Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dear Mr. Strearns, World Vision

Dear Mr. Stearns,

I was moved deeply by the boldness in the recent statement of World Vision's willingness to support fidelity in marriage and abstinence outside marriage and the opportunity for gay Christians to work there in the future. I regret the reversal, but understand these are complicated times.

I am a straight evangelical, for what it is worth. I wanted to voice my support in the storm of outrage. Thank you, Mr. Stearns, for the work happening in your heart for others. Please hold your head high and continue to influence others for just living and loving others. You have my appreciation.

I acknowledge there is so much more to all this than I will ever know or understand from the spiritual, theological, and business levels. In the meantime, I will keep it simple and say I'm proud to serve the Kingdom with you. You may never see this, but if I don't write, I've missed a chance to offer compassion to you in your journey with me.

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Prayer for the House of Representatives: Immigration Reform

I pray for your continued growth, understanding, and strength to do what is right. I pray you have no regret when you look back on this time in the future. I pray you don’t wish you’d done more for this cause and for the people, because you did what was right now. I pray your heart and your mind stay open to real truth, and that you filter your position with compassion. I pray for your commitment to dignity for all, your value of the family, your economic sensibilities. I pray you act now and pass a solid bill, one bill, similar to the recent Senate Bill for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I pray we do not tire in encouraging you to move forward. I pray you heed our call very soon.

We need you to help us as we seek to reform a broken immigration system that:
  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers 
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Signs It Is Christmas Time...or It's On Its Way!

Just got my schedule for tech volunteer for Christmas Eve services, Dec. 23 and 24. Yahoo! I love helping at Christmas Eve church! Now I'm excited for Christmas. Evidently, my enthusiasm for that time of year is only slightly behind every retail establishment in America, judging from commercials and store displays. Oh, the irony of perspectives around the advent and celebration of the birth of Jesus, God's invitation to relationship. The spectrum between joy and delight in the sacred and cultural traditions all the way to the other end -- the dread, exhaustion, and pressure of expectations and fear of or realized disappointment on the other end. Truly an emotionally complicated time of year for us, unless we center ourselves in what matters most and embrace our own limits of time, money, and presence (not presents).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Are You A Liberal or Conservative?

I was interested to watch this Prager University video (below). Some of my friends really appreciate Prager, and I want to be more familiar with his program and views to understand more about him and honor my friends. So I watched this video. I thought, "This could be really cool! A liberal or conservative test. Perfect. So simple. And he's trusted by so many people I value."

After watching the nicely done video, I decided not to take the Liberal or Conservative test. Since, I do very poorly on multiple choice tests in general, I knew I would only be frustrated by being asked to "yes" or "no" the questions posed. I tend to be one of those test-takers who see various levels of reasoning, tend to complicate things by analyzing each answer, and I can usually see why each answer could be right. I was once told that I am more of a social worker than a cop, and I think I understood that comment at the time. I live in the gray area.

It was interesting how Prager listed awesome adjectives to describe his opinion of how liberals would describe themselves and disparaging character blows to show a liberal's way to describe those others, the conservatives.  There is major truth in that, but it is true for all sorts of groups of people, how they view themselves and their particular "others." Good guys and bad guys. Liberals can't claim that all to themselves.

As I considered each of Mr. Prager's questions, I felt trapped by the choices being simply yes or no. That trapped feeling with some resentment happens to me when an issue is boiled down to a yes or no position, and I cannot choose. That's a personal problem I need to work through. That drives me crazy. You, too, right?

Did you notice how the words chosen, the framing of the questions and the logical explanations that follow put a person on the wrong side of the tracks, if they'd answer no to the question? Those felt to me a little like loaded questions. A loaded question a logical fallacy technique defined as "asking a question that has a presumption built into it so that it can't be answered without appearing guilty."

More than that, these were "black or white" questions. That is another logical fallacy technique, too, defined as "two alternatives stated as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist."

Figuratively speaking, I live in Gray Heights. Not a real location, yet a neighborhood where I am most comfortable. And in that neighborhood, we do not have cul-de-sacs where you cannot drive through. So don't go all "yes or no" on me. Some things just cannot be black and white. We all know that. I even dislike that phrase, black and white, for its subtle racist tone to communicate wrong and right. Ugh. And don't load the questions, either. So, I will just take my toys and go home. But not yet.

It is difficult for me to answer any of Mr. Prager's liberal test questions, if my choices are only yes or no or agree or disagree. These issues are NEVER that simple for me. I heard his reasons. That prompted more questions for me. And I wasn't a difficult child.

Let me give you an example. Take the college and fire fighter admissions standards question. Should we change the standards on hiring and admissions for minorities? What was that? The answer is obviously no, in a perfect world when everyone has equitable educational opportunities, like so many in the race of power and privilege. Then, to me, that would be a legit question that implies honoring all who have worked hard. Until then, we have to watch these gatekeeper questions and make opportunities and on-ramps, as I like to call them, more accessible to all children who then have met the qualifications. Right now, minorities are often under served in the K-12 educational system, even when it comes to just simply getting to school safely, and those limits demand reform and even a resurrection. So, I guess I am not conservative on that one.

Another example: Murderers should never be put to death. I love the use of the word "never." Complicated word. Muddies the question. If I was convinced the person sentenced to death was guilty and got a fair trail, I'd still struggle with capital punishment. But to answer yes to that question makes me sound like a bad guy, myself, when I am recognize other research and statistics on this issue.

These questions are all cans of worms for me, and I don't like fishing.


And did I mention I'm trying to live my life in accordance with that old text commonly called the Sermon on the Mount? That doesn't smooth the issues road out for me at all. But it gives me a compass.

According to Mr. Prager's assessment, I am not conservative. But that cannot automatically make me part of the "other," the liberals. Facebook has a relationship category where an option was "It's complicated." That should be my relationship to politics, too. If you were wondering.

I don't have a label for my positions on political issues, I guess. I cannot pick a team. I cannot wear a fan jersey for either side, according to the line drawn by Mr. Prager. I'll have to go sit in the sky box, watch the game from above with a broad view of what's happening, watch the entire game and perhaps the season to see how more information helps my views evolve.

That might make me the monkey-in-the middle. That might make me too chicken to choose. That might make me the dove of peace. Or just the ostrich with my head in the sand. And so often this labeling creates an elephant in the room where conversations become awkward and even non-existent.

But I like the view from the sky box. I like the big picture. And I'll admit bias. I also like letting my hair go naturally gray, and perhaps that is symbolic for my views on many political issues. Or just a result of the madness of conscientious citizenship.

So, if you or I can't answer simply "yes" or "no" to my title question, what category on the issues are we? So then what?

And, yes, I mixed metaphors all over the place in this post because I wanted to create a feeling of how muddled this topic of conservative or liberal can get. Did you feel it? Yes or no, please. Or perhaps, in my case, yes AND no.

To learn more about recognizing logical fallacy, I recommend this website:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Banking Profits in a Tough Economic Time

Today I read an article online from the New York Times. The headline read JPMorgan Chase Quarterly Earnings Surge 31 Percent. The article goes on to say that the credit (pun intended) goes to "strong gains in the bank's investment banking business, its credit card operations and its mortgage lending division, which is benefiting from steady improvements in the nation's housing markets." So, naturally, I have questions.

The article also stated (my comments are in parentheses):
  • Net earnings for second-quarter (three months): $6.5 billion.
  • Wall Street analysts expectations (a.k.a. crystal ball predictions): $5.47 billion
  • That is "on revenue of $24.84 billion."
  • Revenue was actually "$25 billion compared to $22 billion in the period a year earlier."
Where are my macroeconomics and microeconomics professors when I need them? All I have at this point is big questions, which include:
  1. The bank earned $6.5 billion in three-months. Wow! How did they do that? Where does that kind of money come from and where does it go and why are there any poverty issues in the world?, said the girl with the heart for justice. The article does go on with further explanation, but I'm not completely clear on the banking business. It is tricky for me to interpret what is hocus-pocus (my term) and what is legit. Thankfully, I have heroes like Elizabeth Warren and others watching with a strong grasp of the inner-workings.
  2. Banks make money through lending well and interest. That is obviously the short version of this story. So has JPMorgan Chase built their house upon the shifting sand or on solid ground? Is that even a fair question? How does this impact our national economy and Gross Domestic Product? To quote one of the comments that followed the article, "I'd submit, the percent of GDP made up of "financial services" is a much more ominous symptom of an unbalanced, vulnerable economy."
  3. There are many people in our country still struggling to meet debt obligations for credit, mortgages, student loans, etc. Many of us are still on a short financial leash. So what does $6.5 billion in earnings really mean? There is a disconnect there for me. How does the bank do so well from customers paying mortgages and credit card bills on time, which it states in the article? Is that all due to their mega-bank status? Is greed in operation? Another comment following the article mentioned her Chase account $35 monthly fee if she doesn't meet their requirements for a free account, and also stated there is a fee to transfer funds. [I did not substantiate these comments.]
  4. The bank is down-sizing. So that kind of unfathomable earnings is not enough to sustain current costs of banking. Why not?
  5. Interests rates are rising, so the banks earn more from that, but doesn't that mainly impact the consumer in the long run? How do bankers explain such grand profits?
  6. They credit momentum in housing sales. Foreclosures still clutter the real estate market. Real estates agents are frequently paid in cash. Foreign money is moving through our economy, which is thought to be a good thing, and might be. What is the tipping point with that? What are the risks and benefits? Who is the big player in purchasing property? Where's the action -- commercial or residential?
I have more questions bubbling through my brain, but this is it for now. My gray matter is stretching out its supply and demand lessons and everything surrounding that. My mental capacities are dusting off some old knowledge to filter through my questions. I have watched It's A Wonderful Life many times (wink - as if that is a movie all about loans and banks), had an economics minor in college, and I'm certified to teach economics at the high school level. I should be stronger at quickly dissecting the ins and outs and ups and downs of how a large bank makes this happen. However, that is a slow bumpy road, and I'll need some time to think through and analyze cause, effect, impact, and inspiration.

