Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Give What You Can

April 19, 2016

“If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give.  God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t”  2 Corinthians 8:12

So often when we are asked to give, we think “Oh I can’t give much right now, I have all these expenses.”  And we end up giving nothing.  But if we love God and we want to give out of love for Him, we will have a different mindset.  We’ll think, “What can I give?”  And we’ll look for ways and means to give all we can out of a heart of love.  The same thing happens as we age.  As the years go by there are things we can no longer do, and things we don’t do as well as we used to.  We may also have less income than we used to, and less in the way of things.  But when we think with a heart of love, we discover we have sources we never tapped before.  We have more time, more experience, perhaps more patience, well defined skills we can teach, the understanding that comes from having lived through many situations and survived them.  In the same way, asking “what can I give?” opens up venues we possibly haven’t thought of before.  We may not have a lot of money, but we may find money in items we no longer use, a skill we can donate, some money we can save by doing something differently, and so on.  The trick is to think “Can” instead of “Can’t”.  Two school age kids baked and sold cookies for a couple years until they were able to build a clinic overseas.  Who would have thought two school age kids could have funded the building of a clinic?  But they didn’t think about what they didn’t have–they thought “what can I do?”

 

Politics

March 13, 2016

Too many Americans are treating their fellow Americans like enemies.  I see this as very dangerous and I fear what could come of it.  People can have opposite perspectives, yet refuse to be enemies.  Painting everyone who disagrees a hater, or worse yet, acting hateful is poisoning the atmosphere we all have to breathe.  I don’t hate anyone, but I sure hate what the political process has become.

Compassion Fatigue

February 12, 2016

“He was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need.”  Mark 3:5

When did you first hear the term “Compassion Fatigue”?    It is actually a medical or psychological term, and it was first described in disaster response workers.  It was a form of stress where the worker saw so much suffering for so long, that they were experiencing a special form of burnout.  They ceased to be able to feel emotion.  They couldn’t feel sadness, anger at the situation, joy at gains made, or  well, anything.  It was called “Secondary Traumatic Stress”.  However, if you hear the term today, it can refer to something different.  It can refer to the amount of human suffering before our eyes on the television every day–suffering about which we can do nothing–that we start to take an indifferent attitude toward it, not feeling much of anything.  It can also refer to the frustration and finally indifference someone may feel toward the panhandler they have seen on the corner every day for the past four years, who never moves on or improves.  Was this what Jesus was disturbed about?

In Jesus day, the streets seemingly were filled with beggars.  People begged because they were too disabled to work, and their were no programs, homes, or charities to help them.  Obviously these were people whose families could not or would not help them.  There were so many, and it must have seemed so endless, that people just walked on by, ignoring them.  This deeply disturbed Jesus.  So, how are we to respond?

I believe the best way to handle things like this is to recognize while we can’t do everything, nor likely even anything big, we can do something!  And that something we do keeps us engaged.  The fact we are doing something we are able to do, alleviates the frustration that the problem is just overwhelming.  We can learn more, or meet someone we’re helping, and that helps us feel care.  Even if its just a small financial sacrifice, or an occasional gift of our time, it keeps us involved.  When we can’t stop to talk with that panhandler because we’re driving and its not safe, we can still offer a prayer for his wellbeing.  It keeps us from being indifferent.

Environmental Damage and Spirituality

January 7, 2016

“There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land.  You swear and lie and kill and steal and commit adultery.  There is violence everywhere with one murder after another.  That is why your land is not producing, it is filled with sadness, and all living things grow sick and die; the animals, the birds and even the fish begin to disappear.”  Hosea 4:2-3

People wonder why we have so many environmental problems, drought, crop disease, disease among the animals including bees, and weather disasters.  People try to lay the blame somewhere, and depending on their worldview, it may be overpopulation, pollution in the atmosphere, greedy corporations who mess up the natural order, or carbon production.  No one seems to question whether there is a spiritual connection.  When a country is full of crime and corruption, does not that country move far from God, and turn its back on God?  This doesn’t say God caused all the problems.  It could be that the country has moved far away from God’s blessing.  It may be like moving away from the source of sound and hearing it fade, moving away from the source of light and seeing things get darker, and moving out from under shelter beginning to feel the cold and rain.

When Does the Government Finally have Enough Money

May 3, 2012

I saw the following quote recently:  ”  What kind of person sees nothing wrong in cutting a teachers 50,000 salary by 20%, but doesn’t see anything wrong with a 3% tax increase on a millionaire.”

I would re-word this:  “What kind of government sees nothing wrong in taking more and more money from small business and uses the emotional blackmail of threatening to cut the salaries of public employees, most famously teachers and police.”

