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In the sea of life, some issues are black and white. Then you have the Waves of Gray.



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Things We Need To Do

by Jamie Neben

With the year barely underway, I began thinking about the state of the world in 2014, and things we need to do better if there’s to be any hope of progress.  When I say “we”, I mean our whole society.  This article may not specifically apply to you.  You may already might be out there doing great and amazing work, and if that’s the case, I applaud you tremendously.  However, I certainly have room for improvement, and hopefully this list will inspire myself and others like me. 

LET GO OF ANGER

Anyone familiar with the Star Wars universe knows that anger and hate create a path to the dark side.  While “The Force” was created for a fictional movie series, we don’t have to look hard in the real world to find people who have crossed over to their own personal dark sides.  Their lives are governed by bitterness and entrenched in negativity.  Humor is exchanged for cynicism, and despair replaces delight.  Sure, life can be stressful and downright cruel at times as we’re put into unwanted and undeserved situations, and I cannot fault those who have difficulty handling them.  I also concede that anger and even rage is appropriate in some instances.  But many carry hostility inside of them as a matter of principle rather than as the result of a particular ongoing crisis.

Our attitudes are important because they set the tone for how we treat one another, and can push or pull the mood a certain direction when there is disagreement.  Think about it in your own life.  Have you ever contacted a company about a billing mistake that made you furious, only to be calmed down by a pleasant-sounding representative who resolved the issue?   Maybe you’re the one with the soothing voice when others get upset.   But what if both of you lost your cool and the argument becomes escalated?  Now imagine that on a more widespread scale.  People across the world are hurting and killing each other because they cannot control their anger.  This must stop.

RESPECT OUR NEIGHBORS

The Golden Rule states that we should treat our neighbors as ourselves.  A large number of people don’t seem to adhere to that credo, and if they do, they must think rather poorly of themselves.  The disrespect human beings pay each other can be absolutely mind-numbing.  From belligerence to teachers in school to road rage on the freeway to random strangers being knocked out on the street, the rules are being rewritten and seem to favor just ourselves.  If there is collateral damage, so be it.

Displaying proper manners is always a good starting place for respecting our neighbors, but they go beyond how we act when someone’s around.  We need to be mindful of how we interact with the community at large.  Compassionate hearts have great potential to change lives for the better, and personal decisions can have far-reaching benefits.   Some examples might include doing our best to directly or indirectly assist the poor and sick, finding ways to expand educational opportunities, and supporting laws that underscore tolerance and equality.  At a minimum, we should try to halt the spread of the most damaging threats to humanity.   We need to call out racism, bigotry, bullying, and other social evils when we encounter them and send a clear message that they are not acceptable.   Without question, we need to do more to ensure that weapons are only sold to responsible citizens.  

In other words, when we act in a way that promotes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as long as it’s not at the expense of others), we give and earn respect. 

LEARN TO COMPROMISE

One more thing we need to do better is learn to work together.  This goes hand-in-hand with respecting our neighbors.  Every one of us is a politician for our own self-interests and that is hard-wired into our design.    Thank goodness, our own interests often coincide with the welfare of others to some degree or else our dog-eat-dog world would be even more ferocious. 

But as kind and generous as we’re capable of being, we can also be stubborn enough to stick to our agendas at great expense.   While trying to reach a goal, we often would prefer to concede nothing, and thus receive nothing, rather than give a little ground so that everyone gets something.  In other words, a loss is still a win.  Such tenacity might be admirable to a point, but the refusal to budge an inch in order to permit forward progress is hardly a virtue.  Willingness to negotiate has become a sign of weakness when it should be viewed as a pillar of strength.  Our figurative line in the sand needs to be as reasonable as it is firm.  The idea that to make a bargain with someone you disagree with is like making a deal with the devil is absurd. 

As the Rolling Stones told us in song, we can’t always get what we want.   Shouldn’t it be enough that we get what we need?    

STOP WASTING TIME

Finally, we must get moving on these things as soon as possible.  The world is already a mess and, judging by the nightly news, it just keeps getting worse.   

We need to establish and reinforce a global mindset that emphasizes peace over antagonism, and love over hate.  We should treat fellow human beings from a starting point of respect instead of contempt.  We must realize the power of forgiveness to set us free when we have been done wrong (it does not necessarily absolve the wrongdoer).   The overall adjustment may take time to register, but it’s not impossible.  Since negative thoughts and actions attract more of the same, the same can be said for positive energy.  If each one of us makes the choice to be positive, the ripple effect can be enormous.  And before you know it, the world will be a better place.

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Health Care: Jesus Didn't Heal Everybody

by A.C. Smith

As the government shutdown and debt ceiling debates have brought our nation’s business to a halt, one of the major sticking points during the negotiations was the delay and/or defunding of Obamacare.  While true Conservatives have always stressed that we should have the freedom to decide whether we want to purchase health-care insurance (and deal with the consequences if we choose not to), I hear liberals trying to argue that Jesus himself would not approve of any system that would allow those in need to go untreated.  They say that he never turned his back on people that needed help.

