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Does Grammar Matter?

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In today’s social environment of tolerance, nonconformity, and all things casual, is it necessary to be concerned about proper grammar? Grammar is seldom a determiner of whether you are communicating, but is often a determiner of whether you are taken seriously. Let’s look at three basic grammar rules that can revolutionize your image and your influence on others.

Anyone can butcher the English language and still be understood. But, it’s the advantage you get from personal respect, perception of ability, desired employment, and successful socializing that makes the use of good grammar worthwhile. Bad grammar can also be perceived as lack of self-esteem, lack of pride, carelessness, or just plain laziness. Here are the three biggies to conquer.

First, the use of I, he, she, and they versus me, him, her, and them. This is the most abused grammar rule I observe. To understand which pronoun to use, you have to be familiar with the nominative case and the objective case in a sentence. I, he, she, and they are nominative case pronouns. Me, him, her, and them are objective case pronouns. If the verb in a sentence is the action of the pronoun, use the nominative pronoun. If the verb acts on the pronoun, use the objective case pronoun. This rule is misused most often when two pronouns of different cases are used together. Never mix nominative and objective pronouns such as, “Him and I rode horses,” or “Dad met her and I.” An easy way to remember this rule is to think how it would sound to drop one of the pronouns. You would say, “He rode horses, not him rode horses.” Likewise, you would say, “Dad met me, not Dad met I.” So, “He and I rode horses,” and “Dad met her and me,” are correct.

Second, the use of double negatives such as “not never,” “don’t have no,” or “didn’t do nothing.” Never use two negatives together. It should be “not ever, ” or just, “never.” It should be, “don’t have any,” or “have no.” It should be, “didn’t do anything,” or “did nothing.” Using double negatives means just the opposite of what you want it to mean. If you, “Didn’t do nothing,” it means you did something.

Third, the use of adjectives in place of adverbs. Adjectives describe or modify nouns. Adverbs describe or modify verbs. There are slow Turtles, but those turtles move slowly. Turtles don’t move slow. Slow is an adjective and can’t describe “move.” Many adverbs are like adjective, but with “ly” on the end. An accident may cause a bad bruise, but you were bruised badly. Be careful with this one, because verbs like “is,” “looks,” or “feels,” are often followed by adjectives describing or modifying the subject noun. For instance, if you’re sick, you “feel bad,” not “badly.” “Bad is an adjective modifying, “you,” not “feel.” If you feel badly, you are sorry or remorseful…or your fingers are numb.

Work on these three rules in your speech and writing, and you will improve your image and influence significantly. Of course, there are many more grammar rules you should observe, but mastering these three will be a big step in correcting some of the worst grammar mistakes. You may write with better grammar than you use in speaking, but continued bad habits in speaking will eventually show up in your writing. How you speak and write also is a huge factor in career advancement.

One more thing I just have to address. It’s not necessarily bad grammar, but the use of curse words, obscenities, and even dirty slang harms image and influence. Whether in speech or writing–yes, Facebooking or texting–what one may think is colorful language is often seen as one of two character flaws. Either people crave the attention that the shock appeal of words gives them, or they need those words to get across something they haven’t developed the vocabulary or writing skills to communicate. Drop the foul language, and just say what is meant properly.

America is becoming lax in many areas of discipline and civility. I think a lot of bad grammar and bad language simply reflects the lack of respect for others. Respect for others is what made our nation great. Just being sensitive to how we communicate in our daily routine can make a difference in our country.

Please like and share. I invite your comments and your grammar pet peeves.

 

GDP Growth: Why Should We Care?

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The most important current news item is not Cohen’s tape, Putin’s visit, or what the president knew when. The news media is focused on those Trump bashing stories that hardly affect you and me in order to foster their liberal narrative. America’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, just increased significantly, and that’s a personal win for us. Of course, the media is playing it down. So what does GDP mean to us exactly?

GDP is the globally recognized measure of a nation’s economy. It is is the market value of all currently produced final goods and services within a country in a year by domestic and foreign-supplied resources. In other words, America’s GDP is every dollar spent on everything purchased by this country’s consumers no matter where it was produced. This includes personal spending by American households, investment spending by businesses, government spending, and net export spending (Americans’ spending on foreign products and services minus foreigners’ spending on our products and services). Last year the U.S. GDP was $19.4 trillion. That is one-fourth of the world’s total economy.

