Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are you Open-Minded?

I am seeing a surge of intellectual dishonesty.  With this highly charged political atmosphere, I want to bring this to light and challenge my friends to consider how they are intaking information.  Are we truly being open minded and 'scientific' as we form our beliefs?

I remember vaguely reading about early childhood developmental stages.  One in particular had to do with learning that people are not "all good" or "all bad."  It had something to do with how a child can think mommy is the greatest thing in the world when she's meeting his needs, but as soon as she says no about something, she's the devil!  It takes a level of growth to realize that people can be both.

I see too much of a lack in this stage in the adults out there.  It seems that we have our beliefs, and any evidence that comes to our attention that seems to counter that belief is immediately thrown out as false.  I'm not even referring to one particular issue or side of any issue.  This is all over the place.

If we are mature and open minded, we must acknowledge that every person has some good and some bad in them.  We all make mistakes, and hopefully we all try to be good people.  Can we possibly assume the same is true of our presidents?  Being a mature open minded adult means viewing each event separately and judging it for itself.  It's ok to dislike someone and find that they have done something good.  It's also ok to like someone and find that they have done something bad.  Both are involved in any human being you will encounter in life.  The same must hold true for those who voted for particular candidate.

For myself, I try to avoid clicking on any articles that have a blatantly biased headline, or one that tries to prey on our curiosity, or tries to get us enraged.  "you'll never believe..." "conservatives are livid..." "drops a bombshell"  These are just a few examples of sensational headlines.  The actual article rarely lives up to the hype.  I think our tendency is to click on things that speak to our already formed ideas and beliefs.  This just further fuels our need to believe someone is all good or all bad.  Making a judgement on a person based on a single photograph, or using said photograph to pad your idea of who someone is is also dangerous.  This has been a thing this week.  Extra photos and videos have later surfaced to show that maybe things aren't quite as the first photo led us to believe.

Do you know that not everyone who voted a certain way is exactly the same?  I happened to choose Trump this time around.  This does not mean I suddenly became a racist, it does not mean I am a mysoginist, and it certainly does not mean I think he is a wonderful moral man who will save the universe.  It means I read the campaign pages of the two candidates and chose the one whose stance on the issues most closely aligned with my beliefs.

I'm sure everyone who voted did so based on their own set of criteria and I choose to think the best of people.  I choose to believe that we all made the best choice we could based on our personal experiences and beliefs.  Our life experiences are all different, and those experiences shape our beliefs.  What if we talked to someone about their experiences in order to understand their beliefs?  I refuse to villainize those who did not vote like I did.  I choose to remember that I thought they were good decent people before, and they most likely still are.  That is called being mature and open-minded.  If my vote angers you to the point of shouting me down and calling me names and smashing in my windows, that's a pretty good sign that you are not walking in maturity and have believed the propaganda.  It is very possible for adults to have a civil conversation and discuss their views and for both to come away from the conversation having learned something and hopefully gained compassion.

What if we all stopped, cleared our preconceived notions, and started fresh today?  What if we could look at each individual event and decide if we agreed with it or not?  What if we listened quietly to why a person believes the way they do?  What if we could view a story without knowing who did it or who said it?  I wonder if our beliefs would change?

We can also take it outside the political arena.  What about the "scientific community" that has presented us with a certain belief system about how the world came to be and how it has operated ever since?  Are you aware that evidence surfaces all the time that contradicts that view, and the powers that be squelch it or destroy it because it goes against their narrative?  Have you ever seen the giant humanoid skeletons in any scientific exhibit?  There are quite a few old newspaper clippings reporting that archaeologists found them here in the US back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They report sending those bones to The Smithsonian never to be seen again.... If this is true, The Smithsonian is participating in intellectual dishonesty by throwing out anything that points to something other than the established "facts."

What about aliens?  Vampires? Bigfoot? God? etc.  Most people will laugh off claims of personal encounters with these types of things, but if you look into it, the numbers of people reporting such encounters are staggering.  Considering how people are generally mocked for saying they believe in these types of creatures, why would so many actually report them? (and how many more have not reported for fear of being mocked?)  I think that a person who has always been sane and respectable doesn't suddenly become crazy because they report seeing something we don't believe is real.  I think the nature of a person before a report should lead us to question our own reality.  Do you know that 13 of our astronauts (people who go thru crazy amounts of screening before being selected) have reported seeing aliens and spaceships while up there?  Since you can't prove that something doesn't exist, it is arrogant and foolish to insist so strongly that you're right in believing they don't.  Now I'm not saying all this is real or even that it is what it seems to be, but I think being open minded means that we should look deeper instead of writing them all off as crazy just because they've said something outside of what we believe to be truth.

