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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

GI Joe, Then and Now

There have been a recent spate of films based on the GI Joe toy 'character' - they're actually pretty good, fast-paced and containing a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. Very high-tech, lots of CGI, and the premise is that of a very 'special unit' saving the world.

But the real GI Joe really did help save the world.

In December of 1943, the writer Ernie Pyle was 'embedded' (to use today's term) with the 143rd Infantry Regiment during a series of attacks aimed at capturing the Italian town of San Pietro Infine, on the western slopes of the Apennines south of Rome.

It was a miserable campaign; Rome is on the same latitude as Chicago, and the winter was cold and wet, the mud 'too thin to drink and too thick to plow'.

Ernie Pyle made a friend, Captain Henry Waskow from the cotton country of southeastern Texas. Waskow came from a large and desperately poor family, becoming an officer through a scholarship to Trinity College and service in the Texas Guard.

Waskow was a hard worker, and took his command responsibilities with a seriousness that was almost desperate. He felt that he'd never really been young.

He never grew old. On the evening of Tuesday, December 14, a shell fragment tore open his chest.

Ernie Pyle saw his body brought down from the hills, slung across the back of a small Italian donkey. When he was unloaded, Waskow was balanced on his feet for a few seconds, a ghastly imitation of life.

Pyle wrote about Waskow's men, coming to pay their respects. One said, "I'm sorry." Several swore. Another smoothed the dead officer's collar, and straightened out the torn clothing around the gaping wound - and then simply held Waskow's hand.

The dispatch was filed, and duly printed on the January 10, 1944 edition of the Washington Daily News. Ernie Pyle felt he'd lost his touch, but it was probably the best piece of writing to come out of the Second World War.

And it became a movie, The Story of GI Joe. Burgess Meredith played Ernie Pyle, and Henry Waskow (renamed 'Walker' in the film) was played by Robert Mitchum.

GI Joe, in a thousand advances and in a million foxholes, was given flesh by Ernie Pyle's words, and substance by Robert Mitchum's acting, in the very real personage of Henry Waskow of Texas.

He saved the world.

It would be facile to rant, now, about the hijacking of the name for a cheap series of action movies, and plastic toys.

But it's okay. We're payed homage, through Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. The stories are safe, in Stephen Ambrose's wonderful books, and Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy" (from which most of the material for this story came).

We won't forget. Now go, and enjoy that CGI with your kids!

I think Capt. Waskow would be pleased.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Because, or the Heart of a Mule

Some days it's just not worth it.

You get a look at what you think you've accomplished through the eyes of someone you respect - and realize that the green morning you'd had in your heart is a mirage. The reality is a cold barren evening, with a night that won't see a morning.

And maybe it's time to quit.

And why not?

I'd like to say it's because God spoke to me, either personally, or through His Word, Or that a song on K-LOVE or Family Life Radio reminded me that we're all  important, and beloved of the Father.

Nope. That's not it.

Maybe it's pride? No matter what anyone says, I know I'm good?


What it is - is sheer dumb mulish obstinacy. I said a long time ago that I wouldn't quit, and I just won't. I don't care if God notices or not, I don't care if the work's any good or not. I'll keep going because.

Just because.

Loving Monday Morning

For a lot of couples, the transition from a nice weekend to the workweek to come can be fraught with peril.

It's all too easy to lose the good feelings and memories of the weekend, last thing Sunday night. Think of a weekend's memories as a vase; you can take it into work with you, and look at it when the office politicos are rampaging through the cubicles, empire-building away with grimly gay abandon.

Or, if you drop and shatter that lovingly crafted vase, you'll walk through the office door looking like the Taliban's latest recruiting poster. At least the political animals will leave you alone, 'cause their hats would;d look stupid sitting directly on their shoulders.

It's so easy to drop the vase. One careless word, one nudge from the evil eye of the television, and the joy-lights will flicker. The word becomes a sentence, and a harangue, and the joy-light gutters out, leaving only wisps of smoke to remind you of what was. (Vases and lights, and didn't I have a blast, mixing metaphors!)

Keeping the magic alive is easier than you think. It takes choices, and it takes discipline. Just two major parameters!

But beyond those, here are some further, practical applications of what you can do -

  • Don't watch the local or national news late on Sunday night. Newscasting is entertainment, pure and simple, and broadcasters count their programs as being effective if they can instill either disgust or outrage. They give you an itch, so you'll want to watch more, scratching it. Fine for their ratings, but at best divisive for you as a couple. Sunday evening should be a time to be together, but the news is designed to compartmentalize you, keep you in a 'locked room' with the newscaster. So...why not turn off the TV after the end of Downton Abbey? Just set the rest of the evening as quiet time. (If you need to know the weather - a prime excuse for watching the local news - get it off the Internet during the day.)
  • No controversial subjects, either for you personally (like family finances, or when are the remodelers going to put the roof back on the living room?), or generally (like, say, North Korea). If you need to get some personal stuff done over the weekend, pick a time during the day. Not last thing Sunday.
  • This will sound odd - but no sex. Make Saturday 'date night', and set aside Sunday as a night of closeness and intimacy, but no intercourse. The reason is that we all tend to start mentally planning for the week, and not being 'there' for your mate can be demoralizing. It's a very grounded need, to be appreciated on that level, and competing with Monday's eight-o'clock meeting can lead to tears, or worse. Accept that, and develop physical closeness that will bring you together - but will also allow for the inevitable independent thinking, without hurt feelings.
Going out the door on Monday with a warm glow from a nice 48 hours can set the tone for the day, the week, and sometimes your whole career.

It can help you recognize opportunity, mend rifts, and overcome obstacles. Riding the crest of a wave of joy will bring sunshine into the workplace.

Care to give it a try?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Politics of Pity

When Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking in the 1950s, you'd think that no one, up to that point, had even had a positive thought in their life.

It was revolutionary, the way that suddenly you could actually have some control over your thoughts, and over what would happen in your life! Peale's book gave birth to a whole host of successors - one might say to the entire self-help section of your local bookstore.

But, positive thinking goes against something in human nature. There is something in us that clings to unhappiness, that wants, almost desperately, to make things out to be worse than they really are. To paint ourselves as helpless pawns in a rigged game of cosmic chess, or as flotsam in a torrent leading only to an eternal sewer.

Why? Simple. We want pity. We want to be relieved of responsibility through raising others to feel sorry for us. If we can do this - we've turned adversity into a perverse accomplishment.

It's the gift that keeps on giving, because 'accomplishing pity' traps us within its web. If we rise above the circumstances that put us there, pity will be withdrawn.

