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A Call for Optimism

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing the gloom and doom news about the economy and our future. While I try to minimize my exposure to negativity, sometimes it is hard to keep smiling and pursue optimism.

My efforts to do so was emboldened by an article I received years ago by Eileen McDargh. It is titled: Today’s Economy Demands A Critical Skill: Optimism.

Don't let the news media color your world or your outlook on life. Click To Tweet

Please check out the entire article, but some of her key recommendations, with which I heartily concur, are:

  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Reframe the event so that you are not a victim.
  • Cultivate optimistic responses.
  • Refuse to watch or read anything that puts a dark pall over your day.
  • Refuse to participate in a chorus of negative conversations.

Don’t let the news media color your world or your outlook on life. If we buy into their slant on the news, we merely serve to fulfill it. We can have the same concern with social media too.

As for me, I prefer to ignore the pundits and naysayers, envisioning instead a bright and promising future. There will be good days ahead and I’m doing all I can to realize them sooner instead of later.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Why Recycle When You Can Refuse?

Each week a free paper is delivered to our home. Each week I walk it from the paper-box to the trash can. When my dad was alive, he would recycle these papers, but with shorter hours at the recycling center and higher gas prices, I often wondered if his efforts were worth it.

Now the papers become instant garbage.

I’ve received this paper for years. I never wanted it, read it, or used it (except as a fire-starter or for those projects whose cleanup benefited from the liberal use of newspaper).

It may not be much, but if everyone does a little, it can really mean a lot. Click To Tweet

“Enough of this madness,” I said one day. Instead of feeling guilty about not recycling, I decided to skirt the issue by not receiving the paper in the first place. To be expedient, I removed the paper-box (and threw it away). Not to be deterred, the carrier merely put the paper in a different box.

Next, I called the publisher; to my surprise, they cheerfully “canceled” my subscription. Two weeks have gone by and no more paper. Refusing the paper is much easier than recycling it.

Encouraged by this, I next tackled all the free magazines I received that I don’t want or read. Most of them I never even requested; they just started showing up—and kept showing up.

Another area of refusal—that I’ve been doing for years—is bags for the merchandise I buy. It perplexes me that even when I buy only one item, it’s automatically bagged.

Checkers are shocked when I decline their bag or stunned when I remove my purchase from the bag, leaving it there for the next customer. I do the same thing with two or three items, though I don’t recommend more than six. I tried that once and the result wasn’t good. Sometimes you need a bag.

Refusing trumps recycling every time. It may not be much, but if everyone does a little, it can really mean a lot.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Carbon Credits

Am I the only one scratching my head over carbon credits? The whole idea of having environmentally “good” activity negate environmentally “bad” activity seems strange. Why not just focus on reducing or stopping environmentally harmful action?

Why not just focus on reducing or stopping environmentally harmful action? Click To Tweet

What if there were “water credits?” If someone dumps 100 gallons of polluted water into a river, would it be okay if they purify 100 gallons of water somewhere else? I don’t think so.

Or if they reclaim 200 gallons of water, can they “sell” a 100-gallon credit to a polluter who can then with a clear conscience dump 100 gallons of tainted water into a nearby lake? Again, no!

Of course, that scenario would make perfect sense to someone who ran a wastewater treatment plant. They could sell “water credits” to industrial polluters and get rich, the same way that sellers of carbon credits are lining their pockets. Isn’t that tainted money?

To me, carbon credits is sort of like saying that it’s all right to speed as long as someone else is driving slow. One person’s speeding is counteracted by another person’s willingness to dawdle, therefore their combined average velocity is lawful. 

The next time you’re stopped for being in too much of a hurry, try that argument with the police officer and see how far you get.

In the meantime, just drive the speed limit and be kind to our environment—it’s the only one we have!

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Are You Wealthy?

Are you wealthy? Your initial answer on “No” is probably the same as mine was, but I’ve since learned that I was wrong.

My eyes were recently opened to a new reality concerning my relative financial well-being in this global economy.

The website www.globalrichlist.com (which, unfortunately, may not be working anymore) shows how you rank. The site considers your annual income compared with that of the rest of the world. 

In this regard, you will find you are indeed quite well off. True, there will be quite a few people more wealthy than you, but many, many more who are paupers in comparison.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you might be interested to know that if you made 50,000 dollars last year, you would be in the top 1 percent of the world’s wealthiest people.

If you made a mere 3,000 dollars, you will still be in the top 15 percent worldwide.

If you made only 900 dollars a year, you would be in the top half.

This has certainly changed my perspective.

Perhaps its time to develop a new attitude. We need to stop comparing ourselves to that small minority who are better off than we—it will only make us crave more.

Instead, we should compare ourselves to a huge majority that are in greater need than us—it will surely make us want to give more.

By giving more, I can make a difference; you can make a difference. We can all make a difference.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Economic Stimulus

In the 80s, Ronald Reagan responded to bad economic times with a tax cut.  Dubbed “trickle down economics,” it masterfully did the trick, with the economy smartly rebounding, ushering in a period of prolonged economic prosperity.

An alternate strategy for economic recovery is for the government to spend its way out of it—even if it means massive deficit spending.  Of course, part two of the theory is that once good times return, the budget needs to be balanced and the deficit eliminated. (Like that’s going to happen.) 

However, the Obama administration does seem to have the first part down, but for it to work quickly, the money needs to be spent quickly. Funding projects that will take several years to complete, no matter how worthy, will not fuel a turnaround now. Strike one.

Additionally, much of the spending seems to be earmarked, aimed at pork-barrel projects, intended more to help an incumbent be re-elected than to help the country prosper—or grow the economy. Foul tip; strike two.

With this in mind, imagine my shock and dismay last week, when the governor of Michigan (which leads the nation in unemployment, with one out of every nine workers unemployed) announced that she was going to save much of the funds allocated to Michigan—because we might need them even more in the future then we do now. 

How will that stimulate anything? Swing and a miss. Strike three.

I am seeing early signs that things are beginning to turnaround, but the stimulus plan doesn’t deserve the credit—it struck out.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go

The recent issue of Sojourners magazine cited some sobering facts about the state of the prison system in the US:

  • 7.4 million people were under the control of the US criminal justice system in 2007. I’m not exactly sure what is meant by “under control,” but that is over 2 percent of the population, which is shocking.
  • 67 percent of people released from prison are re-arrested within three years. So, the number of repeat offenders in prison is substantial. The question is, how much does incarceration contribute to recidivism? More to the point, would crime decrease if we could keep first-time offenders out of prison? The environment has to be another factor, and in most cases, a released prisoner returns to the same environment; that doesn’t help. Economics would be another factor; see the next point.
  • 83.5 percent of the people in jail (in 2002) earned less than 2,000 dollars a month prior to being arrested. Certainly, economic pressure is a factor in the commission of crimes. Interestingly, a 2,000 dollars month threshold is quite a bit more than the poverty level, which the US Census Bureau put at 9,183 dollars a year for a single person in 2002. Two thousand a month roughly equates to an hourly wage of 12.50 dollars, quite a bit higher than the current minimum wage. This all suggests that viable employment, at an appropriate wage, is part of the solution to lower crime and incarceration.

(The title of this post comes from the game of Monopoly and was chosen merely to be catchy and provoking. Interestingly, Go Directly to Jail is also the title of a book on this subject. I haven’t read it, but it may be worth checking out. The product description on Amazon is most promising, but the reader reviews suggest that it digresses from that tack. Caveat emptor.)

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.