Entering into the Chaos of Another

This week NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd shared a Christmas meditation written by Kevin O’Neil, a Catholic priest ministering in New York City. O'Neill begins by framing the question of "Why" this way:
"How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn't seem to do the loving thing?" If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?
I am always interested when people write on these sorts of issues and wondered where O'Neill would go. Would he speak, like some religious people do, of God judging America because we do not allow prayer in schools or would he go a different direction? Would he speaking of judgment or something else? I was happy to hear him say this:
Implicit here is the question of how we look to God to act and to enter our lives. For whatever reason, certainly foreign to most of us, God has chosen to enter the world today through others, through us. We have stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, but far more often the God of unconditional love comes to us in human form, just as God did over 2,000 years ago.

I believe differently now than 30 years ago. First, I do not expect to have all the answers, nor do I believe that people are really looking for them. Second, I don’t look for the hand of God to stop evil. I don’t expect comfort to come from afar. I really do believe that God enters the world through us. And even though I still have the “Why?” questions, they are not so much “Why, God?” questions. We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not.
O'Neill goes on to speak of how he felt the presence of Christ when his younger brother, Brian, died suddenly at 44 years old. He said that family and friends really were the presence of God in the midst of his pain. He reminds us that God often enters our world in the form of family and community. He concludes with this great thought:
A contemporary theologian has described mercy as “entering into the chaos of another.” Christmas is really a celebration of the mercy of God who entered the chaos of our world in the person of Jesus, mercy incarnate. I have never found it easy to be with people who suffer, to enter into the chaos of others. Yet, every time I have done so, it has been a gift to me, better than the wrapped and ribboned packages. I am pulled out of myself to be love’s presence to someone else, even as they are love’s presence to me.
I like that definition of mercy. I want to be love's presence to another person. How about you?

10 Ways to Stunt Your Spiritual Growth

Found this list on Jim Palmer's Facebook page ...
  1. Separate people into “us” and “them”.
  2. Believe you need to be rescued from yourself and cured of your own badness.
  3. Treat the afterlife as more important than the herelife.
  4. Make God about correct theology.
  5. Divide the world up into “sacred” and “secular”.
  6. Mistrust what you most deeply feel.
  7. Limit your experience of the divine to the people, places and programs of institutional church.
  8. Question your competence when it comes to charting your own spiritual path.
  9. Assume you more or less already have it all figured out, settle in, and stop exploring.
  10. Pour concrete around your latest ___________.
Seems like a good list to end 2012. I can resonate with many of these - especially #6. How about you? Can you relate?

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World | ★★★★★★

This movie was on its way to us on the day that some thought would be our last because the Mayan calender expired. I did not think that it was a great flick but thought that it's examination of responses to an apocalyptic event was pretty good. Some responded in the style of the proverbial sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. There was chaos on the street, smug confidence in bomb shelters and fear in the hearts of men. Enter Dodge and Penny - played by Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. These two put a human face on the apocalypse as they travel together to find an old flame.

Dodge comes across as such an antihero. In him I find myself wondering how I would respond to an end-of-the-world scenario. Would I find peace as the end approaches or would I respond differently? Would I, like Dodge, focus on the dreams of another or would I live for myself. The setting causes us to wonder how we would act under such situations. Be warned that the movie begins with a lot of apocalyptic induced vulgarity. Yet it gracefully transitions to something more thoughtful. For that reason, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Merry Christmas

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Dysfunctional Christmas Carols

With complements of Therese Borchard at Beyond Blue ...
  • Schizophrenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Kings Disoriented Are
  • Dementia — I Think I’ll be Home for Christmas
  • Narcissistic — Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
  • Manic — Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and…..
  • Paranoid — Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me
  • Borderline Personality Disorder — Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire
  • Personality Disorder — You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll Tell You Why
  • Attention Deficit Disorder — Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy – can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells….
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder –
    :: You better not cry – Oh yes I will
    :: You better not Shout – I can if i want to
    :: You better not pout – Can if i want to
    :: I’m telling you why – Not listening
    :: Santa Claus is coming to town – No he’s not!!
Hope a few of these brought a smile and a bit of cheer to you today. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Favorites

Thought I might share a few favorites ala Debbie's blog:

  •  Christmas Movie: "It's a Wonderful Life" tops my list
  •  Winter Beverage: Hard to beat a latte when it is cold
  •  Christmas Song: "O Holy Night" still moves me deeply
  •  Winter Clothing: Sadly, probably my KC Chiefs coat
  •  Holiday Food: Love peanut brittle and cheese balls
  •  Christmas Decoration: Prelit Xmas Tree - so easy
  •  Nail Polish: I hammer nails but don't polish them.
  •  Top of my Xmas list: Something a person cannot give
  •  Plans for Christmas: Xmas Eve kids sleepover

What are your Christmas favorites? Anything to add?

