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Why We Should Think for Ourselves

Why We Should Think for Ourselves.

Since the inception of this blog, I have asserted that independent thinking and action is one of the most important facets of our humanity, and one of the defining functions of personality. This is because I understand a very old (and yet very true) adage that states that “….the best ideas are common property.” Stated another way, the best principles/maxims/rules of living are understood by a great number of people, and not by a select few (those in today’s society who consider themselves the “elite,” or the so-called “intelligentsia”). Of course, in today’s America, the exact opposite is the prevailing vision, and teaching in modern schools and universities reflects this to a great extent.

It is thus refreshing to see a real-life experience–a direct antithesis to the prevailing vision–documented that proves (yet again) the truth of this ancient maxim.

The best ideas truly are common property–common property of strong-minded individuals who understand the power of independent thinking and action.

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Poem: God Give Us Men!

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An American Statesman — Senator Rand Paul

In honor of Senator Rand Paul (and his recent filibuster), here is an incredibly relevant poem that is a prayer for men who aren’t afraid to lead. There are several lines that stood out to me as readily observable characteristics of this man among boys in Washington, but I will leave the entire poem in original form, invite you to read it (it’s quite brief), and then comment and tell me which lines you saw that reminded you of something about this statesman.

God give us men! A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands;

Men who the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

— Josiah Gilbert Holland

Brief, but powerful–and laden with commentary on our day, even though it was written over a hundred years ago.

Do you see any characteristics of Senator Rand Paul in this poem? Do you disagree with my classification of him as a statesman?

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee: Which Are You?

This interesting anecdote should make you stop and think before you proclaim that you are a victim of your circumstances. Circumstances are things that are beyond our control, there is no doubt….but our reaction to them is firmly planted in the realm of things we can contain and control.

(NOTE: Not an original article. Copied from Huntington, Long Island, NY. Minimally edited for clarity and grammar. Enjoy!)

Words of Wisdom from Grandma
Words of Wisdom from Grandma

Grandmother: “Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee — Which Are You?”

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the third she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the girl replied.

Grandma brought the young lady closer and asked her to feel the carrots. The girl did and noted that they had become soft. Grandma then asked her granddaughter to take an egg and break it.After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, Grandma asked the girl to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor, then asked, “What’s the point,grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

—AUTHOR UNKNOWN

(NOTE: This article shows how an ordinary person can use ordinary objects to impart extraordinary wisdom and common sense that will serve us well in life.

While I don’t agree with every iota of philosophy expressed in this story [think, last two paragraphs], I really like the principle the three objects’ transformations illustrate. More on my interpretation in a future post.)

The Other Side of the History of Gun Control

1890 -- The Wounded Knee Massacre
1890 — The Wounded Knee Massacre

I know I’ve said a lot about the issue of gun control over the last few months. I’m also aware the news is full of stories about gun violence and the need to “do something” about it. Usually, the ones feeding us these reports are the ones lecturing us that the government really needs to do something about this important issue.

There are two things to remember. The first is that the Second Amendment was not drafted to give Americans the right to own guns for hunting or other sporting purposes. The Second wasn’t even drafted to give Americans the right to own weapons for self-defense. Freshly released from the bondage of tyranny, the men who founded this country wrote the Second Amendment to give the people the right to own weapons to defend themselves from any tyrants. This, of course, extended to the government, should those in charge forget their office as public servants of the people, and begin to attempt to run rough-shod over the personal property and rights of the people under them.

The second thing to remember is that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Bill of Rights encapsulates several of those “…certain, inalienable rights…” that each of us has been “…endowed [with] by [our] Creator…” The Constitution clearly spells out the process for amending its provisions. Until such a process has been followed on this matter, any “law” that is passed to ensure we take the “morally defensible” “high road” is neither law nor morally defensible nor the high road to anywhere. Except perhaps The Pit. Or possibly Europe.

Of course, there are many things that these statements skim right over, including the redefinition both of the Constitution’s meaning (think “original intent”) and the rights of the American people (think “universal health care,” “too big to fail,” and “welfare.”) . I don’t want to get bogged down with a technical discussion of these matters now…look for more in later posts.

