Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Prayer for 2009


Open my eyes to the possibilities of doing good for Your Kingdom, both inside and outside my church.

Give me signs of Your work in this world.

Help me be the father my kids see me as and the husband I want to be to my wife.

For those in need, give them their needs and show me the places where my family can be a part of that.

Bring Your peace in this world in war-torn areas in Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the strife torn places in our homes and cities.

Help us as a people to not put our hope in politicians who speak with articulate words or those that try to motivate through fear and hate, but to put our hope in the One who conquered death and brought life.

Help Christians band together in community to accomplish Your Kingdom coming on Earth as it is in Heaven and Your Will being done.

Through Jesus,


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Faith of the Shepherds

One of the most quotes sections of Scripture in church worship services around Christmas is the section in Luke 2 about the chorus of angels visiting the shepherds, a brief instant when eternity broke full force into our world.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Now, in our Hallmark-ed Christmas world, we have this idea that there was this star hanging over the stable/cave where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were and the shepherds get there right before the Three Wise Men and there's this beautiful mixing of the holy and the ordinary, the rich and the poor and all is right in the world.

Well, no matter what our nativity scenes say, we don't know how many wise men there were and they were definitely not at the Nativity. And the shepherds didn't have a star to guide them. If you notice what the angel said, the sign wasn't a star, it was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager. So what the shepherds probably had to was go around Bethlehem and look in feeding troughs for a baby. Probably asking permission of the owners of the stable, and basically looking like morons: "Uh... excuse me... Do, um... do you have a baby in your stable manger? We heard he's the Messiah..." "Heard? Heard from who?" "Ummmmm..." Shifts feet nervously, "The Angels..." The door slams. Until.... "Excuse me, do you have a baby in your stable?" The inkeeper looks embarrassed, "Yeah, but look, I didn't have a room and that was the only place and I'm not even charging them full...." He breaks off as the shepherds charge past him to the stable and there they see their sign, the baby wrapped in cloth, nestled in the feeding trough, that Joseph has cleaned out as best he can and put in some hay, giving Mary a chance to rest and sleep after the delivery. The shepherds worship him, knowing that even though the majority of Bethlehem now thinks they're idiots, they know the truth. They've found the promised King.

The King of the World, not born in a palace, attended by ministers and noblemen and the other kings of the world, but God already starts to defy expectations of what the Messiah will be, by having him lay with the animals, attended by shepherds willing to embarrass themselves throughout Bethlehem to find him.

That's the King we serve, that's the King we celebrate at Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Music Box Dancing Lights

I'm a huge fan of Christmas lights synchronized to music. I'm sure they annoy their neighbors, but I think they're fun. Obviously, the fad has been to do Trans-Siberian Orchestra rock Christmas songs, but I found one that takes a slightly different direction. I just wish I could find the mp3 they use...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


My life is surrounded by tears these days. Connor falls and he cries. Kinsey takes something away from him and he cries. He takes something away from her and she cries.

I don't cry much. Compelling, sweeping music accompanied by some images can really get me a little teary. Watching relationships restored can bring some blurriness. But I don't often sob.

I did last Wednesday night.

On Wednesday nights, we get home late. We typically are at church until 8:20 or 8:30 cleaning up and talking with friends. Then it's another 20 minutes home, creating late nights for the kids. These days, Sheryl takes care of Connor's bedtime and I take care of Kinsey's. She'll pick out a book and either I'll read it, or I'll have her read it, and last Wednesday night, she picked out The Giving Tree, a book I've loved since I was a little boy and my parents read to me.

We read through it and as I started to read, I started getting tears in my eyes, because here I was, reading the story of a boy grows up seeking after the "good" things in life and the tree completely pours out itself for the boy. But what got to me was seeing the joy in this boy and then watching him grow out of that and away from that, and the sadness of the tree. And when in the final scenes, the boy returns as an old man and the tree (now a stump) pulls itself up for him to sit and just enjoy each other's presence, I began to seriously cry. Because I was seeing my future with my kids. They are going to grow away from me. Sheryl and I won't be the primary influences in their lives and they will lose some of the joy they have now.

Kinsey, of course, was completely confused, and asked me why I was crying like that. And through my tears, I tried to explain that it was a combination of being happy and sad: happy that I had such beautiful children that I loved so and that loved me and Mommy, but sad that these times won't last forever, that they were going to grow up and move away and they wouldn't be our little children any longer. They'll always be our children, but things change and people grow up. And as I did that, the tears became stronger, and all of a sudden, Kinsey sits up in her bed, now with tears springing to her eyes, and hugged me tight: "Oh Daddy! I'll always be your girl!"

We clung to each other for a couple of minutes and then broke apart with a little chuckle to go get a tissue to wipe our eyes and noses. We prayed for each other, thanking God for each other and the love that we have. I kissed her, turned out her light, and she fell asleep quickly.

It was one of the most special times I've ever had. A little physical manifestation of the love that a father and daughter can have with each other, and on those days that we don't get along, I will hold that as an ember.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dance Recital

Kinsey had her winter dance recital on Sunday. Unfortunately, the pictures didn't come out well, but here's what I got.

In the waiting area.

Connor hanging with Papa.

Blurry, but there.

She's the tall one in the center. Blurry, but beautiful.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Heart of Joseph

I've always wondered if Joseph was intimidated by the child Jesus. As Jesus was growing up, did Joseph fear disciplining him? How do you discipline God? The Son of God? The long-awaited Messiah?