Machine Gun Preacher | ★★★★★★★★

This movie is a portrayal of the true-life story of a once imprisoned drug addict who turns to the Lord and finds himself in the Sudan rescuing child soldiers. The movie was so impacting on so many levels. Gerard Butler did a great job playing Sam Childers. I so resonated with Sam's spiritual transformation and was so inspired by his courageous mission to the children of the Sudan. I also felt for him as I watched him go through a period of disillusionment where he questioned how God could allow the gut-wrenching horrors and atrocities that he saw in Africa.

The movie is not for the faint of heart. It deserves the 'R' rating. I think that some folks may be a bit uncomfortable with the violent force that Sam used to protect the children housed in the orphanage that he built in the Sudan. I struggled with that too and wondered what I would be willing to do to protect the most innocent among us. The best moment for me was when one of those innocents told Sam: "If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, then they've won. We must not let them take our hearts."   I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Tyranny of the Few

"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." -- Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi [An Autobiography, pg 446]
The events last week in Newtown Connecticut, and the resulting discussions about gun control, reminds me of how a minuscule number of people have impacted our lives so much. Consider how ...
  • one man has caused so much fear for American school children;
  • terrorists changed the way that normal people travel on airplanes;
  • crazy people with guns are causing grief for sane people who own guns;
  • a person tampering with drugs made it hard for people to open medicine bottles;
  • malicious hackers make everyone with a computer buy antivirus software;
  • weirdo thieves cause people like me to buy identity theft insurance.
Last weekend I drove, instead of walked, to get takeout at the Chinese restaurant down the street simply because it was dark.
Fear impacts us in the most subtle and profound ways. The tyranny of the few cause many of us to do strange things.

What's love got to do with it?

Sometimes an image speaks deeply to truth. I so agree that love does not cease when we are angry or upset with a person. Jesus put it this way:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. ... If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
So true. Our commitment to love is always tested. In a sense we do not really know if we love someone until they upset us. In a divine sense love is sacrificial and offered with no expectation of love in return. Now that is real love!

Splintered Christianity

A recent Pew Forum article that reported about the religious composition of the US Congress got me wondering why people need to identify themselves as anything other than Christian. The Pew report made a big separation of Christians who are "Protestant" vs those who are "Catholic". Does that seem strange to anyone else. In my thinking Protestant groups like Episcopalians are way more like Catholics when you look at their Sunday Services. And Catholics are probably more like Evangelicals with regard to social issues like abortion. And does anyone believe that groups like Baptists and Lutherans hold identical theological views? It makes me wonder why we do not just identify ourselves as Christian or, if you are hip, Christ Follower? Why not focus on that which unites us rather than what divides us?

Christmas Devotions

Beginning today I will be posting ten daily devotions from the scriptures about the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ over at my faith blog, An Eye for Redemption.

I hope that you will join me over there as Christmas approaches and we consider the majesty and wonder of how the King of all kings came to earth as a helpless baby.

Prayer for the Families of Newtown

Lord, we come to You as a nation in shock and mourning for those who were killed yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut. Words escape us and we have no context to understand the pain of the families that are suffering and in need of comfort. Please visit them with gentleness and compassion as they mourn great loss.

Give these strength and courage to live life vigorously again and to not be afraid of stranger or friend. Turn their despair into hope, hate into love and anger into joy.

Lord we pray for Your mercy and compassion on our nation. We live in troubled times, and the answers to our problems are not simple or easy. Send Your Spirit upon us to strengthen our resolve to root out the violence, hate, and fear in our country. Create in us hearts of courage, grace us with the ability to stand against the violence of our day: violence in ourselves, our homes, streets and communities. In your name we pray. Amen

The Debt Cliff

Back in September financial poobah Peter Schiff wrote an oped titled: "The real fiscal cliff". In it he frames our current national monetary crisis in this way:

"The buyers, who legitimately can be described as “investors,” extend credit to the United States at such generous terms largely because of America’s size, power and perceived economic unassailability. If those perceptions change, 5 percent could quickly become a floor, not a ceiling, for interest rates. Given that America’s balance sheet bears more than a casual resemblance to those of both Spain and Italy, it should not be radical to assume that one day we will be asked to pay the same amount as they do for the money we borrow. The brutal truth is that 6 percent or 7 percent interest rates will force the government to either slash federal spending across the board (including cuts to politically sensitive entitlements), raise middle-class taxes significantly, default on the debt, or hit everyone with the sustained impact of high inflation. Now that’s a real fiscal cliff."

