Friday, February 27, 2009

Christian Simplicity #1

When Christ came to the home of Mary and Martha, he and those with him were provided with a meal. The story is told in Luke 10:38-42

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."

And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

You are worried about many things. Only one thing is needed. You are distracted by many things, and they draw you away from that which is most important. As Rich Mullins said, "The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance that I owe only to the Giver of all good things."

The stuff of earth doesn't just have to be possessions. It is often the esteem of your fellow human beings. It's often the desire to be though well of by others. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. It's only a bad thing when it draws you away from God.

As we move through this world we have opportunity to accumulate many things and interact in many different ways with many different sorts of people. Those things are mostly good in and of themselves. But when they distract us to the One to whom we owe all obedience and worship, the good becomes bad. Nothing is evil in and of itself. It is good. But it is only good if it remains in its proper place. When it departs its proper place, it becomes wicked.

Many of us have allowed things to depart from their proper place. Because of that, I'm going to begin a series of essays on Christian simplicity. Most of us are about to have at least a measure of simplicity crammed down our throats by circumstances, whether we particularly want it or not. That may be the occasion for discontent in our own hearts. We must not let it be so. We must learn to kiss the rod.

The one great maxim of Christian peace in the midst of turmoil is "Kiss the Rod." God is in charge of all of your circumstances. God has led you to the place where you are. God has put the things in your life that are there on purpose. God has done it for your good and His glory. Don't murmur and complain. Don't merely submit grudgingly to that process. Embrace that process as your Lord's divinely ordered wisdom for your discipline and wellbeing. Kiss the rod.

In the late 19th century, a writer named Jerome K. Jerome wrote a book called Three Men and a Boat. It's a comedy about three men who plan and take a trip up the River Thames in a boat as a vacation excursion. What follows is an excerpt that's relevant to our discussion today:

The first list we made out had to be discarded. It was clear that the upper reaches of the Thames would not allow of the navigation of a boat sufficiently large to take the things we had set down as indispensable; so we tore the list up, and looked at one another!

George said: 'You know we are on the wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can't do without.'

George comes out really quite sensible at times. You'd be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha'pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with --- oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! --- the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like all the criminal's iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man --- all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment's freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment's rest for dreamy laziness --- no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o'er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lillies white and yellow, or the sombre-waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchids, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need --- a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work.

I believe the Second Great Depression is the judgment of God on a profligate and wicked nation. At the same time, I believe it is His loving discipline on His church. God's people have become worldly. The good Lord is about to take away a lot of the fuel for that profane fire. One way for the Christian to kiss the rod in this time in history is to accept whatever economic trials God brings into your life, and to do so graciously. The loss of a job. The loss of a house. The reduction in income. Vacation plans spoiled, or the delay or even abandonment of some cherished purchase or dream because the money simply isn't there anymore. Education plans deferred. The necessity of family members moving in with you, or of you moving in with them. All of these can be occasions for resentment. All of these are opportunities to kiss the rod.

But how much better to do the things "on your own," so to speak? How much better (and cheaper!) to take your life to Him in prayer and ask Him to help you reorder it so that the things which distract you from Him are dealt with. The Lord does not need to pry things out of our hands when our hands are already open. Do you need four cars? Do you need a 4,000 square foot house? Do your children really need to spend 30 hours per week running all over the countryside playing sports? Do we really need to profane the Sabbath day with activities and jobs and recreations that profit neither soul nor body nor pocketbook? So much of what we have going on in our lives is useless lumber. It is expensive and time consuming. It draws us away from God. Chuck it overboard voluntarily, and perhaps the Lord will not need to take greater measures in the future to force you to do so.

Friday, February 20, 2009


It's 6:11 AM on Friday, February 20. I just woke up and checked the futures which are down quite sharply. The Dow has broken below its November 2008 low by about 40 points. The S&P and the Nasdaq are still above those levels, but not by much. If all three indices violate those levels today, look out below.

Someone asked me the other day how low it could get. Well, I'm still sticking to my 5,000-6,000 range before a major rally lasting many months. But that may not be the end of this bear market. From 1929 to 1933 the Dow lost 90% of its value, so there's historical precedent for that sort of thing. That would put the Dow somewhere around 1400.

Gold and silver have gone into overdrive. Gold has already shot up to $997 this morning. I'm starting to hear the words "gold mania" and gold bubble." The same idiots who said it was impossible to spot a bubble in tech stocks, housing, and oil are now experts on finding them everywhere.

There will be a gold bubble someday. Right now gold gets only a grudging respect, and you hear the words "safe haven" and "bought because of fear" to go with it. When Barrick Gold and the GLD Exchange Traded Fund are sponsoring Superbowl halftime ads, when the hottest TV show on TLC is "Flip this Kruggerrand," and the cover of Time and Newsweek are dedicated to gold and to wondering when the bull will make its next new high, then it's time to bail out. Until then, buy and hold. Tight. How high could it go? The Bull market is only now reaching the beginning of the middle. $3,000 is quite likely. $5,000 is entirely possible. If the government is eventually able to get some traction with its monetary policy, and we have a hyperinflation, gold could literally go to infinity in dollar terms.

Silver still gets no respect at all and is still the stealth play. Gold is up a little over 2% this morning. Silver is up almost 4% and has been doing that sort of thing on a consistent basis in the last few days. Hardly anyone mentions it. If you've got an extra $400 in your pocket, go to Northwest Territorial Mint and buy a tube of generic silver rounds. If you've got a spare $100 bill in your wallet, buy a 5 oz bar instead. When silver hits $40 an ounce, you'll be glad you did.

Or, for approximately the same money you could buy a 1/4 oz Maple Leaf, or a tiny 1/10 oz Maple Leaf .

Gold and silver are God's money. Men have replaced them with pieces of worthless paper that have no fixed value relative to the goods and services we use every day. The dollar has lost 98% of its purchasing power since the Federal Reserve was created. Prudence dictates that you put at least some of your earthly wealth in another basket besides the dollar.

One last thing. If you look at the items for sale at the Northwest Territorial Mint, you'll discover quite a discrepancy in price between them. For instance, 1/10 oz Eagle is $133 and a 1/10 oz Maple Leaf is $128. Same gold content. I think the Canadian coin actually has marginally more gold in it than the US coin.

Silver is more dramatic. A generic silver round is $18.97, while a Silver Eagle is $23.52, a 25% premium. Why? No reason except the picture stamped on it, and who stamped it on there. It's the same amount of silver.

It's even worse when you look at the Morgan and Peace Dollars. They're going for $29+ and $25+, respectively, but they're actually only 3/4 of an ounce of silver, so you get less silver for more money. I picked up a bunch of these for $6-$10 apiece back in the Fall of 2007. I'm thinking of ditching them and repositioning in generic rounds.

It's a lump of metal with a pretty picture on it. Don't pay a premium for a picture. Don't pay extra because somebody stamped the lump of metal 100 years ago instead of last year. Don't pay a premium because the U.S. ended it's apartheid in the 1960's, but South Africa didn't end its apartheid until the 1990's, making Gold Eagles more valuable than Kruggerrands. When this has reached its apex, the 25% premiums for the US Government's stamp of approval on the lump of metal will have evaporated.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This post is one from my other blog. I thought it bears posting on this blog as well. By way of update, the rally scenario I was looking for is in a bit of trouble. It's do or die time for that call. We would need to see a firm bounce off the November intraday lows of 7392 Dow, 1295 Nasdaq, and 741 S&P for the rally to work. If that happens, we could see the Dow slingshot all the way back up to 10,000+ for a brief period of time. It will be smiley, happy faces all around on TV. They'll crow that the bottom is in. It isn't.

