Freedom, A Fundamental Change – To The Right

OPEN LETTER TO LAURA INGRAHAM AND ALL FELLOW PATRIOTS!

Dear Ms. Ingraham,

What this country needs to survive is not a focus on politics, elected officials or even the removal of a tyrannical President.  What is needed is an informed electorate that understands and cherishes freedom!  We need an informed citizenry that won’t abide politicians and special interest groups robbing them of their freedom, especially for a mere “30 pieces of silver”.

The fact that Barrack Obama was elected twice demonstrates the general lack of regard for freedom in our country.  Our society, our culture has shifted, over the course of the past 100 years, from “Can do,” I’m responsible for my own life, to a dependent, what can the government do for me society.

If the citizens devalue their freedom (consciously or unconsciously) in exchange for security (actually a false sense) then we will continue to be represented by corrupt and ideologically driven individuals. The country will continue into ruin and tyranny regardless of which party is in charge.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore the current legislative, political and cultural battles.  We must continue to fight for the principles that this country was founded on.  But if the fight is only within the Beltway of Washington or even in the State and local governing bodies we will eventually lose this country. We’ll lose the battle and our freedom because we didn’t capture the interest of the dependency class, with those who look to the government first, those who believe in equal outcomes not equal opportunities.

It is highly unlikely that we will convert many if any of the ideologue on the Left.  They are too invested in applying their arrogance to obtain power.  Barrack Obama and the other elected leftist ideologues have obtained their position of power because too many American’s have abdicated their responsibilities and their values in the vain hope that the Left will take care of them better than the Right. In fact they have come to believe that it is their “right” to have the government provide them with “free” healthcare, equal compensation, food, etc.

Our society hasn’t changed over night.  Our tenuous hold on freedom is not the result of Obama’s “Hope and Change,” his tenure has been the icing on the cake. Our slide into slavery to the state started a long time ago. How has has this occurred?  What forces have been at work since Woodrow Wilson, eroding our values, our understanding of the responsibilities associated with self-rule, and the value of freedom?

Certainly political programs such as the New Deal and the Great Society have had significant impacts on eroding our freedom by creating a dependency class.  But the growth in the power of progressives could only happen if we let them.  Whether though lack of interest, ignorance or passivity American’s surrendered their responsibilities and in the process we find ourselves in a time and place where the vision and personal sacrifices of the Founding Fathers have been squandered.

Constitutional Amendments and changes in the political balance of power will not avert the impending doom that we are faced with.  What is necessary is a fundamental change in the thinking, education and belief structure of our fellow citizens.  What is needed is to take the battle beyond the ballot box and into the homes, TV’s, movies, concerts, books, businesses, and schools.  We need to win back the hearts and minds of America!

What We Need:

Television shows that are based on the principles that made this country great and unique.  These shows must have the best writing, acting and production and they need to be aired on network TV.  If we can’t get them aired then we need to create our own channel and promote it heavily.  I know Sarah Palin just started her own channel, but I’m suggesting main stream, ported into the majority of homes in America!  Why is this important, just watch a few shows and count the number of moral, ethical issues that are contrary to the values that made this country great.

Motion pictures are also necessary for the same reason as television shows.  We live in the media age and it is through cinematic story telling that we can reach the hearts and minds of the people most effectively.  Films such as “Fireproof” and “America” have been great and have done well but we need full scale, wide distribution, Academy award quality (Although we would never be nominated) productions that can present a viable and realistic alternative to tyranny.  When I can’t even take my grandkids to “How to Train Your Dragon 2” because the film-makers thought it necessary to include a homosexual character, you realize that we are in dark and troubling times.

Education of our youth needs to be attacked hard to counteract the century-long progressive assault. Text books, teaching curriculums, and alternative delivery systems (internet based, homeschooling etc) need to be created and pushed to the parents of our young citizens. Dennis Prager for example, has developed “Prager University” to provide resources to educate America.  This is a great and valuable resource, one that needs to be expanded and prompted to all American’s.

We need to apply these same strategies to all forms of communication and entertainment so that we provide to the people the information for them to be able to make informed decisions, for them to understand what’s at stake, to understand the consequences for letting government rule our lives.

