A Drunk Rhinoceros Always Breaks Things

And other thoughts on boundaries in life.

I was talking with a friend recently about a topic we disagreed on. When we got to the heart of the matter, they said they just “couldn’t ignore their feelings” about this issue. They said, basically, “how could all my feelings be wrong?” I replied that we should follow that train of thought to its logical end. I threw out a number of examples of things that “feel” very good – physically or emotionally – but lead to obviously negative consequences. I asked if these things were, following their definition, the right thing to do? Ultimately this leads to the question, “are there any real boundaries to our behavior that are real and deep and true?”

Despite a popular belief that any kind of personal boundaries or constraints are bad, I believe they are actually critical to our survival and what’s even better, will lead us to a fullness of life and joy.

In my lifetime I have seen a continual assault on anything remotely resembling limits on personal freedom. Along with it we’ve seen an elevation of the individual to the highest place – let’s call it the throne – as people claim they are their own masters and no one can tell them what to do. There are those who believe that any boundary, constraint or limit to their personal freedom to do whatever they want is silly – even evil. But this requires a deeper look.

The problem with this way of thinking is the fruit that it bears in our lives. A mentor of mine is fond of saying, when people are complaining about the things happening in their lives, “you don’t have a fruit problem, you have a root problem.” And so when bad fruit is present, we must ask, what’s the root?

Why do we have boundaries and limits in the first place? And who puts them in place? Who gets that authority over us? I believe in a loving, omnipotent creator God. That’s where it starts for me. So if you don’t share that belief or aren’t at least open to the idea, you can go back to scrolling Facebook or Twitter now, though I’d love it if you stuck around.

So, if there is a loving, all-powerful God that created the universe it follows that He is in charge, not me. He gets to set the parameters for our existence because, well, he made us. He made everything we see and know.

Now before you think this is going down to a long list of do’s and don’t’s from the Bible, that’s not where I’m going. I do believe the Bible is the best possible source of knowing our boundaries. But that’s for another time. No, I want to talk about the inherent value of boundaries. To remind us that instead of limiting us, boundaries are actually incredibly life-giving. They ensure and sustain joy. They lead to fullness of life here on earth.

I’m kind of an expert on boundaries because I’ve charged through most of them at one point or another in my life. I know what boundaries look like from the broken side – the outside looking in. I also know what it’s like to live within them. I can say without any hesitation that life is much, much better inside the boundaries. Far from restricting us, they protect us. They give our lives structure. They allow us to focus on what really matters and ignore what doesn’t. And yes, they keep us from getting into big trouble.

What are some of the boundaries that are helpful and life-giving? What do they look like? Here’s a few, just food for thought:

  • Technology should not be ever-present in your life. You need breaks from it. Complete and total breaks. How many moms and dads out there have heard some form of, “Daddy, put your phone down and listen to me.” I have. It hits me between the eyes every time. Instead, what if you had “no phone zones?” What if you never looked at your phone in bed? Or took an entire day off every week from social media and technology? This will pay off. Trust me.
  • Our bodies, especially sexually, are not “free” to do whatever we want. Many, many sexual choices will lead to bondage, not freedom. Just ask someone who’s divorced, addicted to porn, a victim of sexual abuse or depressed and confused about their sexuality. God gives us boundaries regarding our bodies for our good, not to limit our freedom. Trust me.
  • You cannot “save” that person you love. Stop letting them charge through your boundaries like a drunk rhinoceros. The rhino won’t get where he needs to go and all you’ll be left with are shattered fences and a trampled garden. It’s so, so hard when it’s someone you love – I know. You want to do everything you can to “help” them. Meet every need. Answer every call and text. But you can’t save them – only the loving Father can. Love them. Do what you can. But don’t abandon good boundaries. Trust me.
  • Your boss or client is not your slave-master and you are not their slave. If you answer emails at 11 o’clock at night, they’ll always expect you to. If you ask, “how high” every time they say, “jump,” you will get very tired, very quickly. In contrast, if you set proper boundaries for communication, work-load and expectations you will find that clients and bosses will either respect the heck out of you (because so few do this well) or they’ll pressure you to do more, in which case you know its time to quit or fire that client. It’s not worth it. Trust me.

