Dec 212016
 

As a small child, Christmas held a special magic I’ve often wished I could experience once again. Mesmerized by the tinseled tree whose outstretched arms protected rewards for a good little boy’s year-long behavior, I anticipated for two weeks what marvelous treasures lay concealed by colored wrapping paper bound with glittering ribbons and bows. I imagined the most wonderful toys the Sears catalog depicted and described!

As I grew, I recognized those gifts for what they truly were – not toys, but sacrifices. I came from a poor family and gradually realized how much they gave up to demonstrate their love for me, doing without things they needed and wanted, preferring to shower me with happiness.

Their example of loving and caring and giving was the greatest gift they could have possibly provided, one that has lasted a lifetime. Do I long to feel that magic I felt as a child again? Yes. Every Christmas. Would I trade it for the feeling of now seeing my loved ones enjoy what I give to them? Never.

Giving is what Christmas is truly about, imitating the greatest gift and sacrifice ever made. The physical gifts we exchange merely symbolize that. My Christmas wish for you, then, is to be part of the ongoing magic, giving and receiving, providing and being provided for, sacrificing and, most of all, loving one another completely.    –RG

 

Nov 292016
 

World PeaceLast night I was given the honor of being asked to speak at the Porterville Peace Rally. These were my comments.

Good evening. My name is Rick Groves. Most of you don’t know me, and all of us are far too complex to nail down in a few words. So, by way of personal introduction, I’ll just say I’ve been known to teach a little and to preach a little. But mostly to just love people around me. And I love to tell stories. Time permitting, I hope to share one or two with you here tonight.

I want to thank the organizers of this Peace Rally for this lovely chance to share some words. I received a call from Kayleen Murello last Tuesday inviting me, and I was extremely surprised and quite honored she had taken the time to run me down. I cannot begin to express what a blessing it is to be included and awarded this wonderful opportunity.

Tonight, my friends, we’re having a Peace Rally. Peace is the freedom from disturbance. It is quiet and tranquility. It is harmony.

We all desire these things.

To say the world does not contain evil would be a false statement or hopelessly naïve. But to realize the world is comprised of a greater and far more powerful good is not simply reassurance. It is reality.

Good does not always triumph, but the lessons of history are that evil wins for only a short season. The undefeatable spirit of humanity always rises up and retakes the victory. And we will have victory.

To achieve victory takes two things: The brave action of a group coming together to stand and fight for what’s right, and the brave action of an individual standing alone to fight for what’s right.

Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been achieved without both. It takes cooperation and it takes leadership.

It’s been said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. If we hold this as true, then its corollary is also true. Good people doing something are the only thing necessary for triumph over evil.

And so we come together tonight as good people taking action for a cause that is right.

And make no mistake, this involves all of us together. You cannot say this doesn’t affect you.

I promised a story, so here’s one of my favorites. You may have heard it before. If so, you’re about to hear it again.

There once was a mouse…

The mouse peeked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. “What wonderful food might this contain?” the mouse wondered as his little nose sniffed the air. He was terrified to see it was a mousetrap!

Scurrying to the barnyard, seeing the chicken, the mouse screamed his warning, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head, and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can see this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I just cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse ran to the pig and told him, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse dashed to the cow and said, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m really sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So the mouse, head down, feeling dejected, returned to the house to face the farmer’s mousetrap….alone.

That very night, a sound echoed through the house – the single abrupt snap of a mousetrap capturing its prey.

The farmer’s wife, awakened by the noise, rushed through the darkness to see what was caught. In the deep shadows, she didn’t see the poisonous snake whose tail was wedged in the trap.

With a ferocious strike, the snake’s fangs injected venom into the soft flesh of the farmer’s wife’s leg. Awakened by her scream, the farmer rushed to her and killed the snake with a butcher knife. He called the doctor, who came right away and removed as much poison as he could and gave her medicine, but her fever would not go down.

Everyone knows that chicken soup is the best treatment for a fever, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard to collect the main ingredient.

But the poison continued to do its deadly work, and her sickness continued. Friends and neighbors sat with her round the clock and, to feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

Alas, the farmer’s wife did not recover – and on the third day, she died.

She was well-loved by all and her funeral drew so many people that the farmer slaughtered the cow to provide enough meat to feed them.

Meanwhile, the mouse with great sadness stared out from his crack in the wall. He had tried to warn them…

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem, and you don’t think it concerns you, remember this little story. When one of us is threatened, we’re all at risk. Together, we are all in this journey called life.

So keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to give support and encouragement. Never forget that each and every one of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry – our lives are woven together tightly for a reason.

You know, when I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation – and I could indeed have changed the world.

We change others only by changing ourselves and then demonstrating that change to inspire others. And when they are inspired, they become that group that stands together to change the world.

Aesop tells the fable of an old man on his deathbed summoning his children around him to give them some parting advice. He asked his oldest son to bring a bundle of sticks that were tied together.

“Break it,” he said.

The oldest son, also the strongest, strained and strained, but with his greatest effort couldn’t break the bundle.

The other sons also tried, but none of them could break it.

“Untie the sticks,” said the father, “and each of you take a single stick.”

When they had done so, he called out to them, “Now, break them!”

Each stick was easily broken.

“You see my meaning?” said their father. “Apart, you are fragile. But stand together, and you cannot be broken.”

We’ve hopefully enough time for one last story.

A squirrel perched on a branch talking to a dove that had landed there. “Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” he asked the bird.

“Why, nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the squirrel said.

“I once sat on the branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavy, not a raging blizzard – no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off under the weight of the snow.”

Having said that, the squirrel flitted away.

The dove thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

An old Texas Baptist minister from way back in the day named Joseph Fort Newton said, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” I’m going to challenge you here tonight to figure out how you can build a bridge and by so doing tear down a few walls. This refers back to my earlier comment about standing alone as a leader.

Are there any leaders in this group tonight?

If so, start leading.

Because, after all, like the little mouse tried to warn us, we’re all in this together.

And like Aesop’s tale of the dying father, together we are invincible.

And like the squirrel showed us, it may be your voice that makes a difference in this world.

So I encourage you tonight, stand together and love one another. Teach others around you by your demonstration how to love.

I have experienced personally what it feels like to be mistreated and to be on the receiving end of unfair discrimination. Long ago decided I will not tolerate intolerance, will speak and act against it.
I will stand with you and will not abide that others treat anyone with hatred or violence.

I know many in this community and this country who will pledge the same.

May I leave you with some wise words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Thank you.

Nov 132016
 

coke_machineI craved a milkshake thanks to a post shared by my friend Dana Phillips on how chocolate improves your intelligence. So I went to Jack-in-the-Box to seek out a higher IQ. And I found it.

A friendly and sweet chunky Latina lady waited on me as we engaged in pleasant conversation about the Chicken Fajita Pita with Apple Slices countering the large chocolate intellectual stimulator. There was another Hispanic young man working behind the counter who smiled as he handed over the munchies.

My wife and I sat down and, gazing around, I see a Mexican family sitting and enjoying lunch with their kids. A mother and daughter sat across from me sharing an enjoyable moment in their afternoon while alternately grabbing jalapeno poppers. The young lady had the most beautiful sandy and wavy hair framing her sapphire eyes.

A grizzled man appearing to be a farmer perhaps of Armenian descent nodded to me as he made his way to toss garbage into the trash to clean up after himself. An aged man wearing slacks and a white shirt matching his skin tone hobbled by with a cane. A woman speaking only Spanish held her baby while the son, about eight years old from appearance, struggled to transport a high-chair in which to sit his small sister.

And there I sat, across from my own beautiful wife whose skin remains tanned far beyond what mine will ever be. And I see something.

And also I see the absence of something.

Two employees walk by — a chubby white male teenager and a skinny Mexican girl I estimate in her early 20s with both arms tattooed, four swords decorating her inner right forearm, both delivering food to patrons with a smile returned to each.

What I noticed was the absence of hatred. What I saw was each person there engaged in a ritual of life and enjoying a simple moment.

What I saw was people engaging with one another for a common albeit quite mundane cause. And simply being happy.

In this room diversity and peace gathered.

The tattooed girl delivered a bag of food to the old man who thanked her with a smile and a surprise that service had been so fast. As he stood and shuffled gingerly toward the door, he stopped to smile at the daughter in the high chair, talking to her in English, telling her what a beautiful baby she was and congratulating the mother and smiling at the son. She appeared to speak or comprehend not a word of English, replying to him in Spanish. Did the language barrier matter? No barrier existed since they both spoke the language of acceptance and affection.

I watch people line up at the soda machine, one of the new ones dispensing dozens of different combinations. Regular, Diet, Coke, Sprite, Barq’s, Dr Pepper, Fanta, Cherry, Vanilla, and a lot more to make whatever combined concoction you prefer or simply want to try.

Kinda like people in our United States. So many colors and combinations pour out of that single dispenser. Varied ethnicities, religions, genders, professions. All are present and while some flavors may not be your preferred choice, we certainly do not bear hatred for those who prefer something different. While I may be a Diet Coke kind of guy, perhaps you’re a Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper kind of girl. It’s all good.

Can we not be as a country a bit more like this scene in Jack-in-the-Box and simply and peacefully enjoy the diversity around us? The menu on the board offers a lot of choices because choice and diversity are good.

And consider that no politicians were present either serving the meal or enjoying it with us. It was simply by mutual consensus of all who were there. And, my friends, that’s all it takes.

Nov 092016
 

Two AmericasTo my Liberal Friends after the Election (and yes, you are my Friends)…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Thus begins A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. And today we have the tale of two Americas, a dark day for some, a new day for others. Surprisingly, even after the election results, I awoke this morning to the sun still rising in the east, its light spreading forth across the world. Birds still sang happily. The cat woke me with her habitual morning kiss, desiring good-morning strokes. The dogs anxiously bolted from their nighttime kennel, escaping to the backyard so they could bark at the neighbor’s dogs before settling in for breakfast and a fresh drink of water. The coffee from the Keurig still tasted fine, and my wife was still the loveliest woman on the planet in my admittedly biased eyes.

In short, life continued.

