The Country I am So Proud of

The Country I am so Proud of

On January 20th, 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the US.  To that, I say congratulations and may your tenure be successful.  As with any President, there are those who support him and those who do not.  If you were to look back on all the Presidents as far back as the 1st one, it would be discovered that not one of them had 100% support of the people; so, Donald J Trump is in good company.  The President has very limited in power despite what public opinion may or may not say.  The President is only as good as the people of the US – that is a scary thought.  If the people of the US do not support him (like him or not) and seek ways to undermine him, he will be an ineffective leader.  This was proved during Mr. Obama’s presidency.  The President cannot change the climate of the country, the people do that.  If we have pinned all our hope on one person to do great things for our nation, whether it be Barak H. Obama or Donald J Trump, we are sadly mistaken.
            That said, it is imperative for the people of the US to understand that this is our country and what we do with this country, one way or the other, we will be held responsible for it.  Scripture says “”Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).  So, what kind of fruit do we want from this country?  In the eyes of the world do we want to be “the weak-kneed country” or “the country with great possibilities”?  Abraham Lincoln said it best “If destruction is our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher”.  If our country is to be destroyed, it is done by us, not by an outside entity; because, if it were an outside entity, we would fight to eradicate it but, who can stand in opposition to a divided country?  In a report written by retired military officers, it was stated that too many young people are too overweight, have not graduated from high school, have a police record, or generally unfit for service[1].  There is a deeper problem with sluggishness amidst the populace of the US.  We are divided spiritually, educationally, and fearfully.  IF this continues, we as a nation could go into anonymity or the Spirit of God referred to Egypt “Rahab the Do Nothing” (Isaiah 30:7).
            I realize that as human beings, things upset us and our anger is easily aroused by rumor, rantings of a few, and passions. The events that occurred on the streets following the election, during the inauguration, and most likely the days and weeks that follow will bring these passions to the forefront.  The problem is that every segment of the US has a responsibility for the country’s welfare.  So, when political action groups call for civil unrest, they are not having the best interest of the nation nor the supporters in mind.   Black Lives Matter had young kids on the highways blocking traffic – of what possible use is that?  When we allow ourselves to overreach situations to the point of a riot, we have done nothing but harm ourselves.  What was accomplished by the riots?  The answer is “nothing”.  People were hurt, the property was destroyed but, nothing positive came of the events.
            I call to the people of the US to take a hard look at what they are trying to accomplish and seek the welfare of the nation not one’s political view. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke fervently on civil rights using non-violent means to accomplish the goals.  Unfortunately, in one protest, a few of the students took to smashing windows which led to looting which brought the organization into question about what its real intent was [2].  Across our great nation, there are buildings, streets, highways, and parks named after Dr. King but, I wonder if he saw all of it he would prefer the money spent for these things to be used as outreach for the youth to encourage them to be active participants in the growth of this nation; I know I would.  The local news station reported on a on how a few people spent Martin Luther King’s birthday doing what they did and, the impact on society.
            Mr. Trump’s inauguration on 1/20/2017 is not the end of the problems for the US, it is the beginning of more problems and challenges; if we do nothing, all of it will be a waste of time.  All the wrapping ourselves in the flag, pressing for Christian values, rebel rousing, destroying property, and killing people will do nothing but further separate people.  The Moral Majority movement of the late 1970’s to late 80’s exemplifies this statement.  The organization had the financial prowess, the ear of the conservatives, and even a Republican President yet, the organization folded and is not heard from[3].  The movement ended due in part to its hardline stances.  This is important because today the BLM has a hardline stance and it will face the same judgment as for the Moral Majority[4]; people will listen to them for a time until the truth is found out and then it will rapidly disintegrate.   The point is, either we will work together as a nation or we will work at cross purposes to our destruction which is exactly what the enemy wants.
            God gives us the choice about which way we will live our lives; All the laws, mandates, and even changes to the Constitution will not alter our God-given choice.  For countless years, the main argument has been “____ is trying to take my choice away”.  The problem is, no one takes our choice away, we give it up freely by not engaging our minds first and our passions second.  Choosing to be part of the problem or part of the solution is a choice and one that should not be taken lightly.  It is easier to cast blame on someone else for our mistakes then it is to accept responsibility for our actions.  Consider the race riots of the 60’s and most recently Ferguson, MO   On either side of the argument, there was an element of truth – listen to both sides and you will see the truth staring you in the face. Here is the conundrum though, both sides have legitimate claims and both sides have a following.  What is not spoken of is: what if any common grounds.  If common grounds cannot be found, then we are seeing things as black or white; which, I believe, is the underlying current of prejudice and stereotyping; both positive and negative stereotyping are problematic[5].  Being part of the solution means to reconstruct the incident using credible information.  In college, I was thought “critical thinking skills” which implies improving our line of thinking by analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing our lines of thought and by it improve our thought process[6].   I firmly believe now, more than ever, that if we do not critically think about what we are doing it, what we intend to do, and where our minds are, we are heading for a pit we cannot possibly get out of.  Every person in this US must understand this point if we are to keep going as a nation.  It is not just Mr. Trump with a problem, it is all the US without exception.
