Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Aspens in the Dark, Acrylic on canvas

Aspens in the Dark, Acrylic on Canvas 18x24, not available

Trees have always held symbolic power for me. While painting the series "Through the Leaves" I wanted to explore the many different ways trees effect us. Through the acrylic pour techniques I used I was able to capture the full range from spring budding and blooming to the autumn changing of colors. This painting is Aspens in the Dark. 

 Aspens remind me of the mountains, especially the mountains of Idaho where I spent many years. In the summer the cool breeze would make the Aspen leaves "quake" gently. The flipping from light green to dark green and back again as each side of the leaf would flash in the light was always very calming. 

But Aspens in the fall where pure delight. Those dashes of yellows and oranges mixed in a hillside of every green pines. They would glow in the early morning dawn and look like tongues of fire on the mountain side with the setting of the sun. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

21st Century America

How did we get into this state of unrest? What the hell is going on?

We are not standing in a new place in history. 21st century America is just like 19th century America.

What we see going on around us is the same struggles that have been going on for centuries. These struggles stem from two roots and are so intertwine as to form one hulking tree of oppression. This massive tree overshadows everything that happens in western society, and possibly the world. The two roots are Capitalism and Police as paramilitary organizations.

The first root is Capitalism.

Capitalism is an adequate system. It certainly has its advantages over other system of economics and production. But it has inherent problems which actively work against it. The two largest problems are excess and inequality. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Defenders of the status quo like to point to outliers of this as seen by a rich person falling from grace and becoming poor or the underprivileged rising above it all to making it big, these are the scarce exceptions.

Excess in capitalism is a given. If you have a good idea and a little capital (cash) or access to cash then it is possible to turn your little into a lot. If you have capital but no ideas you can always "shark-tank" an idea. And the more capital you have, the more capital you can make. Excess builds.

If we were all starting from zero, then this would be limited to what could be achieved in a life time of work. We do not start at zero, some start well below zero and some start well above zero. There are millions of "trust fund babies" who don’t need to work a day in their life because they have the capital to invest and thus, live off the interest. On the other hand there are people who are saddled with debt from before they are born.  It all comes down to the luck of the birth. This creates a duality: The Owners and the Workers.

The duality of Owner/Worker defines the inequality.  Inequality has very little to do with one's skill set or even educational potential. Often it has to do with being born into the right family with the right capital means. At no fault are the children who are born into a situation which is beyond their control. Sometimes education and opportunity presents itself and the child can move beyond their birth. Most often they cannot. It becomes a generational inequality issue. This is part of the system of capitalism. Owners need workers.

Attempts are made to limit the excess and the inequality. Antitrust laws of the late 19th century and early 20th century limited the size and scope of business. The Federal Trade Commission regulates big business. This helps to create a freer and more open market so other smaller business can have a chance to compete. Workers can move into the Owner class.

Another way to limit excess is through taxation. The inheritance tax is levied against the super-rich in order to limit the amount of capital that is trapped in trust funds. Property tax and income tax can both be used to help shape more equitable society. Often taxation is used to help support the working class as they struggle to make ends meet.

Unions used to be a powerful force in the USA fighting for the rights of the working class. Unions allowed the Workers to approach the Owners on equal footing. Through collective bargaining, workers' unions were able to increase the livelihoods of their union members. Unions have fallen out of favor and the working class has seen a huge wage gap increase over the last 40 years. The poor become poorer.

During the 1950s and 1960s the US economy was the strongest it has ever been. During that time we came to dominate the world market. It is also the time when taxation on the super-rich was the highest it has ever been, and Unions were also at their peak fighting for the workers. It was a golden age which created a robust Middle Class. A Middle Class which is now in sharp decline due to the loss of unions and the changing of laws in favor of big business.

No amount of regulation is going to create a perfect capitalism. There will always be excess and inequality.  Some fear that regulation will move capitalism into socialism, where the State controls more and more of private business and private life. There certainly needs to be a balance between government regulation and capitalist freedom. And the people of the nation need to be the determiners of how far into socialism we are willing to go.

And this leads us into the second root, which is the way policing is done in America.

The owners of capital have always used the military or the police to keep the system in place. Socialism threatens them and they often respond covertly through politics: undermining the unions, relaxing taxes and antitrust laws. They also respond overtly through the use of police. The police may not even know they are being used as pawns to protect the rich. Certainly one would think the police union would stand with other unions against immoral corporate practices.

