Thoughts & Prayers…Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this little ditty please take a moment to check it out…otherwise you’ll be hopelessly confused.

 

Okay, so…I don’t want to be one of those people who shriek “Do something!!” but offer no real solutions. Therefore, allow me to make a few suggestions.

 

One of the first rules of being in a supervisory position is “never ask subordinates to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself”. In that same vein, I humbly ask all of the social justice warriors in Hollywood, the music industry, & professional sports who love to use social media and the bully pulpit of television that is readily accessible to them to self-righteously preach about gun control to lead the way. Get rid of every firearm  in your possession. Dismiss every last armed security person you employ. Every. Single. One. You’ll just have to rely on the police like the common folks here in flyover country. And finally, pledge to never again write, produce, direct, or star in any TV show or movie that depicts even a single second of gun violence. It’s a little hypocritical to criticize The Second Amendment while simultaneously making movies with a higher body count than the mass shootings about which you are shedding crocodile tears. Eliminate all music, video games, computer software, or any other product that even mentions guns. These would be more significant contributions to society than the collective glitterati have made in the past half century.

 

On a more basic level let’s talk about school security. Now I haven’t been a high school student since the first George Bush was in the White House, and have only had reason to visit a public school a couple of times in the ensuing years, but I know that things are a little more secure these days. Theoretically no one can just waltz into a school and wander around. However, I think we can do better. I am employed at a mental health facility, and we contract a security firm. On each floor of our facility there is a security guard, and much of what that person does is monitor various cameras. No one enters or exits the premises without security knowing about it. Why shouldn’t schools have the same system?? I know that most high schools have a “resource officer” that actually lives on school grounds, and that is fantastic. But especially with larger schools it seems like one person isn’t enough. Furthermore, why should a person who has no business at the school even get within sight of the building?? Why not put a check-in gate on the driveway or access road leading to the school (assuming the campus has such a thing)?? No one that shouldn’t be there would get anywhere near the students. Perhaps such things exist in some locations, but they sure don’t seem to be the norm. These two reforms alone might have saved dozens of lives the past few years.

 

And now the big one…my grandest idea thus far. I am not a politician and have no plans to ever run for public office. It was something I pondered for a brief moment in time many years ago, but life has not led me in that direction. However, allow me to offer…free of charge to any legislator that wants to pick up the ball & run with it…the Child Safety Act (someone can even rename it to something more poetic if they wish). Here’s how it would work. You want to talk about “common sense gun reform”?? Okay…I am open-minded. Longer waiting periods?? More extensive background checks?? Stricter licensing procedures?? I’m no expert on any of those things but there is nothing wrong with an intelligent discussion. You want to raise the age requirement to legally purchase any gun to 21…or even older?? I think I’m okay with that. Anything short of a weapons ban or altering The Second Amendment is on the table. My fellow fantasy football league owners will tell you how much I like wheelin’ & dealin’, and since this issue is obviously much more important I am prepared to be flexible. Liberals & conservatives alike are rather passionate about all of this but definitely approach the topic with differing philosophies.  I think though that we can all agree that mass shootings are horrific. Any such loss of life…especially when we’re talking about kids…is sad, depressing, & unacceptable. If we can indeed “do something” then let’s make it happen.

 

Now, politicians like to talk about “bipartisanship” & “reaching across the aisle”. They have been known to negotiate quid pro quo deals, and regularly include items in bills that aren’t necessarily related to the main idea. However, in this case there is common ground. It really is about the children isn’t it?? If so, then let’s discuss the other half of the Child Safety Act…”common sense abortion reform”. There are waiting periods for buying a gun, so let’s have a practical waiting period for an abortion (24 hours is a joke). 10 days?? 30 days?? It’s worthy of a conversation. And during that waiting period how about mandated, fair & balanced, comprehensive counseling, information about alternatives like adoption, financial advice, health care assistance & instruction, and training on parenting skills. And I’m not just talking about pamphlets. If a person really wants that abortion why shouldn’t they be required to jump thru some hoops?? How about background checks?? A medical facility should know whether or not there is a legitimate reason for someone to get an abortion. Take a look at the woman’s family situation, finances, psychological profile, etc. Is the choice to abort one of convenience?? Gun control advocates like to ask “Why does a person need to own so many guns??” & “Why does a person need to own this or that type of gun??”. Okay…then I think it’s fair to ask a person “Why do you want to abort this baby??” & “Why are you opposed to putting the child up for adoption after it is born??”. Age restrictions?? Let’s discuss. It is important to clarify that we are not talking about repealing Roe v. Wade, just as gun control advocates indicate they do not seek to eliminate The Second Amendment (;-)), and obviously we are excluding any situation where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life, but otherwise perhaps the “choice” shouldn’t be quite so easy. I realize that the framework for some of these limitations may be in place in some states, but it is hardly universal. Let’s make the legalities consistent. The simple fact is that the right to keep & bear arms is a Constitutional right dating back nearly two & a half centuries, whereas a woman’s “right to choose” is based on a court decision younger than I am. Nearly 350 people were victims of mass shootings in America in 2017. There are 500k-1 million abortions annually in the United States, depending on which source one chooses to believe. So if all of this really is about the children then y’all can’t have it both ways. A Constitutional right cannot be restricted or abolished while a fairly new “right” remains relatively unencumbered, especially given the stark contrast in numbers.

