One Thumb Down!

So, who is influencing you?

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Well, yours truly, experienced a moment yesterday that was not even close to my finest moments–not even in same zip code. A friend and I were adding a gate to our chain link fence. It required new post holes. I had 2 options–post hole diggers (which require a lot of physical exertion) or a drill with an auger. The drill and auger was the choice–after all I may not look very bright, but I do have my moments. That choice was my only moment yesterday.

As I was drilling the last hole, THAT’S when my common sense decided to take a break. As the auger was turning it hit a tree root. So what, you may ask. Well, here’s a lesson in physics. Since the auger was NOT turning all that energy had to go somewhere. That somewhere was up to the drill, that I was holding, and it violently began to twist, bending my right thumb in a direction it wasn’t meant to be bent. It wasn’t the drill’s fault, or the tree root–it was my fault. As you can clearly see from the picture below, there are two handles on the drill–one on top and one to the side. And this is why my not so bright moment occurred. I was holding on to the top handle instead of the side handle. Had I been holding that side handle, it would not have given my right thumb this lingering pain.

And now on my right hand, I have an unusable opposing digit. One usually doesn’t think about their thumb–that is–until you cannot use it. Being left handed I do not think much about my right thumb–but this morning my right thumb is saying: “See, you do need me!” Opposing digits, as thumbs are often called, are what make us different from most in the primate family and most of the animal kingdom. OK, what’s my point?

My point today is why are so many basing their beliefs and values on those who act and make decisions all the time the way I made one wrong decision? Look folks, too many who are not the sharpest tool in the tool shed, not the brightest bulb in the box (heck, their bulb hasn’t worked in years–if ever!) are influencing others–and the masses who refuse to think are following their lead.

So, who is influencing you? Who sets the cadence for your life? Who are you listening to? Those who don’t have a clue? Or, those who have the common sense, wisdom, and experiences to know better? Take it from me, if you are using an auger on your drill to dig a hole, make sure that drill has a handle on the side–and use it! This is the voice of experience! I close with this cartoon I recently shared on Facebook:

Near the end of the movie The Last Crusade, they find the Holy Grail–actually scores of them. But only one was the authentic Holy Grail. The Templar Knight guarding it said, “Choose wisely.” The villain in the movie, Walter Donovan, choose what he thought was the Holy Grail. After drinking from the cup–he rapidly and painfully returned to dust. And the Templar Knight said, “He chose poorly.” Yesterday, I chose poorly. Make good decisions–because they do have consequences. Remember Walter Donovan’s choice, and my poor choice. Just ask my right thumb! For a few days now, I’m going to be one thumb down!

THE DANGEROUS ELMER FUDD

And if other alleged “experts” can speak into this mess, then so can I; so here goes!

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Yesterday I said I would be back with God helping me. Well, He did and here I am. Not all of my reflections are on God’s Kingdom, but they are influenced by His Kingdom. So today I must issue this Disclaimer: This isn’t a spiritual subject I’m addressing today. It is, though, a very human subject that penetrates to the core of our culture in the good old U.S. of A. And if other alleged “experts” can speak into this mess, then so can I; so here goes!

I’m 65 years old. As a kid, I watched Elmer with a gun. But I never shot anyone. I saw Bugs Bunny doing all kinds of violence against other Daffy Duck and others. Yet I never acted violently against anyone. I watch Yosemite Sam’s outbursts and shooting his side arm. But I never went ballistic, shooting up any place. I watched Wile E. Coyote try to catch the Roadrunner. And amazingly, I’ve never ordered dynamite, missiles, or traps from Acme.

Now, if I listen to the dribble being purported as the truth–by now I should be a raging man of extreme violence. According to the “experts”, my wall should be mounted with all kinds of trophies of the people I’ve killed. But the only things I have killed is some squirrels, a few rabbits (NOT Bugs), some game birds (NOT the Roadrunner or Tweety), a few coyotes (NOT Wile E.), and a healthy parcel of deer (NOT Bambi).

We are being told, on a frequent basis, that gun violence is to blame for all those tragic shooter situations. I cannot remember the exact number of guns, both handguns and long guns, that I have owned over the past 65 years. But I do know that not a single one of them ever committed an act of violence. It’s hard for me to believe that of the dozens of firearms I’ve had in my possession, all of them were defective. They must have been, and my current stock of firearms must also be defective, because not a single one of them has ever committed an act of violence. The deer might disagree with me–but the gun didn’t act on it’s own. I had a hand in it; actually my left eye and finger.

And this gets me to my point this morning. Why are people no longer being held responsible for their choices and decisions? Be it violence with a stick, a pipe, a fist, a bat, a knife, or even a firearm–what has happened to personal responsibility? They want to blame everything for this violence–except the person who commits it.