Let's take a moment to look at policing in America before we wade into how capitalists and police are intertwined.

Police forces are built upon paramilitary organizational ideas. There is a chain of command. You don't questions your superiors. You follow orders. You look out for your fellow soldiers. There are inherent problems when you use this structure in civilian life.

Some of those problems are lack of oversight and accountability. As well as the creation of an ingrained "us versus them" mentality. Other problems that occur are seeing everyone as an enemy (criminal), closing ranks around problem officers, and the blue brotherhood syndrome.

Accountability is only as good as the leadership. If the commanding officers do not want to hold lower ranks accountable, or even side with them in their bad behaviors then there is no recourse for the "civilians" to take. Outside oversight and accountability can go a long ways in correcting some of these inherent problems.

When you combine a paramilitary organization with an Owner dominated economy then you can see great abuse of power. The police power and the economic powers combined to keep the system working. In some respects this is needed. But if the powers at the top are unjust, corrupt, inept, immoral or just plain apathetic towards others, then the system slowly grinds people down. There is no recourse and no escape for the millions of people trapped at the bottom.

We are seeing the fruits of this dynamic play out today. It is not the first time we have seen it, nor will it me the last. People, on both sides, focus in on one particular aspect of the failing system, but fail to see the underlying faults in the whole system. People see racism in the police force, but fail to see that the police force is only working at the hands of the Owners. The problem is in the way in which people of color are perceived by society in general. And that stereotype is promoted on behalf of the system. This idea was started centuries ago and is ingrained in our culture. Very few of the people who work within the system even see the systemic failures. They may see a few problems, but chalk it up to a racist policeman, an inept business owner, or a lazy worker. They seldom take the time to sit down and piece it all together to understand how the whole system is devised to protect the wealthy and make sure the working person stays in their place.

Because this is a problem with the system and not a problem with a people, or person, there are very few changes that can be made. Going after an individual may feel good for now, but it will not change the system in the long run. Can the system be changed to make a more equitable and fair society? Sure. Do the power-that-be want that to happen? Probably not.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Christianity and Homosexuality

Christianity and Homosexuality


Christianity and homosexuality is a topic to which I have given much thought. I have witnessed the treatment those of my friends and family who are gay have endured by both society and the majority of the Christian community. I have felt ashamed and embarrassed. As a student of theology I have taken a personal interest in this topic and how it has developed over the last few decades in the Christian community. Recently the topic of homosexuality has begun to impact my local community.  As I have read countless editorials and blogs across many venues regarding this, it is evident that my local community is struggling with discrimination and homosexuality in the public arena. Some of the opinions I have encountered are obviously slanted, while others are very thoughtful. Yet, neither side convinces me of their argument. I myself have started many blog posts and “letters to the editor,” just to discard them because I did not like my own tone or analogies. With the arguments I presented, I felt I was overlooking an important facet. I felt the need to reflect deeper upon this topic before putting in words some knee-jerk reaction.


My early awareness of homosexuality occurred in high school during the late 1980’s. A few guys in my class were gay, yet we thought nothing of it. At school, it was never a topic of conversation or concern. But at church… it was a sin and they were choosing to live in sin. Of course we had no idea what their personal life held, but they must be sinners because they chose to be or act gay. So, what exactly is the “sin” of homosexuality, the attraction to someone of the same sex or the sex acts themselves? My understanding at that time was that: to be gay was to act in a certain manner and therefore that manner was equal to sin. Yet, the exact nature of sin was never defined. The culture and society taught us that gay men were flamboyant and promiscuous. The church taught us that it was most obviously a sin.


Through the years, I met gay couples who were neither flamboyant nor promiscuous, challenging the cultural view. They were just regular people whose mate was of the same sex. So then, from the church’s perspective, what exactly was the sin they were committing? At that time in my life, I did not think deeply about it. Based on what I had been taught, it was obvious they chose that life, and that they should know the consequences.


