Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Context.

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 in culture, politics, thoughts

I know that I can post quite a bit about politics.  It is just so irritating to have conservative commentators who are either “christian” or say they want freedom of religion (and, thus, play the religious card for their own gain) and yet act in such a contrary way to moral ethics (simply to prove their point).  I harp on the conservatives because it is this group that will always take the higher moral ground in any conversation about doing what is right and good.

Just today I heard Jim Quinn from Quinn and Rose play a clip from President Obama’s speech at the U.N.  In this clip the only thing that got played was the part where our President said, “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  Quinn (and I am sure others) went off saying things like, “Can you believe that OUR president would say that?”  The implication is, and has been since Obama came in office, is that he is a secret Muslim intent on reforming and reshaping America into either a communist or muslim nation (the jury is still out on which narrative gets more air play).  Quinn played this clip twice and the second time stopped it too early and said, “Sorry I stopped the clip to early, let me play it again.”  Why the concern for stopping the clip too early?

Well, here is the context of what President Obama said:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Now the reason is more clear.  He said that after condemning those who target Coptic Christians.  Those who bully women.  Those who steal resources only to make themselves richer.  Then he said what he did about those who slander the prophet of Islam.  But then, right on the heels of that came the remark that those Muslims who are furious with those slanders cannot then turn around and desecrate images of Jesus, or destroy churches, or deny the holocaust.

We must always take into account the full account and not bits and pieces (sound bites) that people want us to bite on for their own agenda’s.  One may still not like Obama as our President, one may not like what he said about not slandering the prophet of Islam.  But certainly there was plenty in that speech to commend and approve.

Hurray for Lower Birth Rates.

Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 in society, thoughts

Lately this study has been circulating around.  I have heard conservative commentators use this study to show that Obama is, himself, lowering the birth rate to continue to make the United States into the image of communist China (and any other communist, marxist, etc., place).  I have a friend who uses this study to show that with the down turn in the economy people are not trusting God to provide for their needs to have children (or more children).

And yet there was some encouraging figures in this study that did link lower birth rates to a struggling economy.

The rate actually only fell 1% last year
First, there is a lower birth rate among single women (it dropped 3%), but among married women it rose 1%.  Second, there is a lower birth rate among teen moms (they have been falling since 1991 and hit another historic low this past year).  Granted, there are a number of good and not-so good reasons as to why the teen birth rate has fallen.  However, those lower figures in those two categories is a win-win for everyone involved.

Add in to that mix couples who are living together (cohabiting) deciding to put off having children.

So, economically, at least for last year, the downturn has not affected the birth rate among married couples (those the community of faith would see as the best place to have children) and, in fact, the birth rate has increased for this group.

Economically, the downturn has persuaded single moms and teen moms not to be as active and has dropped the birth rate.  Something that the community of faith can say is a good thing.  It may not be all the right or best reasons but at least the hardships that can come with having and raising children by yourself as a single mom and/or teen mom was not as frequent as in years past.  And more often than not children born outside of a married couple tend to (though no fault of the child) put a strain on other areas of our society.

So, yes, I am glad the birth rates are down (where it is more healthy for them to be down for the adult and society)….even if it comes at the expense of being a little worse off economically.  And I am glad the birth rate went up for married couples even in rough financial times.  Perhaps they are getting some faith and trust back.

And no, Obama didn’t cause lower birth rates to turn us into China.

Health Care Politics

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 in culture, leadership, life, people, society, thoughts

So with one decision by an unexpected source we now have mandated health care.  My point is not to add another voice to the goodness or badness of that decision (there are far more brilliant minds than mine who can’t figure it all out), but something else all together.

Conservatives are up in arms over this decision and have tried to blame Chief Justice Roberts’ vote on everything from epileptic seizure medications to putting the perception of the court on a higher pedestal than his principals.

Other conservatives are praising Roberts’ in a back-handed sort of way saying that he has now paved the way for a Romney victory in November.

Hasn’t Roberts’ done exactly what conservatives have always said should be done within the courts (and especially within the highest court in the United States)?  But it is funny how by Robert’s doing exactly the thing conservatives want they have casted him as someone who does the complete opposite of what he should be doing and the only reasons they have to say this is because he didn’t vote the way they think he should have voted.

Isn’t it possible that Roberts’ voted in favor of the health care law not because he liked the law himself, personally.  But maybe, just maybe, he voted for it because he didn’t see it as unconstitutional.  He heard the arguments, he weighed the evidence, he consulted law books, and drew from his vast knowledge of law and history and came to the conclusion he did with a sound mind and rational thinking…is this possible?

Would it have been in our best interest, as a nation from what we expect from our courts, for Roberts’ to simply vote along party lines?  Why would I want a Supreme Court judge to vote along party lines?

Roberts’ did the unthinkable…he thought.  He pondered.  He weighed.  And in the end, contrary to the voices that I hear around me, he didn’t play in the legislative arena.  He stayed well within the bounds of judicial prudence.  He voted whether a law was constitutional or not.

