Friday, January 30, 2009

Upcoming MIssion Trip

A couple of years ago, I became pretty interested in the hope for peace between Israel and Palestine. I don't know exactly what about it gripped my heart, but it did and I immediately knew I needed to go on a mission trip. A few trips came up, but there was always one reason (excuse) or another for me not to go. It was too much money that I do not have for one. It conflicted with other plans I had already scheduled was another. The fact that I was incredibly nervous about not only leaving the country, but to the Middle East was the unspoken reason behind everything.

As things with God tend to go, there were things that continued to work on me. Every time a mission trip came up, I received a phone call from the pastor leading the trip. I had a gentle nudging, but the response was generally "maybe next year."

Well, it's next year...

I received the phone call a couple of weeks ago. There was a mission trip leaving in June would I be interested in going. I told him that I really wished I could, but it was just too expensive and the timing was all wrong (not by much, but oh well.) I told him I would ask others in my congregation to see if maybe one of them would want to go. I had no takers. I called him back with the news.

I received another phone call a couple of days ago that went something like this:

"Sonja, I know you have expressed an interest in this and you are concerned about money. There is a gentleman in my congregation that has been and feels very strongly that others should have an opportunity to go. He is willing to pay half of the costs if that will help you out."
Okay, so I just needed to come up with the other half of the expenses that have almost doubled since last year. I told him that I needed to check on a few things and get back with him, but I was still concerned about the scheduling. Oh by the way, the dates on the trip changed and we are now leaving a little earlier (pretty much the amount of time I needed.)

I have a ministry team at my church that began raising money for me to go on the mission trip the first time I mentioned it. Some money was raised, but not nearly enough to cover the cost. I spoke to the chair of that ministry team about the situation. She felt that there would be no problem raising the money for me to go. "Sure, tell him yes!"

Okay, two excuses down...

In the previous conversation with the pastor leading the trip, I brought up my fears, especially with the fighting going on in Gaza. He assured me that we would not be anywhere near there, and that we would be safe. He told me that he was nervous his first trip too. That was helpful, because he has kept going back, so he must feel safe. I also believe that they will not send us if there is a possibility that there may be problems. So, that was taken care of as well.

I talked it over with my husband (who is also not crazy about the idea of me heading to the Middle East). And it is decided...I will be leaving in June.

Now I begin raising the funds to cover the trip. I have stepped out in faith and believe that God will provide. I am also asking everyone for prayers as this team prepares for this mission trip.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

follow me...not a suggestion

Sermon on January 25, 2009 based on the Scripture text Mark 1:14-20.

There were still some technical difficulties today, sorry if it cuts out periodically.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Idol Worship

I heard last year as the young new presidential hopeful took the stage to accept the Democratic National Convention's endorsement of him as their candidate that he was like a "rock star." This of course was immediately used by other candidates to imply that he was in some way evil, encouraging followers to worship him; or if not evil, then greatly misleading people who were too gullible to know better. It seems that if you are too popular, then that is in some way bad. We must all maintain a certain amount of decorum; this is after all politics we are talking about.

I thought that it was grossly unfair that simply being popular would be viewed in such a way. Of course, this young candidate carried a Blackberry, sent email to encourage support, had a facebook group that many people were "fans" of (simply because this is a facebook term), and spoke to a generation of people in ways previous candidates had not. I thought at that time, that it was "sour grapes" from a group of people who would never dream of twittering their thoughts, would never consider keeping up with friends on facebook, and only use email if they absolutely have to, in other words, people who are out of touch with the technology and advances that are so prevalent in the world today and do not listen to the voice of the generations who rarely use “snail mail” for personal correspondence, pays bills online, and social networking groups are common. I realize now this is unfair. There are those who are not tech-savvy that do not see Obama's support to be inherently idol worship, and those who are tech-savvy who do.

I again have read a concern that the exuberance of the crowds yesterday was in some way another demonstration of "worshipping" Obama. I am concerned that there are those who might actually feel something akin to worship for Obama, but I am more concerned by those who would convey that attitude where it may not be deserved. I am surprised by the thought that Obama is in some way worshipped...any more than any other president of the United States has ever been. I remember people staunchly defending President G. W. Bush for his decisions and claiming that he was all but sent by God (some actually have claimed this). I have seen the videos, news reports, etc., that depict a nation in deep grief, as deep as a family member, over the assassination of JFK. These are but two examples (one for each party) of deep patriotism and love for a President. Love, not worship.

