All posts by creno7

About creno7

I decided to write a blog because I felt like recording my thoughts on a wide variety of topics, you could call it developing my own take or philosophy on life. I have always kept a journal, so in a sense I have just expanded this effort into the digital age. I don't expect a large audience but believe this to be a healthy venue for expressing some thoughts. My areas of interest include: Christianity, education, the economy, and other aspects of American society. My personal/professional life is involved in multiple roles....I am a Christian, Husband, Father, Educator, and Coach. If you are interested in my meanderings....pour yourself a BIG cup of coffee to stay awake and enjoy!

Lives In Isolation: Reflections on the Coronavirus

With all the Coronavirus hub-bub these days everywhere, I was recently asked about a social media post citing the Bible verse from 2 Chronicles where God punished the sins of Israel through plagues, locusts, etc. These calamities were all in an attempt to bring God’s people to repentance. No, I don’t buy the idea that it’s God’s plan to use the Coronavirus as a catalyst for worldwide repentance. Just in the same way that I don’t believe it is God’s will for us to watch Cancer ravish the lives of our loved ones.

We do live in a world that is detached from God, a “war-zone” if you will.  It is a world of physical disease and diseases of the soul such as greed.  In this war-zone, we are now in the midst of another pandemic, the likes of which seems to emerge once every one hundred years or so.  So rather than view the current pandemic as a global call to repent, I see it rather as another symptom resulting from our detachment from God.  The virus is a part of this world that is not of our Lord, but rather a byproduct of our fallen condition.   For inspiration during these challenging times, I opt to examine other people throughout our collective human experience that have lived lives in isolation.

In all of this I like to remember the historical and biblical characters who lived their lives in much worse isolation.   As my wife was cleaning her closet on day two, she came across the “Diary of Anne Frank.”  What an appropriate person to reexamine during our current time period.   Anne was 13 when she was forced into hiding.  Our situation pales in comparison.  She couldn’t go outside, or open the window for fresh air.  She often had to remain silent for periods of time.  Yet she endured and even found moments of happiness and some satisfaction in an unreasonable living situation.

On to the Bible. Noah, now there is a fella with some cramped living arrangements. Not only was he limited to interactions with a small group of family members, he was sharing the space with a whole bunch of animals. Basically, this lucky fellow found himself in a floating zoo for 40 days and 40 nights. The smell must have been magnificent.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Noah, there is Jonah.  Yes, Jonah’s duration was much shorter than Noah and Anne Frank (3 days and 3 nights) But how uncomfortable must he have been to be in the mouth of a “big fish?”  If I had to pick one of these, I don’t which one I would choose to suffer through, but I will say I would rather endure our current dilemma, no doubt about it.

Finally there is Jesus.  He went to the desert in isolation really only accompanied by Satan, not exactly great company.   Our Lord spent 40 days without food or human contact.  So now, not only was he not talking to anyone, Satan was there to tempt Jesus while he was physically weak, not once but three times.  The temptations seem to resemble a morbid type of teasing….starving, well here is some food to alleviate your suffering.  Only the Son of God could suffer and overcome such tremendous isolation and temptation.

Our current crisis will pass, it is not unique to the human experience.  For strength I will continue to consider those before me that have traveled a similar road, while praying to Our Lord Jesus, and of course repenting every day just in case ūüôā

-Got any other examples?  Feel free to comment….

LuHi Football: A bigger message

There is an elephant in the room. The elephant is that football is a dangerous sport and that kids shouldn’t play it. I concede football is not the safest sport, but I will say…..it has never been a safer sport than it is right now with better equipment, new rule changes, and a better understanding of concussion symptoms.  Football is no stranger to rule changes as the game was historically under the microscope for its brutality. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt met with college presidents at the White House to discuss the game, because its brutality was reaching some unacceptable levels.  As a result of this meeting and other discussions, the forward pass was invented along with the new position of wide receiver which spread the game out drastically. We are currently at another one of these historical paradigm shifts with the game of football, as helmet to helmet contact is now further restricted by modern rule changes, all in an effort to make the game safer and acceptable.

Here at LuHi our coaching staff and players are adjusting to these new rule changes while preparing for our upcoming season. There is some excitement in the air as LuHi will begin the fall of 2019 competing in the Metropolitan Independent Football League (MIFL).  This is a league full of not just good football teams, but excellent academic schools. Last year the champion was Rye Country Day School, which represents both of these attributes. As a member of this new league, LuHi has also been selected to take part in a football/concussion study which may eventually lead to further rule changes, as our league is a pioneer in this cutting edge study.  We are excited to be a part of the MIFL and to take part in this study, which will blaze the trail for changes that will make football much safer.