 

One final thing…..

God’s Word, in James 5:16, says that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Psalms 5:3 says “my voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord…in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up”. 1 John 14-15 says “this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” God instructs us in Jeremiah 29:12 to “call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Philippians 4:6 says to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. James 5:13 asks “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray”. Psalms 17:6 reassures that “I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God”. Psalms 102:17 says “He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer”. In Romans 12:12 we are taught to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”. Psalms 145:18 says “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him”.  So if someone wants to pray for others…let them. Welcome it. And if you feel so inclined to pray for a person in need or a group of people you don’t know like the families of the victims at Stoneman Douglas High School then go right ahead. People like The View’s Joy Behar may think that Godly people are mentally ill, but we know that God is real and He hears our prayers. If you don’t happen to believe in God that is your right, and I respect it…so long as that respect is mutual.

 

I don’t have all of the answers. I wish I did. But I’m pretty sick & tired of people wanting to arrogantly toss aside our Constitution, and I’m really fed up with condescending attitudes about the power of prayer. One of the best things about America is each person’s freedom to believe or not believe in whatever they choose, especially when it comes to faith. We also have the freedom to disagree & debate when it comes to other issues. I am humbly suggesting that everyone engage in such discussions with compassion, consideration, & humility. That’s probably asking too much though.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 9.17

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

 

When Eagles co-founder & frontman Glenn Frey passed away about a year & a half ago his bandmate Don Henley indicated that it was the end of the road for the band, which seemed appropriate. However, now a reconfigured Eagles’ lineup with Frey’s son Deacon & country star Vince Gill are performing some shows this summer, and at first I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that. Upon further reflection, I don’t really have an issue with the band continuing, even though it can’t ever be the same. Lots of bands have continued on after the departure…voluntary or otherwise…of original, even founding, members. I think it’s cool that Frey’s son will be involved. I assume he has some degree of talent. I’d like to see former Eagles Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, & Don Felder included in any future activities, but understand that there are…issues. I’m not sure what to think about the inclusion of Gill. It seems a bit incongruous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God has really laid it on my heart to ponder John 8:7, in which Jesus says “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”. One of the disadvantages of social media is its immediacy, allowing folks to pronounce their passionate, unfiltered, oftentimes hypercritical condemnations without a cooling off period. In the past I have been as guilty as anybody of such rancor but have made an effort to dial back the venom and skew toward mercy in most cases. It is really easy to sit in judgment of others, especially when embracing the mantle of keyboard warrior, but the truth is that we really don’t know what it’s like to walk in any shoes but our own. Yes, right is right and wrong is wrong, and most of the time it’s pretty easy to tell where a situation falls on the grid. However, even when a particular entity is clearly wrong perhaps we’d all be better off to take the high road. Is my sin any better or worse than yours?? Maybe. Maybe not. But Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not consider the plank in your own eye? First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”, and I tend to believe that’s pretty good advice. People make mistakes…sometimes really big ones. Oftentimes something or someone might truly be heinous & immoral, but the world would still be a better place if everyone didn’t feel compelled to add their negativity into the mix.

 

 

 

I’m just gonna leave these right here…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been rather uncomfortable this summer seeing the amount of Adam West merchandise popping up online in the aftermath of his death. The body wasn’t even cold yet before my Facebook feed was peppered with t-shirts and other memorabilia. The same thing happened awhile back when Carrie Fisher passed late last year. The 1947 holiday classic Miracle on 34th St. has a character lamenting that “there is a lot of bad -isms floating around this world and one of the worst is commercialism”. Many of us always say that kind of thing at Christmas time, but it’s just as true throughout the year. Using the demise of a beloved cultural icon to make a buck is sick & twisted, and such purveyors of tastelessness won’t be getting a dime of my money.

 

 

 

I’m not really into the whole astrology thing, but these do seem to be fairly accurate summations…..

 

 

 

The OJ Simpson saga long ago stopped being a sports story, so allow me to ponder his parole in this forum. Unless you’ve been in hiding or on vacation far away from civilization this week you’ve probably heard that The Juice will be turned loose…likely in Florida…in October. While it is tempting to look at this news thru the prism of the infamous mid-90’s trial that saw Simpson be found not guilty of double murder and become outraged that he is being set free, one must remember a few things. First of all, whether one believes in his innocence concerning that monstrous crime or not, the fact is that a jury…for whatever reason…declared him not guilty, and we must respect the American legal system because as flawed as it is it is still the best in the world. Secondly, Simpson’s robbery conviction is an entirely different case. Multiple experts have said that he probably served much more time than any other person would have for the same crime. The consensus seems to be that, in a vacuum, a typical citizen involved in a similar situation might not have went to jail at all, or at most served a year. So essentially the judge that sentenced Simpson to 9-33 years did about as much to remedy perceived injustices of the past as legally allowed. The fact is that, in relation to the offense committed, OJ Simpson’s release from prison is the objectively fair thing to do. Of course anyone over the age of 40 can’t completely separate the robbery from the double murder and most will believe that justice has not been done. I don’t know what to say about that. Chances are that Simpson will land on his feet and live the remainder of his life in relative comfort. I wouldn’t be surprised if ends up having his own “reality” show. Is it disrespectful to the two murder victims?? Obviously. But we should all know by now that life isn’t fair.