What I do want to do is share an important bit of history with you, my readers. Some of you may not be aware of the event to which I refer. I know I wasn’t before I read about it on a friend’s Facebook wall. While I know that not everything on Facebook is true, I verified this and it is an actual historical event. A Google search renders several good entries, including this excellent article at History.com:

History.com–Wounded Knee Massacre

The following originally shared on Facebook by Jerry Howe

A LITTLE HISTORY TO THINK ABOUT:

December 29, 2012 marked the 122nd Anniversary of the murder of 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. These 297 people, in their winter camp, were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection”. The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms. The Calvary began shooting, and managed to wipe out the entire camp. 200 of the 297 victims were women and children. About 40 members of the 7th Cavalry were killed, but over half of them were victims of fratricide from the Hotchkiss guns of their overzealous comrades-in-arms. Twenty members of the 7th Cavalry’s death squad, were deemed “National Heroes” and were awarded the Medal of Honor for their acts of [cowardice] heroism.

We hear very little of Wounded Knee today. It is usually not mentioned in our history classes or books. What little that does exist about Wounded Knee is normally a sanitized “Official Government Explanation”. And there are several historically inaccurate depictions of the events leading up to the massacre, which appear in movie scripts and are not the least bit representative of the actual events that took place that day.

Wounded Knee was among the first federally backed gun confiscation attempts in United States history. It ended in the senseless murder of 297 people.

I don’t normally break up a block-quote, as you know, but let that sink in. Nearly THREE HUNDRED PEOPLE. Murdered. For obeying the law.

Before you jump on the emotionally charged bandwagon for gun-control, take a moment to reflect on the real purpose of the Second Amendment, the right of the people to take up arms in defense of themselves, their families, and property in the face of invading armies or an oppressive government. The argument that the Second Amendment only applies to hunting and target shooting is asinine. When the United States Constitution was drafted, “hunting” was an everyday chore carried out by men and women to put meat on the table each night, and “target shooting” was an unheard of concept. Musket balls were a precious commodity and were certainly not wasted on “target shooting”. The Second Amendment was written by people who fled oppressive and tyrannical regimes in Europe, and it refers to the right of American citizens to be armed for defensive purposes, should such tyranny arise in the United States.

As time goes forward, the average citizen in the United States continually loses little chunks of personal freedom or “liberty”. Far too many times, unjust gun control bills were passed and signed into law under the guise of “for your safety” or “for protection”. The Patriot Act signed into law by G.W. Bush, was expanded and continues under Barack Obama. It is just one of many examples of American citizens being stripped of their rights and privacy for “safety”. Now, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is on the table, and will, most likely be attacked to facilitate the path for the removal of our firearms, all in the name of “our safety”.

This is the crux of the matter. Once we elevate safety as king, above freedom, we will always, always, ALWAYS surrender our freedom and our rights so that we can be “safe.” In reality, however, this is like the appeaser in Churchill’s famous illustration. He “…feeds the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Safety, as it turns out, isn’t really all that safe. Back to the text:

Before any American citizen blindly accepts whatever new firearms legislation that is about to be doled out, they should stop and think about something for just one minute-

Evil does exist in our world. It always has and always will. Throughout history evil people have committed evil acts. In the Bible one of the first stories is that of Cain killing Abel. We cannot legislate “evil” into extinction. Good people will abide by the law, and the criminal element will always find a way around it.

Evil exists all around us, but looking back at the historical record of the past 200 years, across the globe, where is “evil” and “malevolence” most often found? In the hands of those with the power, the governments. That greatest human tragedies on record and the largest loss of innocent human life can be attributed to governments. Who do the governments always target? “Scapegoats” and “enemies” within their own borders…but only after they have been disarmed to the point where they are no longer a threat. Ask any Native American, and they will tell you it was inferior technology and lack of arms that contributed to their demise. Ask any Armenian why it was so easy for the Turks to exterminate millions of them, and they will answer “We were disarmed before it happened”. Ask any Jew what Hitler’s first step prior to the mass murders of the Holocaust was- confiscation of firearms from the people.

Wounded Knee is the prime example of why the Second Amendment exists, and why we should vehemently resist any attempts to infringe on our Rights to Bear Arms. Without the Second Amendment we will be totally stripped of any ability to defend ourselves and our families. [emphases mine]

Don’t tell me. I’m not crazy; I’m not demented; I’m not a bitter, clinging gun owner; I’m not a sociopath. I’m one of 280,000,000 gun owners who didn’t kill anybody yesterday.

So don’t tell me any of that.

Stop....Just Stop.
Stop….Just Stop.

