Saturday, June 29, 2013

Man Weds His Goldfish

The Supremes just handed down a decision that said “Federally” speaking, gay marriage is Okey Dokey.  I’m on the fringe here I suspect, but I’m not exactly advocating a position.   I’d just like to consider for a moment what we actually want to pass into criminal and civil law in our society.  I suspect you’ve all figured out by now, that we have way too many laws and regulations as it is.  As a police officer I quickly realized that I could stop almost anyone for a violation of something if I watched them for even a few minutes.  Do we really want to criminalize marriage between same sex individuals, minors, or men who have a passionate longing for their goldfish. 

Consider these headlines:  “Supreme Court affirms laws that prohibit coveting thy neighbor’s wife”…“Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking the Lord’s name in vain”…“Child found not guilty of charge of not honoring is mother and father” These aren’t laws, but certainly could be considered for that status just the same as marriage is.  I don’t hear anyone complaining that they aren’t laws in this country, though they might be in other countries where father’s have the right to commit honor killings of their offspring.

How much to you want to subject to the legal system what is really God’s right to judge?  You all know by now that I have a deep concern for those who struggle with homosexuality.  It is a difficult life and usually unasked for life, not only due to prejudicial treatment, but also because they statistically have higher rates of HIV disease, depression and even as married couples live on average about 20 years less than their hetero counterparts.  These are people that need our love and concern as much as anyone else, regardless of our disagreement with their choices.

Yet I remain divided in my thinking here.  After all, we have laws against murder and theft that I sure don’t want to see taken off the books.  Where should the line be drawn between necessary moral legislation and societal needs?  Who should make that judgment?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Every problem we face, every painful experience we encounter puts us in touch with ourselves.  How we manage those experiences will determine whether we grow from them or are crippled by them.  Issues we refuse to deal with and changes that we need to make are often lifelong baggage for people.  Even the worst painful emotional experience can give us the opportunity to take control of who we can become.

Pain should make us grow.  You’ve heard the weight lifter’s slogan “No Pain, No Gain.”  Muscles need to be worked to enlarge and strengthen.  Did you know your bones work the same way and add density based on the stresses they are exposed to?  Lifting the remote to change the TV channel just won’t cut it.  When I used to teach police officers martial arts I often made a point to show them that the physical manipulations and application of pain was not to hurt but rather to give direction to the person’s behavior.  Movement in one direction by an arrestee would be facilitated by creating pain.  The person would naturally move in the direction to reduce pain, which was the direction the officer wanted (usually to the ground where handcuffs were applied) so the Judge could take over the process.  Pain is also a powerful teacher in light of the “direction” a life can go.  It is the essence of the criminal justice system, and to a large degree it works.  The Bible used pain in child rearing as a tool for growth in behavior.  The “rod” may not be your choice for getting your child’s attention, but consequence of some type is a necessary element of growth.  Painful consequence gets our attention…and if we pay attention to it we can make the choices in our lives that will expand our horizons and make us better people, whether we are talking about divorce, job loss, rejection by friends, death of loved ones, addiction experiences and a host of other things.

How do you relate to pain?  Do you get frustrated?  Do you just ignore the experience and wall it off somewhere in your mind?  Do you use substances to dull that emotional pain so you don’t have to think about it?  These unproductive escapist ways of dealing with emotional pain can’t help you grow.  In order to grow you must choose a positive point of view for your life.  Life is the way it is, what matters is the decision you make on how to cope with it.  In many ways “you get what you expect” in life.  If your expectations are positive, things often go that way.  The opposite is true for those with a bad attitude, and the worst often has an uncanny way of finding them.

Pay attention to the experience and internalize the lesson.  We often make the same mistakes and do the same stupid things that the lesson was supposed to teach us not to do.  Accept the value of having all those bad experiences, because generally you don’t grow without them.  Can you imagine yourself being tied up and not struggling to get free?  Are you expecting the good fairy to come and tap you with her wand to free you and make your life perfect?  Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.  Use the experience to your benefit.

Ultimately, you have to take responsibility for your own life and the choices you make.  Otherwise you wallow in your experiences and pity yourself as a victim for the rest of your life.  The world is not required to treat you fairly, so bad experiences will come.  As John Maxwell once said “A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Growth Atmosphere

I work some for an organization that has the worst atmosphere for success I have ever encountered.  There is poor supervision and management, no encouragement, little effective communication and a general feeling that you are nothing more than an easily replaceable cog in a wheel like the big machines we work with.  Loads of lip service and platitudes and slogans abound to foster “growth” in the organization…but really nothing to foster real growth in each employee.  To top it off, the atmosphere is one of fear that if you step out of the box, you will be fired.  Sometimes, if you do look like you are doing better work and standing out, you become a threat to your supervisor and are soon neutralized.