We don't get a lot of insight into Joseph from the Gospels. We know that he had a chance to "put Mary aside," because of her supposed infidelity, but he didn't. And we don't get any indication that he treated Jesus any differently because the boy wasn't "truly" his son. We know that he taught Jesus his trade of carpentry. I wonder what Joseph thought Jesus would become. Did he think Jesus would save the world through woodworking or did he just not know what else to do than to teach his adopted son what he would have taught his own flesh and blood.

What I think we see is a man of honor and a man of love, who accepted God's call on his life to be the earthly father of the Incarnation. But if we do nothing less with our lives than what Joseph did in how he honored God's call, then we could do much worse as children of God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bonus YouTube Thursday: 40 Movie Inspirational Speeches in Two Minutes

I was simultaneously inspired to attack the English, defeat the French, pass a law, win one for the Gipper, and run headlong into Mordor.

Caption This Picture!

Be funny!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tokens Show: The Revolutionary Christmas

Just before the election, I posted a quote from Lee Camp, spoken during the Tokens Show in September. What is Tokens? Well, back then I said, "a theological variety show, what could be considered a "Christian version of Prairie Home Companion," called Tokens, although to describe it like that sell both Tokens and PHC short. It combines story telling, music, interviews, and skits, to talk about some of the pressing issues of the day." After going to see a live version last night, I would say that that description captures an idea of it, but it's really no good without seeing it in person.

This show's theme was The Revolutionary Christmas. And it was very, very good. Lee started it off with a monologue, then the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys gave us some bluegrass, which morphed into Jew-grass, which was pretty cool. Andrew Peterson sang. Buddy Green sang "Mary, Did You Know?" A group called the Annie Moses Band (mainly strings) did a song called Sussex Carol which was amazing and I immediately got it off when I got home. There were some skits about Christmas, including a visit to the Christian Shopping Mall, complete with Jesus Figurines, including Terminator Jesus. Interviews with book authors that were more than just talks.

Look, it's tough for me to do it justice with words. If you can, you should really try to be there in person. It was fun, funny, poignant, thought-provoking, challenging, enjoyable, uncomfortable, and just really, really good. If you enjoy great music, pointed commentary, funny skits that step on your toes, singing, laughter, worship, any or all of those, you should be at the next one in March. You can keep track of it at

Thanks to Lee and all the people that worked it to make it happen and even thanks to Lipscomb for allowing them to put it on.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Breakfast with Santa

Here are some pictures from Otter Creek's Family Christmas Breakfast on Saturday

TJ McCloud and the OC Kids Praise Team

The stage setup

Amy Westerman (who did a TON of work for this event) and my loverly wife

Kinsey and Connor in a holding area, waiting to see the big guy.

The kids with the man of the hour. Connor had zero fear of him.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Straight No Chaser: Holiday Spirits

Last year about this time, I discovered a video by an acapella group called Straight No Chaser doing a version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Here's the story, condensed from this article in the NYTimes and this video.

The group formed back in the late 90s at Indiana University and when they graduated, they split up. They got back together in 2006 for a reunion and one of the guys had videos of a performance and put it up on YouTube since the members of the group were now living all over the country. By the beginning of December of 2007 about 100,000 people had seen it, which the group thought was pretty cool. But by the end of the first week of December, they had 200,000 total. By Christmas, 6 million people viewed it as well. And one of them was an executive from Atlantic Records who decided to call up and see if they wanted to get back together to capitalize on this and do a Christmas CD. And as you might be able to tell from the title of this post, they did, and it's called Holiday Spirits.

And it's good. They do a lot of standards as well as some fun ones, like Little Saint Nick. And they include the live version of 12 Days of Christmas, which is also good, but it's honestly better with the video. So, if you're looking for some new Christmas music, I'd give this one a shot. The production is great and the harmonies that these guys pull of is really, really excellent. Even if you don't typically like pop acapella (like me), give this one a listen.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Politics of Mary

With last Sunday being Advent Sunday, I was thinking about Mary and the Annunciation from Gabriel and then Mary's Song after that in Luke 1:46-55
46And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
We have a tendency to think of Mary as a very meek and mild little teenage girl, but when you look at her statement, it's an extremely political one. She is saying that God is going to bring down the mighty. Bring down the strong. He'll exalt the humble.

Lest we forget, Jesus' birth was not simply a spiritual event brought to form in a baby. It was God reiterating that He stands with the poor and the downtrodden. Now, Jesus as the Messiah didn't meet the expectations of the Jews. He didn't overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to prominence. He did something even more important. He reconciled us with God so that we can then bring reconciliation to the world and pursue God's purposes for this world. And that involves calling out the powerful when they abuse their power and it calls for lifting up the humble.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Guitar Hero on Drums

I'm a casual gamer. I like playing on my Xbox360. Quite a few driving games, some shooters and RPGs, but definitely the music games, like Guitar Hero and especially Rock Band.

Yesterday, Scott Freeman sent me this video of a guy who hooked up a MIDI drumset to his computer and routed it through his console and came up with this on the hardest song in the entire Guitar Hero 3 game, Through Fire and Flame.

And just for some context, here's the same song played on the guitar controller.

Oh yeah, by a 9 year old....

