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Friday, December 29, 2006

Sheila's Guest Editorial on the subject of Christmas

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

..........Or, as I like to call it

Why I can't afford Christmas Anymore

-

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

Boot up your P.C.

I’m sending you my E-mail list

(It’s modern, quick and free)

-

Margo wants a pink I-Pod

Cody wants the wii

Mommy wants some diamond studs

Dad – plasma TV

-

Grandma wants a membership

To the local gym

Grandpa wants a crate of steaks

(Tofu’s not for him)

-

My cousin “Jo” what a Ho

I’d love to tell you more

I guess a ten buck gift card works

But from the dollar store

-

As for me dear Santa Clause

I’m not hard at all

Just send cash and loads of it

I’ll need it at the mall

-

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Cheery Kwanzaa, A Jolly Ramadan

Blah, blah, blah…

-

And remember, at your New Year’s Eve party

q Egg nog has 400 calories per cup + 200 extra with the rum

q Champagne has 200 calories, sparkling non-alcoholic wine 80 calories

q Ginger Ale – 40, Club Soda – 0

q Enjoy your cloned hors d’oeuvres

q 0 trans fat crackers with no cholesterol, non fat, gag me with a spoon cheese balls

q or…. Eat the real stuff ‘cause it’s probably our last Christmas on Earth anyway unless the Mayans got it right and we have till 2012 before the planet is turned to powder…

-

So Happy New Years!!

-

Sheila King

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bring Back Who?

Headline, LA Times Editorial Section:
Jonathan Chait: Bring back Saddam Hussein
Restoring the dictator to power may give Iraqis the jolt of authority they need. Have a better solution?

You know, you really have to be doing some serious crack to write stuff like this. I mean already you've got to know this guy has a serious screw loose, but, hey, let's visit this guy's reasoning for just a minute anyway. I haven't visited the wacky palace in years and I have this morbid curiousity. Okay, here goes the rationale (the italics are Jon-Boy's):

1. Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale

Excuse me? Probably on a wider scale. This guy is proposing to bring back Hitler's kid brother because he thinks things may be worse. Let's not do any actual research here. Let's just go by the amount of negative media coverage. After all, a peaceful evening news is much more important than how many people are actually being slaughtered in Iraq.

2. Here is the basic dilemma: The government is run by Shiites, and the security agencies have been overrun by militias and death squads. The government is strong enough to terrorize the Sunnis into rebellion but not strong enough to crush this rebellion.

Okay, so our failure is that we didn't create a government strong enough to CRUSH a rebellion. I am sensing a theme developing here.

3. We may be strong enough to stop large-scale warfare or genocide, but we're not strong enough to stop pervasive chaos.

Oooh, ooh! I get it. Chaos is bad, but nice orderly deliberate mass murder is not so bad.

4. Hussein, however, has a proven record in that department. It may well be possible to reconstitute the Iraqi army and state bureaucracy we disbanded, and if so, that may be the only force capable of imposing order in Iraq

Again the same theme. We must have order above all, even if it means putting the Butcher of Baghdad back in the catbird seat.

5. Chaos and order each have a powerful self-sustaining logic. When people perceive a lack of order, they act in ways that further the disorder.

So, let me make sure I understand this. Chaos and disorder are so bad that we must put Saddam Hussein back in power to scare the bejeebers out of the Iraqis so that they will quit being chaotic and march into the killing fields in an orderly manner.

6. Restoring the expectation of order in Iraq will take some kind of large-scale psychological shock.

Well, Jon-Boy, putting Saddam back in power would certainly accomplish that.

7. The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel.

Aha! So Saddam wasn't paying Palestinians to blow themselves up? There weren't terrorist training camps in the desert? He didn't run over a neighboring country to try and steal their oil? He wasn't a problem after all. We were just imagining things.

8. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging.

So now that we've whupped up on him, he's going to be a good boy. Oh, yeah, I bet that would really work out well!

9. I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others.

I don't think it will do any good, but here goes.

a. It would confuse the heck out of the entire Middle East
b. It would demonstrate once and for all to terrorists everywhere that terrorism against the U.S. works
c. It would trade one kind of brutality for another - the only change is that it would be Saddam's problem and not ours.
d. If we ever get out of there on those terms, do you honestly think Saddam will ever be afraid of us again. Who in the world believes the US Congress would ever let a president go back to Iraq if Saddam gets frisky again?

Jon-Boy is the poster boy for the idea that order is more important than freedom. What we need is a big powerful government that can frighten the stupid masses into submission. He believes that even a bad leader, so long as he makes everyone want to behave themselves (even if it's because he's so quick to murder the unruly) is better than chaos and disorder.

