Sunday, August 27, 2006


I will be taking some time off from blogging for a short while to recharge my batteries. My brain needs a rest.


Everyone has a story.

Once a month on Saturday morning, the men at my church meet for breakfast. Each time we gather, someone from among us shares their story.

As a writer, I have enjoyed the privilege of playing a small part in creating a few stories. Among them are:

In my article, The Storyteller, I broke down the essential components of the story into five:

  1. Setting
  2. Characters
  3. Plot
  4. Conflict
  5. Theme

1. Setting: For the Christian with a mission, our stories take place in both broad and localized settings. And there are several.

Jesus said, "go into all the world ..." So, first and foremost, the earth itself is the overall setting for our story, for we have been commissioned to take His story to its four corners.

But there are other, localized settings as well, the turf on which our day-to-day stories unfold. The smallest, but yet most important setting of all, is our home, the place where we live with our family. Here, our story is played out in unmasked detail. Here, we are known most intimately, and our true selves are regularly exposed to the scrutiny of those we love most dearly.

We also live in several larger communities. Among them are the local church, our circle of friends, the workplace, our town, and other, smaller collections of people. Each represents a different mix of characters and personalities. Each presents its own challenges and opportunities.

2. Characters: Every story has at least two characters, a protagonist, or good guy, and an antagonist, or bad guy.

As the protagonist in my own story, I am challenged daily by a formidable foe, the devil. My purpose is to serve God, while my antagonist's purpose is to thwart me from my purpose. The day-to-day struggle between us brings the story its texture, its composition, its ebb and flow.

3. Plot: Every story is set into motion when the protagonist (that's me) discovers his goal and begins to move forward to achieve it. For the Christian (that's me again), our goal is to fulfill God's mission or purpose for our lives. Once we encounter that mission, or hear that call to service in our hearts, the plot of our story begins to unfold.

4. Conflict: Almost as soon as we begin, we encounter difficulty. Our foe, that nasty, antagonist devil, sets out to derail us from the track God has designed to take us toward His purpose, our mission.

Sadly, because of sin, evil is a very present reality. Often, the deeper we move into the purposes of God, the more our enemy throws at us. Conflict is thus an unavoidable component of the story.

5. Theme: The four components described above are common to all believers. But with this last one, Theme, we begin to discover our uniqueness.

God has invested in each of our lives, a one-of-a-kind theme. We might call it our unique purpose, our specialized mission. Some are called to foreign missions, often a specific nation or people group. Some are called to serve in the local church.

Some are called to teach, or preach. Others are called to administration. Some are called to mercy ministries, caring for the weak or infirm. There are as many callings as there are Christians, and each one is different from the other. Our unique life theme is connected to our story's unique, localized setting, and plays out with our unique cast of characters.

My unique life theme, my mission, my goal as the protagonist of my own, particular story, is the proclamation of the kingdom of God, the declaration of the rule and government of the Sovereign Lord over all of His creation.

What's yours?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday Reads: Links Worth a Look—No. 3

Over the last year, I have become a very big fan of Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a Professor Emeritus at California University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.

Hanson is a master at explaining history. He is the penultimate contextualizer, placing current events in the context of history. His insights are informed.

There are numerous other accomplishments on his resume, too many to list here. And he is also a farmer in central California, managing a vineyard that has been in his family for over one hundred years.

At last count, Hanson has written sixteen books. I have read two of them:

Hanson also owns a website which I visit often. Below are links to six of his articles. I encourage everyone who is concerned about current world events to read them.

The Brink of Madness August 4th, 2006
"... There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich ... In short, if we wish to learn what was going on in Europe in 1938, just look around."

A Strange War July 21st, 2006
"... neither Syria can overturn the Lebanese government nor can Iran the Iraqi democracy. Instead, both are afraid that their rhetoric may soon earn some hard bombing, since their “air defenses” are hardly defenses at all. So they tell Hamas and Hezbollah to tap their missile caches, kidnap a few soldiers, and generally try to turn the world’s attention to the collateral damage inflicted on “refugees” by a stirred-up Zionist enemy."

National Clarity July 17th, 2006
"Ultimately, the Bush administration needs to do a better job of presenting this current war in a far larger context. Jihadists of the Arab world for decades have been at war not with George Bush alone, but with modernity itself. The radical Middle East street may be fascinated by the Internet, satellite television, ATMs and cell phones — but not by the foreign anathema of democracies, religious tolerance, free markets and gender equality that ultimately accounts for such goodies."

Has Bush or the World Changed? July 14th, 2006
"... There is as much relief from realists as there is disappointment ... over a perceived change in U.S. foreign policy — what Time magazine clumsily dubbed “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy”... Has George Bush, or the world itself, changed in the last five years? ... the global village gets back to normal only after a Shane or Marshall Will Cane is willing to take on the outlaws alone and save those who can’t or won’t save themselves. So, remember, when, to everyone’s relief, such mavericks put down their six-shooters and ride off into the sunset, the killers often creep back into town."

