Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Challenge: Start A Bible Reading Plan!

As we start 2015, many people will be making New Year's resolutions.  I actually think this is a good thing.  I find it a good time to reassess my life prayerfully, and try to make changes that will improve my life.  Many people resolve to lose weight, exercise more, eat less junk food, etc.  All are noble goals (and some that I could use myself!), but I'd like to suggest to you one goal that should surpass them all.  I would like to challenge you to start a Bible reading plan in 2015.

Why read the Bible?

First of all, simply because it is the Word of God.  2 Timothy 3:16 states, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." The Bible, both New and Old Testament, is inspired.  This doesn't mean "inspired" like a book or a movie is "inspirational." It literally means "God-breathed."  God was in the writing of his Word from the beginning to end.  This doesn't mean that God just dictated the words to men and they wrote them down.  It's very obvious that men's personalities largely come through in the writing.  I like that.  Though it was "God-breathed," God used many different men with varied personalities living in distinct cultures over thousands of years to pen the Bible.  

Yet there is a continuous narrative from Genesis to Revelation.  That narrative is the unfolding of God's promises first of all to his people Israel and then to the greater Kingdom of God as it is revealed in the New Testament.  From first to last, it is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As I have heard it described elsewhere, the Old Testament is Christ concealed: the New Testament is Christ revealed.  

The Bible has stood the test of time.  Pastor Rick Warren makes some very good points about this:


Despite all the attacks throughout history, today the Bible is the greatest single source of culture. It’s the greatest single source for music, art, and architecture. If you take the Bible out of culture, you would destroy most of the major music, artwork, and architecture of the past 2,000 years. Even much of our English language comes from the King James Bible.
He goes on to tell this story:
Voltaire, the famous French philosopher, was a brilliant atheist. He wrote a number of tracts deriding the Bible. He once made a very bold statement: “One hundred years from today the Bible will be a forgotten book.”...After Voltaire died, for nearly 100 years, his homestead was used as the book depository for the French Bible Society.  They sold Bibles out of his house! It’s now a museum. People have forgotten Voltaire.  Nobody forgets the Bible. 
I hope you believe every word of the Bible.  But anyone who wants to consider themselves educated shoudl read the Bible.  Though our culture has become increasingly secular, it's scriptural roots are still there. You can't really understand American culture without understanding the Bible on which it was based.

Many well-meaning Christians only read the New Testament, thinking that reading the Old Testament is a waste of time. Nothing could be further than the truth.  In fact, you really can't understand the New without understanding the Old.  Jesus himself stated, 
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
The Law and the Prophets was the Jewish way of describing what we now call the Old Testament.  You can't understand the full import of what Jesus came to do if you haven't read the first three-fourths of your Bible.  He came to fulfill all the was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

There are many more reasons why you should read the Bible.  (You can read an excellent article with many more great reasons to read the Bible here)  For me personally, one of the greatest reasons is that it has been a major force in shaping my worldview.  We don't talk about worldview much these days, and some might not understand what I'm talking about.  A good definition of "worldview" that I've found is " The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world."  Having a Biblical worldview changes the way you see the world.  You don't see humanity as a "cosmic accident," but as a creation of God made in God's very image.  Therefore, you treat other humans not as annoyances but as fellow creations of a loving Creator.  


Having a Christian or Biblical worldview also helps you make sense of the world around you.  The Bible teaches that man is a fallen creature.  God's original intent for man (and for all of creation) was marred by the fall, and henceforth chaos often ensues.  People ask why there is so much war, disease, famine, and tragic weather events in the world. These human and cosmic tragedies only make sense when you look at creation from a Biblical lens.  They are the result of the fall and the subsequent curse that God put on the earth as a result. (See Genesis 3:17-19).  However, a Christian or Biblical worldview also gives you great hope, as we have sure promises that one day mankind (at least, that portion of mankind which has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross) and creation itself will be redeemed and purified.  (See Revelation 21)

I have been reading the Bible since I was a child, but it wasn't until 1996 that I committed to reading it daily.  That year, I read an article by Pastor Jack Hayford which challenged readers to commit to daily Bible reading.  It made a profound impact on me, and I've been trying to read the Bible daily since then.  This one phrase has stuck with me since then.  Pastor Hayford stated, "I don't turn the light out (on a day), until I've turned the light (the Bible) on!"  I've made that a cornerstone of my life since then, and I've never regretted it. I don't think that I could count on my hands (maybe even on one hand) the number of days in the last nineteen years that I haven't read something from the Word of God.  I try to get up every morning early and spend time in prayer and then read a section from the Bible.  I am constantly amazed how that God can take a passage that I may have read dozens or even hundreds of times and reveal fresh truths from that section.  I love to read other books, but no other book has that power! 

What translation should you use?  I primarily use NASB (New American Standard Bible) as I believe it is still one of most accurate, but there are a lot of good translations out there.  I grew up in a King James only environment, and I still love the beauty of the King James Bible, but our language has changed so much in the four hundred years since it was translated, that much of it doesn't make sense to us now.  I actually like to use several versions when I'm studying the Bible.  I don't know Greek and Hebrew, but I do have access to both a Greek and Hebrew dictionary.  I use them on occasion to help me understand some of the sometimes obscure wording, but also to bring out some of the subtle nuances that we miss in the translation  Using these and other Bible study tools really enhances my time in the Word.

