Welcome to Life, Family, and Religion

Thanks for visiting my blog. I will ponder issues and disscuss events related to living life as a Christian with a family. This is a broad topic, of course, so just about anything is fair game. Check back or suggest topics for discussion.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII

As some of you may know, I was not excited about Disney's New Pop-Star Wars. There has been a lot of hype and some people are going quite batty over it, so I have held my comments close. I very rarely go to the movies and I expected to see it some time later after it was out of theaters. Two things to keep in mind as you read this. 1) The Star Trek franchise is far superior to the Star Wars franchise. 2) I am in the minority that think episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Star Wars are much better than episodes 4, 5, and 6.
I fully realize that my position puts me in danger of never being allowed to join 501st Legion (Vader's Legion) 
and the Jedi Academy of North Florida won't allow me to be trained (much cynicism in me, they sense). All that is fine. I must speak (or rather type) the truth, and if that truth is painful, well then, suck it up buttercup.

I went to see Disney's new cinematic marketing experiment with very low expectations, somewhere between Hanna Montana and The Suite Life on Deck.
So the movie exceeded my expectations, but only barely.

First of all, the Star Wars universe needs an infusion of new ideas. Come on, really another Death Star, but this time it will be a lot bigger. This time it is a planet that way it would take a death star to destroy the new Super Planetary Star Eating Death Star (SPSEDS).
I know people are fixated on size, but give me a break.

One Direction Logo
First Order Logo
Once again the military industrial complex (First Order this time...what an awful name, I could not help thinking One Direction every time they said First Order) is looking for a small cute droid on a desert planet because it has information that could be dangerous in the hands of the Rebels
(sorry Resistance). The droid ends up with someone who does not know they can use the force and this person decides to help get the droid back to those who need it. (This plot line is completely different from a droid taking a message from Princess Leia to an old man in robes on a desert planet, because this is an old man in robes on a desert planet trying to get a message to Princess/General Leia....totally different.)

Also the droid and the new
force wielder end up leaving the desert planet on the Millennium Falcon while being hunted by the military industrial complex.

So this was not at all like episode IV, I mean in episode IV Han Solo and Chewbacca pilot the Falcon....in VII it takes five or six minutes in space before Han and Chewy show up, to pilot the ship “that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”Also there is some stuff about dangerous mouths with tenticles and Han going back into smuggling since there did not seem to be a future in rebelling after the take down of Death Star 2.

We do see a new element in VII, a Storm Trooper with a conscience. Not sure how smart taking a Rebel Pilot (sorry Resistance) to fly a TIE fighter to freedom is. And by the way, that must have been the strongest coupling in the history of the universe to hold the TIE fighter there long enough to blow up stuff in the hanger bay which was totally different from the way Anikin did in the Phantom Menace.

We also have a new pair of Siths. The wannabe Vader 2.0 has a new blaster pause ability which lasts about 300 seconds, a shiny new red light saber with a cross-guard on the hilt (for protection and to inflict shoulder damage to novice ex-storm trooper saber wielders). He also is a collector of Star Wars memorabilia as he has the burned out Darth Vader helmet and geeks out over seeing the Collector's Edition Anikin Skywalker/Darth Vader light saber. We find out he is the love child of Han Solo and Leia, who turned against his uncle (destroying Luke dreams of tuition free Jedi prep academy and causing Luke to run away). When he finally takes of his mask, we see the dark side of the Wonder Years.
The dark side, which as we all know has been touting the cookies it has for some time, apparently also has more acne. So about 1/3 of the way into the movie we have Emo Solo and One Direction hunting for the droid with the schematics to the Death Star (sorry, map to Luke Skywalker) and we get a Cantina scene!! YES!! Finally...I mean in IV they left the cantina and got on the Falcon and now they fly on the Falcon to a Cantina..Totally Different.
The Cantina is run by none other than Edna Mode...(AKA Maz Kanata). In the cantina we get our Disney star appearance by Miley Cyrus
who climbs off an ogre (talk about type cast) to call One Direction. One Direction shows up, lead by Emo Solo on his giant flying Manta Ray to blow up the establishment of ill repute. Meanwhile, Fin and Rey (apparently names with more than one syllable are unfashionable) are splitting up and Rey starts to run away from her destiny only to get captured by Emo and flown away.

