Archives For January 2012

This is a Puzzle??

January 31, 2012

I never thought I would see the day I had a few weeks ago. What happened is a puzzle to me.  I never thought I would react the way I did.  Okay, I don’t want to make this into some big mystery (but I kinda did) so I will just come out and say it. My wife has gotten me into working picture puzzles. She has been doing that throughout our 25+ year marriage. She spends hours upon hours sitting at her hobby table working puzzles. She no longer considers anything less than 2,000 pieces to be a challenge.  I have never shown much interest in this particular hobby. I have always just watched her from afar; I sometimes helped her find one or maybe even two pieces she needed but that was the extent of my involvement. I just couldn’t see the allure of doing what she does.

Then a couple of weeks ago I just got a sudden urge to try this stuff out for myself.  I set up a place at the vacant end of our dining room table (we seldom get any dinner guests anymore) and started trying to find the edge pieces first. That seemed the logical the way to go. My wife wanted to help me but I insisted on learning my own way.  I am kind of ornery in that regard. :) After a couple of weeks the 500th piece was in place. There was a strange sense of satisfaction in putting that final piece in!

I’m not sure what got me started but it was probably the thought of the impending cabin fever I always get between mid-January and mid-February. That is the coldest and usually iciest time of year around here so I seldom get out of the house except for my volunteer work twice a week.  The completion of this first puzzle of my adult life lead to another one. I have found that there is something somewhat relaxing about trying to find a small part of the very large picture. Of course my wife discovered that years ago and since she never misses the chance she said “I told you so”I have heard that phrase frequently recently.  Philosophically I suppose that is what we do generally in life when we try to find the place we fit in the world scheme of things.

I guess I now have the bug as I just ordered a couple more 500 piece puzzles for myself. One, as shown to the right is of a very large sandwich. The other is of a cluttered work shed.  My wife, as most women do, tend to go to the more girly pictures. If I am going to be spending  the hours looking at a picture  in its minutest detail it needs to be a more manly scene. What’s more manly than a big old gnarly sandwich? I presently don’t know where this will end. I expect I will put them up when Spring arrives and all the outdoor work again calls me for many hours of my time.

I’m sure a lot of you out there have already discovered this hobby but I am just now putting picture puzzles as part of my rather extensive hobby portfolio. Its kind of fun and relaxing but after a few hour my back starts to remind me that it is time to do something else.

Why do we as a society allow our war machine to gobble up so much of our taxes.  Do we really need to spend so much in money and young people’s lives to be the policemen of the world?? When we quit believing that our security lies in the ability to kill then we will truly be secure.

War Is Not the Answer

About James…

January 29, 2012

In order to make sure you are aware of who wrote one of the most important letters in the Christian Bible I deem it appropriate to make this post primarily about James, the brother of Jesus himself. Some may not realize the history of the person around which I have been quoting as inspiration.  Here is part of what Glo – The Bible for the Digital World says about him:

 The author identifies himself as James ( 1:1 ); he was probably the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem council ( Ac 15 ). Four men in the NT have this name. The author of this letter could not have been the apostle James, who died too early ( a.d. 44) to have written it. The other two men named James had neither the stature nor the influence that the writer of this letter had.

James was one of several brothers of Christ, probably the oldest since he heads the list in Mt 13:55 . At first he did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him and misunderstood his mission ( Jn 7:2-5 ). Later he became very prominent in the church:

1. He was one of the select individuals Christ appeared to after his resurrection (see 1Co 15:7 and ).

2. Paul called him a “pillar” of the church ( Gal 2:9 ).

3. Paul, on his first post-conversion visit to Jerusalem, saw James ( Gal 1:19 ).

4. Paul did the same on his last visit ( Ac 21:18 ).

5. When Peter was rescued from prison, he told his friends to tell James ( Ac 12:17 ).

6. James was a leader in the important council of Jerusalem ( Ac 15:13 ).

7. Jude could identify himself simply as “a brother of James” ( Jude 1:1 ), so well-known was James.

8. James was martyred c. a.d. 62.

…….

If this early dating is correct ( before AD50), this letter is the earliest of all the NT writings — with the possible exception of Galatians. The recipients are identified explicitly only in 1:1 : “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” Some hold that this expression refers to Christians in general….

From the above it is obvious that James became a very important person in the early church. I can’t understand why he and the Apostle Peter did not get more of documents included in our version of the Bible.  One other notable thing about James occurred during the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther vehemently stated that the letter from James was a fake and should not be in the Bible. He later recanted that belief in order to solidify his then popular position of total biblical inerrancy and sola fida.  James continues to be a very unnoticed letter by many protestant denominations today who insist that our faith and works, which is the center point of James’ letter, are totally divorced things.

During my extensive three-year study of Christianity one of the things I learned was that during the early years of Christianity when a Roman soldier wanted to be a Christian the first thing he had to do was to find a new occupation. Early Christians believed that the collected words of Jesus, their founder, and being a warrior were not compatible. There are many places in the Bible where Jesus commented about soldiers. The most prevalent one was “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”. Jesus just did not condone violence in those around him. I know there are many Christian “hawks” out there who will pull up numerous places in the Old Testament where God supposedly condoned war and even vicious violence. But they will not find it in the new covenant that Jesus brought with him to this earth.

