America in 50 Years?

June 30, 2061

I am dreaming.  It’s a cool 72 degrees in my bedroom, just the way I like it.  I will be a awake in a few seconds, but I am fighting it as usual.  The alarm clock has gone off twice already, but each time, I have given it my chosen command for snoozing, a swooshing of my hand just like the Jedi warriors from an old movie I saw as a kid.  I am in denial, but soon another work day will begin.

I am awake now, rubbing the sleep off my eyes.  The curtains have automatically opened, as I have previously set them on a timer for 6:30 AM.  They aren’t really curtains, but we still call them that.  They are really just a dark film on the windows that blocks out the light.  Promptly at 6:30 AM, the film dissolved, allowing the sunlight to shine through.  It is a bright sunny day, and I am starting to realize that today’s sunlight will be wasted since I will be stuck inside, on my computer all day as I assist my company stay afloat in a slumping economy.  However, with 30% unemployment, I count my blessing and don’t complain, lest the company find someone else to do my job.

I stumble into the shower, where 4 jets shoot water at me automatically as I step in.  I have no time to waste as the jets will only be on for another 3 minutes.  Water shortages have caused the city to require timed showers.  If I don’t finish my shower in 3 minutes, I will have to wait 30 minutes before any water will be authorized.  That would make me late.  Another 30 seconds for brushing my teeth, and one flush of the toilet and I am grabbing my freeze dried breakfast and rushing out the door.  I have to get to the bus stop before it leaves without me.  It happened to me twice this month already, and everyone knows what happens the third time.

The lack of affordable gasoline has driven most people to public transportation.  You would think in this day and age the country would have weaned itself off of oil and we would be flying around in electric cars.  Unfortunately, this is not so.  Electric cars simply never took off.  The cost of the cars never reduced to match their gasoline counterparts.  Then the cost of gasoline skyrocketed due to years and years of unrest in the Middle East.  Finally, an unwillingness of the American government to drill for oil at home caused most in America to abandon their cars for public transportation.  The government now builds and maintains buses.  Technically, it is General Motors but the company is fully nationalized due to its inability to stay afloat in the private sector.  Ford and Chrysler could not compete and closed their doors.

Once I arrive at work, I stop at the door in front of the building.  I am annoyed at having to stop for about 5 seconds while the retinal scan machine finishes its thing.  You would think by now they would have improved the system so it scans you as you are walking, allowing the door to open sooner.  How archaic.  These days there is no such thing as “punching a clock”.  Retinal scans have replaced everything with regards to record keeping.  About 30 years ago, citizen records were centralized, so that all records are now kept by the government.  It was deemed much more efficient this way, since now individual companies did not have to maintain their own servers, reducing their IT personnel.  All they need now is the computer equipment to run the retinal scanners and a connection to the government servers.  Since the government now produces most of the computer equipment, they also offer the equipment and maintenance at a lower cost, so companies jumped at the opportunity to save money in these hard times.  Of course, the money is instead coming out of our taxes.

The records system has been expanded over the years.  At first, they only kept employee records to simplify paycheck delivery, taxes, and social security benefits.  That allowed them to deliver them directly to employee bank accounts more efficiently.  The program was then extended to medical records, so that now no one needs to worry about making sure medical records are sent from doctor to doctor.  They are already there.  Today, the program is a part of our lives in every sector of society, from grocery stores, to restaurants and bars, to even our food and drink consumption at home.  Just recently I was mildly annoyed when my local bar cut me off after only one beer.  Apparently, the system knew I had enjoyed a beer at home, and two beers within 3 hours was my limit, given my height and weight, not to mention that my family history showed an incidence of fatty liver.  It is all for the best I suppose.

The work environment has not changed much over the years.  Well, of course, now our computers are much smarter.  They know how many keystrokes are necessary for a day’s work, and it politely warns you when your productivity is slipping.  If you fall too far below, it may lock you out.  This is no big deal.  All you have to do is notify your supervisor, who records the incident, then unlocks you.  A good employee learns how to mange it so it only happens a couple of times a month.  Oh sure, some people have been fired, and of course, they always complain that it was unfair, that it wasn’t their fault.  They are just whiners.  If everyone would just comply with the rules, life would be better for all of us.  Don’t they know that?

At the end of the week, we all get paid.  Instead of a paper check, we just get an email telling us we were paid, and then we can check our accounts online to see the amount.  The amount changes every week now.  When social security and medicare ran out due to government mismanagement, something had to be done.  Our poor and elderly had to be cared for somehow.  So now, a portion of our checks still go for these benefits, but it is no longer called Medicare and Social Security, and none of it goes to fund our own retirement.  The money now goes directly to the sick and poor of our society.

Essentially, it is a mandatory charity.  Social Security retirement benefits no longer exist.  Those who age in our society continue to work as best they can.  The only people who are eligible for benefits are those whose illnesses are on a list of approved illnesses, are over 70 years of age, and cannot work. They are housed in government run facilities that provide medical care and meals, although their families are also required to help pay the cost.  A portion of these funds also goes to government sponsored housing facilities for the poor, which provide temporary housing and meals.  The amount deducted from our salary changes each week depending on the needs of our specific community.  Sometimes the fluctuations can be significant.

While there have been many advances in society, it has brought about the need for adjustment.  Most can no longer purchase homes on their own, since a larger portion of salaries are going to the government to help those in need. Extended families now live together under one roof to save on expenses.  Tax is now a consumption tax, so the more we consume, the more tax we pay, and most of us ration our consumption to be able to keep more of our salaries.   The good thing is that obesity is now becoming a thing of the past.  A growing black market makes the streets a dangerous place, but since consumption is now discouraged, most people stay at home anyway, safe from the lawless in society who try to break the rules and avoid paying their taxes by buying homemade items on the street, rather than from government approved retailers.

Such is life in our times.  Occasionally, we hear the President on TV.  He usually tells us to stay calm, work hard, and soon we will see relief from our economic worries.  After all, the corrupt politicians from 50 years ago caused this mess, and it will take some time to crawl out of it.

All we need is a little patience.

Bloggers Note:

Do I believe this is really our future?  No not really.  But folks, we are dealing with some serious issues in our society.  This post above takes an extreme view of our future, but I do believe some of these things can happen if we don’t make the right decisions today.

I have hope that America’s best days are yet to come, but we all need to take some interest in what is going on in our country, and make some hard choices.

And dare I say, maybe we could pray a little more as well…

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The Power of Pride

High school football player Isayah Muller.

He just led his team to a championship win.

He is dead now.

He was killed in New York after his father discovered a bottle of cologne missing from their car after a graduation ceremony.  When he noticed the bottle missing, he turned the car around and confronted the parking attendants.  The argument became violent, his son got involved, and was stabbed as a result.

Now we have one less 19 year old in the world, victim of a senseless murder because his father couldn’t live without a bottle of cologne.

Tell me America, that we don’t need a little more God in our lives, and a little less pride and conceit.

Tell me we don’t need to get on our knees and ask God to intervene in our lives.

Wake up America and start realizing what is important, before we destroy ourselves.

“Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. ”
–Psalm 73:6

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
–Proverbs 8:13


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

Shame On You Miami

I don’t live in Miami, but I grew up in that city, and something very interesting happened there yesterday. Did you hear about it? Miami Dade County elected a new Mayor. Carlos Gimenez won the run-off election with 51% of the vote over Julio Robaina. This was after the voters ousted Carlos Alvarez in the largest recall of a local politician in US history. This would be pretty exciting times for Miami – except for one thing.

Only 16% of the county residents showed up to the polls.

Yup, 16%. That is how many people made the decision for the entire county as to who will lead it in the future. Pretty sad, don’t you think? Miami has been racked with corruption and fiscal nightmares over the last few years. We heard so many complaints about the previous Mayor, from raising property taxes. to giving out raises to his friends in the city while cutting back salaries for the rest of the employees. Carlos Alvarez was seen as the evil one, the one to blame for all of the ills of Dade County.

I beg to differ. The ones to blame for the ills of Miami are its residents, because of their complacency and resistance to taking action. The polls confirm it for me. We are seeing this not just in Miami. but across the US. Our economy is slumping. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Our families are being destroyed by serious moral and social issues. Yet when it comes time to change, when it comes time to get up off our feet and do something about it – we are silent. We would rather someone else do it, while we go about our routines. We are too busy to worry ourselves about our city, our families, the poor.

