It is rigged!

Ok. It’s rigged! That was the young man’s conclusion after the third attempt at the carnival game. He was ten dollars into his quest and that stuffed animal was as safe as anything under the sun. He realized that the game had a predetermined outcome and a preset means to win. All other attempts will fail.

Years of looking at the process of how Jesus grows believers have convinced me of this truth: The process is rigged. There may be different pathways to maturity but they all involve community if Jesus is involved. Consider this:

  • Jesus discipled in groups. Sure, he had individual encounters with people, but there were 12 disciples and 3 of those in the inner circle. He trained developed people in groups.
  • The New Testament was predominantly written to churches (communities of believers). Some may correctly observe that the pastoral letters (Timothy and Titus), as well as Philemon, are addressed to individuals, but it is not a far stretch to argue that the subject matter was meant for a much broader audience. Still, that leaves well over 90% of the actual content as intended for communities rather than individuals.
  • Finally, there is no small emphasis on relationships, offense, and forgiveness in the New Testament. It seems that when people get together (community) they can “rub wings” and need to regain alignment. (See Matthew 5:21-26, 18:15-18; Eph 5:21-27, 6:1-9, et.al.)

A favorite tool of the enemy to inhibit growth (at least here in the West and particularly in America) is the infatuation we have with individualism and the nearly universal availability of information. The internet makes information as accessible as the phone in your pocket. If you want to know something about anything, Google lets you type it into a search bar, even poorly worded and misspelled, and spits out a gazillion possible matches in a fraction of a second. This access has reduced the reliance on the church as the dispenser of truth about God and His purposeful design. IOW…why go to a church and listen to stuff you may not agree with alongside people you don’t necessarily have a lot in common with, when you can dial up a podcast of some famous guy across town or across the country and listen in the deer stand?

Here’s what is true as I understand the Scriptures: You cannot make it to maturity apart from the community. Consequently, neither can your children or teens…but they won’t know that until after their values are established by the example and incidental leadership of their parents. (What I mean is, if we as parents model in our actions that corporate worship, small group engagement, and relational alignment are unimportant, we set a foundational stone that will guide the conduct of our younger ones perhaps for a generation or more!)

So, how do we move toward maturity?

  • Be as committed to and engaged in corporate community (church) as we are to our employers or our kids’ cheer squad or traveling soccer team. I we would commit to three practices a week for baseball, could we really argue that the spiritual maturity of our family deserves less?
  • Be engaged in small group ministry. (Yes, engagement is more than membership or sitting through a lesson on Sunday).
  • Get married! Commit yourself to one church and one church system. In a world of ubiquitous information it is easy to find Chandler’s podcast, or the church down the road’s singles ministry…but if you’re committed to your church (via formal or implied membership), placing your trust in these other venues may not only be hurtful to your own community, but harmful to your development.

There are a ton of other things we could talk about or adopt regarding community. What is always true and, really, beyond honest debate:

  • Jesus loves us, and therefore always acts in our best interest and His glory.
  • Jesus designed church as a preferred community for His people. It is not optional. It is a design.
  • The closer we are to His design, the more fulfilling we will find the life He created us for.

Why I ask “Silly Questions?”

Several years ago, I shifted the way I do baptism testimonies. As a pastor, I am constantly looking for ways to make the message of the Gospel connect in people’s lives. So, I am hopeful to use every potential avenue to do that.

For more years than I can count, I have required a written testimony for baptisms. If you came for baptism, I required you to take time to write out a short testimony:

  • What was your life like before Christ?
  • How did you become a Christ-follower?
  • How has your life been impacted since that time?

Ultimately, the goal was to equip believers with a tool they could share when communicating with others about this new Christian life. We would share the testimony on behalf of the candidate just before baptism. It was cool.

A few years ago, I changed the approach. I still encourage someone to write out a testimony; however, I also require a video-based presentation of the testimony which we play before the church. The format of the video is flexible. Some people want to read their testimony. Others prefer to answer questions. Still others…we do in interview form. This is really good for kids. I interview them by asking questions about their decision…but also about their understanding of the gospel and its implications for their lives.

I have noticed though, that some folks slip into “eye-roll mode” when I ask questions…as if the questions are “silly.” The fact is, some of them are. As such, let me explain WHY I do it the way that I do.

