes humility to hand over what little we have as far as our abilities go, but it takes much more to receive back something broken and seemingly less. Think about it, each disciple probably didn’t receive 5 loaves and 2 fish worth to start off with. Each one would have received 1/12 or less of the starting quantity. Let that sink in for a second. Jesus says, “All right, Thomas, you’ve got that section there near that tree, and Philip, you’ve got the section near that rock pile,” and you’re sitting there staring at your small handful of food thinking, “It’s official, he’s lost his mind.”

But think of the renewed spirit when that meager bit of food begins to seem like more and more as you give away more and more. You could say our abilities and talents are similar – they may seem small, but the more we give away in Jesus’ name, the more we seem to have to give.

In my weakness, he is strong. His grace is sufficient for me. No matter what you face, hand it over to God. It may not come back in the same shape,but it will come back blessed, and ready to do more than you could ever have thought possible.