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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Human Frailty: Why We Can’t Stay Awake in Church

(c) 2013 by Tom King

This morning I ran across one of those Facebook posts designed to make you feel bad about yourself.  The post criticized folk who nod off during church services.  If you can stay awake for a three hour movie, you should be able to respect God enough to stay awake for a couple of hours in church. 

Well, I just want everyone to know I can fall smooth off to sleep in any movie you care to put up on the screen.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ right off into the popcorn while nubile scantily clad starlets set off explosions to the right and left (not that I watch such things mind you) and despite the fact that the theater, in order to keep the projection room cool sets the thermostat on “Arctic”.  And I do nod off in church more often than in theaters, but there’s is a perfectly good reason for that.  I go to church more often than I go to theaters.

Of course, people fall asleep in church, but it’s not about respect for God.  It’s not that we would rather worship celebrities than God.  It’s about temperature, timing and sound.  

  • In theaters, they turn the AC on high to keep the projectors coo.  It gets so frigid in there you have to stay awake to keep from freezing to death. In churches, on the other hand they keep the AC low and the temperature higher to save money on the utility bill.
  • There is also the occasional explosion and with Dolby sound they are fast becoming more and more realistic. In churches, if anyone makes a startling noise he or she is quickly shushed lest they wake their fellow members of the congregation.
  •  Add to that, it's not only warm,  but it’s quiet.  To make matter worse, you have this guy with a deep baritone voice with this Walter Cronkite face and conservative suit standing up front speaking in gentle soothing tones after you just had a big breakfast.  
  • AND It’s the end of a hard work week and you’re tired and you had to get up early to get everybody ready for church.  God gave us a Sabbath rest for a reason.  WE NEED IT! 
  • Finally, you have the architecture working against you.  Services are supposed to be conducted in a restful setting.  The architects design church to be quiet, reverent and solemn places.  It’s true, however, that Fundamentalist Protestant church services are harder to stay awake in than the kind of services offered by Catholic and high church protestant denominations like Lutherans and Episcopalians.  These guys salt the service with sudden bursts of congregational participation activities which require standing up and reading off bits of the liturgy, singing or running up to the rail for communion.  This makes it harder to doze off in a mass. But give me a good old Baptist, Adventist or Church of Christ pastor on a warm summer morning after a week of hard work, family duties and business and you might just as well dissolve Ambien in the communion wine.

So, before we jump on the farmer, plumber or contractor for nodding off in church, accusing him of disrespect for God, let’s step back and wonder how God looks at it.  He gave us the Sabbath to give us a day to recoup and recharge.  I suspect he doesn’t mind it too much when the 70 year-old deacon nods off somewhere between the offertory and the benediction. We used to have a head elder back in Louisiana who almost every Sabbath, dozed off and started snoring while sitting on the rostrum behind the pastor.  The church started moving the elders off the rostrum and Elder Mickey continued snoring peacefully after that in his spot at the front right of the church next to the organ. He was a good man. He just worked long hours and he was getting old.

Look at it the way God the Father looks at it.  Remember when your kids used to fall asleep eating supper – dropped his head right down into the plate, face-first.  You didn’t berate him for disrespecting your cooking.  You picked the poor thing up, wiped off the potatoes and peas and tucked him into bed for a nap.  I expect that’s how God views the situation.

Besides, dozing off in church is a useful barometer for an alert pastor. It help him pastor know when he’s reached the end of his sermon.  If a third of the congregation is doing the head bobbing thing, it’s time to wrap it up and break for lunch.  I know pastors who used to write their sermons so that when the head-bobbing reached a certain pitch, he could cut to the end and wrap it up before the deacons began sawing logs in earnest. 

I’m just sayin’

Tom King

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oh, Dear, They Mentioned the "G" Word on the TV.

(c) 2013 by Tom King

I must admit I missed the Super Bowl this year.  I'm kind of like "Are the Cowboys in it?"   If the answer is no, I go chop wood or do something useful.  Dodge, however, had this great commercial, thought that evidently sparked a lot of conversation.  The commercial brings back the inimitable Paul Harvey's tribute to farmers. It's sweet and upbeat and reverent.

