Some Things Are More Important Than The Election

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cross-look-upElection ’16 seems to be the most contentious presidential race of my lifetime…by far.

There is ample evidence of real hatred on display on each side, from the leaders to the supporters. This has become a terrible, terrible shame.  People apparently no longer know how to differ with civility.  Is it possible to disagree without being disagreeable?

Chances are good that something I write below will be in direct opposition to something you believe. The temptation will be to stop reading or to simply jump ahead to leave a comment before giving me a full hearing. I would like to encourage you to do your best to go the distance and read this in its entirety. Even then, pause, count to ten, look for the bigger point, and say a prayer before responding.  I promise to do the same in return.  I’m going to write about both Clinton and Trump…but I want to address something I think is even more important than our impending election.


I watched all the presidential debates, though sometimes with only one eye.  I could hardly stand to witness the vitriol and personal attacks that took up substantive portions while a real discussion of the issues remained woefully deficient.  If we are to judge by their debate performances, our current candidates seem ill-suited for the job. How very sad and unfortunate for all of us, regardless of which party we support.

Beyond the debates, the candidates are a mess.  As of this writing, Hillary Clinton remains under five separate and serious FBI investigations. Each of them is its own horrific scandal, worthy of disqualifying her from the office. These are in addition to the other issues that are a problem for me, including: her blatant, proud support of abortion (even the sickening late term “partial birth” option), her apparent misjudgment during the Benghazi terrorist attack that contributed to the loss of American lives, and what I believe is a proven history of lies and corruption for the sake of personal gain or self-protection.

These only scratch the surface for me. While I love the idea of America electing a female president, Senator Clinton is not my gal. (Condoleezza Rice, why, oh why, didn’t you run???). The list of reasonable and serious objections to her presidency is lengthy, as any random Google search can verify.  If Hillary wins, she will be the first president-elect to be simultaneously facing possible criminal prosecution.  That’s truly deplorable.

Donald Trump, in my view, is equally problematic, though for different reasons. For one thing, he doesn’t seem to be able to control his mouth.  From his misguided slur against John McCain for being a POW and his mocking of reporter Serge Kovaleski’s heart-breaking disability, to his repeated estimation of women according to their appearance (anyone remember his words to Carley Fiorina or Heidi Cruz?) and his downright sick depictions of sexual activity and abuse on many, many occasions both on the air with Howard Stern (and others) and in print (including Playboy magazine).  It all belies a judgment that seems sorely lacking.

Regarding Trump, numerous Christian leaders (whom I greatly respect in other matters) indicate that the Don is a changed man.  I want that to be true.  They inform me that he began to change in his demeanor and attitude after his third marriage, and that he recently made a decision to give his life to Christ.  I really want that to be true! I will be absolutely delighted for Trump to go to Heaven (Hillary too, for that matter!). I’m not so sure, though, that any such conversion therefore merits the Presidency.

Some Christian leaders have described Donald as being anointed by God to be the 45th president.  They quote Isaiah 45 which depicts King Cyrus and references how God used him to help return the Jews to Jerusalem despite the fact that the king didn’t know God for himself.  I don’t know if Trump is the recipient of this “Cyrus anointing” or not.  I do believe that God can use anyone He wants.  He is not daunted by our personality or history. If God wanted, Hillary could easily be His Cyrus too.  Regardless of whether God is choosing to use Trump in this capacity, there is one thing I can guarantee: Cyrus didn’t become king through any vote of the people.

I understand why people are so distraught.  I’m on the same page with those who think that a Hillary Clinton Presidency is rife with disaster. I differ to a degree, however, with many of my fellow Christians, as they push forward on the Never-Hillary bandwagon, because I am resistant to “the end justifies the means” ideology. I am not in favor of Clinton winning the White house, but in that opposition, I am also not willing to compromise or sacrifice Christian values that remain important to me. So pray for me; I haven’t fully decided what I will do on election day.

There are serious issues with Trump. Businesses associated with his brand include casinos and strip clubs. His hotels include the availability of hard core pornography. Multiple women have accused him of unwanted sexual advances and abuse. In December, he faces court hearings regarding the rape of a 13 year old girl. I can hardly accept that I’m supposed to look the other way and pretend that these things don’t really matter.

Some tell me that he is repentant.  I did hear him take responsibility and admit he was wrong for the horrid sexual and misogynistic remarks he made to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.  That was somewhat refreshing in this current political climate of “deny, deny, deny.” Yet what about the many other terrible statements he has made? What about his current on-going business dealings in darkened corners? I deal regularly with broken people caught up in the traps of pornography and sexual abuse. Gambling has destroyed countless lives. These issues are rampant in our society. How can I vote for a man that profits from and still contributes to such heartache?