I could go on. But you get the point. Maybe you need to take a minute to think about boundaries in your life that have fallen apart. Maybe there’s some you’ve never even considered. Or maybe you need to admit you’ve intentionally charged through others and are now reaping the consequences. Whatever it is, there’s great hope for a better future. A fuller life. A deeper peace.

God doesn’t give us boundaries to restrict us. He gives us boundaries because He loves us. If we will carefully discover those boundaries, mark them off, care for them and live within them, we will experience a fullness of life that is something truly special. Trust me.

 

President Trump, Your Words Matter

What we honor matters a great deal. And what our leaders honor by their speech sets the tone for what we honor as a nation.

“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.”

Psalm 12:8

What we honor matters a great deal. And what our leaders honor by their speech sets the tone for what we honor as a nation. In the wake of Charlottesville and the ongoing conversation about the realities of racism and hatred in our nation it is incredibly important that we clearly name what is taking place.

The wicked strutted about freely in Charlottesville this week. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the racism was much more violent as young black men and women were lynched and raped. And yet the angry white men disguised themselves in pointy hoods. What was honored openly by our leaders and our society did not include vindictive, sharp and divisive rhetoric. It was a virtue to be polite and respectful. To be sure, the hypocrisy was deep and the hate and ugliness real. But we did not openly honor these things and even the racist leaders spoke in measured tones.

And yet this week we saw wicked white supremacists marching openly, brazenly and full of vile. No hoods. No shame. Why? How is this possible? There is no doubt that this is a deeply complex issue. But as a white man who loves Jesus and loves my neighbors I will not stand by silently as a deeply flawed man leads our nation and honors what is vile.

President Trump, you have spent your life honoring what is vile. You have degraded women with your words and your actions. You have called an entire group of people “rapists” and claimed a man was unfit to lead because of his ethnic heritage. You have openly called for violence against protestors and against your rivals. You elevate every petty dispute and take it personally, childishly calling out opponents on Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you were “joking.” You honor and promote what you speak out. All our words matter, but as the President of the United States your words matter probably more than any other human on the planet. President Trump, you have honored what is vile and because of it, the wicked strut about freely today. They are emboldened in ways we have not seen for decades. And there is direct correlation.

So what are we to do? We must call the vile by its name and declare that it has no place in our nation. We cannot honor it and we cannot let leaders who do so get away with it. Instead we must call on our leaders to honor what is good and right and true. What is kind and strong and pure. We must call them to account every time they honor and elevate any vile thing. And it must start with our President.

Do not tell me, “what more do you want? He condemned it in the strongest terms!” If he is serious about his condemnation he will change his tone. He will stop tweeting. He will apologize for his many vile comments and repent of his wicked acts. Just as I must first acknowledge the darkness and sin in my own heart if I hope to find redemption, so must he. And just as we would not say someone is a changed man if they were baptized and yet actively continue in sin for years with no attempt to change, we cannot say that one strong statement constitutes a sufficient response to this time in our nation.

I have opposed Donald Trump from the very beginning of his campaign not because of a single policy position he held but because of his character. That’s it. So many conservatives scoffed at me and gave me all the reasons why opposing him was foolish. I never wavered. Why? Because “when the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.” But “when what is vile is honored by men, the wicked freely strut about.” Leadership matters. Character matters. Words matter. Just ask Heather Heyer.

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“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.”

Proverbs 29:2

Don’t be pointless, be salty

The daily barrage of culture wars has me thinking recently about the proper role of a Christian family in America in 2017. One common theme I’m seeing in social media really concerns me: threatening to further disengage and entrench.

We live in a socially fractured time. Digital life has inflamed centuries old tribalism driven by economics, geography and human nature to new and uncharted levels. Technology is actively and strategically segregating us based on our “likes,” preferences and internet habits. Many Americans are quite happy living in their bubbles – their news feeds mostly full of people who agree with them. Christians may be the worst offenders. Now people are threatening to take even more steps, in the real, physical world, to detach from organizations and communities of people because they disagree – even when they have far more agreement than disagreement.

By and large, Christians in America in the last 30 years have been inclined to stay in our bubbles. We may have engaged in limited ways, taking culture wars public on abortion and sexuality, for example. And of course there are notable exceptions. But socially we retreat and seek comfort. I can’t help but see the irony in this for those of us whose namesake, Jesus, literally left all comfort and holy security to enter a broken and uncomfortable world, dying a brutal and painful death to give us freedom and life.