  • UNDERSTANDING. I use questions to check understanding. I want to know if a person realizes that they are a deeply-flawed sinner, and not just a person with a few indiscretions to their name. I want to know if the person thinks that baptism “saves” or if they recognize it more accurately as an act of obedience in identification with Christ.
  • APPLICATION. I ask questions about what a person did with the gospel. How did you apply that when you realized it?
  • IMPLICATION. This is maybe the category with the “silliest questions,” particularly with kids. I will ask a child: Would you marry an ugly person if Jesus told you to? Would you be a missionary if Jesus said so? Would you do your homework if Jesus said to? Honestly, I am driving at an understanding of Jesus as Lord. I could ask that directly, but what I’ve found is that by seeking to APPLY Lordship is often harder and more impactful. Do I know that Jesus calls everyone to be a missionary? Of Course! Do I think that God would say to a person, “Go find an ugly boy to marry.” Not really, but I do know that God’s standard of who we marry may conflict with what others think or what we might dream up in our hearts apart from Christ.

This practice of interviewing and asking application/implication questions is not a novelty. The ancient church embraced a form of this with the catechism.

What I believe for certain is this: A proper understanding of the gospel is essential and increasingly rare. While I don’t think the video and questions are a “be all-end all” solution, I hope they help. So, if you hear a silly question and conclude that the pastor is just silly, perhaps pause for a moment and think charitably toward him. Maybe, he’s just trying to ensure that the public commitment of baptism is a genuine and sure commitment on the part of the candidate.

Also, and this is just a secondary benefit…in the world of Facebook and other forms of Social Media…baptism testimonies are great tools for sharing.

If you have other thoughts, I’d love to hear.

Be Redemptive, not just Receptive…

“Hey pastor! So-and-so is upset over _____ and thinks that the direction you are taking is wrong. I prayed with them and, after learning that they had not yet talked with you about it, set up for the two of us to meet with you. Can we do that Tuesday?”

Man! If only every conflict and misunderstanding conversation went like that! Unfortunately, they often go a little differently.

“Pastor. So-and-so left the church because they were upset about ____ and no one ever fixed it. They shared it in Sunday School and the class batted it around, but nothing changed.”

Or, even more often… “Pastor, “a man” (who wants to remain anonymous) is really upset over ____. He shared with me “in confidence” and I prayed with him, but it doesn’t seem to be getting better. He is just more angry. I think he is probably going to leave the church. I know he hasn’t talked with you and I think he should but don’t feel right telling him since he is comfortable sharing his concerns and I don’t want to damage that. I can’t tell you his name…but just know that this man is upset and pray for him.”

Now…none of these conversations are real (at least today), but they have been through the years. They point to a need that I think exists for the believer who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how.

What do you do when someone wants to “share” with you a concern involving another person? Should you be receptive or redemptive?

If you listen to that “inner voice,” for a thousand reasons, you’ll want to be receptive; however, Jesus specifically gave us a redemptive ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-21, Gal 6:1-2, Matt 5:21-26, Matt 18:15-18, et.al.). If Jesus is Lord, and our playbook is the Word of God, then our response must be determined by God! After all, He may have invited us into this situation to minister FOR HIM by helping one of His precious ones be redeemed. But, this takes CONFIDENCE in the Lord and COURAGE in our hearts.
In a world of one-directional communication where opinions rule the day…this seems to be increasingly difficult…but if you love Jesus, you can do it!

Here are 5 Steps to being Redemptive rather than being merely Receptive.

  • PRAY. Not merely for courage, but for wisdom. You are about to speak for God.
  • LISTEN. Try to get the story…but start with the parts that matter most. Is the person personally involved or are they “carrying water” for someone else? Have they spoken with the offender directly? If not, was that by design or just a mistake?
  • LEAD. Listening alone, in these examples, is not a biblical approach. If you are going to get involved, you have to speak for the Lord. Lead the person to act biblically and go get answers. Sometimes that means walking with them through the process, even though that is not always the best first step.
  • LOVE. Choose to think charitably about motives. Even if the motives are wrong, the person has worth and there is usually a nugget of value in every criticism (or critical question). If you discover this is not the case in this matter, love them enough to gently redirect them…but redirect them at all costs.
  • LEAVE. Sometimes, a person is entrenched in their mindset and unwilling to move or be moved. In this case, it is often best to extract yourself from the discussion. Every time they recount their story they solidify it deeper in their minds. They start to really believe it as fact. You actually hurt their redemptive process by allowing them to rehearse their disagreement repeatedly and unchallenged. Graciously and lovingly point out what it takes to go to the next step of the redemption process and if they will not go there with you, move on. Your silence may inspire them to come back to that step one day, and if so, pick up where you left off.