Today, I'm starting a new Bible reading plan.  I'd like to invite you to come along with me.  The one I have chosen is the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan (which you can access here). It was developed by Pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843), a Scottish pastor from the nineteenth century.  Using this plan, you will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice this year.  It's not a straight chronological reading, but includes reading from two sections of the Old Testament and two from the New Testament each day. (By the way, if you've never read the entire Bible before, you might want to use a different plan than this, as this "jumps around" quite a bit.  I would suggest this plan which has daily readings from the Old and New Testament and is not quite as demanding.)  There are other plans available, which you can find here.  Whichever plan you use, I would encourage you to start today!  This New Year's Challenge could change your life!


Here's more links to some of my favorite blog posts:

My Top Eleven Posts of All Time (And Some of My Personal Favorites As Well!)
My Top Eleven Blog Posts for 2014 (Since Everybody Has a Top Ten!)
Another Silent Night?

For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Top Eleven Posts of All Time (And Some of My Personal Favorites As Well!)

My Wife Kathy and I with our four grandchildren
Earlier, I posted my "Top Eleven Posts of 2014".  As I promised then, I'm now sharing with you my "Top Eleven Posts of All Time."  I've been writing here since 2011, and since then total views have been steadily increasing. As a matter of fact, none of my posts from 2011 or 2012 made this "All Time"  list.

Before I share this "Top Eleven" List, I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite posts that didn't make this list.  For your interest, I've included the number of total views (as of today) on these posts as well.

  • A Christmas Story - December 25, 2012 (240) - This post was written about a deeply moving event which happened at the tire store where I work.  It was such a touching thing to witness, and it reminded me of a greater event from two thousand years ago!
  • Lincoln and Obama - Two Views of Welfare - September 23, 2012 (292) - Although this didn't quite make the Top 11 List below, it was my most read post of 2012.  It's based on a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his step-brother in 1851.   If anything, the contrast between these two presidents is even starker than when I wrote this!
  • TR on Lincoln - The Great Statesman - August 25, 2012 (218) - This was based on a short essay written by Theodore Roosevelt on Abraham Lincoln.  As you can see, I'm a Lincoln fan!  This is the best that I've ever read on what a true statesman is.  I honestly wish every lawmaker in America were required to read this essay!
  • A Man Of A Different Spirit - October 7, 2011 (223) - This was my most read post of 2011.  That's not saying much, as I only wrote three that year!   It is based on one of my favorite Bible characters - Caleb.  What an inspiration!
  • My Letter To President Obama - Concerning Israel - May 11, 2011 (37) - This was my first post on this blog.  I had no idea what it would lead to!  Support for Israel continues to be a subject that is dear to my heart, and my alarm then at the lack of support that Israel has received from this administration has increased even more.

And now, without further ado...

Top Eleven Posts of All Time
(The numbers in parenthesis are the number of "views" for each post as of this writing)
  • 11. My Take On "The Bible" Series Parts 1-4 - March 13, 2013 (304) - This was the first of four posts on "The Bible" mini-series.   These were very well read at the time, as I wrote these during the time that the series premiered on The History Channel.  This actually is probably my most read series in total as it got many more views on my other blog on Christianpost.com.   
  • 10. What Is Marriage? - January 22, 2014 (310) - As I mentioned in my earlier post, this was the first of a series on traditional marriage and easily my most controversial series.  See #5 below.
  • 9. My Take On "The Bible" Series - Parts 5 and 6 - March 20, 2013 (319)
  • 8. Five Secular Reasons To Support Traditional Marriage Part 2 - February 23, 2014 (361)
  • 7. "Church Etiquette"-Wisdom From a Bygone Age - October 18, 2014 (371) - This simple post based on an old church bulletin resonated with a lot of people. I think "etiquette" in general has become old-fashioned to a lot of people, which reflects on the general coarsening of our society.  I hope to write more on this subject later.
  • 6. My Take On "The Bible" Series - Parts 7 & 8 - March 27, 2013 (379) - This was the third of four posts on "The Bible" mini-series. Not really sure why number three did so much better than the other three, but it did.
  • 5. Five Secular Reasons To Support Traditional Marriage Part 1 - February 13, 2014 (383) - I wrote this series of posts after I read the excellent book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense."  I felt and still feel that there are excellent arguments to be made for traditional marriage that aren't being made (at least not in the mainstream media, whose coverage of "same-sex marriage" has been almost universally one-sided).  I divided my defense up into "secular" arguments (for those who think that the argument for traditional marriage is only about religion...a preposterous idea!) and "biblical" arguments.
  • 4. Thoughts At Fifty - Living Between The Dash - March 12, 2014 (389) - I wrote this post on my 50th birthday.  Some posts (especially on "hot" topics) jump out of the gate and get a lot of "hits" right away.  This was not one of them.  It's just been quietly gaining views since I put it out there.  The subject (the brevity of life) is timeless, and is common with everyone on the planet!
  • 3. BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkison Part 2 - November 11, 2014 (435) - This was the first time I posted a book review on my site.  Maybe I should do more of these!
  • 2. Reflections On Thirty Years of Marriage Part 1 - February 14, 2013 (449) - This was the first of a series of three posts that I wrote on marriage.  It would become my most read post of 2013. It was the first time that I wrote a series on a subject, and the first time that I wrote about marriage.  Like #4 above, it is on a timeless subject, and has quietly been gaining views since I posted it almost two years ago.  
And my most read post of all time is (you guessed it!)...
  • 1. Oklahoma Beheading - Let's Call It What It Is! - September 27, 2014 (501) - Since my last post, this has become my first post to exceed 500 views.  As I mentioned then, it's really a combination of a "hot" subject matter, an under-reported event, and the fact that I was connecting dots that few in the mainstream media were willing to connect.
Before I close this post, I'd like to invite you to "follow" me on Google+. This is the easiest and best way to be notified of future posts as I write them.  If you have a Google account, all you have to do is click "Follow" under my name on the right (or click here).  If you don't already, you can also follow me on Twitter here and Facebook here.

As always, I welcome your comments on any of these posts.  I really appreciate your feedback!

I wish each of you a blessed and prosperous 2015!  God bless!


For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Top Eleven Blog Posts for 2014 (Since Everybody Has a Top Ten!)

As we wrap up 2014, I thought it might be interesting to share with you my most popular blog posts from this year.  This year marks four years since I've started this blog, and I'm really amazed to see the growth in readership since I first started.  In the beginning, a few dozen people might read what I wrote.  Now, it's not unusual to get several hundred.  Mostly though, I'm appreciative of the responses which I've received from people about my blog, either in person or online.

I started this blog in 2011, with just three posts that year, so I really didn't get very serious about it until 2012.  Since then, I've learned a lot about blogging and how to get the message out there. This is actually only my fifty-second post, so I've obviously not posted daily or even weekly, as my schedule simply doesn't permit it.  I have a full time job, and a lot of other responsibilities, so I just post when I have time, and when I feel like I've got something to say that might be worth reading.    I do enjoy writing, but I'm not in this to get some kind of fame (and certainly not fortune!).  Although I don't have any degrees behind my name, I've been a reader (especially of history) all my life, and I feel like that may give me some insight into current events that perhaps others might not have. Even more than that, I have been a student of the Bible for many years, and I make no bones about the fact that I see the world through the lens of the word of God.  I believe God's word informs my perspective and gives me a worldview that not many have who are writing about current events and social issues.

Everybody seems to have a "top ten" these days, so I guess I'll join the crowd.  However, in the quest to be "always different," I'm making mine "top eleven!

Top Eleven Posts of 2014 
(The numbers in parenthesis are the number of "views" for each post as of this writing)

  • 11.  Stand With The Persecuted Church! - May 2, 2014 (280) - This is an issue that is close to my heart, and, to be honest, I wish that I had written about it more.  The church around the world continues to be assaulted from all sides, yet we here in America don't seem to notice.
  • 10.  Five Biblical Reasons To Support Traditional Marriage - February 5, 2014 (284) 
  • 9. God Can Do Things In Prayer That Are Just So Cool! - September 28, 2014 (290) - I usually don't write these on the "spur of the moment", but this is one that I shared right away.  The message is simple: God still works today!
  • 8. BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson Part 1 - November 9, 2014 (291)
  • 7. What Is Marriage? - January 22, 2014 (302) - This was the first of four posts that I wrote on traditional marriage.  It was by far the most controversial series that I've ever written, which I find remarkable.  Ten years ago, it wouldn't have even drawn a yawn!  Though I had a lot of positive feedback, I found out there is a "gay mafia" out there that wants to shout down and belittle anyone who doesn't agree with them.  The level of vitriol that I received was astonishing.  Oh well...It still needed to be said and it is a point of view that you hardly hear in traditional media these days.
  • 6. Five Secular Reasons To Support Traditional Marriage Part 2 - February 23, 2014 (355)
  • 5. "Church Etiquette"-Wisdom From a Bygone Age - October 18, 2014 (361) - This one really surprised me.  This was just based on a fifty year old church bulletin someone showed me.  I think it really struck a chord with people!
  • 4. Thoughts At Fifty - Living Between The Dash - March 12, 2014 (385) - This is one of the most personal posts that I wrote this year.  I think it could very well be the most significant, considering the subject matter.
  • 3. Five Secular Reasons To Support Traditional Marriage Part 1 - February 13, 2014 (397) 
  • 2. BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkison Part 2 - November 11, 2014 (430) - I did something in preparing for these posts on "Stonewalled" that I don't think I've ever done before.  I pre-ordered a book and paid full price!  I'm a cheapskate, and I almost always wait until a book is out for awhile and is on sale before I buy one.  However, I really felt like this book was important, and I wanted to read it and review it while it was still in the initial rush of publicity.  Judging by the response, I believe this worked!  Side note - This was kind of weird to me.  Part 2 of my post got many more readers than Part 1.  Go figure!
OK!  DRUM ROLL PLEASE....My most read post of the year is...
  • 1. Oklahoma Beheading - Let's Call It What It Is! - September 27, 2014 (491) - One thing that I'm noticing is that the posts that get read the most are the ones that are on subjects that are "hot" at the moment. This one and #2 above both illustrate this quite well.  This gruesome event happened on a Thursday evening, but hardly got reported in the national media until Friday afternoon.  As I wrote in the post, the coverage even then was very spotty, which was inexplicable to me.  There were obvious indications to me that this was terrorism, whether it was "lone wolf" or not, but the national media almost all refused to use the "T" word.  I got up very early on Saturday and wrote this post, so it was a combination of being a very current story and one that was not being covered extensively.  I think people were looking for information about it.  I don't know if you would say it went viral, but it certainly was well read.  I think I had three hundred people read it within 48 hours!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each one of you who have read my blog this year.  I hope it has been a help and a blessing to you.  As always, I welcome your responses, whether positive or negative.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Next...I'll share my Top Eleven Blog Posts of All Time...
Hint...Many of the ones from 2014 are on the list!

For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Silent Night?


I was thinking recently about December 16, 1991. Honestly, I have no memory of what that day was like for me and my wife Kathy. I was serving at that time as a pastor of a small rural church, but, because they were not able to support me fully, I had taken a job at a Mr. Gatti's pizza in nearby Boonville, Indiana. I was the dough maker. I suppose that that Monday morning, I went in to work early just like any other day, made my dough (not much of the green kind!), completed my shift, and went home. It was a rather silent day followed by a silent night.

We were childless and were not able to have children ourselves. A couple of years before, the Lord had called us into foster parenting. We were currently without any foster kids in the home, as we had just sent a sibling group back home to their mom. We had cared for them for over a year. So, for Kathy and I, it was a rather depressing Christmas season. The Yultide was not exactly gay that year, and would pass by pretty uneventfully for us. Silent days followed by silent nights.

Two weeks and a day later, on the last day of the year, I was back making dough at Mr. Gatti's. The manager called for me and told me that my wife was on the phone. That was unusual. I took the call. The welfare case worker had called her, and told her that a baby was in the hospital in nearby Evansville, and she needed a home. The child had been born to a young girl who herself was a foster child. The baby was born with spina bifida, and neither the mother nor her family were able to take care of her. However, this was not to be a temporary placement. They needed a permanent home for this little girl. Needless to say, we accepted. There would be no more silent days and silent nights for us for a long time!

We had not gone into foster parenting expecting to adopt. In fact, they cautioned us to not expect such a thing. Yet, God in his timing brought our daughter Britny into our lives in the most unexpected way. Her arrival into our home changed our lives forever. It is hard to imagine what our lives would have been like without her. We would face many trials ahead, including many surgeries, yet she has brought immeasurable joy into our home, as did the two other little girls who God would eventually send into our lives as adopted children.

Every year when we celebrate Britny's birthday, we are so thankful for the gift that the Lord gave us back in 1991. When is her birthday? Oh, December 16, 1991. That silent day and night had passed by so uneventfully for us. Yet, behind the scenes, God had been working in a marvelous way.

This reminds me of another December day and night, much farther back. Almost two thousand years ago, a young girl and her espoused husband struggled just to find a quiet place to have her baby. All the hotel rooms were full in Bethlehem that night, so Mary and Joseph found themselves in a nearby cave, sharing space with the animals whose home they had invaded. The entire story of this familiar evening is told to us in Luke in only twenty verses. Matthew is even briefer. Less than a verse tells the story of Jesus' birth there. Except for the strange appearance of some lowly shepherds, who told of a celestial appearance on a hillside several miles away, the birth of Christ seemed to be an uneventful event to those around it. Most people in Bethlehem went to bed that night and woke up the next morning without any knowledge that anything special at all had happened. The Savior of the world had been born a stone's throw from them, yet they went back to their homes in other parts of Palestine not having a clue as to what they had missed.

Perhaps the days and nights of your life also seem to pass uneventfully. Maybe you're a single mother, just struggling to get by from day to day. Perhaps you're a construction worker or a factory employee, finding your days and nights filled with monotony, amid the wreckage of unfulfilled dreams and broken promises. You might be a homeschool mom, worn out with dealing with attitudes and demands from your children. Your days and nights might not be silent, but they could seem pointless to you. 

However, whether you realize it or not, if you are a child of God and have put your trust in His son Jesus, your days are never pointless. What you do from day to day really matters. And, like that long-ago sixteenth day of December for us, the Lord may be working behind the scenes in your life in ways that you can scarcely imagine. All He asks of you is to trust Him. Like a weaver making a stunning tapestry, He is weaving the seemingly useless events of your life into an array of beauty. You just can't see it yet. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecc. 3:10)


I realize as I'm writing this that there a few of you that could only wish for a silent night. You are going through trials that make you wish life were more monotonous. A sick child. An unfaithful spouse. A lost job. A December death in the family. That quiet hillside in Bethlehem has no comfort for you as you try to survive this tragedy. You are right. Thinking of the little baby in the manger is not enough to bring you much comfort.
However, I would point you to another hillside just a few miles from Bethlehem. In Hebrew, it's name is Golgotha. In Latin, Calvary. Thirty-three and a half years after that Bethlehem morning, the Son of God hung on a Roman cross. He'd done nothing to deserve this miserable death. Quite the opposite. He'd lived the only sinless life in the history of mankind, yet here he was. Face beaten to a pulp. His back gory beyond imagination. Strong Roman nails adorning his feet and hands. In agony, He exclaims, "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Because He died that day, in our deepest grief we never have to say those words. God forsook Jesus briefly that day, so that we can never be forsaken.


He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21)

As a result, when we accept that gift of righteousness, we can claim all that God has for us. No matter what tremendous struggle you or I might be facing, we now have no reason to despair!


And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

What a promise! Notice that God can use all things in our lives, even the most horrendous tragedies, to work together for our good and His glory. We only have to love Him and trust Him. He will not allow us to suffer beyond what we can bear, but will make a way of escape that we might be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13). That way of escape is Jesus Himself.

Whether your nights are silent or noisy, whether you are facing great trials or just the day-to-day tedium of life, your hope and my hope this Christmas is found in Christ. His promise to you and to me is that He will never leave us nor forsake us!

 

While I was writing this post, my wife shared with me Mark Schultz' new song, " Different Kind of Christmas." It just seems to fit so well with what I wrote about here, I wanted to share this with you, especially for those of you who are dealing with the death of a loved one this time of year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PBEMfbWq_Y


For another inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw   P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!

 


 

 

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Free Preview of My New Book: Grace In Shoe Leather - Now Available on Amazon.com!

I'm pleased to announce that my new book "Grace In Shoe Leather" has been published and is available on Amazon.com.  It is a remarkable true story of God's grace in the lives of two ordinary yet remarkable people.  Here's the description:

In March, 1998, the Evansville, Indiana area was rocked by "The MotoMart Shooting" and the ensuing arrest of a local youth for murder. "Grace In Shoe Leather" is the true story of one victim's widow who refuses to take the path of bitterness and resentment, but instead chooses the path of forgiveness and grace. In a surprising turn of events, that widow, Ina Kae Simpson, eventually befriends Erick Schmitt, the man convicted of taking her husband's life. The unexpected results of this unusual friendship are inspirational!

I already have several good reviews that have been posted, for which I'm really grateful.  I'd like to share some of these with you:

I have read Wayne Nall's book "Grace In Shoe Leather" and found it to be informative, encouraging, and touching. In my view the theme is "the value of forgiveness." It is about real people living in a real world of problems, trials, and discouragement, yet finding hope in having a forgiving spirit, which Jesus taught throughout the gospels. It contains pictures which add to the import of the text. It is written in a style that is easy to to read and once I started it I could not put it down. I would encourage all to read this book, it will be well worth your time. 
 When reading Wayne Nall, Jr.s book, Grace in Shoe Leather, I was touched by the unfolding of an amazing story. It really shows that there are people in this world who live their faith "out loud" and that can have real and lasting consequences that ripples like a stone tossed into a pond. Thank you for sharing such an uplifting story!
As our son was getting some driving practice in this evening, I began reading the forward aloud while we drove around town. He commented that the forward was just what it should be. He was "hooked" and ready to hear more. His thirteen year old sister asked for my phone and continued reading chapter one aloud till we got home. And at 1:00 a.m. I've just finished the book. I couldn't lay it down! Thank you, Ina, for extending grace. Thank you, Erik, for receiving grace. Thank you, Wayne, for taking the grace from "shoe leather" to print. In this day of un-grace, this story shines as a must read! 
I love to hear stories of people who live their faith "out loud", don't you?  "Grace In Shoe Leather" is one of those stories, and it's one that people need to hear about.  I've chosen to put a very reasonable price on this book, in the hopes that more people would read it.  It's actually only $2.99 on Amazon.  That's really affordable for just about anyone.  And I hope that, after you read it, you will think that this was worth much more than this price.  Update:  "Grace In Shoe Leather is free today!

Here's some good news: you can read the first part of this book for free!  Just follow the link below to the Amazon webpage for the book, then click on the book cover on the left right under the "Look Inside" banner.  http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw

Don't have an Amazon Kindle?  No problem!  Amazon has free Kindle reading apps available for download.  You can read this on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, or your computer as well as on your Amazon Kindle device.  To get the free app, just go to the webpage and follow the instructions under "Free Kindle Reading App."

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 P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson (Part 2)


This is a continuation of a book review of Sharyl Attkisson's new book Stonewalled: My Fight For Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. To read Part 1 of my review, click here.

 
Chapter 4: Benghazi: The Unanswered Questions

For anyone who has followed this story, the attacks on our compound in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11, 2012, conjure up a web of deceit, duplicity and intrigue that we are still trying to decipher. The number of angles that could and should have been covered by reporters is multitudinous. However, outside of Fox News and a small number of mainstream reporters, the national press corps moved on after a short time. No story here. "Just a ginned up Republican story", they say. One of the few of those mainstream reporters that went against the grain and doggedly dug into Benghazi was Sharyl Attkisson. In Stonewalled, she chronicles her attempt not only to press through resistance from the Obama Administration, but from her own network.

Among the questions about Benghazi that she would ask were these, which she put to an Obama spokesman:


What were the President’s actions that night?


What time was Ambassador Stevens' body recovered, what are the known details surrounding his disappearance and death including where he/ his body was taken/ found/ transported and by whom? Who made the decision not to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) the night of the Benghazi attacks?

We understand that convening the CSG is a protocol under Presidential directive (NSPD-46). Is that true? If not, please explain. If so, why was the protocol not followed? Is the administration revising the applicable Presidential directive? If so, please explain.

Who is the highest-ranking official who was aware of pre-911 security requests from U.S. personnel in Libya?

Who is /are the official( s) responsible for removing reference to al-Qaeda from the original CIA notes?

Was the President aware of General David Petraeus' potential [sexual scandal] problems prior to Thursday, November 8, 2012?

What was the earliest that any White House official was aware? Please provide details.

What is your response to the President stating that on September 12, he called 9/ 11 a terrorist attack in light of his CBS interview on that date in which he answered that it was too early to know whether it was a terrorist attack?

Is anyone being held accountable for having no resources close enough to reach this high-threat area within 8 + hours on September 11 and has the administration taken steps to have resources available sooner in case of emergency in the future?

A Benghazi victim's family member stated that Mrs. Clinton told him she would find and arrest whoever made the anti-Islam video. Is this accurate?

If so, what was Mrs. Clinton's understanding at the time of what would be the grounds for arrest?

Good questions! She (and we) are still waiting for answers to these and many other questions about this sordid episode in which an American ambassador and three other brave Americans lost their lives.

By the way, can you imagine what the press would have done with this story if this had happened under George W. Bush's watch?

As elsewhere in the book, the stonewalling by "the powers that be" at CBS and other networks is as much the story as the stonewalling by the current administration. I find it very interesting to note that the president of CBS News is the brother of top Obama advisor Ben Rhodes. Though she doesn't ever come out and say it, I felt that Ms. Attkisson definitely leaves you feeling that she suspected that CBS President David Rhodes is trying to run interference for his brother and the Obama Administration. Just a few weeks after the scandal broke, Attkisson states that "the lights went out" on the story. All of sudden, top brass at CBS are not interested in any more Benghazi stories (especially with the elections coming up in a few weeks). She makes the following comments about that time:


The height of popularity for the Benghazi story inside CBS is when I get Colonel Wood (a Benghazi security specialist) on camera in October 2012. But even then, not everybody is happy. I happen to be in New York City, where I've just picked up an investigative Emmy for Fast and Furious. It's the first New York visit that my producer on the Benghazi story, Kim, has made with me. She quite correctly detects that she's getting the cold shoulder from New York colleagues she's never met before. I'm getting it, too. I tell her I call it the Big Freeze and not to worry. There's no point in trying to figure it out; their response isn't logic based. It's visceral. Having worked at CBS for nearly twenty years, I tell Kim that there are groups of people who are so ideologically entrenched, they literally see you as the enemy if you do stories that contradict their personal beliefs. They may not even consciously understand why it is that they hate you— and I do mean hate— but they do. "It has nothing to do with you," I explain to Kim. "They don't like you because you work with me." She thinks it's crazy. I'm used to it.


She tells later in the book that CBS intentionally withheld a damning portion of a Steve Kroft 60 Minutes interview with President Obama that he held on September 12, the same day that the president made the famous rose garden speech, in which he called the attack everything but terrorism. The president would later claim in a debate with Mitt Romney that he had called it terrorism. (He didn’t, he was talking about 9-11-01.) Had the 60 Minutes interview aired in its entirety, it would have shown clearly that the administration was trying not to call the attack “terrorism”. This would be one of the many reasons that Attkisson would leave CBS earlier this year.

Chapter 5: The Politics of Healthcare.gov (and Covering It)

In this chapter, Sharyl Attkisson details her behind-the-scenes work in trying to unearth the reasons for the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website last fall. Here again, the chapter is as much about the resistance from her bosses at CBS and the overall antagonism of the press to following up in what should have been a goldmine of stories related to the failed website.

One of the more interesting things that she reveals in this book is the strategies that the Obama Administration uses in "working" the press, i.e. the various ways that they manipulate gullible reporters into following the administration line. In this chapter she defines some of these tactics:


KNOW YOUR ENEMY Get to know the reporters on the story and their supervisors. Lobby them. If they don't adopt your viewpoint, try to discredit them.
MINE AND PUMP When asked to provide interviews and information for a story, stall, claim ignorance of the facts, and mine the reporter for what information he has.
CONTROVERSIALIZE Wait until the story is published to see how much the reporter really knows . Then launch a propaganda campaign with surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. Controversialize the reporter and any whistleblower.

As I mentioned before, this last one is being used against Ms. Attkisson now during the rollout of her book. The "controversialize" strategy is something that you see playing out over and over when the Administration and Democrats and their media surrogates run up against someone who is damaging them. Attkisson would further define this strategy this way:


"Controversialize," as in the PR tactic that involves launching a propaganda campaign using surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. They try to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence.

In the Healthcare.gov rollout, they would do this to House Oversight Committee Republican Chairman Darrell Issa among others. If your eyes are open to it, you can see this strategy play out again and again against various administration opponents. And the press is only too happy to participate in the character assassinations that ensue.

Chapter 6: I Spy – The Government’s Secrets

The last chapter of the book (although the Conclusion, in which Ms. Attkisson tells of the reasons for her parting CBS, is as long as a chapter) tells the story that is getting so much publicity. With the NSA scandal as the backdrop, she gives and account of her experience in finding out that her computers had been hacked. This chapter is like something out of Mission Impossible, except it’s totally credible. Three separate analyses of both her personal computer and her CBS computer found extremely sophisticated software installed in her computers which could have only been done by the government. One of her computer experts (who she calls “Number One”) made the following statement to her after examining the computers:

“First just let me say again I’m shocked. Flabbergasted. All of us are. This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America”

Then, in one of the most chilling sections of the book, she records this part of her conversation with “Number One:”

There’s one more finding. And it’s more disturbing than everything else.
“Did you put any classified documents on your computer?” asks Number One. 
“No,” I say. “Why?”
“Three classified documents were on your computer. But here’s the thing. They were buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists”
“Well, I certainly didn’t put anything there.”
“Just making an educated guess, I’d say whoever got in your computer planted them.”
That’s worth pausing to let the chill run all the way up the back of my neck to the part of my brain that thinks, Why? To frame me? A source? My heart accelerates. I’m thinking it, but it’s Number One who finally breaks the silence to say it.
“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

One of the more disconcerting things in the whole book is the attitude that her CBS superiors had about her bugged computers. While initially supporting her and then having their own analysis done of her computers, they at first refuse to release the findings to her. She then states:

CBS finally agrees to provide me a copy of Patel’s draft report. I’ve had further conversations that lead me to conclude my company may try to spin my computer intrusions as something dubious and indefinite . I’m given additional pause for thought when I learn that some CBS managers are quietly implying to selected colleagues, who are happy to spread it around, that the computer intrusions might be a figment of my “paranoid” imagination. I can’t figure out why they would say such a thing when their own analyst had long ago confirmed the intrusions verbally and in writing, in no uncertain terms. Why would some in my own company now attempt to discredit the computer issue and their own forensic expert? Weren’t they as alarmed as I was to learn that unauthorized parties were in the CBS system…Even more disturbing, word came to me that a CBS manager had convened a private meeting with a colleague asking him to turn over the name(s) of the inside confidential sources who had first helped me identify the computer intrusions back in January. The colleague didn’t have that information. Weird.
This and other parts of the book lead me to conclude that, as disturbing as her findings are, she may have only scratched the surface of the collusion between the mainstream media and both the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. You can just go back to the mid-term elections that were just held to see that something odd has been going on with the press. The website “Newsbusters” found that:

when Democrats were feeling good about their election prospects eight years ago, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s World News aired a combined 159 campaign stories (91 full reports and another 68 stories that mentioned the campaign). But during the same time period this year, those same newscasts have offered a paltry 25 stories (16 full reports and 9 mentions), a six-to-one disparity!
Overall Conclusions

Honestly, to say that “Stonewalled” is an eye-opener is something of an understatement. If there is any overall takeaway from this book, it is that we are at least being grossly underserved by the mainstream press in our country, and (I would add) we may be intentionally mislead by them. In most instances, she lays the blame not on the reporters but on the “media elites” who run the show, not only in the newsroom, but in the executive suites in New York.

