Black Squirrel / Gray Squirrel

doubt that this will matter to my Wisconsin friends but I think it will be fascinating to my Southern friends, In Wisconsin (and elsewhere in the Midwest) we have black gray squirrels. They are gray squirrels that have an overabundance of melanin (basically the reverse of albinism). Thus they are pitch black rather than gray.

They are super cool.

Pam and I get excited every time we see one and we now have one living in our backyard. I like to think that they are gray squirrels that have decided to become ninjas … but I can’t verify this.

Pam posted a photo of this little guy yesterday on Instagram but this afternoon I had the chance to take a photo with little blackie and a normal gray squirrel so you can really see the difference. I mentioned to Nancy H yesterday on Pam’s photo how amazingly dark they were and thought this would do a good job of conveying how cool these squirrels are.

Stranger Things Soundproof Houses

Watching Stranger Things with Pam and one thing I have noticed is that apparently everyone else’s house is easier to climb into and much more soundproof than any that I have ever lived in. These people can have very loud conversations in their basement and nobody on the floor above them can hear a single word. Also apparently anybody can climb onto the roof of a house and sneak into a bedroom without anyone noticing. Apparently these people have some very well insulated houses. I’m not sure who built them but movie houses are either high quality work or everyone in Hollywood is deaf.

This American Life Episode on the Travel Ban

If you haven’t listened to the “This American Life” episode on the travel ban (609: It’s Working Out Very Nicely) I would recommend doing so. I believe it does a very good job of putting faces to some of those affected by the ban.

I have embedded it below.

UPDATE – so I was wrong that it was embedded. I’m presently working on fixing the link.

UPDATED UPDATE – not sure why the embeddable player isn’t working on my blog since I copied the code from This American Life’s share feature. Therefore, I am just posting a link here. Go listen to it on their site or better yet subscribe to their podcast and listen to it on your favorite podcasting app. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/609/it%E2%80%99s-working-out-very-nicely

Praying for the President

NOTE – I wrote this blog post a little over a week ago based on some struggles I had been experiencing with people who I care for. I was going to post it right after writing it, then the Executive Order travel ban happened. As a result of the ban I worried at that time because of the circumstances that my post might not be viewed I in the manner I had intended. So I postponed this post until today.

I have said before that I talk politics not politicians at church, chaplaincy, and on this blog but I’m going to break that for the beginning of this post. The reason I am going to break my previous statement is because it is necessary for the subject that I wish to write about – praying for the president.

My friend Kirby, a poli sci professor at Texas A & M, posted a Google Chrome extension (PolitEcho) that analyzes one’s Facebook “friends” and places them on a continuum of political ideology. Below is its analysis of my “friends”.

 

As you can see from the above graphic of my friends, if it is accurate, I am apparently drawn to people who have an extreme range in political thought. I know for a fact that several of my friends are having trouble praying for our current president and I also know that some other friends have had trouble praying for previous presidents. I have heard this as a friend, a pastor, and a chaplain.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 reads as follows:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

That isn’t a suggestion. It is a directive. Following that command is obviously easier when you like the president that is currently in office. It isn’t necessarily very easy if you really don’t like the president and feel like he (and thus far it has always been a “he”) is dangerous for the country.

Yet scripture tells us believers to pray for him. is a pretty big deal since Paul was telling Christians to do this during a political regime that would soon want to kill them. Yes praying for the emperor was smart. It showed that Christians, while having very different values, weren’t trying to overthrow the empire. Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire for many things but the biggest reason was that we were viewed as bad citizens for not being willing to sacrifice and worship the emperor1 . Christianity wants to transform countries, not necessarily depose kings. Praying for Caesar didn’t mean supporting what he was doing in Rome. In fact, the followers of Christ worked to change the world that the Caesars wanted to create. So Paul instructed followers of Christ to pray for their political leaders. This is usually fine and dandy with people when we like the leader.

But not so much when we don’t.

