Another ‘Modest Proposal’ – Build the Wall!

8 01 2019

swiftBecause mine is a faith that is all about change and development, let me here and now confess to the transformation of my thinking with regard to the truly American desire to build a wall along our southern boarder; and in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, to offer our divided government a twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Where Swift, in 1729, satirically suggested that “the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies”; so do I, here and now, propose that America, similarly threatened by “immigrants and their children who are becoming a burden” to our country, build a wall in order to keep out all who would try to enter illegally.  This proposition is born in a desire to reduce crime, to increase the number of jobs available to Americans, and in no small way to maintain the type of society that for 243 years has served to make America great!

Although the CATO Institute, one of America’s top-ten “think tanks”, reported in 2018 that that both undocumented and legal immigrants commit far less crime that native born American citizens, why would anyone believe an organization that has the word “think” in its description? We are all familiar with the comment made by Iowa Representative Steve King back in 2005, that “since 9/11 more than 63,000 violent crimes had been committed by illegals aliens.”  The statistic has been proven false over and over again, and King is known to be the one member of Congress who consistently makes false, racist and xenophobic comments; but why be troubled by the facts . . . especially when we can politicize the tragic killings of Brandon Mendoza and Mollie Tibbetts by illegals. The image of a wall ‘protecting’ American boarders and keeping unwanted criminals out, gives us a sense of security and makes us all feel safe.  And who doesn’t make important decisions solely on the basis one one’s . . . feelings?  So let’s build the wall: an attractive barrier, made of either concrete, or steel beams if that is more appealing to the majority of Americans.  However let’s build these barriers not just along our southern boarder with Mexico, but in other places as well.

What I call “The Great Wall of the South” is merely Part 1 of my “Modest Proposal”!  Part 2 involves building a second wall around the state of Florida: a state with one of the highest percentages of undocumented workers in the country, AND a state with one of the highest number of citizens over the age of 65.  The goal here is to prevent any new illegals from moving to the Sunshine State, and hopefully to encourage illegals already there to leave!

Now this will undoubtedly force residents of the state to begin to better care for one another, but that is the job of the church and other social services organizations.  The government’s job is to protect and secure American territory and that is what this wall is designed to accomplish.  Fewer immigrant workers may mean that there will be fewer people to care for residents of nursing homes and retirement facilities, to cut grass and meet the landscaping needs of residents, and to work in the states two most important industries, namely agriculture and tourism.  However accommodations will be made Grandma’s inability to pick oranges as quickly as younger workers, and Grandpa’s need for riding lawn mowers to cut grass.  It is essential that we never incentivize illegal entry with jobs — regardless of the fact that they are jobs Americans appear to believe are beneath them.  Eventually, due to excessive immigrant populations, similar state fencing will also be placed around the states of California and New York; and fencing around the state of Texas should also follow,  for countless other reasons not addressed in this proposal!

Part 3 of my “Modest Proposal” involves Floating Water Fences, or FWFs; and will be placed around the Ports of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  This fencing will be made of coals panels, at least 35 feet high, and made of coal from West Virginia’s reopened coal mines.  Netting attached to the bottom of the panels shall prevent penetration of anything under the surface of the water, and the coal panels shall prevent penetration from anything above the surface of the water.  The FWFs in Los Angeles and New York will prevent any further immigration from points south of the United States of America, and Chicago’s FWF shall prevent entry from any immigrants coming from our socialist, Trudeau-loving neighbors to the north.

Finally, Part 4 of this proposal involves asking the CATO Institute to determine the exact percentage of illegals committing any kind of crime in this country, and then building walls around any American city that has that very same percentage of . . . yes . . . white males!  (This has nothing at all to do with illegal immigration but rather is all about keeping America safe again!)  Since the vast majority of mass shootings in this country are carried out by Caucasian men, keeping our nation safe should involved walling them into the cities where they congregate, and no longer allowing them to freely move around the country where they might force their dis-ease upon an innocent population.  Granted, this may adversely affect those few non-violent men that exist in these cities, as well as other non-White-male residents; but we also need to put safety and security first, always before freedom and liberty!

