The Compassion Deficit

A few months ago the New York Times published an article titled The Charitable-Giving Divide. Here are a few excerpts from it:
For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans.
His study [Paul K. Piff], written with Michael W. Kraus and published online last month by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth. They were more attuned to the needs of others and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism.

“Upper class” people, on the other hand, clung to values that “prioritized their own need.” And, he told me this week, “wealth seems to buffer people from attending to the needs of others.” Empathy and compassion appeared to be the key ingredients in the greater generosity of those with lower incomes. And these two traits proved to be in increasingly short supply as people moved up the income spectrum.

This compassion deficit — the inability to empathetically relate to others’ needs — is perhaps not so surprising in a society that for decades has seen the experiential gap between the well-off and the poor (and even the middle class) significantly widen.
Given all this, it’s tempting to believe that there’s something intrinsic to the rich or the poor that explains their greater or lesser generosity and empathetic connection to others (i.e., rich people get rich because they like money more and are less distracted from their goals by the relational side of life), but Piff’s research points in a different direction. Piff found that if higher-income people were instructed to imagine themselves as lower class, they became more charitable. If they were primed by, say, watching a sympathy-eliciting video, they became more helpful to others — so much so, in fact, that the difference between their behavior and that of the low-income subjects disappeared. And fascinatingly, the inverse was true as well: when lower-income people were led to think of themselves as upper class, they actually became less altruistic.
Those words, "compassion deficit", ring true with me. I think that it is so easy to shield yourself from the suffering of others and become convinced that we are not our brother's keeper. On the flip-side I can resonate with being moved by compassion to help out and to give when I see a need.. even if it is simply a TV show or a YouTube video. I don't know about you but I do not want to live with a deficit of compassion in my life.


I originally posted this in July. With all of the hubbub in the news I thought that I'd repost.

The controversial website WikiLeaks publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misdeeds.

In this video founder Julian Assange talks about how the site operates, what it has accomplished and what drives him.

I think that people are a bit fascinated by whistle-blowers. Movies like this year's The Informant (see my review of it here) and others like The Insider and The Rain Maker speak to this fascination. There is just something about liars and weasels being exposed.

The video shown in this 20 minute interview is troubling and makes me want to erase it from my memory - I would rather not know about this aspect of war. That said I think that it is not a bad thing to expose the good, bad and ugly of wars, governments and corporations. Predictably Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not appear to share my view when he said:

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing. But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
Interesting that he does not know of any damage that has already been done.

What do you think? About the video? About About whistle-blowers?

Is Modesty a Lost Cause?

This past weekend the Kansas City Star, our local newspaper, posted an article titled
Is modesty a lost cause in this society?. The article featured input from a Protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi. The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor of St. Andrew Christian Church, made this observation after telling about a very weird experience when she sat on a plane next to a couple who were sexually intimate:
Modesty is not about how we live in our own home, but how we live in public space, shared space. In that sense, modesty is about hospitality: acting in a way that makes others feel welcome, at home, comfortable. At times modesty requires that we reign in our own desires and preferences out of consideration for others. The couple on the plane were self-centered, narcissistic, inhospitable.
Here is a bit of what Rabbi Robert L. Tobin of Congregation Beth Shalom had to say about modesty:
There are certain settings — synagogue, church or mosque, for example — when certain attire would seem scandalous. We all have a line we draw, though we don’t all draw the line in the same place. The Jewish tradition teaches us to expand that sacred and respectful space beyond our sanctuaries and into our lives, dressing respectfully at all times. Some of us even wear special prayer shawls, called tzitzit, under our shirts to remind us of our obligations at all times. Yet also important — neither more nor less — is the call to wisdom that comes from genuine humility.
Firstly, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Holly to be sitting next to that couple - pretty gross and disgusting display if you ask me. I have to admit that it is pretty indecent behavior. Yet I think that some in our culture might not find it offensive - Hollywood has convinced us that such behavior is representative of sexually "free" people.

I liked what the rabbi had to say about modesty, humility and dressing the same inside and out of your place of worship. To me it speaks of an integrated life - a life that does not draw artificial boundaries between the sacred and the secular. Of course I have also been made a bit uncomfortable by the immodest behavior of folks in religious settings.. but that could be a bit more about me than them.

Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable by the immodest behavior of others?

