Friday, December 28, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

Note: My wife, Catherine, posted this article on her blog about a year ago, but I thought it might be interesting to post it again for anyone who hasn't read it. Most people who have read this article agreed with it overwhelmingly, but I have received some criticism as well (interestingly, most of the criticism was regarding a matter of detail, which made me wonder if they understood what I was really trying to say in the first place). As always, I make no claims to being "right"; these are just some thoughts that I've had on this particular subject. Whether you agree with me or not isn't the point; the fact that you thought about it one way or the other is.

From the book "Finding Liberty".

As I would suspect is the case throughout all of America, churches here in Casey County, KY have an alarming lack of youth showing up on Sunday mornings. In the fall of 2006, a group of musicians attempted to counter that trend by sponsoring a Christian rock concert here in our little corner of the world. It was meant as a bridge, a means of reaching out to the youth of our area and connecting with them at the place where they happen to be.

The next week, a scathing letter to the editor appeared in our local paper denouncing the event, saying that there is nothing “Christian” about rock music and that it is instead an instrument of the devil. The writer went on to condemn long hair also; saying that Christian men wear their hair short and neatly trimmed.

This letter touched off a minor firestorm, and letters quickly dominated the editor’s page as people voiced their opinions on the topic and argued their case for or against. A scripture was fired off across the bow. A broadside of other scriptures were shot back. The vast majority of letters were written in a kind, loving way, but many were much more opinionated and damning.

This went on for 2 months.

All of the people who sounded off their opinions in this little episode were Christians, none of whom were willing to budge from their own predetermined personal convictions, and who, if anything, now cling to them even more tightly than before.

The question I have is not whether you think Christian rock is right or wrong, or whether Christian men should have short hair. The question is this: In what way did all of these Christians move God’s kingdom forward by publicly bickering & squabbling amongst themselves - because that was certainly how it appeared - on the pages of a newspaper read by hundreds of people, many of whom are not Christians?

Because if I’m a non-Christian reading those letters week after week, I’ve got to be thinking to myself something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me? These are the people who say I’m lost? These are the people who tell me how wonderful it is to be a Christian because of all of the love that Jesus Christ has brought into their lives? These are the people who say I’m wrong and they’re right? That they know the one true God? They can’t even agree on something as insignificant as the length of your hair!”

The sad part is, they would be wholly justified in thinking those thoughts. I mean, why would anyone want to be a part of a group like that, especially when there are plenty of ready alternatives that are so much more appealing.

A year or so ago a very devout Christian woman saw a teenage girl at the mall walking with her mother. The girl was dressed, as dozens of other girls walking around the mall that day were, in the current fashion of the day; a “Britney Spears” ensemble of blue jeans, t-shirt, and bare mid-rift. The exception was that the shirt that this particular girl was wearing also had the letters “WWJD?” emblazoned on the front.

The Christian woman was offended, and proceeded to walk over to the girl and denounce her publicly - in front of her mother, in front of everyone - for not being dressed as a proper Christian should be.

Since this story was related to me, I’ve often wondered what became of that young girl. A young girl at a very impressionable stage in her life. A time when, consciously or not, she is choosing role models and mentors to guide her, making decisions that, unbeknownst to her, will affect the entire course that her life will take, and in the process, forming for herself a set of opinions and beliefs that she will carry with her for years to come.

However “wrong” this young girl may or may not have been in her “Christian attire”, at least she wasn’t afraid to associate herself with the name “Jesus”. How many teenage girls have the guts to do even that? And if she maybe wasn’t a “proper” Christian, at least she had a foot on the right path; a path that over time would have eventually made her realize all by herself that, among other things, perhaps her attire was not appropriate. I have to wonder if Christ is still a part of her life now, or if He instead is closed away forever behind a door that was slammed shut in a shopping mall.

There’s a saying I read once that states, “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.” Was the silence improved here?

I think that that Christian woman - as well as all of the people who weighed in with their letters to the editor regarding the concert - were well meaning. I’m sure they had good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and if the end result is that a couple miles of interstate was constructed in that direction because of these incidents, does anything change just because “we didn’t mean for that to happen”?

We talk a lot about the evil that Satan does in the world, but I’m not so sure Satan is really that busy anymore. I see him more like a Maytag repairman; highly skilled in his art, but not a whole lot to do at the moment. All of us Christians seem to be doing a pretty good job of doing his work for him. Fussing, arguing, judging, and rebuking amongst ourselves. Apparently not content with just keeping non-believers away from God, we take it a step further and slice our fellow Christians to ribbons before throwing the unsightly trash of their being out of our self-righteous front door.

And for what? Oh, that’s the kicker! For a detail. A detail that we can’t even prove is correct, that doesn’t even necessarily have anything to do with anything, but one which we have decided to embrace and defend at all costs. We’ve all heard the old saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees”, and that’s what these individual details are; separate and distinct trees that are part of a much larger whole. But in our obsession over one or two of these details that we feel so strongly about, we will blindly exalt and protect them, and all the while remain blissfully ignorant of the rest of the forest, even as it burns to the ground around us.

That may seem a little harsh. I mean, we’re only talking about 2 small instances here, and we are only human after all. We know we will stumble and fall sometimes. But surely we – Christians – do much more good than bad. In the larger scheme of things, these incidents themselves are merely a couple of minor “details” aren’t they? Is it possible that I’m simply making a mountain out of a molehill?

Maybe. Each molehill by itself is certainly rather small, but what happens when you pile them all together? Because there sure are a lot of them:
How to conduct Baptisms, the rapture, alcohol consumption, head coverings, modest dresses for women, what music to listen to, hair length, body piercings/tattoos, what foods we’re supposed to eat, church attendance, anointing with oil, what day is the real Sabbath, speaking in tongues, attire at church, predestination, working on Sunday, laying on of hands . . . folks, I’m just getting started. Pick your poison, identify your detail, and I guarantee you’ll find Christians somewhere fighting about it with other Christians.

Note that I’m not saying we should relax what we believe in, or water down our faith so that it “feels good” to everybody. I’ll talk about that later. But for now, just realize the damage that we do to ourselves – and everyone else – when we allow these individual details to become more important than the larger whole that they are a part of.

United we stand, divided we fall.

You can say whatever you want about the Catholic church, but like it or hate it, one thing is for sure; for the first 1500 years after Christ’s death & resurrection, if you were a Christian, you were a Catholic.Note 1 In other words, regardless of what differences of opinion Christians in the Catholic church had with each other, regardless of whether or not the hierarchy of the church was corrupt from power and money, at least all of the Christians in the world were on the same team. But from the moment Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis’ on the church door, we have allowed our differences of opinion and our varying interpretations of the same book to divide us further and further upon ourselves.

I’m not saying that Luther was wrong for doing what he did; far from it. But have things gotten any better since the reformation? It’s not as simple as saying “Catholic” and “Protestant”, because there isn’t just “one” protestant church. You’ve got the Methodists, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, and the Episcopalians. Then there’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Church of Christ. And don’t forget the Quakers, the Puritans, the Shakers, and the Amish. That’s about all, right? Doesn’t seem too bad.

But you already know that’s not even close. Although that’s 13 separate denominations right there, there are plenty more where they came from. And once you get a complete list (if you can), take a closer look at each one. Just in the classification of “Baptist” churches you have Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Full Gospel Baptist, Separate Baptist, Independent Baptist, and so on. Push on to the Presbyterians and you’ll see there isn’t just one of those either. Ditto for the Lutherans. Ditto for the Methodists. And don’t even bother to try to get a headcount of all of the “non-denominational” churches out there. You’ll hurt yourself.

How many protestant denominations are there? I have no idea. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 35 to 23,000 (yes, that was 23 thousand). I don’t think anybody really knows. Just throw a dart; you’re bound to hit something.

Why so many? They’re all worshipping the same God, aren’t they? They all use the same Bible, don’t they? Yes, and yes. The divisions come from disagreement, and the disagreements are all on varying details. Details of method. Details of style. Details of interpretation.

Who’s to say who is right and who is wrong? After all, do any of us actually have the ability to see into the mind of God? To say for sure that “This is what God meant. Everybody else is wrong”. As with any argument, it soon degenerates into being more about who is right than what is right. Winner take all.

Details have not just divided the Christian church, but have splintered it into hundreds - possibly even thousands - of disconnected fragments. Was this done for God’s sake or mankind’s? Whose kingdom did this fragmentation of the Christian church serve better, God’s or Satan’s? And does it make any difference whether that’s what we intended to do or not?

I go back to what that young girl in the mall had on her shirt; a catch-phrase that was pretty popular a few years ago. WWJD?: What would Jesus do? It’s a shame that this little question came and went as little more than a fad, because it’s a powerful question, one that we would all do better for remembering and continuously asking ourselves.

What would Jesus do?

Details? I don’t think Jesus cared a whole lot about details. You can see His disdain for meaningless details throughout the gospels: Not enough loaves and fishes to feed the multitude? So what. A minor detail. Too late to heal the little girl because she’s already dead? Don’t worry about it. Want to get baptized but can’t because you’re already hanging on a cross? “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

True, Jesus was detailed about some things. His entry into Jerusalem, for instance, was very specific regarding his mode of transport and his lodging. I don’t know the significance of why He was so specific in that case, but I know He had his reasons, and in some way those details served His purpose. And that’s where I think the difference lies; do the details that we embrace serve His purpose, or ours? Are we so focused on the details themselves that we are completely missing the spirit behind them? Have the details become more important to us than God Himself?

Jesus’ run-ins with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes are very interesting. These were all people who knew the details of the law, and they held themselves in very high regard. Like vultures they would hover around Jesus, just waiting for Him to slip up so that they could pounce:

Eating with tax collectors and sinners! (Matt 9:11)
Not fasting! (Matt 9:14)
Working on the Sabbath! (Matt 12:2)
Not washing His hands before He eats! (Matt 15:2)
And so on, and so on.

