Help me understand a few things

Happy Friday everyone. In a week of good and bad news as well as sort of good and bad news, help me understand a few things.

Help me understand how a person can start a fight with our friends and then convince his fans that it is one of our friends fault? That takes some gall.

Help me understand how someone brags on what a great negotiator he is and then routinely makes concessions to adversaries without getting much in return? It is great conversation is occurring with one adversary as we avoid who has the bigger button fight.

Help me understand how completely destroying large swaths of countries like Yemen and Syria without concern for the people makes anyone involved a good leader? Death and taxes used to be the only two sure things, but I would add people in need will always be pawns – this gives rise to terrorism, not avoid such.

Help me understand how the simple, but time consuming process of notifying stakeholders of decisions to gain their buy-in and input before the decisions are announced is lost on the person referenced in the first two questions above? Surprising people with decisions that impact them is not a good idea – the atrocious first travel ban or firing people without telling them are examples of such.

Help me understand how leaders who know the damage being done  to a country and its dear reputation by its front man, but choose not to act can still claim to be leaders? People need to watch Senator Bob Corker’s recent speech on the floor of the US Senate and then watch Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of last summer. Their words are dead on accurate.

Help me understand how the lead attorney for a country can quote biblical passages to separate immigrant children from their parents at the same time numerous churches are using Jesus’ teachings from the same book to help immigrant children? The former is the epitome of what a friend calls “Cafeteria Christians.”

Help me understand how a country about to head off a cliff can continue to do so after recognizing a vote to drive off the cliff was aided by Russian influence and outright misinformation? Like in the country I live in, we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water rather than clean the water.

Continuing the water analogy, I think we the people should have an “out of the pool” loudspeaker. It should be used when  leaders do not work together and are not addressing obvious problems or oversimplifying their cause coming to wrong headed solutions,

I have spent almost twenty years helping people who have lost their home, even though they are working several jobs. I see what happens when problems are ignored or lied about. We the people need to tell our leaders to stop the BS and do their jobs. What I have discovered when I chat with them, the people who work for these so-called leaders also know their bosses are dropping the ball.

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Pope is at it again

Last week, Pope Francis again revealed why he is a global leader. Leveraging the biblical teachings that God wants us to take care of our environment, he reiterated his concerns on climate change to oil executives. Per a Wall Street Journal article called “Pope Francis Criticizes Continued Search for Fossil Fuels at Meeting with Oil Executives,” he encouraged oil executives to find ways to leave fossil fuel energy in the ground. Per the WSJ article:

“’Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!’ he said at a Vatican climate change conference attended by top executives including Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Darren Woods, BP PLC Chief Executive Bob Dudley and BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Laurence Fink.

At the conference, co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame and featuring nearly 20 speakers Friday and Saturday, the pope said that an estimated 1 billion people still lack electricity and noted that access to energy is an essential resource for escaping poverty. But he warned that a failure to reduce the use of fossil fuels would lead to a ‘spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.’

The poor ‘suffer most from the ravages of global warming,’ he said, through water shortages and extreme weather which in turn drive mass migration, among other ways.
Pope Francis commended oil and gas companies for adopting policies that account for ‘assessment of climate risk’ and he encouraged the practice of environmentally sensitive ‘green finance’ investment strategies. But he warned that ‘markets and technology’ wouldn’t be sufficient to stop climate change, since our ‘current economic system thrives on ever-increasing extraction, consumption and waste.’

Earlier this year, BlackRock’s Mr. Fink in a letter urged chief executives at global companies to ‘make a positive contribution to society.’ The world’s largest asset manager has played a key role behind the scenes in insisting that companies take action to respond to climate change.

Pope Francis’ meeting with oil executives and investors comes almost exactly three years after the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he called global warming a major threat to life on the planet and said it is mainly caused by human activity. In that document, which as an encyclical ranks among the highest levels of papal teaching, the pope blamed special interests for blocking policy responses and indicted the market economy for plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and future generations.”

With the US President announcing his intention to leave the Paris Climate Change Accord, other global leaders, like Pope Francis are continuing the push. Ironically, Exxon Mobil’s shareholders voted (the day before Trump’s announcement to leave the Accord) to obligate the company leadership to inform them of what they are doing to address climate change. Fortunately, US cities, states and businesses are picking up the baton dropped by the President. The US has passed the tipping point on renewable energy, in spite of the President and his EPA head’s efforts.

Pope Francis should be commended for leading the charge. Taking care of the least of us has been a mantra of this leader. I recognize he is not perfect, but is concern for people and the environment is meritorious. And, unlike Messrs. Trump and Pruitt, the pope is a scientist, with a Masters in Chemistry and has worked as a chemist.

