Category Archives: In My Opinion…

This category contains some of my thoughts and feelings on various topics.

Are You Happy?

The October 12th issue of Tme magazine had an interesting article on happiness.  Let me share some of the things that struck me.

People in the USA think of happiness differently than other people in the world.  (We also think of it differently than the founders of the USA.  See my blog post titled “the Pursuit of Happiness“.)  Other cultures view happiness as a group event.  Social interaction is intended to increase the happiness of others as well as myself.  To us, happiness is an individual pursuit of success, possessions, and status.  Yet these self-focused pursuits lead us to continual disappointment and discouragement instead of the happiness we seek.

Besides a major worldview overhaul of seeing happiness as a group event rather than an individual quest, there are five simple suggestions that science says can help in our happiness.

  1. Relax.  People who view time as a limited resource are more happy within calm rather than excitement.
  2. Schedule.  Intentionally schedule times/events that produce happiness.
  3. Be Present.  Rather than agonizing over what has passed or what has not yet come, live in the right now.
  4. Get Real.  No one can be happy all the time.  Embrace the sunny days when they come, and accept the rainy days that are certain to appear.  In fact, be thankful for that rain.
  5. Savor.  Enjoy good moments when they come.  Don’t take them for granted.  And reflect on those good times, reliving the feelings.
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Every year I try to read a few books that I was supposed to read in high school but didn’t.  I just finished “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and chapter 28 had a section that made me think of our horrible failure to be Christ-like in “Jerusalem” and “Samaria”.  I’ll type some of it below, and you see if you can read “missions” into it.

“But, suppose we [the South] should rise up tomorrow and emancipate, who would educate these millions, and teach them how to use their freedom? …The fact is, we [the South] are too lazy and unpractical, ourselves, ever to give them much of an idea of that industry and energy which is necessary to form them into men. …and tell me, now, is there enough Christians [in the North]…to bear with the process of their education and elevation?  You [Christians in the North] send thousands of dollars to foreign missions; but could you endure to have…your time, and thoughts, and money to raise [the freed slaves] to the Christian standard?  That’s what I want to know.  If we emancipate, are you willing to educate?  [Would you help them with housing, jobs, job training, education for children, etc.?]  We [the South] are the more obvious oppressors of the Negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe.”

The book was published in 1852.  How much progress have we made in 163 years?

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On God’s Side

This book by Jim Wallis was a welcome read for me, but I was ready to consider his ideas.  For some time I’ve been more loyal to Jesus than a political party.  I am registered as an independent.  So I was easily on board when Wallis presented the three target points of his book:

  1. Christian conversion is to impact more than the destiny of my eternal soul.  It is to impact the way I live in this world.
  2. Faith transcends politics, and
  3. My faith should be lived in public for the public good.

The book title comes from a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”  Wallis helps me see that I am weakly committed to God’s side in some areas of political debate.  I have been caught up in the either/or mentality rather than both/and solutions.  The table below gives an example of what I’m saying.  It compares the different views of what causes poverty.

Liberals    (blame society)

Conservatives    (blame individuals)

poor-paying jobs poor work habits and work experience
poor education no dedication to education
no or poor child care having children out of marriage
poor housing options weak family structure
lack of affordable health care substance abuse

Commonsense says that I have an individual responsibility for improving my conditions, but it also says that forces outside my influence can make my progress more difficult or even impossible.  Working from only one side of the aisle will not correct the root of the problem.  We have to work on both lists.

Wallis repeatedly discusses “justice”.  He explains that justice has a broad range of meanings: righteousness, wholeness, deliverance, Shalom, and healed relationships.  He emphasizes that Jesus wants this multi-faceted type of justice for everyone.  And he’s afraid that justice can slip to an optional status when it is viewed as an implication of the Kingdom of God rather than an integral part of it.

I really enjoyed this book, but I think some Christians may find it uncomfortable.  He really challenges the readers to embrace following Jesus above following a political party.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the right side-bar of this blog.  Look for “On His Side” as you scroll through the box.

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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Disagreeable

A friend of mine told me something that changed some of his habits.  He realized that he considered a book, article, commentator, or news report as “good” just because he agreed with it.  He felt there may be good books, articles, comments, and news he won’t ever consider reading or hearing  just because he doesn’t agree with them.  Hm-m-m.

I struggled with that idea for a few days.  Then I finally admitted that all my opinions will never be right.  I will always need some new input and fresh views.  If I only intake ideas identical to what I already have, it’s like an aquarium that never gets fresh water.  It’s the same muddied water just being recycled without any filtering system.  I don’t have to accept everything I hear, but I can never be renewed if I never hear anything new.  So I thought about where my first stop would be to hear or read something I found disagreeable.  I was mistaken with my choice.

I ended up on the web page for the Christian Left.   Since I thought I was part of the Christian Right, this web page seemed like the logical step.  I was really surprised by what I found.  The web page referenced a lot of Bible verses to support the position that Christians should help the needy.  Huh?  Well, of course.  Who would argue with that?  Well, it appears that the Christian Right has the image of opposing such liberal actions.  The Christian Right has an image of endorsing the well-known line “God helps those who help themselves.”  I know that isn’t right, not every Christian on the Right holds to that position, but I also know that many do.  I also know that some of the Christian Left consider cash handouts a primary solution to solving this issue – a deal-breaker for the Christian Right.   Unfortunately it seems that some of the loudest talkers for each side distract from a united, Christian effort at a solution.  It also seems that we’ve allowed this to become primarily a political issue, not a moral one.

Christians should care for the needy.  I can’t say I believe the Bible and disagree with that mandate.  The hard discussion is in the implementation of the command.  What is the best way to do it?  I think all of us agree that the current method of caring for the needy in the USA is broken.  So, what can we do together that will be better?

The intent of this post is not to bring up a topic (care for the needy) and find a solution.  I just wanted to tell you that I can find common ground when I really listen to the people with whom I thought I totally disagreed.  From that common place, we can listen, share, and pray on our journey to a solution.  Let’s stop accusing, pouting, and being defensive long enough to listen – both to God and our Christian family members.

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