 

 

Yep…..

 

 

 

The Fruits of the Spirit – Temperance

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
– William Shakespeare

fruitNearly seven years ago we began a quest to examine, assess, and learn about the nine Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Today we finish that journey. I don’t know why it has taken seven years to complete a project that could have easily been wrapped up in a few months, but hey…I just go with the flow folks.

 

If you’d like a refresher on what we’ve talked about previously just follow the links to see my thoughts on love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness/gentleness/goodness/meekness, and faithfulness.

 

tempWe are crossing the finish line by taking a closer look at temperance. The first thing that probably comes to mind is The Temperance Movement, which dealt with promoting moderate consumption or even outright banning of alcoholic beverages, especially in early 20th century America. However, the Biblical definition of temperance is a little more comprehensive.

 

There are two words in the Bible that correlate with temperance. The first is enkrateia, which means “strong in a thing; strength; power; dominion; having power over; being master of.” The second word is nephalios, which has the same general meaning but more specifically refers to self-control as it relates to drunkenness.

 

Obviously we know that temperance is, in part, about avoiding intoxication. The Bible cautions against drunkenness on multiple drunkoccasions. Isaiah 5:11 warns “woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them.” Proverbs 20:1 says that “wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Ephesians 5:18 instructs us “do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”, with dissipation being a synonym for debauchery. Proverbs 23:29-33 asks “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” and answers “Those who linger long at the wine and go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things.” Isaiah 28:7 says that ”The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They are out of the way through intoxicating drink. They err in vision and stumble in judgment.” Though drinking wine seems to have been a part of normal, everyday life in Biblical times, God’s Word strongly advises against imbibing to the point of intoxication. There are two reasons for this.

 

First of all, when referring to drunkenness the Bible often uses the Greek word methuo, which means “to be filled”. Look at Ephesians 5:18 again. It says not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. If we’re going to fill anything…our body, our mind, our time…it should be with the Holy Spirit or corresponding things that are edifying to and glorify God. Romans 8:5-8 says that “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

drunk3Secondly, Mark 7:15-20 says that “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled. What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Think about that in terms of intoxication. It’s not the wine, beer, or liquor that is the issue. They are merely things that we are putting into our bodies. But what often happens when we overindulge and get drunk?? We make bad decisions, say & do wrong things, and generally act immoral & ungodly. So the actions that come out of us as a result of that intoxication are what defile us in the eyes of God, not to mention tarnishing our relationships and our reputation.

 

This thought process can be expanded to so much more than just our use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance requires moderation in everything. It is the ability to master our desires. It is a sense of duty with regard to conduct. It is the practice of always controlling actions, thoughts, or feelings. The influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart should make a person moderate in all indulgences, teaching them to restrain passions and control evil propensities.

 

Glutton ElfThe opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit are the works of the flesh spoken about in Galatians anger5:19-21. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” All of these things are the opposite of temperance. They indicate gluttony, wrath, & being out of control. Proverbs 16:32 teaches that “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city..” Self-control is mastery over passions, thoughts, emotions, & words. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will and regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires.

 

Jesus2Self-denial, self-sacrifice, & self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life, but notice the troublesome use of the word “self”. It is indicative of the stubborn human notion of trying to achieve this massive goal on our own, which is demonstrably impossible. This is another reason why temperance is a key fruit that we must exhibit. Temperance is vital to demonstrate to God that He is in control…not one’s flesh. It is the proof that Jesus is the Lord of one’s life. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. With God’s Holy Spirit help we can practice temperance. Titus 2:11-14 says “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Temperance is a necessary building block in our relationship with Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-9 instructs us to “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Jesus3Lord Jesus Christ, for he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Romans 13:12-14 says that we must “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Galatians 5:16-17 says to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.”

 

And what is the ultimate goal of this temperance (as with all the Fruits of the Spirit)?? 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says “Do you not heavenknow that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” I’m not very athletic and don’t know much about running races, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that one must have the proper tools & training to compete. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lays the cards right out on the table, cautioning “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Timothy 3:8 says that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Why I’m Not Going to See the Movie Noah

After lamenting recently that nearly a quarter of the way into 2014 I had yet to go to the theater and check out any new movies (because in my Noahopinion there hadn’t been any films worth the effort) I finally ventured out to the local cineplex a few days ago. Not only that, but I did a little research on what the rest of the year has to offer and came up with…to my surprise…about two dozen flicks that I hope to check out if circumstances allow such frivolity. However, one movie that I will not be spending my hard earned money on is the alleged “Biblical epic” Noah.

