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The Top Eleven Things You Will Never Hear In Heaven

June 21, 2016

Version 2

 

11.  Three’s a crowd.

10. Sorry, this isn’t my table.

9. At the tone, please leave your name, number, and the time you called.

8. Paper or plastic?

7. This is a test, had this been a real emergency…

6. No personal checks accepted.

5. Three out of four doctors recommend…

4. http://www.anything

3. No shirt, no shoes, no service.

2. This program contains mature subject matter and may not be suitable for younger viewers, parental discussion advised.

1. Will work for food.

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If it is one, then it is all…

April 14, 2016

When I was in elementary school, one of my pet peeves was if someone in class acted up, the teacher would punish the whole class.  Someone would throw a paper ball or a pencil and since no one wanted to confess, we all were made to miss recess or endure some other form of punishment.  Because one person was “unruly”, we were all considered “unruly”.  In high school this mentality morphed into a dress code that said a male could not wear a tailed shirt untucked. If you did you were considered a “hood”, because hoodlums dressed that way. My father had obtained a couple dozen white dress shirts for cheap and I wore one most days, untucked. Daily, I would have discussions with my teachers as to why they thought I needed to tuck in my shirt. My grades were good, I was not a hood, and to me the rule was pointless. I lost most of the time. It was either tuck in or go home. In the Army it was as bad. If one guy in the platoon did something wrong, we all suffered, usually by doing push-ups. This thought process of making the majority suffer for an act by the minority surfaces time after time.

Our world today is filled with examples. Someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge, solution – put up nets and ruin the view for all of us. One guy tries to light a shoe bomb, we all suffer the hassle of taking off our shoes when we go through airport security. Someone doesn’t want to pay for car insurance, our rates are higher. Someone shoplifts, we pay more for products.

Sadly, this mentality is also the basis for prejudice, hatred, and misconceptions. Oh, you’re a Muslim, then you must be a terrorist. You’re a Christian, then you must be an extreme fundamentalist. You’re a Democrat, then you must be a far left winger. You are a Republican, then you must be a far right winger.

We have become a nation of label makers. If we can slap a label on someone, then we think we  know who and what they stand for. While this is an easy solution to dealing with each other, it is not only lazy but promotes ignorance, bigotry, and hate.

Yes there are Muslims who are terrorists, Christians who are extremely fundamental, far left Democrats and far right Republicans. For some reason we want to put one label on a group. I guess that just keeps it simple and comfortable for us, keeps us from having to think.

The homeless are a perfect example. The reasons for being homeless are as varied as the number of people on the streets. Yet, we would like to think they are all drunks, and addicts. If we believe that they are, then we can excuse ourselves from helping them, have a clear conscience when we just walk by them, ignoring their existence. Not that this is the right attitude, as we should be doing more to help any person who finds themselves homeless. But, when you sit down and actually talk to someone on the street, look into their eyes, listen to what they have to say, you find an actual human being.

Apply this process to anyone. If you are a Christian, sit down with a Muslim and have an intelligent discussion. A Democrat, sit down with a Republican. On the far left, sit down with someone on the far right. Somewhere along the line we lost the ability to hear each other out, and actually find out what someone else stands for, what they really think. Maybe we have never had the desire.

Facebook has widened the divide, enhanced our ability to just label and carry on as usual. I constantly see posts putting down liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims, gun owners, anti-gun owners.  The ability to say something derogatory about a group is made all the easier by not having to be face to face.

All of this reminds me of the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, that says, “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”  We all can’t be right, we can’t block out ideas that we may disagree with, we can’t ignore a person or group that might think just a little differently than we do, we can’t live in a constant state of fear of other people.

Behind every label we may use, there is another human being, not that different from ourselves. It is complete arrogance to think that we are better than someone else because of those labels. As long as we stay comfortable with our narrow views, the issues and problems that face all of us will just keep getting worse.

Imagine if we had a national reconciliation day, where each of us had to sit down over a meal with someone we labeled as different from ourselves. Would we all be better off? Would hatred diminish? Would the world be a better place?

What would happen if we all accepted one another, acknowledged and respected our differences, realized we are all in this together?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgetting Our Roots

November 23, 2015

This old cliche’ could not be more relevant than today, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana).

