Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Does the Bible really matter to Evangelicals?

Bill Huizenga, I believe is a good man. He represents the second district for the U.S. House of Representatives - the district where I have lived my entire life.

He says, and I must believe, he is a follower of Jesus. Yet, his politics seem quite different to me.

Bill does not believe in immigration reform. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat the stranger.

Bill does not believe in comprehensive health care. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat our neighbor.

Bill does not believe in equal rights for women in the workplace. The biblical text is clear about how we are all created equally in the image of God.

Bill does not believe in climate change. The biblical text is clear how we are to be caretakers of the creation. 

Bill does not believe in supporting the poor through programs that would increase pay for this segment of society. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat the poor, and it is not simply a mandate for 'churches.' It is a mandate for all of society to pursue justice and mercy and doing what is right. 

Bill does believe in lower taxes, less government intervention, a belief that business is always good and desires the best for our society, and he is against abortion. Of these, only the later has any sort of biblical basis. 

How then do we support elected officials who holds to one biblical claim, and on this one claim, we vote for him or her? How do we support elected officials who make claims but believe and vote otherwise? If followers of Jesus believe the gospel is good news, then its time we get serous about who we support.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

By Jon Huckins
jonhuckins.net


A Benediction of Hope


BorderPrayerIn a world currently enduring so much violence, pain and trauma, it would be easy for us, the People of God, to stick our head in the sand of discouragement.
Instead, let’s pray this together:
May we daily submit ourselves first and foremost to the rule and reign of Jesus, praying, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
May we, the people of God, choose to live fueled by the hope Resurrection rather than held captive by the fear of death. 
May we, the people of God, choose to rightly place our allegiance in Jesus and his kingdom rather than become slaves to the kingdoms of this world.
May we, the people of God, choose to embrace the way of the Cross and freely give away power for the flourishing of others as we join God in the world he is making. 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as our human family endures a season of trauma, may your image rise in each of us so that we can offer and receive love in the most unexpected people and places.  Amen

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Representative Huizenga Responds...


Dear Mr. Buist:

Thank you for contacting me about immigration reform. I appreciate hearing from you.

A workable and effective immigration bill is an important objective of the House of Representatives, and the discussion should certainly recognize America's immigrant heritage and respect the enormous contributions of immigrants by encouraging and enforcing legal immigration.

The focus, however, must remain on border security and a legal identification process rather than providing amnesty. Individuals who break the law as their first act on American soil should not be rewarded with a path to citizenship.

Instead of amnesty, a reasonable and practical guest worker program should be implemented for those who want to come here for a limited time in order to gain employment. For example, Michigan's agricultural output often depends on the work of immigrants willing to do the hard work of farming. A guest worker program would mutually benefit both employer and employee.

I will advocate for rational and balanced immigration reform that opposes amnesty, ensures more secure borders, urges respect for the rule of law, does not reward illegal behavior, and provides economic justice for hardworking Americans.

Thank you for the message. Should any bill come before the House of Representatives for a vote, I will keep your views in mind.

Sincerely,

Bill Huizenga
Member of Congress

~ So disappointed how my reformed Christian U.S. Representative almost completely disregards the biblical text in his views of 'the stranger', 'the foreigner, 'the alien.'

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Taken Hostage by...


So we have 50 million people without health insurance, and we're just fine with that reality so long as it doesn't cost us anything personally. How have we as Jesus followers allowed our politics and passion for our money to estrange us so far from the gospel message?

I care less about the ACA, but nobody has proposed anything better nor has one party or the other shown a particular passion for those without health care. Yet we've been conned into supporting one position or the other with virtually no regard for the ethic of Jesus to care for our neighbors. The entire argument is premised on 'what it will cost me.' Are we our brother's keepers?

In the midst of our highly individualistic goals of chasing the American dream of collecting stuff rather than chasing after virtue, I suggest the answer is simply 'not really.' While we can do things as individuals that have value for the poor or for our neighbor, without a cohesive care as a society for such issues as health care, these issues will remain and likely grow bigger as the chasm of those with and without wealth continues to grow larger. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

What Is It Mr. Huizenga?

Immigration reform was the topic at a roundtable discussion in Zeeland last week Tuesday. Dr. Tim Brown of Western Seminary started the meeting with a call for those gathered to live into the biblical text and support the strangers in our lands. Fifty business owners, clergy, and other leaders of the 2nd District gathered to share concerns, listen to one another's stories, and raise a voice towards Representative Huizenga's office that immigration reform is of utmost importance.