How?:

This is the hard part.  I personally feel frustrated because if I won the Lottery I’d go out tomorrow and start building these freedom enterprises, but that is highly unlikely.  Even if I did win we’d still need a coalition of prominent American’s to come together with shared vision, resources and connections to create a seismic shift in the balance of power – from the government to the people.

Contrary to your book, “Shut-up and Sing,” our “Hollywood” brethren need to shout from the rooftops the message and the value of freedom so that “Power to the People,” can be restored.

How Many Laws Have You Broken, Today?

Moses

Come on, tell the truth, you know that you broke some law today or this week, didn’t you?  Heck you’ve probably broken more than one law, but then how would you know?

The headlines at the first of this year included,“40,000 New laws enacted as of January 2014, from tanning booths to lemon pets.”

Wow! 40,000 new laws, is that all?  I was shocked but then it is almost impossible to determine the total number of laws, statutes, and regulations that are currently on the books.  Go ahead dig into Google, Bing or Yahoo and see what you can find.

My Googling led me to the Library of Congress where I found a statement that it wasn’t possible to determine the total number of laws currently in effect!  It seems I wasn’t the first person to ask this question.

It was entertaining and enlightening to read about one of the new California laws that requires food service employees to wear latex gloves when handling raw food that won’t be cooked, this would affect your favorite sushi chef amongst others.  It was unclear, according to the report, just who this new law would affect.  Would bartenders need to wear gloves because they handle both money and raw foods?  Just imagine the number of gloves they would go through in just one shift…Mix the drink, put on gloves, add the fruit, take off gloves, serve drink and collect money, repeat the process!

So how many laws do we truly need?  100,000, 500,000, 1,000,000?

How about 10?

1. I am the Lord, your God.

2. Thou shall bring no false idols before me.

3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

6. Thou shall not kill/murder.

7. Thou shall not commit adultery.

8. Thou shall not steal.

9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

I strongly recommend that you read the linked article by Dennis Prager on the relevance of the Ten Commandments to our current culture.  The modern application of the Commandments is clearly and profoundly presented by Mr. Prager.  If we were all to write these “laws” on our hearts the world would be a better place.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

Psalm 19:7-9

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Another excellent study of the 10 Commandments is the book “Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Law Guides Our Lives,” by Alistair Begg.  I discovered this book one Saturday morning as I sat in the Prison Chaplains office inside California State Penitentiary Sacramento (New Folsom Prison).  I was waiting for the inmates to arrive for our weekly Mens Group and I noticed the book on the desk.  I’d heard of Pastor Beggs, my wife often listens to his sermons on the radio, but I had never read or heard anything he had produced.  As I waited I thumbed through the book and was stunned.  God had provided us with the Commandments, not to control us, He provided the Holy Law to empower us to become the men and women he always intended us to be.

Pastor Beggs presents a powerful, yet succinct, thesis that we as God’s children are not justified in our faith through obedience to the Law, we are justified by living our lives in accordance with the Law, we are the Law because it is written on our hearts and the Law is part of who we are as Christians.  God is the ultimate moral authority, eternal and unchanging, and His Commandments provide a structure for living authentic lives in the righteous Kingdom of God.  It is this moral authority that separates God’s Law from the laws of man.

“The Law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the Law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.” Samuel Bolton, “True Bounds of Christian Freedom”

Career politicians believe that they must pass laws to justify their positions.  What else would they do with their time in office?  What authority do these politicians have to attempt to control behavior and morality via legislation?  The Federal, State and local governments and agencies have wormed their way into every aspect of our lives, from birth to death, from work space to bedroom.  Under what authority?  The laws these “public servants” create are born from their own prejudices and judgements about how life should be lived, what controls are required to mold and shape the lives of the “people.”  The legislation and regulations are generated from man’s authority as an elected representative not God’s so that by definition they are finite and imperfect.

Another aspect, or limitation of man’s law is that they are not written on our hearts.  Human laws represent an ever-increasing number of “shall not’s” and “don’t do’s”.  The human laws are like papier-mâché, layer after layer of regulations glued to the broken seed of man.  Each law telling you that you can’t do this or you shouldn’t do that, without ever addressing the fundamental moral and behavioral issues that drive my actions in the world.

We don’t need 40,000 new laws, we need to focus on the 10 Commandments from God and transform ourselves into the authentic Children of God!

There’s no such thing as can’t

God has given us the capacity to accomplish almost anything we want, if we just believe we can.

