GOLDEN SILENCE

REFLECTIONS at a BEDSIDE WHEN NIGHT COMES

Golden Silence

It seems to happen between two people who have grown close. Not necessarily intimately, like husband and wife, although they are primary examples of such communication. It can happen between siblings, often twins, but any siblings close enough in heart. It happens to some cops. Long-time patrol partners who have depended upon one another for their very lives. Cops who have spent countless hours together sharing every possible human emotion from exhilarating laughter to darkest fear. This communication is, in its own way, an extra-sense. Not meaning, one sense more than you need, as in ‘extra’ but extra or outside of the normal senses. Another term could be a supernatural sense. This communication is golden.

Many agree that mothers have a supernatural sense – something that tells them ahead of an incident something is afoot. This sense always involves those who are close in heart.

Veteran cops develop what’s called, cop-sense. This is an ability to know that trouble is near. There is no immediate reasoning for the feeling the cop gets, but the hair stands up on the back of the neck and your ‘spider senses’ begin to tingle. It is much easier for me to share times when it has happened than to try to explain how.

So that brings us to a seventh or eighth sense, depending on how you explain other unexplainable communications between humans and the unseen world. The Bible speaks a good bit about the goings on-line a dimension we as humans cannot perceive. Why not some mystical, though not evil, goings on through the mist, the veil that seems to linger right before us close enough to touch. Touch it we cannot; even though it seems touchable. Yet it is just surreal enough to be able to laugh off when goaded by those who scoff at such things.

For those readers senior enough to recall him, Rod Serling had a name for it. “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.”

There are a plethora of explanations among the followers of JK Rowling as to why Muggles cannot see the magical, mystical beings and things that live in parallel dimensions with their world. From the disguising acts by some mystical creatures to the bureaucratic actions of the Ministry of Magic to  cover-up such knowledge, the explanations abound. Yet one explanation better matches our non-fantasy world and our inability to clearly understand what goes on beyond us. Why do some seem to comprehend such communication and others do not? “… the implication is that they are actually paying more attention to the world around them. Possibly because through magic they are more connected to it.” Putting away the fantastic realm of Rowling, let’s return to a real world in which inexplicable communication truly exists.

Perhaps  that which we dub a new sense is not a new sense at all. It is the attentive and focused minds of those who seem to understand it.

A mother senses danger for her child because she is attuned to know it. Couples grasp their partner’s thoughts because, out of love, or shared time together, they have come to focus upon it and then anticipate it. A cop on the beat has a premonition of trouble. It is not so much they have mystically perceived it, but they have travelled a similar route before, and experience has opened their minds to sense it.

That brings us back to what I have called, the Golden Silence. No, it is not the first few moments as you sit back in your easy chair just after the grandchildren have left with their parents. This is a silence so rare; it is golden. It isn’t really a silence, though, at all.

It is a golden time filled with communication, feeling, and understanding. There is in it compassion and love, sadness, and grief. There can be joy and intense happiness all encapsulated in this golden silence. Its rarity is its greatest treasure for if it were frequent, it would become common. Golden silence is anything but common.

I experienced golden silence just tonight. It was what has brought pen to paper for me to share the thought with you. Okay, more like cursor to electronic page then pen to paper.

It came between my oldest brother and I. Eleven years apart in age, we were closer than twins at times. Our bonds were forged over a chess board in a small kitchen on Sunday afternoons. Forged during countless hours in a patrol car together, one a cop the other a young brother eager to become like his senior. It was forged  sharing the pains in life and the ravages of heartbreak and anger, of loss and love. Forged in recent years across a nursing home room which, too, was full of heartbreak and love. Sealed by memories shared and family ties which remain strong, this closeness brought us to this night. The phone call from the nurses’ station at the nursing home suggesting I come, though the hour late. There was cause for serious concern and it was time to by-pass the rules and bring two human beings who love each other dearly into touching distance, regardless of bureaucrats’ edicts.

I could easily mis-quote Dr. Seuss here. “I sat there with Rodney. We sat there we two. And we thought how we wished there were something we could do.” But there really wasn’t any misgivings about opportunities missed. There was just silence. Golden silence when we both knew exactly what the other was thinking and there was no need to utter a single word. To try to speak it would be to ruin it. The communication was simple. It was direct. It was silent. It was golden. It was love shared.

Many agree that mothers have a supernatural sense – something that tells them ahead of an incident something is afoot. This sense always involves those who are close in heart.

Veteran cops develop what’s called, cop-sense. This is an ability to know that trouble is near. There is no immediate reasoning for the feeling the cop gets, but the hair stands up on the back of the neck and your ‘spider senses’ begin to tingle. It is much easier for me to share times when it has happened than to try to explain how.

So that brings us to a seventh or eighth sense, depending on how you explain other unexplainable communications between humans and the unseen world. The Bible speaks a good bit about the goings on in a dimension we as humans cannot perceive. Why not some mystical, though not evil, goings on through the mist, the veil that seems to linger right before us close enough to touch? Touch it we cannot; even though it seems touchable. Yet it is just surreal enough to be able to laugh off when goaded by those who scoff at such things.

For those readers senior enough to recall him, Rod Serling had a name for it.  “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.”

There are a plethora of explanations among the followers of JK Rowling as to why Muggles cannot see the magical, mystical beings and things that live in parallel dimensions with their world. From the disguising acts by some mystical creatures to the bureaucratic actions of the Ministry of Magic to  cover-up such knowledge, the explanations abound. Yet one explanation better matches our non-fantasy world and our inability to clearly understand what goes on beyond us. Why do some seem to comprehend such communication and others do not? “… the implication is that they are actually paying more attention to the world around them. Possibly because through magic they are more connected to it.” Putting away the fantastic realm of Rowling, let’s return to a real world in which inexplicable communication truly exists.

Perhaps  that which we dub a new sense is not a new sense at all. It is the attentive and focused minds of those who seem to understand it.

A mother senses danger for her child because she is attuned to know it. Couples grasp their partner’s thoughts because, out of love, or shared time together, they have come to focus upon it and then anticipate it. A cop on the beat has a premonition of trouble. It is not so much they have mystically perceived it, but they have travelled a similar route before, and experience has opened their minds to sense it.

That brings us back to what I have called, the Golden Silence. No, it is not the first few moments as you sit back in your easy chair just after the grandchildren have left with their parents. This is a silence so rare; it is golden. It isn’t really a silence, though, at all.

It is a golden time filled with communication, feeling, and understanding. There is in it compassion and love, sadness, and grief. There can be joy and intense happiness all encapsulated in this golden silence. Its rarity is its greatest treasure for if it were frequent, it would become common. Golden silence is anything but common.

