Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Desolate Wilderness and The Fair Land

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, 1508

The attached editorial has appeared in the Wall Street Journal every Thanksgiving since 1961. It is a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition which I hope to honor by sharing it here likewise.  The first part is an excerpt from the journal of one of the founders of Plymouth Colony.  The Fair Land is an editorial from the Wall Street Journal.  I have found comfort and inspiration from both and both are worth sharing.   I hope you will share it with your family and friends.

A chronicle of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton , keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford , sometime governor thereof:
So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.
When they came to Delftshaven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.
The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.
Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.
If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

And the Fair Land

‘For all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators.’

Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.
This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.
And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.
So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.
For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.
His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.
How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places—only to find those men as frail as any others.
So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?
Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.
But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere—in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.
We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). 

 The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

(c) Copyright 2015 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

 Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules. No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks. Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views. Facts are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Unchristian Nature of Mr. Mom

Image courtesy of Universal Studios (C) 1983 Universal Studios
I remember years ago watching the comedy movie "Mr. Mom."  Michael Keaton and Terri Garr, along with their supporting cast did a wonderful job giving a light-hearted portrayal of many of the dangers and difficulties that arise when the husband has to take on the role of nurturer and the wife has to become the breadwinner.

My wife and I enjoyed the movie, and we both learned from it.  

Seeing Michael Keaton's slide into self-loathing and unmotivated sloth as he was pushed down the road away from the blatant rewards and confidence-building experiences of the workplace clearly warned of the dangerous parts of this home-making role.  Then, watching his subsequent turnaround as he earned his self-respect and became self-motivated to excel in this role as much as he had in the workplace by demanding excellence of himself, gave the solution to the problem.

Likewise Terri Garr's experience of being thrust out of the home and into the workplace served to show pitfalls and dangers of that role.  Subjected to the blatant rewards concomittant with pleasing your boss, her perspective of her husband's worth begins to suffer while her own notions of self-worth become inflated by the flattering of those around her.  She begins to place more value on the role of provider, and less on the role of nurturer.  

Both of the have to resist the easy slide into self-indulgence through infidelity.  Which comes at each of them through ready access to those around them who are self-serving.

The movie helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for the tremendous challenges and need for self-motivation and organization that are inherent in the traditional role of wives and mothers.  I can honestly say that I have never had anything but admiration for those women who are brave enough to eschew the blatant rewards and comparatively easy path of the work place for the  uncharted wilderness of being a homemaker.

Where the workplace rewards you every couple of weeks with a paycheck, and provides a support group in the form of your coworkers and bosses who are, or have already walked the path you are on, in the home, those crutches are not readily available.

The rewards, if they materialize in a recognizable form at all, often don't really come to you until you have already invested many years.  And, all too often, the responses of your family feel more like getting a layoff notice, than a promotion.

And, the only real "promotion" that lies ahead is that of becoming a grandparent.  But that depends entirely on your children being willing and able to grant you that promotion.

One unfortunate side-effect of the movie was that, for some, it seemed to make the reversal of roles of men and women somehow more acceptable.  

Nowadays, when we hear of a healthy man who stays home with the children while his wife provides the living for the family, we are supposed to simply accept that as a valid alternative to the unenlightened traditions of our forefathers.

This situation is often presented as the simple, logical answer to a situation in which the wife's earning potential was so much better than the husband's that they decided it was better for him to support her career instead of the other way around.

I won't dispute the logic, except to say that logic is always based on a set of foundational assumptions.  And the logic is sound only as long as the foundational assumptions are sound.  Unfortunately assumptions are assumptions because the root facts are often unknown or only partially understood.

In this case, the assumption is that the greatest good to all the family members will come from maximizing the income to the family from the primary breadwinner.  Unfortunately, this assumption is based solely on a material measure of value.  It ignores the emotional and spiritual implications and utterly disregards whatever reasoning God might have when he commanded that men should do what they can provide for the physical well-being of their family.

For a moment, let us set aside the arguments for the differing roles of men and women that arise from Natural Law (which many will contend we have risen above, without giving proper consideration to matters that are deeper than the material support of families), and instead, consider what a practicing Christian is taught from the scriptures about the role that men are commanded to fulfill.  And yes, I will deliberately set aside discussion of what the scriptures say about the role of women, because that is not central to my point today.  

Today, I am not seeking to point out the duty or role of women.  Rather, my point today is about what men ought to do, according to God, regardless of what anyone else in their life might say.

In the New Testament, Paul tells Timothy clearly that when a man who is able, gives up on providing for his family, he is in far worse shape before God than are those who have never known the Gospel of Christ.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:8

When a man, professing to be a Christian, deliberately neglects providing for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of his wife and family "he hath denied the faith."  

How has he denied the faith?

The faith, is the belief in the fact that Jesus of Nazareth willingly submitted to sacrifice himself so that we could live forever (being resurrected into immortality) and attain eternal life where we can enjoy all that God has prepared for us.

By rejecting his responsibility to sacrifice his time and efforts in the service of providing for his wife and family, a Christian man is asserting that he is better than the Christ.  His actions, his neglect, proclaim his utter ingratitude for the sacrifice and suffering of the Savior.  By neglecting his duty to his family, he makes their suffering in this life more acute, and thus adds to the pains that Jesus suffered during his Atonement.  His rejection of the call of God to sacrifice his selfish pursuits to provide for his wife and family, the Christian man neglecting his duty to his family, denies his expressed faith in Christ and by his actions "he hath denied the faith."  And he is "worse than an infidel" because, unlike the infidel, he has been taught and expressed his belief in the sacrifice of Christ, and then, disregarding that knowledge and expression of faith, his actions have made that suffering greater, and the suffering on his own behalf vain and of no effect.

In our day, this obligation for husbands to provide for their wife and family was renewed and at the same time clarified that God, in his wisdom, may put women in circumstances where they don't have the ability to enjoy that blessing.

"Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken..."
Doctrine and Covenants 83:2

Sometimes, men are "taken" by God by dying.  At other times they are taken by God by suffering some calamity and physical impairment that renders them unable to provide for their wife and family.  But, this should make clear to all Christian men that they only excuse they have for not providing for their wife and family is if God renders them incapable of fulfilling that duty.

My own father-in-law was put in that situation.  When my wife was just ten years old, her father nearly died from an illness and was rendered unable to work in the textile mills.  On her mother the burden of support fell, supplemented by her husband's disability checks.  

But, my father-in-law did not let his disability keep him from providing for his family in the ways that he still could.  He and his wife suffered a bit of role reversal, with her working full time and him being at home taking care of hearth and family.  He became a real-life "Mr. Mom."  

He was a proud man and the change was hard, but he did all that he could.  And God blessed him and his family for his willingness to do all that was in his power to provide for the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of his family.

He did his god-given duty to the best of his ability all the days of his life.

May each of us Christian men be real men.  Let each of us stand firm in our faith and do all that we can to do right by our wife and family, both temporally, emotionally, and spiritually.

And, may God help us to do it His way.  Not trying to lord it over wife and family, but rather in humble, earnest, loving service to those whom God has given us to be our family.

Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). 

 The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

(c) Copyright 2015 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules. No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks. Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views. Facts are always welcome.

Learn More About Tom Sheppard

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Marines!

November 10 marks the birthday of the US Marine Corps  

As a Marine, I am required to be aware of such dates. :-D

I have also never been relieved of my oath to "... support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic."  And neither have my fellow Marines.  It is an oath I take very seriously and is one of the reasons I write this blog.

The graphic above is slightly out of date, although the sentiment is spot-on.  Today begins the 240th year for the Corps.  It was founded in Tun's Tavern in Philadelphia in 1775.  Captain Samuel Nicholas, acting on the orders of the Second Continental Congress began recruiting for Marines to serve in the Continental Navy.

For those who don't understand the difference between Marines and Soldiers (Army), here is a little primer.  Marines serve to provide a force in readiness aboard naval vessels.  They have always been the shock troops that naval commanders put ashore, to lead the way in projecting force from the sea.  Often their mission (then and now) was to secure a port where the Army can be landed in force.  Now, that mission is expanded to include both airfields and ports.

On board ship, the Marines served to both defend the ship and lead boarding parties in combat.  And, unlike the sailors, Marines were typically armed.  So, they were one of the defenses captains had against mutineers.

No slight intended here to sailors.  In those distant days many sailors were forcibly enlisted into the service and were treated only slightly better than a press gang.  Conditions and treatment accorded the common sailor were not likely to produce warriors or even loyal seamen.

The US Marines have a long and storied history in the story of our nation.  One of the truly unique aspects of the Marines is that they are designed to be able to operate independent of supply lines for extended periods of time.

A Marine Division, about 50,000 warriors, can typically operate and move without resupply for up to 30 days.  In case you aren't clear on that point, take my word for it, keeping that many warriors fighting with no "rear area" for a month without resupply is a pretty extraordinary achievement.

Not everyone can be a Marine.

During the Vietnam era, the Marines did not want to accept draftees.  Their ranks were already filled with volunteers.  And prior to accepting draftees, the Marines did not suffer the widespread discipline problems that typified the US Army during that same era.

Of the approximately 100 young men who comprised my platoon at the start of training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, only about 50 actually graduated from Boot Camp.

In contrast with the millions that serve in the US Army today, there are only three active divisions of Marines and one reserve division.

And, unlike the US Army, the Marines have their own aviators who are trained to provide close air support of their fellow Marines on the ground.  In addition, they train and work closely with US Navy aviators so that when it all hits the fan, the Navy and Marines can bring it on in any corner of the world, and they can do it in short order and with a fighting elan that puts the rest of the world's military to shame.

Happy Birthday Marines, and Semper Fidelis from one Marine to all.

Top Amazon USMC-related search results:

  1. Greatest U.S. Marine Corps Stories Ever Told: Unforgettable Stories Of Courage, Honor, And Sacrifice
  2. TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE DIVINE - However Neither is Marine Corps Policy
  3. The Marines  I actually own this one. It is a pretty good overview and has some great illustrations and paintings.
  4. Welcome to Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp
  5. Marine Corps Boot Camp Survival Guide: Everything You Need To Know To Prepare For (And Live Through) Marine Corps Boot Camp
  6. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) with extra illustrations
  7. The Marine Corps: Three Centuries of Glory
If you want some good fiction on Marines, I personally like the books by W.E.B. Griffin: The Corps

And, if you want the low down on combat in the Corps, these two are among the best I have ever read:

Lastly, here is a great show by the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team

Tom Sheppard served in the USMC on active duty from 1983 to 1987.  He attained the rank of Sergeant.  Now, he is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). 

 The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

(c) Copyright 2015 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules. No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks. Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views. Facts are always welcome.

Learn More About Tom Sheppard

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Life is a big PRAC

When I was on active duty in the US Marine Corps, both in boot camp and afterward we underwent continual training.  With training came tests, to ensure that we actually learned what we were supposed to know.  While some exams were completed with pencil and paper, some of the most important were what they called PRACS, or practical exams.

Most PRACS were for essential, life and death topics, such as donning and clearing a gas mask within a set time, or clearing a jammed round from a rifle.

This Sunday, as I sat in church listening to the speakers, I realized that life is one big PRAC, from end to end.

Every day we are tested to see if we will demonstrate the correct answers to life's most challenging exam questions.  Questions like, "how will I treat some one else when I am having a bad day?", and "will I use my material goods in a way that simply serves myself, or that accomplishes some greater good?"