RGS 90 yrs

In October my family, brother, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins, gathered in our “home town” of Ramona California to remember, honor and celebrate the life of my mother Rebecca Gertrude Stoker, who had passed away in July.  Gertrude, as most people called her, I called her Mom, had touched all of our lives in some fashion and her spirit and gifts live on in everyone who has ever known her.  Her life had been full of blessings and challenges and through it all she persevered and she never gave up.  She seemed to embrace the belief that if you wanted something bad enough and were willing to work hard enough you could achieve any goal – she believed…

“There’s no such thing as can’t.”

During the early 60’s, Chuck, my oldest brother, attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.  At that time the Navy football program was nationally ranked and was blessed with two Heisman Trophy winners, Joe Bellino a running back who you probably have never heard of and a guy by the name of Roger Staubach who you might have heard a little something about.

Well, Mom was a big fan and we tried to watch any game Navy had that happened to be televised, not many back in the days before cable.  However, the annual game between Army and Navy was always aired live and we would make every effort to watch the game, reception permitting. Some of you may guess what I’m saying here.  The dance of someone out at the antenna and you in front of the TV yelling suggestions about turning the antenna one way of the other trying to defeat the televised snowstorm.

It is an understatement to suggest that the Army-Navy game was a big deal to Mom.  She wanted to help the team beat Army so she did what she always did best – baked cookies and gave encouragement.  I don’t know if she would do this each year that Chuck was at the Academy but I can remember on more than one occasion helping her pack up the cookies for shipment to the Navy football team along with a note encouraging the team to do their best, to believe in themselves and that there is no such thing as can’t!

That was the essence of Mom, always the optimist – Well that, a little Stoker stubbornness and ultimately a belief in Christ!  All of which got her through life.

The stubbornness and the can-do spirit are a direct product of her parents and the circumstances of her childhood.  Born in Gainesville, Texas in February of 1919, the second of four children by Sam (Snooks) and Bessie Stoker, Mom grew up during a time when your wits, determination and creativity were the only things that kept food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head.  I’m sure that Snooks and his family would be considered poor by today’s standards but he and Bessie managed to hold the family together and provide their basic needs.  Snooks was gifted with the talent to construct things and combined with his entrepreneurial spirit led him and the family from Texas to Oregon to California.  He did what he had to to support his family and he took responsibility for finding new opportunities when the latest endeavor turned sour.

Snook’s wife, Bessie was the glue that held the immediate family, and eventually the extended family, together.  A God-loving Christian, a mother, a cook, a baker, a seamstress, a gardener, Bessie took care of almost all the her grandchildren at various points in their lives so that her own adult children could deal with the issues that seemed to happen frequently in their lives, divorce, unemployment, reeducation, relocation.

It was this galvanization of spirit and character received from her parents that forged the can do spirit in my mother.  When the going got rough, as it did repeatedly, she didn’t wallow in the misery or look to the government for assistance, she hunkered down and found a new way to support herself, to reinvent herself, to provide for her children.  I never felt like we were poor or lacked for anything growing up and I now know that this is because of how Mom (and my brothers) dealt with her struggles.  Her upbringing had taught her to be resourceful, creative and optimistic and she taught these same qualities to me and my two brothers.  Mother personified the true, original American spirit of independence and responsibility.

Mother’s childhood and struggles through her adult years is not the sole reason that she developed her “there is no such thing as can’t” character.  In fact if her worldly experiences and situations were the only basis for her character then she would never have survived to be 94-years old.  The foundation of her can do spirit was her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  I’m convinced that her belief in God helped her see opportunity in the darkest days of her life.  God was the rock that gave her the strength and energy to push through the toughest of times!

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. —Hebrews 6:19

I don’t know when Mom accepted Jesus Christ as her savior but I’m thankful that she did.  When I traveled to Kingman, Arizona the day before she died I was apprehensive about my reaction to her impending death.  However, when I arrived late Thursday night and found her laying in the hospital bed with a breathing device strapped to her face I knew that her time had come.  When she awoke shortly after my arrival she reached out, raised her head up a little and through the mask, and with a forceful gesture of her hand said, “Get this thing off me! Just let me go!” or something to that affect considering she had a stoke a few years before.  I told her that I understood and asked her to be patient while I sorted out the details with the Doctors and nurses.  I didn’t want her to be in any pain while at the same time I knew I must respect her wishes.

