Faith and Synergy

The battle of good versus evil brings up the question as to whether God exists or not. Rather than try to answer the unanswerable, how about we tackle the question: does faith exist? Faith is what it takes to believe something even though it cannot be concretely proved or disproved. Atheists are adamant that there is no God, yet believers won’t be swayed. God fearing individuals are certain that atheists are ignoring the evidence of God’s presence, yet disbelief persists.  Well, that was easy. Faith exists!

White-grape-3Next question: what evidence is there of God’s presence? Hmm, I’m no scholar of any type, but I’m just going to point to the eclipse anyway. First, the sun, earth and moon work synergistically to allow life to thrive on this planet. Next, despite the staggering difference in size, the moon can completely cover the sun during a total eclipse.  I read that, if the earth was the size of a grape, the moon would be about the size of a pea. The sun would then be about the size of a 4-foot beach ball. (Thank you, Pete Harris, for the visual aide.) The sun is 400 times farther from earth than the moon. This puts them in the correct position for a total eclipse. Some say this happened by accident. I say it happened through the power of God. Both sides have faith in their opinion. I guess my only point today is this. I’m taking a road trip to visit my parents and to watch, in awe, the splendor of a total eclipse.

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Pointing Fingers after Charlottesville

pointing-1991215_1280People are angry about the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA. They need someone to blame, and many of them are pointing fingers at President Trump. As much as I would like to point my accusing finger at President Obama, I realize how equally wrong that would be. These are individuals. They are not that powerful by themselves. The direction our nation is taking is a group effort. Shall I accuse an entire political party? Both political parties? I think there is a much simpler answer, at least in defining the issue. This is a battle of good versus evil.

Evil, aka the devil, is an interesting creature. He tells us what we want to hear, hoping we won’t notice where he is leading us. These deceptions can be large or small. For example, during my younger years, I began smoking. I didn’t want to tell my parents, because I knew they were totally against the nasty habit. One day, my mother asked me if I had ever tried smoking cigarettes. I said, yes. Then she asked me if I liked it. I said that I had not. After all, who likes their first cigarette. Basically, I played the part of the devil. I told her what she wanted to hear and no more.

She was so relieved that I knew I would need to hide my habit forever. This would require more deception, like the time I burned a hole in the seat of their car, and had to come up with a story as to how it had happened. I think this is about the time that guilt and anxiety began to build up. I knew I had to come clean, but my mother’s words kept ringing in my ears. When I had said that I didn’t like the cigarette, she replied, “Oh, good,” with a sigh of relief, “you don’t know what it would do to me if you ever walked in the house with a cigarette in your hand.” I was totally miserable. I loved my mother and didn’t want to lie to her, and I didn’t want to hurt her by telling her that I smoked. Through deception, I had created a no win situation for myself.

So, what do cigarettes have to do with rioting protesters? It has to do with motivation. I was motivated to smoke, even though it was bad for my health, it cost money I had little of and it went against my parent’s wishes. In today’s terms, I was offended that they didn’t want me to smoke, so I smoked anyway. The Charlottesville disaster began the same way.

For reasons I don’t understand, people began being offended by statues, like the one of Robert E. Lee, after the senseless deaths of nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina. A crazy person killed nine people. He was a white supremacist; therefore, the statues are offensive and they have to go. That is like saying: I smoked cigarettes against my parent’s wishes. They knew I probably used matches to light them, so, they became offended anytime they saw matches and threw them all out. The conclusion is illogical. Nevertheless, this is the conclusion we have to work with.

Some people were offended. They asked the city council to take the statue down. The city council, rather than preserve a visible reminder of our history, told the offended what they wanted to hear. Because the city council agreed to take the statue down, opposing groups decided to protest. Next the protesters taunted and threatened each other like middle school bullies. Fights broke out. People were injured. No one noticed where evil was going until a crazy person drove a car into the melee, injuring many people and killing a woman.

Perhaps we are growing more offended (intolerant) because we can’t admit that we feel helpless. We need a deception, like taking a stand against the existence of a statue, to give us the false sense that we have done something to make things better. Just as throwing out all the matches in a house will do nothing to stop me from smoking. The Charlottesville protest clearly shows us that this approach didn’t work. I wonder if we have the courage to discover and abandon our deceptions. Only then can we fight the battle of good versus evil instead of each other.

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President Trump: What a Relief!

declaration of independence

I agree with the Declaration of Independence when it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Just to clarify, this was written during a time when everyone (men and women: there were no other gender identities) understood that the use of the pronoun “men” was all-inclusive. This was also written during a time when individuals were not demonized (demons, of the devil) for admitting that there is a Creator, aka God. The writers assumed that everyone already knew the facts they were about to include when they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,”.