Roberts’ is not perfect.  So was his decision (or any of the other judges) completely neutral?  It is impossible to know for sure.  When it comes down to it….only he knows what and how much outside influence, or party politics, or whatever goes into any of his decisions.

Some liked his vote.  Other did not.  I am not saying I like the ruling.  I am not saying I am completely opposed to the ruling.  But I think one judge did what he was appointed to do and I think for that he needs to be commended.  It gives me hope that people can see beyond their own agenda’s, their own interest, or the interests of those that “got them there”.

So thank you Judge Roberts’ for thinking deeply, coming to your conclusion and then voting how you did even though you must have known the reaction that would come by way of your decision to do what you were called to do for our country.

What the Funk?

Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 in thoughts

Funk.  I am not replacing one letter for another to avoid using “that” word.  Though, “that” word may be where I am at right now.  Just a blah state of mind and emotion.  Not depressed.  Yet not joyful.  Not greedy.  Yet not content.

I am a melancholy type of individual.  Dictionary.com defines melancholy this way:

1.a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.

2.sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.
3.Archaic .
a.the condition of having too much black bile, considered in ancient and medieval medicine to cause gloominess and depression.
b.black bile.
I’m on razors edge about most things.  Not a place I enjoy being….but it is the place where I am.  Melancholy is okay. Where I feel that I am at is somewhat concerning.  Not give me some depression medication concerning.  But this place, this cloud, this funk is hovering and leaching the life from me.  I am letting it to some degree.
Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes the skies are gray
Sometimes it all looks so familiar to me
Sometimes it’s all so fu*king strange.
I just heard that lyric play from Perfect Blue Buildings by the Counting Crows (i know, not necessarily the best music to listen to when one feels blue).
Life upon life upon life…seems to overwhelm at every turn.  Life is never how you planned it.  But can’t life go along, somewhat, a least a little, with the script?
In life you expect to be at a certain point by a certain time with, more or less, certain things you want to have accomplished.  What do you do when none of those expectations come to fruition?  What happens when the unexpected is worse than the “unexpected joys” you tend to want to have happen when the expected doesn’t come to pass?
Flashes of grace and joy and contentment (even fulfillment)…days of blah, funk, unfilled wishes and dreams.
It’s not the people around me (though the people i work directly with – not my co-workers though – are a big factor right now) but circumstances, expectations, life….that are creating this funky space, this funky place.
This post has been more of a ramble with no clear or intended point of destination.  It has been a peek into my thoughts, my place, my funk.

August…19 years later.

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012 in music, thoughts

 

The Counting Crows are my favorite band.  Period.  I “jumped on the bandwagon” 19 years ago when I heard Mr. Jones on the radio and I haven’t looked back since.   I have been with them through the ups (This Desert Life) and the downs (Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings) and everything inbetween.  I saw the Blu-Ray DVD they released entitled August and Everything After Live at Town Hall and picked it up because I hadn’t really seen them recorded on video before.  I fell in love with the DVD.  Then, around my birthday or so, I saw that they were putting out a vinyl album of the show they recorded for the DVD.  And what makes the album so great is that it is just a straight play-through set of August and Everything After.  Of course with a couple of tracks of talking, and some, if not most, of the songs updated just a tad – meaning   whole lot of Counting Crows soul, flavor and interludes thrown in.  I really wanted this album because, again, i love the Counting Crows and I really wanted a Counting Crows vinyl for my collection.  Besides their new Underwater Sunshine album this is the only vinyl i could find either on Amazon or Ebay.  Actually, i take that back….on Amazon they do have Recovering the Satellites for sale…used, for $150.

So not only did I get a Counting Crows album on vinyl but I got, essentially, their debut album for just a little more than what a “normal” new vinyl record cost.  I am happy.

Exercise as Spirituality.

Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012 in life, thoughts

My friend Charlie Dean has been telling his story lately of his recent loss of weight (why he lost it, how he lost it and what it has meant for him).  I applaud Charlie and all of his hard work and dedication.  It is not easy for most of us to “drop the pounds” and Charlie will be the first to tell you that he is a “foodie” so it made it all the harder at times.

What I appreciated about his posts is the connection he is beginning to make between food, theology, exercise and spirituality.  Some may scoff and feel that “exercise profits little”, some may have legitimate concerns because “genes”, or sickness, or illness have stacked the deck against them.

My point is to walk that fine line between seeing the real issues people have with weight loss and seeing the connection between how we treat our physical bodies as an indication of our love and respect for our creator.

For the past 4 to 5 years I have been involved in recreational running.  I have never entered a race (nor really plan to).  I run for me.  I keep time, mark my routes, and have gotten up to around 6 miles per run (I would like to run more but time is really an issue).  I have also incorporated Zumba Flat-abs on my off days (yes, Zumba…..and yes, it really does help!), and, also, on my off days jump-roping for 20 minutes.  I don’t say this to impress anyone, for most people do far more than myself (and can do it far faster and far better than I)…I say this because I have been struck in the last several years between the connection that Charlie is now coming to see.  There is a connection between how we treat our bodies and our love (and respect) for God.

