Leaky… September 3, 2012

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I don’t like to be vulnerable. I understand the importance of it; I appreciate that we best express our humanity one to another by admitting our foibles and allowing others to get a quick peek into the cellar of our disappointment. It doesn’t make it any more pleasant, though. Especially when you’re traveling on the road and touring, you need to be careful not to come across desperate, needy or cloying. I don’t ever want anyone to contribute to my work on the road because they’re afraid that my bald tires will blow out on the freeway as I leave town.

That’s why it was difficult yesterday in South Lyon, Michigan, when I was sitting in my green room preparing for the morning’s activities, and a spry, bright-eyed gentleman walked in and told me that my van was leaking from the radiator. I wasn’t upset with the news. I wasn’t nervous or concerned about the repair. After all, if you drive a vehicle around the country, you will have a certain amount of expense to maintain it. I just don’t like the sensation of coming across as a vagabond with no means of caring for my own needs.

Let me make something clear–at no time did this fine gentleman ever cause me to feel diminished. It was all in my head. So I put it out of my mind, went into the morning service and had a grand time with these outrageously inspired individuals. During the service, the gentleman who had discovered our radiator leak asked for help after the conclusion of the morning’s program, to assist us in putting our van in good enough shape to send us on our way. So while I had the blessing of interfacing with the audience, three or four of the men from the church went out and ministered to my Ford. They were astute, aware and qualified.

So by the time I finished trying to give a collective hug to the entire congregation and made my way out to my transportation, these gentlemen already had everything under control. They had filled it up with “Stop Leak,” told me of some needful repair, and I was on my way.

As I drove towards my lodging, I still had those misgivings–about being too open and available. But then I came to the realization that if I hadn’t been “leaky,” those fine folks would have had no way of expressing their affection, mercy and graciousness to me.

  • I want to be powerful. (Sometimes God needs me to appear less.)
  • I want to be large and in charge. (God often recommends the lower seat.)
  • I want to appear manly and full of promise. (As I’m aging, a limp is being added to my walk, to temper my stride.)
  • I want to have the privilege of making my own decisions in my own way. (I find strength in a multitude of counselors.
  • I want to believe I can handle all of my own mishaps without intervention. (God sends angels to me and I must learn to recognize them–otherwise, I miss my piece of heaven.)
  • I want to be free of leaks. (I’m often just a big drip.)

I realized that I was asking this congregation yesterday morning to expose themselves, open their hearts, show their fears and discuss possibilities on how to plug up the holes in their lives. I was expecting them to do this without I, myself, ever presenting my own lacking. Oh, I am very willing to be self-deprecating or even forthcoming, but in some areas I like to maintain control.

Areas like my radiator.

But “he that would gain his life will lose it, and he that will lose his life shall gain it.” Temporarily yesterday, I lost control of my van. It was put into the capable hands of intelligent, caring brothers. I closed down my ego and I opened up the potential for receiving generosity. Because of that, it was a better day.

Here’s the truth: Mitt Romney is leaky. Barack Obama is leaky.  My dear God, Jesus was leaky. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading for a better solution, while God watched his blood to drip onto the ground. We’re not looking for people who aren’t leaky. We’re looking for folks who will allow others to help them.

I had a blessing in South Lyon which actually enabled me to become more of a blessing to them. I am leaky.

When I try to plug those on my own, I lose the benefit of showing a part of myself that is more relevant to those who are searching for greater humanity … and less deception.

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Barack Romney … July 20, 2012

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Or is it Mitt Obama?

Either way, the two men are identical because the path available to them and accessible to their Presidential aspirations is already pre-determined.

Basically it comes down to wars and taxes. Yes, we are holding a very expensive election in this country to determine who will be in charge of the guns and bombs and how the revenue will be levied, collected and distributed.

If you are a Republican, you contend that there is evil in the world that needs to be uprooted–if necessary, by force. If you happen to be of the Democrat persuasion, you don’t see the world quite as black and white, but instead, feel compelled to use military force more sparingly and with less obvious destruction and financial loss.

