We seem to have forgotten what Jesus did while on earth


As we enter the Christmas holiday season, it would be helpful to remind ourselves what Jesus did while he walked the earth and what he promoted while he was here. Variations of his overarching themes can also be found in other religious texts, so these tenets are important regardless of religion. His Golden Rule which paraphrases to Treat others like you want to be treated translates well to any religious faith.

Jesus spent most of his adult life with the disenfranchised people of the areas he traveled. He would visit and stay with those who were not the powerful leaders or church leaders of the day. He tended to be with those who needed him most – the sick, the disabled, the poor and the downtrodden. In fact, he was not welcome by church leaders in some places and became irritated when church leaders did not use his church for its key purpose.

If Jesus walked the earth today, he would likely be irritated with us for many things.

  • Jesus would not be too keen on the demonization of people who look, speak or worship differently than the speaker.
  • He would not be too keen on intolerance especially when advocated by religious leaders who preach a message of exclusion. Jesus welcomed everyone.
  • He would not be too keen on the commercialization of his birthday, which loses sight of why we are honoring the day in the first place.
  • He would not be too keen on treating the impoverished in the world as if they had a communicable disease. “There, but by the grace of God, go I” he would say.
  • He would not be too keen on turning our backs on people who are refugees from their war-torn land. He would be there welcoming them in.
  • He would not be too keen on people being killed in the name of any religion, especially when the perpetrators are twisting language from its true meaning.
  • He would not be too keen on abortion unless a mother’s life is threatened. And, while this may sound inconsistent, he would likely be in favor of using birth control to avoid abortions, lessen poverty and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • He would not be too keen on the prosperity church leaders who live high on the hog after bilking poor and sick people of their money. If you hear the term “seed money,” understand you are being swindled to help someone buy a jet or house.
  • He would not be too keen on corrupt leaders who forsake their mission to govern wisely and judiciously.
  • He would not be too keen on people not being good stewards of our earth which is consistent across many religions.

We seem to have become a collection of cafeteria Christians, only picking parts of the bible we like and missing the overall context and message. We must treat others like we want to be treated, with no caveats. To prove my point, I want you to picture a mental image of Jesus and then go back to the first bullet point above regarding “demonization of people who look….differently than the speaker.”

Now, I want you to picture an adult Syrian refugee. Jesus did not look like Max Von Sidow, Jim Caviezel or Jeffrey Hunter (who played him in movies). Jesus looked more like the Syrian refugees look than how movies portrayed him. And, he did not speak English. If Jesus was among the refugees, we have folks who would be arguing to deny his entrance into America as he would be a single adult male with a mideastern appearance.

We must be better than this. We must understand his key message and live like he would want us to, even if he does not look like we do. It is the Christian thing to do….and Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist thing as well.

Donald Trump – the terrorists’ best friend

I have a sense that ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and other Islamic terrorists groups are extremely happy with the continual bombardment of comments from Donald Trump and some of his fellow candidates in regards to denying rights to Muslim Americans and stiff arming the Syrian refugees. Trump and friends are writing the recruiting language for these terrorist groups. They need only to cut and paste from his comments and can simply say “this is what America thinks of Muslims.”

Setting aside the unconstitutionality and the attack on our ideals which are most important, Trump’s comments on shutting down mosques, setting up a data base, and demonizing Muslim Americans are xenophobic and fear mongering. Yet, they are doing the opposite of what he intends – his comments do not make us safer. They inflame terrorists and will cause more citizens to question our country. As torture and drone strikes have done, we are creating new generations of people who do not like us and expanding the number of people who we are offending.

Several retired generals came out in article by Tim Mak of The Daily Beast to admonish Trump and fellow candidates for the same reason. Retired Army Lieutenant General Charley Otstott said “We should be countering Daesh (ISIS) propaganda rather than taking actions which will most certainly feed their propaganda machine.”

Retired Air Force Major General Charles Dunlap said, “Focusing on religion can be, from a military perspective, counterproductive, as it could serve to incite the opposition where there may be none.”

The article included quotes from several other retired generals, but the gist of their argument can be captured in these two statements. We counter terrorist propaganda, by living up to our ideals and constitutional rights. We counter their propaganda by fighting for the rights of all citizens. We counter their propaganda by being the shining light on the hill and beacon of hope for refugees and immigrants.

I would add that Trump is not just aiding and abetting the causes of these terrorists, he is drumming up misguided anger and action from our over 1,000 domestic hate groups. Through his remarks on Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, Muslim Americans, and women, we are fanning the flames of these groups. The Charleston shooting involved a young man who wanted to start a race war. At a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota over yet another shooting by police, several protestors were shot. A Black Lives Matter protestor was roughed up at one of Trump’s gatherings and Trump later said in an interview that maybe he should have been roughed up.

