Monday, March 26, 2007

Reflections on Elections: Despair and Hope

The current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls drives me to my knees in prayer, and not just because I can’t decide who to go for. It’s that I can’t seem to find strong leadership and Christian character existing together in one body. There is none that appears to exhibit integrity in its true meaning of wholeness.

To see what I mean, consider a few of the choices. Rudy Giuliani. America’s Mayor is a proven leader, but supports abortion and gay rights and has a history of blatant infidelity and divorce. Mitt Romney. A Mormon, he looks good and talks the right talk, but only recently changed from pro-choice to pro-life. Changed man or opportunist? John McCain. This war hero seems to be on the right side of the moral issues, but otherwise, it’s hard to tell just whose kingdom he’s building. Then, there’s Newt. Leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution and darling of conservatives, he has leadership and the right but he has character issues. During President Clinton’s impeachment trial, while Gingrich was speaking out against Clinton for his behavior with Monica Lewinsky, he himself was having his own extramarital affair, even as his wife was hospitalized with cancer.

So again I ask, “Where is character and leadership in one person?” Where is a potential president who knows where he wants to take the country, how to get there, and can get people to rally to his vision? Should we find that person, will he, or she, possess enough courage of his convictions to refuse to sacrifice them before the altar of political expediency? Will he be a man of prayer and have enough wisdom, humility and fear of God to know that he needs godly counselors? Will his heart hold enough of God’s love and compassion to deal with his political adversaries with fairness and respect? Will he be a standard bearer and not a standard breaker?

I’d have despaired of ever having such a leader if I had not seen the promise in our church’s young people and the way their parents are diligently and purposefully raising them. In a culture that has made a parent’s job nearly impossible, they have made training their children’s character Job One. Then they have recognized their kids’ God-given bent and call, and gently guided them in that direction, all the while teaching them to love, obey and enjoy God with all their hearts. This is a winning strategy, and all heaven is cheering on these parents and others like them, because more is at stake than we could possible know. They and their children have given us all hope for the future.

In the dim valleys of the daily grind of raising a family, it must be easy for parents to lose sight of the loftier peaks of their own calling as parents of tomorrow’s kingdom builders. If you are a parent, let God reveal them to you afresh, and be encouraged, because you, and others like you, are raising standard bearers who just may be the ones to lead this nation, in their different fields, out of the morass of mediocrity into God’s fuller expression of righteousness and justice, truth and mercy. Who knows but that among your kids there is a future president or two.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Finding the Church at Meerkat Manor

I’m all about meerkats. Anyone who has seen five minutes of Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor would have to agree that these strange relatives of the mongoose are really cute and fascinating. But more important than cuteness, they give us a great picture of the Church community as God intended it. OK, my pastor didn’t buy it either when I tried to get him to use them as a sermon illustration once. But consider the following facts about meerkat life:

1. Meerkats are very social animals and live in groups, called mobs or gangs, for protection, as their desert habitat presents many challenges. When one gang encroaches on another gang’s territory, group members band together, fluff their fur out, jump up and down to make themselves appear bigger, and make a lot of noise. This is called mobbing. After the conflict, the winners will hug and congratulate each other with human-like gestures (although this is really re-marking each other with the group’s scent). We would also do well to “mob” our spiritual enemies. When we are united as one, I'm sure we look a lot bigger to the enemy of our souls, and indeed we are. Perhaps the metaphor breaks down at the point of fur fluffing, jumping up and down and making a lot of noise. But maybe this could be warring prayer. . . . At any rate, we could surely benefit by standing shoulder to shoulder to deal with our mutual threats and then rejoicing together after the victory has been won.

2. Each Meerkat in a mob has an important role to perform. For example, there are:

--Babysitters – who stay with the pups while the gang is out foraging for food. Different gang members take this responsibility different days. This job is not dominated by males or females. Ahem. . . .

-- Sentries – who watch over the gang to spot danger. Meerkats have been known to climb up to 30 feet in a tree to do sentry duty. This duty is performed by males and females. There is a sentry on watch both at the burrow system as well as when the gang is foraging for food. In other words, they never let their guard down. They keep “watchmen on the walls" who are contantly protecting the others from predators and will go to whatever lengths necessary to insure that no member of their gang gets picked off.

--Excavators – Sometimes it’s necessary to renovate burrow systems. Often Meerkats will get one behind another and work together to move sand out of the burrow system, similar to the way firemen used to hand buckets of water to one another to put out a fire in the old days. It’s about teamwork, you see.

--Mentors - An elder Meerkat will take on the responsibility of teaching pups the DOs and DON’Ts of being a Meerkat. This includes how to raise young, how to forage for food, and what to look out for. For example, raising young is a learned behavior for Meerkats. Let’s say a pup is separated from her mob at birth and kept as a pet. If that pup gets pregnant, she will not know how to raise her young or teach them how to forage for food. Could there be a more scriptural expression of church community than this?

--Groomers- Meerkats like to groom one another and will remove ticks and fleas from one anther and actually eat them, though these parasites are not a normal part of their diet. Yes, this is disgusting. Spiritually speaking, of course, we all need friends to help us with parasite removal from time to time. And, we all need to help someone else get rid of their parasites, too, even if it’s not our regular thing.

You can see that with meerkats, it’s all about community and being responsible for and to one another. It’s about knowing your function in the group and performing it wholeheartedly. It can pretty much be summed up this way:

MEERKAT MOTTO

Respect the Elders, Teach the Young, Cooperate with the Family,Play when you can, Work when you should, Rest in between.Share your Affection, Voice your Feelings, Leave your Mark.
© Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center, Inc.

Does it really get much better than that?

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