Some people may like an atmosphere like that.  They know what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.  They get by with the minimum expectation like machines.  Can you imagine a plant existing in an atmosphere like that…one with no water, no sun, no dirt, no space to expand.  It’s not natural for the plant and it’s not natural for you.

What is healthier is growth that gives you the opportunity like the plant does, to produce a flower so to speak.  How does that happen for you?  Whether you work in a factory or an office or even work just for yourself in your own environment, to grow you need that special atmosphere.  Here’s what I think that atmosphere should look like:

Others are ahead of you
You are continually challenged
Your focus is forward
The atmosphere is affirming
You are often out of you comfort zone
You wake up excited
Failure is not an enemy
Others are growing
People desire change
Growth is modeled and EXPECTED

These are not new ideas.  The first time I saw them, John Maxwell related them, and I think they are pretty universally accepted and time proven.  If you are not experiencing this kind of atmosphere, you should consider that you are not in the right place.  I know I’m not, but fortunately I have other jobs that do provide that growth atmosphere.  It is amazing to contrast how I feel in the different environments and what I am able to accomplish by comparison.

Trust me, you’ll notice the difference when you find it.  Go look for it!

Don't Pray?

How do you pray?  I am always amazed at the flowery and endless prayers by worship leaders and pastors.  I’m intimidated when anyone asks me to do spontaneous public prayer.  Is that what we are supposed to admire and emulate?  Why do we do it?  The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and He gave us a pretty simple prayer, why do we often insist on trying to out do Him?

Prayer is about a heart and mind connection.  It’s listening as much as speaking to God.  I don’t think it is for public consumption primarily, even though we do it that way so often.  The “trappings” of religiosity and meaningless repetition in prayer Jesus specifically spoke against.  Those who show off their religion in public received his censure.  In Matthew Jesus specifically admonishes us to “go in our room” and pray in secret rather than show off our piousness like the Pharisees did.

At night, sometimes for my prayers I just lay there wordless in bed sort of basking in God's love…feeling like I'm in arms wrapped around me that I fully trust and who I know belong to someone who has my back and loves me more than anything (kinda like a spouse, which I miss by the way.)

Is there a time for community prayer out loud?  Yes, I think there are specific times and situations where agreement among the believers in spoken prayer is right.  However, I don’t think that is the way we usually do it with proper thought before hand and for the right motives.

What do you think?  What has been your experience?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"I'm From The Government and I'm Here To Help!"

‘Scuse me, but I’m confused.  The past few weeks have proven by admissions that the head of the IRS and one of the local IRS heads, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Attorney General himself have lied to Congress and the American people.  Susan Rice has been proven to either have lied herself about the Beghazi attack murders of our State Department officials or else been provided lies approved by members of the Administration.  Does this seem like a lot of liars to you?  Sure does to me.  I am not trying to be partisan here, because I know we’ve had liars in other administrations regardless of political party, but this is getting ‘endemic’ in the way it is surfacing.  That tells me the climate of lies is expected from the top down.  Either the President is in on this, or he is completely incompetent and has no idea what his people are structuring.

And now the President comes out and basically says we have to trust our Federal Government or we are some pretty sorry pathetic citizens (my phrasing at the end there, but it was the way he shook his head and “emoted it” as far I saw.) 

Are you kidding me???????

I spent 40 years working for the government, and the last thing you want is blind trust in the government.  Are most of them honest, hard-working and trying to do good for us all?  You bet they are, but you better not take your eye off of them, because that can change in a heartbeat.

You Don't Get Measured For Your Crown

My friend Jerri used the phrase “performance-based Christianity” once and it has stuck in my mind.  We live in a world of catch phrases and words that are used in business and by those “in the know.”  They often make me laugh when I hear them because they are complicated ways of saying very simple truths (“performance-based” is one, and I love the “global strategic prepositioning” one.)  We often use them to make ourselves sound knowledgeable and part of the in-crowd.  I like the way Jerri used “performance-based” as a kind of modern day “put down” on the oft-interpreted idea that Christians are not good enough unless they do certain things.  Her humor points out the real issue nicely: We are insistent that we create a more complicated way to do something simple.

Jesus died for your sins and was resurrected from the dead.  If you believe that, life just got simple for you.  Why make it more complicated?  The idea that you have to do something to make yourself worthy is completely opposite the message that Jesus came to bring.  You see you can’t do anything to earn your salvation.  You might make yourself feel better if you do a bunch of really great stuff.  You might make other people feel better, too.  I don’t see a problem with that, and it certainly fits in with the whole message of the Bible that you are commanded to love your neighbor as yourself.  That is a big part of our job here on earth as I see it, and we could spend all day talking about how we should carry that out in different ways.  But the main issue is doing those things is not something that you get brownie points, S&H Green Stamps, Mileage Plus Miles, etc. for!  You don’t get measured for your crown.  I like the way Jesus put it in the parable about the guys who got hired last to work in the fields and were paid the same as the ones who worked from early morning.  It always drove me nuts to think they would be treated the same and paid what I would have gotten.  They didn’t pay their dues!   They didn’t sweat as much.  I’d be talking to my union rep if it happened to me…but that’s the human in me talking…and thank goodness God doesn’t think like me.  The workers all contracted for the same end result. 

