Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Independent's Day

I didn't vote yesterday.  There was a major election in Arizona yesterday, February 29th, and I did not participate.  But haven't I been one who complains about We the People getting involved in the election process?  Yes, so I feel that some explanation is in order.
The reason I did not vote yesterday is because it was the Republican primary, and I am not a registered Republican.  My voter card says independent, because the Republicans have burned my biscuits almost as much as the Democrats over the last several years, primarily by playing politics and being more interested in achieving and maintaining power then doing what is in the best interests of the nation.  I have yet to see any serious Republican efforts to cut their own pay and benefits, protect citizen's privacy, hack and slash through the bureaucracy, red tape and asinine regulations that make it nearly impossible for the US to cut it's deficit, gain energy independence, or encourage manufacturing jobs to come back to the US, among numerous other issues.  Sure, they tried to make a big deal about the Keystone Pipeline, but that was sadly election year posturing, because they knew full and well the White House would shut the project down.  The Republicans are supposed to be the conservative side of the coin, but I'm still not seeing work done to reign the federal government back into the constraints the Constitution placed on it, and considering there have been numerous Republican actions that have been kicking down those fences, I cannot bring myself to put that R on my card, knowing that I will have little effect in bringing real conservative candidates to the forefront of the party through my vote.   
Frankly the fact that we have been pigeonholed into a two party system really gets under my skin at times like this.  In this election, it seems that Mitt Romney is going to be the GOP candidate, and frankly, I'm not a huge fan of his.  He seems to be the politically safe candidate, the one who won't rock the boat too much to have a shot at winning the election.  We got the same thing last election with McCain, a middle of the road, safe choice.  Look where that got us.  (In all honesty, I don't know that we would be that much better off in terms of the big picture if McCain would have won.  There are specific things that would not have happened, obviously, like Obamacare, but I don't know that McCain would have had the backbone to make the big changes that need to be done.)  The only thing R's and D's agree on is that serious competition hurts them both, in one way or another.  Hence the difficulty for any third party or independent candidate to make a dent in the national scene.
I think a bigger playing field would do the country some serious good.  Forget Ross Perot or Roseanne Barr, think serious people willing to go to D.C. and shake the foundations, telling both sides that their job is not to get re-elected or fill their coffers for retirement, but to represent the best interest of their constituents and the nation. We have had a wide variety of political parties in this country before settling down to the current two.
More candidates would make for more competition, meaning they would have to fight harder for each vote.  Right now whoever the GOP candidate is will be getting a good chunk of votes from people who don't want another four years of Obama.  Obama will get a good chunk of votes from people who are opposed to Republicans, whether that is for real ideological reasons or because they are following some bouncing ball.  Polls are showing that many Democrats and liberals aren't happy with Obama, and polls are also showing the many Republicans aren't thrilled about their options either.  Imagine what would happen if there were more candidates, not just single issue candidates or looney left (honest) socialists, but real business leaders who haven't spent the last ten years in the D.C. bubble, or even liberals who are willing to live and let live instead of demanding legal changes for every real and imagined "offense".  Not only would these additional options bring different views up, but ideally the establishment players would have to start getting specific about their own plans, as opposed to the "I'm not the other party" lines we get now.
To fix the problems we have in the Federal government is going to take We The People holding whoever gets elected to both the White House and Congress feet to the fire.  We need to be getting specific plans out of both parties, written down, analyzable, testable, and something we can use to hold them accountable throughout their terms.  So long as either side just has to convince one percent more of the people who come out and vote that they are the better choice, we aren't going to get that out of either side.  It's going to take high voter turnout for one, and for another, real competition.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

He Hit Me First!!!! (And how not to react)

