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Archive for June, 2020

My children threw me a retirement party this past Saturday. They cooked the food, set up, and thoroughly cleaned up. It was all such a blessing. Four of my children and their spouses, all seven grandchildren, my three brothers and their spouses, and even my newest daughter-in-law’s parents were there. Besides lots of eating and general catching up, I played with grandchildren, helped make ice cream, and told stories. My oldest son’s three oldest children sang songs and recited Scripture. Most of the stories came from a little activity my son came up with. He had fourteen questions printed on a paper for attendees to answer about me. Later I gave answers. One of my sister-in-laws is also a retired teacher, so we kept the flow of stories going for quite some time. Earlier in the week the weather forecast had called for 92 degrees in the afternoon on Saturday, but clouds and Saharan dust kept the temperature to the low 80’s. And there were periodic breezes that kept the mosquitoes at bay. The gathering went well past the three hours set apart for it. I so hope we can find excuses to have these get-togethers on a regular basis.

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Trying out some new swings

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Newest grandchild

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All seven

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A mother story?

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Productive waiting

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Technical story?

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Healthy skepticism

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Youngest son and spouse

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Next to impossible to have 100% happy campers

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Still standing by the grace of God

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Rare to get us all together in the same place at the same time

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“His banner over me is love.”

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If you are reading this blog entry and have not read the prequel (“Basis of Civil Debate“), it will seem to lack context and may be confusing. Please read the previous blog entry first so that I may be truly heard in this one.

The debate itself was about the following subject:

Mr. L stated that he hated child labor laws because they represented an abrogation of family jurisdiction. The state does not have the right to tell the family how to function even if the family structure is severely compromised or clearly in the wrong. I pointed out that the reason such laws exist was because of Dickens’ writing about conditions during the Industrial Revolution. Those conditions were not right and needed to be stopped. At least two times, and I think more, I agreed in principle with Mr. L’s statement and Mr. F’s restatement of their point.

In part I may have not been heard because of my initial statement about Dickens. Why you may ask? It was immediately thrown back at me that poor conditions are no reason to lay aside the law of God. Again I agreed, but I was not allowed to state my case. The more I tried the louder the counter repetitions of the first point became.

What then was my point? I agree that it is wrong to lay aside the God-given jurisdiction of the family in favor of a mis-placed jurisdiction of government. However, I do not believe that, for instance, child labor laws are the problem or that eliminating them will solve the problem. In fact, I do not believe that under the present form of government, ruled mostly by emotion rather than law, that child labor laws, or many other family jurisdiction abrogating laws, will be rescinded until the real problem is solved. Why do I believe that? I believe that people will not allow abuse of women and children to continue even if the means of attempting to stop it is wrong and a failure* in practice.

So, what is the real problem and what is the solution? We the people, by and large have turned away from God and His Law. Until and unless we repent and turn back to His way we will not rescind these laws because we think we know better than God. And maybe we should not even try to change the laws and we definitely won’t, because there is too much travesty and hurt in a society where God’s rule is debased and ignored. Does that mean we can never go back to being a godly nation**? No, it does not, but there will need to be some deep repentance on the part of parents and employers and government officials, both bureaucratic and elected, and most notably those who claim to know God. The order of retracing our steps to godliness is more likely repentance, revival, renewal, then reformation of life and law. That does not mean that to have just, God honoring laws we must be a perfect nation, but we must first have a majority of the people acknowledging God and God’s Law.  When the travesties of child abuse in the home and the society at large are rarities rather than regular fare, then we will be more likely to correct our laws to reflect God’s Law.

To simplify this idea, let me summarize by saying the following: You don’t legislate morality; morality determines just law. Mr. L stated the first half of my statement at one point in his argument, and I believe he could agree with the second half of the statement if he had truly heard me. That might have involved me having a better handle on how to present it to him and Mr. F.

The Founding Fathers, by in large, got it right. They based our laws on God’s law. Even as we, they had influences that drew them away from the knowledge of God and His law. Therefore, unlike the Scriptures, the Constitution is a human document, which cannot be perfect. It is very likely the best document of its kind produced by humans, because it so largely reflects God’s law. And I agree with Washington when he said to Henry Lee, “Let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.” (letter 10/31/1786) It has been and is being trampled upon because the basis for this document, God’s law, is trampled.

*Yes, child-labor laws stopped children from working in dangerous conditions, but it did not stop the abuse of children.

**I do not equate us with Israel, nor do I say that we have no heinous sins for which God will judge us. However, we have a system that is based on God’s laws with many past examples of godly people and building of God’s kingdom around the world.

