Dear Mr. Biden, last night was a disappointment

The debate last night was very disappointing. I was rooting for you, Mr. Biden, but you failed to shine. Instead you got mired in the muck. You were easily rattled and resorted to name-calling, making you look weak and childish, not the man we need you to be.

Yes, you were dealing with a bully of the nth degree, one of the bulliest of bullies. It’s true. Trump’s a silverback, throwing his weight around, thundering about.

No, I don’t think he should be president, but he was true to himself. He’s a schoolyard brute. He lies. He distorts. He gnaws at you. He grinds. But that’s Trump. He was distinctly himself. He knows not how to be anyone else.

But that’s not what is most troubling to me, nor should it be for you.

The problem, I believe, is that I didn’t know who you are, Mr. Biden. Your identity and what identified you weren’t exactly clear in the debate. What I did see, I didn’t like. I saw someone who could be shaken, unsure, uncertain, unable to stand up for himself, or to a bully.

The best thing that you did was address the American people, and it seemed to convey a real concern for us. That was good. Yet, it didn’t seem to be enough.

You didn’t have a strong grasp of your message nor your platform. I really didn’t know what you were for. You need to figure out how to make Biden more Biden. Right now, you look like a man who wasn’t ready to cross sabers with the neighborhood tough-guy.

You need to be more distinct. If you’re going to be the kinder and softer president, do that. Or, maybe it’s the classier or geekier or whatever version. No matter what it is, be that. Be true. Because no matter what the opponent does, he seems to convey that type of authenticity.

You don’t.

You’re confusing. The Biden that showed up last night looked like one who wanted to be nice and polite but then got snippy and angry and frustrated.

Trump is Trump. Everyone knows that. That’s one of the most powerful things about him. His base knows him. Even his enemies know him. He’s predictably unpredictable. He plays to the mob. He doesn’t waver from his ways. That’s why they love him and appreciate him. He’s seen as an outsider. That’s what he wants. He says what he thinks. He does anything to win. Even deceive. That’s the truth we all know.

But what do you, Mr. Biden, stand for? Who are you? What are you made of? I want to vote for you.

I won’t vote for Trump. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

And last night, I don’t think Trump won. But I don’t think you did either.

And just because I’m against him doesn’t make me for you. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be for you. I’m just not there yet. I’m looking for more from you. I think we all are.

Give us a reason to believe in you. Give us a reason to follow you.

Don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. Don’t do what you think will affect the polls. Do what you think is right, what will help the people, what will unify this divided nation. That’s what we need. We need real leadership.

We need you to lead.

Reflections on a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe in covid

Humans are not good at finding the truth: Look at science.

There are too many examples of scientists and physicians in history who couldn’t see the truth because they were too entrenched in their own beliefs and ways of thinking.

For example, we all know smoking is bad for us these days. But only seventy years ago, people, even medical professionals, doubted the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

And there’s an even more recent example of people being wrong about the body.

In 1999, Russell Foster made a discovery about the eye that everyone in his scientific community would not believe. He discovered a third photoreceptor cell type that has nothing to do with vision. It only senses brightness to recognize day and night. When he announced his finding, the ophthalmological world found him ludicrous. At a meeting where Foster presented his findings, one member of the audience left, shouting, “Bullshit!”

He did a remarkable experiment to prove his point. He asked a woman who was utterly blind to tell him when the room was light or dark. And as the light went on and off, she told him with complete accuracy when it was light or dark.

His discovery is now taken as gospel, but it sure took him getting a shellacking to get here.

These people, who couldn’t see smoking as a killer or a new receptor in our eyes, weren’t stupid. These were and are scientists, researchers, scholars, doctors. They were intelligent. But they refused to accept the truth.

They were just stuck in a worldview. They were the fish in the proverbial water.

Look, humans have a hard time seeing new facts, new data, even with evidence and research, even if it’s outright true.

Just last week, I talked to someone who doubts covid.

He told me that no one he knows had had it. To him, it’s just a news headline without any evidence in his life or those around him. And all he could see was politicians making decisions that affected his life, his work, his kids. His daughter just got married and had only thirty guests there. All he’s seen is disruption from a force that he doesn’t see.

I tried to tell him that I know people who’ve had the virus, even knew some who’ve died. He didn’t disagree with me, but he didn’t seem convinced either.

