Altered States..

canstockphoto44046673.jpgWho wants to totally live in our hectic world today.  I have seen too many of my friends give up on our times and say they want out.  That defeatist attitude seem to be taking over our world especially with the current Oval Office holder in charge.

It seems that all of us need to get away from today at least for a little while each day. We need an “Altered State” that we can escape to. Somewhere where the world doesn’t seem so real. Just what that altered state ends up being depends on the person. Some like one thing, some like another.  Here are some of the choices:

Alcohol – Some can’t wait till the end of the day when they can have their beer or shot. Of course this remedy is not a new one. People have been doing that for as long as we have existed.  Those folks on the mythical TV show Blue Bloods must go through gallons of the stuff daily.  Even the police commissioner on regularly takes a shot or two in his office.  He NEEDS his altered state. Some of my personal altered states include an occasional beer or wine but that is less than one a week thing.

Cigarettes –  I know a thing or two about this altered state as I was a smoker for over twenty years! It has been twenty-five  years since my last one but I still remember how nicotine helped me forget some of my worries. My wife unfortunately still puffs on her cancer sticks even after three heart attacks and bout with lung cancer.

Coffee – Caffeine is another altered state drug that millions use.  If it is not multiple cups of coffee a day or a six pack of Mountain Dew then it is another special drink loaded with the drug.

Marijuana – This is an altered state that is coming back into its own.  It used to be legal and then it wasn’t. I see more and more States (no not that kind but the 50 in the USA) are legalizing it once again. Even though I was in college in the 1960s I never tried the stuff then or since. I don’t personally know how “altered” my state would be if marijuana was my choice but I suspect it would mellow me out and don’t we all need our dose that in these current times.

Opioids – These are the tragic altered states that have become an epidemic lately.  Mostly this is due to over prescribing heron type drugs by doctors. Opioids just alter your state too much but maybe not if we have to really go through four Trump years…  Before you hit the flame button I am joking…

Let’s close out this post with some sobering thoughts. Maybe if we spent more time outside our altered states we might just be able to prevent the things that make them necessary.

My View Of The Bible –Part 3.. Other Views

Now that I have told you what I believe about the Bible I will go over a short list of things that are somewhat widely accepted by some twenty-first century Christian denominations but of which I basically disagree. Most of these topic titles are  from texts of discussions I have had with Christians. I put them in a special category here because they were so deeply felt by others.

All the words in the Bible are the words of Jesus (ie.  every word and punctuation mark comes from God). This title came from a person fairly high in the LCMS Lutheran organization. He used this statement to refute my belief that some of the Bible writing were not meant to be taken literally. To me instead of enhancing the rest of the Bible I think he was really degrading the actual words of Jesus.

Nothing is required of Man to be called a disciple of Jesus– Those who oppose this concept call this statement “Cheap Grace”. Anyone who has read even a few of my postings here know that this is one of the very sore points for me. To the ones who believe this I often come back with the statement that if that is true then we should eliminate the New Testament entirely and simple jump from Jesus’ birth directly to his death and resurrection. If Jesus did not expect anything from us “poor miserable sinners” then why did he continue to teach his apostles and us through them lessons about living on this earth? To take any responsibility of our existing on the earth away from us is almost to say that God creating the universe was unnecessary. At the very least it is to say that Jesus wasted his breath during his three year ministry as nothing he said makes any difference.  Those are fighting words to me 🙂

One verse negates other verses.. For people who say they are literalist when it comes to the Bible to then latch onto one verse and seemingly forget others is a mystery to me? Most of the logic for “nothing is required” comes from one sentence in the letter of Paul to the congregation of Ephesus.  That verse Ephesians 2:8 is as follows: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”.  These words from Paul, who never sat at Jesus’ feet nor seemed to understand much of his teachings, when taken alone seem to be a powerful  reinforcement of the belief that nothing is required of us. But if they are put in the context of many many of Jesus’ messages they take on a different meaning. And then there is James, the brother of Jesus, who makes it very clear that, from his brother he was taught that faith without works is a dead faith. When I look at all the words of Jesus I cannot negate them simply because of this uttered sentence in one of Paul’s many letters to a troubled congregation.

My interpretation of the Bible is the only correct one…. In my opinion this is one of the most damaging aspects of biblical beliefs.  Some are absolutely convinced that they alone know the true heart of God and anyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong!! An example of this are those who believe in the 24 hour version of Genesis go on to disrespect those who believe in the day age version. To some extent I am personally a victim of this practice but that is another story. When we continuously divide ourselves over personal interpretations we do a great disservice to God!

