Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Freedom - in the Church. Let's talk (5)

Excuse me, it's my birthday week so I have had lots of activities to attend to and my Sister is in the area from California.  With all that is happening, I am a blessed man.

But I have a newspaper column laying before me that has me troubled and I would love to have your thoughts.  It touts a travelling evangelist with this heading.... "opens crusade, zeal and questions."  To be certain, I have questions, but first, some thoughts from the column.    First was the comment about "the tens of millions he has saved."   That thought sickens my soul as I remember being in the home of a friend in Tulsa, OK, decades ago when I heard him boast, their contributions to his ministries would enable him to "win Africa for Christ".  OK, he is an Englishman and I am not.  I have never been to Africa and have no plans to go there, but I am also an educated man and I have grieved for the future of Africa for more years than I can remember.  For me, it all started when I was instructed to help our USAF base where I was stationed to assist in the integration of blacks into what had previously been, an all white organization.  I had never known a black person until I met the first seven assigned to our base and in the course of events, I became life long friends with three whose duties were closer to where I worked.

I had no real idea of the persecution they had endured during their several years of service including duties on foreign bases in the midst of World War II.  And then I learned about growing up in the South and their hopes for an education in the predominantly North.  All had joined the service in hopes that they might find a better life.  They taught me something I had never considered, that if you seek a "better" life or way of living, you have a responsibility to create it.  These were seasoned veterans talking to a young white who just then, learning how to shave myself.

One of the group became the "Mess Chief" in the area where I was billeted and we began to meet in the evenings and just talk about black/white relationships.  Eventually, the subject turned to Africa and I would discover he was one generation removed from a grass hut on the barren plans of a nation that no longer exists.  I learned a lot about poverty from him as he talked about his grand parents and the ones who had come before.  At least they didn't have "governments" to tell them what they could do, or could not do, and I began to have a greater appreciation of our own.  He loved being an American for that very reason; here, the government protects a person - as he would say, ..."even a black person" and most governments in Africa "used" the people for no other reason than to increase the wealth and prestige of their so-called leaders.  When I reminded him that it takes followers to determine who leads and he would laugh and remind me,  ..."the only reason there were leaders on those days in Africa was the fact that the people were hoping for something better for their lives."

I recalled those conversations as I listened to Evangelist Boenke talk.  That was a good idea, I thought at first as I firmly believed that following Jesus was far better than following the voices of leaders who cared nothing about their followers.  Later, I would hear of an Evangelist working in China and his group was "working" among the peasants.  They had gathered a group of new converts together as they were about to leave and had distributed literature affirming their ministry.  I will never forget the words of a young convert as they were bidding their benefactors good bye, "And now what?" he asked.

I wondered, would he be able to walk as Jesus walked and teach as Jesus taught?  It was a question that resonated with me.  I had been going to Church for all of my life and I had no idea.

Years have passed since I first met Evangelist Boenke and now he claims to have "saved" 72 million people during his crusades.  And I think of Africa as it is today and I recall my conversations with my friend in the Mess hall.  What do we hear about those great nations?  Recently, we heard of one tribe kidnapping dozens of young girls - out of their beds in the dark of night, and distributing them among others so that they could become sex slaves.   We also learn of E-Bola threatening the lives of thousands and their hopes lies in the efforts of Americans, our doctors, our care givers, our medicines, hoping and praying to halt the spread of this killer disease.

Decades have passed since that night in Tulsa, OK, and to be honest, I get sick at the thought of it.  My thoughts go back to the teachings of our Lord, Jesus, who prompted His followers to move out and to change lives by changing hearts and those new disciples went on to build schools and universities and eventually, win over the hearts of those living in distant lands, far removed from the land where it all started.  I am, you are, as well as millions of others, now live in a nation that prides itself that we have a government, "of the people, by the people and for the people" and the people of Africa are still under the yoke of poverty and disease that ought not to be.

The gospel is not a declaration that all is well, that the former life has ceased to be, but is a challenge to follow the One who declared, "...I have come that they might have life and might have it abundantly."
(John 10:10)  It is not WILL be, it is MIGHT be.  It is not because we admitted the sin filled nature of a former life.  It is now up to you and to me and the counsel of other believers to make it happen in our lives, so that others might be aware of the joy that follows us from day to day, only because He made a real difference in how we are to live and to actually love one another.

My plea - pray for the people of Africa and seek to encourage those who care for their people to pray for disciples and teachers who will take the gospel seriously - as it was written

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Searching for Freedom? Let's talk....(4)

By now you ought to know how much I love the Bible.  No!  I am not an expert.  Give me a subject and I cannot quote chapter and verse, but I doubt if that was the intention of those who brought this wisdom together in book form.  Nowadays, it is to be found in all sorts of electronic messaging, most of which I know nothing about.  This I do know.  One verse in the Bible - when it became obvious to me that it meant what it said, caused my life to be dramatically changed.  It was not instantaneous, it took time, and with regard to some subjects, I am still learning.  But to me, those are the "asides" of life; I have learned to deal with the essentials.

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."  I learned that eighty years ago probably, but it stuck with me all of my years and today, it is a foundational truth.  (An aside - my computer tells me that I spelled that word wrong.  Imagine that.  Well, I opened my dictionary (Encarta) and there it is, spelled as I have spelled it.  Wonderful lesson, check and double check.)

Which brings me back to my subject.  There are lots of things to learn about as we travel through this life that we are supposed to be living.  I believe that dealing with the essentials is the most important.

How did I get here?  What am I supposed to do?  I don't think you can honestly answer the second if you haven't answered the first.  You got here, of course, because your parents were enjoying themselves.  As the father of four, I can tell you that we didn't plan for any of them.  We merely enjoyed having sex together with one another and now they refer to us as parents.  It took me decades to understand that first question.  I had two choices.  I evolved from bacteria or, my parents had sex.

Years passed before I had a more definitive answer.  I had heard about the Bible, about God creating mankind and I understood somewhat, but it took an experience long before I got serious about an answer.  If you have read my blogs, you know that I encountered God on the deck of a troopship headed for Japan and I saw His handiwork, first hand.  As far as I could see, from North to South and from East to West, the skies were filled with stars, there had to be billions of them, and intermixed among them were the planets I had heard about in my high school Science class, along with the comets and the falling stars, or whatever they were.  That impression is still, uppermost in my memory bank.

I have read about evolution, know folks who believe in it, but none of  them have ever matched my thoughts about the Creator who has brought all of those astral objects into being - and none have "evolved" over the centuries of their existence. 

The Bible teaches, He is that Creator and He loves, even me.  At my age, I have no problem sharing with you that I have committed some very serious mistakes in my life and I have to be honest with my own thoughts.  I have experienced the pain of having some folks do the same to me.  And I carried these experiences for nearly forty-five years until that glorious day when that Creator being, the One we worship as God, our Father, pardoned me.  Set me free.  I no longer carry the pain of those burdens and have forgiven every one who has ever wronged me in any way. 