 

This summer our program had the opportunity to compete in a 7 on 7 tournament hosted by our new league.  LuHi ended the tournament as champions, defeating Hackley in the semis and Morristown-Beard (NJ) in the final. As a result, there are no secrets: LuHi has some folks that can play football.
While we are excited about the opportunities moving forward, the bigger questions are –¬†Why should people play football?¬†and¬†What do I want our players to take away from their LuHi football experience?¬†¬†

Like many sports, playing football has many life lessons, some of which are GREATLY emphasized.  One player can’t dominate a football field. It is an 11 on 11 game and as such TEAMWORK is developed to the greatest of extents.  A Division I quarterback can’t be effective if they are not protected by the well-orchestrated protection efforts of the offensive line in front of them.  This scenario can be created for any position on the football field. Football is an incredibly technical game where the collective efforts of the team far outweigh any individual talent or effort.

As a coach, one of my missions for our program is to develop this emphasis on teamwork into a community – one that supports one another but also looks to extend this support to our greater Long Island community.¬† I want our players to take away an understanding that life is bigger than football and to use some of the lessons they have learned to serve their community.¬† Last year, we had a group of our players volunteer to help an organization set up their homeless shelter at¬†Ascension Lutheran Church¬†in Deer Park. We worked as a team to transform a church gymnasium into a functioning shelter in the dead of winter.¬† I want our players to take away the command of Jesus to ‚ÄúLove our neighbors as ourselves‚ÄĚ and for them to understand that everyone is made equal in the image of God and as such we need to empathize and treat all people with respect. Setting up the shelter, and the interactions we had with some of the people staying there, really helped deliver these messages outside of the football field.

While the game of football teaches us valuable life lessons, like toughness and accountability, I believe teamwork is one of the more important lessons.  It is my hope and prayer that our players take these lessons and continue to extend them into their communities.
By: Chris Reno – 7/24/19

Failing Successfully Part II

As a teacher, coach, and now an administrator I have witnessed student disappointment with failure.  Of course it is natural to be disappointed with failure. The typical mindset is we prepared, studied, collaborated, practiced, all in vain when we fall short.  My questions regarding a momentary lack of success are: Do I hold myself accountable for this temporary lack of success? Did I actually prepare adequately? and, Was my preparation all in vain?

It is easy to pass the buck. Throughout our daily routine there are always a number of obstacles that may prevent us from accomplishing our daily goals and tasks.  The temptation is always strong to point to these obstacles and lay the blame on them for our failure. In order to move on productively, we need to confront this mentality and understand that we are the primary factor in our own failures.  As human beings, we love when people acknowledge us personally in our success but we tend to diminish our role in our personal shortcomings. The truth is, our success is based on our initiative but it is also largely dependent upon the support of others. Personally, I am only successful when I am surrounded by a gifted faculty and staff.  Their ability to do their job ensures I will have the opportunity to successfully complete mine as long as I take the initiative. In our middle school, when a student encounters a momentary lapse in success, I first want them to examine their personal role in this situation. Then I want the student to examine those around them and identify those that will support them on their road to success.

 

Naturally, after we examine ourselves personally and our role in the failure, the next step is to determine ‚ÄėWhat did I actually do to prepare myself?‚Äô Usually, an honest evaluation of our preparation leads to some quick conclusions.¬† Our lack of proper preparation often rises to the surface as a primary cause for our failure. This brings me back… and I hesitate to share my experience with college Chemistry, but I will. I studied hard for my first Chemistry quiz, to the point where I was confident entering the lecture hall that day.¬† A few days later this confidence took a major hit when I received my score. If my memory serves correct, my grade was a 37%! Now, I could have blamed all kinds of outside obstacles as college life has a surplus of them. But instead I self-examined, took responsibility and came to the conclusion that my personal preparation was clearly inadequate.¬† The day I received the exam was the day I went to the library and took advantage of the free tutoring services. The story ends well as I went on to earn an ‚ÄúA‚ÄĚ in Chemistry. I also came to realize that although ‚ÄúI earned‚ÄĚ a good grade for the semester, this success was largely dependent upon the help of others.

 

So was all my preparation in vain? After all I did score a 37% on that quiz, absolutely not.  Failure was the catalyst for future success. That quiz provided the momentum to take personal responsibility, examine my preparation, which then led me to reach out for more support moving forward, and, finally, I was able to succeed. As a teacher, coach, and now an administrator I have witnessed student disappointment with failure.  Of course it is natural to be disappointed with failure. The typical mindset is we prepared, studied, collaborated, practiced, all in vain when we fall short.  My questions regarding a momentary lack of success are: Do I hold myself accountable for this temporary lack of success? Did I actually prepare adequately? and, Was my preparation all in vain?

