Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quote For Today

Leadership is solving problems. The day (your people) stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

-Colin Powell- (he said 'your soldiers', but I think it's applicable to any situation so 'your people' is what I inserted.)

And The Beat Goes On...

Loud music styles…why is it we take ALL our cues for church music now from the pop media and their music?…we are dumb sheep followers!  Somehow we feel that if we look, sound, and act exactly like the modern world, then we can fool everyone and get people inside the walls of the church building.  Are we going to dress up like Miley Cyrus next? 

I recently went to another concert of some well-known Christian recording artists in a church and was appalled at the fact that the music was so loud I needed ear plugs.  Before I put them in my ears, I noted that I could not understand the words that were being sung.  What makes the music any different from KISS or Def Leopard if you can’t hear the words in Christian songs???  This act I watched in the concert kept changing costumes and doing dance routines throughout the show…they had FOUR drummers pounding away…and yet kept saying “this is not about US!”  Come on, give me a break!

Jesus didn’t say…ooooh, I need to wear those long tassel robes when I talk to people or they might not listen.  He didn’t say I need to go out in sack cloth and ashes every day to show how pious I am.  That was the custom of the pop culture of the Judeans of the time.  He didn’t say…ooooh, I need to wear a Roman soldier uniform to get people’s attention.  That was the dominant ruler of the day.  No, he just relied on speaking words of truth (well, OK he had the handy ability to raise the dead and heal the sick too…and that trick with the loaves and fishes, wow!) 

Mind you, I’m not saying modern music styles are wrong to use.  I don’t care if you play rock, rap or acoustic blues in church, but you better have a clear Christian message with it.  And I still say if we can’t at least make the words of truth heard in our Christian songs without deafening everyone, we might as well not play ‘em.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I think it amazing that people have so much trouble intellectually with Christianity.  They find all sorts of reasons to reject belief.  They read the Bible and say, how can this or that be true?

One of those discussions I read recently was a discussion on the age of the earth.  Scientists date it in the billions of years and some ill informed Christians date it specifically in the range of 6,000 years.  Part of the struggle is the idea that the Bible is a book of science like a textbook in school.  It is not.  The Bible clearly delineates history of a people in the middle-east, but there is quite likely a huge span of time from the creation of the universe until the discussion of Adam and Eve.  It talks of six periods of time involved in the creation and then a period of rest.  It does not use a Hebrew word that only defines a 24-hour day for each period of time.  We have no way of saying if these periods of time were even uniform.  It uses words like evening and morning (metaphoric beginnings and endings of epochs) before the sun and the moon are even created.  It is clearly a rather general and poetic description of the process of creation.  But, does any of that really matter?  Why let something like that be a hindrance to your faith?  God created the universe out of nothing but his word.  Quite literally it is an expression of his being, as are we. 

I guess the final thing that always amazes me about the lack of belief in Jesus being God’s Son (in whatever manner that is used to describe his relationship) is that so many people can’t believe he rose from the dead as he said he would.  It is fundamental to the Christian faith.  I think the strongest testimony is that 10 of the closest eyewitnesses (his disciples) to his being alive, after seeing him crucified, dead and buried,were all killed horribly in the years to follow for their belief in his divinity.  Most of them expected to be killed for their belief and outspoken attitude.  People don’t willingly die for a lie that they know is a lie.

We don’t need to know precisely how the universe was created, but we do need to know who Jesus Christ is.

I Can't Get No...Satisfaction...

I read something interesting the other day that started my mind wandering about what makes us happy and satisfied in life.  It’s not something we study and think about much, we just keep blindly looking for it.  Type in the word and the first thing on an internet search that comes up is the Rolling Stones.  They sang about it and never came up with an answer.  So what is the answer?

What I read had to do with a study on “work satisfaction.”  Their conclusion was that employees are satisfied with work that they think has value, where they work with people they like, and when they get affirmation/appreciation/recognition for what they do (which only in part involves adequate pay.)

Why does a study on work satisfaction make my mind wander?  Because these “discoveries” in their research actually apply to just about everything in our lives.  Think of it this way, even in marriage we want to know that the relationship has value, that you like the person you are with, and that you are appreciated.  If you belong to a church you look for the same things, too, don’t you?  How many times have I heard someone say, “I just haven’t found the right church home to join yet.”  I can guarantee you they are looking for some expression of these three things.

