Thoughts on the Government Shutdown

I don’t typically wade into political waters – something about lying down with dogs and getting fleas, if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors. The events of recent days, however, have my hackles up. So, here are just a few short thoughts.

Democratic Congressional Types, yes, you won. The ACA passed a majority of both houses and was signed into law by the President. The individual mandate survived a Supreme Court challenge and, though I think the Court missed this one, it decides law, not me. The ACA is the law of the land. I hope you know what you’re doing, because the majority of the American people are beginning to doubt you. Personally, I like what the ACA tries to accomplish. God help us if we don’t help those who can’t help themselves. However, I think the way the ACA plans to go about it (inasmuch as I—or anyone for that matter—understand it) is a potential train wreck for many reasons, not the least of which is the assault on personal liberties it represents. The truth is you don’t know how it’s going to work. Most of you didn’t even read it. Try not to be so smugabout having passed a law that amounts to throwing stuff against the wall, waiting to see what will stick. I don’t blame you for the government shutdown. Believe me, though, if the ACA turns out the way I think it might, I will blame you and you alone. Good luck. We’re all going to need it.

Republican Congressional Types, like you, I am a registered Republican (for now—this is probably an affiliation with a very short life expectancy), so it pains me to say this. Individually, you may be great folks. Collectively, you’re all idiots. You’ve thrown your lot in with a man whose idea of political discourse is reading Dr. Seuss to an empty chamber. Well, almost empty. CSPAN was there. There are a lot of things that trouble me about the course of action Republicans have taken. For starters, you all apparently have forgotten everything you learned in high school civics. If you don’t like a law—and no, the ACA is not a bill, it is the law—you convince people that it needs to be repealed, convince those people to elect you to office, and then repeal it. I get that you are operating under the maxim of “desperate times call for desperate measures.” I get that you think out of control spending is bad for the country and I agree with you. But here’s the thing. You can’t avoid one fiscal catastrophe by careening toward another. Well, I suppose you can, but why would any sane person want to? Meanwhile, all of those whose paychecks plummeted to zero as well as the full faith and credit of the United States are caught in the wake of your ill-conceived grandstanding. You have sold your birthright of intellectual excellence and integrity for a few measly bags of tea. Most disturbing is that you have no end-game. Much like the proponents of the ACA, you’re just throwing stuff against the wall and hoping against hope that something will stick. That’s a poor way to do government and the rest of us are paying the price.

My First Speech

1977 was a good year for me.  Star Wars opened at big screens across the nation.  I learned to read.  I no longer had to take naps.  Miss Jenkins was my first grade teacher (if you saw her through the eyes of a six year old boy, you’d understand).  I won the Charlotte, NC, Royal Ambassadors “Pinewood Derby.”

For those of you who don’t know, the “Pinewood Derby” was an event in which its participants race small (about six inches long) cars built from blocks of wood.  These cars were placed on inclined tracks and, powered only by gravity (and aided by some well placed weights) raced in head to head heats until only one remained undefeated.  My car was the one.  Cool huh?

But that’s not the moment I want to tell you about.  This moment occurred several weeks later when I, a shy six year old boy, was asked to get up in front of my church and talk about winning the derby…

OK.  I can do this.  It’s Sunday night, so there aren’t that many people here.  Wait, here come a few more.  Why don’t they lock the doors at 6 o’clock?  These people should at least have the decency to be on time.  Oh, more people!  Maybe I shouldn’t look around.

OK, deep breath.  Time to sing.  “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, we shall go rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”  I really don’t like that song.  Maybe it’s because we sing it like the Darlings from Andy Griffith, only in the key of off.  Mr. Worship Leader, I know you like singing verses 1,2 and 4, but you can throw 3 in, too, if you like.  No?  Oh well.

Maybe Pastor Stone’s sermon will run long tonight and he’ll forget about me.  I am supposed to go on last, after all.  Besides, it’s been a long day.  Everybody’s tired and just wants to get home in time for “In Search Of.”  That Leonard Nimoy sure is talented, but how’d they get his ears back to normal?  Acts.  OK, I can find Acts.  New Testament.  I just learned these.  Let’s see…Genesis, Exodus.  Wait, wrong half.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, ACTS.  There it is.  Oh, 6:40.  Getting close.  I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

Now to Matthew?  Shouldn’t we have hit that one first?