Why is this process so critical? Beyond the obvious practical considerations…because Jesus said so. If He is all-knowing and wise, loving and gracious…we should, could, and must trust Him on matters He speaks to by walking in humility and obedience in a manner consistent with His Word.

Give me an undivided heart…

Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11 (NASB95)

Recently, this verse struck me in my morning quiet time. Essentially, this is a prayer/psalm of David where he makes several requests of the Lord. Hear and answer me, O Lord (v.1); “Preserve my soul” (v.2); “Be gracious to me” (v.3), etc. He also observes essential characteristics about the Lord. “You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive” (v.5); You are trustworthy to answer me (v.7); You are great and do wondrous deeds, You alone are God (v.10).

These things, while not unusual in the Psalms, underscore the nature and confidence of the prayer. We ask of God because He alone is able and willing to provide, and we have confidence of this since what God does emanates from who He is.

The central focus of David’s petition is captured in verse 11:

  • “Teach me…” God, even though I know you and of you I don’t yet KNOW you.
  • “…Your way,” We don’t need God to bless our way but to show us His way so that we will align to it. The idea of “the way” is that of a journey rather than a destination. Our life in Christ is one of movement, discovery, and alignment of our will (which is evidenced by our action) to His.
  • “I will walk in Your truth.” One cannot simply ask God to share His proposal for our lives so we can examine and determine if we will follow. Prayer begins with a heart of surrender to whatever God will do based on faith in His person and character. Stated differently, prayer begins with signing a blank check to God.
  • “Unite my heart to fear your name.” The NIV says, “Give me an undivided heart…” Both translations capture the essence of the verse. David recognized that his heart can become conflicted within itself. In Jewish thought (the context of the verse), the “heart” was the locus of emotion, will, reason, etc. It is the “engine” that propels us.

David recognized what we sometimes overlook: our emotions often conflict with our will or our sense of reason. These three powerful forces can become divided in their interests and concerns. We can become driven by emotion or captive to our logic or so strong-willed that we listen to no one. His prayer is that God would UNITE his heart. “God… help me to maintain the appropriate tension between these powerful draws. IN fact, O God, take over when I am blowing it!”

Why ask God to steer our hearts properly…to keep us from losing balance or becoming driven by out of control emotions, logic/reason, or willfulness? Simply…so that we will fear the name of God.

This fear speaks of reverence or honor but we often work too hard to distance ourselves from fear (as in afraid). David recognized God’s awesome person and power, His mercy and graciousness. But He also recognized God’s holiness and resolute nature that would not be altered and will not permit His name to be tainted by sin. David prayed that his heart be united so that he might live submitted to the person and will of God…fearing the name of the Lord.

Rightly understood, we OUGHT to fear the Lord, as demonstrated in walking in His way. Our hearts can become easily divided in that pursuit; therefore, we ought to depend on the Lord to cause them to be united. We know what that is, as we learn more and experience more of God’s person in the journey of life with Him. Shalom.

Not Alone in the Dark…

We never “really” get over it. That feeling that what we cannot see just might “get us!” When we were small children, our parents may have installed nightlights to show us that nothing was really in the room with us at bedtime. They may have inspected the closet and looked under the bed to demonstrate that nothing bad was there. They may have even explained to us all the reasons our fears were irrational and reminded us that they were on the far side of the house (away from us) and that if we needed them…we only needed to cry out.

The feeling never went away. We wondered if the object of our fears might be lurking in a shadow or may have been overlooked when inspecting the closet. Our real issue was not the darkness but the sense that we were alone.

How does one find peace from the fear and anxiety that bad things happen when we are alone?

I think this is the heartbeat of Jesus’ statement to His followers just prior to His ascension back to the Father in heaven… “and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus never promised that bad people or bad things would not come against us. He never declared our lives to be filled with unicorns and cotton candy. He, in fact, declared the opposite, “In this world you will have tribulation!” (John 16:33). And at the same time, Christ indicated that we could experience a profound peace, even amid our difficult circumstance.