By my reckoning that retest looks likely to fail, however. I see a series of Elliott wave 1/wave 2 patterns unfolding from the early January high. There are other ways to interpret the patterns, so I am not dogmatic. It's Dow 6000 or lower after that. Gold is ready to pull back, after a nice run, as is silver. After they decline a bit, it would be a good time to buy some.

Sir Alan Greenspan, the instrumental cause of all of this, today acknowledged that the recession will be the deepest since the 1930's.

Also, I'd like to share an interview with Howard Davidowitz, which adequately describes our situation. I don't believe we're facing a permanent change in our lifestyle, but it will be such a long=term change that it might as well be permanent for most of us. Our children or grandchildren might attain to our recent standards of living, but most of us never will again.

Anyhow, without further adieu:

Okay, Maybe Once More

Back in September I published a posting called "I Boast No More." A friend whom I respect had counseled me that this blog had strayed away from its intended purpose by spending too much time on economics and monetary theory. I agreed. So after a couple of weeks of warning, I erased all of my posts on the subject. Just to recap, over the last two and a half years I called for:

1. A collapse in credit, and therefore in demand worldwide.
2. A worldwide Second Great Depression
3. The stock market collapse last Autumn

Well, items #1 and #3 have been fulfilled. As for item #2, we're in the first phases of our Second Great Depression now. We've been treated to news stories that ask survivors of the First Great Depression if what they see today is anything like what they experienced as a child. The answer is always "No. This is nowhere near as bad." I have two observations:

First, things didn't seem bad at all in the beginning stages of the First Great Depression either. In fact, by March of 1930 the Dow had recovered much of its losses, and everyone was saying that the crisis had passed. By the summer of 1930, the music had turned back to a minor key. By the end of 1930, it was obvious that things were worsening. In economic and market terms, the Depression did not bottom until 1932.

Second, these folks were all very young in the beginning stages. One gentleman interviewed had been born in 1927. Most two-year-olds are not very economically aware. As a matter of fact, most 10-year-olds aren't very economically aware. Come back in three years and ask them if it seems familiar. I'm guessing it will.

There were two things which were up in the air:
1. Would the Depression be deflationary or hyperinflationary? It is also possible that it would start as a deflation and turn into a hyperinflation as monetary stimulus plans were implemented.

2. How would gold and silver do? I didn't expect them to do well in a deflation.

Well, we have a little more clarity now, which is why I'm breaking my silence.

Things are definitely taking a deflationary turn. Demand is collapsing. Credit has all but dried up. The massive amounts of money that the government has poured into the banks has not made its way into the economy via lending. Instead it's been poured into a black hole, or is being used to shore up balance sheets and purchase distressed assets dirt cheap. There is no traction yet evident from the instrument of monetary policy. This is leading very quickly to a paralysis of commerce. The Baltic Dry Index, which is a measure of bulk shipping rates has plummeted 90% in just six months. Letters of Credit, which is how international shipping is facilitated, are being revoked. Goods are just sitting in ports, piling up. The dollar has bounced strongly off its summer lows, which is what one would expect in a deflationary scenario. Yes, we're trying to print them as fast as we can, but everyone else is doing the same. The world is being treated to a flood of currency and since the only way to measure the dollar's value is to compare it to Euros, Yen, Pounds, and Pesos, there is no true way to ascertain its value.

We may well have a few years of deflation that morphs into hyperinflation. We are literally in uncharted waters here and no one knows what to do, but for now, deflationary forces rule. That means you should hold cash and cash equivalents. Everything else will decline in value relative to cash. Do not go into debt. Debt kills you in a deflation. Put off all large purchases for as long as you can, as things are likely to get cheaper as a trend. I've been nibbling around the purchase of one of those so-called Netbooks, the Acer Aspire One. In the last two weeks alone the price has come down 10%. Best Buy had an unannounced special on a reasonably equipped Dell laptop for the same price as the cheaper netbooks ($350). They sold out quickly, which says that demand hasn't totally collapsed yet, but unemployed and underemployed people don't buy new computers very often.

Now, the odd thing is how gold and silver have been behaving. I fully expected gold's 25%+ correction from March '08 until November '08. It had gone too far, too fast. Silver's correction was even more brutal, something on the order of 50%+. That correction is now over, and both gold and silver have been climbing nicely.

I had said before that there was a lot of debate about how gold and silver would do in a deflation. The debate hinges on what gold and silver actually are in their essence. If they are commodities, like oil or cotton, then we would expect their price to decline along with the price of all the other commodities. But if they are, in fact, money, then they ought to do well, for the very definition of deflation is an increase in the value of money relative to goods and services.

For the last 37 years, gold and silver have acted like commodities and not money. This is why I said I was not optimistic about their prospects in a deflation. At bottom, though, I believe they are actually God's money, given to us for our good. My convictions about them are theological and not economic.

Their recent increase in price augurs well. They seem to be going up in a deflationary environment. History demonstrates that they also hold their value admirably in a hyperinflationary environment.

So, in addition to cash and cash equivalents, buy gold and silver. Don't sink your life savings into it, but buy gold and silver. Lots of small units are better than fewer large units. It gold hits $3,000 an ounce, it'll be a lot harder to unload that 100 oz bar. 1 oz measures and under are a good rule for gold. 10 oz and under measures are good for silver. I don't understand the platinum market, so I avoid it. I can't see the value in something that used to cost twice as much as gold, looks like silver, and whose only uses that I know of are jewelry and catalytic converters in cars, neither of which look strong going forward.

Watch the value of the dollar If we're going to have a deflation, it should rise above 88 and keep rising. It's still possible for it to go back down to or even marginally beneath its March low of 71 and still be in a rising trend.

I believe we are currently in the beginning stages of a cyclical or technical stock market rally which should last a couple of months. This will not be confirmed until the Dow rises above 9200. I expected the rally earlier than it has unfolded, but I think it's finally here. It's possible we could go back down to retest the November lows first, but I expect we'll see the Dow above 10,000 again briefly. People will breathe a sigh of relief and say that the bottom is in. It's not. I look for Dow 6,000 or less before this is over, and many more years of pain even after the market bottoms. If we decisively violate the November lows, then I'm probably wrong about the rally. At that point we'll proceed directly to Dow 6,000 or less in a very disorderly fashion before we see a very large rally.

Trust God. Live frugally. Buy used where possible. Save your money. Buy gold and silver. Acquire new skills to be able to do the things you used to pay others to do for you. Turn off your television and read a good book. Better yet, read The Good Book.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sin In the Present Tense

I mentioned before about the Lord's use of the biography of Peter Marshall in bringing me closer to Biblical Christianity and calling me into the ministry. Today, we're treated to more bad news. Kansas is broke and is suspending income tax refunds and may not be able to pay state employees on Friday.

