Category Archives: Current Events

First Time For Everything

There’s a first time for everything, but someone in their late fifties has most of his “first times” behind him so the new ones are extra important. Today was a first time for me. The news of our election brought with it emotions that I have never experienced. I’ve felt the elation of winning and the disappointment of losing. This is different…

castle-stairsI have lost nothing personally. I’m a white, middle classed, middle aged man. When our new president takes office in January I will be able to walk down the street of any town in the USA and no one would ever question my right to be there. The folks that I meet on the street will assume I voted for Trump because of the way I look and the way my state voted. I will still have a good job and health insurance. No worries about war because I am too old to be called into military service. Everything is going my way.

I do not like feeling bad especially when I could easily choose otherwise. I’d rather be full of hope and joy. Yesterday, I imagined I would be consoling my right wing friends and family today and helping them understand that it’s a new day full of love and room for all. Instead I find myself quietly reaching out to a few friends who are very much on the losing side of this election. Listening to them. Affirming their longings. Affirming their person-hood just as they are. Hoping I can help lift their despair just a tad.

Why do I feel like this? I who couldn’t lose. No matter which side won, it wouldn’t much affect me. Not to say that I am immune. I have strong political views, and I’ll be affected by change just like everyone else. But neither political party has an agenda that would take away my human rights directly.

First steps

Not so long ago, my wife and I began to pour our energies into loving and caring for the LGBT community. At our local PFLAG* we are getting to know some of the bravest and most marginalized people we have ever known. 1ststepThese are real human people who do not fit neatly in the boxes provided by society for us to keep them straight (pun intended). I get to hear the stories of these beautiful people; stories of love, of hate, of violence, of death, murder, suicide. Their stories move me; children turned out of their homes because they were attracted to the same sex, parents of transgender children worried for their safety at school. By the way, this NC “bathroom bill” intended to protect “normal” people from a fictitious predator is a very real matter of life or death to these folks.

When the riots happened a few weeks ago here in Charlotte, I stepped out of my comfort zone a few times and risked conversations with friends and acquaintances who have darker skin than mine. I heard the fear they felt. I heard their desire to fit in, along with constant frustration that the color of their skin posed an impenetrable barrier to any hope of real justice or equanimity.

I say these things to explain what changed in me that makes me hurt. I have only just begun the hard work of self examination; finding out just how selfish and unloving I can be. My eyes are just beginning to see and my ears are just beginning to hear how the very society that welcomes me so freely is suspicious at best and hateful at worst of folk who do not look like me.

starofdavidThere’s a great story from the book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom about the holocaust in Holland and how her Christian family helped to save Jews. Her father, Casper, a simple watch maker, sewed a yellow Star of David on his coat. In his mind, if everyone wore them the Nazis would not be able to identify the Jews and they would be safe. What a naive gesture but motivated by such inspiring love.

I am a middle aged white man. I don’t have to do this. I can stop anytime I want and just blend into an easy, comfortable life. But I freely choose otherwise. I want to be more like Casper ten Boom and naively believe that I too can love the unloved. That I too can connect in solidarity where they are marginalized. That I can choose to sacrifice my comfort, my safety and my security when it interferes with their human rights when necessary. Who will join me?

*PFLAG = Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays

Voting for Kat

I value quiet.

I value thoughtful, heartfelt words whether I agree with them or not.

I abhor the noise of commercials on TV or radio.  When I watch network TV, which is rare, I skip the commercials. I rarely listen to commercial radio. So I haven’t seen any political ads. None!

BUT… I do read Facebook and the senseless vehemence from my friends on the left and the right has been ridiculous. Do folks just turn off their brains when they talk politics? (Interesting TED talk on why).

I did my homework, taking time to read up on the candidates from the local judges to the national offices. I thoughtfully created my cheat sheet and had it ready today with all the choices clearly marked except President. I simply could not decide who to vote for for President. That statement will likely cause half of my friends to be shocked one way, the other half will be shocked the other way and the third half won’t even read this, so they will never know.