You don't have to believe me, of course, but we are talking about freedom, right?  That was a gift I received, it cost me nothing except the responsibility of living life as it was meant to be.

I used to worry about the cross that was used to extinguish the life of God's only begotten Son, but over the years I have learned that the little instances in my life that have tended to hurt me, are nothing compared to the pain that He endured so that I might have the abundant life of which He had spoken.

What I did not tell you is that I spent the greater portion of my life as a personnel recruiter and I have met literally, thousands of people - looking for employment, but they had little or no interest in making amends for the problems they had caused.  To me those were obvious just by taking a close look at their resumes.  They looked nice, but they "looked" like losers from the descriptions of what they were doing before they found themselves on the outside, looking in.  Resumes on paper are generally accepted by most employers, but if the person is truly in search of opportunity, you will discover their real resumes written on the hearts of the people with whom they have associated.

We live in a "fix it" society.  If something is wrong, there are people who will help a person "fix" it - for a fee.  Yes, it is a fact that if you have made mistakes, you have a responsibility to make amends, but paying others to make you look good is not the answer.  You make yourself "look" good, by merely "being" good.  It is an "inside" job and more often, the only real answer is to return to the maker, the One who can do for you, what He has done for me, and that was to cleanse me from the inside out,

Monday, August 18, 2014

Searching for freedom? Let's talk...(3)

It's Monday, a good day to take seriously, what you might have learned yesterday, had you been in a place where they talk about the Lord and the meaning He should have in your life.

I was in such a place yesterday - my church, and the lessons started with a study of the "here after" - as one fellow suggested, it was what we were there after.  And our teacher came prepared to offer a variety of opinions as to what happens as our mortal bodies expire.  I hate the word - die.  Every time I have seen, either someone or something experience death, he or she or it was soon forgotten and typically, completely ignored.  The fascination is usually centered on what happens thereafter and although there were profound responses in our class, there were no definitive answers as no one knows - for sure! What we do know is what some want to believe can be found in the Bible.  We tend to except what it says, by faith.

We left the study - encouraged.  That was my understanding, but then, I believe that everything that we do - in the name of the Lord, should be encouraging.

The Pastor, not "our" Pastor as ours was travelling elsewhere, offered a sermon from the scriptures which he suggested was confirmed by a lesson he learned as a youngster on the farm, learning how to cultivate "row" crops.  He was on a tractor and after veering off course a couple of times, he started paying closer attention to where the tractor wheels were taking him.  His "wise" instructor would advice him that a better course of action was to look "up and out".  As you fix your eyes on a goal, in his case, getting the job done without destroying what he was supposed to protect from the weeds, you get a much better prospective of the tasks at hand. 

It was a wise observation, in my belief system.  A lesson that it took me years to comprehend.  As a farm boy, I had had similar experiences. but as soon as I got "book" learning, I soon began to ignore what should have been obvious.  My observation of life is that many of us make the same mistakes.

Some like to call the "end of each row" (while cultivating crops) a goal to be achieved and that is easy to understand as a farm boy due the repetitive nature of the job.  The Pastor had a better response for those of us who are far away from working on a farm and it came from the lesson he had learned that day.  "Keep your eyes up and out".  "See where you are going" was an encouragement I once had to offer while teaching a youngster to drive.  The Apostle Paul offered similar advice.  "I press on toward the goal for the prize of  the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 3:14)

That is what church is all about - or, at least, what it ought to be all about, in my opinion.  Daily life is a challenge, even if you are rich and famous.  I will never forget a prominent man I knew as a customer who prided himself as a "believer" who counselled me that he worked as hard as he did because it was it was too easy to forget where one is going and wind up in the "poor" house.  He had - as my Pastor friend had suggested, his eyes "up and out".

One of my criticisms of the church stems from the fact that some know it to be, a social gathering.  It ought to be that and more, much more.  The businessman I just mentioned was being paid hundreds of dollars just to speak in public, to talk about "wisdom" that is everywhere to be found in the Bible.  One ought not to come to church just for socializing. but perhaps also for such wisdom - for free!

We have churches because we have belief systems and the Christian church is there to teach us more about our belief system.  We learn about the fundamentals of the faith so that we might share them with our extended families, our friends, our neighbors, the people we have come to know.  We learn that the proper way to live the Christian life is to let what you have learned, flow out of the way that you live, today, tomorrow and all of the days of your life; whenever, wherever, you happen to be.

You don't practice to be a Christian, you either are or you are not and you do not have to prove yourself.  As a Professor in college once told me that "what you learn in my classes may last you for an hour, a day, a week, or even a year, but if your life has not been changed, I have wasted your time and my own."  It would be nice if all Professors believed as she did, but nice is a word, that if you change but one letter, you could have niece.   Actually, to have one of those, you need an aunt or an uncle.

For most persons, that might not make sense, but neither does just being a a Christian.  Some call it a religion, but Jesus did not come to create a religious belief.  He came to provide an understanding of life as it is, not what had been offered in the blood of bulls and goats.

To understand what Christians believe, you ought to be in a church and to see for yourself, that it is a place for you to come and learn to comprehend answers to questions you may have been afraid to ask. And if they are not available, try another church.  I would suggest that you come to the one in which I hold membership as I have been around churches for most of my life and the one I attend is one of the best I have ever experienced in learning, not just how to grow as a Christian, but to actually be a Christian.  There is a difference.  Come and see for yourself.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Searching for freedom? Let's talk...(2)

Among all of the various actions, descriptions and procedures I know nothing about, computers are the most complex I have ever encountered and my greatest fear is the fact thhat they seem to be getting more and more complicated by the hour.  I had that fact confirmed - in spades, yesterday.

As you know, my birthday is fast approaching and I thought I might have some fun, sending birthday cards to 80 or more of my "closest" friends, confessing it was not my birthday then, but hoping they might check in on the Internet site I recorded and - as a "gift" to me, send me their impressions of the talk they would hear - offered by a dynamic speaker by the name of John Lynch on the subject of Grace, God's grace.  The joke was on me.  According to those who have responded, they could not use the link I had tried to relay.  So, the option is still open and I still would like to hear from you, commenting on Lynch's talk.  I guess I could call it a sermon, I would prefer to call it - a talk.  Here you go:

He is going to talk about the problems that many have with the sermons, the Christian teachings they hear more about these days, but more importantly, he graphically describes what can happen to the new believer in the hands of far too many teachers of the Law.  I hope you will listen and I hope you will relay your thoughts.  I find it is amazing as the basis of his message is the same as I received some 35+ years ago when I happened upon a pocket book, written by a delightful Englishman I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago.  He has since gone on to glory and he will be one of the first people I want to meet when my days on earth have passed.

The name of Major W. Ian Thomas' first book, the one that turned my life around is, "The Saving Life of Christ" and Zondervan combines it with another of Thomas's books, "The Mystery of Godliness", in what they term as Clarion Classics.

