Why do people submit themselves to things they know they don’t like?

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Who do people who despise, can’t stand, and wouldn’t vote a political party candidate watch video and read articles about that candidate when they know they are going to just get upset?

This is not the same as reading an article from an opposing viewpoint with an open mind or a desire to understand how someone could come to support the other candidate.  Are they looking for something to find to confirm that they are right about the candidate?  But one piece of info is never enough – we need a daily hit of it apparently.  Or so it seems if you follow what people post on social media.

I wonder, it is because in a society in which there is only the dichotomy of left/right, right/wrong, what else could there be?  Christians carry a false belief that they have to change the government – where did that idea come from?  When did we mix up Jesus’ call to be Christians and serve our neighbors with our false belief that we had to change the culture to fit our beliefs?  It’s as if we have traded in the Good News with some idea of what good government is.  Have we traded the belief that salvation comes from Jesus in for a different faith – one that claims that our salvation comes from politicians and government?  That’s idolatry.

We spend so much time focused on fighting over partisan politics – at least here in the US we do anyway.  We spend great amounts of energy, effort, money, time, and attention over who’s in charge of the government and complaining about what the government is doing and not doing as if it is the government that is called by Jesus to carry out Christian discipleship.  Maybe we’ve forgotten something essential about Jesus and Christianity.  Jesus didn’t go and petition government.  Jesus went out and did stuff for his neighbors – in spite of government and long established cultural divides.  And he calls on us to go and do some important things too – like feed the hungry, visit those in prison, clothe the naked, visit the sick, journey with the outcasts of society.

Why are we so damn focused on government as if it is the most important thing in life?  What if we took just one hour from all the fighting over government and went out and did something that Jesus called us to do instead?  Just one hour.  Can we put our fighting aside?  Can we actually live like Christians for a just a short while?  Or are we only interested in having the label Christian so we can sit at our smart phones and computers so smugly pointing out how the other side is wrong.  That’s not what being a Christian is – that’s more like a modern-day Pharisee.

I find myself reading fewer and fewer partisan political posts and articles.  They are just more of the same rhetoric of a partisan political dogma that I reject.  My faith isn’t in government and politicians and political parties.  It’s in God.  Where is your faith and trust?

God, government, and country…Iceland style

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In many ways Iceland is so unique.  They are extremely progressive on many issues, small in number, on top of ways to use safe energy, etc.

Yet in other ways, Iceland is just like many “older” nations – the link between God and country has been there for so very long.  Not in a American way.  No, more European in mindset.

First is the Parliament building.

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The building itself isn’t much to look at.  But look at the top.

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There’s the Icelandic flag and a crown – a hat tip to the Danish monarchy that ruled Iceland for so many centuries.

The garden in the back of the building is actually much nicer.

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The great thing about Iceland is that you can go pretty much anywhere and you won’t see any security guards.  I have no doubt that they are watching your every step, but at the same time, not having security present all the time gives a different feel – that there is a different level of trust between the governing and the governed.

Across the street from parliament is the cathedral.

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Being Scandinavian in outlook, the Lutheran church is the state church.  Pastors are paid by the state and the church serves an important symbolic function in Iceland.  There are positives and negatives to this, too many to go through in this post.  The point is this – there is no separation between church and state here.  The church serves the needs of the state.  That’s the price you pay when you accept money from the state.

Lastly, there is the tribute to great people of the past in Iceland.

First there is the founder of the capitol.

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Looks like a pleasant man, huh?

And across the street in the park opposite the parliament there is another statue.

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The biggest difference regarding statues between Iceland and the rest of Europe is this – they don’t have guys on horses here for the most part.  That may be because they generally don’t celebrate military figures here.  They are more concerned with culture.  Not a bad thing.

Another day, another fight over who is right

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This time it was in a Facebook group.  It was a fight picked by some people who wanted to say they are right about who can and can’t receive communion in church.  It’s a heady theological argument that has been going on for centuries and will probably go on for centuries more.

Their argument was…well, it really doesn’t matter.  They were using a tactic that slammed those who disagree by claiming that opening up communion to non-baptized people was making church have less meaning.  You know, claim your opposition is the cause of the downfall of the organization.  Nice.  Great Christian example to follow.

A great way to create conversation with differing sides right?

How many different things can we possibly fight about?  Seriously.  When will we learn that being right is not as important as so many other things in life.  Maybe I should clarify.  Having the right theology is important.  Theology is supposed to guide our lives and dictate how we live.  So having a good theology is important.  It’s like having a solid foundation for a house.  A foundation though is only good for one house.  The point of a foundation is not to convince everyone else to have the same foundation.  It’s to make your home more solid and firm so that you can live your life.  Isn’t theology supposed to act the same way?

What’s the deal with the focus on being right anyway?  Why do we make other people who disagree with us feel like crap or lay guilt at their feet?  What are we trying to accomplish anyway?  Are you trying to “save” everyone else?  They maybe we should check our theology – it might need a little tune up.  The last time I checked Christian theology, it claimed that Jesus was the Savior, not each of us.  Our job isn’t to save other people.  Rather it’s to proclaim the Good News, serve our neighbors joyfully, and live out our faith.  How others respond is between God and them.

Maybe the point of being right is because we’re all so scared inside – afraid that what we believe is just a bunch of BS.  So if we can get others to buy in, well, then there is strength in numbers – we must be right if others buy in right?  It’s a form of self-validation.  But really, it’s just us admitting that we have trust issues with God.

Here’s what I know – not much.  The people I have met that are most confident in their faith don’t spend time trying to correct everyone else or shove their theology down others’ throats.  They live their theology out each day – it’s their guiding principle.  And they manage to do that without picking fights about religion and faith.  They are too busy living our their calling to be bothered with fighting about it.

Telling people what to do and how to think

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Last week I fell upon an article that was critical of cargo shorts.  Yes, I’m not kidding.  And critical as being kind.  When I say critical, I mean the author was relentless in their criticism of cargo shorts.  They had nothing positive to say about them.  I guess the fashion police have decided that cargo shorts are out of style now.  The readers were told that instead they should wear chino shorts (without any pockets too).  Needless to say, I decided to wear cargo shorts that day just because of reading that article – yes a little passive aggressive, but seriously, a war on cargo shorts?  Who in their right mind wears shorts without pockets?  Where do you keep your keys, or wallet, or phone, or anything else?

I think my reaction is a typical reaction though.  It’s typical of a lot of people who are told what to do or how to think.  We do the opposite of what we are told because we’ve been told what we can’t do.  The funny thing is, the people who make these rules only encourage people breaking them the more they fuss about them.

Maybe it’s childish.  Then again, maybe it’s childish to expect people to follow a rule from some self-proclaimed expert in some field on something so subjective as fashion.

I’m aware of this reaction too when it comes to religion and politics.  I try to stay away from the should’s and the have-to’s.  They usually don’t turn out well. One of the worst things you can do if try to force someone to act a certain way or believe a certain thing.  It’s far better to have natural buy-in.  But that requires a bit more effort and patience.  And the willingness to be flexible and listen – you don’t get 100% of what you want, but that’s ok, you’re moving along in the right direction.  And you might have to change too, which is probably a good thing too.

I can share what has worked for me and I can talk about what I see going on around me, but I know that as soon as I turn to proclaiming what people have to do or what they should do, I know there will be resistance.  And probably rightly so.  That’s me trying to force people to be different – to be like me.  And they aren’t me and they shouldn’t be me.  You should be who you are, not someone else.

In the meantime, I’ll just go right on wearing my cargo shorts and not caring if they are in style or not.  Because for me, practicality is more important.  If fashion is more important for you, great, more power to you.  How about this – you let me where what I want to, and keep your opinions to yourself unless I ask and I’ll do the same.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear my thoughts about Chino Shorts and how ridiculous they look.  Let’s let each other live with that.  And no, I’m not holding your keys or phone for you since you decided to wear shorts without pockets.  Your wallet, sure, but there’s a holding fee.  You can call it the price of fashion.

Founders Square

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Well, that’s what I’m calling it anyway.  It’s the square that is dedicated to the founder of Reykjavik, Ingólfur Arnarson.  He was a viking who saw the smokey bay and named it after that steam.

Today you can still see the steam coming up from the ground.

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It’s a nice open square.  And there’s a pole dedicated to the founder.

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Don’t ask me to translate, I don’t know Icelandic.  But regardless, it look pretty cool.

Back to…

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I took last week off from posting anything on social media.  No travel blog posts, no theology, no politics, no prayers, no tweets. No nothing. It was like a vacation.  Only it wasn’t.

We moved back to our home after being away for two years.  I needed the time to unpack (still not totally done, but a good way through).  I’m also working on my Approval Essay (really important essay for concluding seminary).  That’s coming along well.  It’s due Sept. 1 – So I’ll be working on it until then, continually tweaking and changing things as I see it.

Taking time off from social media was nice – a breathe of fresh air.

I’m also realizing that I might be doing too much.  Or maybe I’m just feeling a bit weighed down.  I like posting travel blog posts.  They are fun.  I enjoy writing on theology and politics.  I enjoy creating unique tweets on the bible.  I enjoy all of this, but I’m wondering if I’m just feeling like there has to be a faster way to do this all.

I’ll keep playing with things and see how it works out.

In the mean time, I’ve restarted most of it.  I’ll get back into a groove soon.  It will have to if this is going to continue – classes start next week.  So I better find that groove quickly.

Until tomorrow…Peace.

Iceland’s unique way of governing

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This is the residence where Iceland’s Prime Minister lives.  It’s in the heart of the capitol city and as you can see, there is very little protecting it.  It’s approachable.  You can walk past it without anyone worrying about what will happen.

It’s a breathe of fresh air compared to so many other nations that separate their elected leaders from everyone else.

Of course, you could say that Iceland is different – there are only about 350,000 people on the island, it has no defenses, most people probably know each other, etc.

Yet, I can’t help but be impressed.  I think it sets the tone for so much in the way of governing.  The same could be argued for religion too and other organizations.  The more approachable the leadership is, the more trust that leadership has in the people they are leading.  It makes for a solid community that is open for debate.  The point isn’t conformity here, it’s community.  I find that the places that separate the leaders from the people are more interested in conformity – it’s safer that way.  Just an observation.

I won’t be posting next week, here’s why…

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  1. We’re moving, so you know, we’ll be a bit busy.
  2. Since we’re moving we won’t have internet access for a few days.
  3. I just want a break from posting – so think of this as an internet vacation.  Even though I’ll be doing plenty of work.
  4. Besides moving, I am working on my Approval Essay.  This is one of the most important “essays” I will ever write.  It’s one of the last key things in my seminary experience.  So, I kind of need to focus to finish it up.

See you on the other side.

Moving on…

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Sunday will mark the end of my internship at the church I’ve been assigned for the last year.  I will have completed four years of seminary (I started part time, so as far as the seminary is concerned I’ve completed three years).  I have one year of classes.  Actually I have two semesters.  I graduate on May 19, 2017.  That’s not too far away.  We’re in countdown mode here in the Best household.

The end of the internship means that we move.  We move back to our home.  We’ve been packing all week in preparation.  We have mixed emotions.  We’re excited to get back to our home – the home we left just over two years ago.  We are excited to be in the daily lives of family and friends that we left two years ago.

We’re also a little anxious about it – we left two years ago.  A great deal has changed in that time.  We’ve changed.  They’ve changed.  The world has changed.  We don’t know what to expect.  We do know that it won’t be just like it was when we left.  It can’t.  It never is.

We’re also a bit sad.  We’ve experienced this before.  We felt the same way when we left Finland last year.  We are sad to leave a place that we’ve called home for a year.  We’re sad to leave the friends we have made along the way this year. We’re sad to make the kids move yet again and have to establish and re-establish new friendships all over again.

But we knew this was deal when we signed up.

We’re also feeling a bit of something else.  We feel the closeness to the end of this journey of seminary.  By March we’ll know what region and synod we’re being assigned to.  Will it be our home synod?  Will it be the synod we’ve been in for the last year?  Will it be somewhere else that we have never thought of?  We don’t know.  The whole journey of seminary is full of great big giant question marks.  Going through this process is not for everyone.  You get comfortable with not being in control, with only knowing what the next year holds.  I think it’s actually a grace that seminarians experience.  When we don’t know, we turn to the one who does – God.  We are given faith to trust that God has our best interest in mind and will send us where we need to be at any given time.  It’s a leap of faith.  It’s also scary.  Yet here we are, following a path where I can’t see very far down the road.

Moving on is not easy.  It can wear you down.

Moving on is not easy.  But there are benefits.  Benefits like figuring out that we have a lot of stuff that we can get rid of.  For the last two years we have had to live in small spaces.  Which means you make decisions about what is truly important to keep.  We’ve found that the prints and pictures that we have are some of the most valuable things we possess – they remind us of our times in the locations we have been.  They remind us of the people we have gotten to know.  They remind us of how small the world is.  They remind us to pray for the people in these locations.

Moving on is not easy.  But it’s what we are called to do this weekend.

We’ll start unpacking on Sunday, arranging our house.  We’ll familiarize ourselves with our house.  We’ll re-establish long time relationships in person.  We’ll settle in to a routine in a short while.  There will be a new normal for us.  Then again, some of the old normal will stay with us – the normal of recognizing that we aren’t ultimately in control.  And we’ll take comfort in the trust that we have, in the faith we have been given.

Moving on is not easy.  But it’s what makes up life.  There’s a popular saying that the purpose of life is to be happy.  I don’t agree.  Think that’s a bunch of BS.  The purpose of life is to experience as much as possible and to be who we are called to be.  If all we pursue if happiness, then we miss out on so much of what life has to offer.  We should experience the “bad” things too.  We should experience sadness, anger, sorrow, pain, and more.  Not because they are enjoyable, but because they remind us of what and who are truly important in life.  And yes, we should experience the “good” things of life too.  They make life enjoyable.

Moving on is not easy.  But it is an important part of life.  And I wouldn’t have it any of way.

To the good people of Duncansville, Hollidaysburg, and Altoona, Pennsylvania I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I do not say goodbye, because goodbye means we’ll never meet again – and we can’t be certain about that.  We don’t know what the future holds.  Thank you for allowing our family to be a part of your lives – through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You’ve blessed us in ways you can’t imagine.  We’ll take that with us as we continue our journey.  We hope you’ll take the blessings we have given you in your journey.  Thank you, until we meet again.

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