This post has two titles.

I started to lay out what I think is a very important framework for a conversation, yesterday, in a post.  Although a few people got distracted by the cute picture of the kids and how it displayed on Facebook, my hope is that most people read the whole piece.  Either way, you can go back and look at it if you missed it, as it is a prerequisite for today’s post.

Here are the two titles for today’s post and you get to choose which title to apply, based on your own personal convictions:

The Necessity for Mutual Respect

or…

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

I chose the titles because each lends itself to a particular reader.  I won’t bore you with details, but one title is for Christians and the other is for those who are not Christians.  I know that those are really broad parameters, but for the purposes of what I’m trying to illustrate, I think they are adequate.

Yesterday, I wanted to lay a foundation of the fact that we are all human beings and that as such, we have equal value.  I wanted to cut through the whole “us” versus “them” paradigm which seems to permeate all of the coverage of each and every event that we are currently being fed by all forms of media.  If we are ever going to find healthy solutions for our problems, any of them, then we are going to have to approach them from a “we” perspective.

The simple truth is that we can have no progress unless we all respect each other in the process of finding solutions.  I know that issues quickly become quite complicated, but we have to start from a position of mutual respect for others as human beings.  This is a truth so simple that it is evident in almost all of children’s media ever produced.  We have to respect each other, despite our differences, if we are ever to get along.  Beyond that, we must seek to find common grounds from which to build relationships that will lead to solutions.

I chose the Christian/Non-Christian distinction to start with because that seems to be one that is currently in play in most of the discussion that I have seen.  Also, it is one with which I have had the most interaction.

I can only speak briefly to those in the Non-Christian camp in regard to many of the current conflicts.  To those folks, I would merely like to point out that we must have mutual respect for each other in order to find solutions.  Whatever your religious, political, ethical, or moral underpinnings, you have to be willing to engage in civilized, respectful communication and trustworthy negotiation in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.  As we may or may not share much in the way of moral, ethical, or intellectual convictions, I am left with appealing to any sense that you may have of justice, fairness, or love.

As for Christians, I could go all day on this but I will keep it simple, we are required to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Actually, we are even commanded to love our enemies.  Boy, that’s a tricky one, huh?  We like to discuss the story of the good Samaritan, but we often stop short of realizing its full implications.  Jesus was telling this story to a primarily Jewish audience.  An audience which hated Samaritans.  In fact, I think that it is important to note how often Jesus interacts with Samaritans, both as illustrations and as people.  Samaritans were the ultimate “those people” to the Jews of his Jesus’ day.

Take a minute.  Think about a people group that you dislike…maybe even one that you hate.  That is your Samaritan.  Here’s the hard thing to hear:  Jesus loves those people, too.  Now, here’s the hardest thing to hear:  Jesus expects you to love those people, as well.

Ouch.  That really stings, doesn’t it.  That’s one heck of an expectation.  It creates a lot of uncomfortable situations.  I makes us have to love people who have a lot of qualities that we really don’t like.

I’ve got to be honest.  When I take a minute to make a list of people that I can’t stand, that list comes really easy.  Liars, thieves, adulterers, hipsters (we have a lot of those in Asheville), guys who wear wear pastel Polo shirts with khaki shorts and boat shoes with no socks, most white people with dreadlocks, people with a sense of entitlement, and on the list goes…

I have to work every day to try and love the people on my list.  Some days, I do pretty well.  Some days, I don’t do well at all.  The problem is (and this is the reason for this whole series of posts) that the internet and how our society works gives us a perfect venue to make complete jackasses out ourselves in about thirty seconds with a comment on a post or a couple of words on the street.  The crazy thing is how often we do it and still feel good about ourselves.

I know that we’ve got some serious issues that are at stake, but if we are descending into a state of becoming raging jerks, then we have lost the ability to bring anything positive to the situation.  This isn’t just about keeping one’s composure while secretly hating someone in the back of your mind, this is about seeking to find a way to lovingly relate to another human being with whom you potentially totally disagree.

I know this is a lot to ask and that this post is being harder on Christians that on those who are not, but we are commanded to go that extra mile.  If we are blasting people on the internet or in any public forum, then we are falling woefully short in following that command.

