The challenge of being a Christian in today’s world

For people of the Christian faith like myself, this is a special week of the year when we celebrate what the heart and soul of Christianity is all about, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately for a growing number of people in this world, this week means absolutely nothing at all. To them, Jesus was just some mythical character who didn’t really exist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Even more disturbing are those who claim that Christians are nothing more than a bunch of narrow-minded, bigoted, overzealous fanatics who want to control all aspects of society and force their religion onto society.

There is no question that Christianity is slowly becoming one of the most persecuted religious faiths in the world today. Christians in Iraq are being forced to flee for their lives. There is a growing level of hatred for Jews and Christians in many European countries. Even here in the United States, Christianity is being under attack. Several business owners are being forced to perform services which go against their religious beliefs. Some schools are banning prayer and any mention of God or Jesus. In some public places, you cannot even display any type of religious statue or plaque such as the ten commandments. If you do so, some anti-Christian group is sure to come along and raise a stink. A Christian expressing his or her opposition to gay marriage is labeled a bigot and a hater. The list goes on and on. Our society and culture is becoming more and more secular which is NOT a good thing.

A Christian is also exposed to more and more things these days that really test their faith. The rise of the internet and social media exposes a Christian to more and more stuff which goes against their beliefs. It is very easy for anyone including Christians to get addicted to pornography. People are allowed to state their opinions against Christianity in message boards and some of their comments seem rather reasonable and makes sense. A person with a weak faith could easily get sucked into the false propaganda of many non-believers. Many television shows are becoming more and more secular. When was the last time a family show came on which really gloried what a family should be all about? Instead, many shows glorify single parenthood or alternative relationships. Once again, many Christians watch those shows and before long, they will fall into the trap of accepting that way of life.

We all want to be accepted by our peers and be popular. The true Christian will not worry about pleasing other people, rather he or she will worry about pleasing God. Unfortunately, many Christians and churches are afraid to speak out on certain issues because they simply do not want to offend a certain group of people. In the process, they are offending God and will be held accountable some day. What type of message does that send non-believers when you cannot stand up to your convictions?

The Christian faith is all about loving one another, humbling yourself to serve others, reaching out to help others in need. It has helped millions of people live a much better and fulfilling life. I find it appalling that so many people have issues with Christians and Christianity. If more and more people followed the teachings of Jesus, this world would be a totally much better place to life. We would not have all the crime, broken homes, greed and hatred like we do today. Does anyone see a pattern that is taking place here? As the world has become more secular, there are more and more problems existing. Sure, it is a challenge to be a Christian in today’s world, but the biggest challenge is taking a stand and following through on your beliefs and convictions. The world definitely needs it now.

Our rather strange foreign policy

As an ordinary citizen in this country, I often get upset when I turn on the news and hear about what is going on in Washington these days. Sometimes I just want to go inside of the minds of some of those politicians, especially the president and try to understand the rationale behind their ways of thinking. I feel that way with both parties. One of things that has really caused me to question the wisdom of those people we elect is the issue of foreign policy, especially in the last few months. Now granted, foreign policy is one of those no-win topics that any politician will have trouble appealing to all of the masses. The only time a certain decision will get the blessing of the majority of the country is when we are under attack and our country takes a hit.

The recent decisions by the White House regarding the Middle East have been rather puzzling and strange to say the least in my opinion. The way we are currently dealing with Israel is very troubling. Israel is supposed to be one of our closest allies in the that region. That country resembles in many ways what the United States is all about. They share many of the same values that this country has, freedom, democracy and a highly Christian population. You might say that they are our little brother. You would think that given our long relationship with that country and what they stand for, our leaders would bend over backwards to support Israel in any way possible. That is until now. Our leaders are now trying to help their enemy instead. Iran has been an enemy of Israel for years and would like nothing more than to wipe Israel off the map. So why are we trying to help out an enemy of what is supposed to be our friend? I just don’t understand!!

Any country who supports terrorism should not even be allowed to think about developing a nuclear bomb period!! Any evidence that suggests otherwise should be dealt with harshly in the form of sanctions and if needed, military action. Does anybody believe in their right mind that Iran will follow through on any deal? It is a very scary situation that could only snowball in the Middle East. Instead of acting harshly towards Iran, the administration is trying to play their typical game of softball with these rogue nations. In doing so, they are alienating one of our best allies in the world. Go figure on that one!!

The rise of ISIS is another example of poor foreign policy decision-making. Despite the warnings of many generals and military experts, a decision was made to pull our troops out of Iraq without sufficient backup. Now, the hard work and sacrifice of so many members of our military have basically gone down the drain. ISIS has expanded in that country due in large part to the unwillingness to listen to people who actually know what they are talking about.

Finally, the Bowe Bergdahl case might be one of the all time blunders. Trading 5 terrorists for a guy who is a deserter? Are you serious? Those 5 terrorists are probably licking their chops for the chance to get even with us.

