Magnolia trees The Danny Sims Blog

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I went to the border in 2014...

A post from 2014. I was surprised how many people criticized me for going. They identified as politically conservative. And many, it turned out, also identified as Christian.

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.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

I Gave up Lent for Lent


I gave up Lent for Lent a few years ago.

Here's why.

Spiritual disciplines are good for me. I practice them in private. As Jesus did, as Jesus teaches.
Religious disciplines? I’m not so sure. If religious disciplines are programmatic (they often are), practiced in a public way (almost always), and tend to bring attention to the person doing the religious thing (usually), I give it a thumbs down.

I don’t need attention or religious programs. I need humility and spiritual disciplines.

When I finally realized I gained nothing from religious disciplines, I found a new peace. I still read the scriptures, books, and enjoy liturgy, music and art. But I’ve pretty much dropped out of religious programming.

Could this be a case of "it's not you, it's me"? Sure. But I've spoken with enough friends about giving up Lent to know it's not just me.

And get this: I discovered giving up Lent actually led me to a richer and deeper daily practice of the character and values of God. Giving up Lent even prepared me for Easter with prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. Funny, huh? Giving up Lent led me to a place practicing Lent never could.

Maybe Lent and other religious practices lead you to a good place. For me? Not so much.

I suppose this post makes public what I’m saying ought to be private. I truly thought about not posting. But there are many who might want to try giving up something other than chocolate. Or Starbucks. Or red meat or movies or butter on their popcorn or tequila or whatever it is.

Many will hear their friends are giving up something for Lent. Then they might wonder how they measure up or if their sacrifice is significant enough. Are they religious enough? I know because I've been there. If in any way you are like me, I decided to post this for you.

I gave up Lent for Lent and it’s been all good.

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.”

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Ten things people get wrong about forgiveness

TEN: “Forgiveness requires reconciliation.” The former opens the door for the later, but sometimes reconciliation just is not possible. Forgiveness is what enables you to move on without bitterness.

NINE: “If you can’t forget you can’t forgive.” Opposite of the truth. Forgiveness is letting go of stuff (often very bad, hurtful stuff) you can’t possibly forget so that whatever that awful stuff is, it does not control your life.

EIGHT: “Forgiveness means what happened is somehow minimized and an offending person is no longer accountable.” Not true! You can forgive and still hold the person accountable. In fact that is what ought to happen!

SEVEN: “I can’t forgive unless they ask.” This is a big myth. Experience tells us the person who hurt you will hardly ever ask. Forgive and move on.

SIX: “I can’t forgive if they are dead.” Wrong! Forgiving a harm you suffered by someone who has died means you get to live without ongoing resentment. Write them a letter, go to their grave, or have someone sit in for them as a proxy and tell them you forgive them. Do it as many times as it takes. Could be seven or more. Or so I’ve heard.

FIVE: “If I forgive, the other party has to also forgive. “ Nope. Forgiveness is unilateral. It depends on one person: you.

FOUR: “Forgiveness makes me a perpetual doormat.” Not really, but even if it did you’d be a doormat without regret.

THREE: “I don’t have to forgive if I didn’t do anything wrong.” That might be true if unforgiveness wasn’t wrong.

TWO: “I’m going to hold on to this because holding on to it will hurt so and so!” Ha! This one would make me laugh if it wasn’t so sad and harmful. Unforgiveness is the poison people drink because they think it hurts the other guy!

ONE: “Forgiveness is for the other person.” Nope. Forgiveness is the key to your freedom, the key to your jail cells of hate, slander, gossip, and retribution.  Forgiveness is for you first.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Why did you unfriend me?

I was asked, “Why did you unfriend me?”

My answer:

Well, we are not friends. We were acquaintances in college. I have not seen you in thirty years and if I ran into you in an airport I am not sure I would know you. So I did not “unfriend” you. Rather I adjusted my Facebook settings so you could no longer see my posts or comment on them.

I’ll ask your question this way: “Why did I adjust my Facebook settings so you could no longer see or comment on my posts?"

First reason is simple. You argue. All the time. Argue and debate is all you do on Facebook, at least on my page. If that is all you do in your real life, and we were friends, I would unfriend you.

You show up in comments on my page only when it is about culture, religion or politics. And when you show up you act as if you alone could possibly be right. Newsflash: People can agree to disagree and allow one another dignity and respect. Besides, we might both be right. Or wrong. But it is entirely off-putting to read someone again and again insist he alone is right. The world is bigger than your concepts. You are not 100% right about culture, religion or politics.

Also, you write public messages to complete strangers; abruptly negative comments you would never say to strangers in conversation. At least I hope not. I have privately messaged you about this habit on many occasions, with obvious zero impact. It appears you troll for people who “like” a comment you disagree with so you can make sure you know someone out there knows you don't “like” it. It is at best presumptuous and worse terribly rude and offensive to tell a stranger they are "self-righteous" or “ridiculous” or “absurd”. And even worse when it is in ALL-CAPS!

And speaking of private messages, you know how I have encouraged you and affirmed you privately, even as I asked you to adjust your approach on my Facebook page. Not once did you agree to make a change. Instead you ask questions, which I answer. Then, rather than discuss my answer, you fire off two more questions. Your idea of a discussion is more like dodge ball. Or it’s as if we are on one of those panels on cable TV where people yell at each other. I’m tired of playing dodge ball and being yelled at.

Finally… and maybe this is of lesser importance but somehow became the straw that broke the camel’s back: You perpetually employ poor grammar. It is not a typo when time and again you type your instead of you’re and there instead of their and it’s rather than its. They are doing marvelous things on Internet grammar websites.

So please, stop it. All of it. Poorly repeating the same points again and again is not persuasive. So what if a hundred people clearly disagree with you? Here’s a tip: if we don't agree the first three times you make your point we likely will not have a sudden change of perspective after the fifth or sixth.

Trust me in these things. I know of what I speak. I used to be you. And a true friend took me aside and shared quite a bit of the above advice with me. So perhaps you’ll consider me a fellow traveler along this road. And if this finds its way to you, and if you’ll take it to heart, maybe we can become friends. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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.

This is my personal blog. Opinions here may or may not reflect the opinions of Global Samaritan Resources, a non-profit organization where I serve as Executive Director.

Real things you can do:

There are many quality non-profits involved in giving help in this crisis. Find one.

I know one! You can “like” the Global Samaritan Facebook page and also follow @globalsamaritan on Twitter to be sure you get future updates.

Global Samaritan is planning to send teams of volunteers. Space will be limited, but let me know if you’re interested and willing to go to McAllen on a three or four day trip in the next few weeks.

We are using cash donations to help trusted partners we have in McAllen. You can give at the Global Samaritan website and navigating to the “donate” page. You can also text GLOBAL (all caps) to 75309 and I’ll send you an immediate link to give $25 via PayPal.

Note to media: Please contact me for permission to use information or opinion in this post. Thank you.