I’ve lived the struggle on this. I get it. Let me give you a few examples that may sound familiar.

When our kids were coming to school age my wife and I prayed and talked a lot about the best approach for our family. Should we homeschool? Put them in private school? If so, Christian or not? Put them in public school?

Or how about trying to decide what movies and youtube channels to let our kids watch? Or whether or not to expose them to the news of the day, and when? Conversations about sexuality? Should we have close family friends whose values don’t align with ours and how much time should we spend with them? The list goes on and on when you’re trying to figure out how to live as a Christian family in America.

As we’ve wrestled with these decisions there has been one word that has guided me: salt.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Matthew 5:13

Salt did a lot of things around the time Jesus made this statement. Primarily it flavored and preserved food. One thing about salt really strikes me: it cannot do its work unless it is touching the thing it is supposed to flavor or preserve. In fact, it is most effective when it is worked in really well. As someone who believes the words of Jesus were careful, intentional and divine, I put a lot of weight not only on what He said but how He said it and in what context.

“Losing your saltiness” is a curious phrase for Jesus to use as salt is a very stable chemical and it is very difficult for it to “lose its saltiness.” Instead, it seems what Jesus is saying when you see the full context of his sermon here, is, “don’t be pointless.” Don’t be a lamp hidden under a bowl. Don’t be innocent of murder but guilty of slander. Don’t be innocent of extramarital sex but guilty of unbridled lust. So for this salty business, said another way it might be, “don’t stop being salt and doing what salt does. If so, you might as well be sand, thrown in with the other sand and trampled. You’re no different than ordinary sand.”

Our family has sought to be the salt of the earth in all we do. We have failed on many fronts, no doubt. But we have taken seriously our call to be the salt of the earth and the warning not to lose our saltiness. Being salty for our family has meant staying engaged, mixing in, being fully present in our culture. We must always be aware of the risks. We must be thoughtful and wise about how we engage. Most importantly, we must abide in the Vine every day and be full of the Spirit if we want to bear good fruit – to stay salty.

On school, we decided to put our kids in public school and there were several reasons. We thought to ourselves, “if every Christian family pulls out of public schools, what will that leave? How will that serve the lost in those schools?” And closely behind that was the fact that we wanted to disciple our kids in a way that equipped them to engage the world and make disciples. After all – the very definition of a disciple of Jesus includes being one who makes more disciples (Matthew 28.) If our kids didn’t even know how to interact with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, we thought, how will they be the most effective disciples possible? I have a lot of respect and love for families who choose differently. But this was our thought process.

It didn’t take long for this to be confirmed when, in the first few months of school while driving with a friend of my kids from school in the car with us we were talking about Jesus and he asked, “who is jeebus?” The chance right then and there to not only tell this precious kid about Jesus for the very first time but also to have my kids be a part of it was something I will never forget and am very thankful for. Not more than a few weeks later a weeping mother came out of my daughter’s kindergarten classroom during drop-off and I got a chance to pray with her. The stories go on.

My son is in Cub Scouts. In recent years lots of Christians have pulled out of Scouting because of its relaxation on gay leaders serving. That happened before my son started, so we went in knowing that policy was in place. You know what I’ve found? Many of the families in Scouts are there looking for values and experiences for their boys that reflect about 90% of what Christians believe and yet many, at least in our area, are not Christians. I’m glad they’re there. I love spending time with them. I consider them friends. Our pack is a crazy, fun mix of different types of people from different backgrounds and it’s great.

Within our Christian circles we segregate too. Perhaps even worse. They say, after all, that Sunday is the most segregated day in America. It’s not just race though. Increasingly, Christians are seeking churches that match their political and cultural values instead of trying to find a church that is faithful to the gospel where they can grow as disciples. I’m so thankful to be a part of church that allows room for a lot of complexity and diversity. The small group that meets at our house every week includes not only racial diversity but perhaps even more importantly, political diversity. We have staunch Trump supporters and people who knocked doors for Obama. We have independents, Republicans and Democrats. We have homeschoolers, private schoolers, and public schoolers. We have plumbers and teachers and doctors and consultants. It’s not always neat and tidy. But I wouldn’t want it any other way and I’m so thankful for each and every one of them, united as we are by a larger calling, a bigger purpose, a divine love – united in Christ.