 

sproutsAdmittedly I am a hypocrite. Why?? Well, I have routinely criticized people who say they “hate” guys like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity without ever having listened to them. Remember when you were a kid and you’d turn your nose up at veggies or some other kind of food and your mother would say “How do you know you don’t like it unless you try it?”?? I usually embrace that philosophy and am a bit hesitant to criticize a movie I haven’t seen. Then again, there is usually an exception to most rules and in this case Noah is it.

 

This film first came to my attention atleast a year…maybe two…ago, and my first thought was “Cool. I’ll check that out when it hits theaters”. From what I read it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the type of small independent art film that usually defines and…to a degree…hampers psmany “Christian” movies. This was going to be a big budget blockbuster complete with well-known stars and expensive special effects. Now I’m not usually a fan of computer generated effects, but in some cases they can be cool. James Cameron’s Titanic was largely a love story, but the last part of the movie…the sinking…was really well done and amazing to see on the big screen. The only 5 minutes of 2006’s Poseidon (a remake of 1972’s much superior The Poseidon Adventure) poseidonworth watching is when the rogue wave capsizes the ship. To my pretty boy disliking chagrin one of my favorite films of the past 15 years is 2000’s The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney as a doomed Gloucesterman whose ship is lost in a hurricane. The story is superb, and the effects add to the experience. So in my mind taking one of the best known stories of The Bible and giving it the big budget treatment (“The Flood will be really awesome” I thought) seemed like a great idea. But then details started to emerge out of the production.

 

The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist.

 

Aronofsky admitted that Noah is ““the least biblical Bible film ever made”, as if that is something of which to be proud.

 

The word “God” is never used in the film…not once.

 

Aronofsky called Noah “the world’s first environmentalist”.

 

Noah becomes a deranged lunatic who wants to kill his entire family.

 

All the sudden I started to get a bad vibe about this whole deal. And that was before the movie even hit the theaters. Now Noah has beenthinking released to the masses and my concerns have been validated. And yes…I feel comfortable saying that without having seen the film. One can ignore the comments of 2 or 3 reviewers, but it’s hard to look past what literally dozens of people are saying about this film.

 

computer-searchNot surprisingly Noah is getting rave reviews from leftist media types. It has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with words like transcendent, daring, visionary, groundbreaking, gripping, thought-provoking, unconventional, & masterful being bandied about. However, if one digs a bit deeper (which isn’t that difficult in The Information Age) a much different view emerges. I value the opinion of folks who love God and atleast seem to make an effort to live their lives as Christ-like as possible much more than the angry, cynical, Jesus bashers who seem to delight in antagonizing Christians.

 

To be fair, this is a free country and we all have a right to worship or not worship whomever or whatever we choose. aflagSo if Mr. Aronofsky, whose 2008 movie The Wrestler I rather enjoyed, wants to be an atheist that’s cool. Go for it. But honestly…would you let a vegetarian grill your steak?? Would you let an illiterate person write your term paper?? Would you let a European immigrant who just came to America a week ago and doesn’t know a word of English teach a high school English class?? Would you let a 12 year old drive you to work?? That’s not to say that Aronofsky is a poor filmmaker or that only Christians should be allowed to make Christian films (again…that free country thing), but my Dad told me years ago that if you want a good steak you should probably go to a steakhouse and if you want Italian food you might want to try an Italian restaurant. Writers are told to “write what you know”, so it makes logical sense to me that an atheist making a movie about The Bible seems a bit anomalous.

 

bibleOne refrain that I have seen numerous times the past several days is “it’s just a movie!!”. Okay…that’s true. I’m fine with creative license. I know that two people named Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt Bukater didn’t actually meet on the aforementioned Titanic and fall in love with the sweet dulcet tones of Celine Dion playing in the background. Two of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump and Field of Dreams, are different from the books on which they are based. Even past Biblical epics like The Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, & Ben-Hur have taken a few liberties. But I do expect historical drama to fairly represent…well…history. And when it comes to the Word of God my standards are even higher. One can craft a great story (with CGI and everything!!) and not veer way off course from what actually happened (or for the more skeptical among you what was actually written).

 

Okay…so what actually happens in The Bible concerning Noah?? Another defense I’ve read about this movie is that the Genesis story about arkNoah & The Great Flood is relatively short so the powers-that-be necessarily “had to fill in the gaps”. Alright…I can buy that. However, the fact that this movie is 139 minutes long (that’s 2 hours & 19 minutes for those that don’t like math) is very telling since the average running time for a Hollywood film is right around two hours. What that says to me is that the makers of Noah didn’t struggle to fill in the gaps…it says to me that they had an agenda.

