Unanswered Prayers

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s true that God works in mysterious ways. In 2012 I really started to take this whole “being a Christian thing” seriously. I bought a prayer/devotional journal and read the entire bible that year. Every day, I would earnestly petition God for things I was sure he wanted. “God, will you help my family come to know you.” “God, I know some of the most hardworking, responsible people that could really use some help to find a good job.” “God, can you bless me and family with __________.” Don’t think I’m perfect, by any means or even, particularly a “good Christian” by traditional standards. I have my struggles just like anyone else.

Here’s the weird thing. Last week, God answered my most self-severing prayers. Don’t get me wrong I was ecstatic. I am beyond thankful, giving God all the glory in helping me out. But, what about the unanswered prayers? Surely, those were the good prayers. The ones after God’s heart. God just wants a relationship with people. I didn’t just say a prayer and go on with my day. I’ve been actively trying to reach my family for Christ for three years, as opposed to passively evangelizing. I’ve also been actively involved in some people’s job searches, yet still nothing.

So why does God pick and choose what he responds to? I was praying about this the other day and it seems that (believe it or not) God has his own time tables that things work by. It’s his plan. I suppose this is for the best because if it were my plan we’d have every hope of eating a gourmet, healthy home cooked meal, and somehow end up with a Hot and Ready from Little Creaser’s Pizza. So, in a way, I’m glad it’s not my plan. But it is still thoroughly frustrating when God says “not now.” It’s true that God isn’t fair but he is just. Whatever you are praying for don’t lose hope. Everything happens in God’s time. He rarely flat out says no to something in his will, but the answer may come in an unexpected way.

Understanding the SCOTUS Marriage Ruling

gay marriageThe Supreme Court ruled yesterday that all 50 states must now recognize same sex marriages. Many religious organizations are out raged. Some religious people see this as a loss for their side. I don’t want to debate the morality of these unions. My personal believe is that a sin is a sin. Mankind is naturally sinful and everyone struggles with their own sins on a day to day basis. No one is good enough to get to heaven on their own.

As my church points out “it’s easy to hate people that sin differently than you.” There is a long list of sins mentioned throughout the bible. The cardinal sins are: wrath (quick to anger), greed (love of money), sloth (laziness), arrogance (pride), lust (sexual sins), coveting (envy), and gluttony (over eating). My personal belief is that if a person watches pornography they are in as much danger of hell as a homosexual because, both actions are a display of lust. Yet, Christians tend to only forgive the prior while condemning the latter. I’m not perfect, and I won’t claim to be sin free. I have struggles just like everyone else.

The ruling on same sex marriage came down to upholding the 14th amendment which states that all citizens deserve equal protection under the law. Before this law was passed, states decided if they would recognize same sex unions. Being married offers benefits and protection under the law. For instance, you have to be married in Arizona to be on the same health insurance. Married people are allowed tax deductions. Also, car insurance companies provide a discount to married couples. Prior to passing this law, if the state didn’t recognize your marriage, spouses had no legal rights to inheritance, child custody, or assumed advanced directives. This law allows legal protection to all couples. If people want to get upset over the sanctity of marriage they should be outraged over all of the straight couples that abuse their privilege to marry. Many celebrities have married for publicity and quickly divorced.  The most famous example is Kim Kardashian, married 72 days. I’m more threatened by her views and practices than I ever would be from a loving homosexual couple. Even the Pope states that, we have no right to judge the sins of another. Yesterday was a historic day in this country and I believe the ruling was a civil rights issue, not a religious one.

SCOTUScare

supreme courtToday marks a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States: the affordable care act is now here to stay. Health care is a cause dear to my heart. My father has suffered through the process ever since I was 15 and he had open heart surgery. He struggled through all the discrimination and black listing from insurance companies under the protection of their term “un-insurable.”

I will never forget the days before the affordable care act. If you bared the title “un-insurable” your insurance company would hike up premiums beyond the reach of most people. At one time my father was paying $2,000 a month ($24,000 a year) for major medical which didn’t cover routine or preventative care, no prescription coverage, and life time caps on medical care costs.

