Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Monday, February 28, 2011

No one can serve two masters

Military commanders have long held unity of command as an irrevocable principle.  You really can't respond to two different commanders.

The same holds true in our lives.  We live for Jesus seeking the Kingdom of God or for ourselves living by the ways of the world.

Read:  No one can serve two masters
Read the pericope that goes with this message.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fall Back, Spring Forward, already???

Here is one sure fire way not to miss church because you forgot to set your clock ahead on March 13th.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Living Faith: Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint

The book of the month for March 2011 is Living Faith:  Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint.

Want miracles?  Want suffering?  Want trials?  Want testimony?

Dr. Helen Roseveare has more than you might imagine.  She faced the same struggles that all of us have and more, but stuck to her faith.  This 200 pages are well worth the read.

Read book review.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Clicks for Chicks

If you just came from Examiner, your click has been counted!

Read this article and help purchase a goat and two chickens for a village in Africa without spending a cent.

Read article.

Out of the Box 1: Only the Beginning

Here's a simple alphanumeric brain teaser.  Some answers will come right away.  Don't give up too quickly on those that don't.  You might be surprised what your mind is working on while you are at work, driving, or even sleeping.

Enjoy Only the Beginning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

This article includes a brief slide show of the sun, sunset, and full moon from two days ago.
Be still and know...

Read article

Oklahoma Sunset

What a well placed stop sign at Walmart near Elk City.  We should all stop and take in a sunset at least once a week.  The psalmist reminds us:  Be still and know that I am God.

Read:  A place to stop near Walmart

Alcohol, tobacco, and fire arms.

Here are some thoughts on alcohol, tobacco, and fire arms.  Is this the pastor or the Marine speaking here?

Read Balancing the ATF and God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

You want me to take a new look at the Old Testament? Really?

It’s the Old Testament. Why read it? We have Jesus!
There is too much blood, too much falling away from God, too many sinful people, and the so called hero’s of the Old Testament seem like they are better suited to a modern day soap opera than being lead characters in this part of the Bible.
Then there are the multiple creation accounts. C’mon people, didn’t Adam take good notes?
Then there is all of that begatten. You know, the lineage stuff. Then there are like more than 500 laws, some of them just seem crazy. You mean God really had to tell his people not to do that?
Some of the Psalms are cool and some of the proverbs ring true without much interpretation, but you had better not try comparing your wife to a leaky faucet these days. 
There are prophets but not much certainty about what prophecy was fulfilled in the near term and what is yet to be accomplished.
I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but I just can’t make sense of everything in the Old Testament.
Perhaps, we need to look at the Old Testament as a story—a very good story. It is a story of faith, history, culture, lineage, wisdom, joy, and sorrow. It is a story of God’s people and God’s continued involvement with his people. It is a story that we might better understand if we remember that we too are God’s people and let this become our story.

Forward Deployed

Here is a salty Marine's thoughts on the leadership or parenting, love, and discipline, et. al.

Read Forward Deployed

The Living Desert--a Sea Story from Iraq

Spiders, snakes, and international cooperation all in one place. 

Read:  The Living Desert

Back to Iraq--Not to an American's taste

The good thing about being a guy is that you don't feel obliged to ask for the recipe.

Find out more about this internation food festival and how I came to this epiphany.

Read:  Not to an American's Taste

You might be a grunt, if...

If you can’t make sense of any of the abbreviations used by the New York Stock Exchange, but know by heart the trading value of every component of a C-Ration or MRE, then you might be a grunt.
If punishment for your kids involves words like restriction, forfeiture of pay, and EPD instead of grounded and no allowance, then you might be a grunt.
If you have busted your kids back to Private at least once, then you might be a grunt.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine

The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Could we be living in that day now?

Consider what we do or do not hear in our media.

Such as???  

Command and Commission: A Marine's perspective on the Great Commission

What would a Marine know about the Great Commission?  What would a commissioned officer of Marines know about the Great Commission?

See for yourself.  Read COMMAND AND COMMISSION:  A Marine's Perspective on the Great Commission.

Best Leadership Practices for Christians

What is the difference between leadership and Christian Leadership.  Only a matter of a few words.

What words?

Follow me and go. 

Going Rogue

Sorry Sarah Palin, this is not about you.  You may wish it was so you would have a real going rougue story, but it's not about you.

It is a personal account about being branded a rogue manager for not playing by the rules of falsifiying circulation at The Oklahoman


Read:  Going Rogue in Oklahoma.

A goat and two chickens

What can I say?  A goat and two chickens--it's the best deal. 

Find out what this is all about...

