Monday, January 11, 2010

More Economic Madness

A nearby city is struggling to balance their budget and has had to make deep cuts in recreational facilities, programs, staff hours, services, hours, etc. The local news stations have recognized the losses to the public and city employees, but has praised the city for taking these drastic steps to do what must be done.

Another nearby city is basically firing all their employees and letting them reapply for their old job. There is a huge advantage here if the rehiring process were going to be unbiased. I remain skeptical about the execution of this ingenious plan. Again, the local news stations are generous with their praise.

But my city, having always been a depressed area, has wisely budgetted. Finding that they had a considerable surplus at year’s end, decided to dispense bonuses to city employees. The news report read like an exposé, harshly criticizing the city for foolishly wasting money in a down economy. Please explain to me how giving bonuses to faithful employees for a year of hard work is foolish and wasteful! How many employers raked in serious cash while paying meager wages only to stiff their employees of yearly bonus. It is unethical to use the "bad economy" as an excuse to horde all of the profits. Not every industry has been hard hit, especially those whose employees have been wise stewards of company resources throughout the year. If you ask me, government entities ought to set an example not only in spending wisely, but in the fair and equitable treatment of their employees! Is there anything wrong with being grateful for a job well-done, especially when they can afford to do so?

False Advertising

Product commercials aired on television make wonderful claims indicating that girls will flock to a man chewing a certain brand of chewing gum, or a specific camera model. Well, while we all know these things to be exaggerations or outright fantasy, we are often convinced to buy them anyway.

But last night a commercial aired with the most blatant and outrageous and blasphemous lie I have ever heard! The Catholic Church is claiming to be responsible for "compiling the Bible." All of the holy writings regarded as divinely inspired were canonized (meaning cataloged into the Divine Library) as the Old Testament by the 5th century B.C. Jesus’ own extensive use of these writings demonstrates confirmation of their rightful place in the Bible. Jesus did not acknowledge any religious writings written after the book of Malachi (completed about 443 BC). Origen canonized the New Testament about 230 AD. Athanasuis acknowleged the same canon about 367 AD. So, where do the Catholics come into the picture? In 397 AD their Counsil of Carthage the Catholic Church decided that they would accept the 66 books of the Bible already canonized and added seven apocryphal books. They recataloged again in 1546 AD at the Counsil of Trent, dropping 3 of the Apocryphal writings they had imposed on the Bible.

Apocryphal writings cannot remotely begin to compare to the inspired scripture. They are ridiculous and are rejected by all respectable Bible scholars. Perhaps I can publish a Bible that includes Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and declare myself ‘The Mother of the Bible’! Who would ever dare such blasphemy! The inclusion of these apocryphal books into the Catholic Bible Canon has contributed to the common misconception that the Bible contradicts itself, thereby ruining its reputation.

Hebrews and Christians being led by holy spirit unanimously and immediately accepted inspired writings as each writing was completed. They rightfully belonged in the Bible canon long before Bible scholars and individual churches ever thought to make an official list of them. God authorized them himself by inspiring his servants to pen His thoughts. I am thankful that the truths and promises contained in scripture did not have to wait until the 14th century for the Catholic Church to "compile the Bible" canon.

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has been responsible for the destruction of Bibles. Christians quickly seized the opportunity to mass-produce Bibles when the printing press was invented in 1456. For decades, Catholic clergymen waged war against the printing, distribution, and translation of the Bible. Bible translator William Tyndale was forced into hiding, and later killed due to persecution from numerous Catholic bishops across Europe. Any layperson caught in possession of a Bible was branded a heretic during the Spanish Inquisition. And who was behind the Spanish Inquisition? The Roman Catholic Church. They committed unspeakable atrocities throughout France, Germany, Italy, and Spain in an effort to preserve their non-scriptural doctrines and practices.