The current administration deserves a ton of heat over some of these really stupid foreign policy blunders. It is their job to keep all of us safe and help out our allies. Somebody might want to remind the President of this.

The heartache of losing a parent

One of the biggest trials a person will ever go through in life is losing a loved one such as a parent. Unless someone passes away before their parents, which in most cases is unlikely, a day will come when we have to say goodbye to someone who has played a major role in raising us and shaping our lives. Sometimes that loss will come as expected. Perhaps your mother or father has developed some sort of terminal disease and their death is very imminent. Other times, the death is sudden such as in a tragic traffic accident. Whatever the case may be, losing a loved one such as a parent is like losing a part of who you are.

A little over 10 years ago to this date, I lost my father very unexpectedly. He was clearing snow after a spring snowstorm and suddenly collapsed. The shock of that event still lingers with me today. My dad was way too young to die. He was only in his late 50’s. I still remember that awful night like it was yesterday. I was sitting at home watching the NCAA basketball tournament when my phone rang. Thinking that it was a telemarketer, I did not pick up. The game was on and I did want to be disturbed. Then I realized I had a message and decided to check. It was my mother telling me to call home. It was an emergency. My heart sank when I heard those words. I called and my mom told me that my dad had collapsed and the words that followed were like someone hitting me in the stomach with a sledgehammer. He had passed away. I didn’t know what to say after hearing that. I was totally floored by the news and speechless. I told my mom that I would call her back after I regained my composure. I immediately turned off the game and sat in stunned silence for a couple of hours.

The days after his death were very difficult to say the least. There were a lot of tears and hugs among our family members. I can remember arriving at my parents house and the first person that greeted me at the door was my grandmother (my dad’s mother) she gave me the biggest hug. Being together with family members was the best therapy for dealing with this loss. We all had many stories about my dad and what a special person he was. He loved his family and would do anything to help us out. I thought back of all those rounds of golf that I played with my father. He was an excellent golfer and I was never able to beat him. In the previous few years, we had attended a few ball games together and those memories were still fresh in my mind. It just seemed strange arriving at my parent’s house and not seeing my dad sitting there in his favorite recliner. But funny as this may seem, his calming presence seemed to be there.

My dad has been gone for over 10 years now, but he will never be forgotten. I sense his presence ever time I go out and play golf. He probably gets a good chuckle from up there in heaven when I hit a bad drive into the woods.  I was given his golf clubs after he passed away and I still have them. Those are possessions that I will forever keep.

Sometimes we tend to take our parents and loved ones for granted in our lives. We think they will all live to be 90, but that is not always the case. There is no guarantee that they will be there tomorrow. I was guilty of taking my dad for granted. It’s sad but I have a far greater appreciation of him now that he is gone. I know many people who dislike their parents and fail to talk to them for months. Sure parents can be annoying, but the older you become, the more you learn to appreciate what they have done in your life. My mother is still alive today and I make a strong effort to call her at least once a week and several times a year, I travel to visit her. She is an equally important person in my life and I realize that someday, I might wish that I had spent more time visiting with her as well.

Losing a parent is difficult and heartbreaking, but the memories of them will never go away. My dad left behind a legacy of always being willing to take the shirt off his back to help out others. I was very lucky to have him being a part of my life. Sometimes the best way to cope with the grief of losing of parent is to keep their memory and legacy alive in today’s world. My dad has inspired me to use my talents to help out others in need. I’m sure that would have been the one wish that my dad would have given us before he passed away. Sometimes doing little things in their honor can go a long ways in dealing with your loss. Your parent may be gone, but their legacy is very much alive in your own life. That is really the most important thing that any parent would want to pass on to their children. Sooner or later, we all reach a point in our lives when we will want our loved ones and children to have the fond memories and be inspired by our lives. Will that happen? I know people everyday lose a parent and my heart goes out to those people who are grieving right now. I know how you feel because I went through it. Life can be cruel and losing a parent is at the top of the list. The heartache of losing my dad still lingers with me today. I think about how great it would be if he were still living today. But life is not an everlasting thing. What is everlasting is the strong legacy that my dad and many good parents have left for their children and grandchildren. Those things never die.

The dullness of college basketball

Every March, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament captures center stage of the sports world. It is arguably the biggest sporting event in this country besides the Super Bowl. 68 teams compete for the chance to cut down the nets after the championship game. Given that the tournament is so popular, you would think that college basketball is in fine shape and no changes should be made to the collegiate game. As a basketball fan, I could not disagree more. The collegiate brand of basketball is going downhill and some much-needed changes are needed, and in a hurry!

Before I go any further, let me say that there are many positive things about college basketball. The tournament games produce some of the most thrilling and memorable moments in sports history. The atmosphere at a big major college basketball game is second to none with the students, band and cheerleaders. It is far more enjoyable atmosphere than sitting in some NBA arena watching a bunch of millionaires play a meaningless regular season game. But any advantage the college game may have over the NBA stops there. When the actual game starts, the level of play is almost becoming unwatchable.

I have to say that most fans will probably agree with me in saying that pace and scoring are important factors in determining how entertaining a game really is. More and more college games are becoming nothing more than low scoring, foul fested, delay driven pieces of crap. Who wants to watch some game that ends up 55-50? Good defense? I say baloney to that!! It has more to do with some team running a tightly structured offense with no run and gun at all and poor shooting and lots of turnovers. Of those 55 points, 1/2 probably come from free throws. In addition, the games last an eternity will all the television timeouts. On top of that, a team is award 5 timeouts per game and many coaches will save their timeouts under the last few minutes. Watching the few minutes of a college basketball game is about as painful as going to a dentist to have a root canal job done! There is absolutely no flow to the game at all!!

So what can be done to make college basketball more enjoyable to watch. For starters, I want to see a 25 second clock be put into play. More possessions should equal more scoring. Nothing drives me crazy more than seeing some team slow the pace of the game down and hold the ball. Something has to be down about the constant fouling at the end of the game that turns the game into nothing more than a free throw shooting contest. I just want to scream at my television when some coach instructs his players to foul when down by 10 points with 20 seconds left. Hey coach, it’s time to raise the white flag!! And finally, there should be a 2 timeout limit for each team in the last 3 minutes of a game. A typical game might have as many as 18 timeouts in all counting the media breaks at each 4 minute mark. That is totally ridiculous!! It totally takes away from the flow of the game.

I hope some of the big wigs of college basketball will sit down after the season ends and try to implement some much needed rule changes to make the games more enjoyable to watch and create more flow to the games. This sports fan has seen enough! Limiting the number of seemingly endless stoppages and finding ways to increase the scoring per game will do wonders to make college basketball a much better game to watch.

Misleading and deceptive political facts and figures

It is a very common thing among politicians and their supporters to bring out certain facts and figures to support their stances on certain issues. For instance, the governor of my state of Minnesota and his supporters have been on cloud nine since it was revealed that our state has a huge surplus of 1.9 billion dollar surplus. Of course, all the credit should clearly go to the governor and his policies, right? Little is said about the fact that under his watch, we had one of the biggest tax increases ever in the state of Minnesota. Anyone with an education level of at least 3rd grade will understand that you will get a surplus if you have a huge tax increase. The question is, will this policy continue to work in the long run and is it sustainable? Of course not!! People who want to pat these politicians on the back for doing such a great job, very conveniently fail to leave some of these details. Many states have enjoyed good economic news recently mainly because of the lower gas prices, not because of the policies of their leaders.

The same deception applies when talking about the unemployment numbers. Whenever I hear the president or a governor of a state brag about the dropping unemployment numbers, I just shake my head and dismiss it as more misleading rhetoric. We have the smallest labor participation rate since the 1970’s not only here in my state, but all around the country. The unemployment rate now does not include those who have dropped out of the workplace. It would be wonderful to know what the real unemployment rate is in this country. It certainly cannot be very good based on the high number of people still receiving food stamps. Furthermore, when these politicians talk about all the jobs that are being created, what kind of jobs are being created? Are they high paying jobs with good benefits or just some low wage part-time jobs. In my state of Minnesota and throughout the country, the average household income has dropped in the last 5 years. Try telling some adult working a couple of part-time jobs just to support their family that the economy is booming.

One of my favorites among politicians and their supporters is when they criticize some other politician or party for giving a tax cut to the wealthy or cutting funding to schools. Why is it that people constantly think that pouring a bunch of money into education will yield success? Why should a politician be labeled as anti-education when instead of pouring more money into the bottomless pit know as education, he or she wants to gives students more choices to further their education? The rich and wealthy are always targets to raise taxes, just ask those who live here in my state. They are the ones who pay the most taxes by far, invest and start up companies which create jobs. Why would should they be the ones being punished? Of course if some politician wants to ease their tax burden slightly so they have a greater chance of investing and helping some average Joe or Jane get a job, they are labeled as evil for giving tax breaks to the rich.

The worst and most deceptive move by politicians is when they brag about giving a tax break to middle class families after raising their taxes the previous few years. This certainly is the case with regards to property taxes. A governor will brag about cutting property taxes and helping out middle class folks one year after severely raising taxes for years. Unless you do not return to the previous rates before the tax hikes, don’t go around and brag about how you have helped me!!

A person really has to be careful with all this political propaganda floating around. In all fairness, both sides of the political spectrum are very guilty of being deceptive with facts and figures. It is why people are becoming less and less trusting of government and their leaders. These acts of deception only go so far. People are not as dumb as some politicians believe they are. As Abe Lincoln once said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.