4 years, 2,350 posts and 100,000 visits later

I actually started blogging in 2004 at An Eye for Redemption. I mostly wrote there about my faith experiences and focused on the redemptive aspects of pain. I don't write there much anymore but am still getting visits (47,000 and counting) on the 400+ posts there. If I get inspired I may start writing more there.

During those first few years I began to make friends in the Blogosphere and wanted to blog about more than faith and redemption. So I started with the intention of simply sharing my life's experiences and my opinions in a casual but intentional fashion.
Here are a few things that I recollect about blogging here:
  • I originally called it "What About Kansas Bob" then arbitrarily shortened the name.
  • The presidential election of 2008 gave me an opportunity to share my political views. It also helped me expand my thinking about the issues as I had discussions with many of you in the comments section.
  • I shared a bit of what it was like to have a son serving on the front lines in the Iraqi war and found support in your responses to my posts.
  • I found an outlet for my love of movies and shared mini-reviews of the ones that I saw. I am not a movie critic but know what I like.
  • In 2008 I began sharing about my struggles with Ann's disability and found a place to update friends on her health. Your thoughts and prayers still encourage me.
  • I love to share the things that I learn from other places in cyberspace. I regularly find great stuff on other blogs, websites and blogs.
  • I am a geeky tinkerer and like to mess around with my blogs' format. Guess my 30 years in software is a bit reflective of my nerdliness.
  • It is fun sharing blog authorship with other people like Bill, Ed, Martha, Sue and Wanda at the Daily Prayer blog.
  • I have learned so much from folks who do not agree with me. I feel that I am more open to new ideas and a little less closed minded than I used to be.
I am still about 25 visits short of 100,000 but hope that one of you will hit it today. I so appreciate your visits, your comments and your virtual friendship. Hope that this Christmas season finds you experiencing the joy and peace associated with the coming of Christ.

Charity Navigator

Got the list below, and the explanation of it, from Charity Navigator. I think that it is always a good idea to check with a resource like them before you donate to a charity. It is hard to imagine how these CEOs sleep at night but I guess there is a rationalization for about any bad behavior. Of course even the charities that are rated high are rife with six figure salary executives - some make a half million or more.

Black Friday Deals

One of the advantages of being older.. note that I did not say "old".. is that gimmicks like Black Friday don't have much appeal. Older folks are, generally speaking, downsizing and getting rid of the junk and not too interested in accumulating more junk.

I did note that, one week ago today, a Best Buy manager gave two iPads to the gals who had set up a tent in anticipation of the great deals today. Wonder if they stayed in line?

Are you heading out or coming home from shopping? Where did you go?

Thankful for You!

It may seem a bit trite to say but, on this day of giving thanks, I am so thankful for you. Over these past six years of blogging I have met some of the most amazing and inspiring people. So when I count my blessings I include those of you who visit here.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Do You Really Need Antivirus Software?

Here the answer from a ZDNet article of the same title:
If you’re not sure of the answer to that question, then the short answer is yes. The longer answer is that security software is only one piece of what should be a simple, straightforward, and systematic approach to your PC’s health.
Here are his security steps along with my geeky comments:
  1. Use a modern operating system.
    He says that XP has security problems. Both of our laptops have Win 7.
  2. Keep your OS up to date and backed up.
    Good idea to weekly back up your data to an external drive using something like the Back2zip freeware product. Also be sure to use the Windows update process.
  3. Keep applications updated also.
    I always specify update notifications on all of my apps.
  4. Be suspicious of any new software.
    Good idea to Google any new app before downloading to your PC.
  5. Set up standard (non-administrator) accounts for unsophisticated users
    This is a really good idea if you have kids at home. Of course some kids know more about the PC than their parents.
  6. Use a modern browser.
    Older browsers have serious security issues. I use Chrome but I think that other newer browsers like Firefox and IE 8 are ok.
  7. Install an antivirus program and keep it up to date.
    I have been using the free version of avast! for about a year now and it seems to be pretty painless. It automatically updates the data files a few times a day and talks to me when it does. Have had no problems with it.
I encourage you to read the whole article here for more detailed information. And if you have a Mac the article states that this month’s Mac OS X v10.6.5 and Security Update 2010-007 included well over 100 fixes to critical security vulnerabilities, many of which could lead to arbitrary code execution. Everyone is vulnerable. Only you can keep your computer safe.

How many of his steps do you follow? What antivirus are you using these days?

