Re-focus for 2010…and beyond !

“…we have never had an atheist President of the United States. Could it be that the people would be unwilling to put their trust in someone who did not feel accountable to a higher power?” (God and Science.org)


Well, that whole ‘kaleidoscope’ effect I mentioned in my previous post continues. My mind is shifting & swirling as I attempt to co-ordinate facts, descriptions, and theories, as well as consider the viability of opinions. Right on the heels of reading (highlighting, re-reading & formulating a plan! for my next post, i.e.,this one) the 14-page transcript of this past Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, I allowed myself to be led down the paths presented by the near-destruction of Flight 253 on Christmas Day. Which means, one article leading to another leading to another, on terrorist networks, individuals, strategies & counter-strategies, and then found myself back at the Guantanamo debacle. And yes, there’s more! but let me not get into all that right now…while not exactly exploding, my head is full! I never attended college, but I imagine this is how college students often feel…

(Sigh…)

I have found that, in my explorations of current events, especially as relates to Middle East conflicts, probably too much of my focus tends to life & death-type, weighty scenarios & realities, to the detriment of just Life, as in Christ. Though He is the reason, and the power within & behind, what I attempt here, I forget – not Him but the rest that is in Him. I know that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing, with ‘God, History and You’, but perhaps at this juncture, I and my posts need a touch of the Word of God.

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While reviewing the issues discussed during this week’s ‘Meet the Press’, one or two seemed to rise to the surface. So, here goes –

When asked what the mood of the country, politically, is at this time, Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick replied, “Sour and angry…” NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea
Mitchell agreed, identifying an “angry subtext” to the spirit of America that she finds “very, very worrisome”. Ms. Mitchell described this anger as not being ‘fact-based’ but rather an “angry populism which is…furious at everybody”. She points to economic collapse as the root cause of this anger.

Governor Patrick sees it pretty much the same way.

Adding his insight to the mix, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich presents a different slant. The initial ‘transparency’ campaign rhetoric, which seemed as almost euphoria to many , built us up to let us down – expectations of openness were instead met with “…secret deals, ramming through stimulus…in a secret way, basically bribing senators…” Gingrich sees this betrayal of a promise, this misuse of power as cause for much of the sour mood settling across America.

Now, what I’m thinking goes something like this – with whom are Americans really angry? A global economic crash? How does one pinpoint anger at a worldwide event? Our President, for not remaining true, or our Congress members? Well, that’s more feasible, but God gave us a warning way back in time that holds a clue to this anger, I think. Few there be that heed it – “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3, KJV). Or, to put it a different (and by different, I mean, the same!) way – “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Psalm 118: 8,9, KJV)

Our human nature wants to feel secure, and we naturally feel more secure when we can see, hear and/or handle that which supposedly is helping & protecting us. You know, like the apostle Thomas needed to see the wounds of the risen Christ before he could believe…but everybody knows that “…blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, KJV)

‘Man’ and ‘princes’ represent people and government/agencies. It isn’t that help will not come through them, it very well may…but our trust would be much more wisely & safely placed in God. ‘Man’ and ‘princes’ are fallible and prone to err. One way or another, they/we misstep, misjudge, become greedy, power hungry, you name it, the list goes on…how can we fully trust anything/anyone like this? Scripture aside, common sense dictates that we not!

It’s a tricky mix though, a balancing act, because the United States of America is a “We, the people” kind of government, as indeed it should be. Still, having put all our eggs in the ‘economy’ basket, or the “Yes, we can!” basket has left so many of us…angry. Bitter. Scared?


We trusted the wrong thing.


So perhaps a good starting point, internally, for at least some of us in this New Year of 2010 would be to re-focus on how & where we place our trust. Everything else doesn’t have to grind to a halt; obviously, that would not work! Doing nothing isn’t my point…but more is required for certain kinds of success than the activities of men & princes, than meetings of Congress & Presidential decisions, government programs & stimulus packages. As aforementioned, it is not that good will never come through such actions, it very well may and, in times both past and present, surely has & will again. But to count on them alone, to put your trust in them alone, is foolhardy. The mercy of our God is what saves us, and an inner re-set of where we first look for help may be what saves the spirit of America.

