“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Islam...Or Not Islam?

There was a report recently that Canada had begun looking at setting up a SHARIA court. The two FOX journalists were released, after converting to Islam. And, Islam has been the fastest growing religion in America for several years now. Those are some very interesting, and scary facts.

I did some studying of Islam over the last several years. I've attended a few lectures and seminars--religious and non-religious. Here are a couple of facts I remember from those days. Now, please, bear in mind these facts are from the fundamentalist viewpoint, or level. And, let's emphasize, and define, the fundamentalist part. "Fundamental" simply means the basic elements of something, the building blocks if you will--check the dictionary. Here are some facts I discovered during my studies that leave me suspect of almost any claims by Islamic extremists, and even some Islamic government leaders:

First, there are seven levels of hell in Islamic theology. Interestingly, the lowest level is reserved for those who have recanted their faith in Islam--not Jews or Christians. Christians actually rate a higher level than Jews, too. Other Muslims are bound, religiously, to kill those who recant their faith. There may even be legal prohibitions for not doing so--or helping to do so. Makes me wonder what will happen to those two journalists who "converted", should they decide not to be Mulsim. (I seriously doubt the at gunpoint part of conversion really matters in the eyes of their Islamic kidnappers.)

Second, according to their religious tenants, Muslims are bound to struggle to regain any lands that have once been under Muslim control. Those lands, in terms of their religious viewpoint, are and always will be Muslim lands subject to Muslim laws. Makes me wonder what will eventually happen in the Balkans, which were to a great extent under Muslim rule during the days of the Ottoman Empire.

(On a side note, did you know that according to the Koran if I, as a non-Muslim, give a quote from the text I am supposed to be subject to a death sentence?)

Third, under the rules of Islam, no one but Muslims have any real rights. It is legal, and may even be required, to lie, cheat, steal, or even kill a non-Muslim. Testimony or evidence presented by a non-Muslim against a Muslim is not necessarily admissable in a Muslim court , just because they are non-Mulsim. Now, the degree this holds true will vary depending on how fundamental or progressive the viewpoint is in that nation or culture. And, I know this particular facet of Islam has been debated, denied, and/or down played a lot. But, if you go back through history, that is exactly how Islam has been applied in every culture or nation it has held power. Personally, I will take historical fact over theological supposition.

Now, here is my opinion about the future of Islam and America. This opinion is based partially on my studies. It is based partially on my experiences with Islam or the testimonies of the experiences of others. And, ultimately, part of it is just my impressions of where things seem to be going. So, taking all that into consideration, here is my opinion--which I truely hope is wrong--and the reasons for it.

In its essence, Islam is a religion of anger and judgement. More specifically, it is a religion that justifies and makes holy the expression of anger. There is no forgiveness in its theology. There is only retribution and punishment. The only hope offered is to die for the cause. Islam justfies hatred and bitterness. And, it declares that violence and anger are righteous. Islam, in short, makes anger and violence holy.

Unfortunately, America is a very angry nation. We are so polarized that the "reds" and "blues" won't talk or listen to each other. The middle ground of compromise is, for all intents a purposes, gone. Worse, the generation of youth soon to take the reigns of leadership, have had all their expectations and hopes shattered. The "family" is just a word for most of us since we never see each other. This only increases the isolation or rejection that many feel. The "American dream" doesn't exist for many people anymore. It is believed, probably correctly, that social security will not be there for them. The government at all levels is proving it cannot be there to take care of security issues and needs. The job market is drying up, and the economy is turning back.

I believe Islam is growing so fast, especially among dis-enfranchised Americans, because it feeds on, and fuels, this widespread hopelessness and anger. It gives people a religious basis for their anger, and the expression of it. And, I think the American people, particular those of non-Mulim religions, are going to be surprised to see how much power and authority (political, religious, and social) the followers of Islam will have in this country. And, I think that surprise is coming very soon. I think Europeans are just now waking up to this reality.

Go ahead. Pick it apart. Call it all Christian, hate-based rhetoric if you want to. I've stated what I learned. And, I've stated what I think. Take it for what it is. Only time will reveal who is right or wrong. And, like I said, personally I hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Me, On Stories, Books and Movies

Bet you thought this was going to be a review or something. Right?