Christianity, Thomas insists, is more than a religion, or an ethic or the dream of a sentimental idealist. It is more than your hopes or fears of tomorrow.  Jesus Christ is the very content of the Christian faith. "Faithful is He who calls you and He will bring it to pass".  (I Thessalonians 5:24)  "It is God which works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure."  (Philippians 2:13)

I never really understood that my sins, my past sins, those I committed today and those I will commit in the future were all covered by Christ's crucifixion at Calvary.  The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me."

I had been attending churches for years, decades in fact, and I might have heard this taught, but none that I could recall, ever made this clear,  I was almost 45 years of age when I learned that the kingdom of heaven was introduced by Jesus in Matthew 4:17 with one simple word - repent.  I could not recall hearing that word either, but I agreed with Him and my life changed as surely as the night precedes our days.  I read that the Holy Spirit had been sent to "teach us of all things that Jesus had said to His disciples."  (John 14:26)

The Bible that I was not able to study for years was suddenly opened to me and I discovered a thirst as if I had been stranded on a desert.  I began to realize all that I had missed for years.  Rather than sitting in a pew and hoping to understand what the preacher was saying, I took notes and examined what he (or she) had to say, compared to what the Bible says.  Most Christians understand that their Pastors teach what they were encouraged to teach in the seminaries they have attended, but what has always troubled me more than other Christian "doctrines" is their divisive nature.  Of course, that has been the nature of religion since the very beginning, but it often has disastrous effect on the meek, the very ones Jesus blessed in the Sermon on the Mount.  And if you examine His words in this highly esteemed portion of scripture, you often have to wonder if our interpreters are doing what they were surely called to do.

I love the Bible, but I have and have had friends over the years who continue to remain confused by what they read as being scripture and the activities of those coming and going from the physical church buildings in their neighborhoods.   Wisdom has never been in short supply among many of those who are esteemed because of their intellect or leadership in other faith groups.

So, I encourage all who want to live prosperous lives - free of frustration and concerns that were settled two thousand years ago at a place called Calvary, I encourage you to find such a church that teaches how to love all others for no better reason than if you love others, others tend to love you.  You will be amazed at the positive results that tend to occur when you drop prejudice from your reasoning processes and stop to enjoy life as it actually is rather than wasting your time in wishful thinking as to what it ought to be - if only.

If you are serious about learning what I have learned, add a comment and we can get started on the process.

Searching for freedom? Let's talk....

A week from this Wednesday, God willing, I will be celebrating my eighty-fifth birthday.  If anyone had ever suggested I would live into my 80's, I would have suggested that he or she had lost his or her mind.  Yes, I know, the previous generation on my Mother's side - the women at least, all lived into their nineties.  Their youngest brother, the only one who survived the birth process, went "home" when he was eighty-nine.  Given my health - today, and my spirit being, I plan to out live the others.

I can hear you now, "Are you kidding, Sherwood, you'll be fortunate to be here for your next birthday!"

It is important that I do as I carry in this mind and body, decades of experience - in church and on the outside, and I am truly concerned about my brothers and sisters in the faith.  Even this very morning, my brother in the faith, Ray Waddle, who pens articles for The Tennessean, can be quoted as saying, "Minute by minute, byte by byte, a shift is taking place.  Online life suggests a libertarian-consumer paradise where each of us stands wielding the power of choice, accessing a universe of knowledge and falsehood at the speed of light, preferably for free."

I suggest that what he is saying is that "the church as we have known it for over two centuries" is on its way out of existence.  Oh I know, many of the buildings will remain in place for decades to come and as long as "Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma" are with us, many among us will continue to pay homage to that fading emphasis that once guided society through our ups and downs.  But as one of the younger generation of "fire breathing evangelists" recently concluded, we are tiring of the claims that God is - like Santa Claus, "making a list and checking it twice" lest we be left out on that day certain when the earth as we know it, ceases to be, or our lives as we really do not know them, come to an end.

I attended a country church as a youngster and came to believe that I had "better watch out, better be good" or else, if I happened to die before committing my life to Christ, I would surely "burn in Hell". That belief lingered for decades.  Along the way, however, I found myself on a troop ship headed for Japan and one night, I climbed "up top" and lay there, thinking, "How could this be?"  I was only 17 years old and here I was heading for duty in a nation that had been slaughtering people like me for more years than I had even lived!"   I looked up and as far as I could see, from the North to the South, from the East to the West, there had to be billions of stars and maybe, thousands of comets that I could see streaking across the horizon and - just like my Science teacher had taught in high school, there were planets without number, as far as my eyes could see.  I will never forget the thought that crossed my mind; it was like God saying to me, "See what I have made for you to contemplate."  Contemplate?  I didn't even know the meaning of that word, that night.  But it has remained to this very hour.

I had to look it up in the dictionary.  It means - to me, to "consider thoughtfully".  It took awhile, but it would change my life as I listened to people express their opinions, offer their suggestions, even demand that I learn from what I was hearing.  Years went by and I lived by that admonition - that advice, even on occasion, a rebuke.  It got me in a lot of trouble on many occasions.  Then, one day, I was reading my Bible and I came to a verse in Genesis (3:11) where God says, responding to the excuse offered by Adam, "Who told you that....?  The rest of the question you can see for yourself, but those four words, stuck in my mind and I use them, often. 

I think of it often as I read my Bible.  I have followed the critics or the Bible who often want me - and you, to believe there were errors in the ways that the original transcripts were used, some insisting that we don't even have the original transcripts.  That is fascinating to me as I contemplate what I am hearing.  They may be right, but then, millions have been reading the Bible and believing - every word, and I have to ask, what happens to their faith?  I just walk away as I am not interested in what others believe until I see their faith expressed in every day living.  Take Ray Waddle for example.  I have read his work for almost two decades; I even met him one day, but I still "consider thoughtfully" what he has to say.  To me, it is amazing how much we seem to think alike.

But you know, I live - as some say, ..."just below the buckle on the Bible belt."  I love Christian radio - especially, the station that comes over my radio.  I love the music and this local station has a lady who not only plays good music - to my ears, she prays for people and when I hear her, I think of a scene I once saw, either in my imagination or it actually happened.  The people in heaven are gathered around, listening to the words of our Lord and there is music playing in the background,  Then I hear a pause and the Lord tells the others, "Be still, this is a favorite of mine, praying for people that often times, she really doesn't know, and her words are like music to My ears."  "Wait a minute, while I see what I can do to answer her prayers."

Be careful with the thoughts that you might be imaging at this moment.  Don't hurry to believe that was just a figment of my imagination.  You really do not know what else I am thinking at this moment, so you will just have to read what follows.... maybe tomorrow, God willing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Freedom - and reality

"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last."  Martin Luther King, Jr, from his famous, "I have a dream" speech.

Those words echoed in my mind as I read the reports of Robin Williams' untimely death - by suicide.

Now we know, he was not only the most highly honored comedian of our age, he was - it appears, high on the list of the most tormented souls we will ever know.  Dead - with his belt around his neck.

