A Time to Speak and a Time to Be Still—also ‘The Best (Wt) Article on Prayer I Have Ever Read.”)

I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, And out of all my frights he delivered me.” (Ps 34:4)

Just how did the do this? Any takers? (David wrote this when he played crazyman before Achish, [successfully] trying to get himself out of a spot)

It wasn’t exactly an answer, but someone posted “the best article on prayer I’ve ever read.” It was to me, as well—and it was way back in 1958. ‘Your prayers tell on you. Explains how God answers queries and petitions.’

It includes one remarkable excerpt: “So by listening to the Holy Scriptures the words of the prophets, the thoughts of the apostles and the wisdom of Jesus Christ all flow through the mind, refreshing it and building it up. In this way one can spend all night in prayer with God and hardly say a word. When you listen you learn. When we listen to the words of the Scriptures we show ourselves learners of God.” (Italics mine)

Imagine—spending all night in prayer with God and hardly saying a word! It’s an observation that hasn’t been repeated, to my knowledge. Did some HQ technician reclassify the ‘listening’ part as ‘meditation,’ thereby collapsing the total prayer length to only that which you can ‘count time’ for—the time that you are talking? Dunno, but the idea of giving a one-sided speech lasting all night is not the easiest idea to put into practice. It sure works for me if you listen up to near 100% when the occasion warrants it. 

Though, to be sure, as judged by my own verbosity, I don’t come across as someone who listens 100% of the time, do I?

“For the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) ‘It ain’t be, babe.’ Should it be?

It’s like the commentary (week of December 19, 2022) on 222AEF81-235C-4F64-8E15-8CD255D63564Hezekiah under threat from Rabshakeh. As is the case in the modern day, the assault on Jehovah is cloaked in an assault on the ones taking the lead: ‘You’re going to listen to Hezekiah?’ he taunts in effect to the Jews on the wall. ‘What have you been smoking?’ (2 Kings 18: 19-35)

(Photo: Chuck Gremmit—Wikimedia)

Says the commentary: “Wisely, the people did not try to respond to the slanderous propaganda, a course often followed by Jehovah’s servants in our day.” (italics mine)

One can almost read (a bit disconcertingly) the words between the lines: ‘It would be ‘always followed’ were it not for that idiot Tom Harley and ones like him!’

It’s like what I wrote in TrueTom vs the Apostates. Is responding to the propaganda of apostates is a good thing? Doing so is the premise of the entire book—in part, to aid whoever has been stumbled by them, for an application of that ancient drama plays out in real time. However, maybe doing so is to assume the role of the yo-yo singing out on the wall just as Hezekiah has ordered the troops to zip it. 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Go Where Tom Goes—a Road Travelogue for Those Who Aren’t Fussy

Travel is like a box of chocolates,” Forrest Gump would have said had he thought of it. “You never know what you’ll get.” A road-guide for those who aren't fussy on range or who love the people, places, and things of New York, PA, and a smattering of elsewheres. Chat up new people, see new things, explore new paths, think new thoughts, and spin new stories. Do history, concerts, and car shows.

See what's to be seen and hear what's to be heard in Binghampton, Buffalo, Dryden, Honeoye, Ithaca, Jerusalem, Kinderhook, Lake Placid, Little Falls, Lowville, Norwich, Onieda, Perry, Rochester, Saranac Lake, Smyrna, Syracuse, Trumansburg, Tryon

in PA, Gettysburg, Hershey, Jim Thorpe, Wilkes-Barre

Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio

In New Jersey, Morristown and Union City

Harpers Ferry, WV Charleston and Hilton Head in South Carolina Savannah, Georgia

Download here.

 

Sigh—as always, it took some time to get the bugs out. As always, I said, ‘There! Perfect!’ only to find it was far from perfect.

But now it is—not ‘perfect’ as in perfect, of course, but perfect as in error-free, assuming you’re not some picayune anal person who lives to ferret out blips. These days it’s rare to find even a professional work without a typo or two. It’s possible you won’t find any, though. If you do, I don’t want to hear about it.

You could even call it a guide to informal witnessing. Few chapters are without reference to spiritual things, in the way I wish there was more of—seamlessly weaving the secular with the spiritual, rather than speaking, as it were, in two separate modes, ‘normal talk’ and ‘witnessing talk’—almost as though two languages.