God’s PEACE is not experienced based on the absence of trouble but on the presence of God.

In Psalm 23, David declared, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.” God’s presence put our “trouble” in perspective.

A boy was having difficulties with a bully on the walk to school. After several confrontations, he was so afraid of what would happen that he dreaded even walking that way again. His father, recognizing the real issue, did not promise to remove the bully but chose instead to walk with his son on the journey the next day. When they faced the bully kid along the walk, there was no issue. The bully was the same, but the son had confidence because his dad was bigger than the bully and HE WAS WITH HIM.

Today, as you face the challenges that are guaranteed to come, don’t fear the dark or dread being alone. If you are His child, you are never alone…not even in the dark. “Fear not for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10).

Pray for me…

So, the question is, “Do I share a concern that I have with others so that they can pray for me and with me?” What if I am wired as a pretty private person and prefer not to “air out” my concerns? What if I have a theological understanding that God already knows my needs and I have prayed personally and specifically about them to Him? Perhaps… “What is the value of getting as many people as possible to pray about something? Does God give in and answer a prayer if you get enough uprising of prayer voices?”

A theology of prayer is not one that many people can articulate, and I don’t expect this short article to suddenly change the world on that matter; however, I do want to offer a perspective that I hope will be helpful.

Recently I came to a milestone in my education. After four doctoral seminars and two advanced doctoral seminars, after reading tens of thousands of pages of texts and hundreds of hours of lecture and conversation about numerous subjects…I had to sit for my comprehensive exams (aka Comps). All of the information I was exposed to and thought about for (in my case) nearly two years was on the table and I had to synthesize it and respond to questions about it. One question was an essay response to a prompt and two questions were “oral board” style with faculty members and a subject matter “practitioner” expert.

So, how do you prepare for that? One thing is pray. While I have a generally good grasp of tests…this one seemed to have so much riding on it, that I was genuinely nervous. So, I prayed and I shared the burden of my anxiousness with those close to me (family, close friends, my LIFE Group, etc.). Here are some of the reasons why I shared with others…reasons I will refer to as benefits:

  • Vulnerability. When you ask others to pray for you, you remind everyone, including yourself, that you are not invincible. This promotes humility. It also facilitates trust.
  • People want to help you. Others recognize when you are genuinely burdened about something and they want to help.
  • Community. Christians live in close-quarters with one another. We are on mission together. It would be derelict to withhold the fact that you are distracted by a concern.
  • Encouragement. Knowing others were praying and then receiving encouraging notes and texts mattered. It lifted me.
  • Shared Victory. When I passed my comps, a HUGE weight was lifted. I still have a ton of work to do, but this was really a big hurdle. I felt like I achieved something. I told Jodi, “I can see the light at the other end now.” I also sensed that many other people felt that they shared in that victory. They did, by the way, because we are a community and we labored together in prayer…so the victory is shared! But…the point is…they FELT the victory when WE PASSED the tests. To not share would have denied others of that realized experience of victory.

So, I get “private” and all that…but with so many benefits of having others pray for you…wouldn’t it be wise to admit that maybe God has a better plan and permit the community to function as it is designed?

Who are you “denying” the opportunity to feel victory because you wanted to keep a real burden private.

The Principle of Unintended Consequence…

A wise man once said, “Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was erected. There may be something beyond the horizon you don’t want to come after you.”

When I was a small child (I don’t remember this, but only the stories told about it) I was spending time with my aunt and uncle in Florida and was curious about a plastic container near a sink. It had little covers over the two very small cup-like things and there was water in them. I had never seen a contact lens holder before, so I opened one of them and inadvertently washed a contact down a drain. It was not what I intended.

Can I call that an accident? Certainly not! It only happened because I was doing something else I was not supposed to be doing. I did not mean for it to happen. It was an unintended consequence.

In leadership, this principle plays out time and again. In church leadership, these choices seem to magnify intensely (mainly because churches are people and the variables on decisions with people are innumerable). Effective leaders, however, must become adept at forecasting unintended consequences. This involves more than acting and then praying that God protects you from consequences. It involves more than asking three friends what they might do in a similar situation. It means learning to examine a matter from a variety of perspectives.

