Monday, June 30, 2008

Here I go again . . .

It's that time of year - time for my annual church+flag=syncretism rant. The last time I blogged in this vein the link to my blog was deleted from at least one website. Hopefully I will communicate with a bit more grace this time around.

I opened the latest issue of a nearby church's newsletter today. On the cover was a picture of a large American flag with this poem, written by an unknown author:
O flag of our Union,
To you we'll be true,
To you red and white stripes,
And your stars on the blue;
The emblem of freedom,
The symbol of right,
We children salute you
O flag fair and bright!
Where to begin . . . First, let me say, once again, that I love my country. I thank God that I was born in what I believe is the best country on earth. I am grateful for the sacrifices that men and women have made throughout our nation's history to ensure our freedom. I celebrate Memorial Day and Independence Day along with my fellow patriots. Whenever our family gathers, we pray for our fellow Americans who are separated from their loved ones because their military service has them posted in some far off land - something my Navy-veteran father modeled for his children.

Having said that, can we as the church recognize that Christ's Kingdom is not of this world? Can we understand that it is not the US flag that is the symbol of freedom, but the cross? Can we at least admit that a flag is not the "symbol of right"; that our nation has been wrong occasionally.

Are we more right than other countries? Certainly. Is our ideal of freedom based on a government "of the people, by the people and for the people," the gold-standard of political freedom throughout the world? I believe it is. But, as the Church, we need to recognize that, when we proclaim freedom we need to focus - not on the freedom we have as Americans - but on the freedom we have in Christ!

We who are Christ-followers live in two worlds. We are Americans, yes, but we are Christians first, and blending the two is walking up to the line of idolatry. Proclaiming on the cover of one's church's premier publication that "we'll be true" to the flag is leaning over the line so far that I one is in danger of tumbling over.

Like many believers I know, I struggle with the tension that results in being faithful to Christ and loyal to my nation. I'll be the first to admit that I don't always balance that tension quite right. Indeed, I often find my thoughts and feelings on the subject ebbing and flowing. Having said that, I remain aware that, if I allow the church to simply reflect the patriotism of our flag-waving culture, I am in danger of, as Greg Boyd puts it in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation, reducing the cross to "the pole upon which a national flag waves."

PS - I welcome your thoughts and comments. I'd rather we at least dialog before my link is exiled to cyber-Siberia.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hamming it up

Graduation open house season 2008 is finally in the books. Tracy and I attended several. I've said for years now that we should publish a newsletter with a ratings system for open houses. You know:
The Smith open house featured a wide assortment of appetizers and free Pepsi products. There were yard games for everyone, but regrettably they were monopolized by the extended family. In particular, the young cousins were loud and Uncle Buck's cigar smoke somewhat tainted the atmosphere of an otherwise fine party. While the punch was a bit heavy on ginger ale, that was more than compensated for by a graduation cake consisting of, not two, but three flavors - chocolate, white and spice cakes. We give it three and a half diplomas.
We traveled to several open houses. Of course we didn't get invited to Amanda's. (Knew I'd throw that in there didn't you Amanda. That's okay, you're future father-in-law will still pay for your rehearsal dinner.)

Tracy took this pic at Megan's open house. Her dad, Jeff, and I have a sort of (not to be read as sordid) bizarre relationship. He's a great friend, and we're all proud that he and Beth have successfully graduated two of three fine young adults. That still leaves Rebecca. We're expecting her to turn out just as well - especially since we're planning on having her for a daughter-in-law someday . . . Hey a dad can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seriously, though . . . I really want to know

When I wrote about a recently discovered tribe of indigenous people located in the remote Brazilian rain forest last month, I had no idea that the story behind their existence was so, well, mundane. The tribe's existence was touted as an amazing discovery of a hitherto unknown group of native Brazilians. It seems, however that we've known about this tribe's existence for decades. Well, not me and you, but the sociologist types who study these things.

According to a recent internet report, the tribe has been monitored since before the first World War.

Here, again, is my question: "What, if any, responsibility do Christians have to reach this "lost" tribe with the good news of Jesus Christ?" How is it possible that four (or more) generations of these people have died without a saving knowledge of God's Son?

Seriously, I want to know. Should your church and my church be doing something about this?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Headed for the border

Son #1 and I are headed to Mexico tomorrow for a week-long mission trip. This is Caleb's first mission trip and first time traveling outside the United States. I am looking forward to our time together doing Kingdom work with brothers and sisters that are different from me and mine.

My good friend Lee Bracey, the Executive Director of Woodburn Christian Children's Home is preaching at South on Sunday. He is a good man and a good preacher. We're going to show this video to introduce Lee and WCCH.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Great neighbors

The Weller home in Grand Ledge was smacked by the storms that ripped through central Michigan on Saturday night. I stood and watched from the shelter of my garage as the neighbor's cottonwood whipped back and forth. I thought, for sure, it was going to go over. As it happened, it was our cottonwood that did not make it.

