Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, January 26, 2009

Workin' for a livin'

Looks like the jungle will be all undergrowth most of this week.

Too many arns in tha faar.

Somebody has to fund Obama's generosity.

You all keep the lights trimmed and burning in the cOOn-O-sphere the next few days. I'll catch up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Divine Mind versus Frankenocracy

Go ahead and read the Bastiat quotes, skip my commentary, and go directly to the Girl from the Eponymous blog, Joan of Argghh for a brush with genius. (As opposed to geniuses with brushes like the Quiptorum and A Work in Progress.)

The Mighty Bastiat speaks across the centuries:

A friend of mine, commissioned to make inquiry into Parisian industry, has assured me that the manufacturers have revealed to him a very striking fact, which proves, better than any reasoning can, how much insecurity and uncertainty injure the formation of capital. It was remarked, that during the most distressing period, the popular expenses of mere fancy had not diminished. The small theatres, the fighting lists, the public-houses, and tobacco depots, were as much frequented as in prosperous times. In the inquiry, the operatives themselves explained this phenomenon thus:--"What is the use of pinching? Who knows what will happen to us? Who knows that interest will not be abolished? Who knows but that the State will become a universal and gratuitous lender, and that it will wish to annihilate all the fruits which we might expect from our savings?" Well! I say, that if such ideas could prevail during two single years, it would be enough to turn our beautiful France into a Turkey--misery would become general and endemic, and, most assuredly, the poor would be the first upon whom it would fall.

-- From Essays on Political Economy

So, what do you suppose will happen when the government’s primary policy for economic growth is to discourage savings (i.e., the increasing of capital) and encourage consumption? Is there any reason to think that might lead to a disastrous economic collapse?

Bastiat continues:

Workmen! they talk to you a great deal upon the _artificial_ organisation of labour;--do you know why they do so? Because they are ignorant of the laws of its _natural_ organisation; that is, of the wonderful organisation which results from liberty. You are told, that liberty gives rise to what is called the radical antagonism of classes; that it creates, and makes to clash, two opposite interests--that of the capitalists and that of the "prolettaires." But we ought to begin by proving that this antagonism exists by a law of nature; and afterwards it would remain to be shown how far the arrangements of restraint are superior to those of liberty, for between liberty and restraint I see no middle path. Again, it would remain to be proved that restraint would always operate to your advantage, and to the prejudice of the rich. But, no; this radical antagonism, this natural opposition of interests, does not exist. It is only an evil dream of perverted and intoxicated imaginations. No; a plan so defective has not proceeded from the Divine Mind. To affirm it, we must begin by denying the existence of God. And see how, by means of social laws, and because men exchange amongst themselves their labours and their productions, see what a harmonious tie attaches the classes one to the other! There are the landowners; what is their interest? That the soil be fertile, and the sun beneficent: and what is the result? That corn abounds, that it falls in price, and the advantage turns to the profit of those who have had no patrimony. There are the manufacturers--what is their constant thought? To perfect their labour, to increase the power of their machines, to procure for themselves, upon the best terms, the raw material. And to what does all this tend? To the abundance and the low price of produce; that is, that all the efforts of the manufacturers, and without their suspecting it, result in a profit to the public consumer, of which each of you is one. It is the same with every profession. Well, the capitalists are not exempt from this law. They are very busy making schemes, economising, and turning them to their advantage. This is all very well; but the more they succeed, the more do they promote the abundance of capital, and, as a necessary consequence, the reduction of interest. Now, who is it that profits by the reduction of interest? Is it not the borrower first, and finally, the consumers of the things which the capitals contribute to produce?

It is therefore certain that the final result of the efforts of each class is the common good of all.

The difference between me and an Obamatron socialist is that I love freedom. I love freedom more than comfort or security. The great sin of socialism, the great crime is that it limits our freedom exactly to the extent that it promises us security. The classical liberal sees through the lie, knowing that security is never really to be held. There are no guarantees in life.

Some socialists claim to base their system on Christianity, as, for example, in the book of Acts where we read about the believers selling possessions and having all things in common. It is all well and good to give to one another, but giving must be of one’s own volition to be pleasing to God. It cannot be done for show (ask Ananias and Sapphira), and it cannot be coerced. Peter made it clear to Ananias that the Church did not compel him to sell his property. It was his and he could have done with it as he pleased.

The Puritans tried an enforced version of this at Plymouth and very nearly starved. Like modern socialists they tried to make a necessity of a virtue. It failed.

As Bastiat says, between liberty and restraint, I see no middle path. The more government regulates and restrains, the more it attempts to control and enforce, the more it will impoverish and enslave – all, it will say, for the common good. Conversely, the classical liberal view is that the common good is best served by liberty, by the give and take of markets, by the wisdom, and indeed by the foolishness of the individual going about pursuing his own best interests in his own limited way.

My father never read Bastiat or Hayek or Friedman, but he was a farmer who tried to be diverse. He raised grain at times. He always had a few cows and dabbled in dairy. We had a few chickens and sometimes raised a few hogs, though we often had only one or two which we would butcher ourselves. When the government began to offer price supports to local milk producers, Dad was smart enough to see that the dairy business was going to take off, and he bought Jerseys and built a new barn. The idea the Department of Agriculture had was to provide fresh milk and other dairy products to local markets from local producers. In some ways it wasn’t a bad idea, but the supports should have been dropped as soon as there were producers and processors in various regions. The continuation of artificially high milk prices for producers led to overproduction in the mid-1960’s. Processors began to cut their rates to the dairy farmers.

Farmers even tried to unionize at one point with the National Farmers Organization (NFO), and we, along with many others, opened the valves on our bulk tanks and dumped raw milk down the barn gutters.

