A Yearly Consideration

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A year ago I didn’t know the difference between a “whip” and a “nae nae”. I couldn’t fathom that the Hawkeyes would ever end their season undefeated. And, I didn’t know that a world could be held in fear by the violent acts of just a few people with guns. What a difference a year makes.

So, what will this year bring? What unimaginable events will take place in your life that will give you pause for consideration at the end of 2017? For some, it is marriage, graduations, new career paths, births, new starts. For others, 2017 brings the news of serious illness, a family death, or other tragedies that may be too terrible to think about.

The Bible talks about the duality of life in the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (HCSB)

This passage shows that life is full of high times and low times. They are to be expected. What matters is how we meet those times—how we face them head on.

Having our minds set on eternal things like God, faith, and love helps us with perspective as we deal with any event in the coming year. We recognize that temporal things fall away and all that remains is what is truly substantive. When we think of the eternal we desire to be around others who do the same, those who have eternity’s values in view. At Westwind Church we encourage people to connect with others in order to experience eternal values lived out in everyday life. This helps us experience the “occasions” that the writer of Ecclesiastes forewarns.

What will this year bring? I cannot tell you. But, what I do know, is that without the right perspective, and the right people beside you, it will be much more difficult. Maybe this is the year that you concentrate on your faith, which will help you no matter what comes your way.

Spicy Snack Mix

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Ever just want something for Thanksgiving just for you? When I get to wanting something like that I make spicy snack mix. My sister-in-law has the recipe, but this is a sweet and spicy caramel topped treat that I love for the holidays. If you want to make it a tad more masculine I would suggest putting some beef jerky bits into it (seriously).

Fair and Square

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As I’ve watched news coverage post-election of President Elect Donald Trump it has been interesting to see their take on their own coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns. They still seem stunned that this is happening and many believe it’s because of the two reasons.

First, the celebrity status of Trump is said to “transcend media”. He has over 39 million followers on different social mediums. In one tweet he can spread more news than CNN and NBC combined.  There are articles on how much was written about Trump in comparison to any of the other Republican candidates or Hillary Clinton. Trump used even negative media attention to his benefit. Now it seems as if the media is sorry they used Trump’s status to boost ratings because in actuality they were promoting him.

Secondly, the collective media seems to center their hate on CNN and the New York Times who both boldly proclaimed that Donald Trump had a tupe’s chance in a hurricane of being in the White House come January. The NYT proclaimed with charts and projections that would make a bookie drool. Their front page looked more like a sports book board in Las Vegas than a newspaper website. At one time Trump had less than a 5% chance of winning according to their graph. He was also the least likely of all the Republican candidates (according to their multi-colored graph) to have a chance to beat Clinton. CBS, MSNBC, ABC, and CNN all stood behind the NYT and their projections which is why they all looked so flabbergasted on election night.

I have argued for quite some time that the media was quickly becoming the 4th branch of U.S. government. Their power was becoming too emboldened. Perhaps this recent demonstration of the news actually losing its investigative edge and becoming more editorialized will reboot the news media. However I don’t think it will happen because people tune in to hear bad news and television reporting has become sensationalized celebrities spouting bipartisan talking points which is just as culpable for tearing this country apart as our two party system. Tune in and see.

She’s An Adult

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Grace Maczei Barker is 18 years of age today. She, as she likes to tell me recently, is an adult. I could not be more happy for her. It has been an absolute privilege and honor to watch her grow into a young, strong woman of faith. Here are a couple of pictures taken by Lori Mortenson.

 

I call this one “Pouty Grace”. So serious, even then!

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This is called “Fragile”. Grace is drinking from a Humpty Dumpty tea set.

Trumped

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So, Donald Trump won the presidential election this week. It is something that has rocked the politial and media world. The ripple effect is still taking place in this country and beyond. People are in shock, in pain, and in utter hopeless despair—IF they didn’t vote for him. They rest are proud that they kept Hilary Clinton out of the oval office. It is a complete rip down the middle of America. We are being told that young voters were for Clinton and old voters were for Trump, white voters were for Trump, and black and hispanic voters were for Clinton. The middle class voted for Trump, while the upper and lower classes voted for Clinton. I am sure there are more polarizing categories that separated the voters as well. There are always ways to divide people.

So, it’s clear that each side does not understand the other. Yet, even in this monumental upset people aren’t using it to try to get to know the other side’s plight. I have a theory as to why—it doesn’t sell.

