Seeing Stars

Milky_Way_Galaxy_shimmering_over_Nanga_Parbat,_Pakistan

Milky Way Galaxy shimmering over Nanga Parbat, Pakistan –  photo by Pervisha Kahan

It’s unusually difficult for me to articulate exactly what I’m thinking and feeling.  I guess I’m still in a bit of shock.  I’ve experienced the violent effects of hate several times in my past, but it hasn’t come this close to home in some time.  I stood for a long moment behind our little barn and stared into the dark, cold, October sky while I tried to figure out recent events.  I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t figure out what the difference was; the difference that makes a person commit to such an extreme, unalterable course of action.  What sends a person across that line?  I’d always looked at conviction as a good thing but now had to grapple with how a good thing could also be quite horrible.

 

When we look up into the night sky, all of us in the Northern Hemisphere see the same stars.  We all look at the stars in the same way.  To us, stars look like tiny points of light.  Truth is, that light came from a huge heavenly body and took years to reach us.  When we look at those tiny points of light, our ideologies don’t matter.  Our political affiliations don’t matter.  Our ethnicities don’t matter.  We’re looking at the same things and seeing the same things.  We are, at that moment, very much alike.

But, there are some people who focus more on our differences than on our similarities.  They allow those differences to generate fear and that fear to cultivate hate.  Maybe they’re starstruck by the charm and charisma of some celebrity ideologue.  The conviction to commit and blindly follow that motivator’s doctrine doesn’t develop overnight but rather, like the long journey of starlight, takes years to grow.  Once committed to a doctrine of fear and hate, a person bent on evil is capable of terrible acts.

Because of one of those terrible acts, we’re seeing more stars in cemeteries; Stars of David.  The sight makes my blood pressure rise and my chest ache until I see stars; the senseless waste of human life boggles my mind.  As I read the short biographies of the victims from the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, I began to realize many of them were bright stars in their communities; their accomplishments and contributions to their communities and to the world long and far reaching just like starlight.  One of them was a Holocaust survivor.  There’s some irony.

I wish there was some way events like the synagogue shooting could be prevented in the future.  Gun control won’t make the difference.  Places here and abroad have very tough gun regulations and gun violence still exists.  There has to be a change in hearts.  At Givat Haviva in Northern Israel, a summer camp called “Soccer for Peace” brings Jewish and Arab youth together to focus on their common passion for soccer.  Cultural renewal then leads to spiritual renewal.  Bridges are built, and barriers are knocked down.  Fear is diffused in the hope hate will fail to germinate.  My hope is we could restore and increase civil discourse, especially with those we might disagree with, and learn together to see each other and the stars through the eyes of the One who made them and us.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Truth or Consequences

Ralph EdwTruth or Consequencesards created the game show “Truth or Consequences” in 1940 and it became the first game show on broadcast television.  Contestants on the show were asked a question about an obscure topic, which they had two seconds to answer.  If they couldn’t answer the question correctly, they had to take part in some ridiculous, sometimes embarrassing stunt.

The well-known game show host Bob Barker hosted the show from 1956 to 1975.  I scarcely missed a show for the last 10 years of his run.  If you’ve heard of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the town, previously known as Hot Springs, took the name after Edwards did an on-location radio version of the show in 1950.

On the show, the “Truth” part of the title was dependent on a correct response to a question.  Can life be like that?  I like to look to science as a place where truths can be easily proven.  Let’s take a look at gravity as an example.  If you jump off a sixty-story building, you will certainly fall and likely die.  How about hydrodynamics?  If you scoop a volume of water from a pool, the surrounding water will rush in to fill the void.  Consider radiation.  Living cells exposed to various types of radiation are irreversibly changed.  Fire consumes large solids leaving only small piles of ash.  Science forces us to work out a course of action to it’s logical and true end where we cannot deny the consequences of that action.

Truth and consequences are two inseparable halves of a full circle.  In that regard, their relationship is Boolean.  When truth and consequences are kept at full potency, they strengthen each other.  When either is diluted, both suffer.  How often do you hear “There aren’t consequences for bad behavior anymore”? Truth demands respect.   Truth also demands consequences for disrespect.  On the game show, the consequence for not knowing the answer, or “truth”, was to be commissioned into an embarrassing prank or stunt.  In life, the consequence for not knowing the truth is complete moral collapse.