It is also the first book that I can freely gift to friends without fear any reactionary ones will suppose I am ‘trying to make a name for myself.’ It is the first book entirely non-controversial. Only TTvtA is actually controversial, to my mind, but to some of our people even a defense of Jehovah’s people is suspect because it admits to criticisms against them—other than the ‘safe’ ones we acknowledge: rebuffing the holidays, denying the trinity, and abstaining from blood. CD9727D1-B024-4470-83B8-C3CF40FDA51E

None of it here. Go Where Tom Goes is just the pure pleasure of going to new places, seeing new things, and chatting up new people. I even dropped the subheading, ‘Think What Tom Thinks’ You don’t have to. The book even has a shameless lie. Since it is a compilation of spruced up posts spanning several years, the introduction admits you might go to a given destination and find things not just so. However, they would doubtless be minor points—a new building here, an out-of-business enterprise there. Instead, my southernmost chapter, Fort Myers Beach, barely exists today. The wharf my wife and I strolled several times was completely demolished by Hurricane Ian.

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Rolf’s New Mustang

A class-conscious ad designed so that upscale people will book a cruise features a Daddy Warbucks-type fellow pontificating over how ‘As you begin to get older you realize that time is your most precious commodity.’ Believe me, the video fully conveys the image that he has ‘commodities’ up the wazoo—I mean, this guy is ‘successful,’ as you are too, no doubt, or soon will be. What sumptuous surroundings form his world!

And since your most ‘precious commodity’ is limited and fleeting (as with wings it flies away, the scripture might as well be speaking of time instead of money) what more noble thing can a scion like yourself do but blow his less-precious commodities on river cruises, thus expanding the mind through travel? Sheesh! Why not say it? ‘As you begin to get older and reap the enormous wisdom of grey hairs, as I have, you begin to realize that this life is all there is!’ How to masquerade shallowness as depth.

Look, I’ve nothing against travel. Like The Beach Boys, I get around. Just last week 41BFCBE8-BBA6-48D5-8A6F-FCA49EF01C00I was in Oswego and dined in a restaurant (no—not McDonalds) that didn’t quite live up to its reputation—where they poured us wine and everything. Finally, I have all the bugs out of ‘Go Where Tom Goes’—a travelogue for those who aren’t fussy—of all the places my wife and I have been, up and down the eastern U.S, but mostly PA and NY. It is my first book with pictures. It is my first book of which I can readily gift copies to friends, it not dealing in anything controversial. Although road travel is a theme and I get in my licks for historical sites, informal witnessing is a sub-theme—there are plenty of spiritual diversions thrown in. You could even call it a primer on informal witnessing, where you don’t incessantly stay in, ‘Would you like to live forever in paradise?’ mode, but you add a spiritual layer to whatever topic is already under discussion. Sometimes people bite on that and sometimes they don’t.

So I, too, realize that time is my ‘most precious commodity.’ I too am getting more brilliant by the second, making wise use of it. But I don’t share this baron of wealth’s utter defeat, disguised as a victory, that my most precious commodity is soon to run out. It may be put on hold someday. But if I mind my P’s and Q’s, continuing to put my faith and trust where it belongs, continuing to kick Rolf in the rear end when he (I just read a post of his) grumbles over Kingdom Hall consolidation in the West, asserting that HQ vacuums up money like a Kirby these days, offering no reason as to why, and leaving the impression that they just fill swimming pools at Bethel with the stuff and bathe in it.

It is a slander of people’s motives. Frankly, I think it’s a better way to see through this guy than with his grumbling over congregation discipline. After all, ‘kicking against the goads’ of discipline can result in dramatic change for those not yielding to it. But being on the losing end of one Kingdom Hall folded into another? At most, a 30 minute drive to and from another Hall twice a week. Inconvenient, to be sure, but hardly life-altering, and what do you get for it?

Sell one underperforming Hall in the U.S. to combine with another, and with the proceeds you can build 50 in developing lands where there is an immediate need. Sometimes it also goes to building a Kingdom Hall in Western areas where land is so astronomically priced that no way will the needy local congregation be able to afford it.

How come Rolf doesn’t say this? How come he leaves the impression that the Governing Body he feuds with is doing nightly champagne and oysters on the Potomac like McClellan?—that they just like to funnel money to themselves for the sake of funneling money to themselves? What beef does he have with the ‘equalizing’ that you would think would be the very essence of a worldwide Christian community?

