Wednesday, December 9, 2015

i was wrong

A few years ago, I made the prediction that by 2020 the Presidential Race would be decided by a reality television show.

I was wrong.  It's the 2016 Race that will be decided this way.

Being that I'm pretty much "in the middle", politically, it's always been difficult for me to see how either side of US politics can offer anything that will resonate with me.  Every 4 years I face the conundrum of who to vote for and why- and I have voted in every single Presidential election since 1984 - and for the record, I voted for Walter Mondale. (I had registered as a Republican, too!!)  I voted for Mondale because at the time, I saw Reagan as having flashed out in the previous 4 years, and even though I actually thought that Reagan had turned out to be a good POTUS, I just wanted someone new.  Mondale lost, of course- and Reagan had 4 more years and it turned out ok.

The thing that escapes me is why people put so much emphasis on the candidates stances on various things that really don't matter.  Now, I grew up the kid of a very good US Civics teacher, and even though he and I disagreed on a lot of things politically, I heard what he had to say and he heard me, too.  Discussion of things political were commonplace in my home, and sometimes became pretty impassioned.  My stepmother was (and still is) pretty conservative; my dad is a raging liberal (I call him a 'commie' for fun).  On the other side of my family, my mom and stepdad were ragingly conservative, and discussing politics with them would almost always end in an argument, so I stuck with my dad and stepmom- and my paternal grandparents (who were extremely liberal)  All sides were well represented, but my dad was the one I listened to the most.

I've been fascinated with history as long as I can remember.  If it's a historical document, I've probably read it.  I used to read historical narratives like some people gorge themselves at Thanksgiving, and US Government was part of that history that absolutely fascinated me.  Having someone in my home who could pretty much rattle off the entire US Constitution from memory was just icing on the cake- but he provided a lot more than that.  He provided context, and that context is missing from people's minds today.

The US Government was a very, very different setup from all other forms of government when it was first started.  Our founding fathers had all experienced various types of totalitarian governments- they were, in fact, geographically and financially located in a part of the world due to some of the more tyrannical aspects of those governments- and they were not too keen on repeating the mistakes of the past.  So, they created the idea of "checks and balances" within a governmental body, and it was a truly remarkable thing, too.  If you paid attention in Civics class, you know about this- the 3 branches of government- executive, judicial and legislative branches.  Neither of them is more powerful than the other, and each has their part to play- and, btw, this hasn't changed in 239 years.  There's a chain of command with the President at the top and others who can assume power along the way- blah, blah, blah.   While none of them really have any more power than the others, the President is actually the weakest of the 3 branches because he is an individual and can nothing without the votes or rulings from the other 2.  He balances that weakness with being able to veto things and say "no".  All of the sudden though, we seemed to have forgotten all of this.

So, now we have an actual reality television star running for office.  He has said some pretty crazy things, and people are reacting as though he can actually do the things that he talks about.  It's even gotten to the point where outside agencies are allowing what he says - as an unelected "official" to dictate policy.  People now label him a "fascist" (it's difficult to argue with that assessment) and believe that he will institute all manner of weirdness if he's elected.

BIG emphasis on the "if".

If that guy somehow manages to get elected, he still has to contend with the legislative branch who clearly doesn't share his views (despite what you may be hearing in the media, the GOP is not a fan of his) as well as the Left who have considerable and formidable power in the House and Senate. He'll also have to deal with judicial branch that will overturn things wholesale because it cannot stand on legal merits.  He cannot reduce the other parts of the government either, because to do that would require military involvement and the legislative branch controls their money- so that's a dead end.  (Not to mention that the US Military has no desire, training or tactical way to be a domestic police force.)  The very first time he tries to do something stupid (which would take probably 9 seconds for him to accomplish) it would result in the 3rd and fastest impeachment in US History.  (And, unlike the other impeachments, this one would stick.)

So- as one of my good friends likes to say- when it comes to Donald Trump, "calm your tits."

The upshot of all of this is that the populace of this country, in their haste to forget absolutely everything they learned in school about US Government, is doing nothing more than making this into a bigger and bigger circus than it already is.  Every time this fool opens his mouth, people feel the need to give it attention with the thought of "he's truly dangerous" when in fact, if elected, he will not have the power or clout to do any of the things he's been talking about.  While this goes on, the circus calliope that is US Politics just gets louder and louder and more and more clowns keep jumping out of cars.  The rest of the world laughs at us because of this, folks- not just at the fool politicians, but at the populace, too.  Outsiders to this country know more about the inner workings of our Federal government than we do, it seems- and we look like idiots because we pay attention to it.

It is we- the American people who have done this to ourselves.  In our race to find microwave answers to seriously difficult questions, we have basically paved the way for this kind of rampant stupidity.  We have no one to blame but ourselves- after all, these people are reality television stars, and the people are clammoring for reality television star behavior, so that's what they do.  They give us that.  And we eat it up like a dog eating it's own vomit.

