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                                                         

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Sowing Seeds

Organic Spring GreensIt’s time to get some varieties of seed in the ground.  Most seed packets have a growing guide on the back telling the gardener when to plant, where to plant, how deep to plant, how tall the mature plant will grow and how many days until harvest if the seeds are for a food crop.  Usually, there is also a date printed along one end of the seed packet.  That date is the limit of the expected viability of the seed; in other words – the expiration date of the seed.  After that date, the percentage of seeds that will germinate, spout and grow decreases steadily as time passes.

Starting seeds indoors is a terrific way to survive winter.  Seeing little bits of green life during late February into March gives me hope that Spring is just around the corner.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much room in our house for starting seeds.  We have a garden window over the kitchen sink where I can set an egg carton full of starting mix and seeds.  We had a homebuilt greenhouse for several years (built from old house windows).  We were able to grow 16 flats of vegetables and flowers.  However, the moisture inside the greenhouse caused the wood framing to rot and we had to tear it down.  I really miss that thing!

Some of my best surprises and worst frustrations are what gardeners call “volunteers”.  Some plants can “self-seed” and come up again far more prolifically the next year.  Heirloom varieties are the most likely to produce new plants identical to the seed donor.  Hybrids are another story.  Depending on what genes came together to produce the specific hybrid variety, volunteers from hybrid seeds could be happy accidents or useless, mutant plants good only for the compost pile.  Then there are invasive volunteers; those plants that pop up everywhere you don’t want them.  Lemon Balm fits in this category.  Another invasive nuisance is Physostegia virginiana commonly known as “Obedient Plant” or “False Dragonhead”.  The name “obedient” is deceptive.  This plant spreads rapidly both by roots underground and popping seed pods like other members of its mint family.  These trouble makers are best keep contained to prevent them from becoming a bigger part of your garden than you were bargaining for.  Hedge bindweed is one of the worst volunteers.  This morning glory clone chokes everything in its path as it grows at least an inch a day, its roots are almost impossible to dig up and its seeds are viable for decades.

I’ve learned a lot of life skills from gardening and growing things from seed; things like patience, consistency, conscientiousness, perseverance.  It’s no coincidence the Bible contains dozens of verses about seeds, soil and care of gardens.   What I sow and when, where and how I sow it not only pertains to seeds and what kind of garden I have; it also determines what kind of life I have.  Like invasive plants that take over a garden or seeds that never sprout, sowing the wrong things in my life or sowing things at the wrong time or in the wrong way can make a real mess of my garden of life.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                         

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Thanks Mom!

On Mother’s Day 2018Bonnie and Curtis Savage 1961, I think about all the things my mom did for me.  Of course, foremost is, being a very young woman just out of high school, she was willing to carry me to birth and raise me.  I often think about Maureen Stapleton playing Mama Mae Peterson in the movie “Bye Bye Birdie” declaring to Harry McAfee (played by Paul Lynde) “But when I was expecting him, in the Maternity Ward, three days I waited.  Did I desert him?  No!  I stayed right there so he wouldn’t be alone when he was born!” Her son Albert (played by Dick Van Dyke) says “Mama please don’t excite yourself.  You know I love ya’”.  I would never leave you!” to which Mama responds “Now, don’t try to pay me back, son. I forgive you. So what if you’re an ingrate? So long as you’re happy.”

I was no ingrate.  I always appreciated how hard Mom worked to keep us happy.  Did your mom do special things for you?  This might seem silly, but I remember my lunch sacks.  My mom used to pack my lunch when I was in the early school grades.  She used to draw pictures and write notes on my lunch sacks.  By the time lunch rolled around, I usually needed that encouragement.  Of course, the cute lunch sacks disappeared by the time I was in 4th grade – a kid can get beat up for that.  Mom understood all of that too.  She made sure she knew my friends and was careful not to let me get in with kids who would be trouble for me.  The few who came around and tried to cause trouble for us didn’t stick around for long when mom laid down the law.  Thanks Mom!

Being a single mom for a few years made it difficult for her to get all the bills paid and still be able to pay for all the stuff me and my sister needed with constantly growing out of our clothes and scouts & everything.  We stayed with our Grammy a lot while Mom worked two, sometimes 3 jobs so we could have the few “extras” that would otherwise be impossible.   Even after Mom remarried, she kept working so I could be in band, play little league baseball and be involved in all the extracurricular activities that started popping up once I entered Jr. High School.  Thanks Mom!

Our mom kept things seeming fairly “normal” during some tumultuous times growing up in Los Angeles; our family’s divorce; moving around quite a bit; the Watts Riots; the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy; the Vietnam War; the Resignation of President Richard Nixon and some pretty big earthquakes – figuratively AND geologically speaking.  With everything seemingly going crazy around us, Mom always made it feel like everything was alright at home.  She’d bring home pizza or Pup-n-Taco for supper and throw some favorite albums on the Hi-Fi and just keep all of us right on going like she always did.  No family skids or crashes.  She taught us to stay “cool as a cucumber” – something she always says; and life was.  Thanks Mom!




© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                         

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The Rabbit Problem

RabbitsI grew up with my sister in Southern California; bonafide city kids.  We visited our extended family in Minnesota several times where we learned about farm life.  We liked to go fishing and were aware the meat on our table came from animals such as the fish we caught or from meat farms like the cattle and poultry operations in the counties east of us.  We didn’t have to raise our own meat so we never experienced the killing and cleaning part of anything larger or messier than our caught fish.  In our minds, the cows went straight from the fields to the burger joint.

When the recession of the mid-seventies hit, prices on just about everything went up dramatically and quickly; food prices were not immune.  I had a good friend with whom I spent a lot of time and our families became close friends as well.  We did lots of things together; traveled together, ate together, celebrated together.  My friend’s family was minimally employed so they learned to live very frugally.  As the recession deepened, we sought to learn that life style from them.

My friend’s dad raised meat rabbits and suggested my dad might want to do the same to save money on grocery bills.  To help our family, our dad enthusiastically dove into this new endeavor and – BAM!  Just like that – we were into raising meat rabbits.  We built hutches in the back yard of our suburban home and began making regular trips to the pet food store for bags of rabbit food.  Half of the family wasn’t sure the fuel along with mileage on the car and the cost of the feed was cheaper than buying meat from the store, but we continued to tend to, and become attached to, the rabbits.

The rabbits did what rabbits are supposed to do and soon we had to harvest some of them or give up our bedrooms to them.  My friend’s dad came over and helped my dad prepare to slaughter and dress out the biggest bunnies.  They tied little ropes to our swing-set and tied rabbits up by their hind feet.  My dad emerged from the garage with a large hammer; all of this while we watched from the dining room window as the bad scene unfolded before our eyes.  That’s when it happened.  My sister was far more horrified than I was.  However, I would have preferred to continue thinking the rabbits just disappeared and magically turned into supper.  These beneficial bunnies had suddenly become a big problem.

Our mom sprang into action, devising a plan than still has ramifications today.  One afternoon, as soon as our dad had left for work, we collected all the remaining rabbits and packed them into the family car.  We drove to-and-fro, crisscrossing the county dropping off rabbits the way Fed-Ex drops off packages.  When we ran out of adoptive friends, we took the last few furry fugitives and shoved them under a fence setting them free in a tree farm that ran for a mile under some large electrical transmission towers.  Those rabbits did what rabbits do and we saw generations of their kin every time we drove past that tree farm.  At least they weren’t proliferating in our back yard anymore. Those rabbits were just like any kind of trouble in life; you have to handle it or it will just keep multiplying.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                         

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Satisfaction Resurrected

Satisfaction ResurrectedWhat makes you feel satisfied?  In the 1960’s the word “righteous” was used to describe something we would refer to today as cool or awesome.  If you were in possession of something you thought was “righteous”, you were satisfied with what you had.  I remember I had a pretty righteous bike when I was in the 7th grade.

What about when you’re hungry or thirsty?  The Mars Candy Company launched an ad campaign a few years ago replacing the word “Snickers” with the word “Satisfying” on Snickers candy bar wrappers.  I eat a lot of Snickers bars.  On hot, summer days, I prefer to drink only water.  Sugary drinks taste great, but they’re full of stuff that just makes me thirstier instead of satisfying my thirst.

Sometimes, we try to remedy dissatisfaction with what some call “retail therapy”.  Online shopping is my preferred method.  I can send gifts that bless others, download uplifting music, order edifying and spiritually instructive books and even get my hands on some cool “man toys”.  Unfortunately, even after an extended therapy session, the good feelings wear off when I look in my mailbox and find that envelope containing a demand for satisfaction of the debt I ran up buying all that stuff.  What if I can’t satisfy that debt and have to give back all my righteous stuff?  Did I put my hope and faith in the wrong things?

The Bible tells us only God is truly righteous.  Because of this, God requires that we be righteous to be in His presence.  The Bible also tells us none of us are righteous; that we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God creating a separation between us and Him.  That’s a bummer.  So, what are we to do?  We need to get hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”.  That’s from Matthew chapter 5, verse 6.

What satisfies God’s requirement for righteousness; what removes the debt of sin that separates us from a righteous God?  The blood of Christ shed for our sins.  Jesus Christ paid our sin price, which was death, by willingly taking our place on our cross.  Colossians chapter 2, verses 13-14 says when we were dead in our sins and the impurity of our flesh, God made a way for us to be alive and to be together with Him.  He made a way for our sins to be forgiven.  God made it possible to have our sin debt, the charges of broken Biblical laws against us which would have been fatal for us, cancelled and taken out the way, removing the separation between us and God, by nailing that debt to the cross in the body of Jesus Christ His Son.