As Dad often noted, more poetically than I can render it, if the government tries to help the grain farmers, they hurt the dairymen, the feedlot operators and the consumers. If it tries to help the livestock, milk, and pork producers, they create overproduction and ultimately suppress prices paid by the processors and packing houses. Government is a very poor farmer, and, I suspect, a worse banker or automobile manufacturer.

Whether government is attempting to help preserve family farms, regulate consumer prices, protect the environment, provide people with home ownership, or mandate mileage standards for American motor vehicles, the result is inevitably FUBAR. I am not sure there is anything the government does -- apart from national defense and the military -- that could not be done cheaper and better with less pain by the free market. Health care is a primary example as we have discussed before.

The only thing government can really do is redistribute capital. (Let's use the word capital instead of wealth because the IRS does not give a hoot if you are "wealthy". It pulls what it considers excess capital from my paycheck and yours every cycle, regardless of our actual efforts or needs.) Interestingly, the capitalist free market can and does redistribute capital as well. One of the differences is that government requires an increasingly gluttonous bureaucracy which absorbs ever more of the money that passes through it to create an ever-decreasing effect. Free markets distribute the benefits of capital naturally and effortlessly. Is there lag and dearth in the free market at times? Inevitably! But the market is self-correcting as opposed to bureaucracies which are self-perpetuating.

Liberty is precious, on a level with life itself as the Founding Fathers knew. Bureaus and ministries, secretaries and czars are enemies of freedom, though their intentions may be of the best. Even with high ideals and motives, their choices, decisions, edicts and actions will of necessity favor one over another. They will ask, is it fair for Paul to go hungry while Peter dines sumptuously, and they will rob Peter to pay Paul. But, we ask is it fair to take hardworking Peter’s capital by threat of violence to subsidize the wastrel dreams of Paul? I will say it again: let Peter give of his own free will to support his brothers, cultivating the virtue and grace of giving before his God. Socialism is a crime, and government is the criminal.

Running up the score

I have seen some boys high school JV games almost this bad. I'm glad to see that somebody called them on it. Covenant should, at the very least, have a long talk with the coach for continuing to run a press unnecessarily. The 3-pointers don't bother me so much.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rocky Top

LORD, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. – Psalm 16:5,6

On the television show Bonanza, the Cartwrights often traveled to California from their home in Nevada, but their trips were almost always to San Francisco. I do not remember the episode or the context, but Hoss once traveled down to southern California. He remarked on the barrenness of it, and someone asked if he had ever seen California. He replied that he had been to California many times, but he doubted that anyone would ever want to live in such an ugly place as Los Angeles. I remember the first time I left the Spring green hills of the Ozarks driving to LA. My thoughts were much like those Hoss expressed. Yet some people love the high desert or the coasts, the plains or the mountains, or even the cold, frozen north lands. I have heard people call swamp land in central Wisconsin “God’s Country”. I have heard others say the same thing about desolate plains around Midland and Odessa, Texas or places along the Gulf Coast where the mosquitoes could be mistaken for buzzards if they flew a little higher. I think they’re all crazy. Everybody knows God lives just a little northeast of Cedar Gap, Missouri. Even the devil keeps a weekend place over the border in Arkansas.

When it comes to landscapes and vistas, “home” makes up for a lot of deficiencies. In that sense, we can all understand the psalmist when he says, “I have a beautiful inheritance.”

In other realms, we may not be so inclined to think well of the heritage bequeathed to us. Many of us look back on regrettable scenes that closed doors or burned bridges. We may have reason to wish that we could live some pivotal moment again, making a different decision in a second pass. Our boundary lines may seem a little restrictive, and the ground we are left to till may seem rocky and hard.

Still, we are here. Here. And the opportunity to experience joy and peace is ours at this moment precisely because the lines are drawn as they are.

If I have regrets, sitting where I am today, they are not for me, but for the trouble and pain I may have caused someone else. Every hurt and failure that I suffered I now see as a stone of remembrance, a landmark establishing the lines of my inheritance, bringing me to this place which the Lord has given me. There are others, no doubt, with more spacious abodes where the soil is deeper and richer and better watered. Still, I have my little place with its small, but inexhaustible spring of living water, and it will produce all that I need, in abundance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, Tastes Great ...

Congratulations to Mr. Obama on his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States.

The general feeling seems to be that America is in crisis, and we need solutions. We need to be willing to try things and be patient with less than perfect attempts. We need to be willing to give Obama and his team a chance.

Really? You mean the economic crisis, brought on in large part because of the leftists’ insistence that we make loans to people who can’t afford them, is such an overwhelming threat to our way of life that we should support our government’s efforts even if we disagree with the policies?

Where I'm from we have a technical term for that: bullshit.

Think of me as Code Red.

Don’t question my patriotism.

And remember that protest is, after all, the highest form of patriotism.

I was against the bailout of Wall Street and the automakers because I am a free market capitalist. It doesn’t matter if it is under a Republican administration with a Democrat-controlled Congress or under a Democrat administration. Government intervention in the private sector is bad for everyone. Make-work projects prolong and deepen recessions. We don’t have to go back to 1936 and the WPA. Jimmy Carter tried things like CETA and PSE back in the late ‘70’s. Those were disastrous wastes of tax dollars.

Expect Chicago street crews to expand, such that, instead of five guys – ethnically and gender diverse, of course – leaning on shovels watching one guy work, there will be eight guys leaning on shovels watching one work.

