Sunday, June 15, 2008
My Dad is my hero.
He has always been there for me. There has never been a day in my life, when I couldn’t count on him being there if I needed him. If I needed advice, as I often do when hard or difficult decisions are to be made, I knew he would give me his best.
He has always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me when I needed him to. He pushed when I didn’t want him to. He taught be so many things.
I know that Dad had an important job. He was working to change the world, one sermon at a time. I learned from him about true religion. He has that quality that all heroes have in common. They have religion. By religion I do not mean the church creed he professes. But it is that we sometimes refer to as character. It is that which he truly believes. It is that which is the primary thing for him. And it has nothing to do with church or Sundays.
I learned that the thoughts we have are the parents of the actions we do. Our feelings are the parents of our thoughts. It is the unseen and spiritual within us that determines the outward and actual. My dad taught me this. And this was and has been his life, seeking to help us become the person we want to be, by showing us how to believe. Believe in ourselves, believe in others and to believe in something much bigger than ourselves, eternity, and to believe in the faith that moved him and sustained him in life.
When I say he is my hero, I mean that I hope to be like him. His love for others, his kindnesses, his great smile and disposition, are all things I admire.
He is not perfect. Who is? But he has so much that I Iong for. I try to be a dad myself like him. If I ever don’t know what to do, all I have to do is ask myself, what would Dad do?
He is technically, not my dad, but my step dad. My real dad died 4 months before I was born. He came into my life when I was two years old. He and my mom married then. They had two kids together, but they raised me with them, and he always loved me as much as his own. There has never been any difference, or ever any partiality shown to them over me, in all these years. His love for me is amazing.
I keep telling you how blessed I have been. This is just another of those many blessings I have known.
To all the Fathers out there, Happy Fathers Day…..Ric
Friday, June 13, 2008
What comes to mind when you think about prayer?
Do you think of someone on his or her knees, eyes squeezed shut, lips moving and hands clasped tightly together? Do you think of the beautiful and carefully written prayers we hear at church on Sundays? Do you think of children kneeling by their beds with their mothers? Or maybe of the desperate prayers in the family room outside the Intensive Care Unit?
Regardless of the place or time, prayer changes the one praying because in prayer, you are in the presence of God as you lay before Him your complete self in confession and dependence. There is nothing to hide when we are reaching into the deepest part of ourselves and admitting our needs and failures. In so doing, our hearts are quieted and pride is stripped and we enjoy the presence of God. James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
I am reminded of another benefit of prayer: peace. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," (Phil. 4:6-7).
May you find time to pray. I urge you to pray everyday. I am putting in here my daily prayer. I use this prayer. I often add to the end any specific situations or people on my mind to pray for. I give it to you to use, if you will.
Let us pray to the One who holds us in the hollow of His hands.
Heavenly Father, Please help me pray. I pray with all love and faith and trust.
And what shall we pray? Let us say, "thank you."
I give Thee thanks Lord for all Thy mercies Lord, seen and unseen.
I give thanks for eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which awaits me.
Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee O God, from age to age.
Lord, I thank you for the privilege and gift of living in a world filled with beauty and excitement and variety. I thank you for the givt of loving and being loved, for the love, concern, encouragement, friendliness and understanding of the people in my life... for the purity and innocence in the children, for the beauty of the animals of the world, &
for the colors in nature around me and the sound of the water falling from the sky. Thank you for the life that is mine. I thank you for the delights of music and children, for other people's thoughts and conversation and for their books to read from to learn from and be enlightened and encouraged.
And what shall we pray? Let us say, "please forgive me."
Father, I am blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me. Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you. I ask now for Your forgiveness. Thank you for your forgiveness.
And Lord, direct my steps in the paths of righteousness.
And what shall we pray? Let us say, "Lord Bless Us."
Please keep me safe from all danger and harm and evil in the world. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Lord draw me closer to You. Reveal Thyself that I would find Eternal truth, Immortal love & The Christian way of life. Pleading, Lord, I come to Thee For all the things that I would know. But most of all, that I would know Thee.
I pray that I will always remember and trust there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle I turn over to you Lord, it is in Your hands for You to fight. I pray that these words be received into the hearts of every person who hears or reads this and may each person be blessed accordingly and have faith to release their battles to You willingly.
And what shall we pray? Let us say, "Lord fill me with your Holy Spirit."
Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart, Assist me in all the trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, Pour thy light into my heart, my soul, and my mind.
Father, I ask You to bless my family, friends, relatives and those that I care deeply for, and each and every person who has requested I pray on their behalf. Show them a new revelation of Your love and power. Holy Spirit, I ask You to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self- doubt, release a renewed confidence through Your grace. Where there is need, I ask you to fulfill their needs. Bless their homes and families, their goings and their comings. Lord, Bless them richly, each and every one.
This I pray, In Jesus' precious name.
Let all who agree, say Amen
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I have compulsive behaviors…
…I chew the insides of my cheeks, the backs of my lips. I bite my nails – I bite the skin around my nails.
…I often am obsessed with symmetry. If I step on a crack with my right foot, I often feel an irresistible urge to step on a crack with my left foot. If I have five chairs on the right side, I need to have 5 chairs on the left side. I need balance. I need my closet in order and correctly balanced. I need my books on the shelf to be in order. I need like things kept together.
These days my compulsive rituals are mostly hidden and do not cause me great problems. I still bite my cheeks. I still pick at the skin on my fingers from time to time, and sometimes I tap out a drumbeat in my head. No one knows that I do this because I hide my percussion instrument behind my closed lips.
I have rituals. I do everything in the same order when getting dressed each morning. I have a “arriving at work” ritual which involves about 30 minutes of stuff before I am ready to get started on the days projects.
It's funny because in many areas of my life I have found peace. I am at peace with the jobs I have and my direction and calling in the world. I am at peace with my small sphere of influence or power in the world. I am relaxed and at peace with my marriage and my friends and my children.
But I cannot deny that when I am alone, I'm still a nail-biting, cheek-biting bundle of tics and funny habits. When no one is watching, I see the signs that indicate I am a bit anxious and fearful about something. But what?
Doctors have suggested that compulsive behavior can be remedied with medications. It does not seem right to me. Our behavior tells something about us. But I don’t know just what this says about me for sure.
Maybe its because I still have some unbalance that needs correcting - Maybe because I am anxious to get some area of my life back in order again. A couple areas come to mind, and plans are in motion to restore that order. Maybe I need reassurance that you like me just the way I am. I know that, but not sure why I would need reassurance. With my eyes half closed and my defenses down, perhaps I can hear the voice of my Father in heaven, who loves me as I am and leads me along the winding path of this spiritual journey.
"Do not worry, Ric, when you realize that you have not yet arrived. After all, there would be no journey if you had nowhere left to go."
May all your ducks be in a row….Ric
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Mexico is a popular vacation spot with its beautiful beaches and warm weather. White sands and blue waters entice tourists from all over the U.S. A trip to Mexico can be an inexpensive vacation or honeymoon.
I have known many to go vacation in Mexico and done just fine. But I have known others who weren't as lucky. Many have heard horror stories of things that have happened to Americans traveling south of the border. This is not intended to be a deterrent from going to Mexico. As a smart traveler you need to aware of the danger.
Crime is a reality for American tourists in many places. But recently, things have become a lot worse in Mexico . Violent criminal activity, fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade, continues along the U.S.-Mexico border. The conditions in Juarez, Mexico, have been serious for a long time as more than 410 persons have been slain in that city this year, most as part of a war between competing drug cartels. Many police have been killed. The warning to all residents, pleading actually, is just stay off the streets. They cannot stop the fighting and killing.
Americans have been raped, robbed and murdered while visiting Mexico. Many tourists who go to Cancun and other popular resorts are not often victimized. But veering off the beaten path even a little can be extremely dangerous. Widespread police corruption is a big part of the problem. Most all police are crooks. They do accept bribes. If fact, if you get stopped for something, offer them a $100 bill, and most times you can walk away.
An alarming number of Americans are being attacked in taxies, on buses, some even on the beach. Yet most visitors to Mexico know nothing about the crimes there or how to protect themselves. Mexico is in the midst of a massive crime wave brought on by a severe economic crisis. These are not the pictures you'll see in the travel brochures, but this is reality in Mexico these days.
Local news cameras last year watched armed bandits work in the open, using their guns to stop cars so they could rob the passengers. On another street, a team of muggers operates with apparent impunity, leaving a man unconscious in broad daylight. Just 15 minutes later, the same group attacks another victim, and during it all, a police officer stands just a few yards away. They have guns and it is illegal for you to have a gun.
Cab rides often result in muggings, robbing you of your cash and credit cards and severe harm if don’t give them your pin numbers to your cards. State Department now warns travelers to never hail a cab on the street.
Often tourists are forced into cars or vans, driven around and beaten and robbed, and kicked out in some unknown and often bad part of town, left with nothing but their clothes. No money, no ID, often injured and scared and no where to turn for help.
Carol Schlosberg was raped and murdered last month - just last month - on a beach just outside the resort of Puerto Escondido. Carol went for a walk on the beach shortly after noon. It was on of her favorite things to do. They believe Carol was attacked because she walked alone. Mexican women will never travel anywhere by themselves. They always go with a companion - another woman, a friend or whatever. You may notice they still do that when here in the US...a habit I guess. They know better than to do that because these things to happen. Lone women and even pairs of women should be very cautious about going to isolated beach spots.
