Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's broke. Time to fix it. Article #7

It's broke . . .

There is a real lack of accountability when it comes to government spending.

If you ask the average person (by that I mean those with a job, and not self-employed) what they make, they will most likely give you the net amount. If you ask them what their gross is, they wouldn't have a clue.

I too, am an average person by that criteria. But, to be honest, without actually looking it up, I couldn't tell you what I made in gross OR net. That kind of info never seems to stick in my Etch A Sketch brain.

The difference between the gross and the net on your paystub is shown as a list of deductions: (where applicable) 401(k), medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, AND (always applicable) a multitude of taxes: local, state, and federal.

Once upon a time, we working stiffs would get a paper paycheck, along with a paystub attached that gave you all those deductions. Then one day the paychecks went direct-deposit to your bank and the paystubs became a thing you could only see if you logged into an account online and brought them up.

So, what does this have to do with the lack of accountability when it comes to government spending? Plenty.

Most folks have no idea how much they are sending to the government each pay period. Out of sight, out of mind. Because of this, the HOW money is spent by our government becomes less impactful. Don't think so? Remember back in 2009, when President Obama's stimulus spending was kicking into gear? When asked, some people thought it was "Obama's money". They had little-to-no idea that the money being shuffled around was coming from their paychecks, or of someone close to them.

Because of this lack of connectivity, people have very little understanding of WHY the government shouldn't be spending money on whatever sounds good. Your grandma was right: money DOESN'T grow on trees!

Like I say in the bio of my blog, I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. What does that mean? I'm okay with the government providing social services to better society, but they had better be financially sound (a.k.a. "in the black") when they do it. And we are NOT financially sound. How much is the deficit? Remember when the multi-trillion dollar deficit was trumpeted on the news? Do you have any idea what it is now? Take a look. And WHY isn't it cried about anymore?

Because it is gone! No more debt! It was completely wiped away with "Obama's money".

(Okay, I kid, I kid!!)

So, what's the solution? You are not going to like this (but the self-employed people already know what I'm going to say): Eliminate automatic deductions of payroll taxes. Make people write the checks.

Do it for one year. Each payday make people have to pull out their checkbooks and write a check to EACH of their governments (federal, state, AND local). And, since it is normally taken off the top, make them write the checks FIRST! BEFORE they put gas in their car, or food on their table, or pay for the roof over their heads. Write it first.

Only then will people feel the impact of what they send to their governments, and only then will they force their representatives to be a little more responsible with "YOUR NAME's money".

. . . time to fix it!

© Emittravel 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

This day can be considered a dress rehearsal for New Year's Eve, when we look at the year that has passed, and what we want to change in the coming. And yet, unlike the day of streamers and noise makers, with its false hopes of self bootstrap lifting, THIS day is a focus of what we are thankful for, and in light of the joys and in spite of the hardships, we still give thanks.

Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago in preparation of that year's curtain call. May the sentiments expressed grace your own heart, as you pause and give thanks. If you believe in God, by whatever name you know Him/Her by, give thanks. If you don't, than turn to those close to you - or reach out to those not so close - and give thanks. And maybe a little grace. -j.p. © Emittravel 2015

Tidings glad
In midst of sorrows
Comfort given
When all seems lost

Looking forward
Glancing backwards
Bending knee
Before the cross

Seeking mercy
Deserving nothing
Arms outstretched
Towards One who's true

Giving thanks
Deep in hardship
A cry for grace
It comes from You

Joy unspoken
Shouts of praise
Tears of cleansing
Purpose to pray

Peace in remembrance
Hope for the future
A life in renewal
Each Thanksgiving Day

J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 2012

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No, No; Thank YOU!!

After writing my last post, "Yeah, But What's In It For Me?", I got to thinking about the hazards of that mentality. If you didn't read that one, you may want to take a moment. I'll wait.

If someone is always looking at what they can get FROM God, the very nature of their faith needs to be examined. They need to assess what kind, if any, of a relationship they have with God.

One of the main differences touted between Christianity and other faiths is of relationship. In Christianity, relationship with God is not based on you DOING anything to get approval from God. It is based on the acceptance of what God has done. You don't have to go anywhere, recite certain prayers at certain times of the day, or get your karma in line for God to love you. He simply does. "For God so loved the world, that He gave . . . "

That there is enough to love Him in return.

But, if your relationship with God is based on what you can get FROM Him, then you are in for a lot of heartache and struggle.

As I said, I became a Charismatic in the early 1990s. And during that time since, I've seen many movements roll through the Charismatic church. Prosperity and Healing seem to be two of the majors.

The problem is, if Prosperity is your focus, what happens to your relationship with God if things aren't so prosperous? If your job disappears, or your business collapses, or your retirement investments take a hit?

Or if Healing is your thing, what happens when you find yourself battling a three-week long cold, or cancer, or the death of a loved one - too young / too soon?

I'll tell you what happens. You will either beat yourself up over your lack of faith, or, if things are bad enough, you will question the validity of faith in God itself. Many a "born-again atheist" started as a church goer who found faith in God to be wanting. "I prayed and He didn't answer my prayer."

How would you feel if the only reason your spouse loved you was for what you provided? From the weddings I've been to, it's been "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health". I have never heard, "for the paycheck you bring home", or, "the mind-bending orgasms you give me".

