Surprisingly, many people don’t reject Christianity because they’ve given up on God. Instead, they’ve given up on the people and things that represent God. They don’t hate Jesus, they just become tired of not finding Him within Christian culture.

As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as easier than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.But while following Christ is beautiful and worthwhile, disappointment, pain, suffering, betrayal and hurt are also a part of life, and Christians aren’t immune or excluded from these horrors. Contrary to a life of ease, comfort and luxury, following Jesus demands sacrifice, honesty, vulnerability, conflict and a lifetime dedicated to loving others. This is really hard—a commitment not meant to be taken lightly….

Yet many churches market Christianity as an easy and painless solution to all life’s problems. Instead of introducing Christianity as a path to having a relationship with God requiring time, energy, work and intense dedication, it becomes a product that promises much without hardly any sacrifice….

In fact, we actually expect things to get favorably better for us. We assume God will shine down divine blessings: salary increases, better parking spaces, health improvements, increased social popularity and championships for our favorite sports teams. We want our faith to work for us—not the other way around.

SOURCE: Christianity is Harder Than We Pretend it is | Stephen Mattson.

I am not going to add a lot to Stephen’s words here, he does a very good job of describing my feeling about being a follower of Jesus. Today’s Christianity just seems to be so watered down from what it was in the beginning. Some within the church even call it a “something for nothing faith”. Jesus’ messages have become so distorted by some of our religious leaders. Folks like Mr. Osteen who tell us Jesus meant for all of us to be millionaires and all we have to do is to send him some money and he will make that happen. Then there are those who make it a “say the correct words and then just sit back and wait”deal. Christianity, if it is practiced in its purest form, and I believe it is meant to be practiced that way,  is hard work and sometimes very difficult to live.  Jesus told us to take care of each other and by that he didn’t mean just people who you agree with from a doctrinal or political point of view. All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are children of God and we should treat each other that way.

Wall Signs….

December 20, 2014 — 2 Comments

Wall Sign Washington State 2009

 

Old time wall signs fascinate me. They are a look back into history. This one was found somewhere in Washington State, I’m just not sure where?

 

2014-11-16_08-44-26All that lovely wealth isn’t trickling down. The country’s median income hit a high of $56,080 in 1999, went into slow decline, dropped to $53,644 after the 2008 economic meltdown — and five years later, was lower still, at $52,100. Raises remain tiny. Many newly created jobs pay a pittance. For tens of millions of people, the economic recovery is an illusion.

The voters are right: Wage stagnation — and the resulting erosion of the middle class — is this country’s biggest problem. When hard work no longer produces upward mobility for workers who lack elite skills, America’s implicit promise is broken. At National Review, conservative Maggie Gallagher complains that “for more than a decade Americans have been losing ground financially, and the GOP has yet to address the issue.” In The Washington Post, liberal Harold Meyerson grouses that “the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create…widely shared prosperity.” Perhaps that’s because the standard liberal and conservative nostrums (Tax the rich! Eliminate regulations!) won’t address the fundamental problem: Globalization and technology have devalued both labor and workers, and made companies more ruthlessly competitive. Here’s a scary thought: Neither party is offering a remedy because there isn’t one.

SOURCE:  America’s broken promise – The Week.

The two hundred words above from my friends over at the Week seem to cut to the bone as the primary reason so many people are upset about how this country is proceeding.  The guy/gal who gets up every morning and puts in an eight to ten hour day working for someone else is falling further and further behind. So many people have seen their paychecks and any benefits they might have had go down for the last fifteen years while all those “rich cats” continue to rake in vulgar profits on their unearned income.  There seems to be a fundamental breakdown in our society.

As the article states this is a problem that can’t seem to be addressed by the old methods even if the GOP allowed them to happen. Democrats can’t throw enough money at this problem to make it go away and the Republican’s trickle down obviously after fifteen years is not got to happen. I will admit that globalization has a lot to do with this dilemma. So much of the rest of the world is in much worse shape economically than we are. It will be years, probably generations, before that is balanced. The old solutions just don’t work anymore.

New approaches to strengthening the large middle segment of wage earners is drastically needed. The problem is neither party in Washington seems capable of any degree of new thought. They are too busy blaming each other to find new pathways to overall prosperity. Somethings got to give sooner or later.

