Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Junk

When it comes to God's creation of the human race--God's children--there was and is no junk ever created.  How could there be?  The scriptures tell us that all of humanity was created in the image of God.  God even gave it the thumbs up and said that it was "good."  There is no junk in God's creation especially when it comes to you and me.  And, yet, if one is to believe the world, there is junk all around us--there is junk everywhere!  At least that is what one would suspect from the way the human race treats itself.  I just don't understand it because over and over again I hear people spouting off, "I know I'm somebody 'cause God don't make no junk!!"

I do not believe that God created any junk . . . especially when it comes to the human race.  I know that this belief may be one that others do not believe, but I cannot believe that any individual person would be considered junk in the eyes of God.  I imagine that there are those who will disagree with me on this one, and give to me a litany of worthless junk from the ranks of the human race . . . a litany that would include one's gender, race, education, financial being, religion, ability or disability to name a few.  Name them all . . . stack them up, I do not care because in the eyes of God all God's children are valued, loved, and desired by God.  There is something good and intrinsically valuable in each and every human being created by God.

I present to you Patrick Henry Hughes--a person many would have considered to be junk because he was born with not one disability, but two--he was born blind and with crippling genetic disorder.  Not one strike, but two.  Any parent would tell you that life with any children can be challenging and demanding, but for the parent of a child with a disability . . . well, it can be overwhelming and frustrating to the point that one wants to give up.  Sadly, no one would argue.  Yet, there is value and worth in each and every individual no matter how decrepit the world may view him or her.  The story of Patrick Henry Hughes proves that there is no junk in the eyes of God.  Watch--and listen--for yourself:

Then there are the two guys from Vermont who have embarked on an international campaign to show the world that people with disabilities are no different than any one else--they desire to be loved and accepted for who they are in God's eyes.  Larry Bissonettte--artist, advocate, and blogger--and Tracey Thresher--advocate and blogger--have autism.  Thanks to the computer they have found a voice and a powerful voice it is.  The two of them and their campaign is caught in the movie Wretches & Jabberers.  Here is the official trailer for this movie:

You can read more about them and their talents at the  Wretches & Jabberers official website at http://www.wretchesandjabberers.org/index.php.  At this site you will find links to both of their blogs.  It is well worth the time and effort to explore the lives of these two men--there is no junk here.

God makes no junk.  This only begins to scratch the surface of the value of those humans that others devalue and consider junk.  My last presentation against that argument is that of the website sproutflix which subtitles it sight with the goal of "making the invisible visible."  I challenge you to take a few minutes and watch the short video on sproutflix's homepage called Dreams.  You can watch it at http://sproutflix.org/.  Find and show me the junk . . . you can't.

As I stated, God makes no junk.  This is only the beginning of challenging the world's perceptions of junk . . . this only scratches the surface of what God's children are called to combat in order to fulfill the commandment to "love one another."  It is a matter of value . . . there is no junk in God's eyes.  God loves us for who God created us to be . . . so why can't we?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everybody Loves a Little Ethic

Like any one else, I like ethnic food every so often.  So when I received my annual letter of standing for the ministry from the Commission on Ministry stating that I was granted a "provisional" standing until I completed a six-hour class on ethnics, I thought what the heck!  I can handle nibbling on some ethnic food for six hours.  Then the wife explained to me that it had nothing to do with ethnic food, but ETHICS!  I needed ethics, not ethnics . . . it put a whole different spin on the topic.

Well, I want everyone to know that I successfully completed my course on ethics--ministerial ethics, to be precise--this afternoon at 4:00PM, Mountain Standard Time, through a workshop offered by the American Baptist Church of the Northwest.  This day-and-a-half workshop taught me everything and anything that I either wanted to know or not wanted to know about ethics.  Apparently we minister-types need to do this sort of continuing education on a regular basis as we--of all people--should be considered to a highly ethical group.  I have ethics, but apparently they are not the sort of ethics most people appreciate--and perhaps, not the sort that congregations appreciate.  After the completion of this course I am full of ethics--they are dripping out of my ears!

