My, how things have changed...

The text of President Washington's original Thanksgiving Proclamation, signed October 3, 1789 follows. Interesting to see Congress and the President reflect their shared sense of God's providential hand over the nation so soon after the Revolutionary War and the ratification of the US Constitution - a sense that our increasingly secular government seems to have forgotten. Read with pleasure - and happy Thanksgiving!

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war [i.e. the American Revolutionary War]; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

111th Big Game Highlights

Ah, there's nothing quite like watching Cal demolish Stanfurd on a sunny Bay Area November afternoon.

Check out the GORGEOUS "hook-and-ladder" play at the 4:40 mark!

A remarkable turn of events!

Two important updates to my coffee conundrum, and a whole new question.

UPDATE #1 - Voter Fraud Strikes This Blog!!

ACORN, it appears, is still alive and well: registering everyone from Mickey Mouse to the Globe Trotters. And now they've struck my blog's recent coffee poll! Thankfully, no expense is spared here and we've had a crack team of international monitors checking things out every step of the way (pictured right), so there's no way the fraudulent votes would slip past us!

On Monday with 24 hours to go, the polling was a landslide for me: 17 people had voted "Heck yeah!" 3 had voted the more subdued but still Matt-affirming "yes," and only 2 people had voted "no." And one of those two was Esther herself! (the other guilty party, though known, shall remain unnamed) So, at 20 for and only 2 against, the people were clearly speaking for truth and justice. That was at 4:30 p.m.

Then, at 6:00 p.m., a mere 1.5 hours later, the "no" vote tally mysteriously leaped from 2 to 19! A quick check of the site visit statistics showed that only three separate visitors had hit my blog during the time the phantom "votes" appeared. Then, the next morning 3 more site visits mysteriously resulted in 20 more fraudulent votes. Yeah, right... what do you people take me for!?! Looks like someone figured out how to delete their Internet cookies and artificially stuff my ballot box. But WE ARE NOT FOOLED! This is America, and the authentic votes of the people are what count. The people have spoken and Esther was clearly urged by one and all to share a glorious pot of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee with me. Oh, and the FBI's Voter Fraud Unit is on its way over to Nike headquarters in Beaverton as we speak...

But wait, it gets even better!

UPDATE #2 - The Tables Turn!!

Proving that cheaters never win, and that God is on my side in this, two amazing occurrences have completely shifted the balance of power in this contest. First, a sensible, gracious, and intelligent reader had so much compassion on me that he bought me a half pound of Jamaica Blue Mountain! That's right - I have my first ever bag of this bliss right in my own cupboard! Pat Magee, you're my new hero, and your character is clearly constituted of different stuff than... some people's.

Second, Esther called her mother to make sure a pound of JBM was coming this holiday season for her... and it isn't! Turns out mommy didn't travel to Jamaica this year and thus didn't bring any home, so no JBM for Esther this Christmas! When she told me the news she was sad, but when she realized I had my own JBM she was positively shocked. Justice is so sweet! She couldn't believe that the tables had been turned so completely on her that she followed me and my bag of coffee around the church all morning, begging for a few beans so she could make a pot for herself.

I'm not making this up - this couldn't get any better. Now I am the one with the power! I am the one with the status! I am the one with the beans! Which leads me to my new dilemma...

A NEW QUESTION - Should I give Esther any Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee?

You've now heard the story. You've witnessed the harsh treatment I received at the hands of Esther. Now that the tables are turned you've seen her follow me around and beg me to share with her even though she wouldn't share with me! So how should I respond?

  • Option 1 - No way Jose! Someone needs to learn a lesson in humility and sharing! Especially someone who's job is molding the hearts and minds of the next generation.
  • Option 2 - "Pray about it..."

  • Option 3 - Take the high road and extend grace even though it's not deserved.

Now, I would set up a new poll but I'm afraid ACORN may show up again at any time. So this time, please let me know which option you think I should choose by leaving a comment!

Book Review (and Giveaway!) - The Question of God

Talk about a fun book! This is one of the most reader-friendly ways to get a handle on what worldviews are and why they matter. This book compares the lives of two of the 20th century's most influential thinkers: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. It's an interesting comparison. Lewis & Freud were contemporaries of one another, and each man was an influential spokesman for opposing views of life.

Sigmund Freud represents the view that God is imaginary, and science is the only way to know anything - a view which is still widespread today. He inherited a religious influence from his devout Jewish mother and his Catholic nanny, and felt the tension between belief in God and atheism when he was a university student. He eventually chose atheism, and spent the rest of his life trying to get people to leave religion behind altogether.

Lewis experienced an opposite journey. The death of his mother and other difficult circumstances during his youth led him into an aggressive atheism, influenced in large part by Freud's worldview. However as a young adult he became convinced of God's existence, and later became an outspoken Christian.