I don’t say that last statement lightly.  It tells us in Gen. 1 and 2 that God created.  He created the earth, sun, moon, stars, planets, trees, birds, fish, etc., etc. and at the end he created man and woman.  And we are special because we have been created in his image.  Christians may disagree on how far we are to take creation care but no thinking christian would disagree with the idea that we are stewards of what God has blessed us with and we need to respect and care for it to the best of our ability.  Shouldn’t this be the same thinking in relation to our physical bodies?

We care for our physical world and yet we have little respect for our physical bodies (and this gets played out in a thousand different ways).  This doesn’t mean we have to be the guy in the gym 24/7 that neglects his wife, kids, job, friends, spiritual life just to get his physical body in shape….that is wrong in the opposite direction and just plain messed up.

Yet how many of us will neglect our physical bodies for the “more spiritual” things?  How many of us will miss the connection that our physical body is a “spiritual issue” and that to mistreat our body is to show a lack of respect for God for what he has blessed us with and given to us?

We rightfully want to save human life but will willfully destroy our own by the choices that we make or don’t make in relation to eating and exercising.  Some may argue that choice is exactly that: their choice, their right.  Yet, that misses the point that nothing we have is ours.  We have been given our bodies to steward and take care of, just like we have been given the earth to steward and take care of.

By way of admission.  I have never struggled with my weight.  I have wanted to lose 5-10 pounds but I don’t know personally the frustration of trying to lose weight in large proportions.  But I do know the frustration of trying to eat better and make wiser choices of what I put into my body.  I know the frustration of trying to “get in shape”.  Just because I am not overweight doesn’t (and didn’t) mean that I am (was) physically fit.  It is hard and takes hard work…and I am not there yet.  I journeying forward.

I see so many friends from high school and college beginning to run, exercise, and get in shape.  It took until our mid to late 30’s to get to this point but I am thankful that so many are starting to see the connection and seeing how they treat their bodies is an indication, to some extent, on some level, of how they treat and love God.

He’s On To Something.

Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012 in culture, theology, thoughts

By now the bloggers, commentators and all “patriotic” Americans have weighed in on Chris Hayes’ comments about “being uncomfortable with using the word hero” to describe fallen soldiers.

Read what he said,

“I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable — uncomfortable — about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

What makes what he said so highly controversial to the point that his opponents would classify him as “disgusting”, “arrogant”, “selfish little worm”, “ugly” (yes, Rose from Quinn and Rose fame called him the last three words, including “ugly” – I thought she was “above the fray” of resorting to 6th grade tactics when disagreeing with someone)?  Frankly, nothing makes it controversial unless you wrap militarism, nationalism, patriotism, and, yes, religion up in the same flag.  Not only did he say that he didn’t want to “desecrate” memories of fallen soldiers.  He also believe that in individual circumstances there were cases of heroism.  And he also believed that he could be wrong about his viewpoint.

I happen to agree with him.  I just read that evangelical Christians are the most pro-war segment of American society.  Have we forgotten that most Christians up to the time of Constantine did not support violence?  Have we forgotten that the majority of Christ-followers through church history have embraced what has been called the Just-War Theory?  The theory embraces several core criteria that have to be in place in order for a Christian to embrace a war and, also, to call it just.  The amazing idea though is that ALL the criteria have to be satisfied and not just one or two points.  In other words the theory was used to weed out most wars and to label most of them as unjust.

So much has changed.  Just War Theory is now virtually forgotten and anyone who has trouble calling fallen soldiers “hero’s” is labeled “ugly”.  Christians, instead living in the constant reminder that the empire could turn so quickly and easily against them with the use of violence now support war overwhelmingly against others (at least evangelicals anyway).  At the very least let us count those who work for peace (in non-violent endeavors) in a violent world as “hero’s”as well.  This may make some mad, or irritated, or uncomfortable….i get that.  Yet I see Jesus calling us to live differently and to live in peace, I see the NT writers calling us to live in peace.

My wife and I were talking the other day and she commented that war and peace were difficult issues.  And, to a certain extent they are.  Yet, i think we have made them complicated.  I am not sure if the early church would have had any problems renouncing war and violence of all types.  So what has changed in the intervening years?  The scriptural call to peace or our attitude toward war?

In a violent world there is nothing much more heroic than one who lives not bound by cultural expectations but lives in the morals and values of the kingdom that Christ brought with him at his incarnation, and says “I will not participate in death, destruction and violence towards others rather I will bring life, healing and hope and show a glimpse of the age to come in my stand for peace and non-violence.”

We still have to work against evil, death, violence, injustice but let us long to have our first inclination to stand against those things be done in a way that doesn’t fight with the weapons of this world but with the creativity, love, and hope of the prince of peace.