Roe v. Wade turns 42 — what other “moral decline” milestones come to mind?

Supreme Court (cropped)
January 22, 1973. Not the U.S. Supreme Court’s finest day…

Today is he 42nd anniversary of the horrific 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which created a constitutionally-protected “right” to murder human life in the womb.

I was listening to Mr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talk about it today in his podcast (worth considering) and his comment than many mainstream Christians of the day — including, in his opinion, the Southern Baptist Convention — sort of shrugged about the matter at the time, with even some arguing that it might be a “lesser of two evils” in some circumstances. Few saw it as the issue it really was: A question of whether the choice to murder innocents, fashioned in the image of God, would be enshrined as a constitutional right. It is now understood to be one of the great turning points in the moral degradation of our country — a point where human life came to be seen as no more meaningful than that of the animals and certainly not something sacred.

I am happy to see that Mr. Armstrong spoke about it years earlier in the March 1969 issue of the Plain Truth, where he noted (with comments where I can’t resist myself):

“Right now pressures arc being more and more exerted in the Western world
to make abortions legal. Under certain conditions, of course. [Note: How sad the “of course” is now no longer an “of course” in our world. — WGS]  Such as requiring the assent of two or three doctors. [Wow. Compared to today? I mean — wow. — WGS]

“The pressures are primarily one-sided. I haven’t heard many indignant, emotionally aroused well-organized protests to prevent it.

“This is in line with the toboggan-slide in morals. Fornication and adultery are fast gaining public acceptance. For several years outright profanity has been accepted on the stage. And now the question of whether legal abortion amounts to legal permission to commit murder does not seem to raise many eyebrows, let alone ignite flames of spontaneous protest.”

Also, the year of Roe v. Wade, 1973, the Plain Truth carried an article titled, “Abortion Now Legal…But Is Abortion Murder?” by Mr. Armstrong. He updated many of the same comments he had written four years before, and he answers the question posed in the title unequivocally: Yes, it is. Just as those of us begotten of God’s Spirit are now His children though not yet born into the fulness of life He intends for us in His Family, the child in the womb is just that: the child of his mother and father. As he puts it in his article, at the moment of conception, mother and father have given that new human being all the “life” they can and, from now it, it is not a matter of “more” human life being added; rather it is simply a matter of that new human life growing and maturing.

As Mr. Armstrong said in that May 1973 article:

“It didn’t get the BIG headlines. It was overshadowed in the news by the ending of the Vietnam war (so far as direct U. S. participation is concerned) and by the death of a former President. Yet the U. S. Supreme Court ruling handed down January 22 may have even a more important and lasting effect on the future of America and the world.”

I believe time has validated that speculation.

Where are we today? Well, according to National Right to Life, 52 million babies have been aborted in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, and every single day an additional 3,300 lives are destroyed — more human beings than were killed in the September 11 attacks. That’s like 9/11 happening every single day. Sadly, the Tomorrow’s World from 2005 “Abortion: A Modern Holocaust?” is still as relevant today as it was a decade ago. And I take a special sort of pride, hopefully not a carnal pride (let me know–I can repent!), that my very first telecast was banned by WGN because of the manner in which I described abortion.

(Side note: That TW article made a difference, which I note in a later “Letter to the Editor” from someone named E. G. Oromiya in Ethiopia (emphasis mine): “I was sure I would gain a lot when I requested your free literature from the Internet. And it really happened when I received a booklet and the magazine with the cover article ‘Abortion: A Modern Holocaust?’ [March-April 2005]. It didn’t take me more than a day to read the magazine and write you this letter. I am a medical student in Ethiopia, where abortion is not yet legalized. I had been having the view that abortion should be legalized. But now I have changed my mind after reading your magazine. The biblical evidence and the figures for the ‘reasons’ for abortion have changed me much. Thank you very much, and God bless you!” Thank God for the opportunity we have to preach His truth!)

It seems to me that while that wasn’t the event that created the abortion problem in the U.S., it was very much a watershed moment or, to mix my metaphors, a significant milestone in our common cultural decent into moral morass.

That brings me to a question. If we were to create a timeline of such milestones concerning society’s modern decent into moral depravity, it seems to me that January 22, 1973 and the Roe v. Wade decision would be a milestone on that list. But what other milestones would we place there? Concerning homosexual “marriage,” for instance, would there be one, significant milestone? Such as President Obama’s public endorsement of such “marriages” on May 6, 2012? Perhaps another, more significant day? Certainly, if the Supreme Court “discovers” a constitutional “right” to such “marriages” (that’s a lot of “scare quotes” in one sentence!), that would surely qualify as a milestone.

So, what milestone events and dates do you think should be listed on such a timeline of societal moral decline? And while I’m U.S.-centric in my considerations, I would like to consider society on a broader scale, so if there are some outside America, feel free to suggest those, as well.

I’d love to know what you think — just let me know in the comments below.

Council of Elders, Telecasts, Webcasts, Orajel, Pit Bulls, Oh My!

Howdy! Back again from a very profitable trip to Charlotte. I like to post a bit after such trips on how things went, and I will now commence to doing so. Will try to keep it brief, as regular pastorin’ duties are a callin’, but this should be a nice break.

  • The Council of Elders meetings went very well. They went from Monday to Wednesday, and I enjoyed them very much. Dr. Meredith ran every meeting, and they all went very smoothly. I do note, however, that my growing addiction to unnecessarily expensive coffee (and unnecessarily sweet: salted caramel mocha) has invaded a little further into my life, as I found a way to begin two of the three meetings with a Starbucks in my hand, even as there was fresh coffee available right there in the room. I may need counseling.
  • Thursday, I taped a couple of Tomorrow’s World programs: “Who Is the Prophesied ‘Man of Sin’?” and “Three Hard Questions about Easter” — the latter of which is scheduled to air the week of Easter, itself. (Viewers normally drop around Easter since families are actually out doing Easter things, but those who stay home and tune in should be educated!) Both went very well and were, as always, a real pleasure. My thanks to our fantastic crew!
  • Friday I recorded a webcast for our new Tomorrow’s World News” webcast initiative. Very much look forward to doing more of those as production accelerates and they become more frequent. (You can keep track of the playlist as it grows here on YouTube. As I type this, only the first two–by Mr. Ciesielka and Mr. Wakefield–are available.)
  • Sabbath I gave a sermon in Charlotte. It had been a while since we stayed in Charlotte for the Sabbath, and it was a real pleasure — fun seeing old friends, and wonderful fellowship afterwards. Got food from Q’doba, which (being Chipotleans) we had not done in a long time and found it to be quite nice. Foresee trips to Q’doba in the future. (In fact, there’s one right down the road from where I currently sit typing this.) Thought it was cold there that night. But…
  • …came home to Cincinnati on Sunday. Rediscovered what “cold” is!

Anyway, not much, I know. But I do like to post a little something after these visits. Headquarters has announcements in this week’s bulletin about church growth, Festival attendance, and such, and I don’t like pre-empting such things, but suffice it to say that it was exciting to see that the Church is growing and expanding the effort to preach the gospel in every way we can. No one can accuse the Living Church of God of sitting on its laurels. 🙂

Oooo — I forgot something… One thing that added a constant “background” element the entire time I was there was pain in my lower left jaw / back-most molar. It showed up very quickly at the end of the week and grew over the weekend. We had stopped over at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jason Fritts for the weekend on our way into Charlotte, where I spoke the Sabbath before, and Mrs. Fritts offered me some Orajel, which I declined. But by the end of the weekend, I quickly rescinded my previous refusal and she kindly let me take a tube for the rest of the trip. [By the way: Met Mrs. Fritts’ very nice dad in Charlotte. How did such a warm and wonderfully tiny person like Mrs. Fritts come from such a warm and wonderfully grizzly-bear-sized man like her dad? #mysteriesoftheuniverse 🙂 ]

I was able to seek out a dentist early Monday before the Council meetings began, who X-rayed (no, the X-rays did not give me superpowers; comic books lie) and found that my tooth is fine but I am apparently grinding my teeth in my sleep with the strength of 4,000 pit bulls. Hence, I am now sleeping with a generic, flexible mouth guard (actually, this one right here, I believe) at night. It has been a very strange experience. I have woken up at least twice very actively chewing the mouth guard like so much spaghetti. One more gentle time, I dreamed I was picking up peanuts to eat them one at a time but was having difficulty chewing one and woke up gently chomping up and down on the guard. My Beautiful Wife and I have the theory that the presence of the guard is foreign enough that my sleeping brain is trying to process its presence and to account for its interference in what has been, up to then, completely uninhibited, tooth-destroying, jaw-clenching, nighttime-grinding nirvana.

It does seem to be helping. My jaw still hurts over there, but it seems to be getting better day-by-day. Still, I will not complain if I am able to come to a point where I don’t need the thing anymore.

Anyone with experience with jaw clenching or tooth grinding–during sleep, especially, or otherwise–is welcome to leave a comment below about your experience. Did you eventually stop? What helped? Do you have any teeth left? Do I have hope for getting over it, or am I doomed? Feel free to let me know. 🙂

Another pleasant trip to Charlotte concluded

Tomorrows World sign outsideI’m finally back from Charlotte! Well, actually, I’ve been back since Friday last week, but the fact that we traveled straight to Akron to conduct services and a Bible Study and the need I had to finish an article for the Tomorrow’s World magazine by yesterday means that only now do I feel like I am really back. 🙂

The trip went really well and was a nice chance to touch base with friends and comrades (or colleagues if that sounds too USSR for you). The tapings on Wednesday went very smoothly, with the only glitch that I can think of being sort of frame rate thingy causing a screen flicker for one of cameras–something which was easily dealt with. The titles of these two were “Dive Into Prophecy” and “Is God Calling You?” I hope I did the subjects justice, and I look forward to the great job our post-production team will do with the work we all did that day. In the event anyone from our TV team ever looks at this little blog, thanks for your hard work!

I took my whole family this time. We can’t always afford to do that. My four boys have a very bad habit of needing to eat every once in a while, and they have increasingly large bodies to fill (that the older boys are approximately 27 feet tall). But, I like them to be able to see what I do, so I’m glad that they were able to come. And bringing my Beautiful Wife is always a plus!

We stayed in the condo where Mr. Peter Nathan is currently residing, which was a real treat. He was such a nice fellow. As we chatted, he almost seemed to know more Church folks in Texas than I did! And Mr. Meredith, as he kindly often does, generously invited me to sit in on his weekly luncheon with his executives, where I enjoyed a sandwich, some chips, and listening to updates on the Work and the day-to-day functioning of the Church. (The macaroni and cheese that came with my sandwich and chips was a nice bonus!)

I have consistently maintained that I am in the Living Church of God for three reasons: the Truth, the Work, and the Government. I can respect the different opinions of others, but — for me and my house — this is why we are here. If we saw some other organization that we better represented God’s expectations in these three things, we would conclude that Christ was perhaps working there in a more meaningful way than He is working here. But we don’t. Rather, we see those things here in a beautiful and remarkable way that we simply don’t see anywhere else. I am so thankful for that, and this trip to Charlotte was a brief and pleasant reminder in many ways.

For those of you who knew we were taping last week and prayed for the outcome, thank you very much! For now, it is good to be back home and going back to “regular” work–at least until the rush of the holy days hit in a few days. 🙂

A little unplanned blogging sabbatical…

Howdy! Wow–it’s been just about a month since I posted last! The break was not intentional, but things have been pretty crazy around here, and I do have a day job. 🙂

From the Ministerial Conference (which was “live tweeted” by LCG here, by the way!) after the Council of Elders meeting to the Creation Weekend our local congregation hosted a week-or-so ago, things have been pleasantly busy! And, as an old man says in a movie I know, “I’m blessed with work.” So, my family is learning to enjoy life at a “normal” pace, again–at least until camps start for us next month! Then it will be “crazy day” again, and happily so.

So, the blogging may have fallen off of a cliff, but it has been productive time. And even though my tweeting wasn’t exactly prolific, I did do some microblogging on my Twitter account over the course of the month.

I am trying to step up my writing for our publications and have multiple projects in the works, which may make for a natural drain on blogging. And, really, one of the reasons I began blogging was just to keep myself in a “writing mode” between projects. If the projects increase, it’s only natural that this exercise decrease.

Though I have taken a sabbatical from blogging about things, all of those “things” have certainly continued going on. Politicians continue acting like politicians. Incompetent world “leaders” continue “leading.” Hollywood continues to be nauseating. Math continues to be fascinating. Self-deluded non-prophets continue hallucinating and listening to the whispers of their personal demons. My kids continue to grow taller than I am. My Beautiful Wife continues to be beautiful, inside and out. The Work of God continues to accelerate, and the world continues to grow increasingly in need of its message.

So, although this is sort of a meta-post, I anticipate doing a “normal” post in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, feel free to sit back. Relax. Get some Starbucks. Read a magazine. Watch some TV. Check out some short videos on the Internet. Do some online shopping. Whatever floats your boat. 🙂

Great visit in Charlotte (and some TW “behind the scenes” comments)

Wow, look! I have a blog! I didn’t know that! OK, well, I did know that. But when you don’t post for nearly a month, you might as well have forgotten. 🙂

My trip to Charlotte went wonderfully last week, and for those of you who were aware of it and who prayed about it, thank you so much!

The telecast tapings went very well, with both of them being taped Wednesday (a week ago, today, coincidentally). Normally, I do one before lunch and one after, but for the first time I was not able to finish the first one (“Seven Prophetic Trends”) before lunch. Part of it was the fact that we were experimenting with a new technology we have on the set where images and graphics can be pushed live to the big 80″ monitor on the wall while the presenter is speaking and in response to his words (as opposed to being fixed video or images or post-production inserts). We started with something lowly and humble (the text for two of the points I was making in that telecast) and only tried it out for one “act” in that production. But it went smoothly and demonstrated how easily we could add the feature going forward for more complicated graphics or videos. And I enjoyed continuing my role as the unofficial TW guinea pig for experimentation. 🙂 The next scripts I write, I am going to keep the “live push” in mind from the start and write with that ability in mind.

I said that part of the delay was the experimenting, but another part was just little ol’ me. As we were working to figure out the blocking (stage lingo for movement around the set) for the experimental shot, I had gotten caught up in talking with the director about moving forward with our production capabilities and our mutual passion for making the show the absolute best it can be. We both agreed that the content of the programs is outstanding, and we want the “package” of that content to reflect that high quality. It was an energizing discussion, but it did leave me a little behind in getting to make up (or as I like to think of it, “Suzie’s Spa”), which was completely the fault of yours truly. Still, not only were we able to pick up the last few shots quickly right after lunch, but the second program taping (“The World of Angels and Demons”) went very quickly, so we probably ended about the same time we normally do.

And, as usual, the crew was fantastic. We keep getting bigger! With three cameras and three camera operators, a floor director, a control room full of watchful eyes, script-followers, action-callers, etc., it has grown into quite a production over the last couple of years! Really, the growth of the telecast and the production value has really skyrocketed since early-to-mid-2013 — it has been amazing to watch and be a part of, and I’m excited about what lies ahead!

I also had the opportunity to have lunch with Mr. Meredith while I was there. Ooooo — lunch with the head guy in his office! Must have been something fancy, right? Nope: A turkey sandwich and chips from Jimmy Johns. Loved it. 🙂

It was a delightful lunch, and I appreciate the way Mr. Meredith invests in people. He asked about how things were going in my areas and we talked about the Work and all the exciting things going on. It is astounding–and, frankly, humbling–how many doors God is opening, and seeing so many things in motion is really motivating.

Outside his office in the executive waiting area there was a lot of construction going on. The offices, themselves, aren’t being changed much, but the area outside the offices has been long in need of some work, allowing the waiting area to have some proper walls and such and to make some of the wasted space more functional. Still, even small construction can make a lot of noise! And it was nice seeing young Mr. Tyler Wayne from my own area there doing some of the painting, which also gave him the chance to see me doing one of my telecasts. No word from him, yet, on what he thought, but perhaps it’s better if he doesn’t let me know. 🙂

I also got to spend some time on the other side of the glass, watching Mr. Richard Ames tape a new program. In fact, I posted a photo of it on my Twitter account:

I appreciate rare chances like this to see the other presenters work, and to see what life is like on the other side of the camera. While y’all out there are watching the presenter, there is a herd of people behind the scenes making it happen! In this case, above you see Mr. Ames preaching the gospel and explaining world events on camera, but in the studio with him are four people (three camera men and Mrs. Stephenson the floor director) and eight people in the control room, not counting Mrs. Ames and me, who were there as guests without anything “official” to do. I think that a couple of them were there cross-training on equipment — frankly, I’m not sure, since some of what goes on in there is normally invisible to me on the set while I’m taping, so it’s like another world. However, everyone was contributing profitably to the production, and it was neat seeing it all in action. So when I see that picture I tweeted, it’s neat for me to think of everything that was going on behind the scenes.

Actually, that reminds me (stream-of-consciousness moment): I think that David Meredith tweeted a picture of me on the set. (Going out to Twitter and looking… Ah! Here it is, at @lcginfo)

Yikes! I look like Captain Jaundice. 🙂 Actually, let’s cleanse our palette after that with a nice pic of Mr. King on the set, instead, also from LCG’s Twitter feed.

He taped that on Monday, I believe, while I was flying in from Cincinnati.

Look at those great graphics! The team is doing a great job making us look good — even given what I give them to work with! My thanks to everyone there, and, Deborah, your on set graphics and titles are looking fantastic. (Look at that one over Mr. King’s left shoulder! “The Lost Empire of the Assyrians” — looks great!)

Anyway, it was a great visit to Charlotte. Good to see the folks in editorial, the LU gang, the kind and patient ladies of the executive office, Dr. Winnail, Mr. Ames, Mr. Rod McNair — in a real sense, the “Charlotte family.” Mr. Wakefield took the time to show me a fractal generator he had mentioned to me before (Fractal eXtreme — though, sadly, I discovered it is not Mac-compatible). Mr. Robinson’s daughters even kindly agreed to be in my Friday Night Greetings that week and were just too cute. And speaking of Mr. King, he and I both shared the condo while I was there before he flew back to England, and it was great seeing him and spending time with him there.

But, as nice as it was to see everyone in Charlotte, it was also wonderful to come back home. 🙂 Thanks, again, to everyone out there praying for headquarters and for God’s Work! It is amazing to see what He is doing, and I am so thankful that He allows all of us to be a part of it.

2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

Another great Council of Elders meeting

Not too long a post tonight. I’m tuckered!

Just wanted to thank those of you out there who have been praying for the Living Church of God Council of Elders meetings that have taken place this week. They went swimmingly!

On one hand, they were sobered by a variety of current events, not the least of which was the plight of those we still haven’t heard from in the Philippines (though we are thankful for the clearly miraculous protection received by one family we have connected with). That area is so devastated, and I hope they are in our prayers, daily.

On the other hand, the meetings were so uplifting! What a remarkable group of men, and what a privilege to get to participate in their discussions. I won’t go on and on (I believe I have done enough of that in a previous post or two about the Council meetings in the recent past; I’d add links to those posts if this WordPress app for the iPad made it easier), but suffice it to say that this meeting was very much like the others I’ve mentioned: a room full of brothers delighted to be serving together in the most rewarding work we can imagine and taking their task very seriously before God. Compared to the sort of “political” environments I have experienced in circumstances outside of the Church, the level of teamwork and unity and “politics free” discussion in the group stands out that much more. As before, I felt a great degree of freedom to speak my mind, even with a contrary or alternate opinion or thought, and it was a real joy. Dr. Meredith, as well as Mr. Ames and Dr. Winnail under him, have done a wonderful job creating a very free atmosphere where counsel can be freely given and openly discussed and considered. Kudos to them and to the great fellows I have the privilege to work with, who also play such a big role in making that atmosphere possible.

In other news, I am not taping two programs Thursday like I had planned. Mr. Ciesielka told me that they are just two weeks away from some major upgrades to the “stage right” (viewer’s left) portion of the studio — changes we’ve wanted to make for quite some time (no more Dome of the Rock!) — and that it might be good if I could put off taping until after that. That was music to my ears, since I was behind on my script work, so it looks as though my family will leave a little earlier for the Charlotte weekend next month so that I can squeeze those tapings in. Still, thanks to all of you who we’re praying for the programs — keep praying! 🙂

Tomorrow I will be doing some work on a new article and participating in some promotional photographs for the telecast. Since all four telecast presenters are here — plus Mr. Gerald Weston and Mr. Mario Hernandez, who present for our outside-the-US programs — this seemed like a great opportunity to get some pictures of all of us together. I wonder if I can lose 50 pounds before tomorrow morning and grow some more hair? And muscles? Probably not. And besides, I’d hate for my wife to wake up and not recognize me.

Thanks, again, to all of you who have been praying for our meetings! They really have been fantastic and such a pleasure to be a part of. Many are traveling tomorrow and Friday, so please pray for their safe travel, as well (ours, too!), and we look forward to being back in our own area soon.

[EDIT – 11/20/2013: I heard that some weirdo out there says that Mr. Meredith was barely at the meetings due to his wife’s health and his own, which (according to the weirdo) is supposedly not well. The weirdo, who is not in our fellowship at all and who routinely says things that are about as close to being the opposite of the truth as is possible, is clearly not taking his medication or else has gotten into some bad peyote. Mr. Meredith chaired virtually the entire meeting with the exception of about an hour-or-so after lunch on Day 2 and an hour-or-so after lunch on Day 3, both instances of which were related to caring for his wife. How some people can take zero information and talk about it as if they know something they do not know is beyond me. I don’t want to assume that they know they are lying, which feels awful, yet the only other thing to assume is that they are truly and completely deluded and/or given over to a lying spirit. And assuming that feels pretty ugly, too. I think I will stick to the “bad peyote” theory, since it seems the most charitable. – WGS]

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First day of the Spring LCG COE meeting!

I’m not even going to pretend that I will be able to blog every day this week about the Council of Elders meetings. With my Living University Final Paper and Final Exam still to be completed by 3AM Friday morning, a sermonette to prep for this Sabbath, and an article to write and submit for the Tomorrow’s World magazine a week from today (well, yesterday, now!), every spare moment is sort of already spent! But, still, before heading off to sleep for tonight I thought I would post a quick entry about the first day. Everyone’s comments, both here on the blog and on Facebook and elsewhere, have been so encouraging (thanks!) that I thought a quick comment might be nice.

And what a great “Day One” it has been! Mr. Roderick Meredith began things wonderfully with some inspiring comments that really set a great tone. The world’s direction is not changing and, if anything, it is speeding up on its way! God has given us the privilege of taking His message to the world at this time, and it’s exciting to be a part of a work that takes that so seriously and passionately.

We had regional reports from all over the world, and they were very inspiring! God is spurring so much growth among His people, calling new leaders to put their shoulders to the Work, and opening new and exciting doors, and the reports were very uplifting. To be sure, too, we are facing new challenges. For instance, it is getting harder and harder to speak out on topics such as the sin of homosexuality in some nations (such as in our neighbor to the north), such that you run the risk of having all of your literature condemned as “hate speech.” Still, the truth is the truth, and our task is to cry aloud and spare not! We may need the savvy and wisdom of a modern day Apostle Paul, but if we need it (and pray about it!), God will provide it. The Work moves forward!

The Living Youth Program was discussed, with an update from Mr. Monson concerning our three pre-teen camps (go, Missouri!), our teen camp, and our adventure camp (which sounds top notch!).

Mr. Wyatt Ciesielka was invited to talk to the Council and gave a fantastic report on where things are going in the Internet work, which I personally found very exciting. The fruit from our web efforts is moving in all the right directions and our impact is growing in objective and measurable ways: Huge increases in traffic along side huge decreases in costs — win-win! 🙂 So much effort is going on in this area in ways that virtually no one sees, but our web team deserves massive kudos. More to come on this front…

Dr. Winnail gave a report to the Council from Church Administration that included a number of encouraging statistics and discussed the leaders God is clearly working with and bringing up in the Work.

Mr. Richard Ames discussed finances, future media projects, and astounding new doors opening, as well as explaining to the Council some of the details behind the wonderful upgrades we’ve been implementing in the television program and magazine. He also pointed out the finished editorial offices, which had been greatly needed given the growth the Work has been steadily experiencing. (BTW: I can personally attest to that! Used to be when I would come for telecast work, I could find an unused office here or there. However, with the growth we’ve been experiencing, that was getting harder and harder to do, and the last few visits before the office space was finished, I was crammed into the LU classroom off the library, which I had to vacate for on-site lectures. Then, when Mr. Robinson was added to Editorial, I didn’t even have that! Finally, there is a little breathing room. A growing Work — nice problem to have!)

That’s a very rough summary, but very rough summaries are all you get at 1:30-ish in the morning! 🙂 I’d love to share more details, such as some of the things Mr. Ciesielka showed us, but that wouldn’t be my place and it’s best to let you see them when they’re rolled out! 🙂

Suffice it to say that it was a wonderful first day–and wonderful, too, to be back with fellow “comrades in arms” here on the Council. It is such a tremendously humbling privilege to think that the Eternal, Almighty God even allows us to do His Work on earth, let alone actively calls us and commands us to do it, and looking around in that room at the men present and being surrounded by a truly unified team of individuals who understand that privilege, call, and command and take it so passionately to heart… Please forgive the lazy 80s lingo, but it really is awesome.

[And for the record: Using my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard to take notes instead of my (still-loved) PC laptop? Pretty great. That move is looking more and more like the right one.]

The next few days are likely to be too busy for any decent posting here on the blog, but your continued prayers for the rest of the meeting are appreciated!

Fantastic Tomorrow’s World taping today!

What a wonderful time I had taping a new Tomorrow’s World program today! I’m not sure when it will air, though I know there is a lag of a few months, and I have three “in the can” now that have not yet been completed in post-processing for broadcasting. Actually, it feels wonderfully strange for me to be this far “ahead”!

The crew did a top notch job. I believe it was Mr. Ray Pereira’s first time running the new jib camera on his own, having been trained by our consultants, and I thought he did great! The jib is a moving camera on a boom, as seen here in this tweet on my Twitter page:

(My apologies–I should have gotten more people in my pictures! I know “stuff” pictures tend to be boring.)

The jib is the second camera in our newly expanded collection which includes our previous, well-used Pedestal Camera 1 and its new sibling Ped Cam 2, who isn’t quite ready to be deployed (I’d say that Ped Cam 2 was still camera shy in an attempt to be funny, but we all know that wouldn’t be funny so I’m going to hold off…). So, today was another two-camera shoot instead of three-camera. On my side of the lens, as it were, it seemed like Keith and Ray did great jobs at both.

Really, everyone did their job wonderfully, and I thoroughly enjoyed the taping!

I also got just a few tiny glimpses at the new graphics being developed, and I really like the attention to detail that is going into the work. One of our consultants, LeAnne, noticed yesterday that in the title image (the title was “AFTER Christ’s Return?”, by the way, offering The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?) the letters of the title would sometimes get a little lost when one moving image–one of a Bible, with the words “Holy Bible” in big letters on the spine–crossed behind it. The combination of title letters and the zoomed-in Bible spine letters came across visually like a slightly chaotic jumble. I actually had not noticed it until it was pointed out, but, sure enough, that was the case. So it was edited. That attention to little details, even if it only lasts a few seconds, has been great to witness and learn from, and it has been a real benefit to have these consultants working with us. The cumulative effect of such changes–camera angles, the height of the monitors, our standing marks, etc.–makes a real difference, methinks, and I can’t wait to begin seeing the results. I’m sure the first few products will seem a little awkward as we all adapt to doing things a little differently, but the direction things are headed looks remarkable to me, and I have really enjoyed working with in the upgraded environment! Same fantastic content (from the other presenters, at least!) but packaged in an even more professional setting. I believe we’ve had “apples of silver” for a long time, and, also for a long time, the tray has been moving increasingly toward “settings of gold.” These are long strides in that effort. And when Nielsen says that around 400,000 to 600,000 households watch our program each week, that effort is worth it.

Actually, I think the temporary help the consultants are providing remind me a lot of God’s inspiring King Solomon to bring in the Phoenician King Hiram of Tyre to build His Temple. Like Hiram’s, their expertise has been great to tap into and I appreciate them much! (And it isn’t lost on me that one of the great legacies of Mr. Herbert Armstrong’s “hiring out” for needed expertise back in the Ambassador College days was none other than our greatly-missed Mr. Dibar Apartian.)

Last year was an unusually great year for donations to the Work which has enabled us to put a number of things into place before harder times come. I wondered often last year how why we were being blessed so unusually abundantly when the economy was doing so poorly, and now I think I know! (Reminds me of the years of plenty and not-so-plenty under Joseph in Egypt.) Regardless, I’m thrilled with the innovation I am suddenly seeing in the Work, and it is exciting to be a part of it. I hope you are, too! Even if God should decide He needs to prune some things, every time He has done that so far the result has been a growth in the impact of His Work (cf. John 15:2). The shears may be sharp, but pruning by a God who takes His work seriously should be welcomed.

And the innovation and improvements don’t involve the television work, only–not by a long shot. While some things on the immediate horizon I won’t mention yet (part of my personal movie-watching culture: no spoilers!), other things like our astounding Facebook and social media work are really going like gangbusters! 42,135 “likes” on Facebook? 13,464 “talking about this” on Facebook? Very nice. I’ve heard some boast about Alexa rankings and other similar metrics–which, frankly, are fairly useless, especially among the COGs. But “likes” and Facebook activity are a wonderful measure because they are harder to artificially manipulate or to accidentally skew and are based on real FB accounts and real activity. And 31,163 Tomorrow’s World followers on Twitter? (“Spreading the gospel in 140 characters or less!” 🙂 ) More than 400,000 subscribers to the printed magazine? 7,000 non-attendees watching Mr. Meredith’s very first live online presentation?

By some measures: drops in buckets. By other measures: the signs of something potentially amazing. Having read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, it’s hard not to wonder if that’s what we are coming to–a tipping point. I can’t imagine that the devil would be happy about that, but I know that what happens next is–so very thankfully–not his call!

In so many ways, it seems as though God is moving His pieces on the board to position the Work for an amazing end game! And in every way, I see us earnestly striving to take advantage of every single avenue He makes available to us to get His message to the world. What a thrilling time to be a part of that Work!

Meditating on these sorts of things recently before coming up to do this telecast, it hit me that God’s Work is going to happen whether I am a part of it or not. I know that for a fact. Right know, I get to play a different role in it than I did the 20+ years before, and I know that things change and I may be asked by God to play a different role in the future. (If we ever go on to hologram channels, I’m sure I’ll be asked to step aside. Me in 3-D sounds like a horrible idea!) Regardless, the Work will go on with me or without me–something true of all of us, and I hope we are glad for it. God will accomplish His work. I hope that every one of us who have been invited to take part–in whatever way that might be, seemingly small or seemingly large–cherishes the invitation and that we throw ourselves into it in whatever way is available to us. I know that part of the boldness I feel during my time in front of the camera comes from the knowledge that so many of you have spent your time, on your knees, doing your part for the Work and praying for the telecast. I know that many of you have mentioned the telecast or website to a friend, or passed along a commentary by e-mail, or used your Facebook page to help an article reach a wider audience, or simply done what you could to support another brother in Christ with a good word to keep him encouraged as we all put our shoulder to the wheel–and it is a wonderful privilege to be a fellow worker with all of you in this humbling opportunity we all have, this gift of our Father and Elder Brother who ask us to share in Their very own work. Truly, a wonderful privilege.

My apologies for such rambling. (Ha! As if rambling is a rare thing on this blog!) I know that this post hasn’t been the most focused of this little blog, but now that my telecast is done my mind is “depressurizing” a bit by wandering around freely, though it’s a pleasant wandering. 🙂 My apologies you had to wander too! It was my intent to just talk about the great shoot we had today, but my brain clearly went on a “walk about” for a bit…

Thanks so much for your prayers, thanks to the crew and our helpers for yet another amazing job, and thanks to our Dad and Brother in heaven, for inviting us to be a part of the amazing things They are doing down here!