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September 20, 2017

Canada is big—roughly the size of the United States, but in population, the U.S. is ten times more populous. Canada, this year, is celebrating its 150th year as a nation (still an integral part of the British Empire). Unprecedented numbers of Canadians are celebrating that anniversary by visiting their great provincial parks—free, during 2017.

Camp Hope is nestled in the mountains

Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed, in recent years, that the U.S. and Canada are gradually but inexorably merging their cultures, states, and provinces. When it’s hot in the U.S., U.S. citizens travel north; when it’s cold in Canada, Canadians travel south. In Florida, during a certain week in the autumn, it seems like half of Canada has arrived in the suddenly crowded streets. The same is true in California and Arizona. More and more, both nations are tending to refer to states and provinces interchangeably.

Canadians often feel suffocated by the omnipresent U.S. media, impossible to avoid since the vast majority of Canadians live so close to the U.S. border. And they are bombarded by U.S. media 24/7. In fact, that constant electronic blitz makes it increasingly difficult for Canadians to maintain their cultural uniqueness. Intermarriage blurs that as well: our daughter Michelle married Duane Culmore of Oshawa, Ontario, thus resulting in our two grandsons, Taylor and Seth, being dual citizens of both nations.

Thus when I was recently invited to direct two camp meeting seminars in Hope, British Columbia, we welcomed the opportunity to learn more about that great nation to our north.


In America, camp meetings have been part of our culture for centuries. In fact, most Protestant churches have a long rich tradition of holding them. Even the generally secular Chautauqua gatherings were little different from the Christian camp meetings structure-wise.

The Lodge at Camp Hope

For a while it appeared that camp meetings would be snuffed out by our secular culture, however, it’s amazing to see how many churches stubbornly refuse to give them up. It is my personal belief that the American pendulum (both the U.S. and Canada are alike Americans) has ideologically swung so far to the left that it has reached the point where there almost has to be a course correction. Especially is this true in the more conservative heartland outside the mega-cities. I submit that the continued existence of camp meetings is part of this cultural phenomenon.

Next week, I’ll tell you what it’s like to attend a camp meeting in this new millenium.



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Travelers Who Never Leave Home




September 13, 2017

Yes, it’s not only possible but it is far more common than one might think. Indeed, there are millions of these vicarious travelers, men and women who travel only in their minds. Many of them read our blogs and tell me how much they enjoy the travel blogs and stories (42 and counting) that bear my name.

There are many reasons for stay-at-home traveling. Perhaps the #1 reason has to do with the fact that we tend to marry opposites. Which is probably a good thing: otherwise wimps would perpetuate wimps, spendthrifts would marry spendthrifts and be forced to file for bankruptcy every other month; shy people would marry shy people and never leave the house if they could help it; lazy people would marry lazy people—and starve; and boring people would marry boring people—and no one could stand getting close to either one.

Result: many a chronic traveler, by marrying a stay-at-homer, is doomed to a life of vicarious traveling, compensating by subscribing to travel magazines, reading travel books and blogs, and watching travel television and films.

Another reason has to do with health. If one of them is so crippled health-wise that actual travel is impossible, the other, more likely than not, sighs and stays home.

Yet another has to do with workaholics. They don’t travel because they are nailed to jobs (voluntarily or involuntarily). Many because they are forced to because of circumstances and choices they made, and at least as many who are unreformable workaholic martyrs (their spouses are true martyrs because they’re forced to stay at home if they wish to stay married).

Somewhat surprisingly, one reason is not because they couldn’t travel even if they wanted to. Reason being that anyone can travel short distances, even if it be by bicycle or foot. Some travelers, such as Thoreau, explore life in miniature. Thoreau famously devoted two entire years to just learning everything there was to learn about Walden Pond.

So whatever the reason why you enjoy travel (actual or vicarious), I’m honored that so many of you enjoy our travel blogs and stories. Furthermore, travel unshared would be hollow and insipid.

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Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers”





September 6, 2017

Illustration from Rand McNally, 1923

It is September, and that means summer’s over, and it’s back to work for older folk, and back to school for the young. What a perfect time to toss into the mix one of the greatest swashbuckling novels of all time: Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. I’ve read it several times, each time on the edge of my seat. Each time, I’m drained when I get to the end.

Bantam Classic – 1984

As I re-read it this time, I couldn’t help but think about how historically inaccurate much of our romantic fiction is, especially historical romances penned during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I speak principally of the myth of happily ever after romances of the nobility and aristocracy. In truth, marriage was almost always dynastic and arranged; love was something you found outside of marriage. Look no further than the Princess Diana tragedy for a case in point. Even today, in many Latin countries, the same scenarios continue to play out.

In this respect at least Dumas is historically accurate: you’ll have to dig deep to find examples of marital bliss and compatibility in the pages of this novel. Not just among the royal and semi-royal but also in the lives of those who served them.

Also, note the ruinous effects of gambling. Fans of Downton Abbey will note that it has continued to be a problem even into the twentieth century.

So fertile was Dumas publishing history and life that it almost defies short biography sketches. But Bantam produced a pretty good one for its unabridged edition:


(Pere) lived a life as romantic as that depicted in his famous novels. He was born on July 24, 1802, at Villers-Cotterêts, France, the son of Napoleon’s famous mulatto general, Dumas. His early education was scanty, but his beautiful handwriting secured him a position in Paris in 1822 with the duc d’Orléans, where he read voraciously and began to write. His first play, Henri Ill et sa cour (1829), scored a resounding success for its author and for the romantic movement. Numerous dramatic successes followed (including the melodrama Kean, later adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre), and so did numerous mistresses and adventures. He took part in the revolution of 1830, fathered two illegitimate children by two different mistresses, and then married still another mistress. (The first of these two children, Alexandre Dumas [fils], became a famous author also.) His lavish spending and flamboyant habits led to the construction of his fabulous Château de Monte-Cristo, and in 1851 he fled to Belgium to escape creditors. He died on December 5, 1870, bankrupt but still cheerful, saying of death, “I shall tell her a story, and she will be kind to me.”Dumas’s overall literary output reached over 277 volumes, but his brilliant historical novels made him the most universally read of all French novelists. With collaborators, mainly Auguste Maquet, Dumas wrote such works as The Three Musketeers [1843-44]; its sequels, Twenty Years After (1945) and the great mystery The Man in the Iron Mask (1848-50); and The Count of Monte Cristo [1844]. L’action and l’amour were the two essential things in his life and in his fiction. He declared he “elevated history to the dignity of the novel” by means of love affairs, intrigues, imprisonments, hairbreadth escapes, and duels. His work ignored historical accuracy, psychology, and analysis, but its thrilling adventure and exuberant inventiveness continues to delight readers, and Dumas remains one of the prodigies of nineteenth-century French literature.

Bantam Pathfinder Edition

As for the book itself, it’s about as accurate as most nineteenth century historical novels. The characterizations of Louis XIII and Richelieu are well done. Anne of Austria led an extremely sad and loveless life as queen. Buckingham is fairly well done. In real life, he was self-centered, narcissistic, caring not who he hurt as long as he had his way; he was slain by an assassin, just as in the book.

Following is Bantam’s summation of the book:

Perhaps the greatest “cloak and sword” story ever written, The Three Musketeers, first published in 1844, is a tale for all time. Pitting the heroic young d’Artagnan and his noble compatriots Athos, Porthos, and Aramis against the master of intrigue, Cardinal Richelieu, and the quintessential wicked woman, Lady de Winter, Alexandre Dumas has created an enchanted France of swordplay, schemes, and assignations. The era and the characters are based on historical fact, but the glittering romance and fast-paced action spring from a great writer’s incomparable imagination. From the perilous retrieval of the queen’s gift to her lover in time to foil Richelieu’s plot, to the melodramatic revelation of Lady de Winter’s true identity, The Three Musketeers is the unchallenged archetype for literary romance and a perennial delight for generations of readers.Bantam editors are correct: If you can find a wickeder and more malevolent female protagonist in all literature, you’re a wider reader than I.

But prepare yourself: Once you have a few early chapters under your belt, find a quiet room and settle in for one of the most unputdownable reads of your lifetime. And you’ll see for yourself why the four musketeers have become immortals all over the world.

By all means, purchase only an unabridged edition.

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Democracy Lost in Turkey





August 30, 2017

Istanbul – The Hagia Sophia

One of our all-time-favorite cities is Istanbul, founded by the Roman emperor Constantine 1700 years ago. During our most recent cruise to Turkey, our Istanbul guide was an effervescent Turkish woman who did her best to sell the country she so loved to all those tourists who followed and listened to her as we visited historic sights in the ancient city; a city that stood as the world’s queen city for over a thousand years—and, not incidentally, the only great city that straddles two continents (Europe and Asia).

But, ominously—in the middle of her extolling the virtues of her country and the liberties its women enjoy—, a shadow came over her face, and she said, “But friends, I can’t help but worry about my country and its millions of women. The person who leads our country is determined to curtail our freedoms . . . but I’m hopeful that somehow we as a people can collectively hold on to the liberty we have enjoyed since Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish republic in 1923.”

Unfortunately, all her worst forebodings have come true. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved swiftly in the last year, to turn Turkey’s once vibrant democracy into a brutal Islamic dictatorship. And, inexorably, in the process the disenfranchising of Turkish women.

In the Sunday July 23, 2017 Denver Post, columnist Chuck Plunkett’s “A Warning From and For a Troubled Land” jumped out at me. Plunkett referenced a recent visit to Denver by exiled journalist Abdulhamit Billici, former editor-in-chief of Turkey’s pre-eminent newspaper, Zaman, which has now been snuffed out by Erdogan. The exiled editor spoke at some length with members of the Post’s editorial board. Here is the gist of what the Denver editors found out:

“Erdogan has jailed journalists, judges, intellectuals and security forces, fired tens of thousands more, shuttered two hundred news organizations, and generally made a mess of things in a country that only a few years ago served as a model free-market democracy for the region.Last March as Billici and fellow journalists were hard at work in the newsroom one Friday afternoon, “storm troopers toting serious weapons surrounded the building. When crowds gathered to protest, police hit them with water cannons and tear gas.” Police then entered the building and replaced the editorial leadership with government-controlled mouthpieces. Fearing for his life, and unsure whether his passport was still valid, Billici escaped, alone, and got across the border in the middle of night.

In Billici’s own words: “A president elected by a populist surge, deftly plays to nationalist desire for a return to the glory days of Turkish dominance—of the Ottoman Empire—finds himself enmeshed in a shady scandal after members of his inner circle are accused of taking bribes to overlook illegal actions by a foreign country.

A president who works a narrative that too many of the country’s judges, academics, journalists and human rights advocates are part of a corrupt urban elite. Indeed, part of the opposition—and therefore dangerous to the country’s future. A president who seeks to amend the constitution to consolidate power—against the will of half the people in his country—and who succeeds in doing so.”

A month after all this, a narrow margin of voters [voter fraud is suspected but cannot be proved] agreed to shift executive power from the parliament to the presidency, and to grant presidents three five-year terms, which would keep Erdogan in power until 2029.

Soberly, Billici continued, “Now the death penalty is back. Critics are tortured in jails. A state of emergency means arrests can occur for the most dubious of charges, and no one believes the courts are independent of Erdogan.”

Then Billici concludes with, “In hardly any time at all, a functioning democracy responsible to the people has been dismantled and replaced by a strong man tyrant whose power depends on dividing the nation into loyalists and enemies.

What happened in Turkey is an extreme result of what happens when populist movements and the opportunistic politicians who enthrall them lose sight of what’s important to maintain in their tear-it-all-down zeal. Concepts like democracy and free speech, respect for the institutions that provide checks and balances and the rule of law are too easy to shed while in the throes of raw emotion and anger.”

