PRAYER

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.

Father, unto thee I pray,
Thou hast guarded me all day;
Safe I am while in thy sight,
Safely let me sleep tonight.
Bless my friends, the whole world bless;
Help me to learn helpfulness;
Keep me ever in thy sight;
So to all I say good night.               

There is a fair amount of consternation about why we should pray. Most of us know about the foxhole payer where we ask God to get us out of a particular mess and we will agree to do heavy penance.  Our intentions are good, albeit short-lived. And many of us have presented a shopping list to God hoping that it will be fulfilled. Then we shake our heads and tell ourselves that prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is not merely making supplications before God for our needs. Prayer is the connection between humans and God, communicating with each other.

Thankfully, there is no one way of praying and those who have the need for prayer find their own way. Prayer is definitely a conversation with God. Since my thinking is often my source of chaos, I always ask God to direct my thinking. It works for me, but I have to be attentive. I also engage in Centering Prayer, whereby I attempt to empty my mind of distraction and hopefully gain direction from the Divine. Action is a necessary part of prayer; helping those in need, getting on with our daily work, and putting every moment into the presence of God. Singing, playing an instrument, saying a prayer aloud in groups, public worship, or simply silence are all part of connecting with the Divine.

Prayer is a way of relating to God, to ourselves, to those around us. In opening our hearts and minds and souls to God we are challenged to grow, change, and to love. Just as we make time to spend with those we love, so in making time to pray we are seeking to grow in our relationship with the Divine.

Prayer is being in the moment, being present, being open to new ways. It is a way of learning to become our TRUE SELVEs and to be comfortable in the presence of God. Since GOD is a presence that infuses every moment and every space, prayer focuses our attention in order to encounter the Divine.

I want to know the way of the Divine so that I can change; be open to transformation, to becoming more loving, peaceful, gracious, compassionate. It’s not an easy path and being open in prayer can often be a painful experience as we find and confront those parts of ourselves which we might not be keen on seeing. 

You can pray anytime and anywhere. The freedom to pray anywhere, though, often leads to praying nowhere. We should absolutely pray spontaneously whenever and wherever prayers arise in our hearts — during a break at work, before a test, in line with our groceries. But our lives are fueled by prayer, so we shouldn’t leave it up to spontaneity.  Pick a time and a place to be silent and pray on a consistent basis.

For some people, setting aside time to be alone with God is intimidating. In fact, for many today, any time alone at all — no friends, no television, no phones — is unnerving. After all, we are speaking to almighty God here. He already knows everything we need and everything we are going to say. One important thing to learn early on about prayer is that it truly is a conversation. God is truly listening when we pray.

If we’re honest, many of us lack courage and imagination in our prayer lives. We have a tiny little box of routine things we’re willing to ask God for, and we take on everything else — our questions, our frustrations, our dreams — on our own. We assume God’s not interested in or doesn’t have time for the small details of our day. And we can’t even imagine him conquering a global crisis, so we settle for middle-of-the-road mediocre requests. We wait to pray about something until it becomes “serious enough” for God to care about. Accordingly, we deprive ourselves of his mercy and power in massive areas of our life and world.

Prayer is powerful.

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t. michael smith

ARE YOU ANGRY?

ARE YOU ANGRY?

ANGRY MAN!

If you’re angry about the political feud (Trump v Dems) that drove the federal government to partially shut down, or about a golden parachute for a CEO who ran a business into the ground (Kraft Heinz), you aren’t alone—but you probably won’t do much about it. Folks usually respond to two types of injustices: when bad things happen to good people, and when good things happen to bad people. Human beings are reliably motivated to help when a bad thing happens to a good person, such as a hurricane devastating a town—, but only in a nominal way. When a hurricane happens, we want to help, so we give $10 to disaster relief or the RED CROSS, but we don’t try to build new houses. Even a small amount can help us feel that justice is restored.