Now let me turn to the fuller point. I don’t really expect to change anyone’s vote with this post and that is not really my intent in writing. Rather, I want to simply express the idea that it is at least reasonable for someone, and especially a follower of Christ, to have serious reservation about supporting either candidate. A real test for all of us, then, is the character that gets revealed in us when a person’s vote is revealed as something different than our own.  Can we still respect someone for carefully making their own informed choice?

Recently, national headlines showcased that Ohio Governor John Kasich wrote-in John McCain’s name as his Presidential vote instead of either Clinton or Trump. Though McCain wouldn’t be my choice, I get why Kasich felt he couldn’t vote for the candidates on the ballot. Yet, I’ve seen those whom I would meaningfully describe as solid Christian people rush to social media to vilify Kasich as childish, arrogant and a turncoat to the party.  Not only do they seem unwilling to consider his reasons for voting the way he did, they instead assign motive and go on the attack. Further, they are ready to inflict revenge by pledging not to vote for him in his next gubernatorial race and wishing him harm. Really?  Wow. I am surprised that the way of Christ and such a vindictive spirit could go so hand in hand. Blessing and cursing flowing from the same mouth. Yikes!

In the writings of many Christian leaders, there has been a tendency to label those who are reluctant to vote for Trump as being “self-righteous” and “unforgiving.”  They argue that because Trump is more apt to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, we need to look the other way on his serious ungodly shortcomings.  Afterall, so the thinking goes, Trump is far better than Hillary!  So again: the end justifies the means and anyone who thinks otherwise deserves a derogatory label.

Sigh.

I want to ask, “What’s happened, Church, to our trust in the Lord?” Do we still believe that when it’s all said and done that it is God who establishes our governing authorities? (Romans 13:1).  Will not the judge of all the earth do right?

As an American, it has always been important to me to participate in the process. I still encourage everyone to vote.  Yet, I can understand why some want to abstain rather than vote for either of the two main candidates. I can also understand why others would instead choose to vote for a third party candidate with whom they have fewer qualms. In so doing, they are not handing their vote to Hillary.  They are standing by tried and true values, regardless of the outcome. I can remember a story about three Hebrew guys in the Old Testament who were willing to die rather than compromise their convictions before God, even as they trusted Him for deliverance. Seems relevant now.

Surely Father God is not expecting anyone to violate their understanding of Christian character in order to make the “right person” the next President of the United States. Why are we so quick, then, to demonize those who are not ready to vote for the candidate we would prefer?  This should not be.  To do so is a poor reflection on Christ who lives within us.

On November 8th, many will vote for Trump because they believe he is the man God has chosen for the highest office in the land. Others will make another choice or perhaps even abstain because they believe that a vote for Trump dishonors Christ. In both cases, people are doing their best to honor God. Who are we to judge them in this matter? That right belongs to God alone.  Our command, rather, is to love one another in both word and deed.  For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians, that must remain our priority, and mutual respect will go a long way toward expressing that love.

Some things are more important than the election. Loving God first and foremost stands out to me. Loving our neighbors as much as ourselves floats near the top too. Trusting God in difficult circumstances and not trying to take matters into our own hands is something that remains worth pursuing. Showcasing the Gospel of Christ to lost and broken people is probably still a worthwhile priority. Maintaining a credible witness would serve that well.

No matter who gets elected, America will still need to see Jesus in us…perhaps more than ever. I vote for that. The President is not the Savior of America.  We shouldn’t act like he is.  Instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Let’s acknowledge Him in all our ways…He will make our paths straight.

Okay…pause…count…get the point… pray… now you can respond.   😉

Sudden Grief

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Life can present unexpected events that change the course of your life.  You can’t go back to the way things were, and nothing will be the same again.  This past week was such a week.  We lost my wife’s parents, her sister, and her brother in a horrible tragedy.  It has been a week of unimaginable agony and change.  

I don’t know that I have the right words to yet to process everything I am feeling, but decided to share my remarks from the memorial service we had in their honor. Over 550 people were in attendance at St. Louis Family Church.  Here’s what I shared:

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I have been asked to share a few words today…and my words seem woefully insufficient to express all that is in my heart or in the hearts of this family.

There are no right words to adequately describe our grief or to process the trauma we all feel.

And I hardly have the words to express the deep gratitude we have at the amazing support, love and care we are finding from so many of you. Truly we are overwhelmed by your generosity, kindness, and prayer.

I want to express thanks to Pastors Jeff Perry, Trey Perry, and John Moore for being here for us in this time of crisis.  St Louis Family Church has been so dear to my family and we are undone by the way you have worked so hard to push through the reconstruction of  this room in order to accommodate today’s service.  You have gone above and beyond…and we are very thankful.

