Category Archives: Misc. Musings

Real Men Don’t Need Safe Spaces, They ARE Safe Spaces

Angry Girl SpaghettiRecently, I have seen a plethora of silly articles about patriarchy, cis-gendered masculinity, oppressive gender identity and the like.  Granted, men can be monsters — just like women.  Biologically, they have a predisposition to violence that is directly related to the presence of testosterone which is what causes dominance and aggressiveness.  But that does not mean that all men or even most men are Neanderthalish barbarians.  It means that we need to recognize the differences in roles between men and women and it also means we Angry Feminist On boardneed to lay off the millennial sport of bashing men and masculinity.

I believe that it is a good thing to be a man. God created men physically, chemically, biologically and spiritually to lead, protect, advance and demonstrate strength. To be otherwise is unnatural.

I believe that the role of “father” is a sacred role. Good dads aren’t insensitive louts, they aren’t lazy couch potatoes, they live passionately for their wife and children and they work hard to take good care of their family.

I believe that men ought to treat ladies with respect. They should honor them as the treasure that they are. They should watch out for them, protect them, make them feel special. Real men don’t need pornography – it is an insult to the wives, mothers and daughters to indulge in it. Real men treat the women in their life the way that they would want their daughters or mothers or sisters treated. It is tragic, to me, that so many women today have bought into a feminist mentality that precludes accepting the courteous behavior of a gentleman for the act of honor that it is.

Angry DadI believe that men can love God without being some sort of limp-wristed mama’s boy. God created man in His image. We can have His qualities as part of our character. We aren’t ashamed of our need for a Savior, our devotion to Christ, our submission to the Word of God and if we are – well, then our faith is as phony as our manhood.

I believe that men can be great husbands. We can have the character to remain faithful. We can have the passion to provide romance. We can make a commitment to stay with one woman for our entire life and keep it. We can take care of our wife, help her with the children, support her in her professional endeavors and love her without end. Real men don’t abandon their wives, they don’t hit on the women at work, they don’t ogle cheap women in real life or in advertisement or on screens and they don’t treat their wife poorly.  Real men never….as in NEVER raise a hand toward a woman, they don’t act threatening toward a woman and they understand the definition of the word “NO.”

I believe that men can keep commitments. I believe that a man will understand that a man’s word is his honor. A man who will not keep his word or who will not go to the offended when he has been unable to do so has a character problem that he needs to consider. I believe a man should consider his handshake as good as a notarized signature.

Angry Working ManI believe that men ought to be hard workers. We sweat, we smell, we work overtime, we have rough hands and we don’t quit until the job is done. Even when we play, we make it like work and usually end up hot, tired, bleeding or dirty. And almost always – hungry.

I believe real men are balanced. We can swing a sledge and cuddle a baby. We can change the oil and put a Band-Aid on a skinned knee. We can fight an enemy and shelter a family with the same arms. We can shout at the stadium or cry before God at the church. We are not one-dimensional.

I believe that men can be great dads. They teach kids how to bait hooks, throw a ball and Angry Daddyhandle the school bully. Real dad’s wrestle their kids in the living room floor until their mother about has a heart attack and when the kids get up, they are going to ask for more. Real dad’s work extra jobs to help their kids have a better life than they had. Real dad’s may gag at dirty diapers and tickle kids until they cry, but have someone threaten to harm their loved ones and you’ll see a toughness you could never imagine.

Angry GuysSo enough of the emphasis on gender fluidity.  Enough whining from triggered radical feminists who see every man as some sort of threat to their identity.  Enough of the feminization of this generations boys.  Embrace your role.  Enjoy your uniqueness.  Respect the differences.  Except your limitations and expand your strengths.  If you are a man, it’s a good thing.  And if you are woman, it is as well.

Women should not need “safe spaces” away from reasonable masculinity.  In fact, masculinity — rightly defined and executed — should BE the Safe Space for those who understand and embrace the reality that equality does not mean uniformity.

And another one bites the dust….

Sometimes I hate to be right.

A decade ago, I wrote a series of articles on my blog (don’t look for them now, I took them down some time ago) on the problems facing the Christian Colleges largely supported by Independent Baptists. (I was still ensconced in that identity at the time.) It was a serious of 3-4 articles wherein I very pointedly named about a dozen things they would need to change if they were to survive in the coming decade. It created a firestorm. The articles got 10′s of thousands of hits — particularly in cities like Pensacola, Tampa/Clearwater, Greenville, Chattanooga, Springfield, MO, etc… I was informed I was no longer welcome on the campus of one of my alma maters for daring to publicly challenge them. Another one banned faculty and students from accessing my blog. (Such childish reactions, ftr.) Others accused me of being a rabble rouser.

