Truth or Fiction?

There was a time earlier in my lifetime when truth was a word that was never up for debate. It was up or down, good or bad, moral or immoral. Facts were facts and always fell on one side of the fence. The dividing line was clear. Untruths fell on the other side of the fence. The lines of demarcation have blurred.

Truth and fiction are diametrically opposed to one another. They are located in different sections of the library for a reason. They aren’t supposed to mingle or co-exist, except in comedy. They actually don’t get along very well in honest debate. Truth and fiction are mortal enemies.

In current day America we find ourselves in a place where facts have become irrelevant – especially if facts go against one’s viewpoint or conviction. Don’t dare point out facts about a story if you spot something that doesn’t sound right or you’ll be taking a perilous journey where you will be labeled, slandered and more.

When made up facts or “truth” are promoted (but are the opposite of what really happened) that’s actually called propaganda. Repetition of distorted facts (if shared often enough) eventually convince, persuade and deceptively sway the reader or hearer especially if they have no anchor of intellect.

Something alarmingly sinister occurs when events or incidents are portrayed (and then repeated) without that reporter of  “facts” has ANY first-hand knowledge of what really happened. Those repeated “facts” spread like wildfire in our society. Then zero truth stories are repeated in the “social world” and everyone becomes unhinged and angry. It’s anything BUT social.

Today I am fishing for an answer (honest and civil). How do we return to absolute truth in America?

My Honest View of Faith vs. Trump

Every once in a while I have a discussion with my thirties-something son about politics. My intelligent and thoughtful son has observed that a divide has risen among evangelical Christians regarding Donald Trump as president. Generations below my own apparently do not understand why conservative Christians enthusiastically support Mr. Trump. He seems to repel many. They see straight through the person and see the purity issue failures in his past. And they see any evangelical support of him as blatant hypocrisy. My son (any many in his age group) are really curious (and somewhat appalled) why Christians would openly embrace or support such a person?

Right away in our discussion I made it known that I’ve never personally liked the individual holding the highest office in our land right now. The man doesn’t embody the type of person that I would ever admire, especially as a 3 times husband and father from multiple marriages. It’s an odd mix of liberal social thought coupled with seemingly solid family units. Perhaps the man closed the book on his playboy lifestyle some time ago and settled into being a committed husband and father? Maybe he lived his early and mid-life off the rails and somehow found his way back to the tracks?

The businessman turned president has traveled for years in circles with rich and famous globally. He’s rubbed elbows with elite and powerful folks all of his adult life. As a reality TV show host he displayed his brash and bold business style and made many of us cringe to think we would ever have such a boss who would fire people on a whim.

He is a mover and a shaker. He makes things happen in the business world that few could ever claim. And he brags about it. Most of us were taught to keep our bragging to ourselves. Yet he uses his infamous tweets to springboard his ideas into our media frenzied society. His bully pulpit is employed on a daily basis to stir the pot.  I’ve always said that he lights the firecracker and then enjoys watching his detractors run and squeal like wounded animals. I think he fuels current debate topics and then while everyone is all stirred up he moves on to make some other deal. He just messes with his critical audience and toys with them incessantly.

Yet Donald the businessman appeals to people with big money because he provides them places to visit and enjoy. From fabulous golf resorts to fancy hotels in exotic locations throughout the world he aims to please and is rewarded handsomely for his efforts. And the people who visit his properties aren’t the ones of society that are concerned with the cost. They are ones looking for the opulent choice. Such places might be a dream to mainstream America because they (we) will never have the chance to be one of his valued customers. Most of us are way out of his class and thought processes.

But Mr. Trump has found a friend in rural and much of urban America. And one reason I think he has gotten this support is that he is not afraid of poking people in the eye for what many of us see as injustices. He calls people out. He shoots from the hip and says what many were already thinking. He has a way of relating to people in the sphere of mainstream America. He appears to “get” how they are feeling and masterfully taps into that with his folksy off-script events. He energizes his crowds more than we’ve seen in generations. They are lock-step with him, flaws and all.

He is a capitalist in the truest sense. Capitalism is freedom in its truest form. One major greatness of America comes from our individualist freedom. If you can think up a product or service in America, which others might need or enjoy, you have the freedom to create such a business and make a nice profit, if you do it well. Birthing solid profitable businesses creates a positive ripple effects that spew profit and jobs to many in that downhill flow.

