Values

We all have them. Some surface thoughts, some culturally driven, some are a part of our base human nature, and others very deeply held. To take the word values at it’s highest tree top level thinking you’ll come up with words like attitude, standards, morals, belief, code or ideals. Taken to the root of the word, the thought, you come up with words like conscience and integrity.

So what are one’s values and how deeply do they hold those values. I’ve seen a lot in my half century plus of walking to and fro and breathing in and out of persons and their relationship to their values. I’ve seen persons take values, once deeply defended, and place them in a heap on the side of the road of their life like so much trash floating in their automobile. I’ve seen persons take up values and champion them based on nothing more than an emotional response to an emotional event, and I’ve seen persons literally lay down their very life for values that many will claim but were unwilling to pay that degree of sacrifice for.

Have your values added to your life? Have your values enriched your experience? Have you had to pay a price, small or great, for the values you possess? This I think is a profound question facing our western society in this day, perhaps more profoundly than ever before. In an age of social media dominance, me centrist thinking, feelings based attitudinal responsive mindsets, values are less concrete and more gelatinous. The price of values, what they cost you, how they enrich you, has never been more diverse or in flux.

I have been faced with a question of values for the better part of a year at this point. A relationship started with a person, friendly, probing at times, still very much on the surface of things and thoughts, but always a question of what price my values will extend in this interaction. This person constantly pecking at the edges of my already stated, openly held, plainly expressed Christian values. Me carefully stating my stand on matters but being certain to remind that my values are mine, not required to be theirs, and that their beliefs, while different, were none the less legitimate to them and respected by me. A tedious waltz at times. In truth, I had hopes of freeing myself from one circumstance to have the opportunity to place myself in another in a business relationship with this person.

Ultimately, it would seem that this person while probing beyond my stated line in the sand, was offended that I would not quickly give up my values for a very lucrative business opportunity. Contact has stopped. Conversation, inquiry, and general how ya doing, nonexistent.

Have my values cost me something?  Maybe. Have my values enriched my life at this point. I think so.  Through the eyes of the world, it would be easily said that I was or am a fool. Few would know of my compromise. The financial gain would open avenues for me to embark on long held dreams for my family and myself. Take the money and run. Salve your conscience in the privacy of your own thoughts. Shore up your integrity in your own mind and heart and damn the rest. Money solves it all. So, yes, in that world view, my values cost me a great deal financially. I would say it cost me personally as well. This person, while very different from me, was someone I wanted to know better. For whatever reason, I saw them as part of God’s created and wanted to have an influence on them and they on me to some extent.

As to enrichment, yes, my values have and are enriching my life. Given a biblical world view, I am reminded that this is not my home. My place is with another. He sacrificed a tremendous amount to have a relationship with me. I am in debt to Him. However, my relationship with Him is not one of indebtedness but of love. I love Him.  Not because of the price He paid, but because He loved me first. Because of this framework, my devotion to Him and the values, ideals, conscientious thinking, integrity that I derive from that relationship is enriched by my obedience to them and to Him. That obedience enriches my life and my experiences.

I will not mourn the loss of an opportunity. I will mourn the loss of a relationship a little. I will celebrate the deepening roots of my values. If only by a millimeter at a time, ever stretching for the living water of Christ and His living through me I will find great value in values. May they ever be founded on Him, and deeply held.

Sixteen And Never Been…..

Today is the day. The day my one and only son turns 16. For such a small number it looms so large in my mind.

Sixteen years ago he quite literally spilled into this world and forever turn mine and his mother’s world upside down. It rained bath tubs the day he was born.  You’d have thought it was the second coming of the biblical Noah it rained so much.  I remember how mad your mom was that your birth came on a Friday the 13th and here we are again, full circle, on a Friday and the 13th.

I’m not really a superstitious man. I don’t worry about black cats or ladders or most any of the other common superstitions. That being said I’d still never touch the chalk lines coming in or going out to the field playing ball. For all the ideas people may pontificate on regarding your birth date, they can generally agree on several things.

My boy is a good boy. Full of silliness and as much so as any young man of sixteen years, but in all a good boy. My boy is kindhearted. He has always had a soft spot for people and particularly those who may not be the pinnacle of what society holds as worthy. He tends toward the underdog, the lesser, the marginalized. His heart just works that way and it makes his mom and dad very proud.  My boy is strong. Not strong so much in the physical sense of the word but in the moral context. He has his weaknesses as all do, but when it comes to justice and rightness, he is strong and he exerts that strength in a quiet and gentle manner that proves formidable when the times call for it. I’ve seen him defend the defenseless, be a protector of the weak and friend to the outcast many times and many more that I haven’t seen but only heard about. My boy is strong. My boy is also funny. Sick sense of humor and all. He continues to hone the craft of a well turned phrase. Not always successfully but then again, he is only sixteen. Feel free to ask him what the most important thing in comedy is.