On the way to the polling site, I thought of my good friend, Dawn, who is suffering from cancer. (Have I told you how much I hate cancer)?  I wondered if Dawn had been able to vote. It is impossible for her to get out these days, but I hoped she was able to cast her ballot. My thoughts drifted to Kat and how she would not get to vote in this election… another addition to the long list of injustices from cancer.

Kat was passionate about a few topics and some of them were political. As ambivalent as I was about my choice, there was no question about who she wanted to be the President of the United States. Right there in my car on the way to the poll, I decided that I would let Kat decide my vote for President. I never felt better about a political choice.

Kat, I miss your passion about making the world a better place. I miss you.

Koney2012 – My Reaction

kony2012All of a sudden, there is this compelling video popping up like crazy on FB. Tonight rather than going to bed like I said I was, I watched the 30 minute video and was blown away. I was ready to sign on the dotted line. I typed my email address and zip code on the pledge form and was about to click the Pledge Now button when a nagging little voice inside asked me, “What do you really knew about this? After all, you never even heard of Joseph Koney until just 30 minutes ago. Now you are ready to sign a petition? Really?”

This is what I knew:

  • I just watched a very compelling video.
  • The presentation persuaded me that something must be done about Joseph Koney
  • I was persuaded that I could play a small part.
  • I felt empowered to make a difference in the world

The nagging voice said, “Exactly!  You don’t know anything except what you just saw. Isn’t it at least worth a google search first?”  I searched for “kony2012”. In the first four results were two sites with a negative spin. I looked at the first one with skepticism. the site is named Jezebel, which was a turn off. But I had already decided that Kony2012 was a great cause and anyone who was against them must have an agenda. Wow, I had already turned off my brain before I started.

Search result #4 was from the Huffington Post, a reliable news outlet. Hmmm.  I skimmed the article and got a little better picture of what is going on. However, this quote woke me from my slumber:

By blindly supporting Uganda’s current government and its military adventures beyond its borders, as Invisible Children suggests that people do, Invisible Children is in fact guaranteeing that there will be more violence, not less, in Central Africa.

I have seen the well-meaning foreigners do plenty of damage before, so that is why people understanding the context and the history of the region is important before they blunder blindly forward to “help” a people they don’t understand.

The Problem With Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” – Huffington Post

The little voice inside me said, “Thank you for listening to me.”  While I was ready to blindly follow these folks because of the compelling nature of this video, the red flags were waving in my mind like crazy.  My lizard brain did not want to pay attention, but fortunately I was eventually able to settle down and rationally decide that this could wait until tomorrow at least.

Now that I have thought about it for a little while, I feel manipulated and find myself skeptical of the whole thing. If past performance is an indicator, this will end with inaction on my part. I am not proud of that.  I truly want to stop people like Koney. I want to make the world a better place, but sometimes helping hurts. It is vital to understand the person, group, nation, world that you want to help before you try to help. Otherwise, you will not truly understand what the real needs are. Understanding the history and culture is essential to making an effective impact.  You cannot get that kind of understanding from watching a video designed to compel you to action when you are sleepy.

The video is absolutely worth watching. It is important on many levels. I urge you to watch it and then before responding, take at least 30 minutes (the length of the video) to think about it and consider other opposing views.  See the video here: http://kony2012.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com

A Phone Call from the President

Getting ready to go for my morning run this morning, I picked up the newspaper this morning.  It was yesterday’s paper that I hadn’t read yet.  I saw the following headline and read just a couple of sentences (quoted here), then I left for my run.  I wasn’t thinking about the election or the state of BofA, I was thinking about how cool it must have been to get that call…

foxxFoxx tells Obama Charlotte needs BofA

Posted: Friday, Nov. 06, 2009
Charlotte Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx said he spoke with President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the importance of banking to Charlotte’s economy, and said Thursday he thinks the White House could play a role in whether Bank of America keeps its headquarters in Charlotte.

