Sunday, August 24, 2014

Forced Morality

Recently, I was having a conversation on a certain social media site with a couple of former students. The whole thing began after I hastily shared a picture that had information on tobacco and marijuana use that may have not been entirely accurate. The fact that my sharing of the picture did not come after an exhaustive search of relevant materials to verify the veracity of its claims seemed to upset my friends. This is not, however the subject of this particular rant, but I would like to discuss the implications of the message conveyed by these two people.

At one point, one of them said, "I just don't like people pushing their morality on me."

Really? Was that what I was doing by sharing a picture about harmful effects from smoking? By, however unresearched my part in it may have been, passing along a photo, was I truly forcing my morality on him? Let's take a look at this, shall we?

Let's ignore the fact that the picture I shared was inaccurate. Embarassing as it may be, it is not germane to my theme. So, with that in mind, what was I doing? I was sharing information that I believed could help someone else decide to avoid, what is considered, even by those who "enjoy" it, as a horrible habit, or a disgusting vice. In fact, one of these conversationalists brought up the fact that they smoke, and that they considered it to be horrible.

Was I pushing my own morality on him? No. In fact, his own sense of right and wrong agreed with me. So why did he feel that I was? Because his own sense of guilt over doing something he knew to be horrible was tweaked by seeing the information I passed along. Let us be clear. Voicing your opinon is NOT forcing your morality on other people.

I was not telling him he had to quit smoking. In fact, I wasn't thinking of him, personally, at all when I shared the picture. Any reproach was on his own part.

But as I thought further on this situation, and the things I told him (I can't quote directly because that social media site has lost the conversation somehow), the true nature of the situation came to me. I want to discuss who is truly forcing their morality on others. It isn't who you may think.

When I walk across a parking lot, on my way from my car, while entering most businesses, I frequently find myself holding my breath. In almost every parking lot in every city, there is at least one person smoking. Are they sitting in some little cocoon where their smoke can't reach anyone? Do they prudently place their depleted butts in a proper disposal recpticle? Not hardly. They blow their smoke into the very air you and I breathe, then blatantly throw their sometimes unfinished cigarette remains on the ground, where they continue smouldering.

Who is forcing their own morality on others here? If you smoke, and I voce my opinon, I am not forcing you to stop smoking, but when you blow your smoke into the air I am breathing, you are forcing me to walk through your cancer-causing cloud. And while you have the choice to ignore my opinion, which wouldn't be the first time THAT has happened, I do NOT have the choice to ignore the need to visit a grocery store, or other such business. And I DEFINITELY don't have the option of ignoring the need for oxygen.

As I drive the highways, watch television, or navigate the information highway, I see randomly posted images on billboards or websites. I can choose to not sit and ogle at these images, some of which were at one time illegal in area where children may wander, but what has been seen cannot be unseen. My morality tells me to turn away, but it is another's morality, or lack of morality that is forced on me in that initial moment when the image is seen.

As a musician, I know full well the power of music. Som

And now to jump in with both feet. I do not wish to force my morality on anyone, by telling the, they cannot marry whomever they wish to marry. But my opinion is that marriage has always been the morality of a male/female religiously recognized relationship. If you choose to oppose that morality, that is your choice, but by forcing society to redefine what marriage is, you are forcing your lack of morality on the rest of us. Don't try to deny it by using all sorts of politically correct buzzwords and scripts designed to make us feel like it is the other way around.

So, it seems that, although ther are some who are trying to force their morality on others, in most cases, the only people pushing morality are those who don't have any. And you don't have to look much further than the Middle East to see how this happens. And before you try, no, I am not saying that people who want same-sex marriage are like terrorists who cut off reporter's heads, or kill people in the streets.

But don't try to say I am pushing my morality on you by simply stating my opinion. And when that opinion actually IS based on fact, just back off competely. On the opposite side of that, i have learned that none are so blind as those who will not see. In other words, I choose to not wrestle with pigs. I just get dirty, and the pig enjoys it. And no, I didn't just call you a pig. Or maybe I did. Don't judge me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another Cartoon

I have attempted my first political cartoon. Let me know what you think....

Friday, April 26, 2013

What Death Has Taught Me

A few weeks ago, my family lost our father. Although his death was sudden, and the circumstances surprising, it was not, in truth, unexpected. His health had been declining for several years, and he had several injuries from falls as he had become more unstable on his feet.

His passing is felt deeply by our family, but not for him. Rather we mourn for our mother, and each other. I, personally, have remarked to several people that I am not sad about his death, but merely for how much we all, and especially his eternal companion, our dear mother, will miss him. You see, the gospel of Jesus Christ has taught me many things about Death, and Death has taught me many things about Life.

One of the things I have learned is the truth of the infinite nature of choice. We have a multitude of choices place before us each day. We have limitless options at this point, but the moment we decide, that vast collection is reduced to one point.

Some of our choices produce more unlimited possibilities. One of those is the choice of education. Learning, growing, developing, and expanding our minds increases our options. Choosing to not learn, to not study, to not practice limits our potential future.

As a youth, I took piano lessons. I also played the violin in school. I didn't always put in the hours I sould have, however, when it came to practicing. Today, if I were to pick up a violin, I would most likely still sound like a beginner--a sound not incredibly pleasant to the human ear--but I would know some of the basic principles to playing.

Over the years, I have spent more time with my piano playing, and I can play things now that I could not play even a few short years ago. I am not, however, what I would consider a proficient pianist. I know that had I spent more time practicing as a child, I would be better now.

But most importantly for this discussion, because I took the opportunity when younger to take piano lessons, I now have, as a possible choice, playing the piano. Had I not made that choice to take lessons, the choice to play would not now be open to me. But had I made the choice to practice more, my options now would be greater.

The second thing that Death has taught me is how eternally important family is. Growing up, I admit I saw my dad as almost super-human. This is possibly due to the fact that I also saw him rather infrequently, since he was on the road for so many days during the week, then busy on weekends. After his job changed, he spent more time at home, and my image of him was shattered. After that, he and I did not get along very well. Until I moved out, that is. Not living in the same house allowed us to develop a better closeness. I still find that odd, but it was true.

In fact, I have found that I often have repeated that pattern. Many of the people in my life get along better with me when we do not lve in the same house. If I had the chance for a do-over, I would spend less of my energies on things that matter less, and more on my relatinships with family.

Even now, my siblings and I chat every Sunday night. Some of these siblings were out on their own before I was old enough to really get to know them very well. But the love I have for them, and the rare amounts of time I spend with them--even online--show me how important it is to focus on those moments when I can.

As our society brings about the collapse of the family, our church asks us to strengthen those ties. Death has taught me that strong bonds of love are not broken at the passing of a loved one, but strengthened further.

Death has also taught me the importance of peace. Not just peace as an absence of war, but inner peace that comes from sure knowledge with a sound foundation. I have always felt that there was either staying busy, or doing nothing. There was little in between. I now realize that we each need moments of peacefulness.

We should not merely be passive in accepting peacefull moments when they come, but we should actively seek them. Merely being inactive is not the same. If we are to truly find serenity, it must be a proactive choice, with conscious actions. I still waste plenty of time, but I am finding ways to build peaceful moments in my life.

And to paraphrase financial guru Dave Ramsey, the surest way to inner peace is to "walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus." My truest moment of peace come from the surety that He has suffered that I may be forgiven, and that from Him I can gain the strength to carry on when the journey seems difficult. From Him I find light when the way is dark.

This brings me to one of the most important things I have learned -- the importance of maintaining an eternal perspective. So many believe that we should live only for today, because there may not be a tomorrow. I know that this is good advice in many ways, but not all.

We must remember to live in such a way that we are prepared for tomorrow. This is good advice financially (which I am still in the process of attempting), and great advice spiritually. We will live again after this life, and there will be a day of accountability, when we will be asked to answer for the lives we have lived.

In that day, we cannot hope to accomplish in one moment what we should have maintained for our entire lives. If we have not lived up to our commitments, and religiously our covenants, that day will be too late. And if we have not made any commitments, our lack of initiative will mean that we have to answer for the good we could have done, but didn't.

You see, one of the reasons we are here is grow in strength and knowledge. If we give in to baser instincts, we cannot acheive that goal, since sin makes us weak. If we never build our character, we stay weak. It reminds me of trees. If trees are given too easy a life, they will be blown over at the first strong wind. Too harsh an invironment, and the tree can wither.

We will not wither, because God will never put us in an environment that is too harsh for us. He knows our strengths, and knows how much we can take. He has promised we will never be given more than we can withstand. Which means we cannot use, as an excuse, that something was too difficult. It will never be so.

So our task is to grow. We are to become strong. We are to become great. And staying weak by refusing to stretch our limits will condemn us as surely as sinning.

The final thing I will discuss (for now) is the third thing death has taught me. That is the importance of death itself. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that one of the most important, and educational places on earth is the LDS temple. Tonight, while there, something profound occured to me. Death is more than just an end to our earthly life. It is even more than the first step into the next life.

Death is a necessary part of the Great Plan of Happiness. You see, Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden after partaking of the forbidden fruit. Not just because they had disobeyed God's command, but because staying could have disrupted the entire plan. Had they stayed, they may have partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This would have made them immortal once again. But they had allowed the sin of disobedience into their lives and hearts and souls. Had they done this, not only would they have lived forever in their sins, but it is possible that even had they been able to have children, all mankind would have been born into a world of immortality.

Immortal innocence was the state of the world before Adam's Fall. Immortal corruption would have damaged the plan that was to culminate in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That was what I realized tonight about death. We need it. Not just so that we can keep the world rom being too crowded, not just so we can get to the next life. We need death to separate us from our corrupt corporeal bodies, so the Atonement can save us. Immortal beings could not be changed in the way we need to be changed, but a spirit separated from its body by death becomes somewhat lessened.

That is when the Atonement comes into play. First, by relying on the grace of Jesus Christ, after all we can do, we can turn to Him for mercy. His grace fully grants us the gift of immortality once again, after we have been cleansed of our sins. If we have been cleansed. Those who have, by whatever means, rejected the forgiveness of the Savior in this life will be raised to a state that is less than their ultimate potential. They will not achieve Celestial Life with God, because of their choice to deny the full power of Christ's sacrifice in their lives.

But those who allow their sins to be forgiven, who sacrifice their sins in order to know God and Jesus Christ who He sent, will be raised to a state of Celestial Glory. And all of that is possible because we can, at the end of our days, do the one remaining thing we have been unable to do until then--die.

I do not fear death. Will I welcome it when it is my turn? Who can say? Will I seek it? Absolutely not. But when it comes, I will not be looking into a void, but stepping from this room into the next. I will not be taken by a heartless predator, but will be met by a familiar friend. And when that time comes, I will praise God for the time I had, and thank Him for His merciful blessings.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Calming the Tempest

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 8)

I heard it reported recently, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy that people on the east coast are considering voting for the reelection of President Obama on the basis of climate change. They have been convinced that Mitt Romney cannot change the climate, but that Mr. Obama can.

Really? Has the liberal media been THAT successful in their endeavors to portray this man as the Messiah? It is one thing to expect a political candidate to change the economy. He should have sound foreign policies, and plans for taxes and the deficit. But can we really expect any politician, even the president, to be capable of changing the weather?!

The last time I checked, it was the ACTUAL Messiah who could do that. Jesus, with the simple words, "Peace. Be still," calmed the tempest. His divinity and his faith allowed him to do this.

All of Mr. Obama's rhetoric cannot pause the rains. His Socialist Agenda will never slow the lightest breeze. His communist upbringing cannot thaw the snows, nor cool the ocean currents. The polar bear population will neither increase nor decrease simply at his word.

The only Word that can truly alter climates, can truly calm the storms, both within and without, is the only Name by which we can truly be saved. His is the Word which can change hearts. He is the Lord of Heaven and earth. Only Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

I had originally planned to write about the voice of wickedness in electing bad officials. But if the people allow this falsehood to continue, it is the voice of stupidity that is speaking loudest.

I am not saying that Mitt Romney is closer to God than anyone else. I do not claim that he will change the weather. But if any man suggests that any other man can do these things, including President Obama, that man is either a liar or an idiot. In fact, the Bible would say he is a false prophet.

Let's forget the hype and the rhetoric and put ourselves in God's hands. I would rather be there than anywhere else. Where men's hands fail, His will not. And to those people who are attempting to deify any human man, I say, "Shut up."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The State of America: Why the Devil Could Be Elected President

As I have watched the Presidential campaigns, and, more importantly, the reactions of the media, political leaders in our nation, and the people of the United States, I have come to a rather startling conclusion. If the Devil ran for office, he would be voted into the White House.

How could this be, you may ask. Well, regardless of the fact that we live in a predominantly Christian nation, and have a fundamental belief structure that is based on Judeo-Christian tenets, we do not, as a culture live up to the ideals we claim to uphold. So I would like to lay out here my reasoning behind my premise that Satan could be elected as POTUS.

Primarily, we need to examine both the personal character of the candidate in relation to the inherent nature of the majority of voters in America. To use the vernacular, it ain't pretty.

The Lesson of Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve ate the fruit to gain knowledge. The first promise the Devil makes is that if we vote for him, we will be better people. He warns us that by voting for his opponent, we may be racist, or sexist, or that we want to take away the rights of others. If we vote for him, we are smart, sensitive, caring people who only want to help. Our culture right now obsesses with looking good. You don't have to be good, simply look the part. Celebrities are touting a myriad of good causes while running their personal lives into the sewers. But as long as they sign their name to a charitable cause, or donate money to starving children somewhere, and naturally get their photo-ops in the process, then they must be good people.

Leaders and actors, politicians and activists all cheat, steal, spend their time whoring or engaging in drug-induced debauchery. Then they turn right back around and tell "normal" people that if we don't try to be like them in their oh-so-enlightened crusades for the betterment of the human race, that we are not being politically correct, and must, therefore, be stupid, or unpopular, or both. Satan would have us believe that if we don't vote for him, that we must be old-fashioned and outdated. Shame on us for not wanting to join him in helping poor sick kids all over the world, because we are so selfish.

And unfortunately, that ever-present desire in our culture to be popular and appear intelligent would mean that most Americans would check the "Devil" box on the ballot. And probably vote straight "Hell Party."

The Lesson of Cain and Abel

Most people do not want to kill their brother, but that is not what Satan would tell them to do right off. Cain had two fundamental issues that messed things up. First he was self-centered, and second, he thought he deserved to have things just because he wanted them. Satan told him the very thing he would tell voters: that if they would vote for him, he would give them everything they want.

Mitt Romney was taken to task for something he said in what he thought was a private conversation. He said that 47% of the people in America were out of his reach. Why? Because they had bought into the idea that if they voted for his opponent, things would continue to be handed to them, without any effort on their part. Someone else suggested that Mr. Romney's number was low, and that the actual percentage was closer to 49. I suggest that secretly that number is far higher than anyone suspects.

As a culture, Americans are lazy and suffer from entitlement issues. And each generation is worse than those that preceded it. If someone had suggested, a hundred years ago, that women would be getting pregnant again and again simply so their welfare checks could increase, our great-grandparents would have thought it was a work of fiction from a twisted mind. They would have laughed if someone had posited that entire communities could earn a living without actually needing to work for their income. Yet now, in our age of entitlement, people are living on government funds, while buying their designer jeans and fancy smart phones. Tobacco and alcohol sales don't hurt when someone doesn't have a job. In fact, they sometimes increase.

And the bootleggers of yesteryear have nothing on the drug dealers and sex-sellers of modern times. But Satan would tell us that if it feels good, then we must be happy, and if we are happy, then whatever it is must be okay. Legalizing substances that cause harm to the body, mind, and community sounds bad. He would simply tell us that if those things were legal, then fewer people would be considered criminals. In one stroke he would cut the crime rate. Of course, if you legalized fratricide, then Cain would have been just a good old boy with one less brother nagging him.

The Lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah

God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire from heaven, because they were too wicked to allow to continue. But before he did, he agreed that if Abraham could find even 50 righteous men, he would spare the city. Abraham bartered with the numbers but was unsuccessful in his search. When the people in the city found out he was there, they wanted to kill him. Lot offered them his two virgin daughters in an attempt to buy the cooperation of the mob. The wicked men refused the offer, threatening death to Lot and his family when angelic rescuers saved the day.

The devil does not compromise, but he will make you believe he will. He will convince you to perform heinous acts under the belief that they are preferable to a worse transgression. Satan will promise safety and security for everyone, but only at his will, and only after paying a great price. Once he is through with his argument, not only would most of our American culture make the sacrifices he would ask, but they would thank him for making them commit to the change. But that is only half of the lesson.

The other half of the lesson is that of the cities involved. The American culture is quickly becoming one of debauchery and lasciviousness. Just as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, we have created a modern culture of sexual deviancy, and it has become such an inherent part of our society that it is no longer seen as a choice but a birthright. Those choosing such lifestyles are almost seen as a separate racial division. And to speak out against their choices is to court accusations of discrimination and intolerance.

The devil will promise that any choice you make is perfectly fine, regardless, or rather, in spite of previous claims of depravity. And the American society is entirely willing to accept this lie, because of the issues we not only maintain with entitlement, but also because it would give us the perfect way to excuse our guilt. Satan would get the support of these voters because he would offer them a way to blame someone else for their sins.

The Lesson of Temptation

When Jesus went into the mountain to pray, Satan came to tempt him. Although Jesus never gave in to temptation, the devil continued his efforts, offering food, riches, and power. Jesus understood that those things pale by comparison to righteousness and the blessings of heaven. The continuation of temptings came because although Satan understood those things as well, he also understands human nature better than anyone. He failed because Jesus was more than human. We are not.

Satan's next election promise would be that by electing him, we could gain our deepest immediate pleasures. He would not promise happiness, for even the devil knows that wickedness never was happiness. But he would offer us pleasures. He would offer to appease our hungers and appetites.

Our American culture is obsessed with the pleasures of the flesh. We glut ourselves in every base and vile perversion, while gorging ourselves to the very edge of death. We believe that just because we want something, that means we should have it, regardless of the cost, whether to us or someone else. We do not want to hear that we should not have something, or do something. We want to be told that we deserve whatever we want. Voters would choose Satan because he would offer instant gratification and delayed cost, or no cost.

The Lesson of Credit

The devil would also win the election because he could convince us that debt is good. People all across the nation, and even the world, believe that in order to be a complete person, you must have debt, must have a good credit rating, and must be making payments.

He would tell us that since we have no concept of trillions or even billions of dollars, we should not worry about it. That it is not only acceptable, but that it is to be expected. And in our culture, we would accept his word, even if it be uncomfortably accepted. He would gain votes because Americans don't want to believe that we can fail. Our national ego believes that we are beyond reproach and above failure. That sort of thing only happens in countries that are not as good as ours. Where people are not as good as us.

Satan would tell us that no level of debt could topple us. And our conceit would convince us to trust him. Worse, some of us would maintain disbelief, but would refuse to admit it, because we would not want to have those who follow the devil mock us. This different type of conceit would keep us silent.

The Lesson of 5th Grade

Satan lies. We know that. He hides his lies amidst truths and partial truths. We know that also. Politicians lie. We know that. They hide things from us all the time and tell us they do it for our protection, or some other such lie. We know that as well as anything. But we still believe them. We ask ourselves constantly why that could be. The answer is quite simple. People are stupid.

None of us have all the answers. And we can't. Not even remotely. Even politicians who claim to have all the answers don't have them. But we want to believe they do. And more importantly, by expecting our leaders to be all-knowing, we renounce the responsibility of knowing. Most Americans are perfectly blissful in their ignorance. We don't want to become educated in some matters, because knowledge adds duty. And the last thing most Americans want is added duties and responsibilities.

Satan would tell us that we don't need to know anything. He would promise to care for our needs as he sees fit, and that any information we gained would be either incorrect, dishonest, or simply superfluous. And since we really don't want to bother ourselves with the effort necessary for our education, we will simply continue in our bliss.

The Lesson of Politics

The truth of the matter is, however, that the devil will never run for political office. And there are several reasons why he won't. First, he doesn't need to. So many politicians, in every city, county, state, and nation of the world, are already doing his work, that there is no need for him to actually take the reins himself.

Second, he accomplishes so much by being behind the scenes that he would actually lose ground if he came into public view. Millions of people know the devil seeks their souls, but they almost don't believe in him. Not really. And this is because they can't see him. Plus, they already believe his lies. If he became a politician, less people would listen to him. Less people would succumb to his temptations.

Thirdly, to validate his own existence, he would in so doing, validate the existence of God as well. The American people profess a belief in God. Many of them actually do. But the media, including producers in Hollywood, would have us believe that only fanatics believe in God. They show us in movie after movie, show after show, that the villains are the religious people. Whether knowingly or otherwise, they further Satan's lies by trying to indoctrinate the youth of America in immorality, drug and tobacco abuse, and alcoholism. They promote the lies that pleasure is happiness and that they are entitled to everything with little or no effort on their part. If Satan ran for office, and people could see him and hear him, they would start to wonder about God. And that is the last thing he wants.

So the devil will never campaign for the presidency. He doesn't need to, nor does he really want to. But with the state of things in America right now, if he ran, he would win. Children would sing songs about him, Hollywood would proclaim his greatness, and the power-hungry around the world would flock to please him and ally themselves with him. And anyone who spoke out against him would be touted as insane extremists. Nobody would take them seriously. After all, if the American people elect a president, we couldn't possibly have made a mistake. Admitting errors is not in our nature. Only committing them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

For My Son, On Finishing Last

My oldest son recently commented on FB that he has determined that the saying is true that "nice guys finish last."

I have been thinking about this ever since I read it, and tonight my thoughts solidified. As with everything here, I will speak without apology, but here is what I have determined on this subject. SkiTl, this is for you....

I decided that what needs to happen is first, we must decide what a nice guy is. And then we have to determine whether we are, in fact, one of them. You must decide this. I cannot decide it for you. But you must decide honestly, then you must take responsibility for your decision. When I was a little younger than you are now, I had a similar outlook. It took meeting your mother and falling in love with her to make me see who I was, and who I was willing to become.

Let's talk first about the Not-Nice Guy. Let's say he is one particular guy, and we will name him ... ow about Rick? Rick is one of those guys who, according to the theory, is going to finish first. Why is that? Who is Rick? First, he is selfish. He only cares about his immediate comfort and pleasure. He may finish first, but that is only because he only concerned with finishing first, and he will finish alone, leaving pain and suffering behind him.

Rick will also finish first, because he has taken the easiest path, the quickest way he sees to finish. And he will celebrate the fact that he finished first, bragging about it to anyone else who finishes, and mocking those who come after him, or have still not fished.

Rick, however does not realize that finishing is not the same as winning. He mocks those who are still going because deep down, he fears what they represent. And what they represent is the fact that the race we are running is not a sprint, but a marathon. He took the easiest path and reached the finish line, which was only a short distance away, while avoiding the rest of the course, with all its trials and wonders.

See if the "Nice Guys" are right, then Rick is an irresponsible, childish, selfish jerk. And the truth of the matter is that the nice guys ARE right.

Our nice guy we will call Norman. Seems like a decent nice-guy name. What does Norman do hat makes him different from Rick? Norman goes to church on Sunday. He doesn't go because he has to, but because he wants to be a better person, and he knows he needs a weekly fill-up. He goes because he knows he can't run the whole race on his own, and there are other marathoners there who can help him, not to mention the help he needs from the original Nice Guy Himself. Who better to understand his needs? This means Norman also prays. He knows what Rick doesn't: that nobody finishes the race quickly, and nobody does it solo.

Norman also show self-discipline. He knows that the only person he has power over is himself, but that he has to always be vigilant. He can never give in to his inner Rick. He knows that would ruin his life.

Norman goes to school. Not so he can be rich, but so he can be better. He studies hard, and he tries to learn what he can. Grades are good, but knowledge is better. He knows that eventually, his efforts will pay off. Not necessarily right now. That is Rick talking. Norman is in for the long haul.

Norman is a hard worker. He listens to people. He cares, and is understanding. He uses kind words and is tactful. He helps other people. All of this helps him become a man who can love with his entire being. That is what a real man is.

Where all Rick is looking for is potential sex partners, Norman is seeking one life partner. She will be the person Norman can be with and make happy. Rick is only interested in his own pleasure. He will always try to "finish" with girls. Norman wants one girl who will never be finished with him.

Because of that, Norman tries to meet "Nice Girls." He will most likely meet them at church, but if not, will take them there. And they will want to go with him. Rick doesn’t care if a girl is nice or not. He is only concerned with what they can do for him. Norman wants one who can do great things for their children.

Rick is irresponsible. Norman takes responsibility for all his actions, so chooses what those actions will be with great care.he does not want to regret anything. This is what Rick fears the most. He fears responsibility. He knows that if he becomes at all like Norman, he will have to acknowledge that he has not been very nice. And he does not want any responsibility. He also knows, deep down what Norman also knows, but he is afraid to admit it.

The biggest truth that Norman knows is that winning means NOT FINISHING AT ALL. Rick wants to finish and be done. Norman wants to keep going. Norman will stay on the right path no matter how hard it gets. He will never finish, because the course never ends. While Rick is sitting and congratulating himself on finishing first, Norman is miles down the road, experiencing wonders, and even pains and heartaches. He will stay the course. He will fight the good fight. And when the true "End" comes, he will have won. He will win the prize, and be able to say he made it the whole way.

Rick will never be happy. He will find pleasure wherever he can get it, but never true happiness. Norman will find strength. He will find wisdom. And he will find happiness. But mostly, he will find that it was true that he did not finish first. And he will know that he was never meant to do so. He knows it was never about that in the first place.

I know you are discouraged right now. We have all been there, trust me. I may not know every detail of your life right now, but I know discouragement. There are ways past it. But success will never be found by avoiding the things that truly matter. It takes work. It takes effort. And it takes reaching out to the Lord, because he does know every detail. He knows what it takes. I am not perfect; never claimed to be. But He is. And with His help, all things are possible.

Don't worry so much about whether or not nice guys finish last. Worry about whether or not you can be counted as one of them, and work on you. Make YOU be the best thing you ever made. When you can reach that point, the girl who has been making herself good for you will be standing right where she should be. Will you be there to see her? If you aren't where you should be, you might just miss her. But if you are, you will see that being a Nice Guy isn't so bad after all...!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Power Principle #3

Gratitude is Power
This is a principle I understand, but don't always follow. There is a lady in our town who never has her requests rejected. The reason? She is the most exuberant person with praise and thanks.
More than merely thanking others for whatever favor they have done her, or task they have performed, This lady sends written thanks in the form of a card, and consistently stops the person in the store, at church, or on the street to thank them again for their efforts, while praising them for their talents, skills, personality, achievements, etc. She simply makes every person she speaks with feel as though her life was made better by their involvement.
And who is to say this isn't what she believes? I doubt anyone would question her sincerity, simply on the foundation of her consistency. I know I will definitely not be the person to raise a doubt.
People who follow this practice seem to always have better results in delegating responsibilities. They are able to create a situation in which others actually want to help them. Individuals who achieve this ability have absolutely built a power base in their lives. 
The opposite is also true, however. People who never show gratitude, or are consistently critical of the efforts of others are more likely to alienate the very people who could be helping them. Others end up being insulted by such individuals, and will even go to greater lengths to avoid them.
This principle is a very simple matter, but a very effective process. To create a reality where others are more willing to be around you and help you, cultivate a thankful demeanor. You'll be thankful you did!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Power Principle #2

Knowledge is Power.
Ignorant men (and women) are rarely aware of the fullest extent of their own influence. They are also unaware of the contributions of others, and how those contributions can benefit their own lives. 
If you were to see a baby crawling toward a fire, what would your response be? Stop the baby, so it would not be burned? Yell and scare the baby, hoping it would never go toward another fire again? One tribe would simply watch as the baby's fingers touched the flames, or the rocks near them. The baby would get a minor burn, yes, but it would learn, absolutely, what those flames could do. And no, I am not advocating burning infants to teach them the dangers of fire. I am advocating learning where we can.
If you want to be able to succeed in this world, not only must you be educated, you must also be informed. There are many people who are making money without having received a college education (or in some situations, even a high school education), but every one of these people researches their options, and finds out as much as possible about the factors leading up to their success. And every one of them stays educated--or informed--about as much as possible. 
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's restaurants had not graduated high school when he started working for Colonel Sanders in his KFC business. But her learned all he could about the business. One of the things he learned is that by working for the Col. he would not be leaving a legacy for his daughter. So, he started his own business, and became very successful. And what did he do after making his company the giant is is today? He went back and finished high school, even going so far as to pay for the graduation party for his classmates!
Even teachers and professors attend what is called "Professional Development Conferences" to better themselves and their teaching. If the people who are on the front lines of education feel it necessary to continue learning, perhaps everyone else should at least give it a chance.
By learning more, you open up a world of opportunities. You give yourself the tools that can help you make--well, there is no other way to say it--"educated decisions." By refusing to learn, you risk not only stagnating, but reversing your circumstances. You are more likely to lose money, lose time, and lose out on opportunities.
Do not assume that current media practices will keep you informed about the issues surrounding you. The people who run the different media organizations stay informed about all issues. Then they relay the information they want you to know. If you simply rely on their slanted reports, you may never know how much you don't know. You will believe that you are informed on the issues, while remaining as ignorant as the truly informed people want you to be.

One danger in our world is the attitude of "Why can't you let me make my own mistakes!" Only the truly ignorant would wish to not learn from those who went before. I do not need to stick my hand in a shark's mouth to know for myself whether or not that is a bad idea. I myself once slammed my finger in a car door. Should my children perform this mistake simply so they don't have to rely on my experience? Of course not. Then why do so many people insist on the Freedom of Stupidity?
Another point to consider is the Tabula Rasa condition. This is the Blank Slate student. They soak in every word as though it were Gospel. Don't accept everything you hear at face value. Even professors may miss some information, or even skim past it due to time restraints, with the hope that you will actually read up on the research. 
There is a character in a Shakespeare play who exhibits an undesirable attribute with regards to learning. He name is Ophelia. Her father Polonius asks her if she believes Hamlet's sincerity. She answers, "I do not know, my lord, what I should think." He tells her he will teach her, and to think of herself as a baby. This basic relationship has been named, the "Ophelia Syndrome." 

In essence, you should not go into an educational experience as a completely empty vessel, waiting to be filled, but as a full being, expecting to increase understanding. Far too many students do not have the foundational knowledge necessary to actually LEARN from their professors. Instead, they memorize as many facts as possible in an attempt to pass the exams. Every one of these professors would prefer a room full of well-informed thinkers instead of vacant automatons. When you can communicate with those who teach you, you can grow more than even they would hope.
So stay in school. Go to college. Earn a degree. Keep learning. When you stop learning, it's because you're dead.
Knowledge is Power.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Masculine Affirmation

We watched one of the final episodes tonight of the Oprah Show. One of the main themes was what this woman has done to help girls and women all over the world believe in and grasp the power they have. It was an affirmation of the feminine sex. It was inspiring. And it made me ask a huge question:
What is being done to TRULY empower young men all over the world?
So I would like to start a series of posts about what attributes belong to REAL MEN. These are from a set of standards I have had in the back of my mind for some time now. I call them "The Power Principles."
Patience is Power
This is the first great Principle. Real Men do not feel the "need" to lose their tempers or "blow up" at their families. Real Men bide their time and focus their energies on solutions instead of retaliation. And, oh yeah-- just for the record--Real Men NEVER HIT WOMEN! 
A Real Man can always find a solution that is better. Those who "can't help it," or "lose control" are less than Real Men and more like Beasts. And Beauty may have fallen for one, but Beasts are NOT Real Men. In fact, if we continue the story of the fairy tale, it was only through the Beast's willingness to overcome his Animal nature that he was able to break the curse and become a Real Man.
Those who lose their temper do not see the whole picture. They only see the immediate burn from those they consider their enemies. Only those who can remain cool can wait out the storm to find the security that comes later. These are the Men who keep money instead of spending it, make profit instead of losing wages, and climb the ladder of success instead of sliding into the gutter. Those who cannot maintain their control are more likely to take risks that cannot pay dividends in the future. 
If we look at the simple phrase "Losing your temper," we must go to the foundation of our culture. A blacksmith would heat and hammer steel until he could not only shape it, but strengthen it by hardening it through the process. This is called "tempering the blade." When a blade "loses its temper" it becomes weaker and more likely to break or shatter upon contact with another blade, a shield, or other hard surface. Its effectiveness as a blade is diminished. It is worthless as a weapon. 
Knives that lose their temper will not hold an edge as long, and will dull more quickly. They become an inconvenience and a frustration to those wielding them. They cannot fulfill the purpose for which they were made. These blades rust more easily and become a tarnished shadow of the image they were meant to project.
Men who "lose their temper" are no different. They become weaker, easily distracted from true objectives, and less capable of fulfilling the purpose for which they were created. They become worth less (if not completely WORTHLESS), and are more likely to break or shatter when facing truly difficult circumstances. They become, at best, an inconvenience and a frustration to those who would be with them. They repulse others, and wallow in solitude.
Those who maintain, or hold their temper are among those who remain strong. They can stay the course. They will not be broken by the smaller issues that face them, and are more likely to remain strong when faced by truly deep trials. They can, simply by their presence and and focus, strengthen the people around them; their friends, families, and spouses. They attract the people around them, and create unbreakable bonds in their most intimate relationships.
Young men, for the sake of your own future, and the well-being of those around you, remember this first Principle:
Patience is Power

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Self Evident Truths: President Obama's Trash Talk

Self Evident Truths: President Obama's Trash Talk: "I was going to post an analysis of a quote on civil liberties and morality but found this video analysis from the Wall Street Journal showin..."

Thanks to Euripides for posting this! I really don't need to say more....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Stupidity of Standardized Testing

As an Arts Teacher, I get to avoid one of the E-VILS permeating the lives of some of my co-workers--Standardized Testing. Studies have indicated for many years now that these tests, and preparations for them have no educational value whatsoever. Here is another take on the whole subject that I found fascinating. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No Excuses

This is just going to be a short post (I know -- I've said that before!). I have had some success in the past couple of weeks that I did not have in the previous years. I have lost 45 lbs. since Christmas (it is now March 19). A friend who is a fitness expert thinks this is a huge feat.
My weight loss has taught me a couple of things, though and I would like to share those.
1) Some people fail at diets because they don't truly commit to them. Period.
2) Some people fail at diets because they medically cannot succeed.
3) Some people succeed at diets because they don't see them as "diets" but "life-style changes," and commit to them.
4) The people who have the most success usually have a very good reason to succeed, not just a desire.
This site is title "No Apologies," but I now offer up No Excuses for the past 20 years. I never truly committed myself to doing what was necessary to be healthy until my poor health threatened my ability to take care of my wife, who is going through chemotherapy. SHE is my reason to get and STAY healthy. Victor Frankl developed a type of practice called "Logo Therapy" in which people are given a reason to succeed. You can withstand any WHAT as long as you have a strong enough WHY. 
So all those out there who just "can't lose weight," I call to you to join me in offering no more excuses. It's time to take your future in your own hands. And, by the way, I offer that same invitation to those who "can't quit smoking," or whatever bad habit/addiction may be holding you down. Find your reason, make your commitment, and NEVER LOOK BACK!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Identity Crisis Part 2

So there has been some new developments in the media lately. There always are. One in particular is a real gem. To demonstrate, I will use personal history.
When he was young, my oldest child wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. He even told everyone his name was Michaelangelo. We didn't think anything about it at the time, because we were unenlightened. Now we know differently.
The media tells us now that we were not allowing our son to fully express his own identity.
What we should have done is let him dress like a turtle and act like a turtle. And we should have encouraged him to seek out his own sense of turtle identity. 
This would include the fact that we should have encouraged him to grow up and seek loving caring relationships with turtles who believed in him and accepted him for who he is. Perhaps one day, if the people of the world finally stop hating turtles so much, they may even have allowed him to commit to a loving turtle by taking the vows.
In this way, perhaps he would today feel a sense of turtle worth, instead of rejecting his inner nature by trying to please his parents and the non-turtle acceptance of our closed-minded society.
Son, we're sorry we didn't live up to the ideals our media would have us believe! How you must have suffered, and must suffer still!
It's too late for you, but perhaps some other turtle boy or girl out there will be allowed to freely express the way they were born!
Sorry, the tears in my eyes are making it difficult to see the keyboard....
See what I mean?