Category: Politics

God

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In everyday conversation, people say “God” a lot.

A few say, “Oh my God,” “Thank God” and “Praise God.”

Some say, “For God’s sake” and “Good God.”

Many people use it in vain.

People use the term to direct God to damn someone or something to hell. As if they could direct God to do their dirty work for them.

I am not perfect by any means, I’ve used all of these terms. Probably more than I would like to admit, even to myself. As I have grown older, I try to avoid using the name “God” in any form in my daily conversations.

Most times, I can only whisper “Oh, God” in grief, regret or horror.

I could only softly whisper “Oh, God” when I watched the horror of something that I see on TV or hear about. Among many other examples, I whispered it when I witnessed 9/11. The same when I heard of the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Vegas concert massacre and the Living Tree Synagogue reached me.  I softly whispered them again, when former students of mine died so young to addiction, or when I lost close friends to cancer.  I said it when one of my closest friends died by their own hand.

“Oh, God.”

I’ve whispered these words far too many times in my life.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what people mean when they say, “God.”

Actually, I’ve been increasingly concerned about who people think God is. 

The source of my concern is not the growing religious pluralism of America. Neither do I spend time worrying about how to think about God in order to get into heaven or to stay out of hell. 

Instead, I’m convinced that what we will make of our lives together on this planet will be guided by our idea of God. Not all ideas about god are a good reflection of what or who God really is.

If you can do whatever you want and live any life that you choose then I am not sure that you have a good idea of who God really is.

Scripture’s long and winding testimony makes it clear that we humans can make a wreck of things when we harbor a distorted and even toxic idea of God.

All of us have inherited a fractured world. We face broken hearts and disease, poverty and racism, hunger and greed, vicious governments and deadly addictions, garden variety personal sins and genocidal violence.

This is the world you and I inhabit.

What we are going to do about it will depend on our idea of God.

For some people “God” is a supernatural being. For others a higher power. It could be money, power, fame, or their substance of choice.

History and the daily news are littered with individuals and tribes of people and nations coping with the world’s chaos by finding somebody to blame. A scapegoat to vote off the island, to lock up, to lock out, to crucify.

Whether these people believe in a supernatural being or not, they’re adopting strategies remarkably similar to those who seek to enlist or at least to appease an angry, blaming, punishing god. Their “god” is wrathful, and they need to do whatever it takes to stay on its right side, including throwing somebody else under the bus.

I’ve witnessed people defending the actions of our political leaders all in the name of their chosen god. I’ve also witnessed people attack these same political leaders with the same god in tow… blaming all that is wrong in this world on them in the name of their god.

Jesus came to show us that God isn’t like this.

Jesus came to change our mind about God, not to change God’s mind about us.

When we follow Jesus’s example, we are leaning into our true selves as the image of God. Jesus put it this way: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Jesus healed the sick, ate with outcasts, and fed the hungry. He taught us to forgive, to give the shirt off our back, to love even our enemies. This is the image of God on planet Earth. And that image comes especially clear in the cross. There we see simultaneously God’s relentless love and the cost of that love. God suffers with the world to heal the world.

Jesus died on the cross. He was a threat. A threat to the Roman Empire’s view of God.

The Romans executed him. Jesus knew it was coming.

That’s what Empires do. They eliminate threats. 

And nothing could be more threatening to a militaristic, status-craving, power-driven, possession-obsessed Empire than someone who says that God blesses the poor and the meek. The weak and humble. Jesus resisted the might of Empire with the compassionate reign of God. 

Yes, the Romans killed him for it. But they couldn’t really take life away from him. He had already been giving his life away. 

He had been giving his life away for the sake of the world from the moment of his birth. His life was the perfect embodiment of healing love. The perfect image of God. Even and especially in his dying, Jesus showed us who God is. Who we most truly are. That’s what the Bible means when it says that God created us in God’s image.

I hope that my life, when it is over, in its best moments at least, says that God is love and points them to Jesus Christ.

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Silence Speaks When Words Can’t

It’s been over two years and I still have so much that I have wanted to speak out about.  So much “stuff” I wanted to vent over.  As hard as it might seem for some of you that know me… I didn’t say or write a word.   I said nothing at all. I stopped commenting, I stopped trying to get other people to stop causing division among my friends and family.   

I’m a little sorry about that.  I’m a little not.  Silence Speaks

Silence speaks when words can’t.

I am at a place where my usual fly-off-at-the-mouth (or fingertip) doesn’t seem so hard to control anymore.

I am so happy that I have not posted on Facebook my feelings about politics and the current condition of our nation or my feelings about the team up north. I am much better prepared to ease the thoughts that go through my mind.  I realize that my words are just that… my words.  I needed to take the time off.  I am no longer “triggered” to spew my opinion at every post I disagree with.

I needed to be silent about those issues… I needed to push the keyboard away when I was tempted to comment.

However, I am still discontented, wearied by a heaviness in my soul. I am done with the noise, the squabbling, the violence, the hate.

I look back to a time when social media was a place of pleasantries, pictures of our children and grandchildren, posts of sharing music we love, or the recipe to make a loaf of freshly baked bread.

There is no value to social media anymore. No one is changed by the things we post.

That doesn’t stop people from posting things just to stir the pot. 

I have read where people say they are trying to inspire thought. HImage result for social media sucksowever, when it comes to social media you are just reaching friends that either already know and agree with you or you are a post away from losing that friend because they disagree with you.

What I have discovered is that social media is used like weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t matter who or how many are affected by the carnage of the hate… the only thing that matters is their opinion and their ability to say it.

In the meantime, family members are caught in the crossfire.  I know that members of my own family have “blocked me”, “unfollowed” or “unfriended” me on social media.

Is it worth it?

I am keenly aware that by writing this post, I am adding to the noise. I see the irony… writing about the evils of social media by posting on social media.

Where and when might I draw a line in the dirt, claiming my side of thinking? I’m wondering if there is any worth in drawing that line at all?

Image result for opinion over politicsRecently, a local FACEBOOK group that focused on news about my hometown was overtaken by a few people who posted multiple times a day political memes and articles.  Pro-Trump, Anti-Trump… attacks on the Repubicans and attacks on the Democrats. It was all there.