Is truth a little too close to home?  Just push truth away out of sight, or at least cover it up so you won’t have to look at it.  Does truth feel uncomfortable?  Is it disagreeing with your stomach or your nerves?  No problem.  Just reformulate it.  Add your favorite flavors and colors and give it a good spin to mix it to your liking.  Truth cannot be created like some boutique drug designed to make us feel the way we want to feel.  Nor does truth stand on a mobile base able to be relocated to wherever we want.

Truth has no ownership; no one can corner the market on truth; no one can say “my truth” or “your truth”.  It is what it is and Whose it is.  False truth is nothing more than an amalgam; a poisonous mixture to fill decay.  The denial of truth is bitter pill; a placebo for a terminal disease.  Our abandonment and perversion of truth is creating a harvest of consequences while truth is still standing where we left it.  We won’t find our way back to truth with our GPS enabled phones, but we can find it with God’s help.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Sad Mad

Sad Mad (Walking Out of Eden)In the animated movie “Home”, Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is sad because her mother has been taken away by aliens who are “making room” as they relocate to Earth.  Tip is also justifiably mad at the aliens who have done this.  “Oh”, a shunned alien tries to befriend Tip and her cat “Pig”, but he continuously catches the brunt of her anger.  In the final scene of the movie, “Oh” resolves a conflict involving another very angry alien and tells Tip the other alien was “Cranky and irrational and physically violent, just like Humans Girl.  He was sad mad.”

Have you ever been “sad mad”?  I want to share my heart here.  Fortunately, I’ve not been “cranky, and irrational and physically violent” – well, maybe a little bit cranky – but I have been sad and mad lately.  I’m sad because of so much tragedy; shootings, weather disasters, life-altering injuries to teenagers, lives lost – ESPECIALLY very young lives.  I can’t make sense of it.  The senseless nature of these tragedies is frustrating.  It makes me mad as well as sad.  I was concerned that I might be mad at God.  He’s supposed to be in control of all of this, right?  After thinking about that for a time, I realized my limited understanding of God was enough to tell me He was not the author of all this chaos, but He certainly saw it coming.  So why didn’t He stop it?  What in this wacked-out world was He doing?  Bingo.

I’m mad at the world; the crazy, seemingly chaotic, messed-up world.  God’s love for us is perfect, but we, mankind, chose to desire a knowledge of the opposite of perfect love.  The perfect world as they knew it, Paradise free of evil and death, became off-limits after Adam and Eve, against God’s instruction, ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They consumed the knowledge of evil and death and were exiled into that realm, out from the gates of Paradise.  God warned them “On the day you eat that fruit, you will die.”  Of course, they didn’t die that very day, but death has become part of life ever since.  I’m sad because sin pays dividends of death and death brings a separation from loved ones.  I wonder how God felt the day sin brought a separation between himself and the man and woman He created?

Because that knowledge enabled mankind to become instruments of evil and death, we can never, in our mortal lifetimes, return to Paradise and into the presence of the Holy and perfect loving God.  That makes me sad.  I would love to live in Paradise instead of in this fallen world where tragic things happen.  There is a way.  I’m so thankful that for confessing my sins and accepting Christ’s death as atonement on my behalf, and believing in Jesus’ death destroying resurrection, God has provided the way for me back to Paradise with Him where I will join the great reunion in Glory and I will never be sad mad again.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Why Do We Camp?

WP_20140718_010Unless you work for NASA, you need more air and space.  Being outdoors for even a brief time revives the senses and re-establishes mental focus.  Spending a couple of nights sleeping with nature is nearly a religious experience; truly life changing.  All living creatures benefit from occasional changes in routine and camping gets you out of your dwelling and into a different kind of “comfort zone”.  Take your dog camping with you and give your cats some much needed time alone; you wanted a new couch anyway.  After a few days in the wild, you’ll be rested up and recharged and, when you get home, that old mattress you were going to replace will feel like a pillow-top at the Ritz-Carlton.

Camping is a culinary delight and a boost to the olfaction   Coffee smells better when cooked outdoors; heck – everything smells better when cooked outdoors.  Hot dogs are difficult to burn at home and smores made in a microwave are just wrong.  Sorry backyard glampers.  Frank’s Red Hot makes anything taste good; even those pancakes you dropped on the ground.  You get to smell like Deep Woods Off for several days, which is a good thing considering 40-degree showers will keep you from getting one until you get home.  Speaking of bathrooms, you get plenty of exercise because you must walk farther to the bathroom.  Once you get to the bathroom, you realize you didn’t really have to go.  On the plus side, you learn to determine where the “upwind” side of a place is.  Unfortunately, you realize your tent is “downwind” of the bathrooms.

