“Everything is So Great”

Maybe we are forcing ourselves to say this in light of (never ending) pandemics, inflation, and grief, but every single person I’ve talked with in the last 24 hours has told me – with what looks like utter sincerity – that Everything Is Great.

You’re out of the woods, You’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night,
Step into the sun, step into the light.
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place on the face of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath, hold onto your heart, hold onto your hope,
March up to that gate and bid it open.

I’ve heard it from multiple church leaders, three public school teachers, two maintenance people in my building, a restaurant server, and a barista. When those words came out of their mouths, if I was looking at them (i.e. not on the phone) their faces were almost glowing with a can’t-fake-that kind of lilt in their voices.

What’s going on?

MaryAnn McKibben Dana reminds us that hope is not a prediction, optimism, charging into the future, toxic positivity, cause and effect, the opposite of despair, solace or future-proofing. We in the Church would be wise to memorize Appendix 1 of Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved because it is our tendency to say things that gloss over pain and trauma. (“Yes, Mr. R. had a heart attack but I had a heart attack once and it was the best experience of my life.” This was spoken by the preacher at Mr. R.’s funeral.)

Aren’t Christians supposed to be upbeat? Christ is risen! Yay.

It’s easy to ignore the pain of the world for the sake of our own sanity/happiness. And it’s also easy to become overwhelmed with the pain of the world to the point of becoming unable to find joy in anything. How can we be at peace when millions of people are homeless? How can we sleep well at night while refugees are trying to raise children in plastic tents in the desert?

It’s a complicated world and finding joy in life doesn’t mean we aren’t also standing with the vulnerable. (Note: if you are not standing with vulnerable people in any way, especially if all your bills are paid, please consider sharing.)

It’s energizing to move forward with a vision and a purpose. I’m find that many church leaders are ready to leap into new ventures they’ve never done before. I’m hearing teachers say that their students – starving for socialization and learning – are like sponges in the classroom. I see that organizations helping congregations build affordable housing are overwhelmed with requests.

God is using what we’ve been through to bring glimpses of good. We are not totally out of the woods, and flying monkeys might be in our future, but some things are pretty great right now. There are indeed things to celebrate.

Drinking

No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 1 Timothy 5:23

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and all manner of other believers drink alcohol. Of course many choose not to, and some pretend they don’t. But many do. We all know about Jesus turning water into wine.

A couple weeks ago, HH and I went to a Scotch whisky tasting event at one of our favorite restaurants and – seriously – it was as much a cultural event as it was a luncheon with tastes of whisky. I turned to HH at one point and said, “We should lead a clergy trip to the distilleries of Scotland.” #PresbyterianMotherland

I know next to nothing about whisky and had never tasted bourbon until I was elected to an office in the Presbyterian Church USA whose national offices are in Louisville, home of more than ten distilleries. #Kentucky Bourbon

I find these kinds of things (tastings, tours, lectures) about alcohol interesting. One of my favorite books is The History of the World in Six Glasses. And yet, in the back of my head (and not very far back) drinking makes me nervous.

I grew up in a teetotalling nuclear family with a history of alcoholism on every branch of the family tree. I know dozens of clergy who struggle with alcoholism, not to mention devout followers of Christ who self-identify as alcoholics. The majority of congregations seem to have at least one Twelve Step group meeting in their building.

“Problem Drinking” is extremely common.

I saw a tweet recently that said: “In 50 years, drinking will be like smoking is today. We’ll wonder why so many people did it.” And perhaps this comment was made because

  • “Excessive drinking (such as binge drinking) increased by 21% during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Scientists) estimated that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, 18,700 cases of liver failure, and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040″ according to this article by Massachusettes General Hospital (December 2021.)
  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
    1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
    1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
    50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
    Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.  Source.

Those of us with mental health challenges can comfort ourselves with either healthy or unhealthy practices. Unhealthy: overdrinking, overusing painkillers, overeating, overworking, overspending. Healthy: Forest bathing, Blue minding, praying, deep breathing, healthy eating, exercising.

Sometimes it’s easier to drink.

One of the trends for the Future Church involves creating authentic community. What’s tricky is that – for generations – we in the institutional Church have considered ourselves friendly and hospitable when the truth is that the Church has historically excluded, shamed, banished, and shunned those who make us uncomfortable. Most people – especially those of no particular faith – do not consider Church to be the place to go for Beloved Community. We can shift that – but only if we see people as God’s children rather than potential members.

