Sunday, February 16, 2014

Breaking down barriers

My blog friend  Steve lives in Hong Kong and his blog, Beyond the Pale, is a regular stop for me.

I have never met him in person but through his blog I've learned that Steve has led an incredibly interesting life. He's a former politician (who once ran for U.S. Congress in Colorado) and pastor and is now a teacher. Last summer he and his son walked together across England and he wrote a book about their experiences.

Steve and I share a common love for a number of things, including baseball and reading, and I hope  one day, when he makes a stateside visit, to meet him at a major league game, buy him a hot dog and a beer and explain to him the superiority of the National League.

But most importantly, Steve and I are brothers in Christ. His blog is now devoted almost 100 percent to Christian themes. He has given me much to ponder as I've read his posts the last several years, and he has repeatedly challenged me in my own Christian life, kind of like "iron sharpening iron."

His most recent post is a great example of that, where he writes about different Christian writers, pastors and leaders, and how someone in a certain Christian "camp" would likely never cross over and read something by an author from another one of those camps. For example, a fan of N.T. Wright would probably not be a fan of John Piper, and a reader of Gregory Boyd would not do a Beth Moore Bible Study.

Steve points out, in not so many words, that Christ should unite us, not divide us, and when I read this particular post I sent a big "Amen" all the way from Tennessee to Hong Kong.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote about how Christ "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." Granted, there are some matters that are deal breakers for me as far as Christianity goes, but there are way more things that unite me with the entire body of Christ than divide me.

I attend a church that is the more contemporary type, but I can go to a more traditional church and benefit from the beautiful liturgy and ceremony that characterize their services. Likewise, I have friends at those churches that can come to my church, raise their hands, clap their hands and pat their feet to the beat of the drum. We might have our preferences, but those walls no longer divide us. And they shouldn't.

As I pointed out to Steve when I commented on his post, do we not all, for now,"see in a mirror dimly?"

I had to come to terms with breaking down walls a couple of years ago when the Houston Astros, the baseball team I have stuck with through thick and thin (mostly thin) announced they would be going from the National to the American League.

That one still hurts and that wall is tough to get through, but I'm working on it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hard job

We were for the most part spared from the blast of winter weather that swept over much of the South last week -- at least the precipitation part of it. It's been plenty cold here in middle Tennessee, to the point that I'm tired of it, and I rarely tire of cold weather because I so detest the heat of summer.

(The previous paragraph sounds like one written by a malcontent and I certainly don't mean to come across that way. Stay with me here, please).

I have to admit I felt sorry for the mayor of Atlanta last week. He was roundly criticized for his city's lack of preparedness for the winter storm that left motorists stranded (or abandoning their cars) and caused school children to have to spend the night in their classrooms. There were similar stories across Alabama. Younger Son, a student at Auburn (about 90 miles west of Atlanta), had classes canceled last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

I'm sure those more accustomed to the winter weather scoffed at all of this but the fact is we're just not used to large amounts of snow and ice and when it happens, it's an event. And sometimes, no, we're just not prepared. Apparently folks thought the mayor of Atlanta should have paid more attention to the Al Rokers and Jim Cantores of the world and had the snow plows up and running and telling school administrators to get kids home pronto.

But there's the rub, see. If the good mayor had taken the weather reports as gospel and done all of that, and the storm system had taken a turn in a different direction and the snow had not come, he would have been criticized for "crying wolf" and inciting hysteria among the citizenry. He's in a no-win situation.

It's similar around these parts with the school superintendent. Because so many students ride buses, when snow and ice is forecast, he is entrusted with making the call of whether or not those buses should run. If they don't run, there is no school.

Many of the buses go to rural areas where snow plows and salt trucks either don't make it or are last on the list. In other words, it might be all clear in my neighborhood but icy on the back roads.

Many has been the time when our superintendent has erred on the side of caution, taking the weather forecasters at their word and canceling school. Sometimes the predicted weather has not arrived as believed and the poor guy is left explaining himself. And in some instances he's found himself like  Atlanta's mayor -- taking a bit of a gamble, then having to dismiss schools early when the weather hits, resulting in chaos as parents scramble to get their children home in the bad weather and the buses skid and slide their ways into the countryside.

Long ago when my offspring were in school I decided to trust the school superintendent and give him a break. Nobody's perfect and he's not always going to make the right call.

I don't live in Atlanta but if I did, I think I'd be giving the mayor there a break also.