Agusta Best & Aunt Sprecher’s 1929 Gas Stock

My Planet Whizbang business volume seems a bit lower than usual for this time of year. It’s not a crisis. It’s actually kind of nice to have a more time. I’ve managed to get enough firewood cut, split and stacked for next winter. Better yet, Marlene and I have had more time to go to garage and estate sales. As you may already know, we buy and then sell on EBAY. It’s a side hustle we’ve done for a few years.

I look primarily for old tools, old hardware, and old paper when I’m at an estate sale. One of my recent finds is a 1929 stock prospectus for the Arkansas Natural Gas Corporation. Along with the prospectus was the receipt you see pictured above, with the hand-written note. Here’s what the note says…

Dear Aunt Sprecher,

Twenty of these shares belong to you and thirty-five to me. I did this to simplify matters. If ever you care to sell yours let me know. I can do it without trouble. Hope this will go up quickly. It is quoted on the N.Y curb. Lovingly,

Agusta Best

The receipt shows that Agusta and her aunt purchased 55 shares of stock for 9-1/8 dollars each on June 28, 1929. I’ve never seen dollars denominated in 1/8 fractions! 1/8 of a dollar would be .125 cents.

Agusta’s mention of “the N.Y. curb” really had me baffled. What’s the curb? Well, near as I can tell, the curb is the New York Curb Exchange, which became the American Stock Exchange. Prices for the Curb Exchange were probably quoted in the newspapers and Aunt Sprecher could track her stock value there.

I well remember back in the old days of my youth when the daily newspapers had pages devoted to showing the prices of hundreds of stocks. I think they were the ending prices from the previous day. There was, of course no internet with up-to-the-second stock prices, and no television programming devoted to investing back then.

When I was in 6th grade I would go to the stock page and look up the value of Disney stock. It was the only company I could relate to. I actually made a graph and plotted out the day-to-day value of Disney for awhile.

These days, with the internet, a sixth grader could easily buy Disney stocks (but I wouldn’t advise it). Retail stock investing has come a long way.

Scripophily is the hobby of collecting antique stock certificates and other historical financial instruments. I never knew that until I went to list these old papers on Ebay. I’m hoping a scripophile somewhere will pay me $32 (plus postage) for it. It might actually be worth more than that to the right person.

Old paper (ephemera is the term that fits) like this is often a learning experience, and that’s part of the reason I like old paper. What I don’t know, and I wonder about, is how Agusta and her aunt’s stock purchase played out, especially as it was purchased in 1929!

Exactly four months (to the day) after purchasing the stock, the stock market crashed. They refer to that event as Black Monday. Next day (Black Tuesday) came another drop in the market. A month later came another crash, which is remembered as Black Thursday. They were dark days, and those events ushered in ten years of The Great Depression.

Did Arkansas Natural Gas Company survive the Great Depression? Did the eight different banks that they worked with (as indicated in the prospectus) survive? From 1929 to 1933, 6,480 banks in America closed. Did Agusta Best & her aunt loose all of their $501.88 investment (the equivalent of $8,438.16 in 2022 dollars)? Why were these old papers saved?

I’ve always liked history. I like the big-picture perspective that an understanding of history provides. A person can learn a lot about the future by looking back at history.

J.D. Belanger on Farming, Freedom, America & The Future (in 1976)

I was 18 years old in 1976. I subscribed to Mother Earth News, Organic Farming & Gardening, Farmstead, and Countryside Small Stock Journal. Those magazines and the down-to-earth, contra-industrial way of life they espoused fueled the back-to-the-land movement of that era.

I sold my collection (going back to the 1940s) of Organic Farming & Gardening magazines on EBAY a few years back. Same with my old Farmstead magazines. And today I listed 16 back issues of Countryside. They are in rough shape. Anyone else would probably throw them away. I have a hard time throwing things away if I think I can squeeze a few dollars out of them.

Before I wrapped them up I spent some time leafing through the vintage pages. The articles and the old advertisements took me back 46 years to when I was a very different person. I was young and strong and full of idealistic energy. These days, I’m no longer young, no longer strong, no longer full of energy, and my idealism has been tempered by the realities of life. The three primary realities being, 1. Life is hard, 2. Life is not fair, 3. Life is short ( I think I’ve blogged about those here in the past).

I’ve made my share of mistakes and I have some regrets in my life, but not many, and none of them are major regrets. I’ve come to realize that “my disappointments are God’s appointments.” That’s a thought-provoking little phrase I learned from A.W. Pink. And in a somewhat similar vein, the sage quip, “No experience is lost,” comes to mind. I learned that one from my friend, Laura Coburn, who heard it more than once from her consoling mother.

But enough of that. I want to share with you a short article written by J.D. Belanger back in 1976. Belanger was the owner and editor of Countryside. It’s an interesting article to me because of the historical perspective, and because it looks at the influence of the traditional agrarian way of life on the character of America.

I have scanned both pages of the article. You’ll probably need to enlarge your screen view to read it…

The article ends with, “The future must remain a mystery.” Well, the next 46 years after writing those words are no longer a mystery. What we have seen in America is the further destruction of small family farms And we have also seen the continuing moral, social, and economic decline of the nation. I dare say it is no coincidence.

The town I lived in 46 years ago (when I subscribed to that issue of Countryside) had at least 7 small dairy farms, one of which I ended up working on for a year after high school. These days, there are no dairy farms in the town. They are all gone, and with them a way of life has vanished.

It is nigh unto impossible for a small-scale, traditional-style family farm to be economically viable in 2022 America.

The good news (it’s always best to end on a high note) is that there are still plenty of people who embrace the rural-based, hands-on, self-reliant, family-and-faith-centered way of life.

Personal agrarianism, once ordinary and necessary, is now a mostly-idealistic pursuit that has, of necessity, evolved with current realities. But it survives. And those who pursue it with wisdom are the quiet, thankful minority.

Ain’t But Two Genders!

I saw this short video for the first time today on Steve Bannon’s War Room broadcast. I’m surprised YouTube has not taken it down. This man is Mark Robinson. He is the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina!

All I know about Mark Robinson is what I watched in this video, and I like what I’m seeing. Here is a man boldly speaking truth and righteousness in the midst of a nation that is condoning, celebrating, and promoting the lies of sexual perversion and mental illness.

This is an example of Christian resistance. It is resistance to the ongoing cultural suicide of this nation. Mark Robinson is a warrior. The demonic woke hoards will target him. He knows it. He doesn’t care.

All it takes is a few good men (and women) to bravely take a loud and unrelenting stand against the evil sweeping this nation. Such resistance can make the difference. Others will be emboldened by their example.

I stand with Mark Robinson on this issue.

I think Howard King does too. Check out his recent blog essay, Abomination and The Downfall of America.

Unfortunately, at this point, it’s obvious that God’s judgement is upon this nation. We are in serious troubles. But God has shown his mercy to repentant nations in the past. There is still hope, and I feel it more strongly when I see leaders like Mark Robinson taking a brave stand for righteousness.

