Archives for the month of: November, 2013

opinionsI was a different kind of parent when I raised my daughter.  I never spoke to her in baby-talk. I never spoke down to her.  I talked to her like she was an eternal soul trapped in a baby’s body.  She learned to tell me whether she wanted food (num num) or milk (na na) when she was three months old. I spoke to her like I would an adult. By the time she was in 4th grade she tested with a 12th grade vocabulary.

I never asked her to do anything without telling her why.  I always had an answer for all of her questions.  This became a running joke with her when she became a teenager because she knew I would give her a long drawn out answer to her questions.  Her favorite question was, ‘What makes waves on the ocean?” She would let me give my scientific  explanation and then laugh at me.

If you have ever seen the movie Almost Famous Frances Mc Dormand’s character (Elaine Miller) is a lot like the kind of mom I was. In the movie her son William goes on the road with a rock band to write an article for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Elaine Miller: Listen to me. He’s a smart, good-hearted fifteen year old kid with infinite potential.

Russell Hammond: [Russell is stunned]

Elaine Miller: This is not some apron-wearing mother you’re speaking with – I know all about your valhalla of decadence and I shouldn’t have let him go. He’s not ready for your world of compromised values and diminished brain cells that you throw away like confetti. Am I speaking to you clearly?

Russell Hammond: Yes – yes, ma’am…

Elaine Miller: If you break his spirit, harm him in any way, keep him from his chosen profession which is law – something you may not value, but I do – you will meet the voice on the other end of this telephone and it will not be pretty. Do we understand each other?

Russell Hammond: Uh, yes, ma’am…

Elaine Miller: I didn’t ask for this role, but I’ll play it. Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It’s not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell. Please get my son home safely. You know, I’m glad we spoke.

I became like this character because as a child I wasn’t treated with respect.   I wasn’t allowed to ask questions. My parents were my providers and the arbitrary rule makers.  There was very little opportunity for me to express my thoughts and feelings.  My role was to comply and not cause problems.  My role was to obey the rules.  I was emotionally estranged from my parents although I lived with them.  I didn’t know much about their life nor did they know about mine.

We confuse our Father God with our earthly father.  Today God answered a question for me.  I realized that God is more like the kind of parent I was than the kind my parents were.  He doesn’t answer every question.  Faith is about obeying without knowing why.  Faith is pleasing to God.

Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Usually we get the answer in retrospect, but sometimes He answers our questions.  Today He answered my question.  The question was “why?” The life of faith in Christ is a life of obedience and a life of sacrifice.  No Christian is truly happy unless their life is surrendered to God.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
We are asked to follow Him on the road to Golgotha. This is the road to the hill of crucifixion.  We are asked to deny our wants, our desires, our plans, our ambitions, and all that we are.  We are asked to die.  This death to self is daily because our human desires are not taken from us at the moment of salvation.  We must battle them every day until we are taken from this world.
Everyday we must take one more step along the road to Golgotha.  Along the road God asks us “Do you love me more than these?” One by one we surrender the things of this life that would separate us from our devotion to Christ.
So today He showed me as I stretched in my exercise class one more thing that I must surrender.  But today He also showed me why.   He revealed to me that in my sacrifice others would learn to know Him.  In my death to myself others would live.
He does not leave me alone to fight this battle against my desires.  He does not ask me to carry the cross alone.  He gives me strength for the burden.

Romans 8:11

New Living Translation (NLT)

11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

So the question is -will you go to your Golgotha?  Are you willing to die to yourself that you might truly live?  You will live a life of purpose in this life and an eternal life with Christ in heaven.

aristotle-quotes-sayings-real-love-happinessIn researching my new book Blessed Are They That Hunger A Christian Responds to The Hunger Games, I discovered a new phenomenon.  There is a growing population of single person households in America. It has grown from only 5 percent in 1900 to 27 percent in 2012.  There is also a decline in marriage. 51 percent of Americans are married as opposed to 92.3 percent in 1920. The population is declining in America.  We have not had enough births to maintain the population since 2007.