Today, I heard that Clearwater Christian College is closing. This follows recent announcements from Tennessee Temple that this was their last year and they were “merging” with Piedmont (which has largely become an “online” institution) and also Northland International closed its doors. Prior to that, Calvary in Lansdale, PA had closed, as had Spurgeon Baptist Bible and Atlantic Coast Baptist. (Piedmont hoovered up their assets as the last two were closing.) Baptist University died. BJU has been hemorrhaging students in recent years as has Hyles — largely due to various scandals — and most other extreme right institutions affiliated with churches are barely functioning with the possible exceptions of Crown and West Coast which are both church-based colleges which will likely disappear when their founders die off or retire.. There are a handful of tiny ones run by churches, but they have never been credible. Cedarville does well, but they have moved more mainstream with excellent academics and a recent alignment with the SBC. Pensacola can afford to give away its education due to Beka Books, but otherwise would be struggling as they still don’t have credible accreditation. BBC/Clark Summit has changed its name as they struggle to find their niche and BBC/Springfield is on life support and I predict they’ll be one of the next 2-3 to close. Boston Baptist and Davis are about as small as a school can get before it collapses without outside support. Liberty has sucked the life out of most evangelical schools as they have developed a world-class campus and a national student body base with nearly 100,000 students. Ironically, some of these schools once had robust student bodies numbers in the thousands at their peak. (BJU/TTU/BBC-Springfield had 4,000+, HAC had nearly 3,000. BBC/CS had around 1,000.)

Years ago, I noted that if these schools wanted to survive they had to start thinking regionally, instead of nationally as Liberty and Cedarville took over the national market. I wrote that the right-wing schools had to get over the fixations with music styles, Bible versions, affiliations/associations, the hyper restrictive dating and dress rules, the lack of academic freedom, the incestuous over-hiring of alumni and over-control by alumni. They had to stop their foolish disparaging of any form of accreditation or their students would leave for more credible institutions. I was right. They refused. Called me a liberal and compromiser. They disparaged my ministry — PCC refused to allow us to recruit faculty from them and the Sword of the Lord magazine did a two-part series trashing my church, me and a conference we hosted.

I wish they had listened. Now it’s too late. As has been the case with many fundamentalists I know, if they can’t control something, they’d prefer to kill it. In their mind, they won by losing. It’s really sad, if not pathetic. I was right. I wish this time I hadn’t been.

I’ll probably write more on this in a few days.  Stay tuned.

Consider the Pastor’s Wife — thoughts from Dr. Charles Wood

This post is a reprint of an article by Dr. Charles Wood of South Bend, IN.  He has been my friend, mentor, father figure and confidant for many years.  His wisdom gained from a long life well lived is a constant inspiration to me.  You can get a daily missive from him by writing him at LORCHUCK@aol.com and asking to be on his mailing list.  You’ll be blessed if you do it!

Pastorswife “We’re all vulnerable.  Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt in what happens during the next hour. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, old-timer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.  No one, however, in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor’s wife.  She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure….And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.  She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.  You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.

