PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Here is an article I wrote for the “Editor’s Corner” section of the PCC Scroll.

Washington is one of the few states which has ocean, mountain and desert topography. As you cross the state, the landscape changes. On the east side of the state, a lot of crops are grown. The state is the leading producer in the nation of commodities like apples, hops, concord grapes, sweet cherries and blueberries, and a top producer of commodities like potatoes, apricots, nectarines and lentils. In terms of dollar value, hay is a top export. There is something about the soil here that produces a type of hay that contains one of the highest levels of nutrients in the world.

 

While there are a lot of commodities that grow here, there is an equally long list of commodities that will not survive in our climate. The care, climate and soil needed to grow a commodity like apples is different than what is needed to grow mangos. And even in the same climate, farmers treat different crops uniquely. The way hay is cared for and harvested is different than the way apples are cared for and picked, or potatoes are cared for and extracted.

 

In the natural, the climate determines what can grow there and certain soil contains better nutrients. In some cases, nutrients can be added. The same is true in the spiritual. If you want your unique harvest to grow and be fruitful, you have to make sure you are planted in the correct environment and that you are receiving the right nutrients to produce exceptional fruit.

 

Like the fruits and vegetables in nature, our talents and gifts vary, so we have to refine the processes for optimal growth. This takes times. If you are a writer, surround yourself in communities that support your talent, so you can grow and harvest your gift. If you are a musician or singer, attend workshops that help refine your craft, so you can harvest your talent.

 

The concept of sowing and reaping is found throughout the Bible. What you put out there, will come back. In the NIV, Galatians 6:7 puts it like this, “A man reaps what he sows.” When I was coming up, this was a scripture that was constantly shared as a dire warning against bad behavior. As an adult, I had to reclaim the positive side of that scripture. Like the wheat farmer talked about in “Word of the Quarter,” I have to plant and care for my harvest from seed to plant. If there is a goal I want to achieve, I have to sow into that goal. If I want something from God, I have to sow into it. If there is something I want from life, I have to work and sow into it.

 

I think that many of us have already sown heavily into our gifts. I believe that many of us are taking the time to care for what we have planted. I believe for many of us the time for harvesting is around the corner, and so we must be prepared. Our harvests will be unique and collectively powerful to behold.

 

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PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is an article I wrote for the “Word of the Quarter” section of the PCC Scroll.

 

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we are concluding the overarching theme of “Preparing for the Harvest: Positioning Ourselves to Grow.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Preparing the Soil.” The theme continued in the winter and spring issues with themes of “Positioning to Thrive” and “Removing the Dead Things.” In this issue, we conclude the overarching focus with a theme of “Your Unique Harvest.”

 

We have used farming and gardening analogies a lot during this overarching theme. For this issue, in this section, we are going to analogize the process farmers use to harvest wheat. Wheat farmers in the Midwest typically harvest in late June. The crop harvested in June was planted nine months earlier. To prepare for the harvest, farmers make sure that the equipment that will be used for harvesting is in good order and that facilities used for storage are clean and empty.

 

Farmers must prepare their storage facilities to protect the harvest from insects and to prevent the crop from spoiling. Old grain not removed can contaminate the new crop and cause it to mold. Farmers check fans and ventilation systems to insure moisture levels are correct. They remove plants from around storage bins to prevent bugs from being attracted to the area.

 

Farmers use a machine called a combine that is used for reaping and threshing the wheat. The reaping cuts off the stems while the threshing separates the grain from parts that are inedible as grain is separated from chaff and straw. This is an example of harvesting wheat. Of course, the process used to harvest peaches or strawberries would be different.

 

In keeping with this analogy, from a spiritual perspective, we did a lot of work prior to the time harvest. We prepared our ground by hoeing to loosen up the soil and remove rocks. We planted seeds (sowed) and added nutrients. We watered the plants. We kept up with pruning, and we pulled weeds up by the root. Weeding was constant because they kept trying to come back, but we knew that weeds could choke out the life and/or take nutrients from our harvest.

 

In nature, crops have a season. In the spiritual, we must be mindful of the timing of our harvest. If fruit is picked too early, it is too ripe. If it is picked too late, it can spoil, so it is important to reap your harvest during the optimal time. When it is time to harvest, preparation is needed. Skipping a step can lead to contamination or infestation. What you sow and care for will bring fruit. This fruit needs to be protected, and it needs to be used.

 

We took the time to sow our time and energy into our unique harvest and to nurture what we sowed. Our processes will be a little different, but the care and attention needed is the same.

 

 

 

Women of the Bible: Lydia

Here is what I wrote for the “Women of the Bible” section of the PCC Scroll.

Name: Lydia

Meaning: From Lydia

Her Character: Lydia was a hard worker with a generous spirit.

Her Sorrow: It is believed that Lydia was a widow.

Her Triumph: Lydia and her household converted to Christianity, and she was a successful businesswoman.

Key Scriptures: Acts 16:14-15, 40

Lydia was born in Thyatira in 1 century A.D. in the Lydia region, which is in modern day western Turkey. Later she would live in Philippi in Macedonia, which is in modern day Greece. It is in Philippi that she would sell her purple cloth and dye, which she is known for today. Purple cloth was very expensive and valuable and was often worn as a sign of royalty or nobility. Lydia would sell to the ruling families and social elite in the business district. Because of her business and status as a merchant, she did well financially. It is quite possible that she was among the most successful and influential women in her town. She was possibly a widow because she was in charge of her household.

 

Lydia’s story is told in the book of Acts. Paul and Silas arrived in Philippi. On the Sabbath, they sat down and spoke to some women who had gathered at a riverbank outside Philippi. The women who gathered were Gentiles. They would gather on the Sabbath and would pray to the God of the Jews. Among the women was Lydia. Paul described her as a woman who “worshipped God.” Paul also said that God “opened her heart” as she listened.

 

Even before hearing Paul, Lydia was a Gentile who leaned toward the one, true God and was a searcher of truth. Hearing Paul affirmed her decision to convert and worship God. She sought God how she knew to do so, and God responded by sending Paul and Silas. She listened, and she believed and was baptized. Immediately. There was no thought about how it could impact her business. Lydia was the first convert in Europe to Christianity. Her entire family converted and were baptized, which showed their respect and trust of her judgement.

 

Baptism was a public sign that she and her house were part of the Christian community. She also opened her home to Paul and Silas (she was very strong in her ask), which leads me to believe she had a hospitable and generous nature. Because of her status in the community, her conversion opened the way for other conversions as people heard the message while Paul and Silas stayed in her house.

 

Lydia has been made a saint by several denominations. As mentioned above, she has the unique honor of being the first Christian convert in Europe, which is why we have the honor of knowing her story. She was a woman whose faith was strong and who worshipped God. Lydia is a great reminder that God will find us when we seek Him.

 

Lydia was swift to open her home in hospitality, which appeared at a time right before a storm in the life of Paul and Silas. This hospitality happened before they were sent to prison for freeing a demon-possessed slave. It is from the gift of hospitality that people can find help be it physical, spiritual or emotional. You leave their presence healthier than when you arrived. Lydia also hosted Paul and Silas after they came out of prison, and it is not a stretch to believe that she was among those who prayed for them while they were in prison. At some point, she also hosted Luke and Timothy, and her home became a haven for other Christians.

 

Lydia is an example of the many women God used during the development of the early church and no doubt one who rejoiced after hearing Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.

 

Men of the Bible: Abraham

Here is what I wrote for the “Men of the Bible” section of the PCC Scroll.

Name: Abraham

Meaning: The father of a multitude

His Character: Abraham was a man of strong faith, and he followed God even in the most challenging of circumstances to the best of his ability.

His Sorrow: Abraham’s doubt and fear led to him to be deceitful about the identity of his wife.

His Triumph: Abraham obeyed God, and God blessed him with the promised son. Abraham became the father of a nation and the father of a multitude.

Key Scriptures: Genesis 11-25

Abram was a descendent of Noah’s son, Shem. He was born in Ur, but he spent most of his life in the land of Canaan, which was the land promised to him and his descendants.

 

Abram married Sarai. Abram and his family, including his father, brothers and nephew (Lot) moved to Haran. His father, Terah, died in Haran. It was in Haran, when Abram was 75 years old, that God made a call on Abram’s life. Abram’s instruction was to leave Haran and go to a place where God would show him.

 

From this, he models a truth that there are consequences to our actions. Sometimes these consequences can be felt for generations. It is important to think beyond the immediate consequences of our actions and think about their impact long after we are gone. In Abram’s case, he had to consider whether to stay with his extended family or to venture into an unknown land. He had one huge thing: the promise of God to guide and bless him.

 

Abram left his home and his pagan beliefs. He left his extended family and the status he had as a wealthy landowner. The journey was not easy, but God reminded Abram that He would keep His promise to Abram and his descendants. Abram and his family encountered famine. There was also conflict with his nephew, Lot, which caused them to settle in different areas. Abram went to war to rescue Lot and his family from captivity. I encourage you to read chapters 11-25 of Genesis for the complete story.

 

When Abram was 99 years old and his wife, Sarai, was 90 years old, they had their names changed. He became Abraham, and she became Sarah. Abraham was given the instruction to adopt circumcision for himself and his male descendants. The promise of a child in their old age caused both Abraham and Sarah to laugh, yet in still, Isaac was born. Abraham had had a son, Ismael, through Hagar, Sarah’s maid. There was conflict. At the Lord’s instruction (and Sarah’s well-known wish), Abraham sent Hagar and Ismael away with the promise that his descendants through Ismael would also be a great nation.

 

Perhaps the greatest test of Abraham’s life was when God instructed him to sacrifice Isaac as an offering. I am sure this had to be confusing to Abraham. He was asked to sacrifice the

long-awaited, promised child, and he was willing to make the sacrifice, but God intervened.

 

Sarah passed away at 127 years old. It is then that Abraham sought and found a wife for Isaac. Abraham himself went on to marry a woman named Keturah and had more sons outside of Isaac and Ismael. Though Isaac was the son of promise and receiver of Abraham’s possessions, Abraham did make provisions for all of his sons. Abraham died at the age of 175 years old. The Bible says that the Lord “counted him righteous because of his faith.”

 

Abraham was a fitting person to write about for this issue of the PCC Scroll as we come from the theme of “Your Unique Harvest.” Abraham’s harvest was to become the father of a nation and the father of a multitude, and the reaping of his blessings has been felt for generations. Jesus Christ is in the lineage of this great patriarch.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is an article I wrote for the “Your Money Matters” section of the PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we are coming from the theme of “Your Unique Harvest.” When it comes to finances, comparing your harvest to the harvest of others can be discouraging, especially when it seems like others are living life “large.” I would caution you to be careful with the comparison game. As the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.”

 

That expression has an interesting origin (and may date back as far as Aesop). In 1175, Alain de Lille, who was a French monk, wrote, “Do not hold everything gold that shines like gold.” In The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, Chaucer wrote, “But al thyng which that shyneth as the gold / Nis nat gold, as that I have heard it told.” In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, “All that glisters is not gold.” The word glisters is a synonym for our time’s word glitter. During gold rushes, people who were panning for gold would sometimes find pyrite, which we refer to as fool’s gold. In its raw form, gold is dull, and people would be fooled by pyrite because of the way it reflected light.

 

We have all heard the phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” The saying, which began in 1913, comes from a comic strip of the same name by Arthur R. Momand that ran between 1913 and 1938. The comic is about the McGinis family (Aloysius, Clarice and their daughter, Julie) and their housekeeper, Bella Donna. In the comic, the McGinis family struggled to keep up with the lifestyle of their unseen neighbors, the Joneses.

 

I read an article that compared trying to keep up with the Joneses as a donkey moving along trying to get the carrot stick in front of it. It highlights our tendency to judge our standing and lifestyle by those around us. Somewhere along the way, people began fighting over who had the best and most toys. Our financial futures are not based on who has the biggest house, takes the best vacations, drives the fanciest car, has the best clothes, etc. And the value of items like cars, clothes and furniture quickly depreciate.

 

The comparison game will keep you in financial trouble. Before you try to keep up with the “Joneses,” remember that the grass is not greener on the other side. The horrible truth is that seven of 10 families in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck. It is quite possible that the lifestyle you are coveting is an illusion accompanied by steep debt.

 

According to Experian’s State of Credit: 2017, the average American has:

  • $201,811 average mortgage debt
  • $24,706 average non-mortgage debt
  • 675 average VantageScore
  • 3.1 credit cards
  • $6,354 balance on credit cards
  • 2.5 retail credit cards
  • $1,841 balance on retail credit cards

 

Here are some other statistics:

  • 43 percent of Americans have been carrying a credit card balance for two plus years
  • The average household with credit card debt pays $1,292 in interest every year
  • The average household with credit card debt owes $16,883

 

I don’t know about you, but those figures concern me. Before you are tempted to make a big purchase, especially one that you can’t afford, ask yourself why. Is it for appearances or is it something you really need? How long will the item interest you until you get bored or the bigger and newer model comes out?

 

Our happiness is not dependent on anything we can buy. Sure, it may give us pleasure for a while, but having more credit card debt than savings is stressful. At the end of the day, the most important items from your harvest are things money can’t buy: love, joy, peace, family, friends, etc.

 

The Importance of International Trade Act III: Nobody Wins a Trade War

As most of you know, I have worked in international trade for 21 plus years. Last year, I wrote posts in March and September on the importance of international trade because of anti-trade rhetoric I was hearing.

 

Despite “alternative facts,” real facts prove what international trade does. It increases jobs, increases income and reduces prices.

 

I attended the Transpacific Maritime Conference (TPM) in Long Beach. Leading industry economist Dr. Nariman Behravesh talked about the U.S. and global economies. One thing that stood out was the potential for the U.S. unemployment rate to reach 3 percent, which would be quite amazing. His caveat: If we don’t enter into a trade war.

 

Enter Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel. A few questions to ask yourself. What percentage of aluminum and steel imports come from China? The answer? Not a lot. There are other countries that one could argue dump more of these products than China, so how does this really impact China? The answer. Not much.

