Monday, July 12, 2010

Top Ten Things We (as Big City Metro Folks) Like About Sheboygan County:

10) “Rush hour”? “Congestion delay”? What's that?
9) It smells like a pleasant lakeside camp resort, all the way to Falls.
8) The low price of milk. I suppose there’s an abundance.
7) There’s always at least a few cows or horses to point out to our children from the highway.
6) The passionate sports fans. Oh, how I’ve missed taking part in rivalries with class. (P.S. Are you really going to let the treachery of one good player alter a 90-year-old rivalry?)
5) Lake Michigan scares away many bad storms.
4) Food. Especially if it had any connection to a cow.
3) All-around access . . . to the Lake, Milwaukee, Chicago, Door County, Green Bay . . . not that I’d want to visit the latter.
2) We didn’t have to give 5 proofs of address and ID and a pint of blood for library cards. Oh, there’s the Lake again. Isn’t it beautiful?
1) The welcoming small-town values community!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Freedom, Like All Gifts of God, Must Be Generative

“I am an American.” I still remember the months after September 11, when the Ad Council released the message where Americans of all nations, regions, customs and accents proudly make that self-statement. At the end, the screen shows the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” translated, “Out of many, one.” Some say that it was a message to unite in light of the terrorists' attacks, but I thought it was also a reminder of the vision that the founding fathers had for this country all along: a land of freedom and justice for all, where basic human rights are not denied. People that haven't fought for freedom or tasted and experienced a lack of freedom have trouble understanding the beautiful essence of that vision.

I feel I've grown to know a lot more about my heritage as an American in the past few years, learning more about that vision. I first learned about American church history under Scott Manetsch, and last year I was delighted to become familiar with the works of David McCullough. Despite the mistakes in our imperfect humanity throughout history, I've come to more appreciate the freedom I've been given in this country, and for the vision.

I think the proper response goes further, though.

Last summer, my wife and I came to know the work and words of Randy Singer. Being a lawyer, an author, and a pastor in Virginia Beach, he's quite passionate in his work and words when it comes to all types of freedom and justice for all. In a recent sermon he delivered on a July 4 weekend, he opened by saying, “When it comes to freedom, many Christians here in the U.S. think that their job's done.” He went on to talk about how many other peoples in other parts of the world still have yet to experience the freedom we have.

This past Memorial Day, I posted, “perhaps the best way, as a Christian and an American, to honor and thank those who died for our freedom is to seek the freedom of others.” It was “liked” by a variety of people. It's debatable to an American whether or not it's our business to seek the freedom of other countries, but it seems plain and clear to me as a follower of Someone who continually frees me: the job's not done. I need to seek the freedom of other individuals.

Freedom for all those in China who can't proclaim or even know Christ for fear of the government.
Freedom for the little grammar-school orphan girl in Romania who, in a developed response to mission work and charity from a team I served with, offered herself sexually.
Freedom for all students and scholars in Canada, where Christianity's designation as a religion continues to threaten and debunk its accreditation.
Freedom for all those in Port-au-Prince, who were oppressed and impoverished even before the earthquake arrived.
Freedom for all the single mothers in Uganda, who usually lose their home, their money and all their children's hopes for education due to illegal property seizures.
Freedom for the growing number of teenaged prostitutes in the United States.
Freedom for all the villages across the globe with contaminated drinking water, as water-borne illness fatalities have now surpassed that of all wars.
Freedom for all the poor children in India, forced into sex trafficking.
Freedom for all the spiritually-confused in South America and the Middle East, and freedom for all the spiritually-dead in North America, Europe and Japan.

Believe me, I'm grateful for the freedom I've been given as one born in America. My wife's late grandfather was one of the brave souls who stormed the beaches of Normandy and brought home some sand in a jar. The fact that I can proclaim what I believe as a Christian without fear of prosecution or arrest is a wonderful amenity to one who feels called to be a pastor, as well as my inalienable rights. These are privileges that our founding fathers (of the Church, not our country) didn't have, and they still brought the freedom of Christ to many lives.

But I can't help but also think of the freedom that Christ gave me with His death on the cross and His redemptive work in my life. We can all name the various metaphorical slave traders of our modern day. We ought to continually seek our freedom and the freedom of our modern day slaves.

Faith is a gift from God. Once we receive it, we're called to develop it in others. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Feeling loved by God, we're called to love others. (John 13:34)
The best form of leadership is the type that develops other leaders. (1 Timothy 4:11-15)
Having been given freedom, we're called to seek the freedom of others. (Prov. 31:8-9, Gal. 2:10, Jas. 1:27)
Like the old hymn says, “You want to pass it on.” (1 Peter 4:10)

This Independence Day, I'll be counting my blessings as an American Christian and renewing my vows to preserve the vision of our Founding Fathers. But I'll also be celebrating my freedom. All of it. And I'll be contemplating how I can seek to share it with those who still need it.

Because the job's not done.