What's really frightening here is that we are, in my (not so) humble opinion, right on the brink of a tremendous war on the Middle East, and most of us don't even realize it.  Right now, the biggest powers in the EU - UK, France and Germany - and Russia - are engaged in actual combat with ISIL/ISIS/Daesh (or whatever they're called this week) and we are committed there as well.  With the attacks on Paris and now on US soil, all it's gonna take is another one of those ass-hats to do something really awful and it's gonna be an all out war.  The last time(s) there was an all-out-war between the West and the Middle East, it didn't go so well- well, let's just say that the objectives were not held for long - and I'm pretty sure that's what's gonna happen again.  Hey- if we can't remember history, we are doomed to repeat it.  (Thank you, George Santyana)

So, I was wrong.  We've got a reality TV show for an election in 2016, not 2020.  And, I just know that we're all gonna play along.  I just wonder who's gonna be on which team- I can see Hilary Clinton on Team Gwen and Bernie Sanders on Team Blake, but I'm not sure where everyone else will fall.  The idea of Donald Trump with Pharrel Williams is pretty damned funny.......

I'm not done making predictions, by the way:

  1. Hilary Clinton is going to be our next President.
  2. There will be another terrorist attack bigger than San Bernardino by April.  I'm betting it will be something germ/chemical and will happen on the west coast.  Oh, God I hope I'm wrong about this one.
  3. We will be at war by summer.
Will I be wrong?  Maybe.  I honestly hope I am (especially #2) but I'm sure that with everyone all caught up in Trump's latest faux pas, no one will see it coming.

Then again- I've been wrong before.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

plain and simple

Unless you live under a rock or don't watch/listen to the news, you know what's happened in Paris yesterday.  Every time things like this happen, it seems like it's a chance for some to politicize it.  It doesn't matter how heinous the act or how many lives are lost- some just see it as a chance to put on their soapbox shoes and beat their chest in a vain attempt to be relevant.

Just stop it.  Please.

I'm not saying that you're not entitled to your opinion- you absolutely are, but haven't you noticed that with every single politicization of these things, it amounts to nothing?  Nothing changes at all, and the heinous acts continue and the tumult is again raised, and usually with more ferocity.

Each side - Left and Right - do this, every single time.  If it's a school shooting, the Left cries for more legislation and the right counters with something equally ridiculous.  The devastated families respond out of fear and longing, and we go around and around again.  If it's a terrorist attack, the Right responds with it's someone on the Left's fault and the Left responds with things like "think before we go to war" - and the whole cycle repeats again and again.

The reason we do this is simple- we want to think we have control and/or we want to think that there's something that should have been done to prevent it and that somebody dropped the ball.  The trouble here is that we don't have that control, and in 99.9% of the cases, there was no ball to drop.  The result of these silly and over-emotional responses is that we take our eyes off the problem, searching for something that is not there and never has been there- and try to find some highbrow and pseudo-intellectual way of enforcing the little "control" we have- and while that is going on, the evil-doers of the world plot and scheme and laugh at the paltry attempts.  The people that we have put in power are just as capable of making mistakes as everyone else is, but for some reason that is forgotten and an entirely new set of armchair quarterbacks are born.

So- with the advent of 120+ people dead and scores more wounded and an entire country living in fear, I read from some friends of mine that the President of the United States is somehow to blame for this because he did not stop it- you have simply got to be kidding me.  Is this really the time to finding blame?  Is anyone at all helped or aided by those efforts?  Is someone going to be bleeding less or have their dead loved one returned to them because you say that our POTUS is the one that should be doing something about something in another sovereign country?  Is this politicizing of an absolute tragedy going to help end this kind of thing?

The answer to that is a resounding "no" and quite frankly if you are the kind of person who goes right into the blame game like this, you are an asshole of the highest order.  You should forever shut your mouth.  And, yeah- I mean it just like that.  (This is no metaphor.  Shut the hell up.)  The only people that deserve the blame game are the ones that perpetrated the act.  And, even that should be fleeting at best, as we should all be doing nothing other than helping the survivors.

I propose this: If people spent as much time helping people as they do politicizing these things, we could probably fix it.  If we could avert our attention from ideas and efforts that are nothing more than chest beating and spend even half that time making real efforts- what kind of a world would we be living in?

No- I don't have the answer here, but I fear that the answer that is needed from a human involvement standpoint is one that few (if any) have the stomach for.  We need to fight this kind of thing in a real way- not with hyperbole and homile, but with actions and personal responsibility and above all, critical thought.  For me, my trust comes in the form of looking to God, but I know that doesn't work for everyone, and because it doesn't, it's incumbent upon me to demonstrate that I do care for my fellow humans in a way that they can see it.  God and I will converse (as we do frequently) but, in the meantime, I need to do something that demonstrates my faith in a real way to those that don't share my faith.

On a personal note, I have made more than my share of jokes about the French.  I have been to Paris, and while I think it's one of the most beautiful cities on this earth, I have had many issues with the people there.  Having said that, no matter my feelings on that matter, I am horrified at the events there.  Regardless of my feelings about the Parisians or France's participation (or lack thereof in some cases) in some world events, all that goes by the wayside in a big way when things like this happen.  Their blood is as red as mine, and the only real differences between me and the average Parisian are language and geographic location.  Everyone in France is someone's brother, sister, child, father or mother just as everyone here is.  I weep for them as I would for anyone in this situation.

