Michael Ruppert is dead

Some if not most of you know the name. Ruppert was an early 9/11 truther. He exposed the CIA for drug trafficking, brought down its director, starred in an apocalyptic movie called Collapse, wrote Crossing the Rubicon and many other books on corruption in government and managed a popular website called fromthewilderness.com
This champion of truth is dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

What do we learn from this tragedy? That staring down the rabbit hole too long results in loss of hope. If there is anything the enemy wants, it is for those who fight against evil to lose hope, whether you define the enemy as Satan, the illuminati, globalists, the evil, corrupt nature of fallen mankind, big government, big Corporations, or whatever.

As one who admittedly stared down that rabbit hole too long and has determinedly averted my gaze, I call upon myself, our community and the world at large to look for the good in life.

I am thankful for wonderful neighbors in the Village on Sewanee Creek who DO look to the positive in life, who overlook each other’s flaws and continue on in faith and hope and whose lives are evidence of hope and generosity by the way they give of themselves for each other.

God lives. Jesus Christ is His perfect Son. In the end, Christ wins the war against evil. I’ve read the book. There is a happy ending for those who live for it.

Christmas Eve – 2012 – Joseph and Mary Dinner

It’s very early, Christmas morning as I begin this.  Everyone is still asleep.  Outside it’s dark and foggy.  It’s been raining steadily for a couple of weeks.

Reflecting on 2012, it was a year of many challenges, like most years.  But, in this moment, I am filled with joy and gratitude.  My eyes fill as I think of the wondrous Christmas Eve we spent as a family last night. An old family tradition was revisited, but it came alive as never before.

We have called it the Joseph and Mary Dinner.  Our tradition has been to celebrate Christmas Eve simply, as they might have, eating the things they might have eaten, as poor travelers, quietly pondering unfolding events that they could not have understood.

Sometimes, with the best intentions, traditions wander into unintended territory and lose the essence of what they are meant to commemorate.  So it is with modern Christmas traditions that ring, not with joy and hope, but with hollowness.
There have been years when our Joseph and Mary dinner crept outside its roots, looking more like a celebration of Middle Eastern cuisine.
But last night we celebrated well.  No shepherds clothed in bathrobes, no dolls wrapped in dish towels.  It was a simple meal of dates, goat cheese, flat bread and grape juice.  Probably much more than they enjoyed that night.  But this time, the meal wasn’t the point nor the focus.  Rather than the traditional reading of the Christmas story, each family member had been challenged to bring their favorite scripture about Christ.  I think we had all struggled a bit to choose one as we stepped outside the traditional story.  But the ensuing discussion was rich and full.  We celebrated much more than a vague image of a few people from long ago in a strange and unfamiliar land, huddled around a tiny baby in a barn.

Following the sharing of scriptures and their very personal significance, we gathered around the piano to sing the sacred Christmas carols.  My voice is nearly gone, I hope only temporarily.  I could barely croak out the tunes.  But it was magical.  Instead of focusing on making lovely music with four-part harmony, we traded turns, each reading one stanza of the lyrics of all the carols in our hymn book.  The reading revealed new meaning as the poetic phrases came to life unencumbered by the rhythms of the music.

“And, at last our eyes shall see Him, through His own redeeming Love”
Once in Royal David’s City

“Shepherds, why this Jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?  What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?”
– Angels We Have Heard on High

“No more will sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He’ll come and make the blessings flow far as the curse was found.”
Joy to the World

I was humbled as I contrasted our family birthday celebrations with birthday cakes against God’s majesty and power in the way He celebrated the event with the brightest star ever seen in the heavens.
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Then, we sang from the heart with full meaning expressed in joyful celebration.
“Joy to the World”
“Jesus, Lord at thy birth” –  Silent Night
“Hosanna” – With Wondering Awe
“Noël” (look it up, we did) – The First Noël
“Hallelujah!” – Silent Night
“Sing in exultation”Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
Gloria in excelsis Deo – Angels we have heard on high
… and more

I will not profane the sacred experience by attempting to recount the things we spoke of.  Only this.  This has already been the best Christmas of my life.  I am overwhelmed with a sense of hope, peace, joy and gratitude to my God and Savior.  And, I look forward to 2013 and beyond with more confidence that, come what may, it will be wonderful, good and right.  Now, to hold on to that feeling throughout the year.

Merry Christmas to All
May your lives be filled with the unspeakable joy of Christmas.

Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times

The Art of Manliness is an outstanding website for men.  It features traditional values and advice on how to be a real man. Here is their list of the top 100 essential movies for Men.  I own and love most of the movies on the list, but there isn’t much there for women, nor are all it’s movies essential for our troubled times.  Soooo…..

Many years ago, I was Director of International Development for Blockbuster Video. That was in the days before Blockbuster was made obsolete by the internet, Netflix, Red Box, VUDU, Youtube, etc. We were goin’ and blowin’ then. I digress.  The point is, I developed a love for great movies.  Years later, that led me to put in a good sized dedicated home theater with a performing stage in our home in Atlanta. We had many wonderful experiences with other families and their kids, either watching and discussing great movies or making up and performing plays and reader’s theater on the stage.

One very special memory is of a teaching moment when I sat all my kids down to watch the movie, Gandhi. I kept the remote in hand.  After each significant scene, I paused the movie and we taught and discussed an important life lesson. Gandhi is a long movie.  With discussion and some breaks, it took a good part of the day to get through it. The time could not have been better spent. It’s times like those that I am most proud. Times that paid great dividends in the lives of my now adult children.

Those experiences led to my commitment to build the amphitheater stage with outdoor theater in the Village. The physical facilities are there and we have enjoyed movies under the stars many times, but my dream is, as yet, unfulfilled. So far, the theater has been used mostly for entertainment. I miss the deep discussions. I’ll keep looking for those opportunities to learn and share like we used to with our kids and close friends in Atlanta.

This brings me back to the top 100 movies for men list. It occurred to me that we should develop a top 100 list for the Village.  Not sure what we should call it yet. Maybe something like the “Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times.”  It should be made up of movies that:

  • Teach about character and positive values (either through positive or negative examples showing consequences of bad choices).
  • Provide perspective for our troubled times (Dealing well with adversity.  History is a great teacher of perspective as we repeat past mistakes.)
  • Give us strength and courage to persevere in difficult times.
  • Show great role models for healthy social interaction – How to treat one another with dignity, respect, trust, and love.
  • Teach practical solutions to real problems. Time proven survival skills and strategies.
  • Give inspiring examples of freedom-loving people with an independent spirit; people who are self-reliant, hard-working and willing to fight for their freedom.
  • Inspire us to be better,do more, be more creative and stronger.

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I’ve already done a top 80 list from my personal catalog,
but then it’s just my list.   I could use some help getting to the best 100.
All you “like-minded” people out there, post a comment with your top 10
or more.
I’ll take the best from your lists, combine them with mine and share the best of the best.
As a starter, here are 10 that I think should make the list

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Gandhi (no surprises here)

It is impossible to capture the life of any man in one film, much less the life of a man who saw and did as much as Mahatma Gandhi. Thus the filmmakers who tried to capture his life on the silver screen sought not to give a blow by blow account of Gandhi’s life, but instead to capture his spirit in what they did show. The film begins with Gandhi’s assassination and then starts the retrospective of his life, beginning with his being thrown off a train for being Indian, and through his non-violent efforts to win Indians their rights and then their independence. One man truly can free an entire nation, if not change the entire world.

Best line: “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body. NOT MY OBEDIENCE!”

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Defiance

Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters.   They provide leadership and protection to about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants who have fled to the woods, build a Village, learn to survive and fight off the Nazi army.

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Life is Beautiful

With humor and an indomitable, positive attitude, a Jewish man wins the love of a beautiful woman.
With inspiring courage and discipline, he must call on the same qualities to protect his son in a Nazi death camp.

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The Kite Runner

After spending years in California, a soft and pampered Amir returns to his homeland in Afghanistan to help his old friend Hassan, whose son is in trouble.  It’s a story of sacrifice, deprivation and danger as he risks his life against a deeply corrupt and depraved regime.

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Groundhog Day

On it’s surface, Groundhog Day is just another comedy. But if you delve deeper, you’ll find a story that drives home some profound messages. Bill Murray is Phil Connors, a cynical egotistical weatherman who annoys just about everyone and gets stuck living the same day over and over. It’s Groundhog Day. We don’t know how long Phil is stuck in this purgatory of repetition. Maybe a month.  Maybe a thousand years.  From Phil’s plight we learn that real change in life can only come from within us.  It’s a movie about the slow and agonizing process self-improvement, known in some circles as repentance.

Best line: “I’m a god.” “You’re God?” “I’m a god. I’m not *the* God… I don’t think.”

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Cover of

Sommersby

Set in the deep south immediately after the Civil War, Laurel Sommersby is barely surviving, working the farm without her husband Jack, who is believed dead in the war. Jack Sommersby was an abusive, coarse man, so his return is unwelcome to Laurel, who has been seeing another, kinder man.  But Jack has changed a great deal.   Some, especially Laurel’s suitor, believe that this is not actually Jack but an imposter. Laurel herself is unsure, but takes the man into her home and learns to love him.  This is a story of reformation, integrity and supreme sacrifice under conditions of extreme poverty.

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Ikiru

A Japanese bureaucrat tries to find meaning to his life after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He must learn courage and take up a  respectful, yet dogged struggle against the bureaucracy to right previous wrongs and injustices.

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Braveheart

Mistake #1: Primae Noctis? Are you crazy, Long Shanks?
Mistake #2: Slicing up William Wallace’s woman? Are you asking to get your fort burned down? Never hack off a Scotsman.
Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the battle painted warrior poet William Wallace is easily one of the greatest heroes in all of movie history.

Best line: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

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City of Joy

Dr. Max Lowe (Patrick Swayze) abruptly deserts his practice as a surgeon and falls into depression.  He flees to Calcutta, India to lose himself, but finds Joan Bethel, a local social worker and discovers the joy of unselfish service and a life with meaning.  He makes friends with a family in desperate need.  Hazari Pal and his family are desperately poor, having been swindled out of all their money.  Hazari takes a job working for a local godfather, but things go from bad to worse.  Dr. Lowe finds himself in the middle of brutal suppression.  He steps into the breech to defend Hazari’s family at great personal risk.

Best Line:  “How long are you going to keep drilling holes in the ocean?”

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Jericho (TV Series)

A series of terrorist attacks leaves the US in a state of disaster.  The small Kansas town of Jericho must come together to deal with a new reality.  Along the way, they unravel a massive government conspiracy, organize a militia, fight off desperate neighboring towns, but most of all, learn to trust and work with old friends and rivals.
It’s TEOTWAWKI.  Deal with it!

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Sharing, teaching and reinforcing positive values through the arts can make our Village(s) better prepared for times that are tough or even if they’re not.

 

A Different Sort of Courage

Common wisdom: Courage is assertion in the face of risk.

But sometimes, courage requires us to shut up when we disagree, let others express themselves without interruption, and still others to carry the burden of my debate.  To trust that truth may lie outside my own consciousness, that it will only be revealed by others is to trust in the worthiness of opponents, friends and strangers.

The courage of humility is to wait, to hope, to listen.

The fruit of Courageous Humility is Uncommon Wisdom.

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.

