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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homosexuality and Sexual Responsibility – an Oxymoron?

When I was a kid I was never taught that sex was a sin. I was never given a laundry list of rules and regs so as to precisely cover every sexual situation. However, I was taught to hold at the deepest emotional and intellectual level that irresponsible sex (like irresponsibility anywhere) was wrong. And, of course, my parents did not mean by responsible sex to be as debauched as I like, just remember to use a condom. They meant that I should completely decline to engage in casual sex—defined as sex in which commitment was not in the equation.

I once had a chaplain I much admired—Allan Bury. He moved from the University of South Florida where I knew him to Wesleyan University. There as the University Protestant Minister around 1972 he wrote the following:

we ought to be able to affirm that homosexuals face enormous and inhuman pressures which are destructive to the human spirit…Those who wish to change their sexual orientation should be helped to do so. Those who wish to remain in their present orientation, or for whom change is not an option, should receive our support in discovering and living lives of responsible sexual maturity. (Source)

So for me personally with my upbringing the question is—can homosexuality ever represent responsible sexual maturity? Is there something about it which is inherently irresponsible and immature? For years I held steadily to the belief that there was. Homosexual men and women just did not want to grow up, to recognize plain fact and fully assume mature responsibility for their God-given sexuality. Now at this stage in my life, I have come to know a good number of homosexual couples—some relationships having endured for many years, sometimes with the persons now elderly and one of them in ill-health while the other selflessly ministers to their partner's needs. No longer young and restless (and flamboyantly hopping from one gay bar to another—or at least such was MY fantasy) and well after youthful sexual passions have long-since waned, their lifetime commitment has not ended but becomes more clearly evident with the passage of time. I am willing to accede in goodwill and good faith that the deep commitment was always there just hidden from my view primarily by my own carefully guarded perception.

No one on earth I'm sure wants my pity, but sometimes I am saddened by sexual relationships that have no hope of procreation. For me personally, I was not married until after childbearing years. I have no flesh and blood progeny, though I do have grown children in my extended family. Despite my happy married life, I can understand if in his heart of hearts my brother, for example, sometimes feels a little sadness for me; that unlike for him, there is no one to carry on into the future a measure of my unique gene pool. If he should feel this way about me now and then, I don't resent it but take it as a sign of love.

At this point I am not willing to agree that ministers of the church should profess homosexuality. You may say, but I do not hold that they should profess it, just have the opportunity to be homosexual. There is a decided difference between ministry and many other jobs. I shop in many stores for goods and services every week. The sex lives of those I encounter in the market are completely irrelevant to my purchase and I have no interest in them whatever. But with a minister it is different. In many ways the minster's life is his product. Our church minister, for example, regularly will use little happenings from his home life as illustrations that resonate within the hearts and minds of families throughout the church—committed heterosexuality is regularly reinforced as the accepted norm. Right or wrong, in my thinking that is as it should be. It seems to me a risky leap into a Brave New World to hold that children (male and female) do not need male and female parents as models and mentors. The full depth for this need I think has not been sufficiently understood, explored, or appreciated.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Smokescreens All About Us

Recall the three monkeys who “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” What contemporary issues do you wish someone in office would notice and speak against? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1003).

Today I worked to solve a computer issue that arose at a recreation center—Childs Park. Even though this is usually one of my favorite and most comfortable places to work (the staff is great), today I felt severely distressed. It was indicative to me of a major source of disquiet and unease whenever and wherever it arises. Looking back, two things at the outset were missing—knowledge and understanding. Since I was not aware of what the correct IP octets should have been—no clear idea of what should be—I was not able to deduce (understand) the problem. Once I knew what they should be and the additional knowledge of what would cause their absence (a malfunctioning switch) then the situation became readily understandable and the solution clear (installing a new switch). Again, I would like to emphasize the stress and disquiet I felt because of my lack of knowledge and understanding. As typical of such cases, the situation was complicated by additional factors (such as installing a new printer and remote cable connectivity) that served to obscure and confound the issue. I felt the disquiet and distress of trying to maneuver in a smokescreen.

It seems to me that this is where we find ourselves when confronted with high unemployment and the occurrence in the workforce where so many find it difficult to make an adequate living wage. It seems to me that as a nation we do not know enough about how an optimum economic system should look and what are fundamental architectural causes of a malfunctioning economy. Once we have this knowledge, then the understanding of how to fix it will lead to solutions that no doubt will be costly but readily doable. It is my view that we must get a better grip on the limits of a more or less pure form of capitalism and its inability to distribute earnings in line with the broad sources of wealth. The task will be immensely complicated by a bewildering array of red herrings that arise not out of malicious intent but because of sincerely held ideology. An awesome smokescreen will obscure and befuddle clear and concise thought.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Sharing the Credit

Which is closer to your own view of what it means to be filled with the Spirit? Is it more of an individual or a corporate experience? How so? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1003).

I saw on a T-shirt today a saying that read: “I'm not antisocial, I just don't like you.” Whether we like it or not, people by nature are social animals. It becomes impossibly problematic to sort out exactly where social influence begins and ends. Take any creation or invention one cares to discuss; its true source is attributable not only to a lone individual, but to a wide matrix of historical and contemporary social influences and contributions. For example, we say that the Bible is God's word. That is true, but even the gospel was not entirely new. Jesus affirmed (not invented whole cloth) that we are to love one another—note the saying from Leviticus “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18). While each generation is rightfully proud of its creative contributions to the story of mankind, it must always remain appreciative of the groundwork prepared (often at great cost) by others.

The occasion at which I was most filled with the Spirit (the theater experience) while certainly personal was nevertheless profoundly corporate. The preparation for this experience began many years, even centuries, earlier. God's dealing with mankind historically made it tenable that he was dealing with me. A context of understanding always is underlain by the sacrifice and investment of others. It is in this light that it becomes readily admissible that whatever unique contribution to the human enterprise we are blessed to make, its source lies largely—if not completely—outside ourselves.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

God or Man?

What pressures have you felt lately? In practical terms, does relying on God in such times mean not involving the help of anyone else? How can you tell when it is wise and right to rely on others, or when that shows independence from God? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1001).

The need to recognize concurrently expertise in others and one's own limitations is key to effectively coping with life. It is the height of arrogance and ignorance to assume all knowledge in all things. This denies the complexities that underlie phenomena and the assiduous work needed to be done on earth. Sooner or later we must come to understand the severe limitations of individual competencies.

With this great need for dependence on human expertise, where does God [or perhaps for the nonreligious “intuition”] come in? Surely there is a pervasive need for the voice of conscience in much of our affairs. We all have the duty and responsibility to negotiate life faithfully guided by the leadings of our best lights. The heavenly realm provides us with the Golden Rule. This Rule provides an overarching principle by which to guide our actions. All things in my view are subject to a fundamental criterion: is what is proposed helpful towards achieving this end? Often the answer comes not, so to speak, from prose and an exhaustive listing of evidence, but from poetry and it's ability to discern tone between the lines. Even those who have a penchant for insisting on “Just the facts, mam” must admit that many of their most momentous decisions—such as choosing a mate—are not easily explicable or even readily defendable in terms of what might be called narrow self-interest.

The search for realty in terms of facts (as is provided by specialization in the workplace) will always remain essential. But undeniably so also will conscience. As Winston Churchill reminded us, even great achievements (he was specifically referring to science) without conscience are susceptible to perversion.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hard Pressed on Every Side

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair...(2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV).

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “I always say this to people, because in America, you see these pictures of people burning the flag and out on the street and so on,” he said on “Fox & Friends.” “You just got to understand that there is another side to all of that, which is actually people who admire America, respect it and need it to be strong. And I always say to people in America, don’t worry so much about being loved. Just be strong” (

Certainly one of the most debilitating traits on earth is the practice of being pretty much frozen when not constantly succored by the love, support, and admiration of others. Without being arrogant or cruel, we must understand as individuals and as a nation that God alone is our primary source (our “go-to guy”) for spiritual strength. Only then we will have the backbone to do what's right in the face of those who would intimidate us through coldness and rejection. This is the source from which all other strengths arise (personal and national)—the will and determination to look to Providence no matter whatever or whoever else would seek to dampen our spirit and flag our determination.

I'm sure that Prime Minister Blair would not discount a whole array of other strengths—economic, political, institutional, educational, creative, the steady practice of straight thinking, and a state of generosity and happiness. But these, each and every one, have only one firm foundation—adamant reliance in little things and big on the direct succor of God Almighty. Like Evan Baxter in Evan Almighty, faithful servants of God must act despite cold shoulders even from those we honor and whose support we long for and would cherish. 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Mystery of Personal Interest

Magnetism by Ahmed Mater

One aspect of human nature I find fascinating is that what can arouse interest and curiosity in one individual can be entirely uninteresting to another. This is the case regarding most everything. Thus, we have sports fanatics and those who care nothing about sports. Theater buffs and those who care nothing about theater. A scientist who finds a phenomenon intensely remarkable, while another researcher doesn't even notice it. Someone who thinks a painting is exquisite, while another finds it a jumbled mess. Someone who digs classical music, while another likes only heavy metal. In my own experience, I have considered a “little joke” casually presented to me over 30 years ago and roughly drawn on scratch paper (which no doubt some would have dismissed instantly as uninteresting) a matter of immense and abiding significance (see: In my defense I ask: Would everyone have been drawn equally to the burning bush Moses saw, or would some have glanced at it briefly, yawned, and walked away? In many ways these idiosyncratic predispositions of interest and the focus of thought and expenditure of energy that result do not originate by human will alone, but by something not readily accessible to the will. This diversity of interests (however pervasive and profoundly important in human life) remains to this day a dimly understood mystery. 

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Monday, September 24, 2012

No Invitation for a Power Trip

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus... (Philippians 2:2-5 NIV).

Today in Sunday school a class member (Julius) who has heard about me in the neighborhood for years said “I hope you don't take this the wrong way Wayne—but you are like God.” For non-Christians this is a red flag possibly descriptive of someone with an insane ego or on a power trip. But for the Christian this is a humbling compliment. All my life I have closely identified with Christ—during one unstable period even thinking I was Christ. But now I understand as do other Christians that such a comment is in no way whatever an invitation for an ego trip or overweening pride. As Jesus said, we are to strive for Godly perfection—or like Saint Paul said, we are to imitate the humility of Christ. Thus becoming more like God and Christ—ultimately becoming a blue-flame witness for them on earth—is not an indicator of blasphemy or arrogance, but of humble commitment even unto death. So when the class member this morning made his comment about me, I was not in any way taken aback or embarrassed, I only smiled and said: “I know what you mean. Like everyone in this room, I strive to be a faithful witness of Christ and to humbly do God's will.”

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reflections of Ourselves

What have you learned about yourself from considering [the limitations, failures, and weaknesses of others]? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 996).

The first response we should have when observing the limitations, failures, and weaknesses of others is to not sit in judgment of them but instead to examine our own hearts. Think of someone from whom you seem the most different, remote, and alienated; now consider that what is different about you pales in comparison to what you both share—human nature. I have heard it said that subtle differences make all the difference, and in some respects that is true. But we should never assume that we are not vulnerable to each and every foible that has afflicted humanity from the beginning—just sometimes manifested in different and devious ways. Likewise, in reverse there are many strengths we pride ourselves in that are likewise shared by even the most humbled and dejected. Thus, my plea today is to remember that we need not stretch to place ourselves in the shoes of another (even our enemy's)—for in most respects we are already there.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Freedom's Vista as a Point of View

Do you feel your parents set down “rule on rule”? Or were they lax when it came to rules? Which would you have preferred? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 995).

Most law-abiding folk do not focus on the law or carefully attempt to obey it. In many respects, such folks are the least concerned with law. It matters not one whit to them in terms of their own personal conduct if there is a law against robbery. It would only become an issue in their lives if they were tempted to commit it which they in no way are. Thus, they feel no restriction, restraint, or hindrance. They feel totally free and the law in this sense is irrelevant to how they live their lives for they have been trained into civility.

I know of very few rules my parents set. This is not to say they could not have readily formulated and enforced them. Outstripping all other concerns of my parents was that of my Christian behavior and character. As long as I shared their concern here there were no laws there. Thus, they were many times more concerned with my deportment at school than my scholarship. I was never relegated to my room for study, but I easily could have suffered restriction had I disrespected teachers or students. Since I had no will to do so, I felt remarkably free at home and suffered no sense of imposed regulation.

In this light, not everyone should feel that America is a free country, but only those raised into civility and empathy. It never concerns me that the callous rail about restrictions in America. In fact, it would be very telling about the present tenor of America if they did not.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

A Basic Challenge of Mass Communication


THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
---William Wordsworth 1806.

Today I had a conversation with someone who said that she had stopped watching the news on TV or even following it on the Internet. The news for her was too unrelievedly filled with humanity's cruelty and meanness. For her own mental and spiritual health, she found it necessary to tune out the overwhelming and incessant bleakness of our times. I told her I found it necessary to do something of the same—where I used to watch the news religiously every evening, I now often turn instead to something that has a little love in it. For me it comes down in the end to this—there is so little to nothing I can do about most “world events” that I have come to concentrate on events in my own microcosm. Somehow I have been given faith that if I and others concentrate on limited areas where our actions have some hope of making a positive difference, then that is where we should place our focus and concentrate our efforts to effect change. I may not be able to control everything or even very much, but at least in my own life and in the lives I touch daily, I have some hope—even confirmed assurance—that I can make a meaningful difference.

For me it's much like if I find I have a big project to do. En mass it can be overwhelming and I am tempted to avoid grappling with it at all. Yet, when I say to myself, “to begin I will focus on some small aspect of the project—something that is readily doable;” then by degrees I can build up momentum to tackle more unwieldy aspects of the task.

Perhaps initially the evening news gave me a delusional sense of power as I watched in synopsis the world unfold before me (in half an hour); now I realize that though mass communication is readily available, it does not imply that my responsibility to be informed brings with it any legitimate necessity for me to control or intervene in everything.

Deep within my brain the stark graphics on the screen implant that I must take immediate and effective action—something more often than not quite impossible to do. This results in an enervating daily emotional overload—tending to render me ineffective not only in the world, but even in my own home. While no one should think it is wise to bury one's head in the sand, neither should we pretend that mere exposure implies that we have competence to correct every abuse we see on screen now brought incessantly to us in the intimacy of our study or bedroom. Perhaps due to the way our brains are wired, we will never be totally let off the hook without a degree of quite intentional and willful callousness. The trick is not let this necessary coping mechanism corrupt our responses even in those areas where we do have abundant and sufficient power to make a decisive difference.

Let there be Peace on Earth: The Choirboys

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
We are family,
Let us walk with each other,
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,

To take each moment and live each moment
in peace, eternally.
Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Discordant Chords of Opportunity

Vuyile Voyiya
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14 NKJV)

I will rise up against them,”
declares the Lord Almighty.”
I will cut off from Babylon her name
and survivors....” (Isaiah 14:23 NIV)

What does it mean to you that God has absolute power over all who would try to exercise or usurp power? How does that challenge you? How does it encourage and strengthen you? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 979).

It is my view that God has devised the world so that fundamental laws ensue. Most all of them have to do with limitations of one sort or another. That is, the seven deadly sins, for example, by inversion map out well the laws as they pertain to human nature. [The seven deadly sins are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.] If these laws are violated, human behavior is not optimum and will eventually lead to disaster first on a personal level and then by contagion of a societal level. In short, ethics (abiding by the laws of God) are central to the survival of individuals and nations. The key failing is always and forever the rebellion of the human will from accepting limitations set in place by God [or if not by God, then by elemental personal and organizational laws which apply with the absolute power of physics itself]. The human will, contrary to all this, lusts for limitless freedom and exploitation. A fundamental perversion that afflicts my country of America is the stamping of “unlimited” on the pursuit of success and wealth. We are the “land of opportunity” which means too often through ghastly perversion the unlimited pursuit of “whatever and to what extent we damn well please.” Thus, at the very core of my country's great promise for disciplined competence and insight lies the canker of ideological excess and blindness. Unless we come to terms with these inherent limitations (even if it seems un-American or not totally capitalistic), our promise is certainly doomed by willful rebellion against regnant law.

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A Basis of Cruelty

From your experience, what is the relationship between pride in yourself and cruelty towards others? Why is that so? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 978).

Pride based upon utter certitude about what is owed to me (in contrast to what I owe to God and others) is the basis of the cruelest pride. And I certainly don't have to be objectively deprived in any significant way to become impassioned by a false sense of self-righteousness. I then lose all sense of being blessed and instead find myself being put upon without limit. This observation is based upon my cruelty once to the staff at Subway over a petty amount of money and what I took to be ambiguity in the listing of prices on their menu board. I lost all sense of proportion and a thoroughgoing cruelty to the staff prevailed. Despite that I would not in a million years have traded the advantages of my position in terms of work and salary for that of the staff serving me, I fancied I was being sorely put upon and deprived—a sense of victimization prevailed. Indeed, there were certainly victims that day, but I was not one of them. In my wild ride of rectitude I gave up each and every one of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). Thus, when I find these missing now, I look to indicators of pride based upon self-centered expression of certitude.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dressed to Serve

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18 NIV).

The other day I met with a businessman in his downtown office in Saint Petersburg. Like many of his other client-customers no doubt, I took for granted that he would serve me, and indeed he does have a servant's heart. I attended our meeting in casual clothes, including a golf shirt. As always, he wore a business suit. At one point he told me with chagrin that recently during an event of the Republican National Convention held in our city, the anti-Wall Street demonstrators downtown ridiculed him as he walked to get lunch because he was dressed in business attire. I felt grieved that someone with a servant's heart was so despised and met with such ridicule. It reminded me that while the arrogant may wear nice dress clothes to intimidate and to imply superiority, that certainly need not be nor is typically the objective. Such clothing can be an expression of humility and respect. In this telling pop quiz of character, the proud and arrogant were the most casually and informally dressed. It is clear to me that the sense of superiority that is such a curse in human affairs resides not in one's clothes, but in one's head.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Pacifist Leanings

Pacifism: opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds (Merriam-Webster).

When I opposed the Vietnam War and went to prison rather than submit to induction, I told myself that I did not qualify for conscious objector status because though I was unwilling to fight in this war, I could think of wars I would fight in, such as WWII. Over the years having observed human behavior and conflict, I increasingly appreciate pacifism as an approach to conflict resolution. The tit-for-tat approach to conflict escalates strife while skilled pacifism, again and again, at least in my experience, almost always contributes to conflict attenuation and occasionally resolution. Certainly on a personal level it is observable that when two people are spoiling for a fight, a fight will usually ensue; but if one of the parties proactively seeks to turn away wrath, the results can seem almost miraculous when the peacemaker withholds the anticipated countervailing force. Fairly rapidly the inverse of the dead-end approach is effectuated as the would-be antagonist suddenly comes to realize that the gentle efforts to control the situation by the other party do not threaten his own power but seek to increase it individually, and through co-operation, mutually.

Of course, it is impossible to discuss this issue without the ghosts of Hitler and Neville Chamberlain materializing in one's awareness. Situations where cynicism and hatred utterly consume the perception of one's opponent make overtures to peace useless, or even worse, inflame their passions even more. Some, like Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr., have died because of an unwavering commitment to “loving one's enemy,” and frankly recognized that death was unavoidable or highly probable in the face of an opponent's abject hatred. Such martyrs clearly believed that solid commitment pays off in the long-run despite the immediate costs. Sadly in some sense, I must place myself in the company of the martyrs; for I believe that in the long-run love is more powerful and persuasive than hatred, and that investment in love, even if apparently foolish, is our only hope. I am bound to this conclusion.  I cherish holding on to my faith over and above any worldly success or ambition.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Divine Communications

Quaker Lake, North Carolina
When have you taken the credit for what was really God's work and you were merely his instrument? How do you practice giving credit where credit is due? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 972).

I suppose my wariness of the above question arises from use of the word “instrument.” To me this raises a red flag of danger. Somehow it seems profoundly unsafe to assume that I or anyone else is an “instrument of God.” Visuals of mass slayings in a movie theater by a self-proclaimed “instrument of God” come to mind. I much prefer “servant of God” or even “slave of Christ.” In short, the self-proclaimed “instrument of God” suggests an ego manic intent on power and control, while the servant of God humbly acknowledges that God (the Trinity) is in charge.

It is a sad state of affairs that now in some quarters one must be reluctant to acknowledge God's leadings. I suppose it is because of the present day loss of faith (and the worship instead of mammon). And while many give lip service to God, in their innermost hearts they don't believe. As I have written earlier, I had an experience in a movie theater that resulted in a perceptual shift, and since that time I have never in the least doubted God's existence, immanence, or preeminence. As Jesus was a bridge to eternity, I his slave, servant, and witness likewise serve as a bridge—as do all born again Christians. And I hasten to add, that our numbers are many and we constitute a common occurrence. Just today I visited with some of my extended family and the Holy Spirit was there even as my sister-in-Christ gave a beautiful prayer as we stood in a circle holding hands. I refuse to characterize the populated body of Christ as a paltry remnant—this suggest to me a prideful exclusivity which is anathema to the spirit of the Gospel.

I write this so that you may know if in my blog I speak of the leadings of the Trinity, you need not concern yourself with my mental stability.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Five Questions of Rational Thought

Great Smoky Mountains Clingmans Dome,
the highest point in the national park

A good friend (“son”) of mine is in Federal prison. They have a program for inmates that teach a methodical approach to rational decisions—the method is called RSA. When one performs a RSA, he is to ask himself five questions.

  1. Are your thoughts based on objective reality/facts??
  2. Are your thoughts helping protect your life and health??
  3. Are your thoughts helping achieve your short and long-term goals??
  4. Are your thoughts keeping you out of conflict with others??
  5. Are your thoughts making you feel the same way without the use of drugs or alcohol??

If you answer “no” three times in response to these questions, then your thoughts are not rational.

My friend adds in his letter to me: “Wayne, this is really good stuff. And it can apply to anyone. It would be good if you could sit in on one of our phase groups.” I would love to do so, but will participate “long-distance (all the way to El Reno, Oklahoma) and discuss here my take on some of the points mentioned:

My interest has always been on what I call the “Disciplines of Love.” These Disciplines incorporate substantially the questions listed above. For love, if it is to be of any use, must be based on objective reality/facts. Escapist sentimentality has no place in the disciplines of love. Facts represent an essential facet of the truth—truth being “that which is so regardless of what we may say about it.” Thus, an absolutely essential virtue for successfully coping with life is humility—humility before the facts. Who in their right mind would prefer a doctor who acted upon arrogant, opinionated impulse rather than one who first performed a humble search for the facts to carefully determine one's actual physical condition?

Likewise, Disciplines of Love have an important end in view—stability and security. They seek to protect and advance well-being and to help realize abundant life. The ways to arrive at this objective are seldom obvious. In my view, a frequent mistake is to equate protection with blatant physical force—as by securing a gun or pumping iron to build up muscle and give one the illusion of invincibility. True security ultimately rests on trust established through goodwill. Ask yourself, would you rather live in a neighborhood whose inhabitants are chronically anxious and fiercely armed to the teeth, or would your rather live in a tranquil neighborhood where security resides in reliable trust and goodwill?

Short-term goals can only be rightly understood if viewed from a long-term perspective. The long-term gives the short-term context and meaning. Disciplines of Love give extensive weight to eternal verities—the very long-term. Thus, they provide a context for short-term action. Over the years I have cultivated a friendship with Ramon Green (to whom I write this letter). A short-term objective during this time can be identified as having fun in various outings and adventures. All the while, however, a long-term goal included (I think for both of us) acting in the long-term best interest of our friend. Thus, some possible short-term actions—such as getting high off drugs—were simply unthinkable because they would undercut the long-term best interest of our friend.

Are your thoughts keeping you out of conflict with others?” Overwhelming conflict derives from a felt need to control. The secret to avoiding much conflict is to understand in matters of control we should first look to controlling ourselves, not others. A related factor is that of attitude—we need to consciously craft a positive attitude. For me the daily arena of work is a prime example. Especially on Monday mornings, on arriving at work I need to first look to controlling my own actions and attitudes, not directing or attacking others. If a thorny issue should arise, I must consciously decide that my friendship with my co-workers is stronger and more important than to engage in petty infighting. Proactive goodwill and a kind sense of humor (sometimes at one's own expense) can triumph over the venomous atmosphere of contention and strife.

Today I attended court to give support to a young friend (“son”) during a pretrial session. The schedule indicated I should be there at nine-thirty. But as anyone who is familiar with the legal process knows, that was only a rough estimate of when my friend's turn before the bench would occur. That did not occur until early afternoon. In short, I had all morning to hear court proceedings regarding drug intervention. Defendant after defendant came before the beach, all relating to drug addiction. It was no doubt one of the saddest mornings I have ever experienced.  Sometimes with the defendants' great fear and protestation, they would be sent off to spend several weeks in jail. Others went voluntarily and willingly, desperately knowing the jeopardy that they presented to themselves if they remained on the streets. I (who have always delighted in “natural highs”) am frankly mystified by drug use. Clearly, I don't understand it, and perhaps my brain is structured so that it receives a stimulus that I would otherwise find a need to artificially provide. One of the saddest memories I can remember is when I was incarcerated at FCI in Tallahassee in 1969. I entered the facility (which had large common sleeping areas) on New Year's eve. There was an industrial shop at the facility, and inmates had managed to smuggle lacquer thinner, glue, and the like into the dorm for inhaling that evening. The dark cavernous room reeked of the smell. From my bunk that night I looked to the heavens for an answer as to why my associates would want to do this to themselves. But God was silent then, as now. I have nothing useful to say about substance abuse—only this, I too have addictions (such as the drive to dominate) that can be just as (if not more) despotic. 

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Help Wanted: Goodness & Fairness

William Buckley on Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged

A friend sent me an email with the following quote or compilation of quotes of uncertain yet purportedly esteemed authorship.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. . . . Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage. . . .

My response begins with a quotation regarding wealth in America.

In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%. Financial inequality was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7% (

At this point please read my recent blog:

In conclusion, in my opinion the present state of wealth distribution in America puts the government under enormous pressure to somehow render less egregious the unequal distribution of wealth. The root of the problem is that the poor must depend on the government to redistribute wealth (or, as is now the case, fabricate a sense of fairness) in some form or other as there is no other remedy. A fervent fiction in capitalism is that individuals “earn every penny” of their disproportionate wealth and completely discount the fact that wealth arises from many sources but is filtered by a few. Contributions to wealth formation include the yeoman effort of many, flourishing markets, and substantial infrastructure support. Thus while wealth arises from many sources, capitalism tends to redistribute it to the few. And the wealthy, while gifting some of their wealth to others, en mass do not do enough of it as some people are more selfish than others.

So, my friend, under the circumstances, I do not see dependency on government as a problem for it is indeed government that must more effectively devise ways and means to make up for the inability of capitalism alone to fairly distribute wealth. There is no other institution that can effectively do so. I am fully aware that the “market economy” purportedly does that, but it is palpably obvious based on the present distribution of wealth in America that it does not do so.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Factoring in the Fundamentals

Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It is loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 state championship. Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a new coach with a spotty past...(

The following movie clip is one of my best-loved scenes in any movie. The team from a small rural town arrives in the city to play for the state championship in a large basketball arena. On arriving in town, their coach Norman Dale takes them to the court on which the game will be played. He wants to make a vital point.

The coach makes the point that the championship game will be played on a court exactly like the familiar court in their hometown. He might also have said that like the measurements of the court, the fundamentals of the game remain primarily, perhaps entirely, the same. The lesson extends for me even further to the human experience itself. No matter what court we are playing on, we can be sure that the fundamentals of human nature never change.

Today I visited my financial adviser, Greg Helck, at Raymond James. After a fairly exhaustive discussion of finances, Greg and I (as we are want to do) talked about issues that allowed us to understand each other better in a broader sense. We touched on several subjects that had one conclusion in common – fundamentals matter.

For example, we discussed the importance of language. Those unskilled in the use of language have a significant disadvantage in the fundamentals of thought. (This is perhaps the one place in the modern world where a generalized skill can contend with specialized ones). This evening my wife and I discussed it, and Kathy remarked that without language skills one is left to compensate for the deficit by thinking in pictures. For example, for the underprivileged with deficits in language skills; gold chains, gold teeth, and flashy cars can be imaged graphically. On the other hand, extremely important matters of an abstract nature cannot be so easily pictured—they are abstractions; but like the abstractions of math, they are essential for the human enterprise and require for comprehension a rich vocabulary in concert with well-practiced verbal thought processes. I think right away of the department where I work. The St. Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation programs build character with: Self Discipline, Teamwork, Achievement, Responsibility, Respect, and Honesty. Training and activities (including abstract indoctrination) are used to instill these values.

Another fundamental discussed with Greg had to do with the essential kinship between behavior early and late. That is, a businessman may start out his business with a spirit of philanthropy expressed in terms of helping his clients. In fact, he may get such satisfaction from helping them that the financial compensation so derived is secondary; he would do it, if he could, for free. After abundant success this same spirit can be expressed in terms of financial support for cherished causes. But it's important to understand that there is no difference in the underlying spirit. Likewise, there are many people of modest means who are significant benefactors in many ways other than money—but the philanthropic spirit is identical to that of our successful businessman.

We also discussed the fundamental need to positively adjust attitude to meet any necessity—even otherwise unpleasant ones. For me the attitude adjusting tool that most immediately comes to mind is the Lord's Prayer. When it's considered carefully in its entirety, it provides almost the perfect tool for such adjustment. I would recommend to any non-believer, if only for a moment, that they suspend their disbelief and recite this prayer.

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Frontier Freedom

Picture yourself at age 12-13: Where were you living? Who were your heroes? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 967).

in 1956 I was 12 and living in Ellenton, Florida. The hero of the time was Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. But the West had an even earlier attraction for us boys as we loved to play cowboys and Indians. There was an exhilaration in the play, a sense of wild and unrestrained freedom as we chased each other about with sticks for guns and Tomahawks. Now, at 12, I felt a little detached from earlier childhood games, but the attraction of the frontier remained. The Ballad of Davy Crockett even then had a nascent sense of nostalgia – a sense of earlier days, days of exuberant innocence. Yet, at the advanced age of 12, I could still don a coonskin cap and gaze into an expansive future that promised achievement and even renown. Today I appreciate the inevitable shading of romance by heavy and indelible applications of reality. But in 1956 romance was pure and simple and entirely believable. The Ballad of Davy Crockett spoke to my boyhood yearnings for a pure and joyous future that would imitate an unadulterated and glorious past.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happiness and the Four Freedoms

How free do you feel to “be happy” and enjoy life? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 943).

The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:
    Freedom of speech and expression
    Freedom of worship
    Freedom from want
    Freedom from fear
His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional US Constitutional values protected by its First Amendment, and endorsed a right to economic security and an internationalist view of foreign policy. They also anticipated what would become known decades later as the "human security" paradigm in social science and economic development. (

The question—How free do you feel to “be happy” and enjoy life?— makes me tremble for I am well aware to the extent that I feel untested. My life has been pretty much like that shown in the Normal Rockwell depiction of the four freedoms:

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Worship

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Fear

I can only guess how those suffering from racial hatred and discrimination in America must have felt when they heard FDR's speech in January of 1941. But for me personally the paintings show very aptly the blessings I have received and have taken for normalcy all my life. Any impositions on any of these freedoms at anytime were largely self-imposed.

Thus I feel free to “be happy” and enjoy life but I also understand full-well how all this could change and, indeed, has never existed for many in the world. “Eternal vigilance” and evangelism are required but the forms such vigilance and evangelism should take are never obvious; and even when obvious are too often not performed. Sometimes our very contentment and happiness testify against us. 

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