Thursday, December 29, 2016

Making America Good Again: Christmas Gifts

I hope that your holidays were "merry and bright" as the song goes, and that you begin the new year with more than exhaustion and debt.  For me, the best gifts aren't those I found under the tree, but the gifts God has given me through the baby in Bethlehem.

Most of us are hoping to either survive or thrive in the new year (and through Trump's presidency).  Hope is that desire in our hearts that everything will be OK.  When we place our hope in Jesus Christ rather than in ourself, other people or things, we are assured that this greatest yearning of our heart will be fulfilled.  Jesus transforms hope from wishful thinking to the deep-seated assurance that all is well and all will be well.  Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor who guides me through each day.  By keeping my eyes focused on Him and where He is working, He gives my life meaning and purpose, helps me be the best person I can be in the here and now, and prepares me for eternity.

Chaos abounds in our world and conflicts erupt between nations and within families, but often our greatest struggles are inside us.  Why is there no peace in our souls?  Why do fear and anxiety often overwhelm us?  One of my seminary professors said that the opposite of faith isn't doubt, it's loneliness.  When I know I am not alone, that the Prince of Peace is with me, my fear and anxiety disappear.  Peace fills my soul, and when I am at peace within myself I can strive to be a peacemaker in the world.

Happiness is wonderful but often depends upon our circumstances - the good job, the great meal or the perfect present.  Joy on the other hand transcends our circumstances.    "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28) I am filled with joy no matter what is happening in my life and the lives of those around me because I am grateful Almighty God is in control.

Wanting to be loved is among the greatest of human desires.  The message of Christmas is that you are loved!   Jesus taught us that God's love for each of us is like that of a perfect Father.  Like the parents we all want, God loves us just as we are and always wants the best for us. Our Heavenly Father is for us, not against us.  God's love, shown through Jesus' perfect life, sacrificial death and life-restoring resurrection, destroyed the control sin and death have over our lives and draws us into the loving embrace of our Everlasting Father.  I have no doubt that I am loved, not because of anything I do, but simply because I am a Child of God.

How different would your life be if you were filled with God's gifts of hope, peace, joy and love?  It's possible, I'm living proof.  These are the best Christmas gifts, and if you accept them they will stay with you all year long - and beyond.

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
     (Isaiah 9:6-7, NRSV)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Making America Good Again: Thanks-Giving

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, make some quiet time this weekend to thank God for the people and things in your life.  Go broad and go deep.  Here are some thoughts to help you get started.

Thank God for the variety and abundance of food we have.  Imagine saying grace by naming each animal, plant, mineral and person that went into making your meal:

"Thank you God for turkeys.  Thank you for mashed potatoes and the cows that provided the butter and milk. Thank you for green beans and the pig that provided the bacon to flavor them. Thank you for the pumpkins, spices, sugar, eggs and milk in the pumpkin pie. Thank you for the grapes that made the wine and the beans that made the coffee.  Thank you for every hand that went into bringing this food to us from the farmers, to the truck drivers, to the people at the grocery store and the ones who cooked it.  Thank you God for everything and everyone who brought this meal to us."

Imagine how long that prayer would have been at your Thanksgiving feast!  And that's just being thankful for the food.

Thank God for the people in your life - family, friends and coworkers.  Thank God for those who have impacted you in some way, like teachers, pastors and doctors. Thank God for those who help us live together like police officers, soldiers and, yes, elected officials.  Thank God for folks who touch your life perhaps for only a moment like the Salvation Army bell-ringer and the people in need your generosity helps.  Thank God that each person is unique.  How boring the world would be if we were all the same!

Thank God for the stuff you do have.  Sometimes I get a little nuts and thank God for things like electricity, toilets that flush, cell phones, vaccines and the internal combustion engine!  I also thank God for the people with the ingenuity to be inventors and builders.

Thank God for intangible things that make life, life:  love, joy, truth, beauty, freedom and justice.  God created these too.

Thank God for the things that have happened in your life, the good and the bad.  It takes both laughter and tears to shape us into good people.

