The Cat Problem

"Judge not ..." - Matthew 7:1

A traveling chicken farmer as tall as his Oklahoma plains, Gene always told ranch yarns and poultry raising tips as I served home Communion in my last church. Confined then most of his days to a recliner and cable TV, his mind rambled freely the cattle and chicken ranches under the endless skies of Oklahoma and Texas. Gene held my ear as I planned our first chicken coop on our 7.5 acre ranch in Rimrock, Arizona. Gene gave me tips on how to bulletproof our henhouse from coyotes which hunt in packs.

“One day I visited an old farmer,” drawled Gene, ” He pulled back the door, and we walked into his wood chicken barn. To my surprise the old farmer kept all his chickens in cages chained a few feet off the ground. And below the cages wandered a bunch of cats.”

Observant, “I see you’ve got your chickens all up in cages? Is that to protect them from the cats?”

“Oh no,” said the farmer matter of fact, “The cages protect the chickens from the rattlesnakes.”

“What are the cats for?”

“Oh, the cats keep the rattlesnakes down.”

Our solution to fix a problem … may create a problem that doesn’t exist.

What we considered a problem today offered us the solution disguised.

Pastor Jim

Tracks around our 15 chicken henhouse in Rimrock, AZ. Coyotes?
Game cam captured the midnight guest. See middle left image. Thanks, Gene, for the tips to bulletproof our henhouse. Did you spot the bobcat?

Apartheid America: A Time to Plant

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate ... St. Luke 16

Those who receive justice and those who don’t. Continuing in its present trajectory we would likely see the same tensions that manifested in Apartheid South Africa. Attached is an Income Inequality Map dated pre-COVID 19 (red means lowest upward mobility) –

From Business Insider February 8, 2018

Running on Empty

A driver of unrest in the U.S. is that capitalism fails to believe in the existence of “depletion.” “Once a resource seems to run dry,” says Capitalism, “The Invisible Hand provides a way through our ingenuity to create a replacement.” This is why a pure Capitalist would drill for gas in the center of a National Marine Sanctuary. In truth, this misguided theory depletes the economic soil, leaving communities and even countries unable to conceive a future with what remains. That “Invisible Hand” takes resources out of your pocket and puts them into mine.

To put it as simply as possible, money was created to give government command over socially created resources. Moreover, I hypothesize that the monetary system, itself, evolved to mobilize resources to serve what government perceived to be the public purpose. - L. Randall Wray

Calls to “Defund Police” recognize that the police, we are told exist to protect the public, serve as instruments to keep socially created resources out of the hands of those who need them the most. “We are only here to protect you, ” renders as, “You protect the financial interests of those removed from my community.”

Government under a “Create America Again” program would mandate the need for businesses to invest into the soil of their communities and their country. Before offshoring their wealth and labor, these same companies must demonstrate a plan, like a Risk strategy for banks, to invest in our sustainable community and country.

The Betrayal of “Chill-Can” Economics

Youngstown, Ohio … the future home of the Chill-Can, a self-chilling soda can that cools itself. Homes were bulldozed to gamble on the latest in string of broken promise business developments.

But by the late 1970s, the companies were facing global competition. Hampered by antiquated equipment and high labor costs, they shut down one by one. Within five years, 50,000 people lost their jobs, and, within a decade, Youngstown, a city of 115,000, had shed nearly a fifth of its population. Unemployment spiked to more than 20%. (Today, about
65,000 people call the city home.) - From Propublica 
“Welcome to Youngstown, Ohio, home of Chill-Can, the self-chilling beverage container you’ve probably never heard of. Officials have gambled millions of dollars and demolished a neighborhood for the product. Not one job has been created yet.” –Propublica
From “Dilapidated House in Youngstown, 2009 ” by Greg Habermann

Like a gambler out of chips and “running on tilt,” Youngstown leaders cast their bets on failed ventures – Enviva Materials, Industrial Waste Control, Toys-R-Us, and Chill-Can, companies that took their tax incentives and left Youngstown with an empty hand and more desperation on how to lure other businesses. Like a gambler crazed by losses, city leaders went all in on the next vacant promise of a win. This results in communities feeling the big chill of betrayal regarding policing, justice and business developments.

Employer of Last Resort ELR

The voices to “Defund the Police” react against the forces that protect the “Chill-Cans” while punishing those left to assemble a life with leftover and broken pieces. Inequity is not measured but felt like a cold ache in the old bones of a community.

Inequity is not measured but felt like a cold ache in the old bones of a community.