What followed was hate speech towards each other.  People I had known my whole life started spewing hate towards other friends, it quickly got really out of control. Everyone was posting and no one was listening. I am sure that friendships were damaged… some to the point of no return.

All of these people posting things to a group of 6,000 members as if their opinion would change the direction of the nation. The only affect it had was ruining lifelong friendships, causing family members to not talk and in-fighting in our small-town.

It hurts me to think that people are so “triggered” that their opinion is more important than family and friends.

When the line is drawn, we stand toe to toe, speak our thoughts, never thinking to listen. In truth, should we not be listening before we utter a word? Before we draw that proverbial, decisive, divisive line?

When I turn to the wisdom in the book of Proverbs, much is said about the tongue.

There is more hope for the fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. Proverbs 29:29

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap  the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

This past week, spirits were crushed, lives diminished, freedoms obliterated. Why? I believe in the heat of anger, in the heat of being right, in the heat of the-only-sin-that-we-never-forgive-in-each-other-is-a-difference-in-opinion-quote-1drawing lines in the dirt, not one person thought to listen before they spoke or posted their hate-filled speech.

My experience tells me that most people who call for tolerance are the least tolerant people I know.

Friendships lost… family in-fighting. For what? Your opinion? What makes me wrong and you right? Is it worth it?

As in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson… “The only sin that we never forgive in each other is a difference of opinion.”

I have a friend on FACEBOOK that is a pastor. No one locally mind you, just someone who used to live in my hometown. He posts daily about his disdain and hate for Trump. Always stirrring the pot. For what? To cause division of the people of from my hometown? Doesn’t he see that the influence does not change a thing in the big picture but causes so much destruction in the little. For me… the little (in this example) is more important than the big picture.

I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am against free-speech. We all have the same rights to say what what we feel.  And yes, you have the right to express your opinion. However, is it worth it when it will cost you friendshps and possibly family members?

Words can speak life and words can speak death. Before we choose to speak, andImage result for just because you can doesn't mean you should jump into the fray of divisiveness, wouldn’t we all be better off if we listened before we speak? Or at least realize the consequences before we speak?

Because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Because you feel 10-foot tall and bullet proof behind a keyboard, just remember the consequences of it  when you post it.

If we are standing on the side of Christ, our words should be life-giving.  If we are standing on the side of Christ, we speak truth with love. Sometimes that means we speak more truth and love by our actions and not mere words. At the end of the day, I want to be standing on the side of Christ.

Silence speaks louder than words. Listening speaks louder than words.

 

 

 

 

How John Lennon Saved Christmas for Me

OK… alright… I know Christmas is over. It was almost three weeks ago.

I have taken a break from writing during the holidays. I have been trying to finish my second book and have it published in the spring of 2019, but I have run into a bad case of writer’s block. I am struggling with motivation. That isn’t uncommon, I experienced it last year.

So why am I still writing about Christmas?

While I struggle to finish my book, I just have not been able to shake the thoughts and feelings that have overtaken me. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not a huge fan of Christmas.

Well… let me clarify.

I love Christmas. I love the reason we celebrate it. I loathe the decorations and I am (much to my wife’s and sister-in-law’s disdain) not a fan of Christmas music or movies.  The music is too much and too overwhelming. At least for me.

Just about the time my Scrooge started kicking in and my to-list was growing, I desperately tried to hide my scrooge face from my wife. (which I am never successful at doing). Trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, stockings, holly, cookies, gifts. I needed to get into the spirit.

Then I turned on the radio and this happened… christmas

“And so, this is Christmas…”

John Lennon’s unmistakable voice came on. I listened, feeling the annual stirring. It occurred to me I’ve heard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” every December since I was 11.

It took me back to the Christmas, my family celebrated in our Walnut Street home in Oak Harbor, Ohio. We had a tiny decorated tree with strings of lights and tinsel.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later, I heard that song played the night John Lennon was assassinated. I was out of high school and was lost in a world that had moved on without me. I was working at HJ Heinz and all of my friends had left for college. I had no plan, no dream, no clue where I was headed, and I definitely had no idea where I would end up. I sat in the dark in my room and listened to this song, among others that John Lennon had made and cried until I had no more tears.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Then a few years after that I would listen to this song as I drove back from Michigan, with my son peacefully sleeping in his car seat. I was driving home to my grandfather’s funeral. He died on Christmas Eve and I wasn’t there. That was over 30 years ago… and I am still bitter about it.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Memories of two little boys dancing around, waiting for Santa. They woke me at 5:45 a.m., breathless with excitement, jumping on my bed.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later… opening presents with our blended family of my two boys and the two girls that are as much a part of me as my son’s. My wife made sure Christmas was extra special for our family.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

More years pass and now it is just my wife and me on Christmas morning. Instead of waking at 5:45 a.m., we sleep in. Those little boys are now men. The girls are now married and are making Christmas memories with their husband’s. Two grandsons’ now wake their parents with dreams of presents dancing in their heads.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

2018… Christmas is still Christmas, but I have a son that hasn’t talked to his father in almost three years. I reach out to silence.  

 “And what have you done…”

This is the second lyric to the song… Lennon seems to be asking what we did with these 365 days. Did we try to help? Did we do our best? Did we learn? Did we grow? I hope I encouraged and loved and was there. I hoped I gave a smile and kind words when needed. I hope I was a good husband, a good grandfather, a good son, a good brother, and friend. More importantly, was I a good servant to my savior Jesus Christ?

Still, so many do much more. I see nurses and teachers who dedicate their lives to others. I have family and friends who spend their time helping the needy, children, and those who are sick. They inspire me to do better.

 “Another year over…”

I am not who I was a few years ago. I have changed. Regret is hard.

And yet good things happened. My sister-in-law beat Ovarian Cancer. She remains cancer free. The year started in doubt about that and we are grateful that she has been given a gift from God. My son found the woman he will marry in 2019. My wife still takes good care of me. She took a chance on re-inventing herself at her job and she has excelled. She still teaches (34 years now) and I love her more than life itself. My grandsons bring me more joy than I could ever imagine. I published my first book… and I reluctantly will now say I am a writer.  The sun still shines. And I still love my morning cup of coffee. Life goes on.

