Archives

The Story of Saving

At first, I wanted to title this article, “The Story of Saving Money,” but then I realized that wasn’t quite accurate. Saving money is only the start of being a “saver.” Along with saving money, you save yourself worry, trouble, and stress. You can also save relationships and save time.

I don’t know if it’s the woman in me, but I’ve always been more of a spender than a saver. Part of my attitude probably has something to do with the fact that often when I do save, I end up having to spend the money right away on car repairs or other issues.

This year I wanted to try out Dave Ramsey’s savings plan and his every dollar app, because, as he says, I was finally “tired of being sick and tired.” Ramey’s plan begins with budgeting your monthly income to the last dollar and also reaching stepping stones he calls “baby steps.” The baby steps themselves are pretty simple, but it’s been the budgeting every dollar that’s given me some trouble. I’ve learned I’m someone who just likes to have a random amount of money not set aside for any particular use. On the one hand, that can be fine and good, on the other, the sum most often gets used for eating out or buying things I may want, but really don’t need–often, books.

Oh, let me tell you about books! I have bought so many books, thinking the story is going to be awesome and being terribly disappointed when the stories are duds. Using the library to borrow the books instead has been a struggle because I often don’t have time to read the books in the time I’ve checked them out. This can go the same for movies and even music. Often I wonder why I feel compelled to own these things, especially stories that I haven’t even read or seen yet. In using the every dollar app, I made myself really look over my books and saw that I had a whole stack of bought and borrowed books that I hadn’t even read yet.

I admit that like most, I’m not following Ramey’s savings plan to a T, but I am saving. Currently I am on baby step 2, paying off all consumer debt and plan to be done with that by the end of the year. As I watch my every dollar get spent, I’m become more and more conscious of impulse buys (Walgreens is a real trap for me for snacks, as is Kwik Trip). With elation, I realize that I have bought so many clothes over the past five years that I don’t need to buy anything in that regard for quite awhile. Instead of just buying things for my kitchen or office, I am planning out when to buy them and how to save the money. Because I now find Korean dramas more interesting than American ones, I gave up Netflix and watch on cheaper sites like Dramafever or Viki.

At first, this new mindfulness seemed like hard work. I’ve never had trouble paying bills or going over budget, especially as I’m single, but I never made a real effort to keep track of what I was spending on. Using every dollar was strange at first, because that generic lump sum of money was gone and I felt like I had no money. But I do now have money, just in a new category: savings. Part of this interesting financial planning stems from my desire to write more. I wanted to see if it was possible to work less, write more, and still have enough and even still save money. My dream, as most writers’ dream is that one day I can make a steady income from my writing, and I wanted to put more time and energy into striving to make that happen.

Only a couple of months in, I am already seeing the benefits of this lifestyle change. I am not as stressed and have plans if things go wrong. I am eating better and getting more sleep and exercise. Stores and their wares don’t compel me nearly as much and I am spending less without crying over it. My unread books are getting read. In the mornings I have more time to read the Bible, to cook breakfast, and to just enjoy the mornings. I am able to get out in the spring sunshine. I’ve written more in the past few weeks than I did all of last year and have been steadily working on revisions for TfD, season two as well as starting another story.

Along with thinking of saving and following Dave Ramsey, I’ve been watching some other savers on Youtube and they really have some creative ideas. It’s doubtful I will ever be as hardcore as them, but if you want to check out some fascinating perspectives on budgeting and saving money, try these channels: The Dave Ramsey Show, of course; his daughter’s channel, Rachel Cruze, who is very bubbly; Debt Free Dana, who has great tips on how families can save; Beat the Bush, an engineer who quit his job to be on Youtube; Stacey Flowers, also following the Ramey plan and shares great incites on finances but also personal stories that resonate; and, Prepper Princess, whose focus is on prepping and also saving for retirement.

Thinking about saving generally leads one to think about minimizing the stuff one owns and so, although I’d would never do it myself, I’ve been watching a lot of great stories on tiny houses. Many of the people who build and own them are artists and this is their work, some just want a change, and some really are trying to save and/or live minimally. The most upbeat channel I’ve found is Living Big in a Tiny House. The host, Bryce, visits tiny and unusually living spaces all over the world and finds the positive in even the strangest of designs. This could easily be a show on cable, but it’s on Youtube and it’s hard not to be infected with the enthusiasm these people have for mindful living.

The big statement that gets to me from Dave Ramsey is “the borrower is a slave to the lender,” which is a part or paraphrase of Proverbs 22:7: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (NIV). Being in debt isn’t a healthy thing, and I think I first really started to consider that fact when I read Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, which tells the story of a family living in a debtor’s prison and what it does to them. For the dad, even when he’s able to get financially free, it’s like he’s still in prison. Thank God we don’t have debtors prisons today, but in our society we borrow, and borrow, and borrow without even a thought. Even if our debt can’t legally be passed onto our children, doesn’t it do something to our soul to just die leaving a debt? Someone, even if it is a heartless banker, lost out money because we didn’t pay them back. Shouldn’t we be striving for more?

Plan a Time

Well, it’s about 9:30pm at night and I totally forgot what I wanted to blog about today. It was a busy Thursday, full of work in the morning, cooking for a new mom in the afternoon, and Maundy Thursday church service and choir practice in the evening–are we really singing the Hallelujah Chorus for Easter in three days?!?

My house smells like Indian food, I’ve got Hallelujahs running through my head, and my soul is quietly contemplating my Savior’s death. How could someone love a person so much to die for them? Not only that, but to die for someone guilty when oneself is innocent? Forgiveness of sins, full and final and not free, but paid for by the only truly innocent man to walk this earth, who is simultaneously the God that created it all in the first place.

With all those thoughts, I realized I didn’t put it on my calendar: Blog post, this date, this time. This is the thing with writing. You don’t set aside time for it, it doesn’t happen. That being said, what I did with my normally free time today was more important than blogging. There’s a sweet, new baby in the world whose tired parent got a home-cooked meal tonight. I spent time worshipping and singing along with the fellow believers at my congregation, and I got to know some of them even better. Back at home, I washed a pile of dishes, sat down on the couch, and realized that although I couldn’t remember what it was I wanted to write about tonight, I still had something to say.

