Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

Modern Day Prophets…

November 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Why does Jesus want us to talk to him if he never talks back to us?”…

May we empower, listen, learn and be led by this tribe of prophets. Maybe, just maybe, they will show us once again what it looks like to tangibly love God and neighbor

SOURCE:  Girls: The Hope of the Future | Jon Huckins | Red Letter Christians.

The quote above came from a four-year old daughter of the author of the article. The article was mainly about the most recent announcement of a young Pakistani girl receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace. Jon Huckins thinks maybe she is a modern-day prophet who just might drag the future church into more actions and less doctrine. He holds hope for that and so do I.

Kids just don’t seem to know what is an “appropriate” question to ask. Earnest curiosity has not yet been driven out of them.  They have not yet been drummed with a strict religious doctrine that says you must believe things without question. To say that Jesus never talks to us is heresy in most Christian bodies.  But I know that I too frequently ask the same question and so did Mother Teresa during her long life of servitude to others.

We all think we would like for Jesus to come to us directly and talk to us but do we really?

Some people in many different religious circles have very different definitions of what a prophet is. Some think that prophesy ended when King Constantine put together our biblical text or maybe even before Jesus. To say that anyone who has come around since then is a prophet is simple nonsense to them But as usual I kind of have a different take on that.

Lets look at a simple non-sectarian definition of prophet:

2014-11-11_10-14-48

If a prophet is “an authoritative person who divines the future” then there can certainly be prophets around us today. Even the second definition does not preclude that possibility. You could say that anyone who interprets the will of God is a prophet, even me!!

I kind of think that anyone who tries to show us a better way to God is worthy of the moniker of prophet and that certainly should include all of us.

WarningAre we depriving our children of the ability to take risks in the future. Many of the things I did as a child would never happen today. Things like walking five blocks to school without an adult. Or discovering the mushroom plant four blocks from our house. Yeah maybe I fell out of a tree I was climbing there and fell on an iron picket fence doing some pretty serious damage but… I explored the neighborhood at the young age of 10 years old. About the only rule was that I had to be home for supper.

Are we over protecting our kids today? Are we doing them actual harm by trying to protect them from the “big bad world”?

Are we as adults just too fearful of the world ourselves to allow our children to see it in a different way?  We now seem to be totally absorbed with the idea of child abductions but in reality they are actually less prevalent now than they were in the 1970s and even the 1950s when I was growing up.

There are benefits to taking risks by thinking outside the box. It is one of the things that in the past has made us uniquely American. We were risk takers.  Are we stifling the next generation of out-of-the-box dreamers with our fears?

uRV 16554-EditThat is what you do when you are not doing your grown-up things. They allow you to at least for a while forget about the world around you.

I don’t have a direct source for this quote but it was from the NYPD Blue TV episode where Bobby Simone was dying. It was about his pigeon coops he maintained on the roof of his building in NYC.

I admit that now that I have access to streaming video I am sometimes a binge TV watcher.  I think I watched the entire nine seasons of NYPD Blue in a little over two month’s time last winter.  Got to do something to pass away all those wintry days. :)  While I am watching I keep my trusty iPad handy to write down quotes that get me to thinking about deeper things and this is one of those quotes.

We all need “clearing your head periods of time” where we shut out the outside world especially those grown-up things. For the last few years it has been making a micro-RV out of my old 1992 Chevy pickup.  The interior is just about completed now so next year it will be on to decorating the outside of my uRV. I will spend the upcoming winter months doing computer mock-ups of it.

This project is kind of like the “boat in the basement” on the TV show NCIS. Jethro spent hours working on the boat but never actually used it. My wife is just not a camper type person so if I use my uRV it will likely be in a Walden Pond type mode, that is by myself. But that is not a bad thing. We all need our alone time even away from our spouses.

We all need things that take us out of the world around us don’t we…

I was recently part of a Bible study where the tone – and apparently intention – was quite different.

As the leader asked a series of programmed and predictable questions (literally from the back of the book), I noticed that almost everyone seemed to be looking at each other warily as if they were searching for the ‘right’ answer. And they seemed to share the assumption that there was – and should be – only one ‘right’ answer.

And, above all, that the ‘right’ answer should be comfortable and familiar and should certainly not challenge any of us in our thinking, and definitely not our values, lifestyle or behavior.

And I realized that most ‘Christian questions’ that I hear are like this; they make us and our faith smaller, not larger, more about ourselves and our concerns, and less, usually far less, about any divine destiny for ourselves, our communities and certainly for the world.