I experienced golden silence just tonight. It was what has brought pen to paper for me to share the thought with you. Okay, more like cursor to electronic page then pen to paper.

It came between my oldest brother and I. Eleven years apart in age, we were closer than twins at times. Our bonds were forged over a chess board in a small kitchen on Sunday afternoons. Forged during countless hours in a patrol car together, one a cop the other a young brother eager to become like his senior. It was forged  sharing the pains in life and the ravages of heartbreak and anger, of loss and love. Forged in recent years across a nursing home room which, too, was full of heartbreak and love. Sealed by memories shared and family ties which remain strong, this closeness brought us to this night. The phone call from the nurses’ station at the nursing home suggesting I come, though the hour late. There was cause for serious concern and it was time to by-pass the rules and bring two human beings who love each other dearly into touching distance, regardless of bureaucrats’ edicts.

I could easily mis-quote Dr. Seuss here. “I sat there with Rodney. We sat there we two. And we thought how we wished there were something we could do.” But there really wasn’t any misgivings about opportunities missed. There was just silence. Golden silence when we both knew exactly what the other was thinking and there was no need to utter a single word. To try to speak it would be to ruin it. The communication was simple. It was direct. It was silent. It was golden. It was love shared.

DEATH WATCH

God bless the men and women in law enforcement, our first responders, our military. They deserve better than we have given them. America, it is time to put up or shut up.

No greater love has anyone than he lays down his life for his friend… John 15:13

Can there be any sadder thought than to realize how men and women, dedicated to serving in an extremely dangerous role for people they do not even know, not only are hurt and maimed, but they also die? They leave behind families, wives, husbands, children to mourn them and miss them for a lifetime. Thank God, others stand up to take their place.

The year 2020 has been horrific for many reasons, perhaps at the top of the list is not just the sky-rocketing numbers of police officer deaths, it is the unconscionable disgrace of those in political office, specifically the Democratic Party, to not rale in angst against those who would violate the very core of our civil society. This, however, is not intended to be a political statement. Politics is NOT the source of the problem, it is we, the people.

Here are the issues: In 2019, police agencies suffered 48 felonious deaths in 19 states and in Puerto Rico which was a drop of 8 over 2018. That, in its way, was good news. Still it was 8 over just four years earlier in 2015 as well as 2019.

But here is the hard part – In 2020 on November 10th with still 51 days to go in the year, the total number of officers killed is 146, 8 percent higher than all of 2019. Fifty officers killed by firearms: 13 percent higher than all of 2019.

If the trend continues, at least 32 more officers will die by before New Year’s Eve. Eight by firearms and another twenty-four will die by other causes.

In 2019 19 states and Puerto Rico…

In 2020, Officers died in 35 states 2 territories plus 4 federal agents were killed, 2 tribal officers and 1 in the U.S. military.

Don’t let our men and women who stand on that thin blue line stand alone. Support them amongst all the political garbage being thrown at them. Stand for them every single day with all your energy and know that it is not just that they earned it, they more than deserve it. The deserve the support of every true American. What is happening in law enforcement, the hurt, the hate, the depression and officers, good officers, leaving for any work other than that which they once loved is a symptom of something much deeper.

Personally, I am sick of people degrading our country, and I don’t mean people from other lands. I mean Americans who bad-mouth everything, it seems, that stands for right, for justice, for decency. It is time we took back America from the left-wingers who want to socialize the woke and who want to close shops and desecrate families in the name of what is, at the very best, limited real truth about a virus from which 99.9 percent of people have survived. They would lock us in our homes while demanding we relinquish our unalienable rights to worship together, to live our lives free from tyranny and oppression while demanding we give up our constitutionally protected firearms. Would they even stoop to criminally interfere with each American’s right to be heard at the ballot box, in the public square? These same people claim that violent carnage in the streets are freedom of speech not crimes. They coddle the criminals and victimize the poor and under-educated with welfare designed to rob them of their right, their ability to pursue happiness.

We are Americans. Our police, our first responders and people deserve better than what political whore-mongers are giving us. We have forgotten that WE are the PEOPLE. It doesn’t say at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, ‘We the sheep…’ Antifa and the two or three women who are raking in millions being the actual core of BLM are working to subvert everything about our law enforcement. It is time to say, ‘We have had enough! We are not going to be written off any longer! The ‘silent majority’ must find its voice or America is finished!

God bless the men and women in law enforcement, our first responders, our military. They deserve better than we have given them. America, it is time to put up or shut up.

The following is a short anecdote I picked up from the site I credited at the end and the photos are from that same site and another. Please visit those sites and, if you are so inspired, patronize the businesses there listed. But listen closely to the words, though written, as they reach out to you. Thank you to @ammoandgrace for sharing it.

“Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner when my officer came downstairs, almost ready to leave for work. He handed me his badge with a mourning band pulled over it and asked, “can you help me with this?” I pinned it on his uniform with steady hands, gave him a kiss, said a prayer, and sent him out into the night. To do the very same job that killed an officer the evening prior. As the garage door shut and I watched his patrol car drive away, I felt my heart shatter into a thousand tiny pieces. I thought of the dozens (of) officers we’ve lost in the line of duty this year alone and the thousands of officers we’ve lost before that. I thought about their families left behind, and the holes they now have in their lives where their loved ones used to be. I thought about the LEOW just like me who kissed her officer goodbye two days ago and never got to kiss him again. I thought about our broken world and the hurt and hatred around every corner. I felt a literal pain in my chest. But at the same time as I felt my heart shattering, I also felt it swell. I am PROUD of my husband for choosing to dedicate his life to serving and protecting others. I am humbled by his servant heart. I am awed by his steadiness and certainty. I am forever indebted to him and the thousands of other first responders all-across our country who make the choice to keep showing up for their communities, regardless of the price and sacrifice. Last night, my heart broke for our blue family, and I know it will break again. But today, my heart overflows, knowing that my officer and thousands of others are answering their calls to serve, no matter how high the cost.” – @ammoandgrace

CREDITS

https://www.thinbluelineusa.com/  A Wife’s Heart

https://www.ebay.com/  Tattered Blue

https://pin.it/2DaXGuK

HEAVEN’s EXPATRIATES

It has been a distinct pleasure to get to know a great many missionaries over my life. Most of them lived in countries very foreign to their homeland and customs, still they wrapped themselves in the new culture and loved the people among whom they carried out their daily lives. They are called by the government, expatriates, a moniker they wear with distinction. The literal definition is ‘a person who lives outside their native country’ and one can easily witness the double-life of these ministers of the Gospel. I mean that in the best sense.

Missionary expats will simultaneously cheer with depth of conviction for their adopted country and for their homeland when watching the Olympics. Theirs is a heartfelt love of their new country and still a deep, abiding, love and commitment for their own.

