Unaccountable Media

Mario Cuomo has announced his resignation. I want to be happy about this.  Not so much because I care about who holds the executive position in New York, but rather because it is the overthrow of an attempt to make him a hero, perhaps even to usher him into the presidency. 

A year and half ago Mario Cuomo was holding daily press briefings in opposition to the president’s briefings, and the portion of the press which opposed Donald Trump was on a king making mission.  They were portraying him as the hero America needed, and subtly suggesting how much better he would be in the white house than its then occupant.  He was handsome, he was morally upright, he was a policy making genius.  Or so we were told.

Even when evidence began to pile up that Cuomo’s policies had caused the needless deaths of thousands of senior citizens, he simply shifted the blame to federal and of course to the scapegoat in chief.  The media attempting to crown him accepted it as fact, without bothering to check evidence, Donald Trump was somehow responsible for those lives. 

The whole narrative allowed them to continue down the path of teaching the public that anything associated with Donald Trump was bad, evil, racist, fascist.  And a pleasant corollary to that narrative was that Mario Cuomo was a golden boy, who by all rights should be a national hero.  Pour accolades on him, whether it makes sense or not. 

Then accusations started about how he had interacted with women throughout his career.  These were easily dismissed, at first.  But without any way of blaming the behavior of the governor on the president, their tower of blocks began to wobble.  Eventually his own state government kicked down the ill-fated pedestal, by investigating and finding he had done some horrible things.

Part of me wants to be happy about this, not because Mario Cuomo was dethroned, but because the media which was building him up was thwarted.   But I can’t manage a lot of happiness over this detail because it is so incomplete.  We are going through a period of history where detail after detail which the media claimed as false or racist, because of their association with Trump, are being determined correct.  The virus really did come from China.  It really has been man-made.  It really did leak from the lab in Wuhan.  If these revelations are victories, they are incomplete victories.  They are meaningless, as they are.  The media was allowed to shape reality with their distortion.  Now even if they admit they were mistaken, that admission is incomplete unless they also confess they were using this misinformation in attempts to shape an election, redirect national polity and to change the political landscape.  When there is no consequence for this manipulation of the public, it’s impossible to be all that happy with the little victories where truth is finally


Arizona Thunder

There is a transition that occurs in those who move to Arizona. Prior to living here, they may have been in Washington, or Minnesota, or California. And in the normal way of thinking of the weather, they thought of the clear sunny days as the beautiful days. This was the weather they loved and appreciated.

This thought will change after they have lived in Arizona long enough. It might take a year, it might take a few yers. Eventually the transition occurs and the person becomes a true Arizonan when they begin to see beauty in the rainstorms. Rainy days are treasured by true Arizonans. They see wonder in the dark gathering of clouds. They rejoice in the sound of thunder. They celebrate in the formation of puddles.

Rain in Arizona is no less troublesome than it is in other parts of the country. In fact, it can be much more so. The desert soils are unaccustomed to water. Less of it sinks in and more of it runs off, in what quickly becomes dangerous torrents. While driving at night, one can come across a small stretch of water on the road that appears to be a harmless puddle, but which might have enough current to carry you and your car off the road. These floods can create amazing amounts of erosion, which in turn will redesign the landscape. It can undermine roads, destabilize the foundation of buildings and reroute washes by the accumulation of displaced soil. This last point makes the next location to be flooded unpredictable.

So if the monsoon rains are dangerous, why do Arizonans appreciate them? The answer is not as simple as you first might think. It is true and perhaps most obvious that after 9 months of straight sunshine, often in high temperatures, that rain is a welcome change of pace. But what might be less obvious is the way the repetitive days of sunshine give you a greater appreciation of our dependence upon water. Water is basic to who we are, and that water comes to us from the sky, even if it is in tumultuous moments of storminess.

Where once, all we saw was the chaos and danger of the storm, here in Arizona we begin to recognize the necessity of the rain that comes with it. Perhaps even notice some elegance to the delivery method. We know we will not be able to survive without the water brought by the storm, so there is something immature about being unhappy with the storm.

It is not a lesson we learn quickly. It does not change the reality that the storm will harm us if we disrespect it. Still, we become deeply invested in the coming of the storm. Our hearts anticipate those moments. We depend on those drops of life-giving water. We depend on those breaks from the normal patterns of sunshine.

