As a matter of fact, yes, my title is also the name of, argueably, one of the band, The Who’s, best album. The lyrics song by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend were pretty prolific for their time. But this title came to mind with the passing of one of the most important persons of our time, Nelson Mandela.

I find it interesting that we don’t usually put labels like, “Changed the lives of millions for the good”, or, “Was loved my millions”, on too many presidents of this country. But Mr. Mandela, like Martin L. King Jr, did and was exactly that. Their “term” wasn’t just 4 years and out, they were both in it for the long run  (that is, until some hater killed MLK). And tho both of these men were black (MLK being African-American, and Mandela being African), their efforts affected folks of all races and ethnicities. Their efforts made this world a better place, and helped us, Americans, better understand who we are and what is good.

So, the question now is: Who’s Next? Who will be the next to step up for the poor? the neglected? the misunderstood? In Dave Matthews album, Big Whiskey, the first passage in his song, Dive In, goes, “I saw a man on the side of the road with a sign that read ‘will work for food’/ Tried to look busy, ’til the light turned green”. How many of us are that person “trying to look busy until the light turns green”?

With the Christmas holiday upon us, many of us will be heading for the malls and stores to buy “stuff and things” for family and friends. I often wonder how it would feel if each of us were to walk down an aisle with EVERYTHING we had ever owned on either side of that aisle. How long would it take for us to walk down that aisle way? And how much of our “stuff and things” would we look at and say, “I owned/bought that? What was i thinking?!”

Wouldn’t it be something if each of us were to not try and look busy when that homeless man or woman are standing next to us? And wouldn’t it be something if we had a giving attitude thru out the year, and not just during “the season?  Who’s next?                                                                       <><

I just wanted everything to be ok. At 10 yrs of age, “tragic” was a new term, and i didn’t like the feeling. Why would someone shoot another person, let alone kill him? Had Mr. Kennedy done something or said something against that person?
Later, I remember in the 1969 documentary by Simon & Garfunkel, “America”, a person asked them why they chose to address the deaths of democrats (Martin Luther King Jr, JFK, and Robert Kennedy). Simon’s reply was, “We don’t see them as democrats, we see them as dead guys.”

Ok, i realize humankind has been killing off each other since Cain and Abel. And i also realize us humans finds it difficult taking responsibility for our actions (Picture Adam pointing to Eve and telling God, “She made me do it!”). But at what point did we lose our desire to care?

On Oct. 25, 2013, Samuel Nathan Duran was arrested in Roseville, Ca. after what was close to a 12 hour stand off. Records show that Duran was a gang-banger, a meth user, and had shot 5 officers while they confronted him during an immigration sweep. He had a couple of automatic weapons with him. There’s no doubt he was a “bad guy” and had reached a point where he needed to be taken off the streets for a long time, if not for the rest of his life. But at one time in his life, he was probably “Little Sammy” playing with his family and friends and the most important thing in his life might have been running out and getting an ice cream from the neighborhood ice cream truck. When did Sammy lose his innocence? Did his family stop caring about him, or did “the world” steal him from them?

50 years after a shooter took the life of the President of the United States, we are a country that has become callous to shootings. There are approx. 75,000 non-fatal shootings per year in this country, which would be around 200+ each and every day. There are also approx. 42 murders in the country every day. Before someone jumps all over me, I am NOT writing about gun control. I am writing about a “civilization” that now takes these number for granted.

Remember that age old, ragged saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? It seems like we’ve become too busy (or not caring) to be a part of that village today. Somewhere along the way, we have stopped smiling at little Sammy playing soccer with his friends, and now want him lock away forever because he’s a “banger”. The village has locked its doors.

There are probably very few of us who have actually heard the “pop, pop, pop” of an assault rifle or automatic weapon. And i can only imagine the panic that must set in when those “pop, pop, pop” sounds resonate thru a mall or school hallway. And i can only imagine the near paralyses that must seize a person when they run for their lives in a play ground or movie theater as multiple rounds are whizzing by their heads. And i hope i never have to bend down after such an event to see if my friend or family member is still alive after one or more of those rounds have torn thru their body.

