Words to Think About

G. W. Abersold Ph.D resized

The Return of the Prodigal

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

A few years ago while traveling in the country of Austria, I met a retired British Colonel and his wife, on the same Tour Bus.

I noticed that the Colonel was carrying a large book and I inquired about it. The title was, “The World’s Best Short Stories.” On opening the book, the very first story was, “The Prodigal Son” as told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, chapter fifteen.

To know about Jesus, scholars tell us to read His stories or parables. A parable is like an allegory or mythological account. It isn’t historical. An illustration.

It can also be called a “double entendre”- double meaning. Let me illustrate. A bank robber confronted a teller and demanded money, or he would shoot her. She refused and he killed her. He then turned to the man behind him and asked if he had seen him shoot the teller. When he said “yes”, he was shot also. He then asked the lady behind him if she had seen him shoot the man, and she said, NO, but my husband did.” That’s a double entendre.

The parable is first of all about a young man. He lives on a farm and is disenchanted with his life. He asks his father for his inheritance and wants to leave home. His wish is granted and he leaves for the big city. A far country.

Webster defines the word prodigal as, “one who expends his resources with wasteful extravagance.” That’s what he does.

The Bible says he went into a far country and spent his substance in riotous living. He lived it up. We can well imagine his life. Gambling, drinking, boozing it up, women of ill repute, wild companions, etc.

The end result is predictable. In today’s vernacular, he became a vagrant and homeless. He was down and out. No job, no friends, no family, no money and hungry.

Worst of all, he can only get a job tending pigs. The worst imaginable job for a Jew. His only food is what he feeds to the pigs.

It is important to realize that this young man made his own bed. It was his choice to leave home. His choice to “waste his substance on riotous living.” No one made him do all the destructive behaviors.

The outcome was predictable. A wise man said, “Our choices determine our destinies.”

No money, no friends, no job leads to living and eating in a pig pen.

Then, the story has an interesting thought. He came to himself. His memories kicked in. His father, his home, his comforts and his previous life.

He again made a choice. He will go home and repent his previous decision.

“I am no longer worthy of being you son.” Sorry and regret. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us.” This is a primary message that Jesus spoke about.

With all of this drama, there is one more truth in my opinion that surpasses it all. When the son was a long distance away, his father saw him and ran to greet him-and kissed him.

The implication is simple. He was looking for him. He was welcomed home. Forgiven. It also implies the nature of God the Father.

Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was an English poet. He wrote the famous poem, The Hound of Heaven. It is really a narrative poem; it depicts God like a hound dog that looks for and pursues His prey-you and me.

Another parable that Jesus told depicts God as a Shepherd that looks for His sheep that is lost.

Stella and I have a 4’x 3’ print of Rembrandt’s the “Return of the Prodigal.” The original is in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Prodigal is kneeling before his father, his hands are on his shoulder; welcoming and forgiving him.

In the late 70’s the song, “Going Home” or “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” was very popular. I’ve been telling different versions of it since the 1950’s

The version I had heard was told by H.C. Morrison, a Bishop of the Methodist Church.

He was on a train from Chicago to his home in Lexington, Kentucky. A young man sat down across from him. He seemed to be agitated and the Bishop asked him why. His story was heart rendering. Six years previously he had a conflict with his parents and left home. In Chicago he got into trouble and was sent to prison for 5 years.

On getting out, wired his parents and asked for forgiveness. If they did, he asked them to tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree on the southwest corner of their property when the train came by.

The train was only a few miles from his parents’ home. Bishop Morrison prayed with him and they waited.

As they came to the tree, it was covered with yellow ribbons.

The final message of this parable is Celebration. A fatted calf, a robe, a ring; and they began to party.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

 

History and Reality of the Holocaust

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

The history and reality of the Holocaust in World War II has been well chronicled. From the concentration camps comes the story that survivors must not let the tragedy be forgotten. The events must be remembered.

The remnants of the Warsaw ghetto in particular carried out this message. It is actualized in Israel today. In fact, ever since the establishment of the Israeli nation in 1948, graduating officers from the military service are taken to the Masada in the Sinai desert. Overlooking the Dead Sea a service of commitment is conducted. The message is affirmed by each officer. Never again. Never again will Jews allow themselves to be docile in the midst of persecution. They will not be led like sheep to the slaughter.

One of the most memorable experiences of my travels occurred in Dachau, Germany. It is located a few miles from Munich, about a 15 minute train ride. A short bus ride from the train station stops two blocks from the camp.

The town surrounds the camp like one of our schools. There are small houses, stores and churches. Lawns are well kept and children play in the yards. There is limited noise and just an occasional horn. Normal? I’m not sure because I was there on a Sunday morning.

The buildings in the camp are low and in fairly good condition. Barbed wire is on top of all of the walls and the buildings. The original barracks have all been destroyed, with only a couple replicas standing. There are pictures on the walls along with various items of torture showing what the barracks looked like during the war.

I shall never forget walking down the road toward the incinerators, about 400 yards. The memories of what I had seen in the camp museum were unforgettable. Of the thousands who were in the gas chambers and then their bodies burned; 500,000 were ministers, along with doctors, teachers, professors, and scientists, priests, and rabbis. Dachau was the focus of the educated leaders.

It was raining and I was the only tourist. As I walked, suddenly the distant sound of church bells began to peal forth. Tears coursed down my face as it dawned on me the prisoners could have heard those same bells. Church members would have gone to worship with smoke pouring from the ovens.

Were they aware of what was going on? Could they hear the cries of tortured victim? Did they register any kind of protest? Those are some of the questions that plagued my mind.

I walked slowly through the gas chambers-my mind running rampant. I then went through the building with the furnaces. Adjacent to these horrible places a memorial chapel has been built. Also, a chapel for worship has been built beside the property. I attended the worship service.

Returning slowly to the main gate, again my thoughts turned to the victims and their families. I can well appreciate the impact of this Holocaust on the German psyche since what I saw has left an indelible imprint on my mind.

The gas chambers were next to the crematoriums. The prisoners were stripped of their clothes, which were then cleaned and sold to the citizens. After the prisoners were gassed, the gold and silver fillings were taken from their mouths and sold. Following the cremation, the ashes were collected, bagged and sold as fertilizer to the local farmers. Hitler and the Nazis bragged about their efficiency.

Through the years since the end of World War II, there have been several groups that have challenged the veracity of the Holocaust.

To my way of thinking, history has verified its reality. Between 6 to 8 million people were slaughtered by the Nazis.

I have visited Israel eight times and on two occasions have visited the Survivors of Warsaw Kibbutz. It is located in the north part of Israel, not too far from Lebanon. The people without exception, gave testimony to the reality of the tragedy.

It has been said the past century was the most violent one recorded in history. Genocide in Turkey, Africa and Germany must never happen again. The best way to avoid such happenings again is to never forget the past.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Many Gifts in Life

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Last Christmas I was given a Daily Devotional book as a gift. It contained a daily comment taken from several of Pope Francis’ homilies.

The May 27, 2015 devotional was titled, Living A Gift. In it he said, “To live life is a gift, a gift to be given-not a treasure to be stored away.”

He compared this way of living to the words of Jesus, “Greater love has no man than this, that man lay down his life for his friends.” (Gospel of John 15:13)

I’ve thought of these words for some time, particularly in the ways of what we have to share or to give to others. Again particularly to those whom we love.

What is there about us that we can give? I suggest six ideas.

1. THE GIFT OF LOVE. A great poet, Rod McKuen, has aptly said, “There is no harm in not being loved, only in not loving.” To let our loved ones, particularly our children, know that they are really loved, is a gift like no other.

Stella and I never finish a phone conversation with any of our kids, without saying, “I love you.” I read a line the other day. “I want to be the kind of man that my dog thinks I am.” I’ve changed it to, “I want to love my kids as much as they think I do.”

2. THE GIFT OF ENCOURAGEMENT. I’ve met many adults in my work as a therapist that grew up under a cloud of negative abuse-of discouragement. They could never measure up to the expectations of their parents or of other significant others.

Encouragement is a major factor in molding a confident and compassionate ego.

3. THE GIFT OF TIME. I read a comment by one of my many Literary Mentors. He said to the affect that he never met a man that was facing the end of his life that said, “I wish I had spent more time on the job.”

He went on to say, “I’ve met hundreds that said they wish they had spent more time with their families.”

Time is a priceless gift. More valuable than silver, gold, bank accounts or stocks. Spend your time wisely by making it a gift given.

4. THE GIFT OF EXAMPLE. The influence of example is contagious-from generation to another. The older I get-now 87- my memory turns to the example of my father. I think of him often. I grew up in the Great Depression; without a mother; he raised me, so his example was a strong influence.

Thriftiness. He began with a Christmas saving account. Reading. He provided books from religious to novels. Religion. He took me to church every Sunday. Hard work. He started me with a paper route and then with him at a foundry. Music. At age nine he bought me a cornet and made me practice. Friends. He cultivated many and encouraged me to have them.

Amazingly. My daughters have most of the traits of me and my Dad.

5. THE GIFT OF ENERGY. And curiosity is indigenous to me. Casualness, blandness, indifference are not me. The Gift of energy is mine to give. Intensity, diligence, succeeding, loyalty and even being early are my personal characteristics.

I consider these traits to be gifts.

My motto for living is words written by James Baldwin. “The challenge of living is to be present in everything we do. From baking bread to making love.” This is the ultimate expression of energy. It is a gift of life.

6. THE GIFT OF PERSEVERANCE. This is a genuine gift. Quitters would be its opposite. It is life’s greatest gift. It’s made up of determination, willfulness, refusal to quit and survival.

There are two elements to its makeup: the power of CHOICE and the awareness of OPTIONS. Dr. R. Calling Ph.D. and a noted biologist, describes the evolution of mankind. He contends that we became what we are because of the potentials of choice and options to persevere.

In fact, he makes the power of perseverance as the condition for man’s development. Darwin’s theory was not the “survival of the fittest,” but the “survival of the fit.” To survive the environment, life’s inequities, failures of all kinds, adversities. The will to choose and consider options was the difference.

Consider these contrasting examples of what I’m talking about. I’ve been a follower of boxing since being a teenager. I remember when Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston-the favored. He (Liston) just quit. He threw in the towel. And then there was Roberto Duran. The fighter that bragged he had fists of stone. While fighting Sugar Ray Leonard, he quit, saying, “No mas.” “I quit.”

When Helen Keller was born, she was unable to see, hear or speak. She became a college graduate; international speaker and all because she refused to quit—she persevered. President Roosevelt had polio; President Jefferson was a serious depressive; millions of people have frailties, illnesses, losses, handicaps, etc. and have refused to quit. They persevered.

A real GIFT.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Fast Food…Then and Now

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I am addicted to fast food. I like the prices of fast food restaurants and I like the diversity of their food specialties. All of them have a few dishes in common, but they all have their own specialties.

For example Wendy’s offer baked potatoes and chili. McDonald’s has oatmeal and sweet rolls. El Pollo Loco has various kinds of quesadillas and lots of salsa. Subway has a Veggie Delight sandwich and hot soup. Burger King has a “pulled pork” special. On and on.

When I was a kid (7) 80 years ago, the only fast food I can remember was named White Castle. A hamburger cost only a nickel. Wow!! There was an occasional Coney Island shop. Hot dogs. That was all.

Right now there are at least 25 fast food places within 2 miles of our home. Since I’m diabetic and insulin dependent, I don’t frequent the donut fast food places. All others I’m a frequent flyer.

Within the two mile radius, I’ve counted 5 Subway’s, 3 McDonalds, 3 Jack in-the Boxes, 2 KFC’s, 2 Taco Bell, 2 Del Tacos, 2 Bakers, 2 Carl’s, 1 Wendy’s, 1 El Pollo Loco, 1 Cuca’s, 1 Burger King, and several local independents.

Several fast food restaurants provide play areas for children.

The McDonald restaurant began on May 15, 1940. Seventy-five years ago by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald at 1398 North E Street in San Bernardino, California. They popularized “fast food” on service, hamburgers and drive-in service. This philosophy has pretty much been typical of all fast-foods. Today the building is a museum of McDonald memorabilia. It is owned by Albert Okura, founder of Juan Pollo.

The McDonald brand is in 128 countries around the world. Thirty thousand locations serve 52 million customers each day.

Ray Kroc is credited with really building McDonald’s after he bought out the brothers. From April 15, 1955 when he franchised the restaurants. Today 70 percent of them are franchised and the reminder owned by the corporation.

The corporate stores establish product lines new menu offerings. Last year McDonald’s Corp. had sales in excess of $27 billion.

Masab, local manager and a native Israeli, is proud of the store on Baseline; the employees are a mixture of white, black and Hispanics, and the cleanliness of the store including restrooms. A college Business major he is committed to maintain the high quality.

Subway fast food was started by Fred Deluca and Dr. Peter Buck, on August 28, 1965. They decided on the franchise approach and Brian Dixon was the first one sold. Currently they have 43,417 locations in 110 countries. They specialize in subs of all varieties; fresh vegetables and 2 hot soups and salads.

In 2010 Subway became one of the largest fast food chain worldwide with 22, 749 restaurants.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) specializes in fried chicken. It was founded by Harland Sanders. In 1930 he took over a Shell Station and started selling fried chicken on the side. In 1936 he bought a restaurant and was soon honored by Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon with the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel.

In 1964 Sanders sold his company for $2 million. KFC was first franchised in 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Today they have 18,875 locations and in 2013 had an income of $23 billion.

The history of Wendy’s began with the dream of Dave Thomas. After a stint in the military and working for several restaurants, including KFC, in 1969 Dave opened the first Wendy’s, named after his daughter.

His emphasis was “fresh meat”, a salad bar, chili, frosties and chicken sandwiches. The business catapulted in popularity in the 80’s with Clara Peller statement. “Where’s the Beef?”

In a recent conversation that I had with Tony, an Iranian and District Manager of several Wendy’s, there are 833 company stores in the USA and 85 more in Canada. There are 4843 franchised stores in the USA, 275 in Canada and 385 internationally.

Dave Thomas died on January 2, 2002 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the age of 69.

Carl’s Jr. fast food or CKE was started by Carl Karcher in 1941. He and his wife Margaret began with a hot dog stand in Anaheim, California. Listed among the top 10 fast food restaurants they are world-wide but focus on California and Texas.

Karcher died at age 90 on January 11, 2008. The company had been accused of insider trading by SEC and fined $500,000. In 1990 he was ousted as CEO by the Board of Directors.

The business has failed in many states but has succeeded recently in Texas. There are two stores in the Highland vicinity.

Fast food restaurants have gone through a drastic evolution in recent years. From limited menus that stressed high fat hamburgers and french fries, they are all currently including healthy menus. Salads, grilled sandwiches and not only deep fried ones, specialty foods like oatmeal, chili and baked potatoes.

Appearance wise they have also improved with clear windows, white paint and bright lights. In many respects, McDonald’s has led the way.

A few years ago we were on a cruise that stopped at Aruba. To my amusement, scores of cruisers raced to a large McDonalds to get a Big Mac. After all the food available on the ship.

I’m not the only fast food devotee.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Ensenada, Mexico

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

A few words about Ensenada, Mexico. It is the third largest city in the Baja California Peninsula. Lying 78 miles south of San Diego, it is affectionately referred to as “The Cinderella of the Pacific.”

When the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first reached the area, only the Yuman Indians were the inhabitants. As of the census of 2010, the city of Ensenada had a population of 466,814. With normal growth it would be well over 500,000 today. The city was founded September 17, 1592, under the name San Matea. In 1602 it was renamed Ensenada de Godos Santos by Sebastian Vizceaino.

Then came the Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were expelled in 1768, and were succeeded by the Dominicans. Jose Manuel Ruiz Carilto was appointed Governor until 1800. William Walker declared himself president of Baja in 1853. By then Ensenada had a population of 5,000. In the early 1900’s the name was shortened to just Ensenada.

The Port of Ensenada is an important commercial fishing and tourist port. Deep sea commercial fishing is a major industry. They even compete with other countries like Japan for the shrimp market.

Several cruise ships include Ensenada on their itinerary. It is a “must” stop for the 3 and 4 day cruises.

The wine industry is a growing business, especially in recent years. In spite of the fact that Padre Juan de Ugarte planted the first vineyard there in 1703.

The city is also the home to a navy base, army base and the Ensenada Airport.

The weather makes a drawing card for many Mexicans and other nationalities, in particular Americans. For instance many school teachers from San Bernardino have Summer homes in nearby suburbs. The rainy season is short and the Mediterranean latitude creates mild temperatures year round.

For visitors, especially from the cruise ships, there are several popular excursions. Probably the most popular is a visit to La Bufadora otherwise known as “the blow hole.”

When I first visited there forty years ago it was at the end of a dirt road. It is a natural geyser that is forced through a rock channel, propelled by a strong tide. The force spews sea water several feet into the air. A flea market atmosphere prevailed back then with sellers marketing their products along the dirt tracks.

Things are different today. The road is paved, stores are modern, food is abundant, and you pay to see La Bufadora.

City tours, winery visits, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, lobster feasts and shopping abounds. Everything is for sale. I cannot omit the world famous bar “Papas and Beer.” It was made famous back in the hippy days when Ensenada was the wildest, fun-loving village south of Tijuana. Booze, women and a weak police force was the attraction. Some of that is still in abundance.

All of the preceding information is but the prelude to Stella and my week-end cruise aboard the Carnival Inspiration. Otherwise known as the BOOZE CRUISE. It was built in 1996 in Helsinki, Finland at a cost of $270 million. It is registered today in Panama and Nassau, Bahamas.

It is 855 feet long and 103 feet wide; with 14 decks and speed of 24 mph. There is passenger capacity of 3,450 and a crew of 920. The officers seem to have Italian names and the crew were predominantly from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Macedonia and Jamaica.

A few passengers were from Australia, Canada, and Mexico, but the vast majority were from the USA. Of the 131 cruises I’ve been on, the vast number of passengers were seniors. On this one-number 131- they were 20-30 year olds. The seniors always carried a book; this one they always had a beer in their hand.

They moved in gangs of 5-12 in number. The hundreds of young people wore skimpy clothes-especially the girls. The men wore cut-offs with open shirts, showing their muscles and tattoos. Screaming, yelling, and arguing until 3:00 AM in the morning was the norm. Many were drunk and sex was obvious. It was the “BOOZE CRUISE.”

The décor of the ship was pure Las Vegas. Small eating tables that held only drinks, dark and low lights in the restaurants-the main one was named Mardi Gras—very appropriate. The nightly news sheet was named Fun Time.

Why did we go on it? I’m confined to a walker. I wanted to see if I could make it in a small, non-handicap room. I cannot. The rooms are too small and the facilities too limited.

My overall impression was that the ship was not senior friendly; programs, foods and activity wise. Except for the staff. They were all friendly and helpful. For example: they got us better lighting, a stool for the shower, turned off the A/C and provided a wheelchair to get me on and off the ship.

I concede that the Booze Cruise is for the young. Go again? Probably not.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

MACHU PICCHU

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

A trip to Machu Picchu, Peru begins with a flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Then to Lima, Peru for a couple of days of acclimation. Then a flight to Cuzco (not Cusco.) The city of Cuzco is about 11,000 feet plus above sea level.