The Post editorial team then added its own coda: “You don’t really think it could happen. And then you meet someone who just lived it first-hand.”

* * * * *

As I read Billici’s heartbreaking summation of the fall of one of the world’s great democracies, I was reminded of what members of a conclave of prelates from around the world concluded after considerable discussion: A few years ago they concluded that they were seriously worried about America. As America continues to lose reading households (where books, magazines, and newspapers are accessed in order to know how and who to vote for), and basing voting decisions on 30-second attack ads put out by anonymous sources—they seriously doubted that America’s democracy can long survive.

Forewarned is forearmed. But fewer and fewer Americans bother to read anymore, so our current freedoms are anything but a given.

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Boys Who Will Never Grow Up — Part III






August 23, 2017

Picking up from my August 9 blog, I shall continue.

Our faithful blog readers will remember that, during the last seven years, I’ve returned several times to the plight of our boys.

Significantly, if they fail to fall in love with reading by the third grade, they are most likely to be bored by school and bail out of education, often before they even graduate from high school. As a result of such failure to persevere and achieve, statistically they set themselves up for the following: they are very likely to compensate for their minimum wage jobs by all kinds of substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, electronic gaming, pornography, indiscriminate sex, and other forms of escapism). Because all this induces feelings of low self-worth, they are more likely to commit suicide than their industrious peers.

Now let’s discuss the inner effects of wasting the nonrenewable time we may be given in life. More to the point, does it really matter much what you put in your minds?

Let’s turn first to Dr. Henry James (l1811-1882) renowned American philosopher and writer. In his famed Principles of Psychology:

The hell to be endured hereafter, which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way. Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar. The drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson’s play, excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by saying, ‘I won’t count this time!’ Well, he may not count it, and a kind Heaven may not count it; but it is being counted none the less. Down among his nerve-cells and fibers the molecules are counting it, registering it and storing it up to be used against him when the next temptation comes. Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out” (referenced in my book, Remote Controlled, Review and Herald, 1993).In the same book (the result of 30 years of television-related research), I also referenced Roland Hegsted’s powerful little book, Mind Manipulators:

“One of the most fascinating discoveries of scientists charting the human mind has been the discovery of neuron circuits related to memory in our temporal lobes…. Recently I spent several hours talking with Dr. Wilder Penfield, former director of the world-famous Montreal Neurological Institute [later, Penfield was Professor of Neurophysiology at McGill University]. It was studies by Dr. Penfield that revealed this file of memories reaching back to earliest childhood. By using a probe that delivered an electronic shock to the brain tissue, Dr. Penfield triggered vivid recall of long-forgotten events. It was, he said, ‘as though a strip of cinema film had been set in motion within the brain.’“Dr. Penfield told me of operating on a young woman suffering from epilepsy. When he stimulated a point on the surface of her cortex she heard an orchestra playing. In surprise she asked whether music was being piped into the operating room. When Dr. Penfield turned off the electric probe the music stopped. Every time the current was turned on, and he moved the needle to the same spot, the orchestra started up again, and the woman listened to it, at its original tempo, from verse to chorus, just as she had heard it years before. She even re-experienced the thrill of emotion she had felt while sitting in the theater. The whole performance had been indelibly inscribed on microscopic cells of her mind.

“The significant fact we should note here is that events of which we have no conscious recall are nevertheless printed—as if on a cinema film—within our mind. Every television program, every radio drama, every billboard message, every advertisement, every book and magazine read, every person scrutinized, every suspicion harbored, every word spoken—it’s all there. And those unconscious memories—the sum total of all that we have put into our mind—make up the kind of person we are today and will be tomorrow” (also referenced in Remote Controlled).