I conclude by declaring that I am well aware that ‘walls turned sideways become bridges.’  But American is our home.  And homes require walls, not bridges!  I am also well aware that ‘this nation was built by immigrants,’ but those immigrants were from places like Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Denmark: and they were people who looked like us, worshipped like us, thought like us, and dressed like us.  Such people will still be permitted to to come to our shores, for who would NOT want to leave the mere ‘happy’ places of Europe, for a country where 20-year-olds are burdened by student loan debt and 70-year-olds are burdened by the cost of prescription drugs and health care?  But all other immigrants will be denied entry!

Most importantly, I am also well aware that to some, the building of walls may not be very Christ-like.  But Jesus told us to respect our government, and to honor our leaders.  And if we fail to adequately guard and protect the boarders of this Christian nation for which so many have given their very lives, we may not have a nation to guard and protect very much longer.  Which is why walls are the only way for us to to move forward.

Therefore, be it resolved that on this day, January 8, 2019, as our nation prepares to hear the wise and thoughtful words of a beloved president, let’s stand together as a purple country, and accept this twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Build the wall!

Build lots of walls!

For this is what will make America great again!


Holy faces make holy places

16 11 2018

I love the beach!  And anyone who knows me well, knows that.  My family and I have been visiting the Outer Banks since 1993, and at times it seems as though I have more memories of North Carolina’s barrier islands that there is sand on their beaches.

But I also like the mountains.  I have wonderful memories of camping in the Poconos in Eastern Pennsylvania, and of retreats in the hills of Montreat, North Carolina.  I similarly love the rolling plains of Denmark, as well as the tropical landscapes of Jamaica.  All of these places have afforded me rich opportunities to move deeper in my walk with God, and I am not being overly generous when I refer to them as holy places for me.

However as beautiful as those landscapes were, the sense of holiness I found there was likely less about the location, and more about the people with whom I visited these memorable spots. When I’m at the beach I’m with my family, who always give my days joy and my life meaning. When I was camping in the Poconos I was with my wife, who 33 years ago was just beginning to teach me about love and marriage. And when I was on retreat in Montreat I was with colleagues, friends, and sometimes complete strangers, and all of them taught me volumes about relationships, faith, and ministry. My time in Denmark brought me into contact with people who taught me about trusting God; and mission trips to Jamaica grew within me an appreciation for the plight of the poor and the needs of the oppressed. But of all the people who have touched my life over the years, few can measure up to a saint who still lives in York, PA.

Her name is Kathy Levey, and I hope this blog somehow makes it into her hands.  Kathy was on the search committee that called me to serve as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of York, and she was the face of God to me and my family for the 6 years that we were there.  She helped my wife and me to find our way in a community that has more than a few provincial tendencies; and to make a home in a church that was overwhelmingly large, and thus by nature somewhat impersonal.  She was a sounding board as I began to develop a ministry of my own, in the shadows of one who had been dearly loved and who broke many hearts when he left; and she was a counselor when my wife discovered that she had somehow gotten pregnant, in spite of our convictions that we were going to wait ‘at least five years.’  Kathy babysat at the drop of a hat, just so my wife and I could keep date nights and enjoy dinner and a movie; and with her husband Stu, had us over for holiday dinners when we had no family around and were all alone.

When I left York in the summer of 1992 to begin serving as the Senior Pastor of the largest Church in the Presbytery of Lake Erie, at the tender age of 31, Kathy gave me a plaque that you can still find in my office today. It reads, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”  And while my interpretation of the message is vastly different today than it was 26 years ago, the words are no less meaningful.