Christians are expatriates in an important way. Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2,

But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV)

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul also writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20 ESV)

Our home country is heaven. Unfortunately, many Christians see heaven as a place they will go to someday. It is like a planned visit to go visit relatives somewhere which they anticipate with a kind of bewildered expectation, an uncertainty of what it will truly be like. Such a mindset is understandable. There are lots of incredible descriptions about heaven and the beings that live there. When we think like that, not only are we missing the point, but we are also missing one of the greatest blessings about being a Christian! Hang with me here.

You and I are both, if we are saved by God’s grace, already in heaven! Yep! We are right there, sitting on the front porch, having a great time enjoying the view!

You are now thinking, he’s lost his marbles… well, I have but not the way you’re thinking. When I turned 60, I was given a glass bowl full of 60 beautiful blue marbles. Three plus years and some number of grandchildren later, two of the marbles are missing. So, it is true. I have lost my marbles. Still, we are already in heaven and the Bible says so!

In the quotes I shared, Paul writes we are citizens of heaven. Yeah, that we know, and we’ll go there someday… No, Paul also writes, “He (God) has raised us up with Him (Christ) and seated us with Him in the heavenly places…”

Where, according to the Bible is Christ right now, waiting to return to earth for what is known as the Rapture? Go ahead, Google it, I’ll wait.

Okay, here goes. The writer of Hebrews puts Christ seated with God. “…we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places…” (Hebrews 8:1)

Jesus, himself, said, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64 ESV) The same statement, in the same context, is repeated in Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:69. Paul shares it again in Colossians 3:1 and the writer of Hebrews again in 12:2. Remember the Ephesians verses? Seated us with Him in the heavenly places.

Important note here… hang with me again, this is brief. According to the ancient Greek language, the words translated raised up and seated are a verb form that means already completed. It’s a done deal, not something to happen someday. It was done the second you asked Christ to forgive you and accepted Him for who He is, your citizenship changed.

Please hear me correctly. I am about as a patriotic American as a Christian can be. I was honored to serve in the U.S. Air Force and proudly claim my status as a veteran. I’m with Lee Greenwood, I’d stand up next to you and defend her still today. But my true citizenship is in heaven. I’m a heaven expatriate, living, for now, in America.

Lee Greenwood with military quartet in an impromptu hallway concert

This is particularly crucial for Christians to understand during this tumultuous time surrounding the elections and politics in general in the U.S.  

Yes, we as citizens of the U.S. and as Christians have a duty to stand for what is right and fair in the here and now. We can be vocal, and we can write letters or editorials and do everything asked of a good and true citizen.

But… you KNEW there was a but in here somewhere, right? What we do NOT have to do is STRESS about it! None of this came as a surprise to God.

I pray that He will help us determine what is right so we can find where there was failure and hold accountable those who are responsible for any criminal act in trying to manipulate the elections. I believe that we, as a nation, will get to the bottom of it and determine, as best as possible who our president is to be long before January’s deadline! We can be passionate about righting the wrongs and we can do so AND keep our Christian witness!

 But I am an expat of heaven and all of this is temporary, even for our grandchildren’s children. Let us keep our focus on what we can change and our rest in the assurance that God is still God, no matter what the outcome is.

THE BIRTH of a LEGACY

The Birth of a Legacy

LEGACY – Defined by one on-line dictionary as:

[ˈleɡəsē]

noun

legacies

(plural noun)

  1. an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Most of us can relate to legacy in a context other than money. We think of speeches we have heard about great people leaving a legacy of honor, a heritage to those who knew them which inspired them to become a better person. Woe to us if the only legacy we might ever know is a financial one. Sure, a financial windfall is great; but the treasure found when someone has poured themselves into your life and provided you tools to become even more than you are already, that is the most valuable legacy.

What is a Living Legacy?

Dan Fogelberg wrote in ‘The Leader of the Band” how the singer had become “just a living legacy to the leader of the band”. What the Leader had created then was not only a student musician who was gifted a legacy to that student; but the Leader’s investment in the student would pay dividends as the student, as a living legacy would invest in the lives of others creating an endowment of sorts, paying ahead. The number of people blessed by such philanthropy of the heart grows exponentially. Fogelberg said in an interview, “If I could have written only one song in my life, it would have been Leader of the Band. What that meant to my father and me, there is no way to quantify that or even explain it.”[i]

Such is the case with the new 501c3, Legacy of Honor (LoH) created by Daniel Riggs and operating out of Louisville, Ohio. Driven by a desire to reach out to people he knew that are veterans, first responders and their families who are hurting, struggling to get through another day, and feel unable to reach out. One, a great ‘battle-buddy’ to Daniel, took his own life as the stress to succeed in a high-profile military assignment became more than he could bear.

Legacy of Honor is created to serve people at all stages of life whether active duty military, veterans, currently working as first responders or retired and for their families.

What is it that Legacy of Honor can do to help?

The possibilities are endless, but some examples are mentioned here. For a wife, who cares for her children and is the home-care provider for her disabled first responder, it might be an afternoon of staying with the first responder while the wife goes out for a spa day with her friends! It might be clearing fall leaves from gutters or building a wheelchair ramp. Light construction projects or many types of work that might have been started but never completed. Driving someone to their doctor appointment, waiting for a veteran or public safety responder when in therapy or needing tests done. Taking them out for a simple meal to share in companionship. The list can go on if the imagination is in operation!

For Daniel, his grandfather’s and father’s military service which preceded his own is a Legacy of Honor. His heart’s desire now is to live out his Christian faith by creating this 501c3 designed to pay forward the gracious gifts of his legacy to those to whom all Americans owe a debt of gratitude.

What can you do to help Legacy of Honor?

First, is to bring to our attention the needs of family or neighbors so contact can be made. This opens the door for much needed conversation to address those needs and help create a plan to best fulfill the need. Please communicate with us through our email.

Second, and probably the most pressing need of LoH, is financial support from individuals, community businesses, and philanthropic agencies who see our vision and want to help further that vison. Please help financially with this 501c3 mission. Any financial support can be made know through our email.

Third, are volunteers who have special skills needed to help complete projects, volunteers to be available to help with needs that have been brought forth, and volunteers to help with labor to complete projects.  Sometimes is just needing a driver. Everyone who has a desire to help can aide in many areas of need.  Open your hearts and help!

Lastly, prayers are needed for our organization to be successful. We know that God is in the driver’s seat and we are just His warriors to help fulfil those directives. Please pray for us, and the mission of our organization.

Thank you in advance for all that you can do to help. 

Mission Statement:

Legacy of Honor’s mission is to reach out to veterans, first responders and their families to serve those who have served us.