I suggest that you read the whole article here. I agree with Schiff when he says:

"By foolishly borrowing so heavily when interest rates are low, our government is driving us toward this cliff with its eyes firmly glued to the rearview mirror. Most economists downplay debt-servicing concerns with assertions that we have entered a new era of permanently low interest rates. This is a dangerously naive idea."

A different kind of Redneck

My blogging friend Linda shared something that made me think. I loved the way that her post turned around the pejorative Redneck descriptor and presented a different perspective on the word. Here is a snippet for your enjoyment.

You might be a redneck if ...

    •  You bow your head when someone prays.

    •  You still say 'Christmas' instead of 'Winter Festival.'

    •  You respect your elders and raised your kids to do the same.

    •  You'd give your last dollar to a friend.

    •  You treat our armed forces veterans with great respect, and always have.

    •  You've never burned an American flag, nor intend to.

    •  It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, 'One nation, under God..'

    •  You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.

    •  You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem.

    •  You know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.

Now if these make you cringe a bit - I suggest that you might be taking Jeff Foxworthy's jokes a bit too seriously. :)

Time is Timeless

The title of this post comes from Diana Butler Bass in an article that she writes about Advent and the end times. Here is an excerpt from it:

"If we enter the Advent journey with a different perspective on time, the apocalyptic texts speak afresh. Indeed, the words of the liturgical prayer weekly reminds us of the mystery of God's redemptive time: Jesus has come; Jesus comes; Jesus will come. This is the dance of time, grace-filled steps that enact God's vision that the end-times are all times; that all times are the end-times. In this spirit of times-enfolded-in-time, we walk through Advent. Jesus has been born, but we act as if we are still waiting. Christ will return, yet Christ has already come."

I love thinking about the timeless nature of time. I resonate with Diana when I think about the coming of the Lord - he has come, he is coming and he will come. I look forward to the day when he comes for me but even more, I savor the times when he has come in my life a meaningful way.

Ancient TV Quiz

I suggest that you are probably as old as I am if you get this cartoon. It reminds me of some of the great TV shows from the 50s. Do you remember any of these?

    •  The future Monkee who played Corky in Circus Boy;
    •  The brother of Peter Graves (aka Jim Phelps) who played Marshall Dillon;
    •  Timmy's mom in Lassie who also played Will Robinson's mom.

Did you get the cartoon? How many of these folks did you know? Let me know!

King Kong Phones

This image reminds me that I bought my Android phone a few years ago because it actually fit in my pockets. These days, with the introduction of the iPhone 5 and other mega-sized 4"+ sized phones, I have lost hope that my next cell phone will ever fit in my pocket. What is your experience with the newer phones. Did you have to buy a backpack or a man-purse to carry them around? Or do you have big hands?

Will Pot Prohibition be Repealed?

Yesterday was the 79th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U.S Constitution which repealed the Prohibition of alcohol sales. Much has been made of Prohibition in the movies and how people found a way to break the law and booze it up. Some folks even made millions from selling it illegally in speakeasies and mobsters gained power during Prohibition .

The similarities to the banning of pot today seems a bit like the Prohibition days. The stuff is sold illegally today and mobsters are making money from it. So I am wondering, with the newly legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, if the nationwide Prohibition of pot will one day bite the dust.

Do you think that marijuana will soon be legalized? I think not.

Move Over Laws

The Move Over America website indicates that only Hawaii and Delaware do not have laws that protect emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road. Laws differ from state to state but each endorses the idea that drivers, when approaching these situations, should either move to another lane or decrease their speed by 20 MPH if they cannot. Have you ever heard of this law?

You Christians eat your own.

I read a short, yet sobering, article today in Christianity Today about fallen evangelical pastor Ted Haggard. Here is a brief excerpt where an atheist friend chastises the author:

See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can't forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him." Then he uttered words that left me reeling: "You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will."

You can read this brief Christian reality check here.

Men in Black 3 | ★★★★★★★

You will probably like this version of MIB if you liked the first installment. In this version Agent J (played by Will Smith) has to, as the byline indicates, goes back in time to save the future. When he arrives in 1969 he meets a much younger version of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones character played masterfully by Josh Brolin) - and yes, you do have to suspend logic a bit to follow it. The movie is filled with all sorts of MIB aliens and special effects. Loved the interactions between "J" and both versions of "K". Brolin seemed to capture the persona of the younger agent - it came across more organic than a simple mimicty of Jones' "K". I thought Jermaine Clements did a great job as the villainous Boris the Animal - reminded me a bit of Edgar the Cockroach from the original MIB.