A figure that big is almost meaningless until it is compared to that of other nations. The next highest GDP is China’s at just under $12 trillion. Japan is next at $4.9 trillion followed by Germany at $3.7 trillion. The U.S. GDP is higher than all nations of the European Union combined. By the way, Russia’s GDP is $1.5 trillion.

The more important factor is how we are trending in GDP. Generally, a healthy economy is considered to have an annual growth rate of 4%.  For the last three years, the U.S. has posted percentage increases of 2.9, 1.6, and 2.2 respectively. The last time America enjoyed a 4% annual increase was in 2000, 18 years ago. Annual increases during the entire Obama administration averaged 1.6%. Although GDP is an annual statistic, it is measured quarterly. The quarterly measurement is “annualized” to estimate what the annual result of the quarterly numbers would be. The increase just announced for the second quarter (April through June) was 4.1% annualized. In other words, if the U.S. economy continues to perform at the present pace, we would have a 4.1% increase in GDP for 2018. The last quarterly increase north of 4% was in 2014. Almost all economists, regardless of their political leanings attribute the good news to President Trump’s policies of tax cuts, job creation, regulation reforms, and trade negotiations.

What does this growing economy mean to you personally? It means production increases that bring lower prices, more jobs creating upward mobility in the work force and less government subsistence, more government revenue keeping taxes down, more entrepreneurial opportunity, better infrastructure creation and maintenance, hopefully lower national debt, and a strong dollar keeping import prices down. A healthy, growing economy adds quality to the life of every American.

Of course, many factors are involved in the movement of a national economy. We should celebrate the 4.1%, but watch closely what happens in the next quarter. The Trump tariffs and potential trade wars could bring downward pressure on the GDP as could the status of our sanctions on Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc. External realities can offset a lot of good internal policies in shaping our economy. But, don’t get too caught up in all the liberal hype about losing our allies and putting our economic supremacy at risk. No other country or international trade organization is going to do much to provoke a country that holds a quarter of the world’s financial resources.

In my opinion, though, America desperately needs to turn off the soap opera of news stories that distract our attention away from much more important things like the economy. Let’s take a deep breath and focus on what’s good about America.

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Who Is Vladimir Putin Really?

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If we put a face on the greatest threat to America today, it has to be the face of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia. He has led a bipolar life. A man of humble beginnings who rose to prominence in the government of the homeland he loves, he is also a maniacal and ruthless leader with scant moral character. Every American needs to know this man and watch carefully the relationships between both countries and both presidents. Here are some facts to consider.

There are more immediate threats to America such as North Korea and radical Islam, but Russia remains the only threat that can virtually annihilate us. It is the only nation with a nuclear arsenal that could total destroy our densest population centers and has shown the capability and willingness to wreck our internet. The country is also assessed to be capable of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could destroy our electrical power grids. Only one man in the world could make any of this happen with a nod of his head.

Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad, Russia, to parents of very modest means. He was a troubled child in primary school but began to take his studies and behavior more seriously in high school. He seemed to have developed a personal vision as a teen for doing something great to advance his country. In 1975, he graduated from Leningrad State University with a law degree. He became infatuated with the field of intelligence and in the late 1970’s enrolled in the KGB school in the capital city of Moscow. The English translation for KGB is “Committee for State Security,” which is loosely the counterpart for the American CIA. He advanced quickly to a high level position with the Soviet Union intelligence service.

In 1983, he married Lyudmila Shkrebneva, a flight attendant, just before departing to his first KGB field position in East Germany. They had two daughters, Maria and Katerina. The couple divorced in 2013. Putin is officially single, but a long-standing rumor has it he is secretly married to Olympic gold medal gymnast Alina Kabaeva. In East Germany, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned as senior assistant to the head of the department. In 1991, frustrated by the fall of the Soviet Union, he crossed over to politics becoming the deputy chairman of city government in St. Petersburg. He realized his future had to be within Russia’s first ever attempt at a fledgling democracy. From there, he move swiftly up the political ladder to Moscow and was appointed in 1999 as Director of the Federal Security Service and Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.

Within a year, Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed him as prime minister of Russia. Within a few months, Yeltsin stepped down and Putin became president never having been elected under the relatively new Russian pseudo-democracy. He was later overwhelmingly elected as president in 2000 and reelected in 2004, both by wide margins. Due to term limits prohibiting a third term for Putin, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president in 2008 and immediately appointed Putin as his Prime Minister. Many in Russia considered Medvedev to be a figure head with Putin still running the government. Putin ran again for president in 2012 for a newly legislated six year term. He won handily again in 2018 and will be president until at least 2024.

Western analysts no longer consider Russia a real democracy due to political corruption that gives Putin a land-slide victory every election. Elections have become more of an exercise of fear than of freedom. He is known to torture his opposition or even assassinate them. The recent nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter living in England was the latest in a long list of those who ran afoul of the Kremlin and suffered or died under suspicious circumstances.

Putin seems to be pursuing a foreign policy of slow, long-term of geographical expansion much like the old Soviet Union of his earlier years. In 2014, after several military incursions into Ukraine, Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms invaded the Ukraine’s territory of Crimea and claimed it for Russia. Since then, Ukraine has had many armed conflicts with Russian backed separatist forces in their country. Then in 2015, Russian forces moved into Syria to help prop up the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The Russian forces are also assisting the Iranian forces there.

So, here we have a man cultured in the dictatorial and empire-building Soviet Union who has risen to power through corrupt elections and thuggery, but earnestly wants to be legitimized and respected on the world scene. President Trump’s approach to try to form a friendly relationship with Putin is a very long shot. The President’s personal policy in dealing with our enemy heads of state seems to be to open more lines of communication with them while keeping them at arms length (ala Kim Jong- un). I’m for giving him a chance as long as he keeps the pressure on with continued serious sanctions and requirements of concessions. Putin must also feel the wrath of America if he encroaches on another country again. Being a buddy with a despot can backfire if not handled very carefully with eyes wide open. Go for it, Mr. President. But, America is watching closely.

 

 

 

 

Hey World, It’s Not Business As Usual for America Anymore!

 

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After decades of other nations taking unfair advantage of America’s generosity, President Trump is reducing the outflow of our tax dollars to other countries and holding them accountable for more of their own security and prosperity. It isn’t setting well with nations which have been enriching themselves on our resources for generations. This will be a painful process for America and the rest of the world, but the adjustment is crucial for the future of all nations. Here is what it will require.

Most of the current inequity began with America’s compassion and goodwill demonstrated in the post-WWII reconstruction of Europe and Japan. Our subsequent prosperity during the 50’s and 60’s placed us head and shoulders above the rest of the world in economic and military power. Our Judeo-Christian values led us to share our blessings through foreign aid, the World Bank, imports, defense alliances, liberal immigration, response to disasters, etc. By and large, the rest of the world’s governments became dependent on us to supplement their subsistence. Allies depend on our military to supplement theirs. The oppressed depend on us to take them in. Foreign businesses expect to export to us without barriers, but don’t reciprocate. Even our enemies assume we will feed their economy while they threaten us. A world game-changing adjustment is well overdue.

Of course, America must always be America, the nation that shares its incredible blessings with those less fortunate both domestically and throughout the world. We have a moral responsibility to heed the words of Jesus, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” But, when the giving gets way out of balance and enables others to neglect their own responsibility, such enabling is wrong and the giver is to blame.

The controversial NATO Summit just concluded exemplified the new order of international relationships with America. Since 1949, western European nations have trusted in the U.S. to protect them from the former Soviet Union and now Russia. Although all the nations have military forces, the U.S. contributes well over half of the investment of those forces. The chart above shows that, of the 29 NATO nations, ours funds over 70% of the total military capability. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP is probably a fair comparison of skin in the game. Even at that, we spend 3.6% of our GDP on defense–much more than any other member country. All NATO countries agreed at the 2014 NATO Summit to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their military annually. Only four other countries are doing that. Yet the Russian threat is in their back yard and an ocean away from America.

Some European governments argue that all of their defense spending is in support of the NATO region while much of U.S. spending funds forces obligated to the Pacific and other areas of the world. That argument doesn’t consider the fact that, if Europe were attacked, almost all of our forces would be immediately deployed to the European theater.

And, there are other ways America is moving from business as usual to fairness and equity in international relations. For years, foreign governments have placed excessive tariff charges on imported U.S. products to keep their domestic businesses competitive. Then, their businesses enjoy exporting products to the U.S. with little or no tariff charges by us. That is a big reason we have such a trade deficit with other countries. We import much more than we export due to unfair trade barriers of our trading partners. President Trump’s tariff increases may cause some discomfort to our own citizens in the form of higher prices. Trade wars may make certain items scarce. But, it is a necessary temporary pain in order to ultimately create a level playing field for international trade. Free trade must be fair trade.

We are also seeing adjustments to the long-running open borders that have allowed almost anyone and everyone to enter our country, often illegally. We have long-established legal processes for reasonable immigration and asylum. But, millions of illegal immigrants have entered our land and are siphoning our resources. Business as usual trespassing on America is starting to be denied although not without major opposition from the liberal faction among us.

The U.S. GDP is greater than that of all European countries combined and almost twice that of the second highest nation, China. The U.S. military comprises over a third of the entire world’s fighting forces. There is almost no possibility of losing our world leader status anytime soon. Other nations will continue to look to America for help and direction for the foreseeable future, and we are morally obligated to maintain that role. However, the time has come for a global reshuffling of commitments and an environment of fairness among the nations. Mainstream media will decry it as betraying our friends, and protests will abound both here and abroad. But, just sit back and watch an essential and healthy cultural shift take shape. “Make America Great Again” is not a motto of arrogance; it is a reset toward fairness. It’s not Trump’s isolationist doctrine; it’s Trump’s fairness doctrine.

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Reshaping the Supreme Court

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The main reason many voted for President Trump is about to be justified for the second time in 18 months. The president’s nomination and Senate confirmation of Justice Kennedy’s replacement will change the dynamic of the Supreme Court significantly. Let’s examine the Court’s current makeup and how this new justice will impact America.

America’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, consists of nine justices nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Presently, they are (above, front row, left to right) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, John Robert (Chief Justice), Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, (back row, left to right) Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch.

Although justices and judges are supposed to be unbiased in their decisions based on the letter of the law and legal precedence, they are human with principles and values shaped by life experiences, education, and environment. Four of these justices, Robert, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch usually lean to the conservative view of sociopolitical issues. Four of the others, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor lean mostly to the liberal view. Justice Kennedy, a conservative nominated by Reagan, often favors the liberal view in decisions and has been labeled the “swing vote.” So, many Court decisions are 5-4 with Kennedy breaking the tie in favor of either a liberal or conservative ruling. Recently, he was the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights.

With Justice Kennedy’s resignation, President Trump’s choice will be a stronger leaning conservative. This should portend a 5-4 decision favoring the conservative world view on many more issues. If any of the justices are considered a swing voter in future rulings, it will probably be Justice Robert who is a stronger conservative than Justice Kennedy.

Then, there is considerable likelihood that Justice Ginsburg will resign voluntarily or due to poor health during President Trump’s term in the White House. She is 85 (Justice Kennedy was 81). She is the most staunch liberal on the Court. That would result in a conservative majority of 6-3, or 5-4 with a swing vote toward the liberal side. The president will nominate a relatively young justice. His nomination of Gorsuch seated the Court’s youngest justice at age 50. Therefore, 5 or 6 strong conservative justices should be on the bench for many years.

This is a tectonic shift from the liberal-leaning Supreme Court of the last few decades. It will be a reversing trend away from liberal rulings on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, LGBT rights, prayer in schools, religious freedom, universal health care, immigration, etc. Legislation from the bench will be returned to its rightful place in the legislative branch. The Constitution now often viewed as an evolving living document will be reinterpreted by the Court as a firm foundational standard.

Because of this judicial shakeup, the liberals are apoplectic over this nomination. Many liberal leaders are calling for voters to deluge the Senate with insistence that they oppose any and all nominations from President Trump. Suddenly, Roe v. Wade has become the most important legal precedent in America. Look for the wildest confirmation process in the history of Supreme Court nominations. Fortunately, conservatives can thank former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Obama administration for declaring the “nuclear option” in a previous justice confirmation when it benefited liberals. This procedural option of requiring a simple majority of 51 votes rather than a super-majority of 60 votes is now the precedent for confirmations. It will also eliminate the filibuster.

The long-term positive impact of this administration’s second new justice (and perhaps a third new one soon) on the survival of America as a free capitalist republic is immeasurable. Thank God for the election of 2016 and pray for a continuing conservative White House and congressional majority.

America’s Greatest Threat: The Cultural Cancer

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The greatest threat to America is not North Korea, Russia, Iran, or any external enemy. Radical liberalism, our worst enemy, is growing exponentially in our country as a cultural cancer. Like cancer it can’t be cured, but it can be forced into remission. Saving America from radical liberalism will only be possible if all citizens who truly love their country draw a line in the sand now.

Radical liberals will always claim they love America. They don’t love the country of our forefathers–the country that, by the grace of God, became the greatest example of faith, liberty, and prosperity in the history of mankind. They love the humanist, socialist, and amoral culture they endeavor to advance by siphoning off the God-given resources of this nation.

The past two years have seen a stark display of the true face of this faction of our society. Their agenda had been cruising smoothly under the leadership of President Obama and was supposed to advance even more swiftly under a President Clinton. The worst thing that happened to the movement was President Trump. The desperate radical left retaliated with unleashed incivility that has been the recent state of America. There was the FBI debacle; endless and baseless investigations; violent demonstrations; the celebrity insanity of Kathy Griffin, Stephen Colbert, Madonna, Robert DeNiro, et al.; and the biased mainstream news media that trumpet everything negative about conservatism and the President while reporting almost nothing positive.

The last few weeks’ assaults from the left have escalated beyond comprehension. The family separation immigration issue was ignored for years until radical liberals, including the news media, saw an opportunity to showcase it with Trump in office. It has been like piranhas attacking a piece of raw meat. Outrage, accusations of cruelty, spontaneous demonstrations, screaming and weeping news commentators, fake pictures and reports. North Korea, the economy, tax cuts, etc. became invisible.

When the Red Hen restaurant refused to serve Sarah Sanders because she worked for the President, virtually all liberals applauded the restaurant. Quite a shift from when the same people demonized the conservative baker for not participating in a gay wedding because of religious convictions. Then there was Congresswoman Maxine Waters who incited mob force by instructing demonstrators, “If you see anybody from (Trump’s) Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Really? She is not an American; she is an anarchist representing radical liberalism. And, liberals will still vote for her.

Radical liberals will stop at nothing to force their will on the rest of America. Yet, it is very rare to observe conservatives responding in kind. Do you see conservatives demonstrate with violence, hear conservatives threaten injury or death, or know of conservatives who refuse to serve liberals just because they’re liberal? Typically, conservatives counter the radical left with civil means. Usually, that involves going to the voting booths to bring about change. That is what happened in November of 2016. The “red wave” of patriotic conservatism put Trump in the White House and a majority of conservatives in the House and Senate. The only chance conservatives have to weaken the radical liberal movement and ultimately keep the cancer in remission is to show up on election day with overwhelming presence. Don’t stoop to their bottom-feeder level of behavior. Help others to see these people for who they really are, but take your animus out on the ballot. There are more people in this country who love it and are passionate about its heritage than there are who want to dismantle it, at least for now. But, the majority loses when it allows the minority to elect its leaders.

We must not fall into the trap of staying home on election day because we are frustrated with some conservative politicians. A vote for a weak conservative is a far better choice than not voting. We must also convince others of the reality of losing our country as we know it and urge them to vote.

I believe the future success of our nation depends on another “red wave” this year. Otherwise, it just may be too late. Please share this post as a step in that direction.

Do Tattoos Define the Person?

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Tattoos have been linked with certain cultures for over 5,000 years, the most prevalent being the Egyptians of the second millennium B.C. In most ancient civilizations, they were expressions of tribal, religious, or philosophical identity. Today’s body art obsession seems to have the same objectives. Does that mean tattoos, especially extreme ones, reveal the true heart and soul of the host? If so, it’s a sad reflection of our culture.

I just returned from a fun family week at a popular theme park. Our day at the water park included an abundance of skin on display, most of it covered with ink. I could not get the who, what, and why out of my head regarding this craze that is trending upward. A recent Harris poll found that 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo. Pew Research shows that, among millennials, it’s over 40%. This theme park may have been a demographic anomaly, but surely over half the tourists had tattoos. Is it peaking in popularity, or will essentially all newborns become living canvasses someday?

A clarification is in order here. I am not anti-tattoo. They’re not for me, but I appreciate a reasonable size design of good quality that expresses something positive or of personal value. I have many friends and loved ones who have modest statements of this nature in appropriate body locations. Furthermore, I don’t feel animosity toward those who choose to have more radical, suggestive body art, but I just don’t understand why they make that choice or what it means.

There are many reasons not to subject oneself to tattoos. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has hundreds of reports on file of people developing physical complications from the injected ink. Scar tissue sometimes builds up after getting a tattoo. Ongoing FDA research on the long-term effects of tattoos is not yet definitive, but there are concerns about delayed allergies and cancers.

