March 28, 2007

Pray For What?

A recent article in our local paper shared the news of a push from some of the congressmen in Washington making a call to the nation to pray for America. If you go to the actual website established by the congressmen, you will read that they are looking for people who will "join Members of Congress in praying that God will bless and sustain America." I don't know about you, but to me, its arrogant. Its a prayer that we as a nation have been praying since 9/11.

I distinctly remember that night after those attacks where everyone returned to churches to pray for our nation. The church I serve had its own service where we prayed, called out to God for hope, and began to deal with the stunning effect of that day. The beauty of it, in my opinion, was a unity that America has never seen. It saddens me that it took an event to draw us together.

What followed that day, however, sickened me. Our prayers as a nation became self centered. They focused on asking God to bless us. "God Bless America" became the poster song for our nation, even beyond our national anthem. Many Christians planted "God Bless America" signs in their yards. In the circle of people that I know, some even circulated a picture of an eagle sharpening his talons. Songs like "I'm Proud to Be an American" were received with much applause and tears while others like "Amazing Grace" moved us to nothing. Our patriotism became our hope, not God.

In my mind, I really chewed on what our response as the church should be. How were we to react to those who attacked us? How would Jesus have handled the situation. What would he have prayed for those following weeks? Some of my friends shared similar frustrations and concerns about our response. I remember one of them praying that God would help us to lose the "God Bless America" ideal and that we, as a nation would learn to bless God.

As I came across the above website, my frustration with the Church's patriotism bubbled up inside of me again. All too often, we get excited about the wrong things. Some of the most passionate and emotional moments in worship have been more patriotic than Christian. We get more excited about flag poles than the healing of broken lives, or at least that's the way it seems. I wonder what God thinks of it all?

The call to "pray that God will bless and sustain America" shows that we don't get it. We should be praying for God to show us grace. We should be praying that God help us understand what it means to love our neighbors and love our enemies. We should be praying that God will help us to use our place in the world not to dominate, but to bless. We should be praying that Christians get the fact that our faith comes before our patriotism. That in itself re-orders our thoughts and actions.

All through this, I cannot help but think about Israel dealing with Rome. Their understanding of faith was deep. They knew that putting an eagle, the sign of Rome, on the temple was a detestable thing in the sight of God. They knew that as a nation, they were committed to God, not to anyone else. When that became distorted, Christ called to the nation, telling them it wasn't about a physical kingdom. "My kingdom is not of this world." Our lives are to be shaped by something different. They are to pray for something different. They are to be something different.

My prayer is that God helps us as the church to know what different is and that he help us to live it.

March 12, 2007

Annoyed and Frustrated

Ok. I'm going to rant a little. I normally don't, but this frustrates me to no end. I read an article today on how Americans are over medicating their pets. If you want to read the article for yourself, here is the link.

Now, I've had my share of pets when I was growing up. We always had a dog of some sort. We never paid for them. Some were strays that just showed up; others we got from people who either couldn't take care of their pets, or whose pets had puppies. We even had a ferret for awhile, which we got from the high school when they were downsizing their biology department. We would take them to the vet for shots and for their fixing. When they got old or sick, the neighbor would put them down. (Remember, I grew up in a rural/farm setting in NE Ohio in the 70s and 80s. That was/is an ok thing to do.) Never in a million years would we have spent money to buy a pet or medicate it to keep it healthy. Even at the dairy farm I worked at, the cows would be treated better, but if they became too sick to produce milk, they were "put out to pasture".

To read and see that pet drug companies are spending millions of dollars on advertising and that Americans are spending even more on the wellbeing of their pets frustrates me. I'm not saying people shouldn't have pets or care for their wellbeing. Some people enjoy the companionship and protection animals give them. That's fine. My question to them would be at what point do we draw the line? How much is too much to spend to get an animal? How much is too much for the things we need do we need to keep Fido a part of the family? At what point do pets get elevated above humanity? We Americans I'm sure spend millions of dollars on Fancy Feast or whatever is the stylish thing to feed our pets is while people around us struggle to survive--while parts of the world struggle to survive.

Now, for all two or three of you who will read this, I'm sure you will come back at me and say, "if we take your ideas to the extreme, we could put some of those fellow humans out to pasture." That's not what I am saying. What I am saying is lets think theologically or morally about what we are spending our money on, so that humanity is put at the top of the care list. What I'm saying is that if I struggle to pay my bills, I should probably think twice about spending money on a new puppy or on chemotherapy for Spot the family dog.

You might say, "you know, it's not pets for you, but you do spend lots of $$ for such and such that you don't need to." I would agree with you. I have hangups just as much as others and I'm working on them. I'm trying to gauge everything I do theologically, like trying to take shorter showers so I don't waste water or the energy used to heat the water. Do I fail sometimes, sure. We all do. Does that mean I give up and fail all the time. Not at all!

Ok. I'm done.

March 8, 2007

My Little Girl

My daughter had the chance to be a model for one of our friends, Jackie, who is a photographer. She's an incredible photographer, I might add. The shots she did of Hannah Grace were beyond cute. If you want to see some of the pics, go here and here.

Who would have thought that something that cute would come from me?