Every confrontation between Jesus and these men was a matter of some detail. When you think about it, Jesus was really quite the maverick. He was constantly crossing over these lines in the sand - these details - and stepping on the toes of those who held them so dear. And I think in His actions He makes it quite clear that it’s not the details that matter, but the heart behind them.

Jesus warns us in several of the gospels to beware “the yeast of the Pharisees”, and He makes it quite clear how He feels about the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes in Matthew 23, the entire chapter of which is devoted to them, albeit probably not in the manner they would have preferred.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” - Matt 23:13

But I think we’re making a big mistake if we think that Jesus is simply talking to a bunch of men who all died 2,000 years ago. He’s talking to us, because every one of us has the potential to become a Pharisee just as soon as we allow the focus of our hearts & minds to slip away from the righteousness of God and become instead centered on the righteousness of ourselves, a condition which quickly leads us to begin judging others on matters of detail. And when our hearts & minds shift away from the Lord, like Peter we suddenly find ourselves sinking into the waves.

I look at Christianity as a mountain to climb. On the mountain are all of those who have accepted Christ as their personal savior. Some have been climbing that mountain for a long time, others have just begun. Some move more quickly up the slopes, while others have a more difficult time. But while we may all be scattered across the face of that mountain, and though some of us have made higher ground, we all have one thing in common: we are all trying to reach the top.

The interesting thing is that none of us can reach the top on our own. In the end, the summit can only be reached through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. What is important is not where we are on that mountain, but that we are on the mountain. Because as long as we are, it makes no difference to what heights we might ascend to as Christians in this life; as long as we are on that mountain - anywhere on it - the hand of the Savior can ultimately reach down to us and pull us to the top when we expire from this earth.

It’s interesting that in any other group of people – doctors, lawyers, athletes, soldiers, etc. – we inherently know that there are wide variations of skill and ability within those groups. I’ve personally known salesmen who were so good they could literally sell you your own shirt and make you think you got a great deal. I’ve also known others who couldn’t give away a glass of water to a man dying of thirst. Yet they both wore the badge of “Salesman”. In any group of like minded people, due to knowledge, experience, ethic, mental comprehension – whatever - some are simply better than others.

But have you noticed that that reasoning doesn’t seem to apply to those who put on the badge of “Christian”. As soon as someone becomes a Christian, they are immediately held to the same standard by which all other Christians are measured. It’s bad enough that secular society holds us in that regard, but to make matters worse, we do the same thing with each other.

The problem is that we are all at different levels in our climb up that mountain. Those on the lower slopes need help – not animosity – from those who are higher up. The climb is tough enough as it is without all of us shooting arrows at each other, targeting, judging, & rebuking those who have not reached the point where we happen to be, or maybe more appropriately, where we think we happen to be. The first thing we as Christians need to do is to encourage those who are on the beginner slopes to keep climbing, not give them a reason to turn around and give up.

Once we’ve got that taken care of, the second thing we need to do is to get the attention of those who are not yet on the mountain at all, and give them a good reason to want to check it out.

Because stretching out below the foot of the mountain are the flat plains of secular living. Lots of people on those plains, and it’s pretty easy living there – no mountains to climb, no standards to uphold, no boring accountability to worry about – and there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Neon lights, parties, raucous laughter; drugs, booze, sex, & money flow like a never-ending river.

Some of the folks on the plains are firmly rooted; they’re staying put. But there are scores more who are asking themselves questions. They’re very busy there, they’re having loads of fun, but they feel hollow and unfulfilled. They often look over at this mountain and see all of these people climbing it. Why? Sure seems like a lot of work. They get curious and walk over to it’s base. What will they see? Will they be greeted with a smiling face and a wave? Will someone say to them, “Hi there! Join us, won’t you? I know it looks hard, but you’ll never regret it. C’mon! We’ll help you!” Or will someone look down on them from the heights of self righteousness and say “Get away! You’re filthy and you’re dirty and you reek. I know what you’ve been doing! We don’t want your kind here.”

Last Sunday in church there was a young boy – probably 10 or 11 – who was sitting in the pew in front of me. I’d never seen him before and he was sitting there by himself. He had an earring in his ear and a definite look of attitude on his face. His behavior was atrocious; wiggling & squirming, putting his feet up on the pew in front of him, laying down, kicking the hymnals back and forth in their holder. Not only was he not listening to a word being said, but he was disturbing others around him, distracting us from focusing on the sermon.

In all honesty, I didn’t like the boy. I wanted to give him a good smack upside his head and tell him to put his feet on the floor, sit still, and show a little respect to God in His own house.

But in a moment of restraint that is unfortunately all too rare in my life, I actually stopped and thought about the situation before I acted. I told my inner Pharisee to just shut up for a minute and let me figure out what I should do. I wanted this young boy to behave, yes, but that’s only what I wanted, and I wasn’t even sure if I could say or do anything to accomplish that end. More importantly, I started to think about what God wanted for this boy.

True, his behavior was deplorable, he wasn’t listening to a thing being said, and he was annoying those around him. But he was in church. He was in church because our Youth Minister had somehow convinced him to come, and had taken the time to go pick him up and bring him. So what if he didn’t know how to act in church; so what if he didn’t know or care what it was all about. He had probably never even been to church before. But he was there now. He was at the foot of the mountain. Was I willing to take the chance of breaking God’s tenuous hold of this young boy and send him away from the mountain before he could even find out what it was all about simply because he was annoying me?

In the end, I did nothing. Despite it all, he was at church. Let him come back to church again. And again. Let him realize that church is not a bad place, that the people he sees here will not judge him or hold him to a standard he isn’t ready for. And after he’s been there a few times and starts to feel a little more comfortable, maybe someone comes up to him and says something like, “You know young man, it’s great to see you here. We love that we get to spend some time with you. Could I ask you a favor, though? I’ve noticed that during the church service you sometimes put your feet up on the pew in front of you. There are some folks here who get a little distracted by that. Do you think maybe you could help them out and just kind of keep your feet on the floor? That would be so great of you if you could do that. I really appreciate it.”

And with a few kind words, a lesson is learned and a young boy takes another step toward the mountain.

I wonder what would have been different if that person who wrote the condemning letter about the Christian rock concert had said instead, “I just wanted to say “thank you” to all the men and women who took the time to reach out to the youth of our community and hold the Christian rock concert. I don’t care for rock music or long hair myself, but it was refreshing to see that someone cared enough to actually do something to fight for these young people. Your efforts have inspired me to get off of my behind and do something myself! Would anyone like to help me?”

I think the enemy just blinked.

I wonder what would have been different if the Christian woman in the mall had checked her desire to berate that young girl and instead said something along the lines of “Young lady, I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you for not being afraid to associate yourself with Jesus Christ. You don’t know it, but your actions are making other young women look at you and wonder what it is you know that they don’t. I wish you all the best in your walk as a Christian. Please don’t ever give up!”

Oh, my. I do believe Satan just sat up and dropped the remote control.

* * *
Author’s Note: Several weeks after I wrote this, that young boy I mentioned earlier accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized. While I did nothing myself to help bring that about, you have no idea the relief that I feel for not doing anything that might have prevented it from happening. I had an opportunity to finally speak with him a short time later; he seemed surprised that everyone knew his name. I said, “Why shouldn’t everyone know your name? You are important.” No big shakes, I know, but how much better for him to hear that instead of the “Shut up and sit still!” that I might have said earlier.

Note 1: An earlier division in 1054 had already split the Catholic church into “Eastern Orthodox” and “Roman”, but the real free-for-all didn’t start until 1517. I am also not considering the many unorthodox sects (Gnostics, Ebionites, etc.) that existed during those times.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Few Good Questions

I don’t have a whole lot of wisdom to share with the world (some might argue that I have none at all), but I’ve collected a few questions over the years that have helped me immensely in living my life, and I think that that’s important, because regardless of what promise I will receive upon my passing from this earth, I’m continuously impressed by the fact that I’m not dead yet. I’m still very much alive, still living this life that God gave me, and I have to think that He would be much more pleased with me if I actually did something with that life rather than just sit around waiting to die so that I can receive my eternal reward.

I’ve come to love figuring things out for myself rather than relying on – and trusting in – someone else’s worldly “expert” opinion (the same experts who told me for years that Pluto was a planet and who now tell me that it’s not; the same ones who once said eggs were bad for me before recanting years later to say that they are in fact actually pretty good for me; the same ones who have a scientific law that says matter & energy can neither be created nor destroyed and yet have no explanation for where all of the matter & energy that exists in the universe came from [and whose very existence would seem to be a direct violation of this particular “law” because, well let’s face it, it’s all here and it came from somewhere]).

I realize too that for anyone reading this, I myself fall into this category of “someone else”, so I won’t even attempt to force my advice on you, because it would probably be wrong anyway. But I will offer these questions to you in the hope that you may find them useful in coming to your own conclusions:

What would you do right now if you weren't afraid?

I used to have this question taped to my monitor at work years ago so that I would constantly see it during the day, and it helped me to face certain aspects of my job that I would rather not do and would often put off until later (returning a call to an irate customer, dealing with a personnel issue, etc.).

But fear hasn’t just compelled me to shun “negative” things, it’s also stopped me from doing things that I would actually have liked to do. How many questions did I not ask in school because I was afraid? How many girls that I really liked in my younger days never knew that because I was afraid to tell them? How many sports, activities, plays, etc., did I not participate in because I was afraid? I have no idea. But there was a bunch.

I still have fears, but asking myself this question helps me to face whatever it is that I am afraid of at the moment and push through it. Would I do it if I wasn’t afraid? Yes? Then do it. And you know what? No matter what it was that I was dealing with, it was never as bad as I feared it would be. In addition, I’ve also learned that regardless of appearances, just about everybody else is afraid too, so I’m always in pretty good company.

Are you pretending not to notice YOUR part of the problem?