Are we rich towards God?

Most of us don't often worry about having too much money or what to do with that bumper crop.  In the taxonomy of problems, these are known as good problems to have.

But what is our relationship with the money and things that we do have?

Read:  Are we rich towards God?

One Month to Live

What would you do if you only had one moth to live?  Skydiving, mountain climbing, bull riding as the Tim McGraw lyrics suggest.

Would your value every remaining minute?

What would you want to leave behind?

We all ignore our mortality on a regular basis.  What if we got the news that we only had one month to live?

Take the One Month to Live online challenge.  Click here

Check this out--western Oklahoma churches took up the challengeRead more.

Make your bucket list...  Read more

Getting out of the church boxRead more.


Metrics for Christians

Every organizations has metrics.  What is not measured is not done, right?  So why not metrics for Christians?  Am I crazy?  That's possible, but the article is worth a look anyway.

Read:  Metrics for Christians

Fire that consultant!

Most consultants would be out of work if organizations listened--really listened--to those who make up the group.  The same applies to families and churches.  Want to know what modern guru came up with this?  Sorry Mr. Covey, James the Lord's brother beat you to it by 2,000 years.

Read:  Fire that consultant!

4th and 1

Here’s something I wrote about a decade ago.  Perhaps it will cause us to reflect on our nature and God’s nature.  Enjoy.
4th and 1
What’s the nature of man,
When it’s 4th and 1.
Why it’s to go for the gusto,
Seek the Father and Son.

But that’s not our way,
When it’s 1st and 10.
We go back to our playbook,
Just lookin’ for sin.

I’m not talking ‘bout criminals
Or headliner crimes.
Just everday folks
Missin’ signs of the times.

We’re bankin’ on stocks
And bonds just the same.
But leavin’ salvation
For a day full of rain.

We’re storin’ up treasures,
And investing with zeal,
In the things of this world,
That someone could steal.

New cars and new icons,
Give us a day full of joy.
They’re shiny and polished,
‘Til rust does destroy.

Now we’ve all heard some preachin’
On Heaven and Hell.
But we leave it at church,
Lest our neighbors we tell.

That kid on the corner,
With the clothes that are torn.
Keeps singin’ eternal sorrow,
Lest you’ve been reborn.

But ‘tween money and credit,
I’m doin’ all right.
Don’t give me that spiel,
‘Bout a thief in the night.

Those preachers on TV
Tell me not to wait
To save my soul
From some fiery lake.

But I’m changin’ the channel
Without one hint of guilt
My home is my castle,
I’ve earned what I’ve built.

They’d have you believe
Things I rather ignore.
Like selling all that I have,
Then givin' it to the poor.

They say their fishes of men,
But to me they’re a pain.
I’ve got things to do.
Come back when it rains.

Now I know I’m not perfect
I’ll be the first to admit.
I’ve sinned in my time,
But it’s not time to quit.

Oh sure there’s a God,
He's out there somewhere.
Beyond the planets and stars
Yes, I do hope he cares.

But I think we’ve outgrown Him.
We’re on the right track.
The more money I spend,
The more cash I get back.

Yes, I’m doin’ just fine
On my own don’t You see?
Just bought a satellite dish
For my big screen TV.

Sure something is missing
From my eternal soul.
But I’ll fill it myself,
I’ll try rock ‘n roll.

Or jogging or swimming
Perhaps give Yoga a shot,
But give up the good life
For your offer of what?

Submission, forgiveness,
And the power of prayer.
I wasn’t born yesterday:
Done that, been there.

And the world still had wars
And hunger and fear.
So I’ll just look out for myself
Now don’t shed a tear.

For it’s my own decision
And You’ve suffered no loss.
Please don’t tell me again
About a death on a cross.

Or a life without sorrow
After this one I know.
Or the signs of the times,
They’ll come and they’ll go.

It’s first down and ten,
And I’ve only begun,
Lord, please stay on the sidelines,
‘Til it’s fourth and one.

Yes, I've had my troubles,
Even called on Your Name.
But when things settle back down,
I'm just not up for the pain.

Of lovin' my neighbor
As I love myself.
Or loving You first,
With my life and my wealth.

Do you know what it's like,
To be rejected and all?
I'd like to help Lord,
But I can't answer the call.

I'd get funny looks,
From the guys at the plant.
When I'd invite them to dinner,
They'd just say they can't.

It's a long way to the church,
And gas isn't free.
If You wanted my soul,
Well, You'd come and see me.

I'd like to accept You,
I'd explain it some more,
But I have to go now,
There's a knock at the door.