     “The pastor’s wife can be hurt in a hundred ways – through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.  She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor’s children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium [Does anyone have a “parsonage” anymore?].  She has to take it in silence, most of the time.  It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor’s wife and pull it off. And that’s the problem: In most cases, she’s pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.  The pastor’s wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.  That’s why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor’s wife, and will try to envision whether they would “fit” in “our” church.
     “The pastor’s wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote, and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than she. She is the object of a world of expectations …She is expected to dress modestly and attractively, well enough but not overly ornate.  She is expected to be the perfect mother, raising disciplined children who are models of well-behaved offspring for the other families, to be her husband’s biggest supporter and prayer warrior, and to attend all the church functions faithfully and, of course, bring a great casserole.  Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage – if not from the moment of her salvation – and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, ‘This is why we pay him the big salary,’ and ‘Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?’  She is expected to run her household well on the limited funds the church can pay and keep her family looking like a million bucks.  And those are just for starters!  The pastor’s children likewise suffer in silence as they share their daddy with hundreds of church members, each of whom feel they own a piece of him, and can do little about it. (But, that’s another article.)
     What do we owe to the pastor’s wife …
1. We owe her the right to be herself.
  She is our sister in Christ and accountable to Him.  My wife was blessed to have followed pastors’ wives who cut their own path. So, in some churches, Margaret taught Sunday School and came to the woman’s missionary meetings. In other churches, she directed the drama team and ran television cameras. A few times, she held weekday jobs while raising three pretty terrific kids.  And, as far as I know, the churches were always supportive and understanding. We were blessed.  
Allow the pastor’s wife to serve in whatever areas she’s gifted in. Allow her to try different things, and to grow. But do not put your expectations on her, if at all possible.  Do not try to tell her how to raise her children. Do not try to get to her husband through her with your messages or (ahem) helpful suggestions.
2. We owe her our love and gratitude.  She has a one-of-a-kind role in the congregation, which makes her essential to the church’s well-being.  Recently, as I was finishing a weekend of ministry at a church in central Alabama and about to drive the 300 miles back home, a member said, ‘Please thank your wife for sharing you with us this weekend. I know your leaving is hard on her.’  How sensitive – and how true, I thought. That person had no idea that my wife underwent surgery two weeks earlier, and I had been her nurse ever since, and that in my absence, my son and his family were taking care of her, and that I was now about to rush home to relieve them.  Church members have no clue – and no way of knowing – regarding the pressures inside the pastor’s family, and should not investigate to find out.  What they should do is love the wife and children and show them appreciation at every opportunity.
3. We owe her our love and prayers.  While the Father alone knows her heart, the pastor may be the only human who knows her burdens.  Pray for her by name on a regular basis. Then, leave it to the Lord to answer those prayers however He chooses.  If we believe that the Living God is our Lord and Savior and that He hears our prayers, we should be lifting to Him these whose lives are given in service for Him.  Ask the Father for His protection upon the pastor’s wife and children – for their health, for their safety from all harm, and for Him to shield them from evil people.  Pray for His provisions for all their needs, and for the church to do well in providing for them.  Pray for the pastor’s relationship with his wife. If their private life is healthy, the congregation’s shepherd is far better prepared for everything he will be asked to do.
4. We owe her our responsible care.  What does she need?  Do they need a babysitter for a date night? Do they need some finances for an upcoming trip? If they are attending the state assembly or the annual meeting of the denomination, are the funds provided by the church budget adequate or do they need more? Is the wife going with the pastor? (She should be encouraged to do so, if possible.)  Ask the Holy Spirit what the pastor’s wife (and/or the pastor’s entire family) needs, and if it’s something you an do, do it. If it’s too huge, rally the troops.
5. We owe it to the pastor and his wife to speak up.  Sometimes, they need a friend to take their side.  If your pastor’s wife has a ministry in the church, look for people to criticize her for: a) dominating others, b) neglecting her home or c) running the whole show. To some, she cannot do anything right.  You be the one to voice appreciation for her talents and abilities, her love for the Lord, and her particular skills that make this ministry work.  Imagine yourself standing in a church business meeting to mention something the pastor’s wife did that blessed someone, that made a difference, that glorified the Lord.  Imagine yourself planning in advance what you will say, asking the moderator (who is frequently the pastor) for a moment for ‘a personal privilege,’ without telling him in advance.   And, imagine yourself informing a couple of your best friends what you are planning to do, so they can be prepared to stand up ‘spontaneously’ and begin the ovation. (Hey, sometimes our people have to be taught to do these things!)  The typical reaction most church members give when someone is criticizing the pastor’s wife is silence. But you speak up. Take up for her.  Praise God for her willingness to get involved, to not sit at home in silence, but to support her husband and bless the church.
6. We owe them protection for the pastor’s off-days and vacations.  After my third pastorate, I joined the staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss., and quickly made an outstanding discovery. The personnel policies stipulated that the church office would be closed on Saturdays and the ministers were expected to enjoy the day with their families.  Furthermore, when the church gave a minister several weeks of vacation, it was understood at least two full weeks of it would be spent with the family in rest and recreation and not in ministry somewhere. As one who took off-days reluctantly and would not allow myself to relax and rest during vacations, I needed this to be spelled out in official policy.  When a pastor is being interviewed for the position and when he is new, he should make plain that his off-days are sacred. The ministerial and office staffs can see that he is protected.  The lay leadership can make sure the congregation knows this time is just as holy to the Lord as the time he spends in the office, the hospitals or even the pulpit.
7. We owe them the same thing we owe the Lord: faithful obedience to Christ.  Pastors will tell you in a heartbeat that the best gift anyone can give them is just to live the Christian life faithfully.   When our members do that – when they live like Jesus and strive to know Him better, to love one another, to pray and give and serve – ten thousand problems in relationships disappear.
     “Finally, a word to the pastor’s wife …It’s my observation that most wives of ministers feel inadequate. They want to do the right thing, to manage their households well and support their husbands, keep a clean house, sometimes accompany him on his ministries, and such, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much strength in this young woman. She feels guilty for being tired, and worries that she is inadequate.  The Apostle Paul may have had pastors’ wives in mind when he said, ‘Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God.’ We are inadequate. None of us is worthy or capable of this incredible calling from God.  We must abide in Him or nothing about our lives will go right.  One thing more, pastor’s wife: Find other wives of ministers and encourage them. The young ones in particular have a hard time of it, with the children, the young husband, the demanding congregation and sometimes, Lord help us, even an outside job.  Invite a couple of these women for tea or coffee. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another.  See what happens.”

