Free Friday again…

We are doing free friday again. Instead of writing about it here, I will just give you a link with the information:

http://wp.me/p4YhLr-ti

Thanks everyone.

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Free Friday Download

This is the Day – Trumpet Quartet Download

This is the Day Trumpet QuartetMy most recent composition is a trumpet quartet for intermediate players that I based on a theme I wrote for Psalm 118:24.

I actually the theme years ago, when I was in the praise band at Quail Valley Church (now called The Freedom Center). We never had a chance to use my song, but I kept it and finally used it as the main theme for this trumpet quartet.

The sheet music for this quartet will be available for free for 24 hours only, from midnight tonight (4/14) until midnight tomorrow (4/15). Simply click here, put it in your cart and go to checkout. The amount for the piece should be $0 (this is my first time doing this so please email me immediately if something goes wrong).

You can hear the new piece by starting the video below.

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Atrophy of Will

Pearl and I were talking a few days ago about will power. She said something that instantly made a lot of sense to me. She basically said that when you don’t exercise will power on a regular basis, it becomes very difficult to do so when you need to. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of what she said.

And I agree!

We know it is scientific fact that when you do not use your brain, it becomes weak, just like muscles. And we also know that different tasks are assigned to different parts of your brain. So it makes sense that the part of you that does what you know you should do, instead of what you “feel like” doing, needs to be exercised regularly if you want it to be there for you when you need it.

The alternative is “atrophy of will“. Someone who doesn’t say no to the candy bar is going to have a lot more trouble saying no to something more important than just a candy bar.

I think the mistake some people make is that they assume it works the other way around. I know people see it this way with trumpet. They think that the mistakes they make at home, when they are practicing, are just minor mistakes. They will “get it right” in the performance because that’s more important. But it never works that way! If you are not getting it right at home, it’s a 99% chance that you won’t get it right on stage either.

Will power is the same way. You cannot assume you will ultimately do the right thing when it’s important to do so, if you’ve been slacking on everything leading up to that moment.

So, that is a thought for everyone to ponder today.

What do you think? Do you think that someone can exercise will power when they need it, regardless of whether they’ve exercised it in the past? Or do you agree that it must be exercised regularly or become atrophied?

(There is also a spiritual element to this conversation that I didn’t want to get into, other than to acknowledge that it exists.)

Posted in Dr. Pearl Lewis, Thinking Aloud | Tagged | 6 Comments

I Say “Bah Humbug” to the Pursuit of Happiness

I have written about this before, here on this blog… I have never been a very big fan of “happiness”. Not only that, it troubles me when people use happiness as their spiritual divining rod. I have been around long enough to know that the pursuit of happiness is one of the most dangerous, destructive forces in our society. Do you want a guaranteed horrible life? Do you want to make everything horrible for everyone around you? Then just make happiness your primary objective and that’s exactly what you will get – a horrible, miserable life.

Well, the reason I’m writing about this today is because I found a better way to explain why I don’t like the pursuit of happiness. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because I see a lot of marriage advice that begins with statements like “ten steps to a happy marriage” etc. That is not the place I would go for marriage advice, I can promise you that.

But wait a second, didn’t our country’s declaration of independence list the “pursuit of happiness” as one of the unalienable rights? Doesn’t that make me about as un-American as you can get?

Let’s just see how bad it is…

Future Shock and the Entertainment Age

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was required reading in my sociology class in college. We read the book about a decade after it was written so my teacher offered what he believed had transpired since the book was published. Future shock talks about civilization moving out of the industrial age and into the information age. But my teacher claimed that many sociologists believe that we have passed through the information age and are currently living in the entertainment age.

It would be difficult to refute his statement. Just take a look at the world we live in. Today, teachers are considered bad educators if they cannot entertain the students. Most people get their political information from entertainment sources. Information is deemed good or bad based on its ability to entertain the people who need it. This NEED for entertainment has saturated our society. I’ve only listed a few examples, but when you really sit to think about it, the word “saturated” perfectly describes how bad it has become.