And the main thought in my head: Plan a time! Plan a time and/or date for what it is you want to do or it will surely get lost in the shuffle. We only have so many tomorrows. On the other hand, have fun throwing those same plans to the wind when something more important arises.

Tomorrow is Friday, the day that Christians mourn the death of Jesus, who was the only one who could save the world from sin. He took on our sins and gave us His holiness. Although we are sad it had to happen, we rejoice that did happen, because it means our salvation. And on Good Friday, I am planning times to worship, to sing, and, yes, to write.

Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History – Review

Not too long ago I wrote a post about vaccines, that I had started reading and researching about them and that the criticisms regarding vaccines were hitting home with me. Since then, I’ve been following the “anti-vaxx” movement and reading some of the articles, books, etc., that detail that side of the argument. I’ve also looked some into the “pro” side, as well, however, I don’t find that side quite as interesting, just because it is the default view everyone seems to have. It is the view that I used to have and I didn’t really care about the evidence that vaccines were safe and effective. I, like most people, just believed what I was told.

If you look into the anti-vaccine movement, the first thing you realize is that these people  were at some point pro-vaccine until something happened. Some they knew or they themselves, had a reaction that made them question just how safe vaccines are. Or they got the flu shot or another shot and got really sick with similar symptoms shortly after, prompting them to question how effective vaccines are. The second thing you realize is that legitimate or not, right or wrong or not, the anti-vaccine movement has an enormous amount of studies, examples, historical accounts, personal testimonies, and other such literature to back up their reasoning. At some point being pro-vaccine, I realized it was foolish of me to keep that stance when it wasn’t resting on any true knowledge I had and also foolish to think the other side had no validity when I had never fully researched or looked into their arguments. We fall into the same traps with many aspects of our lives, but vaccines are especially interesting.  For most on the pro-side the idea of even questioning vaccines seems ludicrous. As a Christian, I realized it is not the questioning that is ludicrous, but holding up vaccines, scientists, doctors, drug companies, government, and the like as equal to God. No, scratch that, we’ve placed them even higher, asserting that vaccines are so safe and effective, they must not even be questioned.

God himself welcomes us questioning and wrestling with Him. If it’s okay with God to test His scriptures and see if they are true, why not mortal man-made vaccines?  I tell you, I don’t think even Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propagandist, has anything on the pro-vaccine spell cast on the world. People will come up with the most bizarre rationalizations in order to never put any vaccine in a list of possible (only a possible cause!) causes of a negative health issue. Some of those rationalizations may include: it’s all genetics, the human race is simply deteriorating, the non-vaccinated are spreading more diseases. Let’s just take that last one. Think about it. You are not vaccinated for smallpox. Does that mean you have smallpox? Is this really a reasonable position to hold, or are we avoiding really looking at vaccines and how they work? Vaccines certainly are not responsible for every health malady in the world, but it’s truly odd they are rarely considered a cause, especially when a person just had a shot and then has a major health issue like a seizure or brain swelling. Actually, we do worse than not questioning, we are told these reactions to vaccines are “normal.” With more chronic health maladies, we easily jump to medications and drugs as possible causes, but never vaccines, even though they should be considered if we’re doing a thorough investigation. Even if you still end up agreeing vaccines are great, I think it’s a good practice to look into them to make sure you have the facts, and that includes taking a long, hard look at the massive evidence the anti-vaccine side has that vaccines are actually quite a problem.

If you’re looking for fact-based arguments, Dr. Suzanne Humphries is a good place to start. She’s a nephrologist who also used to be pro-vaccine until her patients mentioned they had kidney problems after getting the flu shot. Instead of blowing them off, she took their complaints seriously and was surprised by the hostility she received from her coworkers merely for considering vaccines a factor in this. The hostility was especially surprising to her, as she knew had she been questioning a medication they would all have said of course they should stop the medication, do more research, tests, etc. In essence, medications were allowed to be a cause of kidney issues, but not vaccines. Vaccines were safe and effective and had eradicated both smallpox and polio, never mind that the complaint was with the flu shot. So Humphries started to look into the history of the smallpox and polio vaccines, and she found that what we had all been told was far different than what actually happened.

Of all the people on the side of the anti-vaccine movement, I find Dr. Humphries to be the most persuasive. She has a practical air about her and has made it her life’s work to research health and vaccines. If you don’t like reading, she has hours and hours of her talks and speeches on vaccines, Vitamin C, and general health issues on Youtube.

Dissolving Illusions, by both Dr. Humphries and Roman Bystrianyk, another vaccine researcher, is a fairly quick read. It first lays out why they wrote the book and how they fell into researching vaccines. It then launches into the historical account of just how dirty everything used to be, especially in the 1800s and early 1900s. This is the basis for their case that it was public cleanliness in the environment, water, food, and health practices (the doctors washing their hands) that actually caused the massive impact to the disease death toll.  The graphs are certainly hard to argue with, a ski slope of falling death rates, and close to the bottom, only when fear of death of the disease was near non-existent, did vaccines enter into the picture. I would say for most of us, that fact was likely not mentioned at all in school.

They then go through vaccine after vaccine, starting with smallpox and show, with historical examples, just how unsafe and ineffective they actually are. One fascinating thing I learned was that the smallpox vaccine caused several hand, foot, and mouth outbreaks in both animals and people. What I learned with polio is that they changed the way polio was diagnosed after the vaccine was put into public use, thus falsely making it look like the vaccine lowered the polio rate. We still have polio, it’s just categorized as Guillain Barré syndrome and other diseases. I learned that physical therapy contributed largely to the restored health for those who did have immobile limbs. There was also some disturbing connections made theorizing that tonsillectomies and other medical procedures were the actual cause of the “outbreaks” in school children every year.  With measles I learned that good nutrition and sunlight are the best ways to fight it off, especially Vitamin A (it depletes your levels severely, causing blindness in some), Vitamin D and Vitamin C.

Dissolving Illusions makes a strong case that vaccines may be more harmful than helpful. It makes a strong case that cleanliness, good health, and nutrition are our best defenses against malady, better than any manmade medication. That is the positive.

