Revolution….

March 23, 2014

Young and old, rich and poor, and people from every social, economic, political and cultural background are starting to rethink their faith. A fresh movement is happening, and in its purest form is about one thing: following Christ. This transformation is reshaping the Christian landscape. Believers are starting to simplify their faith in order to exemplify Christ—a simple yet profound way to live out the gospel. This has become a revolutionary concept.

This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information.

SOURCE: When Revolutions Become Religions – Stephen Mattson – Red Letter Christians.

If you are interested see a further discussion of this topic over at RedLetterLiving.

Legislatures are like animals in a zoo. You can’t do anything about ‘em’. All you can do is to stand and watch ‘em’

About being a U.S. Senator, the only thing the law says you have to be is 30 years old. Not another single requirement. They just figure that a man that old got nobody to blame but himself is he gets caught there

— Will Rogers —

I Tell The Truth….

March 21, 2014

????????????????????????I always try to tell the truth or at least my version of it. I acknowledge the premise that all of us lie to one degree or another and that certainly includes me. But I always try to tell the truth.  Sometimes that makes me seem insensitive and maybe even an ass. I tell the truth when others would lie to make someone feel better.  Telling the truth just seems to be part of my basic nature.

I often speak, and many times on this blog write, before even thinking about what comes out. That is who I am.  This frequently gets me in trouble with my wife. I seem to often say things that get her upset.  When I don’t particularly like what she has cooked I most often let her know. Fortunately I do most of the cooking so that doesn’t happen often. I sometimes hurt her feelings when someone with more tact probably wouldn’t.

I know telling the truth got me into trouble with the church I once belonged to.. They were just not ready for my truths and after a period of time they let me know that by showing me the door. Never mind that I spent literally hundreds of hours of volunteer time outfitting cabinets and such for the new building. I spent many hours on various committees. All it took was a self-proclaimed response that I just didn’t buy into the 6,000 year old earth. That and other such proclamations spelled the beginning of the end for my participation in that body. The new minister was just too conservative to let me tell my version of truth. I’m sure he was convinced that I would cause too much dissension in his new flock.

Another side of the same coin is that I literally can’t stand someone who I know is lying to my face. Lying about who you are or what you believe is the epitome of wrong with me.  But that very characteristic seems to be a required thing with today’s politicians. They go from one group to another and say what they thing the group wants to hear. It doesn’t matter that they have no intention of carrying out any of the promises they make.They just don’t seem to have the guts to take a stand for something they might really believe.  I even sadly include Mr. Obama in that group now. I tell the truth and I expect that from others.

I just tell the truth. That is who I am.

Privatizing Prisons…

March 20, 2014

For-profit prisons have now become the norm throughout our country. We now leave it up to others to house those who we deem unfit for society. Some, especially fiscal conservatives, say that is a good thing.  After all doesn’t the private sector always do it better than the public one.  Doesn’t the drive for profit always mean a better way of doing it?

Here are some sobering statistics about this:

PrisonThe biggest private prison owner in America, The Corrections Corporation of America, has seen its profits increase by more than 500% in the past 20 years. Moreover, the business’ growth shows no sign of stopping, having already approached 48 states to take over government-run prisons. One way for-profit prisons to minimize costs is by skimping on provisions, including food. A psychiatrist who investigated a privately run prison in Mississippi found that the inmates were severely underfed and looked “almost emaciated.” During their incarceration, prisoners dropped anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds.

100% of all military helmets, ID tags, bullet-proof vests and canteens are created in federal prison systems through prison labor. Though prisoners are “generously” compensated cents per hour, it’s clear having this inexpensive, exploited labor force is critical to the military industrial complex.

States sign agreements with private prisons to guarantee that they will fill a certain number of beds in jail at any given point. The most common rate is 90%, though some prisons are able to snag a 100% promise from their local governments. Because of these contracts, the state is obligated to keep prisons almost full at all times or pay for the beds anyway, so the incentive is to incarcerate more people and for longer in order to fill the quota.

Violent crimes are down overall, so how does the United States keep prisons stocked instead? Amplifying the war on drugs: there are now 11 times as many people in jail for drug convictions than there were in 1980, constituting 50% of the prison population. Longer mandatory minimum sentences also keeps the inmates in longer. Most people incarcerated for drug charges are non-violent, have no prior record, and are addicts rather than major drug-traffickers.

The three largest for-profit prison corporations have spent more than $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists to keep politicians on the side of privatized incarceration. In light of all of their ethical violations, it’s obvious that they have to offer some incentive for keeping their business legal.

SOURCE: For-Profit Prisons: 8 Statistics That Show the Problems | Care2 Causes.