Like most democrats, I believe in the public option. I hate listening to conservatives describe the affordable care act as a government take over of health care. Most developed countries countries have socialized medicine and the people enjoy the benefits. My husband and I have a friend in Alberta, Canada and she wouldn’t trade her coverage for the American system for anything.

The system we have in place is a purely capitalist system. The law opened up competition in the market and insurers  can no longer cherry pick healthy customers only to drop them when they get sick. Car insurance companies are only allowed a 1% profit margin between what they collect and what they pay out. Under the new law, health insurance companies are now allowed to make up to a %15 profit margin. As a licensed life and health insurance agent I can speak from experience how disgusting the industry was in the dark days before insurance reform. Agents’ bonuses were calculated based on their premium versus expense per account. If the profit margins weren’t high enough, agents were reprimanded and advised by underwriters to drop the customer immediately. The affordable care act protects the people’s interest and subsidizes their costs.

And by the way, the following statement makes no sense:

We need to fix the VA healthcare system… and get rid of Obamacare. Socialized medicine is a horrible idea… but we need to fix the VA system.

For those of you who are not aware, the VA system (as well as TriCare for active and retired Armed Forces) is the very definition of socialized medicine! Retired personnel pay a small monthly premium (usually in the neighborhood of $30/month) and have ZERO out-of-pocket expenses for military care that they receive either at the VA hospital or on a military base. Luke Air Force Base in Arizona has a two pharmacies, and they dispense medicine to military men and women and their families without charging them a co-pay. Even off-base treatment usually only carries a $25 co-pay. I know, your grandmother is probably on TriCare and still hates the idea of socialized medicine… but have you told her how much your monthly premium is? Oh yeah, and your other grandmother; the one on MediCare? That’s socialized medicine, too!

Beauty

eye sketchWhat is beauty? I would argue that beauty can be seen in the complexity of life. Even in our darkest hour we see humanity through tragedy. On good days, as well as bad, life is beautiful. We hear it in a long distance phone call to our parents. We feel it in the tight embrace from a loved one. We see it as we watch a child discover the world for the first time. Beauty is every where. It’s all around us, constantly surrounding us, just waiting to be explored. You can explore many beautiful places just by reading a book. You meet the characters and are swept away to a world that once only existed in the mind of another person. To me there isn’t anything quite like losing yourself in the pages of a novel, (reading or writing.)

It may sound weird but aging is the ultimate display of beauty. I cherish every fine line around my eyes because I count each birthday as a gift from God, allowing me to live another year in this beautiful world. Many people spend money on creams and treatments to break the spell of aging and yet they don’t realize what a blessing it is to grow old.

With every day I live, I get to experience something new. My husband and I work tirelessly to make our dreams a reality. It’s challenging at times, we all long for the perfect work/life balance. I count it as a privilege to have him by my side as we experience the world together. Some day, I hope to have children. Maybe it’s the nostalgia taking over but it’s an experience I would like to have. Life is just a long lists of experiences that mold a person. With every laugh, as well as every tear, people are becoming who they will be, and that alone is beauty.

Ideas are Bulletproof

Afghanistanflagimage1I was watching Vice on HBO last week. They covered a story about the war in Afghanistan. Even though America has had a presence there since the 2000’s their military is not equipped to handle their own security. Afghanistan has been fighting Islamic extremism for over a decade. Most of their forces are militia style troops. Their is very little police and military forces patrolling the most dangerous areas. Americans think that we can fight terrorists with drones and arming the right side (which ever side that is today.) The truth of the matter is the only way to win the war on terror is through infrastructure. The Afghan people need roads, clean drinking water, a stable power grid, and schools. People need a job to go to and a place to call their own. When people lack these basic resources, crime seems like the answer to meeting basic human needs.

The American strategy has long been to target key leaders within these terrorist organizations. The only problem is that when you kill one, three more take his place. The American strategy of torture has done nothing more than enrage normal everyday people in the middle east and turn them into terrorists. When drones strike a village and inadvertently kill school children we ourselves create the next wave of terrorists.

