Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade

One of the joys of rural living is the constant stream of projects to occupy the homeowner. The biggest drawback is the relative inaccessibility of handy support services not only for the work at hand but for the occasional surprise job created by either unforeseen circumstance or faulty maintenance. Out of necessity, then, nearly every endeavor has become a “do-it-yourself” adventure. A recent project—building the office where I write—prompted me to make a list of the building trades that were required for its completion. At least a nodding acquaintance was required as “procurement officer” to “dry wall installer” to “electrician” with over twenty construction specialties making the final list. The bottom line is simply stated; you had best be a jack-of-all-trades if you are going to live in the woods.

An additional requirement is having the appropriate tools for the project, whatever it may be. I am always amused when I hear others complain that they need a large separate room (note: I did not say closet) for the sole purpose of storing their wife’s shoes. Granted; having a hundred pairs of shoes is not a mortal sin, but, as I examine my own personal fetish, perhaps I should examine “the beam in my own eye” before I chuckle over her “mote.” Since my first home owning experience in 1955, I have been collecting tools.

The current home for my collection is a 650 sq. ft. garage with one 7’ and one 9’ door. The walls are lined with cabinets, shelves, drawers, benches, power tools and the floor space occupied with other “stuff.” To the casual observer it appears to be utter chaos. It is! It is also my first line of defense in the on going war against mechanical and functional breakdown on the property.

Earlier this week, I attempted to balance the demands of accommodating the weather and juggling three projects at once. The new deck was an impossible place to work in full sun. The temperature hovered around the 100º mark. The lawn could not be mowed while wet with dew. I also couldn’t do any mowing while the mower had a broken mandrill housing anyway. As I ploughed through the day, I marveled that I had adequate tools for each and every job I attempted even to the inclusion of a three foot section of pipe with the dedicated purpose of extending the leverage of the wrench to gain a physical advantage over a rusted on 11/16th nut.

I retreated to the office for yet one more glass of water and rejoiced that I had in every circumstance the appropriate set of equipment for each individual job. Some of them have seen no activity for months—even years—at a time. Others seem present as part of nearly every job; multipurpose cordless drill, hammers, screwdrivers, tape measures, clamps, etc . . . . As I cooled down, I thought further on the parallel to scripture.

I am not a Bible scholar. I am always somewhat embarrassed when I am in the presence of men and women who are. I envy (think violation of a commandment here) those who have acquired a ready familiarity with and can quote endlessly from the Good Book. They have become wonderfully adept at offering up its wisdom, love, and example at every turn. It has provided them with endless solutions and comfort facing the vicissitudes of life.

What they have accomplished is not unlike having the right tool for every job. They have become equipped, by searching for Biblical truths in the scripture and finding in that truth an appropriate application for each situation. If they come up short in personal knowledge of exactly where to turn they take the Book from the table (bookcase, nightstand, desk, or left hand) and look it up. They have the all-purpose manual for life in their hands. They don’t have to “run to town” to get what they need. Although dog-eared and probably well marked, it has become an integral part of their lives. It is their first reference and not a last resort.

Some of us, with a lesser knowledge, see the Bible as chaotic as my shop is to the occasional visitor. Who among us makes the jump from Joel to Jude with ease? Would flipping between Ephesians to Ecclesiastes be any easier? We have suffered the occasional preacher who urges us to open our Bibles to one quote after another and races on to the next before we have found the first. The fault here is in inexperienced usage and not his ardor to cover all the bases. I always use those ribbon place markers because I just know he’s going to return to a former verse.

As the analogy continues we find the depth and variety extremely useful in both the shop and the scripture. Each tool and each verse has an assigned purpose. Using a ratchet wrench as a hammer is destructive to the wench and ineffective for the purpose. Taking isolated scripture out of context can be equally damaging to both. Understanding purpose is dependent upon a close examination of the complete circumstances of its presentation. I will concede that there are some scriptures which can form a sound basis for belief. In the KJV the first four words set the tone for not only the book but also for a successful understanding of our lives” “In the beginning God. . .” For the Christian we have; “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

In their brevity, both quotes appear to be a summation but they are both best understood when the adjacent verses are read. Scattered from verses 3 through 21, Christ’s words to Nicodemus synopsize the actions necessary for salvation. In them, he provided the “tools” for redemption and acceptance in the afterlife. John recorded these words in realization of the fact that Christ was speaking to the world and not just to a ruler of the Jews.