Bandits occasionally hold up buses, cars and other vehicles on intercity routes, especially at night, taking luggage or valuables. Sometimes buses are robbed by people who board as passengers. The best ways to avoid highway robbery are to travel by day and to travel on toll highways as much as possible. Deluxe and 1st-class buses use toll highways, where they exist; 2nd-class buses do not.
Pocket-picking and purse snatching are risks on crowded buses, subway trains, at bus stops, bus stations, airports, markets, packed streets and plazas, and anywhere frequented by large number of tourists - especially in Mexico City and other large cities. Pickpockets often work in team, crowding in on their victims in already crowded places like markets or city buses; one or two of them may grab your bag or camera (or arm or leg), and while your are trying to get free another will pick your pocket. Or one may "drop" something as a crowd jostles onto a bus and, as he or she "looks for it," a pocket will be picked or a bag slashed. The objective is to distract you. If your valuables are underneath your clothing, the chances of losing them are greatly reduced.
Leave most of your money, credit cards, passport, jewelry and air tickets in a sealed, signed envelope in your hotel’s safe, unless you have immediate need of these items. Virtually all hotels, except the very cheapest, provide safekeeping for guests’ valuables.
If you have to leave money, cards or checks in your room, divide them into several stashes and hide them in different places.
Carry a small amount of ready money – just enough for the outing you’re on – in a pocket. If you have to carry valuables, avoid making your pockets bulge with them, and preferably keep them in a money belt, shoulder wallet or pouch underneath your clothing.
Walk with purpose and be alert to people around you.
Don’t keep cash, credit cards, purses, bags or cameras in open view any longer than you have to. At ticket counters in bus stations and airports, keep your bag between your feet.
Use ATMs only in secure locations, not those open to the street, and try to use them during daylight.
Do not drive if you can avoid it. Many bad things can happen when you are driving in Mexico.
Don’t accept lifts offered by strangers.
Be careful about accepting food or drinks from strangers, especially in resort cities and on buses; there have been cases of drugging followed by robbery and assault, including sexual assault.
Go easy on alcohol: it reduces your awareness and reactions and makes you an easier victim.
Be wary of attempts at credit-card fraud. One method is when the cashier swipes your card twice (once for the transaction and once for nefarious purposes). Keep your card in sight at all times.
The poverty is severe in Mexico. 20 million people in Mexico live on less than two dollars a day. Sixty million people, half the Mexican population, live in poverty, and 20 million of them live in extreme poverty. Most of the time, garbage is their food, and some days, they don't even eat anything. Folks, it is awful. And getting worse. And the worse it gets, the more tourists are at risk - at risk from those who are just mean and at risk from those just trying to survive.
The poverty in Mexico is literally “beyond belief.” That is why we have so many illegal’s working for so little here. It is way better than what they know back home.
For example, the lower middle class in Mexico cannot dream of buying a home because not only do they not have enough money to buy it up front ,no one will lend them money. The country doesn't enjoy the loan mechanisms we enjoy here. The minimum wage is so low that it is impossible to provide for a family on minimum wage alone. The unemployment is over 30%. Over 6 million unemployed workers and growing everyday. Services and sanitation are not very good. The adult literacy rate is only 87%. The mean years of schooling for a Mexican is only 4.7 years. Nearly half of Mexico's population lives below the poverty line. That is about 42 million people living in poverty. 4.5 million people in Mexico are homeless. This number does not include the millions who live in subhuman conditions with no services such as water ,electricity or sewage.
Conditions are very bad in most of Mexico. These conditions are not easily seen from the tourist location, but be sure they are there, and the criminals and those desperate to eat and survive will not think twice about taking what is yours. So be safe out there.
Hope this summer brings you a good vacation somewhere safe....Ric
Monday, June 9, 2008
Evil tyrants, not war, are the real source of atrocities…. and war is the only way to stop them. When something is important enough, or you want something enough, you will fight for it.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The person that thinks nothing is worth war, that nothing is worth fighting for, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the efforts of better men than himself.
When you think of the Iraqi conflict, you either believe that Bush is just "crazy", or that we went there for legitimate purposes to free Iraqi people, or that we went there to protect ourselves from being attacked.
The problem with any of these points of views is that none of them adequately coincide with any event.
What I mean by that is that if you believe we went there to free Iraqis, there is no logical reason why we went there when we did. Iraqis have been suffering for years. When are we going to invade Mexico? The corruption in Mexico is disgraceful and that government needs to be toppled.
If you believe we went into Iraq to protect ourselves, there is no logical reason why we would have targeted Iraq because there are no obvious ties between Iraq and terrorism.
If you believe we went there because Bush is a sadistic loon, well, that also would have been consistent before 9/11, so there is no reason why the war would have begun in 2003.