 

Whatever that agenda is…environmentalism…veganism…animal rights…the one thing that is clear is that telling a faithful story that is true to God’s Word is not even close to being part of the equation. That may be fine for a lot of folks…including Christians. It may even be desirable to many. But I just can’t do it. I have had to learn to overlook many things in the name of entertainment. There are so many movie & TV stars whose political beliefs I know are opposite to Man with pen and questionnaire. 3dmy own. Numerous athletes are of the anti-intellectual Neanderthal-thug variety that I know I could never have an intelligent conversation with. Entertainers of all kinds have very publically fallen off many a pedestal after having their personal problems, relationship issues, criminal activities, drug & alcohol battles, & general ignorance exposed. But I had to decide long ago to pick & choose whose foolishness I was willing to overlook as long as they still create a quality product that I enjoy. In the case of Noah and Darren Aronofsky they fail on all accounts because the filmmaker seems to have purposely made a film that reflects his own warped viewpoint and appears to be consciously hostile to a rather large chunk of what could have been a massive audience.

 

I am sure Noah will make a boatload of cash (pun intended). The drive-by lapdog media already loves it. Undoubtedly there will be many lukewarm “Christians” who’ll love it because of the incredible CGI and resemblance to other visually stunning & auditorily obnoxious BeanManIdeaLightblockbusters like Gladiator, Transformers, and every comic book/superhero based film of the past two decades. Well-known Christian “leaders” have already come out in support of the film if only because it is an opportunity to “begin a dialogue” and persuade people to study The Bible. But my money will not be among the hundreds of millions going into the pockets of Darren Aronofsky and whomever else stands to earn a check from Noah. I am not easily offended, and I wouldn’t even use that word in this situation. I just happen to have the privilege of living at a time in the universe’s existence where there is an abundance of data readily available that allows me to make a relatively educated choice. You may choose differently and that’s fine. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

Random Thoughts 18

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. The game did not play out like most expected, as Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning looked quite average instead of like one of the greatest field generals of all time. The victory is good for the beleaguered city of New Orleans and I sincerely hope many benefits are reaped.

The re-entry sequence near the end of Apollo 13 deserves to be ranked right up there with the baptism scene from The Godfather and the “Dad” scene at the end of Field of Dreams as among the greatest movies moments of all time.

I have come to a spiritual crossroads. My faith and belief in God and in my Savior Jesus Christ is still there, but my patience with superficial Christian clichés has run out. I no longer desire church to be a shallow social gathering. At the same time, I see no value in being a humorless Bible thumper who can’t loosen up and have fun…others too easily disregard that person as an uptight, unhappy killjoy. I am on a journey seeking an authentic & devout relationship and I am not sure it is available in the places one would normally assume it can be found. Something inside me has either broken or been awakened (I’m not sure which) in the past few months, and my BS meter when it comes to religion is on high alert.

Even as a diehard conservative I am not really sold on Sarah Palin as a legit Presidential candidate, but the outright vitriol aimed in her direction by histrionic shit stirrers on the left is puzzling. Palin and former President George W. Bush have their flaws for sure, but how some can so completely eviscerate them almost daily while at the same time putting Barack Hussein Obama on the largest pedestal mankind has ever known is completely beyond all logical comprehension.

I would like to nominate ESPN’s Skip Bayless as the worst sports journalist in history. His arrogant and condescending attitude is off the charts, and his opinions are so often dead wrong that he has become a joke. I recently saw him trying to justify the possibility of 13-11 North Carolina being chosen as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament. He was dead serious about the Tar Heels being selected merely due to their history and pedigree over lesser known teams with better records. Not only did the debate prove him to be a complete fool, but it highlighted what can be very wrong with collegiate athletics when so much credit is given to a reputation and a perception instead of actual performance. Call it The Notre Dame Fallacy.

Valentine’s Day has to be the worst holiday on the calendar.

I love it when people act like they understand something when in reality they have absolutely no clue. It really makes them look silly. Mark Twain famously said it is “better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”. More people should follow that advice. And yes, I see the irony in a guy who writes a VERY opinionated blog espousing that philosophy.

Can we please dispense with the term “pro-choice”?? People who are pro-choice only believe in a woman’s right to choose if she ultimately chooses to have an abortion.

Speaking of BS…..

I accepted long ago the fact that it is very possible that I may someday be one of those people who is dead for several days and whose body is only discovered because the neighbor’s begin to notice a stench. This is because at some point it became very clear to me that very few people legitimately give a damn whether I live or die, which does not in any way make me special or unique…..it’s just the way we human beings treat each other nowadays.  So armed with this awareness, I have very little patience for petulant, bratty adults who act like whiny children in a desperate attempt to have their ego validated. Encounters with so-called adults make me ever more determined to fade into the background in a concerted effort to not draw attention to myself.

