Sunday, September 28, 2008

From a Gun-Totin', Bible Thumper...

Today being the 28th day of the month, my daily bible reading includes a chapter of Proverbs.
Prov 28:2 jumped out at me:

"When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but when the ruler is a man of discernment, understanding, and knowledge, its stability will long continue."

Then Prov 28:12:

"When the [uncompromisingly] righteous triumph, there is great glory and celebration; but when the wicked rise [to power], men hide themselves."

(Both from the Amplified Bible)

Considering we're facing an election in just over a month, I hope the candidates are keeping these principles in mind.

We in the United States have the great privilege, right and responsibility to elect our leaders to office, rather than let the strongest man who wins in a battle or war be king. We must choose wisely, elect someone who has the best interests of the nation as a whole at heart, not just one who promises us the most goodies.

No, I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. I will give you advice (worth every penny you paid for it) on how to vote: vote for the candidates who are committed to making These United States the strongest, most prosperous, best shining example of how to live as a people our county can be.

Remember those passages from Proverbs is started with. Heck, read the entire chapter. For those of you who are not religious, take a chance. In most translations there's not a specific reference to God until verses 25 and 26. Otherwise, it acknowledges the rule of law, and, may I remind you, we are a Nation of Laws, rather than a Nation of Men (and Women).

Remember: Vote! If you don't, you have no right to complain about your leaders.

And if you think you can't make a difference: think again! Keep in mind this principle: "What is best for the nation," when you vote for your leaders and ballot measures. Remember that Status Quo is sometimes better that a Change with an unknown consequence; not all change is good.

Those of you who are prayerfully inclined, pray. Then vote your conscience.

I am purposefully NOT pointing you to a particular candidate. If you do as I suggest, I don't need to. You will make the best choice in the face of the opposition. That's the beauty of a secret ballot.

In my state you have five (count 'em: 5) short days to register to vote if you still need to. Get 'Er Done! Then get to the voting booth in November!

Yes, you must!

Yes you can!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Learning to Walk Like a Child of the King

You'd think I'd have this down by now.

Part of the learning process is to start where you are and expand your boundaries little by little.

I'm seldom patient enough for that. Instead, I want to leapfrog to the end result; I see little point in most of the intervening steps. I forget that learning to do anything requires taking it a bit at a time and mastering that bit before going further.

A classic example is weight training: if all you've ever picked up is a glass of milk, you are hardly likely to pick up that 100 lb. barbell on your first try. You have to start small and work up to the barbell.

The same with the Walk.

You're probably asking yourself, 'What does he mean "Child of the King"?' and 'How do you walk like one?' Good questions. Taking the second question first, it's not about how you move your feet, or the latest dance step.

Okay, you knew that.

It's about behaving in a manner that marks you as a certain kind of person.

You know what I'm taking about. An athlete who is serious about his sport will take care of his tools (his body), learn his sport, and repeat movements until they become second nature. And, since he knows that what the body doesn't use it lets go of ("Use it or lose it."), he continues to train his body and exercise it to keep it running well. He also feeds himself good stuff, in the right amounts. He allows his body to rest and recuperate. He is a detail person on how he can improve himself. He also has a sharply defined goal to strive for.

Tiger Woods is a great example of this. He once changed his entire swing and trained for months to unlearn his old way and learn the new one, all in order to send the ball farther down the fairway.

That's not 'Hard Way' thinking. That's 'Best Way' thinking.

You can tell such a person when they walk into a room, they don't have to tell you. You can see it in the grace of their movements, and the aspect of easy, controlled strength in their bearing.

The true athlete is not a braggart; he lets his ability do the talking. This aspect of self control expresses itself in how he looks at the world, and interacts with it. He is not a bully; he has no need to be. He's not perfect, but if he's smart he knows this, and knows that perfection is an exemplary goal, but an unattainable one. I think even Michael Phillips would say that. Even after taking all those gold medals, he would say 'There's room for improvement on my style, maybe even a total reworking of it, to get better performance.' Getting better is a never ending path, and perfection will always be out of reach.

I'll say that again:

Getting better is a never ending path, and perfection will always be out of reach.

Now that you know what I mean by 'walking', let me tell you what I mean by 'Child of the King'.

Now, the 'King' I'm talking about isn't Elvis. He's not Julius Caesar, or Harald Fine Hair, or even Holy Olaf. Nor is he any king you can name, all the way back to king Solomon, David, and especially not Saul (never mind Atila the Hun!).

This king was physically strong, mentally sharp, and attitudinally dedicated. He had a good idea of right and wrong, but, more importantly, he knew the difference between acting good and being good. He knew when to be forceful, and when to be gentle. He knew how to sacrifice the right things for the right reasons to get the right things done.

He gave himself away to the world, and stood between the forces of evil for the benefit of his subjects, even those who would side with evil against him. He even grants pardon to those who see the error of their ways. (Yes, he is still doing that today.)

I could go on, but I'd be here all day, and the next few days besides.

This King was worth following for all the right reasons. He was perfect example of how to interact with the world around him. He granted the right to be a part of his family, not by blood oaths, or by enormous sacrifice of self-worth, or by buying oneself into it (I couldn't afford it anyway, neither could you), but by allowing you and me to accept his kingship and rule.

Who would want to follow such a king, and be a part of his family? I dare say most folks.

The pity is, most people never see the King, just the pitiful examples most of his followers provide, myself included.

That's why I'm learning, all over again, how to walk in his footsteps, do the things he did, and as best as I can, be a reflection of his strength and wisdom and good-ness.

Here's the catch, though: through all of this the guiding principle is to show his kindness through humility. He even said, "To be great in my kingdom, you must become the servant of all."

I have a hard time with that.