How could that be?  I can tell you, it isn't that difficult.  I still vividly remember that day, sitting in my car outside of the Post Office in Ojai, CA.  I had deliberately parked in that spot.  Laying on the front seat within arm's reach, was the .45 caliber pistol I was going to use to end the torment that raged in my mind  I wanted to be free.  Free of my reality, the fact that I actually agreed with some others; I was a failure.  It was over, the end of the line.  So, I reached over and tried to pick up that pistol.  In a minute or so, it would be all over.  The agony, the accusations, the fear that I was as others had claimed, a failure.

How could that be?  I did not even know how I got to this place, this level of frustration.  I merely knew that I hurt and that hurt was not going to go away.  And then came the pain, the heart-wrenching pain, the fact that I had grown up, father less, he died and I didn't even know.  Apparently, he died from a bump on the head that got worse and worse until it took his life.  But why?  Why didn't they tell me that I no longer had a father.

And then it dawned on me, take my life and I would leaving behind, four of the most beautiful children I had ever known.  Who would tell them?  What would they think?  Why am I doing this?

Suddenly, it dawned on me.  There was no legitimate reason for me to run from the fantasy that was playing out - in my mind.  All I needed to do was face the facts of my life.  It might not be easy, but somehow I believed it would be the right thing to do.  I reached over and picked up the gun and opened the car door.  I walked behind the Post Office to a grove of trees and threw it as far as I could and I turned and walked away.

And - from that moment forward, I have never looked back.  Somehow, the torment that had brought me to that place was gone and I was free, free as I would eventually believe, free to be - me.

But today I grieve, not for those who are offering their best thoughts on how Robin Williams had touched their lives, but for the lives he left behind.  The world will move on.  The reality will last forever in the minds of those who are and will always be, his family.

I don't understand mental illness even though I have personally known, friends who were suffering from what other have termed is an illness.  I have tried to help, never ever referring to that day so long ago, but merely by sharing the joy of living, day by day.  That is my only answer.  To overcome mental illness, you must live (capital L - i - v -e) day by day.  Ignore the fact that the word - if, occupies the center of the word, life.  I had been living in the past, the more recent past.  I had been crippled by words and worse, the fact that those false facts were being used against me.  How do you defend against false accusations when they are in the minds of people who do not even know you - as a person?  It is easy to accuse a person, if you do not know the individual.

I am quite sure that wasn't Robin Williams' problem.  He had enough money to hire attorneys who could defend him, even if he had been guilty.  No, I have to think that his problem was linked to mine, he was hearing voices and they were so loud they were able to drown out the roars of applause that followed his performances.  I had not heard an actual voice, but if I had been put to a test, I could have identified the voices that were in mind, the good and the bad.

But there is another voice and it is very real.  It is a voice that is heard - daily, by millions of people, at home and abroad that is constantly calling for our attention.  It is a still voice and It is there to let us know, we are loved and that whatever it is that we are doing, we will still be loved.  Some want to identify the voice as coming from God, but that is noting more than a word - for most of us.  It took me decades to understand the source, the word, but finally, I recognized it for what it actually is.

When we look to God, we see the rules by which we are to live and so we tend to ignore the voice as we are not prone to obey the rules.  Nevertheless, the voice persists.  It is the voice that caused the universe to come into being and it is so powerful, it can cause a blade a grass to wither when it ignore the voice.  The sun, the moon, the stars, all of creation came into being at the sound of the voice.

And when the voice realized that humans would never bow down and acknowledge its being, it rewrote the script of life.  You have heard about that in the book we call the Bible.  You may even recognize some of the characters, but you probably missed the most important one.  I believe - for a fact, Robin Williams did.  The Bible was provided so that we might understand, that the creative voice meant to share the creation with the best known of its many accomplishments, that is -  you and I, and even, Robin Williams.

So I close with this caveat, you don't have to believe me.  I know how easy it would be to discount what you just read.  The only problem is, you may still believe in religion in spite of all the evidence that it errs far too often.  Try listening to the voice and you will learn to believe in the reality that had apparently been drowned out by the applause.

But when I began to consider the frustrations that have followed Robin William's demise, I realized it might be time to lay aside the things that don't work as we would have them work and talk about the spirit that indwells all of us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Overflowing ballot boxes - proof that freedom is on the move

Earlier today, I wrote about the front page news article in The Tennessean today.  Looking back to the weekend, I swore I would never mention the front page article on Sunday.

But then, I heard from some of my Democratic friends and when they did not try to mask their disgust at its contents, I have to stand up and speak out.  I have been meaning to say something about Democrats for a quite awhile and now, it seems to be an appropriate time.

The subject of the article had to do with the Democratic party's self proclaimed, "redneck hillbilly". who will be our candidate for Governor in November.  There are no words to properly define the low to which the Democratic party has fallen.  Especially, when the Republicans are offering one of their best candidates for public office in years.  You can etch it in stone, he will be the one replacing Lamar Alexander in 2020.

When I moved here twenty years ago, I met Nashville's Mayor and realized that he was a politician on the move.  It did not surprise me that he would go on to become Governor and Tennessee prospered as a result.  But then, the roof seems to have caved in.  I still do not understand what happened, nor can I find anyone who can properly explain why we have such an ineffective Legislature while people like Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam have occupied the Governor's office.

My introduction to politics dates back to my college days in Georgia.  I was just out of the Air Force, and I had yet to vote for a President.   We had a "grand old man" in the Senate in Washington and I was prepared to vote for him to stay in office.  Along comes a friend and tells me he wants to introduce me to politics, Georgia style.  The Senator had to go and there was a reason for his departure; he had helped himself to the largesse available to politicians with influence in Washington.  The facts were obvious and so I joined the other side.  Remember, there was only one political party in the South in those days.  I wound up being elected to a position in the collegiate effort to support Herman Talmadge and would learn, merely being elected to office was not enough.  There were 159 counties in Georgia, the goal was to win every one - and we did.

Later I moved to California and was living in Los Angeles when the Democratic party chose LA for their national convention in 1960.  Thanks to fiends I had made in college, I was hired to help Lyndon Johnson get the nomination.  My job was to call and talk with the Judges and political figures I had known in Georgia and report my finding to the Committee  I did not have good news.  The Kennedy forces had done their  homework throughout the South and as the record demonstrates, they overwhelmed one of the most powerful political figures ever to serve our nation.

That association did not impress the California Democrats.  You earned your political stripes by getting involved with local elections and - winning.  So, when an opportunity came to unseat a State representative who had made enemies with a local Chamber of Commerce, we used the lessons I had learned in Georgia to end his tenure.  That was heady stuff.  One of those who noticed was "Pat" Brown (the former Governor) who became a good friend.

A divorce would end my interest in local politics and I have had no real interest in several years.

