Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prosperity in The Matrix

I had a scary moment on Tuesday. And an epiphany.

It was “Meema Day” for my nine year old granddaughter and seven year old family friend. We chose to brave the mall in spite of the predictable pre-Thanksgiving crowds. We planned our strategy over chicken fried rice at P.F. Changs. First, we’d go to Build A Bear, then trek to the other end of the mall (a mile was it?) to take on the jumpy thing (them jumping, me watching), ending up at the Barnes and Noble on our way out.

Game plan confirmed, we finished our lunch and headed for the Build A Bear which I noted was at fire code capacity. The girls made their choices and we dutifully followed protocol through each of the stations. At last at the computer, where one names and registers the newly born stuffed friend, the questions about address, phone number and email hit me as somewhat invasive. Apparently this data base is necessary in case the new friend was ever lost. 

Right. In other words, the toy is chipped. 

Whatever, I just wanted to get done and get out of the crowd. Having sufficient information extracted from us to be able to track us down anytime in the future, we elbowed our way up to the counter to pay for our fully databased fluffy toys where I was then put through a type of congenial interrogation. First I was asked for my BAB customer card. You know, so I could get credited for points earned. I had one once, years ago, when the first set of grandkids were young but who knows what happened to it? The clerk said, “No problem, what is your phone number?” That didn’t work because I have moved and no matter how long I have a phone number I instantly forget it once I have a new one. No problem, then, she asked for the address of the house I lived in when I had the BAB card. 

Here’s where the scary moment happened. Already stressed by the grueling process of building a stuffed animal and offering up everything but my blood type to the Beast my brain decided enough was enough and took a little break. Not only could I not recall the address where I had lived for twelve years, scarier still, I could not recall the address where I live now. In the interest of time, and the growing line behind me, I resorted to pulling out my drivers license for that vital information. That I had to be given in order for me to pay for the toys. 

Here’s where the epiphany moment happened that has haunted me for days now. Of course, the first niggling thought is in regards to my waning brain power and the unspeakable possibilities. But I know me and what that shut down represented was my rebellious nature. Simply put, I am over this era. I’m done with having to “show my papers” to every clerk anytime I wish to make even the smallest purchase. Further, anyone even with waning brain would know that the real reason for all the data collection is for ongoing outreach for advertising. Duh.

Today, as I clicked off dozens of advertisements in my inbox, including the one from Build A Bear, I paused on one. It hit me hard because it was from a very well known religious leader’s organization. It was a bright enticement, dressed in holiday colors, admonishing me to “Don’t follow the crowds - this year give gifts that show you care - and that God does too...”

You see where this is going? 


I thought the headlines reporting the Black Friday chaos in the malls, people wiling to fist fight over a Barbie Doll and steal products out of other shoppers’ carts was the revelation of a society on its last gasp. But now I realize that is just the symptom. The root of our problem is our prosperity. It has turned toxic and we are on the brink of implosion. We were tested by our blessings and found wanting. Even organized religion has sipped from the cup of how to get those with too much already to buy buy buy more. 

The famous line from a movie claimed that we “can’t handle the truth” and apparently neither can we handle prosperity. So, for me, the signs are all ablaze now. But I think I’ve turned a corner. I’m no longer going to participate in the madness. Unless and until it reaches the point where I’m forced to either be chipped like a stuffed toy or die, I’m going to opt out of the data gathering shopping experience. I’m going to reinterpret the advise of the ad and choose to not follow the crowd–my way.

Even though it’s really too late now–this is just a token act of defiance, I’m already being tracked online and customized ads appear for me no matter where I surf. In real time, clerks get testy with me if I refuse to offer up my email address. “Don’t you want money saving coupons?” they intimidate. So it’s going to take a bit of fortitude to implement this new paradigm. I’ll be labeled as ‘cranky’ and ‘uncooperative’.

But better late than never. When they ask, I’m going to just say no. They can take the answer or leave it. If pressed I’ll ask if they want me to make the purchase or not. I can go somewhere else. The hallmark of prosperity is abundance. It’s everywhere calling out like merchants in a bazaar - buy! buy! buy! 

For Him,
Meema


The Lord has to hide so much from us, because it is dangerous for us; our flesh makes it dangerous. We shall be tried by blessing as well as by adversity. The keenest fires of trial are often those of success or prosperity. Such tests discover whether our hearts are fixed upon the Lord or upon things. ~ T. Austin-Sparks 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Young

Youth is wasted on the young is a clever old saying that loses its humor as we age. 

The point, of course, is that once you have lived enough to finally have a thick file of functional knowledge, it’s too late to use it to improve your outcome and, what’s worse, no one else cares to access it, especially not the young, so it’s pretty useless in the end game–a classic oxymoron. If we could time travel and tap into the treasure of experience our older self has earned, we still would need to actually experience the lessons of our choices, good and bad, in order to amass that wealth of knowledge in the first place. 


I had an opportunity to chat with an old friend, Lambert, at a reception for our mutual friend, Lynne, and her new husband Pat (Old Love). Lambert’s career as a motivational speaker is winding down. He’s at that crossroads point we all must come to, where he sees his strength is waning and his will to do a job is sorely lacking in the enthusiasm he once had. He remains a great story teller though, as most motivational speakers are, and he entertained us with his gift. He said he had recently been asked to travel several states away to speak to a group of elders. He walked into the gathering room and began to address his wrinkled assemblage. One cranky woman asked (he mimicked her gravelly voice perfectly) “Why are we here? How long is this going to last?”

Lambert made a swift right turn into impromptu and launched into an off the cuff exchange. He looked out and asked his senior audience to raise their hand if they were “going through stuff”. Every gnarly hand wobbled up. He motioned for them to lower their hands and asked them, “So, how many of you would like to talk about your stuff?” 

All hands went up again. He motioned, hands went down. Then he asked, “How many want to hear about other people’s stuff?”

Not a single hand went up. Then he asked, “How many realize that I didn’t have to define what the word ‘stuff’ meant?” Everyone laughed. The ice sufficiently cracked, he nodded and said, “Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!”

Though this example is more likely about complaints of declining health and daily physical struggles than it is about unusable accumulated knowledge it spoke to me about ‘stuff’ I have wrestled with of late. Pardon me while I share.

Here’s the oldest truth ever–no one, specifically not the young, really wants to know what you know or what you have learned. The young, as the old themselves were once, are preprogrammed to fall headlong into their own learning curves. Even knowledge that must be conveyed through schooling is still absorbed only by testing. A theorem may be written in stone but the learning process that locks in the concept for each new mind introduced to it must be proven over and over again by experimentation and practice. 


Perhaps the lesson we most often reject is that we live to learn so we can learn to live. If we don’t live, if we don’t take risks, if we don’t try and fail, we don’t learn or we learn less than we could. If we simply take the word of someone else who went before us and therefore we decide to choose the straight safe paved, lighted highway instead of the rock laden path that curves and dips and winds, we cruise through passively only seeing the billboards that advertise the things others have learned. We then must either trust that those billboards are telling the truth, or we take the risk going off-road and learn by hitting our own bumps.


But the real oxymoron in the youth-being-wasted-on-the-young-thingy taunts us as the last big lesson us elders have to wrap our shrinking brains around. We chose our paths, we took our roads whether paved or not, we earned our lessons, often the hard way and sometimes with great sacrifice, but what we now know, that we deem to be of high worth, belongs exclusively to us. As great as it all might be the goal was never for our ‘stuff’ to become a repository for anyone else, especially not the young. 

Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to learn from history or from the experience of others, on the contrary, this is just a reality check. This is how it is and it underscores the truth that life is in no way fair and hardly ever textbook. As much as we’d love to share, to help, to make the way smoother for our young, we can’t really. They have to fend for themselves until the day they finally realize they might have missed a few good short-cuts by asking a few questions. The only consolation in this, and cause for big fat grinning, is that one day the young will no longer be young and they’ll face the same frustration and have their own ‘stuff’ to deal with.

Hopefully they will smile too in acknowledgement of the irony - like their elders did before them.

For Him,
Meema



(Ecclesiastes 1:9) That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  (1:10) Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us.  (1:11) There is no remembrance of the former [generations]; neither shall there be any remembrance of the latter [generations] that are to come, among those that shall come after.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Holidays

Our clan is aging. This is what happens because, above all else, life is a living thing. It is constantly growing and shrinking resulting in inevitable change. As they say, the only constant you can count on is change. 

We have our traditions like most clans. But even those annual customs, that we have done our best to maintain, have often had to be adjusted for circumstances because... Life. Happens. 



I’ve always had a practical attitude toward customary convention, i.e., the holiday season. When I was still writing the I Was Just Thinking column I often slanted my November/December pieces toward those who might be stressed during the last two months of the year. Those who are in between creating traditions and/or have had life altering events in their lives that will force them, for whatever reason, to be out of season with the SEASON.

I speak of these times because I have had firsthand experience with them. In truth, for all the falderal that is shoved at us through the agenda driven commercial side of celebrating, every year is different and ought to be realized as such. In other words, rather than being owned and dictated to by what has been established as mandatory activity, why not just say no? Why not say, this I can do, this I can’t–this year–and it’s okay. 

It’s okay to celebrate in the way you can on a different day, if that is what is needed. It’s okay to forego spending money you don’t have to give gifts just because tradition (and commerce) demands it. It’s okay to choose to volunteer to serve others on Thanksgiving or Christmas instead of sitting alone depressed because things aren’t what they have been or fall short of what is expected by custom.

It is a tangible reality that all the years when everything aligned and the holidays fully met the fairytale criteria melt together into one warm fuzzy memory. Nothing in particular stands out. The remains are found in a collage of old photos and videos and fading glow of joy that takes some mental calculations to recall what year that was. Interestingly enough, it is the stressed years, the years during upheaval, change, compromise and life flux that we really recall. These are the times when we’ve been tried, reshaped and ultimately refined. 

Ironically, if it were not for the trying times we’d have no contrast, nothing to inspire us to gratitude for the easier, better times. Regardless our traditions, it is  our gratitude that makes a day a holiday. Not the rituals performed on a set day on the calendar. Not the fuss and flurry and demands of making things perfectly perfect as determined by a formal praxis maintained to mostly turn the bottom line from red to black. 

I’m just saying if you find yourself in difficulty and things simply can’t be like a lovely commercial, celebrate in your heart anyway and know that the outward things mean much less than the inward things. 

The day after is just another day to give thanks as well.


For Him,
Meema



(1 Thessalonians 5:16) Rejoice always;  (5:17) pray without ceasing;  (5:18) in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bondage

bondage
noun
our own freedom is not so gratifying when we must look upon the bondage of others: slavery, enslavement, servitude, subjugation, subjection, oppression, domination, exploitation, persecution; enthrallment, thraldom; historical serfdom, vassalage. ANTONYMS liberty.

What comes to mind when you hear the word bondage? Slavery, chains, human trafficking? Selfies?


Reading the daily headlines in Drudge makes it clear that evil has just about covered all the bases and infiltrated nearly every aspect of life on earth now. We were warned that it would get to this point so we shouldn’t be shocked to see it happening right before our eyes. Good is seen as bad and bad is celebrated and even honored as good. You know you live in a narcissistic world when everyone around you is obsessed with those who are obsessed with themselves. And it is narcissism, or love of self, that is the engine that moves the bus. The irony is that the more self-love there is, the more self-love spreads, which seems contradictory some how unless you think of it as being more like a deadly virus. 

