Not In My Back Yard…..

‘And, Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?  For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.  David, therefore himself calleth him Lord, and whence is he than his son?  And the common people heard him gladly.  And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, for a presence make long prayers: these shall receive the greater damnation.  And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and behold how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast much.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:  For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even her living.’    Mark 12: 35 – 44  KJV

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Could it be that we all want to hear about the homeless being helped and fed and clothed and receiving shelter…but not in our neighborhood?

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Elder, Jane Swanson, delivered a compelling sermon this morning at our church.

Among the points of her message was the self satisfied belief that we are among the blessed…while the less fortunate are not.

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She discussed the tension that surrounds reaching out to the poor and homeless and hungry…that was demonstrated in both the creation of a warming center in Carbondale and a breakfast program that our church is engaged in on Wednesday mornings.

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It seems that everyone wants to hear that the poor are being helped…as long as it is not in their line of site?

A homeless woman, who has often attend our church, and who I have spoken to on more than one occasion, and who asked me if I was a rabbi…was standing in front of Schnucks Supermarket.  She was looking away from me…so I waited to say hello to her, once, she had turned my way.  When we made eye contact I said hi…to which she responded for me, ‘to f— myself!’

I was startled..but I was not offended, as I realized that she probably did not recognize me…or felt threatened.

Talking about helping the homeless and helping the homeless…is two different things.  It is not for the faint of heart or thin skinned!

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We are comfortable sitting in our church pews among our friends and fellow congregants, of many years, there is no challenge to attending Sunday morning service…and we are not looking for any!

We seek those of our economic strata and similar belief systems…

We proclaim God’s blessings on our lives…as if we have done some good work or deed to have earned our comfortable existence…a point system?

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In reality we are the recipients of God’s extreme grace and mercy…and have earned nothing…and could slide into poverty and degradation with, one, or more life reversals!

Do we pray…lengthy prayers to be heard and applauded by men…while our homeless brothers and sisters proclaim…God save me…a sinner!

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Winter…In Southern Illinois…Changes Daily!

I love weather!

My son, Jonathon, often comments that I am into weather in all of it’s forms!

One byproduct of global warming is a, continuous, change in weather!

Yesterday it was in the mid 50s’…while today it is in the 20s’…and sleeting and snowing!

IMG_3615 3The seasons remind me of life!

Truly, the winter makes me think, today, of the loss of my friends… of their young daughter.

Friendship is, extremely, important to me.  I have a friend who has undergone some significant health concerns, over the past few months, and I think of her and, my good friend, her husband, daily!

IMG_3613 2For months we have been wrestling and worrying regarding my wife’s physical condition…and I am grateful that everything has turned out good!

IMG_3609 3When we are young, and as a tree, full of sap…we feel that this thing called life…will never end…but that would be…believing in a myth!

We should arise from our chairs and hug and kiss the people that we care about and tell them that we love them…and tell them what we love about them!

IMG_3642 2‘It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.’   is a quote by Winston Churchill…that can be applied to…life!

IMG_3641 2‘Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before his judgment seat;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last…’…..C.T. Studd

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All to often we live from day to day believing that nothing will change…and our loved ones will be there for our purposes…rather it be….a closer bonding…or an apology…or a reconciliation…or and opportunity to know and understand each other…more fully!

We know that, tomorrow, will be just the day to accomplish the mending of the tears in the net of our relationships.  We know that our loved one is just a telephone call away…or, perhaps, is in the next room………

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My mom died of Alzheimer’s disease.  It was a, long, progressive disease.  Her mind had slipped away…before I could, properly, express…my love and appreciation for her!

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Do not wait!

Loss…

I was shocked, last evening, to read on Facebook that two of Mary Jane and my, old friends, had lost their, young, daughter…suddenly.

Our friends, and us…attended church together…over 30 years ago.  They are precious and sincere people…the kind of human beings that you are proud to call your friends!

Of course, we were over 30 years younger…as were our friends…who were not married at that time.

Their, wonderful, daughter, who was my Facebook friend, was so lovely and I enjoyed reading her Facebook posts.

When I would see their daughter’s photos…I felt that I knew her…as she resembled both her mom and dad…and I had grown-up with them over many years.

I admired her Facebook posts…and I wished that I had commented on them…as I, often, thought…what a fine young lady…and what, insightful comments that she made…wise beyond her years!

As a youngster, I was a guest in her mother’s home…when she and her sisters were children, as was I, and her parents were so kind to me…and made me feel so welcome!