But, if Jesus only died for us, then the demands of death upon our lives would not be satisfied.  Hope in him would be the same as the satisfaction of owning a really nice car.  Both the hope and satisfaction would vanish when we die.  This is not the case with Christ who not only died to pay our sin debt, but also rose back to life to satisfy and defeat death forever for those who would confess and believe (Romans 10:9).  In Jesus Christ there is satisfaction resurrected for eternity and that satisfaction is yours to accept.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                         

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The “Abundant” Life

Abundant LifeWhat does the word “abundant” mean to you?  I got thinking about the word “abundant” while talking with a friend.  She said she was waiting to find her “abundant life”.  This was in reference to the passage in the Bible where Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).  That made me question “What is this abundant life?”  Is it about having an abundance of things, great wealth or worldwide celebrity status?  Is it about getting everything you want?  I used to work with a guy who always said “I want everything that’s coming to me.” I told him “No you don’t.”

The abundant life might be having a clear understanding of your life’s purpose and mission; self-actualization; an elusive accomplishment for most people.  The Rolling Stones sing you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you might get what you need.  Maybe that’s the abundant life; getting everything we need.  Unfortunately, basic needs of safety, shelter and food are also a form of an “abundant life” that eludes many people.  A lot of people feel like they’ve realized the “abundant life” if they can, by their own efforts and abilities, maintain a “comfortable” life; a life suspended comfortably between having everything and having nothing.

If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge just about everyone wants it – the stuff, the purpose, the comfort.  We really do seem to want everything we think we’ve got coming to us.  Our focus in pursuing the abundant life seems to be fixed on what’s in it for us; how can we make OUR lives better.  This approach to “the abundant life” gets turned on its head when we consider something called “Servant Leadership”.

I’ve studied the life and work of Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) who coined the term “servant leader” and founded the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.  Servant Leaders strive to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served.  The hope in serving others in this way is that those served will “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants.” ~ Robert Greenleaf.

One of the marks of a servant leader is that they reproduce themselves.  Is that the definition of the “abundant life”; to exponentially multiply lifegiving life?  That is exactly what Jesus was speaking of when he said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  Having nice stuff, being comfortable and happy and realizing self-actualization are all great human accomplishments, but they’re all finite in nature.  They all “lose their shine” so-to-speak and end when you do.  The thief spoken of in John Chapter 10, verse 10 steals joy, kills the human spirit and destroys hope. God created, gifted and equipped us to be His abundance everywhere we walk with Him, sharing the abundant joy, Spirit and hope of His presence with others.  A life spent in that service is infinitely more abundant than anything else we can ever have or do.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                         

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Predators and Prey

Predators and PreyI’m trying to deny awareness of commentary concerning the February 14, 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting, but – alas, I have succumbed to being drawn into that commentary mostly due to the inane and insensitive rhetoric I’m reading.

17 people lost their lives.  That much is clear to most commentators.  From there, the reasons, methods, those responsible and “what action needs to be taken” spins just like a centrifuge in a lab separating us from the victims, from each other, from reason, from compassion and from reality.   Accusations and pointing fingers won’t protect or heal or bring back anyone.

It really doesn’t matter if the killer was a (     )  and used a (     ) – please don’t fill in the blanks.  Anyone can do anything, good or bad, to anyone else using anything they choose to use.   The loss of 17 lives is tragic.  So is the loss of 1 life.  The point here is we need to stop thinking we can completely “protect” ourselves with barriers or bans or laws or protocols.  We can’t.  No one is telling those victims right now “There were laws and protocols in place so that should make you feel better.”

Something, or someone, gets into the head of a person and turns that person into a predator.  What if we got into that person’s head first with awareness, understanding and loving intervention so we could offer counseling and, if necessary, treatment or even institutionalization?  Maybe then, that potential predator would never become a bundle of rage in the first place and they wouldn’t listen to rage inducing music, draw destructive images and take up fetishes for destructive devices whatever those devices might be; the tongue, the graffiti marker, the bludgeoning stone, the knife, the torch, the truck, the plane, the gun or the bomb…..or the hateful and hurtful rhetoric.  If one still becomes a predator, society must be willing and able to swiftly take the necessary action.  Ranchers understand this.

Predators know how to divide and attack the flock.  Shepherds know how to gather and protect the flock.  The only way to protect ourselves and those we love (that should include everyone), is to show respect and compassion for one another – NOT separation and isolation over bankrupt forensic rhetoric.

Can we stop being so repulsive in our opinions and instead work on becoming attractive, attracting those around us into dialogue and a true sense of community?   Can we stop being so divisive and instead be cooperative, dare I say even communal in our concern for one another?  Can we put off our insatiable appetites for destructive sensationalism offered to us by the media and instead take up as our only desire the pursuit of reasonable truth as it leads to the common good?  If we can do these things, we will not scatter when the predator comes, but will instead stand together in defense against whatever weapon the predator bears.

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