Will This Post Matter?

 

berlin-wallWhen I was growing up, our Air Force family was stationed in Germany. During those years, my mother and father took us on trips all over Germany and so we were able to visit many breathtaking places: the Rhine River Valley, the Salzburg salt mines, Mad King Ludwig’s castle, the beautiful Black Forest region, and even the Austrian Alps. However, the two places I’ll never forget were the German concentration camp at Dachau and communist-ruled East Berlin. The sights, sounds and smells of those places are burned forever into my memory.

Dachau. My family and I walked along a dirt path bordered by an uneven line of white-painted rocks corralling patches of red posies and brownish-green grass. “Keep Off the Grass” warnings were posted in German and English. The path led to a large, white, one-story building with a black hole for an entrance. Tentatively, we stepped inside the iron doorway into a large room, perhaps 25’ by 40’, lit by a single light bulb. A horrible odor like rotten meat assaulted my nose and I gagged. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw – nothing. The room was completely empty except for a row of drains set into the cement floor and dozens of spigots pointed downward from the ceiling. Wondering what this place was, I noticed a sign on the wall. Thirty seconds later, I knew that I was standing in a Nazi gas chamber where, during WWII, Jewish people had been herded and locked into this room and then stripped naked while gas poured out of the ceiling, choking, suffocating, and ultimately, poisoning them to death.

East Berlin. My family took a tour bus to the communist side of Berlin. The Berlin Wall separated East Berlin from West Berlin so to pass from one side of the city to the other, we had to stop at the guard stations known as “Check Point Charlie”. This guard station was manned by East German soldiers armed with very large machine guns and snarling guard dogs.

Once outside the bus, we were struck by the contrast between communist-controlled East Berlin and democratic West Berlin; it was like walking from a color picture into a colorless photograph. Literally, everywhere, everything was black and brown and gray. Buildings destroyed during WWII still sat in great, bombed-out heaps of dark brick and black ash. Few people– all clad in gray or black – walked the streets and those who had ventured out kept their mouths closed and their heads down.

No one dared to smile.

My father, in Air Force uniform (because he was off base), approached an old woman to ask a question. I remember her ancient her coat on that cold, gray day – shabby and brown, with frayed sleeves. My father asked her, in German, if the building across the street had been destroyed during the war. The woman refused to look at my father. Mumbling something about not knowing what war he was talking about, she hurried away.

As our bus prepared to leave East Berlin, we again had to stop at Check Point Charlie. This time, the armed German guards boarded the bus and checked behind each seat, looking for anyone trying to escape East Berlin. They also rolled a large mirror under the bus to check for anyone desperate enough to try to hitch a ride out underneath it.

Big government Socialism gone very wrong.

I tell these stories to make a point. I am passionate about this country. Of course there are those who would tell you that that’s an understatement. I am deeply grateful for so much about our nation, particularly our freedoms: the right to say whatever we want without fear of government reprisal; the right to travel anywhere, anytime; the right to assemble together, to arms ourselves, to worship whomever and however we please; the right to “due process” if arrested and arraigned: a jury trial, the “presumption of innocence” in court, and the prohibition to be tried twice for the same crime.

So many other countries just don’t have these rights!

I teach teenagers and it breaks my heart to see that so many of them have no idea what our rights are and therefore no conception of their rarity in this world or their value. In fact, many students and even adults don’t know even basics facts – the VP’s name, for example. Therefore – and this is the point of this entire post – many, many, people in this country do not have any idea what’s at stake in this election. And these folks are going to vote.

Because of my father’s service and the lack of freedom I’ve witnessed in other countries, I understand that these freedoms must be defended and protected. And the best way to do that is to vote for those who will defend our Constitution.

So what are the candidates for?

Constitution and Supreme Court: Trump is for appointing justices to the Court who will uphold the Constitution which he sees as defining our law. Clinton will appoint justices who see the Constitution as a “living, breathing document” which can be changed. If the Constitution can be changed, then so can the rights listed in it. (See above.)

Economic Growth: Trump is for lowering taxes for businesses which has, in the past, caused businesses to grow and create more jobs; Clinton will raise taxes on businesses which is what has happened under Obama. That has not worked.

Military Readiness: Trump will expand the military; Clinton will maintain or decrease the military. This readiness speaks to our ability to defend ourselves against terrorism – or not.

Healthcare: Trump will replace Obama’s one-payer (insurance company) health care plan with one with lower premiums, lower deductibles, and more insurance plans to choose from; Clinton will keep Obamacare or institute a similar plan.

Illegal Immigration: Trump will build a wall and can make Mexico pay for it simply by cutting aid to Mexico equal to the cost of the wall. Clinton will not build a wall; she says she will increase border patrols. (That has not worked to date.) Trump is for deportation of criminal illegals and a “path to citizenship” (vs. amnesty) for other illegals; Clinton is for amnesty for all illegals, meaning they receive automatic and immediate citizenship and voting rights.

If Hillary Clinton is for the same policies as Obama – which she is (proven by the fact that he’s campaigning for her), and if those policies are not working now – which they’re not, how can we believe that doing the same thing for the next four years will improve anything in our country?

More importantly, if our Constitution and the Supreme Court are lost with this election, we will not get another chance to save them. We must vote to uphold the Constitution of the greatest country in the world – the United States of America.

