Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

It’s the week before Christmas.  And all through the church, nothing is stirring. Not this year anyway.  If you are lucky, your church might have a virtual Christmas Eve service, but going to Church to sing Christmas songs in a pandemic is a non-event.  Still,  you have to retain your sense of humor and sanity by soldiering on. 

My wife went to Hobby Lobby, a Christian crafts store, and found a Nativity Scene that she liked that was marked down by 60%.  As she was checking out, she commented that she couldn’t believe it was so inexpensive. The store clerk answered: “Oh, that’s because Joseph is missing.  But that’s OK because he didn’t do much anyway.”   I’ll let that sink in.

This is a year where everything has been turned upside down. People have lost health, finances, jobs and freedom. Even smaller losses have passed us by such as music and worship. We have lost touch with music because we spend less time in venues where music is played. Concerts have been cancelled and singing in choirs may not reappear until after vaccines have been widely distributed. 

Life may not get back to normal until next winter, according to one creator of a vaccine.  I suspect it will be quicker than that, but still, normalcy is months away.  I doubt there will be government mandates to take the vaccine. But I also suspect that your life will be limited unless you do just to board an airplane, meet indoors or conduct other normal activities.

With government restrictions trying  to tamp down on families spending Christmas together, I thought about what I and others are missing. I love to sing. I joined our worship team several years ago, and it is one of the joys of my life. This Christmas, we won’t perform. I am bummed. I will miss singing.

I understand that singing in a closed area increases the risk of spreading COVID.  I get that.  But somehow, I approach this Christmas with a feeling of loss.  I suspect I am not alone because the entire advent season has been restrained by COVID.

Which brings me to Immanuel (or, if you are reading the King James version, Emmanuel).  The name appears only three times in scripture.  The first is in Isaiah 7:14, above. The third is in Matthew 1:23 which shows the fulfillment of the prophesy and the name assignment of Immanuel. 

Immanuel means “God with us” or “God is with us”.  It is a humbling paradox that God came to live among his people.  That’s us. He came for us and gave His life in exchange for us unholy, sinful people.

But we still have Immanuel. We can still celebrate God with us on our own.  Immanuel expresses a seeming paradox that the Kingdom is here, and the Kingdom is coming. That’s what Advent songs are about.  Here are some to enjoy:

If my wife were writing this, there would be more 19th century hymns.  But these are a start at worship during Advent when the church is empty.  We yearn for the presence of God in our lives during tumultuous times. May this music bring you closer to what God promised Moses in Exodus: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

May it be so with you.  May you be blessed this Christmas!

MORE SONGS25 Advent Songs (Includes traditional hymns)

FINAL SONG:  The Blessing – Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes

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Truth or Consequences

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Besides being the name of a town in New Mexico,  Truth or Consequences  was also a TV game show in the 1950’s. Contestants called from the audience were asked an obscure trivia questions.  A wrong answer caused them to participate in an embarrassing stunt. 

The show lasted for almost 30 years and was a staple of day-time television. The show always ended with the line: “May all of your consequences be happy ones.”  Nice!  We need that kind of encouragement today in apost-truthpost-modern and post-Christian era. 

I recently had a back-and-forth discussion with a former law colleague about my last post on Journalism which he labeled as spreading falsehoods. I was stunned. He might as well have poked a finger in my eye.

I finally realized where he was coming from when he said this:  “Every person determines what is true and what is false”. Wow! Not exactly an objective test for truth. Reminds me of the line from the movie Shooter: “The truth is what I say it is!”

But that’s where we are today. If I get to determine what is true and it conflicts with what you think is true, then you can be attacked, censored, shadow blocked or even shamed on social media.  I consider that a dangerous assault on our democracy and free speech because only one view is allowed.

One of the more recent truth or consequences games being played is with COVID-19. Long before COVID, a 2006 study planning for pandemic responses cautioned that lockdowns were bad health policy. 

When the pandemic hit, everyone scurried to determine what to do, and politicians gave due deference to technocracy, which is government control by “an elite of technical experts”. Unelected technocrats, under the guise of knowing everything, were happy to promote public policy.  

What followed was something that at times looked like a keystone cops comedy chase scene from the silent movies. Recommendations first said don’t wear masks and it’s OK to go to Chinatown for meals. 

