Tuesday, September 20, 2011

peace above anger

Anger is understandable, even good for you at times. The Bible tells us that you do well to get angry but not to stay that way.

Persistent and constant anger leads to bitterness which leads to discontent and even malice. A bitter heart is never joyful and never contributes positively to any situation. In fact, bitterness commonly brings other people down around you and leads to defensiveness, especially evident in family dynamics.

So what fuels our anger that can lead to such negative behavior? Ultimately, much can be attributed to not getting our way or not seeing our opinions taken seriously. Every aspect of our lives is affected by what we want or what we think. When something disrupts the flow of our thoughts (which lead to our actions), we become aggravated or angry. In some cases we learn to deal with the disruption by adapting and/or overcoming the adversity.

However, there are other times when we fail to deal with an issue and our anger becomes destructive. What’s worse is when that anger spreads to others through relativity. We associate with others who, like us, are facing challenges that might make them angry. In an odd form of solidarity we find ourselves linked with them as partners who are angry about the same thing(s).

Through discussion of that which angers us, we fuel negativity, not productive thought. Constructive criticism, for instance, only happens when the intent is that of love or a good nature towards another. One of the outcomes of anger, on the other hand, is often harsh criticism, commonly believed to be retaliation. Harsh criticism is never constructive.

It leads us to make a careful observation; anger will always lead to destruction if it is not dealt with. We cannot live a life that is controlled by anger and yet it is what we see evident in today’s culture. The world of politics is so pervasive, for instance and provides us with a microcosm of anger in our world. Rarely does there seem to be anything constructive, rarely are there conversations that seem devoid of anger. The effects are startling as we each experience this one facet within our society that is so filled with angst.

Can we escape from this angry mindset? What are the steps necessary to dealing with and/or avoiding anger in our lives? We must daily commit to seeing people differently than we do now. We must daily commit to thinking before we speak. We absolutely must do more to treat each other with respect. This life is fairly short in respect to all of time and yet we live lives that suggest we are so much more important than we really are. All of us as a whole make something quite grand but individually we are actually quite insignificant. I don’t say that to make anyone feel small because I know the impact that just one small voice can make, but the world does not revolve around any one human.

Think about that one for a moment. No matter how big the star, no matter how great the fame, everyone goes away in the end. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We are doomed to this earth, each and every one of us, there are no exceptions. And given that clearly stated fact, what makes any one person think they are that much greater than any other person, especially in the grand scheme of things? Don’t we all breathe the same air and bleed the same blood?

Making a change of the mind and heart will take a very willful intent on your part and it won’t happen tomorrow; it will take you some time. All it takes to get started is an intention. An intention to seek peace above anger.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shooting first

It's been a little while and to be honest, I have been running pretty hard. That excuse seems to work for everyone else, so why not me? The truth is that life is still just that; life. And it never stops, especially with two grade school kids, two jobs, a new found hobby and strong penchant for beer and ice cream.

I do however still get the itch to write and while I have obviously failed to post anything here in the last 4 months, I am still writing things down with the plan to publish them here. Many things have taken space in my mind these past 4 months but my mainstay thoughts continue to revolve around this country's obsession with war. It is remarkable to me that in this day and age of connectivity between us and foreign countries, we still wish to harm our neighbor in such an irreversible way.

There is no plausible excuse for me to consider that would allow me to accept that we must seek to kill those who we are told wish to harm us. We here in America live in the greatest specter of fear that has ever been doled out on a nation's people. We are constantly reminded that the enemy wants nothing more than to extinguish us from the face of the earth and so we live, heavily armed, prepared for such a cataclysmic event. An event that is purported to be possible on our very streets. And it is behind that cloak of fear that our government sends our military off to fight. The idea is that if we are fearful as a people, we will not question the motives of our government as they set about their initiatives.

That last bit is relevant, be assured, but more importantly it is understanding the initiatives of our government that should alarm you. In the midst of the speeches by officials warning you of the enemy, we are painted into a corner of submission. It is not the wish of our elected officials to make peace with all people, but instead to rule them. The leaders of this supposedly great country wish for nothing more than to rule as much, if not all, of this world as possible. Our military is simply acting out this role of empire building across the globe, all for a country that is supposedly blessed by God.

Do any of you know your history? Do you remember when Israel sought the same thing? Do you know of the reign of Solomon? King Solomon's reign looks a lot like the US today. We have so much and yet we want more. We are willing to sacrifice our own people in order to continue our empire building, there is nothing that will stop us....or is there?

