Monday, March 03, 2014

Introductory Libertarian Videos



The word "libertarianism" has erupted into our cultural lexicon as we see the political and cultural disintegration of the United States into extreme debt, division, authoritarianism, and a seemingly endless cycle of the welfare and warfare state.

The Left is still blaming Bush, the Right is still blaming Obama, both sides claim the mantle of the Constitution. In reality, both sides are wrong. Both sides have betrayed the original philosophy behind the American republic and its libertarian heritage that extends back to Magna Charta. Instead of buying the propaganda of the professional political establishments of the Democrat and Republican parties, a groundswell of people are considering a different way that doesn't empower the state, but rather limits it, or theoretically even dissolves it, leaving people themselves empowered to live out their lives seeking harmony with others around them based on the right to life, liberty, and property.

There are many terms for these concepts: libertarianism, voluntaryism, the non-aggression principle (NAP), miniarchism, anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. There are some differences between the terms, both in emphases and in the acceptance of some different premises, but the overarching similarities are greater. All of these terms embrace personal liberty, personal responsibility, economic freedom to work and hire and make contracts, respect for private property, freedom of travel and trade within the realm of private property, all without relying on the state as a monopoly of violence and a tool for the forcible transfer of wealth for social ends and goals.

While no political or economic system will ever create a Utopia, and, as Jesus taught, we will always have the poor among us in this fallen world, societies that embrace more freedom and less coercion enjoy exponentially more material prosperity and personal happiness over and against coercive states and societies that rely on threats, terror, prisons, torture, invasion, redistribution of wealth "for the good of the people" - as graphically illustrated here.

But where are we headed in the United States?  Are we seeing personal liberties expand or contract?  Do we see more or less involvement in our lives by governments at all levels?

As the U.S. collapses into a larger segment of the population being dependent on an increasingly smaller segment, as the dollar continues to decline due to continued Fed "quantitative easing," as unemployment continues to spiral, as Christians and other religious minorities are being increasingly bullied by public and political institutions to violate their own religious tenets or face jail time and fines, as the military/industrial complex rattles sabers and entices Washington into further undeclared wars and quagmires that destroy the lives of thousands of young people, and as the leaders of both major parties mouth platitudes about "change" - we need a real philosophical paradigm-shift instead of just a sideways reshuffling of the ruling parties.

Thanks to YouTube and other technologies, these concepts are accessible in ways that demonstrate the common sense of the matter. Here are just a few thought-provocative videos: 


1) The Conversation 

Two college students have an intriguing discussion:



2) George Ought to Help 

What is the best way to help people in need?

 


3) Edgar the Exploiter 

Minimum wage laws and greedy bosses:

 


4) The Broken Window Fallacy 

Do things like war, make-work jobs, and repair of damage stimulate an economy?

 


5) I, Pencil 

The remarkable process by which goods come to market:

  


6) If You Were King

What about a benevolent State?




7) You Can Always Leave

What about the social contract?




8) Diner from Hell

What about democracy?



To learn more, the Ludwig von Mises Institute probably has the largest free online library of literature and audio/video materials on libertarianism. Feel free to click here!  And though this list is now about five years old and may not be completely up to date, here is a list of 100 libertarian websites.



Friday, February 28, 2014

Papers of J. B. McLaughlin

James Buchanan McLaughlin (1843-1940)
Thanks to my cousin Deborah for sending me the following account written by our mutual uncle who served the 25th Virginia Infantry, Company C of the Army of Northern Virginia during the War for Southern Independence.  His name was James Buchanan McLaughlin.

As I blogged earlier, he and his brother both served in the same company and were both POWs.  James's brother Richard died in the notorious Point Lookout POW camp, while James would not only survive the Point, but was also sent to the horrific Elmira prison camp, where he also survived.

Here is the brief biography of J. B. McLaughlin:

He was born April 1, 1843 in Rock Camp, Braxton County, Virginia. 
He enlisted in Company C of the 9th Virginia Battalion (later, the 2nd Company C of the 25th Virginia Infantry at Sutton, VA, now WV) on May 18, 1861. He was captured (along with his brother Richard, see below) at the Wilderness (May 15, 1864), sent to Belle Plain, then to Point Lookout POW Camp, May 17, 1864. After the death of his brother as a POW at Point Lookout, James was sent to the notorious POW camp at Elmira on August 10, 1864 (which had a 24% death rate among the more than 12,000 POWs who were held there). He survived ten months at Elmira, and was released at the end of the war, June 23, 1865. 
On December 13, 1868, James married Elizabeth Mary Fox (1848-1927). They lived in Glendon, WV and had ten children. James died on July 4, 1940 (at the age of 97) in Glendon, and he and his wife were both buried in the so-called James B. McLaughlin cemetery near Glendon - which I have as of yet not been able to find even with the detailed county map. 

But now, some thirty years after first learning about my great-great-great-granduncle, we now have his own recollections of the war.


Papers of J. B. McLaughlin

ca. 1865
Company C, 25th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A.

Captain - P. B. Duffy
1st Lieutenant - J. M. Boggs
2nd Lieutenant - E. D. Camden
3rd Lieutenant - J. M. McCorkle
1st Sergeant - W. T. Lawrence

We left Sutton in May went to Flatwoods and camped there about two weeks.  The first night after leaving Flatwoods, we camped on the farm of Ira Cutlip on Holly River.  Camped the next night at Hacker's Valley.  Was there two days over.  Next camp was on Buchannon farm at Mingo Flats.  Camped on Valley River at Elk Water.  Next day went to Beverly where we camped about two weeks.  Moved down Tygart's Valley to the Round Barn where Elkins is located now.  Camped near where the Court House now stands.  Moved back up a few miles.  When the Confederates were driven from Locust Hill, we crossed the mountain to the back fork of Cheat River.  Went down the river to where Parsons is now located.  Went down a creek the name of which I think was Horse Shoe.  From that time I do not know where was (sic) until we reached Monterey.  Went up one branch of the Potomac River to Monterey in Highland County Virginia.

Traveled day and night for about eighty days.  Never ate any bread all this time.  Got a little beef at times, about three times, I believe.  And when we got to Monterey, they gave us one big round hardtack as hard as a stone.  There we drew some clothing and a blanket and a big heavy overcoat.  As much as a man could carry when wet, and to have to toat (sic) this garment in July and August was enough to make a man say bad words.

Left Monterey by way of Staunton and Parkersburg Pike.  Our first camp was Laurel Fork, a branch of the Potomac.  We next camped on the top of the Allegheny Mountain.  Moved from there to Camp Bartow on the Greenbriar River, where Durbin is now located.  We camped here the balance of the summer of 1861.

