Intrepid Snake Killers

Monday, August 31, 2009

(This post interrupts my series on Religion and Politics)

It turns out the job of Gladney President is more multi-faceted than I expected.

A few days ago at about 5:30PM, I got a call from across the building in our Development and Accounting area. Several of the women spotted a snake under the equipment – a copperhead, they said. So when they called me, my first thought was “ok, deal with it”. But I didn’t say that. They said they needed a man to come over. My reaction then was “I’ll try to find one”. Much to my chagrin, I learned that they had already called Richard, Roland and Marshall. I was the last resort – what a blow to my ego.

Fortunately, I found Scott and we bravely walked over to do our manly duty. Scott was braver than I was. He got down low with a flashlight and flushed the sucker out and then I killed it by dropping a paver (large brick) on it.

It turns out it wasn’t exactly a copperhead. It was perhaps 18 inches long, not as thick around as a dime and light brown.

HOWEVER, in future retellings, it will grow – to, say, eventually 6 feet. Its color may change to black, red and yellow. And Scott and I went in, grabbed it by the tail and snapped its head off. In fact, now that I think about it, was Scott really there ?

Religion and Politics (continued)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In my last 2 posts, I referred to myself as a liberal, evangelical Christian and explained what “evangelical” and “Christian” mean to me. According to my definitions, both are fairly black and white. Either you are or you aren’t.

“Liberal” is more gray. What I mean is that I find myself increasingly tilting toward the liberal view on more issues than not. This was percolating within me long before Obama’s election. Likewise, the timing of this post does not relate to Ted Kennedy’s death. My brother-in-law claims I was brainwashed by reading the New York Times every day for 12 years. That’s probably the best explanation for my political shift. That and my travels around the world, which I believe moderates conservative thinking. I use liberal and conservative rather than Democrat and Republican. Hyper-partisan politics has spoiled my appetite for either party, although we do know that Jesus was a Republican. (See II Hezekiah 7:13)

(Back to the New York Times. It has at least 2 things going for it. The paper covers the world like no other and as an institution, it is aggressively compassionate with regard to the neediest, both locally and around the world, and I love that.)

There are too many issues for one post, so I’ll start off with foreign affairs, which I’m more passionate about (as opposed to domestic policy issues).

Foreign Policy

Yes to engagement - There’s nothing to be lost by dialogue, by making the effort to bring rogue nations into the world community. You don’t have to trust them; just talk to them.

Yes to building real coalitions – Like the first Gulf War; that worked

Yes to the United Nations – Although flawed, we should try and work within its framework. What’s the alternative – isolation or go form our own UN-equivalent. Nobody would join.

Defense Budget

I’m as American as they come. This last 4th of July, I kept switching channels so I could hear “America, the Beautiful” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” again and again. My dad had a bad singing voice, but he always sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every sporting event. Therefore, I always sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every sporting event. I get choked up when I return home from traveling overseas and see “Welcome to the United States of America” at the airports.

BUT, I question the need for a $600 billion defense budget. What about, say, $400 billion. That would still be 6 TIMES the budget of China, the next largest on the list. There’s a lot of good we could do here and abroad with that extra $200 billion. And while I’m at it, why is this never debated ??? Congress just rubber-stamps this budget year in and year out. Debate exists only at the margin, if at all.

Foreign Aid

There are several different definitions of foreign aid. Using the most common, the US distributes about $30 billion / year, or roughly 5% of our defense budget. Measuring foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, the US is one of the stingiest developed nations. It wasn’t always the case. Recall the Marshall Plan, where the US played a huge role in rebuilding post-WWII Europe. Some historians say this was our country’s finest hour.

I don’t claim to have the answers. I would just like to see a civilized debate on these issues, absent the name-calling and abrasive behavior that has become the norm in politics and in the media.

What I find really draining and counter-productive are so many TV and radio newspersons (loosely defined) screaming at each other. Whoever stops screaming first or whoever actually shows the grace to let the other side finish a sentence, whether liberal or conservative, I’ll choose your side.

Religion and Politics (2nd Post)

Monday, August 24, 2009

In my last post, I described myself as a liberal, evangelical Christian. I explained what the word “Christian” means to me. Here I will tackle “evangelical” and save “liberal” for my next post.