I do not want to live in a European-style social democracy, and I will do whatever tiny thing I can to prevent America going further down that road. America has already embraced too much socialism; government meddling is the primary problem we have now with healthcare and the financial sector. Our income tax system punishes achievement, our courts allow people to play lawsuit lottery, and we allow people on the government dole to vote. To the extent that Obama and his leftist, collectivist buddies want to push America on down the road to socialism, I am not “on board” with them, and I sincerely hope their efforts are monumental and catastrophic failures.

The majority of Democrats, in the face of a vicious common enemy – radical Islam, thought nothing of attempting to thwart the military, destroy morale, and play politics with the blood of American servicemen. They were more concerned about destroying George Bush and regaining political power than defeating a threat to Western Civilization. They succeeded. We can thank God that our military has succeeded as well, despite the increased cost in casualties resulting from an enemy emboldened by Democrat opposition.

In light of that, all efforts by the right to oppose Obama and his desire to destroy the Constitution and our economy are to be considered highly patriotic.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fixing to have faith

Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God.” – Mark 11:22

For the last couple of weeks I have been meaning to get around to thinking about having faith, but other stuff keeps coming up. I don’t have any theological axes to grind because I use a chainsaw which will stay sharp for quite a while if you don’t run it in the ground. I will point out that if you don’t have a real job, any integrity, or any fear of God, there is good money to be made in the various repackaged models of good old “mind science”. From Deepak to Dyer to Jesse Duplantis, thinking good thoughts and speaking faith obviously works because all these guys are millionaires.

If you don’t know Jesse Duplantis, he is a Charismatic preacher from New Orleans – he used to be strictly an evangelist, but I think he pastors his own church down there now as well. He’s a funny guy, tells lots of jokes and funny stories, and, as far as I know he is a decent and moral man. He is a “faith preacher” in the tradition of Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and many others. A few years ago, Brother Duplantis decided he needed his own plane to fly around and preach the prosperity gospel. It was a jet, and I think the price tag was around $8 million.

Brother Jesse has a half-hour program that he airs on the Christian networks as well as local stations around the country. He has a substantial audience in addition to all of his preaching in large churches, campmeetings, and other venues. The man is gifted, and he has worked for years to achieve the success he has. I have no quarrel with him at any level except to point out that what works for Reverend Duplantis may not be the norm.

When he decided he needed a new plane, he addressed it on his program. He explained that he needed eight thousand viewers – certainly a minority of his audience – to send $1000 each to buy his jet. He said he was using his faith and believing for this to be done. Now anyone who listens to and enjoys Reverend Duplantis or benefits from his teaching and ministry is free to support him financially. I’d much rather see money go to Brother Jesse than to Uncle Sam. I wondered, though, if Jesse is “believing God” for his $8 million why he bothered to mention the specifics on his television program. I don’t have a television program or a radio program, and my blog is pretty secretive, too. If you or I need to “believe God” for a new jet or even a new Corvette, our options are a little more limited. We’re pretty much stuck “believing God for” whatever and taking care of it ourselves.

Again, I have no quarrel with Jesse Duplantis or any of the rest I mentioned. I almost always listen to Joel Osteen when I run across his program on TV, just because he’s positive and uplifting. My quarrel is with the concept expressed by the phrase “believing for”, or “have faith that” as prosperity preachers use it.

The Biblical concept of faith is never separated from the object. When the Disciples wondered at the cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11, Jesus begins His explanation by saying, “Have faith IN God.” One of the most egregious wrongs done by the Word of Faith movement was that for many years they took a marginal reading of the Lord’s words, which could be read as “have faith of God”-- and turned it into “have the God-kind of faith”. As I have to repeat often, I am no Greek scholar, but I know there is no accepted translation of the New Testament that renders that statement in that way.

When Jesus did the miraculous for people, He sometimes questioned them in this manner: Do you believe I can do this? Notice, He is asking them, in essence, if they believe in Him. I do not recall a single instance in the New Testament where anyone was asked to “have faith for” or “believe for” anything. When Peter and John healed a crippled man in the Gate Beautiful of the temple, Peter declared, “By faith in His name, His name has made this man strong …”.

Not faith for; faith IN.

I mentioned this somewhere the other day, that I believe everybody has faith. Everybody believes in some stuff. The critical thing is not the fact that we have faith but what we have faith in. For example, at the moment, a certain percentage of the population has faith in the government. I, too, have faith in government, but my faith is mainly that government will take my money, waste 70% of it and use the other 30% to collect more money from me. Outside of that, I’ve never seen government do much worthwhile.

Some folks believe in themselves. Their theme song is, “It’s a small world after all.”

The virtue, I repeat, is in the object of faith rather than the faith itself. Faith in God will get you through the times when you can’t always get what you want. I don’t just “believe God” to pull me out of the ditch. I believe in the goodness of God which may leave me in the ditch long enough for me not to get hit by a freight train.

Whether my need is forgiveness, or the power to forgive, grace or mercy, light, strength, wisdom, patience (which I need right now), holiness, or just plain help, I will put my faith in the God who provides. I put my faith in the Lord, not in positive confessions or a positive mental attitude. I don’t trust in my ability to visualize or the consistency of my affirmations, but I trust in the Lord, the One who knows what I need. He is the One who will never fail me, and all He asks is that I trust Him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fedora, Five O'clock Shadows, Tyranny and Slavery

Jesus said, “I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over Me” (John 14:30).

(KJV – “for the prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in me”).

MizzE, the QP, said, “Biggest lesson I learned for myself: Saying ‘NO’ to tyrants in a straight forward manner and walking away, if necessary, in order to preserve your own sanity and soul, is OK.”

A lonely figure wanders homeless and hungry for weeks. By rights he should be back in the city running things, but his father has other plans. The son is on a mission that no one recognizes or understands. The head of the syndicate, Snake, I think they call him, finds the son out in the wasteland. Snake makes the kid a very reasonable offer of some easy dough. The son refuses. Snake smiles. He understands negotiations. The kid isn’t as na├»ve as he figured, but that’s OK. He ups the ante. How about worldwide fame for very little risk? Again the son refuses. Snake nods, no longer smiling, and then makes the offer he knows the son can’t refuse. “I know why you’re here, kid,” he says. “You’ve come to take over, so let’s do it. I’ll cut you in – give you all my turf. You just give me my due and keep me on as a silent partner.”*

“Get thee behind Me, Satan.”

Jesus says “NO” to the devil, walks away and takes the long, hard path to Golgotha. He embraces the freedom of obedience to the Spirit. As a result, His defeat is eternal victory and His death is life everlasting.

No one knows temptation the way Jesus does because He alone never yielded.

The hook in a thousand plots is that, for love or loyalty, the hero compromised and now he is an outcast in a shabby office on the seedy side of town doing dirty jobs dirt cheap because that’s the only option left. Somebody has the hooks in him, and the plot turns on his one chance for redemption, though it will cost him everything. The difference between the Gospel and the film noir is that Jesus makes the choice up front and sticks with it all the way through to the tomb.

It’s important to appreciate the subtlety of the devil’s offer in that he seems to say Jesus could save the world without that ugly scene on the cross. Mankind needed Jesus as king. Can you imagine the glorious reign Jesus could have established on earth? He could have called in many promises and prophecies to be fulfilled in the restoration of David’s throne. Further, the Disciples themselves had come to depend on their Lord. They believed, and so stated repeatedly, that they expected Him to restore the kingdom. That was Messiah’s mission. What was the point of all this talk about death and loss?

The devil tempts us to skip the bad parts in God’s path and zoom straight to the end of the road – to what we are (or think we are) supposed to possess anyway. However, as any hardboiled detective can tell you, the mob will only give you what you want so they can have what they want. The devil will demand his due. There will come a day when Faust gets the bill. God’s way, though hidden and hard to understand, is the way of freedom and peace.

We know that being in bondage is a bad thing. It does not matter what my outward status may be, what’s in my bank account, what I drive or with whom I sleep. Forge my chains of gold and wrap them in silk, and I am still in bondage. Freedom and sanity are more important than material wealth and ease, or the transient approval or even adoration of the fickle. It occurs to me, though, that if I am in a relationship with someone who is a tyrant, I may be keeping both of us in bondage.

As the man in Jerry Clowers’ story says, “Just shoot up in here amongst us. One of us got to have some relief.”

Somebody has to come to their senses and put an end to what’s going on. By saying ‘NO’ in the straightforward manner that QP suggests, I can potentially set both of us free. Without an enabling slave, a tyrant is powerless. The tyrant can find freedom if she chooses. As for me, I choose the Lord’s way to peace, sanity and freedom right now.

*Thanks to Ben for his recent noirspirations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Step 2

As a result of my daughter’s alcohol addiction, I went to my first Al-Anon meeting last night. The focus was on Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Though I have been familiar with Twelve-Step programs for many years, I had never attended a meeting. I suppose I had read the second step but I had never paid much attention to that last phrase -- “restore us to sanity”. I thought the focus was on believing in a Higher Power. When people began to talk about it, though, they all emphasized the fact that they had known they were insane or learned they were insane. Some mentioned the “greater Power” in relation to restoration, but it was clear that sanity was the goal.

It is funny that I never considered myself insane. I knew I was depressed but I thought I had a good reason for it. I could explain why I was depressed, and why any reasonable, sane person in my circumstances would be depressed. I could have explained to anyone who cared to hear it why suicide made perfect sense. I could explain why my irrational outbursts of anger were actually rational, and why I was justified in expressing that anger by smashing and destroying things. In all that, I knew with absolute clarity why everybody around me was insane, or, as my old Trig teacher used to relate, why “the whole world is insane; I’m the only sane one left”. As bizarre as it may sound, I have actually made that statement in the midst of ripping off my shirt in a fit of rage.

Sadly, none of that preceding paragraph is a joke, at least not in the usual sense.

Reason and rationality will not insulate or deliver a person from insanity. Instead reason alone will lock him into the tight circle of logic which keeps him trapped in the repetitive, destructive cycle of activities that perpetuate the insanity. A mind parasite, like a physical parasite, wants to live, sustain itself and reproduce. It wants to spread to the minds around it so that everybody is thinking in the same locked, but predictable pattern.

I was talking to my daughter this morning, and we noted that this is not limited to alcohol and alcoholics. The truth is that probably no one becomes an alcoholic because of alcohol itself but because of our lives in their entirety and how we deal with pain and fear (which is redundant because fear is painful, and we are afraid of pain). Many of us at times in our lives find insanity overtaking us, and we all need help breaking away. In the end, we must find a Power greater than ourselves we can trust to restore us.

It’s my sanity – not the sanity of those around me – that is the issue. Oddly enough this turns out to be a bit of a reprise of what I posted on yesterday, that is, that I am not responsible for what others think or how they view me.

It is wrong for me to ask God to fix somebody else so I can be OK. A couple of the people in last night’s meeting made the point by holding their hand in front of their face almost touching the nose. If we look beyond our hand we are missing the point. While I can pray for others and have faith that God is working in their lives, I can’t believe for them in the necessary, personal sense. I have to be sane myself instead of trying to make others act, think, or speak sanely.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hidden from Plain Sight

Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known – Matthew 10:26

The context here is that of Jesus warning His disciples that things may not always go smoothly for them. If people call your teacher a devil, what do you expect they’ll say about you? There is, however, no reason to be afraid of them since you do not have to answer to them. They may kill us, but they cannot damn us. They cannot by their hatred, their sin or malice separate us from Him. God will see to it that things come out the way they should. There’s no need, He says, to be defensive.

