Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What are we teaching our kids?

What are we teaching our kids?

Humpty Dumpty falls to his death and even before the advent of Obamacare, there is no helping him.

Jack and Jill go up a hill, yet disaster awaits them.  Tumbles and a broken skull and who knows how many unreported injuries—that’s the storyline of this classic.

The other Jack, aka Jack Be Nimble, fairs well in this short rhyme except he suffers a burned toe in the end.  Again, our nursery rhymes are filled with death or injury, though I think a little Silvadene would do the trick here.  I’ve had some bad burns.  This is good stuff.

Little Miss Muffet isn’t injured but flees the scene of her story in fear of a spider.  I guess if you can’t mix in some death and broken bones, fear will suffice.

Three mice who were already handicapped by blindness end up losing their tails.  Their main appendage is not only severed but cut off with a carving knife.  Was that the same knife used to carve the Thanksgiving turkey or ham?  Be careful where you go eat if you are ever invited over for a nursery rhyme meal.

I don’t know what to think of the rhyme about the piper’s kid.  He stole a pig, ate it, and got beaten for it.  The tale ends with Tom crying.  I guess this teaches justice, but today somebody would have called child services when the kid was beaten for stealing a pig. 

OK, the pig might have been slang for a pastry so it’s not like he ate a whole hog.  There is more to this story in some cases.  Tom becomes a musician, plays so well that pigs and cows even dance, but in the end,  milk is spilled and equipment was broken.

Maybe the only sensible rhyme is about the little piggies.  One goes shopping, one stays home (I don’t know if that includes on Black Friday or not), one has roast beef, and yet another goes without.

And yes, one has a bladder control problem.  What?  Wee, wee, wee all the way home. Must we make this an issue to sing about?

I am not sure what we are teaching our kids as they memorize these rhymes.  Only in my grandfather days have I begun to review the words more closely, and there is one rhyme that struck a nerve with me.

It comes from the Farmer in the Dell, a seemingly harmless rhyme, that is until you examine the social impacts of the words.

We should ask, no, we must ask:  Why must the cheese stand alone?

Why must the cheese stand alone?  Why must it be ostracized?  It’s no wonder that the default setting on most online conversations these days is vitriol when we even demean the cheese.

I am amazed that we have survived as a society this long passing these nursery rhymes along to each successive generation.

That’s just nursery rhymes.  What about this lullaby?

Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

How did this one get past Child Protective Services?  Who puts their cradle in the tree?  Why do we still sing this song?

Is it just for the rhyme?  Then give me some Green Eggs and Ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am.

Is it for the simple yet catchy tune?  What are we inadvertently teaching our children?


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Value Life

The national conversation has been sidetracked as a war between the NRA and kids leading rallies.  The national conversation must focus on what matters—valuing life.  It’s good that these young people want to be involved and are passionate and that this country provides among other liberties, the right to free speech.  It’s also includes freedom for organizations such as the NRA and ACLU to espouse what they believe as an extension of those whom they represent, but there is so much effort being expended by so many without any clear focus on the precipitating issue.  What issue?

Life—human life from the first heartbeat in the womb to the last heartbeat whenever that may be—has value.  It is sacred. 

I listened to some of the speakers at today’s rallies.  I hear politics but not life.  I hear elections but not solutions.  I hear a nation that wants to proceed without God.  I hear calls for fundamental changes without a true moral compass. 

I feel the emotions of many but see the lack of clarity.  Those behind the scenes who deny God and want him to be completely alienated in our land are pushing an agenda that is not about safety or guns or schools or even the welfare of our children.  It’s about power, worldly power, that defies God.
I haven’t heard anything from today’s events that would turn this nation back to God.  May God have mercy on us all for our own godless desires have consumed us.

God is a forgiving God.  Let’s return to him before it’s too late.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I choose respect!

Time and time again I see that people—many of my generation—have chosen to be victims.  The biggest indicator here is respect.  Many feel that they cannot respect our president for a laundry list of reasons.  That’s just a lie.

