Road Reflections: “What a Country!”-Part 1

I’d have to say that I love to travel, especially when it’s not work related. I love seeing new things, new surroundings, new people (or peoples), and, as a student of history, all of the history which travel exposes one to.

I’m writing this while still on the road (7 different states tomorrow), and I have had some time to take my own advice, and “take time.” I have conducted a little “book business,” and the online store is always potentially “24/7,” but this idea of taking a vacation, just “getting away” is such a great idea. I often think of Jesus, who would, on occasion, get away from the crowds, especially to the mountains, which has always been my favorite place to go. He would spend much of His time, isolated from distraction, in prayer. And, He would often take His disciples with Him, to teach them in private, away from the crowds and distractions. I must confess that, while I have read and studied the Bible quite a bit during our travels, I haven’t prayed nearly as much as I should. I know … some of you may be thinking the same thought which comes to me now … there is no recorded incident of Jesus ever taking a vacation. I agree with this … I also agree that “retirement” is not a Scriptural concept, either … but, that may be a subject for another time …

Anyway … whenever I have the chance to travel, especially to distant places, I always am reminded of how incredibly blessed we are to live in this country, the United States of America. I often write about this … that so many of us here, just have no idea how different the conditions are in other countries. Not just religious freedom, either. Just the conveniences we enjoy, and take for granted, every day. That too, is a topic for another time, though I will continually go back to it.

The economic freedom and opportunity we have is unsurpassed. I’m not much for complaining about gas prices here in the US, as I know that many people across the world have been paying over 5.00 a gallon for it … for years. By the way, we paid 3.19 a gallon in parts of Virginia. We paid 3.67 to fill up in New Hampshire before we left.

Postage stamps? I never complain about the price of a postage stamp, either. I must admit that I did have to look up how much a postage stamp was, while writing this. Not necessarily ignorance, but I always buy a book of stamps at one time, and just haven’t done the math. I also always buy the “forever” stamps. I don’t even know if they put the price of postage on the stamps anymore (perhaps out of embarrassment).
The reason that I don’t complain about the price is that it may take 49¢ to get a letter across the United States, or even 2.07 to ship a pair of Christian sunglasses across the country … but in both cases … it would be hard for me to take it there myself for less … So, I never complain about the cost. I just feel blessed that we can mail just about anything, to anyone, and have a pretty good assurance that it will arrive. And, the ability to track the package or letter is just an added bonus that I feel like is just another economic blessing that we take for granted.

I like to be grateful for everything, “in all things give thanks.”

In the paragraph above, I wrote the price of a postage stamp as “49¢.” In so doing, I had to type the “cent” symbol. After looking, and looking, and looking for the symbol on my keyboard, I asked Carol where the “cent” symbol was. She looked at where she thought it was, then stated she had no idea where it was.
Next step: Here’s what I typed into the Google search: “When did they take the “cent” symbol off of a keyboard?” Well they did, and it appears it was for “coding” reasons, years ago.
Guess what my next search was? “How do you make a “cent” symbol on your keyboard?”
It turns out that it can be done, using the “Alt” key and your keyboard number pad, using a code … Sounds like another story for another time … By the way, for our dear friends in England, I saw where the same question was asked regarding “pence.”

The “cent on the keyboard” issue reminds me of how excited I was a couple of years ago, when we finally got basic cable on our TV at home. It just happened to be included in the telephone/high speed internet package we had gotten. We now had access to PBS … plus, since we were getting the local channels, we could even watch Monday Night Football, as one of the New Hampshire stations was an ABC affiliate. I shared this excitement with my brother, as he, too, is a football fan. To this, he exclaimed, “Where have you been? ABC hasn’t carried Monday Night Football in years! Hey … did you hear that they landed a man on the moon?” I get that last part a lot.

It also reminds me of the time when we went to look at cars, during a local dealer promotion. One of those where they send you a key, which promises to start (I still say “crank”) a brand new car. Because everyone who attended received a prize, we stopped by. Of course, you can’t leave without being “grilled” by a salesman (get it-grilled?). I told him that the one vehicle I really wanted was a jeep … not a fancy, cost-more-than-a-house jeep … I told him I just wanted an old army jeep with a top … that would make me happy. He told me, “Man … “get with the 21st century!”

