Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Already and not yet

One of the key things for Christians to know about the Kingdom of God is that it is both already among us and not yet as visible and dominant as it will be.

This dichotomy was perhaps never more obvious than when Jesus stood up to read at the synagogue in Nazareth one day. Given the scroll of Isaiah, he opened it and read these words (from Chapter 61:1-2):
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, RSV)
Jesus then added:
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21b, RSV)

Imagine the scene: the Messiah they had awaited for 400 years, standing right there, but most hearers only able to recognize Jesus as their carpenter’s son, asking: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22b, RSV)
Indeed, they found it so hard to accept Jesus as Messiah that they soon tried to toss him off a nearby cliff for blasphemy.

I found myself thinking about this “already and not yet” aspect of the Kingdom of God last Monday evening. I’d had cataract surgery that morning, and still had a bandage over my eye until the next morning. My eye had already been fixed, but I couldn’t know that for sure until the bandage was removed the next morning.

As Christians, we believe Jesus was and is the promised Messiah, and that his Kingdom is already breaking into our world. At the same time, we believe more and better is to come as the Kingdom fully arrives. We trust that the key event in that process, Jesus death and resurrection has already happened, leaving us only to await the removal of the bandages from our eyes so we can see clearly, rather than (as Paul put it) “through a glass, darkly.” (1 Co 13:12a KJV)

A pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped by as I was first thinking about this, and helped me choose the passage above to describe how the Kingdom is already and not yet. They are also a useful reminder that everyone who has tried to predict the Kingdom’s full arrival has been wrong. Personally, I’m happy with Jesus’ words on the subject:  “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Mt 24:36 RSV) Suffice it to say we each see God soon enough.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Charity is what you do with your own time and stuff, not your employer's

Cracker Barrel is in the news again. This time for firing a worker for giving away a corn muffin. (Story here.) The worker had been there 3 years, and this was either his 3rd or 5th such action, depending on whether you take his word for it or Cracker Barrel's.

This caught my attention because the underlying offenses all appear to involve taking for himself or others what isn't his to take or give. Whether having a soda on duty when doing so is not allowed, or giving away a restaurant's food, seems to me the underlying issue is "Who pays?" for the lost time and lost food and drink. In my opinion, unless otherwise agreed, it's the worker's responsibility to work during working hours and to pay for anything that the company normally sells but he or she consumes or gives away instead. The worker here says he'd have been willing to pay for the muffin if asked, but after multiple such warnings, why did he think he needed to be asked?

Charity is great, but giving away others' time and stuff without their permission is theft, not charity.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tips for Moving with Pros

We just moved from a Chicago suburb to Orange County, CA, using Allied Van Lines pro movers. We chose them over United Van Lines only for their $1K lower bid, having learned in a previous move that no matter what we did to cut costs later, the estimate is what we'd have to pay.

Better Business Bureau rates movers, so don't bother with anyone not top-rated on their site. Also, June is prime moving season, so get your request in early.

Before you get your estimate, get rid of absolutely everything that isn't worth $2 a pound to have with you at the other end, and physically separate that which will be moved from that which won't to help the estimator get it right.

We sold lots of furniture to the buyers of our home, and gave away tons of other stuff to friends, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the "trash fairy" (guy who cruised the neighborhood weekly just before the weekly trash pickup.) That saved us thousands of dollars, and allowed us to comfortably fit into a home here that is 1/3rd smaller than our former home. That in turn pays because now we can clean it ourselves easily with the help of a Braava 380T mopping robot rather than needing a house cleaner, all of whom here appear to work only under the table - a way we are not willing to pay, both for moral reasons and to avoid being billed for their social security decades hence.

Most boxes we packed ourselves, using inexpensive and effective boxes and supplies from Lowes, plus hand-tearable 3M packing tape from Amazon subscribe-and-save. The movers packed the china and other breakables, and the little big furniture we kept. (Cheaper to buy a new bed from Amazon than to move an existing one, though like pulling teeth to find anyone willing to take a used mattress.)

Anything we truly cared about rode in one of our two cars, and fit easily as there isn't all that much we couldn't stand being without. This included a safe of ammo in one car, and a safe of guns in another car. Keep them apart and very clearly unloaded when crossing multiple states, and keep both safes entirely out of sight.

Something that helped the drive a lot was a set of Motorola Family radios. There are large parts of the west where no one's cell phone works. But we didn't find anywhere we couldn't talk on the Family radios. Made coordinating stops and turns a whole lot easier.

We shared cell #s and emails with our driver - this vastly eased coordinating a move-in date and time, especially when it turned out our new street was unexpectedly scheduled to be torn up during most of the originally-planned move-in delivery window.