For I do not want to make it easy for others, but difficult for you; but that by means of an equalizing, your surplus at the present time might offset their need, so that their surplus might also offset your deficiency, that there may be an equalizing. Just as it is written: “The person with much did not have too much, and the person with little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

This verse was referred to continually as the new equalizing program was under consideration. Why does Rolf treat it as untouchable—as though it were from the Book of Mormon? If this good news of the Kingdom is to be preached in all the inhabited earth, and disciples are to be made throughout, at some point you have to abandon the attitude, “I got mine. If they can’t get theirs, too bad for them!” If Rolf doesn’t have that attitude, he has one that so closely resembles it that it’s impossible to tell the difference.

When the rush of Kingdom Halls were built over the decades, the plan was to fill them to the rafters. For the most part, that hasn’t happened. Kingdom Hall attendance holds its own in most areas. Sometimes it even diminishes. The young are not so enamored with religion as the old, and their notion of spirituality can have more to do with ‘mindfulness’ than with God. I once thought we would be immune to the trend, which certain churches counter with in-house rock groups and pizzazz, but it has proven not to be the case. Why not consolidate what there is lesser need for? One must not whine forever on, ‘Why were the former days better than these?” for it is not out of wisdom that you ask this.’ (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

To be sure, we keep speaking about our ‘great growth,’ whereas if anyone else did it, we’d say they were going belly up. But some places do experience growth. And these places—duh—tend to be where people are not obsessively planning their next river cruise. It’s no surprise that the Christian message will resonate more clearly to the poor and underserved than to the monied people. “God chose the insignificant things of the world and the things looked down on, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,” the apostle says (1 Corinthians 1:28), as he repeatedly points out that “not many” of the loftier type were chosen. Wealth has a corrosive effect on humility, not withstood by all, and humility is a bedrock requirement for following Christ.

There is inconvenience in catering to the entire brotherhood—that’s for sure. One Florida congregation I visited had amassed a considerable sum toward the building of a new Kingdom Hall on the main drag with better parking facilities (otherwise, the existing Hall was very well appointed, not inferior in any way). When the new equalizing arrangement went into effect, all that money was syphoned into the ‘Worldwide Work.’ Was there any grousing about that? I asked my host. “Oh, yeah,” he said.

Of course there will be. It’s a substantial shift. Governance from the Witness organization is “top down”—it make no pretense of being a democracy, or even a representative democracy—just as is the pattern in the invisible realm. Moreover, the congregation is trusting, for if their organization is not transparent to the nth degree, it is way more transparent than any other government they can think of. The congregation scrutinizes finances to a scant degree. It would approve a nuclear reactor if one were floated in resolution—not that one ever would be, and everyone knows that. Opponents do all in their power to break down that trust but it remains intact—even though ones like Rolf make as much noise as Gideon, hoping to make the same impression as that one.

The policy of ‘equalizing’ reflects leadership style. Anything done can be done differently. Nothing garners immediate unanimous applause (contrary to what the magazines sometimes suggest). Eventually, those taking the lead have to decide, as they monitor the pulse of the congregations through continual feedback from traveling (circuit) overseers. Our people ultimately buy into the notion that they ought not just focus on what benefits them, but that which benefits the “whole association of brothers” that they are supposed to, and do, “have love for.” (1 Peter 2:17). Why isn’t Rolf on board with this?

Wandering, you say—starting off with cruises and pivoting to Rolf? Not a bit of it. What is the outfit with which the wealthy sophisticated commodity magnate, who has disdained ‘everlasting life’ as a fairy tale for chumps, and so regards the here-and-now as the be-all and end-all, is planning his next cruise? The Norwegian River Cruise line. And what country is Rolf from? Norway. Wandering, my foot! Tune in next time when I tell you about his newest purchase of a classic Fiord Mustang.

 

BDE524D1-3BB8-4446-A31B-290FC4D0CAE8

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Making a ‘Great Name’ for Oneself: Part 1

As shown in link, George Benson, long known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is still going strong at 79..

This news did not sit well with all.

You would think at this age he would put Jehovah first. Instead his career still going....still working hard on his career,” said Aubree.  “Older people like this could set the right example.”

