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National Emergency

Yes, we have a national emergency, but it is not at the southern border, it is in the District of Columbia – Washington, DC, that is.

Yes, there are significant issues that need to be addressed regarding immigration and border security.  We need to act appropriately, judiciously, effectively and cost-efficiently to maintain the integrity of our borders.  However, note that 70% of undocumented aliens in the US came here on an airplane (legally, but then outstayed their visa) not sneaking across a wall-less, unsecured southern border.  Furthermore, the largest percentage of undocumented aliens in the US are not Latinos, but Asians.

And yes, we need to reform our immigration laws providing a reasonable path to citizenship for “Dreamers”, refugees, and other law-abiding folks who come to America in search of life, liberty and opportunity.

In essence, America is a mixture of just these kind of folks.  Unless you are Native American (and your ancestors were here long before we became the US) or are African American (and your ancestors were wrongfully forced to come here by slave traders), then your family’s path to America and American citizenship has much in common with so many who some in our country want to keep out or throw out.

Now, back to the true national emergency.  The two US primary political parties exercising power in Washington have both forfeited their right to govern – both the Republicans and the Democrats.

The border wall issue is not about border security – it is about politics.

Candidates for political office always have and always will pursue political office with simplistic answers to complex problems.  They do this because, unfortunately, it works.  However, once elected, they are elected to govern.  And to govern, they must push aside simplistic political shenanigans and work, with all groups, to solve complex problems with deeply thoughtful solutions.

I know, you say, that is way too much to ask of the folks we have in Washington.  You are dreaming, Jerry.  Maybe so, but to govern well, that is what we should expect and demand of our elected officials.

In the current case, both sides are using this issue to play politics, not to govern. If Washington was set on governing, they should sit down and honestly, in good faith, negotiate a compromise that thoughtfully addresses the issues of immigration and border security.  Trump would get some funding for effective, needed border security (which may be a wall or may be other more needed approaches) and the Democrats would get a much needed legislative solution to the path to citizenship issues for “dreamers” and others.

So, here is what I propose – we institute a revised government shutdown.  We shutdown the Capitol (both the House of Representatives and the Senate) and the White House.  Turn off the lights, send everybody home (not just to their Washington area homes, but back home to where they were elected).  Send their staffs home – everyone associated with the House, the Senate and the White House.  Send them home and without pay.

Let everybody else go back to work.  Let the Cabinet do their work.  If there is a true crisis, the Cabinet and their agencies, can handle it.

This may sound radical, but they (Congress and the White House) aren’t functioning now so why are we paying them to be there.  Send them home.

And in two years we elect a new House, Senate, President and Vice-President (no one now serving is even eligible to run for election) and we try again.  But this time we send them to Washington with a clear message – go up there and do the job of governing (and do it well) or we will send you home.

Live loved.

 

 

Why I Needed God to Become Flesh

The following is the talk I gave before communion at the Southwest Church in Amarillo on Sunday, December 23.  

I must confess that in my journey of faith I really struggled a lot with the God revealed in the Old Testament.

Not a problem so much with the Old Testament, but with how I viewed it and read it.

I read where it said we are “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4).  But I confess that the God I read about in the Old Testament was hard for me to love.  He seemed arbitrary at times, pretty demanding, sometimes violent.  Fear, yes, but love????

I even saw stories in the Old Testament where it didn’t turn out well for some who got too close to him.  Even Moses wanted so desperately to see God closely and intimately.  The way scripture even says it is that Moses desired to see God’s face.  And God said no because “no one can see my face and live” (Ex. 33:20).

So what do I do?  How do I love a God that I can’t see.  I can’t get close to.  A God that is, yes, Almighty God, but also a Distant, Mysterious, Fearful God.

I did what most people do and have done for centuries – I tried the best I could to follow his rules.  Live right and by all means, worship right.  Well obviously, I couldn’t follow all the rules all the time.  I sin and “fall short of his glory” (Rom. 3:23).  So I doubled up on worship right.  Maybe that will make up for it.  Sing right, pray right, attend always, teach right, do communion right.  