Turkey Humor

HT: Shoebox Blog

The 3s of Me

My Facebook friend Annie tagged me in a note with the same title as this post.
I haven't dones one of these in a while so here it is:

3 nicknames
  • Bobby: My dad call me this until the day he passed on.
  • Eggy: Known by this one in junior high after my hair was buzzed.
  • Eddy: Some folks at work called me this in the early 80s.
3 jobs I have had
  • Soldier: Worked on a Nike missile firing site for 2 of my 3 years.
  • Software Designer: Started as a computer programmer in 1976.
  • Pastor: Loved providing care and counseling for people at church.
3 place I have lived
  • New York: Grew up on Staten Island in 5 houses on the same street.
  • New Jersey / Texas: Spent my early marriage years in these places.
  • Kansas City: Have lived in 4 different houses in the area since 1976.
3 favorite drinks
  • Coffee: Currently sipping on a 50-50 Starbucks breakfast blend.
  • Tea: My afternoon decaf drink of choice - English style like my mom.
  • Wine: I occasionally enjoy a Cabernet with lunch or supper.
3 TV shows I have watched
  • Seinfeld: The depth of the characters on this show was matchless.
  • House: Last season's portrayal of addiction and recovery was amazing.
  • Morning Joe: My favorite news program. Enjoy the friendly banter.
3 places I have been
  • Hong Kong/China: My bible smuggling trip was an adventure for sure.
  • Niagara Falls: Much more majestic and awe inspiring than I imagined.
  • British Columbia: This and the northwest area of the USA is spectacular.
3 of my favorite foods
  • Pizza: I especially love NYC style pizza but like deep dish Chicago style too.
  • BBQ: Love the KC version but also enjoy Carolina pulled pork sandwiches.
  • Steak: Not much out their that matches a Kansas City Strip steak.
3 things that are always at my side
  • Palm Pre: Calendar, email, RSS feeds, camera, games and even a phone.
  • Faith: Gets me through my days and lifts me up when I am sad.
  • Glasses: Don't always wear them but I always have them with me.
3 things I am looking forward to
  • Vacation: Ann and I are hoping to travel this winter to a warmer climate.
  • Advances in Medicine: Ann is hoping to get into a stem cell trial.
  • Heaven: Words cannot express the hope that I have in my heart.
I am tagging all who read this to share at least one of these 3s in the comments. And if you feel so inclined please accept the tag and share all of them on your blog. And let me know if you do. I would love to read about your 3 things!

And in closing I want to tell you how thankful I am for your visits here. The virtual friendships that I have made over the years is so precious to me. Have a great day!

Exercising Futility

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it without a sense of ironic futility. -Errol Morris

It is futile to talk too much about the past ... like trying to make birth control retroactive. -Charles Wilson

Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity.
-Erma Bombeck

Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established. -George Carlin

Work is futile if we cannot utilise the experience we collect in one life in the next. -Henry Ford

When I was still a rather precocious young man, I already realized most vividly the futility of the hopes and aspirations that most men pursue throughout their lives. -Albert Einstein

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. -Dwight David Eisenhower

The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

US Debt Reduction: The Military

As announced a week ago I hope to write a bit about the recommendations of the co-chairmen of the US presidential debt reduction committee.

One of the recommendations of the co-chairs is the reduction in military expenditures. This chart speaks to the degree of spending the US incurs verses the next six countries that spend money on their military forces.

There is a hash-tag on Twitter (#bringthemhome) that is speaking to the frustration that many have about the War in Afghanistan. These tweets are advocating that the troops be brought home. Here are a few Twitter entries:
  • In one week the date for major withdrawal in Afghanistan has been pushed from 2011 to the end of 2014. Now the US is backing off that date.
  • It's time the US stops rebuilding other countries and starts rebuilding our own.
  • The United States spends more on the military than anyone and more than the next 16 countries combined.
Cynically, I do wonder about the post election timing of the announcement to keep troops in Afghanistan. Yet I do think that these tweets reflect the mindsets of many Americans when it comes to the recent war in the middle east. I groaned when I read about the delay in bringing the troops home. I am frustrated by the amount of money that was spent rebuilding Iraq. And I do not understand why the United States still has to be the world's police force.

I am not an expert in defense spending but I do question our military presence in places like Italy, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea and other places around the world. That said I do admit that I may really be naïve about such things. I know that some of these are strategic in nature. Perhaps these bases should be in those places and military spending should be cut in other places. In any case I think that there is fat in our military spending.

