Smartphone Theft

No, I am not talking about folks who steal cellphones but about whether these gadgets steal our time. Consider these arguments for and against from a ZDNet article titled "Are smartphones stealing away our lives?" ...
People fall into two camps in this argument. One camp -- my camp -- is that digital relationships and real-life relationships are levelling off and becoming the same. The other camp is that there is an inherent *specialness* in real-life that digital life can never replace.
I'm certainly not advocating that we eschew mobile technology. As much as they steal moments from us, they also provide us with the ability to save time so we can live our lives more efficiently. However, as a culture we need to learn how to recognize what the high-value experiences in our lives actually are, what we should really be paying attention to, and when we should be paying attention to them.
I love social networks like Facebook and Blogger but I do think that all sorts of technological gadgets often rob us of human interaction - television being the foremost thief. That said, I have to admit to sometimes checking my email when in the company of others. Even so I pray that I will never value electronic interactions over the human flavor.

Seasoned Purpose

Years ago much was made made of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. I
remember reading it and then sharing it for many months with inmates at a prison in Lansing, Kansas. I was reminded of it today when I read this quote:
"The purpose of life is a life of purpose." -Robert Byrne
Purpose in my life has seemed to come in seasons. When I was young my purpose was to be successful. Purpose took on new meaning when my first wife went blind in my twenties. When healing of that blindness came and my life was transformed by God purpose seemed to take on a new dynamic. Then kids came and purpose got even deeper. Yet in every season it seemed that God helped me to see His purpose in my life. These days I still find His strength by acknowledging His purpose for me. Can you relate?

The Great Gatsby | ★★★

I am so glad that I did not spend the bucks to watch this way over-rated flick at the theater. I felt that it dragged along and was pretty much a waste of great acting talent. It was way too long and really needed a strong editing hand.

The movie is about the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leo DiCaprio) and his relationship with new found friend Nick Carraway (Toby McGuire). After dragging us through some pretty boring dialog and silly characters the story gets down to a not-hot-or-romantic-affair between Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). In the end Gatsby comes across as a narcissist and Carraway an insecure writer that may or may not have been the author of the book, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I wanted to like this movie but did not. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★.

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

What about Blog?

Do you have a blog? Tell us about it!

    •  What is the name of it?

    •  Why and what do you write there?

    •  How many times a week do you opine there?

    •  Tell us where to find it (i.e. the URL).

Look forward to hearing more about the place that you blog.

Who is not My Neighbor?

This image reminds me of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told the story in response to a Jewish lawyer's question concerning who was the neighbor that he should love as himself. Jesus sensed the duplicity of the question and confronted the man, and many in his audience, with the idea that the Jews did not love their neighboring Samaritans.

In the parable the religious Jews are showed as uncaring and the Samaritan is shown as the one filled with mercy. Martin Luther King, Jr framed the bottom line issue this way:

The first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

I wonder who Jesus would use today as an example to us of people we call neighbors but do not love or show mercy to. Perhaps this list might be a place to start? Maybe loving our neighbor is really not all that easy? Perchance we need a few more Samaritans in our lives?

Religion, Revenge and Violence

Been recently reading through Leviticus and Numbers thinking that I am glad that these are not the only books of the bible. I am glad that Jesus came to show us what God is really like. Apart from Christ one might get the impression that God advocates violence. Consider these excerpts from Derek Flood's oped in the Huffington Post:
Does religion promote violence? In our post 9/11 world this is a question that people are increasingly asking. Does religion make you a better person, or does it in fact do the opposite, and instead foster hate, fear, and violence? One does not have to look far to find examples of violence done at the hands of religious power, but is religion itself really to blame?

This is a touchy theme that tends to evoke both debate and strong emotions, regardless of which side of the debate one falls onto. For people of faith like myself, the tendency is to see this as an attack, and become defensive. So for a long time my response would have been to deny this claim, and in response to defend my faith's validity and value.
Perhaps the more important question we ought to be asking however is whether our beliefs and convictions actively promote peace? Instead of pointing the finger or claiming innocence, maybe we need to take a look at what we are doing to actively promote dialog and understanding with those with whom we disagree. What are we doing to build bridges in our increasingly polarized culture? What are we doing to actively foster compassion and respect? What are we doing to break the cycle of retaliation in the name of "justice" and instead promote reconciliation and restoration?
I think that it is so easy to point my self-righteous finger at other religions and deflect attention away from my desire for revenge on those who hurt me. I think that is easy to forgive when the offense has not taken much from you. But it is seemingly almost impossible to forgive, and want violent revenge, when someone has taken something dear from you. It is at this times that our desire for peace is tested the most. In times like these our faith is on the line.

Music Within | ★★★★★★★★★

Roger Ebert called it right on this 2007 movie - it was both entertaining and inspiring. Now I have to admit that I am not unbiased when it comes to stories about folks who struggle and overcome obstacles - especially when it comes to people in wheelchairs.

The story is about decorated Vietnam War veteran Richard Pimentel who lost his hearing in the war, defied the odds and became instrumental in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. His story spoke to me about how a person can change the world if they do not give up. The acting by Ron Livingston was good but Michael Sheen was simply stellar as he beautifully played Richard's wheelchaired friend Art who had cerebral palsy.

The title comes from one of Richard's teachers who said: "Most people die with the music still within them." I love that! It reminds me of how hard it is to really be the "real me". I highly recommend the movie to you and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★.

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

When Faith informs our Attitude

Dear Optimist, Pessimist, and Realist,

While you guys were busy arguing about the glass of water, I drank it.

Sincerely, the Opportunist.

A week ago I began leading a group of about 20 folks at church through the "Bible in 90 Days" program. Last night we had our first check in. I love the way that we are all encouraging each other.