I’ve seen the results of more government control in other countries. The only people who really think that’s a good idea are the people running those countries. People escape to this country to get away from countries controlled by governments.

There’s a reason for that. Think about it before you vote.

 

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The Drama Games

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Have you ever noticed that “drama” rhymes with “trauma”? Well it does. And is it possible to indulge in a little drama without creating trauma – for someone? Probably not. But there are people who simply can’t seem to function without a little drama fix somewhere, sometime, somehow during their day. And it just wouldn’t be half as much fun for them if they weren’t able to pull you into it. So – you have to ask yourself: “Am I being shipwrecked by someone else’s antics or – just as importantly – are my goals and visions?”

The truth is that in order to be harmed by someone else’s drama, trauma, crisis-du-jour, atomic meltdown, and/or apocalypse, you have to be sucked into some type of emotional manipulation – and that doesn’t happen by accident. Most continuous drama exhibitions are by design, at the very least to get attention and to the extreme, to exhort some sort of payment from the victim of the drama. As in, “If I don’t get ‘my way’ (whatever that might mean), I’m going to die!”

The unspoken message: “And it’ll be your fault!”

Listen – we’re all victims of giving in to drama once in a while and if the truth be told, we might even be the perpetrators of a little action of our own now and then (mostly “then”). Drama can range from a pouting lower lip or a few tears on the sly to a full-blown emotional or physical assault. But if the “drama” that we’re being subjected to is too regular, abusive or both, then there’s a much bigger problem afoot. That much trauma could actually mean one of two things is happening: either the drama entity has zeroed in on an “enabler” or, if their distress is real, then that entity is in much more need of mental help then we can possibly give. There are several reasons for drama:

Attention-needy people. Sometimes, due to insecurities of their own, people simply need to be the center of attention. Depending on what kind of attention they need, this might be your problem or not. If the demand is simply an annoyance, give them their cookie and move on. If the demand for attention hinders or threatens your own ability to function, it obviously has to be dealt with. Parents, pastors, teachers, employers all have to deal with folks in various degrees of the “I-need-attention-and-I-need-it-now” syndrome. Funny thing about attention-needy folks, though – their drama tends to vaporize when their audience vanishes.

Incompetent people. Much drama can ensue when people discover their lack of ability in some area or another – and especially when others discover it for them. This drama generally manifests in terms of error cover-ups which might include excuse-making, lying, defensive outbursts of anger, and/or meltdowns involving lots of tears and sobbing. If people are blessing you with these types of behaviors, it’s probably because they have to answer to you as their employer or coach or teacher or in some other capacity in which you’re in authority over them. What happens to them in these circumstances depends on them. If they’re at all interested in improving their skills so that the drama stops, then invest. If not, a little tough love might be in order. Or a pink slip.

Desperate people. People exhibiting “desperate drama” behaviors might actually pose a threat to themselves and/or others. It might not even be too dramatic to say that “threatening” might be too innocuous a word; perhaps “dangerous” might be a better description. People who are desperate are generally feeling as though they have no control over a relationship or situation and are therefore desperate to get that control. And while “drama” might describe this person’s behavior, the actual danger they pose could well be more serious: they could endanger themselves – in order to control you. On the other hand, you could be the target of rage, possessiveness, or some type of payback for not caving to desperate-drama manipulation: financial ruin, damage to one’s reputation, even stalking could be extreme examples of someone seeking control of a situation. These folks need a reality check and chances are, if you’re the target, you should not probably be the one to provide it. At this point, your local law enforcement officer might be a really wise option. So would an Order of Protection.

Drama is never fun and can be a bit of a detriment to one’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Moreover, someone else’s drama exhibitions can damage or even completely shipwreck your own goals, dreams and visions if you get caught up in their nonsense. That’s not to say, of course, that you should not try to help others who need it but – you know the difference between drama and the real thing. The main difference is that real trauma almost always has a resolution. Drama-trauma never does.

 Know a drama queen or other royal entity? It’s time to banish them from Court.

 

 

 

Happily Ever Never

emperor

Once upon a time, there was a place that had been run for many years by a not-so-nice emperor in a state called The People’s Republic of New York. Now in that state were many citizens who did not have many of the same rights as citizens in other states – which many New Yorkers didn’t really think was fair, but that was beside the point. No one really cared what the citizens thought. For example, the citizens of New York really believed in a thing called The Constitution which had another thing attached to it called the “2nd Amendment” which specifically said that citizens of the United States (which New Yorkers were even though the emperor sometimes forgot that) had the right to “keep and bear arms”. That meant that the citizens of New York (who really were citizens of the United States) should be able to buy a gun (legally) and carry it around.

Alas, it was not to be.

Sadly, the citizens of New York were only “allowed” to “keep arms” (have a gun) if they obeyed many, many rules, paid lots of money, and then were “granted permission” by the State. And even then, getting a gun permit took the citizens three to six long months – if they could get one at all.