Studying beyond the early Christian era to those times after Constantine in the 4th century violence and war once again crept into the church. The Holy wars were the most glaring example of this fact. What happened between the time of the early Christians, that is the first two to three hundred years and the Holy wars?  When Constantine brought the political process into the church he brought false teachings with it.

Today many of the most fervent supporters of our military are found among the “Christian Evangelicals”. They not only accept war but they encourage it and even celebrate it. To me I align with the early Christian and therefore Jesus’ thoughts of war. Celebrating war and being a Christian is the same as oil and vinegar; they cannot be mixed. Jesus told us there are only two basic commandments from God in his new covenant and that is to love God and to love your fellow-man.  Giving life totally comes from God and when it ends must also come from God. When we kill our fellow-man for any reason we are actually killing a piece of God himself; love has nothing to do with that horrible condition.

We elect our Presidents, be they Republican or Democrat, then go home and start daring ’em to make good. – April 1, 1935  Will Rogers

Sometimes I can really get down to that deep thinking. I mean the pure foundational stuff.  I think what Will said above is foundational stuff for a democracy. We elect our presidents and all the other people’s representative and then go home and dare them to get it right!  This worked pretty well for the first two centuries of our existence. There were a few duds during that period but generally the people we elected  at least tried to “make good”.

But something in the process seems to have broken as we entered the 21st century.

  • Maybe  it got broken because we have done something that prevents the really good guys/gals to come forward to “live up to the dare”?  —  Being a guy that has done some pretty serious studying of history I can see that the political processes we have now is pretty raunchy.  It has been bad in the past but never to the extreme as now. I can’t see where anyone would want to put themselves through the process of becoming one of our political leaders.  Have we just ground out the civility in seeking elected office so that only the “pretenders” with hyper-inflated egos will even attempt to endure our election process?
  • Maybe it is got broken  because the people doing the choosing got lazy?  —  Being a representative democracy is tough stuff. It takes work to choose the right leaders. Maybe we have just become too lazy in choosing our leaders. We don’t do our homework any more to try to wean the pretenders and wannabes from the crowd. We fall victims to 30 second sound bites instead of studying the issues. Maybe we are just too lazy to maintain a democracy anymore?
  • Maybe it got broken because of all the money that corrupts the process?  —  When the Supreme Court decided that corporations are people and they should have free exercise in buying the candidates and elected officials we started down a road with no return. When we as individuals must compete with $trillion corporations it is pretty easy to figure out who is going to come out ahead.  Maybe we have sold our democracy to corporate and elitist greed?
  • Maybe it go broken because we have outlived the positive aspects of a capitalist society?   —  This one gets really deep! I don’t want to blow a gasket in my brain so will only touch the surface.  Our capitalistic society is based on greed. That is not a bad when there are checks and balances to add in a moralistic factor. Pure capitalism just doesn’t have any compassion for anything but profits. Everything else is a very distant second if it is even considered. This type of greed was also pretty dominant about 100 years ago but it was stomped down by hard-fought unions and a Republican President named Roosevelt. But, even compared to that time the moralist factor seems to have died out in the 21st century. Our society seem to have devolved down into the survival of the fittest mentality.  Another way of saying that is “I got mine so screw you!!” We just seem to have lost the compassion for our fellow-man any more and no one seems to be able to rescue it.  Are we  finally succumbing to the dark side of capitalism?

To wrap this up it is probably a combination of all of the above. I just hope that we can come back from the edge of the cliff once again but I have my doubts this time around.

But what do I know…..

Having Our Say…..

January 26, 2012

Behind me in my study is a twelve-foot wall of bookshelves containing many of the books I have read over the years. In order to make room for new ones I regularly clean out all the “technology” books that no longer have any significance. Since I am now back in the Macintosh fold all of the Windows books have been removed. During this latest round of cleaning up I came across a book I have read several times and will now read again.

I don’t know if I have posted a recommended reading list here before but if I haven’t this is certainly a good place to start.  The book I pulled off the shelf to read once again is called:

Having Our Say – The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years

Here is the cover jacket. It is about two African-American women who were at the time of the book being published both over 100 years old. The book is written in the narrative style with the two sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany, telling stories about their lives which spanned the entire 20th century. Their father was a freed slave who would go on to become an Episcopal bishop. Both the sisters faced the first days of Jim Crow and legal Segregation head-on in their own ways. THe stories about that are truly entrancing.  If only all history books were this enjoyable history would be a favorite of many more people besides me.

Here are a couple of quotes from the back cover of the book.

“Bessie can be a little bit nasty sometimes, you know. She thinks it’s her God-given duty to tell people the truth. I say to her, ‘Bessie, don’t you realize people don’t want to hear the truth?'” – Sadie

“When people ask me how we’ve lived past one hundred, I say, ‘Honey, we never married. We never had husbands to worry us to death!'” – Bessie

The book is filled with stories about the two young black women growing up in South Carolina during the early 1900s and then moving to New York City to follow their careers. They both chose to remain unmarried and lived almost their entire lives together. Pick up this book if you want to learn something and have a few laughs. I am personally picking it up for the third or maybe fourth time. I can’t say that about many of the books that are on that wall.