Tom: At Prince’s funeral, one of the congregation’s pioneers told reporters, (I included the quote in the Prince chapter of Tom Irregardless & Me) “I was just standing there and all of a sudden, in he walks. I thought, ‘He just wants to be treated like an average person,’ so I just kind of acknowledged him, and he came in and sat down.” She added: “I think he wanted to be private and my observation is: he had to have his creative outlet. Maybe he just needed it to survive.” 

He wanted to be treated like an average person. But people do what they need to survive. I’m not sure that he’s not ‘putting Jehovah first.’ We can expend too much energy pounding square pegs into round holes.

Aubree didn’t give up:

When one is famous and has a lot of income coming in from royalties.... one can cut your life-style and put Jehovah first….There are many brothers and sisters who have left lucrative political careers, football careers, ballet careers, singing careers, acting careers and other careers for which they have natural talent and have all the necessary skills - to put Jehovah first in their life.”

Tom: I would not assume that he is not. Time was when coming across someone like him we would say that he has his own special territory, one that others will find hard to reach. As to income, who is to say he does not put it to very good use? The angels may sing out, “Another nickel from Harley!” at the end of the month, but it is perhaps guys like Benson who provide much of the practical fuel.

I do not share the same sentiment.…I have a nasty suspicion it is the ego that remains involved.... the need of achieving something and still be admired by the people!

On the other hand, “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” Do these ones all grovel around in sackcloth? These days ordinary publishers are given counsel not to let spiritual gifts go to their head. Why conclude just from his work that he has an inflated ego? If he does, he has plenty of company in others who have yet to separate their own egos from bringing their gifts to the altar.

In the mid-seventies, rumors swirled that Glen Campbell had become a Witness. The rumors were untrue. He hadn’t. However, one of his band members had and proceeded to talk Bible so much that an exasperated Glen forbade all discussion of religion during working hours. Who is to say that George is not doing the same before people who cannot tell him to shut up? He’s to quit this gig in order to write letters? Given the restricted forms of ministry available today, it’s even more understandable he would choose to continue what he does.

Aubree still doesn’t back down. She seldom does. It’s the prerogative of we old people who have seen a lot and think we have something to say, who see young people chomping down on cotton candy, imagining it substantial, and would warn them that it’s not. And it certainly is true that those who ‘reach for the stars’ come to spiritual ruin far more often than not. So I will tell her a story that spins things her way.

The story was told at LeRoy’s funeral that he, as a young black man in the Deep South, was invited to play along as one of B.B. King’s band members. His son confirmed it. He declined the offer, on the basis of family and spirituality. Instead, he went on to make his living on the railroad. He came up from the South in his later years to my neck of the woods. For a time we served together on the same body of elders. He was outspoken, even occasionally outrageous in things he would say, but always genuine and universally appreciated. In time, he stepped down as an elder. I even helped persuade him that it would be a good thing, that he had done it all, and should go out ‘on top,’ not when his faculties were starting to decline and people would start to say bad things about him. He was true to the faith till his death and would frequently get together and jam with brothers young enough to be his grandsons. 

I used to tell him that, should I die before him, I wanted him to give my funeral talk. What a trip that would be! “Hee hee hee,” I could picture him rumbling in his deep roguish and jocular voice, “that Tom Harley was a good ol boy, but he’s deead now, D-E-A-D!”

I don’t know. Maybe George is being a bad boy. There he is posted with a ‘Look! A celebrity! And he’s one of ours!’ type of admiration. Is it really so that having celebrities onboard somehow buttresses your cause? Some of the silliest people on earth are celebrities—all of them, really, except our guys, and we only have a handful. Serena doesn’t even count, because it doesn’t appear she was ever baptized and she has gone on record saying (now that she has a daughter) she means to get serious about the faith she was raised in. We shall see what comes to pass. I have a chapter in TrueTom vs the Apostates on the brouhaha surrounding that statement of hers..

No, I suppose George is not the one to emulate. But don’t we do damage when we become too insistent that everyone must be ‘an example?’ Leave the fellow in peace and appreciate him for what gifts he has. Here we put the constantly repeated, ‘Do not compare yourself with one another’ counsel in a setting that we usually don’t put it in, though it applies nonetheless. Alas it is human nature that we will do exactly that.