While the country is in complete upheaval, people look to the mainstream media to console their particular views. The cable news networks, primetime affiliates, and even talk shows that dabble in politics all scratch at the American scab of division. Why? Because it brings conflict. And people love conflict. And advertisers love to sell their products. Most people don’t think of this, I know, but the reason NBC Nightly News exists is to sell advertising. Their job is to get people to watch their show AND the ad spots between them. The conpanies behind the ads are the ones who are actually paying the bills. The more people watch, the more NBC can charge. That’s how they make money. That’s how the companies spending the advertizing dollars make money. If you think I am being flippant about this take Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News network. During the last week of the election he hadmore viewers tuned in than ever in the history of the show. Hannity is an avid Trump support (or Clinton hater). His Nielson ratings now allow for their show to charge more for advertising since more people will be watching. If Sean were to go on TV saying that we need to vote with our hearts, or that there are good attributes of both candidates, he would lose viewership, lose ratings, lose money.

So, what am I saying? If you are going to the media to try to recieve comfort. You will only harm yourself more. If you voted for Hilary (which I don’t mind if you did) you will find that CNN is already producing anti-Trump news cycles questioning his motives, character, and future decision making. In essence they are creating the conflict that brings viewership ratings up.

If you voted for Trump (which I don’t mind if you did) you will find that Fox News is setting Trump up to be the great hope for middle class Americans while creating mythical battles with an exiting president, anti-Trump protesters and celebrities. In essence they are creating the conflict that brings viewership ratings up.

The public has been trumped, but not by Donald. They have been significantly manipulated by Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity, George Stephanopolis, Rachel Maddow, Lou Dobbs and the like. We are being lured in by a juicy piece of conflict and when we bite down we are hooked! We thrash around, but it’s too late. In the end the country suffers.

The 5-Day Humility Challenge

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Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Growing up in a house of faith, I was warned, “Never pray for humility. When you do God humbles you.” That never sounded like fun, so I didn’t. Literally. However, recently I am been thinking about humility and how I can sharpen that character quality in my life. I have come up with a 5-Day Challenge on humility that has already proved itself to be a great test of will…I mean “unwill”.

My 5-Day Humility Challenge uses three aspects of my normal life which I normally desire to be “first” or to get my own way. Instead, the 5-Day Humility Challenge is an intentional way of submitting myself to others, thus giving me an opportunity in normal life to practice humility. Feel to try these with me.

  • Driving the Speed Limit: The area I live in has all kinds of speed demons, of which I am the worst of sinners. So, to practice humility, the 5-Day Humility Challenge involves me driving the speed of the road (to the letter of the law). I don’t go with the flow of traffic, and I don’t justify my speed for any reason.
  • Parking Furthest Away: We have a saying when we find a great parking spot at the mall or grocery store, “Why shouldn’t I have the best?”  It suggests that I am deserving of a great parking spot. So, with the 5-Day Humility Challenge I park in the furthest parking spot and walk the distance in. You will get looks and you will get cold (especially on windy days). However, you recognize all the people that you are submitting to as you walk past their cars.
  • Take the Longest Line: In suburban culture you will notoriously spend park of your week in a line (we love to stand in lines, it seems). The 5-Day Humility Challenge asks that instead of finding the shortest line in the grocery store, DOT, Menards, Costco or Target, you find the l-o-n-g-e-s-t and wait in it until your turn. One of the reasons we seek out short lines is because we believe our time is more valuable than the others around us. We have things to do! But standing in line, with others in front of us gives us a humble heart and helps us to recognize our place.

This is a 5-Day Challenge, it doesn’t have to be a lifestyle. Although I would suggest that you incorporate as much of it as you can. I would aslo have you come up with you own (please put what you did in the comments section below). The point of it is for you to consciously put others before yourself in a practical, and sometimes unpleasant, way. I hope you experience the humility of Christ is just a small way through this discipline.

Losing the Battle for Women’s Dignity

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But Pope John Paul II’s words ring true: “Christ … assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.” If that’s right, the men in my party, in my church, in my life have failed; they ask me to participate in overlooking the offense.

He didn’t do anything wrong. You caused this. You enjoyed it. You deserved it.

Instead of those words bouncing around my head, they are bouncing around my Facebook feed, off the lips of my friends, from the screens of my phone and laptop. They are directed toward Bill Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s accusers.

Republicans who have lamented the Clintonian proclivity to malign women are now defending the same activities because … well, they idolize power or their own strategic cleverness. Trump, like the preacher, is too important to abandon. We have become what we said we despised.
– via Washington Post

This is a section of an article written by Nancy French, a four-time New York Times best-selling author, in The Washington Post. I highly encourage any evangelical Christian to read it and consider the issue.