So as you’re wrestling with how to navigate the American cultural waters in 2017 as a Christian family I’d like to make one plea: be salty. Don’t be a pointless pile of religious sand. I’m not sure what this will look like for you and your family, but get out there and get into the mess and brokenness that so badly needs the flavoring, preserving love of Jesus.

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4 Things Bonhoeffer Would Say To Us Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young, vibrant, brilliant man imprisoned and killed by the Nazi’s. He was arrested for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and later hanged, just as the Nazi regime was collapsing. He wrote faithfully to his family and friends while imprisoned. He reflected passionately and with great insight on the prevailing culture and the importance of standing up for Truth in the face of confusing, chaotic and difficult times.

I found his “Reckoning made at New Year 1943” haunting and at the same time comforting for the tumultuous days we are in. For now, we face nowhere near the threat Bonhoeffer and his fellow Germans faced. I pray the horrors of the Holocaust never again revisit this Earth. But we are indeed in a time of national crisis. We have a crisis of conscience. A lack of moral and ethical clarity from our political leaders. And cultural upheaval and unease where many are taking sides, few are building bridges and, I daresay, battle lines are being drawn.

Against this backdrop I wanted to share several passages from Bonhoeffer that I think offer needed clarity. Reflect on them, find comfort in them and above all, let them inspire you to grounded, steadfast action for the common good.

1 – On Failing to Speak Against Injustice and Immorality

This passage so concisely critiques the failure of so many Christians and others of moral leadership today that you would think it was written this week. May we not “step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party” but instead stand firm in the Truth – unafraid, not bitter, humble.

The “reasonable” people’s failure is obvious. With the best of intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world’s unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party.

Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action.

2 – On the Folly of Blind Acceptance

This passage so closely mirrors the reality I see with both Trump supporters and #TheResistance. So many have “given up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves,” instead relying on their chosen media (or social media) outlets to tell them what reality is. In so doing, we become fools. Yet my disposition to those who behave this way should be the same that I would ask from them – loving grace for the ways I fail without compromising truth.

If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted or destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgment, and – more or less unconsciously – give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him.

The only profitable relationship to others – and especially to our weaker brethren – is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humans but become man for men’s sake.

3 – On the Proper Response to Trump

We will not and must not be either outraged critics or opportunists, but must take our share of responsibility for the moulding of history in every situation and at every moment, whether we are the victors or the vanquished.

How deeply this convicts me! How easy it is to become the outraged critic and how prevalent this is among so many in the United States right now. I confess that I am quick to criticize when I should be quick to listen, slow to speak and abounding in love. I should take my share of the responsibility for what has come to pass and for what lies ahead.

And yet how easy, too, to become the opportunist and rationalize it.  So many Christians in particular have rationalized their way to support for President Trump in ways that shirk their moral responsibility to the most fundamental of commandments, “love your neighbor as yourself,” as they see the President display every manner of sentiment toward others except love.

We must reject both unthinking, shrill criticism and compromising opportunism.

4 – On the Way Forward

Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of wholesome reserve between man and man, we shall perish in an anarchy of human values. When we forget what is due to ourselves and to others, when the feeling for human quality and the power to exercise reserve cease to exist, chaos is at the door.

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men.

Here Bonhoeffer offers a path forward. Not in “clever tactics” or grand strategy, though they may be necessary in turn. No, we need “plain, honest, straightforward” men and women who will step up and lead. We need a “revival of wholesome reserve” – looking not only to our own interests and agenda but also to the interests and needs of those with whom we share this great nation.

My dear Dietrich, thank you. We honor your sacrifice and pray for the grace and courage to heed your wise counsel in these tumultuous times.

 

 

NOTE: All quotes come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison, The Enlarged Edition, Copyright 1971 by SCM Press, LTD.

Political Husbands, Love Your Wives

Recently, as Representative Jason Chaffetz was under fire and announced that he would not seek re-election he posted a flurry of “I love my wife” communications. I don’t know why, nor am I insinuating anything. But I’ve been troubled by it ever since. I’m not troubled by his love for his wife. I celebrate and encourage that. What troubled me is that this is a pattern I’ve seen play out so many times. Elected married men find themselves under pressure, often because of infidelity, but not always, and they all of a sudden “find religion” as it relates to their marriage.