We are in a unique position to offer friendship in a world where it’s hard to make friends. We are in a unique position to offer new perspectives for comforting and loving ourselves. But because the world often sees us as judgmental and abusive, it’s going to take some shifts in everything we do and are as Church.

We can start by loving ourselves and others as God loves – with more compassion and less judgment. Not as easy as it sounds. Imagine drinking to remember rather than drinking to forget.

A Primer on Student Loan Forgiveness

I’m neither an economist nor an accountant, but I am a pastor with thoughts on loving our neighbors, praying for those who persecute us and taking advantage of vulnerable people. I leave the argument to three people who speak to the issue of student loan forgiveness better than I can:

From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Representative from the 14th District of NY. A Tweet from 8-27-22

From Mary Jacob (used with permission), Executive Director of Families Helping Families of Greater New Orleans

My final attempt to help those that don’t understand the student loan game.

Mortgage: At closing, you know exactly what you will pay back. Interest is calculated monthly. Extra payments pay down principal.

My Mortgage was $135k for a 30-year loan in 2004. Refinanced once for lower interest rates and terms. We made a couple of lump sum principal payments and the house was paid off in 2021. That’s 13 years early.

Student Loan: Interest is compounded daily. Extra payments go toward future payments, not to pay down the principal. If you don’t make a monthly payment because you are paid up in advance, your interest is still calculated daily.

I was told if I made my payments on time (I never missed a single payment nor paid late) loan would be paid off in 20 years. I won’t say the college financial aid rep lied to me. What I will say is she probably didn’t understand it herself.

I was also told about the Public Service Forgiveness. Make 10 years of payments and the rest is paid off. Well, when I applied, I was told my loans weren’t eligible.

I borrowed $45,000 in student loans

First 10 years I paid $275/month = $33,000

Next 15 years I paid $550/month = $99,000

1 final lump sum payment = $16,000

Total $148,000

Mortgage $135k paid off in 17 years for a total of $183,000.

Student Loan $45k paid off in 25 years after making a final $16k payment for a total of $148,000.

Yes, you can say everyone should know better, but chances are you wouldn’t have known any better either.

We are told over and over that your way out of poverty is through education. Yet, the poorest, most vulnerable, first-generation college students are just happy to be living their dream and trying their hardest to escape the cycle of poverty.

What the government should do is take every penny people have paid toward interest and apply it to the principal and preferably stop charging interest. This would probably pay off many loans. At the most, the loans should be set up like a mortgage.

Anyone who reads this and doesn’t understand the system is broken doesn’t want to understand.

From Leslie Streeter, Columnist for the Baltimore Banner

Black Americans paid taxes during segregation for pools they weren’t allowed to swim in, fountains they couldn’t drink from and buses they had to ride in the back of. So…miss me with this “Why am I paying for school I didn’t go to?” At least this is about uplift, not hate.

Helping those burdened by ever mounting debt is one way to make life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness possible for those who don’t yet have those “inalienable rights.”

Pastor Royal. (Or Why Do We Call Ourselves Dr?)

In the U.S. Army, three stripes designate a soldier who is a Sergeant (Grade E5.) In the U.S. Navy, it also means Sergeant. You’re a Sergeant in the U.S. Marines if you have three stripes plus two crossed rifles below. Three stripes and a star mean you are a Senior Airman in the U.S. Air Force.

In the academic world, three stripes on an academic robe mean you have a doctorate. It could be a PhD or a EdD or a DSM or (clergy’s personal favorite) a DMin. Law School graduates receive a J.D. but they use the designation of “Esquire” after their names rather than “Dr.” before their names.

I have a DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary in Christian Spirituality and – I confess before you and that excellent faculty – I am fine with never being called Dr. Edmiston. For me, it felt like continuing education with a degree at the end during a time when my children were very young and I needed time twice a year when I could read a book without distractions.

For congregations I’ve served, it meant something different. It meant “our pastor has a doctorate which means we are the kind of church who has a pastor with a doctorate.” They gave me my robe with three stripes and it’s the robe I still wear.

When a (usually male) Christian calls me a girl or wants to argue 1 Timothy 2:12 with me, I confess to feeling joy when I don that doctoral gown. (And if I have the energy, I invite that person to join me for an exegesis session in Greek.)