“A new one just begun…”

I pray we turn a corner, although it’s hard to be hopeful. The country is divided. Another mass killing takes place and my stomach drops. My generation didn’t grow up like this nor did my parents’. My heart goes out to young people who must navigate this world.

And yet, judging by my children and their friends I know they’ll be okay. This group is brave, strong, and resilient. They’ll not only make it through but will someday make a difference.

2019 will bring change to me. Uncertain things at my place of employment and new opportunities. Maybe the path to reconciliation with my son will become clearer… whatever the year brings… I am grateful, and I am ready for what God has in store for me and my wife.

“And so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…”

Politicians / People work to anger us, focusing on differences, giving reasons to hate and fear each other. Regardless of your position… everyone is guilty.

 “Let’s hope it’s a good one… without any fear”

John Lennon died 38 years ago. I wondered how would the globe spin without him? Who would lead the cause for peace and non-violence? It seemed impossible he was gone. Yet the years sped by and here we are.

I still miss him.

I did not agree with everything that John Lennon did or say, but I can’t help wondering… what would Lennon say about the world today?

“War is over. If you want it…”

The song ends. And I feel right again.

Whatever petty Yuletide problems I have… don’t matter.

Now I know… John Lennon didn’t save Christmas for me.

Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  However, this song by John Lennon has grounded me. It reminds me this holiday is more than tinsel and evergreens. Christmas is about time passing. It’s about life and love and family. Christmas is about finding joy where you can. Christmas is about hope.

Thank you, John Lennon.  

You did it.

You saved Christmas (wink) for me once again.

 

We Are All Hard of Hearing

Let’s be honest… we are all hard of hearing.

I’ll say that again in case you didn’t hear it. We are all hard of hearing.

Yes, even you… the guy in the back row who can chew ice and still hear a pin drop in the other room. The good hearing I’m talking about has little to do with the quality of the nerve endings in our ears, or the ability to tell consonant sounds apart. We’re talking about becoming masters of conscious listening—true understanding—which is something we can all attain.

We have lost the ability to listen. I mean… to truly hear. Most people don’t stop talking to listen to what someone else has to say… we only stop talking long enough to catch our breath and wait until the next time we can start talking again.

Everybody’s talking… and nobody is listening.

In many ways, the “deafness” that most people have is much worse than the legitimate hearing loss that I have. It is sad that people don’t listen to what other people have to say. For the most part, I have discovered that the people who talk loudly about how people should open to other opinions and perspectives are the same people that are talking so much that they never listen to opposing views or perspectives.

As I have grown older, my hearing loss has increased significantly. I will tell you that my hearing problem may reach the stage of total deafness. It is a real possibility. Apart from losing the ability to hear the voices of my grandchildren or the music that is so much a part of my life, becoming totally deaf doesn’t scare me.

While my hearing is worse, my ability to listen has improved and grown immensely in the last few years. I hear more than people who have perfect hearing.

I have listed a few points to ponder when it comes to listening, regardless of how well your ears work.

Listen carefully, (or read them carefully) and you will hopefully find value in my message. Print these points out, maybe tattoo them under your earlobes, and then apply them in your life until you can finally hear that metaphorical pin drop.  Hearing a real pin really doesn’t matter.

You don’t need to hear everything. 

One of the most significant challenges to being hearing impaired is feeling that you’re missing something… that you’re isolated, alone, and the world is passing you by.  As a card-carrying member of the hearing aid club, I used to get frustrated when I couldn’t hear something happening around the house, or if I was at a restaurant and couldn’tImage result for covering your ears hear the conversation at the end of the table. Then it dawned on me, did I really need to know that conversation? I finally came to the conclusion that I did not need to know.

What a feeling it was to realize that I didn’t have to hear everything to be a part of everything. It’s not an easy lesson to master, and I’m still mastering it. But it’s worth the effort when you realize that mastery can only be achieved with living in the moment mindfulness, which is far more powerful than any words you might have missed.

And regardless of how well you hear, the lesson is the same. We don’t need to be a part of every conversation, a part of all the noise in the world—the mindless chatter and empty conversations that do nothing to make our lives better.

It’s about learning to become selective with our hearing. Choosing what words and messages we will allow into our lives. And this includes all those voices in our heads that say we’re not smart enough, rich enough, young enough…good enough. This week make a conscious decision to listen only to the things that matter.

You’ll know what they are when you hear them.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

Some examples… We only use 10% of our brains, cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, the Great Wall of China is the only human-made structure that can be seen from the moon … Do you ever wonder where people get some of the things they believe? We live in a very dark world where rumors abound. Gossip abounds. Slander abounds. Even in the “Christian” community (so-called), tragically.

Like it or not we are dependent on the media to act as a go between, bringing issues to our attention. We rely on the industry to break down complicated issues so we can respond. But ALL media has its own agenda and influential forces. If we accept that we don’t have a completely objective companion, how do weigh what they say? How do we spot the lies and the bias?  We are called to be perceptive people. God promises to give us insight. The biggest challenge is for us not to swallow everything we hear before asking God to show us what He sees and how do we please Him.

Talk less.

Your mother was right. You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full. Or listen, for that matter.

And we all do it.

It’s called hogging the conversation, also known as the “all about me” syndrome—monopolizing the conversation with what we’re doing, what we believe, our problems, and our accomplishments. And be warned, this “all about me” affliction comes disguised in many shapes and forms, like:

  • Interrupting someone to make your point or making arguments in your head before the other person is done talking.
  • Filling in the blanks of a conversation because you’re too impatient to let others finish their thought.
  • Judging or dismissing someone else’s opinions, and even worse, telling people what they really mean, or what they should think and believe.
  • Hearing only what you want to hear.

If any of this is you (and at one time or another, it’s all of us), it doesn’t matter how state-of-the-art your hearing aids are (or your own ears), you’ll never turn hearing into understanding.

You’ll only hear words.

Embrace the silence.