I worked around our church…with her dad.  He was even tempered and considerate…even as a teenager…and I, reflected on what an example of christianity that he was.

I can think of two times that I have spoken with Herb and Barbie…over the past many years.  On both occasions they seemed so glad to see me, and on the second time, Mary Jane, as well.  The term, ‘salt of the earth,’ was written for them!

I left speaking with them…uplifted and encouraged and grateful for such good…old friends!

Mary Jane and I…grieved last evening…and we are saddened for the, unthinkable loss, that our friends are undergoing.

I think of Manda…and I never met her…but she meant something to me…and I am sorry…

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Love…And Understanding?

Mary Jane and I will be married 41 years next month!

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Time has not only flown by…it seems like it has been just a few days!

We began married life by living in her house trailer…and, in a few months, moved up…to a garage that had been converted into an apartment.

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Later, we purchased the house, that the garage/apartment went to…and lived there for 22 years.

Our house had four rooms…and we raised two sons there…and we were a close family!

In 1978, when we married, I was earning $70 per week.  I was driving a 1963 Ford Fairlane…with a, sizable hole, in the floor on the passenger side!

I was hired by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on October 10, 1978.  My starting pay was $5.54 per hour…and we thought that we were rich!

I was 43 years old when we moved to Carbondale…to what we still refer to as the new house.

I, often, wonder what couples are looking for or expecting when they marry?  Are they searching for someone who is different from them and a unique human being…or are they searching for someone to …clone?

I remember installing wood paneling in our little home, in 1981, when Mary Jane was pregnant with our first son, Aaron.

Now, allow me to explain…I have never been a carpenter…and when I endeavor to do carpentry….or plumbing….or drywall work…or…I tend to utter colorful language…in extreme!

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It was Halloween night…and as I struggled to saw and then nail up the, patterned, wood paneling, which was all the rage in 1978, Mary Jane, quietly and patiently climbed over the paneling and saw horses and answered our door to distribute candy to the holiday revelers!

Two…very different personalities…working together…for a common goal!

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch today at a locally owned restaurant, Keepers Quarters, and an adult beverage…and I reflected on what a wonderful and diverse and, many times, challenging….life that we have shared!

We often are talking with each other and agreeing, vigorously, and later discover…that we were agreeing on two different subjects…

Life is work…and married life is having a partner to work on the project with you!

Life brings us, all, reversals and friendships that go astray and work relationships…that evaporate…and illness…but not loneliness…because you have a life partner that gives a damn about you!

Women…do not look for the charming prince…look for the man that is always there to listen to your thoughts and hopes and fears and challenges!

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Men…look for the woman that will stand by your side…when you do not deserve it…and who will help you and enjoy living with you…when you do not enjoy living with your self!

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Women…seek a man that is not trying to be the, star, of all women’s heart’s, but the, star, of yours!

It boils down to the simple truth that a successful relationship is based on, mutual, trust and being with someone who is not living, primarily, in their head…but is  living, often, for their partner.

 

 

Practice Love and Stay Strong

Please enjoy a great Blog from Jonathon Brooks.

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Love is the strongest force I’ve ever encountered. I’ve been studying the Holy Bible for over seventeen years. There’s a lot of passages about love in those 66 books and 2,000 pages. It is the love of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that has carried me this far and made my life beautiful.

Fear is a strong force. Sin also has great strength. Hatred has its powers too. The person I have hated the most and loved the most in my lifetime is the same person. Christ Jesus was and is and will always be His name.

I used to hear the Christian idea of love isn’t based on emotion. This idea used to be foolishness to my ears. When I was playing the part of the fool I had no time or interest in true love. When I grew in wisdom and love and faith it dawned upon…

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‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime?’

‘They used to tell me I was building a dream

And so I followed the mob

When there was earth to plow or guns to bear

I was always there right on the job’

‘They used to tell me I was building a dream

With peace and glory ahead

Why should I be standing in line

Just waiting for bread?’

‘Once I built a railroad, I made it run

Made it race against time

Once I built a railroad, now it’s done

Brother, can you spare a dime?’

Once I built a tower up to the sun

Brick and rivet and lime

Once I built a tower, now it’s done

Brother, can you spare a dime?’

‘Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell

Full of the yankee doodly dum

Half a million boots went sloggin’ through hell

And I was the kid with the drum’

Oh, say don’t you remember, they called me Al

It was Al all the time

Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal

Buddy, can you spare a dime?’     Songwriters; E. Y. Harburg/ Jay Gorney

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‘A record 7 million Americans are 3 months behind on their car payments, a red flag for the economy.’     Washington Post

Although many economic indicators are pointing to a booming economy…there are millions of, hard working, Americans…that are having great difficulty in making a living!