Pursuit of Happiness in the Age of Enlightenment

If indeed we are currently in the entertainment age, then the American Declaration of Independence was penned at least three ages back. When the American colonies declared independence from England, the industrial age was still a long way off.

Consider the difference between what was considered happiness then and what makes people happy today.

What did someone need, in 1776, to be happy?

People like to say that nothing changes…especially people and society. They believe that people are same one generation to the next, and accuse anyone who says differently of employing a slippery slope argument. But all you have to do to see that times have changed is spend a little time reading books at gutenburg.org. You cannot spend time on Gutenburg and not come away from it with a profound sense that those were very different times…and very different people.

Entertainment and Hedonism

So, according to my sociology professor, we are no longer in the information age, but in the entertainment age. You know, I often tell people that we live in a hedonistic, morally relative society (the two go together – just in case you haven’t made that connection yet).

Look at the genuine definition of hedonism: “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life” (according to Merriam-Webster).

Other sources add to that basic definition the same statement but voiced in the converse: “pain and unhappiness are the sole or chief bad in life“.

How could we help but to be hedonistic in the entertainment age? I mean, really think about that for a minute. The two go together the way a glove fits a hand.

Our society is so saturated by hedonistic beliefs that even the church barely recognizes it’s own form of hedonism. We have twisted the bible to mean things that it never said, simply because we see good and bad through hedonistic fiters.

Today the so called “golden rule” has a hedonistic slant. Don’t bring pain into people’s lives that you wouldn’t want in your life. And, if you want happiness, then don’t stomp on other people’s happiness.

That’s not at all what the Bible says! But you wouldn’t know that if you see all right and wrong, good and bad, through eyes that regard only pain and pleasure.

Our Fat, Overly Sensitive Children

This is why we have parents who think good parenting is when you let your children only eat what they like to eat. This is why parents who spank their children run the risk of loosing them to the CPA. Our children are growing up to think that vegetables are disgusting enough to make them vomit. Of course veggies will make you puke if all you have ever eaten is pizza, burgers and mac and cheese.

But it’s worse than just that. Even the successful kids today are taught to “enjoy” the good food. Why??? Why not just eat it because it’s good for you? Why do they have to find pleasure in food?

We now have a wide range of mental disorders associated with food. Is that a surprise? Instead of teaching our children to eat what’s good for them, whether they like it or not, we feel we have to do everything in our power, as parents, to get them to “enjoy” the food that will make them healthy.

No wonder so many of them grow up with eating disorders! We are teaching it into them as parents! We are the ones telling them to eat emotionally, every time we emphasize that they should like what they eat.

Look at discipline in this context as well. In a hedonistic society, where pain is the ultimate bad and happiness is the ultimate good, there can be no discipline. In fact, any parent who disciplines his or her children is considered evil in a hedonistic society.

So we are raising a generation of children who have never known pain and have only ever had to do what pleases them. They have become overly sensitive and mentally weak.

This is where our political correctness is coming from and why it’s only going to get worse. Offending people has become a crime because we judge right and wrong according to what brings pleasure or pain. And that, I believe, is the result of living in the entertainment age.

“I’m Not a Big Fan of Happiness”

So, as you see, I am not a big fan of happiness and I believe that the “pursuit of happiness” is actually a very evil thing. Yes, it is written into our country’s declaration of independence, but those were very, very different times.

I cringe when I see marriage advice that starts with “if you want a happy marriage….” I know, it seems innocent enough. Who wouldn’t want a “happy marriage“? But I can’t help but to remember all of the people I know who ruined so many lives for their own pursuit of happiness.

And it’s not just marriage. It’s our entire society. Happiness is our caveat. We all know the rules. For the most part, we all know right from wrong. But we have a great, big hedonistic pass that excuses us from doing what’s right. It’s called the pursuit of happiness. We believe it’s our American, unalienable right to be happy, and it doesn’t matter to us how many people we ruin in the process of realizing that right in our lives. Our happiness is our excuse for hurting others and that’s good enough for us. If it’s not good enough for them, well, “get over it!”

So no, I’m not a fan.

