Vision 2021

Last week, in the spirit of hope for a brighter future, I asked you to envision what your year 2021 will be like.  Specifically, I invited you to ask God what His plan for your life is for the upcoming year.  And to view it as though it had already happened and you are looking back on what happened and what was achieved.  The aim of this exercise is to create a compelling vision of the future that will inspire action.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve” – Napoleon Hill

I told you I would share what I heard in doing the same exercise.  I wrote it down unfiltered, without thinking about it.  I feel like if I do much thinking that I end up with a watered-down version of what I am really being charged with doing.  I’m going to put this in quotes like God is talking.  Obviously it is only my interpretation.  Anyway, here it is:

“I want you to facilitate the development of a community of people striving to make it to heaven. 

Of course, whether any of you succeed is up to my grace, but I gave you all a reason for being.  It is up to each of you to figure out what yours is, and to live it out to the best of your ability.

I want you to help people do that.  Specifically, I want you to attract others to this community who are serious about doing the following:

  1. Being themselves, their God-given authentic selves;
  2. Seeking, finding, and developing their God-given talents;
  3. Using their talents to provide value to others;
  4. Behaving virtuously;
  5. Striving to get a little better every day;
  6. Inspiring, encouraging, and helping others to do the same, and;
  7. Having some fun along the way.

I want you to give them a place to learn how to do each of the above, and to interact and support one another.  And by the way, when I say them, you are included.  You are helping yourself by helping others.

I also want you to help them to deepen their faith in Me; to seek, find, and live by truth; to be role models for living by the greatest commandments and the golden rule; and to have the courage to do all of the above.

Yes, the sad fact is that it takes great courage to live a Christ-centered life nowadays.  Seems odd that the best way to live, the way to true happiness now and forever, is looked down upon by your increasingly secular society.  Why is it considered the hard way to live when it should be so easy, and so satisfying?  I gave you the simple rules long ago, just play by them.

Anyway, go make some good things happen.  I will guide you along the way as always.  All you need to do is listen and take action.  Good things will happen when you do.  If they don’t, it just means you aren’t paying close enough attention.

You should provide entertaining lessons and engaging challenges.  You should make use of video as well as the written word.  You should also provide ways for members to get to know each other.  Give them a forum where they can learn from each other.  You should also interview them to share their expertise.  I gave you all unique talents that are meant to be shared for your mutual benefit. Introduce outside experts to the group as well.

And do this all in a way that makes it easy for others to join the community and bring themselves up to speed at their own pace.  Then encourage members to invite their like-minded family and friends to join in all the fun.  Yes, make it fun.

I’d like this community to grow to a point where people can truly help each in living their daily lives.  I especially see this as a place where generations can learn from, and support each other.  Where a young person might discover or advance their career though connections established in the group.  Or an older person might find the assistance they may need through a younger member.  By the way, the split between young and old is one year older than Scott’s age:-)

The key is to get and keep people focused on what truly matters in life, and away from what does not.  That is easier said than done and requires that we assist each other on an ongoing basis.  Establishing personal connections helps to make that happen.

So in 2021 I expect to see the development of a thriving online community of Playground Saints Alive.  Playground signifying fun and being yourselves as you were back in your early days.  Saints meaning striving to be and give your absolute best for the benefit of others. And Alive conveying that you are living life to the fullest as I, your God, intended; in community with one another.  My-speed (Godspeed)!”

Okay, well that is quite a challenge.  That is how I know it is coming from above and not from me.  I would have aimed a little lower.  You know, using the under-promise and over-deliver methodology to mediocrity.  Instead I’m being asked, no told, to aim for excellence.  Yes sir, I’ll do my best.

I’m not sure yet exactly how I will do what I have been tasked with here.  But I do feel a sense of urgency to figure it out and get it rolling.  Once again, one of my bible readings for the day gives me the feeling that time is of the essence.  I keep trying to keep these end-time verses out of sight, out of mind, but they keep appearing to my dismay.

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.  Mark 13:32-33

So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to take the month of December off from writing these weekly articles in order to come up with specific plans for 2021.  I will send progress reports through email as I have them.

If you currently get these messages through email you will be informed about what is coming next and how to participate.  If not, you can join our email list by either signing up for the newsletter at the bottom of this linked page, or to stay in the loop at the bottom of this linked page.

In the meantime, if you received your 2021 assignment from above, I encourage you to start making general plans in that direction.  Making specific plans will likely be one of the things we do first in January, but there is no need to delay if you are ready.  Or take it easy this month in preparation for a big leap forward next year.  Rest, relax, and enjoy the Holidays with family and friends.

Happy Holidays to All of You Playground Saints Alive!  Scott

Beyond Thanksgiving

Remember way back at the start of this year when we all pledged to have our happier than happiest year ever in 2020?  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.  In hindsight, we couldn’t have picked a worse year to make happiness our aim.  I don’t know about you, but I am failing miserably.

I feel like the guy in the movie Airplane! who said, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up…” and then inserted smoking, drinking, amphetamines, and sniffing glue into the line as the movie progressed.  We most definitely picked the wrong year to give up unhappiness.

Early on I gave you my happiness formula for consideration; Happiness = Reality ≥ Expectation.  That is, we are happy when our reality in life equals or exceeds our expectations.  The greater the reality exceeds the expectation, the happier we are.

We can therefore control our level of happiness by working to improve our reality, adjusting our expectations, or better yet, doing both.  Basically, my working theory was that happiness is a state of mind that we can create for ourselves at any time we so choose.

Wishful thinking it turns out.  I so wanted to believe it was true.  I was certainly determined to give it a try.  But it didn’t work.  While I still believe that it is true to some extent, my current level of personal unhappiness has caused me to reconsider.

At first I did try lowering my expectations.  It was obvious that conditions in the world had changed drastically.  Reality had no chance of living up to my initial expectations.  This worked for a while.  But as time went by it became clear that no amount of expectation lowering would be enough to meet the constantly deteriorating reality being imposed upon us.  I needed a new strategy.

I decided to depend upon gratitude.  I started every day by reminding myself how good I have it.  I have everything a person could ever hope for.  I have done everything I have ever wanted to do, and accomplished more than I would have ever thought possible.  I am truly blessed.  This helped me to be feel satisfied, but fell short of happiness.  Why?  Empathy and guilt.  I wish everyone had it as good, I know most don’t, and I feel helpless to do much about it.

So while I do believe that an attitude of gratitude is absolutely required in order to achieve a state of happiness, it is not enough.  There is something beyond thankfulness that leads to happiness.  But what?  Since having embarked on this happiness journey nearly a year ago, and reading and thinking about it daily, I have now landed upon what I believe to be the key ingredients to a happy life.  Here they are for your contemplation:

Faith – in God and the promise of eternal life.

Gratitude – for who we are, what we have been given, and the opportunities available to us.

Purpose –something meaningful and interesting to do which provides value to others.

Community – people to support us, and for us to support.

Hope – something to look forward to.

Eureka, hope is what has been missing for me this year!  It seems like every time there is a little hope, someone comes along to throw a bucket of water on us to keep the misery going.  This situation reminds me of the immortal words of the Wicked Witch of the West as she melted away in the Wizard of Oz, “What a world, what a world.” Well I refuse to melt!

Hope is faith looking forward into the future.  Hope gives us something to look forward to.  Hope keeps us moving ahead. Hope fuels us to face the inevitable challenges in life.  Hope overcomes fear.  Hope encourages us to keep running the race.  Hope reminds us that we have a savior who set us free.

I have made it a practice for decades now to make my plan for the upcoming year over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It helps me get over the gratitude guilt that I can’t seem to shake at this time of year.  Deciding what I will do in the coming year to give back and make the world a little bit better gives me hope.

For a long time I didn’t like using the word hope.  I equated it with a wish which is outside of our control.  I want some ability to make things happen versus merely hoping they will happen.  But the hope I am talking about here, and which is the hope I have come to known in the bible, is an action oriented hope.  It is a hope that contains the following elements:

  • A compelling vision of the future;
  • Specific goals devised to drive achievement of the vision;
  • Action items designed to enable accomplishment of the goals, and;
  • A tracking system to show progress and provide ongoing motivation.

