I have the solution to mankind’s problems

Notice the Japanese character on the screen next to Mr. Gamble? It’s pronounced ai (or I) as in the word aikido, the martial art that uses an opponent’s energy to defeat him. Interesting that, by itself, it means “to meet” and is also part of the word for community. Then, there is its homonym, another character pronounced ai, that means love. Kind of cool that Ai have the solution to all of mankind’s problems, isn’t it?

the Village on Sewanee Creek

For almost six years now, my wife and I have labored to build a community called the Village on Sewanee Creek.  I’ve documented our journey towards self-sustaining community on this blog.  It’s been a fertile time for such an endeavor.

The world seems to be falling apart at the seams.  The poor and middle class get poorer while the rich (1%) get richer and more powerful.  Global economies are in disarray.  There is rioting in the streets of London, Cairo, Paris…  Never mind.  It’s easier to ask what major cities don’t have riots or mass demonstrations.  The world grows more polluted or depleted.  Inflation for basic commodities like food and energy is up while the value of houses and 401k’s is down.  Food is GMO, with less nutrition but more antibiotics, chemicals and other questionable stuff.  Overhead, there are chem trails.  People worry about nuclear radiation from Fukushima.  9/11…

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The Christian Prepper’s Dilemma

Once again sharing portions of a dialog from the Village’s private board, “Friends of Sewanee Creek”.  Commenter, John (name changed), is a friend of the Village, but not yet a Villager.

Grant Miller shared an article on 01/31/2012 10:57:49 am.
I don’t like labels, but I guess I’m a prepper. My parents were preppers before there was such a word. Back then, they just called it frugal, hard-working, forward thinking and innovative. I’ve been a prepper all of my life, but really got intense about it 6 years ago when I started this project. Being intense always risks burnout, so this blog hit home. You can read the original here.

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Avoiding Prepper Burnout

Ever look at your efforts in preparedness and think to yourself – “Self, is this all just a waste of time?” Ever think about the hours spent reading blogs, visiting preparedness forums, and making plans and consider that all of that time could have been spent doing something more “important?” I mean – that awesome AR-15 that you finally got off of layaway could have afforded the family a nice vacation to the beach.

Is it really worth it?
If you think this way, guess what? Your human and not alone. It’s OK. It’s called “prepper burnout” and it happens to the best of us.

Prepper Burnout can arrive for several reasons:
1st – Nothing happens. That’s right – all your planning and food storage and the world around you just seems to not collapse. Of course that is good. It is absolutely fortunate however it gives non-preppers a lot of ammunition to poke fun and insinuate that your preps are a waste of time.

2nd – Money. Maybe would better stated as “Not enough money”. So many of us are struggling to not just pay bills, put food on our plates and gas in our cars – but we are also trying to stock up on preparedness supplies at the same time. When times are especially tough it is easy to redirect priorities and the corresponding funds to other things and say, “screw preparedness”.

3rd – Lack of Time. In many peoples lives so many activities and distractions take up valuable time and challenge many to find more time to spend on “prepping”. For many of us – prepping is easy to push to the bottom of the priority list and sweep under the rug.

There are many more reasons why some people just get sick (and tired) of prepping.

So what can be done about it? Take a break!! Yes – just take a break from prepping for a week or two – the world won’t come to an end (at least we hope not). Spend time with the family. Do something fun like bowling or go to a couple movies. If you have a hobby that maybe you have not had done in a while – go for it. If possible, have a family meeting and ask everyone else what they would like to do. Money does not have to be spent to relax and have a good time. Visit a park and bring a picnic lunch. Make Saturday a “vegetable day” – meaning that you will become a couch potato and watch movies all day. Invite some friends over and have a cookout. Whatever is chosen – have fun and forget about prepping for a bit.

Preparedness Goals?

Often while taking a break from prepping your mind will start to come back around and preparedness goals will begin to come into sight. It is at that time to throw in your favorite apocalyptic movie – get out a pad of paper – and write. Write some preparedness goals that you want to accomplish. Possibly you may think about getting ready for spring gardening. Start a list of gardening “things to do” to start in early spring. Get it out of your head and on paper.

If money is short do some things that are inexpensive or free. Go to your local dollar store and stock up on some really inexpensive but valuable preparedness supplies. Spend a day scouring the Internet for good info and maybe print some out to place in a “survival information binder”. Ask a friend who has a particular skill that you want to have teach you. Maybe even perform a complete inventory of your stockpile and enter everything in a spreadsheet.

We all get burnt out sometimes. Just realize that it is OK and take steps to refresh, reload, and regenerate. Often you will come back re-energized and better focused on your preparedness goals.

Take care all –
Rourke

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John – 01/31/2012 10:04:35 pm

Prepping is a bit like subscribing to same type of logic that underlies Pascal’s wager on the existence of God. From what I have read on this forum though, prepping has become an opportunity for exploration and discovery. Sounds exciting to me…not a reason for burnout.

I have seen a lot of prepper shows on TV as well as websites and I wanted to ask a question related to something you wrote above, Grant.

