Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gold, Common Sense, and Fur

This is one of my all time favorite Christmas recollections. Perhaps you can relate. Our family certainly can :)

by Linda C. Stafford from Chicken Soup from the Soul
My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married for five years, but hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if He would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His word as my guide. God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, He blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter.
My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella."
I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children and I didn't want to disappoint Him.
I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs.
When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess.
In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.
While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother. I didn't even come close. I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God.
I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus, too.
Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his "last wife."
My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine. My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes."
My four-year-old "Mary" said, "That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing.
I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, "Mama, Mama." Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived. My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur."
The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. "I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one," Pastor Brian laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. "For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur."
"My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing," I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Rev. Billy Graham

What I truly love about Billy Graham is that he is who he is whether he is preaching to a stadium filled with people or writing a book.  In either setting, Rev. Graham always seems he is talking just to you in a treasured one-on-one conversation and that makes for not only good preaching but good reading. Turning the pages of his latest offering, Nearing Home I get the feeling I am sitting on his front porch listening as he imparts wisdom, shares scriptures, and invites us to live every moment of our lives for Christ, even our latter years.

"We never know at what stage, or age, we are living the last chapter of life. Some do not survive birth. Others are taken in their youth. Many are snatched from this earth in the prime of life" (Graham, 2011, pg. 163). It is those simple words found in the pages of Billy Graham's latest book titled, "Nearing Home" that have struck a chord with me and made me realize his message within this book is not just for the aging but for the young adult and middle aged. This book provides a great source of wisdom about life. However, living, dying and the in-between is consistently examined through a biblical lens which is encouraging.

Rev. Graham's thoughts range from the practical (living wills and estate plans, making your own funeral arrangements) to the inspirational (keeping depression, crankiness and loneliness from seeping in, the importance of making amends). He returns often to the theme of making peace with one's declining physical abilities. As always, Rev. Graham tells the story with vast Biblical knowledge, grace, integrity, and beautiful simplicity. The book is filled with wisdom from this spiritual giant of a man, the most celebrated and followed minister of our time. His complete love and devotion to his Lord, Jesus Christ, and his family are totally evident as he remembers life-events and gives simple, loving advice to the reader.

Most poignant for me, though, were the moments when Mr. Graham becomes reflective about his wife Ruth, who died four years ago, and about his personal interactions with others, including President Reagan during his declining years with Alzheimer's and a pastor in South Carolina whose television broadcasts Mr. Graham comes to rely on for spiritual sustenance.

I highly recommend this book. Its not just for people "Nearing Home". Its for anyone who wants to know how to age gracefully in God's eyes. The words of Psalm 92:14 come to mind, "They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing."

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holding Out For A Hero - Why Character Still Matters

Don’t you hate it when you get a song wedged into your thought process for a few days? My latest ear worm is that eighties hit from Bonnie Tyler featured in the movie, Footloose.  Most of my ear worms are random songs that float into my stream of consciousness, but I know this one bubbled to the surface for a reason. Thinking about which GOP presidential hopeful’s name to write down in the Iowa Caucus in January has me thinking, “Where have all the good men gone?”

Where is a leader of good character when you need one? The fabric of American history is woven with political men and women of character. The honesty of George Washington who chopped down the cherry tree. Young Lincoln who walked miles to correct an insignificant error of accounting. Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House. Nathan Hale, who regretted he had but one life to give for his country. There once was a time when an individual’s character, principles and virtues were the first qualifications laid on the table when one was considered for political office. In the more than two centuries since the U.S. was founded, there has been a great shift in public attitudes toward the importance of character development. In 1790, the U.S.’ first President, George Washington, wrote to his nephew that “a good moral character is the first essential in a man.” Lately we have been having a national debate over the issue of the private actions and personal character of public officials. Specifically we have been confronted with the issue of whether such a person ought only to be judged by his official performance in office, or also by his personal actions and his private lifestyle. In 2011, does character count?

On both sides of the aisle, Americans seem to hold a double-standard as to whether character indeed matters. Liberals, who professed to be appalled by the one accusation against Clarence Thomas, dismissed President Bill Clinton’s behavior as no big deal. Conservatives argued at the time, that character mattered. Liberals replied, in effect, that it didn’t. In 2008, Democrats argued that as long as you can get the job done… it really doesn’t matter what kind of character you have. In fact, a majority of Americans seemed to have felt that way and Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.  Conservatives argued that character did indeed matter. We held up the tenet that “you can always recognize a man’s true character by the people he surrounds himself with” when discussing President Barack Obama’s past associations. Over the years, President Obama kept company with some disturbing characters. He connected himself with domestic terrorists like William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.  He attended the church of an anti-American, racist minister, Jeremiah Wright for over 20 years. He is tied to corrupt people like Tony Rezko and corrupt organizations like ACORN. In our wiser moments, we have always understood that character, broadly defined, is important to possess for those in high public office, in part because it tells us whether our leaders warrant our trust, whether their word is dependable, and whether they are responsible. And one of the best indicators of character is the people with whom you associate. This is basic, elementary-school level common sense. Its something we are imparting to our nine-year-old son. As parents, we want him to hang around with the ‘right’ crowd instead of the ‘wrong’ crowd. We argue that the members  of the latter crowd would be a bad influence on him, it would reflect poorly on him, and he might end up getting into trouble.  What applies to my 9-year-old son should also apply to a presidential candidate.

Today it seems we have thrown out the tape measure when it comes to character. While we are busy implementing “Character Counts” programs in the nation’s classrooms to teach our children the importance of good character, we dismiss the notion that good character is required of our leaders. Look to former Godfather’s CEO and GOP presidential candidate, Herman Cain. People collectively booed when Maria Bartiromo asked Cain a question about the harassment allegations during a recent CNBC debate. I don’t know if the allegations are true or not.  Based on the booing and some of the commentary among conservatives it seems not only that we do not believe the accusations, but also that they wouldn’t trouble us even if they were true. But, I am not just talking about what happens behind closed doors. Look to Mitt Romney for yet another example of the notion that character no longer matters in the run for the White House. Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney  is a mercenary politician who treats principles as a means to greater power. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post sums Romney up like this, “Mitt Romney runs for president with the eye of a venture capitalist. He sees the profit in certain positions, discards those that are no longer profitable and moves on. He was pro-choice when it did him some good, instituted a health insurance plan that he now denounces and once supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants. Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. Romney offers his principles for some votes in Iowa.” Willing to sell his proverbial soul for the Oval Office. Character doesn’t seem to matter either when it comes to our newest front runner; Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich.  The fact that he teamed up with Al Sharpton on an education project seems of little importance. It matters not that Sharpton stirs violence and racial divisiveness at every opportunity. Abie Rubin mentions in a recent commentary that even though the project is over, Newt continued to act chummy with violence-inciting Al Sharpton even calling into his show and praising him for doing good things. Their seemingly continued relationship seems of little consequence as long as Newt can eviscerate Barack Obama in a debate and win. When it comes to finding good presidential material we seem to be willing to trade character for conduct and integrity for achievement. Its something that is starting to keep me up at night. It bothers me.

How do you separate the content of a man or woman’s character from their ability to lead? This question begs another, is the president just simply a worker bee in the hive of our nation? Is the role of the president to just be a mechanic of foreign policy and domestic concerns? Usually when we hire a tradesman to fix our house, we don’t care much about his personal morality. All that matters to us is that he can get the job done. Is that the way we view our president? Is he simply a mechanic, a contractor, a hired gun, of sorts? Or is he something more? Now, you might not care about the private ethics of your contractor, though you may. You might be careful about the kind of person you choose for those big jobs. Even contractors should be honest, one might argue, that dishonesty or immorality in one area of life might result in dishonesty and immorality in other areas of life. But one could argue that a contractor is valuable because he builds well and not because he lives well, that doing the task is the only thing that matters. Would you have the same attitude, though, about somebody who was to be a public spokesperson for you or your family, somebody that was going in your name? Would you care about the ethics of someone who was speaking to your children, or planning your future, laying the foundation for things that would deeply effect you personally?That’s different, it seems to me, because you’re not just talking about a contractor. You’re not just talking about somebody who will get a specific job done. You’re talking about a representative, an ambassador, someone who will represent you in a respectable way. You’re talking about someone who is planning your future. You’re talking about a role model, aren’t you? You are talking about a leader aren’t you?