I was watching a few minutes of the Giants-Eagles game yesterday around the end of the third quarter when Philadelphia started to wrap it up. It is rarely a good idea to play defensively, even if you’re on the defense.

Defensiveness comes naturally to us psychologically. When someone attacks us, or when things go wrong, we want to speak up, defend ourselves and justify our actions. I’ll admit there are times when self-justification seems acceptable. Where a reasonable person opposes you and simply does not have all the facts, you may be able to enlighten them and clear things up. Even then you are ahead if you can avoid sounding like you’re defending yourself. I suppose I really want to be understood so I try to explain why I am following a particular course of action. Still, I see that I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble -- not to mention some legal entanglements -- by being content to allow other people to think of me what they chose to think (a key point).

If I could be satisfied with simply doing right I would be much more at peace, and that is the point of the instructions Jesus gave us here. Too often I want to do right and get credit for it as well. I want people to recognize how I have solved the problem or how much I have sacrificed to do the right thing. I certainly don’t want to be castigated because those around me are too shallow, too blinded by self-interest, or just too stupid to understand that I did what needed to be done.

The Lord knows this feeling all too well. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sometimes get to thinking that I could do a better job of running things if it were left in my hands. God needs a better PR agency. He needs to advertise His achievements, game the system a little to get some awards and some public recognition. I know there’s a lot going “behind the scenes”. What’s wrong with bring it out front and getting a little exposure? The problem is God seems to get only bad press. Did you ever hear of a hurricane blowing itself out in the mid-Atlantic being called an “act of God”? Are earthquakes that never occur “acts of God”? The Lord needs to get some of those Hollywood agents on His payroll and do a little self-promotion, right?

OK, maybe not. Maybe I should be more like Him – less concerned for credit than for purity, truth, and righteousness. Perhaps I should be willing to trust the One who “sees in secret” to expose things when they need to be revealed. We don’t expect a painter or a sculptor to unveil a half-finished project (sometimes it’s hard to tell). I have to recognize that I have not reached the point in the story where the “reveal” makes sense. The chapter isn’t finished. The book isn’t finished.

Consider this: a funny short guy found a magic ring which he gave to his nephew who threw it into a volcano and saved the world. Is that The Lord of the Rings? Does it seem like something is missing?

I think today I’ll worry less about what those with limited vision think about me and see if I can’t do what pleases the Lord. I’ll trust Him to justify me instead of trying to justify myself. I’ll leave the hidden things alone to be revealed in their time. I might even try to do more that’s just between me and my Father.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How to be Adventurous -- Part 2

Negative, feeble, old-according to our critics, our Western culture is all this and worse. And indeed in a materialist society people are born old. Flesh-and-blood grandfathers and grandmothers are not our problem. True, we have more of them than we used to, so many that they are becoming a special medical study and a new political power. Yet, if all were well, that should be our gain. In a healthy nation Grandmother's smiling wisdom ought to balance Granddaughter's reckless and restless energy; Grandfather's serene detachment should offset the youthful passion of Grandson. But what if there is no deep youthful passion? What if Grandson, in the Army at twenty, complains over the loss of Mum's cooking and the tame desk job? What if Granddaughter, married a year or so, finds beating up cake batter too great a task for her slack muscles and fretful mind? What if the highest ambition of youth is to be safe? – Joy Davidman (Mrs. C. S. Lewis) Smoke on the Mountain

The spirit of adventure is closely tied to the spirit of youth. Jesus, calling us to be as little children, calls us to adventure. And what is adventure except an adventure: the coming of something important and new. But how can something new happen all the time? I mean even crawling into your house through the window will get old after a while. On the other hand, going into a new house is kind of an adventure, even though you usually go in through a door. Maybe you could just hire someone to go in once in a while and move all your stuff around so you wouldn’t be able to find it: hide-and-seek. Or, how about if you were a different person every time you walked through the same door? Sounds sort of Chestertonian.

But I was going to say something about youth.

On the one hand we seem to worship youth and want to extend it. There are those who complain that adolescence has been used to hold back children, to keep us child-like too long. Older people – the only ones who watch the evening news these days -- are bombarded by pharmaceutical commercials that promise all the advantages of youth. We tend to think of ourselves as a youth culture. Generally leftists think of this as a good thing, while conservatives tend to bemoan it as being fickle and unstable.

I wonder, though, if someone did stumble across the fountain of youth, what would we do with it? We seem only to want to look young, not be young. Often our books and films imbue the child character with innate wisdom beyond their years. Children are depicted as mature and more sensible than their elders. In real life, we frequently see parents putting pressure on their offspring to perform and to rack up accomplishments, perhaps either for bragging rights or relive some aspect of childhood vicariously. I’m not sure we understand the purpose of youth any more.

I will now prove that I am officially an old fart...

Back in my day (should I add "sonny" here?), I, and all most all of my contemporaries worked on the farm doing something as soon as we were big enough to carry a bucket of feed or feed a calf. When I was too little to do anything else, my father had me getting hound pups “broke to lead” – taking advantage of the infinite patience of a five-year-old in relation to young animals [insert laugh track]. In the dairy I carried buckets of grain which I dumped into the individual troughs for the cows to eat while they were being milked. Some cows ate faster than others, and I soon learned to accommodate their various habits. In the days before pipeline milkers, I was our pipeline, carrying the freshly filled buckets back to run through the big filtered hopper into the bulk tank. I dumped milk for years before I was tall enough to look over the edge of the hopper and see where the milk was going. I hauled hay in the summer and fed hay in the winter. I cut brush, cut ice, built fence, and wrestled livestock, all while going to school nine months out of the year.