I was flipping through the radio and stumbled on a rarity out here, a preacher speaking. (at least they aren't hardly ever on when I am listening to the radio)  This particular sermon was on the crucifixion, and in particular focusing on the fact the Jesus had more than ample power to stop the whole thing.  He could have called down angels to smite the Roman guards, He could have pulled His hands and feet out of the cross, He could have simply disappeared from the cross, teleporting Himself to the ground, or into the crowd, or behind them.  But He didn't.  He endured it all, for lots of reasons, but the one I'm thinking of today is His divine nature.
As all this was being described, I had a random juxtaposition.  That final scene from the movie Carrie came to mind, with the young woman standing in front of the crowd of high schoolers, covered in pig blood, being laughed at and mocked.  She took the very human route, and used the power she had to extract nasty, painful revenge on the crowd, not only for that humiliation, but for the years of abuse and mocking and put downs.  The contrast struck me, this is a very human reaction, a very worldly reaction.  We don't want to take it, whatever "it" may be, we want to strike back, we want to get away.  However, if it's our path, our calling to take that "it", be it physical pain, suffering, martyrdom, poverty, or social pain, suffering, martyrdom, poverty, we have to let that divine nature rule over the human.
We're entering Lent, the precursor to Easter, and regardless of one's specific denominational practices of Lent, it's a good time to stop and think about how, 2000 some odd years ago, Jesus was following His divine nature towards Golgotha and the Cross, to be followed by the empty tomb.  Without the first, the second doesn't carry the same meaning.  What if He had followed the human side of His nature, and rained fire down on the crowd (now I'm thinking Raiders of the Lost Ark, how about you)?  Then where would we be, without that perfect sacrifice to atone for all our sins? 
Heard a much less dramatic story from Billy Graham's brother in law, he was on a plane and had a 96 year old woman sitting beside him, and he asked her what the most important thing she knew in those 96 years was.  When she said Jesus, he decided to poke the bear a bit and asked her how she was so sure about that, and received a good old fashioned Southern sermon right there in the airplane.  Calming her down, he let the woman know he too was a believer, and his relation to Billy Graham.  The woman had never heard of Billy Graham.  When the story was related to Billy, after laughing at his brother in law getting his comeuppance, Billy's reaction was "Isn't it wonderful that there are millions out there who don't know who we are, but know who Jesus is?"  That is letting the divine attitude dictate our reactions.  The human reaction would have been "How could she not know who I am, I'm Billy Graham!!"  How many people out there know who Billy Graham is, but still don't know Jesus?
So as we continue to Easter, use the focus on Christ's painful, humiliating death on the cross as a reminder that those things that seem so horrible at the time, through our human eyes, can be part of something so far beyond our contemplation in God's plan.  How many inspiring stories of faith through sickness and pain and persecution do we know of?  How many people have come to Christ or held on to Him because of what those people went through?  How can we emulate that divine attitude of following the path, be it to a cross or to a mansion?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What are you standing on?

A recent article popped up with scientists declaring they figured out why zebras evolved their black and white stripes.  The scientists discovered that flies are less attracted to the striped zebras than to solid colored horses.  (I first read about it here from the BBC) What's missing from the logic however is, what was it that figured out that narrow, alternating black and white stripes are not as appealing to flies?  It fascinates me how evolutionists so easily ignore that their house is missing a foundation.  Ok, zebras are striped to avoid flys, similar to the peppered moths that changed from a pallet of browns to one of whites and greys as their British environment turned grey from the industrial revolution.  But what was it that said "let's change from this color to that?"  The moths and zebras obviously didn't, both creatures lack the mental capacity to even contemplate such an action, much less the control over their genetic structure to effect it. 
Continuing on those lines, I was flipping through Newsweek at the magazine stand (evidently my free trial has run out) and found this article, wondering why evolution hasn't eliminated our desire for dangerous and unhealthy behavior, specifically drugs.  The author makes a humorous statement, that evolution isn't a perfect system, it's a random one.  That randomness is why that process hasn't eliminated our inclination towards self-destructive behavior, whether it's cocaine or chocolate cake. (An aside, should evolution also eliminate the whole genre of extreme sports?) Amazing how despite the huge logical flaw in the evolutionary mindset, we are the bitter clingers isn't it?  Logic and common sense tells us that things like zebra stripes need direction to occur, not just random happenstance, nevermind more even more complex things like opposable thumbs or the series of complex valves that prevents giraffe's heads from exploding from the blood pressure needed to run blood up to their brains when they bend down to drink.  Logic and common sense tells us that there has to be a foundation to build all of this off of. 
There has been a recent firestorm over certain mandates in Obamacare regarding birth control and religious beliefs.  There is a very simple solution to the problem.  Get back on the foundation of the U.S. Federal government, that document called the Constitution.  Is there anything there giving the Feds any power or right over healthcare?  No?  Problem solved.  Similar to the way evolution falls, no matter how much it's built on because it has no foundation, many of our present government problems can be solved by getting back onto the foundation instead of building additions that are not anywhere near that foundation. 
Over the last several years, many churches have begin condoning "alternative lifestyles", supporting various gay marriage actions, even ordaining practicing homosexuals.  All this despite the fact that the Church's foundation declares homosexuality a sin.  (In the interest of full disclosure, it's not any worse than the stuff I did before I was saved, or even stuff I've done since then, but I'll be the first to say those things were wrong, too)  Such actions are not the only things various churches are doing to build away from their foundations.  Becoming social clubs instead of lights to the world, becoming judgmental instead of loving (cut you off before you go there, it's much more loving to be honest with a person acting in sin than to accept it as OK, whether it's homosexuality, cheating on their spouse, knocking over liquor stores, ect, ect) among other actions. 
Foundations are a necessity, for houses, institutions, governments, ideologies and people.  If your foundation is weak, it doesn't matter how fancy or impressive looking your building is, how many arguments you can present to prove your point, how much you want to help people out.  The rain of logic, the wind of opposition and the floods of time will send it crashing down.  When your foundation is solid, none of those can knock you down.  The foundation of creation is God, the foundation of salvation is Jesus, the foundation of the United States is the Constitution.  We can see what happens as individuals, groups, churches, and governments move off those foundations.  A little logic tells us we don't want to be under those additions when they fall. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Welcome to the 24th and a half century!

