Thursday, September 30

Mark Steyn Makes Sense

Steyn on why American conservatism gives us a better chance of surviving a Muslim Revolution than the British Commonwealth and the EU.

Wednesday, September 22

Just to remind myself

1. Be proactive. Control your environment, rather than having it control you.

2. Begin with the end in mind. Covey calls this "the habit of personal leadership" -- leading yourself toward your goals.

3. Put first things first ("the habit of personal management") -- organizing and implementing your activities in line with your objectives.

4. Think "win/win" instead of "win-or-lose" ("the habit of interpersonal leadership") -- because personal achievements are largely dependent on cooperative efforts.

5. Seek first to understand and then to be understood -- a habit that is based on the power of communication.

6. Synergize (see "Word to the Wise," below) by exercising the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts ("the habit of creative cooperation"). This habit implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person's contribution.

7. Sharpen the saw ("the habit of self-renewal"). This habit supports all the other habits and helps you stay physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually fit.

Friday, September 3

An interesting, (if slightly academic), article on how monetary inflation is destroying us.

Thursday, September 2

Cranky About the War on Terror

When we went to war against Hitler and the Axis powers in 1941, what were fighting for? "Our freedom" seems to be a pretty good answer. Hitler had armies and - at one point - had used them to occupy and subjugate all of Europe. Hirohito had armies and had used them to occupy and subjugate most of Southeast Asia. If either of these two powers remained unchecked, it was quite clear that we were in danger of being occupied and subjugated. In other words, the Axis were a threat to America and to the freedoms we enjoyed as Americans

What terrorist army is threatening to occupy and subjugate America? I know that they could have suitcase bombs - and that is certainly a horrible thought. But I have a question - what if they do? What if they unleash a nuclear bomb on New York? Will we all suddenly decide to become Muslims? Will we bow in abject humiliation and obey our new masters from Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Syria? Will armies of mujahadin lead by mad mullahs suddenly materialize in Phoenix and Los Angeles Atlanta and Nashville, Chicago and Dallas to force our compliance with Islamic law?

Not in a million years.

Terrorists are no threat to America - they are a threat to Americans. They threaten us individually, not corporately. They are mere criminals. Terrorists have no Army they can use to occupy their "conquered" lands. They have no Navy they can use to enforce an embargo of our ports. They have no Air Force they can use to conduct high-level bombing raids on strategic targets. They are nothing more than a small group of well-financed criminals with the capability of doing a lot of damage but NO CHANCE of denying us our freedoms as Americans. The only entity in the world with enough power to deny American citizens their basic rights is the American government.

And that is exactly what is happening to us; happening in the name of protecting us from the terrorists.

Star Chambers
Suspension of the Writ of Habeus Corpus
Virtually unlimited police powers granted the federal police
Destruction of the dollar by the quasi-governmental Federal Reserve
Budget deficits that have saddled our children with unpayable debts
Out-of-control taxation
Out-of-control debt
Out-of-control government growth

If this is the price of Freedom, what in the world would slavery look like? And who would inflict it upon us?

Friday, August 27

I know of no better way for a couple to learn to work together than dancing.

Wednesday, August 25

I have four children of my own ranging in age from 21 to 15. I also teach a bunch of high-schoolers in my living room on Sunday nights. One thing I've learned about dealing with people in general and kids in particular is that you gotta keep it simple. My philosophy as a parent is pretty simple:

1. Make very few rules
2. Make the rules unambiguous
3. Enforce the rules

This has worked well for me & my kids. I think it works because it acknowledges something fundamentally true about humans.

In that vein, Jesus did the same for us. He told us that the entire bulk of the Law & the Prophets was contained in two commands - Love God, Love your neighbor.

Every violation of God's law is a violation of one or both of those commands, right?

I'm no theologian, but I expect that when I am at last fully sanctified, I will in fact love God & love my neighbor perfectly, thus perfectly obeying His Law. Funny thing about love, though - love cannot be commanded. That means God commands us to do the one thing which He cannot coerce us into doing.

Lest I be misunderstood, I fully realize the difference between Love, the squishy affection, and Love, the action that does good to our neighbor. But the command is to Love God and neighbor not just with our strength and mind, but with our hearts as well. You may command my Mind and compel my strength, but sheer force is powerless over the heart.

Seems like there is some sort of paradox here. I can "obey" God's command to Not Steal, Not Murder, Not Commit Adultery, Not Perjure, Not Covet - but if the motivation of my heart is anything other than love, then I am not truly obedient, am I?

Man, am I hosed. Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, my Lord.