I’ve known dozens and dozens of people who are divorced – friends & coworkers, men & women - and many of them have shared the details of their pain and the “sins” of their ex-spouse. What I’ve learned is that one person always seems to be a villain and the other a helpless victim. But you know what? Of all the divorcees that I’ve talked to in my life, never once have I ever talked to the villain. Isn’t that funny?

You’d think that sooner or later – marriages being made up of only two people after all – that at some point I would have met one of the villains. But everyone I’ve ever talked to has always been the victim in the relationship. On top of that, I’ve never met anyone else who has ever talked to the “villain” either. I find it very interesting that we should all defy the law of averages in that way.

You see where this is going. My mom once told me, “There are two sides to every story, and both of them are lies”.

Catherine & I don’t argue much, but it does happen, and when it does, sooner or later I always get around to asking myself this particular question. After all, I always know what she did wrong - that’s why I’m arguing with her in the first place, right? - but what was my contribution to the problem?

I don’t like stepping out of my shoes to stand instead in hers, because then I am forced to see what she saw and what she heard, including the tone of my voice, the look on my face, and the words that I used. And I have to tell you, I have never once been able to look into that mirror and absolve myself of all guilt. In fact, what I usually find - to my own shame – is that I contributed more to the problem than she did, or, in more instances than I would care to admit, I was the one who actually created the whole problem in the first place.

Sometimes, just to summon up the courage to ask myself if I’m pretending not to notice my part of the problem, I first have to ask “What would I do right now if I wasn’t afraid?”, because looking into that mirror can be a little scary.

In what way will this move God’s Kingdom forward?

As a Christian, this is a question that I try to hold close by at all times. It’s pretty similar to the little question that was popular years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?”, but I find that I’m able to use it a little more effectively. The problem for me with the question “WWJD?” is that I don’t know what Jesus would do. I mean, Jesus blew people away with some of the things that He said and did, and I think it would be rather arrogant of me to assume that I could somehow know His mind when I’m still trying to figure out what half of the things He said & did actually meant. But if I can’t claim to know the mind of God, I have no problem at all understanding my own; my thoughts, and my desires.

This question is very deceptive because while answering it honestly isn’t usually that hard, taking the appropriate action based on what the answer is can be excruciatingly difficult. Everything we say and everything we do has an impact. Sometimes it’s big and sometimes it’s small, but it has an impact, and it makes no difference whether we like it or not. And all of it – whether we like it or not - is going to move God’s Kingdom in one direction or the other.

Sometimes, in my own selfish desire, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to say or do something out of an adamant belief that I am right to do so. But so often, when I take the time to stop and ask myself what the result of my words & actions will be, I find that I have to stop myself from doing what I wanted. And it can be SO HARD to bite my tongue or stay my hand when I feel that I am justified but the answer to the question still comes back as: “It won’t move God’s Kingdom forward at all, Blaine. In fact, it will actually push it backwards a step or two”.

I’ll be very honest; I don’t like it at all when I get that answer, because it means that I can’t do what I want to do. But if I guide my actions with the answer that I receive, even though I won’t be able to do what I want to do, the possibility exists that I might be able to do something that Jesus would.

And wouldn't that be something?

Monday, December 10, 2007

He Said: The "Honey-Do" List

Buried deep in the fine print of every wedding vow is a clause that legally enables the creation of what is commonly known as the “Honey-Do” list. For those not familiar with it (read: all unmarried men), the “Honey-Do” list is a compilation of tasks, chores, repairs, and improvements that wives would like their husbands to accomplish.

It usually germinates from a single, innocuous request placed upon the husband early in the marriage, which, in his desire to please his new bride, he nobly accepts as his duty. The problem is that once started, the “Honey-Do” list cannot be killed, and from that initial tiny mustard seed of a request will sprout a monster as thorny and unstoppable as an over-fertilized Bouganvilla bush.

In my early married years I did my best to try and accomplish the items that were on the list, however, I soon found that for every item I was able to scratch off as complete, two more were instantly added. My feverish attempts to make any headway against this list eventually became all consuming, until one night my little daughter asked me a question which made me realize that I would need to take a completely different approach in order to conquer it:
Daddy, what are those white things poking through your fingers?”
“Those are daddy’s bones, sweetheart.”

The dilemma was a tricky one though, for just as you can never complete the “Honey-Do” list, neither can you ignore it (to do so will alternately whip your wife into an uncontrolled fury or send her crashing to the floor in a fit of tears depending on what day of the week it is).

The solution, I have to admit, came about quite by accident during a period of time where – although I was trying – I was unable to finish anything on the list for several weeks. What I discovered is that once the list grew to a certain point, Catherine stopped adding things to it. Whether this was out of compassion for my weary soul or contempt at my incompetence I have no idea, but the fact remained that it did not grow beyond a certain size. And this is where my genius kicked in.

You see, the trick to dealing with the “Honey-Do” list is not to actually get things done, but to pretend that you’re getting things done. Let me show you what I mean.

Every Saturday morning when Catherine asks me what I’m going to be doing that day, I grab the “Honey-Do” list off the fridge, give it a very serious look, and say “I think I’m gonna try and knock some of these out.” What happens next depends on what she does.

If she stays around the house, I’ll make tracks outside and hang out somewhere for awhile, usually with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. After a few hours, I’ll spritz myself down with water to make it look like I’m sweating, cross off the first 5 or 6 things on the list, and then proudly show it to Catherine so she can see that I scribbled through some of the tasks. She’ll give me a big smile because she thinks I actually did something, at which point I’ll go upstairs and pretend I’m taking a shower while I rewrite the list in the bathroom and put the things that I had crossed off back on at the bottom of the new list. To her, it appears that I’m making headway, but since the list never actually gets any smaller she won’t add anything more to it.

And bada-boom, bada-bing, just like that I post it back on the fridge and I’m off the hook for another week.

Sometimes - as a cool variation - I’ll head off in the car on Saturday morning to get some “supplies” that I need to “complete” something on the list. After fishing down at the lake for a few hours (it’s actually better if you don’t catch anything because then you don’t have to try and come up with an explanation for where you got the fish; that can be tricky) I’ll come home, tell her that I drove around to several stores but couldn’t find what I needed, and then go upstairs and take a nap (I’ve gone to great pains over the years to make sure Catherine knows that operating a motor vehicle really wears me out).

It’s even easier if Catherine goes out on Saturday morning instead of sticking around the house. If she does that, I just park it on the couch and watch TV for a few hours. When she comes home, I hold up the list, tell her I just got out of the shower, give her my best “I’m exhausted” look, and then try not to smile as she tells me to just lie down and take it easy for the rest of the day.

No matter how it plays out, she’s happy, and that makes me happy, so even if it may sound like I’m being a little devious, to me, the end absolutely justifies the means. When all is said and done, a happy wife makes for a happy home. And if a happy wife feels the need to head off to the kitchen to cook up a great big dinner for her hardworking man, well, that ain’t all bad either.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Free Book Offer

Hi Folks, thank you for the enthusiastic response to the book offer! If you're just getting here, I regret to have to tell you that the 50 books have all been spoken for; I'm sorry!

I do hope that you return back to visit my blog in the future. I will try to post things that are worth the time to read, and I also plan to give away 1 book every week (as soon as I figure out the best way to do that). Details to come!

For those of you who made the first 50, you should receive your book in the mail within the next 2 weeks (depending on the backlog in the Postal Service as we approach Christmas).

Thank you again to everyone!

* * *

Everybody knows the old saying: Don’t talk about your problems; half of the people don’t care about them, and the other half are glad that you have ‘em.

Well, I have a problem, and I’m hoping to appeal to the half of you out there who are glad that I have it. The whole essence of the problem is that I’m a writer, but nobody knows who I am, or what I write, or how good I may be. That causes problems when you’re trying to sell books, because there are so many good established writers around already that there really isn’t any need for someone to take a chance and buy a book from an author that they’ve never heard of.

Advertising is a waste of time (and I’ve come to loathe the whole concept of it anyway), book critics & reviewers receive so many books already that they throw the vast majority straight in the trash, and all of the “big name” people that might provide a “plug” for a book simply don’t have time to read one from an unknown. On top of that, I have a marketing budget of about $2.

But here’s the way I see it; book critics and advertising companies and “big name” people aren’t the ones who buy books. Regular people – like you and me – buy books, so why shouldn’t "regular" people also be the ones to evaluate them and determine whether or not they have merit?

I could send out 50 copies of a book (or more) to newspaper critics and reviewers all over the country and, if I am lucky, maybe 1 or 2 of them will actually read the book. I’d like to get a little better return rate than that, and since I would be sending out all of those books to them at no charge anyway, I’d like to try something a little different that might work out for both of us.

Here’s what I propose: I will send a copy of “Finding Liberty” at no charge to the first 50 people that contact me. No tricks, no gimmicks. All that I ask in return – all that I ask – is that after you read it, you post a review of it – good or bad - on at Finding Liberty. If you also have a blog, it would be great if you could talk about it there too, but that would be your option.

That’s it. Please note that I do have to limit this to US residents only; I apologize for that, but it costs $10 a copy to mail overseas (did I mention my marketing budget?)

“Finding Liberty” is a collection of stories & articles about God, marriage, fatherhood, and life in general, all written from the Christian point of view of a regular, ordinary man, so if that doesn’t sound like something that would appeal to you, I’d simply ask that you please pass this up as a courtesy for someone who might actually enjoy the book (several of the stories in the book can be found here on my blog if you’d like a preview).

So if that sounds like a fair deal to you, just let me know. The first 50 people who contact me with their name and mailing address at will get a free book.

Thanks & Blessings,

Monday, December 3, 2007

My 2nd Favorite Christmas Story

My favorite Christmas Story is, well, the Christmas Story, but I’d like to take a moment to share my 2nd favorite Christmas Story with you. I've only heard it one time - about 12 or 13 years ago – as it was told by the now retired Pastor Ronald Fink during a Christmas Eve candlelight service held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Orlando, FL. If you’ve never heard it before, I hope it blesses you as much as it did me. If you have heard it before, please forgive me if the retelling is less than perfect; all I can do is write it the way I remember it. If you do like it, please feel free to share it as much as you wish; a story has no value if no one hears it, and this one doesn’t belong to me anyway.

