Book of Oppositions | Pocket Full of Mumbles |

 

This world is one big game of "Go"-- Black against White, Light against Darkness --and we all have a choice to make: Do we war FOR the Light?

...or against it?




In Memorium -- Sandra JoAnn Brown Bell

This woman was a surrogate mother to me at a time when my own mother lived hundreds of miles away. I haven't seen Mrs Bell in nineteen years-- when I left Panama City. It's been eighteen years since I've seen James, her middle son, and the closest thing to a best friend I had at the time (though I was not his best friend)... and now, come to think of it, his cousin Stephanie was a better friend to me.

Mrs Bell fed me, paid for trips to the movie, and genuinely cared about my well-being-- yet I was not her son. The running joke at the dinner table was,

'Eric? Would like some tea?'

My nose would curl upward in disgust and everyone would laugh. Curiously, I absolutely love tea now.

I have thought of her often over the years but never made an effort to get in touch. I wish now I had. I would like to have been able to express my gratitude to her. The only thing I can do now is send flowers and seek to thank those who are still here-- other friends who have helped to shape the man I've become; people whom I would not wish to see depart this world without knowing the impact they had on my life and that I still think of them. The best I can do now, however, is send flowers.

I don't expect my acknowledgement to inspire her sons to make contact with me. I'm not even sure I'd know what to do with such a contact... for we are certainly moving in opposite directions.

My heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to her family.


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posted by ELAshley @ 8:35 AM, , links to this post





Questions to Consider...

There was a halo around the not-quite-full moon last night. It was an immense halo... an immensely beautiful halo. I stood freezing in the driveway staring heavenward in awe. What does it matter that science accurately describes the conditions for such phenomenon? Who set the conditions in motion? Who wrote and established the laws that govern the physical universe? And lunar halos? And why does the Law of Gravity have no effect on frozen moisture in the sky?


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posted by ELAshley @ 8:22 AM, , links to this post





A Work in Progress...

This is a Pencil and Ink working-drawing for a much larger piece that has lain domant for the better part of 5 years-- while clearing out the extra room to set up an office/studio I found a few projects that I have allowed to languish. The Larger Work is much more than what you see here.

Basically, the canvas will depict a man with flaming hair, bare from the waist up, with right arm out and forward. In his hand is a match he has just struck with his thumbnail, and in the burst of fire will be a face contorted with horror and pain.

Don't ask me what it means (yes, everything I draw or paint has an underlying theme and/or meaning) because I'm not ready to talk about that yet. Despite the pics name, the Piece is tentatively titled "Into the Fire". I absolutely LOVE the eyebrows!

This project is in the neighborhood of 6 years old.

Click on the Image for a closer look...


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posted by ELAshley @ 1:10 PM, , links to this post





Forced Conversion: We HATES it!

I have never liked being forced into anything... I can't imagine anyone does, for I've noticed that several people on Blogger have expressed the same. I was forced to convert to NEW Blogger. I could not do anything BUT convert because Blogger wouldn't allow nothing else.

Fortunately for me (some have not been so fortunate), my blog came out the other end relatively unscathed. The only noticeable difference is in posting comments-- Blogger seems to have lost my Profile-Pic... you know, the one that makes me look like a serial killer? Actually it's just me with my face in the scanner and a little PhotoShop...

For those of you who did not fare so well, I hope you had a copy of your template saved on your hard drive. Otherwise....

Have Fun!


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posted by ELAshley @ 2:49 AM, , links to this post





Why is He called King of kings?

I've heard it often enough-- "King of kings, and Lord of lords," but I've always thought of it in terms of 'Quintessence'; that Christ is the Ultimate King and Ultimate Lord, that none could ever hope to surpass Him. And this is true, but this is not the end of the story-- Reading Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, has altered my perception. I tend to view everything through a 'literal' lens except where allegory or figurative speech is clearly indicated. But with this title, it would seem I have ignored the literal implications of "King of kings..."

I saw this evening, for the first time, it's more appropriate meaning-- it's literal, and therefore relational, meaning:

Christ is a King [Capital 'K'] of kings [Little 'k'], and a Lord [Capital 'L'] of lords [Little 'l']; One King over many kings... One Lord over many lords. How many of my brothers and sisters have failed to see that this also refers to our relationship, in terms of heirarchy, with Him?

It is God's intention for us to rule over all of Creation with Christ, just as it was His intention that Adam and Eve rule over all creation. They were to have dominion over all the Earth, and presumably, in time, all of creation, which includes the heavens AS WELL AS the Earth. It is our destiny to rule this world, and perhaps others, WITH Christ. We will be kings, but Christ will be OUR King.

Just thought I'd share that with you.


----

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." --Genesis 1:28

"Thou madest him [Man] to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" --Psalm 8:6

"The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever" --Psalm 37:18

"He [Christ] shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth... Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him." --Psalm 72:8,11

"His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." --Matthew 25:26

"And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities." --Luke 19:17

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" --Romans 8:16-17

"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him..." --2 Timothy 2:12

"...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" --Revelation 2:10

"And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" --Revelation 2:26

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" --Revelation 3:11

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." --Revelation 3:21

"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne..." --Revelation 4:10

"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." --Revelation 5:9-10





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posted by ELAshley @ 12:33 AM, , links to this post





The President's State of the Union Address

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

This rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour – when decisions are hard and courage is tested. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies – and the wisdom to face them together.

Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate – and I congratulate the Democratic majority. Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not. Each of us is guided by our own convictions – and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we are all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this Nation's prosperity ... to spend the people's money wisely ... to solve problems, not leave them to future generations ... to guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us...


We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on – as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity – and this is the business before us tonight.

A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy – and that is what we have. We are now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth – in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs ... so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move – and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise.

Next week, I will deliver a full report on the state of our economy. Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.

First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 – and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and balance the federal budget.

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour – when not even C-SPAN is watching. In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate – they are dropped into Committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You did not vote them into law. I did not sign them into law. Yet they are treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process ... expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress … and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.

Finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience – and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet we are failing in that duty – and this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this Chamber knows this to be true – yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid – and save Social Security.