“that awesome AR-15 that you finally got off of layaway could have afforded the family a nice vacation to the beach. ”

A large proportion of preppers seem to be people of faith. On this site I have come across Christian references so I assume that many in the community take Jesus as their lord and savior. I also have noticed that the majority of preppers are well armed and are prepared to protect themselves and their families from any potential dangers that might confront them.

But, what is the plan if a prepper community is not confronted by a band of marauding ne’er do wells, but rather a large group of starving families? Would these Christian preppers unleash the hounds and machine guns on a refugee population of starving children to save their food stores? What would Jesus or the values of the New Testament suggest the appropriate plan of action be?

There is a concerning amount of violent undercurrent which pervades many prepper networks and communities that is of great concern to me. There is almost a perverse desire in certain cases to welcome the coming of the apocalypse, or so called cleansing.

In my opinion, what many prepper communities are doing (especially the undertakings that I read about on this blog) should be a model for the greater country as I believe that they are directly confronting the issues of sustainability which in my mind will be the most pressing issues of our lifetime. The image of preppers should be more open arms and smiles and less AK-47’s and land mines.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if I would be able to reply to a legitimate and honest cry for help with the cold response of a machine gun round.

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Grant Miller – 02/01/2012 07:31:24 am

John, as usual, you go to the heart of the matter.

First, let me clarify. I didn’t write this piece. I shared it from another blog, so I don’t own it. Having said that, I would be dishonest if I did not admit to having invested in self-defense measures.

But, underlying a genuine and realistic need to be prepared to defend oneself against evil forces, there is, as you say, a deeper need to prepare to be a part of the solution for those who are genuinely in need. The answers to this dilemma are not easy.

On one hand, no amount of preparation and industriousness (putting back food and water, growing food, becoming energy self-sufficient, etc) would be adequate if the community is over-run by people in need. Years of work and preparation to feed one’s own family could potentially be wiped out in a day, as would one’s ability to assist others in need through a desire to lovingly share.

On the other hand, there is no indication that Christ was a “prepper”. He lived day-to-day, grateful for His daily bread. Having little in the way of material goods, He and his disciples gave what they could to the poor, which was probably also very little even though it was much relative to what they had. The Bible says that Judas was the keeper of the purse and there are a few references to discussions about giving to the poor. One such comes to mind when the controversy arose about Christ being anointed with expensive ointment prior to his crucifixion. Jesus, in defense of this extravagance replied, the poor are always with you.   Mark 14  It would seem from this that Christ recognized that there are inexhaustible physical needs that are beyond our ability to satisfy and that one must choose wisely how to allocate physical resources. But the allocation of physical resources was not at the core of Christ’s teachings. He repeatedly stated that His Kingdom was not of this world, not physical in nature. The abundance of what He had to offer was spiritual and far more important than the physical. It was the healing of the spirit and the body.

It is difficult to visualize all scenarios a prepper or a Christian might be faced with. I certainly want to be among those who would generously share with those in need. From discussions I have had, I am confident that all others who are invested in the Village feel the same. But I also want to protect and provide for the ones I love most. So, I suppose that, in a dooms day scenario where there is mass starvation, I would try to carefully choose between those who are non-violent and in need and those who are out to pillage. An armed mob bent on taking what I have diligently put back would be met with the best defense I could muster. But I would do my best to “give this day, of our daily bread” to the extent that I do not endanger the welfare of those in my personal stewardship.

My favorite play is Les Miserable, based on Victor Hugo’s monumental novel. The pivotal moment that sets the stage for everything else in the story is when the Priest gives all of the Church’s silver to Jean Valjean who has stolen a portion of it. Through this singular act of charity, the convict Valjean is transformed to a Christian life of giving. This example of Christian charity would seem to contradict my rationale of distinguishing beneficiaries by their intent or level of violence. But there are differences. Silver is not sustenance. It was ornamentation for the Church. It could be yielded up without threatening starvation to the priests and nuns. More importantly, the priest had spent the prior evening feeding and, one could assume, plumbing the depths of Valjean’s soul in conversation. I would imagine that the priest gave the silver for a higher cause than feeding Valjean a few more meals. He sensed the goodness there and that giving the silver would be a wise investment in the well-being of many. How many others had visited the convent prior to Valjean in similar circumstances? How many others had depleted all the silver in the Church? Apparently, Valjean was a special case.

Similarly, it is difficult to say what should be the appropriate response to all future scenarios that we face in life.

Being armed and prepared allows me to make that difficult choice in the moment and under real and specific circumstances. I am not Christ and don’t share His mission nor His ability to lay down my life as a Savior for all mankind. I may be called upon to lay down my life for some within my sphere of influence, though. If such difficult choices must be made, I just pray that I will be spiritually prepared to discern and choose as Christ would have.  Like Him, I hope that my choices will transcend the physical and the consequences of those choices will yield spiritual and therefore eternal benefits.

This is why, for preppers, the most important preparation is spiritual.

Matthew 16
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

26  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

I would love to hear more thoughts on this topic from friends and members of the Village.

