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Friday, December 09, 2016

Answer to Prayers?

There's a signpost up ahead.

A friend asked, "What was the most remarkable answer to a prayer you've prayed?" I was stumped. There are so many remarkable answers to prayers I've seen I can't really choose. God has answered long nagging prayers, formal prayers, walking prayers, thought prayers and one word cries for help. One of the most memorable ones happened when my wife and I were running an intergenerational day care center in Tyler, Texas.

We'd been working hard that autumn to get the budget under control and to handle some personnel issues we had going at the time. There were three individuals in particular who were giving us a hard time in particular. We'd gotten the budget under control, but in doing so we took a little of the authority away from the folks who had gotten us into trouble in the first place. I'd gotten a grant to cover my own salary so the center wouldn't be on the hook for that. We revised the accounting system with another grant that gave us a consulting CPA. We were on our way to having a healthy cash reserve in order to move the center from the church facility we were then occupying into a new facility we were planning to build or purchase. 

The church was unhappy with us. They were worried about a recent incident at another church center and feared we could be sued if something like that happened with us.  Secondly, they had been carrying the financial overages for the center and couldn't why the books looked good but the center was unable to contribute rent to the church. Finally, one of the staff, a church member was sowing discontent in the congregation because she'd not been given the executive director job and I had.

In the middle of all of this, Sheila and I decided one Saturday afternoon in April to drive out to Caddo Lake where our daughter and son-in-law and my son were camping with friends. On the way, we drove past the day care center and saw three cars in the parking lot. It was our three disgruntled employees.

We though, "Oh, oh, this can't be good." I dropped by and sure enough the two department heads and the bookkeeper where huddled in the office. When we came through the door you never saw a guiltier looking bunch. When I asked them what they were up to, they all looked guilty and made vague excuses for being there. Sheila and I left after a few minutes and headed off across country for the lake. 

As we drove, we talked about the problem. Staff loyalties were divided and trouble was a-comin' to be sure and we both knew it. After an hour of talking about possible solutions, we couldn't find one. Firing the bunch would alienate the church because one of them was a member. The staff, meanwhile not realizing what was going on, would find it arbitrary and there were 26 women working there and me the only male. Just so you know, the alpha dog thing doesn't work among groups of humans. When you have 26 female employees, you're just outnumbered and there's nothing you can do about it. 

So we took it to God. I drove and Sheila prayed because I'm better at the one and she's better at the other. In God's work you learn to stick to the talents he's given you.  After we prayed, we drove along quietly for a time. Finally, my wife turned and asked, "You got anything yet?"

I shrugged. " The only thing that comes to my mind is, 'Be still and know that I am God.'"

"That's funny," Sheila answered. "I had that same thought. I prayed all night about that and that's what I kept getting over and over all night long."

"It's going to be tough to do basically nothing," I shook my head.

We drove on along this tiny two-lane backwoods East Texas road for a few more minutes in silence, me thinking, this is one problem that's going to take some action. If I didn't get ahead of this little revolt, the whole thing could come apart. 

Then suddenly my eyes were drawn to a pretty little white country church along the road up ahead. It had one of those message board signs out front and I kept my eyes on it as the words became readable. In big black letters it said, "Be still and know that I am God."

I did a double-take. "Did you see that?" I asked incredulously. Sheila turned and looked hard at me, then quietly nodded.

"I think we've had as clear an answer as we're going to get," she laughed.

You're always a little quiet when God has spoken to you that clearly. We drove on to the lake and had a lovely day with the kids. On the way back, we thanked God for his answer. Monday, we went back to work and did what we should have done, just like any normal day. Our three revolutionaries didn't say much for the next few days until it became obvious that the wrath of Tom was not going to fall upon them.

Sheila and I remained still and let things work out. Within three months, the childcare director was offered a better paying job, the bookkeeper quit without warning and the titular adult director quit suddenly. I gave her two weeks severance pay.  All were replaced with very nice people who helped us a lot. The center lasted another year, but economic factors forced us to close. When we did, we were a happy group who hated to be going our separate ways. I still have friends from our time there.

As it turned out, God solved our problem for us. All we had to do was be still and know who was God and who was not!