Somehow, over the years, it seems to me, that money has become the essential element in elections these days and those with access to it have done an excellent of confusing the electorate.  I have seen money, big money, try to influence a local election and lose because they have yet to print a dollar pill that can pull the lever in a voting machine.  People vote.  They are the only ones who are eligible.  And people will vote for anyone who can relate the "real" problems that we have in terms that activate the individual's eagerness to get to the polls on election day. 

We waste away too much time listening to consultants and commentators who are - quite often, paid well to express their opinions.

We are missing the greatest opportunity this nation has ever had by simply ignoring the fact that almost everyone carries a electronic device that serves to notify the holder that something REALLY important is happening in their neighborhood.

We should be embarrassed by the FACT that an actual "hillbilly" will be speaking for us in November.

It is too late to do anything about that now, but 2016 is right around the corner.

Speaking of "freedoms"...... read on

It is August 12 as I start this.  I just read the front page lead article in The Tennessean and I must get my thoughts on paper.  I would urge you to get a copy and read it as well.  And if you miss it, there will be a book out in the near future.  It's title - Loving Pearl.

I read the article.  I won't be reading the book, because I have a good idea what it will say.  In a sense, it will be reporting a story that I have carried in my heart for over a half century.

To help you understand what I am saying, here is the by-line to The Tennessean article:  "A mother struggles to balance her Christian faith with her daughter's homosexuality."  Don't stop reading.  There is much more to come.

To begin with, I am a Christian.  I believe in what I read in the Bible.  I might have a different perspective than you, but let us always remember, God did not have clones in mind when He introduced the first of our kind.  Adam was a male, Eve was a female.  He made that clear.  But before you start a rant centered on that old phrase, "Viva le difference", let me remind you that once the prototypes were established, God has been very patient with the balance of His creation.  There are - for example, killers among us and He leaves it up to us to determine their fate.  So it is, I have to believe, the same with the rest of us.   Most importantly, He provided that gray matter that we discover between our ears and many among us have learned to use it to improve what we know and understand to be, society.

Now, without trying to disturb many of my readers, He also created differences in the features we have discovered between our legs.  As a male, I have discovered that properly put to use, I can create life and I have, at least four times.  Females have discovered their different features and like us, they know that properly uniting with the male, they can produce life as well.

I trust that I do not have to elaborate further regarding out respective anatomies.

I know and you ought to know, there are those who are not content with the basic structures and many do vile things to their bodies and through their respective appendages.  More often than not, that occurs when they do not make use of the gray matter, previously mentioned.

The Bible tends to refer to such acts as sin and now, we come to what can be the worst part of our human nature.  From the very beginning and throughout our lives, we learn there are other sins; we like to put all of them into a category called, human nature.  We did not mean to offend God, we simply wanted to indulge ourselves in acts that give us real pleasure.  The real problem is, we tend to offend others, especially when we have united ourselves with - the church.

God made a way for us to escape the penalties applicable to our sins.  He sent us a - Savior.  For those of us who call ourselves Christians, that person is the One we call Lord, Jesus the Christ.

And He spoke to those around Him and the generations to follow, "By this will others know that you are my disciples (followers), by your love for one another." 

So, by tradition, we express our love by opening our Bibles and pointing to the sins of others and encourage them to repent.  That is the way it typically happens, but it also typically ignores the commandment to love one another.

With that in mind, I need to refer to the article on the front page of The Tennessean, today.  A Christian family is torn apart because the young daughter has listened to those around her and discovered - in the opinion of many of her peers, there is more to this affection we call love than a sense that we are honoring God by avoiding what the Bible identifies as sin.   We have feeling for others, deep feelings and we would like to throw caution to the winds and express our love by a deeper, more physical sense.  And with that, the church is aghast.  The family is torn between the love for the others in their family and the love for the church.  In this case, the daughter moves away to live in a different city and the story ends, there?

Is that the gospel, the good news?  I don't think so.  For the better part of three quarters of a century, I have been a part of the church and I have seen situations such as this happen more often that not.  Worse than that, I have seen families torn apart by nothing more than different interpretations of the scriptures. I have it on good authority, that is why we have so many different churches today, all confessing an allegiance to Jesus Christ, but irrevocably divided by certain verses in the Bible.  And some wonder why it appears that many are leaving the Christian church.  My opinion is simplistic in nature, the real reason is that we are more concerned about our selves than others 

I have many "gay" friends.  Without exception, they live decent, God fearing lives.  More often than not, they come from what some would say are "good" families and I enjoy their company.

All of which reminds me of a song I learned - many, years ago.  "I serve a risen Savior, He's in this world today,  I know that He is living, whatever men may say, I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He's always near.  He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.  He walks with me and talks with me, along life's narrow way, He lives, He lives, salvation to impart, you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sometimes - we worry about our freedoms

I spent almost seven years working for the government.  For those of you who know me well know that those years were spent in the U. S. Air Force and what is interesting to me is the common belief that military service is not government service.  Well it is.

I spent my first three years in Japan where I became a Non-com and, when an opportunity opened up for me to learn more about my profession, I opted for an "indefinite" re-enlistment program which offered me an opportunity to leave whenever I chose to do so, once the initial three years were served. It worked well for me as I chose to leave so that I might enroll in college at the onset of a new term.

Meanwhile, I learned a lot about government bureaucracy.  My first task upon returning to the States after serving 51+ months in the Far East, was to help in the development of a new Career field for airmen involved in building, testing, installing and maintaining armaments used in military aircraft. My team had access to the latest developments as we were members of the Air Force's Armament Test Centered, headquartered at Eglin AFB in Florida.  My first impression was that this would be an exciting opportunity.  It would become about as exciting as day-old bread in a convenience market.

The basics for USAF Career fields were established.  All we had to do was to follow the format and add the recommendations of the our field personnel as authenticated by their military and civilian supervisors.  We sent our first proposals to Washington and they were approved with a few suggestions as to areas where we might make a few minor changes.  We made them. prepared finished copy and sent them on to the Pentagon.  Then, our team was summoned to the Pentagon where we were introduced to others who were working on new developments in the armament field and it was suggested that we take their recommendations into consideration and re-submit our proposals.  When we discussed them with our Commanding General and members of his staff, it was suggested that we all schedule some vacation time as they evaluated the situation.  When we returned, nothing had been done and we sat around our office, wondering about our future.

I chose to place a call to an officer I had served with while stationed in Japan, asking if he might know of another opportunity.  Within a couple of weeks, I was reassigned to Washington and given a task to investigate cases of reserve personnel called up in the Korean War who had complained of violations in the process.  That was very interesting.  At least it beat the desk work that had begun to bore me, even though the Gulf beaches had provided lots of adventures for singles in that area.

I conducted seven investigations, found that two were legitimate while the others were not and they kept me out of the field, waiting to testify as to the accuracy of my findings.  Talk about boring jobs.

Fortunately, I ran across another former officer friend from Japan and to make a longer story shorter, I left Washington and headed for the Training Command headquarters in St. Louis, MO.  I passed their tests to become a Training Instructor and was given temporary duty, reminding supervisors of the lessons that most of them had learned, first hand during World War II.

