2016 Presidential Candidate Charitable Giving

Just read a couple of articles that I thought were interesting regarding the giving of the the 2016 presidential candidates. You can find the articles I read here and here. There are still quite a few candidates whose giving isn’t known yet because either they have not yet released for public viewing their tax documents or the documents they have released did not include their charitable giving.

Anyhow here is a list of the charitable giving I was able to find for our 2016 Presidential Politicians Charitable Giving. I will update this list as I find more information.

  1. Ted Cruz 0.9%
  2. Rick Santorum 1.8% – CAMPAIGN SUSPENDED
  3. Chris Christie 2.9%
  4. Jeb Bush 3.7%
  5. Bernie Sanders 5%
  6. Hillary Clinton 10.8%
  7. Carly Fiorina 13.4%

Candidates whose giving is unknown at this time.

  • Ben Carson
  • Jim Gilmore
  • Mike Huckabee – CAMPAIGN SUSPENDED
  • John Kasich
  • Marco Rubio
  • Donald Trump

For some comparison I thought it would be nice to have two things for comparison. First, supposedly the average US household gives around 3-5% to charity. While I haven’t yet found an actual source for that stat (several articles have mentioned 3-5% but I haven’t found links to actual evidence associated with them) yet it does makes sense using two known numbers. The average American household gave $2,974 in 2014 (found here) and the average American household income was $53,657 in 2014 (found here). This equals 5.5% so I feel safe in presuming that 3-5% is close.

Second, here is the charitable giving from the 2012 presidential candidates’ tax documents. I thing the giving of both is quite impressive.

  1. Barack Obama 21.8%
  2. Mitt Romney 29.4%

I don’t know that we should vote for someone just because of their charitable giving but I do find it interesting to see who gives more substantially and who doesn’t.

Is Your Jesus At The Bottom Of A Well?

The historical movement known as the first quest for the historical Jesus was destroyed by Albert Schweitzer when he pointed out the obvious fact that the “historical Jesus” that these “questers” was describing looked almost exactly like the “questers” themselves. That seemed very convenient. Schweitzer illustrated this with a story that may have been first used by George Tyrell and was surely influenced by the poet Robert Frost. Anyhow Schweitzer said that these “questers” had looked down at the dark, cloudy water at the bottom of a well, saw their own ambiguous reflection, and declared it to be Christ. It is always nice to convince yourself that the Messiah you claim to serve looks exactly like you. That means other people need to change rather you needing to change. That’s nice and comfortable.

Of course, it is also idolatry.

The quote “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor” is often attributed to Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. While I don’t know who really made the statement I see proof of its truth all around me and unfortunately also sometimes within my own life. Far too often I have shaped Jesus to look a great deal like my own image rather than being transformed into His image. The latter should be the goal of all who claim to be disciples of Christ. We should be striving, begging, yearning to be shaped each day a little more into His image. While Jesus became one of us through the Incarnation He is still wholly other (a term Karl Barth liked for describing God’s transcendent nature) and thereby different from us. We must become like Him because He is the end/goal of life. Reducing Him to being in our image won’t work because we are broken and He is life. Making Him a Republican, Democratic, Independent or any other political system Messiah produces a false god that can’t bring us life. That false image, our dark reflection at the bottom of the well, simply isn’t adequate to bring true hope.

That’s why the above video (that I saw from two friends at the same time – ht Joy & Scott) makes me laugh and cry at the same time. Hearing those words come out of the mouth of an actor portraying Jesus stands in strong contrast to the words of Jesus I see in scripture. I laugh because I catch the incongruity between the image and the words. I cry because I see the truth of this incongruity actually happening in my culture and faith. If I can’t imagine my words being said by the Jesus conveyed in scripture and I claim to be His follower, then I need to change my words (and actions) quick, or just admit that my faith is not what really defines me.

I’ll use another video to further explain.

I have been a fan of Duck Commander, and thereby Duck Dynasty somewhat too, since I started duck hunting five years ago. I was introduced to them by Andy Lickel and soon learned to like their duck calls. I’ve enjoyed the show because while it is incredibly cheesy I believe that a real family love is still strongly conveyed through the show. So I’ve been with them through their various controversies. Sometimes this was because I agreed with them (though maybe not with the manner in which they said it) or sometimes because my affection for them was enough to just blow off what they said. Then this past week Phil Robertson made the following quote in endorsing Ted Cruz. Robertson said:

“I’ve never run upon a true conservative who was not a godly man or at least a God-conscious man, And by the same token, I’ve never run up on a godly man who wasn’t a true conservative.”

