Please Don’t Forgive My Student Loans

The Occupation seems to be holding steady and even gaining ground.

Why are we doing this again?

The only thing we know for sure about the people in the tents downtown is that they don’t know what they want, but they’ll know it it when we get it. What do we the 99% really want? Student loan forgiveness comes to the top of my list–just wipe them clean off the books. But in reality, that would be one of the worst things that could happen to the future hopes of the American economy.

I had a bachelor degree, and I decided I wanted to get a master. I sent off to the school for information, they sent me back a nifty catalog. Towards the back, they told me it was going to cost well over $50,000 to get through the 3 years of study. I said, “ok, no problem,” applied, got accepted, matriculated, and graduated. Six months after graduation, that bill they told me about came due.

Now, it’s true that a lot of companies got bailouts; they swindled and evicted and laid off countless hardworking people. Yes, the credit card companies employ the type of people the Bible warns us about. All that is true–so if they voluntarily decide to forgive the $829.785 billion in federal and private students loans Americans owe, I’ll let them.

But I don’t expect that to happen.

The way I see it, all of us bright educated folks need to use the degrees we begged, borrowed, and stole to obtain. We should be the ones inventing, writing, selling, and making new stuff.  All our new, must-have gadgets and books and services will stimulate the economy. Also, we’ll have enough money to pay back the loans once we put ourselves to work.

Sallie Mae and Pell already made the education possible, thank you very much. Now, I don’t intend to wait for a jobs bill to employ me or Obamacare to cure me, or the Occupy Movement to get my debts cancelled.

I for one, plan to use this fabulous education of mine to make a real difference for myself and the world.

Distance from Earth to Sun

It varies, and it’s probably very difficult to measure exactly, but the moon and the earth are about 250,000 miles apart. Here’s a picture of what it really looks like. The relative size of the 2 objects and the distance between them should be accurate.

 
Shout out to Drew Olbrich for the picture. You’d have to be 350,000 miles away from earth to gain this vantage point. Mars, the next closest planet, is about 600 times further away than the moon.

A Prophetic Message on the Debt Crisis

Will it ever be possible for the United States and her citizens to get out of the economic hole we have dug ourselves into?

Say I have a friend who is up to his eyeballs in debt and really hemorrhaging cash. He tells me that he’s found the answer to his financial woes. There’s a new company that will allow him to increase his credit limit so he can afford to maintain his lifestyle! I just might slap him.

Congress is currently voting to raise our debt limit, and we the people are telling Washington to quit bickering and just and raise it already. But aren’t they just finding a way to raise the nation’s credit limit so that we can continue to live the way we think we ought to?

On a monthly basis, the U.S. Treasury spends well over twice what it collects from tax revunue. By the time they write all those Social Security checks, pay the medicare and medicaid bills that come in, fund defense, and give out tax refund checks, there’s barely and cash to make it to the end of the month even though there are hundreds of billions more dollars of bills to pay every month.

They (we) borrow the rest of the money we need to run the government by selling treasury securities–paper that says “we’re the U.S. of A and we guarantee we’ll pay you back.” But when it’s time for us to pay those loans back, the only way we can meet the obligation is to borrow more money.

Soon enough, the creditors catch on and cut you off because of your crackhead tendencies.

We’re calling this current recession an economic crisis–I guess we’ve been in a recession for the last 3 years. But I think the real crisis hasn’t hit yet. The real cisis will be when we can’t borrow our way out any more, and we have no choice but to live precisely within our means. The real crisis will be when we owe China and Saudi Arabia a trillion dollars with interest and when we can’t pay, they gang up and invade us or set up military bases on our soil. Why wouldn’t they try it? They already know they have way more money than us.

There’s no easy way out. Living within our means would be less like Sex in the City and more like Book of Eli if we’re really honest. If we dare scale back social security, unemployment insurance, garbage pickup, defense spending, libraries, road repair, Pell Grants, and 20 other things, life would be a lot different.

We will have no choice but to make those kinds of drastic cuts soon.

Top Ten Things I Love About Alaska

1.You get to fly in one of those planes with the float skis instead of wheels.

BALLIN'!!!

 2. With the extended daylight in the spring, cabbages the size of basketballs are common.

3. The distances from Alaska to Tokyo and Alaska and New York are about the same.

4. The flag is elegant.

 

 

5. The shoreline of Alaska, stretched out, could wrap all the way around the earth’s equator.

6. Alaska has vast reserves of gold, oil, and jade. There’s even an entire mountain made of jade.

7. When the U.S. bought it from Russian for 7.2 million dollars in 1868, they paid with a check.

8. The longest River in the U.S. is the Yukon, not the Mississippi.

9. The aurora borealis.

I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. Just one of those things. Need to put that in a 5-year plan for real.