As September approached, I decided to leave the Air Force and enter college.  Within a few days, my application was approved and I became a Freshman at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA.

My dream was to earn a degree, qualify for officer status in the Air Force and expect to retire at an early age, having provided a real service for our nation and of course, the government.  It would not become a reality as the bride I had married to become a military wife, relented - but that is another that is best left, unrecorded.

My interest in the government has never wavered and I have to believe, the almost seven years I put in were typical of most government operations.  I wound up in the Korea War because of my extensions and it was there that I discovered how inept our government can be when the power to function is delegated to lesser qualified individuals.   Everyone in the area knew that the North Koreans were going to attack the South.  Certainly, General MacArthur with his experience in combat tactics had to know.  When he finally acted and caught the North Koreans unawares, it wasn't long before Washington removed him from his command.  In the midst of all of that, there seemed to be no one asking, why?

The same question could be asked of our excursion into Vietnam.  The French had tried to fight that war and were completely embarrassed.  What convinced our government that we would not be and sure enough, our embarrassment was even worse?

In civilian life I became a personnel recruiter and it was my good fortune to have made connections with officials of American oil firms doing business with the Arabian oil interests.  Talk about intrigue; that was the order of the day.  The Arabs had need of our technical expertise and it should have been apparent, our government people who were hired to be aware of conditions in foreign nations, either had no say in the process, or our companies sold out to the highest bidders.  What an opportunity we had to get inside the Arab mentality and evaluate the real possibilities that we could have formed lasting relationships.  Where was our government in those years?

Our historians are very much aware of the intrigue of Middle Easteners over the past few centuries and yet our government has not seemed to have even been aware of the disparate relationships between the religious zealots in just one nation - Iraq.

I have before me, the claims of a segment of our society whining about their claim that they are are being "stonewalled" from knowing the facts of problems within our government - today.

When will we ever wake up to the fact that it is not merely politics that seem to irritate our people, but the practices of our government that actually confuse the rest of the world. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Speaking of - freedom

Most of you know that I am, as some are prone to say, a "born again Christian".  Well, for certain, I am a practicing Christian and am always eager to learn more about the experiences of others.

It came as quite a surprise for me recently to hear a rapping sound on my kitchen door and I had to wonder who could be there.  At first, I thought it was one of the three others occupying apartments in the same building.  I was wrong.  When I got there, I discovered two very attractive young ladies standing there and by the grins on their faces, I just knew I was about to meet a modernized version of the Jehovah Witnesses and I started to create a way to send them on their way.  Wrong again.

I was about to meet Sister G and Sister T of the Church of the Latter Day Saints - Mormons.

They were very pleasant.  Sister G was the one who greeted me, identified herself and Sister T and asked if I knew about their church.  I had to be honest and tell them I had heard about Mormons, had known a family involved in their religious beliefs, but they were the first young ladies of their faith I had ever known.  It was apparent to me - from the very start, Sister G was very confidant about her knowledge of the LDS faith.

I invited them in, but I would learn they were not allowed to enter a home unless there was another lady present and with that, I tried to tease them about being two pretty young girls doing what they were doing and I thought at the time, they were good at it.  They were not there to look pretty, they were serious about introducing me to their faith.  We bantered with each other for awhile and Sister G suggested they could come back and talk further about their mission.  I agreed.

I thought it was to be 9AM on the following Friday and it turned out to be 3PM.  They had had problems with their car and we agreed on 4PM.  Again, they were not about to enter my apartment so I got chairs and we met on the opposite side of my apartment, on the porch.  They had left a booklet with me earlier and the first question was, "Did you get a chance to read through it?.  Yes, I had.  I had heard about the plates discovered by Joseph Smith and that had always made me a bit suspicious and so that was my first question.  I don't even recall what Sister G had to say, but I could tell from her response, she really wanted to get past any such question.  I agreed.  I knew there had been a few "curious" entries in the Bible I believed, so we moved on - and she continued to offer a reasoned response to all of my questions.  She was, they both were, as serious about their faith as anyone I had ever known.  So then, I tried to divert heir attention by talking about personal experiences in my life, to which they would respond to each, by referring me to Book of Mormon.  Not quoting chapter and verse, but looking directly at me.  I was becoming convinced that these were two very serious young ladies.

So, they brought up the services their church held on Sunday afternoons and invited me - if I was interested. Suggesting that I might be, they left me with a Book of Mormon and recommended that I read Alma chapter 32.  That turned out to be a fascinating encounter involving the poor being cast out of the synagogue for no better reason than being poor and - if I had a real interest in pursuing their faith, I would want to study it further

I prayed about visiting their church and when I heard nothing to prevent it, I was there at the appointed hour. I thought at first they were surprised to see me, but by the way they introduced me to others, it was apparent, they were delighted to see me.  Sister T was scheduled to be one of three speakers and so I found a seat next to Sister G.  When they opened the service with a song, she offered to share the hymnal with me, but as soon as she began to sing, I shut up.  She has the voice of an angel. They had communion and then, three different speakers offered personal verbal essays on their roles and it was fascinating.  (I think "we" ought to try that, occasionally)  In between each talk, they sang another song and again, I was amazed.

In the row ahead of us, there were two families and their children and the children were perfect little "imps". One had a really young child and he was everywhere, every moment and when I met his Mother, I had to praise her for her patience.  The other family seemed to ignore their older children, but while no one was noticing, two of them were waging a continual battle.  I could see such happenings occurring once in our churches and you can believe, there would be a move to get children into classrooms, so the speaker would not be upset with the behavior.  That was not going to happen, here.

I was blessed by the order and the sincerity of those I was introduced to, but what really warmed my heart was the choruses they sang, about Jesus and our redemption.  They may be "Latter Day" Saints to some, but hearing those voices made me feel right at home in their midst.

I came away from that experience reflecting on the agony I feel listening to a favorite "Christian" radio station using the Older Testament to defame our nation and condemning those of different faith beliefs as if they are responsible for all of the problems, they claim to be troubling our nation.  Nothing could be further from the truth as it is not religion that is causing the problems, but the fact that some appear to have only read the pages of their Bibles that they believe supports their apostasy.    

Admittedly, we live in troubled times, but when the two churches I attended earlier today continue to exist and increase in their relevance, we are merely still going through birth pains.  My hope is not in horses nor chariots, but in those institutions that treasure the truth and teach it to their young

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Let's Talk about - Freedom

I trust you will agree - freedom is a fascinating word.  It actually means everything to me as I live in what we have come to know - at least talk about, the "land of the free and the home of the brave." I know the latter to be true as I have often visited our national cemeteries where I have observed the rows upon rows of grave markers, testimonies to the bravery of each one whose body has been interred below.  Many of us visit those places at least once a year on a holiday and I wonder, are we to rejoice at their passing or perhaps, even shed a tear?