Was on one scouting party that went to the top of Cheat Mountain but did not accomplish anything.  The Union troop from Cheat Mountain paid us one visit during the summer and drove in our picket.  Got up in range with their artillery and opened fire.  This was my first time under fire of artillery and the noise that the shot and the shell made,  made me feel cheap.  The Greenbriar River was on a rampage and neither side could cross it.  Our pickets had to hide in the woods to keep from being captured.  Our next move was back to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.  For winter quarters, we were camped on the highest peak of the mountains where camp put in for the winter.  On the 13th of December, the forces from Cheat Mountain came very near surrounding our camp in the night.  At daylight, we were attacked and had a considerable battle which lasted until the afternoon.  When the Union force was driven off and left us here, we lost some good men.  In killed and wounded, we lost John Green and Thurmond Tinney, killed and several wounded.  Capt. Mollohan of Webster County was killed here.

In the spring, we moved back to Buffalo Gap on the railroad.  Camped a short time and moved back near Staunton.  Early this spring, we were joined by forces of Stonewall Jackson, and then moved back and attacked the Union forces at McDowell.  Here was one of the hottest engagements yet pulled off in this part of the Confederacy.  We drove the Union forces under General Milroy down the South Branch to Franklin in Pendleton County.  We turned back at Franklin and came back to the valley.  Went down by way of Bridgewater to Harrisonburg, then the force divided one portion going down the Shenandoah, the other down at the Page Valley.  At Front Royal, we routed the 1st Maryland Bucktails at Straussburg.  The other force came upon the main Union force and we drove them to Winchester where Banks made a stand but when our forces all got up he was soon dislodged.  And from here he was never let stop until he reached Harper's Ferry.  At Winchester, we captured a large amount of supplies of camp equipment and a large amount of provisions.  Just above Charles Town, we were about faced in the road and marched to Winchester.  That night, I slept on two rails where the water was two or three inches deep.  Out next morning at daylight and never halted until we reached Straussburg.  When we left Valley Road and marched out the Pike toward Romney one and a half miles where we met Milroy and his forces endeavoring to cut us off at this point and it was a close call.  Here we had a little brush with him and gave him a set back.  We continued our march up the Valley, the Union forces following us up and every once in a while we had a brush to keep them back.

At Harrisonburg, there was a considerable fight.  Gen. Ashby was killed here leading an Infantry Charge.  The next day, we had a fight at Cross Keys.  The next morning our forces crossed at the South Branch of the Shenandoah and when the last of our troops crossed over, the bridge was burned.  Our forces then marched down the valley and attacked General Shields, taking all of his artillery and many prisoners.  This ended the Campaign in the Valley for a time.  In the evening, after the battle with Shields, our forces marched up the West side of the Blue Ridge and camped there for two of (sic) three days.  Then, returning to the valley, went into camp near Weir's Cave, below Waynesboro, where we remained for a short time.

The next move was to break camp and head toward Richmond.  We crossed the Blue Ridge near the Big Tunnel.  I walked through the tunnel which is near a mile in length.  I don't remember how many days we were on the road.  It was said that the agent of the RR at Gordonsville asked Jackson if he wanted to get at Richmond.  We were taken up by the trains and were hauled for some distance.  The train returned and took up the hindmost troops.

We arrived in the vicinity of Richmond the evening of the 7 days battle opened and were under fire every day from that time until it closed.  We camped around Richmond a short time and I left there on a train which brought us up the road next toward Gordonsville, to a river where Stoneman's Cavalry had burned the bridge.  From there to Gordonsville, we walked the RR.  We were at Gordonsville a short time and then the maneuvering for to get around John Pope, who said that he had never as yet got to see the face of a Rebel.  This marching and countermarching was kept up for some time until the battle of Cedar Mountain was fought.  After a short time, Jackson began maneuvering to get in Pope's rear and after so long a time, he succeeded and struck the RR at a station a short distance above Manassas Junction where we captured all sorts of army equipage, a large amount of provisions, all sorts and kinds of arms and ammunition, harness, and everything that goes to equip an army.  Here Jackson had men behind him that he wanted and had begun to work around until he could form a junction with Lee and Longstreet which he soon accomplished.  And then the general battle was on which lasted for two or three days and ended with victory for the Confederates.  There we took up the march for Maryland by way of Leesburg, crossing the Potomac at Fallen Rock.  Our next stop was at Frederick City.  We were here a short time then we were off for Harper's Ferry.  We crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and marched on for Harper's Ferry which was then surrounded on three sides and we closed the fourth side.  The 3rd day after we reached (sic) the garrison surrendered with about 1100 men and a vast amount of arms and stores provisions etc.  Then we were ordered to join Lee at Antietam.  We recrossed the river at Shepherdstown and were in the battle I think on the 17th of Sept. 1862.  We had to get back to the Virginia side and crossed at Shepherdstown moved around in the Valley and went into camp at Bunker Hill.  Camped here for some time.  Tore up the B&O RR for several miles burning and crooking the rails so they could not be used until sent to the shop and straightened.  Our next move was to cross the Blue Ridge at some gap, I don't remember, where the object being to get to Fredericksburg.  We went into camp somewhere in that vicinity until the 13 of December, when Gen. Burnside with his host crossed the Rapahannoc at that town and brought on a general engagement which proved disastrous for Mr. Burnside.  We went into winter quarters in that county until about April.  We (the 25th Va. Regt.) was sent to Buffalo Gap to join General Imboden and we took up the march through West Va. by way of Monterey, crossing the Allegheny and Cheat Mountains to Beverly by way of Buckhannon, Weston, Bulltown, Braxton C. and through Nicholas County, Greenbriar, Bath, and Augusta.  By joining the Army of Northern Virginia, somewhere near Richmond, then General Jackson was wounded and died just after Chancellorsville.

Immediately after joining the Army of Northern Virginia, we recrossed the Blue Ridge and advanced on Winchester from the Front Royal road, driving Milroy from Winchester, we crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown.  We marched through Maryland into Pennsylvania, somewhere near Carlisle.  We were ordered to join Early at Gettysburg, arriving at that place the first day of the engagement and remained throughout the siege.  We were on the extreme left of the Confederate line.  After this fight we recrossed the Potomac at Williamsport.  We waded the river just at daybreak when it was up to my chin.  I had to hold my head as high as I could in order to keep my mouth out of the water.  After this fight, we were located somewhere near Orange I.C.H. and when the campaign opened in the spring of 1864 was captured on the 5th of May 1864 and was taken to Point Lookout where we were kept until August, then removed to Elmira, New York, where I remained until the close of the war.  Was released from prison about the 15th of July, 1865.

