Tuesday, September 28, 2010

borrowed words

from nancy's blog...

i sometimes know
i do not know
and sometimes see
i do not see
so constantly
i must be led
every moment
to be shown
what to do
where to go
my need is great
for Him alone
and in seeking
i am known

Sunday, September 26, 2010

5 days with james: sunday

I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

So what do you say… will you hand over that hamburger?

Let’s try this:

Mary--who you’ve never met--told me that if you gave me a hamburger today, she would pay you two dollars next Tuesday. Really.

Still ready to fork over that burger?

Let’s try one more. James told Stephen who told Jessica. The message was then passed on from Jessica to Aaron, Deidra, Joby, Siobhan, Tommy then John. John told Sue, and it was then passed on from Sue to Jerome, Latasha, Andy, Rachel, Eileen then Josh. Josh told Deepa who relayed the message to Ronnie, Vicki, PD, Lucy, Victor and Diego. Diego told Cho who shared the news with Ed, Jane, Hannah, Rickie, Sahid, Lou and Erin. Erin told Fred, and it went down the line to Xi, Sheila, Suti, Don, Ophelia, Juan, Kiki, Meaghan, Will, Tristan, Helen, Luana, Hal, Henry and Huck. Huck told Gigi, who then told Zoey, Didi, Barbara, Jake, Li, Ione, Chelsea, Karen, Stan, Ursula, Otto, Phil, Kevin, Regis, Debbie, Joy and Gil. Gil had a word with Yuri, who passed it on to Quinne, Jaque, Pablo, Juliette, Charles, Soo, Ni, Larry, Heidi, Jeff, Ahmal, Troy, Mary, Donna then Paul. And Paul passed it on to me. If you give me a hamburger today, that guy James would pay you next week. What do you say?

Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A promise.

A promise from some guy you never met, passed on from generation to generation, told and retold by people you don’t know, people you have no reason to trust. But you do.

Except you’re not asked to fork over a hamburger. You need to give everything. Face trials of every kind. Be slow to anger. Hold your tongue. Don’t judge. Don’t boast. Be patient in the face of suffering.

The Book of James tells us to do this all. For a promise. From a guy you never met.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

5 days with james: thursday

Some of my friends are turned off from God because of what they see as a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude among church goers.

The Book of James provides some words that make you think. One the one hand:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

In simplest terms, James 1:27 tells us to love God and love your neighbor. Spiritually, you should focus on your own life, your own heart. And with your hands and feet, help those who need your assistance. There is no judgment, no condemnation, no preaching. Just love. Sounds simple.

But James ends on a slightly different tone:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Here in 5:19-20, the Word seems to be promoting the idea of direct intervention—confrontation when one strays from the path, if you will. Here, victory comes when we turn someone around and steer them toward repentance.

If nothing else, the Book of James reminds me that building an argument for anything around one-off Bible verses is probably note ideal – we need to look at the broader context of the gospels and epistles. Good thing I committed to writing five posts on James… will give me something to think about for the next two.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

5 days with james: wednesday

One of the political blogs I visit regularly requires you to preview comments before you submit them. Once you have a chance to review, you must then choose between “OK to Post” and “Cancel”.

I would estimate that I end of deleting about 50% of my posts, primarily because they are snarky, or mean-spirited or simply do not add anything of value to the conversation.

I wish I had the same “OK to Post” filter in the off-line world.

…take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire… no man can tame the tongue…

On Saturday, I posted a reply on a Facebook post, then went back a few hours later to chastise myself. On Sunday, a group of us were watching a YouTube video taken by a friend where he got very emotional at the sight of a double rainbow—gushing in amazement. In response to this incredible awestruck moment, I handed him a purse, an act that was childish and demeaning in so many ways. Two days later I called to apologize.

Maybe one day I’ll get that “OK to Post/Cancel” feature to work in real-time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

5 days with james: monday

You’ve heard the phrase ‘practice what you preach’. In the Book of James, it reads as such:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

When a preacher or pastor does something wrong, it makes for headlines. While we are all just as weak or fallible, some can fail in silence while others must succumb to the cry “you hypocrite!”

I wonder, however, whether this affects what topics pastors and preachers choose for their Sunday sermons. I wonder whether this need to ‘practice what you preach’ leads some to simply “preach what they already practice”. After all, do you find it surprising that the most popular sermons among married men involve homosexuality and abortions? Those are pretty safe bets.

Of course, these fears probably extend beyond the pulpit. I am sure that I am more likely to harp on my spouse, my kids, my co-workers in areas that are my strengths – and ignore their lapses in areas where I, let's say, need some more practice.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

so, why don't you give more?

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

An article in the NY Times Magazine caught my eye last month.

For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous.

Americans as a whole tend to be far more generous than other nations – giving more than $300 billion a year. But when you peel back the numbers, you find that low-income working families are the most generous group, giving away about 4.5 percent of their income on average. This compares to about 2.5 percent among the middle class, and 3 percent among high-income families.

So why is it that those with the most disposable income are less inclined to part with their wealth?

Low income people may just know more people who are in need. Poverty, homelessness and hunger are not statistics or movies of the week – they are family members, neighbors, co-workers. There are faces and stories that bring these issues to life on a daily basis. Need is real.

There’s also the ‘there but for the grace of God’ phenomenon. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there is always a chance that you may one day move from donor to donee – a likelihood that becomes less likely when you have a six-figure IRA.

Perhaps, too, we have a much easier time grasping dollars than percentages. While $2,000 for the deli worker may represent more than $20,000 from a bank VP – the $20,000 just sounds like a lot more.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Why are those who have the most to give the least likely to share in their abundance?We fall in love. We fall in love with money. With the pleasure, power and security it provides. We love money more than we love people.

And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? We begin by coveting what we see every day.

What’s worse, the NY Times article adds, only a small percentage of charitable giving by the wealthy was actually going to the needs of the poor; instead it was mostly directed to other causes — cultural institutions, alma maters — which often came with the not-inconsequential payoff of enhancing the donor’s status among his or her peers.

So... I’m not looking for an answer to this next question, but hope you will take a moment to reflect in your own way: What is stopping you from give 5%, 10%, 15% or more to those in need?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

is there no going back?

People will come Ray. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.

There has been a lot of chatter recently regarding the need to “restore America”. So it got me thinking… is there a particular date in time we want to restore?

I walked down my street the other day and thought about the people who live on my block. These are good people, neighbors who are willing to lend a hand, watch out for each others’ kids. They get involved in the community, many go to church or synagogue, they keep their homes neat.

My neighbors are OK, so I guess it’s you and your friends that are causing all the problems.

Over the past two scores and seven years, I have lived in poor, congested city blocks and upper middle-class suburbs. And when I think about the moral character of my neighbors, their honor, their values… the only conclusion that makes any sense is that people are people… much like they have always been. The kids my children hang out with look, sound and act a lot like the kids I want to school with some thirty-off years ago. So what exactly are we trying to restore?

In one blog discussion, a man wrote about how this nation was going downhill, and he talked about rising crime, more abortions, an increase in divorce and a host of other metrics that reflect on our country’s values. The problem, however, is that facts show otherwise.

Violent crime is at its lowest point in 35 years
• The homicide rate is at its lowest point in 45 years
• The abortion rate has steadily declined since 1984
• The divorce rate hasn’t been as low since 1970
• Heck, even the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico is down

The charitable spirit of America remains high – including a record $300 billion in donations and hundreds upon hundreds of millions of hours volunteered in areas in need, such as New Orleans.

So I wonder, what exactly are we looking to restore?

Look up any point in time in America’s history and you can cite instances of corruption, hate and selfishness… as well as beauty, caring, respect and love.

When you think about what has changed in America in recent years—there are probably three factors that have contributed most to the current “restoration” meme.

1. 24/7 Information Access
We’ve gone from a half-hour of Walter Cronkite to a non-stop barrage of cable news, Internet stories and email chains. As bad news, tragedy and evil provide for good ratings, we are inundated in negative news.

2. The Global Economy
We import more than we export, and for the past ten years about 5% of the US GDP has been transferred to other countries—in essence redistributing wealth around the world.

3. Income Distribution
We have increasingly become a nation of haves and have nots. When I was younger, there was a sense that everyone in the “middle class” was in it together. Today, the upper middle class has broken away from the pack. In the past 40 years, the income of the lower middle class and middle class has risen less than 30%, while the upper middle class (57%) and upper class (74%) have experienced significantly higher gains. (And let's not even discuss the rich.)

In simplest terms we know more, other countries are improving and we no longer share a common lifestyle. But as far as I know, no one wants to give up their Internet, low-cost products or paychecks.

So I pose the question to you… has America changed? Should we go back—or move forward? Are people different today? Or do we simply romanticize about the past, just as our forefathers remembered the good old days?

People will come Ray. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

what a great idea!

As someone who spends half of my day writing, it should come as no surprise that many of the remaining hours are dedicated to research… so I spend a lot of time on the Google machine.

When citing market trends or supporting facts, I always make it a point to find multiple sources. In many cases, however, one could read dozens of articles that make a similar claim – only to find out that everyone has based their story on the same 2003 study out of an Indiana junior college. And when you go download the original 67-page study, you see that its authors included dozens of caveats that never made it into the news.

Apparently, as journalism has migrated from a once-a-day print edition to an endless stream of digital posts, there is no time, budget or desire for fact-checking.

Perhaps I am guilty as well. Often I am telling a story to drive interest in a specific technology or raise awareness about a specific business problem – and when I go online looking for source material, I am usually looking for a fact or tidbit that supports a pre-conceived notion. Given the vastness of the Internet – 230 million Website, another 100 million+ blogs and trillions of pages – you can ALWAYS find someone who can support ANY point of view.

And when you read that opinion that matches your preconceived notion, a light bulb goes off. What a great idea! This guy is a genius! I need to share this article with everyone! Quick, post this link on Facebook!

It’s so easy to find someone who agrees with you—no matter how crazy you are—that there is really no reason to investigate the facts anymore. Or consider an opposing viewpoint. Or question our pre-conieved notions.

After all, if so-and-so writes X and he’s a genius – that makes me pretty smart for agreeing with him. Instant validation!

So here’s my promise for today. Before posting any links to my blog or Facebook page, I will take a moment to consider what Rotary calls the four-way test. Of the things we thing, say or so:

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Given the standards of most Internet stories, doesn’t sound like I will be posting many links anymore..