Two influential thinkers, spreading two very different views on life. And very few 20th century figures exerted the widespread influence of Lewis and Freud.

The Question of God looks at the life of each man, and then contrasts their views on subjects like God's existence, love, pain, happiness, and death. The author draws from the men's writings to describe their views, but he also goes a step further by exploring whether each man actually lived according to his stated worldview - and what the results were.

Engaging, well written, easy to follow, and extremely interesting, this book is a great read. I had trouble putting it down.

And I think you will too. So... I'm giving a copy away! Yes, it's time for another Book Giveaway Drawing. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post by Friday November 21. I'll collect all names Saturday morning for the drawing, and the winner will receive a brand new, never-been-read copy of The Question of God. I'll even cover the shipping if you're not local.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Setting Esther straight...

I need the help of my astute readership to resolve a new problem.

Recently Peet's Coffee announced a new limited crop of the world's most rare and exquisite coffee: Jamaica Blue Mountain. Grown in Jamaica's Blue Mountains (that figures - pictured below) this coffee is well known amongst coffee connoisseurs as being the world's finest, but I've never had the opportunity to actually try it due to the price tag: Peet's is selling it for a limited time only at the astronomical price of $40 per half pound. Ouch! No way can I afford that.

Enter Esther Boley, a fellow coffee snob who happens to have been born in Jamaica and thus is extremely partial to Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Because of the family connection to that Caribbean island, Esther's mother sends her a pound of JBM coffee every year for Christmas. Nice gift! So I suggested that out of a whole pound, she would surely be willing to part with a few ounces to a good friend like me so I could brew my first-ever pot of this exquisite treat.

She laughed in my face. Just look at her: she's mocking me. If that's not a "I get Jamaica Blue Mountain and you don't" look, I don't know what is!

Now, regular readers of this blog will recall that when I won free Peet's coffee for a year I got to designate 5 friends who also received free Peet's for the year. Esther was one of those friends. Yes, that's right: my dear friend Esther has been enjoying an entire year's worth of top quality Peet's Coffee shipped right to her door fresh every month, completely free of charge. All because of me! Total retail value of her coffee year is over $400 - yet she laughed at the suggestion of parting with $8 worth of Jamaica Blue Mountain in return. I, I... I'm stunned. I don't know what to do with myself. My equilibrium has been thrown off. I'm not sleeping well anymore. I don't have friends any longer...

Her reason for this moral outrage? She hasn't given me one. When I pointed out all the above to her, she simply said she'd "pray about it." Huh? Pray about it? What's there to pray about!?! That's like praying about whether you should go to work in the morning, or whether to pay your water bill. You don't pray about such things, you just do what's right! Right?

Here's where you come in. Having had my core sense personhood so thoroughly shaken, I've decided to submit this matter to the court of my blog readership. Please register your thoughts in my poll to the right.

Vote for truth. Vote for justice. Vote for a few ounces of Jamaica Blue Mountain - my dream come true!