Switch from Arizonans to Christians. Switch from rain storms to storms of life. Switch from rain damage and storm dangers to health and success issues.  Switch from life giving water to the water of life, or the gospel brought by Jesus Christ.  Thunder is God’s Word, both in Scripture and in how He sometimes work in the life of an individual to shape their hearts.  Days of sunshine are days of comfort and ease, but the storms are the days that make us more than we currently are.  Christians eventually learn to embrace the transformational power of these storms.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37 (NASB)  

Overnight Oats

I think its funny how excited I am about overnight oats. I tell anyone who will listen. I believe it is something more people should know about. I am in a very hot part of Arizona and I appreciate a hearty but not necessarily hot, breakfast.

So here is how I make my version of overnight oats.

  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries (almost any fruit can be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce. (I buy it in the serving sized containers, which are 1/2 cup.)

Mix all these ingredients together and refrigerate. They should sit at least overnight, but seem just as good after three days. I purchased little containers that are just the right size for holding this mixture. This allows me to mix several days worth of breakfast in a single sitting. When you pull it out to eat, notice that it has congealed a bit like a pudding. You might enjoy this texture. I prefer to stir it up again before eating.

If you want a larger portion just increase the amounts you use of each ingredient equally. Also feel free to experiment with other ingredients. For the fruit I have used raspberries, peaches, and more. I have added spices such as cinnamon and ginger. Other people have similar recipes that include peanut butter, nuts, or any number of other foods.

I have experimented in a number of ways, but I always keep the oats, water and applesauce. The oats and water are essential for obvious reasons, but the unsweetened apple sauce is less apparent. It adds the necessary sweetness. This is often done without the apple flavor coming through at all. One favorite variation added ginger and molasses instead of berries. Another used a packet of hot chocolate mix for a strong cocoa flavor.

I said at the start of this article that I find my enthusiasm for overnight oats to be surprising. Especially when as a Christian I have a Savior who needs to be proclaimed to the world around me.

But unfortunately, I am like too many other Christians. I find it easier to talk about oats, or other meaningless things, than to proclaim salvation in Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me to be bolder.

Blogging, again

It has been a very long time since I have attempted to blog on a regular basis. So long, in fact, that WordPress doesn’t look or operate the same way as it did when I last posted.

Isn’t it funny how the need to constantly update technology takes things which were intentionally simple, and makes them more complex. Many of these things were popular purely because of their simplicity. But we can’t have a tool, website or device that stays the same, now can we?

But in spite of the fact that I don’t want to mess with the complexity of my blog site, I have found myself wanting to write again. Not the big things like books. Well, actually, those too. But for the moment I am wanting to write just about everyday life. So that requires the blog.

This means that over the next, however long the feeling lasts, I will be in a WordPress punishment zone, generally referred to as the ‘learning curve.’ I have to learn how to get this editor, publisher, and/or host to submit to my will. In the process one of two things will happen. Either I will figure it out, which might lead to me writing regularly again. Or I might get such a pain from the process that I decide the agitation inflicted by the learning curve is not worth the value I get from the creative outlet.

When you look at it that way, it could be interpreted that WordPress is, through changes and complexity of systems, working against me.

This comes as a shock. I thought it would be the readers who were against me starting to write again.

The Foolishness of Sciencism

There seems to be a new term out there, which is being used in all sorts of settings, which apparently is believed by some to be the worst thing that one person can call another.  The term that I am thinking of is ‘science denier’.  It is used in politics, culture and, of course, science – as weapon of peculiar power.

If you want to get a feel for the scope of its use do a quick internet search for the term science denier.  You will see Trump, Pence and William Happer all called science deniers.  You will see at least two articles from Scientific American on how to argue against science deniers.  Dig a little deeper and you can even find articles where scientists within a particular discipline are using the term against one another.  I glanced through one in regard to grizzly bear populations.

Examining the way the term is used is interesting.  It is not being utilized scientifically at all.  In fact, it is used a bit more like a religious doctrine.  And if this is the case, the religious viewpoint that it is a doctrine of would have to be atheism.  Or perhaps some offshoot or denomination of atheism, sciencism.  After checking that term out, I discover I am not the first to use it.  The urban dictionary defines sciencism as the worldview that accepts conventional science as dogma.