American presence in the middle east has had dire consequences. During the Golf War in the early 90’s America armed and trained Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to fight Russian interests in the middle east. Fast forward to September 11, 2001 and he orchestrates the attack on the twin towers. Seal Team 6 may have killed but it has done nothing to stop terrorist efforts in the middle east. Terrorism is an idea, and ideas are bullet proof.

The NRA’s Fallacy in Response to Charelston

charlestonThe NRA isn’t exactly known for tact. They always respond to mass shootings with the same rhetoric stating “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun” -Wayne La Pierr, 2013.  Sen. Clementa Pinckney was the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was part of the state House of Representatives. He voted against a bill that would have allowed people to carry guns in schools and churches. Charles Cotton, an NRA board member, said this about Pastor Pinckney and the the shooting, as reported by the Washington Post:

 “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

The NRA has long held romantic ideas about guns and gun ownership. They believe that everyone who is strapped possesses John Wayne, maverick skills with a firearm. These ideas are dominant in television, movies, and video games. People think that they, too, could save the day just like Vin Diesel, John Cena, or Dwayne Johnson. The reality is when you are in an active shooter situation, things don’t play out like they do in the movies. I’ve seen people get shot over $3. I watched an innocent man panic and discharge a 9 mm into a crowd of screaming, running teenagers.

The second amendment says that we have the right to bear arms and maintain a militia. It says arms, not AK47’s. There is a big distinction between the two. I’m not saying we should ban guns, or take them away from responsible citizens. There’s a problem when the Virginia Tech shooter, with a history of mental illness, can buy a semi-automatic assault weapon in a drive through, no questions asked. It’s crazy that it’s easier to own a gun than it is to own a car, what with getting and maintaining a license, and purchasing insurance. My comments will probably fall on deaf ears, but it’s time this country had a serious conversation about gun control laws.

Marketing to Millennials

hipster picMillennials don’t buy products, we buy ideas and identities. Look at Nike, their infamous saying is “just do it.” Their pitch has nothing to do with quality, comfort, or even athletic performance. Nike sells an identity. This identity was so ingrained and sought after by millennials that Macklemore wrote an entire song about the consumerism culture surrounding their products.

Another product that has a great millennial marketing campaign is HTC. I’ll never forget when I first saw their commercials “don’t get a phone, get a phone that gets you.” It was the best SEOcopy (search engine optimization for non tech nerds)marketing pitch I’ve ever seen. People shared the commercials and liked their page. Their facebook page alone has 5 million likes, in part because of their effective campaign.

Even the USMC (United States Marine Corp) pulled out the big guns to market to our generations with their “pain is weakness leaving the body” tee shirt sold at Sears. If you walk into a gym in any town, chances are you will see this slogan on at least one millennial’s tee shirt. It’s an idea any athlete or health enthusiastic can identify with. What better recruiting tactic can you have than to appeal to athletes across the board?

Traditional companies are going to have to step up their game if they want to sell to millennials. Business will be seeking professionals, like me, who write SEOcopy to take a marketing campaign to a viral post seen round the world. It’s the only way to reach this tech savvy generation.

What millennials want from their jobs

Antique_mechanical_clockBusinesses are at a loss trying to hire and retain the millennial workforce. Past generations were easier to figure out. Baby Boomers were loyal beyond fault. Many of our parents and grandparents worked for a company for 20-30 years then, retired with a pension and a gold watch. Genxers were motivated by money. Give them base pay, plus a commission check with 401K matching and they’ll stay at a job until something better comes around. But millennials want something more from their jobs. They want a job with a sense of fulfillment that provides happiness. Millennials are less likely to be motivated by money than genxers, and less loyal to corporations, like the boomers were.

So why does this generation want something prior generations didn’t need? Millennials are more civic minded. We care about the communities we live in and are more likely to work for organizations like: Teach for America, the Peace Corps, and local non-profits, than a traditional nine to five. We want to take pride in our work and feel like we’re doing something with our lives that matter. Most millennials would take a pay cut if it meant less stress, more down time, and a relaxed work place culture.