After a short shuttle bus ride to the hotel, everyone is advised to drink plenty of water, drink several glasses of cocoa tea and take a nap. Without them, dizziness and headaches are in order.

Today, Cuzco is a thriving city of some 350,000 residents. A far cry from its beginning in the mid 1400’s. It was built as the pinnacle of the Inca civilization. The large stone blocks that still mark the symmetry of its architecture is a marvel. The blocks are so matched that a razor blade can’t fit between them.

The city is styled with museums, restaurants, hotels and scores of entrepreneurs hocking their wares. They all reflect their tie to their Incan heritage.

The Spaniards in the 1500’s raped the city of its wealth in gold and silver. But they could not destroy its culture. The music, its clothes, its dances and particularly its food. Research reveals that potatoes and tomatoes were original with the Incas. When introduced to Europe tomatoes were thought to be poisonous.

The most basic food in Peru, and especially in Cuzco, are potatoes-all kinds. They are eaten at every meal and for snacks. Fried, boiled, baked, mashed, steamed. With or without other vegetables. Alpaca is an added delicacy.

Internationalists have designated Cuzco as the oldest existing city of the Americas. It has been inhabited by the Incas for 3,000 plus years. However, other Indian peoples have left various pre-ceramic samples that support their antiquity.

The power and influence of the Inca stretched from about 1000 A.D. until the Spanish invasion on November 15, 1533 A.D. Francisco Pizarro (with only 200 men) conquered all of ancient Peru.

They were also responsible for bringing blacks from Africa who were added to the indigenous and Spanish population.

In 1821 Peru was declared an independent country by Don Jose de San Martin and in 1824 Simon Bolivar ended colonization. The current political scene in Peru is not peaceful. However, tourists are generally considered safe.

Cuzco should never be considered the end of your travels. Machu Picchu is the ultimate destination. It is 3000 feet lower than Cuzco (it seems higher) and 50 miles from it by train.

There are two ways to get there. First, is a hike over the Classic Inca Trail. In the Incan heyday the trail was 25,000 miles long, covering the entire Empire.

To hike from Cuzco to Machu Picchu you first of all need an Inca Trail permit. The Peruvian government allows only 500 people per day. It lasts for 4 days and 3 nights. Single hikers are often robbed but there is safety in numbers.

I went by train. It is a three and a half hour trip that begins with a zigzag start on a small gauge track and follows the Urubamba River. The scenery is spectacular.

Upon arriving at the end, a bus trip is necessary to reach the ruins of the historic religious center of the Incas. Machu Picchu means the “old peak” or “mountain.” Most archaeologists believe it was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472). It is the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

An important historical fact about Machu Picchu is that the Spanish never knew about it. By the time of their invasion the icon was covered with trees, plants and jungle. They never ventured that far from Cuzco.

The modern discovery of Machu Picchu was by Hiram Bingham. On July 24, 1911 he announced the discovery to scholars. At that time he was a lecturer at Yale University. He was led to it by an eleven year old Quechua boy. He took many artifacts from the area including gold and silver back to Yale. In recent yeas Yale has agreed to return most of the valuables to the Peruvian government.

There is only one reputable hotel at the summit. I stayed in it for two nights. I was always the first tourist to visit the ruins and the last one to leave. The mist would rise from the river and surround the mountains. Shirley Maclaine was so influenced by the atmosphere that her mysticism was developed there.

Pedro Nave, world renowned Inca historian, has said, “Machu Picchu is a high point in the culture of man, and a point in the lives of those who are adventurous and fortunate enough to visit it.” I agree 100%.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Longevity

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Dr. Bernie Siegal, M.D., world renowned surgeon, often began his lectures by asking his audience how long they expected to live. On the count of “Three” they were to yell out their response. He then would respond by saying, “You’ll come close to your expectation.”

The Bible has a couple of interesting views on human longevity. In the Book Psalms, 90 and verse 10, the writer, King David, states that our years will be threescore and ten-70. I often say that he said that number after a bad night with Bathsheba.

In the Book of Genesis, chapter 6 and verse 3, it says our allotted years are 120. Interestingly a number of national magazines reported recently that several scientists have predicted that before the century is over, thousands of people will be living 120 years.

Today, there are several universities in the USA that have departments that are specializing in the study of “Gerontology.” “The study of humor and especially of laughter.”

I have in my files the report given by several cardiologists when they met at the University of Maryland. They have studied the effects of laughter upon the arteries leading to the heart. It was significant. A “diet” of laughter leads to a significant enlargement of the arteries, decreasing the potential of heart attacks by up to 30 per cent.

Descartes with his Cartesian philosophy dominated Western medicine for several centuries. “There is no connection between the body and the mind.” Norman Cousins, Ph.D. and Hans Selye, M.D. destroyed that theory. The mind DOES affect the body. Also the brain is not an organ but a gland.

Norman Cousins was diagnosed terminal with a collagen disease—the breakdown of the connective tissue of the body. Through humor and specifically laughter, he got better. Through his studies, he made the word “endorphins” an acceptable word. It is a secretion from the brain, caused by laughter.

Most interesting is that endorphins are triggered by laughter, which acts as morphine; which is a pain killer. It has the same molecular structure as morphine.

Our immune system is made up of white blood cells. That quality is essential for optimal health. It acts as the “Special Forces” of the body that attacks any infection or disease in the body. It is the natural defense. Yet, there are three times when the immune system is weak. When we were babies, when we are older and when we are under stress.

It is never stationary. It is always fluid. White blood cells are essential for healthy living.

Two examples. One evening in class Cousins told us of an experiment he did. He listened for thirty minutes to sad and negative events, war news and crime stories. He then took blood samples, revealing the level of white blood cells. He then hypnotized himself and dreamed of the same things. Upon awaking his white blood count had gone down by 20 percent. He then reversed the process, only he listened to funny, happy jokes and watched pleasant travel scenes. After hypnosis and pleasant thoughts with plenty of laughter, his white blood count went up 35 percent.

Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan performed similar experiments on students at Loma Linda University. The results were different. Their white blood count went DOWN 35 % and UP 40%. Laughter was in both experiments.

Humor and laughter are essential in slowing the ravages of Dementia and Alzheimers. It is a phase of Cognitive Therapy. When there are “double entrande” bits of humor, the exercise of comprehension and “getting the point” of the jokes becomes a stimulant that slows down the above mental diseases.

The final benefit of laughter is in regard to stress. Whether it be distress (bad) stressors of eustress (good) stressors. Examples would be divorce and marriage.

In my doctoral studies, I found that 55% of stress is job related and 45% is family related. The most stressful vocation job seems to be air-traffic controllers. Most of the next nine are in the helping professions. Firemen, police, doctors, ministers, lawyers, school teachers, nurses, etc.

Other observations are: 1) Stress is cumulative, 2) It is not based on ethnicity, 3) or gender, 4) or age. In the Holmes, Rehe, Abersold stress test, it rated stressors from 1) Death of a spouse, 2) Divorce 3) Aging, 4) Family problems, 5) Economy, 6) Loss of a pet, etc. down to 24) Christmas, 25) Birthdays.

Back to the impact of Stress. During the Vietnam War, I was pastoring a large church in Orange County. A family in the church received word from the Pentagon that their son had been killed in Vietnam. The mother was stricken and rushed to the hospital. Four weeks later the family received word that a mistake had been made. Their son was well and would be home in a few days.

The good news (eu-stress) gave her a heart attack and she came close to dying.

How do people respond to stress? Too many times we revert to what I call “Maladaptive Behaviors.” Smoking, drinking, promiscuity, overweight, using drugs and even sleeping too much.

Studies have shown that by developing good personal habits like: laughing, exercise, going to church, cultivating family activities, going on cruises, losing weight, and eating healthy, we will live longer and be healthier.

Remember. Stress is a killer.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

A Mother’s Love, Giving Love, AGAPE

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Larry Stamper and I have been friends since 1958. He is a retired Methodist minister and a former Mayor of Burbank, California. Recently he sent me this provocative story that is most appropriate for Mother’s Day and even Father’s Day. It may even be an “urban legend.” It seems that after 21 years of marriage the writer’s wife suggested he take another woman out to dinner and a movie. To his surprise the other woman was his mother.

She immediately wanted to know “why.” He finally persuaded her that he just wanted to spend some quality time with her. She dressed up for her night out. And the evening was great.

Even though he had to read the menu for her-her eyes were bad. The roles were reversed. She had commented that when he was a boy, she had read the menu for him.

The conversation was easy and pleasant, catching up on each other’s life. They talked so long they missed the movie. On arriving back at her house, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, only if you let me invite you.” He agreed.

He later assured his wife that his dinner date was great.

A few days later his mother died of a massive heart attack. Sometime later, he received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place they had dined, with an attached note. It said, “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure I could be there. I paid for two dinners—one for you and the other for your wife. YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT OUR NIGHT OUT MEANT FOR ME. I LOVE YOU, SON.”

At that moment he understood the importance of saying in time: “I love you” and to give our loved ones the time they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than our families. Give them the time they deserve. Thoughtfulness should not be put off ‘till some other time.

The implication of this urban legend is pretty obvious. Life is a fragile commodity. At best it is very short. Unpredictable.

Rod McKuen, nationally famous poet, who has recently died, has said, “There is no harm in not being loved; only in not loving.” The Greek language is unusual. It has three words that are used for different kinds of love. They are eros, phileo and agape.

We get our word “erotic” from the Greek eros. It has physical desire and pleasure in its meaning. It is intimate and sexual in its understanding.

Phileo is the love between friends, brothers/sisters and family members. An excellent example is the city of Philadelphia—the city of “brotherly love.” It is made up of phileo (love) and adelphos (brother).

The word that has the deepest meaning and the most spiritual significance is AGAPE. It is God’s love for humanity; a mother’s love for her children; a husband and wife’s love for each other.

Examples: “For God so AGAPE the world.” “Thou shall AGAPE the Lord thy God . . . . . and AGAPE thy neighbor as yourself.” And in the strongest of usages; “and now abide faith, hope and AGAPE. These three. But the greatest of these is AGAPE.”

Thalidomide was supposedly a miracle drug in the 60’s for pregnant women. However, it proved to be disastrous. Many children were deformed at their birth: no eye sight, partial limbs, and organ dysfunction.

One mother’s son was born without ears. It affected him emotionally. One day word came to him that two transplants had been given for him.

The surgery was successful and he went on to become a brilliant scholar and taught at Harvard University. On the occasion of her death, while looking at her in the casket, he casually brushed back her hair and to his amazement both of her ears were gone. He had never known. Such is a mother’s AGAPE.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Interpretations and Messages of the Bible

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Statistics show that more Bibles are sold every year than any other book. The Muslims respect the contents of the Bible and about one third of the Koran gives reference to Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

The major benefit of the Bible is that it speaks to and has a message for everyone. The major problem is that many readers of the Bible “Cherry pick” what they want to believe. It is interpreted with a bias.

Every minister does that, including Pope Francis and me. Many denominations are based on selected verses. For example a major sect denies a basic Christian belief of the Trinity. The word is NOT found in the New Testament.

To refute this heresy the Epistle of I John 5:7 says, “for there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost, and these three are ONE.”

Another verse that causes great consternation for many believers is Galatians 4:24. These words were penned by the Apostle Paul, the founder of Christianity. “Which things are an ALLEGORY, for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai. . .” An allegory is similar to a parable or a myth. Allegories are stories that contain truths. Like the story of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan that were told by Jesus.

Several Israeli Bible scholars refute a literal belief in the Old Testament. Sadat, the President of Egypt that was martyred, declared that Egyptian history did not indicate that Jews were ever there, as free or slaves.

What would the tableau of the manger be without the Wisemen or Magi? But they were never there (manger) with the shepherds, the angels and Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Matthew 2:11 says “When they (the Magi) were come into the house, – not the manger or the Inn-they saw the young child, “with Mary His mother.”

Isaiah 7:14 does not say in the original Hebrew, “a young virgin shall conceive.” It uses the word almah, which means “young woman” not virgin. The Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah. Incidentally, every Roman emperor professed his mother was a virgin. Including Alexander the Great.

The Apostle Paul never mentions the virgin birth of Jesus in any of his writings. The Gospels of Mark and John do not mention it. Neither do any of the General Epistles or the Book of Revelation. More importantly, neither does Jesus. Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke mention it.

You can probably quote John 3:16. It is the most popular verse in the New Testament; but most believers misunderstand it. For instance, the word God is the antecedent for everything in the verse and even in John 3:17, God is the doer. He is responsible for everything including Jesus.

The word God has many synonymies. Jehovah, Elohim, Yahweh, Allah and what Paul Tillich referred to as “the Ground of our being.”

It is one’s belief in God that determines the promise of everlasting life.

The promise is universal and is based on God’s love for everyone.

(the world)

From the Apostle Paul’s writings it is obvious that he is a misogynist-“one who hates or mistrusts women.” Women’s hair is their glory and it implies it shouldn’t be cut. Women should be silent in the church. The adornment should be chaste-no makeup or jewelry. Above all women must be subservient to their husband.

In the Epistle of Philemon, he sends a slave, Onesimus, back to his owner-Philemon. Paul also writes that Christians should support their national leaders. He would have opposed the Revolutionary and Civil wars in our country.

In Romans, chapter 8, Paul categorically says that God predestines each person to be saved or lost. Free will is eliminated.

Christmas has an interesting history. Before Constantine determined Christianity to be the religion of Rome, the god Mithra’s birthday was celebrated on December 25. The date 336 A.D. was the first time Christmas was celebrated on December 25 by Christians. On 350 A.D. Pope Julius I declared December 25 to be the official birthdate of Jesus. Further approval was made by the Council of Tours in 567 A. D.

What about the second return of Jesus? Coupled with I John 5:7, the Trinity, with all three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, being one, and John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word (Jesus) was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God,” is obvious that the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) was Jesus in the form of the third person of the Trinity. That is when Jesus returned the second time.

Paul was an obvious plagiarist, which was common for all authors in ancient times. Dr. J. Gordon Hynes, professor at Redlands University, before his death, received his Ph.D. in 1936. In it, he catalogs over 200 instances when Paul-in his writings-copied literally or paraphrased Greek ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and the Greek poets.

In fact, the love chapter, First Corinthians 13 is almost completely copied from the Greek poets. One final thought. I am a Christian, a believer. The preceding comments, in no way jeopardize my faith, and hopefully not yours.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

One’s Attitude Speaks Volumes

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

The word “attitude” is a complex word. It can be expressed by one’s posture; one’s facial expression; one’s questions; one’s movements or by one’s words.

The dictionary defines it as “a manner, disposition, feeling, position or posture or an action or expression.”

Many years ago I was the pastor of a small Nazarene Church in Sulphur Springs, Florida. Arthur was a young man, a member that was mentally challenged. He constantly confused attitude by calling it altitude. “So and so has a bad altitude.”

There is an obvious connection between attitude and behavior. The two are very similar to the chicken and the egg. Which one became first. The chicken or the egg; or attitude or behavior. Either way one will affect the other.

A few years ago I was asked by the then Sheriff Tidwell to study about a police problem. “When a policeman and a criminal are equally wounded, too often the cop will die and the criminal will get well. Why?”

After several weeks of research and study I reached a conclusion. The policemen have developed an attitude of fatalism. To go on the street they felt if it was their time, it was their time. Fatalism.

The criminal had no such attitude. Their attitude was much more positive and they would recuperate.

The other Sunday The Reverend Doctor Peter St. Don reminded his audience of the words of Victor Frankl, M.D. and Ph.D. A Jew, he spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp. His parents, wife and children were all slaughtered. He was released by the Allied forces.

In his famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he says, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the ones who walked through the huts comforting others. . giving away their last pieces of bread. They may have been few in number but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from us but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s ATTITUDE in any given set of circumstances. . . . to choose one’s own way.”

A few years ago when I was in graduate school, I studied with Dr. Frankl. I remember vividly his frequent reference to the “indomitable power of the human spirit.” The power of our attitudes.

Norman Cousins was one of my most influential mentors. In one of his magazine editorials he said, “No one knows enough to be pessimistic.” Pessimism is an attitude.

There are several elements in positive attitudes that enhance life. For instance the attitude of gratitude. Karl Barth was a great conservative theologian of the last century. One of his famous statements was, “The only acceptable response we can make to God is gratitude.” An attitude of thanks-expressing appreciation.

Then there is the attitude of faith. It speaks of possibilities, of opportunities.

In contrast there are negative attitudes. Don Rickles is a good example of one of them. I don’t know if his home life and casual friends life is as sarcastic and caustic as his personal life, but sarcasm is a definite negative attitude.

It demeans the recipient as well as the originator. The perpetrator of sarcasm usually tries to cover it up by saying he was just kidding of being funny. The expression of a negative attitude is detrimental to a friendship.

Self-pity is a negative attitude. It is often called a pity party. Depression and gloom accompany these attitudes. The Lil Abner comic strip of a few years ago had a character who always went around with a dark cloud over his head.

This attitude is not only personally destructive, but also disruptive to the family and friendships.

One of my favorite movies is the “Bucket List” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Jack is a billionaire and Morgan a mechanic. They meet in a hospital. They are both ill and unhappy.

The Bucket List is a Wish List. Doing things that they want to do before dying. A great friendship develops. Jack reunites with his daughter and granddaughter. Morgan makes amends with his wife and family. Their attitudes change drastically. Morgan dies happy. Jack lives several more years. Both are cremated and their ashes buried on the top of Mount Everest. The reason? They believe they will be closer to God.

Back to Arthur. The more I think of his saying ALTITUDE instead of ATTITUDE I believe he was right.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Religion has always held a significant place

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, religion has had a significant place. Shamans were the first originators. As society became more stable and civilized, religions became more organized and structured. Tribal deities were replaced and “god for all occasions” gradually became monotheistic.

One of the oldest and better known is Zoroasterism. It conservatively goes back to 5500 B.C.E. (Before the Christian Era.) It originated in Persia and is known as Parsiism in India.

Zoroaster, the founder, professed to be born of a virgin and believed in monotheism. His followers were astrologers and Magi (magicians.) He has also been described as an apocalyptic preacher.

He spent considerable time in the desert for meditation and introspection. His life ended tragically when he, his wife and four children were murdered. He left two books of his beliefs, “The Vester,” and “The Gathas.”

One of the more interesting traditions of Jesus’ early life has Him going to Persia and studying Zoroastrianism. This view is substantiated by the similarity between many of the teachings of Jesus and the beliefs of Zoroaster. Here are a few similarities.

1. God is not about fear, guilt or condemnation.

2. God does not have favorites or discriminate.

3. God is wisdom, love and logic.

4. God treats humans with dignity and respect.

5. God is not, jealous, wrathful or vengeful.

6. Man is not sinful, fallen or depraved.

7. Man was created to progress in likeness to God and eliminate wrong in the world.

It is obvious that Zoroasterism influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, all three were strongly influenced by their common heritage. They have a tie with Abraham. Their books: The Old Testament, The New Testament and the Quran all claim Abraham.

Judaism through Jacob, Christianity by way of Abraham’s example and Islam through Ishmael.