What if in this age of connectivity we raise our voices to speak out against the injustices of this country? A lot of people already do speak out and there are several great websites that promote it, but you too can join the voices. This country needs to speak up, but more importantly, those who profess a love of Jesus Christ need to live lives that are exemplary of His life, a life of peace.

Remember, Jesus did not fight back, but instead went willingly to the cross. Americans are so afraid of the cross that they are shooting at everything that moves, based on a theory that unless we shoot first, we will all die at the hands of an enemy we have never met.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

what's it going to take?

For years I have skirted the same issue, always choosing to avoid it to some degree. I have had deep conversations about it with friends but never logged a single thought like this, but maybe now is the time.

I have written about conditions similar, such as Americanism and selfishness but it just doesn’t seem like I have given this topic enough thought, mainly in written form. The issue at hand is the singularity of self. It is so much more than just pride, or arrogance, or ego; it is at the heart of every human regardless of life experience. Each one of us experiences it on some level and has to deal with it, but defining it is probably the most difficult for me…so here goes.

You and I travel each day through life. Each day we go about our daily routines and work hard to get through…to the next day. I don’t mean to make it sound so depressing, but going back and reading about the ruts we get into makes me realize that those same ruts are more than just chosen paths; they are comfortable and keep us from moving outside them. Our routines are truly extensions of who we are deep inside. If you could truly see deep within yourself to your soul you might ask yourself why you don’t do more.

Beyond my faith there is something called humanity. Outside the lines of what I believe in are people just like me who are just trying to make do, just trying to scratch out a living and just trying to get by. There are hundreds of thousands of people who share thoughts with me, think similar to how I do and manage through desires with the same struggles that I face. I don’t seek to bring mediocrity to the sorrows of many, I understand and can relate to many of them, but who are we kidding here? Do we really think that in our worst conditions we are somehow the only ones that suffer? And when we are standing on the mountain top, do we really think there is only room for us? I’m not sure you would like the answer if you could look deep inside.

It has become apparent to me, just by watching men and women interact with each other, that we are wired to be in concert with one another but societal influences pull us apart. With that said, we must work tirelessly in order to fight the ego. I can hear you, your reply to that is telling me that it’s not that easy. My reply is telling you that you are right, but that won’t stop me from trying. There has to be more than just skating through this life consumed with what I want. At what point do we stop living for ourselves and truly begin living for someone else?

It’s more than being a spouse or a parent. It’s more than being a neighbor or a friend. It’s more than everything you’re doing right now. It is the challenge of a lifetime and it can not be viewed as some singular event that can be tackled next Tuesday.

You and I must embark this very moment on an epic journey which will take us to the ends of the earth and beyond. You and I must learn to see past the outer shell of each others humanity, past the flaws, past the mistakes, past the scars, past everything to the very core within all of us.

We must seek to understand each other at the deepest level and then move to the next closest person to us and seek to do the exact same thing. For all of us, this must continue exponentially without end, for without a deep understanding of each other, we will never know peace.

And without peace, we will continue fighting.

We will continue hating…



Is that really what you want?

I know I don’t. I know there’s something better and I know that together we can find it and experience it. But it’s going to take some work.

It’s going to take some encouragement…

Some positivity…

Some building up.

It’s going to take some love…maybe a lot of it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Insightfulness (incite-fullness)

In examining an event where a woman had her head stepped on in what appeared to be a politically motivated moment, it is with insight that we will look at inciting violence. It is with great concern that we talk about this as we move forward. Accepting this type of behavior is tantamount to anarchy by mob rule. It is one thing to agree that we are all animals at some basic level, but to act like less than human intentionally is malicious and deprives all of us of our humanity.

Is that where we are anymore in relation to each other? We understand that we have differences and we also know that we will disagree from time to time. Some people will disagree just for the purpose of disagreeing. Others disagree not on topic or subject or content but due to a very willful dislike for another person or set of persons. When disagreements reach this level, rationale is thrown out the window for position and not for substance.

This basic competition among people is well rehearsed and documented. We compete against each other at every level of life with the goal of being first, or at the very least, finishing ahead of those we know or know of, and especially ahead of those we dislike. This is not an American phenomenon, although we emphasize it, but a global one. This competition amongst each other is at the heart of everything we do and is inherent in every piece of marketing, every social application, every business and every personal agenda.

As we compete against each other for victory, we become less and less interested in the welfare of others. When this happens, we care more about protecting our interests and agendas first, regardless of consequences and outcomes. I have watched countless people in the media and politics alike discount whole lives for short sided gain. There are no sides to this behavior; it is seen across all spectrums and ideologies. People are discounted or disposed of wholly for having a contrasting view.

