Monday, October 27, 2008

Comment on Voting

My daughter's college classmate and friend, Marty, posted that after a number of people voted in one locale, a directive came down to "recalibrate" the machines to compensate for voter error in touching the screen "but not inside the box" for their choice, and the speaker noted they were doing all they could NOT to disenfranchise anyone."

The problem? Think Florida, think two STRAIGHT elections, think a REPUBLICAN secretary of state that ignored civil rights violations in making it impossible for whites, blacks and others to vote, clear concerns over the whole process as shown by independent monitors. So why now are we to unquestioningly accept that nothing will occur that is unsavory, disenfranchising, illegal and rotten? Think of the days when, in more than one locale, people voted before they were old enough, after they were dead, or frequently. Why now do we assume all is well.

The solution? I think there does have to be some trust from voters to state elections boards, but I also think everyone is best served by some independent - say English, Canadian, Swedish, Swiss or others watching our elections as we have others watch foreign elections. The truth is that our own elections have never been all that far from the difficult elections of others.

Think I'm kidding? Think about dogs and fire hoses, clubs and sardine conditions in jail cells for blacks seeking their rights in the south. Think of voters turned away from voting sites because the voting hours had expired, even though the reason they hadn't voted yet was due to problems inside. Think of people refused the chance to vote over issues that were clearly manufactured.

Perhaps we don't have armed guards killing all those who voted "wrong," but what is the difference of a person's right to vote denied through death or some slick procedural maneuver that is never successfully challenged, because the power-brokers were the controlling party that did all they could to make sure nothing would come of the challenge. Yes, one has one's life, and one doesn't. That is significant, life changing! However, both leave the voter wondering what the point is.

That is what makes this election so important. A candidate has decided to use the tools the young use to get through life, and has done so more effectively than any candidate has ever done. A candidate has shown that "he" can reach across the aisle, through the curtain of several hot button issues and bring people together. I recall hearing of Republicans showing up at Obama rallies with some trepidation, to be informed there were many others there. Now we listen to Republicans of prominence endorsing a Democrat for President, because they feel he has the better plan for the next four years (may it last far longer than this candidate!).

I would challenge people in places where there are concerns to make yourselves knowledgeable, and present at election sites, observe but don't interfere unless you find clear indications of efforts to sway the elections. Be willing to speak out, to be public and to defend the rights of anyone to their opinion and voting choice. This I say from the perspective of having spoken outside my official capacity as a pastor, and defended the rights of everyone to their vote - even when I strongly disagreed with - because that is the American way, and, I believe, the way of the Master I serve and follow.

Let's begin to make our country once again the ideal that draws others to come to this place where everyone has the possibility of achieving the dream. Let's show the world why we became the goal, what we truly have to offer - respect for one another, and the American ideals.

Think about it! Peace!

Friday, October 24, 2008

News Commen

A comment on the news tonight prompts me to add to the blog - the word used in conjunction with the upcoming elections was complacency - one could also read apathy. Why would this lead me to write? Because too often in all areas of life, I have seen needed change fail simply because people didn't want to put themselves out, didn't want to take a stand, didn't feel comfortable enough around family and friends to be able to speak their mind - do what they knew was right - decided they just didn't matter!

What's wrong with our nation that people feel THEY don't matter? Wasn't this nation founded on "government for the people, by the people and OF the people"? When did we lose the will to be the government? Was it when politicians decided they knew better than we what we wanted? Because we could have voted them out - even if WE were wrong in that action. Was it when networks started "projecting" who won, long before WE got to the polls - because the media never makes a mistake, right, Mr. Dewey?

What it really comes down to is this - simply stated - WE STILL CONTROL THE GOVERNMENT WHEN WE CHOOSE TO!! If we pay attention, and apply more than simply fear (the great weapon right now of the Republican Party) and actively pursue our citizen rights and DUTIES, we can determine the direction of our government.

THAT is a lesson that is sorely needed among all ages, professions, races and people in this great land - for then we can begin to right the listing ship, find the course we were truly set upon by the founders of our nation and recognize that because there is a D behind my name and an R behind you doesn't make either of us demons trying to destroy the nation.