The tie for Judaism and Christianity is common knowledge, but not so much the tie with Islam. Abraham had a mistress, Hagar, who bore him a son, Ishmael. Sarah resented her and so Hager and Ishmael were banished to the desert-Arabia. Ishmael’s descendants are Arabs as well as Mahomet the Prophet.

Also, all three claim Jerusalem as their Holy City. The Jews because of David’s kingdom; Christianity because of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection there; and Islam because of the Prophet’s ascension into heaven on a white horse from there.

Islam is known primarily because of the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Sharia Laws. The Sunni compose about 90 percent of all Muslims. The Shiites about 10 percent. They disagree about which side is the rightful successors to Muhammad. Sunni Muslims accept the first four caliphs following the death of Muhammad. Shiite Muslims accept the mullahs that descended from Fatima and Ali (the daughter and cousin). Fatima was Muhammad’s daughter. The Sharia Law is composed mainly of the Five Pillars of Faith.

They are: 1) Profession of faith in no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet. 2) Pray five times a day facing Mecca. 3) Almsgiving to the needy or relatives. 4) Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. 5) If possible, make one pilgrimage to Mecca.

Iran is a Shiite country and Saudi Arabia is Sunni. Most of the mid-east is Sunni.

It is interesting to note that Islam impacted the world as it was in the midst of the Dark Ages. Education, science and literary production were at an all-time low. Religion was corrupt, social values were minimal.

One historian states, “Islam, through its insistence on knowledge, created in its followers a spirit of intellectual curiosity and independent inquiry, resulting in a splendid era of learning and scientific research.” While the Western World was mired in the Dark Ages, Islam was ushering in the Renaissance and the “Age of Science.”

It is important to remember that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have crazies and extremists-not just in the past but now also.

However, don’t stop there. They also have great benefits. Judaism has Hadassah, Christianity has Catholic Charities and Protestants have scores of charitable sources.

Locally, Islam has a mosque in West San Bernardino, Al Shafa, that has a clinic with doctors, dentists and nurses that offer medical and dental care FREE for anyone, Muslim or not. Call them for an appointment if you have a medical or dental need.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Legacy of Cesar Chavez

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I am writing this article on the birthdate of Cesar Chavez, March 31, 2015. If he had lived to that date he would have been 88 years old. He was born on March 31, 1927, and died on April 22, 1993.He was 66 years old.

Cesar married Helen Fabela on October 22, 1948. She was born on January 21, 1928 and is still living at age 87. They had eight children: Fernando, Sylvia, Linda, Eloise, Liz, Paul, Anna and Anthony.

To my way of thinking, Chavez was one of the most important people to grace our land. He not only changed the labor landscape but significantly and dramatically changed our view of the farming industry.

He belongs in the pantheon of greatness that includes Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Pope Francis.

Along with President Lyndon Johnson and his emphasis on Civil Rights, President F. D. Roosevelt with his initiating Social Security, President John F. Kennedy and the Peace Corps, and President Barak Obama and Obamacare, and President Harry Truman and the G. I. Bill.

Our news is inundated with concern about the demise of the middle class. Wall Street and big corporations possess one percent and control 95 % of the American economy.

It is common knowledge that NAFTA has further impacted the middle class by encouraging businesses to move their plants to other countries in the third world.

A parallel to this is the decline of Labor Unions. Major corporations like Walmart and states like Wisconsin do battle with labor unions with their battle cry, “right to work.”

The major complaint about Unions is evidence of corruption. Which too often is true. Jimmy Hoffa is often used as an example. But this issue is true in most organizations. Even the Catholic Church has pedophiles. Protestants have Jimmy Swaggerts. Congress has many examples of corruption. Too many to mention.

To avoid the Labor Unions many corporations move to third world countries. The wages there are very low and when the products get back to America, the products are outrageous.

A few years ago a bumper sticker that was popular said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Using the same approach, with a change of words, think with me. If you have a pension, thank the unions. If you have health and dental benefits, thank the unions. If you get a vacation, thank the unions. If you work only 40 hours a week, thank a union. If you work in a dangerous job-coal mine, steel mill, etc.-thank the unions for safety features. On and on.

My Dad was a molder in a cast-iron foundry. He died at age 60 from silicosis-the black lung. He worked without safety precautions. I worked at age 12 in a foundry. Child protection laws came in because of Labor Unions.

The prominence of Labor Unions and their influence goes beyond special interests like railroads, retail, construction, etc. They influenced churches that now have pension and health programs for the clergy.

My advice is simple. If you want the return of the Middle Class, support the Labor Unions.

Now back to Cesar Chavez. At age 17 he joined the U.S. Navy and served to the end of World War II. The inequities and prejudices toward Hispanics, especially in the farming communities affected him greatly. Two men in particularly set examples for him.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi is famous for-two values that changed the history of India. He opposed the “cast system” in India and he advocated a non-violent approach to get change. Without a doubt, Chavez was inspired by him. Both views were at the center of Cesar Chavez’ approach. Non-violence and fasting. In fact, he would fast several weeks at a time, to bring attention to the plight of the Farm Workers.

Chavez was responsible for organizing Mexican workers into the United Farm Workers. Under his leadership he secured a three year contract with grape growers; another three-year contract with Minute Maid for 55,000 workers. His influence was significant with both the Democrats and Republicans. Chavez was very aware of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., crediting him with, “showing us the way.” Paul Chavez says, “Just a month before my father’s death, Dr. King sent a telegram to my father, who was fasting for 25 days in Delano, California to rededicate his movement to non-violence.” Cesar Chavez’ influence made significant strides among religious people of all denominations, spheres of education, business leaders as well as government leaders.

One of the greatest challenges and meaningful tributes for him came from Dr. King. He wrote: “AS BROTHERS IN THE FIGHT FOR EQUALITY, I EXTEND THE HAND OF FELLOWSHIP, AND GOOD WILL AND WISH CONTINUING SUCCESS TO YOU AND YOUR MEMBERS. YOU AND YOUR VALIANT FELLOW WORKERS HAVE DEMONSTRATED YOUR COMMITMENT TO RIGHTING GRIEVOUS WRONGS FORCED UPON EXPLOITED PEOPLE.

WE ARE TOGETHER WITH YOU IN SPIRIT AND IN DETERMINATION THAT OUR DREAMS FOR A BETTER TOMORROW WILL BE REALIZED.”

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Happy Resurrection Sunday

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

A few years ago I went around the world. A major part of the trip was to discover the country of Turkey. A historical and biblically important country. There are more references to Turkey in the Bible than any other country. Of course with the exception of Palestine.

One of its more famous cities is Nicea; located about 100 miles from Istanbul. In the time of Constantine it was the place for the first Church Council. The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D was held almost 300 years after the death/resurrection of Jesus.

Among many decisions made was the time and date of the celebration of Easter. It applies to today. Easter is always celebrated the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox-the first day of Spring.

Thus, April 5th, 2015. Without a doubt, Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. A much more important day than Christmas.

The day before last Easter, Stella and I stopped at the Jack-in-the-Box on Hospitality Lane. A homeless man was there and we began talking. After wishing him a “Happy Easter,” he politely informed me that the correct designation was “Happy Resurrection Sunday.”

I had forgotten. He was correct. Incidentally I gave him $5.00 for his reminder.

The story in Luke Chapter 24 is an excellent insight into the significance of that resurrection.

First of all, the RESURRECTION makes sense out of our FAITH. In the account, the risen Lord confronts Cleopas and Jacob on the road to Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem.

He doesn’t discuss the Virgin Birth, as so many do today in making it the litmus test for being a Christian. Every Roman Emperor professed to be born of a virgin. Neither do they discuss the matter of Biblical inerrancy or the rapture or the Trinity. None of those words are even mentioned in the Bible.

What did they discuss? The resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul put it succinctly; “If Christ be not risen, then is our faith in vain.”

This affirmation turned a group of wimps into witnesses. The Book of Acts described them as “turning the world upside down.”

John Masefield penned the classic narrative poem, “The Trial of Jesus.” In it he gives Pilate’s wife the name of Procula. The centurion is named Longiness.

Pilate’s wife had encouraged him to set Jesus free. He just passed the buck and washed his hands.

On hearing that Jesus is alive, Procula sends Longiness to find out the truth. When he returns, her question is, “Do you believe it?” His answer is provocative. “I believe He has been set free, where neither Roman nor Jew can confine His truth.” Which is our faith.

Second, the RESURRECTION makes sense out of Death. I don’t want to be morbid, but death is not the end of our existence. One writer has described death as the “vestibule to eternity.” Palm Springs is often described as the “waiting room for heaven.”

Neither description is as appropriate as what the Apostle Paul said. “O death where is your sting. O grave where is your victory?”

The Psalmist gave a previous insight into death when he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for, God is with me.”

Eugene O’Neal wrote a religious play, called “Lazarus Laughed.” The setting is in Athens where Caligula-wanna be Emperor and later was-is riding through the streets. Everyone is bowing except Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha and who was raised by Jesus.)

Caligula threatens him with death. Lazarus laughs and says, “Caligula, don’t you know that Death Is Dead?” So it is. Now and forever.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Remembrances, inequalities, be wise

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

At times an idea or concept is so strong that it demands my attention. It’s like an appetite that must be fed. A habit that demands satisfaction.

From whence they come I can only surmise. From books I’ve read. From news that I’ve listened to. Or just a conversation I’ve participated in. From wherever, it plagues me until I confront it with all my attention.

Such is the word remembrances. It is associated with memory. That, we all have. Unless a person is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer.

The only problem that I can think of is that memory doesn’t play favorites. Some are good and others not so pleasant. Deciding which to concentrate on is not easy. In fact, it is downright difficult.

I like to remember places I’ve been to and things I’ve seen. I also like to remember people I’ve met through the years and experiences we’ve shared. The older I get the more my memories are on the good and pleasant side.

An amazing thing often happens to many memories. They trigger other events and especially thoughts to think about. For instance the recent celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the “March on Selma, Over the Pettis Bridge.”

The event brought the memory to my mind of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Plus 242 more words.

Fortunately the words are substantially true if the word “created” is emphasized. God has made all humanity equal. But, and it is a big BUT. People, governments and society have made all mankind UNEQUAL.

To clarify my meaning, a quote from “To Kill a Mockingbird” will suffice. The author, Harper Lee, has Atticus Finch say, “Some people use that phrase out of context. We know that all men are not created equal. Some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they are born with it, some men have more money than others, and some people are more gifted than others.”

I will not belabor the point of other inequalities because they are many. Atticus Finch pleads the case for equality of all mankind is determined by the judicial system.

However, that can be prejudiced. But, I refer back to the word “created”; a phrase also used by Thomas Jefferson. Our Creator judges us only by our faith. Not our heritage, our possessions, our ethnicity, our intelligence or our religious preference. As one theologian has said, “Gratitude is the only acceptable response that we can make to God.”

I heard Dr. Jon Robertson-former director of the Redlands Symphony, preach the other Sunday. His Scripture was the feeding of the 5000 men plus women and children, about 15,000.

There are two references in the Gospel of Mark about Jesus multiplying bread and fish to feed thousands. The first is 5 loaves and 2 fish. The second is 7 loaves and a few fish. Several days separate the two miracles. Dr. Robertson’s main point was about Jesus’ disciples failing to remember the first miracle.

They were typical of many of us who often forget God’s goodness to us. His sermon was titled, “The Tragedy of Forgetfulness.” So it is with us, not remembering.

It has often been said that to understand the views of Jesus, read His parables. For instance, Jesus told a parable of two men; one wise and the other foolish. The wise man built his house on a rock and when the storm came, it stood firm. The foolish man built his house on the sand and when the storm came it collapsed.

Jesus’ application is plain. Most of our problems (storms) are self-made. Quitting school, smoking, alcoholism, overweight, lack of exercise, poor food choices, failing to see a doctor.

Foolish people fail to develop “marketable skills,” in spite of the fact that statistics state that on the average, jobs will change 6 times in our life time.

It’s also true that the happiest people on earth have a religious faith. When life’s storms hit, the wise person has a strong faith, that sustains.

Don’t be foolish, remember to be wise.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Beauty of the Mexican Riviera

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

September 15, 2014 was a memorable date in the Baja history. Hurricane Odile roared across lower Baja, California and parts of the coastline of northern Mexico. It was a Sunday night. The fierce winds shattered windows and knocked out power in the famous resort of Cabo San Lucas.

The storm made landfall about 11 P.M., Southern California time. It was described as the strongest hurricane on record. Winds were clocked of up to 125 mph.

The devastation was unbelievable. Only those that have lived through a similar hurricane can visualize the impact of the storm. Homes, businesses, roads, bridges and boats were shattered. The terrain of gardens, desert, trees, shrubs, etc. were not left unscathed.

I’ve seen hurricanes in Florida that took 3-5 years to renovate the damage, and Baja recovered in less than 5 months.

Odile was officially categorized as a three (3) hurricane. That powerful a hurricane had not hit Baja for 25 years and is tied with hurricane Olivia of 1967 as the strongest in Baja’s history.

Odile was responsible for 11 deaths plus several scores of injuries and over one billion USD of insured losses.

I describe the above impact caused by the hurricane so that I can share with you what the area is like today. A few weeks ago Stella and I went on a cruise to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Between February 14 and February 21, the day temperature was between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The sea was calm all the way south and the sky was clear.

There are three great tourist centers in Mexico: Acapulco, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Cabo and Tijuana would be distant fourth and fifth.

I have visited Mexico on a regular basis since 1960. I’m well acquainted with its history, its people, its food, its music, its culture, its religion and especially its politics and its many ruins.

But my favorite place and city that reflects all of the above is Puerto Vallarta. Its current population is 255,681. On any day, whether Summer or Winter, the population will be increased from 50,000 to 100,000, because of the tourists.

In my opinion, P.V. is more like Miami Beach, than similar to Acapulco or Cancun. It is modern and slum areas are minimal.

Hotels, restaurants, streets, bridges are modern. Recreation is emphasized-including golf courses. Across the street from where cruise shops dock are a Walmart and Sam’s Club.

One mile north of the dock is a Denny’s and about ¼ mile south is a Pizza Hut. Fast food places include McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, KFC and Hooters.

Taxis and buses are modern and the International Airport is only about 10 miles from the center of town.

A mile long malecon (boardwalk,) with the ocean on one side and a one-way street and shops of all kinds on the other, make a walk worthwhile. There are dozens of statues along the way. The very famous Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with its crown instead of a steeple, is at the center of the malecon.

The Rio Cuale, the island of arts, the set for John Huston’s “Night of the Iguana,” the statues of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, El Centro and Playa Mismaloya are a few of the many attractions.

Our next stop was Mazatlan-the San Pedro of Mexico. It currently has a population of 435,434. Vera Cruz and Mazatlan are the two leading seaports in Mexico. The docking area for cruise ships has thousands of box cars waiting for ships.

The ravages of Hurricane Odile barely touched Mazatlan, but what little it did has been renovated. The Gold Coast is the tourist area and business is thriving.

Of particular interest to cruisers is the large shopping area by the docks. It is modern and caters to tourists looking for clothes, jewelry, food or local cultural items. It is air-conditioned and shuttles take tourists from the ships to the shopping. Beware though. Items are NOT cheap.

The final stop of our seven (7) day cruise was Cabo San Lucas. It has completely recovered from the hurricane. Ships anchor in the harbor and passengers are transported by way of tenders.

I have stopped there many times while on a ship; I have also stayed in Cabo several times.

My favorite restaurants are “The Old Light House, Senor Frog and The Shrimp Boat.”

Deep sea fishing is a must for even casual fishermen. Great golf courses are close by. And of course, shopping starts at a large center at the dock.

I recommend a trip to the Mexican Riviera on any line. It is economical, enjoyable, busy but relaxing. “Bon voyage.”

Amen Selah. So be it.

The Magnificent Mt. Rushmore

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Mount Rushmore is one of the great iconic examples of American ingenuity in our history. Along with the Panama Canal, the Empire State building, the Seattle Space Needle, Hoover Dam and the Bloomington Mall in Minnesota. But Mt. Rushmore is unique in that it is both historical and artistic. It is a masterpiece.

Mt. Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, near the city of Keystone. The mountain is mostly granite and was named after Charles E. Rushmore, a prominent New York lawyer, after he and friends were on a prospecting expedition in 1885.

South Dakota historian Duane Robinson is credited with the idea of carving famous people in the mountain to attract tourists to the area.

A long hassle involving Native Americans, Congressional delegates and President Calvin Coolidge’s approval was finally given by Congress and the carving was started in 1927, and ended in 1941 with no fatalities.

Gutson Borglum (Danish-American) made the final decision of Mt. Rushmore and the decision to make the national focus, rather than early western heroes like Lewis and Clark and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Upon Gutson’s death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over construction.

The location was originally called “Six Grandfathers” by the Lakota Sioux.

In the construction 450,000 tons of rocks were moved; 400 workers assisted Borglum and the sculptors were 60 feet high.

The National Park Service took jurisdiction of Mt. Rushmore in 1933. The entire project cost $989,992.32. On October 15, 1966 Mt. Rushmore was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012 there were 2,185,447 visitors to the mountain.

George Washington’s (1732-1799) face was dedicated on July 4, 1934. The face of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was dedicated in 1936. The face of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was dedicated on September 17, 1937. The face of Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was dedicated in 1939.

The historical accomplishments of the four honored Presidents are well known. Washington is called “the father of our country.” However, our first President led the colonial forces to victory in the Revolutionary War. He refused to serve more than two terms.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and started the University of Virginia. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, freed the slaves and was assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the business monopolies and was the 26th President.

However, there are several interesting facts about the four Presidents that are not commonly known.

George Washington-In his teens traveled to Barbados and through his half-brother he was friends with the British Admiral Vernon. The brother served under him.

Washington was the victim of chickenpox. On the dollar bill, notice the right side of his face for pock marks. He also had false teeth, made of wood.

He was elected President unanimously. He never attended college and was an Episcopalian.

Thomas Jefferson was the third President. He was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. He was an architect, a lawyer, a farmer, an unusually excellent violinist and author.

He was also a biblical scholar, and composed a New Testament without the miracles of Jesus. For many years a copy was given to each new Congressman.

Jefferson never vetoed a bill and was described by his peers as a terrible speaker. He was a shabby dresser. Extremely intelligent, he was always in debt.

Abraham Lincoln-He was our tallest President-6 feet 4 inches.By the way, James madison was the shortest-5 feet 4 inches.

Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He often was pictured with a stovepipe hat-it resembled a length of pipe. He utilized it to store and carry notes, letters, bills and important documents.

He has no living heirs. Three of his four sons died before their 20th birthdays. He often described himself as being spiritual but not religious.

Theodore Roosevelt-He was the fifth cousin removed of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Also, the uncle of Eleanor and gave her away to F.D.R. at their wedding.

In 1906 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and was also the first President to visit a foreign country while President. He traveled to Panama.

Get this. He often would go skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during the wintertime.

A few years ago Stella and I visited Mount Rushmore and were overwhelmed with its awesomeness and beauty. There is a large cafeteria in front of it-about the distance of a football field. The scars on Washington’s face are clear.

If you haven’t been there, please do; you won’t regret it.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Spirit of Kayla Mueller

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Kayla Mueller’s murder has brought our nation to tears and sorrow. This twenty-six year old young lady was from Prescott, Arizona. She was the senseless victim of a deranged group of terrorists.