And, perhaps most of all, thank God for being God.  I thank God who gives me life, now and forever, who loves me and saves me from my sins.  I thank God who is with me everyday, who comforts me when I am sad, guides me when I am confused, heals me when I am sick and who fills me with joy.

What else would you like to thank God for today? Let's make America good again by being grateful to God for all that we have and all that we are.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Making America Good Again: An Attitude of Gratitude

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. (Psalm 92:1)

Modern American Thanksgivings focus on food, family and football with a slight nod to being thankful for stuff.  Sadly, this is about all we can expect from a culture pervaded with ingratitude.

Look around and look into your own life.  Are you among those who refuse to be grateful for what you do have?  If you have a place to live, even if it's not the home you want, be grateful you have a home.  I could say this about your car, your bank account, your old iPhone or perhaps some members of your family. You get the point.  Be grateful for what you have!

Another way we show our ingratitude is by taking things and people for granted. Did you just assume that there would be a turkey at the store for you to buy?   We take for granted the abundance that America's prosperity provides.  Are you like the cashier I met at the grocery store who said she was just going to "show up" and eat like she always has? I warned her that her Mom (like mine did) would one day probably want to turn the responsibility over to her.  I got an eye roll and no comment. Who and what are you taking for granted this Thanksgiving - and the rest of the year? Show a little appreciation!

A third form of ingratitude that pervades our culture is perhaps the most harmful.  Listen to folks talk about what they are going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  The trend seems to be that even when we are grateful FOR things, we fail to be grateful TO God who gave us those very things.  God is the Creator of everything and of every person.  Be grateful to God who blesses you every day.  Thank God for everything!

This is a long weekend.  Find the time to think long and hard about what it truly means to be thankful.   Be grateful for what you have.  Stop taking things for granted.  Thank God everyday for everything.

To make America good again, let's be a nation that truly celebrates Thanks-giving, not just on one day, but as a way of life.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Making America Good Again: Veterans and Voting

Did you vote?  This Veteran's Day, thank our veterans for protecting that right and all our freedoms. Thank them for their willingness to serve and for their love of our country.  Beyond that think about what they had to do to keep us free.  Most don't talk too much about it, but I'm sure you've picked up a few hints.

The veterans I have known left home and family for some basic training and more training after that.  Some were drafted - most volunteered.  They learned to handle weapons and survive in hostile places.

Veterans I have known fought Nazism by marching across Germany and guarding the docks of New York City. They slugged their way across Africa and Italy.  They baked in the sun on islands in the Pacific to stop Japan's imperialism.  They were captured by the enemy.  They became chaplains. They guarded against the encroachment of Communism in Korea and Vietnam.  They slugged through leech-infested swamps, flew over enemy territory and watched their buddies get blown up by children with grenades.  They were spit on when they came home.

Veterans I have known and their families moved again and again all over the world.  Some flew in airplanes with bombs, cargo and troops into dangerous places. Some taught others how to fly.  They served on aircraft carriers and had to ditch into the sea. They watched over our nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.  They maintained military equipment and kept it ready to be deployed at a moment's notice. They were shot down in helicopters. They guarded our embassies and gathered intelligence. They survived IED explosions, while their friends laid dead and injured in the wreckage in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. They deployed for months on end in the desert, on ships and in submarines.  They lived lives of utter boredom interjected with moments of sheer terror.

They came back to civilian life with nightmares we can't imagine and stories they will never tell.  They are the survivors.

They did what they did, so that in safety and peace we can cast our votes.  So that we can practice our faith.  So that we can speak our minds.  So that we can live as free men and women.

Let's stop taking them for granted. Spend some time today thinking about the veterans who have touched your life and the sacrifices they made.  And then do something for them.

Thank them and pray for them.

Contact your Congressman demanding our veterans receive the best health care and all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Send a donation to one of the many charities that help veterans and their families.

Make a commitment to live all 365 days of the year as a proud American who loves liberty and shows gratitude to those who protect it.