Fifty years ago, a low moment in American history

The year of 1968 was filled with major events, both good and bad. One of the lowest moments in American history occurred this week in April fifty years ago. Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated by a man whose name I will not mention as I don’t feel killers like these deserve the notoriety.

King was in Memphis advocating for striking sanitation workers looking for a pay raise. During a speech while there, he spoke of helping people get to the Promised Land, a favorite metaphor. But, in this instance, he noted he may not be there with them when they get there. With 20/20 hindsight, this added phrase seems surreal.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping America achieve the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He later would provide impetus for LBJ to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act and celebrate as LBJ helped pass Medicare and Medicaid in his war on poverty. King and far too many earned these changes with blood, sweat and tears. And, too many paid with their lives.

King was and remains a hero to many. The white Americans who would go on to vote for Alabama Governor George Wallace in the Presidential election later that year failed to see the heroic nature of King’s non-violent movement. King took a key page from Gandhi’s nonviolent protests in South Africa and India. King’s approach was key to achieving what the protestors did. And, it helps Americans of all colors.

Unfortunately, King’s murder unleashed an anger in inner cities. One major city that did not have riots was in Indianapolis as Robert F. Kennedy shared his admiration for King as well as his pain in losing his brother while campaigning there. RFK would not be alive in two months after his own assassination during this tumultuous year, but his reverence for King was notable.

Let’s remember the life of Martin Luther King. America is better for it. We should never forget that even though a minority of bigoted and hateful voices seem empowered to do so.

Over-politicized and under-moralized

I had the pleasure of hearing columnist and author David Brooks speak the other night. He was invited to my city by a church known for being inclusive. While his speech and following Q/A was filled with poignant quotes and observations, his caution that “we are over-politicized and under-moralized” resonated with me.

His speech was far more focused on America’s changes over time than it was political. He noted we were much more community oriented before 1968, but still had many faults around racIsm, bigotry and gender inequality. He noted the gains made post-1968, but we tore down institutional cache and became more individual minded, even more narcissistic in nature, as he explained with a few key  statistics. He thoughtfully spoke of how we have come to the current tribalism. He noted tribalism is based more on fear and hatred of others than it is love for your tribe.

This was occurring long before Trump and he said he frankly did not think Trump would win. He said people are disenfranchised and want to be heard. To Trump’s credit he reached out to these folks, yet he sold a message of fear and isolationism. An example of one of Brooks’ quotes is “Trump is the wrong answer to the right question.”

From his travels, reading and teaching, he noted people are thirsty for moral direction. We desire a moral compass. We want to do the right thing, but we have become so lonely and alienated (he again accentuated with statistics) we have limited avenues to a community mindset. We are not talking to one another and have looked less to institutions and more to movements.

Early on he defined we are consumed by both a “desiring heart” and “yearning soul.” We want to love someone and belong. We want to find contentment for our soul nurturing it. This is why we long for a sense of community or family. He noted an answer to a previous time in the 1890s when we became so disenfranchised, we saw community movements that led to better working conditions, the suffragette movement, the temperance movement, environmental protection, etc.

That is likely the answer we need to diminish this tribalism. We need to seek community oriented solutions. He said our places of faith can be more helpful, but need to focus on our being better people and picking each other up. He noted an example of a man in Shreveport who helped identify a community house in each area of the city. The house would be a place where BBQs, community events, parties et al could happen.

When someone asked what is a key takeaway, he laughed and said that is your job as I just throw out ideas. Then, he eloquently noted a story about a psychologist who was captured by the Nazis and placed in a detention camp. The question no longer was what should I do with my life? The question was now what does life have in store for me? He said that may be the better question we should ask ourselves.

As he left the stage, I witnessed a humble man who seemed to be saying through his body language, why are you clapping for me? He deserved the adoration. Even the minister of the church noted Brooks’ message had a strong sense of a Judeo-Christian ethic. We need more voices like him. We need more discussions like these.

Saturday is a good day for a march

Saturday is a big day for teens and young adults who will be showing what democracy looks like. A crowd larger than the inauguration attendees is expected to protest gun violence and advocate for change. Whether you agree with their position, which I support, you have to admire their resolve.

Change is difficult, especially when those who hold the playing cards are sponsored by an entity who does not want any. But, the majority of Americans want change, so we shall see what transpires. The legislators in Florida deserve credit for a first step. The ones in DC did as little as possible in the spending bill which included some lower hanging fruit.

With that said, one of pieces of fruit was something that should have been done all along and that is funding the CDC to measure gun deaths, which has not been done for twenty years. You cannot measure success of initiatives if you don’t measure anything.