But that got awfully tiring and didn’t seem to lead to a loving relationship with God.  Now I knew the story of Jesus and I knew that something mysterious had happened on the cross that somehow, according to some, appeased God so that if I got baptized right and then continued to try to live right, God would be ok with me and let me go to heaven (or at least I hoped).  

And so “hope” became really I hoped that I had done enough right so that what Jesus Christ did at the cross would be enough to get me into heaven.  It was a kind of mathematical equation.  My works + Jesus’ work = Heaven.  Hopefully, I did enough that Jesus’ part could fill what was needed to add up to heaven.

But then I began to really read the gospels – the story of this amazing Jesus.  And if I believed this story of Jesus I had to believe the very premise of the story – the incarnation – that Jesus was Immanuel – God with us.  That God became flesh and dwelt right here in the middle of humanity.

He didn’t come and stay in a far away place protected from evil and temptation.  He didn’t come in a special container or body that was immune from pain, sorrow, hurt, bleeding, sickness, temptation, addiction, anger, hunger, thirst, — all of things we humans have to deal with.

And then a truly amazing thing happened.  As I began to read the Old Testament again through the lens of the gospels (the story of Jesus) I began to understand and see that God is a God that I could love.  

And so I began to fall in love with this Jesus – who is, according to scripture, God in the flesh.  Who is not just a lot like God, but “the exact representation of his being”(Heb. 1:3).

I began to really believe the message of scripture that if you are going to believe in this Jesus you have to believe that it is all about grace.  The message of Jesus is grace.  The very story of God’s incarnation – becoming flesh – is grace.  That is why it is JOY to the World.  That is why Paul wrote not only that “all have sinned …” but immediately afterward he writes, “and are justified freely by his grace.”  

Grace is a God who “made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).

And you know what that means?  Some of you cringe when I say this.  Some of you rejoice when I say it.  It is not just me saying it.  It is the writings of scripture that say it. IT MEANS THAT IT IS NOT ABOUT ME GETTING IT ALL RIGHT.  IT IS NOT ABOUT ME LIVING RIGHT OR WORSHIPPING RIGHT.  In the words of Paul, “our sins don’t count”( 2 Cor. 5:19).

Then an amazing thing happens.  By God taking all that “unrightness” away, I am miraculously free to really begin to love him, love others and live the life Jesus came to not only give us, but came and showed us.

But it all begins right here with this little piece of bread.  We say this represents the body of Christ.  By doing this we proclaim that God became flesh and dwelt among us.  We confess that we needed him to do so.  And we put our faith in that story – the story of Jesus, Immanuel, God in the flesh.

To me the cup which represents his blood reminds me that Jesus was totally human.  In early church history there arose a heresy that proposed the idea that Jesus was solely a spiritual being that only appeared to be in human form. John in 2 John refers to these people who “do not acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh” as deceivers and as the “antichrist.”

This cup that represents Jesus’ blood reminds me that he truly came in the flesh and experience all of the struggles of humanity.  See, a spirit doesn’t bleed and he bled, and bleed he did, for you and me.

Live loved.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013 was celebrated by the Morgan family at our place in Cuchara, Colorado.

Snow on the ground, a few trips down the hill in a sled, a warm fire in the fireplace.  All very special and extra special to be together in the mountains.  It always is no matter what time of year it is.

But what makes Christmas 2013 so very special is that it was our first as grandparents.  Our first grandchild, Tripp, was born just seven weeks prior to Christmas, 2013.

That changed everything and five more grandchildren later, Christmas as grandparents is so very special.  All grandparents know what I mean.

Grandchildren are always so excited to see you.  There is nothing better than to see their eyes light up when they see you. To see them reach for you and utter your special grandparent name is just the best!

