Stop admiring your heroes and start emulating them!

martin luther king stop admiring your heroes and start emulating them

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Contempt for the process of becoming great

Many in our society mock the geeky kid singing in the glee club, but revere that same kid when he grows up to be Steven Tyler or Carrie Underwood. Then the former mockers may well claim to be their “biggest fans.”

Similarly, people often mock those who advocate peace, justice, non-violence, and global oneness, dismissing them as soft, impractical, or liberal. That is, until these soft, impractical, and liberal people end up becoming the Martin Luther King Jrs, the Malala Yousafzais, the Jimmy Carters (the statesman, not the president), and the Gandhis of the world. Then they are venerated and honored as the best of the best. Everyone wants to embrace them as their own.

This illustrates both our hypocrisy and lack of understanding of the growth process. We consistently mock the kittens but revere the cats. We idolize those who have arrived, but disregard those who are starting out on that same journey. It’s cool to be a rock star, but it’s uncool to actually learn about music. It’s cool to be a global force for peace in adulthood, but uncool to adopt the values of, say, a Martin Luther King Jr. before one actually becomes famous for those values.

Absolving ourselves from responsibility to be great

In taking these shallow attitudes, we distance ourselves from the great peacemakers of the world, excusing ourselves from ever becoming like them. We say, “I’m no Martin Luther King, Jr.” True as that may be, every person can begin to embrace the universal values King embraced, right from wherever they currently are. Over time those values, lived out consistently, will inevitably bear fruit. But we are distracted. Or spoiled. Or weak-willed. Or fearful. Or ignorant. Or simply unwilling to live for any cause greater than ourselves (though, of course, we deeply admire those who are willing).

Having thus distanced ourselves from living the way the great peacemakers lived, and from responsibility to actually adopt their values, not simply to admire them, we then go about criticizing our leaders, as if we are victims. But our leaders arise out of the same fearful, selfish soup as the rest of us. Yes, it is too bad more of them are not more principled, but it’s far more tragic that we expect our leaders to have already have a depth of character most us don’t even aspire to have. It is either worth having or it isn’t. If it’s worth having, then we ourselves are the hypocrites when we fail to adopt the values that will, inevitably, make us into the towering characters we expect others to be.

Moving beyond admiration to emulation

No, not everyone is meant to be a famous peacemaker, like MLK, Jimmy Carter, or Malala, and that is not the point. Either world-changers are world-changers or they are not. If they are, that comes from their values, principles, and character. If we revere these people, we have a responsibility to become that which we revere, which means going past admiring those qualities in others to developing them in ourselves. This means we must respect and nurture the “kittens,” those among us who may not be famous but who are building these values into their lives and may someday emerge as local, national, and/or global voices for peace.  We should never discourage them, dismiss them as impractical, or reject them because we do not like their politics. We are dense, indeed, if we do not understand that the politics of the world’s true peacemakers, are direct reflections of their deeply cultivated characters.

Question: How are you intentionally setting out to become like the people you most admire? Let me know in the comments section!

Reflections on God and Gays, and Much More

reflections on god and gays

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As expected, my recent post about the Duck Dynasty issue has had tons of readers, a lot of Facebook shares, and sparked incredible debate/dialogue, especially where it appeared on Facebook. If you do not follow my writer page there, I hope you will sign on and join in the conversation! The post below is an edited version of something I just posted on Facebook that I think stands alone as a unique statement on my views not only of homosexuality, but -- more important -- of the relationship between God and all of us.

Note: All scripture links were added after I finished the post, not as I wrote it. My worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible's ancient wisdom, and I wanted to provide these links for all who are interested.

I have gone from thinking about this issue of God and gays theologically to thinking about it relationally (though I think the best theological thinking IS relational thinking). If one of my daughters announced she was gay, it would change NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. I certainly would not hope for her salvation, at least not any more than anyone else’s, because I believe that if I love my daughters so deeply, God must love them infinitely more, and since my daughters are safe in my care, they must be infinitely safer in God’s. I think the reason Jesus commanded love is precisely because of the way loves biases us so strongly in favor of people, puts us so firmly in their corner and on their side, no matter what.