Here is what I urge you to do sometime during this holiday weekend in order to go beyond thanksgiving and boost your hope.  Find a quiet spot and allocate one hour of uninterrupted time to this exercise.  Ask God what His plan for your life is for 2021.  Specifically, pray about what you will have done and achieved, as though it has already happened and you are looking back on it.  Sit in silence.  Try not to think, just listen.  Write down what you hear.  We are just looking for the compelling vision of the future here, don’t worry about goals or required actions yet.

Here’s the hard part, do not think about what it will take to achieve the end results.  Most of us get discouraged to quickly by getting into details.  This is especially true if what you are hearing is actually God’s plan, not yours.  Here’s my test to know the difference.  If it seems really difficult to believe, but deep down you know it is possible, it’s probably His.  He will push us, we rarely do that for ourselves.

I will be doing the same and will reveal what I hear to you next week.  And here is one last hope related thought I will be taking into consideration when contemplating my 2021 plan.  It is a quote by Saint Augustine:

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.  Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

This is a really interesting way to look at determining what you should be doing in the world.  It seems a little un-Christian. We are taught not to be angry.  It’s a sin, right?  Well maybe only when it is uncalled for?  Even Jesus got angry, calling leaders hypocrites and turning over tables.

All I know is that I am angry about the state of many things in the world and sure would like to work to change them.  Maybe anger is a good place to start in order to reveal what you are passionate about improving in the world.  That passion will serve to fuel a desire to take action.   Give it a try and see what happens.

I’ll share my vision next week.  In the meantime, have a Hope Filled Happy Thanksgiving!

Scott

If I Were the Devil…

There have been a lot of references recently to the George Orwell book 1984, originally published in 1949.  I remember thinking it was crazy talk back in high school.  Then I reread it in the mid-80’s and found it a little less unbelievable.  In the 90’s it was unfolding slowly right before my eyes.  It took firm hold of society in the 2000’s and continues to accelerate.  I tried to reread it recently and had to stop to maintain whatever sanity I have left.

On another trip in the way back machine, I woke up this morning thinking about Paul Harvey’s famous, “If I Were the Devil” talk from 1965.  It was his warning about the evils he saw coming to take down the United States.

While it too is a little depressing in its accuracy, it helps me to put current events into perspective.  I thought it might do the same for you.  So for your reference below is the transcript of his talk.  And following it is my attempt to update it based on more recent events.

I warn you up front that it can be disturbing to think about what we have allowed to happen thus far.  Yet it may be the wake-up call we need in order to gain the motivation to fight back and do something about it.  Here goes:

PAUL HARVEY’S ‘IF I WERE THE DEVIL’ TRANSCRIPT

“If I were the devil … If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I’d have a third of its real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee.

So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first — I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’

And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography — soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.

If I were the devil I’d take from those who have, and give to those who want until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.

And what do you bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich? I would caution against extremes and hard work in Patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.  Paul Harvey, good day.”

I miss Mr. Harvey’s daily dose of reality and common sense in his “The Rest of the Story” segments.  These aired from 1952 to 2008, 56 years, amazing.  We lost him 2009, God rest his soul!

I’m certainly no Paul Harvey, but I do have thoughts on additional ways the devil is currently succeeding.  There are so many I’m just going to briefly list my top ten without elaboration.  Take a look and feel free to comment with more of your own.

If I were the devil I would:

  1. Use fear to cause people to willingly give up their freedoms.
  2. Censor truth and promote lies.
  3. Demonize those who promote inconvenient truths.
  4. Create the illusion that evil is good, and good is evil.
  5. Make it difficult to do what is right and good, and easy to do the opposite.
  6. Put people into groups, and put those groups at war.
  7. Deem churches to be non-essential.
  8. Teach people what to think, not how to think.
  9. Crash the economy to create a dependent people.
  10. Promise everybody free stuff to gain their support and loyalty.

Just for fun let’s turn the question around.  What would you do if you were God?  If I were God I’d end this thing right now before it gets any worse.  I have never been more embarrassed for us as a people as I am right now.  We are faithless cowards living by lies and deceit.  Not you dear readers, but those running the show and those complying without question.  When does this end?  What comes next?

Did you hear the announcement that Pfizer has a vaccine that is 90% effective?  The stock market skyrocketed and the company CEO sold 60% of his stock for a cool $5 million.  Smart man.  He knows that a vaccine for a corona virus has never been that effective.  They have been trying with the flu for over 30 years and it is still only between 40-60% effective.

I looked at the announcement and tried to find the detailed analysis.  All I could find is that the 90% is based on the study of 94 individuals out of the 43,538 people participating in the study, or a 0.2% sample of an already very small sample.

But the scary thing is that based on this tiny sample, governments around the world are already talking about making this vaccine mandatory for its citizens.  A vaccine that has been in development less than a year, where testing began no more than a couple of months ago, and where they have no idea what the down the road side-effects may be.  Yet it’s going to be forcefully shot into people, really?  Oh, and the pharmaceutical company has been granted immunity from all liability.  Gee, what could possibly go wrong?!

With all the hysteria and media hype I still sometimes forget the simple facts.  We already have a 99.74% survival rate if we become infected, nearly 100% if we are healthy.  We know who the at-risk individuals are.  Why are we still not focused solely on protecting them and letting the rest get back to living life as God intended?  The devil is laughing at us and dancing for joy.

Really scary stuff!  So what is God going to do about it?  Probably what He always does, leave it up to us.  He gave us life, simple rules, and free will.  It is up to us to do the rest.  We all have an important role in this world.  Our goal?  Get to heaven and help others to do the same.  We need each other to succeed.  We need you, the community of striving saints!  You are the answer.  You and those you can influence.  Nothing is going to change until we the people demand it.

I do have great confidence that our faith in God and country will prevail as it has for the last several centuries.  The battle seems to be at a critical stage.  Too many are willing to go along with the prevailing popular view in order to get along.  But as the few have been able to control the many this year, so too can the many rise up and take back their country when armed with truth and faith in a loving God.

I urge you to share your knowledge about what is really going on with as many others as you can.  And to get them to do the same.  As we saw with the drastically flawed voting polls once again, there is a silent majority out there fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.  It’s time that we speak out boldly.  What do we have to lose?  Better question, what will we lose if we don’t?

More to come next week about developing a Community of Striving Playground Saints.  How about calling it Playground Saints Alive?  If you have a better name, please let me know.

Good Day!  Scott

Wanted: Playground Saints

By the authority vested in me through having written books including the terms saint and playground in their titles, I hereby declare 2021 to be the year of the Playground Saint.

What is a playground saint?  A person who is actively striving to be the person God made them to be, while at the same time not taking themselves too seriously and having a little fun in life.

Playground Saints are like the scarecrow, tin man, and lion from the Wizard of Oz.  They use their brain, display heart, and demonstrate courage to the best of their God given abilities.

Most importantly, they have a soul that desperately desires to get back to heaven.  I guess Dorothy could represent the soul, “There’s no place like home!”

More specifically, Playground Saints use their minds to seek, find, and live by truth.  Like children, they are curious and constantly asking why.  They are not content to accept the word of others as gospel truth.  They want to gain full understanding of what is actually right and true.  They seek both knowledge and experience to gain the wisdom necessary to make well informed choices in life.  They use the proper blend of reason, logic, and emotion to make the best decisions in any given situation.

Playground Saints care about and for others, they have heart.  They are service oriented and do things that help improve the lives of others. They are role models for living by the greatest commandments (love God and neighbors) and golden rule (do to others whatever you would have them do to you).  They want to make it to heaven and bring as many others with them as they can.

Courage is the greatest attribute of a Playground Saint.  They dare to be themselves, their God given selves.  They are comfortable being who they naturally are, and doing what they are intended to do.  They do not worry about what others think of them.  They only care about what God thinks of them.  They strive to do good, to be good, and to get better every day.

And finally, and maybe most importantly, Playground Saints understand they have a soul to protect.  They realize there is an internal war going on every day for possession of their soul.  They fight the good fight with all their might.  They will not compromise their principles.  There is no going along to get along in the face of evil.  They know they will lose some battles, but they are determined to win the war.

The world is in desperate need of Playground Saints.  We seem to keep waiting for someone or something to arise from out of nowhere and save us from ourselves.  Unfortunately, no election or vaccine is going to do that.  Fortunately, Jesus already has.  He saved us long ago.  All we need to do is follow His teaching and example.  Simple, but not easy.

Ultimately it is up to each of us to save ourselves.  All it takes is a strong desire and a steadfast commitment.  But it is a difficult lifelong journey and we will need help and support along the way.  We were made for community.  We are each a piece in the puzzle of the perfect world.  We need to figure out where we fit and to help others do the same.

With all of this in mind, I’ve decided to kick it up a notch in 2021.  Since founding the Saint Builder Foundation in 2017 I’ve enjoyed researching, writing, speaking, and attempting to live the life of a striving saint.  I truly appreciate that many of you have supported and joined me in that journey.

But recently I have felt that I am not doing enough.  Actually I think I’m being told that I am not doing enough.  Every day I ask for direction from above.  Usually I feel like the answer is something like, just keep doing what you’re doing, but do it better.  Then at some point during each week I get an idea for an article which I research and write to the best of my ability.

I must admit that most of the time I don’t want to write about the topic that reveals itself.  The assignments are difficult and I know most of the time I will be annoying someone.  Sharing the truth around controversial topics is never what I would call fun, especially when so many are convinced they are already well versed in the truth.

Enough of my whining.  Here’s what I’d like to do going forward.  I’d like to facilitate the building of an online community of striving Playground Saints.  People who are serious about living a life worthy of heaven, helping others to do the same, and having a little fun along the way.

Over the last month or so I keep seeing one Bible verse over and over again.  It came up again today as one of the daily readings:

Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Matthew 25:13

I’m taking that as a sign that there is no time to waste.  It gives me a renewed sense of urgency.  While I’m not one of those end times prognosticators, this crazy year certainly gives me pause about the possibility.  And really, it’s always true that we don’t know when our time on this earth will come to an end.  So we should strive to live each day to its fullest.

Specifically, I’m thinking about starting a group where all those interested could virtually gather to support one another.  I would issue a weekly challenge though a video.  We would all then have the opportunity to share our thoughts about the challenge, including what we did and how it turned out.

I’m thinking we could also get together once a month to discuss some topic of interest.  In fact I’d like to recruit some of you to talk about things that I know you do as a best practice.  I am fortunate to have some very impressive friends that are far advanced past me in their saint striving journeys. 

Although I wish there were alternative technologies available, most likely I would use a private Facebook group and Zoom meetings as ways for us to easily communicate with each other.  I might also post videos and supporting materials on a website.

My thought is to start this on a small scale and build it over time.  In addition to individuals, I could envision married couples participating.  Someone once told me that our main job in marriage is to get our spouse to heaven.  Melanie took on a heavy burden there, my job is easy.  It would be cool if parents and kids participated eventually as well.  Maybe even grandparents and grandkids, who knows where this could lead.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking today.  I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts.  Are you interested?  Do you have others ideas for how to make something like this work?  Do you think I’ve lost my mind?  Please let me know when you have a chance.

In the meantime, let’s all work hard to do good, be good, get better every day, and remember to have a little fun along the way.  More to come next week…

Be a Playground Saint!  Scott

Calling All Saints!

We need help!  The world is a mess!  This country is a mess!  What are we going to do?  Who will rise up to save us?  Jesus already did.  His many followers have kept hope alive ever since.  Now it’s up to us.  Will we become the saints we are all meant to be?

What is the root cause of our problems today?  The same as always, us, we the people.  Since the beginning of time we have been our own worst enemies. I think we too often forget that we were handed a perfect world.  The world we have now is the result of our collective choices and actions.  What we have done, and what we have failed to do.

Interestingly, most would agree that we have a mess on our hands.  Unfortunately there is no common agreement on what the real problems are, or how to solve them.  This is our biggest obstacle to cleaning up our mess, division. We are hopelessly divided in as many ways as can be thought of.  Religion, politics, race, gender, cat people, dog people … whatever.

As Abraham Lincoln said long ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  The question is, in what way will it fall?  Thankfully back in his day we fell on the side of freedom from slavery, so there is hope.

Division is not a new problem.  Lincoln obviously took his inspiration from the bible: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  Mark 3:24-25

Actually, division can be a good thing.  Division can be a wake-up call and call to action for needed change.  It may help us recognize we need to save ourselves from destruction.  Or back a couple thousand years ago, for someone to come save us from ourselves through His sacrifice.

Jesus Christ came to us as the great divider.  He told us Himself:

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Luke 51-53

Wow, now that is some uncomfortable division.  What are the sides?  The fight that has been waged since the beginning of time; Good versus evil. Saints versus sinners.  We are all both.  The battle is continually fought within each of us.  We will lose many battles but we must strive to win the war.  How do we do that?  By uniting around the most important cause there is.  By striving to be the saints we are all meant to be!

I write this on All Saints Day.  A day designated to honor all those who lived a life worthy of gaining eternal life in heaven.  Everyone who makes it to heaven is considered a saint.  How do we know who they are?  We don’t.  We can’t.  Only God knows for sure.  We can guess.  Many have been designated as such.  God willing, someday we will be deemed worthy to join them.  In the meantime, all we can do is hope and pray for our dearly departed to have made it.

But what about us?  What can we do to become the saints we were all born to become?  Believe in Jesus.  He is the way, the truth, and the light.  Take up your cross and follow Him.  Love God and neighbors.  Be your true self, your God given self.  Discover, develop, and use your talents to serve others in meaningful ways.  Seek, find, and live by truth.  Inspire, motivate, and help others to do the same.  The goal?  Get to heaven and brings as many others with you as you can.

Above all I think it might be courage which is the most important trait of a saint.  Imagine for a moment what it took for the early Christians to promote and live their faith.  Their leader had just been crucified.  There was a good chance they would meet a similar fate.  Back then, today was likely called All Martyrs Day.  We can learn a lot about courage from those early saints.  We should thank them every day for their faith.  It allowed us to keep the faith.

I start every day asking God how I’m doing and what I should do next in my saint striving mission.  I sit in silence, try to get out of my own head, and attempt to simply listen.  Answers eventually come.  I always wonder if they are from Him or me.  My assumption is that if what I receive is something I don’t want to hear or do, it is from Him.  Most of these articles come to me in that way.  I try to do as I’m told and ask for His help along the way.

Today the below came to me very quickly.  That is unusual.  I take that as a sign that it must be important in some way.  As I asked how I was doing, the answer became a sort of 2020 performance appraisal for us as a people of the United States of America.

Now here’s the deal.  I don’t know if what I heard was Him, me, or some combination.  It could be what He was saying, what I wish He would say, or again some of both. All I know is that I typed it out quickly without much thought, and that I am going to publish it without edit.  And to be clear, this is a general performance review, so apply it to yourself as you see fit.  Here goes:

Let me start out by stating that I love you and am rooting for you all.  I’d really like to have you all join me in heaven to live for an eternity in peace and harmony.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

  • I’m so happy to see families spending more time together.
  • It’s great that you parents are more involved in your children’s schooling.
  • I’m glad many of you have learned how to work from home.  Maybe that will enable you to spend less time physically away from your family.
  • It is encouraging to see that many of you have learned that some of the things you spent your time on in the past are not that important.  Now you know you can do without them.

Now for the troubling items.  I’m not going to sugar coat these things.  Sugar, now that was a great invention.  You consume too much but still.  Back to the point, I am very upset about what is going on down there.

In summary, you are showing very little faith in me.  You have allowed fear and deception to rule your lives for almost an entire year.  Even when the truth can be easily known, you choose to live by lies.

