Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Hillary will win the White House in 2016

I love history, politics, not so much. In the past 2 years I've scaled back my news consumption. Majorly.
I don't think I've posted more than 2 or 3 blogs dealing with politics in my whole life.  I may not know much about politics, but I know something about people. And, I know why the Dems, most likely Hillary, will in fact take the White House in 2016 and I'd say and run Washington for another 8 years once Obama's term is over.

I've never voted Democratic, and I don't plan to.  The right to life & sanctity of marriage are deal breakers for me.  So, this isn't a "cheer on my team" post.  It's an observation on why I'm convinced the Republicans AND the Libertarians have sabotaged their chances of winning the White House.  Conservatives have fallen into a mental trap they won't give up.  They think simply giving evidence, facts, numbers, statistics, and even solid logic will win over the American vote.  There are two major blind spots with this approach, guaranteed to sink their hope for the next election, once again...

First blind spot: Conservatives think that everyone wants a better nation. Mistake.  This is not so.  Even if the majority of Americans wanted a better nation, they aren't willing to do the work to get us there.  Republicans & Libertarians both point out we need to tighten our belts, sacrifice, and work hard.  Last time I checked, kids cheat in school and people drop out of their health clubs, because most people are intimidated by hard work.  Your message of hard work falls on deaf ears.

If your message is "tighten your belts, work hard & sacrifice," but you communicate it like a group of Sophomores with finger pointing and info dumping, why do you wonder when there's no response to your "evidence"?  People don't want to cut back, especially when the people saying cut back, don't model cutting back...

Second and more serious blind spot: Here's the real reason we won't see a Conservative President in America, and this is vital, spouting facts rarely wins the day without answering the "so what?" question.  I'm frankly tired of the griping from Right Wing Conservative parties.  I'm more than a moderate, but the shrill lamenting of the Republican party and the Libertarians over the bankruptcy of Detroit, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, and a dozen other "facts" about how bad the Dems are, isn't changing the course of our future.  I don't doubt the hype, I doubt they are using the truth wisely.

Ok, so Detroit has been run into the ground from over 40 years of Democratic Mayors.  Pointing out the obvious, even if it's abundantly clear, will not change the will of the people.  People crave a "so what?" solution, not a vilification of the villains.  Why?  Most Americans struggle with corruption and they can empathize with the corrupt.  Tell Americans "Why" this action is harmful, don't keep repeating there's "a" problem without unpacking and explaining the fruition of the circumstances.  That, is missing in most or all of the communication from the Right.

Give us a "so what?" to the facts.  You've made your point, they are corrupt on the Left.  The nation is in debt.  Ok, the people know that, but this message has no substance, because people are easily distracted and the masses will always want the easy way out.  For each and every Talking Point Conservatives tout, they waste their time if they don't describe "how" this will play out in the long run and what are the mechanics of the supposed problem.

People will not respond to negativity, that's a plain fact of communication 101.  And, people will not be moved without an in depth purpose behind the facts.

It's obvious the Republicans, especially, can't uncover a Front-runner to energize the voters.  That will be secondary to their number 1 problem, which is, not having a convincing message.  They keep sharing the facts, without a compelling conclusion.  That will sink them in 2016 -- which I predict the next election will run around 5 Billion dollars in campaigning costs.

Until the Conservatives in the GOP, or any party, can tell us "why" the facts are important, and lead us to a satisfactory "so what?" the people will happily settle for "Bread & Circus"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seven lessons bicycling has taught me:

Biking with Jacob & Klay when they were young
In no particular order, here are 7 lessons biking has taught me: 

There are only so many perfect days, don't waste them.

The water always tastes better at the top of the hill.

There's a fine line between pacing & laziness; therefore only worry about climbing one hill at a time...

Riding together with friends & loved ones is fun and since they won't always be there, ride often with them -- but occasional solitude is good for the soul too.

If you focus too much on the trail, you miss the scenery...

The simple rhythm of pedaling through nature is therapeutic.

Appreciate your health & mobility, not everyone gets to ride their bike.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sometimes you just need to act:

I don't know if you caught this story, earlier this week a woman in Japan fell in between the train and the platform.  Without a campaign, a sign-up sheet, or begging for volunteers -- only short a blast over the PA that there was a woman in danger -- the crowd manhandled the 32-ton train, pushing it off of the the trapped woman.  I love the punch line, she was unharmed and the train was on its way in 8 minutes; that's an efficient rescue! 