I liked the movie! I thought that it was better than the second MIB and was very much on par with the first installment. On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Earnings Suspense File

Have you ever heard of the file mentioned in the post title? According to a Seattle Times article titled "Illegal immigrants pay Social Security tax, won't benefit" ...
"Social Security officials keep a record of wages that do not match up with real names and numbers in their system. The record is called the earnings suspense file.

While many Americans believe illegal immigrants don't pay taxes, billions of dollars deducted from paychecks issued to undocumented workers flow to the Social Security Administration (SSA) every year. Those workers almost certainly will never see that money again.

In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, employers reported wages of $72.8 billion for 7.7 million workers who could not be matched to legal Social Security numbers."
Causes me to wonder how much more revenue would be collected if the United States somehow found a way for these immigrants to become citizens. In truth we baby boomers need these immigrants. Unlike our parents we have had small families which means that this next generation of tax payers will not be able to foot the bill for the Medicare and Social Security benefits that we boomers will withdrawing from those systems in the coming years.

Vulcan Salute Quiz

William Shatner might have been a dashing Star Fleet captain and all around beloved intergalatic explorer in his role as Captain Kirk but there was one thing he just couldn’t master. What do you think he needed to perform the Vulcan Salute?

    1) Hypnosis
    2) Super Glue
    3) Fishing Line
    4) Physical Therapy

Check your answer here and let me know how you did.

Shop at Military Friendly Employers

The 10th annual list of Top 100 Military Friendly Employers® was released today on militaryfriendly.com, a new site that highlights companies with leading employment solutions for military. The list of 100 companies represents the top 2 percent of more than 5,000 eligible companies whose annual revenues exceeded $500 million.

I am thankful for companies that pay more than lip service to returning vets. Here are a few of the companies that made the list:
GE (#9), Sears (#14), Verizon (#15), HP (#18), Pepsi (#24), AT&T (#30), Lowes (#38), State Farm (#41), Travelers Insurance (#52), Southwest Airlines (#58), Progressive (#69), T-Mobile (#71), Walmart (#78), Amazon.com (#89), Home Depot (#92), Microsoft (#99), Allstate Insurance (#100)
Wonder if the list will affect the ways that people shop for Christmas? Do you think that list will cause a person to buy at Walmart instead of Target? Wonder if it will influence anyone to buy HP/Microsoft over Apple? My guess is that the list will be unread by the masses. If you would like to know which companies they are you can check the list here.

Mr. 3,000

No, this is not a movie review. Just a chance for me to stop and reflect on this my 3,000th post here at Kansas Bob since I first opined here in November 2006.

    •  Blogging has helped me reshape my ideology and theology.
    •  Writing about movies (120 posts) I have seen has been a fun experience.
    •  I wrote more about the 2008 elections (186 posts) than in 2012 (34 posts).
    •  I must really like quotes because I have included them in 216 posts.
    •  Most of my early cyber-friends now prefer Facebook over blogging.
    •  Combined with my other blogs I might hit 5,000 posts next year.

Thanks for reading my blogs. I so appreciate your visits and comments.

Giving Tuesday?

Have you heard of this? From the Giving Tuesday website:

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help create #GivingTuesday™, the giving season’s opening day. On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It’s a simple idea. Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. Join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity. And together we’ll create ways to give more, give better and give smarter.

Wonder what people will think up next? Taking Thursday?

No Waiting in Line on Cyber Monday

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for. -Will Rogers

I think that this quote encapsulates the sentiments that many of us felt last Friday - or other times for that matter. With the advent on online shopping many of us simply stay away from the obnoxious crowds and long shopping lines. Even so, there is something that I do like about shopping at a local store. There is just something appealing to be able to actually touch something before you buy it. Of course one can always feel it in person then buy it cheaper online. What do you think?

Seven Rules

As many of you know I once loved rules very much - many computer programmers are attracted to that vocation because of the logical rules involved. A few thoughts on these rules ...

    1) The past can be an anchor in both good and bad ways.
    2) I need to make sure that I have a thick skin.
    3) Patience and perspective can often seem to work miracles.
    4) We are all so clueless. We need to always love not judge.
    5) Thinking too much sounds like worry.
    6) They say that joy is a choice.
    7) A heart filled with joy can handle a lot of pain.

In general I found these to include some good ideas. Any thoughts on any or all of them? I'd love to hear your reactions.

Happy Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence. ~William Jennings Bryan

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. ~Aesop

Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now. ~A.W. Tozer

Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. ~Irving Berlin

We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning. ~Albert Barnes

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. ~Cicero

O Lord that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness. ~William Shakespeare

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

Am I a progressive Christian?