This is not a phenomenon afflicting only elected officials, of course. All of us married men have probably had some moment (or many if you’re me) in our marriage where, because we’d screwed up in some way, we engage in a flurry of “I love my wife” activity. And of course sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do – we need to regain trust, shower her with love or just plain pay our debts.

Instead of beat up on Chaffetz (plenty have done that already) I thought I’d turn this on its head. I believe deeply that if we are going to turn this country around one of the things we need is elected leaders of character, integrity and kindness. Role models for our children. Men and women who are committed to the simple acts of goodness and kindness that seem to get shouted out of our political discourse. And just because there is so much shouting, I’ll disclaim here and now that I’m not saying women shouldn’t celebrate their husbands, singleness isn’t affirmed and valued or that I’m somehow elbowing out people who don’t share my views about marriage.

Here’s the reality: the majority of our elected leaders are white men  – many of them married – and I think it would do us all a lot of good to pause for a moment, for no reason other than its the right thing to do, and call them to honor their wives as those of us who are married do the same.

Elected married men – love your wives well today. That’s my challenge, should you accept it. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, all over this country from the White House to the Town Hall – I challenge you to this simple act of goodness and respect that maybe, just maybe will bring a bit of good to this toxic time. Share it, retweet it, hashtag it, but most importantly, do it.

#ILoveMyWife

 

E Pluribus Unum: The Radical Center Must Rise

Unity does not require agreement in all things. That is impossible. Unity is strongest, in fact, when it is diverse. This is the hard work of democracy.

In the constant upheaval that is the Trump presidency and our current political environment I fear we are rapidly losing sight of a core foundation that keeps our nation and our culture functioning. Trump’s firing of James Comey, and the ensuing conversations and coverage have thrown this into sharp relief.

Some say we’ve long since abandoned any shared foundations.

My friends on the cultural right argue that our culture is now fully owned and operated by secular humanists, atheists and progressives and therefore shared foundations are impossible. My friends on the political right argue that Obama and progressives did so much damage to the institutions and our standing in the world and that progressive governing philosophy is so wrong that shared foundations are impossible.

My friends on the cultural left often come from such condescension toward any opposing ideas that challenge their “orthodoxy” while arguing that any traditional values must be bigoted so there cannot possibly be shared foundations. My friends on the political left are so obsessed with #TheResistance and further left-trending progressive policies that unless and until Trump is ousted or Congress #flipped, they see no hope for any shared foundations, even if they are interested in finding common ground.

All is war. All is polarization. All is defined in terms of friends and enemies. Enemies are meant to be defeated. That is their only purpose unless you’re a war-monger, in which case they also serve as a handy profit-generator.

I reject all of this.

Of course people way smarter than me have made these cases and I accept that there are many who truly feel there is no hope for shared foundations in our governing going forward. Their actions indicate they believe their best course of action is to fight for their tribe and gain as much territory as possible.

But it is this sort of tribal thinking that we have seen wreck civilizations throughout history. The great American experiment is unique in so many ways but one of the most unique attributes is this voluntary setting aside of certain tribal priorities and desires for a shared greater good.  We dare not dismiss these strong tribal divisions. They are deepening, not healing.

But I submit that the same simple foundation that birthed our nation, that barely, but ultimately, held us together through the Civil War, that drew us together in the face of clear evil in World War II and have allowed us to endure through so much more – I contend that this foundation remains in place. It’s just getting shouted out and crowded out by a deafening cacophony of warring voices.

E Pluribus Unum.

This shared foundation has been our motto from the earliest days. It’s an incredibly unique goal for governing, rarely successful throughout human history. It’s built around the simple truth that there is strength in unity, so we should seek it. Unity does not require agreement in all things. That is impossible. Unity is strongest, in fact, when it is diverse. Real unity is a setting aside of some disagreements and distinctions to rally around a central vision. This is the hard work of democracy.

A political renaissance is brewing as a new center is quietly but certainly emerging. Not a squishy middle full of “moderates” and “problem solvers.” That will never have the needed strength to endure and enact real change. No, we need the messy, difficult and ultimately much stronger unity found when we can both fight for what we believe in and have the wisdom and humility to know when to lay down our tribal priorities for the greater good – for the good of the whole and not only ourselves.