Too many of you falsely believe that this virus is deadlier than others you have experienced in the past.  This leads you to continue to take precautions that are not necessary and in fact will not work anyway.  The virus is going to do what viruses do.  They play themselves out and life goes on.  Yes a few will die and some will suffer.  Most of you will not.  But remember, if you do, you might get to come live with me.  So what are you so afraid of?

But as you continue to live a false reality, you hurt so many others you believe you are protecting.  While you may be well meaning, you are terribly misguided.  Most of you have the ability to find the truth for yourselves.  If you choose not to then that is on you.  And if you know the truth and don’t attempt to spread the word, that is unacceptable as well.

I am so disappointed that purveyors of truth are being demonized while those promoting intentionally misleading narratives and outright lies are seen as virtuous.  I thank those having the courage to continue to speak truth to power.  So many have lost so much; their livelihoods, reputations, and friendships.  Remember, blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied.  And patience is a virtue.

I am most troubled by my church leaders who willingly shut down our places of worship.  A very few refused to comply, I thank them for their faith and courage.  To you who have not, or who continue to impose unnecessary precautions I say, please stop this nonsense.  You should know better, oh yea of little faith.  Show some leadership or step aside.  People are meant for communion; to be around each other, not afraid of each other.  Stop prolonging the undue fear.  I’ll say it one more time, Be Not Afraid!

And about this election taking place tomorrow.  Talk about the easiest choice ever presented for Christians.  One side protects my unborn babies, the other universally supports killing them up to, and even after their birth.  One side supports religious liberty, the other side fights against it. They even took me out of the Pledge of Allegiance at their national convention.  I’m not proud, but come on.

I know many of you like to argue about other issues to justify a vote for a Democrat.  Please be aware that until everyone is guaranteed life and liberty, nothing else matters.  And do you really think a political party that fights against life and liberty actually cares about solving any other important issue?  Is that too harsh?

Finally, I know many of you choose not to vote at all.  That is a mistake.  You are either for me or against me.  It really couldn’t be clearer nowadays.  Remember, all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.  And just think, if every Christian voted for Republicans in one election cycle we could end this horror of abortion.  That’s all it would take.  So get out and vote!

I’ll leave you with this.  The path to life is narrow while the road to destruction is broad.  But I’m rooting for you and ready to help.  All you need to do is ask, trust, and do.  If more of you did, I’d be happy to widen the gate to paradise.

In conclusion, I ask that you seriously consider which path you are on.  If you find yourself following along with the crowd you may want to reconsider.  If you are suppressing your true self, stop it.  If you are going along to get along, stop it.  If you are afraid to speak your mind when you know you are in the right and it will help others, get over your fear.  Courage is facing your fears and pushing past them.  You can do it! 

Well that was rough, yet oddly inspiring.  I for one am looking forward to a new year, a new beginning.  I have a renewed enthusiasm for striving to do good and be good, and for helping others to do the same.

I am contemplating somehow establishing a community of striving saints.  A group of people dedicated to striving to become what God intends for them to be.

I’m thinking of making weekly videos, hosting online forums where we can converse and support each other, and conducting interviews to gain the wisdom of others.  Something like that.

More on these plans to come soon.  In the meantime, if you find this of interest please send me a note, maybe just reply “interested” and I’ll be sure to keep you informed.

Be a Saint!  Scott

Lost in a Masquerade

Do you ever wake up in the morning singing a song from your past for no apparent reason?  Mine today was This Masquerade, written by Leon Russell and recorded by George Benson on his 1976 album Breezin’.

I looked up the lyrics to see if there are meant to guide me in some direction.  The first verse is:

Are we really happy here with this lonely game we play?
Looking for words to say
Searching but not finding understanding anywhere
We’re lost in a masquerade.

Interesting.  The strange events of this year certainly have us all playing a lonely game.  I don’t think any of us are really happy about it.   I do have some words to say about it.  I hope they will help with our shared understanding of what is going on.

I do believe we are lost in a masquerade.  Not the social gathering of people wearing masks definition, though many are.  The masquerade I’m talking about is how we have been led to radically change our way of life under false pretenses.

Specifically, we have been continuously and constantly misled into believing that we need to take extraordinary and unprecedented measures to defeat an extremely deadly virus.  Even now that the facts can be known, those perpetrating and perpetuating the deadly pandemic narrative persist.  They have successfully created fear and panic.  Why would they stop when they have our undivided attention and willful compliance?

Who is they and why would they intentionally deceive us?  I have many theories, but it really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that we understand the facts, recognize the manipulation, and take steps to make it stop.  If we don’t we are complicit in allowing this prolonged, unwarranted, unnecessary, and harmful charade to continue.

Of course the biggest obstacle we face in ending this nonsense is convincing a sufficient number of people that they have been duped.  For as the Nazi’s and Russian KGB discovered long ago, if you bombard subjects with fear messages nonstop for a few months, they are completely brainwashed to believe the false message.  After this, no amount of facts to the contrary will ever change their minds.  It worked well for the Pharisees and Sadducees too as I recall.

By the way I may sound angry as you read this.  I am!  I am tired of the ongoing deception. I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about it too.  I thought that facts, logic, and reason would have prevailed by now.  But no such luck.  I don’t feel very saintly in my anger. But then again, Saint Thomas Aquinas once said:

“He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral.  Why?  Because anger looks to the good of justice.  And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.”

I believe we have been suffering great injustices through the unjust and unnecessary measures taken to supposedly keep us safe from a supposedly deadly virus.  Maybe they were warranted in the beginning when we knew little.  But it quickly became evident to anyone who was carefully paying attention to reality that we had severely overreacted.

Why am I so convinced we have been deceived?  I go where the facts lead, all the way to the undisputed truth if possible.  I’ll lay the facts out for you here so you can do the same.  If you have been following the mainstream media closely you will have a difficult time accepting what I will share with you.  All I can do is refer you to what has become one of my favorite quotes due to its ongoing relevance:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”  President James A. Garfield

Let’s start with a summary of the facts to put things in context.  I’ve attempted to make them simple.  Unfortunately the true story has become very complex and difficult to find.  I do know you won’t hear this on TV.  Here goes…

This is Not the Deadly Killer Disease We Have Been Led to Believe

  • The original projection for deaths from covid-19 in the U.S. was 2.2 million.  Overstated by at least a factor of ten.
  • The current death toll reported by the CDC is over 200,000.  That figure is inflated and misleading for the following reasons:
    • The rules for reporting on death certificates was changed in March 2020.  Physicians were instructed to list covid-19 as a cause of death even if it was only assumed to have contributed.  No test is necessary, no follow-up confirmation will take place, and Medicare reimbursement was increased by 20% for covid cases. So why not assume?
    • The CDC recently stated that only 6% of the fatalities have been from the virus.  The other 94% died with (or assumed with) the virus. Their main cause of death was actually from other serious pre-existing health conditions, co-morbidities as they are called.
    • If the 40 to 60 thousand seasonal flu deaths in the past had been incentivized and counted in this way, they would have been in the hundreds of thousands annually as well.
  • The infection fatality rate (IFR), the estimated number of infected people who will die from the virus is 0.26%.  Inversely that means there is a 99.74% survival rate if you have been infected.
  • The IFR varies by age group ranging from 0.003% for those ages 0-19, 0.02% for those 20-49, 0.5% for 50-69 year olds, and 5.4% for those aged 70 and over.
  • To put this in context, if you catch the virus and are under age 70 with no serious pre-existing health issues, your chances of dying are somewhere between being struck by lightning or killed in an automobile accident.
  • Only those over age 70 and/or those with serious underlying medical conditions are at risk of dying if they become infected.  Yet even they have a 95% survival rate.
  • What about all the cases piling up?  So what?  Cases only indicate infection, not illness.  Severity of illness, not infection is what matters.  Oh, and the tests are not covid-19 specific in case you didn’t know.  The tests being used only determine if your body has recently been fighting a virus of some kind.  Plus they have been shown to be highly unreliable.
  • In terms of disease severity, over 90% of those infected show no, or only mild signs of illness.
  • And one last time, there is a 99.74% survival rate if you are infected; nearly 100% if you are healthy.