President and First Lady

I remember, long ago, when I was offered a $5 membership at a popular gym. Apparently they offered that deal as a way to get you in the gym so they could sic their sales reps on you. The dude that they paired me with kept going on and on about my happiness. If I wasn’t as fat (I think I was at my top weight at the time – almost 300 lbs), wouldn’t I be more attractive and wouldn’t that make me happier.

The guy just couldn’t get it into his head that I was there for a very specific reason and that none of it was emotional. I knew which exercises I needed to do and none of it had to do with my looks.

But I’m sure the reason why he was so frustrated with me was because his tricks probably work on most other people. He wasn’t used to not making a sale. Back then I just didn’t understand it yet. I didn’t understand why anyone would try to “sell” something that way. But that’s because I thought most people were just like me in that sense.

I have since learned that I am a complete weirdo in that regard. I am not hedonistic – never have been – never will be. So I am at odds with the society I live in.

All my life I can remember thinking that emotions should never control our behavior. Yes, emotions happen. Even the most stoic person feels emotions. Being stoic does not mean you are a psychopath. No, all it means is that you do not let your emotions control you.

And there is a practical reason for being stoic. We are vulnerable when we are emotional. The worst thing about being hedonistic is that we become easily manipulated. The hedonistic person is as easily controlled as well trained hunting dogs. Have you ever heard about hunting dogs that go after deer scent? To train the dog to never go after deer scent, you put that scent in a barrel, put the dog in the barrel and roll it down the hill a few times. After that, the dog will never chase a deer again.

Hedonistic people are the same way. The government, evil corporations, manipulative friends, salesmen, you are just putty in their hands for as long as “happiness” is your ultimate goal.

No, I do not believe that it’s a good way to live. It hurts me to see it, actually. Which is why I write about it all the time. I like helping people, and if I can get even a few of you to look at what the pursuit of happiness is doing to your lives, then the time I invest into writing about it will be worth it.

What Do You Think?

So, do you think I’m a complete nutter? Or have you seen the light?

I am interested in what you think, so please consider leaving a comment below.

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Major Testimony: Curse of the Iron Eagle

One of the ways the Holy Spirit speaks to me is through names and titles. It’s kind of strange, actually. Sometimes I’m just walking down the street, or maybe on my morning run, and a name or title pops into my head, out of the blue. I hear it as clearly as I hear someone’s spoken voice.

The most recent title to pop into my head this way was “iron eagle”. I knew it was the Holy Spirit because I recognized the voice and it was totally out of context from anything else I was thinking about. In fact, even though I had spent almost my entire childhood on army bases, I had never even heard of an iron eagle before.

The Iron Eagle Curse

So I did what I always do when I get a name like that. I looked it up. Here’s what Wikipedia says an iron eagle is:

An Iron Eagle is an American military officer who has attained the rank of Colonel but will not be promoted to the rank of General. The term refers to the rank insignia a colonel wears, which resembles an eagle.

There are a lot of iron eagle stories in my life. I’m the guy who had everything he needed to become an Eagle Scout and didn’t finish. I’m the guy who has more than enough credit hours to graduate university, but never got a degree. I’m the guy who trained for over a decade to become an orchestral trumpet player but quit taking auditions when he was finally good enough to start winning jobs.

In every iron eagle example from my life, I quit for reasons that always seemed noble to me. I was doing the right thing. But when I look back at the pattern that developed over my life time, it doesn’t look good. If I was a super hero, you could call me “Penultimate Man”. I have had a very bad legacy of taking things all the way to the end point and quitting.

My Harebrained Retirement Idea

One of my iron eagle stories was my old retirement idea. Back when I didn’t have any money at all to pay into a retirement fund (remember, I lived beneath the official poverty line for the first two thirds of my adult life), I decided to invest time into my compositions instead of investing in stocks, etc.

And it looked like things were going well. I had written hundreds of original compositions and many of them are performed all over the world. I am blessed that way. Most composers don’t get their works performed, so yes, it really is an honor.

