Thursday, April 27, 2006

Relentlessly Relevant

Late last night I had an opportunity to with one of my mentors.  Some struggles with schedules, work, and focus had been cluttering my mind lately and I relished the objective conversation.

During our time, I was repeatedly pointed back to Scripture, 1 Timothy specifically.  As I let hot water consume me this morning, the song Guard The Trust by Steve Camp came up on my IPod.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
-- 1 Timothy 1:12-14

Sometimes, you need is the truth you know.  I have referenced Timothy for other people so frequently that perhaps it just became rote.  Does that ever happen to you?  You find yourself singing the words because you know them, not because you mean them?  You say the prayer because of the habit not the heart?

In this case, stepping back to re-read the book instead of skipping to the pointed passages removed the scales from my eyes.  This little shot of encouragement was all that was needed to reset my foundation and give me the clarity to address reality.  Sort of like when I skip work-outs over a weekend and I feel tired on Monday.  My first thought is I need to catch up on sleep.  If I do that, invariably I find myself off to a slow start the next morning.  But if I jump into a , the endorphins kick in and I perk right up and move strongly into the week.

Once again my bumbling has proven that if you are truly seeking, the truth will find you no matter how lost you've become.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Maybe there is a difference in how Christian men and woman approach the dating scene.  Or maybe there is just a difference in how GOOD people approach the dating scene.  Theviewfromher expanded on a post at all kinds of time that frankly I could have let alone. Evidently she got to me because I couldn't help myself but post again today. Hehe.

I'm not sure about the rest of you guys, but when I'm on a weekend mission trip or doing service projects for the community, the last thing I want to be distracted with is some lady flirting me up. ;-)  I'm there for the service,  not to meet people.  If you are working beside me at a function, I'd like to believe that's why you are there too.  If I felt you weren't, I'd probably think you were a little sketchy.

Okay, so that probably wouldn't happen regardless.  Let's be honest, I haven't been flirted up in like...well weeks, at least.  But the point still stands.  The sum total of our advice for becoming active and social cannot be service projects and weekend missions, can it?  Oh, and batting cages.  Can't forget that totally stereotypical proposal now can we.

Why is it that our choices are either Church Stuff, or Gross Bar Stuff? I meet ladies all the time at Church Stuff, but invariably they can't keep up or even hold a conversation.  And I meet ladies all the time at non-Church Stuff and I almost always enjoy the conversations more with them.  I join my friends in Gross Bar Stuff on occassion and while I do meet people they are invariably not what I am looking for and this is expected.  So as you can imagine, if I were truly looking for a companion and not just being social I would find myself in that middle category that was sorely neglected in both of these posts.

Sure coffee shops are one way to go, but I find it very limiting.  Concerts, art shows, frisbee on the beach, house parties, fundraisers, bookstores, amusement parks, minature golf, bowling alleys, food courts, these are all places I've meet people.  Some are activity based, I'll concede, but some are very passive also.  I think the key is that these places give you something more than location to start the conversation with.  Consider something simple like the difference between watching how someone eats in a foodcourt and watching them drink coffee while reading.  Listening to a lecture or standing in line to ride the ferris wheel is bound to stimulate much more of a conversation than a poppyseed muffin and some Chai tea.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Did You Expect?

Recently there was a Washington Post article about The Problem with Men.  It was blogged about in several good posts including by Coloring Outside the Lines and theviewfromher.  It's not worth noting that each of these authors was female.

The core article, while giving a nod to a balanced view is fundamentally alarmist in its slant towards key symptoms with little or no perspective on underlying cause. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for alarmist if it gets people discussing root causes. ;-)

Each of the various posts made me consider the core issue from different perspectives which I assume was the point.  As I considered a variety of responses, I decided to just knock them down in the order they came to me.  So while I'll repost on this subject again with other angles, this one covers only my initial reaction.

Reading the article my first response was "What did you expect?"  In today's workplace we are required to give women special treatment but equal pay.  The legal system gives preference to mothers over fathers at almost every turn. Our child support system is woefully corrupt. Casual sexuality leaves men completely disadvantaged in the dating scene. The education system is in majority geared towards a liberal arts education whereas the workforce continues to give preference to the aggressive and technically adept. The number of support and specialty resources for women vastly outstrip the parallels for men. And so on...whine, whine, whine.

Don't get me wrong, many of the protections afford women and mothers are necessary, crucial even. But if a woman can expect equal investment from a company while reserving rights not available to a man for example maternity leave, that's clearly shifting the balance of power.  When a woman can choose to leave a relationship for no cause and still enforce primary financial dependence on the man, clearly the balance of power has shifted.  When the scholarship basis is weighted almost 4 to 1 in favor of female applicants and the cost of education is stratospheric clearly fewer men or going to consider higher education.  Because I'm a coward I don't even want to get into the other more inflammatory examples.