In this movie, however, the Rebels.....(Resistance) fights back and the much awaited X-Wing fighters who chase away the bad people. Who shows up on the scene but Princess, or General, Leia who is committed to eating better and no longer carries her cinnamon buns with her on set.

But now, filled with confidence and rage, One Direction unleashes the SPSEDS ultimate weapon that fires a faster than light weapon (that you can still see on its way to kill you...meh...not sure how to explain that..) and that fires with a width of less than a planet (since that is what it is coming out of) and then is wide enough and bright enough to be seen from several star systems away and which the light traveling out from it would have to travel faster than light, so that everyone can see it....ouch...but which condenses back to less than planet size before splitting up and becoming an intergalactic shotgun blast which blows holes in the planets and the plot at the same time.) BUT IT WAS A BIG EXPLOSION. BOOM. To top that people would have to blow up a star, oh....wait, Star Trek already did that.

Now that the Senate is out of the way....which, by the way, who is funding these guys...The Empire funded the Imperial Army, which would have become the Republic's army again after Palpatine's death. How do we still have either the remnant of the Imperial Army re-branded and hostile to the Senate and have a Rebellion (sorry, Resistance) that is not the Republic's army...Is there no army for the Republic and the Senate? Do we really have just two rogue factions with the Senate in the middle? How do you fund planet sized super weapons without a stable tax base and a strong, growing middle class? Seems fishy.

But, now the real challenge. How to you destroy the SPSEDS before it can eat a star and recharge and blow you up? And this time they fixed all the flaws of the previous Death Stars. You can't blow up the shield generators on the planet, because the planet is the Death Star. They already eradicated the Ewoks so you can't get stone age technology to beat back the defenses. They built buildings over the exhaust ports, so you can't just shoot into it with the force to blow it up. How do you overcome this? Send Han and Chewy (along with Fin, the ex Storm Trooper Janitor) and plant a few IEDs (like any good Resistance fighter) and blow up the building before the SPSEDS finishes its star lunch and rescue Ren in the process.

Ren, is not a weak character to be pushed around by Emo Solo and his interrogation of her AWAKENS the force within her. So the big bad, overly emotional, Sith gets scared of a young girl in restraints. Ren quickly uses Jedi mind tricks to get free and runs into her rescue party as they are trying to figure out how to blow up the SPSEDS.

The foreshadowing of a “I know there is good in our son” moment by Princess, or, General Leia resolves as Han tries to turn his son back to the light side. Emo is not having any of that and kills dad, making Chewy and the audience gasp. Chewy shoots the Emo and wounds him, apparently his blaster pause did not work this time. Everyone else tries to escape and blow up the building to destabilize the planet er...space weapon..or whatever this thing is. But it is not over without an epic lightsaber duel between a Sith and two different people who have no training in use of the force or saber techniques. No matter, the epicness of the battle cannot be denied as the Sith is able to singe the shoulder of the janitor trooper and get beat by a girl only to be saved by an earthquake.

Meanwhile, back at the Death Star trench scene from episode IV, the explosion does not do the job so a new Rebel (Resistance) star pilot has to fly through a trench
(not at all looking like Luke from IV) and into a large open space (not at all like Lando and Chewy do in the second Death Star from episode VI). But this is quite different because when this SPSEDS blows up it becomes a star again. (Somehow a planet sized contraption absorbed the energy from a star, the size difference should be immense, and then became the star again when it blew up, but moved over a little bit.) Someone should have talked to Abrams about the difference in scale
between a star and a planet. It only looks like a small disk in the sky from here on Earth. From the perspective of a star the size of our sun planet is very small. So now all the gravitational pull in the surrounding systems are out of whack because One Direction's concert hall blew up and moved a star.
Now for the celebration...or not. Returning to the Rebel base (er...Resistance headquarters) and we tell everyone Han is dead. But R2D2, who has been so depressed at losing Luke that he has been catatonic, wakes up and has the larger map that the small piece held by the cute new droid fits into seamlessly. Now the Resistance knows where Luke is. They have been looking for him since he left the note telling them where he went. How could Luke know that C3PO would knock over a glass of java juice and ruin the instructions of how to get to where he was going. Everyone this entire movie has been looking for the map to Luke. We assumed it was so that they could go and get Luke to battle One Direction and Emo Solo. But, that is not the case. Apparently it was just so they could have a completed map. Whew...what a relief, our map is complete. 