To make America good, it is time for us all to be patriots once again.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Making America Good Again: Humility and Hope

Donald Trump's election as president has rocked the nation and the world.  His detractors are dismayed and fearful; his supporters surprised and relieved.  As the reality of the election results sink in - what do we do now?  

Humility and hope should guide us in the days ahead.

Get humble.  None of us should think we are better than anybody else.  Let's change our conversations to emphasize what we have in common rather than what we don't.  I'm praying that Americans will take a deep breath, take a step back and look past our differences to find the good in each other.  As I said before, don't seek revenge or hold grudges, but love each other.

I'm grateful a tone of healing and reconciliation filled my Facebook newsfeed.  Most of my friends offered prayers and messages of congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers.  There were a few snarky posts but I know that grief must have an outlet.  Let's forgive each other for angry words in this emotionally-charged atmosphere.

The riots we see, however, should bother everyone.  I want to believe that an honest uprising of frustrated voters is being violently manipulated by those who do not love America. Let's pray that the protesting will cease and the fears many have will be quickly put to rest.

Get hopeful.  Americans need to to reach deep and find that optimism which is a hallmark of the American character.  We can choose to expect a positive outcome from this election and not assume this change in our leadership will have negative consequences.   As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, "We owe him [Trump] an open mind and a chance to lead."

Donald Trump's acceptance speech was humble, gracious and conciliatory.  I'll take him at his word that he loves America and wants the best for all Americans.

Hillary Clinton's concession was also humble, gracious and compassionate, especially towards those who worked so hard for her election.  I'll take her at her word that she will work with Trump on behalf of America.

Barack Obama's statements acknowledged the strength of America lies in our ability to have a peaceful transition of power between political adversaries.   I'll take him at his word that he will do all in his power to make that happen.

Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others on both sides of the aisle have all promised to work with our new president while being true to their convictions.

The words and demeanor of our leadership should give hope to Americans and the world.  This is not to say the road ahead is easy; we still have deep and important disagreements.  But if we all humble ourselves, seek common ground and the good in each other, there is hope that the blessings of liberty will be secured for future generations.

In your life, adopt an attitude of humility and hope.  It will go along way to Making America Good Again.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Making America Good Again: Anger Management

Election Day is less than one week away.  I hope you have voted or are planning to vote by November 8th.

Polling suggests that Clinton and Trump are tied. One of them will be president.  Will they and their supporters be sore losers?  Or gracious winners?  Which will you be?

Americans started this campaign season angry.  Many feel our country is headed in the wrong direction, but beyond that our nation is divided. The platforms and policies of the two major candidates are almost polar opposites.  Which path will prevail?

Our anger has grown over the past year, and now we're tired too. The daily barrage of lies, accusations, scandals and the endless commercials have left us exhausted and anxious.

What should we do on November 9th - or whenever the results are recounted, court challenged, and eventually verified?

We need to take a deep breath and do the equivalent of counting to 10 before we respond.

Take some time before the results are announced to prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead should your candidates win....or lose.


Pray for calm. Anger and exhaustion are a dangerous mix.  Don't react based on your emotions without thinking about the consequences.

The key to Making America Good Again is loving each other, especially those we disagree with. We often hear, "love your neighbor as yourself."  But the whole verse is:  “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

In this emotionally charged time in our nation's history, remember that loving means not seeking revenge nor bearing a grudge.  Don't try to get even.  Don't let political positions end friendships or break family ties.  Don't watch grudge matches on media outlets; turn them off.  Don't tolerate revenge-seeking politicians; hold them accountable to seek the truth and create a peaceful path forward.

One of the strengths of our constitutional republic is our history of peaceful transitions of power.  Losing an election does not mean that the fight for our beliefs ends.  It does mean that we will continue to bring forward issues important to us in statehouses and courthouses, but peacefully and without violence.  If we are poor losers or gloating winners we will only exacerbate the hatred and division that plagues our country.

In the days ahead, pray for our nation and all the candidates, the winners and the losers.

Pray that the new president will be a leader who will strive to unite America.  May he or she have the heart of President Abraham Lincoln who on the battlefield of Gettysburg spoke about healing a nation divided by Civil War. He hoped then, as I do today:
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Don't let events overwhelm you.  We are a nation under God, and it is in God we trust and put our hope.  Seek His guidance and wisdom.  Pray for yourself, the American people and our leaders.

Pray for God to reveal to you what you can do to help heal your family, your community and our country in the days ahead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Joy of Sex

Can we talk?  I am so tired of the daily stream of news about Trump's vulgar language and sexual conquests. I'm equally over the rehashing of the rape allegations against Clinton and his extra-marital affairs.

For the media, or any of us, to feign outrage at these events while embracing the vile stuff that permeates our culture is the height of hypocrisy.

And it's not just in the media and entertainment.  It’s what we see and do every day. There are few, if any, men or women who have not at some point used or abused their sexuality to get what they wanted from someone else. We use sex as a weapon or as a reward. Admit it.  Our sexuality does not always bring out our better selves, does it? 

Sex is the most wonderful, pleasurable and powerful aspect of our humanity.  We can use it well to our joy and benefit, or abuse it to our despair and detriment.  We do a bit of both. 

In my lifetime (I'm 58) the boundaries that determined what is right and wrong in regard to sex have changed.  The rule these days simply seems to be this:  as long as sex is between consenting adults, the rest of us ought to mind our own business.  

So what has 60 years of consenting adults gotten us?

We need to take an honest look at our country's problems and admit that many of them have a direct correlation to our 'anything goes' sex lives.  Because we live in a world where consent is all that matters, we've lost sight of the consequences. 

We tolerate those who abuse their power and fame for sex, be they politicians, CEOS, athletes or celebrities.

What we used to call pornography is now main stream entertainment.  This forces us to offer sex education in schools earlier and earlier, robbing children of the innocence of childhood.  Date rape is commonplace as teenagers and young adults work out what sexual boundaries are in real life. 

Work places are fraught with “he said/she said.”  Sexual tension interferes with job advancement and workplace productivity. 

Divorce is just another means of changing partners.  Why marry when you can live together and avoid the hassle. Sexually transmitted diseases and free birth control tax our healthcare system. 

The most devastating consequence of our new sexual morality is its impact on children.  "Consenting adults" have unwanted children who are often abused, neglected or put into foster care.  The murder of unwanted, but yet unborn, children is celebrated as an acceptable means of birth control.  Welfare rolls increase.

A brief word to the Christians who say that many of America's problems are because we've legalized same-sex marriage:  our problems aren't because a gay couple wants to make a commitment to each other and raise children.  Our problems are because an increasing number of people - straight and gay - move from partner to partner and fail to be accountable for the consequences of their sex lives. 

What's the solution?  We need to take a long, hard look at how we define sexual morality. 

Consent is still important.  Sex is the most intimate of actions and should only be entered into willingly.  But sexual morality is about more than simply saying "yes" or "no” whenever the opportunity comes along. 

Sexual morality should also embrace the importance of long-term, loving relationships to our sexual health and well-being.  We won't be perfect at it, but this should be the goal. 

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to be on welfare, less likely to avail themselves of abortion or have unwanted children, less likely to have an STD and less likely to divorce.

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to sexually abuse each other, their (or other people's) children or view pornography. 

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to tolerate the immoral behavior of the famous and powerful.

But, you say, ‘That’s no fun!  What a prude you are!"  

"You might want to think so,” I reply.  "But part of the lie that the "consent" folks have foisted on us is that sexual pleasure doesn't happen in long-term, committed relationships like marriage....but it can and it does."

A couple, committed to each other, finds more joy and satisfaction in their sex lives than they would with multiple, casual partners.  

I wish married couples would hold hands, kiss and hug in public so their children and society would get the hint that good sex happens at home. It doesn't only occur with perfect strangers or during steamy affairs as TV, movies and music would like us to believe.  A little shame and guilt for those breaking the commitment boundary wouldn't be a bad thing either. 