Likewise, if you’re a Republican, you think taxes should be lessened, with money being given back to the people, hoping that the electorate will be inspired by their sudden burst of financial gain, to become consumers and generous towards others. On the other hand, the Democrats are not quite as optimistic about the integrity of the populace and wish to take a bit more tax from them, to ensure that the basic needs of the less fortunate will be addressed.

Wars and taxes.

But on the larger issues of the economy, diplomacy, and energy consumption, the United States finds itself somewhat at the mercy of events.

It happened in 2001 when a plan was hatched in a cave in Afghanistan to attack the United States with its own airplanes. There were three targets: the World Trade Center, to roust about the economy; the Pentagon, to make a symbolic statement against our military; and the Unites States Capitol, to disrupt our government. Even though only one-third of the plan was fulfilled, with the Pentagon being damaged but not destroyed and the Capitol spared by the heroism of common citizens on an airplane, it was enough to send us on a spin, which seven years later, led to a complete economic collapse.

It wasn’t because the World Trade Center was destroyed or even that three thousand people were killed in the atrocity. It was the fact that these devious plotters had an understanding that the American public would respond to this piece of treachery in three predictable ways:

  • First, we would become furious.
  • Second, because we are needy for foreign oil and dependent on other nations for loans, we would make ourselves vulnerable through our fury and overextend ourselves in actions of retribution which we could not pay for.
  • And finally, we would be drunk on our own sense of history and mission, insisting that we are the greatest nation in the world, even though there has been some slippage and repairs and renovation are required.

Osama bin Laden and all of his crew took it for granted that America would become furious, while still needy, and drunk on its own sense of self-importance.

We fell into the trap. We unintelligently believed that the attack was about what happened on 9/11, instead of realizing that the true monstrous deed was to get the American culture to over-react, sending us into a permanent spin. We accommodated our enemies.

The end result is that we have temporarily lost the ability to effectively remedy our situation, and instead, have begun to believe that the problems that face us are due to social immorality or over-spending for the needy.

We have lost our way.

So it doesn’t matter if it’s Barack or Mitt. As long as we continue to insist that we are something we are not, remain angry at the world around us while still needy for its goods, we will continue to plummet in both our fiscal power and our physical presence.

What would make a difference? What kind of leader would we need to choose to pull us out of this nose dive? We would need an individual who would tell us that we must stop being furious–and turn around.

Yes, to continue in the same direction we are heading, arrogantly pursuing a path of self-righteous anger about our situation, is to place us careening towards a cliff and a fall to our death. We must turn around.

Although people debate about guns in this country, the issue is not whether we have guns or not. Actually, the Canadians have more guns per capita than the people of the United States. The difference is, the Canadians aren’t furious. Logic tells us that if we were at a bar and someone was drunk and angry, we would not allow him to have a gun, even if we felt we were taking away his personal freedom.

No, the problem is not guns–it is that we have a nation that believes it has a God-given right to be angry. We require leadership that gently spanks our rump for being so frustrated and childish and tells us to get over it. What has happened in our world is not pleasant at all, but being furious about it and seeking revenge is neither spiritual nor productive.

The first message of any good leader in this situation should be, “Turn around. Stop being mad.”

The second thing this imaginary leader would have to bring forth is to ask each and every American to deal with the facts. We are under the thumb of OPEC because we use too much oil. We cannot possibly produce enough oil to satisfy our needs by digging all over our country. So we need to find other alternatives as quickly as possible, making it a national priority. Hybrid cars should be subsidized by the government and made available at less cost than gasoline cars. We should encourage people to “go green” rather than presenting the option as if it’s some sort of “hippie” fetish, like preferring tofu.

We should understand–the world’s resources and population are tilted to the east. We are a minority on our own planet, and therefore should learn how to deal with nations and cultures that are alien to our sensibilities.

A great President would demand that we deal with the facts instead of sitting around like a bunch of children on our birthday, making wishes as we blow out the candles.

And finally, this imaginary soul who would occupy the Oval Office should insist that we cease being drunk on our own self-reliance and touting of history, and instead, begin to focus on excellence in every portion of our efforts. We should start with education, move into production, spread into the arts and culminate in our own unique families. Without excellence, we will not be able to compete simply because we have George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in our lineage. We do not need anyone to retell our history. What we require are people to rise up from the mediocrity and become history makers.

As long as this country is furious, needy and drunk on its own conceit, it won’t matter who you put in Washington, D.C. The results will be the same because we will be at the mercy of the world around us and trapped in our own inefficiency.

It is time for quality management in this country, which demands we turn around from our anger, that we deal with the facts of our neediness and begin to become more self-sufficient–and finally, that we focus on excellence in the moment instead of having marching bands playing patriotic songs to remind us of better times.

Barack Romney. If he is elected, he will deal only with wars and taxes, leaving us at the mercy of a world twirling and progressing in ways that we don’t quite comprehend.

Is our country ready to recant blind rage, repent of excess and remove frustration? I’m not sure. But until we are, we will spend all of our time arguing about abortion, gay marriage, contraception … and which one of the pretty boys we’re trying to elect can eat the most apple pie.

   

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The Muddle Class… May 19, 2012

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I do believe I was in the ninth grade–a freshman. At our school the class was called Civics. It was a required course taught to instill  an understanding of how the American form of government functions and also to do a little bit of flag–waving to convince us, as future tax-payers, how fabulous the setup truly is.

It’s called checks and balances. You know it well: the executive branch, headed by the President; the legislative, by Congress, and the judicial, mainly referring to the Supreme Court. I suppose I could talk about our history and say that this particular organization seems to function–but the lethargy, competition and frustration that is produced through the process holds back progress to such an extent that it is often nearly lethal to human causes.

It’s because we believe strongly in this country that we need a middle. We want a middle class, we extol the value of middle-of-the-road music, we love the happy medium (just another name for the compromised middle), and we’ve even established a world called “middle management,” where people who have not yet excelled to executive level can still feel a boost of confidence that they are no longer working on the floor with the serfs.

The problem with the middle is that it creates a jealousy for the top, and too often, a disrespect for what lies beneath. The checks and balances envisioned by our forefathers was constructed in a time when individual thinking was supreme, and being linked to a party or clump of beliefs was secondary. In other words, as long as every person actually thinks for himself and is not responding to the demands of an organization, then debate, challenge and conversation can occur on issues, resulting in some sort of agreement. But if your allegiance is primarily to your cause instead of reasonability, then your particular “flavor of the month” can dig in its heels and halt progress.

I will tell you what the problem is with the legislative branch of our government–you have nearly 535 or so men and women in one building, wishing they could be President–wanting to do the bidding of the President, or deciding to do everything they can to discredit that President. They are jealous of the executive branch and therefore can use their vote to pout.

Let’s move on to the judicial arm of the government. When I was a young man, the politics of a judge appointed to the Supreme Court was quite private, and whether the individual was conservative or liberal was a better-kept secret, with each person who received the honor promising to judge cases on merit instead of political swing. That is gone. The Supreme Court has lost its meaning because it’s just as political as Congress.

So as both political parties try to extol the beauty of honoring and respecting the middle class as the true by-product of America’s governing style, the middle class instead becomes the muddle class–lacking the integrity of being satisfied, but also lacking mercy towards those who have not yet achieved solvency. This is why middle management, in a company, is filled with some of the most nasty, cantankerous pencil=pushers you will ever find. They are discontented that they are not upper management, and also disgusted with those who work beneath them because they once held those jobs and feel that they are menial and meaningless.

If you will allow me to advance a theory, here’s the problem. Right now, in this country, we are trying to develop a philosophy based on the facts provided. Therefore, we are always changing our philosophy just due to circumstances, which can frankly often be temporary. America has developed a “moveable philosophy,” and because of that, all we have to do to become befuddled, frustrated, angry and unwilling to cooperate is to be confronted with a new set of hassles that contradict and challenge our previous conclusions.

Consider this: we just finish with the issue of civil rights for our black citizens, battling, arguing and even shedding blood over the issue, and then, before we can even take a deep breath, here comes the issue of gay rights. Rather than taking what we learned through the civil rights movement during the 1960’s, we act like we’re reinventing the wheel when it comes to civil liberties. We fail to honor a basic philosophy. Bluntly, we do NOT hold it to be self-evident that all men are created equal, as Jefferson insisted. We are continually looking at similar issues and acting like they’re brand new problems.

Let’s bring it into the normal household. If my oldest son has a curfew of eleven o’clock and I discover, that eleven o’clock is too late for him to be out because of the temptations available and I decide to change his curfew to ten-fifteen, it is ridiculous for me to start all over again with an eleven o’clock curfew with my next son. Have I learned anything through the experience with my first-born? Have I developed any concepts, attitudes and notions that are transferable to the next situation?

Therefore it is not an issue of checks and balances nor whether we have a middle class. The problem with our vision is that whenever anything new comes up, we never consider our history while honoring our philosophy, and applying both yardsticks to measure out wisdom to our new situation. So there you have it. History, our philosophy, action–the correct order and it is the way to get things done using the gravitas of our journey.  Instead, we try to develop a new philosophy for everything based upon the facts provided rather than adjusting the facts provided to our well-established, trusted and tested philosophy.

I have very little conflict in my life. It is not because conflict is not available. I deal with hundreds and hundreds of people every week–a built-in formula for stress (or even a coronary). But I don’t look at every person I meet as a new problem or even a new situation. I take these people into my life based upon an established philosophy and allow them to fit into that existing Magna Carta of tried-and-tested behavior. I took a combination of Thomas Jefferson’s “all men are created equal” and the suggestion of Jesus–“do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and I came up with MY core of conduct: “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

So if I were in Washington, D.C., the checks and balances would work for me. I would not feel I was better than the people who elected me, and I wouldn’t be jealous of someone who had achieved a higher office. In my soul, I have accepted the fact that no one is better than anyone else. But absent that fireball of intense understanding inside my soul, I begin to try to adjust everything I do to the information that is right in front of me. In that case, I not only become confused over the statistics and data, but bewildered and angry that nothing seems to be working.

I don’t care if you’re a Republican and I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. But I will tell you this–if the soul of your philosophy is not the precious idealism of “NoOne is better than anyone else,” you will eventually clump and muddle things up by protecting your cause instead of creating a cause to protect those in need. I do not extol any system unless it honors a central truth and holds that truth to be not only self-evident, but well-practiced.

So you can debate about Mitt Romney or Barack Obama all you want to. Our government will be at a stand-still as long as we are trying to find a middle ground that just becomes a muddled mess of confused, conflicting opinions. Sooner or later, both parties–all Americans–and everyone who lives within our borders need to agree on the lessons of our history and hold dear a common philosophy about how to move forward. We can debate how “NoOne is better than anyone else.” We can argue about the best method to treasure that particular gold nugget. But to proceed forward with half of our country believing one thing about humanity and the other half of our country believing another thing about humanity is to produce a muddle class that has no idea which direction to go. Going up seems impossible; going down sounds like hell.

Here is my suggestion–tell me your core philosophy and I can tell you if we’re going to be able to work shoulder-to-shoulder towards the common good. For me, if someone contends that “some people are just better than other people,” I can love that person but I cannot work with him. Because for every reason you can come up with that some individuals are better than others, I can tell you that holding that position is always the first fruits of bigotry.

So how do we get OUT of the muddle class? Somewhere along the line, as Uncle Tom Jefferson told us, we must hold some truths to be self-evident. Otherwise we debate the statistics and twist them in our own direction, instead of using our philosophy to determine how we will address the present possibility. 

   

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Hunting for Worms … March 20, 2012

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When I was ten years old, I lived across the street from Marky Messner, who became my daily playmate once our parents deemed us mature enough to leave the front porch to pursue neighborhood adventures. One hot July evening, Marky asked me if I wanted to go out and hunt for night crawlers–big, fat worms we could use for our hooks when we went fishing at the local reservoir. He explained that since we’d had a real soaking of rain earlier in the day, that the wigglers would be anxious to get out of their flooded apartments in the earth and escape into the night air, where we would grab ’em, stick ’em in an old mason jar, to later turn ’em into fish food. He told me to bring along a flashlight and a shovel, and so that night we scurried down my back yard towards a nearby vacant lot.

It was really dark. There was no moon, and street lights were at least two decades in the future in the mind of some city planner. As we were walking through the vacant lot, looking for good clumps of earth to locate our wiggly friends, Marky told me to be careful because there were possums in the field and I might need to chase them away. This startled me a little bit. I didn’t know much about possums, but I had an inclination that I would find them unfavorable. We walked a few more feet and Marky stopped again and told me that Mrs. Satterfield’s dog sometimes came out to bother him when he was looking for worms–and if the dog came near us I should hit him with my shovel.

You can see, this was digressing by the moment. I had signed on to hunt for worms and now had the added chores of chasing possums and possibly killing a neighborhood dog. Even though I was just a young boy, I realized there was something wrong here, so I dropped my shovel and my flashlight and ran home, spooked. This incident changed my relationship with Marky. We didn’t see each other much after that. You see, Marky thought I was a sniveling, little yellow-bellied coward–and I was pretty sure Marky was nuts.

This is the same way I feel about what’s going on in our society today with the conservatives and liberals. I don’t want to fight with either side.

A conservative will come along and tell me that he thinks President Obama was inexperienced when elected and failed to deliver the promise of all the hopes and dreams of his campaign. You see, I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t even know if Barack Obama would object to that observation. It’s just like that night with Marky. If we had actually gone out and hunted for worms and gotten worms, it would have been okay. But a conservative can’t just leave it there. He has to add that the reason Barack Obama is so bad is that he’s a socialist and doesn’t have a birth certificate. At this point, the conservative will pause to check my reaction. You see, in my opinion, we just started chasing possums. In other words, they’re not really there, but we’re already making plans on what to do if they bother us. Not satisfied that the President’s character has been sufficiently derailed, the conservative will conclude with: “After all, Obama is a Muslim terrorist.” To me we just started killing neighborhood dogs.

The same thing is true with my liberal friends. Some Republican candidate starts speaking out against contraception and interfering in a woman’s right to make choices concerning the birth of her children. It’s easy to agree that this is interfering, fussy and unnecessary. I would even be willing to tell the Pope that in this matter he needs to loosen up his Basilica a bit. But the liberal can’t stop there. No … he or she must point out that this Republican is also against abortion, which they insist is the same thing as contraception. You see, I get a little lost here. Doesn’t a woman use contraception so she DOESN’T have to abort? That would not make them the same–it nearly creates an opposite. You see, I get the feeling I’m with Marky again, chasing possums. And then to cap it off, I heard some liberal pundits criticize the same candidate because he came out against pornography. Are we really going to defend pornography as if it is similar to abortion and therefore parallels contraception? Isn’t pornography the exact enemy of women’s rights? Because the nature of that medium is the exploitation of the female of the species and the taking away of dignity?  You get my drift? We’re killing dogs, here.

We have a lot of worms in our society. There’s nothing wrong with shining the light on them, exposing them and removing them from the earth. But when you’re on a worm hunt, I don’t think you have to chase possums. And my God, please–let’s avoid killing Mrs. Satterfield’s dog.

I could never be a conservative or a liberal, because they both continue to insist on destroying the character of their opponent, when all you have to do is point out the worms.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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