We need our leaders to bring us together, not sow seeds of discontent. We need our leaders to act like the Mayor of Charleston and Governor of South Carolina did after the Charleston shooting to quell racial tension. It frustrates me that some Americans are cheering this man on as he represents the worst of our traits with a false bravado which some mistake for leadership. We must live up to our ideals and honor our constitution which affords freedom of religion and separates church and state. We must welcome people in crisis as we have usually done, especially since we helped cause the refugee crisis by not acting sooner in Syria.

If we cede the higher ground, then we are just another country. While our role of leadership in the world is now shared with other countries, these countries need us to be part of the moral leadership to promote freedom and security. We cannot be part of the problem. We must be better than this.

In the quiet of the morning

My favorite time of day is the quiet of morning. As an early riser, thanks to taking kids to school for so many years, I enjoy the peace of reading the newspaper with a cup of hot coffee.

I read a great deal online, but I still prefer the feel of a newspaper in my hands. Even if I may have read a story online the day before, rereading lets it sink in more for digestion and understanding.

While I am closer to being a news junkie than not, it is important to consider the news and the sources. Not all news is created equal, so the veracity of the source and data cited is relevant. This a key reason I read, watch and listen to multiple sources.

For those who would prefer not to read the news, I would guide you to NPR, PBS Newshour or BBC World News. Al Jazeera is also good, but I get few chances to watch it. I am visiting my sister and she watched PBS with me last night. The stories are well reported and analyzed by people who are more expert in their field. They are also civil to one another and cover stories that are more relevant and less influenced by bias or conflict of interest.

I am blessed to have access to an excellent daily newspaper in The Charlotte Observer. They continue to do in-depth reporting on topics for which they win numerous awards. They just completed a four-part series on our regional future water crisis and have exposed the problems of overworked and understaffed medical examiners in our state which has led to change, e.g. Plus, I appreciate reading the editorials from a variety of vantage points, even if I don’t agree with everything or much of what the writer says.

So, I am thankful for this time to read and reflect. I feel I am a better citizen and person in being informed. How do you stay informed? What are your favorite times of the day?

Safe travels and take along an extra dose of patience

In spite of retailers trying to steal the thunder, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It means time with family and friends. My favorite memories as a child were going to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Now, we have that house, where we will host 15 or more folks for dinner. And, we honor my grandmother, who we called Big Mama, by making her cornbread dressing.

I have written before about Big Mama and Granddaddy. They were each very special people and very different personalities. My grandfather was very quiet and worked with his hands building houses. He also loved to fish and we would leave early morning to drive to the lake returning with endless lines of fish.

Big Mama was a character and had character. She was very funny and was as talkative as my grandfather was quiet. She worked in retail sales for years and had relationships with families as she helped dress their kids all the way through college. Yet, unlike today, she did not work in the store on Thanksgiving.

I bring this up today, as I want people to travel safely to their many destinations. This goes for folks in other countries as they begin travel for their various holidays and year-end events. With things that have occurred in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and Mali recently, we need to remind ourselves to live our lives to their fullest and hug our friends and loved ones closely when we see them.

And, as we travel, please take along an extra dose of patience. Many travel officials are doing their darnedest to make us safe from those who want to do people harm. Help them, help you by being patient, considerate and kind. Expect and plan for travel delays. And, always remember, we choose how we react to things. Don’t cede that power and get flustered by things that are outside of your control. People in line behind you do not want to be in the line with the exasperated or angry traveler, just as you don’t want to be behind one yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Safe travels and may the force (of patience) be with you.

 

America must be better than this


For some time I have been deeply troubled by how we Americans are acting. We are tolerating bigotry and hiding behind a curtain of political incorrectness. Our political discourse has fallen into name calling, labeling and demonizing people who are different from the speaker’s audience. Avoiding political correctness, does not give someone the license to be a jerk. When an opponent raises an issue, your opinion is less valid by calling the person ugly or stupid.

The terrorists attacks in Paris have caused us to stoop to new lows, where we are forsaking our ideals and going against important foundations within our Constitution. We are kowtowing to xenophobia and fear mongering when we use crises to demonize entire groups of people, especially those in need.

Our country was founded on the premise of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. For some so-called leaders to say we should close mosques goes against who we are. Where would this stop – would we close Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh temples next? What about synagogues or Unitarian Universalist churches?

