Tag Archives: Politics

The “Boney Finger”

The "Boney Finger" (CaD Jer 12) Wayfarer

Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
    Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root;
    they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
    but far from their hearts.

Jeremiah 12:1b-2 (NIV)

Allow me to begin my post this morning with a confession. I’m not the best at picking up after myself. Wendy has often commented that she always knows where I am because I leave a trail of things laying around wherever I’ve been.

There is a lot of truth to what she says.

Along my life journey, I have observed it to be common for individuals to speak of others in broad, extreme generalities. This happens on multiple levels. I see it in the most intimate of interpersonal relationships as Wendy and I will, in our frustration, point out what the other “always” or “never” does whether it is in reference to a self-righteous accolade of what one does (for the other, of course) or pointing out with accusation what the other fails to do (for the accuser). My maternal grandparents used to call this particular form of marital accusation “pointing the boney finger.”

I find this “all-or-nothing” mentality arising regularly in conversation, especially when it comes to religion, politics, and cultural tension. The “boney finger” reaches out to paint a broad swath of humanity (often referred to as “those people”) in the extreme generalities of “always” and “never” or their synonymous counterparts. It hear it from individuals on both sides of various issues. I hear it from politicians on both sides of the aisle. I hear it from media on both sides of the political spectrum.

One of the unique characteristics of Jeremiah’s prophetic writings is the way that he unashamedly voices his complaints to God. While most of the prophets simply record the message God downloaded to them, Jeremiah is having a conversation. He typically doesn’t hold back.

In today’s chapter, Jerry is feeling the heat. In yesterday’s chapter, God reveals to the prophet that the people of a place called Anathoth were threatening to kill him if he didn’t shut his prophetic mouth. He begins today’s chapter with a complaint to God about “all” the faithless prospering and living at ease. He claims that God is “always” on these people’s lips but not in their hearts. Jerry’s solution is a very human one: “God, can you just make them go away.”

God’s response to Jeremiah could not have been heartening to the prophet. He begins by basically saying, “If you think it’s bad now, then fasten your seatbelt. It’s only going to get worse.”

As I meditated on this in the quiet this morning, I realized that it shouldn’t surprise me that God told Jerry it would get worse. I have observed that the the attitudes and vocabulary of extreme generalities does not serve the cause of reconciliation, peace, or love. Rather, it serves to entrench people in their opposition of others, feed differences between individuals, and reinforce one’s self-righteous contemptuousness and bluster.

Which brings me back to Wendy, the person whom I love most. The attitudes and vocabulary of extreme generalities the we can (and do) throw at one another in our frustration could easily drive a wedge of bitterness and resentment between us. I have observed many spouses who end up in places of alienation as the boney fingers of “always” and “never” point ceaselessly at one another.

The antidote that Wendy and I have found is in learning to meta-communicate. In other words, let’s talk about how we’re talking to each another. In doing so, we have to be willing to step back from the line we have drawn in the relational sand. After a few deep breaths we come to admit that my boney finger accusations are coming out of my own frustration, anger, and resentment. We concede that our “always” and “never” is unfair despite the measure of truth we feel underneath it. We both acknowledge our love for one another and our desire for good for one another and our relationship. At that point, we can typically embrace the desire and commitment to modify our words or behavior for one another.

And, it works because we make sure it works both ways. Whether talking about interpersonal relationships or larger group relationships, I’ve observed that if only one side of the relational equation is expected to learn, communicate, step back, admit, concede, acknowledge, desire, commit, and modify, then any kind of reconciliation and mutually beneficial relationship is doomed. It takes two to Tango.

Which means, you’ll have to excuse me, I have a few things to pick-up before I enter my day! 😉

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Certain Calling in Uncertain Times

Certain Calling in Uncertain Times (CaD Jer 1) Wayfarer

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:9-10 (NIV)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The past seven years have been the craziest stretch in my lifetime. I’ve heard some of my elders compare it to the 1960s and early 1970s. I was but a wee-one back then. I was six when Nixon resigned. I remember watching it on television.