Thinking about Drinking Alcohol — Another Perspective

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Take some time and read THIS interesting essay from the recent issue of Christianity Today.

I think this is a very good and reasoned argument for abstaining from alcohol. Not drinking has never been difficult for me — I didn’t grow up with it around me, I decided early not to imbibe, (once I make a decision on something — I’m completely bull-headed about it), I don’t trust myself and my tendency to get gun-ho about things, I’ve seen the utter destruction it causes in families and individuals, it costs more than I’m willing to pay and I don’t want the potential stumbling stone that it clearly is for some as I perform my responsibilities as a pastor and seminary prof. I’m as unwilling to say every use of it is sinful as I am to say every use of it is permissible. I just think it is mostly unwise — particularly in the life of a spiritual leader.

For my position, I’ve often been misunderstood. I don’t think it makes me morally or spiritually superior. I like carbohydrates way too much to think that of myself. More often than not, my non-teetotaling brethren have accused me of being a “legalist” or some sort of “religious fanatic” when they find that I haven’t/don’t/don’t intend to drink. In something that is a mild irritation to me, I find that my non-Christian friends give me far less of a hard time about not drinking than do most of my Christian friends. It’s like they truly don’t understand (or agree with the idea) that I’m just not going to start drinking at this stage in my life. To some, it would appear that this commitment on my part makes me some sort of circus freak. I’ve rarely had to endure intense questioning, polite “jabs” of “humor” or those smirks exchanged between others who think that I didn’t notice them from my non-believing friends. It’s not really a big deal…I’m well past junior high and peer pressure… but it is an interesting reality. I just truly find no “upside” that is Biblical for me to drink, therefore I don’t.

But I agree with this author that the pendulum has swung too wide on the topic. For all our emphasis on “not drinking to excess” or “avoiding drunkenness”, there are just too many stories of alcohol-fueled excess in the evangelical church today and I personally think it is because we’ve become far too frivolous about it. I just wish I heard anywhere near the amount of warning about it’s dangers as I hear the rationalizations and justifications for Christians to use it.

It’s a decision each of us must make — Christian or not. It should be made thoughtfully and carefully. It should not be made with a group of half-sloshed college freshman chanting “chug, chug, chug.” It should not be made when one is depressed or stressed and looking to escape. It should not be made because we desire to prove we aren’t fundy puritan legalists and want to show we really are enjoying the grace-filled life. Being a non-drinker should not be a commitment that we think will give us special status in the Kingdom, favor with God or immunity to other addictive tendencies. But perhaps we should look at the whole of alcohol’s impact — both potential and present. I think if we did, fewer of us would feel that our freedom in Christ need be demonstrated at the lip of a bottle or can.

Paul Walker — A Reminder to Those Who Teach in Christian Schools

Paul WalkerLast night, my Facebook feed lit up during the football games — not with crowing by Auburn fans, but in shock from Paul Walker fans.  He was a Hollywood actor tragically killed in a fiery car crash yeasterday afternoon in Santa Clarita, CA.

Frankly, having never seen a single “Fast and Furious” movie, I had never heard of him, but a lot of people really enjoyed his acting apparently.  I wanted to learn a bit more about him, so I did some searching and came across this article.  Walker professed to be a Christian and even shared his testimony.  Apparently, a major factor in his spiritual life was the education that he received at an evangelical Christian school.  As one who has spent over 30 years in Christian education at every level from classroom teaching to administration to graduate school professor, this was an important reminder to me.

Some of the students in our classrooms will grow up to be quite influential people.  Few people know that rocker Marilyn Manson attended a Christian school in Canton, Ohio for a time.  I knew one of his teachers.  Of course, he didn’t go by “Marilyn” at the time.  Shannon Breem from FOXNews fame graduated from North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee which was a prominent school in the association I served as President (FACCS) and she also attended Liberty University where I teach.  For better or worse, many students will pass through the classrooms of Christian schools around the world.  I’m so proud of many of the students who have been in one of my classes or schools in the past as they have become leaders of influence as adults.  I doubt that many thought Paul Walker would grow up to be a celebrity when he was a typical, punky teen in a Christian school — but he left his mark with his career and now with his death.

To all who teach young people in schools, public, private or Christian, I’m reminded of the great privilege it is to do so.  I used to have a speech that I gave to teacher’s conventions years ago entitled, “The Hand that Holds the Chalk, Shapes the Future”.  We may use dry-erase markers in today’s classrooms, but the principle is still the same.

Paul Walker looked back on his education at a Christian school as the base of his spiritual training that moved him away from Mormonism into a real relationship with Christ.  I hope his fans are consoled by that fact and my many friends in Christian education are challenged by it.

