Liquid Footprints


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Simplifying a Busy Life

With classes for my Master’s degree starting in just a few weeks and feeling pressed for time, I’ve decided to stop posting to this blog for awhile. Perhaps even permanently. I am also taking down my retro-gaming blog, Gamemories, when the domain subscription expires.

Both blogs were enjoyable for a time, but now feel like work. I look toward each weekly update as a chore to do. I’ve lost my passion for these formats. As soon as blogging feels like work, it is time to throw in the towel. Forcing out a poor post does little but clutter the internet with more nonsense.

It’s been fun, but it is time to call it quits and focus on my artistic pursuits and degree.

May Peace always walk with you.


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Connecticut Shooting, the Seeds We Planted.

God not allowed in schoolsI’ve heard a lot of nonsense over the last few days about how God wasn’t at the Newtown elementary school during Adam Lanza’s rampage. Rubbish! God was there, and in fact He is allowed in schools. Students may pray or read the Bible, Koran, Dharmapada, Torah, or any other religious text. The school is just not allowed to promote a particular religious view point; teachers must be neutral. But I digress.

He was in the acts of the teachers as they shielded the kids at the expense of their own lives. He was in the efforts of the teachers and kids as they tried to comfort the dying and each other. He was even with the shooter. God is within all of us at all times.

But why does He allow such bad things to happen?

God created a self correcting universe, driven by cause and effect. Bad things happen because we sow the seeds. Just because we face the consequences of our actions doesn’t mean He isn’t present or doesn’t care. How many warnings have we had in America about the seeds we are sowing? Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Sikh Temple, and many others are all symptoms of a deeper society problem. One we ignore and try to legislate over with gun or security laws. We always address the symptoms instead of the disease.

This isn’t even about God not being present in American society. He is always present. The disease is the American society as it is currently structured. We lack a sense of community, of family, and of satisfaction with life. We are encouraged to be egotistical and materialistic. We work too long hours for very little wage instead of spending time pursing the things in life that matter: friends, family, hobbies, interests, the arts, and learning. We have little sense of community.

If we had more less financial stress and less a focus on materialism, we could have more time to spend with neighbors, friends, family, and other people. We need to encourage pursuit of the arts, hobbies, and learning just because those things create satisfaction and joy. Strong ties to the community and friends/family are stronger than any gun control law. A life with a sense of fulfillment and based in compassion will not have as much interest in violent media. A life set up in an environment where compassion was the rule will not kill others.. A life that has a loving community around them will be less likely to kill children in a school. At the least, a closely knit community will be able to notice something is wrong.
We need to  stop listening to the siren’s song of materialism and the idolatry of work. God will allow them to happen because He wants us to learn from our mistakes. Until American society as a whole changes, we will continue to see such violent events.


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In His Image

So God created mankind in his own image ,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1: 27

We often forget that all of humanity is created in God’s image. It is even said in rabbinic tradition  that the first man was illuminated with glory similar to God’s own.  Christianity focuses a lot upon the Fall of man and our sinfulness.  This makes us forget that even in our sinfulness we are still an image of God. Think on that a moment. We, despite our failings, are created in the likeness of the Supreme Creator.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:18

When we look in the mirror or upon another person, we are seeing a some of God’s majesty. Is it any wonder than that Jesus considered the two greatest commands to be love God and love each other? By loving each other, we are loving a part of God’s majesty. What we see within ourselves as an image of God isn’t the way we look. Rather, God creates us in His image of compassion and mercy. God isn’t an old man with the long flowing beard we often visualize. He is Love incarnate and powerful. The face we see in the mirror is a face that can shine with compassion and love for all of creation. Jesus exemplified this Love God is in such a way we can understand. Even His death on the cross doesn’t compare to the Love God is. Dying for another is the only supreme expression of love we can show or understand.

This limitation is why we are an image of God. In some versions of the  Genesis story, God created man only a little less than Himself. We are only a little less capable of being Compassion.

Certainly we sin, but there is a little too much focus on this aspect of being human. The greatest part of being human is being an image of God; no matter how tarnished, it is still there. It can be, as Paul points out, transformed into a greater image; we can grow in Compassion. Realizing this fact, helps us also realize our capacity for love is boundless. We simply do not work to develop it.

Christianity speaks often about God’s grace being a part of salvation from sins. God’s forgiveness is all the is necessary. I argue that we shouldn’t focus so much on this. God will, after all, forgive as He wants to forgive. Our responsibility is to grow in compassion and become increasingly like the Being we are images of. It is only through practicing Love, as Jesus and Paul point out, can we grow into the compassion God originally intended us to be.  We cannot earn forgiveness for sins. We can, however, work toward becoming a representation of God.