The only person interested in actually finding Luke is the newly awakened Ren and she takes Chewy along as copilot of the Falcon.Will Ren find Luke? What will she do when she finds him? What does the original Jedi temple look like? Will we find out. Yes we find out. The Jedi originated in, wait for it...Ireland. Yes it is Ireland, Skellig Michael to be precise. Just in case you want to go there for vacation. If you do, watch out for the puffins. At long last, Luke Skywalker is found and Ren gets to meet the Jedi legend. What suspense. What drama. What will he say. Will it be a wise “I've been waiting for you.” Or an inquisitive, “why have you come?” Or even a sarcastic “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

Ren gets to the top. She finds Skywalker. They must have cut out the part where she said “I think this belongs to you.” But she just hands him the long lost light-saber. The lightsaber that would bring back memories of the time dad came out to get him really upset and Luke didn't want to listen, and they both got angry and tried to kill each other, and dad cut off his arm. Talk about bringing up all kinds of emotional baggage at the end of a movie.

And still the pregnant silence awaiting a word from the long lost Luke.....and we are still waiting. Don't get me wrong, I am glad he didn't speak. There was probably a clause in the contract that doubled his pay if he had a spoken part. He needed to save his voice for that new animated batman series, the Joker has a lot of lines after all. They didn't want to hang out on Irish island and wait for him to get his part right. I get it. In fact, I think Mark Hamill should be given an Oscar for best extra in a Disney Film.

My young girls liked the movie. I thought it was yet another in the series that doesn't offer much except cool special effects. Not sure where things go from here. I hope they get better.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Day the World Changed

Not very often does the world change overnight. I suppose that a fundamental change in the fabric of the world only happens on very rare occasions. But it has happened. One day the world was a certain way and when people woke up the next morning things were radically different. But I will come back to this in a moment.

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that same sex marriage is a constitutional right (or something to that effect). Some rejoice while others mourn. This ruling will be debated and discussed without end for some time to come.

Many people are concerned about what effect this decision will have on the Church. Now that the United States has accepted a definition of marriage that is contrary to a biblical view of marriage, what will happen to the church? To seek to provide an answer to that question, I will ask a few more questions.

First, now that the Supreme Court has ruled, are there still people in the United States who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Did the ruling somehow eliminate those who need the Gospel from our shores? The reality is that there are still millions of people in our country who are outside of God's family and who need a savior. The church should not panic, we still have the same work to do today that we had yesterday.

Second, now that nine justices have voted five to four that same sex marriage is constitutional, did that ruling remove God from his throne? Is God no longer sovereign because of this ruling? God is the same today as he was yesterday. Overthrowing thousands of years of historical precedence by the Supreme Court of the United States has not overthrown the King of the Universe. The Alpha and Omega is not threatened by our country and its laws. The church should not wring its hands in fear, God is still as much in control as he has always been.

Third, has the judicial ruling taken away the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are lives no longer able to be reconciled to God because of the votes of five judges? The power of the Gospel to change the heart of a human has not been diminished. The atoning work of Jesus is still the only hope for the world and still has the power to transform rebellious people into God's family. We should be about the same thing we should have always been about, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Although many Americans are upset about the change in direction of our country, I suspect that the Sun will still rise in the morning. People who are living in rebellion to God will still need the Gospel tomorrow as they did yesterday. The fields are still ready to be harvested and workers are still needed to bring in the harvest.

One thing this ruling may do is show people that the United States of America is not the savior of the world. Sometimes I think we forget that. Jesus saves people, not the good ole USA. People may be concerned that our country is getting farther away from God, but we have many laws in our country that allow for sin. Marriage is a high profile issue, but it is not the only issue that departs from God's will.

The United States, however bad we might think things are getting, is still not as hostile to Christianity as Rome was. (At least we are not crucifying Christians, well not yet anyway). The Church survived Rome and will survive the United States of America also.

Will things change in our country as a result of this ruling? It seems so. It seems that same sex couples will be treated the same way that opposite sex couples are treated in the eyes of the law. This ruling may mean that our churches may face legal challenges in the future. This may mean that people and organizations might try to force Christians to replace the understanding of marriage, derived from scripture, with a legal definition declared by the court. There will be challenges, but there have always been challenges.