Some Christians consider tattoos a sin based mainly on Leviticus 19:28, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” However, placing that statement in context with the culture of that day, I believe God desired His people to be set apart from pagan worshipers and sorcerers who tattooed themselves in those ancient times. Personal interpretation as to whether the biblical prohibition applies to tattoos today is between the believer and God. Perhaps a more applicable teaching concerning tattoos is from 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your adornment must not be merely external…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” In other words, let your outward body represent your inward heart. Therein lies my concern with many tattooed people. Do the adornments that cover their bodies really reflect the nature of their inner selves–their hearts?

When the lavishly tattooed proudly display skulls that represent death, satanic figures, and evil dark world images, are they baring the true reality of their souls?  I would rather think that most are just wanting to command attention. But, that is also a character issue. Do they crave attention so desperately that they promote evil and darkness to be noticed? Are they so displeased with their body that they yearn to mark it up with images that have shock effect? Often the attention comes from the tattoo location on the body’s sensual areas that invites ogling. Some say it is creative art. If it’s about art, why not take up painting? I don’t have the answers to what drives people to extreme tattoos, but here is my prediction. Today’s newborns will not all be tattooed someday as I alluded to earlier. Rather, as young adults, they will look at their tattooed elders with washed out images sinking into their wrinkles and, with disgust, resolve never to do such a crazy thing. Grandparents with radical tattoos will be explaining to their grandchildren why they chose to permanently cover their bodies with scary images.  I just resolve to love the profusely tattooed people, but to not love that which mars their bodies.

That is my opinion. I invite your comments.

 

 

The US/NK Summit: What You Must Know

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

America and the rest of the world are about to witness the most historically significant meeting since the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev talks. The Singapore Summit will consume all media outlets and has the potential of beginning a peaceful resolution to a volatile international crisis. It could also be a possible first step to the reunification of two nations, a la Germany, 1987. To understand what is really at stake, you must understand the following.

Before 1910, Korea was a peaceful and beautiful farming country ruled by a succession of kings. During the Russia-Japan war, Japan took control of Korea for the next 35 years. Japanese culture and religion are still evident in north and south Korea, a hold-over from that period. After World War II, allies US and Russia agreed that each would control half of Korea much like the post-war agreements regarding other countries of the world. Korea was divided with Russia taking the north and the US taking the south. Russia installed a communist regime in the north under Chairman Kim Tu Bong, later ceding influence to China. The US installed a capitalist democracy in the south under Kim Koo. In 1948, Kim Il Sung became the dictator of North Korea until his death in 1994 when his son, Kim Jong Il, became head of state.

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea with the objective of reunification of the two countries under communism. The United Nations sent military forces from several nations into South Korea under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. The UN forces, predominantly US, ran the North Koreans back into their country and continued to push them all the way to their border with China. China, fearing reunification of the Koreas as a democracy, entered the fray causing heavy casualties on the UN forces which retreated back to their borders. In 1953, an armistice, or cease fire, was signed between the north and the south. This agreement established a demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 38th parallel with a buffer zone containing only a few soldiers from both countries to ensure border security. However, an end to the war was never declared–there was never a surrender of either side.

North Korea flourished under communism for several years until they became consumed with military power pouring their economy into weapons and combatants. At the same time, South Korea was coming of age in its democracy with international trade sky-rocketing its economy. North Korea shocked the world in 2006 when it tested a nuclear bomb. The UN immediately enacted a resolution prohibiting further tests by the Kim Jong Il regime. A second test came in 2009. In December, 2011, Kim Jong Il died, and his son, Kim Jong Un, succeeded him. Within a few months, the new dictator test-launched a technically advanced missile followed by a third bomb test in February, 2013. Since then, there have been three more nuclear bomb tests and 26 ballistic missile tests. The last missile test was an intercontinental missile which demonstrated the capability to reach anywhere in the US.

Kim Jong Un initiated the songun philosophy of defense, meaning “army first,” with the motto, “everyone feeds the army.” Over the last five years, he has radically and exponentially advanced the political and military pursuits of his father and grandfather. Obviously, he is determined to secure his dictatorship by military power, mostly in the form of nuclear ballistic missile capability. This effort comes at the expense of nation-wide poverty of his people and decimation of his economy. He has not shown a desire for quality of life for North Koreans, but rather a desire for global extortion and self aggrandizement. This type of rogue leader in possession of nuclear bombs also paves the way for terrorists to obtain tactical nuclear weapons.

It is going to be an extremely difficult negotiation. Convincing a ruthless dictator to give up what he sees as central to his survival and world view seems virtually impossible. Based on past promise reneging by him and his predecessors, we should be very skeptical about what may appear to be an accommodating spirit. The summit also has critical implications regarding our relationship with China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. But, the bottom line is that the world must stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. The question is how–by diplomacy or by military action. This summit will probably determine which will have to be used. Pray for godly wisdom for our president and his staff.

 

 

Why Church Is Important in Parenting

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Juvenile delinquency, crimes by minors, and psychological issues among children are increasing exponentially. Church attendance is decreasing exponentially. Is there a connection? Studies show that children whose parents are serious about church attendance become more emotionally stable and of better character than other children. Too many parents ensure their children are safe, healthy, educated, and socially skilled, but neglect their spiritual development.

Numerous studies by institutions such as Duke University, Indiana University, University of Michigan, Center for Disease Control, Barna Research Group, Gallup, Pew, and the National Institute for Healthcare correlate child development and church involvement.  These studies show that, despite parental guidance, D.A.R.E. programs, after-school programs, athletic programs, etc., many children veer away from quality lifestyles. The research, however, confirms that children who actively engage in a faith community on a regular basis have a SIGNIFICANTLY reduced likelihood of life problems and risky behaviors. The studies also show that children who regularly attended church substantially improved their odds of a happier, healthier, and longer life.

America’s minor children are committing violent crimes and exhibiting anti-social behavior at record rates compared to a few decades ago. A study by The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that juvenile crime has increased more than 30% over the last 50 years. Research by the Barna Group and the American National Election Studies shows church attendance down by about the same percentage during the same period. Those statistics combined with the correlation between child development and church attendance prove a positive link between desired child behavior and consistent involvement in church. The sooner children are engaged in church, the better. Empirical evidence indicates that, if children are not regularly active in church by age 12, the odds of becoming active drops dramatically. Parents who truly want the best for their children need to get them involved in church now and regularly. Of course, church-going families can have troubled children, and non-church-going families can have children of model behavior. But, statistically, families not involved in church are at far greater risk of raising children with behavior problems.

The church avoidance trends are most prevalent among millennials. A recent Barna study revealed that 65% of America’s senior adults attend church regularly, while only 39% of millennials do so. Of course, it’s the millennials who are raising most of the current generation of children. Many who are not attending church say they are praying, reading the Bible, and providing religious training to their children at home. However, God’s Word, the Bible, gives strong reasoning for His work being accomplished through the church including corporate worship, ministry sharing, group prayer, in-depth Bible study, and accountability. Personal spiritual development at home is necessary, but it is meant to complement, no replace, the church.

Parents who do not attend church as a family are denying their children a major advantage in character growth and are placing their children’s future and even eternal destiny at risk. I have heard some parents say they want to allow their children to ultimately make up their own minds about their religious beliefs and don’t want the church to influence them. That tells me the parents have no confidence in their own beliefs. Otherwise, such a statement would be like watching their children walk off a cliff with no attempt to stop them.

Both parents should be in agreement about involving their children in church. However, if only one considers it essential, that parent should take the lead in the spiritual welfare of the children. The Bible clearly teaches that the husband and father should be the spiritual leader of the family. In religious and spiritual matters of the family, the children usually follow the father’s lead. A recent study showed that, if the mother attended church, but the father didn’t, only 2% of the children would attend consistently. However, if the father attended and the mother didn’t, 44 % of the children would attend consistently. Today’s America desperately needs husbands and fathers who will lead their families’ spiritual journey.

One final important point. Church attendance is not required to be in a covenant relationship with God just like living together is not required for marriage. But, as a married couple receives the benefits of marriage by living together, so those who have committed themselves to Christ receive benefits of that commitment through the church. Church attendance is a natural expression and evidence of a family’s devotion to God.

If you are concerned about the future of America, and you don’t have your family in church, I humbly encourage you to be a part of the solution by attending church this Sunday…and every Sunday possible thereafter.