Legacy of Honor can be contacted through driggs@honorthelegacy.org. or by mail at Legacy of Honor 229 E. Main Street Suite C Louisville, Ohio 44641


[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDByv7HoAyg

When the First is Best it Makes Better the Rest

The title, a bit cryptic, is more than just to pique your interest in reading this article! It lays a foundation for a belief system for today’s world that holds the design for how one should respond to the challenges of the day. King Solomon wrote there is nothing new under the sun. What I am about to describe is not new, in fact it is millennia old. As old as man in the Garden of Eden.

The concept came to me through a conversation over sandwiches and soup on the most typical of summer days. No blinding light from the heavens or whispering voice in a whirlwind, but a simple statement by a pastor friend of mine. When the discussion came to the current disruptions of private lives with COVID-19, political warfare, riots in the streets, concern over China trade, border security and a devastating force from an explosion in Beirut; my friend said, to the effect, when I consider all of this, I must be a pastor first. Everything else, as far as his response to those issues, comes through the filter of his God-given calling FIRST.

What would be the result if every born-again believer in Christ responded to all the events in their lives as a Christ-follower FIRST? Would that change the way in which the Christian sees the world? Would it change the way the world sees Christians?

‘Wait just one doggone minute!’ you say, ‘What about the believer’s responsibilities to their spouses, their families, their work?’ Are you ready? Here cometh the epiphany!

When the first is best, it makes better the rest! Of course, it’s simple! How do you think I was able to get it?  

If my priorities are such that my response to every part of my life is defined by the primary one, then every other priority in my life will be made better, enhanced, lifted to the place it should rightfully hold. By the same token, parts of my life which I assumed to be priorities may be re-defined and no longer classified as a priority. Even in being reclassified as less important, those will benefit, I will benefit and others in my circles will benefit when those things take their right place in my life.

Reader, you look puzzled, a little confused, perhaps even tsemisht! Maybe an example or two will help.

My marriage. If my primary, or first, priority is living my life as a Christ-follower, then the priority of my marriage will benefit. I will honor my wife more nobly, love her more deeply and cherish her most appropriately.

On the opposite side of the spectrum could be my prioritizing of continuously tending to the news alerts of the day and worrying, commenting on, or even being consumed with such issues as politics, COVID or world crises. When I view all those things through a biblical grid or, more simply, as a Christ-follower first viewpoint, then each of those will be reduced to the level of proper importance and not paramount importance in my life. An ulcer or two might even begin to heal!

Let’s go a step further. Just recently word has come down about a court injunction in California banning worship in a local church due to COVID concerns. The court is allowing the ‘church’ to conduct meals for people, training, all kinds of activities, just NO worship! As I consider this issue as a Christ-follower first, I may consider becoming involved, communicating opinion, and offering monetary support for legal fees because the priority I give such an issue is high even through the view of Christian first. I would ask myself, ‘If I were the pastor or in the congregation, (all are included in the injunction), would I risk being arrested and jailed to defy an injustice?’ Where is my line, based on the Christian first principle?

I recently wrote an article about the patriots who descended on Gettysburg this past July to protect the monuments and sacred ground from being destroyed by malcontents bent on demolishing America’s history. When I reconsider my response based on the Christ-follower first principle, I still come down on the side of being willing to stand side-by-side with these patriots who sought only to protect, not hurt, or destroy.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This quote is very pertinent in this day of continual incursions on our individual liberties under the guise of safety from a virus. Even if many in government are well-meaning and believe what they profess will save lives, this is America and individual freedoms align with individual responsibilities. Choose to mask or not to mask, that is the question only the individual should be required to ask of themselves. If you own a private business and want to cater only to mask wearers, that is your option, not the governments’.

To send your child to school or not is the decision of the parent. The government has the obligation to provide the teaching in a safe environment but that does not include masking kindergarten children and hiding behind plexiglass. Those who choose to teach openly should have children in their classrooms sent willingly by parents who agree. For those who choose not to take part in an open education, there are home-schooling options. As a Christ-follower, I can make the welfare of the children a priority and I don’t have to drink the COVID Kool-Aid to do so.

By prioritizing our lives based on our relationship with Christ, we free ourselves from the worry of endless newscasts of detriment and destruction. We remember God is in control and we can say like Habakkuk, “I will look to see what God says.”

THE TRIBE – It’s a Full Count, Bases Loaded, Bottom of the 9th Indians Down by 3

A Partial List of Native American Tribes Northwest Territory

Chippewa, Piankashaw, Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, Ottawa, Delaware, Wyandotte, Pottawatomie, Michigamea, Moingwena, Miami, Kaskaskia, Illinoi, Peoria, Wea, Tamaroa, Cahokai, Shawnee, Erie, Iroquois (earliest known)

BACKGROUND

‘American’ frontiersmen in the NW territory could not have been successful in developing their own routes of travel, use of the waterways, trapping and fur trading routes, even in their ultimate survival if not for the help of many of the tribal people living in what was called, in the late 1700’s, by Americans and Europeans the Northwest Territory. Frontiersmen and later homesteaders depended upon the good relations with much of the tribes in the area for survival.

The British, eager to retake as much of the ‘New World’ colonies as possible, were effective at stirring up animosity between American frontiersmen and settlers and the Native Americans. By supplying arms and ammunition and inciting them to violence, the British brought violence and war to the region. They always saw this land, which now includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as a natural extension of their eastern colonies. The French had needed it, particularly the Mississippi River, to connect their inland French provinces in what is now Canada to the sea. During the 1700’s numerous clashes between the French and British erupted over this area. The Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War awarded the entire area to the new country of America. In 1789 Congress officially adopted the boundaries of the Northwest Territory covering 260,000 square miles.

Just four years before the official boundaries were set, the British stirred a small confederation of tribes to fight the Americans for control of the NW Territory. It continued off and on regardless of Washington’s attempts to quell it until the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the subsequent Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

Kathy Weiser Alexander writes, “In July 1800, the territory was reduced with the formation of the Indiana Territory and ceased to exist when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the union (1803) as the state of Ohio. By this time, there were dozens of towns and settlements, a few with thousands of settlers, mostly in Ohio and around the Great Lakes.”[i]

I share the above information in hopes of helping to explain a nonissue that has become an issue in an era of over-the-top political correctness. It has again reared it’s head in the well-meaning attempts by the owners of the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise to be sensitive to the concerns of those who believe the ‘Indians’ is an offensive name for a baseball team. I understand there are some who call themselves Native Americans who make the complaint and others without any native blood come along in support.