As always, I challenge you to think about how you think.  Are you really open-minded?  Are you intellectually honest?  Can you handle the idea that there are both good and bad pieces to every individual?  Can you hear the firsthand story of a person that you know and consider it even if it goes against what you currently believe?  Are you willing to grow? I hope so.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Judge Me By My Sin Do You?

This has been on my mind this morning.  Certain people who call themselves Christians have a nasty habit of shunning a certain other group of people who identify themselves by their sin.  Can I offer a change of perspective?

The Bible says we ALL have sinned.  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I'm included in that statement.  I have sinned.  I know that the sins I could tell you about in my life are places where the enemy of my soul has lied to me or caused people to wound me.  Now if that is true in my life, I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume it is true in others.  If we see a person who is displaying an obvious sin and we choose to attack them over it, or turn our noses up at them, or boycott their business....  What are we accomplishing?  If you see a person with a gaping wound in their skin, do you go rub salt in it?

Sin is evidence that the enemy is attacking us.  So if we see someone's sin and we join in the attacking, whose side are we on??  I'm so sick of them old excuse "we have to tell them the truth."  Sorry, no you don't.  It's not your job.  Our job is to lead people into an encounter with the ONE who can save them and clean them up.

When you came to Jesus, were you perfect?  Had you cleaned up your entire life so that you no longer had any sin on you?  Don't think so.  You've been a Christian for 40 years?  Are you perfect yet?  Doubt it.    I know that as I've walked through the process, the big obvious sins weren't the first things He dealt with.  Jesus has been faithfully working in my heart to heal the wounded places and expose and evict the lies I have believed.  As He did that, the way I acted gradually changed.  I didn't have to do the work myself, He did it.  Jesus changed my heart as He healed it.

If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, I beg you to consider how you think about the people you label as "sinners."  Can you see anything beyond their sin?  Does their sin mean they are a bad person?  Or can you realize that sin is our enemy and that is a fellow human being that is under attack and needs your love and compassion?  It makes no difference what their sin is that you think you are seeing.  You have no idea what they've been through that has led them to this place.  Love covers all types of sins.  Can you see the person through the mud?

I think specifically of Ellen.  Christians love to hate her.  That pisses me off!  Ellen is a wonderful human being!  She has devoted her life to making people laugh and giving generously to those in need.  Can we say the same thing about ourselves?  Sounds like her actions are more Christian than a lot of church people I know.  She has sin in her life just like the rest of us and it doesn't matter which kind.  No one sin is too big, no one sin matters more than others.  Ellen should be encouraged for all the good that she does, and for the amazing person that she is.  She is created in the image of God, just like you and I.  All the pushback and hatred that she experiences from church people is only serving to push her further from God.  If you truly care about her eternal soul, you will not be a part of the attack on her, but instead, you will show her love as Jesus would do.  Pointing out sin and scorning the sinner will never lead them to Jesus.  Remember, it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Image Isn't Identity

My inspirations so often come from tv shows or movies and this blog is not exception.  Today's thought is brought to you by The Librarians.  It doesn't matter if you are unfamiliar with this show.  I'll add pictures to help as needed.  The title is a quote from the show that stood out to me.

A little background...  This is Eve Baird, played by Rebecca Romijn.  She's beautiful right?  Think about what role she might play in this show.  Just based on her appearance, there are some pretty stereotypical ideas that probably come to mind.  But they're wrong.  Eve is actually a military colonel, she's the muscle of the team.  She protects the librarians on their missions.  She kicks butt!

During the last episode I was watching, they were dealing with the selfie culture and it became clear that Baird was avoiding cameras.  One of her friends asked about it.  She told of how when she joined the military, the men called her things like"sweetcheeks" and pinched her butt.  It seems that all that kind of attention made her unhappy with the way she looked.

The boss of the team is the one who spoke the words "Image isn't identity" near the end of the show.  Regardless of what she looks like, it doesn't change who she is.  I just stopped on that thought.  It is a much needed epiphany in many of us.  Not just our physical image, but how other people think of us.  Those don't change our identity unless we let them.  What we look like doesn't have to determine who we are.