SOURCE: Christian Questions | Morf Morford | Red Letter Christians.

Morf over at Red Letter Christians doesn’t mince words when it comes to his spirituality does he?  I believe that he points out one of the biggest needed changes for most of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. We just don’t ask the hard questions or anything requiring action outside of our immediate clan. We want a comfortable religion, one that fits like an old glove.

Looking to others for the “right” answer as Morf says is an all too familiar scene for me. I have come to realize that there really are no “right” answers. Right answers are most often dependent on your experiences and attitudes at a given time in your life. One person’s right answers can be quite different from another’s. All of us are at different levels in our spiritual journey. Simply stated there is no one “right” answer.

One thing that irritates me more than most others is how we want our answers to fit comfortably within our current circumstances. We want our world to be smaller, not bigger. I can recall one clergy leader who I personally knew  who constantly said that all God expects of us are things like taking care of your immediate family. He just never challenged us to get out of our comfort zones and do things for others.  In my mind that cheapens the words of Jesus and especially his actions. Jesus told us that all of humanity is our family and we should be as concerned about everyone as we are about our biological brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. But since this particular clergy was Lutheran and they do seem to have an aversion towards works I should not have been surprised at this approach to following Jesus.  I will sadly admit those words fit very comfortably within his congregation and in me for a time. It is easy to follow Christ when you don’t have to get out of your comfort zone.

When we make our version of religious faith small and about ourselves or immediate clan and not about divine responsibility for our communities and our world we are taking a much too easy road in our spiritual life. It is not about us. It is about loving others and yes even giving them the shirt off our backs or maybe some of our tax dollars if they need it.

A Dreamer Or A Fighter…..

November 12, 2014 — 5 Comments

2014-10-29_08-38-29I still vividly remember the election season of 2008. It was the year that I for the first time in a long time held out hope for a change in our political system. George Bush’s reign over the country was finally ending but the wars he put us in were still going full bore and still greatly affect us even today. He left the new guy with a total mess in our financial system. The worst mess in fifty years. I had confidence that this new-on-the-scene young guy could give us back our social conscience that George stripped away from us. I contributed frequently to his campaign and was totally overjoyed when he won the presidency even carrying my State of Indiana!!

I knew the GOP opposition to anything that seems progressive would come full force against this new president but I dreamed that he like FDR and several other democratic presidents before him would stand his ground and eventually win some hard-fought gains for our country and especially for those on the economic margins. I dreamed things would be better ahead of us as a country…

Things started out pretty well when this new administration went full bore to give us a universal healthcare system that much of the rest of the world had already realized. Of course there was drastic opposition to this plan as there is for anything of a progressive nature from the expected quarters. But I dreamed that our new leader would fight the fight… and eventually win…

Looking back, of course that is always easier than looking forward, I have come to realize that this first time president of color who reeked of dreams and hope was just not up to the challenge of the fights necessary to accomplish them. His fighter to dreamer ratio was just not up the job ahead.  In today’s world it takes a gargantuan fight to accomplish anything worth doing. A fight he, looking back, seemed incapable of doing. Yeah, he did get a very watered down version of universal healthcare that no one really likes, some because it went too far and for some because it didn’t go nearly far enough. I am part of the later group.

I have learned my lesson. In the coming presidential seasons I am looking for the fighter not the dreamer.  While dreamers are absolutely necessary they are just not the political leaders we need right now.  We need someone with a strong backbone and the tools necessary to push or maybe even ram change down the oppositions throat. We need a fighter who has a base level of dreamer within her/him and can back it up with some strong actions. The problem seems to be that those qualities are totally lacking in so many currently in the inner circles of politics.

This election cycle I am looking for a fighter not a dreamer to lead our country forward …..

2014-11-06_09-28-42This is going to be an extremely soul-searching post for me. It has been a week since the GOP route in the mid-term elections and I have been thinking about my philosophical and political leanings. Two things seem now apparent to me that were not so just a few short months ago.

The first epiphany  is that I am not so much a Democrat as I am anti-Republican. There is just too much weight amongst the current Republican party in favor of the elite and so little for the average guy and almost nothing for the guy down on his luck. In my mind too many who currently represent the party believe in the mantra “I’ve got mine so screw you”. They seem to think that if you can’t do what they did then it is your own fault. Too many, like Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin, just have no empathy for others..

