Archives For America

We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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Did you know that there are people who make a living by cuddling strangers?download

Yes, professional cuddlers.  People who snuggle with perfect strangers for money.  It’s like a massage or a therapy session.

Or maybe it’s like prostitution, except, you know…platonic.

Yes, I know this sounds almost unbelievable, but the Sunday Morning Show ran a story last weekend about just such a phenomenon.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.  You can check it out for yourself if you do not believe me.  People spend up to 120 dollars for an hour or so of snuggling.  It might start with a standing hug.  Then a hug lingers into an embrace.  Then it moves to the couch or a bed.  But nothing sexual.  Just prolonged human touch.  Even Mo Rocca who was doing the report seemed incredulous.

And by the laws of supply and demand, since there is a supply of professional cuddlers, then there is some contingent of customers demanding professional cuddling.

And on this day, just before the national celebration of love, what does it say about us that professional snuggling is a thing in today’s America?

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It makes the world go around…offering

It makes empires rise and fall…

It is becoming a perennial topic of discussion within the American church…

It’s money.  Specifically, tithing.

Tithing is kind of a funny thing.  Formerly a non-negotiable for every church-going Christian, it’s gotten a bad rap lately.  Every so often, I’ll read another blog post or Facebook update about the old-fashioned practice of tithing isn’t Biblical, isn’t necessary, isn’t even good.  And the studies show that, whether we say it publicly or not, we just don’t tithe anymore.  Very very few of us still set aside the traditional ten percent of our income for Jesus.

I’m not going to tell you that you must tithe or go to hell.  But I do think the discussion has somehow veered into the weeds and we’ve, once again, missed the point all along.  What if we’ve just been tithing wrong all this time?

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3443916566_28395e9463_z“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Tomorrow is a day of celebration – of food and family, parades, bands and fireworks.  Maybe some of you even had a “patriotic” themed church service on Sunday, with an American flag cake afterward.

I am an avid student of American history.  It’s just unendingly fascinating, in all of its contradictions.  Our society was founded by flawed heroes.  And among the most flawed and the most heroic is the author of our national “scripture,” Thomas Jefferson.  The man who helped give birth to our society with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Self evident.  These truths don’t need explaining or evidence.  They are plainly obvious and indisputable.

The problem is that the man was writing ideals.  And while the truth of the words may have been self-evident, they weren’t always evident in the life of Thomas Jefferson, or any other American since then.

Jesus spoke in truths, but for 2000 years, his followers have had mixed results with actually making the truth evident in their lives.

Maybe as we celebrate this Independence Day, we can resolve to make a few of these truths, which we hold to be self-evident, more evident in ourselves…

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The scene of some dangerous finger pointing, noise making and make-believe playtime. Crisis averted, thanks to quick thinking by heroic school officials.

Kids get in trouble at school every day.  Nothing unusual there.

Getting suspended from school used to be the worst punishment that a kid could get.  It was the last resort, reserved for kids who picked fights and were serious offenders.

Today, on a pretty regular basis, you can read stories about a new kind of elementary school hooligan.

Every week or two, there’s a new story of a kid who doesn’t actually bring a weapon to school, or make actual threats toward others, or actually hurts anyone. No, these new playground terrorists get suspended for having a Hello Kitty bubble gun, pointing fingers at playmates while making the ubiquitous “pow” sound of a gun, or even disposing of an imaginary bomb in order to save the world.

Thank God these school administrators are here to save our playgrounds from future Jack Bauers, MacGyvers and Chuck Norrises.

Before you think I’m coming down too hard on principals who have to enforce their “zero tolerance” policies about weapons and violence in an age of school shootings, think about how easy the zero tolerance policy has made the task of suspending kids, and how we are increasingly living in a stark black-and-white world with fewer and fewer shades of gray.

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I hope you all like

Hollywood knows we like sequels and rehashes to familiar stories.  We gobble them up.  We demand more.

So maybe Congress is just taking a cue from Hollywood.

Last week, we “averted” the so called “fiscal cliff” with a last minute deal to fend off a doomsday-like scenario of automatic tax hikes.

But we did so in a way that solved absolutely no problems whatsoever.  And, once again, the can was kicked down the road.  I hope you like sequels, because we are going to watch this farce unfold again in March.

Everyone knows someone who just can’t get their act together.  No matter how much they struggle, no matter how much help or how many second chances they get, they just can’t stop being a completely trainwreck, a lightning rod, and a dysfunctional mess.  I’ve come to see our government as our dysfunctional, roadkill-like friend.  It’s awful to watch, but we can’t look away.

But despite all of this, I think we actually can learn something from an old-fashioned game of “kick the can” with our representatives in Washington.

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