Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Duels, foot-binding and working moms.

Here are a couple of books I have been working on last week.I'll deal with the blue one first.

The War on Moms (subtitled On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation) by Sharon Lerner caught my eye because I am intimately acquainted with the struggles of moms and families in today's society. I had hoped it would deal with the pressures that families in general and moms in particular face as they deal with being, well, family.

Instead, the book came across to me as a rant and a complaint against the society that doesn't allow moms to make as much as someone who isn't raising children whilst still having all the time and resources necessary to raise said children.

I really do understand how difficult it is to raise and finance a family with all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect. But, I don't think that society owes everyone all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect, as the book seemed to suggest. In the book, Lerner advocated for federal regulations that ensure that moms all get the leave, commensurate salaries childcare, etc. that they deserve. If they do not, then we are failing moms.

The book is full of anecdotes of struggling moms, and I could list many more stories of moms struggling to make ends meet that I am personally aware of. One story, to me, was particularly telling.

One woman had come from a former Soviet Republic where she used to have to stand in line for bread every day. She was so happy to get to America, but became stressed out when she began to have to deal with health-care struggles. She said she expected this sort of thing in her country, but nor here in america (where there are no cats and the streets are paved with cheese).

I think this is the problem. We have come to expect that we can have whatever we want and if we can't get it ourselves, then the Government, meaning everyone else, damn well better make sure that I do get what I want.

It made me angry.

The next book, The Honor Code (subtitled "How Moral Revolutions Happen) is an interesting look at how society changes it's mind about some issues of morality. I thought this was interesting and would provide some good insights on some of the moral shifts that American culture is going through now.

The book looks at how society changed it's mind about Duels of Honor, Footbinding, Slavery and issues with Women. Interestingly enough, too great a part of the world (not to mention a growing part) still suppresses women and believes in "honor killings" and the like.

Here is an excellent paragraph from the New York Times summarizing what the author argued in this book:

“Whatever happened when these immoral practices ceased, it wasn’t, so it seemed to me, that people were bowled over by new moral arguments,” he writes. “Dueling was always murderous and irrational; foot binding was always painfully crippling; slavery was always an assault on the humanity of the slave.” What was needed in each of those cases, he suggests, was the awakening of a nation’s sense of honor, an awakening that caused people actually to act. Mr. Appiah writes well about how shame and ridicule, often delivered through a free press, have consistently been sharp moral motivators.

This book is very interesting and worth reading whether you want to have an overview of the history of dueling, foot binding and slavery, or if you want to look at how and why social mores change and to understand how and why many social mores are changing today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This one is primarily for the Church Folk:

I had just given one of my most powerful sermons at the church I started and led in California. It was about the importance of giving and tithing and how changing the way you give and the amount you give can radically change your life. I think people were challenged, motivated and maybe some were even a little frightened by this message.

After the message, we typically had a song or two of response, led by our "worship leader" or "music guy" or whatever title we decided was most appropriate. This week was the same.

Apparently he felt the message was too strong, or he was feeling a little guilty or he just didn't agree, because he jumped up and immediately started to redirect. Before doing the song of commitment to God, he started talking about his idea of how you could give.

You don't have to give your money to God. If you can't afford to give money right now, you can give him your time or some good hard work or a nice deed to the old lady down the street or just some happy thoughts and good vibrations. God loves happy thoughts and good vibrations.

Maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it was pretty close. He wasn't around for too long after that.

The fact of the matter is that ministry activity takes money. Pastors need to put a roof over their heads, Church buildings need heating and cooling, guitars need new strings, and the list goes on. This need for money is tied to the believer's call to give. Without giving, people's lives are not changed.

Yet, as a former Pastor supported by this system, I sometimes wonder if my view of giving was colored by the needs of the vision I had.

So, I am going to gather my resources and re-look at the topic of giving, tithing and finances for ministry. Perhaps my views will shift. Perhaps not.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lesson's Learned

******* Extra Credit if you can name the movie from the scene in the picture!!!********

I try to learn something from all my experiences and what not. Sometimes it's harder than others to codify and relate what I have learned. But, since I haven't said anything on here all week, I will attempt to share some lessons I might have learned from work last night.

1) If you mess up, you can usually undo your mistakes.

However, it might take time and energy that you really didn't want to spend to do it. For instance, if you drop your phone in the middle of nowhere, it can take hours of looking after working hours longer than you planned in the first place.

1.5) A sort of corollary to that:

If you are trying to track where you went and you are wearing the same footwear you had on when you originally made the tracks, it can be very difficult to follow those prints. If you lose the sign, it is very easy to follow the footprints you just made instead of the ones you made hours before and end up walking in circles.

I am not sure what the lesson is, but it is still difficult.

2) Mad schemes to turn a fast buck for the holidays are probably not a good idea.

Especially if they are illegal.

3) Every blessing in your life requires hard work.

The best things in life: family, good food and good clean fun
...like chasing bad guys that might be armed with your friends in the middle of the night through the desert for miles and miles until you catch them and help them face the consequences of their actions so they can move on to a productive life as contributing members of civilized society.....;
are not free and require more effort that it would take to not have or do those things. In the case of the latter, it might mean spending an extra 8 hours of work plus a few more hours stumbling around finding your phone (see lesson #1). But, the extra effort is usually worth it.

4) If you fall down, get back up and keep going.

It is part of the fun and all the extra dust looks cool.

5) If you keep going, you might just be successful.

If you keep chasing, you might catch, even when you are sure they have gotten away. If you keep looking, you might find, even if you are sure you don't have much chance of finding what you are looking for in the vast expanse and your inner voices keep telling you it is time to pack it in and that you really need some sleep.........