 © 2016 by Tom King

Monday, December 05, 2016

Everybody's a Critic

One of the side effects of the Internet has unfortunately been the provision of a forum for the proverbial "experts who can't do anything." It is said that those who can do, those who can't teach and those who can't teach become critics.  I think I may have been the one who said that.

In any case, with the rise of the "comment" thread it seems everyone or at least most everyone, has taken it upon him or herself to lay into every book, movie, song, restaurant, sports team, or work of art, act of Congress or noble endeavor that goes on. Used to be it was a rare thing to find fault with something artistic much beyond, whether we liked it or didn't like it. Now, with the free and unfettered forum provided by the Internet, we all seem to need to get a lick in at everything in sight.

It's kind of sad because people that never actually make anything beautiful or pleasant or fun, have taken up positions in the digital duck blind and make themselves feel important by taking pot shots at anyone who dares to make the effort to actually do something or make something. We're fast becoming a nation of grouchy old critics - Waldorf and Statler sitting in life's bleachers making smug snide comments at everything.

It's sad really because taking on the job of critic makes you feel like you ought to say something critical about a thing if you review it. I've tried doing reviews on Amazon. I always feel a little guilty because I don't find a lot of fault. I do a lot of first novel reviews for fellow authors and the usually get five stars and an attaboy. I know how it feels to get 3 stars or to have people find fault with what you do and I can't seem to muster the courage to poke holes in what I know was somebody's labor of love. It seems a pretty rotten thing to do. I try to be honest, but to focus on what I liked about something.

What brought all this on was I watched a Christmasey movie of Disney's. It was a kids movie and I found the animation and the songs and the story just amazing. Commenters at the space below the movie on the Internet, however, lined up to find fault with the movie. Some were understandably sick of hearing the "Let it Go" song, but the reason they were sick of it was because everybody was singing it and it gets stuck in your head because the song is so well done. Retroactively hammering the movie won't make your kids love the movie or the song any less and you're still going to have to listen to your little princess sing it over and over and over again.

When they went after "Tangled" which is one of my more recent Disney favorites, they done stepped over the line. It was a lovely movie with an upbeat ending. Some dim bulb went on and on about how disappointed she was that it wasn't "darker".  That's all we need in this world - to show our kids sad and depressive movies. The world is plenty dark without post-modernist cartoons putting our kids on Prozac. 

A critic the other day criticized the movie, "Hacksaw Ridge" for not inventing a scene where Desmond Doss had to choose to let someone die because he refused to pick up a gun. Even though the movie is closely based on a true story and that scene never happened. Another critic claimed some of the story was unbelievable even though Doss actually kicked a grenade away from fellow soldiers and was permanently disabled because of it. The critic wanted the actual story fixed to better suit his worldview in essence instead of allowing the story to be told as it was - reality not being good enough for Hollywood and all. It left certain questions unanswered for the critic. So when did life have to answer all your questions, man? Get used to it. Life does what it wants to you. You write your own story from life as it smacks you in the face. And it's never the story you thought it would be in the beginning of it.

I think those of us who are members of the Internet generation should spend a little more time in the real world. We should examine our values and our ethics and decide whether or not we believe the whole Golden Rule thing as a way of life. kid about blaming Disney for our current generation that seems to think everything can be solved by magic and to some extent, Disney's magical fairy tales have contributed to that to some extent. I really blame parents who don't take the time to talk about movies and TV shows that their kids see. If you raise a child by setting him in front of a TV set all day, you shouldn't be surprised if they develop a somewhat distorted outlook on life. You also have to take them out in the woods, go camping, hiking, take them fishing or canoeing or to visit museums, historical sites and do things together if you want a kid to view life realistically and not as some contrived story.

And perhaps instead of picking and fault-finding with the hard work of others, we should look for what we like about that work and not only encourage authors, artists, and craftsmen to give us more of what we enjoyed about their work, but we should also go out and do a little creating on our own. We are, after all, created in God's image. We are born creative. It is how we are like him. I really believe God made us because He wanted to see what we would come up with. I think God wanted children who could make Him smile.