Can someone lead without being of good character? Of course. In the Old Testament, Ahithophel (his name means “brother of folly”) was a statesman and counselor of kings, who enjoyed such great fame and popularity that his counsel “was as if a man inquired at the oracle of God” (2 Samuel 16:23). Ahithophel was a very wise and astute counselor. A more competent adviser could probably not have been found in all Israel. In his official capacity this was man without peer. But the issue here is more than competency. There is a character issue here. Ahithophel betrayed king David. Ahithophel was an opportunist. He had been advisor to King David (2 Samuel 15:12), until Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6), and then gave his allegiance to Absalom, apparently in the belief that he would somehow overcome David. He conspired with Absalom to the degree that David prayed, “O LORD …. turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel 15:31). Apparently, Ahithophel was adept at using psychological warfare to accomplish his “agenda.” Then, as if that were not foolishness enough, he seemed to forget the strong-hearted character of David, and advised a military operation that promised to frighten and overcome David, and bring his followers to their knees before Absalom (2 Samuel 17:1-3). Due to his efforts, he had the elders of Israel smiling and nodding at his brilliance (2 Samuel 17:4). Why was he willing to betray David so quickly? Ahithophel was Bathesheba’s grandfather. It may be that Ahithophel had never forgiven David for this. He may have taken this opportunity to avenge his daughter and Uriah, his son-in-law. These were after all crimes, both adultery and murder, that under the laws of Israel were punishable by death.

God had forgiven David and God had himself pronounced the judgments that would result from his sin. God had declared that his sin was put away and that David would not die. It seems that Ahithophel could not accept this. It seems that he continued to bear a grudge against David and to secretly plot revenge on him. His bitterness against and hatred of David caused him to cast aside God’s judgments in this matter and to substitute his own. It caused him to break his oath as a public official, his oath to David and to David’s God, the covenant that he had sworn, and to plot David’s downfall and death. This is preeminently a character issue. There is no question about Ahithophel’s competency to be David’s chief counselor, chief of staff, prime-minister, or whatever. However, his desire for personal revenge and his willingness to break his oath of office cast his character in a very bad light. If David had known the type of man that Ahithophel was (but not necessarily how this would manifest itself in his future actions), should he have kept him on as his chief adviser? Should David have reasoned that he was an excellent adviser? Should David have reasoned that character doesn’t matter? Should David have presumed that only performance of one’s official duties matter. Or should he have realized that one’s character will ultimately affect one’s official acts, as Ahithophel’s so tragically did? The answer here, with our hindsight, is perfectly obvious. Character matters. And Ahithophel’s character flaws almost cost David his life. Character issues can not be so easily dismissed.

Evidence that character matters in a leadership role can also be found in the story of post World War I Germany. Germany, like Egypt after the ten plagues, was destroyed. She was disarmed and allowed only minimal armed forces. She was stripped of her colonies and her naval fleet given to the Allies. The illegal (under international law) blockade of her coasts that had caused thousands of civilian deaths during the war was continued for a period after the armistice adding thousands more casualties, mainly women and children. The armistice that had been based on Woodrow Wilson’s famous fourteen points was reneged on and a harsh, punitive peace was forced on Germany. She was saddled with a huge war debt and staggering, unpayable reparations to the Allies. As the loser, she was unjustly blamed for the war, and treated as a pariah among the nations. The nation was in chaos. Unemployment rose to massive proportions. Inflation was rampant. Men were paid twice a day and the wives picked up the morning’s pay at noon so they could rush to the stores and spend it before prices doubled again. The social fabric was coming apart, revolution was in the air, and the communists were poised to seize power. The government, any government that accepted and conformed to the Treaty of Versailles, was held in contempt by the people. What happened to change all this?
A strong leader took the helm in Germany. He repudiated the hated Treaty of Versailles. He rebuilt Germany’s armed forces. He strengthened the economy and restored the nation to full employment. He suppressed the communists and restored law and order. He restored the nation’s pride and made Germany again a respected power among the nations of Europe. He was able to restore to Germany some of the territory taken from her after the war where millions of German citizens had been living under foreign occupation. And he was able to do all this without involving the nation in war. As some historians have pointed out, if Hitler (yes, you guessed right) had died in August of 1939 before the invasion of Poland, and the outbreak of the Second World War, he would have gone down as one of the most effective rulers in Germany’s history.

However there is no happy ending to this story. Hitler and the Nazis went on to lead Germany to another disastrous defeat and to national dismemberment. This time they were justly looked upon as a pariah among the nations. Again, what happened? What happened is that the character issue surfaced again. In spite of standing for many things the German people justly desired, and besides accomplishing some amazing things on behalf of the nation, there were from the beginning serious warning signs about the true nature of Adolph Hitler. He had already launched an aborted coup to seize control of the Bavarian government in Munich. From the prison cell where he wound up he had written a book, “Mein Kampf”, outlining his radical program for the German nation. He conducted a bloody, murderous purge of his more radical followers to make himself more acceptable to the nation in his bid for power. Once in power he speedily moved to subvert the ordinary forms of constitutional government and to seize totalitarian power for himself. The German people however seemed prepared to overlook these “character flaws”. The nation was strong and prosperous. Employment was good. What reason was there to complain? So they looked the other way as he seized total control of the nation. They acquiesced as he established a ruthless secret police and began to crush his political opposition. They accepted the concentration camps for undesirables and the politicization of the justice system to serve the ends of the Nazi Party. Finally they looked the other way as he began to implement his radical racial theories by persecuting Jews and Gypsies etc. In short the German people gave their answer to the issue that lies before the American people today. They decided that character doesn’t matter. They decided that all that mattered was performance in office. Hitler had delivered. The nation was better off than ever before. Long live Hitler! But neither Hitler nor the Third Reich had long to live. Ultimately Hitler’s character flaws brought the nation to ruin and destruction. Ultimately character mattered.

Character continues to matter today. People can argue that we should overlook character under the premise of “judge not lest you yourself be judged”. However, I believe good character and effective leadership are as inseparable as hydrogen and oxygen in water. The president we elect is not just as a drone, not just as a worker bee, not just as a mechanic, a contractor in domestic and foreign policy. He or she is an ambassador for us, a representative of the United States, a figurehead, a role model, for good or for ill. That’s why he or she should be an example not just administrative excellence–a qualified contractor–but of good character as well.  For me, good character births good governing by a leader. Peggy Noonan, speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan made the following observation, “In a president, character is everything. A president doesn’t have to be brilliant…He doesn’t have to be clever; you can hire clever. White Houses are always full of quick-witted people with ready advice on how to flip a senator or implement a strategy…But you can’t buy courage and decency; you can’t rent a strong moral sense. A president must bring those things with him.”
I challenge all of us, as the 2012 election approaches,  to disregard the admittedly biased mouthings of the MSM and research the candidates yourselves. Vote, not by party, but by principle. Be guided not by the opinions of talking heads and celebrities but by the dictates of your own conscience and common sense. Do not sympathize with those who have failed morally, or allow the lecherous, drunken or fiscally unsound private behaviors of someone requesting to serve as our leader to be glossed over but rather demand good character and adherence to high moral standards from those we put into positions of leadership. We are better than that. We need leaders who exemplify the standards we want our nation to adhere to who can demonstrate them to the world. We have the God-given freedom to do so, but with freedom comes responsibility. This is not someone else’s job – it is ours. We, like Bonnie Tyler, need to be “holding out for a hero”.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Actions Follow Our Attitudes - How Crony Capitalism is Destroying America

I love watching movie adaptations of Jane Austen novels. The opening scene from the movie Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant is memorable. As the movie, which is based on  Austen's classic tome of the same name opens, a dying father leaves his inheritance to his son after making the son promise that he will be very generous to his sisters. On the way home from his father’s deathbed the son’s hard-hearted wife gradually convinces her newly rich husband to keep the vast majority of his inheritance for himself and give his sisters only a token. We watch dumbfounded as good intentions are overwhelmed by greed.