A prayer for this day: Lord, we desire to be complete

God made us in his image but sometimes we look in the mirror and don't see God or the visible image of God that we know as Jesus.  What do we pray then?  Read:   A prayer for this day:  Lord, we desire to be complete.

Be perfect

Not in the worldly sense of flawlessness.  It means to be complete as we are when we live by the law of love.  Read Be Perfect.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's cheaper than marrying one

In some states you might get dragged into court for what most in Oklahoma just take in stride.

What's he talking about?  Read for yourself

Spit Happens

I can't believe the ridicule that Tiger Woods is receiving for spitting on the green.  He may have earned the scorn of many for his other antics, but for spitting on grass?  Let's be serious.

Read:  Spit Happens

A Perfect Day or Pondering Providence

A Perfect Day
Grace A. Bounds

The smell of coffee awakened me even before the alarm went off, which now would not be granted its privilege of making that mechanical ringing sound.  Why don’t they make clocks with a more pleasant sounding alarm?  That’s right, they do.  It’s just that I didn’t need any training in how to sleep through them.  Thank God for annoying sounds, well, at least on most mornings.  There was a little less than the half pot that normally greeted me on my morning trek to full consciousness.  Jim must have needed the extra caffeine.  No, that wasn’t it at all.  How could I forget our house guests so quickly?

There’s a thought that will wake you sooner than espresso.  Jim came home with a young couple and their two children and introduced us for the first time as he seated them in the living room.  As we both walked into the kitchen to get them some iced tea, actually the kids wanted Kool-Ade but were thrilled with ice water all the same, Jim told me that they needed a place for the night.  I about dropped the six drinks that I had placed on a makeshift tray when I asked my husband how he knew these people and he said that he didn’t.  They just needed a place to stay for the night.  It was a good thing that the only 6 matching glasses we had clean were plastic Eskimo Joe’s cups.  My mind raced with thoughts of why, why now, drugs, axe murderers…with children—ok that was a stretch—but it could happen.  If he wants to be a Good Samaritan he can just cart them off to the Lucky 7 Motor Inn and Suites a few miles down the road and pay the $29.95 himself, but while my mind cataloged endless fatal possibilities, my body just delivered the drinks, with a smile I might add.  The night was uneventful though it was sort of fun entertaining people that we didn’t know.  I didn’t know they were coming and never had a chance to get anxious about getting the house ready for them.  As it turned out, I wasn’t such a bad hostess after all and we enjoyed the company.  I really need to ask Jim how he ran into these nice folks.

My arthritis in my left elbow was trying to get the best of me again.  Sometimes, it seemed that every time I was off to a perfect day, the pain would return.  I guess everyone has a thorn in their side.  With a deep breath, I savored the smell of the coffee, took my first sip, and said aloud to the empty room, “Yes, Your grace will be sufficient for me.”

It was at that time that I noticed that Paul was still in the screened in porch and had surely been there all night.  We had put him out there so he wouldn’t get too excited with children in the house again—something he wasn’t used to as ours had been long gone when we got him.  Jim named him after looking at his records at the animal shelter and told me that he had been kicked out of several good homes in many different cities and that he had probably been beaten more than once, but he seemed eager to go on one more journey upon his release from prison, which by the way was on Rome street and we live in Spanish Heights.  I submitted to what surely my husband believed to be his exclusive domain and Paul of Tarsus—yes; Jim went the whole nine yards in naming him—has been with us for eight years now.  This morning, I wasn’t as concerned with his title as I was with why he didn’t have that panicked look on his face and wasn’t barking at me to let him out.  It could only be one thing.  He had managed to find a spot to relieve himself inside.  I decided to finish my coffee before venturing beyond the French doors into whatever odors awaited me this morning.  Paul just stared at me wagging his tail as if all was well in the world.  Well, perhaps for him it was.  He didn’t have to clean up whatever mess he had made.

I walked back to the coffee pot to top off my cup, really to delay the inevitable cleanup, when I noticed a sticky note on the counter next to the coffee pot.  I put Paul out last night after you were asleep but brought him in because of the storms.  Storms?  There were storms last night.  I must have slept really well.  Usually it takes at least an hour for my mind to wind down and let go of enough stuff that I can finally get to sleep.  Wow!  I did feel like I had rested more, even with the evening’s activities. The note continued, I figure that by now you have mentally kicked Paul out of Thessalonica and sent him packing for Berea.  How does he know?  And must he continue with the Pauline metaphors.  OK, the answer to the second question is a rhetorical yes.  I also guessed that by your second cup of coffee you would be awake enough to find this note, let him out, relieved that he had not relieved himself indoors, and all would be right again with the world.  Love, Jim.  There is no one in the world any better at getting that much on to or out of a sticky note.  I’ll bet that he is still smiling about it.