The twenty-five foot, twenty-five year old tree blew down across the entrance to our subdivision blocking our only way in and out. We were blessed that it did not land on (or perhaps in) the house. In the morning, as I left to go to church, I found myself unable to leave. My son and I grabbed the bow saw and hacked a few branches off to allow our car to squeeze through.

I left church expecting to come home to a cleanup chore. The neighbors, though, had it pretty well in hand. The tree was nearly completely cut up when I got home.

We fared well compared to many Grand Ledge residents. Coming back from an afternoon wedding on Sunday we were unable to get into town on M-100. Jenne Street remains closed. They did manage to clear Degroff Street so we were able to get home. Thankfully our power was restored by about 9:30 P.M. I know many others who were without power yet this morning.

The power of God in nature overwhelms me. When I realize that the wind and thunder and lightning are not even a fraction of God's omnipotence I am humbled.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Welcome home, Stanley

Jonah and I traveled to Detroit today with my buddy Fred to hang out at Hart Plaza celebrating the Red Wing's Stanley Cup victory. It was a blast! The day started with us hanging out at the Joe watching players arrive for the parade. Fred was able to get a great shot of Chris Draper hoisting the cup just a few feet away in the Joe Louis players' parking lot. Then we headed to Hart for the big rally. There were gazillions of people there. (Crowd estimates were several hundred thousand).

My favorite moment of the day, though, was when Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took the stage to offer his congratulations to the Wings. When I first saw him on the state, I leaned over and told Fred, "The question isn't if they will boo the mayor, the question is: will they stop?"

The answer is "no."

From the moment Kwame was introduced, the crowd screamed their boos and cat-calls, and didn't stop until he left the podium. I was only fifty yards from the stage, directly in front of the speakers, and I couldn't hear a word of what he was saying.

It's time for the mayor to get a clue and move on.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sole custody of the maple tree

My buddy Mike told me about a guy he knows whose wife recently separated from him. Despite their marital difficulties the husband remained hopeful they might work through it. Then his wife hired a team of people to come to their home and dig up the hosta plants and azalea bushes she had planted. Shortly thereafter a giant tree mover rolled in and extracted the twenty foot tall maple from the front lawn and carted it away leaving a gaping hole in front of the house.

Mike's assessment: this thing ain't gonna blow over.

Seems like there is a metaphor for divorce somewhere in that maple tree's roots, eh Kjergaard?

More from Dave Ramsey

Mrs. Frankly and I went to lunch today at bd's Mongolian Barbecue. Very tasty! Since our birthdays are only fifteen hours apart, and since bd's offers free lunch on your birthday, we were able to eat for only the cost of our two soda pops and the tip.

While there, I engaged our server, Jonathon, in conversation. I mentioned that I am preaching about Jonathon this Sunday. He asked what church I preach at and, when I told him South Lansing Christian Church on Aurelius Road, he knew it right away. "I drive past there on my way to work in Ionia every day," he told me.

"What are you doing driving to Ionia?" I asked.

"I manage a Walgreen's there."

"Then what are you doing waiting tables here?"

His response: "This is my Dave Ramsey job."

Tracy and I looked at each other and cracked up. We went on to talk about FPU and the recent car repair he had that cleaned out his emergency fund. He told me that he bought life insurance recently and, when the salesman tried to sell him whole life, he insisted on term. The insurance salesman pressed him to get whole but when Jonathon stayed true to FPU the guy said, "Wait a minute. You're in that class aren't you?"

"What class?"

"The one with that radio guy."

"You mean Dave Ramsey?"

"Yeah that's the one. You're not going to buy this policy are you?"


Way to go Jonathon. And way to go Dave. Thanks for helping Tracy and I work through our financial challenges. So far, we've paid off over $4,000 in debt and have about $500 in our emergency fund. We're on week seven and moving along strong. I've got my own "Dave Ramsey job," too, and we're looking to become debt free - to live like no one else so we can give like no one else.

Monday, June 02, 2008


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting that a Milwaukee farmer found $1700 in dry-rotted depression era cash stuffed in a rusted metal box in a shed he was tearing down on his farm. Apparently, rumors of the cash have floated around for years. Dan Deming, the farm's owner, began searching around the farm about three years ago when he received a metal detector for his birthday.

Hmmmmmm. Cash stuffed in a box in an old shed back in 1935. What would Dave Ramsey do? Well, $1700 invested in a decent mutual fund in 1935, with interest compounded would now be worth $342,424 today. Guess that farmer blew that one, huh.

Thanks, Dave . . .