Her death has caused a two-fold backlash of emotion on her behalf. One of grief from President Obama and all Americans-including family and friends. Along with a storm of anger and resentment toward the perpetrators.

She was motivated. Compassionate for those in need. Fulfilling these commands of Jesus.

Kayla Jean Mueller has been described as a “human rights activist and humanitarian and worker.” Her work began with the Save Darfur coalition, then helping the India and Tibetan refugees, followed by helping the Palestinian and African Refugees.

On August 3, 2013 she traveled to Aleppo, Syria and was on her way to the Spanish Doctors Without Borders, when she was kidnapped by ISIS. She was reported killed on February 6, 2015.

ISIS claims she was killed by a bomb dropped by a Jordanian plane. They, Jordan, deny this possibility. It is also claimed by sources-but not confirmed-that she had been sold as a slave/wife to one of the ISIS rebels.

A letter written a few days before her death, is moving and worth reading by everyone. In it she speaks of her commitment to those in need and professing her faith in God.

A few words from her letter will reveal much about her spirit. “I have learned that even in prison a person can be free. I have come to see that there is good in every situation. Sometimes we just have to look for it.”

She also wrote of how people find God. She said, “Some find God in the CHURCH. Others find God in NATURE; others find God in LOVE. I found God in SUFFERING.” Obviously in her own life and in the suffering of others.

In the Church because it is the custodian of the Bible, which contains the essence of Christianity. Every Sunday most of the 2.5 billion Christians hear explanations of its truth.

However, the Church has not always been open to the truth or acceptance of its message. But for those who persevere, the call of service has always been plain. Especially for those like Kayla.

For her penchant “for rushing in where angels fear to tread,” she knew full well of the weaknesses of the Church. Yet, she saw and felt its worth in the lives of people.

Louis L’Amour, in one of his books, describes a hero as being, “One who would charge into hell with a bucket of water.” So was Kayla Mueller so committed.

She then suggested that God was found in NATURE. Many people have found nature to be a spiritual reality. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God. And the firmament shows His handiwork.” How can we not sense God’s presence in a sunrise or a sunset.

Or be aware of Intelligent Designer when seeing Mt. McKinley in Alaska; or the Grand Canyon; or Iguazu Falls; or Glacier Bay; or the High Sierras; or Niagara Falls; or the Sahara Desert; or the Greek Isles. Two of the most amazing of all God’s heavenly expressions are the rainbows and the aurora borealis. Stella and I have seen the latter in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Kayla was also perceptive when she affirmed that some people also find God in LOVING. Jesus made this concept the number one spiritual law. Loving God with all one’s heart and our neighbors as ourselves.

Rod McKuen, noted poet and singer who recently died, said in one of his poems: “There is no harm in not being loved; only in not loving.”

In the Epistle of I John, 4:7 there is an amazing verse. It substantiates the view of Kayla. “Everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. To know love is to know God.”

There isn’t the faintest doubt in the minds of those who knew Kayla best that she loved those she was trying to help.

People find God in SUFFERING. The suffering of others and personal suffering. So said Kayla in her last letter to her parents.

Sensing God in one’s own suffering is a traditional Christian view. We are urged to remember Job who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

But seeing God in the suffering of others, as Kayla did is something else. She wrapped her personal suffering around the suffering of others and in so doing found and Saw God.

In her letter she said, “I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end, the only ONE you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our Creator because literally there was no one else but God.”

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Rules we live by

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I’ve always been fascinated by the standards or rules by which people govern and live their lives.

As in the Golden Rule-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or the standard of the Ten Commandments. Over a billion Muslims follow the dictates of the Koran.

There are those who make the Constitution the guide to their behavior. And of course, the Christian community follows the words of Jesus and the New Testament.

There are ethnic by-laws. The customs and practices that are uniquely Greek, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, German and at least 180 other nationalities.

Natives in Africa, Southeast Asia and all Polynesians have their own cultural eccentricities.

Then, each family develops patterns of conduct that family members abide by. Just take the practice of Christmas. Most families have their own habits and customs.

There is a yard stick or measuring rod that is prevalent today. Those who practice its tenets subscribe to “Situation Ethics.” There are others who believe in it but do not use its name. They practice its basics.

A Britisher by the name of Joseph Fletcher is ostensibly the “father” of Situation Ethics. In his book, written in 1966, he was in opposition to the concepts of Thomas Aquinas. He (Aquinas) advocated the view that there were basic moral principles that were God-given and should be adhered to.

A basic tenet of his (Fletcher’s) way of thinking is rather simplistic. The rightness or wrongness of an event depends on the situation. Two classic examples are used to clarify this position.

Just suppose a friend of yours is being chased with the objective being murder. He comes to your house and begs for asylum. You hide him.

Subsequently the pursuers stop and ask if you have seen your friend. You lie. You say, “No;” or “He went that way.” Truth and honesty are absolutes. Most creeds and cultures disallow lying. Yet, you have lied. Situation Ethics says your lying was the right and moral thing to do.

Here is one of Fletcher’s classic illustrations. Following World War II a German housewife is taken prisoner by the Russians. Her husband finds out and seeks her freedom. The Russians state that she can only go free if she is pregnant.

She consents to adultery in order to become pregnant by a Russian. After verification she is released. She and her husband return to the German town where she is ostracized and condemned by the church and neighbors for committing adultery.

Here is the rub. She violated the 7th Commandment. She has an illegitimate child. Did she do wrong or did the situation absolve her of sinning? Fletcher says she was motivated by the only law necessary. That is love, for her husband and other children.

To him there is only one absolute. That is love. It alone establishes the rightness or wrongness of an event.

The purists and the legalists cannot accept his views. Ponder it if you will.

One of the most powerful films on the market today is, “Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe. In representing John Nash, the Nobel Prize winner in Mathematics, Crowe gives a powerful speech. He clarifies the impulse of love, the power of love, and the bonds of love. The movie, whether absolutely true or not, elevates Fletcher’s concept of situational love to the highest level.

Jesus endorsed the primacy of love when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Religion and War

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

A History professor that I had in graduate school often said words to the effect that, “more wars have been started since the beginning of recorded history over religions than for any other reason.”

The older I get the more I’ve come to believe his statement. Not just for the last 100 years but also back in antiquity. The ancient shamans also perpetrated wars and conflicts.

Historians speculate that from the beginning of religion there were at least 10,000 gods. Shamans were the earliest and they were tribal oriented. The deities focused on fertility and agriculture.

As civilizations developed, religions became more structured and more dominant. They also were very localized. Good examples were Egyptians and Sumerians. They would have gods for every occasion.

However, Egypt for a limited time was monotheistic. Many of these ancient religions practiced human sacrifice.

Then came Abraham and the beginning of Judaism around 2085 B.C.E. (Before the Christian Era.) Religion moved from a tribal focus to a national focus.

Hinduism is dated about 1500 B.C.E.; Buddhism from 500 B.C. E.; Christianity from 30 A.D.’ and Islam 610 A.D. All of the religions have had splinter groups.

These religions are unique in that they have international influences. A few like Mithraism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Bahia, Taoism, Jainism, and a few others are considered national religions.

A biblical historian has calculated the number of men, women and children that were slaughtered in the land of Canaan, ostensibly at God’s behest to have been ten (10) million.

The Old Testament was written by men that had an agenda. They baptized their views by using the name of God as the author. For instance; the Jews were God’s chosen people and the land was given by God. By the way, this view is endorsed by Israeli’s leading archeologists and historians.

The Hindu religion was the originator of the Indian “cast system.” Mahatma Ghandi fought this system but it is still prominent in India today.

President Obama has been the object of severe criticism because of his mentioning-in his National Prayer Breakfast-the war of the Crusades between Christianity and Islam. And the Catholic and Protestant Inquisitions. What he said is true.

I do not wish to belabor this view, but more recent history. When Cortez swept into Mexico in the early 1500’s, there were twenty (20) million Mexican Indians. By the beginning of the 1600’s, Mexicans were only 1 million. Nineteen million had been killed or died of diseases brought by Christians from Europe. It was done under the name of Jesus.

Who brought most of the slaves from Africa to the Americas? I heard a black college professor the other day say that “sixteen (16) million blacks were brought to North and South America as slaves.”

Most of them were made captives by the Muslims and they were transported by white European slave ships by Christian slave owners.

An example. Sir John Hawkins was the first slave-ship captain to bring Africans to the Americas. He was an avowed Christian and his ship was called “the good ship Jesus.” The captain and his ship left England in October 1562.

In my opinion, President Obama did not go far enough in his indictment of major religions.

Most of our founding fathers were slave owners. The Southern Baptist Church and the Southern Methodist Church were both founded on the principle of slavery and the Civil War.

I pastored for eight (8) years in Florida in the 50’s. I saw firsthand the injustice toward blacks-education, jobs, prejudice. The Klu Klux Klan was made up primarily of Methodists and Baptists. The Civil War, in my opinion was a religious war.

Let’s go back further in time. To the slaughter, enslavement, mistreatment, of Native Americans. Who perpetrated all three? Christians. The Puritans, the Catholics, the Protestants.

The justification and disclaimers were based on the Bible. The “Mark of Cain” was falsely used as “the color of blacks.”

The bigotry of Christianity toward blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays and others is being perpetrated by fundamentalist ministers like: Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Jimmy Swaggart and others of their ilk.

It has been aptly said that each of us is entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own set of facts. In this article I have not only expressed my opinions but I have supported those opinions with the facts that history has recorded.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Value of Friendships

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

One of the great joys of living is having friends. Particularly as one grows older. Webster defines a friend as, “two persons that have a bond with each other based on personal regard.”

Jesus is described in Luke 7:34 as being a friend to publicans and sinners. In the Book of James 2:23, it says that Abraham was called “the friend of God.”

Hubert Humphrey is quoted as saying, “The greatest gift of life is friendship.”

Thomas Aquinas was really inspired when he said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than real friendship.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my many literary mentors, said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

I like this statement by Euripides. “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.”

I really like women. Their looks, their minds and their spirit. Anyone that knows me will agree. However, I thoroughly enjoy my male friends. Through the years I can count hundreds of them. Every church I have pastored (ten of them,) at least one-half of the membership was men. I played golf and tennis with them and argued with them and ate with them. We were and are friends.

Today I have scores of male friends. I mean close friends. Five are older than me; 6 are ministers; seven are teachers; five are military; five are musicians; six are business people; four are medical doctors; and most are retired but not the doctors. Drs. Agee, Gayid, Phillips, and Rimmer.

I’ve been friends with Dr. Don Reed since 1944; with Colonel Don Davis since 1948 and with Rev. Larry Stamper since 1958, with Dr. John Yount since 1975.

Three of my close friends are: Bob Harvey, Frank Thomas and Charles Roberts. They are all in their 80’s as I am. I’m 87, Bob is 87 (4 months older than me); Frank is 85 and Charles is 82.

Bob was a Biology Professor, Frank was a business man and Charles is a newspaper editor. Frank has been married 57 years to Betty; Charles has been married for 42 years to Myrna. I’ve been married 17 years to Stella and Bob’s significant other is Ginger.

All three are ex-military. Bob and Frank were in the Navy. Charles was in Korea in Special Forces. Bob was on a troop ship in World War II and Frank was on a submarine tender in San Diego during the Korean War.

Bob joined the Navy at age 17, primarily to escape an abusive family. We have been friends for about 15 years. I call him a modern renaissance man. He is extremely intelligent and taught Biology at UCLA and Valley College for 30 plus years.

He represented a major pharmaceutical company in the Brazilian jungle for a year, studying the plants and herbs that natives used. He also represented the U. S. government in Nevada studying the effects of nuclear explosions on humans.

He is a musician, an architect, a builder, a publisher and a Biblical scholar. He is a prolific writer and poet. He has impersonated Mark Twain on the stage for many years. He is patriotic, an avowed agnostic, a voracious reader and loves to debate.

I’ve known Charles Roberts since 2002 when he became editor of the Highland Community News. A native of Texas, he attended Odessa College and he has two daughters still living in Texas. After his stint in the Special Forces, he gravitated into news coverage in radio, television and newspaper.

He has a unique ability in covering news and human interest stories. He can write a column and never redo it or change the content. The only person I ever heard about that could do that was the legendary columnist of the L.A. Times. Jack Smith.

Charles and Myrna celebrate their anniversary each April 1, by renewing their wedding vows and then going on a short honeymoon. They alternate the years as to which one makes the arrangements. This year it’s Myrna’s turn.

Charles is patriotic, a news addict, he knows more about Highland than anyone else and attends all civic meetings in Highland.

Bob, Charles and I have lunch at least once a month and discuss and argue for 90 minutes.

Frank Thomas and I have been good friends for almost twenty years. We met in a magic class and have often joined in presenting shows.

Frank’s hobby and habit is caring for the grounds of the Lutheran Church on Palm Avenue. He is also very patriotic.

He and Betty are devoted to their two boys, David and John, and their grandchildren.

They are regular church goers and they share lunch with Stella and me on most Thursdays.

I value my friendships with Bob, Charles and Frank. I hope it continues for many more years.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Pope Francis

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Can you believe what has happened in the Philippines? Approximately six (6) million people came out to see and hear Pope Francis. The weather was unbelievably bad-a storm with rain and wind. The Pope got sopping wet and wore a cheap poncho similar to one the natives were wearing.

Even though the Pope had spent several days in the Philippines, the weather was so bad, it was necessary for the papal party to leave the area a short time ahead of schedule.

However, he spent several hours more with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Over 7,300 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in and around the city of Tacloban. The typhoon hit the area on November 3, 2013.

At the Mass, Pope Francis said, “I wanted to come to be with you. It’s a bit late, I have to say, but I am here.” When it occurred, he made plans to visit the Philippines right then.

When the storm hit, the surge was two stories high.

I have studied the Pope very extensively. The messages he brings to Catholics and the world are two in number. The first is his fulfillment of the philosophy of Liberation Theology. This view swept through Central and South America in the 50’s and 60’s. It was so radical, the previous Pope – before he was Pope- had thousands of priests and laymen excommunicated.

Its basic view is that the Church should be involved in the social needs of the people; poverty, education, jobs, freedom, racial equality and acceptance of all people.

The messages of Pope Francis while in the Philippines were direct from his heart. He prayed for those who lost members and cried with them as well. However, he also chided them for seeing so many more men present and so few women. He hoped that the next visit of a Pope would see more women.

He refused a closed vehicle, riding in an open one and embracing many.

His recent homilies have been pointed and biting. He will not meet with delegates from Arab countries that protect ISIS terrorists.He condemns all terrorists.

He verbally endorsed President Obama’s decision to open communications with Cuba.

By the way, he plans very soon to visit the USA and will stop at Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago.

Probably the most controversial comments he has made concerns Catholics having so many children He described them as propagating like rabbits, without responsibility.

His recent responses concerning homosexuals, Muslims and Protestant Christians is clear and concise. “I’m not God.” Meaning he refuses to judge them.

I’ve recently had opportunity to read excerpts from a few of his homilies. (The Catholic word for sermons.) It is usually referred to as a short sermon.

In a message delivered on June 21, 2013, he said; “Christ’s love and His friendship are not an illusion. You will discover this friendship and feel it fully if you seek it sincerely.”

On July 27, 2013, Pope Francis asked a very serious question of his audience. “Do you speak with Jesus or are you frightened of silence. What do you want from your life?” While this question was primarily directed to young people, the Pope left no doubt later on that it was applicable to everyone.

In another homily, Pope Francis asks this question; “What is the image you have of God?” He decries the image of God being severe and angry. Rather he says, “The Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the loving one, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life.”

I am always pleased how insightful and human the Pope is. In another homily he says, “Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we are more secure if we have everything under control”

Many of his administrative decisions have been firm and with little tolerance. But not so his spiritual injunctions. He says, “God always thinks with mercy, do not forget this. He is the merciful Father.” He then goes on to urge the listeners to read the story of the Prodigal Son and the Loving Father. Luke 15.

The Pope can be very forthright at times. Just like he chastised husbands and wives being like rabbits without responsibility. He also took off his gloves-so to speak-when he criticized too many Christians as being Part-Time Christians. Woe is me; woe is you; woe is us.

Pope Francis has great words for young people. In one homily he says “Do not be afraid to dream of great things.” He is strong in voicing; “Set your stakes on high ideals. Do not bury your talents.”

It’s easy for Catholics and we non-Catholics to understand that the Pope sees himself as a pastor. He is an international leader, for sure, but, more than that, he has a deep compassion for all people.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Beauty of Cuba

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

This article reflects some of my views of Cuba. I have visited there four (4) times. The first one was during the regime of Batista. Gambling was right along with crime, dominated by the U.S. Mafia.

Mansions were common, owned by the elite supporters of Dictator Batista. Poverty was everywhere, except the few henchmen of Batista.

Then came Fidel Castro. I was in the Havana Woolworth store the week before Castro bombed it. He had recently visited the U.S.A. seeking support for his revolution against Batista. He was denied this support. So he turned to Russia, and got it.

Cuba is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The beaches at Veradera are equal to any in Mexico or Florida. The hotels are the equal to Las Vegas or Miami Beach.

They have been built by Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, France, Sweden, Denmark and several other countries. But none by the U.S.A.

Because of the blockade, I had to fly there from Toronto, Canada and Bermuda. I was with professional groups (psychologists and professors) that our State Department allowed to fly to Cuba.

Interestingly, the week before my second visit, Lee Iacocca and over 200 business people had visited Cuba-according to CNN.

In my three visits after Batista, I traveled from one end of Cuba to the other. From the Bay of Pigs and Havana to Gitmo. In that time I never saw one (1) military truck or soldier. They were non-existent. During the same time I saw one (1) police car.

I’ve recently talked to two very good friends that came here from Cuba- (Arturo and Victor). They both expressed to me their happiness over the decisions by President Obama regarding Cuba.

Back to Veradera Beach. I stayed at a bed and breakfast home twice. The owners were a husband and wife team – an engineer and a dentist. It was a free entrepreneur endeavor.

They both were members of a newly built Presbyterian Church. The guest that had dedicated the church was President Fidel Castro. He had also been the speaker at the previous national meeting of the Presbyterian Churches of Cuba.

Gregorio Fuentes lived in the village of Cojimar, a few miles East of Havana. He was Ernest Hemingway’s inspiration for his classic book, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Fidel Castro was also a devotee of Hemingway. In fact, he (Castro) established a museum in his (Hemingway) honor.

I wanted to interview Fuentes, so I went to Cojimar. I bought him a beer and he gave me a cigar. The interview was delightful as we shared information about Hemingway. I’ve published the article.

The book, “The Old Man and the Sea,” is well worth reading. The struggle the old man has with the fish is an allegory about life.

There are many mansions left in Havana by the fleeing followers of Batista. Castro has turned them into Senior Centers and pre-schools for young children. I’ve seen them and visited the interiors. Because of the embargo, supplies are limited.

I witnessed several business contradictions while there. The government encourages free-enterprise ventures. For instance I met a man that had his own scuba diving business. Another individual had a horse-drawn taxi service.

However, the most amazing was home restaurants. Individuals would open their homes for food. Each day the menu was different, but only one item was served. For instance: one kind of soup, one main course and one dessert. I ate at several.

I also visited a hospital facility for children. There were several buildings in the compound with at least a dozen doctors plus nurses. Children were from all over the world with several diseases represented. The care was free; parents could visit the children, but not stay more than a week at a time.

The Chief of Staff told me that in the years it had been run, only five children had died. Whatever they did, the kids benefited. I even have pictures of me dancing a line dance with many of them. By the way, Cuba sends doctors to many countries in Africa.

One final observation. I attended a Wednesday evening service at a Baptist Church. There was a huge chain and lock on the front door. A picture had been taken and circulated throughout the U.S. The pastor informed me that a hurricane had blown the door off, and they couldn’t get a new one.

The night I was there, the sanctuary was packed- not an empty chair.

The following Sunday I attended one of the three services at a Methodist Church. All three services were filled to capacity.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Today’s Senior Citizen

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

King David, of Jewish history wrote in one of his Psalms that our allotted years are “three score and ten,” or 70 years. In my opinion I think he wrote that after a bad night with Bathsheba.

In the Book of Genesis, (6:3) the statement is made that our years shall be 120. I like that better. In a recent scientific news article the view-point was expressed that before the end of this century there will be thousands of people reaching the age of 120.

There is an amazing revolution going on in the world today. It revolves around the problem of aging. The mandatory age of 65 to retire is no longer viable.

Seniors are continuing to work way beyond the age of 65. I read the other day that Howard Schultz the owner of Starbucks is hiring more and more seniors. I’ve also noticed that many fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Subway, Taco-Bell, Jack-in-the Box, Wendy’s and Burger King have older people behind the counter.

On November 30, 2014 Anne Tergesen wrote a most provocative article on aging. Her basic premise was that the traditional views about aging are all wrong. They are myths.

I was fascinated the other day when I read a statement made by David Mintz, CEO of Tofutti in Granford, New Jersey. He stated, “I want employees with energy and enthusiasm, fresh thinking, who start the day early and work late.” Then he concluded with the words, “and I found them in older workers.”

Seniors are also crowding classrooms with their presence. They are going back to school. News and our world is advancing at a rapid pace. Seniors don’t want to be left behind. They are an expanding minority.

Using Anne Tergesen’s article as a springboard, she challenges various myths commonly believed about seniors.

First myth. SENIORS ARE OFTEN DEPRESSED. In spite of declining health, that assumption is not true. According to the National Institute of Health, only 10% of seniors give evidence of depression, being cranky or irritable.

I’m often reminded of the words of Norman Cousins, which he wrote when he was in his 70’s. “No one knows enough to be pessimistic or depressed.”

Second myth. SENIORS SUFFER FROM COGNITIVE DECLINE. The truth is that concentration and memory begin to slip around age 30. We seniors certainly have aches and pains, but seldom do we lose cognition.

Third myth. OLDER WORKERS ARE LESS PRODUCTIVE. What a farce. Workers 55 or older make up 22% of the U.S. labor force. The majority of academic studies find there is virtually no relationship between age and job performance.

Fourth myth. LONELINESS IS MORE LIKELY. This also is in error. Of course many of our friends either die or move away. Again, the same studies indicate that friendships tend to improve with age. Who is traveling on ships; buying cars, shopping at Wal-Mart, member of clubs and churches: You guessed it, seniors.

Fifth myth. CREATIVITY DECLINES WITH AGE. A recent study at the University of Chicago found that 300 of our nation’s leading poets, artists and musicians had produced their best works in their senior years. Creativity is not limited to the young.

Finally, Tergesen states that, “all research shows that older employees are just as creative, just as productive and just as sharp as younger workers.”

They (seniors) are also better balanced mentally and more creative. “Experience also helps them to make fewer mistakes.”

To further enlighten our minds, consider the following people that qualify as seniors. President Obama, Vice President Biden, John Kerry, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Mit Romney. All members of the Supreme Court are seniors.

In the House of Representatives, 6 members are in their 80’s, 41 in their 70’s, 137 in their 60’s and 144 members in their 50’s. All seniors. Hello, John Boehner

In the Senate, 5 are in their 80’s, 18 in their 70’s, 32 are in their 60’s, and 30 are in their 50’s. All seniors. Hello, Mitch McConnell. Interestingly, most owners of professional sport teams are seniors and many of their coaches.

When it comes to wealth, Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Christy Walton (Wal-Mart), Howard Schultz and Oprah Winfrey are all seniors.

Now for creative artists. Betty White 93, Tina Turner 73, Goldie Hawn 67, Meryl Streep 64, Jane Fonda 75, Cher 67, Vanessa Redgrave 76; to name just a few. All seniors.

The men include Clint Eastwood, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Gere, Robert Redford, Robert Duval, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery; to name just a few.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Universe and Mankind

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I HOPE YOU CAN GRASP SOME OF THE NUANCES I’M ABOUT TO SHARE WITH YOU. To be frank with you, I don’t understand the significance of much of it. Probably Stephen Hawking does, but not too many others do- even scientists.

The writer of the Book of Job in the Bible had unusual insight into the nature and creativity of God. The story is recorded in other cultures: Sumerian and Egyptian, for sure. The main names are different but the story is the same.

In chapter 38 verse 31 of Job, it refers to Orion and Pleiades. Both have a Greek mythological origin, but they refer to heavenly constellations.

The chapter of Job is worth reading. The author puts interesting concepts into God’s mouth. He says to Job that if he is so smart, answer these questions. Who created the foundation of the universe? The seas, the seasons, day and night; human intuition and instinct; brings rain and snow; creates the laws of the universe? On and on.

Then comes the constellations of Orion and Pleiades. Genesis 1:1 says God created it all.

Scientists estimate the known universe is from 13 to 15 billion years old. Our earth is a mere 3-5 billion years old. The speed of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. That would be the equivalent of 317 round-trip flights per second between New York City and Los Angeles.

That means it would take 100 billion years to get from the beginning of the universe to its end. That changes every blink of our eyes because the universe is constantly expanding.

Here is an interesting statistic from Dr. Peter Enns, Ph.D. “Our universe contains as many as one trillion galaxies, thousands of light years apart, each containing billions and billions of stars also light years apart.”

If this information doesn’t stagger your imagination, consider the other extreme-atoms. There are 1,10,000,000 in a millimeter. For your annoyance there are subatomic particles. The number of atoms in our bodies is beyond measurement.

Consider now our earth. Scientists estimate it at 4.5 billion years old. If we scaled the age to the size of a football field-100 yards- your life or mine would be about 4/100,000 of an inch from the goal line. “A sheet of paper is one hundred times thicker.”

Let’s go back to God’s confrontation with Job over the two great constellations: Orion and Pleiades. The Orion is located on the celestial equator and is very recognizable.

In speaking of them God asks Job (38:31) “Can you hold back the stars? Can you restrain ORION or PLEIADES? Can you ensure the proper sequence of the seasons or guide the constellations of the Bear with her satellites across the heavens?”

The ultimate conclusion is that the universe is beyond human understanding. Yet, the latest assessment is there are millions of stars and thousands of planets that have similar potentials to develop life as our planet earth.

What is NOT known is how advanced the inhabitants may be.

It is vital to consider that which is most unique about we humans. Socrates is reported as saying, “Know thyself.” Of all the characteristics that we have, I suggest that what is most unique is what Victor Frankl (MD and Ph.D.) suggested.

He was my mentor, both verbal and literary. In class he would often speak of the “INDOMITABLE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT.” This view came to him because of his survival of Hitler’s death camp at Auschwitz.

We are all capable to express this power of the human spirit.

Two examples will suffice. Louie Zamperini and 7 year old Sailor Gutzler. Zamperini was to be the Grand Marshall of the recent Rose Parade but passed away recently at the age of 97. During World War II he survived being shot down by the Japanese, adrift in the ocean for 47 days, and tortured for 2 years in a Japanese prison camp.

He became a Christian in a Billy Graham campaign in L.A. in 1949 and started camps for delinquent boys for the rest of his life.

I had him speak at my church in 1960. He possessed the “INDOMITABLE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT.”

Sailor Gutzler recently survived a plane crash in Kentucky. Her parents, her sister and a friend were all killed. Wearing only shorts and a top; bare foot, with several broken bones, she trudged through briars, weeds and a rough terrain for almost a mile. It was Winter.

She saw a light in a home and when she knocked, the 71 year old man called 911. She possesses the “INDOMITABLE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT.”

Without question the greatest expression of God’s creativity is the UNIVERSE and MANKIND.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Mini-Memoirs

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Larry Smith was born on September 17, 1968. A native of New Jersey, he is an American author, an editor and publisher of several magazines.

He challenged his readers in 2006 to write a six word mini-memoir. He was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous short story, “For Sale; baby shoes, never worn.”

When pressed to do so, most of us can write our life’s emphasis in a very few words. I’ve given much thought to my own six words. They are: “Life is worth living; thanks, God.” Six words. To me the punctuation is as important as the words.

Jordan Miller accepted the challenge to compose a mini-memoir by writing these words. “Life gives lemons; but no juicer.”

Oprah Winfrey gives this thoughtful expression. “Seeking the fullest expression of self.”

Short and pithy are the words of Elaine Miscal. “I refused to be a victim.”

William Glasser was a distinguished psychiatrist. He stated categorically: “Life is born, lived, and finished.”

A paraphrase of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10 is: “I came to bring abundant life.”

Albert Einstein is believed to have been one of the most brilliant men in history. He said, “A failure is success in progress.”

Alfred North Whitehead, noted philosopher declared: “Seek simplicity and then distrust it.”

President Ronald Reagan was always noted for his forthrightness. One of his best known expressions: “We should trust and then verify.”

Albert Schweitzer was a great Philosopher, Musician, Physician and Theologian. Most of his life was spent as a medical missionary in Lambarene, Africa. In substance he said, “To live is to serve others.”

Stella (my wife) decided to share her own six word mini-memoir. Here it is: “Be healthy, Be happy, And persevere.”

Robert Schuler, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral was often heard to say, “Find a need and fill it.”

Webster defines a “memoir” as a “record of events based on the writer’s personal observation.” To explain that definition, memoir is simply an autobiography. A mini-memoir as suggested by Larry Smith is a concise account of a person’s philosophy of life.

His arbitrary limit of six words is unique. It challenges participants to focus on what they believe. To avoid so-called depth and ambiguity.

There is an old joke in which a minister’s wife sent him a note before the service. One word, KISS. The usher thought it was romantic. However, upon pursuing the meaning, the wife said, “Keep it short, stupid.” Too many public speakers as well as ministers ramble. The six word mini-memoir forces us to get a maximum of meaning from a minimum number of words.

From the examples listed above, there appears another enlightening observation. I almost missed it. Six words. “Variety is the spice of life.” It suggests no two people seem to accept the same idea.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “God always enters every life through a private door.” It can also be said that, “Truth always enters every life through a private door.” No one else thinks the same thing or the same way as we do.

Regardless of a professor’s power of persuasion or the unique logic expressed by anyone, every mind processes ideas and thoughts in different ways. The accumulation is referred to as our “Apperceptive mass.” The sum total of what you or I believe.”

I am a fan of the sit-com, “Walker, Texas Ranger.” In a recent replay he repeats a phrase to motivate several delinquent boys; “All our choices always have consequences.” The phrase very naturally fit into Larry Smith’s challenge for mini-memoirs.

The three great monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all accept the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is an allegory that reflects a basic truth. Eve and Adam are presented a choice with certain consequences.

Will they accept a moral choice or not? The consequence is approval or the opposite.

Choices involve decisions. They are basic to our living. Where we go; what we eat and read; what we believe; who we marry or associate with; what we think about or don’t; on and on.

CHOICES DETERMINE CONSEQUENCES; FOR OPTIMAL LIVING.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Serendipity in the New Year

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

What’s on your agenda for the New Year? Your goals, your aspirations, your dreams: Don’t have any? Why not? If you do not have expectations, they will probably be realized.

Even the Bible urges us to plan for the future. “Where there is no vision the people perish.” ( Proverbs 29:18)

I begin each year with a new date book. The back is filled with names, phone numbers and addresses. Then I fill in the front with appointments and birthdays. Leaving plenty of room for the unexpected.

The word that applies for the latter is SERENDIPITY. It has overtones of adventure and unexpected pleasures.

The word was coined in 1754 by Sir Horace Walpole, noted British author. It is based on a fairy tale that began in the land of Serendip. This country is an island off the coast of India.

For many years it was called Ceylon. Today its name is Sri Lanka. The fairy tale concerns the king of Serendip and his three sons. They are sent throughout the world to learn about it. They always meet the unexpected. Thus the word serendipity. Or, discoveries by accident of things they were not seeking.

Certainly there should be a word for that, because life is full of it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Columbus, looking for a direct route to Asia, stubbed his toe on America.” Serendipity.

Of course, many of the experiences in the New Year are predictable. We’ll be getting older. Doctors visits; Dentists as well. Some of our friends will die. The government will probably continue to be a mess.

The very essence of serendipity is indirection. Going after one thing and in the process, finding something else. A similar concept is used by magicians-misdirection. The word “by-product” is also appropriate.

What do Velcro, penicillin, x-rays, Teflon, dynamite, the Dead Sea Scrolls, quinine, smallpox vaccination, iodine, discovery of America, law of gravity, synthetic rubber, insulin, photography, sulfa drugs, glass, nylon, methane, interferon and hundreds of other things have in common? THEY WERE ALL THE RESULT OF SERENDIPITY.

On and on. One example of serendipity after another. However, most of us will never be explorers or inventors. Are there other ways for us, in the New Year, to experience it? Absolutely.

The unknown days (365) are uncharted. Never traversed by us before. Our journey will be like the three men of Serendip. Like them, we will indirectly meet NEW FRIENDS.

Just about everyday Stella and I go to a local Jack-in- the- Box for an egg sandwich. Several months ago, a young lady came in for coffee. We started talking, found several common interests and soon we were meeting everyday. Friendship developed. Serendipity.

HAPPINESS is always a by-product. It is experienced because of something else: an activity, a great dinner, winning the lottery, a family gathering, etc.

The year ahead will provide many opportunities for those or similar serendipities.

I have an insatiable curiosity. The subject doesn’t matter. I want to learn all I can about places, people and things. More often than not, opportunities present themselves unexpectedly. Serendipity.

I am anticipating the New Year because of the potential of many more SERENDIPITIES.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The cruising lifestyle

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I have been on 129 cruises; many of them as a destination lecturer. My favorite cruise is to Alaska. Second is cruising through the Panama Canal.

I have never been on a bad cruise. Each one has been an adventure. Every destination was interesting: Mexico, Hawaii, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Greek Isles, Baltic countries, East coast & West Coast of the U.S.

The longest trip was for 28 days. The shortest was from San Pedro to Ensenada and back-a week-end, Friday afternoon until Monday morning. This article is about my recent cruise to Ensenada.

When I have been questioned by someone who is afraid of cruising, I suggest they go on the short week-end cruise. It has the same things as a longer cruise: rooms, entertainment, activities and food-only less time.

Cabins with balconies, cabins with views, inside cabins and suites. All cruises now have cabins for those that are handicapped. The rooms are larger and have a much larger bathroom with safety bars. The doors are wide enough for wheel chairs and walkers.

Every ship also has a casino. They are closed only when the ship is docked. Food is available 24 hours –even delivery to the cabins.

Activities while at sea usually include bingo, specialty lectures, painting auctions, ice carving, vegetable carving, kitchen and engine room tours, water sports, dancing lessons and group meetings like A.A. and singles.

Every ship has several swimming pools and a library. Of course, shopping is always available when at sea.

A popular eating time that many ships are now endorsing is called “anytime dining.” It is an innovation to the traditional style of same seating and time. I prefer it.

As with all cruises, excursions (tours) are available and encouraged. Deep fishing, city tours and the well-known blowholes are a few of the excursions on the Ensenada cruise.

Specialty restaurants are a recent addition on cruises. With a minimum cover charge, a few of the specialty finds are: Italian, Asian, Steak and Sushi.

Shopping is not limited to off ship buying. Opportunities for spending go from clothes, books, jewelry to massages, pedicures, manicures, pharmacy items and plenty of sales.

I’m often asked, “What if I get sick?” Every ship has a doctor and nurse on 24 hour call. Last May while on an Alaskan cruise I developed a severe nose bleed. Stella called the nurse, she immediately sent a wheel chair for me, and called the doctor. She stopped the bleeding, explained what happened and back to our room I went, by way of the wheel chair.

The bill came to $170.00 which was included on our statement. I was reimbursed by my HMO within three weeks. I cannot say enough good things about the efficiency and care of the doctor, the nurse and the lab technician.

Embarkation and dis-embarkation and safety checks are traditionally a pain. But not so these days. Efficiency and speed are the norm.

Basic ship (Golden Princess) is in order. It is operated by Princess Cruises and its registry is in Hamilton, Bermuda. It has a gross registered tonnage of 108,865 tons and a net tonnage of 72,270 tons. The Golden Princess is 950 feet in length and 118 feet in breadth. The builders were Italian and it was delivered on April 27, 2006. The maximum number of passengers is 3100. Crew members total 1060.

The bridge command and control team are mostly Italians. The ship is manned 24 hours a day by two officers working four hours on and eight hours off.

A few years ago I met a lady who traveled every day on a cruise. Often moving only to board a different ship. Her reasoning? Where else could she get 3 meals and snacks a day; her room cleaned every day; entertainment, doctor’s care as needed; and if she died, buried at sea. But best of all she said, “It is cheaper than a nursing home or an apartment.”

Our next cruise is in February; and the one after in April.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Christmas history and traditions

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

December is the traditional month of the year to celebrate Christmas. The name stands for “Christ’s Mass,” which is a Roman Catholic term. The pressing question remains. Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?

The word “syncretism” is a theological term. Basically, it refers to the thoughts and practices that were taken from pagan or Jewish religions and incorporated into Christianity.

During the first 300 years following the life of Jesus, there were three other religions opting with Christianity for dominance. Judaism, Emperor Worship and Mithraism. Several practices were adopted from each of them into Christianity. Syncretism.

The term Mithraism comes from its “god,” Mithra. One of the tenets of Mithraism was the Mithra was born on December 25.

For several reasons it is unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25. I’ve been in Bethlehem in December. Its altitude is compatible to Running Springs. It was cold, rainy and sleeting snow. Shepherds would not have had their sheep outside in that weather.

Neither would a taxing be set in a cold season. It more likely would have been set in the Spring. The influence of Mithraism should be considered.

Josephus was a Jewish historian. He records the death of Herod the Great as being on March 13, 4 BCE (Before the Christian Era.) The same Herod that was killing all the babies under two years of age. He was out to kill Jesus.

This means that Jesus was born around 4 BCE. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the reign of Emperor Constantine. “A few years later, in 350 AD Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December.”

The tradition of giving gifts has two origins. The Roman Festival of Saturnalia (between December 17 and 23rd) to honor the Roman god Saturn. Syncretism.

The other tradition is about St. Nicholas of Turkey. As Bishop he would distribute gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

January 6 is called Epiphany. It commemorates the arrival of the Wisemen. According to the Bible they arrived at the “house”, different from the stable.