For all the problems that the middle have those on the margins of our society have it worse. The unemployment rate for them is astronomical. The safety net continues to erode so little or no help is seen on the horizon. Somethings got to give and I am afraid that when it does it will have some serious consequences for all of us.

Bush vs. Clinton in 2032…

December 18, 2014 — 4 Comments

This was not a banner year for youth voter participation. To be fair, off-year elections never are, but this year’s mere 12 percent participation rate of voters under 30 is about more than midterm ennui. Rather, it’s part of a larger trend of millennial disenchantment with the Washington establishment in both major parties — a trend that is primed to kick into high gear if we have a Bush vs. Clinton contest in 2016.

Bush vs. Clinton really is the perfect way to make us hate politics even more. At a gut level it feels aristocratic and distinctly un-American. At a policy level, picking between the previous decade’s leftovers isn’t much of a choice. And at a practical level I can’t help but think that my time will be better spent outside the voting booth than in it, pulling a lever for more of the same. Like much of my generation, I’d rather “take problems on in real time and fix them” — which isn’t exactly the government’s forte.

Or I suppose I could take the long view and start studying up for 2032. I’m sure George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton will run a very competitive race.

SOURCE:  Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more – The Week.

I have been a diligent voter since 1968. I don’t think I have ever missed even a mid-term election. I used to stay up late into the evening watching the political conventions. I wasn’t sure if I was a Republican or a Democrat so I watched both versions. But the last fifteen years or so, and especially the last decade, has almost completely soured me on anything political. So, I can see where my millennial friends have never shown much interest in voting.

But is this trend of the next generation of voters shunning the political process deadly to our democratic process? Only one in eight of them voted this past election and probably a similar number of African-Americans did the same. When a majority of citizens don’t think enough of the process to even vote they are leaving their fate to a small minority who do. Unfortunately that small minority is often those who thing government has no function in our society especially in the social realm. They, for the most part just want to keep their wealth to themselves. They are often the “I’ve got mine so screw you” block of electorate.

Getting to the specifics of the article above, even I suffer from “Bush vs Clinton” fatigue and since those are the two families that have dominated our politics for their entire lives I can see where millennials are too. But since the political process has become so putrid it does take a certain type of person to even consider the possibility of getting into politics. Not many even have the stomach to vote let alone run for office.

I fear for our country when I see the trend of so many giving up any connection to our political processes. Someone has to do the people’s business. I am just not a big believer in aristocracy or anarchy…..

 

2014-12-04_10-28-12The above title seems very American in its character. We Americans, me included, just don’t like others telling us what to do or especially what to think. To some extent we are all rebel rousers in that regard. Some take this to an extreme by there “don’t confuse me with the facts”. We just don’t like being told what to do.

Prohibitionist tried to mandate what we do. We let a small handful of extremists convince us that drinking beer and such was the root cause of all our problems. If only we kept people from drinking we could shut down our jails and send our policemen home as all crime was related to alcohol.

Many religions try to tell us how to live and I believe that is the primary cause for the continuing decline of religion in this country. Some insist that we are all just miserable sinners who can’t do anything right. That alone raises the ire of so many of us. America is the land of opportunity and to be told we are incapable of doing anything right just grates on us.

The similarity between Prohibition and our current drug laws is striking. We incarcerate more of our citizens than any other nation and many if not most of those imprisonments are drug related. What was once legal in now considered a crime. Coke was named such because it once had a small dosage of cocaine in it to make us happier.  Ironically we as a nation, especially the more conservative ones among us, want to tell you how your are to live.

Is it really necessary to lock someone up for years at a time for doing something that primarily affects only them? If someone wants to get high on this drug or that is that reason enough to deny them their freedom? I know this is a radical stand but it seems to at least be partially playing out in our current discussions of the legalization of marijuana. How much money could we save if we legalized all drugs? If you want to destroy your life that should be your option.

Now let me step back a little on this issue. I am not advocating eliminating all responsibility of the consequences of drug use. If you steal to get your drugs you will be prosecuted. If you harm others directly or indirectly you will be prosecuted. This is kind of like the gun issue although I suspect most people advocating guns have the opposite view on this issue. You have a right to a gun even if it means that your young son ends up killing himself with it. You have a right to abuse your body if you want to.

Who is the government to tell me how to live my life?