Serene..

For this artsy Saturday I want to put up a picture from my many visits to northern Wisconsin.  I don’t really remember exactly where this one was taken as it was in 1998 and there was no GPS at that time. But to me it absolutely reeks of serenity.

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A Follow Up…

Given my last post was about the “repenter” of Times Square I thought I would follow it up with a quite different version.

click on any image to see a larger slideshow version

 

Looking back on the posts this week it is interesting to see how they are all linked by common threads.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed by the crowds and revelry on Times Square that Saturday night. 🙂

Times Square Repenter..

When we were in NYC the last time we rented a hotel room very near Time Square. It was pretty expensive but since this was probably our last time there we deemed it worth the costs.  For those who don’t know it Saturday night in Times Square is all about partying. Thousands turn out to celebrate one thing or another. And then there are always a few to have a different agenda for that night.  That is the topic of the picture below.

I have seen this picture hundreds of time since it was taken in 2014 and almost every time I wonder what kind of a life the person at the center of the picture has? I always imagine he is really not that much unlike the Evangelicals who currently occupy the fringes of the Republican party. They seem to think, at least to me, that we should all go through life with a dark cloud over our heads since we are all such dreadful sinners. Life is not meant to be joyful or fun, it is meant to be lived in fear of the wrath of God.

I suspect this guy spends many Saturday nights trying to convince the Times Square revelers to feel guilty about their celebrations.  Yesterday’s post was about my disappointments in life. Sometimes they get me down but I imagine a life spent telling everyone that there is no joy in this world is much much much worse.

In light of yesterday’s post about disappointments, this guy totally disappointed me because far too many take him as the face of Christianity and that could not be further from the truth… how disappointing that he is spreading that message…

Times Square Repenter.jpg

Getting My Hopes Up…

I truly believe that I am an optimist at heart but being one is down right depressing at times, especially these times.  I have been thinking a lot about this lately and I have come to the conclusion that looking back ony seven plus decades on this earth can maybe be summed up by one word.

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I know at first thought that is kind of sad commentary on any life, but let me explain my version of disappointment.  All my life I have had high hopes. I always want everything to turn out the best it can be. As a result people, including myself, often disappoint me to one degree or another.  As a young boy I looked up to my father as the epitome of what a good person should be. Then one day I saw him do something that shredded that image. That might have been my first disappointment but it certainly would not be my last. Many many others would follow. One of my primary life lessons in this regard is that things are never as good as you hope nor as bad as you dread. Sometimes that helps ameliorate the situation but…

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In the end it just comes down to the fact that I expect too much from others and even myself.  I think that is because of my optimistic nature and that is something I proudly cling to.  Getting my hopes up does often result in disappointment but sometimes it results in joy and celebration.  I would rather have that than to go through life expecting nothing from anyone or anything in order to avoid disappointment.  Now, that would be a depressing way to spend my time, especially what I have left of it.  The celebration of the successes in life far outweigh the disappointments even if disappointment comes more frequently.  It is as simple as that for me.

Wage Slavery…

2017-09-17_10-36-44.pngI know this post is way overdue but it is still important to understand that the observence of Labor Day which started in the 1890s was to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations”. This was also the time of the “Robber Barons”. That is, those industrialists who were accumulating great wealth primarily on the backs of their workers.  It was not until a Republican named Theodore Roosevelt came to the White House that their monoplies were broken up.

Labor Day was born in the late 19th century, during a time of raw fear about the path of economic development.

Opportunities for decent, middle-class livelihoods seemed to be shrinking, and the “laboring classes” confronted a grim future of what many called wage slavery. Conservatives held most of the seats of power, but reform-minded politicians, activists and policy mavens were thinking big about labor’s rights and wrongs….

During and after the New Deal, unions were essential to forging a broad new middle class — not only because they raised wages and benefits, but also because they countered corporate and financial political power, which today is the greatest impediment to serious change. Without a rejuvenated labor movement, it’s almost inconceivable that breakthrough reforms will come to pass…

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/04/opinion/labor-laws-workers.html?

As mentioned above the laboring class had a grim future of wage slavery. This would start to change as workers started banding together to demand their share of the profits of the company. But since the corporate owners controlled most of city, state, and even national government and law enforcement the workers simply didn’t have the power to get what they wanted. Strikes were bloody with the local police taking their orders from the ruling class conservatives.

