We have met the racist and he/she is us

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I don’t know if there is anyone who can truthfully say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not a racist, I just know I can’t. If you have ever participated in the denunciation of any group of people whether it be by color of skin, or ethnic origin, or religion, or sexual identification, you are a racist. I put that in present tense because if there was ever the tiniest shred of thought, reaction, fear, or sense of contamination present in our thinking about others, how do we know for sure it’s gone? I don’t think any of us can be the judge of this.

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Playing real good for free

th-5I slept last night in a good hotel

I went shopping today for jewels

The wind rushed around in the dirty town

And the children let out from the schools

I was standing on a noisy corner

Waiting for the walking green

Across the street he stood

And he played real good

On his clarinet, for free

 

Now me I play for fortunes

And those velvet curtain calls

I’ve got a black limousine

And two gentlemen

Escorting me to the halls

And I play if you have the money

Or if you’re a friend to me

But the one man band

By the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good, for free

 

Nobody stopped to hear him

Though he played so sweet and high

They knew he had never

Been on their T.V.

So they passed his music by

I meant to go over and ask for a song

Maybe put on a harmony…

I heard his refrain

As the signal changed

He was playing real good, for free

From the song “For Free” by Joni Mitchell

These are the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite Joni Mitchell songs. It’s about a musician giving his talent to the world for free. It’s wistful — even somewhat painful — the way only Joni can do it. At first you hurt for this guy — unnoticed, unrecognized, unappreciated, and underpaid. But by the time the song is over, you start to look at him in a different light. Mainly because Joni is. She is the one who is looking wistfully at him and realizing he has found something that has evaded her limousines, her fortunes and her velvet curtain calls. He’s found something pure and sweet in his music regardless of whether it satisfies anyone else. You start out feeling sorry for the man on the corner; you end up feeling sorry for Joni.

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Expecting the best

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I overheard someone ask a friend of mine if there were any secrets to her 60-plus years of marriage. She replied with two things: Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, and never say “You always…”

Both of these things are what I would call blame-fighters. Blame will kill a relationship faster than anything. Blame is the way we avoid responsibility for our own errors. It’s as old as Adam and Eve, and it keeps us from learning from our mistakes. To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to not pass the blame. Maybe there are factors you don’t know about or issues you can’t see or understand because you are not in the other person’s shoes.

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Relationship Therapy

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This week I’ve been trying to capture for everyone the unique experience Marti and I had this last weekend meeting over four days with a very daring couple who flew to southern California for the purpose of healing their relationship through talking with us and taking directives from my wife who is very good at this kind of thing. It may sound like we do this every weekend (we don’t) but after this weekend’s success, I’m not so sure as to whether we might want to consider it.

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’Til death do us part

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Trust is the foundation of any relationship. It is built by making and keeping promises. These promises are not the big things we say but all of the little things we do that keep the promises we made. Therefore, making and keeping promises means everything.

When you break a promise, you lose trust — the foundation of a relationship is eroded.  It is exceptionally difficult to restore that trust.  A lot of work must be put in place to rebuild the trust and is focused solely on making right what you have done to break the promise you made in the first place.

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Everybody loves a wedding

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Everybody loves a wedding. You see a bride and a groom or a wedding party filing out of a church or a hotel, or you see a car decorated “Just Married” and you immediately stop what you are doing and notice. You can’t help it. There is joy. There is laughter. There is certainty. There is celebration. There is hope. You know there will be rough seas ahead, but right now the sky is blue, the sea is calm, the breeze is at your back, and there is clear sailing ahead.

Everything is new. You love — you are confident of that — and you are loved back by someone you know you don’t deserve — someone better than you could have ever imagined. Today you are invincible. No matter what lies ahead, you know you can weather it.

Our wedding last weekend was a remarriage. Trust had been broken, but it can be rebuilt. It will take time, but it will be possible. The key is to make promises and keep them, and have a recovery plan for when you break a promise because no one’s perfect.

I broke a promise to you yesterday. You didn’t get a Catch. I have good excuses, but that does not matter. I still broke the promise. I could have just let it go by and some of you wouldn’t even have noticed because you don’t read every Catch anyway. Others of you might have thought the problem was with your delivery system. I might have gotten away with it in most cases, but an important trust would have been broken. Trust can only be built with truth. Thus, I am telling you the truth in an attempt to regain your trust.

Resized_2Jim and Suzanne are rebuilding their trust, and it started with a wedding. The pictures you see here were taken by a person in the nearby restaurant who was taken by our ceremony, snapped some pictures and shared them with us later. See what I mean? Everyone loves a wedding.

I know there are many relationships that need to rebuild trust. Jim and Suzanne need your prayers. Old habits are hard to break. Others of you have asked for prayer, still others of you need to. That’s what our prayer button is for. Use it.

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Returning to the wife of your youth

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Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because He pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. but you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:13-15

God cares about the quality of our relationships. He cares as much about our marriages as He does about our worship. You can’t have treacherous relationships and claim to worship God. It’s all interconnected. We can’t get on with Him if we aren’t getting on with our wives and husbands.

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Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the rise of a new frontier

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In a timely article in the New York Times by Rod Dreher entitled, “Trump Can’t Save American Christianity,” an effective argument is raised that American Christianity is actually not worth saving because it is not true Christianity. It’s not “historical” or “biblical;” it’s spiritually thin; and it has sold its soul to politics.

In fact, Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame who has been studying the religious and spiritual lives of millennials, has come up with a new name for American Christianity: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

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