Camping teaches us about non-domesticated animals.  You get to see different varieties of spiders.  Is it possible mosquitoes actually like citronella?  Bears like perfume and will follow you for a chance to find out what kind you’re wearing.   Bald Eagles on the picnic table are allowed to eat whatever they want.   Racoons teach you to put things away, and ants can transport an entire weekend’s worth of groceries better and faster than your minivan can.

Camping builds life skills.  If camped far enough away from a cell tower, people learn to actually look at each other when speaking to one another.  Packing for camp improves Jenga and Rubik’s Cube skills.  You learn to pack enough stuff into your vehicle to be able to survive for least an additional 72 hours should the apocalypse come.  After setting up your tent, building your next bicycle will be easy.  You learn fire prevention – especially as it pertains to firewood.  Camp games are fun but remember strip poker is generally frowned upon and, in the game of horseshoes, you lose all your points if your horseshoe goes through a neighboring camper’s car windshield, although that might result in learning how to box or wrestle.

Ultimately though, camping plugs us back into the natural world surrounding us.  Camping gives us confidence in knowing we can survive, even thrive with much less than previously believed.  Camping is communal; it asks us to share with each other and care about each other. Camping challenges us to try new things.  Camping causes us to look up and out rather than just down.  And finally, camping is better than being at work.  That’s why we camp.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Immigration

Legal Immigration“It’s only a misdemeanor.  Why are we separating families over misdemeanors?”  “Ridiculous” is an excellent way to describe the media’s spinning and downplaying of the illegal nature of what’s going on here.  There IS a legal way to come to America.  Sneaking in with stolen identities and counterfeit papers is NOT the way.  As someone who read the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations and The Federal Register daily and who drafted updates and changes to those books of Federal Law, I need to clarify some of the semantics being thrown around in the immigration discussion.

Title 8, Chapter 12 of the United States Code specifies the FIRST illegal entry into the Unites States is a misdemeanor ($10,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail).  The second illegal entry is a low-level felony (up to 2 years in prison) (most of those we’re seeing).  Subsequent illegal entries following multiple misdemeanors, felony convictions or being listed as a National Security Threat carry prison sentences of up to 10 years (also many of those we’re seeing cross our borders).  As someone who worked alongside INS, Customs, FBI and DEA agents, I can attest to the validity of assertions that some, possibly many, of the children being brought illegally into this country are NOT the children of those bringing them.  Global drug trafficking, human trafficking and organ harvesting are BIG businesses and serious law enforcement problems.  We don’t need to increase their presence here in America.

Our county jails and prisons are already full of parents separated from their children as the result of misdemeanors or repeat violations resulting in escalated penalties. Though African Americans and Hispanics made up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015. This didn’t apply solely to men in those populations. The imprisonment rate for African American women was twice that of white women. Numbers were similar for Hispanic women.  Those numbers are much higher today.   Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.  In 2012 alone, the United States spent nearly $81 billion on corrections (from the naacp,org criminal fact sheet).  Many of those convictions and incarcerations were the result of multiple misdemeanor offenses.  Those who can get released from incarceration frequently go on to commit more serious crimes because of their ex-convict stigma.

I walk the streets every day.  I see the effects of children who have truly been separated from their real parents “as the result of misdemeanors” (at least initially).  Make no mistake – Children’s Services provides a critical service to at-risk children.  However, it is also a big government business with a huge payroll, just like our prison system. Remember that $81 billion figure above? Double it.

Are we really worried about “children being separated from their parents” or do we just enjoy sharing our echoes of the media spin?  If we are sincerely troubled by the plight of children, we should get involved in our communities and save parentless and at-risk children from falling into the social hole their parents and the government have created.  We should lobby and work for legal reforms to find alternatives to misdemeanor incarcerations and work to restore stable family structures in the most at-risk areas of our communities. We should be examples and not just parrots.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Where Do You Dwell?

Guitar by Lake Pymatuning 2015One of my favorite places to dwell is up at our family camp spot on Pymatuning Lake.  That’s where my mind is the clearest and my emotional state is stuck on “happy”.  Unfortunately, I can only dwell there for a sort time before having to return to where I reside most of the time, which is also a nice place – but it’s not the lake.  Thanks to screen savers and digital wallpapers, I can take short breaks and mentally dwell at the lake.  However, I mustn’t dwell on those thoughts too long or no work gets done!