And here's the music video for the actual song by Dragonforce, just for comparison to what real guitarists do.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

MSNBC is the new FoxNews, The Daily Show, and Objective Journalism

We have a new Democratic president and apparently the cool thing to do is have a network in your corner.

"Thankfully," MSNBC has accepted this mantle. Witness Chris Matthews say that it's his job as a journalist to make Obama's presidency successful.

And truly thankfully, The Daily Show has taken their role as court jester seriously and is pointing out the hypocrisy.

Which they also did last night in pointing out some of the things that Obama and Hillary Clinton said about each other during the campaign. (Warning: some adult humor, if that kind of thing offends you...)

So, I'm curious. Is it possible for a news organization to be completely objective or is this a case of people recognizing biases and making them work for them? Do we need a completely objective media or is it just that all sides get presented equally?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Opryland Christmas

Every year, Opryland Hotel does a big deal with Christmas decorations, and so our life group from church decided to spend our 5th Sunday/fun Sunday out there.

These are the pictures.

Kinsey Pointing at a big Christmas Tree

Connor was asked to smile. This was the result.

Jenn and Connor-Banonnor

Kinsey and Mel outside in the cold

The Life Group (sans our absent friends)

Kinsey and Connor watching the fountain show.

Kinsey and Jenn twirling. Too cute.

This is the result of no nap and a lot of excitement. This was at 645 pm. He didn't wake up until 7 the next morning.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


While the posts this week have been about Prentice Meador's passing and the mourning of his death and rejoicing of his life, we still have much to be thankful for.

I'm grateful to God for life and my continued enjoyment of it.

I'm grateful for my wife, whom I love more every day and would rather not spend time with anyone else.

I'm grateful for Kinsey and for how much she's growing. She's reading so well now and being a great big sister.

I'm grateful for Connor and how much fun (though frustrating) he is right now.

I'm grateful to be employed and have a job that I enjoy to be able to provide for my family and have Sheryl be at home with the kids.

I'm grateful for Otter Creek Church. It's been a rough 12 months in a lot of ways with the departure of ministers and now Prentice's death, but I'm grateful for a body of believers that I can be a part of and minister with. Even though I question and challenge at times, it's still home and a body that I love in spite of and sometimes because of its flaws.

I'm grateful for our life group and how all of them have become a part of our lives in ways I couldn't have imagined 18 months ago.

I'm grateful for life in Christ, who set the example for how we should pursue the Kingdom of God and suffered and rose again, triumphing over death.

This year, I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prentice Meador Passes

At 6:08 this morning, Prentice Meador passed from this life.

Please continue to keep his family and the Otter Creek Church family in your prayers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prentice Meador

For the last several months, Prentice Meador has been part-time preaching at Otter Creek. He was scheduled to speak this Sunday, but on Friday he was admitted to the hospital thinking he had pneumonia, but it ended up being something more serious than that.

You can read the summary here. And you can keep track of his status on the overall blog:

Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Update: For those reading this post on Tuesday, November 25th or afterward, Prentice died on the 25th at 6:08 AM. You can leave your condolences on the blog linked above. Please continue to keep the Meador family and Otter Creek Church in your prayers.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A blogger, rogueminister, that I read infrequently put up some quotes yesterday from early Christians about their perspective on war. Here are a few...

Justin Martyr, approx. 138 A.D.

“The devil is the author of all war.” “We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”

Tertullian, 155-230 A.D.

“But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar…But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”

“Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.”

Theophilus of Antioch, approx. 412 A.D.

Say to those that hate and curse you, you are our brothers!

Lee Camp (and others, I'm sure) has made the point in his book Mere Discipleship that when Constantine became a Christian, Christianity did not change him, he changed Christianity. So instead of a critic of the state and its wielding of power for its own purposes, it became a tool of the state to get people to fall into line. It became an opiate of the people.

What is a Christian to do about war? Do these perspectives from early Christians still hold value today? As good citizens of the country in which they live, are Christians permitted to take part in state-mandated wars? Or are we still bound by Jesus' call to love our enemies and pray for those that curse us? Does Jesus' command to Peter to put away his sword apply to us as well?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Epilogue/Amazing Grace - Phil Keaggy

I got exposed to Phil Keaggy back in the 80s. He released a CD called Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child which was a rockin', late-Beatles feel to it. Through that, I got exposed to his instrumental work, specifically ones like Beyond Nature and The Master and the Musician.

The last track is one called Epilogue/Amazing Grace and it's an original piece that gets meshed with the hymn that just works in an incredible way. I've loved this song since I first heard it. We used it in our Prelude music at our wedding and it's one of the songs that I want played at my funeral (many, many years from now). Oh, and it's 9 minutes long.

More of (a very young) Phil playing around with the Ebow that he uses to make the synthesized sound on the guitar. (Check out the acid stonewashed jeans!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things Change

Remember a couple of months ago about the Good Place that we were in as a family with our kids?

Yeah, we're starting to come out of that.

Somehow in 2 months, Connor has become a two year old in some of his behaviors. Now, this isn't helped by Kinsey who likes to aggravate him and who Sheryl and I have to constantly remind her that she's the older one and doesn't need to do that (not that it worked with me either). But Connor is starting to get a bit more difficult, a bit more defiant, and a bit more willful.