Most of us avoid silence. I love it most times. But for many people, being left alone with only their thoughts is tough. It can be eerie, isolating, and uncomfortable. So, we turn on the noise. Raise the volume. Distract.

However, once we embrace the silence, the stillness can become engaging, even Image result for Embrace silencewelcoming and beautiful. But we need to train ourselves. It doesn’t come easy.

Take time this week to turn off the sound in as many ways as you can. Less conversation, TV, music, and empty chatter. Look for places to be alone. Seek quiet and stillness more often. No matter where you are on the hearing spectrum, embrace silence as an avenue to hear more. Be grateful for the solitude, then allow the silence to guide you to a deeper place. It will change your opinion and your perspective.

Learn other ways to communicate.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words.

Sound is great, but so is body language, touch, love, enthusiasm, and joy. These emotions (energy) are spoken without words. To master this language is to master the hidden nuances of life—to find the pearl inside the oyster.

You don’t need ears to tap into this conversation. You need awareness. Strive to hear in as many different ways as you can. Find connections and patterns. Use your eyes, your heart, and your intuition. Make it your mission to discover this new language—the universal language we all hear.

Ultimately, these are a challenge for us all to transform our relationship with hearing. More than that, they are a challenge that will allow us to turn our limitations into a whole new level of understanding—one that will help us hear what truly matters.

It’s called turning hearing into an artform.

Some Thoughts On Las Vegas

My words will never adequately express the horror of the shootings in Las Vegas.

https://salemnet.vo.llnwd.net/media/cms/RT/43629-las-vegas-shooting-getty-3-facebook.800w.tn.jpgNews stories report body count and hospitalizations in an attempt to convey the incomprehensible magnitude of the violence.

The number of the dead and wounded could describe a pitched battle in Afghanistan or, long ago, as I remember as a child the reports from Vietnam.

Nearly sixty dead. Over five hundred in need of medical treatment.

But of course, this wasn’t a battle fought on foreign soil.

This was a country music concert.

On American soil.

And the attacker was an unremarkable American citizen who possessed a personal arsenal of automatic weapons. As he so dreadfully demonstrated, weapons designed to kill human beings in large numbers very efficiently.

We don’https://i1.wp.com/www.billboard.com/files/styles/480x270/public/media/las-vegas-shooting-mandalay-bay-hotel-oct-2-2017-ap-billboard-1548.jpgt yet know why the killer opened fire from his 32nd floor hotel room. But we are reeling from the savagery of his actions and the random senselessness of the deaths. He indiscriminately maimed and murdered scores of complete strangers who were out on the town for nothing more than a good time.

While we cannot today find a final answer to the great puzzle of our national addiction to violence, perhaps we can nonetheless finally admit the addiction.

As frightful as the Las Vegas killings are, they join a long list of mass shootings.

Such violence is all too frequent.

The murders last Sunday stand out only because of the numbers.

And because it was captured on video.

However, these same numbers some times take place in Chicago on any given weekend and no one even bats an eye.  It is not noticed because it usually is a one-on-one event. One person killed events in an abhorrent number of weekend murders… in a “gun-free zone.” 

Let’s be honest. Gun Free Zones don’t work.

But we have to do something.

As a nation we have been at war since 2001. Since I was born, the years of national conflict nearly outnumber the years of peace. And I’m not including the Cold War, covert actions, and episodic military interventions. So many young adults do not remember or  have experienced an America at peace.

There is no question that the type and number of weapons hoarded by the Las Vegas shooter made him exponentially more lethal. We can and should arrive at reasonable political measures that address an individual’s capacity to wreak such unspeakable havoc.

I not talking about taking guns away from anyone. I want a society that is able to have the freedom to have a gun to protect themselves or to use for appropriate hunting.  I do not believe we need to pry the guns from the hands of Americans.

However, what I am saying is that we can do something moving forward.  We need to keep these type of guns off and out of the free-market.  We can stop people from buying a gun that can shoot 70 – 90 rounds in 10 seconds.  Is there http://www.trbimg.com/img-575ef1a2/turbine/la-1465840206-snap-photoreally a purpose for a gun like this? I think not.

In truth, we will never be able to clear our society of these type weapons already purchased.  They are embedded and unfortunately will be a part of a society that will need to deal with the outcomes of such weaponry. 

I am not naive, I know that someone will continue to make these type of weapons, no matter if we ban them from being sold. If a person wants to have a gun to use for evil, no matter what type of weapon they want… it will be available somewhere. Regardless what we do politically.

But we have to  do something.  We need to limit their numbers of availability. Doing nothing just deepens our accountability for these type of events from occurring.

And yet, even if and when we achieve a political solution, our spiritual challenge remains.

As a believer, I can no longer turn my eyes away from these type of events and simply say I will pray for the victims.  While it is a good place to start there is more that we can do. To be followers of Jesus, requires reflection, repentance, and transformation.

As long as violence in any form is our only customary means for maintaining our security, our status, and our stuff, we will ALL remain… mortally wounded spiritually.

My Own Worst Enemy

I have an enemy that I deal with daily.

I face it constantly.

The battle with my worst enemy will continue till the day I die.

My enemy is not the Democrats, nor is it the Republicans.

It’s not the President.

It’s not Clinton, Obama or Bernie Sanders.

My own worst enemy has nothing to do with politics.

It’s not the Russians.

It’s not North Korea.

It’s not Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

My enemy is not an Atheist. 

It isn’t the Muslims or Islam.

My enemy isn’t ISIS, Nazis, anarchists.

It’s not the liberals or conservatives.

My own worst enemy is not CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.

It’s not FACEBOOK or Twitter.

My enemy isn’t homosexuals, transgenders or bisexuals.

It’s not Black Lives Matter or the Trumpsters.

My enemy is much more insidious than any of these. 

Much more deadly and dangerous.

For you see…

My own worst enemy is…  ME.

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(Paul speaks very clearly in Galatians 5 about our battle against the enemy within…ourselves.  All too often we look to others, or things, to be the source, the cause (and usually the blame) for our sins and our problems.  Although sometimes there can be external forces, ultimately all responsibility lies at our doorstep.  Our greatest battle is truly against our own flesh, the sin nature that resides in each of us.  So, in fact, our worst enemy is ourselves.)