L Randall Wray in his interview below said – “the U.S. government can proceed directly to zero unemployment by hiring all of the labor that cannot find private sector employment. Furthermore, by fixing the wage paid under this ELR program at a level that does not disrupt existing labor markets, i.e., a wage level close to the existing minimum wage, substantive price stability can be expected. A sizable benefits package should be provided, including vacation and sick leave, contributions to Social Security, and, most importantly, health care benefits, providing scope for a bottom-up reform of the current patchwork health care system. Using the government as an ELR would not be introducing another element of intrusive bureaucracy into our economy. It would simply offer a better utilization of the existing stock of unemployed who are now dependent on the public purse — especially the chronically long-term unemployed.

From Youtube

Regardless of political affiliation, a divide has formed in the U.S. between those who have and those who don’t … Those who receive injustice in the name of justice. Those who are protected from accessing the resources needed to thrive. Patchwork “Chill Can” economics will provide only more broken promises. Let us reframe our country’s legal, political and economic fabric in line with the Founders of the Constitution, who, themselves, addressed the vast inequity of their day.

Humanitarium Government

In the proposed Humanitarium Government model, Government’s role is to create an environment of balance between the extremes of supply and demand economics. A depletion of supply leads to infinite demand and panic. Oversupply creates devaluation and eventual depletion of resources. A Humanitarium model Government exists to create balance in the continual tension of pulling to the center from the extremes.

Production as the End Product

As a child my family enjoyed a second home in the fishing village of Cholla Bay, Mexico. Trucks hauled in water, which was stored in various tanks from old aircraft fuel tanks to cement cisterns that gravity fed the house. A sad trend emerged with the tanks. In a desire to decorate the tanks, the residents mounted on each tank a full-size sea turtle shell. The residents would paint their names or slogans on the shells. At the time, you did not consider yourself part of the community unless you sported a sea turtle shell. I have images of sea turtles being shelled alive, with a local sipping the blood of the dying turtle by catching it in his hand. I remember the paint smell of the vacant lacquered shells. Sadly, the end product resulted in sun burned sea turtle shells and marine biologists pondering the dilemma of a depleted sea turtle population.

One example today is the production of new cars simply to prop up the business of new car manufacturing. The employees and executives sport the shells of their business success by denying the coming of depleted resources and business closure. The executives eventually retire to Florida, while the communities remain like hollow sun-bleached sea turtle shells.

From “Thousands of Unsold New Cars”

Pandemic and Humanitarium Government

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the action of a Humanitarium Government model when the supply of customers depleted due to lockdowns and a Humanitarium Government gave loan extensions and survival checks to keep businesses afloat. Miranda Barker, head of East Lancashire’s Chamber of Commerce, said in response to the now crumbling Rolls-Royce aircraft turbine industry, ” “Everyone’s jobs are dependent on everyone else’s. It’s like pulling a string on a jumper, it’s all going to unravel,” she added. But she believes the crisis threatens not just jobs now, but also the cluster effect that the region’s future prosperity may rest on.” The Scottish government announced a working group will be set up with the aim of protecting jobs at a Rolls-Royce (RR.L) factory.

“Everyone’s jobs are dependent on everyone else’s. It’s like pulling a string on a jumper, it’s all going to unravel.”

Miranda Barker, East Lancashire’s Chamber of Commerce response to save Rolls-Royce plant

Beyond COVID-19 this Humanitarium Government model can provide an Employer of Last Resort Model for communities whose entire future has descended to an economy resting on the brittle shell of minimum wage fast food jobs.

The risk for the U.S. Government is to further isolate depleted communities from resources by police action, resulting in even greater demands. A Humanitarium Government model triages the hurting community with the oxygen of supplies and a secured future.

Onlookers from the upper middle class puzzle over the demands made by “Black Lives Matter” whose economic experience peaked toward infinite demand due to depletion of supply of meaningful employment, health and safety resources and justice. The risk for the U.S. Government is to further separate affected communities from resources by police action, resulting in even greater demands. A Humanitarium Government model triages the hurting community with the oxygen of supplies and a secured future.

Defund Police aka Deploy Resources

The fixing the ills of “Chill-Can” communities is less like the swap of a broken starter on a 1980 Chevy and more like the reforestation of the Amazon slashed and burned for greed.

How one hears “Defund Police” depends on which side of the resource line one sits. Those chanting “Defund Police” see law enforcement and National Guard troop presence as a line of defense to prevent accessing resources the community needs. Past promises of police and justice reform spritzed away like flat soda in an old Chill-Can. The fixing the ills of “Chill-Can” communities less like swap of a broken starter on a 1980 Chevy and more like the reforestation of the Amazon slashed and burned for greed. Perhaps the balance of a Humanitarium Government model was created for such a time as this.

A Time to Plant,

Pastor Jim

With Liberty, Justice and Care for All

Among the Navajo people there is no word for “Goodbye” and parting words mean “Take care of your people.” A good reminder for “We, the People” to take care of all members of the US tribe.