The church could learn something here.  
This isn't bash the bureaucracy of the committee laden church.  
It's a wake up call to action.  Too many people live trainwrecks of a life, and we stand by idly... 

We as Christians wait entirely too long to act on our own.
Forget about what your church "won't let you do." 
Tell that excuse to Jesus...

I've been in church-gridlock before and I presently experience a congregation that is mostly freed up from red-tape; neither model of leadership though restricts you from sharing your faith with people who aren't promised a tomorrow.  You can share the Good news in any church without permission.  

There is no form of church that stops you from shaking your friends out of their complacency when it comes to the fact their marriage is on a collision-course.  Even the most restrictive church wants to see healthy marriages.  

Neither is there a church model that holds you back from helping your peers parent better.  
The kids are grown & gone in the blink of an eye...

We could tally up a few more examples, but I think you get the point.  We have to speak the truth in love and encourage each other towards maturity, before the train pulls out...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Clingy, like a vine...

Some people are as indiscriminate as a wild vine --they will wrap arms like tentacles around any emotional scaffolding that crosses their path.  Humanly it's natural to connect, but maturity calls for discrimination regarding where & how we bond.

Oddly enough, it seems like kind and beautiful women stay anchored to abusive men.  Sincere seekers are duped by wolves in sheep's clothing.  Gangs thrive by filling some type of vacuum in the lives of young men who have an absence of mentors.  Imbalanced people choke the life out of the caregivers who never learned to set boundaries, because some nurturers need to be needed a bit much.

We should find some of our stability from relationships -- but not all of our strength should be harnessed to others.  God created us for community to find encouragement and support --but our ultimate trust and completion comes through Him.

So, how do we maintain the right touch of closeness without seeming to be co-dependent or unhealthy?

To start with, surround yourself with people who are spiritually healthy.
"Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV)
We will become like the people we are spending time with.
Open your eyes more than your ears.  Actions rarely lie.
You'll know people by their behavior, not necessarily by their rhetoric.

Secondly, be someone worth imitating.
Savvy people I know, who seem to have it going on, they are attractive -- no not physically, more like magnetically.  There are people we are drawn to, and at the end of the day we say to ourselves, "I admire certain traits in them I wish I was mastering."

Thirdly, don't project the attitude of a victim.
Victims attract predators, and, healthy people avoid whiners like the plague.

Farmers do not plant their crops in a marsh, swamp or desert.  They are selective on what soil they invest their time in.  They also get rid of the weeds, and vines..., that would choke the life out the harvest.  Be like the wise farmer when it comes to cultivating the soil of your heart.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Picking up the pieces of the Breaking point

Car problems that claimed the life of our old van...

Everything in this universe wears out; just try to keep gym-shoes on little boys and you know this.  A screen-door only opens and closes so many times.  Your car's engine only turns so many revolutions before the engine will seize up.  I'm no physicist, but I guess even water one day can break?

We aren't "things" though, we are people.  Even good people, strong people hit a breaking point, but does this mean we are done?  Are we irreparable like a worn-out spring?  Does our "will" to go on disintegrate, beyond being salvaged?

I can think of several areas in life where this question becomes significant:
  • A husband & wife who find their rocky marriage has ground them down like dust
  • Parents who have a prodigal child, their fountain of tears have dried up
  • A new believer who hits the "institutional" wall and is blinded by the disillusionment
  • The graduate with the freshly minted degree who finds out all that glitters isn't gold  

I remember sitting in Dr Shackelford's class at Harding,on the wisdom & poetry books of the Bible.  It was there, many years ago, I was introduced to Brueggemann's insights into the Psalms, namely there are many Psalms that have a threefold progression where the Psalmist communicates a state of being oriented, disoriented, reoriented.

Life follows that progression.  Everything is calm and we have sense of well being.  The storms hit, and we are disoriented.  Then, through God's providence, we find a new state of being, a better perspective on the other side as we are reoriented.

We can't choose when the calm times will end and we enter into the chaos -- not always.  Sometimes our actions result in painful consequences, sometimes an outside influence is the catalyst.  But.  The choice is always ours on whether or not we choose to stay in pain.  Sure, the timing might not be to our satisfaction for when relief comes.  And, it might be a road we don't want to travel down.  But we aren't "things" that wear out and break.

