And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house; and they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. (Job 42:10-11 RSV)
There is (something in the story of the restoration of Job in Job 42:10-11) that reminds me of Christmas. It is the giving of gifts. It says, “…each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold,” (Job 42:11 RSV). Money is made of silver and the ring was made of gold. These friends gave to Job gifts of silver and gold. In the Bible those two metals are used symbolically as a picture of redemption. Silver is the sign of redemption, and gold is the picture of deity, God redeeming man. That is why I say this (gathering of friends and family portrayed in Scripture) is “Christmas” at Job’s house. Job’s witness to his friends evidently had such effect upon them that in gratitude for what they learned from him they gave him gifts of silver and gold to express their understanding of the redemption of God among men.
I wonder if this is not a hint of why we give gifts at Christmas time? Not because we are looking for something back — that is the way the world gives. Christians give gifts because they have already been made rich beyond compare and they want to share it in some way with those who have less. If Christmas means anything at all to us, then, it means that Job discovered 2,000 years before the cross, and before the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, that the One who was coming into the world would come, and as the angel said to Mary, “He shall save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:21). I think this is what brings joy and gladness to every heart at Christmas time. If you know the Lord Jesus you have the greatest gift God can give to men. Out of the richness of your life, if you have that gift, you will find yourself gladly sharing of all that you have with those who have less, that there may be the ringing out of joy and thanksgiving on a season like this.
Our great and heavenly Father, we do not think that we comprehend the mystery and the marvel of this great event, how your Spirit can enter our human spirits, how Jesus himself can be born again in a human heart today as he was born into the manger of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. But we know it happens, and the change that is made is very visible and evident to all around. You do give gifts, Lord, gifts that no man can give of joy, love, peace, grace, mercy and compassion, and all that accompanies these great gifts. We thank you that you came into the cold, smelly, dark, ugly stable of our hearts and brought light and life, peace and joy. We bless your name for that and pray that the good news of this new birth can be spread to many today, that in this weary, worn, empty world men will find the joy of Christ. We ask in his name, Amen.
God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this engagement; for he is able to do all things. Believer, till thou canst drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till thou canst break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, thou never needest to fear. Think not that the strength of man shall ever be able to overcome the power of God. Whilst the earth’s huge pillars stand, thou hast enough reason to abide firm in thy faith. The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. While he is able to uphold the universe, dream not that he will prove unable to fulfil his own promises.
Remember what he did in the days of old, in the former generations. Remember how he spake and it was done; how he commanded, and it stood fast. Shall he that created the world grow weary? He hangeth the world upon nothing; shall he who doth this be unable to support his children? Shall he be unfaithful to his word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not he ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds his chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of his hand? How can he fail thee? When he has put such a faithful promise as this on record, wilt thou for a moment indulge the thought that he has outpromised himself, and gone beyond his power to fulfil? Ah, no! Thou canst doubt no longer.
O thou who art my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of thy strength can never be emptied by thy friends or rifled by thine enemies.
"Now let the feeble all be strong,
And make Jehovah’s arm their song.”
Self-proclaimed followers of Jesus Christ develop an aversion to nonbelievers, going to all lengths to avoid the exact people Christ came to redeem. Again, no one in a right mind would own up to this out loud, but I watch it go on below the surface — in a person’s mind and heart — all the time. A Christ-follower says, “I’m so sick and tired of the filthy mouth of this guy at work. I can’t stand his language! I hate his jokes and how he lives.” Or “You wouldn’t believe the morals of my neighbor, the partying she does. And my boss? You should see his voting patterns. If I could vote him outta here, I would!” The aversion can become so intense that a Christ-follower has to plumb new depths of dysfunction to deal with it. “Here’s what I think I’ll do,” she says. “I’ll set my alarm so that in the morning, I’ll get up to Christian music. I’ll email my Christian girlfriends all throughout the course of my workday so that I can stay pumped up with Christian thoughts. At break time, coffee time, lunchtime, I’m going to sit by myself and read my Bible. “Then I will fill up my evenings with family and church activities, and (if I watch television at all) it’s only Christian shows for me. I’ll go to bed, wake up tomorrow, and start all over with Step One. My life will stay exactly how I want it to be: simple and safe. Spotless and uncluttered. Protected and predictable. Just the way I like it.”