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Too Much Christ in Christmas

Open Christmas Day

Open Christmas Day

A lot of people lament how Christ isn’t much of a part of Christmas anymore.  The fears and martyr complex are unwarranted. Christmas is a material holiday that isn’t going to change; it is too vital a part of the economy to not  be material.  It is the holiday that generates the most profit. Christmas is more about Santa Claus than Christ.

Because of the materialist focus, I doubt Jesus would want to be associated with Christmas. Sure, Americans give a lot to the Salvation Army and other charities. However, how much is given in relation to the value of the items in their shopping carts? Okay, we are giving to our family members and not buying for ourselves at least.

Blessed are the hungry, the poor, and the weak. Christmas today celebrates nothing of what Jesus stood for. Certainly there is the facade, but at the core it is all about the economy. It is a time to spend with family, certainly, for those lucky enough not to have to work department stores that remain open.

Should Christmas return its focus on Jesus’ birth? It isn’t going to happen, and no, it shouldn’t. The message of His life is more important than His birth; the Christmas story is not a product of historical fact anyway.

It sounds like I am against Christmas. I am soured to it, but not against it. I dislike the materialism and the role it plays in the economy.  However, I realize it isn’t going to change…unless there is a grass roots shift in our thinking.

  1. We need to stop buying gifts and instead give to to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and local charities.
  2. We need to stop working and spend time with family: with or without a huge meal.
  3. We need to not think of Jesus on this season, but think on His message every moment. More importantly we need to practice.

It isn’t wrong to want to buy gifts for family members. What is wrong is the feeling of obligation this season creates. We shouldn’t have a reason to give gifts.

Until we start doing these things collectively as Christians, there is too much Christ in Christmas.  He shouldn’t be associated with materialism.

 


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Dating: A Profitable Business?

I don’t normally wear a conspiracy hat, but I will put one on for this post. My younger brother made a good point about how dating and marriage has become a market for businesses the other day. First, there is a lot of money to be gained through societal dating and marriage expectations: movies, dinners, gifts, valentines day, sweetest day (in Ohio), flowers, engagement rings, wedding rings, wedding dresses, and all the hubris surrounding wedding expectations. There are billions to be snagged with dating and marriage.

Next you also have a high divorce rate supported by the American “there is always something better” mentality. Divorces are also expensive and most often lead to another round of dating and marriage.

Did business purposefully set up a culture of expectations that led to the headache we call dating? They certainly have a vested interest and contributed to it. The greater problem is with American culture; we have too high expectations and try to live out fantasies that simply can’t happen in reality. The dream wedding shows on television strike me as supremely wasteful and ridiculous, for example. Spending $2,000 – $20,000+ for a dress you wear once is outlandish. The cost of the reception and ceremony is even worse. Then you also have the rings and all the dating expenses leading up to the wedding. The money is better spent on a honeymoon vacation, on a home, or donating to an aid foundation.

Relationships have turned into commodities. Dating is a transaction done between 2 people with certain expectations fostered by society. It is unfortunate and even offensive.

I haven’t had much luck with dating, for a full disclosure. I am soured to the pressures and expectations people push upon dating. I won’t date anyone unless she is a friend first. That is a no-no in our society, but the point of dating is to increase intimacy in a relationship. I just don’t see how people can jump to a deeper intimacy level than friendship (as our society supports with kissing and more as being part of dating) when you barely know the person. It takes years to know a person well. I also don’t think dates should be expensive. It is best to do inexpensive or even free things like taking a walk simply because you want to spend time with someone you care about.  It shouldn’t be a transaction.

The point of dating is to spend time with someone you already know well to deepen the intimacy you share. Friendship is a better place (with less expectations) for getting to know people.  The market side of dating and marriage is unhealthy for relationships. Money isn’t a measure of affection, yet in America it often is equated. The more we spend relative to our income shows how much we love someone. Pfff.

I often wonder what Jesus and Buddha would have to say about how we have monetized even the deepest relationship we can share with another. I wonder what they would say with out we treat relationships as a throw away commodity.


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Imminent Rapture

Lately a lot of people around here are talking about the Rapture coming soon. Most of it is because they are discontent with the outcome of the recent presidential election here in the States. This talk also starts up whenever Israel and Palestine renew their endless conflict. In any case, I don’t believe in the Rapture. I don’t see it in the Scripture, and it strikes me as an extremely self centered doctrine. Historically speaking, it is a modern doctrine. It didn’t appear in the form people think of until the 19th century.

The people who speak of the Rapture talk about how they can’t wait to be free and leave everything behind. They assume they are among those who will be raptured. I haven’t ran across one believer yet who thinks they will be left behind when they speak seriously about it.