While I treasure the association I have with my fellow believers, I fully realize that in the final analysis, I will have to do it myself. In either case, completing the deck or fixing the lawn mower to finish mowing, or readying myself for the final judgment, I will have to use the tools available and do it myself. Others may lend a hand on occasion in either endeavor but in the end it is my responsibility. It’s up to me to have the right tool for the job.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Thursday, July 17, 2008


There is a certain sadness in remarks I have read recently. The following comes from an article in the New Yorker and centers on a statement made on September 19, 2001 (ca.) about the causes of the recent disaster.

“We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others.

Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics.

Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair. We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent.

Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.”

Either the speaker—or possibly I—totally misunderstand the events of 9/11. His first temptation is to assign a “lack of empathy” to the attackers. Obviously, people with empathy do not kill over 3000 people. Any group of ideologues who spend months planning and training for an elaborate plot to destroy a pair of our largest buildings occupied by innocent civilians is not simply lacking empathy. This social worker’s “catch all” phrase is hardly adequate to describe the perpetrators of the collapse of the World Trade Center.

He continues by pointing out that their actions are not exclusively the activity of either their culture or religion. Like it or not, these acts were perpetrated by avowed Muslim extremists bent on dealing America a death blow. We were in 2001, and continue today, to be faced with ongoing terrorism, worldwide, by like minded groups who have no “empathy.” If the object is to establish a moral equivalency, it fails. Does your local Baptist congregation have plans for world domination? How about the Buddhist temple you toured on your last vacation? Can anyone seriously believe that we are threatened by a bunch of nuns led by the Pope to take over the country? As Restorationists, we are far too concerned about the alphabet soup in Independence to entertain bellicose ideas of any sort.

Somehow, when a specific group comes forward and claims the credit for the heinous acts, may we not believe them? Islamic radicals have done just that. Their sympathizers’, world wide, were dancing in the streets with joyful assembly after the event occurred. Although we have found them normally untrustworthy, in this case I tend to believe them. In their rush to reap the harvest of 72 virgins, the perpetrators left behind a mountain of evidence which pointed to their religious affiliation.

Most people are not old enough to remember the reaction of the American people on the afternoon of December 7th, 1941. Those of us who do may share with you the immediate distaste we formed for the nation and its’ people which performed that horrible sneak attack. Our desire for relief from the pain of that assault on our national psyche was near universal and well understood by all of our citizens. To observe that the empire of Japan held no “empathy” for our citizens would have been met with the derision it deserves. I see little difference between the two circumstances.

The speaker then points out that such a lack of empathy is spawned by “a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” If this is the case, let it be remembered that it is caused by people who suffer that poverty and ignorance through acts of their own government, policy and propaganda and not by the innocent victims of the World Trade Center. The United States is not the entity which preaches anti-American hate among the world’s Muslims. This line of thought is also echoed in the mosques by some prominent religious leaders with the alleged endorsement of the Koran. The actual ones in charge of planning and executing the acts of 9/11 have a reputation for extreme wealth, education and position in their native realms. This was not an uprising of poor people. The only thing which would keep the people of the Middle East downtrodden would be their leaders and not their gross national product. The entire thought is absolute hogwash.

This all accompanied to the end by an appeal that we must rise to the aid of “embittered children” around the world. I gather from this he thinks we were attacked by a phalanx of kids. Quite the contrary; we were attacked by ideological crazies, driven by their spiritual leaders, with the avowed purpose of leveling the “great Satan” to their own primitive level. In the entire piece there is no acknowledgement that we are facing a determined enemy with no concept of the value system which we treasure. Rather, it is couched in terms of guilt over the failures of others.

The piece was offered by an Illinois state senator in the aftermath of 9/11. He later (2004) rode his credentials as a “community organizer” into the United States Senate. Today he is easily recognized as the “messiah” who will bring peace to the Middle East, return our troops to the safety of their homeland and in his ambition, possibly become the new leader of the free world: Barack Hussein Obama.