Millennials are less attracted to traditional jobs like: banking, insurance, and skilled labor. Some say that, we are the better educated than prior generations, with College attendance at a peak. With this comes mounting student loan debt (something prior generations did not experience). A lot of us take jobs simply to pay for our student loan debts but pursue side businesses and hobbies that have our hearts.

Businesses will have to rethink their strategies to keep and retain this generation of workers. Some insurance companies in Phoenix, Arizona offer perks like: a relaxation room, game room with X-Box, and generous paid time off in hopes of obtaining and retaining millennials. It will be interesting to see if other corporations adopt the “google culture” for their businesses, as well. It may be the only way to attract our emerging work force.

3 things you can do to be happier now

familyHappiness: we all want it. It is probably the most sought after emotion in our culture. Short of quitting your job, moving to Colorado, and becoming a professional pot  connoisseur, there are little changes you can make.  Below are 3 things you can start doing right now to achieve happiness:

1. Put down your phone

We all do it. We’re texting at a red light, updating our status in a movie, and instagraming everything we eat. We’re so obsessed with over sharing that sometimes we just forget to live in the moment. My aw-ha moment was just the other night. I was talking to my husband and reading articles on twitter. Harmless right? Wrong. There is nothing more disrespectful than mulitasking when someone just wants to spend quality time with you.

2. Save your money for an experience

In our current culture we tend to spend a lot of money on stuff. Stuff we want and certainly don’t need. If you’re a women it’s likely: clothes, shoes or overpriced coffee. If you’re a man it’s likely: tech gadgets, video games, or energy drinks. If you’re a parent it’s likely: toys, clothes, and childcare. We all need something from time to time and it’s okay to indulge every once in a while but most of this stuff we can do without. When my husband and I moved I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff we had accumulated over the years. We agreed no gifts for our anniversary or birthdays. We will instead, save our money for an experience. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Make memories with your family on special events by getting out into your city and actually doing something.

3. Find your purpose

I know it’s not realistic to quit your job and go backpacking around Europe this summer but, it is okay to pursue your dreams. Don’t ever let anyone discount you or your dreams. Maybe your a tech genius, like my husband, spend your down time creating an app for something you love, if only just to make your own life a little easier. Maybe you work in a less than ideal job. Spend your weekends at networking events with people who share your interests. It will be a nice change, and who knows you may even get a job more suited for you, in the process. Maybe you’re just looking for a place to make a difference. Get involved with a cause deep to your heart. I like #hastaglunchbag in phoenix because homelessness is a cause very dear to my heart. Whatever pulls at your heart strings, there’s an organization near by to get involved with.

In short, happiness comes to people who pursue it. There is no easy button for this one (even though I’m sure we all wish their was). There are only steps you can take to make the best of your situation. I know you might hate things about your life but only you can do things to change it.

 

Now EVERYONE Needs to Apologize to India’s Prime Minister

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, on Google's Top 10 Criminals List

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, on Google’s Top 10 Criminals List

With the recent breaking news story about Google apologizing to Narendra Modi, for him appearing in image search results for “top 10 criminals” on Google India, it’s time for the media to start apologizing… profusely.

Let’s talk about math for a minute… more specifically, Google’s ranking algorithm. When Google’s bot crawls a web page, it examines what is called “keyword density“. It looks at all of the words on the page, and calculates how many times each word appears. It throws out common words like “if” and “and”, and then ranks the rest of them by importance. Furthermore, it weighs words more heavily depending on where they are… headlines are worth more “Google Points<– I just made that term up!

Now every major news organization, and most of the smaller ones, have published this story and broadcast it all over social media, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of reputable sites with a lot of traffic, containing repetitions of the words Narendra Modi, India, Prime Minister, and “top 10 criminals”. This means that without direct intervention by Google to exclude him from the search results, Narendra Modi will not be escaping Google’s Unofficial Top 10 Criminals List any time soon.

Mr. Prime Minister… I apologize.