"Don't bring your morality into politics," so the saying goes. But this is at once impossible and ill-advised even if it were. Morality, the sense of what is right and what is wrong, is an inherent part of everything human beings do. Why? Because we are not animals. We are reasoning if not always reasonable beings capable, in fact charged by God, of determining right from wrong.
So how does morality flavor our economic and political stew? Here's my take:
For a century or more our culture has moved away in fits and starts from a general belief that God created the universe and everything in it. We still believe in God, sort of, but if he exists we no longer believe he created us. No, we believe the universe, and human beings, began by Chance.
OK, I don't buy that, but let's take the next step. If Chance, the Fates, or some other source launched our human lives, what ends them? In other words, if we came into this world By Chance, do we simply leave this world By Chance as well? Or another way of asking the question, if Chance--unguided, unintentional, non-rational happenstance--determined our birth, do we die without intentionality as well? Do we die without any Direction, Purpose, Meaning, or Significance?
Are human beings just animals after all, or worse, do our lives and inner-us possess a value about on the level of a plant?
First allow me to salute some friends. The idea for the video column initially came from Publisher David Vanderveen. His vision for what can be done in online Christian media today is the prime directive behind our effort. And Dave is a man of character whose friendship I’ve enjoyed for the past couple of years.
The video column is published by Dave and Faye Vanderveen’s “West Michigan Christian News” for its E-Edition and website and eventually for their Christianenews.com and MissionsInMedia.com websites. Bob and Debra Foster of BoDe Productions produce the videos. Faye, Bob, and Debra have become new friends whose desire to honor the Lord is evident in everything they do.
As I said, we’ve learned a few things. For example, I’ve worked with a teleprompter only once before. So learning to focus on the text and not lose my place, while not also looking like I’ve got tunnel vision, is a developing skill. It gets easier.
Relaxing on camera is a major consideration because it affects the appearance and ease with which a viewer can engage the topic. I’m not an actor and until now haven’t done much on camera—on radio, yes, but not on television or video. With repetition, though, you become comfortable with your surroundings, at ease with the lights, camera, and process, and your body begins to take on its normal habits—meaning you begin to move naturally when you speak rather than looking like a robot. It gets easier.
Props are important. At our first shoot of several columns, I switched out sport coats, shirts, and vests. OK, but we’re going to go with sport coats for a while. And in the inaugural shoot we used a green, well, really green, curtain backdrop. It’s a goner. For the second shoot we switched to a black curtain backdrop, pulled back the camera to reveal more table, lowered it so I didn’t look up so much, and stayed with a white shirt. It gets easier, and we plan, more creative.
Ideas and writing are what motivate me. But for content to make a contribution or an impact it must be shared. Publishing print is one way, posting is a new way, videoing is a newer way. It’s all fun…and it gets easier.
Ever hear a kid say “I’m bored”? Or, “Bor-r-r-ring,” in response to just about anything?
Or, “I don’t have anything to do. It’s so boring,” the kid says as he walks past a bookshelf, tosses his laptop on the couch, and stuffs is teenage face with candy.
Kids get bored. Rather, kids think they get bored. It’s part of growing up, but too many kids persist in their boredom right into adulthood. They’re never redirected by an adult so teenage angst turns into adult ennui, and a host of other issues.
There are a lot of people standing around with an attitude of indolent indifference. They don’t care and are lazy about it. Boredom has done its work. There’s no vision, no energy, at least not for personally or socially productive ends. There’s only apathy.
Boredom is dangerous. It deadens the spirit. First it robs your present of its potency. Then it robs your future of its potential.
From time to time when our four children were young one of them said, “I’m bored.”
We’d say, “You are not bored and not allowed to be bored. Go find something to do. Go outside. Better yet, do something for someone else so you quit thinking about yourself.”
Then my wife would weigh-in with her kicker: “Only boring people are bored.”
The message wasn’t: “You’re committing a sin admitting to boredom.” The message was: “You’re committing a sin if you stay bored.”
We wanted our kids to know they are stewards of their time and God said to use it wisely, to redeem it. We wanted them to understand that no one with an active mind and healthy body can possible be or remain bored in the infinitely beautiful world God created.
God didn’t make us to be bored. He made us to be and do to his glory and to the benefit of our family and others.
“Bored Kids” should be an oxymoron, something that makes no sense. Yet we’re allowing an entire generation to come of age whose principal characteristic is boredom.
I don’t blame the kids. I challenge the adults to give the kids something to be un-bored about.
Years ago, when we were 26-yr-old young marrieds, we decided the Lord wanted me to go to graduate school in order to earn a Ph.D. Advanced degrees and possibly working in higher education had been a periodic topic of ours since our dating days, so the decision wasn't new to us. Now, finally, it was time.