The political turmoil, the division, the global upheaval of the pandemic, and the heightened conflicts in virtually every layer of society have been fascinating to observe. What’s made it even more fascinating for me is to recognize that the upheaval flies in the face of a well-documented reality: The earth as a whole has never been such a great place to live in all of human history. Life spans have never been longer. Humans have never been so rich, so educated, so healthy, or so safe. If you don’t believe me, please pick up a copy of Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness or stop by his website gapminder.

What has been so fascinating for me to witness is seeing so many claiming that the world has never been a worse place to live and that things have never been worse economically, racially, and in the quality of life. When I observe this disconnect, I personally conclude that there is something happening on a spiritual level.

For those who have been trekking along with me on this chapter-a-day journey, our trail this past year has been through the story of the history of the Hebrew tribes from the time of the Judges through the monarchies of Saul, David, and Solomon, to the years of the divided kingdoms of Israel (north) and Judah (south). We ended 2 Kings in which the kingdom of Judah is taken into exile by the Babylonians, and we then followed the prophet Daniel to Babylon.

Life at the end of the Hebrew monarchy and the time of the Babylonian exile was a period of tremendous upheaval on almost every level of society for the people of Judah. There was political instability, and conflict everywhere along with violence, war, and famine. It feels to me as if it was, for the common person living through it, not unlike what we have been experiencing in our own period of history.

There was a man who lived through this period of upheaval. His name was Jeremiah. God called Jerry to be His prophet and the prophet wrote the longest book in all of the Great Story (by Hebrew word count). He not only records the words God gave him, but he was also not afraid to record his personal emotions about his life and circumstances. He was not afraid to cry out to God against his personal enemies. Jerry is a very human being who is living in strange times. And so, I think it is a good time to make another journey through his story, and through his writings.

In today’s chapter, God calls Jerry to be His mouthpiece. He’s young. He’s too young, the young man tells God. He’s probably parroting what he’s been repeatedly told by his parents, his teachers, his culture, and every adult he’s ever known. But, as Paul instructs young Timothy, God tells young Jerry not to let anyone look down on him because he’s young. God doesn’t put a minimum age on being His instrument. That’s a lesson that earthly religious institutions have never really embraced. Human institutions prefer the bureaucratic control of hoop-jumping and meritocracy to the messiness of mystery, faith, and surrender.

What God makes clear to Jerry from the beginning is that, as the Author of Life, He has had a plan for Jerry before he was formed in the womb. He likewise is authoring the Great Story on a geopolitical scale and the storyboard is already sketched out. Jerry’s job is to fulfill his role and to communicate the script that’s already written.

This gives me encouragement as a disciple of Jesus walking through my own strange times. I believe that I was known before I was formed in my mother’s womb. I believe that what is happening in the modern geopolitical landscape and our own period of history is every bit as storyboarded as the events of Jeremiah’s day. If I really believe what I say I believe, then I have nothing to fear nor do I need to be anxious – just as Jesus instructed The Twelve on the eve of His execution. I simply need to fulfill the role I’ve been given and trust the story that’s already written.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The God Commerce

The God Commerce (CaD 1 Ki 20) Wayfarer

“I will return the cities my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad offered. “You may set up your own market areas in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”
Ahab said, “On the basis of a treaty I will set you free.” So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.

1 Kings 20:34 (NIV)

Over the years, my amateur genealogical and historic studies have led me to better understand the Dutch heritage I inherited on the paternal side of my DNA and family experience. Dutch culture is a fascinating study for a number of reasons. In the 1600s, the Dutch were arguably the wealthiest nation on earth because of Dutch trading ships dominating the seas. Amsterdam became a hub of global trade and commerce and Dutch bankers in Amsterdam became bankers to the entire world.

At this same time in history, an intense rift dominated the spiritual and political landscape. The Protestant Reformation had led to entrenched rivalries (and wars) between Roman Catholics and Protestant Reformers. The Dutch, much like other European nations, had citizens in both camps zealously holding to their beliefs.