I don't know if I would consider Obama to be worshipped. I don't think what we saw yesterday was necessarily worship; I saw it more as an exercise of hope. For some he is a symbol of the hopes and dreams of many that those of their race lived and died to fight for. I can't fault them for that one. For others he is a symbol of a new day dawning on America, and all the hope that goes with that; hope that the economy will get better; hope that no more children and parents, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives will have to be sent overseas to fight a war that many in this country never backed, and many more are beginning to question; and for still others he represents hope that we can become more of the middle than the right or the left. All of these hopes, and I am sure others, were represented on that mall yesterday. You can't blame these people for rejoicing in their hopes, and it would be falsely accusing them of idol worship to say they were worshipping Obama. I know for many, their hope is in the Lord and see this change in leadership as an answer to as fervent a prayer as many prayed in the other direction.

It seems to me that Obama has encouraged and challenged all of us to work together, and I believe “all” to include the right, the left, and the middle. I know I am willing to work to be in conversation with others. I hope more feel like me.

I also read that we need to pray. But of course we do! The election of a young, black, Democratic president should not be any greater prompting of this need than simply looking in our own mirrors. We should humble ourselves before God and our neighbor, beg forgiveness for our prejudices and seek to live in peace with one another. I hope you will pray for this with me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Inaugural Prayer

This week we will have a new President, a history making President, a President many feel very strongly in favor of, and some feel very strongly opposed to. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
It seems that in past years, there has been a lot of press about this group or that group who have the best interest of the nation at heart. Labels have been placed on people; labels such as conservative and liberal; labels implying that there is a right side and a wrong side. These sides square off with thinly veiled hatred, and people pray, but it seems that the prayers have largely been those that pray for the downfall of their opponents, rather than the reconciliation of our land. I suggest to you that we humble ourselves. It isn’t about us, shame on us for thinking so. We must come humbly, pray, return to God as our true leader, and God will be faithful to forgive and restore. The following is my prayer for our nation, our new president and all people.

A prayer for the inauguration of Barak Obama.
God of all people and all nations. God of all time and all history. We acknowledge your sovereignty in our lives and our world. You are our God, and we are your people.
As we face trouble and turmoil, you walk with us. As we celebrate and rejoice, you delight with us. As we weep and mourn, you cry with us. God you are always there to guide, to bless, and to comfort us in our lives. We again come to you to hear our cry and our prayer.

At this time, O God of us all, we face many things that are disturbing and troubling in our world. We look around and we see war in the Middle East, innocent blood being shed, lives being disrupted irrevocably, and families torn apart at the whim of those who should lead them to peace. We see economic uncertainty and hardship. We see natural disasters ripping through landscapes, destroying homes, and displacing people. We see extreme poverty and lives that face destitution and hardship. We see disease and famine, claiming the lives of the weak and the young. We see our youth falling deeper and deeper into cynicism and despair at a time in their lives where they should see the most hope! We face uncertain times, and we can fall into the trap of thinking that there is no certainty or hope in the world.

We look to our leaders to rescue us from the messes we are in, messes of our own making, and messes that are imposed upon us by the callous and heartless actions of others. We believe that the right leader, the right cabinet, the right President, the right government will set things right.

We look to government to fix problems and complain when the impossible cannot be done. We forget as the Israelites so long ago, who demanded a King, that you are God, the only leader we need. We fail to seek your wisdom and your guidance, and when we are faced with the obvious, we rationalize and turn our backs to your teaching and your desire for our lives.
We are in economic crisis and we have real worry about our future. And on the nightly news we see names and faces of those who would sacrifice others to make a buck. And we feel helpless to effect a change in our world, so we succumb to the temptation to be just as self-serving and greedy, so we aren’t trampled in the dust of materialism.

We recognize the wrongness of this thought, but lack the understanding of how change can come about. We know the difference between right and wrong, and we desire to bring right to our lives and our world. We desire change, because our current situation begs for it, but are we ourselves ready for change.

In the United States we have just come through a campaign season and a general election which in and of itself has brought about change. The nation has selected Barack Obama, as the President Elect. We pray today for his presidency, his administration, and his family at this time of transition and decisions.