Not wanting to lose what we fought to gain, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility for our own actions. and we live there, professional victims in a room lit by flickering bathos.


Victimhood becomes politicized, and a cause in itself. If you feel you can claim victimization, you're news. If there are a lot of people who share your experiences, you're Big News.

If you had problems but overcame them, you're No News.

It can be a generational curse. Much like beggars in the Far East, professional victims maim their chilkdren; instead of cutting off a limb, or disfiguring a face, they imbue their kids with the certain knowledge that they're special for what they've been denied by evil design.

And, finally, victimhood becomes part of the national fabric. We're a decent country - the United States has gone to war several times to liberate others, and we've never kept an inch of conquered land. That's nearly unique; only Canada has done the same.

This decency makes us, all of us, cringe in guilt at those poor people. We want to help them, somehow.

We don't get a choice. We're forced to help, by a bludgeon of guilt, to open our pocketbooks, and to assume an uncritical view of professional victims.

But what would happen if we said, GET OVER IT ALREADY!

I wonder.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Do We Owe the Past?

"The English Patient", Michael Ondaatje's elegiac novel (and the subsequent film) is purportedly based on the life of Hungarian Laszlo de Almasy, a nobleman who explored the Egyptian and Libyan deserts during the 1930s, and who, after an ill-starred romance in whose course he reluctantly aids the German Afrika Korps, dies of burns in an Italian hospital.

It's a well-written story, and a visually beautiful film. Unfortunately, it's as phony as a three-dollar bill.

Almasy was a real person. His claims to nobility are disputed, but his explorations of the Sahara are not - he discovered hitherto unknown 'swimming man' petroglyphs that indicated, for the first time, that the huge desert was once well-watered. He was by all accounts brave and resourceful.

He was also a supporter of Hitler, and willingly worked as a guide for the Afrika Korps. He died in 1951 in Austria.

So, what's wrong with a little bit of artistic license? Doesn't basing the main character on a real person make the story more attractive?

Indeed it does. Unfortunately, it;'s a bit too attractive, and the real Almasy disappears behind his fictional counterpart. His real story is interesting; he was a proficient desert navigator, and delivered two Nazi spies to Cairo in 1942. He could have been instrumental in forming an irregular raiding force for the Germans, much like the British Long Range Desert group, founded by Ralph Bagnold (who literally wrote the book on sand dunes - "Physics of Blown Desert Sand" was used by NASA to study sand dunes on Mars).

But the Germans didn't take the opportunity, and Almasy's role was limited to guiding small units around the flanks of Britain's Eighth Army.

So what?

Lots. The Second World War is the defining event of the 20th century, and has shaped the world we live in today. Understanding the mechanisms that were set in place by that conflict and refined through the subsequent decades is vital for charting a successful course through the dangers that face the free world.

To understand something, you have to know it. The real it, not a novelist's imagined world. And we are losing direct experience of that period in history every day. In a decade, there will be virtually no combat veterans left living. In two or three decades, the war will pass from living memory, and literature is all we'll have left.

We owe it to ourselves, our children, and not least of all the people who lived at that time to represent it accurately. There's nothing wrong with novels or films set against the backdrop of the war, but playing with facts to make a better tale goes beyond a boundary I think we ought to respect.

What do you think?

(By the way - Almasy's romance with the lovely Katherine would certainly not have occurred in real life. He was a homosexual.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Toughest Question in Evangelism

How do you talk about Christ to someone who already has a strong - and different - faith?

It's one of the hardest jobs in evangelism, and I'm not sure that there is a good answer, any more than there is one 'right' answer.

To begin with, you have to start from a position of respect. A devout Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist is probably already living a life, in its details, that many Christians would consider good, even holy. To dismiss, or worse denigrate that will result in the shades being drawn against you - and worse, against Jesus.

You're an ambassador for Christ, remember - and the most important thing you can do is to do what He would do. And he treated almost everyone with care, compassion, and respect. (The merchants in the temple are an exception, all the more powerful because of the contrast with his usual way of working.)

As Christ's representative, the most powerful tool you have to convince someone is the effect of Christ on your life. Quoting the Bible won';t help - every other religion has scriptures. Promises of Heaven won't help - every other religion believes that its adherents will achieve eternal life (and they usually believe that you, as a Christian will too...this is where they may feel that they are a step ahead of you, at least in 'tolerance').

What Christianity has, that no other major religion does (at least to nearly the same degree), is the willingness to service and sacrifice. Christ's example is one of dying so that others might live, and that is possibly the strongest ethos in the human soul.

But be careful - if you take that into the redemption of original sin, Adam's sin, you'll lose your argument. Most non-Christians simply don't believe it, and feel that there's an element of unfairness so glaring, blaming all of us for Adam's sin, that they see the Christian God as preposterous.

Far better is to use His death as the ultimate victory over the last enemy - death. To say that He died and rose to show us that this is what the world will be like, from that moment on, opens eyes and hearts.

The rest, original sin and all, will be learned in due time. But you need an open door, and this is one you can't break down.

You can only knock, and when the door's opened, extend your hand, leaving the rest to God.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Science and Truth

When a politician says something, we don't believe it - and we shouldn't.

When a scientist says something, we usually believe it.

Sometimes we should. And sometimes we shouldn't.

The common perception is that science is about truth. Many young people enter the profession, thinking that they'll be able to work in a rarefied purity of purpose. They imagine that the discoveries they make, small or large, will move mankind toward a better and more complete understanding of Creation.

It doesn't work out that way.

Science is about money, and it's about politics. Truth can be a convenient platform. And that's all.

  1. Science is about models. We don't know how the world really works, and this side of Heaven, we never will. So we construct models of mathematical equations and chemical reactions that describe what we see. We start small, using a situation for which we know the limits, and for which we know the answers, and build a series of procedures by which we can use scientific tools - math and chemistry - to reproduce, on paper and in the laboratory, what we see. These models are proved - 'validated' - by applying them to a larger number of examples for which we don't know as much going in but we know 'where we're supposed to end up'.
  2. Science is about money. It takes horrendous amounts of cash to pay professors, graduate student assistants, and technicians. Equipment also costs money, and the university or institute gets a cut ('overhead') of ten to fifty percent of the total cost of the project (overhead pays for buildings, clerical support, toilet paper...the non-glamorous stuff). A scientist applies for grants from agencies like the national Science Foundation, or from industry, to solve problems that are of current interest - and these interests are often driven by either making money, or saving money.
  3. Science is about politics. It really depends on where you're from, and whom you know. If you work at a university that's 'in', and you got a PhD working for a professor who's popular, your chances of being 'funded' are good. If you're from a small Christian college in the Midwest, and got your degree from a journeyman technical college, you probably won't see a cent. The value of what you want to do is of really minor importance. You may have a cure for breast cancer but if your credentials aren't 'cool' your work won't be supported.
This may sound discouraging, and it is. The scientific world - the real one, driven by the factors that allow things to get done, money and power, simply doesn't care about truth. It cares about supporting its own.