However, he's also one of the cutest kids that I know and he's still fun and runs to see me when I get home from work. And really there's not much more I can ask right now.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Otter Creek's Wednesday night service is called Vespers. It is a contemplative service. The sanctuary is darkened, mainly lit by candles. Scripture is read, there is silence, a Psalm is chanted, there are different stations for prayer to guide our thoughts, and a message is given. This Wednesday, I spoke from Amos 5:18-24 and Matthew 25.

The Gospel passage tonight is the story of the Ten Virgins and its theme is preparedness. Contextually, the subject is the return of the Lord as discussed in Matthew 24. It’s very curious to imagine what Jesus was thinking as he thought about preparedness.

We have a tendency in our contemporary setting to spiritualize teachings like this, to expect that Jesus is talking about our spiritual state of preparedness, making sure our hearts are right with God, but what’s interesting is that the parables that follow this one don’t tend to bear that out.

The next parable after the virgins is the parable of the talents, where servants of a master are given talents/money and those that produce are rewarded and the one that doesn’t is punished. Again, this parable could be spiritualized. Our talent is the Gospel that has been given to us and we are to take it out and have it bear fruit for the Kingdom of God, converting others to Christ. And I think that can be one application of it.

But then look at the parable that follows, one of Jesus’ clearest statements on judgment, the parable of the sheep and the goats. In this one, the Son of Man comes in his glory and he separates all the nations, the sheep on one side, the goats on the other. And what is the basis of this separation? Is it belief? Is it having your heart right with God? Is it the fruit that our Gospel has borne? No, it’s action. It’s caring for the poor, the sick, visiting those in prison, and clothing those that need clothes. It is action that comes from faith.

And here’s the thing that should scare us. And by us, I mean those of us who have grown so comfortable in our Christianity that we think showing up on Sunday’s and eating a little bread and drinking a little grape juice and putting some money in a plate makes us a Christian. Or those of us that think that sitting in liturgical, candle-lit dark makes us more spiritual. From this last parable, if what we do in here isn’t backed up by actions for these least of these in society, we’re the goats. If we don’t follow what we say we believe by actually doing something, we’re the ones on the outside.

You see, because if you look at these parables, all of the people who end up on the outside are those “in the know.” The virgins left out in the cold know the bridegroom is coming. The servant with the talent knows what he’s supposed to do with it. The goats to the left call the Son of Man “Lord.” These people know who Jesus is, they know, and yet on the basis of that knowledge, they do nothing.

And this is what makes the Amos passage so fascinating. In the NIV it’s labeled as the Day of the Lord, which for some people, might bring up images of Revelation: new heavens, new earth, the new Jerusalem coming down, God dwelling with His people. But the Amos passage makes it clear that the Day of the Lord isn’t necessarily something to be anticipated as much as it is to be feared.

All of the services and rituals and rites that the people of Israel were performing were worthless in God’s eyes, because His people didn’t pursue justice and righteousness. He says that He hates their feast, despises their assemblies. Away with the noise of songs! Why? Is there something inherently wrong with the songs or the assemblies? No, but it’s the fact that those assemblies and feasts are not backed up by action motivated pursue justice and righteousness. That's what angers God.

It seems sometimes that the church can become a collection of admirers of Jesus. We like the idea of Jesus. We like the fact the he came as a cute baby (no golden fleece diapers, though), that he died on a cross, and rose from the dead. And that somehow as a result of all of that, we get to go to heaven too. We’re not sure how all that works, there’s blood somewhere and we get washed clean by that, but we’re basically just glad that it happened and we get to benefit from it.

And honestly, it's easier to be an admirer, because it makes little call on our own lives. It becomes much easier to point our fingers at others' "moral" failings and call people out for them, while ignoring the sin that eats at our own souls: the greed and the lust and the selfishness that don't show as easily as the moral failings we can like to pick on.

However, Jesus does not call us to be his admirers. He calls us to be his followers. To walk as he would walk in our places. How would Jesus walk as a teacher, or a student, or a web designer, or a minister, or stay at home parent? If we claim the name of Christian, which is Greek for little Christs, we have to commit to walking as his followers. We have to look the opportunities around us for pursuing justice and righteousness. It’s good to do that in places like Guatemala and Kenya, foreign ministries that Otter Creek supports, but we also need to look around our own homes, in our own city. Find out what needs to be done at the Wayne Reed Center, at Youth Encouragement Services, at the Kirkpatrick School. Take communion to prisoners on Sunday mornings, come with us to the Turney Center on 4th Sundays. Participate in Room in the Inn, Thrift Smart, Mending Hearts.

Being a follower is hard. It's messy. It gets us around people we might not be around a lot. It takes a change of mindset and it's not overnight. You take the baby steps that you can. Maybe give away one thing that you don't need. Maybe do something that Jesus would do that makes you uncomfortable.

God has given us opportunities to pursue justice and righteousness all around us. All we have to do is open our eyes and see them. He’s invited us to partner with him in changing this world, something that no matter how lofty their speeches, no politician can do, no government can accomplish. Jesus didn’t save us for us to sit on our hands and pray that we don’t sin so badly that we don’t make it into heaven. He called us to go out of here and make disciples, call people to the Kingdom and then send them out as well. And I pray that we will have the boldness to stop admiring Jesus and start following him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall 2008 Pictures

On Saturday, the four of us went out to a park to take advantage of the great weather and the fall colors and get some family pictures. I think they ended up very well.

I picked this one because of how well it shows the color of Connor's eyes.

Three people look great in this one. Who's the dork on the left?