I once read a historian who declared that the reason the humanistic Dutch Catholics and the pious Dutch Reformers got along was that both religious camps ultimately cared more about the commerce that was making both camps increasingly wealthy. When Catholics and Reformers argued, it was business and the money it generated that acted as the tiebreaker and peacemaker.

Today’s chapter deals with a dispute between the King of Aram and King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel, somewhat like the Dutch culture of a thousand years later in history, was spiritually divided between those who clung to the God of Abraham, Moses, and David, and those who were committed to the plethora of local and regional pagan deities.

Underneath the obvious events of today’s chapter lies a political undercurrent many readers miss. It was all about trade and the subsequent wealth it generated. Israel had key strategic ports on the Mediterranean along with treaties with Tyre and Phoenecia that were incredibly lucrative. Aram was landlocked and wanted access to those trade routes. The reason that both the King of Aram and the King of Israel were so quick to surrender to one another was the same reasoning between the Dutch Catholics and Protestants. There was still a lot of money to be made and a lot of wealth to be enjoyed by both Kings if they formed an alliance.

But this arrangement is spiritually revealing. Ahab and the Kings of Israel have been operating under a spiritual policy of appeasement. The King and officials allow the prophets of God and those loyal to the God of Moses to do their thing. However, they freely ascribe to the local and regional pagan gods because doing so is good for political alliances and lucrative trade deals with other kingdoms. At the end of the chapter, God speaks through a prophet to call out Ahab regarding his complicity. Ahab cares more about trade, political aspiration, and wealth than the things of God.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but feel the resonance between my cultural heritage and the story in today’s chapter. Art historians claim that a key to Rembrandt’s rise to artistic prominence in the 1600s was his ability to create portraits of wealthy Protestants that portrayed them in all of their religious piety while hinting at their immense wealth. It reminds me of a local resident my friend knows who drives around our small Iowa town in his old Buick, but his vacation home in Arizona has a garage filled with extravagant luxury cars and motorcycles.

This leads me to ask myself about my own priorities. Jesus taught that my heart would be where my treasure is. So what is it I most treasure, and where does that treasure lie?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Power and Chaos

Zimri came in, struck [Elah] down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded [Elah] as king.
1 Kings 16:10 (NIV)

I’ve observed over my life journey that the kingdoms of this world are really all about power: the power to control others, the power to acquire for self, and the power to maintain power.

Tyrants wield power like blunt force trauma. They lie, deceive, kill and destroy in order to rise to the top of their kingdom. Then they eliminate any threat, use force to control the masses, and entrench themselves at the top of their kingdom.

Politicians are more subtle. They manipulate the rules to their advantage in order to ensure their coffers are always full, their personal assets favorably rise, campaign and election rules are rigged in their favor, and their opponents are smeared as extremists. The endgame is the same, however: control others, acquire for self, and maintain power and privilege.

Media use their power of influence to control what their viewers see and hear, boost their fame and ratings, help those who align with their political bent, and demonize those who don’t.

Religious institutions use the power of religious authority to create spiritual hierarchies of authority. Those at the top control mass behavior with that authority coupled with guilt, shame, and the threat of ostracization, ex-communication, public shaming, or other punishments.

I could go on to talk about the abuse of power that exists in businesses, families, sports, community groups, charitable organizations, and every human system.

Today’s chapter follows the quick succession of kings in the northern Kingdom of Israel. While the southern Kingdom of Judah was committed to being ruled by the dynastic line of David, the northern Kingdom of Israel was a free-for-all. The game of thrones in the north was a virtual “King of the Mountain.” The throne was there for the taking of anyone who could seize and wield power.

Bashaa reigns 24 years and dies.

Elah succeeds his father, Basshaa, and reigns for two years.

Zimri, a military officer, assassinates Elah, slaughters the entire family of Bashaa, and declares himself king. He reigns seven days.