So maybe let's lighten up on being critics. It's more fun simply diving into the amazingly creative things God's children have made and simply enjoying it for what it is. It's what our Father would have us do.

© 2016 by Tom King

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Publishing's New Slavers - Writers Are Revolting!

Writer's are revolting and tightwad publishers would heartily agree!  The romantic characterization of writers in film and television is pretty much a figment of delirious, underfed writers' imaginations. The truth is that, unless they are smart, freelancers can wind up little more than underpaid drudges. At Christmas time, the image of poor old Bob Cratchit springs to mind.

The Internet arrived on the scene to great fanfare in the late 80s/early 90s.
It was going to change the world they said.  And by gum, it has!  Fortunes have been made. New business, marketing and communications tools have networked ordinary raggedy folk to potentially everybody else in the world (except perhaps Communist China where they really don't want their people knowing what's going on in the rest of the world). Industries have been rattled. Traditional publishing in particular is trying to figure out how to survive survive in a world in which writers can publish their own books and take all the royalties for themselves. The music industry is facing a similar threat from indie artists who record their songs in their living rooms with relatively inexpensive equipment and computer software for their PCs.

I'm personally trying to figure out how to self-publish and market my own stuff. Traditional publishing is fast becoming an inbred, risk-averse cloister. Independent self-publishing is actually fairly simple and inexpensive compared to what it once was. The learning curve isn't all that steep even, but there are forces out there arrayed against us indie freelancers that make it difficult to survive long enough as a writer to finish that first blockbuster book and make it a success. The economy has been part of it as the tides of the 8 year economic downturn seems bent on forcing us back to our old jobs as Walmart greeters.

If people worry about illegal immigrants and foreign workers taking their jobs, they should try my line of work. Freelancing is now international. Writers used to earn their wings in the pulp magazine industry writing stories for a paltry penny a word and eating a lot of spam and oatmeal. This was back in the 20s, 30s and 40s when Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Dashiel Hammett earned a living writing stories for cranky editors at 2 cents a word. They considered themselves lucky to make that much. The worked hard and fast and learned their craft. It doesn't work quite like that anymore.

The pulp publishers are back once more exploiting writers!  Outfits like Demand Studio, eLance, Upwork and other "content" publishers are exploiting writers like crazy. Their writing clients post jobs for $4.75 and hour and demand "premium" writers and they have no shame about offering writers less than minimum wage. I had a guy offer me .003 cents a word today.  No, I didn't add an extra "0". That's three tenths of a cent per word. I've seen them offer .001 cent a word. A pulp fiction publisher during the Great Depression would have been ashamed to offer that rate of pay to its writers. But then, they didn't have access to the Pakistani, Filipino, Nigerian and Malaysian writing pools like today's slave-owner/publishers do today.

These shady operators can get away with paying semi-literate writers sub-sub-minimum wages to fill up pages that people will never read anyway because with the Internet being international, they can get away with it.
  It's a way for a foreign client selling in the states via the World Wide Web to beat minimum wage laws. These publishing jobbers have found a niche market, put up exciting sounding titles and then filled the web pages and links with flashy pictures, cheap copy, some titillation and a few outright lies to get people to click on the pages. It's called click-bait and it manages to make money delivering shoddy products. Then the page owners can bill advertisers for the clicks and pageviews and keep a steady stream of pennies coming into their coffers. They make their living wasting people's time pretty much.

A liberal friend of mine says we writers should unionize. That won't work though. Most of us became free-lancers because that way nobody could take our money and tell us what to do. I do agree that we need to organize and thanks to the free market we already are beginning to do so.  Bands of talented writers are even now banding together into writer's groups or guilds of writers and pooling their talents with editors, graphic designers, artists and other writers to provide clients with a reliable source of copywriting and to do a better job of publishing their own work. I think it's a really promising way to go for the future. Just need a little capital.

With the rise of the Internet we already begun to cast off the chains of the traditional publishing gatekeepers who used to send back our manuscripts time and time again
. As recently as the turn of the millennium, a brilliant writer like J.K. Rowling was turned down by publishers and told to keep her day job, because, they told her, "No kid would read a thick book like that."