How to Save the World from Itself

Brace Yourself:

Below is the full text of a long post  followed by 1stVillager commentary.  It’s a great article and well worth the time.

Is deception no longer an adaptive human strategy?

by Kurt Cobb

“A lie is as good as the truth if you can get somebody to believe it.” So goes the cynical maxim. Naturally, it contradicts the accepted public morality embodied in the saying: “Honesty is the best policy.” That saying is attributed to Miguel de Cervantes though it has been repeated by many others. I rather think that the ancient Roman satirist Juvenal had it right when he wrote: “Honesty is praised and starves.”

The way to understand these contradictory statements is in the context of evolutionary success. Animals bear deceptive markings and patterns to camouflage themselves from predators. And, animals have been known to act out lies to deceive their fellow animals. William Catton Jr. relates such a story in his book Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse:

One of the chimpanzees at the Gombe Field station provided a modern demonstration of this. He had acquired an ability to open locked banana boxes. But he seemed to know it was unwise for him to do so in the presence of other more socially dominant apes who might attack him and take the bananas. To solve the problem this ape perfected the acted lie. By striding purposefully away from camp as if on his way to a good food source, he tricked other apes who would amble after him for a few hundred yards. By doubling back alone to the then deserted camp, he could open a banana box and peacefully enjoy its contents in the absence of the other chimps who, having seen there was no food in the camp other than what was confined to boxes they could not open, did not return with him.

It’s no surprise that humans have also found deception to be a useful survival skill. Certainly, it is useful in hunting animals. Even today we use the duck blind to conceal the position of the hunter. But deception as an adaptive behavior finds its true test in relations between humans in warfare, in sports, and even in commercial activities. We are more likely to deceive those whom we consider part of the out-group since they represent a possible source of resources for the in-group to which we belong and whose survivability we want to enhance. My in-group, however, is constantly shifting. Is it my family? Does it include my friends? How about my community? My nation? Those whom we consider appropriate targets for our cons depend on what group we place ourselves in at any moment.

All of this was brought to mind by the recent failure of the Harper administration in Canada to overturn a law which prohibits lying on news broadcasts. The change was sought to enable a Canadian upstart cable news channel dubbed Sun TV News to adopt the same style as the Fox News Channel in the United States. Apparently, lying is part of the format and not being able to lie would prevent Sun TV News from fulfilling its proper role in the world of Canadian media.

Does that mean Canadians are getting the truth elsewhere? Well, not lying is not always the equivalent of telling the truth. If you lie, it means by definition that you are saying something you know to be false or at least should have known to be false. But if you are simply mistaken, then people don’t call you a liar. They usually try to correct you.

So, there are two kinds of misinformation which we are subjected to every day in human affairs. The first is merely incorrect information. It may very well be the best estimate of the truth by the teller. If we detect the error, we call it an honest mistake. If we don’t detect the error, it may have the same effect as a deliberate lie would have on our actions.

For example, it is passed off as more or less incontrovertible that the human economy can grow indefinitely without either running out of resources or destroying the climate. The argument is that high prices for any scarce resource will lead to the discovery of more of that resource or to substitutes for it. All of this will happen in time to avert any catastrophic collapse of human industrial society.

Even among some who accept the reality of climate change, there is a belief that the offending emissions can be brought under control through technology alone, that alternative carbon-free energy sources can be deployed rapidly and in sufficient capacity to replace our current level of energy production from fossil fuels, and that geoengineering projects can be constructed if need be to alter the incoming amount of sunlight or absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We will thereby save ourselves from civilization-destroying climate change while continuing to live pretty much as we do and with economic growth intact.

People who make these claims are, in my view, simply mistaken about the extent of the challenges. We cannot know for certain whether such people are wrong. But we can judge their chances of being right to be slight based on the evidence. The results of believing such information if it is false can be just as serious as believing intentional falsehoods.

This brings us to another kind of communication that is constructed of outright lies. Claims by industry-funded think tanks include that the Earth is not warming; that if it is, human activity is not responsible; and that such warming will somehow be beneficial to humans on balance. All these claims can and have been shown to be false by the actual scientific evidence. Another demonstrably false assertion is that there is no consensus among climate scientists that humans are changing the climate through their actions.

Catton explains in Bottleneck that the purpose of deception is to create a “false or misleading definition of the situation.” The ability to deceive depends on two things, the skills of the deceiver and a situation in which the deceiver’s words or actions will be interpreted as truthful. The generally rising prosperity of the last 150 years leads most people to conclude that the future will be more or less like the recent past, namely, continued economic growth with few constraints. So, claims of continuous growth fall on fertile ground.

Those who attempt to deceive the population about climate change also have experience as their ally. Catastrophic consequences tied definitively to climate change are difficult to demonstrate. And, most people have not been touched by frequently cited examples: Hurricane Katrina, the record 2010 floods in Pakistan, the shrinking Arctic icecap. Their experience tells them that at most climate change is benign.