And grandchildren are God’s special and magical way of bringing new life and joy into our lives.  They give us a special way of living the later years of our lives.  With joy and much love.  And with purpose – a focused purpose of doing everything we can to make this world a better place for them.

It is not good enough to prepare to exit the world and just be “rid of it.”  Because of them, I must do what I can to make our schools, communities, churches and environment better.

The world needs to be a bit improved since my grandchildren and their precious children will be here long after I am gone.  And I have a responsibility to do what I can to contribute to a better world.

Live loved.  Merry Christmas.

.

 

Christmas 1991

Our oldest, Adrian, was 8 and beginning to hear rumors that there may be some untruths in the whole Santa Claus thing.  However, he is not sure.  And I think he wants to believe.

He keeps asking Teri and I questions about Santa.  Always making sure his little brother, Kellen, (age 6), is not within hearing range.  (Tandi, age 2, no worries, not a clue).

We are headed to Monarch Ski Resort near Salida, Colorado for the holiday.  We will be staying at a little, locally owned motel in Salida.

While I am packing up the Suburban for the trip, Adrian is unusually helpful.  Obviously, watching everything that is loaded up.  Trying to sneak a peak at any special gifts hidden away that might later be attributed to a North Pole visitation.

His Christmas wish is for a new bicycle.  But as he watches, there is no new bicycle loaded.  No bicycle parts.  No large container that might hold such a thing.  Hmmmmm.

After a long day of skiing on Christmas Eve, while Teri is getting the boys bathed and ready for supper, I slip to the local WalMart, purchase the bicycle, bring it back to the motel where the owner hides it for me in a different, vacant room.

It is an older motel, but the rooms are like suites with a small kitchen, dining area, a small living area (where Adrian and Kellen are sleeping) and then a bedroom.

Once the kids are sound asleep, Santa’s helper brings over the bicycle, it is quietly placed into position together with Kellen and Tandi’s presents from Santa and all is good.

The next morning, the kids awake full of Christmas morning excitement.

Adrian then tells us that he heard a sound in the middle of the night.  He is certain that he heard Santa and maybe even saw him.  At which Kellen, like any good little brother, echos “me too.”

Adrian later shares his doubts, but acknowledges that only Santa could have pulled this one off and so he believes.

Maybe it is ok for a couple of days a year to not have to have everything figured out and just believe.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Live loved.

 

Christmas 1978

Teri and I were married in May of 1978.  So Christmas 1978 was our first together as a married couple.  And one of my favorites.

We were living in Austin, Texas and I was in my second year of law school.  I was working part-time and Teri was working full time on the University of Texas campus.  We had a nice little apartment (I would emphasize “little”) near campus and, while, the budget was tight, we had all we needed.

We would actually be going to California where Teri’s folks lived for Christmas so there wasn’t a need to do the typical Christmas stuff in Austin.  But we needed a Christmas tree.

It couldn’t be much of a tree because, first of all, there really wasn’t extra money in the budget to spend on a tree, and, secondly, there wasn’t much room in our little apartment to put a tree.

So, I made a tree (or sort of a tree).  It was probably about 2-3 feet tall.  It was made out of some pieces of wood of varying lengths that I found and nailed together.  We popped popcorn. Instead of lights, we strung the popcorn together with a needle and string and draped the string of popcorn around the tree.  We finished off the decorations with a few little snowflake ornaments cut from paper.

Forty years later, as I gaze upon our beautiful, well lit, artificial, Home Depot Christmas tree, I will enjoy all the memorable ornaments, each with its special meaning.  I will enjoy the additional space our home offers us to accomodate family and friends.  But I will think back to that little, wooden, nailed together, first Christmas tree with great fondness.

It will remind me of the early days of our time together as a couple. It reminds me of the love we shared and still share now, but even more deeply, forty years later.

Merry 40th Christmas together, Sweet T.

Live loved.

 

Christmas 1959

This is from a post I made last year, but add it here because it is one of those Christmas memories that I will, hopefully, never forget.