Yet, in the eyes of some it did not. Hate speech overflows the Internet and social media. Fear and loathing fills parts of America as Liberals and Social Justice Warriors bemoan the downfall of civilization not only in America but throughout the entire world.

Protestors gathered in the streets by the thousands decrying their hatred of our president-elect.

Articles describing how bad the country is going to be such as “Trump voters will not like what happens next”, “If Donald Trump wins, it’ll be a new age of darkness”, and “An American Tragedy” are posted and shared by those I know to be intelligent.

Comments such as, “I am also completely embarrassed to be an American. I have never felt so ashamed for the human race. I never thought we would have white supremacist with their hands in America, but, I guess that is what the uneducated white men and women in this country want. I never knew we had sooo many uneducated people in the USA…wow!! How could I have so completely misjudged the depths of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, bigotry and just plain hate that a majority of my countrymen / women have sunk to. I no longer love this country. I am sickened by the people in this country who are so cruel, selfish, arrogant, racist, sexist, and just plain mean that they believe that orange-faced buffoon is actually a good thing. I will never like or respect this country again. Ever. There is nothing to proud of here. That rapist, pedophile, sexual predator, narcissistic, demagogue will never, ever be my president. I am simply terrified. Dark and unpredictable times ahead. I am scared for my children and grandchildren in a way I have never before experienced. Also scared for the planet. The KKK is already rejoicing.” And many others with language I will not quote show a despondency hard to overlook.

And I understand and empathize to a point. It’s hard to lose what you believe in. I get that. And I get it’s not about politics, but about a worldview. You see the causes you championed falling away. You see the clock turning backward to a time from which you struggled to escape. But it’s not so. It’s an illusion turned delusion.

A particular post catching my attention read, “America has spoken. I do not matter. Minorities do not matter. Women do not matter. Immigrants do not matter. Gay people do not matter. Teachers do not matter. Education does not matter. Diplomacy does not matter. Love does not matter. Truth does not matter. Integrity does not matter. The American ‘experiment’ is, in all likelihood, over and done with.”

This from an individual who is a church leader and had previously taken several opportunities to “chastise” me personally for expressing viewpoints that differ from his, or perhaps were simply stated in ways he finds uncomfortable (although there are many rather unfriendly posts targeting conservatives on his own timeline).

My point: Really? Sorry. But you’re completely wrong. All those things still matter.

I can understand pathetic pathos emanating from the world, but from those who profess God in their lives? Seriously? How do you honestly join that Christ died for you and God loves you with the concept that you do not matter? I point toward this not to single out or pick on this particular individual who hopefully remains anonymous. But only to use it as an example replicated throughout society.

My question: Why are you victimizing yourself? Why are you separating what you profess to join together? Why do you despise the results of Democracy you support as a tool to gain your own ends?

Perhaps therein lies the answer – Your own selfish ends. The original sin of Satan’s downfall.

Democracy is wonderful when it supports your own selfish desires. But it suddenly becomes the tool of evil racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and bigots when it does not. I particularly like the term “obstructionists” used to describe politicians with opposing viewpoints representing the interests of the constituents they are actually supposed to serve.

Let that sink in.

Why the hate? Isn’t that what you speak so vehemently against, yet spew forth in dragon’s breath against those who oppose you? Why do you use words describing fear and evil? Simply because they are inflammatory? Or are you simply too afraid of your unsubstantiated positions to actually speak truth about others?

This election was not about Trump being a good or even desired candidate for the highest position in the land. It was a response to your own racist bigotry you are blind to.

Here’s why.

Let’s use South Africa as an example. Apartheid was horribly wrong, and Nelson Mandela will be enshrined in history for his untiring devotion to its abolishment. With its meaning of “separateness,” it segregated people into classes and put ruling power over a majority into the hands of a minority. Both parts of this equation were wrong. Thanks be to God that Mandela was outraged enough to act and sacrifice to overthrow this tyranny.

Can you see any semblance here? American Apartheid in recent years was not overtly horrific as in the case of South Africa, but it shared a similar spirit of division and overrule by a minority of people. This never works. This is subjugation not liberation, domination not freedom.

The Left has sought to segregate people into groups of Black, White, Latino, Native American, Asian, Straight, Gay, Transgender, etc. And also into groups of groups, such as “People of color” and “LGBT”. Whenever you group people, the natural psychology of the human brain seeks to define them by differences. What makes red different than blue? What makes hot different than cold? What makes good different than evil? That’s the way our mental storage boxes into which we drop concepts are created. It is called surprisingly enough “differentiation”.

Another aspect of human psychology is that we adhere to those who are similar and shun those who are different. This is not hatred or discrimination (at least not in the social warrior sense), it is merely a fact that is in part a survival mechanism. We are social creatures and there must be a commonality that brings us together as a family, a team, a community, or a nation. Stressing differences by grouping and categorizing people alienates us from one another.

Instead, we should be looking for sameness that will unify. Yet you choose tactics to divide? Stressing differences strengthens the “us vs. them” mentality that has been the source of conflict between individuals, families, factions, societies, and nations for millennia.

Stop it.

America spoke this election by saying she was simply fed up with your crap. And that’s exactly what it is. Crap. Lots of it. Deep. Smelly, Squishy. Crap.

You scream against angry old white men being the enemy. Let me remind you it was exactly that group who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words are foundational to why you can scream against those who gave you the right. Rather ironic.

If it is racist to discriminate and hate a person for being black or brown, it is just as racist to hate someone for being white. Being a misogynist who hates women because of their female genitals is equally as wrong as being a misandrist hating men because of their male genitals.

Xenophobia implies the fear of those foreign to us. There was nothing in the political rhetoric I heard to substantiate that conclusion in any way. What was said was that if undesirable and destructive foreign elements are entering the country illegally – as opposed to legally – they should be prevented from entering. That’s not fear of foreigners, nor is it global to all foreigners, it’s simply common sense to protect our citizens from such occurrences as 9/11 and illegal drug and human trafficking. If you really believe otherwise then I challenge you to leave your doors and windows unlocked and open when you are home, away, and asleep at night. And do not lock your car doors or roll up your windows when parked in your driveway or at the supermarket or at the shopping mall or stopped in traffic traveling through a bad part of the city. Show a little trust, please. Open your own borders.

Homophobia is much the same. There is no fear of someone with a different gender preference. Admittedly, there is disdain perhaps, but not fear. Disdain because, in the minds of many, there is a moral issue in addition to a psychological or biological one. All three major world religions consider it a sin. Islam punishes it by death. Christianity simply doesn’t like it. But is it a sin? Does it really matter from a social perspective? Not really. Many choose to sin and have free will to do so. So who am I to judge the actions of another? I’ll not be accountable for it and have plenty of my own sins to worry about. Let them do what they like regardless of how I feel about it. I think it really boils down to the re-defining of a word considered sacred by many. Marriage. This word denotes a special bond between a man and a woman that is holy and not to be defiled. Is it defiled? Yes, and quite often. But that’s not a valid argument to change the definition. And it’s not even about the right for same-sex partners to “marry”. It’s about calling the joining together a “marriage” when by definition (according to people of faith) it cannot be such. So let people join together and have all the legal rights of a marital union. Just call it something different and do not force those who morally object to perform the ceremony.

Also, do not try to force people to like what they morally object to. Tolerance is about recognizing something exists and not making an issue about it. Like marriage, Social Justice Warriors demand we change the meaning of tolerance from recognition to embracing and supporting an idea. We don’t. And we won’t. You’re wasting your time and becoming quite irritating in the process. The more you push it on us, the more we will resist. Leave us alone, and just let everyone get along fine. We accept it, but we don’t like it. That should be good enough since it’s the best you’re going to get.

Remember, we have religious freedom in this country. I cannot tell you who or what to worship or not worship nor vice-versa. Freedom works both ways. But you seek in your intolerant quest for tolerance to not tolerate or allow religious viewpoints with which you do not agree.

I saved the best for last. Bigot. A person who is intolerant of those holding different opinions. Wow. If you are hurtling hate speech against those who disagree, let me assure you the evil you see before you is, in reality, the devil inside you. Please hold up a mirror and gaze deeply. Think about how you feel about those who disagree with you. Then say…

Mirror, mirror, before my face

As a member of the human race,

I ask you help me empathize

To see the world through other’s eyes.

That I would not deny their view

Nor by my words seek to outdo,

But let me see that we’re akin

So as we join we both may win.

God loves you, whether you believe in Him or not. And I will pray for you whether you want me to or not, although you’ll probably never know. And this could easily and hopefully be a prayer instead of a poem. So it is my earnest prayer that you consider your methods and try to find ways in which we can join together. Both sides – liberal and conservative – are right and wrong. Both viewpoints contain good from which each side can learn. But fighting for dominance is not the answer. And believe me, all the discussion here points fingers back at me as well. I have to do this just like I’m urging you.

But we must neither be victims if we are to be victors. We must not be bullies if we are to lift others up. We must not be harmful if we wish to be healers.

So please let us abandon the two Americas for but one. Let us seek not to divide, but to join. Let’s see not our differences, but our similarities. Let’s become not the Disjointed States, but the United States.

Quit your sniveling, be part of the country, and help make it a better place. Start by making yourself a better person. As it stands neither of us are the solution we think we are.

But together we can be.

–RG

 

 

Nov 052016
 

freedomFull Speed Ahead

While historically I haven’t gotten too excited about politics, I find myself rather obsessed as of late. Try as I might, I just can’t help being drawn back into a very opinionated position. Here’s why.

I care about my planet, my country, and even more about the people around me. I don’t want to see harm come to any. But I see its inevitability if we don’t alter our course quickly. The Titanic is about to hit the iceberg.

 

Divided We Stand

We’re at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. Yes, all moments are pivotal. But this are more the most in this generation. We are choosing a path affecting not only our own generation but subsequent generations as well. We are making choices for our children, and our children’s children, including those yet unborn. Even deciding whether some children will be born at all.