Good things do get done, but it's not nearly what could be accomplished.

As a case in point, the cause - and cure - for stomach ulcers was discovered in the late 1980s. A researcher in Perth, Western Australia, found that ulcers were caused by bacteria, and could be cured by antibiotics. To prove it, he drank a cup of water containing the disease-causing organisms. He got ulcers, and cured himself with the appropriate antibiotics.

You'd think that he would have been hailed a hero. Quite the contrary - he was told that his research was of only limited value, because he didn't come from a big-name school, and he didn't work at a major university. The results were buried, published in a minor journal, and ignored, until an 'approved' researcher deigned to follow up his work, twenty years later.

So - the next time a scientist steps forward to tell you the 'truth' - smile, and nod.

And know where he's coming from.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Coat Of Arms

I just discovered something, totally out of the blue - we're entitled to use the coat of arms of the Polish House of Jastrzebiec.

It's a very old bit of heraldry, dating back before 999, and the reign of Boleslaw the Brave. The Jastrzebiec clan were said to be the inventors of the horseshoe - hence its inclusion in the coat of arms.

For some reason, I'm chuffed to discover this. I've never been much for family history, and genealogy bores me to tears, but having a bona fide coat of arms is something special.

Why? Is it part of some deep-seated fascination with royalty? I do admit to having stayed up all night to watch Prince Charles marry Diana, and to watch Prince Andrew marry Fergie. And yes, I was dismayed that both marriages ended in divorce. Something inside me wept at that.

I know all the words to "God Save The Queen".

But those who know me would know that I have scant respect for authority, much less a forelock-tugging kowtow to the House of Whatever.

However, now the shoe is quite on the other foot - I AM part of the House of Jastrzebiec.

And I like it.

It's making me walk a little taller this morning. I've always admired the Poles as a martial nation - their reputation during WW2 was one of reckless, ruthless courage. But I always thought 'Budek' was a Czech name. Nothing against the Czechs, mind you, but being Polish is, for me, something special.

Being Polish nobility is something very special.

It's cool.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reality Television - What Would Jesus Watch?

On the face of it, reality shows sound like a good idea - following real people with a television camera to see what 'normal' is like for people 'just like us', rather than the sanitized and exaggerated lives of characters in dramas and comedies.

Maybe that was the intention, but the reality of reality programming is quite different. To put it bluntly - many are freak shows, either about the very rich, or the very weird.

Some put ordinary people into extraordinary situations, like 'Survivor', pitting them against one another to form temporary alliances that will later be used to allow one individual to ascend to victory over the backs of the defeated.

And some - the best - are performance shows, giving amateurs the opportunity to compete for recognition, and a possible new career. (At their best...Jesus might like these.)

We, the erstwhile viewers, are invited to compare our lives to these, and either laugh (or cringe) in thankfulness that we're not like that, and don't even know people like that, or to giver a touch of envy that we don't have the effortless self-assurance of the wealthy or the chosen few of American Idol.

Perhaps the benefit of all this is to make viewers grateful for the lives they do have, but somehow I don't think so. It seems to be mostly about judgment - we're better than they are, or why do they have money and power while we don't?

When the final credits roll, somehow it all leaves a sour taste.

What are we, as Christians, really supposed to make of this? What would Jesus do, if He walked into your living room during an episode of 'Jersey Shore'?

I suspect He'd tell you, a bit sadly, to get on with your own life, and not take the judgement seat offered by the producers. When he said not to mention the dirt in your neighbor's eye until you got rid of the veritable plank in yours, He was saying, "Mind your own business."

It would be hard to hear, and would take away some of the color in our lives - because the unspoken message of reality programming is that your days have to be larger than life to be colorful, and that the daily round of paying bills and cleaning house, with no scandal and no intrigue, is really duller than dirt. We take in the false color of what's on the screen, and the process of comparison makes our lives a little brighter.

But it's only a reflection - and a crass commercial one at that.

Rather than being a dusty mirror for Honey Boo Boo, why not be a polished lens for Christ? Why not use the time doing what He's placed before you - spending time with your family, working on hobbies that lift your heart, reading stories (fiction or non) that move your heart and change your perspective.

But how can the Diary of Anne Frank compare with the Kardashians?

It compares, and shines, with the discipline of use. When you put aside the false and tawdry, and pick up the real, your days will suddenly feel low-wattage. But as time passes, your tastes, coarsened to the undercooked rump roast of  'Survivor', will begin to sharpen again, and you'll see a world aglow with God's glory and purpose.

It's like coming out of a movie theater. Your eyes adapt to the flickering screen in the dark, close auditorium, so that when you go outside you're blinded, and everything's a bright blur.

What you left behind was fake. The brightness hides the even brighter reality of the world God made.

For you.

That's reality.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Want A Miracle

I want a miracle. I want to be healed. I want to sleep through a night, and wake without pain. I don't want to puke blood. I don't want to face the terror of an illness that has been promised to kill me, unpleasantly.

I want to be able to walk into the backyard with the dogs, and not have to wonder if they'll have to drag me back to the door (which they have done, more than once).

I want to live.

And so far, God's answer has been, No.

It's easy to be angry, and to wonder why I hear about miracles on TV and the radio, to read about sudden instant healings that leave their recipients joyfully contemplating a vista of years. The only way I'm going to get years is to gut it out, and refuse to quit. That gets real old real quick.

Why did you say no, God?

I know the answer now. I'm supposed to talk about this, and write about it, and tohold up a light that shows that God is good, even hen times are bad.

Becasue He is good. And he did give me a miracle, even though it took awhile to realize what it was.

He gave me the miracle of being willing to carry on, and to maintain a standard of honor, decency, and fair play. He gave me examples, in books, of people who bucked up and kept going, even when the night was dark, in the faith that there would be a morning.

Even if that morning comes in the world to come.

He gave me a wife who cares enough to let me fall, and get up by myself.

He gave me a heart for faith, that I never suspected was there..