Greg VanWoerkom, District Director for Huizenga's office, was on hand to share their official talking points about the complexity of immigration reform. The talking points that former Rep. Peter Hoekstra used within the district to keep the peace during his tenure in the U.S. Congress remain the same even though we are into our forth years of Huizenga's leadership.

In D.C. House Speaker Boehner is not making any movement on immigration reform. Political strategists suggest nothing will happen on this issue until mid 2014 when the electoral process is closed to potential candidates. Then the far right will not be able to  run more Tea Party candidates nor will those supporting immigration reform have passionate candidates enter into the races across this country.

So we hope for immigration reform, but we have few men or women elected to D.C. with a passion for the 12 million people living in daily fear of deportation. The faith and convictions of our forefathers who established this nation is forgotten quickly in the name of power, salaries, and pensions that quickly consume the souls of men.

To ask Representative Huizenga for passion on this issue is a mute point. The far-right of his district, along with donors, has his heart set on luke-warm and his passion directed towards other issues such as commerce and House appointments. Forgotten are the days when men and women held political office for the sake of real conviction other than to represent some ideology that has no foundation in the faith of his constituents.

It is high time Representative Huizenga comes out with a clear statement on his views towards immigration reform so that those of us who believe in the goodness of the gospel message can in fact consider another candidate for our district before the April filing deadline.

Mr. Huizenga, please let us know something of your character regarding this issue. Simple talking point of how your predecessor, Mr. Hoekstra, immigrated legally to this nation has nothing to do with the current discussion. That was a different day. To suggest there are similarities is like talking about the internet as a reality in the 1960's. It is beyond comprehension to compare those time with this current reality in America, and we need leadership by men and women with conviction.

Either we ask you to find the convictions of humble men of days gone by such as Samuel Adams and George Washington or more recently of Paul Henry and Vern Ehlers or simply return home. It is time for leadership with real conviction that is not concerned about the consequences of the next election.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Immigration Reform - In accordance with Founding Father Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams, called the Father of the Revolution by Thomas Jefferson, is known more for a beer company than a Founding Father. A deeper look of his life, however, and one begins to realize the Revolution may not have taken place without his years of pushing the colonist to understand the importance of their own freedoms which were not fully realized under English rule.

In 1772, Adams wrote that all men have a right, "In cases of intollerable Oppression, Civil or Religious, to leave the Society they belong to, and enter into another."

Here was the patriot, who perhaps more than any other, so clearly melded his Christian faith and his fervor for independence from England. Here was the man, when Hancock and Jefferson were skeptical of succession, who continued to push forward.

What if we too, as people passionate about the ways of Jesus, actually hold our faith as the primary reason why immigration reform must happen? What if we push our politician, call them out, and again remind them of the biblical story of God with his people. Indeed, the stranger in the land is to be embraced. It is not about 'illegal' or 'legal' whether men and women have God given rights to life and liberty. This is a right given to us a humans created in the image of a Creator. It is past time for followers of Jesus to stand up on this issue in unity.

Overheard at a recent gathering on this issue of immigration, one local and connected business person stated, "What does an elected official or a businessman have to gain by supporting immigration reform?" A response by another bystander was something along the lines, "Because they are followers of Jesus." Indeed, we can allow ourselves to not chase after immigration reform. After all, we're already legal Americans. We have nothing at stake. Or perhaps we have everything at state if our public witness is no witness to the gospel story. Either we believe the God of the creation resides among his people and calls us to justice and kindness or we believe an entirely different story.

This coming Tuesday, February 18 at 3 p.m., there is a significant gathering taking place at City on a Hill in Zeeland. Find the time and courage to voice your hope for immigration reform. Local leaders will be present, and together, those of us with faith can truly stand for what is right. It is time regardless of what D.C. is telling us. It is time to embody the faith we so proclaim.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dreaming of a Schwartz-less Christmas!


A longtime Lions fan I am. And I still long for a Wayne Fontes kind of season where my team performs beyond their likely capability. This is not that season. Again.

On Monday night why did we know that 61 yard field goal would be good before it was even kicked? Deep down we believed it was likely it would be good. And why did we know that botched two point conversion would bite us in the behind? 

We knew it because we are Lions fans. We’ve come to expect mediocrity from what most every NFL announcer declares as “One of the most talented teams” in the league. Dang. What is going wrong then?