To me, evangelical simply means I’m excited about my faith. It’s my framework – the lens through which I view life. Therefore for me, it’s a natural topic of conversation. Why wouldn’t it be ? I don’t look for opportunities to weave it into every dialogue and I don’t stand on the street corner and preach. By the same token, I don’t shy away from talking about what I believe to be the answer for people who are searching for truth and meaning in their lives.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to risk it. I’m prepared to stake my life on belief in the unseen world. Perhaps this does make me a “nutcase” as I noted in the previous post. But I don’t think so. Ecclesiastes 3 says: “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician and philosopher, put it this way: “Inside each man’s heart is a god-shaped vacuum.” Intuitively, we know there is a higher (unseen) power. Based on my reading of the Bible (and other books touting different views) and validated by my life experience, I choose to believe the higher power is the God that is revealed in the Bible.

If someone thought they knew the key to filling the vacuum that Pascal refers to, but kept the secret from me, I’d be very disappointed. I think I have the secret. But it’s not a secret. Examine God’s word.

So, evangelical Christian – guilty as charged.

Religion and Politics (1st of 3 Posts)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

(This has nothing to do with adoption or the Gladney Center; it just relates to me. I assume if you read my blog, you may want to know more about me. So here goes….)

At the risk of inspiring scorn from almost everyone who might read this, I think of myself as a liberal, evangelical Christian. Is there anyone else out there in my quadrant ? The word “liberal” continues to carry negative baggage and many people equate “evangelical” to “nutcase”.

Let me work backwards on these terms. Here I’ll define Christian. In my next two posts, I’ll define liberal and evangelical.

For some, being a Christian means going to church fairly often. For others, it means God will judge you favorably as a Christian if the good outweighs the bad, and therefore you make the cut. It’s really difficult for me to get my arms around this concept. Good deeds – 5463; sins – 4489; therefore, I go to the good place when I die. (Heaven; not Texas) But if the numbers were reversed, I’d be sweating for eternity. I don’t buy it. What if I just missed by one too few good works ? What if it’s a tie – where do I go then ? This is the logical extension of what a lot of people believe – “oh, I hope I’ve been good enough”. Well, you haven’t. Neither have I. Not even close. Do you really want to see your ledger ? I don’t.

I believe God inspired the Biblical authors, so I’m inclined to look there for my definition. Many passages make it crystal clear that true faith in Christ is what matters.

Romans 10:9 states it plainly:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

That’s pretty straightforward. When I say Christian, that’s what I mean. There, that was the easy one.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Today is a sad day. Stealing from Chuck Swindoll, we are in charge of our attitudes; not our circumstances. Today, Phillip, our oldest, left Austin for his senior year at Furman. I’m happy for him, because he loves it there. But I’m sad for me.

Here’s what I want to say: Don’t leave; don’t grow up; just stay a little longer; let’s play more croquet, golf, pool; let’s watch another episode of Sportscenter, Sunday night baseball, Tiger.

What I need to say: Leave; I’m glad you’ve grown up into a mature young man of character. Don’t forget us back here in Texas, but live your own life and live it passionately. And remember, one person can change the world.

I’m proud of you, but I miss you already. Happy and sad – I still have some more attitude work to do.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It’s hard to overstate the power of the spoken word. Each of us has the capacity to speak life into others by encouragement. I’ve witnessed people come alive, reach their potential because others believed in them and spoke this belief to them.

What voices do you listen to ? Not only external, but internal ? I choose to play back to myself voices of encouragement, starting with God, whom I believe spoke the world into creation and speaks life into each of us. How does His voice come alive ? For me, it’s by internalizing His word, such that calling His word to my mind is a natural, almost automatic, reaction to circumstances in my life, both good and bad.

I also play back voices of encouragement from family, friends and fellow-workers. Gladney is a very encouraging place to work. Almost everyone here seems to actively think of ways to encourage. What a refreshing change for me personally. Even though I worked for financial institutions that I’m still proud to be associated with, encouragement was not exactly a valued commodity. Without realizing it at the time, I got a little beaten down; maybe lost a little life.

I’ve learned that everybody – all levels and all personality types – appreciates an encouraging word and becomes just a little more alive when they hear one.


Monday, August 3, 2009

I recently returned from Russia and Bulgaria and was able to describe the highlights of my trip in audio posts to my blog. Accompanying me on the Russia leg were Rich Hill, a Gladney board member, and Marshall Williams, a Gladney executive. It was a wonderful trip and I'm very encouraged about both countries - in terms of widespread concern about their orphans, as well as opportunities for Gladney. It's hard to capture a trip in a few pictures, but I have tried to do that for the Russia portion - me and my traveling companions, our in-country team, me and a few of the adorable kids, and a shot of our team with government officials in Pskov. More to come - next from Bulgaria.