Boiling it down I think that the issue is one of ideology. If one believes that the US has a responsibility to go it alone in places like Iraq and Afghanistan then there will always be a justification for the expenses and other countries will not have to be involved in the war on terror. But if one has a different mindset then perhaps they might embrace the spending cuts. I guess I would like to see more of a sharing of these expenses amongst the nations.

Stop Torture, Stop Captcha

Anyone have a clue about the letters I should have entered?
It reminded me of this old post below. Please find other ways to catch spammers. With Blogger's new spam protection I do not need captcha.

Sept 2009: Peter over at Blogger Tips and Tricks is telling bloggers that they no longer need to use that annoying Word Verification for comments. Here is a clip of his post:
If you allow comments for your posts, I would highly recommend you do not enable captcha (word verification) for the following reasons:

Ever since all blogging platforms including Blogger add the "nofollow" attribute to hyperlinks in comments, the incentive for spammers to post spam comments have been greatly reduced and I have found that spam comments have reduced to almost zero.

Having to complete word verification is a great inconvenience, especially for the visually impaired who have to click on the universal handicap icon in order for the alphabets in the captcha to be read out in audio form. I have tested clicking on that icon and the resulting machine voice is practically indecipherable.
In my opinion, captcha is a torture. Why subject your readers to torture when the original reasons for enabling captcha, spam comments, is no longer a problem.
I echo Peter's sentiments.. I have not used captcha in years and have not had a problem with spammers. And please.. if you moderate comments please do not use Word Verification.. it is torture squared when you do. :)

The Healing Quality of Humor

I have to admit that laughing is one the major defenses I have in my arsenal against depression. I purposefully laugh out loud when I watch something funny on TV. There is just something healing in a belly laugh. Humor has got me through some very difficult times.

So I commend you today to an article titled 9 Ways Humor Heals on the Beyond Blue blog.
Here is the list:
  1. Humor combats fear.
  2. Humor comforts.
  3. Humor relaxes.
  4. Humor reduces pain.
  5. Humor boosts the immune system.
  6. Humor reduces stress.
  7. Humor spreads happiness.
  8. Humor cultivates optimism.
  9. Humor helps communication.
I think that this one excerpt speaks loudly of the value of humor in our lives:
Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: of the past and of the present. The traumatic childhood episode loses its tight grip on your heart if you can place it into the "ridiculous" category of other stories from the past. With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from the marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety. Laughter forces a few steps--some much-needed distance-- between a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!"
I recommend that you take a few minutes and check out the post. It is a good perspective.

Gullible Reactions to Authority

Sometimes my mind goes to strange places. This morning I was remembering my Boot Camp orientation when one of the drill sergeants warned us about some of the toilets that shot up steam like Old Faithful. LOL, after that I was very careful in using them. I was so gullible back then. A few years before that I was 17 and sat in a college philosophy class hearing the professor speak about the big bang theory. I immediately embraced it and did not really consider alternate theories.

I think both of these are examples of how a gullible young man was duped by an authority figure. Unfortunately my gullibility did not end in my early years. For many years I paid heed to other authority figures in my life. I had managers who painted me with a very narrow brush and I sometimes accepted their perspective. I had pastors present fundamentalist theologies and paradigms that I swallowed in whole.

Looking back I think that my view of authority was a bit broken. It is one thing to uncritically accept information when you are young but it is another to do it when you are older. For me, I think that it was an unbalanced and narrow view of authority. My understanding of it was very black and white and I did not understand the many gray shades of authority.

Years ago I began to question my authority paradigm. I started to understand that I had allowed people to influence me that really did not care about me all that much. I also began to embrace a grayer theology and ideology about authority. Anymore I am more interested in hearing from people who genuinely love me - folks who love me have great influence in my life. It is the way that it should be.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Many of you are regularly posting things that you are thankful for on your blog. I have been enjoying reading those things. My blog friend Kristen has posted thanks for family, laughter, job, animals and other things. With Thanksgiving just one week away I thought that I would share Kim Allen's list of ways you can add appreciation to every day.. at least for the next week:
  • Every day tell someone, a friend, loved one or co worker, one thing you appreciate about them.
  • Find three things to appreciate about a tough situation you're facing.
  • On your way to work, appreciate the scenery. It sure beats worrying about all you have to do!
  • When you pick up the phone or answer an email, find one thing to appreciate about the person on the other end. You don't always have to say it; feeling it is what's important.
  • Once a week, take turns sharing what it is everyone appreciates about each other around the dinner table.
  • Make a list of all you appreciate about yourself.
I like this list. Sometimes I think that it is the small things in life that are most important. I am hoping to give at least part of this list a try each day in hopes of cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Have you been more of aware of giving thanks this month? Anything to share?