It is easy to pass the buck. Throughout our daily routine there are always a number of obstacles that may prevent us from accomplishing our daily goals and tasks.  The temptation is always strong to point to these obstacles and lay the blame on them for our failure. In order to move on productively, we need to confront this mentality and understand that we are the primary factor in our own failures.  As human beings, we love when people acknowledge us personally in our success but we tend to diminish our role in our personal shortcomings. The truth is, our success is based on our initiative but it is also largely dependent upon the support of others. Personally, I am only successful when I am surrounded by a gifted faculty and staff.  Their ability to do their job ensures I will have the opportunity to successfully complete mine as long as I take the initiative. In our middle school, when a student encounters a momentary lapse in success, I first want them to examine their personal role in this situation. Then I want the student to examine those around them and identify those that will support them on their road to success.

 

Naturally, after we examine ourselves personally and our role in the failure, the next step is to determine ‚ÄėWhat did I actually do to prepare myself?‚Äô Usually, an honest evaluation of our preparation leads to some quick conclusions.¬† Our lack of proper preparation often rises to the surface as a primary cause for our failure. This brings me back… and I hesitate to share my experience with college Chemistry, but I will. I studied hard for my first Chemistry quiz, to the point where I was confident entering the lecture hall that day.¬† A few days later this confidence took a major hit when I received my score. If my memory serves correct, my grade was a 37%! Now, I could have blamed all kinds of outside obstacles as college life has a surplus of them. But instead I self-examined, took responsibility and came to the conclusion that my personal preparation was clearly inadequate.¬† The day I received the exam was the day I went to the library and took advantage of the free tutoring services. The story ends well as I went on to earn an ‚ÄúA‚ÄĚ in Chemistry. I also came to realize that although ‚ÄúI earned‚ÄĚ a good grade for the semester, this success was largely dependent upon the help of others.

 

So was all my preparation in vain? After all I did score a 37% on that quiz, absolutely not.  Failure was the catalyst for future success. That quiz provided the momentum to take personal responsibility, examine my preparation, which then led me to reach out for more support moving forward, and, finally, I was able to succeed. Students need to recognize that failure is temporary and when we examine our failures closely, we unearth the seeds for success.

 

 

Failing Successfully

 

Image result for failure success

This morning I was listening to a podcast sermon, and I thought the topic was perfect for our students and their families. Indeed the topic is great for anybody. The message was simple; ‚ÄúDo not be afraid of failure.‚ÄĚ The speaker talked about how the fear of failure has reached endemic levels with our children and as we all know this is readily evident in the adult world. Fortunately, failure is a part of life. The apostle Peter is widely considered one of the most important or influential of all the disciples. It was Peter that Jesus spoke to when he said: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church‚ÄĚ (Matthew 16:18). It was also this trusted disciple that failed when he denied Christ not once, but three times (John 18:15-27). In many ways, Peter represents all human beings in a sense that in one moment he is immensely faithful and the next moment he fails in his faith. Although Peter failed, he ultimately did become the rock which provided the foundation for the church.

 

I saw the same message in the secular world echoed by Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon. Mr. Bezos believes that when he is older, it will not be the failures that he regrets, but instead, it will be the opportunities that he never took because he was scared of failing. We should always remember that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. We can’t be afraid to apply ourselves fully to our endeavors. For students, and all people it is still easier to fail a test we did not adequately prepare for than one in which they felt they prepared. I encourage our students to apply themselves fully to their studies, and if a disappointing grade is still the result, it then becomes a learning opportunity. How can failing become a learning opportunity?  Is it in our ability to understand ourselves, our shortcomings and the ability to develop the perseverance to look for a new approach?  Although when we find ourselves in these moments, it can be discouraging, we need to remember that failing well is the key to success.

Malcolm X

 

Malcolm X

 

February is Black History Month and I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my all-time favorite civil rights leader. ¬†I really got to know who Malcolm X was from Alex Haley‚Äôs biography and later the movie which was based on the book and directed by Spike Lee. ¬†Being a younger male testosterone fueled football player, I felt as if I could identify with Malcolm‚Äôs more aggressive approach to Civil Rights when compared to the more peaceful Satyagraha methods championed by Dr. Martin Luther King. ¬†But what I really came to appreciate was the transformation of Malcolm X. ¬†I really enjoy testimonies about the transformation of the human character and that is what you have with Malcolm X. ¬†Malcolm’s persona changed significantly over the course of his life. ¬†He was a burglar, then a prisoner, then a devout Muslim who preached separatism before finally converting to someone who recognized the beauty in all races while preaching racial reconciliation. ¬†Often times we remember the fiery rhetoric of Malcolm X but frequently forget that his message had changed at the time of his tragic assassination. ¬†

 

Malcolm had converted to Islam during his time in prison and when he was released he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam movement here in the United States. Malcolm’s first transformation was from a burglar to a devout Muslim leader preaching an extreme approach to Civil Rights.  His second transformation occurred when he took his pilgrimage to Mecca where he prayed alongside Muslims of many different races.  He then realized that racial harmony was in fact possible.

