Jeff Iorg Blog
Hope for the New Year
Dec 31 2012
The longer a person leads, the more susceptible they are to discouragement, cynicism, and bitterness. Frankly, losing hurts. It’s hard when evil prevails. No matter how hard we preach, teach, and counsel – some people still make horrible choices that destroy relationships, families, and churches. No matter how much we strategize, sinful people can undermine our best efforts. Political systems, governing authorities, and corporate practices all bear the taint of sin and sometimes seem to conspire against spiritual progress. When these forces align, it’s tough to maintain faith. When a ministry organization loses money or people or influence because of unjust practices, it’s easy to just give up. Why try when the deck seems stacked against us?
We must maintain faith in God’s promises and strive for the best, believing that over a lifetime God’s ways produce positive results. The only problem is, sometimes they don’t. That admission may shock you. As a Christian leader, you might expect me to claim otherwise. The fact is God’s people are sometimes thwarted, not just in their lifetimes but for several generations (remember 400 years of slavery in Egypt?). Spiritual forces, evil people, and imperfect institutions conspire to produce this grim reality.
But wait! Hope is only lost when our perspective is flawed. God promises to make all things right at the end - of time, not at the end our project, ministry career, or lifetime. Justice is coming. God’s ways will prevail. God’s work will be established. Righteousness will reign. Every unfair outcome will be reversed. Every abused Christian will be justified.
But when? When Jesus returns all things will be made right. Not before, not necessarily in your lifetime, and certainly not on your timetable.
Part of your leadership challenge is maintaining hope. Doing so isn’t simply practicing a high level of spiritual denial. Hope takes the pain and problems of our world seriously, admitting the worst of them. Hope also admits, in the short run, God’s people will be abused and his work stymied. Hope begins with honesty about life as it is, not as we wish it would be. Hope, however, is not overwhelmed by these immediate realities.
Hope results from a fixation on the future – not the future new year, but the future return of Jesus Christ. So, start 2013 with a party and positive attitude – but keep your true hope for better times fixed on the only real Hope for the future – Jesus.
Sports fan that I am, I have been to my share of stadiums and ballparks. For the un-initiated, football is played in a stadium and baseball in a ballpark. The reasons for this make an interesting essay – but not today! I like to arrive early to tour a new facility, noting the architectural and historical accouterments that make every place unique. I also like to try the interesting food offerings that make each place special.
Part of the food experience is connected to the vendors – some of the most interesting characters in any stadium or ballpark. Until recently, my favorite vendor is a guy who works at least at two ballparks in Arizona. He has a booming, melodic voice and a signature call hawking his product. He bellows, “Lemonade, lemonade, like grandma made. You know you want it.” And, the way he says it, you do want it!
During the World Series, however, I met another vendor who was equally memorable. He carried his product into our section, set down his carrying case, and shouted, “Alcohol.” Not “beer” or “wine” or “have a cold one” or “this Bud’s for you.” Just plain, “alcohol.” He cut out all the folderol and high-sounding pseudonyms and just asked people if they wanted the drug itself – “alcohol.”
While his product has no interest for me, his blunt appeal was refreshingly honest. He knows people want to self-medicate and he was willing to supply the means. Even after all these years, it still amazes me how much people drink while watching sports. One guy in the row in front of me drank a beer an inning, and then doubled up in the seventh when they cut off the sales. He started out a nice guy, but ended up a belligerent boor his friends apologized for as they helped him out of the stadium.
As if alcohol hasn’t been enough to keep us plastered, now Colorado and Washington voters have approved the recreational use of marijuana. It’s sad so many people need a lubricant to ease their anxiety in social situations or a drug to self-medicate personal pain. And it’s not just young people who use and abuse. A senior adult recently told a friend of mine, “I’m lonely at night but a drink or two gets me through.”
Life is hard, no doubt. It can be frightening, lonely, and intimidating. Those of us who have found peace through Jesus are mandated to get the word out – he makes life meaningful without the hangover. Rather than shout, “Alcohol,” perhaps we should be more vocal with another one word answer, “Jesus.”
Whatever happened to Halloween?
Oct 29 2012
Back in the old days, like twenty years ago, Halloween was for children. They dressed up in cute costumes and went door-to-door in their neighborhood asking for candy with the veiled threat, “trick or treat.” Parents went along, strolling the sidewalk with coffee in hand, talking with friends while their children enjoyed the party.
Halloween has now been co-opted as an adults-only party. We haven’t had a child knock on our door in years. Adults dress up, even in their workplaces, and many use Halloween as another excuse to get drunk or high. I thought I was some curmudgeon, the only person disgusted by this cultural “progress.” Then I read a column by Caille Millner in the San Francisco Chronicle, a paper usually supportive of any form of adult debauchery.
Ms. Millner graduated from college and worked overseas for a few years. After returning to the Bay Area, when Halloween rolled around the first time, she bought her candy and waited for the kids to come. No one showed. So, she went into her San Francisco neighborhood looking for a party – and found one. She wrote the following:
“Later that night…I saw many children, infinite numbers of children, all dressed up in costume and gorging themselves on candy. But the children were my age or older, and the candy was alcohol and drugs, and – much later in the night – violence.” Then she asks, “Are these adults’ lives really so bleak, their jobs really so taxing, that they’re desperate to reclaim a children’s holiday? Are their beliefs so oppressed, their spirits so marginalized, that they need to disguise themselves so that they can lose their inhibitions in public?”
The answer to both questions is “yes.” Many people need to justify self-medication so badly they take over a children’s holiday to do so. It’s sad, but it’s also motivational to all of us who know the solution to this emptiness. Rather than ridicule immature adults, let’s pay attention to what Halloween now says about the quiet desperation so many feel and redouble our efforts to help people find life in Jesus Christ.