However, twenty years into my “retirement” plan, I still hadn’t made a single penny from royalties. When I called the people at BMI and asked them why I wasn’t getting sampled, the guy told me to send him programs. He wanted proof that my works actually are being performed. Fortunately, people have sent me programs and there are some programs posted online, so I was able to send him enough proof.

But when I sent him the programs, he had reasons why each and every one of those programs didn’t count. Free church concerts didn’t count. University recitals didn’t count. I think, as a general rule, if money isn’t collected for an event, then BMI isn’t collecting royalties for that performance.

I was so discouraged by this turn of events that I quit composing. The iron eagle strikes again!

I’m trying to remember how long ago this was. I think about five years ago. A lot of people didn’t know that I had quit composing. I had already written so much original music by that time that I still had something new to offer when there were opportunities.  I was also still writing arrangements for pay at that time, so most people never knew I had quit composing.

Technically, writing arrangements is something very different from composing…especially in a legal, financial sense. You cannot collect performance royalties for an arrangement of someone else’s song. The only way to make money off of arrangements is to sell the sheet music.

So yes, I went about three or four years without composing much of anything.

My Ministry Time

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you probably remember a post from last June or July telling everyone why I wasn’t blogging as much anymore. Just a reminder in case you’ve forgotten, most of my blog time was coming from my early morning “ministry” time. Those posts were part of my almost literal interpretation of Matthew 6:33. I do God’s work first thing in the morning before I do anything else business related. I was spending at least a little time every morning writing blogs and that was my way of putting the Kingdom of God first in my work life.

Well, about a year ago, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to stop writing blog posts and spend that time composing again. That means that, for a year now, I’ve been investing a little time composing each morning before I begin the rest of the work day. So the blogging became spars and the compositions began flowing again, after almost half a decade of being compositionally dry.

As a result, composing has been different lately, because I am looking at it as my ministry. It’s not that my composing was ever completely removed from my faith. I think that is clearly evident to anyone who knows my work. But it’s different when I sit down and compose from this mindset. Acknowledging my composition time as my ministry puts everything into its proper perspective. I don’t know how else to say it. I believe I am a better composer than a trumpet player. With composing as my ministry, it has become my “first fruits”.

So it’s nice to be composing again. To tell you the truth, I had forgotten all about the BMI thing. I had given all of that up. As far as I knew, there was no hope of ever collecting royalty money from my compositions. But by making this my ministry, I am now investing into something that has far greater returns.

Never a Coincidence

Pearl and I have a Sunday routine. Part of that routine includes going to the post office after church to collect our business mail from our P.O.Box. Imagine our surprise when we received a very nice check from BMI! It was my very first royalty check from my compositions.

What’s interesting about this check is that it is for the second quarter of 2015. Notice the timing! As soon as I made my composition time my ministry time, BMI began collecting royalties on my behalf. I do not believe that things like this are coincidental.

To make it even more interesting, the royalties are coming from France and the song I’m getting paid for is a simple little piece I wrote for the beginner home school trumpet group I used to host about ten years ago. Just so you get that part…I want to emphasize…this was a song I wrote for beginners! This wasn’t one of my grand works for professional players. No, it was a simple song for students who hadn’t been playing the trumpet for a full year yet.

To me, this is miraculous. Simply amazing! Who could have imagined that a song I wrote for my son and his friends would end up bringing in money from France, of all places?

And get this….

The song is called:

Blessings


The video above is that song.

Of all the many compositions I have registered with BMI, a song called Blessings gets sampled in France and I end up with my first royalty check. What are the odds?

When the Holy Spirit spoke the title “iron eagle” into my mind, after I looked it up and figured out what it was, I immediately prayed. I didn’t only pray for God to help me end the iron eagle curse in my life. I also asked Him for His mercy. I prayed that God would take my failings and my faults and use them for His glory.

I feel like this royalty check is the answer to that prayer. I don’t believe I have done anything to deserve His Blessings. The retirement idea was a stupid one. I was ignorant and foolish to think that way. But now that I have given all of that up to Him, God is making it work. He’s making it work His way, not mine.

Why am I sharing this story?