As I stated, I thought I had a pretty good set of ethics already.  For example, I would never ever park in a handicap parking space no matter how much of a blizzard was raging outside of the local bakery and I am craving a bagel.  That is too far to run . . . I'd pull up in the no loading zone and run in quickly after I put my "Clergy" sign in the window.  Nor would I ever think of calling the idiot in the car who just cut me off on the interstate a dirty name--nope, I'd just use sign language.  Neither would I try to short change the church and Internal Revenue Service by asking the church treasurer to cash a check for me out of Sunday's offering and then reporting it as a contribution to the IRS.  Shoot, no!  I have some ethics!  Now I have even more!

With my new found ethics that are just oozing out of my pores I thought that this might be the time that I get into politics.  I couldn't do any worse than any of the Republican candidates running.  Then I found out that to be a politician a person shouldn't really have any ethics.  Learned that most politicians are more into "ethnic" than "ethic".  I should have thought of that a couple of days ago before I took the ethics course.  Seems I'm always a day late and a dollar short.  I have way too many ethics to ever be a politician, but if the pope ever retires . . . watch out!

   I learned that ethics deals with relationships.  Relationships with people, congregations, organizations, finances, technology, the opposite sex, sex, physical/mental/spiritual health, and a variety of other topics.  The key to any relationship is in balance that treats the "other" and the "self" with respect and well-being.  Basically it comes down to treating others as one would want to be treated--or, if you want to use the Baptist perspective shared by the leaders of this workshop, it is treating others as Jesus has treated us.  The problem is that it all boils down to relationships . . . relationships create stress . . . stress is not good.  Stress is not good because it makes us do unethical things.  In my mind, then, to avoid stress and doing unethical things we should all avoid relationships.  That is difficult when one is in the ministry.  Ministry involves relationships . . . so, I guess it is a good thing that they require us clergy to take these ethics courses every so often.

But there has to be an easier way to gain some ethics . . . an easier way to build one's moral fiber.  Some way to get that daily requirement of moral fiber . . . something they could box up and dish out on a routine basis.  According to my Baptist friends they call that the "scriptures" . . . still . . . 

 . . . this would be a lot easier!  Oh well, I passed the course, got the certificate, and I am good for another three years!  Now I can focus on ethnic food.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
According to statistics the average person spends approximately 4.1 years in a job.  With this the average person will work seven to ten different jobs over a lifetime.  Having already reached and passed the half-way point in life (50 years old, if you were wondering), I figure I am way behind on meeting the average requirement at this point.  I'm only thirty percent of the way there and unless I work and switch jobs at least seven more times by the time I am 80 years old--I'm not going make the average!  Yet, at the same time, the way that our nation's retirement plan (Social Security) keeps upping the retirement age, I figure I have a pretty good shot at making the average.  I've got about 26 years to accomplish this!  It is going to be close!

Since jumping into the full-time work force I have basically spent the majority of the past 30-plus years as a minister.  In 2013 it will have been 30 years that I have served as a minister.  Here and there I did dabble in a few other occupations--primarily mental health counseling as a Certified Professional Counselor for a few years and now as a program coordinator for the Montana Center on Disabilities at Montana State University Billings.  I still am working in a small rural church too.  As you can see I am way, way behind the average on this one and it has got me concerned--what is a middle-aged guy, with little experience outside of the religion going to do?

Well, thanks to a recent story by CNBC and reported by MSN.com I do have some choices.  The story listed ten of the best possible careers for people to start after the age of 55.  TEN!  There is still hope for me yet.  I figure that if I pick out at least seven of the jobs--work them for a couple of years--I can become just like everyone else.  The only problem . . . well, it was the jobs that they listed.

Each of the jobs/careers that the story listed were prefaced with the fact that those over the age of fifty have several things going for them that make them desirable for these specific jobs/careers.  People over the age of fifty are wise, stable, dependable, and have experience in life.  I guess they don't know any of my friends . . . but it is nice to be considered those things just because there is a little grey in the hair. 

