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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Great Bean Counter Conspiracy

            The Great Bean Counter Conspiracy

        Yesterday, July 26th, as I watched CNN they announced that IRA investment had reached a level last achieved almost five years ago.  In other words it has taken five years to return to the level we were at prior to the Market Crash of 2008.  They announced it as if it was some significant milestone. I found it to be a bit ironic that it happened forty-four years to the day after our first Moon Landing.  It was a high point in American history that we have equaled, but never surpassed.

     Every boom or major advance in industry from the Civil War till today has been followed by a period of stagnation.  Each crash was only ended by the next big advance or a period of war. The industrial boom that supplied the Civil War, was followed by the railroad expansion, the steel boom, the birth of the auto and aviation industries, World War I, the automation of the auto and aviation industries, World War II, the infrastructure boom, the technology boom, the computer boom, the boom, the housing boom/bubble and a number of energy crisis interspersed along the way. 

     The last and ongoing slowdown has been caused in large part by the development of the robotic and computer control systems that have replaced large numbers of workers.  Those workers displaced by this last boom are no longer needed and will only survive by adapting or creating a new skill that meets some new demand that society has not yet realized needs to be fulfilled.

     The stock crash of 08 caught the bankers and business with their pants down and almost destroyed America as we know it.  Millions of people lost their life savings due to blind investment by institutional investors that did not question the investments they put their client’s money in.  Their job was simply to put it somewhere and many did not care where that was.

     After “The Great Bailout” many of the Bean Counters realized there was a problem.  Banks froze capital and investments with a new plan to just hold their own and not grow, but to survive and definitely not collapse.  As the institutional investors started investing in the market again a light went on.  There was no need to take risks on investments.  If they just sat tight and did nothing the institutional money would grow the companies and they would look sound and solvent. Even if in reality they did absolutely nothing.

      It was the perfect financial storm.  Do nothing but watch the investments roll in and take no risks.  With interest rates in the tank, investors had nowhere else to go. The only threat would be inflation.  The government bean counters went along with the program and gave figures that pronounced little or no inflation. 

       Individuals know better as their buying power constantly decreases.  Jobs have slowly increased but not at a rate to even keep up with the new people entering the market.  The present administration swears things are getting better, but the real question is, in comparison to what?

       I will have to admit there seems to be a more positive attitude in America.  To me it stems from the hope that things are not getting noticeably worse.  The problem with that view is that things are not getting noticeably better either.  The only hope at present is that Americans are learning to get by with less and thereby lowering their level of pain.

       Recently I read that the level of the national debt per person has exceeded the annual median income of America.  That means over half of Americans owe more than they make per year as income to the national debt.  It is a number that is getting progressively worse.  The debt is not being addressed.  The new tactics of the Bean Counters of America is to sit and do nothing but count the money they are raking in from institutional investors.  The stock market balloon is being pumped to the max.  The only question is, what will burst the bubble. 

    Will it be the national debt?  The constant rise of entitlement programs?  The collapse of the dollar? The rise of the price of oil? Some foreign market collapse? It does not matter what it is.  The point is that it is a bubble, and all bubbles bust sooner or later, especially if they are ignored by those with the responsibility to fix the problem.  As long as the bankers, businesses and bean counters are making money they will not address the problem.  They are the ones creating the problem, but as long as the cash is flowing their direction, why fix it?

  The President and Congress are certainly not going to address the problem as long as they are in office. Even the Supreme Court is contributing to the problem as they make millions of people eligible for benefits with the stroke of a pen. It might pay to get a place in the country where you can be totally self- sufficient.  The only problem with that is that the local tax collectors will tax you right off of the property.  Enjoy life while you can, before government figures a way to tax that too.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Three Things God Can't Do, If You Believe Him

       Do dates and times mean anything? Well the 22nd of January, 2004 will be important to me as long as I continue to draw a breath of air.  It was literally the first day of the rest of my life.  If one has been dead and managed to come back, that tends to get your attention. Actually, this was one of the last major events in my life.  Is it right to start at the end?  It doesn’t really seem to matter. Lots of dates seem to be important to us. Our birthday, the day we got married, and the day we got out of the Army could all be important to us.