Who knows how many brilliant books and novels have been lost because some prissy New York editor didn't like a manuscript that came across her desk? It almost happened to many successful novels like Rowlings' "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (12 rejections), or "A Wrinkle in Time" (26 rejections), "The Diary of Anne Frank" (15 times), "Gone With the Wind" (38 rejections), and Stephen King's "Carrie" (30 times).  Traditional publishers complain that the market is saturated and killing the book industry. And they are right. There are a lot of poor quality novels out there. There are also a lot of really good novels and books out there as well.

Nowadays you can publish your own work and Amazon will sell it for you. Bookstores are dying on the vine as a direct result of traditional publishing's increasingly flawed business model. Traditional publishers will argue that only they can properly market a book. The problem with that is that for the last 3 decades, traditional publishers have demanded more and more that first time writers do their own marketing and offered relatively little support for them, focusing instead on the big payback authors like Tom Clancy, whose own book "The Hunt for Red October" was rejected by 12 publishers before tiny publishing house The Naval Institute Press to a chance on him. Now that first edition sells for over $500 if you can find a copy. The publisher kept reprinting as fast as they could till they finally sold the rights to Random House because they couldn't keep up with demand.

A traditional publisher considers a book that sold 10 or 20,000 copies to be a failure and the author might pull down a return of a couple of thousand if he's lucky. He won't sell another book to that publisher, however. That was my experience with my only traditionally published novel. I didn't market my book for them very well due to some personal issues that were going on at the time which took all my efforts. I only made a few hundred dollars for almost a year's work trying to get the book published. And they approached me.

For an indie author, however, selling 10 or 20,000 copies of a book might be quite a haul since he's not sharing the profits with a big publisher who isn't really helping him all that much anyway. If I am selling an eBook on Amazon, for instance, I make 70% of the retail in some cases.  If I were selling an eBook for $2 and sold as few as 2000 copies, my gross profit on the book could be $2800 dollars. If I put out the book in a month, which is actually doable, I could live on that. That's a whole lot more than 5 to 15% of total sales. Not only that, but I would still own the rights to my book and it would never be out-of-print if I didn't want it to be. If I want to reprint them or to hook up with a print-on-demand publisher, I can make my book available forever. That way if someone ten years down the road discovers my book series and wants to read more, they can always get a copy and don't have to rely on used bookstores.

It's a changing world for writers and artists out there, but beware; there are still creepy Scroogey types out there who would chain you to a desk and limit you to one piece of coal per day.

© 2016 by Tom King

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Little Boxes Filled with Tiny Numbers

I have decided to enter a more productive phase of my life.

Henry David Thoreau once said that he went to the woods to live "deliberately".  Good old H.D. understood that back in civilization, it is the bookkeepers who rule and where the bookkeepers rule, no one lives as he wishes. He lives as others wish. 

I too want to live deliberately. I just have to finish up all this paperwork that the government wants from me. Have I told you how much I HATE paperwork?  Other people seem to relish paperwork - they make paperwork their life's work. Some even get advanced degrees in the art of paperwork. 

For me, however, filling in boxes with numbers makes me a little crazy and a whole lot cranky. I'm not sure why. It could be my ADHD. When I am done with all this paperwork, however, I am assured by those who appear to need this paperwork to give their live meaning, that things will be better for me.  At least it will be better until once again it is not and they demand that I fill out more paperwork.

You see, this is why I'm opposed to bigger government. The bigger the government, the more bureaucrats we have. The more bureaucrats we have, the more little boxes on sheets of paper they create for us to fill in in order. These little data filled boxes apparently give meaning to the pathetic and boring lives of bureaucrats.

To paraphrase Voltaire, "I tabulate, therefore I am."

A Harvard sociologist once suggested that people with ADD served as pioneers in the United States, moving the frontiers of the fledgling country westward and southward till they hit the ocean or the Mexican borders and ran out of places to go. He suggested that this impulse to move away from "civilization" was, in part, due to a powerful desire to escape the tyranny of bookkeepers and bureaucrats. I suspect Thoreau was feeling that pressure of rule by bureaucracy, when he went to Walden Pond. Being a good liberal, he didn't stay very long at Walden Pond, torn apparently between the desire to "live deliberately" and the desire to embrace the collective and make sure the slow-witted of the world were forced to be happy and secure. 