Why do we take selfies?  Is it vanity?  Is it attention seeking?  What about selfies with celebrities?
What is the point?  We don't actually know that person, but if we can post a selfie with them, our friends will be jealous and think we're really cool?  This is the only picture I have with someone fairly well known.  Why?  I could tell she didn't really enjoy this part of the job.  lol  For her, what she does isn't about fame, so this kind of thing must feel awkward.  But that's beside the point.  Why did I stand in a line to get this picture?  Does it make me worth more in anyone's eyes?  Does it enhance my identity or my character in any way?

Who are you?  Who determines your identity and your value?  I think those are essential questions to answer in this human experience.  Do you know who you are, or do you let others define it for you?  Why do you post selfies?  I think the answers are deep and personal, which is why I'm really only posting the questions, not my own answers.  Also the flip side of the question, how do we see others?  Do we judge them based on outward appearance or do we try to find out who they are?  I think answering these types of questions can go a long way in healing society .  Know who you are, be yourself, bring your unique gifts to the table, and work to see others as they are, not as you think they are.  If we were all the same, society would collapse.  It takes all of us with our specific gifts and talents to make the world function.  So why do we insist that everyone should be the same?  Don't think that's where we're at?  Are we really tolerant?  Think for just a second.  If someone expresses an opinion that is different, how are they treated?  If someone wears clothes that aren't "in fashion" or "just like everyone else" what happens?  The talking heads preach tolerance and uniqueness til they're blue in the face, then turn right around and bash anyone who dares act on their uniqueness.  Let us all express our unique identities.  We are created equal, but that in no way means "the same."  I'm different.  I'm ok with that, but it doesn't mean I don't sometimes feel the pressure to conform.  I hope we will all find that place of security in identity someday soon and rise up and discover how much we can accomplish together after we stop fighting against everyone who is different.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stereotypes are Dangerous

I have been increasingly irritated by the rampant stereotypical assumptions happening all around.

I looked up the word stereotype. It said " to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same" Well, that pretty much says it right there. Unfair. I realize that stereotypes exist for a reason. When a large number of people in any given group exhibit a certain characteristic, it is natural for our brains to make a connection. The problem is when we can't get past it. The problem is when we can't fathom someone in a group not fitting into that box we have observed and even punish them or humiliate them for not fitting. That is when it becomes seriously unfair.

Anyone with an ounce of awareness knows that our country is ablaze with conflicts around this issue.

  Let's look at gender.  That one is close to my heart.  I'm not "normal."  I am female, but I hate pink, flowers, tea parties, dressing up, fashion, etc....  I have spent most of my life feeling like an outcast because I wasn't like "most girls." (Over the years I have realized that most girls don't fall into the stereotype) When baseball was my favorite thing in the world, finding girl friends to share that with was difficult.  They were all into things I had no interest in.  Making friends was difficult for me because I was different.  In recent years, people like me have been labeled as "gay." because they lay outside the stereotype.  I think that is a big problem.  What does your sexuality have to do with whether you like GI Joe or Barbie dolls?  Now we have people so bound up by these gender stereotypes, they are convinced that they were born in the wrong body and are pumping their bodies full of chemicals and having surgery to mutilate their genitals to make their body fit into the stereotype that they believe they fall into.  I am horrified by this.  The stereotype is wrong, not the person.  Who ever said that we all have to look alike?  Who defined what it means to be male or female?  It's a biological fact, the rest is subjective and falls on a large spectrum of characteristics, even the sex related hormones we have fall on a spectrum.  I fall into the guy category in most stereotypical definitions, but I'm a girl.  I just happen to land outside the "typical" part of the spectrum.  I'm ok with that.  I'm not like everyone else and that is just fine.  It took me years to feel comfortable with who I am, and I blame our culture of inflexible stereotypical thought for that.

In the political arena it seems that black people and hispanices are all assumed to be democrats.  When anyone makes a statement that they support the republican candidate, the media attacks them as a traitor to their own people, or a "token" being used by the GOP.  This again is extremely unfair and narrow minded.  It is saying that people are not free to think for themselves, and rather should be lemmings and just follow the crowd, stay in the box of how we have defined you.  Is it fair to shame someone for following their own beliefs?  No. We are a large nation of diverse people.  There is no way that everyone that checks a certain box will believe the same things.  I know I sure don't.  