On Friday morning I discussed her condition with the various doctors and we developed the plan to take Mom off the breathing machine, give her medication to ease the pain and to let God decide when it was her time.  Trish, my second cousin, arrived and as we sat on each side of the bed holding her hands the nurse administered the morphine and removed the mask and Mother instantly appeared to relax although she was not awake.  At first she was breathing normally but then more and more labored but never gasping, never painfully.  At one point near the end she opened her eyes focused on something, not anything in the room, not me, and a single tear traced a line across her cheek.  She closed her eyes and she fully relaxed into the waiting arms of Jesus, she was no longer burdened by this life, with this world.

Sitting there watching her breath her last I was surprised at my reaction, I was at peace.  This peace came from knowing that Mom was going to a better place, the best place possible.  She was going to heaven and she would soon be with her mother Bessie, Jesus and God!  My peace was born from the knowledge that Mom had been saved!  I don’t know when or why she accepted Christ as her Savior, all I knew was that I was thankful she had.

As I mentioned earlier, Mom’s legacy lives on in everyone who was fortunate enough to know her and is represented by the generations who now carry on her creativity, her love and her can-do spirit into the world. I ask each of us to keep that legacy in mind as we live our lives; as we raise our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I ask that we each pray, not for her, she is in the best place possible, instead pray for each of us, our families, our neighbors, our countrymen to live positive, responsible lives dedicated to Christ!

I pray that we all live by the creed that,

”There’s NO such thing as can’t!”

Lincoln

“The assertion that “all men are created equal” was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain and it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use.” Abraham Lincoln

The music was playing yet it seemed as if the theater was totally quiet.  The movie had ended and the credits were rolling on

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States

the screen yet no one spoke, no one moved, no one got up to leave – everyone sat silently staring at the screen, not even turning to look at whoever they had come to the movie with.  Finally, as the credits began to end, one by one people began to get up from their seats and head for the theater lobby, again in total silence.  I turned and looked at my wife and she was in tears and I understood instantly what impact this film had had on her.  For myself I was angry, very angry.

The movie? “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg.

This film will certainly join “Schiendler’s List,” the other great Spielberg film, as one of the best motion pictures of all time.  It is a powerful piece of cinematic story telling and I’m sure the quality of the experience had something to do with the audience’s reaction.  However, my belief is that what stunned the audience was the contrast between real, principled presidential leadership with the lack thereof from the current occupant of the Oval Office, and for that matter most of the recent occupants.

“Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.” Abraham Lincoln

In this portrayal of only a small portion of Lincoln’s tenure as President, Spielberg artfully and with great emotion presents a profile in courage, leadership and values of arguably one of our greatest Presidents.  Lincoln remained focused on restoring the union and fulfilling the promise made with the Constitution to provide equality for all people regardless of race.  He accomplished both by facing the problem and the opponents head-on and always from a place rooted in faith in God and universal principles of right and wrong. He wasn’t trying to transform America, he was trying to restore America.

What we saw from the brilliant performance by Daniel Day-Lewis was an authentic, heroic President that inspired and empowered the people.  This man, Abraham Lincoln, was tuff, sensitive, caring, wise, powerful and smart – he was an authentic man who knew what he had to do even when no one agreed with him.  Did he have shortcomings, certainly and these are woven into the story and the performance.  But above all he was a man for the time. A man for all times.

The movie inspired me to reacquaint myself with Abraham Lincoln, to learn who he was and how he became the President.  I downloaded and listened to a historical podcast by Michael Medved, “The Real Lincoln.”  What amazed me was how incongruous it was for Mr. Lincoln to have been elected President.  Mr. Lincoln was a “common man” and as it turns out that is exactly what was needed at that time in the history of our country.  He was a man of courage and purpose and not your typical politician. His goal was to serve the people and to empower them to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens.

Lincoln“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln

It was this stark contrast between the authentic leadership of Lincoln with the current crop of self-centered, power hungry politicians that brought the tears to my wife’s eyes and the anger to my heart.  How could we let this happen? To trade our liberty for token bits of security from Mother Government?  Why has the country, the majority of citizens turned away from the ideals of the Founding Fathers and now look to the government to take care of them?   Lincoln fought heavy odds to preserve and strengthen the principles of personal liberty and responsibility, in contrast Obama, the Democrats and most of the Republicans (especially the career politicians) want to impose their ideology and their all-powerful central planning vision on us.