Moral Profiling

Tolerance and acceptance are often mistaken for one another. Tolerance recognizes the god given right to choose one’s own course, whether it be godly or not. It is what restrains a person for acting out against someone with whom he morally or culturally disagrees. Today people pride themselves on being tolerant of others, but the popular brand of tolerance seems geared toward accepting or even inviting bad behavior from others. Many have gone beyond toleration and actually celebrate immoral behavior. Things once condemned such as gambling, gluttony, premarital sex, and homosexuality are now highly encouraged by masses who believe this moral (or immoral?) stance to be enlightened, progressive, even lofty. And no one wants to be accused of prejudice of any sort, even if it means erasing the lines between right and wrong. I am glad that some remnants of Biblical Christian limitations are still in place. For instance, humanity has not degraded so much as to accept child molestation, rape, or murder as normal behavior…yet. But perhaps in my lifetime, I will see that change too.

But what about tolerance for those living a god-fearing lifestyle? Where is the tolerance being shown toward them? Have you caught yourself rolling eyes at some religious nut? When some young couple declares that they are waiting until their wedding night to lose their virginity, are you skeptical? It may seem laughable to those who never esteemed their virginity so highly.

My husband and I each determined at young ages to live in strict accordance with Bible principles. We met in our late teens and formed a deep friendship based on our mutual interests and admiration of the other’s high moral standards. When we began to have romantic feelings for one another, we discussed how our courtship would progress. We agreed to keep our expressions of endearment to a minimum, and we insisted on having an adult chaperone along on all of our dates. These precautions enabled us to have a clean courtship and we began our life together as man and wife with clean consciences. In 15 years of marriage, we have carefully guarded the trust we have in one another’s faithfulness. We do not view pornography, watch rated R movies, nor do we spend time alone with members of the opposite sex. To us, marital fidelity is sacred, and our vows binding before God and men. It may sound strange or doubtful to many readers, but is the norm in our circle. We’re as "vanilla" as people come.

This background was not disclosed with the intent to brag. I state these facts as a prelude to the coming tale. Last year, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. The practitioner performed a physical and I was in good health. To my great surprise, the insurance statement that came in the mail listed lab charges for a battery of tests for sexually transmitted disease. The test results were negative, of course. We had to pay $600 out of pocket for the tests that I never ordered—tests for which I am at zero risk! Worse than that, doubt was introduced to our marriage for the first time. My husband found it hard to believe that a simple check-up would result in such a large bill at the sole discretion of the doctor. It seemed to indicate that I must have ordered the tests. And he insisted on knowing whether I suspected him of cheating, or was cheating myself. I immediately put him in the car, drove to the clinic, and demanded to speak to the doctor. I interrogated her on the matter. She admitted that she had ordered the test merely because of the prevalence of clemitia among women my age in our area. I demanded to know why after being assured that neither my mate nor I had multiple partners, she went ahead and ordered more tests. The tests that were run are standard at this clinic whenever a papsmear is performed. This explanation restored my husband’s trust, but did not relieve us of a costly bill. To this day I resent the fact that I was profiled!

This year, I explained to the new attending physician that I would not be authorizing any tests for STDs. She seemed very uneasy about it, but decided that she ought to respect my wishes. Still, she felt it prudent to point out that many young women, while being chaste themselves have a misplaced trust in their partners. I allowed this since it is logical from her perspective, and I needed to demonstrate that I was not in denial. So, I agreed that if, after examining me, there were any physical evidence that I had actually contracted a STD I would certainly submit to both test and treatment. She had to admit that there seemed to be no evidence indicating a problem. My out of pocket expense was $10.45 for this visit and I continue to be in good health.

Is there so little integrity, loyalty, and trustworthiness in the world that no one can make a claim to it? It is shameful that society stands at the ready to tolerate badness, but cannot tolerate righteousness.

Life-Altering Decisions

Don’t make life-altering decisions until you turn 25.

