Friday, January 31, 2014

You're a liberal, aren't you?

I do not have a political affiliation. My allegiance is to Christ alone. I have views that fit on both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, I have views that fall all over the political spectrum. And I am very careful not to express my personal opinions to my students. But the other day, one of my students said "You're a liberal, aren't you?"

I was surprised and asked why they would think that?

The student responded that I'm always trying to get them help the poor and impoverished. They said I'm always bringing attention to the plight of those suffering in other nations. The student said I'm always raising money for non-profits that assist those living in developing nations. They said I was always trying to help those agencies in our county that assist the poor or the distressed.

I asked, "That's why you think I'm liberal?" And they responded with a resounding yes.

I found it sad that if you help the poor you are considered liberal. It's a sad state of affairs when conservatives are seen, fairly or unfairly, for not caring about the poor both in the United States and overseas. I know plenty of conservatives who help in many different ways to help the poor. But the general perception seems to be that poverty is a liberal cause.

I'm not a liberal or a conservative. I'm not a Republican or a Democrat. But I think both sides, regardless of ideology, should make helping the poor one of their primary objectives. They may have different methods and ideas about how to help the poor, but the poor should be a primary concern. Obviously, I'm coming at this from a Christian perspective. That's my affiliation. And one of Christ's major concerns was for the poor.

But I still found it sad that helping the poor makes you "liberal." Helping the poor should be what everyone does. Helping our neighbors should simply be who we are regardless of our party affiliation.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We have Olympic Fever

How I Find Time to Read...

I was asked an excellent question the other day: How do you find time to read with your busy schedule?

In the late nineties I noticed I wasn't reading as much as I used to. I was still reading magazines and blogs, etc...  But I wasn't reading books as much. I had always been a voracious reader so I realized I had to get back on track. Looking back on those days and reading some of my journals I came upon some ideas that helped me get back into reading.

1.) Be intentional about reading. There are so many distractions in the world you have to make the conscious decision to read books. Reading won't just happen. You have to make it happen.

2.) Challenge yourself with concrete goals. In 1999, I made a goal to read one book a month. That helped me stay motivated in finishing books. I actually read fifteen books that year. I set those concrete numerical goals each year for several years until the habit was built back up. Now I don't have numerical goals because reading has become second nature.

3.) Read subjects that interest you. Once you've got back into the habit of reading you may move on to other subjects. But jumping back into the reading habit can be tough. So find subjects that you find interesting. Don't worry about delving deep into philosophy or the classics. Those will come later. Read something short. Short chapters also help keep me moving along.

4.) Write a list of books that you would like to read. Ask for them for Christmas or birthday gifts. If you have a list, you're more likely to keep reading. If you don't know what to read, ask your friends. Each year the New York Times prints a list of notable books of the year. Return to authors you've enjoyed in the past. Find out who they read. HERE'S a list of books I've read the past several years.

5.) If a book is turning into a slog, don't be afraid to give it up for awhile and read something more accessible. You can always come back to it.

6.) Make reading a habit. I don't watch a lot TV although Netflix has become a real temptation with it's streaming service (I've been binging on Portlandia) . Make an appointment with yourself to read. It doesn't have to be a long chunk of time. Start with five to ten minutes and go from there. Work with the time that works best. Sometimes that changes each day. Sometimes I read at lunch. Sometimes I read right before bed. Sometimes I read in the waiting room. Read whenever it works. To do that...

7.) Always have a book with you. I always have either a book, Kindle, or iPad with me in my bag. If you have it with you you're more likely to read it. I read when I'm getting the oil changed. I read when I'm waiting in the car.

8.) Put the phone down. I got a smart phone just last April. The iPhone is a real temptation. I have to force myself to put it down. Some days I set goals like: I'm only going to check the phone in the morning and in the evening, etc...  Just say no to the phone once in awhile.