I will let you decide whether all of the above is a good thing.  For those of you who think it is, let’s drop the other shoe.  Let’s privatize our armed forces. Think of all the money we could save. We could layoff soldiers during those few times when we are not at war with someone. We could sell off the Pentegon or at least give it a corporate name.  How about Halliburton World Headquarters?   I’ll bet we could make a bundle off of that place. I’m sure all the statistics above could easily be duplicated for our defense establishment as they are for our prison system.  What do you think???? PRIVATIZE is the name of the game isn’t it??

StewWhen I was a kid I often heard that the USA was the great American melting pot. That implied that when people came to this country they gave up all their traditions and heritage and merged seamlessly into the American ethic. I was a pretty naive farm boy in my youth so it was years before I realized that the melting pot was not as homogeneous as I thought.

Those who grew up in large metropolitan areas very much realize that American is more of a stew than a melting pot. Take any major city and you will find “Little Italy”, “Chinatown”, and many other ethnic neighborhoods. I even recently learned that there is a “Little Ukraine” in NYC. Being deaf I have even come to understand that there are deaf enclaves in many cities where Deaf culture people congregate. They have their own groceries, and other type stores who all know ASL.

Originally these communities started as a way to hang out with people who spoke our language and understood the world as we do. They were ways to hold on to old world customs in the strange new world of the United States.  But since mass immigration is now several generations ago they have now morphed into centers to celebrate their uniqueness and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think that the U.S. has always been a stew rather than a melting pot. A stew is made up of many different components each contributing to the unique overall taste. If there was nothing but potatoes in a stew it would not be anything close to what it is.  By the same account if we just threw all the vegetables into a pot of cold water they would never come to be a stew but instead just a pot of veggies.  It takes time on the stove, or crockpot, for the parts to come together to be a stew.

On this blog I call the American Stew by the name of diversity. We are made up of many different parts with many different views. Our diversity is what makes us the great nation that we are. When we fail to recognize that fact we are damaging ourselves.  Slavery damaged us for hundreds of years as has bigotry among some of our population. Today the anti-diversity campaigns such as Left/Right, conservative/progressive, white/color, are still threatening the stew.

We have to all understand that being made up of a population of differences is what makes us unique in this world. It is what gives us our strength. For that reason we should all take up arms when bigotry and prejudices are used to attack any of us. We are a stew, not a melting pot.

Below The Belt…

March 18, 2014

I am going to talk about a “below the belt” issue here so all you prudes out there take warning.  Also take warning to not take what I say here too serious. I am kind of poking fun at this issue so don’t flame me too much.  :)

Rubber red stamp with sexSome read the Bible to say that the only purpose of having a sexual relations is for procreation.  But if that is the case then why did God make having sex so pleasurable? Why didn’t he make it more of an undesirable chore rather than a joy? Why don’t we say to our spouse “oh no, you want to have sex!” Making the sexual act a chore rather than a joy sure would have solved so many issues in today’s world.

One of the things that drags so many women into poverty is teenagers having children. It dooms many. There is also a population explosion taking place in this world. Over my lifetime I think the world population has more than tripled Of course pleasurable sex is a dominant reason.  And then there is AIDS. Too many people die each year of this disease which is primarily transmitted through sex.  The African nations seem to be more vulnerable than many in this area and of course they are among the poorest countries in the world. Then of course there is the worst of all, abortion.  Pleasurable sex sure does cause a lot of serious troubles in the world….

I kind of like to believe that God wants sex to be a special celebration between a man and a woman. That is why he made it feel so good.  But maybe he should have known that there would come a time when sexual gratification took on a life of its own. I will admit here that I was quite a bit beyond my teenage years before I had my first sexual encounter. I will also admit that during those teen years my hormones ruled my brain and if I had not been so shy …

Sex seems to have become so prevalent in TV and movies today. Almost every show has some pretty explicit sex scenes now. One of those shows that I once enjoyed is “Two and a half men”. It started out somewhat comical but in the last few years lewd sex has dominated every storyline. I quit watching it for that reason.  If I had children that is one of the many shows I would probably block.  Trying to shelter kids from sex just seems impossible now.

I don’t think I am a prude but sex just seems to be much to prevalent in our social media and much too casual now days.

PlaygroundI have come to  recent insight that there is really no such thing as a grownup. We all carry our basic insecurities and fears with us throughout our lives. They might not have the intensity they once had but they never disappear. Let’s face it none of us ever really grows up. Especially as far as our parents are concerned.  I was always somewhat embarrassed when my father would introduce me, his fifty year old son, to some of his friends as “This is my boy”. Somewhat embarrassed but to a degree also proud. Dad never showed many feelings but through these words he was telling me and the person who he was introducing that he was proud of me. What child doesn’t want to hear that from his parents, even if it isn’t directly spoken.  We are always a kid in our parents eyes. Someone who always needs the lessons they can teach us. We often return the favor by reverting to childlike behavior around our parents.

I will admit that to this day I can’t sleep in a bedroom with the closet door open. Of course I know that there are no monsters hiding there now  but that doesn’t ameliorate the need to make sure the door is closed before I hop into bed. I was always a shy kid who just didn’t seem to belong. Those feelings followed me through much of my life and are even there to a degree today.  When I started dating I always bumbled around on first dates. For that reason I had many more first dates than second or third dates. Not being around females except in the school yard I just never got comfortable with opposite sex exchanges.

For all our lives we are all just a bunch of kids running around the playground trying to fit in.  Our playground gets bigger and maybe more complicated as the years pass but our desire to fit in with the rest of the kids never goes away.  I don’t think I have ever known anyone who has really grown up.  As much as we prance around trying to act like adults we often revert back to those childhood temperaments and fears.

But sometimes it is good to be a kid. Sometimes it is the best thing. Kids are constantly asking “Why” and that is something that is good to carry throughout our lives. We might think it is grown up to stop asking “why” but in reality taking things for granted often stifles our lives.  Kids have the wildest hopes and dreams. When we are children we are constantly re-inventing our future. We go from wanting to be a fireman to an astronaut to this and to that. It is a good thing to carry that same drive into our so-called adult years and even into our senior years. When we give up our hopes and dreams we are basically giving up on life.

So, here is to the kid in all of us. May we always be children in one regard or another.

We all know the story of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – four remarkably similar accounts about his life. What we don’t agree on is our interpretation of what he taught. I’m talking about the Gospel message that Jesus intended to be a guide for how we should live our lives, and to be passed on to others to help them understand what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus shifted us from the law-based religion of the Old Testament to his radically new principle-based way of living, and it just makes sense that he’d choose to use a different style of teaching to do that. Parables and metaphors replaced rules and regulations but the downside is that it leaves the door wide open for a myriad of interpretations that make us wonder if we’re all reading the same Bible. I have to admit that sometimes I wish God would have just replaced the Ten Commandments with another set of stone tablets with a whole new set of rules carved into them. Things like “Don’t even think about being violent…ever.” and “Take care of the poor, even if it means reducing your standard of living.”

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is planning to cut the U.S. Army to its smallest force since before World War II and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets, the New York Times reports. The moves are part of a new spending proposal that officials say is the first Pentagon budget to push the military off the war footing adopted after the terrorist attacks of 2001. The officials argue the military will be able to defeat any adversary, but would be too small for long foreign occupations. The plan will be released Monday.

SOURCE:  The Health-Law Rollout.

It is about time I had something to celebrate about the Obama presidency. We don’t need to spend forty times as much as any other country in the world. We don’t need to be the policemen of the world. Let’s share that burden before it bankrupts us.

The Secret Life Of…..

March 14, 2014

For those of you who have read some of the classics of the past I”m sure you will finish this post title with “Walter Mitty”.  I think all of us at one level or another live our own Walter Mitty lives in our minds.  There are those missed opportunities where we could have made fundamentally different choices that might have radically changed who we are.  Regrettably most of us cower during those times and then can only live that alternate choice in the depths of our minds. I am certainly one such person.

Here I am getting toward the end of my sixth decade on this earth so my days forward are much less than my days behind. My body continues to degrade on a seemingly daily basis which makes me realize that there will be many unrealized dreams. I don’t want to fall into a state of melancholy here so I will now divert the focus of this post onto the Thurber short story instead of my own.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1939. It was made into a movie in 1947 and was recently re-made late last year. Here is the basic plot of the story as described by Wikipedia.

2014-03-08_10-35-21The short story deals with a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife’s visit to the beauty parlor. During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes. The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.” Each of the fantasies is inspired by some detail of Mitty’s mundane surroundings.

I don’t remember when I read the story or saw the movie but I am sure that it was in my early childhood. I have been a dreamer all my life so the story enthralled me. During those rather boring grade school and high school days I was often a dreamer rather than a listener. I could have probably made my dreaming into a life mission but of course that is also a Walter Mitty dream for me.

I never went on to try to find any other stories by Thurber. Maybe I will do that now or at least I will re-read the original story.  But I definitely will watch the new re-make as soon as it is available with captions. If any of you young people out that think I have anything worth saying I will advise you to seriously look at your current passions in life and to try to do something to make them happen instead of just end up dreaming about them when you are an old guy like me. :) Don’t settle for the mundane…