There was a day that changed the world, but it was not this day. The day that changed the world was not June 26, 2015, it was a day a little over two thousand years ago. On that day a cosmic event signaled the birth of the King of Kings. On that day God took on humanity and lived among his people. Jesus was born so that he could die to save us from our sins. He accomplished his mission and left us work to do. We carry on, hoping in him and knowing that he has overcome the world.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Patriotism and Worship, Two Great Tastes that Don't Go Together

I friend of mine wrote a post about why he (a pastor and Army Guard Chaplain) will not celebrate Independence Day in his church. Click here for his post. Page makes some good points in his article. I have been contemplating proper worship for some time. Since I am now serving as a pastor, worship planning is my responsibility and I am no longer simply a participant. I will use the prompting of my friend to put a few of my own thoughts on the subject online for your consideration.

First, I am also a veteran. I served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman for six years (1992-1998). I missed the first Gulf war by several months as I was finishing High School, but enlisted shortly after graduation. I served my country out of a sense of patriotism. I was proud to serve and to continue a history of military service from both sides of my family. My parents both served as did others on both sides of the family. My parents even met in Japan (Mom is from Pennsylvania and Dad is from Florida, both served in the Air Force and would not have met but for their service). I think the USA is a great country. I am proud to be an American. We have our problems, but I believe we are an exceptional country.

Having said that, I am dismayed at the corruption of worship in the Church. Worship of God is primary. Well, it should be primary. In fact, in our weekly gatherings (those things we call our worship service) we should worship God exclusively. Unfortunately, we often sing praise to things other than God. We often attribute worth (or to say it differently, worship) things other than God.

Some will say, "Wait Wade!! What do you mean we praise and worship things other than God? That is preposterous!" Oh really? Is it that out of line to claim that we praise things other than God, when we gather for worship? Take the Lee Greenwood song, God Bless the USA. Click here for the lyrics if you would like to read them. I like the song. I agree with the sentiment of the song.

Here is the video with the lyrics. God ahead and play it now if you want. Sing it if you want. Cry a bit if you need to. Continue reading when you are done.

I WOULD NEVER permit this song to be sung in a worship service.

I would sing it at a picnic, concert, or when it comes on the radio. But I would not allow this in a service that we have dedicated to God. The song is not about God and does not praise or attribute worth to God. This is a beautiful song about a person's love for their country and some of the attributes of the country. Asking God to bless the USA does not make the song about God and it does not make it a praise or worship song. It simply makes it a song that mentions/acknowledges God.

But since the song is about something other than God, it does not belong in a service that is supposed to be about attributing worth to God.

God is jealous. We overlook jealousy attribute of God sometimes. I think that is because we view jealousy in a negative light. We tell our kids not to be jealous of others. But when it comes to God, he is right to be jealous. The sense in which God is jealous is the sense of guarding what is rightfully his. All praise and worship are due God. God is right to guard what he is due.

Christians must be careful when we gather for worship. We need to ensure that we do not worship something other than God in a service we have dedicated to God. We would not think it appropriate to sing a song about Russia or Jamaica, would we? We would not think it appropriate to sing a song about how much love and appreciate our lunch meat? Even if our bologna has a first and last name. If we would not sing about lunch meat and other countries in our worship services (because those songs are not about God) why would we sing about our Country and not about God?

It is not just that those songs (which are not necessarily bad) are not appropriate for worship, they are taking from God that which he is due in our worship. God takes worship seriously. He brought an end to Eli's priesthood when his sons Hophni and Phinehas corrupted worship. Eli's sons stole from God and those coming to worship and the consequence was their death and punishment on Israel.

In our worship, when we take pledges to flags, sing about things other than God, and praise things other than God, we are essentially doing the same thing Hopni and Phinehas were doing. We are not giving God all that is due him. When we sing about a country we are diverting what is due God to a country. When we sing about ourselves we are diverting what is due God to us (more about that later). If we were to sing about bologna we would be diverting what is due God to lunch meat.

What about singing songs about ourselves?

A lot of songs we sing our about ourselves. Look at the subject of the sentences. They are often I or me and are about how we feel or what we are going to do. Singing something like "I will worship" is not the same as singing "I worship you, almighty God." The first is singing about what you are planning on doing. The second is actually worshiping.

When you look at the songs that are popular, many are singing about us, and are not giving praise to God. This is true of new songs and of many songs in our hymnals. "I love to tell the story" and "Oh, How I love Jesus" are old hymns but they are still about what the person "I" is doing or likes to do. Even "The Old Rugged Cross" is a song about what I am going to do (I will cling to the old rugged cross).

I am afraid that we have turned our times of corporate worship into times when we ding about ourselves and other things as much or more than when we sing about God. We should be careful not to take what is due to God and deny giving it to him. We should not sing about what I am going to do, we should sing about what God has done or is going to do.

Outside of our worship services, I have no problem with songs that sing about what I am going to do. But in our worship services, we should be careful to make sure God is the one being glorified, not ourselves.

To sum it up....

Patriotic songs are not bad. Songs about how being a Christian makes us feel are not bad. Songs about lunch meat are not bad. Have a concert and sing those songs. Have a picnic and sing those songs. But think twice before singing those songs in worship.

Singing songs about things other than God in the time we have dedicated to worship God, may very well be bad. I think it is. I also think that church leaders must be careful to make sure that does not happen. Unfortunately it is happening on a regular basis. God punished Eli because he did not protect the worship of God and many suffered because of his failure. May church leadership today take care to protect worship from anything that does not belong there.

That is my take on the issue. Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving: To Shop or Not

Social media is a buzz with outrage about people shopping on Thanksgiving. Several people have shared this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-walsh/shopping-on-thanksgiving_b_4310109.html
and have noted that they agree with the sentiment.

Let me lay my cards on the table before I start a tirade. I do not like to shop. To borrow phrasing from a genius of the previous century:

I do not like to shop here or there,
I do not like it anywhere.
Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.

No, this is not going to turn into a post where I end up liking shopping at the end. My point is that since I avoid shopping as much as possible, I really don't have a dog in this fight. I do, however, have some observations and a few thoughts I would like to share.

First, we are over-commercialized as a society. We are constantly marketed to and we seem to love it. After all, isn't it nice to have people telling you that you are worth it. You deserve a new car. You deserve an upgraded gadget. If the things you have still function, so what, you can have better. Not only can you have it, you should. Some voice from the digital netherworld tells speaks to us and tells us how good we are and how much we deserve things. It knows us. It knows our desires and deepest needs for fulfillment. How it makes us feel so empowered....Oh...wait....none of that is true. The voice in our heads (coming from the speakers or ear-buds) doesn't want what is best for us. The voice doesn't know us, or care for us. Have we forgotten that advertising is for the benefit of the business, not necessarily for our benefit.

It is no wonder that we act the way we act. With the constant pounding of how much we deserve and how special we are (especially if we buy their product) we almost certainly have to give in at some point. Besides we really do want some of these things.

By the way, it is also easier. After all, if we are really honest, we probably don't deserve that new car. And that bigger, more powerful, shiny thing, we probably don't deserve that either. Backing down from deserve, we probably don't even need it. We are surviving, and probably thriving, now and we don't have whatever it is that we supposedly need.

Marketers have figured out that the longing (at the heart of the human condition) which needs fulfillment from a transcendent source, can be temporarily pacified with stuff. They make a living off of the temporary nature of the satisfaction, because they know we will need a new fix in a short amount of time. As our society becomes more spiritually impoverished, we cry out for more and more material things to quiet the part of us yearning for connection to that which is beyond this world. So we buy stuff.

Second, we have traditions and customs and we don't want people to mess with them. At least that is what we say. On Thanksgiving many people will gather with people who they have some sense that they must like/love (because they are related) and share food. I know that many people love gathering with family, as do I, but for some it is just another obligation.

For years now there have been a few acceptable intrusions on the "SACRED THURSDAY OF TURKEY." There is a parade, football, and for some people, hunting.

A parade is an acceptable intrusion. I admit there are many things I do not understand. I know a few things fairly well, but parades baffle me.

The first thing that baffles me about parades is that anyone would want to have one. In High School Band I was forced to march in them. I later found out that compelled parade marching is outlawed under the Geneva Convention, it is apparently next to the water boarding section.

The second thing that baffles me about parades is that anyone would want to go to one. As a younger child I was forced to attend parades. Although parade attendance is not specifically prohibited by Geneva, I think we should start a petition to have it added.

Finally, and most baffling to me about parades, is that someone would think it a good idea to put a parade on television. I understand that many years ago programming was limited. You might not want to air another black and white episode of The Lone Ranger on Thanksgiving. It probably seemed like a good idea to put a few cameras outside and beam pictures of streets, sidewalks, and buildings into people's homes. After all, it was Thanksgiving; people were not going to be watching the television anyway. If they happened to tune in and see people on the street, they might think it was a rather slow part of Perry Mason, and turn it off.