Ok, this week's topic is easy.  For our anniversary, my lovely, wonderful, awesome wife got me a big honking Android phone.  (Not that electronics are on the traditional anniversary gift list, but that's ok)  I have been keeping an eye on technology trends and have been fully aware of the capacity of our newer smartphones, but to actually hold one and work it takes me back to so many memories.  Looking at those green tinted monstrosities that were the Apple IIe's our school had, being amazed at how much smaller and whiter the Apple IIc's they updated to a few years later were.  Standing in front of the display NES at WalMart watching those pixelated plumbers jump on walking mushrooms.  Hearing that grating sound as the dial up modem inside that new Windows XP tower (yes it took a while to get online out in the boondocks, so shoot me).  This little rectangle has more computing and connectivity power than anything that wasn't science fiction back when I was typing funny little BASIC programs that would print faces made out of X's on those big green screens.  It has more storage than even Bill Gates thought the whole world would ever need a few years back.  There is a disturbing amount of power, numerous kinds, in these tiny Pandora's boxes.
Yep, that's the right reference.  With video, pictures, texting, internet access, cloud access, social networks all in the palm of our hands, there is great potential for good and evil.  It's easy to shoot a video, intentionally or unintentionally take it out of it's context, and cause a huge firestorm around the world.  It's easy to send off an angry comment and have it come back to bite you in the butt, possibly socially, possibly in your employment, even legally.  But that's only part of the possible issue.  How easy is it to sit and stare at that screen instead of paying attention to those immediately around you? (Very, I've figured out already)  Technology has taken us to levels of world community that weren't even imagined a couple of generations ago.  
All of this wonderful technology is a tool, much like a hammer.  A hammer can be used to build a home for a family or a toy for a child, but it can also be used to tear down a home, break a toy, or even kill a person.  What is done with any tool is up to the person wielding it.  Many revolutions going on in the world, some we hear about, others not so much, are working across all of these unprecedented levels of technology.  Some of those revolutions are good, some not so much.  In other cases, people are simply being distracted from real life by their toys, ignoring the things around them that are affecting them and the world. 
I''m no Unabomber, I love technology, nor do I think we need to burn all the video games and their developers.  Having this new toy in hand is just a reminder to put it down occasionally, engage in some face to face conversation, read a real newspaper sometimes, dust off some of those books on the shelf. 
No, I'm not posting this from the phone, going to take a while before I'm that used to the keyboard (if ever).  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Well, well, well....

One advantage of writing out one's thoughts, especially in a public and easily reviewed forum, is the ability to notice trends.  A trend I've noticed in my posts is frequent references to the same source material.  Right now, Ravi Zacharias and his ministry RZIM generate many of my thought processes.  This is mainly because Ravi has a version of his radio show that is edited into 15 minute segments, meaning I can listen to the whole broadcast on the way to work and still blast some music as well, as opposed to the standard 30 minute version which, depending on speed and traffic, I may not quite get through in it's entirety.  In addition, while none of them have made it here yet, I'm working through Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost For His Highest" devotional, and drawing a great deal of inspiration from that as well. 
When I initially noticed this trend, my thought was "oh dear, I need to diversify my input more".  Now there is definitely a point there, we can get hooked on or attached to certain sources of inspiration that can get us stuck into corners or even lead us off the correct path.  But on the other hand, The argument can be made that focusing on a specific source can help one draw as much knowledge from that source before moving onto another.  Think about a well.  If one is drawing clean, usable water from a well, and all indications are that the well is a good, deep one that can supply one for a long time, do you really have to have other wells immediately available?  Or can you continue to use that well, keeping in mind that it will eventually dry up or possibly not be able to provide as much water as is needed for your growing fields, and planning for that possibility? 
If you have a short list of favorite preachers, speakers, evangelists, hosts, ect, start the way you should start everything, hold them up to the Bible.  Not what they say about the Bible, but the Bible itself.  If their words and works pass that test (probably wouldn't hurt to run them by some trusted friends as well) take advantage of the well you have found.  Use it to quench your thirst and water your crops.  Keep checking it to make sure nothing starts seeping into water, and keep your eyes out for other wells, in case your fields outgrow the one well and need even more water than it can provide.