To follow up on yesterday's post about being spiritual and not religious (the comments on Facebook were really good) I thought that I might share a a few of my thoughts on the conclusions of Presbyterian Minister Bruce Reyes-Chow in his Huffington Post piece titled "You might be a progressive Christian if..."

You can be described, but not defined:
I think that I probably share a theological box with Charismatics, Evangelicals and Methodists. I have to admit that some of my views are a bit different though and my box may be bigger than you think. :)

You are more than a party platform:
I like to think of myself as a compassionate fiscal conservative. Yet I find myself sometimes disagreeing with folks like me almost as much as those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

You are not just waiting for the other side to get over its idiocy:
I agree with this sentiment: "The Progressive Christian will always honor the idea that community only grows if she is open to the possibility that she might be just as wrong as the other side thinks she is."

You believe God can and does speak through disagreement:
The word compromise has got a bad rap in religious circles. I am one who thinks that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Unless we find a way to debate in love we will probably never grow spiritually.

You seek the highest common denominator:
One of my favorite sayings is "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity!" People of faith have so much in common. Sad that we spend so much time fixating on our differences.

You find God's inerrant truth in a non-literal understanding of Scripture:
I sense that this one could really get me in trouble with some. Even so I have to admit my life changed for the better when I began to let go of my bibliolatry and embrace the glorious truth that I find in the bible.

You bear with the battles:
The battles that Bruce speaks of are church squabbles and schisms. On two distinct occasions I have been able to help churches get healthy by bearing with such battles. Even so I do not consider these my greatest spiritual battles.

You are appreciate the person over position:
I find religious position to be the least effective influence in my life. The influence of Jesus in my life has always been about love and forgiveness. This type of influence is always greater than position.

You choose the middle:
These past years I have found myself drawn away from black and white thinking. I find so much vibrant color when I stay away from the extremes. Even so, I want to be a person who is passionate about loving God and loving people.

You do not demand loyalty:
The things that I have done from a sense of loyalty to church leaders have never been my finer moments. Following God is not about loyalty to leaders. Following God is all about love. His love for us and our love for him.

What about you?
Wonder what you think of Bruce's descriptive points about what it means to be a Progressive Christian. I resonated with some but think that some may not be all that much about being progressive but simply being Christian.

the spiritual not religious cop out

Alan Miller, Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London's Old Truman Brewery, offers a few thoughts in a post titled "My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out". Here are a few excerpts ...

The increasingly common refrain that "I'm spiritual, but not religious," represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious "movement" - an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect - highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.

It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today.
The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind. What is it, this "spiritual" identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?
Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better." There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us. At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world.

But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is "something out there," so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions - and for the future.

Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.

Geezer Quiz

From my email inbox. Twenty fun memory testers for Baby Boomers ...
  1. After the Lone Ranger saved the day and rode off into the sunset, the grateful citizens would ask, Who was that masked man? Invariably, someone would answer, I don't know, but he left this behind. What did he leave behind?
  2. When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in early 1964, we all watched them on The _______________ Show.
  3. 'Get your kicks, __________________.'
  4. 'The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to ___________________.'
  5. 'In the jungle, the mighty jungle, ________________.'
  6. After the Twist, The Mashed Potato, and the Watusi, we 'danced' under a stick that was lowered as low as we could go in a dance called the '_____________.'
  7. Nestle's makes the very best ... _________.'
  8. Satchmo was America's 'Ambassador of Goodwill.' Our parents shared this great jazz trumpet player with us. His name was _________________.
  9. What takes a licking and keeps on ticking? _______________.
  10. Red Skeleton's hobo character was named __________________ and Red always ended his television show by saying, 'Good Night, and'________ ________'.
  11. Some Americans who protested the Vietnam War did so by burning their ______________.
  12. The cute little car with the engine in the back and the trunk in the front was called the VW. What other names did it go by? ____________ &_______________.
  13. In 1971, singer Don MacLean sang a song about, 'the day the music died.' This was a tribute to ___________________.
  14. We can remember the first satellite placed into orbit. The Russians did it. It was called ___________________.
  15. One of the big fads of the late 50's and 60's was a large plastic ring that we twirled around our waist. It was called the ______________.
  16. Remember Lucky Strike ... _____ _____ _____?
  17. Hey Kids! What time is it? It's _____ ______ _____!
  18. Who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of men? The _____ Knows!
  19. There was a song that came out in the 60's that was "a grave yard smash" it's name was the ______ ______!
  20. Alka Seltzer used a "boy with a tablet on his head" as it's Logo/Representative. What was the boys Name?
Check your answers in the comments section. How did you do. I missed three.