It's a very odd thing that so many on the left claim to hate being restricted in their behavior and desire freedom from various kinds of moral, religious and government oppression. Yet, at the same time, they believe so strongly that mankind should be moving toward some vast form of collectivist government in which smart people tell all the slower-witted folks what to do - a system that gives the masses just enough food, clothing, and shelter to keep the proletariat from revolting against the benevolent so the leaders of said better government can enjoy the well-deserved fruits of the peasants' labor. 

Collectivism is supposed to solve all our problems. If everybody serves the state (another name for the collective), then, we're told, we will all blossom forth as creative productive human beings without the necessity of religion or even the tyranny of morality. So if we will just obey the state, we'll all be free from the need to be good? 

Don't kid yourself, there are plenty of slow-witted
voters out there ready to join the "proletariat".
Me? I aim to misbehave (just as soon as I get all the paperwork submitted).

© 2016 by Tom King


*Just for fun, check out this totally serious dude writing on a Portland-based website about how wonderful all the guys up there in the placards in the picture above are. He does not, however, mention the hundreds of millions of dead people they left behind while creating their wonderful workers' paradises. Funny that.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

My 2016 Election Prophecy

I have a prediction that I am confident is 100% accurate.* I call it the loser pred-election. I tend to vote for the loser. In the past six elections I have voted for the winner only 16% of the time. It would have been 33%, but I had just moved in one instance and didn't change my voter registration in time so I couldn't vote. I mean I could have but my official precinct was 300 miles from where I was living or, as we would say in Texas during the Carter 55 mph speed limit stupidity. "just under six hours away. Because I was too lazy to take a day off work (unpaid) and spend 12 hours driving, I missed the chance to vote for the guy who won and to improve my win-loss record by 16%. I didn't actually didn't know I'd missed out on a winner until after the Democrats made two or three runs at adjusting the Florida vote tally and the Supreme Court finally handed down a ruling settling the matter.

I considered voting for Clinton this time just to jinx her, but then one of my friends convinced me that a vote for Trump was a vote for Clinton, so by that logic, a vote for Clinton was a vote for Trump and being #NeverTrump, I didn't want to do that either.
Can you imagine what sorts of "entertainment" a strip club owner like Trump would bring into the White House. The ghost of Dolly Madison would flee the family quarters in abject horror. The thought of Dolly's shade aimlessly wandering the halls of the Rayburn Building, homeless and sad is just too much guilt for me to bear.  I want no part of it.~

So I voted for Evan McMullin. In part, he got my vote because I agree with him on most stuff and partly because it would hack off my bigoted "Christian" buddies who think it's a sin to vote for a Mormon but it's okay to vote for a phony Christian who "doesn't bring God into it."  It being his mistakes which Trump doesn't feel the need to ask God for forgiveness for.

Given all that, though I can't predict a winner this time, I can confidently predict who the losers in this election will be:
  1. All third party candidates
  2. The American people

Scripture talks about the last trump sounding just before the second coming. You have to wonder if Saints Paul and John weren't offering up a surprisingly specific prophecy about the actual name of the last loud noise before end of the world. Still, whether the prophecy is symbolic or specific, and though I look forward to the second coming, I won't vote for it to happen, just in case everybody that wants on board the Jesus Train hasn't stepped off the platform yet.

 Just sayin'

© 2016 by Tom King

* This post is based on a comment I made to this week's "Random Thoughts by Mark Milliorn" post.

Monday, October 31, 2016

How We Wound Up Back in the Box

And How Do We Get Out?

Here we are eight days till we choose the form of the Destructor and most of the electorate is locked into a black and white, binary mindset.
It's an either or choice for Mr. and Mrs. (or Ms.) America, and few of us have the ability to think much beyond that. The idea that there might be something outside the box we are presented is too much of a strain on our brains in this busy world we inhabit. Anything outside the box just isn't worth the effort to think about. It doesn't matter that our "choices" are both the same.