Omri, a military general, is hailed as king by the army under his command as soon as they hear of Zimri’s coup. Realizing he was doomed, Zimri commits suicide by lighting the palace on fire and dying in the flames.

Tibni, a prominent public figure, challenges Omri for the throne, dividing the nation into two competing factions. Omri (with the military behind him) proves stronger and ascends the throne for 12 years.

Ahab, son of Omri, succeeds his father on the throne.

Corruption, assassination, military coup, suicide, destruction, and division. It’s not a picture of peace and harmony.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded how differently Jesus prescribed His game plan for changing the world. His people wanted a Messiah who was a divine version of the top-down power under which they’d suffered for centuries. They wanted a divine Messiah who would wipe out their enemies while raising them to positions of power and prominence. But from the very beginning, Jesus was the living embodiment of God’s word through the prophet Isaiah: “My ways are not your ways.”

In a real sense, that is what Christmas is about.

The way of Jesus was that of an omnipotent God humbly lowering Himself and taking on the role of servant, becoming human and submitting Himself to all of the constraints, weaknesses, conflicts, labor, and pain that come with being human. Jesus’ taught his followers this same example. Humble yourself, consider others ahead of yourself, love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, be content with what you have been given, lead by serving, control your thoughts, words, and behavior with others, and live a life marked by love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.

Jesus’ paradigm wasn’t to change the world with top-down power, coercion, threat, force, and control. Jesus’ paradigm was to change the world was that of one person changing the life of another individual with love, motivating that individual to pay it forward toward others who will, in turn, have changed hearts motivating them to pay it forward in loving yet others who will pay it forward in loving still others, until an organic, underground movement of love spreads across humanity.

By the way, it really worked for a few hundred years. At that point, the Prince of this World made a brilliant move in the chess match between him and God. The Prince of this World gave the Jesus Movement worldly power. They became a Kingdom of this World. Almost overnight the organic, persecuted followers of Jesus found themselves with the power, authority, and earthly riches of the Holy Roman Empire. Chaos followed just as it always follows the kingdoms of this world under the dominion of the Prince of this World.

But that wasn’t Jesus’ paradigm. There was no earthly power, or control, or wealth in a stable outside of Bethlehem.

I adore that.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Today’s featured image was generated with Wonder A.I.

Solomon: Most Wise Fool

Solomon: Most Wise Fool (CaD 1 Ki 4) Wayfarer

The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.
1 Kings 4:20-21 (NIV)

In the list of Solomon’s officials are two secretaries and a recorder. I’m not sure if one of them functioned like the press secretaries that Presidents have today, but today’s chapter drips with the positive spin we’ve come to cynically expect from modern press briefings of national leaders. In today’s chapter, everything is rosy. Everyone is happy. Solomon is the perfect ruler whose wisdom is second only to the future Messiah.

Over a lifetime of observing positive spin from both sides of the political aisle, I have, perhaps, grown a little cynical. Many readers may take the information shared in today’s chapter on merit, but between the facts written through rose-colored glasses, I couldn’t help but notice a few things.

Solomon inherited everything from his father. The lands and peoples over which Solomon reigned were conquered by David. Solomon simply took over control. I can’t help but think that history is full of stories of children squandering what their parent(s) had earned. Governing and maintaining control over many tribal groups over a large area for any length of time was tricky business in that period of history. It took an amazing balance of diplomacy and military threat. The facts we are given simply point to a Solomon who lived rich, courted foreign diplomats who showered him with praise, and enjoyed every minute of being the richest and wisest man in his known world. Knowing from history that the entire kingdom implodes immediately after Solomon died, I’m left to wonder if Solomon gave any thought to preserving the kingdom that God had established and blessed for subsequent generations, or if he simply enjoyed the wild and luxurious ride he’d inherited.

