Just a Thought

Whose Fault is it, Anyway?

Okay. I can’t remain quiet any longer. Ever since a government shutdown became possible, both the Democrat and Republican party leaders have been pointing fingers and throwing accusations at the other side. The American public has seemed to follow suit, accusing Republicans of not caring about the public and making a power play, and claiming Democrats are the real ones who don’t care and are power hungry and rigid, uncompromising at the risk of hurting the economy and the country.

It’s ridiculous. Both sides have made power plays, and both sides are entrenched in their political posturing. Yet, the blame game goes on. So, who IS to blame? Who IS the side at fault?

I really think we miss the point when we’re trying to assess blame. We are also missing the true focus of blame.

First, we miss the point by thinking if we can permanently attach blame to one side or another, we can further our own agenda. The point of the debate is not to assess blame. The point should be to figure out how to get the government back on track. Blame is inconsequential at this juncture. Function is of utmost importance. And both sides are dysfunctional like crazy!

Second, the true blame lies with us, the American people. We have allowed the mess to degenerate into name-calling, blame-assessing, and posturing instead of true leadership that moves to the future. I have come to the conclusion that the only way truly out of the mess we, the people, have allowed to evolve is to vote out every single incumbent, get new representatives of the people (not poster-children of the parties), and start all over. That way, no one has a reputation at stake or a voting record to uphold. We all start at ground zero, all equal in seniority, all fresh from the campaign to truly represent the people, not the dogma. This is the only thought that lowers my blood pressure.

Vote ‘Em ALL Out! Who’s with me? Or do you have a better suggestion?


Damned by Scandal: What We All Must Learn from the Aftermath of the Sandusky Case

The following is an article I wrote on July 18, 2012. I saved it as a draft, waiting for my wife to proofread it, and to see if I still felt as strongly after some time as I did when I wrote it. She did. I do. So, please leave your comments after reading.

The headline I read in the New York Times was pretty blunt. All those in positions of authority while Jerry Sandusky committed felonies with young boys on the Penn State campus were named “at fault” in their handling of the affair. Sadly, even “Papa” Joe Paterno, the legendary football coach at Penn State until his firing last fall, was depicted as knowing about even the first alleged incident, but he sat back, doing nothing but following the case, supposedly to see if anything leaked out to stain the reputation of the football dynasty he’d built.

On one hand, I can sympathize with Paterno and all the administrators who either passed the buck, avoided the buck, or flat out denied the buck. Who would want to have such a tawdry incident stain the reputation of a fine university? How many seasons will it take now to rinse out the stain and stench of this affair? Who really wants to deal with the ugliness and consequences of guilt? Okay, only Sandusky laid a hand on the boys, but in turning the other cheek, so to speak, every one who heard of the allegations and did nothing is culpable of the incidents that followed that initial investigation. Civil courts in State College, University Park, Philadelphia, or wherever the cases may be filed are going to probably see some pretty quick, high-dollar cases in the near future.

Yes, it’s because Jerry Sandusky had a twisted desire to be with boys, but also, it’s because no one wanted to acknowledge what was going on. Their reluctance to stand up and admit what was wrong will cost them, Penn State University, and even the students of Penn State for years to come. Through the machinations of its administrators, Penn State will pay the penalty of the sins of Sandusky through loss of student population, loss of revenue, fines, penalties, settlements, and even NCAA penalties to the sports programs, namely the lucrative and illustrative Nittany Lion football program.

Take a breath. (That’s more for me than for you.)

I could go on and on about Penn State’s follies and foibles, but I’m also seeing something revealing a larger picture, a scandal that sucks every one of us into its tawdry tittlation and damnation. You may be arguing already. “I don’t get involved in those kind of things. I never do anything that bad.” That may be true, but you and I can be facing the same kind of ugly consequences from our own scandals.

