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Politics, religion and laundry


“Do you think welfare is a Christian concept?”

This question comes from my 15-year old son, who often continues conversations with others that begin in his head, an idiosyncrasy he comes by honest. I do it all the time, just ask my husband, whose most common response to my insightful observational commentary is, “What are you talking about?, or more commonly, a look of total confusion. Oh wait, you can’t. He’s not on the interwebs.

But I digress…

Me: Welfare as in government subsidies to help the poor or as in general well being?

Son: Government welfare. I mean, as Christians, we’re supposed to give to the poor, right?

Me: Well, yes. The bible says we are to take care of widows and orphans; to help those in need. But that’s not the same thing. We should choose to do these things of our own free will. We’re not giving to the poor when we pay taxes. We’re giving to the government. We have no say in how much is then given to the poor. That’s the function of bureaucrats–to decide how our money is to be allocated. So I suppose the answer to your question is no. Welfare is not a Christian concept, but charity is.

Son: Do you believe in welfare?

Me: Yes. I believe there are people who are truly in need, but I also believe that giving people money often incentivizes them not to try and earn it for themselves or worse, creates a mindset that they are entitled it. For most, I think it should be a temporary remedy. Oftentimes it becomes a cycle of dependence.

Son: You mean like for lazy people?

Me: Lazy people, people who seek to beat the system. But honestly? I think there are just a whole lot of people who have given up hope of ever making it out of poverty. It’s easier just to allow someone else to take care of them. Which is sad because it robs them of their own power and limits their personal freedom.

Son: Huh?

Me: Do you remember last week when I did all of your laundry?

Son: Yeah. Thanks. That was great.

Me: What would have happened if I hadn’t done that? What would happen if I never did your laundry?

Son: I’d probably still have a big pile of dirty clothes. Well, no. That’s not true. I would have done my own laundry like I usually do.

Me: And is that such a bad thing?

Son: I’d prefer you do my laundry, but I can do it myself. Besides, when you do it, you wash my stuff with everyone else’s. Sometimes my favorite jeans don’t get washed because you don’t have a full load, and my Nike Combat workout stuff is the same way. You only wash my workout stuff when there’s a full load, so I end up wearing workout stuff I don’t really like because my Nike stuff is dirty.

Me: How is that any different than when you do it yourself?

Son: When I do my own laundry, I wash the stuff I want to wear first. That way, if I don’t finish it all, at least I have the stuff I need.

Me: But you’re supposed to wash jeans separately from your workout stuff, and the whites need to be bleached, so you can’t just throw those in with your other stuff.

Son: Mom, those are your rules, not mine. I’m a guy. I don’t really care if my socks are bleached or not. As long as I get the stink out, that’s clean enough for me.

Me: So, if you do your own laundry, you decide how and when to wash it, right? Your clothes are not subject to your mom’s laundry rules–rules that you care nothing about. Right?

Son: Yes. Besides, I don’t need you to do my laundry. I can do it myself. But I appreciate you doing it that last time. I had a whole lot of dirty clothes piled up after a week in Orlando, plus I had make-up work to do from school. I was pretty overwhelmed.

Me: You’re old enough to do most things for yourself and that’s a good thing. With responsibility comes freedom and vice versa. But sometimes life presents us with circumstances which prevent us from doing for ourselves. That’s why I did your laundry last week. I was your safety net when you needed some extra help. But don’t expect me to do your laundry all the time.

Son: Of course not!

Me: So, I’ll ask you the same question you asked me: Do you believe in welfare?

Son: Yes. But only if you truly need it. It should be the last resort, not the first.

Me: Well, there you go.



Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Attractional, Missional and the ones left behind

Deep, breathy sigh…

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around all the information I heard at Exponential 2012–the largest annual gathering of church planters in the world.

Four years ago, the missional church movement was beginning to gain momentum. It was right about that time when I read The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay and loved what they had to say about living out our faith through living in community with one another and serving the world. After all, the point and the process of my church, C3 (also known as the “mission statement”) is Love God and people, Live in community with one another and Serve the world, or more simply: Love, Live, Serve.

So I was very excited to see that Hugh and Matt would be conducting some workshops at Exponential this year. One of particular interest to me was Practical Tools for Moving Consumers to Missionaries and Small Groups to Missional Communities. (Consumers being people who typically attend “big church” on Sunday but don’t get involved in missions or small groups.) As it turned it, Matt Smay was not in the session. Brandon Hatmaker, pastor of Austin New Church and author of Barefoot Church tag teamed with Hugh Halter for this session. And while I greatly appreciated the point and their process for discipling people through missional living and serving the poor, at the end of the session, something was nagging at me.

Big time.

Because for me, the process was more about weeding out those people who just wanted Jesus on Sunday morning without delving into the bigger question of WHY that was okay to only want Jesus on their own terms. I left the session feeling like nominal Christians were someone else’s problem, not the problem of the missional church. I was in such a lather about the whole thing that I couldn’t focus on the main session which followed the workshop. Instead, I began to scribble madly in my notebook the following:

Rich Young Ruler

Process seems effective at weeding out those consumers who have no interest in becoming committed followers, but I don’t see much in the way of moving consumers into something more. I understand that it’s easy to label these people as Pharisees and wash our hands of them, but people who don’t think they need Jesus–or worse, those who think they have a saving knowledge and relationship with Jesus but don’t–are the ones who so desperately need Him!

Then there’s the resource issue. Had the rich young ruler said, “Yes, Jesus. I choose you and everything I own belongs to the kingdom”, how would that have played out?

How do we lead people with financial resources away from consumerism into discipleship? And if they’re stubborn and don’t want to move, do we let them go and just say, “Good luck with all of THAT?”

By giving up on them and calling them Pharisees, are we not doing some of the hard things that Jesus would have us do because they’re easy to demonize? What could God do with their resources if we somehow lead them to an understanding of what it is to give your life to Christ? Without telling them that God will bless them–because if we do that, we’re just selling them more consumerism. Maybe they won’t be blessed. Maybe they’ll be sifted. But because they have much they are expected to give much. Are they a lost cause? A nut too tough to crack and bring into the family of God?

Still feeling very unsettled (and needing to pee because I’d had about 2 gallons of coffee that morning), I excused myself from the worship center to find a bathroom. Guess who was manning a booth on the way to the bathroom? Give up? Hugh Halter, Matt Smay and Brandon Hatmaker. Lucky them.

On my way back from the bathroom, I stopped at the booth. It went something like this:

Hugh Halter: How are you doing?

Me: I’m very frustrated.

Hugh Halter: Well, bring it on.

I proceeded to unload on them what I had madly scribbled in my notebook. I shared with them that I live in a community where you can’t swing a bat without hitting ten or so churches. Churches filled with disciples but also with what they would classify as Consumer Christians. I expressed that I did believe in their process of making disciples through missional living, but wondered aloud about those who didn’t choose that path. Are they not worth the trouble? Do we have a process of reaching those who think they are found but are really lost? Does God value them less because they seem to value Him less? Brandon talked me down off the ledge a bit. He shared an email from a wealthy man whose life had been transformed by serving the poor, and I am grateful that people are being transformed by truly living out their faith. He also told me that we can’t change people’s hearts, only God can do that. In the end, Brandon gave me a free copy of his book. I’m sure it was only partly to get rid of this raving lunatic woman at their booth.

But I’m still feeling frustrated.

I still think we’re leaving folks behind. People who may be as close as a conversation over a cup of coffee.

And I suppose that’s gotta start with me.

What do you think? Are nominal Christians the burden of the “big church”?

Multi-tasking and the death of manners

I sit in a darkened theater watching previews for the coming attractions. Once those are over, a familiar reel appears on the big screen, this time its star is The Lorax rather than Kung Fu Panda. But the message is the same: Please silence your cell phones and don’t send text messages during the movie.

I let out an involuntary sigh as several audience members reach for their phones to silence them. I sigh because of the necessity of the Public Service Announcement, I sigh because people should know better than to walk into a theater without first silencing their phones and I sigh because I know, based upon past experience, there will be at least one member of the audience who will disregard this request. I’d like to say I was pleasantly surprised that no one within my line of vision texted during the movie, but I can’t.

Two days later…

I wait in a long line at Starbucks. I check email while I wait but quickly put my phone away when I approach the head of the line. I give the barista my order–Venti, regular coffee–pay for it and move aside for the next customer to place their order. Since plain coffee is a simple order, the barista hands me my cup almost immediately. The morning rush is still in high gear. I find a place at the bar and wait for the traffic to die down at the sugar/cream station. My position gives me a view of the line of customers as they approach the register. The vantage point is behind the baristas and slightly to the right. I settle in and resume checking my email until…

A woman walks in and makes her way to the end of the line. She is one of several customers, and I wouldn’t have noticed her had she not been carrying on a rather loud phone conversation about potential candidates for a job opening at her company. Seemingly unaware of the 40 or so other human beings in this rather small Starbucks, she was completely engrossed in her own world. As she moved up in line, she removed her debit card from her purse with not so much as a pause in the conversation.

Now she’s at the front of the line, and she did what I fully expected her to do but hoped she wouldn’t. She said into the phone, “Just one second, Sue”, then proceeded to dictate a Chai Tea order so complicated I couldn’t repeat it if I tried. The barista repeated the order back to her, but midway through, the woman was back to her conversation with Sue, nodding impatiently to the barista. A few minutes later, Chai Tea in hand, she was walking out the door without so much as a thank you. Still with that damn phone in her ear.

The gentlemen seated next to me with the laptop and I exchange glances of silent and mutual disapproval. Multi-tasking run amok.

Another involuntary sigh from me as I sip my coffee and recount a quote from Charles M. Schultz which I find myself repeating all too often lately:

“I love humanity. It’s people I hate.”

Or possibly my abbreviated version:

“People suck.”

Probably the latter.

But just as my faith in humanity resumes its downward trajectory before 9:00 in the morning, I spot a new customer.

Among the crowd of business people and stay at home moms, he’s hard to miss, even though he doesn’t give the impression he wants to draw attention to himself: tan slacks, starched white shirt, red tie, boots and cowboy hat. If that’s not enough to draw your attention, the silver star of the Texas Rangers on his chest and the holstered service revolver on his right hip surely does. From the back of the line, he greets the baristas by name, shaking off their suggestions that he needn’t wait in line. Once through the line with coffee in hand, he makes his way over the end of the bar where I’m sitting and stands there. Every now and then he’ll engage in conversation with one of the baristas, but he’s cognizant of the morning rush, and only talks to the staff between customers.

I hadn’t intended to stay at Starbucks for as long as I did, but I was curious why this Ranger was still there. He hadn’t taken a seat. He just stood there waiting. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me.

“Are you waiting on an order for the whole department?” I asked.

He smiles and shakes his head.

“No. I’ve known these folks for 10 years. My job keeps me busy and far away. I just wanted to come in and catch up with everyone.”

In the span of 45 minutes,

I’ve witnessed a woman so self-absorbed in her own world that she couldn’t put her phone down long enough to acknowledge another living, breathing human being talking to her or to say thank you to said human being for not screwing up her ridiculously complicated fancy tea order…

And I’ve seen a man worthy of attention shy away from it. A man who could get all the free coffee he wanted but instead insisted on paying for it.

As I walked by the ranger, I wished him a wonderful day and I thanked him.

I was out the door before he could ask why I was thanking him.

“Why, for restoring my faith in humanity, sir.”

The moron test

After the recent and not so recent acquisitions of several electronic devices beginning with the letter “i”, the discovery of some yet to be redeemed iTunes gift cards around the house, and the realization that a 9 hour car ride over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house can get a tad boring, the members of my family decided it would be a good idea to search for and download a few apps for the aforementioned electronic devices.

The first and most obvious choice for both of the kids was Angry Birds, which I was delighted to download for them because I am a wonderful mother and because I was tired of being constantly asked, “Can I play Angry Birds on your phone?” I’m a tad possessive of my iPhone. (Ahem.)

As captivating and addicting as those little pig killing kamikaze birds can be, one needs a little diversity in one’s distractions. After a few minutes of searching the app store, my son asked, “Can I download The Moron Test?” I looked up said app on my iPhone and decided that it was well worth the 99 cent investment. For those of you unfamiliar with The Moron Test, here’s a brief walk thru of the first level:

Pretty simple and straightforward huh? Yes and no. My guess is that was probably at least the 3rd or 4th time the person on that video played the game, and I’m being generous. How do I know this? Because it took me at least that many times to get through that level, and clearly I am not a moron. (Although I do play one on the internets on occasion.)

Most of the tasks on the test are ridiculously simple. With few exceptions, all a person needs to do to pass the test with flying colors is to

Pay attention,

follow directions carefully,

wait for further instructions,

slow down when necessary,

and be patient.

Which is why I suspect 90 percent of the people who have played that game failed the test miserably the first time through. Why? Because the faster we can get through something the faster we can get to the next NEW thing, and heaven forbid we miss out on anything.

We’re so busy trying to pay attention to everything that we rarely give full attention to anything.

What we need to do as a society is exactly what is required to master The Moron Test:

Pay attention,

follow directions carefully,

wait for further instructions,

slow down when necessary,

and be patient.

I wonder if there’s an app for that?

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Chris Matthews

image courtesy of

Did you see this?