When we elect someone to public office it is natural for any prospective voter to review every aspect of a candidate’s life and background. We size them up to see if we like who they are as people. We also evaluate them (rightfully so) on the merits of what they might bring to the table in skills and expertise and based on the office that they will hold. But in the case of Donald Trump we find that his willingness to take on the status quo (in both parties) appeals to many who at just tired of the political gamesmanship that’s been part of our landscape WAY too long. If we truly embrace a capitalist way of life the office of the presidency does leads the charge for business, whether we like it or not.

Trump may not be my candidate of choice based on my social or personal view of him. But we elect someone to preside and command, not lead a Christian congregation as a pastor would. When he was elected, I rather doubted that he would embrace conservative values and programs at all. My greatest hope after his election was the possibility that he’d have the chance to re-balance the Supreme Court. He did follow that path and his choices so far have kept the court from straying too far left. In my humble opinion, the balance of the court was the most important aspect of the 2016 election. opinion.

It is my belief that evangelical believers have been watching closely to see if this president really supports conservative values by his actions, and not just his words. So far he’s done that bidding in big ways. Those same Christians would never exhibit such tactics as in their pursuit of change. But I think Trump’s personality seems to be viewed like Goliath facing and taking down a lot of the the Giants in the political arena (on both sides). Underdogs seem to find a strong friend in Donald Trump.

So we are left with a choice. Some say it’s the lesser of two evils. As I told my son, I just don’t see anyone on the left side of this equation that has plan or ability to take our country in a way that I can positively embrace. So for the time being this right-wing social conservative deplorable will stay in the basket with a flawed guy who seems oddly enough wanting to make America conservative and Christian again.

Grace and Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking long and hard about grace and forgiveness. I’ve watched friends and family dish these gifts out capriciously. In my mind I was pretty sure these wonderful things were reserved for those who were lined up with God’s standards of goodness. I was sure these favors were reserved for people whose lives followed the goodness rules established by the Methodist, Baptists, Presbyterians, or even Catholics. These have to be limited to those who’ve completed a prescribed set of guidelines or rules or even scriptures?

Over the years I’ve watched what I thought were well-meaning Christians apply the grace and forgiveness gifts in reserved ways. They’ve been doled out to some and kept back from others who both appeared to have needed them. At times it’s seemed that the ones who may have received these blessings needed it much less than the ones prevented from receiving them.

After careful thought I’ve come to the conclusion that neither camp should be giving or getting any grace or forgiveness at all. Those who’ve been giving or applying grace and forgiveness have no right whatsoever to be giving away something reserved for God who sits in heaven.

There’s a reason it’s called God’s grace and forgiveness because it’s His alone to dispense. And when he casts those gifts over his children he does so with such lavishness that it almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? God owns it all and owns us all. He decides when, where and who gets the salve of his love.

I have family and friends who have severely fractured relationships. Some are heartbreaking. Broken relationships are always hard to understand and even harder to decipher and accept. People claiming to know and serve our gracious God have become judges, juries and executioners. Husbands, wives, fathers, sons and daughters have been given what seems like death sentences with no possible reprieve. If I’m grieved about it, can you imagine how God must view this mass destruction and hatefulness?

I write this in the hope that someone reading might realize this error and end any war that you are a party to – this very moment.

Love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven you. Anything less is a hurdle and hindrance in your pursuit of God. You cannot serve God completely when something is so openly wrong in your life.

They Had No Clue

And when his friends had gone away and night had fallen they took him and ridiculed and slandered him. Charges were trumped up against him in late evening when few were aware or present. He was alone with his enemies. And things got terribly worse for him. The wounds inflicted on him seemed more about hate than retribution.

Yet he gave no defense because he’d done no wrong. The world didn’t understand him so they viewed him as a threat to their own politics and power. They had no clue who they were really dealing with. He allowed them that night to do with him what they wished. He didn’t fight back or rail. He knew his purpose. He paid a heavy price that night. He carried a weight beyond measure. 

The next day there was surely a hush over the landscape. The preacher had been put down and silenced. He would not longer be able to gain the attention of the masses. His friends, no doubt, would now be quiet and go away.