These “experts” want to blame it on cartoons. I refer you back to my second paragraph. And have you ever watch “modern” cartoons? My Dad had a conniption when Clark Gable said “damn” in “Gone with the Wind”. Today’s language is far worse. And the plots of these “kid’s” cartoons promote stupidity to infinity and back. (Sorry, Buzz Lightyear, no offense intended to you.)

And then these “experts” want to blame lifeless, inanimate objects for exerting undue and unnecessary influence on people. This is what the term “gun violence” declares, not implies. What is causing so much violence? Here are a few ideas, maybe some will think the novel or new, but they are tested and proven over the centuries.

  • There is this thing call consequences for choices and actions–and each person makes their own choices–so own those choices
  • Kids not being made to be kind, respectful and courteous
  • Kids being allowed to make decisions that they are neither mentally, emotionally, and intellectually equipped to make (such as what gender they are)
  • Being recognized for just being present; we call them participation trophies (see this previous blog of mine)
  • Giving kids everything but morals and values which put others first instead of themselves
  • Disrespecting the most vulnerable of the human race; it’s called abortion. I mean if they see that babies can be eliminated because they are unwanted or their gender (yes, gender selection is a reason for some abortions)–how can anyone respect the life of another person?
  • And above all these (and the many more I could add to this list), is that this world owes them absolutely nothing–but that they owe the world hard work, compassion, to dream of what builds people up rather than tear them down.

Our problem in this nation and world isn’t a gun problem but a human problem; it’s not gun violence but human violence. Now, you can disagree with me if you want–you have that freedom and are free to make that choice. But disagreeing with me doesn’t make we wrong. You can believe are you right–but you’re still wrong.

Spiritual Erosion

This morning a word came into my mind–yet another random thought–a condition with which I am afflicted.  I wonder, is some 12 Step program to help me with this?  It has served me well at times, so I guess I will allow this condition to continue.  Oh?  The word?  OK, it’s erosion.  One definition says:

the gradual destruction or diminution of something

In case you were wondering (I know I was) about that word diminution , here’s that definition:

a reduction in the size, extent, or importance of something.

The word “erosion” hit me this morning during the news.  Tropical Storm Gordon, flooding alerts, another teen shot in Birmingham, a mother arrested in Florida for the death of her 2-year-old child are just some of the stories that caused this word to invade my gray matter.  Most people think of erosion as something that happens to dirt and rocks.  But there is another type of erosion–spiritual erosion–that is far more dangerous and even more deadly.

I can’t remember exactly when I heard the term “Post-Christian Culture” but I am keenly aware that it exists.  My definition of “Post-Christian Culture” is as follows:

The loss or dismissing the values of  the Kingdom of God

Can you handle the truth?  Here it is:  The values and ethics of God’s Kingdom are no longer the dominant influence on our culture.  Over the years, as people who claimed allegiance to Jesus became passive, silent, or even worse–the consumers of what the church produces–it created an ethics and values vacuum.    Aristotle once hypothesized “horror vacui” which means Nature Abhors a Vacuum.  In other words, nature can’t stand for any space to be empty.  When lightning forms it creates a vacuum, so air rushes in to fill that vacuum, thus creating thunder.

It’s not just nature–but human beings also abhors a vacuum.  Way back in March 2009, Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “Human Nature Abhors A Vacuum”.  He wrote, “We humans crave stimulation, and on many different levels. To experience ourselves as fully alive, we all have various “arousal requirements”–“whether physical, mental, emotional, social, or spiritual.”  A little further into his article he makes this astute observation:

“…I’ve become acutely aware of how experiencing an inner vacuum can lead people to make poor life choices, especially in relationships.”

We are in a Post-Christian culture because the values of God’s Kingdom and Rule are noticeably absent in the American culture.  A vacuum of solid and proven values and ethics have left, creating the vacuum.  To fill that values/ethics vacuum, people are turning anywhere, everywhere to fill that void.  Entitlement, selfishness, disregard for consequences, blame, hate, distrust….and the list goes on to what has filled that values/ethics void created when people stopped being followers of Jesus and opted more for a fan or casual relationship.  “Jesus, I need just enough of you to avoid hell.  That’s all.”