There was a similar level of social chaos in Germany in the 20's and 30's. A powerful leader arose to calm things down. And lo and behold, the stupid masses lined up and marched onto the killing fields. The chaos ended.

Do these guys never read their history books?

Just one man's informed opinion.

Tom King

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Prophet Hath No Honor in His Own Country

Question:

Why will a woman take house building advice as thought it were gospel from a 19 year-old high school dropout with tool belt and a battered pickup truck that has "Kurt Kobain Konstruktion" painted on the side of it, as though it were gospel and reject out-of-hand the gentle suggestion of her own husband who loves her and has a master's degree in architecture?

Jesus said, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country." He had that right. As I recall his own family gave him no respect in Nazareth!

You can have a Ph.D. in English and 20 years teaching experience in an ivy league university and your wife will call up her sister the high school dropout who lives in a trailer park in Akron, Ohio and ask her to write a letter for her because she's "so good with words...".

She'll take medical advice from someone named "Master of the Q-Tip" on an Internet chatroom rather than from the highly trained physician that you just paid $600 to and who has actually examined her (especially, if he happens to agree with what you've been telling her all along).

You could be an astro-physicist working at NASA and your wife will argue with you about tourist accommodations aboard the International Space Station because she heard from her cousin Bob, who's into "space stuff" that they "used these artificial gravity generators to keep your poop from floating out of the toilet!"

You could be a neuro-surgeon and your wife will get one of the kids to bandage her finger because "...you never can put a band-aid on right!".

You could be a Grand Prix race car driver and she'll nag you about how you are driving.

You could be a psychiatrist and she'll tell you that you don't understand her.

You could be an FBI hostage negotiator and she'll tell you to "...shut up and let me do the talking!"

You could be a lion tamer and she wouldn't let you own a kitten because you'd just let it die if you were in charge.

You could be a jeweler and she'd get her brother Elton, the thrice-convicted burglar, to repair her broken necklace because he knows so much about "valuables".

You could be a Certified Public Account and she wouldn't let you balance the checkbook without double checking your work!

You could be president of the country, making decisions about the fate of nations and your wife wouldn't let you decide what necktie to wear!

I wonder about these things.

You always hear that women will ask if you will "respect them in the morning" before they sleep with you the first time. Maybe the better question would be, "Will she respect me in the morning if she sleeps with me?"

Rodney Daingerfield had the answer to that one. "It's tough to stay married," he said. "My wife kisses the dog on the lips.. but she won't drink from my glass!"

You've been a great crowd!

Tom King

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Keepers of the Earth


I had the privilege this week of spending time with a collection of some of this world's most beautiful creatures. I spent an enthralling afternoon with Brian Werner and his wife, Terri of Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. Tiger Creek is a tribute to the vision and mule-headedness of a man who believes deep in his soul that God has called him to a sacred task.

Tiger Creek is home to more than 36 tigers, lions, cougars and other big cats, rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment. Brian's team collects tigers from all over the nation from private owners who find the task of caring for one of these beautiful creatures is too much.
These amazing cats chuffed a raspy how-do-you-do to Brian whenever they caught sight of him. As the day ended, they began roaring at each other, one after another bursting out in a sharp basso profundo burst of sound that must have had every deer, javelina hog, possum and racoon in the surrounding woods diving for cover. It was an amazing sound.
It reminded me of what man was put here for in the first place. We have two things we were supposed to do on the Earth. First, we were put in charge of keeping up the gardens. Then, Adam had to name the animals and I expect since we named them we were expected to take care of them.

Sadly, like children with their pets, we have proved irresponsible in that duty. Of 8 subspecies of tigers at the beginning of the last century we're down to 3. Scientists think two varieties have disappeared within the last few years.

I agree with Brian. We do have a sacred duty from God to take care of the animals, to dress the garden and clean up our messes. Some on the far right believe you can exploit willy nilly and it's okay since we're the big kahuna species on Earth. On the far left, many believe we shouldn't interfere with nature at all and withdraw to a few human reservations and let nature go "natural".

I don't buy either option. I think God expects us to keep and tend the Earth. I think we should intervene, especially when it is our fault for the mess nature is in. I think we ought to try and fix it if we can.

What a lovely thing to do for your life's work. I envy Brian and Terri.
Just one man's opinion.

Tom

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blame It On the Good Guys!

If you read the Old Testament, God comes off as rather a harsh character. On the one hand the writers talk about God's mercy and goodness and on the other hand they describe in detail, His vengence and anger. So which is it? Is God merciful or vengeful? Love and peace or war and revenge!

Does God, who tells us not to kill, for instance, kill people Himself in violation of his own law? What happened to the God of Love?

