Monday, October 25, 2010

Computer Terror!

I missed a week in blogging. My computer broke. Ugh!! Boy, did that send me into a tail spin, having to play catch up with my normal workload. Is getting a new computer, upgrading and downloading, acquiring new software, re-installing old programs, learning new ones, recovering backed-up files, etc., as frustrating and time costly for everyone, or is it just me?

I think I’m becoming paranoid. Okay, let’s just say, anxious and concerned. Our dependency on our computers, cloud computing, storing sensitive content all over the place, up there, somewhere in cyberspace, is scary. Truth is, all our content has got to be in some company’s earthbound computer system. What does it all mean in terms of State security, let alone Personal security?

It seems to me that the best way to terrorize a modern, high-tech society is to take out its computer grid. I am sure this is being thought of. Is it just a matter of time? Think of our “must have” dependency on electrical power, just to use our techno gadgets. Given our increased dependency on technological gadgetry, are we not more, rather than less vulnerable?

I don’t mean to be a pessimist here, nor do I want to sound like a grumpy old man complaining about these new fangled contraptions (perhaps I’m in denial). Nevertheless, have you noticed how computers are taking over everything? They’re in our cars, stoves, refrigerators, watches, phones, even in our clothes and shoes (measuring and monitoring our running and exercise efforts, for example). And not surprisingly, the older we get, the more difficult it is to keep up with it all.

The young have the time to fiddle around, play, search and inquire, test, try, and experiment with all these new desktop, laptop, handheld, roving, glowing, buzzing and flickering thingamabobs. That’s how they learn. So, of course they know more about getting around on a new computer than we older and wiser types do (I know I’m older, I certainly hope that I’m the wiser for it). We mature types just want to get our work done. We don’t have the time to play around (learn), make mistakes (discover), and try new methods (expand and grow). Why, I still remember when just replacing a black/red ribbon on a typewriter was a small but irritating interruption to the flow of typing out a paper for my next class. Now we have computer crashes to deal with!

Well, all I can say is that, despite our push and excitement for the latest and greatest, quickest, fastest, super-speed, all-in-one gizmos and do-dads, I think the age-old saying still applies: The less working parts, the less chance there is for breakdown. So, hey techies! Please, KISS me with your innovations: “Keep It Simple Stupid!” As for the rest of us, let me ask you. With all these new fangled contraptions that you now own and operate, how much simpler and easier is your life?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God Hates Who?

The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is on a crusade.  Across the country he and his followers show up at funerals of fallen soldiers with picket signs that say things like, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers!” and “God hates fags,” and more.  Hate speech.  They showed up at Matthew Snyder’s funeral, a fallen Marine who died while on active duty in Iraq in 2006.  Matthew’s father, Al Snyder, sued.  Snyder won the suit along with a five million dollar judgment.  It was appealed.  The case has now gone to the Supreme Court.  The court will consider the case from the legal, free speech point of view.  But let us consider this case from a spiritual, theological, Christ centered perspective.

When I first heard about this case I reflected upon the spirit, attitude, and language of Reverend Phelps, and others like him, who self-righteously pronounce that “God hates fags” (or this group, that group, and any other group they deem worthy of condemnation by God).  I asked myself, “Where in the Bible does it speak of God hating someone?  The first verse that came to mind is Malachi 2:16; and I quote, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty.”[1] And even here we might note that it does not say that God hates the divorcee, that is, the person; rather that God hates the action, the deed of divorce.  In other words, to use what has now become a rather trite clichĂ©, “God hates the sin, not the sinner.”

There is no question that the historical Jesus, born two millennia ago, whom Christians accept as, and believe to be God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, Lord and Savior of humanity, continues to impact the hearts and lives of billions of people around the world even today, over 2000 years later.  This is the same Jesus who said things like, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” in reference to the woman “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:1-11).  Jesus also said, “For God did not send his Son [speaking of Himself] into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

Without condoning evil, sin, or wrongdoing of any kind, Jesus is invitational toward the wrongdoer.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  That is, Jesus’ way of dealing with people’s bad behavior, sinful lives, and evil tendencies is to invite them in, so as to find forgiveness and experience change and transformation, to be renewed and cleansed from any and all dark stains upon one’s soul.

In other words, Jesus’ message is a message of hope for the guilty.  God is quite ready and willing to receive and accept the wrongdoer and is doing everything possible to avoid having to reject and destroy him or her.  It is a message of hope for escape from the wrath of God, NOT a gleeful message of eager anticipation toward condemning and destroying the transgressor.  The Apostle Peter, one who sat directly under Jesus’ teaching, put it this way, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  And let us not forget Jesus’ famous invitational words, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For, I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus is the only person who has ever claimed the right to speak for God and is able to get away with it.  (See John 8:42, 54-56.)  Why, because Jesus demonstrated His right to speak for God by means of His Power, Purpose, and Purity of living. Thus, whenever some self-appointed prophet or spokesperson for God stands up and declares that God hates this or that person or hates this or that group of people, I suggest you compare his or her statements with the life and teachings of Jesus Himself and see if they match up.  Do they match up with Jesus’ character, lifestyle, and teaching?  Most importantly do they match up with Jesus’ self-sacrificial acceptance of death on the cross out of love for humanity?  “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Jesus came, lived, taught, and died in order to save, ransom, and redeem offenders against God’s perfect righteousness, the so-called bad people of this world, which happens to include me and you.  This is what God’s grace is all about.  Jesus said of Himself: “I am the good shepherd; …and I lay down my life for the sheep.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:14-18).  He died by choice in order that we might choose to live.

