Good And Evil In The Heart

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”

–Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956)

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Crafting Your Own Job Security

Living in the swamp of a stagnant economy presents many challenges one might not otherwise face in a time of prosperity.  Navigating a volatile employment market takes ingenuity, drive, and creative thinking.  And not a little personal sacrifice.

Depending on where you reside, the unemployment rate currently hovers between 7-10%.  It is an employer’s market, even in the Armed Forces.  One career Army sergeant told me a few summers ago that the job security of being able to reenlist is a thing of the past.  Those who wish to do so are carefully scrutinized.  A record of poor performance, apathy, dust-ups with the law (e.g. bar fights, domestic mischief), etc., and your chances of being rehired are remote indeed.  Even the US Army can now pick and choose.

As well, many highly educated veterans in banking, InfoTech, retail, and other markets, having been downsized, are now taking the simplest jobs, with high mortgages and school bills coming due without fail.

What to do?

I believe that job security is best stewarded in one’s own hands.  Labor unions can only go so far.  Those who keep their skills current, their work ethic stellar, their thinking creative, and their drive unimpaired stand the best chance of finding and maintaining gainful, even satisfying, employment in this competitive economy.

Here are some things you can do to hone your edge and increase your staying power:

  • Traditional continuing education.  This means everything from attaining or completing a degree program to adult enrichment courses at your local community college.  You must weigh the costs associated and determine the value of the investment.  It is a fantastic choice for many.
  • Internet learning–at little or not cost.  There is so much free training material on the Web that one is able to complete a good deal of traditional education for little or no cost.  True, such training may not have the clout of an earned degree, but if it enables you to produce the results a company is looking for, you may get the job.  MIT and Stanford, to name just two outstanding schools, have a huge assortment of free courses online—computer programming to engineering and everything in between.  Avail yourself.
  • A second job outside your primary vocation.  It does not hurt at all to learn skills completely unrelated to your career.  I am an IT professional, but also a carpenter, musician and baker.  When the chips are down, I can look to these other fields for income and production.  If it means taking a second job at low pay and bottom of ladder, do it.  You will learn a new skill, valuable in itself.  And it may well keep you afloat in the days ahead.

Remember, you may have to train on your own time and dime.  Make the sacrifice.  Your sense of self-accomplishment as well as potential marketability are worth the effort!

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Phil Keaggy on “What A Day”

“The album [What A Day] came out of my life. ‘Now I Can See’ is the song that really speaks what my heart is saying. When life goes into an album, life comes out. There is a lot of music that is fantastic technically but it lacks life and spirit. Jesus said, ‘The flesh profits nothing, but the Spirit gives life.’ I’ve got music that’s fantastic musically, but then there’s music that the Lord ministers through. He anoints it. The input that you receive is also your output. Its roots go back to influences in a person’s life that have been good and pure. You know, when it comes to anointing, that’s something only the Lord can do: He can use someone who isn’t as talented or someone who is much more talented than I am. I encourage people to get into music but I remind them to remember who’s the author and giver of that gift. I discourage people from getting a guitar just to be like me. When someone is given a gift from the Lord, the Lord will accomplish that which concerns that gift. It’s all for the purpose of glorifying Him, to build up the Body, to edify the Body, and to bring news to the fainthearted — — to those who are lost, and to set the captives free.”

–Phil Keaggy (1976)

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Freedom is not free.  It comes at a price.  I live in northern New York just outside of Fort Drum, headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division.  Drum is one of the most heavily deployed Army bases in the United States.  It may be the heaviest.

I have seen soldiers return from war—if they even do.  Many have paid with their lives.  Those coming home face challenges that only a soldier who has seen the hell that is war could possibly understand.  Families in shambles, mental health challenges (read PTSD), some no longer having limbs.  And more.

Today is Memorial Day.  A day of remembering.  Sacrifice is not on the short list of a society given to consumption and self-fulfillment.  But it is one of the prices of freedom.  Sacrifice on the battlefield and unselfishness, even restraint, at home.  It is the foundation of any society that long endures.  Its lack portends the eventual collapse of the same.  Obviously, we as a nation are in some trouble if we don’t recover once again this heroic virtue.

Say thank you.  Just do it.  They’ve all willingly thrown themselves under the bus for you.

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Increase Your Vocabulary; Increase Your Influence

Self-development expert Jim Rohn once made the important point that “all of life is sales.”   Throughout each day of our life journey, we are all involved in some form of communication, seeking to win a hearing and persuade others for mutual benefit.

I’ve listened to some older success audio by the late Earl Nightingale over the past six months.  One of the points Earl made was the fact that people in very powerful and influential positions in business are characterized by their expansive vocabularies.  A large and varied command of language carries with it the potential for advancement and increased incomes for its possessor.

I love words.  Just ask my wife.  And I get bored easily with clichés.  Aren’t you tired of hearing things like “awesome,” “been there, done that” and “just sayin’?”  I’m sure others are too.  The use of a cliché often betrays laziness if nothing else.  We all need color and freshness of expression.  It enriches life in a profound way.

It’s been said that the difference between a sparse versus a rich vocabulary is a mere 3500 words.  Ponder that for a moment.  By taking time to learn new words and fresh expressions, you can elevate your powers of persuasion, influence and earning.

Here are some tips to grow your vocabulary and your station:

  • Read widely.  One public figure whose stunningly rich vocabulary sets him apart from the rank-and-file is political commentator George Will.  One might not always agree with a position Will espouses but listening to him articulate it is a treat—candy for the ear.  As well, read novelists who’ve done very well with wordcraft.  Ralph McInerny and Daniel Silva are favorites of mine.  Bible teacher Chuck Missler is another as is The Message author Eugene Peterson.
  • Read with a dictionary close by.  Corollary to the above bullet point. I have a new Kindle Fire®.  It has the advantage of a built-in dictionary that activates when you highlight a word.  If a word is unfamiliar to you, look it up.  Then begin using it in your own speaking and writing.
  • Use new words in speech as appropriate.  The rule is to prefer the shorter word if it conveys the precision and color you are looking for.  But using just the right word trumps all.  Take a little time before speaking and seek to say something in a new and winsome way.
  • Learn foreign languages.  My own studies of French, Russian, Hebrew and Greek have all helped me to understand my own English and to communicate more vigorously.  President Richard Nixon once commended the study of Latin because 1) it is the most orderly of all languages and 2) it is foundational for much of our own language.

One of the goals we should each strive for is to give those with whom we interact a superior experience to that which they are currently enjoying or loathing.  New words bring color and freshness.  And everyone thrives on that.  Be the source.

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Facing Fear

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

–Frank Herbert

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