Category Archives: Faith

My Team Stinks

600x480_astrosAs April begins, Houston is alive with our Springtime awakening.  The flowers bloom, the birds sing, and the sports menu is out of control!  Basketball’s March Madness reaches its pinnacle.  The professional golf & tennis tournaments are Houston happening today.  Planning is underway for the NFL draft, and Spring college football fills the air with rumors and innuendo.  Now for the bad news: baseball season begins.

Many folks find the beginning of baseball is a cause for celebration.  I’ve heard that it’s a great time; because every team is undefeated and full of hope.  The problem is…I follow the Astros.  Today they are undefeated.  In fact they have the honor of hosting the first game of the season.  We even have a new place for our cellar dwelling team.  The bottom of the American League West.  ARod earns more individually than the entire Houston Astros team.  Hope does not spring forth this spring.

So what is a fan to do confronted with such a situation?   The truth is that we generally lose when we face a hopeless situation. I am big on sports analogies for life, and I know that in life many of us face hopeless situations.   Some would tell you full speed ahead and ignore the facts.  Butting my head into brick walls is a skill set I have honed.  That makes a favorite saying of mine…it feels so good when it quits hurting.  I probably stole it from an old country song.  Some folks tell you that whatever you believe will happen.  I have found that facts are hard things that we must deal with honestly.

http://www.tennisworldusa.org/Meet-95-year-old-Artin-Elmayan-the-worlds-oldest-ranked-player-articolo6200.htmlI do get that attitude can influence a situation.  I understand if all you see is doom & gloom you are likely to find it.  I also think there is a place for an honorable effort even when the results are not likely to be what we desire.  I play tennis, and some folks are better players.  They are faster, stronger, in better shape, and this chaps me to admit…but younger.  I have a suspicion this circumstance is not headed in my favor, but I can still enjoy playing tennis.  A friend once told me that if you never lose it says more about the quality of your competition than the quality of your tennis.

We are not always going to win.  That is true for our sports teams.  That is true for our own athletic endeavors.  That is true for our lives.  We can do our best and enjoy the process, but that does not mean victory in the end.  My Astros are likely to set a record this season…for the most losses ever by a MLB team.  Mets fans prepare to rejoice.  I can still enjoy my team.  The stadium is awesome, the beer will still be cold, my buddies will still be fun, and a real upside is the tickets will be easy to get.  I can worry the young guys on the tennis court, but fewer will fall in defeat.  I can enjoy the exercise, the competition and the camaraderie.

When we face tough circumstances, we need to focus on the process.  Rather than focusing on the end goal, set smaller intermediary steps that we can accomplish.  Find that enjoyment one small step at a time.  With a realistic attitude, we might even get surprised by finding a bit of hope…perhaps even a surprising victory.  Here’s hoping the Astros have a great season….not expecting a pennant…but hoping!

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Easter Reflections

background-vector-easter-cards-and-decorations-butterfly-eggs-05-vector-mate-15-14471-images-300x300Today the entire family gathered for our Easter celebration.  Saturday just worked easier for our hectic schedules.  The food was great, but the most fun was that we had some Easter Egg hunting to do.  My one year old great nephew was extremely cute in his quest.  As I watched the little one command everyone’s attention, I

thought about how he was a great metaphor for the season.  That little one year old brings so much hope and joy.

The Easter symbols of butterflies, flowers and eggs make sense.  Not only did we have plenty of those in the back yard, but the lemon tree is in full bloom filling the yard with its sweet scent.  Spring is that time when “the green blade rises from the buried grain.”  Seeds, eggs and cocoons seem dead but hold the potential for life.

The Easter story of life springing forth from death is that ultimate sign of hope.  The knowledge that no matter how dark the season or situation, life and love still have a chance.  For Christians the season is not just about chocolates and pretty clothes.  We believe that no matter the circumstance, we are not alone.  Faith does not promise a pass around life’s troubles.  Faith offers a path through those difficulties and a guiding hand. We find tremendous resilience in the knowledge that no difficulty is ultimate.

Anybody looking at the events of Good Friday would have assumed that the Sanhedrin had the last word.   Our culture rewrites the Psalm: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am carrying my .44 magnum.  Anybody with good sense knows that power & money triumph over love.  A handful of His followers were locked in a room scared they were going to be next ones taken.  The knock on the door brought fear.  They never considered the possibility that they would find hope and a love that would not let them go.

My faith gives me hope in every circumstance.  I find courage when giving up seems sensible.  I see life springing up even when death surrounds.  I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a love that will not let me go.  That changes darkness into light.

Until We Meet Again My Friend

Alan

I lost a friend today and was caught off guard by the impact.  I came in from tennis this afternoon.  I intended a quick scan of my Facebook before a shower and was stunned by the first post I saw.

Alan passed away 3/25/13 of a stroke at 7:50 PST.  I know he told me a lot how he loved having so many friends on here.

I met Alan only a few months ago on Empire Avenue.  We saw the world very differently, but I loved each of my encounters with him.  Even when he was in a depressive stage, he maintained his generosity of spirit.  He was stubborn, and I’m told that I am a bit strong willed.  We had many lengthy Facebook chats and seldom completely agreed.  I am barely a blogger, both in terms of quality and output; so I was awestruck by his daily blog effort.  He only seemed to notice the days that he missed.  As any artist, he never seemed to be quite satisfied by his work.  As a critic, he was always kind and constructive to others.  I growled at him about excessive generosity with everyone but himself.

I once told Alan about an unfortunate encounter with chicory coffee on an early morning after the night before.  As a native of New Orleans, he loved my silly tale.  Both the fun of late night Bourbon Street, and the penalty extracted the next morning.  Alan was a great audience.

Alan was amazingly transparent in his writing, his struggles with mood disorder, his fights with writer’s block, his gay bearness; so much of his life.  He was so generous with the intimacy of his words, but he valued his privacy.  I suspect an artifact of his activist years.  I thought his choice to avoid a photo as an avatar was a contrapuntal note that added a bit of richness & intrigue.  He once bragged that even after hours of chatting together I would not pick him out of a lineup.  Today was the first time I saw an image of Alan.  I did a web search to find a bit more and was pleased to find this photo.  It would probably irritate him just a little; so I think it is a fitting tribute.

Rest in Peace dear friend; until we meet again!

Sold Out

SaleI have some sad and shocking news to report today. Not everyone on the Avenue is nice.  In addition to the thieves and scoundrels, some folks are just selfish, mean, and uncaring.  Now I know someone is going to remind me that if I expect nothing, I will never be disappointed.  Holy Week reminds me to turn the other cheek and repay evil with kindness. I am not arguing, but I wonder if I have deep enough pockets to survive that strategy.  A rambling preamble is a bad way to start; so here it is.  Someone sold my shares.  What should I do?

My usual procedure is to whine; then block.  I whine to give someone with an honest error an opportunity to amend.  Hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps someday.  When I explain what is about to happen, I am often greeted with…but it’s nothing personal.  I grin a bit when I hear that.  Can there be a more profound misunderstanding of social media?  SM is all about the personal.  If you lose the personal, how is SM different from old school, broadcast advertising?  EA is as personal and intimate as you can get with G rated social media.  We are buying and selling our friends.  How do you identify most of the accounts….with a person’s NAME.  The symbol that explicitly identifies ME!

The only thing funnier is when a seller accuses me of ‘threatening’ them.  Really?  You just sold me, but when I tell you I intend to reciprocate your kindness…I am mean?  Perhaps it goes back to my premise of selfishness.  Sellers don’t seem to understand my irritation at being sold, but they are all in on hating me when I am ready to sell.  I get sold without a comment, but when I have the courtesy to provide someone an opportunity to save themselves….I become the bad guy?  Yes I am going to sell you.  Yes I am going to block you.  Yes I know what it will do to you.  Yes I am sorry, and I even feel a bit sad for you.  On the other hand, I object to supporting bad behavior; because that seems to encourage the sinners.

Some folks wonder why I block the miscreants.  I have several reasons.