Why is love on the decline in America?  We have become sexually addicted and love anorexic.  Pornography is more accessible thanks to internet technology that now allows access not only on  computers but mobile devices as well. Revenues for internet pornography are nearly $3billion per year in the US.  70 % of men aged 18-24 view pornography on the internet at least once a month.

Mommy porn in the form of romance novels are at an all time high as well.  The ebook versions are outselling all other forms- (maybe because no mommy wants to be seen carrying “50 Shades of Grey”).  Romance novels far outsell other genres with nearly $1.4 billion in sales projected for 2013.

We have lost the art of real intimacy and now substitute real relationships with virtual communications on our mobile devices and computers.  We are turning into what our devices are aptly named-Androids.

What has happened to our society? Where is the love?  In my book I quote Rabbi Schmulley who blames it on our inability to understand lust as God designed it and sustain it for long-term fulfillment.

I heard a pastor speak to my youth group when I was in college about sexual sensitivity.  He said we were born with a set amount and if we abused it through over exposure we would need more extreme forms of sexuality for fulfillment.  With the bombardment of sexuality in our society have we become desensitized?  Are we incapable of sustaining fulfilling romantic relationships?

How can we return to love?

A good start might be to turn off the devices.  We could seek out real face time not virtual through joining organizations that allow for real interpersonal interaction. Take up a sport or a hobby like bowling or golf  and not on wii.

Can we relearn love?  All the virtual love and romance through internet, books, movies, and TV are about self gratification.  Love as God created it  is very different. Real love is about gratifying others above ourselves.  Our society has tried love without God, maybe it’s time to try love God’s way.  Can we try a little abstinence from any kind of sexuality except the Biblical form of one man and one woman who sanctify and set apart their sexuality for each other only through the covenant of marriage. Can we take it from tainted love to holy love? Then we can return to a healthy appetite that will sustain a healthy society.  We can stop starving.

1 John 4:16

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
I Corinthians 13
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

libertarian deodarantI have been told that my new political party has a bad reputation-statists, anarchists, white spectacled geeky males, conspiracy theorists, alarmists etc.  My old political party has a bad reputation too-neocons, tea partiers, racists, homophobes, right wingers, Bible thumpers, intolerants , hate mongers, pro-life, moralists etc.  The other party has a bad reputation as well-bleeding heart liberals, socialists, government leeches, left wingers, entitled,  pro-choice, amoral etc.

When pondering which one to be affiliated with, obviously, reputation cannot be the deal breaker. None is “without sin”.

All parties have common goals to increase their members and strengthen party loyalty among their members.

In order to do this you need to become what I am-a closer.  We are really all closers from the day we are born.  From our very first cry, to our list for Santa, the apple for the teacher, the first kiss, the second date, the ring on your finger, the job offer, the job promotion, we are always selling and someone is always buying.  We are all closers.  I, however, am a professional closer because of my career in sales.  A big part of closing is overcoming the bad reputation, or misinformation of the product or organization.

I have faced how to overcome a bad reputation since I was a child.  I tried to sell my faith in Christ to my Grandpa Amadeo when I was eight years old.  Being a Christian had a bad reputation for him because he came from the “Old World” where the Catholic church was a menace to personal freedom and choice, that ruled with an iron fist.  I didn’t do very well in closing Grandpa.  When I asked him if he had been saved, he  proceeded to tell me story after story of all his near death experiences.  I learned lesson # 1 in being a closer-know your audience and communicate in a language that they understand.

I learned more about being a closer in college.  Your grade was always better if you made time to befriend your professor.  Most professors craved a certain amount of hero worship.  I learned how to do this without compromising my Christian morals. Closing Lesson #2 -make them feel important.

I also learned about closing as the token “born again” evangelical Christian in my college dorm full of atheists, agnostics and non-protestants. I was shy and quiet and non-confrontational, but somehow I would find myself debating Christianity  with my dorm mates. This is where I learned closing lesson #3 -arm yourself with knowledge.  So along with my school studies, I read books like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Mere Christianity, A Case for Christ and took extension courses on Bible Survey from a Christian Liberal Arts College. This allowed me to give an answer for the questions they had.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

This also fulfilled closing lesson #4-an objection is not a rejection, it is just a request for more information.  Give them the information and you might get the sale.