This first quote is too simplistic a choice, and issues revolving around pay and taxes go much deeper than this. Governments must learn to live within a budget and can’t continue to take more and more.  England thought they were faced with a similar choice between raising taxes or cutting pay. They decided the fairest thing was to raise taxes on the top tier of income.  A 3% tax increase isn’t what we’re really talking about here.  That would never be enough.  How much is enough?  50% tax rate, 70%, 90%?  They’ve all been tried.  If we did today, what England did, we would have a top income tax rate of 70%.  The median wage would be about $30,000.  Unemployment among the under 25’s would be 40%.  Only 10% would be allowed to go to college.  Health care would be free and mostly unavailable.  The government would become the partial or total owner of all big business in the country.    This was what England looked like in the 1980’s after 30 years of high taxes and the central government running virtually everything.  And the country still came to the edge of bankruptcy more than once.  Emotional arguments like the one above will lead to poor choices.   We think we are being “fair” and can make this type of economic system (redistribution of wealth) work when it has failed everywhere it has been tried.   It leads to people having no motive to excel, and all wealth ending up under government control, when government is not and will never be a good steward of what it manages.  We need to look at where we’re spending our money, not raising taxes.

Mexican Summer Salad

July 6, 2011

Mexican Blessing:

Christ the bread of life, come bless our meal, Amen.

Mexican Summer Salad

2 lbs sirloin, sliced thin

1pkg. fajita seasoning (add 2/3 cup water and one Tb olive oil

Marinate meat a couple hours, then cook on a tabletop griddle (I used a George Foreman grill) 

Put cooked beef in a dish, surround with dishes of:

lettuce, shredded cheddar, sliced olives, crushed “hint of lime” tortilla chips, sour cream and homemade pice de gallo (1 tomato finely chopped, 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped, 3 green onions, finely chopped, 2 TB cilantro finely chopped, and juice of one lime.)

Let each person put together their own salad as they like it.  Serve with warm, buttered tortillas if desired, and a glass of Sangria if desired (I buy Yago, don’t make my own).

Enjoy a fine, low carb (well, except for the tortillas) summer meal.

Hate Speech

January 12, 2011

Having listened to all sorts of opinions on what constitutes hate speech, I have come up with a definition of my own.  If I perceive someone’s speech to threaten  people I agree with, its hate speech.  If they are merely threatening someone else, and I happen to agree with them, then its not hate speech.

Medicare

March 24, 2010

I have been really upset the past couple days.  On the heels of healthcare reform, I get a letter that I must find a new doctor.  Now, if you know anyone on Medicare who has to find a doctor, you know that is not an easy thing today.  Medicare reimbursement to doctors and other providers is so abysmal, a lot of doctors no longer see new patients.   If I find a doctor at all, the next issue will be finding a specialist if I ever need one.  This is just the beginning.  The other problem is the $500 billion in Medicare cuts at a time when the number of patients is rising.  The architect of how to do the $500 billion in cuts is the same British man who invented the National Health Service agency called “N.I.C.E.”  This is the board who decides how many “quality years” (QALY) you have left, and whether you will receive medical care.   This is the board who advocates no treatment at all for the sickest, and is the direct cause of thousands in England being put to death by dehydration while in a morphine induced coma (so their families can’t quite figure out what happened).   Looking at all this, and being without a physician, I realize I am “of an age”, and it scares me.  If I get sick, I may have to do my duty and die.  Actually, it will likely be decided for me.

After stewing for hours over what is happening to the old and the sick under Medicare (and likely to quickly get worse under “Obamacare” due to the consultations with N.I.C.E. by the Obama administration,) I had a change of thought.  I’m not going to put my hope for life or health in the government.  So many in our nation look to the government instead of God.  So many count on the government to come through for them for their income, house, disaster relief, healthcare, etc., etc.  But the government does a very bad job of being god.  However, the good news is:  God is still on the throne.  Unlike my doctor, God doesn’t leave the area.  He doesn’t take vacations, he doesn’t retire, and in fact, he never sleeps.  He doesn’t miss a thing.  Furthermore, I belong to God.  It is He who protects my health and well being.  As long as He has something for me to do on this earth, I’ll be alive to do it.  I won’t live one day less that He has planned for me, no matter what the government thinks.  When He comes for me, it will be on His timetable, and if He chooses to let the government be the instrument of my demise, well, we all go by some means.  It will still be God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s time to come for me.

