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More Partakers

For the longest time, we thought the number who partook at the memorial would go down. Instead it sneaks up by degrees—not like a tidal wave—but it sneaks up. What gives? Vic Vomodog texts me about it all the time, attaching ‘nyaah nyaah emojis.

Has it happened

1) because more persons feel they have the heavenly calling, that they will be among those ruling as kings and priests in all the earth?

(“And they sing a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”)


2) because more persons are feeling that one should partake regardless of what their future hope is, as though the ceremony itself is for all?

I have always thought it was #1 but I’ve seen comments seeming to support #2.

It’s a new thought to me. 

Unless I am wrong (what are the chances?), whereas the earthly organization once suggested these new partakers, for one reason or another, were deluding themselves (emotional stress holdover from church days, for example), now they are just inclined to say, “it’s between them and Jehovah” without further analysis. That’s what my elder brother-in-law said when the topic came up.

The reason the Witness organization would first suggest they’re not quite pulling with both oars is because of this bit from the United in Worship book (1983). I much enjoyed that book for its new technique of embedding in most chapters a paragraph consisting of a series of questions and scriptures to reason upon, as I had first seen in the pioneer school.

The book, in chapter 14, presented the two callings as being filled sequentially. First, the heavenly hope:

(Para 5) “Their being called to heavenly life was not because they were somehow better than all the servants of God who had died before Pentecost of 33 C.E. (Matt. 11:11) Rather, Jehovah now had begun to select those who would be associate rulers with Jesus Christ. For some 19 centuries after this there was only one calling, the heavenly one…—Eph. 2:8-10.”

There’s no sense in calling out the ‘great crowd’ then because, by definition, they are not going to be around when the Great Tribulation comes. Calling out the great crowd comes later:

(Para 6) “In time the prescribed but limited number of 144,000 would be filled…. (Rev. 7:1-8) Then Jehovah, by means of his spirit and the understanding of his Word that he made possible for his visible organization, would direct matters so as to fulfill another part of his purpose, as described in Revelation 7:9-17. A “great crowd” out of all nations would be gathered, with the thrilling prospect of surviving the great tribulation and living forever in perfection amid an earthly Paradise. When we consider what has actually occurred, it seems evident that the heavenly calling in general was completed by about the year 1935 C.E., when the earthly hope of the “great crowd” was clearly discerned. Since then there have been brought into association with the comparatively few thousand remaining ones of the heavenly class millions of worshipers of Jehovah who are earnestly hoping to live forever right here on earth.”

The resulting $64K question (and answer):

Para 7) “Does this mean that none are now being called by God for heavenly life? Until the final sealing is done, it is possible that some few who have that hope may prove unfaithful, and others will have to be chosen to take their place. But it seems reasonable that this would be a rare occurrence.”

Alas, contrary to what the book forecasted, it’s getting to be an increasing common occurrence. Is it because more persons think they have the heavenly hope? Or is it that more persons are coming to feel they should partake irrespective of their hope?

Dunno. Even if I felt that second way (I don’t) I would not act on it because people would freak out— a sure way to advance the Darth Vader notion that “the student has become the teacher.” But if you thought the heavenly hope was yours, then you would go that way.


So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (John 6:53)

Most things have context. This one does too. Jesus is speaking to the ones of which he would later say:

“However, you are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28)

By this reasoning, he wasn’t speaking to me. I’m not going to be judging no twelve tribes of Israel. I’ll just be talking trash here at

He’s talking to the gathered “things in the heavens,” not the “things on the earth,” in accord with Ephesians 1:9-10:

It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth.

If the reasoning of the United in Worship book still holds, first you do the things in heaven, then you do the things on the earth. The things in the heavens ‘eat the flesh and drink the blood.’ The things on the earth don’t. Rather, they benefit from the final sealing of these spiritual Israelites as approved would be near.


And you know that something’s happening but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” (Dylan)

No, I guess I don’t, but it’s probably not a big deal. If it is, we’ll hear of it someday. Just like in the United in Worship paragraph: The “When we consider what has actually occurred” eventually factors in to make things “evident.”