This quote from the Declaration says that we have three unalienable rights. Three things that no man (remember: all-inclusive) or government can take away. They are life; as in not dead. Abortion makes you dead. “Assisted” suicide makes you dead. These are choices that individuals make, no one can force you to give up your life without your permission. Liberty; the ability to exercise free will. The pursuit of Happiness; the action an individual takes to be happy. This does not guarantee success, only the right to try. So, who, in 2016, supported this ideal? Was it the candidate who wanted more government control or the candidate that pissed people off, but wanted to allow individuals to choose their own future?

I sense there is still some confusion, so let’s do some comparisons. Liberals tend to be pro-choice while conservatives tend to be pro-life. The term pro-choice, on the surface, seems to fit with the stance in the declaration concerning life and free will. The truth, however, is that abortion ends the life of a child without that individual’s permission. Assisted suicide preys on people when they are at their weakest. This is not the best condition to be in when making life and death decisions. Next, liberals seem to believe that to be pro-life means to prevent women from getting abortions. The truth, again, is different. Pro-life people offer women an alternative to abortion. They hope that the mother-to-be will choose life for her child, and take advantage of the help they are being offered. Let’s see what else we can compare.

The ideas of liberty and the pursuit of happiness are closely intertwined. We exercise free will to pursue the things that make us happy. (Wow, our country is all about that.) Liberals pursue happiness with an anything-goes attitude. They work to exclude God from public society, because the ideals of faith would tell them they are doing things they should not be doing. Conservatives pursue happiness with the idea that there is more to life than this life. The Creator, God, wants us to be happy with Him in Heaven. This limits the choices we should make to those that help us become better people. This is a very big difference in thinking; a difference that is no longer represented by the republican party or the democratic party. It seemed as if liberals were the only people being represented, and the rest of us are told to sit down and shut up,

Then Mr. Trump strolled onto the stage and began to wreak havoc on the worn out boring political environment. He knew how to get people’s attention and he didn’t worry about whether or not it hurt someone’s feelings. He didn’t use meaningless, feel-good phrases to lull voters into lockstep behind their preferred party. He told us exactly what he would do concerning terrorism, immigration, taxes, foreign affairs and more. Finally, someone was telling us that he would address the issues that we find important.

As voters, we didn’t know if he would follow through with his promises, but he was the only one really offering to try. Since his election, he has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Accord. He has taken steps toward building the border wall, which will slow the hemorrhaging of the resources our federal government provides through tax revenue: infrastructure, education, police and fire protection and welfare services. He temporarily stopped immigration from the few countries known to harbor terrorists, and has worked toward increasing defense funding. These are some of the promises he made, and has kept, to help make the United States a great country again.

Recently, President Trump violated the liberal concept of “placate every whim and desire” when he banned trans individuals from serving in the military. This simply adds one more reason to a long list of situations that can make a person ineligible for military service. Each soldier in the military needs to be tough, both mentally and physically. They need to be highly disciplined, trained and focused. This is why, just as with any specialized job, the standards to get in are rigorous. People who don’t get in the military, don’t curl up and die. They get a different job.

Ultimately, I voted for Donald Trump, despite his often irreverent comments, because he understands the difference between aggressive business practices and socialism. He doesn’t cater to the ever changing complaints of his opponents. Instead, he has offered to do his part to restore the principles that have made our country the most wealthy, most generous, most free country in the world: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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The Many Benefits of Being Bullied

Let me begin by saying that there are some forms of bullying that should absolutely not be tolerated. For example, in elementary school, I saw a kid grab a girl and shove her against a wall. That type of physical aggression can lead to true harm. Name calling and taunting others, however, is part of the growing pains most, probably all of us, dealt with while growing up.

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I remember coming home and tearfully telling my mother that kids had been teasing me about my big nose. (On a side note: I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist once to talk about surgery to repair a burst eardrum. The doctor began the visit by showing me what he could do to reduce the prominence of my nose. Anyway, back to elementary school.) My mother wisely suggested that if I joked about my nose, then kids would lose interest. Another time I carelessly slid a book off my desk and onto another one. The boy there pushed it back. In our immaturity, we pushed it back and forth until he told me he was going to beat me up after school. This was the same boy that had thrown the girl against the wall. Then there was the time that a girl accused my cousin and I of talking about her. When I tried to swing, she stood directly in front of me and told me that if I hit her with the swing, she would beat me up. What could I do? She was standing where the swing would hang. I carefully slid out of the seat and pulled the swing toward the supporting post of the swing set and wrapped it around the pole a few times. She still claimed that the chain had hit her in the head, so my cousin and I took off running across the field as fast as we could. I’m sure others can remember worse incidents than that, but you get the idea.