The negative, is how much the book highlights the lies of both government entities and the medical professionals that invented, still invent, and to this day promote vaccines that they knew from day one were neither safe nor effective, especially compared with other, more natural options. It shows the reader their own ignorance. How many people puffing up their chests and declaring all vaccines should be mandatory know even a tenth of this information? How many people are aware that just like the vaccine lies started on day one, so did the anti-vaccine movement? In England the only thing that stopped forced smallpox vaccinations and jail time, was voting in politicians who believed in freedom of choice.

And the book barely touches on all of the massive reactions, side effects, and lifelong health struggles for the vaccine injured today. And we are arrogant enough to think that the non-vaccinated are spreading disease? What great mountain of evidence do we have for this, exactly? How many people even understand that you are injecting a disease into your body when getting a vaccine and that you are also vulnerable to that disease as well as being capable of passing on that disease while it’s going through your body and building antibodies? In addition, the book also talks about antibodies and lays out a case that this is no true measure of immunity or eradication. It also indicates that medicine and science still have a long way to go in fully understanding our immune systems and how disease affects them.

If the information in Dissolving Illusions is true, then it is truly staggering how much we have been lied to. It’s such a huge, incomprehensible lie, and whether it was made in malice, for profit, or just wishful thinking, the reason seems almost irrelevant. How do you even begin to reteach people the truth when everyone’s been so brainwashed by lies that only at a severe turning point or crisis will they even question vaccines? The good thing is, lies can’t last forever, because, well, they’re lies, and the truth eventually rears its head. Due to so, so many reactions and problems today from vaccines, people are waking up more and more every day. The anti-vaccine movement would be happy if we could simply actually properly study vaccines and make them truly safe and effective. The unsettling conclusion from Dissolving Illusions is that even that desire may be a pipe dream. The big question I have is, are vitamins the answer? Are cleanliness, good nutrition, and sunlight, the collective miracle pill we’ve all been looking for? How strange it would be if we were to find that we’ve been injecting ourselves with poison to ward off disease only to ignore that simply caring for ourselves and our bodies would give us the best health we could ever want or need, at least on this side of heaven?

In doing this reading into vaccines, I’m mostly on the “anti” side now. The last time I had to get a vaccine (the flu shot aside), I didn’t I had much of a choice at the time because I didn’t have a record to prove I already had the shot. I thought it would be no big deal to get an additional shot, and a few weeks later I was very, very sick. My immune system really felt like it had taken a severe blow in a way I’d never felt before, and it took a long time for me to fully recover. Now, I’m not saying it was definitely the vaccine, but it was a possibility often nagging at the back of my mind, so much so that much later I was eager to watch the documentary Vaxxed and find out more about this anti-vaccine movement and what they thought were the problems with vaccines.

My view on health is different today. I’m more careful of what I eat, what I drink, and more aware of how much sleep and sunlight I’m getting. Since vaccines ultimately cause inflammation in the body, I try to destress as much as possible, too, get outside, get walking and do other exercise when I can. The difference is, mindfulness. It takes few brain cells to get injected with the latest vaccine, or to pop the latest drug, but it takes dedication and persistence to truly be invested in one’s health. Parents instinctively know much of this, as they are tasked with nurturing and promoting the good health of their children. For us who are childless, we need to be parents of our own bodies and treat ourselves with care and nurturing, too. Even if vaccines were totally safe and effective, how could a quick injection possibly be the ultimate answer to health in a world where anything worth anything has to be fought and strived for? This question can also be applied to the numerous health remedies of the natural medicine industry, and even Dissolving Illusions‘ touting of Vitamins A, C, and D. We can’t just pop supplements, either, and think they are going to be as effective longterm as getting real sunlight and eating real fruits and vegetables.

I have to say the best thing about this book is finding how much there is to read and study. I also really appreciate the times I live in and the fact that our environment, food, and water are all so clean today. I appreciate the fact that we still have a choice in whether to get vaccines or not and pray they will never be forced on anyone again. As a Christian, I appreciate the fact that many of the loudest voices in this struggle for truth when it comes to vaccines are also Christians. Christianity teaches us that the truth isn’t some mysterious thing only for the authorities, or experts, or those in power. Truth is something that God wants everyone to know, even (and perhaps especially) lowly commoners.

On Being an Invalid

Illness is a stumbling block. Cold, flu, measles, whatever it is, it throws a healthy person off their feet. Some illness is so mild that the people land immediately back on their feet, but sometimes it takes a person a few tumbles and wobbles before, shakily and uncertainly, they rise to the health they previously held. The ones who never recover are either permanent invalids or dead.

After being sick this week and unable to do much else but sit and stare and maybe watch some YouTube, I recalled to mind the strange desire I had as a child to be Colin from The Secret Garden. What would life be like, I wondered, if you weren’t required to do anything but lie about all day? Well, there’s my laziness for you! I didn’t see Colin’s loneliness, poor health from simply not moving much, and what he’d suffered from actual disease. Would I have been as happy as he was to find that he wasn’t crippled after all? Would illness have been so romantic to me had it been a permanent state for myself?  Probably not.

I turn 40 in about a week and have definitely had my share of illness over the years. I began life too early, so early, in fact, that my mother had to be air-lifted to the Twin Cities way back in 1978. Back then being 2+ months premature was a dire state, today, babies are born and thrive even months earlier than that. When I popped out of momma, I was blue and had a heart murmur.  Today, I’m still rather wheezy, but my heart has no murmur and I’m generally healthy except for loads of allergies likely due to being stored in an incubator for the first few months of my life. The biggest thing health wise, I lack, is energy. Is this a troubled spirit thing or a troubled body thing? I don’t know, I just know I seem to get tired a lot, no matter how much I sleep, or how much coffee I drink. As an adult, there’s no way I would happily dream about being confined to my bed for the rest of my days and I am so sorry for the people that have that as their life and I hope they are able to find joy hiding somewhere in their circumstances.