You see, each and every one of us is guilty of… sin. Just like Sandusky, you and I are guilty of committing sin. Okay, we may not be “perverts,” but the term, sinner, actually has just as bad a connotation or implication with God as “child molester” does for us. You see, sin is an affront to God. It is vile, offensive, and repulsive to the sensibilities of a holy, righteous, and just God. And He knows each and every hideous thing you and I have ever done.

Here’s where our story ties in to Penn State. Most of us don’t want to admit that anything’s wrong in our lives. In fact, even if we see someone else engaged in sin, we don’t usually want to point it out, because we’re afraid how it will reflect on us and our group, or we convince ourselves that keeping quiet and allowing someone to keep their dignity is the more “humane” thing to do. Worse yet, it seems the only time we don’t want to keep quiet about someone’s sinful actions is when we want to cause them harm in some public way, which makes our actions even more heinous.

But what if we were to actively and boldly take the stance that we will confront sin wherever it may be found, first in ourselves, then in our brethren, and then in the world? What would happen if we openly confessed our sins? Yes, most likely we would feel shame for what we had done. But that’s going to happen at some point, either in life or at judgment. Beet-red, face-burning, gut-wrenching shame is the godly result of recognizing the presence of sin in our lives. If you’re embarrassed by what the neighbors or your peers will think about your escapades, you haven’t confronted sin in your life. You may have sprayed Febreze® around to mask the smell. You may have rearranged the furniture to hide the gigantic stains. You may have even picked up and moved away to get away from the scandal and “start all over.” But if, before God, you haven’t felt the shame of your sin, I’d lay odds that you’re still struggling with it today, either trying to keep the past “in the past” or trying to keep anyone from knowing you’re still failing at resisting the temptation.

Wouldn’t it be better to admit your sins before God and man sooner in your life and have the God-promised help of the Spirit and the brethren in overcoming temptation each day, than to struggle in waist-deep, or deeper, muck each day, with no hope of every getting out? In which situation do you think you’ll find real, actual, sustainable joy? In which situation would you more easily be thankful “in all circumstances”? I can hear some say, “But you don’t know how people hang on to the bad things they know about you. You don’t know the people I’m around.” You’re right, I don’t know the people you live amongst or your church family, if you have one. But there are three truths we have to confront about our sin and who knows about it.

Truth 1: God already knows about it and wants to forgive us. We can’t hide anything from Him, and in the end, it’s what He knows about us that will determine our eternal destiny, not what our neighbors think about us. It’s His forgiveness we are to truly strive for, and it’s His mercy that sent Jesus to the cross in our stead. So even if those around you think less of you, what difference does that make if you’ve already obtained forgiveness from the One that matters most?

Truth 2: Our society wants to forgive those who have committed wrongs. Have you noticed that? Former president Bill Clinton is now a respected statesman for our country, even though he was figuratively caught with his pants down in a dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. Former president George W. Bush is now beginning to come back out into public to give and receive honors from different people after we discovered that perhaps we did, in fact, invade Iraq under false circumstances. I could go on about pop stars and athletes who “fall from grace” and then make comebacks. Why? Because we are willing to forgive them. Maybe it’s true that our society is getting more calloused and cynical, or maybe it’s true that we’re more likely to hold on to grievances done to us by those closer to us, but I maintain that, on the whole, our American society is more willing to forgive and forget, or at least, let bygones be bygones.

Truth 3: The sooner we confess our sins, the better it will be for us. Let’s go back to Penn State. What would have happened if the chief of the campus police had decided to press charges against Jerry Sandusky back in 1998, the year of the first instance of child molestation occurred on campus? What if “Joe-Pa” had insisted on going to the state police and/or the press with what is reported he knew back then? Jerry Sandusky would have been tarred and feathered 14 years ago, dismissed from his position and privileges on campus, and perhaps even be in jail still today. Penn State would have had the shame of having such an evil perpetrated on its campus, but it would have been blunted by their honor in having addressed it in a prompt fashion. The NCAA would not have done more than slapped their wrist, in a figurative sense. And, perhaps more significantly, many other boys would not have been terrorized, humiliated, and torn apart by what did, in fact, happen to them in the 14 years since that first reported incident. But… instead, we have what we have today.