The Gay Question

#Trust30 asked me:

What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I believe loving, committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and receive full rights before church and state.

The Institution of Marriage, in its truest essence, does not need to be defended nor can it be, really, so why try?

It is possible to be Christian and gay at the same time. This fact has been well-documented. So if you’re allowed to be a member of the church while being gay, shouldn’t the church affirm mature gay Christians who want to have a church wedding?

Some choose to biblically prove homosexuality is a sin. Fine if you see it that way. Jesus said it’s the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy. Truth is, we’ll all sinners, anyway. As a pastor, my business model does not allow for me to exclude people just because they live in a particular sin.

My parents, my brother, the clergy in my cell phone contacts, influential people in my congregation, local civic leaders–these are the people who essentially all disagree with me on this point.

The debate around “gay question” is religious, political, and personal–wait, aren’t those the 3 things you’re never supposed to talk about?

So far, all I’ve done about this conviction of mine is write a handful of blog posts, you can search them on the blog. But lately, I’ve been feeling led to really take a stand–that would start with joining the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Whole lotta people close to me won’t like that….

 

Prayer of the Day May 12 2009

Ten Things I’m Praying For Today:

1. For my wife’s health and safety while she spends the next 2 weeks leading a group of Brooklyn 8th graders on a service mission to South Africa. Especially considering she’s 5 months pregnant with my daughter!

2. For me, my son, and my Uncle Dave as we make the 2900 mile drive from New York City to Los Angeles next week. She’s going to South Africa without me, and I’m driving cross-country without her. God, thank you for that sweet reunion May 30th!

3. A thought of love and compassion goes out to my brother and father. Also, my sister-in-law and my other family all working hard back in Detroit. And, all the rest of my family in different places, everyone else in Detroit, and everyone everywhere….

4. For Zion Hill Baptist Church in Los Angeles, where I’m the pastor-elect. Help the members get/remain on the path of Christ, make the most of the space we have, and let us continue to grow together in wisdom and grace!

5. For myself (again) moving into being a pastor full time. Give me a lot of health, vitality, energy, creativity, humility, integrity, and courage to be the best person I can be in the service of humanity!

6. I am praying for Shaun King, lead pastor of The Courageous Church in Atlanta. Seemingly random to call him out like this, I know, but I like what he’s doing. That little thermometer is going to make it to $100K!

7. Happiness and laughter.

8. My family’s finances. I’m thankful for God’s bounteous blessings. Let me be genuinely happy for others who are doing well. Let me be smarter with money!

9. All the loved ones we’re leaving in NYC. All the people who watched Li’l’ Seth, the married couples we hung out with, co-workers, church family, college friends, and all the people who relied on Isis and me in one way or another. Thank you for this one of a kind city, with its endless possibilities!

10. That whoever reads this will take at least 10 good seconds to pray because prayer really works!

I Read “Tribes” by Seth Godin

“Tribes” is not a theological book by any stretch of the imagination; more like the intersection of marketing and leadership–yet about halfway through, Godin starts talking about faith and never really stops.

The title, “Tribes,” alludes to the idea that success, fulfillment, and prosperity in the 21st century work world may come as a result of leading a tribe. A tribe is a group of people who are able to communicate around a topic or set of topics. The Internet makes this easier than ever.

For example, let’s say you are passionate about buttons. You know everything there is to know about every style, color, and texture of button ever sewn onto a piece of clothing. You start a blog that’s all about buttons. You have a newsletter dedicated to buttons. You lead discussion groups around buttons. You are writing a book about buttons that you will sell at your first annual button convention later this year.

Breathtaking fascinating, no?
Breathtakingly fascinating, no?

It’s a safe bet that the vast majority of the people you meet online or off will have little to no interest in buttons. But a few will. Those few will look to you as a leader, and you have all the tools at your disposal to lead them no matter where in the world they are. Let’s say that you get 1000 people to join your button movement, while the other 99.9% of people online continue to find it boring, pointless, or otherwise uninspiring. You can make a nice living just catering to those 1000 people, and think about how much you would enjoy it. “Tribes” begins to tell you how to make it happen.

In order to do this, you have to feel strongly about something, and you have to believe in yourself. Everyone can lead their own tribe, and I think everyone must do it.  I’ve said before, I think that in 20 years, anyone who wants to own a decent home, drive a car or two, raise a kid or two, and take a vacation or two every year will need to damn near be a millionaire. Governments, big corporations, non-profits, and small businesses are all laying people off at unprecedented levels. These people can look for other jobs, or they can look inside themselves.

The fact is, bureaucratic jobs with little or no accountability are going the way of the do-do bird. Productivity is making a comeback.

