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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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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Public Prayer

One of the aspects about modern Christian worship that makes me quite uncomfortable ( in addition to singing) is prayer. Heck, prayer is everywhere in public life. It is all over our television and even part of our political system.  This ought not to be so. I am not against prayer, but our current practice is actually contrary to what Jesus taught:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6

While the verse specifically refers to an episode of Pharisees praying out in the streets, it was a direct command to his followers. We are to pray only in secret.  Prayer is intimate alone time with God. Prayer is supposed to be as special and secret an act as sharing love with a spouse. So why all the public displays?

Namely it is for the same reason as the Pharisees prayed: attention. Public prayer is often a way of garnering attention from others and generally making a show of one’s piety. I am even against prayer in church services since it isn’t private time with God.  Jesus would go off alone to pray in the morning (Mark 1:35). The only time He would pray “publicly” was when He would give thanks for meals, but even then He was with His closest friends and family members.  The Lord’s Prayer wasn’t a prayer. Jesus was providing a template as to how to pray.

Whenever I sit in on someone leading a prayer I feel extremely uncomfortable; I feel like I walked in on something I shouldn’t have.  Doesn’t matter if it is at the dinner table or during Sunday worship. It just feels wrong since Jesus explicitly tells us to prayer in secret. In many ways, not praying secretly is cheating on God. Prayer is a time when we need to withdraw from everything that distracts us and sit alone in God’s presence. It is a time we share our weaknesses, concerns, and problems. It isn’t a time to stand in front of others, nor to treat God like a vending machine. Prayer is something we shouldn’t say we are doing for someone. It is far too intimate to treat it as publicly as we do.

Unfortunately many people look at me oddly when I express this discomfort of mine. I only seek to be as Christlike as I can be. Prayer has no place outside of our most secret part of life.


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Becoming Wise

I am a fool. I do very foolish things; my mouth often runs ahead of my mind. I also speak without knowledge or study about a subject. I have pondered how to correct my foolishness and here is a short list I work on in my quest to become a bit wiser.

1) Teach not Preach

I come off as opinionated; I have a bad habit of standing on the soapbox and preaching. I really need to work on teaching. What does teaching involve, however? First, teaching requires receptive students. In other words, I need to be silent unless someone comes to me with a question. The old Zen masters used this approach. A student that comes to a teacher often ( but not always) wants to learn. A teacher who looks for students will find few. Next, I have a bad habit of being patronizing. I naturally speak with terms people don’t normally use in my area. ( My immediate family all does). A good teacher challenges their students instead of patronizing. Finally, I need to remind myself that I know nothing. A good teacher is also a student. We do not know as much as we think we do.

2) Discard Pride

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

I have a proud streak. I am proud that I am curious and don’t settle for answers. I am proud of my intelligence. Both show I lack wisdom. Humility is difficult to cultivate; it helps to remember that there are people who know more than I. It also helps to remind myself that I am terrible at sports or anything vocational. I can’t work with my hands outside of art. My sense of pride ties back into my habit of standing on the soapbox. I sometimes feel superior to “those who don’t work their mind such as I.” I don’t like thinking and feeling that way. It isn’t compassionate or right.

3) Age

“Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” Job 12:12

I am young and haven’t had many experiences. I am pretty risk adverse too which limits my experiences further. Wisdom comes through experience. So time and experience comes to us as we live. Hopefully we can also learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are the best (and sometimes the most difficult) source for experience.

4) Listen and Consider Advice

I can, however, offset my age deficit by listening to the advice and experiences of those older than me.  History repeats because we fail to learn from her lessons. I may not be wise, but I can avoid some mistakes and problems by listening to those who’ve been there and done that. The advice of our elders isn’t always sound. We have different circumstances than they had. However, it is helpful to see their decision, why they decided, and the outcomes.

5) Don’t Consider Oneself Wise

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” Proverbs 3:7

It is easy to be blind to ourselves.  When we consider ourselves wise, we set ourselves up for failure. We don’t listen to anyone else, we preach, and consider ourselves righteous.  The truly wise don’t consider themselves wise because they realize they are still growing and changing.

6) Be Silent

Do not speak, unless it improves silence” – Zen Proverb

Words can help and harm. When we speak impulsively we can hurt people deeply. Modern society is full of noise and words, but very little  improves silence. Much of what we see is hurtful or just vapid.  It is good to think before speaking. It is unfortunate in America we consider a delay in a response as disingenuous. I really need to work at this point.  Too often I speak before thinking my words through. I speak out of ignorance instead of contemplation. I don’t often improve upon silence.

So why be concerned about wisdom? Wisdom helps you become a better and more compassionate person. It creates rich life; one that positively impacts other people.  Cultivating Wisdom also brings us closer to God:

“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