Let’s put aside for a moment that MSNBC dares to call itself a news station when they chose five liberals to cover a historic national election. Nevermind that they acted like a group of giggly school children instead of a seasoned, respected group of unbiased folks who are supposed to report the news. One could make the argument that Fox News Channel is dominated by conservative views and CNN is dominated by their liberal counterparts. But in defense of both networks, they had representatives from both the democratic and republican points of view. They differentiated between opinion and fact. Which is exactly what they should do.

I suppose NBC decided they had nothing to lose, since Comcast has bought the network and is fixing to clean house, but as annoying as all of this is to me, what really bothers me is the blatent disrespect Matthews has for anyone who doesn’t share his political views.

Regardless of his personal feelings for Congresswoman Bachmann, she is a seated member of the Congress of the United States of America. Furthermore, she is a human being. Whatever happened to good manners? Respect for the office? I don’t always agree with the decisions or even the rhetoric of elected officials on either side of the aisle, but that doesn’t give me permission to attempt to publicly humiliate those I don’t agree with. You can’t knowingly set out to steal someone else’s dignity without losing some of your own.

As to his denial of the “tingly leg” comment — He never said that, huh?

Okay, thrill…not tingle. I stand corrected. Yes, Mr. Matthews. You are completely objective.

I long for the days when rude behavior was frowned upon rather than celebrated…

“I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”
~ Gus McCrae, Lonesome Dove

Another Rob Bell post – cue the hate mail (repost)

Whether you think Rob Bell is the greatest Christian visionary since C. S. Lewis, think he is a dangerous heretic leading countless followers astray, have an opinion of him that falls somewhere decidedly between the two, or even if you’ve never heard of Rob Bell and think Nooma sounds like a chocolatey delicious carbonated beverage, please view the following parody in the spirit in which it is intended (from me, anyway). I have seen only a few Nooma videos, but one in particular I found quite moving and thought provoking. (This is not that video.) I make the previous statements in an attempt to convey that I am not anti-Rob Bell. It’s just that I find some of his mannerisms and the cadence of his speech sometimes amusing, and to point out that parody is considered by many to be a high form of praise.

While I posted this video primarily because I think it’s funny, previous comments to me about Rob Bell and other highly visible Christians also lead me to this observation: It seems to me that society in general and some Christians in particular have become increasingly polarized and intolerant of opposing viewpoints. There are those in the hard core evangelical camp that would suggest that Rob Bell and other proponents of spreading the gospel through social justice are presenting an incomplete view of the gospel at best, and at worst are spreading heresy and leading unsuspecting followers to eternal damnation. At the other end of the spectrum, some in the emergent church movement might say that evangelical Christians ignore the plight of the marginalized in society and feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to allow a man to be physically hungry as long as his soul is fed. To this point, I would offer the opinion that to some extent, both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. For a more in-depth, intellectual and insightful take on this subject, I would highly recommend The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith, by Timothy J. Stoner, and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, both of whom are WAY smarter and biblically astute on their worst day than I am on my best.

Okay, so here’s the deal…

I’ve been praying for God to give my life more balance, that I use my gifts for good, not for evil…

But God, in His infinite Wisdom, does not dole out answers to prayers like some kind of holy gumball machine. Pray for patience, He will put situations in your life to teach you patience. Pray for integrity, He will put you in a position where the right choice isn’t necessarily the first choice. He’s pretty all powerful and omnipotent like that.

So, when I prayed for balance, He opened the floodgates. I haven’t had a paying painting gig in 2 months. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve had 5 calls from old clients and a call from a decorator that wants to keep me working for the rest of my natural born life. God said, “Go find your balance.”

I enjoy blogging more than I ever thought I would. I have met some of the most amazing, hilarious, inspiring, talented, God honoring people: pastors, writers, stay at home moms and daughters, college students, working men and women. It takes up time from my day, but time that, while can be a distraction, can also be an incredible blessing. All things in moderation.

Because I will be away from my computer quite a bit for the foreseeable future, I have asked Billy Coffey to be a regular guest blogger on HLAC. A request that he has graciously accepted. (Excuse me while I do a back flip – um…ouch!) I have also asked some of my blogger buddies to fill in on a rotating basis. If you enjoy this blog, I promise you, you will enjoy reading their work as well.

Beginning next week, Monday’s posts will be written by Billy Coffey. In addition, on Wednesdays, I will introduce some of you to some of my favorite bloggers who will fill that spot for me. I will continue to be annoying and ridiculous the remaining days, save Sunday, where I will hopefully post something that honors God and refocuses this blogger on why I am here in the first place.

Thank you for your faithfulness to this blog. I think this is going to be awesomatasic!