How or why did this escalate to the end of the gentle healer? Through a blurred and salty vision this man that night saw past the offences of his revilers. He saw them with a compassion and love that they couldn’t know or ever embrace.

Unbeknownst to all, those darkest hours were ushering in a new light that would never fade or fail. Waiting, hoping, longing – they all waited in silence not knowing the direction of the future for all. They all just had to wait.

Life Was SO Much Simpler

Life was so much simpler – when we were less informed.

With the advent of social media and electronic delivery of news, we are instantly aware of things that would have taken hours, days or even months to filter down to us. Life (as we used to know it) moved at a slower and happier pace. Reaction times to news or events barely crawled along. We had to roll out the morning paper or listen to morning radio or TV to hear about national or world events. Things took time to soak in. Once things were known interactions between people happened face to face or voice to voice. Discussions were had around the water cooler or in the break room. We interacted with one another on a person to person level. We were a much more tolerable people because of that. Interactions with friends, co-workers or relatives included every other aspect of life, and not just about the most recent political scandal or salacious affair in Hollywood. We were rounded in our dialogue.

Today the war of words is hateful, spiteful and full of half-truth and innuendo. No longer do we spar or duke things out with multiple rounds to determine the clear winner. Both parties of any argument people now go for the jugular within seconds. We don’t talk things out with honest conversation or debate. We pass judgment immediately based on “clear” lines of distinction. Those differences are usually spelled out with two simple letters – D or R. If you are a D you are labeled immediately as a wacko left-wing commie radical with not an ounce of patriotism in your body. If you find yourself with an R next to your name you are branded as a right-wing extremist bible-thumping gun-toting intolerant hater who thinks refugees should be pushed off of the boat.

In the real world both sides have a handful of people that go to the extreme in their views (left or right). But for the most part our society has a mix of ideas and values that make us land somewhere  between those two dreaded letters. A distinct problem with social media (and instant messaging) is the fact that whoever is the quickest, sharpest and craftiest deliver a stinging message that’s portrayed as pure and honest fact.  The ones who get the most attention are those who yell a quick unverified half-truth, peppered with underlying deceit and deception.

Political correctness has gone amuck. If you dare say anything about race, religion, national origin, sexual preference, or anything that is a social hot point you risk your fortune in a matter of hours. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true or moral. It only matters that you have no right to inject your belief system, especially if it steps on toes of any special interest group. And those “special” groups garner less than 5% of our entire people group.

I consider myself a technical progressive. And that’s a feat for someone my age (early sixties). Many of my peers have only given up their flip phones after the carrier no longer supported their dated technology. I am all for the latest and greatest wireless remote applications that automate everything. I’m waiting for the day that an app can buy, season, cook, and hand feed my food to me (that day is coming!).

But how can we roll back the information age to a saner, kinder and gentler time?

Democratic Bickering Resolution – 101

I avoid political things nowadays (on social media and other places).

But everything political, governmental or social issues are now IN OUR FACE  – and controversial to the core. Current topics and issues in our country are dividing and conquering us. We are becoming bitter enemies by things we believe or state (either out loud verbally or by posting to some form of social media). We are in one continuous slug fest with family, friends and co-workers.

Considering the technology that we enjoy in 2017, have you ever wondered why we’ve not really heard much about solving our governmental and voting differences by doing so using the available technology and being able to vote electronically?

What if we could solve all of the bickering within a matter of days or hours by simply casting an electronic ballot on issues? The electorate could truly have a voice, and a quick one at that. From referendums or new proposals for laws WE could make real decisions on issues facing our country. Our representative form of government needs serious tweaking.

This could be our answer!

Such a plan could be done at every level of governing. Local, state and national elections would all be done this way.  I know there would be naysayers of every persuasion that say this is unfair and that poor people would not be able to cast a vote or it would be a burden on them to do so. Correct me if I am wrong, but most of the panhandlers on the street corners and even people living under the bridge are quick to whip out their smartphones when they need to. In 2017 you are going to be hard pressed to find someone who does not have some form of current electronic technology, usually in their pocket or purse. We know that because of government programs that have given away such phones to people “in need”.

So I propose that every level of government devise a way for people to be able to vote on issues electronically. It would be quick and sure. If handled with all of the security and safety precautions it would be an honest and precise process. And voting totals could be confirmed after a simple keyboard request to tally the results.

