Are You Brave Enough???

August 17, 2014

Instead of helping the poor, feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, sheltering the homeless, fighting injustice, speaking for the voiceless, sacrificially giving, and wholeheartedly loving our neighbors and enemies, churches have become co-opted by secular values and empty content.

Emulating Christ is not for the faint of heart, and following his commands will probably mean becoming a church that embraces conflict, discomfort, work, pain, suffering, and truth. This is the messiness of Christianity — following God through the Pilgrim’s Progress of life, forsaking the riches of this world for the treasure of a Divine relationship. Are we brave enough to embrace this?

SOURCE:  Have Churches Become Too Shallow? | Stephen Mattson.

I make no pretenses about my admiration for Red Letter Christians blogger Stephen Mattson. He inspires me to ramp up my following of Jesus Christ and to point out to others where they can do the same. He has the words that I often lack to fully express my feelings about my spirituality. The words above are about how some churches have become too shallow in their practices. They make church more like a country club than a place to help us in our spiritual lives.

Of course all churches and all Christians including me to one degree or another have been co-opted by secular values. Just placing our country’s flag behind the altar is a beginning stage. We need to remember that Jesus was not an American but a middle eastern Jew. He doesn’t value an American over other people in the world. We need to understand that to be a follower of Jesus we need to be a citizen of the world and all the people living in it.

The one thing that many of the bloggers over at RedLetterChristians see churches shying away from is conflict. They want everyone to love them so they play down the hard message of Jesus in favor of a supposedly blessed life. It takes guts to walk in Jesus’ sandals. He did things that made many first century citizens very uncomfortable. He took head on the religious establishment of his day to try to lovingly show them a better path. We need to do the same thing today not out of a sense of superiority but of one of servitude. Are we brave enough to embrace this?

New Jersey….

August 16, 2014

On our recent visit to NYC we also spent a day revisiting our old haunts in New Jersey. We lived there during my last four years in the corporate world. As seems to be so typical today my twenty-six years in corporate America in the Midwest came to an abrupt end when they closed down our division. We were told we had a job but it was now in New Jersey. Most of the six-hundred or so chose to stay in the Midwest and look for another job. For me, with only four years left for a full pension that wasn’t really an option. So for the first time in my life I chose to leave my native State and head east.  As with Charles Dickens in the Tale of Two Cities it proved to be the best of time and the worst of time. To make the story as brief as possible after the required four years elapsed we moved back to our roots.

Here are some picture of the Garden State. Hurricane Sandy took out most of the Jersey Shore Boardwalk but it has been nicely replaced.  The diner was my favorite place to eat. The Sculptures were a new visit for us. It was a fantastic place to visit even with temps in the 90s.   Click on any one to see a larger view.

 

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Aug. 14, 1935: President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. Social Security was initially created to combat unemployment, but now functions as a safety net for retirees and the disabled. It has remained relatively unchanged for 75 years. Social Security is funded mostly through payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax FICA.When FDR launched Social Security, the United States was mired in the Great Depression, and poverty rates among senior citizens were estimated to be over 50 percent. Social Security was attacked by FDR’s critics, who called it “socialism.”

SOURCE: Today in history: The birth of Social Security – The Week.

The birth of Social Security..

Autodidacticism….

August 15, 2014

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They teach themselves from an early age, have many deep interests, rather than just one. And they are very persistent, even in the face of rejection….

One interesting thing that’s emerged is that so many of these highly creative people are autodidacts. They are people who teach themselves. That makes them almost misfits in the educational system that they get put into. It would be nice if educators were aware of the existence of autodidacts and the need to give them slightly different education experiences, to nurture them.

SOURCE: Connecting strength and vulnerability of the creative brain.

The source quote above came from a recent PBS Newshour segment on the link between genius and what we call mental illness. I have downloaded the original article and will likely do some additional post on related areas of it in the near future but for now I want to talk about one aspect of this article which is autodidacticism.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered the term “Autodidacticism”. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

Autodidacticism or self-education is self-directed learning that is related to but different from informal learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is “learning on your own” or “by yourself”, and an autodidact is a self-teacher. Autodidacticism is a contemplative, absorptive procession.

Some autodidacts spend a great deal of time reviewing the resources of libraries and educational websites. One may become an autodidact at nearly any point in one’s life.  Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts.

I was surprised to learn that this is actually a defined process because it fits me to a “T” even in my early years but especially after I became deaf at the age of forty. Except in college where I didn’t have the physical hours to do it, I have always been off studying something on my own.

You could say that autodidactisism is just a fancy word for “self taught “but I think it goes beyond that concept mainly in its intensity.  Some of the more famous examples of autodidacts in history are Leonardo da Vinci and Abraham Lincoln but there are thousands of other accomplished creative people who fit that label.