It is truly the grace of God that has kept me well throughout my life; and when I look at what I consider to be my life’s most holy places, I am quick to discover that what made them holy in the past, and what continues to make them holy today, is and are the people around me in those spaces . . . people like Kathy Levey.  This Thanksgiving, it is those people for whom I am especially grateful: high School teachers who molded and shaped my mind and soul; an amazing group of college friends from McDowell Hall, and my ‘brothers’ from AEPi; Godly women and men with whom I walked through seminary, especially the guys on the second floor of Hodge Hall; amazing youth groups at First Presbyterian Church of York, PA; the staffs of all four Churches I’ve served, particularly the secretaries and office administrators with whom I often worked most closely, and especially the pioneers from Stone House; all the small groups that my wife and I have been privileged to be part of over the years; and today; and my amazing colleagues in National Capital Presbytery.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the grace that God has showered upon my life in all the places I’ve been led over the years, places made holy by those who inhabited them with me.  Thank you for YOUR holy face, and for the gift of countless holy spaces!  Happy Thanksgiving!

A blue Wednesday – in more ways than one!

7 11 2018

skies It’s Wednesday morning, the 7th of  November 2018, the day after the 2018 elections; and the sun is shining and the skies are blue.  The winners of yesterday’s contests are likely still celebrating, and the losers are likely asking ‘what’s next’?  Reporters are trying to interpret the results, journalists are attempting to ‘read the teabags’, and FOX continues to do what they always do — stoke the fires of outrage with half-truths and conspiracy theories.  Thus far, President Trump has been silent, but the words of the President matter little anymore.

For many people like me, today is a blue day.  I’m certainly grateful for the gains made by opponents of the Trump of Administration in the House of Representatives, but I’m not the least bit interested in gloating.  The ‘blue wave’ was more like an ‘indigo ripple’, and I don’t expect much of the divisive animosity or acrimonious incivility to disappear anytime soon.  Never the less, the first steps have been taken, and I’m grateful that our system of checks and balances is beginning to be restored.

But today is blue for another reason — and my heart remains extremely heavy.  It’s a blue Wednesday morning because the reality of this country’s polarized electorate is not going away.  If anything, it appears to be deepening, with the rifts causing a divide that will likely never be repaired.   Some may have seen this two years ago, with the election of Donald Trump; but I refused to acknowledge it back then.  I thought it was simply a phase; a small step backwards after having taken three steps forward.  I thought that if people just saw the ineptness of the current President – his hostile and rude way of doing ‘business’, and his selfish and unGodly way of leading out country – that everyone would get on board and that change would come.

But the results of  yesterday’s elections reveal that is simply not going to happen – at least not anytime soon.  Voices like mine appear too partisan, party politics remain too strong, the Christian base of the GOP remains too misled, and too many Trumpers remain too uninformed.  And while some of that may be hard to hear, truth cannot be denied.

So I’m blue today.  I realized this morning that perhaps for the very first time I’m getting a tiny taste of what my Black sisters and brothers have been feeling for years: anger over White peoples’ racism, rage over good peoples’ silence in the face of injustice, disbelief over a nation’s flawed reasoning, and confusion over a way of being Christian that is anything but.  I feel as though I’m standing on a cliff of hopelessness, ready to either fall . . . or jump!

As I look out my office window, the ‘big picture’ offers me a view that includes a bright blue sky.  But this morning, for my own sanity, I’m going to narrow my vision, and just focus on the beauty of the fall leaves that adorn the tree in the foreground.  On days like this, we need to focus on the little things: the tiny gains, the laughter amidst the tears, the Light in the darkness, the small joys that come in the morning.  Those are the only remedies for hopelessness, and the only things that can keep us going.

So wherever you are today: take heart, be at peace, and stay strong.  By all means keep resisting, for silence truly is consent.  But do not allow the blueness of the day to overwhelm you.  Do not allow it to either make haughty your soul or make damp your spirit.  There is still work to be done . . . hard, prophetic, reconciling, and transforming work.  Such is the work of ‘blue’ people.  It’s the work to which we have been called, and the work to which we have given our lives.  And we cannot afford to lose focus.

This Wednesday morning, the 7th of November 2018, the day after the elections, let’s feel whatever it is we need to feel, and then let’s take a deep breath and keep going.

The ‘no’ in normal!