Medicine as Art

Ann's neurologist was interviewed earlier this year by the Kansas City Business Journal. Thought this quote from her was worth repeating:

Medicine is definitely an art, in my view. While we need science to guide us in our knowledge of appropriate treatments, the choice of a specific treatment for a specific patient is guided by so many different factors that we need to use our experience and understanding of the specific circumstances of that patient to guide us. No two patients are alike. There is a need for flexibility and trial and error to decide on the best course for each individual.

I have found that to be true. Unfortunately some doctors do not seem to embrace the art as much as the science of medicine. What has been your experience? Do you see the art in the practice of medicine?

Spiderman Shrugged | ★

This was definitely not a great week for movie watching at our place. If you have seen the Toby Maguire flavored movies and expected more of the same you will be very disappointed with "The Amazing Spider-Man". This version is filled with wooden actors and an unimaginative too-long plot . The Ayn Rand based "Atlas Shrugged" may have been one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. The plot was bad and the acting worse. Doubtful that even Rand's most ardent followers could follow this tripe.

I hated both movies and, on a scale of ten, give each .

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

House Calls

This morning I read this retelling of a time on Staten Island (my hometown in New York) when doctors came to your home when you were sick - no kidding, they really did.
On Forest Avenue, between Raymond Place (adjacent to Clove Lakes Park) and Manor Road, stood a small two story Tudor style house, brick and dark brown half timber and trim.

This was the office and the residence of Thomas J. Dunne, M.D., who delivered all of my siblings and me. He made house calls carrying his black bag. On one such visit to our house on Raymond place in 1951, he wrapped me in a blanket and personally took me away in his car to St. Vincent's Hospital with a diagnosis of poliomyelitis. Subsequently, I was shipped to an isolation ward in Manhattan as SI went through the last big polio epidemic before Jonas Salk's vaccine stopped the virus in its tracks.

Dr. Dunne would make change from his pocket during an office visit, and would see four of us kids for the huge fee of $3 or $4, and often gave my mother large supplies of sample vitamins left for his practice by drug companies. He lived and practiced medicine in that quaint little corner house for decades. In the mid 90's his small shingle still hung, though I am sure he was retired. I rang the bell, but no one was home.

He was a great caregiver to our family...the old fashioned G.P., a term not in use any longer.
Reminds me of the time when the doctor came to my house when I had a bad stomach ache. Before I knew it he called an ambulance and I was at the hospital getting my appendix removed. Are you old enough to remember house calls?

So much has been taken away ...

My friend Carla shared this on her blog a while back and has given me permission to share it here. I offer it to give you a glimpse not only into Carla's life but to the world that my wife Ann and I sometimes live in as well.

I have been sad, I despise needing help / assistance from anyone, especially my husband. I feel like a burden, I have little to no independence, & I am so over living in a 3 level house in which I have access to only 1 level. I have boycotted please & thank you from my vocabulary with my husband as he loved to remind me when I didn't say it. I can't stand when I have to ask for anything I need that I cannot reach, or is on a different floor, or even in a different vicinity (needing the van) it's as though the task is being recorded so it can come back at me as if I don't appreciate anything that is done for me - this is never pleasant because it always occurs when I am experiencing a bad day physically & am already ornery.

I am learning that caregiving is not for everyone, we were blindsided & this ordeal has been quite a lesson learned, our personalities have changed & the meaning behind the marriage vow "In sickness & in health" does not have to be performed out of love but by duty, you just never know what to expect & no one is at blame & I know my duty is to be grateful that the duties have been met.

This is a very difficult way to live! I have been sad, unmotivated, lonely even in my own home, I am kept from so much and the punishment continues because why? Oh right, I am wheelchair bound. Dang it, it's not my fault, I didn't ask for this to happen to me but I would sure appreciate encouragement verses ridicule.

I want to walk, to be able to go upstairs to my art studio & create & be amongst my Wizard of Oz collection, to go down stairs & do my own laundry, to be able to reach anything in the kitchen cabinets, go outside & cut the grass or work in the garden, visit my family & friends by myself or with someone, or go on a (walk) with my husband. So much has been taken away from me, things that made me "me" & now I have so little to replace what was taken & I struggle to pull myself up by my bootstraps & find a new way, I certainly can't rely of any sense of encouragement at home so I have to dig deep within myself, this too will pass.

I have faith, & through Christ all things are possible , so no more pity party but it has been beneficial for me to enter this into this blog / my journal so I can remember my struggles & how I got through them.

Pauline Devotions

These past 100 days I have so enjoyed sharing daily reflections on the writings of King Solomon in Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I hope that you have had a chance to catch a few of my thoughts as I have journaled through his writings at my faith blog.