In addition and even worse, the citizens of New York were not allowed “to bear arms” (carry a gun) unless they fit into a very small group of people called law enforcement, military (some of), or had a business requiring them to transport gobs of money. You see, most of the citizens were not deemed worthy by the State to have this privilege. But that confused the poor, dumb citizens of New York who really believed that The Constitution was more powerful than the emperor of New York and his helpers who, they could only conclude, had not read The Constitution. Furthermore, the citizens of New York did not think it was fair either that the emperor and his helpers got to “keep and bear arms” themselves – and they weren’t even military, law enforcement, nor did they own any businesses. (Although, the citizens concluded, since they did have gobs of money from taxing other people’s businesses, maybe that’s why they got to “keep and bear arms”.)  The other thing that made the citizens mad was that none of the criminals in New York ever had to get permission to keep or bear arms either.

And so it was that only the criminals and the politicians had all of their 2nd Amendment rights in The People’s Republic of New York.

But the thing that really made the citizens of New York very sad and depressed was that in other states like North Carolina, the citizens there could go and get a pistol permit in just three days which included “conceal and carry” privileges! This meant that the citizens of North Carolina still had their 2nd Amendment rights because they had not been stolen by their leaders. (This made many of the citizens of New York get mad and move there.)

The moral of the story is this: If the citizens of the United States elect a nationwide, liberal emperor who takes over the state of North Carolina and all the other states besides, then all of the U.S. citizens will suffer as have the poor, dumb citizens of The People’s Republic of New York.

And if this happens, no one will live happily ever after. Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Superpower: Words

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Some years ago, I remember hearing a story about some strange events that occurred during the years of NASA’s Apollo space missions from 1961-1972. According to the astronauts’ testimonials to NASA during their debriefings after returning from their missions to the moon, the astronauts aboard the spaceships reported experiences that they simply couldn’t account for: words reverberating around them in space – an infinite number of words. The astronauts reported hearing thousands and thousands of words which, they realized, were words spoken by people on earth over the course of history. They also reported feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted off of them when they reached heights above the atmosphere – not a physical weight, of course, because a lack of gravity would make them feel lighter. Rather, this was a heaviness, an oppression which they described as having been lifted off of their spirits.

Hard to believe? Possibly. However, there is Biblical precedent for both of these experiences. Let’s take the oppression that the astronauts felt. The Word tells us that the devil is “the prince of the power of the air,” meaning he inhabits the earthly atmosphere, so would it be any surprise that his presence would affect the spiritual realm on earth? No.

What about the words the astronauts heard? Biblical principle also: Jesus himself said that we would give an account for every “idle” word we speak on earth. And he wasn’t making it up. But why?

Because words have incredible and eternal power and influence. Remember that God spoke creation into existence – and it was. Kings made decrees which, at the moment they were spoken, became irrevocable law; even the kings themselves could not retract or change the decrees that had gone forth from their mouths. Moreover, blessings and curses were activated in the Bible through the spoken word – and they affected circumstances. Balaam was paid by a king to curse the Israelites because the king understood the power of word curses. Jacob and his brother Esau, on the other hand, fought over the paternal blessing that their father, Isaac, was waiting bestow on his son, Esau. Jacob, comprehending the real power of the spoken word, stole Isaac’s blessing from his brother.

What are words? Physicists have discovered that all matter is made up of sound vibrations that formulate the very atoms that make up the universe. If, therefore, all matter is comprised of sound vibrations, then it is reasonable to conclude that the sound waves that are the foundation of the spoken word would actually affect that matter.

That’s why Jesus warned against “idle” words – because words affect circumstances – whether they’re spoken carelessly or with purpose. And because we are created in the image of God who speaks matter into existence, our words also have the power to create.

The problem is that “idle” words are often not simply careless but destructive.

Notice how, in the Bible, parents often named their children the oddest things – and those names would affect how the children turned out. It’s probably no surprise that Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” grew up to deceive his father and brother; after a life-time of hearing himself called a “deceiver,” it was natural for him to behave like one. His name shaped his thinking. But eventually, God changed his name to “Israel” which means “one who prevails with God”.

It’s interesting to note that God often changed people’s names to reflect his vision of them. For example, Abraham’s wife, originally called “Sarai,” is a name which means “argumentative” or “contentious”. However, after God blessed Sarai, he changed her name to “Sarah,” meaning “princess.” God also changed Abram’s name, which means “high, or honored father,” to “Abraham,” meaning “a father of many nations.”

What does any of this mean for you? Simply that you have the power in that little muscle called your “tongue” to affect the success or failure of your own dreams and visions. For example, do you catch yourself saying any of the following?

“This is never going to work!”

“Every time I get money in, something breaks and it goes right out the window!”

“My boss/neighbors/co-workers hate me!”

“I’ll never lose weight or pass this test or get that job or . . .”

“That disease just runs in my family.”

“You’re such a brat! You’re going to end up in jail if you don’t straighten out!”

“I’m so stupid!”

Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t buy the whole “word curses” philosophy – that being that sound vibrations exist eternally in the spiritual realm and affect circumstances. Again, remember that Jesus actually said that each of us would “give an account” for any “idle” words that we speak. He said that because words have such creative power. That being the case then, maybe it’s time to revise what we are saying about ourselves, our families, our jobs, our finances, and our health. Instead of curses, we can proclaim blessings for ourselves and our circumstances.

Instead of saying, “This will never work,” we could proclaim, “I was born for this!”

Instead of “Money’s always going down the drain,” proclaim the Word of God and promises of God: “The Lord will bless all the work I do. I will lend to many, but I will never need to borrow” (Is 28:12).