Our nation has also been built on the backs of immigrants. We have been consistent in extending our welcome to refugees of war torn countries. Yes, we should be vigilant, but turning away people in need, especially after vetting people from Syria for 18 – 24 months, is inconsistent with who we are.

At the heart of my concern is if we cede the higher ground by restricting freedoms and civil rights, the terrorists win. We would be lessening our country as well as giving more ammunition to terrorists to recruit people.

I understand the concerns and we must be vigilant. Yet, we should not replace serious and sober discussion with fear mongering and demonizing. We must hold dear what makes America great. When we cede the higher ground, we are just another country.

The Virtuous Cycle

The virtuous cycle is a nice term, but what in the heck does it mean? In the context under which I most recently saw it used is with one of two ultimate rationales why the move to renewable energy will begin to accelerate and replace fossil fuel energy sources.

Of course, renewable energy has many benefits and as the cost of production continues to fall, it will be on par with current fossil fuel energy production costs. This does not even consider the other costs that can be avoided which are inherent in the fossil fuel process. And, a key rationale for the migration will be the avoidance of the significant water loss that occurs in the fossil fuel and nuclear power production process through dissipated steam and loss of water to retrieve natural gas and oil through fracking.

But, the virtuous cycle will be one that will join water as the key reason for the accelerated migration to renewable energy. In essence, in fossil fuel energy production, energy has to be used to create energy. For example, to create electricity with fossil fuel, we have to burn coal or natural gas to boil water into steam to turn the turbines which turn the electromagnet generators. We have to exhaust energy to make more energy.

With renewable energy, we need not exhaust energy to make energy. The sun will shine and the wind will blow. They are doing this already, so we are merely harnessing that energy to produce electricity thereby creating a virtuous cycle. Using monetary terms, we do not need to spend money to make money, once the solar panels or windmills are created. Yes, we need to maintain them, but we do not have to spend energy to create new energy.

This matters now as energy companies look to build new energy production facilities. As a company considers the building over years of a natural gas-fired plant, the virtuous cycle of renewable energy may render that natural gas investment obsolete before a return on investment can be achieved. Companies will migrate to cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sources. The fossil fuel industry is big on focusing on the cost and jobs as reasons to do more of the status quo, yet the production cost will flip the other way and will become more favorable for renewables. The jobs are already there and growing rapidly with double-digit increases.

So, when  people say we cannot afford to move to renewable energy, that is actually a very short-sighted argument. When you factor all of the added costs on environment and health of fossil fuel acquisition, use, and future maintenance, the costs are already in the favor of renewables. The virtuous cycle will accelerate the move even more.

 

 

Old bodies remind you did your chores

At the age of 57, my body is no longer one that can survive doing various chores without telling me about it. Between helping my sister with my mother’s house and doing work around my house, aches and pains are par for the course.

The last few weeks have ranged from being up on ladders to cleaning out and repairing rain gutters to crawling beneath my house and deck to figure out where water has been getting in and trying to remedy the problem. Coupling these tasks with replacing and adding a few downspout corrugated drains, has meant I have used arms, shoulders, hands, legs, back, stomach, and fanny to maneuver and do the work.

On the upside, working your fanny off actually helps to work your fanny off. I have lost a few pounds along the way, mainly from climbing up and down ladders and toting a wet-dry vacuum to and from the garage to beneath my house. On the downside, it hurts to even type this. I am getting pains and spasms from all over, in places where I did not know I still had muscles. And, that departing fanny will hurt as well as it goes.

Truth be told, I enjoy doing work like this every so often. I enjoy the smell of freshly mowed grass, which I can smell better now with an electric mower. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment, even though with water problems it may or may not accomplish the task at hand. Sitting down to watch a football game is more satisfying after you have toiled some around the house. You feel entitled to watch a game to relax.

Now, calling myself a handyman is a far, far stretch. In fact, my wife likes to do things, as well, and it is harder to stop her than just ask her what do you need. In fact, when I would go out of town while working, it would not be unusual for me to return home to something she changed while I was gone. Sometimes, she would change something and then change it back and I would only know when I saw a debit and credit from Lowes or Home Depot on our bank account. Honey, what is this from Lowes?

But, back to the old body pains. The key to relieving some of these pains is warming up and warming down. Sometimes I forget the warming down part, as I am happy to get ladders and stuff put away. Then there is my friend Advil. I usually take a preventive Advil beforehand and some later. Yet, at age 57, there sometimes is not enough to do the job. So, enjoy working around the house. Let me know what you do to make yourself less sore. What kinds of work do you enjoy?