Sometimes it feels like the Christianity we sell is a bill of goods. I've heard it so many times that a person had found themselves at such a low point in their life, that the only direction to look was up. It was then that they "found Jesus". Then all of a sudden, they found they no longer needed the cigarettes, or the drugs, or the alcohol, or the whatever. God delivered them from the crap in their life and now they are walking in joy, health, and (being a tither) prosperity. This is called having a good testimony. But what if life just happens? What if you still struggle with your addictions after becoming a Christian? What if your employment (or lack thereof) situation doesn't improve? Guilt. Or you simply find yourself doubting your conversion experience.

What should one do? Focus on loving God for the who, not the what. That way, in spite of the "richer or poorer" or "sickness or health", you will enjoy a lifetime of "marital bliss".

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yeah, But What's In It For Me?

When my wife and I got together, we came from two different Christian backgrounds. She, a practicing Roman Catholic, and me, a Charismatic Protestant (a.k.a. "Non-Denominational"). Over the years, and many breakfast conversations, the differences have become more and more apparent. Now I grew up Catholic, so I knew where she was coming from. She, on the other hand, had minimal Charismatic experience, especially of the Protestant variety. Since the Charismatic movement had much development in the Catholic church though, she wasn't completely lost.

A notable difference between Catholic and Charismatic churches is their view of community and growth. If you look around, you will notice that there are Catholic churches around, but none too close to each other. There are usually only one or two in a specific geographic area. Charismatic churches, on the other hand, can be found practically across the street from each other. Again, the difference is based on their view of community and growth.

When a Catholic church has become too large for its current location to support, they will either move to a location with more property, or more likely, the diocese will start another Catholic church in a nearby, but different, neighborhood. The reason for this is that each Catholic church is designed to meet the needs of that particular community. If and when that church reaches a point where it is unable to effectively meet those needs, another church is required - usually close enough to assist with those needs, but far enough away to reach a separate community as well.

Charismatic churches, on the other hand, tend to be more growth focused. They go from one program to the next, always looking for what brings in the most people. And to assist with this, "successful" Charismatic churches hold seminars and publish books on what they have done to reach such phenomenal growth. So, they are always trying the "newest thing", and usually, at the expense of reaching the needs of the community in which they are located.

Understand, the reason for the difference is that charismatics, by definition, are "What's in it for me?" people. The word "charismatic" comes from the word "charis", meaning "gifts". Unlike their neighbors, the Pentecostals, whose focus tends to be the Holy Spirit (see "Pentecost" in the beginning of the book of Acts in the bible), Charismatics focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, what can they get from the Holy Spirit.

Through the years, charismatics have danced with different "movements": Word & Faith, Prosperity, Healing, etc. All of which have been focused on getting FROM God. Along with this hunger for what they can get, comes the nickname "Cruise-a-matics"; as they jump from church to church, seminar to seminar, event to event, always looking for where the Spirit is "moving". They stand in long lines at the altar with hopes that the minister with the "gift" can bestow it on them by laying their hands upon them.

Before you get upset with me, understand that I've been in the Charismatic movement since the early 1990s. I know of what I speak.

Because of this, Charismatic churches struggle with attendance, as they find people come in the front and leave out the side; going to where the worship is better, or the pastor is more gifted, or they "preach the word". Also, the congregations are made up of people from all over; many driving many miles to attend a particular church. This results in a disconnect between the church and the local community, as the attendees have very little to connect them once the service ends.

If you don't believe me, take a look at the church bulletins of your local Catholic and Charismatic churches. The Catholic one tends to be pages long, with staples holding it together, filled with community needs, reflections, names of the sick to pray for, births, weddings, funerals, and social opportunities. The Charismatic one tends to be one sheet of paper, folded a few times, with one whole section to take notes during the sermon.

What's the solution? The only thing that comes to mind is for people to stop looking at what they can get FROM God. A way to do that is to not spend so much time thanking God for what He has given, but instead thanking God for WHO He is.
God loves us without condition. I'm sure that's the kind of love He would like in return.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's All About the Money

Have you ever felt that history is always doomed to repeat itself? I say, "doomed", but not necessarily in the way that means the history itself is bad, nor its repetition.

Here in the "high in the middle" and "round on both ends" state (Ohio . . . Get it?), we have two items on the ballot for the November election that deal with the controversial issue of legalizing marijuana.

Before you faze me out and move to the next blog on your RSS feed, please understand that I'm not arguing one way or another for or against the legalization of marijuana. My focus is more in line with the first sentence of this article: the repetition of history.

Here in Ohio, whether or not to allow casinos was a topic for quite a few elections. EVENTUALLY, the populace broke down and the casinos became legal. Soon, we saw nothing but prostitution, drugs, and a CSI spin off show haunting our communities. Actually, in the town of my birth, the casino brought in enough tax revenue to start a street renovation project that, so far, has cost the town NOTHING out of its own pockets. Oh, and so far, not a negative has been found.

If you look at the promised tax revenue for the schools, you can have a complaint, but you can't blame the casinos. Just like the revenue provided through the State Lottery, the state has reduced the budgets of the schools due to the "other" source of income. In other words, the money received was offset by reductions of a similar amount. So, blame the government, not the casinos.

The number one reason marijuana is becoming legal throughout our great nation is for the same reason: tax revenue. Period. And like the casinos before it, marijuana will EVENTUALLY become legal in the state of Ohio. History WILL repeat itself. Maybe it will happen this coming election. Maybe it will take a few more. But it WILL happen.

Ohio will live up to its "high in the middle" nom de plume.

© Emittravel 2015