 

The human character is a fascinating thing. ¬†We need to remember that we can grow, change, and become enlightened as we continue to live our lives while interacting with many different people. ¬†This is what some psychologists call the ‚Äúgrowth mindset.‚ÄĚ ¬†That is what happened to Malcolm. ¬†His story is a powerful testimony to the power of love which can change all of us for the better. ¬†So for the month of February, I like to continuously remember Malcolm X ¬†not only for his fiery message and outstanding rhetoric, but for the transformation of his spirit, which ultimately led to him to understand that racial reconciliation was possible.

 

Identity Crisis: Reflections and Recommendations for the Republican Party

 

In our two party system both parties attempt to build a constituent base that provides them with blocks of voters in an attempt to build a constituency that will carry them to victory in local, state and national elections. ¬† The Republican Party dominated not only my hometown and state growing up but really the entire region. ¬†While both parties may have expert political scientists recommending that their respective party move further left or right; I would like to see the Republican Party maintain the ideals I grew up to know while moving more toward the center. ¬† Of course I am no expert political scientist, this is simply my attempt to reflect on the Republican Party’s constituent base while recommending some bold policy changes moving forward.

I grew up in a western state in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.  The Rocky Mountain west encouraged a culture of independence. We were driving at a young age (15-16) and with that freedom came road trips, camping trips, and other outdoor excursions without the direct supervision of adults.   All this being said, it was this atmosphere and culture of independence that seemed to also dominate our local politics. The Republican Party nurtured this sense of independence in the west largely through land and gun rights.

In many western states, zoning laws are more relaxed as are the gun laws. ¬†For example, I bought my first pistol (legally of course) a¬† .45 caliber; at a place called Rocky Mountain Sports and Liquor.¬† This was a gun and liquor store which included a drive up window for convenient service. ¬†How’s that for relaxed zoning and gun laws?

People living in the west also have a strong connection to the land as a privately owned and managed entity to be protected from the ever invasive feds. ¬†The land also has a sacred connection for many western natives due to the natural beauty of its landscape while also serving as a source for hunting and fishing. ¬†The Republican Party (G.O.P.) stood for low taxes, private ownership, and local jurisdiction in regards to land policy while staunchly supporting the second amendment. ¬†As far as land was concerned; some western landowners contested the federal government’s right to regulate and own the land. ¬†The feds own anywhere from 25%-65% of the land in western states¬†which can lend itself to increased tension with the locals. ¬†In essence, the feds are really the landlords in much of the area. ¬†The G.O.P. did a great job of gathering western constituents based on protecting gun rights while representing the “independent” landowner against the ever encroaching federal government. ¬†After all it was this bloated federal government that could be blamed for land and wildlife mismanagement in addition to increasing firearm restrictions. ¬†Specifically the blame could be directed toward the EPA, ¬†the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and of course what blame game would be complete without the A.T.F. ¬†Now this might be some of my western sympathies shining through, but not all of this blame was unfounded and that is why Randy Weaver won his lawsuit against the federal government and let us not forget Waco, Texas.

Another important part of the G.O.P constituency, included religious social conservatives. ¬†Where I grew up this group was largely based on higher Mormon populations and other Evangelical groups. ¬†These social conservatives and specifically the Evangelicals, are a vital part of a nationwide base for the G.O.P . ¬†The party had successfully targeted social issues of importance to the Evangelicals such as abortion and gay marriage. ¬† This G.O.P. recipe spelled dominance in the west and ultimately had a national impact culminating in the election of George W. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney (Wyoming). ¬†George being your Born Again Christian while Cheney represented those western ideals. ¬†It was clearly evident how important these Evangelicals were once again in 2004. ¬†Part of Karl Rove’s strategy as Bush’s campaign manager, was to appeal to the base and of course that meant courting Evangelicals. ¬† The Evangelicals in return, turned out to not only vote, but volunteered during the campaign. ¬†This group overwhelming supported Bush in his reelection.

The rest of the Republican base then includes a pro-business element or what I call economically conservative voters; these are your free market advocate Wall Street types, the millionaires, small business owners and some financially conscientious middle class people looking to reduce their tax burden.  These are the groups of Republicans that I have gotten to know while being out here on the east coast.   In contrast to many social conservatives (Evangelicals etc.) this group is perfectly fine with gays getting married as long as that gay married couple pays their taxes and those taxes are low.  The Bush/Cheney combination and to a certain extent even the Trump ticket, appealed to these Republican voters because the party continued to endorse tax cuts, and less business regulation. In addition to this group then, the national base of the G.O.P. finishes off with a sprinkling of self-identified Libertarian folks which have a stronger presence in the west.