Was out.

J.B. McLaughlin
Co "C" 25 Va Vol Inft
Confederate States of America

This is only an outline of my experiences in the Confederate Army.

When we were at Beverly, at the first of the war.  We first had the old mountain rifle.  Then, we turned them over and drew the old army musket which had been made for a flint lock afterward changed to the percussion lock.  I do not know how much execution they done in front, but always coupled the one that done the firing.  Our first supply of ammunition was one cartridge to each man.  This was the old style ball and buckshot.

The Army of the Confederacy was poorly supplied the last two years for clothing and rations.  They did not get anywhere near enough to eat or wear.  The fare we had in the northern prisons was scant in the prison that it was held at the morning about 8 o'clock we went to the Cook House and our breakfast consisted of a slice of light bread and a very small piece of meat - sometimes a bone.  In the evening, about 3 or 4 o'clock, we got a slice of bread and a tin plate of bean water - sometimes there would be a few beans in it.  We were allowed one fire a day in the Barracks in the winter time.  This one fire was out of anthracite coal and had to last 24 hours.  When President Lincoln was killed at Washington, they fired stones out of the cannon they had around the prison into the prisoner's quarters.  Fortunately, there was no one hurt.

J. B. McLaughlin





Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sermon: Septuagesima – 2014



16 February 2014

Text: Matt 20:1-16 (Ex 17:1-7, 1 Cor 9:24-10:5)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord’s parable is usually called something like “The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.”  But it could also be named something like: “The Parable of Entitlements.”

There is a lot of talk about “entitlements” these days, as arguments over the national budget and financial deficits come into conflict with the promises made by governments and their agencies to the people.  The word “entitlement” includes the word “title.”  Anyone who owns a house or a car – or anyone who has ever played Monopoly – knows that to hold the title to something means you have rights to that property.

If you hold the title to something, then something is owed to you, whether it be rent or a payment or some kind of privilege of ownership.  And if you make an agreement with someone, whether to work for them for pay, or to pay them for work – both sides are entitled to something.  Workers are entitled to wages.  Bosses are entitled to work. 

And so the workers in our Lord’s story feel entitled.  They are not working for the boss out of the kindness of their hearts.  They are being offered a wage, a contractual amount agreed upon before the job started. 

Early in the morning, about six a.m., the boss goes out in search of laborers.  He hires some of them to work the vineyard, and he offers them the standard pay of that time: 12 hours of work for a denarius.  The workers agree, and so a contract is made.  The boss is entitled to a fair day’s labor; the workers are entitled to a fair day’s pay, in this case, the specific amount of a denarius.

But as the day goes on, the owner of the vineyard still needs more workers.  About nine in the morning, he hires on additional help, and he offers not a specific amount , but promises the wage will be “right.”  The workers agree, and they take the job.  The same thing happens at noon, and at three p.m., as workers agree to a fair salary for their six or their three hour work days. 

At five p.m., the vineyard owner sees unemployed workers standing around.  He offers them a job for an hour’s work.  Whether he is offering these men a kind of charity, or if he truly has more work to be done is not made clear.  But the same conditions of a fair wage is implied.

Six p.m. is quitting time, and it is also payday.  The owner asks the foreman to pay the workers in reverse order.  Those who worked a single hour received a full day’s pay: a denarius.  Hearing this, those who worked the full 12-hour day expected to be paid much more than they deserved.  After all, wouldn’t it be fair to get paid more than those who worked but a single hour?  Especially as these men have “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”  And so, when they were also paid the denarius for which they agreed to work, they grumbled. 

The owner replied: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go.  I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?”  And Jesus, our storyteller and narrator concludes the tale and gives us the moral of the story: “The last will be first, and the first last.”

“The last will be first, and the first last.”

This flies in the face of how we view fairness.  Why shouldn’t the long-timers get more?  Why should the one-hour wonders get paid the same?  But in determining fairness, dear friends, we need to consider who is the owner, and what were the agreements that were made.

For in God’s kingdom, we are in a very weak position to argue for entitlements.  Addressing the wages we are due is not very wise, as St. Paul reveals to us that the wages of sin is death.  And so, what are you entitled to, dear friend?  What are we entitled to, dear sinners?  What does God owe us for all that we have done?  We most certainly deserve God’s “temporal and eternal punishment.”  And this means death in time and hell in eternity.  That is our rightful denarius for a lifetime of our sinful works.  That is what we deserve, dear friends, our rightful wage, our just desserts, our fair treatment by the Owner of the vineyard.  That is our entitlement.

And yet we grumble against God.  We expect to be fawned over and rewarded.  We compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves worthy, not of death, but life; not of hell, but of heaven.  And we demand that God pay us according to our perceived worth.  The children of Israel, who were freed from slavery by God Himself using His servant Moses, grumbled against Moses again and again.  On the occasion of our lesson, their grumbling had to do with their thirst.  They wanted water, and they were ready to stone Moses because he was not giving them what they wanted and when they wanted it.  For we all know that the customer is always right.  And yet in spite of their grumbling, the Lord did not reward them according to what they deserved.  The Lord provided them with life-saving water from the rock.

And this is the good news, dear friends.  We may grumble with an entitlement mentality that we deserve to be treated better in God’s kingdom.  But given that our works actually merit hell, given that the wages of our sin is death, the fact that we are paid out of the divine treasury and rewarded and renumerated according to the labor of our Lord Jesus Christ in the vineyard, taking the wages He earned, wages of forgiveness, life, and salvation even as He was paid our deserved wage of His passion and death – we have no cause to grumble, dear friends.  In fact, we have cause to rejoice.  We have no grounds to be angry with God, dear brothers and sisters, but rather we have the privilege to praise Him for all that He has done for us, including the promise of everlasting life.  Instead of griping that others are shown undeserved mercy, we should thank God every moment of every day that we, like the grumbling children of Israel, are baptized and deemed worthy to eat spiritual food and drink spiritual drink.  For the rock from which the life-giving water flowed and flows, was and is: Christ!

And though we are entitled to death, our Lord does what He chooses with what is His, which includes us.  The Lord is kind, gracious, and merciful: “the last will be first, and the first last.”  And rather than begrudge the Lord’s generosity, we are grateful for His kindness in paying us not the wages of sin, which is death, but rather giving us the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!

And this life of gratitude and praise takes discipline, dear friends.  We are disciples, and so we discipline ourselves.  As Olympic athletes do not run aimlessly, but train with their eyes on the prize, and just as martial artists do not prepare by simply flailing their arms about, but demand their bodies’ obedience to training, we Christians train ourselves spiritually, “lest after preaching to others,” we ourselves “should be disqualified.”

Dear friends, the Lord is gracious and merciful.  He does not pay us according to the wages we have earned by our sins, but rather He is generous to us, paying us according to the wages our Lord has earned by His blood shed on the cross.  We have been baptized not merely into Moses, but into Jesus, and we not only eat and drink spiritual food and drink, but the physical body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!  For we who are last have become first!  We who deserve death have been compensated with life.  We who are entitled to hell have been re-titled as heirs of the heavenly kingdom of our generous Master who does not pay us “whatever is right” nor what is fair, but rather what is gracious and merciful.

The last are the first, and the first are the last.  Thanks be to God, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

His

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Goals! Devotional and Educational Reading for 2014, etc.

Last year, I read an article that mentioned a book by self-help guru Brian Tracy called Goals(also available in Kindle format).  I was intrigued enough to buy the e-copy and give it a read.

We Lutherans tend to be smugly skeptical of self-help books, programs, and speakers, because there is so much of this kind of stuff "playing church" out there - supposedly Christian books teaching you how Jesus can help you to have a whiter smile, better breath, bigger hair, a faster private jet, health, wealth, and fame in just seven easy steps - that I think we have a healthy (or sometimes not so healthy) cynicism toward any hint that we can improve ourselves.  We certainly don't want to be accused of denying original sin or not placing the Doctrine of Justification at the front and center, so we typically don't even try to improve ourselves (an endeavor with which the sinful flesh is ever eager to assist).

In fact, the Rev. William Weedon may be on the trajectory to canonization for taking slings and arrows from many of his Lutheran brethren who see his enthusiasm for being healthy and fit to be scandalously un-Lutheran, bordering on the worship of Baal or siding with the French in the Franco-Prussian war.

Well, that's the caricature, anyway.

In spite of my Lutheran scruples, I found the Tracy book (as well as another book of his called No Excuses!) to be intriguing.  The gist of the Goals! book can be found here.

Our own auto-educational program here at Chez Hollywood has included the One Year Bible for several years now, and it is the foundation of our home study and family devotions (along with the LSB family prayer cards from CPH).  We typically add another reading of some sort, before or after COSEMP (the Caffeinated Order of Scrambled Eggs and Morning Prayer) - and the nature of the lection has been wide and varied over the years, e.g. spiritual authors such as Augustine, Chesterton, Pascal, and Lewis, etc. along with the pursuit of academic interests, such as the Free Market newsletter and political, philosophical, and economic thinkers by way of articles, essays, and various other books and podcasts.

For this year's devotional readings, we decided to take up the bibliography given by the Rev. Dr. Joel D. Biermann of Concordia Seminary - St. Louis as part of his course called "Woman and Man According to God's Plan" (we attended an abbreviated version of the lecture series last year in Pensacola).  We also listened to the entire lecture series on a subsequent road trip (available free of charge at iTunes University as video and audio).

Disclaimer: I heartily endorse Dr. Biermann's treatment of the vocation of male and female according to the order of creation, but I completely disagree with his views of government.

Anyway, given that the issue of the roles of the sexes is "the" issue in society, in the Church at large, and even the source of great disagreement within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (which I would refer to as the GMWO issue: gay 'marriage' - women's 'ordination'), we have decided to systematically read through all of the texts referenced in Dr. Biermann's lectures - some of which are theological, some secular.

Here is the list (dates refer to publication):

Since it was available electronically, we started with Eggerichs's Love and Respect right off the bat.  The author is a Ph.D. and an ordained Protestant minister who spent many years serving as a pastor.  We both found his book remarkably illuminating - even as we celebrate our 20th anniversary next month.  We would love to have had this book when we were first married.  Today's feminist culture virtually assures that men and women go into marriage brainwashed that there are no fundamental differences between the sexes other than the obvious plumbing, and to the really radical, perhaps admitting some very slight difference in upper body strength (although TV shows and movies have largely taught us that women and men are even identical in regards to physical strength, Girl Power and all that).

We highly recommend Dr. Eggerich's book for married people, engaged couples, and anyone who might want to be married.  I recommend the book also to pastors.  It is a scriptural treatment of how husbands and wives can better communicate with one another, and avoid the communication breakdown the author calls "the crazy cycle."  It is a very practical work, fun to read, based on both scripture and years of seminars given by the author and his wife.

We have bought Grudem, Rhodes, and Sax in non-digital form, and they are patiently waiting their turns.  We will buy the others as the time gets closer, though the Fritz book is out of print and may prove more of a challenge.  We are working through Dr. Sax's book (Why Gender Matters) now.  The author is both an M.D. and a Ph.D.  His book is culturally iconoclastic, arguing from a purely clinical and biological secular perspective that the sexes are wired differently.  He cites a lot of research and presents it in an engaging way.  It is funny, though, how often he tries to weasel out of the obvious conclusions to be drawn.  We're just shy of being a quarter of the way through the book, and find it fascinating.  The egalitarian and feminist foundations of our entire culture - which is driving the current debate about marriage, sex vs. "gender," the role of women in the church, women in combat, etc. - are really laid bare for the fraud that they are.

Another project - which actually takes about five minutes a day - which Grace and I are pursuing separately, is the reading of St. Augustine's epic The City of God over the course of this year.  We joined a facebook group dedicated to that goal and have joined up with more than a thousand people on the moderator's reading schedule.  I am also taking a more disciplined approach to reading literature that I should have read in school, but didn't.  I began reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment while in Russia two years ago, but got busy and stopped reading.  I restarted, made an overall goal and reading plan, and am now more than halfway done with the book.  This is especially good reading at bedtime (I'm reading this one without the electronic screen, as it seems that e-reading interferes with the production of melatonin which helps the body sleep).  The chapters are not long, and as long as I don't "stall" again, I should be able to complete it within a few weeks with just a short bit of reading each day.  We're also finishing up a delightful book about books, given to us as a Christmas gift by a friend: Howard's End is On the Landing by Susan Hill.  It makes for good reading in the car while running errands.  We'll have that one done in a few days.

Along the suggestions of Brian Tracy's Goals! book, I am tracking our reading and various projects using a planning Moleskine.  So far, I like the way this keeps us focused.  I'm using this same Moley to work on other projects that I have let slip because of not writing things down.

For example, I am working on the Pimsleur Russian course, which is an outstanding audio based series.  I own all 90 half-hour lessons broken down into three courses.  I have never gotten past about lesson 17 or so.  I am going to see if Tracy's premise that writing things down is the key to getting things done really works.  So far, it is helping!  I started back at the beginning with Unit 1 and and trying to get through 5 units or so a week (more if I am able).  I'm currently on Unit 10.  And since this course is audio, I listen while walking (which I am doing now), jogging (which will be a transition), and running (which I'm looking forward to doing regularly again, once more using the journal to keep myself in line).  I am also figuring out how to work in some more ambitious fitness goals, but at age 49, running a marathon by just showing up the morning of the race isn't an option the way it was when I was in my 20s (though even then that wasn't my brightest, shining moment, not that I regret doing it, for like most crazy things we do in life, I got a story out of the deal).  So I'm taking it a little slower these days.  We also eat paleo, though we need to tighten up after loosening the reins a bit during the holidays.

Another goal I've set for myself this year is to work on my Latin in a more disciplined way.  I have never completed the entire book Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata: Pars I Familia Romana by Hans Oerberg (which is the natural method Latin course I taught to Junior High students for many years).  I want to not only complete all 35 chapters (I restarted with Chapter 1, and am currently on Chapter 9), but also want to read the sequel, Roma Aeterna.  Once those are done, I might like to tackle the two volumes of ecclesiastical Latin in Latin Grammar and Second Latin by Cora and Charles Scanlon.  Of course, elephants are eaten one bite at a time.

FH readers will note that I have not been keeping up with posting my sermons nor have I done much blogging.  I hope to be more diligent on both counts.

I also have other projects that need to be done bit by bit, and I am journalling those as well.  I adopted this Circle System for project management, and here is how it works, as explained below by Sara Caputo at Radiant Organizing (note: some of the links are dead):


The Circle System is another that was developed out of pure need and logic by another gentleman from Amsterdam.  Simply put, it’s a blending of his own to-do list with a series of circles that he devised and gave meaning to — here’s a picture of what it looks like:
Cool, huh?
Here’s the jist from his site:
Ok, this was about the bones and now it’s the meat. The Cir­cle.
We now have projects with its actions, all with cir­cles in front. And we surely have indi­vid­ual actions that are not part of any project, like Pay this bill and so on. Put every­thing in, every action you need to exe­cute at home or work. Don’t try to remem­ber every­thing — except one thing: The note­book remem­bers.
As things progress I add few things to the cir­cles. Here a list that explains in words and the pic­tures should be help­ful guides too.
  • Cir­cle : Project or an action
  • Stroke, a diag­o­nal line across the cir­cle : Work has started
  • Filled lower part of the cir­cle : Work is half done (or wait­ing for some other step)
  • Filled cir­cle : Work on the project or action is fin­ished or off my hand (delegated)
  • Cross over the cir­cle, sec­ond stroke : Can­celled
This makes up the basic Cir­cle sys­tem and is a great starter. I also use a few extras for empha­sis In addi­tion to this you could also use:
  • Num­bers to note in which order I need to execute
  • Excla­ma­tion mark in front of the cir­cle for an impor­tant action
  • Arrow or > after any cir­cle tells that a project or an action has been del­e­gated or moved to my GTD appli­ca­tion. Don’t for­get to fill the cir­cle at the same time. And also write down who is con­tin­u­ing the work if that is impor­tant. It usu­ally is.
  • Dot in the mid­dle of the cir­cle is a sub­tle atten­tion mark.
I like them both because they were created around NEED and the system was devised around the individual’s workflow. Very often, task management systems that we try to plug into that others have created don’t work well because it is not a system that follows our individual needs.  When we devise our own system, as the gentlemen above have done, we are better able to follow it and have it be sustainable.  Just my own 2 cents.  More to come next Tuesday as we review 2 more systems…. have a great week of getting stuff done!

I don't carry my planning book around with me, but I do keep a personal notebook on me at all times.  In it, I have made my own calendars for several months, a to-do list for day-to-day tasks using the Circle System, a section for quick incidental notes, and I use the rest of the notebook for taking notes for all other meetings or other situations requiring note-taking.  At the first of the year, I completed my pocket Moleskine that I used for July through December 2013, and am now trying a notebook that I hope will be more robust: a German-made Leuchtturm 1917 pocket ruled notebook.  So far, I'm quite impressed with it.  I used my Leuchty to take notes at the 2014 Mises Circle in Houston, where we heard lectures by Jeff Deist, Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell, and Ron Paul (note: Dr. Woods's lecture is linked, the rest are on the way!).  The Leuchtturm is slightly larger than the Moleskine, and has very nice cream-colored high quality pages that are pre-numbered!  I'm hoping that it is more robust than its Chinese-made Italian cousin.

In terms of economics self-education and personal development, we attend the unique and delightful  Dr. Walter Block's Human Action seminars held at Loyola University twice per month (which restared this month after a long Christmas break).  In that ongoing seminar, we are reading, discussing, and debating Murray N. Rothbard's Economic Controversies (available as a free download here).  These seminars and the discussions that come afterwards really keep the brain running in overdrive!  

While at the Mises Circle, we picked up the following which we also look forward to working into the reading program:
Since we were on a road trip, we started reading together aloud Dr. Paul's The School Revolution.  We're more than halfway through, and it is an insightful read!  

I know someone is going to respond: "You have too much time on your hands."  (I used to get that a lot when I was more prolific at writing and when I used to post funny broadsides at seminary). Actually, we all have the same amount of time. Well, here is what Grace and I have found helps us to get things accomplished.  These work for us, and I'm sure other people have great techniques as well for reclaiming time:
  1. Get up early (last year, we set the alarm for 4:45 but got out of the habit later in the year when we were swamped with work that caused us to stay up too late - but are working our way back). 
  2. Don't watch TV.  Aside from an occasional Netflix movie, we don't watch anything on the television: we don't have cable, we don't watch network broadcasting, no football, no news - no nothing. 
  3. Eat at home.  We used to go to restaurants a lot, but now eat almost exclusively at home.  Not only does this save a ton of money, it buys us loads of time not spent getting ready, waiting for a table, dining, waiting for the check, and driving back.  During food preparation at home, we have additional time to read aloud to one another.
  4. Turn the car into a 4-wheeled university.  Road trips are perfect for podcasts or long stretches of reading.  Running local errands is great for reading a chapter here and there aloud to one another.
  5. Take Advantage of supermarket lines with a book, e-reader, or books on the iPhone.  Instead of complaining about the long line, turn it into a class, an opportunity to learn!
There is actually a lot of time for reading, studying, thinking, and writing - if it is a priority.   In spite of the time it takes to be a parish pastor and high school teacher; in spite of the time it takes to homeschool a third-grader, run a home, and serve the church as a volunteer - there is time to continue to learn and grow if we make the time and have the self-discipline to stick with it.