That’s false!

If you read the Bible, you’ll find that every time Jesus healed people, he healed them all because they all believed.  He never overrides someone else’s will.  If people wanted to believe something else and suffer because of it, they had the freedom to do so.  Jesus let them suffer and didn’t help them.

We can find much evidence of this in the Bible, such as the below examples in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”  Matthew 13:58

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”  Mark 6:5

Just like Liberals and Democrats, you can put miracles and the truth/facts right in front of them, but they have the right and freedom to believe or not to believe.  Jesus was amazed when he couldn’t heal all of the sickness because of their lack of faith.

It’s the same way now because America does not want to follow His instructions or the truth.  Many people today would not receive any more help than those who lived in Biblical times.  In the Old Testament, whole cities were wiped out because there was not a decent person living in them.  Why is it acceptable to be living in the same way now, when it was not acceptable then?

It’s not!

AC

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Lunchtime Gossip

by Jamie Neben

I recently joined a female friend for lunch, and during our conversation she casually observed how nice it was that we were both single.  Otherwise, getting together wouldn’t have been possible. Her statement confused me because I didn’t understand why an innocent meal between friends would suddenly be off limits if one of us was unavailable.  She informed me that, as Christians, we are not to put ourselves in situations that could lead to rumors and gossip. Essentially, that means any person in a committed relationship is not to be alone with someone of the opposite sex. No lunch dates, no business meetings, not even elevator rides, unless other people are present in each case.   She further noted that following this rule also prevents the onset of temptation and weakness.   

Although I was raised in the church, I was not aware of the particular spiritual policy my friend was feeding me. After we said our goodbyes and parted ways, I found myself wanting to dig deeper into this topic. More specifically, I wanted to find Biblical scripture that supports it. After all, I know of many passages that admonish us not to gossip. But how can we avoid being gossiped about? Eventually, I found the likely source in Ephesians 5:3:

“Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you.”

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President Obama or President Putin: Who Do You Trust More?

by A.C. Smith

After listening to the comments by those on the right, left, center, middle, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Conservatives, I've come to the concussion that some are ridiculously-wrong, part-right, mostly-wrong, and/or seemingly, outright-blinded by the light.

When putting things in perspective, President Putin's op-ed piece in the New York Times seemed to me to be a masterpiece when comparing it to the address that President Obama gave to the American people this past Tuesday evening.

Many comments that I've heard or read, deal with the mindset of the cold-war, so even if President Putin made a lot of sense, they can never accept or admit it as so.

It is amazing to me that many say that they were offended by President Putin's comments. 

Especially our President himself, who said far worse things, with less class than President Putin's op-ed piece in the New York Times can ever be.

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The George Zimmerman In All Of Us

by Jamie Neben

Only God and George Zimmerman know what actually happened that rainy night in Florida when 17 year old hoodie-wearing Trayvon Martin began walking through Zimmerman’s gated community.   Sure, we understand the basic sequence of events without all of the finer details. We’re aware of the 911 call, the confrontation and ensuing fight, and the bullet Zimmerman fired into Martin’s chest that ended the young man’s life.  However, we don’t know what Zimmerman thought in his mind and felt in his heart as he initially caught sight of the teenager and then got out of his car.  But one thing is crystal clear:  he made a value judgment. 

Zimmerman did not realize Martin was simply returning home from the store.  By his own admission, he saw somebody wandering aimlessly in the rain and figured the person must be on drugs and generally up to no good.  He categorized him as a punk, just like all the others that always get away.  We can debate whether his actions were overzealous, racially motivated, and perhaps criminal.  But the initial judgment is what ultimately led to everything that followed it.

In fairness, we cannot put all the blame squarely on George Zimmerman without first looking at ourselves.   After all, every one of us makes value judgments, and we make them several times a day. 

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Outside His Word: Homosexuality and The Bible

by A.C. Smith

The following is a response to a CNN editorial piece written by Rachel Held Evans concerning religious convictions and LGBT issues.

To put it in a nutshell, ANYTHING GOES!

She quotes, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean”.

This is what I'm talking about!

This way of thinking suggests that if you really believe you are doing the right thing, then you are!   You are now God! You make the rules!

People are ridiculously taking the Word of God and trashing it!

God has never changed and His Word stands true.

I guarantee that these people do not know what the Bible actually says about homosexual type of relationships.

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NAACP: Are We Advancing?

by A.C. Smith

Here is a message to the NAACP (formerly known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).   

Are we advancing if we are killing our children or slowing our population to grow?

Are we advancing if we are not putting our education in the forefront of the goals we have for our children?

Are we advancing if we do not put our major efforts into snuffing out the drug culture in our communities?

Are we advancing when we support political parties or the color of someone's skin over principles?