        When you wake up and don’t really know where you are,  with a doctor you don’t know from Adam leaning over you and listening to your heart with a stethoscope, it might seem a little strange.  When he asks you how you are feeling, the only witty answer you can come up with is, “I feel like I have a six hundred pound gorilla on my chest.” It really gets strange when the doctor starts talking about being lucky to be alive. Then he says something about having lost you twice and putting some kind of things in your heart. The doctor then asks you questions like you are some kind of computer. “Do you drink?” “Do you smoke?”  “When did you quit?”  “How much did you smoke?”  “You need to lose some weight,” he says. Finally, here is, something I can give a positive answer to. “I have lost eighty pounds over the last six months,” I say, trying to smile. “That’s good,” he says, “If you hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I am thinking, “I thought that was the whole point of losing weight.” My attitude is starting to get a little sour when all of a sudden the light comes on to what he is saying.  Having lost all that weight actually did help save my life!  All of a sudden, I feel a little bit better about all this.  However, the gorilla returned to his seat, and I went back to sleep.

     The next time I remember waking up my wife and daughters were standing by my bed. I don’t really know how long I slept, but it was about eight or nine in the morning when the ambulance took me to the hospital in Baltimore. So, considering my family came from Indiana, it must have been awhile.

      Who am I that I am writing a book about my experiences and my understanding of them?  Very simply, I am nothing and nobody. So, what makes me feel I have something to say that may interest you?  How about a common bond, in that we are both seeking to know the will of God in our lives!  At least it is my hope that is our common bond.

        Why start with a testimony?  Well, first, it gives you an insight about me and where I am coming from.  It is not my desire to have you waste your time reading something you think is just a nice story.  However, I will try to tell it in such a way that you don’t have to use toothpicks to hold your eyes open. Yet, I want you to know that everything said in this book is the truth to the best of my knowledge. If you begin to believe what I am saying is not the truth, then I encourage you to quit reading this and spend your time more productively by truly seeking the presence of God in your life.

        Millions of people have heart attacks every year. What makes mine so special or different? Maybe it was the circumstances. One thing is that only by the grace of God, did I have the wisdom to ask the people at the business where my situation occurred to call an ambulance for me, because more than once in my life I had shrugged things off physically till I literally woke up in a hospital.

       Initially, I had broken out in a cold sweat.  That happens to people who have hypoglycemic attacks because they do not eat properly. Your sugar levels get all out of whack.  Driving a truck and eating regular meals sometimes is not easy to do. Often you are not near a place to get something, and you wind up spending longer than you intend waiting to get loaded or unloaded. However, that morning I had eaten a normal meal. Thinking it was still just an imbalance issue, I went to the cab of my truck and got a swig of pop and some soda crackers which usually worked.

         Upon returning to the inside of my trailer, it quickly became apparent something else was wrong, as I could not get my breath.  I mean, I could breathe, but it was like I was not getting any oxygen.  Finally, things started into a slow spin, and the urge to go to the bathroom became overwhelming. With much effort, somehow I managed to get the couple of hundred feet to the office and asked the people there to call me an ambulance. It was a just a matter of minutes till the ambulance arrived.  The ambulance was on the way back to the hospital from a previous run and was only a couple of blocks away when they got the call. Much of this I found out after the fact.

        One of the things I do remember is how nice the ambulance crew was upon their arrival.  Getting on the cart was the last thing I remembered till a doctor at the hospital asked me to sign a paper and told me he was performing a procedure to help me, because I was having a heart attack. If I signed the paper, I do not remember.  The next memory I had was the doctor standing over me with the stethoscope.

        Coincidence number two was that I had only been about a mile and a half from Saint Agnes hospital in Baltimore. If you are going to have a heart attack, that is a good place to be.  The reason is that Saint Agnes was the first hospital in America to come up with the idea of a specialized cardiac care facility.  They also have some of the top people in the field of cardiac care.

       The third thing that saved my life was that the actual cardiac arrest did not start till I was in the emergency room at the hospital. The doctor informed me that if I had not been where I was, when I was, we would not have been having our conversation. He said if the attack had started in the warehouse, they could not have gotten me to the hospital in time to save my life,  even with the short distance involved.