I'm not going to talk about the election here, so hang with me for a bit.  I want to talk about choices. It's a depressing thought, but the current condition of our lives is the result, primarily, of a long series of choices we have made. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not ruling out tragedy. I've had my share of those and I know how tragedy can knock you off course. I'm not ruling out blind luck. That happens too. But even external factors have limited influence as to what kind of person you eventually become.

That does not mean that if all your choices are the right ones that you'll wind up wealthy and prosperous. Christ arguably made all the right choices and look where he wound up. His disciples didn't do any better. None of them wound up dying peacefully in their beds as old rich dudes. Almost to a man they died hard. The only one who died old was boiled in oil and spent his golden years breaking rocks on the Roman equivalent of Alcatraz Island.

That doesn't mean that Peter, James and John and the gang were failures or made wrong choices.. The Sanhedrin thought Jesus was a failure, but his followers became arguably the most influential religious group in the world. The Sanhedrin's followers wound up cycling through the gas ovens at Auschwitz and surviving as a tiny remnant fighting for their lives.

I'm not going to lament here about the good old days. They weren't all that good. Back then, most of the world worked themselves to an early grave in their 30s or 40s. If hard labor didn't kill them, disease, warfare, pestilence and famine did. Civilization remained pretty much the same from generation to generation. Nobody thought things would get any better. After all, everything had stayed the same with only incremental variation from Babylonian to Medieval times.  A few great thinkers tried to make choices outside the traditional boxes they grew up in. Most were quickly squashed by some thug who didn't want anything to get better because new technology and new ideas like Christianity's whole Golden Rule thing had the potential to mess up the deal that the big dogs had going for them. Serfs exercising free choice to the bosses seemed a very bad thing. So, as a way to keep everyone in line, they reduced their choices down to a simple either/or choice, neither of which actually changed anything.

Gruel with salt or gruel without salt?

The Founding Fathers had a great idea that dumbfounded the rest of the civilized world. It was the idea that we all are commoners and all are equal in the sight of God and therefore should all be equal in the sight of the law. The American ideal took decision-making out of the binary box where you had two choices, both of which were bad. In the beginning, the electoral system was all over the place and you wound up with things like John Adams as president and his arch-rival Thomas Jefferson as veep. In most cultures, there would likely have been an assassination with that arrangement, but instead there was a lifelong friendship between the two, despite their vast political differences. And the country got along pretty well.

Almost immediately, however, the folk who think they should run everything began trying to stuff us back into the binary boxes again. Within a hundred years our betters have whittled the scattering of political parties we once had down to two and only two parties. They have confidently proclaimed that we have a two-party system now, despite the fact that there's no provision for any such thing in the Constitution! Third parties it is agreed are unAmerican things and are unhelpful in decision-making for the good of all.

It's always about power isn't it?  People, thinking outside of the approved boxes, make it so hard for the rulers to rule. Out of the box thinkers have created all the innovation we've seen in the past 200 years. The world has changed. Communication, transportation, information sharing and processing, technology and art have blown up in recent years creating massive new tools for even more out of the box thinking.

Now look around and see who is trying to busily stuff us back in to those binary boxes again - you know the gruel with salt or gruel without salt kind of boxes. Those are they guys you want to watch out for. They need to reduce communication down to a manageable level. To many opinions lead to disruption after all. They want to limit transportation so we can't run around meddling in the social order without permission. They'll want to limit choices of all kinds and take over information sharing technologies like the Internet. They'll use fear, bullying and intimidation, over-regulation and meddling in your private lives. They'll call such liberty restricting collective efforts for the good of mankind and tell you that you are a bad person if you don't go along with it.

It's all really about simplifying how things work so that our choices are limited to what our betters think they should be. Nothing upsets folk in power like having the proletariat make choices that are outside the approved box o' choices. Too much choice makes the masses hard to control.

Can we break the cycle? Of course we can. Will we do it?  Probably not. And it's not just the leader class that make it hard to change. We are our own worst enemies in that respect. Out of the box choices are difficult to understand and often require hard work. Thinking independently may result in your separating yourself from the herd. But that makes us uncomfortable. There's security in the herd and just enough of the illusion of free choice to keep the cows content and to provide the bulls with plenty of amusement.