There is a biblical passage spoken by Jesus quoted by Abraham Lincoln in a speech given June 16, 1858 at what was the Illinois State Capital in Springfield. I’ve had the honor of standing where that speech was given.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

We are a nation divided. Divided by ideologies. Divided by politics, aspirations, motivations, convictions, religions, and morals. We are divided by our words, unable to agree even on the meaning of many, or whether some are even tolerable and allowable. Freedom of speech has become even more precious as many seek to stifle it. It is precious because words convey ideas and concepts. If you control the words you also control the thoughts, leading people into mental slavery. Assimilating them into a fabricated society created by forces seeking to dominate for their own selfish ends. Freedom morphs into servitude. Liberty erodes into bondage. The three-class system becomes a class of only two — master and slave.

Do you want to be free? Or do you want to serve masters who will devalue then cast you aside in pursuit of their own greed and lust for power?

What do you desire for our country? Of the inevitable one thing or the other Mr. Lincoln so eloquently spoke of — slave or free — which do we become?

It’s your choice.

 

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry Out If I Want To

I’m a registered Independent, so I can praise or bash any party or candidate without remorse or responsibility to my professed political alignment. I can pick and choose what I consider the best choices across party lines. Although committed to many things, corrupted politicians are not included. If I were aligned to any particular parties, it would be to Common Sense and What Works factions, unfortunately, non-existent groups.

Historically, there have certainly been elections with poor candidates. But in the almost six decades of my life, I’ve never personally witnessed such a miserable selection. Still, we must decide. However, many in their ongoing rhetoric have urged others to make quite foolish choices.

Today’s political arena allows for multiple parties, but only two matter. If you are Libertarian, Green, Independent, or otherwise apart from Democrat or Republican you’ve the chance of a snowball in Satan’s hand of procuring the presidency. As appealing as it may be to consider these alternatives, it simply will not happen. At least not yet. Things will certainly change in the future. But for now, it’s status quo and these are the powers that be.

So the foolishness of the intelligent falls into two strategies: voting for a third party candidate, or voting for no one at all. Both actions throw away a perfectly good vote for no positive reason other than potential self-satisfaction by making a positional statement no one will hear or care about. It would be nice if the political elite would hear the voice of a nation fed up with crony-ism. But the quest for authority far outweighs the morality of serving the public good. The ears that should hear are deafened with wads of money and promises of power. If the voice of a disheartened people if heard for even a moment, the lure of corruption quells it to quick silence.

So vote for a presidential candidate other than Democrat or Republican if you want. But it will make no positive difference.

However, in some instances, I agree casting no vote indeed makes perfect sense. Voting is an American right, not a responsibility, and an uninformed voter knowing little about current issues, candidate positions, global realities, and historical perspectives is a quite dangerous thing. To be blunt, ignorant people should decline to vote because they risk the country’s future based upon media sway rather than informed opinion. Before the haters strike, every properly registered adult citizen certainly has the right to cast their ballot. But similar to one not exercising their driving privilege while drunk, please don’t exercise your voting right when you are intellectually incapable of making a knowledgeable decision. Just sayin’.

For the intelligently informed, come noon on January 20th, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will sit at the big desk in the Oval Office. Your third party or null vote will not change that. So voting for one or the other is the only effective strategy. You’ll have to decide which one. The presidential election is not like foregoing a night at the local movie theater because you don’t like what’s playing. One will definitely hit the big screen, and you’ll be in the audience whether you like it or not. (Unless, of course, you leave the country as many have sworn to do. And with some of those who have professed this, for the betterment of society, they hopefully make good on their threat.)

 

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is an axiom dating to the fourth century that can be summed as “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” suggesting that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy. In this case, the advance of liberal immorality, unworkable economics, control of the masses, and the destruction of capitalism are enemies against which many of us fight. Not to mention corruption to the greatest degree. Unfortunately, there is a majority faction fighting for, rather than against, this as well.

While an enemy of your enemy is not necessarily the best of friends (or even a good one), a strategic alliance at least temporarily can potentially benefit both participants. When faced with the undeniable presence of a singular of two evils, the only possibility is to choose the least until conditions change and a better choice is presented. We saw this on a global scale in World War II as countries divided between Allies and Axis to bolster the military positions of each side. The world would be considerably different today if unity during that time had not taken place. Arguably, without our allegiance with Russia who by far suffered the most casualties in the effort, we would be speaking German today rather than English. And living under a Fascist regime rather than in a Democratic Republic.

 

Who Fights Against Us?

This enemy today in my estimation is the Democratic Left. While some of their ideas are palatable and workable, many are not. For example, the creation of a welfare state ruled by an ever-strengthening and ever-expanding controlling government is an antithesis to our country’s founding philosophy and is a stepping stone on the path to socialism and communism. While potentially good-intentioned, the Left’s errant agenda is paving the path to hell so well-described in the old and oft-quoted saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” And Ronald Reagan once quipped, “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

The liberal Democratic Left is majorly comprised of self-labeled Progressives. A term I consider to be a self-contained oxymoron since much of the change they urge is far from progress. At its core, it is simply Socialism, something the world has tried and failed to make work repeatedly, albeit now re-branded and preceded with the word Democratic. But it’s far from new and improved.

Democratic Socialism is still Socialism. Having democratically voted for it does not change what it is. I can go out with a group of friends and either vote we grab a pizza or be dragged along to the parlor. The round dough covered with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni on the table is still pizza. Socialism is Socialism regardless.

And the current advance of it in America is by no means new. It’s been pushed for since the 1800’s but is now once again touted as revolutionary in an attempt to present it as a new way of thinking to those ignorant of history and its lessons. Thankfully, so far it is a revolution fought by words and not by violence. But this is unfortunate as well. Violence would be quelled. This revolution is fought under the guise of cloaked intellectualism. And the ideas are indeed theoretically intelligent. But theoretical and applicable are not the same thing. And in many cases even when applicable still remains highly undesirable.

Consider that intelligent application of science led to the creation of atomic weapons which have the potential for destroying a significant percentage of our population and our planet’s ecosystem in minutes. Can you argue this is a good thing?

All change is not progress.

Intelligence not guided by wisdom is an incredibly dangerous thing.

So we must look not only toward what would be desired in perfection, but we must also consider what is reasonable and right. To do this we must examine moral imperatives and psychological realities. To attempt a perfect solution for imperfect people, although it would be wonderful if it were otherwise, will invariably fail.

People have the potential for doing extreme good. There is in the human heart the God-given ability for love, sacrifice, bravery, charity, and honor.

However, there is an enemy of our fallen souls giving the potential for evil. In that same heart resides the capacity for hatred, greed, cowardice, theft, and deception.

Only the naive and foolish believe otherwise.

But the Left does not recognize this and seeks to enslave the people under a controlling government there to give them sustenance, protection, and rights, all for their own good no doubt. The Left seems of the mindset that people cannot be self-directing without the guidance and support of strong rulers injected into their lived daily. This is perhaps no better illustrated than Hillary Clinton’s assertion that to raise a child requires a village.

This mindset carries the implication that while they espouse belief in the inherent human good, they really believe more strongly in inherent human evil and must, therefore, control the people as one would control sheep with a shepherd. The “sheeple” are unable to fend for themselves.

This is in effect slavery of the very worse kind. It is enslaving people while giving the illusion of freedom. It is convincing people they are free by camouflaging the very chains that shackle them as ropes they can use to pull themselves up.

 

I Went to the Enemy’s Camp

Democratic liberals seem to enjoy hurling explosive descriptions such as racist, bigot, sexist, anarchist, terrorist, and other epithets and pejoratives toward others who do not see the world as they do. I find it rather ironic that those who claim to be enemies of hate speech use such hateful speech against others. But, apparently, it becomes hate speech only when someone besides them is spewing it.

Why is it the party describing itself as champions of the people fighting against evil and corrupt Right-Wing Conservatives pit one group against the other instead of drawing them closer together? Why is it in their eyes gay vs. straight, rich vs. poor, black vs. white? These divisions enslave us all, creating factions that will each fight for dominant identity — and will eventually lead to a showdown.

History is not simple cause and effect, but a complex hybrid organism involving many components. Any seeking to simplify this will be spouting nonsense. But to aid in understanding we humans tend to categorize and organize events into a fathomable discourse. Pair with this humanity’s complexities in self-awareness, self-description, self-denial, and self-delusion, and we must conclude we are a race based as much on falsehood as on truth.

That stated, this is a blog post, not a research document. It’s by nature an opinion-editorial. Therefore, by necessity, much more is left out than what can be included. I would challenge you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. But let’s examine a few slivers of history.

Note: This next section will be a bit lengthy, even in it’s abbreviated form. Feel free to jump past it if you just want the conclusions of the article without supporting historical events.

 

In the Beginning

With roots going back to the Democratic-Republican Party formed in the 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in opposition to the Federalist Party, many have forgotten or never knew the modern Democratic Party began with the election of President Andrew Jackson in 1828. Perhaps Jackson’s greatest contributions to American history were the owning of hundreds of mistreated black slaves at his Hermitage Plantation in Nashville (I’ve visited this location and while he lived quite well, his slaves lived only slightly better than animals), and his signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 to steal Native American ancestral homelands from southern tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations) and relocate them to western reservations in Oklahoma so the land could be grabbed by the states. Despite strong arguments against this, including protests by Davy Crockett, who was a National Republican, greed won out and Jackson’s quick signing of the act led to the Trail of Tears, a forced Native American relocation during which thousands perished due to exposure, starvation, and disease.

Racial inequality was a founding mindset of the Democratic party. They hated the fact that Lincoln’s Republican party had not only emancipated the slaves but even allowed them to be elected to public office.

Google the following names: Hiram Rhodes Revels (America’s first black senator), Benjamin Turner, Robert DeLarge, Josiah Walls, Jefferson Long, Joseph Hayne Rainey, and Robert Brown Elliot. I think you’ll be amazed and appalled at their stories of struggle, success, and oppression. These were all black men who rose above their shackles due to the liberation by the Republican party but were condemned by the Democrats.

By 1875, Republicans, black and white working together, had passed over two dozen civil rights bills. But their momentum screeched to a halt in 1876 when Democrats took control of Congress. Determined to prevent blacks from voting, Southern Democrats devised legal roadblocks like requiring literacy tests, misleading election procedures, redrawing election lines, changing polling locations, creating white-only primaries, and even rewriting state constitutions.