I'm sure there are tons of examples, racial profiling and all that, but I will stop there. I'm sure we've all experienced the injustice of stereotyping in our own lives at some point.   

When you define boxes to contain people, it can be detrimental to their identity if they become convinced that they are supposed to be a certain way because of the label they bear.  It stifles the freedom to be who they were created to be. Our culture likes to say nice things like "be unique" "be yourself" - but in reality, we all know that they are saying "be the same" "don't color outside the lines" "shame on you for not fitting in."   

 I can't stand all the critics at any celeb event.  They rip people apart for what they choose to wear.  Why is that socially acceptable?  Children learn very young how to "fit in" or they face a life of ridicule and abuse from their peers.  As long as we adults continue to do it on every front, our children will continue to be stifled and stuffed into boxes.

I have had the thought that a big part of why so many people live life feeling unloved is because of this issue.  The extreme pressure to fit in stifles our uniqueness.  When you have to pretend to be something you are not, being liked or loved loses its value.  When people love you for something you know you're not, the love you receive isn't real to you.  I think this is a big factor in the numbers of depressed people around us.  We all long to be loved and known, but as long as we feel the pressure to conform, that love will never be fulfilling when it's based on a lie.  

Our culture is in need of a huge shift.  There are campaigns all over speaking to this problem, but are they working?  What is behind it all?  Are we so scared of someone finding out who we are that we feel the need to put others down?  Can we change?  Can we make a point to train ourselves to view people as individuals instead of lumping them in with whatever category comes to mind at first sight?  Can we allow others the freedom to be unique?  Can we celebrate all people, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum?  I hope so.  I'm trying to be better about this.  The stereotypes do pop into my head still, and while it may be a starting place, I try to allow room for a person to show me who they are outside of that box.

PS - After writing this, I listened to a sermon that I felt fit.  Danny Silk at Jesus Culture church.  He says the Greek word translated "accuser" (the devil) is "categoros"  hmmm.....   Have a listen if you please.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Negative Words

I have been watching Steve Harvey's new show "Little Big Shots" and loving it!!  If you haven't heard of it, basically he has little kids with huge talent, or kids that are just funny.  I think he is collecting them off YouTube to be honest.

Kids are so candid.  I made an observation that I wanted to expand on a little in my thought process.  A couple times I've noticed a certain scenario play out as he interviews the kids.  He tells a little girl, "do you know you're very pretty?" and she just replies matter-of-factly, "yes."  Now if you fast forward about 15 years, that scenario will play out very differently.  It makes me sad.  The innocence of childhood is not something we should have to grow out of.  No one should be able to convince us that we're not pretty, smart, funny, etc.  But they do.

I began to ponder.  Kids live in a realm of trust.  They have to.  They will believe anything you tell them.  They simply don't have enough information to not believe.  As a baby/toddler, no one (hopefully) is telling this kids they are anything less than wonderful.  No one goes up to a 3 yr old and tells her she's ugly, right?  So it's easy to see why when Steve tells a 4 yr old she's very pretty, she agrees with him.  When does it change?  When do girls cross the line into believing instead that so many things are wrong with her appearance?

For me it was 6th grade.  I'm sure for some it was even earlier.  I was a happy kid with lots of friends in elementary school.  The way our schools are set up, the elementary I went to fed into both middle schools, and it seemed most of my friends went to the other one, so I started 6th grade without many friends in place.  I don't remember a lot of specifics from that era, but I know that a group of boys started taunting me.  I learned pretty quickly that year that I didn't have "the right stuff" to fit in at this school.  It came as a shock and I withdrew into a shell that I am still working my way out of 27 or so years later.

Now I'm looking at this with my current eyes and I'm wondering why the words of those specific kids were able to alter my life so significantly.  I didn't even know them!  They were no my friends, they didn't know me, they didn't matter!  They were just kids with a mean streak, probably from their own wounds and insecurities.  There were people in my life who did care about me, but for some reason, their words of affirmation weren't enough to take out the cruel words of my peers.  It really doesn't make sense.  Why do we listen to the opinions of those who don't matter?

