Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Statistics on extreme poverty from atop my soapbox…..

I am not really an optimist…no big surprise to the people nearest and dearest to me.  I try to be.  I want to be.  Alas….not. Optimism is counter intuitive to me.  So this weekend….on the ride home from visiting my mom, I was challenged by a few quotes I read in a blog post on the Rebel God website.  (I was able to read on this trip because Keith came along.  It was nice having his company….and he drove!!!  Leaving me hands free to play with my new IPad on the trip there and back!!!)

The quotes…..

Consider these statistics cited by Dr. Scott Todd from Live58:

"We used to say that 40,000 children die each day from preventable causes. In the 1990s, that number dropped to 33,000 per day. By 2008, it dropped again to 24,000. Now it is down to 21,000. That means that in a generation we cut that number in half.

1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty today. That's a staggering amount, but let's put those numbers in perspective: In 1981 52% of the world lived in extreme poverty. Today it's 26%. Again, that means we have cut the number in half, and we did it in one generation."


As Scott Todd explains, there are many reasons for this unprecedented progress,

"Over 600 million people gained access to safe drinking water since 1990. This, along with an increased awareness of the nutrition in breast milk and the use of oral rehydration therapy, explain why water-borne diseases are no longer the leading cause of death for children under five. We are simply executing the practical strategies that work.
Vaccinations are another example of a practical, life-saving strategy. 733,000 children died of measles in 2000; but, that number dropped by 2008 to 164,000–a 78% reduction in only eight years. Simply using the vaccines that we’ve had for decades is saving hundreds of thousands of children every year."

Wow…and there are people who actually think we can end extreme poverty in our generation.  And there are lots of initiatives and programs and individuals working toward that goal. 

Another thing that struck me in the quote above was the dramatic drop in deaths due to measles… attributed to the vaccines we have readily available in this country. 

A soap box issue of mine…..those folks who refuse to vaccinate their children without a really good medical reason.  It’s only because of people like me….who chose to vaccinate our children in spite of the minimal risk….that they even have that option. If measles and diphtheria….pertussis…polio…. and the other diseases kids are routinely vaccinated against were rampant here in the States, they would not have that luxury.  Families like mine helped eradicate those diseases.  Families like theirs threaten to bring them back to life.

Many look on vaccinations as a plague…an evil forced upon the unsuspecting public by the big pharmaceutical companies.  Most of those 733,000 kids who died in 2000 didn’t have the option.  I choose to look upon the vaccines we have available as a privilege rather than an arbitrary harm forced on our kids.  And yes, I did the research before I vaccinated Matthew, my firstborn….with great trepidation and concern. I know there are risks.  I signed the consent forms that listed them in several pages of small print detail.  There ARE risks, I know that….but perhaps, in addition to protecting my own children from diseases that are, indeed, making a comeback in this country, I did it for the greater good? 

I digressed from the initial point of this post….but will leave it as is…hoping that I have not offended anyone who reads here.  This is one of those hot button topics.  At least for me it is.  Comments are, of course, welcome.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Benefit of the Doubt

I came upon a post recently…on Google Reader…a post about assuming positive intent.  The article focused mainly on how this concept applies to marriage and close relationships.  Not a new concept and goes by the alias of giving someone “the benefit of the doubt.” 

The gist of it…

If at all possible, assume positive intentions….even when the circumstances point toward a deliberate slight.  Obviously there has to be some “give your head a shake” common sense involved in assigning blame….or not.  if your partner/parent/child/friend slaps you….calls you names….lies to you….steals from you….positive intentions do not apply.  If they are late for dinner, forget your birthday, hurt your feelings…it does not necessarily mean they did these things on purpose….with negative intent.  

How do you figure out the difference?  Perhaps based on their normal behavior….their character….the history of the relationship.

Our human relationships can be a reflection of our spiritual relationship with God.  Do we assume positive intent on his part….when things are not going so great?  The buck does stop with him, after all. He has the ultimate say so…the final vote. And being omnipotent and all….he has the power to bring it to fruition.

 I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me? Jer 32:27

We can’t plead our case to a higher authority because…..well…there isn’t one. There is no such thing as going  “over his head.” No appeals process, no higher ranking official. 

Frustrating sometimes. Maddeningly so. 

annie posted a quote the other day on her FB page….

The reason the mass of men fear God and at bottom dislike him is because they rather distrust his heart...
~Herman Melville

Many times I’ve questioned his motives.  Many times I’ve distrusted his heart. 