God picks all of us for a purpose, and a destiny. Fulfilling that purpose - that's up to us. But if we choose to pick up the tools He's laid before us, and walk the path He's signposted just for us, we'll never work, or walk alone.

And I am the luckiest, most blessed man I know.

There's your miracle.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quality Of Mercy

So the surviving suspect in the Boston bombing has been caught - saving Boston from a potential second nightmare...the suspect who was killed was wearing an explosive vest, and it might have been assumed that he who was captured had one as well.

He was evidently badly hurt in the shootout, and as I write this, is in serious condition...at the same hospital to which the victims were taken.

There are a lot of people who don't like that. Neither do I.

But the fact remains that, first, he was wounded, and had to go to a place where the injuries could be treated. This begs the question, why not take him somewhere else? Why take him where it's almost an insult to the families of the victims?

It's a good question, and here are some answers. First - Mass General is one of the best trauma care facilities on the planet.

Another question, begged - why does he deserve the best treatment? Why not say, well, this is the best you're going to get. Too bad.

We don't do that because he's still a suspect. He may have killed one police officer and wounded another, and he may have robbed a convenience store and hijacked a car, but he might not be the bomber. Stupid as it may seem, some criminals confess to crimes they didn't commit. Why, I don't know. But it happens.

And even if he did the shooting, and did the bombing, and is without a doubt the cold-hearted killer we think he is, there's an overriding reason why he has to be treated as Mass General.

Because this country is still a good place to live, with values that say, you don't assign care based on preference, or out of revenge. He may get the death penalty - but until he's tried and convicted, we operate under 'innocent until proven guilty'. And that means that both justice, and care, have to be blind.

That fundamental decency is something we've been nourishing for over 200 years. It's why Allied medics in Afghanistan treat wounded Taliban, and send them to hospital by helicopter.

We can't afford to be anything less. We can't afford to do something that makes us say, "We're better than that."

The quality of our mercy has to be defined by how we treat those we hate, when they are in our hands.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spreading the Good News Successfully

I recently saw a statistic from a missionary outreach done in the wake of the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama a couple of years ago.

The team witnessed to over a thousand people, and 37 chose Christ.

It's wonderful for those people, but the numbers are a bit dismal. Coming in the wake of a disaster, perhaps they're not surprising, since people had a lot on their plate.

But maybe they should be surprising, because suddenly losing the security of one's life can cause people to turn to the Almighty, as the only real refuge. I don't know - I;m not a psychologist.

Bit I still don't like the numbers.

I think that one area where Christians tend to lose their audience is in 'consistency', both in terms of staying true to Christ's message, and in maintaining a consistent theme in what one's saying.

To stay true to what Christ said, you have to know what He said. That has to be the basis for everything you say - it's not the Church of Isaiah, nor the Church of Paul, nor the Church of John the Revelator..

As an example - if you tell someone that if they don't accept Christ, they'll go to hell, you're making a crucial mistake.

You're judging, putting yourself into God's shoes. He's the final arbiter - not you. And He said, "Don't judge."

You may be thinking, well, that's what's both said and implied. Indeed it is, but Jesus also said that no one can get to Heaven on their own, but with God everything's possible. He judges, He decides. Not you, not me.

The Bible's not particularly user-friendly in this instance, and it's best to err on the side of caution. Instead of, "if you don';t do this you'll go to hell", why not say, "If you do this, you'll go to Heaven"? It's accurate, it's positive, and you won't have to answer questions like, "Does that mean the Dalai Lama is going to hell?"

The answer is that we simply don't know who's going where - except for ourselves. And we are meant to keep our eyes on our own salvation.

Staying consistent in one's own evangelism is helped by using language that's easy to understand, yet many people persist in couching their talk in the language of the King James Bible. Nothing wrong with the KGV, but it's simply not how people talk. Saying that you have to repent of your sin is accurate, but the choice of words is archaic, and it sends the message that religion is something that's apart from daily life. Likewise, "seek ye the kingdom". Maybe Billy Graham sounds like that at home, but he's about the only one.

You've also got to be consistent in what you say about the Bible as a whole. If you believe it's the literal and inerrant word of God, fine - but that immediately precludes treating something difficult, like Revelation, as symbolism. Once you open the door to interpretation, you've lost the 'literal' foundation - and it'll be better that you never even used it.

And, finally, "do what I say, not what I do" is a major no-no. If you're preaching the Christian life but you don't bother to live it, you lose every shred of credibility that you had. There are no excuses possible. If you can't back up the words with action in your own life, either try a different approach - or forget the whole thing, and give your service doing something other than evangelism.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Walk On By

Innocents died today. Men, women, and children were killed by governments, by corporations, and by criminals.

Some were killed by neglect. No one cared, and they died alone.

Creatures precious to God were slaughtered. Some to test cosmetics, some so that people might have a new taste experience. Some, simply because they were in the way.

And many from neglect, because no one cared.

On Facebook this evening I saw a post - "We should aspire to see the world as Jesus sees it."

Be careful what you wish for, because it will break your heart.

And with all of this, in this vale of tears we inhabit - there are people who think, and preach, prosperity.

They think that God wants to 'prosper' His own. That you really deserve that six-bedroom colonial. After all, look what He did for Solomon! God wants you to be rich.

Yes, prosperity can be used in good ways, to ameliorate - in some small way - the agony all around us. I hope God helps with that.

But let there be no mistake - He sent His Son into a world where the poor begged, and were often passed by, by the religious leaders who claimed to do the work of the Almighty.

Lepers were treated with scorn, and blamed for their affliction.

He sent His Son into that world, and He sent Him there to be tortured to death, in the casual offhand way that so many had died before him, and so many would soon follow.

Do you really think that God cares about your Hawaiian vacation, or the big-screen TV you've sent up for prayer?

Or do you think that He's sitting on His throne, head down, elbows on His knees - hoping against hope that you'll hear what he's really saying, and care?

He's not Donald Trump, looking to adopt you and set you up for life.

He's just God. And He needs your help.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple Christianity

I wanted to call this 'Mere Christianity', but it seems that title's already taken. Hmmm....

Walk into any bookstore, and you'll see hundreds of books on Christianity. Written for audiences ranging from laymen to professors of theology, they cover the gamut of Christian thinking, apologetics, and bible study.

They're all very worthy efforts, and I'm sure that they've helped a lot of people. They are, however, icing on the cake.

Christianity can be completely described, but theologically and as practice, in one short paragraph.