Thinking about that movie scene brings to mind the scene unfolding in our country right now. Our government is full of people whose good intentions have become overwhelmed by greed. That greed is rearing its ugly head in the form of crony capitalism. Unfortunately what is happening isn't a movie scene or a work of fiction. It is a fact of our new reality. Its everywhere. One proverbial bad apple has spoiled the barrel that is Capitol Hill. As Governor Sarah Palin has mentioned in her recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Congress is rife with 'entrenched corruption'. "How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?" Palin asks. "How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge fund managers?" Governor Palin answersthe question with this, "Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves."

Peter Schweizer's new book, Throw Them All Out reveals the idea that for politicians, trading stocks while major legislation is being considered is standard practice. And unlike most of the efforts of Congress, this movement towards amassing wealth by corrupt means is a bipartisan effort. The recent 60 Minutes piece about this practice gives examples from both sides of the aisle. It highlighted trades made by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and by Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., chairman of the House Financial Services committee. Our Congress has corrupted itself to the point it is no longer recognizable as a governing body that upholds the principles of a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people'. Congress has morphed from a body of men and women serving others into an unrecognizable mass of people serving themselves, corrupted by their own greed.

However, the idea of greed corrupting people is not a new concept. King Solomon of Old Testament fame, penned scriptures decrying greed like "When you grab at all you can get, this is what happens – the more you get, the less you are" (Proverbs 1:19) and "A greedy and grasping person destroys community" (Proverbs 15:27a). Yet for all of his wisdom, Solomon never took his own advice to heart. He become the wealthiest man of his time. Solomon was so rich that he was known far and wide not only for his wisdom but also for his wealth (not to mention his wives). Solomon was enslaved by greed and changed by it.

To further illustrate how greed can corrupt one's idenity, look to the story of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gollum started out as a fairly good-natured Hobbit. Originally, his name was Smeagol. But in his selfish obsession with possessing the ring and the powers it held, Smeagol was transformed – actually deformed is a better word – into Gollum. As the story progresses, his entire body is disfigured into a hideous, slimy creature that prowls the land looking for his precious ring. He is tortured by the ring, but strangely compelled onward. His life becomes a living hell. He loses his name. He is consumed by this twisted desire. In the end, he is known only by the strange gulping sound that he makes – Gollum. In his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, World Vision CEO Richard Stearns describes the power the ring has over Gollum:
"I am a huge  Lord of the Rings fan. I have read the books several times and have watched the movies more than once as well. In the story, the Ring of Power has magical powers that, among other things, allow its wearer to become invisible. Ironically, though, whoever possesses the Ring ultimately finds that the Ring possesses him, as the allure of its power becomes too great to resist. The more one wears it and experiences its power, the harder it is to remove it or to part with it. The miserable Gollum, once so possessed by desire for it, had been reduced to a shriveled and pathetic creature who thought of nothing else but his "precious"–the One Ring. He had all but lost his humanity."
Stearns is intimating that the things we possess and obsess over end up, in fact, possessing and destroying us. The story of Gollum is a mirror to not just Congress, but also our culture. It is often said that our attitudes shape our actions. Just look to how little emphasis America as a whole puts on Thanksgiving Day. Have you noticed that the store colors and d├ęcor changes from orange and black to red and green overnight? They trade the pumpkins and witches for Santa and Christmas trees. One of the local radio stations has already started their 24/7 Christmas music playlists.  Christmas lights have been adorning our streets for a couple of weeks. So for most Americans, Thanksgiving is becoming little more than a speed bump between Halloween and Christmas. I recently saw a cartoon that had a Pilgrim husband and wife getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey is on the table, but the wife is putting up a Christmas tree, and the husband asks: "Can that at least wait until after dinner?"

Thanksgiving is becoming the vanishing holiday. For millions of Americans Thanksgiving means shoving down your dinner so you can get a jump start on Christmas shopping. This year, a record number of stores will also be open on Thanksgiving day. Americans seem to be out to get the most stuff at the best possible deal. Don't get me wrong, as a wife and mom of a large family I am often found in the 'coupon clippers' lane at the grocery store, but I won't sacrifice what is truly important to get a good deal, to get more than we need. I won't destroy or warp our Thanksgiving, which is for giving thanks to our Lord for all of our blessings including our nation. My attitude is shaping my actions.

Gollum's attitude of greed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one that shapes his actions. He becomes sneaky, deceptive, and even willing to commit murder to keep the power the ring holds. Attitude also shapes the Hobbits' actions too. Hobbits, Frodo and Samwise know that they must destroy the ring or its power will corrupt and destroy Middle Earth. The ring must be thrown into the fire of Mount Doom and destroyed forever. Like Middle Earth, America is being destroyed. Our country is becoming unrecognizable through our own actions. Our legislative body is quickly becoming a hideous carricature of itself, no longer out to serve the people but themselves. I believe in some ways, Senator John McCain was right when he called us Hobbits. What senators and congressmen alike must remember is that they started out like hobbits too.
Unfortunately the crony capitalism infesting the fabric of our nation is turning them all into unrecognizable, despicable characters like Gollum. Twentieth President of the United States, James A. Garfield said the following, "The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature." Like it or not, our attitudes are relflected in our actions. We have elected those in Congress who are now destroying our country. The good intentions they had of serving "We the People" have become overwhelmed by the greed that has become all too much a part of our society. We need to change our attitude and take new action. We need to get America back on track. We need to grasp the ring back from Congress' hands by holding them accountable for their actions. We need to destroy the power that crony capitalism holds in our government. It is time for us to return to our fundamental Judeo-Christian roots, live by the Constitution and elect citizens who will serve the people elected and not their own selfish interests.

*This is cross-posted at Conservatives4Palin where Moira Crooks is a contributor.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief

Have you ever finished reading a book, only to want to pick it up and begin reading it all over again? The Grace Effect:How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief

The book opens and closes with reenacted conversations with renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens, Larry Alex Taunton's book The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief unveils how Christianity is indeed a powerful force in a world that has shunned grace.

Taunton movingly articulates how God's impacting grace and truth can be utilized in our fallen world, even a world surrounded by unbelief and apathy. Moreover the impact of grace is "observable phenomenon" inasmuch as human experience is perceptibly enhanced where "authentic Christianity flourishes." On the surface, the book tells the triumphant story of an orphan girl whose life is transformed - a powerful story, and a true story. But it is much more than that. It is a fascinating blend of history, the theology of true Christian grace and the reality of a little girl's life in the face of an ungraceful society. This book lays out a compelling case for the need for authentic Christianity in society. The book reads very conversationally as Taunton richly infuses his narrative with history, humor, and helpful illustrations from his own past.

I highly recommend this book, not only to Christians who might need a reminder of how blessed we are to live in a country impacted by God's Grace, but also to non believers who feel a secular society is what America should become.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
, by Larry Alex Taunton is such a book. I couldn't put it down and when I did finish reading it, I wanted to pick it up and read it from cover to cover again immediately. I suspect it is a book that I will keep re-reading many times over.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is Real for Kids

My children couldn't wait for me to read this book to them. We used it as part of one of our Family Fun Nights where we discuss scripture and then do a fun activity. Heaven is For Real for Kids is written in Colton's own words about his experience. Young kids will easily be able to grasp Colton's simple phrasing and descriptions, and once again, each page is illustrated beautifully. The message of love will surely bring peace, comfort, and joy to all who read it.
There were so many things that I really liked about this book. First of all, there are scripture verses on every page. I like how the Burpos showed that what Colton was saying did indeed tie in with the Word of God, as it should. Secondly, the illustrations are absolutely stunning. Wilson Ong did a fantastic job of portraying Colton's visit to Heaven. Thirdly, this book was so reassuring. We have six children ages 9 through 7 months and I enjoy this book because it starts the conversation about what Heaven is like. It takes away some of the 'scary' unknowns of Heaven and presents the kids with some possibilities of what Heaven may indeed be like. I want my children to long for the day when we'll all be there. So much mystery surrounds it sometimes, and I think this book gently met my children's desire to know more about their own level. My oldest son really enjoyed the section in the back of the book that had a question and answer format to it. This is a book I can see reading to my children over and over through the years.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255  : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission

"Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission" by Dr. Ronnie Floyd is supposed to be a book about participating in the Great Commission. Evangelism is at the core of our mission as Christians, and Dr. Floyd put together this book as a result of his appointment as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this book. I prepared myself to be challenged & inspired with participation in the Great Commission. I thought there would be some good in-depth doctrine about evangelism, or at the very least there would be some new ground-breaking ideas that would example how to share our faith, especially reaching out to our own neighbors as well as those half a world away. Sadly, there was little to none of it.

