What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Totally depraved, and mighty glad of it!

I am totally depraved, and that is a good thing! Perhaps I should explain what I mean, though.

This is gonna start off sounding bad, but here goes:
I am not a sinner because I do bad things; on the contrary, the bad things are a RESULT, not a CAUSE, of my sinful nature. I inherited that nature from my father, and his father before him, all the way back to Adam. I have no more control over that than I do over the color of my eyes or length of my toes.

I was born in sin. Every cell of my body is inclined towards sin, enjoys sin, revels in sin. If my human nature were to have full, unchecked sway, I could be capable of just about any heinous thing imaginable. And this includes being an enemy of God. In fact, that is the primary, central, foundational basis of my depravity. On my way to hell, riding on greased skids. 

So, why is that a good thing? If that was all there was to the story, it wouldn't be, of course. But there is more to the story. Much more, in fact.

My sinful nature prevented me from drawing close to God. To use a rather disgusting analogy, it's kind of like a cockroach that instinctively runs and hides when the lights are turned on. The more the light of God shines, the more my sin nature runs away.

So, how does this get fixed? How can I ever hope to avoid ending up in hell? How can that sin nature be overcome so that I can run TOWARDS God, not away from Him?

Simply put, if left up to me, it could never happen.

But it was not left up to me, and that is what makes this a good thing. If there did happen to be any good thing in me, then I would be responsible for exercising it and taking care of myself. But thank God, that burden has been taken away from me.

God, in His infinite mercy and love and goodness, saw fit to have His very own Son take the punishment that was due to me, and to provide to me, all on His own, the righteousness that is required to enter into His presence.

If I wasn't totally depraved, then I would be at least partially responsible for my own salvation, and my own security. That is truly a frightening thought! How could I ever be sure? I couldn't. I would always be worried whether I was doing good enough. 

But, since He has done it all, every last bit of it, I don't have to worry. It is all HIS responsibility. He alone can save me, and He alone can keep me saved. My only responsibility is to take the love that He gives to me and to return it to Him, giving Him the glory and honor and praise that is due. And He even gives THAT to me, as part of the free gift of salvation by faith! Isn't that awesome?

So that, in a nutshell, is why I am happy to admit that I am totally depraved. It frees me from worrying about my eternal destiny, and frees me to be able to worship Him who gave me the gift of salvation and security through Jesus Christ. I don't have to count on me! Jesus lived for me, He died for me, and He rose for me. I couldn't do it for myself, and I don't have to. In fact, to even try would be to insult Jesus.

And that, my friends, is why I can say that being totally depraved is a GOOD thing! The question is, can YOU? Because you have the same problem. Quit trying to be good enough. It ain't gonna happen, period, end of discussion. You are just as depraved as I. Throw yourself on His mercy, accept the free gift that He offers, and spend the rest of your life enjoying His presence rather than running from it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

From Atheist to Born-Again Christian: My own story

I sat down planning to write an article about genealogy methods, but I feel compelled to go an altogether different direction instead.

I want to share a short version of the story of my journey from being a practical atheist to being a true Christian.

I was raised in a sort-of Christian home. My dad had been raised Evangelical Lutheran, and my mom as a Pentacostal. But neither of them were practicing, and seldom attended church of any kind.

I was sent to parochial grade and high schools in the Missouri Synod system. Not, however, because of the religious teaching, but because the public school district where we lived had a reputation at the time of being a baby-sitting service for juvenile delinquents, and the local Catholic school tuition was way more than they could afford. So Mom and Dad joined the Lutheran Church, and with the tuition discount for church members, could just barely afford the tuition at the Lutheran schools.

In grade school, we had a daily morning devotional in the class room, and Wednesday morning children's church at the church next door. Every Monday, we had to tell whether we had attended church and/or Sunday School the day before. And in 7th and 8th grade we had a daily class preparing for our Confirmation. That entailed a lot of Bible reading and memorization, catechism studies, and so forth. At the end, we had to write an essay about what our faith meant to us, and especially our up-coming Confirmation. Mine was chosen as the best, and I had to read it to the church as part of the Confirmation service. My folks attended that service, of course, just as they did whenever any of us kids were involved in some way. My dad was so proud of me being the valedictorian that I thought his shirt would bust open right there in the pew. (Or, maybe, it was suppressed laughter caused by the rather embarrassing fact that my voice was in the middle of changing from boy-squeak to man-baritone during the speech.)