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act – preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on this success, without watering down standards ... without taking control from local communities ... and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools ... and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose something better. We must increase funds for students who struggle – and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future, and our country is more competitive, by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children – and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available healthcare. When it comes to healthcare, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. We will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.

At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings – $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making healthcare affordable for more Americans.

My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create "Affordable Choices" grants. These grants would give our Nation’s governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts ... help small businesses through Association Health Plans ... reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology ... encourage price transparency ... and protect good doctors from junk lawsuits by passing medical liability reform. And in all we do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America – with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol – and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border – and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in – and that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers, and criminals, and terrorists. We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers – so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country – without animosity and without amnesty.

Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate – so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists – who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments ... raise the price of oil ... and do great harm to our economy.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply – and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power – by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol – using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We have made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies in Washington and the strong response of the market. Now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten years – thereby cutting our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 – this is nearly five times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks – and conserve up to eight and a half billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but will not eliminate it. So as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must also step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment – and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of citizens across our Nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. And we have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings. As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty as well – to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger. Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that terrorists can cause. We have had time to take stock of our situation. We have added many critical protections to guard the homeland. We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us – unless we stop them.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled – that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.

From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since Nine-Eleven has never been the same.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented – but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them.

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in Nine-Eleven is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a Nation at war.

In the minds of the terrorists, this war began well before September 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats ... instruct with bullets and bombs ... and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." And Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah – a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans ... kill democracy in the Middle East ... and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

In the sixth year since our Nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.

This war is more than a clash of arms – it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our Nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom – societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies – and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security . . . we must.

In the last two years, we have seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East – and we have been sobered by the enemy’s fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution ... drove out the Syrian occupiers ... and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections – choosing a transitional government ... adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world … and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity we should never forget.

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. And Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon’s legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam – the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia – and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq – a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we are deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down terrorists, insurgents, and roaming death squads. And in Anbar province – where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them – we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now is the time for their government to act. Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad – and they must do so. They have pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party. They need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and Coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad. Iraq's leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks to achieve reconciliation – to share oil revenues among all of Iraq's citizens ... to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq ... to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life ... to hold local elections ... and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all of this to happen, Baghdad must be secured. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq – because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country – and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens... new recruits ... new resources ... and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East ... to succeed in Iraq ... and to spare the American people from this danger.

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united – in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq – and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field – and those on their way.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. And this is why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

One of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military – so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle – because we are not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism. In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations – and we are working with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq's government. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. With the other members of the Quartet – the UN, the European Union, and Russia – we are pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda offensive – the first time the Alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area. Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we are pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. And we will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma – and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease – and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa – and because you funded our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries. I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat. And let us continue to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hope for lifting lives and eliminating poverty.

When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people. The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage, and self sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look – and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine – but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth – or the duty to share his blessings with others. He has built a brand new hospital in his hometown. A friend has said of this good hearted man: "Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things." And we are proud to call this son of the Congo our fellow American.

After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment, and began filming children's videos in her basement. The Baby Einstein Company was born – and in just five years her business grew to more than $20 million in sales. In November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to the Walt Disney Company, and with her help Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she is using her success to help others – producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julie says of her new project: "I believe it's the most important thing that I've ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe." We are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur – Julie Aigner-Clark.

Three weeks ago, Wesley Autrey was waiting at a Harlem subway station with his two little girls, when he saw a man fall into the path of a train. With seconds to act, Wesley jumped onto the tracks ... pulled the man into a space between the rails ... and held him as the train passed right above their heads. He insists he’s not a hero. Wesley says: "We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We got to show each other some love." There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey.

Tommy Rieman was a teenager pumping gas in Independence, Kentucky, when he enlisted in the United States Army. In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire – and used his body as a shield to protect his gunner. He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs – yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy's position. For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and gratitude of our whole country.

In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America – and these qualities are not in short supply. This is a decent and honorable country – and resilient, too. We have been through a lot together. We have met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence – because the State of our Union is strong ... our cause in the world is right ... and tonight that cause goes on.


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posted by ELAshley @ 9:41 PM, , links to this post





Blogging the 'State of the Union'

8:03 -- Katie Couric says of Condoleeza Rice...

"And here's Secretary Rice glad-handing her way down the aisle..." Glad-handing! Sheesh!

8:07 -- Gloria Borger pictures Bush as desperate to get something done.

8:09 -- Couric: Bush is "Resolute yet resigned..."

8:10 -- Bush is introduced... "A kiss is no longer just a kiss" Couric reflects on the kiss Lieberman received last year from Bush. Many perceived it as the kiss of Death, and yet Lieberman is reelected.. Go figure.

8:11 -- Katie is rehashing her scripts from the 5 O'Clock news: Jefferson and the history behind State of the Union address.... "It's interesting that the Constitution requires the president to brief Congress on the State of the Union..

That's seemingly the best she can do.

8:13 -- Pelosi claims it's a distinct honor to introduce the President of the United States.

8:14 -- "Madam Speaker" I guess there's a first time for everything.

8:15 -- Bush makes note of two congressman not present and offers his prayers for their speedy recovery.

8:16 -- "We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies – and the wisdom to face them together."

You're right, and good luck on the togetherness part.

8:18 -- 41st month of uninterrupted job growth. "Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move – and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise."

I agree, and it surprises me to no end why so many people think this nation is doing so poorly in terms of our economicy. Greenspan retired and the markets didn't crash! Gas prices have dropped below $2 despite certain naysayers who claimed it not only wouldn't, but couldn't.

8:19 -- Balancing the budget gets Dems off their feet for a standing Ov...

8:20 -- "These [Earmarks] special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour – when not even C-SPAN is watching."

Good One!!! Attempt at levity, I didn't hear a chuckle...

"...cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session,"

Gets hearty applause... I don't see this happening either.


[BLOGGER ISN'T PUBLISHING, BUT DOES SEEM TO BE SAVING MY PROGRESS...]


8:20 -- Private health care: Tax Deductions for folks who buy into their own medical insurance. Changing the tax code to make health care more affordable? Hmmm.