Such a small number but there are volumes in that number. Page upon page of growing, and doing, and being, and living, laughing, crying, and flying. I marvel at this thing I see. I marvel that I am able to be so close to something so magical and marvelous. Mystery and revelation rolled into one. I marvel that I am given this thing to love with a passion that escapes my ability to express it. That moment when I say goodbye each morning to hear him say with that little upward lilt at the end “I love you too”. That is enough to allow me to face down the ridiculousness of what is to walk in this world with all its brokenness. I marvel that such a creature could love me back, as broken as I am.

Silly saying, “Sixteen and never been kissed.”  I’m under the assumption the boy has been kissed and that if he is reading this he is grinning that grin and turning a shade or two of red. I know this however.  He is sixteen and…never been loved more. Every age of my kids is my favorite age. Memories are precious, but the now is the thing. The now of my boy being sixteen is awesome to me. He’ll drive soon. He’ll be away from us more as time goes on. He’ll go to college, meet “the” girl, marry, and maybe, if he’s really blessed, raise a boy of his own. Those are hallmarks of larger numbers than sixteen and many days into the future. For now sixteen is big enough.

He has a very busy weekend this weekend with other responsibilities besides a birthday, but I hope he knows and never forgets. Noah, we love you with a love that transcends ages and epochs, the barriers of time and space, and physics. We are proud of you and have only the highest hopes for you and your future. You are crossing a milestone. Continue to walk as your namesake walked, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; and Noah walked with God.”

Happy sixteenth birthday son. I love you.

Daddy

Brokenness

I’m so saddened, so broken hearted, so speechless right now. A man is dead and another man’s life is effectively ended.

Late Saturday a young man I know. A young man who not only works for me but that I felt especially close to, killed another man. There is so much more to this event than I will ever know. I can’t even begin to find the words to try to understand why or how this could have happened, but it did. He pulled a weapon and shot a man. Now that man is dead.

What is even more tragic is that these men are all related by blood, of the same race and live in the same neighborhood. There is a depth of loss so profound in this particular community, this particular family, that it defies comprehension.

I am a man so on the outside of this. I tell these young men often that while I may understand on some level the prejudices, bigotry and economic hardships they live under better than the average “white guy”, I am sincere in my belief that I wouldn’t last five minutes in their world. I can only sympathize on many levels. Empathy is unobtainable for me in so many way for what they deal with, the manner in which they have been brought up and the thought processes that color so much of how they view the world and react to that same world.

This young man had so much promise. Twenty-two years old just this past Friday. We celebrated his birthday with cards and cake and a lot of good natured ribbing. He was hamming it up for the girls and enjoying being the center of attention. He had just been handed additional responsibilities in his job and was rising to the occasion beautifully. I could see such a great future for him.  With the crack of a pistol report, it’s gone. It’s all gone.

So much of the news these past few months has been about the inordinate amount of police misconduct in and amongst black communities. Ironically, even as a white man, I get profiled by local police because of the car I drive passing through particular neighborhoods in route to my own home in a suburban, middle class, neighborhood in a bedroom community of the capital city of Mississippi. The cry has been, “Black lives matter”, and most certainly, indeed they do. I spend the majority of my life with people of a different race than me. That doesn’t earn me any special favors or variances but does allow me to see first hand the struggles of others. I have dedicated myself to helping the men who work for me to see greater things for themselves and their families. I care about them because they work for me but more so, I care about their families. Their kids and wives or girlfriends. Their grandmothers or grandfathers, who are, many times, the only ones who have shown these men they are cared for to any level. I care what happens to them and seek to guide them, when allowed, into a life where God is central and the world is secondary.

So as I sit here and mourn the loss of this man’s life, present and future and the loss of his relatives earthly life, I am struck by the irony of this latest marching slogan. “Black lives matter”. They have always mattered. Not just when white cops shoot black men in the back or any of the other dozens of tragic events we’ve seen played out on the evening news all over the country. Black lives mattered for the decades of black on black crimes that have preceded our current reality fascination fix of racial inequality. Where was the black lives matter cry then. Where was it in this community, in it’s psyche last Saturday when two men, two relatives, two black men thought so little of each others lives that they tried to end each others lives to such a devastating and heart wrenching result.

Sadly, there is no easy answer or profound words to be spoken that will change the hearts of man. We are a broken people, living in a broken world and there but by the grace of God go I.

Brokenness, brokenness, brokenness. All is brokenness. I weep for you my friend. For a life squandered, a family broken, a hope unrealized. Brokenness, brokenness, brokenness. All is brokenness.