Now that I have established what I have seen as the G.O.P’s base of supporters, ¬†I believe the party now needs to reevaluate their political platform. ¬†Moving into the future, it is within the best of interest of the party to prioritize equal rights while simultaneously protecting the rights of churches and religious institutions. ¬†This recommendation is a bit more radical than what it seems on the surface and risks losing a portion of their recent historical base.

The G.O.P. should not oppose gay marriage nor gay adoption.  The party should move forward as an equal legal rights party.  In support of gay marriage; Why not approach it from an economically conservative vantage point?  No matter which way you slice it, increasing the number of marriages ultimately increases the number of financially stable families even with the divorce rate etc.  More financially stable families means more families could be in the pool for adoptions which theoretically then means less people being dependent on the state for welfare or other services over the course of their lives.  The first form of welfare is really the family unit. The sociological viewpoint of the family being the cornerstone to a stable society is true.  While the G.O.P. endorses the importance of the family, they should not attempt to specifically define a marriage or a family.  This platform position would definitely rock the Evangelical boat no doubt about it.  However, the bigger war for the Evangelical crowd and all socially conservative folks for that matter, will be protecting their right to practice their principles freely.

The G.O.P. currently endorses protecting religious institutions and their non-profit status. ¬†Within their platform, the party also endorses religious institutions still receiving federal funding because of the important role they play in providing services for local communities even if they object to certain federal mandates. ¬†The party’s position on Religious Liberty needs to continue and this should help to maintain some of the Evangelical vote and other socially conservative voters like practicing Catholics and Mormons. ¬† While abortion and gay marriage were at the forefront of the so called “culture war” the current battleground issue is to protect the rights of religious institutions pertaining to mandated services. ¬†For example, Catholic hospitals should not be mandated to provide abortions and birth control. ¬†Their federal funding should not be compromised because of their religious objections. These hospitals still have a tremendous value to the communities they serve and because of that, they should still receive federal funding. ¬†These types of legal issues are now front and center and will quickly be replacing gay marriage and abortion as viable voter concerns.

In all of this, I would like to say the Republican Party would benefit not from abandoning the culture war, but redefining the terms by protecting the right of religious institutions to practice their principles.  The decisions made in Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are not going anywhere.  The march of Western civilization is socially becoming more liberal.  On these issues, the G.O.P. needs to continue to be the party of smaller government while recommitting to their ideals of personal liberty but personal liberty and equality for all.  At the end of the day, smaller governments are not in your bedroom.  If the party continues with an unchanged platform they may find themselves on the wrong side of history while losing elections.

 

Link to an article on political alignment that I found interesting:  http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/2016-election-realignment-partisan-political-party-policy-democrats-republicans-politics-213909

Link to the political cartoon artwork I used for my image: https://www.usnews.com/cartoons/republican-party-cartoons?slide=26

*The statements made in this blog do not necessarily reflect my personal or religious views but are simply statements on what I believe is the best path forward for the Republican Party in maintaining political relevance.

 

 

 

A Lesson on Selfishness: The Ultimate Virus

stomach-virus-creature

 

Every Sunday evening my wife and I sit down to go over the upcoming week. ¬†You know the sort of thing where you discuss which of us has evening meetings, who will pick up the kid, when we should have dinner. We are basically trying to coordinate the week in a vain attempt to provide some sort of organization and order to our lives. ¬†Kelly was preparing to go on a business trip to Florida (yes actually a beach resort) for a conference and would be gone Wednesday-Saturday night. ¬†I knew this trip had been coming for quite some time and admittedly I was a bit jealous of her but I felt mentally prepared for the event. What I didn’t realize was that my work schedule for the week was jam-packed. ¬†I had work obligations for the entire week, seven days in a row. ¬†At that moment, frustration set in as I realized my sacred weekend downtime for the upcoming week was non-existent. ¬†It was in this moment, that I vented to Kelly; thinking and saying things like; You have to go on a business trip during the busiest week of my calendar? ¬†My business trips are never this long and how am I going to meet all my work obligations while taking care of our daughter? ¬† And of course, most importantly, I need my weekend or at least a day off…..When is that supposed to happen?? ¬†Obviously, none of this was her fault, and by this time in our marriage she knew this was my way of reacting irrationally while blowing off some steam. ¬†It didn’t take long for me to realize the immaturity of my venting and my lack of composure in adversity (Titus: 2:2). ¬†I eventually calmed down, refocused, and said all the right surface statements all the while trying figure out ways to deal with my complex weekly calendar. ¬†With no immediate family conveniently located, Kelly knew I might need a little help. ¬†She had already appointed a couple of friends to be on standby in anticipation of her trip (yeah she’s that good). ¬†I felt a little more at ease knowing that I had a couple of reserves on the sideline.