Christmas trees are a huge tradition. They originated in northern Europe, primarily in Germany. The Christmas tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert from his native Germany. The “tree” was brought to America around 1848.

The idea of Christmas cards began in England. Sir Henry Cole is credited with creating the first real Christmas card.

The story goes, he was curator of the Victoria and Albert museum and was too busy to send Christmas greetings. He, therefore, commissioned John Calcott Horsley to design a card with the greeting, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Other traditions about Christmas are: Christmas Stockings, Mistletoes, Holly and Ivy, Poinsettias, Candy Canes, Hanukkah, Kwanzas, Egg-nog, etc.

However, probably the most popular of all Christmas traditions is the singing of Christmas Carols. Where and when did they all begin? The very first recorded songs with a Christmas meaning was in the second century in Rome. They were all in Latin with the message being stilted and propaganda.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, songs of rhyming verses became popular. Primarily because of Milanese Bishop St. Ambrose. Enter St. Francis of Assisi. He abandoned Latin, used theatrics and songs were sung in the audience’s native language.

Martin Luther really gave Christmas carols a push. Tradition says he composed “Away in a Manger.” Then, the Puritans banned the singing of Christmas Carols. Too worldly.

Public singing really got a push during John and Charles Wesley’s establishment of the Methodist Church. He urged the people to sing “lustily.” Charles wrote the famous carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing;” even though there was great controversy with George Whitefield.

“Silent Night, Holy Night” was composed in 1817 by Joseph Mohr, a priest in Oberndorf, Austria, and the organist of his church, Franz Gruber. It has been recorded more than any other song in history.

Phillip Brooks, an Anglican Priest, wrote the words and Lewis Redner composed the music, to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in 1868. Brooks was inspired after visiting Bethlehem and viewing it from Jerusalem- 7 miles away. It is the easiest carol to sing and the only popular carol native to America, beside “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”—1849.

Secular Christmas music has had its birth in the USA. “Jingle Bells,” “I Wish You a Merry Christmas, “Silver Bells,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” “I Saw Momma Kissin’ Santa Claus”, “Deck the Halls,” among many others.

And, of course the most popular, “White Christmas.” It was composed by Irving Berlin and made famous by Bing Crosby. Bing sang it for the first time on December 25, 1941.

Amen. Selah. So be it. And a Merry Christmas.

James Francis Durante

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

James Francis Durante was affectionately known as Jimmy Durante. However, he was better known by his unique name of Schnozzola. (From the Yiddish schnoz-nose)

Jimmy was born on February 10, 1893 and died on January 29, 1980. He was the youngest of four children. Both of his parents were migrants from Salerno, Italy.

Durante dropped out of school in the eighth grade to become a full-time ragtime pianist. Along with being a pianist, he was a unique singer, a comedian and an actor. His voice was gravelly, his accent typical New Yorkese, his language was pure botchery and he always had a unique persona.

My adopted parents- Charles and Betty Miller- ran a string of racehorses, and I often visited them at the Del Mar racetrack. Inevitably Durante, Bing Crosby and Desi Arnes were in their own box. Jimmy really loved the horses.

Jimmy Durante was a star on stage, the radio, movies and television. His personal sayings were famous. “Inka Dinka Du,” “Good Night, Mrs. Calabash,” “Dat’s Moral Turpentine,” “I’ve Got A Million of ‘Em,” were only a few of his crazy sayings.

But my favorite of all of them is one that has a powerful truth in it. “Everybody has a Schnozzle.” His nose was an aberration. He made fun of Danny Thomas’ nose by calling him “Little nose.” Jimmy had an unusually large schnoz.

Just think about it. Everyone, just about all, really do have something about them that is out of the ordinary. Oprah has a weight problem. President Obama has big ears. Danny DeVito is very short. Jim Nabors is homely. To name a few.

But what about those that have “buck” teeth; or too skinny; or bow legged; or cross-eyed; or stutter like Mel Tillis; or one leg that is shorter; or a harelip; or pigeon-toed; or a double chin; or a prominent birth mark; or a lisp. On and on.

Durante was right. “Everyone has a schnozzle.”

Durante was well known for his support of a number of agencies that benefited children. Above all he was strongly supportive of Veteran Hospitals and all servicemen.

One particular incident that was told about him, I’ve never forgotten. He had been invited to put on a show for wounded veterans at a hospital. His agent informed them that he was so busy he could only do a thirty minute show.

As Durante was introduced he was standing off stage. As the crowd roared with approval, they clapped with excitement. Looking from his vantage spot he saw two wounded veterans enthusiastically applauding. One had lost his left arm and the other his right arm.

They were clapping-each with the other using their good hands and arms. Jimmy Durante changed the time. He did a two hour performance.

At his funeral, four days after his death, scores of celebrities and well-wishers attended the service. He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

It is impossible to calculate the influence and benefits he brought to others in his lifetime.

However, it seems to me there was a two-pronged message that his life and words projected: The word is COMPENSATE.

Beginning with Sigmoid Freud many psychologists like Adler, Maslow, Glasser and Rogers defined compensate as a “defense mechanism.” As in making up for some defect or weakness.

Often couples that cannot have children “compensate” by adopting children, or becoming elementary school teachers.

Another major use for compensation is as a “coping strategy.” For example many individuals that cannot make it themselves as a sports participant, use coaching as a coping strategy.

So it was with Jimmy Durante.

He was not handsome (big nose); he was a mediocre pianist; he was a lousy singer with a gravelly voice; and he wasn’t very smart-dropping out of school in the eighth grade.

He compensated, adapting humor into his looks using his schnoz. He played jazz-not having to read music. He made up melodies and used strange words in singing.- Inka, dinka doo.

Durante was funny. His persona was attractive and he made the audience laugh. He was entertaining.

He possessed another quality that every public performer needs; whether they be comic, a minister or a politician-compassion. A caring attitude for the audience.

The memory of Jimmy the Schnoz Durante will last as long as we who heard him will live-and then longer.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Growing poverty epidemic

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Poverty is a growing problem in American society. It is becoming of epidemic proportion. The economic health is evidenced primarily among one percent of our population.

From all reports, those not being benefited by the economic growth are the minorities. The major ones are Blacks, Hispanics and Seniors.

For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on the latter one-Seniors and homeless children. It is conservatively estimated that by 2025, seniors will make up 20 percent of our population. About 60 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are 40 million Seniors today.

Sadly, approximately nine million seniors (age 50 and older) go hungry every day. They are forced to skip meals. Many of them are constantly buying poor-quality food; often from the cheap markets.

Seniors are too often caught in the “hunger” dilemma because they must choose between groceries and medicines. Senior income is the circumstance contributing to their hunger. A high percentage have only their Social Security to live on.

Sociologists call this the “poverty fight.” It consists of some twenty million low-income older people. In addressing this situation, seniors are terminated from their job by younger people.

AARP reports that “more than 19 million older people over 50 cannot afford safe adequate housing. Unfortunately many times seniors that have minimal housing become victims of predators who rob them of their home, dignity and independence.

There is a further problem that older people face that society and their families ignore. Isolation and loneliness are a major cause of poor health. While many churches and Senior Centers provide fellowship opportunities the lack of transportation is a problem-availability and cost.

The problem of minority growth in our country is expanding. There are 54 million Hispanics; 45 million Blacks; 40 million Seniors and 19 million Asians.

A horrible fallout of minority poverty is the affect it has upon the young children and the aging seniors. Very little is being written about homeless seniors but social workers are concerned about the swelling numbers of seniors on skid row and the increasing numbers of seniors that frequent the missions.

The plight of the aging is also evident in the surging numbers in food lines at churches-both Catholics and Protestants-and Social Services. They are sleeping in cars, doubling up with other seniors in small apartments and even in tents.

An even greater tragedy is the homelessness among children. Dr. Carmela De Candia, director of the National Center on Family Homelessness, said recently, “Children are homeless tonight in every city, county and state in every part of our nation.”

She was addressing the fact that one out of every 30 children in the U.S. is homeless. This is the highest rate in history. The causes are obvious; the increase in poverty; the lack of affordable housing and the impact of domestic violence.

The National Center has also revealed that 2.5 million U.S. children were homeless in 2013. Of this number, approximately 8-10,000 children in L.A. County are experiencing homelessness right now.

In an article in the S.B. Sun on 11/18/14, Susan Abram and Beau Yarbrough reported, “San Bernardino County also has among the highest population of students who have experienced homelessness in the state.”

They further stated that in the Colton Joint Unified School District there are more than 23,000 students enrolled, “of whom more than 5,000 are homeless.”

For aid in dealing with poverty in need of food, The Senior Nutrition Program, (909) 384-5434, can be of help.

Also, there are many churches and Senior Centers that distribute food to needy families and Seniors.

The most prolific provider that I have found in my research is “THE ROCK” church. It is located on South Waterman Avenue, just south of the Ten Freeway. They are particularly helpful to the homeless and the elderly. They provide them with food at no cost.

They have an over 8,500 square foot food Distribution Center that is privately funded. The Rock owns and operates tractor trailers that haul food to their campus. They also have a large walk-in refrigerator that allows them to keep the food fresh. Last year (2013) over 500,000 people were fed through the church.

I am reminded of a comment by Nelson Mandela. It is very appropriate: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Thanksgiving

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014, is in many respects the National Holiday of the United States. We worship it with adoration and reverence.

It is the essence of our religion. Our icons are the turkey and football-both college and the NFL. We eat the turkey and all of its trimmings. Then we collapse in our pews (the couch or easy chair) and argue the subtle points of football. The spirit of Thanksgiving was not always so pagan. The three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Mohamedism, all have their special days of worship. Christmas and Easter; Hanukah, and Yom Kippur; Ramadan. Interesting enough, thanksgiving-in its purest form is the basic expression of devotion of all three. Read the book of Psalms, which all three religions accept. Thanksgiving to God is the theme of most of the Psalms.

So, it was quite natural for the Pilgrims to celebrate with thanksgiving to God on December, 1621, for His blessings. They had survived their first winter and harvest. However, where and when the first Thanksgiving was held in the United States is open for debate. St. Augustine, Florida declares it was on September 8, 1565 in their city.

Many historians say it was in Virginia and not in Plymouth. As early as 1607. It is recorded in the founding charter in Charles City, Virginia that a day of Thanksgiving was held in 1619. However, December of 1621 is generally accepted as the time of the first day of Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.

In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving on November 26. Abraham Lincoln did the same for the last Thursday of November in 1863.

In 1939 President F. D. Roosevelt proclaimed a national day on the fourth Thursday of November. Every President since then has followed this tradition.

Ben Johnson, the great English essayist, is reported as saying, “Gratitude is seldom found among most people.” Seemingly, the more independent we become and the more self-sufficient we become, the less likely we are to acknowledge a spirit of gratitude. Which always precedes thanksgiving.

As great as Mark Twain became, he was the exception. At the top of his popularity, he was paid between three and five dollars for each word he wrote. A fan wrote him a letter requesting his (Twain’s) favorite word. He included a five dollar bill. In his most inimitable way, Twain sent back one word-THANKS.

Remember the story of Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz? He was a vicious, resentful, morose killer. He spent fifty of his seventy years incarcerated in prison.

However, he became a well-known author and rehabilitated his life. He became an authority on birds. Especially what caused their sickness and death. Reportedly, his change began when a sparrow flew into his cell and was ill. He cared for it and it became well. He then did something unusual for him. He asked a guard for help.

The jailor was at first resentful but then relented and gave him a small box that Stroud had asked for. Then came his response, “Thanks.” The first expression of gratitude.

Ultimately gratitude is a spiritual expression. Most Christians are aware of the word “Eucharist.” It is the word used for the Sacrament of Holy Communion and The Lord’s Supper. Its meaning in Greek is “Thanksgiving.” The celebration of the Holy Eucharist was the first Sacrament of the Christian faith.

Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian of the last century, said it this way, “Gratitude is the only appropriate response any of us can make to God.”

Helen Keller said, “I never feel so alive as when I take time to say, “Thank you.”

Dale Carnegie stated that, “Gratitude should be expressed but not expected. Thankfulness is a key. It unlocks so many things that were closed, from frozen relationships to harden hearts.”

However you spend Thanksgiving Day this year, I urge you to include time to express gratitude to God.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Depression is Universal

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Depression is an illness that plagues millions of people in our country and around the world. Medication to alleviate its symptoms runs into the billions of dollars every year.

Thousands of hours are spent each week with clients seeking help. It is estimated there are 39,000 suicides each year in the USA, most of them involving some aspect of depression.

Mental depression is a part of humans without discrimination. Men and women, young and old, black, brown, yellow and white, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.

In other words, depression is universal. And it is ageless in its universality. For example, a unique account is recorded in the Bible, I Kings chapters 18 and 19. It occurred about 3000 years ago when Ahab was king and Jezebel was queen of Israel.

Elijah was a prophet and was in conflict with Ahab, Jezebel and the priests of Baal. The climax comes about when Elijah slaughters the priests. Then Jezebel takes over and threatens to kill Elijah. He runs for his life.

After several hours, he stops and exhausted, collapses under a juniper tree. After a good night’s rest, he awakens and God has a sumptuous meal waiting for him.

After running some more he arrives at a cave, takes another nap and eats another meal.

He is in deep depression. He’s lonely, afraid of Jezebel, feels that he is the only one serving God, and without friends.

God speaks to him and shows Elijah 7000 men to combat Ahab. He assures Elijah he is not alone and he is to anoint Elisha to assist him. Jezebel is thrown to the dogs and eventually Elijah goes to heaven in a whirlwind.

Elijah’s recovery from depression is good therapy. 1) Rest and a good sleep. 2) A satisfying meal and more rest. 3) Encouragement from friends. 4) Dependence on the Power (God) beyond himself.

Serious bouts of depression have been experienced by many famous people. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Isaac Newton, Brooke Shields, Jane Pauley, Terry Bradshaw, Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Twain, Dick Cavett and plus hundreds of others.

In This Week, national magazine, there is a headline, “Robin Williams: Depression’s Deadly Grip.” So it was and is.

Michael Friedman, writing about Williams for CNN, said, “He seemed to have it all, talent, fame, fortune, adoration of millions.” Then he wrote an illuminating comment. “Depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with, and shows no mercy.”

There is a minimal depressive state that is often ignored. Some call it “the blues,” others call it “feeling down,” others refer to it as “sadness.” Men particularly don’t understand when women describe themselves as suffering from PMS.

Medication or therapy is seldom necessary. The story of Elijah is more appropriate; a good night’s sleep, or a good meal or meeting with a good friend.

One final admonition about depression. David Weigel, columnist recently wrote, “If you’ve never suffered from depression you really can’t fathom how crushing it can be.”

The symptoms are often self-doubt, self-loathing, fears of failure and abandonment. “It’s a brutal disease that hijacks your mind and your life.”

It is vitally important for loved ones and friends of persons that suffer from depression, that victims of depression need understanding, compassion and assurance. A basic diagnosis is victims almost inevitably have a sense of worthlessness.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Change demands decisions

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

I never cease to be amazed at Pope Francis’ liberal and concise statements. Recently in response to criticism from conservative Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, he said, “GOD IS NOT AFRAID OF CHANGE.” The Bishops had objected to his “suggesting that the church accept gay and divorced Catholics back into the fold; and perhaps even invite them to receive communion.” This is obviously a revolutionary agenda. (the above from This Week-10/31/14)

I am reminded of the ancient argument among Greek philosophers regarding the most basic element in life. Some philosophers advocated fire; others were in favor of wind; water was a favorite choice of many; but the favorite, by Herodotus, was change.

In fact, he declared the inevitability of change. For several years I had a statement by my chair made by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great philosopher. “We must always change renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden and die.”

Goethe implies that a person can avoid change and be the worst off. A national university has an interesting motto. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Wasting a mind, or talents or one’s health is terrible. Wasting opportunities are also a terrible waste. Change demands decisions.

There are many conditions that inhibit change. There is one that is extremely important. I have a plaque on the wall, beside the front door. A friend of mine gave it to me several years ago.

It reads: “Insight is the beginning of change.” Awareness, thoughtfulness and evaluation all contribute to having insight.

Once we gain insight, it is a powerful motivating factor for change. In fact, there cannot be a change in values and a change in behavior of any kind without it. Change demands decisions.

Neither meaning nor insights are automatically given to us. Usually both are prompted by adversity, family intervention, handicaps, failures of any kind, destructive habits, and physical defects, etc.

For example, Stevie Wonder. He has received 22 Grammy awards over his 51 year music career. He has been blind since birth. He could have chosen to sit on a sidewalk, cup in hand, begging.

At an early age, call it a brainstorm or insight, he began to tinker with the piano, then the harmonica, then drums and finally the bass. He began to play them and sing and then write songs.

Today he is truly an icon. He has realized and developed his potential. Stevie Wonder changed his life form poverty to plenty. From an unknown to world-wide acclaim. This father of seven; has not only changed himself but also changed the lives of others.

Richard Branson is one of my favorites. His story is remarkable.

He is 64 years old-born on July 18, 1950. He is the 4th richest person in England. Queen Elizabeth is number one. Branson is dyslexic and did so poorly in school he dropped out at age 16. His teachers and authority figures, “assumed he wouldn’t go very far in life.”

But Richard defied the odds. He changed. It dawned on him-an insight-that he possessed people skills. He knew he had street smarts.

Today he is a billionaire; owning the Virgin Airline, a record company, a mobile phone company, an island in the Caribbean, a space-tourist company. Today the Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies in more than 30 countries. All came about through his insight creating changes.

Change through insight came to Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon. He suffered from depression and alcoholism.

Ludwig van Beethoven helped shape and change the future of music even though he was totally deaf. He wrote The Ninth Symphony when he was totally deaf.

Oprah Winfrey, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey, Moses and above all, Helen Keller changed from being victims to being victors. Insight, they certainly had. CHANGE DEMANDS DECISIONS

Amen. Selah. So be it.

A little more about Boston

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

This article is a sequel. One article is not long enough to cover all there is to know about Boston. A second is necessary. Its history alone would take up several books. The attitude of most Bostonians is that their city is the center of the universe. Anything west of it isn’t worth knowing about.

One writer says that “sumus primi,” is the motto of the Boston Latin School and means “We are first,” and it fits Boston like the proverbial glove fits the hand.

First, consider the availability of tours covering Boston and its surroundings. There are several “trolley” companies that cover most historical sites. Tourists can get off, stay as long as they like and catch the next one—usually every 30 minutes.

Such places as Beacon Hill, Boston Commons, Old North Church, U.SS. Constitution, Harvard, MIT, Boston Latin School, many burial places for noted people.

Second, consider the saga of Paul Revere. Believe it or not, he never made it to Concord. He was captured by a British patrol on his way to Concord. He was riding with two other men, but only one of them succeeded in warning the Americans in Concord that the British were coming. And it was not Paul Revere. It was Dr. Samuel Prescott.

Revere became famous because of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was first published in the January issue of The Atlantic Monthly, in 1861. There are several inaccuracies in Longfellow’s poem. Revere did NOT send the message of “one if by land two if by sea;” he received it. He did not row across the Charles River, he was ROWED there.

Such is history. Paul Revere died in 1818. He was honored in 1995 as a true hero.