The teaching on tithing was a bit unexpected, but flatly driven by guilt & sadly too typical of the teaching that people expect from pastors of evangelical mega-churches. The thrust was: give to us (the local church) all the money you can afford & more without question or any personal responsibility. Dr. Floyd does make a good point in that money is needed in order to spread the gospel, but he misses a great opportunity to drive this home with guilt-laden, out-of-context teaching.

I was hoping for a great book that would inspire people to share the gospel & give them the tools with which to do it. I just don't feel that this book is the book I was hoping it would be.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If the Shoe Fits...

I admit it. I am a sucker for a great pair of shoes. My three-year-old daughter, Tessa is following in my footsteps and in fact, she loves the Disney movie Cinderella  because of the shoes Cinderella wears to the ball. She absolutely loves the part where the Grand Duke is going around trying the glass slipper on any and everyone looking for Prince Charming's true love. Cinderella dances all night at the ball with Prince Charming but must Cinderella overhears her step-mother inform her step-sisters that no one knows the identity of the girl loved by the prince, and that he will marry whomever the slipper fits. Realizing her sweetheart's identity, and that he is searching for her, Cinderella goes to get her shoe. Seeing the dreamy look on Cinderella's face, Lady Tremaine deduces that she is the mystery woman and locks her in the attic. Just then, the Grand Duke arrives and offers the slipper to Drizella and Anastasia. While the two big-footed women attempt to don the dainty shoe, Jaq and Gus-Gus steal the key to Cinderella's door from Lady Tremaine's pocket. After dragging the heavy key up the stairs to the attic, Jaq and Gus-Gus succeed in freeing their friend despite interference from Lucifer. Before Cinderella can try on the slipper, however, the vindictive step-mother trips the lackey carrying the slipper and it shatters. The Grand Duke is devastated until Cinderella happily shows him the slipper's mate and dons it. My daughter squeals with delight everytime she sees the glass slipper fit perfectly onto Cinderella's foot. Of course you and I both know there is more to the story than a killer pair of heels.

Cinderella's story is far from unique. In fact, the term, "Cinderella Story" has been used over the years as a metaphor which describes the story of an unlikely person rising to greatness. There was not coincidentally the movie "Cinderella Man" about the boxer Jim Braddock during the Great Depression. And it was about his unlikely rise from injury and poverty, to where he defeated the world champion Max Baer. Maybe you saw the film "Seabiscuit." That was a similar story, only with a race horse. Those are stories that inspire us aren’t they? We get a thrill when we hear of the poor boy who becomes a great sports star, or of the deaf girl Helen Keller who makes a great name for herself, or when we read the legend of the poor young squire, who pulls the sword from the stone and becomes king of all England.

Its a story woven throughout the Bible. It is clear from the scriptures that God loves the Cinderella story, too. Most of the people God called for great things were not great people – not by the world’s standards, anyway. They were fishermen, like most of the disciples. They were young men like Jeremiah, and young girls like Mary. They were old men and women like Abraham and Sarah and Zechariah and Elizabeth. And they were shepherds like David. Instead of a glass slipper, the great prophet Samuel comes with a horn full of oil, and instructions from God to anoint the next king. The Lord tells him to choose a king from among the sons of Jesse, and so they’re all lined up, like the ugly sisters putting out their foot. They were all brought before the prophet one by one, like the wicked step-sisters. And like that story, the glass slipper fit none of them. It’s only when the last son is fetched, the most insignificant boy, the shepherd-lad, too small for the ceremony, that God tells Samuel, This is the man. 

 I have to admit something else, too. Since Governor Palin announced October 5 that she was not going to seek the GOP nomination, I have been taking a closer look at the declared candidates. I have been trying to slip the shoe of what I look for in a President onto the wrong-sized feet of every last one. The further I look into each one's records and positions on everything from American Exceptionalism to foreign policy, I cannot be convinced that anyone else can fill Gov. Palin's shoes. You can just look at Jon Huntsman and know there is no way these shoes are going to be a fit. Not even close. Mitt Romney's feet aren't a fit either. Just look at Romneycare or his stance on the debt ceiling to know that his political feet are too big goverment for these shoes. Senator Ron Paul's feet are just a bit too narrow. Despite fitting better than some of the others when it comes to domestic policy concerns like the economy, the glass slippers are way too tight in the toes of foreign policy, especially in concern to our greatest ally, Israel. Governor Rick Perry's feet won't fit either. His history of crony capitalism and the HPV mandate make certain for an uncomfortable fit. Michele Bachman looks like she might have the right-sized political feet to slip into the glass slippers, in fact at times it looks like she is wearing them. However, upon closer inspection you can see her shoes are only knock-offs. While immitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it doesn't hold water in shoe buying or for presidential contenders either. Former Godfather's CEO,Herman Cain is the last of the group to try on the shoes. While it seems like they may fit, they are a little too big. The presidency is is not an entry level position. He has no political experience and that has a way of becoming suddenly and painfully obvious.These shoes are high heels and need to be worn by someone who knows how.

The current GOP field of contenders it seems has forgotten the idea that support of Gov. Palin is unwaivering. Now, Now that Gov. Palin no longer seems to pose a threat because she doesn't appear to be running, every candidate will be scrambling to get Palinistas to pull the lever for them come primary season. They will be working hard to convince you they can slip into Sarah Palin's shoes. I am reminded of a conversation in one of my favorite movies, Steel Magnolias. Clairee asks Truvy what size shoes she wears. Truvy, played by Dolly Parton, responds, "In a good shoe, I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight." Evidence of the GOP field trying to force the shoes to fit is visible by their co-opting of Gov. Palin's playbook. Several of the candidates have now become quick advocates for drilling in Alaska's Artic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR), but Gov. Palin was a "Drill, Baby, Drill" proponent long before this homegrown energy concept was cool. But the shoehorning can be even more blatant than just copying a broad idea. For instance, Michele Bachmann told NBC's Today show "it's very clear that crony capitalism could likely have been the cause" of Governor Perry's executive order mandating the shots, saying his former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Merck. Bachmann's "crony capitalism" line was the same one Sarah Palin used in her speech at a Tea Party rally in Iowa in early September in which she criticized the "permanent political class" and "the collusion of big government and big business." By the way in the original Brothers Grimm version of the Cinderella story, it does indeed get a little more grim when it comes to Cinderella's sisters trying on the shoes. In the original story of Cinderella, one of the sisters cuts off a toe and the other slices off her heel,so that they could try to fit into the glass slipper! I fully expect the current GOP field to continue cutting off this and that from their talking points to make a better fit as they woo Palin supporters.

In the Disney version, its not as cut and dried as Cinderella slipping on that shoe and heading off into the sunset with her Prince Charming to live happily ever after. While the 'happily ever after' does eventually arrive, there is an obstacle shackling Cinderella and the Prince's happiness. Knowing that the slipper will fit and that Cinderella will marry the Prince, her stepmother trips the footman over while he is carrying the slipper, causing it to drop and shatter into hundreds of pieces All hope seems lost in that moment. Lady Tremaine saw her daughters, Cinderella's step-sisters as the ones who were expected to go to the ball, the ones who were marriageable. Cinderella was nothing more than a servant to her, not worthy of her notice, let alone a Prince's. Yet in the end she was the one who wowed the ball-goers, she caught the attention of the Prince, her foot which fitted the glass slipper.