Words are also insufficient because there isn’t enough time today to share all that could be shared about how wonderfully devoted this family is and always has been to one another. For the last 28 years…I have had the pleasure of knowing and being part of this gloriously joyful group called the Comers.  I want to reflect for just a moment on each of our loved ones.

John Comer was a man of great devotion…to his family, to this church, and to the Lord. He knew more trivia than perhaps anyone else I’ve ever met. If there are movies in heaven, I’m sure John right now is sharing commentary regarding all the actors and actresses involved. I will miss his humor, his laugh, his quirks, and his smile. On Friday, we were sharing terribly bad puns and teasing him mercilessly over his long hair.  I’m so glad that his last day had tremendous moments of laughter and goodness.  

Rebecca Kelleher was a woman of great passion.  Her love for all things living was reflected in the spark of life she carried to all her endeavors.  She loved her job, her co-workers and clients, this family, and first and foremost her son, Micah. She cared deeply for the community and nothing got her more riled than the situation regarding the West Lake landfill to which she was firmly committed to keep in the public eye. Over the past several years, and through the ministry and action of this church, her faith blossomed and deepened and became uniquely her own.  I will miss her spunk, her joyous full-faced laughter…and her tremendous compassion. 

Mum was the energizer bunny.  Life has thrown so many obstacles her way.  And she has met them all with grace, endurance, a wide-encompassing love, and a determination not to ever give up…but to keep moving one step at a time.  In so doing, she gives us all a template of how to move forward…with grace, joy, and a rock steady faithfulness. She loved to dance, even though her MS worked against her.  But there is nothing working against her now. In the beautiful sound of Heaven’s worship, I’m sure she’s dancing up a storm.  Right now the freedom of her being matches the freedom she’s held in her heart for a very long.  Thank you Lord!

Tom Comer was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known.  He worked diligently all his life to love and care for this family.  He has been a protector, a planner, a provider, and a counselor to us all.  On his last day, the burdens of his heart and mind were many, but even then…they were ultimately about all of us.  The fears and concerns he carried, terribly exasperated by the medications he was prescribed, were still about us and our future.  For me, he will be defined by this life…and not this travesty that has taken place at the end. Two years ago, after confronting a cancer diagnosis, dad totally gave up drinking.  For the first time in his life, he knew he had to do something to face his fears and the deteriation of his body through alcohol.  Those withdrawals were terrible.  Depression that first year was real. And yet he had begun to emerge from it.  This past Spring, I saw him again full of joy.  As part of his on-going treatment, he began to see a psychiatrist who began to fill him with numerous psychotropic drugs.  Those medicines began to combine in terrible ways that had the opposite impact of what the doctor intended. His sleep became inconsistent and short. For the past three weeks, he had been sharing his fears and concerns, repeatedly telling the family that he was not doing well. He had at least one episode earlier in the week where he was up in the night typing away on the computer…despite the fact it was not even turned on. Later he would not remember.

He continued to get the cold shoulder from a doctor who simply told him to keep taking his medicine while refusing to make room for an appointment.  Rebecca picked up the fight and finally was able to get dad in to see the doctor late Friday afternoon, hours before this terrible tragedy. We sent along a list of all the side-effects he was experiencing. Rather than admit him, the doctor gave him new pills and sent him home. 

This week we found the official sheet of medicinal side-effects on his dresser. His drug was described as a “sedative hypnotic” and warned that any user would likely wake up in the night and do things they were not in control of doing, and then not remember what they did in the morning.  It warned that the medicine may not be appropriate if the taker was dealing with depression, or had a history of alcoholism, or was in his elder years.  It leaves us with questions of why it was prescribed in the first place and why the doctor refused to respond when the family repeatedly indicated there was a problem. We believe that dad was not aware or in control of his actions on that fateful night.

As a pastor myself, I’ve seen how tragedies and heartache ultimately impact the lives of others.  Some families isolate and pull apart, unwilling to face pain together.  But that has never been true of this family.  This family always pulls together and holds on to one another tightly.  That’s not just how we respond to crisis.  It’s how we live.  Even Linda and I who live 8 hours away, we know that the family in St. Louis has always been an anchor in our lives.  And so this will be how we continue to live.  Linda, Molly, Amy, Micah, Mary Ann, Bob…and all the rest of us…we are a family who pulls together.  Now more than ever.