Beginning tomorrow I will be sharing daily devotional thoughts from the epistles of the Apostle Paul. I look forward to learning from and reflecting on what this amazing man teaches us about faith, hope and love. I invite you to travel along with me at An Eye for Redemption.

The Wiki on Wikipedia

This funny Ziggy cartoon reminds me that using Wikipedia is not like reading the old Encyclopedias. Here is the wiki on it ...

"Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism. Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or, if they choose to, with their real identity."

Wonder how many understand this about Wikipedia? Suspect that some do not. Ever wondered about something your read there?

8 Glasses Rule :: Not Too Scientific

A while back Gillian Mayman wrote a piece titled "The mysterious origins of the “8 glasses of water a day” rule" at "Mind the Science Gap". Here are a few excerpts ...

The idea that you need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day is ubiquitous in American culture. I’ve had doctors tell me this. I’ve read it on credible medical web sites. I’ve listened to a professor of public health discuss this as if it is scientific fact. However, there is no scientific basis for the “8 glasses of water a day” rule. Even more intriguingly, the origins are somewhat of a mystery.
So how much water do we need? Clearly, athletes and people who live in very hot climates need more water. But for the average person, the amount of liquid that they take in just needs to match the amount that they lose through bodily excretions such as urine, feces, sweat, and exhaled water vapor. For women this is about 2.2 liters and for men it’s about 3 liters, according to the Mayo Clinic. [This translates to about 74 ounces for women and 101 ounces for men.] However, the liquid that is consumed does not need to be water. It can be tea, coffee, soda, juice or other beverage. It can also come from foods that we eat which contain water.

I do feel that the 8 glasses of water rule has some merit - even if only for the awareness that it brings. I think that it is a good idea to stay hydrated even if the means is not purely water. What do you think?

Debating Determinism

Greg Boyd has written an excellent post about the ways that the ninth chapter of Romans can be interpreted. I recommend that you read the whole of it here. He ends it this way ...

On the basis of these six considerations I conclude that the deterministic interpretation of Romans 9 is as misguided as it is unfortunate. It is misguided not only because it misinterprets Paul, but because it fundamentally clashes with the supremacy of God’s self-revelation in Christ. And it is unfortunate because it tragically replaces the unsurpassably glorious picture of God as Jesus Christ dying on the cross for undeserving sinners with a picture of a deity who defies all moral sensibilities by arbitrarily fashioning certain people to be vessels fit for eternal destruction — and then punishing them for being that way. It exchanges the picture of a beautiful God who reigns supreme with self-sacrificial love and flexible wisdom for a picture of a God who reigns by the arbitrary exercise of sheer power.

I unequivocally affirm that the sovereign God “has mercy on whomever he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whomever he wants to harden.” I would simply add that the “whomever” he has mercy on refers to “all who choose to believe” while the “whomever” he hardens refers to “all who refuse to believe.” The passage demonstrates the wisdom of God’s loving flexibility, not the sheer determinism of God’s power.

Tablet Buying Criteria

This summer I bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet (pictured below) for my wife Ann's birthday. She absolutely loves it and uses it all of the time. With Christmas just weeks away you might be thinking of buying a tablet. If so here are some questions, from David Gewirtz at ZDNet, to help you narrow the choice ...
  • If how much you spend is the most important, get the $199 Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7.
  • If how much you spend is really, really important, get the last-generation Kindle Fire for $159.
  • If the most important thing is using all your iOS apps, get the iPad mini.
  • If the most important thing is using all your Android apps, get the Nexus 7.
  • If you want the freedom to run apps that Apple might not approve of, get the Nexus 7.
  • If you're an avid Amazon customer and want all the benefits of Amazon Prime, free videos, and the ability to "borrow" Kindle books, get a Kindle Fire HD.
  • If you think you'll be infuriated when Apple introduces a better iPad mini for the same price and drops the price on this one, don't get the iPad mini right now.
  • If you want the most mainstream option, with better app security, and you don't mind spending extra for the privilege, get the iPad mini.
  • If you've never used a tablet or a tablet operating system and you want access to the most training resources and materials, get the iPad mini.
  • If you want to read magazines and books in the bathroom and don't want to freak out if you drop your tablet in the toilet, get the last-generation Kindle Fire.
For me price and the ability to run all Android apps was the most important feature. Ann surfs the web, does email and reads books using the Kindle and Nook apps. Let me know if this helps and how you are leaning tablet-wise.

The Day After the Vote

This funny Shoebox cartoon reminds me that ...

    •  America is a great country built on diverse views,
    •  People are divided on candidates but unified on freedom,
    •  My New Years predictions are often very wrong,
    •  Our constitution is an amazing and enduring document,
    •  Republicans are splintered and need to find common ground,
    •  The hardest change is often the change in my attitude,
    •  Ohioans like my friends Julie and Brian made the difference,
    •  For now, politics will not dominate the news,
    •  Squawk Radio pundits are not all that influential,
    •  I am probably a bit too much of a political junkie,
    •  Lastly, LOL, I feel more tricked than treated but still grateful.

What are your post-election thoughts? Feel free to share.

Voting: Godly Obligation or Not?

Just read a blog comment that opines:

"the Bible forbids one from voting for someone who does not Fear God, Kiss the Son, and uphold the Commandments. Neither candidate does so. Therefore I will not cast a ballot for president."

It is an interesting take on a Christian's civic responsibility on election day. My view is that religious passivity and sanctimony have never done anything for our nation. I hope that Christians will, if they have not done so already, cast an enlightened vote. What do you think? Godly obligation or not?

Election Advice from John Wesley

My friend Mary posted this advice from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, related to elections in his time – it seems like pretty good advice for Americans this Tuesday:

    I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing
    election, and advised them:

        • To vote, without fee or reward, for the person
          they judged most worthy.
        • To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
        • To take care their spirits were not sharpened
          against those that voted on the other side.

Especially like that last point. Whatever means you use I pray that all Americans will make informed decisions when they vote. Ignorance and apathy, not partisanship, is the enemy.

Argo | ★★★★★★★★

Always hard to sort out fact and fiction from movies based on actual events. I think that was one of the tensions I felt when Argo started with an indictment of America's involvement with the Shah of Iran and the events of the late 70s when he was overthrown and a new leader was put in place.

Once I got past that I found a way to sit back and enjoy this retelling of the rescue of six Americans from Iran. I thought that the directing was great, Ben Affleck's performance good and the plot was suspenseful. There were several twists in the story that kept me interested and on the edge of my seat.

I am not sure that I see it as Oscar worthy but think that it will make it into the company of the top ten 2012 flicks. On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★.

Answering robots when they call ...

This funny SNL image reminds me that I always hang up on Robots, who pretend to be humans, when they call. My practice is also to answer telemarketeers with:

    •  Who gave you my number?
    •  I am on the Missouri the no-call list.
    •  My policy is to not answer questions from strangers.
    •  Please take me off your list.

How do you handle Robots and Marketeers when they call you?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | ★★★★★★★

Ann and I watched and enjoyed the DVD version of this movie last week. This review is compliments of a Netflix member who critiqued it as I would.

This is a very sweet, sentimental movie about 7 Brits that end up moving to India as they try to figure out what to do with their lives after being dealt various blows (money woes, illness, etc). They all end up at the Marigold Hotel which is trying to become a retirement home for "people from countries that don't care about their old people." It's hard to write much more than that without giving away too much! This was a great line up of some of the most beloved British actors! If that is not enough reason to see this film, than the lovely scenes of India certainly are- in my travels there I experienced many of the same things as the characters- especially the scene with the bus! Younger people might not appreciate this film as much as someone closer to retirement but the hopeful message of it's never to late applies to everyone.

I do not think that I could have put it better.
I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Root Beer and Roses

My blogging friend Debby posted her answers to a few questions on her blog and I thought that I would do the same ...
  • What is your favorite Christmas Holiday Movie?
        Like Debbie, I vote for "It's a Wonderful Life".
  • What is your favorite flower?
        Hard to beat a red rose.
  • What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
        I have been a connoisseur of all things Root Beer for many years.
  • What is your passion?
        Since 1976 I have loved designing computer software.
  • What is your favorite time of year?
        Spring! It speaks to me of new life and warmer days.
  • What is your favorite time of day?
        Early morning. I spend it thinking, praying and writing devotions.
  • What is your favorite physical activity?
        Arthritis has severely curtailed my physical activity but I do like to walk.
  • What is your favorite vacation?
        Anyplace I go with my wife. Our trip to British Columbia was memorable.
Feel free to play along and answer all or a few questions in the comments section.

The Image of God

In this world where religious people often paint a picture of a fallen God, there is nothing that speaks more deeply to me about God than the things that I read in the gospels. When I wonder what God is like I am reminded that Jesus Christ told his disciple Phillip that anyone who has seen Him has seen God. Jesus began his ministry by saying that He had come with:

        •   good news for the poor;
        •   freedom for prisoners;
        •   sight for those walking in darkness;
        •   liberty for those being oppressed and
        •   a message of favor and acceptance.

These words teach me that many have a skewed image of God. Some well meaning people simply teach bad news about God and paint him as one who causes bad things. These folks walk in bondage and seem to embrace a blind darkness about the true nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ.