PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner – Preparing the Soil

The editing team met for our yearly retreat in July. Our retreats are an opportunity to reset and to refocus on the ministry and its purpose, which is “Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping the People of God through the written word.” During the retreat, we talked about what was pressing in each of our spirits.

 

One editor talked about stretching physically, mentally and spiritually in preparation for what is to come. We become uncomfortable as we are being stretched. Muscles being stretched can be painful but expansion requires stretching.

 

Another editor reflected on how are our minds and hearts connecting in terms of what God is expecting. Who are we listening to? Who are we talking to? What are we saying? Are we imitating Christ or the world?

 

I shared a list of scriptures I have been meditating on. Scriptures like Jeremiah 1:5, Jeremiah 29:11, 1 Corinthians 2:9 and Isaiah 64:4. If you read the scriptures, you will see a common theme in all of them. They are scriptures that encourage me to maintain my journey.

 

As we talked, the conversation turned to gardening. The overarching theme that surfaced was “Preparing for the harvest: positioning ourselves to grow.” We thought the first step to preparing for the harvest was preparing the soil. The imagery that came to mind was getting rid of weeds and adding fertilizer to provide nutrients, which allows roots to grow deep to expand.

 

I consider the last few and the next few years of my life to be a time of preparation. I am on a journey of laying down the ground work for the direction I am heading. I can envision my desired future, and I am trying to lay a solid foundation to build upon.

 

As I reflect on my life and this current season (and think about the preparation work I feel I am doing now), I often wonder about the phrase “due season.” I wonder when due season will arrive. But perhaps I am taking the term out of context. In Leviticus 26:4, the Bible says, “Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” Then in Galatians 6:9 it says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

 

In some ways, I want my envisioned future to manifest right now (well actually yesterday). My current struggle is resisting weariness as I impatiently wait for the shoots of my labor to spring forth. I occasionally catch myself fretting. I must remind myself to breathe and remember to trust in God’s timing, which is so much different than my own. This can be difficult when the journey of life takes those odd turns that leave me asking, “Why?”

 

In the end, I just need to continue laying down the foundation. I must believe that every situation that comes my way is a lesson that I needed to learn in preparation for my future.

 

I believe that many of us are working toward our hopes and dreams. All things will come to pass, “if we faint not.”

 

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” Jeremiah 29:11.

 

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PCC: Word of the Quarter – Parable of the Soils

To illustrate lessons on life, Jesus often told parables.

 

In Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:1-15, we find the Parable of the Sower, which is also referred to as the Parable of the Soils.

 

In verses 3-8 of Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable to His disciples and the multitude. “…Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”

 

It isn’t until verses 19-23 of Matthew 13 that Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

 

Although this parable refers to the conditions of men’s hearts when they hear the Word of God, we can also use the analogy to illustrate the importance of preparing our soil as we position ourselves to grow in God and grow in ministry.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but unsure of our direction and filled with unbelief, our efforts can fall by the wayside and be devoured. Unfortunately, the fowl can also represent people in our lives who don’t understand our futures and can sometimes become a stumbling block.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but become discouraged by setbacks, then the stony ground of our hearts could cause us to walk away. Our gifts must be allowed to take root, or they will wither away at the first sign of adversity.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but become distracted by “all that glitters,” the cares of this life could choke out our fruit. We have to have the maturity to be able to stand where our gifts and talents might take us.

 

This is why it is so important to invest in preparing good ground. When planting seeds, it is important to allow space for roots to expand. It is important to pull away weeds that will compete for nourishment. And it is important to add fertilizer that adds nutrients to the soil and helps plants grow.

 

We invite you to prepare your soil.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Adam

Here is an article I wrote for Men of the Bible.

Name: Adam

Meaning: Human being or humanity

His Character: When Adam was first created, he lived in harmony with God and nature.

His Sorrow: Due to the sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. Adam spent his days in hard labor.

His Triumph: Adam learned to toil the earth he was given. He was the first of many things.

Key Scriptures: Genesis 2-3

On day six of creation, God made Adam. Adam was made from the earth, and God breathed life into him. He made a place for Adam to dwell in called the Garden of Eden.

 

Adam, who was made in the image of God, was the first of many things. He was the first human and the first man. He was a caretaker, farmer, gardener, landscaper and zoologist. He was a husband to Eve. He was a father to Cain, Abel, Seth and others.

 

In the garden, Adam enjoyed a personal, close relationship with God. God gave Adam freedom in the garden, and Adam was responsible for caring for it. God allowed Adam to name the animals and birds. Adam lived in harmony with God, the animals and the earth. The only thing that was off limits was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

 

God decided it was not good for Adam to live alone. He put Adam in a deep sleep, and He created Eve out of Adam’s rib. They lived together and worked in the garden. And they communed openly with God. They knew no guilt or shame. They lived in peace and innocence.

 

Their innocence was interrupted when Eve was persuaded by the serpent to try the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She then gave it to Adam. It was after Adam ate of the fruit that they were aware of and ashamed of their nakedness, and I think that is significant. They then covered themselves with leaves. Because of their guilt and shame, they also attempted to hide from God, not knowing that God was already aware of what they had done.

 

In the garden, we see the consequences to sin. The serpent was cursed to crawl on its belly in the dust. Eve was confined to painful childbirth and that Adam would rule over her. Adam was sentenced to toil the land where thorns and thistles would grow from. Adam and Eve were forced out of Eden, never to return. And through them, sin and death were introduced into the world.

 

One of Adam’s weaknesses was that he avoided taking responsibility and blamed Eve for his actions (while Eve blamed the serpent). This is after trying to hide from God. Instead of admitting the truth, he made excuses. From this, we gain two life lessons. One, it is impossible to hide from God. Two, it is important to take responsibility for our actions.

 

Like Adam (and Eve), we are often drawn to that one thing we can’t have, the forbidden fruit. Then when we partake and suffer consequences, we still have a hard time taking responsibility for our actions.

 

In the end, God has given us the same free will that He gave Adam. God wants us to choose to do what is right because of our love for Him, not because of fear of punishment.

 

Paul, the apostle, emphasized the connection between Adam and Jesus. Through Adam, mankind was given the sentence of sin and death. Through Jesus, mankind was given eternal life. We are given the free will to choose which path we follow.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is an article I wrote about planning for retirement.

As we enter fall, we are entering the time of harvest.

 

In the spring, we planted. In the summer, we cultivated. In the fall, we harvest. In the winter, we will enjoy the fruit of our labor.

 

What happens in nature is a great analogy for the steps we take in preparing for retirement. Depending on your age and where you are in your career, you could be in spring, summer, fall or winter. It is during the winter, or our retirement, that we enjoy the ultimate fruit of our financial labor.

 

As they say, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Still, when it comes to your retirement, you must plan. In retirement, my desire for myself and for you is that we are able to enjoy the fruit of our long years of employment and retire in comfort (with all of our needs met) and in style with (with some of our wants met).

 

AARP has an article that suggest 10 things to do when planning for retirement.

 

Define Your Retirement

AARP recommends writing down your top five objectives and being specific and realistic. So instead of writing down “travel,” write down “travel to Cairo, Jerusalem and Casablanca.” Instead of writing down “volunteer,” write down “volunteer at the neighborhood foodbank.”

 

Take Stock of Your ‘Assets’

Focus on traditional assets, but the article also suggests thinking about talents and skills you can use for extra income in retirement. For example, teaching piano, giving singing lessons and writing/editing.

 

Evaluate Your Health — Now

One thing we rarely think about in planning for retirement is investing in our health, now. The quality of your health will have a major impact on your retirement. Make sure you are going to your checkups and exams now. Eat right, exercise and get enough rest. Also, don’t forget your mental health. Stay sharp by reading, playing games and doing puzzles.

 

Determine When to Collect Social Security

They give a hint that later is better, and they have a social security benefits calculator on their website. Social security is a crap shoot that I assume will be there. I also assume that the benefit will kick in later in life.

 

Network Through Social Media and Other Methods

Having a strong community is so important as is networking. Be sure to connect with people who have similar interests. It is also a way to keep your mind fresh and could provide a way for you to find ways to volunteer your time.

 

Decide How Much You Want (or Need) to Work

This is why having a financial planner can be beneficial. You can set goals that will have you on track to retire when you choose and you can calculate different scenarios. For example, an early retirement from corporate America into a job that pays less but is more rewarding. But since you have planned, you will be all set when you retire.

 

Create a Retirement Budget

The budget needs to include your income streams, your expenses and factor in any debt. Having your mortgage paid off could be huge.

 

Find New Ways to Cut Your Expenses (Start Saving More)

Keeping your expenses to a minimum is always a good habit. Balance living today with preparing for tomorrow. Perhaps you could get rid of your cable bill and use a cheaper alternative.

 

Prepare for the Unexpected

Many people have higher health costs than they expect when they retire. Keep that in mind as you are planning. If you own a home, be mindful of costly, reoccurring expenses like roof and siding replacement.

 

Stick to Your Plan

You have worked hard. You deserve to enjoy your retirement!

 

The Importance of International Trade: Act Two

Back in March, I wrote an article about the importance of international trade.

 

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/the-importance-of-international-trade/

 

A recent tweet by Trump brought the article back into the forefront of mind, especially after I read some of the comments from his supporters.

 

Here is the tweet:

 

“We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

 

As I mentioned in the other article, not everyone has seen the benefit of globalization. A few comments blamed NAFTA for the loss of manufacturing jobs. I will repeat from my earlier article, manufacturing jobs have been lost because of automation, not globalization. 2 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are tied to exports to Canada and Mexico. Of course this statistic isn’t felt by the 683K of people in states that lost manufacturing jobs. But the fact is that manufacturing employment increased by over a million and average wages increased after NAFTA.

 

A few of the commenters seem to think that the U.S. is the only source of grain for Mexico. This is so untrue that it is almost laughable. Latin America, especially Brazil, is competition to U.S. grain exports and it is cheaper, not just for Mexico but also Asia. So the only loser there would be American farmers in rural America who supported Trump in the main.

 

Living in Washington state and working in international trade, I think highly of trade agreements because I see the positive numbers. According to the Washington Council on International Trade, Washington state (by itself) has exported $34.5B to Canada and Mexico in the last 20 years. From 1996 to 2010, exports to Mexico increased 700% and exports to Canada increased 200%. Since 1994, annual agriculture exports to Mexico has quadrupled. Washington state exports about $370M of agriculture goods to Mexico each year. In Washington state, 330,000 jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico.

 

U.S. agriculture exports to Mexico have increased five-fold to around $18B. Mexico is the third largest destination for U.S. agriculture.

 

What has NAFTA done? The second link in my articles worth reading list at the bottom of this post goes into detail:

  • Increased Trade
    • Trade grew from $297B to $1.14T between 1993 and 2015
  • Decreased Prices
    • Oil and food
  • Improved Economic Growth
    • Areas that benefited the most include agriculture and services
  • Produced Jobs
    • 5 million new jobs in the U.S.
  • Amplified Foreign-Direct Investment
  • Decreased Government Spend

 

The bottom line: the U.S., Canada and Mexico working together under NAFTA and as a united front is more powerful that any one country acting alone. NAFTA is the largest free-trade agreement in the world. Its goal is simple: increase economic activity by removing barriers like tariffs, which decreases prices for consumers. Countries go tit for tat. If we put tariffs on imports from Mexico, they are going to put tariffs on imports from the U.S. The tariff on the import from Mexico gets passed on to consumers. The tariff on an import from the U.S. could price a U.S. exporter out of competition. For example, without NAFTA, frozen potato exports would likely see a 20 percent tariff. Of the $120M worth of the frozen potato products exported to Mexico each year, almost 25 percent come from Washington state.

 

There are some who would argue that international trade is good for global peace. You grow the middle class globally and reduce the number of disenfranchised youth living in poverty.

 

Is there room for improvement? Sure. It is over 20 years old and an update could address digital trade and e-commerce. But, even as it stands now, most of my readings point to the pros outweighing the cons. I am growing tired of international trade/globalization being made the bogeyman, when real facts (not alternative facts) point to the good it does, both locally and abroad.

 

Canada and Mexico are neighbors. We do better when working together. It is a negotiation. Not a bully coming into the boardroom and throwing a tantrum to get his way. Like any healthy relationship, there is give and take on both sides. And while we are at it, we should revisit TPP, which would have opened new markets and increased old ones. Don’t believe me? Ask apples growers in the state who are trying to open up the Vietnam market. Ask potato growers in the state who are trying to build business in Myanmar.

 

The middle class is growing in Asia and around the world. That means new consumers for products we grow and make in Washington state and the U.S. as a whole.

 

NAFTA and TPP could and should go on without the U.S. The U.S. attempting to be a bully on the international playground does not make us “great.” It puts us at a disadvantage, and we lose our standing as one of the world leaders.

 

Here are some articles that are worth reading:

http://wcit.org/modernizing-nafta-strengthening-trade-relationship-north-american-neighbors/

 

https://www.thebalance.com/advantages-of-nafta-3306271

 

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/jun/04/from-apples-to-wheat-nafta-has-been-a-boon-for-was/

Victoria, Legos, Eclipse and Painting

I went to Victoria again to visit Alice over Memorial Day Weekend. Alas, when I went to download the pictures from my camera, my computer screen went blue. When I was able to reboot, the pictures were gone. The only pictures I have are the ones that were on my phone.

I went to the town of Duncan with Alice and Karen to visit  the farmer’s market. It was cool, and we had brunch at a nice spot. We also went to a farm so Alice and Karen could get some fresh eggs. Denise and her husband bought the farm some years back. It seems like a nice way to retire.

We returned to Beacon Hill for the great ice cream and went to Clover Point.

 

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I also discovered Legos for good or bad. I am a little thrifty, so I won’t go crazy. I do want the Maersk vessel and the Death Star. I am glad they are pricey otherwise there would go more “discretionary time” and “discretionary income” gone when there are so many other things I should be doing.

 

 

I saw the partial eclipse. In retrospect, it would have been cool to journey to see the total eclipse. Something for the future. I heard there will be one in 2019 in Chile.

 

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An unexpected treat during a work team-building retreat was doing a painting of a container vessel. It was fun and is my ninth painting.

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The State of Union

For some reason, I continue to read the comment section of articles. I am not sure why because the comments only aggravate me. But, at the same, they help me gauge where people are. And this place, to quote Trump, makes me, “Sad.”

One reoccurring comment about racism always baffles me. I see it a lot. I see a lot of comments where people blame President Obama for the state of race relations in this country. They claim before President Obama, we didn’t have these race issues. As a person of color, I sit back and wonder what world they had been living in. Racism was alive and well way before President Obama, and I think what followed were people showing their true colors. I was appalled by the reaction of people. Although Trump claims no other president has been treated worse than him, I can name one: President Obama. I don’t care whether you supported President Obama or not, memes of a president with a noose around his neck was telling. The noose represented one thing: lynching. A way to say get back in your place, or else. The number of threats against President Obama were unprecedented.

And, of course, the rhetoric of Trump during and following the election have given people the license to be open with their hate. Take the events in Virginia. You have men and women marching with the KKK, neo-Nazis and skinheads, but, when they are called on the carpet and exposed as racists, they somehow become the victim. And we also see an increase of hate crimes. During his campaign, Trump sowed fear and racism. The Bible talks about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. If people want to place “blame,” the rise in hate crimes lies at the feet of the current administration who used the rhetoric of hate and fear that brought out the worst in people.

There is never any responsibility taken. Only deflection.

The KKK, neo-Nazis and skinheads are racist white supremacy groups. It should not be hard to label them as such. The KKK has a history of lynching and harassing black people for decades. They want to keep people “in their place.” But instead of addressing the fact that the groups above are violent, racist groups, the deflection was, “But what about Black Lives Matter?” I am not quite sure why BLM has been labeled a hate group. Is it because “all lives matter”? I am puzzled because I am not aware of a history of hate crimes against non-black people committed by BLM such as let’s say the lynching and terror the KKK has raged against black people for years.

Before I go on, I would like to go back in history and mention the Black Panther Party, full name the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The BPP started when the black community in Oakland was tired of police brutality, which is still alive and well today, enter BLM. So you are offended by the BLM movement that came forth after unarmed black man after unarmed black man was killed by police, but never address the systematic racism that created the movement in the first place?

I suspect some people have an innate, irrational fear of black people. And because of the killing of unarmed people, black people have a lack of trust against police. And the cycle continues. A lot of comments surrounding black death is a list of things the person should have done or not done. Unfortunately, I can’t stop being black, which as it turns out makes me guilty until I prove otherwise. Meanwhile, because of their white skin the group in Virginia were marching with weapons. Meanwhile, peaceful marches by people of color are met with mace and tear gas.

If I were to be truthful, I would have to say that silence is support. I don’t care what Hillary did or didn’t do. What President Obama did or didn’t do. I can’t understand anyone supporting a president who the KKK considers their guy. I can’t understand anyone supporting a president who doesn’t take responsibility and has blatantly told so many lies. Someone I would describe as vengeful, chaotic, unstable, unhinged and irrational. But that’s right, it’s fake news from the fake media. And a question I ask myself time and time again is what will it take?

I struggled writing this. The thoughts have been on my mind for a while. The country is greatly divided, and I certainly don’t want to add to the division. At the same time, I think silence is not the answer. For years, people have quietly accepted racism, brutality and being less than. What we see now is an eruption of emotions. My generation is in a weird place. Our parents taught us to keep quiet, keep our heads down and work hard. I think the current generation is addressing it head on, which might not be a bad thing.

The country cannot be left in the hand of extremists. It is time for rational people in the middle to stand up for what is right, regardless of party line, race, religious affiliation, gender and all else that others would use to separate us.

The article ends here, and you may want to stop here. But there are a few other areas I wanted to comment on but don’t have the energy to expand on currently.

Colin Kaepernick

We can debate all day, but I find it odd that people are more outraged by someone not standing for the national anthem than they are about the reason he is sitting down. The KKK, neo-Nazis and skinheads have the right to practice “free speech,” but Colin Kaepernick can’t. Oh, that’s right. They had a permit.

The White Evangelic Church

I will say it again. How is the candidate of David Duke the candidate of the white church? The pastors acted like Trump was God’s man and to not vote for him was a sin. Hmm. Not sure how a church representing a God that emphasizes love supports a candidate that has a hard time condemning hate and actively pursues division.

Russia

If your answer to the questions surrounding collusion with Russia is “but Hillary’s emails,” I am not sure what to tell you. People who screamed “lock her up” are mysteriously not interested in pursuing the Russia story.

The Democratic Party

Yes, I know that the “democrats” didn’t attend Lincoln’s inauguration and that Lincoln was a republican. I also know that during the time of slavery, the south voted “democrat.” In fact, the south turned republican after the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. So, the same demographic, different party. And as a black person, I will never side with that demographic.

Terrorism

If a terrorist act is done by a brown person who is Muslim, there is a quick move to label them a terrorist. Meanwhile, “domestic” terrorism is brushed over, if addressed at all.

Flag

Please don’t complain about people flying “other” flags in the U.S. and call yourself a “patriot” when you are flying confederate and Nazi flags.

“Taking our country back”

How does a country of immigrants take “their country” back?