In high school, we had morning chapel in the gym. Religion classes were required every semester all four years. Old- and New-Testament history, theology, comparative religion, all kinds of stuff. I always did well in those classes, like I did in most other classes.

But, and this is a big "but", just because I learned the material does not mean that I believed it. Far from it. By the time I got out of high school, I was fed up with religion and the hypocrisy that was rampant in the school and in the church. So as soon as I could, I sent a letter of resignation to the church and went on my merry, pagan way.

I spent the next couple of decades indulging whenever I could in all the sins of the flesh that I could, and also read a lot of pagan philosophy. I studied Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Teutonic mythology. I dabbled just a little with the occult. I tried to read some of the "New Age" mystical stuff, but just couldn't stop laughing long enough to take any of it seriously.

A favorite activity was to engage in debate with any Christians that were willing. It is a sad thing to say, but the vast majority of church-goers haven't a clue what they believe or why. They can parrot a few points of dogma picked up here and there, and maybe have memorized a 4-point "plan of salvation" from a tract, but that is quite often the extent of it. I had all of that knowledge accumulated from twelve years of study at school, and so could almost always twist them into knots in short order.

At one point in my mid-twenties, I met one of my first "true" Christians. Daryl was my boss at work, and my friend away from work. A couple years older than I, he was a teaching elder at his church. He was one of the very few people I had met that actually walked the walk as well as talk the talk. He actually believed this stuff, and lived his life by it. Also, almost as impressive, to me at least, was the fact that I couldn't get the best of him in a discussion or debate. He tied me up in knots, rather than the other way around. I visited his church a few times, and was impressed with what I saw and heard. But, it wasn't long before I was back to my old happily sinful self. I eventually changed jobs and lost touch with Daryl.

I rolled along until the summer of 1996. I was 36 years old, a couple months shy of my 37th birthday. And the most horrible thing happened to me. I developed, for the first time in my life, a real, honest-to-goodness, conscience. Horrors! I started being plagued with guilt for the stuff I was doing. The women, the alcohol, all of it. I started losing sleep over it. My health was going downhill. And, I knew enough to recognize it for what it was: conviction. The Holy Spirit was working on me, convicting me of my sin. Eventually, in July, I tracked down my old friend Daryl, who fortunately, or perhaps providentially is a more appropriate word, was still working at the same place and thus was easy to find. We agreed to meet for a Sunday afternoon of fishing, the last Sunday in July of 1996. We talked a lot, and I went back to his house for supper with him and his family. (Boy, the kids had sure grown a lot in ten years, and he had added a couple more as well!) But nothing was settled that day. We agreed to stay in touch.

All the following week was spent in contemplation and arguing with myself. Finally, Sunday morning, August 4, 1996 I went to a local park and sat under a tree with my Bible open and began to read. I got as far as the story of Noah and the Ark. I realized that although God is long-suffering, He will only put up with so much before intervening. That point had been reached in my life. Fortunately for me, He had opted not to condemn me permanently, but rather to save me. So, propelled by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. 

My life has never been the same since that day. Most of my old friends drifted away, perplexed by the "Bible-thumper" that I had become. But I quickly made new and better ones, fellow believers all. I have been involved in several ministry ventures, and hope to have more. 

So. That's who I am, and how I got here. 

In His name
Ron

Friday, September 20, 2013

Simple pleasures in life

One beautiful summer day some years ago, my best friend and I went fishing along the banks of a creek. While we were wading up and down, casting and so forth, his wife sat on the bank by a series of ripples and shallows. As she bathed her feet in the clear cool water, she tossed in small pieces of bread. She was having a grand old time, just watching the minnows chase around grabbing the bread. Her grin was from ear-to-ear, and often broke into soft chuckles. No, she isn't "a wee bit soft". She simply knows how to take great delight in little things that most people don't even notice.

Although I, unfortunately, do not have the same unbounded capacity for being delighted that she has, there are many things that give me great pleasure.

The love between my wife and our grandson is an awesome delight for me as well as for them. His peels of laughter as he teases his Grandma are infectious. My Debster is buoyed up for days after a visit with the kids. And I take great delight in my wife's pleasure in our grandson. (I love the little guy too, but what they have is really something special.)

