There is only one way out.

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There is something fundamentally wrong with us.  In what country does someone just nonchalantly walk into a church and shoot up men, women and children?  We don’t need terrorists.  We have our own nutcases and they are armed with assault rifles.

There is only one way out of this plague of shooters and victims.  Scripture tells us that if the country which is called by God’s name will repent and turn from its wicked ways, He will repent Himself of the evil and stop it and heal that nation.  We need repentance now.  We have become a violent society.  Why does our country continue churning out violent movie after violent movie and violent computer game after violent computer game?  Many of our young people are addicted to violence and others among us are becoming desensitized to it.

Years ago, if someone wanted to see violence or pornography, they had to get up and go somewhere to see it.  Nowadays, they just turn on their computers and it’s all available right in their living rooms.  Violence and lust will not beget anything but violence and lust.  We allow our children to fill up their brains on a continuous stream of this junk without making a peep.  Do we then expect them to turn out to be kind and caring individuals?

I am heartbroken.  Why does another mother have to bury her young daughter?  A newlywed bury her husband?  Or a baby lose its mother?  How can one family lose eight of its members in one instant?  How many more will we tolerate being slaughtered in their pews?  Or in their restaurants?  Or on their bus?  Simply living a quiet life.  One minute they’re here and the next they are taken out of this life by some angry or demented soul.  Why do we continue to allow it?

We need to turn this around.  We can do it as a society if we forego focusing on our differences and instead unify in our repentance. We can change.  We can stop future mass shootings.  They are not inevitable.  However, there is only one way out.  We have to find the violence, the anger, the hate inside of ourselves and eliminate it.  Cast it out.  Refuse to give in to it even when people make it so enticing for us to hate.  Do the opposite in our daily lives.  Live with conviction in love with God and with our fellow man.

Jesus said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37 – 40

 

 

United we stand?

On September 9, 1776, the congress representing the group of colonies that made up this country at that time decided to call it the United States.  However, ever since its inception, this country has been tested as to the meaning of its name.  Although the founders held deep convictions and high ideals for this country, there were already deep divisions in our unity, specifically over what to do about slavery.  That crack widened until we fought a bitter civil war over the issue.  Even since the end of that war, the divisions have persisted.

Over time, those divisions have branched out from the issue of slavery and new divisions have been created.  Nowadays, our congress cannot even agree on the simplest of issues.  I read in this morning’s paper a comment by a young man of 27.  He said, “My generation can’t talk to each other.  They don’t want to hear another perspective.  If you label yourself a conservative or a libertarian, they don’t want to talk to you.”  (“What of Civil War Re-Enactments,?” Hartford Courant, 9-5-2-17)  What is wrong with us and why can’t we even have a civil conversation to discuss the issues?! The crack is widening and there seems to be no way to bridge the gap.

However, God is giving us a chance.  Unfortunately, the times that we come together end up being the worst of times and yet the best of times.  Disasters somehow make us forget politics and opposing opinions and bring us together in a common goal of survival.  The experience of Houston, Rockport, Wharton and Port Arthur has both horrified and softened the hearts of Americans across the nation.

I believe that everyday Americans would welcome a change from the divisive rhetoric streaming off the airwaves.  Another huge storm is heading our way.  Hurricane Irma.  Hopefully, we will rise to the occasion once again and pitch in to pick up the pieces that are left in its wake if indeed it ends up taking direct aim at us, but why do we need a monster storm to force us to do that?

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We know this to be a truth.  We have to come together.  We have to be willing to listen to one another.  We have to work together if we want to ensure the survival of our country for the future.  We can do it without another storm.  Teach young people to discuss.  Be an example of civil discussion. Listen first.  Listening doesn’t cost a thing.

Is unity possible when you’re talking politics?

Politics is a divisive subject.  Therefore, I don’t like it, either side.  Watching the morning news today, I saw pictures of the protests against the latest decisions of the current president.  At that moment, I realized that the people who were protesting have been fairly happy campers for the last eight years.  However, the USA is a very divided country and it’s almost an even split.  The other half of us, yes US (remember, we’re ONE country!), has been disenfranchised for the last eight years.  Most of those who were disenfranchised did not scream and shout and call the opposite side “haters.”  They grumbled and complained and then showed their disapproval by voting differently.

Each side has to learn to listen to the opposite side.  There’s both good and bad on both sides.  If we are to be one country, we HAVE to respect each other and work it out.  The other alternative is to create two countries where we won’t have to listen to each other any more, but even then, we’ll be forced in some way to do it because of business.

So, to those who are shouting and screaming, take a minute and listen to those “others”.  It doesn’t cost you anything.  Listening is free.  So is voting, which will take place once more at the regular intervals.

Election 2016

In the Bible story of Jesus’ crucifixion, the crowd is given the choice of Barabas or Jesus.  They all screamed for Barabas.  What about Jesus? They shouted for him to be crucified.  In this year’s presidential election, there is no Jesus in the choices.  There is only Barabas #1 or Barabas #2.

Political culture in the last several decades, even longer perhaps, has been completely hypocritical.  At the very least, we have had several philanderers and probably worse in the White House since the 1940’s.  However, as long as they have kept silent and kept their misdeeds completely out of the public view and earshot, we have turned a blind eye to it.

The entertainment culture in America has been completely hypocritical as well.  Hollywood churns out pornography faster than they do decent movies.  Now, it is available at the touch of anyone’s fingertips, including the fingertips of your children as they navigate the web on their personal computers.  We eat up salacious news about the latest starlets while paparazzi  hound the rich and famous, trying to get the most brazen photographs.

So, now we have a choice between a crook (at best) and a lewd (at best) person for our next president.  Why are we now suddenly shouting, “Foul?!”  Each side proclaims the other’s failings with self-righteous clamorings.  Do we deserve better after having allowed the other to go on unhindered for decades?  How did these two get past the primaries and the national conventions?  Their misdeeds were already known at those times.  Shouldn’t the political process weed out the unworthy?  It’s America’s choice because America has already chosen to allow it.  We have allowed it in our politicians, our entertainers, our priests (up to a certain point) and our elite.  We made excuses for the rich and famous and coined phrases such as “boys will be boys.”

Why are we surprised and outraged when someone who has been served up as entertainment for decades is now in the political limelight doing exactly the same things that we lapped up in the gossip magazines?

Reacting to the Paris attacks and continuing suicide bombers

In our world today there are so many murders and assaults claiming to be the will of God.  Hogwash.  We are all God’s children.  True religion boils down to some very simple basics.

  • Love God first.
  • Love your fellow man.  He/she is your brother/sister.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep the commandments.  Most religions have some form of them and most of them are quite similar in that they say, “Do not kill.”  “Do not steal.”  “Do not lie.”  Etc.

If we could implement these simple ideas in our lives and teach our children to do so, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live and raise children.

Reflections on assisted suicide: an inspiration to greatness or a sad, missed opportunity?

From People Magazine, 11/2:

Brittany Maynard, who became the public face of the controversial right-to-die movement over the last few weeks, ended her own life Saturday at her home in Portland, Oregon. She was 29. 

“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” she wrote on Facebook.

Brittany Maynard’s story is a sad reflection on what some of our young people are being taught these days.  Someone has given her a backwards, misguided way of looking at life.  Brain cancer did not take anything away from Brittany.  Brain cancer can end a person’s natural life, but it can never take away the human spirit, which is of far more value than a fleeting experience of pain.  I would not wish such pain on anyone, but compare her story with the following.

I watched one of my best friends die of cancer a year and a half ago.  She was sick for ten years.  Many times during those years, I marveled at her persistence.  She never stopped working (gardening – a very physical job!) unless she was too ill to go in and never gave up her job until she was too weak to drive herself to work.  During those years you have to know that on the path of her life she traversed through many struggles and pits of despair, but to categorize her fight with cancer according to the negativity she went through is to misunderstand the whole purpose of life itself.  When I last visited my friend two days before she passed into the next life, she looked like an angel.  She was completely at peace and ready to go.  So, how did she manage to drag herself from those depths of despair to the pinnacle of tranquility that she experienced in her last days?  She dealt with everything as it came along: all of her feelings inadequacy, anger and hatred and all of her flawed ideas that somehow God was punishing her by giving her this disease.  God did not give her this disease.  He did allow it, but He could only allow it for her good since he is only good.  She left this world knowing that God is only good and her struggle had been worth it all.  She didn’t choose to eliminate the pain from her life.  She chose instead to use it to propel herself to the highest of heights.

The human spirit is constantly striving. To be human is to never give up until the last breath you take.  Another elderly friend died last year of congestive heart failure and COPD.  Every single breath she took for many months was a struggle, yet she never complained.  She was constantly cheerful.  Her persevering spirit gave me courage and strength and made me realize the things that I have that are absolute blessings.  I can go for a walk whenever I want and drink down large gulps of fresh air, appreciating how each breath fills me with the feeling of being alive.  I take in more breaths and feel how each one keeps my life on going.  Her life had meaning and purpose and she inspired all those around her.  I am told that she passed from this world with a smile on her face.  She knew where she was going.

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Taking one’s own life is not the answer to life’s troubles, whether those troubles be diseases or hardships.  Mountain ranges have dark and cool valleys, but they also have craggy hills and glorious peaks.  Brittany Maynard’s decision eliminated the pain from her life, but what opportunities did she miss?  She took away from herself the possibility of dealing with all of the gritty parts of life.  She left no place in her life to become an inspiration to those she left behind by finding the courage to take on life to its very end.

On the same day that her death was announced, there was another story about a young woman also with terminal brain cancer.  Lauren Hill, of Mount Saint Joseph College, has been given only a few months to live.  She played in her first college level basketball game this week and scored four points for her team.  She played in spite of the headaches and in spite of the nausea.  There was a huge outpouring of support for Lauren, requiring a larger arena for the game.  That is the kind of inspiration that nudges our human spirit towards greatness.  It touches something in us all and makes us think that we too can aspire to something greater.  These are the lessons that will last because these are the lessons that demonstrate greatness.  Life is a precious gift and to choose to end it before it has had a chance to teach us as much as it can is truly regretful.

Self Respect

I grew up outside of Detroit during the 50’s and 60’s.  When my sisters and I were young, my mother used to take us downtown Detroit once a year at Christmas time to see the window displays at the Hudson’s store, go shopping in the beautiful department store that Hudson’s was in those days and then to see a children’s concert.  My grandmother lived in Detroit then too.  She lived right next to the State Fairgrounds.  She had a beautiful rose garden and we loved to run around the slate paths in it and peer through the tall chain link fence into the fairgrounds.

Then came 1967 and the terrible riots in Detroit.  I remember being afraid when my dad went to get my grandmother and bring her home to stay with us during those terrible days.  There was so much destruction in Detroit then … and they never cleaned it up.  A few years later, my grandmother was able to buy a house in our small town and move out of Detroit.  Many other people had the same idea.  They called it white flight and my small town grew ever larger and wealthier as the white and the rich moved away from the city that had lost its self respect. Eventually, some sad young people started the horrifying tradition of burning houses on the night before Halloween, adding to the number of abandoned and uninhabitable homes in the city.

How can a city’s citizens have self respect in a city that has none?  People demonstrate that they have personal self respect by keeping themselves clean, dressing in a presentable manner, and behaving properly.  Why can’t a city do the same?  Detroit didn’t always have 78,000 abandoned buildings in it.  It started with a few hundred.  Why didn’t they clean them up before it got out of hand?  It’s demoralizing to live in a city that is so full of burnt out buildings.  How can people pull themselves up if everything around them is falling apart?

New York City at one time was not a pleasant city to visit.  It was dirty, sloppy and full of crime.  People had stopped caring.  Rudi Giuliani started aggressively cleaning up the city and focusing on crime reduction.  Some didn’t like it but eventually his policies paid off.  Detroit didn’t have a Giuliani to care enough about its people to clean it up.

Will a multi-billion dollar bailout help Detroit?  I propose that it will do nothing at all if no one in the city has enough self respect to clean it up.

I’m sure this is just one small aspect of a huge problem.  What do you think about self respect and how can Detroit get some?