Of course the key to the success of such a plan would be in on the front end – the vetting process. Before you could get a login and password to vote as a bona fide and registered voter, you’d have to prove several things.

  1. Prove that you are a citizen of our country (electronic copies of birth certificates) 2. Prove that you are still alive (easy through social security number verification). 3. Prove your residency for your voting precinct. Getting all parties to agree on what is required to prove you are eligible to vote will be the biggest fight you’ve ever seen. But once this is resolved and set in stone the real decisions of democracy could be determined quickly and accurately.

I truly believe this would be a fair and equitable way to make up or down decisions. And one of the BIG benefits of such a plan would make it easier for many people who claim to be disenfranchised for whatever reason would be able to be heard. And that could happen easily. But as with everything, the devil will be in the details.

Voter apathy in the United States has been a sad thing to watch.  But with the advent of the internet and things like social media people are now engaged in current affairs like never before. I say that if you take a guy (or girl) who has never voted before in their life and show them a current hot button revision of our law that they could make their voice be heard by a simple electronic vote that would take less than 5 minutes of time from the comfort of a recliner, I’d say we could increase greatly the number of participating citizens. And they could be involved in every decision at every level of government.

I know that such a plan could be easily done AFTER some very heavy lifting required to get us out of the current mode of operation that we languish in. But the results could be realized in short order and implemented without months and years of red tape and delay. If only we would consider making this change.

We really need to stop all of the bickering and fighting and name calling. We are better people that what we see in the news (fake or not) and on social media. The truth is we are not a very social society currently.

We need real and lasting change from our elected representative government types. We (the people) need to be the ones deciding things in this country and not a bunch of loose cannons that vote their own consciences on every conceivable thing – that WE face.

I welcome comments and suggestion about such a proposal.

Intentional Pursuit of the New Year

I’ve not had a chance to do any writing lately. The holidays are a hard time for me to be reflective or be creative with my thoughts. There’s just too many distractions!

Going into a new year I find myself somewhat bored. Following a heavy grind of work, parties, gifts and family gatherings during the holiday season it can leave you in a state of “I don’t know what to do now?” With us all, each new year should come a renewed sense of purpose and resolve in some or many areas. Each year I hear less and less about other people’s New Year’s resolutions. I think people are tired of stating their goals or changes only to find themselves a few days or weeks bemoaning how they’ve failed. But in reality is a good practice to have needed changes implanted in your mind that you may be wanting to accomplish? Perhaps it is to just live a healthier life by changing an eating habit? Or maybe it is simply the desire to be more intentionally active? Something as simple as a needed garage cleanout can be just the sort of thing that helps you get off of dead center and give you a renewed sense that you’ve done something worthwhile and different – for a change!

For me I have many a task before getting my landscape and exterior back in shape at my home. Having had a tornado devastate my property a little more than a year ago, I have a myriad of tasks to do in my yardscape. The cleanup process has been an ongoing thing for over a year. And that is still happening each time I step foot outside. I keep finding random roof shingles, nails, metal and just about everything else under the sun in my yard and beds. I keep telling myself – it just takes time.

There are certainly relationship issues that could use refining and updating. Just like physical work outside, there are times in relationships with co-workers, friends and relatives that require pruning, fertilizing and watering. Doing such things will make your life blossom in some of the same ways that your horticultural world also benefits. Perhaps you’ve reconnected with an old friend? Going to lunch with them (intentionally) will help you reconnect and strengthen each other’s lives. Perhaps your relationship with your spouse could use some tilling and growing. Even after many years of marriage I find myself realizing that my bride needs my attention just as much now as 43 years ago.

So for the new year I would encourage anyone listening to reflect on where you are and find areas of your life that can use some work. Set goals on what you’d like to change for this year. Make concrete plans for those changes and make a total resolve to make them happen. Don’t take no for the answer when you want to be lazy in accomplishing these goals. Be intentional in everything you do. Get up earlier than normal and get more accomplished than you even think you can. Make it a good year with positive desires and goals. Make someone happy about themselves. The end result will be that you will find that you were the one that’s benefitted more for your intentional plan for the year.

