Explanation of the Tax System

Suppose everyday, 10 men go to dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If it were paid the way we pay our taxes, the first four men would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1; the sixth would pay $3; the seventh $7; the eighth $12; the ninth $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
The 10 men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.” Now dinner for the 10 only costs $80.
The first four are unaffected. They still eat for free. Can you figure out how to divvy up the $20 savings among the remaining six so that everyone gets his fair share? The men realize that $20 divided by 6 is $3.33, but if they subtract that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man the sixth man would end up being paid to eat their meal.
The restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of $59. Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man pointing to the tenth, “and he got $7!” “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got seven times more than me!” “That’s true,” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks.” “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor.”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short!
And that, boys and girls and politicians, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.
There are lots of good restaurants in Switzerland and the Caribbean.

Who am I? What do I believe?

I got into an interesting conversation with a young woman tonight where a large portion of the subject matter was our shared Christian faith. After that conversation, I thought an overview of what I believe in might be in order.

  • I believe God exists.
  • I believe that only He is God, and that there are no other gods.
  • I know that I’m not Him.
  • I believe He created me, just as He created everything that has ever existed and ever will exist.
  • I believe that He loves me.
  • I believe that He wants what’s best for me, and that consists of living in His will.
  • I believe that sin is the result of me doing what I want to think, say and do, instead of what He wants me to think, say and do.
  • I believe that He loves me despite the things I think, say and do that He hates.
  • I believe that my sin prevents me from being able to experience God and commune with Him (in this human life.)
  • I believe that a blood sacrifice is necessary to atone for my sin. In ancient times, God-followers would sacrifice animals on altars to atone for their sins.
  • I believe that it’s not enough to love God; I should be obedient to His will.
  • I believe that He became a man, and lived as one of us in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • I know the Romans crucified Jesus as a criminal.
  • I believe that doing this, God acted as His own blood sacrifice for my sins.
  • I believe that Jesus came back to life three days later, and spent many days among his faithful followers.
  • I believe that He rose up into the Heavens.
  • I believe that one day, possibly soon, He will return to take those of us who are faithful to be with Him in Heaven.
  • I know that many people say they are Christian, while living their lives in a way you never would otherwise know it.
  • I know this because I was one of them.
  • I believe that many con-artists and crazy people continue to appear and proclaim themselves as faithful followers, just as they have since before Christ’s time.
  • I believe that many people have taken a “buffet style” approach to their faith, picking and choosing what to believe depending on what suits them and peer pressure.
  • I believe that many politicians point to their faith while campaigning then vote in the opposite when they govern.
  • I believe that many religious denominations take certain passages of the Bible and either ignore them or obsess over them, at the expense of misguiding non-believers.
  • I believe that several religious denominations are overly legalistic, and lose focus on what really matters: the Grace of God.
  • I believe there is a church in Kansas that is one of these overly legalistic churches that, although they mean well, is doing great damage to the Gospel.
  • I believe that, despite not liking church services and not wanting to wake up early on a Sunday morning, I really should go to church.
  • I believe that every morning I must rededicate myself to Christ and learn as much about Him as I possibly can.

What is the purpose of blogging?

A discussion with an online friend lead me to question what the end purpose of blogging is.
Why do people blog? Why should I?
My friend tells me I should blog for myself; to entertain myself first. I’ll be mulling that over, but my initial reaction to that is that’s akin to writing books because I enjoy writing books for myself knowing that they will never be published and never be read. What’s the point in that?
Blogging has been described by some as a diary or journal open for all the world to see. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Publishing private thoughts?
No, my first reaction is that, by definition, blogging is an open, public and mostly egotistical form of self-expression. I blog because I enjoy it when other people read my posts and say things like, “I really enjoyed reading that,” or, “I’m glad someone else thinks the same way I do,” or, “I’d never really thought about it that way until reading what you wrote.” In nearly two years time, I’ve heard very little of that. I’ve heard plenty about mortgages and naked teenage girls and Viagra, but precious few in the way of comments.
Please understand, I’m not asking for a slew of pity “Oh, I really do enjoy reading your posts” comments, I’m just trying to decide whether spending my precious little free time sending messages in a bottle out to God only knows where is ultimately worth it. I don’t want to be just another mediocre blogger.
Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe I’m starting one of my infamous melancholy swings. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve written, by most people’s standards, some pretty good stuff lately and I had to beg for comments! That tells me no one cares what I think and, if that’s the case, why continue to blog?
Maybe I need to rethink how I’ve structured the blog itself. Maybe I’ll turn it into a bulletin board or just aggregate other posts I find interesting or begin collaborating with others. Or, maybe I just need to stick a fork in it.
Maybe I just need to mull it over for a while.