Just some thoughts on what a good story is. This is another one of those write-don't-edit thiings. So, I don't guarantee a straight line of thought, either.

I love stories and movies that stir the imagination. Being a writer, I'm a sucker for a good story. Even so, I don't try to figure out whodunnit, or guess the ending. Really. I don't. I like to ride the story through and just see where it goes. Of course, after I've finished a book once, I go back and take it apart to see how things were put together...I do it to movies, too. I recently used the opening from Saharra to teach my kids about estimating. But, that's how writers get better...Well, one way at least...Anyway, the best stories are where the characters tell the story. (Don't you just hate movies where the it all seems to be about the actor?) Nearly all writers--at least the ones who have written how-to-write books that I've read--will tell you they enjoy it when their characters take over a story. I know I do.

However, stirring the imagination through terror and horror has no appeal to me. There are times a story requires some death, destruction, fear, etc. (vis a vis Saving Private Ryan). When and where it fits the story, things should be put in. But, I'm not into stories that are all about just scaring people for the sake of scaring them. Occult/voodoo movies don't do a lot for me--even the so-called funny ones. I have too many experiences with the reality of that stuff. I've actually known a couple of practicing witches over the years. I also learned a lot about astrology and horoscopes and taro cards and what not during high school and college. Then, about 18 years ago, I met Jesus, and quickly realized all of that is a pale comparison to the real Living God. I've never gone back.

Hhhmmm...another rabbit trail...Well, back to the subject at hand...

I think fear/terror and violence, and especially sex, are way to overused in movies and TV. So much of this stuff seems to be put in just to have it in there. Most of it isn't needed for the story, so it could easily be left out. Of course, it could also simply be left off screen. Now there is a lost art...alluding to something without showing it. What could Hollywood and the rest of the media accomplish if they started doing that? Or, would we let them? Would America just howl over the loss of the sex and gore, claiming censorship? Well...that's probably a subject for another time.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What Kind of Reward Is This?

(My thanks to Marty Horn at Any Soldier for forwarding the text to post here.)

Can you imagine this... a young soldier... (and a purple heart recipient) is called upon to serve his country.. twice... leaving behind a young wife and his children. While in Iraq, he hears of abuse allegations and he expresses his wishes and fears to social workers after his 9 year old daughter was hospitalized, only to be told he has no parental say so because he is not in this country, but told that "the wife is the custodial parent.... she is here" and he is expected to carry out his dangerous missions as he is wondering who is helping to protect his own children back home.
He returns from serving his country as soon as he can, and decides that he can't be the kind of father, a single parent,... that his children need if he were to remain in the military, so he gives up his 8 year career to go on unemployment and finally is able to find an $ 8.00 an hour job because the employers with higher paying jobs tell him that he is exactly what they look for and need, but it would be to costly to train him, especially when there are other applicants who are already trained in that field.

He tries to rent a home for them, but he is told he has too many people to live in their small house, or that he doesn't make enough money and that they have to look out for their own best interest.

He also tries to file for divorce and is told he can't do that either because you have to be a resident for 6 months and he had been gone for a year.... remind you again, doing what was asked of him, while serving his country. In the meantime, the wife files, and is then granted a divorce in Louisiana, yes, she filed first, he filed when he was finally allowed and he has never been served with any papers, notices or been notified of any hearings and yet, she is given her divorce and also custody of their children.

While all of this is going on, and over a year ago, the children are placed in the paternal grandmother's custody ... in Ohio and after the abuse allegations. The mother files for divorce and she receives free legal aid in both Ohio (which is where the soldier is from) and Louisiana (which is where the mother lived as a child). The soldier ends up having to pay thousands to be represented and is never even given a chance to give his side of the story to a judge. He and his children were never given the chance to speak to a judge in over a year of hearings.

On July 28th, his wife came to Ohio for a hearing, prepared to take her children home. The case was rescheduled for the next Monday. Again they never saw a judge, only a magistrate. It was an ugly scene at the courthouse in Ohio when the children learned they were going back with their mother, they were never going to be able to talk to the judge and explain why they are so frightened and what happened to them while in their mother's care...
even though they tried on several occasions, they would just be expected to go with their mother and her live in boyfriend and go through even more abuse.