 

20 Years of an Unlikely Friendship

The late motivational speaker, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “You will be the same in ten years as you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  That has always been true in my life and I’ve kept a list of the Top Ten most important books I’ve read and Top Ten most life-changing people I’ve met over the years.  Today, marks a 20-year “anniversary” of a friendship that many would have considered “unlikely” for both of us.  It is a friendship with a person who ranks in my “Top Ten” of people who have changed my life.

My friend, Candy Hatcher, reminded me over the week-end that it was 20 years ago today that I wrote a rather “pointed” “letter to the editor” in The Palm Beach Post that was published.  I took substantial umbrage from what I felt at the time was an unfair characterization of the “Religious Right” in Florida politics.  Candy was a special features writer (and an excellent one at that) who would do series on tough topics ranging from deficits in the Child Protective Services program in the state, to issues of crime and punishment and on this occasion, into politics.  I’m known to have a sharp pen at times.  I defend myself by noting that no one reads boring prose.  Others will point out that the pen can be mightier, and even more painful, than the sword.  I will confess that I have swung back and forth on how to reach a balance on that observation for years.  I still have a level of writing dualism that can be both offensive and effective, so the journey continues.

To my surprise, within hours after publication of my letter, I received a phone call from none other than Ms. Hatcher asking to come sit with me in my office and discuss my letter.  Oh….and she was bringing her editor.  It was the beginning of a friendship.  The meeting was emotional.  We both left that meeting and those that would follow with a broader perspective of those who might be on their other side of some imaginary fence politically and professionally.  I hope I changed the way she viewed pastors and people who sincerely hold to an evangelical/fundamental view of Scripture.  I know she changed the way I viewed journalists and those who might be a bit more left of the political center than I had previously experienced.

A lot has changed in twenty years.  Neither of us still live in Florida.  Candy got married to a great guy the week of 9/11 and her professional life has taken her to Seattle, to Chicago and now to Virginia and she continues to do the kind of writing that she’s best at — human interest stories that poke you in the heart and punch you in the brain.  As for me, I’ve distanced myself from most of the political connections I’ve previously had and while I am still keenly aware of (and vocal about) political matters, it’s more of a hobby with me and no longer a cause.  I don’t know this to be a fact, but I hope our friendship has provided Candy with a window into the world of conservative evangelicals in general and the pastor’s perspective in particular.  She has earned my respect professionally and personally though I’m sure we differ on things politically still.  I hope I have earned enough respect from her where she can see that conservative Christians really want a lot of the same things that more liberal people do, we just differ significantly on who should take the lead on achieving those solutions.

I wanted to list a few things I have learned from this friendship today.  Because of that initial interaction, I have changed my behavior when I am at odds with an opposing view point.  Since that day, I’ll have lunch with gay and lesbian activists, I have had good conversations with my US Representative and mayor (now Governor of NC) on areas in which we disagreed, I have allowed myself to even be interviewed by so-called “alternative” magazines like Creative Loafing and survived the experience and actually enjoyed the interaction with the reporter and I find myself more anxious to talk about differences personally than simply lobbing missives across cyberspace.

Here’s some of what I learned:

1. Those who don’t think like me are more like me than I realized.

Journalists are people too.  They have feelings, they have hobbies, they live in neighborhoods and they are just trying to do their job most of the time.  I’m still convinced there is a leftward bias over-all, but I’ve changed as to why I think that is the case.  I think it is because too few journalists know conservatives in general (and conservative Christians specifically) and many Christians are so cloistered in their own little community, we have no occasion to interact with others who don’t think just like us.  But I’ve enjoyed discussing travel with a leading gay activist in our community, I enjoyed debating philosophy with a lesbian Unitarian pastor at a luncheon, I have appreciated learning of how others go about helping others who are in need even if we likely vote completely opposite.  In the end, we’ve got families, friends, hobbies and interests that form bridges of communication and friendship and that’s important whether we are on the same side of other issues or not.  And when I realized how we conservatives are viewed by those left of center, I understand why they might not want to have lunch with us.  That coin of perception has two sides and both of them aren’t accurate.

2. It’s foolish to believe stereotypes.

My “liberal” journalist friend, Candy — she’s been a Baptist about as long as I’ve been a Baptist.  All journalists are not atheists.  Most of them love God, their church and their country. And lest you be tempted to lump then together with a few bomb throwers on cable news or the internet, let’s not do that so we don’t have to be lumped in with the likes of Benny Hinn or Mark Sanford.  I think Candy discovered that evangelical Christians don’t want a theocracy.  They aren’t trying to control everything.  Not every pro-lifer silently cheers when someone does something outrageous outside of an abortion clinic.  We aren’t intent on thumping people with Bibles and we’re not some sort of evangelical Taliban.  We just love God, our family and our country — in that order.  We want a healthy place to raise our kids.  But then, so do journalists.  We each probably make really good neighbors, in fact.

