Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's That Time of Year

You know the 2010 Election Day has to be close when you see back-to-back TV ads proclaiming candidates who will lower taxes, raise taxes, create more government, slash government, continue the great work of the incumbent party, reverse the unparallel disasters of the incumbent party, grow new jobs, slash jobs, build America, or tear down America. Yep, it's hard to tell the players based on the ads. Then again, the radio isn't much better; sometimes it's hard to catch the weather in between all the ads that tout the good qualities of the candidate while boldly proclaiming the terrible deeds of the opponent. As I listen to the ads I often ponder what a new immigrant to America must think of the politics of this country. I also wonder how much good could be done if the money used on all these ads might get directed toward social ministry -- but I digress.

What the party ads are designed to do is to capture your vote -- that all-important X next to the name of their candidate. When you go into the voting booth next Tuesday, candidates are counting on the fortunes spent for media exposure will help you decide to vote for that person. It is all about the X. Okay, the candidates have a whole other agenda and sincerely want to help America and the people they represent; I firmly believe every politician wants to do good for the country, state, county, or city in which they seek office. But I also believe that at this time of year, all the ads, the hype, the talk, and the buzz are geared with one thing in mind: get your vote.

So, do you vote?

I have voted in nearly every election in which I have been eligible. I have stood in line for long periods of time to cast my ballot in a hotly contested national election, and I have been one of a handful of voters casting votes in a local library bond issue. I believe I am one of the most privileged people in the world in that I have a vote. No one will keep me away from the polling place and no one will demand to know how I voted. I have the freedom, nay, the right, to vote a confidential ballot free from coercion, threat, or punishment. I take that right as a responsibility and I make every effort to cast my ballot every chance I get.

I think it is important for me to model what it means to be an active citizen in the election process. Hence my family, my neighbors, and my friends all know I have voted. I also believe it is an individual choice as to what candidates, issues, or party one chooses to support. Hence I do not share my vote lest my family, my neighbors, or my friends are swayed by my choices.

In this part of the country we keep hearing the phrase, "man up!" It means we have to step up and vote in this election.

I agree. Will you man up?

Your vote is important.

Don't waste it by missing out on this important opportunity to help shape America.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Strength of a Man

Many a boy has stood toe to toe with a classmate and uttered those famous words, "My dad can beat up your dad." Yep, boys take pride in the strength of their dads. The stronger one's dad was, the bigger the boy's swagger.

But how do we measure the strength of a man, especially today. I suspect we still put great stock in the amount of weight a man can press, curl, or lift with the larger the poundage, the greater the respect in the eyes of his fellow men. But I would postulate the strength of a man can be measured in other ways besides pounds lifted.

I would put forth that a man's strength can also be measured by his character. It is my opinion a man can be strong when he puts his faith above the assaults of the world. I believe it takes a strong man to buck the tide of peer pressure and uphold biblical truth. There are times when courage is required to state one's views in the face of a backlash from those who uphold political correctness in all instances. It takes a strong man to speak up for that which is moral and ethical in opposition to the majority. A strong man will not always be popular.

I would also venture an opinion that a man can show strength in tending to his family by putting his family first. I believe it takes a strong man to choose changing diapers over changing channels or shopping with the wife over drinking with the boys. A strong man takes care of his family first.

I think it is a strong man who takes responsibility for his actions -- even if those actions cause problems. A strong man is one who can say, "Yep. I did it." An even stronger man will then accept the consequences his actions might lead to, not trying to lay blame on others. It may not be easy, but it will -- ultimately -- make things better.

I think the strength of a man is measured in many ways with, perhaps, the greatest strength coming from living as a Christian -- forgiven and forgiving, trusting and trusted -- showing Christ in all that is done and said.