We can talk owner and top management. Unfortunately we can protest all we want, but the Ford family is not selling regardless of how good or bad they are for our team. We’re stuck with them.

So let’s talk someone who we can protest. Sure, our head coach is a likable guy. One writer who went to high school with him wrote about how smart he. But. What about all that talent. Ponder these things and suggest I am wrong if you will?

Stafford is still a young quarterback. He has more than a cannon for an arm. He could throw it underhand fifty hards if he wanted. But this is the NFL. Sidearm throws, not getting that back let set, and his mechanics are messed up whenever he so chooses. Why has this coaching staff not taught him how to play this game?

He is accurate when he sets. He is smart when he chooses. He could still be an elite quarterback. Yet he trows interceptions like candy at the Christmas parade, and nobody on the sidelines ever gets upset with him. I keep thinking - Get in his freaking face. He’s getting paid millions. Teach him something!  

Then I realize on third and one yard and again on third and two yards, both intercepted passes, were thrown three yards downfield. Who calls that play? My eleven year old son is sitting shaking his head after seeing each of those plays. This is not football. This is stupid. Manning nor Brady make those throws because those plays are not called from their respective sidelines. Why then make our young quarterback make those throws?
Developing a quarterback is also about image. Can Stafford lead? It seems the Ford family knows something about projecting image. Why has nobody told Stafford that  wearing a backwards hat after games makes him look like a punk instead of a leader. I love Stafford, but that hat! Can not the coach tell him that he needs to become a leader? Seriously, leadership is about moving beyond college quarterbacking. Help him grow up. That is your job Jim Schwartz.

Focus. Focus. Focus. For the diehard Lions fans we know it. We just do not want to admit it. Our great talent is not focused. Or at least they are not focused for an entire game. The defensive line jumps offside like school children standing at spooky doors on Halloween. Stupid. Very stupid, Unsportsman penalties are also about focus. Every second of every play really does count. How many times do we shake our heads wondering ‘Why did he just do that’ about any given player on our beloved team?  

Megatron. We all love him. He is our candy even in this bittersweet season. We know he is capable of so much more though. Why does the club not hire good psychologist to work with him on focus if necessary. He just needs to be coached. Coaches make players better. They are not indifferent when our best player leads the leauge in dropped passes.  

Time to resign. With a one point lead and just over a minute to play, the Ravens were facing forth down. Instead of taking a timeout in case another score was necessary, Schwartz watched the clock run down another thirty seconds. Did he not realize the best kicker in the league would probably make the field goal? Those of us who were watching and not paid to coach that game all knew. We knew. To shrug this off suggests there was not even one assistant coach on the sideline with a headset asking the question. TIMEOUT!!!

The thought of all that talent getting older with the same coach on the sideline again next summer must be painstaking for Lions fans. eWe have not found a coach to support since Wayne Fontes at least motivated players and got us to the playoffs more years than not. We are the ones paying tickets, watching idiotic television commercials so we can watch the game. We are even buying club gear this Christmas season. We deserve better.

We like you coach. We just are not winning. Give us a Christmas present and resign with dignity. You deserve it. Your players deserve it. And so do we. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

frustrated

Snow flakes big and fluffy being swept down Grand Rapids streets this morning. Sunshine is fleeting between clouds. And one of the best orthopedic surgeons just told me that my left knee has tendinosis. "I know this will require a lifestyle change" were some of his words.

Sigh. Six years ago an ambulance ride to the ER and numerous doctor visits later along with a rough  couple of months, and I was diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression. For someone who generally had life together, this was not received with great embrace. 

Yet, I've generally been able to control and deal with that crap. Sometimes it means living a lament and other times it has been a source of relating to others with mental illnesses. Other times it is a distant memory. 

Not the idea of physical limitations is not keen to me. I still want to run my first 25k race. I still want to run a marathon. I'm only 47, and most days I feel more like 34 or 28 in terms of health. Damn knee.

So I'm treating myself to my favorite coffee spot on the entire earth. There are people here. Crying or weeping seem not like an option. Surgery will immobilize me for three months, and there is only a decent rate of significant improvement. As the surgeon said, "It it was a torn meniscus, we could fix it."

Instead, I face this. Not knowing how much pain a short run can cause and not knowing if or when surgery should become a reality. The concept of physical limitations was never any sort of reality in my life. Considering the idea makes my teeth chatter together. My top teeth bite at my lower lip wanting to push this tendinosis thing away from me. 