Out of many, one. Although diverse, united.

So to our elected officials I say: sit down together – together – and find our shared values, then work on those first. Right now, you’re starting with the pluribus. Start with the unum. But don’t you dare give up your principles. You can do both. It’s hard. But it’s your job. Do it.

To those with whom I disagree politically I say: Let’s talk. I enjoy coffee, beer and water so surely we can start over one of those three. I want to hear your point of view. I want you to listen to mine. We won’t agree on everything. That’s ok. I want to find common ground and work on those things first.

To my fellow political professionals I say: Stop being war-mongers. Everyone else is not your enemy and your tactics are not uniting, they are dividing. We can be a part of the problem or the solution. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe in, just stop framing everything as war. The Art of War should not be the consultant’s handbook anymore.

To all my fellow Americans I say: Don’t give up on the great American Experiment. It would be easiest to stay in our comfortable tribal villages with people who will reinforce and protect us. That will not make us stronger as a nation. We must re-engage in the hard work of democracy.

Revolution and renaissance need not come only from the fringes. The radical center is rising. E Pluribus Unum.

 

Prayer for a Long Journey

“It’s a long and rugged road, and we don’t know where it’s headed. But we know it’s gonna get us where we’re going.” – The Wailin’ Jennys

It’s been a hard year. It was almost exactly a year ago when I was in Washington, DC secretly meeting with a very prominent public figure and asking them to run for President. They said no. You can read that story here if you’d like. Over the course of this year I’ve been through a lot of change. And I’ve watched our country go through enormous change. Many say Donald Trump is just a symptom of much deeper, longer-term struggle in our nation. That may be true. But actually electing him was a significant change in our country no matter your feelings about it.

I’m one example of a life dramatically changed simply because of an election. I quit my job as the CEO of a very successful and honorable company so that I could pursue finding an independent candidate to run for president. I put my livelihood and the well-being of my family on the line. I say that not for pity or admiration. I simply point out that there are many stories out there of people who, over the past year (many post-election) are re-thinking how they live, where they put their efforts and energy professionally and politically and asking, “what can I do to advance the good in our nation?”

I’ve never liked the label #NeverTrump. It was never about that for me. I was always opposed to both nominees. And my driving motivations were always about my optimistic belief that our country had so much better to offer. It’s always been about a long-term journey and core convictions. I could not let my fellow citizens and our friends around the world watch our election and see no signs of principled people making principled stands for basic standards of decency, kindness, truth and humility. The 2016 election was completely devoid of these basic human values.

So as I reflect on the past year on this, the National Day of Prayer, I offer this simple prayer, inspired by the Wailin’ Jennys:

Father, We confess our many sins as a nation.

We ask for your mercy.

Father, we confess we cannot get it right on our own.

We ask for your grace.

Father, we need more of your love on earth as it is in heaven.

We ask for your love to be manifest through those who love you, to one another.

Give us the grace to travel on, even as some days we eagerly await our arrival at the destination.

We place our trust in you and have faith that the journey we are on, however rugged it may feel, is worth it.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From A Loser

On Tuesday I lost my second straight election – another crushing defeat by the raw numbers.

David Abroms was unable to get traction in the crowded and ridiculously expensive field of the Georgia 6th congressional special election despite investing a lot of his own money and more importantly being a truly great candidate and fine human being. My last loss was in the presidential election, serving as the campaign manager for Evan McMullin.

I’ve been working in politics long enough to know that you’re going to lose some races. I’ve also won a lot of races over my ten years working in the business. But as a political professional, unless you work in only the most winnable, well-funded campaigns and ignore the principles and deeper motivations for why you’re in this business in the first place, you will almost certainly lose more than you win.

I learned a lot about how to handle losing by playing sports growing up. In both victory and defeat, the key for me has always been to learn. To grow. To get better. You simply can’t guard against losing in elections. It’s a single winner game. But you can control what you do next. In politics, you can also control who you choose to work for.

I’ve been attacked from the left and the right the last 6 months for my work. Those attacks are sure to increase as I keep fighting for what I believe in. The center is a lonely place in professional American politics. I have, of course, made lots of mistakes running campaigns over the years. Some of them contributed to losses. I own those. They have real consequences for people and I take them very personally.