The now 10 year old screamed to please not make her go, don't let her sister and brother go. She is hysterical and cries that her mother said she would hurt her real bad if she told and now she would beat her again. Again nobody would listen to this child screaming for help. Instead she and her family were told that they had to leave, they were making a scene.

We are told it was because Ohio didn't have the jurisdiction over this soldier's children, this is also why they couldn't be appointed a guardian ad lidem. (If the state of Ohio didn't have jurisdiction over the children, then how could they grant the grandmother custody in the first place and then take it away?) They say because the kids hadn't lived here for 6 months before they were placed in their grandmother's custody, and only had been visiting for 3 months. Their father came to be with them as soon as he had chaptered out of the military. They attended school here for over a year and were doing great, they were involved in Girl Scouts and sports programs.
They were happy and enjoying just being able to be kids.

This young man has paid every cent he has and then some to the attorneys here and in Louisiana, while trying to provide for his children since becoming a civilian. It has been very difficult and he is too proud to ask for your help, but we will. HE NEEDS YOU to now step up and help him defend and protect his own children. The funds collected will be used for helping him with the traveling expenses while he goes to Louisiana for court hearings and to see his kids, the attorney and legal fees, court costs, and the expenses of deposits and rents needed in getting them into their home.
They have been staying with family. He does have a hearing date scheduled for the end of October/2006 in Louisiana.

There has been an account set up for this family in the name of V.O.I.C.E.S.; at Farmer's National Bank; 2910 Youngstown-Warren Rd.; Warren, OH 44484.

Anything at all that you can do would be greatly appreciated, it doesn't have to be much, and if you can't, that is also understood... maybe just sending a letter to show your support to V.O.I.C.E.S., Fluharty Family Support Benefit Fund, P.O. BOX 245, Newton Falls, Ohio 44444-0245. Maybe you can forward this or give this request to others who you think would be able to and willing to help.

Let's show this veteran soldier that, as Americans, we will stand up with him as he fights for his own children and let him know we do appreciate the sacrifices they have all made. Lets help his children make their V.O.I.C.E.S. heard and help their father in his fight to give them what they need and deserve. These are the Voices Of Innocent Children Ending Silence!,...their own silence!

It is terribly wrong what has happened to this family... we also ask that you please write your Congressmen and Legislators (Contacting the Congress) and ask them to help change the laws that make it possible to have our military men and women treated this way. There are many who have been going through similar situations and injustices since returning from serving their country. We owe them more than that!

As one police officer who couldn't believe this was happening to them has said " What a way for us to say 'thank you' for serving our country!"

We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for doing whatever you can, if you want verification that this is actually a true problem and not a scam, please contact gto417@aol.com and she will send you where you can find legal documentation on this.

The Friends and Family of the Fluharty Family

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

And, Now, For Something Completely Different

This was an old writing exercise. I found a copy cleaning my desk, and thought I would share it. This is what happens when you just write from the top of your head, without editing. Enjoy!

The red door leads to the green room. The green room has three doors; the blue, the white and the red. The red door elads to the black room. But, you will need to get the light from the yellow room to find your way out of the black room.
The yellow room can be found by going through the blue door in the green room, which leads to the purple room. The purple room has three doors--the yellow, the purple, and the orange. The orange door leads to the yellow room. The yellow room has a wonderful, beautiful light in the middle of it.
To get out of the yellow room, you have to leave through the white door. This takes you into the brown room. The brown room has three doors--two white and one blue. You must leave the brown room through the other white door, which leads to the blue room. The blue room takes you back the green room, and the red door that leads you into the black room. You know...The one you needed the light from the yellow room to find your way out of?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's In A Name?

Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." He is, at best, partially right, and, at worst, totally wrong. Mention Al Anbar Province to a US Marine, and you will get an entirely different reaction than if you mention it to an Iraqi national. Mention Cacun to a vacationer, and you will get an entirely different reation than if you talk about Six Flags. George Carlin once said, "Names have emotional value." He's right. Romanticized nonsense sounds wonderful, and makes our hearts flutter, but it really doesn't much real meaning for us. The truth is our emotions dictate how we feel about things based on our experiences. Experience creates emotional value. Emotional value decides how sweet that rose smells--because of the name.