8:22 -- Still nothing on foreign policy. But let's pass medical liability reform? For the doctors? or for those who suffer because of phyician blunders? "Sorry! Was I supposed to amputate the right leg!??"

8:28 -- Securing our borders Segues into a guest worker program.

8:29 -- "We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals"

How about assimilating immigrants who WANT to assimilate... who actually make an effort to learn the language.

8:30 -- Dependence on foreign oil. The way forward is through technology. Solar, Wind, Nuclear... Battery research for hybrids... bio-diesel fuels. [All good things] Grass, wood-chips, agricultural wastes...

Or as it is more affectionately known, Caca!

8:32 -- Mandatory fuel standards. Let's start by choosing 3 or 4 grades as the standard nationwide. Currently there are at least a dozen, primarily because each state has set it's own standards, and if the Oil Co's want any action in a given state they must produce fuels that meet or exceed that states standards....

8:33 -- Doubling the national strategic oil supply.

8:34 -- Moving on to justice and the court system. Please give my nominees an up or down vote in the Senate... Good luck on that one!

8:35 -- Now we get to terrorism: "We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us – unless we stop them... Yet one question has surely been settled – that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy."

Not with Dems! But Standing Ov nonetheless...

8:36 -- "Our success in this war [since 9/11] is often measured by the things that did not happen..." It's hard to quantify such results: How many deaths were averted, how much infrastructure was saved. By averting attacks its impossible to know with any degree of certainty what and who, if any, were spared... but this hardly negates the point.

8:38 -- "America is still a Nation at war"

To the chagrin of many who haven't the stomach for a fight of any length beyond three years and 3,000+ deaths despite more horrific engagements inwhich we won.

8:39 -- Rubbing everyone's nose in the successful capture [albeit the capture of a dead body] of Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

8:40 -- Protecting the American people get's Princess Nancy out of her chair for a standing Ov... which I will hence for refer to as "StOve".

8:42 -- "Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity we should never forget."

Even in the face of success, the crybabies cried.

8:44 -- "A muslim house of prayer"... more like a meeting place for extremists to plan their next sortie


"THERE ARE [STILL] ERRORS" Of course there are! It's Blogger!!


8:46 -- 25,000 man surge. Pelosi looks distracted... certainly not clapping.

8:47 -- America's commitment is not 'open-ended'... Bench marks for Iraqis...

This surge has to show quick postitive results or this war is over; America will lose the will to continue to fight, and ultimately the war because of it.

8:48 -- "Terror is their greatest ally"... and their only weapon of Consequence. And the only weapon America has yet to learn to counter effectively.

8:50 -- "This is a generational struggle"... why can't America-- the Left specifically --seem to grasp that!!??

8:52 -- "Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years."

Not at all what Dan wants to hear!

"A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time."

This would be great. I'd sign up for this.

8:53 -- "Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons" How will we stop it with all these linguine-spined liberals crying over milk not-yet-spilt?

8:55 -- Moving on... AIDS funding. Funding to combat Malaria in Africa. Obligatory mentions, but something that needs doing.

8:56 -- Tepid applause on debt relief for other nations.

8:56 -- Introduces the first guest in the Gallery, sitting next to Laura Bush. Dikembe? Look it up later....

[Dikembe Mutombo-- an "over-coming poverty" success story. Impressive story.

8:58 -- Next up, Julie Aigner-Clark... Baby Einstein videos "Children have the right to live in a world that is safe" StOve for Ms. Aigner-Clark.

8:59 -- Next: Wesley Autrey: The Subway Savior. WOW!!!! This man is an incredible hero!!! Major, major, major StOve for this guy, and rightly so! throwing himself in front of and under a moving subway train to save a strangers life. That he survived is a miracle in and of itself!!! Kudo's indeed! How about a medal of freedom for this guy? Soldiers get Congressional Medal's of Honor such acts!

9:00 -- Next: Tommy Rieman: Awarded the Silver Star for an act of heroism in December of '03. Rieman... "was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire – and used his body as a shield to protect his gunner. He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs – yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy's position. For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and gratitude of our whole country."


IN CLOSING:

9:03 -- "In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America – and these qualities are not in short supply.

9:03 -- "...we can go forward with confidence-- because the State of our Union is strong... our cause in the world is right... and tonight that cause goes on."

It's a shame there're so many people out there who can't see anything good about America.


----

Now for the peanut gallery. I have to watch Katie & Krew here at the station, but I'm DVD-ing the whole thing on FOX. I'll watch their commentary later.

Can't wait to hear the Democratic Response.


DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE

Sen Jim Webb!!?? Isn't this the guy who was so beligerently rude to Bush at a White House Party?

9:15 -- Addressing Conflicts...

9:17 -- "The economy is great but it isn't equally shared." Reverting to the tried and true 'class-warfare' tactic! Way to go, Senator! What's yer plan to improve it? Income redistribution?

9:19 -- "Living conditions on Mainstreet" Nothing wrong with this, but... most of those you'll see on mainstreet are business owners... better to look at living conditions in housing projects, and the poorer quarters. Try solving poverty rather than the evil of owning a business and attempted to secure a future nest egg.

9:20 -- Now we get to see a picture of the Senator's father. A remembrance of the sacrifices his mother had to make. And references to his son in Iraq... so this IS the guy who was rude to the president at the White House.

9:22 -- "Took us into this war recklessly" Dude! War, by definition, IS reckless!

9:22 -- "We need a new direction" Fine, but how about providing one. Democrats have proven themselves decidedly barren of ideas. Oh, plenty of accusations and criticisms, yes! [Like Sen Webb's rude remarks to the President!] But few ideas

9:19 -- "When comes the end?" Dwight D. Eisenhower quote...

When we stop pussy-footing around and get the job done.


----

Well, it could have been worse-- Kennedy could have given the response! Or Kerry!!

Katie seems to think Sen Webb's opinion on the war is above reproach, because he served in the military [so did Bush], and so, currently, is his son. Above reproach, yet given a free pass on his rudeness and poor showing at a White House party.

Over-all, I'm particularly unimpressed by either speech. The tone of Bush's speech was of 'speaking from political defeat' and Webb's was 'Petulant, and generously iced with self-righteousness and smug superiority. Another poor showing by Senator Jim Webb.