The trends revealed by scientific research are far more troubling than the average person’s experience. While the scientific community has endeavored mightily to communicate these trends, the task has proven difficult because of the abstract nature of much of the scientific knowledge which must be communicated. This has made it fairly easy for the fossil fuel industry to muddy the waters with misleading and outright false information skillfully planted in major media outlets.

In the past deception may have been an adaptive behavior for the human species. But, as with any trait, changed circumstances can render previously adaptive behaviors maladaptive. The changed circumstance is that humans are now so numerous and so powerful through their technology that they are are able to undermine the very biosphere which supports their survival.

And, since humans coordinate their activities primarily through language, it stands to reason that if that language is now used most effectively to create a false or misleading definition of the actual situation, then the human community will not be able to act appropriately to ensure its continued survival in the face of multiple threats such as climate change, fossil fuel depletion, soil erosion, water pollution and so on. The ability to deceive then has become so counterproductive that it threatens humans with extinction.

Could this trait be somehow moderated to allow a more realistic assessment of our situation? Partly this would require a new definition of who is included in our community. If the definition remains narrow–for example, my climate-change denying friends in the fossil fuel industry–then there is little hope for change. If the definition can expand to all of humanity, then the need for deception is diminished. I no longer consider people halfway across the globe as part of an out-group who can be regarded as enemies and may be deceived without moral concern.

But overcoming deception will also require the inclusion of scientific information and observations not normally incorporated into what most humans call their experience. Of the two tasks I’ve outlined, this second one seems the more difficult.

It is discouraging to conclude that a human behavior which has been selected for by nature to enhance our survival has now turned against us. But in this way, language–which is perhaps the highest achievement of humankind–could become our undoing.

Kurt Cobb is the author of the peak-oil-themed thriller, Prelude, and a columnist for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen. His work has also been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, EV World, and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights.

Original article available here

My Turn:

One level below the practical implications of this debate is a disturbing conflict for Christians.
Said Christ, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  When challenged, “who is my neighbor?”, he declared my neighbor is all humanity.

Yet, common sense and experience teach that at the survival level, “Honesty is praised and starves.”  My experience building an intentional community based on a combination of the golden rule and a self-sufficiency work ethic teaches me that with few exceptions, the world functions on the level of base self-interest.  People crying out for a return to Christian principles regularly engage in deception that is harmful to others simply because it works.  In its most cynical form, the preachers of many organized religions are exposed as the greatest hypocrites, calling for mutual love while plundering the gullible under the cover of religious piety.  So, even the advocates of “pure religion” are among the least trusted.

The call for mankind to unite under the banner of enlightened self-interest assumes a confidence in universal enlightenment that is more quixotic than Christ’s call to love all mankind equally.  In the disinformation age, truth ubiquitously couched in half-truths, smothers any possibility of getting to ultimate truth.  As noted, the modern religion called science is equally compromised by special interests.  It has come to the point where one must do “primary research” in order to trust the conclusions.  Secondary or second-hand science is no longer trusted.

“And, since humans coordinate their activities primarily through language, it stands to reason that if that language is now used most effectively to create a false or misleading definition of the actual situation, then the human community will not be able to act appropriately to ensure its continued survival in the face of multiple threats … “

One could infer from this that language is the problem.  But the problem goes much deeper than language.  Language is but a tool of deception, perhaps the singular tool in a devil’s tool chest that distinguishes humans from lower animals.  But the author’s final sentence clarifies,

“The ability to deceive then has become so counterproductive that it threatens humans with extinction.”

This nugget approaches the truth.  Language is not the root of the problem.  The problem is fundamental morality.  But to clarify, the root is not the ability to deceive, but deception itself, the common assumption that “Honesty starves” and survival depends on deception.  That takes us back to Christ’s call to love ALL others as yourself, not just pretend to love others as yourself.

The fog of the disinformation war is penetrated by appealing directly to an ultimate source of truth.  In science, primary research, done by a competent, meticulous scientist can yield truth to that scientist.  Once public, having left the scientist’s hands and forced through the sieve of special interests, it becomes suspect.  The same can be said of religion.  Some still cling to an older notion that the ultimate source of truth is God.  As with the newer religion of science, personal revelation (the spiritual equivalent of primary research) is the only sure way to knowledge of the truth.

I am hopeful that mankind will come to its collective senses, taking a higher road that leads somewhere other than death and destruction.  There seem to be two potential paths leading to salvation.  One is the path of universal enlightened self-interest through education, logic and scientific inquiry leading to enlightened choices.  The other path embrace Jesus Christ’s call to morality, rejecting petty self-interest in favor of the Golden Rule.  Ironically, the destination of both paths is enlightened self-interest where people love others as themselves.  Many believe there is a fork in the high road forcing us to choose a mutually exclusive secular or spiritual option.  There is no such fork.  Truth is truth, whether revealed through either the rigor of scientific or spiritual inquiry.  Both paths require rigor.  If forced to bet on one path over the other, I bet that the spiritual path has been historically more successful in elevating human behavior than the path of universal scientific inquiry.  For me, no such choice is required.  In the face of man’s power to annihilate himself and evidence that he is well down that path, we must take up Don Quixote’s challenge to “dream the impossible dream”.  But I can’t get my head around that dream unless equipped with more than a lance.  Mankind must do the right thing not only because it is logically in his selfish interest, but also because it is right and moral.  He will get there when armed with truth discovered both through scientific and spiritual inquiry.  Thinking such a quest is possible while equipped with only half the tool-chest is worse than quixotic.  It is foolish.

Full disclosure, I am a Christian and a Mormon with the spirit of Don Quixote.

Be the Meaning of Christmas

Every year at this time we struggle through strident calls to recognize the true meaning of Christmas.  There are protests of non-Christians and atheists against creches in public places and equally enraged protests of Christians defending the traditions of a Christian nation.   Strident? Protests? Enraged?  Is this the new, true meaning of Christmas?  Have we reached a new low, below crass commercialism?   To all of that I say, “Bah Humbug”.

It’s December 25, but my family isn’t celebrating with our Christmas traditions today, although we did start the day with a reading of this special Christmas story.    We decided to wait another week until our son (who works at Best Buy in another State) can join us after the Christmas retail rush.  How nice!  A little extra time to relax and enjoy the season without the hoopla.

This little story isn’t mine.  But it inspires me.  I hope it will inspire you to think of Christmas differently, whether you are Christian, religious, spiritual . . .  or not.

My advice:  Don’t argue about what Christmas should mean.  BE the meaning of Christmas.  And, if you are reading this too late to plan to do something really nice this Christmas of 2011, don’t worry.  You can be the meaning of Christmas today too.  There is absolutely nothing stopping any of us from celebrating our very own spirit of Christmas today . . . or any day, just like our family decided to celebrate on a day other than the one everyone else is.

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It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree.  No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas- oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it- overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.  These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.  As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without head gear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.
It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling head gear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition, one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

Editor’s Note: This true story was originally published in the December 14,1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it.

Gratitude: Links to Faith, Love and Joy


The abundant life starts and ends with gratitude enabled by faith.
This day, Thanksgiving, has its foundation in traditions begun by the Pilgrims.

The occasion was a successful harvest after months of extreme hardship and deprivation. The Mayflower survivors invited the Indian king Massasoit to their celebration, and he came with ninety-some of his men. The Pilgrims provided waterfowl and turkey; the Indians added five deer. There were games and athletic contests, and even a joint militia drill. The celebration lasted three days. But they did not call the feast “Thanksgiving,” and the record does not mention prayers of thanks or any kind of worship service. Some historians question whether this “first Thanksgiving” was a religious celebration at all. But that’s because they don’t know the Pilgrims and what they really believed.

The pilgrims were children of the reformation, Christians seeking to live according to their best understanding of Christ’s teachings. They understood that God graciously declares guilty sinners righteous on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience and his death, substituting his perfection for our imperfection, paying our debt by proxy and overcoming both spiritual and physical death for us.  This gift of legally transferred righteousness is received by faith and such faith is itself the gift of a sovereign God. But they also knew that grace doesn’t end there. They, no less than the Reformers, had faced the obvious questions: “Why then should believers do good works?  Doesn’t the doctrine of justification by faith, a free gift, lead to sloth and lawlessness?”  Isn’t it OK to simply declare your faith, then enjoy a free ride?

The Pilgrim answer, and the answer of Scripture, involves the nature of saving faith and the work of the Spirit who grants it. To the extent that one comprehends and accepts Christ’s infinite gift of redemption, won through unfathomable pain, one cannot help but feel gratitude.  Gratitude changes one’s heart. The depth of one’s gratitude determines the depth of one’s joy.  The video that introduces this post shows how we can cultivate a sense of gratitude by noticing and focusing on the goodness of the gifts (blessings) we receive and how gratitude is inseparably connected with joy.

This is the very nature of joy. When we enjoy a thing, we are thankful for it. We praise the gift to the giver and so enjoy both.

  •   “Thank you for this ring!  It’s magnificent!”
  •   “What a fantastic dinner!  It was the best ever. Thank you.”

When we find joy in another human being, we show our joy and gratitude with words and actions. We praise and magnify the one we love. We are thankful to love and to be loved.

  • “I’m proud of you, son. You’re the best.”
  • “I thank God for you every day. My life wouldn’t be the same without you.”
  • “There’s no one else like you!  I love you so much!”

Joy finds its fulfillment in thankfulness, in praise and thanksgiving. Silent joy is a contradiction. Mute appreciation isn’t really thanks. God requires our thanksgiving and our love so that our joy may be full. Shakespeare said it well, “They do not love that do not show their love.”

The spirit of thankfulness and joy are gifts that are cultivated by the Holy Spirit, who also gifts us with faith.  These four gifts (faith, gratitude, love and joy) are inseparable, and they begin with faith.  They work together.  The fruit of true gratitude is a desire to give back in some meaningful way, not only in words of gratitude but also in deeds.  The Holy Spirit gives the converted sinner a delight in serving God.  And so, the circle is complete.  Motivated by these gifts, one’s desire to work toward perfection, which is the love of God, increases.  Long before Shakespeare, James said the same thing about the interconnected nature of faith, gratitude, love, and works, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  James 2:18

There is a perennial debate over whether salvation comes of faith or works.  That debate introduces a needless semantic division amongst believers in Christ that is easily resolved with an understanding of the inseparability of the gifts from the natural consequences of those gifts truly appreciated and received.  The core question is not whether we are saved by faith.  It is, what is the quality of our faith? . . . or is my faith sufficient for salvation?