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

Below is a retirement savings chart from consumer activist/guru Clark Howard. He subtitles it with the phrase: The key to becoming a millionaire by age 65 is to start saving early!!!

15 $2,000 50 $2,327,934
25 $2,259 40 $1,000,000
35 $6,079 30 $1,000,000
45 $17,459 20 $1,000,000
55 $62,745 10 $1,000,000

It takes a bit of discipline to plan ahead. When I was young I could not even envision a reason to save for my senior years. As I got older I began to understand that one day I wanted to retire. Fortunately when I was 39 my company converted my long term savings into a 401k and I could no longer withdraw the money with out experiencing steep penalties. Consequentially I left it in and was so glad that I did.

Are you planning to retire one day? Do you know how you will do it?

Adam | ★★★★★★★★

Ann and I caught this on DVD last night. Adam is a touching depiction of a young man with Asperger's syndrome who, as he grieves the loss of his dad, finds a love that his disease keeps him from expressing. Here are comments from two Netflix reviewers:
As an Aspie myself, I had more than a few reservations about how the director of this film, Max Mayer, would present someone who has Asperger's on the big screen. ... From my perspective as a film lover, "Adam" is beautifully written, shot and acted (especially Hugh Dancy as Adam, and Amy Irving, in a small role, as Beth's mother). In my opinion, this film gives an accurate portrayal of what it's like to live with Asperger's, and that it is indeed possible to thrive in the world, thanks to the support of caring, open-minded people.

I also have a very special person in my life named Adam who has struggled in the past with a medical condition similar to Asperger’s Syndrome. For those of you who know little about Asperger’s this will enlighten and may inspire you to read more about this syndrome that affects so many people. I found this quirky engaging film to be a step above the typical Romantic Comedy fare. It is like a breath of fresh air with a touch of realism that bypasses depressing or unbelievable.
I so agree with these opinions about the movie and I was glad to see that someone with Asperger's thought it was an accurate reflection. I love how accepting and open minded  people were in dealing with Adam. I thought that his journey to be independent and his courage in going after his dream was inspirational.

I highly recommend this movie to you and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★.

Liu Wei Has Got Talent

If you are down today I suggest that you watch this inspirational video. Following the video are some notes about it from the YouTube page.

Lost his arms in an accident at age 10, Liu Wei from Beijing never gives up living strong.
He managed to do everything with his feet and started to learn to play piano at age 19.
His dream is to become a musician. He is now 22 and just won the China's Got Talent Show on Oct. 10, 2010. In the final, he played piano and sang the song "You Are Beautiful".
Here are a few of quotes from Liu Wei:

"To me, there are 3 things can not be missed in life - air, water and music."

"There are only 2 paths in my life for me - either to die as fast as possible, or to live as brilliant a life as I could."

"I don't feel that I am that different from other people. Normally everyone is used to do everything with one's hands so your hands are more flexible. There is no rule saying that you can't do things with your feet."

"A man should be responsible to his dreams. My dream is to become a great musician."

"I know if I want to do it better than other people, I have to put in more efforts."

Remembering Gary Means

Over the years many have complimented me on the banner at the top of my blog. I always tell them that the beautiful work was done (free of charge) by my blogging friend Gary Means. Yesterday Gary passed away. Here are the words that his son shared on Facebook:
This is Gary's son, Jon-Erik. Gary Means passed away yesterday morning from a sudden heart attack. It pains me so much to report this. My dad was an incredibly loving and compassionate man, a best friend, wonderful father, both guiding and constantly encouraging, and we will miss him tremendously.
I went back and read many of the emails that we exchanged over the past two years and already miss this loving and caring man. Here is part of a note that I emailed Gary just one year ago:
With thanksgiving coming next week I reflect back on people like you that I have met in cyberspace and have cause to give thanks for being a small part of your life.
I am very saddened by Gary's passing. Please remember Gary's family when you pray.

Hugh Jidette for President

Anybody seen the TV commercials for Hugh Jidette? He is running for US President on a very unusual political platform. Here is a blurb from his website:
Hugh Jidette – a play on the phrase “Huge Debt” – is a fictional presidential candidate who has been created to capture the attention of the nation and bring to light the facts about our federal fiscal challenges and the threats they pose to our nation’s economic future. As his name suggests, Hugh Jidette is a satirical character, and his policy positions sound strange and unbelievable. 
In the days ahead I would like to blog a bit about the recommendations from President Obama's debt reduction committee. I think that hard fiscal decisions need to be made in the days ahead. Anybody agree? Anyone think congress will really cut spending?