But God, change does not come about by any one person, or one administration, or one ideology, but by all people working together for good greater than their own agenda. Help us to be agents of change, real change, your change in our world. Help us to seek to bring about reconciliation, rather than division. We pray that you will enable us to see what is good in people, rather than only the bad. The only true change we can control in our world is change in ourselves. Help us to allow you to work in us to bring about change of heart and mind, change from cynicism to hope, and change from blaming the other to a desire for working together.

We pray for our new president. We pray that your Holy Spirit will guide his presidency. We pray that hope, peace and reconciliation will begin to burn in the United States and spread throughout the world. We pray that you will begin that flame in our hearts.

We recognize that Jesus, the Christ, is the Savior of the world, and all others, even the President of the United States, are only elected leaders, mere mortals, and have the same humanity as us all. Bestow upon us the courage to live up to the purpose to which you have called us, and the courage to work with others and recognize we are not alone in our efforts to make our world a better place. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Post by Peace Man

I recently had a post about two friends, one in Israel, one in Gaza, probably less that ten miles apart from one another. They blog about life where they live, and recently that has been pretty bad. I have been concerned about "Peace Man" who lives in Gaza, because he hasn't posted in a couple of weeks. While this is understandable considering the situation, I was worried that we may not hear from him again. But today he posted about the cease fire (read here). The optimism and hope for peace that these two men exhibit brings hope to many of us.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

God Knows Us and Still Loves Us!

Sermon from January 18, 2009, based on the Scripture reading from Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. In this Psalm we look at God knowing us...very well. When we are hurting or wanting guidance this is comforting to us, but what about when we are doing things not necessarily the way God would desire for us? Are we comfortable then knowing God knows our every thought? Are we uncomfortable by God's closeness in that moment? Do we lie to ourselves about how much God knows us, and love us?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy Blogging Anniversary!

This is the anniversary of my first blog! Thanks to all my loyal readers, and those who have read, responded, and encouraged this in my life! I know I haven't been extremely faithful to getting posts out, but I think I am still trying to figure out why I am doing this exercise. Oh well, it is a learning experience and as I continue to explore what blogging means to me and what good it might be to anyone else, I ask for patience.

Just a thought for this auspicious occasion, in my recent moments spent reading, reflecting, meditation and praying, I have stumbled across a thought found in Rueben Job's book, "Three Simple Rules, A Wesleyan Way of Living." It is an excerpt from John Wesley's journal (JW was the original blogger!), which speaks to our need for spiritual guidance and growth. Job explained,
He (Wesley) feared that new converts to Christ would fail to practice their faith and would, in his words, become more a "child of the devil" than before their conversion. ["Journal from August 12, 1738, to November 1, 1939," in Works, Vol. 1; page 239]. (Job, 16)
It seems as if he is saying, if we do not practice faith, it is worse than if we never came to have faith. Not only are we not living the changed life to which we are called, but we know about it and still don't do it, and know all the things to say to rationalize it. We shirk our accountability.

I am noticing (might have something to do with a pastoral perspective) that there are more and more Christians who seem to be more calloused than I have ever noticed before. It isn't that they do not go about doing the work of the church, but the commitment to church is low. They say they believe in God, but their practices and actions speak more along the lines of, "I believe in the concept of God, but that is only when I choose to think about God in my life." They are not living a life changed or transformed, but it seems as if they have managed to squeeze God into their schedule on occasion, and that God should be grateful because they are there and are a committee member or a Sunday school teacher! It seems their faith lacks spark or fire!

I don't think that this is entirely based on my perspective as a pastor dealing with church members. I would not have understood this before I went into ministry. There were times that I was "out of church," and I would not even begin to say I have a good reason. However, I did not pretend that the "personal" relationship I had with God was all I needed, I knew that wasn't true, or that I was doing God or the church any favors when I might drag myself to church on Easter Sunday. Removing myself from a practicing community of faith and forsaking practicing my faith in personal devotion was not what God had planned for me and it certainly wasn't pleasing to God, and I knew it.

I know that as much as anyone else, I have a problem keeping to a routine of study, prayer, and devotional time, or any other way of 'practicing my faith.' But the end result is I continue, in my own fashion, to be faithful to the spiritual disciplines, to seeking God's guidance, and to participating in a community of faith, including celebrating sacraments (okay, this last part is kind of required.) I keep practicing something, even if they change periodically.