The main point of the NY Times source article is that the labor unions of one hundred years ago are just not applicable to today’s times.  A new version needs to be discovered for today and the sooner the better..

My View Of The Bible— Part 2 .. What I believe (con’t)

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This post continues with my fundamental beliefs about the Bible. I have not come to these beliefs on a whim. They are the result of many years of thoughtful prayer and study. I am also not trying to prove anyone wrong. Everyone should come to God in their own way. So let’s get on with the final four areas of my view on the Bible.

Some words of the Bible have infinitely more significance to our lives than others— The words  through Jesus’ lips are the most important. Every other word is secondary at best. This is a major sticking point for some. It has to do with a concept that I have coined “the slippery slope”. I will get more into that on the next post. To say that there are no words in the Bible that are any more important than others seem nonsense to me.

The Bible might contain words inspired by God —  But is not THE Word of God… Many call the Bible the word of God but I personally along with other Christians agree with John’s opening in his gospel.  Jesus is the word of God, not a book assembled by man even if much of its writings might have been inspired by God.  To give a book that status is making an idol of it.  To put every word and circumstance mentioned in the biblical text in the literal grouping just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.  When Paul insisted that women were not to be over men in any circumstance he was speaking first century words. When he told people to be happy as slaves owned by others he was speaking first century words. These words were not intended for eternity. Yes, much of the Bible was written under the inspiration of God but it is at the same time a very human document.

The Bible contains stories passed down from one generation to another, allegories, parables and myths. To insist that all the words in the Bible are absolutely without error and are absolutely literally true as so many evangelicals do is beyond my understanding. I am convinced that even many of the writers of the books were not willing to put that status on all their own words. The Apostle Paul made it a point in one of his letters collected in the Bible that he was speaking of his own accord. I wish he had done that more frequently. Since I don’t put much study on the Old Testament I will not be discussing those books here. But even the New Testament of which much was written up to forty years after the fact certainly contained things that were remembered but not necessarily factual. In many places Jesus himself identified his stories as parables. I believe that the use a parables and allegories was a very common occurrence in many of the biblical writings whether the authors said they were or not.

Not all the inspired words from God are included in the Bible. I have done some studies of some of the text that was considered but finally excluded from the official bible when it was formulated by King Constantine’s council. The books of Thomas and Barnabas in particular I am convinced were also written a degree of inspiration from God. There are probably several others in that category. We Christians should consider all the writings of the time to see where we can deepen our understanding of God. I also believe that God continues to give inspired words through some of us Christians even today. All of us must constantly be listening for those inspirations in our daily lives. But it seems that “listening” is a difficult thing for many of us to do today. Moses in the Old Testament did not believe he was worthy to relay words from God but God used him as a mouthpiece all the same. So I believe that God’s continues to give simple men personal revelations from time to time.

 

Breaking Gridlock…

Hey, I’m not ashamed to give someone credit for things that are accomplished even if it was only by accident or maybe serendipity. So, congratulations President Trump on starting to break the gridlock that has kidnapped our nation’s capitol for far too long. The GOP is starting to scream “He wants to work with the DEMOCRATS!!!” “WE HAVE BEEN BETRAYED!!” To all that I say It is about time.

We knew going in that Trump was neither a Republican or a Democrat. The only thing he is for is to make himself look good. Nothing else really matters to him and I mean nothing else. That fact is obvious to anyone with an objective take on this alternative reality. But who says two wrongs don’t eventually make a right? Putting Trump in office and letting him betray the party that put him there just might solve some of the fundamental problems inside the beltway.

Bernie Sanders and others have brought forth the proposition that an independent in the Oval Office who is not of either party is someone who can force the two bickering parties to “play well”. He can propose legislation that at least some of both parties can accept.

canstockphoto9691431.jpgSo, I celebrate Mr. Trump’s success in making a deal with the Democrats even to the total dismay of the GOP.  Maybe this is the beginning of a successful Trump strategy.  I am certainly a dreamer aren’t I? 🙂

If nothing else these limited successes, however long they last, will show us what an independent and competent  person could do with Oval Office power and that just might give an independent a chance in the 2020 election..

 

Wind Farms..

Snippet BannerIt is so nice to see that despite the GOP resistance that renewable resources are replacing carbon based fuels.  In more and more of my travels InSearchOfAmerica I see wind farms such as the one in the photo below. It is nice to see us harvesting wind the same way as the corn and soybeans in the fields below them.  This one was taken in the northern part of my home state of Indiana. I am even looking to put solar panels on my micro-RV in the coming winter season.  They cost just a fraction of what they did a few years ago.