This is my way of praising God for His goodness. As a musician, getting that first royalty payment is a big deal. But it’s an even bigger deal to me how it all happened. I know I am long winded in my writing, but this was a story I felt was important to share.

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2015 Christmas Message

I had a lot of difficulty coming up with a Christmas message this year. It was not for lack of trying. I started and deleted at least five different versions of my message before eventually giving up. No matter how “Christmasy” they started off, all of them ended up reading like fire and brimstone evangelist messages, urging everyone to get their lives straight with Christ or spend eternity in hell. While I am not afraid to deliver such a message when called to do so, I knew it was completely inappropriate for my readers as a Christmas message.

So, after I had given up, I received an email from Christ Alone Ministries with exactly the type of Christmas message I would have loved to have written myself. I emailed the Author, Johan Terbanche, and asked for his permission to post it here.

To me, the most important two sentences in his message are:

“As a Christian, I do not celebrate the day Jesus was born, but I celebrate the ‘coming’ of the Lord. While others celebrate the feast of Christmas we too can celebrate the coming of Christ.”

Exactly! The world around us celebrates the “feast of Christmas” with a multitude of worldly indulgences. But there is nothing stopping us from celebrating the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, during that same season.

So I invite you to read Johan’s message below.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas at Briscoe Manor


 

THIS WEEK’S MESSAGE: “CHRISTMAS?”
Mark 16:15 He (Jesus) said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.

2Timothy 4:2 Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right.

And that is why I celebrate Christmas. Every year, around Christmas, we reach out to  children. Every year, we hand out little inexpensive gifts to hundreds of children. Last year, instead of toys, we handed out stationary packs and colouring books. On every ruler we printed the verse John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Every colouring book told the story of Jesus. With every outreach, every gift we were able to bring the message of Jesus Christ, the message of God’s love. This year, God willing, we will be doing the same.

“How dare you celebrate Christmas?” someone asked the other day.

Let me show you what Paul did: Acts 17:22 – 23 Paul stood up in front of the city council and said, “I see that in every way you Athenians are very religious. For as I walked through your city and looked at the places where you worship, I found an altar on which is written, ‘To an Unknown God.’ That which you worship, then, even though you do not know it, is what I now proclaim to you.

Paul then continued to speak and though he was mocked by some there were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul–among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris. (Acts 17:34)

Like the Athenians who had an altar dedicated to an unknown God, modern day man also has a few. We see people worshipping or idolising many things. One such “object” of worship seems to be “Christmas” or everything associated with Christmas. A phrase I have often heard is that we must get the Christmas Spirit or get into the Spirit of Christmas. On the other hand I have heard that we must put Christ back in Christmas. (Something I have said before as well). But how do you take the most holy of holies, and place Him into that which has become one of the most unholy events? Paul gives us a hint. When he came to an altar to an unknown God he preached the Gospel. Just so, when we see those who celebrate Christmas even without knowing Christ we should be proclaiming the Gospel, should be proclaiming Christ.

Yes, not everybody knows and understand what Christmas should be about, but in this time we too have an ideal opportunity to tell of Jesus Christ. You see, we have an obligation to spread the good news at all times and in all circumstances. As a Christian, I do not celebrate the day Jesus was born, but I celebrate the “coming” of the Lord. While others celebrate the feast of Christmas we too can celebrate the coming of Christ. And let’s be honest: At Christmas time we often sit around the table with unsaved family. We often see children, poor and neglected needing the love of God. We often hear of the elderly, sitting alone in old age homes. Why not use this day to share the Gospel, to share God’s love?

My Christmas message would be:

In Matthew 2 we read of the wise men that came to see Jesus. Let us read Matthew 2:1-2 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.” Also Luke wrote about this event in Luke 2. We see how the angel appeared to the shepherds to proclaim the birth of Christ. And the angels said: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:14 – 16)

Today we too can say that we have seen a star. God is giving us countless signs that Jesus Christ can be expected to return soon. Just look around you, see the earthquakes, the floods, the demise of the world’s economy and more and you too will realize that Jesus is coming soon. The question we need to ask today is whether or not we’re finding ourselves in a place of worship or whether we’re even serving Him in Spirit and in truth. Then, like the shepherds, we need to make a decision to go unto Christ, to haste ourselves to His feet.