I would encourage you to examine your life and are you responding to God out of love or duty. Are you pretending that what you do in the church or coming to the church is a favor to God, or simply one you do because so-and-so needs you to be there to help with the potluck today? Do stay away from a community of faith because you think that 'those people' are hypocrites, or because you have something better to do on Sunday morning, like sports or just catching up on sleep? Or do you come to church because you crave to worship God, to return the love God has given you? Do you forget to include God in your life anytime other than the regular hour or so on Sunday morning, if then? Or do you live in the presence of God continually, living with an attitude of prayer?

Just a few questions to think about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Technical Difficulties!

Have you ever had one of those days, where all those little monster glitches seem to foul everything up? Well, Sunday was one of those for us! It was, of course, a day packed with minute by minute planning, and no room for error. It is always good that when there is no room for error, there is plenty of room for grace.

For some reason, certainly unknown to me, and not figured out yet by my sound tech, my microphone did not work consistently throughout the service. Therefore, there is no good recording of my sermon, and it will not be podcast this week. I apologize to those of you who catch this every week.

It was the Sunday in which we celebrate and remember the Baptism of Jesus and the covenant made at our own baptism. It is a Sunday I generally enjoy and look forward to because of its rich meaning and significance. This Sunday, for a multitude of reasons, it was very tense. Not really because of lack of preparation, although with me there is always a little of that. I am generally remembering something at the last minute. But this Sunday, it was Murphy at work, "those things which can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment." Just a bunch of little glitches, the sound was haywire, the music to which we were to process to the font did not play, stupid stuff like that.

But you know what did go right? God was there, God's grace was sufficient, and in the end all that really mattered is we participated in a meaningful time of worshiping God, hearing the message, and responding to the word.

There were good things too. The meeting scheduled for after the service went well. I got to make it to the closing service for the Chrysalis flight a young man in my congregation went on. My daughter led my Bible study for one evening, and by all accounts did a fabulous job! God is certainly blessing us.

We can either focus on the technical difficulties or the grace. I choose grace! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Thoughts on Israel/Palestine

I would recommend reading Adam Hamilton's blog, "Thoughts on the Gaza Strip." Adam's take on this is very factual and I thought you may enjoy reading it.

Adam questions why Hamas would launch generally ineffective missiles into Israel, knowing that Israel will retaliate over 100 fold? I question, why would Israel retaliate so disproportionately knowing that Gaza's larger allies are going to bring about attacks on their behalf? I don't think his response about a dream deferred pertains to Israel. So then, why?

I do agree with Adam that Jesus is the answer. In his post, he closes with:

One final thought: I continue to believe that Jesus offers the one answer, to both sides, in his Sermon on the Mount,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Some see in this weakness. I see in it the only hope for peace.

I think we should all hope for peace. I am really a pacificist, but I haven't answered for myself how pacifists should respond to obvious disregard of human life. I do not think that those who claim to practice "Just War" Theory, really believe in a just war. The just believe in war.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thoughts on Israel/Palestine

Prior to last year, I wanted peace in Israel and Palestine as much as the next person, which typically means, "yes, peace is good to want, but the reality is that these people just continue to fight." I know this sounds terrible to think to yourself, much less write down and post, but truthfully, most of those who are on the outside looking in from a nice comfortable and safe position think very little of how to actually help to work toward peace.

The summer of 2007, I went to a School of Mission put on by United Methodist Women and took the course on Israel-Palestine. I was given the opportunity to look at this situation anew. I watched a few videos and read the book and looked at a variety of newspaper articles and realized I cared very much what happens in Israel and Palestine. I do not care because of the religious implications or the political implications, but because people, real people, innocent people, are being hurt on both sides of this situation.

When I came back from the study, and before I taught it in my church, I did further independent study. As a result of this, I found a blog entitled "Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot." It is written by two friends; 'Hope Man' who lives in Sderot, Israel, a small town near Gaza, and 'Peace Man' who lives in Sajaia refugee camp in Gaza, Palestine. They tell of their life and the lives of those around them that face the reality of what we only see on the news.