It might well be that, at this point in our history, Christian resistance against the Woke hoards is futile. But that is beside the point. Resistance against evil is obedience to God. And if the nation falls apart, we will have our work cut out for us rebuilding from the ashes.

The Manual of Patriotism, Globalism, And My 1988 Letter To The Editor

Early April is typically the slowest time of the year for my Planet Whizbang mail order business. It’s not like I have nothing else to do to fill the time, but I don’t feel right if I don’t have at least some income coming in. So I’ve been photographing and listing things to sell on EBAY, starting with a lot of books. Thus it was that I was taking pictures of the Manual of Patriotism For The Schools of New York pictured above… and I found a photocopy inside. It is of a letter I wrote to the Editor of the Auburn, NY Citizen newspaper back in 1988. That was 34 years ago!

A friend of mine bought that book at a yard sale back then and gave it to me. The book inspired me to write the letter to the Editor. 1988 was, mind you, back in the old days, before the internet was a thing. A lot of people back then used to get the daily newspaper. I wrote a series of letters to the Editor in the mid to late 1980s.

In retrospect, those newspaper writings were the beginning of my career as a writer. When magazine articles and books followed, I became a part-time professional writer. I define professional writer as someone who gets paid for writing. The idea of getting paid money for writing (as opposed to doing physical work in the building trades) appealed to me. And it amazed me. It still does.

I had forgotten about my newly discovered 1988 letter to the Editor, and read it with interest. I think it’s worth reprinting here in this blog post because what I had to say is still pertinent. In fact, it might be more pertinent than it was way back then. The title of the letter was given by the newspaper’s editor. It is somewhat misleading. My letter was more about globalism than patriotism.

My reflective hindsight comments follow the letter.

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American Patriotism’s In Danger Of Extinction

Is the spirit of American patriotism gasping its last breath as we race towards the 21st century? I for one hope not, but the handwriting is on the wall and the painful truth must be revealed.

Patriotism is love and pride of country, born of familiarity with its history, reverence for its institutions and faith in its possibilities; but it is more than just an emotion. True patriotism is also an aggressively loyal and zealous support of one’s nation.

I recently acquired an old copy of the “Manual of Patriotism for Schools of New York.” This 470-page volume was published in 1900 under the direction of the State Legislature, and it’s filled with patriotic quotes, poems, songs and writings on everything from the flag and George Washington, to “the nobility of labor” (when’s the last time you heard that?). It was believed at the time that public schools should be “nurseries of patriotism.” Teachers were instructed to teach “the wonderful power that abides in great personalities. Hold before their (the students’) eyes a vision of the commanding figures of our American history. Inspire them with a loyalty and devotion to native land.”

I graduated from public school in 1976. I don’t remember it as being a nursery of patriotism, and I rather doubt it has since become one.

Just last year a 19-member Study Commission on Global Education came out with a report urging that standard courses in American schools be “infused with a global perspective.” Secretary of State George Schultz thought it was a good idea, but fortunately for America, Secretary of State William Bennett is critical of global education. I’m sure the NY State Legislature of 1900 would agree with him.

This globalism is hostile to patriotism. It has no regard for national self-interest (which is the essence of patriotism); it destroys national boundaries; it would take a free and independent America and reduce her to a subservient world state.

In 1945, America threw away a measure if its sovereignty by joining the United Nations. It hasn’t done us a bit of good. Will we continue to skip blindly down the path to oblivion while singing “We Are The World“?

If this idea of globalism creeps into the soul of America it will destroy patriotism along with our legacy of personal freedom under the Constitution. History shows that the bigger and farther removed from the people that governments get, the more oppressive they become.

I propose that the song be changed to “We Are America; I propose that, once again, the “Manual of Patriotism” be used in our schools to instill an ardent love of country and keen understanding of the principles of liberty, and I pray that patriotism, the sacred flame that guards a free and independent America, will never die.

###

Were I to write a similar letter to the Editor these days, I would be more inclined to use the word nationalism instead of patriotism. Though I consider myself a patriotic person, I’m wary of patriotism being used by government propagandists to get Americans to support all the different military conflicts that politicians (allied with their military-industrial-complex handlers) routinely ignite all around the world.

Nationalist is considered a toxic word these days, but I define and use the word as the antithesis of globalist. While nationalism has been the driving force behind many wars throughout history, in America the masses are typically swayed to support foreign military interventions by an appeal to patriotism.

A healthy American patriotism (or nationalism) is grounded in a knowledge of, and appreciation for, the great achievements of those who established this country, and our Constitutional form of government in particular. Such history should be celebrated and memorialized.

Yes, America has experienced dark and regrettable episodes of history, and they should be acknowledged. But our best history is what should define America and be taught to young Americans. Our best history is founded on limited, decentralized government, separation of powers in the government, democratically-elected government representation, personal responsibility, property rights, Sound money (it’s in the Constitution), the rule of law, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship.

Globalism is the enemy of all that defines what is the best of America.

Bright Betty Bam-A-Lamps

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I eventually get around to getting different projects done. The Bright Betty lamp-in-a-jar is a perfect example of that. I developed the Bright Betty design 11 years ago and established this web site to present a how-to photo tutorial for making the Bright Betty.

In addition to the tutorial, I was going to offer parts kits for making the lamps. I hired my youngest son, James, to cut and flare pieces of soft copper tubing that serve as the wick holder. He made a couple hundred of them. I bought lots of the wire and a spool of fiberglass wick. Then I moved on to other projects. The idea and the parts were shelved for over a decade.

Yesterday, I made the YouTube video you see above. I posted it this morning and listed the parts for sale on the Workshop Page at my Planet Whizbang web site. I can now cross that whole project off my list. It’s a good feeling to finally bring a started project to completion!

YouTube is a big challenge for me. I’d like to make more videos and I’d like to get better at making them. My problem with making the videos is that they are incredibly time consuming. I’m also making them without any help. And I’m a real amateur at the lighting and other technicals. But I like to think I’m getting a little better.

What I like best about YouTube is that they pay me money. Last year I earned $3,900 from my YouTube videos. I don’t know how they calculate what they send me, but I get money deposited into my bank account every month. I’m persuaded that monetized YouTube videos are the best passive income side hustle in the world.

Most of my YouTube income comes from just a few of the many videos I’ve made. This one about toe-nailing studs with screws went viral last year. It has earned me over $2,000 so far. The funny thing about that video is that I made it in a couple hours and I didn’t put a lot of effort into it.