3. Talking is better than shouting.

On this day when Washington is in absolute lockdown/gridlock, would to God that they would/could put aside the partisanship that makes the capitol so toxic and just sit down and have a decent conversation and look for agreement.  I might have a penchant for verbal firebombs and even people like Ann Coulter and Stephen Colbert can make me snicker a bit with their acerbic wit.  But let’s be honest….it does nothing positive.  Nothing.  It just creates walls.  No one is ever going to be convinced to change because of shouted rhetoric and heated diatribes.  The world would likely be better off if the talking heads at both MSNBC and Fox News would simply shut up.

4. You learn more from your critics than from your “friends”.

Both pastors and journalists can have a tribe of people who constantly feed them complements and blow petals of good will their direction.  We also can get roasted by incendiary blasts of criticism that would make a steel girder wilt.  But sometimes, those critics tell us what others don’t have the courage — or the observational skills — to tell us.  Every so often I’ll pop off on Facebook or in some blog article or whatever that Candy will read and she’ll shoot me back a sharp little retort.  She’s almost always right.  I spouted some nonsense about a columnist from the Orlando Sentinel one time without reading the article thoroughly and Candy called me on it and made me look like the fool I really was.  (Thank you, knee-jerk reaction — once again, you’ve delivered humiliation to me.)  We can learn from everyone if we’re not too arrogant and bone-headed to realize that perceptions are as powerful as reality and that we’re not always right about every single thing that comes down the pike.  Candy has earned the right to bust my chops when I need it and I hope I’m a more careful thinker and writer because of it.

5. Disagreement doesn’t have to be personal.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I have a tendency to run toward debates, not away from them.  I love hardscrabble verbal exchanges.  Until, of course, they become personal.  Then it isn’t fun anymore.  When I make someone cry because I’m being a jerk, it haunts me for weeks.  When I get defensive about something, I find that it can make me isolate or get bitter.  What happened?  It got personal.  Sometimes it’s OK to just shrug one’s shoulders and say, “I see it differently” and then move on.  Not every disagreement has to be blown up to theological or philosophical proportions.  So you like Obamacare.  I don’t.  Doesn’t make you morally superior because you care about those that fall between the cracks.  It doesn’t make me morally superior because I believe in smaller government, free enterprise and rugged individualism.  It just means we see it differently.  Next topic?

6. Good friendships don’t have to have proximity to endure.

I love the internet age.  Via social media, email and other new-fangled tools, we get to stay connected.  You can criticize Facebook all you want and act like you are too sophisticated to enjoy it, but I like it.  (And I bet you are a Facebook stalker yourself if the truth be known.)  I like hearing how my former students are doing, who is having kids, who is running a business, who needs prayer and who is enjoying success.  I haven’t seen Candy in over a decade — in spite of the fact that I keep asking her and her husband to swing by when they come back to her home state of North Carolina.  But a couple of years ago, I was awake in the middle of the night, struggling with the state of my life at that moment and feeling pretty cruddy about things, when I got an email.  (I just happened to be online at the time.)  It was an email from Candy.  She told me at about 4:00 in the morning that she had me on her mind for some reason and experience told her that when that happened, she should pray for whomever the Lord had placed in her thoughts.  So she just wrote to tell me that I was in her prayers.  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.  I mean, I’m the dude that blasted her work in a public diatribe.  She hadn’t seen me in years.  Yet, she not only was sensitive enough to God’s voice in her life to realize He was speaking to her, she let me know that we were good enough friends that she would resp0nd by praying for me.  Now that’s a friend.

There’s more that I could share that I’ve learned, but I’m leaving for Vietnam in a few hours.  I wanted to post this before I leave and because it was the anniversary of my letter.  Here’s what’s cool.  Everyone who knows me knows that I love Cuba and go there often for ministry.  Candy and John love Cuba and go there for ministry as well.  Guess who sent me a Facebook message this week telling me that she was praying for me as I go to Vietnam?  Yep….Candy Hatcher Gregor.  She’s my “liberal” (and she really isn’t all that liberal — I just like to tease her) journalist friend and she’s my prayer partner.  I’m her “thinking fundamentalist” friend (and no, that term is not oxymoronic in my case— usually, at least) and I’m her prayer partner when she and/or her husband go to the mission field.  I’m so glad she didn’t just ditch my opinion in her “stupid critics” file that day twenty years ago.  I know if she had, I would be a far different person than I am today.  And that wouldn’t have been a good thing.

What the Abortion Industry Does Not Want You to See

I read an interesting blog article today HERE.  Sadly, many people who are “pro-choice/abortion” really do not know the barbarism that is a legal medical abortion.  I challenge you to read how one person responded when faced with the facts.