It was and is Jesus’ intent that we humans understand that God’s desire for us is to be received by Him in love and joy, to be saved and forgiven not to be rejected and condemned.  God does NOT wish to destroy the evildoer; He wants to change and renew the wrongdoer by the power of His love and grace.  No matter how bad, how evil, how despicable one’s life may be or has been, God INVITES the evil doer to be welcomed and embraced by His merciful grace; God is NOT therefore gleefully waiting to pounce on sinful offenders with bloodthirsty hate, eager to take condemnatory revenge on the fallen.  On the other hand, the only group of people for whom Jesus had no kind words, were the self-righteous, holier-than-thou types.

1. All Bible quotes are from the NIV BACK TO POST

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe for Success

Success!  America loves success. We like to win.  And it pays!

So, I have an idea.  Why don’t we bring back the old recipe for success that our grandparents and great grandparents relied upon?  What’s the recipe?  I’m glad you asked.

First, make a good, dependable and reliable, quality product.  We have way too much junk.  Americans don’t need more junk: buy today, throw away tomorrow because it broke after its second, maybe third use.  Consumers are tired of wasting time, money, space, effort, and sentiment in buying something that’ll end up in the trash the next day.  So producers, please, make products that will last.  Make it worth the pretty penny we consumers spend on it.  America, let’s demand more quality and less quantity.  We want our shopping trip to be worth the effort.

Secondly, bring back the “Service with a Smile” mentality.  Businesses are there for the benefit of the customer, not the other way around.  Be glad when a customer walks in the door.  Don’t have this, “Oh NO, not another one!” attitude when a customer enters the shop.  Embrace that man, woman, or even child that walks in the door; they’re there because they need or want something, and you are there to help fulfill that need or desire they came in with, looking to satisfy.  So serve!  Give them that special attention when asked for; bring back that personal touch, that relational aspect to the business transaction.  Take no customer for granted.

Thirdly, bring back that old saying, “The Customer is Always Right!”  Sure, I know, there are some pretty ornery, stubborn, and downright unreasonable customers out there.  I know, because I’ve been one!  (I’m ashamed to say.)  Nevertheless, customers need respect. Don’t make a customer feel foolish, like she’s an idiot because you think she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  Indeed, the customer may not know anything about the product, material, or item in question but she does know what she wants; or at least she believes she knows.  Respect that.  Try to grasp your customer’s point of view; it may just very well make sense, even if it is uninformed or misinformed.  It’s your business to satisfy a need or want, which means possibly taking time to educate the customer a bit and/or perhaps even sending your potential client on to a competitor of yours.  Yes, really!  It’ll be good for your own business in the long run, when you do this.

Fourthly, follow through, be true, keep your word; let your word be as good as any signed contract.  Many customers may have a lot of anxiety about their purchase, especially with big ticket items.  Customers want to be satisfied that they’ve made the right decision and a good one, when purchasing a product.  They don’t want to buy more insurance they want assurance.  Are you behind them?  Will you back them?  Are you and your business trustworthy, reliable, and supportive?  Customers are wary of the “Sorry Charlie, you get what you pay for” response, or the “Take the money and run” approach that many business people seem to have these days, whatever the service or product they seem to be pushing.

Fifthly, customers are fully aware that there is no perfect product out there.  Mistakes will be made.  Okay, so deal with it.  Address the mistakes when they happen.  First own it, and then take immediate and deliberate action to correct the mistakes to make it right.  There’s no need to hide, run, or cover up.  Most customers will allow for a mistake here and there along the way.  When it is handled correctly, customers are reassured and will continue to buy your product knowing that you stand by your work, your product, and your service.  And that’s just good business.

And finally, and most importantly, see your business as more than a money making, profiteering entity.  Ultimately you are in the business of Life.  Your real business is adding value to people’s lives, not only to your customers but to your employees and their families, not to mention your own family.  You bring a service or product that people want or need in order to make their lives more fruitful, meaningful, delightful, or happy.  It’s not just about making money.  So take the greed motive out of the equation.  If you are making enough money from your business to live a comfortable life, consider ways that you might help others less fortune than yourself.  You might begin with your own employees.  Are you serving them well?  Or do you simply see them as cogs in a big money-making machine that you call your business?  The real successful businessperson is one who understands the difference and is keen on bringing benefit to people’s lives as a whole, and not just looking out for one’s personal profit margin.