There are questions that remain.  I don’t know if we will learn all of the answers.  Among them, all of us, in the midst of our pain, are asking “God, where are you?”  We all too often think if there is a God, then life should be pain-free.  We want to define His character through the lens of our personal circumstance and the burdens of our experience.  But the scripture tells us we can know what God is like by looking at the life and ministry of Jesus.  And this is what I know about Christ:  He cares for the down-trodden.  He weeps with Mary and Martha at the passing of Lazarus.  He has compassion for the worst offender and tender mercies for the deeply wounded.  There is a reason the Bible tells us that God is the Father of all comfort.  Our pain matters to Him…and He is with us in this moment. And in our weakness, He stands with us, embracing us, calling us to come to the throne of His mercy in order to find grace, strength, hope and all that is needed.

John and Rebecca, Mum and Dad are all with Him in this moment as well.  No matter what torment our loved ones experienced in their final moments…they each had a faith in Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  So their deaths…are swallowed up in victory.  There is a life beyond this one…a life in Christ…and they are experiencing that in all it’s glorious fullness. They are the best versions of themselves, their true selves, right now, in Heaven by the mercies of God.  So as we grieve…we do not grieve like a people who have no hope.

We are people of faith.  We are a family centered in love.  And though our world has become undone, and all around us seems to be shaking, I know that Jesus Christ remains the only firm foundation. And we are turning to the Lord Jesus in our pain.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  In Him, all things are possible…even when we can’t see how. 

Pray for us. We are trusting in a love that probes deeper than our devastation…and though nothing will ever by the same, I am trusting Father God for wholeness.  There will be a day when this family will be reunited. That is the hope that we have in Jesus. What a glorious day that will be.

So, let me exhort each of you gathered here: choose life…choose love…and make the most of the time you have been given. That’s how this family lived…and that is how we will heal…by the grace of God.

Thank you for being with us here today. Thank you for your support. Thank you for listening.

Mum, Dad, Rebecca, and John…we will miss you terribly.  But we will see you again.

I Want To Hear You

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The world is more connected now than ever. Within seconds, we can read someone’s written thoughts and expressions right on our phones, even though they are continents away.  We see the words, we read the posts, but are we understanding? In our pursuit of free expression, are we paying attention to others?  I want to be a better communicator.  I want my communication to truly be a two-way street.  I want to hear what you have to say.

Communication isn’t as easy as we typically think it might or should be. Not real, meaningful communication.  It’s a skill, one that must be practiced over and over and over again. It takes time and effort. Thankfully, we can certainly grow in our communication skills; it gets easier when we invest in its development. As followers of Christ and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, it is my humble opinion that we only do ourselves a favor when work hard to develop the ability to connect heart to heart.

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Deep Thoughts: The art of communication and the contemplation of meaning

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Many, many years ago, “Deep Thoughts” with Jack Handy was a recurring series of sketches on Saturdahqdefaulty Night Live.  They featured scrolling words over a serene background that expressed what one expected to be some great insight or meaningful story. Typically, however, they featured some kind of ironic twist or ridiculous addition that rendered the entire moment ludicrous. They were often clever and hysterical, though occasionally inappropriate.  I once had a book that collected several of these stories and one-liners, but I can’t seem to find it now. The entries usually gave me a chuckle.

I like the idea of being a deep thinker.  I like the idea of artfully expressing deep thoughts.  My fear, however, is that I am really just a “Jack Handy,” expressing ridiculous notions in clever disguise and merely being ostentatious. Lord help me!   Continue reading

Get Right Back To Where We Started From

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Lascrossofashest week was Ash Wednesday, the night that launches the liturgical season of Lent. It is a night to become reacquainted with a repentant heart as we enter into 40 days of reflection.  Looking back, we examine, think, pray, submit, course-correct, and sharpen. Our Ash Wednesday service got snowed out for the second year in a row.  This year, that equaled a one week postponement, and tonight was the night. Allow me to offer my reflection with a little help from the 1970’s music scene.  Continue reading

Gotcha!

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I like being right. I don’t like being wrong.  What is it about human nature that almost delights in being proven right over someone else?  Feeling like we’ve got special insider information (a corner on “truth?”) can be a secret, prideful obsession. It gets revealed when we find ourselves delighting in setting others straight (“Gotcha!”). Sometimes it disguises itself as deep concern for others and their spiritual health or understanding… when the truth is we are merely, and unfairly, judging them.     Continue reading

The message of the Church needs to be one of healing.

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Woke up this morning thinking about an article I wrote in the local paper about eleven years ago. Here it is:

I remember the thrill of playground rides that I experienced as a child. My favorite was the giant slide. Though it was scary to climb the ladder to the top and peer over the edge, the joy of sliding down was worth it all. Today, however, our culture is sliding down a pathway that is devoid of any real joy and threatens the fabric of our civilized society. Consider, for instance, the recent debates and law changes regarding same-sex marriages.  Continue reading