How do you think they gained Congressional control?

By the mid-1860s, the Republican Party’s alliance with blacks had caused a noticeable strain on the Democrats’ struggle for electoral significance in the post-Civil War era. This prompted development in 1866 of a new pseudo-secret political action group whose sole purpose was to help gain control of the electorate. This new group was known simply by their initials KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and worked as the strong arm of the party using acts of terrorism including murder, lynching, arson, rape, and bombing to oppose grant of civil rights to any who were not white, racially-pure, native-born, Protestant U.S. citizens. They wore white hooded costumes to represent the ghosts of Confederate dead to conceal their identities and to frighten their victims.

Though some historians disagree, most concur that Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader, Confederate general, and pledged delegate from Tennessee to the New York Democratic National Convention of July 4, 1868 was chosen as the first Grand Wizard and assumed control of the organization, turning it from a social group into a militaristic, hierarchical entity. One of Forrest’s most controversial actions as a field commander during the Civil War was the ruthless massacre of over 200 Union soldiers — many were formerly black slaves — after Fort Pillow had been captured in April 1864.

In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest stated the Klan’s primary opposition was to the Loyal Leagues, Republican state governments, people such as Tennessee governor William Gannaway Brownlow and other “carpetbaggers” (Northerners who move to the South after the Civil War) and “scalawags” (southern whites who supported the Reconstruction and the Republican Party).

Historian Eric Foner wrote, “In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy. Its purposes were political, but political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society. It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.”

Forrest’s grandson wrote in the September 1928 issue of the Klan’s Kourier Magazine, “I have never voted for any man who was not a regular Democrat. My father … never voted for any man who was not a Democrat. My grandfather was…the head of the Ku Klux Klan in reconstruction days…. My great-grandfather was a life-long Democrat…. My great-great-grandfather was…one of the founders of the Democratic party.”

Under Forrest, the Klan’s violence grew almost uncontrollable. PBS’ American Experience reports, “In the time leading up to the 1868 presidential election, the Klan’s activities picked up in speed and brutality. The election, which pitted Republican Ulysses S. Grant against Democrat Horatio Seymour, was crucial. Republicans would continue programs that prevented Southern whites from gaining political control in their states. Klan members knew that given the chance, the blacks in their communities would vote Republican.

“Across the South, the Klan and other terrorist groups used brutal violence to intimidate Republican voters. In Kansas, over 2,000 murders were committed in connection with the election. In Georgia, the number of threats and beatings was even higher. And in Louisiana, 1000 blacks were killed as the election neared. In those three states, Democrats won decisive victories at the polls.”

According to the Archives at Tuskegee Institute (reported by the University of Missouri – Kansas City) 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States between 1882-1968, brutally taking the lives of 1,297 whites and 3,446 blacks.

If you’d like to learn more about the Democratic/KKK alliance, you can peruse the thirteen-volume set of Congressional investigations dating from 1872. The official documents, titled Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, proves beyond doubt the KKK’s prominent role in the Democratic Party.

Report of the Joint Select Committee

 

But the Republicans and Democrats Switched Sides

Many decry the fact that Republicans and Democrats swapped parties, but an effective study of circumstances lead to this being an unsupported conclusion. Quite the opposite actually. The more true statement may be that as society and circumstances changed they swapped strategies and people changed their minds. The Democratic Party was more conservative and agrarian from the onset and have evolved to become extremely liberal. The Republicans who were pro-business have become less classically liberal (a different stance from modern liberalism) and more conservative. But neither party swayed from their platforms. Republicans still fight against slavery to this days, seeking freedom for capitalistic ventures. Democrats still fight in favor of it with big government intervening in everyday life. The definitions merely changed.

The Republicans lost its ruling majorities during the Great Depression of 1929-1940 when Democrats formed the “New Deal” coalition under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Arguably this strategy was a power play to garner support of labor unions, liberals, religious, ethnic and racial minorities (Catholics, Jews, and Blacks), Southern whites, poor people and those on relief during a time in which economic factors focused on housing and hunger were used to gain political support. For good or for ill, this marked the beginning of America’s movement into a welfare state. And certainly many positive strides were made by the Democrats during that times (don’t mistake me as thinking they’re entirely bad), such as the creation of the National Labor Relations Board and implementation of the Social Security Act. Recovery was admittedly steady and strong until 1937 when generous policies fueled by rampant spending evidently caught up with themselves. Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19% in 1938.

Sadly, entry into World War II in December 1941 allowed the U.S. to regain full employment. War mobilization and massive war spending doubled the GNP (Gross National Product). Military Keynesianism (increasing military spending to increase economic growth) brought full employment. Federal contracts were cost-plus. Instead of competitive bidding to get lower prices, the government gave out contracts that promised to pay all the expenses plus a good profit. (Democrats love high taxes and government overspending of money we don’t have.) Factories hired everyone they could find regardless of skills, simplifying work tasks and training the workers. And the Democratic federal government paid all the costs. Millions of farmers left the farms, students quit school, and housewives joined the labor force.

The emphasis was for war supplies as soon as possible, regardless of cost and inefficiencies. Industries quickly absorbed the slack in the labor force, and the tables turned such that employers needed to actively and aggressively recruit workers. As the military grew, new labor sources were needed to replace the 12 million men serving in the military. Propaganda campaigns pleaded for people to work in the war factories. The barriers for married women, the old, the unskilled — and (in the North and West) the barriers for racial minorities — were lowered.

Democrats leveled the playing field with munitions that leveled the battlefield. However, the National Dept skyrocketed, reaching almost 119% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1946. One must rightly question whether it would be different under Republican guidance. But unfortunately, when you strip away the cloak many are using to hide and finger-point current numbers, we are approaching that kind of number again under Democratic control with 104.17% being reported by trendingeconomics.com as of this writing. They try to lay blame to the Bush Administration. But much of this rise is reported during Obama’s second term.

But back to the slavery discussion. So how it re-defined? If you cannot subjugate by force, then subjugate by reliance. Democrats spearheading social reform and social justice urged impoverished Americans to rally behind them. However, the odd part was that for all this social sabre-rattling, the New Deal programs were racially segregated. The largest relief program, the WPA (Works Progress Administration), had 10,000 supervisors in the South. However, only 11 were black.

Thousands of blacks were thrown out of work and replaced by whites on jobs where they were paid less than the NRA’s (National Recovery Administrations) wage minimums because some white employers thought the NRA’s minimum wage “too much money for Negroes,” causing many blacks by 1933 to refer to the NRA as the “Negro Removal Act.” A study found this put 500,000 African Americans out of work.

But since blacks felt the sting of the Depression so severely, even more so than whites, they welcomed any help because they had no other choice. By 1936, nearly all African Americans (and many whites) shifted from the “Party of Lincoln” to the Democratic Party because of economic necessity — a sharp realignment from 1932, when most African Americans voted Republican. New Deal policies helped establish a political alliance between blacks and the Democratic Party that survives into the 21st century.

This strategy can be no better summed up than by the unproven quote by President Lyndon B. Johnson credited by Ronald Kessler’s in his book Inside the White House: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Institution as remarking, “I’ll have them n*ggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.” Do I know whether he said it? No. Is it possible considering another one of JBJ’s racist quotes we know as factual? Yes.

“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days, and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before: the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this — we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”

Oh, those white liberals looking out for minorities’ best interests… Wee bit pesky, aren’t they? In my estimation, evidence supports continued racist and other sub-group agendas used for personal and political gain as evidenced by the many remarks we’ve seen in Democratic emails released by WikiLeaks.

Let’s consider the Civil Right Act of 1964, something modern Democrats are quite eager to brag about. This was after the alleged Democratic reversal and the Republicans had already become the bad guys, correct? Well, maybe we should first consider this bill came about from the work of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower? Let’s also consider that Democrats filibustered the bill’s passage for 57 days. Leading the Democrats in their opposition to civil rights for African-Americans was Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). Byrd, the longest-seated Senator in Congress (who got into politics as a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan) spoke against the bill for fourteen straight hours. Democrats called Robert Byrd “the conscience of the Senate.”

But what does the voting record for this bill show? A substantially greater proportion of “racist” Republicans supported it than did Democrats.

The original House version:

– Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)

– Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)

Cloture in the Senate:

– Democratic Party: 44–23 (66–34%)

– Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

The Senate version:

– Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)

– Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

– Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)

– Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

While Democrats fight tooth and nail to spin it otherwise, if one really wants to judge the liberal Democratic mindset based upon factual support, let’s consider this. If Republicans have become so racist in modern times, why do they still outvote them for equal rights under the law? And why do Democrats still vote in favor to such a lesser degree? So many more voting records reveal this same pattern. I’ll not take the time to discuss, but it will make terrifically valuable education if you’d care to do a bit of research.

 

The Modern Chant and Rant

The current Democratic Party has vocally sought to overturn, re-interpret, and re-write portions of our Constitution and to make enemies of those who would stand in their way, such as the National Rifle Associate (NRA) and Citizen’s United. Hillary Clinton has vowed to bolster the Supreme Court with those who will overturn, re-interpret, and advance the political agenda the Democrats desire, effectively removing one leg of the three power balances our founding fathers outlined in our establishing documents to keep government in check. If allowed to happen, it will at minimum unbalance our government for decades and perhaps at worst be a deciding factor in its fall.

An agenda of discrimination and hatred disguised as its opposite is being advanced. To hold one accountable for crimes neither committed nor condoned merely because of skin color is racism and vilification every bit as evil as that which liberals claim to war against. Yet they do not connect this in their thoughts clouded by emotion. They do not see this results in stirring up greater strife rather than alleviating it. They see this incorrectly instead as uniting our country rather than the truth that they are dividing it.

For example, even though I am a white man I have never owned a slave, nor would I. To do so would be one of the worst sins I can imagine. Conversely, there are very few if any blacks who had ever been enslaved in our country. Yet I am persecuted because of this. Blacks also carry the stigma of now centuries ago slavery of which they are constantly reminded of by liberals who continue the oppression. Is there racial inequality? Absolutely. Some minorities have been denied opportunities because of ethnicity. But also Affirmative Action has meant that many could not achieve things for which they were better qualified because the opportunity by law had to be given to one less qualified due to the amount of pigment in one’s skin. Both positions are racist and an unfair and unworkable solution.