 

 

Fear and Loathing in 2017

As we enter 2017, I am astonished about the level of fear and loathing among us.

I guess I sfear_and_loathinghouldn’t be.  It has been the theme of 2016.

The angst is palpable.

Many people fear the future.  Fear based upon speculation and the unknown.

In an age where most media sources are proven to not be trusted, I cannot believe how many people base what they believe on biased information and on an agenda to be close minded… even though they claim to be open-minded and free thinkers. The internet is full of “fake news” sources, all designed to skew a person’s belief and perspective.  It is intentional and calculated. And most of all… it is effective. 

Many people base what they believe to be true based upon what they hear on a podcast or read on Facebook.  Their news sources and range of perspective is narrow. Meaning that they are all listening to the same biased podcast or source. They believe that they, themselves are the smartest person they know or at least the smartest in the same room as them. Anyone who disagrees with them are considered unintelligent and ignorant.

Do these people ever consider that all they are doing is adding to the fear and loathing?

An example of this is the latest news story of “voter fraud” in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  I cannot tell you how many people were convinced that this was a “true” story.  After Jill Stein raised over 7 million dollars (twice what she spent on her campaign) to do a recount in those states.  We know the results of those re-counts… Trump actually gained votes over Clinton.

I could go on and on about all the different aspects of this past election year and the fear and loathing that is out there.

People are having a hard time with accepting the truth.

All of us have trouble accepting a difficult truth. It’s human nature to see what we want to see, especially when the truth makes us uneasy. But acknowledging and exploring the truth can liberate us and lead to greater opportunities. 

One of the great challenges of life is just the simple task of living in this moment, living a “present tense life.” There are two great enemies of accepting truth. One is “the fantasy of what could have been,” and the other is “the fear of what might be.”

Let me address each one of these for a moment.

The fantasy of what could have been– We all live our lives looking back to the past or ahead to the future. It’s rare that we live in the present tense. One of our enemies is the “fantasy of what could have been.” We will often look with a longing for a change because of our present adversities…

“If only I had married the other person,” or “If only I had finished college,” or “If only I hadn’t made that horrible mistake” then life would be great.

Thoughts race to alternate present reality because of our dreams of “if only.” Dreaming about what could have been can be a wonderful diversion, but it’s ignorance of the reality of truth.

The truth is that there is no “if only.”

There is only what is.

Accepting truth’s that you don’t like is one of the hardest things to do.

Dreaming about an alternate life that would turn out different is a fantasy that brings nothing good to our present situation. It only makes the “now” harder because our fantasy solutions would have eliminated our real dilemmas and the need to trust the Lord with our real problems today.

When you are tempted to visit the land of “if only” make the decision not to go. It’s a trip that only brings disappointment to what is your life right now.

The fear of what might be– The other problem I see many struggle with is “the fear of what might be.” They are experts at worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet. As it pertains to Donald Trump, he hasn’t even been sworn into office and people are wailing and predicting doom.  It happened with Ronald Reagan too.

Those fears and impending doom never came to fruition.

If you are living in fear of Donald Trump… your faith is weak.  You knowledge of the Bible is soft, or at least became soft.  Do you really think that electing Trump as our President is a surprise to God?

There is no way any of us can see the future, so for us to worry about it before it ever gets here is a clear lack of faith in God to care for our tomorrows. It also shows that people have stopped reading their Bibles and have based their beliefs and perspectives on other sources. 

 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”   Matthew 6:34

Jesus clearly said, “don’t worry about tomorrow.” He knew we were tempted to do this, and warned us against it. Fear of what might be often keeps us from walking with God and trusting him RIGHT NOW. We miss the joy of a walk with God in the present tense.

We each must live a present tense life intentionally. The distractions of fantasy about the past and fear about the future will easily get our attention away from a walk with the living God right now. I mentioned the word “walk” intentionally. It’s the word that the Bible uses to talk about our lives of faith. The Bible calls it a walk because there are some wonderful present tense elements to a walk that will help us stay focused on the now.

A walk demands a destination, but it can only be done one step at a time, one foot on the path toward the goal, one decision at a time to reach the goal. A walk demands a present tense life. That word, walk, often helps me get back to “now.”

control-what-you-can-controlThat is why God implores us to keep our eye on and press towards the mark of following Christ.  If you are so worried about the future, you obviously do not want to accept what the Bible says about the future.  It’s in His hands.  I cannot worry over that which I cannot control… those are the things I need to trust God that He has it under control. 

As you go through each day of 2017, living your life and find yourself buying into the temptation toward fantasy or fear, stop for a moment.  Focus on things that really matter and what you can do to control them.  The balance is trust and dependence on God to take care of the rest.

It is then called having “Faith” and not fear and loathing.

I hope you truly have a great year and I hope that all of your fears are tempered by a loving God and that our faith grows deeper in Him each day.

Conclusions

Let me just say something that, apparently, some people still haven’t considered:

Your opinion on Facebook doesn’t matter. Neither does mine.

I have spent the last week or so on a self-imposed Facebook break. 

What a relief it was. 

It is something that I will probably continue… but on my own terms.

It surly will not be because of the reason I took this one. I took a break from Facebook because I posted a generic status that some people thought I took an “unfair” shot of criticism because I questioned of some posts that they posted.  I did not name names. I got called out because I had dared to post something that “implied” that I was talking about someone or someone they knew.  

I guess I could have understood that, had I posted names and called them out directly, I should have expected the backlash. But that wasn’t the case. I guess people feel that their opinion, comments and status trumps anything I post and that specifically my posts always are talking about them.

I guess free speech in a Facebook world only applies to those that deem it so.

So, I took a week or so of doing some research and to try to gain some perspective.  The more I read and the more I thought about it, I have come to some conclusions. But before I post these conclusions, let me say for the record, you don’t have to agree with them.  I will not apologize for them and I certainly will not back down from my right to post them.

CONCLUSION #1 

If you choose to emotionally blast out your political perspective online, I promise no one is listening and you’ll never change a person’s mind from a Facebook post.  

It is futile.

