Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clarity Is a Value

I believe in Clarity.

Clarity of water, in intent, and actions.

When things get complicated, step back and ask why would someone push for something which is not as clear as the water in the Sierra's, where water takes on a surreal dimension. The beauty is in its profoundly simple clarity. You can see down into the depths and at the same time see scenery reflected on the crystal clear surface.

Over the years I have found that when political waters aren't clear- the reason often are neither pure nor healthy.

There is a National Park's Special Resource Study, which includes Diamond Bar. Since 2005, my City has objected to our inclusion in the study, which was supposed to be conducted north of Santa Fe Springs- a city which we are decidedly east of. Why we are in the study area is murky.

The National Park Service has produced glossy brochures promising to listen. But four years seeded with wheelbarrows full of taxpayer money, Diamond Bar is still included in the study area over the objections of people charged with planning responsibility.

NPS- if you are reading- listening is not a hollow promise. It requires real reaction. Otherwise all you are doing is patronizing and performing lipservice.

Why? The stated NPS opinion is that the objections are based upon misunderstanding the intent of the legislation. It is appropriate to then question why is the intent hidden so that not our Congressman Gary Miller, our County Supervisor Don Knabe, Senator Huff and our City Officials- all of them misunderstand? That is the evidence of how clear your intent is.

That is all before asking- We have elected water boards charged with protecting water quality, supply and rights. How does adding an extra layer of bureaucracy improve their ability to meet their responsibilities?

Clarity. We deserve clarity.

Photo taken by my oldest son, Trevor, on a recent fishing trip near Bishop, California. Used with permission.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Unappreciated Rights

Jury duty is not what is easy. It is what is right. Looking for quotes concerning what I have been called to do today, from what I found it may be the most unappreciated right of modern life because we do not fear loosing it.
Looking for quotes to fine tune my attitude before I sign in to serve at the courtroom, these are a few gems among the costume jewelry strewn across the Internet.

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of Independence and third U. S. President

Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government. ~Pierre Joseph Proudhon, French politician and journalist, died 1865

Punishment is now unfashionable... because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility. ~Thomas Szasz" Hungarian Psychiatrist who has written on merits of abolishing insanity defense.

Somebody recently figured out that we have 35 million laws to enforce the Ten Commandments. ~Earl Wilson Three term Governor of California and 14th Chief of United States Supreme Court

On the left is Nancy Lyons with the gal who was then the new children's librarian in Diamond Bar. Nancy is running for reelection for the Walnut Valley Unified School District. I first met her when we were about eight, so I guess I can give a historical view of her character. Nancy studies hard, always has her priorities straight and is always prepared for whatever comes. Yep, she is a better woman than I. If you live in the district- the private Nancy is as reliable and honest and devoted as they come. I highly recommend voting for her

A true sign of a novice to public responsibility is revealed when a perfectly decent, hardworking and accomplished individual runs for public office and is embarrassed by the public unveiling of a lack of voting record or registration. To those who seek office- understand what we vote is private- that we vote and our inclination to do so is public record.

This kind of revelation is standard at the local level. It is rare at the level of gubernatorial candidates. Meg Whitman's candidacy is tarnished in the eyes of people who have appreciated the right to vote with more care than she did when she was working towards her first billion. No way around it. This may not be fair, but most people want to cast their vote for someone who demonstrably cares about the actual act of voting as they do. By not voting most of her adult life, that disqualifies her in the eyes of a hefty segment of the population.

I am not the only one. Guess my friend Trisha Bowler had a conversation with the LA Times Reporter, Cathleen Decker. To read what she had to say, go to


first break at jury duty, I will.

Friday, September 25, 2009

September Invocation

Our Father in Heaven,
We welcome and acknowledge You. We pray for gentle rains.

Be in our hearts and minds as we gather to become enlightened in the political process we are so blessed to be allowed full participation in. We pray that we all honor You in how we choose to participate.

We pray guidance for those who govern and seek to govern: from the local school and water boards, our Diamond Bar City Council, right on up through the Presidency. In these dynamic times, grant words of wisdom to us all.

We do not expect perfection. But we ask our leaders to be good and honorable and that the laws they create will not infringe upon what is Your authority. Remind us that solutions are not found just in the bold expert driven plan. In humility, we recognize that in our inclusive society, it is oft that from seeds of simplicity and respect for those who have a different life experience, grow the greatest ideas.

We recognize Your generous blessings to us, the people of these United States. Tonight we thank You for the great fortune that we live in this great Country, where individual freedom is normal. A land where we can assemble to worship freely, or not, according to the convictions of our conscience. Where the exercise of intellect and political conviction is encouraged. Where education is guaranteed. We thank you that we are alive now, in this great time when the content of our character is more important than the color of our skin. A time when men and women alike have equal opportunity to excel. We pray that we never take these for granted.

We ask You to watch over those who are serving in the military to protect us from foreign harm: the military. Watch over law enforcement as the keep us safe from domestic harm. Be with firefighters who by signing up to put their lives in danger for people they may never meet, give us heroes to look up to.
In how they conduct themselves, people who chose public safety as their life path teach us to reach for the courage that is in all of us to do what is right when it is not the same as what is easy.

As is the custom of my faith, I offer this prayer in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The text is the Invocation delivered last night at the Diamond Bar Republican Women Federated. In all the reading I have ever studied regarding the thoughts of the Founding Fathers, I have found no evidence that their was ever intent to remove faith from citizen life. I also find the evidence leads to the conclusion they were more concerned with government doing harm to faith than the other way around.

The top two photos are from my personal collection. The young serviceman is my nephew, Juadon Tabor. The fire photo was taken by Jody Schmalz- used with permission.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nature's Battlefield

66.6° degrees first thing in the morning. I pray that isn’t a kind of cosmic horoscope.

When it is hot like it is this week- even before I watched the Sean Hannity expose´ on California water, I am obsessed with water for my garden. Sometimes I think about replacing the lawn with gravel to conserve- then I observe- hummingbird hovers low to the lawn in search of sustenance-grass cools the earth more than gravel. I break with my fellow garden writers in deciding it is more environmentally correct to keep the lawn. If ancient Rome can bring in water to an arid region, surely we can.

When the hillsides are dry, animals come to call. Like with relatives or ex-lovers, the relationship with some is more complicated than with others.

For a couple weeks, a predator lurked about the unlit landscape. You learn to live with this when your garden backs up to Eden- but when said creature leaves carcasses up by the house and then poops like a vagrant on the lawn in daylight hours- it is dangerously innocent to succumb to the singular fact that “they” were here first.

We are here now. We belong here every bit as much as they do. If the Kingdom of Wild Animals doesn’t honor the Treaty of Mutual Peaceful Coexistence clause calling for my garden to be a no-kill zone- so be it. *

The good people at the Humane Society are skeptical of my concern that one of the occasional transient big cats is settling in. This time we can’t blame Mr. Coyote: there were no death-during-dinner operettas. Their assumption is raccoons can get rambunctious.

The nice officer sets up dinner of cat food and water in the cage with a trap door: just like the ones used for skunks. Their battle plan was the vagrant critter would crawl in for a late night snack- the door would shut- we would call the Humane Society in the morning and they would relocate it to someplace further than walking distance from here.

This is what happened over the past week.

At night, the cage rattling violently would wake me. In the morning, there was less cat food in the bowl. The dark of night raider would either spring the trap or escape. A week later I am getting concerned that we are attracting every rodent with what is "fast food" to them.

Then- at noon I saw it- its big ears twitching at me. It waited for me to get my camera and aim. It posed. Right profile. Left profile. Straight ahead. I must have been too mortified to click the button all the way. There were no images on my camera. But Beatrix Potter was another writer who had rats- so I’ve borrowed this image of a figurine of hers.

The cage is decommissioned. It is going back to the Humane Society. Even if I get this one rat- It am certain- I am not alone in the garden.

*The Lesson: The circumstance of my garden has taught me to understand the Israeli position in the Middle East.

Thank you to photographer Gene Sasse for permission to use image of Bobcat.

The figurine was hunted down on eBay.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wisdom in the Waiting Room

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge." Daniel J. Borstein

You have to keep yourself open to what Oprah calls the "Ah ha!" moment.

There are many other places I would rather spend than in the doctor's office waiting room. Thumbing through the August 10th edition of Time Magazine (not one of the 15 magazines I subscribe to) was this article- The Avenging Amateur by Kurt Anderson , who continued Bornstein's thought with

"The American spirit really is the amateur spirit. "

Our founders rebelled against a professional political class. They envisioned citizen -legislators.

Not to deny the need for experts we need to retain the balance between those who provide expertise and common sense. Experts have given us not just solutions. Experts are who created levels of financial crisis no amateur could envision.

Experts have exasperated the effects of drought on the ability of the California Farmer to provide sustenance to us all. Experts then helped the destitute farming communities of once productive fields by sending them food grown in foreign countries.

The problem with relying on government experts is they are focused only on the goals of the agency which cuts their paycheck They are trained to think within boxes- blinders on to unintended consequences- and in the environmental departments- are without responsibility to human priority.

This is not a new concern. Over a decade ago, at a public meeting, the man Lewis MacAdams described in the July, 2005 issue of Los Angeles Magazine as perhaps the most powerful unelected official in California, the the only executive director in the 25-year history of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Joe Edmiston exuberantly explained, "There is lots of money to finagle... if you are just willing to be creative enough."

