Archives For Inspiring

Things that inspire me and help me get closer to my Creator

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Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age….

Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

SOURCE: Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

Let’s face it, America is changing. As the title of the graphic above says people are becoming unmoored from entrenched institutions.  In many cases I think that is a good thing. Those between 18 -33 years old are more independent thinkers than any generation in the past. They are for the most part pragmatists. I kind of think much of that is due to the proliferation of information available because of the Internet.

I can remember in my youth having to spend hours in the library card stack trying to find information for a school essay. I took my writing as seriously then as I do today so research was the name of the game. Now just about any question you can ask has answers almost immediately via an Internet search. If it is a political question you don’t just get a party line Republican/Democrat answer anymore but also a myriad of other possible explanations including even this blog. The information age will radically change our nation in the coming years.

This dramatic season of change requires that many our current social institutions must change or go the way of the dinosaur.  The “truths” of yesterday are no longer the truths of today. This change creates opportunities for some and death for others. It should not be a surprise that conservative politics of anti-this and anti-that is quickly losing favor.  The political party that presents answers instead of grid-lock will find favor. It is heartening to see that the demise of the radical right-wing of politics is on the horizon.

By the same token religious institutions that focus on God’s love rather than his Old Testament wrath will flourish. Those that successfully meld science and spirituality will be those who continue to exist in the coming years. In my mind the movement known as the emergent church is just such an institution. It focuses on core beliefs and  action rather than ancient beliefs and outdated customs.

When the younger generations eventually drag the power away from those entrenched in the “old ways”, there will be some exciting times in our country. For those who are getting ready to jump on the comments wagon, no this is not a black/white thing. Many of the truths that we call morality will not be overthrown. But those based on fear, intimidation, and outdated traditions will get their due demise and that is as it should be.

2014-01-18_17-49-05Pope Francis, laying out his hopes Wednesday for the just-begun year, urged people to work for a world where everyone accepts each other’s differences and where enemies recognize that they are brothers.

“We are all children of one heavenly father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny,” Francis said….

“What is happening in the heart of man? What is happening in the heart of humanity?” Francis asked. “It’s time to stop.”

SOURCE Pope Stresses Strength, Courage, Hope in New Year – ABC News.

I want to end this first month of the new year 2014 with some inspiring words from the new pope of the Catholic church.He has the courage to speak out on so many issues that other fear to embrace. I admire him much for that.

These handful of sentences pretty much sums up one of my life’s primary purposes. I know I am just a simple-living senior citizen but even my contributions to the world mean something. I blog here and especially over at Red Letter Living hoping to convince just a few of you who might be acting otherwise that diversity is a good thing and loving each other is the main thing God expects of us. Why do we seem to gravitate toward the opposite feelings?

Pope Francis continues to pluck my heartstrings with his words.  I can’t imagine a better religious figure for our times. I pray that some of his hope rubs out some of my doubt about the world.

Mother Teresa was once asked in an interview, “What do you say when you pray?” She replied, “Nothing, I just listen.” So then the reporter asked, “Well then, what does God say to you?” Her answer: “Nothing much, He just listens.” 

– Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne;Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

 

Listening To God

Love Trumps Efficiency

Even if the poor waste their resources, who cares? That doesn’t mean we should give up on them.  Imagine if God started forgiving only those who deserved it? (Gulp!) We’d all be in big trouble. The amazing thing is, Jesus wasn’t what we would consider fair or efficient—His love was radically unfair! His disciples continually failed, yet Jesus didn’t abandon them, even after one of them (Peter) denied Him three times while Jesus was in the process of being executed (after being betrayed by another disciple: Judas)….

Unfortunately, many churches and Christians today are acting more like big banks, treating “charity” like a loan application, dispensing aid and resources only to the specific poor they deem “worth it.” Are they sober, mentally stable, spiritually healthy, and capable of work? Ok, sign these papers and we’ll give you a Gift Card to the local grocery store—but if you misuse these funds don’t come back!


SOURCE: Stephen Mattson: 5 Reasons We Should Personally Help the Poor | Red Letter Christians.

This is a big one for me. So many Christians readily recognize the grace of God for themselves but will not personally pass it on to others around them. I am just a “there but for the grace of God go I..” person. I can see where some of the decisions I have made in my life could have resulted in me being one of “those people”. I can imagine that my going deaf in midlife could have turned me into a completely different person if my wife, and God, had not be in my corner.

