America, we have a mess on our hands.  Job loss continues to be a problem, government spending has caused insurmountable deficits, the world economy is losing its faith in the U.S.  dollar, we are on the brink of hyperinflation, and fear about the future is swelling with every new headline.  Every other  economist seems to have a different explanation of how we got here and no one seems to know how to get us out.  Politicians are too busy covering their tracks and scheming to out-play their opponents that resolve seems unattainable.

How have we lost control?

Well, truthfully, that question answers itself. We, the people, have lost control.  We have forgotten that our forefathers intended that the power lay in our hands.

I recently read an article over at the Huffington Post (originally posted by NY Daily News) that quietly reveals truths about a dangerous mentality that infects many Americans.  The article is written about a young baseball fan, Christian Lopez, who made headlines by selflessly returning a baseball he retrieved during a game at Yankee Stadium after a home run off the bat of Derek Jeter that symbolized the Jeter’s 3,000th hit.  Why the headlines?  Because that ball likely would have brought Lopez a six-figure payday.  A similar ball, off the bat off Alex Rodriguez–symbolizing his 500th home run–sold for $103,579.

Enjoying a moment from the Yankee prize closet.

Now, being a devout baseball fan, I would not normally be upset while reading an article like this one.  Lopez’ gesture was a commendable one that highlighted the talent and career of a good baseball player instead of drawing attention in a more negative way.  It’s good for baseball and it’s a good example of strong character.

The article steers toward a more maddening story when the unwelcomed IRS rears its ugly head.  The IRS is allegedly mandating that the gifts the New York Yankees dug out of their prize closet for this generous young man be reported as income, thus, potentially costing him thousands in taxes.

That is corrupt.  The IRS is corrupt.  That’s all I have to say about that.

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A New Passion

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well, I’m back to blogging.

Over the course of my life, I’ve gone through roller-coaster phases of passionate subjective response.  When I’m feeling passionate, I tell someone about it; when I’m not, I keep my mouth shut and my fingers off the keyboard.  I started this blog a little over a year ago, and back then, I was passionate about spirituality.  Over the last year, however, I’ve changed quite a bit (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to those who know me personally), and my new views on spirituality…. well… they’re just not worth talking about.

So, although it doesn’t really fit with the “theme” of this blog, I’m going to talk about something I’m presently passionate about: politics and social topics.  Maybe this phase will last a few years or maybe just 1000 words, who knows.  Enjoy the apex while it lasts.

New post coming shortly.

It was a still early-summer morning at the coffee shop I call home away from home. I had made a few lattes for the regular customers and my co-worker, Deanna, had just arrived in time for the morning rush. The day was just like every other. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened, just the usual coffee addicts twitching away with shallow conversation until their first sip. There were no dramatic or exciting incidents to make the morning stand out; just business as usual.

 Then the storm clouds arrived.

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Apology to the Readers

Posted: July 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

As you can probably tell, I have not been very active in the blogosphere in recent weeks. I could complain about the lack of personal computer that has me frustrated and discouraged, but you already know about that little fiasco (unless this is the first entry you’ve read; if so, the quick version is: canine urine and laptops don’t mix).

There are other factors that go into why I have not been posting. I have been challenged by a couple of people on my beliefs. One reader basically accused me of being a heretic. At first, I was offended, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with him. I am not the same Christian most of you are and I never will be, so take my writings with a grain of salt and allow yourself to be challenged intellectually without allowing the core of your belief system to be shaken.

I am not a theologian using the Bible as my foundation for all I believe, but rather, I am a philosopher using the Bible as my primary pivot-point for beliefs that are constantly evolving. My personality does not allow me to take everything at face value. Any new information my brain recieves goes into a vault to be challenged; and this will be true to the day I die.

The “Holiness” series will continue, but I cannot say when the next post will be made. It might be just one more post, or it could continue as previously planned. I made the mistake of writing one entry before the series was complete and then a severe case of writer’s block set in. I will not make this mistake again (hopefully). If I write a series, I will be sure it is complete (at least roughly) before I publish anything.

Thanks for your patience during this time. I know you are just barely surviving without my insights (do I need to clarify this as sarcasm?). On a serious note, if you think about it, I would appreciate your prayers.

Thanks again, and see you very soon!

I was recently asked by a friend to share my thoughts on holiness in one of my blog entries. Oh, how humbling! Those whom I have interacted with in recent years do not know me as someone with insight on “holiness”. In fact, most of them would probably look to me as an example of the opposite of whatever holiness is. However, despite my many weaknesses, I am learning the importance of holiness and the basics of what it is.
 