Sitting in that auditorium drinking in the power of the film I felt the anger boil up.  The anger that my fellow citizens have fallen so far from what I judge to be the best governing structure ever created by man, the United States Constitution!

Go see this movie, own this movie, make sure your children and grandchildren watch this movie.  I know it’s hard but we must stand up as Lincoln did and do the right thing, to restore liberty, to reclaim the Power for the People.

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.” Abraham Lincoln

The Measure of a Man

Is this a real man?It felt colder than normal that morning as I sat in a circle of inmates inside the Chapel of the maximum security prison.  I was the only “free” man in the group and the emotional flow of the discussion added to the chill that was penetrating my bones.  Myself and six or seven inmates sat in a circle on rickety chairs around a tattered rug with a small wood stump supporting a flickering candle in the middle.  The chapel was a large concrete block space, maybe thirty feet wide, fifty feet and with a ceiling approximately twenty-five feet above the cold hard floor.  The main fluorescent lights were off and the secondary incandescent lighting was dimmed to create a somber yet reverent atmosphere.

It had been serval months, over nine in fact, since we had last gathered.  The result of an “incident” on the yard that ended with several injuries and the inmates “locked down” in their cells – no program, no group time.  This was our first time meeting since the “lock down” and the chill in the air was the grief that each was feeling and expressing about a friend who had been murdered during the time of the “lock down.”  This friend, an inmate had been in our group for many years before being relocated to another Yard at the prison where he was brutally killed by his cell mate.  This first circle back was our first opportunity to share our grief and to honor the spirit of this man who had touched each of us in a special way.

An inmate had a picture of our dead friend and he placed it with honor on a heavy wooden chair that we used as an “alter” in the circle.  This chair was never sat in by members of the group and was placed at the head of the circle as a place of honor for the founders of the work we were carrying on.  We took turns expressing our anger and the grief we each felt for the loss of a dear friend and we shared stories about the man to honor the impact he had on our lives.  A touching and cathartic experience for us all.

What troubles me now as I write this is the selfish feelings I experienced that day.  I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of  appreciation for this fallen brother and the respect that each of the men had for him.  My predominate thought, “Will people miss me like this when I’m gone from this life? Will they gather to tell the stories of how I have affected their lives?”  The selfish pain I was feeling underneath the grief for the dead inmate was that the answer to these questions is, “No.”

My wife will often kid me by saying that “people are always talking about me behind my back.”  Her intent is to good-naturedly tell me that I matter to her and her children.  This has been the core of my inner personal work for the past 22-years but it’s not the point of this blog.  The point is, “What is the Measure of Man?”  This is the question that stuck with me after dealing with those feelings, emotions that morning inside the prison

With this question tugging at my soul the week after that circle inside the prison I came across a book that just so happened to be titled, “The Measure of A Man.”  Go figure.  The full title is “The Measure of a Man, Men Mentoring Me,” by Gene A. Getz.

Pastor Getz presently serves as Senior Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church North, located in Plano, Texas and his ministry career has involved a variety of experiences including Christian education and music ministries, college and seminary teaching. He has also authored over 40 books mostly focused on what it takes to lead a Godly life.

“The Measure of a Man” is an excellent read but it’s true value is if the reader uses the text as a basis for a men’s study group.  The book uses the values presented by the Apostle Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ) and Titus (Titus 1:5-10) that Paul believed to be necessary for godly men.  Dr. Getz explores each of these values and provides an outline for further group exploration and discussion that if followed will help men to clarify what it really means to be a man.

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher,  3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—  5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?  6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy NRSV

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:  6 someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.  7 For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain;  8 but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.  9 He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. Titus 1: 5-10 NRSV

Dr. Getz has distilled Paul’s letters into the following 20 attribute of a man and then challenges his readers to evaluate themselves in each area. Talk about convicting!