Many, middle class, families are discovering, to their chagrin, that they are receiving little to no tax refunds this season…when they customarily relied on those refunds.

Could it be that the tax cut, which primarily benefited the rich, was funded on the backs of the middle class?

‘Credit card debt hits record high….The average American has a credit card balance of $6,375, up nearly 3 percent from last year, according to Experian’s annual study of credit and debt in America.  Total credit card debt has reached its highest point ever, surpassing $1 trillion in 2017, according to a separate report by the Federal Reserve.’     CNBC.com

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The United States national debt has reached 22 trillion dollars.  This is up 3 trillion in the past two years.

The last tax cut added 1 trillion dollars to the national debt!

‘According to Make Lemonade, there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone.  The average student in the Class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt.’

 

Those economic prognosticators and experts that contend that our economy has recovered and all is well…do not see the suffering people that I see on a daily basis!

In all of our, little Southern Illinois, communities we have either food kitchens of food pantry’s…and the people that are in line for some food…are, often, not homeless…but rather people that have jobs.

All too often…the poor of the land are invisible to our political leaders.

I, vividly, recall when former president Reagan, who I voted for, said that he knew that there were people who were making as little as 30 thousand dollars per year and trying to survive….when at the time of his, demonstrated understanding of the poor, I was making well under 30K!

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Many of our grade schools and high schools provide both breakfast and lunch to their students…and have food programs for the summer recess…as these are the only meals that many of the students receive.

Often students do not eat a meal from the close of school on Friday until Monday morning.

‘As of 2007, the richest 1% held about 38% of all privately held wealth in the United States, while the bottom 90% held 73.2% of all debt.  According to the New York Times, the richest 1% now own more wealth than the bottom 90%.’     Wealth inequality in the United States

I began life, solidly, in the middle class.  We had a beautiful home in the Chicago suburb of Sauk Village and the environment was much like the, ‘Leave It To Beaver, television show.

Suddenly, my mom and dad began having martial problems and we moved to Southern Illinois…to Eldorado…the city of gold!

Soon, mom and dad…divorced…and mom and I were destitute!  I saved my pennies…until I could garner a dime…to purchase a glass of milk and a local restaurant…as all we could afford was powdered milk.

A family change or an employment reversal or a bought of bad health…can devastate your economic reality!

If I see someone who gives a damn about the working poor or the middle class or the homeless…they will receive my vote in 2020!

I have considered that many of the, super, rich have gotten to their lofty perch on the backs of their hard working staff…and that usury…has not gone out of fashion!

 

‘May He Live In Interesting Times’

‘In 1966 Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that included an instance: There is a Chinese curse which says “May he live in interesting times.’  Like it or not, we live in interesting times.  They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.’    (The author of the quote is unknown.)

Certainly, whether a curse or a blessing, we do live in interesting times!

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‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’    Charles Dickens

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I was watching a film, the other night, regrading the excesses of our current age.  It explored the lives of some, extremely rich, individuals as well as others who desired to be rich…and their excesses and the subsequent unhappiness that the spoils of money brought them!

The movie is entitled, ‘Generation Wealth’, where, ‘Lauren Greenfield examines materialism, celebrity culture, and social status and reflects on the desire to be wealthy at any cost.’    Generation Wealth

The film was a fascinating study in people pursuing what capitalism and modern society has identified as success.  It included a mother dressing up her, very young, daughter, to appear as a mature woman and to promote her performance as a person, well beyond her years, for the purpose of obtaining prize money and awards.

‘Generation Wealth,’ highlighted the excesses of a culture in decline.  This included people who obtained money having an obsession with sex, with massive houses or mansions and high dollar clothing and automobiles.

All of the covered people in the documentary; insisted that when they obtained the nirvana, of money and what it brings…they felt empty and unhappy.

A German, millionaire, stated that the rewards of money was…’air’…and that it all evaporated!

We have made the mistake of equating money and riches and real estate holdings and the bling and the accoutrements that accompany it…as a sign of wisdom and knowledge and success…and someone to be a mentor to the rest of us!

There is nothing wrong with money.  We all require money to survive in this world!

There is something, desperately, wrong with equating the rewards of capitalism with the, marker, of success that we should all strive for…or for the sign that God is blessing the rich…and the poor and homeless are doing something wrong!

