Posted on

Who Can You Trust Today?




May 24, 2017

This is no idle question. In this week’s news is a recent study having to do with American citizenry’s search for truth: Conclusion being there is no longer any one source the majority of Americans trust as offering objective truth they can bank on. Can believe.

I have found this to be an accurate summation in terms of my own search for truth. Time and New York Times are center-left; Newsweek (sadly no more) and Wall Street Journal are center-right; on television, MSNBC is extreme left; CNN is center-left; and Fox is extreme right. If I determine to track down truth, I’m forced to consult all of them—which I do. But since the average person is not a historian of ideas, taking time only to consider one or two sources, truth will be out of reach for him/her.

Politicians have long been known for speaking out of both sides of their mouths at once—but never to the extent that we are experiencing today!

This disastrous-for-democracy reality has been a long time coming. For several generations now, print has been an endangered species. Once great libraries dumping primary sources (think books and magazines) in favor of digitizing everything; encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses also being digitized; even paper maps becoming passé; home libraries—what are they?

Dystopian writers and thought-leaders have long feared dictators who would (a la 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451) destroy democracies by getting rid of all printed records. Once that is accomplished, the people cannot disprove the dictator’s version of the truth. But it isn’t just malevolence we’ll need to fear. For instance, just during the last week, hundreds of millions of people across the globe have been hacked into, held hostage, and forced to pay up in order to ransom their computerized records. So now, what-if?

What if the next global catastrophe has to do with the destruction of the grid? For some time now, governmental leaders have feared such a thing—but not enough to take serious steps to prevent it. Thus it remains today more of a “when” rather than an “if.” It is said by those in the know that it might take generations to recover from such a cataclysm.

Let’s take the U.S. for instance. With clerks unable to add, subtract, multiply, or divide without electronic calculators (today’s reality for millions), how could businesses function? Just imagine life without refrigeration or air-conditioning, lights at night, heating during winters, gas pumps when traveling, stop lights on streets, air-flights, ability to fix mechanical things—oh one could go on and on.

But more to our point, we have now reached the place where Siri has the answer to everything. Consequently, why have a paper back-up to anything? No longer any need for libraries or printed records of anything. Result: When that grid goes out, with it would go civilization and life as we know it. We’d be back to the frontier, with no one to protect you or your family.

* * * * *

So, before it’s too late, let’s rethink our race to computerize all knowledge and destroy all printed records, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Let’s each, as a committee of one, begin building our own family libraries, subscribing to our own magazines and newspapers, and purchasing our own books. By so doing, each of us would be able to find truth on our own, and thereby help preserve our fragile democracy so that our descendants may have lives worth living.

Posted on

Just in Case We Ever Complain





May 17, 2017

Christina Miller,  Photo by Fernando Salazar, Wichita Eagle

One of the joys of our ministry is our interaction with people of many faiths. Some of them, over time, become cherished friends. One of them is Anna Miller of Hutchinson, Kansas. She, her husband Glenn, and her family are Amish, spiritual descendants of the Anabaptists. For many years, they owned and ran Glenn’s Bulk Food Shoppe and Gospel Book Store in Pleasantville, Kansas—and that’s how we became acquainted. Today, their large family is not only serving the Great Plains but are missionaries all over the world.

She just shared with me a remarkable letter she mailed to family and friends. I’m now sharing parts of it with you. Reason being: it’s a jolting letter than reveals a level of self-sacrifice that few Americans have ever experienced. It was written from Bangladesh:

Sit with me on Ellis’ veranda, see the multitudes! See the constant moving, 4 stories down on the street. See the rickshaws and bikes, hear the continual horns of CNGs, cars, vans, motorcycles, and on more of the main streets, also buses. There are some buses that look nice, but may have cockroaches on the loose. Then other buses that have not fared well with the very crowded streets, and certainly have not seen a body shop recently. Yet the focus is not the transportation, it is the souls, within each of the sixteen million people. Real people with feelings, with a heart, people that live with little. We are grateful for those who spread the love that makes a difference!! Do you know what someone shared is the biggest hindrance to natives? It is the squabble within our circles of “love”. So, where are we in all this? Speaking to myself, first.We are so glad that Joel and Hilda (from Kansas) live here! Hilda’s 40th birthday was yesterday. We enjoyed being a part of it! Hilda’s birthday party was a lovely celebration, 20ish people! Her nieces Christie, Hannah, and then Ellis’ family did a beautiful job of putting it together. Breakfast tortillas, the tortillas were made fresh this morning by one of the house helpers here. She makes the best, including some very good rice ones. Then fresh fruit kabobs, chocolates, punch, coffee. Kara Denlinger made cinnamon rolls. Kara is a nanny for Joel’s girls while Hilda is doing more language studies. There were neat decorations from the States. There also were cards and gifts from her home church and family. If any of those who participated could have seen or felt the warmth, the connecting of worlds for Hilda and family, they would have been very well rewarded. I do not want to ever underestimate the value of encouraging those sharing their lives in this way. Life is real and they do not live on easy street, even when their calling has been and is very clear!

I wish each of you could’ve been with us last evening. It was an evening to frame in a memory. We were invited to Rina’s (one of the house helpers) home for supper. The most gracious hospitality was given with sacrifice on their own. They live in a concrete structure, built for 17 families. The families share the cooking area of only 6 gas burners, without countertops. In the morning, there are a few hours of faucet water, otherwise it is by a hand pump. The bathrooms are not American style. I believe 3 showers are also for the whole building. There is a shared area to wash their own dishes and hand-wash all their laundry. Their own personal area is one bedroom. This is where we were served to a delicious meal. Ellis’s family and the host’s two children sat on the bed, Glenn and I were given the only seats with cushions. There was one plastic chair, one chest of drawers for the family of four, and one small, but nice, cupboard for their dishes, and supplies. They do have under the bed storage. A small stand served as a place to put our nice sparkling water glasses on. That later served as a place for our hostess to sit; otherwise she stood. She looked so happy, and was so grateful we came; as was her husband. He had a bowl and a big cup of water. He then went around the circle to pour water over our right hand which we used for eating. The left is the “dirty one” and not used for eating unless you have tableware. Glenn did eat with a spoon or a fork. A towel was also passed to wipe our hands. They placed the serving bowls of food on a tablecloth on the bed. They served rice, delicious cooked vegetables seasoned with salt and tumeric, and meat made in yogurt, very good as well! Lynita filled our plates. While we were eating, her husband went to get a large bottle of cold Sprite. Then, after we were finished eating, they again, did the rinsing of our right hands since there was rice on them. The bottle of cold Sprite was a very good finishing touch! Here the hosts don’t eat, although their children do, until the company leaves. The bedroom is maybe 10′ by 10′, concrete walls, clean, but needs paint. Do you feel rich? Please do, you are!


* * * * *

So next time you and I complain, let’s re-read these lines and realize how incredibly blessed we are!

Anna, in a personal letter, said that she and Glenn took with them on this 24,000 mile trip copies of Christmas in My Heart 25, My Favorite Angel Stories and My Favorite Miracle Stories to give away as gifts to family and friends.

Posted on

Emergency! Calling On All Train Lovers




May 10, 2017

In the Sunday, May 7, Denver Post was this alarming article by Forrest Whitman. It begins with these jolting words: “If you see a train, better get on it. The California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight, the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief, may soon be heading west for one last ride. . . . Of course, it is all about money. The budget Donald Trump submitted to Congress looks like it was written by the Heritage Foundation, a group that thinks the government has no business subsidizing anything, except for the military. Amtrak may cover 94 percent of its budget almost entirely from ticket sales, but still, that’s not enough for those purists.

“What a loss to the West these iconic trains will be. They are not only part of our Western history, but they are also symbols that somebody still cares about the rural West. Trains say you can still get out of town even when a blizzard is moving in. Trains say to the handicapped person that she can have mobility. Trains say to a senior that he doesn’t have to beg a ride from family or a friend but can get down to the station and make his own way. It’s the train that stops downtown that says to a little Western community: ‘You have value beyond what any Harvard Business School teacher would assign.’”

Whitman also points out that “many people living across America’s vast heartland voted for Trump, believing his promise that a trillion dollars would be poured into infrastructure. Now those trillion dollars have evaporated.”

Whitman also notes how ironic it would be for Colorado to have poured millions of dollars into the reconstruction of Denver’s Union Station, then lose its trains! Because of its congestion, the Northeast trains don’t need to be subsidized. But of the 31 million Amtrak riders last year, 19 million never set foot in the Northeast. . . . “The sad fact is that this new budget leaves 144.6 million Americans with no train.”

For a further irony, note that 600 billion dollars have been poured into highways since 1947—141 billion just since 2008!

Whitman concludes with these somber words: “Losing our trains cuts the heart out of the West. I hope we’ll call, write letters, and let Congress know what it means to us if our Western trains are forced to catch the last westbound.”

* * * * *

I am personally enraged by this Federal shortsightedness. Mark my words: For reasons akin to this, rarely do the American people entrust all three branches of government to one party. Whenever an exception occurs, arrogance and over-reach invariably takes place, regardless of which party takes control. I’m personally all but certain that unless the GOP lives up to its promises to all those who believed its promises to the millions who don’t live in Northeast cities—that the Republican Party will lose control of at least the Senate, and most likely the House as well in the 2018 elections. And, if so, it will have only itself to blame.

* * *

But for right now, we have no time to lose. Let’s each respond to Whitman’s call to action: Bombard the White House, Senate, and House with missiles of outrage. Do it today!

Posted on

P. R. Reid’s “The Colditz Story”






May 3, 2017

Some of the greatest escape stories ever written come out of World War II. I first read this many years ago, and have never been able to get it out of my head.


Reviewers of this gripping First-Person British book have been extremely positive. Note clips from some of them:

Tremendously exciting! The Colditz story challenges comparison with any of the escape stories of World War 2. It is men who think (and write) like this who do what these men did.” —Guy Ramsey, The Daily Telegraph

A true but fantastic record. . . . utterly intoxicating and completely entertaining. . . . Not since Sherlock Holmes have I had such pleasure in reading a thriller. It is seldom that I have read a book at a single sitting, but this story defies interruption. —Sterling North, New York World Telegraph and Sun

Full of skill and enjoyment. . . . The book is an astonishing record of what human ingenuity can accomplish. —Basil Davenport, Saturday Review

Just about the best of many escape books of World War II.Time Magazine

The Colditz Story became a movie, starring John Mills and Eric Portman; produced by Ivan Foxwell.

Sketch of the interior of the castle [Berkeley Edition]

This book is unique in a number of respects: It is not just the story of one escape but rather the story of many escapes (precious few of them proving successful).

The fortress was the ancient palace of the Archbishop of Salzburg, sentimentally revered as the place where Mozart composed and played many of his works. It was considered to be impregnable as well as escape-proof, as the Castle’s garrison outnumbered the prisoners at all times. At night the fortress was floodlit from every angle; there were clear drops of a hundred feet from the barred windows, there were sentries just outside the barbed wire; then further precipices and more sentries.

This German prison camp was reserved for enemy officers who had escaped from other camps. Here were gathered together the most desperate and daring men of half a dozen Allied nations—their single thought: ESCAPE!

When you begin reading the book, note that it’s not until the fourth chapter that Colditz comes into the narrative; that’s where the real action begins.

* * * * *

As I re-read the book, I couldn’t help but note how times have changed. Back then, all sides respected the Geneva Convention Agreement. You will note that Captain Reid references how grateful he was for the agreement. Americans have–as long as we elected presidents who were themselves veterans–generally respected the Geneva Convention Agreement. Now, with veteran presidents becoming a thing of the past, we see something ominous taking place: a willingness to violate it.

We are so used to seeing Germans demonized by the Holocaust that we fail to realize their humanity. In this book, we see exhibited their willingness to permit their prisoners to play musical instruments, put on concerts and plays, participate in sports, and even laugh at themselves when they are duped by their prisoners. In some respect, in its lighter moments, the book reminds me of a synthesis of Keystone Cops, F Troop, and MASH.

You will note that there are no American prisoners in the book, reason being that the U.S. didn’t enter the war until 1942 (December of 1941’s Pearl Harbor attack precipitating our involvement).But if there is one thing I predict you will be fascinated by, it will be the ingenuity of the prisoners, the endless chain of trying out every possible method of escape the human mind could conceive.

So, take Agatha Christie’s advice: “If you want real excitement, buy The Colditz Story.”

Posted on

“I Actually Thanked a Teacher”





April 26, 2017

The Wall Street Journal carried this column in their April 13 edition.

Greene’s opening words hooked me:

“Amid the endless torrent of angry and violent events, I switched off the television set, shut down the computer, and turned to something I hoped would provide welcome respite: a slender book of photographs illustrating the history of the small Ohio community where I grew up.”

In that book, Greene noticed a photograph of three children taking a tap-dancing class in 1934. One of them was identified as Patricia Ruoff. Might it be his first-grade teacher? The one who helped him learn the first word he ever read? He decided to find out.

Greene continues: “I tried to explain to her why I was calling. I said that if I’ve ever written a graceful sentence, if I’ve ever appreciated a turn of phrase in a good book, if I’ve ever found comfort in a beautifully told story, it all began with her.”

He then asked her if lots of her former students had told her what a difference she’d made in their lives. Her answer was succinct: “No one ever has.”

* * * * *

This column caused me to think about those occasional day-brightening letters I’ve received from former students–and how very much they’ve meant to me. Especially today, when letter-writing appears to be almost a lost art. Indeed, we’ve come to the point where the ultimate in value is a personally written letter on actual stationery and mailed in an actual envelope. One such heartfelt letter can validate an entire lifetime of selfless service.

So here is my suggestion: Why don’t you stop everything, this very day, and take the time to write, phone, or personally speak with someone who once made a significant impact on your life. Most likely it may have been merely a moment of kindness—but such moments are in increasingly short supply in this hectic world we live in. If you should do this, I’d love to hear back from you about what kind of response you received.

Posted on

Poems I’ve Loved in Life – Rowing in Emily Dickinson





April 19, 2017

I count the year I finally read through all of Emily Dickinson’s 1775 poems as one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. Fortunately, famed Dickinson scholar, Thomas H. Johnson has organized the collection: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960) in sequence as to when Dickinson actually wrote each one. No small feat given that she was a recluse and never intended to publish her poems at all. Fortunately for posterity, her sister Lavinia disregarded her instructions and set about to have her poems published.

If you too want to secure an education into life like no other, all you have to do is track down a copy of this book and dedicate a large portion of time to slowly digesting each poem, stopping for the day when you stall out on one of them. Dickinson is viewed today as one of the greatest, most original, and most quotable poets our world has ever known. It will prove to be one of the greatest educational experiences of your lifetime.

You need your own book so that you can thoroughly mark up or illustrate your favorite poems. It has often been postulated that the least structured thought can be found in a novel, the next most in a short story, the second most in a poem, and the ultimate compressed thought is in a quotation (aphorism, folk-saying, etc.). Where Dickinson is unique is that her poems are also considered quotations. Note the following:


Soft as the massacre of Suns

By Evening’s sabers slain.


. . . Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind –


If I can stop one Heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain

 If I can ease one Life the Aching

Or cool one Pain.

 Or help one fainting Robin

 Unto his Nest again

I shall not live in Vain.


I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – Too?

Then there’s a pair of us?

Don’t tell! They’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the live long June –

To an admiring Bog!


To lose one’s faith – surpass

The loss of an Estate

Because Estates can be

Replenished – faith cannot –


To fill a Gap

Insert the thing that caused it –

Block it up

With other – and ‘twill yawn the more –

You cannot solder an Abyss

With Air.


To wait an Hour – is long –

If Love be just beyond –

To wait Eternity – is short –

If Love reward the end –


Some Wretched creature, savior take

Who would exult to die

And leave for thy sweet mercy’s sake

Another Hour to me.


A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.


Where Roses would not dare to go,

What Heart would risk the way –

And so I send my

Crimson Scouts

To sound the Enemy –


God is indeed a jealous God –

He cannot bear to see

That we had rather not with Him

But with each other play.


My life closed twice before its close –

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me.

So huge, so hopeless to conceive

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven

And all we need of hell.


Fame is a bee.

It has a song –

It has a sting –

Ah, too, it has a wing.


That Love is all there is,

Is all we know of Love,

It is enough, the freight should be

Proportioned to the groove.


Wild Nights – Wild Nights!

Were I with thee

Wild Nights would be

Our luxury!

Futile – the Winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah, the Sea!

Might I but moor – Tonight –

In Thee!

* * * * *

If these lines don’t hook you – I have no hope for you.