Do you believe Christ was killed on the cross, and came to life again in three days? Do you believe He did this to pay off your debt of sin, accumulated from the day you were born? Will you do your best to do what He said to do, namely, love God, and love your neighbors as much as you love yourself? If you don, congratulations. You're going to Heaven when you die.

That's it. Jesus did not go through everything He did so that people could climb a 'Christianity Ladder', from being baby Christians to being mature in the faith.

He never talked about any such thing. You're either in, or not. On /off. Binary solution set.

And now, get to work. The world is waiting, and it needs Him.

And He needs you.

(No disrespect is meant to Paul's writings, or to those who take great pleasure in 'unpacking' Scripture.Paul left a great deal of wisdom on how a church should be organized, and run, and how Christians should try to live in a community. Taking the Bible to bits to find deeper meaning helps a lot of folks, hence its popularity. My sole point is that these are extras, and you can live a perfectly good - in fact, a perfect Christian life if you believe in Jesus and do your best to do what He said.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Other Cheek

Terrorism has touched our country again. And we want payback. I sure do.

But before we unleash the fury of an enraged republic on the perpetrators - assuming we can identify them - what would Jesus do?

The first answer we get , the most prominent, is turn the other cheek. Absorb the blow, while praying for our enemies.

The second answer is found in Peter's defence of Jesus at His arrest - put your sword away, Peter, because if you live by it, you'll die by it.

Is this the sum of His teaching? To take the shock - certainly, while using everything we can to identify and prevent future occurrences - but not to retaliate with violence?

Or does the theological concept of a just war apply, allowing us to remove the threat using minimum force - but using force nonetheless?

This is probably the hardest question we can face. Far more pressing than prayer in schools, or same-sex marriages.The answer we give launches our souls onto a trajectory that can take them to Heaven - o Hell.

Jesus did not leave many instructions on using violence in defense, besides the two examples above. But He did leave a few.

First, He wasn't gently accepting of the merchants in the temple. He made a DIY whip, and used it to drive them out. It's hardly likely that He only hit their tables, and their retail goods.

Second, He said that it would be better to be drowned rather than to lead a child astray. "Millstone tied to the neck" was, I believe, how he put it.

And one of the victims in Boston was an eight-year-old.

Third, he healed the servant of a centurion, and complimented this Roman soldier on having more faith than most. He did not suggest a change in profession.

In the first instance, He did not stand by, praying. He saw a wrong, and He moved to correct it. He used minimum force, but He used force nonetheless. The offense was directed against the Father, and so against Him, and He did not step aside, taking it in.

In the second case, what's implied - and this is admittedly a stretch - is a directive to protect the innocent.

In the case of the centurion, Jesus was very forthright in identifying the man's faith as being what He was looking for. If He had wanted to make an anti-war statement, that would have been a logical place. But He didn't.

Taken together,  these suggest a doctrine of minimum force in a just (i.e., defensive) war for society at large, and a doctrine of nonviolence for His direct representatives - the clergy. (This is precisely the way military chaplains behave - they can encourage fighting me - "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!" - but they cannot take material part in battle.)

But that's a theory, and while it draws a lot of support, it may be self-serving. What I fall back on is the 'child and the millstone'. To be blunt, killing a child who's accepted Christ (and one who's beneath the age of reason) places that child into Jesus' care. Instantly.

But hurting? Putting the child into the nether region, on the cusp between life and death...scaring the child? That's abuse, and it's almost impossible for me to imagine Jesus wringing His hands, and praying, while the abuse goes on.

I think, and I hope, that He would stop it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Holier Than Thou

There is a very sincere TV preacher who says, every so often, "I live a life that's holier than 99% of Christians."


He goes on to explain that he doesn't drink, smoke, or swear, and that he devotes much of his time and thought to God.

His self-assurance is quite impressive, but he's completely missing the point. Holiness has nothing to do with what you do, or don't do. Let me repeat that. NOTHING.

Holiness is simply being a lens that focuses God's love and compassion into the world. It's being the hands and feet of the Lord, and not hiding the light of your faith under a basket.

Holiness is the absence of self, and the total presence of God. It's not that your personality is destroyed, mind you, and the God somehow takes over your body, like a creepy alien in a bad sci-fi flick.

It's the ultimate fulfillment of your personality. I mean, think about it - God created you, right? He created your personality? Then why would he want to trash it when you become what he intended?

Holiness is also surrender, but it's an intelligent surrender. A popular song has the title, "Jesus, Take The Wheel". That's not right. You don't just throw up your hands, and sit back and do nothing. God made you smart. He didn't make you a weak, whining little loser who can't be perfect so he gives up.

Surrendering to holiness is saying, "OK, God. I'll follow your lead. Whenever I don't know what to do, I'll hit the knees, open the Book, and ask, and when you give me an answer, I'll do it. Even if i don't understand it."

It's great not to smoke, it's great not to drink. They're bad for your health.

It's great not to swear, because it's crude and boring. (The normal curses you're thinking of that 'use God's name in vain' actually don't...they just fall into the crude and unimaginative category. Truly using God's name in vain attaches it, seriously, to something antithetical to His purpose - it's intentional and intentionally evil, and has nothing to do with the shock and anger of a hammer applied to a thumb.)

But if you think this is taking you one step closer to holiness, you're wrong.

You don't walk up to holiness.

It's more like jumping off a cliff.

Monday, April 15, 2013

2nd Lieutenant God

One of the first lessons taught at OCS is that the Marines under an officer's command are assets to be used to accomplish a mission.

Used, and sometimes expended. An officer has to be able to face, with serenity, the fact that some of the commands he will give will get some of his men killed.

He has to be willing to send them into danger, without leading them there himself, and being the first to fall.

Falling at the head of his men is not an officer's primary job, though that may become necessary. His primary job is the mission, and the commission he accepts, signed by the president, carries a weight of responsibility that is heavier than most people think.

It's the responsibility to make life and death decisions, and pay for them with lives other than his own.

This is a good lesson to remember when we wonder just what God is doing, by allowing dreadful things to happen in our lives. Doesn't He love us? Doesn't He care?

Of course He does. More than any Marine officer cares for his men.

But the mission is paramount.

Often, an enlisted Marine won't know all the details of a the mission, and will rarely have full knowledge of the tactical, much less the strategic plan. He only knows, in the end, that he's under orders.

As are we.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blasting The Past

It used to be, that if you really needed help, your neighbors would start arriving in a steady stream, bringing soup, crackers, and relentless good cheer.

If you were a real jerk of a neighbor, you'd be told "You're a jerk, but you're our jerk."

If you were a private person with personal space needs about the size of Montana, your objections would be brushed aside.

(A really nice representation of how this still works in Hmong culture is found in Clint Eastwood's last film, the superb Gran Torino.)

Somewhere along the line, though wires got crossed. Personal boundaries became the 'in' thing, as did setting limits. Concern became prying, help became enabling. Pop psychiatry began its relentless march to power, and our society fragmented.

Why? My theory is that the changes that took place in Western society after the two great wars of the 20th century set the stage for a fundamental change - for the worse - in how we view ourselves, and those around us.

World War One, with its horrendous death toll in the trenches, produced what we remember as a 'lost geneeration' of writers - talented and influential young men and women who moved the the Left Bank of the Seine (le rive gauche), in Paris, and wrote about how patrician society had let down the world. It was true enough to tug the heartstrings, and simple enough to be adopted as a credo by young people in the late 20s and 30s. We read Stephen Ambrose, and think of the WW2 generation as being infused with patriotism, and something of a martial spirit - but that came after Pearl Harbor. In the 30s pacifism was popular, and America First was a very appealing watchword.

World War two brought about another kind of change. Women and minorities entered the military and industry in huge numbers, and there was no way they were going back to the prewar restrictions. It was a positive change, that let individuals, and our country, take advantage of the full human potential that had been largely wasted before - but it broke more bonds with the formal and structured life that had begun the century.

And in the 70s, the chickens came home to roost. People like Benjamin Spock, who'd come of age under the twin influences of the Great Wars, decided to change society by deconstructing what we had. Gone were the paternalistic, conservative values of respect for elders and authority, and to the fore came...


The ME generation began in the 70s, and it hasn't ended yet. Ahead of everything - courtesy, neighborliness, marriage vows, whatever, came individual preferences. Not rights - that was implied, that you had a right to anything you wanted. What you wanted was important.

And most young people - for this was aimed at the young - wanted personal freedom, and no personal responsibility.

They'd never get sick, so they'd never need chicken soup. And if their older neighbors got sick, well, "not my problem, dude - later!"

And we lost something precious, and I suspect we have no idea how to get it back.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Myths About Writers

Most people have a set of preconceived ideas about the personality and life of those who write novels. Here, then are certain myths, exposed as false...or true!

  • Writers are rich - the best way to make a small fortune as a writer is to start with a large one
  • Writers are chic and stylish, with long flowing hair and designer clothing - this is largely true, though swave and deboner might be a better description
  • Writers have great sex lives - my characters do, but you don't get to read about it, as I respect even the privacy of paper people.
  • Writers are literate - true, and I got good at grammer cos I went threw grammer school twice, and now I know how to use all them fancy commas and stuff, and them perspirational frazers
  • Writers are well-traveled - I know all the good night spots in Duluth and Yreka
  • Writers are arrogant - it's the silly little people who buy our books, who say this
  • Writers only have to work half-time - and you can choose which twelve hours of the day you work
  • Writers base their characters on their friends - what friends?
  • Writers are perfectionists - yeah, whatever, as long as get the word count, and I'm done
  • Writers keep cats - no one keeps cats...cats keep people, and that is as it should be
  • Writers watch PBS - Big Bird is my hero!
  • Writers are inspired by classical music - very true...can't write without "Surfin' USA"
  • Writers are reclusive - would you want to hang with someone who might base a character on you, and then have that character eaten by a ferret?
  • Writers love to write - writers have to write, to afford the cheap beer the love to drink
  • You, too, can be a writer! - take a cold shower, sit down, and call your psychiatrist. NOW.
Does this resemble anyone you know?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Casting Mountains

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, nothing would be impossible - that we could order a mountain to be removed into the ocean, and we'd be obeyed.

So why don't we see mountains being summarily excised from our landscape?

Simple. We don't have a mustard seed's faith, and none of us ever will.

A mustard seed has perfect faith. It is secure in the knowledge that, given the right circumstances of soil, water, and sunlight, it'll grow.

We don't. In everything we do, we always have the serpent of doubt. It was planted in our souls a long, long time ago by the Enemy, and the whole of history - and our potential - after that point has been changed, and diminished.

Most of us have probably tried. We've looked at a mountain, or even a rock, and told it to go jump in a lake. It didn't, and we felt a tinge of disappointment.

In our best moments, we can almost rid ourselves of the serpent's presence, but until we reach the point where we put on Christ permanently, the enemy's presence will always be lurking in the recesses of our faith, waiting for the slightest opportunity to trip us.

Those 'almost perfect' moments in our lives are more common than we think. They're marked by coincidences that aren't statistically possible, and by events that help us, for which we have no explanation.

Miracles, to put a name to the face we see.

So could one of these miracles coincide with the trial we made, to get the mountain to go to the sea? Maybe, somehow, possibly?


The attempt we made, even if it was in one of our spiritually purest moments, even if the doubt was gone, was doomed to failure, because in it, we put God to the test. That's a major no-no.

The miracles we go receive, the answers to our prayers that do come, are granted us for the things we really need - or, more precisely, for the things that God needs for us.

When He needs you to start tossing mountains, He'll let you know.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What We Owe Our Dreams

The last five days were tough. Today was the worst.

After writing through the night, I saw my wife off to work, walked the dogs, and then collapsed. Pain exceeded tolerance, and I had to check out, I guess. Flower Pot, one of the Pits, stood watch over me until I came back to the world of the conscious.

All I wanted to do was curl up and try to ride the waves of pain and nausea until I washed up on some solid shore.

Instead I got up, and started cutting metal for another small part that will eventually go into an airplane.

I've been asked, and ask myself, why? I'm not going to live to finish the thing, let alone fly it. So why not write when I can, and put on a DVD or doze when I'm done writing? Why chase down the dream of flight, and use up the energy I have left?

I guess the answer is that I want to remain true to what I was, and to the dreams that sustained me through most of my life. To say they defined me is a bit much - I used to think that, but one's personal definition is a lot more complex.

But they did make a lot of days fun. And I owe those dreams - and the self I was - my best effort. Even when I'm spitting up blood.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I saw a New Age book in which it was claimed that the salvation of mankind would come from a group of spirits from a planet orbiting the Pleiades.

They told the author, "We're from the Pleiades!"

Oh, WOW. Like, groovy, man.

The Pleiades, in case anyone's forgotten, are a group of stars (sometimes known as the Seven Sisters). They look as if they're quite close together, and in cosmological terms, they are - the cluster has a radius that ranges from 8 to 43 light years.