I have a good friend, most of you who read these utterances will recall her name - Karen, and I want you to know, she is more than just a good and faithful friend, she is my stimulator.- she has a wonderful ability to cause others to think about life - as it really is.  Yesterday, she wrote an article for our local Herald-Citizen newspaper with this title, "Where's the Golden Rule? and she went on to recite the "golden rules" to be  found in the writings of those who have written to formulate the religious teachings of the world; from Baha'i to those who follow Zoroastrianism and it seems to me as I got to the end, there is hardly a whit of difference among them - we are constantly reminded to do to others, what we would have others do to us.

I have visited many jails and prisons in our nation and when I think of them, the word incarceration comes to mind - a place where some will be confined; that means they lose their freedom for a specific length of time.  And when I visit them, I come face-to-face with guards and their supervisors and realize they have a place of employment because there are armies of police officers, and the legions of specialists who take the evidence supporting the accusations and place all of it in the hands of all of the attorneys - those representing the State and others representing the accused, their supporting staffs and finally, we get to the courts and the judges, the stenographers, more guards and the media.  All because a disenfranchised citizen decided to pocket a candy bar, or a can of beer, or worse, used a gun and attempted a robbery.  Of course, as you examine all of the claims, you will come to the truly "bad" guys and gals and occasionally, even the good guys and gals who were falsely accused.

Please don't think I am exaggerating the numbers as according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as I write this, there are 6,937,000 offenders under the supervision of adult correctional systems at years end, 2012.  Notice that the report before me reads - adult, and uses the word, systems.  That means that they are not reporting on the juvenile systems. If you were trying to estimate the costs involved in maintaining all of penal procedures and systems, this report is not going to help.  The total costs will be recorded in the BILLIONS of dollars - is my estimate.

Why did I come to this, you ask.  Recall that I started out talking about the rules, the so-called golden rules and as I recorded, they appear to be part of all of our religious systems.  We know about them because most of them encourage their followers to embrace the concept of actually, loving one another.  Doing what you would have others do to you.

Let me explain, at my age, I must report that my"doing" has not always followed the recommended course of action.  As a matter of fact, I lived the first 45 years of my life, doing just the opposite.

I had a real problem.  I had heard the rule, but I had begun the believe that others had also heard the rule, but chose to ignore it.  There is another rule, the "street" rule, as the crowd goes, feel free to join in.  Believe what you want to believe or ignore what you choose to ignore.

Finally, I came to understand, there was another rule I had never heard of, apparently.  That word was - repent!  "Change your ways.  I don't think I can.  Try it."  And so I tried it and with God's help, it worked, not only to my amazement, but also, to the amazement of others.

Why have I come to this conclusion?  I wanted to remind you of the total costs involved when we do not concern ourselves with the "rules", the "golden" rules.  Those costs come out of your pockets and mine.  How do we stop this waste of our resources?

This is what I discovered  and I hope, indeed I pray, you will try it.  The very next person you meet, wherever, whenever, actually treat them as you would be treated and - don't stop!  Keep doing it and soon others will see how well you are doing and try it themselves.  Again, don't stop. If there are legions in Hell, they will oppose you.  Nevertheless, keep going and you will discover, the angels in heaven will recognize the armies you have created and they will join in to support you.  I know.  I have seen them.  They are everywhere, believe me.  Many - just  waiting to see if you and I have the courage to act as we ought to be acting.

And the day will surely come when you will proudly proclaim that we are - in fact, "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Changing gears - challenging, perhaps

OK, here we go.  I have a friend, indeed, lots of friends, and a few of them write articles that tend to blow me away.   I have a favorite expression, "I didn't know that." and today, I finally got around to read one of the most fascinating articles I have read in a long, long time.

My friend, the author, is Tom Reid, and I emphatically encourage you to read his columns that come once a week from - www.encouragement-wired.com.  OK, you are beyond such knowledge, I hear you, but I would like to remind you that you have lots of younger ones who look up to you as a sense of encouragement and Tom can help you become a "wizard" in their eyes.  And if you do not have such a following, what else are you doing that is more important?

OK, lecture over.  His most recent article deals with resilience, if you ask me, a forgotten commodity in this age of people with opinions who seem to ignore it.  The article was seven pages long - from my computer, so there is a lot of meat in it.  I have always thought of myself as a resilient person as I have experienced a lot more "downs" than "ups" in my life.  I had to ask, where did I get that, and my memory went back to an experience when I was just a little over three years of age.  My sister had just been born and it was the heart of the "Great Depression" years. My grandmother had ridden a Greyhound bus from Port Huron, MI, to Lakewood, OH, to be with her daughter and family to experience the birth of her first grand daughter.  And she decided that since it was "tough" times for everyone, she could help by taking her first grand son (Me!) home with her to the farm where there was plenty to eat and lots of places for the youngster to play. 

I suppose I agreed with her as - to hear her repeat it, over and over again in the years that followed, "He stood up on that bus - peering out the window, all the way home."  In my opinion, she was rather proud of me, but in my "heart of hearts" I knew that in her heart she nursed the memory of her second son who had been still born.  But with that incident ringing in my ears and the love of my grandparents that has endured until this very hour, I headed out into the world.

It would require persistence!  I had quit high school early in my Senior year to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps, so that I might qualify for the WWII "GI Bill of Rights".  Now, basic training completed, I found myself on board a troop ship, sailing out of the harbor in New York, destined for duty in Japan, an experience that would last for nearly 53 months.  What did I know?  All I could tell them of my work experiences was that I knew how to milk cows and drive tractors.  So, I wound up driving tractors so I could park trailers in the Motor Pool at JAMA.  Good fortune began to follow me as I would be transferred to another base and met a Sergeant I have never forgotten. Max McGee, from Oklahoma.  He promised me that if I paid attention to what he was doing, I would replace him when he returned to the States.  I did and he was true to his word.  What he would teach me was the benefits of resilience - Tom's subject.

Tom is right on.  He talks about the uniforms worn by UPS drivers, a requirement that reminds them, hour by hour, daily, of their need to be resilient, even in the face of raging storms and adversities of all sorts, their commitment was to deliver their packages on time and as a result, the company has become an enormous success around the world.

That took me back to my first days in Japan, a nation that only a few short months previous to our arrival, was at war with our homeland.  Many of theirs had killed many of ours.  The Colonel whose task it was to remind us of our obligations to "rage" peace with all of the resilience our soldiers had demonstrated in raging "war" in their day.  We learned a great lesson that day and I am so proud to have been part of that force that seldom veered from our objective.

So, that word - resilience, means a lot to me and as I would spend many years recruiting and placing new employees on their new jobs, I would try to remind them of their obligations - that each would face in the years to come.