One of my favorite aspects of Anne Lamott’s book “Plan B” is her honesty in admitting that she didn’t want to pray for President George W Bush, a president that I voted for twice. She knew she needed to pray for him because she claimed to follow Christ. She knew that it is written scripture that Christians should pray for their political leaders. Of course, this didn’t mean that she wanted to pray for him. So she prayed for God to help her pray for the president. I love prayer like that and I believe God does too. It reminds me of the father in scripture who prays “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”2 .

I’m convinced that praying for President Trump means asking for God’s best for him while also asking for the best for our country. Asking that the duties of the office of the presidency won’t destroy his marriage or family. That love in his marriage and family will grow during his time in office. Asking the Father to help President Trump to make very difficult decisions and to make the right decisions. To know when to listen and to whom to listen.  Praying for him to be surrounded by people who will offer him good advice and help him to see the American way. Praying for humility for the man who now sits in the oval office. Praying for him to be able to find ways of peace for our country in a world off war. Most importantly praying that God will make himself known to President Trump and that Donald Trump will also know that he himself is known by God. That’s actually a pretty dangerous prayer because while it is best for all of us to encounter God it also tends to flip everything one thinks upside down.

None of the above means that we can’t pray for certain of his policies to be stopped from going into action. Nor does it mean that one can’t pray for his time in office to be as short as possible. It just means that we need to be praying for him and his life. I believe that praying for our leaders affects our attitudes toward them. It might help to love him like Christ does, as a child created in the image of God no matter how marred that image might be. I can pray for President Trump while also praying for policies that I am convinced are more consistent with the American way.


  1. The Emperor Cult was a crucial part of Roman power and the witness of Christians that “Jesus was Lord” was a direct affront to the Roman thought that “Caesar is lord”. 

  2. Mark 9:24 

Two Frederick Douglass Quotes

Just read this quote from Frederick Douglass and loved it.

“Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked.”

Frederick Douglass

In addition I found the passage in the appendix of Douglass’s work “Life of an American Slave”.

I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

Shibboleth

The messages I deliver during Tapestry’s Sunday morning gatherings are usually structured around one book of the Bible at a time. We don’t usually go topical, but it does happen every now and then. This morning I thought it was important to address acting like a follower of Christ in the midst of the results of Friday’s executive order affecting immigration/refugee. Loving our neighbor is supposed to be a shibboleth of the Christian church.

The audio from the introduction to this morning’s gathering is below. Please forgive two things: 1) the audio quality is poor because it is from the room mic, not my mic, and 2) I realized while I was reading from Judges 12:4-6 that I initially mispronounced “shibboleth” as “sibboleth” and decided on the fly that it would cause confusion with two words that sound very similar if I stopped and corrected myself mid-reading. Therefore, I continued the passage swapping “shibboleth” with “sibboleth” and vice versa.

Threads“, several of you asked “what can we do?” The answer is we’re working on that and we need your creativity. At present we are contacting UWSP to see about extending love to the international students and faculty at the university. You will hear more concerning this. We are also trying to contact some international communities in our area to also spread love. For now I encourage you to do two things: 1) Do as  Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us and be a good and loving neighbor – that’s why He ends it with saying “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37), and 2) contact your senators and representative to let them know your thoughts as a follower of Christ concerning how we treat the foreigner. Your senators and rep if you live in the Point area are:

Senator Tammy Baldwin, 717 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, (202) 224-5653, Online Contact twitter

Senator Ron Johnson, 328 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-5323, Online Contact twitter

Representative Ron Kind, 1502 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-5506 Online Contact twitter

No matter your politics, whether you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, or, like me, a mutt please get involved and let vales of followers of Christ be heard concerning the “strangers” in our midst and at our doors.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” on the Bible

Reading From Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale right now and was struck last night by the following quote from it.

The Bible is kept locked up, the way people once kept tea locked up, so the servants wouldn’t steal it.  It is an incendiary device:  who knows what we’d make of it, if we ever got our hands on it?  We can be read to from it, by him, but we cannot read.

The Handmaid’s Tale, p.87

Reminds me that the word of God in the hands of the oppressed has often a thing feared by those in power. This book that so many have but few seem to read contains the word of the freedom giving God. The powerful often try to us the Lord’s words as a means of control but His truth always seeps through their control and that truth ultimately will make people free (john 8:32). He sets the captives free and that is something their captors dread.