MAKING A CASE for THE TRIBE

I do not intimate that I speak for anyone other than myself, a lifelong Ohio resident and a lifelong ‘Tribe’ fan. I included the information on tribes living in the Northwest Territory from where Ohio was born to show how inexorably linked, we are, the ‘Indians’ and non-Indian residents of Ohio. Ohio itself is from the word O-Y-O meaning Great River to the Iroquois who were settled here in about 1690. The Iroquois also had a word meaning ‘crooked river’ – Cuyahoga. The influence of Indian culture is everywhere.

WHAT’s IN A NAME?

Let’s take a quick look at the word Indian versus Native American. Columbus, meaning no disrespect, obviously, since he was expecting to land in the Far East, not some land mass between Spain and there, first called the native people Indians. We must realize, he first sees darker skinned people, native to the new place he believes to be India so, for him at that moment, he is seeing Indians, as in Eastern Indians. Yes, he was off on that calculation. That is what happens without MapQuest. Regardless, Indians was a term that stuck over hundreds of years and was utilized even by these American Indians when they began using English terminology. It was not a disparaging term, just an identifier. Did some use it disparagingly? Every generation has its morons.

Oh, but the politically correct say we must call them Native Americans, just like some want to be called German Americans, Polish Americans, African Americans… the list goes on and on. But if the issue is Columbus’ misunderstanding where he was initially and the name, he used for these native people was acceptable for hundreds of years, what makes Native American better?

Is being named after an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, better in some way than being called an Indian? I believe that among native tribes you will find widely differing opinions. Most, I expect, and this is just an uneducated guess, would prefer one of two titles. The first being their tribal identity. They are Iroquois or Erie, etc. My second expectation is there would be a large group who simply consider themselves, Americans. If there is a true consensus among all the hundreds of tribes in the U.S., I would be shocked.

THE ISSUES

The key issues are two when it comes to the Cleveland’s baseball team name. The first issue is the incredible amount of Indian and settler cooperation which made Ohio become what it is today. The settlers could not have survived without the tribal peoples coming alongside them. That is a huge part of Ohio heritage and I believe the Cleveland Indians are honoring that heritage. Yes, it is likely in the era of baseball around the turn of the 20th century was not at all respectful of an Indian playing pro-ball. Keeping the name now, as a matter of respect, would reverse that prejudice.

That brings me to the second issue. Motive. Is the motive of the Cleveland franchise to slander and disparage the American Indian? Absolutely not. They are using a term which has been recognized for over five-hundred years by both ‘colonists’ and Indians alike. The owner of the team in 1948, Bill Veeck commissioned and approved the original Chief Wahoo. Baseball historians agree to disagree often, but most are convinced that the ‘Tribe’ became the ‘Tribe’ because in 1897 it’s starting lineup included Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian from New Brunswick, Canada. The team became known off-handedly as Tebeau’s Indians, after the owner Patsy Tebeau.[ii]

Because of pressure, the team has already removed Chief Wahoo because it was considered disparaging. I believe the Indian whose features are modeled after, would object if he were here today. Kind of like Aunt Jemima’s grandson being appropriately upset at the food company’s sweeping removal of his grandmother’s picture from their label and marketing. It was, after all, her recipe that got them where they are today. But I digress.

Take a quick look at the photo of the first ‘Native American’ to play professional baseball, our own Louis Sockalexis and yes, it was with the Cleveland franchise as noted above and then glance at Chief Wahoo. If you do not see a resemblance, then one of us needs glasses!

MY LAST WORD

To kowtow to political correctness because of the voices who scream the loudest, although they often do not represent the most, would be a true disservice to the foundation the American Indians, the tribes of the Northwest Territory built for our state. It would be giving up an opportunity to properly acknowledge Louis Sockalexis as the first Indian to play professional ball and it would be a very sad moment for every Tribe fan across the globe.


[i] https://www.legendsofamerica.com/old-northwest-territory/

[ii] https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/02/chief-wahoo-cleveland-indians-racist-mascot-nickname-louis-sockalexis-mlb

MAKING AMERICA GREAT

July 4th is just a couple of days away. In this year, 2020, insurgents are threatening to disrupt public celebrations of our Independence Day with violence and destruction of property, claiming an end to America as we know it. It comes on the heals of months of sequestering of our people by authorities in response to a pandemic. History will judge whether their actions were positive or negative for our overall health. I expect it will lean toward the latter.

Many are moaning and wringing their hands about how this current craziness will be the end of America. Some say, “Our grandchildren will never know the America we knew but will live in a near 3rd world socialist state.” Maybe they will. God is still in control. But why the handwringing and what are we imagining is bringing America to destruction?

Many point to the growing number of liberal politicians who are no longer wearing American flag pins and are screaming about the crimes of our white generations against not all of the millions of immigrant cultures to our nation, only to the African-American, or as some require for political correctness, Blacks. Honestly, in all my 63 years, I have never seen a black man or woman. I have seen some very dark brown ones and all of those who are called white, have you ever really seen a white person who is not Albino, that is, missing the color pigmentation in their skin? We all have color pigmentation and it is all on a spectrum of browns so it is time to put away even the children’s Jesus song about how He loves His little children, red and yellow, black and white…. If you see any red children running around or yellow ones for that matter, be sure and let someone in the health services know because that cannot be healthy! We are all precious in God’s sight, all of us matter, every shade of brown. But I digress, why are we thinking suddenly America is coming to an end? I bet this is not the first time in our history we thought the same thing!

When the British burned our Capitol and the White House in 1812, Americans must have said, “This is it! This is the end of the American experiment!”

When the South seceded from the Union and Civil War broke out across our nation. Brother against brother, the hatred ran rampant! Many must have said, “This is it! This is the end of the American experiment!”

When World War I erupted and the world was tossed into a melee such as has never been known to the world some must have said, “This is it! This is the end of the world as we know it!”

When the Great Depression brought soup kitchens and bread lines, Dust Bowls and starvation, record unemployment and a list of social welfare programs second only to Communist Russia, someone must have said, “This is it! This is the end of the world as we know it!”

The Civil Rights battles in the 60’s and 70’s in America with riots in every major city, the Vietnam war protests, a President assassinated, a Senator running for president assassinated, a Civil Rights leader assassinated, and the military quelling riots on college campuses, someone must have said, “This is it! This is the end of the world as we know it!”

This is just a brief sketch of some of the things the American experiment has endured. In three days, there is supposed to be a major confrontation on the fields of Gettysburg. It won’t be the first time that has happened. The first time too, it was Americans versus Americans.  We need to remember President Lincoln’s words on the occasion of remembering the first battles there.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated… (referring to a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”) …can long endure. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Did you catch the President’s words? He saw coming from the hate and carnage of the Civil War, a new birth of freedom! He was either the greatest optimist who ever lived, and based on the story of his life, I don’t think that is the case, or he saw with a depth few men can see. He saw past the moment, past the darkness to a time of light and rebirth. Maybe we should catch a little of Lincoln’s hope and vision for the future!