Next time, we start digging into the hard stuff.  I promise to be an equal-opportunity offender before I get done with all of this.

Honestly, if it weren’t for these two people, I would give up on trying to help society.

transfer - 1Just to bring everyone up to speed, I’ve spent the last couple of months dealing with the death of my father and helping to get my mother straightened away on being able to live as independently as she would like.  All this while trying to get caught up on all of my projects, raising a family, and trying to get ahead at work so that I could really enjoy the vacation which we just took.  (Incidentally, talking about one’s vacation after-the-fact on the old interwebs keeps people from knowing that one’s house is vacant for nine days…a fact which seems to escape some of you people…seriously, take note.)  All of this with an apparently freshly herniated disc just above my spinal fusion.  Fun stuff.

Taking care of the things that really matter did a great job of limiting my time on the internet and provided me with the “Cliff’s Notes versions” of all the issues that were being bandied about in all forms of traditional and social media.  To be completely honest, I thought that what was getting through the time crunch filter was bad enough, but I spent a little time perusing the web this week and I have never wanted to sell everything that I own and move out West or adopt a nomadic existence than I have over the last several days.  What I have been seeing is enough to make me just worry about my own family and let the world continue to burn, but then I thought that through and I don’t want to leave my kids to survive in a world which resembles a Mad Max film, so I’m going to give this one more shot.  Hopefully you guys will share this around and maybe we can get some healthy conversation going.

I would like to restate for what seems like millionth time that we, the general population, are being guided/coaxed/manipulated by the media in all of its forms and by giant corporations and by our respective governments to do the following:

  1. Buy things.  The movie Fight Club got that single thing right.
  2. Be at each other’s throats so that we don’t rebel against governmental systems that are exploiting us, while failing to provide adequate services or respect our basic or constitutional rights.  If we are busy fighting each other, then we can’t unite effectively against a common enemy.
  3. Buy more things.  I sense a theme.
  4. And finally, be calm, placated, productive citizens…all to the benefit of corporations and government.

If you want a quick primer, please go read George Orwell’s 1984 and then watch the news cycle for twenty-four hours.  Then it is okay to go hide in bed and pull the covers up over your head.  Trust me, you will want to do that very badly.

I know that I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so I’m not going to attempt to do an overview or even an outline.  Today, I am going to start with one simple fact: When we are watching the news or looking at the internet or reading a newspaper we are talking about other human beings.  I can not state that more simply or seriously enough.  We are talking about the lives of other human beings.  If we can’t take that seriously than we are beyond all hope.

I am going to give you a list and everyone that reads it is going to agree and disagree with some of the people and groups listed, but I want everyone to take a deep breath and really think about what I am trying to do.  I don’t want my two children growing up in the world that is left by the next great war or having to be a part of that war.

  • When we talk about refugees, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about aborted babies, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about illegal aliens, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about executed law enforcement officers, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are conducting drone strikes in Syria, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we read about Christians being beheaded in by Islamic State, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about suicide statistics, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about drug reactions, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about war in the Middle East, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about floods and earthquakes and storms, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are talking about domestic violence and human trafficking and orphans, we talking about human lives.

Humans lives means other human beings just like my kids.

Just like your kids.

Just like your nieces and nephews.

Just like your parents and grandparents.

Just like your friends and family.

Just like the people who look like you.

Just like the people with whom you attend church or synagogue or mosque.

Just like your friends from the bar.

Just like the people with whom you tailgate at the big games.

Just like your work associates.

Just like you.

What you think about the Pope’s latest speech or how he delivered or who he delivered it to does not matter.  The same thing goes for the President of the United States.  Your trendy hashtag does not matter.  Your political views and affiliations do not matter.  What you think about the Clerk of Court in Kentucky does not matter.  None of these things really matter until we start respecting and valuing human lives…and I mean that in a for real, get your hands dirty, get off of your couch, get-involved kind of way.

Hashtags don’t help people.  Tweets don’t help people.  People getting active and loving other people in a real, hands-on way helps people.