Solomon’s administration was full of insiders. Solomon’s officials and advisors were largely sons of his father’s advisors and sons-in-law. David had built the Kingdom on a diverse group of supporters from different backgrounds that he developed from his decades as a mercenary. Solomon does not appear to be building bridges and political alliances with the conquered peoples over whom he’s ruling. He’s keeping his kingly power concentrated with what many in his kingdom might call “the same old cronies.”

Solomon’s great kingdom was built by forced labor. There are only seven or eight jobs listed in Solomon’s cabinet. One of them is the secretary of “forced labor.” Solomon’s lavish building projects are being accomplished on the backs of slaves and “forced labor” from his own people. This was not new. It was the way of the world back in those days. However, Solomon’s never-ending construction projects from palaces to the Temple would indicate that he likely required a level of forced labor that would have bred all sorts of anger and discontent among the masses.

Solomon’s twelve “districts” were a form of ancient gerrymandering that crossed tribal boundaries and redrew the map. There may have been a good reason for this. Perhaps Solomon was trying to ensure that every district had enough agricultural production to provide their annual monthly supply for his lavish lifestyle at court. Redrawing the map, however, meant that districts crossed ancient tribal boundaries, which in turn likely stirred up ancient tribal rivalries and resentments. The key to preserving a kingdom in those days was maintaining peace and stability, not stirring up trouble.

In the quiet this morning, I’m pondering two realities. The first reality is that Solomon was most certainly the intelligent, charismatic, and wise man described in today’s chapter. There is no doubt that he was wealthy and successful during his reign and in his lifetime. The second reality is the sobering fact that Solomon was also a flawed human being just like every other sinful human being. Solomon’s press secretary does a masterful job of diverting our attention away from Solomon’s flaws and focusing on Solomon’s greatness. History, however, reveals that it is Solomon’s flaws and blind spots that lead to his great kingdom dying with him. Those blind spots will plague subsequent generations with political strife, civil war, violence, and bloodshed for hundreds of years.

I’m reminded this morning of the word picture Jesus gives His followers at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount. I’m reminded because I just gave a message a few Sundays ago about that very word picture. It is a contrasting word picture of two people who each build their own house. One of the houses blows down when the storms of life hit. The other house remains standing through those storms. For all of his wisdom, Solomon’s kingdom will fall with the first political wind that blows after his death.

As I mentioned in my message, Jesus’ word picture begs a number of questions of me:

What am I building with this life I’m given?
What am I building it on?
What am I building it with?
What will blow away with my death? What will last for eternity?

Today’s featured image, Most Wise Fool, was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility (CaD Zeph 2) Wayfarer

…seek righteousness, seek humility;
Zephaniah 2:3b

I have been making my plodding, repetitive trek through God’s Message for 40 years. One of the fascinating things I’ve experienced is the way in which it always seems to meet me right where I am on life’s road. The Message doesn’t change, but I change and my waypoint in the journey changes each time I return to a book, chapter, or verse. I get something new out of it each time.

Like most Americans, I’m finding myself perpetually caught off guard by our current political landscape. I’ve never experienced anything like it in and find myself daily scratching my head at the headlines. Amazing.

Perhaps that is why Zephaniah’s admonishment jumped off the page at me this morning. I acutely feel the desire to find more individuals on every gradient of the political spectrum who honestly and sincerely are seeking to do the right thing while at the same time seeking humility in their quest. It’s easy to find arrogance. It’s easy to find insults hurled at others. It’s easy to find trash-talking and people screaming at each other (at the same time) from opposite sides of any issue. We have these things in abundance.

Today, what I seek are individuals willing to have respectful dialogue, willing to humbly listen to other opinions, willing to agree to disagree, and willing to hammer out compromises. Of course, I cannot control political parties, candidates, or news channels. I can only control my own thoughts, words, actions, and relationships. So I will continue to seek to do the right thing, and persevere in choosing humility.