On the other hand, I put an enormous amount of time and effort into making this video about making traditional carpenter sawhorses. I consider that sawhorse video to be the very best one I’ve made. Thus far, it has earned me $32.50. My hope is that it will eventually go viral, which means that the YouTube algorithms pick it up and promote it. Those algorithms are a big mystery. Lots of YouTubers are trying to figure out how to hack the algorithms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be a sophisticated YouTube creator. But I’m not going to let that hinder my efforts. After all, I’m the guy who self-published a book about how to make a chicken plucker. Back in 2001 I formatted every page of that book as a paste-up “mechanical” and hand-drew all the illustrations. Then I had the first 100 copies photocopied and bound with a plastic comb. It was a totally amateur production. I should have been embarrassed trying to sell a book like that. But people bought it, and they liked it. I’ve sold more than 25,000 copies, and it’s still selling. That book was the beginning of my Planet Whizbang mail order business. The sale of those initial 100 photocopied books financed everything that followed. It’s kind of amazing.

So, that’s my story of my Bright Betty lamp project. Now I need to finish the house addition I started four years ago…

The New Maker Movement

Alec Steele

One of the most positive things going on in the world today is the rise of the Maker Movement. This article describes the Maker Movement as follows:

The maker movement is a cultural trend that places value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things.  In this culture, individuals who create things are called “makers.” Makers come from all walks of life, with diverse skill sets and interests. The thing they have in common is creativity, an interest in design and access to tools and raw materials that make production possible.

The article further states…

“While the majority of makers are hobbyists, entrepreneurs and small manufacturers are also taking advantage of the classes and tools available in makerspaces. The maker movement is international, promoted by magazines, conventions, video channels and Web-based marketplaces. The movement is growing rapidly and is expected to be economically disruptive; as ordinary people become more self-sufficient, they will be able to make their own products instead of purchasing brand-name products from a big box store.”

The Maker movement is, to my way of thinking, a resurgence of  the traditional ethos of hands-on self reliance and creativity. Most men and boys who grew up in the early to mid 1900s were familiar with Popular Mechanics magazine. That publication was all about making things in the home workshop and it kept its readers well informed about new technology.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s Mother Earth News magazine had a powerful appeal to the Makers of that era. I loved those old Mother Earth magazines. In fact, if you look at the books and other information products I’ve created and sell in my Planet Whizbang business, you will see a very strong Mother Earth News influence. Not the current Mother Earth, but the now-vintage Mother Earth News, back when it was started (in 1970) and run by John Shuttleworth, the founder of that publication. Yes, I was powerfully influenced by that magazine.

I was a young Maker in the 1970s. I didn’t have access to much in the way of tools or a workshop, but my stepfather had a small, old table saw (fearfully dangerous, it was), a work bench with a vise, and a few old hand tools. There were old scraps of wood in our barn. I started by carving several spoons out of the old wood, and I carved a large wooden scoop. I learned about wood grain and how to use chisels, a rasp, and lots of sandpaper. I also learned (to some degree) how to sharpen chisels.

Then I bought myself a block plane and a pine board. I wanted to make some staved containers. I hand-planed, assembled, sanded and finished the pieces on a desk in my bedroom. That was some 55 years ago. A few of those creations are still around…

There was, of course, no YouTube back in my day, and I had no woodworking mentor to learn from. I was a Lonely Maker, trying to figure out how to make basic things from book and magazine articles. These days, aspiring Makers can tap into so much more information and inspiration, and it’s great to see. I would have reveled in the Maker Movement of today if it were available to me in the 1970s. I think my life trajectory would have been much different or, perhaps, less focused on just woodworking and the building trades, which is the profession I worked at for the first 25 years of my adult working life.

These days, I satisfy my maker inclinations vicariously. I watch the inspiring Makers on YouTube. Jimmy Diresta is one of the most popular YouTube makers. I always enjoy his videos. Alec Steele is another favorite of mine.

Alec has a good story. He was inspired by seeing a blacksmith working at a local craft show when he was 11 years old. He was consumed with the desire to learn all about being a blacksmith and that’s what he did. When Alec was 16 years old he convinced his parents to let him leave school and become a full time blacksmith. Today he is 24 years old and has 2.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He is making a small fortune with his YouTube videos, and it sure does look like he’s having a lot of fun in the process. It’s downright impressive.

Alec Steele doesn’t just forge steel, he has made videos about jewelry. Here is one excellent example…

And Alec doesn’t just have skills with metal. It turns out that his father is a greenwood chair maker. Alec crafted a greenwood chair with his father when he was a boy. In the following three videos, he returns to his parent’s home and he and his father make chairs together. I found these three videos to be not only interesting, but a real delight…

Makers are my kind of people. Hurrah for the Maker Movement!

Inflation Assault

Today I received a book and chicken plucker fingers order from a woman who told me she used to read my Deliberate Agrarian blog when she was a kid in high school. That was nice to hear. The years have gone by! My kids have grown up and have their own families. Now there are grandchildren. And I have become a senior citizen. For the record, I started blogging just about 17 years ago (My First Post).

Long-time readers may recall that I have written numerous times over the years about economic issues, with inflation being a common theme. Go to my Deliberate Agrarian blog and type “inflation” into the search box if you want to see some of the essays. I’m pretty sure I also wrote about inflation at the three other blogs I started and penned (each for a short season), before settling in here for my heavenstretch.

Thus it is that I’ve been anticipating inflation for years, and now it is here. I wish it wasn’t.

My poultry shrinkbag supplier has recently informed me that they are increasing their prices 9% because of inflation. That’s in addition to the three price increases they had last year. They also let me know that some of the other products they sell are experiencing hyperinflation, by which they mean that the price is so unstable that they can not provide a price. I would need to call, confirm, and order based on the price at that time.

Inflation is theft. It is a violation of the eighth commandment. Inflation is akin to the “deceitful scales” mentioned in Hosea 12:7. Proverbs 1:11 says: “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”

As I was thinking about the abomination of inflation today it occurred to me that inflation as we in America are now seeing it is not just financial theft, it is economic assault.

Most people are not even cognizant of the fact that they are being robbed by inflation when it is around 2% a year, which is the inflation sweet spot that government likes. Inflation at 2% is sort of like picking just a little out of the pockets of the unaware masses. But if the theft gets more obvious, we enter the realm of assault, and it happens in degrees…

First there is the annoying pinch of noticeable inflation. Then comes the mean push. Then comes the slap in the face. Then comes the gut punch. Then comes the 2×4 up side the head. Then, if you’re still standing, perhaps the firestorm of hyperinflation will finish off your earthly treasures.

The ability to withstand the inflation assault varies from person to person (or family to family). Personally, I think I’m at the “mean push” stage, but I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people around me who are currently experiencing the 2×4 up side the head. That is a concern to me. I know my kids are at least feeling the pinch.

According to this recent article, “between 50 percent and 78 percent of employees earn just enough to pay their bills each month. Missing a paycheck for them means living with overdue bills.”

My parents experienced overdue bills when I was a kid. I remember my mother taking the calls from bill collectors. Then she just stopped answering the phone. Then the phone company disconnected the phone because the bill was so overdue. That solved the problem of bill collectors calling. True story.