I like Nascar and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

 

The Parable of the Lost Wallet

I can be absent minded and scatter brained. Sometimes I wonder with a certain level of concern what I might be like when I get older. When I leave my apartment every day there are certain things I try to make sure are with me…cell phone, home keys, wallet, truck keys, the keys I need to infiltrate the guarded fortress where I work. I have to make sure I have both sets of glasses…if it’s sunny outside and I’m wearing sunglasses I need to make sure my actual glasses are with me as well, and if it’s not sunny at the moment but may be later I need to plan for that contingency. I have an air pump for my wheelchair cushion that I always need to have access to because the cushion tends to randomly go flat for no real reason. If I am going to the bank I need the proper paperwork. If I’m headed to church or Bible Study I need my Bible. It’s a lot of pressure!! And quite frankly, sometimes I fail in my mission. What usually happens is I leave my apartment and somewhere between entering the elevator on the fifth floor and departing it on the first, or maybe between the elevator downstairs and my parking lot it dawns on me what I’ve forgotten. This seems to be a case of “like father like son”, as I recall many times as a child it would take my Dad 2 or 3 tries to actually leave the driveway successfully without forgetting something. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

I bring this up because I recently lost my wallet, or so I thought. I was working a swing shift and upon departing my workplace at midnight I gathered my stuff up and headed home. When I got home I needed my wallet for some reason. I forget exactly why. Anyway, I looked in my man purse (more formally known as a messenger bag) and couldn’t find it. I emptied the bag of its contents…a Bible, a book or two, my IPhone, keys…..but no wallet. I suddenly became concerned. But I thought for sure that I’d just left it on my desk at work, so I called. I work at a 24/7-365 hotline so I knew the lady working midnight shift would answer, which she did. I asked her to look for my wallet. No wallet. Now I was really beginning to freak out. I’m not a wealthy man and rarely carry much cash, so that wasn’t really a big deal. The bigger issue in my mind was the possibility of identity theft. I was overwhelmed at the thought of all the hassles involved with cancelling credit cards, having to get a new drivers’ license and social security card, and trying to replace various other things I carry, some of which might not seem all that vital to most but they are meaningful to me.

 

I only live about a mile away from my job, so I made a swift decision to hop in the truck and come back down to look myself. Upon arriving in the parking lot and getting out of the truck, wheelchair and all (and those who know me realize it’s not an easy process) I realized I’d made a slight error…I’d forgotten the previously mentioned keys to the fortress. I couldn’t just call and have my co-worker come down and let me in because she was alone and not allowed to leave her post…plus I hadn’t bothered to bring my phone either. So I returned home and by this time I was an odd mix of manic and exhausted. It’s not a good combination. I got the fortress keys (and my phone) and once again came back to the office. I came, I saw, and I did not conquer…still no wallet. I returned home resigned to the fact that the next day was going to be a hellish effort of phone calls and trips to the DMV and whatever else needed to be done. And then, when I was at that point where all I could think about was sleep, I had a revelation. I reached for the man purse and took a peak into the rarely used back compartment. I had a slight inkling, a miniscule recollection of possibly having placed the wallet there earlier that afternoon. I never ever put anything in that compartment. But this time I had put something there. Words cannot express the feeling of relief I had as I clutched this wallet…this meaningless, insignificant object…in my arms like a baby and literally said, out loud, “thank you Jesus!!”.

 

And that’s when it hit me. I was reacting this way in regards to an inanimate possession, something completely replaceable and, in the grand scheme of life, not all that important. That’s when I began to think. I began to ponder people who come out of the mall or the grocery store and realize their car has been stolen. I began to contemplate folks who come home to find their home ransacked and pillaged, or worse…burnt to the ground. Then my mind wandered to parents who take their eyes off their child for just one second and all the sudden they’re gone. If I was so relieved to find something as relatively irrelevant as a wallet how must it feel to have that automobile found or realize that the thieves didn’t take anything of real value out of the home?? What must a parent feel like at that moment when a child who has been lost returns home safe and sound?? And then my mind began to zero in on Jesus.

 

I’d read the parables in the new testament about lost sheep, a lost coin, and the lost son. But now they had come to life in a very real, very personal way. The relief and dare I say joy I felt at the moment I found my stupid wallet can’t even begin to compare to the thrill Jesus  must get when one of his lost children decides to reclaim their relationship with The Father. I believe God speaks to us if we’re smart enough and open enough to hear what He is saying, and I believe that He was teaching me a very valuable lesson the night I didn’t lose my wallet but was convinced that I did.

 

 

 

Random Thoughts 6

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant writer. If only I could be half as gifted I’d be thrilled.

 

As a night owl I am really liking the state of late night television these days. When I was a kid there was really only one choice…The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Oh a few pretenders came along to challenge him, but they were all subpar and didn’t last long. I loved Carson, but I also like choices. Now we have Conan O’Brien doing The Tonight Show and also David Letterman, who’s still brilliant after all these years, at 11:30. At 12:30 we have Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson. Jimmy Kimmel follows Nightline (a show that has never been my cup of tea) at midnight. And Jay Leno, who some criticize as being lackluster, a milquetoast compared to Letterman’s acerbic smartass, moves to 10pm. I’ve always enjoyed Leno immensely myself. I find him pleasantly enjoyable, and he is no doubt taking the spot of five uninspired, banal dramas (atleast 3 of them probably being some form of Law & Order) that I wouldn’t watch anyway. I am glad he’s not disappearing from my TV screen permanently. I sincerely like all these hosts and their shows. Overall, the late night landscape has never been better.