Why I've Chosen To Vote No On Senator O

OK, in an earlier post I kidded about revealing my choice for president, but this time I'm serious. There's a lot of emotion out there, but there are also rational reasons to support either candidate. What follows is a summary of why I can't throw my support behind Barack Obama, which has nothing to do with fears over him being a "closet Muslim," his being black, or any other of the scare-hype that collects around every presidential candidate. Basically I want to offer rational thoughts and invite rational commentary, agree or disagree. This isn't the place to accuse Obama of being the Antichrist or to insult Sarah Palin's intelligence, etc.
In fact, I have to say I'm drawn to Senator Obama's intellect and his ability (rare among politicians in this sound-byte world) to try and move the conversation to a higher level. In short, apart from his positions I find a lot to like, and I hope to see more leaders who are "wired" like he is rise to national politics. That said, here's why he didn't get my vote:
1. The Economy
It's not news to anyone that we're entering a period of prolonged economic recession, and every credible economic source I've read indicates that this recession will be long (probably a few years at least) and somewhat painful. More painful than anything this generation has had to go through yet (though previous generations have). But history tells us that the powerful US economy, driven by free market capitalism, will recover... unless it's thwarted by ill-conceived government intervention. An increasing body of research (take this article from UCLA researchers for example) is showing that foolish New Deal government policies are why the Great Depression of the 1930's lasted as long as it did. Had Roosevelt not moved so aggressively to nationalize economic solutions, the economy would have recovered much more quickly.
Which brings me to today's economic slowdown/recession. Basic democratic capitalist theory as well as history both seem to suggest that the last thing we should do is expand the size of the government and use political power to change the flow of the economy. Senator Obama's vision for massive entitlement expansion (like universal taxpayer-funded health care) and his publicly standing by his desire to use government power to "redistribute the wealth" are exactly the types of government intervention I think will worsen and prolong this recession. And I find it curious that he's still enthusiastically advocating these wealth redistribution policies at a time when the economy's wealth generating mechanisms are spluttering.
I have to say I appreciate the fact that Senator Obama seems to be stating what he's for in forthright terms. That's a breath of fresh air and I genuinely appreciate, and give him credit for it. But I see the economic question completely differently than he does, and I think history substantiates my view over his. So with respect I disagree with him, and I think an Obama presidency will both prolong and intensify the current economic crisis.
2. The Value of Life
People are tired of debating abortion. So am I. That's the way it always is with the great moral questions of the day. People were tired of William Wilberforce and his Clapham Group debating the African slave trade. People get tired of talking about racism. But I'm glad King & the civil rights crusaders didn't quit doing so, aren't you?
The most interesting thing to me about abortion in this election actually isn't Senator Obama's position (I'll get there in a moment). What's interesting to me is a trend among younger pro-life Christians to actively support pro-choice candidates this year, in an effort to prove that they're not "single-issue voters." What I appreciate about these folks is that they're forcing us to ask some larger questions, and not over-simplify. For example, we care about the value of an unborn baby (as we should), but what about the value of the homeless guy under the Morrison Bridge, or the value of the 12-year-old kid in North Portland who never knew his father? In some ways these Christians are asking their fellow pro-lifers if we've lived consistently with our human-life-valuing convictions. I, for one, don't think we have. No, let me be more specific: I don't think I have, and this is one area in which God has been opening my eyes and changing my attitude in the past few years. I welcome these questions, and I consider myself indebted to those who are asking them.
But I don't think the answer is to de-value one group (the not-yet-born) in order to value another (say, the poor through government entitlements). The answer is push for the value of all people - to take pro-life thinking all the way to its logical conclusions. We are now seeing the results of a view of life that de-values human dignity: recently Baroness Warnock, described as England's "leading moral philosopher," made a public case that elderly people suffering from dementia and other expensive-to-treat medical conditions have a duty to die and get out of the rest of our way. She went so far as to hope soon that some British doctors would be "licensed to put people down." This Orwellian stuff is not make believe, it's simply a human-life-devaluing worldview taken to logical ends. (It's also the result of a nationalized health care system wherein costly health care must be rationed, so governments decide who gets treatment and who doesn't. Yet another reason to re-think nationalization as a solution to our health care problems).
It's this larger view of life that should be the subject of conversation, which is why I welcome questions about valuing all human life. But applied to abortion, I believe the debate should center on the true extremes, such as when a pregnancy seriously threatens a mother's life (which does happen occasionally). Instead this thinly veiled excuse has been used to abort over 1 million babies in America every year, and well over 90% of these abortions are not motivated by concern for the mother's life or health. If we're truly concerned about valuing all human life we'd be discussing how to greatly reduce that 90%+ figure: strengthening parental notification laws, talking to women about post-abortion trauma, having them view 3D ultrasound images of their babies (pictured left) which statistically reduces abortion as moms decide to carry to term, and supporting Pregnancy Resource Centers which bend over backwards to make the non-abortion options more viable for women.
And this is where I again trip over Senator Obama a bit. His Senate voting record, the enthusiastic support he enjoys from groups like the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood (hardly moderate voices on this topic), and his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as his first action after being sworn into the Oval Office all seem to suggest that an Obama presidency would be just what the strong abortion rights lobby would wish for. And while I respect pro-life Christians who support Senator Obama, I don't think he's advocating for a position that will enhance the value of all human life any more than "single-issue" pro-life people are.
3. Executive Experience
Obama's star has risen meteorically fast largely because his supporters say he has the "it" factor. I actually agree: he does. He has more natural charisma than any politician I've seen in a long time. Neither of the Bushes do particularly well in the public spotlight, and Clinton was more of a sweet talker. But Obama seems to actually inspire people. Big difference.
Problem is that fast-rising star has propelled a young & inexperienced man to the fore. He's the youngest and least experienced presidential candidate from either party in recent memory, and that has an enthusiasm-tempering effect on me as a voter. His repeated insistence on meeting with Iranian leaders without preconditions and his repeated opposition to the Iraq troop surge even when everyone else was admitting it worked are just two examples of what sounds to me like naive optimism from a guy who hasn't done this yet. In some ways I think Obama is too smart and talented - and has too much faith in his own intellect. That needs to be tempered by real life executive experience. In a world where we're looking at a nuclear Iran, Islamo-fascist terrorism, the potency of an aggressive communist China, and a newly muscle-flexing Russia, I want someone who's got a better handle on the world scene.
Does all this mean I'm a staunch McCain supporter? Not really. He'll get my vote because I think he better fits the bill, but I'm not overly enthusiastic about him. Which reminds me, I have some thoughts on how we respond to the election results, regardless of whether or not "our guy" wins. But I'll save those for later.
Happy voting! And thank God we live in a country where leaders are limited, and power changes hands from administration to administration without bloodshed. America really is an amazing place.

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