I've thought lately about hearing "I love you" from someone.  Our parents usually tell us they love us, but somehow it seems to matter more when we hear it from someone that is not "obligated" to love us.  That in itself is a silly statement, but I think it feels true.  We are silly creatures, swayed by negative words so easily.  

Today, years down the road, I'm still struggling with my self worth, trying to believe that people like me, that I'm worth something, that I matter to someone.  That who I am, in all my uniqueness is valuable.  I started thinking, talking to God about this and He reminded me that no one who gets famous does so for "fitting in."  He reminded me that He made each of us totally unique and meant for us to live in that uniqueness.  Who told us that fitting in was the goal of life?  It's not!!  It's amazing how easily that lie has trapped us, bound us up in chains, and destroyed who we were created to be.  None of us should have to fit in!  This world is boring when everyone is the same.  I am different than you, and it is right that it is so.  We each have a part to play in this big body of people known as humanity.  We can't all do the same things.  The "famous people" that we all love got that way by standing out and being different!

When we try to fit in, when we try to do the things we think we need to do to be loved and accepted, we're actually shooting ourselves in the foot.  The love and acceptance will never be fulfilling because we're not loved and accepted for who we really are.  I've used this concept in talking about dating, but it applies to all relationships.  If we are faking something, the love we receive for it isn't really for us.  We feel more and more unloved because deep down we know that we aren't really exposing our true self.  The only time we can really believe we are loved is when the lover sees our truest self.  God always sees us, more clearly than we see ourselves, but with human relationships, we can only be truly loved to the extent we reveal ourselves to another.

How can we reverse the negative word destruction?  By daily reminding ourselves of the positive words from people who really know us and love us.  Reject the negative words as they come at us, and receive the positive ones.  God has given us lots of words of affirmation in the Bible and we can ask Him for more personal ones directly.  I am going to work on this more.  I want to be aware of what words I'm allowing to have an effect on my soul.  I've spent a lifetime believing the negative from people who don't matter, now I want to begin to believe the positive words from people who do matter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

One Sided God?

I found this on Facebook's 'On This Day' - something I posted in 2011 (before I moved to Redding) - I thought it was worth a read.

Over the past 2 years, my life has undergone a radical transformation, due in large part to the teachings I encountered from a church called Bethel in Redding, CA.  Recently I was led to a website that had a lot of negative things to say about this church and its teachings.  I've seen this before about my own church, and it's usually by people who don't really know what is going on.  But one of the things this site said made me think.  The accusation was that Bethel teaches only about the goodness of God, seemingly ignoring God's judgement and the Old Testament God that had a tendency to smite people that displeased Him.   I want to share my thoughts on what I concluded.  

This accusation is not only against this particular church, I've personally heard it from others here and there.  Christians and non Christians alike, this is a sticky subject.  My pastor often mentions what he calls the both/and.  This refers to what many would call contradictions in the Bible.  Jesus is a lion - Jesus is a lamb.  which is it?  Both.  He has many many aspects to His character and at a first glance, they can seem contradictory.  So let me just narrow it down to the one specific instance that was mentioned.  God's goodness vs God's wrath.

I was raised in church, so I know all the Bible stories and all the teachings, but all of that never brought be into a personal relationship with Jesus.  I didn't trust Him.  I was always afraid that He would ask me to do something scary like become a missionary to Africa.  ;)  I knew that He didn't like sin, so I spent so much of my life being "good" - trying to be perfect so He wouldn't be mad or disappointed.  I was never willing to open my heart and share my inner self with Him.  Why?  Because I didn't know that He was good.  I knew what the world in general seems to think.  God is waiting to toss a thunderbolt my way if I screw up.

My introduction to Bethel was all about the goodness of God.  I was told about His amazing unconditional love.  I heard songs sung by worshipers who obviously believed their joyful proclamations 100%.  I watched the congregations as well as the singers and speakers.  I could see that these people really knew this good God.  It wasn't fake.  It wasn't hype.  They were truly basking in the goodness of God.  The more I heard of the teaching, the more I heard a sound that rang true to me.  There were always little bits that didn't sit right with me in church growing up.  I was young, so questioning the pastors wasn't really an option in my mind.  I figured they must know what they're talking about because everyone seems to believe the same thing.  It's not that they were wrong, but the teachers at Bethel were able to put words to what I was feeling was off.  Their lessons clicked with me.  Their Kingdom based teachings were just enough different that I finally began to understand who God is.