What about the Boston Tea Party? It is as much a fantasy as Paul Revere. However, American patriots were upset by rising taxes on tea levied by the British.

But it wasn’t the taxes that irked the American colonists. But rather being taxed without representation. Now get this. What the Americans hated was a TAX CUT. For big business. The Tea Act of 1773 benefited only the British East India Company. The outcome was predictable. The colonists, dressed as Native Indians, boarded the ships and dumped the tea in the harbor.

Education was almost as important to the Pilgrims and Puritans as religion. Within five years of December, 1620—their landing on Plymouth Rock, a law was passed that wherever there were 25 families, they MUST have an elementary school. Wherever there were 50 families, they must have a secondary school. All paid for by local taxes.

No one should ever visit Boston without going to Cape Cod and particularly the city of Plymouth. It is well known for its historical value. While the County in which Plymouth is located has the largest area and a population of 55,000, the town of Plymouth has only a population of 7, 494. Plymouth prides itself in being one of two settlements established in the New World. The other being Jamestown, Virginia; settled in 1607.

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in September 1620. It is a port on the southern coast of England. I’ve been there and it is a rustic, quaint village.

Little did the 102 passengers know what they were in for. The Summers in Boston and the Concord area are blistering hot. The Winters are cold with winds, ice, snow and rain from December through March. The Fall and Spring are the times to visit.

They disembarked on a rock about 40 miles south of Boston’s city limits today. The rock is smaller today than in 1620 because of tourists breaking off a chunk through the years. Because of that they can now see the rock but not touch it.

The village re-created in the city of Plymouth is a must-visit. The staff is dressed like the original Pilgrims and lectures are conducted. There are 20 miles of trails, plenty of shops, a typical church, antique stores, self-guided tours, museums and tours available to interesting nearby places.

Prior to the Plymouth Colony, 2,000 Wampan Native Americans called the area Patuxet. Also the region was visited twice by European explorers. In 1605 Samuel de Champlain and his ship stopped there and named it Port St. Louis.

A few years later, Captain John Smith from Jamestown, Virginia, stopped there and re-named it New Plymouth. Of the 102 original passengers, 46 died the first Winter. Within 15 years, public schools were started, Harvard was established (1636), a book was published and several villages were built. And, of course, the first Thanksgiving was held.

On March 16, 1621 a most important event took place. An Indian brave named Samoset walked into the settlement and called out, “Welcome” in English.

Later he brought his friend Squanto, who spoke better English. He had been taken to England prior to 1620.

A final personal note. On August 15, 1945, I was at the Boston Commons-which is a must for every tourist. The crowd was immense. Thousands of service men plus hundreds of young ladies and a few civilian men-like me. It was V-J Day. A memorable occasion for all.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The power of women

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

The other day Stella and I visited a local church at their early service. During the minister’s diatribe he said, “God has told me that I am the head of my house.”

I was appalled and disgusted. He probably got his viewpoint from the Apostle Paul who had a bias against women to begin with. There is no evidence in the Bible that he was married. The minister was using the verses from Ephesian 5:22 and 5:23 for his views. “Wives submit yourselves unto your husbands. For the husband is the head of the wife.”

Most objective sociologists will confirm that we live in a matriarchal society. Women rule the roost. Or, behind every successful man, there is a woman-usually his wife. When a man is really the head of his house, he is a bachelor. Of course, a man is usually out front getting credit for family success. Erroneously. Ask any successful man or men who was responsible for their success and about 99% of the time, they will respond, “My mother.”

Ask Bill Clinton, George Bush (father or son), and Jimmy Carter who was responsible for their success and the answers will be: Hillary, Barbara, Rosalyn. Without question.

History gives an accurate account of the role of women. Consider Abraham without Sarah, Isaac without Rebekah, Jacob without Rachel, Samuel without Hannah, David without Bathsheba, Joseph without Mary, Constantine without Helena, Augustine without his mother, Luther, Wesley, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln without their wives. F. D. Roosevelt without Eleanor. You name a successful man and I’ll name the power behind him-his wife, mother or sister. Unfortunately the role of women in many societies has been relegated to being “barefoot and pregnant.”

It wasn’t until 1920 that women were allowed to vote. World War II was a turning point. They entered the military and industry. Today there are growing numbers of women as CEO’s and key persons in their own businesses.

The recent evidence of spousal abuse by football players is only a fraction of the national picture. History has recorded the fact that the less educated a person, the greater the possibility of abuse. Crime of all kinds is more evident in the poverty section of a city; especially physical abuse.

Education is the key. This is also true when it comes to women being elected to public office. Currently there are 76 women serving in the House of Representatives and 20 women in the Senate. Five of our 50 states have female Governors.

It seems apparent to most observers that a solution to the Congressional grid-lock would be to have more women in both houses. Why? The answer is simple. Women are more prone to compromise and reconciliation and negotiation. They are used to making decisions for the good of the family: In this case, for the good of the country. Above all, women are adaptable and SURVIVORS.

In modern times, the roles of women have greatly expanded. Here are a few examples. Golda Meir became the first female Prime Minister of Israel. Her greatness was obvious. She held this esteemed position from 1969 until 1974. Prior to that she was the Foreign Minister from 1956 to 1965. She left a powerful positive influence on Israel’s destiny.

Dilma Rousseff is the 36th President of Brazil. She has contributed greatly to Brazil’s rise as a financial giant. Angela Merkel has been primarily responsible for the rise of Germany’s influence in Europe. She is the first female Chancellor of Germany. She is also one of the architects of the European Union.

Margaret Thatcher was often called “the Iron Lady.” As Prime Minister of England she saw unprecedented economic prosperity. She was elected in 1979 and severed for eleven years.

The power and influence of Queen Elizabeth should not be minimized. She has been a dominate leader in the world since she became Queen.

Financially women are second to none. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the richest, but they became rich only after they married.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest of women or men, but China tops the list with Wu Yajun. Her net worth is 5.7 billion; Oprah is 4th in the world among women. Doris Fisher is 6th; Meg Whitman is 10th; Sara Blakely is 14th; and six of the top 14 are from China.

The women that have made significant contributions to American society are impossible to list. Suffice to say from Rosa Parks to Hillary Clinton.

This list does not include women that are leaders in the fields of Education, Religion, Science, Medicine, Law, Sports, Therapy, on and on. Without question we can assume they are the head of their homes.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

A little place called Boston

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

According to scientists of many disciplines (Geologists, astronomers, archaeologists, etc.) the Boston area came into being about 1.8 million years ago. That marked the retreat of the Great Ice Age.

As the glaciers melted, they deposited debris across the north eastern part of North America. The debris formed what would become Beacon Hill and Boston Harbor.

Many thousands of years later, before the Puritans arrived, Native Americans settled in the area that they called Shawmut “land of many waters.” Historians estimate that 100,000 native inhabitants were in the area to welcome the sails of Puritan ships.

The Boston Latin School (1635) and Harvard College (1636) were both started then and are in existence today. Currently Harvard is the richest endowed University in the world-approximately worth 35 billion dollars.

Boston Latin School marked the beginning of public education in the Colonies and of course in the USA. It was supported by taxation. Currently there are 65 colleges in the Boston area. Boston University has the largest enrollment (31,766) with Harvard at 25,690. Second to Harvard in notoriety is M.IT.- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Boston, today, has a population of 617,594. In many respects Boston is a true melting pot of nationalities. There is an Italian section, a China town, an Irish area, Hispanic section, and African- American area and about every other ethnic priority.

Boston is sports crazy. The Boston Red Sox have longevity. Then there is the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins and of course, the Boston Celtics. Of course the Boston Marathon has a reputation far beyond Boston.

There is one condition in Boston that needs clarification. It is the streets in and around Boston. The age-old adage about them is simple “Wherever the cows went, streets were built.” Strange as it sounds, it’s pretty well the truth.

In Colonial days Boston was in a three-way trade. Slaves in the Caribbean grew sugarcane; shipped it to Boston, where it was made into rum; that was sent to West Indies to buy more slaves.

Molasses was in abundance and beans were cooked in the syrup. When thousands of Irish came to Boston, they existed on baked beans and Boston became known as “Beantown.”

Boston is known for civic corruption and politicians, from Ben Franklin-who was born there—to Tip O’Neal, John F. Kennedy, his father Joe Kennedy, and the rest of the Kennedy Tribe.

There are several historical towns in and around Boston that are my favorites. Quincy, Cambridge, Lexington and Concord. I recently visited all four of them.

Quincy has a population of 92,271. It is the birthplace of both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Both of them became Presidents. The father was the second President and the son was the sixth.

The town was named after Josiah Quincy. He was a prominent attorney and politically active.

In addition to the Adams, John Hancock was also born in Quincy. He was the President of the Continental Congress. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and was reported as saying after signing his name in large letters, “I want the King to see my name without his spectacles.”

Father and son are both buried in the basement of the Unitarian Church. Their home is still standing, surrounded by a large park.

Cambridge has a population of 105,162 residents, with about 50,000 of them students at Harvard and M.I.T. Incidentally during the Revolutionary War, Harvard was moved temporarily from Cambridge to Concord.

Lexington is the city where the shot was fired that was “heard around the world.” There are only 31,394 residents in the city but they are all devout patriots. The first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here. It is dramatized on the Lexington Battle Green from April through early Fall.

The terrain is hilly with many trees that obviously provided protection for the patriots as they devastated the English.

Concord is an unbelievably picturesque New England village. With a population of only 17,668 residents, Concord gives the appearance of a bland rural community. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is well named. It is the burial place for Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, among others that made Concord a haven for literary greats.

These writers caused a renaissance in the 19th century that influenced our country; and still does.

The homes in Concord maintain a New England influence as well as the scenic highways. Of particular importance are Walden Pond and the rebuilt cabin that housed Henry David Thoreau. Along with the Emerson home.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Great thinkers who challenge our life views

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

In a recent column by Gloria Macias Harrison she included three sentences by Gene Roddenberry.

Roddenberry was born on August 19, 1921 and died on October 24, 1991. He was a TV screen writer, producer and futurist. He created the original Star Trek television series plus several more popular series.

He was a bomber pilot in World War II and flew 89 combat missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Before his writing career, he also flew for Pan Am. In 1949-1956 he was a member of the LA police department.

His writings always included positive references to maximize the years we have. The article by Gloria Macias Harrison includes one of his best.
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take delight in the essential differences between now and cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”

I also like this statement by Roddenberry. “A man either accepts life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away.”

Here is another statement that should challenge all of us. “It is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are. It does not matter that we will not reach our ultimate goal. The effort itself yields its own reward.”

Henry David Thoreau was born, raised and died in Concord, Massachusetts. He is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, also in Concord.
He was born on July 12, 1817 and died on May 6, 1862 at age 44. Thoreau attended Harvard University and was a guiding light in the beliefs of Transcendentalism and the New Thought. They advocated individualism, no taxes, concern for the environment and smaller government.

He, along with Emerson, participated in the Freedom Rail for escaping slaves. They both were true Abolitionists.
He is best known for his isolation at Walden’s Pond. He built the cabin on land loaned to him by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

While Walden’s Pond is described as a small body of water, today it is a good sized lake. Thoreau’s original cabin is no longer in existence, but its replica is. In it is a bed, a desk, a fireplace, a desk and a bookcase. There is a statue of Thoreau in front of the cabin.
His reason for his decision to live the hermit’s life is clear in his own words. “I went to the woods deliberately, that I might not come to the end of life and find that I had not lived at all.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 and died in 1882. He was a graduate of Harvard and a prolific writer. A strong influence in the Civil War. He also influenced Thoreau and others in establishing the free thinking of Transcendentalism, or New Thought. The closest thing to it today is Libertarianism; the views of Senator Rand Paul.

He, along with Thoreau, was born, raised and died in Concord. He is also buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
He has written many paragraphs that are well worth printing, but the phrase that has stimulated me the most is very short. “God enters every life through a private door.”

So often religious fanatics try to make their experience normative for everyone else. Whatever experiences we have are always unique to us.
William James is considered to be the greatest psychologist ever produced in the USA. His reputation lives on, even today. Born on January 11, 1842, he died on August 21, 1910, at age 68. He is often referred to as the father of American psychology.

James was born into an affluent family. His father encouraged all of his children to get a good education and William studied psychology at Harvard. His brother Henry James became a highly acclaimed American novelist.

Beyond writing extensively on the subject of psychology, he also addressed the subjects of Pragmatism, Conversion, Emotion, Functionalism and the Influence of Psychology.

The two most profound of his statements are about depression and conversion. About depression he stated, “Act the way you want to feel and pretty soon you will be feeling the way you’re acting.”

His definition of conversion is clear and meaningful. “It is the process, gradual or sudden by which a self-hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy.”

Amen. Selah. So be it.

The Bible misunderstood

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

The Bible is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood book ever printed. It is not a scientific book or an accurate historical book, even if some try to make it so.

It does contain some science and some history, but not much. Most of it was written more than 1900 years ago. The writers saw the world as everyone at that time did. The world was flat. Travel was by foot, slow boat or by donkey.

Most people didn’t live beyond forty years. Jesus was an old man at age 33, when he died. Education was limited to a very few.

In my opinion, the biggest misunderstanding is in believing the Bible is humorless, joyless and without laughter. Nothing can be further from the truth.

To prove my point I will site the Bible itself and Elton Trueblood’s book, “The Humor of Christ.”

Laughter is a result not the cause of a humorous event. An absurd event, a ridiculous event, a contradictory event. Or an imaginary humorous event that memory has resurrected from the past.

A case of absurdity is evident in the life of Abraham and Sarah. They were told by an angel they would have a baby. He is 100 and she is 90 years old. The absurdity of such an event causes both to laugh. By the way, they name the baby Isaac; which means laughter.

The Bible doesn’t always reveal the cause of laughter, only that laughter occurred. In Psalm 126:2, it says, “our mouths were filled with laughter.”

Child psychologists tell us that babies laugh between 20-30 times an hours. It is the result of pleasure, happiness and contentment. It is reasonable then to presume that whenever these emotions are present in all instances by all people, laughter will naturally follow.

There are three basic elements, one of which is usually present in humor: absurdity, hyperbole (exaggeration) imagination. Remember the very popular sit-com a few years ago-MR. ED?

It was about a talking horse. Absurd to be sure. But it’s right out of the Bible. Numbers, chapter 19. The Scripture is about Balaam and his donkey. The donkey talks and berates Balaam. A laugher to be sure. Absurd? Absolutely.

Use your imagination about these stories. Noah and the Ark. Bill Cosby made it great with his interpretation. Imagine all the animals defecating. What a mess. Or Jonah living in the stomach of a great fish. Or a kid (David) stoning a giant with a slingshot and then cutting off his head.

There are scores like these in the Bible that are built for laughter.

What about Jesus? In the book, “The Humor of Christ,” written by Elton Trueblood, he laments the “widespread failure to recognize and appreciate the humor of Christ.” He further criticizes the admirers of Jesus as well as his critics in his lament.

It is important to recognize His use of paradox and irony, along with satire in His humor. Jesus’ use of humor was more in the style of Mort Sahl than that of Bob Hope. At times he was very caustic. Trueblood was stimulated to write the book after witnessing his young son crack up laughing. “He laughed because he saw how preposterous it was for a man to be concerned about a speck in another’s eye and ignore the beam in his own eye.”

His son knew the human eye was not big enough for a beam. It was absurd. The same goes for the ridiculous idea of a man going through the eye of a needle.

The “whited sepulchers” jab by Jesus toward the Scribes and Pharisees is extremely humorous. Many of the parables are filled with irony. Trueblood points out the use of hyperbole in many of the miracles: feeding thousands with a boy’s lunch or Peter sinking in the water because he didn’t know where the rocks were.

In my view, a great example that Jesus was often humorous and funny was the attraction of children to Him. He demanded that children be allowed to be close to Him.

Also an interesting Scripture describes Jesus as fraternizing with low lifes. (publicans and sinners) Also His enemies called Him a “wine-bibber.” That’s like making Jesus an alcoholic. Now use your imagination. Whenever a group of men get together, with a few drinks, they swap stories, humorous ones and laugh uproariously.

That’s true in Highland, L.A., New York or Jerusalem. Today, last year or 2000 years ago.

These are but a few samples of Jesus’ use of humor. To display Jesus’ serious side and ignore His humorous side is to ignore a large part of the Gospels.

Amen Selah. So be it.

Resolving Differences

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

For the past decade and a half Iraq has been in the news. Mainly because of the two wars fought with the USA. Evidence now reveals that we wanted their oil.

The reason Washington used was the lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Previously the oil industry had been nationalized. After the military victory, that was changed. So that private oil companies-like Halliburton-could own the oil.

The 36 million people in Iraq are basically Muslim. Sixty three percent are Shiites, thirty-four percent are Sunnis and three percent are Christians and Jews. Most of the Christians speak Aramaic, which was the language that Jesus spoke.

There are almost 3 billion Christians in the world today. There are 2.09 billion Muslims. The latter is divided into Sunnis and Shiites. Their schism dates back to the 7th century disagreement over succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D.

The Shiites followed the Prophet’s family and the Sunnis honor Abu Bakr a close companion of the Prophet. That holds true today.

Historians call Iraq “the cradle of civilization.” Bible scholars believe the Garden of Eden was in the southern part of the country. Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Muslim came from the land of Ur, also in Iraq.

Nineveh, made famous by Jonah is in the north. The Bible speaks much of the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Persians. All three dominated Iraq at one time or another. Israel was wiped out by them in 722 and 582 BCE.

Ten thousand years ago Iraq was called Mesopotamia; which lasted until 334 BCE when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

The first dominate people of the area were Sumerians. They go back before the Egyptians. They began as a primitive people who were primarily hunters and gatherers.

From them came the very beginning of civilization, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon-one of the 7 wonders of the world.

Many of history’s greatest developments took place in the Sumerian dynasty. By the year 4000 BCE the people had developed villages and towns and the city of Ur in 3500 BCE. The Sumerians were dominating until 2000 BCE.

They had developed the first writing system, the first code of law (the Code of Hammurabi), farming techniques like crop rotation and had developed a system of mathematics including the use of the “zero.”

They also were the first ones to use a “wheel.” They also developed the hoe, the rake, the shovel. Trade was established with nomadic tribes. They also had a system of irrigation canals and dikes.

They were the first to use copper and bronze; maps and calendars. They built carts, made pottery and were the first people to develop a written language.

Literary experts describe the famous Epic of Gilgamesh as, “a collection of folklore, stories and myths which was the most famous literary achievement to come out of Mesopotamia.”

Many Egyptian, Greek and Jewish stories are based on it. For example the Epic and the Bible have parallel stories: Adam and Eve, Noah, the flood, Tower of Babel, Jonah and Job.

The Sumerians were also the first people to establish schools, writing and an accounting system. They built a system of pyramids, which the Egyptians copied.

Sumerian culture also established monotheism rather than worshiping many gods. They developed the use of iron and were the first to have iron weapons of warfare.

One writer categorically says that the greatest contribution to come out of Mesopotamia was, “the concept of time. They were the first to establish 24 hours in a day, each hour into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 second.”

The bitter fighting in Iraq today is between the Shiites and the Sunnis. They are both Muslim. They are similar to the attitudes between Catholics and Protestants, 100 years ago. Hopefully their differences will be resolved. Amen.