Strange as it may seem, despite the work I know I did, I seemed to have quite a bit of free time, and this was truly free time. I wandered all over the countryside as a pre-teen with knives and firearms, alone except for my faithful stock dog, Penny. I thought nothing of taking off on my bicycle and going a mile or two down the road to visit one of the cousins. We might then take off again across country on our very non-mountain bikes to build a fort – with real axes, to find a tree to climb or a grapevine to try and swing across a creek on. Everything was fine, as long as I was back in time to get the cows in (they might have missed Penny more than me as she was the one who actually found and brought in the occasional straggler) and start milking.

I would guess that degree of physical freedom is close to unimaginable for today’s average ten-year-old who, conversely, is probably a master in World of Warcraft and has soccer practice every afternoon. One of the reasons I enjoy watching something like “Mythbusters”, “Man vs. Wild”, or some of the extreme sports is that it gives me hope that the sense of adventure is not dead in our culture. Even so, to me, it appears to be quite constrained. Parents have to keep an eye on their children constantly for fear they will be abducted, though I think there are fewer stranger abductions than we tend to believe. The Amber Alerts, Code Adams, and Tragedy TV coverage make us much more aware of the ones that do occur. Games – safe, organized games with protective equipment – have replaced the sometimes wild, reckless endeavors we tended to launched.

Ever been hit with a mudball? Ever had a mudball grenade explode next to your head? I might explain that a mudball grenade was created by inserting a firecracker into a mudball, lighting the firecracker, then hurling it at your cousins on the opposite side of the creek. Timing is critical. Short fuses can get ugly. They inevitably had some gravel in them – kind of like shrapnel. I never had an eye put out, but then I wore glasses, and they took a beating a few times, as did the old eardrums. Speaking of games and protective equipment, I well remember when my nephew was trying to learn to throw a curveball. He could throw hard, but his control was less than pinpoint, and they didn’t always break. What I thought was going to be a curve turned out to be a fastball, just high and inside. No helmet. It could explain a lot that happened later.

No, it was not safe, but that’s what youth is for, learning, exploring, finding one’s limits. It’s for looking at old things in a new way – or at least what we thought was a new way.

The truth is, though, you really don’t need to put body parts at risk to see with, as Rick says, eyes made new. Adventures in vision don’t have to be deafening. Daily putting on Christ, putting on the new man, makes everything new. In other words, it doesn't matter so much how we get in the house as who is getting in the house.

Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind -- Romans 12:2

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to be Adventurous

Happy birthday, Elvis.

Raccoons are, of course, naturally inquisitive and adventurous, so this somehow seemed appropriate. I particularly cooncur with the idea of wandering out into the countryside and asking some farmer if you can milk his cow. This may be an adventure on several levels.

If you are married and male, a simple way to have adventure is to do the opposite of what your wife advises. For example, on a routine float trip, we were approaching a narrow channel by a gravel bar. A dead tree on the bank had snapped and fallen from the higher bank across the channel and down to the gravel. My wife in the bow advised to pull the jonboat up on the bar and drag it around the tree. That seemed like a lot of work. I was pretty sure I could squeeze the boat under the high end of the tree next to the bank. My refusal to follow this advice resulted in considerable adventure, including plucking my wife out of a capsized boat with one hand while clinging to the tree with the other. Good thing she's light.

How to Be Adventurous

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Tired of doing the same old thing? Want to spice things up? There's more to being adventurous than traveling and climbing mountains. The formula for adventure is really quite simple: Novelty + courage = adventure. So what are you waiting for? Read up and embark on your next adventure!


  1. Put a new twist on the same old thing. Come into your house through your window instead of your front door. Take the long road home. Study the kama sutra. Cook an exotic meal. Wear something totally out of character. Go to the movies in your high school prom dress. Learn a new language and whisper sweet nothings into the ear of your loved one, or the hottie at the bar. Whatever it is that you're doing, ask yourself: "How can I do this differently?" Even something as mundane as brushing your teeth can take on a whole new level of fun when you practice a tap dancing routine or belly dance at the same time!
  2. Conquer your fears. You know what they are, and once you overcome them, that'll open the door to a whole new set of adventures. Whether it's heights, public speaking, karaoke, your mother-in-law...face it. Remember that fear is a biological response to worrying about death. If the situation that scares you isn't life-threatening, there isn't any reason to be scared!
  3. Talk to strangers. The best way to find new adventures is through new people. Everybody has different experiences and a different background; every person can teach you something new. Maybe that guy sitting across from you at the coffee shop can show you how to climb a mountain. Maybe the old lady in the library can teach you how to preserve fifty pounds of tomatoes. Maybe the quiet girl at the bar can offer you a place to stay with her cousin in Buenos Aires, or Budapest, or Bolivia. Get over your approach anxiety and start talking to people! Who cares if they brush you off? What's the big deal? It isn't going to kill you, right? (Well....see the Warnings below.)
  4. Try new things. Always be on the lookout for new things to do. Read the local papers, and ask people (now that you're chatting up a storm with strangers) what they're doing in their spare time. Go to a local farm and ask if you can milk a cow. Film a documentary. Take a ballet or salsa dance class. Meditate with Buddhist monks. Whatever it is, approach it with an open mind and a good attitude, and thank people for giving you the opportunity for trying something new.
  5. Get lost! Explore new territory. Once in a while, spend a day off just driving around randomly and seeing what you come across. (If you have a map and aren't too isolated, you should be able to find your way home.) If you have the means to do so, visit another country. Even if you can't travel, you can climb the tree in your backyard--that's new territory, and you'll probably enjoy the view!
  6. Make a bucket list. A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket". Surely, you don't want to die having followed the same old routine, day in, day out, do you? So write up that list - complete with goals big and small, like skydiving in Peru, and whistling with a blade of grass - and get to it!
  7. Live in the moment. Adventurers are experts in focusing on the journey rather than the destination. Yes, they usually have a goal in mind, but when you're trying new things, plans always change and your route will, too! You'll need to be resourceful and, more importantly, be a good sport. When things go wrong (which they will, or else you're not pushing far enough outside your comfort zone) don't get moody and distraught; outline your options, pick one, and charge forward with your life. And have fun!