Respect is something that we own or choose not to own.  Many say, I can’t respect a man or a woman who…  You can fill in the blank.  The truth is that we choose to be people of respect or people of disrespect.  Respect is about us and not the other person.

Respect is not like.  There are a lot of people that I don’t really like.  There are a lot of policies that I don’t like.  There and people and policies that I don’t like when they are paired.  But if the man is the president of this republic, he will receive my respect.  If it is the law of the land, it receives my respect and usually my compliance.

The beauty of our democratically based republic is that both people and laws may be changed.  There is no need to demean those we don’t like.  When we do, we demean ourselves.

I really did not find much to celebrate during the 8 years of the Obama administration.  I thought Obamacare crippled many a working person and many small businesses; nonetheless, I still respected the office of the President of the United States, prayed for him frequently, and abided by the laws of the land.

Today, men and women that I once thought worthy of calling friend have opted for disrespect as a way of life.  They say they can’t do anything else.  It is out of their control.  That’s just not true. 

The truth is that respect is always within our own control.  It is not governed by the actions of another.  I don’t ask anyone to like our president.  If he wanted likes, he would have started Trumpbook and enjoyed the rest of his days without the hate he is bombarded with daily.  He was elected by the longstanding laws of our nation and is our president. 

Our part is to respect the office and our laws.  One day, he won’t be president anymore. Many who broadcast hate and disrespect now can’t wait for that day, but I wonder if anyone will remember what respect was.  I doubt it because it was never about the one whom received your disrespect.  It is always about the one choosing to wield it.  It has always been about who we are.

Contend for your cause with all the passion that you can muster but remember our political and philosophical differences do not make us enemies.  Respect is our choice.

I choose respect!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

About that Jimmy Carter quote...

About once a quarter I see the picture of President Jimmy Carter circulating with a quote attributed to him abut using tax dollars to help the poor if we want to call ourselves a Christian nation.  It has a certain ring to it.  I respect the good works that President Carter has done since he left office.  His grace and service and a wonderful model, but there are a couple of problems with the quote.

First, Jimmy Carter didn’t say this.  It sounds like something that he would have said but he didn’t.  Next, the principle being put forth is from the world not from God.

Hold your holy horses, Tom; how can you say that.  It’s about helping the poor.  C’mon that’s got to be directly from God. 

God’s directions and the teachings of Jesus are given to us.  We are to speak the truth, love our neighbor, help the poor, and bring people into the family of faith so that they know abundance.   Abundant life is for all and the Lord’s directions are to his people.  The problem with this quote is that it delegates loving our neighbor to our government. 

When people are overlooked, we can blame the government.  When people abuse the system, we can blame the government.  We can wash our hands of this whole love your neighbor business and turn it over to the government. 

That sounds like a plan and it is.  It is just not God’s plan.  We have conformed to the patterns of the world long enough.  It’s time to get back to God’s way of helping the poor.

Do you realize that if every Christian tithed, yes tithe means 10% and you don’t have to tithe to receive your salvation, but if everyone Christian tithed, God’s storehouse would be full?  What does that mean?  The church could help the poor as it was designed to do.   

Government programs would be next to irrelevant and God’s people who tithed would be blessed beyond measure.  That’s God’s model.

If we want to be a Christian nation, we must first be a nation of Christians.  A Christian by definition is one belongs to and who follows Jesus.  Jesus is our Lord and Master.  We obey his commands and they are not burdensome to us. 

Christians don’t look to government for how to love our neighbor.  We look to the commands of our Lord.  If we truly follow Jesus, we will give far beyond the tithe and the poor need not be poor anymore.  And let’s not forget, we won’t just give out food and money.  We will bring people into the body of Christ where they will know true abundance that we know through inclusion. 

President Jimmy Carter has been a wonderful model of Christian service over these past three decades.  Let’s not discredit his good works by attaching faulty thinking to his picture.  Let’s be a nation of Christians first.  Being known as a Christian nation will follow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jesus always met the physical need before the spiritual need?