“The federal government has some skin in the game,” said Foxx, who was receiving a congratulatory call from Obama after winning Tuesday’s mayoral election. (read more)

Thinking about how cool it must have been for Mayor-elect Foxx to get that call from President Obama caused me to wonder who else might have gotten such a call. Are there any rules of protocol around who the president calls?  Given that it is most likely a personal choice that each president makes,  I wonder what criteria he actually uses and how knowing that would that change the way I feel about the call itself.  Making some separate assumptions, I want to explore how it would feel as the mayor-elect to receive that call and as a citizen to know that’s what’s going on.  The following scenarios are in order from what I think are least likely to most likely…

Hypothetical Scenarios

Assumption: Barak and Foxx are good buddies and Foxx is the only one he called.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel the warm affirmation of a friend who had been with me through thick and thin.

My personal reaction; I would think that was pretty darned cool that my mayor knows the president that well.

Assumption: The president called winners randomly.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel like the call was impersonal. Not all that meaningful except for the fact that the caller is the leader of the free world.

My personal reaction;  The president must be pretty low in Emotional Intelligence to do such a thing.  Since I perceive Mr. Obama to be quite emotionally intelligent, I don’t think this is a likely scenario.  I just include it because it is a possibility… however remote.

Assumption: The President called all the winners of every mayoral race in the country.

As the mayor-elect, I think I would feel honored to a small degree, but like one in a million.  The call itself wouldn’t be a big deal.

My personal reaction; I would question how the President of the United States has time to call every mayor in the country.

Assumption: The President called all the winners who are Democrats.

As the mayor-elect, I would feel the camaraderie of our shared group identity. I think it would be much like a winning sports team congratulating one another.

My personal reaction; This would irritate me.  I would feel that the call was polarizing and that the talk about bi-partisanship and working together is just talk.

Assumption: The president called winners who changed the sitting party from Republican to Democrat

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like the high five congrats I might receive from a teammate after scoring a major point.

My personal reaction, much like the scenario of calling all Democratic winners, this would irritate me.  However, for some reason, this one wouldn’t bother me as much as if he called all the Democrats though.  I don’t really understand why.  It seems more like a congratulatory thing than an us-against-them thing.

Assumption: The first African American President called all the winners who were also African American

As the mayor-elect, I think my feelings would be much like the last scenario, except way stronger because our shared experience would be so much stronger and the group so much smaller and the win so much bigger.

My personal reaction, I could understand this call better than calling all Democrats, but there’s something about it that bothers me.  I feel like the office of the president should be above any social groups.  The reality is that each of us is a member of certain social groups; some  by the choices we make, some by choices of other people and some we were merely born into (skin color being one of those).  The social bonds we form in these groups cannot (or should not) be ignored.  Those who are in positions of power need to be aware how their affirmations within the social groups can cause isolation and polarization, which I abhor.  I want to acknowledge these social groups, not ignore them.  At the same time, I also want people to feel value no matter which groups they are in.

Assumption: The president called those whose mayoral races he had a really big stake in.

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like a call from a close partner in a shared dream. Of all the scenarios, I think this is most likely the strategy behind the presidents call… and possibly the most meaningful scenario in which to receive this call.

My personal reaction; I think that the president has a high stake in changing the party of the mayors from Republican to Democrat wherever possible.  Charlotte was high on that list this go round.  To add to the mix, race was a factor.  The Republican nominee was white and the Democrat was black.   Foxx is not our first black mayor, but it is significant, nonetheless.  I think these were two major reasons that the President would have had a stake in this race.

I’m not moved by political strategies.  While I see the need for a two party system and the necessity for each to have strategies for being on top, the polarizing affect bothers me.  It isn’t about Democrat or Republican for me, it would work the same either way.

How I feel in reality

I’m excited to see the ceiling crumble for people of color.  As a white man who grew up in the south, black people were always “them”.  You might have friends who were black, but your friend was always the exception to the rule of “us” and “them”.  They weren’t as smart as we were. They were people we called names.  Having them in power was unthinkable.  I’m so glad to see those walls begin to crumble.

I’m ok with the camaraderie of people of color congratulating one another as they overcome some pretty dang huge obstacles.  At the same time, I’m also aware of human nature and the real danger of swinging the us/them situation in the other direction.  I hope we can learn to congratulate ourselves without isolating others.  I hope we can learn to congratulate groups even when we aren’t a part of the group.  I really hope we can truly begin to break down the walls between the us’s and them’s and value everyone.

