My Vote

Very little polarizes people, including friends and family, like politics. There hasn’t been a more controversial, confusing election cycle like this in 50 years. My point in this post isn’t to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for…since I don’t even know yet. I’m just going to lay it out what will drive my decision, if it even matters to anyone other than myself.

You’re going to see that s a registered Republican, that is not the deciding factor because it votedoesn’t define my standards. It seems to be expected of me that I should support the candidate who bears an R next to their name. I have had people suggest to me that if I don’t vote for Trump, I am casting a vote for Hillary.

Huh? Is there a new system I don’t know about? What happens if I don’t vote for Hillary? Is that a vote for Trump? I’m really confused. In case you didn’t realize, there is no such thing as a national election. There are fifty individual statewide elections. I live in Rhode Island, and my vote only counts here. If Trump wants my vote, he’s going to have to earn it with more than party affiliation.

Here’s the thing. My vote belongs to me. My vote is currency. It is bestowed up on me to offer to a single candidate I ultimately endorse and wish to hold the office for which they pursue. With that as the mindset, I offer a list of five qualities that define me and will determine my choice. In descending order of influence, they are:

  1. I am a Christian. This is the fundamental influence in every detail of my life. While I understand I am not voting for a pastor or spiritual leader, they must demonstrate to me consistent character and integrity. Even if they are not, themselves, Christian, they will defend and respect my faith and not minimize it, silence my voice or demonize my beliefs and values. They will respect the office and remember they serve the people.
  2. I am soon to be a husband and stepfather. I will vote for a person whose values and agenda is, in my estimation, in the best interests of my family, both now and moving forward into the future.
  3. I am an American. What is in the best interests of my country outweigh those of other countries. I do not want conflict, but if it is necessary in order to preserve our freedom and lives, so be it. I believe in American exceptionalism. We are not perfect, but we are the greatest country in the history of the planet. It is not our role to make everyone like us or to emulate us. But we must set and live by a high standard, and hold ourselves to it.
  4. I am a Constitutionalist. I believe this document empowers the people and limits the government, not the other way around. Rather than seek to throw out things that don’t fit an agenda, they see the wisdom and time-tested value of this document and the men who sacrificed everything to draft and ratify it.
  5. I am a Conservative. As such, I support the individual over the collective. I believe in personal liberty and responsibility. Government needs to be reduced, not an obstacle to a citizen’s inalienable rights. While the government cannot and should not compel Americans to practice a particular religion, We must remember that this country was founded on, and is inextricably linked to Christianity. Our Christian values demand that we love others, even those with whom we disagree. Even those who worship differently, or not at all. Our values do not discriminate against anyone for any reason.

Some have justified supporting Donald Trump as, “the lesser of two evils.” Do you know what the lesser of two evils is? Still evil. Before anyone takes this as me calling anyone evil, that is not my meaning, and that is not my job. The phrase is an idiom, and that is the context in which I mean it. The point is, my vote is not simply for the person who is less awful than the other. My vote will go for the person I believe is best suited for the job based, at least on the criteria I listed above, even if that individual has no chance to win. My vote is sacred to me, and I will not give it to someone who hasn’t earned it.

You’re welcome to disagree with my standard. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t. I’m only sharing this with you because I have had my position and values questioned and mocked. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I’d much rather be mocked for upholding a high standard than cave in and throw my support to someone I wouldn’t even want to have dinner with. I’d rather be wrong and have the person for whom I didn’t vote prove to be a wonderful president than hold my nose, vote for them, and they turn out to be what I predicted, or worse.

If you find my reasoning flawed, that’s ok. But at least you now understand it. Donald Trump has not earned my vote. I have almost no faith that he will, but it’s not the first Tuesday in November yet. I just see no evidence that he will. Miracles can happen. But if one doesn’t, I cannot, in good conscience, cast my vote for the lesser of two evils.

Mission Field: Facebook

I am a Christian. Hopefully this statement doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me. Even if you don’t know me well, even if we haven’t had conversations about faith, church or anything else, I hope that the way I have presented myself, my speech, my character, and my behavior hasn’t compromised my identity as one who loves God and loves people. Hopefully I’ve made you laugh. Hopefully I’ve brought something of value to your life. Hopefully, if you need someone to talk to or ask for prayer, you’ll feel I’m someone you can trust. Hopefully our association has changed your opinion of Christians as they are characterized by Hollywood and those who think we hate those who aren’t like us.