Selah. So be it.

Bennett, Religion, Science

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Tony Bennett is unquestionably one of the greatest singers of all time. He is currently 88 years old. Frank Sinatra referred to Tony as, “The best singer in the business.”

He has sung for ten Presidents. A noted painter, he has three of his paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute. His albums of songs number in the millions.

He was in World War II and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. When he had to kill a young German soldier at close range, it affected him so much he became a committed pacifist.

Bennett has strong beliefs regarding racism. He is an avowed liberal, often marching in favor of civil rights.

In a recent interview he was asked what he considered the greatest issue of today.

His answer involved an incident about himself and Ella Fitzgerald. They were good friends and often their families spent holidays together. He quotes her saying, “Tony, we are all here.”

What she meant, he says in the interview, “We are all here on the same planet. No matter what our race, religion, culture or ethnic background is. We are all humans sharing the same space in the universe.”

He concludes with his affirming his belief is what she said. He continued by saying, “Until we realize it we will never truly reach our goals as human beings.”

Tony Bennett is not only a great singer, he is a great person.

A CHANGE OF EMPHASIS

There is a major conflict between religion and science that has been going on for several hundred years. The issue revolves around the beginning of the universe and more specifically our planet and still more specific—us, you and me. A belief of many fundamentalists Christians endorses the view of Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) that the first day of creation was October 23, 4004 BCE. Obviously this has been discredited with scientific discoveries.

Science, in general, contends that “chance” is the source of everything. In Christianity there are as many different views as there are denominations. However, the commonality is an acceptance of a Creator, reflected in such phrases as “Intelligent Design: or “Random Designer” or “Theistic Design.”

William Paley was born in 1743 and died in 1805 (62). An Englishman he taught natural theology and philosophy of religion at Christ’s College in Cambridge, England.

His viewpoints are in line with Plato, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton regarding the order and dependability of the universe. He would have endorsed Albert Einstein’s statement in 1954, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.”

All of these men would challenge the view of many scientists and atheists who believe that the universe is the result of CHANCE.

The bottom line is Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Back to William Paley. I find his analogy of the watchmaker very credible. A paraphrase will suffice.

Suppose several hundred years ago you had never seen a watch. You were walking through a forest and see your first watch. You’ve never seen one before and have no idea what it is. You pick it up and examine it.

It has a leather case and a small dial. It has a spring and makes a ticking sound. There are two hands on the dial moving in a predictable pattern.

You do not say, this thing is merely the product of pure chance, coming from all over and fitting together to produce structure, symmetry and order. It needs a maker-a creator.

The universe is made up of laws. The speed of light, the Big Bang-13-15 billion years ago, the law of gravity, etc. Neil Armstrong would never have made it to the moon without the predictability of the universe. Not chance.

Using your process of logic and deductive reasoning, you know that to have order there must be a creative mind and a maker. This principle is also applicable to building a house-it need an architect. An airplane needs an engineer; a song needs a composer; a German Chocolate Cake needs a baker. Any creation needs a creator.

The Bible in Genesis 1:1 says it all: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And I might add, and all within it, including you and me.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

Home is where they know us at our worst and still love us

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

There are many events and experiences in life that bring pleasure and joy to us. Being born in this great country should never be discounted.

The freedoms we have provide untold opportunities. Included are the chances to learn, to worship, to work and to have fun.

We who are so fortunate should remember the less fortunate in our thoughts and prayers.

But of all the blessings of life, it seems the most glorious is our homes. Robert Frost expressed it best in his poem, The Death of the Hired Man; “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they take you in. I should have called it, something you somehow don’t have to deserve it.”

Not to have been born in a caring, loving home is a tragedy beyond expression. However, it can be safely said that family abuse is of epidemic proportion.

Every day the news media gives evidence to that. The causes are as varied as there are instances.

Often the abusers were victims themselves. That’s all they know. Physical abuse. Alcohol is often the trigger. It causes lack of control and undisciplined behavior.

Statistics indicate that economic problems often drive abusers to the use of alcohol.

Psychologically the frustration of not having a way out of problems, particularly financial, will precipitate abusive behavior.

A corollary to abuse is delinquency among children. School teachers report that students are often more rebellious after violence is portrayed on television or in times of war.

The mayhem in sports, movies, video games all contribute to an atmosphere of violence. This is transferred to home abuse.

Emotional and mental abuse is equally devastating as physical abuse. And often more so. It seldom leaves outward scars, only inward. A classic example is the husband who avoids speaking to his wife for days on end, but would be lovey dovey at social events. It leaves the wife a mental and emotional basket case.

You would think that the better the education and the richer the family is, would lessen the instances of abuse. But that is not so. Pressure on the job is the curse. It causes stress that needs to be released, and too often abuse is the way out.

What can be done to defuse the tension in a dysfunctional family? Is termination the only recourse for the responsible members? Of course, in the extreme the authorities should be notified. When worst comes to worst they can protect the victims. And certainly erase the cause for abuse.

Intervention on the part of concerned family members, or a neighbor, a minister, school teacher, a doctor, or a therapist, may alleviate the abuse when the abuser is confronted by the concerned.

Mental illness like bipolar or clinical depression can be helped with medication. Both of these illnesses can lead to family abuse.

Other organizations may be useful like Alcoholics Anonymous and a church. Religious involvement can be an invaluable help in all kinds of abuse. The churches have always been in the reclamation business. Never underestimate their message of redeeming the lost and needy.

Often the victims are seniors that are physically harassed and abused by their children or other relatives. It is a growing social embarrassment. Seniors are also often abused simply by neglect.

Someone has said that all families are dysfunctional in one way or another. That doesn’t negate the potential for change that makes families functional.

William Barclay was one of the greatest Bible scholars of all times. He wrote over 50 books. In one of them, he said, “Home is the place where you don’t need to be brave. Home is the place where they know us at our worst and still love us. I believe in home—I believe in marriage—I believe in the family, for I could not have lived without them.” ME TOO.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

 A little bit about Sam Snead

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

To me, the game of golf is the most fascinating sport there is. It combines the maximum of physical skill and a great amount of mental planning, plus creative thinking. It is a combination of brains and brawn.

My favorite senior pro golfers are Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson, followed by Fred Couples and Phil Mickleson.

Among the younger players today, I like Rory, Bubba, Adam, Tiger and Sergio. But my all-time favorite is SAM SNEAD. In my mind he was head and shoulders above all the other golfers in his time or any other time.

Samuel Jackson Snead was born on May 27, 1912 in a small town-Ashwood, Virginia. He died on May 23, 2002-4 days before his 90th birthday. He died of a stroke.

Sam’s wife, (Audrey Kames) and he were married in 1940. She died in 1990. They had two sons, Sam Jr. and Terrence. They also had two grandsons.

Sam was always active in sports. During high school, playing football, basketball and running track. In fact, he ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds flat. He was in great health most of his life: 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing an average of 185 pounds. In his eighties Sam was so limber he could touch the top of the average door jam with his foot.

He was the youngest of five brothers and was inspired to play golf by his oldest sibling. Sam made his first clubs from saplings from the trees. He walked the course in his bare feet and would practice hitting rocks.

In fact, when he was having problems with his game, he would often take off his shoes and sox. In one of his Master’s win, that’s what he did. He went barefoot. And won the tournament.

Many golfing authorities see him and Ben Hogan as the two greatest golfers of all time. The interesting thing about their competition, Sam beat Ben every time they had a playoff.

While his contemporaries do agree he was great, they also agree that he was cantankerous. He was strong willed and always voiced his opinions. He was also humorous.

Sam always had a joke and most of the time they were suggestive or downright dirty. Two of my favorite humorous stories, that are not dirty, are about two other golfers.

The first one is about Ben Hogan. Sam challenged the view that Hogan never talked. Sam said, “That’s not true. He always talks to me. He says, ‘Sam, you’re away’.” That means Hogan was closer to the hole than Sam.

I really love this one. It concerns a young (25) golfer that was pretty good. He and Sam were playing on a good course-with a side bet-and they came to a 450 yard, dogleg to the right, about 250 yards from the tee. At the turn there was a group of trees about 70 feet tall, and they were out of bounds.

Sam says to the young golfer “When I was your age I could hit the ball over those trees onto the green.” Not to be outdone, the golfer tried it himself and it landed right in the middle of the out-of bound trees.

Sam laughed uproariously. “Of course, when I was your age those trees were only 10 feet tall.” Sam was 70 years old at the time.

Sam became famous for using the word “yipps,” when his putting was bad. It was the shakes. So he started putting like someone playing croquet, straddling the ball. Unfortunately the PGA outlawed the technic.

He never wore a golf cap. Only a broad brimmed hat. He never took it off because his hair was gone. Did you know he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II?

Perhaps you are questioning my view that he was the greatest golfer ever. I back up my opinion with these statistics.

He played professionally from 1934 until he retired in 1987. A total of 53 years. In that period of time he won 82 PGA sponsored tournaments. He was the winner of 162 professional tournaments. No one is even close to the latter number. Only Tiger may win more PGA tournaments.

For several years he was the PGA’s leading money winner. It should be remembered that he competed the highest ranked players for 50 plus years like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

A famous statement of his describes him to a tee. “Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey and never concede a putt.” Finally, Sam Snead was a great golfer and a penny-pinching hillbilly from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Amen. Selah. So Be It.

 Living life to the fullest

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Over the past 34 years I have written hundreds of articles for various newspapers. The subjects have been eclectic. However, I’ve focused more often on seniors, our country, travel, aging, people places and things.

Like Horatio Alger, many of my people articles have been “rags to riches” in emphasis. Or, overcoming handicaps like Helen Keller.

Consider Renee Bondi. She wasn’t always a quadriplegic, as she is now. Recently I heard her sing and heard and saw her interviewed. Her singing is smooth and melodic. She also has a wide range from low alto to high soprano.

She and her husband Mike have been married 25 plus years and have a son, Daniel, who is 18. They live in San Juan Capistrano. 1988 marked a drastic change in her life. A devout Roman Catholic, she was recognized as one of the best Gospel singers in the USA, on a par with Sandi Patty.

In May of 1988, she fell out of bed and severed her spinal cord.

The pain was severe and in the ICU the doctor informed her that she was a quadriplegic and would never walk again or ever sing again. She was to be married in July to her fiancé.

Against all odds and all physicians prognosis, Renee’s voice was miraculously restored. She has written a book of her life: “The Last Dance Bur Not the Last Song.”

In addition to being a very talented singer and musician, Renee is an emotional public speaker. She has the gift to inspire and motivate the audience. Always she tries to lead the listeners to a higher spiritual Christian commitment.

It is also her personal goal. Her relationship with God has been the source of her optimistic spirit and deep faith. Recently she was confined to her bed for several months, lying on her stomach.

She spent a part of each day memorizing Scripture and meditating on it. Her favorite chapter is Philippians, 4th chapter. It contains such verses as: ”I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” And: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” She would follow Scripture with the memorization of verses of song.

Jason Wolfe is my second important person. Now 45 years old, he says he wondered as a kid if he would ever see adulthood. He didn’t think he’d be alive. Father gone, mother disabled, on welfare, too many children and she sent him to an orphanage, the Milton Hershey School.

It’s the best financed school for impoverished kids in the country with over 7 billion dollars in assets. Currently the school serves 1,925 students-boys and girls. The School owns controlling interest in the Hershey Company and all of its interests.

On April 29, 2014 Jason was named the 2014 Alumnus of the Year. “The standard is amazing. Recipients of the award have demonstrated a human and exemplary service to others. Jason meets all the requirements.”

He is an usher at Orchard Hill Church and participates in a Bible study group. He has been on three mission trips to Haiti. Last year he and his 9 year old son took a van across the country filled with gifts for needy children at Christmas time.

Today he is the owner of Gift Cards. Com that he founded in 1999. Last year it earned approximately 150 million dollars.

He credits his success to the values he learned at the orphanage: hard work, concern for others and being a Christian.

Bob Bell. He was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. In High School he was a football star, coached by Joe Scarborough, of the Morning Joe program on MSNBC.

During his freshman year of college, tragedy hit. In a roughhousing bout with a friend, Bob’s neck was broken and he became crippled. Bob has spent the last twenty-four years as a quadriplegic.

However, anyone who has seen or heard him speak knows that his spirit was not damaged. As one friend says, “His journey since then, both literally and metaphorically has been truly awe-inspiring.

His recent book has a unique title. “Un Moving Four Ward.” Decipher its meaning for yourself. Basically it is for anyone “who has faced, is facing or will face a difficult time in their life.”

Obviously, it is for everyone. It has humor in it, inspiration, informative and is painfully honest.

There is a basic challenge in it. That we should live the one life we’ve been given to its absolute fullest. The book is full of stories and tips for keeping a positive perspective despite life’s problems.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

 Ideas and insights

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

This article is a smorgasbord of interesting ideas and insights. Fifteen of them.

Of all the people that graced CBS’ 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney was my favorite. In one of his books he wrote an interesting item about Igor Stravinsky. Born 1882 in St. Petersburg, Russia, he came to the USA in 1939 and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. He died on April 6, 1971 in New York City.

He is considered the greatest composer of the 20th century. One of his best known sayings is, “My music is best understood by children and animals.”

Rooney said that Stravinsky started his career in Russia as a newspaper columnist. However, he complained that the breadth of what he could write about “drove him crazy.” He wanted something that was predictable. He turned to the 7 notes of the scale: do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti; then the octive. He became a composer.

I saw a most interesting statistic recently regarding happiness. The citizens of New York City are the unhappiest in the USA. Maybe it’s because they were not the one in twenty-five citizens of NYC that is a millionaire.

Second unhappiest city is Pittsburgh, PA.; followed by Louisville, Kentucky and Detroit, Michigan.

On the opposite side of the fence, the citizenry of Richmond, VA are considered the happiest people in the USA. Second is Norfolk, VA followed by Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia.

I was saddened to read of the death of Louie Zamperini at the age of 97. The book “Unbroken,” about him, is being made into a movie by Angela Jolie. An amazing hero in World War II, he was to be the Rose Parade’s Grand Marshall on January 1, 2015. In 1960 I had him speak at the church I was pastoring in Cypress, California.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

I like this statement by Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Did you hear about this incident? A Frontier Airliner was stranded in Wyoming. It left Washington, D.C. for Denver. They were kept on the plane for seven hours. The Captain Gerhard Bradner, ordered thirty- five pizzas for them.

While Frontier is known for being cheap, but not so Captain Bradner. He explained, “They were my responsibility.”

Barney and Betty were sitting on the couch watching TV. They were married for 50 years. Suddenly Barney says, “Hon, promise me that if I ever become dependent on just machines and bottled fluids that you will put an end to it.” “No problem, my love,” said Betty. She promptly got up, turned off the TV and poured his beer down the drain.

Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. Right now.” (John 10:10)

The great boxer Jack Dempsey said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” Obviously the word “champion” applies to all of us, boxer or not.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a great woman. She said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”

I really like this comment by George Will. “Pessimism is as American as apple pie-FROZEN apple pie with a slice of processed cheese.”

This thought is almost unbelievable. Do you know if I doubled a penny every day, and continued doubling it daily for a month, the total would be over 5 million dollars?

The word “why” is a great door-opener for information. For instance. Why do ships and aircraft use “mayday” as their call for help? The answer is because it comes from the French word m’aidez-meaning ‘help me-and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’

This one will blow you away. The French again are involved. Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’.

The answer involves France because it was the first country to popularize tennis. The round zero on the score board looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf.’ Which is French for “the egg.” When tennis was introduced in the U.S., Americans (naturally) mispronounced it “love.”

One more. Why is someone who is feeling great “on cloud nine?” Because clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. The person on cloud nine is floating well above worldly cares.

Thanks to Warren Mitchell for the “why.” . Amen. Selah. So be it.

 Pope Francis continues to make changes

By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.

Pope Francis is on a roll. Not only is he changing the image of a Pontiff, he is radically changing the Vatican and the Roman Catholic’s influence in the world.

With all his activity it is important to remember that he is not a young man. In his teens he played sports and became a world class dancer. His comrades tell of his dancing the night away with a series of beautiful young ladies.

Unfortunately he is vulnerable to pneumonia because of the loss of a lung. Word is that he has also gained 20 pounds. He needs our continual prayers.

Pope John XXIII (23rd) and he have a lot in common. Both have brought great changes to the Church. Both reached out to non-Catholics and leaders of other religions.

Recently he made a trip to Israel accompanied by Jewish, Muslim and Eastern Orthodox leaders. He visited several sacred shrines and consulted with both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.

His major message was for peace in the Holy Land. He emphasized the primacy of peace in all religions. In no uncertain words he called for unity and tolerance among all countries and religions.

Two subjects have really stirred the ire and vocabulary of the Pontiff: the Mafia and pedophilia among priests. In recent days he visited the region of Calabria. He visited the family of a three year old boy that had been killed by members of the Ndranghera syndicate.

The Pope was so upset that one Vatican writer said, “The Pope gave words of unequivocal condemnation never before issued from the mouth of a pope.”

Before a Mass of 200,000 people the Pope roared, “Those who in their life have gone along with the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated.”

One writer in Italy interpreted the statement, “Italians who do not follow the church are no longer welcome in it.”

The Calabria Mafia is the power base of the drug trafficking syndicate, making billions of dollars each year. They also extort money from businesses and infiltrate government agencies.

Pope Francis, in his homily, denounced the Mafia for its, “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.” He then went on to say, “The Mafiosi are not in communication with God. They are excommunicated.”

In a special mass to honor hundreds of men, women and children murdered by the Mafia, the Pope challenged members of the mafia to “change their lives. Convert. Stop doing evil. . . There’s still time to stay out of hell. That’s what’s waiting for you if you stay in this path.”

Pope John Paul initially spoke in 1993, when he angrily called the Mafioso to “Repent, because one day you will face the judgment of God.”

In response to those who fear for Pope Francis’ life, he responded, “It’s true that anything can happen. But let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”

The Pope’s second outburst of anger was directed at the pedophiles in the priesthood. He left no doubt about his feelings when referring to the perpetrators, “I have zero tolerance for them,” he said.

Recently he held a special mass at a small Vatican church, followed by private meetings with six victims of pedophile priests. “He begged for their forgiveness and condemned the Catholic Church’s complicity in covering up despicable actions and grave sins.”

Pope Frances is backing off somewhat of his statement that one in fifty priests is a pedophile. This rate would mean there are 8000 pedophiles in the priesthood worldwide. He described it as “a leprosy in our home,” that infected even bishops and cardinals.

As a corollary “he mused that celibacy for priests was introduced only 900 years after Jesus’ death.” He implied it was time for revision. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox churches split with the Roman Catholics over the matter of celibacy: Their priests are permitted to marry.

A recent article from Chicago uncovered thousands of pages of secret church documents revealing that the Archdiocese of Chicago failed to protect children from abusive priests.

The article continued “the Bishops shuttled accused priests from parish to parish. They failed to notify police of child sexual abuses. The ones in authority believed the guilty priest could be cured with counseling. Even the Cardinals were complicit. Over 65 priests were found guilty in the indictments.”

Pope Francis is relentless in defrocking all priests found guilty. Amen. Selah. So be it.

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