But what does that mean? What is it that Jesus my Lord has done in light of this question about loving God and neighbor? Just this:

He is with me always, having made His dwelling within me, and is now at work in me not merely to obey His commands, but to want to obey. (Phil 2:13)

This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he says that any man who is in Christ has become a new creature. We become people who actually want to obey God and also have to power to obey.

Wednesday, August 18

If the purpose of school is to educate children, why are school schedules designed with no regard for the sleep needs of adolescents? Why Teens Need More Sleep

"...high school starts too early for most teenagers, often as early as 7 a.m. Two decades ago, high schools typically opened at 8 a.m. or later in the United States as well as elsewhere around the world." Review: Adolescent Sleep Patterns: Biological, Social and Psychological Influences

"...a teenager's brain typically needs to sleep from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am. However, most high schools require students to be in class as early as 7:15 or 7:30 am. "Should Teens Sleep In?

Tuesday, August 17

Is it education, or just school? The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher, by John Taylor Gatto.
...if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness-curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.

The Odysseus Group - John Taylor Gatto

Friday, July 30

...the more we ask from the state, the more power we grant it over our lives. And when we rely on force to get what we want, we can be certain that that force will one day be used against us, or in ways we find deplorable.

This from Bretigne Shaffer via Lew who said it better than I ever could.

Thursday, July 1

How big is too big?

This is a question I've been pondering for quite some time. I know I haven't quite got this figured out, but this is a blog, so it doesn't have to be perfect yet.  Here's what I am thinking:

Is there a size limit to every human endeavor? Is there something hardwired into us humans that makes us incapable of building a large organization that does not abuse its own power? Can you think of any large organization that does not abuse people? I cannot.

Humans band together to form organizations because whatever goal they wish to accomplish is unattainable without cooperation. But what happens when the existence of the organization becomes a threat to the original goal? What happens when, for example, a government that was formed "of the people, by the people, for the people" becomes the single biggest threat to the liberty of those same people?

In a small organization where the raison d'etre for its very existence is still at the forefront of the group's consciousness, it may be apparent that dissolution of the organization is the best way to meet the organization's original goals - or at least the best way to quit screwing up the organization's original vision. A small organization is able to dissolve with a minimum amount of fuss and pain.

But the bigger an organzation becomes, the more it loses sight of why it was formed, and the more self-preservation becomes the dominant goal of the organization.

The mess in Iraq is made far worse by the almost universal insistence that the country of Iraq remain One Country. But why? The reality is that the nation-state the world knows as "Iraq" is composed of three distinct ethnic and religious groups, none of whom gets along with the others. Why then do we insist on uniting them all under a single flag? Why do we not seriously discuss the option of splitting the state into three smaller, autonomous countries? Does it have any thing to do with the human (generally) and American (particularly) addiction to bigness and power?

Closer to home, schools were formed for the sole purpose of educating our children. But as school systems get bigger and control of the schools becomes more centralized, the actual task of educating the young takes a back seat to perpetuating the existence of the schools.

Perhaps you recall that the Republicans promised to disband the Department of Education in their "Contract with America" in 1994. What happened when they took over the house, though? Same ole same ole. No one can honestly argue that the intensified centralization of schools has actually helped to better educate our children, but almost no one seriously advocates decentralization as - if not a solution - at least a step in the right direction.

I don't know if there is a principle involved here or not. But I suspect that there is a natural size limit to any organization - no matter the type. I suspect that God has created us in such a way that we are incapable of creating non-abusive organizations bigger than X. (What X is, I have no idea. But I suspect it is a lot smaller than almost any organization we are familiar with.)

Whether government, business, education or religion, once an organization grows beyond that limit - whatever that limit may be - it loses the human element; it loses its ability to respond to people as people.

Monday, June 14

On Sunday nights, the high schoolers come to our house for Bible Study. That's not too strange, I guess - lots of folks host Bible studies at their house. But what's strange, to me at least, is that I lead it.

I used to think I knew so much about life and God, thought I had it pretty much all figured out. Then I spent 20 years raising kids, being married, working for a living - and all the things I thought I knew I realized were mostly theories. Life knocked the wind out of my sails.

But I guess I haven't really given up - although I've tried a few times. I just cannot get away from this God Who seems to continue to pursue me. So I ask myself, "What do I KNOW is true? What can I really count on?" The answers are few and far between.

One of the guys I work with recently filed for divorce from his wife of more than 20 years, and it shook me to the core. I can hardly believe the depth of his duplicity, the extent of his selfishness, and the self-delusion in which he is ensnared. I understand getting worn-out with a marriage that just doesn't seem to work. What I cannot understand is how quickly he gave up - and how dishonest he has been about his intentions. Looking back over my last year's worth of conversations with him, it is apparent to me that he never intended to try to work things out. He found a girlfriend and it was the excuse he needed to jettison his wife and kids.