This type of scenario is becoming more and more frequent. And when it does, the controversy also arises about gun control. Proponents to owning a gun site the 2nd Amendment and may say,” Guns don’t kill, people kill.” Whereas proponents to gun control may ask why anyone needs an assault or automatic weapon, let alone body armor. But maybe a better question would be: Where, as a civilization (and i use that term very loosely), are we heading? Life is so different today than it was just 20 years ago. The cars we drive are so complicated that it just about takes a PHD to work on one. The way we communicate is constantly changing. Who actually has a verbal conversation anymore? Who actually has time to do so? The food we eat is changing. Is organic really organic? What the hek is organic?

Our son is grown now, and they have daughters who are too young to know what is going on. But how does a parent tell their grade school, or middle school child it’s safe to go back to school the next day? And how does a husband feel when his wife heads for the mall to finish the Christmas shopping? Do we call the police every time we see a vehicle on our street that we don’t recognize? Who is that person wearing a hoodie walking in front of the local elementary school?

Here’s a question: Where do we now turn to find truth and comfort in a world that offers neither? Jesus told His disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” I believe the irony in that verse is when Jesus eludes to not giving as the world gives. Has there ever, in all of history, been a time when the world has been completely at any kind of peace? I’m going to go with, no.

For those of us with a faith in Jesus, now would be a pretty good time to share that peace with, perhaps, someone who is struggling with what is going on in the world. Maybe a comforting arm around a shoulder, a phone call to give comforting words to a family member, or a knock on the door of a neighbor who we know lives by themselves.

And for those who may not have a faith at all, perhaps that whisper you hear in your heart is coming from the One who also told us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29,30) Maybe, just maybe, it’s not actually about looking to this world for peace after all. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all about looking to the One who loves us as we are, in a world that is broken.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        <><

 

Having grown up, wait, let me re-phrase that. Having gotten older in the late 60’s, early 70’s, I truly thought i was a radical. I had long hair, listened to/played Hendrix stuff, was against The War, and I skied instead of playing “regular” sports. Of course now that I look back, I was pretty much the same as many others my age. And thru the generations, I have noticed that many young folks have considered themselves as radicals b/c they went against the mainstream, whatever that means.

But what makes a true “radical”? Is it someone who is against the current (of their time) political forces, including the current war (of their time)? Or maybe, it’s a person who says they don’t need money in order to live, since it is the “root of all evil”. Of course, we would never know that since they would probably blend in with the many unfortunates who live on the streets without money, and not by choice.

When I, personally, think of a radical person, I tend to lean more towards someone who goes against the mainstream, but in a positive way. A person who actually lives in a way that makes a positive difference in the lives of others. Who is not afraid to stand up for the less fortunate.

There’s a story in the Gospels called the Good Samaritan. I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of how it plays out, but do you know of, or have you heard of, anyone who has actually played the part of the Good Samaritan? I am reading a book co-authored by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne titled, “The Red Letter Revolution.” In it, Shane tells of a time he was in Iraq and got into a horrific accident. Now, it’s pretty obvious Shane is a “white boy”, but as he and his lay on the side of the road bleeding to death, they were rescued by some locals and nursed back to health. When Shane met his rescuers, they advised him that, “When we saw you bleeding, we did not see you as an American or as a Christian or Muslim; we saw you as our own flesh and blood, as our own brothers and sisters” Shane said to them, “This is what Jesus teaches. You all are doing what good Christians go” And one of them said, “We are doing what good Muslims should do, too”. Wait, aren’t ALL Muslims taught to hate Christians? Shane went back a couple of years later and was asked to speak to children at a local school about his experience and his faith. Afterwards, the principal said, “The kids have never been this quiet. They have had soldiers come and bring toys, Frisbees, and such. But when they started speaking, the kids talk and throw things at them and are very disrespectful. They listened to you, every word.” Then one of the kids came up to the principal, speaking very rapidly. Shane asked what the student was saying and the principal answered, “He is saying that he has never heard this kind of Christianity before.”

It’s pretty sad how the “extremists” for both the Christian and Muslim religions have distorted what they really stand for. Just think if Muslims heard of what Jesus really stood for instead of the hate some “christians” have towards them. Perhaps they would come up to YOU and say that they had never heard of that type of Christianity before.

Jesus was chastized in Matthew 9 by the Pharisees for hanging out and having dinner with, “tax collectors and ‘sinners'”. Which catagory do you fit into? My hand goes up as a sinner. And I’m forever thankful to the One who has dinner with me, and loves me. Jesus is my radical, who is yours?

Remember the old saying, “Liar, liar, pants on fire”? I wonder what the scene would have looked like during the last debate? Would either candidate have much left of their pants when all was said and done?

