Many Roads and One Narrow One

This is a more personal posting and it's a long one. I've been praying about what to do next because I didn't get a molecular biology degree or a law degree to work at Upton Tire Pros. I have nothing against simple hard work, however, when the shop manager screams at me in front of all the technicians in the garage at the top of his voice, promising to get me fired, for a simple fixable mistake, the absurd context sinks in of being there verses a job I'm trained to do making more money. It's time to leave my stop gap job.

The shop manager has anger issues as everyone in the shop will attest to and he dislikes me, perhaps because I don't return his vitriol. I'm a Quaker at heart. That was the Friday before last. I wasn't feeling great that day and following that incident I came down with a cough and sore throat that kept me away from work the entire week. I hadn't been sick for about two years before that. On Wednesday, I saw the doctor and he prescribed antibiotics which I took and started feeling better.

I used the time away to think and pray. On Wednesday, just after seeing the doctor, I stopped by the shop and tendered my resignation. Upton is an 11 hour/day, 5 days/week job and it's hard to do anything else besides work. George, the store manager (not the angry shop manager), asked me to work next week since they were going to be short staffed. Not wanting to leave Gorge in a tight spot, and not having any malice toward anyone there, I agreed.

This Monday is my first day out of work. I've decided to study for the patent bar exam and take the exam within three weeks, then, look for a job in Intellectual Property (IP). I could end up drafting patents, working at the US Patent and Trademark Office, or negotiating and managing IP related contracts which is what I did for Pfizer before traveling to Mississippi.

As I'm looking ahead, I get the sense that the decisions I've made in my life have been one act of mischief after another. Some mischief I've initiated and some mischief was foisted on me; maybe by the divine comedian himself. Perhaps, the mischief foisted on me kept me from accomplishing altogether greater mischief of which I shall forever remain ignorant. I'm praying now that God will free me from this apparant mischief and author me into something more clearly his design. If God calls me one direction as I'm moving somewhere else, that's ok. I need to be moving in some direction. I hate feeling lazy. However, the wanderlust keeping me moving may have lead to all this mischief in the first place. I don't know.

Why did I go from bible school student to biological researcher to attorney to business owner to driver/salesman for an automotive service center? How did I end up going from West Virginia to Ohio to Oklahoma to California to Mississippi? Why did I go from Methodist to Charismatic to non-denominational to Presbyterian back to Methodist and finally end up Episcopalian? Why did I play #1 seed on my high school tennis team and win all those tournaments as a Sophomore only to move to a farm my Junior year to attend a high school with no tennis team where the nearest tennis court was almost an hour away? Why did my parents buy me a nice Fender Telecaster guitar and amplifier, then, move way out to the country where there was no guitar teacher? Why did I end up going to an unaccredited bible school in a denomination I would not end up staying with rather than going to the College of Wooster in Ohio when my parents were willing to pay? Why did I leave a good job and a condo I just purchased In San Diego, right after remodeling it; just when I was secure for the first time in my life since high school; to go to Mississippi to start a business with my brother? Why did I fall in love with a woman in Mississippi and ask her to marry me just before she dies? I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that's a lot of mischief. Where do all these roads lead? It all seems to go nowhere. However, I find comfort in the single unseen narrow road that is Jesus beneath all these seemingly random roads on the surface crisscrossing my life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

On that farm in Ohio, the time between tennis and bible school, I met Christ as my savior. I was working at a sports shop and a customer left a tract titled, Four Spiritual Laws. I brought it home and remember reading it in my bedroom. I knelt and finished praying the prayer just as my mother called me to dinner. I felt no different. However, a couple days later, a sense of God's love and presence seemed to plant itself in my life. Light and color seemed more vibrant. I remember driving with a big smile on my face and remember people I didn't know smiling back at me. The Bible started making sense and reading it satisfied a hunger within me.

I like Alston's blog entry, Magnificent Defeat. He speaks of buying into shiny Christianity, and instead, getting the real nitty gritty Christianity. I'm paraphrasing. Two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem after Christ's crucifixion. They were sad because things hadn't gone as expected. Christ might not have been who they thought he was. Maybe they had wasted years of their lives on an empty dream. They were expecting victory and all they saw was defeat. They were walking away from all that. However, just as, "All roads lead to Rome," these two disciples were on a road leading back to Christ rather than away from him.

I wrote a poem in college that I recently titled, Mobius Trip on this blog. There are a couple of versions. The title is based on something called a Mobius Strip. It's a shape that looks like a two dimensional surface except it only has one surface. A sheet of paper has two surfaces. One on each side. If you were traveling over a sheet of paper, you couldn't travel from one side to the other without crossing the edge. However, you can make a sheet of paper that has only one surface by cutting a rectangular strip, turn it 180 degrees, and taping one end to the other. This way, you can travel on both sides of the paper without lifting your finger. You can follow a single path and end up where you started even though it might feel like your moving further and further away. This reminds me of Emmaus road. Even while the disciples thought they were walking away, Jesus was bringing them back.

I'm thankful for the Christianity that cost Christ everything, even though I didn't appreciate it for what it was at the time I received Christ and was unable recognize what I needed. No matter where I go or what I do, my experience on the farm in Ohio is central to my life. It's a past event that continually unfolds as Christ the author of my salvation becomes my teacher, walking with me, explaining why he had to suffer and die, and what he imparted to me. I have traveled many roads from there. However, there is a single narrow road they all follow that leads to my destination. I pray he gives me strength and direction during this time and that he saves me from mischief and my own unbelief.

Guidance, Strength, and Comfort

My wife gave me a Kindle for my birthday last month and I've really enjoyed it. In my search for free books I discovered G.C. Chesterton and a couple more authors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I also like the feature where you can see the most popular highlights from other Kindle readers.

I downloaded a free Bible and clicked "View Popular Highlights." It only turned up seven passages. There are more but this feature only shows the most popular. As I began reading, I started appreciating why these verses are meaningful to others and thought about the common needs these verses touch. As it turns out, these are some of my favorite verses too.

These verses are popular because they offer guidance, strength, and comfort. Not surprisingly, John 3:16 is the most popular.

Here they are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Proverbs 3  (41 Highlighters)
5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6  In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. 
Matthew 6  (21 Highlighters)
33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 
John 3  (85 Highlighters)
16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 
Romans 8  (35 Highlighters)
28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 
I Corinthians 13  (43 Highlighters)
4  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
5  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
7  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Philippians 4 (16 Highlighters)
6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
Philippians 4 (50 Highlighters)
13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Photo by MicheleLovesArt (Van Gogh Museum - Still life with bible, 1885) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation's Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

If you click on the title above, it will take you to the article on the ONION's website. I like the way humor and sarcasm can provide useful perspective.

Christian Apologetics

My son Sam and I had a conversation today on the hiddenness of God, the problem of evil, whether God is good, and whether God exists. I never like these conversations. I tell him that most Christians come to faith through their heart and that everyone has their own unique journey to faith. Then I tell him what I believe.

I avoid any kind of argument. Here's why. I think the atheists have about a good a set of arguments as theists, at least in the way they think about God, and my son knows all their arguments.

Most believers come to Christ through their heart. Then, they look for reasons to express to others why they believe. The reasoning isn't personal. They come up with it to apply outwardly. It's not what lead them to faith. Consequently, it's rarely persuasive.

The atheist's argument, on the other hand, is personal to him. It's his argument explaining why he doesn't believe. He thinks about it, develops it, and protects his sanity and pride with it.

We need to understand why people don't believe and how to engender faith.
John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Matthew 18:2-3  2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Romans 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Mark 4:14 The sower soweth the word.
Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It seems that a big part of unbelief has to do with our conscience. We are too afraid to look around to find God because...we might find him! Then, what gives us courage to seek God from our heart? God's goodness. We see God's goodness through another's good deeds. Then one day that living and powerful seed that that someone planted a long time ago begins to grow.

I believe knowing the truth is more for helping us live good lives than making us better arguers.

The last thing I tell my son is you're not going to understand everything, then I share with him something G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1908 from Orthodoxy.
The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.

Who's Telling Us High Fructose Corn Syrup is Safe?

Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help the propagator's cause or discredit their opponents. We may be surprised when our government or a news organization engages in propaganda to elevate an agenda above truth. Maybe not anymore.

However, we shouldn't be surprised that a company would do that to sell their products. In America, we call that advertising. It's even (legally) OK to stretch the truth. The legal term for that is "puffing."