Yet, ironically, we are also living in an age in which there is a wider variation of news outlets and sources of all kinds of news than ever before. I get my news from many different sources. I start with Fox News (which has itself been “controversialized” by the other members of the mainstream press). There’s no doubt that Fox leans conservative, especially in its evening commentary programming. However, I think its straight news programming is far and away better than any of the networks or the other cable channels. If it weren’t for Fox and a few courageous reporters like Ms. Attkisson, we would know virtually nothing about “Fast and Furious” and “Benghazi” and a host of other scandals that the mainstream media avoids. Yet, I also scour many news sources around the world daily, both liberal and conservative, before I make up my mind about what the real story is. We simple can’t allow ourselves to ingest the "homogenized, milquetoast news” that we’re being served up day after day. Sharyl Attkisson says it best at the conclusion of her book.
Do your own research. Consult those you trust. Make up your own mind.

Think for yourself.
For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!


Below are links to other articles I've written recently about current events:

The High Cost of Inaction
Is War In Europe Coming?
Oklahoma Beheading: Let's Call It What It Is!






Sunday, November 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson (Part 1)


I just finished reading one of the most remarkable and yet disturbing books that I've come across in some time.

Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has written a blockbuster of a book with a blockbuster title: Stonewalled: My Fight For Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. Despite the attempts to denigrate her in the media (which ironically follows the same pattern of "controversializing" an opponent which she describes in her book), she is eminently qualified to write this book. She has been a working journalist for more than thirty years (over twenty years of that time being with CBS News) and has been described in the Washington Post as a "persistent voice of news-media skepticism about the government's story." She is the recipient of five Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting . Her work has appeared on the CBS Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning, 48 Hours, and CBS This Morning. Up until recently, Sharyl Attkisson has been "an insider's insider." She has done multiple investigative stories critical of both Republicans and Democrats.

Since the book came out last Tuesday, I have read and watched multiple interviews of Sharyl Attkisson. (Not one of these has been with any of the Big Three networks - surprise!). There is one sensational and disturbing section of the book in which Attkisson discloses that both her CBS computer and her personal computer were found to have unauthorized software installed on them that were too sophisticated for anyone but the government to have installed. Almost every interview focuses on this one part of the book, which is indeed incredible and frightening. One of the three separate investigators who analyzed her computers stated that it was "worse than anything Nixon ever did." However, few of these interviews really delve into the bigger picture of what the book is about. In this post, I want to concentrate on the first three chapters of the book. I plan to cover the last three next time, which includes the alarming section about the computer breach.

Chapter 1: "Media Mojo Lost: Investigative Reporting's Recession"

As a consumer of news for the last forty years (I remember watching the Watergate Hearings gavel-to-gavel when I was ten years old. I was a strange kid!), it has been obvious to me that the national news media was and still is flagrantly biased towards the left side of the political spectrum. The difference between the way that a Republican Administration and a Democratic Administration are reported on should be obvious to any thinking person. However, in Stonewalled, Attkisson not only confirms what I've known all along, but shows how endemic this tendency is, citing multiple examples by playing "The Substitution Game" throughout the book. In each of these sections, she chronicles how the mainstream media covers a story coming from the Democratic side, then posits how reporters would have covered the same story if it had come from the Republican side. One example that she gives is then-Senator Obama's remark in 2008 presidential campaign that he had visited fifty-seven states. The news media by and large gave Obama a pass. While stating that everyone knows that he meant forty-seven states, she states, "the remark, nothing more than a verbal gaffe, didn't make big headlines. Substitution Game: What if Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin had uttered the same misstatement? Do you think the news media would've been so quick to overlook it?" Anyone who paid attention to the way the press excoriated Palin would know the obvious answer to that question.

Yet, Attkisson, in her book, shows that the endemic liberal bias of the press is only one of the barriers to fair and honest reporting of the facts. She also makes the following point:


Pushing original and investigative reporting has become like trying to feed the managers spinach. They don't like the taste, but they occasionally hold their nose and indulge because it's good for them—or because it looks good. They much prefer it to be sugarcoated , deep-fried, or otherwise disguised so that it goes down easier.

She states that the mainstream press as a whole has lost its "mojo", which she describes as the press's "ability to serve vigorously and effectively as the Fourth Estate (and be the) watchdog to government and other powers that may otherwise overstep their bounds." The national news media has become compliant. In many cases, they have allowed the government under the Obama administration to bully them into submission. They also practice "playing it safe."


Playing it safe means airing stories that certain other trusted media have reported first, so there's no perceived "risk" to us if we report them, too. We're not going out on a limb; we're not reporting anything that hasn't already been reported elsewhere. But it also means we're not giving viewers any reason to watch us. Playing it safe can mean shying away from stories that include allegations against certain corporations, charities, and other chosen powerful entities and people. The image of the news media as fearless watchdogs poised, if not eager, to pursue stories that authorities wish to block is often a false image. Decisions are routinely made in fear of the response that the story might provoke.

She later states:
The tendency to stick to mostly "safe" stories means you'll see a lot of so-called day-of-air reports on topics that won't generate pushback from the special interests we care about. Think: weather, polls, surveys, studies, positive medical news, the pope, celebrities, obituaries, press conferences, government announcements, animals, the British royals, and heartwarming features. They fill airtime much like innocuous white noise.