In the Bible, the prophet Joshua challenges the Israelites, and by extension anyone who claims to serve the God of Abraham, to let their daily choices demonstrate who they really serve.  "...choose you this day whom ye will serve. ... But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord." (Joshua 24:25).

While we can apply this perspective of looking at life as an extended PRAC to almost any topic, these days it seems one of the exam questions that lots of folks are failing is, "how will I treat people who have an opinion that is at odds with mine?"  This question is especially relevant as political campaigns pick up momentum and candidates espouse their positions in the media on various issues.  And, of course their adherents and opponents, post those views along with their own comments on FaceBook, Twitter and other social media.

Unfortunately, many of those responses that disagree will be laced with profanity, vulgarity, and personal attacks (ad hominem is the latin term for personally insulting verbal attacks).  That kind of approach begs the question, "how does that response align with what you say you believe about the teachings of the God of Abraham, as explained by his prophets and the Christ?" 

I suggest that anytime we resort to profanity and personal insults (or even violence) while disagreeing with someone, we are failing this PRAC.  This is true whether the dialog is online, or face to face.

Some would have us remain silent rather than voicing an opinion that is at odds with theirs.  Many of those same people who decry that we "should shut the f*** up" are the same people who demand that we be tolerant of their views and respectful of their opinions and persons.  Although this sort of double standard (aka hypocrisy) is despicable, and, as all double standards, deserves to be disregarded, still, we who claim to be worshippers of God cannot allow ourselves that full indulgence.

While we can utterly disregard the demand for our silence, be it made with vulgarity and personal insults or not, we must ensure our responses and statements are made in a manner consistent with our beliefs about the worth of each of God's children and our commitment to serve God.

We must not lose our temper.  We must not resort to vulgarity or profanity.  And, regardless of how utterly devoid of intellectual content or sincerity another's argument may appear to us we owe it to ourselves and to our God to respond calmly and speak to the facts, rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the argument and getting swept away into waters where we no longer represent the best in us.

In this blog, as in all my blogs, I welcome differing opinions.

I look at a different opinion as a learning opportunity.  Sometimes I come to see things from a different view and I modify my opinion because of new and compelling facts that had previously escaped me.  Other times, I learn how old arguments are being reframed to appear new, without actually adding any substantive weight to the primary point.

Regardless, I always require, both of myself and others, that disagreements be conducted in a manner that is not disagreeable.  Because, right or wrong, incivility decreases the level of our civilization, regardless of the original issue.

If you doubt this, consider the inanity of a crowd of people who are protesting war to engage in mob violence, as happened many times during the Vietnam War era.  Or, more recently, consider the protests in Ferguson Missouri, where the marchers were calling attention to what they believed to be unlawful behavior by the police toward a member of the community, trampling on his rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And then those protesters engaged in a campaign of unlawfully destroying and looting businesses and trampling on the rights of those business owners to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The unlawful, uncivil actions of the mob destroyed any credibility they had that they might actually be pursuing justice and respect for human rights.

Note: At the risk of offending some readers, I want to make clear that as far as Michael Brown is concerned, regardless of what kind of person he was or was not in the years and months leading up to his deadly confrontation with the Police, his actions that day were those of a criminal who displayed a reckless disregard for the rights of others, and for his own safety.  The moment he chose to engage in a fight with a cop, he put himself on the wrong side of the rule of law, and he is responsible for his own death.

My point in all of this is simply this.  For anyone who accepts the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and even for those who don't, each day is a practical exam where we have to demonstrate by our words, deeds, and even by our thoughts whether or not we have learned how to apply those teachings in our lives.

And, the day will come for each of us, and for all of us, when we will stand before The Great Teacher.  At that time, we will review all our exam results and He will determine, along with us, whether or not our test results demonstrate sufficient mastery to justify him making us master over many things, or taking away the things he has already given us - just as was foreshadowed when Jesus taught the parable of the talents.

When that day comes, I believe that race-baiters, racists and hate-mongers of all stripes will find that they have flunked the PRAC.