Why am I being so harsh?

Because I truly believe that the cause of many of our problems in America today is complacency. We all eat three meals. 91% of us have jobs. Even if we don’t have jobs, we have government assistance. No one in this country is denied life saving health care. The majority of us live a lifestyle that people in other countries cry out to obtain. We are among a small group of countries in the world that has a serious problem of too many people wanting to come in, rather than people wanting to leave. Yet, we are slowly starting to see that change, and when given opportunities to change our community and make it better, only 16% of us even show up.

I heard one time – and I am paraphrasing – that hungry bellies make horrible revolutionaries. I believe that is true. Mind you, I am not advocating a violent overthrow of our government. Far from it. But, please, America, wake up! Our way of life is not a given. There is no law that guarantees prosperity. By prosperity I am not just talking about money. We have some serious issues in this country. How can we solve the difficult issues we face, if we can’t even get up off our chairs to punch a ballot? I mean really, with early voting, you don’t even have to go anywhere. How easy can they make it for us?

We expect a great deal from our leaders. We put them on pedestals they have no right to be on, yet we criticize them at every wrong turn and every mistake. What right do we have to do that when it is our indifference and complacency that is putting them in those positions? Where are our future leaders going to come from anyway? They are going to come from those same complacent, indifferent children we are raising, that are learning from our example. What are we going to teach them? That a 16% turn out for a local election is acceptable?

Mark my words America. One day, our children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren are going to be required to do much more to save their country than what we are being asked to do right now. They may be asked to go to war. I dare say that if things don’t change, they may one day be forced to defend this country in ways we only see on the news in third world countries, as revolutionaries or freedom fighters. I certainly hope not. But regardless of what they will be called to do to help our country, it is your actions today that will shape our future leaders tomorrow.  Be an example to them by showing them how important the right to vote really is.

Get up off your chair, or one day, you may wake from your slumber to find the rights you have taken for granted no longer exist.

I Will Wait For You There, By Phil Wickham

I will wait for You there
Down on my knees where I met You
Give You all of my cares
Find a grace to hold onto now
I’m calling for You

I will wait for You there
far from the world and it’s violence
It left broken and bare
I need to hear You in the silence now
I’m calling for You

And with outstretched arms
I will sing out melodies
And my beating heart
Will pour out a symphony
Hallelujah’s in the morning
Hallelujah’s in the night
I will wait for you as long as I have life

I will wait for You there
Down On my knees where I met you
Cause life is a war fought with tears
But You are the strength I hold onto now
I’m calling for you

From jesusfreakhideout.com
“From the beginning, the song talks about how crazy the world is and how sometimes I get thrown in the midst of it. And by getting thrown in it, I ultimately become like it and hate seeing that as a result. This song is about getting back to that quiet place, coming back from the violence of the world. It’s about finding that secret, quiet place with the Lord where He can speak to you and you can worship without walls or obstruction.”
– Phil Wickham

Grace by Phil Wickham

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yD47xcT6iw

The sky is grey and the light is far
The sea is a rage within my heart
I turn my sight to the crashing waves
I cry in the night just to be saved

Cause I need eyes to be my guide
I need a voice that’s louder than mine
I need hope and I need You
Cause I can’t do this alone

Grace I call Your name
Oh won’t Your smile fall over me
I’m cracked and dry on hands and knees
Oh sweet grace rain down on me I need You grace

I pray for dawn a new day to live
I pray for mercy only Jesus gives
Though darkness falls and a million cry
I believe over all there’s a greater light shining for us

Wanna Go For a Ride?

“Hey, someone outside said he knows you from school.  He’s asking if you can come out.”

I had just come home from school.  I  was in the 9th grade, which in 80’s meant I was still in junior high school.  Later they would change the school system, and 9th graders would be moved to high school.  When I go outside, I see a kid on a dirt bike.

“Hey, what’s up man?”

It was Michael, a friend from school.  We were in a couple of classes together, and usually had lunch at the same time.  We had kind of become friends, and I had told him where I lived.  Turns out he lived only a couple of blocks away, so he came over on his dirt bike that afternoon.