The story is about a man who doesn’t believe in Christmas, and he doesn’t believe in Christmas because he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. It’s not that the man has a hard heart, it’s just that he’s given this a lot of thought, and the whole concept of an "all-mighty, all-powerful" God sending His Son to earth in the form of a man (and wasn’t that convenient) just didn’t make any sense at all. If there really was a God, he thought, and He really was all-mighty and all-powerful, why would he do something like that? It just didn’t make any sense. If God really did exist, He could have just opened up the heavens Himself and told us directly what He wanted us to know. The whole “Jesus thing” was just too ridiculous and convoluted, and since it didn’t make any sense to him, he had long ago decided that Jesus was just a fantasy created by mankind to give ourselves hope when there really wasn’t any hope at all.

And so, as yet another Christmas Eve came upon him, the man did again what he did every year; he went out to a party at a friend’s house and enjoyed some good company and holiday cheer. He arrived back home at around 11:30 that night, and he was glad that he did, because it had just started snowing as he pulled into the driveway and he was thankful that he had gotten home before the roads turned treacherous.

He went inside his house and started going about the business of preparing to turn in for the night when all of a sudden he heard a loud thump! He paused for a moment and then heard it again: thump! Curious, he started walking through the house, looking for the source of the strange noise. Upon entering his living room, he heard it again – thump! – and he could instantly tell that something had just hit the large plate-glass window facing out to his front yard.

Thinking that there might be some teenagers roaming the streets throwing snowballs at his window, the man rushed outside, intent on giving them a piece of his mind. But as he made his way out the door and into the front yard, he immediately noticed two things: The first thing he noticed was that the snowfall had gotten much, much heavier; heavier in fact than he had ever seen in his entire life. Huge snowflakes were literally cascading down from above, and the night was alive with intense motion and yet eerily quiet at the same time.

The second thing he noticed was that there were no kids in his front yard throwing snowballs; instead, there was a flock of birds, and even as the man stood there watching, he suddenly saw two of the birds shoot away from the others and slam into the plate-glass window on the front of his house - thump!, thump! – hitting it so hard that their bodies fell dead to the ground below.

The man instantly knew what was going on. The birds - confused and frightened by the heavy, swirling snow - were fluttering and flying around in a panic, and they could see right inside his house to a place of light and shelter, and they were trying to get inside. But what they didn’t know – what they could never know – was that no matter how hard they tried, they would never be able to get in through the glass.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Three more of the birds slammed into the glass and fell lifeless to the ground.

Now, the man didn’t believe in God or Jesus Christ, but he wasn’t a bad man; he had a good heart, and it crushed him to see what was happening before his very eyes, and he was determined to put a stop to it.

He quickly ran back inside his house and turned off all of the lights, thinking that if the birds couldn’t see inside, they would stop killing themselves trying to get in. But even though the birds could no longer see inside, the now darkened window still held the appearance of shelter – a cave opening, perhaps – and the birds continued to fly into the glass, and their bodies continued to pile up in the snow underneath.

The man then ran to his garage – only 30 feet away - and threw open the door to give the birds a real place of shelter that they could enter without harm. But the birds just continued to fly into the window. Kicking himself, the man ran back into the garage and turned on the lights. Now, he thought, they’ll be able to see that the shelter they need is right over here. But the birds were so focused and intent on getting through the window that they simply didn’t see him at all.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Becoming increasingly panicked himself, the man started shouting at the birds. “Hey! Over here! Over here!”, he yelled, trying to get their attention. But still, the birds did not come.

Finally, the man rushed out right into the remains of the flock, yelling and shouting and waving his arms, trying to herd what birds were left towards the garage. But if the birds had been confused and frightened before, they were now absolutely terrified at this new apparition in their midst, and faster than ever, they hurtled themselves into the glass: Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

Not knowing what else he could do, the man stood there in the cold darkness, snow falling all around, and watched the birds die one by one. With helpless tears flowing down his face he thought to himself, “If only I could be a bird for just a few minutes . . . I could talk to them in their own language – they wouldn’t be afraid of me; they would understand me, and I could tell them what they needed to do to save themselves.”

At that very moment the man heard bells begin to ring; It was midnight, and church bells throughout the town were ringing to usher in Christmas morning, this day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

And as he stood there he thought about what had just happened, and about the words that he had just said to himself, and all of a sudden, the concept of an all-mighty, all-powerful God sending His Son to earth to be with us - to be one of us - for just a little while, didn’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.

Tongue in Cheek - The New & Improved PETA

By now everyone is familiar with PETA and the tactics they use to push their agenda: They protest in the nude, they throw blood on people wearing fur coats, they give fishermen a hard time, and they harass hunters during deer season (which, by the way, seems pretty dangerous to me since a 12-point buck and a protestor holding a sign look a lot alike).

In fact, PETA seems to pretty much do whatever they want in any manner they want, no matter how ridiculous or distasteful it may be to the rest of us who don’t accept their particular ideology and who also recognize that the human mouth is equipped with sharp canine teeth that are designed to rip apart flesh.

That’s why I’m thinking of starting my own group to give PETA a little of their own medicine. I have to tell you, though, I’m just too downright lazy to think of my own acronym, so the first thing I’d do (which they’d probably get really upset about) would be to use their acronym, except instead of standing for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” - which in truth should be “PFTETOA” if you really want to get right down to it - in my group PETA would stand instead for “People who Eat Tasty Animals”.

I think this is a great idea. Anybody using the internet to find out what PETA is all about might get directed to our website by mistake, which would give us the opportunity to remind them of how delicious animals are when slow roasted over an open pit barbeque. For the intellectuals in the crowd, I’d write a downloadable essay that would explain to them in simple terms that the whole concept of being at the top of the food chain means that you have to be able to eat the rest of the food chain. Otherwise, a less politically correct minded animal will be more than happy to assume his place at the top and relegate the human race to nothing more than what it would simply refer to as “food”.

We could have protests just like the original PETA folks do, but instead of boring, physically demanding things like running around in the woods or smacking the water with a canoe paddle to scare the fish away, we could do less challenging stuff, like sitting at a sidewalk cafe and ignoring people who wear man-made leather.

Members of “People who Eat Tasty Animals” could also participate in protest “eat-ins”, where we would all gather together in front of a vegetarian food market and chow down on pulled-pork sandwiches. Or, even better, stuff ourselves with so much turkey & dressing that we all pass out on the ground from a really nasty triptafan rush. I mean, the possibilities are endless.

Oh, and we could sell stuff too, like T-shirts and coffee cups and bumper stickers with cool sayings like “Vegetarians are People Too” and “Be Nice to Animals Before You Eat Them”, and “You Know, There’s a Lot of Good Meat on a Cat”.

I have to tell you, the more I think about this idea, the more excited I get, and not just because it would get the folks at the original PETA a little steamed (though in all honesty, I’ll admit that that’s pretty fun to think about too). No, I’m excited mostly because by thinking about all of this, I’ve come to realize how truly hungry I am. So if anybody else thinks that this is a good idea and would like to discuss it in further detail, please feel free to meet me down at Sonny’s.

(Note: Before anyone demonizes me for poking fun at PETA, please note that I actually very much agree with the core tenet of PETA; the ethical treatment of animals. However, they have gone so far beyond that principal in both their agenda and their methods that, with me at least, they have lost all credibility).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Countdown to 1984

(from the book "Finding Liberty")

Author's Note: This article, along with the previously posted "In Dependence", form the basis of the storyline for my upcoming novel "What So Proudly We Hailed". I decided to post this one as well because the two articles kind of go together (this one coming first). I apologize if it sounds too political; I make no claim to knowing what I'm talking about and I hope that the two articles together do not prejudice anyone's perception about the remaining articles, stories, & essays included in "Finding Liberty" (the overwhelming majority of which are thoughtful & positive), but if the subject matter of these two articles is of interest to you, then you may also be interested in "What So Proudly We Hailed" which, while not being a "happy" read, attempts to show a future that I believe is not so very preposterous at all. So please accept my apologies for the shameless book plug, and know that I will make every attempt in the future to simply post what I hope will be thoughts ranging from the inspiring to the downright silly. I'm really not quite this paranoid in real life.

In 1945, George Orwell’s Animal Farm gave a simple yet realistic account of Stalinist communism, including an eerily accurate description of what its condition would degenerate to by the time of its collapse more than 40 years later. Not only did Orwell get more right than not with his depiction, but many of the examples of the slow & systematic governmental decay that he used to illustrate the novel can be seen with glaring clarity in institutions of government all over the world, including our own.

One year before his death in 1950, Orwell’s 1984 was first published. Like Animal Farm, it also dealt with a totalitarian government, but in this novel, we do not see the steady decay over time. Instead, total corruption is shown to have already reached its apex, except that in this instance, the government is not about to allow itself to lose its power. 1984 depicted a nightmarish world where war was constant, thought was an arrestable offense, love was outlawed, individuality did not exist, and Big Brother watched your every move. If Animal Farm showed how a government corrupts itself, 1984 showed what that corrupted government can create.

In it’s day, 1984’s depiction of the future was the topic of much discussion, and there was a good deal of speculation as to how correct Orwell’s vision of the future might really be, regardless of how impossible it seemed at the time. As the real year 1984 came and went, it was generally concluded by all – myself included - that Orwell had missed the mark quite badly. 23 years later, I’m not so sure. In fact, today I think it is much more likely that the only thing he really “missed” badly was the year itself.

As I reread 1984 again last month, I was struck by something that was mentioned near the very beginning of the book, something that I would never have noticed upon my first reading a generation ago; flat-screen TV’s that hang on the wall. We didn’t have flat-screen TV’s that hung on the wall in 1984, I thought. No, we didn’t. But we do now. Granted, unlike the novel, we have the ability to turn ours off if we so choose, but I have to wonder, will that always be the case?