Indiana Wind Turbines.jpg

It’s Never Too Early..

Some might say I am jumping the gun but to me it is never too early to start looking for a replacement for the current Oval Office holder. I have no doubt that he will go down in the history books as the worst president in history. He has set the bar so low for qualification for that office that anyone, including me, could be a viable candidate.

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Power to the People

It’s never to early and I have set my sites on who I think would do the best job. I have been following her for some time now. She seems to almost mirror my beliefs about life. That person is Elizabeth Warren. In fact I really wanted her to replace Hillary as the candidate the last time around.  If that had happened we would be in a very different place right now as a country.

I know what some are going to say here.  “But She’s a Liberal!!” I don’t like labels, plain and simple. If by liberal you mean that she thinks that government and business are here to serve the people and not the other way around then you are right.  She strongly believes in “power to the people”. I’m sure I will eventually get around to that idea in another post but for this one I want to concentrate on her view of spiritual things.

Let’s get in a quote from her about that subject:

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Warren said, quoting the Gospel. Then she shared her interpretation: “He’s saying to us, first, there’s God in every one of us, there’s Jesus in every one of us — however you see it in your religion, that inside there’s something holy in every single person.”

Jesus is calling people to act, Warren continued, “to get up and make a difference. . . . I think that’s the place where we start this conversation.”

Source: Religion is constant part of Elizabeth Warren’s life – The Boston Globe

The words above almost exactly mirror my views on this topic and this wasn’t the first time she spoke of Jesus nor will it be the last.  “There is God in every one of us” sums up the meaning of life for me.

There is so much about Elizabeth Warren that I like. She definitely believes in power to the people with at much furor as many in the GOP believe in power to the wealthiest.

I just hope that when the next president is elected more of us will be paying attention. We can’t afford to go through these times again.

 

 

 

Instagram, Here I Come..

I will admit up front here that I have no idea of why the so-called social media is addictive to so many people, especially our younger generations.  But then again due to my Asperger’s characteristics I am not really attuned to much of any form of social interactions. 🙂 But that doesn’t keep me for chiming in on this issue.

Growing up in the 1950s and 60s I was never aware of much social pressure in my life. I tended to live inside my own bubble and was just not that affected by what others thought of me. I did have trouble making friends, especially the female type but I took that as being just the way it was for me. Like most teenager males in the 1960s I was into cars even if I could not afford one of them.  Even today, show me a picture of a car made in the 1960s and I can likely identify its make, model, and year.

Getting back to the subject at hand, from what I understand social media plays a very big part of a teenager’s status now days. If they don’t have high enough “friend” counts they are evidently scorned by their peers. I know that even as a seventy year old I frequently get “friend” requests from very young people who I don’t know.  Some will do anything to get their friend count up. From my limited research I have found that Facebook is by far has the largest membership but others are catching up.  Here are the top five:

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I do check in with Facebook almost daily but until now I have not done much with the other four sites.  YouTube occasionally pops up on my radar screen when I want to learn how to do a particular thing. Because of our political times I won’t get within a mile of Twitter.  That leaves Instagram as next on my “conquer” list.

From what I understand Instagram was bought out by Facebook in 2012 and when that happened it catapulted to 150 million monthly users. Now I will admit that I really don’t understand its purpose? So many claim to be so overstressed by all the things they have to do in a day but still millions find the time to take, upload, and publish Instagram photos that supposedly their friends and neighbors will want to immediately see.

Maybe that overstressed population is just us old people, that is people over 30 or so. 🙂 Getting back on subject I have decided to make my presence know on Instagram. I don’t want to be accused of being behind the times. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I am currently just not convinced that a picture without some explaining text is of much value.  It just seems too frivolous to me right now. But I am willing to learn.

I have had an Instagram account for at least a couple of years now but until recently it has laid dormant. I recently polished it off and even published (or whatever you call it) a few pictures for practice.  I know you are supposed to take and immediately publish a picture but I kind of like the idea of going into my Lightroom albums and publishing from there so that will likely be my modus operandi.  If I put a comment on a picture about getting the full story from my blog maybe I will get more views there. Maybe that is my purpose for Instagram.

Instagram here I come..

https://www.instagram.com/rjscorner_myviewoftheworld/

 

 

My View Of The Bible ..

