Thursday, June 28, 2012

Civility in Discussing Monumental Decisions

Like many in this country I was up and ready to hear the Supreme Court decision this morning on the Affordable Care Act, or as many like to call it - Obamacare. Many were waiting anxiously to have the entire law upheld. Others wanted all of it ruled unconstitutional. Still others thought maybe if they kept everything but the individual mandate they could live with the rest of it.

When the ruling came down, there was some serious confusion. Getting accurate information from Twitter was absolutely impossible. Even CNN and Fox News got it wrong for a few nervous minutes. Then the ruling was disclosed accurately. Obamacare – the ACA – was upheld -- all of it.

Some screamed for joy, while others wept for what they saw was an unjust decision and an overreach by the government. I was joyous. But I fully acknowledge that there are quite a few folks who are so disappointed right now. I feel for these folks. Sincerely.

Many times decisions that are monumental in nature leave us breathless. Sometimes with great joy and satisfaction that our side "won" the day and others determined to overturn the decision due to their side "losing." I have been on the losing side many times - and on the winning side - but it never feels like winning when people you love and care about are distraught.

However on this decision - I wholeheartedly believe that the Supreme Court (and the Congress) got it right. We have a health care crisis in this country that has to be addressed. And in the ACA a lot of those issues were indeed addressed - mandatory coverage of persons with pre-existing conditions, continuation of coverage for young adults until age 26, protections against going bankrupt from healthcare costs, coverage for all persons, and a way forward to care for all Americans. Yet, there are still going to be problems for us to address.

And I hope we can do that in a civil and open manner. This is what I posted on my Facebook page right after the decision:

I know that some of my friends are not happy with SCOTUS upholding Obamacare - but it helps so many people. I am proud that many poor and underemployed will be covered and that pre-existing conditions will continue to be covered. Seems that children up to age 26 can still be covered by their parents' insurance. I am proud of my government for caring for all. I acknowledge that for some this is a tough day and I want to say I care about you, too.

So far the responses have been positive. However, some have expressed their dismay. We can have civil conversations about policy and politics, religion and beliefs in humane and open ways. We have to acknowledge that whoever “won” means someone they care about “lost.” And we have to stop using win/lose analogies like I just used.

As I read scripture, God calls on us to care for one another, to uphold one another, and to love one another. Today, I think we can show how we understand this and care for each other during the debates about this monumental decision.

I pray for us all. And for our continued civil conversations on this and other monumental decisions in our lives and in our politics.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Being 50

Yesterday was my birthday. I am a half a century young. I am 50 years of age and am actually really excited about it. Several celebrations have already occurred (with my son before he went off on a 10 day mission trip with our church, with my Wabash friends in Indiana, and last night with friends). Amazingly some have made it known that turning 50 should make me sad. They have flat out stated that 50 is old. Of course most of them were much younger than I am. And I do not believe it. 50 is just a number and it doesn’t make me sad in the least. I am proud to be 50.

So today I pause to look back at 50 years of life.  And it has been a great life. I was blessed with an astonishingly great family of origin. My parents taught me to stand up and speak for myself. They taught me to be open and affirming of persons not like myself. They taught me my faith and how to live it boldly. They provided me with a wonderfully loving home and two sisters who are my dear friends. Not many people can say that. 

I was also blessed to receive a fantastic education. I taught with some amazing colleagues for 9 years in secondary education in Texas. I am so grateful for the education and the M.Div. I later received from Saint Paul School of Theology and for the churches I served as a United Methodist pastor in Kansas and New Jersey. Blessings continued to flow as I received a Masters of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Drew University. I have received amazing support and collegial encouragement from colleagues at both Hood Theological Seminary in NC and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. In my work I have found friends for life who are so important to me.

I am blessed with an amazing family of choice. They lift me up when I am down and call me into accountability when I screw up. They love me no matter what and I love them as well. They are friends, family, and loved ones who make my life worth living. I cannot imagine my life without them.

I am blessed with a vocation that I love. I have been teaching in one form or another for most of my adult life and it is in my blood. I teach and in those moments I am the best of who I can be. I teach and I help propel the church into the 21st century in exciting and engaging ways. I teaching and it makes me happier than almost any time else in my life. I am lucky to have this joy in my life.

But most of all I am blessed by a faith that keeps me sane, makes my life complete, and connects me to the Creator in ways that lift me off the ground. I am blessed with a church community that inspires and challenges me. I am blessed by a life that brings me hope, love and joy! Thank you to all of you who play a role in it.

I am 50 – and I am proud and blessed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Me and My Stuff

I heard a comedy routine some years ago by George Carlin about STUFF. I still remember it:

“That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”

The routine continues to talk about getting so much stuff you need a bigger house for your stuff, you go on vacation and need to take just a bit of your stuff, and after trips you bring home more stuff, etc.  It is raw and rough in spots but I love the bit, because it is so dang true. The acquisition of “stuff” is part of the American reality for most.

We are moving this month and going through all of our stuff – decisions about keeping stuff, giving away stuff and moving stuff is a big part of our lives right now.  We have bags of stuff to give to Goodwill or some other charitable organization. We have bags of stuff that is going out in the trash.  And other stuff is getting packed up to load on a truck and take all the way to our new house – a mere 15 blocks away. But we have to pack up as if we are moving cross country almost.

And the stuff is amazing. Going through your stuff is a kind of archeological dig of sorts. We have talked about items in my son’s room that he wanted to hear the story about. We have talked about priorities in regards to what stuff we have and how we use it – or don’t use it. We have talked about how to decorate the new place with our stuff. And we have talked about the need to acquire less stuff in our lives.

We discovered that we have stuff we have not used in the two years since we moved here – so it is getting tossed or given away unless it is a keepsake. We have stuff that is important so we cannot pack it up until closer to the truck coming to load. We have stuff that has to go with us and stuff that we’re still debating about keeping.

Stuff can weigh us down. Stuff can make us possessive and oppressed. Stuff can separate us from ourselves, from others, and from our God. Stuff is not what God wants for us – God wants faithful living, nurturing relationships, spiritual formation, living missionally, and building family, among others.

Truth is … me and my stuff need a reality check.  What is important in my life is not going to fit in the back of the moving truck. I need to remember that fact.

(And I'm not even gonna get into the "unpacking" of my stuff ... that's for another blog)