I’m sure I’ve stepped on toes, slapped some faces, bruised some egos, and thumped some sensibilities in what I’ve said here. I know my own ego and spirit has received some blows. So, what say you? Is it better to come clean about personal or corporate sin, or should one try to keep the façade going, denying anything is wrong?

Being “Fish Friendly” to People
June 21, 2012, 8:35 am
Filed under: Discipleship | Tags: , , , ,

There is a practice in the sport of fishing called catch and release. You may practice it yourself or you may not, but for those who don’t fish and are unfamiliar with the term the practice is simply this: You fish for the simple sport of it. When you can catch a fish, you measure it, may be take a picture of it, and then release it back into the water to continue its life and perhaps to be caught again by another fisherman later on. Proponents claim it’s more humane and will build up the fish populations in certain lakes where certain species are fading away or have disappeared altogether.

I don’t argue that catch and release isn’t humane or beneficial. Personally, I don’t fish for sport. I fish for supper. That’s been our practice when we do go fishing; we eat what we catch, and we observe size and catch limits according to the law. Fact is, we don’t go fishing very often. Still, catch and release is probably what we’d do if we di fish for sport instead of for food.

But I got to thinking the other day, that even if we don’t fish for fish, a lot of us “fish” in another way. We’ll bait a hook with a spiritual argument (perhaps one that’s even supported by the Bible!), and go fishing for people to “bite” on it. We’ll “reel them in” without logic and Scriptures, provided we can keep them on the hook long enough. Once we’ve “landed” them in the boat with us, we expect them to confess, or admit, they were wrong, either in actions or in thinking. Then, according to Bible standards, we’re supposed to forgive them  and release them. Hopefully, they will “stay on our boats” and become “fishers of men” along with us.

I started out that last paragraph a little sarcastically and ended it in almost the same tone, because I’m afraid we don’t really practice such evangelism biblically. We are indeed supposed to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). But I’ve seen far too many  actually use tricky questions and arguments to “lure” people into Bible study.  Once they hook someone, there will be a “back and forth” fight as they try to reel them in. Once they’ve “landed” a person, most of us are at a loss as to what to do. Do we release them back into the lake (the world in our analogy) or do we try to keep them in the boat (the church) until they magically change into fishers of men with us. Such a process can be saved for another post and another time.

I want to consider the action of taking the fish off the hook and releasing it. Analogously speaking, letting each other “off the hook” and truly forgiving each other. This is more than just theoretically not holding one accountable for their sin(s). I’m talking about the complete restoration of relationship and status. Too often, we’ll say, “I forgive you,” but our actions make it clear we haven’t forgotten what happened and still react to it. Granted, it may be difficult to completely forget a wrong or a sin, but we can limit our reaction to it. To do this, we must:

  • Daily confess our own wrongs. There’s not a one of us who is perfect (Romans 3:9-12). If we, ourselves, have plenty of faults, how can we unrighteously hold another’s against them?
  • Daily extend forgiveness. I say, “daily,” because we must constantly give forgiveness until we have this concept nailed down in our lives. Otherwise, resentment can build up and spill out in ugly ways.
  • Daily pray for the forgiven party. Earnestly pray for their good and God’s blessings on them. You cannot keep this up without changing your attitude towards them. It may feel fake and deceptive on your part for a while, but it will surprise you when the prayers hit begin to hit home and you realize just how important this becomes to you.
  • Continue to pray for the brokenness of your own heart. Most of the time, when we are having problems with the idea of this “forgive and release” idea, it’s because we are holding on to some sense of vengeance or justice. Sometimes, we just feel that some sins aren’t meant to be forgiven or left behind once forgiven.  What happens when that thinking is turned back on us? How does one get released from what others consider “un-releasable”? How would we feel having that kind of hostility focused on us? If that doesn’t break your heart, then you definitely need to pray for it. Yes, pray for brokenness, because it’s only in brokenness that God can heal and strengthen us (1 Peter 5:5; Ephesians 4:2; James 4:4-10).