 

Psalm 188:24 says “this is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”. I hear a lot of church folk quoting this scripture, but only on warm and sunny days, as if God doesn’t take responsibility for rain or snow or cold. Interesting.

 

That alarm Susan Boyle hears is the sound of her 15 minutes of fame ending. Or maybe it’s chow time at the nut house.

 

So…recently, there was an incident. The details aren’t important. The incident itself was insignificant to everyone but me and I am fully aware of that fact. Suffice to say that I was screwed over and got upset. Even as it was happening I said to myself “no one really understands how I feel and I have to be cautious not to say too much because it will get turned around on me and it’ll be MY fault.” Sure enough, later that evening my prediction came true and the whole situation somehow ended up being my fault because I “should have said something” when the truth is I should have never have had to speak up and ask for what I didn’t get. People…people who have known me my entire life, people who are RELATED to me…are inconsiderate to me yet it’s my fault. Unbelievable.

 

It’s amazing how the bought and paid for drive-by media is now going out of their way to put a positive spin on an economy that’s still just as bad if not worse than it was 6 months ago. The difference between then and now?? 6 months ago the reviled George W. Bush was President, and now it’s the so-revered-its-nauseating Barack Hussein Obama. I mean seriously…every time I hear a reporter on TV talking about Obama I feel like I’ve just accidentally spied on two people making tender yet passionate love to one another.

Top 5′s (Thanks For The Inspiration Facebook)

Ok…so…the rage on Facebook these days seems to be listing one’s Top 5 this and that. However, because I am a nonconformist, and in an effort to bring new readers to The Manofesto so they may have the privilege of discovering my brilliance, I am just going to do all my Top 5’s here at the same time. This also affords me an opportunity to pontificate on my choices, and if there’s one talent in the universe I have (atleast one that I can discuss publicly) it is most certainly pontification.

Movies – I’m not going into that right now. I’m doing a whole series on my Top 100 Favorite Movies, so you’ll just have to read that.

Books – The Bible, The Sherlock Holmes Canon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Animal Farm. I could go on all day. I’m a bookworm. Love to read. I like classic literature, biographies, nonfiction…..it’s all good. I did not include the works of Shakespeare because I think Shakespeare is better experienced in a live performance. I also did not include The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Godfather because, while the books are outstanding, they are the rare case where the movie actually outshines the book. I’ve tossed around the idea of doing a Top 100 Books series, but I take reading much more seriously than I do movies so it would take much more critical thought and consideration, more effort than I’m willing to put forth at the moment. Besides, there is The Bookshelf feature here at The Manofesto.

Sports Teams – Pittsburgh Steelers, West Virginia Mountaineers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve been a diehard Steelers and Pirates fan since before I even started kindergarten. I grew up in northcentral WV, which is Mountaineer country. Marshall University is my alma mater. I include the Penguins only to get to five. I’m not really much of a hockey fan.

Singers/Musicians/Groups – Frank Sinatra, Van Halen, The Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Boston. I could very easily list atleast a dozen more. I’ve seen all of these five in concert with the exception of Sinatra. I was born probably a decade too late to really appreciate his brilliance while he was still doing live shows. My musical tastes are very eclectic and vary widely depending upon my mood.

Candy – If chocolate is involved it’s all good. No need to narrow it down to a Top 5. However, let me take this opportunity to express my deep affection for some candy bars that aren’t produced anymore or are very difficult to find, making my love for them all the more heartbreaking in a “you always want what you can’t have” kind of way. The first is Bar None, a chocolate bar produced by Hershey’s in the mid 80’s. It was a chocolate wafer, some chocolate ganache-like filling, and peanuts all covered in chocolate. At some point they re-did it so it was two smaller bars in the package instead of one bigger bar. The original was outstanding, the revision still very tasty. Bar None was discontinued in the mid 90’s and I’d pay just about any amount of money for a case of those babies. Mallo Cups are shaped and packaged like Reese’s Cups, only instead of peanut butter the chocolate encases soft creamy marshmallow filling. Mallo Cups are still around, but they are far from ubiquitous. I actually took the step of ordering a case online directly from the company a few years ago, but it’s rather pricey. And finally I want to give some attention to Chunky bars. Chunky is a trapezoid shaped hunk of chocolate with peanuts and raisins. Very unique. And it comes in a shiny silver foil wrapper. Chunkys are still around, but they are even harder to find than Mallo Cups. I used to stumble across Chunky at my local video store, but renting movies is an archaic 20th century task, so I haven’t had one in ages.