6) Chasing bad guys that might be armed with your friends in the middle of the night through the desert for miles and miles until you catch them and help them face the consequences of their actions so they can move on to a productive life as contributing members of civilized society.....really is a good way to spend your evening.

Even if the chances are that they will never learn from being held accountable and never improve their lives.

I could go on, but I won't. Hope you enjoyed!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I figured it out.

My lovely wife has always been a clever one. Sometimes she even makes it fun. By way of illustration, I think I will favor you with an anecdote. Here ya go:

One of our friends was doing the worship time for one of those big old christian music festivals and was putting together an album to go along with the festival fun. For some reason, he was short a bass player and was auditioning some guy out for the album or for touring or something like that.

We took the crew out to dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen at the Arden Fair Mall and were enjoying our Thai Chicken pizza, sesame ginger chicken dumplings and some stories from the boys in the band.

During dinner, someone happened to ask how old the new bass boy was. He told us he couldn't tell us. His reason was that he was a schoolteacher and was so young when he started playing that he was afraid that all the girls would fall for him. From our perspective, he didn't need to be concerned.

Diane, thinking this was a stupid reason not to tell us how old he was, thought she would have some fun. She turned to our friend and I and said, "Watch this."

Then, she started asking the bass guy about his teaching. Questions like, "How long have you been teaching?", "What subject do you teach?", and, clincher, "How young were you when you started teaching?".

The last question, of course, let us know how old the zip lipped bass player/teacher was and everyone else laughed at the poor guy.

To add insult to injury, I don't think he got the bass playing gig.

On the bright side, they are opening a new California Pizza Kitchen right here in Tucson, which helped me remember our time at that one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning from others.

"Boys, hold your horses, there are plenty of them down there for all of us."*
George A. Custer. June 25th,1876

I am sure we are all familiar with the story of George Custer and the 7th's last stand. He set out on a punitive campaign against the Souix nation and, instead of waiting for his superior officer and the rest of the army, he divided his forces and rode to glory on the hills near the Little Big Horn River in Montana.

Custer's concern seemed to be, primarily, that the Lakota would escape his grasp before he was able to ride his troops through their village and send them reeling. Custer was relying on his experiences, which told him that no Indian village could stand against the well disciplined and well armed forces of the U.S. Army. In the past, his superior tactics and weaponry had always carried the day as he stormed into villages or drove off marauding bands of braves.

Perhaps if, instead of relying merely on his experiences, he remembered what had happened to Capt. William Fetterman and his men ten years earlier, he may have been a bit more cautious. Fetterman (who may be a relative of mine), was convinced that, due to the superiority of the U.S. cavalry, he could ride through the whole Sioux nation with just 80 troopers.

Things didn't quite go as planned as he faced a bunch of Lakota warriors (including Crazy Horse, instrumental in organizing the battle at the Little Big Horn). Using the oldest trick in the book, Crazy Horse and a few others led Fetterman's command over a hill into a horde of marauding killers. These marauding killers killed every one of them. All 80 of them.

Maybe if Custer had remembered the lessons of the Fetterman Massacre that the angry nomads of the plains really could organize themselves into an effective fighting force and that it is not good to be woefully outnumbered and outmanuevered by people who want to kill you and mutilate your lifeless body, he would have been less eager to divide his forces and ride to his doom. Instead, he relied on his experiences, that told him he could charge a village, get the inhabitants panicked and kill most of them.

This reinforces my belief that it is always better to learn from the mistakes of others when you can.

* The Last Stand
Nathaniel Philbrick
pg. 164

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Is there anything to this?

With my new workout program carving out an average of an hour and a half to two hours each day, I have had a little less time to read and write. But, I recently ran across the book Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In this book, Richard Louv talks about how a lack of exposure to nature is having a detrimental affect on children.

I think it is intriguing to think that we are actually healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually when we develop in a way that connects us with the world that we were designed to live in.

Admittedly, I haven't actually read it yet, but it is in my reading cue. If I don't get to it right away, it is because I am taking the kids for a hike or tracking someone through the local desert areas.

Here is an excerpt regarding his work from a 2005 Salon.com story:

"In the not-so-distant past, kids ruled the country's woods and valleys -- running in packs, building secret forts and treehouses, hunting frogs and fish, playing hide-and-seek behind tall grasses. But in the last 30 years, says journalist Richard Louv, children of the digital age have become increasingly alienated from the natural world, with disastrous implications, not only for their physical fitness, but also for their long-term mental and spiritual heath.

In his new book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder," Louv argues that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally "scared children straight out of the woods and fields," while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors "safe" regimented sports over imaginative play. Well-meaning elementary school curricula may teach students everything there is to know about the Amazon rain forest's endangered species, but do little to encourage kids' personal relationship with the world outside their own doors. And advances in technology, while opening up a wealth of "virtual" experiences to the young, have made it easier and easier for children to spend less time outside"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I worked so hard......

Some election day fun. I'm going to vote after I get some lunch.

Monday, November 1, 2010


We define ourselves and our limitations based on our past failures.

We say, I can't do this, or I can't do that, or I am a this, or I am a that based on the mistakes we have made and our previously not meeting the goals that we either set for ourselves or others set for us.

I know people that are not physically fit to this day because they were not as athletic as some of the kids in grade school. When they realized that others were faster/stronger/more coordinated than them, they defined themselves as no athletic and decided not to take care of themselves physically for years to come.

Others have made mistakes in personal relationships, at work or in their studies and have decided to define themselves as not good with people, not a performer at work or as someone that can't do math or doesn't know history or not good with english.

It is easy to define ourselves based on our past failures. It is harder to look at a goal and realize that we can reach it, we can be a top performer, we can solve math equations, but that doing it will require hard work and dedication.

Take a look at what defines your life. Is it based on your past failures or the things you intend on accomplishing?