In Ms. Greenfield’s film, one of, the actor, Charlie Sheens, girlfriends is highlighted and her struggles examined.  She spoke of the, hollowness, of pornography and appearing nude, and her return to her, minimum wage job in a tanning salon…and her happiness in returning to herself!

When society points to the rich and says…be like them…we have a prescription for disaster!

When society points to actors and actresses and says…be like them….we are setting up our young people for disappointment!

When we laud sports stars as the example of, ‘making it,’ we have forgotten our; teachers and our policemen and our authors and our poets and our nurses and our firefighters…

When we tell our, christian, congregants that if they serve Christ…according to our directives… that they will become rich…what does the, lack of the development of those promised riches…bring?

Was Christ…or Mohammed or Buddah…or Moses…obsessed with money?

And, so, we have one life to live as responsible and enjoyably as our opportunities and belief system, allows us to do.

Life presents, each of us, tremendous opportunities and terrific challenges!

It is up to each of us to decide what makes us fulfilled and what makes us happy?

It is not what someone tells you…it is what is in your heart!

Happiness Is Internally Generated

I watched Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, announcing her candidacy for the presidency of the United States…and she looked happy…in a snowstorm!

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As the snow covered her hair and the hair of the large, hearty and resolute, audience that were listening to her, I felt inspired!

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Indeed, the inclement weather was not controlling the happiness level of the candidate or the crowd!

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It has been raining, off and on here, for months…but I am happy!

Happiness comes from within!

Often, when my ideas were unaccepted in the workplace or my fight for those who had no voice seemed doomed to failure…I was happy…that I had stood firm in my convictions.

One of he greatest chancellors of SIUC was, unjustly, terminated, and I was threatened and cajoled and marginalized…and I was happy…because I stood up for her and…against the wrong that had been wrought by the president of the university and the Board of Trustees!

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I believe that every human being on this Earth is important…and that they can not be segregated by their color or their religion or their ethnicity or their countries location…and I am happy!

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I love Southern Illinois…and I love the people of Southern Illinois…and I love them when they disagree with me…and I am happy!

I learned, many years ago, to keep my own counsel…and to, ‘thine own-self be true’, and I discovered not to seek the praise of others…but the peace of a satisfied mind…and I am happy!

Happiness is not a geographical location but a nirvana of the soul!

Happiness is a truce or a pact with your surroundings.

‘God give me the serenity to accept the things that I can not change,

The courage to change the things that I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.’    Reinhold Nebuhr

Happiness is not family approval.

Happiness is not being a part of the club…or the group…or the social clique in school….or the faith assembly…or the accepted normal…of society!

Happiness is being real!

 

 

Happiness is being true to what you believe!

Happiness is being true to yourself!

Happiness is being genuine!

All to often we seek the approval or praise of others, who may not believe the truths that we believe and who may not come from our life experiences!

This is an exercise in futility!

It has been said that I would rather be a live dog than a dead lion…but…how about being a live lion…that sings your own song and speaks your own truth…and is true to the unique person that you are?

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It Is Nice To Have People That Care About You!

It is another rainy day in Carbondale, Illinois!

We have had our share of rain over the past few months.

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The fenced in, portion of our yard, that the four legged members of our family use for their, multiple, daily constitutionals…is a swamp!

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Mary Jane and I went for our, Mall Walk.  It was nice and calm and sedate.

Mary Jane had a lovely email from her, lifelong friend, Margo.  The proposal of visiting with them in the fall is exciting to us both!

My buddies, Ron and Ira Kaye, have asked us to take a trip with them…and we are looking forward to it…in the spring!

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I literally think of my friends, Ryan and Elizabeth…every day.  They are two wonderful people who have been so nice to us…and who we care about their success and wellbeing, very much!

Saturday evening, we had dinner at a, wonderful, Mexican restaurant with our friends, Joan and Jim.  They are both retired professors, and they are so interesting and engaging!  We talk politics and movies and books and food…and Maine…which is our mutual love!

After the flood lights of career have dimmed and the accolades of workplace accomplishments have grown silent…friends loom extremely bright!

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I often said to my, good friend, the fallen chancellor…that it is a gift to have someone who cares about you!

We encounter and interact with many people during the course of our lives.

We, often, have hundreds or thousands of friends on social media.

But, as the old folks used to say, ‘when you shell down the corn’, you may have only a handful of people who are your, true, friends!

I witnessed, several, true friends in action when Mary Jane was recovering from her spinal surgery..  Many people, from our church, brought meals to us and stayed to visit with us and I felt more love and concern from a church family…than I had ever felt…and I have been a member of several churches over 50 years!