The Republican brand is quite simply tainted too much for me. I call myself a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. If only the Republican party would stick to their strengths of being a watchdog of the purse and get away from trying to enforce, or you could say mandate, various versions of 19th century morals on the rest of us. By the same token if only the Democratic party would get over the idea that throwing money at any situation will solve it.

The second epiphany is that I have come to understand that “I can’t do it for them”. That is I can’t help people who won’t help themselves. The majority of those who bothered to get out and vote recently were old and white like me. The young, the disenfranchised, the guy working one or maybe minimum wage job stayed home. He/she didn’t see it worth their time to make an effort to vote for the change makers.

I am probably a typical “bleeding heart liberal” in that most of the change I would like to see in this country would not affect me very much:

I want to see everyone have healthcare while I currently have very good coverage via Medicare and an affordable supplemental policy.

I want to see everyone who works full-time be paid a living wage while I am fortunate enough to have Social Security, a good pension from thirty years with the same company, and a savings account beyond most my age.

I want to see a strong safety net under those who might fall on hard times. I want to see that their families don’t get severely punished for something they had no control over while I, at least in my adult life, have never needed a safety net.

I just overflow with empathy for others where it seems most in this country are more into the survival of the fittest mode. Maybe empathy is a condition I need to overcome, I don’t know. I’m sure that many that I advocate for think they are helpless in changing things. They just can’t seem to realize that in the end their vote  has as much weight as the billionaires who they presently allow to control the money.

Maybe it is time for me to get off my empathy horse and not worry about all this stuff so much. I simply don’t know the answer to that right now. I imagine I have about one more decade on this earth. Maybe I should spend it differently than I have been up till now?

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

 

Six Things Continued…

November 9, 2014

Being Pessimistic

2014 15897… Today’s Christians have a bad habit of seeing the worst in everybody and everything: A natural disaster is surely a sign of the end times. An MTV show reflects our hideous moral decline. A particular nation (obviously not one of our political allies) is being used as the Anti-Christ’s puppet to eventually invade and destroy the United States.

The apocalyptic and hopeless assessments about our world—and Christianity—propagated by Christians themselves are pathetic and worrisome. Do we have nothing to be thankful for?

We treat our faith as if it’s in a rapid decline, as if the “glory years” are over. Really? The past was Christianity’s brightest moment? When racism, segregation, sexism, war, and fear plagued our country—this was the high point of Christianity?

Christianity is about bringing an uplifting and energizing hope—but we’ve turned it into a fear-based horror story.

SOURCE: Six Things I Wish Christians Would Stop Doing | Stephen Mattson | Red Letter Christians.

This post is a continuation of last Sunday’s discussion. This week it is about Pessimism. The first thing I thought about when I read these words above was of the old man I encountered in Times Square during our recent visit. Here everyone was having a good time being dazzled by all the lights and music and in the midst of it was this guy who wanted to tell everyone they are going to hell for having a good time. There are far too many people who identify Christianity by the pessimists among us certainly that includes this guy.

When I regularly attended the adult Sunday Bible study at a small church a few years ago I occasionally got a heavy dose of how bad the world is from several of the others who attended. Being it was a Lutheran church and they still seem to hold a mighty grudge against Catholics they were often the topic of conversation but there was plenty left for several other groups. There was much criticism about this group or that because of their actions or beliefs. They were the enemy…. The glory days are over….

If only more of us  were enthusiastically bringing the uplifting and energizing hope to those we  were condemning. Too many of us say we like the ideas of Jesus but stop short of actually putting them into practice. Shame on us…

I need to end this post by saying that the words above apply to all of us in one degree or another but it is the degree that matters. Yes there are many optimistic Christians out there, I like to think I am usually one of them but of course that is not always the case. I get down on the world just like everyone else from time to time. Each one of us must always be conscious of what kind of Christianity we project to the world. Are we mainly looking backwards to what Christ did for us or are we looking forward to putting his words into actions? That is the critical difference….

Thanks Stephen for bringing out these thoughts in me….

 

Arguing

Instead of having a reputation as being peacemakers, promoting reconciliation, and working towards unity, Christians are known for being loud, argumentative, petty, and contentious. Unfortunately, any semblance of Christ’s gospel message of hope, love, and grace is lost within the endless noise, debates, accusations, division, and hatred.

Christians need to stop obsessing over being right and having all of the answers and start focusing on following Christ’s example: sacrificially serving, helping, comforting, and loving everyone around us.