The end result is salvation, and you get it when you sign the contract.

Now, one afterthought:  How serious are you about your faith if your “performance” is non-existent?  Paul addresses that when he says “faith without works is dead.”  YOU demonstrate your faith with your performance within the limits of being a sinful human being.  You aren’t going to be perfect…we can’t be by the very definition of our fallen nature.  But you need to think every day about where you should be…

The Opiate of the People

I am fascinated by Karl Marx’s words, which are often quoted about religion.  Usually, they are stated in brief that “religion is the opiate of the people.”  (I think in modern society we seem to have moved to a quicker version and made “opiates the opiate of the people” with our ever-burgeoning drug abuse culture.) Actually, the whole Marx quote is kind of interesting to evaluate:Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”

Marx actually appeared to have a real concern for the welfare and happiness of people, but I think Marx really didn’t understand religion very well.  A reasonable reading of the Bible, especially the New Testament, clearly shows a demand for an active role in this world by the believer to make it a better place for all.  Showing care for the poor, the sick, and the disheartened is clearly laid out to be the goal of Christians in the here and now.  Sure, there is knowledge of a better existence to come when life is done on earth for the believer, but that doesn’t release a believer from the responsibility for others in the here and now.  Marx, unfortunately, thought that government could and would rise to the occasion and make life wonderful for all if we could get rid of religion.  Unfortunately, religion, even by most atheists’ admissions, is the driving force in establishing moral guidance for people and governments (and I think the waning of it is one of the reasons our government in the U.S. is losing its way.)  Left to our own devices we are prone to the lowest common denominator of self-interest, and care very little about the condition of our fellow man.  The Communist experiment to drive religion out of the life of a country proved very clearly that it didn’t work out like its proponents thought it would.  The utterly ruthless amoral dictators rose to positions of power and committed incredibly heinous acts against a populace that soon sank into a collapsed economic system.

You see, if you actually pay attention to what God actually says, he really makes sense…

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Dangers of Collectivism

Groups find power in numbers, and everyone knows it is hard to win a war without a huge, well-equipped and trained army.  Yes there are exceptions like unique generals with great strategy, and then of course there was David and Goliath, but generally you need the numbers behind what you wish to fight for.

So what happens?  We see the formation of Unions to represent workers.  Lots of good intentions there!  They want safer work environments and elimination of discriminatory practices…but ultimately what happens is they want “freebies.”   Give us higher pay, more days off, restrict employer ability to hire and fire, and the list goes on.  As the numbers grow in these unions, the financial and political clout gets enormous, as does their ability to bribe.

Corporations can be small, but the ones we think about and hear about most often are huge.  They form to dominate a particular business environment and gain tax advantages by doing so.  Ultimately, as they grow, they seek concessions from the government to improve their standing.  They, too, want “freebies.”  They make sure they donate to candidates who will improve their standing in the business marketplace.  As their corporation grows, so does their financial and political power and their ability to bribe.

That pretty much takes care of everyone in the United States with just those two collectives (though there are others with varying degrees of power as well.) Pretty soon whichever side has the most collective power and the money assembled behind it selects and keeps in power those who feed them properly with their “freebies.”

Our elected officials were seen as a buffer against “pure democracy” which has a tendency to offer the opportunity to vote in a manner that directly demands freebies.  It was thought that an impassive bunch of educated, honest, incorruptible, democratically elected statesmen would weigh the issues and the consequences and “do the right thing” when they voted on issues affecting citizens of the United States of America  (I think they also thought it was a hedge against the fact that they believed many of the people they were giving the vote to were too dumb or ill-informed to deserve it.)  Leaders doing the “right thing” is a high ideal…and obviously one not often met these days.  Unfortunately our forefathers didn’t see the politics of money and collectivism or envision a “class of career political elites” seeking to be in power for life and needing to keep their various “collectives” happy enough to fund their campaigns and keep them cloaked in the robes of power.  And that, unfortunately is the real problem with collectives.  There is little that can be done to put ‘true leaders’ into the seats of power when individuals leading collectives make the selections.

Then eventually you get a candidate who tries to make one great collective out of the people and go directly to them through the internet.  Unfortunately, for them  it’s still about those who want “freebies” that are not necessarily in the best interest of the country’s survival…and it’s still about staying in power (so I’m still harping on term limits, no private funding for campaigns, and lots of public funded television debates for the candidates.)