  1. Spiritual maturity (a well rounded man)
  2. Above reproach (a man of good repute)
  3. Husband of one wife (Morally pure)
  4. Temperate (balanced in words and actions)
  5. Prudent (wise and humble)
  6. Respectable (good role model)
  7. Hospitable (unselfish and generous)
  8. Able to teach (communicates sensitively in a non-threatening and non-defensive manner)
  9. Not addicted to wine (not addicted to substances)
  10. Not self-willed (not self-centered and controlling)
  11. Not quick-tempered (void of anger that becomes sinful)
  12. Not pugnacious (Not abusive)
  13. Gentle (sensitive, loving and kind)
  14. Peaceable (non-argumentative and non-divisive)
  15. Free from the love of money (non-materialistic)
  16. Manages his own household well (a good husband and father)
  17. Loving what is good (pursues godly activities)
  18. Just (wise, discerning, non-prejudiced and fair)
  19. Devout (holy, devoted to God)
  20. Self-controlled (Disciplined)

My first reaction was, “there are 20 qualities!” Really?”! I’ve come a long way since my youth and thinking that the only manly quality was physical strength as portrayed by the Charles Atlas ads in the comic books,  but a man is measured by these 20 qualities?  Even with all of the personal growth work I’ve done, first with the New Warrior Adventurer Trainings and more recently the Inside Circle Foundation prison ministry, I had not considered the specifics of what it truly is to be a man in the eyes of God, family and friends.

Dr. Getz’s book opened my mind and heart to the word of God.

“Listen to God’s voice, which is saying, ‘I love you no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you are in your spiritual growth, no matter what your feelings.  I’m on your side, I have not rejected you.  You are my child.  You can become a man of God, and I’m here to help you.’”

Get the book, challenge yourself.  Find a group of like-minded seekers and use the book as a guide for exploring the soul of becoming a man.  Change the world because we need more men who will take responsibility for their lives and not look to or blame others for their situation in life, especially the government.

“The greatest contribution we can make is to be everything God wants us to be as individuals, as families and as local churches.”

In closing I welcome feedback from those who know me.  How do you see me? How do I measure up to the 20 points made by Paul?  Your honesty and truth would be appreciated.

“If you really want to know what I am like, you’ll have to talk to those who really know me.”

(All quotes, with the exception of the two verses from the Holy Bible, are from “A Measure of a Man” by Gene Getz)

A Call for Men of Compassion

I still read the adventures of Prince Valiant every Sunday.

When I was a young boy my favorite book was “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”  This was a small book, small enough to fit in your pocket and it contained great stories, and engraved pictures about that age of chivalry and adventure.  I was swept up in the mythology of the book and spent considerable time reading and re-reading the book to the point that the small book was becoming “dog eared” and falling apart.  My mother understood how important the book was to me and she took it to a bindery and had the book repaired and an new cover attached with the title embossed in gold. I still have this little volume in my library and I’m looking forward to the day when I can share the stories with my grandchildren.

I couldn’t get enough of this mythology, watching every movie, reading comic books (remember Illustrated Classics?) and even put together plastic models of knights.  To this day I still read “Prince Valiant” comic strips every Sunday morning on my iPad.

The stories of King Arthur and his Knights represented values that I learned, later in life, to hold dear.  These myths defined a world that was intentional, powerful and worth fighting for. These stories about Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere while they were fables still communicated truths that are still relevant today. I knew even as a young boy that the stories weren’t true but I still believed in their moral and I was able to use that understanding to help guide my journey to manhood.

Over the course of the past three years I’ve become aware of a different mythology, a political mythology that isn’t honest, isn’t true and certainly doesn’t espouse moral values.  I own, upfront, my bias in this matter and I find it difficult to identify myths about Liberals.  However, this supports my claim that today what is presented as political truth is in fact nothing more than mythology used to manipulate people into supporting specific politicians or more precisely denouncing the opposition.  I ask that you suspend your immediate reaction to what is presented here and see if through an open mind we might be able to achieve something, together.  I’ll use the mythology applied by the Left to denigrate the Right as a way to illustrate my point.  Please respond with the myths that the Right promote about the Left!

“Paul Ryan and the Republicans want to deprive healthcare for the elderly.”

“The Republican are waging a war on women.”

“The rich don’t pay their fair share of the taxes.”

“People on the Right only care about making money and don’t care about the common man.”

“Conservatives are anti-immigrant.”

“Conservatives hate homosexuals.”

I could fill the rest of this blog with an educated repudiation of each of these myths.  Not a single one of them is true for me or anyone I know who believes in conservative values.  Instead I’m inviting you to participate in a discussion about the core mythology:

“Liberals are compassionate while Conservatives are not.”

There isn’t an issue in our society that can’t be distilled to this fundamental myth.  Regardless of the facts or the costs a Liberal will always believe that their polices are superior because they are certain that they care and we don’t.  For example, take the recent support for gay marriage by President Obama.

A Liberal colleague at work asked what I thought about the President’s recent support for gay marriage and I voiced my objection to changing the meaning of marriage to include same-sex couples.  His response as he walked away, “So you want us all to be miserable.”  Wow, he didn’t ask for an explanation for my beliefs and I didn’t say anything about how I feel about homosexuality; he just made the intellectual leap, driven by his emotions, that if I don’t agree with him then I’m an uncaring, hater of gays.

He is an enlightened and compassionate person while I’m a neanderthal.

How can we deal with any of the challenges that confront this nation if we won’t listen to each other.  In the situation mentioned above I wanted to have my colleague explain his position, I wanted to learn how he would draw the moral line; what was the moral authority for re-defining marriage?  Can brothers and sisters marry?  Is polygamy acceptable?  Can a father marry his daughter?  If we’re going to define marriage in a way that has never been done before then what’s the basis, what’s the authority for the new definition?

The Liberal “compassion myth” wouldn’t allow the man from engaging in a meaningful dialog about the definition of marriage.  He didn’t want to hear that I have the upmost respect for my gay colleagues.  He doesn’t want to learn about the close personal friends I have with men who happen to be homosexuals.  He doesn’t want to hear that I want equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.  He doesn’t want to hear the basis for my belief that marriage isn’t a right protected by the Constitution, it’s an institution.

The Liberal walks away and the ideological gulf widens and with the help of the newspapers and TV we end up with more division, more animosity, less understanding and no solutions.

I’m sick and tired of these spit wad fights ( See my earlier blog entry on this subject, http://wp.me/p1MpDw-n) while “Rome Burns!”  My challenge to all that read these words, especially the men, STAND UP FOR CLARITY.  Exercise true compassion and put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Make every attempt to understand their point of view and how they are directly affected.  Then clearly articulate your position and the basis for your beliefs.  Lose the sound bites and dive into the deep water of understanding.  I’m not asking that you agree, I’m asking that you put down the shield of self-righteousness and listen, to have ears to hear and eyes to see.  For me this is a moral issue that men must step up and be the leaders for creating a safe and positive environment for the exchange of ideas. We as men need to get past the propaganda and the myths we hold dear and clearly define the problems so that we can arrive at sensible and well thought out solutions.

As an architectural student back in the late 60’s I learned that defining the problem clearly, usually resulted in the solution becoming known quickly.  We had to “chew” on the subject for awhile in order to gain clarity but once there, the solution would appear naturally.  We as a nation need to start defining the problems more clearly in order for us to create a more perfect Union.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Omamacare) is a perfect example of how the problem, the question has NOT been clearly defined.  The result is a two thousand page law that no one read and no one can fully understand and that doesn’t actually reduce the cost of healthcare.  If we define the problem as, “We want to reduce the cost of healthcare, maintain and improve that care and make the care available and affordable to all citizens” then we’ll have a dialog that will result in a very different outcome.  We’ll be able to explore what, if anything the Federal Government needs to do (ability to sell insurance across State lines for instance) and what programs and laws can assist in achieving the stated goals at the local and State levels of government.  If we define the problem as ”How can the political class control the lives of the citizens,” then we get Obamacare.  Instead we enflame the situation through our mythologies about the Left being compassionate and the Right wanting to push granny off the cliff.

My humble request is that you join me in the dialog about fatherhood, manhood, the economy, the definition of marriage, or any other social issue.  Respond with your beliefs not your judgments.  Respond with insight and reason about the basis and the authority for your position.

Let’s not hide behind false compassion, let’s stand up for clarity and understanding and be authentically compassionate.  Let’s stop trusting our lives to career politicians and media pundits and reclaim the leadership of this great country.  Join me in picking up the sword of truth and the shield of faith to become the new knights for clarity!

Joe Cryns and the Ugly Hawaiian Shirt

No more Hawaiian shirts, but what's up with that hat?

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Remembered

This man shows up at an early San Diego New Warrior Training Adventure in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and he’s reluctant to make the commitment needed to enter the training.  He struggles but participates even though he has doubts.

After the training this man shows up at the “graduation” celebration in Olivenhain again wearing an ugly Hawaiian shirt.  Once more he’s not sure if he wants to participate, especially in the suggested follow-up groups.  After kicking the dirt and jawing for a while he participates in the celebration.

A week later this man shows up at the warehouse in San Diego where we stored the training materials between trainings and where we conducted the post training Integration Groups (I-Groups).  Again, this man shows up in an ugly Hawaiian shirt expressing doubts about this “work” being for him.  At this point I bribe him and he makes the commitment to participate in the eight week I-Group program.

This man was Joe Cryns.

The world is a better place because Joe made those decisions back in the early 90’s however reluctantly and I’m a better man for having had the privileged of knowing him.  Joe’s passing last week is a blessing in that he no longer suffers from the cancer that was attacking his body and a great loss for his family, friends, and those who won’t have the great joy of having their lives “roughed-up” by Joe.

In a recent Blog Posting, “The River Flows Through Me,” I pass along the metaphor, provided by a recent retreat leader, of our dysfunctions being a raging river that is excavating deep emotional grooves in our souls.  In that article I suggest that what is needed to change the course of that river is someone or something to “disturb” the flow and change the course, radically and in a positive direction.  Joe was someone who could “disturb” your life!

Many of the postings since his death talk of Joe’s irreverence, his mischievousness, or how he didn’t follow the “rules.”  They are all correct, Joe was all of that and more.  Once Joe was able to throw off the shackles of his “ugly Hawaiian shirt life” and discover his true self there was no stopping this man from helping others to do the same.  Joe didn’t “color outside the lines” because he wanted to be an anarchist or nonconformance, he did whatever was necessary to “disturb” the person who was struggling, as Joe had, by finding out who they were and what was working and not working in their lives.  And Joe always accomplished this with joy, humor and compassion.

The compassion and sensitivity of Joe is not often discussed but he had a great capacity for both.  You get past the bravado and elfish playfulness and you find a man that cares about life deeply.  Two stories from past New Warrior Training Adventures in Edmonton Canada paint the picture of this side of Joe Cryns:

Trainings in Edmonton always included several members of the local native tribes and this particular training was no different.  Early in the weekend, probably Saturday, a staff member, a native, came running to me and another senior staff member saying that we had a serious problem, the training participants from the tribe wanted to kill Joe!  We tried to calm the man down but he was serious and he began to educate us “guys from the States” that when someone touches a medicine man they must die.  What?  What medicine man?

It turns out that Joe had gone up to the medicine man who was a training participant and gave him a hug, not realizing that the man was considered sacred and should not be touched.    Joe was attracted to his man by his sacredness and not knowing the “rules” authentically expressed his compassion for the man in his own honest way.  Joe was thinking about the man, not the labels or cultural stereotypes and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have still offered the hug even if he knew the “rules.”  Joe wanted to share his love and passion with this man at any cost.  I don’t remember how we resolved this matter other than the obvious – I do remember how Joe owned his actions and stood up as a man.

The other situation I choose not to elaborate on the actual event other than to say that after another training, or it could be the same one in Edmonton (they all run together for me), a group of us where staying at the late Gordon Walinski’s (I apologize for not knowing the correct spelling) house in Edmonton.  We all had flights back to the States on Monday so Sunday night after the training we decided to “party.”  Again, the details about this night are not important in fact I can’t remember who was there except for Gordon, Rich Grahalva and Joe.  What is important was that I experienced a side of Joe that night that I’d never seen before – the speechless, humbled and sensitive Joe Cryns!  That night I discovered that underneath all the bluster, bravado and masculine joking Joe was a humble and sensitive man with depth and caring that most rarely got to see.  For those of you who knew Joe just imaging him speechless and transfixed, incapable of action and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Thinking back on these and many other treasured experiences with Joe I realize that I don’t think of him as having been irreverent, mischievous or undisciplined.  I don’t remember just  the jokes, the bravado, the teasing, the playfulness – What I see and will always remember about Joe is that he was a Man, no adjectives necessary and no more ugly Hawaiian shirts!

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