Rest assured I am not so naive or ignorant as to be unaware that there are many examples of how power has been and continues to be abused by men.  I concede that men can really stink.  My point is that anyone can really stink, gender-neutrally.  As we continue to emphasize legalities that are gender-specific we only make this whole problem worse.

I'm all for gender-equality (or race equality or preference equality or height-equality or pc/mac-equality or...) but it has to actually be about equal, not just a form of special treatment.  Let me give one clear, simple example.  It doesn't make every point and surely has multiple impact points.  But it specifically showcases my point about equal pay and special treatment.

As a business owner I currently have to invest equally in women and men in my workforce.  However I must bear an increased cost in the health-care of women that I don't have with men.  As the business owner I am required to fund the cost of preserving a womans job during a maternity leave, regardless of the business disruption. In this simple situation I have employees that cost me considerable more but I am expected to pay them equally.  Of their own accord, they can choose with their health and family planning decisions to increase my costs and the associated business disruptions by more than 100%. Clearly, these employees are not being treated equally because of the special protections afforded one group by our legal system.  Keep in mind this isn't a bogus example, these are actual facts from current reality.  Because these costs are real, and the business must plan to cover them, the average pay available for anyone in that position is pulled down.  This impacts men because now they are faced with taking a lower wage job with no additional benefit to them.  Women however are afforded the equivalent pay but with added benefits. This isn't just one level of inequality it is actually a double impact. A negative impact for a man and a positive incentive for a woman.

When faced with a myriad of special treatments and challenges such as this, it is becomes possible to understand how this environment is demoralizing at a minimum, and ultimately debilitating. With women getting special treatment in the workplace, the legal system, and the education system, did we really expect men to continue being competitive?  If we increase their challenges to success (in the workplace, the social scene, and in education) and hobble them seemingly at random when they attempt to integrate (the child support system, the divorce courts, and the disparity with benefits and support resources). We can't expect them to do as well as women at keeping up, even if we assume they aren't completely beaten-down and demoralized to begin with.

Add to all of this the idea that women are, generally, more capable then men, is it really such news to discover that men aren't being as "successful" as women?  I use the terms "successful" in quotes because it was used in many of the posts and is another aspect I intend to discuss in future follow-ups.

Okay, so I covered my first response and gave away more of my controversial opinions than ever before.  Well, what's a blog for anyway? Flame away.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Revolution vs. Kingdom

On the encouragement of a friend, by way of a gift, I recently read Revolution by George Barna.  Unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed.  His basic point I find useful and thought-provoking.  And you get it in the first 5 sentences.  The rest of the book is mostly hot-air masquerading as an attempt to justify his initial conclusion.  However, it is devoid of factual information or any real supporting data at all.  Which would be fine if he wasn't trying to present his conclusion as based quantifiable changes instead of his potentially experienced perspective.

I have no issue with an experience or uniquely positioned individual postulating in a public forum.  And if this person has a reason via experience, intuition, or just an artistic-like ability to draw an actionable reality from the abstract, then I'm willing to listen.  But your position should be clear.

Following on that, I've been re-reading The Kingdom of Christ by Russell Moore.  While verbose and a little thickly worded it's a much better foundation on the perspective of change in the evangelical church.  I would love to see someone take Barna's concepts and ideas and address as thoroughly as Moore has done.

Personally, I agree with Barna's core idea and find myself a participant to some degree in this Revolution.  However, I disagree with his generalities and find myself drawn much closer to the theology resident in Moore's writing as convoluted as it can be.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Church Waltz

This weekend I got the opportunity to visit a new church with a friend of mine in Phoenix.  We shared teen years in the Reformed church together and our theological discussions have always been a solid help to me.  He's well-read, a sound thinker, and aggressive in his search for truth and meaning in his spirituality.

This particular church, being Lutheran, is pretty traditional but they have been working to make the service more contemporary.  Overall, I was extremely impressed with their friendliness and warmth.  The message was very thought-provoking if a bit verbose.  (I'm critical and opinionated, deal with it.)  The humorous part of the morning for me was about halfway through worship when I realized that I was the singing louder than...pretty much everybody.  I truly loves me some worship and don't pay much attention to the people around me once I start clearing my mind.  I'm sure those poor traditionalists thought I was a little weird for just closing my eyes and letting the song emerge.  Oh well, so much for first impressions.

So my question to you is simple...what's the proper response in a situation like that?  When you are in an environment specifically to worship, how much should you modify your behavior to fit in?  I'm not talking about being disruptive or disrespectful.  My general rule is that when you are in a place where they don't raise their hands, you probably should keep your hands in your pockets.  When in the presence of believers who always sit and stand only when directed, you probably shouldn't waltz the aisles.  But if a church is singing quietly, should you put a sock in it?  If no one says a word all service, is it wrong to say "Amen" at the end of a prayer?