It’s funny how old school automotive tech can relate to my mental lake trips.  There’s an automotive term called “dwell”.  Without going into great and possibly boring detail, dwell has to do with the spark that ignites the fuel in the engine.  The engine crankshaft only turns because fuel explodes in the cylinders forcing pistons up and down to turn the crankshaft that turns the driveshaft that turns the wheels and moves the car.  The circular distribution of that fuel igniting spark must be timed perfectly.  That perfection depends on the amount of time the spark spends igniting the fuel in each cylinder.  Basically, that amount of time the spark-producing mechanism is creating a spark for one park plug is called “dwell”.  Too much or too little “dwell” results in an engine that won’t run well.

Sometimes we can get caught up in dwelling on the past; or dwelling IN the past.  While watching “The Incredibles” the other night, I caught this quote “Reliving the glory days is better than acting like they didn’t happen”. ~ Mr. Incredible.  I was talking with my neighbor about this.  He wisely pointed out how it’s important to remember the past so we can learn from it, but quickly added, using a sports illustration, that we can’t dwell on the past too long or we won’t be ready for the next play coming at us.

Some hearts and minds tend to dwell on pleasant things.  Others have a more negative bent, dwelling only on the gloomy and troubling.  Truly, our attentions are directed to dwell on the hearts of matters, be those matters happy or sad, based on our perceptions of expected outcomes.  The pessimist dwells with failure and catastrophe, the optimist dwells with solutions for success and the pragmatist dwells on the wall between the other two.

To speak or write insistently is another definition of the word “dwell” and I must continue to dwell on my assertion a person is formed largely by where they dwell physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Being mindful of past dwelling places is helpful but dwelling there too long comes with a cost.  Dwelling in the wrong place or the wrong state of mind side tracks us from where we should be.  Refusing to dwell in a new place could have you dwelling in opposition to God’s plans for you “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19).  You might want to dwell on that.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Am I Connected?

HANDSTo be able to enjoy hands free convenience when using my cell phone, I bought a Bluetooth earpiece.  This earpiece had voice command capabilities and I could ask it questions.  One of the questions I asked most often was “Am I connected?”  A woman’s voice would reply “Phone One connected.”  I bought a new phone last year and got rid of that earpiece, but I still think about that question “Am I connected?”.  Can that question apply to things other than a cell phone?  What does being connected look like?

I like to support community events, and I just happened to have the day off, so I went to the National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the YMCA.  Jordan Rimmer, Pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in New Castle, PA. was the keynote speaker for the event.  Jordan is a talented writer and blogger and chose to speak about the relevance of the Church in today’s culture and how the church is not relating to or connecting with that culture.  Jordan said, “We are more connected now than we have ever been before, and we are more disconnected now than we have ever been before.”  Talk about a lightning strike!  “That’s it!” I thought.  “We’re connectedly disconnected.”  Wait.  What?

We used to go to public places called libraries to find things called books, so we could look-up and learn information about whatever it was we were trying to figure out.  Those books were, for the most part considered “authoritative”; of acknowledged accuracy or excellence; highly reliable.  We usually had to engage in face-to-face interaction with other humans during this library experience.  Furthermore, if additional, practical explanation of this newly obtained knowledge was required, we would need to personally interact with another human who could explain and even physically demonstrate the application of the knowledge if necessary.  Sometimes these human interactions resulted in physical contact in the form of handshakes or hugs as an expression of appreciation for the assistance.

Fast forward to 2018.  We can now access virtual, non-verifiable information from virtually every point on the planet, or at least we think it’s coming from somewhere – it’s from the “cloud”.  We so prefer or are so addicted to the virtual world of the digital devices in our hands, we often neglect interacting with the basic realities surrounding us; realities like friends, family, emergency vehicles in our rear-view mirrors, meteors crashing down upon us from outer space.  Snubbing reality has even been given its own word.  Phubbing is a word created in Australia in 2017 by team of advertising executives and dictionary publishers. They were looking for a word for the rude habit of snubbing someone while choosing to pay attention to a cell phone instead.  They combined “phone” and “snubbing” to get “phubbing”.

Have you been phubbed?  Are you guilty of phubbing?  I’m a phubber.  Is it time to come back to reality?  Maybe I should let my cell phone battery run out, then ask myself some realistic questions.  Am I connected to my God?  Am I connected to my family?  Am I connected to my friends?  Am I connected to my community?  Am I connected to myself?  With out being able to email anyone or do an Internet search, I’ll be forced to grab my Bible, a note pad and a pencil and go find out in person if I’m still connected.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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