This is a story that I don’t remember because I was too young to remember.  I was probably only about 4 years old at the time.  It is a story I remember my mother telling.

It was Christmas Eve.  The Morgan family lived in the first of two houses we lived in on second street in Corning, Arkansas. The living room was full of Christmas – family (Mom, Dad, three sisters, an aunt and uncle and cousin), the tree and presents under and around the tree, literally so many that the gifts took over the room.

Lots of people enjoying each other.  Talking, drinking hot chocolate, eating Swedish tea ring and playing games.  A few where probably watching a snowy picture on a black and white television set that received three channels.  Remember those days?

In the midst of all of this excitement and commotion, a little 4 year boy wandered and wondered, muttering something to himself.

For days if not weeks, my mom, dad and others had asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I wouldn’t tell them.  I simply responded when asked that “I told Santa.”  And in my mind since Santa knew what I wanted, why did anyone else need to know.  And know one else did.

My mom noticed (as mom’s do) my persistent meandering around the living room engaged solely in my own thoughts and barely audible murmur.  She leaned in close and asked me what was bothering me.  I repeated my muttering to her – “I wonder where Santa is going to put my pup tent.”

That’s the first anyone knew about a pup tent.

Merry Christmas and live loved.

Swedish Tea Ring

Over the next few days, I am remembering and celebrating some of my favorite, or at least memorable, Christmas stories.  Hope you enjoy and hope that these encourage you to do the same.

Growing up in the Morgan home in northeast Arkansas, probably one of my favorite traditions was every Christmas morning I can remember, Mom made Swedish tea ring.  This was a round shaped cinnamon roll filled with nuts and raisins and topped with sweet icing.

Served best with a cup of hot cocoa.

It was simply better than good.  It was joyful.

The neat thing is my sweet Teri has continued this tradition in our home in West Texas.  It is a tradition that at least four generations of Morgans have enjoyed.

That makes it more than just food.  Eating Swedish tea ring on Christmas morning triggers memories of home, family, relatives (the good kind), children, being together, love, joy and warmth and, of course, the one who gave us this tradition, my mother, Emma Lou Morgan.

Mom left us in 2000.  Eighteen years ago.  Hard to believe it has been that long.  In many ways, I remember her being here with us just like it was yesterday.

So for me, this Tuesday morning, thanks to my sweet Teri, when I sit down with a hot cup of coffee (yea, I have advanced to adult beverages now) and bite into a delicious, warm piece of Swedish tea ring, I will remember.  I will enjoy wonderful memories of so many special Christmases — special times, places, people and things.  But most of all, I will remember you, Mom.

Live loved.

Migration, Borders and the Kingdom of Heaven – Part 2

So how do the people of God (i.e. the church) respond appropriately to the issues raised by immigration and migrants?  How does the kingdom of heaven come more fully into the issues raised by the problems of immigration which I argued in my last post are the problem of a fallen world?

Do we do nothing, fold our arms and respond simply that it is a result of the fall and until Jesus comes again the problem will continue to persist?  But how does that honor Jesus’ prayer that the kingdom come (and apparently, come now to the full extent possible)?

It seems that doing nothing also fails to honor Jesus’ desire that the movement he initiated would bring “good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners….release the oppressed.”  In other words, it seems that Jesus was intent on changing the predicament in which the poor and oppressed found themselves.  Therefore, it seems that his people – his church, his movement,  Christians – ought to be likewise intended.

However, on the other hand, the church is instructed by one of its earliest leaders, Paul, to “be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient.”

So the question is:  how does the church carry out the mission of Jesus to help the oppressed but also to obey the law of the land?

Some thoughts.

First, might we do well to continually ask this question of ourselves and respond to what the Spirit of God might put on our heart to do.

Second, should we not move to provide assistance to migrants who do enter our country.  There are many who come to the USA legally seeking asylum.   We should expect and encourage our leaders to honor those properly enacted laws and the processes those laws put in place.  And then while someone is in that process might we, the church, move to provide necessary assistance to those people.