Growing up, I took one of those psychological tests in which you answer all sorts of nosy questions and are rewarded with indications of what vocation you are best suited for. Being raised in a suburban and non-Witness home, I imagined results would point me to some nice secure field, the sort in keeping with the saying then in vogue, “To get a good job, get a good education.” My dad, raised on the farm, used the GI bill to put himself through engineering school after WWII and took a job with the local utility. He figured that since everyone requires heat and electricity, no job could be more secure. People raised during the Depression came to highly value security. 

Instead of similar recommendations, results were that I should be A) a music performer, or (slightly lower priority, but still head and shoulders above anything else) B) a youth counselor. I’ve never done either of those things, but I have come close enough to satisfy both urges. Public speaking (and now blogging) is not so different than music performing. Shepherding (and now writing) is not so different than youth counseling. 

So I have a thing for creative people. And I don’t like  to see them dismissed as ones ‘trying to make a name for themselves.’ or persons incessantly in quest of satisfying their ‘big egos.’ That doesn’t have to be the case, though it can be.

***

Workers could be crude at the power company, though my dad was not one of them. “I just wasn’t prepared,” said one brother who started working there as a young man, “for one of those guys to grab me from behind and another pull my pants down,” a common hazing of new employees. He came to know my dad, as he was sometimes assigned to the nuclear plant where my dad had been promoted. Nuclear technology was then brand new. This plant was among the first in the country. Tour guides would lead visitors through the plant. By prior agreement, an employee would walk by staggering and drooling, muttering nonsense. “Don’t mind him,” the guide would say. “He’s one of the earliest here and absorbed a little too much radiation.” 

Another story this new employee told, our brother who is now retired, was of visiting laborers being advised that invisible radiation hangs around at the 3 foot level, but if you stay below that, you’re okay. They would walk about and work all day, even carrying heavy gear, in a crouched over position. 

Here were jokesters satisfying their ‘big egos,’ though perhaps not making ‘a great name for themselves.’ Or maybe they were. Our brother remembers these donkeys decades later as though it were yesterday.

To be continued here

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Yikes! A Bad Review of TrueTom vs the Apostates! (Part 3)

This is part of a multi-part series. Here is Part 1,  Part 2,

8F1F30D5-598D-48E4-B67A-1C25AE5EBDE0  “A patient man am I, down to my  fingertips, the sort who never would, never could, let an insulting remark escape his lips.”

That being the case with me, not just Professor Higgins,* what a body blow it was to be accused of rudeness in that mean-spirited review! “I actually emailed him regarding the JW belief that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, long story short he resorted to name calling and insults and then stopped replying.”

Gasp! Did I do that? Resort to name-calling and insults? Me—Tom Harley? It made me do some soul-searching. The entire e-mail exchange is reproduced here, in Part 2 of this series.

Not to worry, Tommy. My soul comes out reasonably intact, particularly given that this fellow’s very first emailed remark is an accusation. To be sure, as he ratchets up his accusing, I ratchet up my defense, but still the closest I come to insulting this jerk this person is when I refer in my final reply to his “blustering.” Oh, and I suppose the remark, “What is it with you? Do you live to argue?” also toward the end, is also in that vein. Nothing more heated than that though. It’s enough to put me on the cover of Patience Magazine, the magazine that has previously featured my car group, endlessly waiting in the driveway while I use my powers of persuasion on Bernard Strawman, who only recently said that he just might come to a meeting some day. He also said something about climate change in hell, but I didn’t understand what he meant by that.

Dave McClure, the circuit overseer, used to say how one could “pre-empty” objections by acknowledging them up front. You could say, “We’re calling on people who have their own religion and posing a question . . .” What can they say to that? he’d observe, “that they have their own religion?”

You could even do two, he’d say: “We’re calling on busy people, who have their own religion, and posing a question . . . “

Trust McClure to spin a witticism at the end. This is the same McClure who would, before his companion in field service, upon encountering something unexpected, frantically pass his forefinger from breastbone to belly and back again, making “the sign of the stake.” This is also the same McClure who was among the beset-upon children of West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnett, the Supreme Court decision that reversed the earlier Minersville School District vs Gobitis. (The “Flag Salute Cases”) He passed away several years ago in Florida. With a single exception, I don’t use the real names of persons still alive, excepting only Governing Body members, who are public figures. Come to think of it, that single exception has since passed away himself, so there are no exceptions.