More importantly, let me show you some images below.

The first is a diagram of what occurs during an abortion.  It is quite horrifying.  But it just a drawing, correct?  I mean, it’s not REALLY a baby and it really is THAT violent, right?  For that reason, there is a second photo.  A photo of a child post-abortion.  Tell me this is not a child.  Tell me that this little person should have no rights.  Tell me that this infanticidal procedure should be constitutionally protected.  Tell me that this is morally acceptable.  If you are intellectually honest and morally just, you can’t.  You. Simply. Can. Not.

 deabortion.jpg

Keep in mind when viewing this next photo that this baby is not yet 23 weeks old as show in the procedure above.  Yet, it is still clearly a baby.

abortion.jpg

Now here’s one final photograph.  You might argue, that what you saw above is not really a human because it’s not viable.  Not viable, you say?  Look below at the little one who was delivered just prior to 23 weeks of gestation.

23weeks.jpg

If these photos offended you, good.  They should.  This is reality.  The truth is ugly.  These photos are important to see just like the photos of bodies stacked at Auschwitz were important.  It is a snapshot of our humanity — or lack of it.  If you were pro-abortion and they offend you, then perhaps there is hope that you might compassionately change your mind.

If not, go back and look at these pictures again and then go take a long look at yourself in the mirror.  Surely, you can see this for yourself.  This is a child.  He or she deserves a chance.

Then promise yourself that if you should ever be in the position that you have an unplanned pregnancy, that you would do the compassionate and loving thing — like the birthmothers of our four children did — let the baby come to term and deliver him or her.  Then let a young couple, who longs to raise a child as their own, take on that responsibility for you.  Should you do that, they will forever be grateful to you.  I know that.  Personally.  For sure.

Choose Life.  You will NEVER regret it.

In the words of the kindly children’s author, Dr. Suess — A person’s a person….no matter how small.

Ben Carson and the Intolerance of the Radical Left

Dr. Ben Carson, world-renown African-American Pediatric Neurologist Surgeon and Professor at Johns Hopkins University is the latest victim of radical leftist fascism.  Read about what happened HERE.

This just reminds us that liberals have no interest in “Free Speech” in spite of their rhetoric. They only want “approved speech”. Don’t burden their straw houses of thought and their extremist agenda with counter arguments or other perspectives. “Tolerance” is only a demand they hurl at their enemies which is code, for “Shut Up if you disagree.” These people are far more hateful, narrow-minded, fascist and tyrannical than the imaginary caricatures they create for enemies. What is sadder still is that uniformed and uneducated low information people are just letting them destroy legitimate dialogue for fear that someone might call them “intolerant” or “bigoted” or some other 2-cent epithet that perverts that historic lexicon of civilization. Political correctness is destroying our character, our morality, our intellectual integrity and our Liberty. Orwell predicted all of this — and yet, most people have never read 1984 or Animal Farm. We will be damned by our laziness and lack of courage.

Perhaps THIS professor or THIS one would pass the political perspective of Johns Hopkins liberals.

Goals and Desires — There IS a Difference!

I learned a very important and personally insightful principle not long ago at at a session I was having with a friend who gives me leadership coaching and I thought I might share it with you in hopes that it might be an encouragement to someone.

We were discussing disappointments, failures, setbacks and mistakes.  As part of helping me form a correct perspective, the coach told me that many people have difficulty distinguishing between “Desires” and “Goals” and thus invite discouragement, depression and even a desire to withdraw or quit. Many times people merge “desires” and “goals” into one word. Thus their desires feel like goals and when they aren’t met, they feel like they failed and if they have a tendency to place strong psychological ownership on significance and success and reputation, an unmet “goal” (even if it was in reality a “desire) can be devastating. dreamsgoalsaspirations-small.jpg

The difference between a “desire” and a “goal” is that a “goal” is something that you have all of almost all of the control regarding the outcome. A “desire” is something you want very badly, but you can’t always control the outcome. Goals would include: losing weight, earning a degree, finishing a book, becoming debt free. Conversely, a Desire might be wanting a fulfilling marriage, wanting to see a church or business grow or succeed, wanting to see a child turnout right or wanting to see a student achieve. In the case of those desires, ultimately there are multiple other people who have the ability to prevent you from gaining what you desire. Therefore, they cannot be goals.

I think…no, make that, I KNOW, many people who walk with sensations of failure over things like a broken marriage, a business that went into bankruptcy, a church that split, a wayward child, a broken friendship. But they had no control over how the other person(s) responded. Unless they personally instigated the problem through unBiblical behavior, they should not bear responsibility for the outcome when the other person refused or neglected their role in meeting your desire for them or for you and them.