As Americans in 2020, we must fight for the cause of liberty and freedom which is America and is part of what makes her great. If we do not fight, if we knuckle under like Germany in the 1930’s when Hitler used identical tactics to those of the Left and Antifa today, then all who have given their last full measure of devotion have died in vain. (Does anyone else find it odd that ‘Antifa’ supposedly anti-fascist are using the same tactics as Hitler’s Brown Shirts?)

Here is something we must understand to prevent any further ‘oh woe is us’ mentality. Today, I was told that a well-known and (in some circles) respected NFL veteran said that Colin Kaepernick is as much a patriot as Pat Tilman. Obviously, that is not only untrue it is disparaging to Pat Tilman’s memory, his service, and his family; but the important point is… Who cares what Bret Farve says? He is just a former football player. His opinion is no better than mine or yours or anyone else’s. Just because he says it, doesn’t make it true. The only thing it does is show Farve’s lack of understanding of patriotism. A quote I read, “If you have never been handed a folded American flag, you can never understand its meaning.” (That does NOT count for the flag Pelosi gave to the family of convicted felon and child abuser George Floyd.)

We are inundated with 24-hour news that makes anything and everything seem like it is of the direst importance. Hollywood rich and noted people from sports or politics make a statement and it seems to rock some people’s worlds. They are one human being who has made a statement. YOUR opinion matters just as much, maybe MORE than theirs! You honor America when you stand-up for YOUR belief in her. It matters not what someone else thinks! The vast majority of AMERICAS believe in AMERICA! I believe that! If you do not think so… imagine this… even with the dent in recruiting due to Covid, statistics indicate that ANNUALLY just about 200,000 young Americans COMPLETE military basic training. That does not count the large number of those who volunteer to join but do not make the grade. It also does not count the thousands that come through ROTC programs and the U.S. military academies. This is just young men and women who VOLUNTARILY choose to take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic! If you have not witnessed a graduation exercise from military basic training, you need to do so. It will reignite your faith in America! If you added up all those who have rioted, protested, and broken the law in the name of anarchy, you wouldn’t be anywhere near just one year’s number of total recruits. I venture to guess you would not even come close to the 68,000 plus who enlist specifically into the U.S. Army each year!

Individual citizens are key ingredients to making America great. Never forget YOU COUNT. Your opinion counts. Every time you do something to help another, it COUNTS! This is America, neighbors helping neighbors. Local cops and firefighters who attend church with their neighbors and go out at night to keep evil away are what makes AMERICA GREAT!

The single most important, and in the final result, the ONE thing that can make and keep America great is God’s grace toward us as a nation. The Bible tells us that God raises up nations and tears them down. We must, as a nation, turn our hearts toward Him and seek His grace. Those who try to strike God from our government should, themselves be stricken from our government. America is One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. Those are not just words; they are a commitment, a Pledge of Allegiance. One this author takes seriously.

HOOT OWL TRAIL REVISITED

Ridin’ the hoot owl trail, one paperback cowboy describes it as riding’ always looking over your shoulder. He warned the younger men to quit the gunslinger life while they could. He said, ‘look at me, 59 I think, and still draggin’ iron…’

Gunslingers late 1800’s

The words come off the page as a melancholy warning or a wistful wish for a life which had not been wasted. The glory American westerns use to portray for the life of the gunfighter, the bank robber and the devil-may-care attitude of those who lived for themselves, traveling and sleeping under the stars waiting for their next big score, stealing from those who had money or gold do not seem to echo true in this account.

True West Magazine describes the ‘hoot owl trail’ or sometimes called the ‘owlhoot trail’ as referring to a man who had left the straight and narrow to become an outlaw… (He) claimed the name came from the Indians in the area using owl hoots to signal danger or someone’s approach.

A snippet from the book by Harry E. Chrisman reads, “The old cowman spent fifty-six of his eighty-three years riding “The Owl Hoot Trail.” He was a cowboy, sheriff and deputy United States marshal, fugitive from law…”

 In my book, “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat” I observed that many ‘old west’ sheriffs and lawmen were also on the other side of the law at times. An example was Wyatt Earp who was at one time wanted for rustling cattle and robbery.

Those who seem destined to ride the Hoot Owl trail often never intended to end up there, regretted having arrived there and lamented not being able to leave there.

It is easy to sit back now and armchair quarterback those who lived over 150 years ago in the United States’ western frontiers which are totally foreign to our way of life today. It is easy to quickly judge such men, shaming them for they should have known better or seeking their downfall as lessor men for their failures.

Today there are dozens of places which have taken the name Owl Hoot Trail and are part of a scenic tourist attraction for a place of solitude and nature hikes or a place for riding ATV’s and off-road competitions. Both are a large leap from the meaning in the 19th century!

What, if anything, should the old west’s understanding of the Hoot Owl Trail mean for us in 2020? Are there any connections from us today to those days when the west was brand new and only inhabited by vast numbers of native tribes and thousands of buffalo? The west was wild in so many ways and now a century and a half later, we claim to be an advanced culture of sophisticated education and the best understanding of mankind since creation. The past few months in U.S. major cities would certainly be a great argument in dispute of such nonsense! If anything, the rampant violence and completely morbid lack of any understanding of history by those who purport to represent an entire race of people in America proves that we are certainly not as evolved, or woke as we think we are and the heart of what made the Hoot Owl Trail so ominous is missing from today’s justice system. ( Although I use the word woke as it is part of the modern parlance, I regard it is simply an example of the left’s ackamarackus verbosity.)

What made the Hoot Owl Trail intolerable and led those who lived it to find it reprehensible and spirit breaking is that one always expected, at any moment, the law, the good-guys, the white hats, the sound of the U.S. Cavalry bugle would ring out and bring them to justice. There seems to be no such sound today. Those who run roughshod over our cities and the citizens within them stroll casually through City Halls and walk a vast red carpet of supposed civic leaders who want to bow and shine their shoes while performing a nearly physically impossible feat of kissing and polishing at the same time. You can’t learn that in yoga class!  

I believe I am like many law-abiding Americans in wishing that an entire squadron of owls or better yet Black Hawks would swoop down on those traitors to America. The hawks could immediately neutralize the threat of those who incite insurrection and demand the overthrow of our government and they would deal out the justice each so deserves. Perhaps then, America can begin to start back on the road to being great again.

Until we eliminate those who overturn our cities, and we expel from Congress and halls of government those who deny that America is a Judeo-Christian nation and we place God back into the heart of everything America stands for, then God will not bless us. He cannot and He should not.

Wake up Mr. President, wake up Mr. and Mrs. America – it is time we re-take that which has been illegally and wrongfully taken from us. No longer can we stand idly by and watch this ruin continue.