Political questions

A Conservative blogger friend sent an e-mail to his fellow political bloggers asking them a series of questions. Here are my answers:
1. Which founding father do you admire the most? Why?

John Adams, because his melancholy temperament is a lot like mine, because he was one of the first to be Conservative in ideology but more than willing to risk everything to throw off the British monarchy and create an entirely new form of government.

2. What’s your favorite historical quote?

“The government turns every contingency into an excuse for enhancing power in itself.” – John Adams

3. Which President do you admire the most? Why?

Abraham Lincoln, because he deftly selected and controlled his cabinet became the most “hands on” commander in chief the United States has ever had.

4. What, if anything, would you legalize?

The airing of radio, television and newspaper campaign advertisements attacking candidates within 60 days of an election.

5. What, if anything, would you make illegal?

Abortions for any reason other than to save the life of the mother.

6. Which pollster do you trust? Why?

Scott Rasmussen, because he seems to be more accurate than others.

7. Favorite political commentator? Why?

Andrew Klaven 

On going to church

I don’t like to go to church.
There! I’ve said it.
I’m a Christian who enjoys learning more about God and how to live my life according to His will and plan for my life, but I dislike going to church. I always have.
Not that I have anything against the church members: I don’t.
I grew up in a small church just a stone’s throw from where I now live. Probably not even 200 members, they still have services geared to the “blue-haired old ladies” who have been members for years. A Southern Baptist church, they still sing from hymnals and print out the order of service on an old mimeograph. I hated it. I loved God and I loved the people, I just hated the church services.
So, I moved to a mega-church. This church has projection television behind the choir, stadium seating, and a gift shop in the lobby, a television studio, and all the trappings of today’s mega-church. I tried to get into the swing of things; the record-contract quality singers, the “happy, happy, joy, joy” songs with the lyrics projected where I could read them. I really did.
I don’t like singing.
That’s not entirely accurate: I don’t like communal singing. I don’t like singing when I’m part of a choir or a congregation.
I also don’t care for the style of soloist who chooses and perform songs with built-in “stand up” points. You know… the key-change or crescendo that can be counted on to cause at least a handful of people in the congregation to stand and lift their hand toward Heaven or begin applauding, which in turn causes the entire congregation to stand, many just feeling awkward.
I also don’t like it when preachers try too hard “close the deal.” God works in people’s lives differently, and they shouldn’t have their hand forced when it comes to a decision of that magnitude.
My idea of the perfect Sunday morning church experience? First, it probably wouldn’t be morning for me. I’m not a morning person.
I’d wake up at about 9AM, take a shower, brush my teeth, put on my good blue jeans, a decent shirt, my loafers, then drive to church where I’d meet a handful of other believers. We’d spend a few moments settling in, sharing coffee and doughnuts or something to eat, talking about our past weeks and finding out how each of us is doing. After that, we’d pick up where we left off the week before and really study the Bible. After a while, we’d talk about what’s on our minds, what’s bothering us, insights we may have had, questions that linger, burdens we bear. We’d comfort each other and pray, then disband for the week.
Afterwards, we’d move into the common area where we’d hear the announcements, and one of our ministers would share a brief lesson, then extend an invitation to join. No big productions. No grandiose moments. No high-pressure tactics. Just friends and fellow believers getting together to share a few precious moments together.
I’m positive there are churches like this elsewhere, just not anywhere near my home in Shreveport.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Today, for the very first time in my life, I celebrate Father’s Day without a father. My dad passed away last April after a long illness, so it is only fitting that I remember him on this special day.
Walter Harold Stricklin was born August 26th, 1920 on a farm a few miles northeast of Detroit, Texas to Walter Davis and Maude Beatrice Stricklin. He grew up with his older brothers Leo and James, and later his younger sister, Ester Maude, in Northeast Texas during the Great Depression, working on farms and oil fields in the area. On June 3rd, 1941, he graduated with an Associates Degree from North Texas Agricultural College (now the University of Texas at Arlington.)
For a little over a year after graduation, he helped his parents work the farm, hauled cotton to the Gin, and dug stock tanks and oil field slush pits. During a stint as a roustabout for Continental Oil Company he met and later married a slender beauty by the name of Miss Audra Obinelle Graham. Two weeks after the wedding, he was drafted into World War II, serving in the Army Air Corp.
During the war he maintained and repaired aircraft, stationed in England prior to D-Day and following the troops into Europe afterwards. He was on a troop transport heading to the Pacific when word of the Japanese surrender reached him, and the ship continued back to the States instead.
After his military service, he and his bride moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and began working as a purchasing agent for Superior Ironworks and Supply Company. Their first child, Sharon Ann, arrived in 1954 and I was born in 1960.