The Corn Refiners' Association (CRA) has been lobbying congress to allow high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to be identified as corn sugar. While they're lobbing congress, their also engaged in a well funded add campaign directed toward us. Not only are they presenting us polished television adds, back in October 2010, they paid bloggers $50 Walmart gift cards for articles promoting HFCS. I guess that's OK if they had disclosed they were being paid but I don't think they did: at least not conspicuously.

Jaclyn Bruntfield wrote an article titled, Mom Bloggers Paid to Promote High Fructose Corn Syrup: Why Wasn't I Invited? she posted on the HarrisonPatch blog. In that article she wrote,
Earlier this month, the Corn Refiners Association, an industry trade group, invited some mom bloggers to listen in on a conference call about high fructose corn syrup.
The call, which was organized in conjunction with a web site called Mom Central, has stirred up some controversy in the mommy blogging world, with some of the participants writing about it in return for $50 gift cards.
Why will people do anything for money? Are we just squirrels scurrying around picking up nuts. This is the advertising that bothers me the most. All a lot of these bloggers knew about HFCS was what they learned from the Corn Refiners Association at the conference where they were told they could earn $50 Walmart gift cards. It's very deceptive. It comes across as unbiased opinion that builds up over time to give the appearance of a consensus when it's nothing more than the singularly focused arm of big business manipulating our perception.

When the CRA is not going after us, they're pestering congress. Here is an example of food lobbying in action. The link takes you to two letters from the CRA to members of Congress.


The Corn Refiners Association, according to Wikipedia, is a trade association based in Washington, DC representing the corn refining industry in the United States. Corn refining encompasses the production of corn starch, corn oil, and high fructose corn syrup.

Members of the Corn Refiners Association include Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Incorporated, Corn Products International, Inc./National Starch, Penford Products Co., Roquette America, Inc. and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas.

You can find the following DVDs on food issues at Yes, I do get a little something if you buy through these links. However, I see no harm in selling something I ethically believe in.

The Rise and Fall of Crisco

Clicking on the title above will take you to a great little article on "Mother Linda's" blog. In 1911, Proctor and Gamble began marketing the first hydrogenated shortening called Crisco. They sold us on the image of a sophisticated woman, in a clean modern kitchen, cooking something delicious for her family using Crisco. Today however, there is a consensus that trans fats are more unhealthy than animal fats, not essential for our diet, and provide no known benefit to human health.

Hydrogenation converts liquid vegetable oils to solid or semi-solid fats. Some of the fats produced using this technique are in a "trans" chemical configuration so we call them trans fats. Nature does not produce fats in this form. Many scientists theorize that our bodies' enzymes that metabolize fats do not recognize trans fats so these rogue fats may circulate in our bodies longer and are more likely to deposit on our arteries causing plaques that give us coronary artery disease.

The vegetable oil Proctor and Gamble used to make Crisco is cottonseed oil. Cotton is sprayed with with strong defoliating chemicals just before harvesting. This makes it easy for chemicals to find their way into the final product. Crisco is an unnatural fat first of all. Then, it's manufactured in a way that exposes us to potential contaminants.

The drama surrounding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is eerily similar to Crisco's history and trans fats in many respects. See Dr. Mark Hyman's article about HFCS.

  • Both products are in forms that don't occur in nature.
  • Both companies didn't know their products were unhealthy in the beginning.
  • Both companies made a conscious effort to suppress the truth after they learned their products were not as wholesome as they originally hoped.
  • Both products are exposed to hazardous contaminants in the manufacturing process.
  • Both companies have taken inadequate measures to ensure these contaminants don't end up in our food supply.
  • Both companies have appealed to our "sophistication" in their efforts to persuade us that their products are safe and healthy.

I like the way history can strip away fog from present controversies. I bet this pattern repeats itself often. However, I would be interested in learning about a company that did not follow this storyline with a profitable product. I hope you enjoy Mother Linda's article.

* When I refer to "company" in reference to HFCS, I mean the Corn Refiners Association since one single company does not make HFCS.

5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You

Clicking on the title above will take you to an article of the same title by Dr. Mark Hyman on the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup and the industry's effort to quash our concerns. It's a relatively long article by Internet standards but it's well organized with important details. I believe the facts and details in this article are important and should not be glossed over. They're helpful for empowering us to make a solid commitment for us and our families in this area in the face of the industry's well financed propaganda campaign.