I hadn’t even made it to the shower when the realization hit me that I had just gotten a great night’s sleep following what turned out to be a relaxing evening at home with guests that felt like friends, awoke to fresh coffee, had my anxiety over a crises that didn’t exist curtailed by a little sticky note that couldn’t have been better if it was a poetic love letter--ok, maybe that last one was a stretch.  Love letters are good too.  Looking upward, knowing that I could not gaze far enough to see how close He really was to me, I said only, “God is Good.  Praise God!”

I put my car keys on the counter next to my Invitation CD that I promised myself I would give to Becky today at work.  Getting the right time and place to witness to her has been tough.  I feel that she is ready, but don’t know that I am.  I know what to say, but don’t know how to start.  Maybe the CD will get her to ask me some questions, then I’m off to the races.  I was surprised that there was still hot water for my shower, not knowing how many people had been up and about and bathed before me.  It felt good and my arthritis paid faded for the moment.

As I backed out of the driveway and put the car into drive, I realized that the CD was still on the counter.  How did I pick up my keys and miss getting the CD.  Oh well, back up the driveway.  Guess that God is going to let me pay the price for losing my memory or maybe for thinking the worst this morning.  As I re-entered the house and grabbed the disk, I noticed Paul still shut up in the porch.  This time he was whining—a clear signal that he couldn’t hold it much longer.  I guess I would have been cleaning up Paul’s mess if I hadn’t had to come back in.  What a lucky break.  Sometimes I think that there really are no coincidences, then I come to my senses and realize that God probably doesn’t worry too much about what I have to clean up around here. 

As I backed out of my drive for the second time, Linda was just walking past our house on the other side of the street.  I had wasted enough time and really needed to get to work and thought that I might pretend to talk on my cell and not notice her, but I rolled down the window instead.  “Car break down again?”  She nodded.  “Hop in.  It’s not too far out of my way to drop you at work.”

Linda was in the car in an instant.  “Thanks.  It’s not broken, we just didn’t have any gas money, but I get paid tomorrow so it will be ok.”

“How about you stop by at the same time tomorrow and I will give you a ride then?”

“That wouldn’t be too much trouble?”

I’m not sure what got into me.  Why wasn’t I coming up with some conditions or something like, you had better be here 10 minutes early so I don’t have to wait on you or something like that.  Instead, I just said, “No trouble at all.  If you can make it a couple minutes early, we could go through the drive through and get a biscuit.  My treat.”

“Really?  I prayed a lot last night asking God to just get me through another day and He sends me you.  Too bad He can’t help me with my homework.”

“You’re going to school too?”

Nodding her head in the affirmative, “Might be able to get my degree in about another year.  This college literature is sure tougher that I thought.  I’m still not getting this whole metaphor thing when it applies to something more than just an article or short poem. “

“I might be able to help.  I married the Sultan of Metaphor, which I think would be a metaphor.”

We talked and laughed all the way to Linda’s work.  She thanked me again as she got out of the car, though this really wasn’t much of a detour for me at all.  This was hardly a morning with which the words routine, normal, according to plan, or any derivative of those meanings would apply.   I was running late and needed to get a move on, but for some reason, felt compelled just to stop for a moment in the parking lot and be still.  God didn’t say anything out loud, but I felt His peace.  It was only for a moment, then I was on my way again.

I also never saw the large stakebed truck in time to do anything.  I’m no mechanic, but the look in the driver’s eyes said that he had control over neither his steering nor brakes.  The truck sped by the front of my car with no more that a new coat of paint’s worth of distance between our vehicles.  He ran off the road only a few hundred yards down the road into some sand that road crews had failed to clean up from the winter storms months ago.  The sand brought the speeding hunk of metal and produce to an abrupt, but upright stop and I saw the driver get out of the vehicle, look to the sky, and kiss the ground.  Had I pulled out of that parking lot a second sooner, Jim would have had only the Apostle Paul to keep him company tonight and probably for the rest of his life.  Maybe there are no coincidences.

I was still a little pale when I arrived at work only a few minutes late.  Becky met me at the door.  The word about my close call had preceded me as someone had obviously seen most of what transpired, though they were certainly unaware of my divine pause in the parking lot.  “I’m fine” calmed her a little, “except for one thing.”  We made eye contact.  “I’ve been meaning to give you this for a week now.  I’m beginning to believe that there are no coincidences, that my days are just as they should be, and that everything that appears to be meaningless is only meaningless if I am not being purposeful myself.”