When I do think of this issue theologically, I see it as something that is evolving culturally, and that that is by no means a bad thing. The Bible pretty much endorses slavery, and for years many used scripture to resist racial equality, but at some point the church began to understand that there simply is no good argument in favor of this terrible thing, regardless of what the Bible seemed to be saying. Yes, even in the face of the Bible’s seeming endorsement of slavery, we can confidently pronounce it a great evil — indeed one of the greatest, because it so fundamentally stands against the spirit of what it means to be human. In the same way, the church will view homosexuality differently in the years to come, and that has already begun. I realize this statement will inflame some people, but anyone who cannot see this is simply not fairly considering past history, current events, and how we know things like this march forward, with the conservative faction dragging their feet but eventually coming along nonetheless.

This simply is the road the church is on and there is no stemming that tide. I say this despite the fact that in some ways my own faith tradition is trying to do exactly that.

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What is Righteousness?

heart with plant growing out of it -- what is righteousness

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Yesterday one of Wildwind‘s small group leaders texted me asking if I wouldn’t mind explaining the Biblical understanding of righteousness. He said the word had, for him and his group members, a bit of a negative connotation. I’m not sure why this is, other than possibly its legalistic undertone and associations (conscious or not) with self-righteousness. He said the best they were understanding it, it was God’s standard of what is right and wrong. I emailed him an answer that, of course, was more like a personalized sermon so, rather than let it go to waste, I thought I’d post it here for anyone who is interested. If you view God as someone who is ready to punish you, or who demands behavioral perfection from you, I encourage you to read this.

Okay, big theological question here. You’ve pretty much got it, but let me nuance it a little bit. Check out this verse in these two translations:

Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20 (MSG)
20 Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.

I would encourage you to read the verse in context. Jesus is talking, really, about the impossibility of meeting God’s standard of righteousness. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were impeccable in matters of right living. NO ONE could surpass them, and everyone knew it. So what’s the catch? What is righteousness, then?  

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Women who love men who won’t work

men who won't work

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Note: Before reading this post, you might consider reading the one before it   that deals directly with the issue of men who don't work.

One of the TV’s at the gym this morning was doing a feature on women who get involved with convicted serial killers and marry them after they go to jail. It turns out that murderers and rapists are chick magnets. Who knew? Of course they only attract a certain type of woman, but I think it is that type of woman I’m talking about when I refer to women who love men who won’t work. A man who doesn’t work, or one who rapes, or kills, is like catnip for some women — they just find it irresistible.

Some may cry “unfair” that I lump all of these categories of men together, but I think it’s safe to say that all of these are considered bottom feeders in our society, and usually for good reason. While I’d be the first person to extend a break, and true compassion, to any man really trying to change, regardless of his offenses against society or any individual, I also believe in calling a spade a spade. Men who don’t work generally are bottom feeders, and commit social murder (or at least assault) all the time by sucking life — emotional, spiritual, mental, financial — out of others and using it for themselves.

So what is it that attracts women to men who won’t work? There are many possibilities and it’s different for each woman.

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Twelve ways to intentionally cultivate character

intergrity-cultivate character

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12 ways to intentionally cultivate character:

1. Do whatever you must do to come to sense how deeply you are loved by God.
2. Constantly make the choice you know is right instead of the choice that is easy.
3. Never say a bad word about someone else. As you get better and better with this, keep raising the bar higher and higher. We can never be too careful with words.
4. Learn to pray, meditate, and be in silence and solitude every day for at least some period of time.
5. Learn to control your mind and your thoughts.
6. Instead of finding reasons to excuse your wrongdoing, find reasons to excuse and forgive the wrongdoing of others, and deal with your own wrongdoing in prayer and silence.
7. Be quick to apologize, to accept responsibility, and to give credit away.
8. Put away anger and lust.
9. Determine to never again intentionally mislead someone about something.
10. Determine today to abandon forever all attitudes and actions that do not or cannot take you where you want to go.
11. Forgive yourself for your own mistakes, sins, and oversights, and accept the forgiveness of God.
12. Seek out whatever help you will need in doing the above — accountability, counseling, forgiveness, whatever it may be.

If you are not a praying person, do everything on this list anyway, without the prayer part!