Apparently video feed streets, sidewalks, and buildings is more popular than anyone could have anticipated. After all there is a channel that shows a fireplace and logs burning. Don't believe me? Why don't you visit their Facebook Page  Not only are there cable channels of burning wood, there are plenty of online videos (up to 10 hours) of fireplace imitators.

Broadcasting video of things like streets and fireplaces, apparently has some following and has wormed its way into the American experience. And we don't complain about parades interfering with Thanksgiving. We don't complain about football interfering with Thanksgiving. Some people complain about hunting interfering with Thanksgiving.

But a few years ago someone thought that is was simply to Arbitrary to wait until midnight to sell stuff after the Turkey was slaughtered. They thought they might bump it up a bit and sell things on the Sacred Thursday. So they did. And gravy didn't freeze over. Green beans were still consumed. Pies, cakes, and the other bounty of the harvest did not come crashing down to destroy their place of business. So more retailers became emboldened.

But something is stirring. Now, sliding back from the fowl feast, we hear cackling disapproval.  A gobbling of disgust bursts forth at the prospect defiling so sacred a day. It is acceptable to watch video of streets and sidewalks, and to watch grown men play games, but to go shopping, that is too much. There are approved activities on SACRED THURSDAY OF TURKEY and shopping is not one of them.

The complaints, as I have gathered, are as follows.
1) People should put family above shopping.
2) Traditions should be observed, rather than shopping.
3) When you shop, someone has to work instead of being with their family.

There are probably others, but these are the three I will address.

First, just because you have certain traditions does not mean that everyone else does the same things you do. Whether or not you watch streets and sidewalks Thanksgiving morning or watch grown men case each other in the afternoon, not everyone does.

You enjoy the parade? Great! Enjoy it. But please don't ask me to. (I would rather have teeth pulled.)
You love football? Great! Have fun watching it.
You like to spend all day hanging out with your family? Great! Have fun and enjoy them.

For many years now, holidays have been about going from one gathering to another for my family. Never enough time at one place and then we have to go and meet with another side of the family. Because of that, we have often had holiday meals (Thanksgiving and Christmas) on other days. (I can hear the gasps.) We have even had to have breakfasts rather than dinners.

The point is that families have to make things work, and that doesn't mean that everyone will do things the same way. So embrace the fact that not everyone will sit down to eat about the same time your family sits down to eat your Thanksgiving meal. Schedules are fluid and why should we expect everyone to do things the same was as we do?

If you have your Thanksgiving meal on Saturday, because that is when everyone can get together, then that means you will have free time on Thursday. Maybe that time can be used to get some things accomplished, that is unless the Turkey Police decide that you can't.

The final issue I will address is the idea that if you shop someone can't be with their family. Many people work on Thanksgiving, just because you might not does not mean that other aren't. Healthcare workers, utilities workers, police and fire, convenience store and gas stations, military, and others. Not to mention the people who work the parade and football games. Lots of people already work holidays. So they can't be with their family, right? My guess is that they will share their meals at alternative times.

So why should retail be different? If someone wants to work on Thanksgiving, who are we to tell them they should not. Who are we to tell them they are somehow less to earn a living on this day.

The reality is that we have problems in our culture. We need more, as a country and as people, than things. Our country and culture have changed and are changing. But getting mad at retailers for being open on Thanksgiving is not the answer. Being open for business on Thanksgiving is not the problem.

But it is easy to object to change and claim that the change is the problem. It is easy to share a picture or a post that says how outraged I am about retailers being open on Thanksgiving and how destructive it is for our nation. The hard thing is to be thankful. The difficulty is to be the agent of change that rejects the easy answers and gets to the root of the problem.

The fact is that we are needy people living in a cruel world. We should not take for granted the blessing we have and we should seek to be blessings to others. At the same time we should be careful that we don't deprive others by insisting that they do things the same way we do.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are we hated as a nation? Should we be?

On September 11, during a period of reflection for many in the United States, our country found itself under assault once again. Our diplomatic envoys to various countries in the Islamic world are threatened and some Americans have been killed.

Many Americans are angered that our country has been threatened and many more are critical of our current administration for projecting weakness, rather than strength, which may have emboldened those who threatened us.