Third, even if someone enters our country illegally there are no laws that prohibit us from providing them with food, clothing, shelter and community – basic assistance needed for any human being.

Fourth, we might actively petition the government to allow us to do more to assist people immigrating to our country, to enact fair and just immigration laws and support those who will do so.

Fifth, we must refuse to allow some to use this issue to create unwarranted fear to further their political agenda and bring division between many good people of this country.

Several weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook which challenged folks that are “soft” on immigration to agree to adopt a family or person in the current migrant caravan and bring them to your home, help get them a job, education, food, clothing, place to live, etc.  While I think the post was quite facetious, I say lets take up the challenge.

When the migrant caravan reaches the US, it will probably be down to a couple of thousand people – probably about 500 families.  Why shouldn’t 500 US churches send representatives to the border and ask to take one family each back to their cities, get them a place to live, food, shelter and a job?  Help them get on their feet, relocate and become productive citizens. Help them through the immigration process. Simple “do unto them as you would have them do to you” if you were in that situation.

I wonder if churches throughout our country demanded that our government allow this kind of intervention, if legislation and executive orders might be enacted to allow it.

I wonder if Jesus followers throughout the US demanded that they be allowed to simply be Jesus to people wanting to come here for the right reasons, the kingdom of heaven might come a bit more on earth as it is in heaven.

Live loved.

 

Migration, Borders and the Kingdom of Heaven

Obviously God did not create the world with borders (unless you consider such natural borders of mountain ranges, seas and major rivers that sometimes provide dividers between countries).

God created a borderless world.

In other words, nation borders are not the way God intended the world to be.

Borders are a result of the fall.  Like so much else that is problematic in the world, borders are a result of man’s sin and the resulting curse that has come upon the world, not just men and women, but the very world that God created and loves so much.

Because of the fall, borders are probably a necessary evil with which we must deal and, therefore, immigration laws, border controls, etc.

However, Jesus came to save us from the fallen state in which we live.  Jesus came ushering in the rule and reign of God – the kingdom of heaven.  And so we live in the tension of the breaking in of the kingdom of heaven in the here and now and the “not yet.”  In other words, the kingdom has come, is coming and is yet to come.

Ultimately, God will restore all things – to what he originally intended. But in the meantime (and it is often a “mean time”), the kingdom of heaven is breaking in whenever mankind lives in and out of the existence that is consistent with the pre-fallen world.

No wonder our Lord Jesus instructed those that follow him to pray – “they kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

So then, the church is to be a place where the rule and reign of God (i.e. the kingdom of heaven) is lived out and advanced in the world.

The question then is:  how does the community of God’s people (i.e. the church) respond to the issues of nation borders?

Suggestions (not necessarily answers) to this question on my next post.

Live loved (as you live out the realities of the advancing kingdom of heaven).

 

Vote and Voting

Today is the Big Day!

Not because as so many politicians have told us this is the most important election of our life times. Important, but that is probably a bit “over the top.”

But because we, as Americans, have this amazing, incredible opportunity each election to VOTE. We have the opportunity (won and defended and won again by so many through the years) to ELECT those who will represent us in various places of government.

Remember the impetus of the revolution that initiated this amazing experiment in democracy – “taxation without representation.” Those earliest settlers of this land, couldn’t vote on the important issues of their day and so they rebelled and fought and won their independence and the right to self-determination.

There are a lot of problems with our current system (don’t even get me started). A lot of things I wish were different. But the thing that is right is – WE GET TO VOTE.

The crisis in our political system is not that people who are not entitled to vote do vote. The crisis in our system is that so many, many people who have the right to vote, do not vote.

So if you haven’t yet voted, go vote today.

And encourage others to vote – even folks that may not vote they way you would want them to.

Live loved (even if your vote cancels out my vote).