These days there’s a lot of disagreeing over facts. And I’ve heard all kinds of words hurled at differing parties. Each side is apparently “stupid” or “foolish” or “misinformed.”

But they’re not. Just as the cigarette toking doctors of the 1950s and profanity yelling ophthalmologists weren’t dumb, neither is the person who disbelieves in covid or the people from the other political party.

The truth is often the hardest to see in the present. When it becomes the past, it’s more easily recognized, accepted—believed. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Today, no one denies that smoking increases our chances of getting lung cancer. It took years to get there.

And I think the virus and the election and the president and all of the things that we argue about these days will also play out, and the “unknown” truth of today will be undeniable tomorrow.

It’s true, humans may be terrible at finding the truth, but the truth does find us.

It just takes time.

New York City Is Not Dead

New York City will thrive again.

Yes, the city seems gutted. But it’s not gone. It feels lifeless but it’s not dead. Just because a creature is still doesn’t mean it has been snuffed out. It’s resting.

More than that, it’s transforming. New York is evolving.

It’s done it in the past; it will do it again. Too many times have skeptics and pessimists said New York was down and died. The 1970s were a dark time, so was 9/11; then there was the financial meltdown down with 2008. But each time it learned and changed and grew. Sure it was knocked down those times before, but each time it came back stronger. Because, when it fell, it learned.

But this time, some may say, is different.

The virus makes the city’s strength, human density, its kryptonite. It’s flipping its power into poison. And the city is on life support. And that’s true.

People are leaving the city. My family and I moved out of our West Village apartment right as the virus caused the city to lockdown in March. We didn’t leave because of the pandemic. We thought it would be better for us to return to our midwestern roots with our growing family. But now, months later, we are hearing from various neighbors and friends about how they are leaving NYC permanently, too. The city is bleeding. And it seems abysmal and terminal.

But doomsayers always seem right when the night is darkest. And in the darkness, they forget the dawn. Sure, there are no assurances that a city will survive a devastating blow like a pandemic. But many think crises are worse when times are bad, believing the worst case before it happens. They have a harder time seeing the horizon or the silver lining. Fear does that. It makes the dark darker and the bad worse. And, in those times, it’s easy to sound right, and smart, by being negative. And, optimism will seem foolish and naive then.

But just as New York overcame overwhelming obstacles in its past, it will do the same now. Fighting is its trademark; it’s codified in its DNA.

I believe in the resilience, ingenuity, tenacity, and spirit of New York City and its people. They fight and possess grit. They might get knocked down when things are tough, but they don’t stay there. They will claw back to their feet. They will create their way out of this, find new avenues to subsist and grow. Yes, many small businesses and companies will not make it out of this—but some will. And new ones will start. Entrepreneurs will discover innovations and business methods and protocols that won’t only help them survive but let them thrive. They will emerge stronger and more resilient and more successful than they ever have been.

That’s the thing about pain and difficulty, it’s dark for a season. But it’s also the spark that ignites creativity, innovation, transformation. And that’s the most critical part. We mustn’t focus on the negative and forget to see that often it’s the darkness that forces us to discover fire.

And I believe New York’s flame is not out. They are just finding a way to build a bigger torch. And when they do, the city’s light will blaze brighter and larger than ever.

One of the best ways to stay motivated

Many of us push ourselves to stay motivated. We force, cajole, pressure, sometimes even yell at ourselves to get going.

But pushing yourself isn’t as effective as being pulled.

I don’t mean being yanked or dragged like a prisoner, no.

I mean something summoning you by an irresistible force, like being in love, where you’re carried forth, wooed, because you want to be, have to be.

And the thing that best pulls us is this.

Purpose.

Purpose gives you meaning

It’s the why we do what we do. It’s the reason for which we live and act and rise.

Purpose gives us meaning.

It clarifies our lives, bringing it into focus, letting us see the reason for living.

Purpose gives you the feeling that you are connected to a bigger plan than just making money, accumulating things, raising your status, lifestyle, and well-being. It’s something you would die for. But more importantly, it’s something you live for.

Purpose propels you further

Purpose is life’s greatest magnet, drawing you forth. It beckons you to attempt greater feats, go farther lengths, pursue higher goals, and achieve more than you could ever imagine.