In summary, covid-19 is a virus that makes some people sick, proves fatal to a few, and does nothing to the rest.  Just like most of the other viruses the world has ever experienced.  So why all the panic this time?  Was the cure worse than the disease?  Yes, absolutely, yet is still goes on.

Does Jesus Live in Sweden?

Throughout this “crisis” I have often wondered what Jesus would be saying if He were here with us in body again. Matthew 8:26 comes to mind:

He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.

Well the country of Sweden must have been listening.  While nearly all other nations were terrified and instituted lockdowns and other extreme and unprecedented measures, Sweden did what they have always done, what we all used to do.  They trusted that our God given immune system would battle and adapt to this new virus as it has done since the beginning of time.  They imposed no lockdowns, no business closures, no forced social distancing, and no mandatory masks policies. 

And guess what happened?  Their results are similar to the rest of the world.  The Johns Hopkins University covid-19 website reports that Sweden has suffered 575 covid deaths per million residents.  The USA, on the other hand, has experienced 600 deaths per million.  Doing nothing worked better than doing something.  It appears the virus is going to do what the virus is going to do, regardless of what we do to try to stop it.

I don’t know much about Sweden.  I don’t know if a faith in God had anything to do with their decision.  But I am impressed that they stuck with their approach after the rest of the world scolded them about it from the beginning.  Even now many try to explain away their results, probably from the sheer embarrassment.  We should be thanking and praising them.  Now we know what we should have done, and what we should do now.

I am embarrassed for us.  Especially since we are a predominantly Christian nation.  Where was our faith?  Where is it now?  When will we get it back?  Or are we just afraid to stand up and be counted?  Why have we allowed lies and fear to prevail?  Where is our desire to seek, find, and live the truth with courage?

I have an idea for t-shirt in mind.  It reads, “Got Faith?  Prove It!” on the front.  The back would say:

I gave you an immune system, trust it.

I gave you a brain, use it.

I gave you a face, show it.

I gave you freedom, protect it.

I gave you a soul, save it.

How do we save our souls?  Belief, right?  Can we really say we believe if we allow our fear of death to overcome our trust in God?  If we truly believe, why do we even fear death in the first place?  Shouldn’t we instead be looking forward to spending an eternity in heaven?

How Do We End This Masquerade?

As Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Well we sure have a wildfire burning.  Not the virus, but the consequences of our reaction to it.  I hope by now you understand that the virus really isn’t as deadly as we were led to believe.  No more so than others we have experienced in the past.  Now let’s understand all the self-imposed harm we have done by believing that it is.

Since I’ve already given you more statistics than you probably want, I’ll just list all the unintended consequences here for brevity.  Here are the conditions that have gotten much worse over the course of this year:  unemployment, poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, anxiety, depression, addiction, abuse, suicide, stroke, diabetes, dementia, domestic violence, child abuse, and on and on it goes.

Even the World Health Organization which has been stoking the fear now admits that “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.  It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

What truly infuriates me about all of this is that the most vulnerable in our society have been impacted the most, while those in power have suffered little, if at all.  I wonder what would be done differently if those making decisions were in peril of losing their livelihoods?

So how do we extinguish this wildfire of unnecessary fear and useless safety measures?  Only you can.  Only we can.  Only each of us armed with the truth can.  We must act on what we now know.  We must end our willing compliance to doing things that don’t matter.  Sweden has proven that none of it matters.  The results will be the same no matter what we do.  Let’s get back to normal.  The media likes to tell us to get comfortable with a “new normal.”  Reject that!  Do you really want to live with undue fear the rest of your life?  Do you want that for your children and grandchildren?

I have heard so many well-intentioned people stating that they want to “be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”  They thought they were doing the virtuous thing.  Armed with the facts, they are not any more.  Going along to get along is the problem.  But they are now so wedded to their earlier position it will be difficult for them to change.  But some of us must.  If we don’t we can expect to live this way for the rest of our lives for no good reason.  Is that what you want?  I sure don’t!

It is up to us to share and live the truth.  We are complicit in the lies if we do not.  And I can think of no faster way to turn things around than to stop wearing masks.  As I wrote about way back in May, they do nothing to protect me from you, or you from me.  If you still don’t believe me, please read the actual scientific studies linked below.  In addition, there are now studies being revealed that show wearing masks is actually harmful.  Please read them too and help end this mask-erade!

Here is the single biggest and most harmful lie I have heard recently.  The CDC Director told a Senate committee that “face masks are the single most important public health safety tool we have to combat the virus.”  He further stated that “there is clear scientific evidence of this fact.”

I searched far and wide, for an entire day, and found absolutely no credible scientific evidence to support his claim, not even on the CDC website. But there is a study on their site (linked below) that summarily disproves his statement.  Additionally, they also just issued a report that shows that of those recently infected, 85% had been wearing a mask always or often.  Enough said.

So why would he double-down on this ongoing deception?  Well first, he knows he will never be called on the lie from the mainstream media.  In fact, they have been increasingly censoring and smearing those bold enough to tell the truth.  But mainly I think it is because fooling people into continuing to wear masks is the easiest way to keep the panic narrative going.  It is genius really. Masks are a constant visual reinforcement of the fear narrative, and they make people feel good about themselves at the same time.

Here’s why I am increasingly angry.  We are negatively impacting the lives of virtually everyone in the country on false pretenses.  All we really need to be doing is protecting those at high risk, the elderly and the unhealthy.  Those in charge know this too.  Either they don’t want to admit their mistakes, or they have some other agenda for continuing to make us miserable.  Hey leaders, how about you actually start caring about people instead of spending so much time trying to look like you care!

What we need to do is get back to living as God intended.  Adopt a healthy lifestyle.  Healthy living is the best way forward as it always has been.  Protect and care for those in need.  Trust God and each other.  Believe that everything will work out for the best.  God has a plan.  Maybe we needed to go through this as a wake-up call to get back to Him.  I hope we will!

In closing please remember these simple truths:

  • God gave us a unique face; we should show it.
  • He gave us a mind to think and reason; we should use it.
  • He gave us our freedom: we should protect it.
  • He gave us an amazingly engineered immune system; we should trust it.
  • He gave us other people to live in community with; we should do so freely.
  • He gave us the promise of eternal life if we believe; we should show Him that we do.

Be Courageous, Scott

Masks Don’t Work: A Review of Science Relevant to COVID-19 Social Policy

Do Facemasks Protect Against COVID‐19?

Face Masks Pose Serious Risks To The Healthy

Mask Whistleblowers Tell All

CDC – Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures

CDC Study Finds Overwhelming Majority Of People Getting Coronavirus Wore Masks

The Scaredy Side

Question of the day – Do you sleep on the scaredy side of the bed?  What is the scaredy side you ask?  It’s the side that is closest to the bedroom door of course.  The side that would be attacked first by an intruder.

Melanie and I learned about the scaredy side from our longest running couple friends.  Donna told us that she informed Tom on their wedding night that he would always be sleeping on the scaredy side of the bed.  Smart man that he is, Tom complied and has kept Donna safe for over 43 years now.

The concept struck me as incredibly funny until Melanie exclaimed, “Hey, why have I always slept on the scaredy side?!”  Ruh-roh … trouble! I tried to defend myself, but after mentally walking through all 12 of the homes we have lived in, she was absolutely right … ugh!  Thank you for protecting me all these 40 years, Sweetheart:-)

So that night we switched sides.  Neither of us slept well.  The lack of sleep resulted in me being in a bad mood the next day.  Smiling, Melanie asked if I had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.  Ha, very funny, honey.  We changed back but I promised to sleep on the scaredy side on all vacations from now on.

My bad mood was actually induced by seeing all the heads down, no eye contact, no talking, physically distanced, and faceless people during my errand running that day.  It’s depressing because it reminds me of two things I wish weren’t true about human behavior: 1) how easily we are manipulated through the fear of death, and 2) how resistant we are to making positive changes for any other reason.

The president at one of the companies I worked for had a favorite saying; “Show them death and they will accept all other options.” I hated the deception, but it worked every single time.  It is certainly working to get us to willingly and rapidly accept any and all measures we are told will help us to avoid dying from a virus.

But yet, we refuse to abide by the simple rules God gave us that would enable us to eradicate all the other problems in the world: poverty, hunger, crime, depression, abuse, addiction, disease, abortion, and the list goes on and on. They are all caused by us, by our collective sin.  We have the power to solve them all by following God’s laws.  We’ve known what to do for some 6,000 years but continue to sin at a seemingly escalating pace.  But, in just a few months’ time we turn our lives upside down for a virus?

I kind of wish God would use the tactics that are being used to scare us into obeying the new man-made virus rules.  They obviously work.  God could easily manipulate us into doing His will.  But He doesn’t want to.  He loves us and wants us to choose to love Him.  We should demonstrate our love by willingly doing what He wants, by exercising our freewill, not by being tricked into compliance.

But just for fun, let’s look step-by-step at what we mere mortals have done to drive behavior change so rapidly to combat a virus.  Then let’s consider what we could do differently to drive the more important changes within all of us to make this world a much better place.

Step 1 – Make an Incredibly Scary Prediction

It was initially reported that 2.2 million people in the U.S. would die from the virus.  They could have also said that therefore 328 million of us will survive, but that wouldn’t be as scary.

So from a God perspective, how about we talk about how many of us will be going to hell?  The last poll I saw stated that 75% of Americans think they are going to heaven.  Only 5% thought they would not make it.  Interestingly only 58% believe there is a hell.  There is a lot of optimism and very little fear out there.  We definitely need to create more fear to succeed in our behavior modification efforts away from sin and toward virtue.

Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that we should Enter through the narrow gate;for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

I wonder how many a few is, how many will make it to heaven?  The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim the number is 144,000, very poor odds considering an estimated 90 billion people have lived to date. Although we want a scary number, we need to make it believable.  How about using the odds of winning the lottery, 1 in 300 million?  Nope, that would mean that only one of us living in America today is going to heaven … I call dibs … oops, that’s selfish and would likely seal my fate … never-mind.

Let’s say that 1% will go to heaven, the remaining 99% are going to hell.  That gives us a little hope and is at the same time very scary.  1% of the U.S. population is about 3.3 million people headed to heaven.  Congratulations to you narrow road folks! That leaves 326.7 million people going to hell for an eternity … definitely scary.  By the way, it’s good to use a decimal point to give the illusion of accuracy.

Step 2 – Stoke the Fear Continuously

Talk about how bad it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Report only the negatives, no good news allowed.  Put the death count on all the screens you can, and update it frequently.  If the numbers aren’t going up fast enough, change the rules.  Give guidance and financial incentives to make sure the death numbers rise as fast as possible.

Do not mention that the overall death rate is only .26%, a little higher than the traditional seasonal flu.  Do not point out that means the survival rate is 99.74%.  Do not mention that only 6% of the deaths being reported are solely related to the virus, 94% are related to previously held serious health conditions.  Do not mention that most people who get the virus have no, or only mild symptoms.  Do not reveal that the virus is only deadly if you are over 70 years old and/or are already very unhealthy.  Make sure everyone is afraid, not just those truly at risk.  Definitely scare parents so they can pass their fear on to their kids who are at virtually zero risk.

So how about we report on the assumed number of people going to hell every day.  On average about 8,000 people die in this country every day. 99% equals 7,920 headed to hell on a daily basis, 5.5 per minute.  Show the cumulative numbers on the news ticker scrolling across every television station and internet site, they will pile up fast.

But people will probably get used to seeing the hell numbers and become complacent. Therefore, we should also remind them of all the terrible things happening because of our sinful ways.  We should also report on the numbers of people dying from hunger, disease, murder, suicide, and abortion.  And let’s not forget those suffering from poverty, crime, abuse, and addictions as well.  Yes, those numbers will be huge.

Step 3 – Tell Them What to Do

Once you have a sufficient number of people scared and panicked, tell them what to do to make it better.  Give them a little hope.  Provide the rules.  Go a little overboard to see what they will put up with, then scale it back if you have to.  And change the rules often to keep them off balance.  Also, provide timelines to give some hope that it will be over soon.  If they think it is temporary they will comply faster.  Then keep extending the timeframe a little at a time so they won’t notice how long it has been going on.  When did the 14 days to flatten the curve start?

This step should be easy from a God perspective.  All we have to do to avoid hell and get to heaven is to believe and follow the well-established and already known rules.  The ten commandments, the golden rule, the heavenly virtues.  We already know what to do, we just need to do it.  The timeline is as soon as possible, definitely before you die.  Remind them of Matthew 25:13 Therefore, stay awake,for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Step 4 – Make it Visual and Widespread

It’s one thing to hear about what is going on to spread fear, it is much more powerful if there are constant visual reminders everywhere you turn. Close everything down so there is no traffic, no cars in parking lots, empty stadiums with no live sports or entertainment, no kids on the playgrounds.  Close the churches where people might be reminded that God tells them to put their trust in Him and to not fear.  Put up signs everywhere as constant reminders and warnings of how scared everyone should be.

As a secret weapon, bring out the masks.  First say don’t wear them.  Then say to wear if you can’t physically distance yourself from another.  Then always if indoors, except when you are sitting down eating.  Make it so confusing that they choose to wear one all the time just in case.  Mandate them to instill the fear and embarrassment of being called out, fined, or fired.  Bury all actual scientific studies that conclude that masks make no difference to the wearer or those around them.  Oops, here’s one on the CDC website.

So what can we do to visually scare people off the broad road to destruction?  In Revelation 13:16-18 people are forced to have a stamped image of the beast’s name, or the number that stood for its name (666) on their right hands or their foreheads.  This is obviously impractical for us since only God knows who gets the tattoos.

How about instead we remind people what hell will be like with visual representations playing on all media sources, flooding the zone as it’s called.  Hell is described in the bible with words and phrases like; tormented with fire and brimstone, having no rest day and night, eternal punishment, eternal fire, the furnace of fire, lake of fire, unquenchable fire, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  Sounds rough, for an eternity, with no way out, ever!

It would also be nice if our church leaders talked about hell a little more often.  I can’t remember the last time I heard a good fire and brimstone sermon.  They seem hesitant to use scare tactics for some reason nowadays.  To me they seem more concerned with keeping us happy and feeling good about ourselves than they do with saving us.  In fact, currently they seem more interested in pleasing those outside of the church than they do with saving those on the inside.

Step 5 – Change the Focus

Once it becomes obvious that the virus isn’t as deadly as it was originally projected, change the focus away from the number of deaths to the number of cases.  Do widespread testing to drive the numbers up.  Count as many cases as you can.  Change the definitions of cases if the numbers aren’t sufficiently high.

Don’t mention all the problems with the tests; false positives, positive one day and negative the next, both positive and negative on the same day, people who weren’t even tested getting notified they are positive in the mail.  Admitting these things would ruin the credibility of the testing.  And under no circumstances should you talk about the actual severity of cases.  There is a big difference between infection and illness, but they don’t need to know that.  Don’t mention that 50% won’t even know they had it, and another 30-40% will have only mild symptoms.  And again, never mention the survival rate is 99.74%.

If only there were a sin test.  Can you imagine how fast our behaviors would change if we were constantly being monitored?  Even better, what if our thoughts could be heard.  It would be chaos in the beginning, but things would change for the better very rapidly.  Just imagine what would happen if the truth reigned supreme?

Step 6 – Get People to Turn on Each Other

Now that you have worked people up into a panic frenzy, get them to demonize all those who don’t follow the rules.  Shame them in any way possible.  Social media is best since you can reach so many people so fast.  Or embarrass them in public.  If you can get into a war of words or a scuffle, even better.  Just like in sports, the person retaliating is usually the only one who gets caught, so the perpetrator can walk away feeling good about themselves.

Are we allowed to sin shame people?  The phrases, who am I to judge, and let he who is without sin cast the first stone come to mind.  Yet, shouldn’t we be allowed to point out each other’s failures in nice ways.  Actually, wouldn’t that be the kind thing to do?  I recall that two of the spiritual works of mercy are to instruct the ignorant and correct sinners, so it must be okay.  We can’t improve if we don’t recognize and acknowledge our own faults, right.  Of course we should focus on fixing ourselves first.

Step 7 – Keep the Pressure On

Keep the fear going until your objective is met.  At the same time, provide a little hope to let them see the light at the end of the tunnel.  What is the virus end game?  A vaccine? The FDA has a stated goal for a vaccine that it be at least 50% effective.  What … a flip of a coin?  This is what we have been waiting for?  Our God given immune system is 99.74% effective, how about we just call it good and get back to business as usual?

Did you know that the flu vaccine is only between 40-60% effective each year?  Scientists have been working on the flu shot since the 1940’s, 80 years.  Yet we still have between 40-60 thousand flu deaths every year in the U.S.  So we think an effective vaccine for this new virus will be developed in less than a year.  Are we really that naïve?

I wish I knew what the objective of keeping the unwarranted virus fear going is.  Thankfully God has made His end game perfectly clear.  At some point He will be separating the sheep (the saved) from the goats (the damned).  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25:33 and 46.

So here is my hope.  I want to be a sheep and I want you to be one too.  Sheep get up on the right side of the bed.  Goats are on the scaredy side!  Be a sheep.  Be a shepherd as well, help your fellow man.  Fear the Lord, follow in His ways, and live for an eternity in paradise!

Go with God, Scott

Wedding Bells

Pop quiz – What is the most popular month for a wedding? I guessed June, but it is number 3.  September is number 2.  Surprisingly, October is number 1.  I’ve been noticing many wedding announcements and photos recently so I felt called to write about this topic some way.

The first marriage related thought that comes to me is a bible passage.  I still remember looking over at Melanie while it was read at our wedding.  1 Corinthians 13:4-13 states:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I had given Melanie a t-shirt after we had dated for a while that read: “Never fall in love with a tennis player, because to them love means nothing.”  In case you don’t know, a score of zero in tennis is stated as love, as in we’re playing for the love of the game so it will be fun even if we don’t score a point.  Yeah, right.  Somehow I had scored big points with Melanie and have now been blessed with over 40 years of marriage to her.

Since we have discussed many virtues over the last couple months, I believe it is the last line of the passage I am to write about.  Quick review – We have covered the heavenly virtues of humility, charity, kindness, patience, chastity, temperance, and diligence.  And the cardinal virtues of prudence (wisdom), justice, fortitude (courage), and temperance.

That leaves one last list to tackle; the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.  I have faith I will be given the right words, hope that you find some value in them, and will love being done writing about virtues for a while … ha:-)

One of the definitions of the word theological says, in part, that theology describes the nature and will of God as revealed to man.  I take this to mean that the virtues of faith, hope, and love are the essence of the nature of the relationship God desires with us.  All the other virtues are more applicable to our behavior and relationships with other people.  And upon further reflection, without these three, it seems to me that the other virtues are more difficult to care about and adhere to.

Let’s look at them each in the order of the verse:  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

It all starts with Faith

But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

Without faith what incentive do we have to practice any of the virtues?  Faith or a lack thereof is the root cause of our obedience or disobedience to the commandments.  If we have no faith in God, what do we care about following His rules?  Why not instead succumb to our selfish desires and sinful nature to enjoy all the pleasures in this life, our only life?  Virtue, smirtue.  Nice guys finish last, right?

But wait, with faith we have the promise of eternal life, in heaven.  That sounds even better!  But what does it take to have faith?  Belief and trust.  Both are simple yes or no choices that we all have the opportunity to make.  Once you believe in God and trust that He is guiding you and looking out for your best interests, the rest becomes much easier.  You then want to please Him.  You want to do good and you want to help others to do the same.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.  (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Say Yes!

Next comes Hope.  Without faith there is no hope. Hope is faith looking forward into the future.  And the hope we are talking about is a promise, a given, not a wish or a dream.  God’s hope is a sure thing.  Have faith in Him, be faithful to Him, and the hope of eternal life in heaven will be yours.

Hope gives us something to look forward to.  Hope keeps us moving ahead. Hope fuels us to face the inevitable challenges in life.  Hope overcomes fear.  Hope encourages us to keep running the race.  Hope reminds us that we have a savior who is coming to set us free.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.  (Nelson Mandela)

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.  (Saint Augustine)

And the greatest of these Is Love.  Unconditional love.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love your enemies.  Can you imagine?  God’s love for us is unimaginable.  He gives us His only Son as a sacrifice and gift to save us from our sins and grant us eternal life.  All we have to do is believe in him. Have Faith and we gain Hope through His Love.  Seriously?  Now that is Love!

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

I’m glad God isn’t a tennis player.  Love obviously means everything to Him.

So what are we to do?  Start with faith to gain hope and to put yourself in a position to truly love?  Or maybe start with love?  What do you love?  Why do you love it?  Is it worthy of your love?  Like I used to love playing tennis.  I had a natural God given talent for it so it seemed appropriate to spend a lot of time honing those skills.  Being good at it opened a lot of doors that enabled me to help others in a number of significant ways.  But now it gives me little joy.  Maybe it has become one of those childish things I am supposed to put aside.  Nah:-)

But there are much more important things in life.  Like people.  Who do you love?  Is it a God like love?  I doubt if it ever can be, but we can strive for it.  We are to love God and love neighbors, that is, everyone.  Start with God.  Say yes to His offer of forgiveness and eternal life.  Then go out and show your love for others by proclaiming the good news and living it through demonstration of all the other virtues.

Here’s a simple truth, love is the foundation for every good thing in our lives. Without love, nothing else really matters.  Or as the Beatles sang: All you need is love, love is all you need.

Your challenge for the week is to wake up every morning saying yes to God.  Yes, I have faith.  Yes, I have hope.  Yes, I love you and I will do my best to show that love to you and others through my actions.

Happy Labor Day! Scott

Mercy, Mercy Me

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Justice and mercy go together.  Yes, we all want justice.  We want to reward good behavior and punish the bad.  But we all want mercy when we are on the wrong end of the equation.  And I trust we all want to give mercy when we are the wronged party, especially when it comes to our loved ones.

“This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you!”  I doubt that you were ever in need of punishment as a kid, so you may not have heard this.  I think I may have a time or two. It’s one of those sayings you don’t truly appreciate until you are the parent.  It is so true.

In thinking about the topic of mercy, the first thing that came to mind was an old Marvin Gaye song.  It starts, “Woah, ah mercy, mercy me.  Ah, things ain’t what they used to be.”  Wow, that’s for sure.  Interestingly, this song appeared on the 1971 album titled, What’s Going On?  They should re-release it this year, don’t you think?

A quick aside.  The lyrics of the title track contain this verse:

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today.

Apparently Marvin’s father was not swayed by these words.  He shot and killed his own son.  But mercy was granted and he was only given a suspended sentence and probation for his crime.  I would imagine the worse punishment for him was living out his remaining 14-years of life with full knowledge of his sin, especially since he was an ordained minister.

This story reminded me of the ultimate mercy we have all been granted:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Our Father, rather than condemning us for our sins as He rightfully could, instead granted us mercy through the death of His only son, Jesus Christ.  Talk about hurting Him more than it hurt us … Wow!

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  (John 3:17)

God’s mercy is greater than our sins … Amazing!  And what does God ask of us in return?  Belief.  And how do we show our belief?  My good friend and college roommate sent me this quote last week that sums it up nicely.  He referred to it in delivering a eulogy recently.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8)

We’ve discussed justice and humility previously.  What about mercy, what are we to do to hold up our part of the eternal life bargain?

Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.  (Luke 6:37)

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  (Matthew 5:7)

Now for the hard part, how do we demonstrate the mercy we are asked to provide?  Thankfully we were given very specific instructions in Matthew 25:31-46.  At the end times The Son of Man separates the sheep (good guys) from the goats (you don’t want to be one).

He thanks the sheep by saying: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

The righteous sheep asked: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?”

Jesus said to them in reply: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  But he told the goats: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I came to know the types of mercy described above as the Corporal Works of Mercy.  Corporal meaning, of the body.  These are kind and charitable acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.  They respond to the basic needs of humanity.  Here is a list for your reference:

Corporal Works of Mercy

  • Feed the Hungry
  • Give Drink to the Thirsty
  • Clothe the Naked
  • Shelter the Homeless
  • Visit the Sick
  • Visit the Imprisoned
  • Bury the Dead

I think these are fairly self-explanatory and you instinctively know what to do.  The most efficient and effective way to provide these mercy’s is to donate your time, talent, and treasure to organizations and causes that already serve in these areas.  There are many and they are only a quick internet search away.

The second category of mercy’s, that are not as conveniently found in the Bible relate to our spiritual and emotional needs.  The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.  We are all in need of getting and giving these types mercy throughout our lifetimes.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Instruct the Ignorant – Learn about our Christian faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is selfish to keep the secret of redemption to yourself. You do want your friends to live with you for an eternity, right?
  • Counsel the Doubtful – Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Be there for others when they need some hope.  Be the always positive influence who others know they can turn to for guidance and support.
  • Correct Sinners – Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others to acknowledge, confess, correct, and atone for their mistakes. Strive to be an example of virtuous living to show others the way.
  • Bear Wrongs Patiently – Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.
  • Forgive Offenses Willingly – Forgiving others is difficult because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  • Comfort the Afflicted – Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.
  • Pray for the Living and the Dead – Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.

There, that should give us all something to work on for the next, well, rest of our lives.  I think the best way to remember all of these areas of mercy is by once again going back to the golden rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We are all in need of mercy from time to time, or maybe continuously.  And remember, you are not alone.  There is someone else out there right now in need of the same mercy as you.

I’m thinking a good rule of thumb is to reach out to someone else that you suspect is in the same need as you.  Ask them for help.  You will be helping them at the same time.  In this way you will build a strong support system for yourself, while also providing merciful support to others.

Jim, my above referenced friend, ended his eulogy by stating that his departed friend lived a blessed life because he knew that to live a blessed life, you need to bless others.  Words to live by…

Have Mercy, Scott

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Look. Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane.  It’s Superman! Who fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.

Everything seemed so simple back in the 1950’s.  All the shows, movies, and books had a similar theme.  There were good guys and bad guys, and it was easy to tell which side was which.  There was a constant struggle between good and evil, but thankfully, good always won out in the end.

Truth and justice prevailed.  That was the American way … one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.  Sadly, I’m not sure that is still our way.  In fact, I know it is not.  All you have to do is read whatever you consider to be the news each day to find numerous examples of lies being passed off as truth, and injustice posing as righteousness.

Most troubling, the public is divided about who the good and bad guys are.  We are overwhelmed with messaging telling us who and what to believe.  Everybody thinks they are right and that they are on the side of truth and justice.  But the ideological divisions are so vastly different that many are obviously wrong, maybe most.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  (Matthew 7:13)

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.  (Mark Twain)

What are we to believe?  Who are we to believe?  We are told the “fact checkers” make sure we are seeing the truth.  I’ve personally found they are much less accurate than those predicting the weather.  Unfortunately it’s up to each of us to dig deep for the truth.  But who has the time or energy required?

I often wish I could go back to my youthful days of ignorance and bliss; where truth, justice, and the good guys always won.  When it seemed easy to spot good and evil.  When our leaders could be trusted to do what was in the best interests of we the people.  But alas, growing up and experiencing life makes it all too clear that is not the case.  But there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

The topic for the week is Justice.  I really thought this would be a fairly straightforward article to write.  I envisioned it including the following points:

  • Justice is ensuring that all people are treated equally in accordance with the law, both God’s laws and those of the society.
  • Observe the greatest commandments, love God and neighbors (Matthew 22:35–40), and justice will be served.
  • Obey the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and live virtuously to show your love for God.
  • Follow the golden rule, do to others whatever you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12) in order to show your love for neighbors.
  • Justice for all will be the result of adhering to the above.

Simple, right?  Trouble is, as I went about conducting my research into the topic of justice, it quickly became much more challenging and confusing.  Finding a consistent definition was impossible.  How could defining a term that has been around since the beginning of time be so problematic?

It appears to me from all that I’ve read that we want justice to be whatever we individually want it to be.  I don’t exactly know who “we” is, but there are a lot of them.  These times of moral relativism have led us away from truth being truth, and justice being justice in the same way for us all.  Pretty convenient, but contrary to ensuring we are all treated equally and justly.

Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to individual choice. We all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me.  That makes life so much easier.  Do as you please, believe it’s right, never a need for guilt or regret.

Knowing the concept of relativism helped me to understand why there are so many widely varying definitions of justice.  Most interesting were all the adjectives commonly placed in front of the word justice.  Words like social, economic, environmental, and racial to mention a few.

Social justice is such a common phrase that I assumed it at least was consistently defined.  The Catholic church has an entire section devoted to it in their Catechism which is a good read (CCC 1928-48).  But again, in researching many sources the definition ranged from ensuring that all members of society be treated equally, to demanding that all members actually be equal.

When confused, I always turn to The Bible as the source of truth.  So I searched my online bible for the term “social justice” to understand what it really is.  To my surprise, the search returned no results; zero, none, nada, not one.

Upon further reflection that makes complete sense.  Justice is justice.  What is just is just.  Justice is blind, why does it need a qualifier?  Adding a clarifying descriptor preceding justice is not necessary.  In fact, based on the highly variable definitions of those many types of justice frequently referenced, there is a high likelihood of subverting or perverting justice, favoring one person over another.  Where is the equality in that?

You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality.  (Deuteronomy 16:19)

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbor justly.  (Leviticus 19:15)

Breaking the law is breaking the law, right?  If one harms another in some way, is it excusable for some social, economic, environmental, or racial reason? Where is the justice if the perpetrator is not held accountable?  Doesn’t the perpetrator learn from justice?  Doesn’t the victim deserve justice?  Maybe other factors should be taken into account in determining the appropriate punishment, but not in dispensing justice.

I wonder if we are confusing justice with fairness.  They can be two very different things.  Justice is objective and deals with universal principles and natural laws that do not change and apply equally to all people, all societies, everywhere and at all times.

Fairness is concerned with popular sentiment and is subject to change between societies and times.  It is a subjective and biased assertion based on individual opinion.  It is concerned with what ought to be, as opposed to what is.  Fairness seems to be whatever you want it to be.

Of course, life is not fair.  It never will be.  We all learned that at a young age.  We didn’t want to believe it then, and we don’t want to believe it now.  Life can be just, but it can’t be fair.

For the Lord is a God of justice.  (Isiah 30:18)

What about fairness in The Bible?  A quick search returned 5 references to fairness, each verse also containing the word justice.  A search for the word justice provided 238 results.

What does God think is fair?  Maybe that He gave us all life.  He gave us all special talents.  He gave us parents to show us the way.  He gave us natural interests and unique abilities.  He gave us rules to live by and a conscience.  Then He gave us free will.  The rest is up to us.

Interestingly He did not give us all the same talents and abilities.  What a boring place this world would be if we were all the same.  No, He made us all different to make it interesting.  More importantly, He made us different so we would need each other.  So we would naturally work together to help each other out.  And by doing so we would make the world the place it was meant to be; Heaven.

Here’s my conclusion.  Justice is up to each of us.  Our individual actions produce justice or a lack thereof.  We are the Supermen and women in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way.  And that way is by working every day to be our best self for the benefit of others.  By actively striving to be the saints we are all meant to become.

Your challenge for the week. Since it’s back to school week in my neighborhood, how about we all take ourselves back to school on the topic of Justice?  You’ve read my thoughts.  Do your own research to develop your own understanding of what it means, what it doesn’t, and most importantly, what you are going to do about it.

Next week we’ll delve into The Works of Mercy to remind ourselves about what we can each do in order to promote justice in our own communities.

Justice!  Scott