It's easy to become consumed with the negative in these times and lose focus on how the Christian ought to live in all times, whether marked by good economy or bad. What follows is a Peter Marshall sermon from the back of A Man Called Peter. I first encountered the idea that God is a God who actually does stuff in history in response to His peoples' prayers in this sermon. It is also here that I first heard the name "George Muller," about whom I will be blogging later. Whatever its defects are theologically and stylistically, I'll always be indebted to this message for setting me on the right road. I hope it provides help for you.

I must hasten to add one last thing. If you have not been born again, these promises are not for you. You must come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith first, and then all of God's good gifts are yours for the asking. If you'd like to understand how that all works, email me or leave a post on this blog and we'll talk.

Sin in the Present Tense

The three chief causes of death in the United States are, in statistical order, diseases of the heart
and disorders of the nervous system.

Two of the three are obviously diseases brought on by strains imposed upon the human body by worry
and the tensions of life in our modern world.

Our lives are so geared these days that any contemplation is difficult.
I have tried it on the top of the Washington Monument and found it impossible even there.

I well remember leaning out of one of the windows- 550 feet above Washington- wondering how the city must have looked in the time of John Quincy Adams
or Thomas Jefferson....
when Pennsylvania Avenue was a muddy road, rutted with carriage wheels.

As I stood there, lost in reverie, trying to recapture Washington's past,
I was interrupted by a brusque voice at my elbow saying,
"Keep moving please... move right on round."

Try standing for five minutes anywhere on the main shopping street of any city,
or on the loading platforms for streetcars during the rush hours in the evening.

Observe the surging, seething mass of humanity flowing past you.
Notice the furrowed brows
the faces lined with anxiety and worry
the haggard, hurried look.

Above all, notice the tenseness of the people,
the feeling of tension in the very atmosphere.

It's symptoms are obvious- irritation, short temper, frowns, nervousness, impatience....
fighting to be waited on....
struggling against time....
Everywhere there this tension just on the verge of hysterics
bitter tears
screams of impotence and rage
and actual conflict.

Now, at this moment, when you are quiet, you know in your heart that God did not mean for us to live like that.
We were not made for that sort of struggle for existence.
It is against every law of health, every law of God.

The essence and core of Christianity is trust in God.

As Christ traveled up and down the dusty roads of Palestine, He was constantly amazed that human beings did not really trust His Heavenly Father.
"Why are you so afraid?" He would say.
"How little you trust in God!"
"Why are ye so fearful?
"How is it that ye have no faith?
"O men, how little you trust Him!"

By every gentle word,
by every act of compassion and pity,
Christ was trying to show men that God is not only all-powerful,
but also all-loving....
nearer to each of us than we know....
always ready and willing to make His power available to meet our needs.

Christ was constantly admonishing men to trust this loving Father, to pin all their faith on Him.
"Have no fear, only believe," He said to one seeking healing.
"Have faith in God," He said to a distraught father.
"All things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23)

Now why was it that Christ considered faith- trusting in God- so all-important?
And exactly what did He mean by "trusting God"?

This is fundamental to the Christian faith.
It has to do with our understanding of life.
It has to do with that basic selfishness, which is so often mistaken for grief.

If you are in financial straits and have turned to God for help,
as you are expected to do....
as God wants you to do....
but you still continue to worry and don't see how you can make both ends meet,
then you are not really trusting God to help you.

Why do we worry about material things?
Our Heavenly Father knows perfectly well that we need them and is more willing to send them to us than we are to ask for them.
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things
to them that ask him." (Matthew 7:11)
God has pledged in His word to supply all our needs.

Paul could testify that God keeps His promises.
I myself know that this promise is true.

God may not supply all your wants, because sometimes we want things
that are not good for us.
Parents don't supply all that their children may want.
But you have every need supplied.
What more can we ask?

Why is it that Christ considered anxiety and worry a sin?
Because worry and anxiety are really lack of trust in God.
And this lack of trust shows that we do not really believe the promises of God.
We believe in God- but we may not believe God.

If you doubt God's ability to help you with a given difficulty, you are
doubting either His power
His ability to help you....
or you are doubting His willingness to help you.

To doubt either God's power,
or God's love
is to say by our actions:
"Lord, I do not believe your promises.
I do not really think they apply to me.
I do not think you will do it.
It might have been alright for Palestine in the long ago, but Lord,
You just don't know Washington."

Surely it is perfectly evident that to doubt God in that way is to sin
against Him, and to cut ourselves off from His help.

Thus one of the greatest sins of Christian people is the sin of tension
and worry.
It is characteristic of all our people, that we, as a nation, need to learn how to relax.

We have permitted ourselves to be stampeded into a life of unnatural
and dangerous high pressure.
We try to cover too much ground.
We are always in a hurry.

I gave my mother's address to some of our boys who were going overseas,
in the hope that they might be able to call upon her.
Some of them did , and commenting on the first visit she received from
these American soldiers, Mother said,
"They came in a jeep, and they were in a hurry."

That, I think, is typical commentary on our American way of life.
We are always in a hurry.

We hate to miss one panel of a revolving door.
Some bright soul has defined a split second as "that interval of time between the changing of the traffic light from red to green, and the honking of the horn in the car immediately behind you."

Whereas our grandparents could make a gracious ceremony and devote
a whole evening to a game of parcheesi, we now feel frustrated unless
we can, in a single evening,
combine a dinner date,
take in a movie
make a couple of telephone calls
visit somebody on the way downtown
and maybe try to do some shopping on the way to the show.
We try to do too much in too short a time.

We are compressing our lives into capsules that are quite indigestible.

That this sin of tension is taking a terrific toll among the people of the
nation cannot be denied.
The incidence of functional diseases
mental illness,
and heart trouble,
increases year after year.

Medicine has made great strides.
It has learned how to combat infectious diseases, but what has happened
is that we have merely exchanged the types of disease.
The citadel of disease has simply retired to strongholds further
in, and more difficult to root out.

Fewer people now die of infectious disease, but more die of degenerative diseases.
The years of life which we have gained by the suppression of smallpox
and scarlet fever
are stolen by the chronic diseases such as cancer
and heart disease.

Thus, disease still has not been mastered.
It simply has changed its nature.
As modern medicine seeks the cause of all of this, it has made some startling discoveries.
The British Medical Journal puts it this way:
"There is not a tissue in the human body wholly removed from the
influence of the spirit."

In other words, we are discovering that there is a closer relationship
between our minds,
our emotions,
the state of our spiritual health, and our bodies,
than doctors thought possible a few decades ago.

To illustrate:
It is a well-known fact that the hyperacidity often leading to stomach
ulcers is direction caused by emotional stress and, generally, a sense of
I can vouch for that from my own experience.

But physicians are now discovering that the same thing is equally true
of other diseases.
Dr Loring T. Swaim of Boston, a nationally known specialist of arthritis,
says that:
It has been increasingly evident, as point out by doctors every-
where, that physical health is closely associated with, and often
dependent upon, spiritual health.

No constitutional disease is free from the effects of mental strains,
which are part of life. Rheumatoid arthritis is no exception.

If tension and worry are the great sins of our day,
and if they affect not only our spiritual health,
not only our peace of mind and happiness- but even our physical
it is certainly worthy of our greatest efforts to learn how to overcome them.

This is where Christianity has the answer.

