Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feeding the Poor

"He that oppreseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want."  Proverbs 22:16

And yet, according to Paul Krugman, columnist, the Congressman from Tennessee, Stephen Fincher, is even using the Bible (II Thesalonians 3:10) -- "...if any would not work, neither should he eat" -- to support his, and the House of Representatives, decision to kill the food stamp portion of the farm bill.  But they are padding the portion of the bill that supports farm businesses and corporations.  Fincher, himself a previous recipient of farm subsidies, says he cannot support a law that collects from the rich to give to the poor. That, according to many conservative Congressmen these days, is socialism. However, these same Congressmen see nothing wrong with taxing the rich and the middle class to feed the wealthy.  That, per them, apparently cannot be construed as socialism.

Mr. Krugman recently wrote that there is something wrong with the soul of the Republican Party.  He points out that several who serve in Congress seem to "take glee in inflicting more suffering on the already miserable".  He says he isn't sure what is going on, but it's a terrible thing to watch.

Proverbs 14:31 states "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker...".  The Bible, from cover to cover, encourages believers to help others.  Go figure that this group has found the scripture that encourages no food for no work.  Of course, Fincher and his ilk don't tell anybody where to find work during this sluggish recovery.  They are too busy threatening to decrease the already inadequate Social Security funds, reducing funding for Head Start programs and, in general, "mucking" up the economy worse than it is. 

I'm glad someone of Mr. Krugman's credentials and readership has finally taken up the crusade to open the eyes of the Republican constituents, if not the Congressmen, themselves.  He says they have gone way beyond bad economic doctrine or selfishness and special interests.  No kidding!

These points are much what I have been pointing out in my political blog   louhough.blogspot.com
for over a year.  Perhaps Krugman's message will have more effect from the man of apparent plenty than it has from myself.  I, being one of the poor they wish to oppress more by cutting Social Security's COLA, as well as an obscure blog author, cannot begin to impress the politicians involved.  Maybe they will hear the message from one of their own.

Previously in "The View From Main Street", the first article in my blog entitled Trickle Down Politics, I pointed out that employers who underpay their employees, as well as Congressmen who consistently keep minimum wages several dollars per hour too low, are the reason social programs became necessary.  If a head of household cannot earn enough to feed, clothe and shelter his family how can he be expected to save for a rainy day much less retirement?  Western countries, who now get upset over Asian manufacturing conditions, were just as bad before legislation protected employees here.  You should know that from your high school history lessons.

The constant threats to cut COLA to "save" Social Security, are frequently followed by people stating they never believed in Social Security anyway or that we are whiners to expect it just because we were promised it.  These people who have been elected, apparently are so dense they seem not to understand that we bought the insurance to provide our retirement future.  See "Social Security and Medicare Are Not Welfare" at my BlogSpot.

I have also suggested that before they cut Social Security and Medicare, they should cut their own salaries and benefits.  Their salary alone is many times more than our Social Security transfers. 

I've pointed out to the rich entrepreneurs that they would not have acquired such wealth if they and their families had been the only ones making their products  They should have shared the wealth with the ones who earned it for them.

The greed of the past caused earlier Congresses to step in and protect the workers who were not valued by the business community.  Businessmen caused the need for these programs they love to hate so much.  See "Me, Me, Me" at my blog.

There is a basic arrogance among them.  They seem to behave as though they believe that the rich should get more because they are rich and the poor get less because they are poor.

When Paul Ryan was running for Vice President, there was a big deal being made that he thought Atlas Shrugged was the second Bible.  For those of you who have not read Ayn Rand's work, it might be important to point out that Rand was an atheist.  She also had been part of the wealthy society of Russia at the time of the revolution there.  When the rich had been unseated, her parents sent her to America.  Needless-to-say she had some very harsh feelings about her stuff being taken away and distributed amongst the poorer population.