We should project strength as a country. I am not sure about how flagrant we should be in projecting that strength, but foreign policy decisions are not made by me. But I have some questions. People have told me that I ask many questions but do not provide the answers. Maybe that is because I don't know the answer, but only the question. Maybe that is because there is no good answer to some questions. Or, perhaps, it is because the best way for someone to accept an answer is for that person to think about the question and discover the answer for themselves.

Here is my first question "Is America hated in the Islamic world?"

Ask most anyone in the last few days and the response will likely be YES! But that is likely a generalization based on the news feeds that are pumped through our homes and offices. Some people hate the United States, but how are we to know the extent of that sentiment? How do we even know the motivation of the people who are part of the mob? I think it is likely that many mobs in the Islamic world the past year or so had lots of people who didn't know why they were there. Were they mad? Yes. Were they whipped up into a fury? Yes.

But, could we not edit video from the Democratic National Convention in such a way as to present people in America as Anti-God and Anti-Jerusalem? After all there were people shouting and booing at the change in the party platform. Does that mean all Americans are trying to shout down things related to God and Jerusalem?

What about all of the other people who were not a part of the mobs? Where is the camera filming the families in their homes upset at the violence? Were people who were not participating in the mobs at home because they could not get there? In other words, if they could have been a part of the mob, would they have been a part of it? Or were they opposed to it? Were they indifferent? There are many things we don't know about the people in the mobs and those who were not in the mobs. We can be sure that some hate us, but many we just don't know about.

The Second question is “Should we be hated as a nation?”

As an American I want to say, NO! After all, we want peace, democracy, and stability in the world. We are the shining city on a hill, (though we have had some brown outs since electing our current administration) and stand for what is good and right in the world. We have the moral high ground. That is what I want to believe. That is the type of country I want to live in. But is that the type of country that I actually live in?

I sometimes wonder if we don't act more like a bully than a positive role model. We flex our muscles with our military. Project our power far from our shores to make sure we get our way. We also use our bank account to pay people to agree with us. Our “foreign aid” looks to me like we are trying to flex our economic muscles rather than to really help people.

In school, the bully gathered a group of people around and threatened to punch them if they didn't do what he wanted. If he had a fat bank account he could also threaten to cut people off if they did not do what he wanted. The bully was a leader. He was a leader who lead with force. People would follow him, out of fear or because they thought they could get what they wanted by following him. Eventually people lose the fear of a bully and start to fight back.

A bully is not a good leader. A good leader is strong, but doesn't have to flex his muscles in front of everyone. A good leader does what is best, not simple what he wants. A good leader helps people because it is the right thing to do, not to control them.

I want my country to be a good leader, but why do I get the feeling that we have been acting like a bully?

If we are acting like a bully, rather than a leader, how would we fix it? Well I think that we would have to have leaders running the country, not bullies. But I think we have been electing bullies lately. I hope things get better.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Land of the Not So Free, Not for Cab Fares Anyway

As a customer, a smart phone user, and just an American, I would like to think that I can use a product or service if I want to. I changed from an iPhone to Android because it cost less and I like it better. I buy generic at the grocery store because it cost less and I think the quality fine. I use Google maps because I like them better. We can choose and use the apps for our phones and programs or websites for our computers because we like them, and we don't have to ask for permission. (Unless you are a child and have to get permission from your parents or if you consult with your spouse before spending money.)

I like having the freedom to choose which products and services I will use. I don't like that the Government restricts the options I have, but most of the time we don't see the products that we are prevented from using. So, in a sense, we don't know what we are missing. But now with the spread of smart phones and technology, things may be changing. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission issued a notice that owners and operators are not allowed to use a new application to collect fares. Here is the notice.

What would we do if we didn't have the grand protectors at the various commissions around to protect us from new ideas and technology? Apparently New York already has contracts to handle cashless transactions. My guess is that deciding which companies can make money off of credit card processing for Taxis and Limousines is too complicated and complex a decision for business owners to make. An arm of the Government should decide which companies should be able to offer credit card processing and payment services in New York.

You would think that a business owner would be able to choose which companies they wanted to use to process their payments. I could choose a service because it was the least expensive, or I like the service, or because its my cousin's company and I want to help him out. That is a simple kind of freedom, the freedom to choose which business to use or which product to buy. Not in New York, I guess.