In my earliest years I spent hours reading books by various American authors particularly John Steinbeck, Jack London, and other of that genre. I often read before I did my homework as the latter just bored me. I think I gleaned my leftist tendencies during that period of my life and just didn’t realize it until much later in life.

I have always been a self-study even before I was deaf but especially after. Communication in classroom type activities just took too much energy that I thought was better spent just doing the learning myself. After many many hours of studying and practice I became recognized as the guy who really understood software development. I taught myself to program in several different languages and made up tools to help me in my work that ended up on many others desktops. It was not until my work got the attention of a passing vice-president in the very large corporation I worked that I officially made the switch from circuit design to software tools. It was where I actually belonged in the first place.

Being an autodidact is just who I am,  even before I know it….

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A Quick Note

I have been doing daily posts over at my new blog InSearchOfAmerica for about a month now and I think I have finally settled on what fits best there for me. I originally got the idea over a year ago and have had a few false starts since them. The current format fits me very well. It is primarily about pictures with a twitter length comment.

As the posts progress the mosaic that the site is building will become a picture of what I have seen in my search for America.  It you feel like it give it a look….

Writing My Material….

August 14, 2014

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An important part of my daily read is the Will Rogers Facebook page as shown above. It, along with the half-dozen books about him on my bookshelf give me a lifetime of material for this blog at RJsCorner.

Will inspires me for his wit, wisdom, and humor. But maybe even more so for his endurance as he put out thousands of  “posts” of his day.

Will inspires me with his method of delivery.  One of his most famous quotes is “All I know is what I read in the newspaper” and then he would proceed to put his spin on the story. The vast majority of my posts start out as a quote from what I read around the Internet. I then expand on it with my own interpretation.

Will inspires me with his calm patience. I get attacked on occasion for what I say.  I, like him, try to keep the attitude of “I never met a man I didn’t like” and deal with those upset yahoos with calmness and a sense of humor. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Will inspired me with his writing style. Kind of laid back and nothing too formal. My header above has one of my favorite quotes from him.  I try to do the best I can and don’t take life too serious. Even that gets me in trouble once in a while as people just take what I say here too serious when I mean it to be tongue-in-cheek.

Will inspires me….

 

 

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This congress, like the last one is known as the “Do Nothing Congress”. But I guess it is hard to get anything done when one party is against everything except shutting down government and leaving this country totally to the greedy capitalists. It looks like those yahoos are going to go on another long vacation without passing any highway funding bills. *

We are the joke of the world when it comes to our infrastructure. Like so many other things the rest of the first world countries spend what is needed to keep their roads and such pothole free and up to date. I have even heard stories that some German companies refuse to put another factory in our country until they see us get serious about bringing up our standards in this area.

Our congressmen spend less time in their job than any other profession I can think of except maybe teachers :)  But at least teacher to a certain degree get the job done. The politicians seem to just manage to scream and diss each other and anyone else who disagrees with them. What a joke…..

* UPDATE

It isn’t often that an individual, company or government gets everything wrong simultaneously, but members of Congress, clinging fiercely to ideology, expediency and cynicism, are regularly doing just that. There can be no better illustration than the pathetically ignorant and immoral “solution” fashioned last week to forestall the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

No thinking person — Democrat, Republican or Unicorn — can possibly believe that encouraging companies to further shortchange already inadequately financed pension plans is a sensible approach to funding highway construction. Nevertheless, that’s what Congress just did, before rushing off to an ill-deserved vacation.

SOURCE: Highway funding bill illustrates everything wrong with Congress | Dallas Morning News.

2014-08-03_11-10-40But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth.  It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.  The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

These quotes above drive home what I believe is a very basic reason our economy is still in the state that it is. We just give too much power to the most avid capitalists among us. In other words we give too much power to those few who control most of our nation’s wealth. I am a firm believer in the idea that government’s role in a democratic/capitalist society is to reign in the greed that naturally comes with capitalism.

Unions used to have some control over this wage vs established wealth issue but that is just no longer the case. As is typical of these sort of thing unions themselves became too powerful and as a result too self-focused and corrupt to continue to hold the influence they once had. Unfortunately there was nothing there to replace the void left by the extinction of unions so it is necessary for our government to step in. But even that is another tragic failure in this very disjointed country.

With the almost total breakdown of the ability to govern, especially at the national level, this dichotomy between wages and wealth has gone unabated for a couple of decades now. Our economy is almost totally based on consumer spending but if consumers are stripped of any sense of discretionary income it seems like that is a natural spiral that we will not escape from. The richest among us just don’t eat out 10,000 times a month to replace those who can no longer afford such luxury.

We depend on our government to reign in the excess of our capitalist system and that is just not happening in today’s world.

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…