Sunday, December 18, 2011


My late Mom, who died in 2006, bristled at how intensively our government was using Reserve and National Guard troops as a mainstay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mom knew about the costs of war. She served as a family service volunteer with the American Red Cross beginning in World War Two and continuing through Vietnam. Her job was to help GI families deal with the exigencies of military service. She saw what war does to GIs and their families and she helped them.

In recent years, every time the news announced a new rotation of our “weekend warriors” into combat she grew angry. Why wasn’t a regular career military force shouldering these responsibilities, she asked? Or why not face the issue of a draft and more equally share the load?

Now some adverse consequences of using our Guard and Reserve women and men in such an intensive role are becoming painfully obvious - among them startling rates of unemployment.

Veterans aged 18 through 24 have an unemployment rate of 37.9%, says the Economist magazine.

 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans overall have an unemployment rate of 11.1%. 

Compare these with a U.S. national unemployment rate of 8.6%.

Moreover, 1 in 3 homeless men is a veteran says the magazine.

Clearly we have not considered seriously enough the personal and social consequences of sending our young men and women reservists to these wars. Mom was thinking about these things even at age 94, and I am sure she prayed about them.

Perhaps we other generations should ponder and pray too. We surely should go forth as a body of citizens and help our wounded warriors – those with wounded bodies, minds, families and careers.

Also, if we must go to war, let’s consider a better way to share the load.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Church: Lifeboat or Workboat?

 We in the American church sometimes act like passengers escaping a sinking ship, who have crawled out of shark infested seas into a handy lifeboat - the church. We dwell on our escape forgetting we are supposed to use the boat to go somewhere and do something for Christ.  

Where the Bible describes boats, the boats are going somewhere or doing something. Tell me, can you think of a single recreational cruise?

If Captain William Bligh and his loyal crewmembers had viewed themselves as passengers in the lifeboat when the Bounty mutineers cut them adrift in the South Pacific, we probably never would have heard of them again.

Instead, Bligh and his 18 men functioned as a crew, accepting the challenge of navigating their open boat 3,618 miles to Timor (an island near Australia). They reached safety and continued their careers, Bligh becoming an Admiral.

HMS Bounty replica
Kenneth Sponsler /

The church, like Bligh's open boat, is more than a lifeboat, and we are crew - not passengers. God created the church to glorify Him. That's our work, and the church is our workboat.

Crewing a boat requires collaboration. That means discipline. If we think of ourselves as passengers in the church, we will not cultivate the disciplines that get us where God wants us to go.

One of the necessary disciplines is peacemaking, which we need for getting the church's work done. The challenging and creative work Christ assigns us brings about conflicts, and reconciling the conflicts advances the work to completion.

Captain Bligh, a stern disciplinarian and excellent navigator, showed little talent for reconciling conflict; a reason he was ejected from his ship and failed to complete his mission. We must do better.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Relationships – Often Highways for God’s Gifts

God could do everything Himself. Instead he often chooses to employ people.

When God chooses to deliver His gifts through people, a purpose may be to nurture the relationships that are conduits for the gifts.

For example, God chose to deliver David from King Saul’s wrath through his friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan.  God could have selected other means, but instead employed a relationship that held firm even after Jonathan’s death.

When David suspected that King Saul intended to kill him, he and Jonathan made a covenant. Jonathan promised to warn David secretly if Saul acted against David, and David promised to always continue his love to Jonathan’s descendants. (1 Sam. 20:30)

Later, when King Saul erupted in anger against David’s absence from a feast, Jonathan warned David with a coded message and David escaped. (1 Sam. 20).

When king, David kept his covenant with Jonathan, by restoring to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth all the land of Saul and taking him to eat at the king’s table. (2 Sam.9)

Later, David again honored his covenant by forgiving Mephibosheth for failing to join him when David fled Jerusalem in Absalom’s rebellion. (2 Sam. 15; 16:1-4; 19:24-30)

It seems clear that God had more in mind than delivering David from Saul, when Jonathan warned David of Saul’s wrath. By the two men honoring the covenant they had made, God nurtured a special friendship that both blessed David and Jonathan personally, and protected Jonathan’s family after the political tables turned and David was king.

If God so values and uses our relationships with other people, shouldn’t we also value and nurture them?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dancing or Dialogue?

The presidential candidates I would like to hear from are the ones climbing toward the summit through honest dialogue, not the ones dancing among the foothills with talking points. The summit is serving the people of the nation according to our real needs, and the superior candidate is the one who continually directs our eyes toward the summit. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pejorative Place Names

I fished below the surface for a worthy motive in the current flap about a former pejorative name of the Texas hunting lease of Governor Rick Perry. I didn't discover a worthy motive, but I discovered that the flap is eclipsing a deeper, broader issue about the use of the "n-word".

The disfavored word "Negro" and often its hated n-word variant, are part of place names across the United States - not only in Texas.

A few searches of the U.S. Geological Survey database brought me this sample of states with place names that include the word Negro and/or the n-word":

California, 61 places
Texas, 42 places
New York, 25 places
Illinois, 15 places
Georgia, 11 places
Maryland, 8 places
Massachusetts, 2 places

It seems possible, therefore, that the owners of the land which Governor Perry leased for hunting, may have been calling the place by its traditional name, and not coining a racial epithet. After all, nearby in Shackleford County is a place called "Negro Creek."

All Americans - not only Governor Perry and other political leaders - need to insist on changing pejorative place names, to names that add something good to our land. Many people - black, white, Hispanic, and others - have given their lives for this land, and there is no shortage of good names to display on our maps.

P.S.: When I submitted the above as a comment to an article on the Dallas Morning News website, I got an error message that read: "We will not add your comment until you remove the following words: negro."