The ultimate result is that many people consider competition as a life or death scenario. When cast in this light, it is easy to understand. Survival of the fittest comes to mind, as does eat or be eaten. The concept is that you must eliminate those whom you compete with lest they rise up and defeat you the next time you meet. It is much easier to accept this concept because we can see a very tangible outcome of having less competition the next time; just eradicate everyone that does not agree with you and the world will be a better place.

You can make the leap yourselves without me having to say it. The elevation is an easy one to follow. How long will it be until we melt down into simple beasts, bent on nothing more than destroying each other? All wars are started this way. All conflicts are the result of this same kind of competition and they all lead to the same eventual conclusion; there are no winners in this game. There is no insightfulness, only incite-fullness.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Toby Mac says, “Tonight's the night, for the sinner and the saint. Two worlds collide…”

We collude as sinners and we do so as saints, but mixed? We're called to share the good news of Jesus while also called to be like Him. To that end, we are called to be salt and light, but too often we live as seasoning amongst like minded people. Why? I hope to answer that.

Do you like BBQ? I do and I love seasoning every thing I cook. I especially like this one particular kind of spice mix because it is so varied and diverse, while being very effective in regards to flavor. I've tried other mixes but I've grown accustomed to this one. Similarly, a lot of my friends are partial to spices they have found or concocted. This always reminds me of the uniqueness of humans and how truly diverse we all are.

We all have seasonings and spices we use and like, regardless of the foods we add them to. The diversity of flavors is not unlike the diversity in each of us. Obviously there are significant differences from person to person and we also have been told that opposites attract, but commonly we choose friends based on like characteristics, not opposing ones. We also choose friends based on attraction of certain characteristics, such as humor or physical beauty or athleticism.

Your friends are very much an attribute of your own styles, likes and dislikes, desires, moods and even your steak seasoning! Sounds crazy right? But we commonly surround ourselves with individuals who think, act and even eat like us because it fits what we want. When confronted with someone that does not think or act like we do, we commonly avoid that person due to our comfort zone. If the difference is glaring we not only avoid but permanently shun, without considering any possible ground. We might even speak ill so as to place a verbal wall between us and them.

The danger of trying a new seasoning is apparent. We take a huge risk that the food being prepared will taste horrible and then what? The meal is wasted. Who wants that? The same is true with regards to reaching out to those people around us that have obvious differences in view or lifestyle from our own. We even avoid getting to know certain people better for fear of discovering some glaring characteristic that would cause us to be uncomfortable.

The real fear is rejection, just as we would reject food that did not taste good we also reject people for not being appealing to us. In the same way, we are also rejected because we do not measure up to certain expectations that are set by others. Does it bother you to know that almost daily you are being rejected by someone because of who you are? Do you ever wonder why? Was it something you said or did?

Knowing that you are going to be rejected makes it all the easier to reject others, often for the exact same reasons. This repetitive nature of rejection is as old as mankind and will exist forever unless we make a conscious effort to change it. Seeing beyond our differences to find commonalities is essential, but it will only happen when we recognize that our way of “seasoning” things is what works for us and does not work for everyone.

Trying something new will always be risky but the rewards far outweigh those risks. The opportunity to connect with another soul is what makes us pine for connectivity. Even the most introverted person desires for a connection with another, it is our nature to be in concert with each other.

I have discovered that while things like oil and water do not mix, both of them get used in a motor. One cools and the other lubricates. They may not mix and yet they are in concert with one another in order to make the motor run properly.

Does this mean we should mix garlic and sugar? Maybe we should just consider the possibility. Or maybe we should look for ways to work together instead of rejecting each other instantly because of our differences.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Altruism is apparently not inherent, so says an economist named John List. Instead, one might suggest that altruism in its purest form is rare and that greed is inherent. I suppose that to answer this question we have to get to the root of why someone commits an act of service, or why someone gives (regardless of time, services or money). The suggestion by this economist is that people give (in this country primarily) in order to get something in return, regardless of the benefit, and not just to feel better.

The idea is that thanks to generous tax deductions and notoriety for having given something, people are attracted more to the idea of what you get when you give than what the receiver gets. Taken into proper context it would seem that anyone who gives sees greater value in the financial post benefit than the gift itself.

Explaining this shows us that we see little benefit to the recipient of any gift. When we give something away we seem to disregard the feelings and interests of who we give to almost as if they have no face or name. We don't give to unknown buildings and countries without citizens, we give to individuals. When we give there is a face and a name attached and at times there is a real need for that gift.