For those who’ve been chided for not being smart enough because of skin color or heritage, being called Dr. is evidence of serious academic chops. For others of us, it’s simply a feel-good title. (Note: in the church I served while I was working on my DMin, all three of my predecessors were known as “Rev. Dr.” when actually each of them had an honorary doctorate given by a Christian college that appreciated being included in the church budget.)

I wrote in yesterday’s post about a job called Astronomer Royal. That’s the actual job title for Queen Elizabeth’s personal astronomer. And I mentioned that it would be fun for each of us to add “Royal” to our jobs no matter what they are: Dentist Royal. Barber Royal. Meatpacker Royal.

And yet – for clergy – calling ourselves Pastor Royal feels like heresy. According to the Bible, we are a royal priesthood, sure. And also Jesus is the only King of Kings. We who follow Jesus as leaders, as disciples, as servants are called to be humble. Ministry is not about us. And yet I recently heard one seminary graduate tell me – when asked why they wanted to be ordained – say “I want to be called ‘reverend‘ so people will respect me.” Honest. But wrong answer.

I do not begrudge those of us who call ourselves Dr. Whatever. And also, some of the best pastors in my denomination do not have any version of doctoral degree and they don’t need it. I hope that congregations searching for new leadership do not misunderstand what a doctorate means and insist on calling a pastor who has one.

If your pastor has a PhD, it means they are academically inclined. They can speak and/or read multiple languages and they are experts in a field that they find fascinating and maybe we will too.

If your pastor has a DMin, it means they took extra courses to focus on a specific piece of professional ministry (preaching, teaching, administration, etc.) They may or may not be better pastors than those without a DMin. It’s not the DMin that makes a leader effective.

If your pastor has an Honorary Doctorate, it means they participated in a college or university graduation and it’s customary to gift them with a hood and robe. Ben Affleck has one.

Great leadership is not about degrees or honors. It’s about emotional intelligence and humility and curiosity. And if we are in fields that requires some sort of professional education (physician, engineer, cosmetologist, electrician, therapist, teacher, physical trainer, pastor) it’s our responsibility to be lifelong learners.

Have a Happy Labor Day Week.

Unusual Jobs on this Day Celebrating Labor

Image of Martin Rees (aka Baron Rees of Ludlow) Astronomer Royal to the Queen of England

Come, labor on.
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
and a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”
by Jane Laurie Borthwick

Labor Day is actually a celebration of workers in general and labor unions in particular. We wouldn’t need labor unions if all people were always paid fairly and always serving in safe conditions. But alas, the downside of capitalism is greed. It’s sad that we need to legislate humane behavior like allowing children to go to school instead of work in a factory and giving workers days off/vacations.

I hope you are resting from your labors today. And a profound thanks to those spending this day at work especially if you are putting out dangerous grill fires or stitching up parade mishaps.

If you are a boss – whether you oversee carpenters or teachers or tomato pickers or law firm partners – it’s in your organization’s best interest to be generous, appreciative and kind. And it pleases our Creator.

My labor involves pastoring and you might think you know what that means: preaching, teaching, administrating, pastoral caregiving, fundraising, marrying, burying, baptizing. Most job descriptions also ask that we take on “additional duties as assigned.”

In my 38 years of professional ministry, my additional duties have included:

  • Trapping squirrels in the Fellowship Hall
  • Opening a state legislature with prayer
  • Leading worship in a circus tent beside caged animal liturgists
  • Transporting human ashes to Europe
  • Shooting down helium balloons in the sanctuary
  • Putting out a literal fire on the Pentecost communion table
  • Overtaking a knife-wielding young man who was “tired of being Jesus
  • Dismantling a grotto on the church lawn someone from the NA group created in my honor
  • Teaching simple birth control to a group of kids after one of them told me her boyfriend was “using protection” and she clarified by saying he carried a handgun
  • Serving as a character witness for a Marine accused of being gay at his court marshall (pre-DADT Repeal Act of 2010)
  • Blessing a home after a murder had taken place there
  • Interviewing hoisters for a pipe organ installation
  • Picking up parishioners’ children from assorted day care facilities after an act of terrorism on our nation in 2001.

All of us have stories about the “additional duties as assigned” and yet there are some jobs that are – by definition – story-generating. Here are a couple I’ve discovered since last Labor Day weekend:

  • Astronomer Royal – This person looks for cosmic phenomena for the Queen of England and Baron Rees of Ludlow has served since 1995. It pays $129 annually. (Note: even if we have the lowliest of jobs, ending our job title with “Royal” makes it sound elegant. Even so, clergy believe Jesus is the King of kings so “Pastor Royal” is out.)
  • Underwater Welder – The death rate is rather high for his occupation but it pays well.
  • Food Photographer – I’m told the GOAT food photographer is Francesco Tonelli.
  • Whiskey Historian – I met David Blackmore, Single Malt Scotch Global Brand Ambassador for The Glenmorangie Company last weekend and that seems to be an interesting job.

Whatever work you do – paid or unpaid, glorious or boring – thank you so much. And if your work generates good stories, all the better.

Rethinking Sacred Assumptions

Some of our assumptions could turn out to be all wrong.

Source: 2022 Tweet by Adam Grant @AdamMGrant with a tiny edit from me.

What are your sacred assumptions about Church?

  • Can we be a real church if we don’t have a 9:30 am Bible Study on Sundays?
  • Can we be a growing church if we don’t have a youth group?
  • Can we be a respectable church if we don’t offer Vacation Bible School in the summertime?
  • Can we be a faithful church if there are people in our pews who have doubts about Jesus?

To be a thriving congregation, many of assume that church calendars must include a Sunday morning Bible Study, a Sunday evening Youth Group, a summer VBS week, and a sanctuary full of faithful believers each week. Can we even be a real church if we don’t have our own seminary-trained pastor?

It’s Adam Grant Week on this blog and his wisdom on how we think is absolutely relevant for all kinds of organizations – including holy ones. Among the sacred assumptions he held in 2021 that he was rethinking by January 1, 2022 (source):

  1. Hire experienced staff members with long track records. Hire curious learners.
  2. Work long hours without vacation time to achieve optimum achievement. Rest for the purpose of recharging to achieve optimum achievement
  3. Write because you have something to say.  Write in order to think through your ideas.
  4. Convince others to rethink their opinions by arguing your points. Convince others to rethink their opinions by listening to their views as if you are interviewing them.
  5. Spend time only with people who agree with you.  Spend time with people who disagree with you.

As far as the sacred assumptions in many of our churches go:

  • Can we be a real church if we don’t have a 9:30 am Bible Study on Sundays?  Maybe the best time for people to gather for a Bible study is at 7 am on Tuesday mornings on their way to work.
  • Can we be a growing church if we don’t have a youth group?  Maybe “your” youth are kids who need an after school program.
  • Can we be a respectable church if we don’t offer Vacation Bible School in the summertime? Maybe your church could offer a summer series on 4 consecutive Friday nights or invite those after school program kids for a week of dinner and storytime with their families.
  • Can we be a faithful church if there are people in our pews who have doubts about Jesus? Maybe your congregation is the perfect way station for people who are trying to figure out the meaning of life (and how great that they are considering Jesus.)

Long held beliefs – especially if they are in any way connected to God – are really hard to shift. And yet, part of being a healthy 21st Century Church (or organization of any kind) involves rethinking what we’ve always assumed the the best and/or only way to do something.

A middle-aged parishioner once declared to me that he “hadn’t changed his views on the Bible since the second grade” as if this is something to be proud of. What it said to me was that he was spiritually immature and incurious about what God has been trying to tell him for the past 50 years.

Our spiritual assumptions are tied up with our spiritual identities and it’s okay – and holy – to allow the Spirit to move us to think in new ways. Jesus did that every day with the Twelve and other followers.

And also treating our long held assumptions as gospel is idolatry. There’s that.

You can order Adam Grant’s book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know here.

Was Blind But Now I . . .

See  Am still blind.

A colleague and I went to meet with the elders of a church to talk about their future. Ordinarily that was my role in the Presbytery, but this colleague had some exciting insights to share. In a nutshell, it was a disaster.

The elders felt humiliated, dismissed, and blind-sided. They had worked hard to move forward in a new direction with the help of their Committee on Ministry liaison from the Presbytery. It was so bad that the COM liaison quit the next day.

And on that next day when the colleague and I met to debrief, I wondered if we’d attended the same meeting. The colleague thought it went “great!” She had introduced new concepts with role playing and fresh ideas. She offered guidance to help them. At least that’s how she saw it.