The current crisis in Syria is a good example of not learning from our past.  The refugees that need asylum have become the Japanese, interned in WWII, of 2015.  There are those that would love to round up all the Muslims in the U.S. and either ship them out or corral them. There are those that would bar all Syrian refugees from our shore, similar to what we did to the Jews who were trying to escape Germany in WWII. It is too easy to label Muslims as terrorists, much the same as we label Hispanics as illegal, blacks as criminals, those on welfare as lazy and druggies. Labels are easy, put a label on, place them in a box and we can feel superior.

Sadly this makes us no different than the Nazis who wanted to purge Germany, no different than ISIS who want to kill all but the faithful to Allah, no different than the trials in Salem that condemned to death anyone different, labeling them as  a witch.

This is not who we are. This country was founded by those who escaped tyranny, religious persecution, and prejudice.  Interestingly, almost every group that has come to this country found persecution, prejudice, and religious intolerance.  Most survived and overcame these obstacles, but have we all forgotten our roots?

The Statue of Liberty has a plaque that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” How many of our forefathers came from some other country? Unless you are native American Indian, guess what? You classify as a refugee or an immigrant.

Why have we forgotten who we are? The answer lies in several places but let me list a few.

First, we are lazy.  It is easy to slap a label on anyone or anything different from ourselves and set them or it aside. Our stereotypes help us to not look at a person as a human being, but as category. The homeless are an excellent example of this.  After you sit across a table from a homeless person and have a conversation, it is hard to not see the humanity beaming back at you, and come away with a different perspective. For those so adamant about the Syrian refugee issue, I would ask how many Muslims have you talked to?

Second, we are lazy. Rather than gathering facts, information, or truth for ourselves, we have become puppets to those we think have the answers. We would rather listen to those who think as we do, than to discover or even entertain a new or different opinion. Another fitting quote is from Jim Morrison of the Doors, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” The best example of this is Fox News. Distort the truth, play on people’s fears, offer only one side to a discussion and you can control how people think. The number of people that rely on Fox for news shows how stupid some people in this country have become. On the other side are liberals who read only what agrees with their view, or worse get there news from Twitter. It is easier to continue with one’s prejudice than to challenge that prejudice with truth.

Third, we are lazy. Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  Thoreau had written in 1851, “Nothing is to be so much feared as fear.” We have become a nation afraid.  We are afraid of people and things we do not understand. Yet, we do not want to take the time to understand , to do the research necessary to ease our fears. Instead we hide behind labels and cower. We are afraid of thinking for ourselves.  We are afraid of having an open, intelligent discussion with those of opposing views. We are afraid of the truth.  As Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.”  What is the truth?

As our forefathers knew, not everyone in America is Christian, hence freedom of religion. Not everyone is going to agree with you, hence freedom of speech. Muslims have every right to be here as do Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons, Atheists, or any other religious group.  Everyone has a right to their own opinion, that opinion can be expressed on social media or any other soap box.

What our forefathers could not see, is a nation intolerant of any religion, any opinion, or a nation so lazy that we would be willing to forget our roots, and shut out refugees from any oppressed nation. It is easy to say I have mine, so stay out. One of our nation’s greatest symbols is the Statue of Liberty, whom some would want to see as a Statue of Intolerance.

There are those who would make Muslims register and carry special ID cards. Why not just tattoo a number on their wrists? Why not just round them all up and place them in camps as we did to U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in WWII? The mentality today of many, including some Christians, is the same as in a different time, different place, caused some to yell, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  America is at a crossroads, will we remain a symbol of freedom or become a symbol of suppression?

Tis The Season…

November 5, 2015

halloweenHalloween has passed, leaving three major events left for the year. November gives us Thanksgiving, then December will bring us Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  These final three have one major theme in common: family, hope, possibilities, and tradition all rolled into the feeling that life is good and the future is bright. Okay, so maybe Thanksgiving is more about what has already happened, but the family and tradition parts hold.

Thanksgiving started as the celebration of a new land where the possibilities were endless. Newcomers were grateful for a place where each person had value, freedom to pursue their dreams, and follow the beliefs and traditions of their choosing. Well, in truth the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims who kept to themselves, took the land from the Indians, and did not want to be bothered by anyone thgvgelse.  Today, Thanksgiving is portrayed as either a time for families to gather together, or a day of rest before Black Friday. The gathering of family part is great unless your family is scattered and the possibility of getting together is remote or impossible. So we gather with the relatives available to us and try not to get depressed over those who we wish we could see, but can’t.

Christmas began as a sign of hope, promise, and love. Over time we managed to make it more about disappointment, one-upmanship, and depression. The days leading up to Christmas seem full of joy, the air filled with songs of family, tradition, and expectation. We are bombarded with scenes of families gathering around the fire, singing carols, trimming the tree, sharing gifts. While all the time, we start to reflect on family xmasmembers no longer here, homes where gatherings never take place, carols that add to our sadness, trees looking bare, and gifts of no use. The world around us gives us an image of love and yet our reality is one of loss.

New Year’s Eve holds the promise of new beginnings, a fresh start, possibilities. We shake off the past turn our faces to the future and make lists of all we want to newyearseve2013_fullsize_story1accomplish. It seems that it doesn’t take long for our promises to get set aside, our old habits return, and our lives are about the same as the year before.

While things may not be as dismal as I describe, the basic problem is one of expectation. Somewhere along the line we let the images of what all these events should be, blind us to the reality of what they are. Hence, people get depressed, suicide rates jump, disappointment rises. Thanksgiving is not as depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting, Christmas is not “A Wonderful Life” movie, New Year’s Eve is not the gala in Times Square. Many of us would love to go to sleep on Halloween night and not wake up until New Year’s Day.

The problem is that we have forgotten the basic meaning behind these holidays. The solution is found in the acronym KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

For Thanksgiving, this post I found on Facebook is perfect –  when you wake upon Thanksgiving Day, realize you have clothes to wear, running water, food to eat, and that life is good, so just be thankful.  The rest of the day can be with relatives or people you may not be happy to be around but hey, it is like going to the dentist, over before you know it.

Christmas is a little rougher to deal with.  Don’t worry about getting the perfect gift, keep your gift giving to those closest to you, and remember Goodwill can use the gift you get that you have no clue what to do with.

New Year’s Eve is easy, just go to bed about 9 p.m. and you won’t miss a thing.  As for resolutions, you just need one, no more resolutions.

As for the people you love who can’t join you on these festive occasions, just think Skype.

The only way to survive all of this is to accept what is and enjoy.

Happy holidays!

Exciting Times At The Social Security Office!

October 18, 2015

One of the joys of getting old is the opportunity to deal with Social Security.  Not only does one have the privilege of starting to collect some of the money the government was kind enough to hold for you all these years, but you now get free medical care to boot.  Wait, Medicare Part A is free, but it doesn’t really cover very much.  Oh, you want to be able to see a doctor now and then, so you need Part B. Part B will cost you but the government is nice so they will take it directly out of your SS check for you. Oh, you want to get prescriptions too, then you need Part D, which will again cost you but again we can just take it out of your check. So now the check which was not enough to support you in the first place is even less. Oh, and by the way, if this is all you have for medical coverage you are still liable for what Medicare Plans A, B, and D do not cover. So you get supplemental insurance which you pay for but we will bill you for that so don’t go spending all of your SS check on food.

Wow, so after all of that I am ready to go into old age.  Wait, we looked at your tax return from two years ago and now you have to pay more for Plans B and D.  What? But I was working full time then and now am not.  Oh, then you need to fill out a Life Changing Event form and bring it in to the nearest Social Security office. Whew, that is a relief. Thinking SS office’s are like the DMV, I figure it would be best to make an appointment. So online I go and unlike the DMV you can’t make an appointment on their web site. So I call the 800 number.

“Please state the reason you are calling,” the recorded voice says.

“Appointment,” I say.

“Please say your Social Security number,” the voice says.

I do.

“Please hold for the next available service provider”.

Wait, wait, wait.

“We’re sorry for the delay, SS has over 50 million enrolled and we take each call in order.”

Wait, wait, wait. I guess all 50 million must be calling at the same time. Finally, after exactly 52 minutes on hold an operator comes on the line. I explain my need for an appointment and one is set for the following week, late afternoon.

While I was on hold, I Googled my local office and found an 800# for them.  Now I had tried to call them in the beginning on the local # on their site but had been infirmed it was disconnected. Anyway, thinking I might get in sooner I call the 800# and within two minutes am talking to a rep at the local office. I explain my reason for an appointment (remember the Life Changing Event form) and she says they don’t take appointments for that and to just come in. Our government at work!

So the next morning, bright and early, I head down to the Social Security office.  When you go in you simply go to a kiosk, input your SS# and out pops a number, which when called means it is your turn.  So I sit.  In one corner of the room is a desk with an armed security guard. When this guy stands up I realize he is about six feet five inches and at least 240 pounds. As I sit there, I notice if anyone raises their voice while talking to a clerk, he immediately stands up and starts to move in that direction. Makes you wonder just how violent old people can get.

Now for most transactions, you simply go to a window when you are called, but if you need an “interview”, there is a  side door that takes you back to another clerk’s office. As I am sitting there, a man comes out of that door and walks over to the restroom door. There is only one restroom in the lobby – unisex. He tries to open it, and since someone is inside, it is locked. He then knocks. This brings the security guard up off his chair.  He goes over and asks the man what he is doing. The man says he thinks he may have left his wallet in the restroom. The security guard tries the handle,  it is locked, and then knocks on the door – hard.

The occupant inside says “Yes?”, and the man yells through the door, “Is there a wallet in there?”

“No,” is the response from inside the restroom. So the man tells the security guard that he will go check his car. The guard goes back to his desk.

A man comes in and is walking to the windows where other people are being helped. This brings the guard up off his chair and as he intercepts the man, he asks if he can help.  The man says he is here to serve a subpoena to someone who works there. I’m not sure what the subpoena is for, but made it me wonder just who works in this place. The guard says just a minute and goes through the door to the back offices. The subpoena man leans against the wall next to the restroom door.  After a minute or so, the person in the restroom comes out.

He is an older man walking with a cane. He sees the guy just outside the door and says, “There was no wallet in there”.

Subpoena man, who has a permanent scowl, says,”I don’t work here, I don’t know what you are talking about.”  The old man shrugs and goes out the front door.

The guard comes out from the back and says to subpoena man, “You will have to take a number and then someone will talk to you.” Subpoena man mumbles something, looks around the room at all of us with lower numbers, starts punching numbers into his phone and stomps out. The guard goes back through the door to the offices and comes out with a sign that says Restroom Closed, proceeds to lock the restroom and hangs the sign on the door. I’m not sure why.

Finally, my number is called and I go to the window. Easy, peasy. The clerk looks over the form I have already filled out, sees that I have provided a copy of last year’s tax return and says I should get a letter in a week or so with my lower payment amounts.

“One question,” I say. “That is last years tax return, and this year I may make even less, so how do I deal with that?” The lady says, “After you get the letter verifying this change, just come back in.”

Oh boy, so I get to do this all over again. Can’t wait to see what exciting things will be happening at the Social Security office then.

Even Geniuses Can Be Wrong

August 12, 2015

My two heroes in life are Mickey Mouse and Albert Einstein. einstein1_7Mickey reminds me to not take life too seriously and Al reminds me to question everything. While Einstein was a genius in the world of science, he seems to have missed the mark in predicting the future.

In reading Einstein’s writings, it’s interesting to see how people turned to him for advice on a variety of subjects outside of science. He thought it strange, but rarely hesitated to give his opinion. Since he approached life logically, as he did science, his responses were often illuminating for their simplicity.

In the book “The World As I See It”, Enstein addresses critics as a profession, definitely showing his since of humor.

“To see with one’s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a snappy sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word – is that not glorious? is it not a proper subject for congratulation?”

In this same collection he addresses the condition of the world (1933) and looks forward to a better future. He states, free development“In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the of the individual.” He does, however, foresee a brighter future when he says, “A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development.”  He goes on to say, “…we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.”

While this prediction is optimistic nothing has changed.  This could be written today and be as accurate in its observation. We have developed even more machinery to simplify our lives but have allowed our lives to be increasingly complicated. He foresaw a future where people could spend more time in the arts, literature, and the pursuit of helping his fellow man. Instead, we seem to spend more and more time keeping up with technology.

The world, or life in general, is  better now than in 1933. We have more labor saving devices, better living conditions in developed countries, and more free time. The speed at which new things are brought about is astounding, and it becomes hard to remember how we survived without the conveniences we so easily take for granted. But can we honestly say that we’ve bettered ourselves?

We read about the hours people spend glued to the boob tube, how we need to unplug from all the devices we now use as extensions of our appendages, and we do not need to look very far to see those in need around us. The spare time and energy Einstein was hopeful about, have been used more to promote the individual and less to the collective benefit of all.