In 1867, John Stuart Mill said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Currently, in America, many good men are doing nothing. As for me, I refuse to continue to do nothing. It is not enough for those like me to stand at the ready to guard our homes when these evil people arrive at our doorstep. We must meet them where they seek to do their next vile acts and stop them before they begin. If we continue to find that our federal government will not utilize the tools at their disposal to eliminate this threat to the American way of life, then the people must act.

I am pleased at the President’s most recent action to assign the U.S. Marshal’s to be the ones developing a strategy to stop the insurrection, specifically against government buildings and historical monuments. I created an acronym for them: F.I.E.R.C.E. Federal Immediate Extremist Radical CHOP Elimination Team.

This team must act and act now. If the threats against Gettysburg are carried out this July 4th without a substantial show of force by the federal government, then the ball has been thrown into the court of the people. Honestly, I have no idea what that will mean or how that will play out, but there must be a line in the sand and that line cannot be erased.

The ancient kings of Israel sought the will of God before meeting an enemy in battle. Often, God was making certain the Israelites, or the nation of Judah, understood who it was that brought the victory; so, they did not become puffed up with pride and lose what God had prepared for them. In the current era, the Church Age as it is known in theological terms, we can take our lessons directly from the teachings of the Apostles. Paul in writing to the church at Rome declared the following:  

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.” (Romans 13:1-5)

Standing for the Constitution of the United States against enemies of the United States is the sworn duty of every American citizen. Those who incite insurrection and the defunding of police to promote anarchy are enemies of the United States. I believe that God will honor those whose hearts are right with Him, who seek His peace about any actions they might take and that all our actions and all our leaders should be covered in prayer. God knows our hearts, our motivations. It is true that Christians are citizens of His kingdom and political patriotism is second to that citizenship However, Jesus has also clearly been recorded as saying, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. (Matthew 5:9) Peace makers, peace officers, sometimes must use legitimate force to bring about peace and to sustain it.

Matthew 5:9

May God bless America. May America bless God!

TRUST ME

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1) (1)

Can anyone look upon such a morning sky and not utter a simple exclamation at its beauty?  The photo was taken by a friend of mine at his fishing cabin in up-state New York on 22 June 2020.

 God’s word tells us how He loves his creation and takes great joy in sharing it with we who are also part of His creation.

Recently my grandchildren, accompanied by their mother and others were marveling at the vast number of toads and frogs which had inundated our pond. The first, the toads who remain in the woods come to the pond one time a year for the frenzy of procreation. Just about a week later the frogs who spend most of their lives on or in the pond have their turn to invade the shallow areas of the pond and take their turn at the creation cavalcade! Thousands of tiny amphibious critters were everywhere! I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like in Egypt so many years ago! During the week, I removed the cushion off an outside chair before the rain came and found a tiny toad sleeping peacefully between the two sections of fabric. A few days later, after the rain, I unrolled my hammock planning for a mid-day nap. Rolled up inside was an adult size toad, also enjoying a mid-day nap! I’ll be the first to admit that the beauty of the sky pictured here is thousands of times more beautiful than either of those toads or any of the hundreds my grandchildren found!

However, the complexity of their instinct: when to leave the woods, where to go, what to do and then the ‘babies’ left to fend for themselves are to find their way back to the woods at the right time and at the right place. Intelligent design? A better descriptor is Divine Creator God.

The disciples were under a great deal of pressure and Jesus was working on preparing them for their ministry. He said to them in a passage recorded by Matthew, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”(2) Jesus went on to say, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”(3) For some of us that is a more daunting task than others, especially given the ravages of time!

Two sparrows sold for a cent

What Jesus was trying to get them to understand was how very deeply God, the divine Creator of the universe, loves us so much. He counts every star. He has named each one of them. (4) Can we even begin to grasp how many stars there are?

Hubble Telescope view of stars

Is it likely or is it even possible that all of the stress and the hard times you may be going through now, have gone through in the past, or are yet to go through are outside God’s caring reach and His love for you?

I know what some may be thinking. If He loves me so much or cares about my need for a job, my heartache over a failed relationship, my struggle with money that runs out before the month does, my children who are struggling so hard with life or about those little ones fighting cancer and seem to be all alone, why doesn’t He just fix it?

I’m in my sixties. I’ve had a full life with lots of experiences and I’ve seen things both in police work and in ministry that I simply cannot explain outside the divine nature, the miracles of God. I hold both a Master of Ministry degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree, that’s a lot of study and, with all that, I can now share with you the best theological answer I can offer. I don’t know.

That wasn’t a lot of help, was it?

Let me share with you what God said to Job when he asked God a similar question. Job was, I suspect, dealing with more bovine bullion than probably any person in history. Not only that, according to God’s Word, Job was a righteous man. He did what God expected of him and still everything, and I mean everything, came crashing down around him. Job’s wife was so hurt, she came at Job one day and here is what the Bible reports she said. “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (5) That is a bit intense. But finally, it all got the best of Job and he let fly with his questions.

Here is what God said to Job. Let me set the stage because, I don’t know about all of you but, having God, the all-powerful, all knowing, eternal Master of the Universe speak to me one on one would be, on the average day, more than a little bit of tense! This was in what we call the Old Testament days, or the days before the Holy Spirit indwelt believers. We have much more the ability to confer with God daily as we talk to Him in prayer. No one I know, however, has had God answer back in a voice to be heard. So, what is the first thing that Job hears from God?

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?“Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! (6)

If Job was not previously fearful in hearing directly from God, these first two sentences should have put Job in, uh-oh mode! The question and statement by God in these verses put me in mind of being in military basic training and you mess up very badly! Suddenly the DI who strangely looks exactly like R. Lee Ermey is standing over you about to do the things to you he promised he would do on Day 1 if you messed up this bad.

R. Lee Ermey – http://www.theguardian.com

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you [a]have understanding, “Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; “Have you [c]ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion?” (7)

All of these are designed to get Job to realize he really did not understand or have any power to control anything in his life and God is the only one in control. It was not to put it in Job’s face how small he was or how little control he had. God was trying to convince Job to trust Him. Job would eventually have so many wonderful things in his life. Those new things would not replace the family he lost or erase the pain of their deaths, but still God was in control and had great things in store for Job.

God tells us in one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”(8)

The next time you see something truly amazing in God’s creation, know that it is God whispering to you, Trust Me.

