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Friday, September 17, 2010

Newspaper articles and my worldview

Have you ever just perused the various headlines in the local paper and then evaluate them according to what has shaped your worldview? I find it to be very interesting exercise which keeps me studying and trying to understand what “in the world” is going on. Today’s headlines and a fortuitous phone call this morning help me to keep things in prospective.
Today’s biggest headline draws all our attention to the fact that the American poverty rate has set a record for the number of people in poverty. The article also explains that without extended unemployment benefits another 3.3 million would have fallen into poverty in 2009. Interestingly, the 14.3% of Americans in poverty were lower than was projected.
Right next to this big article was a smaller article fitted into the lower right hand corner. It read, “If Bush tax cuts expire, everyone pays.” The article would go on to show that all socio-economic groups with a family income of over $50,000 and being a family of four, would see an increase in their taxes. Interestingly, the poverty rate for a family of four, as stated by our government, is $21,954! Seriously, can any family of four live in California for less than $30,000, and not be considered impoverished?
The median household income held “steady” at $49.777. This is somewhat artificial because more households have multiple jobs. This not only artificially inflates the actual earnings of a family it deflates the real unemployment/underemployment figures. It also means, in a literal sense, that virtually 50% of American households will have less money to meet their needs if the tax increases go into effect. It also means that the number of people who are counted as impoverished will almost certainly grow.
So how does my worldview inform my disseminating of this information? First, it is far more complex than I wish. Poverty is an issue that is part of a clarion call in my faith to respond to, proactively, and with an understanding it will be a constant segment of a nation’s population . It involves the issues of compassion, empathy, dignity, justice, and advocacy. How these components blend together is difficult on the individual level.
Second, my worldview also holds that the least likely component of society to address this situation effectively and efficiently is a government organization. The government is a “power” and without an external guiding force (for me this is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ) power becomes corrupted. Thus, government begins to perpetuate problems, ills, and maladies by insuring it can continue to exist. It only seeks to relieve the daily needs and seldom seeks long-term solutions which will benefit not only the people in need but the whole population the government is supposed to be serving.
The very best means to address issues related to poverty is to release funding into the community benefit organizations (CBO’s) and religious organizations of the nation. There is no comparison to the effectiveness and efficiency of CBO’s and religious organization and that of the government. What the governments spends in administrative costs alone would bankrupt most other institutions. If that money were to be released into society through the CBO’s and religious organizations expertise American would be transformed in a very short period of time.
You may ask if government should have a role at all and I do say, “yes” to this. Some issues, particularly in regard to mental health, need significant governmental leadership. Additionally, the disbursement of monies should have strong accountability toward issues of sustainability, accountability, and results. This is simply an issue of good stewardship. The people of America have little problem turning over money when accountability is adhered too. Yet, no organization should be depending on government money (that includes the government!). Of course this is misnomer anyway. The government cannot produce money. It can only collect money. And that money comes from the people. It is a form of property and a government which does not utilize this money properly is, quite frankly, evil. If government became a proponent and adherent to being accountable and showing results people would respond in an overwhelming manner.
The cost of a “bridge to nowhere” and other frivolous “pork barrel” spending could have helped thousands of families to getting headed toward a stronger financial situation which didn’t include dependency on the government. It is the charity of people that best serves the needs of those who have made poor choices or someone else’s choices have brought about their unfortunate situation. It is the CBO’s and religious organizations, which have a strong adherence to results and accountability, which are the most effective means by which to change the course of an individual and community’s direction.
So I close with this blog with a phone call I received this morning. “Alma” was 101 years old when she passed on to the rewards of eternal life. She was brought up in a society which not only supported itself, but also rallied to support each other. She remembered both World Wars, the Depression, and far too many historical episodes to recount, saw her husband and both her sons die before her time was up, yet remained a steadfast independent woman who invested and made sure her needs would be met. Yes, government played some part, as it probably should, but she didn’t see government as the chief means toward this end.
Yes, she collected social security and utilized medical/medicare. All of which she paid into over her decades of work. What wasn’t appreciated was how the money she put in was continually pulled out to meet other government budget issues (i.e. pork barrel and frivolous spending). If we get dinged for pulling money out of our 401k’s and other investments, why does the government get away with it? You wouldn’t have wanted to get her started on this conversation!
I marvel at her life. A generation that understood how to work hard, care for others, sacrifice for a nation, and exhibit generosity to those who demonstrated need and a willingness to move out of that need. I sure hope our government and our people in America will grasp this before it is too late. I am committed to these principles.
Until the next time…