Then, they reversed course and said wear masks which became the gold standard for elected politicians who demanded everyone wear a mask based on “science”.  And some “experts” now say to continue using masks after you have been vaccinated.

Only it’s not science as Alex Berenson wrote in Unreported Truths: MasksThe “science” on masks is anything but settled but you wouldn’t know that based on government mandates and media support.  Berenson’s books were initially blocked on Amazon because they contained “misinformation”, a code word for something that those in power don’t like.  

Even though it is not settled science, mandatory masks requirements still exist as public health policy. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed. You can’t go into a business, restaurant or doctor’s office without a mask because the government says so. A family recently got kicked off an airplane because their 2-year-old wouldn’t keep his mask on. 

Oh, and eating meals out in restaurants is forbidden in many states and cities.  The consequence:  110,000 restaurants are permanently closed with more to come. Scientific data show that restaurants that properly adhere to social distancing guidelines are less dangerous than household get-togethers.  

Large gatherings were deemed to be “super-spreader” events, unless you were an antifa or BLM protests which were described as “mostly peaceful protests”, which ignored the resulting  $2 billion of damage, 31 deaths and the destruction of many inner city businesses.

The media was complicit in setting the narrative that protests were good, while meeting in a church for a religious service was both bad and non-essential.  At best, protests were termed “risky”, and the media uniformly failed to condemn violence, looting and mayhem. Again, a mismatch of truth with consequences.

Which brings us back to lockdowns, the preferred public policy in many states. We were told to “cancel” Thanksgiving with our families, and Christmas is also on the chopping block. Schools remain closed around the country even though the CDC and other “experts”  are in favor of opening schools

School closures will have long term devastating consequences, given that urban schools were already failing before COVID.  Those consequences include a precipitous drop in math test scores and learning. 

One study asserts that school closures will reduce lifetime earnings as well as the life expectancy  for children Isolation has caused mental health to suffer and  suicides and drug overdoses have spiked. These are terrible consequences to the next generation.

As James Freeman notes, the widespread myopia on COVID risks has ignored other risks to human health.  The vaccine will end COVID.  But there is no vaccine for the long-term collateral damage to our health, education and economy. 

Stepping back, it appears that we are being led by “truths” from experts without a proper evaluation of all the consequences. When something that has been held up as a “truth” turns out to be false, there is no adaptive change in policy, resulting in more adverse consequences. 

As we approach the Christmas season, Christians have one truth that we can count on: Jesus was born, lived on this earth and died for our sins. The consequence of his birth two millennia ago has provided hope for generations in a hopeless world. It’s a hope story that needs to be told again and again. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are on the front lines of communicating the hope that we have at Christmas in a world that is searching for truth.

FURTHER READING: Death toll reaches 30 during “mostly peaceful protests” – Federalist 

When Experts Fail, Everyone Pays the Price WSJ

Family Kicked off United Flight for Toddler Not Wearing Mask – Newsweek

The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea – AIER

Adverse Consequences of School Closures – UNESCO

How School Shutdowns Have Long Term Effects on Children – Wired

The Double Pandemic of Social Isolation  Health Affairs

ADVENT SONG: Joy to the World (Joyful, Joyful) – Wickham

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You who plot deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. Psalm 55:2

Journalism is defined as “the activity or profession of writing for [media] or preparing news for broadcast.”  The operative word is “news”, which is based on fact and truth. At least it used to.

A functioning democracy is based on freedom of speech.  Freedom of the press follows close behind. But what happens when media picks sides and only “reports” opinions and advances narratives but not facts?

Peter Fischer, my daughter’s father-in-law, has a Ph.D. in Russian Language and Literature from Harvard.  His family fled Poland to Austria when WWII broke out and later emigrated to America. 

Peter taught Russian at three American Universities. He became the Russian interpreter at the Moscow embassy during glasnost, assisting the US Ambassador with increased contact and outreach to a previously locked-down Russian society.

Peter submitted a piece to the Wall Street Journal hoping it would find its way to the Opinion page.  It wasn’t published. It was titled:  “Fairytale: A Brief Primer on Socialism and the Current State of the U.S. Media”.  It chronicles the downfall of the U.S.S.R. (the second “S” stands for “Socialist”).

He quotes Winston Churchill:  “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”  Peter adds:  “If, in our current political debate, we willfully ignore the lessons of history and give credence to the Left’s clamor for socialism as a solution to our problems, we do so at grave peril.”  This from a man who has experienced the failure of socialism during his lifetime.

Peter thinks that the leftist push today for utopia only results in dystopia. He described how the U.S.S.R. used “control of public information to keep the populace ignorant and brainwashed.”  The press and media spoke with one voice shaping the narrative. 

There were two newspapers in the soviet world: “Pravda” and “Izvestiya” which in Russian means “The Truth” and “The News”. Irreverent Russians joked that  there is no “Truth” in “The News” and no “News” in “The Truth”.

He notes the irony that we are  “confronted with a weirdly inverted mirror image of how the press and mass media functioned in the now defunct U.S.S.R.”   The two leading newspapers (Washington Post and the New York Times) have morphed into “ideological bastions of the left”, willfully and deliberately slanting the ‘news’ and ignoring or upending the ‘truth’ “.  

Even Thomas Jefferson was skeptical of media when he said: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in the newspaper.  I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads one.”

Today, 90% of all media outlets are controlled by five media “behemoths” (Comcast, Disney, Newscorp, Viacom and Time Warner) according to Matt Talibi. He goes on to say that “if you don’t trust the news, you have good reason”.

If you add in social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter, each of which have liberal leanings, you have American media control similar to the old Soviet media.  Social media, besides promoting a left leaning agenda, also acts as a censor of conservative thought or what they term “misinformation”, which is not misinformation at all, but a different viewpoint.

Today, you cannot post to YouTube any story about “election fraud”, notwithstanding that there is a case in the U.S.S.C. on this very topic. That’s a fact and not “misinformation” as claimed by YouTube as if we are in an alternate reality.

They do it by scrubbing a post,  canceling access (which happened to the New York Post recently), or shadow banning. As Talibi notes, “any ‘triggering’ content is quickly gunned down by trigger happy censors.”

A New York Post story is an example. Epidemiologists from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford University wrote that Sweden’s model of obtaining herd immunity was the best public policy for COVID. That view broke with “conventional wisdom” of the CDC. The Post, the 4th largest paper in the U.S., had its  twitter accounts blocked when it ran the story.

What makes this vexing is that the media bias is not due to government control as in China or Russia. In Cameroon, stories of deaths caused by civil unrest in the Anglophone region have been suppressed by the government for years.  Instead, this is an ideologically driven phenomena, where only one side’s narrative is told, and the other side’s is suppressed.

How do you find news you can trust?  Matt Talibi, along with other investigative reporters have begun to flee from media giants and are now independent. That’s a good sign, but it’s a little like David fighting Goliath because they don’t have the bandwidth of the media giants.  

Alex Berenson,  a former NY Times reporter, found that his books on Unreported Truths about Covid-19 were initially censored by Amazon, even though it cites published medical studies and research  and the World Health Organization.

These are examples from the medical field. It gets worse when one strays into politics and public policy. John Inazu wrote that we will have a vaccine for COVID-19, but the “information virus” has no vaccine. 

Inazu’s remedy?  Get back to face-to-face relationships which “force us to confront complexity rather than caricature, and who challenge [us] to maintain friends, not just followers.” That’s a call for mentors to speak into the lives of the next generation.

The challenge here is that the next generation is absorbing news, often in snippets or headlines, from a biased media.  They don’t read, relying on crowdsourcing and emotion to make decisions, instead of facts, reason, logic or critical thinking.

It’s no wonder the next generation favors socialism rather than capitalism. That’s all they have heard because that’s what the media wants them to hear. Developing a relationship with them is something that is sorely needed to challenge them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors need to be clear eyed when it comes to news. They need to separate fact from opinion with their mentees and help them with develop critical thinking.,

FURTHER READING: If You Don’t Trust the News, You Have Good Reason – Talibi

 Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World –  Murray

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents – Dreher

The Virus Without a Vaccine – John Inaza

How the Hunter Biden Story was Suppressed Until After the Election – NY Post

YouTube to Delete Videos that Allege Fraud, Errors that Changed the Election – PC Magazine

ADVENT SONG: Emanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) – Chris Tomlin

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7D Ranch

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18

Anyone who has watched a crime show knows that your fingers have unique prints, and wherever you have touched something, they can leave an imprint.  Often the imprint is not obvious to the naked eye.   When police are at a crime scene, they often “dust” for latent fingerprints to help identify who was there in order to solve the crime.