“That’s a mouthful…and thanks for the disk.”

“Becky, I’m sorry that I waited this long.  If you will listen to it tonight, I would love to talk to you about it tomorrow.”


As I settled into my cubicle, I noticed another yellow sticky note affixed to the side of my monitor.  This wasn’t from Jim, it was from the boss—read my first email as soon as you get in.  On some days my mind would have raced through the absurd possibilities of yet undone tasks—probably would have used the term harebrained thoughts--that might be contained in this electronic missive that awaited me to exhaust myself in yet another senseless cause in response to its beckoning, but today was the day the system ran a virus scan on boot up.  That meant at least five minutes before I could get to work.  Instead of giving in to my multitasking nature that seems to govern my day, ok, sometimes my life, and start revising my lists; I just decided to be still for yet the second time today.

I looked at my desk calendar and flipped the page to today’s date.  The picture of the sunrise was overlayed with Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.   Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.   Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.   If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.   Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts.  The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.   To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.

I heard a series of tones from my computer that told me the scan was completed and that my email program was running.  On most mornings, these tones would have been commands to quit wasting time and get to work.  Today, I thought for just another moment on you have preserved my life and on the last words…to all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.  Wow.  I had been preserved that very morning.  There are no coincidences.  This day is exactly as it is supposed to be.  It’s perfect in all of its apparent disorder that somehow has been ordered for me.  For the first time in a long time, I thought with clarity.  Send me in, God.  Use me for your purpose, shape me in your image, shine your light through me, humble me so I don’t fall victim to self-pity, keep me strong for as long as you want me to run this race and fight the good fight.  I have been mistaking all that goes on around me as a distraction, when I am the one that needs to throw off my entanglements with my selfishness and put your perseverance in my heart.  Send me in, God.  What a perfect day you have made for me to show your glory to those around me!

Time to open that email.  It read only, thought that you would like these.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'    This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'    All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Heb 13:2-3; Matt 22:37-40; Matt 28:18-20; Matt 25:40; Ps 46:10; 1 Cor 12:4-6;Matt 25:21

You guessed it.  Grace A. Bounds is used as a pseudonym for this article.  For more articles by Tom Spence, follow these links:

 Here are some articles that look at the very challenging book of James.
How about something from the Gospel of Matthew

Why separation of powers is not distinct

The 2000 election prompted a piece of discourse that explained our concept of fairness—or equity—within our system of government.  It was a time when people wanted to discount the Electoral College, a time when the presidency of this nation was bounced around in the Florida and in Federal Courts, and ultimately decided in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The following piece addresses the roots of our current system not with regard as to why we have separation of powers, but as to why they are not distinct.

Why Separation of Powers is Not Distinct

If you thought that the last time you would have to hear the term separation of powers was in your high school civics class, then the 2000 presidential election certainly spoiled that plan.  While the emotional argument in Florida is to count every vote; the real issue at stake is the distribution of power in the entities of our American government.  Our system of government sets up three ongoing battles for domestic power.  The first revolves around those powers or rights reserved to individuals and those relinquished to various levels of the government.  Next, the Constitution divides powers between the federal government and the several states.  Finally, power is distributed among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.  This distribution is nearly mirrored at the federal and state levels.  It is this last distribution of power which is the source of most conflict. 

 Our constitution begins with a noble preamble that enumerates the general scope of our government.  Unfortunately, it jumps directly from the purpose to Articles I, II, and III which establish the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches without an overall  concept of operations.  These articles empower and limit but do not generally define how conflicts between branches will be resolved.  There are some exceptions, specifically enacting legislation, filling vacancies, and impeachment; but as a whole the constitution focuses on three separate entities with little attention paid to boundaries and interaction.  This does not diminish the value of what the founding fathers provided us.  Our Constitution has served us well for 216 [now 221] years with only infrequent modification, but to truly understand it, we must examine a piece of history that goes beyond our shores.

 Our founding fathers were less focused on specific boundaries for each of the branches than they were with providing a lasting foundation that separated them.  They dealt first hand with a monarchy that had gradually and begrudgingly divested itself of total sovereignty.  The Magna Charta was not a government reinvented from the ground up, but a milestone in power wrestled from a monarch.  While the most visible struggle in British Constitutional History is arguably that between the monarch and the parliament; perhaps the most applicable to our government is that of the Chancellor and his equitable powers.   