Monday, September 13, 2010

Transitions

According to the dictionary I have at home “transition” means, “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another” and “a movement, development or evolution from one form, stage or style to another.”
I would alter this a bit for a definition, through a compilation of these definitions to say, “a passage to a stage brought about by a movement and development from one form to another.” This is where I find myself in life. I am about to move from one “stage” to another and this has been brought about by a strong sense of my development and through a clear leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. I am moving from one form (lead pastor of a Central Community Church) to another form (full-time Executive Director of Highway City Community Development).
As someone who has had the privilege and honor of being allowed to start a new church which was focused on Christ through holistic ministry, cross-cultural diversity (age, gender, race, socio-economics), and evangelism (living and speaking the life Christ) I am now being allowed to enter into a new stage of that ministry.
Highway City Community Development, while “legally” a separate entity from Central Community Church, is spiritually and relationally intertwined. Both organizations are focused on the same geographical areas (Highway City and the Central Unified School District) and function with the same ministry philosophy (a strong holistic theology and understanding of a theology of place). Yet, as one being a church and the other a 501 (c) 3 Community Benefit Organization, they have different functions and needs when it comes to leadership. This is where my understanding of my “development” has become so much clearer.
Maybe it is because of passing the half century mark in age, or more likely a better theological understanding that God created me with specific gifts and abilities, but I have come to understand, quite clearly, what I can provide and what I can’t provide to both entities. What Central Community Church needs for its healthy future is different from what I am created, wired, and trained to do. What Highway City Community Development appears to needs is very much in line with those same issues. My faith tells me that the next stage should be entered with full enthusiasm despite the sadness that comes with changing the look of many relationships.
I think this is what keeps most people from making the God directed transitions in life. We fear the change that comes to our relationships. All of our relationships are going to change. Our relationships with God (what if I heard wrong or I can’t receive the same financial support?); our relationships with people (the leadership dynamic changes, the people’s perspective have to be altered); and our relationships with family (routines will be changed, availability may be altered, and access to material “givens” may change due to possible changes in income). These are all VERY significant issues which cannot be dismissed. But, if we truly believe that God is in control, they are issues which can be addressed. And, by doing so, each of the stated relationships can actually become deeper, more vital, and more supportive as the community moves into the transition. Ultimately, this is how transition is to be understood.
We are not created to be alone, nor can we ever believe that our “personal issues” aren’t part of what affects the whole community. An individual who is moving through a transition is also part of community which also must move through the transition. It is much more profound when the individual is the designated “leader” of the particular communities in which they live out their lives.
This is the point of my “new” journey which has been the hardest to wrestle with and to insure I remain gentle, but resolute in what I believe God is leading me (and my communities) into. It is humbling to realize (finally?) that I make a difference in people’s lives. In fact, humbling, doesn’t seem to come close to what I am trying to communicate. I made such a mess of my life before meeting Christ. I hurt people deeply. Even worse than that though, was that I didn’t even care how others might be affected. I made decisions solely on how I felt and what I would get (gain) from those decisions. I am so grateful that Christ NEVER gives up on any of us. If you don’t know Christ, or reject Him at this very minute, I want you to know that He hasn’t rejected you. He is still reaching out to you through your circumstances and various people around you. Just keep that in mind. And now, through the grace and mercy of God, I am now allowed to influence people to the God who created me; the God who waited for me; the God who would die for me so that my life would bring honor to Him.
This blog entry is dedicated to those who are near in vicinity and those who have made the effort to communicate their love for me from afar. Those who are “afar”; Catherine, Rheanna, Sarah, Jesse, Mike, Katie, Jen, Ben, Darin and so many others who have let me know I made a difference. That is hard to grasp, yet so encouraging toward making the decision to be obedient in this new transition. Those in close proximity are too numerous to count and list and I pray that this transition will be seen as the opportunity from God to move you even closer to Him. You are the main instruments He has used to help me to this next stage of ministry.
So, a new adventure is underway. Metaphorically, we are packing our bags and readying ourselves for what lies ahead. The direction seems clear, but the steps certainly are not. What I do know is this: My God has a sacrificial love for me, and my friends will be moving along in the journey with me because this too is their journey. It is also their adventure. We all have the opportunity to become more like what God has planned for us to become. I pray each of you read this will also embrace the journey. God’s blessing on all of you.