I truly enjoy the feel of my ultra-light spinning rig bent double in my hand, the mono-filament line zinging off the reel as a feisty small-mouth bass fights tooth and nail against me. Or should I say, jaw and fin? Whatever. When I have finally landed a fish that weighs two or three times what the line is rated for, I'll be grinning for hours.

I enjoy getting all dirty and muddy, working the soil of my garden in the spring. Tilling in the manure and compost, raking, and planting the seeds. When I get home from work early in the morning after my midnight shift, I have to walk past the garden to get to the house. And to see the little green shoots begin to come up, and knowing that in a few months I'll be harvesting the fruits of my labor, that is a pleasure.

Stopping off on my way home and picking up a bouquet of flowers for my Debster and watching the smile on her face grow and grow, is a pleasure.

The solid feel of a well-bound book in my hands, the crinkle of the pages as I turn them, are a pleasure that can never be duplicated by a digital edition on my smart phone.

I haven't indulged in this one for some time, but I used to really get a kick out of building models of World War Two-era fighter planes. Starting with a basic kit, researching and researching, poring over photos and diagrams of the real planes, matching paint colors, manufacturing from scratch and adding on little detail pieces that turned the simple model kit for ages 8-14, into a virtual miniature of the original, almost a work of art. Sometimes worked on the same model for several weeks until I was satisfied with it. But boy, was I satisfied!

I could go on almost forever, listing things that I find delightful. But I'll leave you with this one:
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 ESV)
As many and varied are the pleasures to be found in daily life, there is nothing sweeter than the Lord Himself. To be totally immersed in His presence, being overcome with awe at His strength and mercy and love and majesty and truthfulness and all the other attributes that He possesses. As the old hymn calls it, the "sweet hour of prayer". Reading and ruminating on His written Word. Worshiping Him along with other saints in a group, or alone in the depths of my heart. Knowing that He loves me, and that the greatest gift He can bestow on me is the gift of Himself.

I don't do this often, but in this case I am going to recommend a book to you:


This book is available at this website: desiringgod.org. It can be downloaded for free as a PDF file, or it can be purchased from Amazon. And, just for the record, I am NOT affiliated with that website and do not receive a penny from them. My only reward is the knowledge that someone will have their life changed by this book, like I did. To say that it gave me a new perspective on the Christian life would be the grossest understatement.

Until next time,
Ron

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It is time to impeach President Obama

It has been widely reported that President Obama is waiving the restrictions against arming terrorists and ordering arms be sent to the rebels in the Syrian civil war.

The US Constitution, Article III Section 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

The Arms Export Control Act (US Code Title 22 subsection 2780) forbids providing arms to an organization or country that the US State Department has recognized as aiding or supporting terrorist activity. The AECA also provides for the President to be able to waive those restrictions if the President determines that it is essential to the national security interests of the United States to do so.

By waiving these restrictions in order to allow for the arming of the Syrian rebels, President Obama, by definition, is recognizing that they are, or have elements of, terrorists. The terrorist group al-Qaeda has been identified by several groups within the US Military & US Intelligence agencies, plus several  other countries, as being a major factor in the rebel coalition. Al-Qaeda, as we all know, has been striking US targets since at least the mid-1990's, culminating in their attacks on New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, in which almost 3000 lives were taken. We have been at war with them ever since, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. They are, therefore, by definition, our enemies.

Providing arms to al-Qaeda? How can that NOT be treason???

The Assad government in Syria, although admittedly monstrously horrible to its own citizens and belligerent towards our ally Israel, poses no real threat to our national security, and never has. The al-Qaeda-led rebels, on the other hand, have demonstrated quite graphically that they ARE, or want to be, a direct threat to us and our way of life. 

To provide arms to the terrorists that have attacked us several times and have professed a desire to put an end to our way of life is, simply put, treason of the most egregious sort! This man deserves to be impeached by the House of Representatives, convicted of heinous treason by the Senate, and punished accordingly.

Contact your Congressional representatives, and demand that Mr. Obama be held to account for his treason.

Until next time,
Ron

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Prepping": fantasy vs reality

I have been reading and thinking a lot, lately, about "prepping". You know, the fad sweeping the country that has people buying guns and ammo in bulk, storing food and water in every possible nook and cranny, taking classes in herbal medicine, foraging for food, guerrilla warfare, seed-to-seed gardening, raising chickens and rabbits in back yards, and who-knows-what-all.