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Interest vs Neutrality

One foolproof way to stay neutral with regard to politics is to know nothing about it. Many Witnesses choose that route. How can they be criticized for it? Many non-Witnesses take that route too for the sake of their blood pressure and stomach. 100 pounds of personal exertion may budge the scale a half-ounce? Some will choose to conserve their 100 pounds of personal exertion. It’s the Serenity Prayer realized for them: “Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other.” If you think that the overall state of affairs cannot be changed, yet you exert all your effort to do so, there goes your serenity. 

Some people are greatly interested in sports. Some people care not a whit. Some people are greatly interested in cars. Others wouldn’t know a Astin Martin from a Yugo—they would not know that the grates on the back of a Yugo are heating grates to warm your hands as you are pushing it (said Click and Clack). Some are interested in the human interaction that is politics. Some are not. Not a problem, any of it. It’s all personal choice.

The thing that nettles is when people misrepresent their non-interest as piety. Like the firebrand bro who insisted Jehovah’s Witnesses ARE NOT interested in politics, and when I responded that some of them were, he blocked me.

It’s okay to know things. It doesn’t in itself make you ‘part of this world.’ It even aids in the ministry to understand what it is that so gets people cranked up. That way you don’t have to speak in bland generalities. However, to present interest in politics as for the sake of the ministry also rings false. If you follow it, you follow it. Don’t try to present it as a virtue for the sake of the ministry.

3C07D2D9-2DC8-4E23-B299-B0797CBF1A73Pop didn’t care for politics. All these years I had imagined he did, since at family gatherings, long before my Witness days, politics was a frequent topic of discussion. Turned out that my mom’s dad, a staunch conservative, would rattle on endlessly about it, and Dad was just too circumspect and amiable to tell his father-in-law to zip it.


(photo: Pixabay)

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Consolation Prizes

Just because something makes no sense doesn’t mean it might not be the way things are. 112E2F68-94F8-459F-A75C-471A21C8B204Lots of things make no sense, and when the district overseer long ago protested the telephone policy with those words, his answer was, “At Ma Bell, we have a saying. It doesn’t have to make cents as long as it makes dollars.”

Lots of things aren’t true, also. It’s as Churchill said: “There are a terrible lot lies going round the the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.” “Protect Yourself from Misinformation” is the title of a recent whiteboard intended for the young. Much as I appreciate the effort, the creators have their work cut out for them. Now that Elon Musk has taken the reigns at Twitter, he says ‘Frankly, just about every conspiracy theory you ever heard about Twitter has turned out to be true.’

The tiresome mantra is “holding people accountable” and making the scoundrels “take responsibility.” It’s hardly the bee’s knees when you can do that, for it doesn’t mean the bad things didn’t happen. Sometimes you can make the miscreants “take responsibility.” and even “hold them accountable,” but it’s better if you can stop them from being miscreants in the first place. The world runs on consolation prizes.

Punishment is easier than prevention. Prevention requires agreement on just how this can be done and agreement in a divided world seldom happens. So we settle for  “holding people accountable” and making them “take responsibility.”

“My people have done two bad things,” says the prophet Jeremiah. “They have abandoned me, the source of living water, And dug for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Human society throws the owner’s manual away and still hopes for good mileage.

For the people of God who don’t throw the owners manual away, but try to abide by it, the product will still break down, for the manufacture is imperfect. You can still get caught in a pinch point on the potter’s wheel. “God is using imperfect people to adjust other imperfect people because that’s all he has at present,” says Bro Nourmair. The younger brothers get to squabbling and the old-timer tilts back in his chair and marvels at what Jehovah accomplishes “given what he has to work with.” Flawed though everyone is, you don’t discard the earthen vessels for being earthen, and you certainly don’t discard the manual for how to work with earthen vessels. God has all bases covered, someone told Whitepebble. “That means I can’t mess him up,” the latter replied.

Years ago, the CO approved a recommendation of someone for congregation office, though he made the observation, “He’s not the most humble brother in the world.” It’s all fine. He didn’t have to be the most humble brother in the world—he just had to meet the scriptural qualifications to an acceptable degree, and he did. The CO should have listened to his inner voice, though, to say nothing of those elders—yes, I was one of them—who paid not sufficient attention to Paul’s counsel (1 Tim 5:22)  on not laying your hands hastily upon anyone. What a yo-yo this fellow turned out to be, going the into full correcting-prophet mode over time, testing false positive for anointing and true positive for apostasy!

Those who are ill seek out the physician,’ Jesus says. (Matthew 9:12) What happens if they don’t? They die, many of them. It is not as though the ‘company doctor of the mainstream’ that would deride ‘cults’ heals them.


***They finally hung that conniving politician that everyone knew should be hung. ‘Any last words?’ they asked him on the gallows. “This is unacceptable!” he declared as the trap door swung open and the rope snapped taut.


******  The bookstore

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The Scene of the World is Changing: a Watchtower to Ease Adjustment.

At breakfast in our Ithaca hotel, a Chinese family sat a few yards from us. Most likely they were here to scout out Cornell for the teenage son. As they got up to leave, I nodded friendly to them and each smiled friendly back. The teenage boy encircled grandma with his arms, nowhere touching, as though to safeguard her as she walked. You got the impression it was standard practice.

That’s not a bad intro to a discussion of one Sunday’s Watchtower Study, is it? [‘Treasure Our Faithful Older One’s—Wt September 2021] That study, and the one preceding it, tackled the challenge of gracefully aging and how the generations interact with each other. The old people need learn to let go, not easy because, like everyone, their self-worth gets tied up in what they do. So they must adjust in viewpoint, and this the WatchtowerStudy encouraged them to do.

“The Bible is like an owner’s manual for the product that is us,” I told the young woman in the dog park that I regarded as my own personal territory. “It gives good guidance on coping with the hassles we all face, while we await a better world.” The young woman conceded that was as good a summary as any she had heard, and even approached me later to say she had enjoyed our short conversation.

Sometimes I’ll be working up a head of steam on this or that subject, telling people how things ought to be as their eyes glaze over. “Yeah, they just think I’m an old fart,” I say to myself. It is a good check. You can’t guide the younger generation if you bowl them over. Paragraph 3 of the study even cited Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ for it is not out of wisdom that you ask this.” Who would have thought it would be in the Bible that you should not drone on and on about the good old days? What young snot of a writer snuck that one in?

The ‘scene of the world is changing.’ That same paragraph quoted this 1 Corinthians 7:31 verse as well, and young people can wrap their heads around new things quicker that old ones. They simply have minds more flexible.

“Isn’t there anything youngsters are better at than old people,” the restless college kids asked Lil Abner creator Al Capp (who didn’t think much of them)? “Yeah, they’re better at carrying luggage,” he admitted. Naw—they’re better at all kinds of things, and within the Christian congregation is found about the best encouragement as to how the old can honor the young same as the young honor the old.

(Fast forward to another Sunday meeting: The speaker called for a picture displayed on screen, but Brother Allthumbs was at the controls! The pic displayed in time, but it was a very very long time, during which the speaker made his point without it. Fortunately for Allthumbs, the adjoining WatchtowerStudy specifically included a pic and paragraph about commending such a new attendant for his efforts rather than chewing him out for his blunders.)

A modest person knows when it is time to “change to a lower gear,” the study said, “so that he can continue to be active and productive in Jehovah’s service.” Another paragraph cited Barzillai, ducking out of an assignment from David because (at 80) he thought himself too old and fretted he would just slow things down. (2 Samuel 19:35) I laughed aloud (Zoom-muted) at the elderly sis who said it was tough to let go as we begin to decline “soon after 40.” Yikes! She’s not known as a jokester, either.

About the only one who can’t get away with doing less is Sam Herd, forever quipping and playing the grumpy old man card. He mutters that, as one of the Governing Body, he would like to retire “but they won’t let me.” He does get to sit, though; I’ve seen it. But he didn’t sit taking his turn as GB speaker at the 2019 Regional—the last physical convention before they went virtual for the pandemic. They made him work.

The speaker preceding that Sunday’s Watchtower Study was a bro who could be charged about rattling on about the good ol days. 8ACF032F-3D5F-4009-A90D-94CF8D24CB67He is a Beatles fan, and he has been known to contrast those tunes favorably with those of today. Alas, we all know that the day they stopped making good music is the day we stopped listening to it. But there was plenty of rubbish back then, same as there is today.  I think he’s trying to live down his image, but others tease him about it, and in post-meeting Zoom chit-chat he did succumb to “hoping he had passed the audition.”

(Photo: LindsayG0430–Wikipedia)

He’s a good speaker—a pleasant man who keeps things lively. His talk was “Making a Good Name with God” and it included much discussion of just what’s in a name. Before he came onboard, in pre-meeting chit-chat, we had been batting around just that. For the longest time, I was the only Tom in the congregation, but now there are two. What that means, the other Tom said, is that anytime you hear your name mentioned, you are not sure it is really you being addressed and you risk looking dumb if you cheerily acknowledge a greeting that is not yours. This happened to me once in high school. The fact I still remember it shows it made an impression. A teacher approaching in the hall said, ‘Hi, Tom!” I happily answered right back, but he had meant it for the teacher just behind me, also named Tom. Feel stupid, or what?

Think that’s bad? said Joe. “You know how many people are named ‘Joe?’” But I observed that he could always take consolation in their being an expression, ‘he’s a good joe,’ whereas there was no corresponding expression about being a good tom.

Except at Thanksgiving, one sis chimed in.


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Ulysses Grant and Wife in the Aquarium

Ha! Look what I have found in Grant, by Ron Chernow [large print edition]:

Chapter 40 begins with: “Upon quitting the fish residence in late March, Ulysses and Julie Grant conducted a sentimental tour of familiar haunts . . . “

It was the Fish residence, not the fish residence. What! Does the editor think they lived in an aquarium? Hamilton Fish was his Secretary of State. The two came to be close friends. 

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this. Do you have any idea how devilishly hard it is to chase all blips and typos away in a manuscript, especially if it was your own writing and you read, not what is there, but what you think is there? I still have a few typos in ‘Go Where Tom Goes.’ Probably the blips I have would completely escape the notice of anyone but an obsessive, OCD, picayune, nitpicking person, but even so, there are some. Nothing as egregious at this, however! The ‘fish residence,’ indeed! And this is from a commercial outfit that is not a one-man show, as I am. Oh yeah, I am vindicated. 

I am all but done with Grant—not completely, but almost—and have expanded into some of Douglass’s writing. The feeling floated in the first post of this thread intensifies. Lincoln freed the slaves. Grant strived to complete the job. He was relentless in defending southern Blacks. He broke the back of the original Ku Klux Klan. He came to be known as a champion of human rights in general. The feeling grows that he would have completed the job were it not for Andrew Jackson sandwiched in between he and Lincoln. 

This is speculative, hardly a sure thing. The racism Grant faced in the South was fanatical, sustained, and virulent. No end of incidents occurred in which Blacks were attacked and murdered by white mobs, not clandestinely, but out in the open and with boasting.

Ten years into Reconstruction, the zeal of Northern reformers was waning. People will devote themselves to a cause for only so long until they get discouraged by reversals and go elsewhere. Time and again Grant would send federal troops South to enforce peace. The moment he withdrew them, anti-Black violence would erupt as before. The Black vote drove white Southerners apoplectic. Though a constitutional amendment guaranteed Blacks the vote, reigns of terror became the order of the day so that few of the former slaves dared exercise it. There are elections on record in which the Black vote numbered less that 10.

Meanwhile, Grant was increasingly undercut by his Northern base. The freed-slave sentiment had not been overwhelmingly strong to begin with—to some it was, but not enough—so that in the face of Southern intransigence, the sentiment in the North morphed into, ‘Time to move on.’ With his support eroding, once in a while—not routinely, but once in a while—Grant took his eye off the ball. Whenever he did so, violence unresisted took heart and became more entrenched.

So maybe the fact that history placed Johnson in between Lincoln and Grant doesn’t matter. Maybe racial hatred would have prevailed for 100+ years in any event. On the other hand, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the racist Johnson sandwiched in between represents the time you ceased taking your antibiotics after you started feeling a little better, instead of finishing the bottle like you were supposed to, and the sickness came roaring back, stronger than before. Had you finished the bottle straight off like the doc said, the plague might have vanished for good.

Some publication of ours that I no longer recall has described the Bible as a record of human history covering times when A) people paid attention to God’s will, B) people did not pay attention to God’s will, and C) people were oblivious or ignorant of God’s will.

With Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant we have history in the C category. Specifically, it was history before the wheat began to be separated from the weeds. It was history before ‘the true knowledge became abundant,’ per Daniel 12. People did the best they could. Lincoln and Douglass both cited scripture frequently. What! You expect everyone to patiently sit on their hands and say, ‘Maybe someday we’ll know exactly what to do but since we don’t now we’ll do nothing?’

Then, too, someday I want to return to the sentiments of the Gettysburg Address—that ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from this earth.’ Why was that such a big deal, so that it would be the cause that would push the North into fighting mode against secession but the abolition of slavery would not?

Lincoln’s two-minute speech was not the highlight of that day. He had been invited almost as an afterthought, with no surety that he would even come; presidents didn’t travel much back then. ‘Maybe he’ll just tell jokes,’ was the attitude another of the GC professors attributed to him. The Grant book has some cabinet participant—I think it was Chase—grumbling that all Lincoln did was tell jokes during cabinet meetings. Of course, Chase was not one to joke himself; he wore his piety on his sleeve. Even from within Lincoln’s first-term cabinet, he promoted himself as the next president, which made other cabinet members livid. However, Lincoln said he still got the better use of him. Besides, he knew what it was to be smitten by the presidential bug. Besides again, he thought it well to apply the adage, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’

The main event was a two hour speech from a Harvard orator by the name of Everett. Two hours was standard fare for a speech back then; 3 or 4 hours was not unheard of. Lincoln’s speech was two minutes. He had worked hard on it;  it wasn’t jotted down hastily on the back of an envelope as folklore has it. He dismissed it himself as a pretty meager effort upon taking his seat. Many newspapers accustomed to tonnage savaged it. But Everett himself said, ‘You said more in two minutes than I did in two hours.’ So what is this ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ that carries the day? Why does it do that?

It’s because it is a breakthrough advancement in human rule, the issue that is on front and center burner from the days of Genesis 3. With the founding of the U.S representative democracy, here was something significantly new, a major advancement in the evolution of self-rule. It was the ‘human experiment’ that must be nurtured and encouraged to thrive at all costs. Slavery, on the other hand, was NOT at first considered a violation of ‘natural law’ (this, according to another GC professor) Steeped in evolution, the framers of natural law initially considered slavery an advancement. Historically, nations had killed those vanquished in war. Making them slaves instead was an improvement!

Up till that time, human government had consisted of straight-up monarchy. Some variation in the quality/durability/benevolence or malevolence of that monarchy, but one-person-rule it had always been. Supposedly, Jefferson succeeding Adams was the first peaceful transfer of power in history between opposing political factions; up till then it has always been ‘King of the Mountain,’ with one king prevailing only by violently shoving the previous king off. 

The ‘human experiment’ of government of, by, and for the people finds roots in Greece and Rome, before resurfacing in England, then blossoms full with the U.S. That’s the long tradition that Lincoln could draw on, as he could not with a straight-up abolitionist stance.

The early adherents to the Enlightenment were ecstatic at the American innovation. With it, ‘the people’ had revolted, thrown off their ‘shackles,’ and discarded ‘tyranny’ for something presumed better—democratic rule. Proponents of the Enlightenment cheered this development. They kept an embarrassed, even horrified silence, at the other product of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, which descended into mayhem and murder. Historian Guelzo makes a big deal over this fork in the road in his lecture series on the History of Freedom. You can envision him waving the flag, but it still seems the idea has merit. After the dust had settled in France, came Bonaparte, then the cradle of the first Communists, and in the modern day [it is just me who says this, not Guelzo] FECRIS and MULVIDES. The country is the birthplace of the current craze to stamp out as ‘cults’ those thinking outside of the box; it can be nothing but mainstream human thinking for them. Human rulership without God is the innovation to be nurtured. Throw God into the mix and you are a cult. If He knows His place maybe you are not, but if He doesn’t, you are.

Guelzo considers the American Revolution the triumph of emerging humanism, and the French Revolution the embarrassing defeat. However, one might note that the American Revolution did not get the job done. It would be some time before it became ‘self-evident’ that all men were created equal. The War that would press toward that goal, and succeed, before being reversed in spirit and often reality, would spill more blood than 100 French Revolutions. And the virulent racism that came to typify the Southern US had no parallel in France. In his seventies, Frederick Douglass toured Europe. He reports no instance of prejudice at all. Nor did anyone look askance on account of his second wife, a white woman.

Civil War/Reconstruction Era consideration therefore makes a great platform for proclaiming how we need God’s Kingdom. If two of the most noble humans who have lived, with worldwide reputations to that effect,  both enjoying positions of foremost power, could have their best efforts so easily unraveled, what says that about human rule? At the very least, War/Reconstruction is the death-knell to those who insist God works through human rule, for He couldn’t possibly muck up the job more that was done in those handful of years. A decade after the Civil War’s conclusion, Grant would express misgivings that it had been fought in vain. Conditions had reverted to before. Slavery was gone, but the feudal system of sharecropping imposed by regional laws, later reinforced with Jim Crow policy, to replace it was little better and in some ways worse. 

You don’t have to regard Lincoln and Grant as noble, though most of the world does. In these days of revisionist history, there are those who label them butchers, for they both presided over the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. Both were frequently called butchers in their lifetimes, especially Grant.

It’s the best human rule can do. It did preserve the ‘human experiment.’ It did free the slaves—though just barely, and with myriad caveats.

When I was in college, before my Witness days, I took an elective course on public speaking. The professor ragged continually on the virtues of voting. Student elections were coming up. He would not let up on his insistence that all must vote. I got fed up. Though I was by no means a rebel, when it was my turn to make a speech, I chose to highlight all the reasons you might not want to vote—not just for the student election, but for any election. 1) the candidate might be lying. 2) He (or she) might be sincere but prove powerless once in office. 3) He/she might change his mind, making one’s vote pointless. I did not then add, 4) how many of them go down to corruption. (The professor was sporting about it, acknowledging valid points had been made, even though he disagreed with the thrust, and he gave me an adequate grade—not like one of those ideologue professors of today that you have to agree with or they flunk you.)

It only takes one torpedo of the four to sink the ship. Neither Lincoln nor Grant has serious problem with 1 or 3, but they both got stymied by 2. Lincoln did pretty well by 4, but Grant well-neigh lost his entire reputation to it. His administration was known for its corruption, even as he himself was always thought honest. He wasn’t the greatest judge of character. He would express shock when presented incontrovertible proof that ‘friends’ had betrayed him—a frequent occurrence. Other times he would stand by ones who anyone else would have abandoned because he had not yet been presented incontrovertible proof. One one occasion, his incontrovertible proof took the form of an empty bankbook. He had been sweet-talked into a scheme that proved fraudulent.

When faced with certain ruin at the end of his life due to crooks leading him astray, he at last steeled himself to dictate his memoirs. Some of these strutting generals started in on the memoirs almost the moment the Civil War ended. Grant had steadfastly refused. When on his post-presidency world tour, dignitaries would ask him to review their troops. Grant would reply that he had seen enough troops to last a lifetime; he didn’t want to see any more.

At the time, he was all but on his deathbed. He would die just days after completing them. It wasn’t for himself that he did it, nor for ‘posterity,’ but for his wife, so that she would not be left destitute. 

Mark Twain was a frequent guest and witnessed him at work. Twain was amazed that for hours on end, up to the entire day, Grant could dictate his notes just once and they would be near-perfect prose, with no need of revision. He would neither eat during this time, nor drink beyond the bare minimum, because his rapidly deteriorating health was aggravated by both, and he wanted to finish.

Both Lincoln and Grant were honest men who, when in office, did not line their pockets. The idea of a president having to sweat his financial future plays absurd today, but it was not so then. The problem was best alleviated by dipping one’s hand in the till, as is routine today—people emerge from government service with far more than their salaries would suggest.

In contrast, Mary Todd Lincoln (who spent heavily) complained that her president husband was “too honest to make a penny outside of his salary.” And Grant immediately felt the financial sting upon leaving office—though not enough to forestall a round-the-world tour so long as the money held out; he was not overly given to fretting about the future. Imagine! Grant’s memoirs of the Civil War would not exist had he not faced financial ruin at the end of his life.

All these ideas I hope to expand on some day.


******  The bookstore

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In the Last of the Last Days

The current work in progress, ‘In the Last of the Last Days’ may not take long to get out. Much of it is already written. In large measure I am integrating items already written and hoeing out redundancies. On the blog is a nine-part series, ‘Things that drive you crazy about the faith—and how to view them.’ The book will expand on that, It will touch on the strangeness of the modern age and the adaptations made to COVID. If might even be subtitled somewhere ‘Faith on the Modern March.’ It will incorporate a few items of what would have appeared in TrueTom vs the Apostates: Round 2, a book that will probably never be written, or at least not under that title. Alas, the title is so provocative, given current counsel, that I almost have to hide the book. Change the title, I can still incorporate some of the stuff, and the problem disappears. I may even ask for proofreader/beta readers, and if you would like to be one, let me know.

One inactive person who rarely attends the Hall did attend one Sunday but left after the public talk. She is one of those people who have been around forever, in and out of the Hall, the sort who the circuit overseer used to think was hugely significant when local elders would briefly activate her, but it would continue for only a few months, sometimes just a week or two. I had spotted her and figured I would visit with her briefly if possible. So, I followed her out to the parking lot. I don’t usually speak coarsely, but for some reason I referred to all the b******t going on today in the world that people take refuge in Jehovah’s congregation to escape. She affirmed the b-word and then went on to mutter about things wrong with the congregation. “Oh, you mean the b******t here!” I laughed, for some reason finding that very funny.

Now, for the record, I don’t think there is any b******t with the home congregation beyond the normal boilerplate variety that occurs anywhere diverse personalities gather. No complaints at all here. This person has a certain history of finding things not just right. Though inactive, she is the most active at present from a family all in proximity of the congregation from as long as I can remember. I don’t doubt for a moment (though I didn’t mention it) that her discontent is stoked and reinforced via ill-reports on the internet, the kind of things we are encouraged to know as little about as possible. Some of that unintuitive mindset I hope to address with ‘In the Last of the Last Days.’

Meantime, Go Where Tom Goes, a travelogue for those who aren’t fussy, also an excuse for me to do a lot of storytelling, is the one book I can gift to friends if I like without anyone thinking I am treading on sacred ground. Even my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, triggered some complaint, with one person calling portions of it “unkind”—a downer for him because he considers kindness my strongest suit. And Sam Herd gave a morning worship talk so profound, about how the old could honor the young by passing on wisdom and experiences, the one that began with his not wanting to water Old Jack the mule, that I used it to bookend the entire book. His name is the title of chapter 2 AND chapter 18. I got some criticism for that, from someone who pointed out his humility and how he does not want to draw attention to himself.

There was even a brouhaha when another author posted Herd’s picture, a post he later removed on account of that brouhaha. I’ve never posted his picture. Sigh—Those bros do become public figures in this age of TV. But they probably don’t want to be. No sense in even dwelling on copyright law. Some would point to a higher ‘law of love’ that trumps whatever copyright law says is okay, even if that application were as much their own opinion as it was a ‘law.’ Suffice it just to avoid things that violate the terms of copyright and one should be fine. Anything beyond that ought be a mix of love, fellow feeling, discernment, and mind-your-own-business.

But none of these concerns plague Go Where Tom Goes. Completely innocuous, that one is. Someone was kind enough to call it Mark Twainish. It even has a certain amount of informal witnessing in it, as well as an entire chapter about one of those Wheres that Tom went to, the Regional Convention in Wilkes-Barre. Nothing controversial about the book at all, and if I want I can gift it to friends who extend hospitality, instead of a bottle of wine.

84659D6A-E8E4-409D-A041-3AE69F1CFA0FI did just that when my wife and I drove to Florida and back, visiting seven different sets of spiritual friends and one set of relatives along the way. On the road for nearly three weeks, but we only stayed in hotels for two nights. Everything else was hospitality of the friends. Two of those friends even put us up in their unused time-shares. Thing is, if you are from up north, then over the years you will have many friends that have moved south but not all moved the same distance. In time, they form as though little islands from which you can hop one to one. The nicest thing is that we could do it all over again with a fresh set of friends, and may do just that one day.

I gifted a copy of Go Where Tom Goes with each set we visited, save one. That one the visit was just over 24 busy hours and I forgot.


******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Cool Hand Luke

37410683-0538-49CA-94D0-49F91E507D7ACool hand Luke gazes into the rafters inside the abandoned church. “God, I never had much to do with you,” he says, “but you have to admit, you haven’t given me much of a break. If you are really up there, now would be a good time to show yourself.”