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posted by ELAshley @ 8:05 PM, , links to this post





One After 909

This is my 910th post. Enjoy the show!



What I find particularly neat about this little video is the way the sound changes when the camera goes to the street; You can hear the music reverberating... resounding... between the buildings, then shifts with the camera back to the rooftop. Neat.


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posted by ELAshley @ 7:49 PM, , links to this post





Neal Boortz Exposed:

Caught Rummaging Through EL's Brain While He Slept!!!


TONIGHT'S STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH

This will be the first time in Bush's presidency that he has delivered this address to a Democratic controlled congress. To make matters more difficult, he's delivering this address at a time when his approval ratings are at an all-time low, down near Nixonian levels.

With so many people disapproving of his administration and its policies, there doesn't seem to be much point to the whole exercise. Whatever he says will be shot down by the media. The press is eager to elect Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham president of the United States...they simply don't have time for the current occupant of the Oval Office. The public, hungry for socialism and American Idol, will be tuning out as well. So perhaps President Bush should just cancel the address and go on about his business? But he won't do that. Instead, we'll get a speech. What will it be about?

He'll no doubt address his critics on his troop surge plan for Iraq. This is not very popular, because most people and politicians want to surrender to Islamic terrorists in Iraq and cut and run. He'll announce some sort of new policy on global warming. And true to form, we'll get plenty of new spending initiatives, even though the government is broke. We can always print more money, right?

He'll also push a new health care plan, with a tax deduction for those who buy their own insurance. Well, it's about time that the private individual got the same tax breaks that an employer does when it comes to buying health insurance. Democrats won't like this idea because it could lead to health care independence. The Democrat plan is for health care dependence ... the more dependence the better. It's a shame Bush can't finance this plan with some spending cuts elsewhere .. instead he wants to start taxing people with high-end health insurance plans.

And don't forget the guest worker program for illegal aliens...yeah, that will excite people. Oh...and renewing the No Child Left Behind act. Can't forget that. Should be an interesting speech...President Bush has nowhere to go but up.

This widespread derision of President Bush bothers me. I'm distressed that a man like George Bush can be so reviled, while a moral degenerate like Bill Clinton can be so widely praised.

Notice, now, that I didn't say that I couldn't understand why this is so, I just said that it distresses me. The why is easy to understand. Bush has been a target since the day he was sworn in. Over 90% of the members of the mainstream New York and Washington press corps voted for Al Gore in the 2000 elections. Some of these people have come to accept the reality that it was a close election .. .and that Bush won. Others, perhaps the majority, have never come to terms with Bush's win and have been dedicated to the idea of destroying his presidency since January of 2000.

Since day one there has been a template applied to the media coverage of Bush's presidency. If the story makes Bush look good, either ignore it or downplay it. If the story makes Bush look bad, put it on the front page.

The media hasn't been fighting this war against Bush alone. The Democrats, of course, have been on board. There was a momentary respite in the aftermath of 9/11. But it took no time at all for the Democrats to renew their attacks. I firmly believe that the Democrats made a conscious decision that it was more important that they destroy the image of George Bush than it was for them to get behind the war against Islamic terrorism.

I believe that 9/11 transformed George Bush. I believe that since that date he has been completely dedicated to the purpose of protecting this country from further terrorist attacks.

How can he be blamed for acting against Saddam Hussein? Have we all forgotten that the official U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was adopted during the Clinton administration? Have we forgotten Saddam's cat and mouse games with U.N. weapons inspectors? Have we forgotten that American intelligence officials have recovered documents and materials that constitute proof positive that Saddam was proceeding with a program to develop nuclear weapons? Hussein defied the U.N. He defied the international community. The proof is there ... he had contacts with Al Qaeda. No, I'm not saying that Saddam was behind 9/11, but there were agents in Saddam's government who had contact with those who did plan 9/11. Add the rape rooms, the mass graves, the use of WMDs to kill tens of thousands of Iranians and his own countrymen .. .and you come up with a despot that should have been left in power --- in power to continue with his weapons programs?

Come on, folks. Either you're glad Saddam is gone, or you wish he was still in power. Which is it? You can't just wallow in your hatred of George Bush ... you have to make a decision. Saddam or no Saddam.

And what of Bush's goals for Iraq. What did he want. He wanted to create a country in the heart of the Islamic middle east with an elected government and a rule of law that protected the rights of each and every citizen .. no matter what Islamic sect that citizen belonged to. He wanted Iraq to be a demonstration project to show the rest of the Middle East what could be accomplished through freedom and representative governments. Was this such a bad goal? Do you think that Bush should have just gone into Iraq, destroyed Saddam Hussein, and then left? That has never been the way America operated. But that's the way you wanted it to be this time? Or are we back to leaving Saddam in power.

Mistakes?

Damn right he made mistakes. They're easy to chronicle. But how do Bush's mistakes compare to the Democrat Party plan to demonize George Bush? What do you think had a greater affect on the situation in the Middle East --- the mistakes Bush made in the pursuit of a better way of life for the citizens of Iraq, or the Democrat's determination to sabotage Bush's efforts?

From where do you think the Islamic fascists have received their most encouragement? From the tactical mistakes made by George Bush, or from the weakness in the American spirit that has been fostered by the whining Democrats?

Even in the face of these depressing approval polls, Bush remains determined to protect this country from Islamic terrorism. Someday perhaps the American people will appreciate him for his determination, however flawed, to protect this nation, and will come to recognize the damage that has been done by the actions of the not-so-loyal opposition, actions that have convinced them that America is becoming weak in the face of the ongoing Islamic jihad.


DAMN THE POLLS

I don't particularly like polls. They remind me of a democracy .. of mob rule. Whatever the majority of the people want the people get. Every time you hear some talking head deliver the latest poll results you get the idea that our political class is expected to immediately change our laws and policies to conform with the polls.

What you have with these polls is the news media covering news that it has created. Usually the questions are phrased in such a way that the media outlet conducting the poll is going to get just the response they're looking for .. a response that will fit neatly within some story that has essentially already been written.