Because of the high meth production in our community, every local station aired an anti-drug piece simultaneously. The production highlighted the extreme risk to teens that drug exposure poses. They explained that the judgement center of the brain does not fully develop until a person is in their mid-twenties. Drugs target the judgement center of the brain, and so early damage can result in an inability to ever make good decisions. It scolded parents who think that teen years are meant for experimenting with drugs. But persons waiting until their mid-twenties to experiment with drugs have a 0% probability of getting addicted. This is because a 25-year-old weighing the pros and cons of drug use would never conclude that taking drugs is a good idea. A 25-year-old, fully functioning brain would never allow it. The risks are too great to be seriously considered.

When you are a teen, and your decision center of your brain is developing, you rely heavily on input from others when making decisions. Now, this is by design, and your parents have the assignment of guiding you through this process. But, teens who reject parental guidance turn to their friends and an abnormal influence occurs. Nearly all dumb decisions made during this period are blamed on "hanging with the wrong crowd" or "all of my friends were doing it." Peer pressure decreases significantly when you reach your mid-twenties. For me it was like flipping a switch when I was about 25. I simply felt comfortable deciding without consulting anyone else. I was suddenly confident and unaffected by any fear of disappointing my peers. What others thought no longer bothered me.

Think of how many live-altering decisions we might make as teens: drinking at age 21, tobacco use at 18, married at 16. And teens are having sexual contact at earlier and earlier ages. When will you allow your child to date? Perhaps we should stop viewing 18 years as the mark of adulthood.

The Fault Finder

There is a specific part of the brain that detects flaws. I forget the real name for the section of brain, so I call it The Fault Finder. It detects what doesn’t belong, discrepancies. It is the part that sees lint on your sleeve and doesn’t want it there. It can make you a very good auditor. It serves an important function, but it can become over-developed. People who are impossible to please or who are always contrary have an over-stimulated Fault Finder. (I love PBS)! Reverse psychology works wonders on these folks. High carbohydrate diets and exercise can help too.

I wonder if there is any connection between OCD and this part of the brain. I think it likely.

Know Where You Went Wrong. Own it.

Several young men discussed their brushes with law enforcement, comparing notes about the times they had served in jail, and the crimes of which they were accused. I was sitting in the lunchroom with them at the time, but was somewhat uncomfortable about topic. Then the conversation turned to an exchange of regrets. I listened with more interest now. The youngest of them remarked that he had been very scholarly and religious, and his parents had been very proud. "One day, at a party I smoked a joint and in no time I was dealing drugs. I don’t know where I went wrong." They all nodded as if they’d experienced the same. I was compelled, "What do you mean you don’t know where you went wrong?! You just said where you went wrong! ‘I was at a party and I smoked a joint’—that is where you went wrong." They did not follow my reasoning, insisting that smoking a joint was innocent enough. I said, "Surely you realize that that was the single act that set you on the road that brought you here." They got the point, but had never considered that making one bad decision led them to make worse decisions. Why is it so hard to see in ourselves what is so apparent to others?

Change Your Behavior, Change Your Personality

Have you ever seen someone who was sugar sweet, and thought to yourself, "I could never be that nice and happy all of the time"? The thought that usually follows is, "I wouldn’t even want to." A split second ago you were admiring or even envying, now you are hating.
Well, Ephesians 4:22 indicates that your personality conforms to your conduct. So, you shape your personality by adopting new, better behavior. New behaviors don’t feel natural right away, but eventually, they do become second nature. That is also how you learn bad behavior. Think of a bad habit you have regrettably formed. Perhaps it is cussing. The first time the word %*!@ crossed your lips, did it flow? Of course not! But the more you allowed the word, the easier it became. Fortunately, it is the same process for forming good habits.

This idea was reinforced to me when I watched a program on PBS about the brain. The brain can make significant changes in a mere month.

