Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I agree with Chuck Colson. Again!

This was good stuff. I especially like the quote "Look, I don't want to pay higher taxes any more than anybody else does. But I would certainly rather pay higher taxes than betray my kids and grandkids." That is exactly how I feel. But people in DC work on winning their next election, not on doing what's right.

Capitol Hill Follies
An Expensive Deal
Chuck Colson

The day after the November elections, on this very program, I said the following:

"If you are hoping that yesterday's election results will make that much of a difference, you hope in vain. The Republicans certainly don't have the votes to enact any massive government spending cuts. . . And, besides, neither they nor the Democrats are leveling with the American people about what is needed to get our fiscal house in order."

Well, today, six weeks later, I won't say "I told you so." And I do not claim to be a prophet. But last week, the Congressional Republicans sure made me look like one. They arranged a deal with President Obama to extend Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for another stimulus program.

In all, the deal could add more than a trillion dollars to the federal deficit. As Charles Krauthammer wrote in his scathing Washington Post column, "Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies."

Folks, this is a national Christmas tree with expensive gifts hanging on every branch for everybody. Madness! Washington follies in the extreme.

It's crystal clear now, as Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post, nobody in Washington really cares about the deficit. The Democrats got their stimulus, and the Republicans got some tax cuts. And the rest of us get it in the neck.

I've been saying, friends, for two years that this country cannot continue this reckless, grossly immoral course of deeper and deeper deficits. We will go bankrupt. And then watch it all break loose in the markets, in the banks, and eventually in the streets. We will, indeed, become Greece.

Look, I don't want to pay higher taxes any more than anybody else does. But I would certainly rather pay higher taxes than betray my kids and grandkids.

I can't help but think of a New York Times column written several years ago by David Brooks. The point of the column was the importance of self-control and deferred gratification-classic Christian virtues. Brooks described a famous experiment conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel. Mischel left a bunch of four-year-olds in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. If a kid rang the bell, Mischel would come back and the child could eat the marshmallow. But if they waited for him to come back on his own, those kids could have two marshmallows.

Well, some of the children couldn't wait one minute and rang the bell. Some held out a little longer. They each got one marshmallow. But those who waited for the professor's return got two.

Brooks then pointed out that according to independent studies, the kids who deferred gratification did better later in life, scoring higher on tests, having a much better life outcome as adults.

I suppose the others who couldn't wait must have been the ones elected to Congress.

Because Congress, despite the overwhelming message sent just a month ago at the polls, is ringing the bell again and again: More spending, more debt.

What can you do? Call your congressman and Senators. Tell them, "Stop acting like four-year olds. Instead, hold the line, shrink the deficit. Kill this bill. Enough is enough."

Monday, December 06, 2010

A tribute to a friend

This is a risky blog. Maybe more risky than any controversial theological or political statement I've ever made.

Today I want to write about a friend. A humble friend, and humble people are uncomfortable when people say good things about them. They know themselves, know their goodness is only by the grace of God, so accolades can be kinda scary.

But for the past few hours, I have not been able to get this friend out of my mind, and hopefully he'll forgive my intrusion on his life.

I got a treat today, I was home sick. Okay, so that's not normally a treat, but today my friend Paul Stankowski finished 9th at Q-school today, the most gruelling event in golf. And I got to watch it on TV. Okay, so I didn't see much of Paul's golf (I may have to fire off a cranky letter to the Golf Channel, doggoneit), but I did get to see the interview with Paul after he finished, after his 2011 Tour card was secured.

And it was priceless for me.

I first met Paul about 20 years ago, when he and my brother Daron were hanging out at UTEP. Daron was one of the FCA leaders, and Paul had gotten involved too. They were great together, it seemed. Daron even caddied for him some out on the Cali mini tours, amazing considering Daron's bad knee. The fact that he would subject himself to carrying a guy's golf clubs around on that knee says something about their relationship, and something about Paul.

Later, when Daron was leaving El Paso, Paul and I started hanging around. I was pastoring, Paul had just gone through Q-school for the first time. It was around that time that I beat him by a stroke in a round of golf at Cielo Vista Golf Course in EP. Yes, you read that right. Of course he had given me a stroke a hole; I shot 81 and he shot 65. He once tried to get me to switch to playing golf left-handed because he said my swing was more natural. I just think he thought I might beat him again...

When I was working for FCA, Paul came back to El Paso every year for the FCA Paul Stankowski Golf Events. We did scrambles, skills competitions, skins events, and one year a full-blown pro am where Paul got 17 professional golfers to come to El Paso for the benefit of FCA. He gave generously, and it sent many kids to camp and helped us start huddles.

I still remember his first Tour win. He outdueled Brandel Chamblee coming down the stretch to win in Atlanta on Easter Sunday. And proceeded to solicit an "amen" from the crowd during his post-win interview on national television.

Now I live around the corner from Paul and his family, and get to see them, but not enough. As virtually anyone who knows him will most likely attest, he's a blast to be around. Maybe the greatest thing about Paul, other than his faith, is his authenticity. I've never known the guy in 20 years to be anything other than what you see, whether it's on tv, in church, or on the golf course. He is exactly himself, all the time. He's seen success, struggled through injury, accomplished many things. If his career had ended this season, and he'd gone on to the next thing God had for him, it would have been a good career.

But it was what he said today that I can't get out of my mind. The interviewer had called him a "veteran" (hard to believe it's been 17 years Pablo) and noted that Paul still had passion for the game, passion to succeed. Paul said something to the effect of "my kids were both born after my last win. I want to see them running out onto the 18th green one of these days."

I know that I will cry when that day comes. Shoot, I cried when he said it today. It still gives me goosebumps just typing it.

Paul Stankowski. Husband, dad, golfer, friend. Passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Don't be too mad at me for writing about you. I just wanted you know that your example means a lot.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


These were the best of times, these were the worst of times.

The Christmas season is chock full of feelings: peace, want, greed, rest, love, desire, passion, joy, celebration, excitement, disappointment...hope. As Irene Cara is singing right now on Music Choice, "What a feeling!"

But what's it really all about? Growing up in a non-liturgical tradition, I never knew much about the Christian calendar in general, and Advent in particular. But as an adult the rhythm of the Christian calendar has become an invaluable tool to pull me into more intentional relationship with God.

Advent means "coming". The One who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" emptied himself into human flesh, baby human flesh at that. He grew up, lived, died, and came back to life, all to redeem you and me, all to display the love and glory of God.

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, the week of promise. I've always been amazed at Gabriel's inability to keep a secret. It was Gabriel who came to Daniel and announced a coming messiah. As a kid I wondered if he got in trouble for letting the cat out of the bag 400 years too early. Then there were whispers in the ears of the prophets, especially Isaiah (see chapters 7 and 9).

And then it was Gabe who got to meet Zechariah and Elizabeth, and tell them about their soon to be born son John. The forerunner of the messiah. The archangel then headed to the little town of Nazareth, to a young unmarried girl named Mary, and spilled out the whole story. And I'm sure Gabriel was included in the millions of angels who showed the shepherds where to find this newborn child.

What does the word "promise" mean to you? We live in a day where people don't always keep their word. Vows don't mean anything anymore. Contracts can be broken. Our word is no longer our bond. Promises have to be enforced by the courts. Then many church-going people "claim the promises of God" for their lives (while there are some great promises from God, most of the people who use this phrase claim some stuff that IMHO God never promised, but it's what they want so they claim it...but that's another post for another time). Promises--real ones, ones we believe in--change our lives. They change our feelings and our behaviors (just think of when you promise your kids something that they really want). They help put hope in our souls.

Ultimately Advent is about 2 promises, one fulfilled, one yet to come. The messiah did come (1st promise) and he will come again (2nd promise). He interjected redemption once, he will come again and set the whole thing right. He is coming.

He promised.