Let's take a look at the latest Washington Post - ABC poll:

Sixty-five percent disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president. Fine .. now just what does that say. Do they disagree because he has used too much force in Iraq, or not enough? Do they disagree because they think Bush hasn't spent enough on education, or because he spent too much? Do they disapprove because he has blocked government-funded stem cell research, or because he hasn't pushed for a Constitutional amendment banning abortion? What do these polls say? You don't really know, do you?

Seventy-one percent say that our country is on the wrong track. Fine ... but again, what does this mean? I think that our country is on the wrong track because we aren't reducing the size and power of the federal government. Others think that our country is on the wrong track because the federal government isn't doing enough. I think we're on the wrong track because we aren't moving toward comprehensive tax reform. Others think we're on the wrong track because taxes aren't high enough. I think that the country is on the wrong track because we aren't moving toward free market reforms in health care. Others think that we're not on the right track because we're not moving toward socialized medicine? So ... 71% think our country is on the wrong track, but what does that mean?

Yet another poll says 69% of Americans rate the current state of things in America as "poor." What? Iraq aside, we are currently in an economic boom...and yet for some reason, people are whining about how allegedly bad things are. Once again, the government education system and the mainstream media combine to give us a country filled with dunces. So what is so poor about America right now?

The answer is nothing. Things have never been better. Supposedly, more than half of those polled think the war on terrorism is going poorly. What are they talking about? Saddam Hussein was just executed. Al-Qaeda is on the run. We blew up Zarqawi. Maybe these people think the state of things is poor because that what they've been told day after day after day in the media for years now.

Then there's those who say rebuilding after Katrina is going poorly. Huh? How many people honestly know all that much about how rebuilding is going on the Gulf Coast? That's just the folks at the Harris Poll making up questions designed to get a certain answer. And then there is the usual whining about health care, taxes not being fair and so forth.

So the media doom and gloom campaign has worked. We're in the middle of one of the biggest economic booms of our lifetime and 69% of people polled think things are going poorly. Makes you wonder what people would think if things were truly going badly.

What purpose do these polls serve? None, really ... other than to provide media outlets with a story to run.


Boortz and I disagree fundamentally on a few issues, all of which are irrelevent here, but these two articles from this morning's Nealz Nuze were stolen from my own brain while I slept last night. No Foolin'!


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posted by ELAshley @ 3:01 PM, , links to this post





Preparing for Heaven Requires Going to Church

Here's another quote from Randy Alcorn's Heaven...

"It is characteristic of our Western cultural independence that we think of Heaven in highly individualized ways. But God also views us corporately, as Christ's bride, as part of a great eternal community in which we'll love our Lord together and undertake cooperative pursuits for His glory. We will always be individuals, but Heaven will not be a place of individualism.

"We aren't individual brides of Christ, we are collectively the bride of Christ. Christ is not a polygamist. He will be married to one bride, not millions. We belong to each other and need each ofther. We should guard not only our own purity, but each other's. We are our brother's keeper.

"The fact that countless professing Christians are not part of a local church testifies to our over-individualized spirituality. Scripture teaches that we need each other and should not withdraw from each other's fellowship, instruction, or accountability. It's unbiblical to imagine that we can successfully seek God on our own (Hebrews 10:25). Because we will be part of a community of saints that constitutes the bride of Christ for eternity, and because we will worship and serve him together, to prepare properly for Heaven we must be part of a church now."

If you're not in church, you need to be. Find a church family and stay in the word... and their fellowship!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

--Hebrews 10:25


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posted by ELAshley @ 4:36 PM, , links to this post





The Ultimate Awards Ceremony

by Greg Laurie

We have watched the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys over the years. If you're like me, you usually don't agree with many of the choices and the shows usually drag on way too long, but that's entertainment. And when it's all said and done, that greatly coveted award will sit on a shelf and gather dust.

But there is a bigger awards ceremony that is yet to come. In fact, it is the biggest of all, and it will be in heaven. And these awards, or rewards, will be dispersed by God Himself!

Jesus spoke of this in Luke 14:14 when He said, "And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Also in Revelation 22:12, Jesus said, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." This coming event for which we should be preparing ourselves is called the "Judgment Seat of Christ."

By the way, this ceremony, like the Oscars and other ceremonies, is by invitation only. In other words, only those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ will be present at this big event.

The Apostle Paul gives us this description of the future judgment for Christians. "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:9-10)

This is a very important statement: "We must all stand before Christ to be judged." Understand that there is a difference between the Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15 and the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Great White Throne Judgment is the final judgment for unbelievers. Revelation 20:15 says, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." If you are a Christian, you won't be there, and neither will I. But if you are an unbeliever, you will stand at that Great White Throne Judgment, and then it will be too late.

So we see that the Judgment Seat of Christ does not determine whether you will go to heaven. The Judgment Seat of Christ takes place in heaven, and as a Christian, you already will be there! This judgment is about rewards.

II Corinthians 5:9-10 (NLT) tell us, "Everything will be made clear and open, according to what we have done, whether it be good or bad." The word used here for "bad" doesn't speak of something that is necessarily ethically or morally evil. The immoral and sinful things that we have done have been forgiven, because of the death of Jesus on the cross. The word here for "bad" means "good for nothingness." It speaks of wasting our lives and the time, talent and resources God has given us. All of these things are to be used for His glory.

We were placed on the earth not to chase after personal fulfillment, but to glorify God. As we read of the elders in heaven saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11), it is a reminder from heaven as to why we are on earth. We are here to bring glory and pleasure to God. Every day, we should get up and say, "Lord, I am giving my life to You. I am giving this day to You. I am giving my talents to You. How can You use me for Your glory?"

One day, we will be held accountable as Christians for what we did with the opportunities that God gave us. The sad thing is that there will be people in heaven who forever will be in the presence of God, but they will have nothing to show for their lives. Sure, they have been saved. They have been forgiven. They made it to heaven. The problem is that they wasted their opportunities to glorify God on earth.

In I Corinthians 3:13,15, Paul, speaking of this same event regarding the Judgment Seat of Christ, says, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." In other words, some people will make it to heaven, but they will have squandered their lives.