Here is the list of jobs: (1) Career Coach--I guess if I am in my fifties, in my seventh or eighth career, I should be able to help someone else keep a career.  Yeah, that is the sort of person I want helping me get a career--a job-hopper.  Outside of the ministry I don't think I can be of much help with this one.  Besides, it sounds like a job where I would have to wear a suit and tie--yuck!  (2) Medical Assistant--yeah right, needles scare me . . . blood doesn't thrill me . . . and I look stupid in scrubs.  Nope, that one is off the list too.  (3) Custom Garment Maker: If it isn't a tee shirt and jeans, or a sweat shirt and jeans--solid colors--no fashion sense--no flare, which pretty much describes my wardrobe, it ain't going to happen.  It is another job that involves needles too and I have this nightmare about getting my hand stuck in the sewing machine.  Nope, another one bites the dust!

(4) Assisted Living Facility Professional: Yeah, right!  My children are already planning to put me in one of those facilities next year!  Why in the world would I want to assist someone else in living his or her life when I have a difficult time living my own life.  Maybe my children are right--I'm the one who needs assistance!  Mark that one off the list.  (5) Financial Advisor: Have you seen my finances?  Enough said--mark that one off the list.  A person doesn't make much off of keeping his money under the mattress and I should know.  (6) Tour Guide: Hmmmm . . . this one sounded like it had potential until I figured out that it was a expensive day care for those who afford to take fancy trips to far away exotic places.  I raised my children once and I sure do not want to do it again with a bunch of middle-aged adults re-living spring break.

Now, number seven sounded like it could be fun . . . (7) Private Investigator: I have been told that I can be a bit nosy from time to time--a skill I imagine would be necessary to be a good "private eye".  I would probably be able to endure wearing a crumbled suit and helping mysterious desperate women needing assistance.  Yet, I don't think the wife would go for that one, so it is probably out of the mix too.  But, I have been called a "dick" once or twice and that is half-way there to being a private investigator.  (8) Sustainability Coordinator: Since I did not even know what a Sustainability Coordinator is . . . nor have I ever "sustained" much of anything . . . and I am definitely not "coordinated" in any manner of the word . . . yeah, you got it--off the list!

(9) Ghostwriter: I like writing, but I don't really care to corner myself with one topic like "ghosts"--oh, never mind!  To be a ghost writer one has to be willing to let someone else take the credit for work that he or she does.  If I'm going to do the work, I'm going to take the credit and the BIG paycheck.  If you have heard or read one of my sermons you probably understand why I am not a professional writer.  Hey, come on!  I only have 13 followers of this blog--writing?  I don't think so!  Mark that one off the list!  And, (10) Home Care Assistant: See number four--same old, same old.  Ain't going to happen.

As you can see, it looks kind of bleak for me when it comes to being "average" by the time I reach retirement.  If there is nothing on the "top ten" list of potential careers for those over fifty that I am willing or able to do--what am I going to do?  When my father retired from a career in the Air Force he wanted to have one of those jobs mowing lawns on a base somewhere where the grass stays green all year long.  I didn't see that listed on the CNBC list.  So what am I going to do? 

Someone created a chart about what is on the minds of most 50 year old men.  Having looked at it it made sense to me.  According to the chart, only ten percent of the time is about work--apparently sleep is the most important thought men have after the age of fifty. Here is the chart:

What do you think?  Maybe I should quit worrying about future careers and worry about whether or not I will have any hair on my head to replace that hair that has migrated to other parts of my body--usually parts of the body one does not want extra hair.  Places like the ears and back.  Maybe I should spend more time worrying about my bodily functions--a little extra fiber should take care of that.  Maybe I should just follow the suggestions in the chart and just quit worrying about it.

Yeah, that is what I should do--quit worrying about it.  I should just focus on what I have right now.  The university work is good and for the most part I enjoy it.  The ministry is where I have spent most of my life and I enjoy it.  Don't know much else.  So I think I will just stick to what I have, enjoy the ride, and see how far I get down the road.  In the meantime, I will keep my eyes open for a job doing lawns on a riding mower.  As ol' Tennessee Ernie Ford used to sing: "Another day older and deeper in debt."  I understand that--been doing that most of my life!  Sing it, Ernie!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Who Will Sing for Me?

