Monday, November 30, 2015

A 40% Loss is no Small Matter…

Think 40%.

As far as percentages go, is 40% good, bad, or indifferent?

40% of what, you ask.

Okay, let’s say you see a sale sign that says “40% OFF” on something that you’ve been intending to buy.  Is that a good deal?  Would you run in and get it, thinking that you got yourself a bargain?  Most people would say that 40% off is a pretty hefty savings.  Wouldn’t you agree?

What if your auto-mechanic told you that your car’s engine is only running at 60% of its potential power?   That is to say that 40% of your engine’s capacity is damaged and/or ineffective.  Would you say to yourself, “Well, a 40% loss is tolerable; I am content to drive a car whose engine is only running at 60% capacity”?  Or would you want the mechanic to fix the problem?

How about a 40% salary increase or decrease?  In that light, is 40% a large, medium, or small percentage?

What about in medical terms, considering a healthy organ versus an unhealthy one.  If you lost 40% of your lung capacity, or kidney function, or heart function, would you feel the difference?  Would you still consider yourself a completely healthy person?  My guess is that, yes, you would feel the difference and, no, you would no longer see yourself as a completely healthy person.  Indeed, my guess is that you would become alarmed and worried about the state of your health if indeed you lost 40% functioning capacity in any one of these organs—lungs, kidneys, or heart.

That being the case, why then does it not bother us that, to date, we have lost 40% of the Amazon Rain Forest?

When I was a kid, I remember learning that the Amazon forest in South America was the largest rain forest in the world and should be considered to be something like the lungs of the world.  I never forgot that image.  The Amazon rain forest is the lungs of the earth, yet we now placidly receive the news that 40% of it is gone—for good?  What’s wrong with this picture?

And this is just one fact, one piece of evidence among many others that we humans are doing great damage to the earth’s eco system—glacial meltdowns, dying coral reefs, expanding deserts, and once pristine water resources becoming unfit for consumption and/or drying-up altogether, poor air quality causing asthma epidemics among young children along with other respiratory ailments, etc., etc.

Still we argue.  We stall.  We doubt and disbelieve.  We denounce scientific messengers accusing them of being Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling, so that we can go on about our business as usual.

Yet this one figure, 40%, shouldn’t that be enough?  The Amazon Rain forest is now only at 60% of what it used to be—and this is happening within my own lifetime.  I was born in the fifties.  I don’t know about you, but this worries me, and I think that it should worry you too.

President Obama is at the World Climate Summit Meeting in Paris.  How much concern do we have here, as United States citizens, with respect to the world’s climate change?  If we are naïve enough to think that it is no big deal and really not a problem, we are fools indeed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Lord,

We thank you for your goodness.

It is too simple to blame YOU for all that is wrong in the world, all the evil and its consequences.

Likewise it is too easy to excuse ourselves from all the wrong we ourselves commit that brings pain and heartache to others.

Hence, we confess your goodness and acknowledge your worthiness.  YOU, O Lord, are worthy to be praised and to receive our thanksgiving.  And so, we thank you for your goodness.

We thank you for your love.

We know that we are loved.  For YOU, O Lord, so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son, that we might have life—Salvation from condemnation for the wrongs we have committed.  We are forgiven.  For, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  We thank you for your love for us and for the gift of salvation in Christ, for which we are more than grateful.

We thank you for your truth.

YOU are true.  In YOU there is no lie.  YOU do not deceive.  YOU have no bent purpose or twisted motive.  YOU are consistent, ever so faithful, and even longsuffering in your commitment to us and our welfare.  We thank you for your trueness, for your endurance of humanity, for your constancy, for your truth.

We thank you for your transforming work.

Though imperfect, weak, and wanting, we thank you for our families.  For, YOU seek to redeem and heal our family brokenness and neediness.  Though battered, beaten, and broken, we thank YOU for our lives, for you redeem and renew and make whole again.  In Christ we are becoming new.

We may yet be hungry, thirsty, tired, and worn; nevertheless, we thank YOU.  For, YOU give strength to the weak.  YOU feed the hungry and give drink to those who thirst.  Indeed, YOU shall satisfy those who hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness.   We thank you for the hope that is in Christ.  For YOUR promises are true and faithful.