Sometimes illness and disease are parts of characters for stories. What would Moulin Rouge be without Satine’s tuberculosis? It’s both part of her character and part of the plot. What would Unbreakable be without Samuel L. Jackson’s “glass man” to Bruce Willis’s secret superhero? I’d like to write a detective series where the detective was continually dying of something. It wouldn’t be a long series, but the urgency in solving the mysteries would be somewhat unique. Actually, it’s probably already been done somewhere, so if you know of a series like this, add a comment, as I’d like to read it.

So I’m on the mend, tumbling back to my feet, and I think it’s going to be a really great spring. That warm weather energy is hovering and waiting until just the right moment, and then everything will be humming with life, including my writing. Oh, the stories I have to tell! No, not ready to be a permanent invalid, not even close. And thank God for health. Sometimes, in this world, it’s all we really have to keep us going.

2018: Beyond the big lies

All week I’ve been thinking the best way to sum up 2017, and for myself it would be this: the past year has all been about big lies revealed. 2018 will be for so many of us about living beyond the lies, living in a very different world.

Currently, I am reading Dinesh D’Souza’s The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, so I’ve been thinking about the other big lies out there as well and just how much they’ve shaped my way of thinking, society’s way of thinking, etc. The biggest recent lie, of course, has been that President Trump is a buffoon, doesn’t know what he’s doing, his followers are racist, etc. And now we stand on the precipice of a DOJ investigation knocking out Trump’s adversaries one by one, due to their own stupidity. Anyone who at this point think’s he’s dumb just refuses to see the truth staring them in the face. Trump’s accomplishing his goals on a careful timeline and using Twitter and trollish statements to continually distract the dishonest media. He is bringing tax cuts, jobs, and more prosperity for all Americans, and poo-pooing the lie that putting citizens of a country first is somehow immoral as the Progressive Left would have us believe. He is likely the smartest president we’ve ever had, having both intellect and street smarts. Will we ever get tired of winning? I don’t think I will, but who knows?

Second lie: The media is remotely intelligent and honest. Sure, sure, they are. Just like Pulitzer and Hearst were, right? Any kid who watched Newsies in the 90’s was given a great lesson on crony capitalism and the corruption that happens when the media has too much power. What keeps the media in check is citizen journalism. Just like the Newsies, using the power of the press–uh, internet–we are recording and writing our own stories, hearing firsthand accounts of events in real time and analyzing coverage on our own. Trump’s dismissal and bypassing of the mainstream media and press has to be the single greatest move for the average person. The wizards behind the curtain aren’t much to look at and have nothing but sound bytes and talking points. It was hilarious to watch the media’s desperate efforts to get Hillary Clinton elected–and they don’t even like her! How smart is Trump? Smart enough to know that being interviewed on Alex Jones’s Infowars was a plus and not a minus! More and more people are waking up to the dishonesty of the media every day and it is awesome.

Third lie: The Republican party is for America. Okay, we voters gave them the benefit of the doubt for awhile during the campaign. Trump was a purple cow opponent and they really didn’t know how to handle it. What was shocking to a lot of us conservatives and Republicans, though, was that we heard Trump speaking the truth, and the party did not agree with him and even went along with the mainstream media’s lies about him. These were people who should have had his back, who themselves had been lied about just because of the political party to which they belonged. 2017 revealed more lies: Republicans in Congress had no interest in getting rid of either oppressive taxation or Obamacare. They were not interested in bringing back jobs for American citizens and would not even break a sweat speaking up in our defense. That they grudgingly passed some of the legislation late 2017 only shows that they aren’t too dimwitted to see the writing on the wall. Trump and his allies are cleverer, more informed, more influential, and have more at stake than the Deep State ever will. Would anyone doubt at this point that should Trump fail, he and his family would be drawn and quartered by his enemies for whom the word “mercy” is scarcely a word in their vocabulary?

Fourth Lie: Vaccines are good for you. You saw that right, after actually, finally taking the time to look into this whole vaccine issue for myself, I think that the assertion that any vaccine is generally good for a person is an outright lie. Could I regale you with tales of CDC, big pharma corruption? Could I tell you that there is evidence that sanitation and nutrition had more to do with falling disease rates than any vaccine? Could I list story after story that I’ve heard, read, and witnessed for myself about vaccine injury? Would any of these things really convince you? This is a lie so, so big, that it really takes individuals doing their own research, reading the studies, reading the articles and stories. Most will not be convinced if they don’t do the research for themselves. We are all “doubting Thomases” when it comes to the modern healthcare. We have to press our fingers into wounds to believe they are there. This is also the scariest lie, because it calls the entire health industry into question. More and more people are waking up to the fact that at least some vaccines, like the flu shot, aren’t really worth getting for various reasons. Over time, those people will start to question other vaccines and the whole line of dominoes will fall one by one, changing the landscape of modern healthcare, some of us hope, forever.

These are only some of the big lies I’ve learned about lately, but I’m sure there are more, so, so many more. I had to say goodby to a friend this year because of the lies she told, and it was hard to swallow that she’d been lying to me for years upon years and I just sort of overlooked it. Now that I see the lies, I can’t go back. I can’t trust her ever again, I can’t trust the media, and though I follow it, I am skeptical of the new media, too. Profit, not necessarily truth, is king in media. It’s just the way it is and the way it always will be. Our society is now taking up new lies, that people can be whatever, gender, race, or animal they choose to be. What the ramifications of these delusions will be, I don’t know, but though they may at first seem more laughable and harmless than the other lies, they are not. Whatever ground we have won revealing the other, political lies, we cannot sleep, we cannot lose to these even more damaging lies. Our children’s futures are at stake.

2018 will hopefully be–should be–about law and order, of lie-tellers and deceivers being brought to justice. Hillary Clinton and many other deserve to be in jail. We are actually doing them a wrong to not hold them to account for what they have done our country. I hope with Trump’s executive order regarding trafficking, that he and his allies will be able to finally hold them accountable. For we the people, we need to continue to live in the light of truth. For many of us Trump supports, even though he won, our worlds have been shattered. We’ve lost friends and family members who think we are evil for supporting him and we’re not sure we want to belong to a political party anymore. Some Trump supporters have even been physically attacked while they at the same time get called fascists and Nazi’s. Ever wonder how that all started? I highly recommend D’Souza’s book. Though he wasn’t born in America, D’Souza is American at heart, something most legal immigrants have in common. More importantly, he cares about researching the facts, something we should all take the time to do. Truth is where Good is, it’s where God is, it’s where all the blessings of life reside. We remember to clean our homes, yet often forget to clean our minds of the trash, dirt, and garbage that accumulates.

