Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Playing the blame game....and losing.

Ok, haven't talked politics for a while, trying to focus on more important things, but with all the stuff going on right now, it has been difficult.  We've got the Occupy X movement going, the Republican candidates are vying for the nomination, Obama vying for re-election points, and that's just the big blips on the national scale.  Europe is falling to pieces economically and politically on the international scene, while the Middle East is abound with revolution, supposedly moving towards more democracy, but we will have to wait and see.
Times are rough everywhere, and just about everyone is busy looking for whose fault it is.  The OWS folks blame the "1%", Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats, Obama and the Democrats blame the 1% and the Republicans.  Sounds like a circular firing squad to me.
Too many of us are not looking at the issues through a wide enough lens.  If we did, we would have to admit that all of this stuff has hit the fan, and the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of............... us.  Why is our government full of idiots, ideologues, and muckrakers (not all of whom have a (D) behind their name, (R)'s are just as much in the sights on this issue)?  Because we keep voting them in, either by not supporting other candidates or by simply not voting.  National voter turnout runs 30-50 percent of registered voters bothering to show up for elections, and I'll wager the majority of those don't really have a clue who they are voting for and what they are voting for, just going off those letters behind the name or which one's commercials stuck out in their mind.  Look at the state right now.  Republicans are arguing over which candidate is electable, not which one has the best plans and abilities for the nation, and despite O's Bush level approval ratings and numerous failed programs, no Dems have the backbone to stand up and run against him.
That's just the national level.  How about on the state and local levels?  Do you like everything your city council is doing?  How about the county government, whatever it's title is where you're at?  Your state senators and governor?  Did you get out and cast an intelligent, educated vote last time they were up, or did you miss that one?  How many various acts have been put to a public vote in your area in the last year?  It does still happen.  Guess what, it isn't the 1% screwing the 99%, the 99 is doing it just fine to themselves.
On that note, much of the OWS furor is directed at corporate America.  There actually are a few legitimate gripes leveled by the group there, but they are drowned out by envy and laziness, with these protesters wanting all that wealth they don't have ripped away by the government and handed to them.  The sad fact is that just like our elected officials, we are simply lying in the bed that we have made.  An easy example here is that big evil Walmart.  I'm not going to lie, I'm not a big fan of Wally World, but I still pick up what needs to be gotten from them quite frequently, sometimes based on price, sometimes convenience, occasionally because there's nowhere else to get it from.  I admire Sam's business plan, creating the distribution centers which bought product in big enough bulk to get massive discounts, then shipping things around his darn self instead of making each store an island.  I also remember when Walmart had a much more significant variety of products, be it electronics, music, clothes or toys than they do now.  So how did Walmart go from a great business idea to an evil corporation?  Again, because we got lazy and apathetic.  What happened to that little shop downtown with the cool clothes?  Too many people settled for Faded Glory tshirts instead of the nifty stuff that little shop carried.  What happened to the hardware store that always had that one bolt you needed for this weekend's project?  Same thing, only now Walmart doesn't have the room for 150,000 different bolts, so you're out of luck on that project.
We The People made this mess, period.  We made by getting apathetic anLet the OWS folks think that by holding their signs and refusing to leave their camps that they are making some kind of difference.  They aren't.  Let the politicians bicker amongst themselves like they are willing to fix the issues.  History and most available evidence shows they aren't.  If America is going to get out of this hole, it's going to happen in the homes of the people.  People are going to get smart, and get tired of waiting, and get to work their darn selves, scraping together ideas and businesses.  Either that, or America will join many other great nations on the list of collapsed powers of the world.  The unfortunate fact is that if we do start to climb out, it's going to be a long hard road for everyone.  Anymore, that seems to be the hardest pill of all for so many of us to swallow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Finity, Then Beyond!

Ok, this week is the last in this burst based on Ravi Zacharias' presentation "Growing Through Our Disciplines" (I think that's the first time I put the title in here).  Here again are the links, again to the fifteen minute edits part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4.  So far, the 'tudes that have been discussed were solitude, gratitude, and certitude.  This week's 'tude is finitude.  Spellcheck doesn't like it, and even I thought Ravi may have made it up, but a couple of different dictionaries pull it up as a scholarly word, one that means exactly what it sounds like, simply the state of being finite.

A knee-jerk reaction to this might be simply responding that we are not finite, our souls will live forever.  That is true, and not the direction this 'tude goes.  The finitude here refers to our lives and time here on earth, and what we do with that.  Ravi quotes C.S. Lewis with the line "We do not have a soul, we are a soul.  We have a body."  That soul will go into eternity, based on the actions of this body, during this body's finite time in the world.  I've been getting the newsletter from Voice Of The Martyrs  for several years now, as well as keeping up with email and twitter lists from them, and it never ceases to amaze me the handle that some people have on this finitude, even if I didn't have that word to attach to it yet.  In parts of the world, believers have to hike miles into the woods to have Church services in order to avoid severe harassment, imprisonment, torture and/or death.  They risk their bodies here to tell others about Jesus, knowing that even if that act does cost them their body, it's just the finitude they knew had to dealt with.