Yogi Berra, one of the world's greatest philosophers--and not a bad catcher in his time,  once said: "You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't come to yours."  I have now been a minister for nearly 30 years now and in that time I have probably done hundreds of funerals.  I have always been there for people whenever there has been a death and have celebrated countless lives that were shared.  It is a rewarding part of my calling and a privilege to share such an intimate part of any family's journey.  But, it has often made me wonder about my own death and who would actually be there for me when my time comes to "cash in the chips."

One of my favorite old Appalachian songs--made famous by the Stanley Brothers--is the gospel tune Who Will Sing for Me?  This song is the story about a singer who sings for all the funerals in his or her community.  Then one day the singer comes to the realization that if something happens to him or her, who would sing for him or her?  This thought has crossed my mind or two over the years--and with more and more funerals of family and close friends . . . well, I wonder, who will sing for me?  The musical question as posed by the Stanley Brothers:

Often I sing for my friends
At death's cold hand I see
When I reach my journey's end
Who will sing for me

I wonder (I wonder) who
Will sing (will sing) for me
When I come the cross
of that silent sea
Who will sing for me

When crowds shall gather round
And look down on me
Will they turn and walk away
Or will they sing one song for me

So I'll sing til the end
Contented I will be
Assured that some friends
Will sing one song for me

Well, I guess in the end it really doesn't matter--I won't be there for the festivities anyways.  But I think it is human nature to wonder what sort of a funeral one will have whenever he or she finally kicks the bucket.  Don't you ever wonder what it will be like when you finally die?  

I imagine that there will be someone who steps up and agrees to put the final touches on everything and anything that was John Keener.  I only hope and pray that it will be someone who will take the time to really get to know me through those family members and friends who have been left behind--otherwise it might be a pretty dull service.  I think whatever anyone has to say about me needs to have that sense of wisdom that comes from one who was a wiseguy--a kidder--and enjoyed laughing at the irony of life.  Yet, at the same time I think it needs to be someone who can also convey the passion and fire I had for the things that I believed in. There has got to be a lot of laughter and music--some micro brews and wine--and lots of corny jokes and stories.  It needs to be a party.  Yeah, a party.  Is there anyone out there who thinks they can do me justice?

I hope so.

In the movie The Big Chill I loved how it opened with the long-time friends gathering to bury one of their friends.  (Ten points for anyone who could name the actor who portrayed the dead friend.)  I loved that when everyone was processing out of the church the organist broke out a rock and roll song--do you remember what the song was?  (Ten more points if you can name the song and the artists.)  That movie--minus all of the psychological meandering--is how I would want my life celebrated.  Here is a clue to help you:

A celebration . . . yeah, that would be good.  I will never really know who will sing for me on that day when it comes, but I am sure someone will.  My hope--my dream--is that it will be a celebration.  Yeah, I agree with Yogi, the reason I go to funerals in hope that others will come to mine!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quit Hollerin' at Me!

Joseph Campbell stated that an individual could determine what was of the most value in a community by looking at its buildings--the bigger the building the more value that entity had within the community.  He stated that when communities were first being established the church was the biggest building in the community.  After a while the church was dwarfed by city hall.  Then, eventually, both the church and the city hall were dwarfed by the financial institutions like the bank.  He said one of the best examples of this is to look at the skyline of Salt Lake City.  Surprisingly, he is right. 

Since reading this theory I have taken it one step further and brought it down to the home.  My theory is that an individual can determine what is the most valuable in any home by looking for what is the biggest thing in the home.  Typically it is the television.  The television has become the center of the home and of most family life.  Over the years the television has taken up more and more time and space in the homes and lives of people.  Television has taken up more and more time in the lives of people--it seems to be on in a lot of peoples' lives.

I have never been really big on television--at least not in the past decade or two.  I find television to be insulting to my intelligence.  Most television is written at a sixth grade level--a sort of universal design for the human race.  Most of us can understand things written at the sixth grade level--not real challenging.  I also find television to be insulting to the human race and its intelligence when it relies upon rude, crude, and insulting humor at the expense of people to get their laughs.  But the biggest reason I don't spend more than an hour (outside of the college football season when my beloved University of Nebraska Cornhuskers are playing) is because I am tired of being yelled at.  The television yells at me all of the time!