Most of the social media that has sucked in millions of people like a vacuum is specific to self-promotion. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen others do nothing but fuel the self-love generation’s appetite for more ways to focus on self.  Spend hours a day on these sites under the guise of “sharing” and thus it is effectively normalized.

And this is my very sad point. ALL ABOUT ME is the new normal. In other words, bondage is the new normal. Bondage is slavery but not just chains and human trafficking anymore. Bondage in small as well as big things is a diabolical strategy and suggests that evil has pulled out the stops in its last desperate effort to overcome and vanquish good once and for all.  Spiritual death by a thousand small cuts is far more effective than simply lurking in the dark waiting to ambush. And so bondage to addictions of any kind is the simplest, most effective way to keep souls distracted and blind. How diabolical! To make matters worse, these distractions/obsessions can take any of a multitude of forms, some sound really good and are more subtle than others:

perfectionism
physical appearance/narcissism
obsessive, perverted sexual desire
anything that causes addiction: drugs, video games, food, alcohol, gambling, sports, fashion, internet, social media
religious spirit/religious habits
any destructive habit

Any destructive habit. Think about that. Why would we want to do anything that leads to self-destruction? 

Some days I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if I stopped reading or watching news. That way I wouldn’t have to acknowledge what is so abundantly clear–as bad as things have been in the past, even during Noah’s time, has there ever been a more reprobate era such as this?

The question is begged: how much worse can/will it get before it gets better? 

For Him,
Meema

 (1 Corinthians 6:17) But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  (6:18) Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  (6:19) Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own;  (6:20) for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.           

(Matthew 24:10) And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another.  (24:11) And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray.  (24:12) And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold.  (24:13) But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lowering the Bar

Get a cuppa coffee or tea, get comfy. This is gonna be lengthy.

A situation came to my attention that centered around violent video games in general and the newest version of Grand Theft Auto in particular. Of course, the debate about the bad influence of violent games and movies on young impressionable minds rages on, unresolved, as games and movies continually push the envelope evolving into ever increasingly graphically violent and sexually explicit content–a cultural lowering of the bar unimaginable in as short a time as only twenty years. Unfortunately, I think the yays far outnumber the nays in the vote now. 

There is a logical reason why the addiction to activities that arouse the most primeval desire to decimate, murder, destroy and over power is fast becoming the new ‘norm’. 

The question is not that it is happening but how much is too much? How far is too far?


The worn out argument that video game and movie makers deny the negative influence of their products because it means multiple billions of dollars in commerce at stake is lame and goes nowhere, and needs to be put to rest. Yes, of course, who doesn’t know that one only need follow the money to find that those who profit from something will never speak out against it. This is primary common sense and is easily applied to all manner of industries. Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to rate their own drugs as safe or unsafe? No, that’s the job of the FDA. 

So, who decides if steady brain bathing, sometimes hours a day, in streaming violence, crude language, blatant evil, and salacious sex in video games is detrimental to the children who are destined to inherit the future? In the US, the age appropriate ratings for videos is administered by the ESRB–Entertainment Software Rating Board. But the usefulness of such ratings is often challenged by studies concluding that 90% of teenagers say their parents never check the ratings before allowing them to buy and play video games. If true, the problem should be dumped at the feet of parental responsibility. Right? Bad things are available and always have been therefore parents are the ultimate guardians against inappropriate exposure to harmful influences. 

Right?

Here’s where the topic gets all sticky. You see, modern parents are the products of their upbringing. As a society slowly slips into irreversible depravity, each subsequent generation brings with it the revised and stretched boundaries adopted while in their own developmental years. Those who are old enough to remember previously higher standards that were generally self-enforced by accountability can easily see that desensitizing to any type of base behavior comes with repetition which leads to acceptance and finally adaptation. It’s as though society cannot defend itself against the inevitable wearing away of the values that maintain all that is civil about civilization. But history tells us that civilizations rise and fall on its values and standards.

When graphic violence, bad language, virtual sex, bloody and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, drug use, portrayal and/or condoning of criminal behavior, and other types of provocative behavior, once considered anti-social, becomes the new standard for children to experience as they also are supposed to be learning basic right from wrong, the lines between right and wrong are inevitably blurred in the process. 

When right and wrong are no longer discernible as a societal norm, when anything goes becomes the new standard, opinions adapt accordingly. Even the ‘experts’ are subject to the process of redefining what is conventional and therefore cannot be trusted to evaluate that which can do harm. This is historical. How many harmful products have been declared safe and then found to be deadly? Lead in paint? Mercury in thermometers and vaccines? Radiation in x-rays? Even the FDA cannot figure out which drugs are bad until harm is done and the drugs are then pulled off the market. Enter the attorneys. So much for experts.

One can argue that violence has always been with us, one can make fun of ‘stiff necked’ objections to young children being allowed to immerse in the story lines of murder, lawlessness and debauchery. The proponents can claim they played the games at a young age and they know the difference between the vile environments of the games and real life. Those who argue that studies have found that there is no link between increased violence and crime to video gaming, especially perpetrated by the young, often cite ‘scientific’ conclusions but rarely specifically name the study that produced the results, or the names of the experts who drew the conclusion or the source of the funding for the study. No one asks those in the trenches dealing with the ever growing numbers of violent juvenile delinquents apparently. They are not expert enough I guess.

So, people prefer to believe what they want to believe even if what they see happening in the schools counters the notion that violent images broadcast into not yet fully developed brains do not increase the probability of violent behavior. Ask middle school teachers about the rise in disrespect for authority and property. Guess they don’t count either. 

Again the question is begged, how much is too much, how far is too far? Most schools have a psychologist on staff now. Twenty years ago - no need. Most schools have discipline issues that include rape and death threats. Twenty years ago - not even. Some schools have security guards now and all schools have lock down protocols in case of assault. Twenty years ago this was not only not necessary, it wasn’t even on the radar. But now it is, in this enlightened, modern, death and destruction obsessed society. 

Are logical conclusions all that difficult to draw?

One last thing–in spite of what the ‘experts’ claim, societal norms established in the alternate world of video games do not stay confined to gaming time. When perspectives are adjusted to no longer be shocked by anything, to find pleasure and excitement in the act of destruction, whetting the appetite for more and worse, then those perspectives, like a virus, go out and infect everything else in the real world, making way for even the smallest seemingly innocent increments to find their way into the new framework.  Because it’s not just acceptable, it’s cool and replaces everything that’s considered archaic and irrelevant to modernity. 

Commerce adjusts to fit the new standards and then the new products ultimately manipulate and drive the standards further. It’s a vicious and diabolical cycle. But no one notices the decline until it is too late.

Case in point, while shopping in a local big name store I saw a type of art/craft book. The sole purpose of the book was all about wrecking the book, it said so in the title. Each page had a suggestion to do something, like rip, scribble or in some way alter it by destroying it, (direct quote) to engage in ‘destructive’ acts--poking holes through pages, adding photos and defacing them, painting pages with coffee, coloring outside the lines, and more--in order to experience the true creative process.” 

In order to experience the true creative process? Imagine someone publishing and then finding a market for such a book just twenty short  years ago. 

When all activity, even art, is no longer about positive creating and building but tearing down, disrespecting, and decimating then the bar may be closer to the bottom than anyone has bothered to notice. I am sure most would accuse me of making a mountain out of a molehill when I say that this book is a very bad sign. Silly old me. But then, I am still hanging on to those standards that once worked so well to hold us up and all together. You know those old guidelines that called for everyone, educated or not, to take care of things, add to, keep repaired, restored and respected, especially that which belonged to others. 

You know–civil.

Here’s another study - might want to read this one. 

For Him,
Meema

If America is ever laid waste, much of the blame will lie at the doors of the churches. We have the Answer and, like the children of Issachar, we should have understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. 
~ Vance Havner


(Psalm 51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me.