Without the convenience of a personal computer, I was not able to share my thoughts immediately, but rather ponder them for several days. I am going to separate this into a two or three part entry because what was previously stirring in my heart will blend very nicely with my ideas on holiness.

So let’s dive right in.
 
I believe that holiness is one of the rarest qualities of human beings. In fact, I would suggest that only 3 of us have ever achieved holiness: Adam, Eve, and Jesus (not that the first two in that list did anything to achieve it). Adam and Eve were the only humans to be born into sinless flesh, so by default, they were holy; God’s perfect creation. When they undid what God had constructed, they set into motion the greatest conflict in the universe: spirit versus flesh. Now, when we selfishly suck in that first lung-full of oxygen, we are born into a vessel of perpetual, ever-living sin until we selflessly give ourselves back to the earth on our final day.
  
The word “sin” as a verb has always been unsettling to me; sin is a noun. I believe that we humans do not commit sins, but rather we are sin. We are embodied by a vessel that is the polar extreme to what our spirits crave: holiness. Therefore, whether we do good deeds, or whether we commit atrocities, we are in a constant state of sinfulness.

Created in God’s image. Have you ever really stopped to think about this phrase and what it means to you as a being created by God and like God? How are we reflections of our Creator? In my opinion, it has absolutely nothing to do with any of our physical attributes. I believe our spirits–our souls–are reflections of God in their purest form, but our physical existence camouflages that true identity.

So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

 

Learning to renounce the cravings of our physical vessel is the beginning of holiness. I recently attended a church whose lead pastor had spent a portion of his life as a Christian monk. This man, although he had very odd doctrinal philosophies (that I did not particularly agree with), was a man chasing after holiness. Monks, as is fairly common knowledge, live a life in such a manner that is as removed from physical desires as humanly possible. The physical desires I’m referring to are any desires that do not offer sustenance for life or eternal value. The seven deadly sins–although they are not listed together in the Christian Bible–essentially sum up these “physical desires”: pride, greed, envy, lust, sloth, anger, and gluttony.
 
So, what happens when we separate ourselves from those physical desires? When we begin to deny the physical desires that distract our spirit from our true image (that reflection of God I talked about earlier), we are able to synchronize ourselves with His rhythm. We allow our soul to do what it was designed to do from the very beginning: walk with God.
Christians often point people who are not believers toward the Word in an attempt to “show them the light”, but I believe that when we seek the truth and develop a discipline of renouncing the desires of our physical vessel, the Word is the truth we will ultimately find.
No one will be holy until they have vacated their physical vessel, but we can (and should) pursue holiness while we are here. In doing so, we will be rewarded both in the physical realm and in eternity’s spiritual realm with the blessing of God.

Disclaimer: The following entry is mostly an epiphany I had about myself. Those who know the unedited version of me know profanity is an area of opportunity in my life, so don’t think of me as a hypocrite, but a work in progress.

Recently I was in an auto parts store getting fluids for my car. After I’d topped off the fluids that needed attention, I decided to see if I could fix an additional problem. I had my hood propped open in the parking lot and I was poking around trying to figure out why my windshield wiper fluid was not working. While I was troubleshooting, an employee returning from break stopped by to ask me if I needed assistance. I asked a general question about why it wouldn’t be working properly and he dug right in.“It’s probably a broken line,” he said, pointing to the likely problem area. I tugged on the line coming from the reservoir tank and it popped right out, revealing a broken end, leading nowhere.

“There’s your problem!” he proclaimed.

“Son of a bitch,” I mumbled to myself.

“There’s no need for cuss words,” he said plainly. “That’s the nice thing about cars, they’re easy to fix.” He then promptly ushered me into the store and sold me a two-dollar remedy. He was right, there was no need for cuss words.

 There is no such thing as a bad word (although some words carry a lot of baggage), only unnecessary words. I’ve never liked the phrases “cuss words” or “swear words”. I prefer foul language. Words are powerless by themselves, it’s the language that gives them power. Whether spoken or written, tone, targeted inflections, and context are what give words their power. When spoken, you can add to those emotion through facial expression and body language. However, the words alone have no power.