Healthcare Reform

March 23, 2010

All who are cheering our new healthcare reform ought to be studying the National Health Service in England.  In particular they ought to be looking at one of the many bureaucractic offices set up to run the Health Service “fairly”.   N.I.C.E. is the acronym for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  In reality it is set up to determine such things as how many quality years a person has left.  QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Years) puts you in your proper place in the rationing queue.  If you are an older person, or if you have a condition which someone from N.I.C.E. determines as causing your quality of life to be less, your QALY score is lower, and you either wait longer for care, or you don’t get it at all.  N.I.C.E. also determines such things as whether the NHS should offer certain treatments to anyone at all.  If a treatment helps some people, but not enough people, it is taken off the schedule completely and no one gets it.  Its not cost effective to use it for just a few.  So now everyone’s worth is determined by their QALY score and the cost effectiveness of treating them.  In fact the Brits call N.I.C.E.  by other names such as “National Institute of Cost Effectiveness” and “Nazi Institute for Commoner Extermination”.  The two men most instrumental in setting up N.I.C.E., Sir Michael Rawlings and Simon Stevens are both working with the U.S. government to determine the most efficient ways to run Medicare.  Sir Michael Rawlings has had video conferences with our health bureaucrats, and Simon Stevens is now living in the U.S. and advising Medicare.  In the Healthcare Reform package which just passed congress is a plan to save $500 billion from Medicare over 10 years.  This is supposed to help finance the reform. Mr. Stevens, one of the architects of N.I.C.E., is architect of that part of healthcare reform.  Nancy Pelosi hailed Healthcare Reform as being a historical landmark like Medicare.  Medicare looks like it will soon be a plan senior citizens will wish they could escape.  Although the quote was frequently thrown at us that Europe has better health statistics than we do, England does not.  England’s cancer survival rates trail ours by 10-20%, and so do their cardiovascular survival rates. That is despite Britain having had universal healthcare for 60 years.  As my own father used to say, “Everything costs something.”  Nothing is free.  If we want to give free health insurance to people who by choice do not work full time, and have the taxpayers cover it, something else has to give.  I just can’t champion Medicare when I paid into it for 40 years of my working life and now can’t find a doctor who will see Medicare patients because of its abysmal reimbursement to doctors.  Our new healthcare reform model is mirroring the British model, which has been a complete failure.  Wake up America, and keep your sense of urgency until November when we have another chance to elect a new congress and do healthcare reform right.

Re-reading Literature

February 17, 2010

Now that I have a bit more time than I used to have, I decided to read some American literature.  Its a subject that has always fascinated me.  I think, however prejudicially, that America is a pretty special place, and I wanted to dig into the American psyche a bit more.

I went to the library and checked out some college textbooks on American Literature.  Now, I’m not totally illiterate on the subject.  I read a great deal of good American fiction when I was younger, and have continued reading it through life, although at a slower pace when I was busier.  I understood the elements of a story to be: the main character or hero faces a conflict.  The conflict could be a person, situation, or internal crisis.  The conflict gets resolved, and the story ends either with the problem overcome, or the hero learning something vital, which allows the reader to determine how he will then act on his new knowledge.  However, what I read in the Literature texts, almost exclusively, was something else.  What I read seemed to go like this: the main character is in despair, the book explores dark elements of the human psyche, the main character is searching for meaning or happiness or love, and the climax is discovering it doesn’t exist.  The story ends either explicitly with the character’s death, or implicitly, with the character’s disappointment in his or her quest.  It was all pretty dark, depressing material.  It was amazing that I didn’t remember reading very much of this kind of literature in my youth.  Then it hit upon me that perhaps the selection of literature in these texts is biased toward this very negative kind of story.

Searching farther, I read an article explaining the difference between popular fiction and literature.  I expected to find out that popular fiction was lacking description, had shallow, underveloped characters or the like.  Instead, the difference is that popular fiction has the plot I described above, with a conflict resolution and (according to the author of the article) a “happy ending”.  According to this auth0r, true literature described the human condition as it is, with all its “angst”, and lack of answers.  In other words, real life has no happy endings, and no answers, so to write stories that have either of these is to succumb to the lure of writing popular fiction (with the inferior motive of making money) instead of literature.  Another author stated it was impossible for any Christian fiction to ever be considered literature, because a Christian’s unique belief system precludes any “angst” or despair.

Well, all I can say is I wonder if the requirement to study American Literature in one’s first two years of college  is a good thing.  What if it leads those young, mostly teenage students to believe that life is nothing but despair and meaninglessness?  No wonder there are so many college students on antidepressants!  Their beliefs about life have been shattered.  This is totally unnecessary in my judgment, because there are quite a lot of very happy people in the world: people solving their problems and creating good and beautiful things for their families and their posterity.  The intellectual crowd may be the ones out of synch with the “human condition”.  They are staring in despair at a glass thats all but empty, sure there are no answers to their thirst.  The rest of humanity is out to find the faucet.