For Christians, it’s often easier to yell and scream instead of doing the very hard—and humble—work of loving others. Arguing is addictive because it feeds off of our need for self-glorification, self-righteousness, pride, power, and recognition.

Acting like Jesus, a person who ultimately died on a cross and devoted His life to selflessly helping others doesn’t seem that appealing—it isn’t. But we need to try—and the first step is to stop being combative and start focusing on being a peacemaker.

SOURCE: Six Things I Wish Christians Would Stop Doing | Stephen Mattson | Red Letter Christians.

Stephen Mattson’s posts frequently weigh heavily on me. He is a true kindred soul. Arguing is the first of six things on this post. Click on the source above if you want to see the entire post. I will likely be posting on some of the others in the coming weeks.

Insistence of being right is certainly not an exclusive Christian quality. Almost, if not all, religious institutions are heavily involved in “being right”. Wars have been fought throughout human history of one religious group fighting and killing another for their insistence on the other group being wrong. If anything would reverse the seemingly decline in Christianity around the world arguing and particularly being right is probably a primary cause.

I am becoming fully convinced that the principle of coexistence is the path for me. That is to agree to disagree on some topics without having to argue that I am right. Little changes when we insist that we are right and they are wrong. It only stiffens up resistance to learn anything from the encounter.  It is a turnoff for many who just might otherwise find some answers through the teachings of Jesus.  If only we Christians started actually doing what Jesus demanded and quit arguing with everyone who thinks differently. Actions speak MUCH louder than words in my mind. Let’s all do a better job of acting like we are his followers….

2014-10-16_07-17-52

They say that deafness is a hidden handicap in that it is not an obvious affliction. Maybe I should wear a sign :) .  Sometimes when I tell people I am deaf it doesn’t seem to get through to them. What many do is to apparently just speak louder. For those who I have difficulty reading their lips,and that seem like most people, I hand them a pencil and notepad and ask them to write they just don’t seem to understand.

I know that a common misconception is that deaf people aren’t able to talk. That is often true of those who were born deaf or went deaf at a very early age but for the 80% of us who went deaf later in life almost all of us maintain at least some ability to speak. I thank the Lord that most people can still understand what I say, at least when I slow down and try to speak very clearly and am not too tired. But it seems like many refuse to believe I am deaf because I talk so clearly. Maybe I should shut up and wear a sign.

 

The Two-Sided Coin….

October 26, 2014

I am again going to talk about the two-sided coin of Christianity. The last time I mentioned it was to relate the idea of faith and works.  That is practicing what we preach or accepting Jesus as the Lord of our daily lives as well as our savior. This time the two-sided coin concept will take on a different topic.

When Jesus told us the law of God and all the past prophets boiled down to only two things: to love God and to love each other, he gave us another linked duality for our existence on this earth.

The first side of the coin is to love God — To love God also means to love and take care of everything that He gave us.  The earth, at least for us humans is a very important part of the gift. We are to be good stewards of this planet and that currently means reducing our carbon footprints.

Another important part that God gave us is the laws of nature. In Jesus’ day very little was understood about these laws but over the last two millennia we have learned much. It starts with what are now considered simple things such as gravity up to the latest revelation of DNA. All of our scientific advances happen because God allows it.

And finally we are to take care of the essence of our very being. To me that means that we must constantly be trying to discern between for the basic truths that God has engrained in us verses those things that we have taught ourselves. We must very careful not to do things in the name of God that didn’t really come from God.

The second side of the Christian coin is his command to love one another –  He told us very clearly that we are to love one another and that means all of us not just fellow believers, not just Americans but all of humanity. I upset some when I tell them that my love of country comes pretty far down the list of my priorities. First I love my God, second is humanity, third is family, fourth is trying to do what Jesus commanded of me, and finally I love my country. And I do love my country. I wouldn’t wish to have been born anywhere else.

For me humanity comes before country. If something hurts other but help us in America then I am likely opposed to it. Our senseless wars in the Middle East are an example. We have as collateral damage killed thousands of innocent people in our thrust to get rid of the “bad guys”. Many times that very act simple creates more “bad guys” than it destroys.

Christianity is a two-sided coin and we must pay attention to both sides. It is simply not good enough to just say you are for something you must put some action into your words. That is what we seriously seem to miss in our present times.  It is easy to sit back and complain but hard to actually get down in the trenches and act….