I am writing this article to stave off an irritation I feel with the term ‘science denier’, but also to warn the reader off of sciencism.  Now before you fall into the most probable misunderstanding of this article, let me say that I am not asking you to disbelieve and disregard science.  The true scientist will know and appreciate peer review, opposing opinions, and open discussion.  The true scientist knows that science is always a collection of theories, and the vast majority of these are proven false, or at least replaced with more robust theories.  Think about this – Newtonian physics explained everything until Einstein came along.  And now quantum physics is overshadowing Einsteinian physics.

If sciencism is understood as a false religion it already has the hallmarks of religious thought.  It has its preachers, evangelists and institutions.  Like false religion all over the world, sciencism also has its minions. People who will wait for the next sermon or ritual for them to enthusiastically embrace.  These folks are waiting breathlessly for the next thing to come along that is scientifically proven.

Earlier I suggested that you do a quick internet search for the term ‘science denier’, let me also suggest you do a similar search for ‘science proves.’ Part of what set off this tirade was seeing a surprising number of articles in my feed beginning with the words ‘science proves.’ Here are some of the articles:

  • Science proves that gratitude is the key to well-being. (I like this one.)
  • Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them. (NBC news!)
  • Science proves greed is good. (This was Time.com.)
  • Science proves unicorns are real. (That is Good Housekeeping?)
  • Science proves pop music has gotten worse.

I’ll stop there, just to prove sometimes science does get it right.

Let be begin to wrap up with a few thoughts.  Humanity should avoid beating each other up, and part of that is not using terms which are meaningless in the big picture and only serve to silence opponents in the small picture.  We should also recognize when we are following something religiously, especially when it is unintentional, silly and not reflecting who we wish to be.

Finally we should recognize that the search for truth is important.  It’s important to all of us.  I personally believe the highest truth is beyond this physical world.  There are spiritual realities which are deeper, eternal and can never be discovered by science.  These things will be revealed to us by God Himself, and have been already both in His Word and in His Son.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong”

Podcasts for Pastoral Studies

For the last couple of years, I have had a new strategy for ongoing learning.  It has been a new “secret sauce” for staying up to date and being aware of hot topics of the day.

In the course of my duties, it is not uncommon to have an hour or two of driving just to get to the location I am concerned with that day.

On these drives, I listen to podcasts.  I started with some classic books recorded as audio books which were free in that format.  From that humble start, I launched deeper into podcasts.  It became multifaceted though when I found educational, leadership and ministry podcasts.

Podcasts are a great tool, but they also have a learning curve.  So let me fast track you, as to how podcasts can be a great resource. The three points I am about to cover are: how to get the audio files delivered to you, what to listen to, and listening strategies for maximum impact.

Getting the podcast delivered to you can be done on a phone, computer, or tablet.  I used my phone so that I could listen to it in my car. This simply required downloading a free app sometimes called a pod catcher.  On my Iphone the obvious choice was Apple Podcasts.  For other phones or computers you have a multitude of options.  Remember it should be free and the podcasts should also be free, if that is not the case, keep looking.

Once you have the app, then search for the podcasts you want to listen to.  There will be millions of options so just browsing is not your best option.  You will need to search by criteria to narrow it down.  I will suggest a list later on, but when you find one, subscribe to it.  From that point out, every time they release a new podcast it will automatically show up on your phone. For my purposes I downloaded the podcasts so they were stored on my phone until I was done listening to it.  If you are going to listen where there is a great data signal, this may not be necessary.

The new podcasts will appear automatically, and after you listen to them, they will be deleted automatically.  You can either set the podcaster to download them automatically or, as I do to save space, you can pick and choose which ones to download.  Since my phone is not loud enough to always overcome road noise, and since my car doesn’t have blue tooth, I bought a simple blue tooth speaker that can sit beside me in the car.

Let me also give you some advice on which podcasts to subscribe to.  Right now I have 13 different podcasts I am subscribed to.  Five of them are now, or have been in the past, a part of the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.  These are pretty good and are directly related to my denomination.  My favorite ministry leadership podcast though is Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast.  He only puts out new material once a month, but his quality of content eclipses all the others.

I also have 5 fiction short story podcasts.  Just like you read for both education and fun, I listen to both.  Then I have two serial fiction podcasts, which tell longer stories a little at a time, one of which – The Classic Tales Podcast  – focusses on classic literature.   The other is just a quirky fun group of serials called Decoder Ring Theatre.