Are we advancing if we do not ensure that men stay in the households and are the leaders in our homes?

Are we advancing when we leave the example of selfishness for our children to follow?

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Connected

by Jamie Neben

In a world full of differences, the fact that we are so alike seems hard to believe.  We live in different places, have different faces, and speak different languages.  We pray to different gods and grow up with different life experiences.  Yet, the human condition binds us together and extends from the largest cities to the far corners of the earth.  Our emotions and feelings, although very personal, are not unique. We all know the pleasure of joy and the agony of pain.  We’ve all been brave in certain situations and afraid in others. We mourn our loved ones with equal grief in the wake of tragedy.  We have so much in common that it’s unexplainable why some people try their best to disrupt our lives rather than helping us to develop into a more connected state.

The intentional chaos that mankind creates is a veritable insult to humanity.  Everywhere you look, and especially on social media websites, meaningful discourse is interrupted by so-called trolls who spew inflammatory rhetoric for the sole purpose of agitating the other participants.  They often use religion and politics as their platforms, knowing those topics cause more division than anything else has in world history.  The most troubling aspect of this ugly reality is that the toxic venom doesn’t originate in a vacuum.  Our fellow human beings, perhaps some in our own communities, are posting these hateful words.  Chances are pretty good that we interact with them without even realizing it as we simply go about our daily business. The most startling realization is that they could be members of our own families.

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Droning On

by Jamie Neben

Although unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly referred to as drones, have been flying the friendly (and often not so friendly) skies for decades, they have suddenly found themselves as a hot topic of discussion.  The United States is hardly the only country that operates this type of aircraft, but our increasing use of drones to eliminate terrorists, which now apparently includes American citizens, and the rapidly growing presence of them here at home puts us in a political and ethical quagmire.

This is a slippery slope if there ever was one.  I believe that drones can be very beneficial under certain conditions as long as there is sufficient oversight and accountability.  But before we delve into the more controversial aspects that have been dominating the Sunday morning talk shows and Senate confirmation hearings, let’s see if we can agree on some positive applications.

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Second Thoughts: My Thoughts on Gun Control and the Second Amendment

by Jamie Neben

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution

It’s impossible to make sense of the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut because something so horrific is absolutely senseless.  But one thing we can do, and certainly need to do, is try to figure out where to go from here, and the sooner the better.  The conversation is sure to include topics such as mental illness, family values, and living in a culture that glamorizes violence.  But the very hostile elephant in the room is the topic of gun control.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms, so any perceived or real threat to that freedom makes many people understandably upset.  Occasionally, like as we’re witnessing now, we see a drastic spike in new weapon purchases based on the fear that guns will soon be severely restricted.  The fear is usually unfounded since the majority of those who want reform have not suggested that we go door-to-door and round up all the artillery, or even that we outlaw all future firearm sales.  On the other hand, a growing number of voices are calling for some kind of action.  They believe we cannot just stand by and do nothing at all.  Not anymore.  So we need a solution that preserves the second amendment but helps prevent future tragedies.

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Lose that Attitude (Be Positive)

by Jamie Neben

One of my primary desires in life, and the underlying reason why I co-founded Waves of Gray with A.C. Smith, is to make the world a better place.   As an idealist who believes that change is possible, I strive to spread positive energy in any possible capacity, whether it’s by way of a private exchange, or through mass communication such as a website article or radio interview.   Of course, I am hardly alone in that endeavor, and I’m sure we could all name several noteworthy individuals who have contributed untold resources to the cause of improving the lives of other people.  But along with the recognition and gratitude, I have to wonder about the degree of resistance each person experiences while seeking to make a difference.

The reason I mention it is because my good vibrations are often met with cynicism, if not outright contempt.   Those who will even admit that my mission is laudable are prone to ask me why I bother.  I’ve been told that peace is not achievable on a community scale, let alone a global one.  From their perspective, the mere thought that I might make a sizable impact is compared to living in a fool’s paradise.  Some who are less enthusiastic demand to know why they should be nice to others when nobody treats them in kind.  Then you have those who take satisfaction from misfortune.

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Compromising Situation

by AC Smith and Jamie Neben

In today’s political climate, our representatives on either side of the aisle are finding less common ground than ever before, and have an even less desire to move toward it.  Compromise may as well be a dirty word.  With further debt ceiling talks looming large, concessions must likely be made by all.  Here is how each of us feels about compromise.

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No Room for Doubt...Or Is There?

by Jamie Neben and AC Smith

Jamie says:

During our recent guest appearance on the Jesse Peterson radio program, a question arose as to whether having doubt in matters of faith is considered to be a sin.  I replied in the negative because we are all certain to be tested at various times, and periods of doubt are not only quite normal, but they are healthy too since we ultimately become stronger believers once we overcome that doubt.  AC Smith quickly found the following biblical passage in an effort to set me straight:

“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”(Romans 14:23)

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