Although there may be other reasons why you support or oppose the war in Iraq, I have yet to encounter anyone in either view that provided me with a premise behind why it happened when it happened.
But Consider this:
In November, 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in Euros, becoming the first OPEC country to abandon its ties to the US dollar.
What significance does this hold?
In simple economics, we understand that a country's dollar value is determined by the level of demand that exists for that currency. For example... if a country prints too many dollar bills and opens them up to the public via grants, higher interest rates, or by feeding the economy by hiring local companies, it floods the market with more of its currency. As with anything in business, the more supply there is, the less demand there is, hence the value of the dollar goes down.
As the value of the dollar goes down, the governmental body that controls a majority of the money, the interest rates, and the currency loses power, because the value of that money becomes less and less.
Well, on January 1st, 1999, 11 European countries joined together to form a joint currency called the EURO. Britain and Norway were two that were absent from this union of currency, and still trade using their own currencies.
These 11 countries were: AUSTRIA BELGIUM FINLAND FRANCE GERMANY GREECE IRELAND ITALY LUXEMBOURG NETHERLANDS PORTUGAL SPAIN .
The EURO is valued at approximately $1.30 US as of today.
Back to oil.
Right now Saudi Arabia and Iraq are two of the largest oil producers on the planet. Prior to the 2000 change to Euros by Iraq, most of the oil on the planet was purchased in US dollars, as 2/3 rds of the commonly traded currency in the world is US dollars. This is called a "Reserve Currency".
It is widely known and accepted that the US has struck a deal with the Saudis which provides them with US support in the Middle East, in exchange for their continued support of the US dollar by selling their oil in only US dollars. Iraq also promoted the value of the US dollar by selling their oil in that currency, but decided to sell their oil in only Euros in 2000.
What did that mean for the US dollar?
Well, what that means if you've been following me this far is that the demand for the US dollar would drop internationally, as many countries that obtained oil from Iraq would no longer convert their currency to US currency to obtain it. Instead, they would boost the demand for Euros by purchasing Euros.
This would benefit all the European countries utilizing the EURO, and affect the US dollar in a negative way. This is why it was countries like France, Germany and Russia that pressured Saddam Hussein into changing Iraq's trade currency.
Back to November 2000. So Iraq becomes the first large oil supplier in the world to begin trading in the EURO versus the US dollar. This, in itself, did not dramatically affect the value of the EURO or the US dollar. However, almost immediately following it other oil producing countries began toying with the possibility of following suit. Oil producing countries such as Iran, Libya, Venezuela, Russia, Indonesia, and Malaysia all began trading oil in Euros, thereby pushing it to become the world's second "Reserve Currency".
The repercussions of such a domino effect would effectively reduce the value of the US dollar by 20 to 40 percent v. the EURO, likely making the EURO at least equal to the dollar as a "Reserve Currency".
Following 9/11 and the incomplete invasion of Afghanistan, the US quickly proceeded to invade Iraq, the only OPEC country in the world to defy the US dollar. Their coalition of forces included Britain and Norway, two of the main European countries that did not partake in joining with the EURO. Of the 11 countries that were trading using the EURO, only Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands took part.
On the other side, France, Germany, Russia and China opposed the war, amongst others. France and Germany mainly because their currency was being threatened, and China and Russia because they also converted a substantial portion of their dollar reserves to Euros.
The US gained a few things by invading and occupying Iraq. Firstly, they sent a message to any OPEC countries that attempted to switch to the EURO, thereby devaluating the US dollar. Secondly, they now controlled the world's second largest oil supply. Thirdly, they almost immediately began trading in, yes you guessed it, US dollars, thereby maintaining its demand. Fourthly, they now have a military presence in the center of the Middle East. Fifthly, they struck a blow against the EURO, the main competitor to the US dollar.
It is theorized that if the Iraq war did not take place, and more oil producing countries switched to the EURO, the US dollar would crash, thereby causing a literal catastrophe in the US economy. Our world as we know it would have come crashing down.
This entire underlying purpose to the war in Iraq is not televised, nor is it well known amongst pro-war or anti-war enthusiasts.
It is important to note that almost every country that had a strong interest in boosting the EURO opposed the war, and every country that had a strong interest in preserving the US dollar supported the war.
Also important is the fact that the US abandoned the invasion of Afghanistan prematurely to focus on Iraq, certifying that Afghanistan was the foot in the door, but not the true purpose.
Interestingly enough, it is agreed upon by all parties involved that a "War on Terrorism" will never truly be finished, and that it is a very indefinite and lengthy process, as stated by the president himself. This does adequately permit the US government to protect the US dollar wherever it may be threatened, under the guise of terrorism for legitimacy and public support.
But the value of our Dollar and the strength of our economy is something that has to be protected. It is worth fighting for and It is the foundation of all we have and enjoy each day.
Wishing you the best ...Ric