And if I’m forced to nail it down, I see only one problem with this cocooning pattern: it is the polar opposite of the way of Christ. Simple and safe was not exactly the theme Christ was championing when he warned his followers that being sent out as lambs among wolves was part of the deal. “Spotless and uncluttered” had no place in the task of embracing a dying, broken, weary world with radical forgiveness and actionable love.
Devoted followers of Christ acknowledge that what God treasures first (and there is no close second) is people. They open themselves up to the promptings of God’s Spirit, putting one foot in front of the other as they reach out to lonely or disillusioned or sin-scarred folks, living out with abandon what it means to be the ones who walk across rooms. As they continue to walk closely with God, they receive added insight about who God is and begin to experience the pattern of God’s faithfulness in their lives. They receive more answers to prayer; see more manifestations of God’s grace; grow in understanding of God’s heart for people; and become increasingly more intentional regarding evangelism.
Have you noticed this in your own life? The longer you walk with God, the more open your arms become. Instead of clenching tightly to a small circle of insiders, you throw out your arms, opening them up to those outside the circle who may need to come in. As your arms grow wider in worship, they correspondingly grow wider in acceptance. The idea is this: by the end of your life, your heart is so tender, your vision so clear, that you grab doctors, nurses, lost family members, the hospital janitor, anyone, and tell them, “God loves you! I’m about to head out of here, but please know that he loves you.” And then — boom — you die. But just before you do, this thought strikes you: I was doing the very best thing I could possibly be doing, offering the best gift I could possibly offer just before I took flight.
”—Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels
A federal agency ruled on Monday that a set of important features commonly found in smartphones are protected by an Apple patent, a decision that could force changes in how Google’s Android phones function.
The ruling, by the United States International Trade Commission, is one of the most significant so far in a growing array of closely watched patent battles being waged around the globe by nearly all of the major players in the mobile industry, reflecting the heated competition among them, especially as Android phones gain market share. At the heart of these disputes are the kind of small but convenient features that would cause many people to complain if they were not in their smartphones. For example, the case decided Monday involves the technology that lets you tap your finger once on the touchscreen to call a phone number that is written inside an e-mail or text message. It also involves the technology that allows you to schedule a calendar appointment, again with a single tap of the finger, for a date mentioned in an e-mail.
HTC, the defendant in the case and one of the world’s largest makers of smartphones running the Android system, said in a statement after the ruling that it would adapt those particular features to comply with the ruling, making them work in a somewhat different way. The company called them “small” parts of the user’s experience.
The ruling was only a partial victory for Apple because the commission overruled an earlier decision in Apple’s favor in the case, involving a different, more technical patent. It would have been hard for HTC to adapt its devices to avoid infringing that patent, legal experts said.
The ruling by the six-member commission, which can take action against unfair trade practices by companies whose products are imported into the United States, will prevent HTC from selling phones in the United States that infringe the patent starting April 19.
To take effect, the order still needs to be signed by President Obama’s trade representative, who can decide to overrule the commission’s finding, though such actions are rare.
Chet Atkins is no longer the household name he was in the 1960s, when he was all over TV and radio with his guitar. But every year, the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society packs a Nashville hotel. This year’s gathering was the 27th.
"I saw the list of countries this year, and it’s like New Zealand, Japan, Poland," says Pat Kirtley. "And the common bond is the music of Chet Atkins."
Kirtley has performed at Chet Atkins Days for 22 years. He’s a veteran finger-style guitarist who attributes the very possibility of his career to Atkins.
"Chet made it OK to be a solo guitar player," he says. "It’s not that there weren’t solo guitar players before him — but there weren’t that many. Chet took solo guitar to everybody."
Even to this day, young devotees are embracing Atkins’ style. Ben Hall, a 22-year-old from Okolona, Miss., showcased at this year’s convention. Hall uses the tricky right-hand technique that Atkins adopted from Kentuckian Merle Travis and refined in the 1940s and ’50s.