Oh, and he claims to be a believer. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he also knows "God will forgive". I've had those kinds of thoughts when I chose to go my own way in spite of my certainty that my actions were immoral, but I shudder at the folly of such hubris.

And I guess this is just part of the whole picture - things I see but do not understand. My friend's wife and children are devastated beyond description. The man is utterly lacking in human pity and has proven himself to be completely contemptible. He spent the last year rearranging the family finances so that his wife will end up with less than nothing, half their debts and no source of income. Unbelievable. He acted like he was listening to me as I commiserated with his pain while encouraging him to not give up. But he'd already given up - and let me talk away as if it mattered. Dispicable. He acts as though he's decided to sell an old car, not like he has betrayed wife, children, family and friends.

I understand wanting to quit on a marriage. I don't understand intentionally, systematically screwing everyone involved.

When I pray for his wife & kids, I don't even know what to ask. God knew all this was going down and chose to allow it. It doesn't make sense to me, but I have to say - in spite of my blinding ignorance - God is still in charge and still acting in a loving way.

Last night, I told the high schoolers what I know about faith. The essential part is this: if you can perceive it with your senses, then it doesn't require the saving kind of faith. The saving kind of faith believes in what is not seen, and hopes in that which real, even though it is unperceived by the senses. And God intends that we live in this state of faith all the time - believing that He is acting out of a heart of goodness toward us even when we are betrayed, beaten, unjustly accused, ridiculed. Even when our lot in life is desperate and dire, even when all my senses say "this is a horrible, terrible tragedy". Even in such outrageous circumstances, faith says, "God is good, and is acting in goodness toward these whom He loves even now."

It's more than I can grasp with my mind; I have to apprehend it with my heart. It delivers a knockout blow to my understanding and leaves it sprawled senseless in the dirt. It forces me to believe with nothing but desire - the desire to continue believing that God is good, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Sunday, May 16

I fulfilled a goal yesterday: I hiked the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim in one day - actually 12 hours & 25 minutes.

Hooray for me.

(Where are you, Patrick?)

Wednesday, May 12

This week I crept into the belly of the beast and have now emerged with a story to tell.

I had jury duty.

First and foremost, I am shocked that I was even seated. I am the last person anyone wants on a jury because I am (a) informed and (b) independent. In other words, I know that I can judge the law as well as the evidence, and I am not prone to manipulation by anybody.

But I still got seated.

It was a drunk driving case - the perp was from out of town, he got stopped on Halloween because he was weaving slightly. The officer who arrested him testified with confidence and was pretty credible. The other prosecution witnesses ranged from unimpressive to incredible. The last guy screwed the case for the prosecution.

The charges were DUI, BAC of .08 & BAC of .15. The first charge is subjective but does not support the other two, which are objective but do not support the first. In other words, the state encircles the perp with a collection of charges and assumes they can get him on at least one.

My fellow jurors eventually agreed that we could not be certain the breathalyzer was reliable, and therefore all agreed to acquit on both the BAC charges. But the others were firmly convinced that he was impaired by alcohol and therefore guilty of the DUI. I struggled mightily with the idea of a crime without a victim - which is what happened here - but also realized that most of my fellow jurors only voted to acquit on the BAC because they were convinced he was guilty of the DUI. If I had held my ground, we would have been hopelessly deadlocked, and would have had a hung jury on all THREE charges.

So I compromised.

I compromised to keep the guy from getting hung worse than he was gonna get hung if the state had its way. Although I believe anyone who decides to drink and drive is a menace to society, I believe that the biggest menace in that courtroom the past three days was the state with its almost unlimited power, money and complete disregard for the principles of freedom.

Some will argue that the guy got off on a technicality. I would argue that the inexcusable for fairly laziness and sloppiness of state employees allowed a man who had committed a victimless "crime" to avoid additional, excessive jail time. And I'm darn thankful for it.

I didn't enjoy the process. But at least I learned a lot of things you can do to compromise the investigation if you are ever stopped for DUI/BAC.

If I trusted the state, I wouldn't have such a difficult time with such an apparently black & white case. But I don't. I have no confidence anymore that anyone brought up on charges is not the victim of state malfeasance rather than a criminal being brought to justice. The system is rigged to prevent the jury from really getting at the truth - we are only allowed to see the various attorneys' versions of the truth as edited by the judge. Judge and Prosecutor are both employees of the state, and Judge, Prosecutor and Defense Counsel all have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In short, don't go to court and expect justice - just expect a decision.

And pray that someone even more stubborn and independent than me is on your jury.