When I got a job in high school I helped pay some of the bills. Fortunately, my parents managed to keep their home and get through their financial crisis (many people are not so fortunate). Those experiences made a significant lifelong impression on me. My children did not have to help me pay any of our household bills. Perhaps it would have been better for their personal development if they did. Perhaps they will need to help Marlene and I with our finances someday in the future. I hope not but that is often how it plays out.

I’ve mentioned my late uncle, Clyde Kennedy, and his book, The Hard Surface Road in past blog posts. Uncle Clyde went through the Great depression as a kid. His childhood experiences were far more traumatic than mine. Perhaps it’s a type of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that affected those who grew up in hardship during the Depression years. Uncle Clyde was a resilient, resourceful, hard working, and thrifty man. He didn’t die a pauper.

Some of the economic prognosticators are talking about a demand destruction phase. That is to say, people are naturally going to stop buying things, and otherwise reduce their spending. Economic activity will thus decline. The velocity of money will drop significantly. I’m sure this must be happening to some degree already. But, if inflation continues, the demand destruction period may be short lived.

There comes a point in the escalation of inflation when people who still have money realize that the best thing they can do with their money is to spend it, because the buying power of their money is declining so quickly. If you buy things you need before the price goes up (again and again) you are beating inflation, at least to some degree. I’m already doing this. I’ve purchased enough copy paper, printer ink, and other essential business incidentals to last me for at least a year. It’s better to turn money into tangible things when fiat paper money becomes worth less.

I listen to a lot of economic commentators who are not mainstream. Gary North was one of them. In the inflation-or-deflation debate Gary always argued for inflation. He got it right.

A little over a year ago I blogged here about Steve Bannon’s daily War Room Broadcast. I listen to the show every day. It’s the only way I’ve found to get important news that the controlled media refuses to report. I subscribe to the Epoch Times weekly newspaper and it is excellent. But Steve Bannon is better. And if inflation gets much worse, I’ll have to cancel my Epoch Times subscription.

Much of the War Room broadcast is about the economy. The discussion lately is focused on the end of the dollar as the world reserve currency. This has been talked about in alternative economic circles for years, but it is now coming into mainstream awareness. This article from a year ago discusses the subject: The U.S. Dollar’s Hegemony is Looking Fragile.

The world is changing. Big things are happening. A whole lotta shakin’ is going on. The history of the world is the history of successive empires built on the wisdom and wickedness of men. The Babylonian empire is history. The Medo-Persian empire is history. The Greek empire is history. The Roman empire is history. The British empire is history. The American empire will be history.

As a Christian, my allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, which is higher and more powerful than any failing empire of men. God’s kingdom can not be shaken. My faith and hope is in King Jesus. I am where I am in history and place because this is exactly where the sovereign creator of the universe wants me to be. I have my bit part to play in the grand panorama of Providence, and God has equipped me to play my part well. Transcendent peace and hope are mine in the midst of turmoil.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, as I know many who read this blog are, everything in that previous paragraph applies to you, and this is God’s word to us: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

Or, as the King James puts it: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

The Day Gary North Kicked Me In The Pants

Gary K. North (1942-2022)

I haven’t needed an alarm clock to get me up in the morning for at least 25 years. I just wake up and get up, and it’s always early enough. Some mornings I sleep until 6:00 or 6:30 and that’s sleeping in for me. I feel better through the day when I sleep in. But, for some unknown reason, that doesn’t happen much any more. I was awake at 4:00 this morning. That’s more typical. I woke up thinking about Gary North.

My usual winter morning routine is to go downstairs and get the wood stove fired up. Our house will get downright cold by morning in the winter months. But by the time Marlene is up, the house is warm. Getting the fire stoked in the morning and making sure there is a supply of firewood nearby is my responsibility. Marlene and I have an unwritten division of labor in our home economy. I have my responsibilities, and she has hers. They fall along traditional lines. It has worked well for us for 42 years. But I digress.

Gary North was a remarkably intelligent and prolific writer. He died on February 24, 2022 (six days ago). He was 80 years old. You can read his obituary HERE. I think it is the longest obituary I have ever read. If you bog down reading it, scroll ahead to the heading, Advice for the Future. There you can read 11 “important principles that enabled [Gary] to stick to his knitting, stay out of trouble, and be as productive as he was.”

A friend gave me some of Gary’s Remnant Review newsletters to read back in the mid 1990s. I became a regular reader of Gary’s online essays, many of which he sent out free to an e-mail subscriber list. In 2005 he established his subscription web site GaryNorth.com which had (and still has) a lot of free articles. I was a paid subscriber for awhile.

Gary wrote on a broad range of subjects. He was an economist and a historian, which is a good combination. He was also an entrepreneur. His articles about financial responsibility and entrepreneurship were of particular interest to me.

In 2000 I read an essay by Gary North that resonated with me. It was, figuratively speaking, a kick in the pants that I really needed at that time. It is no exaggeration to say that Gary North changed my life for the good with that essay.

This morning, shortly after 4:00 am, I sat in my recliner by the crackling fire and searched on YouTube for an interview with Gary North. I found THIS ONE from 7 months ago and listened to it. If you watch the interview you will see what an incredible mind Gary had. His recall was amazing.

The interview discussion gets into economics, America’s huge administrative bureaucracy, and our unpayable debt obligations. Gary mentions that Social Security and Medicare account for over half the budget, and with Baby Boomers now retiring, those programs will consume more of the budget. I perked up when I heard him mention that because he was touching on what that 2000 kick-in-the-pants essay was all about.

Gary explained in the interview that America doesn’t have the economic productivity needed for the government to loot enough from average taxpayers to sustain all the social programs. And taxing the super rich doesn’t work because they shelter their fortunes from taxation by establishing foundations.

The good news in such a scenario is that the administrative state (a.k.a., the bureaucracy) will eventually have to shrink. The money won’t be there to support it; the “swamp” will be drained by harsh economic realities. But the bad news is, of course, that there will be inflation and other economic carnage for average people to deal with. And that’s when the interviewer (Doug Casey) asked the following question of Gary…

“What would you say the average guy should do to defend himself from all this type of thing that’s coming down the pike?”

Gary’s reply to that question is a condensed version of the kick-in-the-pants he gave me back in 2000…

“Entrepreneurship is basic, but we know that most people are not entrepreneurs. So the second thing is that you make up your mind that you will not retire. And you will structure your employment in such a way that the checks keep coming when you’re 75, because you’re not going to be able to retire at 65, or at 63. That is not going to happen, at least not to the middle class people. Now, the average Joe is going to do it (retire) but he’s going to get trapped.”

“The super rich aren’t going to listen to us. They don’t need to listen to us. If you’re talking about middle class and upper middle class people who work for a living and don’t want to go on welfare …. then they have to prepare to be employed beyond the normal retirement age.”

Gary further said that forward thinking people need to “implement entrepreneurship strategies.” Real estate investment is one of those strategies. He explains that he’s not talking about getting rich. “It’s gonna be about who loses the least in this (future) scenario.”