"It revolves around a bass note," Hall says. "The fingers … Merle used one, Chet thought Merle was using two. So he used two and three and sometimes a handful of fingers. They play the melody. And there’s famous stories of so many great guitar players along the way who play other styles listening to this and saying, ‘I had no idea that’s one instrument.’ "
Atkins made his first solo recordings in the mid-1940s, but it would take him until 1955 to land his first hit, “Mr. Sandman.” He was 31 by then, and more than a decade into his professional career. Born in the Appalachian town of Luttrell, Tenn., he’d acquired a hard-to-play Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar when he was about 10 years old.
Click the links below to listen to some vintage Chet Atkins at his best:
Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq
As of today, the last American solider has left Iraq. I’ll be posting some materials about the war, focusing on what it has meant to the men and women who fought there. What they saw, what they endured, what they did, will effect them for the rest of their lives. We need to be aware of what Iraq was and what it did to these soldiers as we welcome them home and help them adjust to a new life. Look these materials over, make up your mind about how you think about the war and be aware of the veterans around you.
Survivors of the Marine attack on the village of Haditha, Iraq
BAGHDAD — One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq. At times, he said, deaths were caused by “grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know, collateral with civilians.”
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.
Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted.
But the accounts are just as striking for what they reveal about the extraordinary strains on the soldiers who were assigned here, their frustrations and their frequently painful encounters with a population they did not understand. In their own words, the report documents the dehumanizing nature of this war, where Marines came to view 20 dead civilians as not “remarkable,” but as routine.
Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar, in his own testimony, described it as “a cost of doing business.”
The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.
Charges were dropped against six of the accused Marines in the Haditha episode, one was acquitted and the last remaining case against one Marine is scheduled to go to trial next year.
That sense of American impunity ultimately poisoned any chance for American forces to remain in Iraq, because the Iraqis would not let them stay without being subject to Iraqi laws and courts, a condition the White House could not accept.
Read the rest of the story and another on the documents found in a Baghdad junkyard HERE and HERE.
A movie to watch as we reflect on the end of the Iraq War: In The Valley of Elah
As we reflect on the end of the war in Iraq, here is a movie about that war that is well worth seeing no matter what your point of view: In The Valley of Elah (where David killed Goliath). It is a 2008 film staring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron with a gritty message much larger than just the war. But it does make you stop to focus on that war and what it cost our soldiers. I think its available on Netflix. Watch it, and do some soul searching.
A few days after returning stateside from a tour of duty in Iraq, a young soldier goes AWOL. His father, Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones), himself a retired non-commissioned officer, goes in search of him. It soon becomes clear that his son was murdered and dismembered near a military base where he was temporarily reassigned, the chief suspects being four buddies with whom he served overseas. But In the Valley of Elah is not so much a whodunit as a whydunnit, an investigation of why a group of quite ordinary American soldiers would find themselves involved in such a brutal and essentially meaningless crime.
That theme, however, is at first artfully disguised in the film, which was written and directed by Paul Haggis, prime author of Crash as well as the writer or co-writer of such excellent Clint Eastwood screenplays as Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima. Haggis is a man with a gritty, honest sensibility, particularly attuned to life as it’s lived in our country at the lower edges of society. But he’s also a pretty canny movie guy, initially presenting his material as a fairly conventional mystery, with the icily contained and taciturn Hank, who was a criminal investigator during his military career, playing a fairly typical wild card — the guy who keeps asking difficult questions while everyone else pretty much wants to process the case as briskly as possible. Hank is a bleak sort of man, perfectly content to eat in coffee shops featuring Formica décor, and to make his own bed — all neatly squared corners — in his budget motel. He does not laugh a lot — or, if memory serves, at all — and only rarely raises his voice despite his many frustrations. His only, and initially wary ally, is a young detective named Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), who is endlessly harassed by the male cops in her squad room and obliged to deal with a jurisdictional dispute: did the crime take place on military or civilian property?
Somehow, this unlikely pair form an alliance, mostly because each of them is looked upon as annoying irrelevance by both the military and the local police, but also because single mom Emily is embarking on the kind of marginal life — all low pay and grim dutifulness — that Hank has endured all his years. This elicits his (austerely expressed) sympathy as well as ours. Yet, in a sense, everything I’ve so far described — the plot, the physical and emotional landscape of the picture — is a diversion, an attempt to lull us by evoking genre conventions, make us think we’re involving ourselves in nothing more than the procedural routines of a well-made crime story.
