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Monday, February 24, 2020

My Dog’s Better than Your Dog

Within the last few weeks, former President Barack Obama was speaking in Singapore. He decided to wade into the waters of the significant political differences in America and how social media can and does help spread misinformation. Even those lies that heap coals on burning political fires.

The former leader of the free world then jumped the fence into which gender makes better leaders. Oh boy. The setting for his observations was appropriate being it was a private event on leadership.

His generalization was that a majority of the problems in our world stem from old people—mostly men—who hold positions of power. Barack revealed that while he was the president, he had mused what a world run by women would look like. So here are some results of his musings.

First he noted, “Now, women, I just want you to know, you are not perfect, but what I can say pretty indisputably is that you're better than us [men]. I'm absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything... living standards and outcomes.”

As one political observer noted, women as political leaders have not necessarily led to a significant improvement in outcomes. Germany’s Angela Merkel has been the country’s chancellor since 2005. Their economy has not always fared well, particularly in late 2012 and 2013.

In the United Kingdom, Theresa May found the going brutally tough at times. Parliament never did get behind her Brexit plan while she was in office. Finlanders have chosen a 34-year-old woman, Sanna Marin, who is leading a cabinet primarily served by women.

There’s hardly enough evidence to make the claim that Obama did—that “if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything... living standards and outcomes.” But such bold proclamations make for good political standing amongst the right crowd.

Pew Research has done quite a bit of study on women and men as leaders. In survey after survey, they discovered that few believe one gender has a better leadership approach that the other. However, leadership styles do differ. Women are perceived to be more compassionate, empathetic, and able to find compromise. Men are perceived as stronger in making bold moves and taking risks.

But why pit one against the other? Anyone with a family can see there are differences in the way women and men deal with decisions and relationships. When working together, strong families usually result. Gender personalities can be quite different.

So…would the former president ever re-engage in political leadership himself? Doesn’t seem like it. Mr. Obama said his belief is that leaders should step aside when their time of service has ended. In his words, "If you look at the world and look at the problems it's usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way. It is important for political leaders to try and remind themselves that you are there to do a job, but you are not there for life, you are not there in order to prop up your own sense of self importance or your own power.”

One can only imagine how his former Vice President, Joe Biden, perceived this message. Grandpa Joe is in quite a dog fight right now with both men and women. And what about Bernie? And Bloomberg?

And speaking of dog fights, pitting one gender against the other reminds me of a formerly well known dog food commercial. The brand had kids singing, “My dog’s better than your dog 'cause he eats Ken-L-Ration.” That’s a good way to start a fight among dog loving kids! (see YouTube link below for the commercial.)

The Bible offers this counsel. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

This is really good advice. There is one exception. My dog actually IS better than yours. (See picture.)

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Yin Yang Politics

Poor Andrew Yang. Even tons of money can’t buy your way out of a paper bag. Or into voters' hearts. Especially if your weakness is being “sort of" pro life.

Last week, Yang yanked himself from the candidate field of Dems hoping to defeat Trump. You drop out when enough votes fail to drop in your basket. Mr. Yang also threw a rather wild pitch to give all of us $1000 per month. Not out of his own wealthy pockets, mind you, but from that mysterious black hole of “play" money raised partially from taxes, but more frequently from a huge borrowing trough. You might call it debt.

It wasn’t the grand giveaway alone that put Andy in sinking sand. Consider deeply what he said about abortion. During a New Hampshire forum, he was asked about his view on abortion policy (of course). He responded, “There is a really important tone to set on this, where you don’t just say, like we’re absolutist about it, though I have to say I am relatively absolutist about it on this.” What?

No doubt realizing this could be perilous territory for a Democrat candidate, he added, “Like I think that it should be completely up to the woman and her doctor and the state should not be intervening all the way through pregnancy. But it’s a tragedy to me if someone decides that they don’t want to have a child and they’re on the fence and then maybe at some point later; it’s a very difficult personal decision and it’s something that we should be very, very sensitive to.”

Talk about putting a dagger in his campaign! His view garnered the wrath of a popular consultant and writer named Lauren Rankin. Following Yang’s comments, she tweeted, “Abortion is an incredibly common human experience, one that deserves dignity and respect.” Too bad the babies can’t speak up on that ludicrous comment!

Ms. Rankin added, “You don’t get to lead the Democratic Party in 2020 if you belittle and demonize those who’ve had abortions and those who’ve defended and supported them. 1 in 4 women have had an abortion in this country, and Andrew Yang is mocking their choice and humanity when he demonizes abortion in this callous way.”

This clearly illustrates how far afield we have come. And how ridiculous the arguments are made to defend the inhumane treatment of babies. Yang didn’t mock anyone’s choice. For extremists, there’s no room to fudge on this!

As for the rest of the field of Democrat candidates, some have become brutally hard nosed on this issue. Take Bernie Sanders (Please!). Prior to the New Hampshire primary, "The Bern" showed up on an MSNBC town hall episode where abortion rights were discussed.

The host, Stephanie Ruhle, asked Sanders, “Is there such a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision of the party?” Here was Bernie’s response, “I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat. By this time in history . . . when we talk about what a Democrat is, I think being pro-choice is an essential part of that.” Scary. How is that for freedom of thought?

Is that a “big tent” philosophy? Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota opens the door a bit. Her thought, “There are pro-life Democrats, and they are part of our party, and I think we need to build a big tent.” As for the other candidates, Senator Elizabeth Warren and the slippery mind of former Vice President Joe Biden made assurances to codify access to abortion nationwide if elected.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked if he wanted the support of pro-life Democratic voters. He was told there are about 21 million such creatures. Would he support party language “to ensure that the party of diversity, of inclusion, really does include everybody?”

Here’s his patently political response, “The best I can offer is that if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. And in my view, it’s the woman who’s faced with that decision in her own life.” Would we use the same logic for environmental issues? Nope.

The Bible clearly spells out where God sees life beginning. His words to the prophet Jeremiah tell us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) The same thought was expressed by King David in Psalm 139.

Thank goodness for the hard-working, never giving up, pro-life voices in America. Thousands of babies have survived because of their dedication.

We need more of them…to offset the yins and the Yangs.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

How do I Love … Let Me Count the Ways

Love gets very special attention this week. Hundreds of millions of valentines will be exchanged. Who loves the theme of love most? Those who sell cards, flowers, candy, and the restaurant trade.

It’s rather odd that we have such a day on a calendar. Trying to pin down a truthful history that justifies the occasion is almost impossible. There are too many mutations to the legend.

Supposedly, we get the day in honor of a person with a spiritual legacy—St. Valentine. The variations on his story make that legacy questionable. Even scholarly attempts found in Christian periodicals fall short.

In grade school, Valentine's Day meant exchanging those cheap little cards and heart shaped candies with messages like “Be mine.” If you were lucky, a cute girl would send one that said “kiss me.” It made you wonder if she had eyes for you. But in third grade, you really didn’t know what that meant.

Are you sending a love message with a candy heart? Then your Valentine is getting “sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glycerine, artificial and natural flavors, gelatin, vegetable gums (tragacanth, xanthan and arabic), citric acid, and artificial colors (red 3, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, blue 1).” It’s on the box.

For most men, giving flowers on Valentine's Day is a must. Seasonal advertising is always pitching some great offer on roses accompanied by stuffed animals or boxed candy. These too shall pass. With or without the commitment that true love is best expressed by.

More than one survey has been taken on the “best love song of all time.” One list I found offered these selections.

  • “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers.
  • “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin. 
  • “Let's Stay Together” by Al Green. 
  • “Something” by The Beatles. 
  • “Your Song” by Elton John. 
  • “My Girl” by the Temptations.

Anyone familiar with these tunes knows that the lyrics are mostly focused on a romantic kind of relational love. Michael Bolton had a hit record with the song, “Love is a Wonderful Thing.” Hmmmm. A “thing”?

In the Christian faith, we are taught about three forms of “love”:
  1. Agape—Rich, unconditional love
  2. Eros—Romanic love
  3. Phileo—Affectionate or brotherly love

It’s said the ancient Greeks added five more expressions.
  • Philautia—Self-love
  • Storge—Familial love (*sometimes found in Christian teaching)
  • Pragma—Enduring love
  • Ludus—Playful love
  • Mania—Obsessive Love.

Relationship counselor Craig Lounsbrough recently wrote about love and said, “Take love out of our existence, and the chilling question would be ‘what’s left?’” He offered some interesting responses of his own, saying that “loss” would abound. Here are three of his examples.

Loss of Community
Take away love and we have no reason to consider our fellow man nor join him in the partnership of life and living. The communal foundation forged strong by empathy, fired by sympathy, and cinched tight by respect, is obliterated. Without love our world would fall, and in the chaos of the descent it would tear itself apart to its own death.

Loss of Self
Take away love and our own individual existence would fall into abject irrelevance. The desire to sustain ourselves would devolve to a singularly primitive savagery…Hatred of self—and for self —born of the absence of love, would cause us to viciously turn on ourselves, rendering us our own enemies…In essence, to become loveless is to become non-existent.

Loss of Life
Take away love and nothing would capture our imagination. We would find nothing compelling. We would never marvel or be held in the mesmerizing embrace of wonder….Passion, desire, dreams and hope are all borne of love and entirely sustained by it. Take away love and we take away meaning.

Good thoughts, Craig!

Bottom line? God IS love. Jesus explains how to love. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love. The apostle John writes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

Want the secret to a meaningful life? Learn to love, Valentine.

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Refurbished Misery

Quite often I see offers on Groupon or ads in the paper for more expensive products at seemingly very low prices. A closer look usually means some fine print that says, “Refurbished.” You never know exactly what went wrong the first time.

But now, Rhonda and I know exactly what the problem was with our “refurbished” refrigerator. The thing is, we bought it NEW. So we’re not happy about that.

It started with our need to replace a second fridge that we use in our basement. Those super-duper Black Friday deals seemed like a good time to buy. We found a nice LG unit that fit our needs and had it delivered around early December.

Everything in the freezer froze. Which is good. Everything in the upper part of the refrigerator seemed not as cold as it should be. After attempting to lower the temp inside the fridge, alas, no change. We placed a thermometer inside and determined it was only cooling to a mildly chilling 57 degrees. The milk we had stored there took the worst hit. You don’t want to know ...

The purchase place, Lowe’s, explained it was not their problem. We were directed to LG Customer Support. This is a misnomer. It should be called, “LG Customer Run Around Before You Get Any Real Help.”

First, you don’t speak with a person. You’re told to go on your computer and fill out a form. (Suppose you actually don’t HAVE a computer?) Rhonda made at least three attempts to do so. Finally, a call came giving us a repair date. Unfortunately, it was a date on which we were in Florida!

But this time we had a number! So we called and rescheduled the service person to come out. While out of town, a service rep stopped by. Grrrr.

When we returned from our trip, we have the standard “you must be available between the hours and 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.” appointment time. This means, of course, you can’t do anything else during that window. The person showed up after 11.

He checked out the refrigerator and said he thought it was a fan problem. But to get to it, now EVERYTHING had to come out of the freezer—where it sat out for the hour or so while repair was being made. And we were told to wait 24 hours before opening the fridge to allow it to cool.

In the meantime, a SECOND repairman came by at 3p. Now we learned the first guy wasn’t an actual LG person, but a subcontracted service person. The LG truly authorized repairman said to call him on his mobile if the problem wasn’t fixed.

It wasn’t. We called. The third day we actually connected. And he made another appointment—using the 8 - 12 time slot allowance.

On the day Mr. Repair Guy showed up, the official LG truck with all the parts had broken down. He arrived with a single tool in his rental truck just before noon. After reviewing the situation, he ordered a part for us which arrived this past week.

Last Friday was “repair day.” Or so we thought. The replacement part was installed. Now…waiting until morning for results. And the answer is ?? It STILL doesn’t work! Grrrr #2!

Truth be told, the frustration index would be much lower if you could talk to an actual customer service person who cared. Not a single LG employee would want the same treatment we received for damaged goods that they purchased. So why dish it out to customers?

In times past, I’ve actually made presentations for business friends on treating customers well. It certainly isn’t rocket science. It’s not even refrigerator science!

In fact, the way to handle such matters is written almost in gold. Jesus of Nazareth said it simply, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31 (ESV)

Bad customer treatment often cannot be repaired. Even with refurbished attempts.

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