The Israel Enigma July 10th, 2006
"... as we know from our own southern border, anytime a successful Westernized nation is adjacent to a poorer Third World country, primordial emotions like honor and envy cloud reason. Rather than concede that Western-style democracy, capitalism, personal freedom and the rule of law explain why a prosperous, stable Israel arose from scrub and rock, Palestinians fixate on "Zionism," "colonialism" and "racism.""

The Subtexts of War July 7th, 2006
"... the time will come when there is once again a Democratic administration. In that climate, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, and Howard Dean, or their epigones, will still have to persuade the American people that radical Islam means to destroy us. They can’t say their war is cooked up in Texas, but will instead have to deal with the Sheehanites and the loose-cannon bloggers they either appeased or encouraged."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Busting into America

Millions of people have illegally crossed our border and are living, working, and starting families in America. 1) What is wrong with the lives they have left behind in their home countries, 2) why are they stealing into ours, and 3) why is it wrong?

1) What is wrong with the lives they have left behind in their home countries? The nations from which illegals flee, are not built well. They do not work right. They are generally dysfunctional. Most of them are led by oppressive, manipulative, corrupt governments. The lives which the oppressed are able to eke out are lived in great distress and poverty. The governments of these nations do not function well because their foundations were not laid well.

2) Why are they stealing into our country? They come to America because, compared to the rest of the world, America works well. America was built right in the beginning. Her foundations were well laid, and that is why, despite the ongoing drift from our Judeo-Christian roots, we still function fairly well. The many blessings we enjoy have come to us by the grace of God. His Providential hand guided our predecessors through the Protestant Reformation, an era of world history where the truths and principles of God's Word were put into play on a grand scale, launching and reshaping nations, and giving birth to the culture of freedom we now enjoy.

3) Why is illegal immigration wrong? Illegally crossing the border is wrong. That is why it is called illegal. The businessmen and the politicians who participate are likewise wrong. As illegals sneak across our borders to better their lives, they are, in essence, stealing. Our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the design of our nation's Federalist system, have created an atmosphere in this country for every American to enjoy "the pursuit of happiness." Our laws provide protection and guarantees to our nation's citizens, so that we might press forward toward our individual and collective goals in peace and freedom. To come into this land without going through the proper, legal channels, is to particpate in the plunder and the pilfering of the wonderful American Dream. It is simply wrong, and we are foolish for allowing our leaders to look the other way.

Most of those among us who are here illegally are merely trying to better their lives. Though it is wrong, it is very hard to find fault with people who are trying to escape poverty and oppression. The nations from which they flee, as noted above, do not afford them the opportunities they can find here. It is understandable why anyone would want to live in America. It is the greatest country in the history of humankind.

In the end, though, isn't it true that people ultimately get the government they deserve? Yes, the question does leave one with a sense of harshness and perhaps even judgmentalism. It is clearly a statement easy for this American to make, sitting here in the comfort of my own home, food on my table, bills paid, and a job to go to tomorrow. Nonetheless, I believe it is a truism.

In our own land, we watch the national debt now soar beyond the 8 trillion dollar mark. We are a materialistic nation. Our growing debt is the price we pay, the price we will pass on to our children, for our love of things. Ultimately, we will get what we deserve.

In Iraq, as our soldiers and diplomats strive to help a new government gain control of a country that appears to be aflame with violence, one cannot help but wonder if democracy can truly work in that part of the world. For millenia, middle eastern culture has been a tribal-based system. One has to question whether the everyday person is truly equipped with the mindset and worldview to make self-government work. I credit those who are giving it their all to make it happen. I am just not sure it can actually last.

America and other western nations that have succeeded to some measure at self-government, do so largely because of the Judeo-Christian roots beneath them. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is about government. First, it teaches that God is King, that He rules or governs from heaven. Second, it teaches us to be self-governed under the aegis of His kingdom.

Nations and cultures who have little or no exposure to the truths of Holy Scripture are at a gross disadvantage when it comes to things like self-government and democracy. Such ideas spring from a worldview that comes naturally to us Americans. It is the life we have known now for generations.

But the nations from which so many seek to escape do not foster such a worldview. The best hope for those less fortunate than we in other parts of the world, is the gospel of the kingdom of God. Anywhere the seeds of God's kingdom are planted, watered, and nurtured, there exists the potential that they can grow and mature into a peaceful, self-governed, prosperous nation.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

National Dysfunctionality

Most Americans, I suspect, have some experience with family dysfunctionality. Dysfunctionality is just a fancy way of saying that things are not working the way they are supposed to be working.

Dysfunctional families generally have one or more members who suffer from some kind of addiction, and their struggle spills over and touches the lives of other family members. In the spotlight recently we learned of Mel Gibson's alcoholism and his despicable behavior when pulled over by police. Gibson is a family man, and although we have not heard much from the rest of his family, we can be certain that they, too, are suffering.

Alcoholism, though perhaps the most well-known among addictions, is certainly not the only malady inflicted upon families. There are a myriad of things any of us are susceptible to being addicted to. Among them are drugs, sex, television, gambling, and food. These are probably the most well known addictions in America, but certainly not the only ones.

Daytime television has brought the idea of addiction to the forefront of America's collective psyche. Programs like Oprah, Montel, Dr. Phil, and even Jerry Springer have been publicly exploring this theme for at least two decades. Via television, we are brought into family circles and are able to see how one person's addiction affects the others.

There are two words used by psychologists and other medical professionals which best describe the dynamics of family dsysfunctionality. The first word is "co-dependency." Co-dependency occurs when a person becomes psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or some other self-destructive behavior.

The most basic example of co-dependency would be a wife whose husband is addicted to alcohol and who tolerates his bad behavior out of fear of being alone or being without someone to take care of her. The woman is faced with a choice. She can stay with her husband and absorb his alcoholic abuse and its effects, or she can leave, forcing herself to stand on her own. In this classic scenario, women often feel that the second option is too frightening. Her fears of loneliness, and of having to provide her own financial support, seem more dreadful than living with her husband's alcoholism and its attendant behaviors.

In this case, if the woman chooses to remain with her husband, she becomes what psychologists and other medical professionals call "the enabler." The woman's ongoing co-dependent relationship with her husband, and her fear of confrontation with him over his alcoholism, place her in a role where she actually "enables" him in his addiction. As long as she puts up with him, covers up for him, puts on a public front, he is "enabled" to continue.

I propose to you that in addition to the millions of American families affected on a very personal level with some sort of dysfunction, our nation, too, is dysfunctional on a very large scale between a variety of different groups.

Let us look at politicians. In the past fifteen or twenty years, we have seen very clearly the dark underbelly of politics. As election time nears, Republicans are accused of pandering to the conservative evangelicals to win their votes in November. Likewise, Democrats are accused of pandering to their far-left constituents in the same way. These are actually more than accusations, they are a sad fact of politics—say and/or do whatever it takes to get re-elected.

Politicians are addicted to power. Their power comes from their position, and their position can only be maintained if they continue to get the votes of their constituents.

But it does not stop there. Constituents can likewise become "co-dependent" upon their politicians because their politicians do things for them. The clearest example is what has come to be known as "pork barrel" politics. "Pork barrel" politics describes government spending for the sole purpose of benefitting a group of constituents in return for their votes or campaign contributions, or both. The "co-dependency" occurs because the constituents become dependent upon the "goodies" regularly delivered by their politicians. By becoming dependent, and failing to reject their politician's wrongly motivated largesse, the constituents become the "enabler," allowing the politician to continue in his behavior, unhealthy as it might be for the country at large.

This is how our national debt grew to become so large. Click here to see how deeply our power-hungry politicians have taken our nation into debt.

There are a myriad of ways the "co-dependent" and "enabler" tags can be applied in national politics and governance. If you will apply the same principles described above to just about any relationship in government and politics, you will see the same patterns. In fact, Americans have become so dependent upon the government that we essentially take for granted now that the government's job is to care for us from "cradle to grave." Every time we vote for a politician solely because he/she did something that personally benefits us or our group, we are in the role of the "enabler," and are reinforcing the politician's unhealthy addiction to power.

I would like to close with a look at illegal immigration, and the odd, unhealthy relationships which our leaders have allowed, and their reasons for it. I will have to over-simplify and generalize to make my position as clear as I can. Please take that into account as you read on to the close.

Illegal aliens steal across our border primarily because they want to better their lives. They come here because we have been and remain, as Abraham Lincoln said, "the last best hope" of earth, not withstanding Jesus Christ, of course. People are not abandoning their homes and fleeing to Thailand or Uzbekistan. They are coming to America. Ever since the earliest days of our existence, America has been the most desirable place to live in the world.

Illegals take the risk of coming here because they can find work. Employers hire illegals because they can pay them very low wages. Politicians turn their heads because businesses pay taxes. Politicians also hope that if they "wink" at illegal immigration, the day will come when these illegals are made voting citizens.

Meanwhile, laws are being broken, fundamental American principles are being violated, and just about everyone is looking out for themselves first. The future of the country and the culture be damned.

We have sadly become an extremely dysfunctional nation. People (and I'm generalizing here) no longer do what is best for the country, but what furthers their wants and needs.

If this "co-dependent" behavior on a national scale is not halted, our destruction is certain. If we continue to "enable" our leaders in their self-serving, power-grabbing ways, the America that we have known and loved will be gone within a couple of generations.

Let us face our fears, be brave and bold, and do what so many have done in their own families. Let us stand up and put an end to our leaders' addiction to power. Let's vote the bums out this fall, put in men and women who have the courage and the backbone to do what is right, and set this nation back on its course.

Context 4: Global Warming?

The recent heat wave that scorched the nation does not match the summer of 1930.

A Bit of History for Global Warmers: Look at 1930
"From June 1 to August 31, 1930, 21 days had high temperatures that were 100 degrees or above ... That summer has never been approached, and it's not going to be approached this year."

Now That's Hot
"The highest temperature recorded anywhere on Earth was in Aziziyah, Libya, in September of 1922 – 136 degrees Fahrenheit."