Friday, July 27, 2018

Cultures, Poverty, & Transportation



Some nations are gifted with a variety of cultures.  In this mix there are identifiable characteristics in languages, ethnicity, social classes, status, and rank.  But one commonality with these cultures is that they worship the same God.  These diverse groups share common characteristics.  John Thune (b. 1961), a U.S. Republican senator from South Dakota wrote,” I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink.  It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom.  It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.”  Although America is a predominantly Christian nation with diverse groups - some in distinctly ethnic areas do rally under its flag.

Different Faces

American culture that’s exported around the world reaches a community of nations.  One way is through the mass media that not only presents news and information 24/7, but sports, and Christian programs.  This fare via print and electronic media is carried by satellites, radio, TV, and the Internet.
Through media America is able to share and exchange her values about serving God worldwide.  Because of these phenomena tourism is flourishing and citizens are able to interact globally.  They experience the beauty of religious and historic sites, worship, enjoy beaches, while giving thanks to God.  

Leslie Jamison (b. 1983), a novelist said, “Armchair poverty tourism has been around as long as authors have written about class.  As an author, I have struggled myself with the nuances of writing about poverty without reducing any community to a catalog of its difficulties.”  This is true.  Some may see poverty stricken communities and rattle off statistics as though they know what poverty is all about.  But many poor people have going for them their love of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Travel

Saint Augustine (354 AD430 AD), an early Christian theologian and philosopher wrote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  It’s also true that if people live in one place they have lived in all places.  Some that do so are the religious -  monks, nuns, and hermits, who enjoy austere lives locked away in monasteries, worshiping, and serving God.  Blessed by the Holy Spirit these individuals do experience life to the fullest. 

In many nations travel is encouraged and citizens take advantage of it.  There are however constraints on more than 7.3 billion people living worldwide in villages, and shanty towns.  These poor people are more concerned about having the basics, like a place to live, food to eat, and clean water to drink. 

Public Transportation

With adequate transportation poor people are able to travel from one place to another.  In the modern world - even in America, some lack transportation because they are unable to pay the fare.  Corrine Brown (b. 1946), a U.S. representative for Florida said, “States get to improve transportation infrastructure; that creates economic development, puts people back to work and, most importantly, enhances safety and improves local communities.”  Everyone benefits from having a good infrastructure.  Adequate public transportation goes a long way in helping poor people and the unemployed.  Such an improvement may well mean that the poor will have work opportunities in places other than their neighborhoods where they live.                     

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Live Victoriously



Americans live in a fast-paced society.  We’re used to a 24/7 news cycle with instant updates.  Media conglomerates promote “web speed” for professionals and all Americans alike.  Internet surfers become impatient if websites take too long to load.  On social media there are millions and millions who participate in the minute by minute snapshots of life.  On many TV channels images move fast and change rapidly.  Audiences are bombarded with sound bites that are entertaining, but don’t tell the whole story.  News is presented in 15 or 30-second segments like commercials.  Such fare is backed up by weekly polling and telephone interviews to monitor the public’s sentiments.

Radio and TV call-in talk shows demand answers right away, and give callers quick feedback about education, religion, the economy, health, and disasters.  Much of this information is sent via pictures on Smart phones.  Americans are used to cutting corners, logging on, tuning in, and dialing up, for services.  We now live in an age of instant gratification.  By pressing a few buttons people use the Grindr app on their cell-phones to find dates.

Around the nation millions stream videos.  DVDs come from Netflix that has more than 8-million mail subscribers.  Shoppers receive services on the same day and there are self-checkout lines in stores that keep customers moving.  Walmart has Walmart-To-Go and Amazon is known for expedited shopping. We are used to fast foods from drive thru-windows at McDonald’s, Hardee’s and Wendy’s.  

Mediocrity

Critics think that quick fixes may result in nimble thinking.  Educators feel learning takes time, and repetition by students to really get it.  But Americans appear convinced that “snail mail” is out.  They can email friends and coworkers and use instant messaging.  Consumers are used to paying a bit more for overnight shipping. 

We have become a society of texting and tweeting.  Some social media accept no more than 140 characters per tweet.  What you have to say, say it fast, and in a sound bite.  To some, dating is speed dating.  No longer is it required to know a person before deciding on a date.  Gadgets and more gadgets have become the name of the game.  David Duchovny (b. 1960) wrote, “I’m kind of stupid when it comes to gadgets.”  Was Duchovny saying that he has allowed gadgets to rule his life?  Or, does he mean that he’s stupid when it comes to knowing what gadgets can really do?