One of the great stories from Genesis that we all read is that of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers as a teen and then imprisoned in an Egyptian cell not long afterwards Joesph never seemed to get bitter. And in the end he speaks of God using his hardships to save his family. He even tells his brothers not to be sad about selling him into slavery.

I love his attitude and have to admit that I really needed to hear from the heart of Joseph. Sometimes life is so hard. It is good to hear from a guy that did not lose his faith-filled joy even in the midst of horrible life circumstances. Reading about him reminds me about how faith can inform our attitude. And in a sense our attitude is an indicator of where our faith is.

How might we mistake anger for zeal?

My good bloggin' buddy Mike Erich asks this entitled question in a recent post. Check it out here. Mike quotes Gregory the Great and asks us how we can avoid mistaking anger for zeal. Here is my take on these questions.

First I think that it is good to remember that it is okay to be angry. Things like injustice should cause us to be angry. It is also okay to be passionate or zealous about the things that we are involved in. The problem comes when our anger or zeal is distracted from issues and directed at people. When we do that we dilute the impact of our passions.

History is rife with examples of how religious people misdirected their anger and zeal away from important things and turned them on people who they called heretics. History also informs us of how zealous anger over political ideologies has separated families and countries. In so many instances we ceded success because of misdirected zeal.

In contrast I offer to you the example of the American Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. When I think about Dr Martin Luther King, Jr I see how passion and zeal can change an entire culture when it is done right. Dr King gave us all a shining example of one who was angry about injustice but never lost his love and passion for people.

That is my response to Mike's question. How might you respond?

I Don't Get No Respect!

A bit of Friday the 13th humor with thanks to the late Rodney Dangerfield ...

"When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them."

"The way my luck is running, if I was a politician I would be honest."

"I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap."

"I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. he told me to wear a brown tie."

"I found there was only one way to look thin: hang out with fat people."

"My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion.
He said okay, you're ugly too."

"At twenty a man is full of fight and hope. He wants to reform the world. When he is seventy he still wants to reform the world, but he know he can't."

I just came to see what hate looked like ...

These words were what Country Music star Vince Gill spoke to a group of protesters last Sunday right here in Kansas City. The group were from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas and they were there to protest because the Gill married Amy Grant in 1998 after their first marriages came to an end. Here is the reported dialog:

“Vince Gill, what in the world are you doing out here?” a woman on the line asked.

“I just came to see what hate looked like,” he said.

“Well, more importantly,” the woman said, “what are you doing with another man’s wife?”

“I came out to see what hatred really looked like in the face.”

“Don’t you know that divorce plus remarriage equals adultery?” the woman asked. “Jesus Christ said that.”

“Did he?” Gill responded. “You know what else he said? He said a lot of stuff about forgiveness, about grace. You guys don’t have any of that.”

Sad that when folks hear the name Fred Phelps or the name of his church people think about hate. I long for a day when churches, and the people who attend them, are more equated with loving people than hating the things that people outside of their buildings do. And yes, in the words of John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will be as one." Or maybe just a small part of it?

Will people remember 9/11 in 2101?

Kudos to the Newseum for producing this great front page from 100 years ago. My wife, her sister and niece took in the Titanic Exhibition at Union Station last year and spent hours viewing the seemingly ancient artifacts. She reports that there was silk and even papers that survived the salt water for so many years. Hard to believe that we are still talking about it today like it just happened. Of course the Titanic movie might be helping to keep the memory fresh.

I wonder if folks will be talking about the 9/11/2001 terrorist acts in 100 years? Not many younger folks remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese any more. I wonder how many will remember 9/11 if peace progress is made with the Muslim / Arab peoples? These days we seem to have a great relationship with Japan. What do you think?

The Authentic You

Been quite a few weeks at our place. We returned from a nice vacation in Aspen, CO to hear news that Ann's 97 year old mom was close to dying. One week ago today she passed away. Ann's sister Sue from Charleston, SC flew in on Sunday and stayed with us. We all traveled north a few hours for the two day visitation, funeral and the burial. Got back on Tuesday and took Sue to the airport Wednesday morning. Within a few hours of returning from the airport I started to experience abdominal pain. After several visits to doctors it was determined that I had a hernia. Surgery yesterday afternoon and I was back home last night. Thank God for pain meds!

Highs and lows of life can help us to identify the important things in life. Sometimes things like funerals can help you connect to the authentic you. Consider what Kim Allen says in this recent article.
Without thinking about it, point to yourself. You probably didn't point to your head. Rather, you pointed to the center of your chest, the area around the heart. And the reason most of us do is evident in the way the word heart is used in just about every culture and language around the world: Follow your heart; speak from your heart; in your heart you know. All metaphors for the authentic you!

Being true to your heart is the formula for living the life you want. When there is an alignment between what's in your heart and the actions you carry out the better life seems to work. You're fulfilled, content and at peace. You feel care, appreciation, love, joy, compassion, kindness-heart-felt emotions that not only feel good, but are good for you, too. Is it any wonder we all live for the moments our hearts come alive?
I love that last sentence. I have had moments like that. Those heart enlivening moments usually help us to understand who we really are in an authentic sense. Consider these questions posed by Kim:
  • What matters most to you?
  • What's important to you professionally? Personally?
  • What values do the people you admire exemplify?
  • What motivates you to put in more effort at work?
  • What would you do Saturday morning if time, distance and money weren't an issue?

These are good questions. What things do you feel brings out the authentic you? Do you find joys (like vacations) or trials (like doctors and hospitals) surface the real you? Or perhaps it is helping people who hurt? When do you most sense that you are being the real you? I would love to hear your thoughts!