The GOP establishment, the cocktail party Republicans, and cafeteria conservatives are all propping up Mitt Romney right now. In fact, just prior to both Governor Christie of New Jersey's announcement that he would not run for President and Gov. Palin's announcement that she would not run, one of the RNC talking heads made the statement that they already had their candidate. They don't want Gov. Palin to run. They think of her as someone useful like a servant, but of no real consequence. They certainly weren't going to push for her to be their choice. Like Cinderella though, Gov. Palin wowed "We the People". She has caught the attention of concerned constitutional conservatives across this nation. The shoes do indeed fit her. The permanent political class in America knows this, much like Lady Tremaine knew the glass slipper fit Cinderella perfectly, so they shattered the idea that Gov. Palin could be electable.

That saying is true - The perfect pair of shoes can change your life. Just ask Cinderella. The perfect shoes have changed my life and like the Grand Duke in the Disney story, I am unwilling to try to make them fit someone else. Only Governor Palin fits into those shoes. While the GOP has tried to force her out and it seems all hope is lost because the title or shoe if you will of candidacy seems to have been shattered, remember the other shoe still exists.In Cinderella, The Duke laments over the broken slipper, but Cinderella then reveals she has kept the other glass slipper, much to her stepmother’s chagrin. Delighted at this indisputable proof of
the maiden’s identity, the Duke slides the slipper onto her foot, which fits perfectly. She slips it on and all is well. The Prince has found his perfect mate. In the Presidential race, I firmly believe that the other shoe has yet to drop. Gov. Palin still holds the other shoe. And it fits her to a "Tea".

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beyond the Powder Alarm: Mobilizing to Restore America

Many Americans like us have probably forgotten more about the Revolutionary War than students in today's schools learn about it. We know of the Tea Party in Boston Harbor in 1773. We know of Paul Revere's ride, the cold bitter winter at Valley Forge, and the battle at Yorktown. Perhaps what is often lost in history's great moments are the pivotal events that led to the birth of our nation. Long before the Declaration of Independence was drafted but after our famous high tea in Boston Harbor, events like the Powder Alarm of 1774 shaped a revolution.

In the months following the Tea Party, the British Government imposed a series of acts on the colonies including the Massachusetts Governments Act. This legislation was described as, "an act for the better regulating the governments of the province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England". This act had a devastating effect on the existing governments in the Massachusetts colony. It removed the selection of the governor from the general courts or assemblies of the colony and vested that authority in the Crown. It further provided that all counselors, judges, commissioners, the attorney general, provosts, marshals, and justices of the peace, would be appointed by the Governor and approved by his Majesty. The final indignation came when the act required that all agenda items from town meetings had to have approval of the royal Governor, and that only the annual town meetings, in March and May, may be held, without permission of the Governor. Business as usual was no longer an option. The impact of this second act, the Massachusetts Government Act, was felt more severely in the rural communities outside of Boston. The people of Boston were preoccupied with the occupation by the British troops, and though their governments had been suspended, their concerns were other than those of the farmers. Suddenly, these small communities were unable to conduct the business of keeping their government functioning.

In response to these actions, the local communities formed a governing body known as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Part of the congress' mission was to raise money, supplies and men for the local militias. Readying the militias and keeping all units informed involved clandestine meetings, intricate and dangerous message delivery systems and bravery. Many of the patriots in the Massachusetts Bay Colony whose names are so familiar to us today ran the risk of being hanged for treason if their plans were discovered. The successful organization of the militia was proven on when they issued a powder alarm.

The local militias had stores of gunpowder throughout the colony. This, in itself, was not illegal, nor was the forming of militia. It was its intended purpose that rankled with the General. One such store of gunpowder was kept in Charlestown. On September 1, 1774, General Thomas Gage ordered 260 regulars to go to the storehouse and remove 250 barrels of gunpowder. This caused some rebels to believe that they British were preparing to attack and they sounded the alarm. Discontent began that evening when colonists streamed into Cambridge and began to wonder what had transpired. As the hours pressed on, rumors and speculation took on a life of their own. Stories of soldiers firing on civilians and warships bombarding Boston spread quickly. Beacon fires, which had not been used since the French and Indian War, were lit by local residents to summon the surrounding country to action. The following morning a crowd of approximately 4,000 gathered in Cambridge. Throughout the countryside, tens of thousands of men armed themselves and marched for Boston.

As the members of this spontaneous colonial army approached Boston, they passed inhabitants of other towns who spurred them on towards their goal. According to Ezra Stiles, one witness who "passed thro' the whole at the very time of the convulsion," noted that "all along were armed Men rushing forward some on foot some on horseback." Many communities surrounding Boston "scarcely left half a dozen Men in a Town, unless old and decrepit, and in one town the Landlord. . .was the only Man left." Marching toward Boston and an impending civil war, the men of the New England countryside were encouraged not only by their brethren in arms, but by the entire community. "At every house [there were] Women and Children making Cartridges, running Bullets, making Wallets, baking Biscuits. . .animating their Husbands and Sons to fight for their Liberties." Even after the men left their own homesteads, "Women kept on making Cartridges and after equipping their Husbands, bro't them out to the Soldiers which in Crowds passed along and gave them out in handfuls." 1

Out of the Powder Alarm of 1774 arose a widespread movement with a single shared objective: to fight for the common liberties of the body of people. The significance of this militant uprising was obvious. The Yankees flexed their collective muscle and successfully achieved all they desired that day. Their success begged the question: Would they now return to their homes and allow the normal political players to do what they would with the situation? Or, would the actions of that day live on, and the agency they displayed continue in similar forms in the future? What was the enduring legacy of that impressive mobilization?

As supporters of Gov. Palin and ultimately as a body of people desiring 'sudden and relentless reform' to restore America, the same questions might be asked of us. We have successfully engaged, or perhaps enraged those wanting to expand the reach of our federal government under the auspices of a Palin run for President, but now that Gov. Palin has decided not to run, do we just return home to our quiet lives content to let the GOP establishment do what they will with the situation? Or will the actions we have taken thus far live on?

The spark of ordinary individuals, an engaged citizenry throughout the colonial countryside all those years ago created a movement. That movement sparked the War for Independence and birthed a new nation; a republic. Even though the Powder Alarm consisted of a singular event confined to two days, its effect on the future course of events in New England and America proved significant. The actions and lessons learned during that time energized the country people and hardened their resolve to resist English rule. The moves taken by General Gage and the British Parliament were intended to isolate Boston and reduce the provinces' ability to resist English rule. These efforts backfired. The acts mobilized New Englanders to resist the authority of Britain at all costs.

What will history say of our movement? Will it be that we put everything into one moment - getting Gov. Palin elected President, that we forgot the larger picture? No, I would like to think not and I don't think Gov. Palin would want us to pack up and go home. That is not who we are. We have kept our powder dry long enough. Now is the time to use it. The reality is as Palin has said all along - it is not about her. It is about "We the People". We need to press our demands, make our voices heard, and effect political change. All of us, not just the elite political class, but we farmers, artisans, merchants, and housewives need to continue our efforts. We can't hide behind someone else's skirts and wait for them to do the hard work of returning America to her glory. Today's Powder Alarm has come and gone. We are the driving force and we need to get involved in all levels of government, not just concern ourselves with the top of the ticket. We need to write letters to the editor, attend Central Committee Meetings, and even run for office ourselves. We need to stay focused, energized, and ready to restore America.

1 Primary accounts of the troop movement can be found in the Boston Gazette, Sept 5, 1 774; Dexter, ed., Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles p 480

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gov. Palin's Decision: The Wrong Road Leads to the Right Place

Ever have one of those moments when something comes to you in a dream? In the wee hours of the morning after I had fed our 6-month-old son and drifted off again to sleep, I woke up energized with the thought of Robert Frost running through my head. Well, not Robert Frost in a jogging suit readying for a marathon type of running, but Robert Frost's piece "The Road Not Taken" pulsing through my thoughts and more specifically a quote from it:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I pondered for a moment and then thought almost immediately of Gov. Palin's decision not to run for the GOP nomination for the 2012 Presidential Election. There is some debate in literary circles as to whether Frost was glad he took the road less traveled or regretted not taking the more traveled, more acceptable path. A lot of people think Gov. Palin has chosen the wrong path by not throwing her name in the hat this time around. However, I am a firm believer that wrong roads can often lead us to the right place.

From the dawn of creation, man's story has been marked by people who took wrong turns. At the fork in the road, they went the wrong way but ended up right where they were supposed to be. The Bible is full of stories of people who seemed to be at the wrong place at the right time. A gangly teenager named David was told by his father to carry some food to his big brothers who were fighting a war, and on that road, young David discovered his destiny to be the King of Israel. Think back to the Bible story of the Israelites who made the most famous wrong turn in all of history and zigged and zagged for forty years in the wilderness before arriving in the land of milk and honey. Indeed, almost every Bible character could say, "You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way to (fill in the blank)." It almost seems everyone who gets to the right place spends some time on the wrong road.

Henri Dunant was a wealthy Swiss banker in the 19th century. He was sent by the Swiss government to work on a business deal with Napoleon in Paris. He arrived in Paris only to find Napoleon was off fighting a war against the Austrians in Solferino, Italy. So Henri Dunant got back in his carriage and giddy-upped his horses down to the battlefront, arriving just in time to hear the bugle's blast and see the thundering charge of the battle. Henri Dunant had never seen the ghastly carnage of war before. In utter horror he watched the cannon balls tearing through flesh, leaving acres of maimed and dying men. So devastated was he that he stayed for weeks, assisting the doctors as they cared for the wounded in churches and nearby farmhouses. Even when he got back to Switzerland, Henri Dunant could not keep his mind on his banking business. His thoughts kept running back to what he’d witnessed in Solferino. He became so distracted he lost his fortune; his business failed. But even with his career in shambles, he never lost his sense of personal duty to make a difference. He wrote, “I was aware of an intuition, vague and yet profound, that [this was] God’s Will; it seemed to me that I had [something] to accomplish… as a sacred duty and that it was destined to have fruits of infinite consequence for mankind.”You can say that again! Out of his depression and failure Henri founded the International Red Cross, which has since saved millions and millions of lives in war and disaster,for which he was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize – all because he followed that wrong road to Italy.

The founder of the International Red Cross had no idea where that road to Italy would lead. He had no idea it would change his life so drastically or the lives of countless others impacted by his choice to take that road. We have yet to know what extent Gov. Palin's decision to go down the unconventional, untrodden path will mean for her, for us, and ultimately for America. We can learn from history an important lesson though, the less traveled road often produces life-changing results.

Irena Sendler (aka Irena Sendlerowa) was a member of Zegota, the clandestine Polish Rescue Organizatio lang="en-US">n, who, at great risk, rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and placed them with Christian families. She buried jars containing their real and assumed names in the garden, so that they could be one day learn the names of their biological families after the war. Sendler has been called the female Oskar Schindler, but she saved twice as many lives as the German industrialist, who sheltered 1,200 of his Jewish workers. Unlike Schindler, whose story received international attention in the 1993 movie "Schindler's List," Sendler and her heroic actions were almost lost to history until four Kansas schoolgirls wrote a play about her. The lesson Sendler taught them was that "one person can make a difference," Megan Felt, one of the authors of the play, said. Sendler was honored by the Polish Senate and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which brought dozens of reporters to her door. "Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth," she said, "and not a title to glory." Irena chose a path, not tread on by everyone and she changed lives and made a difference in this world.

Coach Ed Thomas also impacted this world by choosing a path less traveled. He was the local high school football coach in Parkersburg, Iowa, when a tornado struck the south side of town killing seven people and destroying 280 homes. Ed Thomas, fueled by his faith and sense of hope, helped motivate the community to put their lives back together. Only 13 months later, another tragedy struck, this time involving a former student and his tragic decision. Coach Thomas was shot and killed by a former player. Though his life was cut short, the path he chose continues to impact lives in those small Iowa communities. In the wake of devastation, Parkersburg maintained the magnanimous attitude that Thomas once exemplified. The most striking example of that mentality came in April of this year, after a tornado decimated Mapleton, Iowa, a town 180 miles west of Parkersburg. A group of more than 85 students -- there are only about 250 in the entire school -- immediately volunteered to help clean up the destruction. No local newspaper or television station organized the effort. The kids arranged it themselves, unprompted.
Ed Thomas and Irena Sendler are two people who didn't need titles to get them onto that road less traveled. They made a difference and impacted the way numerous people live their lives today. Gov. Palin is proving too that she is traveling down the road to making a difference without being the GOP nominee for President. I have no doubt history will show her to be one of those who return America to its Constitutional roots. We might all be disappointed with her decision not to run, but ultimately I think we will get to the point to see that what might seem like the wrong road is going to put Gov. Palin in the right place to change history and make a huge difference for all Americans.

The question for us as people who espouse all that Gov. Palin stands for is this: Will we continue on the path with her? Will we follow her example and take the road less traveled? Will we take that road that everyone else sees as wrong? Will we stand up and continue to fight to restore America? The wrong road will lead us to the right place, if we just have the courage to step onto the path and blaze a new trail.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sarah's Smooth Stone

The First Book of Samuel from the Old Testament in the Bible has been on my mind recently. It seems to be everywhere I turn. We have six young children, ages 9 through 6 months, and we let them decide which book of the Bible we will study out of. Sean, our oldest, mentioned that he wanted to learn more about King David, so we started reading it in September. Our pastor just gave a sermon and mentioned scriptures out of this book too. My husband is reading a few different books(surprisingly he keeps them all straight) that also mention 1 Samuel. I tell you all of this to say, I feel that when something happens more than once or twice it no longer exists as a coincidence. I feel compelled to explore the information further.

With the story of David, specifically the account of David and Goliath present at my every turn, I couldn't help but think of Gov. Palin. The comparison is fairly obvious to anyone who knows anything about Gov. Palin and remembers the story of how a young shepherd boy slew the Philistine giant. The longshot, the dark-horse going against impossible odds. From that aspect, it is not a difficult comparison to draw. And its one I am NOT going to make today. I want to focus on David's weapon of choice.
Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine - 1 Samuel 17:40(NIV)

At this point in the epic underdog story, David has just rejected the traditional way a soldier would protect himself, and has embarked upon his preparation for battle. He instead goes to a stream and picks out some stones. If you were fighting someone approximately twice your height, and you had the chance to select a stone, what kind would you choose? Conventional thinking might lead you to choose the most jagged, rough rock you could find. Preferably something with a big point on it. Right? How do you think that jagged rock would fly? Picture what happens to a golf ball if you don't hit in the right manner. If you don't hit the golf ball in the right place, the head of your club leaves a curved, rough cut on it. Golf balls with big cuts on the surface don't fly nearly as well or as straight as perfectly smooth golf balls. From this I know that if you put a pointed rock in a sling and threw it, it would fly all over--not fly straight to the target. When David chose an instrument to accomplish the Lord's will, he chose something that would hit only the target--it would not fly all over the place. Smooth stones also fly straight.
Do you really think that David could have defeated Goliath? Maybe. But the odds would have been at least a million to one. Certainly the smooth stones did not do it. David could have dredged that stream dry of smooth stones and they never would have caused him to win over Goliath. What won the day in the Valley of Elah thousands of years ago, is the same thing that will win the day for Gov. Palin and ultimately us as Americans; Gov. Palin's attitude.

In the Bible account in the moments prior to the battle between the giant and the shepherd, David's brother Eliab overhears David talking with some of the soldiers and insults David. He insinuates that David isunreliable, irresponsible, has no value, is conceited, and has a wicked heart. How many of you could withstand criticism like that? You want to do or are doing something you feel is of value and what do people say to you? You are irresponsible. You are unimportant. You are doing it for self glory. The natural thing for David to do or any of us to do would be to throw the insult back. Or better yet say, "You know big brother, you are right. Think I'll be heading back to my small flock and I'll let you contend with that 11 foot guy without me." David neither returned the insult or gave up. He let the insult roll off his back. One only has to think to the opening moments of Stephen K. Bannon's "The Undefeated" to recall the blistering criticisms Sarah Palin receives on a daily basis from the media, opponents, even people claiming to be on the same side of the fight. But like David, she doesn't let it get to her. She hasn't retreated permanently to Alaska. She doesn't let it deter her from her mission – to restore America. She stays in the fray. Insults do not stick to a smooth stone.

David's right attitude also comes across in his reaction to Goliath. There is an old saying "The best offense is a good defense", but that wasn't in Old Testament times and it isn't in the 21st Century. It is football season and we know from the fundamentals of the game that there is an offense and a defense. The defensive team can keep you from losing, but with rare exceptions it cannot actually win the game. It is the offensive team that makes the points that win the game. How is that playing out in our political world today? The current climate in the GOP race for nomination seems to that of purely a defensive one. They encourage others not to be discouraged over difficulties. They talk about not losing faith. They act like we are in a "holding action." It is all talking points and meaningless platitudes. Where is our offensive team? Where is the conviction that American values are at stake, and "by God", we are going to do something about it? Sarah is our best offense. She knows things need to be changed and as her husband, Todd best said in a recent "When you move forward, and you want to make change, you're gonna piss people off, you know, but Sarah doesn't care." Sarah isn't going to be busy hand-holding or hurling insults at other candidates in defensive measures. Like David, she will focus on the record of each opponent. David called out Goliath for who he was. Sarah will call out her opponents in much the same manner.
David's attitude also shines through when he decides to take personal responsibility for the task of vindicating the Lord. He didn't wait around for someone else to do it, he took the giant on himself, for his country, his people. Being personally responsible for our own actions and for what needs to be done is very important. Think of the current climate in our country. Everything else is to blame for what's wrong – blame George W. Bush, blame ATM machines, blame your golf game, or blame global warming. The list is as tall as Goliath was. No one thinks its up to them as citizens of this country to help get it back on track. The pervasive attitude is much like that of my 4-year-old's when it comes to cleaning, "I didn't make the mess, I am not going to clean it up." Gov. Palin share's David's attitude. She possesses a servant's heart. The fire in her belly is for America and she will take personal responsibility to change our dire situation.
In The Book of Samuel, David didn't wait for Goliath to strike first. David charged up to the giant and hit him squarely in the forehead with a smooth stone. A smooth stone killed the giant. The smooth stone flew straight to the target. It didn't fly off in another direction, it hit him head-on. Sarah will step forward one day soon, with smooth stone in hand to take America back from the giant threatening its very existence.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Palin's Poker Persona

Poker is a game of skill that paints a picture of what makes us uniquely American. It melds together all that is best of the risk-averse Puritan work ethic and the entrepreneur's urge to seize the opportunity. While the two ways of operating don't necessarily compliment one another they blend in such a way that they have made us who we are as a country. The card game still combines Puritan values of self-control, diligence, the slow accumulation of savings with a mind-set of those who risked it all in the gold rush or even today's lottery ticket enthusiasts. A keen foreign observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote in Democracy in America: "Those living in the instability of a democracy have the constant image of chance before them, and, in the end, they come to like all those projects in which chance plays a part." This was true, he deduced, "not only because of the promise of profit but because they like the emotions evoked."
American history is replete with both sides of the card when it comes to the poker personality. General Robert E. Lee, confronting overwhelming supremacy in men, munitions, and technology, was able to keep the Confederacy’s cause alive as long as he did because he picked his battles carefully. He did not engage the Union Army at every opportunity; he selected opportunities where he believed he could negate the Union’s inherent advantages and overcome them. In fact, during the early stages of the war, Union General McClellan was unwilling to commit his troops, even when the odds were strongly in his favor. Like a player who is overly weak and overly tight, General Lee constantly ran him off the best hand. McClellan ultimately suffered the military equivalent of really bad beat ¾ he was sacked by President Lincoln, who, knowing his man held most of the big cards, wondered why he wouldn’t play a hand and therefore couldn’t win!

Think of Gov. Sarah Palin as the ultimate poker player if you will. Author, activist, and self-described rock 'n' roll legend, Ted Nugent penned this of Gov. Palin, "Her rugged individualism, self-reliance and a herculean work ethic resonate now more than ever in a country spinning away from these basics that made the U.S.A. the last best place. We who are driven to be assets to our families, communities and our beloved country connect with the principles that Sarah Palin embodies" And while she is the picture of hardworking America, she is also very much the Maverick. She does things her way, taking what some consider chances in a political party used to playing by a set of acceptable rules. She became known in Alaska as a popular maverick, staunchly conservative on key issues but vocal about problems she saw, including those in her own party. Widely seen as a political outsider who stayed at arm's length from her party establishment, she defeated two political insiders in 2006 to become the youngest, and first female, governor in the Alaska's history.

Palin is making history again, as an unconventional candidate for the GOP nomination. She has yet to declare, but pundits and media alike are trying to force her hand as to when she will announce. On Judge Andrew Napolitano's Freedom Watch on Fox Business Thursday evening, she had this to say of showing her hand: "You know, I hold my political cards close to my chest, I've certainly learned lessons along those lines and I'm going to continue to do that until I'm ready to make an announcement." Her strategy is very much that of the consummate professional poker player in several ways.

Governor Palin knows to be selective, but also to be aggressive. She knows you do have to pick your battles, and carefully choose when to retreat, (fold ‘em) and when to draw your proverbial line in the sand (hold ‘em). And yes, more than once the song "The Gambler" sung by Kenny Rogers has entered my stream of consciousness since Gov. Palin mentioned she was playing it close to the vest. Read any of her latest Facebook notes and you will soon discover she is very selective when it comes to discussing matters, yet unashamedly bold and engaged when it comes to point out problems and presenting solutions to get America back on course.

She is also practicing the art of knowing her opponents well. If you can pick up tells in a poker game -- where players take great pains not to broadcast them -- think how easy it ought to be to read people away from the table. Understanding the different players that you're up against is the key to success in poker. By knowing your opponents you will call less often when you don't have the best hand and be able to raise and get extra bets out of your opponents when you otherwise would not be able to if the opponent was unknown.

Like every poker player worth their salt knows,you have to have a plan. If you have no standards at the, and adopt an any-two-cards-can-win philosophy, you’ll soon go broke. Knowing in advance which cards you’re going to play, what position you’ll play them from, and how you’ll handle different opponents, are key factors to success at the poker table. It’s no different in the real world. If you don’t plan, you’re just a leaf in the wind. While traveling in a random direction does get you somewhere, it’s probably not where you hoped to go. In the real world, if you don’t have your own agenda, you’ll soon be part of someone else's. Look to Gov. Palin's five point plan for restoring America that she spoke of in Iowa over Labor Day weekend.

While its important to have a plan, know your opponents, and be selectively aggressive, its crucial to exercise restraint. If you want to win in poker and also more so in the game of life, or in this case in restoring America you have got to have this ace in your hand. Governor Palin knows what it really takes to win in life. And what it takes, more often than some people think, is not a whole lot of bluster and confidence. She realizes something vital. If you are not capable of carefully evaluating your own position, your own strengths and weaknesses, than you will play like a fool and be recognized as such by all your opponents. If you tend to "go for it" because you believe you’re invincible, your game is as good as over, before it even begins. While all of us may be wanting her to show us her hand, Gov. Palin is holding back, evaluating her own position. "You have to know when to hold them... Know when to walk away and know when to run." Sarah knows all of these things and when she is ready, she will reveal her winning hand.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose.

One of my all-time favorite television shows was Friday Night Lights. It was a short lived take on a high school football team in small town Texas, based on the movie and book of the same name. The show touched on the lives and relationships, football and the people in the middle. The head coach, known by all in the town as Coach Taylor, ends his pre-game speech with the phrase, "Clear eyes, full hearts," and the players finish, "Can’t lose!" When I first heard this, I have to say I was excited. It brought back that feeling right before a game. Granted I was a cheerleader, but the feeling is the same. There is something pure about it. To play with clear eyes is to play with a good attitude, removed from negative distractions. To play with full hearts means to give a complete effort and put your heart in to each game. We end with "can’t lose, because with a good attitude and a full effort, you have already won. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

I get that same feeling when it comes to supporting Gov. Sarah Palin. She reminds me of Coach Taylor. He is the epitome of a leader, mentor, and friend. He calls it like he sees it. He cuts the crap, but he does not belittle his team. Gov. Palin is a straight-shooter in the political world. She gets right to the point. She doesn't coddle us, hold our hands and tell us everything will be alright. She talks to us like adults. She respects us. She also sees what America can be. She sees American exceptionalism as not just some lofty talking point but as something "We the People" can grasp and actually achieve. She puts the ball into our hands. Its not just her game, but our game. She knows that it will take all of us bringing our own unique talents to the effort to succeed. In the TV series, Coach Taylor has the ability to envision his team’s victories—to hold those dreams in his heart—and then let go of any expectations. He does this because he knows that in order to succeed, we cannot live in the future, or as we so often do, in the past.

By living in the now—in what is real—we clearly see what we need to do at each and every moment because we see what is happening in reality. Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose is about believing in yourself while paying attention. It’s about responding rather than reacting. Because when we react, our actions come from the past or the future. They come from the stories in our heads or the meaning we give to a potential outcomes. When we respond, however, our actions come from right now. They come from a place of consciousness and acceptance.

We supporters of Gov. Palin need to keep that idea in mind. Lately people have been seeming to get upset, disappointed, and even crushed because she has not announced her run for the GOP nomination yet. We try predicting if she will run, when she will run, how she will announce. I have even read stories of people trying to determine that she is going to run based on what outfit she wore during an interview. We are reacting to something in the future instead of grasping what is at hand right now. What is at hand right now is the chance to make a difference and get involved. Stand up for the ideals Gov. Palin embodies right in this moment. Do something about America's future now. Don't wait for the last game of the season.
 It’s scary to live in the now and not know what the future holds. It means we can’t just sit back and observe life passively anymore. We can’t wait for the day to come when someone or something will make our lives better. Suddenly, it’s about tonight’s game. We become the players, when before we were just the people in the stands. We get tossed around and beaten up and tackled, but we trust that our gear will keep us safe. We trust that our coaches and teammates know what they’re doing. We trust that we’ve practiced hard enough, and that we’ll be able to take down the next 250 lb gut check that comes our way. And then we play the game like our lives are at stake—because we know that they are. We need to get out of our comfort zones and step out in faith when it comes to getting our country back. We need to make our voices heard and trust that Gov. Palin knows what she is doing. We have to prepare, practice, and make certain that when the big game comes, we can take down the permanent political class and restore America to greatness.
Its Friday Night in America. Its time to get onto the field and play all 4 quarters of this game. Not next week's game tonight. Not the championship game tonight. This game. We are going to need to trust that our Coach will handle the rest. One play at a time. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Opinion: Is this Heaven? No, its Organize4Palin's Field of Dreams

In Field of Dreams, the 1989 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, we see an idealistic, transplanted city boy-turned-Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, take a chance, listening to a distant voice. Standing in the midst of his cornfield, Kinsella repeatedly hears a voice informing him that "If you build it, he will come." Confused, but not scared, he sets about carving a baseball field from his corn crops. Nothing happens, and Ray soon faces ruin. Ray and his wife discuss replanting the corn, but their daughter, sees a man on the ballfield. Ray discovers that he is Shoeless Joe Jackson, a dead baseball player idolized by Ray's father. Thrilled to be able to play baseball again, Joe asks to bring others to play on the field. He later returns from the cornfield with the seven other players banned in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

To some Peter Singleton, Organize 4 Palin's Iowa State Coordinator may seem a lot like Ray Kinsella. He is taking a seemingly crazy, unconventional vision that is Organize 4 Palin and plowing under conventional thinking in a politically traditional Iowa. Peter along with other Organize 4 Palin volunteers are about the business of laying the ground work for a possible presidential campaign by former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin. But like the Governor, they are doing things on their own terms and in their own way by building lasting relationships and making impressions across the politcally-savvy Hawkeye State.

Talking with Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy after "The Undefeated" premiere in Pella in June, Singleton said "I've probably met with 1,000 people in this state in one-on-one meetings or a couple people at a time," he said. "The one-on-one meetings and the two- and three-people meetings are the heart and soul of what we're doing, and believe me, the other guys don't do that. They take a radically different approach." Iowa's branch of Organize 4 Palin, in large part to Peter and Michelle McCormick, his Iowa co-coordinator's efforts have a presence in a majority of Iowa's 99 counties. Iowa Secretary of State, Matt Schultz, when interviewed for that same article said of Organize 4 Palin, "When I've been around the state at different events, I've seen different volunteers for Organize4Palin where they've set up booths and have tried to get people interested." He also mentions he felt the event was well-organized. Volunteers go to Central Committee meetings, hand out palm cards, make phone calls to conservative minded voters, host screenings of "The Undefeated", and more importantly connect to people making certain they walk away with a knowledge of Sarah Palin and her record. Organize 4 Palin in Iowa also had a hand in the 2,000 or so people who braved the torrential rains in Indianola at the Restoring America Tea Party Rally in early September where Gov. Sarah Palin spoke of her plan to get America back on the right track. No doubt you saw the sea of O4P t-shirts on C-Span during the IA rally.

Throughout much of Field of Dreams, Ray's brother, Mark pesters him warning him that he will bankrupt the family unless he replants. In one exchange Mark admonishes Ray saying, "You don't know the first thing about farming" to which Ray responds "Yes I do. I know a lot about farming. I know more than you think I know." Mark answers back with, "Then how could you plow under your major crop?" Recently several original Organize 4 Palin volunteers in Iowa have broken ties with the boots on the ground organization citing lack or organization as the main reason for the split. In an interview with The Iowa Republican's Kevin Hall, former Organize 4 Palin volunteer Craig Bergman states "There is no Organize 4 Palin, there never was" He goes on to say, At no point in time has Organize 4 Palin put pen to title to do the 5X5 executable grassroots plan that you know has to be done. There is absolutely no organization. None." Bergman and other former members feel as though Peter Singleton and the rest of the O4P volunteers don't have the first clue about how to run a campaign here in the first in the nation Caucus state. As an Organize 4 Palin volunteer and Iowan myself, my answer back to them is Peter knows a lot more about what will work to get support and ultimately votes in this politically saturated potentially battleground state.

"Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa." A place of fertile soil and traditional values. Iowa is informed, voting an citizens idea of paradise. Its a state where, if you want to, you can actually participate on quite a personal level with the election process. Whether it be at the Iowa State Fair or the Ames Straw Poll or the Polk County Republican's event you can vet the candidates face-to-face. Despite this level of access, Iowa has become a place of icy robo calling and cold calling cards in the mailbox by impersonal politicians and their operatives who treat voters more like a numbers than as sovereign rulers of this country. Iowans have grown battle weary and in large part unimpressed with conventional talking points campaigns. Near the end of the movie when Mark is again hounding Ray to rethink his moves, Tery Mann, played by James Earl Jones tells him, "Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past." Like many Americans, Iowans are waiting on the doorstep for the past. They long for an America where their voices mattered. If you want to capture interest and votes in this state, you must be genuine, you must be unconventional, and you must do exactly what Peter and Michelle and their team in Iowa are doing. You need to build relationships that are authentic, valued, and viable.You need to plow under the crops of conventional campaign processes and build the baseball diamond of grassroots organization despite what the detractors say.

In Dyersville, Iowa that baseball diamond in the midst of the cornfield still stands as it did in the movie in a peaceful setting of hills, farmhouses, horses, and cattle. If you sit on the bleachers and watch the landscape, you can imagine the long row of headlights at the end of the film, the cars streaming in from the crisscross of farm roads. Someone once speaking of the field said that the best thing about it was what wasn't there. Its up to visitors to bring their own dreams. That is why the anthying but 'politics as usual' structure of Organize 4 Palin works so well. Its up to us Americans to bring our own dreams to it. Its up to us to build those relationships that hold us as valuable participants in the greatest nation on earth and to form lasting connections with other, like-minded citizens not by following a script of actions put forth by a rigid political machine.

At the end of the movie, Ray's brother-in-law, Mark can finally see what Ray saw all along, the players. Perhaps, once all is said and done those who thought Organize 4 Palin's strategy wouldn't work will too finally see what most of us already do - to paraphrase the voice in the cornfield "If you build relationships, they will vote".