Getting a high through exercise and fitness

For some folks, getting high is all about going to some party and smoking some marijuana with their friends and buddies. Other people prefer the crazy buzz feeling you get from consuming too many alcoholic beverages. All of these activities are meant to enhance a person’s state of mind and make them feel better about themselves, at least temporarily. I am not about to get on my high horse and lecture people about lifestyle choices and habits, but there are far better choices for getting that high than doing drugs. The very natural high that I get from working out and exercising is my preferred way of getting high. I do not need to take some mind altering chemical to make me feel better about myself. Going to the gym or track and working out does the trick for me.

I cannot honestly say that I always look forward to my workouts. Some days, I feel tired from work and the last thing that I want to do is go work out and punish my body. I just want to go home after work and fix a huge meal followed by a night of watching television. Somehow I push myself to go workout and when I am finished, I feel totally refreshed and energized. My mood can be somber before I start my workout, but suddenly after I finish, my mood is completely change. I no longer worry about some little problem at work or in my personal life. That session on the treadmill or track produced a much-needed high for myself. The same applies to working out in the morning. Forget about drinking a bunch of coffee to wake yourself up for work. Heck, just get in a workout and you will feel more than ready to tackle the challenges of the work day. I feel my most productive at work after getting in a good workout.

Not all people like to exercise and I can certainly understand that. Some have physical issues like bad knees that prevent them from doing any type of running or walking. There are many remedies these days for those type of physical issues. All it takes is having the determination to fix your body so you can start becoming active. Other folks simply have no excuse, they are just too lazy. There is simply no excuse for saying that you do not have time to exercise. You do not need to have a lot of time, 1/2 hour a day is more than adequate. People have time to watch 3 hours of television a night, but no time to exercise, please!! Exercise doesn’t have to be painful and grueling. A simple walk in the evening with friends is a wonderful way to get some exercise. Sometimes, exercising with a group of people is the best way to keep at a program. There are many very affordable classes to take.

I challenge anyone to seek out the best way of getting a high. Forget about using those mind altering drugs which are very destructive to the mind and body. Exercising and be physical active does wonders for the mind and body. I know because fitness and exercising is a big part of my life. It is what I am addicted to and my addiction is actually a great one to have. It is the safest and most beneficial way to feel better about yourself, both short-term and long-term.

The joys of watching high school sports

As a sports fan, I have had the opportunity to attend many sporting events of all levels during my lifetime. Whether it be shelling out a hundred dollars to see my favorite professional sports team play or spending a pleasant fall afternoon watching a lower level college football game, I have been there. You would think that a sports enthusiast like myself would be chomping at the bit to see as many professional sporting events as possible, but that is not the case with me. I find that watching high school sports can be, in many cases, just as entertaining or more entertaining than paying a huge amount to see a bunch of overpriced millionaires play a game. Some of my all-time favorite memories of attending sporting events involves going to high school games. Nothing beats the excitement of a huge battle between rival teams in a packed gymnasium with a chance to go to the state tournament. Or watching a high-profile high school football game on a Friday night. Very few games at college and professional levels can match what high school sports can produce. The atmosphere at the games with the student sections, bands and cheerleaders makes those games so special.

Of course, the talent level is a small fraction of what is offered at the pro level. I will not debate that. But the talent level in high school, especially at some of the bigger schools, is well worth watching. I find it just as interesting watching some highly recruited player step onto the court or playing field as watching some prima donna superstar in pro sports. The passion that high school kids bring to their sports is another thing that is very appealing to me. For many, it will be their last shot at playing competitive sports and they want to end their careers with that trip to the state tournament.

Having grown up and played sports in a small town, there is nothing that brings a community together more than a trip to the state tournament. A town literally stops when the hometown is playing in the state tournament. If the team does well at state and wins the tournament, look out!! Very few events bring more civic pride to a community than the success of their local high school team. As a young boy, I have many fond memories of watching my high school advance to the state hockey tournament here in Minnesota. The memories of watching those qualify games to go to the state tournament are some of my greatest memories ever as a sports fan.

High school sports are what sports should be all about. It is about as pure as sports can be. No multi-million dollar contracts, school cheating scandals, recruiting violations and other nonsense that college and pro sports often have. You will not have to take out a second mortgage to watch a game either. Most high school games here in Minnesota are under 10 dollars. I have attended many professional games for about 10 times that amount and left feeling like I wanted my money back. Attending a sporting event should be a memorable experience for any sports fan. It is amazing how a bunch of 17-18 year olds can create so many lasting memories. I challenge any sports fan to attend or watch a high school game, especially a tournament game. It might be the best use of money and time that you have ever spent watching sports. You don’t always have to watch LeBron and Brady to find sports entertainment. Sometimes that pimply high school kid living a few blocks away will fill the void.