The Rapture strikes me as selfish because a good Christian will want to remain behind to help people during the trials the doctrine luridly illustrates.  Jesus did everything He could to help those desperate and in need. Jesus would want to be left behind so He could seek and save the lost. So too should Christians want to be left behind. A good friend of mine even swore an oath to God that if the Rapture would happen he will stay behind to help people if it would happen in his lifetime.

Those people who speak so passionately about the Rapture are those who would end up being left behind because of their ego-centric views and their desire that people get their “just” punishment. I don’t see anyone deserving of the horrors the doctrine describes as happening. The purpose is supposedly to help people change, but compassion rather than violence is a better method to help people refocus their life. Violence only breeds more violence.

In any case, too many people have a very ego-centric, they-will-get-theirs view of Christianity. It is unfortunate a belief system that has compassion at its heart has been obscured to a small, irrational, and even hateful seed within the minds of many people.


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Tithing and Giving

Tithing is the act of giving the tenth of one’s income, typically to a religious organization. I know of many churches that tithe their members. What does the Bible say about this?

First, tithes are practiced in the Jewish Scripture.  It was also very specific. It was the giving of a tenth of what the land produced. In other words, if you didn’t farm, you didn’t pay the tithe:

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. - Leviticus 27:30

There were also various other tithes based on what year it was ( that totaled to around 23%  and not 10% of the harvest). But this regular tithe is what most people consider when they think of tithing. It was an ancient form of taxation. The tithe went to the Temple to support the priest class ( and help support widows and orphans under the care of the Temple).  Jesus wouldn’t have paid the tithe as a carpenter. In fact, He was against tithing when it was a focus:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. - Matthew 23:23

The most important matters of the law: mercy, justice, and faithfulness were considered more important by Jesus than paying a tithe.

So How Should a Christian Give?

Paul tells us that a Christian should give out of the first day of their labor:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. -1 Corinthians 16: 1,2

By what did they store from their labors? And to whom did were they giving? Paul? No. Paul was making a collection for the saints, but who were they?  The saints Paul is referring to wasn’t the church in Corinth or even the church in Galatia. It wouldn’t make sense for the people in those areas to give to Paul since they could take care of it themselves. Rather, Paul was collecting for the poor at Jerusalem and elsewhere:

 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased those of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints who are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily, and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers in their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have secured to them this fruit, I will come to you on my way to Spain. -Romans 15:25-28

Paul was collecting food. The first Christians gave to the poor and not to a church organization. They gave of their harvest ( hence no need to be out collecting as Paul asks in the Corinthians verse). There is no set amount offered. Paul doesn’t ask for a tithe. He only asks for something as a person prospers on their first day of labor each week with the goal of feeding their poor brethren.  Paul wasn’t concerned about collecting funds to run a church as we do today. He was concerned with helping those in need.

Consider what Jesus told the Pharisees about their tithing and what Paul taught. What matters is how we give and not how much or what we give. If a church doesn’t help the poor, the hungry, or those in need, we shouldn’t be giving the church a single penny.  We would serve God better in such an instance by giving our money directly to a soup kitchen or even another religious organization that runs a homeless shelter.

So Should We Tithe?

From a doctrinal standpoint, no we shouldn’t tithe. Tithes were based upon the yield of the land and were given to the Temple. Since the Temple doesn’t exist and most of us are not farmers, tithing doesn’t apply.Unfortunately tithing is also a part of the so -called gospel of prosperity (I won’t dignify it with capitals). Many people like to tithe because they think God will return that amount many fold. This is wrong motivation and just plain selfish. It is just like what the Pharisees did in Jesus’ time.

Now, can we tithe if we want? Certainly! Paul teaches that we should lay in store as we prosper on the first day of each week. If you can afford to take a tenth of your income (since most of us don’t harvest anything) then wonderful! However, you have to be certain that the money is going to help those in need and not fund the edifice of a religious organization. Certainly, pastors and preachers  need to eat too, but it cannot be the main purpose of the funds. Most of the funds should go toward helping people.

The funds shouldn’t be used to indoctrinate either. Jesus gave unconditional help to those in need. We also need to do so.  Compassion converts people to a belief system far better than doctrine.

We also have to remember that we must live as a Christian and not just give like a Christian. Jesus’s lesson for the Pharisees remains as a warning for us. A Christian who lives compassionately but doesn’t give is better than a person who calls themselves Christian, gives much and regularly, but doesn’t live compassionately everyday.

Giving is an act of compassion not of compulsion ( 2 Corinthians 9:5 – 7).  We shouldn’t expect anything in return, from those we help or from God. We give because we cannot stand to see others suffer.

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