The church that I was recently a member of did an admirable job of adopting a couple of families during the Christmas season. They provided them with gifts for the kids and some food for a couple of meals during those special holidays. But that was pretty much the sum total of their capital spent during the year to this area. For several months I put out the monthly bins at the church to collect food for a local soup kitchen only to see a pittance of cans at the end of each month. Finally being discouraged I stopped even that effort.  I was told by the pastor that people’s lives are so hectic with their families they just didn’t have time for the poor. A poor excuse in my mind….

It is just very hard for many to see that Jesus intended love to trump efficiency every day. We all have to try to keep the words of Jesus in our hearts and in our actions on a daily basis, not just those special times of year….

smileI don’t pretend to know Shane Claiborne on a personal level but he is one of my heroes in life because he lives his faith instead of just saying the words. I have been inspired and encouraged by all of this books. I embrace more of his beliefs than almost anyone I can think of.

When I came across his “14 hopes for 2014″ I found a some more to add to my list. Here they are:

SQUASH NEGATIVITY.  I commit to shut down murmuring and cynicism and gossip and slander and all forms of passive aggression (even on the blogosphere!) – and to exorcise the demons of negativity.  St. Benedict said that speaking negatively about people (even with well-warranted reasons) is “poison”, and it rots away the foundation of community.  In its place I hope to practice honest confrontation when hurt or offended and encourage others to do the same.

LAUGH OFTEN.  I have a friend who says, “If we can’t laugh then the devil has already won.”  Social justice folks can be so serious… and need to loosen up a little. Joy comes from the confidence that the world doesn’t have to stay the way it is.  It also helps win over those who oppose you – it’s hard to hate folks who make you smile.

I love the St. Benedict quote about speaking negatively. It is indeed a poison that is rotting away our common bond. I must admit that I have in the past contributed to this plague but have vowed to not do it so much in this new year.  It is hard to see people acting so contrary to what I hold dear without putting out some angry words but that is just what I hope to do.  I hope St. Benedict gives me a little whisper when I start talking negatively about others.

I think I have a pretty good sense of humor and I hope it shows up at least occasionally on this blog. But I,  a social justice guy, am too serious sometimes. I need to loosen up a little more.  Maybe pay more attention to another of my heroes, Will Rogers, in that regard. I hope I make my readers smile on occasion. We all need a good laugh now and then.

I won’t go into the other items on my list here. Some are just too personal to share. Some are embarrassing and some need additional tuning. But I do hope that I can live up to the two that my friend Shane recently gave me. That would make me a better person and don’t we all want that for ourselves?

RedLetterChristians Logo

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

SOURCE:  What if Jesus Meant All That Stuff? – Red Letter Christians.

Just a quick note to all my Christian friends out there and even the ones who are not, I impeach you to click on the link above before you finalize your New Years resolutions. You just might want to add something else to your list….

2013-12-12_09-12-42VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said in the first peace message of his pontificate that huge salaries and bonuses are symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked around the world on January 1, he also called for sharing of wealth and for nations to shrink the gap between rich and poor, more of whom are getting only “crumbs”.

“The grave financial and economic crises of the present time … have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy” he said.

“The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles,” he said….

Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the Argentinian has several times condemned the “idolatry of money” and said it was a depressing sign of the times that a homeless person dying of exposure on the street was no longer news but a slight fall in the stock market is.

SOURCE:  Pope attacks mega-salaries and wealth gap in peace message – Yahoo News.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Time Magazine had chosen Pope Francis as its person of the year.  I dreaded the idea that Senator Cruz, who was in the top ten list might be chosen! Time has a way of  sometimes wanting to shock its readers with their unpredictability.  I am glad that saner minds ruled this year.

Anyway, getting back to the story and quote above, I was truly inspired by his words about the wealth gap. He does indeed seem to be a Pope for the people and not just an administrator as the previous pope was often cited to be. The wealth gap, in the whole world not just the U.S., is becoming so extreme as to threaten our very humanity.  With the increase in riches by a very small minority also comes the increase in power to perpetuate  the suppression of the majority.

Pope Francis gets it and is not afraid to let the world know what he thinks. Narrowing the wealth gap as the pope suggests means taking the power back to the people and away from the privileged few. That is no small task!  One great thing about this country is that our elected officials who make up most of the rules are still elected by the majority of its citizens. Now, if only we could get the ignorant, or at least misinformed, voters to realize that fact things might change in our country and the world.

Here is to you Pope Francis. Keep your voice loud and clear in this area and all the fellow Catholics in your clan take to heart your words and actually try to put them in action. Wouldn’t the world then be a better place??

Agency on Aging….