3 11 2018

Not-NormalWhether one is a supporter of Donald Trump or not, the results of the 2016 election were a shock to almost everyone!  Few people thought he could defeat . . . anyone; and yet he did!  And he did it in spite of the fact that most Americans knew he was not a very moral or ethical human being.  The majority of people living in this country knew then what the entire world knows now: and that is that Donald Trump is inarticulate and uninformed. As we have heard from people on both sides of the aisle, he lacks the temperament required to be President of the United States. He uses language that is racist, misogynistic, derogatory, and inflammatory.  He calls people names like a third grader.  He is as narcissistic as an infant.  And he lies . . . all the time!  Donald Trump is simply not presidential; and if we’re honest with ourselves, we all know that!

But for the past two years, many people have come to accept the direction in which he has taken the Republican party.  They have accommodated the leader that the GOP base has coronated ‘king’, and whether for political or personal gain, the vast majority have either decided to get behind the President or to simply close their eyes and endure the unorthodox ways in which he seeking to lead our nation.  And sadly, far too many of these people have sought to console the rest of us by saying that we really don’t need to worry, because the political situation in which we find ourselves today is . . . yes! . . . normal.

As the story of Alexander Hamilton continues to entertain people around the country, we’ve been told to be thankful that at least political enemies are not having duels anymore!  We’ve been told that Donald Trump’s sexual affairs are really no different than those of either FDR or JFK; and that his lying about them is no different than Bill Clinton’s. We’ve been told that his self-serving and ‘crooked’ financial dealings are no worse than those of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. We’ve been told that the left’s outrage over the actions of the Trump administration is no different than the right’s outrage over many of the actions of the Obama administration; and that if we’d just learn to listen to, and talk with, the ‘other’ side, we’d understand! And we’ve been told that people’s incivility around political conversations has been a national reality for generations: since our founding, this country has always been divided, and the polarization we’re experiencing today is nothing new, but simply the result of having a two-party system!

But friends, nothing about Donald Trump, the current state of the Republican Party, or American politics in 2018 is normal.  In fact, it’s all very abnormal.  And with the 2018 elections before us, it is time for the country to boldly and decisively say “No” to his brand of politics.

The one truth that President Trump does routinely proclaim, is that no president in American history has been criticized by the press as harshly as he has. And on that, he is correct. But never before in our history has America had a president so untruthful; a president with so many conflicts of interest, both at home and abroad; a president with a past so fraught with behavior so lacking in integrity.  Never before has the ‘mob’ mentality – a violent way of thinking and behaving, that dominates circles on the right, and not the left – been condoned, encouraged, and embraced by the President of the United States.

So thank God for the press; because even some of this President’s closet advisers fail to speak truth, and continue to spout misleading spin born in ‘alternative’ facts and absurd conspiracy theories. Without the press, we’d be left with nothing more than the partisan entertainment found on FOX.

Trump’s blatant and unapologetic commitment to behaving in ways that cause injury and harm to our immigrant and transgender siblings needs to be stopped. And his colorist and sexist rants and tweets need to end. No president in the last 100 years has dared to assert that White Supremacists could be “good people”, and no president in my lifetime has ever called for his opponents to be locked up and his critics to be shut up. No! This is NOT normal. And next Tuesday, America can take the first step in making it all stop. We can elect a Congress that will begin to hold this President and his Administration accountable. And we can disempower the voices of those Americans whose values fail to accurately represent America.

No! This is not normal. And it’s time for a change.

Until this weekend, it had been well over a year since I last watched an episode of “House of Cards.” But after the first episode of the final season, I’ve been reminded of the theatrical evil of the Underwood Administration. When the series began, its entertainment value was born in what many viewers thought to be the actors’ compelling, but unrealistic behavior. However today, five years after its premier, and two years into the Trump administration, much of the series’ entertainment value has been lost . . . at least for me. Today, the lying, the deceiving, the blatant evil is simply all too real . . . too normal. America actually HAS a president who embraces the attitudes of the power-hungry Frank Underwood. And it’s frightening to experience.