Think about it. What are you supposed to be doing really? 1000 years ago, one guy made the jewelry, one guy made the shoes, one guy grew the crops, and one guy sold the buttons. You had no choice but to contribute in a meaningful way. There is no limit to the number of potential real leaders because they each fill a different need. The bad news is, those days are making a comeback. The good news is, your tribe can follow you on Twitter.

New Year’s Resolutions

Well, it’s December 31st, and I feel the standard pressure to make some New Year’s resolutions. There are some obvious things I could tackle, but I won’t, because I’m not really ready to. There’s one long standing bad habit that I’m almost ready to completely put behind me, but tomorrow is just too soon. If the first day of Spring marked the New Year like it did back in the good old days, I’d be all set by then, I swear….

So I realize that I’m as weak as the rest of you. Still, the whole I-don’t-make-resolutions-because-I-never-keep-them-anyway philosophy is a cop out. If someone asks what you plan to do differently next year, “nothing” just isn’t good enough unless your name is LeBron James or God.

Granted, January 1 is just another day, and the chances of me giving up all forms of sugar and negativity on that day are as slim as they would be any other day, and that’s slim.

Still, the first day of a new year is a good time to establish how you want the year to look. We should challenge ourselves, but it profiteth us nothing to be unrealistic. So my resolution for 2009 is…drum roll…wait for it…

I will read at least 25 books in 2009.

First of all, it’s realistic. I read more than the average Joe already. Like Charles de Gaulle, I never count how many “lambs I’ve devoured,” but this past year, it was probably about 15 cover-to-cover. 25 is a good goal. I can read like I read this year, minus those 3-4 week lulls where I didn’t have a book.

My reading will help me conquer some of the other New Year’s Resolutionesque issues I’m dealing with. A huge chunk of my spiritual growth and enlightenment comes from the books I read. This year, books have helped me to be a better preacher, manage my temper, improve my memory, make more money, understand my own health, and get along better with my wife. Books=advancement for me, so I figure more books=more advancement.

Also, I’ll have plenty of worthy ideas to share on my blog. A long term goal (not just resolution) of mine is to keep this blog running for at least 20 years, provided wordpress.com and the Internet still exist. By then, there may actually be people other than just you reading it.

Got any plans for 2009?

Apocalypse Soon

So, I’m really enjoying this book by Sylvia Browne, “If You Could See What I See.” She’s a psychic medium, and as far as I can tell, she’s legit. Yes, I’m educated, yes, I’m a Christian, and yes, I believe most of what she has to say.

One thing that has me thinking is her contention that humanity only has about 100 years or so left. Looking at the financial situation we’ve gotten ourselves into thanks to greed, she may be right. No telling, really.

The Eschaton (end of days) is not really a bad thing, even though we are taught to believe it will come with wars and pestilence.

In my opinion, the end will come once a critical mass of people adopt the mind and heart of Christ. This is what the so-called New Age movement is about, and it has been gaining ground steadily for decades. There have always been authors and teachers telling us about humans’ ability to perform healings and other miracles. Jesus himself said that we can do the things he did and more. The release of The Secret was a watershed victory toward this end. While not a perfect work, it gave millions of people a glimpse of the vast stores of untapped power that reside in each of us. Some people heard and changed their lives for the better, some were temporarily inspired, some remained cynical to the possibilities.

Many are willing, but still are scared to really jump into spirituality and truly become new creatures. I met a lady at the supermarket two days ago. What started as a nod hello between two strangers turned into a 15 minute conversation about world religions. It all felt very warm and familiar. Anyone who believes in reincarnation may conclude that is was not the first time that lady and I met. We could have easily spoken for an hour, but Little Sethie was so hungry he started eating paper–and fought when I tried to stop him. She said she wanted to have me over her house or come hear me speak, so I had her write down her email address. Darn if it wasn’t a non-existent account when I tried to email her the next day.

She couldn’t quite make the leap. This fiftysomething white lady did not feel safe giving her email address to a hulking black man, Godtalk notwithstanding. She probably voted for Obama, but she still listened as the world tells her not to trust me.

The walls that separate us are coming down slowly. The unity that results is what ushering in the Kingdom of God is all about. Once a quorum of us realize that “the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” humanity will graduate to something else other than this incarnate life.

Oh, and around the same time, we will also to run out of crude oil, and the entire monetary system will collapse. But by then, it won’t matter because we will know how to live off of the bread of heaven.

How does that sound to you?

Another Vision of the Future

Morehouse will produce a President of the United States. Barack Obama is a half-white Harvard man, not that there’s anything wrong with that at all. I’m just saying, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and many other watershed figures in black history have been half white. Just goes to show you that the races have too much in common to see each other as different. Morehouse happens to be the hottest right now, but hey, 9 US presidents never even went to college.