  • Get fit. Many adventures require physical exertion, so while you don't have to look like a supermodel, you should be able to climb a few flights of stairs without losing your breath.


  • Don't be so adventurous that you leave your common sense at the door. Don't chat up the biker dude who looks angry and drunk. Don't cliff dive into what might be a very shallow lake. These things are not adventurous, they're idiotic!
  • Hesitation is the enemy of learn how to stop hesitating!

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Be Adventurous. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dust in the Wind

So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life…”

“… In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” -- Genesis 3:14, 19

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. – Luke 22:31,32

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind -- Kansas

After the Fall, God enumerated the curses upon His creatures, beginning with the serpent, then Eve, and ending with Adam. Though he was the highest order of creation, the sovereign under God, Adam was, we might say, animated dust. We are dust in the wind – that is to say, dust carried by spirit. As enamored as some of us are with the claymation part of ourselves, it is merely a vehicle that will very soon pass away.

The devil, as personified by the serpent, feeds on that very aspect of our existence which is temporary and transient. If we can keep that in mind, we will see that the process, though it may be painful, is not catastrophic. Our true existence is untouched by the fangs of the serpent. As Jesus makes clear to Simon Peter, the devil is allowed only to sift us. In the end, what appears to be loss is similar to the “loss” suffered by wheat when the chaff is removed. Our authentic self is revealed, and we move into our kingdom position.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fairness Left Behind

A non-post but I wanted to call attention to the American Thinker which has an informative article by J.R. Dunn concerning the left's feedback loop of information between the Net and the major media outlets.

Dunn sort of tongue-in-cheek suggests that one way to thwart the national media in this would be "...feeding deliberately false information with the intention of later exposure...".

Of course, conservatives and libertarians are unlikely to do this, for the same reason that McCain and other Republicans tend to "reach across the aisle", while Democrats tend to shove you down the stairs. The collectivists talks about fairness and fair play, but individualists really believe in and practice fair play. We live by the Golden Rule as Jesus gave it: Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them (Matthew 7:12).

I want other people to mostly leave me alone, so I leave other people alone. I want them to stay out of my business, so I stay out of theirs. I want other people to treat me fairly, so I treat them fairly.

The godless left -- and they are godless -- the godless left has their own version which goes something like: Take advantage of the inherent fairness of those who believe in the Golden Rule every chance you get, and mock them as suckers afterward. That may not be the exact phrasing from Marx 7:11, but it's close enough.

Our problem is simply that, though those on the left accuse us of all kinds of evil -- you know, like making laws that cause half the black male population to wind up in prison at one time or another or being greedy business people interested only in profit -- we are actually the ones with a functioning moral compass, as a general rule. I think we will have trouble playing the same dirty tricks with information technology and the Web that leftists do for that reason, but also because we do not view politics in the same way. To us, politics is a necessary evil, and we don't expect the government to do anything for us. We want a negative: for government intrusiveness and power to reduced to the greatest extent possible.

For the left, politics is life, even religion. It is the means of forcing others to bow to their demands and give them what they want. They are dangerous because they do not see an external standard of right and wrong. Their only standards are internal or the result of "consensus". Thus, they have no qualms about trampling individual rights for the sake of a false god they call the Greater Good.

We can never stoop to their level of lying and deceiving for political gain -- not for long anyway. They will continue to attack good people with false accusations, and we will continue to speak the truth. At least until they declare truth to be hate speech.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind

Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with every one born of the Spirit.” – John 3:5-8

As God told us first in Genesis, each produces after its own kind. The great failing of religion, as personified in Nicodemus, is the attempt to produce that which is spiritual from the works of the old carnal nature. We see programs and promotions, sincere efforts, fervent efforts, and radical efforts, but they are all efforts and exertions of the flesh and will, in the end, produce only more flesh. Sadly, all too often, when our multiplied efforts have failed repeatedly to bring spiritual life to us, we find another poor lost soul on which to exercise them. As Jesus said, we will shut the door of heaven and not go in ourselves or let anyone else go in, if we can help it. We hold meetings and send missionaries to gather proselytes so we can make them twice as bad as we ourselves are (Matthew 23:13,15).

Pneuma is what Jesus says we need – to be born of pneuma; the pneuma blows wherever it chooses. As John says earlier about those born of the Spirit, we were born “not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). That is sort of good news/bad news for most of us. The bad news is that we are not in charge – which is also the good news. Those who are seeking God on their own terms may be shocked to find that the Spirit has His own agenda. Those who think they are not seeking God at all occasionally wake up to a new life in spite of themselves. And those who seek and keep on seeking will find, and keep on finding.

“[B]orn of water and the Spirit” – so what does that mean? Unlike some I have heard, I don’t think water refers to the natural birth. Jesus was using the term “flesh” as His contrast. Besides, the necessity of a physical birth is a given – all those to whom He is speaking have gotten that part. No, water has significance, as does wind, in relation to the birth “from above”. The life of water is all beneath the surface, hidden. Life is “in” the water. Both air and water can give life when taken in, and both can bring death as well as life. Flesh by itself is dead. The Spirit gives life. Jesus came that we might have not just the severely delimited animal life of the flesh, but the boundless life of the Spirit, unfettered and inscrutable as the wind or the seas.

The Logos offers us the wordless mystery of the Spirit. The other night I was watching a movie which I think was based on a book called Joshua. In one scene, there is the protagonist, Joshua, and a priest on the shore of a lake at night. The priest is undergoing a crisis of faith and believes that he has failed in his calling. He believes that he can never fulfill the requirements of his vocation. He explains this to Joshua (that is, Jesus in a sort of modern Christophany), and he ends by throwing his Bible into the lake and leaving. We then see Joshua rise and slowly wade out into the water until he is submerged completely. The next scene is early the following morning. We see a slightly bedraggled Joshua seated on the bank, head down, with the perfectly restored Bible in his hands.

While the theme is clearly restoration, it is also symbolic of the way revelation works. Revelation is brought out of the hidden. It comes up from the depths, brought to us by the Lord Himself both through His written word and ultimately in the Person of Christ. If we will receive it, this revelation becomes a portal through which we may enter the Mystery. Jesus describes Himself as the Door in John 10:7, and it is through Him that we enter into this hidden kingdom. Certainly if a person is able to get only the ethics of Scripture, his life will be improved. If someone is able to receive the relational wisdom the word of God contains, it will be beneficial and not in any way to be dismissed or diminished. Yet the letter of Scripture, as sweet and beautiful as it is, is hardly even the shadow of its purpose and power. This is evident in the encounter with Nicodemus from which our passage it taken. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler, a member of the Sanhedrin, and – as Jesus said to him with what appears to be gentle mockery – a teacher of Israel. Men like Nicodemus knew the Law and the Prophets word for word. They could quote lengthy passages verbatim. Yet, when confronted with revelation, Nicodemus could only stare at the mystery in wonder while asking child-like questions.

That’s not a bad thing to do. Unlike most of the other Pharisees, Nicodemus was able to humble himself and begin to enter at the Door – the only Way in. In John 7, when others attack Jesus for His teachings, Nicodemus speaks up – albeit somewhat ineffectually – in the Lord’s defense. And, of course, after the Crucifixion, it is Nicodemus along with Joseph of Arimathea who provide for His burial. The words of God had become the Word from God for Nicodemus, and the wind of the Spirit had begun to bring forth a new kind of man.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Never Say Diet

If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit – Galatians 5:25

There are some people making resolutions at the beginning of the year. I find it more useful and probably wiser to make resolutions at the top of the hour, or to follow the pattern of that most entertaining of television, The Weather Channel, and make them on the 8’s. In fact the only official New Year's resolution I will make this year is to make no resolutions. I think I can keep that one. Hmm, wait a minute…

I can sympathize with people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder just as I can sympathize with my Calvinist friends. I like things to be clean and neat, when possible; nevertheless, it is not always possible, and we will waste a lot of time and effort trying to keep things neat when they cannot be. I like the idea that salvation is determined, that I can’t mess it up, and, in a certain sense, that may be true. Even if I am not able to mess it up ultimately and eternally, I can certainly make myself miserable getting to that end – hence, the necessity of sanctification. So, like the cook who lays aside neatness for the sake of culinary satisfaction, we won’t worry too much about the why of sanctification in light of grace. We can sense at the deepest level that sanctification is a requirement, and we can concern ourselves merely with attaining it.

Even as I say “attaining”, I know I am wrong. For as to the spirit, it is not a state but a process. I do not reach a state of having been sanctified; rather I follow a path of being sanctified. If holiness is a status, then every failure, every episode of sin, of pettiness, greed, rage, or smugness self-righteousness is a fall from that state. If, on the other hand, we see it as a process where we are always learning, growing, and moving – you know, like something alive might do – then we can see the occasional eruption of sin for the hindrance that it is, instead of a sign that we have deceived ourselves, lost our salvation, or fallen from grace.

Think of it as a way of life.

“That which is perfect” is a Being, who hath comprehended and included all things in Himself and His own Substance, and without whom, and beside whom, there is no true Substance, and in whom all things have their Substance. For He is the Substance of all things, and is in Himself unchangeable and immoveable, and changeth and moveth all things else. But “that which is in part,” or the Imperfect, is that which hath its source in, or springeth from the Perfect; just as a brightness or a visible appearance floweth out from the sun or a candle, and appeareth to be somewhat, this or that. And it is called a creature; and of all these “things which are in part,” none is the Perfect. So also the Perfect is none of the things which are in part. The things which are in part can be apprehended, known, and expressed; but the Perfect cannot be apprehended, known, or expressed by any creature as creature. Therefore we do not give a name to the Perfect, for it is none of these. The creature as creature cannot know nor apprehend it, name nor conceive It. – Theologia Germanica

Now there’s a lot more to that quote than I’m able to deal with in my limited understanding, but there is this: that we are by the very nature of being creatures “in part” and therefore imperfect. Yet, this is not the end of it. We are, by grace through faith, delivered from the bondage of “creatureness” and able to move toward the Perfect. Of all creatures, we are alone in this ability for the moment, and the destiny of all creation – the ability of all creation to be perfected -- rests with us.

Walking the way of holiness is a way of perceiving the Holy One. To know God we must know perfection and it is impossible for us to know that except by experience. If we are not too proud to admit it, our weakness can instruct us as to the strength of the One who could bear the burden. Even to fail in a thing is to better understand what is required to succeed.

Holiness as a mental exercise is not holiness at all. Sanctification is an everyday practice -- not a theory.