Instead of “Everyone hates me!” bless yourself: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on me; establish the work of my hands for me . . .” (Ps. 90:17).

Instead of “I’m going to inherit that disease,” bless your body: “The words of God are life to those who find them and health to all their body . . .” (Prov. 4:21).

The bottom line is that God has given us the power to affect the success – or the failure – of our dreams, visions, and even our destinies. The key is the words that we speak. As the Word tells us in Proverbs: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  And blessing.

Choose your words wisely.

 

 

 

 

The Moon Still Sets.

soldier-on-battlefield

The sky shone turquoise after the storm, aquamarine like the ocean, translucent clouds of sea foam drifting across the heavens. A hawk soared, high above the ground, and circled back to the woods beneath. Sunbeams danced like spotlights on the tops of trees. Below, a forest of tall maples ringed a field on three sides, silver leaves glinting in the bright sunlight, a thousand shining swords waving in triumph.

On the ground, boot prints in a sea of muck ran with trickles of water mingled with streams of blood. Bodies lay strewn about the field, army green and mud brown and blood red. One figure, on his knees in the mud, blood dripping from his forehead, stared blindly, mind rejecting what eyes were seeing.

Somewhere in the distance, a songbird chirped.

In a multitude of corners of the earth, death descends in a multitude of forms, and life or hope or both come to a screeching halt – and yet, the sun still shines. Hearts shatter and dreams fade, and yet people sail by, unaware and laughing. The moon still sets and the sun still rises. Brides still walk the aisles, and grooms still stand, smiling. Wedding bells still ring.

Death stalks, tragedy calls, faith withers away, and still, mercilessly, the planet spins, the seconds tick by, and the heartbeat of life never falters.

It all seems so cruel.

When we suffer, our lives are interrupted and altered, sometimes permanently. And while others might notice and whisper words of comfort and even shed tears of sympathy at our pain, eventually they return to their own lives. But it’s hard to understand; the world will never be the same. How can people behave as though it will?? That’s the pain of it.

Eventually, after we’re crushed and broken, wounded and scarred by the demons and daggers of disappointment and death, we come to understand that no one really can bear the pain of it for us. Words like “heartbreak” and “grief” become empty expressions, clichés that are tossed like chips in a casino to describe our pain. And yet, they don’t. Moreover, when those words are coupled with that cruelest of all words – “loneliness” – we experience the reason that tragedy disfigures our souls forever: we have to bear it alone.

And yet we don’t.

There is one who can bear it with us – has already born it for us – Jesus Christ. Now I realize that some – maybe many of my followers perhaps don’t subscribe to Christ – and I get that. Yet I can’t disguise the hope that we have who do believe: that Christ has taken away the sting of death – and yes, of life, too. People demand to know why bad things happen to good people. Why not? It’s a reasonable question. And yet the answer seems not to satisfy many. Yet I can’t change the answer nor can I give you a better one. The fact is, and the answer is, that we live in a fallen world. Sin has made a way for pain and heartache and death. So – how is that fair? If there’s a God, just what kind of person is he that he would allow any of this? Where is he in all of this?

On the cross. Or – he was. He died to take away the pain of life and the finality of death. What more could he do? But then he rose. And when he did, he replaced death with everlasting joy and peace and yes, that most elusive of all pursuits – happiness.

I remember once going to the funeral of a woman who had taken her own life. I didn’t know her well but I cried until my eyes were swollen shut; I couldn’t stop. I cried that she had had so much pain and so little hope that she had had no other answer than to end her life to stop the pain. When my father died, I barely cried at all. I cried briefly because I’ll miss him, but I’ll see him again; of that I have no doubt. In the meantime, he’s “in a better place” – another cliché that we throw around. No, actually, he’s in a place that is so far beyond “better” that no human being can even comprehend it. If we can imagine a world not wrecked by sin, it’s a start. No anger, no sadness, no fear, no envy, no malice, no bigotry, no pain, no desperation, no hopeless, no depression, no self-hatred, no despair, no war, no disease, no crime, no perversion, no unimaginable atrocity – no tears, no heartbreak, no death of any kind.

Erase all of that – and then imagine a place of beauty beyond anything we’ve ever seen. People who’ve visited heaven, who’ve died and been revived, describe heaven as a place having colors we’ve never seen, sound beyond our spectrum, music we can’t produce, and light that is brighter than any sun. But the best thing of all – from my viewpoint anyway – is that heaven is a place of new beginnings, a place where the mistakes we’ve made are erased and the wrongs we’ve done to others are healed, a place where we can start all over – and get it right!

Heaven is a place of do-overs.

In the midst of heart-wrenching pain, what does it hurt to believe – especially when there are those of us who can testify that we’ve never been disappointed by believing? What’s the risk? When you think about it, there isn’t any.

Just believe. It’s okay.

 

 

 

 

 

Playing the Odds.

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How do we know that the Bible is truly the Word of God?

That has to be the foundational question in all of Christianity.  After all, if people don’t believe that the Bible truly is God’s word and divinely inspired, then it would follow that we can’t use Scripture as a foundation for proof of the reality of God or the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Right?