I didn't just have the internet teachings and books and music, I met someone that had lived there, been a part of that community for a time.  I experienced the human form of that unconditional love in a new way.  I watched a life that was just different.  I saw hope.  I saw a life that had been transformed and was living the way I wanted to believe was possible.  I began to think that I didn't have to live this miserable controlled little life anymore.  I saw enough evidence of God's goodness that I started to believe it, and that allowed me to open my heart and trust Him.  That little tiny act of trust opened the floodgates and I was drenched in His Love and amazing goodness.  I experienced it.  I felt His Love in a tangible way that brought me well out of the reach of doubt.

So does God have wrath?  Does He cast judgement?  Yeah, but don't we all?  When you get angry with someone, do you have a good reason?  Is there ever a place for that?  We sure seem to think so.  When you watch a movie, don't you love to see the bad guy get what's coming to him?  We get that sense of justice from our Father.  But the thing is, we never know all the facts.  Do we know that the guy that raped and killed all those girls was brutally abused and molested himself as a child?  Would that make us a little more sympathetic towards him?  Not that his acts were justified at all, but maybe we'd understand a little more that he himself was hurting and acting out of that place.  The thing is.... God knows ALL the facts.  He is JUST.  He is the perfect Father.  Our human brains and limited knowledge have no right thinking our judgement of a situation is right.

Many accuse God of letting bad things happen to good people.  They accuse Him of pouring out His wrath in the form of natural disasters.  I just don't believe that is true.  I believe that He set the Earth on it's course, and human kind has made a lot of bad decisions that have had ripple-like ramifications.  I believe that Jesus came to take God's judgement in our place.  I believe He finished it at the cross.  I believe that He loves us soooooooo much that He went to extreme measures to make sure that we could live in His love forever.  He's a Father.  How many of you as parents nail your kids to the wall for every little thing they do wrong?  No, you love them, and you would do anything for them wouldn't you?  You overlook so many mistakes b ecause you love your kid.  You just want to see them happy and living a good life.  Are we better than God?  I don't think so.  I think that the perception of many is very skewed.  Now that I believe He is good, I view all situations a little different and I can trust that He is taking care of everything.  I don't have to fight to make sure the "bad" people around me get what is coming, I can trust that my Daddy knows more than I do and He will make sure everything works out in the end.  

So what do I think about Bethel's "goodness" focused teaching?  I love it!!  Without knowing God is good, why does anything else matter?  Why would I want to go to a God of wrath?  Out of fear?  The Bible says there is no fear in love.  Fear is the opposite of faith and without faith it is impossible to please God.  It also tells us that it is His kindness that leads us to repentence.  I don't think that preaching a God of wrath gets the results we really want.  If we want souls to be saved, scaring them is not going to work.  Without God's goodness, why would anyone want to know Him?  I think Bethel is right on in teaching the goodness of God as the base truth for everything else.  There is a place for all aspects of God, but without the goodness, we have no way of understanding the rest of it in context.  I wouldn't be living the joy and peace filled life that I am if I didn't get this exposure to the goodness of God. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Political Goo

It seems like all we hear about right now is the presidential race for 2016.  No matter how hard we try, we're bound to get slimed somehow by all this "news" flying around.  So I will weigh in.  I will admit I have dreaded wading into the cesspool, so I'm not super informed, but I don't really want to talk too much about the specifics anyway.  I want to share my thoughts on what I believe about politics.

I believe that the founding fathers wrote a genius level constitution.  Very well thought out path to success, and it worked well for a long time.  Over the last 200+ years, people have gotten in the way and reinterpreted what the constitution says and changed a bunch of things that have not made us better.  If I remember from high school, a good 20 years ago plus, the federal government was only in charge of infrastructure and defense.  I could totally be wrong there, that's just what I remember hearing.  Today they run the world.  I think that is a pretty far stretch from the intent of our founders.
That being said, I don't believe the government should be running schools, welfare, marriages etc.  This belief makes voting tricky at times.  From where we stand today, there is no easy fix.  We've allowed a very messy web of interconnected Band-Aids to be applied helter skelter all over our society.  From the original intent I stated, to where we are now, we can't just go back.  We can't just pull government out of all the places it wasn't meant to be.  That would leave gaping wounds, oozing with pus.  Sorry.  :)  The government has stepped in and taken over some areas of need that were being neglected by other sectors of society.  We have areas that are hurting, and it seems we lack enough decent human beings with the proper resources to help out.

