Hurricane Harvey: The challenge for every Texan

Hurricane Harvey: The challenge for every Texan

I have been down to the Texas coast twice in the last two weeks since Hurricane Harvey.

The first time was to recon the area and connect with local churches and city leaders in Aransas Pass and Rockport. I lead a team of men who were tasked to serve a small local church on my second visit. Over the years, I have seen the devastation of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the EF5 multiple vortex tornado in Joplin, the EF3 tornado that hit downtown Fort Worth, the rubble of the twin towers in New York City and other disasters. However, Hurricane Harvey is different. Hundreds of miles of Texas coastline from Corpus Christi to Beaumont are disaster zones. Destruction can be seen 20-40 miles inland in some areas. The southern-most zone where Hurricane Harvey made landfall looks much different than the north. The destruction in Aransas Pass and Rockport came from straight-line winds of 130-140 mph and mini tornadoes spun off by the hurricane. In Houston and Beaumont, the destruction is from massive flooding.

Wherever you go along the coast, you’ll see devastation everywhere.

It is heart-breaking. Most of the attention and support is flowing toward the Houston area. Therefore, when you talk with people in disaster zones hundreds of miles outside of Houston, you’ll soon learn a heart-breaking truth. The people outside of Houston feel forgotten. Look around the small towns and villages, you’ll see why. FEMA, Red Cross, etc. have little to no presence in those areas. Small communities are forced to fend for themselves and depend on what little outside help comes their way.

“The people outside of Houston feel forgotten… Where is their voice?”

The city of Houston receives the media’s focus. Most of what you hear outside of the Houston area is; “Houston, Houston, when are you going to Houston? How are we going to help Houston” Don’t get me wrong, I love Houston and they absolutely need help. However, there are millions of people who don’t live in Houston yet lost everything. Where is their voice? Every time people along the coast hear, “Help Houston”, they are hearing something else, an unintended message of, “We have forgotten you!”

In conclusion, here is the challenge for every Texan.

1. Help Houston!

2. Don’t forget your fellow Texans’ cry for help outside of Houston. Help them too!

Texans are big enough to handle both. Aren’t we?


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Great accomplishments of Name-calling in history

Great accomplishments of Name-calling in history

There is a lot of name-calling going on. People are sick of it.

The best way to get people tune you out is to start name-calling. Name-calling is neither helpful nor constructive. In fact, it’s destructive. There has never been an instance when calling someone a name has actually caused a positive outcome.

Seth Godin states, “The best reason to brand someone with a pejorative label is to push them away, to forestall useful conversation, to turn them into the other…. When we call someone misogynist or racist or sexist or a capitalist, a socialist or an abstract expressionist, what are we hoping for? Every one of us is on the ‘ist’ spectrum, so the label becomes meaningless. Meaningless labels are noise, noise that lasts.”

In addition to Seth Godin’s list, consider the names people hurl at each other: Libtard, racist, bigot, redneck, homophobe, etc…

By calling someone who disagrees with you a name, what are you trying to accomplish?

Try to think of any instance when employing the name-calling tactic has elevated or furthered a conversation or brought value or peace?

You cannot. Why is that?

The answer is… Because name-calling is a logical fallacy (Ad Hominem).

Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it. (yourlogicalfallacyic.com)

Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. (Wikipedia)

Facebook and Twitter have provided platforms for people to throw nasty verbal jabs safely from behind a computer keyboard without having to engage directly with someone they disagree. It’s easier (safer) to type something than to actually say it in a face-to-face interaction.

We have established that Name-calling has accomplished zero and is counter-productive. It is a logical fallacy. It is a bunch of noise. There have been no great accomplishments by name-calling in history.  The title of this post is just as ludicrous as name-calling itself.

One step solution?

STOP

Are you a person of peace?

Are you a person of peace?

There are two kinds of people in this world.

People of Peace and People of Strife.

The question we must ask ourselves is: ‘which one am I?’

Everyday, you have a choice as to which you will be.

Gut check questions:

  • Are you fascinated by strife and discord?
  • Do you become consumed and inflamed by conflict and violence?
  • Do the pattern of your thoughts reflect a thirst for forms of entertainment that portray strife, distrust, envy, violence and conflict?
  • Or, do strive and violence make you sick and sad to your core?

FW Boreham says strife has entered into and permeated every department of life.  It affects society in general. On every hand, in a million different forms- we meet rivalry, suspicion and distrust. We see class contending with class: the rich oppressing the poor; the poor breathing maledictions on the rich. Petty jealousy mars the sweetness of every friendship; it stultifies the efficiency of every organization; and, entering our very churches, it disturbs and destroys that abiding unity that should be their most conspicuous charm.” The seventh Beatitude extends an olive branch…. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God” One does not need to be a ‘Christian’ to understand Jesus’s teaching here. The peacemaker is a lover of peace and works to preserve peace. “The sounds of strife and discord are an agony to his spirit.” says Boreham. Like a rose exhaling it’s fragrance is an involuntary expression of its nature, the peacemaker exudes a spirit of peace without even realizing.

I challenge you to work to become a peacemaker.

  • Work not to offend others.
  • Work on not taking offense.
  • Work to extend an olive branch of peace to another (this is risky).

In order to change the climate of discourse, we must become people of peace (even when discord is the predominate noise).

Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not  seeing compassion, caring or charity.

2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!

How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?

We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?

Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin.  I must own up to it.

God is compassionate and we are not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.

The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.

My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal

I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year. I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself.  It is a struggle.

Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”

If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?

The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

God’s response?
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”

What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?

God is compassionate and we are not
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.

The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.

And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”

I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.

Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say to our culture.

Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah

U.S. Elections: What the heck just happened?

U.S. Elections: What the heck just happened?

The US Elections are one for the history books. Here is my analysis. Please bear with me as I draw on chords that lead to what just happened in the US last night. Please understand, I’m making broad observations above politics.

A good friend of mine in Montreal Canada posted a comment on Facebook this morning. He and I are on different sides of the political spectrum. Let me provide a backdrop to our friendship.

Alex and Me - Friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum

Alex and Me – Friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum

In 2004, Alex booked me for a gig at StereoBar in Montreal. I stayed with him and his family. We all enjoyed a home cooked meal as the snow fell on the city. It was a record snowfall. GW Bush was in office. We had a lively political debate and I so enjoyed their company, I remember it fondly to this day. We tolerated each others differences and embrace each other in friendship. Both of us lost our fathers way to early. We share that loss, vigorous debate at times and a love of house music.

Alex’s Facebook post this morning (after elections):
“Urgh. Brexit, Trump – This is what happens when you continuously talk down to people who already feel that they have nothing, and are angry about it. In 2016, working class beats smirking class.”

Alex is spot on in his analysis. Remember, we are from opposite ends of the political spectrum but we find agreement here.

Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or faith, I believe most people just want to work, enjoy family and be generally left alone. For the past 20 years, the establishment has trespassed into the lives of normal folks trying to live quiet normal lives. Trump and Sanders are what you get when the establishment starts exerting its will on everyday folks. I think ‘the Bern’ phenomenon speaks just as loudly as Trump. There has been a shift in American political culture.

I think the turnout in the US will be a study into the anthropology of a cultural shift.

What cultural shift?
Let me draw on some historical chords that stand out in my mind. I’m not positing moral equivalency here. I am simply ‘thinking out loud’ for the sake of discussion.

Baby-Boomers
The Woodstock Flower-Power generation challenged the established authority and found unity in disrupting the status quo. They activated for racial equality, freedom of speech and expression, sexual freedom and anti-war. Somewhere along the line, this movement was subverted by an insurgent movement emanating from the academy (universities). 30-40 years later, the anti-authority Boomers became the established authority in America. They eventually violated their original cause. They undermined the very freedoms they fought for in the 1960s. That was one cultural shift worth noting.

Arab Spring
In 2010, the world witnessed a populist uprising against the establishment in a few countries in the Arab world. This is still unfolding six years later. But, its worth noting, it began with everyday folks rejecting the establishment.

Brexit
This year, the UK surprised the world when it held a referendum to leave the EU. The people voted to challenge the establishment. This is still unfolding.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
As an anthropologist and student of culture, I don’t know what is more interesting, the Bernie phenomena or Trump’s victory. If the Bernie would have been allowed to run against Trump, I think he would have won handily (not by a landslide but handily). However, the DNC establishment wanted none of it. I know Sanders supporters who voted Trump because it’s not a left vs right thing anymore… it’s a establishment vs the people thing. Bernie brought that to light and Trump played that chord. It resonated with the people.

Bernie and Trump supporters are at opposite ends of the left vs. right spectrum. Yet, they are in agreement in their challenge to the political and economic establishment and power structure. Their means are different but they both are convinced the status quo must go.

So, here we are on the first page of a new chapter in history. As the ink spills and fills the future pages of this book, it is worth noting ‘what the heck just happened’ is not a political shift but a cultural shift. Politics and legislation are lagging indicators of the culture. The anti-establishment movement is the new establishment. Hopefully, it does not succumb like past movements.

As the Zen Master once said, “We’ll see what happens….”

God vs. the NSA – The ways of man cannot be hidden

God vs. the NSA – The ways of man cannot be hidden

Last night, I found myself reading about the Edward Snowden. He is the NSA guy who broke the news that the US Government has been gathering massive amounts of electronic data on US citizens. Snowden has currently found asylum in Russia. I find the unfolding story intriguing. Everything from phone calls and emails to text messages and other forms of private communication have been swept into NSA data bases. Suffice to say, the NSA knows a lot about millions of Americans. It got me to thinking this morning after reading Proverbs 8.

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 8:18 KJV)

Not only are the actions and deeds of a man (or woman) known by God but, God knows a man’s thoughts and motives. Nothing can be hidden from God.

We are prone to hide anyway. Whether it is the tantalizing lustful fantasy or desire of a sexual nature or pride wrapped in the robes of radiant humility, ALL is known by God.

Perhaps its the good deed done in hopes of recognition by the world? ALL is known by God.

Only the regenerate, reborn, remade, redeemed heart can be pricked by the blade of the Holy Spirit; capturing and dragging the motivation in chains to the cross. This is where Christ puts it to death and renews a man’s spirit with His Grace and love.

The rebellious unregenerate heart will be ruled by passions and motivations.

In the final analysis, a man has a choice. He can remain in bondage to a cycle of base impulses like sex and self. Alternatively, he can capture his thoughts and put them to death and freedom is achieved.

What are the characteristics of the thoughts running through your mind?
The answer will reveal whether you are in bondage or freedom.

While you may be able to hide from the NSA, the ways of man cannot be hidden from God.  ALL is known by God.