I hope Brian Tracy is right.







The Best Lent/Easter Devotional Reading


It's almost that time again. Here is a link to my pre-review of Thy Kingdom Come:Lent and Easter Sermons by David H. Petersen.

You can order a copy here from Emmanuel Press, or here at Amazon.

I can't recommend this magnificent proclamation of the Lamb of God, sacrificed and risen, enough!

One Year Greek New Testament


I'm a fan of the One Year Bible for personal study and family devotions. It provides a discipled and systematic tour of the entire Bible over the course of each year, and the readings are short enough not to be a burden. There is also an online version.

To help with reading the Greek New Testament in a year, I started a blog called the One Year Greek New. Testament that provides audio (by means of embedded YouTube videos) of the English text in interlinear form to listen while reading the Greek text. The time investment per day is between three and ten minutes.

Since this is a year-long project, it won't be complete until the end of this year.  I'm trying to stay about a month ahead of the readings.

You can read more here.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Attention Econ Junkies!

31 free video lectures you can look at online to make you more knowledgeable about freedom and economics, courtesy of Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal and the Ludwig von Mises Institute - just click here!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Adam on the History Channel?



Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio's Fighting For the Faith has exposed a History Channel misrepresentation (yes, I know, dear reader, you are shocked!) regarding the Hebrew word אָדָם ("Adam") and its translation and interpretation in the creation account of the Book of Genesis.

The History Channel's premise is that the Christian Church, out of either deliberate misrepresentation or out of knuckle-dragging ignorance, has led its followers astray concerning the word "Adam."  And, of course, there are the Usual Suspects, the same TV celebrity scholars who are trotted out every time TV producers need to drum up ratings, such as Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman.

Anyway, Rosebrough demonstrates the power of TV propaganda, as countless people undoubtedly watched this program, convinced that the History Channel has integrity and genuine balanced scholarship, and now believe the ridiculous claim of the program.  These are the same people who will now smugly dismiss their Christian neighbors as idiots, while their own interaction with the text is a few TV shows rather than any serious study.

Of course, scholars can (and do!) disagree.  But the fact that the History Channel had to engage in blatant disinformation that can be debunked in a 30 minute presentation is evidence that they are not interested in educating anyone.  They are pushing an agenda, and even twisting the words of a scholar who disagrees with them to give the illusion of agreement.

This is yet another reason why we must not cave into cultural and financial pressure to end-run the seminaries and place men into the Office of the Holy Ministry based on nine internet classes.  We need pastors who are well-trained, who can engage in apologetics, who have studied Greek and Hebrew, who have been through painstaking pastoral formation in classroom and chapel, and who have been thoroughly instructed academically in not only the biblical languages, but in church history as well.

The old Alternate Route program at Concordia Theological Seminary - Fort Wayne used to allow men to be certified for ministry without an M.Div. degree, without taking a single course in Hebrew, and without studying the history of the early church.  I know the program has been revamped, but the continued existence of shortcuts to the altar, font, and pulpit are (or ought to be) cause for concern.

To paraphrase some old public service announcement, if you don't train your pastors in biblical languages and church history, someone else will, like the History Channel.  Well-trained pastors are not a luxury item.  Our congregations deserve to have men shepherding them who can see through this nonsense.

Thank you to Chris Rosebrough for his fine work in exposing the flaw in the History Channel's scholarship as well as their obvious agenda to dishonestly approach the sacred text of two billion people.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Thank you, Cat Practice!


We are so blessed to have quality health care for our cats - The Cat Practice at  1809 Magazine Street in New Orleans.

As should be obvious, The Cat Practice specializes in feline medicine - not dogs, iguanas, birds, or fish.  So, it's pretty apparent that they know cats!  And boy, do they ever!

We've brought six cats to them (five pets and one to be adopted out) over the past three or four years or so - including a couple of very difficult cases to diagnose.  There are many, many wonderful things about The Cat Practice:

  • Top-Notch Feline Medicine. Both doctors, Cousins and Dunn, are experts in the field.  Dr. Cousins in particular lectures around the country.  The staff is professional, efficient, compassionate, and extremely competent.  The office is well-organized and well-run.  We have brought cats to both doctors and have a wonderful rapport with both of them.  You can tell right away that these are experts.  We are always amazed to watch both of these outstanding veterinarians at work.  
  • Methodology and pricing.  You might think that the prices would be prohibitive compared to local general vets.  But this is not the case.  In fact, there is a great sensitivity to the fact that we have to pay for the services rendered, and unlike human medicine - in which costs are buried and hidden in the insurance system - pricing has to be up front.  We have found that The Cat Practice has such advanced diagnostic tools and methods that you can generally get information back - sometimes within minutes - that help guide where to go next in diagnostics and treatment.  There is never pressure or deliberate running up the bill.  The doctors always consider how to make treatment affordable.  The options are laid out in full, in writing, and the doctors will assist in prioritizing procedures to determine exactly what tests to run, and exactly how much money to spend.  And thanks to the diagnostics that they are able to run, there isn't the "try this, try that" groping about in the dark that we've experienced with other veterinarians.
  • You are not a number.  The doctors and the staff understand that they are dealing with people in addition to dealing with animal medicine.  We are always treated with professional courteous respect, but with great warmth and familiarity.  They know our names, they know our cats, they treat us like we're part of their own family.  Nobody likes to have to go to the vet, but going to The Cat Practice is unlike our other experiences in dealing with vets and animal hospitals (and we do have a lot of experience!).
  • They are kind and compassionate!  The entire staff, from the receptionists to the techs to the doctors, are not only competent and professional, but pleasant to deal with.  We always end up laughing with the staff and the doctors and often become engrossed in medical discussions.  The doctors do not talk down to us, but actually teach us as they go.  They appreciate questions and informed discussions - which are never rushed.  
  • Community relationships.  The Cat Practice has relationships with area pharmacies and other doctors.  The doctors will immediately get on the cellphone to give special instructions to pharmacists and other specialists if need be - right then and there.  We are always completely involved in these conversations and it speaks volumes about the respect that The Cat Practice enjoys in the community.
Both doctors are open to communications by phone or email.  In spite of their busyness, they make the time to follow up with us regarding our cats.  They make use of cutting-edge drugs and treatment, and they entrust us to administer the medicines ourselves by carefully teaching us how to give care from home. 

Vicar
This past fall, our oldest and dearest feline friend, Vicar, became very sick.  It was obvious that he was at the end of his life of more than 14 years.  Dr. Cousins ran diagnostics that confirmed that Vicar was suffering with cancer and pancreas disease.  But observing Vicar's will to live and our closeness with him, we all agreed to try a few things that could extend his life.  We decided against surgery or heroic measures, but there were things we could do to get him to eat again and possibly get him back to a stable level of health as his life drew to a close.

Amazingly, we were able to get Vicar to eat again.  The doctor prescribed what is essentially ground up cow pancreas to mix with Vicar's food in order to assist in his digestion.  By using this and an appetite stimulant, he was able to start eating again.  We did inject food into him for a couple days to get things started.

We knew that his days were numbered, but thanks to Dr. Cousins's compassionate and competent care, we had an additional couple months with our dear friend, with a good quality of life.  It gave us time to say our goodbyes and to treasure our time with him.  He had been through a lot with us, he was the household's alpha male and chief steward of the home.  Dr. Cousins could have, on the one hand, pushed us to take extraordinary measures and try to pressure us to run up a big bill.  He did nothing of the sort, and in fact, recommended against any kind of surgery.  On the other hand, he could have just offered to euthanize Vicar right then and there.  But he did not want to give up yet.  He even took pictures of Vicar, and commented on his robustness in the face of serious illness.  He did not use the word "will to live," but it is apparent that Vicar was willing to work with us to try to help him.  He trusted us and understood that we were trying to help him, and he expressed his appreciation and his desire to be with us in spite of our having to administer medication to him.

Finally, the day came when we had to bring Vicar to the cat practice for the last time.  Leo had never been through this experience, and it was not easy.  The staff was wonderful.  Dr. Cousins was "pastoral" with us, and that is not a word that I use lightly.  We were given as much time and privacy as we wanted.  We stayed with Vicar to the very end.  Dr. Cousins spoke kindly with Leo, with great compassion, but with great respect as well.  As a pastor, I am with people in the midst of death.  I was very impressed with Dr. Cousins.

We even received a follow-up call from Dr. Cousins to check on Leo and to give us some additional information about Vicar's illness.  We received a card, signed by doctors and staff, that included an inked paw print from Vicar.  They also made a donation to the SPCA on behalf of Vicar.



In their business, I'm sure it would be easy to become callous, to see the animals as objects, to treat people as almost an annoyance - the way our human healthcare system often seems to be.  But they don't.  That is not by accident.  It is their conscious effort combined with their genuine love for cats, for the owners, and for feline medicine that makes them different.  We can't imagine going anywhere else for veterinary care.

Grace and I have joked about visiting Drs. Dunn and Cousins for our own health care.  They're excellent doctors, and we like the way we're treated when we go to The Cat Practice.  One day, they may be shocked to find us waiting in the treatment room clad in a hospital gown and with no cat with us.  If only our human healthcare system was as humane, competent, and committed to excellence as The Cat Practice!

In all seriousness, we are grateful for The Cat Practice, and if you live in the New Orleans area and have cats, we can't recommend them enough. In the long run, you will spend less money and get far superior care to many other more general vet practices.

As a postscript, one of our cats, Walmart, made The Cat Practice's 2014 calendar.  She is depicted in the black and white picture in the lower right corner of November.

Walmart - Miss November



Issues, Etc., the War on Poverty, and Wittenberg Academy


Thanks to the world's greatest Christian talk radio program, Issues, Etc. (especially the Rev. Todd Wilken, the host, and Jeff Schwarz, the producer - along with Justin Benson, the president of Wittenberg Academy, who has the idea to have me on the program today to address the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty).

It was, as always, great fun.  You can listen here.

There were a few more points I had hoped to make during the course of the interview, but didn't get around to it.

One quote from president Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty Speech" from 1964 that I found interesting was this: "The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support, to make them dependent on the generosity of others."  But this is exactly what we've seen happen: generational dependence.

I was also hoping to link to the following video which demonstrates the difference between voluntary, private charity - such as works of mercy provided by churches - vs. compulsory government programs such as the War on Poverty.

Finally, I was hoping to mention Lutheran Church Charities and Orphan Grain Train - whose nimble and responsive actions after Hurricane Katrina were incredibly helpful to the group of us Lutheran pastors and laymen who were working at the site of the 17th Street Canal breach (providing satellite communications, boats, ATVs, and other equipment) while the lumbering dinosaur of bureaucratic government was nowhere to be found.  Supporting LCC and OGT are two examples of how the Church can continue to serve our neighbors apart from the apparatus of the state.

Thanks again to Issues, Etc. and also to Wittenberg Academy's Justin and Jocelyn Benson (and congratulations on the occasion of the birth of their daughter Miram today!).



Saturday, January 04, 2014

Call Kim!

Call Kim Patrick at 678-878-7888 (cell) of American Financial Network if you need to refinance your house!  You can also connect with her at LinkedIn here.

We had been trying for two years to refinance.  Our current bank was unable to help us without a huge down-payment.  We tried both Discover and Quicken, but to no avail.  We have a particular carrier of mortgage insurance that made it impossible for those companies to help us.  We were locked into almost 8% interest on a 30-year (10-year interest-only loan),  6 years in, and we were in a kind of no-man's land: making too much to quality for government programs, but not making enough to make a big down-payment.  It was extremely frustrating.

But after I called AFN and got the ball rolling, the entire matter was settled in less than two months - including the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  I was blown away every step of the process.

Kim was assigned to our loan, and she was my contact person.  I did not have to call with an account number to be put on hold only to deal with different people every time.  Kim made herself available to us by office phone, cell phone, e-mail, and text.  When we did have to deal with insurance matters, for instance (and a shout-out and huge thank you to Lisa Matherne and Sabrina at Allstate for their wonderful help as well!), Kim handled this for us.  When we did need to speak with other people, she was on the phone with us or involved in e-mails.  When we called, she either answered the phone right away, or returned our call quickly.  How often can we say that about anyone?

The process is subject to a lot of bureaucratic and governmental regulation.  But thanks to Kim, we sailed through all of that.  AFN makes maximum use of technology, and a lot of the forms were taken care of by e-signatures and by scanning into PDFs and e-mailing.  This was an extraordinary experience, especially since Kim lives near Atlanta, we live near New Orleans, and her home office is in California.  You would think that this would cause communications breakdowns and a long period of time.  But again, thanks to Kim and the way her company does business, it was very easy.

At closing (which took about 15 minutes) a local notary came to us after hours.  We ended up with a much lower interest rate, lower monthly payment, and we had two months off from making payments.  We did not have to put anything down, and in fact, we will receive a check for the overage as well as a check reimbursing us out of our escrow account in a few weeks.

