Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 25, 2017

This week was incredibly calm in Asia. China has some non-defined goals of grandeur, though some voices in the Western press cast their usual doubts. China's big obstacle with becoming a tech leader is two-fold: 1. lack of measurable methods and 2. social media.

Westerners use Facebook and Google to communicate with friends, family, and associates. By blocking Facebook, China is blocking Westerners as well as leading technology. By definition, "global" methods can't merely involve competitor social media unique to China. Whether China has good reason to block the social media giants is a separate question altogether. If China wants to become a leader, it must have a measurable, defined way forward in its tech and trade ambitions, which must include how to involve people and markets that it has blocked by proxy.

Korea was also unusually quiet. The saber rattling took a hiatus over the holiday pre-week. On Christmas, North Korea was sure to puff its chest out, but that's about all. It is entirely possible that the problems in Korea will magically and abruptly vanish, Korea will be united, and both the Communists and the Westerners will just go home. But, that would never have happened without the mounting pressure from both sides.

Whatever reconciliation comes at the end of this Korean "situation", we will have both North Korea and the US military presence to thank for it. Should whatever new Korea emerges snub the US for providing the pressure to resolve a conflict no one else could, Korea's best days would thus be in the past. Keeping friendship during times of peace is vital to keeping that peace. Lasting peace in Korea means lasting peace among Koreans as well as its friends and neighbors. Should there be a bloodless peace in Korea and America troops just up and leave, the US will probably beef-up its presence with Taiwan. That would be the other shift.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 18, 2017

All signs indicate a gear-up for war. The US is full on-tilt, not only in military prep, but also in blaming China. The US and China face each other with North Korea in the middle. There is nothing China or Russia will do to stop Washington from gobbling North Korea whole, but a reaction is to be expected. A war just east of China's border should rouse China's military, if for no other reason than that North Korea might go rogue and invade China as a means of escape.

The US also has a precarious position. China trades with and supplies North Korea; of particular interest is oil. The US recently reached an oil deal with China to pay back China on old debts with oil from Alaska. Recent comments from Washington, including a statement at the UN, include that China must do its part to stop feeding North Korea, otherwise the US will take its own means of handling the part it was hoped China would handle. That's no threat, but it is an expected warning, as it is expected that Beijing would respond defensively.

So, we are headed to war and China won't sit this one out. While it is unlikely the Chinese would help North Korea defend a war with the US, the more likely option is an invasion of Taiwan. If China invades Taiwan, it would likely be seen as mere retaliation from the West, but would make strategic sense from China's view—at least if China assumes that invading Taiwan could be a success. With the US busy and expanding pro-democracy South Korea's borders northward, China would naturally want more territory. China might also thing that the US is too occupied with Korea to worry about Taiwan. And, the recent step-up in regular rhetoric over bipartisan support in Congress to defend Taiwan is China's perfect excuse to justify a strike of its own.

We'll have to wait and see how things play out. But, don't think that there isn't plenty of China-blaming in the press, including speculation that China would actually back North Korea militarily or even the smear by making China look inhumane for its implementation of the death sentence. Human Rights or not, there are press forces in the West always trying to smear China. But, just as much rhetoric comes from all sides, including Russia.

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Symphony

Encore or Revival: America, December 18, 2017

This week brought a major revelation about corruption in the news industry. Generally, Symphony's Encore avoids scandal "sleaze" stories, but this is becoming big news. A former Fox contributor—an attorney who left her job for work with Fox News—claims to have her own legal basis for breaking her silence that $2.5 million bought concerning her own harassment stories. "We just want to work," she said. Her own words speak for themselves and it is a must-read story.

But note: the problem is by no means limited to Fox. The problem of harassment is not limited to sexual harassment nor is corruption limited to the news industry. Right now, major issues of corruption are being exposed across America. It will reach Sunday morning fellowships and news networks other than Fox. Similar scandals are on display with the Mueller investigation, which smells of corruption from both those investigated and those doing the investigation. Trump is wise to let Mueller continue because, one way or another, the people who are truly corrupt are either being exposed or exposing themselves and, in this case, possibly both.

People will try to exploit the many kinds of scandals as they always do. That will irritate people. Some will claim that none of the scandals are legitimate because of the phonies who want too much blood or too much attention. The public will become slower on the draw to mob and lynch criminals. And, people we never thought were scandalous will have their own truth shown. What we thought we knew is in for a major overhaul.

This is a call to sobriety, to respect and address the true problem, to grant forgiveness where it is needed, to accept help from people who have a turnabout "come to Jesus moment" about their own crimes, and to accept the truth about evils that no one wants to accept.

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Columns

How to Help Others

http://podcast.jessesteele.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ThePoint2017-12-18-how-to-help-others.mp3

We must help ourselves before we can help others.

Part of this principle comes from the Law of Basic Experience: One can only teach what one has done.

Part of this principle comes from basic safety in lifeguard training: Don't become a victim yourself; you can't save a drowning victim if you drown in the process.

Charity and compassion can become distractions from our own problems. They can even become addictions—both helping others and distracting us from our own problems.

Take time to search your own soul. You'll make a far bigger difference when you help others by example.

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Letters

Waging War With Your Prophetic Words

It was a heartbreaking season in my life.

I’d been given some prophetic promises about an area of my life. God had declared some beautiful things: unity and power and intimacy and victory. Yeah, it was a lot of “the usual stuff,” but it came in a declaration from God. Actually, it came in two or three declarations; this wasn’t just a warm and fuzzy thought from one person.

We’ll pause here for a definition. When I talk about a “declaration from God,” that might be a prophetic word; those are the best, and I give them the most weight: when someone with a known gift of prophecy says, “This is what God says,” and the community judges it to be true (1 Corinthians 14:29), that’s the gold standard of prophetic revelation in my view.

But the idea of a declaration from God includes what I hear God whispering to me, and it includes those times that something from the pages of Scripture leap alive and demand my attention. They include when friends tell me what they hear God saying about me, and when the promises of scripture actually, contextually apply to me.

As I said, I had two or three of these, including both the prophetic words and the whisper of my Father. There was a good bit of unity among the declarations. I trusted them.

And then things began to go to hell. I wish I spoke metaphorically. Without putting too fine a point on it I’ll say that just when I expected the promises to begin to manifest, to show up, just when I expected to see things turn toward unity and power and intimacy and victory, they turned the opposite direction.

It was a heartbreaking season in my life. You see, this was an area that was really quite important to me. This was no cute little bonus.

I ran through the demonic logic tests: Can God be trusted? Is he really a good God? You know that list. They came at me hard and fast, and I threw them back in his face just as hard, declaring God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, and my confidence in Him. I went further and rebuked every demon I could think of from every aspect of this promise. I felt victorious!

I thought, There. That will do it. And the promises down-shifted for better acceleration into oblivion.

My heart was crushed, but still I held on. I began to ask better, more honest questions: Did I assume God had promised this, when in fact he had not? No, he’d been quite clear.

Were the promises for right now, or was I rushing him? That one was tougher, as he’d never actually given a date, but if this trend continued, then there was no chance of fulfilling them later.

Was I imposing my own definition of what these fulfilled promises needed to look like? Maybe the fulfillment was so different than my expectations that I didn’t recognize it. I searched my heart long and hard on this, and I examined the circumstances. No, the failure was real. This wasn’t just my misinterpreting it.

My life was pretty much over. I nearly gave up.

And then something whispered in the back of my mind. It was a quiet little whisper, easy to miss. “I want you to give thanks for my promises as if you were already walking in the fullness of their fulfillment, as if everything I said has already happened, even though you’ve seen nothing yet.”

It took rather a lot to take the voice seriously, and it took even more to do what he said. But I did.

In those days, I took my lunch hours in a remote meadow. I parked my truck, and since I pray best when I walk, I’d worn a trail into the grasses and shrubberies of the meadow.

I began to pace my trail, questioning my sanity, and mumbling thanks for these hallucinations, these promises. I recognized the failure of my prayer, so I began to pray out loud. That was better, but I could tell I wasn’t to the point of actually engaging my faith yet.

So I began to shout. It was hard, and it took me days to get there, but before long, I fairly flew into that meadow, locked up my parking brake, and before the truck had fully stopped, I was on that trail, roaring my thanks for these promises, for the glory of having been my experience, for the power that had been unleashed. I screamed my gratitude for a victory I had not yet seen, and I wept in thanksgiving for the intimacy that I still only imagined.

Over the next days and weeks, I watched several changes. The first were in my heart. Eventually, my empty declarations of faith began to actually fill with faith, and I began to understand that I was waging war with these promises (1 Timothy 1:18). Not long after, I realized that the things that I was declaring that had not yet happened, they were going to happen. I began to expect, not fearlessly, not solidly, but I began to expect to see things change.

My prayers expanded. I spent my spare time thinking of what that will look like when these promises are fulfilled, and I prayed every answer to that. By now, I was thankful that my meadow was remote, and occasionally, I checked the trees near the meadow, to make sure I hadn’t roared their bark off.

And still I prayed. I walked and prayed and shouted and demanded and wept and gave thanks like there was no tomorrow.

And then things did begin to change. It was like lighting a match to the tinder of a well-set fire: the change was so very small and fragile, and the slightest breath would extinguish it. I said nothing of this to anyone, so as to not blow out my precious flame, but I gave myself to serving that tiny, flickering flame, nurturing it the best I could.

But gradually, over months and years, it did turn, and today I can say I’ve been walking in the fullness of many of those promises for many years.

I’ve also noticed a change in me. I’m quicker to give thanks than I ever used to be. I think I like that.
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Columns

Direction vs Light

The relation between light and darkness relates to "direction". Light travels in all angles and all directions from the source. Shadows, however, are not omni-directional; they only travel away from a light source.

A light that only travels across or down or over or up is not any true light. It may be redirected light, but the source of light shines in all directions. The only shapes like triangles or lines that occur naturally are shadows.

Light does not discriminate, shadow-makers do. Light does not favor directions, shadow-makers do. Don't try to choose and pick so much. Just shine everywhere.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 11, 2017

More smoke got blown this week. South Korea's president is stepping-up efforts to talk to China about North Korea. Asian culture dictates that a country as big as China doesn't give a rat's synthetic tail about what a small country like South Korea thinks. All South Korea can expect is to be in China's debt merely for listening since the diplomacy won't affect outcomes whatsoever. China probably knows this. Whatever "deal" does or does not follow Moon's efforts with the Chinese will be an indication of China's greater intentions for the future. Don't expect too many fireworks; it's mostly politicians blowing smoke.

Things in Korea are stepping up, however. More sanctions are coming down. Secretary of State Tillerson commented about possible naval blockades, which sent a threat of "declared war" bouncing back from the North Koreans—more blown smoke from all sides. As for South Korea and Japan cooperating with the US—they will be "watching" missiles from North Korea. Usually, missiles have little to watch other than a trail of—well, a trail of smoke.

The big note to take about Moon is that his obsession with "talking" and "reconciliation" could prove very valuable after other players (the US, the UN, possibly China and others) do their parts to initiate reunification on the Korean Peninsula. When Korea becomes one country again, it might benefit from a leader like Moon who hungers for an opportunity to get opposite sides talking. But, we'll see.

China's state-run tabloid commented that a visit from the US Navy to a Taiwanese Naval port would activate a kind of "Anti-Secession" law in China and China's PLA would invade Taiwan and immediately reclaim the territory. The statement came months after US Congress approved and planned such port visits between Taiwan and the US for 2018. Taiwan is responding by constricting and banning select visits from Chinese diplomats, usually surrounding topics of "Human Rights" and warlike rhetoric. Again, all sides blowing more smoke without a shot fired, yet.

Usually, boiler cars bellow more smoke, blow their whistles, and let off steam as buildup to a conflict mounts—or just before a train wreck. The smoke is not without meaning, but as of this week, smoke blown remains little more than blown smoke and neither the topics nor the players have changed.

In fact, every small development reported by news outlets seems to follow the format of new facts in the first few paragraphs followed by the same, long background story, whether the background is about a conflict between North and South Korea or between Taiwan and China. That's what you call a clue: The press seems to feel that the public will need that background for the avalanche of news to come.

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Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, December 11, 2017

Little to nothing new happened this week. The supposed Democratic attempt to fry Moore by frying Franken only fried Franken. Franken's seat is secure for Democrats; Moore's seat would be up for party grabs in Alabama. The theory goes that the Democratic party viewed Franken as expendable since a Democrat would likely replace him, but Moore, a Republican, would be replaced by a Democrat, thus the Democrats would gain a seat in the Senate. By accusing and frying Franken of the same kind of sex scandal as Moore, it seemed to be non-hypocritical for Democrats to expect that Moore step down.

That's the theory anyway as to why so many Democrat-leaning voices went after Franken.

Theory or no, it didn't happen. The Clinton years cemented the unofficial Democratic position that "sex and morals" don't affect politicians—that a man can cheat on his wife and remain loyal to his country. Republicans are the party of "morality police", in a sense. Once a sinner proves he is a sinner, it's time to hang a "scarlet letter 'A'" around his neck and burn him at the stake. But, especially with the public being tired from having to remove Kevin Spacey from their "favorites" lists, the Republican voters don't want anymore. "A Republican proves to be a sinner in need of forgiveness" no longer means that "moralless Democrats need to gain power" in the minds of Republican voters. The press "pooped in its diapers" over scandals one too many times and the Religious Right just doesn't care anymore. The "scandal trump card" is no longer part of the rules as of this political season.

With the Alabama special election coming up tomorrow, and a tax bill about to get through Congress, headlines may finally change a little from what they have been for the past month. Thanks to the continued distraction provided by Mueller's ongoing and seemingly directionless investigation of Russianewsgategate, the White House is moving forward and may start creating new headlines soon. Not having to write the same story week after week will come as a relief to some writers, but a disappointing alarm to get off the couch for the mainstream.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 4, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlFTIlhm9yY

The US is gearing up for a demonstration of it's new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets. North Korea is providing the perfect opportunity. When all is done, be ready to count the headlines in which the F-35s appear.

There are a variety of factors in the North Korean conflict. As you count them, don't exclude the need for the US to show force in the region. Just two examples include Putin's manners in Crimea—where Russian soldiers flew a flag over a building they had taken before a proper referendum became final—along with China not playing by UN rules with its man-made islands, yet remaining a UN member. There are other situations in the region.

Suffice it to say that North Korea is a perfect opportunity for the US to beat its chest and clear its throat for all to hear. Were there no such need, the US military presence might be a lot more low-key in the process of North Korea's government being on the way out anyway. Always remember that Washington occasionally thinks like Hollywood—in the White House as in the Capital Building and at the Pentagon. America loves theatrics and, knowingly or otherwise, nearly all Pacific nations played their roles as the foil.

Once Korea becomes one nation, tryouts for the next performance will likely soon follow.

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Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, December 4, 2017

Demagoguery hit the fan. It's never been more obvious. Reputable news sources—not the average British tabloids trying to tell Americans what to do—are rehashing old plays from the playbook: Congress is worried about the president saying things on Twitter. If the president doesn't obey someone he hired and can fire, now that's called "finding a loophole".

The president can say what he wants. The president can do what he wants in the White House without having to find loopholes. That's especially true with the village of cards Obama made with his executive orders that he knew would be so easily blown away by whoever the next guy was to take office. If Obama can create czars with no legal basis, the president should be allowed to talk to a White House staff member without getting permission.

But now, the Russianewsgategate scandal is making its full about turn, though the boomerang isn't quite back in hand yet. The DOJ oversees the FBI; Congress oversees both. Whatever—whatever—Congress says, the FBI and DOJ must do, including answer questions. It seems that they didn't answer questions. Congress is moving for contempt action, which isn't pretty. Though the president kept his peace, now the "directionless" special investigation is so obviously without good purpose that the president feels it's okay to say so.

The funny part is, had Jeff Sessions not caved into the anti-Trump pressure to recuse himself, he would be hit with the contempt action from Congress. But, he played by anti-Trump rules, so, ironically and poetically, Congressional action against a seemingly anti-Trump motive won't hurt him. Grab your popcorn. This will only get more entertaining.

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Columns

Rocks Break Bones, not Light

http://podcast.jessesteele.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ThePoint2017-12-04-rocks-break-bones-not-light.mp3

I'm angry. So, I'm going to throw apples at the hunter. He already hunts me and seeks to eat me. I'm going to annoy him and make it easy for him to find me. I'm going to act-a-fool because I'm mad. I'm going to tell myself that he doesn't treat me fairly so I can sleep at night.

That attitude defines enraged masses who will never be happy unless they can hate being slaves.

Don't join them.

Instead of being angry at a dark world, be the sun that shines on it. Encourage people. Smile. Lift. Destroy darkness with light.

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Columns

Life 101: Always Listen

We never know what we don't know. If someone wants to talk, listen.

Cult-think mentality easily fills our fears with mental constipation: "They want to sell you snake oil," it says. "Don't let him speak. He will cast a spell on all who hear!"

Cult-think never solves problems. If someone wants to talk, listen. There is no good reason not to listen.

They may want to warn, defect, apologize, or even attack again. But, it doesn't matter how evil they are or have proven to always ever be. If someone wants to talk, listen for one reason: You're not telepathic.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 27, 2017

Korea has on display the essential cultural clash that causes and sustains conflict across the world. North Korea's leaders won't communicate. They think non-communication entitles them to get whatever they want. South Korea's president harbors something against Japan. It would be indefensible to claim his resentment is anything other than pure racism; the WWII Japanese government is gone and most WWII-era Japanese who harmed his country have died. His resentment against Japan can only be against their descendants—the Japanese people themselves, categorically defining him racist.

That's the leadership in the Koreas. No wonder the country is still in a state of civil war.

This week, the spineless diplomacy of South Korea's president proved itself so incapable. North Koreans are so desperate to keep people in their country that they tried to kill a defector before he escaped—a stark contrast to the US Military's verdict on Bergdahl. In their desire to contain and kill their fellow soldier, North Koreans blundered, firing over and crossing the Military Demarcation Line. The violation of the armistice was clearly not malicious, but out of control.

The UNC (South Korea & US) solution to the armistice violation was communication—to request a meeting. North Korea's solution was to cut the phone lines, dig a ditch, and close the bridge. The UNC responded by blasting messages on megaphones across the border. We don't see South Korea solving problems by digging ditches or closing bridges nor do we see North Korea solving problems by communicating with a stack of megaphones.

It's clear who is who, who wants to communicate, and who wants to be a hermit. "Trying to talk" with North Korea is a ridiculous suggestion. Cozying up to China won't help anything either, regardless of China's view of the matter. China looks like the adult in the room—canceling airline flights to a self-doomed hermit kingdom and yet remaining open to talks with both North and South Koreas.

In times like these, flimsy leadership methods don't measure up to the great problems staring straight in the eye—no matter how much racism a flimsy leader uses to think himself wise.

Though the armistice has been tested, though it is still in place, the US will not back down on the request for a meeting to discuss the armistice violation. If North Korea does not answer the call, the US will have all kinds of excuses to badger and approach, and perhaps even invoke certain provisions of the armistice for such times that it is broken.

We could be looking at an avalanche that leads to the end of the North Korean regime, when all the North Koreans had to do to stop it was simply pick up the phone.

That describes almost every conflict, at every level from families to friends to companies to religions to governments, everywhere in the world. It's just easier to recognize our own problems when they seem unique to the Korean Peninsula.

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