It was when I began my career in sales that I learned the most important lesson in being a closer that overrides all other lessons.  It is “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read”.

You are the best argument for overcoming any bad reputation and getting the sale.  Your job is to be the difference they are looking for. Break the mold of the image that they have of your faith, your product or your political party. When I recently shared my political affiliation with a new acquaintance her response was,” You don’t seem like you would be a member of that party.” Bingo! We can change the image one person at a time.

I wouldn’t describe myself as having any of the characteristics given for any of the political parties.  I am an individual with my own ideas and values and emotions unique to me and no one else.  I believe most people would agree that they are not any label that could be placed on them.  This is the basis of our common ground.   Individualism is the hallmark of humanity.

As the old saying goes “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  Be different by embracing who you are and be willing to embrace the individuality of others. In acceptance, you will find the common ground that will motivate others to buy your product, or organization.

When you are secure in who you are, you are able to accept others for who they are and  a mutual respect is born.  In this mutual respect buds a relationship and as the relationship grows, trust grows.  Trust moves people to enroll in your faith, your product or your political party. With trust there is no guarantee of a close, but without trust you are guaranteed not to close.  Work to build relationships and you will build your organization-the stronger those relationships, the stronger the organization’s success.

The foundation of real trust is care and compassion.  There is the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In order to earn trust you gotta have love.  If you believe that what you are selling is beneficial to the person you are enrolling, then your care for them is your motivation.  Your care creates the trust that binds the relationship, that will potentially close the sale.

If you are passionate about what you are selling then you must learn to transfer that passion to others.  You cannot move the mountain alone, but enough ants can move any mountain. Be willing to learn the lessons I have learned to become a closer.  Closers can build an army and an army can change the world.

autumn

I had been there so many times in my imagination that it seemed like a memory.  I had been there through the stories I read and movies I had seen.  I must have traveled there in my dreams too.  I must have traveled there when my sleep was so deep that my soul took a journey.  I must have traveled there because I remembered the way it felt.  I remembered the fresh smell of the air with a shot of cold crispness.  I remembered a sky so blue with white wisps of clouds.  I remembered that it was bluer than any blue and whiter than any white that I had ever seen before.  It was almost the same color blue as a pair of eyes where I once drowned. I remembered the dark grey clouds that cried cold, cold drops of rain.

I remembered the river.  It didn’t flow up to the banks but had pools and eddies and sand bars.  I remembered the green, like the color of moss, reflected in the water of the river.  I remembered the trees-birch I think.  There were row after row, lined up in perfect lines along the river. They expanded out through the city, nestled among the houses and buildings and roadways.  I remembered yellow leaves and white bark coloring the trees, which colored the landscape as far as the eye could see.

I remembered the Spirit of the place.  It was light like a bird- like an eagle. It had white feathers that covered the space between the molecules of air to make the air lighter.  The air was not dark and heavy, causing labored breathing, like other places.  This air was so light, it filled every space in my lungs and infused my body with its lightness, in every breathe.

There was mystery in the Spirit . It was a mystery like so many stories to be told. They were stories I had heard in another time,- in another place where the Eternal separates Time and Space.  The stories were filled with emotion. The emotion was love.  I remembered the love calling me, connecting me, drawing me, remembering me.

In the quietness of my room, I heard the rain.  It dripped through trees that were growing so tightly together, it seemed the drops  could never find the ground.  They passed from leaf to leaf to leaf, downward to the leaf covered earth. I remembered the sound of those raindrops.  They were lighter than raindrops in other places in the same way the air was lighter than other places.  The feathers of the Spirit connected the raindrops the way it connected the air molecules.  There was comfort in the sound of the raindrops and the echo of a whisper .”Love”, it said.  There was no loneliness in this place.  The Spirit filled the air and the raindrops. The Spirit connected them to the leaves and the trees and to me.  I am one with the Spirit and the air, the yellow and white trees,  the moss-green river, the blue sky, the white wispy clouds and the dark grey ones. I am not alone. I am complete in the Spirit of this place.  I am home.