I just noticed that I never just “sit down and eat,” except in a restaurant. Whether at work, at home, or traveling/vacation, I never just sit down and eat a meal. I will either be at my computer, or I’ll watch a movie or program on television. Deep down, I think it’s some kind of guilt I’m carrying about not working. Maybe I do need a vacation …

Well … here I go again … I started to write about some of the things we had done and seen during our travels … but, this all just came out. Maybe I should re-title this something like “Road Rants” instead.



Quotes: John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton- “Lord Acton”

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Among all the causes which degrade and demoralize men, power is the most constant and the most active.

And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.
And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.

By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes is his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.
Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.
Liberty becomes a question of morals more than of politics.
Authority that does not exist for Liberty is not authority but force.
Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control.

Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.
Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern. It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others.
A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.
Learn as much by writing as by reading.
At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare.

Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.
Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.

Men cannot be made good by the state, but they can easily be made bad.
Government rules the present. Literature rules the future.
Moral precepts are constant through the ages and not obedient to circumstances.
There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral laws are written on the table of eternity.
Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral laws are written on the table of eternity.

Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power. Bureaucracy tries to establish so many administrative maxims that the minister is as narrowly controlled and guided as the judge.
Towns were the nursery of freedom.
The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.
It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority.
A public man has no right to let his actions be determined by particular interests. He does the same thing as a judge who accepts a bribe. Like a judge he must consider what is right, not what is advantageous to a party or class.

There are many things the government can't do ... it must leave them to the enterprise of others.  It cannot feed the people.  It cannot enrich the people.  It cannot teach the people.
There are many things the government can’t do … it must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people.




“Take Time”

While traveling through the South this week, I saw this on a framed plaque, at a Thrift store, and it really hit home. It seems that each time we have the opportunity to “get away,” I feel pretty much the same way: “If ever, ever, I needed a vacation … to get away … it’s now.”
With so much going on with the business, the book, and at School … plus, those major “do-it-yourself” projects we save to do during those few Summer weeks up here … I can honestly say that, if ever, ever, I needed a vacation, to get away, it’s now.

Vacation started the way the rest of the year seems to go:
Knowing we’d have a full day of driving, I’d need to get plenty of sleep, as we’d have to leave out early.
The day before our trip, in addition to getting ready for the trip, there was business to take care of, and get to a decent stopping point on a couple of projects around the house. Sorry … no time left to mow the yard … So … I was able, finally, to get my 3 hours of sleep, drag myself out of bed at daylight, and we were able to leave at the scheduled time of 6:00 A.M.

How’d we do? Well … on our first day of travel, we drove through 10 different states …

So, when I saw the words on the plaque in that Thrift store, it reminded me of what vacation was supposed to be all about. But, then, I realized that it’s not about “vacation” at all. It’s about every day of our lives … especially days when we are not on vacation … how God gives us moments, and the opportunity for moments, every day … part of the blessings, and opportunities, He gives to us each day.
I know that, often, such time doesn’t seem to exist. And, often, it doesn’t … that is why we have to “make” time. So, I pray that I, and we, will “make time” to “take time” each day to realize just what we have, and what He has given to each of us.

The plaque didn’t have an author listed, and the Scripture verse at the end is, as the rest, exactly as written:

Take Time
Take time to think-
It is the source of power
Take time to read-
It is the foundation of wisdom
Take time to play-
It is the secret of staying young
Take time to be quiet-
It is the opportunity to seek God
Take time to be aware-
It is the opportunity to help others
Take time to love and be loved-
It is God’s greatest gift
Take time to laugh-
It is the music of the soul
Take time to be friendly-
It is the road to Happiness
Take time to dream-
It is what the future is made of
Take time to pray-
It is the greatest power on earth

“There is a time for everything …”
Ecclesiastes 3:1


Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Eight

Well … here we are in part eight of our study of the messages contained in the book of Haggai … how those messages pertain to us, and our lifestyles today … and, the messages don’t get any easier. Last time, we looked at how important it is, who our friends are … who we “hang with” … how important it is to us, who (and what) we allow to influence us.

Now, we turn to Haggai 2:15-19, and look at the consequences of our actions. Plenty of “ouch!” space here. As humans, isn’t it odd that, often, even though we know-full well-what the consequences of our actions will be … that doesn’t stop us from doing those very actions which we know will only hurt us. And, hurt others. And, yes, even today, our actions, and the consequences of those actions can affect not just those closely around us … but … if enough people engage in enough actions … an entire nation can be affected. Or, perhaps the better word is not “affected,” but “infected.”

In verses 15-19, God reminds the people that it was due to their unfaithfulness, the people’s disobedience, that “I smote you” (verse 17). But, God is, indeed, merciful … and, His ear is always open to the cry of repentance. Depending upon our actions, the “bad news” can be turned into “good news.” When we change our purpose, our focus, our will, to His purpose, His focus, His will, His work, then the promise is there: “From this day I will bless you” (verse 19). We remind ourselves again that, in order to be blessed, we must put ourselves in a position to be blessed. This will always start-always-by being obedient to God’s Word. This hasn’t changed … nor will it ever change.

The book of Haggai closes with a promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah” (verse 21), that, again, God will “shake the heavens and the earth” (verse 21). This reminds me of many times in history, when God gave a prophet a message to deliver to those in authority. The messenger had to be faithful/obedient to deliver the message. Then, the one in authority had a choice: To heed the message … or, not. What happened next strictly depended upon that choice.

As the book of Haggai closes, there is a final promise to Zerubbabel, which is a shadow/type of promise which still holds true today: God called Zerubbabel “my servant” (verse 23).
Today, we are even more than God’s servants … we are God’s sons.
God said, here in verse 23, that He “will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee.” The “signet” is a signet ring, used by those in authority for signing official documents and letters.
Here, Zerubbabel, as us today, carry God’s seal, meaning we carry the honor and authority of God-and we represent Him. As saved, children of God, we carry His seal upon us. By carrying God’s seal, we are His representatives in everything we do.
I am reminded in this verse that God “chose us first,” meaning that He first chose us to be His representative, to show forth His light to a dark world. His official Seal, and His hand, will be on us … and it should show … in everything we do.
So, as we bring to a close this study of the book of Haggai, let us “consider our ways,” in order to put ourselves in a position to be blessed. Let us remember that when we put God’s purpose and will for our lives first, He will, indeed, “shake the heavens and earth” on our behalf. Why? Because when our will and purpose become His will and purpose … everything changes. We change, and then, everything around us changes. And, yes, if enough people are influenced by this change-in us-even an entire nation can be changed. And, by so doing … yes … it can change the course of history.

Yes, there is work involved, but God has promised to be with us. His main purpose in our lives is to “build His temple” for all to see … so that others will want to come and worship Him, too.


P.S. This whole time, I really “got” the idea that God was telling us to “consider your ways.” However, God has also revealed to me that we should turn these three words back to Him: To be successful, to be blessed, we must, from our knees, look toward God, and “consider Your ways.”


Quotes: Jacques Maritain

“We do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we can serve.”
“We do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we can serve.”
“Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence.”
“A man of courage flees forward, in the midst of new things.”
“If books were judged by the bad uses man can put them to, what book has been more misused than the Bible?”
“If books were judged by the bad uses man can put them to, what book has been more misused than the Bible?”

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”
“I do not know if Saul Alinsky knows God. But I assure you that God knows Saul Alinsky.” 
“Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment.”

“The great and admirable strength of America consists in this, that America is truly the American people.”
“An act of goodness, the least act of true goodness, is the best proof of the existence of God.”



Quotes: St. Ignatius of Antioch

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one. It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians.”

 “I would rather die for Christ than rule the whole earth.”

“It is better to be silent and be real than to talk and not be real.”
“Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.”

“Let your good works be deposits, that you may receive the sum due to you.”
“Let your good works be deposits, that you may receive the sum due to you.”



Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Seven

As we begin with Haggai 2:11-14, we are reminded of this valuable lesson … unfortunately, a lesson so many of us just never learn:
Holiness cannot be transferred from one person to another.
But … uncleanness can be.
It is important who your friends are. It is important who-or what- you allow to influence you.

True, holiness only comes from God’s Spirit working inside of us. And, yes, we can all be an example of what holiness in our daily lives looks like. But, the decision (and yes it is a decision, a choice) to live holy is an individual choice. It may be influenced by others, but, ultimately, it is an individual choice. How we live is a choice we make … how we allow others to influence us … is a choice. And, accepting God’s salvation is a choice. Your Mother, your Father, your brothers and sisters … in fact, your entire family may be saved, serving God … on their way to Heaven … But … that won’t get you in. God’s free gift of salvation is just that: A gift. A free gift. But, it must be accepted individually. Jesus is a Personal Savior. Other people’s decisions can’t save you. But, they can sure influence you.

In Haggai 2:11-14, while it is true that Haggai is referring to ceremonial uncleanness under the Law, the message applies to us today: Holiness can’t be transferred from one person to another … but uncleanness can be transferred. So, be careful who your friends are, who you “hang with.” It is important who you allow to influence you. Here’s a tough one, but it may make all the difference in your life … and, your lifestyle: We must remember that to “be separate,” sometimes, we really need to “be separate.” This will always be one of the toughest decisions we’ll have to make.

A couple of examples: I’ve always heard that “If you want to know how your kids act, look at their friends.” I guess this is self-explanatory.
When I was working in the High School Library, there was a young lady who was one of my favorite, and best customers. A real reader. On the personal side, she came from a Christian family, a family which I knew very well. She used to help me out whenever I would ask her; she was quiet, well behaved, and always willing to help. She was a good student, conscientious, and personable. Then, suddenly it seemed, she changed. Her attitude changed. Her grades plummeted. She didn’t seem to be interested in reading anymore. Maybe it does, or does not, go without saying, but the way she dressed changed dramatically. Teachers were having trouble with her behavior. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened. What had caused what seemed to be a total transformation in her attitude and character? Then, one day shortly thereafter, I was driving through town. I saw this young girl walking, but she wasn’t alone. She was walking with another young lady … a young lady whose attitude and demeanor was, shall we say, widely known. A young lady whose attitude and character matched exactly what my young friend had now become. I couldn’t help it, and I was trying not to be judgmental … but, as I saw these two ladies walking side-by-side down the street, there were only three words which came to my mind, and I uttered them in disbelief: “That explains it.”
Since then, I have seen this young lady on occasion around town. I’m not really sure if she finished High School. Let’s just say that her lifestyle has become the result of what could only be considered as “bad” choices.

Just like you, how many times have I seen a complete change in someone … after they started “hanging out” with new people, new friends. And, how about the total change we’ve seen in people after a new girlfriend or new boyfriend? For an example, when I worked in a factory down in Georgia, I can’t say how many times I’ve seen someone’s entire work ethic change, their whole attitude and character change, after they began dating someone new. I’ve seen their production numbers drop, from being one of the best workers, to someone who needed to be replaced.

Throughout my life, I have made some really bad, bad choices. While it was ultimately my decision to do certain things, much of my mistakes have been a direct result of allowing myself to be influenced by others. That’s about as honest and truthful as I can be. Elbert Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher. Here’s a quote from him, which someone gave me, just yesterday: “We are not punished for our sins, but by them.” I only use this quote to make the point, as given.

This idea of “being separate:” It would be easy to just say that, “Hey! It was God’s idea!” But … it was! Repeatedly, in the Old Testament, for example, when God was leading the Israelites out of captivity (interesting), into the Promised Land, He would warn the Israelites about “making new friends.” I am paraphrasing, in a way, but God warned the Israelites about remaining separate, to be careful “who they hung with.” God’s concern wasn’t that the Israelites would influence these new people … but, that these new “friends” would influence them!

It would also be easy to give examples about being a good example to others … how we’ve influenced others in a positive way … and, that’s true. The whole idea of Christianity is to show forth God’s glory in our lives … to be that light to influence and lead others … But, let’s not forget how vulnerable we are to someone else’s influence. And, the closer we are to someone, the more they will influence us. My Pastor used to say that, “What we attach ourselves to, we become a part of.”

My prayer is that I, and us, will use discernment, as we are supposed to do … in all we do, for the principle remains the same: Holiness can’t be transferred, but uncleanness can be.”