So naturally a lot of people were unhappy with it.  In the weeks following it's debut during America's signature sporting event, we were treated to weak-kneed attempts to discredit the commercial's message.  The LA Time's smug piece proclaimed "Here's the Rest of the Story."  I don't think "story" means what they think it means.  The Huffing and Puffington Post, of course, can always be counted upon to put a negative spin on the commercial, pointing out all the evil corporations and laws that make life hard for farmers around the world.

Odd, but they never seem to connect the idea that most of those starving farmers living in near slavery are living in leftist countries like China and Venezuela.  They never seem to remember that most of the farm regulations and systems that hamper farmers and support corporate greed in agri-business were written on their watch when they had control of both the House and Senate and often even the Presidency. 

They miss the point that farmers in a free America can go to the Supreme Court for redress of grievances against those evil corporations as farmer Vernon Bowman is doing against Monsanto. 

Finally the atheists among us haven't let the mention of God in public go uncriticized either.  Twitter blew up after the commercial with Tweets both pro and con in the millions.  Where the two intersected, heated disputes broke out like wildfires between obviously right and left wing commentators. 

It's sad really.  I don't even like Dodge trucks (unfortunate history with Chrysler projects), but I did appreciate the commercial.  If Chevrolet wants to do a commercial called "Allah made a Quickie-Mart Clerk", I really do have no problem with that either.  I'm sorry if that sounded anti-Muslim, it's not. I really admire the way immigrants to this country have stepped in wherever they could and made homes and fortunes doing whatever worked for them.  I wish them all well.

I know we have moved away from the family farm and some corporate abuses have occurred.  It cannot be helped that agriculture is changing.  We have a huge and growing population and we have to find ways to produce as much food that is as healthy as possible.  We will make some mistakes along the way. It was the same way when the economy went from the industrial age to the information age, when the agricultural economy that dominated America moved to the industrial age and all the way back through the Rennaisance, the iron age, bronze and stone ages.  Every shift has required us to find a new balance.

Farmers, however their farms are structured, are hard-working people who are under-appreciated.  Good for Dodge for preparing and paying for this very public tribute for American farmers.

And shame on all of you gripey little girls who have nothing better than to complain about every good and decent thing that comes along.  Get over yourselves for heaven's sake.

...or for your own sake if you don't buy the whole "God" thing.  That much negativity really chews up your guts and gives you diseases.

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

Saturday, March 09, 2013

There are Cat People & Dog People

One type of person is happy and well-adjusted.  One is not.
(c) 2013 by Tom King

I'm just saying.  I've owned dogs and tended to cats over the past fifty years or so. I've noticed there is a a profound difference between these two favorite pet species and how they interact with their owners.  Here are some things I've observed.

  • Cats are socialists and in charge of all things.  Dogs are libertarians and think you're a pretty great leader.
  • Cats are politicians. Dogs are voters.
  • Your dog will die to protect you from an attacker.  The cat will hide till it's all over.
  • Your dog is always glad you're home. The cat wonders why it took you so long to get there and why her supper bowl is still empty.
  • Your dog will bring you your slippers.  The cat will pee in them if you still haven't filled his supper bowl.
  • Your dog will fetch the ball when you throw it. The cat plays with the ball to amuse herself, until it rolls under something and then she will sit there with an exasperated look on her face and wait for you to fetch it. 
  • Your dog brings you toys to play with.  The cat brings you dead rodents and leaves them in your shoes.
  • Your dog wants you to feel good about yourself. Your cat wants you to make her feel good about herself.
  • Your dog thinks you are clever, funny and can do anything you put your mind to.  Your cat thinks you might just be able to handle a can opener with the proper supervision.
  • Your dog hard down loves you. The cat needs to think about it for a day or two before she answers that question. 
  • Your dog will sleep on the foot of your bed till you wake up (even if you don't wake till 10 or 11.  The cat will walk around on your face at 6 am because you haven't filled her bowl yet.
  • Dogs have family. Cats have staff.
You have been warned.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Or What's a Heaven For?