How strong are you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Wait Until Your Dad Gets Home

There was a time in America that moms would stay at home and dads would go to work. The kids, especially in the summer, were fairly free to roam the neighborhood and do what kids do: have fun and sometimes get in trouble. Moms usually watched out for any kids that happened to be within watching distance. The mom network was a very tight-knit group and any transgression committed by a child was soon reported to the appropriate mother. The mother would then stand on the front stoop and call out her child's name in a voice that would stop any kid in his tracks within earshot. The unfortunate soul whose name was called had two options. He could run home and face the music (never the preferred choice) or he could bolt to the nearest pier looking for any ocean-going vessel needing a young deckhand.

In this instance (and because the nearest ocean was 1,500 miles away), the kid chose to face the consequences.

Upon entering the house, the door was closed, the child was ushered into a chair, and the charges were enumerated. If the transgression warranted a higher authority, the child was summarily dismissed to his bedroom with the ominous "Wait until your father comes home!" ringing in his ears. No greater foreboding was possessed by a young boy's mind than that which rattled his brain between mom's words and dad's footsteps through the front door.

Mom was tough, but dad was dreaded.

I recently overheard a new mom discussing how her daughter reacts to discipline. This young mom is the one who goes to work and dad is the one who stays home to raise their daughter. The mom was sharing how her 18-month-old daughter will seldom respond to mom's discipline efforts, but when dad speaks, the daughter jumps to obey. The mom thought this was not fair, but made the observation that in her upbringing, it was dad she feared, not mom. Mom would discipline, but dad would punish. She further observed that her dad's voice was what she feared. It was loud, deep, and authoritative. She laughed as she mentioned hearing stories from her mom telling how before any discipline took place her mom had to sit in the bedroom until dad returned from work. The young mom wondered why do children respond to dad more than mom?

As I overheard her talking I couldn't help but hear my confirmation pastor admonish his students: "You are to fear and love God." Maybe this is part of the answer -- I feared my dad; I loved my dad. Whether it's a more powerful, you've-got-my-full-attention-now voice or some other quality, part of who dads are produces both love and a healthy amount of fear in their children.

Perhaps fearing and loving my dad made it easier to understand how I was to fear and love God?

Now I wonder why that is?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let's Put the "Civil" Back into Civilization

Is it just me or is society a much colder and crueler place now than in years gone by? The recent report of a college student killing himself after a video of him in a compromising act became public is just one more example of how I think society is deteriorating. Increasingly, it seems more school children are reporting being bullied at school; more violent crimes are being committed and, evidently, disagreeing without resorting to angry taunts is a fast-fading social skill. Perhaps it is just me, but even driving on the highway seems to prompt confrontations over who has right of way, how long is a legal stop at a stop sign, and what exactly is a red light. One wouldn't have to wait very long in any city to hear horns blaring, see fingers flying, or watch a driver pounding his or her steering wheel while expressing a nasty opinion about the driver in front. Even churches have become the target of hate through vandalism or arson.

Religion, politics, and sexual orientation are hot buttons in today's world. I sometimes wonder about people's reactions to things. Economically, of course, times are tricky, but haven't we faced crushing financial crises in the past? Sure, there are terrorist freaks who threaten regional or global peace by appropriating religion as an excuse for their wanton bloodbaths, but haven't there always been zealous fanatics and related struggles in the past? And what of the proliferation of gratuitous sexual behavior and display of all types? Contemporary man has no corner on that market. Though, the worldwide visibility and access of it surely is beyond that known to earlier generations.

Is there no hope? Are we doomed to continue a headlong spiral down the porcelain convenience?

I think not. I think as guys we have the ability to change the downward societal spiral one person and one family at a time. Guys, we have influence, especially in our families. How we handle our finances, our anger, and our treatment of our neighbor does impact our families, our co-workers, and our communities. From which sports team we cheer for, to the type of car we drive, we influence the next generation. How often have you heard, "We are a Ford family" or "I will only drive a Chevy"? We even influence the drinks our family puts in the fridge. If we drink Coca-Cola, our children likely will too.

So perhaps it's as simple as each of us, individually, making a commitment to be civil to one another. We do not have to give up our religion or politics. We do not have to agree on everything, nor do we have to compromise. But maybe we just have to treat others with respect and dignity.

What do you think? (Don't you like it how I asked you for your opinion?)