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

Thou, thy, thee, ye, killest, stonest, gathereth?  Who talks like that?  Hey, I’m in church, maybe I should throw in some of those thees and thous when I give my speech.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  This is going to be great!  I’m going to tell everybody about how my Dad and brother and I built this great car.  Or builteth this great car.  I’ll regale them with tales of how I vanquished all foes who dared to come against me on the field of battle.  I’ll tell them how they (or thou) were (or werst…is that a word?) a great source of inspiration as I placed the car on the track for each race;  about how with each race, I became surer and surer of victory;  of how I accepted the trophy with the grace and humility that would bring honor to Calvary Baptist Church.  THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!

What’s that Mom?  Oh, he called me up?  OK, here goes.  Why is everything moving slowly?  Why are there trails behind every person?  Why does Pastor Stone sound like a broken tape recorder?  Why don’t my legs work?  What happened to the stage?  This morning there were only six steps up.  Now there are, 1, 2, 3…5643!  OK, last step…shake Pastor Stone’s hand.  This is good.  The lights in the auditorium are still down, just like when the Pastor preaches.  WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, what are they doing?  It’s getting brighter.  I don’t need to see these people!  Hey, who let them in here?  They really need to lock the doors at 6.  Since when did this church seat 50,000 people?

Deep breath.  Another one.  One more.  Whew, I’m beginning to feel light headed.  I can do this.

“When I won the pinewood derby…”

OK, what do I say next?  I have to pee.  What’s happening?  I didn’t eat anything before I came, but something’s flying around in my stomach.  Is it hot in here?  I told you there were too many people in here.  Why is everyone staring at me?  Didn’t your mothers teach you that was impolite?

“It meant so much to me…”

Nada.  Let’s see…by my calculations I’ve been up here about nine hours.  Don’t these people have homes?  A little help here, Pastor!  I’m six, remember?  Come on, Mark, tales of victory on the field of battle!  Vanquish, victory, trophy, grace, humility, thee, thou, builteth.  SAY SOMETHING!

“Excuse me, but I’ve got something I’ve got to do.”

And that’s how it ended.  Well, almost.  I then ran off the stage into the arms of my mother and cried until they had to re-hydrate me with an IV drip.  The pastor commented that mine was the most polite exit he had ever seen. Was this an important event in my life?  Sure.  I’ve never been afraid to speak in public since.

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, Walterbrook Press, 2011)

In the 1990s, Christopher Yuan was a gay man who worked hard and played harder.  After an experience
with the drug Ecstasy, Yuan quickly became one of the top drug dealers in the major gay clubs of the Southeast, living the glamorous lifestyle marked by cars, clothes and the adoration of his new family in the homosexual community.  As spectacular as the story of his life in the 90s is, it is not the subject of this book.

Yuan’s world eventually came crashing down.  Arrested for conspiracy and intent to distribute illegal drugs and later sentenced to six years in prison, Yuan was abandoned by all but a very few of his supposed “friends”.
To add insult to injury, Yuan learned, while wearing the tell-tale orange jumpsuit of the Atlanta Detention Center, that he was HIV positive, likely the result of one of his sexual encounters of the previous several
years.  As dramatic as the story of his Yuan’s fall is, it is not the subject of this book.

In recent years, Yuan, now a Christian speaker and HIV/AIDS activist, has garnered a fair amount of notoriety for his frequent speaking engagements in which he talks about HIV and issues surrounding sexuality and
Christianity.  For this he has been both praised and roundly (and often angrily) criticized.  Though one of this book’s thirty two chapters is entitled “Holy Sexuality” (a chapter that offers a view of sexuality that
will challenge the ingrained beliefs of many on both sides of the Christianity/homosexuality debate) neither HIV nor questions of Christian faith and sexuality are the subjects of this book.

What is Out of a Far Country about?  It is a modern-day prodigal son story, about a son who rebels against his parents and effectively abandons his natural family in favor of living life on his own terms.  It is about an awkward boy whose struggle to fit it and to make sense of his attractions led him on a journey into manhood
defined by rises, falls and, ultimately, redemption.  It’s about a God who says to us “I created you in my image and, for that reason and that reason alone, I love you.  Period.”  It’s a story that demonstrates that God’s ways are not our ways and that God uses whomever He wills, however He wills and does so perfectly.  Yuan’s journey from outcast kid to drug dealer to HIV statistic to Christ follower is, at bottom, simply a story of
God’s unconditional love for even “the least” of us (a category into which we all fall).

In addition, Out of a Far Country, is about a mother’s struggle.  In alternating chapters running roughly chronologically with Christopher’s story, his mother, Angela, tells her own story of redemption
through the trials of a rebellious son, a lifeless marriage, and lifelong scars that haunted her inmost being.  From her childhood in Shanghai and Taiwan to her life in the United States with husband, Leon, Angela describes for us her journey from atheist to Christian, from staunch anti-religionist to powerful prayer warrior, from suicidal mother to child of God.  Hers is a story not only of redemption but also of the power of a praying parent who asks God not to bail her son out of whatever situation he might be in, not to allow him to remain in
a school threatening to expel him, not to spare him from prison, but to do “whatever it takes” to bring her son to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was a bold prayer.  It was an instructive prayer.  It was an effective prayer.

At bottom, Out of a Far Country is a story of hope.  No matter how far from God we may think we are, God pursues us in the most unlikely ways and in the most unlikely places, in a swank Atlanta apartment, in
a prison bunk—even in a trash can.  Read the book.  You’ll understand.

We’re In Wheaton

Hello again.  I know it’s been a long while since I last wrote, but we’ve been just a touch busy.  For those of you who don’t know, my family and I recently moved from Greenville, SC to Wheaton, IL for me to attend graduate school at Wheaton College.  The months leading up to the move were, as you can imagine, quite hectic.  I have decided that there are few things in life I dislike more than moving.  You know, the first couple of times I moved, it wasn’t that bad.  However, the longer I am married and the older the kids get, the more stuff we seem to accumulate.  The “in” box definitely gets more use than the “out” box, which I’m pretty sure is packed IN a box somewhere.  Enough about moving, though.  That’s an entire post by itself.

The kids are doing well.  They’ve been in school since August 25th and, despite the expected bouts of homesickness, are adjusting quite nicely.  My daughter is beginning to find her niche in 5th grade.  She’s now on the safety patrol and is beginning band next week.  My son is settling into school a little more slowly but has found a great pasttime — playing sports with the college guys (we live in campus house that backs up to an undergraduate dorm).  So far, he has joined in games of Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer and just today was holding his own in a game of “HORSE.”  I’ve got to say that the college kids here have been great around my children.

Our move up here was a total move of faith (not that our faith has anything to do with how “holy” we are.  Someday, I’ll tell you the story of how we ended up at Wheaton and you’ll see that it really wasn’t that hard of a decision — sometimes, God just makes it easy).  Neither my wife nor I had jobs and we had (still have just) enough money to last us a couple of months.  A week after we moved, Amy got a call from a local hospital asking if she could come for an interview (she is a nurse, by the way).  She interviewed with the HR and management on Wednesday, was asked back for a peer interview on Thursday, and received a job offer on Friday.  From the first contact requesting the interview until the job offer was less than 72 hours.  Wow!  So, she starts tomorrow.

As for me, I’m having a blast!  I recently received an email from a friend who made the comment that he hoped I was containing myself.  I replied that not only was I not containing myself, I wasn’t even trying.  This is a great gig!  I get to read, write, pray, study, meditate and interact with some really brilliant and charitable people…full time.  When I’m not eating dinner with the family or catching an occasional movie with the kids, this is what I do.  I’m pretty stoked.

Anyway, I had promised some folks that I would post periodic updates on this phase of my family’s journey.  This is the first one.  We’re here.  I have to go read some Tertullian now.  Until next time, blessings to you all.

I Love Tech Support

I just had to share this with everyone.  Part of my internet service subscription includes access to ESPN 360.  Well, I couldn’t get on it today.  I kept getting an error message saying that ESPN 360 could not verify my account.  So, I decided to try chat support with my ISP.  I’m not going to comment any further.  Just look at the screenshot from my chat session.

Read carefully and you, too, will say "Huh?"
Read carefully and you, too, will say "Huh?"