We cannot take the humanity out of giving and to that end, we can honestly say that the suggestion of greed being inherent as opposed to altruism is questionable, to say the least. It doesn't take much to see need and many people in many countries respond when there is a crisis. It may be true that here in America we see a back end benefit to our generosity but the first thought that enters your mind when you hear of or see a crisis is one of compassion and not of your tax deductible gift.

I have often wondered what our giving would look like if there were no tax benefits. Mr. List’s study shows us what regular people in real world situations would do, or so he claims. What does not enter in that study (the “Director” analysis) is any background information of any of the test subjects (who are mostly college students by the way). Another major problem is the study only uses a small microcosm of the population to study a vast array of humanity, across races, ethnicities, creeds, religious beliefs, socio-economic makeup and possibly the biggest contributing factor; how someone was raised in relation to giving.

It is easy to pick apart an analysis by anyone, but in this case I seek more to question the very concept of altruism and service to others, rather than the idea that we tend to give because of the financial benefit we receive.

Consider this; when you give anything to anyone, you are committing an act of service. Call it goodwill to men, call it civic duty; call it what you like but there is an action taking place and that action is called service. Interestingly, when you join the military you are often referred to as being in the service. In this case your service is to your country and your commander in chief, as well as to your family and friends. That is a mighty act of service and there are many others like it.
Regardless of the service there is always a sacrifice on the part of the person serving. Whether time or money or a lifetime, we make a choice to sacrifice something when we give; when we serve others. If greed was inherent, we would never serve unless there was a benefit for us and I promise you that nothing would be accomplished in this place. We would melt into beating each other senseless to gain our glory. There would be no concern for others if greed was indeed inherent.

This should be good news for anyone reading this. Service to others is possible on a daily basis, from small things to life changing events. Our very lives can be in constant service from sun up to sun down, making a difference in lives across all spectrums.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

why do you?

Why do you do what you do? Think about your daily routine, the steps you take as you first awake to the point when you lie down again. For some people those are drastic steps. I think about those in the military or those on rotation at a hospital. I think of police officers and fire fighters and folks who work the swing shift. Then of course there are the millions who slog through their day with such similarity that if we were able to shift a few thousand faces around they might not be able to tell the difference.

So you have a mental picture painted of your day, so to speak; now answer the question. Why do you do what you do? This is not meant to be vague but exploratory. If you go for the pat answer that you do it for the money, then so be it. Maybe you do it for the fame or the notoriety, if so then good for you. Whatever the reason, I know you have one. But here is the concerning thought; you do what you do because it's what you've done for quite some time now. If this is so then you, my friend, are in a rut.

Could you pull yourself out of that rut if you wanted to? Early pioneers that traveled west often came in wagons. The trails they carved created ruts because of the wagon wheels. The earliest explorers made their own way but those that followed did so by staying in the ruts of the wagons that had gone before. In some cases, ruts were so deep that even if a family or group wanted to change course, they couldn't because they could not lift their wagon out of the rut and they would travel for hundreds of miles because of it.

The ruts we get ourselves in are often because of a similar nature, but instead of a tangible track we can see, there is often a psychological road that we travel…one that we would have a very difficult time of getting off of unless something drastic happened.

The drastic is our worst nightmare. No one wants it but we all know it's possible. Career plans get altered, medical crises happen, people die...things change. The inevitable is that we will all face something like this in our lifetime; some folks will endure changes like this many times. In those instances we find ourselves out of the routine, out of the mundane, away from the norm and of course; out of a rut.

Another truth in all of this is that some folks actually like being in a rut. The simplicity of a routine is easy to follow, almost mindless if you will. If your day to day can occur without much thought, the idea is that you have more capacity to concentrate on different things. The unfortunate thing is here that very few people have that kind of capacity, or choose to use it. Most people exist in that mindless place and become complacent, not because they are stupid but because they are lazy. Getting out of a rut will always take a great deal of work and often some sacrifice.

Our lives are full of choices but most of them are like rhetorical questions; we know the answers. The occasional tough question that comes along may jar us from our routine for a moment but it will not derail us. There are only two ways to get out of a rut; circumstances that are beyond your control or a conscience decision on your part followed by the actions necessary to complete the change.

I would hate to suggest that your rut is a bad thing but often it is unhealthy. Consider for a moment that the reason you do what you do is because you have not thought of any good alternatives. Now would be a good time to think of options. The main reason for this is the fact that if you don’t, that unforeseen circumstance is waiting right around the corner. Our ruts are our own doing and unless we plan ahead, it is quite possible that we will travel for hundreds of miles with little to no choice.

I get why you do what you do….do you?