How do we live in 2018 after so many lies have been shattered? No fear. We now have the opportunity to go forward in the truth. It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot more rewarding than living under the tyranny of lies. God is perfect love because he is and has perfect truth. How can we love our fellow man and our families well if we do not at least try to live in the truth? Are we doing anyone any favors by pretending someone’s entire self-worth should rest in their skin color, genitalia, and sex preferences? By pretending that certain lifestyles do not carry dire risks and consequences? By teaching them that the world should and will conform to each individual’s whims rather than the other way around? Should we really be afraid to share these truths? If the truth isn’t worth experiencing or suffering a bit of uncomfortableness, well, then what is? Can we protect our loved ones by telling them they have imaginary super powers or can we protect them by advising them to live diligently and show them practical ways to defend themselves? Can we find ourselves, now that we are winning, to speak the truth in love? Can we bring the sunlight that people so desperately need? For Christians, can we hope to share the truth of the Gospel if we can’t even talk about the truth of sin? Let 2018 be the year. No fear. Let us live in the truth.

Collective Guilt

On the sins and sexual deviancy of Hollywood, much can be said. The shock among Hollywood’s own community is feigned at best. Whispers of abuse, sexual and not, child and adult, have wafted in and around the entertainment industry since its inception. It would not surprise many that these same things go on in the music industry, in the cable news industry, in fact in any industry where more show than substance gets the eyeballs looking and cash drawers zinging.

As a Christian, I sorrow over the innocence wiped away by such degeneracy. It would indeed be fitting for the perpetrators of such acts to have millstones tied around their necks and for them to be cast into the depths of the sea. As a Christian, I also sorrow over the sinners, the ones that still have some part of their soul that wants to repent, to live better, to be forgiven. It is perhaps the most unfathomable reaches of God’s love that were a pedophile to sincerely repent, he could be forgiven by and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On a purely human level, my jaw drops at the very idea. Drawn and quartered is much more like it.

But for more regular sinners, there’s comfort in the possibility of criminals being forgiven. It means we can be forgiven, too. It means I can be forgiven. It means you can be forgiven.

Along with all of the other oh-so-shocked Hollywood elites, are millions upon millions of viewers, listeners, watchers and consumers who heard the whispers, too. If asked how many films in existence in some way condone, glorify, or promote deviancy on any level, one could wryly answer, “Is there a single one that doesn’t?” Sin is as prevalent in the works of man and it is in every man’s heart.

Those of us who were, are, and remain Trump supporters understand that for some reason God is using this man as a winnowing fork. President Trump is smart, rich, talented, and good looking, but a of people are that, and they’ve never done nothing like this. There might be nothing more significant under Trump’s watch than the number of pedophile rings busted around the world. That is an amazing feat in and above itself. For the first time in a long people, someone in a powerful position cares about the damage being done to innocent souls. And he’s giving others who also care the backing and ability to do something about it.

But God’s winnowing fork cuts much, much deeper. It cuts to the heart. It separates joints and marrow.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

Those whispers about Hollywood, those stories, those movies that testified to what was happening behind closed doors and in some cases out in the open, who of us viewers of Hollywood movies, of American movies and TV shows, can honestly say we didn’t know? Are you really shocked? Really? Actors are asked to disrobe often, asked to simulate sexual activity onscreen, asked to enjoy pretend killing people, asked to swear and drink and behave abominably.  Who’s asking that of them, I wonder? Monsters live among us, we all know that, but who exactly those monsters are may be a little more uncomfortable for us to consider.

Thankfully, we are living in a time when many are turning away from such entertainment, and many are looking for cleaner fare while others are giving up TV and movies altogether.  For myself, I now watch Korean dramas, and although they might be cleaner morally, they tend to be fluffy and superficial. My addiction to consuming stories in some fashion will probably never wane. As much good as I’ve learned from stories, I’ve surely learned a lot of bad things, too.

Remember back in the 80s and 90s where it was if you listened to heavy metal or played Dungeons and Dragons, you were surely going to hell? We may laugh now, we may see both things as harmless, now, but the reality is people who get obsessed with their entertainment are often making idols out of them. This doesn’t happen to every person or in every case, but it does happen. Christian or not, putting entertainment above God,  and above the welfare of your family or fellow human beings is a sin.

We may never have done anything remotely like what Harvey Weinstein has done to his actresses, but we’ve likely watched a few films of his, films that promote living life in a way that is selfish and sinful. We’ve given him and people like him our hard-earned dollars all the while trying to ignore those whispers.

I titled this post “collective guilt,” but the meaning is really guilty individuals together making up a collection. You may agree with me or not, but the truth is that what we watch and listen to affects us, some more than others. And the money given for entertainment is sometimes used to fund the worse abuses. This is a strange and unique time in history when many, many people are starting to wake up from a long slumber of mindless consumerism. For once, they are starting to consider what they watch just like they consider what foods they eat. It merely may be that there are simply more choices for our attention out there, but it’s no accident that all of these Hollywood skeletons are coming out just when the public is finally tiring of immoral gutter stories and constant insults. Penny dreadfuls are no longer satisfying and we long for soul food, for stories where we don’t try to understand the monsters, we instead defeat them.

As a watcher, I’m guilty, if very obliquely, of funding Hollywood’s deviancy and degeneracy.  I’ve watched a staggering amount of movies in my 39 years.  As a writer, I’m not much better.  I’m closer to Jo March and her The Sinner’s Corpse than I ever will be to Little Women. And yet, stories, if we have them, should be fun, shouldn’t they? And how do we portray the real joys and trials of human life without glorifying the evil? Without dragging the audience down into the gutter to dwell there and get snatched away by clown from IT? Is censorship the way to go? Every freedom-minded person would shout a resounding “NO!” to that, especially if the censorship should end up being political in nature.

