Enduring Friendship

What Does a Baseball Glove Have to do with it?

These days when we keep up with what’s happing in each other’s lives more by reading Facebook, or on Instagram, the meaning of deep enduring friendship can seem to be completely lost. That is until a family of “wayfarers” decides to bless you by being the first place they visit outside of their immediate family. The honor is not lost, nor is the intention of their journey missed.

On their blog, they talk about roots. Our roots in large part determine the direction of our future. And we share similar roots with our friends who are now camping in our driveway.

Today, I learned more about what’s growing in my yard than I’ve known in the nearly two decades that we’ve lived here. And I’ve had the opportunity in the process to share life up close and personal with some long-time friends as if we’d been living life together all these years. That’s where the connection to a baseball glove comes in. I haven’t worn my baseball glove in years, yet the other day when I put it on, it still felt just right, well worn, broken in, natural. I’ve put on a few pounds that wearing and using the glove would take care of if I would just do it more often. In the same way Michael, Bethany, Douglas & Fynn have shown us just how much fun living on the edge and challenging the status quo can be!

While I learned that we have Mulberry trees and wild grapes growing in our yard, I also was reminded that with pruning and better care, we could have a better crop, and better bunches of grapes. As if that wasn’t enough, I realized that both of our families have done quite a bit of pruning on the branches that have grown out of those family roots. And, while much of that pruning has been met with a skeptical eye by our families in the past, that at long last our families have come to realize that we have not abandoned the faith of our forebears. The reality is that we’ve embraced that faith for what it really is. It’s a gift, not from those who have come before us, but rather from the only One who could give the gift in the first place.

That’s not to say we didn’t get anything from those who have come before. They planted those roots by streams of water thereby giving the tree the ability to “yield its fruit in its season.”

They came to bless us, and bless us they have whether a single project we set out to accomplish, actually was completed or not. The bigger challenge for me is how to continue to bless them as they embark on this journey.

First Amendment or First Commandment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution

One might be forgiven for wondering what the Constitution is worth these days, when a long standing amendment has been eroded beyond recognition.  A more somber question follows this next quote.

You shall have no other gods before me. – 1st Commandment – Exodus 20:3

Haven’t we really made government our god?  We are paralyzed by our fear of our government, when these amendments, and the 1st Commandment were meant to empower us, not encumber us.

To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble. – Isaiah 46:5-7

It is a sad day in our country when we fail to realize the correlation between the First Commandment and the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” in large part recognizes the limits of government and its place before God. Thinking that any government can control God is irrational. Congress with all its power cannot keep a single star in its place. A king no matter the size of his realm cannot lengthen a day, nor can a president keep a tornado from touching down. But God can. In fact God can even protect people in the flimsiest of hiding spots.

We might further be tempted to think that the IRS can stop God, given the seeming paralysis of the church fearing the loss of their tax free status. But, a growing number of pastors are realizing that they must speak the truth regardless of the consequences.

The truth is that unless we realize that anything we elevate to God’s level is a worthless man-made idol incapable of solving any problem, let alone moving heaven and earth, we are doomed to repeating the errors of previous great civilizations. We’ve given in to the lie we’ve been buying since the Devil tricked Eve. We think we can become like God, and something we create can become God. Who do we think we are fooling?

Death, Lies and Falsehood

We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter — Isaiah 28:15

You might be thinking, “Who in their right mind would actually do this, let alone do it on purpose?”  If this didn’t describe what we are doing as a country, I would say nobody would do it.  I can hear the protests already, “we haven’t made a covenant with death.”  Oh, really?  Why don’t we ask the millions of aborted babies whose blood cries out from the ground just like Abel’s did?

Surely we haven’t made an agreement with Sheol.  What is Sheol exactly anyway?  If we go with “the grave”, are you still prepared to say that we haven’t attempted an agFameposterreement whereby we avoid it at all cost?  We’re doing research to cure disease, and people are living longer more productive lives.  We’re increasingly willing to destroy human life, and attempt to create it in the form of cloning.  All because we believe there may be some advance from embryonic stem cell research, that will cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and allow us to recover from spinal cord injuries.  Why perhaps we’ll experience in reality the song from the 80s.

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly — Fame 1980

The sad reality is that we make lies our refuge.  Don’t believe me?  We teach that God didn’t actually create everything.  That the theory of evolution is more accurate than God’s account of His creation.  We believe the lie that human influence on the climate is going to cause oceans to rise and overtake the land, unless we stop.

If that isn’t enough, we have taken shelter in the falsehood that government knows better than God.  We believe that  the laws they pass will make us safer, and the programs they put in place will protect us from cradle to grave.

We no longer turn to God unless we experience some disaster beyond our control, and then we blame Him for the destruction, and ask Him why, as if he needs to explain himself to us.

The real question is when will we wake up?  When will we turn to God?  When will we beg for forgiveness?  And the follow-up question is, will we do it before it is too late?

Remembering September 11, 2001

It is hard to believe that 11 years ago our nation came to a complete stop.  Well, not everyone.  A significant number of first responders sprang into action.  They went in as others were rushing out. Men and women in our Armed Forces did the same thing at the Pentagon.  And the heroes on Flight 93 took the first action in a conflict against a stealthy enemy.  Our world has not been the same since.  We watched our TVs in stunned disbelief.  We heard that the skies were being cleared of all civilian air traffic.  We witnessed military aircraft patrolling the skies over our homeland.  Many of us made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero to see for ourselves that the massive buildings were indeed no longer there.  And as a nation we turned to God.  Sadly, that didn’t even last a year.  Our own tax dollar supported PBS documentary asked the question just a year later, “Where was God?”  Where was God on that fateful day? How could God allow these events? Or, “Religion drove those buildings into the ground.”  Allow me to share my view.  Evil, wicked, God-defying people caused the carnage of that day.  And as for where God was?  How about limiting the loss of life on that day?  Just think, buildings that on a normal work day would contain upwards of 50,000 people, yet under 3,000 lost their life that day.  While we mourn the senseless loss of life, I choose to look at the miracle.  I choose to focus on those who bravely risked their own life trying to save others.  And I thank the brave men and women of our Armed Forces still putting it all on the line to give me the liberty to share my thoughts with you today. Don’t ever take this liberty for granted.

Oil and Water, Republicans and Democrats, Right and Wrong

I am reminded of a line from the movie Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does”.  President Obama is accused of working halfheartedly at the problem in the Gulf of Mexico.  This sticks because he’s been entertaining, attending baseball games, and putting in appearances on the scene to make it look like he’s doing something.  The press is by and large quiet about this.  Then, somehow The Washington Times (along with the rest of the media) found it’s voice to say this:

Lawmakers from both parties on Sunday criticized BP PLC Chief Executive Tony Hayward for taking part in a yacht race along the English coast two days after testifying on Capitol Hill regarding his company’s role in the oil spill.

Before I go on to the matter of what Rep. Barton said, let me make note of the blatant double standard.  It is fine for the President to do other things besides spend every waking moment on the crisis.  But it is not appropriate for the BP Chief Executive to take a break?  Honestly, what can the BP Chief Executive, or the President really do beyond setting up their teams and providing leadership?  As far as that goes, based on what I can see, BP has taken ownership of this problem, and it is their key focus.  The President it seems is more interested in how things look.

In addition, have you ever stared at a problem for an extended period of time?  Have you ever found yourself running into the same challenges preventing you from solving your problems each time you tried?  I know I have, and history is replete with examples of how answers have come from the least expected places, and from getting away from the grind of the problem.  Take penicillin for example.  The Wikipedia entry contains this quote:

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928.[14] It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould.

Resist the urge to think that I am saying we should pray for a “fortuitous accident” to solve the current crisis, although at this point any way of getting the problem resolved would help the Gulf ecosystems, and the lives and livelihoods that depend on it.

I also realize that people in elected positions from each party are saying things that are being parsed in every way imaginable.  I am currently thinking about the comments made by Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas.

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, on Thursday accused the administration of extortion after it secured a $20 billion compensation fund from BP for victims of the oil spill, calling the move a “shakedown.”  – The Washington Times

I agree with the congressman!  But wait!  I do believe that BP should pay, and that the amount they pay should be substantial, perhaps even more than $20 billion.  But they should not do it because any government tells them to do it.  They should do it because it is the right thing to do.

Here are some facts and hard questions.

Natural disasters happen, and our hearts go out to the victims.  Sure, some people blame God for those, but in the end, blaming God does little to mitigate the human suffering.  Instead we mount global relief efforts and work to reduce the suffering.  What if this oil spill was the result of an earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico instead of an oil-rig explosion?  I submit that as difficult as capping this well is, it is easier than resolving the problem we would have if it wasn’t a man-made rupture.

Since “Life is like a box of chocolates–you never know what you’re going to get”, I figured I’d add my thoughts on solving the current crisis.

What do we know?  It will take months to plug the leak.  Oil will damage ecosystems.  How does oil damage ecosystems?  It coats feathers, sticks to marsh plants, and destroys the beauty of beaches.  My approach is simple.  We know what oil is attracted to.  We know what it doesn’t mix with.  Why not bring the things that oil is attracted to closer to where the oil is coming from.  Instead of dispersing it, work on containing it.  Currents move oil in water like lint moves in air.  We all have lint traps on our driers at home.  Why not build giant oil traps?

Now, some will say, what about the oil that has already damaged the coastal areas?  I don’t know.  That’s why I would look for ways to take the fight to the oil, instead of waiting for the oil to wash up on shore.  I would look for ways to move a more acceptable “shore” to the oil.  The oil is going to damage something… far better that it is something we are willing to sacrifice.

What would be even better is if the oil could then be separated back out of whatever was used to absorb it.  I know they extract oil from shale or tar sand.  Why not do this intentionally in reverse?  This would turn the oil into a solid, and keep it from damaging coastal ecosystems.

I hope this generates discussion with a view towards a solution to this crisis that makes the best out of a terrible situation.  I hope it also demonstrates the futility of placing blame.  There will be plenty of time for that… or maybe with the perspective of a decade, we will look back and see that we are all to blame.

How are we all to blame, you ask?  Well, we ask more of government than it can deliver with the resources that government has.  We fail to take personal responsibility.  We fail to demand accountability in government, and continue to elect the “lesser of two evils”, because a member of congress helped solve our personal problem with government, so we feel we owe them.

The bottom line is this.  What is right must prevail.  Perhaps the problem is, among other things, that we have things backward.  Instead of individuals trying things that may turn out to be wrong, we have policy that’s wrong preventing people from even trying things that turn out to be wrong in an attempt to find out what is right.  In the end, the destruction is an unnecessary self fulfilling prophecy.

It is time to rewrite the story.  It is time to do things right.  It is time to admit failed attempts, not as failure, but as yet something else that didn’t work, and keep trying.  It is time to stop the blaming, and simply get down to the business of solving the problem.

Talk is cheap, including what I’ve had to say in this piece.  Is it too much to hope that what I’ve said will make a difference?

We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident…

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The Declaration of Independence establishes what our Founding Fathers believed was just cause to separate from the British Crown.  I am going to quote the first part of the Declaration again, and then draw parallels to today.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The first part needs no changes to see how these truths are still relevant today.  Be on the lookout however as I change the rest.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Do you think that our current Government has become “destructive of these ends”?  Do you notice that it talks about “Safety and Happiness”?  How safe and happy are you when the tax code is so complicated you cannot know for certain that you are complying with the law?  How safe and happy are you if illegal aliens and terrorists are extended essentially the same rights as a citizen?  How safe and happy are you, if you are the victim of identity theft, your social security number has been used by dozens of illegal immigrants, and you’ve done everything you are legally able to do, and yet the fraud continues?

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

How long are we willing to suffer a Government that spends more than it receives in revenue?  How long are we willing to obligate ourselves and future generations to ever increasing debt before we consider abolishing, or at the least overhauling our government?

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

I believe that time has come… and now come the changes to the Declaration of Independence.

“–Such has been the patient sufferance of these” United States; “and such is now the necessity which constrains” us “to alter” our current “Systems of Government.  The history of the present” leadership of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, “is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these,” United “States.”

What do you think?  I think a TEA Party on April 15th is a good start.