Where are we going, America?

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.  Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:1-9 (NRSV)

We are in the throes of an extremely contentious election cycle in both some local races, as well as the big national campaign.  In some cases, I’ve noticed that family members are turning upon each other based on tightly held political beliefs.  The denominational bodies of churches are lining up on various sides of issues and within various camps, as are other notable bodies of influence, and yet we still can’t seem to work our republican democracy into something of which we can be proud.

This is nothing new.  Consider our passage from the Old Testament with which I opened these thoughts.  We have a government that has become more about serving those in power as they turn aside after getting what they want, they accept bribes, and “justice” is not necessarily just, so the people complain and they ask for something new.  Granted, the prophet is not excited about the prospect of the people asking for something new, but God does something truly noteworthy: God tells the prophet to give the people what they want (an unexpectedly democratic move), BUT the people should be warned about those who would rule over them and have their motives, personalities, and practices exposed to the people so the people know for certain what they are getting.

While on my summer travels this year, I saw the headline published by Kyle Smith in the New York Post: campaign-sign“Americans are about to get the first landslide president we don’t want.” (August 20, 2016)  As soon as I saw it, I had to ask myself how we, as a nation, got to this place and time in history and then it dawned on me: we demanded something new because we don’t know how to fix what is wrong, and we didn’t pay attention to the prophets who exposed the “ways of the [leader] who would rule over them.”  Americans were entranced by jingoisms (a word I learned in grade school American History and again in high school Civics, but seems to have no meaning to those under 40), and fiery rhetoric based only upon demographic stereotypes and having little to do with actual facts.

We have been given four candidates for president, only two receive any media coverage (known in the industry as “spin”), and so, for the first time in decades, the nation is becoming extremely polarized on the political spectrum.

What this means for those of us who claim the title Christian (and who actually want to live as Christians) is that we must listen to the words of the prophet Samuel from about 3,000 years ago: learn about the people who we would put in place as our leader, discover if they actually support and live by what they say.  Once you find somebody who appears to live by the ideals s/he espouses, then cast your vote – don’t be like the Israelites of Samuel’s time and simply demand a leader who makes them feel good, while delivering the status quo in fancy wrapping.

Pay attention to the wisdom given us by God and vote.  Vote for the person who most closely reflects your conscience, your personality, your desires for life.  Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into voting for somebody you cannot support in your heart because you’ve been told you are wasting your vote when you favor somebody different.  Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority.  We have government by the majority of those who participate.”  If you are willing to stand-by and let others make the decisions, then also remember the words of 1 Samuel 8:18 “and in that day you will cry out because of your [leader], whom you have chosen for yourselves.” (NRSV)

May we all enjoy the wisdom of God and pay attention to the warnings and signs around us.

Posted in Spirituality Tagged with: , , , , ,

Your response is your choice

When actions like the recent terror attack in Orlando happen, we begin to fracture a bit: both as individuals and as a nation.  We divide because we become afraid; afraid of the “other,” the “outsider,” the one who is “different.”  This division shows both in choice of targets, as well as the reaction to those who would carry out such a base, evil activity.

It is so easy to give in to our base instincts, to be the Jonah who ran the other way when the Lord laid a conviction upon his heart.  It is so easy to blame the victim once again: Well, if he/she/they did/didn’t this or that….  But we know deep down, no matter what your religious conviction is, that God gave life and Jesus reserved judgment to God; it is not up to us to determine who is damned for all time and to carry out a death sentence.  Which sin is greater: to live in a way that another person finds abhorrent (generally outlined in the Bible) or to pass judgment on another person (specifically outlined in the Bible)?rainbow cross

Come together, find a faith community, pray for peace.  In no way does asking for peace undermine your commitment to God, but it affirms your love of your neighbor.
Don’t give in to hate – LOVE WINS!

Posted in Community, Spirituality

Fun with APRS

There are a lot of ham radio operators who are starting to become involved in the APRS community.  I suspect this has to do with the fact that equipment is now available ready made from the manufacturers and it has become fairly inexpensive.

The least expensive (and most prolific) of these units is the AP510/AVRT5 (same unit, different label) and it can be a pain to set-up.  The most common problem is lack of information on how to program the units.  The next most common problem is the fact that many times drivers are missing for the programming software because it is written on old technology.

PLEASE NOTE: the below instructions have to do with loading system drivers and editing your registry on a Windows machine.  If you decide to do this, it is at your own risk and I assume no liability for anything that YOU decide to do to your own machine.

If you are looking for a community with tons of experience on these units, check out the Yahoo group.  For those who need particular drivers, here are clean copies of all of them (if any of them show as not clean when you download, please let me know and I will remove it immediately):

COMDLG32.OCX

MSCOMCTL.OCX

MSCOMM32.OCX

MSSTDFMT.DLL

msvbvm60.dll

Once the file you want is downloaded to your machine, place (cut and paste) it in the correct system folder for 32 bit OS (C > Windows > System32) or 64 bit OS (C > Windows > SysWOW64).  Once there, you will have to register the install by opening a command window (please Google for yourself how do to it on your particular operating system) and typing the following commands, based upon 32 or 64 bit OS (fill in <filename>.<extension> with the actual file name and extension, such as MSCOMCTL.OCX):

32 bit – regsvr32 C\Windows\System32\<filename>.<extension>

64 bit – regsvr32 C\Windows\SysWOW64\<filename>.<extension>

Once this is done, you may need to restart your machine.

I hope this helps.

Posted in Radio Ramblings Tagged with: , , ,

Good Friday Reflection

I was asked to assist the Spencerport Ecumenical Ministries in reflecting on the seven last words of Christ as part of the joint Good Friday Service.  Below is what I shared:

sevenlastwords-7

 

In his final words, Jesus points us back into the Old Testament, the 31st  Psalm, both for teaching and for comfort.  While Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” the Psalmist continues, “You have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God… I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love… you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.”

