Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A President's Character -- 8

Sometimes crime victims can avoid becoming a victim.  Recently a kid was shot in our village.  At first it was frightening to think about random shootings happening right here in my neighborhood.  But it wasn't random.  When somebody decides to rip off somebody else in an illegal drug deal, it's no surprise when bullets fly.  But when honest people are minding their own business, not hurting anybody, and they are shot down, it's worse.

Powerful people have the power to destroy others, to ruin those who have done no harm.  If they lack character, there is no reason to refrain from using their power to hurt the little people.  That is why character matters.

A President's Character -- 7

Schools cannot teach everything that a person will need to know.  That's why it's important that students learn to think and to research and to teach themselves.  They need to be able to function on their own in days to come, in matters that are unforeseen.

Same thing regarding whom to vote for.  No one can foresee what kind of terrorist attacks we may face, what kinds of wars will be waged against us, what kind of health epidemics may arise, what kind of environmental disasters may occur.  We must choose leaders who have the character and integrity and wisdom to surround themselves with wise advisors and to choose a safe direction through the troubles. 

No matter how important the issues are, we don't vote for issues (except on referenda).  We don't vote for a platform.  We vote for a person.  And then we must trust that the person will make the right decisions when faced with currently-unknown situations.    That's why character matters.

A President's Character -- 6

I hate it when people lie to me.  If I catch you in a lie, my respect for you goes down.  If I catch you in several lies, I will be suspicious of everything you say for years and years.

I know that nearly all politicians will fudge the truth, not keep all their promises, and do some outright lying.  But lots of them do stay true to a good chunk of what they espouse.  Somebody who runs on an environmental platform may cast some votes that are not what most environmentalists would prefer.  Some anti-abortion congressmen will cast votes that are not fully consistent with pro-life values.  But overall, you know where they stand.

When a person makes a career out of lies and hypocrisy, you don't have any idea what you're voting for.  That's one of the reasons why character matters.

A President's Character -- 5

Government is not the Church.  Government is not supposed to forgive sinners.  Government isn't even supposed to take care of people.  Government has the job of keeping order.  Government's main job is to punish bad guys so that good guys can go about their lives.  There are other things government does, where we all unite to do things bigger than we can do individually: build roads, operate libraries, have a single monetary system.  But these projects can be accomplished without government.  Maintaining order, on the other hand, requires some sort of authority who can punish.

Thing is, though, government's authority comes from the authority of fathers and the authority of God's word.  Even pagan governments, whether we recognize it or not, are wielding the power of God.  When they work opposite of God's law (when they reward the bad guys and punish the good guys) they are, without realizing it, undermining their own authority.  They're shooting themselves in the foot.

That's why we need leaders --regardless of what religion they are-- who will keep the innocent safe from those who would harm them. 

People who are themselves predators are not likely to do a good job of defending the innocent.  Thus, character matters.

A President's Character -- 4

I am under no illusion that presidents, governors, justices, and representatives have been above reproach.  Hardly! 

But there was a day when the big boss of the political "Machine" in a city had to keep up appearances.  There was a day when the philandering politician had to pretend to be happily married, and keep his mistress a secret.  There was a day when embezzlement and fraud were scandalous, instead of evidence of someone being "an astute businessman."

It is bad, but not uncommon, for a politician to live a sinful life behind closed doors.
It is far worse for a politician to celebrate that he takes advantage of people and to advocate for greed.
And it is worse yet when the voters give thumbs-up to this evil worldview.

A President's Character -- 3

But WHY?  Why is morality necessary for freedom?  Maybe morality is necessary in the people, but not necessarily in the elected representatives.  Why is it necessary in politics? 
In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate -- look at his character. It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, men of truth, hating covetousness. It is to the neglect of this rule that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breaches of trust, speculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country and which disgrace our government. When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country. (Noah Webster)
Even if we disagree with Noah Webster's comments on scripture and the fear of God, it still stands to reason that those lacking high moral character will have no qualms about fraud and embezzlement.  Their power can be used for selfish purposes rather than for serving the nation.
If the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded.  (Noah Webster)
Legislating from the bench.
Bribes and extortion.
People punished for refusing to violate their conscience and God's word.

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsel of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.  (Edmund Burke)

Something must control the sinful inclinations.  If it's not a person's morality, it must be force and power of government.  But if the people in government are immoral, and if they are aiming for immoral principles, then a society continues to collapse.

Quotes found at the website "Quotes on Liberty and Virtue.