If it is true that the natural and inevitable consequences of true faith in Christ are gratitude, joy and a desire to serve, then it should be easy to measure the strength of one’s own faith to salvation.  I am careful here to say, “one’s own faith” as feelings and desires are matters of the heart, known only to oneself and God.  Each of us acts on those feelings in different ways that we believe will be the best ways to serve and may not be apparent to others.  Hence, the command that we withhold judgment of others.

As I celebrate this day designated for Thanksgiving, I am prompted to evaluate the quality of my gifts. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33)  Here is the test of whether I have actually received the gift . . . (the gift of salvation through faith):
1.  Is my heart overflowing with thankfulness for my gifts?
2.  Is my gratitude evidenced by deep, abiding joy that transcends the fear, pain and difficulties of this day?
3.  Am I filled with a joyful desire to show my gratitude through returning obedience and service to God by serving my fellow man?

If the answer to any of these questions is questionable, then the question remains, “have I received the gift of salvation through faith if gratitude, joy and love are obviously lacking?”  If not, as Shakespeare might have said it, they have not faith who do not show their faith.

Comfort and Joy
That gift of joy and comfort was not meant to be enjoyed only after this life is over.  This life is hard, often painful.  But Christ promised, “…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:30       That is the promise of joy and comfort now.

The Pilgrims and Puritans are almost always portrayed as obsessive killjoys and miserable downers. There’s little truth in that image. Joy wasn’t an afterthought for our Pilgrim forefathers. For them, joy stood at the beginning, in the center, and at the end as a natural product of faith. For them, God was joy, even when they were hungry and that same joy expressed itself in thankfulness. For the Pilgrims, a day of rejoicing is necessarily a day of thanksgiving. And throughout Scripture that sort of rejoicing means feasting, fellowship, and worship. The Pilgrims were deeply committed Christians who had braved an ocean and a wilderness to seek and serve God. When they rejoiced together, it would not–could not–be other than a time of thanksgiving to their Lord and Savior. Yes, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and so should all of us.

On this day of thanksgiving, my wish for all is that our burdens will be light and easy, that our joy and gratitude will be full as we contemplate the eternal blessings that are our gifts from God and that we will feel compelled to share that joy, love and gratitude with others.

Top Ten Rules for Self-Governance in a Self-Sufficient Community

On SewaneeCreek.com, my blog and preamble to the Village Covenants I have stated that the only rule of great import in the Village should be the “golden rule”. I also recognize that this rule may be the most difficult of all commandments to live in its fullness.

Some time ago, I recorded in my journal that for the past several mornings, our family spent our morning hour considering Christ’s monumental Sermon on the Mount. I marveled how he wove together sometimes seemingly contradictory concepts, presented back-to-back, not only achieving complete harmony between them, but a richness, depth and texture only seen or felt when the tapestry is viewed as a whole, stretched out on the wall and illuminated. One such observation was his comments on being non-judgemental, immediately followed by a caution not to cast our sacred pearls before swine. At face value, the determination of who qualifies as “swine” requires judgment. But stepping back from the tapestry, I was stunned to behold the picture of a supremely wise, quiet and untrammelled person who sees no need to judge others for their shortcomings because he is so focused on overcoming his own. With such a focus, he is so much at peace that he also feels no compulsion to share (or foist) his wisdom upon others who may not understand or appreciate the subtleties of truths he holds dear, having learned them by the hard knocks of personal struggle and knowing that without similar struggle, understanding does not follow. He walks his path at peace with himself, caring about others and prepared to love and uplift them without judging and without compulsion.

With this beautiful tapestry in full view, my heart-felt at peace. I wanted only to understand and emulate the words of the master.

Recently in reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, I observed this same great spirit of peaceful wisdom. Gandhi commented that Christ was his greatest example and that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the best example of how we should live. Yet, he commented, the people who least understand or practice Christ’s teachings are Christians. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. But I do know that mature wisdom dictates that we follow the principles laid out in this supernal sermon and lay aside our petty tendencies to judge, to exercise compulsion or to arrogantly consider ourselves above any other of God’s creations, our brothers and sisters.

Although I hold myself as a flawed, yet sincere disciple of Christ, I have discovered nuggets of great truth among all peoples and all spiritual traditions of the world. I hope that, just as the great Gandhi, a Hindu, was able to recognize the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, we can open ourselves to truth wherever it is found, meditate upon it, personally adopt and emulate it and become people of deep and abiding wisdom, faith, hope, and love for one another.

Can that happen in a world so full of strife? Are the principles taught in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount really practical to live? Though many would dismiss it as impossible in our modern, complex and competitive world, I submit that it is no more difficult, no less possible than it was in Christ’s time. And if we are to find peace in this life, the ONLY way.