Wednesday morning, Kelly was out the door by 5am. ¬†I was ready to take this challenge head on. ¬†I was up, saw Kelly off, made breakfast, woke up the kid, fed the kid, packed lunch, and we were ready to roll. ¬†I got us both out the door on our way to school and work on time. ¬†At the end of the day I picked the kid up, made dinner, and made it home by 5:30pm. Day one conquered like clockwork. Day two Thursday was a similar day. On my way out from work that day, a couple of members from my administrative team took their jabs at me in jest by saying things like how “being a mom isn’t so easy” and “see how much Kelly has to juggle?” ¬†I really thought I understood and acknowledged their points; but to be honest, things seemed to be going very smoothly. Dare I say…. motherhood is overrated? Ultimately day two ended with Thursday mirroring Wednesday in its flawless execution (Proverbs 19:21).

Thursday night the kid and I went out to eat and even made it home in time to take the dogs for a walk.  Not only were we executing the week near perfection, we were even able to take care of our dogs properly. What a week indeed! (Daniel 4:4).   All of this was short-lived and changed drastically in the wee hours of Friday morning, 1am to be exact.

As a parent you know the sounds I am talking about. You wake up a bit startled because you can hear your child bursting out of bed, quickly followed by the sound of their feet pounding on the floor as they quickly dart for the bathroom. I don’t need to say anything more about the next sounds I heard once she had reached that bathroom.

At this point, I am trying not to panic and can’t believe it but my daughter has a stomach virus. ¬†From 1am to 4am this dreaded routine had a frequency of every 30 minutes. To make a long story short, we completed this miserable war at 10am Friday morning. My routine was simple; hold her hair back, wait it out, get her back in bed and clean… clean… clean. Once I finished this routine, my mind went immediately to my workday as I knew there would be no way I would make it there that morning. ¬†So the first thing I did when I completed my fatherly responsibilities was to email my team at work to forewarn them about my upcoming absence.

11am marked the beginning of a new peace, a true Pax Romana if you will. ¬†As exhausted as I was, my daughter seemed to be making her way out of this and that brought a sense of calm. ¬†By this time everyone on my admin team knew the situation. They fully understood, and offered their sympathy while suggesting a few remedies for my daughters ordeal. ¬†I had reached out to Kelly as well on more than one occasion and thanks to her, I had a friend on their way bringing reinforcements of all the fundamental staples; Lysol, bleach spray, Saltine crackers, ginger ale, and a bottle of Coke. ¬†Now that was a brave friend. ¬†Anyway….away from our domestic war zone, work was busy, real busy. My admin team had their hands full. ¬†Of course “missing work guilt” started to settle in my head a bit. ¬†Believe it or not I actually enjoy what I do and I possess a serious sense of obligation. I was able to battle through that “missing work guilt” effectively because I know my daughter’s health is more important, but I had fallen short with my behavior toward Kelly because I was not communicating positively with her throughout the process. ¬†Age old jealousy would sneak in there¬†every now and then and I would respond with a passive-aggressive text message every so often. ¬†Images of her frolicking about at her professional conference, which I remind you just so happens to be at a beautiful beach resort, kept haunting my thoughts (1 Samuel 18:8). ¬†Then there was me; bleaching the entire house, washing sheets, cleaning the bathroom, and trying to get the kid to drink some ginger ale. ¬†Then I had what alcoholics might call a “moment of clarity.” This was not the first stomach virus my daughter ever had. ¬†Where was I when all these things were being done before? ¬†Oh yeah, I am not a mom.¬†Forgive me Lord for I have sinned, motherhood is most definitely not overrated.

My daughter’s stomach virus had reminded me about all the things that Kelly does and continues to do for our family. ¬†I had to be in her role for just a few days and it was exhausting. ¬†I made it a point to tell Kelly in person how I valued her as a wife and mother and how appreciative I was for her efforts. ¬†In our conversation she had another point that continues to further illustrate the idea that we need to be careful with what we hold sacred. ¬†At the end of the ordeal, I missed work obligations on Friday and Saturday. Kelly had said; “In a weird sort of way, our daughter was able to get your weekend back.” ¬†I had complained and whined selfishly about the loss of my weekend at the beginning of this journey and had finally realized that the Lord said “Well, you can have your precious weekend, but there will be lessons to learn” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Titus 2:2  Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

Proverbs 19:21   Many are the plans in the mind of of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that we will stand.

Daniel 4:4   I Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.

I Samuel 18:8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?

Proverbs 3: 11-12 ¬†My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Bible verses ESV translation.
Continue reading A Lesson on Selfishness: The Ultimate Virus

If everyone is super…then no one is.