“Of course, there’s a limit,” the grown-up McClure would admit, acknowledging that one couldn’t really say, “We’re calling on busy people, who have their own religion, and who aren’t interested, and posing a question . . . “

So what if you say we’re calling on people who have their own religion and the householder does point out and expound upon how he has his own religion? It’s a point you’ve already acknowledged! That’s why I said this nasty reviewer was ‘blustering’ after I acknowledged his view was the majority one and he proceeded to go on and on about how his view was the majority one! What else would you call it if not blustering?

That said, it has gradually dawned upon me over the years that if you write a persuasive passage for the critics and contaminate it with even one snarky remark, the snarky remark will become the sole focus of attention, to the exclusion of all else. So you ought not do it. This is not easy, because they by no means exercise such restraint. Still, one does well to recall that “sarcasm is the language of the devil,” the Thomas Carlyle saying. Your friends will all think your clever when you say something snarky. If that’s your sole object, you’re okay. But if your aim is to win over an opponent, you don’t look for wounds to rub salt into. I shouldn’t have said “blustering,” nor even uttered the plaintive, “Do you live to argue?

Would it have made a difference? Probably not. But maybe it would with the appeals court. That’s how it was when the European Court of Human Rights declared Russia’s ban on the Jehovoh’s Witnesses organization illegal. That Court noted: “it is significant that the texts [of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Russian Supreme Court labeled ‘extemist’] did not insult, hold up to ridicule or slander non-Witnesses; nor did they use abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.” (Italics mine) That restaint didn’t cut it with the accusing Russian Court. But it did with the court of appeal.

George Chryssides, he of the scholarly set (who wrote a review of Tom Irregardless and Me under the pen name Ivor E. Tower that I still use in promo material), was likewise commiserating over a nasty review he had received—the both of us were crying into our online beers. Who is nicer than he? Didn’t save him from the exJW critics, though:

Geo: “I also get a 1* review - an unverified purchase and no indication that s/he has read it. But it's good evidence against the critics' trustworthiness: they really hate it when academics say they can't be trusted!”

Tom: “Yes, I just read that 1*. I like to think, as with  mine, it doesn’t do too much damage because the content plainly reveals his gripe is with the faith, and the book only because it is supportive of the faith. At any rate, you have some excellent editorial reviews from acknowledged experts to offset the single malcontent. Essentially, he is telling his like-minded buddies that this is not one of ‘their’ books.” 

To be continued…here.

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(photo: Kostuumrepetitie My fair Lady , Margriet de Groot en Sonneveld, Bestanddeelnr 911-6157.jpg)

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

What the Society is Trying to Say is….

sister in a prior congregation (who later left the truth) was famous for saying, “What the Society is trying to say is….” I used to answer that they know how to write there at Bethel. Doubtless what they were saying is exactly what they wanted to say.

It’s not necessary to take the view, ‘what the Governing Body wants is this. If they want it, they’ll say it. Sometimes I think admittedly imprecise wording is in recognition and respect that each person’s conscience with move him/her differently.

I play with that idea of ‘what the Society is trying to say’ in Tom Irregardless and Me. John Wheatnweeds drags out meetings for field service to such an extent that by the time he is done, no one wants to go out in service anymore. Reminder after reminder comes from the Society to shorten his meetings. Each one he gets around, after commenting that, “What the Society is trying to say is….” 

After four of five letters that have had little effect on him, he receives another. “What the Society is trying to say is…” he begins, at which point the Society interrupts: “We’re not TRYING to say anything—we’re SAYING it! You get those publishers out the door in seven minutes!”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Hard to Believe Five Years Ago Was the Good Old Days

Even after one book defending the faith in Russia, and one book defending the faith in the West, my first one was just described as my opus.

Hard to believe that I wrote Tom Irregardless and Me in the “good old days” of 2016. Before pandemic, masks, vaccines, and non-stop uproar over it. Before pedal to the metal on crazy climate, routine torrential rain and flooding, insane heat, before wild conflagrations devouring towns, before the house of cards that is national cooperation and even sanity dissolving before our eyes. Before gender morphed into something that can be incorrectly assigned at birth. The good old days: just five years ago. Before Russian persecution and Western accusation thrust Jehovah’s Witnesses foremost on the world stage:

Wrote Paul: “True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love, for they know I am set here for the defense of the good news; but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are supposing to stir up tribulation [for me] in my [prison] bonds. What then? [Nothing,] except that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)

The ebook is now polished up for Amazon print as well as digital.                                                           

What others have said in review:

This book is hilarious.…makes you think about what you know, how you know it, and why you believe it. 