In closing that session, he reminded me that we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every single day. Our salvation is a product and work of Grace. God does not love us one bit more because we “succeed” or one bit less because we “fail”. If Grace was what saves us, then Grace is what keeps us. Too often, we don’t accept the Grace that God extends from Salvation and beyond.

I hope this helps you the next time you face unmet expectations or disappointment.  I know it has helped me.

Would You Help A Cuban Pastor?

service10.jpegOver the last 10 years, I’ve had a wonderful and exciting ministry in Cuba where I’ve been able to assist national pastors with their ministries.  For security reasons, I am never really able to share everything I’d like to share in my public reports, but the work of the Lord is happening all over Cuba and in the midst of difficult economic times, I always come back from my visits inspired by the faith, sacrifice and dedication of those with whom I partner there.  The needs are HUGE and life is simply a daily struggle due to the embargo situation.  A large percentage of what I do there is humanitarian in its orientation as we assist these national pastors with the basic necessities for living that they might be able to do the other work to which God has called them.  We have HIGH accountability, careful screening and regular visits to make sure good stewardship is performed.

I just returned with a fresh list of things I am needing to send or take over there in the coming weeks.  I’m regularly blown away by how people step up to assist me in obtaining these items.  I use a portion of my second income with Liberty University to fund this ministry and am joined by two wonderful Cuban Americancuba2008-262.jpg ladies who have given so sacrificially over the years, that I’m humbled to think of it.   Then I have Cuban-American friends, Blog Readers, Facebook Friends, former students and sometimes just anonymous benefactors who have also helped.  I’ve learned to just put the need “out there” and let God take care of the rest.

So with that in mind, I share my current list of significant needs.  Some might seem silly and trivial, but believe me, for them — it can be a big deal.  An example is shoes.  They have very limited sizes.  One of our pastors wears a size 12EEE.  IMPOSSIBLE to get there.  One of the pastor’s sons wears a size 29/36 pair of jeans.  Again, impossible.  So by bringing simple items like these with me, it changes lives.  The list follows — I am putting the item with all specifics down and the estimated price.  If the Lord leads you to assist, you can either send the item to me or the funds and I will get the item.  I’ll explain how to get things or funds to me at the end.

Items for Ministry and Pastoral Education

  • 10 More Kindles to provide a theological library for each pastor — $69 each
  • Funds to purchase the 80 theological texts on the Kindles — $500
  • 4 Bicycles for Pastor transportation -$200 each
  • 20 used digital cameras w/chargers and memory cards (for ministry reports)
  • $400 for a bicycle repair fund
  • $100 per month for fuel for the ministry car which serves the entire country from Santiago de Cuba to Havana
  • Used iPods and mini-speakers for music in the house churches
  • Funds for plastic stackable stools for seating in house churches — $12 USD each.  (Approximately 100 needed)
  • Musical instruments — New or Used — tambourines, maracas, bongos, guitar strings, latin rhythm instruments,
  • Spoons and Forks (non-disposable, at least 70 – for training conferences)
  • Plastic Tumblers (at least 70 — for training conferences)

 Items for Individuals and Families
(Some of these are very specific for individuals that I identified on my trip)

  • 2 pairs of 12eee (extra-wide) shoes (running/walking)  — $80 each
  • Shoes (Various Needs — $40 per pair)
  • Umbrellas for Women (20 — need to be compact, but full size due to heavy tropical rains.)
  • Watches for Pastor’s Wives (20)
  • Eye drops
  • Work Gloves (12 pair – heavy duty)
  • Irrigation supplies for micro-business project — $300
  • Rubber Boots (size 10) 2 Pair ($30 each)
  • Wire fencing pliers w/side snips
  • Men’s Hankerchiefs
  • Portable Sewing Machine (Used is fine)
  • New/Used Portable/Rechargeable Drill w/Bits
  • New/Used Plug-in Drill w/Bits
  • New/Used Small power hand saw with extra blades
  • Small (1-gal) garden sprayer ($30)
  • Women’s clothes — Size 0
  • Clothing for teens and children — (I have the sizes/needs) — $200
  • 34 inch boy’s belt
  • Light blanket — 3 for single beds, 1 for double bed (Think Tropical)

If you’d like to mail a donation (item or check) — the address is Dan Burrell, Life Fellowship Church, 16507 Northcross Drive, Suite B, Huntersville, NC — Mark it to my attention.  Do not write Cuba on the check, but just let me know what it is for in separate correspondence.  All checks should be made payable to Life Fellowship Church.

If you’d like to give online, click HERE. It’s easy to register and simply click on “MISSIONS” and type in “Burrell-Cuba” and it will get to me.  Your gift is tax deductible.

Or if you have a question: Drop me a line at DBurrell@lifecharlotte.com!

Thanks in advance for responding as the Lord leads you!  These guys are amazing and you are making a huge difference in their lives.