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in March 2016
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The Featured Image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Lesson in Abner

A Lesson in Abner (CaD 2 Sam 3) Wayfarer

“May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 2 Samuel 3:9-10 (NIV)

Abner is one of the most fascinating characters in the unfolding drama of the conflict between the houses of Saul and David. Abner was Saul’s general, and second in command. As such, Abner had amassed tremendous power and influence. With Saul’s well-known mental health issues, it was likely Abner who provided stability, respect, and fear in the chain of command. Upon Saul’s death, it was Abner who quickly propped up the weaker younger brother of Jonathan, Ish-bosheth, as his puppet to maintain control of the northern tribes.

Abner served Saul and his family faithfully, but his ultimate service was always about himself.

It struck me as I read this morning that Abner was well aware God had anointed David king of Israel. The way he worded his threat to Ish-bosheth it would seem he even believed that David’s ascent to the throne was a divinely appointed certainty. Yet, Abner spent two decades fighting faithfully for the house of Saul because that was where his bread was buttered.

Today’s chapter gives us a clear picture of Abner’s character. Abner seems to have enjoyed the fruits of his position. Now we see that he so disrespected his former master and the son of Saul he made into his political marionette, that he felt it was his right to feast on the forbidden fruit of Saul’s harem. After all, who was going to stop him? When Ish-bosheth finds the guts to stand up to Abner and call him to account, Abner does what all power brokers do: he makes a power play. As the game of thrones continues in determining who will be King of Israel, Ish-Bosheth plays the trump card he holds in his hand and vows to deliver the northern tribes to David wrapped up with a bow.

Abner is Judas. The inner-circle confidant who is secretly pilfering things for himself, and willing to betray his master if it suits his personal agenda. Abner is Iago, the 2nd in command whom the commander shouldn’t trust. Abner is the one who knows God’s truth, but never submits to it unless it happens to dovetail with his duplicitous purposes.

As I meditate in the quiet this morning, I can’t help but recognize the Abner in me. David wrote in the lyric of one of his songs: “search me God…and see if there is any offensive way in me.” I’m kind of feeling that same spirit this morning. I can see in my own life the perpendicular lines of God’s way and my way. Along my life journey, I confess that I have had my own duplicitous moments. I have, at times, served with selfish motives.

I am reminded by today’s chapter of the difference between the man I desire to be, and the man I sometimes prove to be by my own words and actions. I’m reminded that I have still not arrived. I am reminded that I’m still in process. God, examine my heart and help me be less like Abner and more of a man after your own heart.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (CaD 2 Sam 2) Wayfarer

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

Life gets messy. When individuals and complex systems of individuals are all navigating their disparate paths and personal agendas, the results are inevitably going to include conflict. Tracing David’s path from being anointed king as a young man and his ascension to the throne of Israel is a meandering path through some very messy personal and political terrain.

King Saul is dead, but that doesn’t mean that David’s path to the throne is now less messy. Just the opposite. Things are going to get even messier. David’s family belongs to the tribe of Judah, and with the death of Saul the men of Judah move quickly to anoint David as their king. There are 12 tribes in Israel, however, and Judah’s brash act of independence reveals a schism between Judah and the other tribes that foreshadows centuries of bloody civil unrest to come when the nation splits in two during the reign of David’s grandson.

David is now King of Judah and its vast southern territory. The remnants of Saul’s political machine are not, however, eager to lose power or cede control of the nation to Judah’s famous outlaw. David was, after all, the young man Saul had designated as #1 on his most wanted list. Saul’s general, Abner, has is own political agenda. Abner sets up Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as King of Israel and, no doubt, his puppet. Let the game of thrones begin.

Today I am again reminded of how messy life can get even in the politics and power struggles of my relatively small circles of life and influence. We all find ourselves embroiled in the game of thrones for our own little systemic kingdoms. Even as time and events lead towards divine ends, this life journey is fraught with difficulties, dangers, toils, and snares both personal and corporate. History should teach us that this has always been the case east of Eden, but I find we humans are constantly surprised by the reality of it.

In midst of the mess I’ve found it helpful to spiritually focus on the basics:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Seek God’s kingdom first

… and then to press on one step, one day, at a time in the right direction.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Trials of Transition

The Trials of Transition (CaD 1 Sam 11) Wayfarer

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one.
1 Samuel 11:6-7 (NIV)

I have a vivid memory of election night 2016. I was in a hotel room in Chanhassen, Minnesota watching the election returns. As the surprising results became clear, I received a text message from our daughter. She, like many Americans, was distraught with the outcome. My daughter and I have different views on many things including things political and spiritual, but as our text messages flowed back and forth, I recognized a couple of things.

First, my daughter was a relatively young adult. This was only the second presidential election in which she could vote. It was the first in which I observed her being politically aware. I watched as her personal journey over the previous four years had opened her eyes and heart to political issues that affected herself and particular people for whom she cared deeply. The previous one-third of her entire life journey to that point, our country had been led by one leader whom she admired and respected. That night, she was entering a major season of transition.

Along my life journey, I have experienced several seasons of transition. There are transitions that come from new experiences in life, such as the move from elementary school to middle school, then to high school, and the big transition to moving away from home to attend college. There are transitions in proximity, moving from one place to another which brings with it the loss of security, familiarity, and community and the process of establishing new footings, patterns, and relationships. There are transitions that come with the loss of family and loved ones. I distinctly remember when the last of my grandparents passed away and I had the realization that an entire generation of my family was gone; The rest of us had graduated to a new stage in our life journeys. Then there are transitions of leadership when a human system in which we are a part (e.g. government, family, work, church, community organization, etc.) gets a new leader that will affect our experience in that system.

In this chapter-a-day journey, we find the Hebrew tribes are in a time of intense transition. They had known one system of government for hundreds of years and were entering another. They had known the steady, strong leadership of Samuel for many years, but had been told that this young man named Saul, a nobody from the smallest tribe who happened to be tall and handsome, was going to be their king and rule over them. He’d been appointed and anointed by Samuel, he’d been chosen by the “luck of the draw” by the casting of lots. But, Saul was young. He lacked confidence. He was unproven as a leader.

Today’s chapter tells of Saul’s first real test of leadership. Having faced a continuous military threat from the Philistines in the west, the Ammonites on the east seize the opportunity to attack a Hebrew town on the east side of the River Jordan. When Saul hears of it, God’s spirit descends on him. He makes an immediate decision to act. He rallies the fighting men among the Hebrew tribes and humbly calls them to follow both he and Samuel in this call to action. After the successful, daring rescue, the people call for a lynch mob to round up all those who questioned Saul’s anointing as king and kill them all. Saul puts the kibosh on their plan, stating that the victory was not his, but the LORD’s. As I read the chapter, I thought to myself that Saul’s leadership was perfect. It couldn’t have been better. It was his first at-bat as the anointed king and he crushed a home run that left the park.

For the Hebrews, this had to have helped all the tension, fear, and anxiety they had been feeling in their season of transition. How nice it would be if all our seasons of transition experienced that kind of hopeful sign. But, they don’t. And that brings me back to my text conversation with my daughter that lasted into the wee hours of election night 2016 as she felt all the tension, fear, and anxiety of one of the most tumultuous transitions of political leadership in our nation’s history.

While I have very different views than my daughter, I have complete and utter respect for knowing that she is on her own journey. My love for her is not lessened by our differences of views. And, if I truly believe what I say I believe (and I do) then I trust that God is at work in her on her own journey even though it looks very different than mine. I also happen to believe deeply in the American ideal of free speech, respect for others, and the process of our representative republic. In my 50 years, I have experienced multiple presidential transitions that created tension, fear, and anxiety in me. I have watched the political pendulum swing back and forth many times at different levels.

That night I reminded our daughter that in just four years there would be another election. I reminded her that our system allows people to get involved and influence the outcome of elections. I encouraged her to turn her tension, fear, and anxiety into action. We might not always agree on who to vote for, but I wholeheartedly believe in her right to believe, think, speak, and act on her personal convictions in our political process.

In 2020, I couldn’t have been more proud of our daughter, her husband, and their friends. They successfully held one of the few international sites of the Iowa Caucuses and had Iowans from all over Europe travel to join them for their Caucus in Scotland. What I observed was my daughter turning the tension, fear, and anxiety of a season of transition into positive, active momentum.

And, that’s just what God tells us over and over again throughout the Great Story. The trials and struggles of transition can either send us into the pit of paralysis and despair, or they can produce in us important character qualities of perseverance, maturity, faith, trust, and active growth. Sometimes, a little of the former ultimately leads eventually to the latter. The further I’ve gotten in this life journey, the more I’ve been able to skip the former altogether and move right to the latter. I pray that our daughter’s experiences will enable her to do the same.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

What the Camera Sees

What the Camera Sees (CaD 1 Sam 9) Wayfarer

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
1 Samuel 9:2 (NIV)

The other day in my post I mentioned how much change I have observed in our world and culture with the advent of the internet and social media. It has been fascinating to observe the dawn of such a powerful, global medium of communication. As with every communication medium, it has both the potential for so much good and the potential for so much evil.

Like most people, I have enjoyed exploring, learning, and using different online tools and social media like this blog I’ve been writing now for sixteen years. With two grandchildren living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I am so grateful for photos, video, and FaceTime. I’ve enjoyed that social media has allowed for closer, more frequent direct connections with family, classmates, and friends. I have been amazed to watch groups of people supporting others in times of need and crisis that never would have been possible before the internet because everyone was scattered around the world and we simply lost track of one another with no good way to effectively and easily communicate with so many people.

Along the way, I have also observed how things are communicated on social media. I have thought long and hard about how I want to use this tool and what I choose to communicate. I’ve observed that it is easy to start living life almost completely online. For those who are physically isolated for one reason or another, that brings incredible freedom. At the same time, I’ve observed that it becomes a dangerous escape for others.

In the early days of the internet, I was part of a group chat with people from all over the world. What I discovered over time was that some individuals in the chat were themselves, while others in the chat had created a persona they wanted others to believe was them. One member messaged me privately to confess that everything they purported to be in the group was a lie. The person was lonely, depressed and life was out of control, so they lived a fantasy online life in a group chat, hidden behind a username.

I have also been fascinated to observe how people present themselves online and how “likes” and “views” have become intertwined in a person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. I’ve also learned that young people will sometimes have two social media accounts on the same platform. One is for the general public and parental viewing/oversight while the other “secret account” is for their private group of friends to post the things they don’t want mom and dad to see or read.

In my mass communication classes in college, I was drilled into me that we only see what the person behind the camera wants us to see. My professors in the 1980s were talking about news editors, publishers, and filmmakers. The internet has brought the power of mass communication to every person in the world and put it right in the palm of our hands. With our posts, tweets, and photos we project ourselves to the world. Our followers see and hear only what we choose to show them. So what am I choosing for others to see, and why?

In today’s chapter, the first thing we read about the young man who will become Israel’s first king is that he is tall and handsome and from a prominent family in the tribe of Benjamin. What a perfect description of an ideal political candidate. But what if underneath that handsome face and six-foot frame there lurks a tortured soul, hidden rage, or mental health issues? We only see what the author of 1 Samuel wants us to see. Just like me and my social media feed.

Over time, I have found myself posting far less on social media than I once did. It’s not that I made a specific rule for myself. I simply began asking myself honest questions about my motives and my choices, and I began to embrace that no one really needs to see a photo of my suitcase on a business trip or the cowboy guy on my flight. I want to be present with loved ones and friends in the moment, and less worried about making sure the world knows who I was with and what I was doing.

What do I want others to see? Just another wayfaring stranger with very normal problems, faults, and shortcomings. I’m following Jesus. I’m pressing on this earthly journey one day at a time, reading the Great Story, pondering things in the quiet, and trying to enjoy life and my good companions with whom I share this journey and whom I endeavor to love well.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.