The best explanation I ever heard for this conundrum was given to a group of us by a brilliant theologian I knew. He explained the whole thing using gravity and a pair of glasses. His explanation went like this:

"If I let go of this pair of glasses," he explained extending his hand with a pair of reading glasses in them, "What would happen?" he asked.

We all looked down at the tile floor and answered, "They would break."

"Why would they break?" he asked again.

"Because you dropped them," we explained.

"And not because of gravity?"

"Well," we hesitated.

"And whose fault would it be that the glasses were broken?" he challenged us.

"Yours," we answered (we thought quite reasonably).

"And not God's?" he suggested. "After all God was the one who created gravity in the first place."

"Yeah, but you dropped the glasses..." someone protested.

"Yes, but without the law of gravity and without intertia, both laws of physics created by God, the glasses would never have broken would they?"

"Well, no, but..."

"Then the broken glasses are ultimately God's fault aren't they?" he asked.

"Well, uh..." We opened and closed our jaws, like a row of stunned goldfish.

Elder Lewis went on to say that he believed that God does not bring death, but that, in fact, the text that states, "The wages of sin is death" is quite literal. Sin and evil inevitably leads to death. This is a law like gravity. If we observe this world for any length of time, you can clearly see that unrestrained evil leads inevitably to death. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Saddam, Napoleon - all purveyor's of massive death in an effort to satisfy their lust for power.

If God is the ultimate good, then he can hardly be responsible for death. He gave his Son specifically to conquer death and evil. Notice, it was we who took Christ's life, not God. In this world we have a choice. If we let go of the glasses, they will fall and break. That's what happens if you drop something fragile onto a hard surface. In the same manner if we choose to do something which we are warned will lead to death, who do we blame for our choice. If we place a gun to our head and pull the trigger, who killed us.

God was not responsible for the holocaust or Stalin's or Saddam's or Atilla's extermination of millions of innocent people. At the end of the world, I suspect He will not be responsible for its ultimate destruction either. God has told us what evil leads to just as my physics teacher told me what would happen if I released a fragile object from a height and let it fall.

It's funny how we are so quick to blame God when bad things happen. It effectively draws attention away from who is actually responsible - the one who chose to do the bad thing; the one who inspired the evil deed in the first place; the one who would assume the place of God.

Kind of reminds me of U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan's farewell speech this week in which he blamed the U.S. for pretty much all the bad things going on in the world. If things are bad, why do we always want to blame it on the good guys - never on the guys who are actually beheading and blowing up people willy nilly. Why is that?

Now who could be behind all that misdirection. Who would want to blame God or Christianity or the U.S. for all that nasty terrorism? Who, who who?

Could it be, uh............

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Monday, December 11, 2006

Trolls and the Free Market System

A peaceful farmer once lived and worked at the edge of a great forest. He went into the forest each day to find firewood with which he cooked his food and warmed his home. He collected herbs and game there with which to feed himself and his family and heal their illnesses.

In the wood there lived several trolls. The farmer, to avoid problems with the trolls, brought them gifts of food, clothing, blankets and other necessities. In exchange, the trolls allowed the farmer to gather firewood, healing plants and hunt game within the forest.

The trolls constantly fought among themselves for supremacy, though what any one of them would have done had he truly ruled the forest was never really thought through. At last, the largest and most powerful of the trolls got it into his head that all this fighting and strife among himself and his brethren was really the fault of the farmer - forgetting, of course, that trolls had been fighting among themselves for centuries before the farmer ever settled along the borders of ther forest.

It never occurred to the trolls that they were better off than they had ever been before the farmer came along. They had good food, clothing and warm blankets in the winter. They looked upon the farmer and his productive lands with envy and purposed to kill the farmer and take all that he had for themselves.

The farmer got wind of the plot (trolls tend to talk too loud) and gathered up his family in the middle of the night and fled with his tools and his knowledge of farming and went to stay in the next valley over. There he waited.

The trolls, disappointed that they had not had the pleasure of killing the farmer, were nevertheless happy to have his farm and goods. They struggled for days to figure out how to make the farm equipment work and to coax food from the farmhouse kitchen, but to no avail. Soon they had eaten all the stores from the farm and were forced to return to foraging for their sustainance.

Unfortunately, during the years of trading with the farmer, the trolls had forgotten how to forage for themselves. They soon began to starve. They began to fight among themselves and soon there were only a few trolls left alive in the forest.

Meanwhile, the farmer had been making secret forays into the forest to see what the trolls were up to. When he knew that the trolls' in-fighting had made them defenseless and weak, he gathered his family and returned to the farm. Hearing that the farmer had returned, the remaining trolls tried one last desperate attack, but they were met with dogs and guns and pitchforks and were driven back into the forest.

The next day, a large force of men from several neighboring valleys joined the farmer and together they cleared the forest of trolls. Those who survived were driven far away where they were forced to scavenge just to stay alive. The new land was poor and no one wanted to trade with them anymore because of their reputation for treachery. Over time, the trolls became extinct and were never seen in the world again.

The Moral of the Story: Probably the one about not doing anything uncouth in your own nest works best for this one.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Signs from God


When my son Micah was only 4 years old, my wife Sheila composed a song. She never knew where it came from. It was not like her other music. She always said the words came to her like dictation. The words were these:

CORIN THE PIPER
by Sheila King

Corin the Piper lives here no more
He and his mother left when he was four
Some day there'll be music, same as before
But it won't be easy for Corin
lives here no more

1. I sit here at the window, watchin' the children play
They don't know I'm even here, but they come here every day.
Sometimes the tears start fallin', and I wonder what they're for
Until I remember, Corin lives here no more

2. He filled my days with laughter, sunshine and song,
And Corin, the drummer, was seldom ever wrong.
Sometimes I hear him singing, and my heart starts to soar.
And then I remember, Corin lives here no more.

-------
The song was written before we ever became interested in Celtic Music. We tried to puzzle out the meaning of the song for years and where it came from, but we never could. Sheila, like most mothers, has a mental image of her children and they are always a certain age. Meg is 3, Micah is 4 and Matt is 6 in her mind's eye. We never connected the song to Micah until after his death in January 2006. One day, about two months after Micah died, she was sitting in the rocking chair that she bought when he was born. She was crying. From where she sat by the window in our living room she was looking out across the road toward the little park by the lake. Without thinking, she began humming the first verse of that song and suddenly realized that the song described what she was experiencing at that very moment.

God knew! He looked 24 years into the future and saw her sitting there by the window, watching kids play in the park across the street and he gave her a song to let her know that all of this was in his hands. He knew and he reached out across two decades and said, "I understand but don't be afraid. He is in my hands now.". She told me about her experience when I got home from work that day and recognized it immediately as something from God.

We were still puzzled about the name in the song. So, I looked it up on the Internet and there is actually a Scottish clan called Corin. My son took after my wife's McKay ancestors, tall and blonde and big. He wore a kilt to have his graduation picture taken in it, so it made sense. When Sheila wrote the song, she'd never heard the name before. I once asked her where she got the name. She said it just came with the song.

When I looked up the web page, I was struck by the Corin Clan motto:

This is the way to heaven!

I have to believe God was telling me that for my son, this was the time God had chosen to take him home so that he would win his way through to heaven. We are in God's hands after all. I worry about the line that says "He and his mother - left when he was four". I worry that the song may be for me and that I may lose Sheila too. It frightens me, but whatever happens, I do know God will make it all come out okay. The next day after she told me about the song, as I was driving home, God gave me one more verse for the song.

In the evenings I would watch him, walk up the path alone.
His head bowed and weary from a day gone on too long.
And I know that he is sleeping; till I see him once more
But I can't forget that Corin, lives here no more.

It felt like closure and I needed that.

Here's Sheila singing the song.




The video is dark because I had to sneak this video without Sheila knowing I was recording. Her performance was perfect as always. I wish she hadn't made me sing along. I imagine this was the last time she will ever sing this song. It was recorded January, 2004 - two years before Micah died.

Finally, when our first son was born, Sheila had a long tough labor. She kept passing out between contractions. Then, suddenly, she sat straight up and said, "Isaiah 54: 1 and 13." Then she passed out again. I looked at the two ladies that were sitting with her along with me.

"Did you hear what I heard?" one asked.

"If you heard 'Isaiah 54: 1 and 13' I did?"

We all agreed that's what we heard, so I looked it up. I had my Bible beside the bed. The translation read, "Sing aloud oh barren woman, shout for joy, you who have never been in labor."

At that point everbody started laughing. I went on. "For the children of the barren one shall be more than of she who is beloved by her husband." That one I didn't get and for years it bothered us, but verse 13 was pretty clear. "Your sons shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be your son's prosperity and in triumph shall you be restored." It's the only translation where it reads just like that, but most translations are pretty close. Some say sons, some say children. We understood that and as our rambunctious, head-strong boys grew up, we often claimed that promise for God to be their teacher.

When Micah died without children, we were reminded of the "children of the barren" part of God's promise to Sheila. When we saw all the children who came to his service and heard story after story about Micah's kindness to "his kids", we began to realize what this promise had meant. Though Micah never had kids of his own, he left behind more children than we will ever know. Three years later, we still meet kids who talk about him and how much he meant to them. When he died three large local elementary schools had to bring in grief counselors to help the children.

I don't know what lies along the path ahead of us, but I have confidence that God will light the way. Till then, I guess we'll just walk it as best we can.

Just one man's epiphany....

Tom King