            In our nation, we have troublemakers whose goal is and has always been to establish their own rule of law.  These people come from varying backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and age groups – their acts of defiance bring about a stereotype of the ethnic background they represent.  Consider radical Islam whose acts of aggression has been responsible for the destruction of communities, states, nations, and the world at large. From Mexico, we are getting the drug cartels coming across the border.  The troublemaking group is small by comparison but its ideology spreads like a plague across the landscape.  Not every undocumented immigrant is a troublemaker though and that must be understood; some are just hard-working people who seek a better way of life. In every country, there are laws about immigration and the US is not an exception. When the laws are not enforced, there will be problems like we are facing today.
            In an article in Psychology Today, it is reported that we will listen to as much as 17 bad reports to 1 good report.  From the bad reports, we will make decisions on how we will spend our resources, live our lives, and what the focus of our life will be[7].  In listening to the bad news, we make unwise decisions or become fearful or, see everyone as being the enemy when in truth they are not. God’s word admonishes us to have balance in our life when it comes to how we perceive ourselves (Ecclesiastics 7:15 – 18).  If we can understand that in this world, we face both good and evil, we can accept both ends of the spectrum and make something of it.  Unfortunately, we are not in the Garden of Eden where everything is perfect and we are blind to what is going on around us.  In this world, we deal with swindlers, thieves, liars, and murderers; yet, we also have many wonderful things being done by common man to make life enjoyable.  For example, on the news there are multiple reports of Police involved shootings of young black men and it leads us to believe the worst of those protecting us; yet, in another report, I read an excellent report about the law enforcement community in Brooklyn Park MN made it a point to engage a multi-cultural community in a soccer game to bolster community relationships[8].  From these positive events, lives are changed quite often for the better, people learn the truth, and lives are restored.  John F. Kennedy said during his inaugural address “Ask not what your country can do for you but, what you can do for your country”[9]. My point is that we can listen to all the bad reports and can be blinded to the good that is being done.
            Today in America, we have approximately 41.3 million immigrants from varying backgrounds and country of origin[10].  Each culture brings a new dynamic to the country and adds to the fabric of the nation.  Each culture brings a new cuisine, new ideas, and a new language.  Many of the immigrants have campaigned for a public office and some have won; I believe this is fantastic because, it means a new idea is interjected and old biases die out; yet, I see a problem with it because, for some, it is about getting what “we want” and not what is in the best interest of the whole.  Some might assert “if the ____ gets into office, all of _____ will occur”.  The problem is our system of democracy has built-in checks and balances to ensure one area of government does not become too powerful[11]. When our elected officials boycott a vote simply because it is not what they believe in, they do more harm to the people they represent despite the support of the people.
            For change to occur in the country, we must understand that it begins and ends with us, not the government or the elected leaders.  We are given the mandate by God to change our world.  If we believe we have no power, we deceive ourselves. The issues surrounding culture clashes can be solved by people willing to reach across cultures to help one another.  If you want to stop “Hate”, respond in love; if you want to stop the violence, reach out in love.  Not everyone will be won but, if you touch one person, you have set a plan in motion that will pay off down the road.  Jesus was one person who was despised, rejected and often abandoned yet, he made inroads with a people that had long ago been rejected by the people of Israel.  By Jesus willing to spend time with the people, a community was reached (John 4).  Imagine, what we could do in our world with people that are abandoned, rejected, and despised how we can change the one world one heart at a time.  It is said: “There is no more neutrality in the world. Either you will be part of the solution or you will be part of the problem” (Eldridge Cleaver).  I firmly believe that there is nothing so bad in this country, even the most horrific of hate crimes, violent riots, and widespread looting that cannot be overcome if we are willing to take a chance.
I love my country flaws, pain points, disagreements, and frustrations; I still shed a   tear when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner and I still pray for my country.  When I hear people say “I will leave this country if _____happens” I say “please leave and do so quietly”.  It greatly saddens me to hear people complaining about the country and doing nothing to solve the problems. The country is not perfect nor, is it going to give everybody exactly what they want but, will afford the opportunity to do great things if you are willing to do the work.  I am amazed at the number of minorities who, despite all odds, went onto successful careers by paths they had forged.  Forging a path incurs a cost and the person forging the path must pay it to its fullest amount. Freedom is not free; the rights we believe are ours did not come without a price tag attached. Take the right to vote: In the beginning, only the wealthy white landowners could vote.  IN 1868 the law was amended so that all white man could vote.  It was not until the 1920’s that women could vote. In 1923 the Native Americans could vote.  Literacy tests were enacted to restrict people from voting[12].  The changes did not just occur, it took people willing to fight for it and even willing to die for it.  Our rights came at a price far greater than we can fully realize; it is our responsibility to maintain it or, lose it forever – it is our choice but, we must do it respectfully to earn the support and respect of our fellow citizens.  Scripture says, “Through patience, a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:15).  In closing, I look to Aesop and his fable “The Sun and the North Wind” with the Sun’s final words “It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness, I got my way”[13].
Blessings for your day
Mike