 

Since the tariff announcement, I have attended a few other trade-related conferences. I would like to share some highlights from those conferences. To sum it up: Nobody has ever won a trade war.

 

Enter China’s response. Those tariffs will impact farmers, some in Washington state. This is one of the reasons I never understood farmers voting for Trump (and part of the reason I could never fully get behind Bernie Sanders). They heard his anti-trade rhetoric, yet they voted for him. Trump promises to “make it up for farmers.” But his policy has the potential to cause China to look for other sources for their agricultural needs.

 

Trump has promised more tariffs and China will respond in kind. These tactics are not the right approach. They will escalate, and the big losers will be everyday people in both countries. Hopefully in the end sanity will prevail, and we will make progress on NAFTA and TPP.

 

Now is there a China problem in terms of intellectual property rights? Of course, but that problem needs to be solved with a world-wide effort. In fact, the administration could have addressed it in a more productive manner if the U.S. had stayed in TPP. But alas, the administration decided to pull us out, which only helped to decrease U.S. influence. I wonder if the administration thought the world would stop if the U.S. pulled out. As predicted by myself and others, the world went on without us (as they should), and America is left at a disadvantage.

 

It takes years to build relationships. Tariffs will make American goods more expensive, and you can believe that delegations from other countries are already marketing for their products to fill the gap. We are not the only country in the Northern Hemisphere that grows apples, soybeans, wheat, etc., so there is a fallacy in the belief that China needs our products. China and other countries can look for other sources, and once that business is lost, it’s hard to get it back.

 

China (and Asia in general) is where the middle class is growing. It would be a shame to have trade policies in place that would price American goods out of those markets. The U.S. and China have the largest economies of the world. In the end, the health of both countries would be better with cooperation. Trade relations are complex. Agreements (or disagreements) between two countries have a ripple impact on the rest of the world.

 

It is important that people who understand the importance of international trade tell the story. People need to know what erecting trade barriers does and what eliminating trade barriers does. The majority (85 percent) of manufacturing job losses have been lost to automation not globalization. Putting up trade barriers is not going to bring the jobs back. Decisions need to be made by people who understand the bigger picture and can look at trade from a holistic viewpoint.

 

As a person living in Washington state, I understand all too well what can be lost and what can be gained in terms of international trade. For example, Mexico is the largest market for Washington apples. NAFTA opened those doors. Whether TPP or NAFTA or trade wars, it is important to not put agriculture at risk because it is always the first area targeted. Trade wars are nothing to celebrate or boast about. Nobody wins.

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Around 14 years ago, a friend gave me an African violet for my birthday. I kept her at work, and we named her Violet. Fast forward some years, and Violet was dying. She had stopped producing flowers, and her leaves were turning brown. I was ready to let her give up the ghost because I thought it was the end. Truthfully, she had lasted longer than I thought she would because I do not have a green thumb. Another friend looked at her, and he offered to take her home with him. Months later, he brought Violet back to me, and she was alive and thriving. As a matter of fact, at the time I am writing this article, she is in bloom.

 

I was amazed, and I asked him what he did. If you are a gardener, you can probably guess what he did. He replanted her with new soil. He chose soil that contained extra nutrients. He pruned away the dead leaves. He placed her in direct sunlight, and he watered her as needed (I had been over-watering her). He brought her back from the brink of death by creating an environment for her to thrive in, and he gave me clear instructions on how to care for her in the future. As a person without a green thumb, it never occurred to me to change her environment (the soil). I had been doing everything else (but watering too much).

 

The story of Violet reminds me of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree that is found in Luke 13:6-9. Like me, the owner of the vineyard was ready to cut the fig tree because it had not produced fruit for three years. But the vinedresser (gardener), who was skilled at caring for plants, offered to give the tree extra care. The gardener was going to do all he could do to make the barren fig tree thrive and bear fruit.

 

In the parable, the owner represents God and the gardener represents Jesus. The number three is significant. In the Old Testament (Leviticus), there is a scripture that forbade eating fruit from a tree during its first three years. In the fourth year, the fruit would have been given as an offering to God. It was not until the fifth year that the fruit could be eaten.

 

This brings me to a conundrum in life. How do you know if something is dead versus something that just needs a little bit of extra care to bear fruit or something that needs to be offered up to God for another season?

 

In this season of my journey, my goal is to position areas of my life (from relationships to job to goals) in such a manner that they are in the best environment to thrive. This may mean giving extra care. To follow the violet analogy, it would be watering and fertilizing. In life, it would be giving my time and energy. If after extra care and attention, there is still no fruit, then it would be a clear sign that something is dead, and it is time to remove the dead thing from my life.

 

My focus will be to cultivate all that is alive and thriving. Life is precious, and it is time to focus on cultivating relationships and endeavors that will bear fruit. If things are dead, they need to be removed. I invite you to join me in removing the dead things.