Have you ever seen a sweep at the Oscars where one movie wins all of the awards? I think sometimes we envision heaven as being sort of like the Academy Awards. We expect to hear the name "Billy Graham" and other well-known Christians called frequently. We picture these individuals sweeping up all of the rewards in heaven.

I have no doubt that Billy Graham will receive many rewards for his years of faithful service to God. But I think we will also be in for some surprises in heaven. Imagine, if you will, that you are there in heaven at this awards ceremony when you hear, "And the winner of this award is ... Maude Firkenbinder!"

Maude Firkenbinder? Who was she? She never preached in a crusade. She never recorded a Christian CD. She never wrote a book. But here is the deal: While Billy Graham was out preaching, Maude was praying. While he was doing his part, Maude was doing hers.

Every one of us is called to do something. Some are called to preach. Others are called to work quietly behind the scenes. Some may reach millions. Others may reach three or four. But in that final day, we will not be held accountable for what God called Billy Graham to do. We will not be held accountable for what God has called our favorite Christian artist to do. We will not be held accountable for what God has called our pastor to do. We will be held accountable for what God has called us to do. Our objective is to be faithful with what God has set before us and to do the best possible job with that. We may not receive many rewards on earth for our efforts, but we can look forward to them in heaven. So, get busy and remember – you are here to glorify God!



[EL has taken the liberty to replace Mr. Laurie's NLT quotes with the KJV accept in one place where his point would be muddied by replacement. His point is nonetheless an accurate statement.]
----

Personal Note: I have no comment of my own to add here. It is posted for edification-- for myself, and for anyone else who might happen by. This is something we should all look forward to.


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posted by ELAshley @ 3:43 PM, , links to this post





Two Things: In Appreciation


Appreciation I

I watched portions of the season opener of HBO's original series, Rome, last night between scripts, promos, and mic checks. Assuming I'm still drawing breath, and capable of doing so, I'll watch it in its entirety tomorrow evening.

This is where the story picks up... Julius Gaius Caesar has just been murdered by Brutus and other members of the Senate. His body is lying in repose at his home. His wife, dutiful pagan that she is, calls in everyone that should perform those tasks needed to honor his mortal remains and speed him off to Elysium or some such. A nurse maid is brought in, and with his widows assent, bares her breast and lowers it to Caesar's mouth and squeezes milk onto his dead lips. The milk rolls down and over his jaw and to the back of his neck...

Next up, Lucius Vorenus, one of two soldiers around whom the entire story revolves, is mourning the loss of his wife who killed herself because of her husbands great anger over her illegitimate child. In the process of their great argument Vorenus has cursed the child and his daughters. They are currently off to be sold as slaves by another man who hates Vorenus. Vorenus, naturally, is horrified at what he's done, and seeks to find his family to take the curse back. His friend, Titus Pullo, asks him,

"Did you kill something over the curse?"

Vorenus says 'No'

"Well then," Pullo says with a smile. "It's not done! The curse can be taken back!"

The customs of these people! It's easy to look at the great Hollywood epics, even recent ones like Ridley Scott's Gladiator, and see fine linens, relatively clean streets, brightly lit interior rooms. But the cut of cloth you see in HBO's Rome is a far coarser weave, both literally and figuratively.

The timeline is such that Christ is still some 45 years from the cradle. Joseph likely, and Mary certainly, haven't yet been born either. Anna the prophetess and Simeon are likely only children. Leap ahead another 30 or so years. Caesar Augustus has been dead for 16-18 years-- Tiberius is now Emperor. And at some point beyond this a tent maker named Saul is making his way toward Damascus to detain, persecute, perhaps even condemn to death members of a heretical sect calling themselves Christians.

We know that Saul became Paul, and in time ended his journey in Rome. Now, I don't know how accurately HBO's 'Rome' depicts life in the pre-dawn hours of Christ's birth, but I do know that what Paul witnessed in the Gentile nations must have been hurtful to his eyes and heart. What wickedness in the world of men! What superstition! This is the world Paul and the rest of Christ's disciples were sent to reach... And reaching, plead... And pleading, convince... And convincing, convict... And convicting, wrest their souls from Satan's grasp.

For all this show is unfit for Godly eyes and ears, it nonetheless gives me new appreciation for the job these humble yet bold men of Christ were given, and following through, established the name of Jesus Christ in the hearts of untold millions throughout a long fortnight of centuries.


Appreciation II

I got to the theater this afternoon; through the popcorn line and in my seat less than a minute before Children of Men began. Needless to say, this pleased me... I was ten minutes late, but thank the Lord for previews!

The year is 2027, and it's been some 18 years since ANY woman has given birth, let alone gotten pregnant. The new celebrity is an eighteen year old, affectionately called-- world-wide --Baby Diego. Diego, spitting upon a fan seeking only his autograph is stabbed to death. The youngest person alive, and a symbol of hope to a quite literally dying world, is now dead.

But that's simply subtext; what's really happening is the collapse of civilization. Terrorists are seeking to force England-- the only relatively sane country left in the world --to stop rounding up and deporting illegal aliens... and many who are merely 'undesireable'. It is the cold, stark reality in which the film's characters live.

Another stark reality is a popular product being sold to millions around the globe-- A euthanasia drug; for those who cannot continue living with the despair that comes with knowing mankind will soon cease to exist. A despair that is both as tangible and livid as any fresh scar... The pain for some is simply too great. And the world has, quite literally descended into chaos. Man's true nature, now that all pretense and sense of continuity is gone, has risen up from the heart and spilled out like fresh gobbits of vomit.

But in the midst of this burgeoning war... This effort to hasten man's final day... A woman finds herself pregnant, and a political target because of it. Who will take her where grasping fingers and political machinations cannot reach? Who will help this new mother keep the first child born in eighteen years, safe?

One extremely poignant scene toward the end is a siege between terrorists and the British Army at a hotel that has been all but reduced to rubble. With guns aimed and ready, and shouts to stand back, hands up! A day old child begins to cry... At first it doesn't seem to register on anyones radar, but slowly recognition dawns on everyone. One officer shouts for everyone to stand down, lower weapons, and they all stare in wonder as mother and child, guided by her protector, make their way out of the ruined hotel, and everyone outside-- soldiers all --kneeling, crossing themselves.... it is so utterly quiet except for the crying of a child. But man's baser nature takes over and terrorists and the military apparatus begin fighting once more.

