Thursday, May 22, 2008

a break from drinking

A friend and colleague of mine recently posted something on his blog I thought was worth passing on. Here it is with my comments immediately following:

I stopped drinking at the end of April. At least for a while.


1. I really felt God was asking me to. Beyond any particular reason or explanation, I’ve had this growing sense that I must.
2. I have sensed that God is wanting to do something significant - in me? through me? Perhaps this is a bit of physical fast to reinforce the spiritual - a time of preparation.
3. I don’t want to miss ANYTHING - good conversation with a friend, opportunity to hear or see God, etc.- because I’ve been drinking. Although I never drink all that much anyway, I’d hate for that to be the reason I miss something.
4. Sometimes I look at people who have been drinking (either too much or too often), and wonder, “Am I like that?” Again, don’t think so, but I’d hate for someone to get a wrong impression or be turned off by that
5. A fair amount of our community drinks, and I guess I want to lead the way in moderation in this area.

The thing is, drinking isn’t wrong. But it sure is easily abused. And because this isn’t a black and white issue, it gets a little complicated when it comes to “how much.”

- When exactly has someone had too much too drink?
- When is someone drinking too often?

I often don’t know when it comes to someone else. I’m concerned that too many of us can’t answer these questions for ourselves. Perhaps a bit of what God wants to teach me is self-control, discernment, and moderation. I don’t anticipate this is a permanent stop, and don’t actually have a plan to end. I guess I’m counting on God indicating it’s ok to drink again as strongly as He told me to stop.

Good for you. I suspect God is nudging us all the time to change directions, to take a new path, to try doing more of one thing and less of another, or even to just try letting go of something to see what happens in us and around us. But most of the time I think we kinda just give God a non-verbal, barely conscious, “Huh,” and then continue on unmoved and unchanged. At least I do. So good for you for listening and acting.

I agree with you that there’s nothing inherently wrong with drinking, but I’ve thought for quite awhile, (and folks in our communities are probably tired of hearing me say it), that our casual and often cavalier attitude about the use of alcohol seems to reveal a naiveté about the havoc it’s wreaking all around us and sometimes an insensitivity to those in our communities who are susceptible to hurting themselves with it. I hope we’ll be different. I hope we’ll be increasingly wise, sensitive, loving, and as you’re demonstrating, attentive to the nudgings of God.

Monday, May 19, 2008

trickle down mythology

I’m a registered Republican, and I’ve actually voted for every Republican candidate from Ronald Reagan in 1980 right through Mike Huckabee’s improbable run in this year’s presidential primaries. My folks are die-hard Republicans, so I guess I kind of just fell into the party. But I’m also naturally optimistic and I tend to think that most people will do the right thing if given the chance, so the Republican idea of a “small government” that frees up resources for people to do the right thing, (vs. a big government that does it for them), made sense to me. I bought into Reagan’s “trickle down” economic philosophy way back in 1980, but unfortunately the altruism of that policy hasn’t really played out in the real world.

Forbes magazine, the self-proclaimed "Capitalist’s Tool,” recently reported that the average CEO in 1980 was paid 40 times more than their average employee, but that by 2008 the average CEO was now making 443 times more than their average employee, a staggering discrepancy. Revenue is not trickling down, it’s being consumed at the top, and at alarmingly skyrocketing rates.

There are obviously exceptions. I know a few honorable CEOs who have voluntarily chosen to cap their salaries, to live more simply, and to pay their employees real living wages that are just and equitable with their own compensation. But sadly, when given the economic opportunity to make more money and distribute it more equitably and justly, most CEOs just aren’t choosing to do the right thing. And now I’m asking myself what’s the right thing for me to do with a historic election just around the corner.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

formed or informed

For the first 2/3rds of my life I mostly read the scriptures informationally. The last third I've mostly read the scriptures formationally. Both are helpful, but they are different. The difference has to do with how we read the Bible and why we read it. Either we read the Bible informationally to learn, or we read it formationally to be changed. M. Robert Mulholland characterizes the different approaches like this:

In informaional (I) reading we...
In formational (f) reading we...

(I) Cover as much text as possible
(F) Cover what we need to

(I) Read line by line
(F) Read for depth, maybe only a phrase or two

(I) Have a goal of mastering the text
(F) Have a goal of being mastered by the text

(I) Treat the text as an object
(F) Treat ourselves as the object of the text

(I) Read analytically
(F) Read receptively

(I) Solve problems
(F) Are open to mystery

Mulholland obviously tilts the scale in favor of reading formationally, which I'd have to agree with. But I want to learn too, and I've got more than a few problems I wouldn't mind solving. So I'm not going to abandon reading informationally, but I suspect I'll probbaly keep spending most of my time in the Bible reading it to be formed.