Most of us probably know--or at least we should be able to determine it--that commercials are cranked up when it comes to their volume on our televisions.  Advertisers crank up the volume to grab our attention to sell their products.  They are shouting and hollering at us.  They yell at us to buy their shampoo, toothpaste, cars, electronic devices, cell phones, and every other imaginable product that could be hawked over the airwaves. 

Well, I for one, am tired of being hollered at!

I don't want to buy a new car.  I don't want to switch shampoo in order to have longer, stronger, and more luxerious hair--heck, I just want some hair!  And, no, I do not want your product that promises to grow more hair on my head!  I do not want a product to make my teeth whiter and brighter.  Neither do I want something that will thin the ol' waistline, burn the fat, and give me a six pack ab--the only six pack I want is of the newest micro brew.  Nor do I want to be enticed to go to the latest and greatest movie release when I just saw the best parts of it in the trailer.  I do not want to get rich quick, attract the opposite sex, or discover help when I have fallen down.  I do not need a lawyer to sue the guy who cut me off on the interstate.  So, I just the hollerin' at me to stop.  I am not some imbecile who has to put up with the latest and greatest slapstick routine to get my attention.  I don't need any more pies in my face--especially from my television.

I think singer/songwriter John Prine says it best in his song Quit Hollerin' at Me.  Listen to what he has to say:
So it was years ago that I decided to just quit watching television.  Oh, yeah, I watch a little television here and there, but for the most part I have my television watching down to about an hour a week.  True, I walk around with a smug smirk on my face thinking I am better than everyone else because I am not sitting around watching the boob tube and getting hollered at . . . but it is nice to not have to listen to a lot of garbage being screamed into my ears.  I always listen to people complain about how terrible this show or that show is on television--how stupid the commercials are--and am amazed at how they sit there and watch it.  If you don't like something, turn it off.  Quit watching it.  I'm glad I did because about fifty percent of the voices I heard yelling at me are gone.  Now if I could only find a way to stop the hollerin' at work . . . on the commute . . .

. . . how does one turn the volume down on life?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not Your Parent's Church . . . A Place to Begin

Remember the children's rhyme?  This is the church, this is its steeple, open the doors, and see all the people.  It was a simple little rhyme used to teach children about church and what church is suppose to be about--people.  That little rhyme has been floating around in my mind for a little over a week after I received a request to write some memories about my time as a pastor at a little rural church I served in Nebraska.  I was asked to share my memories because the church closed its doors as a church for the last time on December 19th, 2011.  After nearly a hundred years as a faithful witness to its community the church closed its doors as it had grown too small as a congregation.  My ministry in the history of that church was barely a blip on its timeline, but I was honored to be asked to share.

Well, this blog isn't about that little rural church shutting its doors.  This is not an exceptional story as it is happening more and more often in rural areas of our nation--little churches are closing their doors as fewer and fewer people live in rural areas.  This blog is not about the demise of rural churches or even rural communities . . . it is about the fact that the "church" is changing and in more ways than one, churches are shutting their doors at an alarming rate due to these changes.  The "church" is no longer the "church" of our grandparents or even our parents--the "church" is changing and it is changing quicker than most of us are comfortable with.  There is a revolution taking place and as Bob Dylan used to sing, "The times they are a changin'."

Having served as a minister for nearly 30 years I can honestly state that the "church" I serve in today is not the "church" I was sold when I entered the ministry.  A lot has changed--some for the good, some for the bad--at least in my estimation.  This movement of change has come in many names--the Emergent Church, the Missional Church, and Transformational, to name a few.  Whatever it is called it is change for those of us who are clinging onto the model of "church" we grew up with from our parents and grandparents.  And, change scares us--no one likes change, especially when he or she is not ready for change.  Gone are the days when the heyday of the "church" was focused on programs built within the church to attract people to their saving grace.  Gone are the days when the majority of the concern and focus was within the walls of the church for those who were "members"--the club model--while everyone else had to acclimate themselves into the membership.  Gone is much of the rote ritual of the past in which no one really knows why they are doing what they are doing other than "that's the way we've always done it."  Those seven words have often be called the last seven words of the church.  I started in one "church" and am now being confronted with another "church", and like many of my generation and older I can honestly say that it is scary to be confronted with such change.