Once in America, she began to hang out with gifted and talented individuals.  Her husband was an artist.  Frank Lloyd Wright and his family were among her friends.  He probably was her inspiration for The Fountainhead, her first published novel.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand went too far afield with her philosophy.  There was so much imbedded in her plot that it became tedious.  In general, there was a theme that a handful of individuals were responsible for all that was good in the world and that the rest of us would not be able to survive without them.  Under the direction of John Galt, the hero so to speak, they set a date when they would walk away to their version of Walden Pond and leave us all to sink.  They were sure we would not survive without them.

Now, her work is very seductive.  Everyone who reads it wants to be one of the winners and a lot of people convince themselves they are.  Some of these interpret those who get rich off of others to be the winners.  But in her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand makes it clear that she is promoting trading value for value, not making money or getting ahead by exploiting others.

It is my fear too many people have decided they are the winners, based on an incorrect interpretation of Rand's work.  I just don't hold some of these individuals in the same esteem as they see themselves.  See "The Fatal Flaw" at my blog. 

My thanks to Paul Krugman, who has a strong enough voice to get attention.  Perhaps he can teach these individuals the real meaning of the word socialism.  Hopefully their constituents will read his, or even my words, and vote these people back to their gentlemen farm origins.

Certainly we can't take many more years of congresses that think it is okay to take from everyone to feed the rich while calling it socialism to take from all taxpayers to feed the hungry.  I'm sure God would be happy to see some true believers in office again.

The political blog to which I refer several times in this article is at louhough.blogspot.com.  You may also be interested in lousissues.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Friendship Please

As a young girl, possibly a preteen, I used to pray for World Peace.  Funny thing about young people, they offer God a somewhat na├»ve and expectant belief.  All things can be possible with prayer and faith.

While in college, I prayed further for a more ecumenical world.  It does seem as if the Christian denominations have become more unified across the globe.  Others must have prayed as well.

Today, I believe that if that ecumenical approach were maintained between the world's major religions, world peace might become a possibility.  Because of divisiveness, even within sects of religions, our lands seem in constant turmoil.  Much of the conflict is centered in the Middle East, where Muslims and Jews alike are constantly flexing their muscles while the rest of us cringe at potential outcomes.
 
In DNA The Secret of Life, James D. Watson notes that molecular studies have shown that Jews and all other Middle Eastern groups are, genetically, almost indistinguishable.  He reminds us of Abraham, father of Isaac and Ishmael.  The first was ancestor of the Jews while the latter was forefather of the Arabs.

If we examine Abraham's relationships closely, we may gain more understanding.  Abraham's wife, Sarai (Sarah) could not have her own children.  She came up with the idea of getting some kids by giving Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, to him as wife.  Hagar bore Ishmael.  Later, Sarah conceived and her son's name was Isaac.  Ishmael apparently mocked the birth and growth of Isaac, so Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and her son away.  He reluctantly did so.

God promised Abraham that nations would come from both sons.  Jews are said to have come from Isaac and Arabs from Ishmael.  And thereby began the everlasting conflict between these two peoples.  It is said that DNA research supports the story of one common father and two separate mothers of these two nations.

It is hard to understand that disagreements between Sarah and Hagar could have caused all the hatred between these two sides.  This has all gone on for generations and generations.

The men who fathered the next generation of these two great nations were half brothers.  I pray that the nations begun by Abraham can overcome their enmity and heal their wounds.

  In the words of Michael Jackson, albeit in a different context, "why can't we be friends?"  The world needs more friendship, please.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

This Is My Body

Let me declare loudly that this is my body, my mind, my soul, my spirit, and my choice.

Whether you are conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist or whatever, this is still my body, mind, and soul.  That goes for whether you are a Congressman, Mayor, President, Governor or my next door neighbor.

Because I was born into a family of Christians who happened to attend a Southern Baptist Church, no big surprise that I am Christian or that I started out as a Southern Baptist.  Had I been born into a Catholic family, my life might have taken a different turn.  There would have been a head of my denomination, housed in Rome, who considered himself infallible and who had been granted rights by my denomination to tell me what to do. Whether any or all of these men (popes) were granted those rights by God, is really known only to God, Jesus and those who have preceded us to heaven.