We are making the kind of choices that Dr. Jerry Harvey described in his brilliant paper "The Abilene Paradox". You should read it. It's a revelation. We Americans have wound up someplace we didn't want to wind up because our leaders have kept reducing things down to either/or choices and we've gone along with it.  The family in the "Trip to Abilene" story makes a miserable trip to Abilene to a restaurant in 105 degree summer temps in an un-air-conditioned truck after a series of either/or decisions based on false assumptions and in-the-box thinking.

We're there folks. Arguably the most important choice we Americans have to make has been reduced to a choice between the lesser of two evils. We've driven to Abilene and now we've got the whole long miserable drive back to look forward to. As for me and my house, I'm getting out of the truck and off the merry-go-round. It's time!

And I do want to apologize. I know I said I wouldn't, but I somehow I wound up back at the election. But it's not just about elections. It's about the choices we make in our lives. My wife and I chose a long time ago to go where God would have us go and do what He would have us do. It's kind of been a career like the disciples and the road has at times been hard, but one thing about letting God guide your choices. He keeps you out of boxes. This does not mean you'll be entirely comfortable. It does mean it's more likey that your decisions will actually be your decisions and not the decision of the herd.  The Truth will set you free of those boxes we were talking about.

I don't like boxes anyway, so that's okay with me.

© 2016 by Tom King

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Marriage Is NOT an Antiquated Institution

The day my life got better.
The other day someone made the comment that she didn't think that marriage was "important' anymore. The group immediately chimed in with various comments about how it was an antiquated institution and not really needed anymore. "In patriarchal societies," opined one newly minted college-grad, "marriage was a matter of survival." Apparently not any longer according to this batch of millennials. The whole thing started over a lament about the divorce of "Brangelina" - a relationship begun in unfaithfulness in the first place. In their disappointment over the end of another "true love", the ladies were prepared to say marriage was obsolete as an institution in the modern world.

I beg to differ. The survival of my own 42 year-long love affair with the one and only woman I ever married, has long depended on our refusal to don our parachutes at the altar. Standing in front of Pastor Milton Reiber in a country chapel in the piney woods of Mississippi, Sheila and I made a lifelong commitment to each other. Promises were made that brooked no backing out. The idea was never considered. We signed the pledge in writing. I still carry my now faded, wallet-sized marriage license with me wherever I go. What has not faded is the commitment that little blue document represents.

While others of my generation were pledging "till we fall out of love", my wife and I pledged, "Till death do us part." And we meant it, even though we had no idea of what a rough ride it might prove to be. Because of our stubborn determination to honor that pledge, through tragedy, trial, struggle, good times and hard times, we have both known that we could always look over and find our best friend and lover always there beside us. 

Are we the perfect couple? Hardly. Neither of us is perfect. We understood that going in. We did, however, know that we both served the same master and we both had chosen that our lives should end up at the same place. We tried our best to believe the best, do our best and trust each other's love no matter what. It's never been easy. Life isn't. Not with the devil our adversary walking about like a roaring adversary seeking whom he may devour. But for all the struggle we've endured, I would not trade the love I've shared with my precious wife for anything on this Earth - not fame, not wealth, or power.

We have traveled this life together as God has led us, she and I. God has promised to be our teacher and so we did our best to sit still in the classes. We did our best to learn, however uncomfortable the lessons being taught. Over the past four decades, we've done our best to serve our children, loved ones and our fellow human beings as best we knew how. It has not made us rich. Quite the contrary. But, it has, I believe, left the world a slightly better place for our having passed through it. That was our intent at any rate. God must be responsible for the outcome.

There are two kinds of people in the world - those who give and those who take - those who mostly wish to be entertained and to have others meet their needs and those who strive to meet the needs of others. The love that we chose, was the consciously giving kind - the sort that reveres the Golden Rule as opposed to lusting for the power of the gold that rules. We chose to give love rather than wait around to receive it. I truly believe that choosing to believe that love was something we do rather than something we strictly receive has made all the difference.

I'm a firm believer in marriage. It's God's teaching tool; something of a crucible in which the souls of a married pair are purified and strengthened, molded and melded. Marriage is not, of itself, some touchy-feely emotional state. It's doing first, putting someone else before your own self. It's living life deliberately and with principle. It's giving 100%, not 50/50. When you do that you have a relationship that always is more than what any one person can create on his or her own - it is always a relationship that is more than 100%, for when one is weak, the other is strong. And when both are strong, the two are more powerful than they can be separately and alone. If you've put the effort into it, the emotional state comes with it as a bonus and you are strong and faithful and powerful. 

God said it was not good that man should be alone. He was right. I know that for a hard fact. As poor as we are in this world's riches, as disabled as we both are in body and mind, and as tough as life sometimes gets for us, God has given us each other, two hearts beating as one, and that is enough for this life. The next one promises to be incredible and the great thing is that we get to start it as two hearts which have already become as one thanks to an intertwined life guided by the loving hand of He who set the universe to spinning.

You can't beat that with a stick.

2016 by Tom King

Monday, September 19, 2016

There is No God - Flaws in the Argument

I got jumped on in the comments section of some blog or other today. That happens a lot to Christian apologists, though I'm not sure that term is entirely accurate. I've never apologized for being a Christian or believing in God. If someone asks a question or proposes a flawed idea, I just jump into the conversation. I can't help myself.

My favorite math class in high school was Geometry, especially the bit about proofs and theorems. I loved using logic to prove geometric premises. I've always loved a good logical argument. It's one of the things I like about blogging and, really, the whole Internet for that matter. It used to take a week to comment on articles in newspapers or magazines to get a word in and even then they don't publish everyone's letters. With the Internet, it's a wide open free-for-all in the comment sections.

So the guys (there were two of  them) who jumped me in a YouTube comment thread were trying to explain why a Christian like me was silly and stupid and irrational. One of the guys wanted me to understand that atheism is not have a faith or a religion like Christians. They were devotees of science and rational thinking. He was religious in his fervor to explain to me how atheism was superior to religion. He invited me to abandon my faith in religion and accept science as my personal saviour.

The other guy, his handle was something like "El Science-O", simply assaulted me with logic.  "There is no evidence of god, so there is no reason to think there is one." Okay, let's go with that logic.  I have no evidence that there is an actual "El Science-O. That could be anybody pretending to be El Science-O. I have never seen El Science-O. I've never met anyone who has actually seen El Science-O. Therefore, quod erat demonstrandum, El Science-O does not exist.

The fact that one does not have the equipment, the experience or the ability to observe an intelligence which exists in extra-dimensional space, does not rule out the existence of God. In the same way, the fact that I don't have El Science-O's real name, address, phone number, email, and/or birth certificate means that, while I may choose not to believe in El Science-O, I cannot prove he does not exist.

What are they teaching in schools these days?  Certainly not logic. The best one can do if one honestly does not believe in God, is to be neutral on the subject. After all, people at one time could not prove with their eyesight that the Earth was round. They proved it mathematically, but until someone sailed around the globe and took a picture of it from space, there was no proof. In fact, all proof of the roundness of the planet comes to most of us second-hand. We believe the Earth is round because we trust our sources of information. It you want to see what the typical Internet atheist argument looks like, go visit the Flat Earth Society Website, where you will be treated to systems of "logic" which only entertain ideas and concepts that fit within the limitation of their observational and intellectual tools.

Now Internet atheists will no doubt resent my comparing them to Flat Earthers. After all, that's what Internet atheists call people who believe in God - Flat Earthers and believers in "a magical bearded man who made the Earth". The idea that Christian belief requires a suspension of logic and good sense is a logical fallacy. It requires far less faith in the unseen to be a Christian than it does in order to be an atheist. The atheist believes that his own tiny minority of human beings are right about the whole God thing and that EVERYONE else is completely wrong. Atheists must believe that 84% of all human beings are completely and utterly wrong about the one biggest thing in human history that most of us believe in.

Christians on the other hand have the luxury of believing that at least 85% of us human beings have at least some piece of the truth about God right. So of all the vast human race, Christians need only believe that 15% of us have it all wrong. I'm betting the 85% are right.  There is a God.

I shall conduct myself accordingly.

Just sayin'.

Tom King

© 2016