So, how do we change the current values and ethics environment we find our culture in?  May I suggest we do what Jesus did and continues to do.  Infuse the values and ethics of the Kingdom of God, once again.  Here’s a list of ways we can do this, and if you have others ways, please share them in the comments section:

  1. Tip servers at 20%, or more
  2. Call the clerk, associate, cashier by their name if they are wearing a name tag
  3. Stop being a consumer of what the church does–be a producer
  4. Give up you place in the checkout line to the person behind you
  5. Put your cellphone on vibrate mode when in a waiting room and wait to call the person back
  6. Smile, smile a lot, especially in the presence of grumpy people
  7. Refuse to judge someone by their external features.  In fact, be friendly to them and get to know them
  8. Help someone do something
  9. Get acquainted with your neighbors
  10. Volunteer with some outreach program
  11. Accept and be glad that you are not entitled to anything
  12. Work hard for something you want
  13. Accept responsibility and even the blame when do something wrong
  14. Admit you’re not always right, and certainly not perfect
  15. Offer to take someone to lunch on Sunday, right after the Worship Service
  16. In church, sit next to someone you don’t know, and strike up a conversation
  17. When someone lashes out at you–respond with kindness and grace, not more heated words.
  18. Care about God’s creation by being a good steward of this earth
  19. Find common ground with others–hey, at the very least, we are all sinners.  That’s a great place to begin
  20. Simplify your lifestyle–don’t go into deep debt for the latest “toy”
  21. Do one random act of kindness a day–if someone sees your act of kindness, it doesn’t count–so keep doing it until no one notices
  22. Better yet, do random acts of kindness even if no one notices
  23. Read the Bible and ask: “What does this say to me?  About me?”
  24. Pray–not with churchy “King James” words, but as if you were talking with your best friend, because HE wants to be your best friend
  25. Allow someone to merge into traffic
  26. Freely forgive even if–especially when–they don’t deserve it
  27. At the fast food drive thru, pay for the person’s purchase behind you (I got this one from a Christian radio station)
  28. Excuse yourself from conversations that are rude, ugly or lewd
  29. Slow down and do something relaxing
  30. Love God with all your heart, mind and life
  31. Love others the way Jesus loves you
  32. Make sure all the glory and credit goes to God for everything good

I could go on, but what specific things can you do to change the Values and Ethics of our culture?  Please post in the comments….

Learning From The Tide

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So far this has been a great Spiritual Summer Retreat.  Some may call it a vacation, but for me, it’s been a time of refocusing on God in my life.  Some of the things that have happened to me this year have been, well, challenging.  Truthfully, I let some of those things get the best of me.  My life has been off-kilter.  So God is using this time for me to get my “kilter” back.

This morning got me to thinking about The Tide.  No, not the greatest College Football Dynasty ever, but the “other” Tide.  No!  Not the laundry detergent either!  The ocean tide is a lesson I’ve been rediscovering in this time of retreat.  I am not certain John Wesley would agree with me, but the beach is a means of grace for me.

The Tide happens every day because the water is being influenced by outside forces.  Technically, it’s being influenced by a single source, gravity.  And the gravity that affects the Tide comes from 2 sources.  Do you know that they are?  Did you guess the moon?  Very good class.  Now, what’s the other source of gravity?  Did you say the sun?  Correctamundo!

The Tide in a particular area is determined by its position in relation to both the moon and the sun.  This gravitational pull determines whether the Tide is high or low.  And these gravitational forces come from outside our planet.  It is a force that is unseen, yet it produces a noticeable effect.  And here’s the lesson that this Tide is teaching me.

We are under the gravitational pull of another influence; whether we realize or not.  This force impacts how we think, what we say, what we do, and even why we do it.  They change the shape and direction of our life.  Either for good–and unfortunately–for bad.  Think back to the effect of the ocean Tide.  The ocean tides have a positive impact on marine life.  It also determines the best time for fishermen to catch fish.  And who doesn’t love a good seafood dinner?

But unlike the oceans that have no choice but to be affected by gravity, we do have a choice.  Remember that the ocean Tide is influenced at one time by the sun, and at a different time by the moon–it all depends on their location.  We choose which gravitational pull influences us–in any and all situations of life.  We all face situations which we did not cause–but our response to that situation–it is influenced by which outside source of power we live under.

Allow your life to be under the “gravitational pull” of the Holy Spirit.  Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 8:5 (NLT)

Those who are dominated (think about the tide) by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled (think about the gravitational forces on the oceans) by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.

More than thinking about the things that please the Spirit, it is about the impact of those thoughts and how they change the ways we think, speak, act, and why we do what we do.  That’s called MOTIVE.  Like the oceans are being influenced by the power of gravity from either the sun or the moon (and never both at the same moment), you are being influenced by some power that determines your journey.  Unlike the oceans that have no choice, you do have a choice.  And remember that line from the climatic scene in the movie “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”–“Choose wisely!”

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way He loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Now excuse me, but the classroom beckons me.  I wonder what the Tide is doing?