Rules for people became necessary when many individuals began massing together. These rules (mores) evolved out of squabbles in a group.  You will remember reading about God creating Eve to be Adam's wife.  I don't recall a formal wedding ceremony or even a bunch of paperwork saying they belonged to each other.  But then, I guess it was enough that He created them for each other.  No visible sign was needed to say it was so.

As man and woman went throughout our world reproducing themselves, life got much more complicated. Without the rules, the mores, the laws, the biggest, meanest, "baddest" of them all would have gotten all the best of the women.  The power grubbers would have gotten all the control. The greedy, unfeeling, the Midas types, would have collected all the coins.  So, man made rules for man. Moses carried rules from God down to the Jewish people. Mohammed made rules for Muslims.  Jesus brought revised rules when he came.

But throughout all man's efforts to control his fellow man, even if his intentions were honorable and meant to bring order from chaos, one fact has remained true.  This is my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit.  I don't belong to you.  I don't belong to my parents (may they rest in peace).  I don't belong to my brothers.  I don't belong to my children.  And I, most especially, do not belong to any politician, foreign or domestic.  Whoever you are, political or religious, friend or foe, I do not belong to you.

This is my body, my mind, my spirit and my soul.  As long as I don't infringe on the rights of others, I get to make my own decisions.  You do not get to decide for me.  Some of my decisions will be good, some will be bad.  But they will be mine.  And if I can learn from my mistakes, I will become a better human being for the effort.

I think of the tone of voice used by Ingrid Bergman in the Inn of the Sixth Happiness.  "Oh, they will always fight," she said in a derisive tone of voice.  I'd like to borrow that tone here to say, oh there will always be others who want to control everybody else.  It is part of the nature of the beast that is mankind.  Simply stated, you have no right to do so.  I get to do that as long as I respect you, your rights and your body, mind, soul and spirit. 

Many, many of our problems in this world are power struggles.  This includes small matters like who gets to walk through your yard all the way to which people get to lead the country -- yours or mine.  It includes matters of concern to women.  It includes whose religion will be taught to our children.  It certainly includes which side runs a country.  The latter is why we honor majority rule.

You have no right to choose my religion.  If the almighty, God or Allah, had wanted me to be a radical Muslim, He would have seen that I was born to radical Muslim parents in the Middle East.  If He had wanted me to live in Mexico, He would have seen I was born there.  If He had wanted me Catholic, I would not have arrived in a Baptist home.  If He wanted me to be a parent (as he did) He would have provided children.  If He did not, I would have remained childless.  If He had a child whose parents could not take care of it, He would have let me adopt it.

The way I see it, my life belongs to me and the God who chose to send me here.  If I want to drink super sized sodas (I do not), that's between God and myself. If he wants me to make a decision about whether to abort or keep a child, that is between God and myself.  (Fortunately, He never wanted me to make such a decision).  If He wants me educated, you get the idea.  You don't get to decide just because you have more money or power than I.

It is my opinion that way too much strife and stress happens because arrogant people think they are superior to others and they should butt into another's life and tell them what to do.  You do not have that right.  If we measure each of our actions based on individual human rights, we might some day get that elusive peace on earth.

Remember my chant, "This is my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit."  Then ask yourselves how you want others to treat you.  Would you want women to control you, denigrate you, disrespect you?  No?  Then don't do it to them.

Would you want Christians to tell you what religion you will practice?  Then don't do it to them or anybody else.

Do you want God to decide that you, man, must bear all children growing within you whether you want them or not?  Then don't do it to women.

Do you want New Yorkers telling you, the Mayor, that you have to drink supersized sodas?  No?  Then don't tell New Yorkers the reverse.  Besides, if you downsize their drinks, they may just have to buy two of the smaller versions to get the amount their body needs.

