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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Filling the Bucket

"In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise
Give me Jesus."

-- Negro Spiritual of unknown origin likely composed by a slave

Some days songs just pop into my head.  I suspect most people experience it.  This morning the Jeremy Camp version of "Give Me Jesus" is rolling through my head on continuous loop.  I wonder sometimes what sets off such things?

I suspect it is current circumstance and needs that rise out of the heart that drive it.  I believe God supplies us with answers to those things which challenge us.  If we will feed ourselves with His Word and with songs generated from that Word, He will provide them as needed -- they will rise up out of seeming "nothingness" to provide comfort and peace.

Take time each day to feed your Spirit so that when needed, there will be plenty to draw upon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

No "Selfies" Needed

Sometimes it's the small things
That ease the path for others --
Providing meaning
For existence;

To serve
Rather than to be served;

Inverted thinking;
Contra-worldliness;
Outward looking;
Building bridges;

No "selfies" needed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Abuse of Power and Gamesmanship

I am concerned about many things going on in our government, but one that stands out to me is the attempts by the U.S. Congress to force certain behavior by the Executive through the use of summons and subpoenas.  It seems to be a tactic designed solely to disrupt the ability of the Executive to function.

The Constitution is clear on the division of powers between the various branches of government.  It seems Congress has co-opted judiciary power in order to disrupt the executive power.  I would think it appropriate for Congressional Committees to request the appearance of executive officers in order to provide information relevant to their purposes, but to demand appearance is strictly for the purpose of political gamesmanship.  That very gamesmanship is reason for the executive officers to resist or, refuse testimony.  It is nothing but abuse of power.

The system of government as outlined under the Constitution provides for a balance of function so that no specific group obtains inordinate power over the others and ergo over the people.  The Democrats in the House are seeking to concentrate power in their hands that is harmful to the overall function of government and threatens the very fabric of our nation.  I hope the executive continues to resist.

At least part of the blame lies with the previous administration that demonstrated willful disregard for due process through misuse of the investigative agency designed to protect the public.  It showed that power could be accreted through unlawful means by utilizing the very agency meant to prevent it.  Now, political leaders in the House are using a similar strategy.  Let's hope the Supreme Court, which is where these issues ultimately will land, demonstrates the wisdom of the founders in the balance between branches.

In the meantime, we face what can only be described as a failed government -- not just the Executive and not just the Legislative, but the entirety of government.  It's no wonder some of the more radical ideas are catching traction.  The public is fed up with what we have.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Nightlife

Dancing in the moonlight,
High up in the trees
Rustling leaves are twirling
On the gentle breeze.

A whippoorwill is calling
As he dashes through the night
Chasing after insects
Who flee in frantic flight.

Stars are twinkling brightly
Far above it all;
In the distant pasture
Sounds the coyote's mournful call.

There is a constant noise
Of insects and of frogs
And somewhere in the woods
Is the sound of wild hogs.

Nighttime brings the creatures out
Who've spent the day asleep
Where underneath the darkness
A vigil they do keep

For those who do the hunting
Or, for those who are the prey
There in the inky blackness
Hidden from the light of day.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Anchored to the Immovable

At times it is easy to forget the things that provide an anchor.  We allow ourselves to be tossed about by events and circumstances rather than to "catch hold" of something stronger that will allow us to ride out the storms.  That is the purpose of an anchor -- to hold us to something that is immovable that will be unaffected by the storms that rage.

There are many kinds of storms that affect us.  Yesterday was one of those days when we knew thunderstorms were coming from the west.  We knew far in advance that they were likely to bring severe weather and so we prepared.  Fortunately, the severe storms missed us, but the point is they were the type for which we could prepare because of advance warning.  Often, storms pop up quickly, with little advance warning and they can bring hail and wind or, even a tornado.  They often catch us unaware.

Weather is one type of storm, but the kind that truly impact us are the ones that challenge us in other ways.  It could be illness, job loss, death of a family member, or many of the other things that create difficulties for us on journey through life.  Sometimes we can prepare for such things but, at other times they happen without warning.  Those seem to be the kind that are most troubling.

I was reminded of this aspect of life this morning as I looked at one of my favorite passages in the Bible:  James 1:2-7

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you many be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

God has given us the tools to ride out the storm.  Faith is our anchor that ties us to the immovable.  I pray this morning that your faith is in the Truth which is Jesus.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Sultry Morning

This morning as I step outside
The air is wet and thick,
Presaging what the forecast calls
A high risk of thunderstorms
With some likely severe.
It is days like this
That make me miss
The open plains where
A light breeze sweeps away
The heaviness of moisture-laden
Air.

The animals in silence
Pant heavily as they seek
The slightest breeze to relieve
Their misery
Of trapped heat that never
Dissipates into the
Laden molecules which
Are already at body temperature.
Relief will come later with
Rising winds, pelting rain and
Hail.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Snakes and Slug Slime

In a way, I am a little bit like James Harriott.  If you aren't familiar with him, he was a British Veterinarian and author of children's books.  Our children and grandchildren are great fans.

Somehow, I associate him with the words "all creatures great and small" which I think was the title of one of his books even though I believe the source of them was a children's song learned long ago in Sunday School.  In saying that I am a bit like him, I refer to the fact that I am intrigued by animals -- creatures -- of almost any kind.  That doesn't necessarily mean that I want them as companions or as pets, but that I am interested in their construction, their function and their place in the overall scheme of things.  After all, everything on this earth serves a purpose and every virus, bacteria, insect, plant and animal has a role to play.

What brings this to mind is a post from yesterday on Facebook in which a friend discovered a small garter snake trapped in a glue trap inside the bathroom at their home.  Snakes are interesting to me although I have never been one to pick them up and let them wind around my arm as my bride is willing to do.  I don't fear them, I just have no desire to interact with them on such a personal level.  I think finding one in the bathroom goes a bit beyond invasion of personal space.

Since moving to this part of Texas we have become acquainted with a number of creatures that were not a part of growing up in drier climes.  The one that specifically comes to mind is the common garden slug.  They come out at night and leave slime trails on our back porch.  In the daylight, after the slime has dried, you can see their trails shine as they reflect the light.  They especially follow the mortared seam where the concrete of the porch abuts the bricks of the house.  Over time, through repeated nights of traveling the same path, the thin layer of dried slime builds to form a thorough coating over the mortar and concrete that makes it look as though it has been varnished.  They sometimes will climb on the windows as well, leaving a tracery of paths across the glass that is only apparent when the light hits it just right.  I am not a fan of them if for no other reason than the mess they make with their slime trails.  They do, however, make good bait.

My "to do" list gets a new addition -- scrubbing the back porch.  I probably should wait until the sliming season is past.

I wonder what the purpose of a slug might be....

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Restless Reminders

We are surrounded by traces of the past.  Of course, some are better than others at throwing out those things that tend to accumulate over time, but still, if you look closely, things creep into our life that find a semi-permanent place somewhere around us.

Examples might be a coffee mug picked up on a trip to a museum, or a book purchased in another state, or perhaps it is something much smaller such as an ink pen picked up at a trade show.  Over time, some of these things will be weeded out only to be replaced by other things.  These are what make for a "Sherlock Holmes" snapshot of who we are because they quickly build context for the places we have been and the things we have done.

Our inner life is filled with similar "tracks" that have been left behind by experience.  Each and every thing that we do affects us, sometimes in subtle ways, so that we carry within our minds and bodies a history of our life.  It might be the influence of a teacher many, many years ago, or it could be a fight with the neighbor kid when you were growing up.  It could be a trip you took to another state, or country, but still, whatever it is that we have done has had an effect.

When I see rows of perfectly spaced grain sorghum growing in fields, I think of a trip to Niger where the farmers planted millet by hand in roughly spaced rows in the red soils of the Sahel.  Their tools were primitive hoes as compared to the massive machinery used in this country.  When I see a new metal barn I think of the old Quonset barn on my grandfather's farm, or the massive wooden structures of the Midwest or, the black tobacco drying barns of Kentucky.  My mind connects those things into a patchwork of experience.  That experience affects my attitude and my behavior toward others.  It helps me to understand a little better than if I had never been exposed to those things.

Both the external and internal "tracks" that surround and fill me are largely the result of travel.  Not everyone has the opportunity to travel, but for those who do, I would highly encourage it.  It helps us to better understand and relate to others.  It is easy to believe that our way of thinking is correct when our exposure to other thought and experience is limited.

Maybe I'm getting a bit restless.  I'm ready for something new. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

World News and Connections

This is one of those mornings in which my mind is "subject hopping" rather than focusing in on anything specific.  It makes it difficult to write because the...

I noticed several articles about computer glitches or, viruses, or other issues related to the use of the pervasive technology that surrounds us as I read the news earlier this morning.  It seems that the more complex things get, the more opportunities there are for individuals to exploit weaknesses within them....

I don't know what the ultimate results of the tariff war with China will be, but the current stalemate is certainly taking a toll on the stock market.  It's interesting to me how reactive the markets can be to such things.  Usually, the impact is considerably less than the market anticipates....

Cattle markets have taken a deep dive lately as far as Futures prices are concerned.  There should be some opportunities if you are in the stocker or cattle feeding business, but if you are selling your calf crop it may not be to your advantage.  I still think they are high relative to the opportunity based on the Futures, but there will be plenty of buyers at these price levels....

The rhetoric out of Iran continues to escalate and has precipitated the stripping of non-essential personnel from the U.S. presence in neighboring Iraq.  It is prudent, however, I think calling the warships in the Gulf "targets" rather than some less provocative term is a sign that it is mostly rhetoric as opposed to threat....

There are a number of novels under the Tom Clancy brand that refer to issues in the South China Sea and how conflicting claims to that area of the ocean could lead to an escalation of inter-power violence.  Coupled with the tariff war, we should be concerned....

...things bouncing around in my head aren't necessarily connected yet all of them are related.  One of the first economic problems one must solve when starting out on the study of said subject is something along the lines of, "What is the impact of a rise in the price of eggs in China on the cattle market in the U.S.?"  There is no clear answer, but an argument could be made for any one of many scenarios.  The point is that small things can have a global impact as the repercussions ripple through the world economy.  Maybe all these disparate subjects are connected after all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Oz and Attitude

This morning the story of the Wizard of Oz comes to my mind.  It is the story of a scarecrow without a brain, a tin woodsman without a heart, a lion without courage and a little girl who just wants to go home.  I'm certain that everyone reading this is familiar with the movie made from the books by L. Frank Baum.

What triggered my thoughts in this direction are two-fold:  1) I have been reading the Oz books and 2) an article in BBC News this morning about hay fever.  The first is obviously linked, but the second a bit more obscure.  It has to do with the human body and how it reacts to the things around us.  It is an amazing vessel that contains this life-essence we recognize as self.

In time, through the "wisdom" of the great and powerful wizard, the characters in the Oz stories all learn that the power to overcome their shortcoming lies within.  With the aid of simple devices that give them confidence, each is able to fill their perceived need.  Ultimately it comes down to perception.

Perception is important in our lives.  We don't often think about how we perceive the things around us, but experts in marketing are fully aware of that impact.  There is a marketing concept that is stated, "perception is reality."  If we choose to believe something, it becomes real to us.  This is a dangerous, yet important factor in human character because it can work to our good or, to our detriment.

I believe the capacity for perception affecting our life is an important aspect of faith.  We either allow perception to accept or, to reject the presence of the Deity.  We can choose to interpret experience in ways that attribute certain events to God's intervention or, to mere chance, or even other convoluted cause-and-effect events.  I choose faith in a real God who loves us and intervened to provide a pathway into His presence via His Son, Jesus.

The ability we possess for allowing perception to influence and enforce our beliefs is important in other ways.  If we fill our mind with positive thoughts, we tend to be more positive; if our thoughts are negative we express that outlook in our interactions with others.  The primary impetus for the scarecrow, tin woodsman and the lion to overcome their perceived inadequacies was to become convinced that they had done so.  Dorothy's challenge was slightly different in that it was tied to the trauma-induced dream state she had entered into as a result of a knock on the head.  However, she awakened to reality when she believed that she could do so.

I believe we each can overcome our shortcomings by first recognizing them as such and then working to convince ourselves that we can conquer them.  We must learn to focus on the positive and suppress the negative.  I wonder now if I can convince myself that I don't really have hay fever and it will go away....
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