Archives For Off The Top

Random things that fly off the top of my mind

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LOL – From my Facebook friends over at Living Blue in a Red State.

Maybe We Got It Wrong…

September 1, 2014 — 2 Comments

2014-08-09_19-13-53This is probably not a good post for a U.S. national holiday but here goes anyway. Fools rush in where….

A few hundred years ago, which is a very short amount of time in world history, we were part of the Great British empire. We bowed to the king and paid our share of taxes. Then some hot heads came along and convinced us that we would be better off on our own.  They, like many Californians today, just didn’t like the idea of paying taxes and found every excuse to avoid doing that.

Long story short here we are today with one of the worst, and the absolutely most expensive, healthcare system in the world.  A murder rate and gun ownership one of the highest in the world. Of course those two items are not unrelated.  Spending more on our military than all the other countries in the world combined let alone being so stressed out we seem to have no time for family.

While over in England they were recently judged to have the best healthcare of a first world country. Their gun ownership is a small fraction of our and they have less murders per capita l in a year than we do in a month. They, like most other countries spend miniscule amounts on their military.  They take the time for afternoon tea and meals with family. Britain also seems to learn from their mistakes much sooner than we do. They outlawed slavery many years before we did. They never tried to get rid of their alcohol as they realize that it is an integral part of their culture. They didn’t practice segregation to nearly the extent we did.

Maybe we got it wrong all those years ago. We let a few hot heads convince us that what we had was not a good thing.  Canada which is our neighbors to the north also rate pretty much as well  as England in all the mentioned categories. It is always fascinating to me to consider the results of various decisions both corporate and personal and to think about the consequences if we went the other way.

I know you can’t unscramble an egg or re-join a country so the above thinking is a total fantasy but it is interesting to ponder about how different my world would be today if we had not listened to those hot head rebels so many year ago. Now before you begin to flame me please realize that I love this country but we could learn a few lessons about doing it better from some of our neighbors, especially our British ones.

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “stimulus” just made things worse….

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SOURCE: Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law Updated | Dave Johnson.

In the old days, that is the time before I gave up on all the cable news channels I used to get a weekly dose of Fox News.  As they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It was anything but news……

That’s all I want, or need, to say about this topic. It is too toxic to go any further into the idiocy of it….

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Just what we don’t need in this country, another ultra extreme right wing narcissist vying for a leadership position.

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Its hard to tell just who we are at war with in any given moment. But it seems we always gotta be a war with someone…  Blessed are the Peacemakers….

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The above image is a clip from the July 28,2014 issue of Time magazine page 12. It seems very hard to find what percentage of the population is gay in the U.S.  The most often cited by those who don’t have an interest in the issue is about 1%. That seems to align somewhat with the Census Bureau numbers found above. But of course I realize even today that there are those who have homosexual tendencies who adamantly refuse to be  identify themselves as such.

Kids and Restaurants…..

August 11, 2014

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Is the message on this sign outside Old Fisherman’s Grotto, a Monterey, California restaurant, clear enough for you? ….

”Cue the controversy.

Since the local news covered the policy on Tuesday, it’s made headlines, prompted debate on social media, and produced a slew of new mostly negative reviews on Yelp. Most take aim at owner Chris Sake, with comments including “Good luck catering only to couples and groups of childless hipsters,” “Don’t go here unless you want to support Mr. Scrooge,” and “The sign is really low-class. Shame on you people.” Calls and emails to Sake and Old Fisherman’s Grotto were not returned.

A few were positive: “KUDOS to this place!! Finally a place where we can eat in peace,” and “More restaurants need to follow their lead on the children policy.”

SOURCE: Should Crying Babies Be Forbidden at Restaurants?.

A “No Kids” restaurant is an interesting idea. Now that I am deaf all the crying and gibbering doesn’t bother me but I only have to look at the faces of many other guests to know that I am pretty much alone with that immunity. It is only when the kids whose parents seem to have no control over them bump in to my table and as a result I get something spilled on me (yes, it has actually happened) that I am now annoyed. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to face that annoyance while spending hard-earned dollars eating out?

But actually I put the fault of all of this on the parents more than the kids.  Let’s face it kids will be kids and that is how it should be. But they must be taught that like they will learn later in life their freedom to run and scream has some restrictions. Not being a parent I’m sure I don’t realize just how hard that lesson is to teach a kid. For some reason when we lived for four years in New Jersey this problem was significantly less severe.  Don’t know why?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that families with uncontrollable kids don’t have a right to eat out. What I am saying is that those of us who don’t have or have already completed that task of raising kids have a right to have a peaceful meal out once in a while. Now that most restaurants are smoke free maybe set aside a “no kids” section of their establishments.

Yes, ministry can be brutal. One of the most sobering statistics I found in my research is that for every twenty pastors who enter the ministry only one will retire from ministry.

I had no idea how many pastors struggled with depression and frustration regarding their ministry roles. You write that 80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of their spouses) are discouraged in their ministry roles, that 40 percent say they have seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months, and that 70 percent say they don’t have a single close friend. Those are some really astounding and sobering numbers. And yet, this reality is so rarely talked about—in church, at conferences, in books. Why do you think that is, and why is it important that we change that? Why must we talk about failure, (or the sense of failure), among ministers?

SOURCE:  Pastors and the “F-Word”: A Conversation with J.R. Briggs.