The parts of this book that aren't humorous are eye-opening.

Read the whole book almost in one sitting. (Don't start it just before anything important!) Very funny book with many things well said….And yes it's true that we have better things to do than stop to kick at every dog that barks at us, but seeing as this guy's already done it for laughs, we could do worse than read his book.

Had me laughing out loud one minute and thinking deeply the next. Tom Harley has a great sense of humour and says a lot of things that many JW's think but don't often say. 

Despite writing a number of things that only witnesses would 'get', those who malign without knowing the facts would benefit by reading this light-hearted, yet serious, book.

It had me laughing out loud over and over again. Tom Harley makes no apologies for being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and neatly skewers most of the objections raised by opposers and apostates….at the same time acknowledging their own foibles and puncturing sacred cows, but doing so with an obvious 'mild manner and deep respect.'

I haven’t met any of the people in this book but feel as though I have.

Author’s note: 

Kermit Way from the book was a real person, referred to by his real name. At his funeral it was said that, not only was he a gentleman, but also that he was a gentle man. Both were true. A more refreshing person would be hard to find.

Kermit in the book is the one who successfully dissuades a brother from using the word 'Irregardless.' He commended the talk but asked the bro do him a favor. “Look up ‘irregardless’ in a dictionary. “I never found it,” the brother told me years later, and he never used it again.

30 years later, heartened by this experience, I tried to get someone else to stop saying it.

Alas, unlike in Kermit's day, the word WAS found in the dictionary. True, it was labeled 'irregular,' but that was a point far too subtle for the one I was speaking with. If anything, he doubled down on it.

…..“If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar…” (Matthew 5:23)

Digital and print at Amazon.

Digital on Smashwords & other ebook retailers.

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Pruning Thats and Hads and Finding the Value of True Friends

I had decided that I would go through my manuscript and that I would take out excess ‘thats’. Can there be excess thats? I decided that that was the case.

What should be the criteria in taking out ‘thats’? I decided that that criteria should be if it reads funny or not. But when you use the ‘find’ function of Word to uncover all the thats, you discover that that task is not so easy. There are over 2000 of them! Sometimes they look funny. Sometimes they don’t.

Moreover, you find the anchor of your own judgment doesn’t hold as fast as you thought that it would. Sometimes a that looks funny, but after 200 thats, your head begins to hurt and you begin passing thats that you suspect were used in the very same way as thats that you have already sent to the that bin. But that is just a suspicion. The thats you have sent to the that bin are no longer there—you handled that problem, so that that comparison is impossible to make!

Moreover, your friends chime in with help that you suspect is not helpful. Don’t be so hasty, they say. Why, what about this sentence? "I think that that 'that' that that student wrote on the chalkboard was wrong." Nothing wrong with that, is there? Don’t be such a word-nazi.

Well, maybe I was rash and exclusionary in taking out some thats. That is my problem, but I also feel that that problem will not be solved easily since the pruned thats are gone.

Forget the thats! You can’t solve it—move on to another word. Such as had. But I began to discover the true worth of friends when one of them pointed to how had had had had had had had had had had had would work in a sentence. “No way!” I said, but I was wrong. She found it in Wikipedia and if something is in Wikipedia you know it is correct!

The sentence refers to two students, James and John, who are required by an English test to describe a man who had suffered from a cold in the past. John writes "The man had a cold", which the teacher marks incorrect, while James writes the correct "The man had had a cold". Since James's answer was right, it had had a better effect on the teacher.

“The sentence is easier to understand with added punctuation and emphasis: James, while John had had “had”, had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect of the teacher

I had just about decided to replace all 100,000 words of my manuscript with “hads” and be done with it, when someone else said, “Look, just get Grammarly, will you?” I had heard of it before, had had that app recommended to me, had that I only listened. It integrates quickly into Word and promptly begins a search and destroy mission for thats, hads, and God knows what else. You make a few corrections before you notice that it is not only picking on your words, but it is picking on the words of those you have quoted. It is even picking on words published, even if those published words are in the Bible!

You muddle through as best you can, for it does save a lot of time, after you note that it flags areas of possible concern—it doesn’t pretend to say they are all wrong. It just wants you to look them over, like I was already doing with thats and hads to see if they look funny.