Here are 4 tips:

  • Ask, “Why is this necessary?” Write down the reason that this change or action is required in your current context. In other words: what problem are you seeking to fix, what question are you seeking an answer to, or what outcome are you trying to achieve?
  • Ask, “How will those immediately affected perceive this action?” When Martha hears you say that you are moving her Sunday School class to the other end of the hall, what will go through her mind as to the rationale? Remember, everyone listens through the filter of their own experiences. Those likely differ from yours as a leader.
  • Ask, “How would this be reported on the evening news?” News reports, at times, scare me. In our attention-deprived culture of soundbites, every story is to be condensed to 90 seconds. If someone were observing your action and then editing the entirety of it to 90 seconds, what would make the highlight reel? Your church cancels a particular outreach event…for (prospectively) a hundred good reasons. If none of those were understood, what would onlookers assume was your motive. As bad as it sounds… “what will people think of your decision?”
  • Verify and Adapt. Take your new information and verify that the consequences of the decision or change are worth it. Then, adapt your message to address beforehand as many of the downsides as you uncovered. If the new direction is good…press on, but be wise as you lead others in the new direction. Don’t complain about people throwing rocks at you when you could have removed them but, instead, left them lying around on the ground.

What might you add to this list if you had written the article? I’d love to hear.

Speaking and Listening to Grow…

I have been writing for several days now on my spiritual disciplines to give a glimpse into what it looks like to grow in Christ. I am not speaking of gaining knowledge though growing in Christ requires us to know more information about Him. I have talked about a number of components mentioned in my article HERE. You can follow the threads and see about a Bible Reading Plan, using devotional guides, reading in the Book of Proverbs, and my deeper bible study reading. Today, I want to discuss prayer (and I am using the term ‘want’ loosely).

As I said in the initial article, this is the place where I feel the weakest since I find myself becoming impatient and sometimes distracted in this area. It is one thing to have a prayer time where you ask God to bless your meal…or to heal Aunt Ethel’s big toe injury (both necessary and good aspects of prayer), but I am talking about talking and listening to God.

This time is often divided and many times informal. Here is what I mean.

It begins with acknowledging God for who He is. I start by rehearsing all fo the qualities of God that come to my mind.

Then, the time turns toward confession: God forgive me for these areas SPECIFICALLY that I know inhibit my fellowship with you.

Third, and this is the tricky part…God speak to me. NOW–LISTEN.

Here God is free to turn my mind wherever He wishes. He may remind me of sin, shift my thoughts to His greatness, press me to intercede for someone…or just be silent as He trains me to wait on Him. Then…I ask Him to open my mind to the Scripture. As I am reading, I like to think God is also turning my mind by drawing me to things in Scripture.

Finally, I repeat: God you are great and here is how… God forgive me and this is why…God show me what You want me to know or see and I will wait.

When I sense it is time to move forward I do.

Here are a couple of things that make this hard for me (and maybe for you too):

  • I get in a hurry. I am a slave, at times, to my calendar.
  • My mind is prone to wander. I swear the enemy will flash every shiny squirrel he can to get me off-track.
  • I am selfish. I often want to focus on me and how I can grow and what I want God to show me. God on the other hand, will not share in my self-absorbed madness. He stands quietly just out of view.
  • I like to drive. Waiting and watching and being dependent is an ongoing challenge. I have to work at it.

But, when I get it right: (excuse the forthcoming alliteration. I am a preacher after all).

  • I sense His presence. I can tell God is there.
  • I sense His peace. He speaks to things that are important to me.
  • I sense His purpose. I gain direction.
  • I sense His power. I feel like I can do it (whatever the IT is at that moment).

I hope that helps. If you have a better plan or a thought to contribute I am all ears…as long as I stay focused.

Grace and Peace,

PC.

Growth through Deeper Study

Last week, I wrote an article on How I will grow spiritually in 2018, and since then, I have written several articles on different parts of the disciplines I use in my own spiritual development: Scripture Reading plans, devotionals, and reading from Proverbs. Today I want to discuss the fourth discipline- Reading for Deeper Understanding.

This may sound a little weird, but it shouldn’t. What I am speaking of is a slower, more methodical study of a specific Book in the Bible, along with study tools, to get a deeper understanding.

For instance, right now I am reading the Minor Prophet Hosea again. It is a fairly short book but it will take me a while to work through it because I am in no hurry. I almost always have a commentary available and some tool to help me with the original language. The goal…is to grasp the full context of a passage or a book and understand not only what was said but why it was said, to whom was it spoken, and about what did it refer.