I’m a peaceable, law-abiding citizen who believes that I’m commanded by God to follow the rules that the government lays down. However, I also believe that when the government lays down laws that contradict the supreme law of the land (the Constitution), and my life (the Bible), I must obey God rather than man.

The facts are in, and they are clear. The gun control presently in effect is neither controlling guns nor reducing crime. It is simply increasing the likelihood that a law-abiding citizen will become the next victim of a homicidal maniac with a gun. This is because criminals (hope you’re sitting down) don’t follow laws. That’s why we call them criminals. Okay?

One more thing: The criminals that commit gun crimes? Most of them use guns stolen or otherwise acquired illegally. This renders null and void the argument that registration will make it easier to locate the criminal in a firearms-related incident. It will simply enable law enforcement to trace the weapon back to the (often-unsuspecting) legal owner. This means more headache for the law official and the law-abiding citizen.

Gun control is pawned off on us as the moral high ground. A baser lie has never been told! I’ll put it to you simply: Advocacy for gun control is the belief that a woman being found in an alleyway, brutally raped, and strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to that same woman explaining why her would-be attacker is lying dead on the pavement with seven (or eight) bullets from a large-caliber handgun lodged in his chest. In other words, the murder of this lady is more justifiable (or more appealing?) than that lady shooting the sicko who would seek to debauch her.

Before you accuse me of being vile or using reprehensible imagery to promote my point, let me remind you that we are talking about criminals and violent crimes, two vile and reprehensible subjects if there ever were any.

Two parting thoughts:

One. If the leftists control the moral high ground, as they repeatedly claim, why do they use morally reprehensible language and tactics to defend it? (After all, the conservatives aren’t the ones stealing elections, overturning cars, throwing pies, and taking baseball bats to those who disagree with their views.)

Two. Gun control is not legislation to make it more difficult to own and use guns in self-defense against attackers (be they rapists, home invaders, common burglars, or government agents). Gun control is using two hands, taking time to practice and prepare, knowing your weapon and your capabilities with said weapon, and consistently hitting your target.

Gun control is you. In control of your weapon.

That says it all.
That says it all.

A One-Verse Blueprint for Meditation: Part II

Two weeks ago, we began looking at Philippians 4:8. In one verse, the Apostle Paul gives us seven tests through which to put our thoughts. Last week we looked at four of them:

1.   “Whatsoever things are true…”
2.   “Whatsoever things are honest…”
3.   “Whatsoever things are just…”
4.   “Whatsoever things are pure…”

Even with only those four qualifications, we can significantly narrow down the field of acceptable subjects on which we should meditate. There are many things in the world about us that are true, but are they honest? Have all the facts been presented justly? More importantly, is this a topic which is pure and should be the focus of large amounts of our thoughts and our time?

In this culture in which we live, there is no way that we can possibly avoid everything that would perhaps give offense to us or violate the terms of this list. However, while we may not be able to keep ourselves from incidental, momentary exposure to such things, it is a huge leap from admitting this to stating that we cannot possibly control our thoughts. If you cannot control your thoughts, as a pastor I know used to say, then someone needs to lock you in a padded room and take your shoelaces and any sharp objects away from you! In fact, we can control our thoughts, and we can choose on what subjects we will think (or meditate, if you will). Here in this verse Paul gives us a blueprint…a one-verse blueprint for meditation.

We’ve examined the first four qualities in detail. Now we turn to the latter half of the verse, and see three more characteristics of the things on which we should think:

5.   “Whatsoever things are lovely…”

The word “beautiful” is often used in today’s culture, and so is “appealing,” but “lovely” has been trivialized, it would seem. This is a pity, because this word denotes much more than an external beauty, although that is certainly included. “Lovely” also carries the idea of a “beauty that appeals to the heart or mind, as well as the eye; [something that is] charmingly or exquisitely beautiful; of a great spiritual or moral beauty…” The Old English root from which this word derives is luffic, which means “amiable.” Perhaps this is how the custom of describing an amiable person as possessed of a “lovely” temperament. How much meaning can be wrapped up in a single word! How instructive to the man seeking to order his thoughts according to the template for meditation! Whatsoever things are possessed of a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind, as well as the eye, of great spiritual and moral value, toward these subjects ought our thoughts to tend! How often do our thoughts (I include myself) tend in exactly the opposite direction? This is powerful; it is revolutionary for our thinking.

6.   “Whatsoever things are of good report…”

Ah, this qualification changes the dynamic in a new and powerful way. Previous requirements state truth, honesty, and justice as tests through which our thoughts should pass; but, here is “of good report” standing behind them to halt still more traffic, as it were. An even better picture is of stringent standards in a quality assurance lab at a manufacturing plant. If a product doesn’t meet all of the requirements, it doesn’t make it out to the consumer. Is it true? Is it honest? Is it just? Is it pure and lovely? Yes? Good…but now, is it of good report? The word translated as good report is the Greek word euphemos, from which we derive our English word, euphemism.  This word also carries the idea of something that is well-spoken of, and therefore reputable.  To break it down still further, the prefix eu-, to speak or speaking, is attached to a derivative of pheme, (fay-may–from whence we get the English word “fame”), a saying, or a rumor. So this means to think on those things which are well-spoken of.

Why would it be necessary to include an instruction to think on things of good report in this list? Let’s pause for a moment to evaluate this. Does this just mean that we should only speak of those things that are “happy ,” or “positive?” To adopt such a position may seem logical at first, but in fact an examination of other verses from the Paul’s writings will show us that truth is the preeminent concern.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Ephesians 4:14)

Two quick thoughts here. One, I’m breaking into the middle of a paragraph, so I beg your indulgence there. Paul is speaking of the goal of unifying and perfecting the body of believers, and states that this is one of the end results of the maturing process through which that goal will be accomplished. Two, notice the ways in which men seek to use words to lead others astray. This passage is rich in parallels to be drawn, but we’ll continue to the next verse, which illustrates the importance of truth:

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (4:15)

There is power here. Paul tells the Ephesians, and by extension us, that our words should be truthful and loving. In other words, we should be willing to say those things that may be hard to hear because they are necessary, but we should always do so out of a heart that desires the best for the other person. With how much grief and strife and hateful speech would following this simple command do away? Furthermore, how much gossip, slander, and backbiting would vanish overnight if we simply followed this blueprint?

Just a few verses later, Paul clarifies,

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor…” (Ephesians 4:25)

If I obey the command of Christ to love my neighbor as myself, this will follow as a natural result of that obedience, because I desire that people be truthful in their dealings with me. Even so, telling the truth can be painful at times, and Paul urges us to remember to speak the truth, but to do so lovingly.

There are many other verses in the writings of Paul that speak of the preeminence of truth, and this is a word-study to which we shall perhaps return in future. For now, let us return to our text, Philippians 4.

Paul wraps up this incredible list of qualifications for our thoughts with two more tests, stated almost as one:

“…if there be any virtue…” “…and if there be any praise…”

Virtue: Moral excellence; goodness; righteousness. Conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles. Uprightness. These are high standards to which to hold one’s thoughts! Indeed, as I have learned, it is impossible for a man to do this, and it is only by dependence on Christ in me that I can claim the victory and live in obedience to these principles.

Praise: extolling (by others) of the worth of one’s actions or character, the act of giving due credit to someone for a worthy action or virtue of character. These are things on which I should think, according to this verse.

Paul ends this verse with the simplest of commands:

“…think on these things.” <—— This is the emphasis I have often seen and heard put on this last phrase (and there is no doubt that such emphasis is proper), but stop for a moment and consider ——> “….think on these things.” Paul is not just recommending a five-minute session of thinking on such things–in the morning as you drink your coffee, perhaps. No, Paul is advocating a fundamental transformation of your thought life to include only those things that pass these tests. He’s talking about a consistent pattern of thoughtful, intensive contemplation on these subjects that will revolutionize your thinking, your speech, and your way of life. The truth here is powerful, for those who will believe and accept it.

There is much here to ponder. It is indeed

Something to think about,

David

The Southern Voice Writer

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Friedman: Greed, the Free Market, and the Constitution

Having recently finished the excellent book, Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman (and at the further urging of a good friend), I was spurred by my insatiable curiosity to hunt up more of what Friedman had to say. In the course of obeying this impulsion, I found this video on YouTube of the late Dr. Milton Friedman answering the three-part question of an espousee of the progressive mindset. Very informative, and I thoroughly agree with the title: Friedman does indeed crush this man’s doubtful disputation with the facts.

Incidentally, near the end–where he speaks about using the Constitution to control the government–is particularly telling.

And this video, though brief, demonstrates Friedman’s ability to totally disarm an opponent’s entire method of attack by addressing, in a series of questions, the inconsistencies in the underlying ideology. Also notice how he turns the very same questions the host asked around and requires him to answer them (or try to do so). This is from an interview on Phil Donahue’s show, from 1979. Fascinating!

“Nothing New Under the Sun”

Many people who reference the title statement of this post may not realize that it is actually an almost-perfect quote from the Scriptures. Nearly 3,000 years old, this statement appears in the book of Ecclesiastes, and was written by King Solomon of Israel, around 977 B.C. It is taken from Ecclesiastes 1:9. The context surrounding this verse runs as follows:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after [emphasis mine].” — Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

In our modern day, technology and a decaying education system have meshed to create a generation with no attention span, and increasingly, no memory. Even in this author’s lifetime, the attitude toward feats of memory–and what defines such feats–has changed radically. People quoting extensive passages of Shakespeare or other writers to illustrate a point was once commonplace; today, people regard someone possessed of such knowledge with something bordering on awestruck disbelief. Increasingly, too, people scoff at the idea that someone who wrote hundreds of years ago could have anything to say that is “relevant” to the world today, and the situations in which we now find ourselves.

However, this Scripture passage flies in the face of the belief that all truth is relative, and that there are no overarching–universal–truths and principles that apply to every man in every age.

Today, as I was browsing some articles relating to current events in America, I chanced upon an author’s personal website, which had a “quote for the day” displayed in a side-bar much like the one that appears to the right of this post. The quote ran as follows:

The oligarch and the tyrant both distrust the people, and thus deprive them of their arms.

–Aristotle

(Interested in seeing this page for yourself? Go here to see the quote, and let me recommend reading the articles Paul Jacob has written on this subject–after you finish reading my article.) 😉

Since I’ve now ignited your curiosity to go and see what Paul Jacob is writing about, I’ll carry on for another forty-two paragraphs.

Just kidding! I’m nearly finished.

I’ve written for weeks now about the importance of pausing to think about things we see, hear and read; now, I’d like to ask you to begin to apply those principles to the information above, as well as to the conclusions Mr. Jacob reaches in his columns listed on his website. What are some of the thoughts these things prompt in your mind? Is there any correlation between the principle in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 and the quote from Aristotle? If so, what application might these quotes have to current events?

Here’s your chance to contribute to this blog!

A One-Verse Blueprint for Meditation: Part I

Regular visitors to this blog can tell you that the guiding principle behind everything I write is the non-negotiable fact that the Bible is true from beginning to end. While I understand that many do not agree with me, this is the position from which I write.

Our ongoing series, A Refreshing Pause, deals with meditation and has been based since the first post on Biblical principles, which I have sought to draw out of various passages contained in the Scriptures. For some time now, I have hinted at an upcoming post dealing with the content of meditation, but put it off until completion of the posts dealing with specific examples of those who learned the power of a pause to think and rest.

Recent events, however, have caused me to change my plan and revisit this matter of content. Just a little over a month ago, the Newtown, Connecticut shooting rocked the nation as another man with a gun burst in on helpless children and school employees, killing 26 before taking his own life. There are hundreds of articles on the Net concerning the man’s mental state, etc., so I will not revisit that here. What I would like to point out is the fact that many–if not all–of the reports state that he spent hours in front of a television screen playing exceedingly violent video games. While this cannot be cited as the only cause of what he did, I propound that it most likely contributed.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my definition of meditation was not the transcendental, “clear-your-mind-of-conscious-thought” variety espoused by so many Eastern religions. I most definitely believe that there are certain things one should think about while meditating. However (and I shall prove this point in this post), that does not mean there are not things that should be purged from our minds as we meditate. By necessity, the things about which one thinks mandate that there are other things about which one should not think.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. As with his other epistles, the letter contains a variety of information, advice, and sound doctrine to encourage the church to stand fast in the good work begun. Even a casual reading will reveal “rejoicing,” to be the key theme of the book. A concurrent theme is “pressing toward the mark.” So Paul is encouraging these believers to rejoice, stand firm, and press forward.

In the midst of the fourth chapter, Paul includes a verse that holds an important truth for us in our current study. In verse 8 of chapter 4, Paul writes:

 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (1)

Paul lays it out in plain and simple language: here’s the types of things that should dominate your thinking.

“…whatsoever things are true…” There are so many things this condition rules out. Gossip, slander, backbiting, libel, fallacious reports circulated as truth, lying, shading the truth…all these things are to be purged from our thinking.

Imagine how much pain and suffering would be avoided if people really grasped the importance of sticking with just the truth, just the facts, in their daily conversations. What a difference it would make!

Paul’s list continues:

“…whatsoever things are honest…” Ok, so he just mentioned truth…why throw honesty in there as well? A good definition of honest is as follows:

honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair: an honest person. Showing uprightness and fairness: honest dealings. Gained or obtained fairly: honest wealth. S

incere; frank: an honest face. G
enuine or unadulterated: honest commodities. (2)

This definition shows us that there is a lot more to honesty than we might at first think. Even the first sentence, “honorable in principles, intentions, and actions…” can help us narrow down significantly the scope of  things to ponder.

Paul’s list goes on.

“..whatsoever things are just…” To be just is to be guided by truth, reason, principle and fairness; or, in keeping with truth or fact: that is, true or correct. So, not only are we to evaluate our thoughts based on truth and honor, but now factual reality is brought into the equation!

Wow…that’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?

Paul’s list goes on, but we’ll hold off on further enumeration until next time. Here’s a challenge for you: for the next two weeks, strive to consciously evaluate your thoughts based on the three principles outlined above. Ask yourself: Is it true? Is it honest–does it pass a smell test for genuineness? Is it just–is this guided by reason, truth, principle and fairness?

I imagine you’ll be surprised at the results.

Something to think about,

David

The Southern Voice Writer

Creating Echoes

A simple act of kindness, performed at the expense of a single moment, can create an echo that will last a lifetime in the heart of another. When was the last time your actions created such an echo? Does the way you present yourself to the world lead people to love the things for which you stand? Or do people hate the very mention of your name?

These questions should give you pause.

I’m not saying that doing the right thing will make everyone love you. That’s the answer a reductionist would give. In this world in which we live, there will always be folks who can’t stand uprightness. But maybe, just maybe, if you dug down and made a little effort, people might actually respond in kind?

It’s worth a shot.

What if you decided to take a week and make random acts of kindness not so random? What if you went a little out of your way to help someone? Would that kill you?

“But I’m busy,” you moan.

Well, I can understand that. Life has a way of getting us by the throat and running us off our feet, doesn’t it?

Here’s a question I’d like to see discussed: If you are in the habit of “creating echoes,” how do you make time for doing these kind acts?

Another to consider: If you are not already in the habit of performing “random acts of kindness,” what are some ways you can add them to your life?

Cliffs, Fences, and Ambulances

In a country that is metaphorical, yet more real than you’d like to think, is a valley. At one end stands a precipitous cliff. A small town nestles near its foot, and its residents often walk along the top of said cliff. The question is: which is the wiser choice? Should they fence the cliff? Or put an ambulance in the valley?

I found this old gem of a poem in a book of poems entitled Best Loved Poems of the American People. Although at first glance it may seem like just a humorous poem about a fictional valley and the cliff above it, I think of it as a metaphor from which we can glean very real and practical truths.

Incidentally (shout out to Jeff Rutherford of Necessary and Proper Government), this is a great jumping-off point to an explanation of how I got where I am, politically speaking. 🙂

So enjoy, if you will, the poem entitled A Fence or an Ambulance, by Joseph Malins. (Written in 1895.)

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‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,

Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;

But over its terrible edge there had slipped

A duke and full many a peasant.

So the people said something would have to be done,

But their projects did not at all tally;

Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,”

Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,

For it spread through the neighboring city;

A fence may be useful or not, it is true,

But each heart became brimful of pity

For those who had slipped over that dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in highway and alley

Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,

“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,

It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much,

As the shock down beloww when they’re stopping.”

So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,

Quick forth would these rescuers sally

To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,

With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me

That people give far more attention

To repairing results that to stopping the cause,

When they’d much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,

“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;

If the cliff we will fence we might also dispense

With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh, he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,

“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!

He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;

No! No! We’ll support them forever.

Aren’t we picking up folks  just as fast as they fall?

And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?

Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,

While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But a sensible few, who are practical too,

Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;

They believe that prevention is better than cure,

And their party will soon be the stronger.

Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,

And while other philanthropists dally,

They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence

On the cliff than hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,

For the voice of true wisdom is calling,

“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best

To prevent other people from falling.”

Better close up the source of temptation and crime

Than deliver from dungeon or galley;

Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff

Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Although this is not part of my ongoing series on meditation, it is indeed something to think about.