When I began my theological training at a conservative Christian college, this dialogue suddenly changed. It was no longer “choosing” a lifestyle, but whether or not to accept the lifestyle into which they were born. At that point, being homosexual became known to be more biologically based. Homosexuals were born as such. In these teachings, it was an “abnormality,” which could either be cured or ignored. With this understanding, it was then sinful if they were not seeking the correct “aid” in overcoming this “disease.” The burden of sin, then, still rested on the head of the person who was gay. So, even though the dialogue shifted, in essence, the result was still the same. What still remained undefined was what exactly was the sin? At this point in my life, it all made much less sense.


So as we further this thinking that homosexuality is a “disease,” then what exactly is the “disease?” Does the liver of a person who is gay produce too many of the wrong proteins? Or perhaps, the brain must be growing upside down. Could someone point to a root biological cause of homosexuality? Does that even matter?


It is at this point of questioning and reviewing what I’ve been taught, that I am reminded of the story in the Gospel of John, chapter nine, where Jesus heals the man who was born blind. The disciples asked who had sinned, the man or the man’s parents, that he might be born blind. The religious leaders then affirm in the story that there is a relationship between blindness and sin. We are left with a distinct impression that the thinking of that time was that those born with any “defect” were born so due to sin. It was a common idea of the time. Yet, Jesus actually denied this claim and then healed the man.


Throughout the history of Christianity, the concept of a “defect” being related to sin was carried through until the nineteenth century. It was at this time that science began to have a better understanding of the human body as a whole. Now, we see a child who has Downs Syndrome and we may call them “God’s Angel” rather than a “sinner.” My comparison here is only that neither being gay nor having Downs Syndrome are “sinful.” They may not fit the overall “norm” of humanity, but then nobody technically does on an individual basis. Ten thousand years ago, no one had seen a green eyed person before. Certainly, the first green eyed person should have been stoned as a sinner. Obviously, this is sarcasm on my part.


So then, what does this mean for the Christian? Does this thinking change the dialogue again? Perhaps, people who are homosexual choose to be the person that God created them to be, rather than living in fear of the majority; the supposed “norm” of society. People who are homosexual do sin, just like everyone else. But, the sin is not for being attracted to the same sex as oneself, but could be just like everyone else’s sins: breaking relationships, giving in to temptations, and being disheartening to others.


Some may say, “But, as a Christian, we are supposed to live by the Bible and the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.” To this, I would counter, as a Christian, we are supposed to live by the grace of God and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Should we then follow the Bible and call those who are born with blindness sinners? Or, should we follow Christ in extending a hand of healing to the broken man? Through the church’s Bible thumping, fear mongering, and dis-graceful behaviors, we have wounded, rather than healed. And by healed, I do not mean to change others, but rather to bring hurting people into the arms of love, mercy, and community so that they may know health.

Upon reflection and writing, I recognize that I do not see homosexuality as a sin, in and of itself. Through contemplation, I had to wrestle with my theology of human nature, of sin, of the place of the Bible and Holy Spirit, and of community in general. I believe that sin is a relational matter. It is not a thing or a state of being. When a relationship, be it personal or communal, is being torn apart because of the action or inactions of the parties involved, then sin is occurring. Therefore, the church has sinned against people who are homosexual, in its words and actions which have broken the relationship between the individual and the church corporate.

It is not an easy task coming to an understanding of the root causes of sin. Ask any marriage counselor about why spouses act out against their partner, and recognize that there is no specific answer. Relationships are easy to break and hard to mend. Christians are called to mend relationships with grace and love. In order to overcome “sin” in a relationship, both sides have to be willing to confess their faults and enter a meaningful conversation. Therefore, how can the church make such a move, especially when many Christians misunderstand homosexuality? Is it a theological restructuring and pastoral hermeneutical rethinking that needs to take place? For some, this may sound as if I am trying to justify “sin” and change the “truth” in order to fit the culture. In essence, it is necessary to free Christianity from the culture. The true heart of Christianity is grace, not sin.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Art

Here is an image of one of my recent drawing. I have been working more in pencil and crayon, exploring abstracts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spring Art Show

Here is a drawing I have done for my next art show. The show is in April so I am keeping with a spring theme. It has been refreshing to work on a number of these "spring" drawing in the gloom of winter.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 50 Dollar Lesson