I can’t offer advice from a human standpoint. Humans aren’t very good at fixing the problems of sin, but God is. Here’s His advice:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) 

Put the good things first in your mind and heart. Can we ask for better advice than that? Thank God for his advice, thank God for his salvation, and thank God that he saves and forgives even us! At the end of time our hearts will be laid bare, our sins will be pranced around by the devil for all to see just like Hollywood’s sins are detailed in the tabloids.  We have one hope, and that is Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly for us because we couldn’t, and for love sacrificed himself on the cross and paid for the sins of the whole world, even the very real human monsters. Talk about radical. Sexual deviance can’t hold a candle to that kind of radical. It’s not even in the same league. Final and full forgiveness. That’s better than any Hollywood film ever made.

On the Subject of Vaccine Safety

Out of curiosity, I recently watched the documentary Vaxxed. On its surface, the documentary appears to be anti-vaccine, but it’s not quite that. It is actually pro-vaccine, but questions the safety of vaccines, and especially the current schedule of vaccines for kids. After realizing Vaxxed was directed by Andrew Wakefield, I wanted to dig a little deeper.  Wakefield’s study back in 1998 was debunked, right?  He’s sort of a con artist, right?  If so, why, so many years later, is he continuing to try and inform people that at least for some of us, vaccines appear to be unsafe?

Let me tell you, I’ve read a whole slew of items on vaccines the past couple of weeks, books from the library, stuff on the internet, articles, studies, and so on.  I will tell you now that it is like going down a rabbit hole.  Just looking into Andrew Wakefield’s story alone is mind-boggling. Did he commit fraud? They say he did, he says he didn’t. He never claimed a direct connection with the MMR vaccine to autism, but was looking into a possible gastrointestinal (GI) effect that in turn caused autism. After hearing stories from parents who said their children were fine one minute, and not speaking the next, shortly after getting the MMR vaccine, Wakefield wanted to see if there was some kind of connection with GI issues, as all or most of the kids in the study had bowel issues.  The trouble is, in the press release for the study, he claimed a direct connection with the MMR triple vaccine, and he advocated using only the three separate vaccines for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella until further studies could be done.  Instant hoopla from the media.

There are a lot of troubling things about Wakefield, to be sure.  His study only had 12 children in it (though I’ve read/seen things elsewhere indicating there were 40+ other kids in the study). There are claims he faked some of the results to get what he wanted.  When one journalist, Brian Deer, actually took the time to investigate Wakefield (I know, what a novel idea, right?) he found that Wakefield had a patent for a potential vaccine to compete with the MMR vaccine. Wakefield claims this vaccine wasn’t really to be a vaccine at all, but a treatment for those whose GI systems have been adversely affected by vaccines (yet it is labeled in the patent form as a vaccine). Brian Deer is himself a bit of a sensationalist in his writing. He has an elaborate website detailing all of his stories. He has thrown a lot of accusations at Wakefield, which ended up getting Wakefield’s medical license revoked and his paper on the study redacted from the Lancet journal that printed it (you can still read the study on their website). Deer has his TV spot regarding Wakefield on Youtube, and I have to say, that although he may be correct, there’s still an seedy undertone to the whole thing, especially an interview with a really senile old man in the American South. This man is supposedly connected to Wakefield, but it was a very bizarre exchange to say the least. Wakefield and the others on his Vaxxed team (Del Bigtree a journalist who worked on the show The Doctors) don’t do their side any favors by often hosting meetings that seem a little to much like an old-time healing revival. In this whole story, Wakefield and Bigtree come across as being very well-spoken and charismatic, whereas Deer is the awkward, straight-talking journalist hunting the truth. There’s a sensationalist major motion picture somewhere in there.

So in watching Vaxxed, some of Wakefield’s interviews and interviews of other advocates for better vaccine safety (some are outright anti-vaccine), and then reading and watching what Brian Deer has to say, it’s difficult to figure out where the truth lies. I mean, Deer supposedly filed the complaint that ultimately got Wakefield’s license taken away. That strikes me as odd, but I don’t know if this is a common practice of journalists to in essence report their subjects to the authorities or to just publish the story and let the cards fall where they may. I also get the impression that just as the media didn’t really question Wakefield initially, neither do they question Brian Deer. This is troublesome, because it’s ultimately a failure of the media and journalism as a whole. When did the media become so lazy? Maybe they always have been lazy and we’ve just chosen to overlook it. And maybe I just haven’t done enough reading on this subject yet.

Aside from that whole story, the issue of vaccine safety is something people have instant opinions about, but if we’re honest, don’t really know much about. We want to believe the health care industry, the doctors, the drug companies, and the government all have our best interests at heart. But I think in our current time of universal deceit, especially from the media, we don’t know as much of the story as we should in order to make an informed decision. We want and do trust our doctors, but looking at the bigger picture, what if the doctors themselves have been lied to about the safety and/or effectiveness of vaccines? What if we all have been lied to? I bring this up due to Vaxxed’s biggest claim, that of having been contacted by a CDC whistleblower named William Thompson.  Thompson supposedly has a lawyer for whistleblowers and currently is still working at the CDC, though perhaps not in the same capacity.

According to Thompson’s phone calls (which were recorded without his knowledge), the CDC in doing their study (in which he was an administrator) to hopefully refute Andrew Wakefield’s study results, they deliberately hid and changed data that indicated a percentage of correlation (not causation) between the MMR vaccine and autism, especially when it comes to black males.  Some have asked that Thompson be hauled in front of Congress to give testimony.  To this date, I don’t think that he has been called.  This claim, that the CDC’s study actually found a high correlation with MMR and autism in black males is directly related to the current Measles outbreak in Minnesota.  Somalian mothers are worried about them getting autism from vaccines and so have not been vaccinating their children.

Let me add that lost in all this is that we are not really talking about a direct connection from the MMR vaccine to autism, but a connection between the vaccine causing GI issues that result in autism. Let me additionally add that anyone thinking rationally would come to the conclusion that the CDC’s study should be questioned every bit as Wakefield’s should. Their study was done at a time in which the drug companies, government, and health industry were under enormous pressure to restore the good name of all vaccines in public opinion. Vaxxed also states that the head of the CDC during this study shortly after went to work for Merck, one of the main drug companies making vaccines.