So it is in life.  You often leave your fingerprints on people that you have met or have a relationship with. Your wife, your kids, your grandkids, your mentees, your friends or colleagues. The list goes on. You may not realize it, but those fingerprints often don’t go away, just as they don’t go away from the scene of crime. You’ve left them behind.

That’s a good thing in my estimation.  My wife and I have always thought about our legacy which is not about us, but about those we leave behind. God has blessed us with good health in our later years which enables us to continue to be active while many of our contemporaries are sidelined. 

We have been strategic in our reaching out to our 9 grandchildren. Several years ago, we set about designing trips or events to take them to without their parents. We started with a trip around Europe with Sarah, which led to taking our four grandsons to an Army Navy game in a freezing and snowy Philadelphia football stadium. We didn’t make it to halftime. The boys were more excited about the snow than watching the game.

We then took our grandsons to 7 D Ranch, a dude ranch in Wyoming.  Sis is not a horseperson, so this was a challenge for her. It was a big hit; all of them want to return.

The next trip was with our two oldest granddaughters, one in college and the other in high school. Both have musical talent, so we toured through the southeast emphasizing music venues.  We started with country and western in Nashville and ended up with Jazz in New Orleans. One of them, Allie, played in a High School jazz band as did my father who put himself through college playing piano.

Our upcoming trip is with our two youngest granddaughters both 11, and they chose to return to the Dude ranch, although we gave them both a number of other options to consider.  Not to be left out, their Dads decided to join us which will be a first. My other son is considering joining, too even though he won’t have a child there. 

Our intent is to leave our fingerprints all over our kids and grandkids. I never knew my own grandparents, so this is something I missed in my life. My mother’s parents died when I was very young. My Dad’s parents lived in Los Angeles while we grew up on the east coast. In those days, flying across country was a luxury and expensive, so we rarely saw them. 

And so it goes with my mentees.  Even the ones that I didn’t realize I was mentoring in my law career who later said that they consider me a mentor.   When that happens, I think about latent fingerprints – those which you can’t see but are still there after you leave. 

When I became a Christian at age 38, it took me a while to get my spiritual bearings as husband and father. It’s been a straight up learning curve in some ways.  I had to unlearn a lot of selfish habits. I can honestly say that I was far from perfect, either then or now. Going from a god of self, to obeying the God of the universe is a big change.

As I grew in maturity, I realized the importance of not only mentoring my kids, but also mentoring younger men around me. That was about 30 years ago. I have always been an encourager, but this was different when I became an intentional mentor. 

Over time, I have mentored dozens of men, some young, some not so young. Everyone needs a mentor at a different stage of life, even men in their 40’s.  I guess I could even use a mentor in my 70’s because I am always learning life the hard way.  

I may have underestimated my impact in some ways because it’s not about me.  My job is to build up and invest in someone else and help them in the future. It’s a selfless art, and certainly not a glamorous process. I don’t ever expect to see my name in lights, and that’s fine with me. 

What drives me is that leaving fingerprints (and mentoring) is what we are called to do in this life. I learned that it is not optional. When I see older men who haven’t “gotten it”, it makes me sad that they haven’t realized the impact they can have on the lives of the next generation.  

Many in the next generation have not had the benefit of growing up in an intact nuclear family of a father and a mother. Those are the ones most in need of help. 

The challenge is that there are now two generations – millennials and Gen Z – who are open to having a mentor. But those interested in mentoring are too far and few in between. In this day of social distancing, the ability to develop a relationship with a younger person is probably the easiest it will get. They are starved for having someone invest in them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Encourage other mentor aged men and women to get out of the stands onto the sidelines coaching and interacting with the next generation. We need more mentors.

FURTHER STUDY:   An Introduction to Mentoring: Mentoring 101 – Radio Interview

Relational Mentoring


WORSHIP:  Let My Words be Few – Redman

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