Some of what they are saying, I agree with whole-heartedly. Many years ago, I did my time as a Boy Scout, where the official motto is "Be Prepared" and where we were trained in all sorts of basic outdoor survival techniques and activities. (From what I understand, the Scouts these days are more urban-oriented, but that's OK, because that's where most kids live anyway, especially the ones that can benefit most from the program.)

A few years ago, severe storms knocked out power in a lot of areas around Saint Louis, and many homes were without electricity for up to 10 days. Though we lost our power, we were fortunate in that it was back on in just a few hours. But my mother-in-law's house was down for over a week; she stayed with us until things got back to normal. I remember the Great Blizzard in the early 80's, that had our area grid-locked for about a week. And we all know that it is proverbial around here, that just a hint of snow in the forecast will cause store shelves to be stripped of bread and milk almost instantaneously. Then there are the tornadoes that we are subject to every year. Other parts of the country have to deal, on a semi-regular basis, with floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes, just about every natural disaster imaginable.

Some are predicting wide-spread economic meltdowns, even civil and/or guerrilla war in our streets and countryside. That, I think, though in theory possible, is a tad far-fetched. But, you never know, I guess.

So yes, it behooves everyone to think about, and prepare for, the almost-certain eventuality of being "off the grid" for at least a short period of time at least once or twice in their lives.

But what, exactly, will this REALLY entail? Realistically speaking, running off to the woods with your trusty "bug-out bag" and living off the land while the country goes to hell in a handbasket, is pure macho fantasy. I predict that if people actually attempt this, most if not all will come running home to mamma pretty quickly, if they survive. As much wild game and edible wild plants as there may be, most areas would be hunted out and picked clean in a relatively short time. 

Those that own acreage in remote areas, and have a decent cabin built and vegetable gardens and livestock will do better, of course. They actually would stand a good chance of making it through the emergency, provided they aren't over-run by starving mobs or government troops or hordes of zombies. Or some combination of the three. But even that is not a realistic possibility for the majority of people. There simply isn't enough land available for it, and most wouldn't know what to do if they had it anyway.

So, where do I stand on this? Well, let's consider where we are starting from. Dear wife and I are in our mid-50's. Neither of us is in top physical condition. Her knees are so arthritic that she can barely walk, and she has other medical conditions as well. I am overweight and have high blood pressure and a touch of arthritis myself. So the "bug-out-bag" scenario is a non-starter for us, even if such a thing were truly viable for anyone, which I doubt. We do not own any land out in the middle of nowhere, and would be hard-pressed, money-wise, to be able to buy any. So, unless some things change drastically, we are pretty much stuck with staying where we are and riding it out. "Bugging-in", I guess you could call it.

So what should she and I be doing to "Be Prepared"? The first order of business is to get healthier. That should be easier for me than for her; most of my physical problems stem from being overweight and smoking too much. Both of those conditions can be remedied, and I have begun to work on them, Trying to lose weight and cutting back on the smoking with the goal of eventually quitting completely. I can also begin a regime of exercise to build muscle and stamina.

I put in a small vegetable garden this past year, but it did not turn out well. Good news is that I learned a lot from my mistakes, and so next year I think it will be much more productive. Growing as much of our own food in the small space available will be a help. It is healthier than store-bought, would give us a big psychological boost, and would save us money that can go towards other things. Plus would give me, and maybe Dear Wife also, some much-needed exercise.

We also need to implement a systematic plan to store a variety of basic long-shelf-life foods, toiletries, first-aid supplies, candles, all sorts of things that would be needed if the grid does go down. We also need to think about the possible need for self- and home-defense. More on these things next time.

God bless you,

Ron

PS: Heard another good joke:

Wife tells her husband, "Stop and buy a carton of milk. If they have avocados, buy six."
When he arrived home, his wife asked why he bought six cartons of milk.
He replied,

...wait for it ...

...wait for it...


"They had avocados."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Scattered thoughts ....

Congratulations to the good people of the State of Colorado! This past Tuesday, Colorado voters voted to recall two of their state senators, Democrats Angela Giron and John Morse, who was also the President of the state Senate. The recall campaign was seen as primarily a referendum on anti-2nd Amendment gun control laws for which these two voted. Even though their districts have a majority of Democratic voters, it seems pretty obvious that the citizens of those two districts are pro-2nd Amendment.
A lot of pro-gun-control legislators have definitely sat up and taken notice. Let's keep this ball rolling! The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of any free people, and is codified as such in our Federal Constitution. The word is spreading fast: If you as a law-maker want to mess with our fundamental rights, your job is on the line!

......

Heard a good joke the other day:

A blind guy on a bar stool shouts to the bartender, “Wanna hear a blonde joke?”
In a hushed voice, the guy next to him says, “Before you tell that joke, you should know something.
“Our bartender IS blonde, the bouncer is blonde. I’m a 6′ tall, 200 lb black belt. The guy sitting next to me is 6’2″, weighs 225, and he’s a rugby player. The fella to your right is 6’5″ pushing 300 and he’s a wrestler.
Each one of US is blonde. Think about it, Mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?
“The blind guy says, “Nah, not if I’m gonna have to explain it five times.
.....

(Photo copied from their Facebook page)
Have you ever heard of the band, Madison Rising? They have an unbelievable beautiful rendition of our national anthem. Here is a link to it on YouTube:
I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical when I was first told about it. Nothing burns me up more than someone taking liberties with our beautiful National Anthem. But I will say this. Although their version is not "traditional", it is well done in a very respectful manner by young people that truly seem to love their country and all it stands for. I think it says something in their favor that a lot of veterans organizations, VFW halls, and so forth have asked them to play at their functions. So give this a listen. I'll bet that by the time the song is over, you will be up and cheering, and just may have a tear or two in your eye. It is that good!

....

I have an old 3-burner propane camp stove that runs off of one- or two-pound cans of propane, the kind that you would use on a propane torch. I am going to see if it will also attach to a larger propane tank, the size that is used on gas grills. If it doesn't, I'm going to try to find a way to adapt it to do so. Propane is much cheaper to buy that way, and the stove could run off the same tank as our grill. That way, if we ever have a situation where our utilities go down for any length of time, we will still be able to cook fairly easily without resorting to a campfire in the back yard. I'll let you know if and when I get this figured out.

Until next time ....

Ron

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A day of reflection, a day of remembrance ....


I'm not going to go off on a rant today. No, not today. Today is a day for reflection and remembrance.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was supposed to work 2nd shift, 3pm to 11pm. I was sitting in my living room eating some fruit and reading. I didn't have the television or radio on; I am really not much of a TV watcher, unless it is a ball game or one of the (few!) TV shows that I watch. The phone rang. It was my boss, calling to tell me that the office was closing for the day, and might be closed the next day as well. When I inquired why, she just told me to turn on my TV, didn't matter what channel, and I would figure it out. I tuned in a few minutes after the second plane hit the Towers. The rest of the day was spent in shock, anger, and grief. As I watched the replays of the plane strikes, I remember sitting on the floor, holding my dogs, tears in my eyes. Tears of anger? of grief? Both, I guess. I remember crying out, "What are they doing to my us? What are those bastards doing to my country?!?!?" My dogs, of course, couldn't answer. They knew something was up, because their "Daddy" NEVER acts that way. So they snugged up tight and whimpered just a little. Sometimes a dog is the best friend to have. (I was single and unattached at the time, didn't have a loved one nearby.)

Eventually, I  thought to make some phone calls. I knew that I had distant relatives in New York, but didn't have any contact info for them. So I got hold of a cousin that did, and was informed that as far as he had been able to learn, all of our people were OK. And, it turned out, they were, thank God. My family was fortunate; we did not lose anyone that day. Came close, though. Another cousin of mine, Bobby, was an Air Force officer, and had been posted to the Pentagon for awhile. I was able to find out that he wasn't in DC that day, and was also OK.

A few years later, I found out that I almost lost a brother-in-law, though. He wasn't my brother-in-law at the time, because I hadn't even met Deb yet. (That came three years later.) Art was also an Air Force officer, and was supposed to have been at the Pentagon that morning. In fact, he was supposed to have been at a meeting in the conference room that took a direct hit from one of the planes. But the meeting had been cancelled and rescheduled, so he was away from the Pentagon on some other errand when it hit. (For the conspiracy lunatics out there, meetings there are cancelled and/or rescheduled often, according to my cousin, so this was nothing unusual at all.)

We lost 2, 997 souls that day to al-Qaeda's terrorist violence. Today, we remember them. We mourn for them, with their families and loved ones. We will Never Forget!

Eleven years later, on September 11, 2012, we lost four more in an attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. US Ambassador Christopher Stephens was killed in the attack on the main diplomatic compound, as was information management officer Sean Smith; they died, apparently, of smoke inhalation. At the CIA annex a few blocks away, two embassy security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woodsboth former Navy SEALs, were also killed in mortar attacks as they fought valiantly to defend the civilians under their protection. Ten other personnel were injured in the two attacks.

Today, we remember them, as well. We mourn for them, with their families and loved ones. We will Never Forget!

Some have called for September 11 to be made a national holiday. Although I understand and sympathize with that, I find that I cannot agree. For one really sad reason. We have several holidays now that immortalize various events. The Fourth of July celebrates our national independence. Memorial Day commemorates our veterans, especially those that died in service to their country. Thanksgiving commemorates the Pilgrims and their struggle to survive a harsh wilderness, and the thanks we give to God for all the bounty He provides. Presidents' Day celebrates the birthdays of several of our greatest Presidents. Christmas celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet our nation, as a whole, has a horrible tendency to forget what these holidays are truly about, as they are turned into occasions for corporate greed in the form of sales & marketing ploys, and for some individuals to have an excuse to party and get drunk and act stupid. Therefore, lest September 11 be turned into some kind of Back to School Sales Day, or National Last Barbecue Before Autumn Day, let's  just leave it the way it is. A day that we will always remember with solemnity and reflection, a day to remember that we are a great nation despite our flaws, a united republic no matter our differences in politics, race, or creed. A day that impels us to Never Forget! those that died, and to see to it, somehow,  that perhaps their deaths were not wholly in vain. And, a day to remember to thank the police, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders that serve us so faithfully every day, risking their own lives to protect us.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My take on our possible "involvement" in the Syrian civil war


Back towards the end of July, the United Nations estimated that the Syrian civil war had resulted in over 100,000 deaths. That number would be much higher by now of course. Different sources come up with different numbers, ranging from 83,000-plus to 125,000-plus.
But, the bottom line is that even by the most conservative estimates, many tens of thousands of people have died. A great number of them were innocent men, women, and children, non-combatants that either got caught in the cross-fire or were killed during indiscriminate bombing and missile strikes.
One given in all of this is that Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad is, by all accounts, a monster. Syria, under his leadership, has long been considered a major human rights violator, a supporter of terrorism, and a long-standing obstacle to any hope for peace in the Mid-East.
It has also long been known that many of the groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian government have ties of one sort or another to the uber-terrorist group al-Qaeda. This bunch has long been known to be seeking to obtain WMD's, including nuclear weapons.
So was it any real surprise to anyone that a weapon such as nerve gas was finally used in this fight? And given the nature of the parties involved, on both sides, it comes as no surprise to me that the United Nations has had trouble determining who, in fact, actually used the gas. Was it Assad's government troops? Was it a pro-Assad militia? Or was it one of the al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups? Other than our President, nobody seems to know for sure.
President Obama has been trying to make a case for using our military to intervene on behalf of the rebels by firing missiles and/or dropping bombs on Assad's positions. I am slightly bemused that his point man for this is none other than Secretary of State John Kerry-Heinz. After all, Kerry has always been known as the pacifist Viet Nam war protester and virulent critic of our war in Iraq. So his sudden transformation into a hawk is just a bit hard to take seriously. 
Let's face it. The 1,400 people killed in the gas attack on August 21 are just 1% or so of the people killed in this civil war alone. There have been atrocities committed all over the world on a fairly regular basis. There are North Korea, the Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia, just to name a few off the top of my head. More Kurds were killed by Saddam in his gas attacks on that minority than were killed in Syria, yet we did nothing about it. The same can be said for Iraq's use of gas weapons in their war with Iran. (Our later war with Iraq was unrelated to those atrocities.) 

So something tells me that there is something else going on here, besides just simple outrage over war crimes.  It reminds me just a bit of President Clinton's decision to intervene in the Balkan war, which was the only other time our country involved itself in a regional conflict because of alleged atrocities. The timing then was highly suspect: he was coming under intense scrutiny over the Lewinsky affair, and needed to stage a major distraction. It worked, for awhile anyway. And so it is now. Is it any coincidence that this is coming to a head on the twelfth anniversary of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon? And, more to the point, the one-year anniversary of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of our ambassador and three other men? I think not. I think that is PRECISELY why this is happening. There are growing demands for the impeachment of this President, his removal from office, and subsequent prosecution for what happened there, as well as for other fiascoes such as Fast And Furious, the NSA spying scandal, and the IRS targeting of conservatives. And I believe that is why this has become such an issue now. In reality, no matter who fired those gas-equipped weapons, they did our President a HUGE favor by providing him with the perfect thing to distract us from his own criminal incompetence.

Let's not let him get away with it. Contact your senators and representatives, and let them know that they MUST vote against our involvement in the Syrian civil war, and that they MUST hold his feet to the fire over Benghazi and the rest of his criminal bungling. Let them know that YOU will hold THEM responsible for how they vote on this. Do it now!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Righteousness exalts a nation ...

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (ESV)


Let's start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of self-righteous prigs who walk around with their noses in the air thinking they are better than someone else because they do this or don't do that. I've been around too long to be fooled by that nonsense. Every last one of us has an evil nature; we are born with it, and it will be with us until the day we die. To pretend otherwise is not only self-delusional, it is extraordinarily sinful, because it calls God a liar. Jesus had harsh words for people like that (Luke 18:9-14).

With that understood, I want to take a moment and try to work out just how this applies to 21st century America.

Sexual immorality of all kinds pervades our nation. People cheat on their taxes, and don't even think of it as theft. Kids show no respect for themselves or others. Parents abandon their children, either physically, emotionally, intellectually,  or spiritually; usually some combination of the above. The foulest language imaginable is pretty much standard conversational fare nowadays. Modesty in dress and demeanor? What is that? Heroin use is at epidemic levels.

I could go on and on, but that is more than enough to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

Our nation has never been "perfect", and never will be. Of course not; it is comprised of imperfect people and always has been, always will be. But every generation seems to be worse than the last. What has happened to us? What is going to happen to us if the trend continues? What can be done about it?

Start at home. No, start with myself.  I am a Christian. As such, I have a dual nature, or perhaps dueling natures is better. I have the sinful evil nature I was born with, and I have the righteous nature of Christ that was imparted to me by the Holy Spirit at the time of my conversion. I hate the sin nature that I have, and I hate the sinful acts that I commit. But I still find myself doing them. Confess and repent. Repeat as needed. (OFTEN!) I have to constantly pluck logs out of my eye before I can even think about the speck in someone else's eye. (Matthew 7:3-4).

Before any serious attempt to "clean up" our society can be attempted, each of us needs to clean up our own lives. And I do NOT mean simply turning over a new leaf and somehow becoming morally upright citizens all of a sudden, as nice as that would be. To truly change, the change has to come from within, not imposed from without. It CANNOT be done by yourself; that evil nature will NOT be denied that easily. To begin with, you must recognize that your sin has offended the almighty God of the universe. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). But God loves the world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin, to live a sin-free life, to die a horrible death, and to be resurrected three days later. Jesus' death provides the atonement for our sin; His resurrection provides us with eternal life. There is no other way to become right with God than to cast ourselves on His mercy and accept His gift of salvation by faith in Jesus, and by doing so be made His very own child, imbued with His own nature and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 

Once you have become a child of God, you start living like one. Slowly but surely, the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit will convict you of sin and empower you to turn away from it and turn towards righteousness. (The process will continue every day of your life. I can testify that the longer I live as a Christian, the more sin I see in my life. Not that there IS more of it, just that I see it more clearly each day. Kind of like pulling a small piece of string and finding an entire sweater unraveling in your hands.) But as your life begins to "clean up", and you find more and more joy in your Christian life, you need to "share the wealth" by helping others to find what you have. Not by being a pushy preacher, but by living a life of joy and love and helping others as they go about their lives. An ancient saint, Francis of Assisi, once said that he preached the gospel every day, and sometimes even used words to do so.

Seek for ways to interact with others, to bring to them the same joy and love that you have found. Not everyone will respond favorably, maybe only a few. Maybe only one. But that's OK. The results are up to God, not you. And He can do amazing things, you know. After all, two thousand years ago He started with twelve seriously flawed men, and turned the whole world upside down with them! And he continues to do so. A single obscure man, about 150 years ago, shared the gospel with a poverty-stricken shoe-shine boy. That boy was Dwight Moody. Moody grew up to be one of the greatest evangelists in modern history, whose influence is still felt all over America.  We don't have very many shoe-shine boys anymore, but we do have plenty of kids who cut our grass and babysit our kids and stuff like that. Don't neglect them in favor of the rich and famous, for God delights in using the weak to do great things.

Seek to become active in your community's political life as well. As Christians we are ambassadors of Christ to our families and to our societies. Vote for candidates that will legislate in ways that reflect Godly principles, that will allow you to live your Christian life in peace. Pray every day for all of your elected and appointed officials, whether you like them or not, for they would not be in office if God had not allowed them to be.

It is quite possible that our nation has reached the point where God will simply turn us over to reap the results of our ever-increasing national sinfulness; some would say that it has already happened. Even so, that is NOT an excuse for me, or anyone else,  to "throw in the towel". Far from it. That adds even greater urgency to our task. Picture Noah, as he built the ark and prepared for the flood. As he pegged the last planks in place and began loading the animals, and looked up to see the storm clouds gathering, don't you think that his entreaties to his neighbors and relatives became more and more impassioned? Even so should we be more and more impassioned for our relatives and neighbors as the impending storm looms over our nation, as God prepares to unleash His holy wrath on our society.

Ron

Let's get this ball rolling, shall we?


WELCOME!

My name is Ron. I am a 50-something conservative Christian married man in Missouri, living with my beloved wife Deb and OUR dogs and HER cats. My step-sons are grown and on their own now. I work midnights for a company that transports rail crews hither and yon; Deb is retired on disability.

I'll be posting all sorts of things in this blog. Political & social commentary, Scriptural studies, good jokes that I run across, and anything else that crosses my mind that I think someone in the world might like to read. So buckle up and come along for the ride. No telling where we'll wind up, but I bet we have fun getting there!


WHAT IS A "TIE-HACKER"?
The title of this blog is in honor of my wife,  sort of. I never heard the word "tie-hacker" until I met her about ten years ago. She saw me one day in a pair of torn jeans and torn T-shirt, dirty and unshaven, and slightly odoriferous. (Hey, I had been working outside all day; what do you expect?) She wrinkled her nose and said I looked like a "tie-hacker" and needed to clean up, like RIGHT NOW! After I showered and changed, I asked her what in the world a "tie-hacker" was. All she could tell me was that it was a term her father had used for bums. (You gotta understand, I am from Saint Louis, and she is from tiny, rural, Monroe County, Illinois. I am always teasing her about her "Illinois-speak".) So I asked her if this was more of that Monroe County dialect that nobody else in the world speaks, and she hemmed and hawed. So, off to Google I went. Found out that it is an old pejorative term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a certain class of people that lived WAY back in the hills, with only a nodding acquaintance with personal hygiene, and that made a living, of sorts, by cutting down trees, adzing them into railroad ties, and selling them to the railroad. Also, apparently they weren't too careful about observing property lines or property rights. So although the original description really doesn't fit me much at all, I have had a life-long love of the Ozarks, and own the entire set of Foxfire books. Hence, my choice of a title for this blog. Besides, I love to tease my wife, and I am sure that when she sees this her reaction will be, well, interesting. If I am lucky, eye-rolling will be the worst of it.


A LITTLE ABOUT ME
I enjoy reading almost anything I can get my hands on, although I do draw the line at the romance novels my wife occasionally reads. Yech! I dabble in gardening, and enjoy the occasional fishing trip and other outdoor activities when the weather is decent. I enjoy food FAR too much, as evidenced by my ever-expanding waistline, which is aided and abetted by my wife's extraordinary cooking ability. 
I am an avid genealogist. I have traced my family's history quite aways back, in some lines to the late 1600's! 
I have an eclectic work history, including such things as short-order cook, long-haul truck driver, skip-tracer, used car salesman, construction laborer, and plumber's helper, to name a few. 
I am a fanatic Cardinals baseball fan, and also enjoy watching football now and then. I enjoy most types of music, other than hip-hop/rap, which I cannot tolerate. I cannot sing at all; when I attempt it, dogs howl and run and hide. I can't dance, either, having two left feet and absolutely no sense of rhythm. Fortunately, Deb has an amazingly beautiful voice, both spoken and singing, so she handles the singing for both of us. 

Lately, I have begun getting into the "prepping" thing. Just on a small scale, at the moment. But we shall see. That just may expand a great deal as time goes by.

Well, that's enough for the moment. Until next time .....

Ron