My intended audience for this post is my fellow believers. If you’re not one who goes to church or considers yourself to be “religious”, please don’t feel that this means you need to stop reading. In fact, I encourage you to continue reading. I and my intended audience welcome you hold me/us accountable.

It’s easy to define the mission field as some far off foreign country. For over a century, yeah, that’s pretty much been accurate. People leaving the familiarity and comfort of their home, families and culture to go off to some impoverished people on the other side of the planet. Today, the world is quite literally at our fingertips. At any moment of the day, you have the ability to communicate with people all over the world.

Here’s where I’m going with this. In “real life”, how do we communicate? A conversation? Of course. Our words are a very important part of communication. However, it’s really only a fraction of how and what we communicate about ourselves. No matter where you go, no matter what you’re doing, you’re communicating with people you don’t even realize. How you dress communicates something. How you respond to stress, the music you listen to, the jokes you tell, the pictures on your wall or desk at work, your attitude, your work ethic. These are just some of the almost infinite ways we communicate who we are and what we’re about.

With that being said, I think of social media. Last quarter, Facebook reported over 1.19 billion monthly active users. One in seven people on earth use Facebook. My question to you is, what are you communicating to your mission field? I have to admit, I have been seriously disturbed by some of the things I have seen posted by Christians I know. I have seen vile profanity, I have seen sexually provocative and even perverse “shares” and “likes” of material that grieves the heart of God.

I am no prude, nor am I perfect. I have found things to be funny that I know God doesn’t approve of. I am human. You are too. I get it. But I am a child of the most-high God. I represent Him. I fail Him, but I am still His ambassador to anyone and everyone who I communicate with, both directly and indirectly. facebook

Just as I don’t walk around with a twenty pound bible with which I bludgeon people over the head, I don’t use Facebook as a battering ram of piety. I post videos of cats, I rant and joke about sports and pop culture. I occasionally share some of my political views as they relate to the direction of our country and current events. I am not fake. I really try to be as real as I can be. It does no one, including you and God, any good if you pretend to be one thing to the public, but you’re someone completely different when no one is looking.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is that our lives are a fitting and suitable representation of a life changed and perpetually influenced by the saving and unmerited grace of God. Be real. Be a human being. Laugh, cry, joke, rant. Be flawed, but be honest. People respect and identify with authenticity. When you miss the mark, share what God taught you through it. Testify of God’s mercy and abundant grace. Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul and countless others in the bible failed God miserably at times. They all failed in what they communicated to others. But they also turned it around and brought glory to God and influenced those who were watching them.

We are to be in the world, not of it. The world’s standard is not God’s. We live by a higher moral code. Share your cat videos. Share your funny memes. But think carefully about the stuff to which you attach your name, your reputation and your associations. Be consistent. In real life as well as online, the things you say and do should not contradict each other. Out of the same mouth cannot come blessing and cursing. Whether people admit it or not, they want and need us to be different. They desperately need to see that we can walk through life right beside them, but we don’t fall into the same traps because God is alive in our hearts and lives. They need the hope we profess.

They are watching.

Christmas, Duck Dynasty and Gay Marriage

For a few weeks now, I’ve been seriously contemplating writing about today’s politically “correct” environment and how it has affected some of the most wonderful things in our culture, such as Christmas. As I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks, I just haven’t had, or taken the time to sit down at the computer and write it out.

Then the recent “controversy” with Phil Robertson, of the TV show Duck Dynasty, hit the news.

My original premise to the post I intended to write was about how thankful I am for those I consider friends, especially those who don’t agree with me in the areas that are lifestyle sensitive. Again, I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. Two days ago, just hours before I caught a flight to New England from California, I bumped into a good friend of mine. She happens to be a lesbian. We shared a hug and chatted for a few minutes. We each were up against the clock, so we couldn’t talk long. I was about to run into the Sam’s Club, from which she was just leaving. She mentioned to me that her partner was working inside the store. As I was going about my business in the store, I bumped into her, and we enjoyed a fun, brief conversation.

While my friends and I do not agree on the topic of gay marriage, each with our own reasons that are very personal and deep, we are still friends. In fact, we find there is much more we share in common than that one topic in which we differ. I’m thankful to have friends who can receive and give respect even when the topic is personal and a cultural lighting rod.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, recently conducted an interview for a magazine I will not dignify by identifying it in my blog. During the course of the conversation, they predictably baited him by bringing up the topic of homosexuality…as if they didn’t know his position on the topic. His response was to paraphrase the bible, as well as share his own personal preference. Upon doing so, the network on which Duck Dynasty is broadcast has put him on “indefinite hiatus”.