Now – I need to get up and moving.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Exclusivity of the Christian Faith

I wholeheartedly believe that the only way to gain entrance into the heavens is via experience with the Jesus of the bible. He was a real person who lived a sinless existence and died at the hands of an angry mob. Yet it was all a part of the grand plan of the creator of this universe. Believing who he was and embracing him as the only bridge from the state of human sin to arms of a holy God is what I am convinced of is what is needed to become a child of God. Every fiber of my being tells me this is true. I would hope that all who identify with the name and person of Jesus feel the same way. I guess you’d say I am ALL IN, and wonder who in their right mind would only be “partially in”?

The thought for this current writing is something that is a bit hard to write about. It shines light on a subject that “ought not be”. It examines from real life view about something that seems missing from people who are “sold out” believers in Jesus the Christ. It is in the subject of giving. But before you grab your wallet, I’m talking about giving in a different sense. I’m talking about giving of one’s self to others in a exercise of faith. I’ve noticed for quite some time that Christians, and churches, create events or “ministries” with the purpose of helping others or meeting some need that they see in the community. They plan, they recruit others for help, they spend large sums of money, they craft events for the community to participate in for little or no charge whatsoever. Yet, by design, they sometime leave you with the feeling that they are a stingy bunch. They want the outsider to come and participate, but boundaries are put in place that make it seem restrictive or even miserly.

What made this thought come to the surface is a recent event that we attended. We took our young granddaughters to a “fall festival” (Halloween substitute). The event started pretty early so we had to rush to get there in time to park, walk and then take the kids to booths set up for games. Each booth had large tubs of candy for kids to have after completing whatever challenge each game afforded. Yet each child was only allowed 2 pieces of candy. The place was full of booths and people. So busy in fact, that the kids had to wait in line for each game. This place was full and kids of all ages and all seemed to be having a great time.

But after one of the games ended my granddaughter was digging through the candy looking for something that was not chocolate (she doesn’t care for it?). The lady manning the booth told her “dear you must only get 2 pieces”. My wife was puzzled at that rebuke since the she was just looking for something other than chocolate? It wasn’t as if the kids were “loading up” at each stop. So we carried on to the next booth for the next 20 minutes or so and waited our turn in line. After about the 4th booth a man (obviously in leadership) from the church walked by and waived at the booth attendants as if to say the event was over. So when it was our child’s turn the booth people just said “sorry it’s over”. So we went quickly to three other booths hoping our girls could get a few more pieces of candy before calling it a night. But it happened several more times and the event was OVER. The tubs of candy were still half full, yet it was 7:30 and we were all done. Our oldest was not only upset by not getting very much candy but wanted to simply play the games.

I know this all sounds a little silly, but we felt like outsiders at our own church. We brought our granddaughters for a fun experience at OUR church. But it was over in a flash and we took them back home with buckets almost empty. This event underscored how I think we as Christians behave in this world at times. We have the one true answer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, yet we place so many rules and restrictions on the prize that we leave the unbelieving world still in unbelief. The true gospel is one of inclusiveness and fullness, not one that closes the gate and refuses the prize because the ending hour has come. We have a redeeming work to do as believers yet we are shirking that calling if we limit what we do to time and space, and candy.

When others see Christians like myself I believe they should see people who are givers and people who go way beyond the call of duty in serving others. We are called to serve God. I learned long ago that the only way I can honestly and effectively serve my God is by serving others. And when we serve we should do so lavishly, as if each person we serve is our own child or grandchild.  People should see and experience the grace and mercy of the cross by seeing me lay down my own wishes and desires by the way in which I love and serve. That’s how people are drawn to the love of Christ. Words can be optional, but the way in which we treat others gives us opportunity to share they hope that we have within us.

Narrow IS the gate to salvation, but everyone should be given opportunity to see the path by the way Christians love and serve.

 

HO HO HO Holiday Relief 2016

Having survived a devastating EF4 Tornado the evening after Christmas 2015 I find that I’ve learned a lot of things from being displaced from our home for 9 months. But what I’m writing about now is not about me or any losses we incurred.

In the months following a huge and deadly storm I’ve participated in a number of social media groups that have offered up support and resources for people who’ve suffered loss as a result of losing homes, personal belongings of every kind and just about every sense of safety and security that one might have.