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Experience is supposed to make us wiser and more prudent. Sometimes we heed lessons learned and sometime we don’t. It began with a seemingly innocent change of plans: “Oh, I can’t go overnight. We’ll just have to figure it out.” Next up was not taking a map. Then there was the part where I should have asked what the actual plans were. The trails are not well maintenanced, that is, cleared, so they can be hard to find. A new trail had been cut that was not on the map I had nor had I seen it, so we wasted some time going the wrong way. About 1/3 through the trip leg cramps ensued which caused us to change our route to avoid uphills that increased the cramps and pain, which then resulted in perhaps an extra 5 miles of hiking. We attempted to traverse a trail in the dark we had never been on. The trail passed through a field. In retrospect there were probably two exits, maybe more, from that field. After too much walking, we ended up on a road and knew where we were, which was about five miles from our vehicle. So we called in a rescue from an in-law. The final result of these multiple missteps was an estimated 25 miles in rough terrain, having left the house at 8 AM and returned at midnight.

On the up side, it was a beautiful day with cooler than usual June temperatures, partly cloudy and mostly tree covered to shield us from all day sun exposure. The river was cold and relaxing. The conversation was pleasant. We succeeded in hiking the length of the Gorge from Cabin Trail all the way to the lake and seeing several trails we’d not been on before. I took some good pictures and felt the beauty of God’s Creation. The stars shone brightly as we awaited the pick-up. My son asked me at one point how I could still be talking about plants. I had a two part response: 1) That’s just who I am, and 2) When you are hurting and in too deep, it’s best to focus your mind away from the difficulty onto more pleasant thoughts.

A few examples of Providential** assistance included finding a laminated map propped up against a tree at a campsite, a clean water source along the way, and an answer to prayer for assistance. I had told my son earlier in the day that I had prayed in the form of a daydream that a person would be standing in the river, fishing, who knew where to cross and would be willing to point out where the trail was on the other side. In actuality, the answer came in the form of two people who were camping and were just stepping out of the river after swimming. The man walked about a 1/4 mile up the river to show us where to cross and gave a detailed and accurate description of the turns to get on the trail we desired. The end of his description was as follows: “I don’t know what happens after the field because I haven’t gone any further.” (Reference earlier sentence about the two exits from the field for a small chuckle.)

Am I wiser for the experience? In one respect, no. I knew all of those things to do and had regularly done them in times past, except when I didn’t. In another respect, yes. For hopefully a long time, and perhaps permanently, I will ask questions of preparedness of my self and others before attempting something more than moderate. And, the moderate can become the strenuous, so take heed there, too. Now, a few of you are thinking how foolish the whole adventure was. I suspect you don’t have much adventure in your life. Some are saying, what’s the big deal since no one was hurt. Your adventures will likely be short-lived. The balance is to take calculated risks. That involves foresight, preparedness, physical and mental vigor, and a willingness to ask for help. I resolve to be better prepared next time rather than just stay home.

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Father-Son Outing

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Ferns have such a feel of richness

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Never seen Galax so profusely blooming as on this trip

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Mountain Laurel

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Steep, poorly marked trails

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Do you see the fisherman?

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Sourwood sprouts and Table Mountain Pinecone

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Steep terrain and sharp meanders

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The reason the trail doesn’t always follow the river bank

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Raccoon Tracks

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Hawksbill

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1 3/4 liter was not enough

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Wild Ginger (Asarum sp?)

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Refreshing

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Chimneys

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Japanese Meadowsweet. What is it doing here?

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Solomon Seal with seed pods

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???

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Fire Pink

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???

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Indian Pipe

*Last lines of “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

**Answer to prayer is a Providential assistance, too, but is more direct, so I classify it differently from common grace (Matthew 5:45). God oversees all things in our lives.

 

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I received an email today that left me chagrined. I am a 60 year old participant in outdoor activities, particularly climbing at the moment. Access to local national forest climbing areas may be threatened. I wrote a letter whose introductory paragraph read as follows:

“I am a native of East Tennessee and longtime resident of Western North Carolina who has spent many 1000’s of hours in the national forests of the Appalachians and Blue Ridge hiking and climbing and camping. The public lands and my use of them is my single most loved freedom and pursuit that retains me as a resident of these beloved mountains. For 50 years I have roamed these mountains for my mental and physical health, leaving as little trace as I could and taking many pictures and memories. As a family man, I have taught my family to appreciate and care for the mountains and as a teacher I have done the same both in the classroom and outdoors. I plead with you to not shut down the opportunities of young and old alike to enjoy the challenges of climbing by overly restrictive and one-size fits all statutes and procedures concerning climbing areas and their approaches. Educate people and see them rise to the challenge of protecting while utilizing these resources that belong to the American people. Don’t lock it away to be underutilized by preventing access to world class climbing areas in our beautiful forests.”

If you are interested in helping to keep the National Forests open to climbing both here, and ultimately nationwide, please spread the word and write a letter at the following site: Click on https://www.accessfund.org , and go to the bottom of the page for the quick help with the letter. It really only takes 5 minutes and may retain climbing access for years to come. 

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Last Thoughts on Retiring

Yes, really! I won’t keep boring you with this transition. But I didn’t say that this is the last words on being retired, because I know nothing of that, yet.

Upon request by my Principal to know if any teachers are coming into work next week, I replied:

“I need to clean out my classroom next week. I cannot be there on Thursday, because part of the day I will be at the doctor’s office with my wife.
I have years of accumulated “stuff” to redistribute, describe the whereabouts to others, consolidate, recycle, and file is #13. It will be a walk down memory lane and a very cathartic exercise.
I feel very much like I did during several years when I was freshly married and underemployed. I was expectant and prayerful about God’s leading and honestly intermittently scared half out of my wits.
I have plans and desires, none of which have come about at the moment, but my biggest hope is that my latter years will be more for God’s glory than my former.”
 

Retiring is not so much the end of something old as it is the beginning of something new. It will be appropriate to reminisce and tell old stories, but I must resist getting into the default mode of always falling back on an “I remember when” story. People tire of them quickly. Instead, my backward looking should be to inspire and caution myself and others for the forward going. How can I move forward? How can I think differently? How can I utilize what I’ve learned to be creative in what I don’t yet know? Business and education language frequently talks about flexibility and change. Yes, they are inevitable, but they are code words for embrace stress. Why not rather deal with the change that life brings rather than make it your bread and drink, your breathe and thought? I want to keep working and I must keep working, but I want to go at a pace and with a demeanor that is free of stress. For me, that is more than a lack of financial stress, it is a way of thinking about my expectations of myself. 

My last day, I had an “exit interview” scheduled with my Principal. I had a suspicion that it was a party, but I was very surprised with the scope and style of the “party”. Colleagues waited in line for quite sometime as a fellow retiree and I greeted each and every person who drove by. As odd as it might seem, it was more intimate than a “regular” party, because I was able to speak to each individual separately, hugging some* and praying with a few. Our district has a long standing tradition of giving retirees a rocking chair at their retirement party. I like rocking chairs (“Rocking Chair”), so it is already placed prominently in my house for use. I am thankful that a colleague took a few pictures with her cellphone for a record of this drive through party. 

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Congratulatory Comments from our Principal

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Hanging out in the shade

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Got to have food at a party

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Greetings!

*Oops! didn’t quite socially distance in every case, but I asked permission to hug those that I did.

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What is the way forward for our country in this time of crisis?

Awhile back I was having a discussion with two people, who we will call Mr. L and Mr. S, that turned into an argument. They were on one side of a position and I was on the other. I do not like to get drawn into arguments for reasons far deeper than the immediate discomfort, but I dislike even more when truth is being trampled. Well, from my perspective, things got worse, because I was no longer concerned about the statements being made. I agreed in principle with them, but I did not like the fact that I was never heard. Mr. L and Mr. S would tell you that they fully understood me and could see that I was patently wrong, but that is simply not true. The evidence I would give is that I was never allowed to state my point, so that I was never truly heard, and therefore, they could not have known if I was wrong or not.

And this is the reason for this blog entry*. The basis for civil debate is the requirement that the views of the parties** in the debate be heard, truly heard. If not, there has not been debate, but there has been monologue, haranguing, putdown, and dismissal. This does not mean that the two or more parties must come to agreement, though that would be a further needed step for legislative progress. But they must hear each other in such a way as to believe that the other party, at the very least, thinks that their position is reasonable. The end result will be some change in all of the parties. They will have seen, I mean really seen, that is heard, another perspective. The result may well be that they have more evidence for why they don’t agree, but it might also mean that they come to see a reason to modify their own position, even if ever so slightly.

This basic tenet of civil debate and discourse has another underlying prerequisite. In order to really hear someone, you must have some minimal respect for that person or party. When that is lacking then the monologue and so forth commences. I highly suspect from watching this scenario play out numerous times and being party to this mis-step myself, that the reason for the lack of respect, and therefore lack of listening, is essentially fear. If you believe that the other party holds some wicked position or intention that will undermine your worldview, status quo, or comfort, you are apt to attack it vociferously. But if you are confident that the truth will win out, either in the short-term or long-term, you may feel at ease enough to hear the other party out for the purpose of learning or modifying your own position.

Take note that those who least hold to what is true most vehemently avoid listening to their opponents. And be doubly aware of those who feign listening but never really hear what their opponents say.

What I have essentially just defined is open-mindedness. Some who claim to be the most open-minded, the kind who will not hold to one or any particular point of view, listen the least and are the most closed-minded. Why? Frequently they are unwilling to commit to a position, not because they don’t know (agnostic), but because they don’t want to know (stubborn). Other people wear closed-mindedness as a badge, thinking that they uphold the “real” truth. Their fear of straying from their understanding of the truth causes them to cling to a shallow truth at best. These two problems reign on both extremes of political and belief perspectives and in the middle as well. In reality, their close-mindedness is of no value to anyone, including themselves. And I do not ascribe to the definition of open-mindedness that believes that there is no truth, and therefore everyone has their own truth. That is counter to Western thought, logic, and any view of the society that works.***

A listening ear is not a rejection of truth, but a confidence that there is truth and that it appears in surprising places and can instruct and benefit the hearer from wherever or whomever it comes, and that it will win out in the end.

In summary, here are the points I made: 1) Civil Debate requires that all invested parties are really heard. 2) Really hearing someone requires a little respect for the person, even if not for their position, 3) Lack of kindly respect for your debate opponent points to fear that your position might be overcome, and 4) Open-mindedness is good and beneficial for debate.

I hope that you have heard me and benefited.

*What happened to Mr.s L and S? Stay tuned. That description will come soon, but I do not want to distract from my main point.

**Modern liberal thought that absent parties must be in the debate don’t work since that means that people no longer alive, non-citizens, non-vested interests, and others not party to the debate run the debate. Equity is not that non-parties to the debate rule the debate, but that they be allowed to become parties to the debate through involvement in the process and vested interest in the debate. That involves allowance to include other parties and commitment on the part of all parties to be involved and invested. Certain parties cannot be allowed into the conversation, because their purpose and presence is disruptive.

*** Why society without truth will not work is a topic for another day, but a worthy one.

 

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If ever I could hope that one of my blog entries would go viral, this would be the one!

What is the way forward in this time of crisis for our country? Is is sociological, psychological, judicial, political, philosophical? There is a Facebook post shared among some that is a Venn Diagram having four circles representing perspectives on our present troubles (You can see it here). Simply put, it says that a person may reasonably hold that murder, looting, and corruption are wrong and that lawful protests are legitimate responses. When my friend posted the diagram, I had an immediate two-fold reaction. Firstly, I agreed with the diagram. Secondly, I felt like it was incomplete and needed a fifth circle. I assumed at the time that the fifth circle would be a part of a five-circle Venn struggling to overlap in the middle. Later it occurred to me that the fifth circle should surround the other four, being both foundational and all encompassing. 

Circle Five: Until and unless we repent and forgive none of these other ideas or steps we may take will matter.

We will continue to deteriorate as a society. Fomenting elements will continue to stir up the crowds. Unreasoning anger will continue to prevail. Corruption will proceed unchecked and at length increase in various levels of government and in the streets. Fear and hatred will increase.

America, repent! Lord, begin with me. Cause me to love my fellow created beings regardless of culture, color, creed, or craft. Cause us to see our eternal and daily need of a savior, the Savior, Jesus, because we are full of hatred, selfishness, apathy, and unbelief. 

America, forgive! Lord, begin with me. Enable me to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me. Change us so that we do not suspect every neighbor of ill toward us, but desire and work for their good.

Church, pray! Lord, begin with me. Give me a persistent spirit of intercession for our nation and the Church. We are in dire and perilous times. If we don’t see it, it is because our enemy is not visible. The spiritual forces are stirring up trouble and trying to destroy our freedoms and blessings. God is calling on us to arise and call on Him for help. He will not continue to tolerate our evil and refusal to acknowledge Him. 

God be merciful to us. Pour out the knowledge of Yourself and Your ways upon Your Church who is slack in their piety at best. Extend mercy in salvation to a lost nation which is satisfied in their self-righteous refusal to acknowledge their sin and need of You. We need a revival of the Church and renewal of our nation. May You be merciful to give us repentance and forgiveness.

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