Several years ago, I came to this conclusion as I found myself facing what I can only call a crisis of faith. Life had wound up and slapped me upside the head (as it sometimes does), and I came to the realization that, if I really wanted to do things God’s way in this dilemma, it was going to cost me a lot.  Therefore, I had to be certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I were going to choose to do things according to Biblical principle, then those principles had better be true. 

But I wasn’t certain of that.

That’s when it hit me: I actually had some doubt as to whether the Word of God was really that – God’s word. So – I confessed that to God, and asked Him to give me some proof as to whether He really had written the Bible and, by extension – I guess I was really asking Him to prove to me that He even really existed.   After all, I reasoned, there are lots of religions in the world, and every person in every one of them believes that his or her beliefs are the “real thing.”  That wouldn’t be so disturbing if those beliefs were similar in nature but many of them are diametrically opposed to one another so – which one was real??  They couldn’t all be the truth . . .

As I confronted God about my confusion and asked Him to prove His reality to me (that takes nerve, thinking back . . .), I was really rather surprised when He did – and quickly.

Within a week, the Lord showed me that Biblical prophecy is the evidence that the Bible was indeed written by God. 

First, the Lord showed me that there are three different kinds of prophecy in the Bible: prophecy concerning the Jewish people, Messianic prophecy, and end-time prophecy. There are literally hundreds of these different kinds of prophecy embedded into the Word of God; in fact, there are over 300 Messianic prophecies alone in the Bible. 

For example, some of the prophecies concerning the Jewish people include their various exiles, captivities, and dispersions around the world. Others reveal what would happen to specific people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Nebuchadnezzar, Samuel, Sampson, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Peter, Paul, Mary, John the Baptist, the disciples James and John, and Judas Iscariot.  Each of these people had prophecies given to them which predicted what would happen to them and/or their children in the future. 

In addition, there is Messianic prophecy, which is a description of who the Messiah would be and what He would do so that the Jewish people would recognize Him when He came. Some of these prophecies include where the Messiah would be born, what He would do during His life and ministry here on earth, how He would be received and treated by people, and how He would die and yes, rise again.

The last kind of prophecy, commonly called “End-Time” prophecy, is found primarily in the books of Daniel, Zachariah, Revelation, Matthew 24 and Mark 13. These prophecies predict all kinds of events that are to take place before the return of Jesus, including the return of the Jewish people to the nation of Israel, the rise of a one-world economy and of a one-world ruler, a world-wide increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and a devastating war which pretty much levels the planet. 

The point is that the odds of even a few of these prophecies coming to pass by chance are literally impossible.   For example, attorney and former atheist Josh McDowell calculated that the odds of just eight of the 300 Messianic prophecies about Jesus coming to pass through sheer coincidence (and more than eight already have) are a whopping 1023   – ten to the 23rd power (a ten followed by 23 zeroes). 

I don’t know if there’s even a name for that number. 

The bottom line is that a person has to have more faith to believe that it’s even possible for those kinds of odds to happen through sheer and random chance than simply to admit that there is a God and that the Bible was written by Him. Who else would be capable of predicting that many things and doing it accurately? 

I was convinced.

Of course, anyone can fact-check these prophecies and calculate the odds for themselves (if you can count that high). The point is that proof of God and His divine inspiration of the Bible is there for all people to see. 

That is – if they really want to see it.

 

 

Rise From the Ashes.

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What do George Washington, Susan Boyle, Mark Cuban, Michael Jordan, M&M, Helen Keller, Nick Vujicic, Abe Lincoln, and Cinderella all have in common? True – they’re all famous but that’s not it. Before they were famous, they were all “nobodies” or “failures” or “losers”.

They were all underdogs.

Let’s break it down. Take George Washington, for example. In the 1700’s, he had the gall to take on the best-trained and equipped, most powerful army in the world – the British – with the most ragtag bunch of men who ever had the nerve to call themselves an army. None in his small Continental Army had sufficient food or weapons, and many had only rags for shoes and tents for shelter in the bitter cold of a Valley Forge winter. And as if that weren’t enough, a large portion of the colonists weren’t even standing with Washington; they were supporting the British.

 George Washington was not supposed to win that war – but he did. He led that scrappy little Continental Army to an astounding victory over the British. (And the whole civilized world was scandalized!)

Susan Boyle is the woman with Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of autism) who had the courage to audition for Britain’s Got Talent (similar to American Idol). If you’ve never seen the video of her debut appearance on the show, U-Tube it. The best part is Simon Cowell’s face when she appeared on stage as a timid, socially-awkward woman who looked like she’d probably never sung anywhere but the shower. But when she opened her mouth, magic happened. Since then, Susan Boyle has become world-famous, having sold millions of CD’s.

Susan Boyle wasn’t just a low-odds’ gamble; she was a no-odds’ guarantee. And there are more:

Mark Cuban, the multi-billionaire from Shark Tank, dropped out of high school before his senior year and then survived as a bartender, DJ, and party producer. That was before making his billions as a technology tycoon.

M&M is the wrong color and shouldn’t have been able to do what he did: become a rap artist. Everyone knows white men can’t rap. Apparently, M&M didn’t know it. Or – maybe he did – and he did it anyway.