Who are you needing to “forgive and release” today? What situations do you find it hardest to truly practice this?

The Christian Chronicle: A stress-free vacation — with God
June 8, 2012, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Discipleship, Family, Personal Growth | Tags: , , ,

Ran across this short article with some hints on how to have a more “stress-free” vacation. I put that in quotes because I’m not sure any vacation can truly be stress-free. Some can be more enjoyable than others. Some more relaxing than others. But I’m sure you can cut down on the stress you’ll have when you hear “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?”

Click on the link below and enjoy!

The Christian Chronicle: A stress-free vacation — with God.

When Pain Arouses Pain

Yesterday, we received the news that one of Matthew’s friends from high school took his life. I have no doubt this young man awoke to the fact his life wasn’t going the way he’d hoped and that his parents had wished. However, I don’t understand the “why.” That’s the question that is left all who are left behind: “Why?” Why did he just give up? Why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he call? Why didn’t he share his burden? Why didn’t he look to the future? And on, and on, and on…

The problem is, we will never have those answers. The questions will continue to be there, unfortunately. They do not go away. We can try to ignore them, but the fact is, all too often, those questions will continue to flirt with the edge of our consciousness.

How do I know? For about 26 years or so, those questions have plagued me. I had graduated from ACU, but didn’t have the ambition to leave Abilene and get a “real” job. I was working at a country club, devoting tons of free time to community theater, and trying to date a young lady that I would never have been able to build a solid relationship with (this I now know). My mother came to, or through, Abilene and called me up and asked to have lunch. This girl and I went, and Mom was gracious, as always. Mom went on and on, trying to catch me up on all the local news. I don’t remember the exact words Mom used, but I do remember the spinning sensation and the feeling I’d been hit with a sledge hammer. A girl, a schoolmate of mine, a friend who was three years younger than me, one who I would have probably gone out with if we’d been closer in age, a star basketball player, track runner, clarinet player, and outstanding student (almost perfect grades throughout school), a girl who’d received scholarships for college, who’d gone off, found a young man she loved and married him, this girl, this friend, took her own life. It had happened some time before, and Mom had thought she had told me about it. If she had, it went over my head. This time, it took the wind out of my sails, out of my carefree life.

Mom was embarrassed she brought it up, embarrassed for me, actually. I couldn’t help but sit there, stunned by the news. Marilyn seemed to have it all: looks, athletic ability, creative, musical, intelligence. Her marriage didn’t last long, and it might have been that the reason it didn’t was so embarrassing to her that it sent her into a spiral of depression that she couldn’t escape. All I could think of was: “Why?”

I immediately thought, “Why wouldn’t she have called me?” Well, duh, we weren’t that close any more, maybe never had been that close ever. “Why didn’t she look to the light at the end of the tunnel?” Don’t know. Never will know. “Why did she think this one mistake, failure, embarrassment, was enough to wipe out her stellar accomplishments up until then?” Again, don’t know, never will.

It had been many years since I thought about Marilyn. When I heard the pain in my son’s voice when I called to check up on him, all the questions came flooding back. It was so overwhelming, I wasn’t sure whether the questions I was hearing were in my mind or coming through the phone. The uncertainty. The emptiness of not having “closure,” whatever that really is. All of it hit me again.

This recent event is just as senseless as the one I experienced a lifetime ago. It was senseless then; it is senseless now. And the thing about when an event is senseless is that we never will make sense of their suicides. We can only strive to make sense of our own lives. The future. The potential. This walk with God. It’s scary enough, to be sure, but it’s still exciting to see what lies ahead, even if we don’t understand it all.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:12-14

Great Quotes to Inspire
January 17, 2012, 11:06 am
Filed under: 1

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_10927087″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/davidcrandall/do-the-impossible&#8221; title=”Do The IMPOSSIBLE” target=”_blank”>Do The IMPOSSIBLE</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/&#8221; target=”_blank”>presentations</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/davidcrandall&#8221; target=”_blank”>David Crandall</a> </div> </div>

Sorry for the extraneous coding. It’s my first attempt at imbedding anything in my blog. As long as the quotes come through… Inspiring stuff!


Lessons from Father Abraham

In Genesis 15, God promises Abraham that a huge nation would be made of his descendants. That nation would eventually be known as Israel, but at the time of the promise, Abraham had no children. He and Sarah tried to make God’s promise come true by their own wisdom, but God insisted that Abraham and Sarah would have a child, even though they were advanced in years. But… that’s another lesson for another time. I want to consider some lessons we can get from Abraham once he started being the true “father of a nation.”

Lesson 1: Trust God to be able to work through your wife. (Gen. 21:1-21) Not long after Isaac is born to Sarah, friction increases between Hagar and Sarah, between Ishmael and Isaac. Sarah goes to Abraham and orders him to get rid of her former handmaiden and the boy Abraham had fathered by her. Abraham is hesitant, but God reassures him that He is in control and Abraham should follow Sarah’s request. Sometimes, our wives have a better perception of what needs to be done than we do. Just because husbands are to “rule” the household, it doesn’t mean that our wives can’t be used or trusted to be used by God as well.

Lesson 2: Go out of your way to get along. (Gen. 21:22-34) This is a lesson I have trouble applying, I must admit. Abraham had an interesting interaction with Abimelech in Genesis 20 (again, another lesson for another time). Abimelech comes to Abraham and wants to establish a treaty because he could see that God was with Abraham in everything he did. Abraham agrees to treat Abimelech fairly and then brings up the matter of a well under dispute. Abraham had dug the well, and Abimelech’s servants had taken control of it. Abraham then offers to give Abimelech seven ewe sheep if Abimelech would agree the well was Abraham’s. Yes, you heard it right. Abraham was “paying” for what was rightfully his in order to firmly establish peace with Abimelech. That’s going more than an extra mile, and that’s something I still need to consistently apply in my life!

Lesson 3: Being faithful to God does not require that you understand and know everything first. (Gen. 22) God had promised Abraham a son. That son was Isaac. God then demanded Abraham sacrifice Isaac to Him in worship. That’s right, kill the promised son to worship God. I’m astounded that Abraham didn’t bargain with God as he did concerning Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18). Abraham simply gets Isaac and some wood and heads for the mountain. When there, Abraham is just about to kill Isaac when an angel of God stops him. God says, “Now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.” (Gen. 22:12, emphasis mine) God provides a ram for sacrifice instead, but what about this amazing demand and Abraham’s even more amazing obedience? Didn’t Abraham love Isaac? Of course, he did. But Abraham discovered something about God in the process, too. Hebrews 11:19 says that Abraham deduced that God could resurrect the dead, since God had promised to make a great nation from Isaac. Who of us wouldn’t have argued with God about this command of His? Abraham stretched his faith to a deeper level of understanding about God. God can manage to fulfill His promises to us, even when we can’t see it ourselves.

Lesson 4: Be faithful and devoted to your spouse until death do you part. (Gen. 23) One might argue that there were times Abraham wasn’t all that faithful to Sarah, but if you take the whole of their marriage you have to conclude that Abraham was totally devoted to Sarah. While it was the practice of his neighbors to take multiple wives, Abraham only had Sarah. I know, I know, but Hagar was more of a surrogate than a substitute (and remember, that wasn’t God’s plan and it didn’t work out well, either). When Sarah dies, we see how close Abraham was to Sarah. He buys a parcel of land to bury her in, so that he would always be able to come back and visit her grave and be able to be buried with her. While this is a sad time, it is also a romantically sweet story. The Hittites are willing to give Abraham the land, but Abraham insists he buys it. This is security for Sarah’s grave, and security for Abraham’s future grave. Many more of Abraham’s family will be buried at Machpelah. For me, this is a touching end to a marriage that stands as an example for us today.

What other lessons might you find from Genesis, chapters 21-23?