Magnolia trees The Danny Sims Blog

Here are my occasional insights, stories, conversations, perspectives, ideas, reflections, theological musings. And whatever else I might post.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Muslims, Immigrants, and Gays Get What?

Jesus tells a story:

A group of people worked all day for an agreed upon wage. Then some others worked half a day, doing the same job, but earned that same wage. Still others worked only a sort while and, turns out, they also got the same pay.

Those who worked all day complained about this. The boss said, “Get over it.”

Then Jesus said, “The last are first and the first are last.”

At least two big problems unfold in this story. First, so many Christians won’t admit it, but they consider themselves working for pay. They do enough good, avoid enough bad and they get a big paycheck.

Jesus doesn’t tell the story this way because that’s how God sees things. He tells it that way because this is how humans see things and he wants us to see things more as God sees them. The story exposes how ridiculous and condescending the "I’m a top earner" mindset is. Be joyful and love God with no strings attached, just as God has loved you.

But a second problem is even worse. Deep down these worked-all-day-and-earn-your-wage people don’t want those persons they consider to be on the outside (think Muslims) or lesser in status (think immigrant) or of a particular sin (think LGBTQ), to “be paid” at all. They, literally and easily, tell other human beings they can go to hell, even if the boss says “go to the front of the line.”

No? Ask a Muslim or an illegal immigrant or a gay person if they think of an open smile and an invitation to share in God’s goodness when they think of American Christians.

Note: watch for comments about a narrow path, or how only Jesus is the way or how people must repent. Why would being open, kind, and inviting to anyone suggest otherwise? I have found (some) Christians might use references like that as code language to remind us they’ve been working all day and are first in line.

The older I get the more I regret ever having thought of myself as an all day kind of guy. More and more I find myself hanging out with joyful people who are just now (re)discovering God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Border Crisis: 2018 Looks a lot Like 2014

Here is a post from SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2014, after i returned from Mcallen while with global samaritan.

Note the paragraph about politicians... As true now as it was then.

The Border Crisis - What I've Learned and What I Think

After delivering some supplies to McAllen, Texas and visiting with some people there, here are some things I learned & some things I think:

I learned…

Most of the people coming across the Texas-Mexico border are from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. They are coming because they are fleeing violence, they are poor and hope they can make a better life in the U.S., they have family here and want to join them, and/or they believe if they can get inside the U.S. they will be able to stay.

Some of the border crossers are criminals, some are innocent children, and some have been victims of rape and other crimes along the way to the U.S.

All these people are crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Some people are helping the border crossers. This help is about their human need, not their legal status. They are giving them water, food, clothes, prayer and a safe place to rest no matter if they are to be deported or continue their trip further into the U.S.

I think… 

The causes of this crisis are complex and the problems (illegal alien, immigration, or refugee status and response) won’t be fixed anytime soon.

It is possible (important) to set aside your frustration (anger?) over the illegal border crossings and look for ways to help meet the basic needs of these human beings. For the Christian, doing this will help place the actions of Jesus above the inaction of government officials or politicians.

The politics of this crisis are toxic. The politicians involved tend to work against one another. Only patient and genuine collaboration will solve these problems. But cooperation is lost among politicians these days. We need leaders not politicians.

People who take Jesus seriously have to answer for His words: “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these, you did (or did not do) for me”.

Helping the border crossers is not going to solve the border crisis. But helping border crossers is not promoting the border crisis. No one is traveling three weeks across the Mexico desert to get a shower, a free change of clothes, water bottles, prayer and a hug.

The complex causes for the crisis and solutions to all the problems are beyond our control. Providing for basic human needs and giving short-term help is simple and easily within our reach.

Fewer lives will be in jeopardy (or lost) making the trip from Central America if our government leaders will work to change the perception that if you cross the U.S. border you’ll be able to stay.

If these people are indeed refugees (I believe many are) the U.S. government simply must make the causes and sustainable solutions to a refugee crisis in our neighborhood a priority in conversation and action. Now.

Some (many? most?) of the people up in arms about the border crossers are descendants of people who took land from native Americans and gained other land in wars for independence. Of course we are not responsible for that. And we can’t go back and change history. But healthy perspective can go a long way in changing the future.

Monday, June 18, 2018

This is God, if You Want to Know

If you want to know God, identify with the hopes and loneliness of people, so much so that you would do something wild and world changing to show how you love and accept them.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father’s Day in Dallas

Top ten things about this Father’s Day:

TEN: Being with both my adult children (and their mom) after law school and grad school.

NINE:  Brunch with both my adult children (and their mom) in Oak Cliff at Pink Magnolia.

EIGHT: Going to The Sixth Floor Museum with both my adult children (and their mom) instead of a movie.

SEVEN: Hearing both my adult children (and their mom) still laugh at my jokes. And at me.

SIX: Being with both my adult children (and their mom), the people who have known me most and forgiven me most and loved me most.

FIVE: Posing for a selfie with both my adult children (and their mom), looking north at downtown Dallas.

FOUR: Discussing justice and things that matter with both my adult children (and their mom).

THREE: Laughing with both my adult children (and their mom) as we talk about our fathers and grandfathers.

TWO: Loving deeply both my adult children (and their mom).

ONE: Knowing I am deeply loved by both my adult children (and their mom).

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Leaving Facebook, Leaving Friends, Frustrations and Futility 

I’ve left Facebook.

I’ll miss some friends but not the frustrations that come from reading one sided or cold hearted arguments and sometimes, inexplicably, mindlessly joining in.

Like Red says toward the end of Shawshank Redemtion, no one is gonna miss me. But, like Red, I feel free, at the start of a new conversation whose conclusion is uncertain.

This blog is where I’ll post my top ten lists, asking who God is and who this God wants us to be, and other stuff that will most assuredly be ignored. Share it anywhere you like, or ignore it and don’t return. I’m not just ok with that, I’m happy either way. I don’t want to be a source of frustration for you.

Until I post again, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. No one has ever regretted any of those things.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Connecting and Caring

We are having the conversations again. We are having them all too frequently.

After the recent Florida school shooting, where 17 were killed, we are again engaged in emotional discussions, sharing strong opinions. We hear shouting and we read social media posts IN ALL CAPS! Invariably the arguments involve national politics and demand policy changes.

I am writing about something different, something important yet often absent from the conversations. I am talking about something simple, but not easy. It is a personal choice. It does not rely on anyone else, it’s something you alone choose.

I’m talking about connecting and caring. I’m talking about intentionally looking for broken people on the margins and in the shadows of our communities.

That’s it. Connecting. Caring. And by anyone’s measure, this is a highly effective deterrent to people shooting up a school. Last week Reader’s Digest shared this headline: “One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings – and It’s Not About Guns.”

Her brilliant strategy? She takes the time and effort to look out for the lonely in her school.

Connecting and caring get lost in the conversation because they are not political. They do not involve shouting. They are not policies that depend on the ambiguous “they,” as in “they” need to fix this. Caring and connecting depends on one person. The one in the mirror.

Many people are investing their life in connecting and caring for other people. You won’t hear these stories if all you do is shout and argue. Be active in politics and policy making, but not to the exclusion of caring and connecting with people. For the sake of our children, quit overestimating your skills of persuasion on Facebook and spend some time connecting with lonely and broken people!

Retired Abilene High School principal Royce Curtis is a volunteer mentor of teenagers. In a recent interview with Brittany Pelletz on KTAB, one of his protégés said Royce is “the little light” she follows.

Aaron Shaver and Janet Mendenhall, Community Coordinators for a local nonprofit (aptly named Connecting Caring Communities) spend time with families in specific neighborhoods. They have moved into CCC’s targeted areas of Abilene to be good neighbors and promote a safer, caring neighborhood.

Terry Cagle, Executive Director of CCC, says getting to know people and looking out for those on the margins, or in the shadows, is not that hard once you decide that’s what you’re going to do. Terry emphasizes he is not trying to “fix” anyone. Instead he’s investing in mutually supportive friendships. That’s what connecting and caring looks like.

Want to get past loud arguments? Share this good news: Abilene has hundreds of churches, nonprofits, schools, civic groups, and individuals who connect and care daily. It is not true that there is nothing good in this world and no hope for the future. If all you do is argue, you are complicit in promoting that false narrative.

I spoke with an Abilene friend who took her nephew, a teen who seemed destined for trouble, into her home. Because of his aunt’s brilliant strategy of love and connection, he is walking a much better path and will join the Navy.

So, what about the deeply troubled teenager in Florida? There are complex dynamics involved, including access to weapons and mental health. But what if he had a little light, an aunt, a teacher, or a Royce, Aaron, Janet, or Terry looking out for him? I don’t know his story fully. Perhaps he had many lights, but it certainly appears he was in the dark, both desperately lonely and tragically broken.

I searched for “churches’ near the high school in Parkland, Florida. Twenty popped up, all within walking distance. I wonder how many of those churches have youth groups. I wonder how many times the shooter was invited inside? It could be that he was often invited, and he declined. It could be he often attended and still was disconnected. Or it might be no one reached out to him exactly because he was different, on the margins and in the shadows.

All the while we loudly argue over politics and policies. All those things “they” should do.

Don’t mistake arguing and shouting for action. Don’t overlook desperately lonely and tragically broken people. Connecting and caring is simple, but not easy. It’s not politics, it’s not a policy depending on anyone else. Connecting and caring are actions for you and me.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Top ten reasons I’m not often on Facebook

TEN: People who are not friends and don’t know one another, call one another “friends” and publicly argue.

NINE: If, ten years ago, I had told you such a place existed, as described in number ten, none would have wanted to go.

EIGHT: In my own small way I am saying the models of friendship and connection endorsed by social media are not always healthy. In fact, I believe Social Media leans toward dysfunction.

SEVEN: There exists a certain dissonance in listening to John Coltrane and reading Facebook. I chose Coltrane.

SIX: Though I never tire of cute animal posts, I tired of human beings behaving like unpleasant animals.

FIVE: I got tired of Christians straining out gnats in a mad dash to swallow camels.

FOUR: Facebook is home to Christian trolls who spew public hate, particularly toward LGTB and Muslims. They try to reframe their hate as love. “If you love someone you tell them the truth even if it hurts.” “Telling someone they are going to Hell is actually a loving thing.” I don’t share fellowship with those Christians and pray God shows them the grace and mercy He has shown me.

THREE: BTW, I was right. I knew I would not miss the trolls who insist they express love as they endorse hate. When this is shared on Facebook, you may see some of these trolls in the comments (which I will not read). I can guarantee you they will send me private messages (which I will not read).

TWO: Lincoln was right when he advised, as if speaking of Facebook, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bond of affection. We can again be touched by the better angels of our nature.”

ONE: And, as Jesus said, “No greater love hath any man than this: to  argue and insist he is right.”