 

 

 

 

First Lady Melania Trump Close Up

Melania

America’s First Lady, Melania Trump, is arguably the most complex woman in the nation’s history to hold that title. With the grace and poise that may exceed that of Jackie Kennedy, this foreign-born super model has a checkered past and a rather mysterious present. The general public seems to admire her, but knows little about her. Here are some facts you need to know about the elusive celebrity hostess of your White House.

Like it or not, when America elects a president, it also elects a First Lady. President Trump came to the White House as an anomaly to say the least. It is only fitting that he brought with him an equally enigmatic spouse. Born April 26, 1970, in Novo Mesto, Slovenia (then part of communist Yugoslavia) as Melanija Knavs (pr. “navs,” [j’s and k’s are silent in Slovenian]), she grew up in a modest home with her older sister, Ines. Her father, Viktor Knavs, was a card-carrying communist who managed a state-owned car dealership. Her mother, Amalija Knavs, worked in a children’s clothing factory as a designer. Melania was closer to her mother than to her father who traveled a lot on business. She has a half-brother, Denis Cigelnjak, from her father’s out-of-wedlock relationship that none of the family including Viktor has ever met. I have to wonder when Denis is going to show up on a liberal media newscast as another thorn in the Trump family’s side.

At age 16, Melania obtained some local modeling gigs. The family moved to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana where Melania was quickly scouted as a model. Her father’s fortunes in the car business increased with his Communist Party affinity, and he drove a Maserati during Melania’s high school years. She enrolled in Ljubljana University in 1987 majoring in art and design, but dropped out after a year to pursue a modeling career. She and her sister moved to Milan then Paris as both began working with well-known photographers. They changed their last names to Knauss (pr. “noss”), the Germanized name for Knavs. Melania Knauss moved to New York in 1996 where she landed covers on magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, GQ, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She posed nude for a section of a French magazine and for provocative pictures in other publications , something I assume she regrets now. She entered the U.S. on a work visa and soon received her green card for permanent residency. The green card was issued under the EB-1 program which grants residency to immigrants who demonstrate “extraordinary ability.” She became a U.S. citizen in 2006. She considers citizenship in this country the greatest privilege on the planet and says she cannot and will not take our freedoms for granted.

Melania met the recently separated Donald Trump at a New York fashion party in 1998. She first rejected his request for a date refusing to give him her phone number. Later, she agreed to take his number and call him. The couple eventually began a relationship and were engaged in 2004. The following year, they married in a lavish million-dollar Palm Beach, Florida, ceremony attended by celebrities galore including Bill and Hillary Clinton (little did Hillary know…). Melania was 35, Donald was 59. It was her first marriage; his third following wives Ivana (1977 to 1992) and Marla Maples (1993 to 1999). There is no contact among the three ex-wives. In 2006, Melania gave birth to Barron Trump.

Keenly business minded, she launched a jewelry collection, “Melania Timepieces & Jewelry,” in 2010. In 2013, she debuted a skin care line, “Melania Caviar Complexe C6.” Both brands have enjoyed significant success. She speaks five languages–English, French, Serbian, German, and Slovenian. She has taught Barron Slovenian and French.

Viktor and Amalija eventually followed their daughter to the United States where they now live, alternating between Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. They are adamant about staying behind the scenes. Sister, Ines, is single and now lives in New York residing in the $2 million apartment owned by the Trumps and previously occupied by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Melania is very close to her sister and considers her as best friend and confidant. Barron spends considerable time with his grandparents in New York particularly during the Trumps’ official travels. Below are pictures of the Knavs (left) and Ines Knauss (right, with Melania). Isn’t it uncanny how much the Knavs look like Donald and Melania?

The last thing Melania ever dreamed of was being America’s First Lady. She kept a rather low profile during the 2016 campaign finding it difficult to transition from her role of mother and business woman to the harried political scene. After her husband’s unexpected victory, she retreated with her son and family in familiar New York until the school year ended before relocating to the White House. After a year-and-a-half, she is still adjusting. Her’s and Donald’s has not been a model marriage. They have worked through alleged affairs, travel separations, and little time to themselves. They differ on many political issues. She is, nonetheless, a devoted wife and nurturing mother. Although her life as First Lady is not one she chose or even desired, she urged her husband to run for president. She was concerned that he would regret not doing so, but she never thought he would win. However, she considers her job as First Lady a duty and wears the title proudly, honorably, and capably. She maintains a respectful popularity among most Americans and many foreigners including some of our enemies. I would have to say she provides a much needed and delicate balance to the often caustic environment of the White House.

 

 

 

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