It provides the oomph to lean into the most challenging seasons of life, face the darkest times, learn in the face of failure. It strengthens us in the face of stress, fatigue, and uncertainty.

Purpose’s purpose

So, if you want motivation, energy, a reason to get out and face the day, don’t spend your time shoving and pushing yourself—no.

Instead, answer this question.

What is your purpose?

Doing that will help you do everything else.


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Jesus is not Republican

He isn’t.

Do you know how I know?

When he lived on this planet, he did not get involved with Roman politics or Israeli politics or run for Galilean office. In his ministry, he did not focus on politics or spend much of his infinite and divine energies fighting the Roman Empire or speaking to the powers of his day, even though he lived during a time when the Roman Empire ruled the Israelites with an iron fist.

Jesus wasn’t about political power

The Roman Empire didn’t exactly uphold human rights. They oppressed many of the lands they occupied, like Israel. Justice wasn’t abounding for those who weren’t citizens. Yet Jesus did not primarily come to address that, not even their oppressive taxing measures. We see that in this famous passage.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, The religious leaders tried to embroil Jesus in a charged issue of taxation, asking, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” And remember, Caesar had put severe taxation requirements on its satellite nations like Israel that put the IRS to shame, which even indebted many people. So when someone asked a question about taxes to Jesus, every ear turned to listen. How could they not? And his response surprised and baffled everyone with its brilliance.

He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God the things that are God’s.” His answer didn’t thwart the land’s law and affirmed the people’s need to stay devoted to God. It was apolitical. It was balanced.

And instead of pursuing political power, he spent his time with twelve obscure men, healing and teaching the poor, rejected, sick, and marginalized. He wasn’t about mobilizing a rebellion or implementing policies or getting votes—no. He was about his Father’s business.

Now you might be wondering, What’s your point? Good question.

Christians want political power

In the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. That says something about the state of Christians and Christianity and the church. I’m a Christian. So I’m not criticizing this faith. But there has been a large shift in how many are expressing beliefs. Christians are more political and more adamant and less open. That’s what I’ve seen in the media and data and even in my relationships with other Christians.

And that makes me wonder, Why are Christians so political, when Jesus was nothing of the sort?

If Christians were honest with themselves, they wouldn’t have a very good biblical reason—especially those who follow Trump. I understand the arguments for him. I am pro-life and see the allure of his political actions. And yes, he has put conservatives on the highest judicial bench in the land. But should we really support him simply for those reasons?

I don’t think so.

Why Christians shouldn’t support Trump

Here’s the reason: Christians are losing credibility and witness with people who don’t believe as we do. Isn’t that what Jesus commissioned us to do? To go and make disciples? But instead, we are alienating others. And why wouldn’t that happen? We are supporting a person who sows division, untruth, racism, discord, and lives in a manner that doesn’t align with Scripture. How could we not be discredited?

I’m not alone in this thinking. The former editor and chief of Christianity Today wrote an article stating that Christians needed to stop following Trump for at least the reason that we can’t truthfully say that we follow the God of love by our political affiliations. Too many have traded the Great Commission for a different agenda.

According to this article, Christians feel powerless and disrespected and unacknowledged, especially those in middle America. And many voted for Trump because he made promises to empower Christians with political power.

But there is one major problem with that.

Why Jesus really lived

Jesus had (and has) ultimate, infinite, all-consuming power, but he didn’t use it to gain significance or lord it over others. No. He used it to lift others up by lowering himself down.

The religious leaders turned him over to the Roman authorities. And Jesus submitted. The magistrates ordered him flogged, beaten, kicked, stripped, crucified, crushed, and killed. He was humiliated. He allowed a lessor power to overpower his unlimited power. He elected to be abandoned by his Father, as they had planned from the beginning of time. Even though he could lift himself off of the cross and wipe away all those who harmed him like gnats and save himself, he didn’t. He absorbed everything, even the judgment of his Father, for our sins.

Why?

Because he loves us, he wanted to save us from our sins, our unrighteousness, our rebellion, our failure to see his Great Commission. He didn’t seek power; he emptied himself of it to fulfill his Father’s plan and love humanity.

And because of that work, you have the living God within you. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, would dwell within you. If that is so, how can you be powerless? And why would you need Trump to give you power? Your power is not one that is rooted on earth but is from Heaven.

The question is, What will you do with that power?

Photo credit: John Tyson

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