Here’s one that you hear a lot, even from longtime Christians. 

“Jesus always met the physical need before attending to the spiritual need.” 

It’s just not so.  Read your Bibles.  Jesus always took care of what was most important.  That most often involved the truth or forgiveness or some manner of teaching and instruction.  Where there was seemingly unprompted healing, Jesus noted that it was faith that was first present.   He came to earth on a mission to take care of the most important thing—being the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Does that mean that we don’t take care of physical needs?  Of course not.  We are to help people who are hungry, need clothing, and even in prison; but this idea that has permeated the last several decades of church thinking has been destructive.  Why?

Because too often we meet the physical need—food, help with a bill, gas money, etc.—and forget to share the gospel.  We never get around to inviting people to come and know the Lord and enjoy the fellowship of believers.  Sure, we throw in a “God loves you” with every basket of food and a couple of invitations to a church service, but we bury the lead.

We are people who belong to the Lord, share his good news, and are doing our best to have God’s heart and desire—that none perish.  We are being made into love as he is Love.  How can we relegate the good news that we carry to an afterthought?

Why does this matter?  We must conform to the pattern of the world no more.  The Lord, not the world, must define our ministries.  The good news can never be reduced to an afterthought or be of secondary importance.

Let’s reach out with the gospel, connect the disconnected, and bring all of God’s children into the fellowship of believers where they know true abundance.  This is love.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear America

Dear America,

My heart is warmed that we still have freedom of speech.  I pray that we acquire the wisdom to use it well.

My eyes brighten when I see the children who will soon take charge of our future.  My we bring them up in the way they should go now with respect for authority, discipline, and love for each other.

My pulse quickens whenever the National Anthem is played and Old Glory is honored; yet I see so many who are ignorant that of all the nations in the world, this one is built to work for the people.  They protest the symbol of the Grand Experient.  I pray that they study history and see what a blessing we have.  I pray that we learn to wisely use the liberties that symbol affords.

My heart is troubled when we say hateful things against our president because we don’t like him; yet we are livid when someone talks that way to our children at school.

My heart aches when all I hear is clamor about the senseless loss of life in a school shooting; yet the voices that speak for the murdered unborn are given no venue.  Can we not value all life?

I am slow to anger as I am counseled to be, but I am angry when those elected to do good seek to do nothing, or worse, to do harm to our nation.

I do not know despair because of the blood of Christ Jesus.  My future is secure, but I hurt to know that this country is growing farther and farther away from God and his goodness.  I want America to be a wholesome place for my grandchildren and their children.

I am cheated out of abundance as I can no longer have a civil conversation with many of my friends and relatives.  Why can we no longer talk and respect each other in spite of our differences?  Why must hate or hatred of someone or something be a part of every discussion?  I miss conversation.

Dear Mr. President,

Were you a professional football coach or a war hardened soldier, people would probably not be upset at many of the things you say and do, but you are our president.  A big part of the reason that you were elected is that you did not and do not play by the rules of Washington and life-long politicians.  I understand that comes with some rough edges.  Some don’t understand and have become fixated on your imperfections.

I admire your resilience.  Millions attack you daily; yet you come back strong every time.  Most would have thrown in the towel by now and let America continue its downward spiral.  I commend you for your resilience and zeal towards making America great.  Press on towards the goal.

I charge you to balance your zeal for America with the best practices of professional conduct, while not becoming like those who live to obstruct goodness in the name of their self-gratifying desires.  I am glad that you are in Washington, but don’t go native.  Continue to be the outsider who represents most God-fearing, hardworking, and patriotic Americans.

Dear Congress,

Of all the eras of representation that our great nation has known, yours is the worst of them.  I speak to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.  You were sent by good people to do good things.  You spend all your time fixing blame on someone or something; yet, you fail to fix anything that is in need of your action.  You call for investigations of miniscule matters yet have forgotten how to legislate workable solutions for what matters most.