To make America good again, let's promote the joy of sex within long-term, loving relationships.  Sexual morality should not be defined merely by consent; it must be grounded in commitment.  Perhaps chastity and marriage can be a new trend?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Truth about Lying

Americans used to believe honesty was a virtue.   We taught our children the story of George Washington telling his father, "I cannot tell a lie."  We learned from the boy who cried "Wolf!" the consequences of lying repeatedly.  We said to each other:  "Honesty is the best policy."  We still give honesty a polite nod, but only when it is expedient. 

I feel a bit like the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes who went through his town in broad daylight with a lantern looking for one honest person.  He was a Cynic.  I'm becoming one. 

Where can we find honest people these days?  

Not among our politicians for sure.  Lies are part and parcel of what they tell us to sway us to support them. Ben Carson, one of the Republican candidates for president this year, said he would rather lose the election than lie.  Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump would even consider saying such a thing.  How sad. 

We don't even expect the news media - through the main stream or social outlets - to tell us the truth.  Like with the politicians, truth has taken a back seat to profits and political agendas.  Even the fact-checkers have their own motives.  In response, we choose to consume what we want to believe. 

But lying is not just epidemic in politics and the media.  One of the most frightening places I see a lack of truth these days is in our justice system.  What happened to witnesses, as well as the judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers to whom the system is entrusted, actually telling "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"?  Justice can only survive when the truth is told.

A culture of lying can have earth-shattering consequences.  There's a great little book by Andy Andrews:  "How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE?"  The answer:  "You lie to them."  His example is the Holocaust. What will the consequences of lying be in our generation?

Americans used to agree that a basic value we shared was the importance of truth.   One of the 10 Commandments is:  "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  Don't lie about the other guy.   Jesus said, "But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’" Simply tell the truth.

And that is hard to do.  It's not just the politicians, journalists and lawyers.  We all lie because we are all selfish. Sometimes we tell "white lies" to cover minor indiscretions, sometimes we tell "big lies" that cost others their lives and livelihoods. We spend lots of time justifying ourselves, splitting hairs about when it might be OK to lie, or when lies don't really matter, or when we think lies are essential. 

We have moved away from the idea that lying is a WRONG thing to do.  Lying is now a tolerated, everybody-does-it kind of thing.  When we accept as normal the daily dose of lies we get from our leaders, our news, and even from our friends, the easier it becomes for us to stop telling the truth as well. 

To start to put an end to the cultural epidemic of lying in America, we need to stop lying ourselves. 

Here's today's challenge.  Go 24 hours without telling a lie, not even a little-bitty white lie.  No lies at all. 

Start by being truthful with yourself and those closest to you. Before you speak, decide if what you want to say must be said.  Even if it is true, it might not be necessary.  If it is, say it in a loving way.  Do it with the other person's interest in mind.  Do it in a way that is kind and compassionate.  

Your goal is to avoid telling lies, big ones and little ones. 

Then go the next 24 hours without telling a lie.  Repeat each day until it becomes a habit!  Not lying, or tolerating the lies of others, will go a long way to Making America Good Again. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Making America Good Again: Personal Responsibility

John Smith, echoing the words of the Apostle Paul, told the colonists in Jamestown, "he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled).

Personal responsibility is part of the bedrock of America's goodness

I live in Florida. There is a hurricane bearing down on us. Many Floridiantake responsibility to prepare beforehand.  We do our best to keep our families safe and not burden our neighbors and emergency services during and after the storm. 

By taking care of myself and my family, I am not saying,  "I've done my part, so screw you."  In thcase of Hurricane Matthew, many will find themselves overwhelmed.  History tells us that millions of people will donate time and money to help those impacted by this and other disasters. 

As John Smith acknowledged, personal responsibility always includes both self-reliance and charity. How are you handling your obligations to yourself and others in need

Let's start with your financial responsibilities. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that we each have a duty to "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can."  

Earn money.  Work.  It may not be your dream job, but do what you must to put food on the table and a roof over your headTake care of yourself and your family. Do your job to the best of your ability and look for opportunities to improve your situation.