I love this one, just for the expression on the kids' faces. We're saying happy cheese. Connor is in the middle of "Happy..."

I will cherish this one forever

Sister and Brother

Man, we are in SO much trouble when boys start to notice her.

Kinsey was insistent on doing a superhero pose.

Connor was close to a meltdown, but this held him off for a bit.

Just a couple of beautiful girls

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Christian Right

Diving in headfirst again...

I was wondering this weekend if the election last Tuesday was a sign of the beginning of the end of the Christian Right's influence in power. According to some Exit poll numbers from the Associated Press (and stolen shamelessly from the Dallas Morning News):
Worship service attendance is considered a marker of religiosity that is generally tied to conservative politics. People who say they attend worship services more than once a week voted for President Bush over John Kerry 64-35. This year, John McCain still won those voters, but only by a 55-43 tally.

Mr. McCain took an overwhelming percentage of the born-again evangelical vote. But his tally of 73 percent was a drop from the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush beat Mr. Kerry with 79 percent of that vote.
So among regular church goers, Obama gained 9 points and among "born-again evangelicals" (whatever that really means), the president-elect gained 6 points.

I think this data and the election results can be read a few ways.

1) The Christian Right never really supported McCain.

In my listening to conservative talk radio and talking to my friends, people were not incredibly excited about McCain. It was only when Palin came on board that many on the Christian right really came out to support McCain (I say all this anecdotally, of course). However, the Christian right might not have been able to convince enough of those voters to either vote McCain or vote against Obama, which would seem to indicate some eroding support.

2) The Anti-Palin vote.

I know several people who like McCain. They especially liked the McCain who ran back in 2000, who thumbed his nose at Christian leaders like Falwell and Dobson and Robertson (calling them "agents of intolerance" in 2000). They were dismayed by what they perceived as McCain's pandering to the Religious right (by speaking at Falwell's Liberty University, for example), seeming to sell out in order to get their support. And when Palin was chosen, this seemed to further his entrenchment with the Christian Right. But what it also did was drive moderates and centrists away from him. According to a CNN exit poll, those that considered themselves moderate voted 60-39 for Obama, which was 44% of the respondants. Now I believe that McCain would lost by even more votes, if he HADN'T chosen a Christian Right conservative like Palin, because the Christian right would have stayed home or gone for a 3rd party candidate. It would have been similar to what happened in 1992 when many of them voted for Perot, sapping support from Bush Sr. and giving Clinton the White House. So McCain didn't have much choice from that standpoint. But it also didn't help that Palin basically became a punchline on most comedy shows almost immediately, even by using her own words.

3. Rejection of Fear Tactics

I wonder finally if many people just decided to reject the Christian Right's propagation of fear as a campaign tool. Now, as I've said, I think the Left used fear as well, particularly in its promotion of McCain as the Third Term of George Bush (a nightmare for many people on the left). However, there were some pretty egregious examples of the Christian Right using fear to try and sway voters, especially the Letter from 2012 from Focus on the Family. I think people got tired of that and tired of similar tactics, and whether they voted for Obama to spite the Christian Right, or because they actually supported Obama, I think those votes were a rejection of those tactics. Even going to the buzz words of the 50s (socialist/communist) and the new racism that's ok (Muslim) didn't seem to work.

Now it's the interesting part for the Republican party. Do they read these results as a rejection of the Christian Right and move more center or do they read these results as a reject of McCain and his more centrist policies and take this as a hint to move more to the right? I suppose we'll wait until the midterms to find out.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Question of the Day: Moral vs. Political

Why is it that when someone talks about abortion or homosexuality, they are talking about moral issues, but when someone talks about greed, poverty, or just/unjust war they are being political?

For instance, our guest preacher at church on Sunday, brought up abortion and acceptance of homosexuality as examples that our nation needs revival, which is a perspective that I can appreciate, even if I disagree on approaches. However, if someone were to bring up social justice issues like poverty or greed or just/unjust war, those issues are considered "political" and shouldn't be brought up from a pulpit setting. Why the discrepancy?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Speeches

McCain's Concession Speech

I've got to say that McCain did a really great job with this speech. He was gracious, considerate, and really showed the man that I remember seeing back in 2000.

Obama's Acceptance Speech

Obama did excellently as well. I thought the highest point of the whole speech was the end, when he brought up 106-year-old Anne Nixon Cooper, born the generation after slavery, who saw so much of American history happen.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-Elect Barack H. Obama

I don't think it's ever been a real secret that I've favored Barack Obama in this election. I like John McCain and I really liked John McCain in 2000 when he ran. I've tried to be as non-partisan on my blog as I can. I've tried to show different viewpoints on issues as much as possible. I'm someone who likes to hear both/all sides of an issue and so I've tried to present that as much as possible here.

This year though, I favored Obama. I'm not 100% with him. He and I disagree about abortion: he wants it more available than I do. He and I disagree on the role of government in the economy: he favors more involvement than I do, although I want more involvement than Greenspan favored. We agree on homosexual marriage, in not supporting it, but supporting civil rights for the unions between two homosexuals. We agree on Iraq, that we should transfer power back to the civilian government as quickly as possible and return our troops home expediently.

I voted for Obama in this election and I wait with bated breath to see the kind of president he will make. Great speeches don't make a great president. Great actions do, and I'm hopeful that he will be a president of great action and surround himself by the people that will enable him to make those decisions.