This is so disturbing to me. Not the endorsement of Ted Cruz but the implication of the use of the word “godly”. The term “godly” (the highest compliment I believe a follower of Christ can receive) has been connected by Robertson with certain political ideology and Jesus is thought to look like a conservative. Why? Well because we have looked down in into the bottom of a well, seen our own dark and muddy reflection, and declared it to be Christ. When this happens we no longer need to repent and allow God to shape us, to remove some aspects and add others, so that we look a little more like His son. There is no need for change because “Jesus” looks exactly like us because we have made god in our image instead of being made in His. I know godly people of many different political persuasions. They are focused on the kingdom of God and that kingdom shapes what they do and how they respond to the politics of their country. I would never associate being conservative with being godly anymore than I would associate being progressive with being godly. After all Jesus came to declare that the kingdom of God was at hand, not that the world was about to receive democratic capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong this isn’t just a a conservative problem. It happens just as much on the progressive side. In fact, Schweitzer’s original use of the well reflection analogy was in response to liberal protestant theologians. Finding “Christ” in our own reflection is an equal opportunity form of idolatry. It is equally destructive to all who will give into it.

I hope the image that shapes me comes from looking toward the real Christ, rather than my own dark and muddy reflection seen from a far.

It Was A Long Day Today

I am regularly with people when they are in the midst of pain. I’m not sure that I would say that it is a typical part of my normal day, but it is definitely a common part of my week. Most of the time I just bear with it and feel honored that I get to be a part of God bringing comfort to someone who is hurting. I would never say these circumstances are something that I have grown used to, because the pain is always visibly fresh for those going through it and I can feel it with them. Still being with people during their most difficult most is a part of being a minister and it is a role that I am privileged to get to play.

Still I have to say that the most difficult pain for me to be with someone during is the pain of a lost pregnancy. Other circumstances might affect other people more powerfully but there is something about the loss of the baby that you have been hoping for that really gets me. The only time I have ever completely lost it as a minister in the midst of someone’s pain was once with two church members who were going through the delivery of their still born child. I just sat there and sobbed with them.

I feel like fertility issues taint hope and I think that is part of why the pain affects me so strongly. Anything that is able to turn a period of hope into a a period of dred is horrific. I believe that infertility issues do just that. They attempt to destroy the hope that should be involved in the possibility of new life.

I really like some of what Miroslav Volf has written concerning the struggles (including his personal struggle) of infertility. You can read one of his articles here titled “The Gift of Infertility.” He talks about the pain of his familiy’s struggle to have children and how the adoption of his boys didn’t do away with but changed the pain. Without the pain and struggle he wouldn’t have had his boys who he now couldn’t imagine being without. I believe his thought helps to show how God can overcome and transmute the pain of miscarriages & infertility. I love that word transmute because it involves taking something and turning it into something else. It recognizes the real pain but says that God is able to change the nature and substance of that pain into something else. Something good.

Still I would never bring up Volf’s words in the actual moment of the pain because I believe the pain is too raw when you are in the midst of the D & C or the realization of the loss of the baby you had been hoping for. In the moment I am just there to share the pain. No words. Just presence. I think being with them in the midst of their struggle helps but they would have to be the ones who say if it actually does help or not. I believe we can face most things when we know we aren’t alone. Seems like that is a part of the gospel of Christ. Still for some reason sharing the pain of infertility taxes me more than any other pain. If it helps those who are going through the actual loss then whatever it taxes me is worth it. Their struggle is what really matters.

It was a long day today but an ever so much longer day for those whose pain I shared.

Justice & the Image of God

I’m presently reading “The Answer to Our Cry” by Rick McKinley. McKinley is the pastor of Imago Dei church in Portland (a church that I respect greatly) and one of the people who started Advent Conspiracy (an organization that I also respect greatly). I really connect with McKinley’s consistency concerning bringing everything back to the Trinity and the Image of God (Imago Dei).

I just read this quote from McKinley connecting Jesus’ desire for His followers to practice justice based on humans bearing the Image of God.

We don’t simply use labels for those we see on the evening news, however. We use them for the people across the street, down the road, or across town. We label our neighbors who are gay, Muslim, or divorced. We label the neighborhood a few blocks away from us with all the Russian immigrants.

We don’t see people who are made in the image of the God who sets us free to love them, because we separate ourselves from them through our differences. When we do that, we take away their light as image bearers of God and create separation that robs us of the possibility of knowing them.

That is why Jesus confronts injustice not by calling our attention to the greatest offenders of shalom but by calling us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We like the idea that we are made in the image of God, but do we like the idea that our neighbors are too?

Rick McKinley, The Answer to our Cry, p. 115-6.

I love that last line. “We like the idea that we are made in the image of God, but do we like the idea that our neighbors are too?” Very tru e and very challenging.

My Possible


For the past seven years or so I have been a fan of carrying a small bag with me that holds all the things I believe I need to handle whatever I might face during the day.  A few friends (and family) have mocked me for my bag, calling it my “man purse”. I don’t care because I like having all this stuff handy and I don’t like my pockets full of stuff.

December brought two changes to my Every Day Carry (EDC) bag.

  1. Pam gave me a new bag for Christmas. I had been using a bag Adam used when he was in second grade. As you probably know I am cheap.
  2. I have a new name for my bag. It is my possible. I read “The Revenant” and learned that the mountain men always kept close a small bag, called their possibilities bag or possible, to keep themselves prepare for all the possible things they might face. My bag is a possible and Eric G is wrong when he calls it a man purse. So there.

Anyhow here are the things that I keep in my possibles bag.

  1. OXA vintage canvas messenger bag – this is the bag Pam bought me for Christmas. It is a big improvement.
  2. Asus T100 Tablet/Laptop upgraded to Windows 10 – I love this little tablet/laptop. Powerful enough to do most of what I need done and small enough to be easy to carry around.
  3. NIV Skinii Bible with extra ribbon bookmarks put in
  4. Whatever book I am presently reading. At the time of this photo it was an autographed version of Jurgen Moltmann’s work “The Passion for Life“. Yep that’s right it is an autographed copy.
  5. Leuchtturm Whitelines journal – a journal that allows me to digitize photos of the pages and send them to Dropbox or Evernote.
  6. Cheapo headphones – I don’t buy expensive headphones because I’ve killed every good pair of headphones I have ever purchased. The cheap ones seem to last for me so I have chosen poorer quality sound that last, rather than better quality sound that I kill and then feel bad about.
  7. A Tapestry Carabiner & 550 Fire Cord Paracord – that’s right it is paracord that has a fire starter line within it.
  8. Cheap BIC lighter – to be replaced with a flint & steel in the future because I think it is more fun.
  9. A Makey Makey Go – Pam bought this for me for Christmas. It allows me to turn almost anything into an input device for a computer. It is quite fun. I’ve used it a few times at Emy J’s when I was bored.
  10. Mini first aid kit – picked up for free from St. Michael’s hospital with a few bandages, sanitizing wipes, antibiotic cream, and a few over the counter drugs (most importantly BC Powder).
  11. Twin tip Sharpie markers & BIC Atlantis Pens – the best inexpensive pen there is.
  12. Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse
  13. Coast G19 LED Inspection Flashlight
  14. Leatherman Rebar multitool – thanks to my brother.

With this bag in tow I am ready for most possibilities I run up against during my days.


Two Things

FIRST, this blog is the only means I have of communicating to the mystery gifter who leaves random gifts every now and then for Pam and me. Thanks for the gift for Pam this past weekend and don’t worry there aren’t any “rules” concerning the offering box (other than “don’t steal anything from the box” but I figure you won’t do that anyhow). In my previous blog post I was just expressing my own awkwardness. Anyhow thanks for the gift for my wife. It means a lot to me when people recognize how amazing she is.

SECOND, today was the beginning of the supplemental antler-less gun deer season here in Central Wisconsin. Since I didn’t shoot a deer during the regular season I will be spending a little time (when I have it available) in the woods over the next four days. Of course, this naturally means that I will be reading, since that is what I do when I deer hunt. Today’s adventure in bad deer hunting was sponsored by Judith Couchman’s “The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

Lessons From My Worst Duck Hunting Season

Thanks to Andy Lickel I started duck hunting about 6 seasons ago. This season was my worst duck hunting season. I went out 5 times, shot my shotgun 5 times, and killed & found 1 duck. Most of it is my fault, some of it wasn’t. For example the photo above show the ducks I saw this morning. I took a bad shot at two of them as they flew over and then tracked them down to the other side of the island a little while later only to watch and not be able to shoot them, and two others, because they stayed in between me and our vehicles. The bad shot was my fault. The constant positioning between me and our vehicles wasn’t my fault.

Anyhow here are a few thoughts from my worst season of duck hunting thus far in my life.

  1. You can’t shoot ducks if you aren’t out on the water. Yes the times that I went out weren’t the best duck hunting days, but I at least stood a chance of getting a duck when I was out with my gun and decoys. Pam can tell you that there were many nights that I said I was going to leave early in the morning to go duck hunting, only for her to discover me still in the bed in the morning. It is hard to shoot ducks when you don’t go duck hunting.
  2. It is important to prepare. I should have shot skeet before the season began. It would have helped my shooting because while, as I have mentioned earlier, I only shot 5 times all but 1 of those shots stunk. I wasn’t swinging  my shot or leading the birds and I knew I wasn’t doing either thing. The only shot where I knew I did it right was the shot where I killed my only bird of the season.
  3. Once you have prepared you need to trust your preparation. Two of the ducks in the photo above flew tree height above my initial position. They were going to turn around and come back to the decoys. I knew it and the others with me knew it but instead of trusting that I had set my decoys out properly and enticingly, I took a shot at them. It wasn’t an easy shot and I missed the bird I was going for. If only I had waited they would have come back around and I would have had a much better shot. I should have trusted my preparation.
  4. Duck hunting isn’t usually about shooting ducks. Duck hunting, unlike deer hunting, is usually a social experience for me. I do go duck hunting by myself every now and then, but most of the time I go with people who I enjoy being around. This means that even when I don’t see any ducks it is still a win.

I am pretty sure that elements of the above 4 points are true in most things in life, but due to waking up very early the yesterday and today I am pretty tired now. So you will have to figure them out for yourself.