Save moneyPay for what you need but don't be reckless in your spending.  Stay out of debt. Save for the unexpected.  

Give money.  Help those who can't help themselves. Set aside part of what you earn to help others.  

But personal responsibility doesn't only involve money.  Here are some examples:

You are responsible for taking care of your health.  Think about the impact your health has on insurance premiums and other healthcare costs.  

You are responsible for your sexual choices.  If you can't afford to raise a child (who is your personal responsibility until they are an adult), don't get pregnant.  

You are responsible for your stuff.  A car or home in disrepair is a danger to you and to other people.  

You are responsible for your behavior. Follow the law, watch your mouth, be kind. 

You have a responsibility to help othersRead to a child, take a meal to an elderly neighbor, visit someone in the hospital. Share your time and abilities

You get my drift and could probably add to the list.  Self-reliance AND charity are what personal responsibility is all about. 

Look at your life.   Are you responsible for yourself and for helping others

When we do a better job of taking care of ourselves, government doesn't have to. A little more personal responsibility would go a long way to making America good again. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Joys and Sorrows of Diversity

"I love mankind, it's people I can't stand.'  - Linus Van Pelt 
Face it, there are people you love, some you might hate and a whole lot in between.  Sometimes you can explain why you feel the way you do and sometimes you can't.  Sometimes your reasons are justified and sometimes they aren't.

Why is that? Is it because of something they have said or done or is it just because they are different than you? 

Beyond our common humanity, no two people are exactly alike.  This amazing diversity makes the world really interesting. Think about the enormous variety of animals and birds, flowers and plants, landscapes and seascapes, and especially the diversity of people.  We all look different and have a wealth of backgrounds, cultures and experiences.  It just blows me away. 

I enjoy asking  people about themselves, their lives and families, and like it when they ask about me.  We don't always have that opportunity, so we rely on the news, TV, social media, movies, books and what others say to get to know the people we share the planet with.  It's fun, enlightening and enriches all our lives.  

This same diversity that brings us great joy also brings us great challenges. 

Being self-centered as we are, we often find it difficult to relate to people who are different than we are.  We stay in our comfort zones and mostly interact with folks who are similar to us in some way - those who look like us, enjoy what we do, and share our view of the world. 

Unfortunately, when we get in our little homogenous groups we often think we are better than everybody else.  Or we think we are being wronged or mistreated by everybody else.  Remember high school?  The pattern continues into adulthood, but it has taken on dangerous proportions.  

When I watch the news, I see an America full of distrust, hatred and violence.  Why?  Some people feel like they are victims.  Others feel falsely accused of being the victimizers. Sometimes it seems to me we are intentionally being pitted against each other.  How many times has a lie been told and then sensationalized by the media.  By the time the truth comes out, hate and distrust have already taken root.  Is this the America you know?

How do you on a day-to-day basis interact with the people around you? Do you love mankind, but can't stand people?  Which ones?  Why?  Do you treat those who are different than you with respect - or do you disparage, exclude or ignore them? It’s time for each of us to examine our heart and our actions.

I am hopeful that you will find that you are a kind and caring person; that you are neither a bigot nor the victim of bigotry. You may strongly disagree with others, but you wouldn’t cause them, or even wish them, harm. I believe in my heart the divisiveness we see on the news is not real-life America.  Fight that perception in your daily life. Let's show the world that Americans are united in our diversity, and that out of many, we are one.   

The joys of diversity come when we acknowledge and appreciate our differences.  The sorrows of diversity come when we make our differences the source of divisiveness and violence. 

My general philosophy is like Aunt Eller sang in the movie Oklahoma: 

I'd like to teach you all a little sayin'

And learn the words by heart the way you should

I don't say I'm no better than anybody else,

But I'll be damned if I ain't jist as good!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Making America Good Again: United by the Rule of Law

Making America Good Again involves uniting behind the idea of human equality and behind the idea that people should be governed by laws, not men. 

Laws in America are shaped by a few, very important, principles.