Now this blog is not some scholarly or theologically significant argument one way or the other about this changing "church" for I am not particularly a scholar or a theologian--I more of a wise guy with a lot of questions willing to consider all sides of the question or issue.  The fact is that the "church" I was trained to serve, the "church" of my parents and grandparents, is no longer working for the world in which I live.  It is struggling and statistics show its struggles--the mainline denominations can't slow the flow out the back door to save their lives.  At this rate, someone once told me, the "church" as I know it will no longer exist by the time I reach retirement.  (Retirement, now that is debatable as to win that will happen!  With the current rate of economy and the government constantly raising the age to retire, it could be another 20 to 30 years before I retire.  I'll probably die before I get to retire.)  News like that kind makes one have to sit up and notice.

  No, this is not a blog arguing one way or another, but one that is honestly saying that God doesn't mind if I ask a few questions --actually, a lot of questions.  Isn't that a sound biblical practice--didn't the generations before us ask questions when they did not quite know where they were being led?  Sure sounds like it when they were wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years.  Sounds like it when they were sitting in captivity in a strange land wondering how in the world they ever got themselves into that predicament.  Sounds like it when the so-called "church" was just starting out with anybody and everybody expressing his or her opinion about what they thought Jesus meant.  In actuality this is not the first revolution the "church" has experienced--there have been many over the generations.  Why would any of us think that our present form--the form of our parents and grandparents--is the final, definitive form?  Shoot, I thought God wanted us to keep growing until we become what God wants us to become.  So, if it isn't working shouldn't we be asking questions about why and how--why doesn't it work?  How can we change it to make it work?  I don't know, that might be too simple and way too much common sense.

The Spirit blows wherever it wants . . . it leads wherever it wants . . . it is not stagnant or unmoving.  It is alive and pushing towards growth.  I know that the new model of "church" is one that wants to live in the Spirit of God and to be a presence in the world--not a presence in a building.  In this I find the change in the "church" exciting when it speaks of empowering people to follow God's will in their lives--not in a building or among a select group--for the good of the world in which they live their lives daily.  And, at the same time, I understand the necessary support that is found in a church--to love and support one another in the journey of faith.  This is found as people gather to praise God, break the bread, and pray together with one another each Sunday morning--it is community.  Community--a word I have always defined as "people gathered in their common unity."  The "common unity" is not in a building or program--it is not in a doctrine or ritual, it is in the love of God.  Jesus showed us the way.

The point of the children's rhyme is that it is the "people" that make the church--not the building, not the doctrine, not the rituals, but the people.  All of the people.  I doubt seriously that the many, many pictures that portray Jesus even come close to what Jesus really looked like--probably far from it.  I cannot say what Jesus looked liked, but . . . I have a theory.  The theory is simple and is based on the fact that the Bible tells us that we are all created in the image of God--all of us!  If this is true, I think that we should be able to take snap shots of all of humanity--from the beginning to now, slap them together in a wonderful mosaic and we would begin to see the image of Christ.  And, the "church" is meant to be the body of Christ in the world.  It is the people.

I don't have any of the answers, but I have a lot of questions.  I am sure that every one out there has a lot of questions.  Maybe we ought to sit down, break the bread, lift the cup, and have a conversation about what it means to be "church".  At least it is place to begin . . . here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Facebook Hell

Several years ago my children convinced me to use Facebook.  They said that I needed to get with the "times" and that it was an easy way to keep up with them--they later told me that that was "creeping", but that they didn't mind since I was their father.  Primarily I use Facebook as a place to post my pictures, keep in touch with my children and friends, and as a means of keeping the local church abreast of things happening in the church.  For the most part I do not post too often because I like keeping my private life private--a quirk of being an introvert. 

 For the most part, Facebook is no big deal--a tool to be used and used carefully.  As we all know, there are no free things in life--everything has a price whether it is written or unwritten there is going to be a cost.  That is true with Facebook . . . though no one pays anything to belong to and use Facebook, there is a cost that comes with it.  This cost, as I have discovered, is what I call "Facebook Hell."  It is what I have to pay for posting my pictures and creeping on my children.  Once you enter it you cannot escape it no matter how much you attempt to block, delete, and ignore it--it is always there!  Always!