 About the same time that America was discovered and colonization began, England faced mounting problems with its laws.  Statutory law was in its infancy and common law was the preponderance of the judicial foundation.  Unfortunately, common law did not provide remedies in many situations, most of them arising out of property arrangements.  Such remedies could only be obtained from the monarch, or his chief minister--the chancellor.  The chancellor was a unique individual.  He governed in the king's council, had some jurisdiction over the common law courts, and represented the king's conscience.  He could provide extraordinary relief that the courts could not.  He could provide equity.  Equity in its broadest sense denotes the spirit of fairness and justness.  It is justice ascertained by natural reason or ethical insight but independent of the formulated body of the law.

 The chancellor was often a bishop, well schooled in Roman and Canon law.  When he found nothing in the common law, he relied upon his ecclesiastic training to provide a remedy.  In the British power struggle, the chancellor was perceived as a threat to both parliament and the common law courts.  While the chancellor exercised both legislative and judicial authority, he was primarily an extension of the monarch--the executive.  As the British system evolved, the equitable powers of the chancellor became less intrusive to the other branches of government through the adoption of equitable principles.  Eventually, precedent carried greater weight than individual discretion.  This self regulation of the chancery preserved its existence.

 When the Constitution of the United States was formulated, equitable power was placed exclusively in the judiciary.  What had crossed functional areas in the British system was now reposed in a single branch.  What had originally been executive power restrained by the parliament was now wholly vested in one branch of our government.  Such a history does not make for a restrained court system.  The equitable jurisdiction of the chancellor allowed him to step across functional boundaries to provide remedies.  Even though equity has become much more formalized and governed to a very significant degree by precedent, its roots belie its restriction to a single branch.  Equity is the province of the sovereign and resists division. 

 I advocate judicial restraint and recognize that such a conservative approach will sometimes create selective injustices.  That is, the court system will not always be able to provide a remedy.  Sometimes, the judiciary must simply wait for the legislature to create a remedy in law.  My position is backed by a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  Some courts are more active and generally are classified as liberal or activist.  They always seek to find a remedy.  Their legitimacy is not found in the Constitution but in the history of common law and the equitable jurisdiction of the chancellor.  In a government where power is consolidated in a monarch or dictator, there is no conflict.  In a government that has separated basic government functions to prevent tyranny, conflict is inherent in the organization and aggravated by assigning powers not divisible by three to a single branch. 

 I can offer no alternative without increasing the risk of excessive power consolidated in the executive branch or diluting the power of each branch to impotence.  Equitable power is the free safety of football or the rover in softball.  It instinctively moves to fill a void in power.  It is generally constrained to follow precedent but not restrained by it when new remedies are required.  It can serve as the oil that lubricates the wheels of our government or it can grind that same government to a halt to effect an individual remedy.  It provides comfort that imperfections will be overcome and anxiety over what those unknown remedies will be.  Equity recognizes the divisions of our governmental system but knows no timidity when testing their boundaries.  While our founding fathers greatest fear was that a government of the people would surrender their plenary power to a power hungry executive; it is the tool of the monarch's first minister--the equitable power of the chancellor--that is the wild card in our system of government.  That power is vested in the judiciary, but by its very nature must venture elsewhere. 

 With such a natural disposition to cross functional boundaries, why would I advocate restraint in a judiciary vested with equitable powers?    The very nature of equitable power in 14th century Britain was nearly its undoing.  The equitable power of the chancellor threatened both parliament and common law courts, but instead of an overt power struggle, equity limits were subtly restrained.  Such restraint was not by the parliament or the courts but by the nature of the equitable power itself.  It offered remedies not elsewhere available and the chancellor's court was quickly overwhelmed.  Remedies that supplanted other alternatives available from the government were self defeating.  The most viable solution was self restraint.  Rigidity and precedent became the rule and new remedies in equity were reserved for the truly extraordinary case.  Equitable power became formalized and survived the power struggles of our ancestors.  While the philosophical composition of any court may cause it to test the boundaries of power; it is equity that invites a judicial body to boldly journey into the roles of legislator and executive.    Those exercising such equitable power know that every such venture comes with the concomitant that it may be the very event that topples the delicate balance of separated powers.  Such power must be wielded with exceptional restraint.

A Good Read

A Good Read

I re-read an old favorite of mine just because I picked it up again.  I guess you would call it a political thriller, though some might not find it so exciting.  It doesn't have the high tech warfare you might find in a Tom Clancy novel, but it is set forth in a time like our own when the political situation is somewhat tenuous.  There has been significant battle and bloodshed to this point, but the real struggle is more Machiavellian in nature.  I doubt that you will see this one in movie form.  Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, and Demi Moore are not knocking at the door for lead roles.  This work would just be too tough to cast.   While the power struggle remains the same, the cast involved in that struggle changes too frequently to accommodate Hollywood egos and budgets.   This is one of those classics where the struggle itself is much greater than any single protagonist or villain.  It has a certain Shakespearean allure not only because of the intricacies of the power struggle, but because like the English Playwright's works, there is some question as to whether or not this one has a single author.