But I’d like to suggest that we might do better to assume positive intentions on his part no matter what the circumstances look like.  To draw close….to “cleave” instead of “leave.”

He does declare his love and faithfulness throughout scripture.  Nowhere more clearly that in Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV

Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Sounds like positive intent to me…..

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pray to the “unknown chunk”

Yesterday as I was doing some of the chores that dog my weekends, I listened to two podcasts by my two buds....Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings.  Disclaimer....they aren't real life buds, although I have exchanged a few emails with Wayne. I feel like I actually know them simply because they let me (and everyone else) eavesdrop on their 45 minute(ish) conversations centered around their beliefs, their lives, their thoughts and their relationship with God.  It is sort of like sitting in a coffee shop...or a living room....listening to two guys shoot the breeze.

I've got to start taking notes when I listen to podcasts because things often catch my attention that would make a great subject for a blog post. Unfortunately, I often forget these ideas shortly after I hear them.  I intend to revisit already listened to podcasts....and have on the rarest of occasions.....but I know it's very unlikely. 

But I do remember one of the things Wayne talked about in the "Oh Wow!! Oh Wow!! Oh Wow!!" podcast….and it will be the subject of this meandering post. 

The title of the podcast alludes to the last words Steve Jobs spoke….as he was dying of a long bout with pancreatic cancer. During this life, he never claimed to be a Christian. (Although I'd be really interested to know what his perspective is now)  He was more into zen things...a Buddhist, if I'm not mistaken. His last remarks on this side of the veil certainly pique the curiosity.  He was either delusional (his family claims he was not) ....or he was hovering in that place I suspect we all inhabit when we are dying....one of those "thin places"....where this world and the next world overlap.

Wayne talked about a series he is watching on the Science Channel....Through the Wormhole, hosted by Morgan Freeman. It's a scientific show but it is not hostile to religion.  One of recent shows was about Black Matter....queue Twilight Zone music in your head....and even more alarming....Black Energy....turn up the volume of the music. 

What is black matter?

The more we peel away the layers of nature the more we realize that something is missing.  Something big.  An enormous chunk of the universe seems to be invisible. 

Scientists have termed this mysterious, unseen part of the universe "dark matter" and, despite years of research, they still understand relatively little about it.

….it seems likely that dark matter largely comprises "extraordinary matter," new forms of matter composed of new types of particles. Cosmologists hypothesize that dark matter may actually be made up of particles that were produced shortly after the big bang. Scientists have dubbed these subatomic particles WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). WIMPs may be part of a supersymmetry of particles — meaning each known particle has a "superpartner," such as axions and neutralinos, which many scientists point to as probable candidates for making up dark matter

Recent observations have led to the important conclusion that, while the Earth may be round, the universe is actually flat. But scientists estimate that dark matter makes up only about 23 percent of the mass necessary to produce a flat universe, leaving more than 70 percent of the necessary mass still unaccounted for. Today, NASA scientists hypothesize that 72 percent of the universe is composed of dark energy, a different substance that we know even less about. This substance exerts a negative pressure on the universe, causing it to expand at an accelerated rate.

Much remains unknown about dark matter and dark energy — two substances unlike anything previously recognized in our universe that nevertheless make up the vast majority of it. But new advances in technology used to detect dark matter, as well as particle accelerator experiments, will likely bring scientists closer not only to answering the question "What is the universe made of?" but also to actually understanding that answer.

And another take on the Black Matter by Mark Trodden

We look out at the universe, we measure large parts of it, and we try to weigh it, try to figure out how much of the energy in the universe is in different kinds of matter and particles. The amazing thing you find is that most of it is not in the kind of stuff you and I are made of, protons and things like that. It's in a kind of matter that doesn't shine, it doesn't give off radiation, you don't see it in your normal telescopes, it's made of particles, that's what we think from studying how it interacts, but it's a particle that we haven't found yet. So, dark matter is some sort of heavy particle, it's out there in the universe, it's the majority of massive matter in the universe, it's responsible for galaxies forming, and we're still trying to figure out what it is.

They ended the podcast with a short conversation about prayer…and praying without ceasing and keeping that “oh wow” wonder as we live our day to day lives.  Brad Cummings “encouraged people to have a good conversation with the unknown 95% of the universe”…the missing chunk….our Father who art in heaven…..God.