I’m all for spirited debate. But when did we become a society that punishes people for talking about the values by which they live?

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Again, I’m thankful for the maturity in the friendships I have. My friends understand that I am a Christian, and I consider the bible to be the inspired Word of God. My friends also believe in God and have good families. We are also Americans who believe that the Constitution is the law of the land. This includes the First Amendment, which applies to all of us. Well, at least it’s supposed to.

When did we become a culture that wishes to silence those for their religious beliefs? Even the atheist groups that are purposefully out to offend Christians, particularly at this time of the year, have the right to their opinions. Since when did Christianity, and those with opinions and values that echo biblical standards become anathema?

I wish our society was more like my friends.

Finding success in failure

I posted a lot of what you’re about to read and see on Facebook, but I understand not all of you use Facebook or are connected to my page to have seen it. I have enhanced my thoughts on this matter here, so even if you did read my Facebook rant, there is more to it here.

Here is a video I hope you’ll watch. It’s only 78 seconds long. But it is very revealing. This is a political issue, but the final takeaway is something that applies to all of us in life. Thus, I believe this is a teachable moment no matter your political leaning, or lack thereof.

In this video, the President is blaming Republicans for the disastrous results and the humiliation of it STILL being in a state of disrepair? This is shameful. Can you imagine the neverending victory lap he’d be on if things had worked out the way he sold it?

Let’s just say a friend of mine is thinking of buying a house in a terrible town and neighborhood. I advise him repeatedly that he is setting himself up for disaster. Even so, he does it anyway. When he runs into the inevitable and predicted results, am I somehow to blame for what he did on his own, against my protestation and without my involvement? Am I somehow responsible to get him out of the problem he brought on himself and those under his care? I’m not keeping him from fixing it. I’m not interfering. Was I “invested in failure”, or did I just have the wisdom of forethought? He got what he wanted, and is facing the consequences. How he responds to those consequences is revealing, and something we all can learn from.

The takeaway:  A real leader, a real man of character takes responsibility for his own character_humility_Snapseedactions. He doesn’t blame others. A real leader, a real man of character attributes success to all those who made it happen, yet takes full responsibility for failure. Real character can be thankless. It is humble. Real character may not be recognized as such immediately. True character doesn’t seek applause.

In life, we will make good decisions, while others will blow up in our faces. Most decisions allow us time to think things through. We can get advice. We can do research. We can weigh the pros and cons. Whether or not we have the luxury of time, we make decisions based on the best information we have at the moment. Sometimes thing will work out well, and other times, unforeseen things can happen that ruin everything. No matter what, we must stand by our decisions. Our character is revealed in how we respond to the successes and failures. When we maintain our integrity, we have ultimate success regardless of how the decisions turn out.

Results can vary. Good character is consistent, regardless.

Crying out for leadership

This week, something happened that I’ve been aching to see for some time. It was true leadership. It was someone with the courage of conviction, standing up, (literally), in the face of those who oppose him. But it turns out, he also stood up and called out those who are supposedly on his team.

Texas senator Ted Cruz did an extraordinary thing this week. According to Senate rules, a senator may control the floor for as long as he or she is able to stand and speak. Though it technically wasn’t a filibuster, the rules of one applied. That means he was required to stand the entire time, was not allowed to sit, lean, use a chair in any way, nor eat, drink or use the bathroom. They must basically speak continuously the entire time.

I’m not going to go into a civics lesson or anything. The point is, it is physically demanding. Senator Cruz held the floor of the senate for 21 hours, 19 minutes. The point of this extraordinary measure was to draw attention to his opposition of ObamaCare, or, the Affordable Care Act. Not only his opposition, but that of a majority of Americans. Certainly those he represents in Texas.

During and after Cruz’s extended floor speech, colleagues from both sides of the aisle criticized him. Those opposed to his views attempted to brush off his commentary by calling him an anarchist. Even some who supposedly share his views criticized him. They felt that his tactic was, “a waste of time”, that it wouldn’t change anything.

But here’s the thing. To those of us who are sick and tired of the status quo of political blowhards in both parties, this act of courage resonated with millions and millions of Americans. We are screaming out for leadership. We are crying out for someone to stand up and refuse to go down without a fight.