One condition that Einstein notes is the lack of great men, leaders, in proportion to the rise in population. He felt that this would be corrected as the world found itself better off. We now have three times as many people in the world and far fewer great men and women. The current slate of presidential candidates as Exhibit 1.

So for all his abilities in the realm of science, Einstein fell short as a predictor of the future. His hopes were noble but he forgot how as much as industry and machinery may change, the human race does not.

He was also appalled at how, “in two weeks the sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill or be killed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties.” Maybe he wasn’t as far off the mark as I think!

 

If Only Christians Were Actually Christlike

August 5, 2015

Did you know there are zombies in the Bible?  zombiesOkay, not really zombies, but people who came out of their graves and walked through Jerusalem. Matthew 27:52-53 says that when Jesus died on the cross, the moment he gave up his spirit, “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’s resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” There are two things about this passage. One, they came out of the tombs when he died and hung around the cemetery for three days before going into the city. Imagine taking flowers to a loved one’s grave on Saturday morning and running into a bunch of dead people sitting around waiting for Jesus to come out of his tomb. Second, when did you ever hear this passage mentioned in a sermon? This is a hard one to explain since an event like this would surely have been the lead story on the Fox News version of Jerusalem’s media. To my knowledge there is no historical record of dead people walking around the city, not even in the writings of Josephus. This passage raises more questions than it answers.

Another passage not often preached about is Matthew Chapter 23, known as the Seven Woes (actually in Matthew there are only six in the original manuscript). This is the place Jesus rails against the Pharisees, the religious right, the fundamentalist of the time. He not only rails against them he curses at them. Matthew 23:33 – “You snakes! You brood of vipers!…” Those are not nice words. It is interesting that the only times Christ seemed to get angry, was when he was addressing the Pharisees. When he was dealing with “sinners”, he shows love, compassion, and forgiveness. Sadly, the woes he leveled at the Pharisees, are valid today for some modern day Christians.

All but one of the “woes” begins with, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” One begins with, “You blind guides!” Just replace Pharisees or guides with fundamentalist/religious right and you have modernized these verses.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” 44fd7c0025This is the first woe. Does this happen today? Ask a gay person, a divorced person, an unwed mother, an addict, a homeless person, a woman considering an abortion,or a transexual, just how many churches open their doors for them.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one,you make him twice as much the son of hell as you are.” This is the second woe.  Wow, Jesus isn’t happy here! Does this happen today? Ask a Christian who drinks wine, smokes pot, plays cards, doesn’t always go to church, doesn’t read the Bible much, is divorced, or who doesn’t tithe (gives ten percent of their income to the church), if they have ever been accused of not being Christian, or at the least, a “lesser” Christian. That last phrase has always cracked me up, you either are or you aren’t, like being pregnant.

Woe to you blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing: but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” This is the third woe.  There is more to it but it comes down to the same thing. Basically, Jesus is saying if you give your word, stick to it, don’t try to weasel out of it. One could say if your going to use the Bible as the word of God, don’t pick and choose which parts you apply and which parts you ignore.  pick-and-chooseDoes this happen today? I have always found it interesting how the Bible can be used as a rule book, as opposed to the love letter it was intended to be. How many people want nothing to do with Christianity because of the inconsistency of Christians?

The last three, and the one not in Matthew, all relate to making a show of one’s religion while not dealing with the more important matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The Pharisees were so caught up in how they looked to the world and the rules, they had forgotten what God is about.  Does this happen today?  When was the last time your church opened its doors so the homeless had a roof over their heads? Or when was the last time your fellowship hall was used to feed the homeless? And I don’t just mean turkey at Thanksgiving. Has your church ever allowed any of those rooms that sit empty all week to be used for an AA, or other addict recovery meeting?  If God is love, where is the love being shown to a world that struggles just to get by everyday?

The showing off of one’s religion has moved even to Facebook. How many times have you seen someone post their location on Sunday while at church? “Look at me, I am worshipping God!” Jesus would post back, “Woe to you blind guides!” And he would not be talking about your GPS.

The Pharisees set themselves up as the example of what it meant to be godly. The religious right has assumed that role today. If Christ was loving, forgiving, compassionate, and non-judgemental, where are his followers that emulate those traits?