One part of Facebook Hell is those constant quizzes that keep showing up on my wall.  Primarily quizzes that my so-called friends have taken.  Quizzes to know what sort of fruit one is, what movie or cartoon character one is, when one is going to die, and so on and so forth.  All these quizzes come with invitations to "take their quiz and find out."  Well, I never did like taking quizzes when I was in school and several decades later I still don't.  I do not care what kind of fruit I am, nor do I care which cartoon character I resemble.  I do not care when I am going to die.  I just don't care and I really don't care for all of the silly Facebook quizzes that keep popping up on my walls inviting me to discover something about myself.  Which brings me to my least favorite quiz . . . "Your friend answered a question about you--do you want to know what they said?"  Really?  No, I do not care.  If they were my friend they would have already told me without publicizing it to the whole world.  Besides, I check and most of them were wrong.

Another part of Facebook Hell are the seemingly millions of games people are playing.  These addictive, time consuming games are everywhere on Facebook and appearing on my wall inviting me to join in.  Now, I am a competitive individual--I like to win, especially when it comes to human created games for the computer or some sort of gaming station.  I figure that if a human created it, a human should be able to break it.  Ha!  Silly me.  I have found these "games" to be frustrating and unbeatable because I am not willing to invest enough time to win--I'd rather be outside enjoying God's creation and interacting with real people.  Besides, I get enough game playing just walking through life every day with the rest of the human race.  So, please do not invite me to be a part of your hit team in Mafia Wars or to ship you a herd of sheep for your farm.  Because, frankly:

Add to Facebook Hell the constant bombardment I receive on my wall from well-intentioned friends and family members wanting me to "re-post" something that they have put upon their wall.  Typically these requests for re-posting have to do with one's patriotism, faith, love of family and children, or some specific cause, organization, or ideology.  These always come with such statistics such as "97% of those on Facebook won't have the guts to re-post this" as some sort of challenge to one's pride--a negative means that I do not care for.  If I want to be shamed into re-posting something I'll just look in the mirror--I don't need anyone's help in the shame department.  For those of you wanting to know, I rarely--if ever, re-post.  I love my country and consider myself a patriot whether I re-post or not.  I am a person of deep faith and do not need to re-post something on my wall to prove it to anyone else--God knows.  I love my family, appreciate my siblings, worship the group my children walk on, and believe in certain causes, support certain organizations, and even make donations--BUT, if you want to know, ask me.  Don't try to shame me into re-posting something--it won't work.

Lastly, the worse part of Facebook Hell is the advertisements.  Apparently Facebook has the means to track the sites I visit and armed with this knowledge they like to put up all sorts of advertisements on my wall.  So far I have been flooded with advertisements for cartoon strips, newspapers, micro brews, and ointments for hemorrhoids.  The AARP is another one that I get bombarded with . . . guess I am getting older.  I guess I can't fault Facebook for doing this, but using my private browsing habits is really intrusive especially since I am such an introvert.  I really did not care for anyone to know about that hemorrhoid problem.  I imagine they have to make some money somehow, but from what I understand they are raking it in faster than they can deposit it in the bank.  Maybe, if they would send me a chunk of those profits I might actually read the advertisements . . . might even be able to afford a little Preparation H!

Well, that is my rant about Facebook Hell.  It does exist.  You know it does.  I have heard countless others moan and groan, whine and complain about all of these things after they got onto Facebook.  It is lamenting of biblical proportions.  But, hey!  That is the cost of getting a "free"social networking site in one's life.  There is hell to be paid.  And, so, I leave you with this . . .

You can't escape Facebook or its Hell.  It is everywhere!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For What It's Worth

"Really?  It's just a piece of cardboard."