God has designed us for happiness.
He has created us for peace and joy.
It is His will for each of His creatures that life shall be free and lived
to the utmost for His glory.

Now, worshiping and serving God is a solemn thing,
but it can be happy.
We have confused being solemn with being sad,
being dignified with being depressed.

Have you ever wondered why going to church,
working in the church
taking part in its activities
is done with a sigh instead of a smile or a song?

Why is it that so few people find in it fun,
good company
good times
good humor
and happiness?

Christ's invitation into the Kingdom of God as a joyous affair is like
an invitation to a feast of good things, and an invitation to happiness.

Does your religious experience fit into that?
If not, there's something wrong.
People refuse the offer of Christianity, because they never dream that
what they want can be found there.

Christ offers us what we are really hungering for, but we don't believe it,
because we mistake what we really want in life.

How often Jesus used words that make the new life as attractive as a feast!
The prodigal son is received with music, dancing, and a banquet.
The faithful servant is invited to enter into the joy of his Lord.
The wise virgins go into supper with the bridegroom.
There is only one conclusion.

Either Jesus was wrong-
or we have missed something.
Jesus did not intend that following Him should be sad.
It is true that He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,"
but that was in order that our joy might be full.
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am
meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28)

The yoke He imposes is an easy one.
It does not chafe
or hurt
or hold you back.

On the contrary-
It takes away pain
gives you freedom
drives you on to a fuller and happier life.

But we won't believe it.
We won't give Him a chance.
We prefer to attempt to carry our burdens and, as if we did not have
enough, we try even to carry God's burdens also.

Now what shall we do, who are seeking peace of mind and heart? How
can we find it?

First, let us try to clear our thinking about the nature of God. Let us
make a study, a serious study- for it merits our best efforts- to find out
the nature of God.

Most of our difficulties, our lack of trust in God, spring from our basic
misunderstanding of what God is like.
We are dismally ignorant of the love and the power of God
No wonder we do not trust Him!

Have you ever set out to read your New Testament to find out about God?
How do you know what God is like if you never read intelligently
the only Book that professes to tell you these things.
Get a good modern translation, like Moffatt's or Goodspeed's, and read
it intelligently.
Christ came to reveal God.
He said to one of His disciples:
"Have I been so long time with you, and yet has thou not known
me Phillip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9)

If you want to know what God is like, look at Christ.
Study what Christ said.
Notice what Christ did.
And remember-
He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

Next, study the lives of some others who have been personally acquainted
with Him.
Read the letters, journals, and biographies of men like
Francis of Assisi
Thomas a Kempis
Wilfred Grenfell
George Muller of Bristol.
Brother Bryan of Birmingham
William Pulmer Jacobs of Thornwell Orphanage
and Dr. George Washington Carver.
Find out how God deals with them, and thus you will begin to find out about God.

The second step is to become personally acquainted with God yourself-
in your own way,
according to your own needs and circumstances.
"Practice makes perfect" in the realm of the spiritual, as well as in other things.

You see, your real trouble is spiritual, so that the remedy must be
spiritual too.
All of which means... "Take your burdens to the Lord....and leave them there."
"But how?".... you ask.

Get off by yourself... somewhere.... and tell God your fears-
what you are afraid of....
Tell Him what you are worried about....

And then ask Him... very simply.... to take care of you.
Let all of your fears go- give them to God.
He will not let you down.
Try to let yourself go.... to God.

If you feel you haven't enough faith to do that.... ask Him to
give you the faith too.
He will do that- exactly that.
He will give you what it takes.

The man or woman who really trusts God is not spiritually rigid...
afraid of what might happen tomorrow.....
rehearsing in imagination all the terrible things that could happen.
No, as believers in God, we must relax.

When you are weary and sit down in a chair, you do not sit rigid,
expecting the chair to collapse beneath you- that is, unless the chair
is an antique....

When you lie down in your bed, you do not lie like a poker- tense,
You trust the bed to hold you.
You do not worry about the possibility of the bed collapsing
and depositing you on the floowr.
I have had that happen to me... and it's not so bad, really.

But you don't lie there speculating about the possibility of it happening.
You don't lie there all tense... listening for the sound of a burlar
at the window...
or the cracle of flames from the basement...
or the smell of smoke....
or the trembling of the earth in a possible earthquake.

If you did, you would not get much sleep.
You trust your bed.
You trust your precautions against burglars.
You trust the police force...
and the fire brigade....
and you trust yourself to sleep....
Which is another way of saying you trust yourself to God.

The believer trusts himself to God....
believing that God will watch over him.
Will you relax spiritually today?

Will youleave with God- now- the troubles you have been carrying
around for so long?
Will you ask Him- now- to take them away from you?
and will you relax in simple trust.... just like a little child
Will you?

"There was once a fellow who, with his father, farmed a little piece of land.
Several times a year they'd load up the ox-cart with vegetables and drive
to the nearest city.

"Except for their name and the patch of ground, father and son had
little in common.
The old man believed in taking it easy....
and the young son was the go-getter type.

"One morning they loaded the cart,
hitched up the ox and set out.
The young fellow figured that if they kept going all day and night,
they'd get to the market by next morning.
He walked alongside the ox and kept prodding it with a stick.

" 'Take it easy,' said the old man. 'You'll last longer.'

" 'If we get to market ahead of the others,' said his son, 'we will have a better
chance of getting good prices.'

"The old man pulled his hat down over his eyes and went to sleep on the seat.
Four miles and four hours down the road, they came up to a little house.
'Here's your uncle's place,' said the father, waking up. 'Let's stop in
and say hello.'

" 'We've lost an hour already,' complained the go-getter.

" 'Then a few minutes more won't matter,' said his father. 'My brother
and I live so close, yet we see each other so seldom.'

"The young man fidgeted while the two old gentlement gossiped away
an hour.
On the move again, the father took his turn leading the ox.
By and by, they came to a fork in the road.
The old man directed the ox to the right.
'The left is the shorter way,' said the boy.

" 'I know it,' said the old man, 'but this way is prettier.'

" 'Have you no respect for time?' asked the impatient young man.

" 'I respect it very much,' said the old fellow.
'That's why I like to use it for looking at pretty things.'
"The right hand path led through woodland and wild flowers.
The young man was so busy watching the sun sink he didn't notice
how lovely the sunset was.
Twighlight found them in what looked like one big garden.
'Let's sleep here,' said the old man.

" 'This is the last trip I take with you,' snapped his son.
'You're more interested in flowers than in making money.'

" 'That's the nicest thing you've said to me in a long time,' smiled the old fellow.
A minute later he was asleep.

"A little before sunrise, the young man shook his father awake. They
hitched up and went on.
A mile and an hour away they came upon a farmer trying to pull his
cart out of a ditch.
'Let's give him a hand,' said the father.

" 'And lose more time?' exploded the son.

" 'Relax,' said the old man.
'You might be in a ditch some time yourself.'

"By the time the other cart was back on the road, it was almost eight o'clock.
Suddenly a great flash of lightning split the sky.
Then there was thunder
Beyond the hills, the heavens grew dark.
'Looks like rain in the big city,' said the old man.

" 'If we had been on time, we'd be sold out by now,' grumbled his son.

" 'Take it easy,' said the old gentleman, 'you'll last longer.'

"It wasn't until late in the afternoon that they got to the top of the hill
overlooking the town.
They looked down for a long time.
Neither of them spoke.
Finally the young man who had been in such a hurry said, 'I see what
you mean, father.'

"They turned their cart around and drove away from what had once
been the city of Hiroshima."

Give To Us More Faith

Forgive us, O God, for our little conception of the heart of the Eternal,
for the doubting suspicion with which we regard the heart of God.

Give to us more faith. We have so little.... we say.
Yet we have faith in each other- in checks and banks, in trains and airplanes,
in cooks, and in strangers who drive us in cabs.
Forgive us for our stupidity, that we have faith in people whom we do not know
and are so reluctant to have faith in Thee who knowest us altogether.

We are always striving to find a complicated way through life when Thou hast a plan,
and we refuse to walk in it. So many of our troubles we bring on ourselves. How silly we are.....

Wilt thou give us that faith that we can deposit in the bank of Thy love,
so that we may receive the dividends and interest that Thou art so willing to give us.

We ask it all in the lovely name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Monday, February 16, 2009

When hope nearly vanished

BY JAMES V. WYMAN |James V. Wyman is a retired vice president and executive editor of The Providence Journal and author of "Bittersweet Beginnings: A Sketchbook of a Great Depression Boyhood."

February 15, 2009

Bank failures, mortgage foreclosures, the melting of pensions and 401(k) nest eggs by 20 percent or more, people limiting purchases to bare essentials, all have invited comparisons to the early days of the Great Depression. But as grim as the future looks now, it is unlikely to come anywhere close to producing the same overpowering cloud of raw fear, hopelessness and despair experienced by those who lived through the decade from the stock market crash of October 1929 through 1939.

There were no safety nets in place in the early days of the Depression. When bank closings became epidemic, many depositors lost their life savings overnight, with no hope of recovery. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. wasn't established until 1933.

Economic paralysis spread across the nation, followed by surging unemployment. The jobless rate reached 25 percent, still a record. When a man lost his job in those days, he was on his own. Unemployment compensation did not arrive until 1935.

I grew up in that period, when money was scarce and hope even harder to come by for most families. Jobs became as gold, beyond the reach of most who sought them, my father included.

Day-to-day life for many people in my neighborhood was a time of great uncertainty and fear - fear of job loss, mainly. For the loss of a job threw into immediate question how the affected breadwinner would feed, clothe and shelter his family. My parents knew that fear. I could read it in their faces, even as a boy of 7 in 1930.

My father had lost his full-time job as a furniture-company truck driver, and some five years would pass before he regained his employment footing. He searched daily for part-time work among Brockton, Mass., furniture and trucking companies. He rode a bicycle to save trolley fare downtown. Sometimes he met with success. More often he rode home with disappointment and despair as companions. Still, he took work where he could find it - harvesting pond ice in season and serving as a police constable on special details.

But the bills kept coming - mortgage, taxes, water, food and fuel. There never seemed to be enough money to cover them all. I overheard my parents often at the kitchen table agonizing over mounting bills. At one point, I suddenly realized that my parents seldom smiled and almost never laughed aloud.

That realization moved me deeply. From that point on, I vowed to share their fears, worries and concerns in silence. I hoped that they could sense my sharing. But I never spoke of it to them.

We children experienced the Great Depression at our kitchen table. To trim expenses, my parents substituted oleo margarine for butter and ground horsemeat for beef hamburger meat. They halted regular milk deliveries and used, instead, canned evaporated milk, diluted with tap water. The resultant taste registered little short of horrible. But I discovered I could overcome the offensive flavor by adding a dab of peanut butter. This led me to a lifetime devotion to peanut butter.

My mother, at this time, also introduced us to fruit rationing. No family member was entitled to more than half of any item of fruit - peach, plum or banana - that found its way to our table. Bananas are still my favorite fruit. But to this day, I seldom eat a whole one, considering it a shameful luxury.

Each spring my father planted a large backyard vegetable garden, laboring long and hard. Ultimately, it kept our family and half of the neighborhood in fresh vegetables all summer and into fall. But it did far more good than that, renewing as it did my father's sagging spirits and restoring to him a blessed sense of worth.

Over the coming months we doubtless will be tested and challenged on many fronts as Congress and the new administration seek solutions to the problems that spawned this financial chaos. But we are unlikely to encounter the jarring, overarching emotional trauma that defined the Great Depression for so long for so many. I hope children will be spared the pain and sadness of discovering that their beleaguered parents seldom, if ever, smile or laugh aloud.

Brian's Comments:
Once again, we see the theme of desperate, fear-tinged optimism and hope that this Depression won't be as bad as the last Depression was. Nobody seems to ask where the money for unemployment compensation, welfare, and insurance of bank deposits will come from. When you have more debt on the planet than money by a factor of 60 to one (by some measures which factor in derivatives and other complex leverage instruments) that money will be very hard for governments to come by. In other words, don't count on these things being in place when you need them. If they are, fine. You're still better off with your prudent preparations. If they're not, do all that you can right now to make other preparations.

In other words, buy the things you might need now, in case you don't have the money later, or they're not available because they're made somewhere in the world where economic conditions are even more dire than in the U.S.. I'm thinking tools, canners and mason jars, alternative heat sources, a sturdy bicycle, etc. Think especially about buying sturdy shoes and plain, rugged clothes and putting them away. Here's why. None of that stuff is made in the U.S. anymore. It's all made in China, and factories are going under in China at an astonishing rate.

For example, I have very wide feet (4E or if I can get it 5E width.) That's a relatively small, niche market for the shoe manufacturers, and probably not especially profitable since they don't sell for much (if any) more than the regular sizes. In the last 12 months I've already found it much more difficult to find shoes and boots in my size in places where they were freely available before. The retailers show a product that's theoretically available in my size, but nobody has it in stock anywhere on the whole internet. I consider that a canary in the coal mine situation. Sooner or later we'll reach an equilibrium and these things will be available again in smaller quantities, but until then there may well be shortages.

Just an observation.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Delay of Gratification

When my wife was a child, she was told a story about two little girls who magically got to choose between two life scenarios. Have the first half of life be pleasant and easy, but the last part be painful and marked by hardship, or let the first half be marked by hardship and pain and the last half be marked by pleasure and gain and ease. Then the story followed those two girls in their decisions. The moral was that pleasure now and pain later equips you neither to use the pleasure appropriately, nor handle the pain later. But pain now and pleasure later equips you to handle both. She learned a great lesson from that story and has always been miles ahead of me in this area. My own upbringing was more "normal." It was marked by just the opposite approach.

On Friday night Barbara Walters had a 20/20 special on the children of Appalachia. My wife and I watched it just because it was about a place we both know and love. We spent much time in Eastern Kentucky when we lived in Georgetown, Ohio. It was our vacation spot. The highlight of my year was a boys-only striper fishing trip on Lake Cumberland.

The program was a profile of four young people and their families trying to make it in Eastern Kentucky, which is a very poor region.

Now, I do not want to take away from the hardships that come with poverty. I will not minimize them. But their poverty was made worse... was actually made into a trap because of their own intergenerational behavior.