1.  I practice reciprocal investing.  Up to 1,500, I have matched every active investor(10 EA actions per week).  If you invested in me to stimulate a buy, it works perfectly.  If you then turn around and sell my shares, eventually I won’t have enough income to continue this practice.

2.  I work to support my shareholders.  I care that I provide reasonable dividends and share price increases for my faithful investors.  When an investor sells, the value of a share decreases.  That is bad for everyone who is still invested.  That sale didn’t just irritate me, it reduced the value for everyone who trusts and believes in me.

3.  I use a third party investment management tool.  I am not one of the ‘big guns’…yet, but still it is unreasonable to attempt to deal with thousands of stocks and a zilllion buys with only the tools that EA provides.  I buy a ton based on criteria; so if I don’t block the offender, I am likely to repurchase unintentionally.

4.  I want to invest in folks that I care about and who care about me.  I have some pure, by the numbers investments, but they are just an interest bearing savings account for me.  The greater income allows me to invest and support others.  Investing is a real connection with a real person.

5.  Finally there is a bit of what I learned as a kid on the playground.  If you don’t want to play with me, I don’t want to play with you.  Selling an investor seems to be a loud message that my value to you is gone.

We play a social game where we each benefit when we work to support each other.  I want to be connected to folks with similar goals, values, and concerns.  I want us all to win…though we might need to gang up on Kevin!

Now this does not mean that I never sell anyone.  I would like to be able to hold all my investments; but I have limits of patience, energy, and income.  I make bad judgments with some investments.  Folks quit the game, lose their minds, or just play poorly.  I sell to clear my portfolio, recover eaves, and avoid losses.  I try diligently to make sound decisions.  I don’t always get it right.

I have a bond with my investors to take care of them, and trust that they will do the same.  I remember a while ago, one of my investments seemed to disappear.  I sent a message on FB asking if he had quit.  He apologized for his inactivity but explained that Hurricane Sandy had destroyed his home.  I can hold him.  Some stuff is more important than eaves…in fact most stuff is way more important than eaves.

This post might stir things a bit.  I certainly understand that many will not agree with me, and I am fine with that. I am delighted by the differences that each of us bring.  I really want your input.  I care about what you think…but…Please, pretty please, pretty please with sugar and whipped cream on top, be reasonably polite.  I am sure that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

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The Blame Game

Since the horrific events of December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, I have tried to figure out how to respond.  I spend last week answering the unanswerable questions in the Sunday School class that I teach.  I can’t imagine how empty the Christmas season must be for families  that have presents that will never be opened.

I want some sort of soothing salve that I can pour over the situation and smooth away the pain and anger and fear.  I want answers; so we can all make sense of this.  I want to know how and why it happened; so we can make sure it never happens again.  I want to know if it was the guns, mental illness, bad parenting or video games that caused this. I am looking for someone or thing to blame.  I also want to choke the life out of the next person who says it was all a part of God’s plan.

Faith should provide answers to the problems of great evil.  Faith should prove hope in times of grief.  Faith should provide light in the midst of darkness, but spiritual giants have often witnessed the “dark night of the soul.”

Faith as a “get out of hell free card” or “fire insurance” is too often the message.  My witness is to a faith where God is with us in tragedy not creating tricky escapes.  My faith is in a God who deals with the tough times.  My faith is in a God who weeps.

My faith is also in a God who loves and laughs.  I suspect there is a lot of time spent giggling at my foolishness.  My faith is in a God who can use tragedy; not one who seeks or causes it. I believe that in the midst of grief, God’s love is still present providing hope.

My faith is in a God who entrusts us with a mission to make the world better.  Most amazingly my faith is in a God who has faith in us,,,yep you and me.  Ain’t that crazy!

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I agree with the NRA

funny-gun-people-09I carefully read the response to the Newtown tragedy from Wayne LaPierre and the NRA.  Even as a gun owner, I felt a bit of revulsion upon my first reading.  As a Texas country boy, guns have always been a part of my everyday world.  We were taught to be careful but not afraid of guns.  I have enjoyed hunting and really get the connection between animals dying and me eating.  Occasionally I have even known the name of the primary contributor to my meal.

Still the idea of even more armament is a bit tough for me to accept.  I don’t like the idea of an escalating arms race trying to make sure the good guys have better weapons than the bad guys.  I am unsure there is any evidence that increasing guards really will reduce violence.  If we add that many new guards; will friendly fire, mistakes, misunderstanding, and bad intentions actually reduce or increase gun violence.  I am not sure.

3695I thought carefully about all of this before I decided that I completely agree with Mr. LaPierre.  As someone supporting him, there is one tiny thing that he seems to have neglected considering.  I have some help for him.

I think this new program may be expensive.  We all want the brightest and the best guards armed with the most lethal arms weapons that money can buy.  I figure about ten million a year per campus for 7X24X365 monitoring should do it.  The statistics that I saw indicate around 150,000 schools in the US with multiple locations we might get to 200,ooo, but who is quibbling?

I am confident that the NRA is ready, willing, and able to write that check to handle things.  Surely nothing is as important as the safety of children; except perhaps the second amendment rights of gun owners.  The NRA has an amazing fund raising machine; so I am sure there would be no problem.  If on the slight chance the NRA might decline, I have an alternate proposal.  Let’s just tax gun purchases to handle that expense.  This seems to me to be a win for everyone.  Guns for everyone, guards everywhere, and best of all a great solution for the economic doldrums!

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White Bread & Mayo

Cucumber_sandwiches_with_tea

White Bread Sandwich

In a blog post last week, I frustrated about the information overload that we all face.  I am especially concerned how Social Media seems to be a major contributor to the flood of stuff.  I am still not clear how to manage that, but I received a very helpful suggestion that frightened me.

Don Frederiksen hopes that automatic curation could solve our information overload.  The idea is that a software system could examine what I read and respond to; then provide me with only that kind of content.  Seems like  a great plan.  Figure out what I want to consume and give it to me.  I never see anything that I don’t want to see.  I never see anything that I disagree with…wait…there’s the rub.

I admit that I am suspicious that any system can figure me out.  I am weird and complicated and wonderful.  I have a bit of experience with Gmail trying to help.  I installed a lab app that promised to flag important messages for me.  That horrible experiment wasted a ton of time and seldom got anything right.

The disconcerting problem  relates back to my title.  Sometimes I really do like white bread and mayo but not every time.  Some days I enjoy being confronted and challenged.  I learn so much more from folks who disagree.  They question me and cause me to examine my beliefs.

I don’t like feeling swamped by all the messages coming at me, but I like even less the idea of something deciding what I should see.  Perhaps I underestimate the awesomeness of automatic curation.

What do you think?  Is the loss seeing diverse ideas a risk?  Is it worth it to pare the flood of data down to some reasonable rate?

Are we farther down this path than I suspect?  Isn’t this really what Google’s PageRank & Facebook’s OpenGraph are doing already?  And I thought Big Brother was going to be the government deciding everything for me.

Adultery…not that kind!

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Christmas Joy

A little kid who  just started the first grade, was asked to memorize the Ten Commandments.  Upon reciting the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” he was asked what does that mean?
With absolute seriousness he replied, “That means that you shouldn’t want to become an adult.”

I just got back from a community Christmas fair on the town square in my home town.  The last vehicle in the parade left the children breathless .  In a perfect metaphor for Angleton Texas, a mule drawn carriage delivering Santa Claus. Looking at the scene with my jaded, adult, citified eyes, I admit that I felt a bit envious of the excited kids running after the carriage.  OK not the one who stepped in the mule exhaust.  Even he will have a great story to tell in later years about stepping in Santa’s mules’ poo.

For us adults, Christmas becomes so stressful.  Spending too much on gifts with too little meaning.  Stressing over holiday plans and travel.  Worrying about how the extended family can survive our time together; while the kids just want to have fun…apologies to Cyndi Lauper.  Kids steadily seem to enjoy Christmas despite our adult efforts to make a complicated mess.

I wonder if this applies to more than just holiday stress.  I believe a more childlike approach to life would create some of that pure childish delight for each of us even today.

Robert Fulcrum says, All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten:

Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush.  Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.  When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

 

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