So I issue a challenge to all, look to the person who you face in a discussion. Be proud of your convictions, but open to learning something that might change them. Watch your legislators all the way up or down the line and if they don't live up to their oath of office, vote them out of office. Don't EVER let someone belittle, shame or intimidate you into giving up your rights as a citizen of this country. Don't EVER view this land as perfect or God's chosen image of society, because we are far too small, far too little of mine and far too finite to make those considerations!

Vote, or don't bitch about what happens in the nation afterward. I might be disappointed in the results, but if thinking, caring, God (by whatever name) fearing people speak, I'll abide the decision and work again and again and again for the changes I believe are necessary for us not to simply become another failed society in world history.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hard Times

We've all been listening to the news about the economy. People are losing their jobs, their homes, their sense of self-esteem. Yes, it is tough! Yes, the threat level seems higher than most can deal with, the frustration level high enough to drive people to desperate measures. After all, probably 10 years ago (yes, 10) I recall hearing of a man and his son who took out second mortgages on their HOMES to fly to Florida and by thousands of dollars of PowerBall tickets! They didn't win, and now are saddled with debt that may well have destroyed marriages and lost homes. Was it worth it?

Sometimes, in America, we are so focused on the so-called American dream that reality has no bearing on our decisions or judgments. We are currently at about 1/3 the salary I had before. We are struggling with bills, with housing, with medicine bills, with questions about the future.

I was essentially fired from a church that refused to do what they asked me to do when I was called as their pastor. I have enjoyed, I must say, being able to work a regular job and come home without carrying the job's problems with me. But the economical realities and my own self-professed satisfaction with the role as pastor - despite all the hell pastors are put through - lead me to consider seriously - very seriously - the possibility of returning to that boiling pot called being a pastor.

Now, I'll assure you, I'll be as careful as I can be to choose a church where my view will not be more radical than the majority, but the reality is that churches tend to present an image they THINK a new pastor would like to see; and we do much the same. In the process things said in the process get lost! And in a denomination where there is little to no support for the local pastor in that situation, that is a deadly combination in many situations.

So why would I go back - for the same reason that executive takes a lateral to another company when he or she would really rather take off and start a whole new career - perhaps writing books, or building homes, or guiding hunters, or . . . . We need the money and we find a certain unexplainable satisfaction in what we feel we are pretty darn good at doing.

I happen to think that I do a pretty darn good job of interpreting scripture to the congregation, but unless people are willing to hear how our holy writ REALLY addresses life in our time, my penchant does no good whatsoever. I've become Paul's clanging gong - only from the wrong end of his lesson. I like to tell myself I'm walking in the shoes of the disciples.

So, what's the life lesson in all this? That sometimes, in spite of drawbacks, we need to go with where our heart is - for me that's back into those troublesome organizations called churches. What's your area of satisfaction, in spite of the difficulties and hardships? Think about it!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ow! The Car

We had an "ouch!" moment yesterday, when my beloved took the car in to find out WHY we had a horrible sound all the time, driving, stopping, starting - only not making that sound only when it was idling and not moving. Turns out the calipers had frozen in such a way that the rotor and disk were also destroyed. A bunch of money later, we are driving a car that isn't making sounds it shouldn't and we know our tires are good.

On a similar note, winter has finally put in it's first introductory notes with much colder temperatures - and we have no heat in our apartment. We tried turning it up to get some heat - though we will set it probably about 65 for the winter. We have tried to keep our heat temps down and our a/c temps up to save energy. I'll call tomorrow on about 3 different issues - the apartment, clarification on an account and returning a business call.

Life is full of uncertainties, and with the economy doing as it is, we are feeling even more of the financial struggle of most of the nation. Many struggle with how do we pay the bills? I've discovered that I may need to go back to the career that has been mine for 30+ years to my surprise, dismay and frustration. I have made a career of being a pastor; finally, filled with anger at the denial, betrayal and two-faced approach of some of those who claimed to be friends and supporters, I decided that I would do something that I could walk away at the end of the day. That I have done, but I can't make the money I did there, and I almost need to do so in order to make ends meet and life look better.

I'm learning that not even the church is immune to the influences of the culture at large - meaning that we have just been notified that while we have participated in the denomination's medical plan for nearly all of that 30+ years, if we leave the plan and reenter, we will need to provide proof of good health - from two people with asthma, hypertension, and other issues of health they have covered.

Life's lesson - evil and greed can make their power felt anywhere that the crack is left open for them. As much as you think you are immune, you ARE NOT!

So learn to live with compassion and grace, so it will be there for you when you need it. We found it in some surprising places over the years, and it helped us continue our efforts to help people discover the true meaning of Christian faith - that all are welcome before God if they come in humility and honesty to God - me, I'm just an intermediary that has no real power outside of what you allow me as I try to help you.

May the grace and peace of Jesus begin to live in unlikely places, through unlikely people so ALL people of all faiths can find a way to find the great path together!!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Economy

Well, once again the stock market, indeed the economy is tanking! You say, "Once again?" Yes, cycles of ups and downs occur and we have watched them through our 35 years together. What does it mean? Perhaps it means that we all start to look at longer work-lives, maybe that we need to find skills and abilities that will translate into barter-able talents and gifts, maybe that we simply understand that some of us won't be retiring!

What am I looking at? I'm hoping that the market will turn around, that we will recover enough that I will indeed be able to retire - but realistically, I may be working a couple of part time jobs into my 90s or longer. I could handle this Photo Tech job for a long time to come. However, in the short term, as much as I like missing the tensions and torments of trying to work with the political chaos of the church, I just might need to go back into a church in hopes of getting a salary that will pay bills, put more into the retirement account and provide better medical insurance than most I could find.

Also in the short term is continuing to talk to others about Barak Obama, whom I truly and fully hope will be our next President, because I have a horrid feeling that if McCain-Palin win will mean the market will REALLY tank, that we will become so embroiled in middle east unwin-able wars that we will end my generation's life in a quagmire that will make Viet Nam look like a summer picnic.

I listen to the talk of families forced out of their homes because a landlord used their rent checks to build personal wealth and ease of life, avoiding keeping mortgages current and being more than willing to give up the property rather than be responsible. I am proud of the Cook County Sheriff taking a stand and refusing to evict renters who kept up their rent payments, even though their landlord didn't keep up on their payments. THAT is AMERICAN! It happened in the Great Depression, and if it doesn't happen now, we will all be so far in the hole, there will be no bailout, no rescue available to help us.

My advice? Start finding ways to put money aside, pay off bills and develop those skills that you can barter - you know, "I'll mow your lawn for six months if you will help me build bookcases." "I'll can two bushels of tomatoes if you will help me fix my car."

God help us all!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Winning Argument

A college classmate of my daughter pointed out powerfully just how low the Republican Party has sunk in this current electoral year - declaring the the pit bull hockey mom with lipstick and a thing for Joe-Six-Pack won the VP debate simply because she didn't wallow in her ignorance and her running mate's ineptness. Marty was perhaps a bit more graphic in his language than I would have been, but he's right on the point!

How is it that we are supposed to applaud someone who refuses to answer questions, can't think on her feet, and is stuck with a large vocabulary of cliches, while we are to ignore a seasoned veteran of the Capital Hill on-going skirmishes who kept his answers concise, identified his sources and pointed out all the places his opponents were whacked out on something?

How is it that independent observers and pollsters are wrong while people like a screeching banshee Pat Buchanan proclaims the wonders of this Republican ticket? Why is the distant past of a community organizer relevant to the the Democratic candidate who worked in the same communities, but was a militant radical of the 60s when the candidate was in third grade; while a more recent and more closely connected relationship between the Republican candidate and the mastermind of the Savings and Loan collapse is considered acceptable?

Why? Because we have become a nation that wants easy answers from people that will make us feel good, tell us what we want, and not challenge us to grow into what we should be on our own! Because we are brainwashed not to pay attention to the fact that Republicans have given us the biggest deficit in history, and the biggest federal government in many, many a year - destroying our economy, saddling us with leaders that are either idiots or crooks.

Wake up, folks, and let's take our country back, really working to address not only the ills of other nations but also the social ills of our own nation. We may be great (and I think we are) but we certainly have much to correct within our own borders and our own hearts! It's time to become responsible for our own actions, active in our own successes. It's more than time!

No peace without social conscience and social justice!