We are broken people who are renewed, often in need of daily renewal: "Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again." (Psalm 71:19-21 ESV)

Do you want to be a "victim" or a wounded soul, or do you want something better?  The truth is, we are tattered and threadbare, in our best times.  When we rely on our will power or personal strengths, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

So what do we build our hope on?  God's strength; as Paul explains how God works in or through our weakness, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV)

There are no silver bullets, magic wands, or shortcuts on the road to success.  For those who wish to finish well, there is always hope, perseverance, dedication, and an acknowledgment that God is better at being in control than we are.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Loving marriages:

Tammy taking a sliver out for me

As many of you know, I'm preparing a marriage class to present at New Song church.
So, my antenna is up on this subject and marriage is on my mind quite a bit today.
I happen to know a little about being married, Tammy & I celebrated our 25th anniversary in April.

People see us together and they make all kinds of comments on how great our marriage is.
Some have actually said out loud that they envy us.
But.  The marriage you see today, our outward love & affection, our teamwork, and deep commitment, the marriage we have now, this didn't come without a cost.
What you see today, isn't what we always had.

We were separated once, on the verge of divorce, papers drawn up and all.
Sadly, I had been arrested for domestic violence, three times.
No skills, no direction, no faith, and no hope.  We have seen dark times.
But, we have been blessed in spite of these storms.

We beat all of the odds, especially by being married as teenagers and having kids before marriage.
We not only survived, we have thrived.
We don't just tolerate each other or overlook the idiosyncrasies that can get on our nerves.
We actually enjoy being with each other.
We miss each other when we are apart.
We laugh together too.

Therefore, Tammy and I remain optimistic when it comes to other marriages we see that are stagnant or in trouble.  We often say something along these lines, "If God could turn our marriage around, then everyone has a chance."

So, how do you overcome tough times like ours, or perhaps deal with a selfish/callous spouse, or simply deal with stale years that are drama-free but are unfulfilling in your married life?

For Tammy and me, the first real catalyst was our faith and our faith community.  God didn't work alone on us, He sent people into our lives to mentor and model for us what a healthy marriage is.  Secondly, a key hinge in our marriage was a marriage enrichment seminar (a weekend marathon event) with Faulkner & Brecheen.  Then alongside these, we shared a strong desire to grow personally.  We've read all kinds of books on marriage, studied together the topic in a great college class on Christian counseling taught by Joe Brumfield, we went on to be certified by Family Dynamics to facilitate marriage seminars, and we were plain stubborn -- in a good way.

Having a great marriage takes hard work, but it's not too hard when you are in love.  There are certain essentials that are non-negotiables to growing a healthy marriage -- beyond having mutual respect or open communication.  Like what?  Off the top of my head, I'd say having a spiritual core, being a lifelong learner, and surrounding yourself with people who want to see you both succeed.
Oh, one more.  Your best friend -- is your spouse.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What makes a great nation, makes great people

Americans are across the board when it comes to love or loyalty to our nation.
Are we a great benevolent nation, or a nation of tyrants that force our malevolent ways on others?
Did we begin with noble aspirations, or did we greedily grab land from unaware and innocent people?

It's not surprising we have problems today, when shows like South Park or Three and a half men are loved by millions, and young people today don't even know lines like, "Yeah Sarah, Sheriff Taylor here, can you put me through to..."

So, what makes a great nation, and a nation of great people?
I'm going to limit it to only three ideas:
1. Who are our heroes?
2. What do we read?
3. How do we see the future?

#1. The heroes we look up to shape our values, they inspire us to greatness.  We long to imitate the behavior they model.  So, look around...

#2. What we read shapes our thinking.  Are we a literate culture, or one that has tuned out by tuning in too much...  Great thoughts percolate in quality literature, both good works of fiction as well as non-fiction.  Every great leader is a deep reader.

#3. Are we optimistic about our future, or are we on the cusp of fulfilling an Orwellian prophecy?  If you think the best is yet to come, you'll strive to achieve it.  If you think there's no point, you'll drift into apathy.

As a lover of history, I see in America, a nation tottering on a fulcrum.  We have a divided nation, mostly I mean that politically, think CNN vs Fox news as a good indicator...  But, I don't see an energetic nation that has the gumption to overcome the inertia all of our squabbling has generated.   I see a nation of servants, and of takers.  I see a nation of lovers & haters.  Mostly, I see people.  People who need guidance and education, and a spiritual core.  I see people who could "have it all" or who could squander a great opportunity.  

Gandhi said something like, "Be the change you want to see in others." Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free..."  Let's not squander our freedom, not today.