We need to turn off the filters and throw away the selfy-sticks and forget about whether or not we need the need an Apple Watch or McDonald’s product or Starbuck’s coffee.  We have got monumentally serious human crises all over the globe and those have always led to two things when left unaddressed for significant periods of time: Revolution and War.

You may have read this post and think that I’m all “conspiracy theory” or “gloom-and-doom,” but I suffer from only one problem:  I read history books.  I paid attention in every history class that I ever took and we are fools if we don’t start paying closer attention to the things that we do.  If we don’t make change, it is history who will be the judge.

Dad’s Journey is Done

Dad NavyMy dad passed away at 1:40am.  I’ll probably have a lot to say about the last week and his passing at a later date.  All that I’ve got to say, at this point, is that my dad was awesome.  I would say more about how amazing he was, but it would most likely cause many people to have feelings of inadequacy about their own fathers.

Objective Truth

I’m going to take a quick respite from trying to process what is going on with my father to get out the firehose for some of the folks that I’ve seen in debate with various Jenner and Dolezal-related issues over the last two weeks.  Hopefully, I can bring a little clarity to several of you who seem to be struggling and are perhaps out of your depth when it comes to the following two topics.

First, there is no such thing as “my” truth.  There is simply “the” truth.  The truth is objective.  The truth is reality.  The truth is a little bit of science, a little bit of religion, a little bit of philosophy, and a whole lot of reality.  The truth does not change and does not waver.  It is as solid as concrete and tough as forged steel.  The truth is the same for us all, only some of us choose not to see it.  There is simply one truth.  A person either accepts that or they don’t .

You can, however, have “my” perspective or “my” opinion or “my” feelings.  Those are accurate statements.  Those are things that actually exist.

Any time you hear someone say “this is my truth” you need to understand one thing above all else…you need to understand that that person is self-delusional and is not to be trusted.  You can pity them, you can humor them, but if you keep their company or listen to their counsel, you are a fool.

Second, you can say that you are whatever you want, but that doesn’t make it true.  I will give you an example:

image

This is Bruce Ernest Greene.  He is my son and he is 2 1/2.  Two days ago, he decided that he was “Star Rebel” who is presumably some intergalactic rapscallion, much like Han Solo.  Although I am certainly proud of my son’s imagination and taste, he is not Star Rebel…he is Bruce.  He is always Bruce, although he may choose to pretend that he is a puppy or “some kid” or Star Rebel.

I hope that this helps some of you folks regain your center.  If not, our next discussion might cover a couple of different topics, such as whether or not a person can actually contract Sickle Cell Anemia as an indicator of racial determination or perhaps a lengthy treatise on Y Chromosomes.

This week, more than ever, I am acutely aware that there are far better ways for us to be spending our time than debating issues which are best left with those who are directly involved.  Our propensity to waste time on such issues and internet drivel is staggering.

So…today sucked.

The other day, I wrote that I was going to put my blogging on hold while I dealt with us having to call in hospice for my dad.  A couple of good friends encouraged me to continue to write, as it makes for a good outlet for processing grief.  At first, I was going to blow it off, but since I’ve had enough Pastoral Care and Counseling classes to know that they are right, I thought that I might defer to their wisdom in this trying time.

In case you missed it; I wrote a piece about my dad when we first started talking about hospice and palliative care in the fall of 2013.  I like to go back and look at it on occasion because I think that it perfectly sums up how I felt on the day that I wrote it.

Today is one of those days where I definitely need to document how I feel about Dad.

My dad grew up fairly poor.  I would like to offer exhibit A:Dad BucketsThis is a picture of my dad in front of my Papaw’s old house.  Those are not bricks.  That is some sort of tar-based siding which is similar to roll roofing but stamped to look like bricks.  You might take note of the ripped jacket which Dad is wearing.  Sometimes you have to wear a ripped jacket when it is cold and you are poor.  (I mean, not today, of course.  Today, homeless people have cell phones.)

My dad used to tell me about how he would hitch up the horses and plow other people’s fields for money.  When I was a kid, we still plowed certain things with a horse-draw plow and I learned how to hitch up the horse, so I know that this is something that he wasn’t making up.  In fact, Dad would often just hitch up the horse because he felt that it was too much trouble to get the tractor out.  Let that one sink in for just a moment.

My dad went from this to owning 3 auto parts stores and an interest in an office supply company.  He did this by working hard every day and not complaining.  My dad never, ever complained.  Dad had some strokes in the early 90’s which left him with some issues.  He worked through them with no complaining.  He didn’t complain when he lost his business to a real deadbeat who cost him well over half a million dollars 1999 money.  He eventually forgave the guy, which I still have trouble doing.  He didn’t complain when we had to sell the farm to pay for the outstanding business debt when his last store failed as a result of the 2004 flood. He never complained and he always did his best to keep a positive attitude.

Unfortunately, I think that I had my last real conversation with Dad earlier today.  After that, he took a nap and had a rather serious stroke.  When he woke up, he could no longer speak and it was clear that we could no longer take care of him at home.

Today, I had to help decide to move my father into a hospice facility rather than keeping him at home, even though he had wanted to remain at home until he passed.  Today, I probably had the last good conversation that I will ever have with my father.  Today sucked.

I want to write something really profound, but my day sucked.

I’m going to take a cue from Red vs. Blue and release a pre-planned PSA when I just can’t make my self-imposed deadline.

If you were any sort of fan of the Christian Alternative and Hard Music Scene in the 90’s, you owe it to yourself to listen to the two following podcasts:

The Never Was Podcast

The Urban Achiever Show

These two podcasts are done by Mark Salomon, of The Crucified and Stavesacre, and Billy Power, formerly of Tooth and Nail Records and Blenderhead.  Start with their first shows and listen all the way through.  They have some of the best conversations regarding music, life, and faith that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Bluetooth Keyboard

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This little guy has changed the way that I use my smartphone.  About a year ago, Jessica and I were discussing whether or not we needed to buy another laptop because we had just had one die and our other one was on its last legs.

We talked about the actual usefullness of a full-fledged laptop versus a Chromebook.  As we decided that a Chromebook was not quite as useful as a laptop, we came to a realization.

The smartphones that we carry in our pockets everyday are at least, if not more, capable than most Chromebooks.  They have constant connectivity to the internet, either over wi-fi or cellular data.  They have all the same apps and even sport better cameras and microphones.  Also, as screens on smartphones get bigger, it is much easier to see the interface.  Really, the only drawback is that nobody really likes typing on a smartphone screen.

Enter the solution:  Ta da!  The cheap bluetooth keyboard.  This one cost me about $19 on Amazon and every smartphone has bluetooth.  This means that you can spend less than $20 and you can have a very capable computer in your pocket.

Now, to be honest, I don’t keep the keyboard with me everywhere I go, but I can take it wherever I need it.  The bonus is that it doesn’t just work with phones.  It works with all tablets and just about all computers. 

No more taking a laptop on trips.  No more worrying about how TSA is going to treat my computer.  No more worrying about whether the hotel has wi-fi.  No more worrying about expensive equipment.  Just a whole lot of pure functionality.

This single keyboard has changed the way that both myself and my wife interact with our technology.  The best part?  We only need one keyboard for all of our devices.

I know this is excessively “techy” but I thought that I would share the idea.  I sure has saved us a lot of money and really increased our functionality.  In fact, I wrote this whole post on my cell phone.  There is no way that I would have done that without this keyboard.

Wow! That was a full day.

My day started with meeting this guy:

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It continued by hanging out with this guy:

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After that, there was a lot of cleaning and putting away camping gear, hanging out with my family, and mowing.  Lots and lots of mowing.  I love weekends like this, but they make me feel old.  Tired and old.

Fortunately, tomorrow will afford lots of opportunities to process the weekend and prepare for the upcoming week.  Perhaps tomorrow will bring something profound.  Regardless, last night’s camping and today’s mowing were a welcome respite from this past week’s media onslaught of dreck; focusing on everything from the Duggars to Bruce Jenner’s sex change.  There is nothing like a little bit of time outdoors to make one realize exactly how little the lives of celebrities that I have never met should mean to me.

My daughter got to hold a frog.  My son ate a bunch of marshmallows and entertained everyone with whom he came into contact, today.  I took care of the yard at my parent’s house.  I really didn’t have time to care about the internet.  it was nice.