The next day I launch Word once more and a message appears: “Word detected an issue with ‘Grammarly.’ It caused Word to start slowly.”

Yeah, well it didn’t cause Word to freeze up, did it? something which happens at the drop of a pin, and once it does there is no recourse but a hard reboot, and it takes 5 minutes to get back to where you were! I have tried to troubleshoot that fine problem for the longest time, to no success. Holding my breath, optimism, and watching my language when those strategies fail,  is what I have so far found be the best strategy. But that is a whole different post.

I see there are some proposed fixes to the Grammarly problems that has caused Word to open slowly. I ponder my options.

A. Eliminate Grammarly

B. Eliminate Word

C. Eliminate your laptop

D. Eliminate your pretentious manuscript. What made you think anyone was going to read it anyway?

Oh, and I actually did find a useful tool for ‘thats’. Check it here, if that is an issue for you.

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

My 50-Year Battle with the Daily Text

For years I ignored the daily text. I didn’t oppose it. I just focused on other things. It was sort of bite-sized, too insubstantial to make such a fuss over, or so it seemed.

This avoidance did not change even when I was assigned the text at a convention. “You know that time when people read the back of the breakfast cereal box?” I asked my participant. “That’s when we read the text.” To be sure, with the children, either my wife or I did cover a daily text, my wife more so than me. My work schedule was squirrelly back in the day. But I always downplayed it.

I even implied a certain derision of the text with John Wheatandweeds, who (in the Tom Irregardless and Me review of Ivor E Tower), “hinders members from their door to door ministry by spending inordinate amounts of time discussing the text of the day.” How well I remember old-timers rattling on about the text before field service. Sometimes they went on for so long that you didn’t feel like service any longer by the time they were done. Tom Irregardless and Me showcases a “battle” between Bethel and John Wheatandweeds to shorten up that morning discussion to seven minutes—a battle that eventually ended in a draw. He doesn’t get them out in seven minutes, but neither is it all day. And sometimes the time saved inside is squandered away in the parking lot.

So here I am years later in Zoom Covid days, days that nobody could have anticipated, and the congregation service groups launch into discussions of the daily text, and it has become a highlight of the day! It only took 50 years. Gasp! Have I become one of those old-timers?

That convention text discussion was the 2nd time I had been assigned a part. The prior year was my first, and I had been told to report at the chairman’s office where I would be escorted to the platform at the proper time. So for the second year, my participant and I hung out at the chairman’s office waiting for our escort. What I did not know was the prior year’s procedure was specific to that chairman’s organization.

“Shouldn’t I be escorted to the platform by now?” I asked at the desk as the opening song began to play. I got the fastest escort in theocratic history. The brother opening the program looked not too comfortable—his eyes scanning the crowd for his successor to show up. I have told the story in No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it would not happen today. There is value in standardization.

....

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Challenging the Alternative Military Service Law? It Makes no Sense.

Vic Vomodog—man, it’s hard to shake this guy!—landed a missive in my email inbox. A Witness was filing suit against the South Korean Alternative Military Service law recently enacted. Vic put his own spin on it, of course, as to his former pals thinking they were above the law and so forth. He linked to it here.

This doesn’t entirely make sense. If it is true, then the JW mentioned is an atypical outlier. The suit would certainly not have Branch support. The Witnesses overall consider alternative service laws a very good bargain and are appreciative of them. Typical of their responses is this video of Taiwan’s similar law that the government spokesman offers as a template for other countries to adapt—which, in time, South Korea did. Up until very recently, young Witnesses in that country went to jail for two years upon refusing military service. It came to be almost a rite of passage. That video is here. I even included it in Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, but deleted it in the update for lack of relevance.

The wording of Vic’s story is odd: “The petitioner has been known as a believer of Jehovah's Witnesses, who was recognized by the Supreme Court as a conscientious objector last year.” Why the past tense? Perhaps the litigant is Vic Vomodog himself, who gratefully took up the law as a Witness but now as an ex-Witness wants to save his rear end even from that.

As to individual Witnesses, I have never heard anyone speak against such laws. Instead, every instance I know of is brothers likewise appreciative of them and glad to cooperate. Like this Russian brother in the Heart and Soul broadcast: (It is one remark in a 30 minute program, probably not worth the time to search it out, but the program is worth streaming on its own merits.) This one is not in Dear Mr. Putin, but will be in the updated rewrite. It clearly is relevant.

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’