When I look at my ballot, whether it be for issues, laws, or people, I have a hard time deciding.  There is often something on there asking for more money for schools, but I don't believe in public school.  I think that is too often a horrible, life wrecking, hellhole that we force kids to go to for 13 years.  They spend that time just trying to survive the tortures of their peers and the indoctrination of the curriculum.  We've created a culture that believes this is what is best for our children.  I do not want to give money to that, but ending the school system just creates a ton of other problems.  There aren't enough alternative answers readily available.  I believe parents should be responsible for the education of their children, but most of them are at work and unavailable.  So if we make sure one parent is home to care for the children, the workforce is cut, the income of the family goes down, the economy takes a hit...  See what I mean?  Fixing one problem just creates a bunch more.  I can't see the best way out of this type of situation.  So do I vote for more money because I know there are plenty of really great well meaning teachers in there just trying their best to make a difference, or do I vote what I believe is right in the sense of where our tax dollars belong?  It's a tough call for me.

So what does this have to do with picking a candidate?  I ponder what should be most important?  I think the main focus of the media attention tends to go toward the social issues.  Gay marriage, abortion, and immigration are always popular topics.  But are these the most important issues that we need a good leader to confront?  I'll say yes on the abortion topic because killing millions of babies is a genocide that must be stopped!  But the others, not so sure.

 I see a nation potentially on the brink of disaster.  Our economy is stretched to the limit.  If that crashes, which many believe it will, do we really think these hot button issues matter one bit?  If you have no money, your bank account has disappeared, and you need to feed your family, is it really going to matter to you if gays can marry legally?  If the Muslims keep growing in number over here and you have to worry about getting your head chopped off or blown up by a bomb every time you leave the house, it's not going to matter to you if pot is legal.  There are a number of issues that people base decisions on that really don't matter in light of the bigger dangers that lurk.

Another genius method of voting is based on completely irrelevant criteria like skin color or gender.
That is idiotic to vote based on something like that.  Too many people want to vote for a criminal simply because "it's time."  It is also not a reason to not vote for someone.  We have to grow up!  We have to look at what really matters and stop being mindless lemmings following after pop-culture with our brains turned off.  We have to look at the character of the people running and examine their record.

I recently read a blurb by C Peter Wagner (a Christian author) where he said basically that he didn't think it was the goal to vote for the best Christian in the race.  He said that is not the measure of success in the political realm.  I'll have to admit that he made sense.  I would prefer a Christian because I would hope he/she shared the same values I do, but that alone is not enough to lead a nation.  Wagner made the point that the measure of success is different on the "7 mountains of influence."  For example, in the business world, accumulation of wealth would be how to measure success.

I do believe character matters, because I don't want a leader that will trample people to achieve a goal.  Someone like Trump has a record of business success in acquiring wealth, but I ask, at what cost?  To me, that disqualifies him to lead the nation.  I do believe he could have a positive influence on our economy overall, but I question how many people would be hurt in the process.

So what is it that really matters to me?  I want to see a leader that can pull us together as a nation.  I see division as a major issue that is destroying us from within.  I want a leader that shows integrity and quality in his character.  I don't want to have a shady underhanded leader that is out for his own benefit.  I am tired of the lobbyists having their way in DC.  They are out for profit and they appear to be bribing the politicians to help their cause instead of the people.  I want to find a leader who can protect our nation from foreign threats and keep us safe from infiltration by those intent on doing us harm.  I want a leader that seeks the to solve the root of a problem instead of just slapping more useless and harmful laws on things.  I want a leader who will address the atrocious debt spending that has enslaved our nation.  (paying that debt off at a rate of $10 million per day will take 5000 years!)  I want a leader who can tackle our economic crisis with wisdom and compassion.  I want a leader who will uphold the laws of the land instead of constantly making up his own laws.  They really aren't that hard to understand.  I want a leader that believes in freedom and honor.

That's a pretty big want.  Who can fill those shoes?  I have no idea.  I don't believe that any one person needs to have all the answers, but a good leader knows how to surround himself with people who think differently and will offer new ideas for consideration.  A good leader can look for solutions with an open mind, regardless of their source.  Humility is a great quality in a leader.  Ability to delegate and seek counsel are more important than having all the answers.