This snow is beautiful at one level. At another it's just damn cold creeping into the beautiful Michigan landscape for four months. And on this day three sets of 24 hours before Thanksgiving I am not feeling so thankful. Or at least when thinking of the health of my body. I want to feel like 34 again.

And for now I need to figure out lament that can move me in a positive way. Or just lament.






Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Some days...

Yesterday eight members of Congress got arrested outside the Capital building. They had joined a large group of others to protest the issue of immigration. 

For months the U.S. House has had a bill already passed by the Senate, but the House leadership refuses to take it up for debate and an eventual vote. Instead, they've sat on it. 

Regardless of your political position, consider this with me: Only one of the eight members of Congress arrested yesterday were white males. Yes, one. 

Why did eight representatives believe it was worth being arrested, but only one white male believed so? Please don't call me arrogant for this, but some days I wonder what our nation would look like if it was not led by a group of us who has been the dominant power for the past three hundred years? 

I wonder what it really looks like to be a minority in a nation of minorities that is still governed largely by white males? No members of Congress were arrested for going through barriers at the WWII Memorial. At least I didn't hear about it. 

Yesterday eight members of Congress actually stood up for their constituents and a large segment of our nations population too. Only they got arrested. They were mostly minorities. 

On days like this, when I consider issues like this, I wish I could walk in their shoes. Sure, I know that my inner self would want to return to the comfortable world of white-male power. This is my reality. But I deeply long for our elected officials to know one another's reality beyond their own power and desire to get re-elected. 

If we were to really take these risks, we would have an immigration bill that would be passed by now. Instead, we've chosen to allow our elected officials in the U.S. House to continue -- because it really is mostly about us and our own self-interests. 

Nobody got arrested opening the WWII Memorial in the face of security officers telling us that we couldn't. Instead we gloated to our constituents that we could stand in the face of police, security forces and Park Rangers and have our way. And today our nation is no better for it. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Spectacular Day in Kenya!


Awoke to rain last night. It’s raining again tonight too. Elijah, our Kenyan director, always proclaims, “Rain is a blessing!” in his baritone voice. While it is not snow like currently is falling from the sky in Michigan, there has been plenty of rain here during the past two weeks. Plenty enough.

Today the local church had declared the day ‘Youth Sunday’ so all the kids from the Kenya Matters home were involved with the leading of the service today. Today the Kenyans outdid most American churches. When they declare ‘Youth Sunday’ they allow a teenager to give the message, collect the offerings, and lead the entire service. And what a job of leadership these thirty orphan kids along with some of the other local kids did today! They were amazing. They would have been amazing had they been Americans or Kenyans. They would have been amazing had they had two parents or no parents. I am so proud tonight.

On most days I’m appreciative of my own three children. Tonight I am so impressed and appreciative of thirty orphan children who are making a way in this world that is impressive. Sure, they will have their stumbles along the way, but today. Today was John Ngugi, the class clown if you will, as a sixteen year old teenager leading the worship service. For anyone who knows this kid, you’re thinking, ‘You must be kidding me.’ No. I am not. Tonight my heart is full.

Our Kenyan director, Elijah Wachira, had the vision for this endeavor ten years ago. Today we have kids orphan children who are growing into adults, and they’re doing it with determination and conviction and character. Something good began when this project took wings in 2005, and  today I had the opportunity to see orphan  children soar. Well done Elijah and staff. You have shaped lives that this world often gives up on, but these kids are not giving up. They are doing quite the opposite.

And I suppose that is enough for a great day in Kenya, but then there was a soccer game. For forty dollars we grabbed a local van owner and headed off to see a great match between two of the best amateur teams in this part of Kenya. There was no admission fee. Just the cost of the van.

And with those forty dollars we got a ride to and from the game. And I had the opportunity to watch a dozen boys, a handful of girls, and a few adult chaperones enjoy a great game. And yes, we all fit in that one van. This is Kenya, and we do things Kenyan style here.

So this day concludes with the rain on the roof, having shared conversations and worship and soccer and real life… and my heart and soul are full. I’ve spent nearly three months on Kenyan soil over the past five years. And today is one that rates right at the top.

To all who have supported these kids, thanks. To those who have yet to do so, jump on this train. It’s going in a good direction, and life is too short to miss this one.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back to Kenya at 40,000 Feet


We’re now midway through our flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, and the plane is hushed. The cabin lights are off with the exception of a few reading lights and the glow of small screens showing movies. A college student sits a few seats away and is working on something that appears to be important to her.

A few minutes ago I had gotten up to stretch. In the process I met two ladies likely in their sixties who are going to be spending ten days floating down the Rhine. A mother was feeding her infant while her husband attempted sleep.

My kids, on the other hand, are more like their dad. I doubt there will be much sleep on this flight tonight. Its somewhat of a strange thing. We took off at 4 p.m., were served dinner two hours later, and nearly half the plane is trying to sleep at 8 p.m. It begs me to ask why so many people can sleep at this time of day?

Are our lives so filled with busyness that we crave sleep even at 8 p.m.? Or perhaps there is a possibility that people can fall asleep much easier than me. I recall taking naps in the middle of the day on those trips from Michigan to Colorado when I was a kid, waking up in a different state without realizing the boredom, was pretty cool. Waking up was even better when we had changed time zones.  So perhaps sleep is a means to kill the boredom and wake up bouncing onto the runway in Amsterdam is the prize.

Regardless though, flying distances is an odd thing. We walk onto a plane with hundreds of people whom we do not know by name, place, or nation. Yet, we are stuck together at 40,000 feet hanging in the atmosphere for eight hours with no way to leave these people. Some of us will strike up conversations or sell their wares to perspective clients while others simply speak only to the flight attendants between their studies, games, or movies.

What to think of it all I do not know. To imagine Freud or Shakespeare reflecting on an oddity such as this would intrigue. Yet, one thing is certain; we are all up here, and we are all in this together. Perhaps this is the way of Kenya Matters too. For those who have traveled with us, and for those who have not, we are hanging together with the hope that the world will become a better place for our efforts.  Knowing these orphaned kids and the people of their community by name, infusing it with goodness, kindness, and financial capital will alter this community and these people for the better.

Now for the slowest part of this flight – the last two hours and thirty-nine minutes. Perhaps I too should try sleep.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paul Ryan's Matrix


"I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old -- and I know that we are ready," Ryan said. "Our nominee is sure ready. His whole life has prepared him for this moment -- to meet serious challenges in a serious way, without excuses and idle words. After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Gov. Mitt Romney." - Paul Ryan

The America that was given to them, Ryan and Romney in the 1980's, included income tax for the wealthiest Americans at 50%. Today those same Americans are finding ways to pay approximately 13% (Romney's return for the past three five or so years anyway), and the capital gains tax is significantly less than it was in the 1980's. Yet, they want less taxation. 

Romney was never one of us. He was always the son of a very wealthy father. To think that we have a baby that was coddled from crib to being sixty years old on the coattails of wealth to be the most powerful leader in the world... this is not the America that Romney or Ryan grew up with. Romney is not   Nixon, Reagan, Ford, Bush nor even his son. Ryan is still much less of a man. 

In fact, for Ryan to put himself and Romney into the same category of knowing about America is ludicrous. Romney is nearly twenty years his elder. Paul Ryan doesn't remember the bicentennial of our nation. He would have been six years old... probably the summer between kindergarten and first grade. I'm a only 46, but for Ryan to say that he and Romney grew up in the same America is reaching for a Norman Rockwell moment that was never reality. It didn't' happen Paul.

If you're looking forward to an America where the wealthiest 1% buy and sell politicians for their personal gain, then welcome to Ryan's America. Welcome to the future of the free world when ideas and hopes and dreams are only the reality of the wealthiest 1%. Welcome to the Matrix. Welcome to being a person who works for the sake of the machine known as the 1%. 

Paul Ryan, this is your hope for America. You believe you can fix us all and nobody else can. You've worked so hard hating our current President that you have no other choice but to extol a voice in the wilderness as if you have some prophetic knowledge that nobody else has.

 In your reality, you believe business without conscience for humanity will fuel an economy that makes all of us feel better. In reality though, only the 1% control the machine. Only the 1% get more than bread to take home for their families. This is your hope and this is Romney's reality.  

Paul Ryan, in realty you know that your possible Vice-Presidnecy may become the end of the working class. In reality, Bain Capital raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the 1% while putting businesses into bankruptcy and making working class families become unemployed as Bain helped close their factories.

In reality, you are the Matrix. Our choice is simply the red pill or the blue. We hope we still have a choice. But do we really?