All you do when you post your political perspective is just stir the pot.  No true debate or honest reasoning can be found in a Facebook post. You are asking for a response. You are opening the door to disagreement.  Defend your own battles if you post it.  This should be acknowledged by everyone that has a FB account. 

You post something… you have to be prepared for the disagreement.  Quit being so thin-skinned that you get offended when someone disagrees with you.

Is that what you are looking for? Are you just looking for people who agree with you?  If it is your true heartfelt belief or perspective, why are you so defensive? I say, agree to disagree.  State your disagreement and move on.  Why do the defenses come up so quickly?   

For many people, this is so difficult to handle.  It is why we have heard from college campuses, where they need “safe” speech zones because people just can’t handle when someone has a different opinion and that they may be wrong.  If you want a safe zone on Facebook, edit out the ones you disagree with until your news feed looks more like an echo board of your own thoughts. Feel free to edit out the ones you disagree with until you’re surrounded by people who are just like you.

CONCLUSION #2

I will not block or delete anyone on Facebook who disagrees with me.  

I may block you for other reasons… inappropriate language or posts, but not because I disagree with you.   

Let’s face it, it’s loud out there.  It seems like everyone has something to say and Facebook is where they say it.  Our news feeds are littered with articles, posts, and images from all types of people. 

We wonder why we’re so divided.

I know what you’re thinking, though: “It’s my feed, I’ll block who I want.  I shouldn’t have to be offended.  I don’t have time for that.  Life is too short.  I only want to see what I want to see.”

So… please block or delete me if you can’t handle what I post.  It’s ok.  I am a big boy.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.  I can handle it when someone doesn’t.  I don’t offend easily. 

Apparently many people do.

CONCLUSION #3

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!  – Albert Einstein

People are stupid.

We all act stupid at some point.  Yes… including me.

Now before anyone thinks I am calling someone specific stupid… I am not.

It’s just that, unfortunately, some people act stupid most of the time.

We live in the age of sound bites, Cliff’s Notes, tweets and slogans. We live in a world where American attention spans have been constantly dwindling for the last couple decades. This isn’t totally our fault; partly it’s because we’re constantly bombarded with more news stories and advertisements than ever before.  We have a generation that receives their “news” from Facebook.  That is the extent of their “world view”. 

One would need to be very concerned if they determined their political views from their Facebook feed.  https://i2.wp.com/www.psychalive.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/cell-phone-addiction.jpg

Yet… here we are America.

Based upon my Facebook experience, I am convinced that we live in a society that has more information at their fingertips yet people have no world view that matters. We have “smart phones” but stupid people.  As smart and educated as you may think you are, you cannot with 100% certainty believe you know everything. It’s impossible because it’s impossible to know everything. I am always amazed at the level of self-importance people place on themselves.  I read posts from people who for their entire life have never traveled as far as 100 miles from their home, except maybe for a week or two of vacation or mission’s trips. Suddenly they are experts on the world and diplomacy.  They convince themselves that they know the ins and outs of government and have a solution for all. 

So no one can call me a hypocrite, I consider myself to be a fairly educated and logical person. I have a degree and I have worked in ministry and I’ve worked in the public sector. (I have a wide variety of experience, in other words.)

Yet with all of this experience and learning under my belt, I am still clueless about many, many things, and I know it.  To me it is a waste of time to argue or make assumptions about things one cannot know for 100% certainty.  There are aspects about politics that I will never understand.  Regardless how many hours I study or who teaches me.  It simply doesn’t matter if I know all the answers.  The most important aspect of any real truth in life is what I do about Jesus Christ.  Did He exist?  Is He who He said He was? Did He pay the price for the forgiveness of my sin on the cross? Can salvation be found in Him?  My commitment is to have faith and believe that He said who He said He was and to accept Him into to my life as Lord.  Everything else really doesn’t matter. That includes all aspects of politics. I don’t need to know everything and I most certainly don’t.

CONCLUSION #4

Facebook is infested with trolls.

Attention from half-truths and shallow talking points are what these people feed off of.  They post to get a rise.  They are keyboard warriors trying to get you to bite at their click bait posts.

These people don’t deserve our attention; they’re just antagonists.

Antagonists are against the norm. They don’t want rules, or at least not rules that apply to them.  Rules for you are OK.  They just want to fight and prefer it to be unmediated.

That is exactly the platform Facebook provides. It’s a place where people feel comfortable making huge rhetorical leaps, without facing the challenge of having to back it up.

There’s no magical government agency that surveys Facebook statuses for people’s input. There isn’t any Facebook fact-finding agency that evaluates all posts to see if there is any truth to them or not.  Buyer beware.  If you make the mistake of clicking on one of these posts and you comment that it is wrong, or at least disingenuous, you’ll likely get an earful from a troll.

CONCLUSION #5

Political debate is not a function of Facebook.

Up until about mid-2009, I used to regularly engage in political discussions with people on Facebook. I enjoyed debating people. However, I stopped.

Every now and then I’d read an ignorant statement or a regurgitation of official government propaganda and I’d be tempted to throw in my two cents. I would like to say that I always held my comments and did not respond to them but I can’t. Usually I would come to my senses and exercise some self-control. (Usually)… but last week I bit the click bait and commented. I paid a price for that.

When you’re talking politics, the zealots and the gullible really come out of the woodwork. I always come across several conspiracy theorists and the “my political party is always right” party adherents.

I have zero patience for people who toe their party line as a gut reaction. To me, this shows a lack of critical thinking and a lack of consideration of other people’s viewpoints or beliefs. It’s very selfish and very lazy. This is true whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, liberal, conservative, anarchist, communist, or something else.

If you can’t even entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, why even converse with others? If you already know everything, what more is there to learn? Of course, this point of view is absurd.

With Facebook, there’s no fact checking or moderation; it has turned into a place where people come to blast opinions at each other and then walk away after pissing off their friends. They do not have to “prove” anything.

Instead, even if your friends disagree with you, Facebook should be used to maintain your friends network, not destroy it.  Coming online to burn bridges with people who are your friends is a waste of your time.

CONCLUSION #6

The most intolerant people I know are those who say they are tolerant.

Respect is a two-edged sword, I have lost a lot of respect of people who I would call my friends and I am sure several people lost respect for me, too, and I’d be dishonest to say anything different.

I am sure that some have or will soon block or de-friend me. That is fine with me.

Discussing aspects of politics can be frustrating, tedious, and useless, all at the same time. I can become very angry at people whom I otherwise admire and respect very much. There’s enough negativity in the world without adding to it. Anger can be useful, but you know what’s more useful? Is choosing to not argue and allow people to have an opinion… even if it is wrong.  That goes for everyone involved with what gets posted on Facebook.

Allowance for tolerance is needed on both sides of an issue. 

Moving forward, I will post what I want.  I do not need anyone’s permission.  If you don’t like what I post, send me a text, an email or whatever you want.  Just don’t try to suck me into the soul crushing and fruitless black hole of Facebook political debate.

Again, just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I am wrong. It also doesn’t mean you are right either.  More importantly, because I choose not to argue on Facebook, doesn’t mean I don’t care, or even that I’ve given up having a discussion.   I just want to do it in a different setting. I’ll still write about what I believe and issues occasionally on this site.

To put it simply, arguments about politics are fruitless and empty. 

Nobody changes their mind because of a facebook post.

Facebook is not the source of truth.

It should be just about friends.

 

Hillary, Bernie, Ted, The Donald and God

I have watched the politics of these days play out in front of me… so much posturing and people speaking their opinion on things that most of them do not understand. 

I see a lot of fear in the comments made by many of these people.  The words go https://i2.wp.com/gdb.rferl.org/A6A5A683-AB53-4E5F-BB53-C1C70E3202A9_mw1024_s_n.jpgsomething like this, “We can’t let that candidate win.  Our country will never be the same if they win!!!” 

Now… let me make this clear… the purpose of this post is not to promote or disparage any of the candidates running for president.  They do that pretty well all by themselves.  My decision was made a long time ago on which candidate I will support in the coming election.  I am of the personal belief that almost everyone who is going to vote has already made up their mind as well. 

I keep hearing the volume get turned up over the past few weeks of the campaign and it all becomes a mishmash of meaningless drivel and catcalls of who is lying more than the other person.  I have come to the conclusion that what is driving all this rhetoric is a fear that reveals a poor understanding of who is really in charge.

To think we have 8 more months of this.  It’s exhausting.

This has been an election cycle that has brought out the worst in people.

And this “worst” applies to EVERYONE. 

NO ONE gets a pass on this.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given people a chance to do and say pretty much whatever they want to any person they wish.  As a result many people do a lot of things which they would never contemplate doing in real life or face to face  – and it seems more prevalent because there are so many platforms for people to use in expressing their opinions.

Both political parties – Republicans and Democrats – are known for getting carelessly carried away with name calling when stakes and tensions are high in the political arena. Regardless, there is no excuse for this type of name-calling that has surfaced, especially if you are a Christian.

What you speak are not just words.  They mean something.  They reveal something about you.

In the last 24 hours, I have been called ignorant, judgmental, a moron, uneducated, naive, racist, stupid, a woman-hater, a hypocrite, a bigot, a pinhead,  an idiot,  a rape-loving, gay-bashing wing-nut and a slew of other names that are not fit for repeating on this website. 

All while getting lectured by an 22-year-old college student enlightening to me on the failures of George W. Bush that have caused ALL of our current problems and the finer nuances of the political process. Informing me how great Obama has been and that I am un-American and I represent all of these names if I don’t support Bernie.

This phenomenon occurs when someone becomes ten foot tall and bullet proof when addressing others on FACEBOOK.  It is a common practice for them to make bold statements, on the internet, knowing there is no way to be held accountable.

If you’re selling anger and scorn against conservative Christians, the market is hot.

Now for the record… I do not offend easily.  Pretty much you can say what you want to my face and I can handle it.  At work, I hear bad language all the time and I do not wear my Christianity on my sleeve to the point that I get offended at the drop of a hat.  So I want to make clear that these hateful words were not written specifically towards me, but were thrown in my direction and posted on Facebook last night.  These words were posted to anyone who supports anyone other than Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. 

The saddest truth is… that most of these words but not all were posted by a young man who calls himself a born again Christian.

Whether or not this young man is a believer or not is not mine to judge. 

God will do that one day. 

However, I wanted to so much respond to his rant and express to him that I had t-shirts that were older than him and that I wasn’t the person that was so naive. 

He was all of six years old when George Bush took office and what possible life experiences could he possibly have that would give him the unmitigated gall to lecture others about George Bush, Obama, Hillary, Bernie, Trump or the political process.

I wanted to go “Chuck Norris” on him and give him a piece of my mind… but I didn’t.  

As a matter of fact, the only comments about politics I have made in the previous months leading up to tonight were to make sure you voted.

I have held my tongue… I am glad I have.  I have learned long ago that NOTHING changes by your political posts on FACEBOOK.

It makes me wonder whatever happened to common sense among those in politics and those who make it their business to opine about politics and politicians.  The incredibly ill-received and offensive comments about rape and abortion that were flung from politicians during this election cycle are among the most horrendous assertions I have ever heard.

Shame on each and every one of us who have been unable to control their verbal outbursts, as well as their written feelings during this campaign season. 

That goes for EVERYONE… Christian’s included. 

Our Facebook and Twitter accounts do not give us free rein to say whatever we want without ramifications.  There is a price to be paid and each one of us are going to have to give account to God for our actions.  I found it enlightening that after an hour or so of just berating and tearing down Hillary or Trump supporters (depending on your position) some of these same people were trying to post comments about how great  God is and He is in control. But you surely wouldn’t know that by their earlier posts. 

I want to desperately scream for everybody to just take a deep breath and play nice.  I want to tell them to take time to censor yourself… learn some self-control in how you respond.  Others read and do judge you by the comments that you put out there on Facebook and Twitter… you can’t take them back.  Once posted it is out there for people to read what is truly going on in your head and in your heart.  What I have read is hate… and you can’t cover that up by posting a “spiritual” comment a few minutes later.  They do not offset each other equally.