I have two friends who cuss like sailors. One is a Christian and he is passionate about his spiritual journey and closeness with God, the other is a broken, hate-filled individual who would benefit greatly by finding a spiritual outlet. They use the same words in general conversation, but they are saying two completely different things.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. James 6:43-45 (NIV)


This verse has always been used as a case against “cuss words”. The universally accepted understanding of this verse (decades of sermons paraphrased) is: if bad words are coming out of your mouth, there is bad in your heart. I don’t agree with this idea. I think what Jesus is saying in this verse has to do with lifestyle, not vocabulary. The good (or bad) in your heart will be made evident by the way you live your life.

There are two lessons to be learned from this. The first has to do with your own vocabulary. Whether you use foul (unnecessary) language regularly or “in the moment”, try to train yourself to use strategic, beautiful language. It can be beautiful even if the emotion is anger or any other dark emotion. There is almost always a better way to explain yourself than using bursts of unnecessary language. The “f-word” is probably the most obvious example. I don’t think it’s even worth arguing that this word is used universally as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection, etc. It is used when a person is feeling an emotion they are too lazy to properly communicate or incapable of communicating. Slang foul language isn’t always the indicator, either; unnecessary language happens all the time. Challenge yourself to use words that more closely convey what you are really trying to say than, “#%@”. Say what you mean and speak with purpose. Not only will this make you a more pleasant person to be around, it will teach you to be a better communicator.

The second lesson to be learned might be the most powerful: learn to “read between the lines” of foul language when you’re listening to someone. When someone is speaking to you and they are using any amount of foul language, hear the translation of what they’re trying to say and not the words they are using. That person might just be heard for the very first time.

“Just trust me!” my boss said emphatically. “Do you trust me?”

“I guess,” I said half-heartedly.

I couldn’t comprehend why he was going about the transaction the way he was. I knew a much more efficient way! The customer stood on the other side of the counter with a look of uncertainty. I knew she didn’t trust him! But I kept my mouth shut and followed along quietly. Several hours later, after the store was closed, my boss called me into his office. He showed me a complete detail report of the daily sales. I was shocked when he explained that the reason he did the transaction the way he had was because it improved the way our sales report read in comparison to the other stores we were competing with in our region. Yes, it made sense from a time-efficiency standpoint, but from the perspective of our district and regional managers, we were not making the grade on paper.

Has anyone ever asked you to “just trust” them? Almost always when people say this, they are asking you to trust them blindly because they possess information you do not and perspective you do not. Trusting them means the information you desire will be revealed at a later time.

I was recently at a funeral, and as funerals often do, it got me yearning for information I do not possess. Two prominent questions have lingered in my mind for days: 1) does religion exist simply as a means to give mankind peace-of-mind about life (or lack thereof) after death? 2) if there is life after death, will our perspective be expanded to “understanding it all”? Death is the biggest mystery ever known. The unknown makes us uneasy, but God says, “Just trust Me and the information you seek will be revealed.”

I think God wants us to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown with a little thing called “faith”. Faith is the only verb usable by humans that can bridge that gap. In Lee Strobel’s, The Case For Christ, Strobel outlines five lines of evidence that defend the reliability of the New Testament: a) eyewitness evidence, b) documentary evidence, c) corroborating evidence, d) scientific evidence, and e) rebuttal evidence. I have not read the entire book, but I plan to in the near future. From what I’ve been told and what I have read, Strobel’s defense of Jesus and the New Testament might just be the most compelling evidence ever compiled on the matter. However, as convincing as it might be, it is not irrefutable and it does not answer all questions humans face with regard to their spirituality; there exists no single piece of literature or anthology.

If there was such a document–added to, or separate from the Bible–that gave every answer to every question that could be posed about the spiritual realm and how it correlates with the physical realm, there would be no need for faith, thus no need for free will, and thus no true love. God gives us as much evidence as our little minds can compute, and then asks us to “Just trust Him” with everything else.

I’m not really sure why I thought of this analogy, but it made sense at the time and I can’t really think of another one that fits into my title, so work with me. Faith is like a flux capacitor. If you’ve never seen the movie Back to the Future (shame on you), I’ll give you a brief synopsis of this little device: the flux capacitor is the strange looking contraption that lies between the seats in the time machine–portrayed by a silver DeLorean sports car–that is the unexplainable (or unexplained) contraption that makes time travel possible. Many have tried to explain faith, but very few can understand and define it. They can see the DeLorean, they can smell the mixture of new leather and plutonium, they can even see the lights and alien-esque instrument panels; but they don’t believe that lump of mechanical parts can really travel through time. No faith.

The Bible is the evidence we have to see, touch, hear and smell; faith is the center-piece component that connects us with the Bible, God and the unknown. Fuel your flux capacitor.