I think there are a lot of pastors out there that would love to tell their parishioners the truth but are afraid of the consequences.  Many churches and denominations directly hire and pay their pastors. For the most part they expect the pastor to preach what they currently believe to be truth.  They aren’t looking for someone to come in and teach them a “new truth”.

The more I studied theology in the past twenty years the more I realized that there are vast differences between one Christian denomination and another. And within those denominations are churches that are even more scattered across the theological landscape.  Getting back to the topic of pastors, they risk their jobs by studying outside their groups theology. If they say the wrong things they may very well be shown the door.

When I was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I became a pretty close friend of the pastor. Being that I did not restrict my studies to only Lutheran practices I read very widely. One of the books that deeply influenced me was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. This book spent a lot of time looking at the words of Jesus and his messages to us. I was so impressed by the book to buy a copy for the pastor. I gave it to him and was anxiously awaiting his thoughts. A couple of weeks later I asked him about the book and he made a snide comment about the author and would not go into further explanation. After a while it became obvious to me that he did not bother to read more than a short snippet. I simply couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been influenced by the messages in the book.

What I learned from this encounter is that many clergy simply will not go outside their hierarchy when it come to their studies. They simply will not read things that might disagree with their current practices. I guess the reason for that is because they fear for their jobs.  It is certainly depressing to see the statistics above. Pastors should be free to give us a dose of their wisdom without fear for their jobs.

This is a sad part of current day Christianity…

Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We live lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities. Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain often consumptive standard of living. We can’t have it all—the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions.

Few things in life shape us more than our choices about how we earn, spend, save and invest. Most of us will spend a third of our lives at income-producing jobs. How we choose to manage those earnings largely determines whether we are free to serve the greater good. Yet, rarely have religious communities, in particular, done well at addressing money and work as areas for discipleship—other than the occasional sermon about giving. Perhaps we unconsciously tend to separate money and work from the center of our spiritual lives, making an artificial and unhelpful distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, and thereby less important.

SOURCE: 3 Beliefs that Change How We Perceive the American Dream | Mark Scandrette | Red Letter Christians.

By far the biggest advantage I have found in my retirement years is that I now have as much time as I want for compassionate engagement. This third of my life is very fulfilling indeed. We Americans are just too obsessed with financial success. As the quote above says we find little satisfaction in things that we know should be more important in our lives. Our obsession for more and more drives us to idiotic  self-centered extremes.

Yeah, we need to pay the bills but are we really spending our money on things that really matter? Are we just too prone to the suggestions of advertisers who convince us to spend so much to bleach out our teeth to an absurdly unnatural color? Do we spend too much time coveting what our neighbor has instead of trying to find what is more important to our lives? How we spend our money says a lot about us as people.  All of us should stop on a regular basis and take an inventory of what we are doing with our lives.

Consumption must not take the place of things that should have a deeper meaning in our lives. All we Christians, and for that matter most other religions, tell us to take care of each other. That is what is important. The greater good should outweigh our frivolous desires in life. Our churches should be there to help guide us through this moral entanglement but too many of them, at least according to Mr. Scandrette, are themselves caught in the financial morass. It just may be time to stop and take stock on our lives both spiritual and temporal….

I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster despite how, of course, it’s not, and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the [president is the] “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back

They didn’t hear me, of course; the orgasmic thrum of their perfect lives drowned out my chuckle, and as I turned and looked at this beautifully entitled, happy crew from my vantage point only a few feet away but a million light years in perspective, we all shared one of the most spectacular, envied locales in the world and all of us sipped superb regional grape and not a single one of us suffered the slightest personal, social or economic indignity, every first-world need instantly met, every crab cake perfectly formed, the sunshine as flawless as Jesus on toast and no lines at the restroom and lots of free parking for his Lexus SUV…..

Even so, I desperately wanted to ask Mr. Newport Beach what his stock portfolio looked like a mere six or seven years ago, when Bush & Co. ravaged the country and led us into one of the deepest, most brutal social and economic pits in modern history. Did he lose half his net worth? More? Was he worried he couldn’t feed his family or pay his mortgage? Did he lose his house? His job? Did he blame Bush? Clinton? Islam? The gays?

And by the way, how does he like the recovery so far? Which of his three perfect, multimillion-dollar homes was he on his way to, right now?

I also wanted to know, when Bush/Cheney lied to the world, openly violated the tragedy of 9/11 and invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands, was he furious? What about now, when even Fox News is calling out Cheney and declaring Iraq invasion a colossal mistake, a lie from which we’re still unable to extricate ourselves?

SOURCE:  The Best Worst President Ever | Mark Morford.

Mark Morford has become an instant hero of mine. This post says almost exactly how I feel about those rich guys who are so much against making healthcare a right instead of a privilege for all America’s citizens. I agree exactly with his amazement of calling our current president the worst ever while he is benefiting from all the massive recovery, at least for those who own a lot of stocks, that has occurred under this president.

I agree completely that it totally confuses me how this rich guy can completely ignore the disastrous condition that the previous president left the country in after eight years in office and how he put us in a $trillion+ off the books wars that the current president had to dig his way out of.  Compared to his predecessor the current president deserves  top three status in the presidential list.  How can this rich jerk even swallow the vitriol words that spews from his mouth.

But then I have to step back and recognize that this rich guy probably doesn’t represent most in his financial category. Or at least I hope he doesn’t? The hypocrisy of this rich guys words strike me as being one of the root causes for the trouble this country still has.  Thanks Mark for getting the words just right…..