But that’s not the case. The Big Question asked by In the Valley of Elah (in case you’ve forgotten, that’s where David slew Goliath) is this: What does a war without mercy or justification do to the young men and women who are obliged to fight it? This is not a matter Hank Deerfield has previously ever had to consider. He has served his country unquestioningly and, as important, the movie hints that his belief system, both religious and political, is basically blue-collar, red-state conservatism. But as he investigates his son’s death, he begins to see that the young soldier’s life — and those of his mates — was coarsened by service in Iraq.
I love the way Tommy Lee Jones acknowledges the change in his son, the changes in the army he faithfully served, the changes in the world we all inhabit. It’s no more than a fleeting expression, a flicker in his eyes, and the result is not obvious anger or weary cynicism. It is a kind of acceptance that does not vitiate his desire to see justice done. This is, I think, a great performance by one of the great movie minimalists. And Haggis has provided him with a perfectly matched context, recording without overt commentary the strip-joint, hooker-ridden town that exists to serve the needs of soldiers too young for thought to govern appetites, the kind of place where a convenience store clerk cheerfully works topless. Is the movie an analogy of Iraq? Not perfectly, but well enough. Does it say something about contemporary American cheesiness? Yes, to some degree. Does Hank Deerfield’s righteousness survive only because he shifts his moral position? Yes, but mutedly, without a jarring triumphant note. This is a sad, subtle and very good movie, designed not so much to make you think, but to make you feel the impact of large events on little lives.
Last Convoy of American Troops Leaves Iraq, Marking an End to the War
BAGHDAD — The last convoy of American troops to leave Iraq drove into Kuwait on Sunday morning, marking the end of the nearly nine-year war.
The convoy’s departure, which included about 110 vehicles and 500 soldiers, came three days after the American military folded its flag in a muted ceremony here to celebrate the end of its mission.
In darkness, the convoy snaked out of Contingency Operating Base Adder, near the southern city of Nasiriyah, around 2:30 a.m., and headed toward the border. The departure appeared to be the final moment of a drawn-out withdrawal that included weeks of ceremonies in Baghdad and around Iraq, and included visits by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, as well as a trip to Washington by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq.
As dawn approached on Sunday morning, the last trucks began to cross over the border into Kuwait at an outpost lit by floodlights and secured by barbed wire.
“I just can’t wait to call my wife and kids and let them know I am safe,” said Sgt. First Class Rodolfo Ruiz just before his armored vehicle crossed over the border. “I am really feeling it now.”
Shortly after crossing into Kuwait, Sergeant Ruiz told the men in his vehicle: “Hey guys, you made it.”
Then, he ordered the vehicles in his convoy not to flash their lights or honk their horns.
For security reasons, the last soldiers made no time for goodbyes to Iraqis with whom they had become acquainted. To keep details of the final trip secret from insurgents, interpreters for the last unit to leave the base called local tribal sheiks and government leaders on Saturday morning and conveyed that business would go on as usual, not letting on that all the Americans would soon be gone.
Many troops wondered how the Iraqis, whom they had worked closely with and trained over the past year, would react when they awoke on Sunday to find that the remaining American troops on the base had left without saying anything.
“The Iraqis are going to wake up in the morning and nobody will be there,” said a soldier who only identified himself as Specialist Joseph. He said he had immigrated to the United States from Iraq in 2009 and enlisted a year later, and refused to give his full name because he worried for his family’s safety.
Fearing that insurgents would try to attack the last Americans leaving the country, the military treated all convoys like combat missions.
As the armored vehicles drove through the desert, Marine, Navy and Army helicopters and planes flew overhead scanning the ground for insurgents and preparing to respond if the convoys were attacked.
Col. Douglas Crissman, one of the military’s top commanders in southern Iraq, said in an interview on Friday that he planned to be in a Blackhawk helicopter over the convoy with special communication equipment.
“It is a little bit weird,” he said, referring to how he had not told his counterparts in the Iraqi military when they were leaving. “But the professionals among them understand.”
Over the past year, Colonel Crissman and his troops spearheaded the military’s efforts to ensure the security of the long highway that passes through southern Iraq that a majority of convoys traveled on their way out of the country.
“Ninety-five percent of what we have done has been for everyone else,” Colonel Crissman said.