As another commenter suggested, ditch the printed books and go with Kindle versions before moving. Someday when you are living in a single room with only a bed and chair, you'll still have your entire library on a Kindle. Only exception is books you must have in printed form to be useful, such as those necessary for recovering from an EMP attack.

Similarly, I made a good digital photograph of every important bit of artwork, and now use those as daily-changing screensavers on our PCs, with only those our son still wants to inherit someday actually going up on walls at the new place. We also got a good high-speed scanner, and reduced several file cabinets worth of old papers to a small portion of our ReadyNAS storage system that is both locally and remotely backed up.

In the end, nothing at all broke, our movers were skilled and never even hinted at a tip, and pre-paying via credit card worked out perfectly.

Only change for next time, hopefully never, is that my wife now wishes she'd just let the pros pack all the boxes, regardless of cost. But the pros actually advised against that.

All in all, a great move, and I'm happy to recommend Allied-affiliated Reebie Storage & Moving Co. (

In the end, it's all just stuff, so lighten your load before you move.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Deja Vu

Yesterday, our pastor (Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Community Church) preached for week three of Willow's annual Celebration of Hope series about helping the poor. It was the first sermon I've ever heard by Bill in which I didn't notice him mentioning either God or sin. (I could have missed something. Listen for yourself here:

It was a surprising omission to me because Bill's first question was "Why are the poor poor?" Bill offered several possibilities. He did not, however, offer the obvious Willow answer - because we live in a fallen world.

I was glad to see Bill then note the plight of the extreme poor has improved in recent decades. But I was surprised to see no credit given for that to the era of freedom beginning with the fall of the Berlin wall, nor to the resulting wave of free enterprise.

Next, Bill mentioned how he and Willow evolved from only offering compassionate help to the poor, to also supporting justice, and recently becoming involved in politics.

The example Bill offered was of recently writing editorials, meeting politicians, and attending demonstrations to solve the problem of illegal immigration. As usual, nothing was said on behalf of applicants for legal immigration, who wait years for a decision.

The new focus on justice and lobbying over compassion is a huge switch for Bill and Willow, but deja vu for a retired United Methodist pastor. Forty years ago, we in the UMC tried the same thing. For example, Bread for the World ( told us we could raise more money to feed the poor with one vote in Congress than from any number of individual charitable gifts. Theoretically true -- but not magic. Unless a majority of voters agree, members of Congress seeking re-election won't long support any idea.

When I first attended (in 1990), Willow had a different approach, called "Life by life." Rather than lobbying politicians, Willow built individual relationships. This resulted in such sights as Congressman Bobby Rush attending a Willowcreek Leadership Summit, and Bill's monthly visits with then-President Bill Clinton.

There is value in both approaches, but hearing the UMC argument coming from Bill's mouth left me wondering who now reaches people life by life?

Like many reaching the end of a career, Bill has recently become more willing to express controversial sentiments, coming out as a Democrat, much as I came out as a Libertarian on many issues after retirement. But part of me would like to return to the days when pastors were more careful not to drive off half a congregation by too fervently supporting only one side of a controversial issue in which major parties disagree and Biblical truth is elusive.

Update:Here's a contrary view from today's news, noting that George Soros is funding a group in which our pastor's spouse is involved. That's the conservative equivalent of telling a liberal something was funded by the Koch brothers:

Monday, October 28, 2013


I hit my Facebook "Unfriend" button for the first time today, and have been reflecting about it since.

Previously, I edited the settings of Facebook friends, to control how many and which types of posts appear on my News Feed. But today's problem was from the other end - a contact requesting I no longer post in a way they dislike.

It's an interesting problem. If something appears on my news feed about which I have a strong opinion, I usually respond, as it is after all on my feed - visible to all my friends, thus leaving it uncommented upon gives the appearance of agreement. Having friends of widely varied views, I keep comments cheerful and polite, and avoid goring oxen in such a public setting.

Today, that wasn't enough. Accused of something I hadn't done, and not knowing what I could do to please while still respecting myself, I hit "Unfriend."

Matthew 18:16-18 suggests when someone offends us, we should first go to them in private. That didn't happen today, which raises the interesting question of whether I in turn should go first in private. Several articles I read today advised not to - just hit the "Unfriend" button; don't rub anyone's nose in it and don't tell them why unless asked. On the other hand, if my action is ever noticed, I'll be happy to accept a new Friend request, and we can then discuss how they too can prune posts they don't want to see.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Paid to Lose

John Stauber has an interesting new article in Counterpunch: Paid to Lose - The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats
"There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run 'the Progressive Movement.'   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a 'nonpartisan non-profit corporation' that will  ‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’

Does this information concern you?  If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think.  Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how?  Ask yourself if the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that?   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it."

I've been thinking this for a while; nice to see someone else noticing.

For me the interesting thing about all the calls from radical Democratic party-associated groups to punish the fat cats of Wall Street is that it never actually happens, no matter how many Democrats are elected, or how much noise they make about justice.

I can't think of even one person who's actually been indicted, let alone gone to jail for any of the actions that led to the crash of 2008. Instead, most of the 1%ers who did that were bailed out by two successive administrations, leaving all the pain to be borne by the 99%. Progressive friend Paul talks a lot about growing injustice in America. Well, here's our smoking gun of how that keeps happening.

Might be time for the 99% to look more seriously at third parties. Sure they'll lose, at least at first, but how is that different for them from what's happened under both current major parties' 1%ers?

HT Top the News

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Please focus on debt and deficits and getting the Senate to finally pass a budget, rather than trying to take away our new target pistol

I read a rumor yesterday that our state's only Republican Senator is going wobbly on the issue of gun control, so decided to send him a note, as follows:

"First, welcome back to the Senate! I'm sure it's been a long hard road
back, so congratulations! My sister had a stroke too a few years back, in
the best possible place - in her doctor's office, while being examined.
Even so, she too has had a tough road back.

I'm one of your precinct committeemen, and looking forward to supporting
you again in your next election.

Meanwhile, now that you are back, I hope you will focus on what matters,
rather than on each new distraction our opponents dangle before us.

I'm disgusted, but not surprised, that after four years of not even trying
to pass a budget as required by the Constitution, leaders of the other
party would still rather talk about anything and everything other than how
our nation and its future are going rapidly bankrupt. If there is to be a
free and prosperous America for our grandchildren, that's the topic the
Senate needs to discuss.

Instead, this week it seems they'd rather discuss all the useless
meaningless ways they can act in the name of preventing mass murders
without actually having even a tiny effect on their already-decreasing
numbers. And to do this, our opposition would be happy to completely
render meaningless the Second Amendment by outlawing, regulating and
registering pretty much anything citizens currently use to deter either
criminals or a potentially-despotic government.

Although the secret ballot is our most precious civil right, the right to
keep and bear arms is almost as sacred because it helps guarantee all the
other civil rights.

There's a reason pistols in the last century had names like "the
Peacemaker" and "the Equalizer," because they did indeed defend both peace
and equality for groups that would otherwise not have known either,
including Martin Luther King, Jr, a proud gun owner as a deterrent against
the Klan.

When trouble erupts, there's a tendency for politicians to feel they have
to do something, no matter how useless. But Pogo was wiser in the old
cartoon, when he said "Don't just do something. Stand there!"

Focus on the big issue - making sure there is still a free and
non-bankrupt America for our grandchildren to inherit. And never mind what
the media and the opposition say. They hate us both already, and nothing
we do or say will change that. If you're going to be blamed regardless of
what you do, you may as well do the right thing.

My wife and I are thoroughly enjoying practicing with our new 10 shot
.22LR target pistol. Please don't cooperate in making them any harder to
buy or use legally than the already-difficult and time-consuming process
it took to buy them and find ammo for them.

I've always thought the NRA was a bit over-the-top, but not after the last
two months of constant attacks on our Second Amendment rights. I'm now a
paid-up member, and have their bumper sticker on our car. That might get
it keyed by the other side, but sometimes you have to have the courage to
speak up in spite of such threats.

Thanks much for considering these thoughts, and once again, welcome back!"

What I didn't say in the note, is that if he does decide to go wobbly on this issue, I won't be supporting him again. Why bother? If I wanted my life micromanaged, we already have a party for that. If all that his being a Republican meant was that he'd drive a bit slower on the road to perdition, then voting for or working for his election would be worse than wasting a vote on a currently-unelectable but more principled alternative candidate. Just as it makes no sense for blacks to let their votes always be taken for granted by the Democratic Party, it makes no sense to let the Illinois Republican Party to think their path back to power is over the dead bodies of conservatives, libertarians and TEA partiers -- the only people still supporting them at all, so far as I can see.

Update: Looks like Senator Kirk has decided not only to go wobbly on the Second Amendment, but to act as though it doesn't exist. He's sponsoring not one but two anti-gun bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 179, and S, 480), neither of which would have prevented any of the recent tragedies in which guns were used, but will be another layer of cost and trouble for ordinary law-abiding citizens. And as usual, the poor and weak will be harmed the most, no longer as able to legally defend themselves.