Now, if at that this point one was still “all in” for vaccines and trusts the CDC study, one really wouldn’t look much further, but I have looked further, and I really don’t know what to think.

One the one hand, it’s clear to me that vaccines in general do work to keep away certain diseases. However, after doing more reading, it has also become clear to me that this general idea is easily questioned, and for good reason. Take the flu vaccine. Why do so many people get vaccinated each year and still get sick?  Well, we know that the flu has many strains, so it could be a person vaccinated against one strain ends up catching another.  A second and probably more important reason is the timing of the vaccines. I don’t think it’s widely publicized enough that one should not get any vaccines if they are in any way sick or under the weather. The big push for the flu vaccine each year comes in fall/early winter, a time when everyone is stressed out, when the weather is getting colder, and when there is less sunlight.  All three elements tax many people’s immune systems. This can make someone susceptible to the very vaccine that is supposed to prevent illness.

Incidentally, I have found out that you can get the disease even if you have been vaccinated, and you can also possibly spread or be a carrier of the disease shortly after getting a vaccine. This was something I didn’t know, but then, this is the first time I’ve really looked into the criticisms of vaccines.

The main issue anti-vaxxers or those who question the safety of vaccines is the immune system component. Again, this was also something I didn’t know. I never knew the actual reasons and the basis of their arguments. Yes, I’d heard of the side effects listed on the vaccine inserts, and yes I’d heard of the stories of children and some adults being adversely affected by vaccines, but I never really understood the full argument against them. Most people know how vaccines work. The virus is introduced into our bloodstream and instigates our immune system making antibodies that will protect us against the virus if we ever are exposed to it. The argument against the safety of vaccines is this: Ultimately they overtax our immune system, something that most likely comes with a cost (possible auto-immune issues or GI issues that cause auto-immune symptoms).

We can see this line of thinking about the immune system is correct because the first argument pro-vaxxers jump to is that of: what about the poor children or others who can’t get vaccinated due to compromised immune systems?!? Leaving the moral dilemma of choosing one child’s well-being over another aside, that argument is somewhat conceding the point. These individuals have flawed immune systems. They are always at risk and are vulnerable whether vaccines exist or not. In fact they are so vulnerable they cannot even take the very vaccines that may save them. And why, again? Because vaccines tax the immune system. That is how they work.

Another interesting tidbit I’ve learned is regarding Measles. People don’t die from the Measles, per say; they die from pneumonia or some other such illness due to their immune system being so compromised. Measles also greatly drains the Vitamin A in a body. This is what causes blindness in some who get the disease because they already have depleted levels of Vitamin A and with the Measles it becomes almost nonexistent.  In places like Africa, vaccines aren’t going to work for the starving kids there until they are healthy, most often needing Vitamin A and other supplements. Once again, vaccines don’t work on compromised immune systems.

Let’s also take the idea of herd immunity.  On the face of it, herd immunity makes sense. If everyone is vaccinated, then the disease cannot be passed along and can even be eradicated from a certain location. But that doesn’t really hold up if indeed a vaccinated person can still get the disease and if vaccinated people can pass along the disease. And if the trade-off to a disease free life is a compromised and overtaxed immune system being passed down from generation to generation, this may ultimately lead to a society’s ruin. The herd immunity argument also brings up questions of freedom. If herd immunity is the only way for vaccines to work, then shouldn’t everyone be forced to get any and all vaccines available? Most liberty-loving people balk at such an idea, even if they think vaccines are completely safe.

Add to that the current fashion for “No Borders,” a policy instantly destroying any hope of herd immunity in a particular country (see Minnesota Measles outbreak begun by a “foreign” traveler).

It gives one even greater pause to learn that the current vaccine schedule is 60+ for kids and higher for adults (they are inventing more and more vaccines for all age groups). When exactly do we reach the point of too many vaccines? Have studies been conducted on the effects of getting multiple vaccines on a body? Throughout a lifetime? How about a developing baby’s body?

Another aside: I had no idea that we are now giving babies the Hepatitis B vaccine on the day of their birth. This is done despite there being no immediate risk (i.e., the baby’s parent’s do not have Hep B) to the baby and that it is usually a sexually transmitted disease, or something passed on by dirty drug needles.

Are anti-vaxxers really the crazy ones, here? Is there no point at which we can question the validity and effectiveness of vaccines, or at the very least, the need for more of them?

Let’s go back to Andrew Wakefield. So maybe he’s a con artist. But what about other studies (and the anti-vaxxers claim they are out there both before and after Wakefield’s time) on GI and Autism? What if, in the process of vaccines taking our immune systems for a workout, the balance of our bodies is damaged, including the GI equation? This is not even to mention the other harmful elements in a vaccine that may adversely affect our immune system and our gut. I don’t know many people who would deny they feel and function better when they eat healthy foods. If someone has difficulty digesting their food it can drastically affect their body, and, yes, brain function, as they may not be getting the adequate nutrition they need.  I know this from personal experience as I grew up with major GI problems myself. In America in particular, our diet is often vitamin depleting, so we have these nutrient-deprived bodies that are getting more and more vaccines all the time, and I have to wonder if our immune systems are having trouble keeping up. In addition, is this problem is being passed on to our kids and then getting compounded when they get vaccines as well?

Wakefield’s big thing was to administer the vaccines singly and over a more reasonable time frame, giving young children’s bodies the time to adjust, indicating that as late at 3 years old would be a much better time to administer especially the MMR one. This isn’t unreasonable in general, but it could be very unreasonable if you’re a drug company planning a schedule of 60+ vaccines before the child turns ten. No way are you going to get parents and kids coming in 60 times just to get a poke in their arm. That problem is even better solved by creating multi-vaccines, like the MMR, that vaccinate for a few different diseases at once. So it’s really no surprise that after the excitement around Wakefield’s statement, they did away with the single vaccines both in the UK and the USA, leaving parents with no choice but to give their children the triple MMR shot.