And when we cannot give thanks; when we are too shattered, too fearful and/or have lost our faith, so as to have given up on hope and become thankless in our attitude and posture, we thank you that YOU do not give up on us.  YOU sustain us and encourage us to remain faithful, enabling us to believe anew and to trust and to keep the faith. 

And so we thank you, and we celebrated this season of Thanksgiving by acknowledging all that is good and loving and satisfying and meaningful and caring and encouraging and life-giving that comes from YOU.

Thank YOU Lord!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why ISIS and Terrorism?

Paris is in pain.  Families beyond France are dealing with the aftermath, hundreds of dead and injured.  ISIS (Islamic State) claims responsibility, a calculated well planned terrorist attack.  State leaders call it an act of war, including President Obama.

Question: Apart from their terroristic methods and their highly touted goal, which is the creation of an Islamic State, do we really understand the inner workings of ISIS?  What is the source of their anger and hatred?  What drives their passion so, or ignites their energy and motivates them so much.  Why are they so determined to wreak this kind of havoc with so much tenacity?

Are we, the average citizen in the West, Europe and the U.S., able to answer the above questions with insight and understanding?  If not, perhaps that is part of the problem and a challenge that we must address.

In short, we should know the ingredients that go into the creation of a radical Islamic group such as an ISIS?  If we are to be wise, rather than simplistic and reactionary, we can’t just blame the religion of Islam, in and of itself, as the sole cause of a terrorist group like ISIS.  There is more to it than that, much more.  Yes, religion and religious dogma, teaching, and influence, play a part in the creation of ISIS.  But it is only one factor, one ingredient among many.  What are the other ingredients?  Wisdom tells us that there must be significant cultural, historical, socio-economic, and political factors that are at play here as well.

In short, what we are lacking is a narrative; we don’t know the story and perhaps are unwillingly to acknowledge that there even is a story to be heard and told.  Collectively speaking, all we know is what’s on the surface, which is shallow and trite knowledge as it were.  Yes, we know that ISIS hates the U.S. and its allies, what is called “The West.”  And we know that they have no qualms about using terroristic tactics to make their point, using terrorism as a means to gain tactical advantage to reach their goals.  And we know that they claim that their version of Islam is supreme, which presumably justifies their terroristic tactics.  Yet, if we know only that much about ISIS, we actually know very little about them.

What we are not hearing is their story.  And, frankly speaking, because of their terroristic tactics, most of us have no interest in hearing their story.  We don’t care.  All we want them to do is to stop terrorizing.  However, the danger is that our own hearts will begin to mirror theirs, if this is not already the case.  Meaning: They hate us; so we hate them.  They kill us; and so we’re more than willing to kill them.  They claim God’s favor, shouting “God is great!”  Meanwhile we too assert God’s favor on us, invoking “God bless America.”  They see us as condemnable infidels and we see them as damnable terrorists.  To them, we are dirt beneath their feet; to us, they are mud on our shoes.  Thus, we have one thing in common—the desire to wipe the dirt off from beneath us.

So I wonder.  How would we respond differently if we understood them at a deeper level?  If we really knew their story, the narrative that explains their development and their reason for being, the story that paints their reality and shapes their identity?  Would it not help to know?  Would it not help to understand their deeper motivation?  Knowledge is power.  Know your enemy.  How well do we know them?  How much knowledge do we have of them?  I think we have some homework to do.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Obama Nixes Keystone Pipeline, Jobs Too?

News Head Liner: “Obama Nixes Job-Creating Pipeline….”

Underlining Message: Obama nixes jobs.  Implied meaning: He’s a horrible insensitive, uncaring president for not thinking of jobs for working people.

We know people need to and want to work so as to have a good living.  We know that a good economy is one that sustains maximum employment, not low-employment or under-employment but full employment with well-paying jobs that allow middle-class families to grow and thrive.

But does that de-facto mean that any industry having the potential for creating jobs should be given a green light, no matter what other negative side effects that particular industry may have on society, the environment, and other things?

Jobs!  Is that THE deciding factor, no matter what?  Is that the only measuring-stick that should be used to determine the acceptability of an industry’s growth plan?   Is job-creation the default standard by which an industry should be measured as to its necessity or usefulness or acceptability to society?  Are we not to concern ourselves with an industry’s long-term effect, not only in terms of its means and methods but with respect to its very product?