The main difference between rich and poor is not birthplace, or education level, or the area of the country, or the quality of the schools. It's not the local economy. The main difference between rich and poor is the ability to delay gratification in anticipation of greater rewards down the road. There's an old country saying that's full of wisdom: "Don't eat your seed-corn." These kids came from family situations where it was the normal course of things to "eat their seed-corn." Opportunities and resources are regularly squandered in favor of transitory pleasures now.

It was apparent in the lives of these four kids, and it was apparent that they would probably end up repeating their parents' mistakes. Like what? Drunkenness. Idleness. Addiction to OxyContin (also called "Hillbilly Heroin.") Drinking so much Mountain Dew that it rotted the teeth (Barbara Walters tried to blame Pepsi for that problem.) Sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. Incest between a half-brother and half-sister, to which the half-sister willingly acquiesced in exchange for gifts of drugs and alcohol. One young man had a football scholarship to the college in Pikeville. He dropped out after 8 weeks because it was just too hard. Back to the squalor. Back to the drunken, dysfunctional family. Back to digging coal out of the exposed seams on the roadside to heat the house.

One family was shown putting Pepsi in a baby bottle. They ate a meal of noodles with ketchup on them. The foodstamps had run out, so they were hungry. We were informed that vegetables and fruits generally weren't on the menu because they were too expensive. But I know the area. The bottomlands and flat spots are relatively fertile soil and there is a tolerably long growing season. There were places to plant a garden if the old cars and junk in the yard were moved aside. A vegetable garden and a little canning would help stretch the foodstamp proceeds and provide healthy food. At an old Presbyterian mission in Eastern Tennessee where I took some kids on a mission trip, they had canners and supplies that could be borrowed like you borrow books from the library. There's no zoning down there. They could keep a milk cow and some chickens if they wanted to. They had room. But nope. We're out of food stamps. We'll just be hungry until the next batch comes in the mail. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and he's too lazy to bring it to his own mouth. (Prov 26:15) Hunger, even in one's own children, won't motivate some folks to do right. Shoot, the fishing's really good down there. What self-respecting hillbilly won't even go fishing to feed his family?

They interviewed the owner of several coal mines in the area. He had worked his way through college by working in the mines, so he was no silk-stocking white-shoe type who had everything handed to him. He said he had 100 open positions. Those positions paid $60,000 a year to start, with good insurance. That's an ENORMOUS sum of money down there. But he couldn't fill them because the labor pool couldn't pass the drug screening to get hired. I've known several coal miners. Underground mining is dirty, it's dangerous, and they still haven't fully dealt with the black lung disease problem, but a man could live on $25,000 in Eastern Kentucky very easily, work for a year or two or three and save up $20-30,000 dollars. On that, he could move on to other places with other opportunities. Instead they spend huge amounts of money on tobacco and fast food, and go out and get into hock for $30,000 pickups.

If these people didn't drink alcohol to excess, if they went to school, if they didn't guzzle Mountain Dew by the gallon, if they worked hard and played by the rules and didn't start taking highly addictive opiates, if they didn't have sex outside of wedlock, if they would garden and can and hunt and fish and spend their money wisely, they would have a fair shot at escaping poverty. How do I know? My family did it. We were hillbillies. We were upper middle class white trash (and some of us still are. ) And those that did it did it in the First Great Depression to boot. Even more amazing, they did it by farming and business in the agricultural sector which was the hardest hit sector in the Great Depression. Those that escaped poverty were able to do it because they learned how to delay gratification.

Before we middle class folk get too uppity, it must be noticed that as a subculture we have become increasingly unable to delay gratification. We now act like the poor. We eat our seed-corn, too. It's just that up until recently our bag of seed-corn was a lot larger than it is for the poor. Why does the average American family have $16,000 in credit card debt? Why was the savings rate, up until very recently, less than 0%? Why are most people upside down on their car loans right now? Why is consumption and consumer activity dropping like a rock? Why are we obese? Why are heart disease and diabetes skyrocketing? (I say this as a fat man who needs to take his own advice.) Because we are psychologically unable to delay gratification. Because we've had our faces planted in our bags of seed-corn, and we've eaten them all the way to the bottom, and now we're in trouble. Now there's nothing left. That is the root cause of this Second Great Depression. I just ran across an article today that says that the U.S. Federal Government's obligations actually amount to more money than the Gross Domestic Product of the ENTIRE WORLD!!!

You can't become personally prosperous by borrowing and spending for consumption. You can't grow an economy by borrowing and spending and consuming, either. Consumption does not provide a base for an economy to grow. Savings and investment in producing things that other people want to buy is how you grow an economy. That's why the stimulus bill is ultimately a swindle.

Behaving like the Chinese grows an economy. The Chinese, who are still officially Communists, build and produce and save and invest, and who are the ones being asked to finance our bailout because they're sitting on the largest pile of our dollars that's ever existed in history. The average Chinese worker makes $104 per month, and he saves more than 20% of what he earns.

General Electric is a sterling example of this. In the past, GE was a manufacturing powerhouse, making appliances, light bulbs, industrial equipment, etc, etc. Now the bulk of their earnings comes from GE Capital and GE Finance. It comes from pushing money around.

The middle class, and even the rich, have begun to behave like the poor. And our behavior will lead us and our children into poverty. The biggest challenge that the reader faces in the next ten years is not in the job market or the economy or the realm of politics. It is between his or her ears. You have got to shake off your fetters and begin to delay gratification and embrace discomfort, patience, slow acquisition, and thrift. A little pain now will pay huge dividends later. Learn to embrace it the way that some folks embrace the pain of exercise. Feel the "burn." Learn to love it.

And you have got to teach your children to do so as well. Begin immediately. It's absolutely crucial. And I'm going to say something else that's going to sound snobbish. Do with it what you will.

I noticed a long time ago that if you take a dog and bring it inside the house and socialize it, it will behave more "humanly." But if you put it with two or three other dogs out in the back yard it will be wild and "doggy" its whole life, and no fun at all to have in the house. If you take a cockatiel or a parakeet and raise it by itself in a famliy that interacts with it, it will learn to do amazing things and be a very pleasant pet. If you stick it in a cage with three or four other birds it will just squawk and bite and make messes. It will stay "birdy."

If you are very careful about your children's friends and playmates, and do not allow any significant relationships with children who do not share your family's values, and especially at adolescence when your child's peers are becoming more and more important, your child will take on your values. If you let them lie down with dogs, they'll get up with fleas. They will become worldly. Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Cor 15:33) This is why Christian kids who go to public schools are often such a spiritual and moral train wreck. You cannot undo 30-35 hours a week of indoctrination by the enemies of God, along with total immersion in a godless youth subculture, by 4-5 hours per week of religious instruction.

And you are not as strong as you think you are, either. If your most significant relationships are with non-Christians or worldly Christians, you will not break out of this trap yourself. The initial function of what became known as snobbery was to protect those who had learned these fragile and difficult lessons from the cancerous influence of those who had not. It was a commonsense implementation of 1 Cor 15:33.

Self denial and self control and avoidance of all activities that are sinful or tend to dissipate one's energies and substance are a big part of the Christian life. Hard work and diligence, "redeeming the time," (Eph 5:16-17) simplicity and contentment, striving to lead a quiet life of productive work while minding your own affairs, (1 Thess 4:11-12) and making more than you need so you have something to share (Eph 4:28) are all elements of sanctification and the gospel-centered life. These also tend to produce material wellbeing and even wealth.

