Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Prayer for the Coming New Year

Many of us look on the New Year with fear, fretting over what might be.

The Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr is fairly well known and has been used as handouts on cards to soldiers during wartime and is in the Twelve-Step recovery program. I am sharing this completed, unadbridged version in today's post because I find it so fitting for the coming new year.  Let these words bring you peace as you as you face the start of a New Year and turn the control back over to God.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In a World of Mass Shootings, Part II

It's amazing what can happen in a little more than a week's time. In my last post I wrote about the rise of mass shootings and what I think are the underlying causes of them. If you haven't read that you might want to read that article here.

I promised in my next post I would discuss what, if anything, we can do about them.

However, first, I want to talk about some things that have happened since my last post that tie into the subject. The most obvious one is that the shooting in San Bernadino, California has now been attributed to terrorism, not just some angry person, although we don't know if the Muslim couple involved acted independly or under the direction of a terrorist group. It is extremely troubling that they shot the very people who had thrown them a baby shower just months earlier. Despite that, we should not label every Muslim a threat. Just as there are some touting religious beliefs in Christianity that are extreme, there are some, not all, Muslims who adhere to extreme beliefs.

Several other things have happened in my own life that reflects the growing fear in America of terrorist acts. The first is that I was summoned for jury duty and while waiting for the jury to be selected, I sat among 57 other U. S. citizens. We are not allowed to have any electronic devices inside the courthouse including cell phones. They had been restricted after a bomb scare three years earlier at the same courthouse proved to be the real deal with a bomb devised to be triggered by an electronic device such as a cell phone. While waiting for the judge to make an appearance, I struck up a conversation with a young school teacher next to me. I learned that she has two young children.  She and her husband are so skiddish about going out in public due to terrorists threats that they have drastically changed their habits and stay home much more than they did.

The second thing that happened this week was that my husband, Jeff was selling a used diving vest he had acquired. He advertised it on Craigslist and made an appointment with a guy who planned to come and purchase the vest at our home. This man arrived wearing a holster and gun in plain view, which was pretty unsettling. Jeff and I both discussed it later and Jeff especially found it troubling.

With so much violence, people are scared and those who do own guns are touting them more publicly. Some officials are urging people that own guns to carry them with them. To me, this is a recipe for disaster. How can the gun carriers accurately determine who to shoot and when?

Back to the topics I included in my last blog post. I'll address them one at a time.

1). Isolation due to technology. We need to be aware of the dangers of this. Actions we can take can include deliberately trying to get to know our neighbors, holding physical social gatherings, being on social media less, weaning children and grandchildren off of social media dependence and working more on getting them involved in face to face encounters with people.

2). Lax gun regulations. Yes, we have the right to bear arms but when that right interfers with our basic freedoms such as gathering in public places without fear of being gunned down, it's time to curb some of the rights. The loudest protests about gun control comes from gun owners themselves. They don't want to lose what they already have. Japan has an extremely low rate of violence and they have some of the strictest gun controls. Here's is an excellent article about those regulations. Maybe we don't have to go to this extreme, but I feel we should definitley implement many of these. Here's the link..

3.  Angry people who blame others. There will always be angry people, however, we can press for anti-bullying programs and programs that focus on teaching children and adults how to cope with anger.

4. Mentally ill people. The label mental illness covers a lot of turf. It can apply to anyone with depression to someone with Schizophrenia. Japan requires that every gun applicant pass a mental health test. If they are found to be a threat, they are not issued a gun.

5.  Violence in movies, books, and video games. Parents should screen what their children watch and what they allow them to buy. What is produced is based on supply and demand. If we stop buying and paying to watch things with extreme violence, then those who produce them will change what they produce to contain less violence. We can also write the manufactuers and producers of these and let them know that we disapprove.

6.  A wealthy culture consumed with capitalism. Live more simply. Own less. Teach your children to do the same.

7.  An entitlement attitude.  This attitude ties into issue #6. If we work to live more simply and teach that to our children, then we will have less of this problem. Also taking responsiblities for our own actions and teaching our children to own up to their own short comings and bad choices is another important move.

Politicians cater to public opinion. They are influenced by groups that pay big bucks for lobbying for their causes. Gun ownership is one of those causes. If enough of us wrote to our congressmen and other public officials, it will put enough pressue on them to start listening to those of us who feel stricter gun control laws should be in place.

I still hold to the truths that Jesus taught.  His message is one of peace. Paul wrote, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18.  (NLT)

Jesus told us to fear not. We should not yield out basic rights to go out in public and live our lives. Although there is a possibility that something might happen, we have to trust that nothing will happen that God won't allow. When we start playing God ourselves in order to retaliate against violent acts, it reveals a lack of faith and fans the flame of fear. Fear not, and trust that even our small acts to makes a difference will be the small drop in the pool that will slowly spread out and make the change we need to see.

Friday, December 4, 2015

In a World of Mass Shootings, Part I

My family and I lived in Colorado just a half hour from Columbine High School when the mass shootings took place on April 20, 1999. Twelve students and one teacher died that day.

The event rattled our world and our friends' worlds as we tried to wrap our minds around the senseless killings. Suddenly, keeping our children safe took on a whole new meaning. Later, as I stood at the site surveying the outpouring of the public's sympathy in the form of plush animals, heartwrenching notes and flowers, the grief I felt over such violence and the loss of young lives was unbearable.
It was an unimaginable act of violence, the likes of which had not been surpassed at the time. Sadly to say, since that event mass shootings have become a way of life in America. We have moved from the rarety of one or two a year, to one or two a month and now to weekly shootings. What has happened to bring us to this?

I think that no one thing is to blame but multiple factors are at the heart of the issue contributing to this severe illness that is effecting America. I know this will infuriate some people, but if I cannot express my heartfelt beliefs here on my own blog, where can I express them? In this post I will address what I think are the contributing factors. In my next post I will talk about what, if anything, we can do about it.

1) Isolation due to technology. We are at this point in time more connected to each other than we have ever been through phones, computers, and multiple technological devices, and yet we are less connected in a personal way through relationships.

2) Lax gun regulations. It is too easy for people to obtain guns. Just this past week I learned that you do not need proof of ownership in order to sell a gun in North Carolina. I also learned that because of laxer laws in the Carolinas, it is a source of supply for those in larger cities who sell guns illegally and use them for crimes.

3) Angry people who blame others for perceived wrongs done to them or others.  This includes people who are religious zealots, whether they claim to be Christian, Muslim, Atheist or any other perusuaion. It also includes people who have been bullied or ostracized.

4) Mentally ill people.  They may or may not also be religious zealots. Not every initiator of mass violence is mentally ill but some are unbalanced.

5) Violence in movies, books, and video games.  The more violent the content of what is produced the more desensitized the consumers become to the killings and the more likely they are to accept violence as a way of leveling perceived wrongs.

6) A wealthy culture consumed with capitalism. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If you don't believe me, take a trip elsewhere and see how others live. We thrive on owning and building wealth. We mistake wants for needs and want immediate gratification. We give too much to our children. We own too much ourselves. 

7) An entitlement attitude.  We feel we are entitled to have things our way and if we don't get what we want, we blame others. We are a lawsuit crazy country. If we get hurt by a product we use, we don't look to our own ineptness, we look to the person who produced it to blame. Liability and lawsuits have sky rocketed. Americans can no long accept responsiblity for their own actions, instead we want to pin the blame on others and take them to court, not just to right the wrong, but to make a profit on it.

In my next post I will address what I think might be done to help remedy the stituation. I cannot think of any better words to close with thant these words of Christ.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27