Karate Chop The Fear That Keeps Us From Helping Refugees

Yesterday I posted about a list of what you should do every day that I am presently really digging. Johnny Karate’s 5 Karate Moves to Success. Today I’m going to write about one of the things that I believe those of us who claim to follow Christ should karate chop.

Before I begin let me say something that I say at Tapestry pretty frequently. I don’t talk about politicians at Tapestry but I do often talk about politics. Politics are about the policies that our government supports or avoids. My friend, Clint, would say that basically “everything that happens in life is politics”. I would say everything is theological but I understand the similarity and Clint is a really smart guy so I’ll support him on this statement. Policies are issues that the church should be involved in because they involve how we act and operate as a citizenry and country. They reflect our values as a people. It is my opinion that talking about politicians at church, or as a chaplain, diverts me from the mission I have been called to work toward, but talking about policies (i.e. politics) helps to promote that mission. I believe this leads to followers of Christ being a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians because we will become more concerned with getting certain things done than we are with which of the various parties gets credit for the completed actions.

So let’s talk about Christians allowing their fear to determine how we treat refugees and for that matter immigrants also. If you are a follower of Christ you have given up your right to allow fear (other than the fear/awe of God, but that’s a different thing) to determine your actions. You gave up that right when you declared Jesus as Lord. To declare that Jesus is Lord means that He has the right to determine how we lead our lives and we have agreed to follow His directives. If you don’t recognize Him as Lord that’s another matter, but if we declare Him to be Lord then we have no right to allow fear to keep us from doing what He wants. That’s why so often his messengers (the meaning of the word aggelos, ἄγγελος, angel) begin their messages from Him with the phrase “do not be afraid”1 .

And the thing is we know how He wants us to respond to those in need and the foreigners in our midst. Scripture makes this very clear. There are too many references to list here2 but I think Deuteronomy 10:19 does a good job of summarizing the intent of them. It states, “and you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Love! That is the command we have been given by our Lord. We are to love the foreigner and there is no debate about it. As the wonderful contemporary theologians DC Talk reminded us “love is a verb” and therefore we need to be active in our love toward the weak.

Jesus continues the thought of the Old Testament in His parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. I have mentioned this parable on the blog before and I am pretty sure that I reference in conversations around Tapestry about once a month. Basically Jesus says in the parable that we better be on the look out for Him in the personages of those in need. The way we respond to these “least of these” is our response to Jesus ((Matthew 25:40)) .

Please noticed that I haven’t spoken about any of the political parties in this post. Neither of the two primary, dominant, political parties has done that great of job with refugees and immigrants. My friend, fellow pastor, and immigration lawyer, Scott Hicks recently posted an article referring to former President Obama as the Deporter-in-Chief on the same day that he advised immigrants to avoid Butler County, Ohio because of President Trump’s executive order concerning immigrants. Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ should demand more from all our politicians rather than thinking our party is doing a good job with refugees and immigrants. We should be concerned with treating those who are different from us in a Christ like manner, not just concerned about whether our party is in power or not. Like I said earlier we should be a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians and we can’t do that if we allow our fears to keep us from doing what we have been commanded to do by our Lord.

As I was just reminded by the excellent religious commentary “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events3 the Hebrew word miṣwāh means both “command” and “blessing”. For those who claim to be disciples of the messiah doing what God has commanded is not just obeying our Lord but is also the giving and receiving of a blessing. Jesus described this by stating “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”4 To do the will of God is a blessing, as we can’t let our fear overcome us and keep us from the blessing of the command of God.

We can and should have serious debate about how best to care for refugees and immigrants, but if you are a follower of Christ you cannot allow your fear to keep you from jumping in to help the weak. We need to karate chop our fear.


  1. Luke 1:30 is just one example 

  2. Relevant Magazine has a good online article describing what the Bible says about how we are to treat refugees. 

  3. Yep Pam and I are watching the first episode as I type this post 

  4. Luke 11:28