My religion suggests that we practice the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

If you don't want to be enslaved, then don't do it to anybody else.

Don't even entertain the thought of telling me whom I can marry or that I have to stick with him no matter how he treats me.  I may send him to your house and let him beat up on you.  A local priest once beat up a man who abused his wife.

Human beings long ago stepped too far across the line in setting down mores that were needed to eliminate the chaos.  We err big time on the side of interfering in the rights and lives of others.

You simply have no right to control my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit.  That is my right and mine alone.  Once people get a handle on that concept, civil wars may subside; hung Congresses may cooperate; individuals will spend their time getting their own ducks in order; and our world will be a better place.

Have you heard too many times that this is my body?  Good!  Then maybe you will remember it.  Hopefully, you will even get it.

Faith, The Really Hard Part

Matthew 6:34

Conversion comes with a great sense of guilt over sin and a wish to make restitution.  It is an emotional time during which we take a sudden leap of faith, confess our sins and promise God that we will live a better life.  Much as some people fight this leap of acceptance, it is the easy part.  The hard part is to maintain faith on a daily basis while facing a world full of hate, crime, disaster and subterfuge.

Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains.  In the late fifties, early sixties, it became a fad to wear a necklace with a glass ball encasing a mustard seed.  For Christians, this had the special meaning invoked by Jesus' words.  But how many of us actually believe we can move mountains?  Not many!

There is a church this author passed occasionally.  One week their notice board said, "Wrinkled from worry?  Come in for a faith lift."  Of course church is a good place to get filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, but church attendance is not the only answer.  We need to pray and read God's word frequently -- daily if possible so that we can maintain a basic trust in God.  If we are going to drink from a cup, we must constantly keep it filled.

Some people, even Christians, seem not to want to bother God with their daily trials.  They think God is busy with the "important" problems like war and famine, and that we should not bother Him with little things.  Others consult him for everything right down to whether they should have peas for dinner. 

Have you ever gone to work one day in an outfit you hadn't planned to wear the night before -- one that you just had to wear instead?  Then when you got to work half the people in the building had on that color.  I used to joke with everyone, "I guess God wanted to see purple today."  But is it really a joke?

Have you ever gotten a real craving for a certain food, made an uncommon effort to cook it and then found that many other people cooked the same thing that weekend?  Sometime, for the fun of it, ask if they usually go to that kind of effort.  My eye opening food is fried chicken.  Nobody cooks it quite the way I like it.  Many people make good chicken, including KFC, but once in a while I just have to have my own version, no matter how messy it makes my kitchen.  Next day at work there will be people all around eating fried chicken from their weekend cooking sprees. 

One last example!  How many times have you had a sense that you should not take your usual route to work?  Ignoring that urge, you plunge right ahead and find yourself embroiled in a traffic jam of major proportions.

This is the kind of daily faith I'm talking about.  God will see you safely and happily through the most mundane of daily tasks if you will only open your senses to his suggestion.  He doesn't generally strike us blind on the road to Damascus, nor does he usually speak in a loud commanding voice.  He rarely lets us see Him through the version of a burning bush.  But HE IS THERE guiding us and helping us through this difficult world if we will simply lean back and let him take the lead. 

So, don't wait until church on Sunday for your faith connection.  Give God a chance in your daily life and He will give you new hope.


As promised, the first two articles, previously printed in Food for the Soul:  A Book of Devotional Essays, have been repeated here.  The next article being published today has not been in print before now.  It is entitled, "This Is My Body". 

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Can the Death of Jesus Lead to Your Salvation?

Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 19:25-27, John 3:16, Matthew 19:17, Matthew 19:21:22

Let's place ourselves (hypothetically, of course) in the position of Jesus.  Imagine for a moment being born in a stable and placed in a manger.  Picture having your birth announced by angels.  How would you feel if wise men and shepherds came to pay homage?  What if a king tried to kill you just because you were born and your very existence felt threatening to him?