The above is offered without apology.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Rant 46

I probably shouldn’t refer to this as news because all too often the result of cancer is death. Even in the face of remarkable gains in the field, there are still those who succumb. This week it was Tony Snow, at 53. The former White House press secretary and staple at Fox news will be missed.

As I read the many, many tributes I felt the stunned sincerity of the commenters. Almost all ignored his considerable talents and centered the observations on his people skills and caring heart. Paramount was his consideration of others and his impeccable honesty.

In his waning days he furnished this response to an intimate’s inquiry about his condition.

“we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Please join me in prayer for his family and best wishes for his final earthly journey.

Wildfires and Individualism

It is not my intention to diminish the tragic result of the fires which are currently ravaging parts of California. My heart and prayers go out for those who are being threatened and who have already sustained loss of life and property. Like good Americans the people have dropped what they are doing and are fighting fires directly or helping those who man the fire lines by furnishing food, supplies, and the necessities of life. It’s the way we are!

In an article in the International Herald Tribune (a function of the New York Times) we find coverage which points out that the government is not available to many outlying districts. In almost breathless prose they point out what should be obvious. When you are fighting fires scattered over an area the size of New England, the government resources cannot possibly be available to everyone, all the time. There are only so many fire trucks, retardant tankers, bulldozers and personnel to operate them.

Many of these medium and small communities have volunteer fire companies and they are manned by locals just as they are throughout “flyover” country. To the credit of those who live there, the residents have picked up hand tools and what ever equipment they have and are improvising to save their homes and their livelihood. The Times reporter seemed somewhat taken aback that they we willing to do whatever it takes to fight the constant blazes. These good people realize that waiting for the “government” to remedy their ills is a foolish endeavor and would only result in watching their communities disappear. My hat is off to those who have the independent spirit to take matters into their own hands and do their best to extinguish the fires.

I also understand the Times and their attitude. Their agenda is and continues to be, a top down demonstration of accountability. They have difficulty understanding the basics about America. Although we have been gifted, by God, with the best of all Constitutions, the nation is great because of the people and not the government. Our people will survive with or without the “nanny state.”

Dumb and Dumber

Just when you thought every asinine thought had been expressed by a member of Congress, along comes Edward Markey (D-Mass) to top them all. In remarks to a symposium for students he assigned the blame for Katrina to global warming. For frosting on the cake, he also alleged that the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia was also caused by the effects of global warming.

He remains unfazed by solid evidence of cyclic weather patterns in the region being responsible for alternating drought and flood with accompanying periods of feast and famine. He also seems to have forgotten that the US servicemen were in country to help with the distribution of relief supplies for the people. The local government officials in various factions were competing to see who could steal the most and enjoy the subsequent enrichment.

I am now awaiting the announcement from a special select committee of the senate to announce that the irritating wart I have developed is caused by global warming and will be cured the very second we sign on to the Kyoto accords. If it were not so damaging to the nation, this type of thing would be funny.

More Fun in the Ozarks

My boss at the golf course asked me the other day in a conversation about retirement, “What do you do?” Since he hates computers and the internet, he is unimpressed that I write several essays a week. I doubt he would be moved by a concentrated study of scripture. Because he mows grass and tends greens for a living he wouldn’t be very impressed with the maintenance of four acres of grass and twenty acres of oak. The fact I do my own laundry and ironing, do household chores and spend a grand amount of time discussing a huge variety of topics with my bride wouldn’t reach him.

Last Monday, a forty foot flatbed with a forklift attached, pulled down the lane and deposited the material for our new deck. I finally finished the addition of 160 sq. ft. of additional space for an office, dressing room and two closets. Now, I felt compelled to place a covered deck just off that room. When completed, it will overlook the bluff and the Spring River Valley below and hopefully afford additional protection for the outer wall from the ravages of Missouri heat and cold. At the end of the first week the framing is complete and the floor boards will be installed tomorrow—if I have time.

When I report for work at 7:30 am on Tuesday, he will no doubt come in with the usual question, “What you been doing.” My response is already on my lips, “Not much!”

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon