Sunday, March 31, 2013

The "Steady Eddie"

This post is written primarily for Christians: those who know the Lord as personal Savior.  Others might, or might not, get something from it.

It's been said that it's the Steady Eddies of organizations that really make them successful--those individuals who may not be the flashy, hard drivers and don't ever get much attention; but instead show up regularly, play their part competently and rarely, unfortunately, receive any notice, and sometimes struggling with continuing in the task.  So it is within Christian circles.
The goal of every Christian should be to bear fruit, that fruit being primarily new Christians.  There are other things one might do along the way; but that is the true goal: to bring others to Christ.  Success, by the way, is not measured in the number of people brought to a saving knowledge of Him, but in faithfulness and consistency to the attempt.  One missionary I know struggled for years before winning his first convert--but oh, what that one convert was able to do afterwards!
But how about those of us not in full-time Christian service?  One friend has had a measure of success in bringing people to Christ.  He's brought them in due to knowing them in social settings, just by being a good friend, offering a listening ear, help where need, and living a consistent Christian life to the point where people could say "I want what he has"  Then he showed them the way.  Yet this friend has struggled in one area.  He had a work life that for many years was quite difficult for him.  Plagued by many issues, he would have liked to move on, but due to realities such as job opportunities and potential pension losses, he stayed--not very happily maybe; but still living and working diligently as a Christian should.  He has been a true "Steady Eddie."
Into his work circle came an absolute atheist.  This guy wanted nothing--nothing at all--to do with God.  Even a prayer at a public event upset him.  A few years back, he started to participate in some social activities our church was doing--the camaraderie of riding motorcycles with his coworker and a bunch of other men can do that--and he began to soften.  Over a couple years time, he started to show up in church occasionally with my friend, then regularly, sometimes even when my friend was out of town!.  A very short time ago, he accepted Christ as his Savior.  He is now a changed, and still changing man.  It was the presence in his life of that Steady Eddie who brought him to the point where he recognized his need for Christ.
All the years my friend struggled, wanting out of his job situation, now has purpose (in hindsight, of course).  Had he let his inner struggle with the job situation spill out into his job performance or attitude he would never have seen this man come to the Lord as a result of his steadiness.
So, what's all this rambling about?  Some reading this might be among the movers and shakers wherever they are.  They might fully enjoy their work, they might be seeing tremendous success.  They may be seeing fruit in their Christian lives.  The rest of us, however are not going to be that way.  We're going to show up, do our jobs well--hopefully--and  receive few if any accolades for what we do.  The consistency in our work patterns, our life-styles do get noticed.  It may be that someone might be looking at you and wondering what makes you tick   Live your life, do your work, conduct yourselves at all times in a manner worthy of a Christian.  Someday that steadiness might be used to bring someone to the Lord.  That will make whatever struggles you've had worthwhile.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Has Anyone Else Noticed?

In the political discussion over gun control, there has been quite a bit of talk from our leaders that leads me to think that they're setting them up as a different class of people from those they lead.  Listen to the comments about "you people."
What ever happened to "We the People?"
There is no ruling class in our nation, or so we were taught, so what's all this about?

Children of Designer Gods (part 1)

It becomes increasingly clear that people in our culture are becoming less and less godly in their behaviors.  Oh, they claim the name Christian, they talk about prayer, they talk about God...; but what god are they talking about?
To be called a Christian, one must be a follower of Christ in the manner of those first Christians.  They believed that Christ was the Son of Jehovah God, that He came to Earth to free them from their sins, and that faith in Him was the key to their salvation.  They also purposefully followed His teachings, which were the embodiment of the Old Testament Law, played out, and laid out, in practical terms.
Today, many so-called Christians have a warped perspective on all that.  They pick what they want, and discard the rest.  "Jesus loved everyone," they say, and they're right; but He also corrected sinners and told them to mend their ways.  He embraced them, but not their sinful behavior.  Many of the current day affirm all behaviors on the grounds that God loves all.  Again, He loves all people, but hates sin, and will deal with it.  The modern so-called Christian has re-designed his own Jesus to do things his way, not God's way.
Within this is the fact that as God's son, Jesus is God and therefore He is just.  Justice demands accountability; accountability in turn demands payment.  God will not overlook sin.  He has provided a penalty for it (death) an escape for us for its penalty (justification), but that demands faith.  The proof of faith is repentance--changing direction.  A person who claims to be a Christian, but has no true faith and is not following the path that Christ presented as the right one can hardly rightly be considered a Christian as the word was first--and correctly--used in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
The person who claims that Jesus' love accepts all needs to review His actions and words.  When He said "Go and sin no more," He really meant it!  To misconstrue His love as accepting all is to re-invent Jesus...making God in mans' image.  Making a designer god.   It's dangerous ground.  

References and some comments (read the whole context so you get the whole picture):
Ac 11:26(b) So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
This is the first and only use of the work "Christian" in the Bible.  They were those who believed and were obeying the teachings.   A disciple is one who is taught; the disciples were called Christians; therefore a Christian must be teachable.  

Joh 8:10-11, Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
We are not to condemn people; however, those who are students of the Word are called to correct those who claim to be Christians yet behave in a way contrary to Christ's teaching.   Jesus did not condemn the woman; but he told her to repent--change her behavior.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where Will the Court Go?

The last two days of arguments before the Supreme Court have brought out some interesting points and, of course, some interesting people.
So, do they find the wrong answer for the wrong reason, the wrong answer for the right reason, the right answer for the wrong reason, or the right answer for the right reason?
It's going to be an interesting answer come June.  I don't expect anything simple in their decision.

PS, I've been absent for a while due to vacation and dealing with some elder-care issues.  Life should return to normal--or what passes for normal--pretty quickly now.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bay Leaf--and Other Stories

The coffee carafe in the hotel office went empty just before my cup was filled causing my wife and me to start laughing.  That forced us to explain to the young clerk why that was funny.  It seems that I have a very high likelihood of taking the last drops of coffee from any carafe from which I try to get a cup of coffee.  It's been that way for years, and happens everywhere.  
That got me going back in time to those other things that seem to hit me with a high regularity.  
My mom used to make about the best spaghetti sauce this side of Italy.  In each pot was one bay leaf.  Every time we had her sauce for dinner, or used to make a dinner, I got the bay leaf--it never failed.  
Another thing that followed me around for years were soured creamers.  In the early days of individually packaged creamers--before aseptic packaging--rarely did a week go by without getting a soured creamer.  Generally, they were so bad they came out in chunks.  It happened locally and on cross-country trips.  
The last of the things following me seems to be the bent forks.  If a restaurant has a bent fork within its supply of table ware, you can pretty well guess who is going to get it at his table.  
What's all this mean?  Absolutely nothing...just thought I'd put it down in writing in hopes that somebody else will be relieved he's not the only one that had things like this follow him around the country side. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Attention to the Details

I'm a bug on attention to detail.  Whether it's in my reviews of places we stay--I take note of pesky little details like broken tiles in the bathrooms, bulbs not working in lamps and the like--or my grammar-Nazi tendencies in writing and reading--or my insistence on checking the fact for sources of information, the details matter.  I try to correct problems when I find them: I bring problems to hotel staff's attention, strive to get my own work right before I pick on that of others (with some epic failures along the way), and really try to be sure that my facts are truly facts.
The fact-checking is much easier now with the internet--of course, you have to have a credible reference for your source of facts.  We know that sources can lean left or right and must be aware of those biases as we do our searching; but we usually can filter out the truth from fiction.
Some places there are absolutes, however in sorting out the details.  Recently I was browsing the used books in a used goods store run by a large and well-respected Christian denomination.  I like to think that I could trust them in their attention to detail, but found out otherwise.  Among their devotional books I found a small booklet that I recognized as having been printed and distributed by a group that is not from within orthodox Christianity.  As a matter of fact, most of us within orthodoxy would call it a cult with no hesitation at all!  Seems like nobody there was paying attention to detail when they put that book on the shelf.
Interestingly, a volunteer in the book department didn't seem concerned about it, so I took it up with a staff member who removed it.  It seems that she was concerned about the details.

If anyone is curious about the who, what, and where of this, I'd happily tell you in a private message; but it is not my intent to name either group in this blog.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let's Think About This!