Why We Should Reach for the Stars
(c) 2013 by Tom King

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” – Robert Browning

Every time we have an event like this week's docking of the Dragon X capsule at the International Space Station, the comments sections of these reports get flooded with people who say we should junk the space program and take care of "problems at home" first.

The only flaw in that logic is that should we take that approach, we'd never go to space at all.  Jesus pointed out that "The poor you will have always..."  The idea that we must cure poverty before we do anything else is deeply held by many well-meaning people. Unfortunately, poverty is not completely curable with the technology that exists and with the state of the human race.  To cure poverty, mankind would have to be perfected and I don't believe that is possible in this world.   

The arrival of the computer age has had wonderful consequences.  We're deciphering the human genome. We're on the trail of a cure for cancer.  There is no evidence that piling more money onto the problem will help.  In the history of the world, great innovations often come from unexpected places. Man's obsession with exploration and learning has led him to stumble upon solutions for one problem that turn out to solve a thousand others.  The invention of the steam engine led to revolutions in transportation, new engines, flying machines and power plants which have extended human life and improved the quality of it.  Power technology has been misused as well - one of those problems a corrupt human race will always have since power attracts corruptible people.

The computer age, in addition to bestowing great benefit has also had an unfortunate effect.  Computers, because of their mathematical and data storage capabilities have drawn the devoted attention of society's bean-counters.  Today's instant accounting distorts our vision and draws our attention to the immediate reward and to the manipulation of the "bottom line".  We look at graphs of daily profits instead of at our long term goals and our mission in life.  We look to the Earth and not to the stars for inspiration and purpose. We've become enamored of laws and data collection as our best tools to perfect mankind instead of looking to ideas and aspirations. That's all well and good if you believe man can be perfected in his current spiritual state.  I don't.

How unfortunate that when the computer age has also given us the ability to extend our reach literally by billions of miles, so many of us have turned our eyes from looking up toward the stars and, instead, are obsessed with the dirt at our feet. Perhaps, if we'd just reach up again toward the stars, we might find that our efforts to reach them may perhaps solve the problems we have that keep us Earthbound.  French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

My objection to the solve the problems of Earth-first or even America's problems first argument is that if we limit ourselves to only to fixing those things which are broken here, we will soon find ourselves over-whelmed trying to keep up with a planet rapidly breaking down. 

Remember, the experts have long predicted the world would collapse and billions would starve.  Instead, we've managed to feed ourselves despite dire predictions of mass starvation by futurists like Thomas Malthus.  Technology under the pressure of need, helps us to discover new ways to produce massive quantities of healthy food.  Starvation today is more a result of politics than it is any lack of food.  The discoveries that have kept us ahead of Malthus's predicted mass starvation, have come because people were looking for ways to make more money by raising crops more efficiently, more effectively and at lower cost. 

Capitalism has done more to feed the world than any political scheme to redistribute wealth.  Businessmen and scientists working for them have done more to improve healthcare, reduce disease, hunger and poverty than any politician or government ever has.

Which is why I am thrilled to see Space-X, Bigelow Aerospace and other private companies launching rockets, experimenting with space planes and looking for better ways to heave ourselves off the planet.  These efforts will inevitably lead to discoveries that benefit us all in ways we cannot imagine now.

I remember exactly where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped out upon the moon.  It was a powerful moment in the lives of people the world over.  It's time we put some more boot prints on the moon, if only to draw our eyes upward again. Upward is the direction we should be looking.

And for more reason than one....


The Battle of Sassafrass Ridge

(c) 2012 by Tom King

Part 5: Acts of Heroism by Ordinary Individuals During the Recent Alien Invasion

Hamilton B. Crockett - East Texas Gun Shop Owner

One of the curious things about the response of the general populace during the recent alien invasion was a general lack of the expected mass running around, screaming and looting. While some looting did occur in larger cities, most of it was of the “get myself a free flatscreen” variety and had more to do with the distracted condition of the urban police forces.....
Read the whole story at: