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Passionate Grace

Is it Any Wonder They Call it… Amazing Grace – a Ragamuffin Blog

A Letter to my Son and His New Bride on Their Wedding Day

Dear Steven and Kendra,

It is your wedding day.  In many ways it has been a long time coming, but at the moment it seems surreal that the day is here.  It is an exciting day and I am hopeful that everything goes smoothly, but even if something doesn’t, don’t let it steal the joy of this moment.

I haven’t had the chance to talk to either of you much about marriage, but I have a few thoughts I would like to encourage you with as you embark on this new chapter of life – one that extends through the rest of your life. Forever and always is not guaranteed and will require significant effort, grace and humility to have a chance. 

  1. Fairy tales are illusory. The vows you make today, as I know you are aware, mark a covenant before God.  This covenant is a sacred promise to not forsake the other no matter the adversity you face.  And you will face adversity.  From financial strain, to job demands, to relational difficulties, to child-raising, to where to live, to….  Life is both beautiful and challenging.  Whatever challenges you face they need not drive you apart, though they do for many.  Adversity faced in isolation drives wedges between you, but adversity faced with your spouse is, many times, the instrument God uses to forge you into one.  You need each other.  Steven you need Kendra – yes, as the man you are the leader and protector, but this does not mean you are meant to bear every burden alone, to not share your difficulties, your questions with Kendra.  She is your partner in this life – including its struggles – don’t rob yourself or your marriage of availing yourself of this God-designed help in an attempt to isolate Kendra from the storms of life.  Huddle together in the storms and find your strength in God together.  Kendra, don’t be afraid to give Steven your counsel and your insights he needs them as you need his. While marriage is not like a fairy tale – there is something stronger that is found in marriages that thrive – joy forged on the anvil of difficulty.  This kind of joy in each other and together found in God, is the mortar that will cause your marriage to last.
  • Be quick to forgive and slow to anger.  One of the challenges of having two human beings marry is that we are sinners.  This means that you will at times hurt each other.  Sometimes the offending party won’t even know they are hurting the other.  I remember when Mom and I first got married – I was so excited to sleep in the same bed and cuddle with this “the woman for whom my soul craved” and having mom unceremoniously remove my arm from her person and roll AWAY from me.  I felt rejected.  Mom felt hot. She didn’t mean to make me feel rejected she just was too hot.  My sense of rejection was based on expectations that were unmet.  Unmet expectations could be its own point but I’ll include it here.  You both have expectations you are bringing into the marriage that the other person is probably completely oblivious to.  You may not even be able to speak to what your expectations are, but you have them nonetheless. The process (possibly life-long process) of working through your expectations and desires of your spouse and their expectations and desires of you is best accomplished by non-defensive, open communication.  When those expectations go unmet and undiscussed they will often create anger, resentment and frustration – even sadness.  So when (not if) that happens be quick to forgive – quick to listen – be patient with each other – look to see the best in each other rather than the worst.  “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  The people closest to us have the most power to hurt us and so when one party feels offended our human tendency is to close ourselves off.  DON’T do this.  Move towards your spouse even if they have hurt you in understanding, humility and love and you will find that almost any offense can be overcome – more just as in adversity – these offenses if shared and responded to appropriately – will draw you together.
  • Pursue each other until death.  I was trying to say this to you a few weeks ago Steven, but I’ll try again here.  The wedding day is not the finish line or the peak or the highlight of the marriage.  The wedding day is glorious – the bride dressed in white – the groom looking with eager expectation – the wedding party celebrating the union – BUT for all its glory the wedding day pales in comparison (or should) to the glory and beauty and joy of a life lived together in pursuit of each other.  What I mean by pursuit is for you Steven – that men enjoy the hunt, the chase but often lose interest once the game is caught (not that you are game Kendra, but for illustrative purposes only).  But as I stated before, the wedding day is the starting line not the finish line, and the race that is to be run continues for the rest of your lives together.  As much as you now know about each other, as much as you now are captivated with each other, there is so much more to learn.  Discuss life together – music, movies, God, philosophy, books, animals, nature – Invest time in each other.  This gets harder when children come.  And children are precious BUT the center of your family is always the two of you.  This is the priority and should not be neglected.  Continue to date (again easier now then when the children come) eventually you may have to schedule a date night.  Put your phones down at dinner.  Invest in experiences.  Go and do things together.  Steven, you have the McLain sense of the extravagant, but this does not have to cost a bunch of money to be enjoyable and Kendra sometimes it is ok to spend the money for the experience 😊.   Make it a practice to continue to move toward each other and you will find that the love you have now is great but is replaced by deeper love in 20 years.  This is one of the greatest joys of marriage – to be with someone who knows you at your worst and sees the best because they know, like no one else, who you are and love you. 
  • Smell the Roses.  Don’t be in a such a rush to “arrive” at some notion you have created of a “destination” that you don’t enjoy what is going on in the moment.  Life is not a future destination – you are living life now – enjoy it.  Life is not defined by money or jobs or success or house or kids.  These opening notes in the symphony of marriage are incredibly precious.  You both have goals and aspirations and dreams about where you are going.  But don’t make the arrival or achievement of those goals the place where you expect to begin to enjoy life.  For one is very likely those goals will change over time and what is important to you now will be different in the future.  But even more importantly, not to be trite, there is really no arriving in this life, instead it is about the journey.  Enjoy these early days.  Find friends to share life with.  Join a church and be part of a Christian family. Laugh together.  Enjoy being broke (if you are).  Don’t stress about every problem.  Learn to enjoy these moments together even if they don’t quite measure up to where you hope to be.   You can live your whole life in pursuit of “arrival” and miss all the beauty and joy of the trip.  I’m 42 – I haven’t arrived – and I wish that at times I wouldn’t have been so focused on not having what I wanted and more focused on enjoying my wife and boys and the little things of life.  Ambition can be a good thing – but it can also rob you of the simple joys God has given. 
  • A Three-fold Cord is not quickly broken.”  Marriage is meant to be a human picture of a larger reality.  Over and over in the bible, the love God has for his people is compared to love of a groom for his bride.  Everything I’ve mentioned above while essential I believe to a “forever and always” marriage is ultimately not enough if God is not included in the center of your relationship.  The bible pictures this as a “three-fold strand” which means that God is woven into the joining of the two of you.  This has several implications I believe for how we thrive in a marriage.  First it means that neither you Steven or you Kendra are the other’s ultimate answer to the longings of your heart – instead you point each other to Christ who is.  Second it means that while the marriage is the paramount relationship above all other relationships on a human level, your relationship with God is of the highest significance over even the marriage relationship.  Instead of making the marriage weaker by virtue of it being of second importance to knowing God, when we place God first the marriage is strengthened.  Just like your relationship with each other – knowing God requires investment of your time.  Reading your bible, going to church, spending time with other Christians are not “religious duties” to be done to look good or be good – they are means to know your maker.  And just as you cannot in this life get to the end of all there is to know about each other though finite beings, you even more cannot reach the end of knowing the infinite God.  Paul says in Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Your pursuit of knowing Jesus, or better said your surrender to His pursuit of you is your highest calling and greatest good – His love is truly forever and always.

Lastly, I want to say a few things to each of you.  Steven, you are my first “arrow” into the world.  I am proud of the man you are becoming.  You have been given gifts that amaze me – you can do almost anything well the first time – you have great thinking abilities – you can teach others.  These have been given to you so you can serve God and others – find opportunities to use them.  Be patient with yourself as you find a career – it will come.  I love you and am looking forward to a life-long conversation with you (as least my lifetime 😊).  Kendra, I am glad to embrace you as a daughter.  I have waited a LONG time to have a daughter and I could not imagine a better one.  You and Steven have contrasting strengths – his boldness – your reflection – his fiery logic – your compassion.  These, I believe, will serve you well in strengthening each other.  He has found his match in you and I am grateful.

The bible says a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.  This is right and true.  However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come around…frequently😊.  While we don’t want to overstep in anyway – our door is wide open to you at any time and Mom and I both desire to see you as often as possible.   And if visiting is not an option we would love to talk by phone. 

I hope your have a great honeymoon – enjoy every minute of it – Alabama is a great honeymoon destination from what I hear – snakes everywhere (and knowing your love for animals, Kendra, I’m sure you’ll love it) 😉 

Ok time to get ready for the big day – “May the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.”

Dad

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Just 62 Miles Away…

There is a place that is not even as far away as Wenatchee is from Moses Lake that is so different an environment no one could live there. In fact any human going there would almost instantly die. I’m talking, of course, about space. The Kármán line that divides our atmosphere from outer space is about 62 miles away. Here – the air we breathe, the nature we enjoy, the warmth we feel are taken for granted, and the thought that we live in a little bubble of air surrounded by a much vaster and totally alien environment is given little thought.

I was thinking of this in relation to the kingdom of God. I see and take for granted this world and its systems. They are as natural as breathing. My commute to work, spreadsheets, interaction with my colleagues, playing Frisbee with my kids, eating supper, driving my car, engaging in political discussion, paying the bills….all this is completely normal and natural. And yet surrounding and underlying all of this “normal world” is a God who rules and reigns over all things – whose mighty angels engage invisibly in the affairs of men. If I had eyes to see I would be overwhelmed by this spiritual world.

Many of us, myself included, can be tempted to just focus on what we can see. The things of this world are the only reality we consider – and we give little thought to there being a whole other world just under the surface that if we spent anytime at all looking for it – we would catch glimpses of it. And just like this earth is a fragile bubble of air – so this natural world is fleeting in its current state – and the world to be that is even now being formed is a more solid reality.

All this is to say why I read my bible and books on God and post quotes on facebook. It is not because I am trying to impress you… it is because through these things I gain glimpses of another world – a world more real than this one. As CS Lewis said it is through the word that “we espy heaven.” I long for the rule of God – to be captivated by him – and I post things that help me glimpse who he is and what he does. When I see him – it helps me see this world in a different light and I am transformed by what I see.

It is easy to just breathe in the normal world, but I have found it does not satisfy. Lewis again: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We are made for another world and that world is just a breath away – closer than Wenatchee – Oh Father give us eyes of faith to see.

Hebrews 11 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. “For he (Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

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An Open Letter to William Shatner in 24 Tweets.

I have long appreciated Star Trek and Captain Kirk. As a result, over the years, I have watched or read numerous interviews with William Shatner including this recent one. I have noticed that he frequently brings up the topics of death, the afterlife and God. And I have often thought I would love to talk to him and discuss how he can find the answers he seems to be seeking, in Jesus. In lieu of that I sent him 24 tweets in the hopes that God would see fit to show himself to Bill, through his Word, even in a medium as imperfect as twitter. Here are those tweets.

Bill, I write this with great affection and longing for you – You have asked these questions in many places over the years I have followed you “What have I done?” “Why am I here?” “What’s going to happen?” “Is this the end?” – What does life mean?  What is death?

And as David accused Kirk – “You’ve never faced death before” perhaps you feel somewhat like Kirk – You know death is inevitable – at 88 you feel it – yet in many ways have cheated death. You have tasted all this world has to offer but you also taste its inability to satisfy you.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As Spock aptly noted “There are always possibilities” Perhaps the answer to your questions lie in a possibility….

I’m sure over the years someone has presented Jesus and Christianity to you. For whatever reason – Jesus has not captured your attention – maybe the messenger was flawed – maybe you find His story implausible – Maybe you hate the judgement of religion – I don’t know… but…

Here are some things I have found to be true and give me hope facing my own mortality – more than hope – joy – happiness even in my sorrows. Every good story must have a villain – Kirk must have his Klingons. And in the story of the human race – we are the villains.

Now I know this may sound like religious stone casting – but I’m including myself – I am broken – not good – not righteous – and the Bible indicts all of humanity as sinners Romans 3:10 – “There is NONE righteous…. no not one” Romans 3:23 “The wages of sin is death, BUT…

Let me leave that “but” hanging for a minute, because until we realize our diagnosis is bad and justifiably so the “but” is just sentimental meaningless drivel of religious people. Jesus said “I did not come to those who have no need of a physician but to the sick” not because

some are sick and some are not – but because all of us are sick but not all of us recognize it. Most of us believe that if there is a God he will accept us because we are “not too bad.” We compare ourselves with others based on our intentions and decide “I’m ok.”

And maybe compared to other sinners we are mildly better. But our maker is not a fellow sinner – he is a holy, perfect, radiant in splendor, dwelling-in unapproachable-light being – If we were to come into His presence in our self-evaluated, not-too-badness – we would be undone

If you were to compare not to others or by your good intentions, but instead to a perfect being-pure in every way- you would cry out like the Prophet Isaiah – “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Scripture has this diagnosis “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment.” If that judgment is by our creator and he is in fact perfect and his requirement of us is perfection-because no one imperfect can stand before him…What will his judgement be of you?

I don’t ask you this as someone better than you – save for one thing I would stand condemned, with you and all of humanity. I ask because as I stated before – unless we understand our plight, our condition – we will not understand the meaning or need of the solution.

The sacrifice of Spock to save the Enterprise is silly, unnecessary-a waste, even embarrassing-if the context of what is at stake not understood. If it truly is life and death-and the stakes could not be higher then the sacrifice is understood for what it is-absolutely essential.

Your soul is of great value. Jesus asks “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?” … You have been a man who has, more than most, tasted what this world has to offer and, I suspect, found that it is not enough to satisfy you…

Your soul need not be lost. Let’s come back to the “BUT” “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”There is salvation for your soul and it is found in one person-Jesus. He says “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father BUT by me

Jesus is not one path of many – He is the Only path to the Father and to eternal life. That is his claim. So here is what us Christians call the “Gospel” – Gospel just means “Good News” It is a proclamation of what God in Christ has done for sinners like you and me.

  1. “BUT God demonstrated His own love for us – EVEN while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 – What this means is that God our creator saw our rebellion, our sin and our failure and instead of moving away from us condescended to send his Son to rescue us.
  2. Jesus, who is God and one with the Father, came as a man, humbling himself as one of his creatures and lived the perfect life that we have not, died the death we deserved so that all those who trust in Him alone will be raised to life as he was raised.

II Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him (Jesus), who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” So our just penalty for our sin (death) was borne by Christ and his perfect righteousness is given to us because God is rich in mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

The grace of God alone is able to rescue you, my friend. Not your goodness or efforts to do right. Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy”

So the meaning of life and death is not found in ourselves or in our accomplishments or failures. Our souls are not designed to find the answer to our longings in our work or possessions or accolades. The longing that CS Lewis references can only be satisfied in knowing Jesus

He is your maker – and despite all your failures, and sin, and pride he has come that you may have life – eternal life – with your maker and designer – with the one who formed you and loves you. The question is What will you do with Jesus? Will you trust him alone to save you?

I don’t know, Bill, if you will even see this and if you do if it will make any sense at all to you. But I know this is my only hope in life and in death. Jesus is the answer to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. And I am praying that you will find peace for your soul in Him.

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Is Tongues the Way to Experience the Fullness of God?

Experiencing the fullness of God does not require that one speak in tongues or heal or prophesy. Sometimes we can overemphasis a radical experience or gifting as the essence of knowing God, but scripture doesn’t talk that way.

I Cor 12 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”

So what does Scripture say about knowing and experiencing God?

The heights of intimacy and the pinnacle of experience with God is found when through the ministry of the Word applied by the Spirit of God, I encounter and embrace the outlandish love of God.

Ephesians 3 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I am joined to the fullness of the love of God and the joy of knowing him by faith – the faith which comes by Spirit wrought hearing through the Word of God.

Philippians 3 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

Spirit-born faith that revels and delights in the undeserved love of God as revealed in God’s Word, yields a knowing of him that does not rest on my works or my giftings but instead rests on his mercy alone. In these things I am filled with all the fullness of God and experience the power of his resurrection.

Psalm 23 – McLain Paraphrase

The One who is LORD over all things is my shepherd
I will not lack any needed thing

He causes me to rest in a place of abundance and beauty
He leads me to a place of peace and tranquilty where the waters are unmoving

When I am worn, He Himself is the fresh life to my soul,
He directs my steps to walk in right paths for the Glory of His great name

Even in the midst of the darkest night where danger lurks all around me, I remain unafraid because I look up and see You are still with me

Seeing Your limitless strength and power comforts me
You prepare a feast for me and invite me to sit with You even while those who hate me look on enviously

You pour Yourself so richly and undersevedly into me that my spirit overflows with joy

I am convinced that I shall never be without Your abundant goodness and lavish mercy no matter what happens in this life

and I know when I die it will merely be an ushering into Your presence where I shall most gladly live forever.

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Noah’s Flood – Local or Global?

Hey look that sign in the sky saying God would never have a local flood again!

Gen 9: “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Notice it says “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy ALL FLESH.”

Which is parallel to “the everlasting covenant between God and EVERY LIVING CREATURE OF ALL FLESH THAT IS ON THE EARTH”

You can not be a “local flood” guy and take the bible seriously. The bible is not unclear or ambiguous about Noah’s flood destroying the world – covering the whole earth.

Gen 7:4 “For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”

Gen 7:17 “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.”

Gen 7:21 “All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.”

II Peter 2:5 “and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;”

Isaiah 54:9 “”For this is like the days of Noah to Me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you Nor will I rebuke you.”

II Peter 3:5 “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Luke 17:26 “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Hey! Why is My Refund Smaller on My Taxes??!!

A few notes about 2018 taxes:

1) There seems to be a lot of consternation over a decrease in tax refunds. I get how it seems great to get a huge refund in February – however all that really means is that you gave too much money to the government throughout the year. So if your refund is smaller it is likely due to the increase in your regular check and/or due to your increase in pay. I do a lot of people’s taxes and everyone paid less in total taxes than they would have paid for the same income in 2017. The withholding tables changed a year ago to more closely align to what you would actually need to pay which in my book is a good thing, but would cause your refund to be smaller. If you love having a huge refund just have your employer withhold extra from your check by changing your W4. You could call it the government sponsored interest-free savings program. (And who doesn’t like free things?)

2) If you have a decrease in your refund it is for 90% of you not because your taxes have increased. Unless you live in a state that has high state income taxes that are no longer deductible, you received a tax break in 2018. For the middle class here are the main benefits of the tax reform.

a) Your tax rate on your taxable income was decreased by roughly 3%.

b) Your standard deduction nearly doubled (for all filing statuses) from $12,400 to $24,000 (Married). This change has the added benefit of making it unnecessary for most Americans to need to itemize thus simplifying your 1040. A standard deduction reduces your taxable income.

c) You lost your exemptions for each member of your family. Prior to tax reform you received an additional $4050 deduction per person in your family. So for a married couple with no children who did not itemize this means your effective standard deduction was $20,500 in 2017 and is now $24,000. So $3,500 less taxable and the 3% reduction in tax rate is the net gain to you. If you previously itemized and your itemizations were between $15,900 – $24,000 you will have more taxable income in 2018. This will largely be offset by the 3% reduction in your rate – though the closer you are to $24,000 in itemizations the less benefit the tax reform will give you. If your itemizations are above $24,000 you will benefit on the amount above just as before with the major exception of state income tax deduction is limited to $10,000.

d) Another significant change was made to the child tax credit. For those with children this credit doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child under the age of 17 in 2018. A credit is much better than a deduction because it comes off what you owe. So this credit is better than the previous tax code where you received an exemption of $4,050 and a credit of $1000 per child. The income limit at which you can take the child tax credit was raised significantly from $75,000 to $200,000 and from $110,000 to $400,000 for single and married respectively. Additionally up to $1,400 is refundable even if you don’t owe taxes.

e) Finally a dependent credit of $500 was added for people living in your household above the age of 17 who are dependent on your income – this can be a child or other family member for which you are caring. This is a new credit that did not previously exist.

Bottom line for most people especially in the middle class, tax reform will result in a moderate reduction in your taxes paid in 2018 vs 2017.

Lastly – if you do not have complex income taxes (like a business or self-employed) please do not go pay a ton of money at HR block to get your taxes done. You really can do it yourself – the tax code is as simple as it has ever been. If you choose to ignore this advice please do not pay extra to get your refund early on a debit card – it is just a complete waste of money.

I would be happy to help you do your taxes if you are stuck. I actually enjoy doing taxes.

Also I have a very effective tax calculator that I can send you if have excel that can help you calculate 2018 taxes and help you look at what you need to withhold for 2019. If you are interested message me and I can email it to you.

So enjoy the tax season – it’s a rush! 😀

Governor Northam – KKK Pictures and Outrage Culture.

Image result for ralph northam

Governor Ralph Northam has had a rough week in the media if you haven’t been following…

(and really I couldn’t blame anyone who longs for the days of receiving one influx of news per day when the paper hit the porch early in the morning. In those days news was digested with a cup of coffee and a doughnut [yes I know – the horror] in things called paragraphs with a modicum of thoughtfulness at least by today’s standards. So astute are we in 2019 that we may possibly read a slanted headline or tweet, glance at a picture and have complete understanding of a situation. Consider our recent uproar over MAGA hats and contrived headlines as a reference point)

But I digress.

…If you haven’t been following, the Governor made absolutely horrific statements early in the week supporting the proposed late term abortion bill that was narrowly defeated in the Virginia Legislature. He also implied that not only was he in support of late term abortion, he was in favor of possibly not providing care to a delivered baby if the mother and physician so agree. Here is the central quote from the governor: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Whether the governor was advocating for infanticide seems uncertain to me from this quote, but he was clearly advocating for abortion up to delivery which is beyond despicable. (Note: There is virtually no circumstance that a full term baby needs to have scissors jammed into the back of their skulls and their body hacked to pieces to benefit the mother. Multiple experts have weighed in stating the baby could just as safely be delivered alive and cared for without additional risk to the mother thus avoiding murdering a completely viable infant)

So I am not a big fan of the Governor.

Later in the week a picture was unearthed from 35 years ago when the governor was 24 years old and in medical school. The year was 1984. For those of you unacquainted with this era, it was a time when He – Man Masters of the Universe had recently debuted to the delight of boys everywhere. Of course today we know the show was a breeding ground of “toxic-masculinity.” She-Ra (which as a boy I, of course, have never seen) was the female counterpart of He-Man designed for girls. Obviously, this was before scientists had discovered the gender continuum scale proving that some can physically alter their chromosomes from XX to XY or vice versa. No the main continuum we were thinking about in 1984 was a space-time one and how Marty was going to save Doc and get back from 1955. In 1984 you could even tackle quarterbacks. We were like barbarians back then. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. My point is 1984 did not have the sensitivities of 2019. And mainly that was a good thing.

So back to our governor, whom I don’t like. In medical school, back in this unenlightened era, he had the extremely poor foresight (given his future career and 2019’s hypersensitivity) to be photographed wearing either a KKK or blackface costume – he is not identified so we don’t know which one he was dressed as. This has quite predictably been whipped into a public firestorm by our instant, less-than-erudite press and eager public on both sides of the political spectrum.

Was it a smart move to dress as a black man or clansmen? Clearly no. Does it necessarily show the man is a racist of the highest order? No it doesn’t. Some questions to consider.

1) If someone showed up at a party dressed as a Nazi and prisoner would that mean they are pro-Nazi? If they showed up as a Roman Centurion and slave would that mean they were pro-slavery? If you are considering saying yes you are a product of our outrage addicted age. There was a time in our not so long ago history where we dealt with dark and difficult things differently. We laughed at them. Think 3 stooges dressed as Nazi’s. Now whether you think as I do that that was a better way of dealing with things than our psycho-sensitivity today or not – what is certain is that in 1984 things were not the same as today. Today if I decide to dress in a KKK costume I could “justifiably” be shot. However in 1984 it didn’t even make a splash – the splash happened in 2019.

2) Does dressing in costume as a evil figure automatically mean you love the evil represented? Presumably the governor was not photographed at an actual KKK rally. He was dressing up for a party. We don’t know anything about the context of the party (come as the worst villain you can think of or come as a historical bad guy). Who knows? And of course in our unthinking age – NO ONE CARES. If you put black on your face you are a worthless human being and a racist. There is no context that you could do that from the perspective of 2019 and not be fully embracing the enslavement, belittlement and hatred of blacks. In the same way that if you wear a MAGA hat you are a racist. That is how narrow our open minds have become.

3) If I had a photograph of everything you had done through your 20’s how many of you would be running for office? Is it possible that you have done some stupid stuff? Does that mean that you cannot possibly be qualified 35 years later to hold office?

4) Why was there no outrage over this photo until now? If this was understood in 1984 as supporting lynching blacks why would a medical school allow it in their year book? Because it was not understood that way.

I don’t know if Governor Northam holds or held racist attitudes. If he does there is no doubt that he is wrong. What I do know is that you cannot tell from this picture whether he does or not. Our time, with the stated cardinal virtue of tolerance, has become the least tolerant – most hateful generation that I have experienced. Should a man’s life be judged on a out-of-context 35 year old yearbook photo. NO! If he expresses racist sentiments – yes he should rightfully be condemned. His statements on abortion should be strongly condemned and disqualify him from office. But when we make EV-ERY-THING a mountain actually significant things lose their meaning and we will continue to live in perpetual outrage finding no way out of own prison we have built with our virtue-signaling.

At the end of the day, Northam should be held accountable for the significant thing he has said he holds to – namely the murder of infants. That’s the story – not a 1984 costume he wore.

Covington Catholic, Our Sick Culture, and Hope

This story keeps on deepening. (If you haven’t followed the story read through the link at the bottom of this article) The latest is a response from a guy whose brother happened to look like the kid from the Catholic school. His name was put on social media and as a result his family and his family’s business have been subject to non-stop attacks. Threats of physical attack, slander of the family and the family business in an attempt (perhaps successful) of destroying a family because a member of the family was inaccurately identified as the student in the video. This family has no connection at all to the events on the video but their lives are threatened.

This is the “reasoned” response to a young man smiling oddly and remaining in an individual’s personal space after his own had been invaded. I “know” the smile radiated “evil” of the darkest kind – but even if you interpret the smile in that way the reaction has been far more evil.

Social and instant media can create this kind of mob think – where we act (at least for most of us I hope) against what we would otherwise know to be an unwise, ill-considered course of action. All of us (myself included) would be wise to not take the click bait. No matter which news source you prefer there is almost always a slant – a bias – driving it.

I quoted a proverb yesterday that says “”The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

We can do better on both sides of the aisle at not just looking for confirmation of our biases. In the case in question if you hate Trump the MAGA hats make you look at the situation in a certain light. They same thing happens the other way.

Instead of further pushing us apart as a people this could be an event to draw us together. Perhaps we will be not so quick to judge – not so quick to demand retributation. We could admit that we are all at times wrong in our judgement or rash in our response and we could extend grace to each other. Not just when our judgement is in error but grace even in the face of actual wrong.

If we are honest with ourselves – and if all that we have ever thought or done was broadcast on twitter for the world to see and judge we would all be found guilty. I know I would be.

Jesus’ message to the world is -yes you are guilty – more than you probably recognize or want to admit – and when compared to God we all stand guilty and worthy of death and hell.

But God has another word – it is called the Gospel – Good News – and that is the perfect One – our creator became a part of his creation to redeem us. He died the death we deserve to rescue us – to restore us to his good design for humanity. So yes more guilty that I dare admit AND more loved that I thought possible.

When I am honest about who I am and when I see that despite who I am God has loved me, forgiven me and adopted me as his child – I am freed by His grace to extend grace to others with whom I disagree or who even hate me.

If there is to be a change in this country – a reconcillation – it will come with the rediscovery of this Good News – that though grossly undeserving God has forgiven and received me. If we were to fall on our faces as a country and acknowledge our sin we would begin to recognize the sweet notes of the Good News that Christ has come for sinners. And if that were to soak into our national conscience and we believed it to be true our country I believe would experience a new birth of freedom.

Note: The best summary of the events is at this LINK

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