And then there was Michael Jordan – cut from his high school basketball team. (How would you love to be that coach?) Nevertheless, Michael Jordan became one of the most successful, highly paid basketball stars the NBA has ever seen. Even twelve years after his last NBA game, Jordan has made more money in endorsements and sponsorships than he ever made as a BB player: a cool billion, in fact.

Not bad for an underdog.

Helen Keller, as we might remember, became blind, deaf and mute at 19 months old as a result of an unknown illness. Despite all odds, Keller grew up to be the first deaf-blind person ever to earn a bachelor of arts degree, in addition to becoming an American author, political activist, and lecturer.

Nick Vujicic has no arms and no legs. Still, he travels the world speaking, many times in schools, where his message is “you are loved”. It’s not, Vujicic says, about what you look like – or don’t look like; it’s about who you are. Who would have believed that anyone would receive Nick’s message? Nick did.

 And then there was Abraham Lincoln. Few people have ever been defeated more times in life then he was and yet come so far back. To say that he was an underdog when running for president would be a really amusing understatement. Here’s why:

  • 1816 – Family lost their home; he had to go to work.
  • 1818 – Mother died.
  • 1831 – Business failed.
  • 1832 – Ran for state legislature – lost; lost his job; applied to law school – denied.
  • 1833 – Borrowed money for business, went bankrupt. Spent 17 years repaying debt.
  • 1834 – Ran for state legislature again – won.
  • 1835 – Engaged to be married, fiancé died.
  • 1836 – Had total nervous breakdown; in bed for six months.
  • 1838 – Sought speakership of the state legislature – defeated.
  • 1840 – Sought elector-ship – defeated.
  • 1843 – Ran for Congress – lost.
  • 1846 – Ran for Congress again and won.
  • 1848 – Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
  • 1849 – Sought position of land officer in Illinois – rejected.
  • 1854 – Ran for Senate – lost.
  • 1856 – Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination – got less than 100 votes.
  • 1858 – Ran for U.S. Senate again – lost.
  • 1860 – Elected President of the United States.

Has there ever been a bigger underdog than Honest Abe? (Not counting, of course, dozens of Bible underdogs who shouldn’t have been able to do what they did either: David, Joseph, Rahab, Esther, Gideon, Noah, Mary Magdalene, Peter, John the Baptist – that list continues ad infinitum.)

And . . . Cinderella. Why a fairy-tale princess? Cinderella represents all of the dozens of characters in literature who are underdogs in the face of impossible odds and who, despite that, press on to overcome and achieve their goals, dreams, visions, and destinies. Cinderella rose from the ashes to find, not only true love, but her place as royalty.

If you’re feeling like the “least likely to succeed,” that’s a really good place to be. Why? Because God loves an underdog.

Now rise.

 

 

 

 

 

Killer Deal.

train-wreck

How would you like to start a business and have an immediate 100 clients? Maybe you’d like a quick trip from the high school locker room to the NFL? What about going from being weekend news anchor at your local station to anchoring the nightly national network news? Or graduating from college at 22 and stepping right into the directorship of a daycare center responsible for the care and feeding of fifty kidlets every day? What if Uncle Harry suddenly left you a cool million? Killer deal, right?

Absolutely killer. Lethal even.

You know where I’m going with this. There’s a great deal to be said for gradual promotion, for hugging the learning curve, for “working your way up”. In fact, it’s absolutely essential. The fast track to any dream rarely equips us to handle its fulfillment. In fact, many a dream has been destroyed because of overnight success. We’ve all seen the extreme examples: the actress who becomes famous after her first movie hits blockbuster status, and so she turns into an obnoxious diva because she simply doesn’t know how to handle all of the adoration from fans. Or a singer whose first CD goes platinum and he ends up on the road doing drugs because he hasn’t learned how to say no to the never-ending parties and the party animals who inhabit them. Or, sadly, the lottery winner who’s an overnight multi-millionaire and ends up broke because he doesn’t know how to handle the money or the sudden onslaught of “friends” who’d like to deprive him of it . . .

But – what about closer to home? What about stepping into a job or business where you’re suddenly responsible for a dozen employees – and you’ve never been responsible for even one before? There’s a lot more to managing people than learning how to fill out the paperwork. Or how about buying more house or car than you can really afford instead of working your way up to the beach house or the Jaguar?  Or – my personal favorite – jumping into a job teaching high school students when you’ve neither student taught nor trained for combat?

Right after I graduated from college, I thought about joining the Air Force and attending officers’ training school. I’ll never forget the advice my father, a retired NCO AF vet, gave me about joining as an officer. He said, “When you get your first assignment as a young officer, right out of school and knowing nothing, the first thing you need to do is to find yourself a seasoned Senior Master Sergeant who’s been around for twenty years. Then keep your mouth shut and do what he tells you.”

The learning curve. You can’t short-circuit it.

Take education, for example. Ever wonder why the U.S. has gone from #1 in the world in test scores and graduation rates to #17? It’s not money; we spend more per student than any nation in the world. It’s not the teachers; K-12 teachers in the U.S. have to jump through as many if not more educational prep hoops than any other country on earth: graduate degrees, practicums, national tests, video-taped proof of numerous masteries, professional development, and state-mandated workshops – all just to get certified. Nope, those aren’t the problems. It’s one thing and one thing only – the “dirty little secret” of education:

Social promotion.

“Social promotion” is the practice of promoting students through the 8th grade – whether or not they’ve passed the grade or mastered the subjects. Not kidding. (Wish I were.)

For example, I’ve seen numerous students passed onto the next grade after failing all four core courses – math, English, science and social studies. And why? Well, one reason is that a student who’s held back in a middle school might end up with facial hair – and there will be no facial hair in a middle school. (No lie – just ask the state administrator who told me that.) And the second reason for social promotion – money! (There’s a surprise.) Schools with lower graduation rates or those having students who take five years to graduate get less federal money. So they pass the kids on up to the high school and try to get them to graduate in four years – whether they’re ready or not. Ever have an employee who has no work ethic or can’t read? Now you know why.

My point is this: “social promotion” – whether through school or through life – is a guaranteed train wreck.

From a Biblical perspective, God doesn’t do social promotions. Ever hear of “going around the mountain”? Again? I thought you had.

Remember Moses? The man God chose to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt? He spent 40 years as a royal Egyptian prince where he became famous among both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Then, after thinking he could get away with murder, he wandered the backside of the desert for another 40 years while he learned a thing or two about humility. Imagine what kind of leader Moses would’ve been for the next 40 years caring for a million people in the desert if he hadn’t learned humility.

And the Jewish people – how many times did they “go around that mountain” before they were ready to conquer the Promised Land? Forty years – for a trip that should’ve taken eleven days.

But what if they had gone from being slaves in Egypt to conquerors in a foreign land – in eleven days? They couldn’t even feed themselves. They had no idea how to fight, having never done it, or to conquer the land or to set up a government and rule. In fact, they didn’t even have laws at the time they exited Egypt.

The point is that making any kind of a deal to fast-track to the top of the dream is a really bad idea. You might get there – but then the trick would be to stay there. There is no substitute for prep time, however long that might take.

So if you’re offered a “killer deal” to skip to the big time, it might be an offer you’d rather refuse.

 

Uncommon Sense

         common-sense-rip         Whatever happened to Common Sense?  Unfortunately, it’s not so common anymore. While Common Sense used to be everywhere – courtrooms, Congress, cable, and classic movies and literature – now not so much. Common Sense is rarely found these days in newspapers, judicial decisions, social policies or any kind of pop culture. And forget classrooms. 

In fact, Common Sense is well on his way to becoming extinct. Instead, he’s being replaced by his six other brothers.

         Let me introduce them to you.

         The oldest brother is Get Some Sense. He’s big on education and thinks that the more degrees he gets, the more wisdom he’ll have. As a result, he’s up to his neck in PhD’s, MA’s and MS’s, MD’s, and whatever other alphabets he can buy. Unfortunately, while he’s smart enough to know that a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable, he’s not smart enough to know it doesn’t belong in his fruit salad. Furthermore, in his vast acquisition of knowledge, Get Some Sense has deemed social promotion, entitlement and self-esteem more important than hard work; government regulations more important than parental authority; and “political correctness” more important than, well – common sense.

         Then we have Common Sense’s next brother, N.O. Sense. (N.O. stands for “No Originality”.) NO Sense is, basically, a follower. Whatever’s popular or the current trend or whatever the crowd is doing, NO Sense will be found doing, too. Needless to say, he has very few independent thinking skills and even less interest in developing any. He’s the soul of every sort of mob mentality from bullying to violent protests to drug use and crime. Tragically, he’s never been known to be the source of any good deed.

         Next is Not-A-Lotta Sense. (He’s a twin.)  Not surprisingly, Not-A-Lotta has not been very successful in life. He’s not very open to listening to advice; in fact, he’s a do-it-yourselfer. He has to find out everything for himself. The hard way. Like the time he bought that fruity computer stock (something to do with apples) from some guy out of his garage and Uncle Milt told him to hold onto it. But he didn’t. He needed beer money. Sometimes Not-A-Lotta Sense is a slow learner.

         Not-A-Lotta’s twin bro is Lacking Sense. “S-Lacker,” as he’s known, has the ability to think for himself; he just doesn’t. He tends to rush into actions and decisions with not much forethought. He’s often late to work (when he’s working), drives too fast (license optional), and spends money like water (picture the faucet left running).  He is, however, really good at video games.

         And then there’s Dollars and Sense. Dollars believes everything is about money. The only two questions he ever asks when making any decisions are, “How much will it make me?” and “How much will it cost me?”  For example, since vacations generally cost money rather than make it, he’s never taken one. He did fly to Aruba once but that was just to deposit money into a “non-existent” bank account. (The rest he keeps under his mattress.) Dollars is also a big fan of insider trading. But you didn’t hear that from me.

         And finally, there’s the last brother, Non Sense, who’s been around, it seems, since the beginning of time. However, it actually hasn’t been that long. Non Sense really came into his own in the late 60’s and particularly made a name for himself at a place called Woodstock. Since then, he’s been spotted in various places including Hollywood, Washington DC, and in most universities around the world. Non Sense babbles frequently on talk shows, “news” networks, and U-Tube. Social media is also a favorite hang-out. If Non Sense friend-requests you, I don’t recommend you go there.

         So – since his six other brothers have taken over, Common Sense has become rather rare. He’s found in few places these days: old books which no one any longer reads, the minds and hearts of the “Greatest Generation” (aka – “obsolete” by later generations), and in original, unabridged copies of sacred documents like the U.S. Constitution and the Holy Bible. Common Sense has become so endangered that I now suppose he’s better known as – Uncommon Sense.

         I will miss him.

 

 

 

 

 

No Freedom, No Destiny.

constitution-burning

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”

This, as you know, is the introduction (“preamble”) to the United States’ Constitution, and its purpose is to outline exactly what our government is supposed to do for “We the People”.

So – let’s see if that’s been happening . . .

The government is supposed to secure the “Blessings of Liberty” for ourselves and our “Posterity”.  Our “liberties” are the rights which are given to us by law – and which, unfortunately, we’ve come to take for granted. These rights, established first in the Declaration of Independence, include the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This means that our government cannot just up and kill us for political purposes (as happens in some countries); the government cannot deprive us of our freedom or “lock us up” without “just cause” and “due process”; and the government cannot interfere with our own individual decisions regarding what brings us happiness and fulfillment (unless we’re breaking a law in the pursuit). Furthermore, the government cannot deprive us of rights such as freedoms of speech, religious expression, assembly (gathering with others, including to protest), to have and bear arms, and many other rights. (See the Bill of Rights.) And finally, the government is supposed to “secure” these rights, meaning to make certain they are “guaranteed,” they’re “safe” for us and our “posterity,” our children.

Is this happening? No. In New York State, for example, citizens don’t have the right to “bear” arms; “Conceal and Carry” permits are very rare and only issued by judges when we can “prove” we need one and the burden of proof is tough. Most of us don’t have that Constitutional right anywhere in New York state. That’s terrifying when you think about it.

Is “religious freedom” secure? No, not when companies are being forced to comply with practices that violate their religious beliefs such as providing abortion coverage with medical benefits. Now I get that not everyone reading this may agree with businesses being allowed to exempt themselves via “violations of conscience” but keep in mind that if the government says they “must” violate their consciences, it may well say one day that you must as well.

Is “freedom of speech” secure? Not entirely. “Hate speech” is now against the law and carries severe penalties. While that may seem like a good idea, who determines what is hateful? That’s the scary part. If someone doesn’t like your opinion, suddenly it’s “hate speech”.

Our government is supposed to “establish Justice”.  “Justice” means that all laws and the punishments for violating them are fair and just; it means there is no partiality shown in favor of the rich and/or powerful. Unfortunately, the fact is that justice, as defined by the Constitution has been violated in Washington D.C. when powerful people there have disregarded laws and then not only not been convicted but not even charged. Other not-so-famous people have been both charged and convicted of the exact same crimes. Has justice then been served? Has our Constitution been upheld? If everyone is not held to the same standard as others, then no, it hasn’t.

Is our Constitution in danger? The answer should be self-evident but in case it’s not, yes, our Constitution is in danger. Is this an exaggeration? No. Because once justice is trampled, so is our freedom. It’s over. Justice is the cornerstone of the Constitution.

Our government is supposed to “insure domestic Tranquility”. That means the government is obligated to keep the peace at home. Is this happening? No. Cities are burning as the authority of law enforcement (which is a government institution) is being undermined and even sabotaged. That’s a fact. And if our law enforcement at any level – local, state, or federal – is disregarded and disempowered, then there will be no “domestic tranquility”. Period. How can there be? Correct – there cannot. (Wait – there could be if “martial law” was declared and the military “kept the peace”. But I don’t think we really want to see that happen . . .)

Our government is supposed to “provide for the common defense”. This means that the government is supposed to protect the nation from its enemies – both foreign and domestic – through the use of a strong military force.

Is this happening? No. Terrorist attacks inspired by radical Islam in this country are increasing in frequency – whether done by terrorists at home or those accessing the United States through leaky borders or the non-existent vetting of refugees or immigrants. Moreover, the “common defense” is being undermined by a continuous “downsizing” of military force and equipment. These are facts, not speculation.

So – is the United States government providing for the “common defense”? No.

The government is supposed to promote the “general Welfare”. This does not mean the government is supposed to send out welfare checks or other government entitlements every month. Rather, promoting “General Welfare” refers to promoting “good for everyone”. The government is supposed to enact and protect regulations and laws which inspire and promote economic well-being, among other welfares.

Has this happened? No. The federal government has enacted policies detrimental to businesses, job growth, and general economic freedom in the market place. More government regulations on businesses result in fewer businesses established or able to stay in operation. This means fewer people employed and fewer people receiving paychecks, medical insurance and retirement benefits.

The state of our educational system is another “general welfare” failure in this country. Common Core? Not. Ditto the effects of failed energy production, healthcare, national debt, et cetera.

In short, the government has failed in the “general welfare” category.

I hope the point has been made that, above all else in this presidential election, we need to vote for those candidates who will stand for our Constitution and the rights it guarantees. If we don’t, it may well be one of the last votes we’ll ever be able to cast. Think I’m kidding? Voting is, essentially, a form of free speech, of expressing our opinions. If our freedom of speech disappears, I guarantee that our right to vote will do a quick vanishing act as well.

So – ROCK THE VOTE. But remember one thing as you step into the voting booth: No man or woman can ever guarantee your freedoms. Only the United States Constitution can do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRIVE YOUR VISION.