The final result was even better than Kim's estimate - which suggests that she makes conservative estimates and is not just throwing numbers out there to hook a sale.  She even called us afterwards to check up on us and make sure we were happy with the results.

Grace and I are blown away by this company and by Kim.  I'm a big believer in free markets, and when someone offers an excellent product and superlative customer service, I want to make sure I do everything in my power to tell others about them.

If you have not refinanced, now is the time!  The Fed is starting to make rumblings about tapering.  I'm skeptical, but it does stand to reason that at some point, interest rates will rise.  They simply can't stay where they are forever.  If you want the process to be competitive, easy, and completely transparent, and if you want to work with a real person who knows what she is doing instead of a faceless bureaucracy, call Kim!

Thank you, Kim!  You are doing the Lord's work!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address

Here is a link to a great interview regarding Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (today is the 150th anniversary of the speech).  Click on Nov 19 to listen to the show.  It is an interview with Dr. Richard M. Gamble, professor of history and political science at Hillsdale College and author of the article "The Gettysburg Gospel."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acts of the (21st Century Russian Successors of the) Apostles




[Note: I ran across this newsletter from earlier this year (March 9, 2013), Faith and Hope Newsletter #221.  It mainly reports the evangelistic efforts of Fr. Pavel Zayakin, parish priest of St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Abakhan, Khakassia (Siberia, Russia) and the dean of the Eastern Deanery of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Fr. Pavel and his brothers are bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Siberian far east.  His narrative is fascinating and shows just how resilient the Word of God is, and is an inspiration to those of us in the West who are tempted either to take our faith for granted, or despair of the task at hand in ministering to a culture that has become alien to the Christian faith.  If you would like to support Father Pavel's heroic endeavors, please contact the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society - Ed.]


Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

We wish you God's blessings in this time of Lent and want to share with you a story of Pastor Pavel Zayakin about his recent trip to Eastern Siberia.
 
At first we asked Pastor Pavel Zayakin how he would call his trip, and he responded: "Wild East."  So, this is his story:
I like to travel.  Of course, it is most pleasant when you are the master of your journey, when you direct your way according to your desire sitting in your car with wife and children or, for example, hiking across mountain range.  Then you feel yourself free, you can stop wherever you like it or leave any place that is dangerous or unpleasant.      
But I serve in the Church for 17 years now, and I don't always choose my way as well as means of transportation.  We priests aren't free. I remember how our Bishop told seminarians: If you want to stay free, leave the seminary. And it is true: a priest must forget about himself and what is his own and serve the people of God. This is the mandate we have from Christ.      
In the second part of February I went on my next trip to the eastern parishes of our Church. You know that the territory of our Church is divided into three deaneries, and I am the dean of the eastern one.    
I regularly visit these parishes, and I know all their needs and difficulties. Oftentimes one of the pastors accompanies me also, and this time it was Andrey Ivolga, our pastor from Angarsk.     
The most complicated things in travel across Siberia, of course, would be our huge distances.  Our travel route was from Novosibirsk to Buryatia and then to Chita.  This is the same distance as from Novosibirsk to Moscow, that is, three thousand kilometers (about 1900 miles).  The comfort is non-existent: old 3rd class train cars packed with crowd of people (we, like majority of Russia's population, can not afford traveling in the second class train cars), very heat, stink, draft.     
Next to us in the car there were some Asian people (they comprised about one third of the train passengers).  Two of whom were sick with tuberculosis and coughed all the time, one of them was coughing with blood, spitting out the parts of his lungs along with that.  That is the terminal stage of tuberculosis, it is impossible to cure such person.      
Forgive me for this level of detail reminiscent of horror movie, but tuberculosis is an integral part of life in Siberia [see Newsletter # 162 concerning Tuberculosis in Siberia]. Millions of people are sick with tuberculosis in Siberia.  Even in relatively wealthy Novosibirsk about 1700 die annually according to official statistics.    
In Novosibirsk you can daily meet people sick with tuberculosis -- in subway, in buses, out on the street.  It's just that not everybody yet may discern regular cough and tuberculosis cough.  We clergymen do it by now.    
And in Buryatia sick people are everywhere, and there is no place for you to hide from the bacteria flying in the air.  All hope is for my immune system to be strong enough to cope with infection.     
In general, Buryatia always makes a very strong impression on me.  In our place, Khakassia, people live poorly, but I found out once again how some things may pale in comparison.  In Petropavlovka, a Buryatian town where our parish is located, half of the local population is sick with tuberculosis.  There is terrible poverty there and also degradation (alcoholism,  drug-addiction).     
I saw once again that part of our parishioners got ruined by alcohol and got back to their former pagan life.  It is a great pity that people can not receive constant spiritual care from us.  We don't have a permanent clergyman in Buryatia (we lack clergymen in our Church, and we lack funds for regular trips), and services in some remote locations are held once a month.  It is very sad.    
Then we got back to the train and went from Buryatia to Chita.  It isn't very far: only 16 hours by Trans-Siberian railroad.    
When we came to Chita, we once again faced difficulties: hotels were expensive, and the average local people poor.  Thanks to our Chita parishioners: they found mattresses and pillows for us, and we spent nights while there on the floor and on the chairs in the church facility.        
However, I would like to tell you not only about sad things.  You know, the most moving thing is to serve the liturgy in such places.  People wait for you, they want to hear you, they ask you many questions.  Here every priest always feels how much people need him. You can not experience this feeling anywhere else.  It seems sometimes that in the large cities people attend the services half-heartedly. But here people take in the Word of God with great hunger making you understand what it means to be hungry and thirsty for the Word in the Biblical sense.     
I like to travel.  I like the fresh wind out in the mountains and the fast road twists under the car tires.  I can not understand only one thing: why is it that the smell of the 3rd class train compartments reminds prison smell so much?  And why do the looks of people who I pass by in the eastern towns and villages, remind so much the looks of the convicts?  May be, it is because it is still Soviet Union that is in their eyes, still lack of freedom?  I don't know.    
But I know one thing: there is one real freedom in these places that smell of prison, it is the Church of Christ, which carries light and forgiveness to people.   
Please, pray for the clergymen and parishioners and of the Eastern deanery of Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Train


Third Class


Pastor Zayakin in the Train



Road in Buryatian Desert



Pastor Zayakin Teaches People



Holy Communion



Pastor Andrei Ivolga and Parishioners in Buryatia


Soup

In the Bus in Buryatia, Pastor Zayakin Sends Short Messages to His Wife

Pastor Zayakin Sleeps in the Church in Chita