To those who had trouble understanding what the harm was in granting Czar-like power to unelected officials when the cause is sheltered by the umbrella of good intentions- I give to you exhibit A. The California Debt.

The full text of the article referenced can be read at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1913776,00.html
Andersen is the author of Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, which originated as a TIME cover story.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Grace of God

We can plan. We cannot control. Some things are the providence of the Grace of God: Be it good, awful or a mix of both.

This morning I was shocked to open an e-mail from Gene Sasse. He forwarded these photographs of beautiful Sedona with a note from someone there.

These images were captured on an I-phone belonging to
Kimall Christensen at about 4:00 in the afternoon this past Friday.
These words remind me to be specific in my prayers for rain.

" Our collective prayers for much needed rain were heard!
The rain came at a rate of 4" / hour, with accumulations of 2" of hail in places!
No one was injured! "
Disaster does bring us together. The individuals at Design Group Architects came through the storm fine. Karen Pollack in Arizona reported it was dry in Phoenix.
We need rain in So Cal. However, this kind of downpour on the heels of the Angeles National Forest fires would be disastrous for the Los Angeles region.
Photographs Used with Permission

Karen Pollock is a GREAT writer who had to leave the Pasadena Fiction Writers Group because of a minor detail- her husband got transferred to Arizona . Go to her summer posts and see cactus wilting in the heat and lightening hit the earth - http://karenpollock.wordpress.com/feed/.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Growing Butterflies

Nine-eleven. We all remember exactly who,where and what. But no one reasonable will ever reconcile why with any explanation which is reasonable. September 11, 2001: the day America
remembered that we are one nation, under one God. We were unified in our grief and horror and disbelief. Comforted only by belief that the brave and innocents who perished from earth on that date, live on in heaven .

Somehow, when these souls look down on us now- see us bicker and quibble and politicize things which are best not subjected to politics- I think the saints pray for us- who were left behind.

At least, that is what I thought this warm morning as I watched butterflies fluttering about. These nearly mindless creatures may understand better than man how to live as God intended. Free. That all we have here is temporary.

Look closely at the stem and see God's miracle. A caterpillar dressed only in her stripes. On any given day, dozens give casual acceptance of my proximity, while they enjoy this stage of their life.

The adult monarch butterflies are a bit more skittish. Perhaps time has taught them to be skeptical of human presence. Troops of winged creatures pirouette through the air until they sense I am entering their stage: I, armed only only with my camera. Then they flutter away until I am still long enough that I might grow roots from my feet. Only then will trust me long enough to capture the calming vision of of their stained glass wings folded together in prayer, ready to sip the nectar of the blossoms.

May God Bless you all on this eighth of Anniversary of when the Twin Towers became forever holy ground.

To grow your own butterflies-

The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a sure fire butterfly magnet. The white puffs on Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) - both will teach you to accept beauty- not just wherever you plant it- but where the birds take to where soil, sun and water are to their liking. Like love, you can choose where you want to start, but ultimately, you have little control. Time and good fortune will determine where their future will flourish.

Friday, September 4, 2009


103.8° was today's high. Fires continue to rage through the lower mountains bordering the Los Angeles basin. It is too familiar, this ritual of nature- the smoke choking the oxygen out of blue skies. Wildlife skittering and slithering for safety. Their's- not ours.

"The rhythm of the seasons gives us insight into the ups and downs of life. There are times when our lives go through discouraging and demoralizing events. Sometimes it seems as if one disaster follows another until life itself resembles the outer regions of Hades, I wonder whether the Lord allows us to suffer and endure such times so that when the crisis pass we can fully appreciate the world He's blessed us with."

these timely words in the Hilltop Herald message from Pastor John Scharlemann arrived in the mail

These daffodils light up the forest floor in a part of the San Bernardino Forest which burned after they were planted. When fire destroyed some of the trees- it opened the opportunity for more blooming faces in the meadow.

Fire season is a normal part of seasonal rhythm in Southern California. Sometimes the first spark is lit by lightening. An accident. Worse- arson. But worst of all is when calamity is made worse by government policy.

The drought in California is caused by more than God's hand. Looking for photographs- I found this link which perfectly shows what can happen when the political class acts as though they are as wise as God and without any limit on resources to impose their will.

A government cannot rule wisely if it does not rule with humility. Knowledge is common. Wisdom and humility are not. Pray for these so that this season of government arrogance will end soon, as will the fire season. There are good people in government service: they need us to help nudge their colleagues to do what is right rather than what they think will make them popular. Then prosperity will flourish and all the goodness that makes possible.

John Scharlemann is the Pastor of Mount Lutheran Church in Diamond Bar. He is not responsible for the thoughts expressed here, except his own. If you know someone seeking a Chinese Language Christian service, there is one held on Sundays at 9:30 AM

The top photo is from my personal collection. The others are by Alta Loma Photographer Gene Sasse. Used with permission.