My earliest memories of my dad were of his evening routine: he would read the paper and watch the evening news until dinner was ready at 6:30 P.M., we would all have dinner with very little conversation and absolutely no television, dad would return to the couch where he would often sleep, paper over his torso, until 10:00 P.M. when he would watch the local news, then the television would again be turned off as everyone went to bed. My dad would be up early in the morning and off to work, even before I’d woken up to get ready for school.
I would later learn that this part of his life was a humiliating, depressing gray period, where he was consistently passed over for promotions and not paid very well. Still, I never went to bed hungry, I always had clothes to wear, I received a good education and I only had one bedroom my entire childhood. My dad did what he had to do because he had a family to provide for.
After being forced to take an early retirement, my dad worked part-time for Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a driver. He would wake up early in the morning, meet several of his also-retired co-workers and drive vehicles all over the southern states. He loved his job and the travel it required, and he was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He lost much of his excess weight and was full of life and energy.
That all changed the day a nurse called, informing him of his enrollment in a Diabetes management course. Although many diagnosed with Type II Diabetes today go on to lead full, healthy lives, to my dad and many of his generation, the illness seemed like a death sentence.
The remaining six years he shrunk into his “cave” as we came to refer to his bedroom. He would sleep all day and keep my mom awake all night crying out and moaning. The drugs used to treat depression caused nightmares and disorientation, and were generally worse than the symptoms. He broke off contact with family and friends, and he broke my heart when he was too ill to travel to and attend my long-postponed college graduation.
The last time we all gathered as a family was last Thanksgiving. Dad, Mom and I went over to Sharon’s home to have turkey and dressing with she and her husband Frank, and their son Matthew, as well as another family they are friendly with. I recall thinking to myself how sad it seemed, my dad unable to follow or join conversations because of his failing eyesight and hearing, my mom and Sharon having to cut his food for him, and I specifically remember having to point out to Mom to clean his nose. Still, it was good that he was able to be there.
A few days later, while out of town, I learned that he had had several small strokes. Mom, Sharon and myself had Christmas by ourselves, while Dad was in the hospital for observations.
After returning home, he generally worsened, eventually entering hospice care and suffering several more small strokes. His appetite waned, and then he stopped eating altogether. He was winding down.
Sharon recalls having some funny, loony conversations with him where he seemed to be re-living parts of his life in real-time, sending her off to drilling platforms and the like. Then, he stopped talking.
I was working in Pineville, Louisiana the Thursday, April 24th when I got a call from Sharon. We had agreed that I should continue working as normal because it was so difficult to know when the end was near. She was exhausted after dealing with his convulsions earlier that morning. Sharon said she wasn’t sure if it was approaching, but I sensed it was, dropped everything I was doing and raced the two and a half hours back to Shreveport to be at his side.
Over the next several hours, Mom, Sharon, Frank, Matthew and myself moved in and out of his presence, letting him know we were there and saying our goodbyes. In his own home, in his own bedroom, surrounded by the people he loved and who loved him, he quietly passed away.
My dad and I weren’t all that close while I was growing up. How stupidly universal it seems, that all children distance themselves from their parents. When I was a teenager, and knowing everything like all teenagers seem to believe, I began calling him “father” since I didn’t like or respect him enough to call him my “dad”. He would later sign his letters addressed to me as “Father”, a clear indication now of how much it hurt his feelings to be thought of this way. I curse at myself now at my insolence and insensitivity!
Still, we had some good memories; when I was 13, he bought me my first pair of boots, obviously some sort of transplanted-Texas sort of rite-of-passage thing. When I was 27, and in the early morning fog he drove me to the local MEPS where I would begin my enlistment in the Navy. Uncharacteristically, he hugged me, told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. While I returned to college after a decade-long hiatus, I learned that he bragged about his son in college to anyone and everyone who would stand still long enough to tell.
Sometime after my own wartime experiences, I began to reexamine our relationship and realized that I was, in many ways, exactly like my dad. I too, was opinionated. I too, was stubborn. I too, was balding and putting on too much weight. Most of all, I too talked too much.
After I began to look at my father through the filter of age and experience, I saw that, despite our few differences and disagreements, he was a generally decent and honorable man. I began to call him “dad” again, and piece-by-piece, brick-by-brick, I began to disassemble the wall that I had formed between us. I think ultimately, with God’s guidance, I was able to accomplish that.
My dad wasn’t a religious man, but late in his life I learned that he was a man of great faith. I know in my heart that my father is now in the presence of his Heavenly Father.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. I’ll be coming home one day soon.
“…I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of Him, that must be very good.” — Sara Groves, “What Do I Know?”