I need to end this post with a personal declaration. I have never tried any currently illegal drug myself. I did smoke cigarettes for thirty years and hope that the past 25 years without them have cancelled their health effects. I have a beer now and then but do so responsibly.

Основные RGBU.S. stocks fell sharply on Friday, leaving the benchmark S&P 500 with its worst weekly performance since May 2012, as investors pulled back from the markets in response to oil’s free-fall and more weak data out of China.

SOURCE: Oil slump leads Wall Street to worst week in 2-1/2 years – Yahoo Finance.

I am by no means an economist who espouses to understand all this stock market stuff but it seems to me that whatever is good for the common guy economists think is bad for the stock market. Declining oil prices will put billions of bucks back into the average guys wallet and that means she can spend it on other things for the family. Things such as paying off the mortgage, going out to eat a little more frequently, buying some much-needed new clothes or even a new water heater. How can that be bad for our economy?

I guess the stock market logic is that with lower oil company profits comes less dividends into the rich guys pockets and of course we all know that the rich guys are the job creators don’t we ;)  therefore people will have to be laid off because of lower oil prices… Now I’m not saying this form of logic makes any sense and I’m sure it comes from the same folks who time after time say raising the minimum wage will result in millions of jobs being lost and of course we all know that never happens.

Maybe a declining stock market is a good thing. I have been thinking that it is rising too rapidly lately for its own good. Maybe falling stock prices at least in this incidence is a way to take it out of the rich guy’s pocket and put it in the working guy’s pocket. Lord knows he need a break as he has not had a raise in decades now. If the companies won’t give him his share of the profits  maybe he can get it from falling commodity costs.

The second reason for these recent stock drops was cited to be the slowing increase in the Chinese economy. They are now only projected to grow twice as fast as we are.  Again how is that a bad thing? It means that a few more of us here in the U.S. might see our jobs stay here a little longer instead of being farmed out to China. I don’t know, I am just an average old guy  I guess but these two things seem to be good things to me. But then again what do I know….

Now before you start sending me comments trying to set me straight I want to let you know that much  of this post is tongue-in-cheek. Much but not all…. The average guy needs a break wherever he can get it   :)

Contemplating Life….

December 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-12-11_11-44-07The coming season is a very important one for my Asian friends. Many travel great distances to be with family. Many also take this season as a time to contemplate their life and its purpose. They ask searching questions of themselves to be sure they are living their life as they want to instead of just letting it happen. Many change jobs and occupations during this season.

I kind of wish I had  learned that lesson from them. I kind of wish I done likewise during my years on this earth. Instead I, like many Americans, just seem to let life happen to me instead of doing more to direct it as I intended. Too many of us treat life as something that happens at special times and not as an overall journey.  At some point it is too late to realize that life is a journey and not a destination. But, in reality it is never too late.

I can look back on my life and see where there were opportunities to have a more targeted existence. I could have chosen different paths that would probably have resulted in a much more satisfying life than I accomplished by just letting it happen.

It is never to late to learn new things and that is what I am doing now. I am treating this holiday season as a season of contemplation. As a season to question what I am doing and what I want to do in the coming year.  I intuitively know that some of the things I have been doing for a long time should come to an end and be replaced by other things. Instead of just letting things happen I am making an effort to direct my remaining years with a greater purpose.

But one of the things I know I will be doing is writing. That is an addiction I can never totally appease nor do I want to. I will continue to contemplate life via written words both personally and corporate. I know I am no great public speaker so I take writing as my way of maybe effecting change in things.  I am following a long list of my heroes who have done likewise. Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most avid writer in my hero list. He left a huge legacy of written text. He was never much of an orator, in fact he like me didn’t get much pleasure from that communication mode. Teddy Roosevelt was another obsessive writer. He kept journals throughout his life starting at the age of nine.

Some of the changes I am contemplating are driven by health issues. My body, as most people my age, is wearing out. I am now living some of the consequences of abusing it in earlier life. I need to recognize that fact and deal with it in a rational manner instead of trying to deny it.

Another reason for changes is that I can certainly see the end of the tunnel so to speak and my bucket list is still somewhat full. So, I have to ask myself an age-old question. “if not now, when??”

America’s Religion…

December 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-12-13_16-14-42People say that professional sports fuel what is worst in us. Our greed, our impatience, our willingness to ruin our bodies for the sake of fame. Our glorification of the worst human impulses, our blindness to the crimes these athletes sometimes commit….