For the next three Sundays I want to bring over some slightly edited posts of things I discovered about the Bible while blogging at RedLetterLiving.net. These posts were from early 2014 but my feelings about the topic really haven’t changed all that much.

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about the Bible and my experiences with it over the last decade or so. Around 2003 I decided to take up a serious study of theology and in particularly those around the words of Jesus. I naively thought I could get some clear directions for my spiritual life if I just understood why the Bible seems to mean so many different things to so many people. What I have discovered over this period of time awakened me. I did not get the concrete answers I was looking for but I did glean some surprising discoveries.

It seems that as I have gotten older I am losing my sense of embarrassment about saying what I believe. I have grown to the point, and  I do mean grown, where I feel I can now openly discuss the personal insight I have come to understand. I simply no longer really care if it upsets some.  Maybe in the long run I am hoping that it does just that and as a result a few will see that truly following Jesus has nothing to do with their self-proclaimed “faith” in the Bible but instead it is about faith in him and doing what he told us to do.

Let’s face it the Bible is not a book that you can causally, or even seriously, pick up and glean some ready-made answers to life’s problems.  Especially in times of personal conflicts. In fact much of it (meaning the Old Testament) is quite boring and not understandable in today’s context. Yes, if I search hard enough I can find a verse, usually taken out of context, that might console me a particular situation but for every one of those found there is another which disturbs me. Psalms is a ready example of that. There are places where God’s love clearly shows through and then there are other places where is he supposedly commands genocide such as the 137th Psalm.

All of these conflicting stories and thoughts make some degree of sense when I see the Bible as more of a history book written by man rather than words dropped from heaven. Christianity like much of the world’s history is messy and the Bible if you  look at its contents objectively reflects that fact. That understanding is critical to finding its proper place in Christ’s church.

In a nutshell, following Jesus has nothing to do with idolizing the Bible itself. The purpose of the Bible it to point us to Jesus. It is to tell his story, nothing else.  When that task is done it becomes very secondary to our walk with Christ. Next time I will talk a little more about reading the Bible and what should be gleaned from that process.

Epilog September 2017:  I have discovered since this post that Biblical Inerrancy is pretty much a Protestant/Evangelical thing.  Catholics have been moving away from the concept for much of the last century.

What’s It Feel Like For a White Man To Be A Minority??

canstockphoto22042668.jpgI know one of the reasons that we have the current incompetent in the White House is that too many white men are afraid of becoming a minority.  They are afraid of what will happen when their say is no longer the dominant one but instead one of many. For the most part white men have been dismissing minorities for decades and don’t want that to happen to them. They are afraid of many things but this is probably one of the major ones.

If none of the clues on RJsCorner have given you a hint then I will bluntly say I am a white man.  But I am a white man who has been in the minority most of my life.  I know what it means to be discounted in one form or another. I know what it means to be ignored.

Social Situations – All my life I have had characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome which is part of the Autism Spectrum. Since early age I have had difficulties with social situations that most just take for granted. It was always difficult for me to form friendships especially with females. I just couldn’t, and probably still don’t, understand what they want from a relationship.  Even friendships with other guys has been difficult. I simply can’t do eye contact so that makes me suspect to many first time acquaintances. I have always been a minority when it comes to social situations.

Being Deaf – I have been significantly hearing impaired since my teenage years and completely deaf for the last thirty years.  That puts me in about 1% of the population and thus a minority. I struggle on a daily basis against all the deaf stereotypes.  You would be surprised just how many people still believe in the “Deaf and Dumb” thing! Many basically tell me to go away instead of trying to accommodate me in any fashion.  In the old days I used to ask them to write me a note, but most won’t even consider that. I have always been a minority because of hearing loss.

I am an Independent Thinker – I frequently get into trouble because of this.  I was kicked out of a church for saying what I am sure 80% of the congregation thought. I questioned the “profession of faith”, that is those things I am supposed to believe without any real evidence to prove them. I am “Blue in a Red State” and that makes me a definite minority.  Being an independent thinker I am driven by logic in a very illogical world. Being an independent thinker makes me a minority.

As a result of all these things I don’t fear being in a minority. I am not afraid of the barbarians at the gate as I am one of them.  To all my friends out there I want to tell you that being a minority in some ways is a very freeing thing. It helps you relate to all those you once feared. It gives you an additional dose of empathy. It makes you a better Christian if that is your flavor of spirituality.

Happily join us and that alone will relieve much of the stress in your life…