9.) Use a format that works for you. I have a Kindle, which I love because I can order books instantaneously. I can carry hundreds of books on a single device. But I also read real books as well. Don't get locked into one thing. Just read what works for you.

10.) I alternate between genres. I'll read a tough book followed by something less serious. I'll follow Camus with Elmore Leonard. I'll read something spiritual then follow up with historical fiction. Just go with the flow.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I've subscribed to a lot of magazines in my life. National Geographic, National Geographic's Adventure, National Geographic's World Magazine, Boy's Life, Golf, Golf Digest, Holiness Today, SKI, Skiing, Backpacker Magazine among others I'm sure I've forgotten.

These days I subscribe to only two magazines, both which I love...

Relevant Magazine and The Believer.

Relevant focuses on how to engage with our culture with a Christ centered focus.

The Believer is the literary journal of McSweeneys, the publishing house run by Dave Eggers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blogs to Check Out

Some of the blogs/websites I've been checking out a lot lately:

Red Letter Christians is the blog curated by Tony Campolo. This blog focuses on Christ centered approaches to current events.

The website of Shane Claiborne's Intentional Community, The Simple Way.

Sojourners. A community of Christians who take seriously Christ's command to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the hungry.

Katie Davis's blog. She went to Africa on a mission trip several years ago, was moved to return and spend her life caring for orphans. She teaches and has personally adopted thirteen kids. She's only in her mid-twenties!
Q Ideas. Discussions about what it means to be a Christian in a post-modern culture.

Conspire! The blog of Conspire magazine which focuses on the life of Christ and His model of serving others and giving sacrificially.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Books of January

I was blessed to receive a lot of books for Christmas. I've raced through four of them so far in 2014. All four have been amazing reads and I recommend them highly:

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne - This book has been one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Claiborne articulates a world view centered on the life of Christ and Christ alone. Going beyond trite WWJD marketing, Claiborne stresses that maybe Christ was serious when he preached the Sermon on the Mount. Claiborne calls for us to rid ourselves of our worldly goods, help the poor and show Christ's love through our actions. Claiborne has a lot of credibility on these matters. He practices what he preaches. He has given up most of his possessions and has lived in intentional community in inner city Philadelphia for the past decade.

Love Does by Bob Goff - Bob Goff's thesis is simple: real love does things. Love goes beyond talk and actually moves on people's behalf. Goff tells stories of hope and love. He believes that we should sacrifice ourselves for others at all times, not just when convenient. Once again, he uses Christ as his ultimate example.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell - According to an interview in Relevant Magazine, Gladwell rediscovered his faith in God while researching this book. Gladwell shows how the underdogs in this world actually have more advantages that may seem possible at the time. He also demonstrates that some advantages are illusory and may actually be hindrances. 

A Life Worth Living (Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning) by Robert Zaretsky - An inspiring biography of Albert Camus. The book does not follow the standard biographical narrative. Instead, Zaretsky divides his work into five themes: Absurdity, Silence, Measure, Fidelity and Revolt. Each theme reveals interesting dynamics of Camus's life and work.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Another made up day. Sanctity of Life Sunday. Of course, the only lives most churches choose to defend are the unborn. Pretty convenient really. Doesn't take much work to defend those not yet here. We just talk loudly and say the other side is really bad. 

But all life is sacred. Why don't more churches promote adoption or support foster care ministries? Because then it gets messy. That's hard. Some of these kids are not easy to deal with. 

And Christ said to love our enemies. So we sure don't defend lives if they live in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. Just war theory is a crock. 

And guns. Let's forget about the tools that are used to murder people...including children...on a daily basis. My rights are more important than other's lives. 

And the death penalty. All life is sacred. Let's teach that by killing those who killed others. That's real consistent. 

So let's honor all lives today and every day. Not just when it's convenient. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fourteen Hopes for '14

Shane Claiborne, one of my favorite authors and Christian activists, annually writes a list of hopes for the new year. Here are his 14 hopes for 2014. Good stuff and worth your time...