Join me in applauding these kids for raising their voices. And, to use a favorite line uttered after gun massacres with a subtle change, “my thoughts and prayers are with the legislators as they look for that misplaced moral compass.”

The movement you need is on your shoulder

Conversing by comment with our British friend Roger, I recalled a line from the song “Hey Jude,” written by Paul McCartney following a conversation with John Lennon’s son Julian who went by Jules. What started out as Hey Jules was McCartney recalling how he encouraged Jules to speak to a girl he liked.

One of the best lines in the song per the older Lennon was almost struck because McCartney thought it was too corny. The line is simply “the movement you need is on your shoulder.” The power of the line is if we just use our brain, we have the ability to solve the problems we encounter. The reference to the word “movement” is key as well. We must act on what we need to do. We must make a move.

I was recalling this line as many of us resort to prayer to solve our problems. That is all well and good, but we lose sight of the greatest invention God or Allah gave us – our brain. Paraphrasing Solomon in Proverbs, God gave us a wonderful brain and we honor him when we use it. Please do not look for these precise words, as you won’t find them. They are my simple take on who the bible considered the wisest of kings.

My point is we often don’t realize when we pray that God gave us the ability to solve our problems. Or, we may be praying for a miracle cure, but we overlook the brilliant surgeon and his or her team may be the embodiment of God’s miracle. What surgeons do can be viewed in such manner as they are honoring God’s gift to them.

Many religions believe their way is the only way to find heaven. Personally, I find that to be a tad arrogant. Especially when religions have some of the same principles embedded therein. We should be open to all manners of faith. What gives us the most peace, should be the one we follow. It may not be the path your parents took. That is OK. The peace it gives and the generosity of spirit is more important.

God gave us a wonderful brain. Let’s use it more than we do to solve our problems. He also gave us two ears and one mouth. We should use them in that proportion.

Yoga is not anti-Christian

It may surprise people that a 59 year old man took a Yoga class with his wife for thirteen sessions. It may also surprise you that I do a short daily routine of exercises after my shower that includes some Yoga stretches and breathing techniques. I mention this next fact as it is germane – I grew up a Southern Baptist and remain a Christian to this day, but must confess I am not a regular church goer.

I have tried on several occasions to encourage my sister to exercise more. On at least three occasions, I have suggested some relative easy Yoga poses and noted the breathing techniques will be of benefit. She noted her breathing has gotten heavier with some unwanted weight gain. But, when I use the phrase Yoga, she shuts me down. Why?

Unlike me, my sister became even more evangelical in her worship as a Southern Baptist. For those not in tune, the Southern Baptists believe strongly that their manner of worship is the only way to find heaven. I know some other religions feel the same, but this is my perspective having grown up with it. People may disagree and that is fine.

She has been taught that Yoga is more about being a mystical religion than it is about improving your body and mind. She has been taught that it is at odds with Christianity. I shared that many Christians do Yoga and if you check out TV commercials about almost any product, you will witness people doing Yoga in the background or forefront. I can count at least 30 commercials that fit this bill.

Yoga is more about being at peace with your breathing, meditation and stretching. Becoming and remaining flexible will serve us all well as we age. But, the breathing is essential as well. It helps oxygenate the muscles as they are used and helps the lung power. People who sing can breathe better because they have to control their breathing between notes. Measured and deep breathing is helpful.

As for the meditation, not everyone does this part. But, it is your brain. You can meditate over any thoughts you want. My wife shared with me a post that spoke of woman starting and building a women’s exercise group at her church. The minister was supportive and appreciated the growing church attendance until he walked in on a class meditating. It was irrelevant that they were meditating over an offered bible verse. The next sermon was on the evils of Yoga and church service declined as a result of his shortsightedness. A link to this post is below.

In my latest suggestion to my sister, that fell on deaf ears, I said let’s don’t call it Yoga, let’s call it George. She laughed but left the Yoga with me. The next time, I will just show her a few different stretches without naming them. My thrust is I want to be able to self-ambulate (walk on my own) until I die. The inability to walk without help is one of the milestones where a person’s demise hastens. Her added weight is causing her concern on this matter, hence her brother’s interest.

I am a Christian. I believe in the overarching theme that we should treat others like we wanted to be treated. Yoga was not mentioned in the bible. So, in my way of thinking, if I am making a suggestion to do Yoga as it helps me, I am following the Golden Rule. I am treating another the way I want to be treated. Yoga is not anti-Christian and don’t let anyone tell it is not.

Note: Here is a link to the post:

https://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/southern-baptist-yoga/