I know that many of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters are disappointed by his election, even appalled or disgusted. I respect that. I understand why people are disappointed in this, because of policy disagreements.

What I don't understand is the vitriol and hatred that many people who claim the name of Jesus are hurling at him. One of my former student's Facebook status last night read, "I can't believe America is choosing this racist Muslim piece of s***." Which appalled me. People who claim the name of Jesus are free to disagree, but to express anger in such a hateful way brings shame to the name of Jesus. And if I weren't a Christian and saw or heard this, there is NO WAY that I would want to be a part of that! Why would I want to become a Christian if it makes me a more hateful person? Please, let's think about how our words and actions come across to people. Let's think about how we are reflection the name of Jesus.

I will probably keep writing about politics over the next little while. I'm curious to think about why McCain lost. I'm curious to think about if this is the election that broke the back of the Religious Right. I'm curious for what Obama's election means about race in America.

But right now, we have a new President-Elect. And for the first time, it was someone who doesn't look like me. And if for nothing else, that's progress. That's history.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Colbert Election Prayer

Last night, on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert offered this prayer before the election. It's kind of the opposite of going into your closet to pray...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Presidential Campaign in 1 Minute

Seriously, what else do you need?

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Oh, and here's all you need to see of the debates.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

As one last point, here is the political journey of Donald Miller, author Blue Like Jazz. It's a very interesting perspective.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Politics of Jesus

Lee Camp (Associate Professor of Ethics at Lipscomb University, author of Mere Discipleship, and a good friend) hosts a theological variety show, what could be considered a "Christian version of Prairie Home Companion," called Tokens, although to describe it like that sell both Tokens and PHC short. It combines story telling, music, interviews, and skits, to talk about some of the pressing issues of the day.

At the last Tokens Show (which I wasn't able to attend, but you can listen to clips on the Tokens site), Lee opened with this:
Dirk Willems was arrested in the latter part of the 16th century. When he was jailed, Christianity had been in cahoots with the prevailing political powers for about 1200 years. But it had not always been that way. Christianity had once been illegal, and Christians had been persecuted on and off for the first three centuries of Christian history. But by the end of the fourth century Christianity had become the only legal religion in the Roman empire; and so then, Christians, once persecuted, became the persecutors. Indeed, by Christmas Day 800 A.D., Christian king Charlemagne had defeated the pagan Saxons in battle, and told them all that they could come either to be baptized, or else he would kill them.

Willems and friends, the so-called Anabaptists, were hated, thought be to be the most despicable of heretics. But the Anabaptists thought there was something quite wrong with how Jesus was being used by the powers. So they refused, as had the early church, to fight the kings' and princes' wars; they refused to swear oaths; they refused to baptize babies; they refused to say that the Sermon on the Mount was not to be taken seriously. And so the Catholic and Protestant authorities arrested them in droves, killed them by burning and drowning, sometimes cutting out their tongues, sometimes tearing their flesh with red hot tongs.

It was all done with great piety, in the name of Jesus. Many political horrors have been done in the name of Jesus.
So Willems was awaiting trial one cold wintry day, and escaped. He fled across a frozen river, but the deputy in pursuit fell through the ice, called for help. Willems, his consciousness suffused I would guess with words about love of enemies, stopped, turned back, and pulled the deputy to safety. The sheriff arrived, demanded that the deputy arrest Willems. The deputy protested. The sheriff insisted. The deputy obeyed. Willems was soon executed.

There are important questions at stake in any national election, but we will not be giving such guidance tonight. Our agenda is different: it seems to me that Jesus was undoubtedly political, for he talked about and taught round all of the things the politicians talk about: offenses, debt, law, enemies, sex, money, power, women, children, the least of these. The question is not whether Jesus was political; the question is whether any of us really want his kind of politics, an extravagantly gracious, painfully truthful, suffering servanthood, that got him killed, a way of life to which he also called all who would follow him. Few people liked his campaign platform them; few like it now, including, I confess, myself; who really, after all, wants that kind of king? But it's tokens of that sort of politics for which we look tonight.
I'm going to quote that last paragraph again, because I think it's SO important.
There are important questions at stake in any national election, but we will not be giving such guidance tonight. Our agenda is different: it seems to me that Jesus was undoubtedly political, for he talked about and taught round all of the things the politicians talk about: offenses, debt, law, enemies, sex, money, power, women, children, the least of these. The question is not whether Jesus was political; the question is whether any of us really want his kind of politics, an extravagantly gracious, painfully truthful, suffering servanthood, that got him killed, a way of life to which he also called all who would follow him. Few people liked his campaign platform them; few like it now, including, I confess, myself; who really, after all, wants that kind of king? But it's tokens of that sort of politics for which we look tonight.
No matter where we might fall in the political, or even if we choose not to participate out of conviction, followers of Jesus have to understand that we are called to a higher purpose than political ones. No matter how inspired by a candidate we might be, or convicted of the rightness of our cause, we are still called to a higher purpose than what might be accomplished through whatever candidate we support.

God will continue to work in this world whether McCain or Obama is elected on Tuesday. The question is: will we work with God?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Caption This Picture!

When I saw this yesterday on Wonkette, my first reaction was, "Please, tell me this is a joke!" I think I know what's going on. According to CBN, October 29 was Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies and these Christians are "laying hands" on the bull as a part of that prayer. Now, I think theologically, they're on a bit of shaky ground theologically praying for economies, but... ok, sure.