It really makes it difficult to be objective when both men are saying the other is not telling the truth. How is that possible? If i were to ask my Rep. friends, i’m pretty sure they would say Mr. Obama was lying. And if i were to poll my Demo friends, more than likely they would say Mr. Romney speaks with a forked tongue.

So, i was thinking: what if the candidates actually just spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Sure, there would be some red-faces b/c of some of the, um, “situations” that they may have been involved in, or may have even caused. But no one would be able to accuse them of lying. We would then actually be able to look at just the facts, which would be a noble idea,  and determine which way we might want to vote.

In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about Oaths. He tells us, “I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.    Is this such a weird concept? Can you imagine if ALL of us went by this code? Just think that if we purchased, say, a car and the dealer told us that it got pretty good mileage, but that it also has a track record for needing above average maintenance. I may still purchase that vehicle, but at least i would be prepared to pay out for the maintenance. Or, perhaps it would force the manufacturer to actually make a vehicle that got good mileage AND had low maintenance. Hmmm.

Maybe we can start a grass roots movement by being able to look into our neighbors eyes and be honest with them. Not in a harmful or derogatory way, but to tell them we actually do care for them and that we are there for them. What a concept.

 

Let the debates begin!

You have to admit, this is a fun(ny) time for us voters. It’s “T” minus 30 days, give or take, until we head for the polls and pick the next person to run the country. And who wouldn’t want to be president of these semi-united states at such a time in history?  For there are issues to address, children to give an education, wars to wage, homeless to hide, and taxes to levy, or un-levy.  And hey, how about those gas prices!

One of the fun parts of being the president has to be that just under half of the population isn’t going to vote for you, which means to start with, just under half of the citizens you will be presiding over don’t like you. And then, in 4 yrs, that “cranky” half (and probably more) will be saying, “I told you so! Our guy would have done much better!”

I have always wondered, though, how soooo many folks can put soooo much time into reading up on, talking about, and even “posting” about, who they believe will be the best person (or in some cases, who won’t be the best person) to dictate over us for the next 4 yrs. I hear/read how this guy will send small businesses into bankruptcy, or that guy will raise taxes or cut programs, but “this guy” or “that guy” never says those things themselves. Could it be that my “friends” actually have insight into what the future holds?

I guess the bottom line is this: Who can we trust to run our lives? Who can make a promise to us and not break it? Whose words to us have never been replaced or changed since, well, the beginning? And whose “reign” lasts more than 4 to 8 years? If your answer is “flesh and blood”, well, good luck with that. If your answer is the One who gave up His flesh and blood for us, I think you may be onto something. Good luck at the “polls”.

Today is the 11th anniversary of what we call, 9/11. There really are only a few dates in history that one can mention and most everyone has an idea of what you’re talking about. It is interesting, though, that us who were “aware” enough have some pretty deep feeling about 9/11, but there are also those who are young and have to rely on our (and others) accounts of the day to be able to form their own opinions and feelings. Aside from the horrific affects the acts of that day had on humankind (and I am by NO means trivializing them!), there are a few feelings and observations I do recall.

First of all, I actually felt the presence of “Evil” that day. We use that word, evil, somewhat loosely at times. But I used Evil because the acts of that day went beyond many other acts of evil that we have experienced in our life times. Those who lost their lives that day weren’t (for the most part) military folks. They were Bob, and Catherine, and Lucinda, who went to work to pay bills, feed their family, sell a policy. They didn’t make “headlines” prior to that day, except in the lives of their daughters or sons or moms or dads. And those sons and daughters and moms and dads later wandered the streets of New York with pictures asking if anyone had seen their loved ones. Many of their prayers were not answered that day.

And then there were the police and firefighters, the public servants. Their day may have started with, for the police, a robbery or a traffic citation. And the firefighters may have had to put out a housefire, or administer CPR to a heart attack victim. Those were the type of situations they were trained for. But on 9/11, they were called to rush into buildings that had been blown up and were collapsing. And they were called to rescue Bob, and Catherine, and Lucinda before they burned up or jumped out of the 200th floor window. That is why I am using the term, Evil.

And then there was the question of where God was on that Day of Evil. Why didn’t He step in and defeat Evil that day? Why didn’t He save Bob, and Catherine, and Lucinda on that Day of Evil? The shortest verses in the bible is in John 11:35. I won’t go into the whole story of that chapter, but the verse goes, “Jesus wept.” Think about that for just a moment. God, in human form, wept. Didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t whimper. But wept! The “book” definition of wept is, “To express grief or anguish for. To weep bitter tears of remorse.” And a definition of “remorse” is bitter regret. To me, I feel Jesus was leading those policemen/women and firefighters up those smokey stairwells, up towards Bob, and Catherine, and Lucinda. All the while, with tears streaming down His cheeks because He knew the fate of all of them. And some of them would not make it back down. But He also was with the hundreds, maybe even the thousands that were saved that day. The ones who did get out of those burning, collapsing buildings. The ones who got a flat tire, or missed their bus or subway, or had a cold and couldn’t go to the intersection of Liberty St and Church St. on the Day of Evil.

Max Lucado said it pretty well, regarding that 9/11, “Our false sense of security has been rocked!” Church attendence sky rocketed after the Day of Evil. People who wouldn’t normally go to church, went and asked for prayer, and asked why something like this would happen, could happen, in a country such as ours. But then, when the wounds began to heal, life started to “relax” once again. Oh sure, there are many bumper stickers and flags being waived and shirts being worn. But what many consider to be “normal”, returned. Church attendence went back to “normal”. Our sports team played so that we would get back to “normal”. The politicians asked us to start shopping and “living” again. And 9/11 became part of history. And Jesus wept.

The band Switchfoot has a song titled “Meant to Live”, and the lyrics go: We were meant to live for so much more/Have we lost ourselves?/Somewhere we live inside/Somewhere we live inside/We were meant to live for so much more. Have you ever felt that way? Like you were meant to live for so much more?

About 34 years ago, I was involved in a life changing “event.” Kema and I were driving on Hwy680 thru Walnut Creek late one nite and we saw an accident where another car crashed into the center divider. We pulled over to see if we could help, and as I was assisting the driver of the wrecked car, I was struck by another car traveling at about 60 MPH. Needless to say, I was pretty wracked up. When I was released from the hospital a week or so later, the doc advised me I was lucky to be alive and that I should have died from such an impact. Let me tell you, to hear a comment like that sends chills down your spine. And I didn’t take that comment lightly. In fact, as I couldn’t work and was recuperating for the next 6 mos, I decided to (or at least attempt to) figure out what life really was all about. Were we meant to live for so much more? And if so, how do we find what we were meant to live for? Or, what the heck is our purpose in life?

As I was pondering this monumental question, it occurred to me that there really are only three choices for us to have as our purpose in life (although there are many “sub-topics” under each):  ourselves, the “world”,  or (g)God. If we were to choose ourselves (and just for yuks, let’s place family and friends in here, too), we have to realize that our lives are limited to what our minds can conjure up and comprehend. So, if that is true, would it mean that smarter folks have a deeper purpose in life than, well, us who are “less smart”? Plus, the fact is, not only will/does family and friends let us down, we will do the same!

If we are to choose the “world”, that can mean any number of things or other people. First of all, there hasn’t been one thing humankind has invented, built, or discovered that hasn’t, or isn’t, failing. Everything (inanimate) becomes outdated, out of style, or broken. Just look take a look around.

The “world” could also include some of the great philosophers thru out history, or that are around today. But, and correct me if i am mistaken, they, too, are human and would fall under the above catagory. Yes, many can add insight to our lives, but ultimately they, too, are limited in their comprehension of life. They don’t know us and can only give insight as to where they have been and experienced in their lives. And that may have nothing to do to who we really are inside.

That brings us to (g)God. I put the “g” as an alternative since one definition of a “god” would be anything that is the most important thing in our lives. With that being said, shouldn’t our purpose in life actually be the most important thing in our lives? Shouldn’t our purpose be based on something/someone that knows us, know our heart and will never let us down, no matter what and that we can rely on 100% of the time?

I truly believe we ALL have a specific purpose in our lives. I also believe that if we don’t look for it, or if we lose sight of it, our lives can become hopeless. The journey really is the best part of the destination.

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Is time flying, or is it just me? It seems like the nation just voted Obama for president, but here we are having another presidential election in just over two months. Now hang on, I’m not going to try to sway you to vote for one or the other (or the other, for that matter). We all have our political point of views and there really is no use in smacking that dead horse anymore.

For those of you who know me, you probably already realize I am a fairly “black and white” type of guy. If I say a situation out loud and it doesn’t make sense, I question why we/they would proceed with that situation. The problem is, that frame of mind doesn’t always seem to work (although I’m not quite sure why. Whoops, sorry).

So when I say out loud that, leading up to the 2008 presidential election, there was a total of $5,285,680,883 spent by the candidates (BTW, if you counted one # per second, it would take you approx. a year and a half to count to that number w/out stopping. I thought you might want to know so I did the math for you), I have a hard time trying to figure out if all that money was spent wisely. Of course, for Mr. Obama, the answer could very well be yes. But I wonder if any of us mere humans can remember any of Mr. Obama’s presidental ads that ran, or, for that matter, any of the ads that the other guy ran (His name will come to me, I’m sure). And when I say out loud that, so far during the current presidential race, the candidates have spent close to that amount already, with over 2 mos. to go, I wonder how much sense that really makes. (I’m not a name dropper, but one person has already “contributed” $7,000,000 to his favorite candidate. Of course, if we had as much money as Bob Perry did, we may choose to do the same. Whoops, sorry again!).

One problem is that I am saying all of this while I am still “recovering” from my latest mission trip to Uganda (congrats to the Uganda Little League, BTW!) where the average income for working Ugandans is somewhere around $2 a day. Hold on one doggone second, some of you may say. Ok, I realize I am comparing one of the poorest countries in the world with the richest and some of you will say that’s not fair. But stay with me on this one, I am going to make a point, I hope. Now, here comes the “black and white” part: What if a presidential (or any politician) candidate were to raise millions of $$ during his/her candidacy, but instead of buying air-time to, basically, throw mud at his/her opponent, he/she used that air-time to advise that they were giving the millions of $$ raised to build wells in third world countries, AND, he/she challenged his/her opponent to match those numbers? Wait, I can hear some say, “Why should any candidate send all of that $$ raised to another country when all of that $$ raised could be used for good in the schools that are hurting in this country, or to (heaven help us) bail out those who have lost their jobs and are really struggling to make their house payments or keep the electricity on? Hmm, that sounds a bit “black and white” to me, too.

I recently returned from my second mission trip, along with 17 others, to Uganda with Hope4Kids, a non-profit based out of Phoenix. My first trip, April 2011, was an “emotional earthquake” that totally rocked my world and I figured I would be “more mature” about the whole feelings thing this time around. Aw, the best laid plans.

I’m sure we have all seen the pictures on TV or in magazines showing the little boys and girls with their hungry eyes staring at us, and there’s a good chance that they tugged at your heart strings. That is, until the commercial was over, or you turned the page. But to walk through the villages and seeing those eyes first hand changes everything. The fact of the matter is that in the villages we visited, those eyes were laughing and smiling eyes. The kids greeted us with hands reaching out, not for food but to touch us and shake our hands and to give us hugs.

On my first trip to Uganda, I asked the founder of Hope4Kids how he had been able to do what he does for so long (Tom Eggum founded H4K’s over 30 years ago and they are now in 9 countries http://www.hope4kidsinternational.org/our-story) without becoming over whelmed and frustrated. Tom told me that his goal is to bring safe water, the knowledge of how to grow food, education, and the true gospel of Jesus Christ to one child at a time.

Each village has a pastor that oversees it. And each time we entered a village, the pastor would greet us and they would ask me, “How are things in America?” I didn’t believe this question was just a “filler”, so I would answer them, “You know pastor, in America we have so many ‘things’, yet joy seems to elude so many. But here, you have so little, but the joy you and your people show is amazing.” To that, they would just smile and say, “As it should be”.

We dedicated a couple of wells that promised clean, safe water to the village. We handed out dresses to the young ones that were made with love out of pillow cases. These dresses were the first new thing these young girls had ever received in their lives. We handed out mosquito nets so that families could sleep at nite, not worrying if a bite would mean a case of malaria. And we handed out love in the form of smiles, holding hands, and hugs.

So the smiles and warm welcome we received in each village was because each person there felt the true meaning, the true hope, of Jesus Christ instead of what has become a diluted, mixed message of the same here in the “civilized world”. They don’t have the concerns over the latest fashions, who posted what, or what time they may need to be someplace. It makes you wonder, as “primative” of life they seem to live, if they are actually more advanced then we are. When it comes to understanding the true meaning of life, I might say they have the advantage.                         

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