I shared our plans with people in our church and the Christian school where we both worked as teachers. We were amazed at the reaction. Rather than something like "Hey, way to go," or "We'll pray for you" (to be fair, we did hear a few like this), several folks responded with minimal enthusiasm at best. When I informed people the only way we could do this financially was for me to lodge in Cincinnati for two semesters while my wife and two children maintained our WV home, many more criticized us, particularly me. I was told that if I did this I would be a bad father and a suspect husband (meanwhile I'm wondering about the traveling businesspeople I knew). I was warned this could undermine our marriage (of course, anything can undermine a marriage if hearts are not right). And the coup de grace, I was told I'd clearly be out of the Lord's will (and I'm wondering how they knew the Lord's will for our lives better than we did).
Yet the Lord blessed us. The two semesters of running back and forth on weekends was time-consuming and expensive, my wife driving a school bus to make ends meet was challenging, and missing the kids and Sarah while I studied during the week wasn't fun. But while we were apart, I became a focused student who accomplished my coursework and more. We were able to do this because we as a husband and wife were in full agreement and because we believed we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do. I still believe this 30 years later.
During grad school at the University of Cincinnati, we experienced something similar when we announced the coming of our third child. At university certainly, and even at church, I made the announcement to at least a dozen people before someone finally congratulated us. Everyone, including believers, made dumb comments about tax deductions, etc. One woman actually asked me, "How will you pay for their education?" I said to her, "You know, the baby isn't even born. His or her higher education is at least 18 years from now. I think maybe the Lord will point the way by then." She wasn't amused. But neither were we. I wonder what those folks would have said had they known the Lord would give us baby #4 about two and one-half years later?
Finally, after six years of teaching and administrative work at our alma mater in OH, we announced that the Lord had given me the opportunity to become an Academic Vice President at a Christian college in NY. Again, some people said "Congrats" and slapped my 34-yr-old back, but many wondered aloud how we could be in the Lord's will leaving a place as wonderful as the Christian college where we'd served the past few years. Interesting. That campus was indeed a wonderful place and we enjoyed every minute we'd lived there, 4 years as students, 6 years as a professor. I literally cut my professional teeth there. But the Lord had more for us.
I don't have a glib answer, even after 25 years, as to why people responded like they did to what for us was wonderful news of the Lord's guidance and blessing in our lives. But I don't think ill of them. Mostly, their motives were good; they were concerned for us. And though I've tried not to do so, somewhere in the journey I've probably come across to others in a similar way.
My best guess is that people make negative comments about another person's sense of God's direction because they superimpose their sense of His direction for their lives onto others. In other words, God isn't calling them to another land so He must not be calling you. God isn't directing them to go to grad school so He must not be directing you. God didn't give them another child, so why in the world would He give one to you?
I may not be right or even perceptive in this assessment. But I think I've seen it play out.
In the end, if you care about the Lord's will, you have to do what we've told our now-young-adult children. "You don't have to do it the way we did it. You don't have to answer to us anymore about what you do. What you need to do is consider the options together, take them to the Lord, and then do what you believe He wishes you to do. Live your life for Him, not others, not even Mom and Dad."
The best critics/friends are those who offer their honest insights and then get in the boat and row with you. Critics/friends who offer critiques and remain on shore aren't ones you need worry about. Ask Job.
Once a writer writes, the next greatest challenge is finding good readers. Not getting published, mind you, that comes later. No, the next challenge is readers.
I realize that not all writers/authors are open to readers (and certainly not editors). I’ve known professors who never published their good material because they just couldn’t bring themselves to submit to editing. I’ve known writers who scream like their hand’s being chopped when someone suggests cutting a paragraph. In other words, the writer’s ego is tied up in his or her work.
The moral of the story is this: Writers/authors who can’t be edited are usually still “starving artists.” Rich and successful authors have long since learned to appreciate readers/editors.
Assuming, though, that writers are open to review and critique, readers (or editors) can make invaluable contributions toward honing the work.
Readers help writers gauge whether writers are accomplishing what they think they’re accomplishing. Some readers help with content ideas, some help with grammar, some help with “general reaction,” some with expertise in the subject matter can help with accuracy or illustrations, and some can help with marketing strategy.
Some readers simply but importantly help by saying, “I read this sentence five times and it still doesn’t make sense to me.” That’s good. If the reader can’t understand the sentence, the public won’t either. And you can fix a sentence’s structure and flow before it’s published.
Why is finding readers such a challenge? The answer is a list:
--People don’t read. Really, this is part of it.
--Those who read may not have the time. Fair enough.
--People commit to reading a column/article/book manuscript but don’t follow through. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced this, and strangely, I rarely hear from my would-be readers. They seemed to have forgotten not only my work and request but also their pledge to assist.
--You can’t find readers with good writing, grammar, or proofing skills.
--You can’t find readers with enough background in the subject matter to make knowledgeable comments.
--Certain readers read eventually, at long last, maybe. In other words, they say they’ll read and respond by a certain deadline but don’t get it done until the cows jump over the moon. Meanwhile, you’ve long since given up or had to move on with the project.
There’s more, but you get the picture. This is why I hold willing, able, and reliable readers in high esteem. It’s also why, when from time to time I am asked to read, I try to respond as my best readers have responded to me.