However, surely, SURELY, someone could have thought this through a little better and said, "You know, I think there's a story similar to this in the Bible somewhere. This visual might not be the best thing. Maybe there's a better place to do this."

At any rate, here's the picture to caption. Be funny!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trunk and Treat Pics

As promised, no politics today. Here are pictures from Otter Creek's Trunk and Treat on Sunday.

Kinsey is Harry Potter and Connor is Woody from Toy Story (notice the doll in his bucket?)

If you look really closely, you can see the scar above her right eye.

Connor never did want to put the bandanna on.

Our life group had a major showing. Special guests included: Daphne from Scooby Doo, Sara Palin, Meg from Family Guy, and a pirate.

There were a TON of people there.

Me and the kids.

The whole family together.



I found these two videos on ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), this one from the left, actually ACORN itself. It's 5 minutes.

And this one from Hannity and Colmes. It's 7 minutes.

You decide.

Both Sides of Fear

I'll post some pics of Kinsey and Connor in their Halloween outfits tomorrow, but pursuant to yesterday's conversation, the Daily Show skewered the fear on both sides of the campaign. As you might imagine, they pick on the McCain side a bit more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Focus on the Fear-mily

Last week, Focus on the Family's political action wing, Focus on the Family Action, published a letter trying to describe what life for Christians would be like in 2012 under an Obama administration. From the WorldNetDaily summary, here are some predicted aspects:
  • Six liberal justices sit on the Supreme Court after the immediate resignation of John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the later resignations of Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

  • Homosexual marriage has been ruled a constitutional right that must be respected by all 50 states.

  • The Boy Scouts have disbanded rather than obey a decision forcing them to allow homosexual scoutmasters. (The Scouts already had been kicked out of public facilities because of an expansion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to cover people who engage in homosexual behavior.)

  • Elementary schools have compulsory training in varieties of gender identity. Courts rule parents cannot opt out their children, because the training is deemed essential to psychological health.

  • Evangelical and Catholic adoption agencies cease to exist after the Supreme Court rules they must agree to place children with homosexuals or lose their licenses.

  • Church buildings are now considered a "public accommodation" by the United States Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples.

  • High schools are no longer free to allow "see you at the pole" meetings where students pray together or any student Bible studies even before or after school.

  • The Supreme Court barred public schools in all 50 states from allowing churches to rent their facilities, even on Sundays, when school was not in session.

  • Obama signed the Freedom of Choice Act, as he promised the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, nullifying hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion.

  • The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and TV broadcasts, and television programs at all hours of the day now contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts.

  • As a result of a reversal of its 5-4 decision in the D.C. gun-ownership case, it is now illegal for private citizens to own guns for self-defense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships

  • Parents' freedom to teach their children at home has been severely restricted nationwide after the Supreme Court followed the legal reasoning of a Feb. 28, 2008, ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in California.
Obviously this is aimed at getting conservative Christian voters out there, primarily through fear.

And I think this is absolutely sad. Pathetic.

Look, I don't mind people being for or against either candidate. But if you're going to have legitimate conversations about it, this kind of fear-based politicking says some really sad things about it.

1) And I've said this before, this shows a complete lack of faith in John McCain. They don't think he's a strong enough candidate to beat Obama so they have to attack Obama.

2) They think (probably with good measure) that many conservative Christians are susceptible to this kind of "reasoning" and so they can describe basically an evangelical Christian Hell and believe that people will respond to that. To me, that shows that Christians are more susceptible to fear rather than faith.

You see, because if you truly believe that Obama is misguided or evil or whatever and would be bad for America, I can understand that.





America is NOT God's chosen country. The United States does not have the monopoly on what it means to be a Christian. In fact, many of the ways that the US has achieved what it has achieved is directly counter to the teachings of Jesus: Turn the other cheek, love our enemies, sell everything we have and give to the poor, do to the least of these our brothers and sisters? Killing native Americans, enslaving African Americans, ignoring the plight of the poor is not being a Christian nation. It's being a nation that achieves its kingdom by means of this world. It's being of this world. Am I grateful to live in America where I get to enjoy the freedoms that I have and the luxuries that I have? Absolutely. Do I tie those freedoms and luxuries to believing that God has blessed me more than those who don't have what I have? If I do, I'm an idiot, a moron, a fool.

God is going to continue the work of bringing about salvation to this world whether John McCain or Barack Obama or whoever is president. Followers of Jesus should not succumb to fear tactics, whether from the right about what this nation would look like 4 years from now under Obama or from the left about McCain being Bush 2: The Bushening.

What we should be concerned about is how we can partner with God through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about His work and purposes in this world. And none of that is tied to who gets elected president.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Prayer During Economic Insecurity

A post that I'm going to blatantly rip off from Mike Cope, but it's one that I think it especially important during this time as we realize that putting our hope in our savings and investments might have been misplaced:

We remember, Lord, that Jesus told one of the Seven Churches that they appeared to be rich but that they were actually poor. They needed his wealth so they wouldn’t be poor; they needed his clothes so they wouldn’t be naked; they needed his salve so they wouldn’t be blind.

We also remember that he told another of the churches that while they appeared to be impoverished they were actually rich. Their wealth wasn’t financial; it was much more valuable.

In these uncertain economic times, help us proclaim again through our words and our lives:

- that some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God;

- that some trust in nations, governments, and politicians, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God;

- that some trust in retirement funds, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

And so, O Lord, we join our voices with those of our brothers and sisters from many nations and many languages:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

YouTube Thursday: He is Like a Mountie!

If you haven't seen this... well, consider this your introduction to the craze that is sweeping the nation. 1.1 million viewers can't be wrong.

Jesus is My Friend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

NY Times: The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of McCain

I don't know if you're tired yet of me talking about politics. And if you are, I'm sorry. But this campaign has been one of the most fascinating that I can remember. Maybe as interesting as Bush/Clinton in 1992 (oh, Lord, that's 16 years ago...)

However, if you are at all interested in the inner workings of political campaigns, I HIGHLY recommend this article in the New York Times on the McCain campaign.

It's fairly well balanced, and presents the journalist's view of 6 different campaign narratives of the McCain campaign.

#1 The Heroic Fighter vs. the Quitters
#2 Country-First Deal Maker vs. Nonpartisan Pretender
#3 Leader vs. Celebrity
#4 Team of Mavericks vs. Old-Style Washington
#5 John McCain vs. John McCain
#6 The Fighter (Again) vs. the Tax-and-Spend Liberal

It's long, and it will be interesting if a different article is written if McCain wins and if they publish a similar piece on the Obama campaign. But for political junkies (like me) this article is like crack.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Pictures

This last weekend, Sheryl took a girls weekend to Atlanta, and I had both kids. For one thing, this really made me appreciate what single parents have to go through, because you have to be ON the whole time. I was especially missing her on Sunday morning at church as I was doing my set up and tear down from the Sunday morning worship. Keeping an eye on both kids and trying to do all the stuff that I need to do was very stressful.

At any rate, even with that, we had a ton of fun this weekend. One of the things I really try to do for the kids is create memories that they'll look back on fondly, and one of the fondest memories I have is jumping in leaf piles. (btw, all these were taken with my iPhone, so sorry about the quality.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Palin and Powell

Well, in case you missed it, Governor Sarah Palin appeared on Saturday Night Live this weekend. I've read some commentors and commentators who have found it interesting and disappointing that she decided to go on a comedy show like SNL, but not a more serious news/interview show like Meet the Press or This Week. Whatever you think of that, she was pretty funny on SNL. I do wish she'd done this rap though...


1, 2, 3

My name is Sarah Palin
You all know me,
Vice-Prezzy nominee,
of the GOP.

Gonna need ya vote,
In the next election.
Can I get a "woot woot!"
From the senior section.

McCain got experience.
McCain got style.
But don't let him creep you out,
When he drops that smile.
'Cause that smile be creepy!
But when I'm VP,
All the leaders of the world gonna FINALLY meet me.

Jeremiah Wright,
'Cause tonight I'm the preacher,
I got a bookish look,
And you're all hot for teacher.

Todd lookin' fine on his snowmachine,
So hot for each other,
He the "go-between."

In Wasilla,
We just chill, baby, chilla,
But when I see oil it's
"Drill baby! Drilla!"

My country tis of the Thee,
From my porch I can see,
Russia and such.....

All the mavericks in the house put your hands up,
All the mavericks in the house put your hands up,
All the plumbers in the house pull your pants up,
All the plumbers in the house pull your pants up!

When I say "Obama" you say "Ayers!"
I built me a bridge, it ain't goin' nowhere!

McCain/Palin, gonna put the nail in
The coffin of the media elite!
(she likes red meat!)
Shoot a mother humpin' moose 8 days of the week!

(shoots someone dressed in a moose costume)

Now ya dead!
Now ya dead 'cause I'm an animal!
And I'm bigger than you!
Hold that shotgun,
Rockin the pump.
Everybody party,
We're goin' to hunt!

la la la la la la laaaaaaa

(shoots at the audience)

Yo I'm Palin and I'm out!

However, Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell did go on Meet the Press and formally endorsed Barack Obama for President. Some people will question whether or not he was ever a "true" Republican, since he supports gay rights and is pro-choice. However, whether or not you agree with Powell, I think he did make some interesting points.


MR. BROKAW: General Powell, actually you gave a campaign contribution to Senator McCain. You have met twice at least with Barack Obama. Are you prepared to make a public declaration of which of these two candidates that you're prepared to support?

GEN. POWELL: Yes, but let me lead into it this way. I know both of these individuals very well now. I've known John for 25 years as your setup said. And I've gotten to know Mr. Obama quite well over the past two years. Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country. Either one of them, I think, would be a good president. I have said to Mr. McCain that I admire all he has done. I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it, but that's a choice the party makes. And I've said to Mr. Obama, "You have to pass a test of do you have enough experience, and do you bring the judgment to the table that would give us confidence that you would be a good president."

And I've watched him over the past two years, frankly, and I've had this conversation with him. I have especially watched over the last six of seven weeks as both of them have really taken a final exam with respect to this economic crisis that we are in and coming out of the conventions. And I must say that I've gotten a good measure of both. In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem. And that concerned me, sensing that he didn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had. And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.

On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama and I watched him during this seven-week period. And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well. I also believe that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower. Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people. He's crossing lines--ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. He's thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.

And I've also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have these robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate.

Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration. I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities--and we have to take that into account--as well as his substance--he has both style and substance--he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world--onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.
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