A good work always has conflict.  A great work intricately ties in not only a struggle between good and evil, but struggles among noble causes as well.  Quests for perfection, justice, or tranquility cause the reader to yearn for the next line or next page with the same or even greater anxiousness contained in a well spun mystery.  Shared existential risk balanced against noble ideas such as protecting the welfare of others--even the liberty of another generation--increases the drama of each successive word.  You won't buy the Cliff's Notes for this one.  The commentaries and reviews far exceed the length of the work itself.  You will, however, remember a line or two from this one, whether you have read it or not.  It begins, "We The People…"

Yes, this political thriller is the Constitution of the United States of America.  It is about a struggle for power, and like most political thrillers, that struggle is established by the authors themselves.  The authors recognized that power was indeed a corrupting force.  Power vested in a single man or woman could be used to promote domestic tranquility, or just as capriciously could be used to enslave the governed.  In this good versus evil genre, the authors knew that no single individual could overcome the temptations of power.  Their noble causes of domestic tranquility, common defense, and securing the blessing of liberty required that power not be permitted to consolidate in a single individual.  They set up accommodations for continued power struggles and inefficiency and by so doing offered no lodging for tyranny. 

Our republic is based upon democratic premises tempered with state's rights.  The safeguards of the Constitution are vested in separation of powers not only at the federal level, but between the federal government and the states, with still more rights or liberties reserved directly to the people.  The more perfect union is a union of separate states.  The Electoral College may appear to be archaic, but it is representative of the distributive nature of power allocation in our system.  The Constitution is not a model designed for efficiency.  Instead, it is designed for the preservation of representative government.

The greatest fear of the founding fathers was tyranny.  That tyranny could come in the form of a popular president unwilling to relinquish his office or an Oliver Cromwell emerging from the legislature.  It could also come from the tyranny of mob rule.  We would like to think that we have outgrown the need for the protection from the tyranny of mob rule.  Before we acclaim ourselves so enlightened, we should first take stock of our emotional nature.  The single greatest threat to our nation is our intolerance of its inefficiency and imperfections.  Our emotional outcry for efficiency and certainty is an offer to have tyranny as our guest.  Before we decide that we have reached the point where we need to reinvent the whole government (yes, the founding fathers even had the sagacity to see that.  Read the Second Amendment), we should take the time to see why this one works the way it does.   If nothing else comes of accepting my invitation to this small investment of time, it should at least move the Constitution to the best seller list.  It's a good read. 

What do you call a guy with degrees in Political Science, Counseling, and  Biblical Studies? What do you call someone that served as a Marine Officer for over 20 years and now pastors a church?  What do you call someone with this unique perspective of the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God?

Most folks just call me Tom.

Continue reading on A good read... - Oklahoma City Presbyterian |

Paradox of Power

From time to time the political scientist in me demands to be heard.  It's usually something controversial.  Here is a piece that I first published just over a decade ago.  It's really not about guns.  It's about understanding our system of government.