What I’d seen was a fiasco that would hurt that congregation’s relationship with the Presbytery for years to come, destroying the goodwill created by their long term COM liaison. My colleague hadn’t read the room. She didn’t realize that those leaders were expecting a different, planned agenda. She didn’t see the “what the hell?” looks on the elders’ faces. She didn’t realize that she hadn’t even introduced herself or explained what she was doing there. She was blind to what was really going on in that meeting and she didn’t even know she was blind.

[Note: I hesitate to share that story because it gives the impression that I always “get it” and I don’t. I’m constantly working on my own vision and I need people to tell me when I’m deceiving myself.]

Adam Grant in Think Again refers to a rare brain disease called Anton’s Syndrome which results in people going blind but they don’t realize they are blind. They literally believe they are seeing what’s being produced inside their brains even though it’s not real. You can read more here.

It’s hard to convince an overly confident leader that what they are seeing is not real.

Adam Grant notes that – while all of us have our blind spots – many of us cannot see our own weaknesses. We all have a little Anton’s Syndrome. “The bad news is that (our blind spots) can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from rethinking. The good news is that with the right kind of confidence, we can learn to see ourselves more clearly and update our views.” Amen.

  • The longtime pastor who is told by the Personnel Committee that some changes are needed but the pastor is blind to those realities and doesn’t take them seriously.
  • The volunteers who consider themselves church pillars who cannot see that their efforts are actually hurting the congregation.
  • The parishioners who are convinced that “the way we’ve always done it” is the only way but their refusal to embrace rethinking how ministry actually happens in the 21st Century is unwittingly killing their church’s future.

Again: there is good news. If we – as people of faith – are confident that Jesus Christ will always have a Church even if it doesn’t look like previous versions of Church and if we have confidence that the reign of God is upon us, we are free to rethink our understanding of who and what we – the Church – are called to be and do.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.

How to see? Stop being defensive. Pray. Trust colleagues who love us and the Church to tell us the truth.

The Best Leaders I Know

It’s Adam Grant week on this blog.

After reading his latest book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, I strongly suggest you devour it if you’re interested in leadership. Whether you serve a congregation, a government agency, an educational institution, or a for-profit organization Grant’s wisdom is extraordinarily helpful.

I’ve been blessed to work with many leaders in my years of professional ministry and even the toxic ones helped me become a better leader myself. God uses everything.

At the risk of offending your pastor/boss/colleague – I hope you will share Grant’s wisdom with leaders in your world. I’ll be paraphrasing his work but these qualities are what to look for if you are calling a new leader, if you are supporting a current leader, or if you aspire to be a good leader yourself:

  • The best leaders do not have to be the smartest people in the room. In fact, they are curious about what they don’t know.
  • The best leaders are not defensive when someone challenges them/suggests they do things differently. In fact, they relish constructive feedback.
  • The best leaders never, ever humiliate their colleagues, nor do they tolerate those who do.
  • The best leaders listen to their peers. If your personnel committee tells you to get a mentor, coach, and/or therapist, do it. If your colleagues tell you to bone up on your preaching, teaching, administrating, or pastoral caregiving, do it – even and especially if you are a seasoned pastor.
  • The best leaders think like scientists. Adam Grant writes that most leaders are either preachers (we have sacred assumptions that cannot be challenged), prosecutors (we attack like lawyers seeking flaws in another’s arguments), or politicians (we want to win over our shareholders/stakeholders in order to win.) Scientists – on the other hand – rethink assumptions, consider the arguments of others, and refuse to lobby for the sake of “winning.” Scientists experiment. They try something and aren’t afraid to fail.
  • The best leaders have interests and skills in other fields beyond their specialty. The best pastors I know are experts in something besides pastoring. Several are BBQ geniuses. Others are tech wizards. And still others roast their own coffee beans, brew their own craft beer, or design their own clothing. Some are excellent dancers and painters.
  • Again, the best leaders are intellectually humble.

Intellectual humility = knowing what we don’t know and Adam Grant shares that he is personally ignorant about “art, financial markets, fashion, chemistry, food, why British accents turn American in songs, and why it’s impossible to tickle yourself.” He also knows quite a lot about lifelong learning and the joy of being wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also good at rock climbing and Formula One racing trivia.

I am ignorant about Game of Thrones, plumbing, Pokemon, and the Baltic countries. But I’m a very strong navigator on road trips and – as I’ve shared before – I am an award-winning parallel parker. And once I installed a ceiling fan.

Being a leader should feel joyful.

Working with leaders should feel joyful.

If it doesn’t feel that way, please read this book and/or slip a copy on the desk of the not-so-great leader you know.

It’s going to be a generative week.

Forgive Us Our Debts . . .

. . . as we forgive our debtors.

Recent Tweet from the @JesusofNaz3:16 account on Twitter

I was 35 years old when I paid off all my student loans. The year I started college had been a rough one financially for my parents and they regretted that they could not help me with college. I borrowed money for both college and seminary. Tuition and fees were $2,074 annually at the University of North Carolina when I attended, and even with that debt and seminary debt, HH and I had been able to buy a home and have two children with another one on the way by the time we were 35.

Annual tuition and fees at UNC were $31,963 in 2017 according to this source. That’s a bit of a spike from my own college days. They are even higher now and according to this source, college costs double every nine years.

As we all know, education is the way out of poverty. A college education is not the only kind of education, but according to the United States Social Security Administration:

Men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more.

Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.

Inspite of all the statistical facts, helping relieve student debt is a faith issue. Debt forgiveness is a Biblical value in both the Old and New Testaments.

Even so, many people of faith are criticizing Tuesday’s announcement from the White House that students can be forgiven up to $20,000 of their student debt.

  • “I paid off all my debt, so why can’t everyone else?”
  • “My parents worked hard to save up so that I wouldn’t need students loans, so why didn’t all families do that?”
  • “I worked my way through college with multiple jobs, so why didn’t everybody do that?”

Congratulations if you or your family had the generational wealth or circumstances to pull off finishing college and/or graduate without any debt. This doesn’t mean that you are a better/more ambitious/smarter human being. It means that you are lucky/privileged/blessed.

Remember when billionaire Robert Smith announced at the 2019 Morehouse graduation that he was paying all the student debts of that graduating class? A friend of mine’s son – with no college debt – was in that class. I asked her how she felt about working hard to pay her child’s tuition and fees for four years while others were being relieved of their debts and she was thrilled and proud. She responded this way: It’s best for the country as a whole for her son’s classmates to enter the working world with no debt.

Remember when Bank of America subsidiaries (including Countrywide) received a $2,311,102,036 bailout? And CIT Group received $2,330,000,000? And First Bank Financial Corp of Ohio received $72,927,000? And JP Morgan got $3,243,888,392? And Nationstar Mortgage got $1,642,024,635? (I could go on including incentives and bailouts for everybody from Amazon to Walmart.)

Many Americans – especially in the corporate world – believe that these bailouts were good for the country as a whole. Is it not good for the country as a whole for young Americans (and the parents) to get a break so that they can buy homes and support their families and plan for retirement?

What’s best for the country as a whole? This is the big question.

What does it say about our nation if we gladly forgive the debts of financial instiuttions and other corporations, we we don’t forgive the debts of students – many of whom have been paying off that debt for years only to still owe tens of thousands of dollars? #CompoundInterest.

I consider it a sin to offer relief to corporations who earn billions each year while failing to offer relief to individual Americans who are still underwater because of relentless interest payments. Capitalism that only rewards the rich and burdens the poor destroys a healthy and just economy.

If you are a person of faith, I hope you will have mercy upon those who were told

  • A college education is essential,” and
  • We can help you pay for it” – spoken by predatory lenders.

Let each of us celebrate all those who are getting their lives back.

Reframing How We See Ourselves

Therapists often suggest that we reframe the way we’ve always thought about our life situations. Someone might look consider their father to have been neglectful/never home but what if the truth was that Dad worked two jobs to save money for college for his kids so they’d have no college debt? Neglectful Parent is now understood as Committed Parent.

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of the Presbytery I serve. (Sorry for the blurry graphics here.)

A popular megachurch in our area is Elevation (which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.) In 2021 they reported 27,408 participants in 23 locations in four states and Canada.

In the Presbytery I serve 27,954 participants were reported in 2021 in 93 locations in 7 counties in North Carolina.

Imagine if we reframed ourselves as one megachurch with 93 locations instead of 93 lone ranger congregations with a nominal connection to each other?

That’s it. That’s the post for today: Imagine reframing how we see ourselves.