I was 42 years old in 2000 when I read Gary’s kick-in-the-pants essay. I had experienced significant financial loss with a newsletter venture that I started in 1997 and closed down in 1998. At my lowest point I was so depressed that I could barely bring myself to do any work. My income was not enough to pay the bills. I had cashed in my IRA. All savings was gone. God only knows how incredibly anguished I was at that time. I call it my “time of humbling.”

I asked my grandmother for help. She sent me some money. It kept us financially afloat. Shortly thereafter, a door opened. I was providentially offered a job as a teacher’s assistant at the local vocational high school ($12,000 a year salary). Seven months later I got a job at a nearby state prison (starting pay of $36,000). I had been financially wounded by my newsletter business failure, and I was not looking to do any more entrepreneurial ventures. Been there, done that, got the psychological scars to prove it. But then I read that article by Gary North.

Gary’s advice was not a pie-in-the-sky, get rich scheme. It was a practical strategy. He energized my innate, but traumatized and deadened entrepreneurial inclinations.

So it was that I had a decent-paying government job and I had time to experiment with small side hustles. Four years after my newsletter failure, with Gary’s wise advice in mind, and my elder years fast approaching, I self-published Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker. As most of you know, that book was the beginning of many small entrepreneurial ventures that are now part of my Planet Whizbang mail order business. God has blessed me with a very satisfying measure of entrepreneurial success (I left the prison job in 2013), but it started with Gary North giving me that kick-in-the-pants that I needed.

I once related this story of Gary’s influence in my life to a friend of mine who has known me since I was a teenager. He told me I probably would have done the same thing even if I hadn’t read Gary’s essay. He might be right. But I clearly remember the inspirational impact Gary’s counsel had on me. It was something akin to an epiphany.

Many of my high school classmates are retiring. They have resources that I don’t have. I’m glad for them. I don’t envy people who have more than me. My hopeful plan is to keep working at my Planet Whizbang business as long as I can. Gary North worked at his writing business until July of 2021, when he was 79 years old and diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer. In so doing, he exemplified his own advice to his readers.

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My birth father never gave me any advice about life. My stepfather modeled the virtues of responsible manhood, but I don’t remember him giving me any advice about life. Except, perhaps, the time he told me that I should never get a tattoo. He had gotten a tattoo when he was in the Marines and he told me he wished he had never done it. I have heeded that advice. I loathe tattoos. But, again, I digress.

Gary North was 16 years older than me. Not old enough to be my father, but close enough for me to consider many of the essays he wrote to be in the category of wise “fatherly advice.” I’m grateful for that, and I will miss him.

Ukraine Answers

Fighters of the Social Nationalist Assembly (SNA), part of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector party, stand guard during a rally of Maidan activists at Independence Square in Kiev on June 15, 2014

Like most concerned Americans I am watching the ongoing developments in Ukraine since the Russian military invasion of that country five days ago (Feb. 24). None of us among the millions of average people in America are going to make any difference in the outcome of this serious conflict, but those who care about truth in a world of lies can try to understand why this has happened.

The Western media propaganda outlets are telling the masses that this event was “totally unprovoked,” and that Vladimir Putin is a crazed megalomaniac. In truth, Putin might actually be a crazed megalomaniac, but this sorry event was not “totally unprovoked.” That is a lie.

Ukraine has been a corrupt and seriously divided nation for a very long time. Approximately half the nation (in the west) has a longstanding hatred of Russians and the other half (in the east, near Russia) is ethnically Russian, and Russian-speaking. That’s a recipe for conflict and, depending on the depth of hatred, very serious conflict, as happened in 2014.

In 2014 Ukraine’s democratically elected president wanted to steer the country towards good relations with Russia. A “color revolution” against the Russian-friendly Ukraine government was instigated, financed, and directed by the United States government along with other western nations. The uber-rich radical George Soros also supported what became known as the Maidan Revolution, or Euromaidan.

The Maidan Revolution began as peaceful protests in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. In time, the protest turned violent as organized, far-right extremists clashed with police. The organized militants were (and are) neo-Nazis. A lot of people died in the Euromaidan before the elected president fled the country and an anti-Russian leader was installed. Ukraine has been in turmoil ever since. The Russian-speaking regions of the country are not comfortable being governed by people who hate them.

None of what I’ve written justifies Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it is a key part of understanding why the invasion has happened. NATO expansion is also a big part of this. Back around 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American and European politicians gave assurances to Russia that NATO would not expand into any of the former Soviet Republics. Since then 14 of those Republics have joined NATO. Russia sees NATO as a threat. Putin has repeatedly voiced concerns about NATO expansion up to the borders of Russia, and his concerns have been ignored.

Putin has seen NATO attack sovereign nations, destroy their infrastructure, kill their people in large numbers, and install puppet governments. He often mentions the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya as an example of NATO aggression. That is not the only country NATO has invaded, and destabilized in doing so.

I relate none of this to justify Putin’s actions, but to try to understand why he has invaded Ukraine. With the search for understanding (and some truth in the midst of so many media lies) I watched two documentaries about the Maiden Revolution, and they were very insightful.

The first documentary is Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution. It was made by a French investigative journalist in 2016. It is a controversial film that has been condemned by the current Ukraine government, which is one good reason why you should watch it.

The second documentary about Ukraine is by the American filmmaker, Oliver Stone, and it is Ukraine on Fire. It was produced in 2016 and is little known because it had a hard time finding a U.S. distributor. Stone’s film starts with the old history of Ukraine, then to some emphasis on the Western Ukraine forces that voluntarily fought for the Nazis in WW2, then it goes into depth about the 2014 Maiden Revolution.

Those documentaries will give you a much different perspective on what is happening in Ukraine today. I’m sure that some people will dismiss those films as propaganda. But mature, inquiring minds can take a look at the propaganda from both sides and come to their own conclusions.

One thing is for sure. After watching those two films, it is clear that Ukraine is one very messed up nation. I don’t think that America should get involved in that mess. But, unfortunately, it appears that America is already deeply involved behind the scenes.

The only proactive thing we, the common folk of America, can do at this time of crisis is make sure we are prepared as well as possible for a cyber attack on one or all of our 16 critical infrastructures. Cyber warfare against the United States is, in my opinion, a certain eventuality. If not during this Russian-invasion event, then some other time. Modern weapons of warfare (which cyber attacks are) always eventually get used in a conflict.

“It’s Not The Mountain We Conquer…”

Hilary and Norgay on the summit of Mt. Everest, 1953

In the final scene of Season 2, Episode #1 of All Creatures Great and Small, Sigfried, Tristan, James, and Mrs. Hall are eating a meal together at Skeldale House. Mrs. Hall says, “Remember, it’s not the mountain we conquer…,” and everyone else at the table finishes the quote with a hearty, “…but ourselves!”

I had never heard this quote before and went to Google to see if there was a source. There I found numerous references to it being said by Edmund Hilary, the New Zealand explorer who, with his sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, was the first to summit Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world.

This achievement took place in 1953 as part of the ninth British expedition to climb the mountain.

But there is a chronological conundrum here. James Herriot’s All Creatures stories begin in the 1930s, thus pre-dating Hillary’s conquering of the great mountain. Would Yorkshire people in the 1930s be quoting the not-yet-famous Edmund Hilary? Hmmm. Not likely. Did the series writer, Ben Vanstone, make a mistake? Well, perhaps not.

It so happens that there is no clear evidence that Hilary was the first to say what he is quoted as saying. There is, however, evidence that George Mallory did come up with the quote, or something very close to it.

Mallory took part in the first three British expeditions to climb Mt. Everest. In 1924 he and his climbing partner disappeared when trying to reach the top. Their bodies were not found until 1999. Mallory was last seen 800 feet from the summit. Some people think he might have made it to the top, then fell to his death on the descent. We will never know. Mallory was 37 years old when he died.

The people of Yorkshire England would certainly have known the story of George Mallory in the 1930s. Mrs. Hall was quoting Mallory, not Hilary!

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As for the quote, it is thought provoking and well worth remembering. I dare say it’s even worth repeating at opportune times with your family around the dinner table.

All Creatures Great And Small. I’m loving This Series!

It is a busy winter for me. The mail order business is down but there is much to be done before it picks up again. I’ve managed to restock several of the gardening items that I make and sell. Beyond that, I have also managed to make progress on our senior-years house addition that I started four years ago. If I can get the plumbing and electrical rough-in done before spring, that will be a significant milestone, and I’m about there. If that isn’t enough, I’m just getting started on assembling more Classic American Clothespins. They are from my very last production run. It will be a bittersweet moment to assemble the last Classic American pin, but it will probably be next winter before my inventory of wood halves is completely assembled.

Earlier in the year I went looking for some Amazon Prime videos to watch while droning away at my more sedentary work tasks. I have no interest in watching most everything that is free on Prime videos. If you eliminate murder, stupid comedy, horror, sex and cussing, that leaves only a few documentaries, and an occasional old movie (I’m fond of the old Cary Grant films). But every so often there is a gem of a movie or television series, and that’s what I discovered in the All Creatures Great And Small series.

If you have been watching this series, you already know what a delight it is. It is the ultimate in feel-good viewing. Season 1 was free on Prime (but not any more) and that got me hooked. I’ve been watching Season 2 and it is even better than Season 1.

The characters are so endearing and the story line (a slow, evolving love story on multiple levels) is so warm that it is profoundly refreshing to watch. Several episodes, especially in the 2nd season, leave me with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face (there is some good humor in this series).

The actors are incredibly talented. Mrs. Hall (the housekeeper), Sigfried Farnon (the veterinarian), and Tristan Farnon (Sigfried’s younger brother) are standouts.

On last night’s episode, James Herriot, the young veterinarian hired by Sigfried, proposed to his love interest, Helen. WARNING: The following segments from that episode are a spoiler if you have not seen this series…

I should mention that this series is secular. There is no Christian reference or discussion in it. There is alcohol consumption. And I think I heard Sigfried say a cus word in one episode. But the forgiveness, the love, the kindness, and the joy in this series overwhelms any slight negatives.

Every episode builds on the one before so if you are new to this series, I recommend that you begin with Season 1. But I think some shows from season 2 are currently free to watch at This Link.

Are We Making Weaklings of Our Sons? … True Story, 1962

I purchased the magazine pictured above at an estate sale. It was published sixty years ago. It contains an article by the actor, Kirk Douglas, that grabbed my attention: Are We Making Weaklings of Our Sons? Here are some excerpts from the article (my comments are at the end)…

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I picked up a newspaper recently and was shocked to read that fully forty per cent of our American youths weren’t smart enough or honest enough to be accepted for military service!

Granted, the Army wants the best men it can get these tense days and therefore sets its standards rather high. Nonetheless, it came as a severe jolt to discover that two out of five American young men are being turned down for physical, mental or moral reasons.

Perhaps this evidence will convince you, as I am already convinced and worried, that we parents can no longer avoid asking ourselves these harsh questions:

Is something seriously wrong with many of our sons? Are vast numbers of them growing up to be physical and moral weaklings? Are they, in addition, developing into mature men without possessing real emotional maturity—that is, without being really grown up enough to manage themselves, their desires and their feelings?

As the father of four boys, let me tell you that I see what is going on and that I don’t like what I see. I want my boys to grow up to be men, not milksops.

Please don’t misunderstand me. A man is not necessarily a man because he can drop an elk at 300 yards, live off the land for a month with nothing but a fish-hook and axe, or rip a telephone book in half with his bare hands. That’s not what I mean by a man.

In my book, a man is a mature male who can look at life realistically and not through a cloud of rose-colored wishes and dreams, accepts things for what they are, does an honest day’s work and expects decent pay for it, puts his wife and family above all else in life, has an abiding faith in God and loves his country.

A man also respects his own body and keeps it in condition because he knows, first, that other people’s lives depend on his continuing good health; and second, that physical vigor can help him get the fullest possible enjoyment out of the only life he has.

That’s the kind of man I want my own sons to be.

I can tell you my boys won’t ever get muscles in the wrong places by sitting and watching somebody else do the playing! They’re out there doing things themselves, and a lot of the time their dad is right there with them. I’m sure it’s not a brand new discovery, but I’ve found that even though a son is close to a father and respects him, he still gets a special thrill if he can top the old man in some game or sport. No matter what—whether it’s checkers or hand-wrestling, swimming or hunting, running or badminton—the youngster wants to compete and he wants to win.

I’m letting this spirit of competition have full and free reign with my boys. It’s not only a lot of fun for us all, but it spurs the youngsters on and keeps them physically active.

It’s certainly a fact that kids of today are riding the gravy train, and I mean children of poor and middle-income folks as well as rich ones. Almost all parents are showering their youngsters with as many toys and gadgets as they can afford—and often that they cannot afford. Kids also have more privileges and even more money than before.

If over-privilege is bad, over-protection is even worse. Can there be any doubt that, out of the goodness of our hearts and with the finest motives, we are raising the most carefully guarded generation of all time?

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Unquestionably, children do need attention, love, help and guidance. It’s a tough, complex world out there and they must be taught to handle themselves in it. But in our anxiety to shield them from the perils, problems and knocks, many of us go too far. Instead of helping them make decisions for themselves, we decide things for them. We’re afraid they might make a few mistakes, take a few tumbles and get a few physical or emotional bumps.

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The lack of self-reliance of many of our children is literally staggering and saddening. These youngsters grow up with little ability to cope with the relentless competitiveness of a world that’s not going to protect them, cater to them, bow to them or lead them by the hand.

Never given the freedom to meet difficulties and challenges, never allowed to make mistakes and to learn through them, these pathetic people wander through adulthood as half-men, wistfully seeking someone to dominate them and care for them.