When we consider the fact that we are here in this place at this time, because Jesus was hung from a cross at the hands of his enemies, the question must arise as to why the last words are quoting a psalm of praise for deliverance.

By using this particular phrase, we are reminded that Jesus knew the scriptures and that he was fulfilling what had been written.  In a simple phrase, he not only proclaimed his faith in God as father, his “dad” if you will, but his faith that beyond this horrific event called crucifixion there is delivery from evil and exoneration of the righteous.

In all our humanity, who has never suffered periods of doubt?  Many have been the times when I have not thought that I have been someplace where the ground is wide, flat, and easy to walk.  Instead, I tend to focus on the brambles in my path, the rocks on the road, the words of others, and even on political decisions with which I may not agree.  I would venture to say that each of us understands these feelings.

While I like to think I can find a place of sympathy with Jesus, as he hung dying, I truly wonder if any of us can.  I am certain that, out of a certain fear of death, nearly all of us have toyed with the idea of immortality.  Regardless of how selfless we might be, I think that each and every one of us has a certain amount of self-preservation programmed into us.  Combined with our doubt, self-preservation would fight against impending death, would argue for our worthiness, and would find someone or something to blame for what was happening to us.

Jesus, in his last moment does not fight, argue, or blame.  Instead, he sings a song of praise to his creator.  He tells us he has been taken through the pain into a place where the paths are wide and level, into a place where those who speak against him have fallen silent, into a place of pure love.  When we focus only on the death of Christ as a human being, we miss the bigger picture.

It is often much easier to recognize the problem in front of us, than the fact that each and every one of us is a miracle.  This was the final gift of the man on the cross – giving us a way to wipe away fear, to wipe away anger, to wipe away grief, and focus on the glories of life, everlasting, in union with the Lord, God, Almighty.

Posted in Spirituality

A View from Great Height

Tonight, I attended a dinner and talk at First Congregational Church, Spencerport, NY, with a keynote speaker who is an amabassador of the Sikh community in New York State.  While I have been familiarRalph Singh with Sikhism for many years, tonight I observed something very interesting.  A man with a turban was talking to a group of well educated Christians and I saw their attitudes change as they listened to what was said.  This man, born in the USA, has the ability to connect with people from various backgrounds and differing traditions in a way that makes you feel that he has been your friend for years and understands your tradition and background as though he had lived it himself.  The amazing part was that I watched faces, hardened with a distrust of those wearing turbans, soften as ideas were shared and as each individual recognized that what was being said was little different than what they themselves had been taught and were hearing as part of their walk with Jesus.

A bridge was built.

Ralph Singh is the father of a good friend of mine and was gracious enough to share his story and provide some insight as to how we can live life in the light of God, regardless of who we are or where we are.

Perhaps one of the most challenging questions he posed was: Do you want everybody to be a Christian, or do you want everybody to be Christ like?  I say this question is challenging because, although we all claim a single catholic and apostolic church, some Christians cannot accept other Christians as believers.  Therefore, some Christians may answer that question with the fundemental understanding of the Great Commission and demand that all people be Christians (regardless of how they act), because Jesus said to go into all parts of the world and make disciples of all people (of course, they would also argue with me that the scripture actually says to make disciples of all men).  What Jesus brought to us in his living ministry was a manner of life together that defines community.  When we look at the definitions of community in each of the major faith practices, the directives are, essentially, the same: love God, care for you neighbor, don’t take what isn’t yours, share when you are able to do so, don’t murder.  With these as our guides, how is it that we argue and kill over the manner in which we celebrate and live these commands?  Jesus gave us a way of life and by living that way, we become disciples.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everybody was Christ like?

Ralph, you are a better Christian than some folks I know who have claimed that title.

The Truth is eternal.

Posted in Spirituality Tagged with: , , , , ,

Baojie BJ-9900

A bit back, I was involved in local ham radio club (Community Amateur Radio Club) and we were gearing up for the annual simulated emergency test (SET).  This required me to set up a 70cm base station – rather difficult when I had no 70cm transceiver to use.  So, rather than dig the dual-band out of the car, I made an investment and bought a Baojie BJ-9900.

At about $250 and including a programming cable/software, I thought this was a great deal.  I won’t opine as to if it was or not, but I will share that is has been a “learning experience.”

The radio itself seems to be what would be expected of a Chinese knock-off of a quality product.  In this case, I think it was a Yeasu they were copying.  It is lightweight, has a clumsy feeling to it, and actually feels to me like a toy.  That said, it also seems to transmit well and I can hear other operators, so it does what I bought it to do.

For those who are considering purchasing one, let me say that programming it is a bit of a bear.  The supplied software (download from Baojie) will not work with a Win7 or Win8 computer.  So, I had to find a workaround to get things set up to allow my computer to see the radio.  Amazing – it worked and now the computer could see the radio, well, at least that’s what it said.  I asked the software to read the radio and it said, “Read Success,” yet nothing appeared (and the guy from whom I had bought the radio did have some memories programmed).  Next was to try and program it myself.  When I went to write my settings to the radio, I received, “OFF is not a valid int.”  I poked and prodded that database, and could come up with no solution.  Amazingly enough, I couldn’t find anything in the search engines either.  I programmed it by hand and have since discovered that when you save a memory, during use, you can’t adjust the power level of that memory – you actually have to go to the VFO, adjust the settings and re-save the memory.

The long and short of this is: I won’t get another (I’ll stay with my Icoms, thanks), but it may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Posted in Radio Ramblings Tagged with: , , ,

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