My maternal grandfather owned a grain elevator in Hayti, Mo. He was basically a grain broker. He was also the first in his family to send all of his kids to college. My Dad loves to tell the story about the farmer acquaintance who came to my grandfather for advice at the elevator one day. He wanted to send his daughter to college, but he didn't know anything about colleges and cost and whatnot. This would have been in the early 1960's. He dressed in worn out, patched bib overalls. He drove a truck that was 15 years past its prime and one fender was literally wired on with baling wire.

"Well, the cost and quality of colleges varies a lot. How much money do you figure you can spend to send her to college?" Granddaddy asked, as he eyed the old pickup.

"About $100,000." he said.

My grandfather just about spit his RC Cola all over the man. That's serious money now. It was a small fortune in the early '60's. This man looked poor, but he had plenty of money to spend. Today, we look wealthy and are broke.

I don't know if that man was a Christian or not, but one thing is certain. He was, at the very least, operating off the storehouse of Christian values that sustained our culture for a couple of generations after biblical Christianity was widely abandoned. We need to refill that storehouse. Now.

100 Items that Disappear First

While I am anticipating that things will get bad, I do not believe they will be as bad as, say, Sarajevo in the early 1990's. But the first TARP was ramrodded through Congress with dire predictions of rioting and martial law, so I suppose one never knows. Those who live in urban or suburban areas that are close by an urban area will probably be in more danger of these sorts of disruptions. You don't have enough land and too many people on it, so resources are scarcer.

We hillbillies in the small towns and the boondocks will fare much better. I've got a mountain full of firewood just outside of town, and I'm putting a woodstove in my basement this spring. I have a well in my backyard for watering grass and such, and so do many folks in town. I'll need to boil and filter the water, but it's drinkable. Deer, antelope, pheasant, and dove are abundant on the nearby prairie (and sometimes in my front yard.) You don't need a .308 Winchester to get a deer around here. A 350 Chevrolet will do it. My friends have large ranches with tasty cows walking around on them. We've got good (tho tricky) fly fishing nearby, and lots of people have snowmobiles, four wheelers, 4wd pickups, and offroad motorcycles. Anybody that tries to break in and steal around here is not liable to survive the experience, since we're generally quite well armed. As Hank Williams Jr. said, "A Country Boy Can Survive."

The following list was compiled by a man who lived through the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. I think his emphasis on hand tools (both kitchen and outdoors) is important. We had a blizzard here in November that cut the power for a day, and it was pretty darn cold outside to boot. I found we were far more handicapped than I had first believed. We couldn't heat safely, and we couldn't cook. I rectified that situation before the next blizzard, and plan on more intensive preparations when the weather gets warmer and I can work outside more easily.

And a quick note on generators. My family lives in the Bootheel of Missouri, and were also victims (along with the whole state of Kentucky) of that monster ice storm. Branches and powerlines were down everywhere, so there was no electricity for a week. "No problem," says my uncle, "we have a generator." What he didn't have was much gasoline. And guess what it takes to get gasoline out of the gas pump at the QuikMart? Electricity. It was a long, cold week. You often don't think of stuff like that until it's too late.

Anythow, I had mentioned this list to some folks on Thursday night and they emailed asking for it. So here it is by request:

100 Items to Disappear First

1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice - Beans - Wheat
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY - note - food grade if for drinking.
14. Mini Heater head (Propane) (Without this item, propane won't heat a room.)
15. Grain Grinder (Non-electric)
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.
17. Survival Guide Book.
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels
31. Milk - Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit
35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt
42. Matches. {"Strike Anywhere" preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)
49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. "Survival-in-a-Can"
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress's
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
100. Goats/chickens

From a Sarajevo War Survivor:
Experiencing horrible things that can happen in a war - death of parents and
friends, hunger and malnutrition, endless freezing cold, fear, sniper attacks.

1. Stockpiling helps. but you never no how long trouble will last, so locate
near renewable food sources.
2. Living near a well with a manual pump is like being in Eden.
3. After awhile, even gold can lose its luster. But there is no luxury in war
quite like toilet paper. Its surplus value is greater than gold's.
4. If you had to go without one utility, lose electricity - it's the easiest to
do without (unless you're in a very nice climate with no need for heat.)
5. Canned foods are awesome, especially if their contents are tasty without
heating. One of the best things to stockpile is canned gravy - it makes a lot of
the dry unappetizing things you find to eat in war somewhat edible. Only needs
enough heat to "warm", not to cook. It's cheap too, especially if you buy it in
6. Bring some books - escapist ones like romance or mysteries become more
valuable as the war continues. Sure, it's great to have a lot of survival
guides, but you'll figure most of that out on your own anyway - trust me, you'll
have a lot of time on your hands.
7. The feeling that you're human can fade pretty fast. I can't tell you how many
people I knew who would have traded a much needed meal for just a little bit of
toothpaste, rouge, soap or cologne. Not much point in fighting if you have to
lose your humanity. These things are morale-builders like nothing else.
8. Slow burning candles and matches, matches, matches

Friday, February 13, 2009

10 Things You Should Not Do During Deflation

Robert Prechter was the first one to explain to me how deflation works and what to expect in a deflation. I read his book "Conquer the Crash" in 2002, and derived no small benefit from it. He is not inerrant. He has thus far been wrong on the effect of deflation on gold and silver (though to his credit he said to buy some anyhow just in case he was wrong,) and he was basically 8 years early on all of his other calls. But the scenario he laid out in "Conquer the Crash" is unfolding right before our eyes.

Keep in mind that the deflationary case is not yet definitively proven. It will take another year or so. So it is possible that we will still end up in a hyperinflationary environment. It's also possible that a deflation will morph into a hyperinflation. The key to determining what's happening is to watch the value of the dollar. If it begins to fall precipitously, then we are turning to a hyperinflationary environment. At that point you want to do the opposite of all that is mentioned below.

But assuming the situation remains in the trajectory it seems to be establishing right now, the advice given below is very sound.

10 Things You Should and Should Not Do During Deflation

by Robert Prechter

This article is part of a syndicated series about deflation from market analyst Robert Prechter, the world's foremost expert on and proponent of the deflationary scenario. For more on deflation and how you can survive it, download Prechter's FREE 60-page Deflation Survival eBook, part of Prechter's NEW Deflation Survival Guide.

The following article was adapted from Robert Prechter's NEW Deflation Survival eBook, a free 60-page compilation of Prechter's most important teachings and warnings about deflation.

1) Should you invest in real estate?

Short Answer: NO

Long Answer: The worst thing about real estate is its lack of liquidity during a bear market. At least in the stock market, when your stock is down 60 percent and you realize you've made a horrendous mistake, you can call your broker and get out (unless you're a mutual fund, insurance company or other institution with millions of shares, in which case, you're stuck). With real estate, you can't pick up the phone and sell. You need to find a buyer for your house in order to sell it. In a depression, buyers just go away. Mom and Pop move in with the kids, or the kids move in with Mom and Pop. People start living in their offices or moving their offices into their living quarters. Businesses close down. In time, there is a massive glut of real estate.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 16

2) Should you prepare for a change in politics?