And the seven stars visible with the naked eye are the tip of the iceberg - there are many more in that area. (About 1000, and people with exceptional eyesight can discern up to 14 visible starts.)

The area in which the Pleiades reside is BIG. Stars are big, and they're heavy. They have a pretty tremendous gravitational attraction, and they tend to be pretty far apart. Like, billions to trillions to quadrillions of miles. (For reference, the Earth is 93 million miles from the sun, and Pluto, the outer sentinel of our solar system, is about 2 billion miles away.)

The area which the Pleiades occupy has a radius of 46,900,000,000,000 - 2,520,000,000,000,000 miles. Better pack a lunch.

The Pleiades look close together because they're so far away. In reality, any planet 'orbiting' them would have a long, cold ride through its year.

New Age is pretty unconvincing anyway, but throwing in astronomy that's side-splittingly hilarious does things to its credibility that are not repairable.

And these people have a hard time believing in Jesus????

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Silent Thunder

Living our faith is hard.

In much of what we do, we get feedback - from our spouse, from our boss, from our friends.

But God rarely writes anything on our Facebook wall. We have faith, and live in that faith, but there are times when it feels like a tightrope walk through the fog. We can't see where we're going, or where we've been.\

The fall below us may be lethal, or we may be a foot off the ground.

So a lot of us decide to push the issue, just a bit, and live our faith out load. We drop names and actions, interspersing our conversation with Scripture the way Churchill use to use Shakespearean tags to impress visiting Americans.

If we can't impress God enough to make him give us a pat on the back, we're perfectly happy impressing one another, and maybe we can even get a hug!

There's an innocent charm to this, because what we're saying is "Daddy, look at me!"

But we're not children any more, and we're expected to put away childish things.

We have to know that the fastest action lies in perfect calm, and the most thunderous noise in silence and stillness.

We have to accept that the most perfect rescue lay in the desolate abandonment Jesus felt on the Cross - because it was not only Christ who was delivered from the last enemy.

We all were. Greatness writ in the silence.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Some people say that 'physical' miracles are impossible, since they by definition violate the laws of physics.

On the surface that looks convincing, especially when a renowned scientist says it. I mean, a scientist should know, right?

Partly true. A scientist should know...better than to say that.

The fact is that we don't know the laws of physics. We have mathematical models that describe how the physical world that we can observe works. These models are validated by applying them to a large variety of events. But they are still our invention.

Newtonian mechanics ("every action has an equal and opposite reaction") works quite well in describing the arc of a thrown baseball, or the flight of a rocket to the moon. But when you go faster - much faster - the model breaks down. Close to the speed of light, Newtonian mechanics goes into the dustbin.

Did you know that as you get up to that speed (about 186,000 miles per second) time actually slows down? And an objects length is reduced? This really happens - it's been measured.

It was first suggested by a patent clerk named Albert Einstein. Riding a streetcar, he tried to imagine what would happen as the speed got close to light speed. From this, Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity.

Relativistic mechanics works beautifully in describing the physical world. We can use it to describe a baseball's path, or the movement of a photon (a 'packet of light'). the reason we don't use it for everything is that it's really, really complex - and Newtonian mechanics works well enough for all practical purposes, for the thing's we're interested in.

But relativity is still a mathematical model, and there are areas where it breaks down, and becomes inaccurate.

And that means that we really don't know what's happening. The real physical laws still elude us, and they probably always will.

To say that a miracle is impossible because it violates physical laws only means that we can't reconcile it with the equations we have. Nothing more than that.

To say anything more is an act of belief, that in fact there do exist laws that preclude the miracle. We just can't see the laws, or prove their existence. But we believe they exist.

In other words, to say that a miracle is impossible is just as much a statement of faith as saying one is possible.

So, yes, a scientist should know better...or when it comes to their 'faith' do they abandon reason?


Sunday, April 7, 2013


This evening brought the news that Pastor Rick Warren's son had taken his own life.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Pastor Warren and his wife, and their church community.

There's almost nothing harder on a family, and a close-knit community, than suicide. It always begs the question - "What could we have done?"

And the answer is always the same.


Mental illness is an illness. Some forms are curable, some are not.

And some forms are fatal. Like some cancers, some forms of heart disease - some mental illnesses will, inevitably, result in the death of the sufferer. That death occurs by his or her own hand makes no difference whatsoever. It's exactly the same as a cancer that chokes the air out of one's lungs.

There are those who would differ, who would say that it is a choice. There are those who say that suicide shows up a moral flaw, implying or baldly stating cowardice, and selfishness. Those who came back from the brink themselves, and make that claim, seem particularly compelling, except...

...if you came back from the brink (and I'm delighted you did), you didn't have it as bad as it could have been - because you're alive to tell the tale.

The young man who took his life walked alone we dare not imagine.

And that we never dare judge.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jesus On The Cross

I recently read a thought-provoking blog on how Jesus might have dealt with the physical agony of crucifixion, by meditating on Psalm 22. Here's the link, if you're interested:


It's an interesting theory, and Scripturally sound, in that it ties in His experiences with the physiological aspects of death-by-torture, and the prophecies that His life - and death - fulfilled.

But I disagree with the premise, for one simple reason.

Jesus came to show us a path through death into life, and taking a shortcut that would have in any way mitigated His pain would have been an abandonment of His mission - and of us.

This is not to say that meditation can't be used to overcome pain. It can, and it can be very effective. But dealing with that sort of horrific experience through meditation isn't accessible to most of us. It would be nice if it were, but for the most part we're tied to a raft of pain, moving its agonizing way down the slow river of time.

I don't think that Jesus 'checked out', for even a minute - if anything, the opposite. I think he felt the pain more intensely, and felt the anguish and loneliness to an even more lacerating degree.

The aforementioned post ties in the possibility of Jesus' meditation on the cross with the hymn, "Old Rugged Cross", using it to illustrate the saving transcendence of that instrument of torture.

I don't buy it, and I loathe the hymn. The cross was a necessary fulfillment of prophecy, but the meaning of God's forgiveness of our sins is to be found in the empty tomb.

Never, ever, in bloodstained wood.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dear John

The Dear John letter is almost a cliche in the American military. it's the letter many servicemen, stationed abroad in wartime, received - the letter that ended an engagement or marriage.

On the face of it, there's almost nothing as reprehensible. To coldly tell an individual who's had years taken from his life by war that he's been replaced in one's heart is stunningly cruel.

Not because 'feelings change' - but because feelings can be controlled by action, and opening oneself up to the opportunity for liaisons while one's fiance or spouse is serving is simply disloyal.

While this crushed the spirits of many recipients (likely led to many wartime deaths...of those who no longer gave a damn), there has been described, by Edwards Park, a nice countermove.

Park served with the US Army Air Force in New Guinea, and while he didn't receive a DJ, many of his fellow pilots did. Their answer was to post them on a bulletin board, for all to see.

Both as an expression of solidarity, and as an expression of public ridicule. A riposte to the syrupy romanticism that engendered the letters' existence ("Dear John, I know this will hurt you terribly, but something terribly big has happened to me, and I want you to be the first to know...").

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And So What?

I live with a lot of pain. Centered in the upper abdomen, it's debilitating, exhausting, and sometimes simply terrifying. It's going to kill me one day.

And so what?

Life goes on, whatever your situation is. Every day has 24 hours. They don't come back.

One can choose to make pain an excuse, but the days still pass.

This has been something of an epiphany - that it really doesn't matter. I had subconsciously thought that there was something ennobling about what I was going through, that far from being an excuse, my 'ordeal' was part of a higher purpose.

It's not. What's ennobling is not giving a damn about 'my suffering', and turning my eyes, hands, and soul outward.

Because that's where God's world is.

There is a downside risk to this point of view, of course. C.S. Lewis pointed it out, in the attitude of a centurion described by Tacitus - immitior quia toleraverat (all the more relentless because he had endured it himself).

Being unsympathetic to oneself leads logically to a lack of sympathy for others, and to a cold harshness that places deeds above faith; indeed, places deeds above humanity.

And it's something of which I've been - rightly - accused.

I think that the worm at the core of my theological apple is the assumption that "what's ennobling is not giving a damn about 'my suffering'". It's a sneaky way to claim moral high ground by placing myself first in line to be denied the comforts of sympathy.

In the end there may be no moral high ground. Both pathos and icy asceticism are poses, the former at least being genuine, while the later is merely a frame in which to insert one's own portrait, posturing heroically in dubious battle against an enemy of one's own definition.

Carrying this to its logical conclusion, the high ground is God's alone.

As it should be.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Being a Better Wife

Women should come with instructions - but when did any man last read instructions?

Men, on the other hand, merely need a disclaimer - "caution - fragile ego ahead".

When you read the list, you may be surprised - are men really like that? In an intimate relationship, they are, because while women have been conditioned to take pride in nurturing, men never made the transition. They went from feeling respected for being 'warriors and providers' to feeling like their strengths are not needed, and their weaknesses are valid subjects for public ridicule - and ridicule within the intimacy of marriage.

That said, to follow yesterday's suggestions for men, here are some for the other side of the aisle -

  1. Your husband's ego is large, but very brittle - if you remember that fact you'll save both of you a lot of trouble
  2. Your husband never quite believes he's good enough for you
  3. Compliment your husband on 'man stuff' - strength or endurance. But have a care, because men are surprisingly good at reading condescension. If you feel your comment could sound patronizing - don't make it.
  4. The best way to support your husband is never to second-guess him, even when you feel you really, really need to
  5. If criticism is needed, once is enough. Restating a point three or four times will leave you wondering why he's withdrawn into a monosyllabic mutter
  6. For women, friendships in adulthood are possible. For men, they're rare - you are your husband's best friend, and very possibly his only friend
  7. Women will make suggestions to improve a situation they already like, to make it even better - men will assume that this is dissatisfaction, and criticism
  8. Your husband is always trying to impress you - if he stops, something is seriously wrong, either with the relationship or in his heart
  9. While women tend to find sexually-tinged touch at 'nonsexual' times irritating, for men it's always a pleasant surprise - they want to be wanted, and are always afraid that they are only tolerated
  10. Sex should be neither reward nor punishment - both manipulate male fears of inadequacy
  11. If you die, your husband will fall apart. If he dies, he thinks you'll carry on quite well. Years of phrases like "The Merry Widow" and "A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle" leave many husbands feeling expendable
  12. For a man, a good marriage is "me and you" - for a woman, it's "us", and men find this terrifying

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Be a Better Husband

Guys - want a better marriage?

Here's how.

  1. Respect your wife's intelligence - she was smart enough to marry you.
  2. Always be courteous, to the point of treating your wife as an honored guest in your life. Remember, she made the choice to be with you, and reaffirms that choice every day.
  3. Never interrupt your wife when she's speaking.
  4. Never raise your voice when you're speaking - shouting is verbal bullying.
  5. Never make your wife beg.
  6. When you see your wife in the morning, firs thing - hug her, and kiss her. Make her feel that she's the best thing you could see at that moment - because she is.
  7. Call or text her from work, if you can - let her know you're thinking of her.
  8. Always take her side against anyone else, even if you think she's wrong.
  9. When you get home from work, put aside everything else to give her your undivided attention.
  10. Ask her about her day, listen carefully, and ask questions, so she knows you've been listening.
  11. If she makes a request, fulfill it cheerfully, and as quickly as you can. Taking out the trash is more important than the last minutes of a tied Super Bowl. The players don't care if you're watching them - but your wife does.
  12. When you go to bed at night, make sure any argument is settled, even if you have to give in. Tuck your wife in, and hold her as if it's the last time you ever will, because one day - it will be.
  13. Sex is a privilege, not a right.
  14. Your service to her is a duty, not a favor.
Your wife is a treasure. Treat her like one.


Monday, April 1, 2013


Dealing with illness has changed a lot of my life - not the least of which is the way the hours of each day are scheduled.

I used to go to bed at about midnight, and woke at 0630. When I was teaching, it was a pretty decent way to approach the day.

But a couple of funny things happened - I lost my job, and my health. Suddenly self-employed, I could set my own hours, and suddenly unable to sleep more than an hour at a time, I had to set my own hours!

It was tough, since one gets used to the night-day cycle. Suddenly I was awake through much of the night, with nothing to do. But...why not make it part of the working day?

Seemed to make sense, so I started writing by night, and welding by day, with the occasional hour of an uneasy doze thrown in.

So far, it's working. And I've learned that I never really needed large blocks of sleep, and never needed the statutory 90 minutes required to attain REM sleep. My brain might not be generating alpha waves, but I don't feel the lack.

What I have gained is the very different atmosphere of the night. At night, one's both physically and metaphorically alone. There's no prospect for interaction, so every evening becomes the road to a small, specific hermitage.

And every morning, I get to watch the false dawn light the sky, followed by the actual dawn.

What would I give for a good night's sleep?

Not much. I'm too busy enjoying the night!