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By now my boys have learned the difference between being loved and being babied. one does not follow from the other at our house. Ann and I show them constantly that they are first in our hearts because being loved gives a child real security. But neither of us has any intention of mollycoddling them or fighting their battles.

I say this to my boys, and I hope you don’t find the statements too astonishing” “You fellows don’t have the advantages I had when I grew up. My parents were desperately poor. Born in Russia, they came to the small town of Amsterdam, New York, the center of America’s carpet and rug industry, seeking a precious commodity they could not find in Europe—liberty. For this privilege, they were willing to live and work in desperate poverty.

I was the youngest of a family of seven children, and I can remember the cold and the hunger to this day. While still in grade school, I got up at five every morning and delivered papers for two hours to earn some money that was so badly needed in the house.

I had to compete to succeed. I learned this early in life and it was a lesson richer kids often never learn, to their sorrow.”

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The above article provides some historical perspective into the loss of traditional ideals of manhood in America all the way back in 1962! The article was, no doubt, a response to President Kennedy’s call for a national physical fitness movement in the nation’s schools.

Perhaps not coincidentally, America was also ramping up our involvement in the Vietnam war at that time. There was a huge shortage of men willing or able to be soldiers. The lack of fit men led to Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000, which was a foolish attempt to fill the military with more men by significantly lowering the standards.

Dubbed McNamara’s Morons, the low-bar soldiers were sent to war and it was a colossal failure. Forrest Gump was a funny movie but he is, mind you, a glorified fictional retard in the theatre of war.

These days, America’s future men are mostly all overweight due to diets heavy with high-fructose-corn-syrup soft drinks (HFC was not part of America’s diet in 1962) and so-many sedentary hours of daily video game playing.

Also, in 1962 very few mothers worked outside the home. They cooked healthful meals for their family from scratch. It would be interesting to see a comparison of the average boy in 1962 and the average boy of 2022. It would probably be shocking.

Kirk Douglas (who, by the way, lived to be 103 years old) put an emphasis on sports involvement to help his boys be fit and healthy. What other option is there when you raise your family in high-wealth neighborhoods like Palm Springs and Hollywood?

There are no farms in Hollywood where boys can do useful, meaningful, physical work and, in so doing, be exposed to the mentorship of rural men who, generally speaking, have character traits far more admirable than the typical man about the town in any flashy city. Sports play for children is an artificial, modern-era substitute for meaningful work.

And Douglas laments that his children will not experience poverty in their youth, as he experienced. That is a keen observation and worth noting. A degree of monetary and material lack in childhood is not a bad thing. Not at all.

On the other hand, a mother (preferably at home)and father in a committed and stable marriage is far more beneficial to children than an excess of money and the things excess money can buy. We all know this instinctively, if not statistically, and yet the decline of such families in America since 1962 has been precipitous.

None of this bodes well for our country as a whole, but it is what it is. The good news is that there are plenty of stable families throughout the land who are intelligently and deliberately raising their boys to be responsible and capable men. They are doing this best in rural settings, on small farms and family-economy homesteads. These families are not a majority. They are a faithful remnant. Such families are in the process of changing the world in positive ways we can not yet see, or even imagine.

Wordle and Coffee in The Morning… Simple Pleasures During The Collapse of Western Civilization

It has been a slow realization for many, but by now I think it’s painfully obvious to even the most worldly-optimistic among us that every social and political institution in America is in collapse mode. The economy is too, of course. Inflation, as expected, is spiking. And the techno-industrial, just-in-time supply chain system is failing. Complexity and dependency invites vulnerability and want. That’s where we are.

As a young boy, visiting my Grandmother Kimball in northern Maine, I clearly remember her response one time when I expressed sorrow over my parent’s divorce. She said to me, “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way it is. So stop feeling sorry for yourself.” It was not the response I expected, which probably explains why I remember it so well.

I realize now that my grandmother was a stoic. If you don’t know, a stoic is someone who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion. My grandmother was born into a farming family in 1908. She was the oldest of 11 children. I think stoicism was a part of the agrarian culture she was raised in.

I suspect that when my grandmother was a little girl, feeling sorry for herself for some reason, an adult in her family told her much the same thing as she said to me.

Stoicism as a philosophy is not founded or related to any Christian doctrine. But within Christianity there is a legitimate stoic-like response to the inevitable hardships and disappointments of life. It is anchored to the bedrock doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

The reality of God’s sovereignty is powerfully comforting to me in times of distress and disappointment. In the first chapter of his book, The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink defines God’s sovereignty so remarkably well that reading it was a worldview-changing revelation to me.

When I was in my prison job some years back, one of the inmates who worked in my shop literally recoiled when he came over to my desk and realized I was reading The Sovereignty of God.

The inmate was serving a life sentence for murder but he had come to Christ after being incarcerated. He evidenced a true faith, which wasn’t the case with many other inmates who claimed to be Christian. He had a great admiration for Peter Ruckman and his teachings. Ruckman was a fundamental Baptist preacher.

As a rule, Fundamental Baptists have a dim view of A.W. Pink because they think he took the sovereignty of God too far. Pink was a Calvinist. He believed in predestination. But, having now read two biographies of Pink, I can say with some confidence that he has not been fairly treated by fundamentalists… or Calvinists! Neither camp was satisfied with his teachings in his day. He actually had to leave the pastorship of a church in Australia because he wasn’t Calvinist enough!

Be that as it may, no matter where you fall in the doctrinal spectrum, I’m quite certain that Pink’s Introduction to his controversial book will impress you and bless you in these mad days of collapse and uncertainty.

Pink’s Introduction was written in 1918, and it was written with the very serious world and social problems of that era in mind. You will find remarkable similarities between Pink’s time of writing and our current situations. His writing in the Introduction brings some much needed historical and transcendent perspective. Perhaps even better than reading, you can listen to the Introduction being read by an excellent elocutionist…

Now, moving on from civilizational collapse and the reassurance of God’s sovereignty, there is Wordle. It’s a relatively new internet word game. If you like word games, you’ll love Wordle. No doubt about it.

There is only one Wordle challenge a day. That is, to my way of thinking, a very endearing feature. You can’t get carried away and waste a lot of time playing Wordle after Wordle. It’s just one a day, and the word challenge can usually be solved in a few minutes of focused attention. It’s perfectly suited for a quiet, morning cup-of-coffee brain exercise.

Wordle is free to play. Just go to this web site and have at it: https://www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/. If you need a tutorial, this Jimmy Fallon YouTube clip should do it.

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But let it be said very emphatically that the heart can only rest upon and enjoy the blessed truth of the absolute Sovereignty of God as faith is in exercise. Faith is ever occupied with God. That is the character of it; that is what differentiates it from intellectual theology. Faith endures “as seeing Him who is invisible”: endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heartaches of life by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings-whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyr’s stake-we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Psa. 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight or of sense.