I have been seeing this picture make its rounds on the internet at blogs and on Facebook. When I first read it I kind of laughed, had a typical knee jerk reaction like must stuff on the internet is designed to do, but then the story stuck with me. I reflected upon the story and the point it was trying to make. I moved passed my knee jerk reaction and gave it some real thought. Certainly the little girl’s goals are worthwhile. Certainly we want the President and the government to be working to overcome such problems as homelessness and the causes of homelessness such as unemployment, underemployment, addictions, mental and physical disabilities, and other social problems. But there is more to the story than what the government can do, the rest of the story is what I can do. “I” being me, the little girl, the parents, and the homeless man. Personal responsibility must always play a part in any social problem. And for some it ends at personal responsibility and for others it begins with personal responsibility. By that I mean: some say if you were responsible for yourself you would not end up homeless; others say let us help you get on your feet so that you can once again become responsible for yourself and let us teach you how to do that.

 There are many reasons someone may end up homeless. I think the implication of the above story is that this homeless person is lazy. And certainly laziness can bring you to a point of homelessness, but there are plenty of lazy trust-fund-babies who never have to worry about being homeless. And some of the hardest working people I know are just one paycheck away from being homeless. I think laziness as a cause for homelessness is not proven.

Many homeless people suffer from mental issues which make personal responsibility impossible. They do not possess the capability to be responsible for themselves in any meaningful way. If they do not have a support system of family or friends then what happens to them? The government can only do so much. And do you really want that homeless man showing up to mow your lawn?

 But that is not the only problem facing society today. Modern warfare and medicine are creating an influx of medically dependent people. Because of the great strides in modern medicine many soldiers’ lives can now be saved. Soldiers who would have died of their wounds in previous wars are now coming home. Although they are living they are often injured to the point where they will always be dependent upon the medical professions due to loss of limb, brain injuries and PTSD. Many soldiers also become drug dependent. This is a road to homelessness.

So the question really is how do we equip these people to be self-reliant and take on personal responsibility, if it is even possible. And what do we do with those who will never make it that far?

So all of this was rattling around in my mind and I came up with a sequel to the above story.

A day later the little girl was at the store with her parents. She saw the homeless man sitting out front of the store with a little cardboard sign. She was trying to get up the courage to go tell the man about her friends who would hire him to mow the lawn to help him not be homeless any longer. Just when she thought she could do it she saw an elderly couple shuffle over to the man and start a conversation with him. The couple reached down and helped the man to his feet. The woman sized him up briefly and then moved off down the sidewalk and crossed the street. The elderly man took the homeless man’s arm and escorted him into the store.

The little girl, shopping with her parents, caught a few peeks of the two men in the store as they moved slowly up and down a few aisles filling a small basket with a few items. As the little girl and her parents were leaving the store she saw the woman returning with a bag on one arm. The woman met the two men as they were also leaving the store. Interested in the whole scene the girl scooted away from her parents and went to talk with the older couple.

“Excuse me but are you giving this man a job?” the little girl asked.

 The couple smiled and the woman answered. “No he is not ready to work. Yet.”

“But maybe soon.” The older man added.

“Then what are you doing?” Asked the girl innocently.

The couple smiled again. The woman spoke again. “We are giving him some help. Sometimes we all get to a place where we need a little help. I bought him a change of clothes. New, fresh clothes can be invigorating.” She held up the bag showing the girl the clothes from the thrift store down the street.

“And I bought him couple of easy to eat meals. Having a full belly can give you a new perspective on life.”

“Oh,” the girls responded, “but where are you taking him?”

The old man continued. “Well sometimes new clothes and food is not enough to get you back on your feet. He has agreed to come with us to a shelter our church runs. There he can spend a few nights, have a hot shower and maybe find a little peace. And if he is ready they also offer counseling and have connection with other organizations which can help him get off the streets.”

“Being willing to change is the first step though, and he seems willing today.” The woman added.

 The little girl thought about it. She could smell the man and he did need a shower, and new clothes, not a job mowing lawns. The man looked about ready to fall over, she would not want him in the car with her. “But why are you doing this?”

 The couple smiled again. “Because we are Christians* dear.”

“Oh” The parents, who were listening to the whole conversation, and the little said in unison.


*Instead of Christian you can certainly use the word human. Personal responsibility is a human trait that goes hand in hand with social responsibility. Historically, and for me personally, Christians are supposed to be the example of loving thy neighbor, being the Good Samaritan, and transforming the world for peace.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014