Aftermath of 9/11 – Hope, Peace, Power

Victor Guzman survived 9/11 from the 85th floor of the World Trade Center  Watch this video to see how he lived to tell how 9/11 changed his life in a positive way.
In a strange way, his story is my story.

I was on the opposite coast that dreadful morning, but the impact was no less devastating.  I had celebrated my 50th birthday 12 days earlier by being downsized from the best, most lucrative position of my career as International Division President of Allied Domecq (Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts).  I almost never watch TV, but for some reason that morning I flipped on the news a few seconds before the image of the first plane hitting the first tower seared itself into my consciousness.  I believe the impulse to turn on the TV at that moment was not an accident.  I called my family together and remember telling them that I didn’t know what it meant, but it was hugely significant and the world would never be the same from that moment forward.

Newly emancipated from my career at its peak, I was still full of confidence.  I decided to take advantage of that moment of freedom and reward my dear wife, who had faithfully followed me across the world as we climbed the ladder.  We abruptly sold our California house, moved to Atlanta and built our 5,000 square foot dream house where we could be near her family.

What followed was four years of unemployment.  It was a period when, like Mr. Guzman in this video, I had the time to be intensely involved with my family.  We enjoyed precious moments working, playing and studying the scriptures together.  It was also a time of grief and depression.  My oldest son, stricken with the disease of schizophrenia took his life.  The first five years following 9/11 was punctuated by some consulting work and one year as International Division Managing Director (President equivalent) at Papa John’s International.  In that year, my performance exceeded all the targets I was given, but within one year to the day, I was fired by a boss who had never intended to fill that position and knew it would be vacant again one year from filling it.  I had sold our Atlanta home and relocated to a place we didn’t want to be.  Success meeting my objectives at Papa John’s had refreshed my confidence, but this time I was done with living inside the matrix, the corporate life.

It had been just over five years since 9/11 and my departure from Allied Domecq.  The second 5-year phase of post 9/11 life began.  Always supportive, Becky followed me as I threw what was left of our life savings and all of my energy into building a community where we could live free and independent, surrounded by honest, supportive, creative and hard-working people of like mind, good people who care about their fellow-man as Christ taught.  This second 5-year segment has not been easy, nor financially profitable. Today, I have more questions than I have answered.  But, of the things that are important, I am blessed.  My children are now all independent – two in college, two married with children.  I had time to be with them in their formative years, building and enjoying them. I live in a place of immense natural beauty.  My personal land and home are debt free.  I have time to think and have spent a much of my time meditating, reading and writing.  My wife has thrown herself into raising a garden that feeds us.  We have a secure, private supply of clean, pure, life-giving water.  Our efforts have yielded a core group of trusted, beloved friends.

So, you can see, 9/11 has a great deal of significance to me.  You could say it was the beginning of a ten-year journey through tumult, failure, sadness, depression, blessings, hope, peace and empowerment.  The journey has just begun.

In this moment of reflection, I am impressed to tell you that
the outcome of the next years will depend on whether we sink into confused despair or realize that we are individually and collectively powerful.  With God’s guidance, we can create a world of hope, peace and power.

Thoreau’s 4 Steps to Great Accomplishment

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe”
– – – Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau’s wisdom begs four great questions:
Do I have a dream?
Do I have a plan?
Am I acting on the plan?
Do I believe I can get there?

To the first three, I can shout an unequivocal, “YES”!
I have a big, vivid, dream.
I have worked out detailed plans that are continuously revised against life’s realities.
And I have worked to realize the dream.
These are the easy and obvious steps, commonly practiced by much of humanity.

The greatest obstacle to grand dreams is in the daily grind of caring for faith despite the setbacks, the delays, the distractions, the unbelievers, the trivializers and the scoffers.
Faith is a delicate flower that must be nurtured and protected against all enemies.

I am thankful for friends and family who lend me their hope and encouragement, especially my neighbor, Joe Nunley.
Without friends, my faith and my dreams may have suffered a premature death.