As a matter of fact, I used to offer my opinion when speakers would go and on about the need to be motivated in the work place, I would remind others that at the heart of that word motivation, were two essential keys to success.  The first was heredity and that was determined by the extent to which an individual was born into a family of folks who actually cared about their offspring.  In my years of experience, I still believe in the validity of that opinion.  They are the ones who demonstrate the quality of resilience, but there are others who can can provide it as well.  I never really understood my Uncle who was a few years older than I was, as we shared our lives on the farm which he would eventually leave to \insure a future for his children.  I guess I never really understood his love for his wife and children, but looking back, it is easy for me to see the many opportunities I missed just by not observing his life.

Tom Reid, on the other hand, has provided so many examples of lives - well lived, who faced as many if not more, of the adversities that are common place in life.   My hero, the man who wrote a book and had me in tears as I turned its pages was Victor Frankl, whose book, "Man's Search for Meaning" ought to be in the library of every individual who has ever considered what others have had to endure, just to have another day of this experience we call life.  A Jew, headed for the gas chambers that would become the eventual fate of so many of his fellow believers, for no crime worse than they just believed in God, looks at his internment and offers all of us a picture of what it ought to mean, just to draw breath.

As I look back on my own life, I grieve at the thought that I lived most of my years with an attitude that since I had been blessed in so many ways, someone, somehow, owed me.  Could I describe what it was that I was owed?  No way.  I have had a close look at life and have learned that I was among the most fortunate.  Later this month I hope to experience my 85th birthday and until then and for as more days as I am enabled to live, my goal is to encourage others to actually live each day - on purpose.   Above all, be resilient.  Yes, I read the newspapers, I watch TV, I listen to the radio, I hear those voices - wanting us to whine about the changes that are taking place in this land that most of us love and have loved for a lifetime.  Change, dear friends, is inevitable.  Doubt me and it becomes apparent, you haven't been looking into a mirror recently.

And worse, you have yet to learn that change has been your opportunity to make a difference. You have a life that will be remembered.  To some you will be honored.  To others you might be ignored, but as we finally close our eyes, let us all be thankful, we were given an opportunity to be that difference.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Foreign Policy at its worst

I was shocked to open my copy of Sunday's Herald-Citizen (Cookeville, TN) and discover an article by Professor Michael Gunter, Professor of History at nertby Tennessee Tech University, with the title: "Sheer Stupidity of U. S. Foreign Policy".  
 I was intrigued as this is the first article on the Kurds that I have read in years as typically whenever I read anything about them, the writer concentrates on the fact they are a sect of Islam - in my opinion, further proof that not all Muslims are evil. 
 What do I know about Kurds?  Not much.  It was fifty or some years ago when three youngsters walked into my employment office in Los Angeles looking for jobs.  All three were college graduates, but they were from Iraq and even in those days, employers were reluctant to hire people of the Muslim faith. They had run out of money and had nowhere to sleep.  To make a much longer story shorter so that I might get on with the article, after listening to their flight from Iraq and the differences between the Kurdish, Sunni and Shia Islamic sects, I arranged for them to sleep in the attic of the house where our agency was located and found jobs for each of them.  They were not engineering jobs, their educational disciplines, but they helped them to get on their feet and established in our country.  We were good friends for a number of years and they helped me to get better acquainted with the religion of Islam, a far different perspective than is common place in many areas of our nation.
 Here is what Professor Gunter had to say:  "Although there can be no doubt that compared to the world today, and in the past, American foreign policy and intelligence, has been motivated by relative honesty and intelligence, currently there are several specifics in that policy that can be characterized as sheer stupidity.   The first point has to do with American foreign policy towards the horrific civil war in Syria.  Although President Obama's basic instinct  not to enter another disastrous Middle Eastern war was sound, his administration's continuing attempt to support increasingly non-existent moderate oppositionists against the Assad regime is at best, based on wishful thinking because with one exception - the Kurds, such moderates in Syria no longer exist.
 The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - now styling itself as the Islamic State (IS), has largely supplanted the moderates, with the exception of the Kurds, who have been battling the Islamists for more than two years.   However, the United States opposes the Kurds because of a misguided belief that they are dividing the moderate opposition by insisting on Kurdish autonomy and probably even more connected to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is largely in control of the Kurdish areas, but is an off shoot of the Kurdisan Workers Party (PKK) which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist movement.  While the PKK link is real and largely explains the PYD's success in fending off ISIS so far, the PYD is also a moderate secular movement and therefore is everything the U.S. should want to support.  This is even more so because for more than a year now, Turkey has been pursuing a serious peace process with the PKK.  Thus if the U.S. NATO ally, Turkey, is now dealing with the PKK/PYD there is no further reason for the United States to shun it.  American foreign policy has simply failed to catch up with the times and thus is shooting itself in the foot.
 However, the situation is worse because the United States continues to list the PKK as a terrorist movement.  This unfortunate designation hinders the on-going Turkish/PKK peace process.  The United States continues to so list the PKK out of its deference to its NATO ally, Turkey, but since Turkey is negotiating with the PKK, the terrorist appellation is no longer appropriate and even hinders the negotiations.  If the United States delisted the PKK, Turkey and the European Union (EU) would probably follow suit and the peace process benefit.  Instead the United states even continues to denounce falsely such PKK negotiators as Sabri Ok, Remzi Kartal and Adem Uzun. among others as drug king-pins.  
 This leads to the additional misguided U.S. policy of continuing to list Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kudistan Regional government in Iraq and Jalal Talabani, the other main Iraqi Kurdish leader and now former President of Iraq, as terrorists.  The reality of the matter, of course, is that these two Iraqi Kurdish leaders have long been two of the main U.S. supporters in the volatile Middle East. When the U.S. NATO ally, Turkey, failed to support the United States invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, the Iraqi Kurds stepped to the front and did, his supplying the badly sealed Northern front against Saddam Hussain that Turkey was denying.   While almost 4,500 American soldiers died in the Iraq war, not a single American soldier has died in the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq.  Yet the Kurds two major leaders are officially listed as terrorists because of the stupidity of the law that lists them so because of their earlier resistance to Saddan Hussein who was then supported by the United States.
The late Nelson Mandela similarly fell afoul of a U.S. terrorist list for many years.  However, once the stupid label was lifted, negotiations were able to commence.
The stupidity of American foreign policy is even greater on the Kurdish issue as the United States continues to oppose Iraqi Kurdish independence in favor of a non-existent Iraqi unity.  The Iraqi Kurds have done everything they possibly could to make post-Sadam Iraq work, but recent events have shown that the artificially created State is now probably  irrevocably split into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish parts. Trying to force Kurdish back into a non-workable situation simply does not make sense.  This is particularly so when the other two parts of former Iraq are foes of the United States while the Kurds are practically begging for an American alliance.  Indeed to accept the Kurdish offer of alliance would no longer alienate Turkey as that State itself has now officially  declared that it would accept Iraqi Kurdish independence on top of the economic and political cooperation that the two have enjoyed now for some time.           
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Professor shortly after reading his article and was pleased to learn that he is somewhat of an expert on the Kurds and has a new book in the printing process - if you would be interested in reading more - about a religious people, a people devoted to their homeland and - a friend of the United States.