Passion and conviction. Dying commodities, it seems. Yes, maybe the outcome will not be affected by Ted Cruz’s speech. But what has happened is the status quo has been served notice. If those who have held positions in the Senate for decades got their feelings hurt by being called out for not fighting hard enough, GOOD! If “leaders” of the Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because a freshman dared to speak up without their blessing, GOOD! True leadership doesn’t create dependence. It enables and empowers INdependence!

America is crying out for leadership. We are aching for someone to stand up and fight the good fight. Rather than acquiesce and give in to defeat, we are desperate for someone to make their voice heard, even if it ruffles some feathers. We’re looking for someone who shares our views who will not fade silently into the night. That’s not who we are. We’re tired of being represented by people who are more interested in their own image, popularity, power and prestige.

I love the movie Braveheart. Though it’s based on a true story, it’s largely fiction, I know. But the movie still moves me. The passion of one man who is willing to die in order to achieve something for which he is passionate. He is confident he will not live long enough to see what he’s fighting for, but he fights anyway. That inspires me. I end this post with a scene from this movie. It completely summarizes the point I’m trying to make. America needs TRUE leadership!

Remembering 9/12

As we all reflect upon the events that changed the world forever, I find myself longing. Many long for the world we had on 9/10. We could go meet loved ones right at the airport gates. We weren’t worried about the government reading our phone records or our internet activity. We could go to sporting events and amusement parks without having our bags rifled through, or even banned.

For me, I long for 9/12. On that day, we were Americans. We weren’t divided by politicalbos_u_redsoxpre_576 ideology. We stood side-by-side, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, straight, homosexual. We were unified. The rest of the civilized world felt compassion and solidarity with the United States.The American flag flew everywhere. Freeway overpasses, cranes, fire department ladder trucks, sides of buildings.

How far we have drifted.

In our darkest days, I saw the best in us. Tragedy struck, and we responded beautifully. Just as one hand reaches to the the aid of a thumb accidentally struck by a hammer, we reached out to one another in an effort to comfort and aid the suffering. We found ourselves applauding and honoring the first responders in our communities when it dawned on us that they are the ones running into the very crisis the rest of us are running from.

Tragically, we are so far removed from our best days. I’m sickened by the divisive tones we take against one another. We are so disagreeable. We argue over things that, in the big picture of life, are so trivial. We have become so selfish. If one disagrees with another, it’s because they are a bigot or a racist. We level ad hominem attacks against our brothers124805794.jpg.CROP.article568-large and sisters without respect for their feelings, their life stories, or even any facts. The same people we stood with, shoulder to shoulder, waving the Stars and Stripes, singing God Bless America without worrying about the so-called separation of church and state.

What our enemies meant for evil, good came from it. But now, we are more divided than ever. I dread that it may take yet another catastrophic event to bring us back to a place of humility and unity.

Will we ever learn?

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Overdue rant

ranticon(The following is a rant I posted on Facebook on April 10, 2013. I’m posting it here for those who may have missed it)

I’ve felt a good rant coming on for weeks on a variety of topics, but I’ve pretty much kept it all in. At least in an online format.
I must say that the recent controversial comments in the MSNBC ad by Melissa Harris-Perry have challenged my restraint.

Whether you agree or disagree with her view, I just have this to say. Your kids are not my responsibility. They are not the community’s responsibility.

They are yours.

The community is made up of individuals. These individuals are as different and diverse as the stars. No two are alike. No two agree on everything, and no two see things exactly the same way. There is commonality, and there is contrast in each of us. We all have different gifts, talents, temperaments, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and experiences. Our experiences influence the expression of our innate tendencies. Our experiences often shape what direction we go in our lives.

My responsibility is to take all that I have experienced and learned in my life, and be a contributing member of the community. Because I know probably less than 1 percent of the population of my community, perhaps my greatest contribution is by getting out of the way of others in their pursuit of happiness. To those I know, my responsibility is to be the best me I can be.

My parents raised me with core values. They taught me the real meaning of responsibility, and it always came down to me.

No one else.

If I had a bad teacher, that didn’t give me an excuse to be an idiot. If I had a rotten neighbor, that wasn’t an open door for me to be a criminal.

Take responsibility for yourself and the ones who depend on you. Don’t rely on “the village”. If you do, you relinquish the right to complain about what happens next.