As we will be celebrating the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us go and tell of Him. We need to speak of his birth and his life giving death on Calvary, even in this time of worldly celebration, even at Christmas time. Let us use this opportunity, like Paul did, to bring a message of hope, the message of Christ to those serving an unknown God. Let us take up the opportunity to tell them of the signs, to tell them of Jesus’s return so that all will get ready, will haste themselves to meet Jesus. For unto us and unto them willing to accept Him “a child is born! A son is given! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counsellor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

FACEBOOK: These messages are also placed on Facebook. Please click this link and “like” us.

Regards,

Johan Terblanche
Christ Alone Ministries

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Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones

sticks and stones

There has been a full assault on the old wisdom that always said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Judging from the number of posts, likes and shares on facebook, the traditional wisdom has apparently been rejected by our society.

One post I read followed the traditional quote this way, “NOT TRUE! Words hurt, scar and leave wounds all the way down to the soul! Be careful how you use your words.

Applying Overlapping Responsibilities

There’s a big problem with this rampage against the traditional quote and I think I can summarize it clearly with my concept of Overlapping Responsibilities (which you can read about by clicking here).

I believe that, instead of looking at this subject as one, ultimate truism that applies to everyone, we should be looking at each person’s role in the equation. My concept of overlapping responsibilities says that the best things in life happen in the overlap. When my responsibilities overlap with your responsibilities, the outcome is the best of what we both have to offer.

The Bullied

Applying that to sticks and stones, I believe it’s important to look at the original wisdom of the traditional quote. I was taught that quote to prepare me for what would happen to me in the world. My parents prepared me for life by teaching me something that would protect me from harmful words I might hear when I was out in the real world.

And really, it wasn’t just my parents. That was the conventional wisdom when I was a kid. I remember my Scout master in Hawaii telling us to be proud when we walked the streets with our Boy Scout Uniforms on. He warned us ahead of time that people would make fun of us, but he also told us that we would become better men for it.

Our role as the bullied is to be strong. We need to learn to know our own self worth. We MUST work on being better at not letting other people bother us.

Please notice that the original quote is in first person. It says “words will never hurt ME“. I used to chant that quote as a mantra on some days, when I was growing up, to strengthen me and remind me that who I really was was something bigger and more important than who THEY thought I was.

So no, I have no problem with the original quote. It rings true for us who have been bullied.

The Bullies

It is true that words can hurt some people. Not everyone has had parents like mine to teach them to be strong. Not everyone has grown up with the famous saying to remind them to stay strong. even when people are assaulting them verbally.

It is wrong to say harmful things to people. It has always been wrong, even when the traditional quote was still popular.

The responsibility of the bully is to not be a bully. If you know something you say is hurtful to someone, then don’t say it! And if you did inadvertently say something that hurt someone, then you should apologize in an honest way and tell them that you didn’t know it would hurt them.

In the Overlap

If both sides were to take their roles seriously, then life would be better for everyone. On the one side you would have people doing what they can to be strong and not let what people say bother them. On the other hand, people would also be trying to be less abusive in the way they say things.

That’s the overlap!

What it basically boils down to is each side taking responsibility for themselves. Instead of everyone always blaming everyone else for their problems, the overlapping responsibilities concept says that, if I fulfill my responsibility and you fulfill yours, then everything will be better for both of us.

My Concern

I can tell you that it concerns me that the “sticks and stones” thing has become unpopular. We need our young people to be strong. It is impossible to be shielded from every verbal assault. I like the way my parents brought us up. They taught me that stuff like that was going to happen and that I needed to be ready for it. And they don’t know HOW RIGHT THEY WERE.

The world is full of cruel, cruel people. Yes, it is wrong for them to be cruel. No, they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. But the truth is, they often do get away with it and those people will always be there.

So why is there such a big campaign against the old saying? We need it more than ever before.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

 

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