First, the primary purpose of government is to protect our God-given equality and freedoms.  Every law that is passed at every level of government should be evaluated on how it impacts this fact.

Second, all law is to be created by the "consent of the governed."   That is you.  America's citizens are ultimately responsible for every law that we live under.

Third, all law must be in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. 

We are a republic, not a democracy.  Democracies are little more than majority "mob" rule. In a republic, the rights of minorities are protected through an amazing multi-level representative system of government. 

Our founders understood the desire for power inherent in human nature.  That is why in the United States political power is shared so that not too much resides in the hands of any one person or group.   

Our government's power starts with the consent of the people who reside in one of America's 50 states.  Each state is an independent entity with all the powers of a sovereign nation.  The Constitution is the sacred agreement between the states that delegates certain state powers to the federal government.  For example, the states, through to the Constitution, give the federal government the power to mint money in order to facilitate trade and the power to "provide for the common defence" from foreign powers.   All other power remains with the states and the people.

The limited powers given to the federal government are further divided between the branches of government.  Briefly, within those limited powers,  Congress was given the power to write laws, the President the power to enforce federal law, and the Supreme Court the responsibility to interpret those laws.  Everybody gets a share of the power-pie, but not all of it.  Ingenious!

Some might try to tell you that the Constitution is out-of-date, but that is simply not so.  It can be amended!  That is how America fully realized the promises of equality laid out in the Declaration.  It is through amendments that slavery was abolished, former slaves were given citizenship,  and the right to vote was gradually expanded to all men and women over the age of 18.  The Constitution works. 

You might never know any of that by watching the news.  All we see is each branch of government assuming powers they don't have and abdicating the ones they do! 

To make America good again we need to get behind the Constitution and only elect people who will preserve, protect and defend it  - and then hold them accountable to do their jobs.  This is the only way, short of open rebellion, to control their power and protect our freedom.  

If we don't....

-----Your local government will continue to give away control over local matters.  Think of the impact of the state and federal departments of education on your local schools.

-----States will continue to allow the federal government to usurp power rightfully theirs.   For example, the Supreme Court recently redefined marriage which is not within the power of the federal government. 

-----The House of Representatives will continue to abdicate its responsibility to control government spending. 

-----The Senate will continue to do nothing but talk when it should the primary line of defense protecting the Constitution and our freedom. 

------The President will continue issuing executive orders and federal regulations that have the force of law even though the Constitution gives the President the power to enforce the laws, not make them.

----The Supreme Court will continue to make rulings that supersede the Constitution and federal law, rather than interpreting them.  Think about the flaws in the Affordable Care Act that should have been corrected by Congress rather than by the Court. 

All these things point to the fact that we are becoming a nation ruled by a powerful, political elite, and not by laws enacted with our consent through our representatives.

You might agree with some of the outcomes, but beware.  There are ways to work toward the changes you want within the Constitution.  To ignore this is to put all our freedoms at risk.

If all we do is vote for the man or woman who promises to do what benefits us monetarily or who supports our particular issue, we are part of the problem.  Our votes should always with an eye to protecting our liberty and that of the next generation. 

The American people are the only check on government power.  We must be informed voters and hold our representatives accountable to following the Constitution. Get involved and get educated.  Do your part to protect our freedom.

To make America good again, will you unite behind the big idea that we are a nation governed by laws, not men?   Here is the Constitution with the Bill of Rights and All Amendments:


Making America Good Again: United by Equality

For America to be good, America must also be united.  What unites us is not our race, tribe, ethnicity or religion.  We are not held together by the dictates of a king, dictator, spiritual leader or an oligarchy. 

Americans are united by two big ideas: 
all people are equal and
people should be governed by laws, not men. 