In David and Evan I worked for candidates who were aspiring to VERY difficult change. They were swimming upstream of a powerful current of partisan politics in our nation that works against people like them. People who are open-minded AND principled. Passionate about their causes AND sympathetic to the views of others who disagree. David Abroms and Evan McMullin represent much of what is good and right and true in our country. Men who are willing to make tremendous sacrifices for what they believe in, even knowing the long odds.

I believe we are pioneering a new generation of leaders in this country. I’m proud to be working with the Centrist Project to recruit and elect a new type of independent servant leader from the U.S. Senate down to local offices. Pioneering is always hard. There are always casualties and scars and many difficulties.

But it is in the trials that we learn the most. In fact, it may be the only way we truly learn. Malcom Muggeridge puts it brilliantly:

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo…the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable.”

We are formed in the crucible. Shaped in the potter’s hands by force. Sometimes our misshapen pot gets smashed back into a lump of clay to be necessarily remade altogether. Many have asked me the last 24 hours what I learned from the Georgia special election. I get the same question often about Evan’s campaign. As I reflect on it I am focusing on what I can learn – about voters, about candidates, about the system, about the media and about myself.

The sting of defeat is real. You’ll be mocked and scorned. But the only way defeat becomes permanent, instead of temporary, is if you let it define you and refuse to learn from it – if you give up on the reasons and principles that motivated you to try in the first place.

The list of great figures of history who have failed, numerically, way more than they succeeded is a long one. But in learning from their failures they were shaped, “enhanced and enlightened.” I’m trying to stay humble, open and eager to learn. I believe deeply that our country needs a new way, a new approach, new options in our political system. The time is coming. Don’t give up. I’m not.

 

 

 

5 things you can do this week to save the country

Our nation is in a time of great uncertainty. For many, it feels as if all they hold dear is threatened. Others fear global upheaval. Still others, thinking they had “won” with the election are facing afresh the hard realities of a broken political system. It can be downright depressing. It can make us angry. We can lose hope. We are tempted to throw our hands up and say, “we’re screwed!”

I am not someone who fundamentally believes the government can offer any ultimate, solid hope, in the ways the human soul needs. This colors all I think and do regarding the government and my political career. But neither should we think that the government plays no role in promoting and ensuring human flourishing through tools like justice, protection and order. Because these things are important and the government does play the primary role in these areas, I believe some of us must give ourselves to ensuring the government is healthy. And what makes a healthy government? For me, its simple: Healthy people running it.

“The Government” is not an organism (though some confuse it for a scary beast sometimes.) It’s a collective body, made up of people, working together within an ordered system, ideally for the good of all our people. (You know, liberty and justice for all and such.) The problem with Washington is not “the government.” The problem in Washington is not “the system.” There are deep structural flaws, to be sure. But those structures were put into place by people, many to ensure their own power and self-interest.

So the task before those of us who are trying to “make a difference” in our American political system – to build a better future for our children and grandchildren – is one of human development, leadership and relationship. I’d like to offer 5 ways I think we can begin to turn the tide of political dysfunction – five things that any of us can do, no matter our position in life, access to power or money or our political views.

  1. Get to know an elected official personally.
    • Invite them for coffee or lunch. Ask them about their story, their family, what they enjoy doing. Don’t ask them about policy or politics. That can come later.
  2. Encourage good people you know to run for office and support them.
    • Running for office is hard. Really hard. You know that dream where you’re in front of a big crowd and you realize you’re in your underwear? It’s kinda like that. Help good people know that you’ll have their back. Too many good people won’t run even though they feel the pull because it doesn’t seem worth it.
  3. Run for office yourself.
    • Thinking about it? Do the research. Ask some experienced folks for advice. Count the cost. Then jump in.
  4. When you talk to or about elected leaders, do so with civility, respect and kindness.
    • Put yourself in their shoes before you hit send, tweet, post or let that comment fly.
  5. Fight like hell for things you care about.
    • Do NOT mistake being civil, kind and honest with being weak. We must learn the hard task of fighting for what we believe in without demeaning other human beings. It is possible. Learn how. It’s easy to insult, blame and throw bombs. The hard thing is to hold fast to your convictions and fight for them without being a complete jerk.

Just pick one and start this week. Then tweet at me, Facebook tag me or comment here to let me know how it went. It’s too important not to try.