The Incredibles

 

Having a younger daughter basically means that my wife and I have seen every animated-cartoon movie known to man. ¬†Honestly, we even find ourselves only quoting animated movie lines in adult conversations which can be embarrassing. ¬†Of course, I will now quote yet another cartoon movie, because the line really resonated with me. ¬†The movie was The Incredibles and the line was from a scene where the villain, as all villains do, took the time to let Mr. Incredible know the details of his evil plan. ¬†His plan was to make everyone a ‚ÄúSuper Hero‚ÄĚ with his gadgets and gizmos and in doing so, once everyone became ‚ÄúSuper‚ÄĚ then nobody would be ‚ÄúSuper‚ÄĚ.

I will ¬†now attempt to connect this animated gem on a personal and professional level. My daughter used to be in a baton twirling group. ¬†Yes, I admit I was also surprised to learn that ‚Äúbaton twirling‚ÄĚ was still a thing. ¬†Apparently, it is actually a ‚Äúthing‚ÄĚ that comes with an opportunity to earn scholarship money for college‚Ķ.wow‚Ķ.who knew? ¬†Anyway, I remember her big competition of the year and all the parents with their camera phones, the girls with their glitzy outfits, and the loud music that initiated the routine on the gym floor. ¬†Then suddenly in the corner of the gym, there it was; ¬†a big table which proudly supported hundreds of trophies. ¬†At the end of the day each participant was of course awarded a gigantic trophy for simply being a part of the program.

While it is always great to be a part of a program, it is being an outstanding, or exceptional part of the program that we should distinguish.  Participation trophies, while attempting to foster self-esteem often do the opposite. Many kids themselves are aware that these trophies do not distinguish a notable honor or performance.

That brings me to self-esteem. ¬†All of us as parents, guardians, grandparents, teachers, whatever our role may be, want to see our children as confident people in who they are and their abilities. ¬†¬†What we need to do is build what I like to call ‚Äúauthentic confidence‚ÄĚ because self-esteem is fleeting. ¬†Even as adults there are days where we are really on top of our game, we have most if not all the answers, and people look to us for guidance. ¬†Then there are those days where we may feel a bit drained, unsure if we even deserve our position or title, as if we don‚Äôt have the answers or the skill set to move forward. ¬†My point is simple, our self esteem may fluctuate with the days and possibly even the hour, but our authentic confidence will always remain because it is built with integrity, honesty, and hard work. In other words, our authentic confidence has been earned and with our perseverance, we can handle the natural fluctuations of self-esteem.

When we decide to only recognize the average or everyone that participates, we are really doing a disservice to those who have invested extra time, worked harder, or those that may be just exceptionally gifted. ¬†Don‚Äôt get me wrong, participating in sports, clubs, activities, whatever it may be has tremendous value and should be recognized, but not everyone is the club president, the M.V.P. ¬†or on the Honor Roll because after all; if everyone is ‚ÄúSuper‚ÄĚ ¬†then no one is.

Immigration: The same but different (a true you Yogi-ism)

1892 immigration

“The culture of poverty has some universal characteristics which transcend regional, rural-urban, and even national differences…..

-Oscar Lewis, “The Culture of Poverty” in Four Horseman

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. ¬†Immigrants like the Irish in the 1840’s who left to escape starvation and would later in the 1860’s welcome the Civil War as a job opportunity with guaranteed meals and a roof over their heads. ¬†Whether it is the Italians, Scandinavians, English, Scottish….you name it, let’s face it, they were not “European nobility” ¬†upon their arrival by any stretch of the imagination. Immigrants were struggling, often times impoverished. Now, we are faced with what has been labeled our current “immigration crisis”. ¬†Numerous immigrants are arriving from our southern borders and they are coming to America for the same reasons Immigrants have always arrived here; opportunity.

A lot of people are motivated by the American dollar. In many Latin American countries the American dollar is one of the main sources of income with remittances accounting for up to 15% of some Latin American countries total G.D.P. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/11/15/remittances-to-latin-america-recover-but-not-to-mexico/ph-remittances-11-2013-1-03/). These immigrants actually provide a weapon against inflation. ¬†The value of the dollar has remained strong because of these immigrants coinciding with the fact that American’s wages have decreased as a percentage of our total G.D.P (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0). This pinch on the blue-collar middle class has unfortunately helped restrain inflation and the remittances from immigrants have helped as well. The immigrant contribution is the siphoning of the American dollar outside our borders which serves to help maintain the value of the dollar by making it more scarce within our borders. ¬†In addition to their resource as an anti-inflation tool, these siphoned American dollars then also provide an important source of income for countries just south of our border. ¬†These countries are often impoverished, in desperate shape. These exported American dollars not only provide a restrain on inflation, but serve as an aid package to countries close to home and their political/economic stability is in the best interest of the United States. ¬†Therefore without a doubt, Immigration is good but….

