living in exile…a voice in the desert!

It was the title that caught my eye…”What do low-income communities need?” Intriguing. Definitive. Hopeful? Maybe…I clicked the link and read the article in hopes of finding the answer.

After reading it, I’m not sure I necessarily “liked” what I read. But, I still felt compelled to post the link on both Facebook and Twitter. Megan McArdle’s perspective was frankly pretty dark and cynical in some respects. As I read it I found myself torn. There are ideas here that rub my liberal sensibilities the wrong way and others initiate a loud AMEN from those same sensibilities. I also found my more conservative impulses reacting almost exactly opposite my liberal side in precisely those same places.

Ultimately, the writer didn’t answer the question posed in the title. And that was sort of a let down after all of the opposing visceral reactions I experienced while reading the piece. Don’t get me wrong. McArdle’s point is well taken, specifically as she stated it in her last paragraph:

“Public policy can modestly improve the incentives and choice sets that poor people face–and it should do those things. But it cannot remake people into something more to the liking of bourgeois taxpayers.”

And there’s the rub. Just like so many other things in our culture, we want to apply some kind of pharmaceutical remedy to all our problems and make them disappear. We don’t necessarily care how the drug works, just so it takes the pain away. It is in that spirit that we attempt to apply social policies to issues at the whims of elected officials whose main goal is not to solve the issue at hand but to be re-elected. Lets just say the “results” of these politically motivated prescriptions pretty much read like the foul side affects that are hurriedly read following the utopian myth offered by the drug ads we are constantly barraged with on TV (would anyone like to recall the first time you heard “please call your Doctor immediately if you experience an erection lasting for more than 4 hours” with your kids in the room? For a funny digression, check this out.)  All of the efforts from “both sides of the aisle” to solve these problems seem to be more effective at inducing cynicism and resignation that any sort of hope for real solutions.

However the false promise of the article led me to another thought. I was reminded of a passage of scripture we read in our Corner Bible Study at King’s Cross Church a couple of Sundays ago:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
—Isaiah 61:1

It was a prophetic word to a people who had lost everything: their homeland, their culture, their religion. They were returning from exile in a foreign land to rebuild their lives from the ruins of Babylonian conquest. And it was very good news.

I think we often forget that we (all of us) live in exile as well. As I listen to the noise of partisan politics and recognize it’s absolute inability to deliver the good news proclaimed by the ancient prophet, I begin to long for the realm promised by God.  As I become inundated with the call to consumption and materialism to which this season has devolved and recognize the fleeting nature of the “highs” provided by the giving and receiving of stuff, I long for a voice calling out in this wilderness. (With all due respect to my friends who work for Nissan, this particular ad was the last straw for me.  Seriously?…”most wonderful sale of the year“…seriously?)

This Advent season has been a reminder for me to rediscover the true source of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for allthe people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  — Luke 2:10-11

This is what poor communities really need.  Frankly, it’s what all of us need. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love…generously applied in our day to day lives.  Generously applied to the problems of our day.  The empty words of politicians and the fleeting pleasure of the accumulation of stuff pale in comparison.  It is my prayer for my family and for all of you this season that we all absolutely enjoy our Christmas celebration.  All of it…the giving and receiving of gifts, time with family, the lights, the food, the TV shoes, even the shopping (but that was a bit hard to write).   But I also pray that in all of this busyness and activity that you will “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  Peace!

100

100 posts

That’s a nice round number.

32,027 words

WOW!  that’s a surprising number!

Clicking the “publish” button on post #99 the other day made me aware that the next time I clicked that button would be for post #100…a good time to reflect on this little 3 year old experiment I’ve called “…so…here we are in the field.”

I’ve been far from disciplined in my writing. A quick scan of some of my past posts shows that.  “Lots of bases covered” is probably a little overstated, particularly in the “covered” area.  I’ve posted on faith, theology, politicssports, Facebook, etc. Some of my favorite posts got very little notice (like THIS ONE, or THIS ONE, and THIS ONE.  (What the heck…one more.  This one is not anything that I wrote.  Just a link to an interesting article about what makes people happy.)  I even sniffed the “blogging big-time” once with a post about being unfriended on Facebook which made the WordPress “Fresh Pressed” list for the day. I didn’t know what that meant until my page hits went from a handful a week to well over a thousand that day. Of course that “fame” was short lived and reality struck again.

I had no real expectations when I started this blog. My first post alluded to that. I had been hanging out with a lot of “emergent” types at conferences, etc. around that time and it seemed as though one had to have a blog to fit in. It seemed a little ego-centric and self indulgent.  But I finally caved and joined the blogosphere.  It’s good to look back. Sometimes I’m pretty proud of what I wrote. Other times I resist the urge to delete a post altogether. But I guess that’s sort of the point of this little blog.  It’s putting myself and something I’ve created “out there” for someone to see.  What I’ve come to realize is that this blog is not really about ego…it’s about being vulnerable.  I’m not talking about being an exhibitionist with my emotions or intimate thoughts.  It’s about opening up the conversation. It’s about putting something on my mind into words and setting it loose for people to see.  So often, we keep some of these thoughts inside and miss out on opportunities for connection, for deeper relationships and conversations.

So…post 100…it wasn’t really that sexy or provocative.  I really don’t anticipate it getting the “fresh pressed” treatment.  One thing it has been for me is a time to stop and look back.  I’m grateful for the peer pressure unknowingly applied by my hipster emergent friends pushing me to take the plunge into the blogosphere.  I hope if you’ve read this far and you aren’t blogging yet, go for it! (If you do, post your blog address below.)  I’ll bet you’ll enjoy you’re 100th post as much as I have…even if it’s just for yourself!  Peace!

(For a really inspiring talk about “The Power of Vulnerability”, check out Brene’ Brown’s talk on TED.com and also her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are)