But the converse is not necessarily true: When the universe rewards bad people despite their rotten behavior, people are usually reluctant to do anything about it, even when they’re angry at the unfairness of the situation. The forces at play in creating an unfair situation are often beyond our control or would be too costly to make the effort worthwhile. So, we stay angry, but often we settle for the hope that karma will eventually catch up.

On the rare occasions when someone does decide to act, they go for broke, spending all their resources and energy—not just a token amount—in an effort to deprive a bad dude of everything he gained unfairly. The desire to completely wipe out a bad dude’s ill-gotten gains is driven by a sense that justice will not be served until the bad dude is effectively deterred from future bad behavior, which is unlikely to be the case if the punishment is a slap on the wrist. But given the difficulty and expense associated with this response, many Americans stew in anger and hope for the best.

So, when ordinary people see bad things happening to good people, pitching in a few dollars feels good enough. Pitching in a few dollars to punish a bad person who has been unjustly rewarded, however, doesn’t cut it.  Only when people feel that their actions are guaranteed to send an effective signal to the bad person will they feel compelled to act. Since that sort of guarantee is hard to come by, most people will just stand by and wait.

The United States is an angry country.

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WOMEN and ALCOHOL

 

 

WOMEN and ALCOHOL

 

Men and women enjoy drinking for a variety of reasons—to celebrate some event, to socialize, or to relax after a long day. The stereotype alcoholic is usually a middle-aged man who would prefer to spend hours at his local tavern than be at home with his wife and kids. Now, that stereotype is being turned on its head. Young women, ages 18-35 are drinking alcohol far more than previous generations of women and are overtaking men in alcohol consumption. The rate of drinking in young women has risen sharply due to the homogenization of a generation that finds identity in cool alcohol beverages and the way our culture is starting to normalize binge drinking habits in women.

White women are particularly likely to drink dangerously, with more than a quarter drinking multiple times a week and their share of binge drinking is up 40 percent since 1997, per a Washington Post analysis of federal health data. Breaking down the numbers by race, 71% of white women drink some alcohol, but only 47% of black women and 41% of Hispanic women do so. In 2013, more than a million women of all races wound up in emergency rooms because of heavy drinking, with women in middle age most likely to suffer severe intoxication. This behavior has contributed to a startling increase in early mortality. The rate of  deaths due to alcohol for white women ages 35 to 54 has more than doubled since 1999, per The Post analysis, accounting for 8 percent of deaths in this age group in 2015.

Why are young women drinking more? A combination of advertising, changing generational attitudes and advancements in women’s rights has contributed to normalization of excessive drinking by women. Drinking regularly is marketed as something that cool, young and liberated women do to assert their independence. While progress in gender equality has led to many great things, more women dying of alcohol poisoning is not one of them.

For women, binge drinking is defined as having 6 units of alcohol in less than 2 hours.  A single glass of wine and one bottle of beer have 2.3 units. A shot of hard liquor has about 1 unit of alcohol.  It is easy to see that someone passing on shots at a night club or bar and only drinking wine would not consider herself a binge drinker.  Yet, several glasses of wine at home can be considered binge drinking. If someone is unclear about what constitute binge drinking, she may think there is no problem and may delay seeking help.  If she constantly thinks about when she can have her next glass of wine and plans her day around her drinking time, an alcohol problem is developing. Other signs include limiting herself to one drink or deciding to forego alcohol for a week, craving alcohol during the day or experiencing night sweats, nausea or shaking if she doesn’t have a drink.

It is important to note that women’s biological composition makes them more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Women have less of the critical enzymes needed to break down alcohol, making the effects of drinking quicker and more potent.  Women also tend to have more body fat, which stores alcohol in the body longer. A woman’s monthly cycle can also change how alcohol impacts her. All this leads to the conclusion that if women are drinking as much as men, the results are likely to be more dangerous for her.