Silence. For several seconds.

‘Yeah, I thought so,” he says, and a generation of movie-goers say, ‘Yeah, we thought so too.’

It is like when Jerry Reed sees the judge:

Well, when he took us inta court I couldn't believe my eyes, The judge was a fishin' buddy that I recognized

I said "Hey, judge, old buddy, old pal, I'll pay ya that hundred I owe ya if you'll get me outta this spot"

So he gave my friends a little fine to pay, He turned around and grinned at me and said, "Ninety days, Jerry, when you hot, you hot"

He should have paid him back that hundred he owed him. Not only did Cool Hand Luke not get out of his spot. He got shot. It’s just a movie. Same as when the cast of Good Lord Bird showed up at Harper’s Ferry. The National Historical Park ranger told me people began asking them all sorts of questions about what John Brown did back then in that town, as though they were the actual participants. Look, it’s just a television show, they said.

The only one who you don’t have to worry about getting out of  spots is God himself. It’s part of the qualifications for being God: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,” he says. What! You’re going to get him out of that spot? (Psalm 50:12)

There are in the archives many life experiences of those in a spot from which they call out to God and later say they were answered. But they generally propose a ‘deal’—‘get me out of this spot and I’ll do your will forever,’ something like that. Maybe God, who can read hearts, after all, translated Cool Hand Luke’s makeshift prayer as, ‘God—get me out of this spot—so I can raise hell among your people just like I’m raising it here.’ 

And a cadre of humanists say, ‘How shocking! He should be able to raise hell wherever he wants!’


******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Be ‘Upbuilding’ Come What May

Ha! Here is a sis from England who would use the word “upbuilding” liberally in school class assignments. She was much surprised when her teacher would circle it in red, appending ‘This is NOT a word!’ To hear this must have been downbuilding.

I had a similar experience. A co-working jumped all over me for the word ‘upbuilding’—what did you say? he said, observing there’s no such word. There is now though—check a dictionary and you will find it. Is it a little like ‘irregardless,’ which was also not a word but now grudgingly appears in some dictionaries from sheer usage?  

And this ‘upbuilding’ is not the sis—a teen in our congregation—whom we spent a Zoom ministry session with, and who related her travails at school. Whoa! She carries herself with confidence and poise, and not a hint of ‘superiority’—even though applied Christianity is such that some will almost automatically take it that way. Several classmates, she said, have made it their “purpose in life” that she should start vaping.

They think she’s a “goody-two-shoes”—again, her words. But the real zinger was her standing up to her teacher. Upon being singled out before the whole class (many of whom can barely read) for a relative trifle, she got all indignant and called him out on it! “Are you talking back to me?” the teacher said. She replied that she was.

It ended up with a brief stint for her in the principal’s office. The long and short of it, however, is that now she and the teacher get along fine, and the latter has heightened respect for her.

And then, of course, there was another teen some time ago, ridiculed by classmates because she would not dress as a skank. “I set the style!” she shot back at them. “You want to be cool—you dress like me!” 

Though one high schooler, also a while back, was being bullied—really bullied—physically—so he  approached a favorite older elder (now deceased) about the problem. The elder give him good counsel on turning the other cheek and ignoring the bully. It didn’t work. Once again he went to the elder, who took him aside and said, “Well sometimes you just gotta plant them a good one so they don’t come back.” That stratagem did work.

Ahem—well—it is from the old days. “We used to stack ‘em up like cordwood” said one old-timer of his Kingdom days during the WWII times of persecution. (much to my surprise). I knew the fellow, who also died some years back, but these words were related to me by his grandson. Fisticuffs were apparently not unusual in defending both loved ones, selves, and Kingdom property. The book Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses relates an incident in which an intruder was even shot to death by a brother! Defending one’s property by force was once the norm in society.

There was another person who thought the video of Olivia kicking back at classmates, presented at the Regional Convention last year, wasn’t very realistic. I was fine with it, but she said she didn’t think they would ridicule her like that.“They’d beat her up in the bathroom” was her verdict.

You also won’t find me countenancing that fisticuffs elder of a far-removed generation. These days that can get you knifed. Better to ‘beat a bully without using your fists’ if you can.


******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'