How many of you were believers in school, be it public or college?  That was a finite opportunity to touch a lot of people, wasn't it?  Yes, lots of our Facebook and Twitter friends are old school buddies, but think about the masses that you were immersed in every day in that period, even if it was a small school.  Moving forward, to present day, think about your work, that 50 hour a week commitment that replaced school as the major time consumer in life.  How many people do you interact with there?  How many have disappeared from there, quitting, moving, being promoted, laid off, whatever the reason, their finitiude had passed yours.  Did you use that crossing of paths?  Did you put it off until tomorrow? Some of those persecuted believers I mentioned aren't the only ones in their countries facing a shortened finitude, and that person they choose not to speak to today may be another mark on a list in a dark prison by tomorrow. 

Dealing with spiritual life and prayer, finitude is the fuse we have burning.  As believers, we know that once that fuse burns up, we have infinity to worship and fellowship with God. We don't have infinity to let others know, to leave and live a legacy that will outlast our own finitude.  Properly using our own limited time is the fuel for this life, as are the other three 'tudes from this series.  Solitude gets us in communication with God, filling our spiritual tank for whatever lies ahead, be it growth, attack, or even a streak of the mundane.  Certitude keeps the motor running, knowing that there is a final goal, and the potholes and roadblock here won't matter, only how we handle them will.  Gratitude makes those hard times easier to handle, and makes the good times praise to God, not blocks of pride. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I was sad for I had no shoes, 'till I met a man who had no feet

Keeping on the same path, working off Ravi Zacharias's sermon series (these links are to the same sermon, broken up into 15 minute portions, in case your drive to work isn't quite 30 minutes long part 1 part 2 part 3 and part 4) on prayer life 'tudes.  Today's 'tude is gratitude.  Right now, that's a huge one for me personally.  This month marks a year after my family and I packed up everything we could, and took off 1500 miles from anything and anyone we knew.  Now, we are in the process of moving to a bigger house, which is always a pain, packing, cleaning, arranging, dealing with utilities, schools, post office, ect.  But it is absolutely amazing to look back at this last year and see that it definitely wasn't easy, and it wasn't always fun, but through the whole thing we made it.  Not on our own power or resources or abilities, but because God was watching over all of us the whole time.  That inspires a great deal of gratitude, looking around and realizing that even through what seemed rough times, there was a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs.  Sometimes we weren't sure if they would be there tomorrow, or the next week, or next month, but they always were there.
Whenever I see talk of prayer and gratitude, I always think about how unbelievably blessed we are in America.  Our definition of poverty and being poor is miles and miles above so much of the rest of the world's definition, it's frightening.  Our definitions of repression and persecution are so many miles above what others in the world face, it's equally disturbing.  I'm certainly not downplaying the plights that people face in the U.S.  It's just so much different worrying if the food stamps will stretch to the end of the month than worrying about if the bag of rice will stretch until enough work can be found to earn the money for another one.  It's so much different worrying that you might not get a promotion because your boss doesn't like your faith than worrying that someone is going to break down your door with a machete and a machine gun because they don't like your faith.  It would be real easy to segue into a whole lot of political commentary here, especially given some current events and activities going on right now, but that isn't the point of any of this, so I'll bite my tongue and save that rant for later.
But beyond any of these, believers in America or anywhere else in the world have something underlying all of this to be grateful for, and to carry that gratitude into their prayer life.  Regardless of our worldly conditions, we can be grateful that there is a place reserved for us in Heaven, and almost as important, the strength and direction to get us through this life until the time to move into that new house comes for us.  So, right now we have the bricks of certitude, solitude, and gratitude in the foundation of our prayer life.  Next week, the last 'tude, and a bit on how to put all of these together to make our prayer time a time of communion, communication, and growing.  If you just can't wait to find out, follow the links at the beginning of the column, and listen for yourself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just Leave Me Alone!!!!!

Ok, as promised, I'm going to continue working off of a presentation from Ravi Zacharias (specifically this one part 1 part 2).  In the talk, he gives four 'tudes to carry into our prayer life.  Last week was certitude, this week it's solitude.  Solitude is not very popular in this day and age.  It's almost become a dirty word.  We have the idea that wanting to be alone and away from everything is unhealthy.  Too much of it certainly is, but regularly shutting out the world, especially to commune with God, is not just healthy, it's a necessity of prayer life.  There are numerous times throughout the Old and New Testament of God's people stepping away from everything so they can focus entirely on listening the what God has to say to them.  One of the best known examples is from Jesus Himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Hours away from the culmination of His earthly mission, He went away from everything, even His closest disciples, to pray to God, to confirm His instructions.  Numerous other times throughout the Gospels Jesus withdraws, departs, and sends everyone away for His prayer time.  If that's not sufficient evidence to show it's an important idea, I don't know what is.

Solitude is very difficult in our modern times.  We have created such a connected world, such a 24/7 world, that getting off the grid, even for an hour a day often seems impossible.  But remember the words of Jesus when His disciples were falling asleep as He took His solitude, "Could you not tarry one hour?"  Trust me, I know it's hard to shut off the cell phone, step away from the keyboard, kick the thoughts of all that stuff that needs done and what we want to be doing out of our heads and just be open to what God is giving us.  But it is possible.  And I'm sure, based on the testimony of many others, that the more one does it, the easier it gets.

When we do manage to shut the world out, just for a little while, we put our focus where it's supposed to be, on God and His directions for us.  As that focus becomes more of a regular part of our prayer life, it starts seeping into the rest of our lives too.  The more of that focus that our hour by hour life soaks up, the more we are able to see each step of the path we are supposed to be walking, what the actions are that God wants from us in that everyday life.  Isn't that worth waiting an hour to see the latest Lolcat or learning that your Facebook buddy is having a steak dinner tonight?