Oh, and congrats to you, Mr. Foxx.  My hope is that your administration will bring positive results to our community.

RIP Billy Mays

Can you believe all the recent celebrity deaths? Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and I just got an email from CNN Breaking News stating that pitchman, Billy Mays died today.  Since I’m not much of a TV person and I despise commercials, I honestly have never heard of the guy before today.  I looked him up on Wikipedia, where they had a link to his Twitter page.  I thought it might be interesting.  What does a guy tweet about when he’s nearing the end of his life?

  • Just had a close call landing in Tampa. The tires blew out upon landing. Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air. – Sat, 27 Jun 2009 19:01:09
  • Getting ready to fly back to Tampa from Philly. Monday is the big day (HIP REPLACEMENT NO.3) Keep you posted. – Sat, 27 Jun 2009 14:40:05
  • Just got done shootong a new product with my production company 4 Blind Mice. – Fri, 26 Jun 2009 21:28:57
  • Just finished up a brand new oxi-clean show in Jersey. On my way to Princeton to meet with Arm and Hammer and then to Philly and then hi … – Thu, 25 Jun 2009 19:59:26
  • Just got done with the Tonight Show.  Had a great time.  The episode airs tonight – Wed, 24 Jun 2009 02:21:04
  • Just got to Conan’s studio.  About to go to the pre-pro meeting. – Tue, 23 Jun 2009 22:47:53
  • Happy Fathers day. Just relaxing with my wife and daughter in Boca. One more show tomorrow and then Conan on Tuesday. – Sun, 21 Jun 2009 19:45:59
  • I am attempting my most dangerous demo to date. I am about to repair a scuba divers puntured air hose and bring him safely back from the … – Sat, 20 Jun 2009 14:02:03
  • Today is the Big Mighty Brand Shoot. Keep you posted. – Fri, 19 Jun 2009 11:36:19
  • One commercial down two to go. Tomorrow is the big one the brand new Mighty Product and this one will be the Mightiest of them all I gua … – Thu, 18 Jun 2009 18:32:20
  • Was just on the .MJ Morning Show live with my son and brother inlaw Dan promoting Pitchmen – Wed, 17 Jun 2009 20:26:29
  • On my way to Boca Raton to shoot
  • . . .

So the guy was clearly living an extraordinary life… a bit strange, but by definition, extraordinary is not ordinary.  I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, but I felt a bit let down.  Couldn’t he have left us with some words of wisdom?  Didn’t he know his time was up?  If this sounds disrespectful, I do not mean it to be.  I think it is interesting how little we talk about the one thing we all have to look forward to.  We don’t know when our time is up, but we all know it will be one day.

I have lots of questions about what the end of life is like in general and what it will specifically be like for me.  When someone dies, I think to myself, “Now they know.”  For me, I will be adding a new question to my list… “What will my Twitter page look like when I’m gone?”

Political Angst

ostrich-sign.gifI am truly dismayed by the whole political process.  So many people I love are doggedly on one side of the political spectrum or the other.  I am not.  I want to hear the real issues and solutions, but they are buried so deeply that I cannot hear them or trust them and it cuts both ways.  As long as I can remember, my solution has been to avoid politics altogether.  Like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, I have chosen to ignore all the rhetoric and all the news.  Today, I ventured out and read some of the political articles in the newspaper.  Yikes!  There seem to be three varieties of articles:

  1. Promises from each side saying that they have the answers that will save this country (or continue to keep it safe).
  2. Attacks on the “other side” saying that they are lying or deluded.  Their way won’t work, or their record shows that they don’t mean what they say or… The underlying message is that you’d be stupid to vote for them.
  3. Exposure of the untruths in the promises and attacks from previous days whether unfounded promises, out-and-out lies or comments one side has taken out of context against the other side.

Of the three, the last category is the most believable, but not very helpful in reaching a decision.  These “He/she said… but this is what the record shows…” articles merely add to my skepticism. Clearly the goal of each side is to get into the White House.  Whatever it takes seems to be the rule.  I wish I knew better how to project the future of one side’s getting in over the other.