From Youtube

Perhaps it is time among our people to amend our pledge to reflect that without care we cannot be one. Without care there is no liberty or justice. “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, justice and care  for all.”

Take Care of Your People,

Pastor Jim

Anger: The Wind that Blows out the Lamp of the Mind

Despite number of miles driven dropping 8.6 percent due to COVID-19, car crash fatalities jumped 14 percent. Road Rage … Righteous Indignation … and Refusal to Let it Go … are the fuels of anger and bitterness. Bitterness is simply anger that has petrified, hardened and entrenched in its position over time.

Mandrel Baboon

Yesterday I experienced the strangest road rage at the hands of a fellow driver. A little irritated from forgetting my wallet, I left my cart in Home Depot and pulled out of the parking lot for what I thought was an uneventful three minute trip home. Then the unexpected happened.

My grown sons, and grandson, chide me for my slow driving. “Have to drive the speed limit or less, you know the dashcam records speed.” At tortoise speed I traveled a mile per hour below the speed limit. Then behind me a gray import car drafted on my rear bumper.

Then the ominous signs – headlights flashing in my rear mirror and horn honking like an enraged goose. Not just once or twice … Multiple times. Beyond the first stop sign, that car still glued on my bumper in the no passing zone. So I did the only Christian thing to do … I slowed down two more miles per hour. This is a good time to teach that little gray haired lady a lesson on safe driving.

Upon my reduced speed, I saw the driver’s hand extend out the window, gesturing at me. “This is too much!” I told myself. I will skip my turn coming up and teach this “little old lady from Pasadena” a godly lesson on obeying the speed limit.”

“What if I brake checked her … and dealt her a real lesson? She would deserve it. No one would know. Wait, my dash cam would capture it. Can’t do that. Lord, help me. I am weak!”

Wait, the blue-haired speed demon is turning right; so I made a sudden lane change at the same right turn to stay ahead of her. Now, I see instead of her hand … she’s holding her cell phone out the window. “Just great! She’s possessed and capturing my slow driving on her phone! Another mile or two at turtle speed limit should reinforce my righteous lesson. Someone must hold forth the banner of safe driving.”

At the stop sign, I saw the driver’s door crack open. “Oh, no. She’s not going Rambo on me, is she? I guess you can find all types in a good neighborhood.” She followed me as I made my next left. “Oh, no. I hope she doesn’t live on the same block.” Now almost attached to my back bumper … I look her right in her glaring eyes through my rear mirror.

There she was looking right back at me! Then as though someone gave a lunatic the oxygen mask of sanity, the expression on her face, I realized was not anger after all but … puzzled … The puzzled expression… on the face of my wife, Carolyn!

After I left for Home Depot, my wife saw I left my cell phone with my credit cards. So, she followed me to Home Depot and intercepted my car as I made my turn out of the parking lot.

What I thought was a mobile lunatic was someone who loved me trying reach out to me with a gesture of love.

The hand extended … not as an obscene gesture but one offering help.

The phone not invading my privacy but an offer to return my own phone and help me complete my purchase. My wife ran to the side of my stopped car and gave her embarrassed husband his phone and credit cards. I thanked her for her love and consideration (while wondering what the outcome might have been had I brake checked her, causing her to damage her 2019 Honda CRV, possibly even deploying the air bag. “Didn’t you not recognize me?,” she pleaded.

The Apostle Paul addressed the central issue in Ephesians –

Ephesians 4:31 (NKJV)
31  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. -Anonymous

Are you angry? Bitter? Pretending that anger is not there does not erase the problem but delays the healing. Paul does not say, “Put those who irritate you away from you with all malice.” That makes us angry people who are alienated with those closest to us.

Do you feel that you have a “good reason” to be angry? Justified even? Righteous? Before you “brake check” your closest relationships, ask God to release you from anger. Take a time out before your anger dims your mind and you hurt those who care most for you.

Keep Both Hands on the Wheel!,

Pastor Jim

A Little Grace for a Hard Place

This weekend an old grief returned to haunt me. My faith felt weak and limited in the presence of this old foe. So, I reached back into a sermon I preached August 19, 2012 and rediscovered the simple faith of a widow and her gift of two small copper coins and remembered a prayer that can help you when you feel you’ve run out of your resources to cope.

Prayer for Uncertain Times

Learn how to pray like the Apostle Paul when facing uncertain times. St. Paul, quarantined under house arrest, gave us a map to discover power in prayer and tap into the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

*The Sun Valley Motel (1952) shown in the video was owned by my grandparents and was where my father returned to Phoenix in 1947. It was there also I was taken after my birth at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Behind the scenes, my grandson, Jaden (12), operated the video camera. This was about take six as he would stop the camera as I tried to explain to let it record without stopping and I would edit it later. Some of my smiling was related to his antics.