With modern demands for a thrilling career, a picture-perfect home, and above-average children, it comes as no surprise that women are feeling stressed.  I watch my own daughters and wonder how they do all the things they do.  Advertising and social media may try to normalize it, but excessive drinking is almost always a sign of an underlying problem.

Be mindful of your drinking habits and think about your attitudes toward alcohol.  Never dismiss excessive drinking as harmless fun.  Are you a responsible drinker and do you know what binge drinking is?  Three glasses of wine are binge drinking for a woman. Look out for yourself and loved ones who may be struggling with alcohol use. Watch out for young moms who need “mommy’s little helper” to help with their hectic days.  If there are signs of alcohol dependence, seek help and find out.

 

ALVIN TOFFLER

ALVIN TOFFLER

Alvin Toffler was a futurist writer who had a remarkable impact on my life and the lives of millions, literally millions, of people—shaping how humans understand the world and the era that we live in. He died in June of 2016 at the age of 87.  His wife, Heidi, his wife and intellectual partner lives on.  They were great thinkers and writers.  Their view of the future had a profound effect on me as I gazed at a fax machine in 1985 and wondered how long it would be before it was replaced by something else.

Toffler’s first great breakthrough book, Future Shock, published in 1970, became a global best-seller. It gave rise to an idea, and a term, used widely to describe the vast transformation we were then living through: America was in a period of technological, social and political change. The pill was altering sexual mores. The first wave of feminism was challenging the traditional limits on women. The civil rights movement was creating hope, turmoil and conflict. Youth activism was challenging the habits and structures of older Americans. It was in this time of unrest that this book seemed especially relevant and convincing. But it was a decade later, in 1980, that Alvin and Heidi Toffler brought out their most important book, The Third Wave. It would be hard to overstate the impact of this book. Its argument was that the first wave in human history was the shift from hunter-gathering to agriculture; the second wave was from agriculture to industry; and the third wave—which we were beginning to live through —was from industry to information. This sweeping view of human history empowered people to think very differently about the world at that time.

Toffler predicted a knowledge-based economy would eclipse the post-industrial age, shifting focus from manufacturing and labor to information and data. “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  Toffler also predicted the spread of interactive media, online chatrooms and devices that remind you “of your own appointments.” “Advanced technology and information systems make it possible for much of the work of society to be done at home via computer-telecommunications hook-ups.” .

Though his predictions focused on the human condition more than scientific advancement, Toffler foresaw a future where a woman would be able to “buy a tiny embryo, take it to her doctor, have it implanted in her uterus…and then give birth as though it had been conceived in her own body.”  His forecast that humans would breed babies with “supernormal vision or hearing” and other abilities may now seem a bit outlandish, but he did foresee the advancement of cloning. “One of the more fantastic possibilities is that man will be able to make biological carbon copies of himself.”

Toffler predicted a symptom of rapid change would be the dissolution of the family unit, noting that it would lead to a rise in divorce rates while society would also begin to embrace the LGBT community.  He wrote, “we shall… also see many more ‘family’ units consisting of a single unmarried adult and one or more children. Nor will all these adults be women.. As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, we may even begin to find families based on homosexual marriage.”

He also acknowledged the societal shift in delaying the decision to have children.

In the age of Amazon and the proliferation of online marketplaces and share economies, Toffler’s thoughts on consumerism as a global trend ring true.

“People of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out to be victims of that peculiarly super-industrial dilemma: over choice.”

In coining the term “prosumer,” Toffler predicted the emergence of the combined role of producer and consumer, or the trend of do-it-yourself (DIY) in every aspect of life.

Thank GOD he wrote it down.

The Loss of My Country

Americans have become so conscious of “national security” that Patrick Henry of Virginia would likely be branded a terrorist today instead of a patriot.  That is, if there are any Americans who know of Patrick Henry or his famous speech before the House of Burgesses in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course other may take, but as for me, give me liberty oo give me death!”

In today’s climate of ultra sensitivity and concern for the “national interest,” is this free speech or a terrorist statement?