These groups have pointed people to Relief Centers, Red Cross Offices, State Insurance Offices,  and a myriad of places for help with every possible need. People lost lives that warm and humid winter night in North Texas  (miraculously only 8 died). Of those lost they were all in vehicles traveling on the highway when this massive twister rumbled through south Garland headed northeast to Rowlett and beyond. The track went 13 miles with wind speeds up to 180 miles per hour.

With all of the loss that night there are items you wouldn’t normally think about losing at a time like this. You think food, clothing, furniture, cars, and personal belongings of every sort. But something lost because of being immediately following Christmas Day is peoples holiday decorations (both indoor and outdoor).  One big howl of the wind and your house is gone and everything in it is blow to parts unknown.

Having had great insurance and a very competent and trustworthy contractor to rebuild our home we feel especially blessed. Fortunately we only lost what little outdoor decorations we had. Our inside items (with the exception of the Christmas Tree damaged by the move and storage) didn’t sustain loss. So our tons of crates of decorations remain intact.

So as we are now back home I feel inclined to give back to our community that continues to suffer as a result of a fluke storm that changes many people’s worlds.

I am in the Christmas business 365 days a year as a buyer for a Lighting company. So Christmas lights and decorations are not a seasonal item for me. It is something I do year round. And you wouldn’t believe how many people will buy these products year round!

Currently I am soliciting the help of some of my vendor/suppliers for donations of Christmas lights, greenery and any other product that they are willing to send me. I’m also soliciting items from the local community as well via social media and other means. Then whatever we come up with we will assemble and distribute to those in need for this 2016 holiday season. We even have crews of men standing by ready to serve by installing displays as needed.

I heard a story last week of a lady who had just installed Christmas lights for the first time in a fairly new home. Her 2 year old son loved them. But they were all blown away and destroyed in a span of about one minute. She’s already told her son that they won’t be able to decorate their home this year. (oh, by the way her home was destroyed). They’ve since rebuilt but there have been plenty of expenses for every other imaginable thing besides holiday decorations.

Hearing stories like that propel me to action. Knowing people might not have such a normally festive time for lack of Christmas lights, presses me to do all I can to meet those needs. “The need is great but the supply must be greater”. I may capture that phrase as our motto in the project we are calling HoHoHo Holiday Relief 2016.

See our Facebook page for detailed donation and distribution locations and times. https://www.facebook.com/hohohoholidayrelief2016/

 

Time to Pay Our Respects Again

Our founders started out as a ragtag group longing to be free at any cost. They fought the good fight against insurmountable odds. The crown of England surely had a strangle-hold on our fledgling nation. Those brave men who came before us marshaled their determination to beat back the oppressors who were determined to crush us. Our patriots were really the underdogs in that fight. But they had something the king did not have – RESOLVE.

In the process of forming our wee nation our forefather worked tirelessly to forge a document to seal our republic into a strong bod. That document has surely stood the test of time thus far. Our constitution became a framework so we’d have a government that was FOR, WITH and BY the people. It’s mission was to insure balance between the power brokers so we’d be governed, yet not dominated. Have strength, yet be kindly bridled.

Each year about this time we’re reminded of the sacrifices made to secure, protect, and keep our freedoms. Throughout our history we’ve made our share of enemies, most of which were borne completely out of a burning thing called jealousy. Our nation was designed to give the commoner a share of the pie. It was also designed to allow someone (anyone) and an ability and a passion to become great, even with little.

Our foes have historically be people in other nations. From time to time we’ve had haters of freedom within our own ranks. Detractors of freedom will always be nipping at our heels. Kings, princes and tyrants can’t stand to see the common man have and utilize opportunity, and then succeed. It makes them look bad. It also diminishes their own ill-placed hunger for power.

For the brave men and women who’ve stood for our ideals in the middle of a blinding rain at 3 a.m. And for the patriot whose risen early and stayed up late training in order to serve. And for the servant warrior who has spent tireless effort standing watch over our republic and protecting our ideals.

For all of those who’ve even given the ultimate sacrifice for us – we salute and honor you this Memorial Day. We revere you. We’re humbled at your effort as you’ve stood in our place and given your all so that we can sleep at night with that joy of freedom in our hearts. To the servicemen and women of every rank in every generation and in every location – we stand up in honor of your memory and your service. We wave old glory in your honor.

God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America!