Across the highway, the military built relationships with 20 tribal sheiks, paying them to clear the highway of garbage, making it difficult for insurgents to hide roadside bombs in blown-out tires and trash.
Along with keeping the highway clean, the military hoped that the sheiks would help police the highway and provide intelligence on militants.
“I can’t possibly be all places at one time,” said Colonel Crissman in an interview in May. “There are real incentives for them to keep the highway safe. Those sheiks we have the best relationships with and have kept their highways clear and safe will be the most likely ones to get renewed for the remainder of the year.”
All American troops were legally obligated to leave the country by the end of the month, but President Obama, in announcing in October the end of the American military role here, promised that everyone would be home for the holidays.
The United States will continue to play a role in Iraq. The largest American embassy in the world is located here, and in the wake of the military departure it is doubling in size — from about 8,000 people to 16,000 people, most of them contractors. Under the authority of the ambassador will be less than 200 military personnel, to guard the embassy and oversee the sale of weapons to the Iraqi government.
History’s final judgment on the war, which claimed nearly 4,500 American lives and cost almost $1 trillion, may not be determined for decades. But it will be forever tainted by the early missteps and miscalculations, the faulty intelligence over Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs and his supposed links to terrorists, and a litany of American abuses, from the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal to a public shootout involving Blackwater mercenaries that left civilians dead — a sum of agonizing factors that diminished America’s standing in the Muslim world and its power to shape events around the globe.
The problem today is the so-called real economy. It’s a problem rooted in the kinds of jobs we have, the kind we need, and the kind we’re losing
Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.
An article by Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair. Full story is HERE.
It has now been almost five years since the bursting of the housing bubble, and four years since the onset of the recession. There are 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago. Some 23 million Americans who would like to work full-time cannot get a job. Almost half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed long-term. Wages are falling—the real income of a typical American household is now below the level it was in 1997.
We knew the crisis was serious back in 2008. And we thought we knew who the “bad guys” were—the nation’s big banks, which through cynical lending and reckless gambling had brought the U.S. to the brink of ruin. The Bush and Obama administrations justified a bailout on the grounds that only if the banks were handed money without limit—and without conditions—could the economy recover. We did this not because we loved the banks but because (we were told) we couldn’t do without the lending that they made possible. Many, especially in the financial sector, argued that strong, resolute, and generous action to save not just the banks but the bankers, their shareholders, and their creditors would return the economy to where it had been before the crisis. In the meantime, a short-term stimulus, moderate in size, would suffice to tide the economy over until the banks could be restored to health.
The banks got their bailout. Some of the money went to bonuses. Little of it went to lending. And the economy didn’t really recover—output is barely greater than it was before the crisis, and the job situation is bleak. The diagnosis of our condition and the prescription that followed from it were incorrect. First, it was wrong to think that the bankers would mend their ways—that they would start to lend, if only they were treated nicely enough. We were told, in effect: “Don’t put conditions on the banks to require them to restructure the mortgages or to behave more honestly in their foreclosures. Don’t force them to use the money to lend. Such conditions will upset our delicate markets.” In the end, bank managers looked out for themselves and did what they are accustomed to doing.
Even when we fully repair the banking system, we’ll still be in deep trouble—because we were already in deep trouble. That seeming golden age of 2007 was far from a paradise. The American standard of living was sustained only by rising debt—debt so large that the U.S. savings rate had dropped to near zero. And “zero” doesn’t really tell the story. Because the rich have always been able to save a significant percentage of their income, putting them in the positive column, an average rate of close to zero means that everyone else must be in negative numbers. (Here’s the reality: in the years leading up to the recession, according to research done by my Columbia University colleague Bruce Greenwald, the bottom 80 percent of the American population had been spending around 110 percent of its income.)
What made this level of indebtedness possible was the housing bubble, which Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke, chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board, helped to engineer through low interest rates and nonregulation—not even using the regulatory tools they had. As we now know, this enabled banks to lend and households to borrow on the basis of assets whose value was determined in part by mass delusion.
The fact is the economy in the years before the current crisis was fundamentally weak, with the bubble, and the unsustainable consumption to which it gave rise, acting as life support. Without these, unemployment would have been high. It was absurd to think that fixing the banking system could by itself restore the economy to health. Bringing the economy back to “where it was” does nothing to address the underlying problems.
The problem today is the so-called real economy. It’s a problem rooted in the kinds of jobs we have, the kind we need, and the kind we’re losing, and rooted as well in the kind of workers we want and the kind we don’t know what to do with. The real economy has been in a state of wrenching transition for decades, and its dislocations have never been squarely faced. A crisis of the real economy lies behind the Long Slump, just as it lay behind the Great Depression.
We are fortunate in one respect: God does not appear to us in the way He appeared to Isaiah. Who could stand it? God normaly reveals our sinfulness to us a bit at a time. We experience a gradual recognition of our own corruption. God showed Isaiah his corruption all at once. No wonder he was ruined. Isaiah explained it this way: “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isa. 6:5). He saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched you lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isa. 6:6-7) Isaiah was groveling on the floor. Every nerve fiber in his body was trembling. He was looking for a place to hide, praying that somehow the earth would cover him or the roof of the temple would fall upon him-anything to get him out from under the holy gaze of God. But there was nowhere to hide. He was naked and alone before God. Unlike Adam, Isaiah had no Eve to comfort him, no fig leaves to conceal him. His was pure moral anguish, the kind that rips out the heart of a man and tears his soul to pieces. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Relentless guilt screamed from his every pore.
In this divine act of cleansing, Isaiah experienced a forgiveness that went beyond the purification of his lips. He was cleansed throughout, forgiven to the core, but not without the awful pain of repentance. He went beyond cheap grace and the easy utterance “I’m sorry.” He was in mourning for his sin, overcome with moral grief, and God sent an angel to heal him. His sin was taken away. His dignity remained intact. His guilt was removed, but his humanity was not insulted. The conviction that he felt was constructive. His was no cruel and unusual punishment. A second of burning flesh on the lips brought a healing that would extend to eternity. In a moment, the disintegrated prophet was whole again. His mouth was purged. He was clean.
Study of 47,000 teens: One in every fifteen high school seniors today is smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis
Read the entire report HERE. Click on the charts for a larger image of the data findings. More news reports HERE.
In 2011, a nationally representative sample of 47,000 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students, attending 400 public and private secondary schools, participated in the Monitoring the Future 2011 survey. The study is conducted at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded since its inception in 1975 under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health.
The proportion of young people using any illicit drug has been rising gradually over the past four years, due largely to increased use of marijuana—the most widely used of all the illicit drugs. In 2011, 50% of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at some time, 40% used one or more drugs in the past 12 months, and 25% used one or more drugs in the prior 30 days. The figures are lower for younger teens, though still disturbingly high: among 10th graders, 38% reported having tried an illicit drug, 31% used in the past 12 months, and 19% in the prior 30 days. Corresponding values for 8th graders are 20%, 15%, and 8.5%.
Of perhaps greater importance is the rise in daily or near daily marijuana use, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days. The rates of current daily marijuana use rose significantly in all three grades last year, and they rose slightly higher in all three grades again this year (though none of this year’s changes were large enough to reach statistical significance); but here again, the increases since 2007 are highly significant at every grade level. Current daily prevalence levels in 2011 are 1.3%, 3.6%, and 6.6% in grades 8, 10, and 12.
“Put another way, one in every fifteen high school seniors today is smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis,” says Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study, “And that’s the highest rate that we have seen over the past thirty years—since 1981.”
“Suspicion of committing a crime should lead to your attempted prosecution. If the evidence does not support conviction, it would be against everything we believe in and fight for in America to still allow the government to imprison you at their whim. Tonight, a blow was struck to fight back against those who would take our liberty.”—Sen. Rand Paul • In a statement about how he managed to kill an amendment that was likely to pass by voice vote — an amendment that would have clarified the ability for the U.S. government to hold detainees indefinitely while the War on Terror continued — by merely asking for a recorded vote on the matter. This was an awkward situation many in the Senate were trying to avoid, and as a result, the amendment lost resoundingly — with a 41-59 tally. If Paul hadn’t have spoken up, the bill would’ve received a voice vote and passed under the radar. Not bad, Rand Paul. That’s a moment to put in the ‘ol resume. source (via • follow)
In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Protests have erupted in Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.
As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.
Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.
The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
”—Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, by Joseph E. Stiglitz, writing in this month’s Vanity Fair