Economy Hype Brings On Madness

People are doing some crazy things in fear of the bad economy. In my local news, I have heard of two ridiculous measures being implemented. One, to cut the minimum wage by 4 cents. The other, to cut wages and/or hours of city and county employees. Please tell me how putting less money into people’s hands stimulates the economy! How big would an employer have to be to save significant money at 4 cents per hour per employee? And what employer would risk the relationship with their workers by cutting their already meager wage by another four cents? It is about as insulting as offering a nickel raise. And what is the payoff? Will it create jobs? Can you employ more people because you took 4 cents from another?

I worked for a company whose CEO stole $100,000 and got the small business into serious financial trouble. When the crisis consultant arrived, he prioritized payment schedule thus: pay employees first, then utilities, and everyone else can wait. Your employees always come first; they are the heart and soul of your business. And in a stressful situation, their fears and anxiety will affect their performance. They must have confidence that their jobs are safe and their paycheck is secure. The Chairman of the Board of Directors dismissed the crisis consultant and started making excuses to fire everyone so that he could create a new staff at minimum wages. No surprise, the business continues to founder.

There have always been rises and falls in the economy, but you know something new is going on when the banks and carmakers (who collectively have ALL of the money) are broke! This year, my family bought a Ford. They have retained a measure of credibility in an incredulous industry. But the world cannot exist long with the sort of greed driving every decision made. It really is off the chart nowadays.

Everyone is outraged about CEO’s giving themselves large bonuses, but I joke, "Hey, if you can trick the government into handing you that kind of money, you deserve every penny you get! You’re obviously a genius who knows how to work the system!" You have to wonder how trusted, elected officials collectively make decisions that no single person of any intelligence would ever seriously entertain.

Which is crazier? The fact that the richest and most successful businesses tolerate executives who bankrupt their own companies? Or that trusted, elected officials give them billions of dollars in bailouts? Or that the masses accept that their government is justified in doing so? Somehow, we are expected to accept this as the only possible solution because the issue is "complicated" or shrouded in mystery. But is it beyond human comprehension? The truth is that we all know what money is, what spending is, and what budgeting is! Their money is the same as my money, it adds and subtracts just like mine does. It is just a checkbook with lots of digits. To believe different is madness.

Where Food Comes From

I grew up in the country on a ranch, riding horses and branding cattle. My husband is city-raised. We have such fun camping with his family. I take my field book and gather edible fruits and leaves on nature hikes. Then I incorporate these dandelion greens, wild onions, raspberries, etc. into our meals. My brother-in-law, (who happens to be from San Francisco, CA) watched as I stirred some berries into melted marshmallows for a pancake topping. He asked inquisitively, "is it safe to eat those?" I needed clarification, "you mean, raspberries?" "Yes, is it okay to eat them out of the wild?" Assuming that his objection was cleanliness, I assured him, "I rinsed them off." But he was not yet convinced. I gave him a good look at them so he could see that the berries look identical to the ones he has eaten a thousand times from a plastic carton sold at a grocery store. Whether he ate them or not, I did not think to observe.
In our little city yard, we often plant a few tomatoes, radishes, sometimes melons or cucumbers. My husband likes this and eats home grown vegetables with glee. While in the garden, I often pick edible weeds like purslane and mix them into salads. My husband hates when I sneak this into his food. He didn’t plant it, it voluntarily grew in the garden, and is therefore unwelcome and not fit for consumption in his view. Unbeknownst to him, he has eaten many nutritious "weeds."
How is it that the same crop cultivated and sold in markets in Europe is spurned as a useless weed elsewhere? How regrettable that people go hungry when there are edible plants everywhere! If they grew from the ground wrapped in cellophane, we might trust it for food. If we pay money for it, then and only then, is it assigned any value.
I have often thought to wild-harvest some bushels of weeds and sell them at the farmer’s market as exotic produce!
Perhaps disconnecting with the truth of where food comes from has some bearing on why so few people pray over their meals these days. "And God went on to say: ‘Here I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed. To you let it serve as food’" (Genesis 1:29).