So what’s the point of talking about all this?  I think that we all need to think about it from the opposite viewpoint of not what we are looking for, but “what we are giving out.”  Do you offer something of value?  Do you seek to present yourself as someone likeable?  And most often neglected, do you appreciate and recognize folks adequately for what they do and who they are?  I believe this last one is the most often neglected.  I just don’t think anyone can appreciate someone enough and in enough ways. 

When is the last time you told your wife how much you appreciate her?  When did you recognize that employee of yours for the good job they did or how much you rely on their hard work?  When did you share with your friends what they mean to you?  I just don’t think we could ever spend enough time building up those around us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Diligent Beauty

I was in a store the other day and I saw a young lady diligently working on a manual task behind the counter.  She handed me my change and it was then that I noticed she had nail polish on.  The interesting part was that she only had a thumb.  The remaining fingers were gone, the apparent result of a birth defect.  What struck me about this was two things.  First, she was still using that stump to function with a complicated manual task assembling something behind the counter that required two hands.  Second, was that she considered her hand pretty and important enough to warrant pink nail polish on her remaining fingernail.  She gave me my change with a brillant smile that showed how truly beautiful she was.

We often focus on our shortcomings to our detriment.  We tell ourselves we are limited and can’t do things because of our handicaps, our lack of skill, our deficient education, or whatever setbacks stand in front of us.  We quit.  We also stop thinking “outside the box” to solve problems and we most often lose the incentive to put in the extra effort to succeed in spite of our handicap.  I’ve noticed since the passage of the American’s With Disabilities Act that it is more common to file lawsuits over perceived failures to comply, than it is to find ways to function in a less than perfect environment.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t comply with reasonable accommodation and the outline of the laws regarding handicaps, but sometimes this whole thing gets silly.

I recently encountered a complaint that adequate Braille labeling had not been put up to allow someone to differentiate one appliance from another in a public facility.  If I shut my eyes and turned on the machine I could instantly tell what it was, so it set me to thinking…do we have to label the coffee pot, the towel dispenser, the toilet as to their function in Braille.  It gets pretty ridiculous if you let your mind wander.  (We had a fully sighted employee years ago who liked to label stuff, like “tool box” “manuals” and the like.  One other rather snarky employee who was annoyed by it came in one day and decided to label the countertop “countertop” and even labeled the floor as the “floor.”)

So, back to the girl with the smile.  She could have easily said, “I need special accommodation and someone else will have to do this task.”  She didn’t.  She learned how to adapt to the situation successfully.  How often do we adapt to our handicapped life situations?  Whether they be physical or emotional we are always challenged to make the effort and not sink back into that dark place where we expect others to always do for us.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Show Me The Money

OK, let’s take a minute here to put things into perspective.  Take a dollar bill and stack it onto another one.  Paper thin.  Not much height to that.  Well, keep stacking those paper thin bills on top of each other, and do it until you have 16,699 trillion of them stacked up.  You could stack them to the moon more than four times doing that.  That represents the current debt of the federal government.  That does take into account any borrowing by individual states or local governments…and it doesn’t even start to consider the $11.13 trillion in personal debt that Americans carry as individuals and families.

So, yesterday congress finally came to an agreement about this problem…and once again raised our debt limit so we can borrow even more money.  The “evil republicans” who want to reduce our spending have once again been put in their place.

Plato said democracies can’t work because voters will always vote for their self interests rather than the common good.  John F. Kennedy was famously quoted - ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.  And still, twenty years later we became a “debtor country” due to our ever-increasing need to consider our materialism and personal self-interest over the common good.

Paul made a good comment in the New Testament letter to Timothy that love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.  Material cravings inevitably lead us astray from our faith and from good government practices.  Proverbs warn that “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”  On the world stage, that is the last place we need to be right now!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Religious Persecution In America

"Before Allah closes our eyes for the last time, you will see Islam move from being the second largest religion in America—that's where we are now—to being the first religion in America…Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant…the Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."  Now that Os Guinness has made these statements by Ahmad and Abdul-Malik public, denials have come forward by Ahmad.  Just the same, I find the whole thing kind of scary.  And remember, the Islamic faith expects to be the government, not just a place you attend church or a faith you follow.  It will not be a democracy.  Look forward to “honor killings” and “public stoning” (and I don’t mean getting high on pot!  Also look forward to Christians or any other faith being put in jail or put to death.