Fast Food Joints – Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Rally’s, Hardee’s. You’ll notice the absence of McDonald’s. That’s because when examining their menu every single item is done better at other places, with the exception of french fries. McDonald’s fries can’t be beat. Anyway, I love love love Wendy’s and eat there way too much. We didn’t have a BK in my area until I was in high school so I felt deprived and put it up on a pedestal of expectation. Then in college my fraternity house was right beside a BK and I have a lot of great memories. Ditto for Taco Bell…..it has a nostalgic place in my heart dating back to the fantastic college years. We had a Rally’s here when I was a kid but it disappeared when I was in high school and I miss it. In & Out and Sonic are two places I‘ve heard great things about but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing.

Beers – Killian’s Irish Red, Dos Equis, Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona. I’m kind of a beer snob, eschewing blue collar brews like Budweiser and Miller Lite for the most part. But at the same time I don’t really drink a lot of beer and haven’t been exposed to much of what is out there.

Cereals – Rice Krispies, Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Wheaties. I’m not exactly Mr. Excitement when it comes to cereal. I like it basic and old fashioned. Not too sweet, not too cute.

All Time Athletes – Michael Jordan, Terry Bradshaw, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Dale Earnhardt, Willie Stargell. I’m not a huge NBA guy. The closest team in proximity to my home is in Cleveland, and until recently they were an afterthought. So for me the NBA has always been more about individuals that I enjoyed watching, and in my book there were none better than Jordan and Dr. J. I cheered for the Sixers when Erving was with them and I was a Bulls fan during Jordan’s reign. That’s the closest times I’ve ever come to having a favorite NBA team. Earnhardt was one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen and his tragic death was very upsetting. Bradshaw and Stargell were the faces of the Steelers and Pirates during the glory years of the late 70’s, my formative as a sports fan. I limited this to athletes who I’ve actually had the privilege of seeing perform in my lifetime, which is why you don’t see people like Jim Brown or Babe Ruth.

TV Shows – Cheers, Seinfeld, Dallas, The Andy Griffith Show, Taxi. Another case where I could list many many more. I watched a lot of television as a kid. Probably too much. But atleast I can say with confidence that the shows that were on back then were really really good, unlike today where so much is pedestrian and uninspired.

Let’s Talk About God – Matthew 7:7-8

Jesus Christ

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life

I used to hate memorization exercises, not because I couldn’t memorize something but because usually the final mission almost always involved reciting what one had memorized in front of a group. I don’t mind so much now the task of public speaking, but as a child it scared the daylights out of me, even though more often than not I’d work myself up into a frenzy in the days and hours leading up to the event but then be perfectly fine in actually doing what needed to be done.

One such memorization exercise has been tossing about in my noggin for about a week now, and I’m not sure why. I don’t remember the particulars, but I do recall attending some sort of Vacation Bible School (I’m almost sure the one in question was not at my home church, but at my maternal grandmother’s – she was a “soldier” in The Salvation Army) and being asked to learn Matthew 7:7, which says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”. This was probably 30 years ago, and I still remember it. For current purposes we are going to also throw into the mix verse 8, which goes on to say “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

A few things need to be said about this passage. First of all, it may seem clear, but for clarification purposes let’s point out that we’re obviously talking about prayer. Ask, seek, knock. The Lord doesn’t play offense. He gave that up after Adam and Eve ate a certain fruit He’d told them was off limits. This brought about free will, which means we make our own decisions, both good and bad. But He’s there, and He’s not going anywhere. It’s up to us to seek Him out, to knock on His door, to ask Him for help. Why do we find this so difficult?? Is it pride? Is it a culture that values self reliance, the old “I can do it on my own” attitude? Does seeking out assistance from God make us feel weak? Has The Lord made it seem too simple for our suspicious, cynical, “what’s the catch?” mentality to grasp? It’s probably all these and a lot more.

Secondly, the question arises…..what is “it”?? “It will be given…you will find (it)…it will be opened to you…”. I’m quite certain “it” doesn’t encompass anything and everything we ask God for or ask Him to do. I’m sure many have asked Him for lots of stuff…a cool car, a great job, a new house, to win the lottery, for that cute gal or guy to notice how awesome we are. But intellectually we know it’s not that easy. Even on a television game show one has to do something to earn a prize, it’s just not handed out freely. So what is “it”?? What does God promise us if we ask, seek, and knock? I think “it” boils down to two things: peace and salvation, i.e. eternal life.

Which leads to the third point. Look at this passage again. Ask, seek, knock. This is not a lazy, effortless, sedentary, passive project. However, neither is it that complicated. God wants to be more than just our ICE contact…..He wants to be on our speed dial. He wants us to call on Him often…every day, every hour, every minute. He wants to share everything with us in a reciprocal way. In other words, He’s given us, well, the entire world…so He’d like to be the main attraction in our life. I personally don’t think it’s too much to ask, even though I claim to be no better at actually letting Him be those things than anyone else. That’s a topic for another time though.