     Supposedly, the final thing that saved my life was that, during the emergency, they had to hit me with the defibrillator paddles. They lost me twice.  As I understand it, the first time they brought me back with a single hit.  However, the second time they hit me twice, and I did not come back.  They thought I was gone; and someone said “Third time is a charm,” and they hit me again.  Fortunately, it worked.  The burn marks from the paddles were one of the worst side effects of the whole ordeal.  However, if you consider the alternative, it was not that big of a deal.

       Several days later, my family and I left Baltimore and flew into Louisville, Kentucky on our way home.  This small part of my life came full circle to me as I looked down at the C-130 airplanes on the tarmac at the airport. The C-130 had been central to several of the main events in my life.  It was almost as if I heard an audible voice say to me “You have had your time; now it is my time.”  God had given me fifty-seven years of life, and now He was calling a promise I had made due.

         Why me; why now; why at all?  God does not have to answer to anyone, especially a man who has run from Him most of his life  He has spoke through the mouth of a donkey. That is in Numbers 22.  He has used people who were the epitome of evil to get “His will” done.  Also, just as I know, I could die before I get this done; God will get His message out with or without me.  It is vanity and pride to think God needs us to do anything.  However, I believe the things I have come to understand and see speak to this day and age in a special way and with a special purpose. Yet, God’s Word has always been special.  Soon and very soon, mankind will come to a very vivid understanding of that.

      Yes, I believe we are in the end time.  The next part of my testimony will test your ability to accept things as they are. Some will discard what I have to say quickly and say God does not speak to people anymore. That is their privilege.  However, when I read the Bible, I find that Jesus marveled at two things while He was here on earth.  He marveled at total blind, unquestioning faith, and He marveled at unbelief.
     First, I would like to say something about unbelief, because I think it is the most deadly thing that can happen to someone. When someone rationalizes why they do not believe something or why God cannot do something, they are treading on very, very thin ice, as far as I am concerned. Yes, there are some things God cannot do. Before you write me off as nuts, at least read the next paragraph and see if you do not agree with me. Only a faithful person will agree.

     First, God cannot lie. If God says it, that makes it truth. Second, God cannot steal, as everything in the whole universe belongs to Him to start with.  Thirdly, and finally, God cannot cheat, because He is the One who makes the rules to start with. So there are three things God cannot do.  That may be playing with words, but it is the truth as far as I see it.

     That is as good of a place to start in my estimation as any. When asked what truth was, Jesus replied, in John 8:32  “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  If one comes to understand that Jesus was God’s Word made flesh, then you also know that without knowing Him, God’s Word, you cannot know God.  John 17:17 makes it clear we are “sanctified through the truth, and His Word is truth.” To many, that may sound adversarial, but if you are seeking God and if you hope to find Him, it will be on His terms.   If you are not willing to meet Him on His terms, you are suffering from vanity and pride. Those are two of the things He hates most so your chances of success are slim unless you discover a little humility along the way.  You do not even have to ask to get a big dose of humility.  It is one of the reality sticks with which he opens blind eyes.

    All that being, said I must admit, yes, I have lied and occasionally still do.  However, nowadays, it is more from senility than intent. The testimony I am about to give though is the truth.  It is still as fresh in my mind as the moment it happened. Reflecting on my past, I would say one of my biggest problems was that I was a “the grass is always greener” person.  The only good places in life were where I had been and where I was going. It took me many years to get over that.  Once you learn to be happy with where you are, God will open the gate and put you where He wants you to be. However, it will be on His timetable, not ours.

It Rains On The Good and The Bad

                 It Rains On The Good and The Bad

All the years I drove my own truck over the road the verse from Proverbs 3:5-6 was painted on the sides of my hood. The verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.” The Good Lord opened the doors and paved the way for me to be in my own truck and I wanted people to know where my blessings come from. Believing it has made me come to understand sometimes the things he has to say to us are things we do not want to hear. Another verse made me understand that the truth will in fact set us free. If we believe in God he orders our paths and brings all things to pass for our good.  Sort of like when he can pick five torn souls at a writer’s conference of several hundred people. Bring them together from different parts of the country. Set them down at one table so they can encourage each other that there is hope. Making us see that even in our time of suffering and dealing with things we do not understand, he is with us. Of the five of us at the table four had recently lost a loved one. The fifth was dealing with fear of losing a loved one. I may be wrong but I see that as God being at work in our presence. Coincidence? I think not.  Read my next post or go to my blog of 3/29/12 which is the second part of my book Further Down the Path, which I posted free in seven parts and scroll down to the Testimony and you will see why I do not believe in accidents.

Tuesday morning 9/11/2001 dawned a beautiful and clear day. I found myself unloading in Bayonne, NJ. I had just delivered a load of spices from Reno, NV. As the load bought me through my home I took a day off en route.  Usually I delivered on Mondays but the day off at home put me in Bayonne on Tuesday.  I finished unloading at 07:30 and took a couple minutes to do my paperwork. As I left and moved to the north bound waterfront road I noticed people all staring, and some pointing east. As I looked across the river I could see smoke pouring from the top of one of the World Trade Center buildings. I pulled over for a few minutes and watched.  I was not sure what I was watching but I could tell it was intense. I turned on my radio and picked up a local station. The radio announcer was in the other tower. He was excited and describing the chaos. He stated that people had been advised to evacuate his building and that a plane had flown into the other tower.  He also stated he was staying on the radio and reporting. As I started hearing local sirens I decided where I was sitting I might be in the way of traffic. The best thing for me to do was quit rubber necking(a term for people who try to see the gore in an accident) and get out of the area. On my way to the truck stop in Bloomsbury, NJ my radio suddenly went dead. The next channel I found on the radio announced that another plane had hit the other tower. As I walked into the truck stop the area around the TV sales point was packed with people. I arrived just in time to see the first building go down. What I did not realize until sometime later that it was the second one hit that went down first. Suddenly I realized why my radio went dead. The disc jockey paid the ultimate price to share what he knew. We all need to learn to share. We also need to learn to listen. Certainly he had no clue as the events unfolding and the price of his decision. It is always important to share what we know and feel, because we are not promised tomorrow.  It is best to put it all in God's hands and follow what he puts in our hearts. Regardless of the outcome we need to know that his will is being done, even if we do not understand it at the time.

As horrible as 9/11 was there have been far more destructive manmade disasters. The atomic bombs in dropped on Japan killed a hundred times as many people in the manmade disasters of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.  In December of 2004 almost a hundred times as many would die in a Tsunami. Nature would not be outdone by man.  The tsunami would be followed shortly by Hurricane Katrina.  John Mutter a Columbia University professor estimates the loss of life from all cause in Hurricane Katrina to be around 3500 people.  Most of us are aware of the earthquake in Japan followed by a tsunami. Having seen the magnitude of that disaster on TV it amazes me so few were killed.

Why the focus on all this death and destruction? Some preachers I have heard actually proclaimed there were no Christians in the World Trade Centers. That is not what Jesus said. In Luke 13:1-5 he made it clear that it is not how you die, but your relationship to him when you die that is important. We are all going to die at some point in time.  Jesus spent his last night on earth warning his disciples of what the end of the world would be like. He said it would be as it was in the days of Noah.  He said that people would be eating, drinking and marrying. He left out what Genesis 6:3-5 said.  He could do that because those who truly know him, know His Word and what it says.  Those who truly know him will be able to discern the time they are in. We will not know the hour or the day.  However we will be able to tell it is the time. Looking around us at all the destruction and mankind killing mankind it certainly resembles the time of Noah.

So how do we get ourselves ready to meet our Lord and Savior.  We need to get in His Word and study to make ourselves approved and live our lives according to His Word.  God said in Hosea 4:6 “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”  He did not say the unbelievers, or the sinners.  He said “My people” that means people that think they have a relationship with God. So how do we know if we truly have a relationship with God?  In First John 2:27 His Word makes it clear that we do not need any man to teach us how to follow him.  If we are truly in relationship with him we will be in His Word and he will teach us what we need to know.  If we are in right relationship with God how we perish is immaterial. Our destination is clearly defined, just as the destination for those who do not have a relationship is clearly defined.