Forgive me if the following is a bit disjointed, but I am truly annoyed.  We live in a country where hostility to Christians is currently tolerated and even encouraged, but religious tolerance is demanded of other faiths and in particular Islam.  The situation seems to get worse every year.  (Just as frustrating is we have a President who is strangely silent when blacks gang up on a white to beat or murder, but rages at the racial prejudice that he suspects when a white does the same to a black - prior to even knowing the facts in the case.)  We have a President who unlike the last 17 government shutdowns ((which I don’t agree with by the way)) has made an effort to make it more unpleasant for all of us while it happens.  He even has his administration officials telling chaplains in the military that they will be disciplined or arrested if they even voluntarily perform religious duties or minister to those in need (which was never done in any previous government shutdown.)   In the last three years the Pentagon has censored chaplains’ public prayers, sermons, etc. and generally intimidated those who perform those jobs in spite of congressional resolutions and demands to the contrary.  Even the National Defense Authorization Act passed last year called for religious freedom protections that have yet to be implemented by the Pentagon.  Now contrast that with the local military base…can you see the cooks being told not to prepare food?  No, you can’t and you won’t.  I worked for the government and went through government shutdowns when budgets weren’t passed.  We were told to go to work and do our jobs that the public expected us to do…and if we didn’t show up we were guaranteed we would not get any retroactive pay when the budget was passed.  Our president’s decision not to talk, negotiate, or compromise on anything, but rather use tactics of intimidation is divisive beyond belief.  Here is a guy who came in to office on the platform of working together and reaching across the aisle and yet has become the most obstinate and divisive president in the last 150 years.

Did you know that it is proven by repeated surveys that religion lowers the risk of substance abuse?  Yet we spend enormous amounts of money on drug interdiction programs and law enforcement activities to slow the rise of our ever- increasing need to run away from our lives through the use of drug and alcohol abuse.  Here’s a fact to make you realize the enormity of this potential: Those who do not attend religious services are on average five to seven times more likely to use illicit drugs and binge drink on alcohol according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.  And yet here we are letting our government stifle and intimidate the very thing that can really have an effect on the crushing societal ills we face.  I seriously question whether our President actually believes in religious freedom and tolerance.  If he does, and these things are happening around him, then I guess I just have to come to the conclusion that he is incompetent.  Either way, we need to make our voices heard on issues such as these and find elected representatives of integrity who will carry our wishes forward in action.  It is our fault if we don’t.  As I quoted elsewhere before recently from George Bernard Shaw “democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

You may all have differing viewpoints on all this and I welcome your thoughts and comments either way.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As The Beatles Once Sang - "Come Together"

George Bernard Shaw claimed that "democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

Once upon a time our country was founded upon the principles of consensus and compromise.  Sure, we built in the mechanics of simple majority vote and for larger issues we demanded a more involved process and larger percentage than a simple majority (like constitutional amendments.)  But still, we were more unified in our approach and held to the idea of a basic moral consensus and expected our political leaders to reflect and advance this consensus for the common good.  We don’t do that anymore.  In fact, I don’t believe we live in a society that has a moral consensus at all anymore.  So much of what we have become is a product of the 60s “if it feels good, do it” mentality of “me first.”  So compromise in our country becomes difficult.  As a result we do things like we just did in shutting down the federal government by not passing a budget.

Partisan politics rules the day rather than effective compromise and consensus decisions.  I, like many others, believe our lack of moral foundational beliefs is the root cause.  The democrats have their world view, the TEA party has theirs, and the rest of the GOP has its own beliefs.  They all use what power they have to try to achieve their goals without compromise.  When you get right down to it, they reflect the segment of people that elected them, and that is proof enough to me that our own society is lacking in a moral consensus.  We are broken as a country. 

We have a growing group of people in the country who even believe the government as a whole is a sham.  A mere act for the audience to watch, while real governance is hand picked and orchestrated by an illuminati of the rich and powerful.  While I think this is reductionist nonsense fostered by internet garbage, I do think it is a feature in our voting blocks (or actually non-voting blocks.)  Large parts of the populace then become totally unrepresented in the consensus process.

Before we can find leaders who are true “statesmen” who govern from a common moral viewpoint, we need to have that in the country as a whole.  If one party and segment of the population is committed to destroying babies and providing cradle to the grave care and support to all without expecting someone to make an effort in life…how can we possibly govern from the same moral viewpoint?  If another segment believes God is a useless fictional acachronism and elects their representative to be a “leader,” how can we ever reach consensus? If one party only favors the donors to their campaign, how can we ever reach consensus? 

We were formed as a nation of faith.  We need a basic moral base from which to be governed and to choose from to elect our leaders.  We no longer have that. The change must begin at the root of the problem…and that is…us!