So Americans – REAL Americans, Americans who truly love this country – have no choice but stand up on Tuesday and say no. Democrats AND Republicans who care about this nation, must go to the polls and reject the Trump agenda by saying no. This is NOT normal. And we cannot be gaslit into believing that it is. So vote! And together, let’s make today’s normal, abnormal again!

The world we’re leaving my granddaughter

23 10 2018

handsAnyone who knows me, or who reads these blogs regularly, knows that I have an extremely liberal theology and a very progressive worldview.  While many try to avoid those kinds of  ‘labels’, I don’t!  Liberals are always seeking to embrace new and different concepts and ideas, while progressives work hard to further society’s continual growth and development.  And I like all of that!  I don’t in any way resent preserving tradition, or conserving the best of that which used to be; but I don’t want to ever limit ‘what might be’ by ‘what was’!  I certainly don’t want to live in a world that so worships history, that we become blind to the sins of our past.

Unfortunately, many today are openly trampling on liberal and progressive causes, creating situations that are deeply disturbing.  People’s failure to acknowledge and seek reparations for America’s sins –nativism, colorism, and homophobia — sadden and anger me.  Extremist theologies, whether Islamic OR CHRISTIAN, disturb my soul and unsettle my spirit.  And I am often frightened by the ignorance of so many, as well as the fear of knowledge and education that appears to permeate certain segments of our society.  Incivility, “alternative” truths, name-calling, and the bold and selfish pursuit of wealth and power are shaking the foundations of my world.  But what concerns me most of all today, is this country’s treatment of women and girls.   And this concerns me not so much because of my theological or political perspectives, but because I am a new grandfather, to my first granddaughter.

Like so many national evils, our country’s attitudes and behavior towards those who identify as female are deeply disconcerting.  As is the case with most societal sin, misogyny is so embedded in fabric of America that most don’t even know it’s there.  Like the thread used in one of my wife’s carefully stitched quilts, people are blind to it’s presence.  It’s patterns are clear to all who take the time to look; but too often, too many, remain too unaware.

President Trump’s treatment of women throughout his life reveals a very dark side of American culture, a side that at times looks as though it may be disappearing, but not without a fight.  His language remains offensive and demeaning; and the attitude of the Republican party that he is recreating still appears most comfortable with women who choose parenthood at the expense of all else.  Rooted in a theologically naive reading of the Bible and a sociologically primitive understanding of human nature, roles for those who identify as male or female remain rigidly defined.  Equality and equity aside, they refuse to accept a man’s ability to find fulfillment and joy in the tasks of fatherhood and homemaking, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the need of many woman to find purpose and meaning that transcend hearth and home.

Sadly, as a result of one of the few trickle-down theories that actually works, society is left condoning a way of treating girls and women that should have been erased generations ago.  And not listening to or believing their voices when they find the courage to name the various forms of sexual abuse and violence against them, is one of the most tragic symptoms of such treatment.  It is nothing less than shameful.

Needless to say I’m scared!  I’m scared for my granddaughter in ways that I will likely never be for a grandson.  Contrary to what some may think, the chances of a boy being falsely charged with some kind of sexual assault is no where near as great as his being called out for a real offense.  And in those instances, female voices should never be paternally dismissed or patronizingly silenced.  When she behaves courageously, her motives should never be questioned, and certainly not by old white men with the sole agenda of maintaining their privilege!

I want my granddaughter to be valued and honored for her skills, gifts, talents, and abilities; and if should she ever be put in position to speak truth to power, I want her to be believed.  I want her to have teachers who will encouraged her to pursue STEM, like her grandmothers.  I want her to be inspired to follow the example of the strong women in her life — her mother, aunts, and great-grandmothers.  I want her to have the courage to stand up to those who would squelch her dreams, and to resist any and all who would put limits on her aspirations. But most of all I want her voice to heard. I want her to speak boldly, lovingly, knowledgeably, and passionately; and I want her words to be respected.

