T minus 3 days (written on November 5, 2016)

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE: The Whetstone typically avoids political issues, but given current events I have dabbled in that here a bit. I hope you will excuse the indiscretion and look for the eternal message I tried to communicate.

Prince-Joffrey-Baratheon-on-The-Iron-Throne

Do not put trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4

 

I don’t know what is going to happen in 3 days on election day 2016, but I am willing to make a few bold predictions about what will happen shortly thereafter.

The sun will rise, God will continue to reign supreme, and men and women who aspire to become President in 2020 will begin their positioning. They will assemble teams of advisors who will help them understand the mood of the American people and begin crafting soaring oratory to both inspire hope and to instill fear. And they will promise, promise, promise. They will commit to acts of daring bravery and they will pledge to remain steadfast and bold. And they will commit and pledge, they will pledge and commit. Words and speeches. Talk. Nothing.

They will also assemble teams to harass and attack anyone who speaks out against their worthy and desirable pledges and commitments. Anyone who speaks against the enlightened candidate is not simply wrong, they are bad. For the Chosen One is here to nourish and protect you. Therefore, anyone else is here to harm you and take from you. As it has been said by our elected political leaders, you are either with us or you are against us.

What we have here is politics as religion. And as in religion, each denomination has its zealots and its critics. We no longer decide right versus wrong, but in our modern-day political religion we decide good versus evil. And, as in religion, each political denomination must deify its leader. They speak infallible truth no matter what they say. They act only of the purest motives, no matter what they do. It becomes the role of their followers not only to support them but to help zealously proselytize the approved message.

Understanding politics as religion helps us explain the dogmatic approach and visceral reactions we witness in American politics today.

This is a natural reaction for a people who have lost their foundation, who have lost their sense of purpose. They will cry out for leadership and guidance from something, someone. Too often the recipients of this attention are the false prophets and charlatans of our time. The hope of these lost souls is placed on our false gods, adding greater momentum to their deification.

I know this makes me unpopular, but these self-proclaimed gods are just people. They do not deserve our praise and adulation — they deserve our ridicule and scorn. Many of them are contemptible, and some of them are miscreants of the highest order.

JRR Tolkien had it right when he said, “The most improper job of any man is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”

Our political leaders are no more able to take care of the fundamental problems that confront our world today than a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a dartboard. We have years of evidence and our own common sense to know that they don’t actually desire to solve any problems. More importantly they are simply unable to solve them in the first place.

In JD Vance’s wonderful new book Hillbilly Elegy, he describes the problem of home instability for the rust belt society he grew up in. “In France the number of children exposed to three or more maternal partners is one in two hundred. In Sweden (second highest) it is about one in forty. In the United States the figure is a shocking one in twelve, and the figure is even higher in the working class” (emphasis mine). He goes on to point out that this is a vicious cycle, where instability leads to greater instability. And of course we know that other social problems follow such cycles, like violence, poverty, substance abuse, and unwanted pregnancies.

I ask myself, what are any of our Wise and Anointed Ones able to do about such a thing? On such issues they are impotent and pathetic. Even if they could find agreement on how to address such a problem (a miracle unto itself), they are too encumbered or otherwise ill equipped to actually pull it off. No, the answer will not come from these empty suits. The answer lies in us.

I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I can help my neighbor. I can serve my community. I can be a servant leader in my home. I can ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, because I know “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zech 4:6)

And collectively, as a nation of Christian Brothers and Sisters, we can do the Lord’s work during our limited time on His Earth. And in doing so we can make a difference. And when we do so the simple-minded, self-serving, lunacy-riddled ruling class will take credit. And we should let them do so, for we know that He is the Lord of all who reigns supreme.

He Wept

crying-face

So guys… I’m going to broach a topic that we’re all pretty goosey about… emotions and crying. I’m going to get real transparent too. You see, a few weekends ago I had to announce that we were leaving… and I wept. Yeah… not just a few tears or a sniffle or two… I wept. I couldn’t help it, control it, or even prevent it from happening. The only thing I could do was take a walk and try to compose myself… which was only partially successful. But… it made me think.

You see, over my life, I’ve been known to stuff emotions. I know none of you probably ever have done that! 😉 Most of us have been trained…

…Keep a stiff upper lip, don’t let them see you cry, don’t be a crybaby, you have to be the strong one, strong men don’t cry, cry privately if you have to cry, if anyone sees you cry they’ll think you’re weak, you’ll lose respect if you lose it as a leader… on and on.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized stuffing it has taken a toll on me and those around me. The longer I kept everything stuffed, the squirrelier I got. I got more reactive, sometimes less sensitive, anger flared easier, the more focused and driven I got… all to my own detriment and, to my chagrin, damaged relationships. Sometimes I can’t stuff it anymore and it all comes out in a… please don’t judge me… a private cry fest. And then to add to my consternation… it makes me feel better!

Guys… deal with and show your emotions… shed some tears… it’s okay in the right setting. If you need something science to justify it, an article in Medical Daily, by Lizette Borreli, says there are six health benefits to shedding a few tears:

  1. Releases toxins
  2. Kills bacteria
  3. Improves vision
  4. Improves mood
  5. Relieves stress
  6. Boosts communication

But you may say… that’s written by a woman. They always cry. How about this… in a blog post about how tough it is for men to cry, Derek Whitney said:

“Until recently, many cultures believed that tears were a sign of manliness. World history and literature are filled with male leaders who cried publicly. Tears meant that a man lived by a code of values and cared enough to show emotion when things went wrong. Medieval warriors and Japanese samurai cried during times of epic tragedy. In Western culture, a man’s capacity to cry indicated his honesty and integrity. Abraham Lincoln used strategic tears during his speeches, and modern presidents have followed suit. Despite all this, until recently, men shedding tears have been viewed as less than masculine.” 

I also liked his point in the article that there are definitely times that shedding tears isn’t the best… times that it’s better to be the calm, collected, strong guy. So guys… here’s some advice… deal with your emotions when they happen if the situation is right. If you feel like you need to shed some tears, do it. I’ve come to realize that many people see it as a sign of strength… being willing to be vulnerable and genuine while still being strong. If you want even more encouragement, check out what many claim to be the shortest passage in the Bible about Jesus… God himself:

Jesus wept.  John 11:35

Jesus Christ, our Savior, Creator, Redeemer, Word made flesh, Light of the world… wept… even when he knew the outcome.

Is there something going on in your life or from your past that you haven’t dealt with and it would help to shed a few tears?

You have permission… Jesus himself wept!

November 2016 Newsletter

patriot soldier

I hope you all survived this nation’s latest election cycle. Now we can go back to watching TV and answering our phones without fear of political ads for a couple more years.

Friday is Veteran’s Day. Thank you to all of you who served in our Nation’s military branches. We are indebted to you for your service and sacrifice!

Read

The Navy SEALS’ Dying WordsEric Blehm

Monday, August 6 marks the first anniversary of the Afghan crash of a U.S. military CH-47 Chinook helicopter that killed 30 Americans, including 17 Navy SEALS. It was the worst single loss-of-life day for the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan. It was also the worst in the history of Naval Special Warfare.

Check out more about Adam Brown and Eric’s biography on him at http://fearlessnavyseal.com/. Get the book here.

The Devil’s Data PlanRyan Giffith

Your patient lives in a pivotal era — the Information Age. Given the right information, things could go very badly for us. Fortunately, these humans are self-congratulatory about how much they know, while knowing very little of anything important.

Updated letter from Uncle Screwtape. Screwtape is keeping his nephew up to date on how to tempt us in the information age.

FM 21-13 The Soldier’s Guide – The Character of a SoldierArt of Manliness

When we say that a man has “good character,” we mean that he has many strong qualities and virtues that, added together, make him a man whom we like, respect, and trust. One definition of character, therefore, is this: The sum of the qualities that make a person what he is.

This a really interesting read of an actual 1953 Army Field Manual. I don’t remember anything like this when I was in the Army. However, we had one drill seargeant who took it upon himself toward the end of training to talk about character and the choices we make.

Watch

Adam Brown Fearless Navy SEAL

Addict. Christian. Husband. Father. Warrior.

Listen

Confronted With ViolenceThe Order Of Man

Men are needed today more than ever. We as a species are being confronted with more and more violence every day.

My guest, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a leading expert in the field of psychologoy and physiology of violence shares why homicides are skyrocketing, why the world needs more sheepdogs, what happens to our bodies when we’re in combat, and how to handle yourself when confronted with violence.

A little language and content warning on this one. However, this message is needed today.

October’s Whetstone Posts

In case you missed them, here are last month’s blog posts:

Now, But Not Yet. – Ken Campbell

Success to Significance – Gerry Harrow

My Friend, My Wife – Gavin Kaszynski

Stay Sharp,

Matt

So How’s Your Relationship?

With money, that is.

My wife and I have been taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class for the past few weeks, and I’ve been thinking lately about how we interact with money.  The class itself has been very informative and thought provoking.  Really good advice on how to get out of debt (essentially a form of slavery), to avoid the use of credit (which is an easy way back into debt), and saving for emergencies and the future (to help keep out of debt).  Most folks would agree it’s not good for us to live beyond our means, be buried in debt, and struggle to pay the bills, but the statistics indicate we collectively don’t seem to live that way.  Google “consumer Money Relationshipdebt” and see for yourself.  Now I get that we sometimes get in trouble because of health issues or some other crisis beyond our control, but most financial situations usually boil down to discipline or regret.  (Hmmm, that sounds familiar…)

One thought, though, that’s been percolating in my mind is the potential for a different kind of enslavement for those who are successful in their money management.

“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Hmmm.  OK.  I’m good with the don’t give me poverty part, but not so sure about the don’t give me riches part.

But then I’m reminded of people that have struck it rich in the lottery (or professional sports, or inheritance, or etc.) and become instant multi-millionaires.  And they frequently don’t handle it well.  What could have been used for a multitude of positive purposes is squandered and they often find themselves bankrupt a few years later.

Or I’m reminded of stories from friends on mission trips to Ethiopia, and the genuine joy and contentment of people that have little or nothing compared to our western standards.  Simple gifts we would hardly notice are received with great joy and excitement!  This joy befuddles us.  Why are they so happy when they have so little?  But there’s a small voice within us that implores us to pay attention and to wrestle with the incongruity.

And then we hear the leaders in that same Ethiopian community tell us that they’re praying for us.  Wait, what??  Why would they pray for us?  Shouldn’t we be praying for them?

Yes, of course, we should pray for them.  But their prayers for us are for different reasons.  Because we have so much and are easily distracted.  Or maybe even because we have too much.  (See Proverbs 30:8-9 above…)

All this to remind us that there are many pitfalls when we have a wrong relationship with money.  And that’s true whether we have too little, too much, or even if the money is “just right”.  If we’re not in bondage to money because of debt, maybe we find our security and worth in our ability to manage money into wealth and prosperity.  Or maybe we’re proud of our self-control and humility to live within our means in a relatively modest lifestyle.

Oh, come on!!  You mean to tell me it’s hopeless?!  That there’s no way to have a right relationship with money?  Even if I have just the “right” amount? (Or maybe just a little more…)

Well, it depends.  Ultimately it boils down to the first commandment:

“You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

And this word from Paul:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

So what’s the secret Paul is talking about?  Was it the latest 12 step program to personal happiness?  Hardly.  Remember, Paul wrote these words while he was in prison.  The secret is he can do everything (in this case endure suffering) through him (Christ) who gives him strength.  And we have more insight from what he wrote earlier in this same letter:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)

The truth is we were created to worship God and to find our ultimate peace, joy, and contentment in Him.  It’s been said that we were each created with a God-shaped vacuum that can only be filled by Him.  But in our brokenness, we spend much of our lives trying to fill that space with anything and everything except God.  Sex, power, drugs, alcohol, money, possessions.  The list goes on and on and is likely different for each of us.  Or maybe it’s the same.  We can either fill that vacuum with God or that which is not God.  With the creator, or with something in his creation.

So having a right relationship with money (or anything else or anyone else for that matter) starts first with having a right relationship with God.  A right view of God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Peace