Speed & Emptiness

Since all events are happening so fast it leaves us wondering what’s next.  In trying to multitask are we forming bad habits of dependency on gadgets?  Does our impatience in demanding things now lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity for relying on fast foods?  Must we blame capitalism and consumerism for dishing out these sources faster and faster?  How must we view our dependency on technological devices?  These are surely challenging problems. 

False Sense of Security

A record producer, conductor and 27-time Grammy winner Qunicy Jones (b. 1933) said, “I have all the tools and gadgets.  I tell my son, who’s a producer, ‘You never work for the machine; the machine works for you.’”  Is this the lesson we must take away about inventions which keep speeding up our lives?  Should Americans pick and choose from the technological offerings which work best for them?  But aren’t we failing at this? 

Insights on Developments

To Christians being wise should be the key when making decisions about our nation’s culture.  Patience is a virtue, but society’s growing impatience may be a bad thing if not checked.  Despite speed everywhere, a believer may be concerned that Americans are heading down the wrong road.  But God is in control.  Why must we allow ourselves to deteriorate because of mental health issues because of demands placed on us by gadgets? 

Christians should learn to cultivate patience – the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience.  Daily devotion is essential.  By reflecting and praying for wisdom, seek God’s grace while embracing the fruits of the spirit.  In being dedicated to the Lord people are able to discover peace, love, joy and fulfillment.  Instant gratification is never the answer to understanding life’s problems.  That’s why we should face issues with perseverance, and overcome difficulties as they arise.  One of the tests of our modern age is how to live victoriously in a fast-paced nation. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Special Love



When addressing people do you make distinctions?  Do you see each one as special?  Are you condescending with some?  Do you pay attention to how people look and speak?  Do you have some of these concerns?  We should however look beyond appearances.  People ought to be treated with the utmost respect.  This is what we have to put into practice when we are with others.  Do you dazzle the world with your talent?  Robert Browning (1812–1889) did this with poems, plays, and pamphlets.  His wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861) was more successful with her works than him.  In Sonnet 43, she expressed a limitless love:

With my lost saints – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

There was sincerity in this special love she shared.  This was supreme and knew no boundaries, or distinctions.  She loved the saints.

Our Loving Ways

Why try to control people?  The best results come when we cooperate in the workplace, at play, and in sports.   A farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez (19271993) said, “From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”  By not differentiating between management and workers officials bring dignity to a working environment.

A Brazilian novelist and lyricist Paulo Coelho (b. 1947) wrote, “I can control my destiny, but not fate.  Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one way street.  I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfill our destiny, but our fate is sealed.”  For better or worse Coelho cited the choices we make.  He stressed their importance in our selections for determining the nature of relationships.  Aim not to make distinctions between the works of a janitor and that of his boss.  Every worker should be viewed as contributing their best efforts for the common good.

Wings on Ideas

It takes love to put wings on our ideas.  The way people view the world is important. It won’t be in our best interest like novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (18401928), who saw the world governed by sheer chance and natural laws.  Life isn’t a series of coincidences.  That’s why in loving Christ we become complete.  We discover that divine realities govern situations.  These are the wings of love when dealing with others.  People regardless of their class, distinction, and creed ought to be cared for, and cherished.

Show Love

People are to love one another.  Carp diem is a Latin aphorism which means “living to the fullest right now and having the opportunity to seize the moment.”  Our success isn’t merely, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” wrote Roman poet Horace (65 B.C. 8 B.C.).  It’s more than that – it’s being able to capture the essence of life.  It’s imperative that we become caring members of society.  In life’s journey we ought to love one another and resist putting people in boxes.  Jesus Christ urged us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Let your love be like that of poet Christopher Marlowe (15641593), in “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love:”

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

Or, like that of the poet and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?1618) in “The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd” - “To live with thee and be thy love.”

Marlowe and Raleigh’s love is engrossing.  They would do anything for love because it was authentic.  Jesus Christ’s example of this love was amazing because he died for us on the Cross at Calvary.  His was more than between couples or friends.  It was a superior, ultra-special, boundless, and distinctive in its saving grace.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Contemplate God's Creation



Make a joyful noise for the gift of the rock of our salvation.  Come before him with thanksgiving for the Lord is a great God.  “The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land”
(Ps 95:5).  He has sown light for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.  We must therefore rejoice and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.  God has established the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his discretion.  The Lord asked, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?” (Jer 23:24).  God is the author of the gift of life.