Caption This!

St Barts is calling..

Anybody up for a few nights in St Barts?
I got an email inviting me to stay in the $25k per night Royal Suite at Hotel Carl Gustaf. I think we can do it if only 249 of you would agree to meet me there.

Just thinking about the cost of this suite.. not to mention the ones in Miami and Paris.. reminds me of the huge wealth gap that exists in the world. I mean really - how much money does one have to have to spend this much on a hotel room?

Philosophical Friday

It seems that philosophy and philosophers have been around since man first walked the earth and they have all had something to say about life. Recently I came across a site that listed the 11 Most Important Philosophical Quotations. Here are three of them and my reflections concerning them:
  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
    I find that it is so easy to live without passion and simply eke out an existence. In truth these past few years have been some of the hardest for me. Life has been tough and passion has seemed so hard to lay hold of. Lately there have glimmers of passion arising in my soul. I am thankful for that.
  • “The life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” – Thomas Hobbes
    The older I get the more that I understand what this is saying. Sometimes I feel so alone. Looking back life has seemed to be short. Yet I continue to awake with hope in my heart. Even in hard times beauty is there.
  • “I think therefore I am.” – René Descartes
    Sadly, I embraced this thought for most of my life and lived mostly from my mind. If life has taught me any thing it has taught me that life is all about the inner heartfelt stuff. In my opinion brainy logic and knowledge are no match for the wisdom and compassion of the heart. I am glad that I finally got it.
Philosophically speaking I think that our lives are entwined with the good and the bad. How we deal with the good times speaks much about how we will handle the bad. If we are self focused during our good times we may find it difficult to deal with the bad times. But if during the good times we find ways to direct our focus away from ourselves we may experience something different in the bad times.

Many of us live lives wrapped up in hedonism and narcissism and it is very difficult to change. I think that the time to change is during the good times but, alas, there is often little motivation to change when things are going well. A benefit of going through bad times is that we are often forced to change - not that it is a pleasant experience.

What do you think? Any philosophical thoughts to share on the Friday?


The definition given in this image comes across as a bit strange to me. I guess that I have never thought of chutzpah in this light.. but I am from New York City. When I think about the word I think about a person standing their ground and not being intimidated.

What do you think when you hear it?
Unmitigated gall or great fortitude?

What is an Evangelist?

I think that many agree with this poster and embrace this strange idea about what a Christian evangelist is. In a sense the image is the exact opposite of what one is.

In my thinking a true evangelist is a person gifted in building relations with people. An evangelist is a good listener and wants to know what a person thinks.

$1,000,000,000 Chevy Volt

Update: The Chevy Volt will list at $41k and come with an overnight charger. It will cost you an extra $1,700 if you want the 4 hour rapid charger. I will probably not buy one right away.

June 2009: According to this Wired article titled Chevrolet Volt Charges On Despite Bankruptcy:
GM has made the Volt the centerpiece of its push to build smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles and it has spent nearly $1 billion developing the car.
Gotta hope that the Volt is worth the investment.. we Americans seem to be on the hook for it as our government pledged another $30 billion yesterday to keep GM afloat.

Pastors, Candidates and the IRS

My Facebook friend Shane of Caffeinated Theology recently referred to a commentary, by noted theologian Wayne Grudem, titled Pastors, Not the Gov't, Should Decide When They Can Speak About Candidates From the Pulpit. Here are a few clips from it:
Before 1954, pastors of churches were free to speak out about candidates and political issues whenever they thought it wise to do so, and many did. But in 1954, Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code to restrict the speech of non-profit organizations. This amendment – spearheaded by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas – required churches to refrain from promoting or opposing any political candidate by name.
Since that time, the IRS has insisted that any speech by churches that deals with candidates for political office, including a pastor’s sermon, could result in a church losing its non-profit, tax-exempt status. This law has suppressed the valuable moral guidance that American pulpits could be contributing to our political process.
The Johnson amendment also violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment because it requires the government to discriminate against speech because of its content. In other words, some speech is allowed, but other speech is not. The U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated this type of speech discrimination for decades. The amendment also violates the Free Speech clause because it conditions the receipt of a tax exemption on refraining from certain types of speech.
The government should not be dictating to pastors and churches what they can and cannot preach about. Because of the Johnson amendment and an entire atmosphere of fear and excessive caution that have surrounded it, the crucial voice of the church in society has been muzzled for too long. It is time for the courts to overturn this law in accordance with the ringing declaration of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”
Now I do understand that many religious leaders do want to name names in the fashion of John the Baptist when he called out Herod for divorcing his wife and marrying his brother's wife. In a sense it is a prophetic thing to do - in the Old Testament the prophet Nathan did something similar to King David over his affair with Bathsheba.

Yet I do wonder what would happen if pastors, rabbis, imams and other ministers open the proverbial door to this sort of politicking? For sure some preaching would be not engage in the discourse as they do now. And some might simply give a sermon on the issues or on the candidates in the weeks before the election. Yet I do wonder how many churches, temples and mosques would become a hotbed of political activity. Maybe some would dedicate resources and energies to political ideologies? Perhaps some would have candidates speak from the pulpit or solicit campaign contributions.

And when you think about it - a religious leader/organization who feels compelled by God to engage in politics should not be concerned at all about losing the tax exempt status. They should not be concerned about such this and simply rely on God's provision. That would at least seem consistent with a John the Baptist type of approach.

But in my opinion, for what it is worth, religious institutions should be about ministry not politics. I love how Jesus would not be roped into speaking out against the Roman government and stayed true to ministry. It challenges me to remember that, while I love political discourse and debate, life is about something more than politics and swaying civil governments - and it probably should be.

What say you? Should tax-exempt religious groups be permitted to endorse candidates?

Happy Birthday Billy!

In the late 1970s my wife and I worked at a Billy Graham crusade and I got to hear this wonderful man up close and personal - sort of. A few years ago a much older Graham preached at the 'K' (Royals Stadium) and I heard once again. Thanks to my blogging friend Bill Tammeus I know that Billy Graham turns 92 today. To celebrate the day I share with you these things that Mr Graham once said:

A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.

Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.

The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, 'O God, forgive me,' or 'Help me.'

The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.

Only those who want everything done for them are bored.

God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.

It is not the body's posture, but the heart's attitude that counts when we pray.

Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.

Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love.

We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.

There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when
riches possess men.

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion - it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.

Letting Go

I think that letting go can be so hard when it comes to our children. My heart was encouraged today when I read Kim Allen's weekly tip. Here is the way that she begins:
Being a parent sure taught me a lot about life in general. One big lesson started the moment my son was born: Letting go. I've had to learn to let go and let him sleep in his own room; let go and let him cross the street to play; let go and let him walk to school; let go and let him choose his clothes, his friends, his own path. It's a life long process and sometimes, even though he's all grown up, I still have to remind myself, hey, this is not about me, is it?
I think that many of us can relate to this part of child rearing - it often seems easier to worry about them than to let go. Yet, I believe that it is also so hard to let go of the more subtle things of life. My wife Ann and I often speak to each other about letting go of our past dreams and expectations ... things dreamed when we were both healthy ... in a sense we can only embrace new dreams when we let go of the old ones.

Last year I posted something I called Letting Go of the Results and spoke to the idea that trusting God is all about letting go of the results of our prayers. In a sense faith is all about trusting when the results are unknown. And sometimes, like we do with our kids, we simply have let go of our expectations and embrace the results whatever they may be.

Can you relate to the need to let go of your children, your dreams and your expectations?

Killer Quiz

Following are statistics from the Center for Disease Control listing, in alphabetical order,
the top fifteen killers (as of 2007) of people in the United States.
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Homicides
  • Hypertension
  • Influenza and Pneumonia
  • Nephritis (Kidney Disease)
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Septicemia (Blood Poisoning)
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  • Suicide
See if you can find the guess the ones that place number one, two, three and fifteen on the list with regard to the number of people killed by the phenomena. And remember, number one means that more people died from this than the others. I will list the answers, along with the actual number of deaths, in a day or two.

Learning from Experience

When people tell me they've learned from experience, I tell them the trick is to learn from other people's experience. -Warren Buffett

Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won't have time to make them all yourself. -Alfred Sheinwold

Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him. -Aldous Leonard Huxley

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -Douglas Adams

Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes. -Oscar Wilde

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. -Auguste Rodin

If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires.
-Abigail Van Buren

God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars. -Elbert Hubbard

Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.
-Rita Mae Brown

My Open Letter to the President

Dear President Obama,

It is the day after election day and I am wondering how you are interpreting the results of our national vote. Certainly the country has sent a message to congress by returning the GOP to power in the House of Representatives and reducing the number of Democrats in the Senate. Yet I am wondering, with the rest of America, what kind of message you received and, more importantly, how you will respond in the days, weeks and months ahead. Here are a few thoughts that I have for you on this day after the election:
  • I want you to lead, Mr President, in the ways that Presidents Reagan and Clinton led.
    I would like you will take the lead in working with Republican leaders. President Truman once said that the buck stopped at his desk. I hope you will adopt a similar attitude with regard to working with congress. 
  • I hope that you will no longer demonize Republicans as "the party of No". I am tired of the name calling Mr President. I want you, as our leader, to set an example of civility. Please do not refer to your political opponents as enemies. We are all Americans and are not enemies of each other. 
  • My main concern about our country is the financial legacy that we will leave our children and grandchildren. Please Mr President, earnestly work with congress to balance the budget and reduce our national debt so that our legacy will be one of fiscal responsibility and health.
  • In less than four years I will be eligible for Medicare and Social Security. I know that these programs are entitlements and I also know that they are also political hot potatoes. Please take courage and work with congress to fiscally solidify these programs for current and future generations.
  • Lastly, please work with the congress to find ways to keep our jobs from being outsourced and foreign workers insourced. Please find ways to protect American workers from greed focused corporations that do not think twice about using unethical practices in their quest for profits both here and abroad.
I am sure that I could list other concerns but I do not want my letter to simply be a laundry list of grievances. Frankly, I am tired of being cynical about our government. I am fed up with seeing polls that reveal such a mistrust and disdain for the congress. I beg you to take leadership and work together with congress to turn this trend around.

I also want you to know that I pray for you, your family, our congress and all who lead in civil government. I know that the job can sometimes be difficult yet I also know that collectively we can do so much more than we can individually. With that I close wishing you much success, and God's blessings, as you lead our nation.

Sincerely, Bob

How did you vote?

No, I am not interested "who" or "what" you voted for but "how" you voted. When Ann and I got to the polls this afternoon we were slowed down because there was only one voting machine. Guess KC is technically challenged. After waiting in line a bit we did paper ballots instead. These were then scanned in. So "how" did you vote? Paper or Machine?

Somebody has to Win

Sadly this cartoon represents my feelings as I prepare to cast my ballot later today. Gone are my hopes that the people I vote for will really make a difference in America. New people may be elected but I predict that old ways will prevail. My vote will mostly be against an issue, a person or a party.
I do not expect anything to change in our government. Color me cynical.

Election Edition: 2010 Email Hall of Shame

Tomorrow is election day here in the United States and there is all sorts of misinformation floating around out there in newspapers, blogs, television and emails. With regard to the latter, here is a list of shameful viral emails from Politifact:
  • Under the new health care law, "all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% Sales Tax."
  • Democrats and President Barack Obama "will sneak in a 1 percent tax on all banking transactions."
  • Starting in 2011, "you will be required to pay taxes" on "the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company."
  • The Democrats' health care bills would provide "free health care for illegal immigrants."
  • "The Senate voted this week to allow illegal aliens access to Social Security benefits."
  • Presidents Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower collectively ordered the deportation of at least 15 million illegal immigrants.
  • Once the U.S. government signs a U.N. treaty on conventional arms, "all U.S. citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments."
  • You must list all your guns on your 2010 tax return.
  • The Obama White House is renaming Christmas trees "holiday trees."
  • "The ACLU has filed a suit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed."
  • Obama said troops "whine about bearing the costs" of going to war.
  • "The Obama Administration wants to have soldiers and officers pledge a loyalty oath directly to the office of the President, and no longer to the Constitution.
  • Obama used $20 million in federal money "to emmigrate (sic) Hamas Refugees to the USA."
  • President Obama is not a citizen: He admitted it, his college transcript proves it, and Justice Antonin Scalia agreed to hear the case.
I encourage you to read the details about these messages at Politifact. There is a lot of misinformation circulating out there and we should always be alert to the hidden agendas contained in the information. Most of these types of viral emails that I get are easily debunked. Sad that many do not have a zeal for the truth about these chain emails - if they did they would send out corrections when their messages are proven false. I think that we should hate these emails in the same way that we hate the mudslinging TV ads.

What do you think? What do you do when you get these sorts of email messages?