I periodically check this blog and have been more so in the last 15-20 days or so. The recent posts are very disturbing to me. Hope Man writes of the sentiments of those in Israel.
The public opinion in Israel is largely supporting the war. A poll taken shortly after the attack said that over 81% of the population in Isreal supports the action. I am not sure the poll is accurate and what more recent polls will show, but I expect that this percentage will decrease only slightly.
Obviously, there is a great deal of fear on the part of those who live near the Gaza strip on the Israel side. They are within rocket range of the Hamas, and as such live with the threat regularly. Those in the rest of Israel know that this is a threat and, of course, are sympathetic with their governement and their fellow citizens.

But there is more to it than that. They fear for their children.
The ongoing reality of rockets falling in Sderot and other places for 8 years is a terrible reality. Many people of our region have left it for good over the years. Bringing up children in such a reality seems almost abusive and certainly irresponsible.
However, Hope Man does not necessarily think that Israel's attack of Gaza is entirely warranted or unavoidable, and has written this statement:
With that said, I personally think it is a terrible mistake that could have been avoided. For 5 months there was an almost complete cease fire. Instead of taking advantage of this long period of quiet to reach a long term agreement, both sides spent their time preparing for this war by planning and arming. No serious efforts were made to start a dialog. The siege by Isreal continued and the smuggling of arms by the Hamas continued. It was a cease fire but only to prepare for the next terrible round which we are experiencing this very moment.
You can read his entire post dated January 2, 2009.

Peace Man wrote when he could between the shelling and power outages. His most recent post talks about the deaths that have occurred and the mind-boggling devastation to their lives.

Israeli announced when they started the operation they want to stop the rockets from Gaza they can't do this by targeting the civilians. What is going in Gaza is real and big crime, against all the laws in the world, they are killing everything moving, especially the civilians.

When the operation started in Gaza, they destroyed all the government centers, and in the same time killed many civilians, Israel said they don’t mean to kill civilians. But when the ground operation started, most people die is civilians and children.
Prior to the start of this round of fighting, Peace Man was trying to be able to get back to his university studies in Europe. He was having difficulty because Israel was letting only a very few students leave Gaza, and he was trying to raise the funds to be able to go. Somethings we take for granted, like being able to go to college or the ability to move between states and cities.

These two men are probably under ten miles apart. I live approximately 28 miles from the nearest town in the next state. I could cross the border and never realize I left my state. No one would be waiting for me to ask for my papers, or to give me a hard time about the state I lived in. We take these things for granted, when so many people cannot travel freely or live unmolested lives.

I would encourage you to do some research on your own, and not just take the media's position or government position without your own thinking thrown in the mix. I would ask that you pray for these two men who write of their experiences that the world may know, and pray for peace in their land.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More Thoughts on the Magi

I have a devotional type of book I picked up entitled “In the Bleak Midwinter: 40 Meditations and Prayers for Advent and Christmas” by Herbert Brokering. It comes from the Advent hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter” based on a poem by Christina Georgina Rosetti. Close to the end of the hymn, and therefore the book, the stanza says, “If I were a wise man, I would do my part.” The devotion I was reading was based on “if I were a wise man.” It prompted me to think about the gifts the wise men brought to the infant Jesus – gold, symbolic of the wealth of kings; frankincense, symbolic of the aroma of priestly duties; and myrrh, symbolic of death. All were costly, and all were of importance to the life of Jesus.

We could look at this whole story as a symbolic writing seemingly foreshadowing the life of this small child, or we could look at it as giving the ultimate gifts, much like the pure nard in the alabaster jar – it was a substantial material gift to represent a substantial sacrifice on our part. It was more than worth or value in the world, it represented the extreme worth or value the giver placed on Jesus. It is no wonder very little has been written since of such extravagant gifts, we tend to only give gifts of extravagance to the very needy – generally ourselves! So, my question is how do we bring gold, frankincense and myrrh today? What is the ultimate gift of extravagance and significance that we place at the manger?

If I were a wise man, what gift would I bring? I am reminded of the claymation movie, “The Little Drummer Boy.” Of course, we all know the song…poor boy, have no gift, I’ll play for you. The gift he brought to the baby was all he had, his talent and music. But in the world of wealth, particularly in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, simply giving of our time and talents seems…well….too easy. I have seen numerous people who never give to the church because, they do this or that for the church and they are “giving in other ways.”