In the meantime, if you feel compelled to politicize this act first, remember- you are an asshole.

Plain and simple.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

poison

I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that this image encapsulates everything that is wrong with the church today.

Yes.  I said everything.

It's not because it's a trite saying - it is that - but it's because it speaks to a level of supposed enablement that isn't real.  It's also not Biblical.  Currently, in the church's vain attempt at being more "seeker friendly", this topic becomes something of a battle-cry for the downtrodden, and pushes people into ever darker places and states of mind.  Basically, what's really being said here - without actually saying it - is that in the trials and travails that have befallen you, you have somehow averted your eyes from God, and it is not only within your power to correct these things, but - now, get this - your troubles are really all in your head.  They aren't really real.  If you would, for one second, pull your head out of your overly spiritual and way-too-self-introspective ass, you would realize that God is only giving you these things to make you stronger.  If you just flipped a magic switch and truly understood, you wouldn't even have these supposed problems.

There is a word for this sentiment: BULLSHIT.  It's this sentiment right here that is the very base of the argument of "why does God allow evil in the world if He is so good?"  That is also a false argument, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Now, before someone gets on their high-hog and starts calling me Reformed or Calvinist, let's just stop with that garbage for a minute.  Let's go from some common sense, and leave people like Gilly Haan and Jack Calvin out of this for a second.

First, we need to understand that, as humans, we are wholly incapable of understanding everything there is to know about God.  We just can't, because the depths of that cannot be described.  Despite our best intentions, we have and will continue to fail in that regard.  We should accept this altruistically.  I am not saying that one shouldn't try to understand these things, but I am saying that the more you find out, the more ready you must be to be corrected on your "epiphanal moments".

Next is the statement that somehow implies God "gives" us things.  Now, I can't go a whole lot further without exposing my Calvinist innards, but I have to ask- who says God "gives" us these things?  I have a difficult time believing that God does that.  I believe that things happen and all the things that happen are somehow "ordained" and within some kind of plan (thank you, Jack Calvin) - but honestly, I can't prove that.  I guess I don't really know how that works, but what I am pretty darned sure of is that it doesn't matter.  God has provided the Author and the Finisher of our faith in Jesus Christ, and I am also pretty darned sure that no matter what we "believe" we really need to trust Him.  So, that's what I do.

Ok- but how is this sentiment ruining the church?

The poison that comes out of this sentiment really boils down to the idea that God won't challenge us, and as His children we shouldn't challenge others, either.  That's patently untrue.  More than that, God will absolutely put things in your path that are impossible to work through without him.  That's why the statement should be changed to the one on the right- but I don't think I've ever seen this meme shown anywhere near the number of times the first one shows up.

See, the issue is this- God isn't interested in our fleeting comfort, not even a little bit.  What He is interested in is having relationship with us.  Think about it- the friends all of us value the most are the ones that walk through not just the woods with us, but also walk through the brambles and the thorns.  They are there for us in the good and the bad - especially the bad - and that value is one we all find irreplaceable.  God is EXACTLY like that, and while He is not concerned with your "comfort" at a specific moment, He is very interested in your well-being- but this well-being has an eternal component to it, and that is hard to fathom.

In our day-to-day walk in and out of the church, this poison spreads into the farthest reaches.  It becomes something of a "microwave" sentiment, in that the people who believe this message also belive that if their minds are somehow attuned to some special frequency, God will just turn the world the way they are headed and everything will be easy.  This is what allows ideas like this to happen:

  • Our church is great because we are growing in number.
  • Our church services could be better if we had better video/audio/larger santuary/more parking.....
  • Anyone who wants to do something should be able to do it without challenge- like play on a worship team or run sound.

What's interesting about all of these statements is that there is a small measure of truth in them, but what people fail to realize is that it's too small to be truly foundational and build upon any of it.  Again, it's the "microwave" sentmentality of it that dissipates the real message and the reality that we don't understand God and we can't just boil God down to some formula like that book a few years ago called "The Prayer of Jabez" tried to sell us on.  God isn't a formula and He cannot be boiled down to something trivial.

God will absolutely allow things to happen to you that you cannot handle.  Count on it.  He does that to show you how much you need Him.  And, before you cry "well, God wouldn't test me in such a cruel fashion", I will tell you that you are correct- He won't, because He doesn't have to.  The assurance of that is found in Blood that was shed on the Cross by Jesus Christ.  He will test you, and even if you fail, you've already won because of that assurance.  It is that assurance that we all need to lean on instead of the words of someone who probably had good intentions in saying the words in the first meme- but those words are false.

I realize that this can be a confusing topic to some, and if I come off dogmatic about this, I truly apologize, but it's difficult to watch people go through crazy, crazy things and somehow try to reconcile the God I know with these being the items that He has somehow placed in their path, and then try to throw love into it.  It just doesn't work.

Someday, in the sweet by-and-by, we will all have our questions answered.  Until then........


Friday, September 25, 2015

who are you talking to?

Over the past few weeks, I've had some friends who've gone through a rather tumultuous time with health issues.  I realize that I'm getting to an age (I'm 51 as I write this) where my contemporaries are going to have these kinds of problems, and I'm bound to see more and more of this- as we all will as we get up in years.

What has always interested me during times like this is how helpless we all feel when a friend or a loved one is having troubles like this.  (I'm not immune to this, so please don't take it as though I'm above it.)  We all do our "thing" to protect our hearts and the hearts of the affected; some of it is platitudinal in nature and some of it is real.  I'm not in any place of judgement to say that these things aren't warranted or don't provide solace to whoever hears them or says them, and they do have their place.  99.9% of the humans that inhabit this spinning piece of dirt in space have the desire to quell the hurt and help the hurting, and this is but one method.  That said, a lot us turn to God when this happens, and do it very vocally.  We solicit prayers from the Almighty, and some of us do that even though we don't necessarily believe in Him.  Again- I don't say this judgmentally, because I fervently believe that a person's walk with God is their own business and certainly none of mine.

Before I go on, if you're not a believer, please don't take what I'm saying as though you are lesser than I.  Your beliefs are your beliefs, and I have no desire to comment on them.  I do, however, intend to get a little spiritual here, and if you can permit me to do that without feeling as though you are being put upon, that would be fantastic.  If you are a believer, please don't think I'm trying to espouse a new theology here- this is just my take on this and nothing more.

I'm a pretty introspective guy (or, at least I try to be) and for me, my relationship with God is like air and water- it surrounds me and permeates me.  I make a real effort, every day to try and get myself into His presence.  Even though that is my intent, I will be 100% honest and tell you that I don't do that as much as I'd like.  BUT: when shit hits the fan for people that I care about, LOOK OUT!!!  I'm on my knees (which is no easy feat for me) in front of God, pouring my heart out because I need something.  I take a great deal of solace in knowing that God hears me- but I also find that I have a tremendous, almost crippling feeling of guilt.  Why, you ask?  Because my fervance for His favor is only great when I need something.  Even though I know I should be as fervent in praising Him when things are good, I am not.  I really fall short at that.  And, every time I come before God and pray for these things, I find myself saying something like, "Look.  I know I should talk to you when things are good, but...."- and despite my best efforts, I repeat this.  Time and time again, although I do believe that over the years I've gotten a bit better about it, but I have a long way to go.

Everyone I've ever met that isn't a believer, at some point, voices the question of (paraphrasing here) "well, if God is sovereign and omnipotent, and is in control, then why do you pray?  Do you think you'll be able to change His mind?"

That is a GREAT question.  I'll be honest- I don't have the answer to that.  The Calvinist in me says that my prayers don't change His mind because whatever is in motion has been set in motion by Him.  The non-Calvinist in me hopes I can make a difference.  The human being in me hopes that I can change his mind- but the bottom line is that I don't know the answer.  And, here's a shock- neither does anyone else.  And if they tell you they do, they're either greatly mistaken or outright lying, as this is one of the great mysteries of all time.

And yet, the Bible commands us to pray.  It even says to "pray without ceasing".  So, what's the deal here?

I don't want to hyper-spiritualize this, and I'm not going to make my point by exogesis and pulling random Bible verses out of the air.  Simply put, almost anyone can make anything out of that kind of act.  But I do know that prayer works.  I honestly don't know how or why, but it does.  I've seen it.  I've experienced it.  I've even had it done for me.

Remember the old M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye meets a soldier suffering battle fatigue who thinks he's Jesus?  He asks him, "Does God answer prayer?" and the reply is "He does, but sometimes the answer is 'no'." - and we all hear that and think it's deep.  It's not.  I truly don't believe that God's answers are ever as simple as "yes" or "no"- there's much more to the equation here.  Further, I don't even think it's the point.  What I think it does is that when people hear that folks are praying for them, it changes the atmosphere, almost mystically.  The person in need somehow seems to notice this from their loved ones, and in many cases they are comforted to the point where their health changes and good things happen.  Sometimes the opposite is true, and it doesn't- but invariably, there is comfort provided to all parties when it's known that others are doing this on their behalf.  Some people refer to this as sending "good thoughts" or "good vibes" - and, even though this might not be the most Christian of viewpoints to say, I actually think they are the same thing.  The only difference is that a Christian will attribute these things to God, while others may attribute it to other things.

Again- I really don't know why this works.  All I know is that it does.

I, myself, have a medical condition that might eventually take away my mobility and the ability to do the things I love, like composing and playing music.  I take no comfort in that fact, and believe me when I tell you that God and I have had some rather passionate discussion over the fairness of this where I am concerned (and He and I continue to do so, and will in the future) and, yeah, when I get to meet the Almighty face to face, He's got some 'splainin' to do, but I am far from the only one that has happened to.  It's even Biblical- check out the Book of Job, or 2 Corinthians 12:7- to me, that's the best reference there is for what I deal with day-to-day.  At first, this really rocked me- but, now I realize that God has used this to show me a heightened sense of compassion for my fellow man, which was something I sorely lacked in my youth.  Could He have done that a different way?  Nope.  I'm too stubborn, and those that know me well will tell you that I don't see subtlety well- it takes a 4-iron across my temple - twice - to get my attention.  This was the only way, and strangely enough, I'm kind of glad He did it this way.

So- I intend to keep praying for people.  Again- I don't know how or why it works.  It just does.

Friday, September 18, 2015

all sides

About 30 years ago, I worked as an ambulance attendant and EMT in Boston, Massachusetts.  A lot of the time, the calls were to move elderly patients from nursing homes to emergency rooms- but, every now and then there would be some excitement.  One wintery day we got a call to roll to a car accident, and it was a bad one.  3 cars involved with a total of 7 patients and we were dispatched with fire units due to an extrication that was needed.  The extrication actually happened just before we arrived and was a 4 year old boy who had major trauma.  When we arrived, he was being pulled from the car, and his parents (who were only mildly injured) were inconsolable.  Since I wasn't driving this time, I was the medic who was first to the victim.  What was weird about this was that when the parents first saw me run to their child, they implored me to pray with them before I attended to their child- and that wasn't gonna happen.

I should stop here and explain.

As an EMT, the very first job is to establish "ABC's" for any patient- Airway, Breathing and Circulation.  Nothing else matters until those are dealt with.  And, yes, I was a Christian at the time, and this was NOT the time to pray.  There are some folks who will absolutely bristle at that last statement, and I understand why they would.  Most of those people haven't been faced with a life/death situation (be thankful) and really don't understand the mindset that is required here- but, trust me when I tell you that this is the right and proper thing to do.  I am there to be an active instrument to render aid at the time it is needed in a real and physical way, and I must let others attend to the other things.

It was immediately apparent that the child had suffered potentially fatal head trauma, so establishing airway was going to be a challenge.  He had a neck laceration that was down to his trachea, so that was going to have to do, and I inserted a tube into it to provide that airway.  His blood pressure was very low, but once the tube was in, it got a bit better.  Circulation didn't seem to be a problem here.  He stabilized very quickly, so we taped the tracheotomy tube and got him loaded into a different ambulance and started transport.  The whole operation took about 4 minutes to do, and the entire time, his parents were crying and praying fervently and out loud.  Being that the boy was obviously more critical than anyone else, he went first and his parents were to go later.  I walked over to the parents, and put my hand on the shoulder of the father and told him, "I will be praying for your boy."  I then attended to the other patients as needed, and we left after about 20 minutes on another call.  I said nothing more to the parents, but I did pray for the boy.

The reason that I am telling you this is to illustrate something that might not be obvious to you.  What I am trying to illustrate is that there is a time to provide aid to people in a more passive form and there are times to provide aid in more active forms.  I am not saying that prayer is "passive" by any means, but I am saying that attending to the boys injuries because I had a certain skill set was more active than prayer was at that moment.  Moreover, the aid that I rendered was no less valid and appropriate than the others being rendered at that same time, but my part to play was different.

In the Bible, Jesus performed both passive and active rendering of aid a number of times- feeding the 5,000; telling the woman at the well to go and sin no more; raising Lazarus; showing the Disciples how to be fishers of men, etc.  There was no single method here, and even though Jesus had the ability to just do whatever He wanted to in the way He wanted to do it, He demonstrated that our dealings with others can be done in any number of ways, and there is no right or wrong, necessarily-

BUT: Aid is to be rendered.  Period.  You don't just stand by and do nothing.

Let's put this into a political perspective for a minute: The Left and the Right have seemingly very different ways of rendering aid from a governmental perspective.  The current mainstream media would have you believe that the Left is the more compassionate and forward thinking and the Right is more about casting everything into class warfare and warmongering.  The counter media would have you believe that the Left is espousing nothing but a "nanny state" where everything is just a wanted hand-out and rights and liberty are being removed day and night and the Right has the corner on common sense and are the only ones capable of restoring order to the "new" chaos.

I, personally, believe that both the above points of view are complete bullshit.  The chaos is not new and the arguments are even older than the "chaos" is.

What I believe is that both viewpoints have valid points and can co-exist nicely, just as my illustration of the EMT story demonstrates.  Further, I don't believe for one, hot second that the Left intends to strip us of liberty and give everything away, and the Right is not interested in warmongering and class warfare.  The reasons that these ideas exist in the first place is because - well - people don't want to think.  It's way easier to just say that anyone who doesn't agree with you is stupid or evil, because to do the opposite of that is to actually acknowledge that no one person can know everything.  Not even you.

Imagine in my above scenario if I had decided that the most important thing was to neither pray with the parents nor attend to my patient- the most important thing was traffic control!!!  Only I know how!!  We need to keep these other cars away so no one else gets hurt!  And, while that is a true statement, the idea that only I could do that is ridiculous.  It is further ridiculous to assume that I was the only EMT on scene to do what needed to be done to establish that airway (there were another 7 EMTs there) but I was first on scene and I knew what to do, so I did it.  I also did not castigate those that were taking care of traffic control, praying with the parents, working with other patients and thought they were less important.   I just focused on the task at hand and did what I was required to do.  It would have been far simpler to have taken up those ideas and render no aid at all and just gone and gotten a beer instead- and I could have sat there and ridiculed all those people for making a big fuss in the first place.  Instead, I got bloody and messy and I didn't think about it.

I've heard recently from people who have said they don't understand how a devout Christian could be a liberal.  I've heard the other side, too- "Jesus would have been a Democrat" - and both of those opinions are garbage at their core.  The people who say this are too tightly wrapped up in a pre-misconception (a new word that I hope will catch on) that anthropomorphizes the very notion of God into some kind of package that squares Him with the status-quo as provided by either the mainstream or counter media.  God would be neither on today's Right or Left or even in the middle (where I consider myself to be) - and we would do well to remember that, because when we try to Liberal-ize or Conservative-ize or Moderate-ize God in this fashion, what we are really trying to say is that our ideas line up with God, and therefore we are more "godly" than the ones who don't believe as we do.  THAT is a very, very dangerous place to go and is probably one of the slipperiest slopes you could even be on.  Nothing could be further from the Truth.

So- the very next time you decide that God is somehow in or cares about American politics (or anyone else's for that matter) think again.  God does not care if it's Trump or Clinton in 2016; He doesn't care about your stances on welfare, abortion or gay marriage.  Yeah- that's right- what He cares about is YOU and how YOU treat others and how you can align your life to what He has intended for you, plain and simple.  The rest of those things mean nothing compared this immutable fact.  If the ideals that you hold to are held in such a way that it forces others away from redemption and a life in Christ, then you are in the WRONG and you should stop immediately- and a lot of times this means to shut your damned pie hole and keep your opinions to yourself.  (It's even ok to not have an opinion on something.)  I don't want to turn this blog into me giving a testimony and evangelizing; I do, however, want to give a possible idea on what it means to critically think through something.

And- here's the epilogue to the story.  The child didn't make it- he died before reaching the hospital due to his injuries, despite my efforts and the efforts of others.  It just broke my heart when I found out- but here's the deal: that doesn't change the fact that I did my job and I wouldn't change a darned thing about what I did or how I did it.  The fact that the boy died had nothing to do with me- it had to do with the accident and the trauma, and those were things out of my control.  What I do know is that the parents told the EMTs who did get to the hospital with other patients that they really appreciated everyone's efforts for their boy, and they took comfort in knowing that everything that could have been done was done.  And, that right there- is the reason to see all sides of the equation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

forgotten

All of us know these names: Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Theodore Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, David Berkowitz, Gary Ridgeway, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.  We all know what they did, too.

But, apart from Charles Manson, I am willing to bet that almost no one can name any of their victims- and the only reason you can with Manson is that one of his victims (Sharon Tate) was somewhat famous.

Now, why is that?

A lot of folks get on a rant after a particularly gruesome or troubling murder about a host of ancillary topics- and, all with good intentions.  We don’t want it to happen again.  We want to stop it before it happens.  We need to control guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them in the first place- all of these are extremely noble gestures, and I can’t take that away from anyone- especially the ones who champion these things in the names of their loved ones who have been killed. 

And yet, it continues.  And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was getting worse.  But, I think I know why it is getting worse, and I have a theory about this.

There has always been, throughout history, people who are crazy.  And, when I say crazy, I don’t mean in kind of a “oh, isn’t that quaint” kind of crazy.  I mean bat-shit nuts.  Rational thought escapes them at every turn- some of this is because of metabolic and chemical issues, some of it is upbringing and some of it is environmental.  But, with all that, most criminologists will tell you that in the pantheon of killers throughout history, the true fruit-bats are not commonplace.  Most of them- like Dylann Roof and the ass-hat that killed the reporter and camera man last week- they were fringy and not as easily identified.  (I have a friend who regularly sold gasoline to Ted Bundy and described him as “weird, but not nuts”)

So, for every obvious nutball out there, there’s a host of pseudo/semi nutballs who are circling, waiting for their moment.

The press, in their infinite wisdom of bringing us “news” always does investigations on these perpetrators.  Some people think that it’s because the press is evil- I’m not so sure.  I truly believe that the press is trying to find causality that can allow people to process these heinous acts, and in doing so generate even more hype- like the aforementioned tangential objectives that always follow these sorts of things.

But, the end result of that- whatever the reason- is that the killers become famous.  And fame, to a pseudo/semi fruit bat is a “green light” for them to go and achieve it.  And so they do, and the vicious, sweaty, stench of death cycle starts all over again.

Think about it- in 1966, Charles Whitman climbed a clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas and killed 14 people, wounding 32 others after having killed his wife and his mother in their homes earlier that morning.  He held the police off for 90 minutes, and was finally killed by a police officer wielding a shotgun.  The country was stunned.  It was later discovered that Whitman had a brain tumor, and while it was never confirmed that the tumor had caused his erratic behavior, there was no outcry for weapons control for people with tumors, no “gun free zones” established- this was a tragedy plain and simple, and people moved on with their lives.  Moreover, the public (and probably anyone reading this) have all but forgotten Charles Whitman and what he did. 

And, I think that this is the root cause- the hype that is given to the perpetrators.  They get “immortalized” on our collective psyche for the momentary actions they commit, and the victims are forgotten.  We get a nice set of “things we can do to prevent this from happening again” and yet, it does not.  Cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. banned handguns years ago, and they had the highest amounts of shooting BY FAR in the country.  (So much so that if you eliminated the shootings in those cities and a couple of others, you’d see that the number of gun deaths in this country move us to 4th from the bottom of world statistics instead of being #1 like we are now)  No matter what we are foce fed by people who think that this behavior can be changed with laws and regulation do, I think that they are aggrandizing and immortalizing these perpetrators even more by doing that.

So- what do we do about it?  Hey- I actually have an idea:

I frequent the site Imgur.com a lot, and right after the shooting of the news crew in Virginia, someone posted a thread about ignoring stories about the guy who did the shooting, so as not to make him even the slightest bit of the story.  That really resonated with me- take this guy completely out of the equation.  Instead, let’s pay attention to the people who were killed- they were remarkable people who had vision, drive and passion about what they were doing.  Let’s not forget them- let’s make THEM the story.  I’ve taken it to the point of whenever I see or start to hear something about the shooter, I refuse to read it and I change the channel.  I want to know a whole lot more about Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and I want the other guy to have completely not have existed.  (Yes, I get that if he didn’t, this wouldn’t have happened) 

But, my actions here are far from enough.  I’m actually going to write an editorial to my local paper and implore them to consider the thoughts that I have ascribed here.  I’m not stopping with the local paper- I’m going to go further and write to the networks, too.  It might be futile- I don’t know- but the point is to try. 

And, yes- if you agree that I may be on to something, then I ask you to join me.

And, here’s the deal on the bag of shit that committed this crime- he was NUTS.  He was CRAZY.  He may have had a bad hand dealt to him- haven’t we all?  Get the fuck over it.  Pull up your big boy pants and figure it out.  For those of us on the outside looking in, the thought I am providing you in this blog will actually do more help in identifying ass-hats like this because you won’t be so jaded by having heard stories about them that have colored your view of them.  They’ll be stark and easy to recognize and report and take down for all the right reasons before they do any harm.

God Bless the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.  May they find God’s everlasting peace in the knowledge that their family members are being well cared for by a loving and caring God.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

no opinion

So, it's been an eventful few days.  Yesterday, if you were on the internet or watched television, you were basically assaulted by rainbows.  Personally, I think that the SCOTUS decision wasn't that surprising, or even brave.  Ground shaking, yes- because they basically removed more of the vestiges of State's Rights- something that's actually been going on since about April, 1865.  (if you don't know what that means, look it up)

But that's not what's bothering me.  You see, I've already come out in favor of Marriage Equality.  This is what is bothering me about the decision- stuff all over the web like this:


My apologies to people who have posted this stuff, but what you are saying, in essence, is that this ruling has somehow cast the entire country into not being in accordance with Scripture, and this somehow changes the our standing with God- or that God even cares about the US as some sort of "God-sanctioned entity".

So, the fact that we kill each other wholesale, discriminate against others, expand our individual net worth while others go hungry and homeless, cheat on our spouses, ignore the weak and lesser, steal, lie, impose our supposed "enlightened" societal constraints on other countries who have never asked for it and act as though our country has some kind of special favor with God in the first place- those things have not had that effect already?  Aren't we already both on the wrong side of history AND on the wrong side of God?

I think it's terribly funny that Americans have somehow inserted themselves as a country into Scripture as an actual "playa".  Somehow, we've decided, collectively, that this country is somehow exonerated from God's ultimate plan for this world- or more accurately, that our actions play a part in either stemming the tide of God's already in-motion plan for this world- or even more arrogantly- that we can change it- and, if we make a wrong move, that it will not be ours (the USA) to "win" after all.

I am an ardent patriot and I love my country, but we have got to get over ourselves.  And, as Christians, we REALLY need to get over ourselves.  The Scripture I read has the entire western worlds governments as the agitants in the grand scheme of God's final plan, and are not even mentioned by name.  Believers win, not the governments.  The efforts made by these departments do not hasten this, nor do they prevent it.  God is God, and the part we get to play is so deceivingly simple that it just sails right past folks who are looking to other men to tell them what to do instead: we just need to love each other.  Show the love of Jesus Christ by our actions and stop this ridiculous chest pounding.

And, before you say it, I do not mean that "showing love" means "speaking the truth" as some may put it.  Yes, you should speak the truth, but that doesn't mean that you get to be an asshole when you do it.  Let's always remember that plank in your own eye before telling others about the sliver in theirs.

The US was not founded by Christians, kids.  This country was never a Christian country.  Read your history.  Most of the founding fathers were Deists at best, and were also very keen on the idea that state run religion was a bad thing.  Again- read your history, and if you don't know where to start, check out what Henry VIII did with The Church Of England along with why and what he did with it- the founding fathers got to experience a lot of that crap first-hand or had grandparents and other immediate family members who did- which is something this generation is so far from.  This country was founded on Judeo-Christian precepts, but also upon things like English Common Law (the Magna Carta) and some of those things run counter to each other and have to be sorted out from time to time- like this week, for example.

What it doesn't mean is that we've fallen farther from God's Grace or favor as a result of it.  What it doesn't mean is that our society is dying as a result of it.  What it doesn't mean is that we are closer to the end of things because of it.  You know why that is?  Because those ideas are a "false economy" in the first place, and I will go as far as to say that the real problem with the idea that we somehow play a larger role in the grand scheme of things is really to engender even more discrimination and less love for each other.  Think about that.

The way I see it, from a Christian standpoint, God has just upped the ante on us.  As Christians, we are commanded to love each other, no matter what.  God has just given us a chance to step up our game- to love each other in spite of whatever our pecadillos are.

But, I have no real opinion on the matter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

passivity is not an answer

First of all- it's been over a year since I posted- life got busy.  Job change, kids moving out- empty nesting- lots of excuses. Which is what brings me to this post-

I participated in a conversation on Facebook today regarding a song that someone liked the bass part to.  It dawned on me that the folks in the Facebook group might want some help in figuring out how to play this song, so I offered some advice.  Not to be too arrogant here, but the tune took me about 30 seconds to figure out- it wasn't difficult (and I might add that I really didn't care too much for it) but that's not the point- folks want to learn it, and I'm pretty sure they lack how to do so.  So, I posted "it's a Dm pentatonic line;then it goes to Am; the B section is F7 to Eb to Bb to F" - that's how I learn a song.

Guess what- I got a BARRAGE of private messages and questions.  Most were messages like "what's a pentatonic?" or "can you write out tab for me" - but I'm not going to give shortcuts.  See, it's important to learn the inner workings of music in order to be able to get from point A to point B quickly and correctly- and, that's not limited to style.  

But, when I pushed back on some of the shortcuts, the questions turned to excuses.  "I don't need to learn how to read music" and "music theory is hard" and "this and that killed my music career so I don't play as much anymore".....things like that.  

This actually kind of floored me.  I understand that life sometimes gets in the way, but more often than not, all I really hear is that people have made choices to ignore something foundational to what they do, and then they take a passive stance on why they are where they are.  And, I'm supposed to help them stay passive?  I'm supposed to perpetuate this?  I don't think so.

<soapbox>

I've been trained as a musician for well over 5/6 of my life, and a lot of this stuff comes somewhat naturally to me, but I don't expect everyone to automatically know these things.  Having been a music teacher for many, many years I totally understand that everyone learns at a different rate, and there are some that may never get it- but to not even try and make excuses as to why they don't honestly perplexes me.  No, one does not need to be able to recite Slonimsky's book on scales and methods to be a "real musician" - BUT they should seek to find out who Slonimsky was and what this contribution is all about.  No, you don't need to be able to recite in exacting detail what constitutes a strong chordal resolution, but you should be able to identify it when you hear it.  And, to do that takes some work that there just aren't any shortcuts for.

Now- to the folks who's only outlet to play is in church, this is for you: You will never be musically challenged by playing in church.  That is perfectly ok, too- because playing in church is a utilitarian job and you are there to provide music for a congregation to sing to.  More often than not, complicated chord structures and polyrhythms aren't going to be part of that, and that is 100% ok.  For the beginning player, playing in church will stretch you for a minute or two, but this really isn't the place to grow as a player- especially now, with the current spate of church music being extremely simple.  (Please note that I really am not trying to be inflammatory here- current church music is just really simple, and simple is ok for this kind of venue.)  If you want to stretch, you're going to have to, at some point, find that outlet outside of a church service.  If you are completely musically satisfied in playing in church, that's ok, too- or, should I say that is between you and God- but, make no mistake- that is a choice you have to make and it's one that shouldn't be done by settling on it.  

And, I should also add that if that is the choice you make, don't beat up on other players because they want to do it elsewhere.  You are not better than anyone because that's where you play- don't make that mistake.  Others (like me for one) need to do more, and I can tell you from personal experience that I've been able to talk to a lot of people about Jesus that wouldn't be caught dead in a church.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you want to learn how to make music, you need to actively learn.  You need to put in more effort than watching a Youtube video.  You need to commit and stick with it.  You need to realize that this endeavor is one of a lifetime's pursuit, and you'll never learn all of it.  The journey is worth it, however.  If you choose not to make that commitment, don't make excuses as to why and then ask others to carry you.  Passivity is not an answer- and that really extends well beyond music and into all areas of your life.

</soapbox>