For example, the tobacco industry creates jobs.  Hence, so as to ensure the tobacco industry can continue to provide jobs, are we to ignore the fact that smoking or chewing tobacco is addictive and is a source of cancer and is therefore generally bad for public consumption?  We need more jobs.  Yes.  The porn industry creates jobs as well.  So, should we have no laws restricting or monitoring pornography for fear of causing job loss in that industry?

We know that we need more and more energy to power our modern day lifestyle, our digital and electronic devices, our homes and vehicles, and more.  We also know that there are so-called “clean” energy sources and that there are so-called “dirty” energy sources.  So, why wouldn’t we choose clean energy sources over dirty ones?  Why, because some industries have too much to lose or are too vested in the old traditional “dirty” sources—and so, they use the fear of job-losses as a weapon to avoid change.

It is always cheaper, easier, more convenient, and short-term more profitable to keep the status quo and avoid change.  But we need to shift our focus as a society and begin to seriously invest in clean renewable energy sources and move away from “dirty” sources—despite the initial expense.  It seems to me that the real unwillingness to sustain job creation is in the oil industries that refuse to envision, and invest in new clean energy sources.

Yes, it may be more costly and more difficult or challenging to create or tap into clean energy sources, in the short run; but we must think long term.  In the long run it may very well pay off great dividends for all of society.  Thus, real job growth should be created and sustained by companies and industries that effectively have long-term clean energy strategies who are thinking of more than quick profitable turnover and who are thinking of what is overall best for the present and future of society, community, and nation.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ever Heard of a Witting Tree Service?

What’s a “Witting Tree” service?

Indeed, what does the word “witting” mean?

You’ve heard the phrase, “keep your wits about you.”  There’s that word, “wit.”  It’s an old word, archaic.  As a noun it means mind, memory, or senses.  Hence, to tell you to “keep your wits about you” is to tell you to stay alert and use your mind, or more to the point, to keep your sanity.  As a verb it means to know or to come to know or learn.  Look it up in the dictionary.  I found it in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition.

Thus, a “Witting Tree Ceremony” is a service of awareness, to make something known, to awaken one’s attention to a certain truth or reality. 

Did you know that this country loses 18-22 veterans a day—by means of suicide?  Now, keep your wits about you and realize that these are veterans killing themselves—AFTER coming home safely from serving combat duty overseas.  What’s happening?

Everyone hears about those killed in action.  And we are aware of injured veterans who have lost an arm or leg or eye or hand or something.  But we seldom think of the internal harm, the unseen damage that is done to the soul and spirit of a returned seasoned veteran who is otherwise physically unscathed.  And then, BAM!  We’re taken by surprise and don’t understand why he (mostly men) should take his own life—especially after surviving a tour of duty, having faced live combat action and managed to return home physically unharmed.

Why?  We ask.  We wonder.  We ponder.  For, we are completely puzzled by this.  And it seems as if the military does a good job of avoiding the subject, seemingly keeping quiet about the impact of veteran suicides before the public.

Hence, we have the “Witting Tree Ceremony.”

So, for example, our particular church, Wellspring Church of Skippack, will be having a Witting Tree Service on Sunday, 8 November, in honor of and with respect to Veterans Day of 11 November.

Dog Tags are used to identify servicemen/women who may be killed in action.  What we will be doing is hanging symbolic “dog tags” on one of our trees outside our church (near the cemetery) in recognition of those veterans who have died by taking their own lives—22 dog tags will be hung.  The number 22 being the average number per day that a veteran takes his/her own life.

Our Sunday morning service inside the church will lead up to this symbolic gesture (all are welcome to come and participate).  The particular tree that we will be using is one that was planted in memoriam of a son of one of our own members that died while serving in the Marines—Adam Conboy.

What it’s about is bringing awareness to the many deaths of our servicemen and women that happen after they’ve safely returned home.  It is a way for us to become more conscious of the fact that when veterans return home, for many, the war has not necessarily ended.  They bring the war home with them.  It stays in their head and lives in their guts.  They may be tormented, wounded or badly injured internally—mind, heart, soul, and spirit.  We civilians need to understand this and become more sensitive to this reality.

So, how do you plan to recognize Veterans Day this year?  You are most welcome to join us for our Witting Tree Ceremony on Sunday, 8 November, 2015.  Service starts at 10:00 a.m.: Wellspring Church of Skippack, 1183 Cressman Rd, Skippack PA.  610-489-2688.