My curiosity sparked, I started looking for other things in the novel that didn’t exist 23 years ago, and as I continued to read, my list grew alarmingly long. To make matters worse, most of the things that I stumbled across were not even mere physical devices, but instead were things that were much more vague and disturbing. Things that fell into the categories of “guideline”, “policy”, and “practice”. And all of them not only seem to be universally expected in today’s world, but also accepted as well.

One of the first “unthinkable” premises presented in 1984 is the one in which everyone is being watched. “Big Brother”, while an invented imaginary head of state, has the very real ability to see and hear everything that you are doing. Anytime, anywhere. At the time of it’s publication in 1949, I imagine this idea had to appear almost laughable. In the year 1984, perhaps not so laughable as far-fetched. Today, even the most ardent skeptic would have to admit to a certain amount of truth to the concept, albeit maybe at present still in a more limited, primitive capacity.

But when was the last time you stopped to really think about the level at which we are being watched today?

It’s well known that if you have a TiVo, all forms of data on your viewing habits can be collected. If you have a satellite dish receiver connected to a phone jack, customer service technicians can access it. And if you have internet access, any educated hacker has a free pass into every file on your computer. Even with firewalls, how can we prevent access into our homes if those wanting access are the very ones who created the firewalls for us? TiVo’s, dish receivers, internet . . . none of those things or the potential capabilities they provide existed in 1984. But they do now.

We are being videotaped on the highway, in stores, at bank ATM’s, in parking lots, and at many other times when we might least expect it and possibly never know it. Today, not only can we be photographed, videotaped, and/or recorded with a discreet cell phone, but that information can then be sent anywhere in the world with the touch of a button.

E-mails, credit card transactions, internet surfing, electronic purchases, toll-road speed passes - just to name a few – all leave traceable paths of our whereabouts and habits. We now have GPS trackable computer chips that are being encouraged for implanting into our pets, that have been mandated for use with farm animals (Note 1), and in some cases voluntarily used in people. As far back as 2001, the U.S. government has been floating the idea of using computer chips as part of a universal ID card program for all U.S. citizens, and the option of physically inserting trackable computer chips into the bodies of military personnel is already on the drawing board. I wonder, should that experiment come to pass and be “successful”, how long until it does not seem like a good idea to do with everyone?

And don’t be too quick to brush this off with the notion that most of the above “data collection” is taken in by private companies or disparate organizations. As we continue to see more and more separate corporations merge into near monolithic entities, along with their influence & power over government agencies increasing in proportion to the wealth they have available, how long before most of those “non-government” companies become little more than a branch of government itself, in action if not in name? Is it unreasonable to assume that many are in bed with each other already, and have been for some time?

Most of the above abilities to “watch” people did not exist in the year 1984. It makes me wonder then to what level this continuous erosion of privacy by means of technology will reach 23 years from now.

Another major tenet in 1984 is the need for a perpetual state of war, an endeavor which in Orwell’s world is no longer used to conquer other peoples, but has become instead a tool to control your own. War is a means to use up all surplus of production so that the citizens become more dependant on the government. It is used to incite unquestioning patriotism to frenzied levels, to prohibit travel so that interaction with other peoples is prevented, to grant supreme governmental authority to enact whatever it deems necessary for the “protection” of it’s citizens, and ultimately to provide a distraction for every citizen to keep them from thinking about anything else.

Of course, a government entering into a perpetual state of war is a ludicrous concept. Surely the now 6 year old “war on terror” will ultimately come to a successful conclusion, won’t it? It’s unconscionable to think that anyone would think of using it as a tool for any of the above purposes, isn’t it? And certainly we would place strict limits on any intrusions that might be requested of our own freedoms and constitutional rights, wouldn’t we?

A third reality of Orwell’s 1984 world is the existence of the “Thought Police”, a clandestine government organization whose sole purpose is to seek out those who are having thoughts – any thoughts – that go against party doctrine. I admit, even the name “Thought Police” sounds ridiculous, much less the concept, and I can only imagine what people must have thought in 1949. After all, even today, how could anyone be caught, much less punished, simply for what they were thinking? I would guess that several hundred potential terrorists being held captive at Guantanamo Bay on the grounds of "what they were thinking" might not agree that it is so outlandish a notion.

I know, I know – that’s different. Of course it is, and in all honesty, I have to agree. But that’s how it happens: with a first step. A first justified step. But is it really implausible to foresee that envelope of premeditation expanding over time to include other offenses? If, for example, sometime in the future I make some anti-government statements on a phone call that is being monitored by the NSA, and I also have a gun registered in my name, and my electronic trail shows definite movement towards Washington D.C., can anyone guarantee that I won’t be arrested on the premise that I might possibly intend to perform an act of terrorism against the government?

Because ultimately, all of these things that are mentioned in 1984 work together for one purpose: control. Those who have the power want to keep the power, and they will keep that power as long as they can control the masses, and therefore they will take any and all steps necessary to accomplish that task. While that may sound paranoid, I think we would all be better off not to underestimate how strong the lure of power really is. As a motivator, power trumps even money. After all, if you have power, who needs money?

There is a lot more to 1984 than I can effectively translate here; the similarities between the story’s “Newspeak” language and the vernacular that has evolved out of our own instant messaging & email, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) twisting of historical events, the bombardment of our senses with media messages at every turn . . . there are so many parallels it would take another book to adequately compare them all. In Orwell’s world, all of these things intertwine together to create a beast against which there is no power on earth big enough to conquer. I have to wonder why I should believe that these things would create anything different in our own.

So, knowing that the world of 1984 isn’t something that anyone wants (other than those who would be in power), why do we allow movement in that general direction to continue? There are at least 4 reasons.

First is that the movement is too slow, and the various interlocking pieces too unconnected, to really notice. It’s a simple case of letting the camel get his nose in the tent. The initial intrusion isn’t very bothersome, and a good excuse for allowing it can always be made. Later, when a hoof makes an inevitable appearance, this new intrusion by itself still isn’t anything to get all worked up about, and again we are provided with a reasonable justification for it. In addition, there is nothing to make us automatically associate the hoof with the nose; we treat them independently as different things in different places at different times. Finally, as time continues to march onward, we simply forget how things used to be.

There was a time, for instance, when income tax did not exist. In fact, for over half of our country’s existence, we were somehow able to survive without it. It was not until the passing of the 16th amendment in 1913 that a permanent tax on personal income was imposed, and then at only 1% (Note 2). Anyone still paying 1%? I have never known a world without income tax, or what life might have been like before it. And since there has always been income tax in my lifetime, as far as I’m concerned, there has always been income tax. How could I really see it any other way? The truth of the past does not change the reality of the present, so is the truth even really true anymore?

Secondly, we sometimes allow these things to happen because we actually want them, and in some cases even initiate the demand ourselves. The convenience that they provide us today outweighs any potential negative consequences that the future might hold. Sure, a cell phone can be tracked with GPS, but I can live with that as long as I can talk to someone whenever I want right now. Yes, letting an unseen technician access my home through my TV receiver might be a little unsettling if I thought about it, but I don’t feel like trying to fix it myself, and I’m so happy that I don’t have to fix it myself that my mind is too occupied with how happy I am to ponder the ramifications very much.

Third, we are lulled into allowing these erosions of privacy and freedom because they are pronounced as “for our own good”. Like carrots they are dangled in front of us under the auspices of our own protection, personal safety, or health, and like piglets to the sow, we accept them willingly because we have in many cases already forgotten how to think for ourselves.

And finally - and probably most disturbing – there is plain old apathy. We see what is going on and fully realize the significance of it, but we simply turn a blind eye and go about our own business, usually with the justification that there is “nothing I can do about it”. Perhaps more realistic might be “nothing I want to do about it”.

Well Gee, Blaine, thanks a lot for killing my buzz. I was actually having a pretty good day until I read this. Not so fast! This isn’t a doom & gloom article, it’s simply a perspective of a future that might possibly happen. It certainly doesn’t need to.

When I think about all of the truly great changes that have occurred in our history - whether they be physical inventions, policies, practices, laws, or whatever - I can’t help but notice that all of them almost overwhelmingly occurred because there was a problem that needed to be fixed. After all, if there is nothing wrong, there is nothing to make us think anything needs to be different than what it is.

As much as we might complain about the problems that we have in our lives, problems are the catalysts that inspire change. Those who understand that opportunity almost always comes knocking disguised as a problem are usually the ones who are able to take advantage of it (while the rest of us sit back and bemoan our bad fortune).

So if we are headed towards some type of unwanted Orwellian future, all we need to do is first recognize that there actually is a problem. Second, we need to realize that problems have solutions, and finding the solution is actually an opportunity to make things better. And third, we need to take some action to make the solution a reality. If those 4 reasons that I mentioned are in fact how we got into the problem, we simply cannot allow them to continue to happen. We have to start noticing what is happening around us, we have to stop accepting (or even asking for!) things that lead us away from God’s word, we have to start questioning for ourselves what is “for our own good” and what is not, and we have to be unafraid - and willing - to do something about it.

The good news is that that is already happening, and has been for several years. The “silent majority”, tolerant to a fault for so long, has begun to push back. Resistance – peaceful but firm resistance – is taking place all over America.

Regarding education, for instance, if you are homeschooling your children, you have already taken action in joining a growing group of millions of other parents who have politely but firmly said “No, thank you”, and have become part of an even larger group of people who, though they may not homeschool, are in full agreement that our educational system is broken and are also taking action of their own. Like so many things, it may seem like the process is excruciatingly slow, but history will undoubtedly show that it “all happened within a few short decades”.

Women that have left the workforce to be homemakers – a group that is also continually growing - have quietly made their position known to a befuddled and increasingly agitated establishment that they do not wish to participate in someone else’s version of what life should be.