What I don’t want, is this.  I don’t want her to be objectified, and have her value measured by her looks. I don’t want her to be penalized if she chooses to have children in addition to a career, punished if she chooses to she take maternity leave or because she may need to balance her work life with her home life.  I don’t want her to have to put up with aggressive men who behave like adolescent boys in a locker room. And I never want her to have to put on a ‘pussy hat’ in order to resist a President, an administration, and a culture that continue to devalue and diminish her place in society.

I’m concerned about the world we are leaving my granddaughter. Change needs to come, and my granddaughter’s future rests in our hands. So help me. Please, help me. Let’s truly BE the change we long to see . . . if not for her sake, then for our own.

When heroes hurt women

25 09 2018

I don’t think I’ve ever really had a hero. Women and men have mentored me – Mrs. MacDaniel, my high school English teacher; ‘Doc’ Yotes, my high school chemistry teacher; and Drs. Sandy Brown and Richard Peace, professors from seminary. Countless friends have served as both counselors and companions over the years; my colleagues in PA and VA have nurtured me in deep and meaningful ways; and of course my parents have taught me volumes of “life lessons.” But as far as a hero?

Nope! Never had one!

However few people have come closer than Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, in South Barrington, IL. He has been a guide, instructor, motivator, and ‘life coach’ to countless pastors and Church leaders around the world; and beginning back in the early 1990s, he began speaking into my life with profound prophetic wisdom and inspiring evangelistic passion.

Bill put Nancy Beach in a position of leadership at Willow long before women were being allowed to serve in such capacities. He recognized the heresies of the Religious Right back in the days when people first began assuming that following Jesus meant you had to vote Republican. And for the past twenty-plus years, while most people have focused on the dying nature of the Church, Bill Hybels has regarded it as the “hope of the world”.

Needless to say, when Hybels was forced to resign this past summer, just weeks before his retirement, because of sexual indiscretions with members of his staff as well as his congregation, many were saddened and surprised. We were not so much surprised by what he did, because old white men have been doing such things for way too long. We were surprised because a successful and privileged white man with power was finally being held accountable. We all know that nice people, even good pastors, do bad things all the time. But in too many instances, such . . . evil . . . is excused, overlooked, and explained away. Accountability is rare, if not nonexistent!

Now the sexual abuse and exploitation of women by white men in positions of power has gone on for years: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and most recently, in what is no doubt America’s most blatant disrespect for disrespect, Donald Trump. Patriotic charisma has been allowed to overshadow white men’s disregard for and assault of women for decades. “Boys will be boys” we’ve said! “That’s just the way men are wired” we’ve proclaimed. “Who hasn’t done such things when hormones were running crazy?” we’ve asked rhetorically. Even rude and offensive language has been written off as “locker room talk”. Most tragically, much of this dismissal has been at the hands of some of the most religious in our society.

But finally, things are beginning to change; for when heroes hurt women, it’s time for some new heroes! Old white men can no longer keep calling all the shots, and society needs to ensure that what was done to Anita Hill back in 1991 does not happen again. The voices of women need to be listened to, and America’s “Me too” movement must be allowed to continue to shift power, practices, and prejudices.

Unlikely heroes are all around us. Women like Kristina Ruehl, Jessica Leeds, Stephanie Kemplin, and Christine Blakey Ford are people whose names need to become as familiar to us as Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky. For they are this generation’s uncommon heroes. They are women who have not been afraid to stand up and speak up, challenging the status quo, and no longer allowing the voices of women to be silenced.

Is Brett Kavanaugh a bad guy? Who cares? Is he a respectable member of society? Irrelevant! History has revealed that ‘nice’ and ‘respectable’ white men often do bad things. And everyone needs to stop asking about ‘due process’, and insisting that people are innocent until proven guilty. This isn’t a court of law. Today we’re talking about the court of public opinion. And some people still think public opinion matters. Some people today still think that even when not proven in a court of law, some actions and behaviors are unacceptable. And regardless of how slippery that slop is, heroes are willing to go there. And for that, we need to stop condemning them, and ridiculing them, and questioning them; and instead, we need to start thanking them.