Before I put my head back in the sand, dear readers, please tell me how you cope with the difficulty of getting to the heart of the matter.  Do you have a single issue burning in you that overshadows everything else?  Do you know how grandma would have voted and make sure you don’t stir up her wrath? Do you have friends or family who tell you what to think?  Do you have a way of cutting through the crap to get to the heart of the real issues facing our country and our world today?  I especially hope to hear from those who answer yes to the last question.

Hope in a Broken World

I haven’t written about the VA Tech shooting this week. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been heavy on my heart and mind. The thought that comes to my mind over and over is that this world we live in is broken. It isn’t supposed to be this way. People aren’t supposed to treat one another badly. We aren’t supposed to make fun of one another. We are sure as hell not supposed to kill one another. We are supposed to honor and love one another. But we do… The world is broken.

Thank God for little reminders that life goes on. Click below to read more and see the pictures of the little gift God has left us…

In the artificial wreath on our front door is a very real nest.

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A Carolina wren has decided that her babies deserve to be born at the Anderson’s home.

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Is this totally cool or what?

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Somehow, the thought that life goes on encourages me. Mama wren is only concerned for her nest and her babies. She doesn’t give any thought to world events. Sounds nice to me.

Can a Muslim become a Christian?

I experienced a stark reminder yesterday that all Christ followers do not believe what I believe. I was connecting with someone who I met at church a couple of years ago, but I had not seen in a while. He and I chatted about church. He’s in the process of looking for another church to attend and my family has visited a couple of other churches too. I told him about one that we had enjoyed visiting. But when I mentioned that the pastor was a former Muslim, he said that there was no way he would ever go there. He couldn’t ever trust a Muslim.

I was flabbergasted! From the beginning of knowing about this church and its pastor, I thought it was very cool to be this close to a man who made such a radical life change (he left his family and his homeland) to follow Jesus. He can never go home again! Not knowing quite what to say to my friend, I asked him if he believed that God was unable to reach someone who is Muslim? He only said that he would never trust one of them. I asked him whether God could reach a Hindu, and he replied that he didn’t have any particular mindset about them… only the Muslims. He said he believes that they are the “root of all evil in this world.” I challenged him about that. He said, “I’m just being honest.”

I sincerely thanked him for being honest. I believe that honesty is the only beginning place from which we can find healing in Christ. If we are not honest about where we are, God cannot influence our lives. Jesus said that the truth would set us free. (Although I’m taking that quote out of context, I believe it is true). We cannot move forward if we are less than candid about our starting place. Having said that, personal honesty is still just a starting place. God loves us where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there.

I challenged my brother to reconsider his (honest) position on the matter. If God cannot reach someone because they are Muslim, then none of us stand a chance. We are all on equal ground before him. None of us “deserve” his favor.

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11

I disagree with my brother’s position wholeheartedly. I believe that our only hope is in the sovereign, undeserved grace of God. I feel passionately about this. My passion is not against my brother. My passion is for my desire to see the healing peace of God in this world. My passion is for partnering with Jesus to bring a little bit of heaven into this hellish world that we live in.

whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. Mark 9:40-42

I remember a story about the ten Boom family in the Netherlands during WWII. There was a scene in The Hiding Place in which Corrie’s father, Willem, who was a Christian, sewed a star of David on his sleeve to confuse the Nazi oppressors. He said that if we all wear them, they won’t be able to tell who’s a Jew and who is not. I like that.

I don’t want to hide terrorists from justice. At the same time, I vehemently oppose generalizations that reduce the problem to “us and them”. I understand the basis of the mistrust. I understand that there is a people group who by and large hate Christians. I understand that they mean to harm us and will do so at any cost. I do not believe that all Muslims fit this mold. Call me a fool, but I believe that God can and wants to touch the hearts of Muslims and Christians.

I pray for the shalom of God in this world beginning with me.

The Secret

I was unfamiliar with The Secret until a friend asked about it tonight. I just did a quick search and my first inclination is to say “SCAM” Here’s what I read on Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

…As put forth in the film, the “Law of Attraction” principle posits that our feelings and thoughts affect real events in the world, from the workings of the entire cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs. The film also suggests that there has been a conspiracy to keep this central principle hidden from the public.

Continue reading The Secret