Short Answer: YES

Long Answer: At some point during a financial crisis, money flows typically become a political issue. You should keep a sharp eye on political trends in your home country. In severe economic times, governments have been known to ban foreign investment, demand capital repatriation, outlaw money transfers abroad, close banks, freeze bank accounts, restrict or seize private pensions, raise taxes, fix prices and impose currency exchange values. They have been known to use force to change the course of who gets hurt and who is spared, which means that the prudent are punished and the thriftless are rewarded, reversing the result from what it would be according to who deserves to be spared or get hurt. In extreme cases, such as when authoritarians assume power, they simply appropriate or take de facto control of your property.
You cannot anticipate every possible law, regulation or political event that will be implemented to thwart your attempt at safety, liquidity and solvency. This is why you must plan ahead and pay attention. As you do, think about these issues so that when political forces troll for victims, you are legally outside the scope of the dragnet.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 27

3) Should you invest in commercial bonds?

Short Answer: NO

Long Answer: If there is one bit of conventional wisdom that we hear repeatedly with respect to investing for a deflationary depression, it is that long-term bonds are the best possible investment. This assertion is wrong. Any bond issued by a borrower who cannot pay goes to zero in a depression. In the Great Depression, bonds of many companies, municipalities and foreign governments were crushed. They became wallpaper as their issuers went bankrupt and defaulted. Bonds of suspect issuers also went way down, at least for a time. Understand that in a crash, no one knows its depth, and almost everyone becomes afraid. That makes investors sell bonds of any issuers that they fear could default. Even when people trust the bonds they own, they are sometimes forced to sell them to raise cash to live on. For this reason, even the safest bonds can go down, at least temporarily, as AAA bonds did in 1931 and 1932.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 15

4) Should you take precautions if you run a business?

Short Answer: YES

Long Answer: Avoid long-term employment contracts with employees. Try to locate in a state with "at-will" employment laws. Red tape and legal impediments to firing could bankrupt your company in a financial crunch, thus putting everyone in your company out of work.

If you run a business that normally carries a large business inventory (such as an auto or boat dealership), try to reduce it. If your business requires certain manufactured specialty items that may be hard to obtain in a depression, stock up.

If you are an employer, start making plans for what you will do if the company's cash flow declines and you have to cut expenditures. Would it be best to fire certain people? Would it be better to adjust all salaries downward an equal percentage so that you can keep everyone employed?

Finally, plan how you will take advantage of the next major bottom in the economy. Positioning your company properly at that time could ensure success for decades to come.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 30

5) Should you invest in collectibles?

Short Answer: NO

Long Answer: Collecting for investment purposes is almost always foolish. Never buy anything marketed as a collectible. The chances of losing money when collectibility is priced into an item are huge. Usually, collecting trends are fads. They might be short-run or long-run fads, but they eventually dissolve.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 17

6) Should you do anything with respect to your employment?

Short Answer: YES

Long Answer: If you have no special reason to believe that the company you work for will prosper so much in a contracting economy that its stock will rise in a bear market, then cash out any stock or stock options that your company has issued to you (or that you bought on your own).

If your remuneration is tied to the same company's fortunes in the form of stock or stock options, try to convert it to a liquid income stream. Make sure you get paid actual money for your labor.

If you have a choice of employment, try to think about which job will best weather the coming financial and economic storm. Then go get it.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 31

7) Should you speculate in stocks?

Short Answer: NO

Long Answer: Perhaps the number one precaution to take at the start of a deflationary crash is to make sure that your investment capital is not invested "long" in stocks, stock mutual funds, stock index futures, stock options or any other equity-based investment or speculation. That advice alone should be worth the time you [spend to read Conquer the Crash].

In 2000 and 2001, countless Internet stocks fell from $50 or $100 a share to near zero in a matter of months. In 2001, Enron went from $85 to pennies a share in less than a year. These are the early casualties of debt, leverage and incautious speculation.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 20

8) Should you call in loans and pay off your debt?

Short Answer: YES

Long Answer: Have you lent money to friends, relatives or co-workers? The odds of collecting any of these debts are usually slim to none, but if you can prod your personal debtors into paying you back before they get further strapped for cash, it will not only help you but it will also give you some additional wherewithal to help those very same people if they become destitute later.

If at all possible, remain or become debt-free. Being debt-free means that you are freer, period. You don't have to sweat credit card payments. You don't have to sweat home or auto repossession or loss of your business. You don't have to work 6 percent more, or 10 percent more, or 18 percent more just to stay even.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 29

9) Should you invest in commodities, such as crude oil?

Short Answer: Mostly NO

Long Answer: Pay particular attention to what happened in 1929-1932, the three years of intense deflation in which the stock market crashed. As you can see, commodities crashed, too.

You can get rich being short commodity futures in a deflationary crash. This is a player's game, though, and I am not about to urge a typical investor to follow that course. If you are a seasoned commodity trader, avoid the long side and use rallies to sell short. Make sure that your broker keeps your liquid funds in T-bills or an equally safe medium.

There can be exceptions to the broad trend. A commodity can rise against the trend on a war, a war scare, a shortage or a disruption of transport. Oil is an example of a commodity with that type of risk. This commodity should have nowhere to go but down during a depression.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 21

10) Should you invest in cash?

Short Answer: YES

Long Answer: For those among the public who have recently become concerned that being fully invested in one stock or stock fund is not risk-free, the analysts' battle cry is "diversification." They recommend having your assets spread out in numerous different stocks, numerous different stock funds and/or numerous different (foreign) stock markets. Advocates of junk bonds likewise counsel prospective investors that having lots of different issues will reduce risk.

This "strategy" is bogus. Why invest in anything unless you have a strong opinion about where it's going and a game plan for when to get out? Diversification is gospel today because investment assets of so many kinds have gone up for so long, but the future is another matter. Owning an array of investments is financial suicide during deflation. They all go down, and the logistics of getting out of them can be a nightmare. There can be weird exceptions to this rule, such as gold in the early 1930s when the government fixed the price, or perhaps some commodity that is crucial in a war, but otherwise, all assets go down in price during deflation except one: cash.

- Conquer the Crash, Chapter 18

The Truth Begins to Emerge

The truth is starting to come out in dribs and drabs now. The British press have always been more honest than the American Press on these things.

Mr Balls said yesterday: "The reality is that this is becoming the most serious global recession for, I'm sure, over 100 years, as it will turn out."

He warned that events worldwide were moving at a "speed, pace and ferocity which none of us have seen before" and banks were losing cash on a "scale that nobody believed possible".

The minister stunned his audience at a Labour conference in Yorkshire by forecasting that times could be tougher than in the depression of the 1930s

Here's the facts and we don't even talk about these things. On Thursday [September 18th 2008] at about 11 O'clock in the morning the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw down of money market accounts in the United States to the tune of $550 billion—was being drawn out in a matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help--they pumped $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks.

They decided to close the operation--close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic out there. That's what actually happened. If they had not done that their estimation was that by 2 O'clock that afternoon $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States. It would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. Now we talked at that time about what would happen if that happened. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it and that's why when they made the point "we've got to act and do things quickly" we did.
-CSpan Interview w/ Congressman Paul Kanjorski

To give the proposed economic stimulus plan some perspective, "if you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn’t have spent $1 trillion."

-Sen Mitch McConnel