So, what do we do about it? We blow the negative effects of bullying out of proportion, while ignoring the powerful, maturing lessons a child can learn by enduring the ill behavior of a bully. We tell children to think about ways to be nicer to people. We don’t tell them how to handle their emotions when someone else isn’t nice to them. We tell them to stay near adults to avoid bullies. We don’t tell them how to be brave when there are no adults around. We encourage them to take anti-bullying pledges so we can pretend we have done something to solve the problem. In other words, we have taught our children to feel like victims who need to be protected.

This one-sided approach can lead parents down a never-ending path to avoid and appease the situation. Here is an example I read about recently. A young boy was being teased because his ears stuck out. Instead of talking to him about ways he could handle the taunts, and allowing him to experience whatever followed; she chose to put him through the pain and risks of cosmetic surgery to “fix” his ears. How will she help him now, when these kids see his ears and howl that they are too flat against his head? Maybe they will choose a new body part to criticize, just to see if he will have that “fixed” too.  How will he learn that he is worthy of respect as he is and what others have to say about him just doesn’t matter?

Emotional pain and humiliation from these types of experiences don’t seem like benefits at first. In hind sight, however, these are exactly the type of life experiences that each of us need to go through to become the adults we are supposed to be. Being bullied can teach us that some people are mean. We need to recognize this type of person before we commit to a work, or especially, a personal relationship with them. Some people will learn that they can endure suffering and still get their work done. Others will not be afraid to take on new challenges because they know they have already been through worse. It is easy to be good when everything goes right. Hardships show us how deep that goodness goes. It’s time to throw out the anti-bullying pledge and embrace the possibilities discovered through adversity.

 

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No Children at a Wedding?

wedding handsCan you believe that some people don’t want children at their wedding? Supporters tout the fact that it is the bride’s day and she should have it the way she wants. Really? I believe this idea is the result of too many years of down playing the role of faith and focusing on selfish “needs.”

Let me explain. Marriage used to be between a man, a woman and God. Consummation of the marriage vow was… you know… the marriage act. I am assuming you know what I mean by the marriage act. I’m not talking about sex. Well, I am, but in a spiritual way. The marriage act is the total giving to, and trusting in your partner. One way this trust between husband, wife and God can be seen, is through the creation of children. This is the true purpose of sexual union; love, with the potential to create life.

Today, however, we don’t even know if a woman should marry a man, another woman or (I wanted to select a clever gender identity here, but one of the lists was -58- entries long!). For many, God is not even a consideration. Sex has been reduced to recreation. Procreation is demonized; it is equal to or worse than sexually transmitted diseases.

Marriage has become merely a promise between two flawed people without the help of a perfect loving God to be their strength when they have none. The focus has shifted from the importance of the vows to the importance of the venue. The wedding dress is no longer white, to symbolize the bride’s purity and that she is giving the beauty of herself to her spouse. Now it is white, or ivory, or peach, or whatever color the bride feels will make her look the most beautiful. Let me give an example. While watching Say Yes to the Dress,  one bride commented about her wedding day. She said, “The dress was the best part of the day.” How sad for the groom. Her focus had become self-centered instead of spouse-centered.

Oh well, without God, why not. Get the best of everything money can buy. Do what it takes to get the right venue. Book a band, if that is more perfect than a DJ. Make sure the food and fun makes the bride look as if she knows how to throw a great party. For examples of this idea, check out Four Weddings. Four brides compete to win a honeymoon. Their focus is all about the stuff surrounding the wedding, which turns the entire day into a shallow, materialistic kind of event. Ultimately, if perfection does not include crying babies in the pews, then don’t invite children. Without God, it doesn’t matter if you hurt someone’s feelings, because it’s the bride’s day.

On one hand, I’m sure there are some compelling reasons for not wanting children at the wedding. On the other hand, perhaps imperfection adds depth and meaning to the wedding day. Maybe the bride didn’t hear anything during the ceremony, because she was totally focused on the life she was about to begin. Watching the recording of the wedding, she is surprised to hear the innocent cries of her (insert sister’s, cousin’s, friend’s) baby. She now recalls details from the day that she wouldn’t have remembered otherwise. Or, what if she had heard the baby. For the first time, while holding hands with her new husband, she thought, “I think our love is strong enough to take on the challenges and surprises that children bring.” Maybe the young mother comes up to the bride later, to apologize for the crying. The bride has an opportunity to strength or weaken her relationship with this person, depending on how she responds.

So many possible; unknown outcomes. Yet, we can only  make choices based on the knowledge we have. Too often today, that knowledge is based on self-importance over everyone else. Hopefully, when selfish decisions back us into a corner, there will be someone to pull us out, regardless of the danger to himself.

 

 

 

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Forgiveness is Like a Ball of Yarn

composite-yarn-oneHow many times have we heard that forgiveness is not for the perpetrator of harm, but for the one harmed? Supposedly, if I forgive someone, then I have been freed from what they have done. Intellectually, I get it, but emotionally it doesn’t make sense. I’m kind of a visual learner, so I needed something to look at to help me integrate my intellect and my emotions. For some reason, I began thinking about yarn.

Yarn can be bought as a skein, the kind that is in a loose twist, or a ball. I’m going with ball, because the word skein makes it sound like I know something about knitting, which I don’t.  So, I’m imaging neatly wound balls of yarn, in shades of red, blue and yellow; maybe some greens and purples as well. Wait, did it say neatly?

A ball of yarn is like a portion of our lives. Sometimes, life is good and the ball stays neat and tidy. We use it, as needed, to create beautiful events in our lives. Other times, what we think is going to be stunning turns into a knotted mess. Maybe we knotted it ourselves: we didn’t listen to good advice, we procrastinated until it was too late, we stayed out too late with other people who were full of knotted messes. Sometimes, outside people and events grab our yarn and wreak havoc on it: insults, acts of violence and divorce to name a few. Can we still create beauty with this tangled part of our lives? It depends. How widespread is the damage? How tight are the knots?

composite-yarnThis is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is the act of untangling the yarn, our own yarn. The small hurts in our lives can easily be straightened out and neatly rewound. The bigger the hurt, the more effort it takes to unknot it. It takes continued, repeated effort to be able to look at a situation without the emotional hurt (re-knotting) creeping in. This means we may need to consciously forgive a person more than once, while our minds process a new way of responding to the memory.

The cause of some events, however, is so painful, it’s like the yarn has been tightly knotted. Our efforts to escape the pain only makes it worse. We have tugged and yanked on the yarn until there is no hope of undoing it. Even if we could, the yarn would be frayed and damaged. Some knots just need to be cut away.

What does cutting away the knot mean? (Don’t forget, these are just my opinions.) I believe this could mean that we have forgiven a person, but choose to no longer associate with them. Alcoholics, for example, need to stay away from people who tempt them to drink. It could also mean forgiving and firmly choosing not to allow the painful event to hurt us anymore. This is different than simply consciously forgiving a person. This takes a paradigm shift. A dramatic change in how we view an event. These types of decisions often require help from professionals. They are trained to find the knots. Even the ones we didn’t know existed.

Whether we forgive or not, our lives will never be the same. When we are able to forgive, we take the now untangled parts of yarn, and rewind them to use again. There will be long pieces and short pieces wound into this ball. These represent the beneficial memories from the past. Because they are different, they can inspire us to create beauty from here forward in ways we never would have imagined before.

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Bobble-Head Listener vs. Social Media

8130634655_e9b61f7293_zBefore I dive in to my thoughts on social media, let me tell you a little about myself in social situations. This event is not family or close friends. It is the kind that requires mingling and small talk. I try to stay close to my husband. He circulates through the room like he owns it. He almost always knows someone. On the rare occasion he doesn’t, he quickly finds someone with a common interest and my role begins. I stand quietly and wait for inspiration to strike, for an opportunity to say something insightful. Instead, I become a bobble-head listener with no idea how to add to the conversation. This is probably one of the reasons I love social media. There is no pressure, and I get to add to the conversation.

Facebook, for example, is easy. I can share a heartwarming story, or like the picture of a friends graduating senior. I can offer support to a hurting friend, or wish my brother a happy birthday. Twitter, however, is different. It is much more controversial and faster paced.

At first, I thought I would learn about differing views concerning the important topics being discussed. I quickly discovered that most of it is what I call, Hit and Run Comments. You know; the one liners you’d love to say to that annoying person at work, but you would never dare say it to his face. Still more frequently, it seems that people dig into their memory banks and pull out a whole host of crass, body-part-laden, immature comments from their middle school years. Another popular method is to jump to an overgeneralized conclusion based on fear not fact. Most make one or two jabs and then disappear into cyber anonymity.

Why do people do that? Maybe, if they can shut someone up with a one liner, they feel in control for a moment.  Perhaps they are responding to an attack made on them. Or maybe it’s just easier to make a Hit and Run Comment than try to make a substantive comment.

After all, substantive comments require thought, and a little skill to get it to make sense in 140 characters or less. (I’ve seen strings of tweets, but they get a little confusing, especially if you start commenting on segments in the middle of the string.) This also requires knowledge of the subject. This is one of the reasons I like Twitter. If I see a topic of interest, I can take my time and formulate a coherent comment. I do have to be careful. If anyone engages me, I may have to do research to support my opinion. But again, I have time to do that.

Why do I like to comment? Am I trying to feel a sense of control where I really have none? Am I trying to change someone’s mind? Do I want to feel important because someone liked a comment I made?  I’d be okay with any of these, but really, I make a comment for a different reason. I want to have the courage to speak up when I have an opinion. I want to broaden my knowledge with facts to support those views. In time, I’m hoping to get good enough at it to put away the bobble-head and join in the conversation that begins with small talk and ends with understanding.

 

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