For example: Hosea was a prophet in Israel (Northern Kingdom) for around 40 years. The Israelites living there had forsaken almost everything holy except the name of being God’s people. They acknowledged God but lived like all religious roads ended up at the same place. Furthermore, they pursued many of these religious pursuits through sexual immorality, idolatry, and self-sufficiency. Their priests had abdicated their responsibility of teaching truth and calling for repentance to the point…that the people wrestled with even knowing the truth.

This background sets the context for God’s instructions to Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her…giving them weird names of prophetic significance. God said the prostitute (whose name was Gomer by-the-way) would cheat on Hosea and return to harlotry. God then told Hosea to go and pay her ransom and bring her home, purify her, and love her.

Now I will confess…I have had some tough assignments as a minister…but seriously! This has to take the cake! What under heaven is God thinking?

Well, God wants Hosea to live out a parable demonstrating God’s love toward a rebellious people. As Hosea took a wife that slept around, God has taken a people that committed spiritual adultery with every false religion on the block! As Hosea was hurt by his wife’s return to harlotry, God is hurt by ours. As Hosea went and redeemed and purified his wife, receiving her back to himself, God redeems us (sinful spiritual harlots), purifies us and receives us to Himself (See Rom 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, Eph 5:22-33, et. al.)

So with a little help from scholars and taking my time…the depths of knowledge of God’s heart resulting in an overwhelming appreciation for His matchless grace rises up!

So, all that to say that in addition to the other things, I am also involved in this discipline which really is one of the most encouraging parts of my devotional time with God.

Maybe, if you really want to “get it” with God…give it a try. Use a Study Bible or purchase a commentary on a particular book and give it a whirl…after all, if you can understand God better and that results in pasisonate worship…what do you have to lose?

Grace and Peace.

PC.

 

Avoiding the Two-Choice Trap

I like mysteries. A good “cop-drama” or “murder-mystery” is the staple of my television amusement. Whether it is an NCIS episode, Law and Order, Blue Bloods, or the plethora of new legal dramas that pepper my DVR menu- I like dramas. At the same time, when I watch the current “news” channels or peruse much of what I see on Facebook, my eyes twitch and I begin to sympathize with some of the stars of these made-for-TV crime shows. So, WHY?

In most of the mystery shows, there is a common plot. Someone is murdered…there are one or two likely suspects and a tension as to who the culprit is. Then, 2/3 of the way into the narrative, there is a “plot-twist” and a third option becomes available.

What makes me crazy about most news reports on the cable networks? There is rarely a third option. Either you support (for instance) the President and you’re a person of questionable character that hates women, homosexuals, and the poor; or, you are part of the resistance so you hate law enforcement, accountability and desire for the US to become a socialist state.

This same false dichotomy is often applied to Christian beliefs. A Christian holds a moral objection to homosexuality, abortion, or extra-marital sex and suddenly you must hate all people, desire to institute a theocracy, and want women to become second-class citizens in a patriarchal rerun of Mad Men.

These examples are indicative of the false narrative choices fed by impure motives and rhetorical goals of those who seek to win more than seeking to understand. What if it were possible for there to be a third option?

Is it possible to like SOME of what a person does, disagree with other parts, and still speak and act with genuine respect toward one another? In other words, must I affirm everything about a person if I support some things?

What seems true for most things in life is that we would benefit by looking for a “third option.” Certainly, some ground rules apply, but Patterson et. al. touch on this as it relates to relationships in their book Crucial Conversations. In it, the authors advocate for a culture of trust where dialogue is fostered to improve understanding and promote an environment where parties can work toward a common “win.” That is only possible if we accept that there is a third option to most conflicts, AND finding that third option requires dialogue with charitable assumptions.

We DESPERATELY need this in our culture if we are to experience any meaningful progress. We also need a backbone to require parties to come to the table and accept these ground rules. What I mean is: We should not reward obtuse behavior simply because someone wants to be obtuse. If a Senator becomes an obstructionist simply because he is jockeying for power or didn’t like the President (apart from policy)  we, as the People, should usher him out of office.

The behavior we should reward is dialogue. Information is not our enemy but our friend. We learn when we talk. We may not come to consensus, but we might…especially if we are convinced there may be a third way and reject the “fool’s choice” of a two-choice option.

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