[1] CDN Military Readiness Staff.  Too Fat to Fight. A report by Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids.  Retrieved http://cdn.missionreadiness.org/MR_Too_Fat_to_Fight-1.pdf
[2] History.net Staff.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Retrieved http://www.historynet.com/martin-luther-king-jr.
[3] Banwart, D. Jerry Falwell, the Rise of the Moral Majority, and the 1980 Election. Retrieved http://www.wiu.edu/cas/history/wihr/pdfs/Banwart-MoralMajorityVol5.pdf
[4] Bijan, S. Social Media Helps Black Lives Matter Fight the Power. Retrieved https://www.wired.com/2015/10/how-black-lives-matter-uses-social-media-to-fight-the-power/

[5] Livingston, S. Positive” Prejudice: Killing with Kindness? Part One. Psychology today (1/23/2009). Retrieved https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tinted-lenses/200901/positive-prejudice-killing-kindness-part-one

[6] Critical Thinking Staff.  Critical Thinking.  Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-concept-and-definition-of-critical-thinking/411
[7] Williams, R. Why we Love Bad News. Retrieved https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201012/why-we-love-bad-news (12/2010).
[8] Berg T. Friendly Soccer Match Aims to Improve Community, Police Relationships. Retrieved http://kstp.com/article/stories/s4232612.shtml (8/13/2016).
[9] Kennedy, JF. First Inaugural Address (January 20th 1961). Retrieved http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8032&
[10] Ziegler and Camerota. U.S. Immigrant Population Record 41.3 million in 2013. Retrieved http://cis.org/immigrant-population-record-2013.
[11] Powell, J. James Madison – Checks and Balances to Limit Government. Retrieved https://fee.org/articles/james-madison-checks-and-balances-to-limit-government-power/
[12] Infoplease Staff. Voting Rights. Retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html
[13] Aesop. The Sun and the North Wind. Retrieved https://www.storyarts.org/library/aesops/stories/north.html