All of us feel a bit alone in the world.

We see the world through our eyes and the impulses of our brains…and for the majority of our existence we live in our own heads.

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That is why friends are so refreshing to us!  They show us how others see the world and how they see us.

Friends, assure, us that we are not on the road of life by ourselves!

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Most of us experience sickness in our life…at one time or another.  There is not a more lonely feeling than to be sick…or have a loved one who is ill…and it seems that no one cares or understands.

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A hidden illness is mental illness…of which a majority of humanity experiences at some point during their life.  It can take a variety of forms and the most debilitating component of it is to not have anyone to talk with you about it or help you through the ordeal…or who has, genuine, empathy for your life’s walk.

It has always been a mystery to me how a person can have cancer or heart disease or diabetes…and there is not, implied, stigma…but mental illness is kept in the closet with the door closed and securely locked?

Do we realize that our brain is housed in the same body that our gallbladder and pancreas and liver and lungs and heart….are housed in?

My mom took sleeping pills…and attempted to commit suicide…and I saw my dad carry her….with her night gown flowing….and he was weeping…pass my bedroom door…and I was five years old.

Let us be friends to one another!

 

 

 

 

 

Rhetoric Is Not Wisdom

I have more than one friend who have accomplished, well in excess of, several lifetimes of endeavors, in one, short, life.

Have you ever listened, intently, to a colleague describe their career successes…and after you added them up, there was more rhetoric than reality?

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On many occasions, at the university, I witnessed the uplifting and beatification of new leaders and administrators…well before they had demonstrated any, measurable, policy or student recruitment or student retention actions.

Political leaders tell us the things that we enjoy hearing and promise us the moon…while we receive a moon pie!

I have read, on several occasions, that our president is an ‘unholy’ person…that is being used by God?

We have been promised that the president will return jobs to America…yet General Motors is in the process of laying-off thousands of American workers.

Many of the people that voted for the president, discovered, that if Obama-Care is done away with…they will no longer have insurance!

Farmers have been devastated by the president’s tariffs causing their crops to, dramatically, decrease in value…yet many contend that they are, foursquare, behind him!

Many of our religious leaders instruct their congregations to give of their finances…until it hurts…

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If you examine the financial stability of many congregants in fundamentalist churches…you find, abjectly poor people…and rich and flourishing ministers!

We humans are suckers for a good line!

We want a hero and a savior!

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Our ears perk up when we hear a, quality narrative, and we are intrigued by a good story!

There is a, subtle and insidious mixing, of theatre and television and media…with the, concrete truths, of people being treated fairly and equitably and with their elected representative, looking out for their constituents prosperity.

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We hear a wonderful speech, written by an adept speech writer, and we say, ‘what a leader we have!’

We contend that if minimum wage rises…businesses will be devastated and people will loose their minimum wage jobs.

Of course…we who contend the folly of raising the minimum wage…have not worked for such a paltry sum…for many years…if ever!

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It is agreed that we Americans have an economy that requires a minimum of $15 to survive…and the great majority of us make, significantly less…what is the answer…two jobs…three….four?

Political speech is damming in its lack of profundity!

Religious speech is only as good as the positive works that it produces for humanity!

We, sadly, are influenced by the 140 characters that are tweeted on twitter.

Our enamored, state,  with celebrities and the culture of entertainment has caused us to debate, and some to contend, not only what truth is…but, perhaps, each of us have our own truth.

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‘Wisdom – The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment, the quality of being wise.’    Dictionary

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’    Proverbs 1:7

‘But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.’    James 3:17

I think that a primary component of wisdom is a respect for all humanity.

Empathy is wisdom.  Can you place yourself in the other person’s shoes?  When your neighbor has no food…are you disturbed and restless…as if you were hungry?

When someone is mentally ill…do you understand and care for them and consider their illness as any physical illness?

If you are a supervisor do you treat your staff as you would like to be treated?  If you have to, engage, in constructive job related criticism, do you do it with an eye on not destroying the person…but rather encouraging them…all the while solving the job performance issue?

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If you terminate a member of your staff…is it your, paramount desire, that the individual leaves the meeting feeling that you cared about them and that you had confidence in their many abilities and that those abilities were going to be an excellent fit…in the job that they will, ultimately, secure?

Do you practice trusting those around you?

Can you smile at those who have spoken ill of you?

Can you greet your enemies…like your friends?

Can we understand that each day is a gracious gift and that we are all, fellow, travelers on the road of life?

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