Being incredibly insensitive and unnecessarily offensive in your comments sets a bad example for all.  It ruins friendships and it divides families.  I have had to make the sad choice to delete some people off my friends list because of their comments over the past few days.  These include people who I hope are embarrassed at what they posted in the heat of the moment.  However, for me, I saw really what was in the hearts of some of my friends and it scares me.  I do understand that mistakes happen,  I have made my fair share and I know that I am not perfect but I have to take a stand somewhere.

Furthermore, the entire world is watching those who claim Christ as Savior and many people are embarrassing themselves and their testimony for Christ.  I hope they learn to express their strong, differing views in a way that shows the world that as believer’s  – with their right to free speech – can express their political differences respectfully no matter which side they are on.

News Flash!!!  God is not surprised by or wringing His hands in fear over the political process that is going on in America.

Do not automatically assume your support of a candidate is equal to God’s approval.  There is a BIG difference between God’s approval and what He will allow to happen. 

We need to measure politics and policies by God’s unchanging character and revealed truth.  For those who wonder where we are headed as a country, I don’t know where all of could lead.  It will keep all of us up some nights I am sure but remember not all is lost.

Questions arise when fearsome things happen.

Fear is natural.   We ask ourselves what’s next?   What will happen to us?  What are we supposed to do in times like these?  How did God allow this to happen?  It is during times like these when we have no real understanding as to the “why” and all we really want is answers.

Now I don’t know the answers why things like this happen.  I know that they have been going on since the beginning of time.  Throughout the ages God has allowed these type of things to happen. 

It is not for us to question.

I think that during these times we have to remain confident that God is indeed in control and understand that He has a plan.

God’s redemption and God’s presence are the reasons we need to trust God and  understand that He is control.   In the midst of difficult days, the reassurance of God’s redemption for the future and His presence in our lives will sustain us during the trials at hand.   Do not fear because our today’s and tomorrow’s are all taken care of.   God has a plan and He is with us. 

I think these ripples of chaos are only the first glimpses of what is tohttps://i2.wp.com/www.mikaelakate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Mikaela-Kate-Are-You-Ready.jpg come.

The Bible is clear about what is going to happen in the end times.  There are those who are predicting the end of times, however, I will not go there. I am not one to make predictions. Mainly because I believe that Jesus Christ could come back at any time… maybe even today.

The Lord’s coming is closer than it has ever been.

The question is are you ready?

 

 

 

Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Hoping To Find A Better Way

As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events.

Good people.  Well-meaning people. All with different opinions.  All saying they are not arguing The-problem-with-arguing-with-idiotsbut just trying to prove they are right and that the person who disagrees with them is not just wrong but that they are an idiot.

Who is right and who is wrong?

To be honest most of the people I see making comments and posting on FACEBOOK do not have clue as to what they are talking about. Most of them have grown up in protected environments and have NEVER faced anything remotely close to what is going on in the news. That includes me as well.

I find it so ridiculous that so many of the posts on my FACEBOOK wall are re-posted from satire political sources. If you are re-posting stuff without doing some research to see that it is legit then why bother? All you are showing is your ignorance. If you’re getting your news from “The Onion” or any other satire site and thinking it is real then you have a serious problem.

Here is NEWS for you… ALL NEWS SOURCES and the Republicans, Democrats and the much hated, Tea-Party ALL have sites that are filled with propaganda. All of these “sources” have agendas and they play all of us. I constantly get posts that when truly researched there is just enough truth to stay on topic but the trouble starts in the details of the articles. Most of it is WRONG. Again… those of you posting  those things, please at least try to do some research.

People try to come off on FACEBOOK as if they have the answer… they are right and if you disagree wrong_thumbyou are naïve, uneducated and/or just plain stupid. They present themselves as having the answer to all problems because so many of them post and comment on things such as the issues in Ferguson, the Eric Garner Death in New York, Immigration, Amnesty, the Keystone Pipeline, Voter ID laws, Fracking, Global Warming, Net Neutrality and a boatload of other topics.  Now most of these people I know. I know where they come from and I know where they grew up. In most cases I know their education level. Most of those I see post barely got out of high school and if they did go on to college they surely did not take the subject matter to be the experts and know-it-alls they come off to be on FACEBOOK.

Now before you think I am coming off as being the only “smart one”… I am not. I learned long ago that FACEBOOK is not the arena to discuss or have legitimate debate about issues of politics, science, music or Christianity.  Truth is… I don’t have all the answers and I don’t waste my time trying to convince people to change their mind on FACEBOOK.  I know what I believe and I know what I think.  People are entitled to have their opinion and have a right to believe what they believe. But just because you think differently from me does not make you right.

I have discovered that those issues I tried to convince people was right when I was 30 years old were really wrong now that life experience has shown me how wrong I was.

I don’t care if you post what you believe or even what you think… but if you are trying to use FACEBOOK as a platform to change people’s minds you are crazy. People do not want to discuss or debate…they want to ARGUE. I have yet to meet anyone that said…”Wow, I am glad you posted that article from (Blue Nation Review / Fox News) cause it changed my mind and now I am going to become a (liberal / conservative)”.

So who is right and who is wrong?  That’s not for me to decide.

Again, truth is… none of these well-meaning people have the “right” to tell the other that they are wrong or right.  It only causes a deeper divide in this country.

We are more polarized than ever. No matter what side of the coin you are on… each think that the person on the other side is wrong and an idiot. There once was a time that we could find common ground… now I think we have lost that in America… sadly I think our country will never be the same. HERE IS MORE NEWS… WE ARE ALL TO BLAME FOR THIS!!!

At least for a few moments can we experience  “peace on earth and good will to men” even if that simply means with those friends that disagree with you.

For this moment, for this season, can we put down our verbal weapons? Can we call a truce?

Can hate not be so strong?

There has to be a better way.

Can we try to finish 2014 and enter 2015 with peace and hope of goodwill where there once was division, hate, unrest and hateful words.

In this Christmas Season… let’s have our conversation stay out of the mine fields of division and let’s love our families while we can regardless of which side of the argument they fall on. My prayer that we honestly experience peace on earth in our relationships and in our families.

Merry Christmas and let us all hope for a better way.