Imagine knowing, at least by the age of 12, that a good and close friend would betray you or that the leaders of your religion hated you.  Suppose you knew that you would be put to death because of a bloodthirsty vote of your peers and that you would be hung on the cross until dead -- while in your early thirties.  Not a pretty picture is it?  And yet that is what Jesus Christ of Nazareth willingly faced so that we might be saved from our sins.

He fulfilled his job long ago.  Now, what must we do to be saved?

In Ephesians 2:8-10, Jesus tells us that salvation is not by works -- so no point in bragging about what we do.  He tells us salvation is by the grace of God; that's grace through faith -- our faith.  It is a gift from God.

Is he telling us not to do good works?  Not at all.  He is simply telling us that good works alone will not take us to the kingdom of heaven.  If we have works without belief, our souls will not be saved.

Our salvation is a gift from God -- the God that sent his only begotten son that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but have eternal life. 

Who can be saved, you wonder?  In Matthew 19:25-27, Jesus tells us that humanly speaking, nobody can be saved -- but with God, all things are possible.  Once again, our salvation comes from God so it is possible with him.

Salvation comes through faith and through belief.  In John 3:16 we read "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Think for a minute about babies at Christmas.  The first year, they respond to the bright lights and the happiness of those around them.  By the second year they begin to have the concept that good things come at Christmas.  Most people are happier and more loving and giving.  Mom and Dad have usually introduced them to Santa Claus by then.  With wide eyes and expectant hearts they know that joy is coming to their lives.

Jesus told us that we had to become like children and to believe just because we were told about God and heaven.  We were to have a child's trust and faith and to believe him with complete and utter confidence that it is so because he told us it is so.

What exactly is faith?  "Faith isn't something you get -- it is something you have or don't have."  Kenneth Copeland

Faith is simply believing in something that you cannot see, cannot touch, cannot smell and cannot hear.  It's believing in something that's not logical.  It's believing even when men revile you or persecute you or say all manner of false things about you for Jesus' sake.

It is believing even when people say you are crazy for believing.  Remember Noah?  God told Noah to build that boat.  The rains are coming, Noah.  You need that boat to survive the flood.

Remember how his neighbors all laughed and pointed fingers at him?  Noah got quite a reputation in his neighborhood.  You might say he was the neighborhood joke.  But Noah had faith that God had instructed him to build a boat and so he BELIEVED, he ACTED ON THAT BELIEF, and he was saved from the flood -- he and his family and the animals, two by two.

You and I, we didn't get to live when Jesus walked the streets, trusting good people to feed Him and his disciples.  We didn't get to see Him touch a leper and see the man made whole.  We didn't get to graze the hem of his garment and feel our bodies healed.  How anyone could have watched him perform those miracles and not know and understand that he was the son of God is unbelievable to me.  But there were many then and many more now that spit in the eye of the truth.

In an eulogy, Princess Diana's brother said he thought that the constant search of the media, and many people, for flaws in Diana was caused by the need of those at the low end of the moral spectrum to find something wrong with those who are truly good.  How much more might this be said of Jesus, the true Son of God?  The truth and goodness which he represented provoked jealousy, anger and murder to those who were less good than he.

Faith is complete and utter trust.  Faith is belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Faith is unwavering confidence in the words of Jesus.

Salvation is a GIFT FROM GOD.  We don't own it -- it's not a right.   In fact, for those not born to the Jewish faith, it was a gift not originally meant for us.  It is not our birthright.  It is only when we TRULY BELIEVE that we are granted salvation at all.  We can't earn it by doing good works.  We do good works because our faith leads us to do them and because Jesus told us to go into all the earth and preach the gospel to all the people.  When we do good things for others we are doing it as if we are doing it for him.  But good works are not to earn salvation; they are to serve Jesus and to take his message to others in need.

In Matthew 19:21, a rich man asked Jesus the route to salvation.  Jesus suggested the man sell all he had -- give to the poor -- and follow Him.  The man went away in sorrow because he could not fulfill Jesus' command.  Jesus then told his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Today we are told that the eye of a needle was a reference to a small door in the wall surrounding towns back then.  Animals entered and exited through them).

Did Jesus mean we couldn't be saved if we have money?  Probably not.  He probably meant that most rich men value their money more than they value eternal life.  They live for the comfort of now rather than the comfort of the future.  Money is their false god.

Mother Teresa did exactly what Jesus said.  She felt in her heart of hearts that God had called her to sell all her belongings, give to the poor and commit her life to helping the impoverished.  She did what God asked.  It is said that when she died, she owned the sari of the order she founded, two pair of sandals and two pair of eyeglasses.  But those who met her say she was a woman totally devoted to God and a person of joy.

Jesus' disciples, puzzled at his response to the rich man, asked how a person could reach the kingdom of heaven.  He told them by keeping the commandments of God, of which the most important is to love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.

The route to salvation is placing God above service to wealth or other false goals.  In Matthew 19:21-22, Jesus tells us to forget the wealth and come FOLLOW HIM.

In summary --  salvation is a gift from God given by the grace of God.  It is received through faith in God by believing in Jesus who died on the cross that we might be saved.  It is facilitated by obeying God's commandments and by following Jesus, not the false glitter of the world.

Introduction

I write under the pen name, Lou Hough.  Originally, I began writing under this perversion of my name because I wanted anonymity.  Go figure an individual who wants to be an highly read author, but doesn't want anyone to know who she is. 

Everybody needs credentials for everything these days.  Here are mine.  I have been a born-again Christian since I was nine years old.  I grew up as a Southern Baptist in a small Southern Illinois city.  Southern Baptists, at least at that time, held Sunday School and Morning Worship as well as Training Union and Evening Worship on Sundays.  Wednesday nights were for choir practice and Prayer Meeting.  Each age group had a monthly meeting like Girl's Auxiliary or Young Women's Auxiliary.  I've attended them all on a regular basis.

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Southern Illinois University.  My expertise is limited to Journalism.  I've little experience in radio and none in television.  I studied for this degree when Carbondale was the only SIU campus.  While in school there, I was secretary to the President of the Southern Illinois College of Bible, a Baptist college housed on the SIU campus.  The Bible College offered credit courses through SIU, taken mostly by ordained Southern Baptist ministers and aspiring missionaries. 

To my memory, there were six core courses offered to these students.  Four were taught by Dr. George L. Johnson, my employer.  They included, "The Life of Christ, "The Poetic Books", "The Prophets" and "The Apostolic Age."  These I was required to take so that I could grade his term papers.  One was a course in conducting church business.  The sixth was a music course emphasizing conducting the choir.  The latter two I did not take, but I did have some business courses through the university.  I also had taken twelve years of piano lessons, sung in the church choir and taken chorus one year during high school.

Southern Baptists traditionally have not ordained women as ministers (my denomination, one of the last bastions of chauvinism in the country).  I also went on several youth revival teams sponsored by the Bible College and The Baptist Student Union. 

Since this education, I have earned a Master of Arts in Educational Research and Psychology at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) and have achieved All But Dissertation in School Psychology at the University of Kansas (KU). 

In 2004 my first book of devotionals, entitled Food for the Soul:  A Book of Devotional Essays was published.  This blog will begin with excerpts of this publication. 

Some people, though interested, don't know how to become a Christian.  The first article will explain the conversion process --  "How Can the Death of Jesus Lead to Your Salvation?"  The second article is "Faith, the Really Hard Part".



Food for the Soul:
A Book of Devotional Essays
by Lou Hough


Copyright 2004
Lou Hough

Library of Congress Control Number:
2004098617

ISBN 0-9755240-1-1

First Printing, November 2004

For inquiries about this and other publications, write to jamiecarrpub@hotmail.com