She describes this as "homogenized, milquetoast news." She illustrates this by comparing stories from one evening's news on the Big Three networks:


On February 21, 2014, all three networks lead with three minutes on the troubles in Ukraine. Everyone has two to three minutes on the weather: a new popular favorite dominating the news almost every night. Everyone has stories on the Olympics. Everyone does the exact same feature in the middle of their broadcasts about a woman who saved her baby nephew's life (a story widely circulated on the Web the day before). Everyone reports President Obama's decision to award the Medal of Honor. Two of the three networks devote more than two minutes of their precious, limited news time to tributes to their own network's employees: one who passed away and another who is retiring. Are we producing a newscast more for ourselves and each other rather than the public? What did we really tell America on this night that they didn't already know?

What are some of the stories they could have covered instead?


My own network is passing up stories on the crumbling Affordable Care Act; an exclusive investigation I offered about a significant military controversy; an investigation uncovering a history of troubles surrounding Boeing's beleaguered Dreamliner; and massive government waste, fraud, and abuse. Largely untouched are countless stories about pharmaceutical dangers affecting millions of Americans, privacy infringement, the debate over President Obama's use of executive orders, the FDA monitoring of employee email, the steady expansion of terrorism, the student loan crisis, the confounding explosion in entitlements, the heartbreaking fallout from the Haiti earthquake, continuing disaster for government-subsidized green energy initiatives, the terrorist influences behind "Arab spring," various congressional ethics investigations and violations, the government's infringement of and restrictions on the press, escalating violence on the Mexican border, the debt crisis, the Fed's role and its secrecy, to name just a few.

In this chapter, she also describes the many fascinating ways that the government, especially the current administration (which even the press now acknowledges to be the most obstructive in history), manipulates the press for their own ends. In one of the most shocking ways (to me) that they use it what is called "The Astroturf Effect," in which the Obama administration teams up with a cadre of special interests who:


…disguise themselves and write blogs, publish letters to the editor, produce ads, establish Facebook and Twitter accounts, start nonprofits, or just post comments to online material with the intent of fooling you into believing an independent or grassroots movement is speaking.

One of the "astroturf" websites is the ultra-liberal Media Matters, which is an Obama administration sycophant. Even before her book came out this last week, they have been publishing multiple articles supposedly "debunking" this book. Must be hitting close to home!

If the book had only this first chapter, it would have been worth the price of the book. However, there's much more.

 
Chapter 2: "Fast and Furious Redux | Inside America's Deadly Gunwalking Disgrace"


I admit that I didn’t follow “Fast and Furious” too closely when it was big in the news.  Actually, it wasn’t big in the news except on Fox, which covered it extensively.  It got labeled by the national media as a “Fox story” and pretty well faded out everywhere except on FNC.  However, the story that Sharyl Attkisson tells here is as much about the pushback that she got from “the powers that be” at CBS News as it is about “Fast and Furious.”  This chapter actually got me up to speed on the sickening details of the investigation.  It is just unbelievable that our government was involved in such a harebrained idea.  Not only did it tragically cost a border agent, Brian Terry, his life, but our government’s reckless and illegal “gunwalking” scheme probably cost countless Mexican lives as well.  It is just unbelievable to me that this got ignored by the media.  It is far worse than Watergate, and really a case could be made that it was worse than Benghazi, considering the number of lives that could have been taken (and may be yet taken) with these weapons.  In this chapter, she makes the case that the entire scheme could possibly have been conjured up as a Machiavellian way to promote the Obama administration’s gun control initiative.  By having these guns show up in Mexico, they could bolster the administration argument that we need tighter gun control laws in order to prevent guns from getting to Mexico! How convoluted is that!

Unfortunately, most of Attkisson's fine work on this scandal never made it to the network news, being relegated to the CBS News website. Somehow, this spectacular scandal just didn't interest the CBS News folks up in New York enough to merit attention. (See chapter 1 above.)

As a side note, I found it fascinating that one of the cities that she found evidence or allegations for "gunwalking" was Evansville, Indiana, just a few miles from where I'm writing this today. For me, that brings this literally "close to home!"

Chapter 3: "Green Energy Going Red: The Silent Burn of Your Tax Dollars"

The "poster child" for the Green Energy debacle was Solyndra. Just conjuring up the failed company brings up the image of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars being poured into a company that would soon go belly up. However, in this chapter, Sharyl Attkisson shows that Solyndra was just the tip of the iceberg. She tells of the "Think Global" electric car company (also right here in Indiana), which was given $17 million by the Obama administration. They ended up building a few dozen cars. An even more spectacular failure was another car company, Fisker, who built a car so bad that Consumer Reports stated, "We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process." In this case, hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were wasted. Fisker would make 1800 undriveable cars before going bankrupt.

Unfortunately, Sharyl Attkisson's work on this scandal couldn't be shown on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. See Chapter 1 above. They had bigger fish to fry at the network's flagship news program. More weather, polls, celebrity gossip. In this case, it was relegated to the weekend news program…and the web. She was told that this was "old news." She goes on to tell of an anecdote provided by one of her colleagues:


Evening News executive producer Shevlin and a CBS News executive in New York were discussing those green energy notes I'd been circulating. Here's the account as told to me: 
EXECUTIVE Attkisson's green energy stories are pretty significant. . . . Maybe we should be airing some of them on Evening News? 
SHEVLIN What's the matter, don't you support green energy?

 
Click Here to read Part 2.

For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!



Below are links to other articles I've written recently about current events:

The High Cost of Inaction

Is War In Europe Coming?
Oklahoma Beheading: Let's Call It What It Is!


 


 


 

 

 


 


 

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