In doing so, they have become role models to other women in that they are leading by example; showing that it is not only possible, but also absolutely acceptable, to move in a direction that your heart compels you to, rather than to be badgered into going down another road by a deafening but ultimately powerless group of people who will tell you with their mouths that they have your best interests at heart even as their hands are busy pushing their own agendas.

Those are just two examples of things – many things – that are already beginning to turn us away from a path that would otherwise lead us into a future similar to the fictional but possible world of 1984. And not to be overly optimistic, but why shouldn’t we think that we can be entirely successful? After all, Jesus told us that with God, all things are possible. In the face of that - if we choose to believe it - Orwell simply doesn’t stand a chance.

Note 1: for more information, go to Additionally, please refer also to and for alternative viewpoints.

Note 2: only for individuals making more than $3,000 annually. Additional surcharges from 2% to 7% were levied on incomes over $20,000.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Excited, Terrified, Puzzled, & Disgusted

I’m very excited today, but also a little terrified. I finished the manuscript for “What So Proudly We Hailed” last week and I printed it out on Thanksgiving Day. That’s the exciting part. The terrifying part is now giving copies of it out for people to read to see what they think of it. As a writer, I’ve run into this before many times, but it never gets any easier.

For over half a year now, this novel has been my own sole possession; I’m the only one who has read the words that I wrote, and in my mind, all the way up to this point, it has had the ability to be as good or as bad as my imagination would believe. Obviously, I like to think that it’s very good, but personal perception and cold, hard reality are not necessarily the same thing. So while I hope that my initial reviews are good (and think that they will be), a part of me is also extremely apprehensive right now as I wait to see if all of my time and effort has actually produced good fruit. Time will tell – it always does – but I can’t deny that sometimes I wish it would hurry up a little bit.

On a completely different subject, if you’ve read some of the things that I’ve written in the past, you may have noticed that I have a tendency to be very skeptical about what the world presents to me. I have fostered a distrust of what the media, government, and corporate America tell me is true. Part of this has come about due to my growth as a Christian (and for me it is most definitely a journey), but a substantial percentage of it is also due to simply being more observant, and by taking the time to think for myself and come to my own conclusions regarding what I see & hear. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

Last week on NBC news, Brian Williams gave an update on the Marion Jones story, citing that she had been stripped of all medals back to the year 2000, as well as having to repay the $700k of winnings that she had earned during that time period. Nothing unusual about that. But what did catch my attention was the wording used to relate the story. This isn’t an exact quote, but Williams stated that Marion Jones was “paying the price for admitting her use of steroids”. Isn’t that odd? She’s not paying the price for taking steroids, she’s paying the price for admitting that she took steroids.

I have to wonder, was that wording intentional, or just a slip? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but you would think that a group of professional writers working for a national network news program would have the ability to type out a couple of sentences without containing an error so large that it completely changes the context of the story, as this one did. The end result is that, regardless of whether they intended to do it or not, what they told everyone watching was that her crime wasn’t the cause of her misfortune; admitting that she did the crime (i.e., getting caught) was.

As a second example, I wonder if most people notice the potential for big business to exploit everyone with the incredibly popular and politically correct “green” movement. I have no problem with going green; there is no doubt in my mind that we’ve been negligent stewards of the earth that God has given us. But who’s been the most negligent? You and me? Or the giant corporations whose sole motivation is to post continuously increasing revenues at any cost? Yeah, I’ve been guilty of littering in my life, but then again, I never pumped millions of gallons of toxic waste into a river. My point is that it wasn’t you and me that put us into a situation where we had to “go green” in the first place, but it is you and me who will bear the brunt of the cost to do it. “Going green” is a business opportunity, and if we can’t be encouraged to do our fair share, we’ll be guilted into doing it.

Let me take you back to Thanksgiving when I printed out my manuscript. I knew it was a big job, so I installed a brand new ink cartridge (HP-92) into our printer. After 100 pages, the cartridge ran out of ink. To put this into perspective, that ink cartridge costs $18, which means that it costs me 18 cents to print a single page of B&W text (not counting the paper). As you might imagine, my love for HP is not exactly overflowing at this moment, but luckily, I can make myself feel better by recycling the empty cartridge. HP makes it easy with the pre-paid envelope that they include when you buy a new cartridge. The envelope is green (of course) and has these words: “Free Recycling! Recycle your empty HP inkjet cartridge(s) into raw materials for use in new products. It’s free. It’s easy.”

So let’s put all of this into context: The ink cartridge contains 0.17 ounces of ink (less than 1/5 of an ounce!), costs $18, will only print out 100 pages of text, and comes in a ridiculously large box sealed inside of a protective plastic container. Now, after providing me with that kind of value, HP wants me to be a good “green” steward and send the old cartridge back to them so that they can use it again and cut their costs even more. I don’t even get a rebate on my next purchase; just the warm, fuzzy feeling that I played a part in saving the planet.

Am I wrong to not feel the guilt? Forget the ridiculous price that they want for their ink, if we’re really concerned about being “green” here, wouldn’t it make more sense to maybe - I don’t know - put a little more than 1/5 of an ounce of ink into the cartridge? Can they not be designed to hold more than that? Wouldn’t doing that result in less packaging trash? Less fuel burned to transport both the new & recycled cartridges back and forth? Less work for everybody involved: me, them, the retailers, the post office, the garbage collectors?

If ink really costs $105 an ounce, then that’s what it costs (although it’s hard for me to believe that it can be that expensive), but I can’t help but feel that I’m being taking advantage of here, and that by recycling these ink cartridges I’m not only rewarding the very entity that just raked me over the coals, but I’m also enabling the continuation of a business practice that is the root cause of the very guilt that this entity is now attempting to lay back on me. I’m really sorry. I recycle as much as I can, but these things are going in the trash.

One last thing: carpet cleaning. Over the years I have cleaned the carpets in our house(s) many times. With 4 kids and 2 dogs running over the "light beige" carpets that always seemed to be in any house or apartment that we've ever moved into in, I've become more familiar with the process than I ever wanted to be. At first, I always used to follow the directions printed on the bottles of $20 a gallon carpet cleaner blindly; they're the experts, so I'll defer to them to tell me how to do it. Why wouldn't I?

Well, here's why. Tell me one single thing you wash that you don't then rinse, usually multiple times? You wash your clothes; you rinse them. You wash your dishes; you rinse them. You wash your body, your car, your dog, your hands . . . and then you rinse the soap off. But you don't do that when you clean your carpets. Go ahead. Read the bottle. Not a word about rinsing.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if I don't rinse the soap off of my carpet, doesn't that mean that the soap remains on the carpet? And if my entire carpet is covered with the residue of a soap solution, will the carpet not then act as a soapy scrub brush and clean the bottom of every shoe and bare foot that it then sees? Might that not be the reason why our carpets would be so filthy again just 3 short months after cleaning them, which would then require me to go out and buy another $20 bottle of carpet cleaner and rent another machine? Am I supposed to believe that somebody forgot to put the part about rinsing in the directions, or am I supposed to believe that carpets are the only thing in the world that don't need to be rinsed?

Color me "had".

Here's how I clean carpets today: First, I only use about 1/3 of the amount of cleaner that they tell me to use (for the machine I own, I'm supposed to use 8 ounces - a full cup - for the 1/2 gallon of water the machine holds; folks, we don't put that much soap in our washing machine running a large load of clothes). Then, after going over the carpet once with the soapy solution, I rinse it at least 2 times using only clean water. I still pull a ton of dirt out on those two "rinsing" passes (and why wouldn't I? the carpet is still chuck full of soap!), the carpets stay clean much longer, and I'm not spending near as much on carpet cleaner.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this (other than the fact that in addition to being excited & frightened, I’m also apparently a little puzzled & disgusted), it’s this: Think for yourself.

The truth will set you free.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tongue in Cheek: Kentucky History You May Not Be Aware Of . . .

I’ve lived in Kentucky for almost 2 years now, and I can honestly say that I love it here. I’ve also learned a lot in that short time. For instance, I’ve learned that all cities in Kentucky (“Versailles”, “Yosemite”, and “Athens” for example) are pronounced exactly as they are spelled, rather than in the less correct way that the rest of the world would believe (the only notable exception to this rule being “Louisville”, which, other than beginning with an “L” sound, is pronounced nothing close to the way it is spelled).

I’ve also come to realize that fully half of all cars in Kentucky don’t have mufflers, and the other half have been modified to sound like they don’t. This is apparently a state law, and fortunately most residents seem to be in compliance.

But I’ve also learned some facts that I doubt most native Kentuckians even know. For instance, we all know that today Kentucky is known as the “Horse Capitol of the World”, but did you know that it wasn’t too long ago that it was known instead as the “Squirrel Capitol of the World”? That may seem strange, seeing as how there aren’t too many squirrels around here these days, but there was a time a century or two ago when herds of those furry little tree rodents scampered around the countryside with reckless abandon, upsetting bird feeders in every corner of the state.

And then, quite without warning, an unthinking and rather arrogant European arrived and introduced what would become the bane of the squirrel kingdom to our fair state - the horse – and within but a few short decades, Kentucky’s squirrel population was all but wiped out.

The problem is that squirrels are natural prey for horses (I learned that early on in public school), and without a natural enemy of their own, horses multiplied in record droves as they feasted relentlessly and without check on the smaller, natural inhabitants of the state.

Many people don’t know the truth, but contrary to popular belief, when you see horses with their heads bowed to the earth - ostensibly “grazing” on bluegrass - they are in fact actually sniffing & rooting for squirrels, which, upon finding one, they then snort up in a flash through their overlarge nostrils.

I can’t tell you how many times I have driven past a horse farm only to see one of these vicious brutes prancing about with a squirrel tail still sticking out of it’s nose, and my heart breaks as I think of that poor furry little creature – shivering and scared – stuck in the sinus cavity of a horse too high, mighty, and unfeeling to even consume it properly.