As evil as all the above mentioned destruction is, God has a purpose in it.
Isaiah Chapter 57:1

                 1The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are                         taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

Evil is on its way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Driving on Prayer

                               Driving on a prayer

    This post is an excerpt from a book on my career as a truck driver. It happened shortly after I got my own truck and stepped out in faith.  It had to be on faith, because I took the last $1500 dollars out of my checking account to make the down payment on my twenty-three year old truck. The only money I had when I started was the advance from my first load and that is how I survived till I retired. Looking back it was an awesome trip. 

      Everything went fine for about six months and then my first crisis hit.  The load I was picking up was in Salina, Kansas going to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.  Yes that is the real name of the town.  While deadheading to Salina from Colorado I noticed a loud growling coming from the rear of the truck. I got to Salina and dropped and hooked trailers.  Before leaving Salina I decided it was time to take Bertha to the doctor.  His diagnosis was severe.  The rear ends were about to go out.  It would cost $3400.00 to fix them right.  It was far more than I had. My company had a policy they did not give loans till you had been with the company a year.  Even if I could get them to advance me the money I had already earned it would not be enough.

     Not having that kind of money and no way to get it, we would just have to see how far we got.  Bertha made it to my home okay but the low growl in Kansas was a roar by Indiana.  Fortunately the load was very light and pulled easy.  After the week end I had about six hundred miles to go.  It went okay till a place called Lamar, Pennsylvania.  Stopping to eat and spend my time in the Word I picked up a local copy of the truck trader a newspaper add caught my eye.  It was for a company that specialized in repairing rear ends.  In one corner of the ad was a little Christian fish logo.    

       Upon calling the company they told me if I could make the twenty miles up to their shop they would check it out and could get to me the coming morning.  On my way there Bertha gave me the scare of my life.  It was a very long hill up to their shop.  A band blew off my turbo. It sounded like the engine was blowing up. It still ran though it pulled very weakly.  We made it to the shop about three in the afternoon and the manager did the inspection.  He said they would start in the morning and have me out by noon.  When I asked how much it would be I explained my financial situation.  He said don’t worry about it.  He told me to get a good night’s sleep and pray about it. H said he would see me at seven in the morning.

      Next morning he knocked on my door and opened the hood.  He fixed the strap on my turbo and backed me into the shop.  In an hour and a half they had it apart. True to his word by noon they had the whole thing rebuilt and ready to roll. Then he gave me the bill for $1500.  That was almost two thousand dollars cheaper than Kansas.

     Again I called my company not really expecting much help.  With the pay I had coming I was only a few hundred dollars short. So I asked about the loan again.  She asked how long I had had my truck on with the company and I said six months.
       She replied by asking me how long I had driven for the company and I replied about a year. She informed me that Saturday I had gone over the one year mark.  They based it on time with the company not time in my truck.  They lent me all the money.  They took it back at one hundred fifty dollars a week.  When I told the manager he laughed and said, “That was a good prayer, you can’t beat God.”  He was right about that.

      After that experience I never worried about how things would work out.  When God has his hands on the wheel you can’t go wrong.  It says the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord.  It also says all things work together for good to them that believe on his Word.  That is our part we have to believe.  We also need to ask for help and guidance. In Joshua 1: 8 KJV it makes clear that those who follow God’s Word will be blessed, but it also says we must make the effort.  We do not just sit back and wait on things to happen.

      David did not wait for God to take care of Goliath.  He rose to the occasion and picked up five stones and went out to meet Goliath.  Goliath did not lose because he could not whip David.  He lost because he was over confident and self-centered.  He did not assess the power of what a slingshot was capable of in a skilled set of hands. God did not leave David hanging either.  David picked up five stones. It tells later that Goliath had four brothers. In my life time I have seen the bigger guy get trashed over and over.  Also I have seen the little guy win against all odds. It reminds me of the old saying, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it is the size of the fight in the dog” Probably one of the truest proverbs ever written.

     Learning to trust God does not happen suddenly.  Our trust grows as we learn to know what God can do.  David had his path prepared by dealing with wild animals that were every bit as deadly as his adversary Goliath. The thing that counted was he knew God would give him the victory.  There was no doubt in his mind.