Unfortunately, I may or may not get a chance to come back and expand this post. I may or may not give it much more thought. That is my biggest question of all. When so many of us haven't got the time to analyze and fight for accountability, and business moves at the speed of light on a grand scale, how can the consumer or citizen protect the common good? The New York Times article made me suspicious, though it appears to be such grand news. It is always good to ask questions. I just wish it didn't take so much time to reason through the complicated world of banking. I will read some other opinions and articles on the banking industry to expand my understanding.

Link to the article and (the best part) people's comments:

And, by the way, "Wells Fargo, the nation's biggest mortgage lender and the #4 bank overall, is expected to see profits climb 12%," according to 

Are you comfortable with those kinds of earnings from a major bank? Do you understand how that works in an economy that is struggling? Is there any mystery or misunderstanding in your opinion?

Monday, July 08, 2013

A Prayer for Congress & Compassionate Immigration Reform

I originally wrote this prayer in November 2010, as my heart cried out to our active, benevolent God on behalf of the Dream act and immigrant students. I refreshed it a bit today and decided to post it once again. My heart aches as we wait on the Lord and on Congress. The House is currently tasked with moving forward, after the Senate passed S744. The House leaders are talking about steps they want to take that seem to miss the point, or at least potentially, intentionally slow down the process. I pray that the Lord will continue to move in the process and the people involved in this time. Let good immigrants come out from the shadows and continue to contribute in ways that make our country a better place. I pray for the pathway to citizenship that works on behalf of those who want to comply.

Lord, we cry out on behalf
Of immigrants throughout our land.
Dispel the myths. Squelch the lies.
Move in the hearts of Americans.
Open eyes to the complexity.
Turn hearts to compassion.

Lord, I pray for progress.
We depend on you for change.
You, the creator of all mankind,
the author of dignity,
the source of love,
help us encourage others to truly see
the neighbor, the stranger,
the power of love over law.

Protect the activists and advocates.
Give them wisdom and strength.
Grant them access to decision makers.
Bless them with love for those who disagree,
And calm those
who divide and destroy.

Help us be patient in the waiting,
Focused on the value,
Kind in our approach,
As we make others aware,
Challenge others to change,
And invite the country to
A renewed perspective, an
American foundational truth.

Please bring reform that keeps families together,
Provides a reasonable path to citizenship.
Grant grace to the good workers.
And most of all, Lord,
Please lead Congress
To take action on behalf of our
Immigrants and our country.

We do not know how You will act.
We come expectantly.
This is the day.
This is the time.
We, the church, must walk on,
seeking You,
To move mightily for justice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We Wait...Immigration Reform

This morning in my local community gathering, more formally called church, we sang a song, made popular by Hillsong, called "You'll Come." I paused to close my eyes and pray again for compassionate immigration reform which is closer than ever before, yet so complicated. The words of the song hit me harder than usual. The lyrics became my prayer, my pleading for our broken immigration system of laws and practices to leap forward on behalf of dignity for all, our economy, and protecting what we stand for as a country. I will not use this post to be more specific. I simply wanted to log the lyrics as my heart's cry as the Congress considers legislation on this issue. So, we wait upon the Lord. And we call and write Congress.

Chains be broken
Lives be healed
Eyes be opened
Christ is revealed

I have decided
I have resolved
To wait upon You, Lord

My rock and redeemer
Shield and reward
I'll wait upon You, Lord

As surely as the sun will rise
You'll come to us
Certain as the dawn appears

You'll come
Let Your glory fall as You respond to us
Spirit rain
Flood into our thirsty hearts again
You'll come, You'll come

We are not shaken
We are not moved
We wait upon You, Lord

Mighty deliverer
Triumph and truth
We wait upon You, Lord

As surely as the sun will rise
You'll come to us
Certain as Your word endures

You'll come
Let Your glory fall as You respond to us
Spirit rain
Flood into our thirsty hearts again
You'll come, You'll come

Chains be broken
Lives be healed
Eyes be opened
Christ is revealed