And somehow parents aren’t supposed to wonder if they’re being lied to?

Add on top of that the fact that drug companies cannot be directly sued (at least in the US) for harmful effects of their vaccines. If you’ve heard of the “vaccine court” that’s essentially what the government put in place (thanks a lot, Reagan) in the 1980s. You go to the government entity and they decide if you are owed monies and how much. And where do they get these dollars, pray tell? A tax on each individual vaccine, more if it’s the multiples (if I recall it was $0.75 for a single and $2+ for multiples). The vaccine court has dished out billions to vaccine injured parties and their families, and the government keeps the rest. If there was a perfect scenario for corruption, this is it. Neither the drug companies nor the government have the incentive to withdraw a single vaccine from the market. At best, they would wait until there are so many people adversely affected (I think it’s supposed to be half the population will have Autism in the near future?) and so much harm done that they would be forced by the public to take such vaccine off the market. The vaccine court is similar to a huge failing of the Catholic Church: insisting that all priests be celibate and unmarried. They essentially set themselves up for failure, and the eventually public outcry was entirely predictable, especially since the truth of the child abuse was deliberately hidden for a long time. If that’s the Church, how can we  then place any and/or more faith in secular government and public institutions? We already know that both the government and large corporations lie to us. It’s really not much of a stretch to consider they may be lying to us about vaccines, especially when a jaw-dropping amount of money is at stake.

At the end of all of this reading and watching, I go back and forth between both camps.  Vaccines are good, vaccines are bad. Vaccines are flawed, but still useful.  It’s thrilling to read books like Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio and think, yes, how wonderful for those children at the time, and then disconcerting to find that Polio was already on the downhill before the vaccine was largely implemented, and that after its invention the definition of “polio” was changed. So “polio” is eradicated, but we now have Guillain-Barré and other syndromes. Most people wouldn’t equate renaming a disease to it being eradicated. Anti-vaxx sites will claim this has happened with other diseases, that they are renamed to show how much the vaccine is “working.”

If you’ll notice, I haven’t cited any sources for this article and that is because, if you are curious about the whole discussion on vaccine safety, go out and read and watch and make up your own mind.  Nothing I write will ultimately convince you either way. A lot of information is available on the CDC’s website, on the NIH website, on the vaccine court’s website, etc. We have Andrew Wakefield’s story. Did you know that a number of his colleagues were exonerated from blame? Was the study really Wakefield’s long con or is something else going on? If there’s one CDC whistleblower, are there others? What is the connection between our immune system and GI issues? How much do GI issues affect our bodies and our brains? What adverse effects, if any, do vaccines have on our immune systems?  On our guts? Is there a gut-brain health connection? If the choice regarding vaccines is not between certain death from a disease and a healthy long life, but a choice between probable immunization from a disease that you may or may not be ever exposed to or even be permanently damaged or die of and the possibility of getting an auto-immune disorder for life that makes even eating an ordeal, what would you choose? What would you choose for your children?

As much as I want to believe that vaccines are ultimately safe, the very fact that they do harm some, gives me pause. The fact that they are such “holy” artifacts to our society that the companies that make them cannot be sued, gives me pause. The fact that our government is making money on the vaccines gives me pause. The fact that Andrew Wakefield may have falsified his results, gives me pause. His results were only seriously questioned after Brian Deer’s reporting and complaint. How many other scientific studies, both in favor and against vaccines were, have been, or are currently falsifying their results?

The anti-vax sentiment is merely part of a larger one: The disillusionment of public confidence regarding institutions. We have a media that outright lies to us on a daily basis. We have a government that often lies, too, and worse, they are not being held to account by said lying media. Vaccines are one of the last holdouts in public confidence. With the passing of Obamacare, faith in the health industry as a whole (not to mention Congress) is rapidly failing.  It’s only a matter of time before the public starts to question vaccines on a massive scale.

People immediately take offense over vaccine safety. They jump to anger ahead of any other response when anyone questions vaccines. Those who question God in Bible study don’t even get such a response. On comment boards, pro-vaxxers eerily mimic those in the the pro-Global Warming (or whatever it’s called these days) camp. They say the “science is settled” and that people who question vaccines are “deniers.” Pro-vaxxers often wish a horrible disease-ridden death on anti-vaxxers and their children or anyone who merely questions the safety of vaccines. Why is this? Is this not a huge red flag in some way? Before doing all of this reading, I reacted with certainty, too. Weren’t anti-vaxxers needlessly putting other people at risk? Hadn’t that all been debunked? Yes, it has been debunked, but only if one has confidence in large corporations, our government, and our public institutions. I can say I don’t have confidence the way I used to. These large entities are only as good as the people who run them, and if those people do not possess integrity, or moral excellence, it is very probable these entities are corrupt and should be seriously questioned, not blindly followed, even, and perhaps especially, when it comes to vaccines.

However I think about vaccines today (and I go back and forth as I do more research and reading), I can at least say I am informed, that I understand the arguments on both sides, and that I am not blindly following. If you are pro-vaccine, I highly recommend you start researching the other side and really look at their arguments. Look at the studies, too, if you find you can trust them. Anti-vaxxers, or those who question vaccines, be brave enough to question the claims your side is making. Understand that the pro-vaxx sentiment is largely emotional, but so is the anti-vaxx side. The generation now in their sixties grew up with a major media, government, and drug company campaign regarding Polio. The March of Dimes, the iron lungs, the horror stories of what happened to the children. This campaign of propaganda (the benefits of the vaccine aside) was pushed largely when our parents and/or grandparents were young children. Ever see a child completely melt down if their parent has a single cigarette? Yeah, that’s what I mean. Most older people also may have no idea just how many vaccines kids are supposed to get these days. What was two or three back in their day, is 60+ today.

For me, this is the biggest issue with vaccines:  In the future there will be more and more of them, and more combined – 10 in one shot, then 20! Whispers about mandating them or that unvaccinated children are somehow “unclean.” Little to no incentive for either the drug companies, the health industry, or the government to pull in the reigns. Where does it stop? How does it stop? How do we even reach the place where we can calmly  discuss if it should stop?

–P. Beldona