So, how about the question: what is the emotional value of YOUR name? That will depend on people's experiences with you. If you have been aloof towards others, then your name probably won't have much positive emotional value. And, there are lots of different ways this aloofness can be perceived. Is all you talk about yourself? Do you keep yourself distant, emotionally or physically? Do you spend your time only seeking after your pleasure or desires? You do not have to physically hurt someone to create negative emotional value. Ignorance can do that without any other effort being made. In my case, growing up, I had the bad habit of getting so absorbed reading a book, I was oblivious when friends came over to visit and play.

And that leads to the next question: what is the emotional value of the name of Jesus? That will depend on the experiences you have had with Him, or more often with His people--the church. We Christians are supposed to be a reflection of Him. We're not--or at least not much of one. Some of that has to do with how we were raised. For example, if we were raised by over-acheiving parents, we will probably view our Christian life in terms of our successes, or possessions. The problem is that leaves us focused on performance instead of Christ. And, we become like what we focus on. Worse, we judge others by those perceptions and expectations. I promise you, when we do that, we are not giving off a reflection of Jesus. We are, instead, reflecting the non-Christian world around us. I think I can safely say that does not create any positive emotional value in the name of Jesus.

So, as Christians, what are we focused on--as individuals and congregations? I have to admit I don't like looking at what some areas of my life have become since I became a Christian. These areas haven't improved--and in a few instances, seem worse (or maybe I just see them more clearly). But, without exception, I can say every one of those areas is a place where I am focused on me, the expectations of others, or...well... anything other than Jesus. Maturity as a Christian is not based on how successful you are or are not in business, or finances, or parenting, or relationships. It is based solely on how much like Christ you are letting Him make you.

So, how focused on Him are you? I found a simple way to determine where I am on that journey. I simply ask myself two questions. First, do I do the Biblical things Jesus did because I want to, or because its expected of me? And, second, do I do them because it pleases my heavenly Father, or because it appeases Him enough that He's not mad at me anymore? The first question tells me how much I am looking to people for approval. The second question tells me how much I really love and trust my God.

So, when I say the word Christian, what is the emotional value of that word for you? It may surprise you to find the answer to that question has more to do with you, and your expectations, than it does God. Now, when I say the name Jesus...?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

About Me

Well, for a first post--and probably a few later ones--I thought I should introduce myself. Coach seems to be a name that fits me well-- simply because that's what I do. I help people get better at what they do--assuming I have any idea of what that is and some knowledge that can help them. My biggest problem is not recognizing times when those conditions are not met. I discovered this wonderful trait a few years ago when I started coaching youth hockey. It was kind of a whim. I saw a notice on a bulletin board one day, and applied. To this day, there is nothing quite like seeing the light go on in a twelve year old's eyes when he suddenly "gets it". I just wish I had discovered this before I turned 40. I like to help people

I grew up in the Mid-West, and did high school in the Northeast. I joined the Air Force after high school, and spent my entire enlistment on the Gulf Coast. After getting out, I went back to the North East for a few years, then moved to Texas. I've been here 17 years. I've learned to deal with the summer heat. But, I do miss having four seasons, instead of two or two and a half.

I've been a Christian for 17 years. I think its funny when someone asks what my religion is. I say, "Christian." Invariably, the response is, "No, I mean are you Baptist, or Methodist or...what?" No one seems to understand that these are all part of Christianity. The essence of being Christian is that Jesus is Lord, and you have surrendered your life to Him. Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than living in a garage makes you a car. You can be a Methodist, or Baptist, and not be a Christian. What I find really stunning is that most Christians, or just church goers in general, are oblivious to this.

Well...That was an interesting little rabbit trail...Now, where was I?...Oh, yeah. I've been to ministry school, and college. I've lived out of my car and in street shelters. I've written and published short stories locally. I've written, but not published, country and worship songs. I've worked in construction, project management, warehouse operations, insurance, sales, and now stocks and securities.

And...maybe that's enough for now. A real Weekly Thought will be posted by Wednesday, so stay tuned.