December 23, 2013

2013-12-11_15-55-37“Area 10 basically serves clients who, for whatever reason, are really struggling to age successfully or live successfully in their homes. We provide them with the support and service they need in order to live comfortable and safe lives at home,” she began. “We serve older adults and people with disabilities in Owen County, our youngest client is six and our oldest client in Owen County is 95. We have literally hundreds of clients in Owen County.”

SOURCE:  Area 10 Looking To Continue ….

I don’t know what it is called in your area but I’m pretty sure you also have at least one agency that helps senior citizens and disabled people cope with their daily lives.  As the article mentions in my county, which is one of the poorest in the State, 68% of senior citizens have an annual income of less than $20,000. That means they pretty much rely on social security alone for every need. My county is made up of primarily working class people who just did not have enough working income to put much away for their retirements. They are also a very proud people who don’t like “handouts”.

The point of the post is to make you aware of the tremendous need in your area.  I hope each of you seek out those agencies and give them a contribution this holiday season. How about doing that instead of giving that Christmas present that is not really needed and will likely be returned anyway. :)

Area 10 does a lot of good things in my area. I see their buses almost everyday picking up seniors for their never-ending doctors appointments and such.  They maintain a food pantry and even deliver food to homebound seniors. For those Christians among you remember that Jesus said there is really only two commands from  God, one is to love God and the other is to love one another. Let’s show the world what it really means to be a Christian by supporting the Area 10 agency in your area.  I am certain that your donation would be much more welcomed than that not needed or really wanted Christmas present you might buy for someone on your list.

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do…..

As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

SOURCE:  Morf Morford: It’s NOT the economy, stupid | Red Letter Christians.

I am going to do a rare cross post here between two of my blogs. I am doing so because I think this post has a spiritual as well as general message.

While the referenced source above is about life being more than just money, this post is actually just about the description of the author.  Besides having a very interesting name the author of this post over at Red Letter Christians has very interesting look on life. I am proud to say I share his views of God and getting older. But I guess I am luckier than hs is in one regard. I still drink lots of milk. They tell me it is good for my osteoporosis. :)

I too am currently a free-range Christian and have been for a few years now.  I am no longer instructed weekly in what I am supposed to believe. I no longer feel I need to jump through all the denominational belief hoops in order to be a Christian. I can now believe that God loves all of us and not just those who believe as I do.  Instead I now tend to look at the Lord’s word from a more personal, some might say naive, view. From what I can glean from the Christian Bible I also agree that God expects more from us than almost any of us can imagine or at least willing to put forward.

One of the things that pushed me out of the last church I was in (that is besides being nudged out the door because I did not tow the denominational line closely enough and was probably asking too many question in adult bible classes) was their stubborn insistence  that they have it all figured out and everyone else is just wrong in one thing or another.  In that regard, I also proudly share the belief that  God knows more than they do, or everyone else for that matter.

One of the things that prompted me to start my blog over at RedLetterLiving more than five years ago was that I just grew less tolerant to pettiness of some mainstream beliefs about the current version of church. In these five years I have learned that I am by no means alone in those feelings.

Thanks Morf for reminding me what it is all about….

Group Pictures…

July 20, 2013

Bedford Picture Merge3

For some unknown reason I have always been fascinated by group pictures such as shown in my revised header above and a larger copy here. I love looking at each individual face and trying to imagine their life story.  In studying local history such as from the picture above I have come to understand just how hard previous generations have it compared to ours. It makes me appreciate all that I have today.

We must remember that our grandparents, or maybe great grandparent, often time worked a twelve-hour day six days a week to just put bread on the table for their family. I suspect that many in the picture above due to working around limestone came down with emphysema and other such lung related problems.  Many, like their coal miner brethren, likely died of lung cancer.  There is still a very strong limestone industry just south of where I live. But I am sure that their employer now takes the necessary precautions to prevent such dangerous environments that those in this picture faced.

I am not much of a collector as such.  I do have a few “Simplify” signs strewn around my study that I have been collecting for a decade or so.  I am now on the lookout for pictures like the above.  I take digital copies where I can but I would really like to gather some of the old originals. I have had that opportunity in the past but sadly didn’t take advantage of it.

For some reason I look at group pictures and have a sense of empathy for all those who posed in front of a camera many years ago. I think that is one of the reasons I have such a passion for local histories.  During the past twelve years my wife and I have made at least one annual trek to various cities within a day or two driving distance. We spend much of our time there studying its history. I have collected many books and such and I will soon be presenting in a new blog. For those who might be interested I will be  giving you more info about this new project soon.

In order to appreciate what we have today we must understand how those who have lived before us helped shape our present world.