No one, at least right now, is saying that Brett Kavanaugh should be thrown in jail. We’re just saying he is not deserving of a life-time seat on the highest court in the land – regardless of his ability to further a political party’s political agenda! He may be a wonderful husband and a father, extremely knowledgeable about law and judicial process, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he is a white man who has abused his privilege and been sexually inappropriate with women. And the women who are willing to say so, and deal with the backlash that comes when they do, need to be applauded and thanked, and acknowledged as the heroes that they are.

Old White Men

12 09 2018

Clint.jpgSadly, I’m wondering if this is who I’m becoming!

While I’ve always been a White man, I am becoming an OLD White man.  And I don’t like it!

My ‘youth’ used to be one of my strengths: a draw, an asset, a defining attribute that made me appealing to the Church – an institution in which the average member is well over 60 years old.  But today, because my ‘youth’ is gone, things appear different.

I still have as much energy as I did when I was 28!  I still preach with the same fire as I did when I was 34.  And my work still generates in me the same passion that it did when I was 41.  But at 57, the world around me sees things differently; and I don’t like it!

Now granted, my knees hurt every time I . . . move!  The hair in my beard is far more salt than pepper.  And some days it feels like even oatmeal could give me heartburn.  I am certainly NOT the same guy I was 30 years ago, but that’s not all bad.  I have a little more wisdom than I did when I graduated from seminary; and am far better informed about everything from theology, to world affairs, to psychology. I’ve learned which battles are worth fighting, and which ditches I want to avoid dying in.  And while my ministry will likely always be more about afflicting the comfortable than comforting the afflicted, I have learned to do both.  So there are many good things that come with age.  But right now, as I continue to move into and through the final third of my life, adjusting to being an old White man is not much fun.  And here’s why.

First, old White men tend to think that we have all the answers.  Yes . . . we DO mansplain . . . and all the time!  And we really do think we know everything.  We routinely confuse experience with wisdom, and it would serve us well to start learning the difference.   In fact there are many things that we still need to learn, in spite of our age.  Times change.  People change.  Questions change.  And yes, even answers change!  So while it’s hard to admit that we don’t know it all, its far easier than continuing to pretend that we do!

Second, old White men have been running things for way too long, and it’s hard for us to learn when we need to sit down and give others the opportunity to start setting tomorrow’s agenda.  We can still contribute, when asked; and we can certainly do the things we’ve been gifted and called to do.  But we also need to learn when it’s time to hop in the back seat and let someone else do the driving!  All the metaphors work here: learning to play second string and take a seat on the bench, accepting supporting roles and not always needing to be center stage, and not always needing to be on the front line leading the charge!  It’s time for us to focus on building up and encouraging others, because while letting others take the lead is hard, it’s the only way the next generation will learn how to move forward when we’re gone.

Third, and perhaps most important: as hard as it is to admit, the world has heard just about everything we have to say!  Too often, too many of us continue to speak, but aren’t really saying anything new! As Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Pastors, we’ve been at podiums and in pulpits long enough. As CEOs and CFOs and COOs, our voices have filled corporate board rooms long enough. Our opinions have echoed through classrooms and courtrooms long enough. It’s now time for us to give someone else a chance.  And while we all love the sound of our own voices, other voices, speaking new and different truths, will only be heard when we learn to be quiet!

I know 57 isn’t THAT old.  But it’s old enough! It’s old enough to know that things are changing: that I, am changing.  And the sooner I can accept that, the better off I think we’ll all be.  I will never become one of those old geezers who does little more than play golf every day.  I can only sit by the pool for so long; and I’d go crazy having nothing to look forward to each week but a bowling league or poker night with the guys.  Frankly I can’t imagine ever retiring.  But I need to learn to temper my desire to serve and to do, and especially my desire to take charge and lead.

If I’m not yet an old white guy, I’m well on my way to becoming one! And that’s hard. So bear with me. Don’t put me out to pasture just yet, for I’m still being reconditioned to understand that I don’t have all the answers, that second string players are still an important part of the team, and that there are voices besides my own that need to be heard.  I know I’ m not quite there yet, but I’m on my way.  I promise!  So please, be patient with me.