Blessings of Heaven

An Indian spiritual master Sai Baba (18351918), regarded by his devotees as a saint said, “Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God.  Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the nature of God.”  This unity manifests itself in humankind scattered throughout the face of the earth.  It’s also seen in the abundance of creation populating the regions of the world.  From the mountain tops, to valleys below, how magnificent is our omniscient God!

Thomas Aquinas (12251274), an Italian Roman Catholic priest and Doctor of the Church, wrote, “Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”  Praise God in our daily meditations.  Our eyes open to his blessings in knowing the truth of his Word.  These gifts illuminate us like stars shining brightly with an everlasting light.

Grow with Meditations

While meditating there are things we’ll learn from our loving God.  Simone Weil (19091943), a French philosopher and Christian mystic wrote: “We can only know one thing about God – that he is what we are not.  Our wretchedness alone is an image of this.  The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.”  In all faithfulness understand the Lord’s goodness and discover who he is.  It’s only through knowing him we’ll understand ourselves.  This gift is attained by studying his Word.

Eventually there’ll be a time of reckoning.  Zig Ziglar (19262012), an author and motivational speaker said, “We hear tears loudly on this side of Heaven.  What we don’t take time to contemplate are the even louder cheers on the other side of death’s valley.”  This is the place where we rejoice in the victory won.  Here, there’s celebration filling our hearts with joy.

Everlasting Joy

This everlasting joy won’t have us think like Paul Theroux (b. 1941), a travel writer and novelist, who wrote, “Death is an endless night so awful to contemplate that it can make us love life and value it with such passion that it may be the ultimate cause of all joy and all art.”  Unlike Theroux, Christians look forward to the day when they will depart this world to enjoy God’s heaven.  Here they will embrace the splendor of his kingdom that he has prepared for us.  This will be a wonderful day beyond our imagination. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Gift of Faith



Job was sure of the gift that God can do all things and that none of his plans will be thwarted (Job 42:2).  The Lord has declared himself the refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and he never forsakes those who seek him (Ps 9:9-10).  By being obedient to God’s law we may be successful wherever we may go, so be strong, courageous, and be not discouraged, for the Lord will be with us (Josh 1:7,9).  We must continue to trust in God’s love, rejoice in his salvation, for he’ll be good to us (Ps 13:5-6).  God promises that he’ll guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked he’ll silence in darkness (1 Sam 2:9).  David was sure of victory when he assured Saul that with God’s help he’ll defeat this Philistine because he has defied the army of the living God (1 Sam 17:32-37).


The Christian Faith

A Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist, Ann Landers (1918 2002) wrote, “Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”  We must have the gifts of confidence to move forward in loving ways.  Remember to share them by forgiving those who have done you wrong.

Norman Vincent Peale (18981993), a minister, author, and progenitor of “positive thinking,” said, “Believe in yourself.  Have faith in your abilities!  Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”  That’s right.  True confidence only comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Believe in him, do his will, and he’ll guide you.

It’s God who brings people across our paths to show us the true way of life.  Through prayer there are actions for us to take.  Helen Keller (18801968), an author and political activist wrote, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”  When we meet people we have to be positive in bringing them the good news of Christ. 

Greet People with Kindness

It’s for us to show kindness to those we encounter.  An ancient Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu (6th to 5th Century531 BC) said, “Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”  Amazingly, it’s through this gift of kindness we’re able to do what’s best.

Eleanor Roosevelt (18841962), a politician and first lady of the United States said, “You gain strength, courage, confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.’”  Roosevelt reminded us don’t be daunted by our fears.  We must face them head on, recognize them for what they are, and execute our plans.  There’s victory in overcoming fear in our society.

Knowledge is Key

An English naturalist Charles Darwin (18091882) wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”  Interestingly, the more people know the more they realize how little they do know.

Some people work at enhancing their own reputation.  Robert Kiyosaki (b. 1947), a businessman, author and motivational speaker said, “Confidence comes from discipline and training.”  When all is said and done people have to be well-trained, and disciplined to succeed in life.  Much of this is through a belief in Christ, hard work, dedication, and persistence.