Make no mistake; President Obama is not my favorite president--probably the least favorite of my life; but when he's acting like any other president, we should not draw a negative conclusion from it just because of the personalities involved.   My gripe is the facebook posting making a connection between the death of Chris Kyle, a man who by all accounts was a military hero and died under tragic circumstances, and the death of Hugo Chavez, a head of state--as unpopular as he may be with most of us.
Under normal circumstances, the non-service connected death of a veteran is not newsworthy on a national scale; but the celebrated sniper was well known and his untimely death made headlines nationwide, if not internationally.  Rarely if ever does the President take any special note of such events.  Unfortunately, veterans, old and young, decorated and non-decorated, die every day without any presidential note.  
However, Chavez was the leader of a nation within our own hemisphere.  It is both custom and common decency to send a delegation to pay respects for such a person--even if he did state his hatred for our own nation.  
For what it's worth, Chris Kyle was laid to rest with the ceremony that should be accorded a hero.  There is at least one easily located picture with military personnel lining the fence around the cemetery.  He was buried as and will be recalled as a hero for many years to come.  
Hopefully--though history suggests otherwise--Chavez will become nothing but a blip on the chart of Venezuela's list of leaders.  He's driven the country into a steadily worsening position and into greater debt, all the while bleeding the economy to fatten his own position.  The free world will recall him for what he truly was, even if the people of his nation do not.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blue Friday (or Who is the Real Victim?)

If you've paid any attention, there are frequent events where the "good guys" win.  Specifically, there are many incidents in which police engage a person bent on doing violence and stop him--often with gunfire, and often ending with the death of the perpetrator.  One writer, Dave Smith AKA Buck Savage, makes note of these events with "NOT TODAY" celebrating the fact that the cops engaged and won.  The general news media, however, reports the events and almost universally refers to the miscreant as the "victim" of a police shooting.  
I don't know that it's a willful or intentional thing, but it seems to be a conditioned mindset.  They seem to think that a person who gets shot is automatically a victim.  They are very wrong.  A person who chooses to engage in a deadly force encounter with police officers does so at his own peril.  The police officers are the victims as they now must deal with the aftermath of doing what they had to do which is what they were paid to do, trained to do and (hopefully) did well.  They now have to go through the periods of self-examination, department examination, media scrutiny, court processes....  That's if he receives no physical wounds!  Need I say more?
Admittedly, there are rare events in which there is an improper shooting of some type, and in those incidents, there is a true victim of a police shooting; but in the vast majority of of the cases, the victim is the police officer, along with his family, friends and agency.  So, if you feel the need to help a victim, today is the day.  It's Blue Friday, thank a cop!  He might be the next victim.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Own Short Filibuster

Article 2, section 1 of the US Constitution reads: 

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Presidents have often, by custom, added "so help me God," though it is not part of the oath.  

It's more than a little disconcerting that our current president believes, as he was told by his Attorney General, that he has the authority to kill our citizens, in this country, by means of a drone strike.  That seems to be in total disagreement with our sixth amendment which says:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” (italics mine)

It a appears clear to me that to use a drone to kill a citizen in this country would be a clear violation of this amendment, in more than one way. The death penalty requires that a capital offence be committed, an accusation must come by way of a Grand Jury and then due process must be used before the penalty is exacted from the guilty party. To summarily strike someone without regard for the guaranteed rights is to declare war on our constitution.  So, how can our president be protecting our constitution when he even asks if he has the authority to do such a thing? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

OK, I'm Old; But Give Me a Break

This morning's post from a friend about her son turning a pork chop bone into a gun and "shooting" his sister at the dinner table made me chuckle, and burn at the same time.  Her observation was that "everything's a gun to a boy" was very true, and so looked down on in today's culture.
My generation was raised with and around guns.  We understood the danger of real guns, handled them safely and with respect, yet played with all manner of toy ones, shot each other with impunity from behind rocks and trees, played Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, Elliot Ness, Army/Marines and lots of other things equally as violent.  We were the killed and the killers, depending on whose turn it was. Yet we turned out OK.  We didn't take out Dad's deer rifle and play with it; we understood that play was play, and reality was reality.  Many of our parents had been in WWII or Korea and we knew, at some level, the horrors of true battle.
Today, kids who do what we did are shunned in one way or another. They are taught that guns, of any sort, are evil in and of themselves.  A kid is punished for drawing pictures of guns at school; another for making a pastry into the shape of a gun...what is society doing?  Guns cannot be dis-invented.  They're part of our history as a nation and a civilization.  They appeal to a certain segment of us (women as well as men, girls as well as boys) and we enjoy them when properly used.
Instead of worrying about little boys playing with toy or imagined guns, lets worry about kids understanding the value of life.  A pork chop bone pointed across a table isn't going to kill someone; neither will a semi-automatic rifle in someone's closet.  An angry person with a hammer at hand however might lash out.  Let's worry about teaching the value of life, not making one machine the evil of our society.  Let's teach our young folks how to deal with their anger, not take it out on the real or supposed cause of their problems.   Let's teach them personal responsibility, not the blame-game that populates our land. Let's just teach our kids right from wrong...oh, wait, that requires an absolute source of authority--we can't have that any more, can we?
The Bible teaches us to train up Children in the way they should go, and it gives us great and plentiful instructions on what and how to teach; yet it's ignored and it's authority is denied.  The audacity to declare one set of teaching to be "better" than others is decried by the masses...and then they blame the guns.... What's next?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sportsmen's Dinner

I spent most of yesterday afternoon preparing for my presentation at the Wells Sportsmen's Dinner.  It's at the Wells Central School on Rt 30, just north of the hamlet of Wells.  Should be a good day, always is.
My presentation will be on Handgun Basics and is designed for those who are contemplating buying, or have purchased a handgun, but have little or no experience with it.

Hope we see you there.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bullying: Still Wrong, Whatever the Reason

I came across this a few moments ago, tucked into our backup drive.  I don't recall when I wrote it--possibly after a well-publicized suicide--but it pretty much says what I was thinking today after yet another "PLEASE POST THIS" about bullying.

I am increasingly disturbed by the amount of rhetoric being exchanged regarding bullying.  I’ll say it clearly:  Bullying is wrong!  Whatever the reason, the activity is uncalled for.  Decent people should not engage in actions to badger, harass, annoy, or otherwise distress others for any reason.  I can say that with conviction because I've been the subject of bullying.  I was the fat kid with glasses, and by changing a few letters of my last name it became “Pigger.”  I went through elementary and junior high school with that tag thrown at me on and off—not pleasant for a 10, 12 or 14 year old.  As unpleasant as it was—and the memories which still linger are—it did not drive to me take my own life, though it was not easy.
There are several points I need to make here:
First, growing up in the 50s and 60s, suicide was understood as wrong, even at that tender age.  That was at least in part because all life was given value.  In today’s culture, life is valueless.  Euthanasia and abortion have numbed our minds to the value of each and every life.  So, suicide was not an option.  I had to find other ways to deal with it.
Second, all the recent press on bullying has related to one specific type, that of young people being bullied because of homosexuality.  I would guess that more fat kids have been bullied; more kids with thick glasses, more too poor to wear stylish clothing…you get the picture. They were not the topic of the evening news.  It’s not about bullying; it’s about promoting and defending the homosexual lifestyle.
Finally, the bullying has now turned to those who won’t embrace or support the homosexual lifestyle.  Social networking sites had messages about support passed around with “won’t you please post” or similar pleas.  Those of us who chose not to—or worse yet, made comments expressing why we wouldn't were immediately attacked.  No group has been more singled out than outspoken Christians.
That’s right, it’s now the Christians who are being bullied; accused of hate-speech (also not a defensible activity).  It’s not hatred, it’s stating of the facts.  Christians hold to the teachings of the Bible and hold that as absolute truth.  It has not changed its message in the years of its existence as written or spoken word.  It is clear from both the Old Testament and New Testament that homosexual activity is wrong.  It is spoken against in the strongest of terms—it is considered unnatural, and an abomination.  Christians who make that point—even in the most gentle of terms—are railed against. 
If the homosexual group—that which has seen its support develop over the last 20 year or so—is  allowed to promote its point of view without objection, why is it that the Christian side—the side which traces its authority back over 5000 years—is told to keep silent.   That’s right, it’s now the Christians who are being bullied and forced into silence. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Neglected Topic

One of the things that has bothered me for a long time is the statement usually worded "They'll get my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers."  Several folks, my friends included, might disagree with me here; but I can't in good conscience agree with that.  It's taken me years to fully grasp why I feel this way, so here are my thoughts on it:

Our Founding Fathers fought the war for freedom because they thought it was a just war.  The concept has been around since before the time of Christ, has been stated by such church fathers as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and is very well put by the Roman Catholic Church (I'm not agreeing with all their doctrine of course, but this puts the matter more succinctly than most others) as follows:

  • The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 
  • All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • There must be serious prospects of success;
  • The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power as well as The precision of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These were the conditions that our Founders contemplated and agreed were met when they set in motion the Revolution which gave us our freedom.  That is not the situation we have today.

The gun owners of the nation cannot inflict lasting, grave or certain damage to the enemy. The powers of the the ballot box and the mailbox have not been exhausted, there may still be the grounds for civil disobedience; but the ammo box is still not called for. Current technology of our nation's military--and even many law enforcement agencies--would quickly end organized armed resistance.  Any uprising would likely cause more damage than good.

There may once have been a time that armed conflict could have been effective; but that was before the battle lines were drawn as clearly  as they are now.

More on Rights

Within the context of the founders' thoughts on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, how many of the things we enjoy are truly rights?  Are they gifts of the creator or are they an invented right by someone (person or government entity) and dispensed as they see fit?
Do you have the right to own a wide-screen, hi-definition TV?  If you earned the money to pay for it, it's part of that pursuit of happiness idea.  If that's what makes you happy, you have the right to work and obtain it.  The masses, however may not have that same right.  Just because you have one does not make it a general right for all to have one.
How about a high-performance motorcycle? Again, if it's what makes you happy, go for it--as long as you can afford it.  However, the use of it may be restricted somewhat because the registration of the machine and the license to operate it are privileges, not rights.  They're privileges because they're operated in the public domain and there is no specific right to operate a motorcycle or other vehicle recognized to be granted by the creator.
Our rights to religious expression, speech, free press, assembly, petition and firearms however are absolute.  They have been both recognized as given by Divine grant, and guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.  They cannot be removed from us.
As the matter of rights is argued these days, remember what are truly rights and what are merely privileges.  We seem as a culture--and not just the United States--to have invented a lot of so-called rights that are not even close to being right; but, in fact, are downright wrongs. More on that another day.

Friday, March 1, 2013

On Rights....

There is much debate--along with much emotion, name calling, and mud slinging--currently about the second amendment.  Within the debate, one thing becomes clear; the concept of a right is not understood, at least as used by the men who wrote our constitution.  It was clear to them that rights were God-given, not government-granted.  We have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness referenced as that in the first lines of the Declaration of Independence.
As our Constitution was developed, there were ten amendments attached early on.  These were statements of rights that were clearly held by the writers to fall within the ideas of life liberty and pursuit of happiness which had been brought out beforehand and statements of protections from incursions of the government upon the freedoms of the citizens.
The specific rights are in the first two amendments:
  1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 
  2. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The third through tenth amendments deal with protections, which I’ll not deal with here.
The point is that these are rights, not privileges.  If I wish to be practice my faith, I can—it’s my right; it’s also my right to practice no religion.  Should I wish to speak my mind, I may—also my right.  If I decide to rally to raise awareness of an issue or to write to public officials I can—those are also my rights.  If I chose to own an AR-15 rifle and 30 round magazines, that too is my right.  These rights are not granted by, but are to be guarded by, our government; sadly they have not been.  In fact, the opposite is the case.    

Religious liberties have been removed—our children prohibited from the practice of their faith in public.  We now have a law somewhat nebulously restricting free speech any time and place the US Secret Service is present.  Non-conforming news people are being bullied by high-ranking officials.  Public assembly has, in some places been limited under certain conditions (not going to go there at this time without further research).   Petitions have not yet been limited in any way that I've been made aware of.  Finally, we come to the firearms part.  Lawmakers on both state and national levels are attacking them.   They’re attacking our rights, not our privileges. 

Privileges are granted by the government.  It’s a privilege to drive a car; that can be highly regulated.  It’s a privilege to engage in certain professional activities such as medicine; that too can be regulated because it’s not a right.  The list could go on.

There's no way to compare rights and privileges, yet the line is being deliberately blurred by those in control.  Privileges can be, and rightly are, regulated.  Rights are not.  Though our politicians argue compelling need, the need to remain free trumps all.   We must fight for our rights.  They were granted by our Creator and should not be surrendered to men.