Finally let me give you some advice on how and when to listen to these podcasts.  The ultimate answer is whenever it works for you, but here are some tips.  For some podcasts, it is better to look at the list of previous episodes and download an entire series at a time and then ‘binge’ listen all at once.  This is especially true of the classic literature.

Be careful of listening in heavy traffic because you will miss important stuff, either in your driving or your listening.  But I find that listening in light traffic is fine.  Podcasts keep me awake far better than music, so I will make sure that I have enough material to keep me covered for longer trips.   I will avoid listening to content that I will disagree with so strongly as to agitate my driving.  For this reason, there is not a single political podcast in my library.

There you have it.  Podcasts are a tool I use for staying up to date in ministry and more.

If this has been helpful or if you have other recommendations for a podcast worth hearing I would enjoy hearing from you.

Semantic Shaming

Those of us who lead churches are generally on the lookout for ways to reach more people.  This might mean a change of strategy as culture shifts around us.  The gospel itself is unchanging, but the ways we present it, may become ineffective and need to be adjusted to fit the times.

For example, 30 years ago every evangelism method started with some variation of ‘all have sinned’.  But today they often start with ‘God made the world’.  This change is not a change to the gospel, but it includes a detail that thirty years ago everyone assumed and therefore didn’t need to be mentioned.

Along the route of perfecting our methods, there are going to be some missteps.  One particular pattern has begun to bother me.

A few years ago, I started hearing people use the term missional.  I don’t actually mind the new word, but I am more prone to use the term mission-minded.  As of yet I have not been convinced the two are not synonymous.  However, I have been accosted by enforcers who believe that by using the older term I am proving that I am antiquated, and ineffective in kingdom work. My church gives generously to missions, prays for missionaries, sends missionaries supplies and encouraging notes, and has often gone on mission trips. Don’t tell me these things will become more empowered by describing them with a new word, or that they become ineffective simply by the use of an older term.

Not long back there was a trend to stop referring to ourselves as Christians, but rather we should describe ourselves as Christ-followers.  I have no problem with this term either. But when I introduce a person who has made a recent decision as a new Christian, please don’t act as if I am somehow perpetuating the corruption of true Christianity.

The only argument in favor of the new term that makes sense to me is that it better defines the responsibility of the Christian life.  Many people use the term Christian without any intention of obeying Christ.

Still I don’t mind the older term because I know full well that the title Christian, meaning little Christs also started off as a term noting our allegiance to the Lord.  Being totally honest, it won’t be long till people call themselves Christ-followers without any intention of obeying Christ.

Like everyone else in church leadership I want the church to be more effective.  I want the kingdom to grow and God to be glorified.  I want us to continue to search for better ways to do these things. But real ministry is going to take more than a change of vocabulary.  And the energy expended in correcting people who have not adopted the change of vocabulary would be better used in witnessing, and instruction in Biblical lifestyle and Biblical growth.


Delegation is far more complicated than people realize.  It is often painted as the easy solution to accomplishing more and building teamwork.  But this is a very incomplete picture.

Delegation almost never removes burdens from the project leader.  Delegation often results in more time lost in instruction and oversight than doing it yourself.  And this only takes place after you have already spent time searching for the right person to delegate to. Even then you may well start over more than once after realizing you have the wrong person.

Delegation requires some degree of oversight, but too much and too little both create different problems. The two areas of problem—too much oversight and too little oversight—may overlap meaning there is no workable amount of oversight, indicating you delegated to the wrong person,.

Too much oversight means that the person who is doing the work feels oppressed, untrusted, and superfluous.  Too little oversight means that they will feel unprepared, worthless, and overburdened. A project leader may want to ignore feelings in favor of accomplishing task, but this also works contrary to God’s purposes for leadership.

Delegating a task often results in it being done differently or incompletely, so that it doesn’t accomplish its portion of the bigger project. If that part of the project is not something that can be repaired last minute, then the entire project may be compromised.

Delegating multiplies the points of necessary communication and therefore amplifies any and all communication problems.  These problems will frustrate and test the delegator more than it tests the delegatees. The delegatees will also judge the project leader to be at fault even if they themselves simply were not listening. In these ways, miscommunications will bruise the entire organization.

But don’t think that I am saying you should not delegate.  Instead I am stating that delegation should not be painted as an easy solution.  Here are some reasons you should delegate.

Delegation will eventually increase the capability of a group.  Just don’t expect this to happen too quickly.

Delegation is the primary way in which you build leaders, it is a form of mentoring. Taking people from participants, to workers, to leaders, is an important part of growing a church.