The Spirit of Self-Sufficiency

There seems to be a general consensus among people that times are hard and will likely get harder.  People are fearful and dissatisfied.  Some who are awake to the fragile nature of our world are frantically provisioning for all sorts of real and imagined calamities.  While it’s good to prepare, our best preparations are not in things.  They are in us.

This is illustrated in a book I finished just last evening.  Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero.  It tells of his horrendous suffering as a castaway on the Pacific and in Japanese POW camps, of deprivation, hatred, redemption and his resilient, unbroken spirit.  I awoke peacefully this morning thinking of a journal entry I made several years ago.  I had completely forgotten and was surprised to find a second notation about a dream I had where I too was an Olympic runner.  Funny how much the subconscious mind remembers and connects when all is lost to the conscious mind.  Here are some excerpts from my journal.

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3/24/2009 – Journal Entry

I have a new favorite scripture.

Philippians 4: 11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

As our family read this passage, I was inspired by Paul’s strength and courage in a Roman prison – for 5 years.
We had a wonderful discussion about what it was that made Paul so strong in the face of deprivation of everything that normal people hold dear – especially his freedom. It strikes me that the last verse holds a key.
Paul asserts with infinite confidence that he can do all things. What caught my attention was the why and how of that strength. I noticed that in the King James Version it does not say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead, it says which strengthens me.  The antecedent that which refers to is doing through Christ.  By doing His will, acting on His eternally wise counsel, we are strengthened. Paul emphasizes an important part of that counsel when he says he has learned to be content in whatever state he finds himself.  In modern terms, “happiness is not in having what you want, it’s in wanting what you have”.

I am filled with His Spirit, His strength and His peace most, not when I am on my knees begging for it, but rather when I am doing my best to do and be as He counsels…. then I am strong, capable and confident that I can do, be and withstand all things. In those moments, a deep sense of peace distills upon me and I am happy regardless of what is going on around me.

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Some one hundred years ago it was determined that the average American had about 70 wants, things he desired to have. A similar survey was taken of his grandson and he had nearly 500 wants on his list and today, I’m sure that number is even higher. Why? Because people are not content in what they have!
(Joe Guglielmo)

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10/9/2009 – Journal Entry

In the past few months I haven’t thought much about this scripture.
Last night I had a strange, vivid, unusually coherent and powerful dream that seemed to last most of the night. I dreamed I was in the Olympics as a sprinter and surprisingly (as I dislike running and have no talent for it) won a medal. After the race, there was a great deal of pomp and confusion.  We were dressed in regal clothes with lots of patriotic emblems and medals representing our athletic accomplishments.  We were taken to special stores where we could buy more commemorative stuff and shuttled about for photo op’s and interviews. At one point the whole group was asked to think hard and come up with 100 short quips about goal setting that could inspire others.
In my dream, I came up with only one statement. It was “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

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Paul was right.  Self-Sufficiency is not about physical preparation as much as it is about spiritual and mental preparation.  We must learn to be at peace, strong, contented in whatever state we find ourselves.   A wise man once said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”.  Prepare your state of mind by wanting less.

Bashing the Obama/Bush-Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Recently there was an Obama bashing post on “Friends of Sewanee Creek” our private website.  It was one of those chain emails that get mindlessly forwarded by people with a particular point of view.  Upon checking Snopes, it was found to be at least a partial fabrication.  No surprise.  One of the site members, a conservative, remarked that he was tired of the Obama bashing.

I responded:

I agree that the energy being expended toward “Obama or ANY bashing” is mis-directed. This is not to say that Obama deserves our admiration or support.  Only that the focus on Obama is a carefully manipulated distraction from the real issues.  Obama is a puppet.  So is congress. Both are dangerous to our liberty and to the peace of the world.

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The US government and virtually all governments are thoroughly
corrupt from the top down
.

The global military-industrial-congressional complex are collectively the problem because
THEY ARE DRIVEN BY GREED AND POWER.

The global military-industrial-congressional complex are firmly in power because
THE PEOPLE ARE DRIVEN BY GREED AND POWER,
corrupt from the bottom up.

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Please re-read the statement between the bars and think about it.
It’s simple cause and effect.
No solutions will be evident without a clear understanding of the problem.

Whether overtly religious or not, few people practice Christ’s teachings of charity, love and service either on a personal level or national policy level . Hence, Republicans who are supposedly the party of the religious right continue to support aggressive war and imperialism under the false flag of democratizing the world. But if you listen carefully to their rhetoric you will find the real motives are based on self-preservation of our standard of living over the rest of the world – grass roots greed and power.

No single individual is to blame for the world’s problems. It is all of us together. Therefore, No form of bashing will accomplish anything but distraction from the real problem that lies in each individual heart.

I am convinced that we are now beyond the point of no return where political activism using the levers of democracy can be effective.  Hence, while I pay attention to the theater of politics for cues, I believe that our only salvation is in the moral character of individuals.

Never has the saying, “All politics is local” been more true. We must begin with personal morality and by that I do not mean sexual morality, although it is certainly included.  For an example of effective political action that can turn the tide, I look to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the writings of Henry David Thoreau and especially the example of Jesus Christ.  The most effective non-violent movements start by restoring moral judgment to a large, critical mass of the population.

Short of achieving such a mass conversion, the only solution is to work with converted, small, local communities.  If you can’t control the world, control yourself, then your personal environment. Perhaps if I prove to myself that I can discipline myself, then influence a small community, I can gradually regain the hope that leads to faith that leads to power, to change the world on a larger scale. That’s what Gandhi did. Until then, I have no right or reason to hope for anything better.

Ex-Pharma Rep comes clean, exposes industry corruption

This lady makes good sense.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think of all the information on the web that points to evil, controlling, manipulative behavior that loosely falls under the category of “conspiracy theory”.

The thing that deludes people into thinking all this is just paranoia is the myth that all evil is somehow coordinated by a small group of evil doers at the top of a great pyramid of evil.  Then again, maybe organic pyramid structures are a naturally occurring phenomena.

Watch Saturday morning cartoons.  Isn’t it amazing that almost all of them nowadays are based on the simplistic story of a super hero pitted against an arch evil nemesis who is single-handedly out to control or destroy the world?  When we grow up, cartoons are relegated to the world of childhood fantasy along with anything that smacks of cartoonishness.  Out goes the baby with the bathwater.  Ergo, arch-villains don’t exist or are at least an aberration from the norm.  Humanity is basically good, so to think that the mass of people would cooperate in a massive evil scheme is… unthinkable.

I view this a little differently.  It has been my life experience that most people really care about one thing – getting ahead.  That boils down to two words, money and power with their derivatives (fame, beauty, sex, comfort, pleasure, etc.)  I have made it a habit of evaluating motives by looking at where the feet are pointing – actions, not words.

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics posited that there is an invisible hand that moves all mankind in a free market to make efficient choices in their own enlightened self-interest that furthers the good of all through general economic growth.  Having observed the nature of man in general, I suggest that Smith was absolutely correct, except that there are cumulative evil side effects of the invisible hand.  Selfish interests do not produce benign results in the long run.  The uncontrolled quest for wealth and power will ALWAYS lead to corruption.  Stated more succinctly, “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

While almost everyone knows and acknowledges that couplet as fundamental truth, why is it then, that most people remain so optimistically blind to the fact that big, powerful institutions, with incredible consistency, have only one objective in mind, self-enrichment and empowerment at ANY cost?  The higher one rises within the pyramid, the more single-minded one is required to be in pursuit of the one and only god of money and power.  Those lower in the pyramid not having absolute power are corrupted, but not yet absolutely.

Once you recognize that as a fundamental fact in our fallen world, conspiracy is not a theory, it is the most routinely observable human behavior of all.  Conspiracy is a fact of life for everyone.  Everyone is scheming to get ahead.  Conspiracy is nothing more than the survival instinct on steroids.  Conspiracy is just normal individual human behavior with at least one accomplice.  To posit that conspiracy is only a theory or a symptom of paranoid crackpots is to deny that there is greed or evil in the world.

Since we are on the topic of pharmaceuticals relative to the most common of all human diseases, it seems appropriate to ask, “Is there an antidote?”

The answer is YES, but like many antidotes, it’s tough medicine.  Attempting to kick habits that are not only natural to the human condition, but encouraged by drug pushers masquerading as executives, politicians and officers is infinitely more difficult than kicking heroine cold turkey.  If you decide to make the attempt, you will need a good physician and a support group of loyal friends.

I have a recommendation:  There is a good doctor named Jesus Christ who wrote the book and operates a worldwide chain of clinics.  There are many alternative cures of varying efficacy  developed by prophets, philosophers, gurus and shamans around the world.  Some of them are also good.  At the core, the good ones all practice the same golden rules.  But, for my money, Dr. Christ, GD is the best.

There are also many local support groups.  I’m partial to a network forming at the Village on Sewanee Creek of reforming addicts.  As with all addicts, it’s a constant struggle to stay on the wagon, hence the need for a support group.  As a former senior executive, I can testify from personal experience.

AUSTERE but WITHOUT FEAR – A Message from Sendai, Japan

I lived in Japan for two years (1971-1972) and returned there many many times over the years on business. The Japanese people are amazing.  Since the morning I learned of the quakes and tsunami, I have been in touch with close Japanese friends via FaceBook and Twitter – glimpses of quiet, stoic courage.

A friend forwarded this letter to me this morning from a lady who lives there, but is apparently not Japanese by birth.  Her reflections on life in the aftermath describe what is happening there more fully, simply beautiful. Despite deprivations, this letter recounts people living even more richly than before – on a different level.  It’s amazing to think how different life experiences have prepared me to be where I am today.  To see what life can be, and hopefully will be like in the Village minus the calamities, read on.

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Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not.

No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun.

People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.

The mountains around Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently. And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

With Love in return, to you all,
Anne

More background on Anne:  http://scribbler.ca/?p=192