It’s been said that sports are America’s religion and that this idolatry is our downfall.

SOURCE: These Royals Make You Believe in God | Angela Denker | Red Letter Christians.

I suspect that there are many more who will be sitting around their TV sets this Sunday afternoon watching  a football game than there are sitting in a church pew.  And even those in the pews most often rush home to join the former. Yes, we in America seem to be totally addicted to our sports.

I know that sports is supposed to build character in our young people but that can be accomplished in other far less destructive ways.  I believe sports does more to pollute the educational environment than any good it might accomplish.  I admit that, except with myself,  I am not a very competitive person and never have been. I have never seen a need to defeat any opponent in my life. In fact I believe that this attitude which is so predominate in most sports is a net negative on our society and even the world. It creates a totally unneeded caste system in our high schools that make some believe they have to stand out in other, often more destructive, ways just to get any attention. The high school and even the college jock dominates social life there even in my day. They are given special recognition  and privileges that are way above their overall contributions to the world around them. The level of “us vs them” created by most sports carries on throughout our lives.

We see it in our formal religious institutions. Just look at Israel, Iran, Iraq, or most of the Middle East countries to see how this “us vs. them” affects all our lives. We no longer seem to tolerate anyone believing something different from us. Too often religious leaders, contrary to the basic teaching of their religions, are the ones who incite these feelings. Jihad drives too many to fanatical views of life and spiritually but it is by no means the only destructive religious doctrine of our times. Jesus told us to love each other he didn’t put any public affiliations as part of that command.

In order to live together and love each other we must be tolerant of views that are different from our own. We need to throw away the “us vs them” mentality and realize that we are all in this together. While sports may not be the major contributing factor it is probably the starting point for many of these associations.  A little, well actually a lot, less emphasis on sports would help us return to celebrating our American diversity and the fact that we, as Rodney King, said so many years ago, just need to get along.

Eating Out…

December 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Old time NJ Resturant-1

I can remember the first business trip I took to the NYC area in 1970. We had dinner at the famous Bahrs Restaurant. It was a lavish place that looked out on a bay of the ocean. Being from the Midwest I was astonished by the seafood available on the menu. Of course since then the nation is now filled with franchise fast food restaurants to gobble up so much of the eating-out dollar. I still go to Bahrs when I am in the area…

2014-10-27_07-59-54

I remember the details of the Vietnam war still today. While my hearing impairment kept me out of it I did lose several good friends to that totally unnecessary war.  One thing I remember is the daily body counts from the DOD of Viet Kong killed. It was acknowledged later that these numbers were grossly over counted.  It seems that the military establishment thought they could get unlimited funds if they show us that the “enemy” was much stronger than it really was. I think that mentality still reigns today inside that pentagon shaped monolith in Washington DC.

The news today is almost 24/7 about ISIS, that is the extreme muslim group determined to reek jihad on the rest of the world. It is impossible to really say outside the DOD spin just how many belong to that group but their hatred of things non-muslim is very obvious indeed. The almost daily beheadings that happen now are meant to strike terror among us and they seem to accomplish that task.  But how much do we need to do to eradicate ISIS?

I’m sure that behind the scenes the Pentagon is asking for trillions of more dollars in their budgets in order to take on these hate-mongers. I am certainly not a military strategist but it seems pretty simple to me. Cut off their source of funding and they will evaporate. Cut off their source of supplies and they will become a toothless old lion. I am afraid that Mr. Obama will eventually give in to those who want us to send in our troops to take them out. If he does he will likely get us into another endless war….

What we should be doing is to find the people or countries that are giving them the missile launchers and retaliate against them. Almost all banking today , including ISIS funding happens electronically so drying up their bank accounts is very doable. We don’t need to get down in the mud with the ISIS gutter mongers, we just need to cut off their sources and they will go away.

I kind of think the same thing is going on with all these terrorist’s groups lately. In my gut, for what that is worth which is nothing, I kind of suspect that ISIS is a pretty small and in terms of power pretty inconsequential. We don’t need trillions of buck to eliminate their effect today. When I read the above “speed read” from my friends at The Week the first thing that I thought of is that we should be spending our resources against those who are funding ISIS instead of its ragtag members.