A.W. Pink (from the Introduction to The Sovereignty of God)

Short & Pink Observations As We March Into ’22

I wrote a much-too-wordy blog essay to welcome in the new year. Then I scrapped it. Here, instead, are seven brief observations. And Pink.

—Good things are happening in the midst of bad things.

—But lots more bad things are coming, many of which will never happen (a paraphrase of Doug Wilson).

—Evil promotes its enslaving agendas with lies, and perpetuates itself with more lies.

—It’s easier to go along with lies than not.

—Truth can be found in the midst of lies, but it requires some effort.

—God equips and expects his people (seekers and lovers of truth) to bravely live in a world of lies, and to confront lies with truth.

—Holding to what is true in a world of lies can make for some uncomfortable life experiences.

Now Pink…

I’m reading a biography of the Bible expositor, A.W. Pink. He experienced hardship, disappointment, sickness, and poverty in his span of years. But Pink had the Christian hope that has sustained God’s people through the centuries, and he expressed it so eloquently in this following quote…

Here’s wishing you a brave, true and hopeful 2022

Elon Musk Gets 60% Saved!

Three editors from The Babylon Bee, a Christian organization that produces satire, recently conducted a mostly-serious interview with Elon Musk. I watched the entire 1.5 hour discussion

Elon Musk is an interesting character. He is brilliantly intelligent. He is an innovative entrepreneur. He is one of the richest men in the world.

I was surprised to learn from the interview that Elon had a rough early life in his native South Africa. This came out when the interviewer asked him if he was ever punched in the face, or ever punched someone else in the face. He replied in the affirmative. Further research on my part revealed that he was bullied in school and was once beat up so badly that he was in the hospital for a week.

Personally, I have been punched in the face, and I have punched someone else in the face. I also had a knife swiped at me once. Those were memorable serious events, but long in the past. Back to Elon…

Another surprising aspect of Elon Musk’s life was his move from Africa to a farm in Saskatchewan Canada when he was 17 years old. He worked on the farm for six weeks. He also worked in a lumber mill in Vancouver for a short time. This was before he made his way to America, the land of fortune and fame.

When asked in the interview about rocket technology, Elon spoke with informed passion, which is to be expected. He owns SpaceX, a renowned aerospace company. He was equally eloquent when it came to discussing his Tesla automobile company. But what I found most interesting in the interview was near the end when religion and Christianity were the topic of conversation.

In a totally cringeworthy final question, one interviewer asks Elon… “We’re wondering if you could do us a quick solid and accept Jesus as your lord and savior?”

Musk’s body language changed to arms crossed in front, and he was momentarily at a loss for words. Everyone laughed at the ridiculousness of asking this man to “do us a quick solid and accept Jesus as your lord and savior.”

Musk replied: “There is great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus and I agree with those teachings. … Things like turn the other cheek are very important. … Forgiveness is important. … Treating people as you would wish to be treated. … Love thy neighbor as thy self is very important.”

The questioner replies: “So it’s like a 60% or 70% yes?”

Elon continues: “As Einstein would say, ‘I believe in the god of Spinoza.”

Then comes Elon’s response to the invitation: “But hey, if, um, you know, if, if Jesus is, uh, saving people, I mean, I wouldn’t stand in his way, you know, like, sure, I’ll be saved. Why not?”

That response brought celebration to the Babylon Bee interviewers: “Sweet. I think he just said yes. Praise the Lord.” And that was pretty much the end of the interview.

As much as I enjoy the Babylon Bee’s typical satire productions, that interview segment was profoundly disappointing to me. The interviewers made light (even a mockery) of being “saved,” which is all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not a laughing matter. Life is serious and there is not a more serious or important issue in life than our response to Jesus Christ or, more specifically, what we do with the gospel of Christ. Our eternity is in the balance.

Unfortunately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a vague concept in many people’s minds. Even many church-going Christians have trouble putting the gospel into words. Here it is in three short sentences…

Jesus Christ died for sinners. You are a sinner. Believe in Christ and you will be saved.

Those three short statements can be expanded (and certainly have been) into volumes of commentary based on the Biblical record. The Bible is, after all, beginning to end, the story of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Christ. If we leave the gospel out of the Bible, we miss the whole point of what God wants us to know, and to our detriment.

It is worth noting that the gospel of Christ is not something that God pleads with people to accept. The gospel, properly understood, is a non-negotiable declaration of what God has done for every human being; but every human must make a personal decision. Take it or leave it. And it’s a 100% decision, not 60% or 70%. 

The non-negotiable part is what so many people don’t get. There is a powerful human tendency to change the terms of salvation. But it doesn’t work that way. No created being has the moral authority to change the terms. Only foolish people have the audacity to think they can approach God on their own terms.

The key to the true gospel of Christ, and to true salvation, is in seeing ourselves as God sees us, not as we see ourselves. We like to grade ourselves on a curve. God doesn’t do that. It’s pass or fail, so to speak.

Isaiah in the Old Testament sums up our human situation when he says “…our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (link) Righteousnesses = good works. In other words, God’s not impressed with our good works when it comes to a salvation “grade.” Not even a little bit. We fail.

Paul in Hebrews (link) reiterates our true human condition before God: “There is none righteous. No not one,” and, “There is none that doeth good. No not one.” And later on in the same chapter: (link) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

That’s our bottom line reality. It’s the harshest reality any of us has to face. It’s harsh because our lack of goodness before the holy God of creation condemns us to an eternity apart from Him. More specifically, we are destined for hell, and deservedly so. Hell is every person’s default destination. But… there is the good news of the gospel of Christ.

The eternal wrath of God against sinners was poured out on Jesus Christ when he voluntarily died on the cross. Jesus didn’t deserve the wrath of God, but that was the plan.

God himself, in the form of his son, would lower himself to our estate and allow himself to be brutally killed. In so doing, Jesus took upon himself the eternal penalty for the sins of those who would, thereafter, put their faith in him as their Lord and Savior. This is the incredible (but true) love of God manifested through Christ.

When Jesus said to his apostle, Thomas (link), “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” he was declaring the gospel. This reality is underscored by Paul in the book of Acts (link) when he says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Based on the Babylon Bee interview, I can say with certainty that Elon Musk is not saved (not yet). Acknowledging that Jesus Christ existed does not save anyone. Acknowledging and honoring the wisdom and goodness of Jesus’s teachings does not save anyone. Early church experiences (Musk attended Anglican Sunday school as a youth) don’t save anyone. Even nobly striving to save humanity from an extinction event (a good work for certain, and Musk’s life goal) does not save anyone.

Biblically speaking, it is the acknowledgement of one’s sins, the turning away from sin (repentance), and trusting faith in Jesus Christ that saves a person. If you have a saving relationship with God the Father, through Jesus, you know it. You know if you are a true follower, or not.

If you are reading this and you don’t know if you are saved or not, check out this short YouTube clip with Sinclair Ferguson. Do this while there is yet time. It’s not a laughing matter.