A New Perspective –

A New Perspective
According to dictionary.com, a perspective is “in the state of one’s own ideas, the facts known to one and a technique for depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface”.  Our perspective on life can be altered by the situations that surround us; that is, the pressures we face in life alter how we see life.  In the book of Psalms, as an example, we read about a man named Asaph who reflected on how God is good to all who are pure in heart but, struggled with the reality that the pride filled man never faced earthly struggles like ailments, setbacks, etc.  In Asaph’s view, it seemed almost foolish to trust in God just to face the earthly struggles.  The evil man flaunted his good fortune and said: “God who”?  Then, something spectacular happened!  Asaph went into the sanctuary of God for a fresh perspective; listen to his words “If I had spoken in the same words of the evil man, I would have betrayed your children.  When I tried to understand all, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their destination” (Psalms 73: 1-17).  Sometimes in our walk with God, we too need a fresh perspective because the constant influx of information has us overwhelmed. The news stations, Facebook, and many other social media sites depict a scary world in which joy has no meaning and everything is wrong.
Being a child of God does not stop us from getting our perspective out of whack because life is filled with obstacles. To get a fresh perspective, we need to leave where we are for a little while to get another viewpoint.  Consider Jesus’ time in Samaria, a place no good Jew should ever go.  Bear in mind that Jesus went to Samaria during a time of intense struggles in Judea with the Sanhedrin.  So, going to Samaria was not just get out of town and let things cool off but, to do something that would bring clarity to his mission (John 4:1-26).  I am one of those people who will stay at something longer than I should and I end up missing a key element of the problem. When I consider the image in the mirror, I believe that I am doing something wrong and so I keep looking for that something until the thing I was working on gets broken.  Understand this, the Devil is also very good at moving the lights around to change the image in the mirror and he does so with relative ease. The last thing the Devil wants is for children of the world to have joy and peace in our life so, he will allow man to see whatever he/she wants to see to keep their eyes off the truth and on themselves; let us call it the “Nebuchadnezzar disease” (Daniel 3).
There are times in our life when all else fails, we go back to the one thing that is a key part of who we are.  Paul went back to tent-making (Acts 18:1-4) and Peter went back to the fishing boat (John 21).  Both men were facing a very difficult time in their life and everything was topsy-turvy; Paul was at the end of his life and Peter had denied Jesus.  Somehow, having a familiar place to go to, a chosen profession or hobby, and/or a quiet place clears up the confusion and helps us to get a better grip on the struggle(s) we are facing.  For me, the place I go to is a city park in Cottage Grove.  The park is nothing special, it holds no magnetism, it is just a park area that is frequented by many of the citizens daily; kids play baseball, tennis, and football.  For me, it is the place a met a friend years ago who, like me, struggled with life in general; my mother once called this friendship “friends through affliction” and I believe that is an accurate statement.  Just knowing that I was not alone in struggles and/or afflictions helped me to see life differently.
I had a vision one day of standing on the mountain of God looking down on the situation I was facing; from that vantage point, I could see all my life in full view.  On that mountain was a holy hush as all I could hear was the still small voice of God clearing up my confusion.    The funny part of the vision was that below the mountain everything seemed chaotic, out of control, and utterly helpless; yet, there was the solid rock that never moved and I was stable – even the wind did not cause me to move or even flinch; it was as if the presence of God had a built a wall around me.  Parents of little children know just how out of control life became especially when the children are ill or life throws curve balls at them.
There are times in our life when God will take us to places we do not want to go to.  Consider Jeremiah who was sent to the people of Israel and specifically his family. At first, the mission might have sounded quite intriguing; imagine telling mom and dad “You are sinful and going to hell”.  The problem is that the mission had many hidden traps, attacks, and frustrations.  Being sent by God is no guarantee that the mission will be easy.  Earlier in the mission, Jeremiah complained to God about the problems he was having to listen to God’s reply “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?  If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan” (Jeremiah 12:5); this sounds cold hearted but, consider this: if the ministry was easy and came with no hurdles, every fool and his brother would jump on the bandwagon.  Many Ministers, teachers, and parents face the same conundrum daily.  In some ways, it is easy to become angry with God and decry the injustice simply because, he led us into the battle and we might feel “forgotten” or “maybe this mission really was not of God” – I’ll call it the “Moses disease”.
We are powerless in life to change a person’s perspective and, as such, are not to worry about another person’s perspective; basically, mind your own business.  All our best words whether spoken or written will not change people until the person themselves decide to change.  God’s word calls each of us to look after our own mess, make wise choices, and keep our perspective in control.  Consider Jesus’ words to Peter after the resurrection: three times Peter was asked “Do you love me more than the others”, three times Peter responded, “Yes Lord you know I love you”, and three times Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep”.  The most important part of the communication and the tie into this writing is this: Peter asked about the Disciple John and Jesus replied “if I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21: 15-22).  It is my contention, and scripture affirms, that the single biggest trap of our lives is when we stop looking at the field of our life and start looking on other people’s fields and trying to change them[1].
I own my perspective that is, I am responsible for it, must tend to it, and ensure that it is always in the right direction.  If my perspective gets out of whack, only I can change it.  In scripture, it speaks about the Judgement throne and how each of us will stand before Him and give an account of our life (2nd Corinthians 5:10); no one is exempt.


[1] Fritz, C. Bible Reasons: Meddling (4/6/2015). Retrieved http://biblereasons.com/meddling/

Psalm 143 Encouragement

Good morning
  Today I read the 143rd Psalm as part of my daily Bible reading program. As I read through it, I thought of the number of my friends and family who are enduring deep and abiding troubles in their lives. Trouble is nothing new to the human experience as man has gone through trouble all of their lives. Yet, in reflecting on this particular Psalm, God impressed on my spirit to pray for my friends using the words of this Psalm. One of the biggest needs whether spoken or unspoken is, rest both spiritually and physically. The enemy of our soul uses our weariness against us by playing with our minds. For those of you who are going through struggles today, I encourage you to find a comfortable place and read the words of this Psalm. After you are through reading it, close your eyes and reflect back on a time when life was really at its best and/or when God came through for you. If you have never put your faith in Him, let’s make this right in the words of Isaiah to the rebellious nation Israel: “Come let us reason together says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isa 1:28). My prayer for you today is that you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28).
Yours for the Victory

Mike