That was the response I received from the wife years ago when I proudly showed her the first baseball I had invested in--"It's just a piece of cardboard."  Cardboard is of no value and she could not understand how it could be a valuable investment--in her eyes it was worth pretty much next to nothing.  In my eyes it was a valuable asset pointing to an easy retirement--where she saw pennies, I saw dollar signs.  There was a definite conflict in values.  So what was that first baseball card that I ever invested in worth?  In all honesty . . . whatever someone is willing to pay me for it.  Outside of the fanatical circle of baseball card collectors it probably isn't worth much at all, but within it--where these cards are valued--it could be worth quite a bit.  Rest assured, though, I long ago gave up on the idea of retiring off of my baseball collection.  Maybe, and this is a big maybe, my great-great-great grandchildren might be able to find some major windfall well after I have left this great planet.

But this is not about baseball cards, this is about "value".  In particular, it is about the value that we humans place on things, and more importantly upon other human beings.  The way that we "value" things and people often dictates the way that we treat these things and people.  The more we "value" something or someone, the better they are treated.  Since the wife did not value my baseball cards she had saw no problem giving the kids a few cards and clothes pins to make noise makers for their bikes.  I still cringe when I think of hearing the "thump. thump, thump" of a Nolan Ryan baseball card against the spokes of one of the kids' bikes.  The more value--the better they are treated; the less value--the lousier they are treated.  Proven fact.

Typically most of our "values" are determined for us by the society and culture that we live in, thus "values" can be different from society to society and culture to culture.  The best way to determine what a society's or culture's "values" one only has to turn to mass media.  Mass media--television, movies, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and so on--pounds us with they assume are the society or culture "values".  Think about it for a minute, walk over to your television, watch an hour worth's of commercials, and tell me what you see that is portrayed as "valuable" in our society and culture.  Here are a few hints: wealth, health, youth, beauty, athleticism, technology, and the list could go on and on.  You didn't see any over-weight, poor, old people in those commercials did you?  What about on the shows?  So, what do you think is "valued" in our society or culture?

Anything that does not meet the criteria of "value" within a society or culture is then "devalued".  Since these things and people are "devalued" they are treated differently--usually they are treated with disdain or indifference to downright violence.  Often they are ignored and pushed out towards the outer boundaries of a society or culture.  They are not made to feel included and they are not included.  It pretty much sucks to be "devalued".  And, guess what!  We are all guilty of it.  We are all guilty of "devaluing others and things in our lives.  We do it consciously and unconsciously.  It is not an exclusive party that we are all involved in when it comes to "devaluing"--we all do it.

Which is a shame in my estimation.  Which is a shame when I profess, as many in our society and culture do, that I am a follower of Jesus.  That Jesus who told us to love our neighbors--meaning all of God's children who are created in God's image (of which we all are). It is a shame because we do not do this very well.  All we have to do is to look around how we treat "the least of these".  Poor people are not treated well.  The elderly are not treated well.  People not of our race or culture or nation are not treated well.  People with different sexual orientations than ours are not treated well.  People with disabilities are not treated well.  People who are different than us are not treated well.  It is scary how poorly we treat one another.  That Jesus--whom I follow--told all of us that we should love those neighbors as we love ourselves.  I look around the world and shudder at how well we love one another--seems that we really do not love ourselves too much based on this behavior.

This idea of "valuation" is an issue with me--it is something I believe in deeply and feel a great pull towards in my life as I witness the devaluation that is taking place all around me.  This is a great injustice and a slap in God's face when we cannot love one another as God has loved us--especially the "least among us".  If we love God . . . if we are all created in the image of God as the scriptures say . . . how can we not love one another?  How can we not love everyone?  How can we not value another no matter how different he or she might be from us?  That Jesus guy I followed did not say that he came to only save the few, but that he came for everyone.

I am not talking about baseball cards here--I am talking about how we "value", how we love the people in God's creation.  The current state of our society and culture is scary as we become more polarized and antagonistic--there is a lot of devaluation going around and it can get worse.  It was not that long ago that the world witnessed devaluation at its worse--the memorials stand all over Europe to remind us.  The place was Germany through the mid to late 1930s on through the end of the second world war.  Remember this little poem by Martin Niemöller?

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Add to that group that were exterminated: the disabled, the Gypsies, people of other races and nationalities, and any one that did not meet the "value" of Hitler's "perfect race".  It was not that long ago.

"Value" is in the eye of the beholder.  My "beholder" is God.  I think I (and all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus) need to work on my eye sight a little harder.