Human equality and the rule of law are real-life applications of "love one another" and "The Golden Rule." 
Today, let's make this personal. How are you and every other person on the planet equal? 
Let's start with the most obvious.  We all started the same way.  People aren't necessarily conceived through the traditional method anymore, but it still takes the DNA of male and a female of our species to get a human being.  From conception, our bodies grow and function the same.  Muscles, bones, organs, blood, and the rest. 
But being human is more than our physical body.  You know without being told that you are more than what you see in the mirror.   There is a lot going on inside you.
You have emotions - like love and hate, happiness and sorrow, contentment and frustration. 
You think.  You learn and solve problems.  You remember. You imagine things and dream. You ponder the meaning of life.
You make choices, what I call free will.  Viktor E. Frankl, a world-renowned psychiatrist,  was repeatedly tortured during the three years he spent in Nazi concentration camps.  He came to the conclusion that no matter what our circumstances or what happens to us, we can choose how we will react.  He said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."  That space, that freedom to choose, is in you.  
You are often self-centered.  You sometimes think that the world revolves around you and your needs.  You want to gain power and possessions.  Sometimes you think you are better than everybody else.
You have a conscience and are sometimes surprised by that unasked for feeling of knowing what is right and wrong.
In addition to all of that, you still find that there is something else that no thing, no thought, no feeling can satisfy.  The 17th century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it this way:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."
You see, you also have a spiritual side, what many through the centuries have called the soul.   
So, how are people equal?  We are all physical, emotional, rational, free, self-centered, conscience-laden and spiritual beings.  
And one more thing.  Some might say we are equal because we agree that we are, but if that is true we could just as easily agree that we aren't!  The primary reason we are equal is because we are all created and loved by God, and God wants us to see each other as God does. That will never change.  
You are a human being - a complex and wonderful creation of God.  So is every person you see. 
There are many other things about you that are important - your sex, your race, your ethnicity, your family, your religion, your talents, your bank account, your intelligence, etc.  All of these are secondary to your essential humanity.  These things do not make you superior to any other person.   These things do not make you inferior to any other person.  They make you different from some others, but not better or worse.
To make America good again, can we unite around this idea?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Making America Good Again: Another Golden Rule Challenge

The news of more rioting in Charlotte, NC, greeted me in my newsfeed again today.  My sister-in-law asked:  "When is it going to stop?"  Good question, but which "it" do you want to stop? 

Do you want the police to stop targeting black people?
Do you want to stop the injustice in America's criminal justice system?
Do you want black people to stop disobeying the orders of the police? 
Do you want people to stop protesting in violent ways?
Do you want everybody to stop from forming opinions until all the facts are known?
I'm sure you have your own "it"?  Which "it" do you want stopped?

My challenge to you today is to take the Golden Rule and apply it to what you know about this situation and similar ones from other cities.   What would you do if this were your hometown? 

Today, "seek first to understand, then to be understood."   

This is the fifth habit from Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."  It is a corollary to the Golden Rule because understanding is an essential step in doing for others what you would like them to do for you.
How can you seek to understand? You should talk with people who have a different perspective.  In situations like this, the best you might be able to do is get your news from multiple sources!  The news media and social media are not trustworthy.  Balance liberal and conservative sources against the other, and try to glean the truth as best you can.  Try to grasp the facts and the feelings of those involved.  Seek out, as the Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said, "Not my truth, not your truth, but the truth." 
And then, find a quiet moment and put yourself into this news story. 
If you were the person confronted by the police, how would you respond?  How do you think police officers want you respond, and by law, how you should respond?  Do you think the police can be trusted?
If you were the police officer, how would you approach this situation?  How do you think people want to be treated as you approach them?  Do you assume that all, or some groups of citizens, are more likely to be criminals? 
Put yourself in the place of the family, friends and neighbors of the person killed by a police officer.  How do you feel?  What do you want to know?  How would you respond?
Put yourself in the place of the community.  How would you protest?  What would push you to violence? 
You can never know for certain how someone else might feel about or respond to a situation, just like no one can know how you would.  Different life experiences shape our thoughts and actions.  But empathy, a part of loving, requires that we try to understand where the other person is coming from.   It may not change your opinion, but it will help you understand the opinions of others.
Walk a mile in the other person's shoes - and then perhaps we can find common ground to have a conversation and prevent a conflagration.
Next:  Unity