So much for blithe assumptions that what we put into our minds, singly, has no long-term impact. Which leads us to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (August’s Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month selection): Note that Dr. James notes that each “small” thing we expose our mind to, leaves its scar. C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, labels it a “mark”:

“…Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. . . . [There is the] mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure—or enjoy—forever.” Now let’s get back to last week’s subject:

It is indeed one of the wonders of God’s universe how this vast living library of videotape translates into day-to-day behavior. As babies we were, except for inherited tendencies, virtually unprogrammed. However, as the years pass, we become more and more the prisoners of our library. We find it increasingly difficult to deviate from what we are and have been in the past. As long as we live, breathe, and retain control, the opportunity to change will exist—but it is dependent on what new videos are being cataloged and wired into our mainframe each day, or, as C. S. Lewis would put it, on the marks that continue to be made on our souls.Since we are unaware of what other people, even family members, are opening their minds to, we may be shocked by actions they take that are so at variance with what we had perceived to be their values.

In conclusion, the next time you or one of your children pose the question: “How can one little R-rated movie hurt me?” Just think back to Henry James, Wilder Penfield, and C. S. Lewis, and the significant statements they made. C. S. Lewis warned us that each mark is significant because marks tend to cluster and become habits, habits cluster and become character, and character determines our eternal destiny.

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Boys Who Will Never Grow Up – Part II






August 16, 2017

Now let me turn to a recent Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial titled “The Video Game Trap.” Here is what their editors concluded:

A group of economists released a paper recently suggesting young men are working fewer hours because they are spending so much time playing video games. Video games might also help explain a study last month from Johns Hopkins University researchers who said today’s 19-year-old is as sedentary as a 60-year-old.Inactive lifestyles, obesity and the opioid epidemic have combined to end a streak of life expectancy increases. In 2015, the number dropped for the first time in two decades—from 78.9 to 78.8.

The economists found that American men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year than the same age group did in 2000. Part of that difference is because gaming and social isolation prevent some men from even entering the workforce.

Inactive lifestyles and poor diets are directly linked to increasing obesity rates, which correlate with the decline in life expectancy.

Choosing social isolation or gaming over a fulfilling job or friendship deprives a person of support systems that could help when dealing with an addiction. And decreased productivity and unemployment prevent the economy from reaching peak efficiency, thereby hurting others who are fully engaged in the workforce. Americans need to get back to moving their bodies.” (The Denver Post, July 23, 2017).

Keep in mind that girls are also at risk for wasting their young lives in downhill slides into substance abuse and inner deterioration. Because girls are wired differently, at colleges across the nation, there are 50% more coeds attending than males today—which leaves coeds with fewer and fewer educated males to choose from as they search for husbands.

If we look around us and take a clear-eyed analysis of what we see, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a very large portion of parents are flunking parenthood by abdicating the traditional roles of motherhood and fatherhood. Instead, they are like adolescents themselves. They do virtually nothing to instill work ethics in their children, they encourage even their teen and adult children to lay around the house all day, play video games most of the night, and sleep until noon or later of the next day. The parents reason, Why make them work when they don’t have to? Sooner or later they’ll have to work—they can deal with it then.

The obvious result is that we thereby accelerate the decline of our families and our nation. Such parental abdication of the God-given responsibility to raise God-fearing, ethical, caring, honest, diligent, industrious children all can be proud of, is literally a national catastrophe in the making.

Such parents fail to take into consideration that throughout time there has been chronicled a natural progression of growth: half of what we learn in life we learn by six. Our work habits are already being formed by our tween years. Our attitudes toward character development, intellectual goal-setting, social interaction, responsibility, preparation for marriage and parenting, career goals and preparation for work careers, respect and appreciation for one’s country and its values, concepts of selfless service for others, avoidance of all forms of substance abuse, solid work ethic, and a deep desire to follow God’s will in all they do and say and are.

None of which are likely to take place if a parent abdicates tough love and a willingness to postpone popularity and appreciation in their children until those children grow up, look back, and then say,

“Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Mom

for seeing me, seeing us, through.”

* * * * *

We shall conclude this series next week.