Delegation spreads out capability and therefore stabilizes a group.  If only one person knows how to do something, what happens when that person moves on?  Having others who understand the tasks being performed means the work doesn’t grind to a halt when change occurs.

Delegation improves communication.  But like weightlifting the gains are only made if you can tolerate some soreness along the way.

When delegation is working right it will create strong teams.  When delegation is working right it will greatly increase productivity.

And finally, when delegation is working smoothly, and a strong, capable team has been created, it is probably time to change things up and return to the chaos.  (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)  You simply cannot stand still in an ever-changing world. Stagnation will cause you to fall behind.  Furthermore, since God is more interested in people than in tasks, He will likely move your capable team members on to greater challenges.

10 Easy Ways to Help Your Church

Every now and then I have a conversation with a member or attender of the church that essentially is saying, ‘I wish I could do more.’ Often people feel their contributions are hindered by some circumstance which prevents them from spending time or money benefiting the church. Responding to this need, let me give you a list of 10 ways you can do more for your church on a very limited budget of time and absolutely no money.

  • Boost your church on social media. Most specifically, like your church’s Facebook page. The more likes the page has the more credibility a prospect will feel when they check out the church on Facebook.  Similarly, talk about your church on Facebook, and tag it when you do by using the name of the church’s Facebook page.
  • Rate your church positively on Facebook. Again you give your church credibility by doing this. Online ratings are getting more important every day.
  • Every time you attend any event at the church, do a Facebook check in. Not only do you give the church more credibility, but check in’s also help with the extremely important Facebook algorithms which shape what pages show up when people search for churches.  The likes, tags, and ratings mentioned above will also help.
  • Find your church on Google maps and rate the church there as well. Google’s algorithms are even more important than Facebook’s.  You can also help by searching for your church on Google and linking to their site from Google.  Never go straight to your church’s web page, but search for it on Google and then follow that link to the church website.
  • Join Yelp and comparable sites that rate local businesses. Then rate your church positively on these sites.
  • Not just when you are at church, but also when you are at church.  A smiling congregation is obviously preferred over one that has any other facial expression.
  • Sing during the congregational singing. Learn to sing with gusto and allow yourself to enjoy it. Nothing expresses the sincerity of a church’s worship more than the enthusiasm of its singing.
  • Speak to people whom you do not yet know. Some of these will be members you just haven’t met yet.  Others will be prospects who will be relieved that someone at the church noticed them and acknowledged them.
  • Be respectful and clean up after yourself. Wipe down the sinks after you use them. Don’t leave bulletins and fliers on the pew.  Put your empty coffee cups in the trash. Do all these things because a messy church can never leave a positive impression, but also do these things because not doing them shows that you don’t care about the church.
  • Attend more events at church. The more people that are at an event, the more likely visitors will perceive it positively. If you are only involved in Sunday worship, perhaps add a Bible study, or a monthly fellowship. As people attend events the church is better able to offer them.

It is not a coincidence that the first five suggestions have to do with technology and more than half of those involve Facebook.  It is quite understandable that people look for a church via technology, most specifically social media.

It is also not a coincidence that the last five suggestions are all about how your individual behavior affects others.  Colossians 4:5 (NASB) says “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”

Balancing Simplicity and Empowerment

Leading a church requires delicate balance.  One often must work a fine line in between two equally worthy ideas, which are oppositional to one another.  I suspect you need an example, because you are already wondering how two oppositional ideas can both be worthy ideas.  The topic of this article is one such example.

One of the principles I choose to emphasize in my church is empowerment.  I believe any church member might be led by God to start a new ministry.  If they are committed to this ministry they can approach the church with a workable plan and gain approval to form this ministry with the blessing and support of our church.

On the other side of the coin is the simple church principle.  This is the idea that if the church is too busy doing a diverse collection of ministries they will soon not be doing any of them well.  Instead of all the different ministries making disciples they will be competing for the limited resources, money and workers, the church has to offer.  Instead a simple church will have one path of discipleship, one process of disciple making, one plan for turning out disciples.

I believe in empowerment. If God did not want to put every member of the church to work, why gift every member with different abilities and passions?

I also believe that if the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.  The church that is exhausted will not be nurturing maturity.  Burnout is a poor substitute for discipleship.

Somewhere in between these two poles is the path that God want’s the individual church to take.