“Hey, Mike.  You have a bike? Nice!”

I was intrigued.  I had been around dirt bikes and three wheel all-terrain vehicles before.  Miami back then had plenty of rural areas, and plenty of kids had them.  However, my parents didn’t let us ride them.  They considered them dangerous, and I was only 14, so they not going to be ok with me hopping on the back of Mike’s dirt bike.

“Wanna go for a ride?”

Yes of course I did.  Who wouldn’t.  I was 14, and what kid at that age wouldn’t love to ride a motorcycle.  I was conflicted.  I could probably ride with Mike for a couple of minutes without my mom knowing.  She was inside cleaning, and I would probably be back before she could figure it out.

But what if she did figure it out?  What if she told my dad?  Then I would be in big trouble.  I would probably be grounded for a while, and summer was coming up.  Was it worth it to get a chance to ride?  I thought about it for a few seconds.

“Sorry, man, my parents won’t let me.”

“Whatever, dude.  See ya.”

Off Mike rode into the sunset, the motorcycle kicking up dust into my face, as my chances of “cool-dom” rode off with it.  I felt like a total geek.  My parents are so dumb, I thought.  All the kids are doing it.  Why did my folks have to keep me tied up in this dungeon of a place, only letting me out for exercise one hour out of the day, feeding me scraps and dirty water as I worked the chain gang in the mines all day.  At least that is how I thought of my life at that moment – a prisoner.

I eventually got over my deep depression.  I had a decent summer that year.  I went to high school and graduated with a decent GPA.  After trying college and dropping out, I eventually went back, graduated, and today I consider myself lucky to have a career in a slumping economy.  Even though I have had my bumps along the way, my life has been relatively good.

Mike hit a car that summer and was thrown from his bike, landing on his head. He became the subject of controversy that year, helping to ignite a series of changes in Miami over a trauma center crisis in our city.  He suffered a serious head injury, but was denied treatment at the nearest hospital, which did not have a trauma center.  He died on his way to Jackson Memorial Hospital, the only trauma center available at the time.

I think about Mike every once in awhile.  He was a good kid.  He didn’t usually get into trouble.  His parents apparently allowed him to ride a dirt bike – without a helmet.  I had made a choice that day, using the free will God gave me.  It really could have gone either way.  I could have given in to my impulses and hopped on his bike.  Mind you, that day he came over to my house was not the day he died.  But who knows what could have happened if I had made the decision to ride that day?  Maybe it would have only been the first day I rode on the back of that dirt bike.  Maybe I would have been on the back of that bike the day he had his accident.  Who knows?

What is my point?

Well, a couple of things.  First of all, I thank my parents for raising me in such a way that I feared my consequences if I didn’t do what they told me to do.  They simply told me I was not to ride on motorcycles – period.  They didn’t spend much time telling me why.  They did not counsel me.  They did not advise me.  They said don’t do it or else I would be in trouble.  There is something to be said for parents exerting their authority on their children.  Your children don’t have to  understand everything in life, they simply need to trust that you are doing what is best for them.

The second point is more about faith.  I truly believe that God has a plan for every one of us.  My plan apparently involved living past 14.  I was put on this earth for a reason, and I hope to continue to fulfill God’s will for my life, until He calls me home.  As for Mike, apparently God only needed him on this earth for 14 years.  In that time, Mike helped to change our world for the better.  Miami finally realized the huge problem their health facilities had with regard to trauma centers, and today Miami does a much better job in that regard.  The dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet is very apparent today, even though some still ignore the dangers.  Back then, no one rode bicycles without helmets.  Today, I put one on every time I take my mountain bike around the block, and most people put one on when they ride their motorcycles.

God gave us free will.  We make our choices in life, and hopefully we make the right ones.  But while we make those choices, God will always guide our path.  In the end, He is the one in charge, and He will decide when it is time to come home.  Thankfully, God blessed me with parents who protected me and taught me – sometimes with great resistance – when to say no.  He worked on them, so that they could teach me to stay safe, so that I could fulfill God’s plan for my life.

My hope is that Michael Pollack is looking down on us, and is smiling every time he sees a 14 year old put on a helmet.

Ride on Mike…

Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day