Thursday, May 14, 2009

What I'm reading...

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I've always been fascinated by Lincoln, and this is a very good (and long) biography. It has a twist though. Instead of just recounting facts about and events in Lincoln's life, it compares and contrasts Lincoln with his three Republican competitors for the presidency in 1860: William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. I didn't know anything about those guys. I'm learning a lot about Lincoln's political maneuvering, ideology, character, and approach to leadership in the context of the 1860 election. I find two things particularly fascinating: One, a relatively unknown Lincoln captured the Republican nomination and the presidency from men much better known and more experienced than he; and two, he brought his three rivals on board his administration, rather than distancing himself from them. That takes a lot of guts and humility.

Not to mention I am also getting a better understanding of the way slavery was viewed by the different political parties and factions of Lincoln's day.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The passing pleasure of sin

Yesterday when I was in Tallahassee, celebrating my son's graduation from law school, the whole family went out to Chili's for lunch after church. My wife and I had been looking forward to getting a really big, juicy, heart-attack-provoking hamburger that day. For one thing, it was Mother's Day. Plus it had been a great weekend with my kids. But also, Suzy and I have been cutting back on eating for some time - a function of both our age and our effort to save money. For example, we've had a bunch of salads and Weight Watchers microwave meals lately. We figured we deserved a break from all that, and we'd actually talked several times during the preceding week about where we would go out to get this amazing hamburger.

So we thought Chili's would be a good spot. I have liked their burgers and fries before. Our hearts were pounding. Our mouths were watering. We couldn't wait!

But what a let-down. Both Suzy's burger and mine were overcooked, and not all that juicy. Also, the fries were just ho-hum. You know what restaurant fries are supposed to taste like, right? Seasoned, hot, etc. Well, they were just OK.

So we left the restaurant really disappointed. This was supposed to be a special occasion. We were with our kids, and we wanted to enjoy this meal. But we didn't. We left Chili's feeling...sad, regretful, unsatisfied.

It occurred to me that's how sin works.

It looks attractive. It beckons us with promises of fulfillment, gladness, freedom, life. It even looks good on the menu. The first bite or two seem to deliver the satisfaction we're looking for. But another couple of bites, and you find out it's a sham. It's all hype. There's no real substance to it. It's nothing like you imagined it would be. After the initial pleasure wears off, you're just the same as you were before, only now you feel a deep sadness, regret, and emptiness.

By contrast, Psalm 36 talks about how satisfying God is. "Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life...." (verses 7-9). Unlike that mediocre hamburger, God is delightful and deeply satisfying. He delivers on his promises. He gives joy, not regret. Follow his paths and you'll be empowered, not worn down and empty.

Moses got it right. Hebrews 11:25 says that Moses "chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." There is a certain kind of pleasure to sin, no doubt. But it's like a bad hamburger. Christ is the real thing.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


My son David, age 28 (pictured here with his wonderful wife Lindsay), graduated from FSU School of Law this weekend. I'm so proud of him! I cannot imagine how much reading and writing it took for him to get through law school, but I know it was a ton. On top of that he was a committed member of his church, a faithful husband, a good friend, a follower of Christ. Thanks for letting me brag.

If I had to choose only one adjective to describe David, it would be the word sensitive. He has an extraordinary sensitivity to the feelings of others. He perceives emotions in me that I'm not even aware of. He's always been moved by the calamities of others. He weeps easily whether from joy or sadness. He feels the brokenness of the world, the abandonment of abused children, the injustice of abortion, the foolishness of unbelief.

I remember one of the first times I ever saw this sensitivity in David was on a family vacation to Washington, DC, when David was a little boy of 5 or 6. We happened to walk past a homeless man on a street corner. As the rest of us averted our glance and kept our eyes on the streetlight, David stopped and just looked at the homeless man. I looked back and saw in David's eyes a sort of understanding, of sympathy, of pain that his face could not hide. He squinted somewhat as if to keep from crying. I've seen that same look many times since that day. In David I see a reflection of God's heart of compassion and grace.

I'm excited to see how God is going to use David and Lindsay as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Oh, and they are expecting their first child in October!

God bless you and yours, David. Thank you for showing me, and countless others, the humility and sensitivity of Christ.