This line of thinking always seemed like a cop-out to me, even before I went into the ministry. Since going into the ministry, I have seen cases in which their time and service supplemented their giving where the person’s income and finances failed. They in effect were giving more than their tithe so to speak. However, in cases where the person made $50,000 a year and gave $50, because they led a pet program and gave to that program just seemed to me as if they were using the church for their own forum and not for God’s glory. (This is no comment on the validity of the program, just the motivation behind the person’s giving.)

What is the extreme gift, the sacrificial gift, you are called to bring? It was different for each of the wise men, and it will be different for each of us. There is something that would take a real act of giving on our part.

Giving of oneself is not giving something that it doesn’t phase you to give anyway. A gift of a scarf that you bought at a last minute sale the week before Christmas to Aunt Martha doesn’t take much; a little time, a little money, but nothing of yourself. Most of our gift giving consists of those little things that simply say, “I remembered you,” but not necessarily, “I thought about who you are and what you would like.” This is good too, it is important to remember people, and we don’t always have to go the extra mile. When they say, “it isn’t the gift, it’s the thought that counts” they are right, but what is the thought? And these little gifts that say, “I remembered you” or “I really thought about what you would like,” still may not take much sacrificial giving on our part.

But giving a gift to our Lord, the baby Jesus, the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us, this ought to take some thought and some real sacrifice. It should be of significant value not only materially, but also symbolically. What is our equivalent of gold, frankincense or myrrh? What is Jesus to us, and what is that which we are willing to provide for that role Jesus plays in our lives?

The "Aha" Moment

Sermon on January 4, 2009, based on the text Matthew 2:1-12.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008 Top Ten

These were the top ten viewed blog posts from this site in 2008:

1. Adam Hamilton Sermon Series
2. Nasty People
3. Support Group for Parents of Adult Children
4. Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin? How's that Working for Us?
5. My Father's Day Sermon
6. Still Fussin' over Women in Ministry
7. Weddings and Other Craziness
8. Christmas Lament
9. Superheroes
10. Music for Worship

And it didn't make the top ten most viewed, but my favorite:

In Honor of my Daddy

And another honorable mention:

God was in This Place. Did I Know It?

I thought maybe if you missed some of these you may want to check them out. As I was looking over my last year of blogging (it will be my anniversary on January 17th!), it has become apparent to me that I have neglected my writing. I have mainly just posted the podcasts of my sermons. For those who follow me, I apologize. I will endeavor to do better in 2009. This is not a resolution mind you, or it would be doomed to failure.

Blessings for 2009

How Far Have we Come?

Yesterday was the first day of 2009. My husband and I were talking about what we thought the year 2000 and beyond would look like when we were kids. I really felt sure we would have some amazing 'Jetson-like' technology. My husband did not feel that we would have that kind of advanced technology, but admitted to wondering what the 21st century would look like. Now here we are almost a whole decade into this millennia and we still wonder what it will look like.

For example, I felt certain in my youth that the more advanced we became in knowledge and technology, the more peaceful our world would be. Boy was I wrong! We have the U.S. involved in a war on two fronts, and the whole thing with Israel and Palestine, not to mention the unrest in Africa and South America. In fact, I think the only continent that does not have military conflict or is involved in military conflict is Antarctica. I would move there but I hate the cold, that I am a quite comfortable being in Oklahoma - good, bad or ugly. The really sad fact is that we have all the technology in the world to carry out research about our environment or climate, we can communicate and connect to one another in more ways that ever imagined in the 1970s, and we have information at our finger-tips like never before, but we still haven't figured out how to get along.

I was somewhat right about the technology. I remember watching the early versions of Star Trek (yes, I am a closet Trekkie, although I have been told that the appropriate term is Trekker), and was fascinated by their ability to read on things held in their hands, the amazing mount of information on the little hand-held computers, and the ability to communicate hands free. What do you know, we have all those avenues available, they just look a little different than when Spock and Kirk modeled them.

We have Kindles and Ebooks:

We have smartphones and PDAs:

We have these great little bluetooth headsets that enable us to talk as we walk around and go about our routine business: And we even have cell phones that flip open like Star Trek communicators.

But, do we have the really important stuff?

And if we do, do we appreciate it?

My suggestions? Glad you asked! Turn off an electronic device and have a conversation with your family. Take a drive with your spouse - just to see the scenery, not to rush to a destination. Play a board game with your children - you know, the old fashioned kind without a computer chip. Color in a coloring book, or paint a picture. Try to live without electronics, just long enough to remind yourself that you are a human.