It is often hard to appreciate what is always before us-- Children are everywhere. It's no big deal to walk into a grocery store and see a mother with her baby cradled in a shopping carts basket. We take for granted women we see, obviously with child, and take for granted the premise and promise of Continuity... No matter what, life WILL go on. And it is this attitude that allows men and women to carelessly throw children away-- Ripping them from the womb --and think nothing of it; Life will go on, after all.

Many in this world-- far TOO many --have no sense of gratefulness, and appreciation is therefore lost to them.

Having said all this, I submit that it is all but impossible to appreciate anything without first experiencing a genuine sense of gratefulness.

And the movie was quite good, too.


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posted by ELAshley @ 4:03 PM, , links to this post





New Sidebar Elements

For those who might find some interest in what I'm reading or listening to, I've added two new catagories near the top of the sidebar.

I don't usually buy CD's anymore as I've got close to two-thousand already, but a very, very few of these are from Christian artists. Honestly, until a few years ago I didn't care for what I was hearing on the radio. I can listen to Southern Gospel, but there's only so much I can take of Gospel Quartets, and until a few years ago there wasn't a good/viable Contemporary-Christian station in my area... so what's in my list are CD's I've recently bought.

City of Gold, tops the list because it's exactly as the cover bills... Impressions of Heaven in Poety and Song..., and track 2, "The Golden City"... Awesome!

We will meet in the golden city, in the new Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more.
We will stand with the hosts of heaven and cry, "Holy is the Lamb",
We will worship and adore You ever more


As to what I'm reading. I tend to read several books at once-- I know I'm not alone in this.

What's at the top is Heaven, by Randy Alcorn. It is simply amazing to me just how much I didn't know about my homeland. Heaven is not going to be the eternal worship service many people think; it will not be the least bit boring-- no harps, halos, or clouds to sit upon, only good solid resurrected earth; rich soil, healthy vegetation, blue skies; just Heaven on Earth... Literally...

"What we have assumed about Heaven has reduced it to a place we look forward to only as an alternative to an intolerable existence here on the present Earth. Only the elderly, disabled, suffering, and persecuted might desire the Heaven we imagine. But the Bible portrays life in God's presence, in our resurrected bodies in a resurrected universe, as so exciting and compelling that even the youngest and healthiest of us should daydream about it.

"No wonder Satan doesn't want us to learn the truth about Heaven. If we fall in love with the place and look forward to the future that God has for us, we'll fall more in love with God, and we'll be emboldened to follow him with greater resolve and perspective."

[Emphasis added]


This book has been beyond fascinating.

As for the rest. I've read Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator which lays out the proof of God's existence beyond a shadow of doubt. The Case for Christ is no different; it lays out the proofs that will allow those searching for the historical Jesus to actually find Him... He did indeed walk the Earth, and do many wonderful works.

The remaining three are for simple enjoyment. Only Steven R. Donaldson's The Runes of the Earth is new to me. Jordan's Knife of Dreams and Orwells 1984 are getting the second and third read, respectively.


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posted by ELAshley @ 1:18 AM, , links to this post





Pavilions of Splendor

Taking a stand means standing out
It means opening oneself to open scorn
~ I cannot say this isn't hurtful
But knowing what the future holds
Standing becomes Worthwhile
Scorn becomes a badge of Honor
Hurt is transfigured into Joy
And loneliness is eased
By heartfelt longing
For Pavilions of promise
For the Golden City
The New Jerusalem
And the promise of Heaven on Earth
Where God will once more walk
In the cool of eternal day
Desireous that I walk
At His side

All this because when called
I chose to stand, not looking back
To make my way toward Pavilions of Splendor


ELAshley
011707.020756.1


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posted by ELAshley @ 1:33 AM, , links to this post





Miss Parker: The Hijacking of King's Dream


"I am in complete sympathy with our president who senses that America has a unique and special role to play in this world. We cannot shirk responsibilities that are clearly ours.

I cannot help but think that it is not an accident that the United States stands so alone, despite many other nations that claim to have similar commitments to and stakes in civility and liberty. The way they act makes clear that they don't.

The truths that Dr. King articulated in so crystal clear a way in 1963 continue to resound today. Freedom is what this country is about. We have no choice. It is our heritage. We thrive and prosper from it. And we cannot avoid the responsibilities that come with it in our engagement with the rest of the world."

That King was the right man at the right hour to speak out against injustice is undeniable. It does however bother me that others put words into his mouth, ascribing to him opinions that have more place in today's world than King's. Like Congressman John Lewis yesterday on CBS' FreeSpeech segment....

"Today, we celebrate and commemorate the life of a man of peace, a man of love, and a man of nonviolence who must be considered one of the founding fathers of the new America.

"Because of his dedication to the cause of justice and his fight for human dignity, he wrestled with the soul of this nation and pushed it to reach for its greatest destiny. He injected new meaning into the very veins of our society and gave his life to make our democracy real.

"What he did, what he said, and what he sacrificed inspired an entire generation, and its power still rings throughout this nation and the world. We are a different country today; we are a better people today because Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the power of love over hate, the power of nonviolence over violence, and the power of peace over war.

"If Dr. King could speak today, he would tell us to stop this madness and bring our troops home. He would say that war is an obsolete, ineffective tool of our foreign policy. He would say that we must struggle against injustice, we must stand up for what we believe, but if peace is our goal, then peaceful ends can only be secured by peaceful means. He would say we must find a way to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish as fools."

And yet the generation Dr. King inspired went on to raise uneducated, selfish, malcontents, devoid of any dream other than drugs, cash, and booty-calls. And without a clear leader to take King's place they looked to lesser men... base men, and so looked to fools for inspiration.

The disconnect between then and now is stark. Especially in light of men like Bill Cosby who are trying-- and receiving scorn from much of the people he is trying to reach --to renew and restore a sense of honest pride within the African-American community. But with such silliness as Kwaanza, and evil men like Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, and deceivers and enablers within the Democratic Party.... What chance do they have of returning to King's dream? As opposed to the whore they've chased since his death?