Personally, I think it’s high time to affect a change. That’s why I will soon propose a bill to the Kentucky legislature that would introduce another animal to our state that is, like the horse, not native to the area. An animal which will, for the first time in our history, provide the horse with a natural predator of its own, and ultimately help re-balance the scales of nature.

While this legislation and the change that would result from it will take decades to be fully realized, the promise that it would provide to all future generations of Kentuckians should not be underestimated. I love living in Kentucky, and I - along with the other 3 people who agree with me on this - want to do my part in making it a better place for our children.

Imagine if you will, perhaps in as little as only 20 years into the future, a time when every visitor driving into the state of Kentucky will be able to look up and see the sign that so proudly & boldly proclaims: “Welcome to Kentucky, the Mountain Lion Capitol of the World”.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Dependence

(from the book “Finding Liberty”)

I had a disturbing experience the other day. Our little bottom-of-the-line printer that we use in our home office suddenly died. Since this piece of equipment is pretty important in the day to day running of our business, I headed out to Office Depot to pick up the latest & greatest bottom-of-the-line model.

At the checkout counter, the clerk rang up my total and I wrote him a check. He scanned it, pushed some buttons, and then said “Here’s your receipt, and here’s your check back, all voided out for you.”

I looked at the check in my hand for a moment – the one I had just finished writing out - and asked, “You don’t even send these in to the bank anymore?”

“Oh no,” he replied, “The transactions are all done electronically now.”

I rode home in the car very unsettled, asking myself the following questions: If my bank account is going to be debited instantly even when I write a check, why am I purchasing checks and taking the time to fill them out and sign them in the first place? What’s the difference between that and just using a debit card, other than the fact that I’m spending more money and time by going through the motions of using checks?

That’s what disturbed me, because there isn’t one. Funny, my bank never bothered to clarify that particular point to me.

Catherine & I don’t use debit cards for one simple reason: If someone were to steal my credit card information and then use that to make purchases, I can always dispute the charges and refuse to pay them. My money is still mine, and I’m in charge of it. But if someone were to steal my debit card information and then use that to make purchases, the money comes directly out of my own bank account. Sure, I can dispute the charges, but the money – my money - has already been spent. I would no longer be in a position to dispute whether or not I wanted to pay (I already have paid); I would instead be wholly at the mercy of the bank, completely subordinate to their decision of whether or not to restore my funds.

I have never known banks to be very receptive to the idea of giving money to people.

The next day while watching TV, I saw a commercial showing a bunch of people in a store all smartly moving about as they made their purchases; a picture of streamlined efficiency, convenience, and happiness. And then someone came to the counter and wanted to pay with cash, and like throwing a wrench into rotating machinery, everything crashed to a halt. Cash? You want to pay with cash?

The commercial – for whatever credit or debit card it was promoting – was obviously trying to tout the convenience & ease of using it’s product. But the underlying message it was telling anyone who saw it was very clear and very direct: Cash is bad, plastic cards are good. If you use a card, things run smoothly, quickly, and everyone is happy. If you use cash, you just mess things up for everyone else. You are behind the times, archaic & un-cool, and your insistence on using money shows a complete lack of courtesy for others.

Everything these days seems to be oriented towards “faster”, “easier”, and “automatic”, and with regards to money, it seems as if the movement - if that is what it is – is pushing harder and harder to get everyone to buy into their methods. Visa is now promoting it’s “smart card”. Just wave it at the scanner as you go by; no need to waste all that time signing your name on a receipt. Everybody wants you to do your business online; pay your bills, do your banking, send in your tax return. “Save a stamp!” they say. “It’s so much easier and convenient for you!” Or even better, “We’ll pay your bills for you! Just sign up and all of that will be debited from your account each month automatically!”

So much of our purchases are now done without the exchange of any actual cash, that using cash has actually become more of the exception than the norm. During the holidays I was in line at a K-Mart picking up a few gifts for the kids. A lady in line several places ahead of me made a large purchase and paid cash for it. It was amazing how everyone in line – including me – was just kind of staring at her as she peeled away twenty dollar bills from a wad of cash in her hand. And I know that all of us were thinking the same kinds of things: “Boy, that’s a lot of cash.” “Why is she making such a large purchase with cash?” “Where did she get all that cash?” It was so weird to witness! But the really crazy thing was that even though people after her made purchases that were far in excess of hers, nobody batted an eye when they used their credit cards!

Have we become so separated from reality that purchasing something outright instead of borrowing to pay later is now considered strange and abnormal? Doesn’t that seem a little backwards?

We live in a world today where you could – quite easily – go through your entire existence and never actually see or touch any money at all. Ever. Every purchase you make could be made without any cash whatsoever, and more and more, paying without cash is becoming the preferred way. Is there a day coming when that will be the only way? A day when not only will cash no longer be accepted, but will not even exist?
That is a day to fear.

I’m going to take you on a little trip here, and throw out a little factual information and quite a bit of speculation. It may seem a little paranoid, and I’ll admit that it does to me as well. But whether or not you give any credence to the “whys” of what I’m going to explore, it doesn’t change the outcome of the “whats”.

Some of this will play into things that people have said for years regarding conspiracies, secret societies, and hidden agendas; I don’t know what’s true and what’s not any more than the next guy, but I can observe what is happening even if there is no way to positively confirm why. So humor me a little; all I want to do is spark your own brain into doing some thinking of it’s own; you’re just as capable of that as I am. I would ask though, that as you’re considering these things, please keep the following thought in mind: If you’re crossing the street and you get hit by a car and die, would it really make any difference to you whether the driver of the car did it on purpose or if it was a complete accident?

The Federal Reserve
In 1913, the Federal Reserve Act was passed by congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson, thereby transferring the power to control the creation & management of currency from the US government to a private corporation of bankers. The plan itself was originated by a group of 7 of the richest men in the world at that time. As of December 2006, the US national debt is over 8 trillion dollars. More than 40% of that is owed to the Federal Reserve. (Perhaps connected or perhaps not, 1913 was also the year that the 16th Amendment was passed by Congress, imposing a federal income tax on the wages of US citizens).

Think about that for a moment. The Federal Reserve is a private company - not a branch of the United States government – run by a small group of elite bankers. Can you even begin to imagine how much power this company has over the United States? Start with the simple things, like inflation. Since we haven’t been on the gold standard in decades, any money that is printed has nothing behind it; it is created out of thin air. Put more money into circulation to increase the supply, and the value of the US dollar drops, creating inflation. Take money out of circulation and the opposite happens. That’s a lot of power for a small group of private citizens to have over everyone else. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

If the US government needs more money than they take in from taxes to pay for whatever social programs, defense spending, or pork projects they deem necessary, where are they going to get it? The Federal Reserve, of course. So the US borrows money from the Fed which, of course, it now owes back to the Fed. As stated earlier, the US government now owes the Fed roughly $3,400,000,000,000 (plus or minus a few hundred billion, but what’s that between friends?).

Forget for a moment that the government doesn’t actually do anything to make money for itself and that that bill is in fact owed by the citizens of the United States; believe it or not, that’s not what is really unsettling about it. The really disturbing part is this: If this group of bankers wanted something from our government, could our government say “No”? I mean, if the Fed holds the threat of not only calling in this current debt, but also to refuse to loan any more, could the government of the United States realistically stand it’s ground and refuse them if they demanded something?

I’m not saying that the Fed would do something like that, but I feel it’s important to understand in no uncertain terms that they absolutely could if they wanted to.

So would they ever use that leverage for a self-serving reason? To decide, I think you would have to question the motives of these Fed architects when they came up with the idea in the first place. Why did they want to create the Federal Reserve? I guess it’s possible that they were simply a group of financial experts who realized that they had much more expertise in managing money than Congress did, and so, out of their concern for the continued well-being and prosperity of this great land, they offered their services to our country. But if that were really the case, why would such noble & patriotic men have allowed us to get into such tremendous debt? Is that how they handle their own personal finances? My guess would be “probably not”.

So if they didn’t create the Fed for benevolent reasons, is it possible that they did it for malevolent ones? And if this group of bankers controlling the money supply did want something, what could it possibly be? When you already have more money than you could ever use, what else is there?

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild

“Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.” - President James A. Garfield

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” – Thomas Jefferson

This may be a stretch, but think for a minute about all the fictional “superhero” & James Bond villains from comics, cartoons, and movies. Think about all of the true life villains of history: Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Hitler, & Stalin. Think about the great empires that have risen and fallen throughout history. Whether real or imaginary, they all have a few very important things in common:

1) They wanted absolute power.
2) They tried to gain it and keep it by force.
3) They ultimately failed.

Absolute power. Totalitarian control. Some people just have a thirst for it, and history is littered with the corpses of Pharaohs, Kings, Dictators, and Generals who have aspired to become gods among men. Is there any reason to think that that’s not still true today?

“We will have a world government whether you like it or not. The only question is whether that government will be achieved by conquest or consent.”
- Paul Warburg, chief architect of the Federal Reserve Act.

So assuming that you wanted absolute power, how would you go about it if you already knew the dismal track record of those who came before you that had tried to get it and keep it by force? Maybe you don’t try to get it by force. Maybe you take a different approach. Instead of imposing your will over people, maybe you get them to subjugate themselves to you of their own free will. Maybe you put yourself into a quiet “behind the scenes” position where you have strong influence over governments and their policies, and then slowly & methodically lead everyone to where you want them to be. Dependant on you and under your absolute control. And by the time any of them realize what has happened (if they even do), none of them will be in a position to do anything about it.

Crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. Nations and empires have a way of rising and falling, and history shows that time and again they have all followed the same general cycle:

1. People in bondage gain spiritual faith
2. Faith evolves into courage
3. Courage brings about liberty
4. Liberty results in abundance
5. Abundance progresses to selfishness
6. Selfishness turns to complacency
7. Complacency devolves into apathy
8. Apathy leads to dependence
9. Dependence brings the cycle full circle back to bondage

How dependant are we today? Most Americans do very little for themselves; for the most part, we work for other people, so that they can give us money, so that we can buy things from somebody else. If we were brutally honest, we would have to clarify even further to say that not only do we do very little for ourselves, but in fact we couldn’t do very much even if we wanted to (which, of course, we don’t).

We have become so dependant on the things that are done for us by something or someone else that the knowledge of how those things were done by our ancestors before us has been lost. We couldn’t do them if we wanted to. We don’t know how. The very technology that has made our lives so easy has also put shackles on what options we have left.

Grocery stores provide our food. Utility companies provide warmth and light for our homes. Machines wash our clothes, cut our grass, and transport us around. Ask yourself the following questions, and please use the term “survive” in it’s most literal sense:

Could you survive today without electricity?
Could you survive today without the use of a bank?
Could you survive today if you had no car?
Could you survive today if you were not able to purchase things from stores?

These aren’t questions we ever seriously ask ourselves, because these things are so much a part of our lives that our lives simply wouldn’t work without them, at least, not the way we have become accustomed to living them. We’ve always had these things available to us so we take it for granted that they always will be. Sounds like a rather complacent attitude, doesn’t it?

And if someone were to intrude into the entertaining convenience of our lives and start bringing up questions that were a little disturbing to think about, would we even bother to listen, or are we already gripped in the death throws of apathy?

National Identification Cards
On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the creation of what is called “Real ID” to take effect in May of 2008. In the interests of protecting US citizens from the threat of terrorism and to aid in the control of illegal immigrants, all US citizens will be required to have a US identification card. The card will be tamper proof, will carry your vital information (age, sex, etc.), and will contain some method of positive identification (possibly a fingerprint). Without this ID card, you will not be able to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, or be the beneficiary of any government services (including social security). The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to add additional requirements.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

This is just scary. Every American will be required to have this card, and if you don’t have one you will technically not exist. It’s truly an offer we can’t refuse. How would we be able to live our lives as we have grown accustomed to if we cannot use a bank? In today’s world - quite simply - we can’t. The overwhelming majority of Americans today cannot survive without the use of a bank. It’s not even a choice. I mean, what would we do? What could we do?

Absolutely nothing. To refuse one of these cards – even if that can be done without criminal repercussions - would be to permanently alter the convenient routine of our lives. We have been trained to avoid unpleasantness and inconvenience, and the vast majority of us have allowed ourselves to be put into a position where we simply will not be able to say “No”.

But is that a bad thing? We already have other forms of ID; driver’s licenses, social security numbers . . . so what if I have a card that positively identifies me as me? It proves that I’m an American, and keeps those pesky illegal aliens from taking a piece of my pie. Terrorists won’t be able to run amuck and hurt me or my family. Identity theft will be almost impossible, which means my money will be safe. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. In fact, I want one!

. . . maybe you get them to subjugate themselves to you of their own free will . . .

The first problem with the National ID card is that you don’t have a choice. Does that sound like an ideal of a free country? The second and much more important issue is what that card will inevitably evolve into.

Even if you have put yourself in a position where you could live without a bank and choose not to accept one of these cards, don’t think you’re out of the woods. What are you going to eat? If you raise animals for food, you’ll have to have them – every single one - registered with ID cards to be in compliance with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Those tags cost money, and you can only get them from the United States government. No ID card, no government service, and without NAIS compliance, you’re breaking the law by having unregistered animals that may be a threat to our nation’s food supply.

Maybe you can hunt & fish for your food. Not without a hunting and fishing license you can’t. To do so without a license is to break the law. Off to jail you go, troublemaker.

Maybe you can just forego meat altogether and grow your own food. That would probably work, as long as you don’t get any genetically engineered seed in your garden. Those seeds are patented, and any plants that carry cells from a genetically engineered seed that are grown without a license are the property of the manufacturer, and you can be sued for patent infringement. And it makes no difference how those seeds got on your land or if you even knew about it.

Even if food isn’t a problem, how would you cook it? How would you get paid? How are you going to pay for your mortgage? Your utilities? How will you get a driver’s license? How will you do anything?

About the best that you could hope for is that you have some skill – either a service you perform or a product you make – that you could sell for cash. That assumes, of course, that no judicial action is taken against you and that it does not become illegal for people to do business with “non-card carrying citizens”.

But even if you would be willing to put yourself into that position, what if it makes no difference? Because here’s where everything swings back around full circle to what was so disturbing to me in the very beginning: What happens if there comes a day when cash is no longer accepted?

Ahhh! Checkmate.

Regardless of why all of this is happening, whether it is planned or just a random chain of events, there seems to be at least one logical termination point where all of this could be leading: a cashless society. A world where your ID card is everything. Because it will be “you”, it will be your ID card, your passport, your driver’s license, your ATM card, your debit card . . . your everything card. Without it you will be nothing. That’s a frightening place to be.

We live in a world today where we are constantly allowing our rights to be carelessly thrown away as if they are of no value. We continue to relinquish more and more of our freedoms & civil liberties to the government out of our own fear, complacency, and convenience – a government which may itself be governed by another – and in doing so we are unwittingly permitting it to change it’s role from “servant” to “master”.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. None of this can happen without our consent; but by that I don’t mean each of us individually, I mean all of us collectively. Not thousands, but millions – tens of millions - of people need to stand up and simply say “No”.

“ . . .But the proles [the masses], if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire . . . They need only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies . . .” - Excerpt from 1984, by George Orwell

If we do nothing, however, if we consent and allow ourselves to reach the point of becoming a cashless society - when every transaction for anything is merely an electronic shift of numbers - we will also take that final step into total and complete slavery. Yes, slavery. Because just as these cards can be activated, they can also be deactivated, and when your very ability to survive depends entirely on the existence of that card, will it be possible for you to do anything against the will of those who control it knowing that they can, at their convenience, turn you off?
Think about that. Think hard. When everything is virtual, nothing is real. In a cashless society, the emperor will truly have no clothes, yet we will have no choice but to extol the virtues of his garments, because to do otherwise would be to risk the disapproval of those who control the power of that card. They could ask us to do anything – absolutely anything at all – and we would have no choice but to comply.

“None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.” - Goethe

Absolute power is obtained when you have absolute dependence. And what better way to gain that than by having the ability to simply turn someone off if they don’t do what you want them to do?

If this is all happening according to some plan, you really do have to admire the simplicity of it’s design. In fact, one of its only few flaws is the actual card itself, since it still has the ability to be lost or stolen. But I would have to believe that that will only make the next logical step - that of having your ID microchip surgically implanted into your body - much easier for acceptance in the future. Don’t laugh; this technology already exists today, and believe it or not, there are already people who are volunteering to have it done. Of their own free will.

I can almost see the credit card commercials of the future now . . . Just wave your hand at the scanner as you go by; no need to waste all that time trying to get that card out of your pocket . . .

And should that day come, how then will we interpret these words?:

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. - Revelation 13:16-17

I know that to some, I must sound like a paranoid nut, and in all honesty, I hope it turns out the be that way. I hope that the Fed is just a bank going about the business of making money. I hope that the people in our government – at all levels – aren’t just a collection of pawns who have been bought & paid for by the highest bidder. I hope that common sense and basic human decency are not extinct. But hope, while a wonderful thing, is not much of a strategy.

Regardless of what validity my rambling speculations may or may not have, what I said about the creation of the Federal Reserve is true. The “Real ID” identification cards were signed into law 2 years ago, the cycle of rising & falling nations has been repeated over and over, and the NAIS exists right now.

Monsanto has been quietly suing independent farmers for several years for patent infringement with the courts ruling in Monsanto’s favor, saying that it makes no difference how the seed got on the farmer’s land – whether it got mixed in with other seed by accident, blew off of a passing truck, or even was cross pollinated by insects – the plants, and all succeeding generations of plants, belong to Monsanto. Most farmers settle out of court, with part of the settlement being that they are not allowed to discuss it.

Knowing that all of these things are real, does it make any difference whether the speculation as to why they are happening is right or wrong? I’ll ask again: If you’re crossing the street and you get hit by a car and die, would it really make any difference to you whether the driver of the car did it on purpose or if it was a complete accident?

Either way, you’re still dead.

Since I wrote this, I’ve given a lot of thought as to what my motives were in doing so; I know what I wrote and I know that I felt compelled to write it, but why did I feel compelled? What am I trying to prove by painting such a gloomy picture? What gives me the right to speculate on the future?; I’m no prophet. And what “forward moving” purpose does it serve?

My first thought was, “Well, maybe we should be a little disturbed by all of these things so that we can start to do something about it.” But while there may be some truth to that, the more I thought about it, the less important it really seemed. And too, did I really want to use the magazine as a political sounding board where I can impress my views and fears on everyone else? I honestly have no desire for anyone to think I’m “important” or “wise”, or “right”.

So I kept thinking about it, and eventually, it dawned on me.

This isn’t about government, or conspiracies, or doom & gloom, or any of that nonsense. It’s much, much simpler than that. This is about faith. More specifically, what we put our faith into. Because by putting ourselves in a position where we are dependant on banks, utilities, insurance companies, the government, corporations, and all the rest, we are in fact putting our faith in them to provide for us, and every time we move a little more of our faith into yet another man-made institution, we move ourselves a little further away from God.

Funny that we should do that, because all of those things are “of man”, and last I checked, mankind was a rather imperfect and unreliable creature. Is it any wonder then that things may go awry, whether on purpose or by accident? And should we be surprised to realize that if we had allowed God to drive that car that I’ve mentioned a couple of times, we wouldn’t have been hit in the first place?

In the end, there is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to be in a state of dependence. The danger is when we put ourselves in dependence to anyone or anything other than God.

(author's note: if you enjoyed this article and are intrigued by the subject matter, look for Blaine Staat's shocking new novel "What So Proudly We Hailed", coming in the Spring of 2008 from Linear Wave Publishing).