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Tackling the Economy…

Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have ever imagined myself watching a program about business journalism (if I actually had dreams about such topics!). And not only watching, but watching with interest – avid interest. But such has been the case The paths down which I find myself wandering, all leading back to my Revolutionary War studies, are a constant source of amazement to me, and whole new worlds of learning, from then to now, continue to unfold.
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Steve Pearlstein, business columnist for the Washington Post, ‘guess-timates’ that Americans have been living about 6% beyond their means (p.12) for some time now. As most of us know, the culprit is credit. It became very easy to spend $1.06 for every $1.00 earned. Taking into account the size of this country, and its vast population, it’s easy to see this runaway horse galloping across the land, leaving a wide trail of debt in its wake.

Though information was out there, it has been suggested that many Americans were not really aware of our impending economic crisis until later in 2008. I remember hearing radio broadcasts predicting the disaster lasting until the first quarter of 2010, and I still hadn’t really felt the pinch of it yet. In fact, it was news to me! It seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t that worried, as I’ve never had alot of money and am used to counting my pennies, tightening my purse strings fairly often. But I wondered, how did this happen? Where did it come from? Why didn’t more of us see the signs? Pearlstein compares the apparently sudden manifestation of this financial malady to Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off the cliff, moving so fast that he just keeps going & going, still in mid-air, then suddenly – Whoops!! That’s the dynamic, because there’s so much built in momentum, that it appears that that which should be happening isn’t,”Pearlstein explains. Looking back, I think my first indication of a coming economic meltdown was a subtle but startling change in the size of my favorite super-large Hershey’s chocolate bar. Seriously. The price didn’t drop, but the size did. Sometimes, it’s in the small stuff…

Articles warning of the coming financial crisis appeared in the New York Times, as far back as about seven years ago, according to its senior financial writer Diana Henriques. Newspapers nationwide reported on troubling mortgage industry issues. But not everybody reads the New York Times, or the finance pages. The average American’s interests are focused elsewhere, not on high finance. More street level, let’s say. As for business moguls, supposedly very knowledgeable in their areas of expertise “…people were buying things in the financial world that they didn’t fully understand, and they were paying a great deal of money for them.” (Ali Velshi, chief business correspondent, CNN)

Author of Give Me My Money Back: Your Guide to Beating the Financial Crisis, Ali Velshi (quoted above) explains how such an ‘overheated’ financial environment was initially created by the repeated reselling of mortgages,resulting in a handful of organizations holding multitudes of them. When homeowners couldn’t make the payments…down, down, down came the ‘house of cards’, as Velshi calls them. Now, as we all know, rebuilding is necessary, one way or another, throughout our society.

So, I’m thinking, why were homeowners unable to make their mortgage payments? Well, why do any of us not make a payment, for anything? Clearly, not enough cash to go around. (And though there are many reasons this can be true, one of them is buying too much.} So we opt for – credit. (Even as I write this, I must confess that for the first time in many, many years, I was forced to avail myself of a credit card. I am grateful for it. Without this little piece of plastic, I’d be eating even less than I already often do. But food is essential…so even though, as a rule, I personally am against using credit cards, buying on time, there are exceptions. I try to live by grace, not law, so in faith I took the plunge and signed up. So far, so good…)

But overdoing the credit routine can result in disaster.

“The American dream made you feel that it was always going to be better and always going to be more. And, by the way, that better and more was available through credit,” says the CNN correspondent. Your payments go up, you become strapped for cash, so you charge more, the payments go up…and the cycle continues. Well, here’s a novel idea – “think of the way we spend money as maybe having it first, and prioritizing what we spend, ” he continues, suggesting: “I think to bring it to its most basic terms, we need a society where you save for two years to buy a TV, not buy a TV and pay for it for two years.” (See my post “What We Need”)

I keep seeing the term ‘unsustainable market’ popping up. Makes sense. Eventually you reap what you sow, and things catch up to us. We’re in this together, not only as a nation but as a worldwide community. Months back, at the World Economic Forum, discussion pointed to the belief that the United States has caused international economic crises, and that the United States is needed to remedy them, as well. (Alexis Glick, vice president of business news at the Fox Business Network.,p.14) As a nation, we are the problem and we are its solution, apparently. As America goes, so goes the world. Whether or not we individually contributed to the downfall, we feel its impact. It’s to all our benefit to seek & implement solutions to this economic disaster, when possible. Ms. Glick, who has a staggeringly impressive business & economics background, sees the political risk of continuing financial instability to be ‘incredibly dangerous’, so, again, it behooves us all…

Quoting the CEO of General Electric, Dick Gregory, host of Meet the Press, said this past winter, “The economic crisis doesn’t represent a cycle; it represents a `reset.’ It’s an emotional, social, economic reset….” I’ll wrap up this post with the response of one of his guests that week, leaving you with a wonderfully practical, hopeful outlook –

“…I love that he said “reset,” because–I am actually glad that we had this recession because we were on a path that we couldn’t get off, and we did need that reset. We need, we needed people to step back and stop taking on so much debt and really go back to the basics. The basics are the basics because they always work no matter what the economy is. Live below your means, don’t take on so much debt and save.

But, you know, there’s hope. This, too, shall pass. And if people do the right thing, take the message that you can’t keep on the same path that you were before, we will be OK.” -Michelle Singletary, Washington Post financial columnist (source)

Source: The Kalb Report


Hope

Several times now, it has crossed my mind that, as much as definite corrective measures must be undertaken to repair and recover our crashing (crashed?) economy, so must there be hope. One is no less important than the other.

I remember reading a statement by Hal Lindsey, a favorite author of mine, whose book “The Liberation of Planet Earth” (now re-titled “Amazing Grace“) I was reading when I, as Christians would say, ‘came to Christ’. (In truth, I would say He came to me…but that’s another story!) Lindsey observed that man can live ‘x’ amount of days without food, and ‘x’ amount of days without water, but without hope, barely seconds. You may not even realize how hope is what keeps you going. We all are looking for the next step, something better, something or something else that will improve the quality of our life, or our day. Even if it’s just your next meal. Hopeful expectations propel us forward. We begin a project, chore or just about anything! because we are expecting to accomplish a goal, see a result. If you believed there would never be that result, would you even start? Why bother? But if there’s hope…

Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man “..thinketh in his heart, so is he.” While this section of Scripture is actually warning us of the deceitfulness of the actions of a certain caliber of man, with a certain mindset, the principle is sound. You want hope to be in your heart. Christ in you, if he is in you, is called “the hope” of glory. (Colossians 1:27) Abraham of Old Testament fame, when informed by God that he, an approximately 100 year old man (whose wife was no spring chicken!) would “…father…many nations”, became the man who “against hope believed in hope (Romans 4:18). Now I’m thinkin’ that a feat like that, a century-old couple having a baby, from whom no less nations would spring forth! is definitely comparable to restoring a national economy. I’m thinkin’ that if one happened, so can the other. (Now, my Bible reading followers know the outcome of this tale of old, but for those who may not be familiar with the rest of the story: Abraham & Sarah’s miracle baby Isaac grew up and became the eventual father of Jacob, re-named Israel, from whence sprang the twelve tribes of Israel. ) Time constraints prohibit a more detailed geneaological retracing, but I imagine it’s possible. For now, my parting comment in this paragraph is: And the rest is history…

(Oh, and for you God-haters out there who may be thinking, yeah, well, look at the mess Israel is in, to you I say, this story’s not over yet. His plans for Israel are still playing themselves out…)

One last Scriptural example (bear with me, my non-Christian readers) – although, again, the import of this statement is more spiritually directed, still…”…he that ploweth should plow in hope…” (1 Corinthians 9:10). The measures that America takes to fix her economy should be taken in hope. As conflicted and oppositional as parties and citizens may feel, or be, over these issues and their origins, solutions can be found. The imperfection of them shall not stop us from hoping for, and striving for, better ones.



Just Comments…

Another Sunday morning’s worth of political talk shows/forums, and I feel like I’ve been riddled with machine gun fire, coming at me from all directions and assaulting my brain. And no, it’s not them, it’s me…

Rather than try to gather more info on any one particular topic, I thought that, for today anyway, I’d post a few comments on the issues. Just comments. Just a few. Food for thought…

“…this is… the most ambitious recovery package in the… history of this country.” – David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President , speaking of the Stimulus Package

…the measure [stimulus] will create only 2.2 million jobs by the end of 2010, leaving unemployment hovering around ten percent…forcing…another stimulus plan.” – opinion of Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at moodyseconomy.com, as quoted in the Washington Post ( Well, we’ll see, right? Personally, I’m going forward in faith, looking to God for a better day.)

“You’ve got to spend now to get out of this problem. – Roger Simon, Chief Political Columnist, Politico

“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al-Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are committed…to kill Americans, then I worry. [Protecting the United States from terrorist attack] sometimes…requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that’s what the Obama administration believes.” – former Vice President Dick Cheney, as quoted in Politico

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