The difference between the rich and the poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. A man can make a million and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells who gave up that million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from someone.  – 1933 Will Rogers

This is one of the most provocative quotes I have in my collection from Will Rogers. Given the statistics that show in the last ten years that the wealth of the 1%ers has more than doubled while the rest of us have seen our wealth, if you comically want to call it that, go down.  It is pretty much a zero-sum game. For the wealthy to get wealthier the rest of us must get poorer. That is just plain old economics.  When will our government stand up for the common guy??

But what do I know….

 

It seems that even though I am deaf I can loudly hear the clock of my life ticking away lately. For that reason I have started up yet another list. If you ask my wife she will tell you that I am first and foremost a “list keeper”. I have lists for so many things I need a list of my lists just to remember them all.  But this particular list may just prove to be the most important one I have made in a while.

My latest list is entitled

“Things to Do Before I Die”.

I know the title has been used by perhaps thousands of authors but it is unique to each of them and so my list will be unique as well. Many lists like this one start out with “100 Things…” or perhaps “1,000 Things…” but right now I just don’t know how many items will be included on my particular one. I could do like McDonald’s did in the early days and update the number as I needed to but decided against that. That is just too cutesy for me. I only have a handful of items that spring to mind right now but I’m sure the list will grow over time. These types of things seem to take a while to simmer on my brain before they spurt off the top of my head. How is that for a vision you don’t care to see even in your mind’s eye!

Many items on my list will probably be things that I my wife as vetoed over the years. The first one that comes to mind is an extended visit to Disney World.  It will probably take a paradigm shift to accomplish that one but that doesn’t keep me from trying. We spent one day at Epcot about ten years ago while we were visiting my brother in Florida.  My wife seemed to enjoy it, especially the dinner at the German pavilion, so I don’t know why she is so reluctant to go back? I want to go back there and also visit all the other theme parks as well. My wife says “those places are for kids and we are old people!”  I have my work cut out for me with this one but I am not about to give up hope.

I’m sure a lot of you seniors out there have a corresponding lists. If you think there is something really important that I should add to my list just let me know. I will be sharing items on my “Things to Do” list on this blog. For that reason I have started up yet another category in the Seniors Only tab. My artistic side is chiming in too so I will be making up a special header for this category.

I visit several blogs daily in the senior category. Most include in the title words like “adventure”, “satisfying”, “frugal”,  “thrifty”, and such. This is a catchy idea that I haven’t seen included in many of them so if you guys want to put out a list of things to do before you die I don’t mind you using my idea. We can all use ideas in this area for our individual lists. I don’t want to be on my death-bed and still be thinking of things to add.  But then again maybe I do (ha).

There is something about a Republican politician, they are smart but they just don’t know much. – July 4, 1934  Will Rogers

I’m totally convinced that Will would also include most of today’s Democrat politicians in this quote. I’m sure those yahoos in congress, or at least most of them, are pretty smart fellas when it comes to book learning.  But when it comes to the everyday life of the common man I don’t think they know much.

I find it hard to believe that those in the top 1% , and that includes the majority of those in our congress, even have a clue as to what it feels like to have to choose between food and your medicine. They can’t begin to imagine the grief caused by being in the process of losing your home to the bank because you lost what you thought was a forever job. They can’t begin to understand what it is like to spend the rest of your life trying to pay the bills for just one major medical event when you don’t have, and cannot afford, insurance. Most of the folks who represent us in congress just have no idea of what our lives are really about.

The trouble is that it seems impossible to get anyone with any amount of understanding about our everyday issues into Washington DC.  The money required to buy an office in the Rayburn building is just beyond the means of most of us.

We have to realize that even though we rile against the rich that it is the rich who  for the most part control our destinies and that includes government actions. It used to be that one-man-one-vote evened the playing field a little bit but the recent Supreme court decision even took that away from us.  Now the one with the money controls the ballot box.

But what do I know….

What causes fights and quarrels  among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle  within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive,  because you ask with wrong motives,  that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  

These words are from the Epistle of James chapter 4.  James was thought to be the brother of Jesus so he probably knew him almost all of the days of his life. What better source can we find to discover the true nature of the Christ.  The words above are about the “battle within”.  Yes, we all fight this battle to one degree or another.  We desire to have more than we do. We just can’t get enough. We think things are the answer to being truly happy. Our representative governments kill in our name to get what we collectively want.

Some of the most perplexing words of the Bible indicate that if we are true believers then God will give us whatever we want.  These words ring hollow to me if I don’t add the words here about that topic.  When we ask with self-serving motives in mind then we will NOT receive it from God (but you might from another source) no matter how much faith you have. If you spend what you presently have solely on your own pleasures when your brothers are in need for the basic things in life then you are not following God’s commands. It is as simple as that and James made that abundantly clear in the words above.