Harsh words, you say? Dishonest? Mean-spirited? A dishonor to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King? If it barks and turns to its own vomit, chances are it's a dog. And calling it such is neither dishonest nor mean-spirited. And no dog is dishonored when called by name.

If anything, these so-called 'followers of Dr. King' do more dishonor to Dr. King's memory and legacy than one post on an otherwise insignificant blog.


---
Comment if you wish, but the days of anything goes are gone.


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posted by ELAshley @ 9:19 PM, , links to this post





Bauerisms and Reality Intersect

It's not stranger than fiction, it's just another season of '24', and with that season the usual plethora of posts around the blogosphere about Jack Bauer... And Jack Bauer-isms. Don't know what a Bauerism is? Check out Brooke's post

While they're all funny, one I hadn't seen before is more than simply funny... it's actually true.

There have been no terrorist attacks in United States since Jack Bauer has appeared on television.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Jack Bauer, but it's still curiously true. Perhaps America DOES indeed have a Jack Bauer, whose name isn't actually Jack Bauer.

Last night when Fox announced during a commercial break that the first 4 episodes would be on sale the next morning with an extended preview of next weeks episode... well, I couldn't resist. I would never shell out 9 bucks and change at the theater for a two hour movie, but for the first 12 minutes of next weeks episode of '24'?

There was a lot of buzz this morning on Talk Radio about the last 5 minutes of last nights episode. Another frightening glimpse into what the enemy is on the verge of being capable of... Nuclear terrorism. Imagine that! Downtown Los Angeles a nuclear wasteland! What was Hollywood thinking!!???? Don't they realize that millions of people watch this show? Don't they realize that people actually believe the things they see on television? Aren't they the least bit worried that nuking Los Angeles, even in make-believe, is not the way to go if you want the nation to turn against the War on Terrorism?

Well, liberals have never been confused with brilliance... in MY book. So, to me, this comes as no surprise. But then it's just a television show. It's fiction. People will talk about it at the water cooler then move on with the rest of their work day. And they'll dwell on the great 'what if'. What if terrorists really could do this... What if Iran really does develop nukes and sells them to terrorists? What if?

What if.....!?

What was Hollywood thinking?


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posted by ELAshley @ 3:21 PM, , links to this post



"There seems to be a kind of conspiracy to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of hell comes from. The doctrine of hell is not 'mediaeval priestcraft' for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin... We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ"

--Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity




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posted by ELAshley @ 1:25 AM, , links to this post





On Stability, and Babylon

Surely, anyone with even a mustard seed's grain of faith knows that Iraq will stabilize, and that it will happen sooner rather than later! How many times did God use other nations to chastize His chosen people? That's rhetoric for 'quite a few'. Why has the Jew been pushed out of every country they've settled in since Titus dispersed them in the 1st century? Has not God had His hand on every move against His people from that time until the Nation of Israel was reborn? Why should they ever be made to feel comfortable in a land that is not their own, just as Christians are instructed to not think of this present life as home? God has a plan. And he's in the business of seeing it through.

How many reading this who know a little something about The Revelation understands that John's description of a city situated upon seven hills refers to Rome? If that which is shrouded in metaphor is an obvious reference to Rome, why then do many assume that Babylon must mean some place else altogether? Like New York? Babylon was inhabited in Jesus' day. How many reading this knew that Babylon was still in existence in Johns' time? The empire was destroyed, but the city remained. Just as it remains today.

Babylon today still sits on the Euphrates, and it is the dream of Iraqis to see it flourish once more...

...Iraqi leaders and UN officials are not giving up on [the project]. They are working assiduously to restore Babylon, home to the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They want to turn it into a cultural center and possibly even an Iraqi theme park.

No one is saying it is going to happen any time soon, but what makes the Pollyannaish project even conceivable is that the area around Babylon is among the safest in Iraq, a beacon of civilization once again in a land of much chaos.

Ancient Babylon, celebrated as a fount of law, writing and urban living, sits just outside the modern city of Hilla, about 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, south of Baghdad. Hilla is neither haunted by Sunni insurgents nor overwhelmed by Shiite militia and, while it is home to both Shiites and Sunnis, it has not been afflicted by the sectarian violence that has paralyzed so many other parts of Iraq.

Emad Lafta al-Bayati, Hilla's mayor, has big plans for Babylon. "I want restaurants, gift shops, long parking lots," he said. God willing, he added, maybe even a Holiday Inn.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is pumping millions of dollars into Babylon and a handful of other sites. It has even printed a snazzy brochure to give to wealthy donors. "Cultural tourism could become Iraq's second biggest industry, after oil," explained Philippe Delanghe, a United Nations official helping with the project.

But why is the restoration of Babylon so important? Because it is from this city the Antichrist will reign over all the earth. Look at where we are now, prophetically: Israel is restored to her homeland, The desert flourishes, Jerusalem is no longer "trodden down of the Gentiles". And the generation which sees these things come to pass will, according to Jesus and scripture, see His return. Part of that scenario necessarily includes the restoration (in part or full matters not) of Babylon. It is not a stretch to say Babylon will once again be a great city of commerce, that there will be a world-wide sense of pride and accomplishment at its return.

But Iraq under Saddam has been corrupt and filled with violence, so much so, Babylon was little more than a couple of museums and gift shops... but this hardly describes the great city of Babylon, that falls utterly into ruin, so much so the entire world mourns her fall.

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

--Revelation 18

Is it so far-fetched that God would use a nation in this day and age to set the stage for Babylon's rising? God has used the unrighteous nations the world to chastise His people, would He not also use the United States to clear out Saddam and make it possible for Babylon to rise from the ashes once more?

Stability may not occur within the time left to George W. Bush, but it will come. And with it the rebuilding of Babylon, bringing us all nearer to His return. Which means time is short. In truth, there is nothing more that need happen, prophetically, before the rapture of the Church. Nothing. Time is VERY short. And all this political posturing over the troops; their safety, their sacrifice, is nothing more than the politics of greed and selfishness, clutched greedily to the breasts of greedy, selfish men who care little for the troops, and nothing for God's plan in all this.

Their chief concern is for power. Much like Babylon's future king.




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posted by ELAshley @ 10:58 PM, , links to this post