A President's Character -- 2

Freedom cannot long exist without morality.

George Washington: Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

George Washington:  Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.

George Washington: Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.

Benjamin Franklin:  Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.

Montesquieu (quoted by Thomas Jefferson):  When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.

Alexander Hamilton: The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence.

James Madison: To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without virtue in the people, is a chimerical* idea.

Patrick Henry: Bad men cannot make good citizens.... A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.  No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue.

John Adams: Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

John Adams: Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.

Samuel Johnson: No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous.

Quotes found at the website "Quotes on Liberty and Virtue."

* chimerical = outlandish

A President's Character -- 1

My friend Cheryl wrote an article and spoke on Issues Etc about character.  The first question Todd asked was, "Why do you reject the idea that character no longer matters in our nation's leaders?"

I was stymied by the question.

I listened to Cheryl's response.  I agree with much of what she said, but somehow I didn't find it to be a fully satisfactory answer.  After pondering through some of my chores and projects today, I still do not have a satisfactory answer, but I'm getting closer.

First, though, it should be jaw-dropping to us that we have come to a place where this question even needs to be asked.  If character doesn't matter, then it's okay to have a scoundrel in charge.  Think of that for a minute:  "Shame on you for questioning whether we should put a scoundrel into office.  Why should you be leery of that?!"  Obviously, throughout history, bad dudes have often led countries.  But that might've been due to a coup or because of a king's divine right.  It's usually not because those who were being governed chose to have scoundrels governing them.  We prefer to have honorable men as our leaders.  Duh!

But if we're going to ask questions where the answer should be so obvious that the question shouldn't need to be answered, ... what is the answer?

Quotes from the founding fathers about morality.
Quotes about corrupt leaders.
Bragging about immorality.
Immorality of leaders undermines their own authority.
Voting for a person, not a platform.
A reason to refrain from abusing power.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Living in These Troubled Times

Amy Medina is a missionary in Tanzania.  She writes about how American Christians might need to start living as if they were missionaries.  And she's not talking about speaking the Gospel to those around you.  She's talking about feeling like an outsider, but nevertheless refusing to hole up in our little conclaves.  She's talking about being limited in job options, and expecting that we could quickly lose our possessions.  She's talking about praying for a country and being engaged with the neighbors, while still knowing that nobody cares much about our opinion or rights.

The article is a fresh perspective on how we are pilgrims in this world.  In these turbulent times of post-modernism, her message reminds us of things we know but too often blow past.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Interfering with Faith

The Large Catechism tells us about the Holy Spirit's work: "If the work [of Christ's suffering death, resurrection] remained concealed so that no one knew about it, then it would be useless and lost."

Luke 24: The atonement is not all that's necessary.  It's also necessary that repentance and remission of sins be preached.

The devil tried, but he couldn't keep Jesus from the cross.

So now his only shot at destroying God's work is to interfere with the preaching of repentance and forgiveness

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rebuking Unbelief

Mark's Easter account tells us that Jesus "rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart" when He appeared to the disciples-in-hiding in the upper room that Sunday.

We think rebuke and imagine a scolding, a wagging finger, and a hefty dose of "Shame on you for not believing those who had reported My resurrection!" 

But what do the other gospel accounts tell us?  There is not a shred of scolding anywhere.  The way Jesus "rebuked their unbelief" was to forgive them.  To speak "Peace to you."  To show them that He who had died was now alive.  To expound to them what the Old Testament scriptures had taught of His suffering and atonement.  To restore them to their office of forgiving others.

That is how He rebuked [chased away or beat back] their unbelief.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


"You're not really sorry if you keep on committing the sin."

There is some truth to that.  A nine-yr-old isn't really sorry if he's just saying the words while inwardly plotting a way to keep on whopping his brother as soon as Mom is occupied elsewhere.  The car thief isn't really sorry when he's found guilty before the judge for one theft, while at that very moment his chop-shop is dismantling or disguising another dozen cars. 

But there's the gossip who intends to do better, who desires to do better, but who slips back into her old ways during the course of what started as a normal, pleasant conversation.  Or maybe there's an addict who does what he can to stay clean, but sometimes in weakness succumbs to the addiction.  The devil is quick to accuse: "See?  You're still committing the sin.  You aren't sorry.  That means you are impenitent, and there is no forgiveness for you."

It gets worse when the sin is failing to trust in the Lord with all your heart.  "You aren't trusting in Him?  You still sin?  Obviously you are not repentant.  Because if you were, you'd just knock it off and overflow with abundant trust, never struggling with sin again." 

Repentance means a person is turned from trusting in his own works to relying upon the Lord.

Relying upon the Lord?

For what?

For good behavior?
For strength to stop sinning?
For wisdom and fortitude to do what is right?

Well, yes.  For those things too.

But mostly ...
for relying on His forgiveness. 

If repentance means making sure we Just Stop Sinning Already, then repentance is still about trusting in myself.  And that's really no repentance at all.

Today's Laugh

Santa and his wife weren't getting along.  They went to a marriage counselor but still could not work out their differences.  They decided to divorce.  They discovered --to their amazement-- that divorce is not allowed at the North Pole. 

So instead of a divorce, they got a semicolon.

Because a semicolon separates two independent Clauses.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs

It's like magic!  Alton Brown said to peel the hard-boiled eggs before they cool.  And it works!

With fresh eggs from happy chickens, I found it nearly impossible to deal with hard-boiling eggs.  I tried letting them get old before boiling.  I would add vinegar to the water they're boiling in.  Or add baking soda.  But it was hit-or-miss as to whether the eggs would peel.  And when they would peel, it was a painstaking and time-consuming job.

Obviously, this peel-when-warm plan is useless for Easter eggs.

But for egg salad, deviled eggs, tuna salad, etc, hard-boil the eggs, and then put them in cold water for a few minutes.  Peel them while still slightly warm.  Put the peeled eggs in a closed container and pop 'em in the fridge until you need them. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Worst Cooks in America

The "Survivor" version of cooking lessons.  Gary and I have been enjoying watching Worst Cooks in America.  This is much better than Chopped and even more enjoyable than Iron Chef.  The contestants begin as clueless cooks.  Along they way they are taught and challenged and helped and flummoxed and just keep cookin'.

I thought I was a pretty good cook, but I've learned a few things as I watch.

~ An easier way to cut an onion.  If you halve the onion vertically, peel it, and then begin dicing without going through the root end, the root will help hold the pieces of onion hold together.

~ Frugal Gourmet always said, "Hot pan.  Cold oil.  Food won't stick."  The teacher-chefs on WCiA tell the recruits to make sure the oil is just beginning to smoke before adding the food.  Then you know the oil is good and hot.

~ Chicken and fish go skin-side-down in the skillet or baking dish. Don't try to fudge and fuss with it and loosen the meat to prevent sticking; just wait until it's cooked.  Then move it.

~ Never ever press a spatula on top of a burger.  (That habit is going to be hard to break.)

Monday, May 09, 2016

Liberation Theology Pops Up Again

With the current crop of presidential candidates, American Christians are wondering about voting this November.  Many Christians are saying that disciples of Jesus should be voting for a candidate who will help the poor and homeless, who will fight the injustices of racism and sexism and bigotry.  They quote passage after passage of Jesus' words about oppression and comfort and poverty. 

Hold on a minute, guys.

The problem Jesus came to solve was the problem of sin.

The solution Jesus offers is forgiveness of sin.

When Jesus talks about oppression, He is talking about the church leaders who oppress people with the laws and the rules and the demands for obedience.  The oppression is that we must earn God's favor through our behavior.  When Jesus talks about freedom, He is talking about the gospel of His mercy and forgiveness.

When we make an idol of our worldly goods and worldly comforts, then we think that's the main thing God cares about too.  When we make Avoiding-Suffering our top priority, we think that God is loving if and only if He frees us from temporal suffering. 

To be sure, the Lord does care about the temporal suffering of His creatures.  But sometimes He nevertheless permits it for the sake of faith, that people might call out to Him and rely on Him instead of depending upon themselves.  Christians, too, will care about their neighbors' suffering.  Insofar as they are able, they will offer help and comfort, food and clothing, clean water and mosquito netting, homes and medical care.  They will share the neighbors' burdens.  They will pray and they will give physical relief.

But we cannot eliminate poverty.  (Jesus said that too.) 

The government's place is to maintain order in society, to punish those who take what belongs to others, to take vengeance on those who do bodily harm to others.  It is not the government's job to be merciful, giving to people what they do not deserve.  That is the Church's job.  But what the Church gives is the word of forgiveness for Jesus' sake.  This may offend those who see the Church as a social agency, but it is nonetheless true:  Earthly blessings from Christians to the needy isn't the top priority; those works of mercy are rather an outgrowth of Christian love.

Those who say otherwise,
those who think Jesus is all about providing fairness in creature-comforts to everyone,
are looking for a Bread-King.  (See John 6.)
They are preaching "another Jesus" and "another gospel."  (See 2 Corinthians 11.)

Sunday, May 08, 2016


The last month I've done some things that I hadn't done yet in my post-stroke life.  The garden is tilled and waiting for seeds or seedlings.  The cherry trees and apple trees have been severely pruned and are looking lovely as they flower.  The blackberries and raspberries have been pruned too.  We made a trip to Minnesota to see Paul and Mandy's house and to attend a baby shower. 

One of my projects at church is (I think) completed.  Not to worry, there are plenty of other projects.  The next big project will probably be prepping a manuscript for the publisher, which is easier than decision-making.  (Making decisions is far more tiring and mind-muddling than it used to be.)

It's 74 in the house and I am cold.  Remember how, as a kid, you would go into nursing homes to visit and feel stifled by the heat?  Yeah ... that's the kind of heat I'm craving now.  I was looking forward to swimming at a family reunion this year.  After a couple of nice warm days recently, when I still needed a jacket, I suspect I'll be too chilled to get wet unless it's 100 out.

Garlic is amazing.  After a year and half of living with an infection that I got during my hospital stay, my doctor sent me to a specialist.  I did not appreciate the specialist's advice.  I determined to get serious about using garlic to eliminate the bacteria.  It took over a week.  I ate more than three heads of raw garlic.  I'm sure I reeked.  But the infection cleared up.  Finally.  Four months now and no sign of the problem.  I can now do wild and crazy things: eat a donut, or have a cup of coffee on the same day that I eat a cookie, or go for a walk that's more than a mile long, or have a beer, or drive six hours without taking a month to recuperate.  This is fantastic!

I have continued working on Saturday mornings since I ostensibly quit my part-time job last summer.  I have two Saturdays left before I'm done done.  I have such mixed feelings about leaving.

My mom's house sold the day after it was listed for sale.  I feel like a schlock that I haven't been down there this month to help finish clearing it out.  I keep giving myself the speech that I can only do what I am able to do.  And I'm not very good yet at admitting that I cannot.

Next big job must be to organize the basement.  It's become a dumping spot.  This is going to require some amount of physical labor, but more exhausting is going to be the decisions.  Especially the decisions of what to eliminate.  I had been doing a decent job of submerging my pack-rat tendencies.  But it's become harder lately.  And really, who wants to be organizing the basement when it's spring and I could be outside instead?  (Shhhh -- let's not talk about the fact that I didn't organize the basement in winter because it was too cold down there.  Excuses abound!)

Friday, April 01, 2016

Counting Calories

Counting calories is hard.
Sure, it's manageable IF you're eating food straight out of a box, with a nutrition label that tells you how many calories are in it.  But that's not the best nutrition.  Nor the best taste. 

Daughter1 told Daughter3 about her discovery:  
The website harnesses the power of the internet to do all sorts of figuring for you.  For example, if you type in "banana," it will offer you choices of a small, medium, or large banana (with lengths to help you figure out size), and then it adds in a calorie count.  It has restaurant food in its search engines.  It has brand names, so you can look up Aldi spaghetti sauce or Starkist tuna or King Arthur flour.  

Best of all -- you can add recipes and it will figure that calorie count for you.  One time, Andrew had a project at school to evaluate his diet; it was far too difficult to eat the real food he was accustomed to.  Instead, he spent a few days eating instafood and fast food.  During that project, his goal was that all food come with a label listing the calories, protein, fat, etc.  But with LoseIt, we can record what went into the stirfry or casserole or salad, and the program figures up how many calories there are.  Maggie can also have "recipes" for things she eats regularly (such as the sandwich she frequently takes with her on school days) to simplify even further the record-keeping.

Maggie is motivated to use this.  She finds it easier to avoid the junk food when she knows she'll have to admit it to herself and watch the calories add up on her daily tote board.  She finds that exercise is easier when she enjoys the reward of typing in how far she walked or how many minutes she rode her bike, and sees her day's calorie-budget increase.  She set herself a goal of 2# loss per month, but she's far ahead of that for her first month.  

After a month of using the program, an added [math] bonus is that both Maggie and I are getting much better at estimating weights, volumes, and calorie counts.  

By the way, this program would be way easier with a smart phone, but LoseIt works just fine with a desktop.