…I do understand the need to document and regulate immigration. ¬†What was once the land of opportunity remains as such but unfortunately the bureaucracy and guidelines for immigration are not the same. ¬†The process has now become lengthy, clumsy, and inefficient (http://www.cfr.org/immigration/us-immigration-debate/p11149). ¬†There is a definite need to streamline the process for those immigrants whose primary reason is to work, while exporting their dollars. Documentation would also provide these immigrants with a level of protection allowing our law enforcement to share information on the identity of these workers ¬†(although sharing information seems to be a huge obstacle at all levels of government which is bewildering in and of itself in this day an age of cloud computing and shared data bases).

I also sympathize in part with Arizona, specifically regarding their struggle to identify who is responsible for immigration as our federal government and state responsibilities are not clearly defined. ¬†Regardless if you support President Obama and his latest efforts to reform immigration, or if you are a conservative who believes that immigration is the responsibility of congress, or a conservative who is a state’s rights advocate in regards to immigration; one thing remains the same and that is we would all benefit by the clarification of our immigration policy that would ultimately refine the process making it much less cumbersome.

We were all immigrants and at one point the system did work for our ancestors. ¬†Our current system needs fixing, so let’s get beyond partisan politics and do something but beware… it will involve compromise.

Old Testament Law and Jesus

As a practicing Christian, I decided to read the Bible in its entirety.  If you have done this and even if you have not, one of the challenges is developing a working mental paradigm to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.  This was one of the challenges for the apostles as well (circumcision or no circumcision in the Book of Acts for example). This challenge even led to some splits within the early church when the Gnostics refused to reconcile the God of the Old Testament and Christ as one and the same.  With this post I am focusing just on the concept of the law as it exists in the Old and New Testaments not the nature/actions of God in the Old and New Testament which is a much bigger undertaking.  In order to better illuminate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New in regards to the law, I looked to the teachings of the early church,  the words of Jesus, and my Protestant faith.

Old Testament law can be a bit overwhelming, when you begin to read the Bible. There are many laws that are clearly not binding on our lives as Christians.  I looked to St. Thomas Aquinas for clarification on all the different types of rules/regulations (a.ka. Old Testament law).  Aquinas dividend the Old Testament law into three categories; moral, ceremonial, and judicial.  Moral law is dictated by natural law,  while ceremonial law is affiliated with divine worship and the judicial precepts are determinations of the justice maintained among men.  St. Thomas Aquinas then determined the only law applicable to Christians was the moral law.  The ten commandments would be an example of moral law, while the book of Leviticus contains many other examples of ceremonial and judicial law.  As a Christian the law has been sharply reduced in light of Aquinas and the early church, so now we can look to the New Testament and specifically the words of Jesus to further develop our understanding about the law and its relationship to the New Testament.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus directly addressed his relationship to the Old Testament law when he said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. ¬†Clearly the moral law is applicable but Jesus has fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf.

Further in the book of Matthew (22:34) the Pharisees were attempting to trap Jesus with his answers when they asked him,¬†“Which is the greatest commandment”? ¬†Jesus then replied…..”You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is a very powerful quote from Jesus and it relates directly to the relationship between Old Testament law and Christianity.  These words also serve as a practical guide for Christians on how they should approach their daily lives as well as their relationships with others.  Jesus has made the law even easier to understand by providing a further simplification of what the law really means.  First, love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Clearly a daunting task!  We should seek the Lord daily through his word and prayer.  With all of the distractions around us today this is always a challenge, but if we seek the Lord daily we are off to a great start.  Secondly, to Love your neighbor as yourself seems to be much more approachable in many ways.  This should guide all of our interactions with other people.  This can also be challenging when that certain someone is very difficult to love.  In relationships such as those, we must also remember that all of humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I also believe that these two commandments from Jesus clearly direct us to genuine Christian service to those who may be in more difficult or less fortunate circumstances.

My Protestant faith has also developed an understanding of the law (and when I refer to law I am referring to the moral law only).  The law serves as a mirror to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). The law makes sin recognizable to us and it is easy to recognize because the law is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15).  Now it does all come together, because when we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind, we are made aware of our sin, and through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit we hope to avoid sin with an understanding that we will never be sinless.

As Christians we can hold onto the actions of Jesus as having fulfilled the law but realize the law serves to show us our sin.  When we are aware of our sin, we are then moved to repent.

In closing, I have to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer at length to provide even further clarification for the daily grind of the Christian life…. “Everyday Christ’s followers must acknowledge and bewail their guilt. ¬†Living as they do in fellowship with Him, they ought to be sinless, but in practice their life is marred daily with all manner of unbelief, sloth in prayer, lack of body discipline, self-indulgence of every kind, envy, hatred and ambition” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship).

As Christians we will continue to fight the daily battle.  But we live in hope because in the end we know Christ has won that battle for us and that all the law and prophets come down to seeking Him with all our heart, soul and mind while loving our neighbor as our self.