Even when I was 'doing it', when a friend wrote in my high school yearbook that he hoped that I'd become the 'servant of all men', I was offended, though I didn't say so aloud at the time. I think that offends most of us in the Kingdom, until we truly understand what the point of the kingdom is: giving, healing, and loving.

I can't do those things with a selfish attitude. But I'm working on changing my attitude. And I'm practicing all those things that truly reflect that changed attitude. So can you.

I need to be humble enough to ask the King for help on doing this, for I can't do it by myself. I need his strength.

So do you.

I ain't there yet, by any stretch of the imagination. Just because perfection isn't attainable, doesn't mean I shouldn't try!

By the way, for those of you who, like me, have fought with the idea of having money versus being 'better' by not having money, remember, money is not evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. In other words, it's all about attitude, again. The more I have, the more I have to give.

Be rich, but be good. Put your riches, such as you may have, to good use. Walk like a child of the King.

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Not a dimes' worth of difference..."

This campaign sound bite leaped out at me this morning, as it was meant to.

The candidate who prefers change says the current economic policy's are failed, and we need change. Perhaps he's right.

On the other hand change is not always good. A bad fiscal policy can be followed by a worse one, and, taking JFK's economic stimulus from the Sixties as an example, lowering private sector taxes, both on income and business, did improve the economy.

What do you think raising taxes might do, economy-wise?

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

And those who are in power will have us (the common folk) repeat history whether we want to or not.

I was hearing noises from the pundits on Sunday that blasted Reagan's supply-side economics, saying it didn't work. Yet, plainly it did, as when our personal taxes went down, including income taxes on the rich, tax revenue increased!

(Don't take my word for it. Check out the government's own figures.)

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.

How's by you this Tuesday morning? Shaken off the Monday blahs, and the effects of housing on the stock market? Remember that within adversity is opportunity, if you're quick enough to see it.

Ah, well. Constant change is here to stay, as my mother tried to tell me so long ago. Just remember, not all change is good, just as not all current policies are bad.

I remember a time when punishments were severe, and consequences were stiff, for wrong behavior. This was a time when gum-chewing in class and whistling in the halls were considered major disciplinary issues in school. Change brought us a kinder, gentler outcome for school infractions. The result? Schools would love to have those old problems back, as they've been pushed off the radar by things like drugs, guns, and schoolhouse mayhem of all sorts.

Imagine That!

I'm generalizing, of course. But forty and fifty years ago schoolhouse shootings just did not occur. And I'll give you a weird factoid to go with that: a lot of boys brought their shotguns and twenty-two calibre rifles to school, so they could hunt game on the way home, leaving the guns in the cloak room. And the teachers and principal were okay with this! No mass murders ensued. Kids were trusted to know what to do and what not to do with firearms.

One final word about change: it ain't all it's cracked up to be.

What can you and I do?

We can hold the line on the good things, the helpful things. And change things that need to be changed.

Good Book time: "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire"; by Rafe Esquith, available at Amazon and other bookstores. (side note: it's time to throw out Skinnerian Psychology from the classroom, for something better. Kohlberg comes to mind...)

If you teach, or otherwise work with kids, this is a much better book than the one I was handed in my student teaching days: "Teaching As a Subversive Activity"; by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. Parents have been largely disappointed in what has been taught to their young subversively over the years, and are clamoring for choice. That the Powers That Be are not allowing easy school choice is a shame.

We can work to change things for the better, by encouraging teachers like Rafe to get the best out of our children. We can even teach our children like this, ourselves! For those of you who remember "Little Women" by Louisa Mae Alcott, did you not try your best to recreate the kind of atmosphere the Marches had in their home? It was a fun learning environment, wasn't it?

Do you think you could create this environment at home? That would be a good change.

Can you teach like your hair is on fire?

Yes, you can!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fight For ...

This is the year, and time of year especially, for political speeches. Each side getting in their licks, and the other side picking the speech apart and making sometimes snide comments on it.

This year one candidate’s speech was rated by the opposition as “…Typical…” and “…Not as good as Kennedy’s…,” referring to JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” speech. Admittedly, it would be hard to top that speech, and that line in particular.

But, try this one on for size:

“Fight for a cause bigger than yourself.”

I think that one has potential to be a catchphrase for the future. It enlists you to work, hard, for something. It forces you to look beyond your personal horizon. It makes you choose something worthy of all the hard work, something that will benefit others as well as yourself.

It compels you to be generous and courageous.

Hmm. If the candidate is being judged on his speech, relative to JFK’s, perhaps the candidates should be judged on the content as well as how pretty the speech was.

Given that, which of the current candidates asks you to give to our country, rather than receive from our country? And I don't mean in the form of more taxes.

You will note that I haven’t mention which candidate used the phrase. I’ll let you work that out for yourself.

Yes, giving is hard, if you’re not used to it. Maybe we should get used to it (myself very much included).

The benefits of not giving: you have more for yourself. More pizza, beer and pretzels. A bigger car. A designer-label set of jeans. Y’know, the typical stuff.

The benefit of giving, however: everyone has more of the important things, such as fresh-water well where the had bad water before; a reading program for adult literacy; a reading program for children to prevent adult illiteracy in the first place; food for the hungry; shelter for the homeless; a sense of community.

America is well known for its rugged individualism. It is less known for something equally important: its sense of community, of pulling together in times of need. We saw how this happened in a small way in New Orleans, after Katrina. We saw this in a bigger way (when we thought to look) where towns were blown away by tornadoes, and flooded away by the Mississippi River this early summer.

Fight for a cause bigger than myself.

I like the sound of that. It’ll be a challenge, and it’s time I was properly challenged

Fight for a cause bigger than yourself

Yes, you can!