When I heard the immigration, proposal offered by the President at the State of the Union address, I could not have discerned whether it was first drafted by Democrat or Republican; yet, the matter that has been ignored for half a century looks like it will be gridlocked by polarized interests that are put above American’s interest.

Every time you play the Brinkmanship game with the budget, you tell the American people that we sent the wrong people to represent us once again.

Republicans, you dropped the ball—big time—in harping on something better than Obamacare and then had no consensus to move forward.  Elsewhere in the world, you would have been fired on the spot.

Democrats, your mission is not to obstruct everything the President of the United States is seeking to do.  I love loyal opposition.  I cannot stand contempt.  You should all be fired for your contempt.

Our nation is divided enough as it is without the efforts of both parties to insist on their own way in everything.  If you are not going to work for the nation, please do the honorable thing and resign, go home, and be silent.  You are on the playing field now but you behave as if you are on the sidelines.  Lead, follow, or get out of the way. 

To every American,

We must step up to this business of self-government.  Our legislators are not doing a good job.  Fire them.  Find someone who will represent us balancing the needs of many and the best interest of our nation, casting aside everyone who would buy their interests and votes.

It’s time to put into office people who love America more than they love hearing their own voices.  It is time to elect some hard-working people who won’t stop working once they get to Washington.

And when we find these people and elect them, let’s reward them by not reelecting them.  That’s right.  Everyone should just serve one term.  Professional politician should be an oxymoron.  The reason that we have them is because it is easy to reelect someone.

We need to take back our government.  That means that we have to do some work every year, actually every month. 

To my own state government,

Pay our teachers!  This is not a matter of funding, but priorities.  Education should be at the top of our priorities.  Something near the bottom of what we say is important can take a hit.  This has gone to the point where you need to fix this or go home.

The rest you can squabble over as usual.  Fix teacher pay and do it now.

I am still proud to be an American.  I love Oklahoma.  I believe that we still have hope in this nation and I have not given up on Americans.  We are off the mark, but I believe that we can recover and be even better than we were in the past.  For those who have had their chance to serve the people but have only served themselves, hang it up.  We want statesmen not politicians.

Semper Fidelis,

Tom Spence

Friday, February 23, 2018

Passion without contempt

I have indulged myself over the past few days by venturing into social and political discussions that I usually skip on by doing my best to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus—the Author and Finisher of my faith, but sometimes you just have to jump into the fray, especially when all dignity has been cast aside.

I don’t know if I have contributed to the productive discourse of our great but sometimes ever so fragile republic, or just entertained myself in a unique way as if I were smoking a Cuban cigar and enjoying a glass of Sangria from south of the border (pre-wall vintage).

I pray that we incline ourselves to more civil discourse.  Passion is wonderful.  Zeal must abound.  Debate is fantastic.  The synergy of diverse ideas produces the best results, but condemnation of our brothers and sisters and contempt for our leaders are forces directly from Satan.  They are the darkest side of our human nature.  Do not be deceived, hate and contempt are not effective communication tools.  The one who tells you that they are has your destruction in mind and is celebrating with your every vile word.

For those who do not claim Jesus as Lord, this likely is a meaningless appeal.  The command not to judge (condemn) others, the command to love each other, and the direction to not only respect those in authority but pray for them are only words in a book.  But for those who do claim to follow Jesus, these are standing orders.  We are not relieved of them because we don’t like who got elected, do or don’t like guns, or think the Constitution to be antiquated or immutable. 

If we can’t post and comment without condemnation of others,  or if we cannot bring ourselves to love each other as Christ loved us in our words and deeds, or if we can’t express our point being respectful of those in authority; then we need to log off, pray, study our Bibles, pray some more, practice loving one another in person, and do some inspection to determine how much lumber we need to extract from our own eyes, before we even think about logging back on to this media that begs us to bring acrimony and vitriol.

Decide this day whom you will serve.  Is it the gods of hate, vitriol, acrimony, ambivalence that abound online?  As for me and my house and our posts, we serve the Lord!