Paradox of Power

I believe that gun control is fundamentally wrong.
Some readers will never make it to this paragraph after my last statement.  That same group may believe that there is only a First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.  There are ten and we can ignore none of them without eroding them all.  If we want gun control, then we need to change the Constitution not ignore it.
The Second Amendment, like the others in the Bill of Rights, was written in the context of preventing tyranny.  The founding fathers could not have envisioned a United States that grew to be the most powerful nation in the world.  They did envision a country that preserved individual freedom for each successive generation.  Their greatest perceived threat came from the government which they were creating--that it could become its own tyranny.  Federal power was distributed among three branches of government and the several states; while rights were retained by the people.  This is not a model for efficiency, but for preservation.  Our model of government preserved individual rights that permitted its citizens to come to its defense against a foreign adversary or to overthrow its own tyranny.   The Second Amendment is a paradox rooted in a country born out of revolution. 
How can I defend this position when violent acts have crept into our schools, communities, and way of life?  Every Officer of the United States takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  That most fundamental document preserves the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  It is used in the context of a well regulated militia, but the right is reserved to the people.   Times and technology have changed the price we pay for this right.  There was always a price, but now it appears to be much higher with the ubiquitous availability of semiautomatic and automatic weapons.  The weapons themselves are not responsible for violent crime, but the lethality of today's weapons makes each act more atrocious.  The real question before the American people--one that should have been placed bluntly before our presidential candidates--is whether or not we need to change the Second Amendment. 
Some would argue that the NRA lobby is so strong that such a change is not possible.  That may or may not have merit; however, they should not be the strongest lobby against change.  The ACLU should be prime contender in such a brokered battle.  The Second Amendment is the only place where the people themselves are empowered to preserve the security of a free state, and embodies the ultimate civil liberty.  Some would argue that tyranny is no longer a threat and that the political power of our federal government has been kept in check.  If this is your position, consider where the power to declare war resides--in the Congress.  How then did we get involved in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War.  Those that would classify these as police actions only hide the truth in Orwellian terminology.  These were wars.  The executive branch usurped power from the legislative branch and the people of this country didn't have a say in the matter.  The Congress later recovered part of its power via the War Powers Act, but how binding is such an ordinary law when ignoring the supreme law of the land created this situation.  The founding fathers recognized that power abhors a vacuum.  The Constitution is our foremost protection against the consolidation of power by a single group or individual.
But surely we must make an exception in the case of assault weapons--the founding fathers could not have envisioned such lethality in a domestic setting.  No such exception can be made.  The founding fathers could not have envisioned nationally syndicated newspapers either, but none of us would stand for regulating the USA Today, New York Times, or the Washington Post because they have become too influential.    We tolerate unprofessional journalists because we know that the ethical ones are essential to a free state.  Every individual freedom comes at a price.
To understand the paradox of the Second Amendment, we must look at the powers vested in Congress, specifically those enumerate in Article 1, Section 8.  Congress is empowered to call forth the Militia to suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.  How can the same Constitution preserve the right of the individual to keep and bear arms while authorizing the Congress to suppress insurrection?  The sanity in this is that it is the militia that is called forth to suppress insurrection, not the Armed Forces of the United States, which are addressed separately in this same section.  It is the part time soldier--the militiaman-- that is vested with the responsibility to suppress an uprising or to join it if such a cause is to overthrow tyranny.  
Gun control lobbyists have clouded the issue by focusing on handguns and appeasing the NRA that none of their proposed legislation will impact the rights of hunters.  Hunters don't have any constitutional rights--the people do--regardless of whether they are outdoorsman or not.  Both the NRA and their adversaries are evading the constitutional issue.  The Second Amendment is designed to protect us against all enemies, including the accumulation of tyrannical power by our own government.  This has created problems in that some extremist groups within our own country have become well armed.  So long as these groups do not represent the values of our people, they will be a threat to our society.  Should the individual liberties of this country be usurped by our government, such groups become the mainstream of liberty.   It is the nature of our republic, that our domestic tranquility is afloat on a sea that separates revolution and tyranny.
I don't believe we are at either extreme today.  Our biggest threat to our liberty is not that our government will be replaced via a Coup d'etat, but that we will slowly erode the Constitution by ignoring it.  If you don't believe this is possible, consider the fact that George Washington had to convince the founding fathers that he should not be king.  Having just defeated a monarchy in forming our country, our founders considered establishing one of our own.  Consider the illegal acts of two presidents, Nixon and Clinton.  Nixon resigned for the good of the country.  Clinton was impeached and evaded conviction not because he was innocent, but because he was popular and fought to retain power.  Our Constitution recognized that power does indeed corrupt and it adequately distributed that power to avoid tyranny.   The Constitution cannot contend with emotion, popularity, and impulse unless we honor it above capricious causes.  We must aggressively fight crime and violence, especially in our schools.  These solutions will come slowly and cannot be legislated.  They must come from teaching the value of human life in our homes, schools, and churches. 
The Constitution also provides a mechanism to deal with the needs of a changing society.  The fifth article describes the constitutional process for changing our most fundamental document.  It's a tough process.  Obtaining a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Congress or three-fourths majority in a convention of the states requires the resolve of a nation.  If we truly have a need to regulate guns in today's society, we need to amend the Constitution.  Before we go down this road, we must carefully weigh what we are willing to give up in the way of liberty. 

Read this and other political commentaries on Examiner.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Parable of the talents

I love the parable of the Talents, so much so that I wrote this mini-drama to be used as an alternative to the traditional sermon.  Read the script.

The Harvest is ready, but the workers are stoned

Just a few thought on an interesting video that is making the rounds these days.  Watch now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One plants, one waters

Are we content to do our part, use our gifts, and forego celebrity in a fame crazed culture?  Can we accept that one plants, one waters, and it is God who provides the grow?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011