The solution lies not in unfair advantage or disadvantage, but in equal opportunity for success while realizing the past is exactly what it is. The past. It cannot be changed. But it can be overcome. But not by reminding and dwelling upon it and hating others for what they did not do.

Let’s actually make the playing field level. Regardless of color, ethnicity, creed, or religion, each individual has been given by God (and is recognized in our Declaration of Independence) the right to the pursuit of happiness. Whether we attain it is up to us, not to some government entitlement program.

What liberals seem unwilling to admit is the natural human predilection of self this pursuit describes. If one is denied that of which they are deserving, frustration develops. And this frustration often reveals itself in violent anger. And oddly enough there is also a natural aversion to receiving things of which we are undeserving. When we are given that which we are not due we often feel offended and catered to. This is condescension, and we do not like it. The self is undermined and made to feel less than a real person. Again, frustration, anger and violence are often the results. Such is the Democratic way.

 

Who You Gonna Call?

Are Republicans any better? Not much, but a bit. Their support for Capitalism also breeds corruption and greed. But, until societal evolution allows a better choice, consider Democrats represent the pulling of limited resources into a pool of society that produces little in return. Republicans represent putting resources into a pool of society that can, in turn, become self-sufficient producers to give back.

The difference may be summed up as having an ear of corn. I can eat the corn as a meal and have nothing left after having eaten for a day. Or I can plant the corn and raise a crop over time to feed not only myself but also my neighbors.

I am not espousing enthusiasm for Trump. Far from it. I personally do not feel he will make a great president. His character flaws will prevent that. However, he is the most appropriate choice based upon my moral inability to allow the other choice to claim the most powerful position on the planet.

Remember we are not electing a personality, or even really a person for that matter. We are filling a position. While it’s great to work with nice people, even jerks can do a great job. And conversely, the nicest can fail when they don’t have the appropriate skillset. Or the appropriate convictions and motivations. We need to separate the question of who we would like to spend time with apart from who can do the best job. And who will pave the path toward the best future?

Another question when casting your ballot in November is not even really about who you want for president. The president is limited to two terms — eight years maximum. But the president sitting in office will appoint three or four people who will be there for potentially decades and set the course for generations. Do not think about this as merely electing a president, consider who are you “electing” to the Supreme Court. Do we ant to lose freedom? Do we murder those who would otherwise become part of our next generation? Do we lose our religious freedom and have it replaced by government sanctioned beliefs?

Yes, the pro-business stance of the Republican Party ensures they will steal from us. They want our money. But at least they are honest about it. Hundreds of times a day I’m assured of that by myriad advertisements declaring such. The Democratic agenda is much more insidious, declaring one thing in words and quite another in actions.

I will give this to the Democrats. Their desire for enslavement one limited to only blacks is not inclusive regardless of color, ethnicity, social class, economic class, sex, or gender. They now desire equal opportunity enslavement of all, with an elite ruling class overseeing all who knows so much more what is better for the individual that the individual ever could. In that, they have certainly changed from hating and enslaving a certain group.

Yes, we are choosing between two evils. One wants to steal your money and is in the open about it. The other wants to steal your very soul and assimilate you into their collective.

If I’m wrong, God forgive me and help me. If I’m right and, as a nation we vote wrong, may God forgive us and help us all.

Yes. Both candidates stink. But hold your nose and cast your vote. Which do you deem the lesser evil?

 

May 102013
 
Percy when still a puppy in the backyard on 8/31/2010.

Percy when still a puppy in the backyard on 8/31/2010.

I killed my dog today.

You can sugarcoat the words by saying he was put to sleep, euthanized, or that his suffering was ended mercifully, but it doesn’t change that even if not by my hand that by my decision a life given by God to one of His creatures ended away today at 12:10 PM, and the responsibility is 100% mine.

The sorrow rips through my soul like a dull knife tearing through my flesh. I’ve cried and cried and cried until I thought I could cry no more, and then yet more tears flowed.

Sir Percival — Percy — as we called him, was a worthless little mutt. At least that’s what I thought at first. He was a Maltese/Shihtzu cross, not even a purebred. And I told my wife Sylvia on many occasions she didn’t pick the sharpest puppy in the pack. He wasn’t overly smart, usually wouldn’t come when you called, didn’t like being held, wasn’t very affectionate, and his only real trick was to stand on his hind legs to beg a morsel of food. I often asked him if he was looking for another handout, and he always was.

But he did get pretty good at obeying simple commands. It didn’t take long for him to know the drill about “go to the grass” at potty time and “go to your room” at night-time. I guess he was smarter than I gave him credit for.

I grew up with animals. Cows, pigs, chickens, horses, dogs, and cats were a natural part of life. But they all served some purpose, whether for transportation, security, pest control, or food source. Animals were a commodity used for some practical result or sold for gain. So I really didn’t get the “purpose” of Percy. Way too small for security and since he barked at everything he could see out the front window or hear with his admittedly sharp ears you never knew whether it was something important or not. Since he did nothing of value, I considered him pretty worthless, other than the fact that Sylvia loved him.

But he kinda grew on me after a while.

Trying to untie his rope on 1/29/2012.

Trying to untie his rope on 1/29/2012.

I started coming up with nicknames for him. Names such as “Perc” — like the woman’s handbag — or “Perc-Perc”. Whenever my wife would ask if I’d seen her purse, I’d point to the dog. This expanded into “Percy McPupper”, Percy Pup”, “Puppers”, and “Doggers”. And he would often roll around on the carpet, laying on his back with his toys between his paws like an infant, chewing them and pulling the stuffing out that he would then leave trailed across the house. He had a habit of pulling his blankets out of his night-time kennel and dragging them into the living room to roll around on until he swaddled himself inside. His value was beginning to increase slightly. At least he was entertaining.

Percy and Kitty 8-31-2010

Percy and Kitty 8-31-2010

His best friend was a silver tabby cat, and they got along great. They would wrestle playfully in the family room, Percy circling and barking at her, both enjoying the romp and sharing the house well together.

We discovered he was a darn good little travel mutt when we took him on his first of many trips. Actually, that’s where he shined best. He became affectionate and even wanted us to hold him when he was in the car. Whenever my wife would pull out his fleece harness and retractable leash, he became so excited, standing on his hind legs just the same as when he was begging for food. In the car during city travel he would thrust his snout into the wind, sniffing and taking the world in through his nose and big brown eyes. On the freeway, he would be either on my wife’s lap or perched on my left leg, looking through the window, making the rounds back and forth many times throughout the journey.

Mom's furry boy looking out the window at Cayucos on 7/21/2011

Mom’s furry boy looking out the window at Cayucos on 7/21/2011

He enjoyed going everywhere, but he was a beach dog at heart. Since his first trip on September 4, 2010, the soft sand at Cayucos or Morro Bay was among his favorite things in life. My wife and I would stroll along the beach and Percy would be at the full extension of his leash, arcing back and forth from left to right, exploring the white to brown terrain as we moved along, checking out the sea gulls, pelicans, people, and especially the other dogs (since his “sister” was a cat and he didn’t see many other dogs). He enjoyed the water so long as it wasn’t too deep or too cold, and when the waves would wash against his feet he would wind up covered in sand, looking kind of soggy, and stare up at you with eyes that would melt your heart.

He was also a great conversation starter. Since he was actually rather cute, adults and children would always comment and want to pet him. We met and talked to many interesting people with which there would have been no opportunity if it hadn’t been for this little furball on the end of the leash.

Soggy Doggy at the beach 9/4/2010

Soggy Doggy at the beach 9/4/2010

I felt really bad for him a couple of years back when he started having trouble walking. You could tell his hips bothered him so we took him to the vet. The prognosis was that he probably dislocated his hip while bouncing around or up-and-down from the couch. The vet prescribed some pain medicine and in a few days he seemed in pretty good shape.

There was a time back in January of 2011 that Sylvia and I were having marital problems. Actually, she was the one with the problem — and his name was Rick. I wasn’t being a very good husband and she felt the need to move out of the house for a while. I’ve hopefully grown since then, and things are better now. We have a strong, loving, and committed marriage. But while she was gone, the house seemed awfully large and lonely.

Women, I’ve learned, have a way different way of communicating than men. As we were working toward resolving our differences, she asked if I would take care of Percy and move him back in. At first I was rather hesitant, still hurting and looking with male eyes at the fact here was a woman who ran out on me now wanting me to take care of her dog. Although I wasn’t really too keen on the idea, thankfully I did it anyway. But, yeah, now I get it.

Getting warm and dry in mommy's arms 9/4/2010

Getting warm and dry in mommy’s arms 9/4/2010

So it was Percy and me (plus the cat when she wasn’t roaming outside). And we got to know each other pretty well. He started sticking pretty close. And although still not really what you would call affectionate, he was there, an ever-present companion. If I was in the living room, he was there. If I went to the bedroom, he was patiently waiting outside the door. If I went into my office, he was about a foot away from my chair, flopped on the floor in a furry ivory semi-circle.

Even though I’d grown to kinda already like him, we became pretty close during that time. I still thought he was worthless, but in a good way.

Sylvia and I worked out our differences (meaning I wised up a tad) and the household became one again. Since the kids are mostly grown and doing their own thing, and the cat is — well, a cat and you know how they are — Percy became like the little furry kid running around the house.

Percy at Bass lake on 5/5/2012 embracing his inner wolf.

Percy at Bass lake on 5/5/2012 embracing his inner wolf.

One time my wife was at a woman’s church conference in a city a few hours away, so the day belonged to Percy and me. We decided to have a guy’s day out. I took him on a road trip through Coursegold and Oakhurst, up to Bass Lake, and just to the outskirts of Yosemite. I thought it would be a great place for a mountain dog like Percy to embrace his inner wolf. And it was. He loved the pines and the rocks, sniffing and enjoying everything we did. He was a great companion that day and we talked about a lot of stuff. He was a good listener, never interrupted, and I swear he agreed with everything I said. We became pretty good buddies.

He had another bout with his hip one weekend, and since we still had some of his medicine, we gave it to him and were planning to see the vet again if necessary the following Monday when they re-opened. It was clear he was uncomfortable, but by Sunday evening seemed his normal self.

As time went on, he engrained himself more and more into my life. I found out that he loved canned vienna sausages and hot dogs. and you wouldn’t believe how he would circle-dance for a piece of cheese, earning him yet another nickname of “Cheese Hound”. I started loving him as much as he loved the cheese.

Percy and Sylvia checking out Yosemite Valley 6/2/2012

Percy and Sylvia checking out Yosemite Valley 6/2/2012

I was also learning something from this dog. He had no practical value as I had always measured it, but I was loving him more all the time, and he loved us back in his own doggie way. I think he was likely abused or hurt before we got him and that was why he was a bit distant much of the time. I told Sylvia on several occasions that I thought he had “issues” and would probably benefit from “Puppy Prozac”. Guess that was just one more thing he and I had in common.

I determined that I was going to try to help nurture him back to emotional health. I made it a point to speak to him softly and handle him gently, paying close attention to his reactions and would always stroke him lovingly with kind words to try to soothe and comfort him. It worked to a great degree. He got where he would actually come when called and would jump on the recliner with me and sit in my lap wanting his petting more nights than not. His personality changed and he seemed to smile more. Yes, dogs do indeed smile if you’ve never noticed.

God taught me so much through this little animal. He gave me a glimpse through His eyes of how He must see us. We cannot possibly have any real practical value to God, yet He loves us regardless and unconditionally.

I learned that I was loving this little guy more and more even though I could see no practical reason. I just did because he was lovable, and I loved him so very much. It had nothing to do with what he could do. It was only about who he was. He was our dog, a part of our family, and an important part of our lives.

Three days ago, he started having trouble walking again. From the several bouts he’d had before we thought he’d bounce back by the next morning. But by the next morning he was still hurting and had lost the use of his back legs. He was moving only by dragging his hind-quarters with his front legs. He looked like a little white seal moving along and it broke my heart to see him that way. We knew something was seriously wrong this time.

Sylvia cared for him and coddled him as best she could and I could see the pain and the tears in her eyes.

I knew he loved vienna sausages, so I opened a can and broke them into very small pieces and put them in a small paper bowl. There were a couple of leftover barbecued hotdogs in the fridge, so I gave them a quick zap in the microwave to take the chill off and broke them as well. I sat on the kitchen floor and held the bowl near his mouth so he could eat. He sniffed a bit, not really interested, then gingerly started with one small bite and wound up eating nearly all of it. I then filled another bowl with a little water and held it for him to drink.

When he had his fill, he used his front paws to move himself toward my lap. It was obvious where he wanted, so I held him gently and cuddled with him, trying to comfort him and feeling completely helplessness. I prayed for that dog the first of many times, knowing that God loves all His creation and asking Him for mercy and healing of this dearly loved small creature. I cried the first of many times for Percy.

Finding a veterinarian in Porterville the week before the fair, since we are a very agricultural community, is much harder than I would have ever thought. Explaining the situation call after call, we heard the same thing. No available slots until after the fair and in most cases the doctor would not even be in the office. Finally we reached a caring person in a city 45 minutes away that unfortunately could not see us now but could work us in the following day.

It was so hard to see him in this condition. I took him to the back yard so he could relieve himself, but he had no control. I cleaned him up, being reminded of the experiences changing my daughter Amy’s diaper when she was a baby. Percy was my furry baby now. He had many accidents, and Sylvia and I cleaned them up.

Placing him on the floor in the living room, he still tried to get around as best he could. I would carry him and gently sit him in his favorite spots and it was obvious his pain and discomfort had grown worse. His small body quivered and he whimpered with every touch and move. He was in agony. I wish now I had held him up to the window, which he loved to see out of. But I just didn’t think of it at the time.

I was learning yet another lesson. With the pain that he endured, he still smiled while looking at me lovingly, and he licked my arm gently with his soft pink tongue. I must admit that I never usually let him do that, but this time seemed different. I had a sinking, gnawing, tightening feeling in my gut that he would not have many more opportunities to express affection. His attitude was the greatest I’ve ever seen. He endured, yet he loved. I could not help but wonder how much even the more that Jesus must have shown this type of strength on His way to the cross. It was yet another small glimpse the Holy Spirit has given me through this small dog.

I was planning for the future that night. I didn’t think I would ever see Percy walk again and went online to look at little doggie wheel chairs and figuring out which would likely be best for his needs. I mused that maybe his next nickname would be “Wheels”. I was thinking ahead about how we would best care for him.

Sylvia took time off from her job to take Percy to the vet, since it’s very hard for me to get time off. That morning I sat on the entryway landing with Percy on the carpet in front of me and talked to him before going to work. It’s amazing how much I’ve grown to love that little worthless dog. And now I also feel terrible, knowing how much he loved car rides, that I wasn’t with him for the last one he ever experienced.

As I sat in my work office, the clock moved slowly. I was anxious, yet also dreading the time to pass. I hoped so much that the answer from the doctor would be that he was going to be fine and that my prayers for him would be fully answered. But God’s plan isn’t always what we want, and when I received the call from Sylvia she was crying.

The doctor explained that Percy had a completely collapsed disc that had damaged his spinal column, that the other incidents leading up to it were just precursors and there was nothing that would have likely prevented it other than a very expensive surgery with slim chances of success. There was no feeling in his legs and there was no effective treatment that he would likely respond to. My heart sank. Percy would be paralyzed in his hindquarters, in constant pain in the rest of his body, and have no control over urination or bowel movement for the rest of his life.

Percy on the examination table his last day with us 5/10/2013

Percy on the examination table his last day with us 5/10/2013

That’s not much of a life…

Some may hate me for the decision that I made. And it was a struggle between head and heart. My head kept arguing that all life is precious and worthy of prolonging at any cost. But my heart said that sometimes death is a form of mercy. I decided I could not bear to see him in pain that would never end. Agony is not a good life.

Sylvia needed me there, and I wanted to be there also since it was my decision and my responsibility. I left work and took the agonizingly long drive, second-guessing and arguing my decision many times along the way while praying for strength and wisdom..

When I arrived, Sylvia was standing outside the office with Percy wrapped in a towel he’d had a few accidents in. He recognized me immediately and I could see the expectant smile on his face and the happiness in eyes. I took him gently in my arms and guilt flooded my mind. How could I do this to someone I love? This is not mercy, it’s murder….

I held him close, putting my cheek on his small head and talked to him, telling him how sorry I was and that I so very much wanted things to be different.

The time came so much quicker than I wanted, and I remembered a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth who said, “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.” He was also planning a murder when he spoke these ominous words. My heart was very heavy.

An assistanct led us into a nicely appointed examining room with a soft brown mat on the table and asked that we let Percy lay down there. The doctor came in, told me I had made the right decision and explained the procedure. He asked if I needed a few moments and I said yes.

Sylvia was in so much emotional pain, but I cannot relate what was in her heart, only what was in mine.

I hugged Percy and told him I knew he could not understand my words or what was happening, but I hoped that God would allow his animal spirit to understand what my spirit was saying. I told him again how sorry I was and how much I wanted something different. I wanted to simply wake from a bad dream and see him healthy and bouncing around again. I asked God to please forgive me if I made the wrong choice.

Percy at his favorite place 3/30/2013I broke down, sobbing and telling Percy how much I loved him and that I didn’t know if his spirit would live beyond his body as our soul lives beyond ours, but that I hoped with all my heart that it did and in few moments he would have a new body without pain and be running on warm glistening sand with radiant seagulls soaring overhead and cool sapphire waves lapping at his feet as he runs and plays on a heavenly beach for eternity. I told him I hope to join him there someday. I asked him to please forgive me and to know forever how much I love him.

The doctor returned to the room and when I looked around I did not see a doctor’s office, but an execution chamber. Although part of me understands, there is another part of me that wonders how it is that a person can deal with being a professional executioner, stealing the lives of other living things, even part of the time and under the guise of mercy.

The syringe filled with Pentobarbital would anesthetize Percy so he would not feel any pain. Then as he was in a drug-induced sleep his heart would stop. I hugged him close as the doctor gave guidance and the technician found a vein in his hind leg since it was already numb from the spinal damage. She inserted the needle and I watched horrified as the violet solution entered his body. Part of me wanted to cry out “NO!” but I remained silent, knowing in my heart that easing his suffering was the merciful thing to do.

But I was still killing someone I loved very dearly and it hurt.

Eternally sleeping 5/10/2013 @ 12:10PM. He who was alive now breathes no more. May you suffer no longer, my good and very loved friend...

Eternally sleeping 5/10/2013 @ 12:10PM. He who was alive now breathes no more. May you suffer no longer, my good and very loved friend…

I watched his body relax and his eyes droop. He was feeling the first effects and his pain was easing. The tension flowed from his body and he went limp – a third the syringe was injected. His eyes closed almost but not quite fully. He looked like he was going into a peaceful sleep. A quick check with the stethoscope revealed to the doctor that his heart was still beating, so the technician injected the rest of the drug and it was done. Percy, my beloved little dog, was dead because of my choice.

Sylvia and I both cried over him and the doctor and technician stepped out to give us a bit of privacy. Tears flowed and I lost count of how many tissues we used.

In a few moments, the technician returned and gave Sylvia a hug, touched me on the shoulder, and gave us both words of comfort and encouragement.

Now we wait to get the ashes of our loving companion in a wooden box with his name on a gold plate. But for now there’s now an empty kennel in the corner and an emptier hole in my heart.

As I write this, I keep looking down to the left of my office chair hoping to see him plopped down in the furry little circle where he would usually be. But he’s not there. And he never will be.

Percy was my friend, my travel buddy, my family member, and most importantly my mentor. He taught me so much. I miss him immensely, beyond words’ ability to describe. I want so much to feel his warm, furry body enveloped in my arms again, to see the happiness in his fuzzy face as he looks at me with large round eyes with his cute pink tongue sticking out. I would love to see his fluffy little tail wagging.

But never will that happen again in this lifetime.

I was so very wrong. Percy was not worthless at all. He was priceless.

My last moments with a priceless friend and mentor I will never forget.
Sir Percival (Percy)
Beloved Pet and Family Member
4/2010 – 5/10/2013

 

Apr 192013
 

broken_leg_kittenAt the Stanford Eye Clinic in Palo Alto, CA on August 29, 2011, a sight I will likely never forget passed through my eyes and into my heart.

A lovely Asian family – father, mother, and daughter – slowly crossed the waiting room floor, the aged father maneuvering one small, weak step at a time, his quivering hand gripping a cane for support while his daughter steadied his other arm. The mother, herself old and worn, shuffled alongside.

What touched me was the young woman had a cast on her left foot wrapped with a black support brace. It was clear she was also having a great deal of trouble walking, and her expression revealed it was quite painful. But she could still walk better than her father and was noticeably stronger, so as a loving daughter she supported him regardless of her personal difficulty and discomfort.

What a perfect model of Christian service…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)

As mentioned in my last post, I struggle with those inner voices saying I’m not good enough to serve, that I still have too many fleshly weaknesses to help others around me in their Christian walk, and that for such an imperfect person to speak of a perfect god God is the height of hypocrisy. But I’m discovering more each day the truth of how very weak we all really are when compared to the absolute strength of Christ that we are being perfected into and will attain not in this life but in the next life only. It is through our mortal weakness that God’s strength most fully manifests.

So rather than bemoaning our own shortcomings we should instead use the strength we are given to do the best we can wherever we are now. While we are not strong to the best degree, we have strength to some degree. The young woman could not lift her father and carry him across the floor, but she could certainly support him along the way.

Focusing on our weaknesses and comparing ourselves against others only further debilitates us. We then imagine what we cannot do and do not see what we can do.

Should I not swim since I’m not Michael Phelps? Should I not cook since I’m not Bobby Flay? Should I not invest for retirement since I’m not Warren Buffett?

Should I not sing praises to the Lord since I’m not TobyMac? Should I not evangelize since I’m not Billy Graham? Should I not give service since I’m not Mother Teresa?

None of us are truly strong. Yet none of us are truly weak. We are all somewhere in the middle and we are all a work in progress. And the wonderful reality is that when we admit and embrace our own frailty and instead focus on God’s strength He does amazing things through us. It is not our strength he requires. He provides that. It’s our obedience to His will and the love in our heart for Him and for His children that is important to God.

“…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45 ESV)

It is to the servant’s heart that God supplies strength. When we cast aside selfishness and replace it with selflessness we become that light on the hill through which glory shines. He then smiles and says this is my child in whom I am well-pleased. Through our weakness He makes us strong.

You do not have to be rich to help the poor. You do not have to be mighty to lend a helping hand. You do not have to be eloquent to say a kind word.

There are always those less fortunate than us, whether physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. When we become that servant who does not see himself or herself, but instead sees Christ living inside, the power of God is instantly there to do things we could never do on our own.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34 ESV)

What do all of these have in common? They took action not for themselves, but for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.

Like the loving daughter did for her father, in the strength of your own weakness whose arm can you support today to help them through this journey of life?

 

Aug 102012
 

chick-fil-aThere has been a social media war going on since Dan Cathy honestly answered the question about his viewpoints on the definition of marriage. While the media storm now appears to be settling, the debate will continue for a long time as American society deals with the issue.

What saddens me most, however, is the behavior of those on both sides of the fence. While I defend Christian values, I am often embarrassed by the behavior and attitudes I see from some of my brothers and sisters. It offends me even more than what I hear from those who hate Christianity and traditional values since they are not be expected to know better. But we as followers of Christ certainly should. And we have a responsibility to defend righteousness in a biblical way, not through hatred and condescension.

The following is a conversation I took part in on the New York Observer’s website that I thought I would share with you:

 

Post that got my attention:

Why do Christians seem to forget that they are making a choice to believe the Bible? It’s not the law or guidebook for our nation. Many of us in this country don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I personally believe people are born that way. The only “sin” I see is a group of people spending their time deciding to hate people who have done nothing to them. Why don’t you forget about what other people are doing, and worry about your own sins.

 

My Reply:

Why do anti-Christians seem to forget they are making a choice to not believe the Bible? In our nation, you have the right to choose. But believers happen to believe there is an absolute right and wrong. Murder is wrong. Child molestation is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong, but we certainly do not hate the homosexual. The only time I hear hatred is from the anti-Christians, not from the Christians themselves. As you say, we must certainly worry about our own sins, and to not warn others about a lifestyle choice that can cause harm to themselves is the sin of omission. We certainly have plenty to clean up in our own lives, believe me. But we do not hate anyone, and I am routinely in contact with gays who know my beliefs. We seem to get along by them not forcing their position on me and I do not force my position on them. And I truly love them. I believe that the feelings are mutual. The only intolerance I see for the most part is the intolerance of moral viewpoints, which I find quite sad. Morality, regardless of what historical revisionists may try to deny, is what our nation was founded upon. I agree that America is not a Christian nation, but it did certainly start out that way.

 

A Reply to my Post:

Now, if we can only see morality as an evolving viewpoint.

I don’t believe for a second that all Christians are as you say, non-hateful, and neither would I agree that most share your view that you can coexist with people who you believe lead wrongful lives without forcing your position on them. “Forcing” is not the word we’re looking for here though is it? You believe that people who aren’t believers need to gain the faith in your religion, do you not? You believe in “spreading the word” so that your religion is known to all, correct? It isn’t forcing, no, but the simple act of “warning” others about their lifestyle choice is what is really being discussed here. That in itself, is the intolerance of Christianity.

That being said, I believe religion is wrong. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, all 1001 different religions that the world has now or has seen in the past. It is wrong because it is the spreading of moral viewpoints that are, for a large part unreasonable, not to mention ancient in their creation. Until we can define morality in terms that has nothing to do with religion, then we will always have a mess of intolerance within this world because there will always be different moral standpoints on what is, as you say, absolute rights and wrongs.

I think in pretty much any moral standpoint, we can agree that murder, child molestation, and stealing is wrong, but to compare those with homosexuality is rather absurd in this day and age. The first 2 are quite a bit more offensive than stealing as it is, but what if we’re talking about murdering for the belief, the faith if you will, in a moral standpoint? You know where I’m going with this, right? Is it in your nature to tolerate murder? It is rather odd, don’t you think, that as far as we’ve come along we still haven’t developed a reasonable insight as to what should or shouldn’t be tolerated as morally correct. Maybe this is just the point where you claim Christianity for that correctly developed moral perspective and I say you’re wrong?

On a side-note, I imagine that the sanctity of marriage is far from what it once was. It is more of a legal binding nowadays, which is why the religious implications of marriage should be abandoned, or vice versa. The point is if 2 people choose to be committed to one another, regardless of who they are, they should be entitled to the same benefits, or no one should be entitled to anything.

 

My Reply:

First, thank you for taking the time to respond. And thank you for doing so in an intelligent, well-thought-out, and logical rhetoric. It’s quite refreshing and very much appreciated. Your post has sparked so many things in my mind that I owe you yet another thank you as well (I think…because you’ve created a lot of work for me. LOL). There is so much to explore with misinformation on both sides of the fence that I’ve just purchased a domain for a website specifically for that purpose. So while I cannot respond to everything you mention in-depth in this venue, let me do a relatively quick fingernail scrape of the surface if you’ll perhaps indulge me.

As you aptly state, I agree that not all “Christians” are non-hateful. But I use the quotation marks since “hateful Christian” is arguably an oxymoron, and in the truest sense of our faith such cannot exist. Therefore I would tend toward the viewpoint that the ones who hate are actually not Christians at all. Most of the Christians I hang out with (admittedly not all) really do love people and truly believe that we are all far from perfect. So how can we possibly hold others to a level we ourselves cannot attain? And if we are not kind and forgiving of others, how can we expect God to extend His mercy to us? Jesus specifically taught that to love those who love us is easy and worth nothing. Everyone does that. To love those who hate us is where the true test of faith comes in.

And I know exactly where you are coming from in many of your statements. I personally was raised in church, and then as I grew up I saw so much hypocrisy that I became very cynical toward religion in general and wound up hating God and church people for a quarter century. During that time there were few things I could have done wrong that I didn’t, and I never missed an opportunity to blast religion in all its various forms. I had some really great intellectual arguments to prove beyond all doubt the folly of religious fantasy. So I’ve used your same arguments myself many times over the course of many years. I was a really proficient sinner.

And I still hate religion. Probably more so now than ever before. Although I’ll bet our definitions differ slightly of just what religion is. And I still bash Christians when I see them doing stupid things that make us look foolish to the world. Quite bluntly, if I were not a Christian knowing some of the things I know now, I would hate Christians too. We can be a pretty flaky bunch at times.

Do I spread the Word? Yes, at every opportunity. Are you not in effect also spreading your own viewpoint with your rebuttal? You believe religion is wrong. I respect that. But is spreading the gospel any better or any worse than spreading an anti-gospel? When we believe in the value of something, as the social creatures we are, we tend to share it. Otherwise Facebook, Twitter, Disqus, and all Madison Avenue advertising would have no reason to exist. I doubt that you spend your entire day defending your non-religious position. Nor do I spend my whole day defending my Christian one.

And based upon our values, yes, we do offer it to all who will receive it at the appropriate time. But it cannot be forced upon anyone. All you can do is offer. And the very best witness for Christ will actually say nothing, but merely allow others the opportunity to observe his/her life, and then individuals can make their own choice as to whether they want what a Christian has or not. If they do, they will ask. That’s when the discussion starts. You’ll never find me yelling, “Repent!” on the street corner. That’s absurd and in the realm of the mentally unstable.

Christianity is definitely not for everybody. Some people will never become Christians. According to scripture it’s not even made available to all. But that’s a whole other discussion. The point being, each person must decide on their own what is true and trying to force someone to believe something they cannot yields nothing worthwhile for either participant.

As far as morality being an evolving viewpoint, let’s say that I agree with what you are saying if we can agree to define morality as “society’s definition of acceptable behavior”. Societal morality is indeed evolving now, as has been the case throughout all of history. But does absolute morality as a gauge of right and wrong change? By definition it cannot, or it is no longer an absolute morality.

If you believe that all religion is wrong, are you saying that you do not believe in a deity of any type? If not, then what is your gauge of morality? If there is no deity, then life evolved through random chance alone, and is therefore devoid of any moral standards. Morality places value in the worth of something. But if we are merely the random assemblage of elements, molecules, and cells which evolved into tissues, organs, and unexplained cognizance, then we have no inherent value whatsoever. We are a roll of the cosmic dice. Nothing more. Our value would be exactly the same as a rock, tree, or worm.

But you mention that we can agree that murder is wrong. How can it be wrong to kill something with no purpose nor any reason to exist?

If we are but a random self-creation, then “morality” as such would have to be based upon some benefit to survival or evolution, would it not? So kindness, unless it can show a value in the survival quotient, isn’t morally necessary. Perhaps freedom has no tangible benefit since a controlled population can accomplish more than a chaotic one. What wrong is there in molesting a child if they are merely a random occurrence? Why is stealing wrong in this scenario? Isn’t there actually a survival benefit to me being able to obtain what I need from someone who already has it? Isn’t there something about survival of the fittest in the science books I’ve read? Using this argument for a moment about the same-sex marriage controversy, what then is the survival advantage of a union that cannot reproduce?

Ah, perhaps you do believe there is a worth to people? And it’s about personal choice. Is that what you are saying, the freedom to decide for one’s self? Just as all marriages should be free from sanctification, we should have the freedom to choose one partner, tire of them and then choose another? But doesn’t that point back to the worth of the individual and say that inwardly we actually do believe that we are more than merely a random chance?

Isn’t it odd that people everywhere from societies all over the world share such common laws and such common belief in the core values of what is right? Freedom and justice are right, while assault is wrong, murder is wrong, rape is wrong, not paying taxes is wrong, etc. How did so many different people arrive at such similar conclusions independently of one another?

Could it be there is actually something inside of us that inherently functions as a moral compass? While we may disagree on the details, I think in the larger picture the entire world comes together closer than we may think in that area. And for a very good reason.

Personally, my only complaint about same-sex marriage is the term marriage. I think it specifically means the union in a covenant relationship vowed before God between a man and a woman for life. If society accepts same-sex unions and gives same-sex couples the same rights that a husband and wife currently enjoy, so be it. It certainly will not keep me awake at night nor urge me to hit the streets with a picket sign. I can personally think it’s not right, but who am I to judge? It’s not my business what they do behind closed doors, and we all have to account for our own choices and actions. I have my own sins to worry about, and believe me I have plenty.

Will I claim Christianity for a correctly developed moral perspective? Since we all see through the glass darkly, and there are many aspects of life scripture doesn’t cover, I have no right to do that. In the arena of this article we are commenting on, scripture does say several things. It clearly states homosexuality is wrong. But it also states that I am not to judge another as sinful, since I need to worry about my own sins first. We are taught that Jesus prevented a woman convicted of adultery from being stoned for her actions, so just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it cannot be forgiven. And we are instructed to be respectful to the authority of our land since all government is created and ordained by God.

So from that my stance is that I will choose in my own life to not practice homosexuality but will not harshly judge others who do, knowing that like any sin committed by any of us, it can be forgiven by a kind and loving God. And if the laws of our land say they have the right to be together, then I will comply with that legislation. Regardless, I will not discriminate under any circumstances since we are all occupants of the same planet trying to do our best between cradle and grave. So will I say that you’re wrong? The absolute truth is I don’t know. I’m living by faith, and I’m too busy trying to keep my own life in order for it to matter a whole lot.

But let me end with this thought. As a Christian I am now happy and content. I can look at others with eyes of love, instead of those hate-filled eyes I used to peer through. I sleep well at night, believing all my needs are met. I believe in the promise that I will never have to face any challenge I am not given the ability to overcome, so my days are pleasant. And no matter what this life may bring, when I die I shall be raised again and become a citizen of a glorious kingdom in which I shall live forever.

Let’s say that I’m wrong and you’re right. I’ve been good to people. Generous and loving. I have family and friends who care for me, and I for them. I feel tremendously good about not who I am, but about a God who loves me in spite of all my shortcomings. So I wind up living my life as a happy fantasy and then I go to the grave peacefully without fear and never wake up. Regardless, it’s been a good, fulfilling life.

But what if I’m right, and we are not here by chance alone but are divinely-created citizens of a fallen world filled with sin, and there actually is a just God who holds us individually accountable to the standards He has set? For a lot of people’s sake, they better hope I’m wrong.

 

A comment from another:

Very well said!

 

And another:

amen!

 

I was blessed by the two very nice replies to my post, but I did not hear back from the originals to continue the discussion. Perhaps I simply bored them so much they went to other pursuits. But hopefully they thought about it, and the Holy Spirit allowed the goodness of Christ to be perceived. For that is the only thing that can truly change us. It is never about winning an argument or making a valid point. It’s about the deep and sudden realization there is something greater than all of us combined, and that greatness is a kind, loving, merciful, yet just and holy God who cares deeply about every creature in His creation.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13:34-35 ESV

 

Aug 072012
 

TreasureChestWhen we think of buried treasure, our mind most often conjures pictures of finding precious metals or jewels that have lain in wait below the ground for a wonderful discovery that makes our life richer. We dream of the pleasures we can buy with the value of such a lucky find, and we imagine the luxuries and indulgences we can afford for our enjoyment.

But not all treasures are brought forth from an underground hiding place. Sometimes it’s just the reverse. Instead, we deposit a priceless treasure below the ground, out of the reach of ourselves and others, and never again do we gain the benefits we could otherwise enjoy.

This is what happened on June 22nd. A rare jewel was hidden below the earth where we can no longer marvel at her beauty, or partake of the bounty of her generous gifts. On this day we laid to rest a 25-year-old precious woman of God who left us before we could fully appreciate this priceless treasure.

To say that such an early death was God’s plan is a lie. God knew, of course, for God knows all things. He knows the end of a thing from its beginning. But this was not God’s will. His will from the beginning was that we would live forever in paradise. That was His plan in creating a garden that was perfect, without sin, and without death. No, to lose a young woman so early, is not His will. But it is instead the result of living in a fallen world where physical death, sickness, disease, poverty, war, famine, pestilence, floods, and fire are real and present every day of our all-too-short lives.

I cried as I realized I would never again – at least not during this lifetime – speak with her, hear her sing in the choir, watch her playfully interact with the children during vacation bible school, or embrace her with a warm and heartfelt hug. During her funeral service, in the memory of my mind’s eye, I could see her excitedly swaying and clapping, singing songs of joy to worship our King. Now she has indeed traded her sorrows and laid them down for the joy of the Lord. As I write this, she is no doubt joined with the angels around the throne of grace, singing holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, while she awaits that glorious day of the second coming when she will be given her perfected body that will never again feel the sting of death.

So do I feel sorry for her? No. She is in a wonderful place.

But I do feel sorry for those of us left behind, especially for her parents who are dealing with the loss of a child and the painfully cold void her departure has left in their lives. In the life of a Christian, grief about death is not for the deceased, but it is for the survivors. Did not Paul tell us not to grieve as do the heathen without hope? He was not telling us to not grieve at all, but he was simply admonishing us to grieve in a different way. If we indeed believe that we are heaven-bound after this life is complete, why would we not be filled with joy that one of our own has already made the journey? We do rejoice for them, but it is for us who stay behind that we feel sorrow.

I’ve thought about her many, many times since that day. And remembering her fills my mind with such a variety of thoughts – far more than I can cover in a single article – so I will focus on this one key concept.

The greatest treasures the world have ever known lie buried in our cemeteries.

How many lives could have been touched? How many discoveries could have been made? How many songs could have been sung? How many books written? How many diseases cured? How many sermons could have been preached? How many lives could have been saved or made so much more worth living had those deceased treasures accomplished all they had been capable of accomplishing? Many indeed did, but the majority did not.

So I ask you, dear friend. What gifts has our heavenly Father bestowed upon you? What callings has He placed on your life? What dreams has He given to you? Unless Jesus returns first, you and I have a date with the grave that is approaching closer and closer each day. It’s uncomfortable to realize this, but it’s the way our time here on this planet will end. The price for this wonderful gift of life we have been given will ultimately be paid for with a death to complete the transaction. And what we do here on earth will decide the reward we receive in heaven. It has been said that life is our gift from God. What we do with it is our gift to God. Are you giving Him a worthy gift? I hope so but, at least in my case, I fear I am not.

The army says to be all that you can be; God says to be all He’s called us to be. Are you everything God says you are? Are you obedient to the tasks He has given you to do? Are you fully developing the gifts He has given you? If not, when will you? If you are waiting, when will you start and what are you waiting for? Will you have time to finish before the clock stops ticking?

A lovely young woman has left this earthy realm, and her shell has become buried treasure below the earth. We cannot possibly know if she fully accomplished all she was sent here to do. Whether she did or whether she did not, her race is over and her reward is forever settled in heaven, to be determined when the seals are broken and the King of Kings reads from the Book of Life and from the Book of Deeds. But in one personally important way, her work here continues. She is an incredible inspiration to me, giving an urgency to do more than I’ve ever done before. I pray this inspires you to do the same.

Tabetha, I thank you for the life you lived and for allowing me to share a small part of it. I, like many others, love you and miss you so very much.

You are a precious buried treasure…

 

Oct 142011
 

This is a story my dad sent to me today. If it doesn’t make you want to cry, I pray that you find a softer heart. This is a creature we can all learn from.

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and, shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye and where the other should have been was a hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby, striped type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders.

Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. “That’s one UGLY cat!!!”

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, and squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction.

If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around your feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running, meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love.

If you ever picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor’s dogs. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly’s sad life was almost at an end.

As I picked him up and tried to carry him home, I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought.

Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear. Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.

Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful.

angel-cat-10He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me. . . I will always try to be Ugly.

Author Unknown