(1) Psalm 119:1 (NASB)

[2] Matthew 12:29 (NASB)

[3] Matthew 12:30 (NASB)

[4] Psalm 147:4 (NASB)

(5) Job 2:9 (NASB)

[6] Job 38:2 (NASB)

(7) Job 38:31 (NASB)

[8] Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

FENCES

This is the story of three men and a chicken. All four are in somewhat similar circumstances and, it appears, only the chicken understands it. Just to be fair, the chicken is probably the best suited to clearly grasp the nature of their dilemma and she’ll be the one who will help the others understand. The chicken’s name is Ginger. The names of the other three should probably best be pseudonyms to protect their identity. Out of respect to the three men, and deference to their stations in life, we shall name them Larry, Curly and Moe with appropriate apologies to others of the same name who are iconic figures in American history. Ginger does not mind us using her real name as she has been quite vocal about what she sees as a trap to which all too many have succumbed. Particularly now, the trap looms ever larger.

CHICKEN RUN

In the movie, Chicken Run, Mel Gibson plays the part of a lone-range rooster accidentally fallen into a large chicken farm whose grounds and the plot are purposely reminiscent of The Great Escape staring a dozen plus iconic actors including Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson. In Chicken Run, Ginger is voiced by English actress Julia Sawalha.

The numerous escape attempts of the chickens are continually thwarted by the hostile farmer and his wife, the primary nemesis who desires to profit by turning all the chickens into pot pies rather than egg producers. When frustration reaches its peak, one chicken proposes that the one thing they haven’t tried is not trying to escape. Ginger responds, ‘so laying eggs all your life and when you can’t lay anymore being plucked, tucked and roasted is good enough for you?’ She tries to explain to them that the fences which keep them incarcerated until their demise is not the wire surrounding the farm but the fences holding them in are in their minds. They are captive of their own inability to see anything beyond their circumstance.

Obviously, Larry, Curly and Moe are not sitting out their lives in a chicken farm, having their egg production tracked each day awaiting their turn for the frying pan and they don’t need worry about being stuffed into a chicken pot pie. What is on their horizon? When we understand their lot in life, the options of a fryer or a pot pie might be more positive. At least from a human perspective.

Larry has had a good life. He is blessed with a forbearing wife, two grown and well-adjusted children, a home that is warm in the winter and cool enough in the summer with enough food on the table to satisfy his daily needs. It is not certain which way things happened, either he hit 70 or 70 hit him. By the decade that was his sixties, medical issues and complications made him barely able to move, having difficulty breathing and more physical maladies the result of his own lifelong bad habits. Then came the dementia. A body that barely works anyway and now a mind that won’t allow him to remember what he did the hour before. The things he enjoyed the most, cars particularly, classics and unique ones were a passion. Now, he probably couldn’t tell you a Ford F-350 Diesel from a Prius. His fences are high, and he is about as trapped as one can be on this mortal plain.

Moe is… well, if there is a sadder case than Larry, it’s Moe. A young man, just in his forties, is truly surrounded by fences. Tall, steel, razor wire, and electrified with cameras, alarm systems and an abundance of armed guards always within reach. He is where he is because of his own bad choices. Another word for bad choices is crimes and still another, sin. One can certainly argue the physical abuse Larry put his body through with his predilection to cigars, cigarettes… nicotine of all sorts can be sin when it is purposely, knowingly inflicting damage to the body which, for a Christian is to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, the residing place of the third person of the Trinity. There remains, however, in human terms a definite line between such sins and those which bring a person before a trial judge and to have themselves remanded to custody for, in Moe’s case, 15 years. Moe can most readily adapt himself to Ginger’s philosophy of fences and restrictions. Although locked up physically, Moe is free to learn, to think, communicate, to grow as a person. Larry has lost that, minus some small glimpses of reality which appear for a moment or two and then disappear into that fog which seems to envelope every waking minute. Although he has had his setbacks, Moe has done well at seeking to grow, to learn and although he has lost every relationship which meant anything to him outside those fences, he has found ways to build on his relationship with Christ.

And then there is Curly. Curly had an adult life that could best be described as turbulent. If anyone is a victim of their own bad choices and moments of brainless action it’s him. He has a heart of gold, callused over time to the point it is brittle, if not broken. Curly is a guy who is incredibly bright and well-liked, admired by some professionally, despised by those who saw his skills as a threat to their own plans. Devoted to serving his community, wherever he was residing, he stood in harm’s way many times to make a difference, often for people who couldn’t care less. But there he stood. Time and despair seemed to walk together with him. Eventually his only real connection to anything was through his wife who was, at best, reclusive and numb to emotion, mostly due to her own long and difficult journey. Fate dealt their hands almost simultaneously, both experiencing debilitating strokes leading them to share a room in a nursing home. There was to be no retrieval for her of any life outside long-term palliative care though Curly could have worked through difficult rehab and gained a modicum of functionality. If he did, though, it would mean leaving her side; so, he refused. Soon enough, death took her but Curly’s non-compliance with therapy left him bed-ridden and his fences were in place. A mind that works, a body that doesn’t. Curly would tell you he would make the same choice again and so, now, minus any unforeseen physical issue, he passes each year, now into his mid-seventies, waiting for his turn to slip the surly bonds of earth. His fence is partially self-built but the height of it depends on how he chooses to use, or not use, each new day with which he is gifted.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth when everything else in this world is stripped away, three things remain, faith, hope, and love.[i]

Larry is so blessed to still have those who love him surrounding him. He, long ago declared his faith in Christ and laid there the foundation for his hope. I have no doubt where Larry will be when he passes from this earth to the eternity beyond. There, his health will be whole, his mind will be free, and his salty skepticism will be put away in the amazing and wondrous presence of the Savior he loves. They story of Larry reminds me that we never know when suddenly there will be fences encircling us. Thankfully, Larry was prepared long before the fences went up, so it is clear where his hope lies. A good reminder for all of us to not go into even the next day of our lives unprepared for the eternity that is absolutely 100 percent certain to come.

Moe has one thing that so many of us outside his type of fences do not have. Moe has a deep, life-changing, totally inspiring understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness. He has found ways to break the shackles that chained him, long before he ever wore his first set of handcuffs. Those shackles of sin and despair are swallowed up by the grace Moe sees as real every day of his life. He has had countless opportunities to do what Peter admonished the believers in the first century and still for followers of Christ today to do. He wrote, “be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”[ii] Moe can only begin to anticipate what kind of fences will try to encircle him when his time for release finally comes, but he can carry with him the strength he has gained while growing strong in the Lord during his time behind the current fences he faces. Eventually, Moe will have the joy of meeting in heaven all those to whom he made a difference by sharing his reason for hope. I expect the line will be a long one.

Ives, the Mole, Piglet

Finally, Curly. In the movie, The Great Escape, one Scottish officer named Ives, a small man they lovingly called, Piglet, also nick-named the Mole, went wire-happy. He was on the brink of a breakdown clearly before news came of a huge setback in the escape plan as the Nazi’s found their primary escape tunnel. Unable to bear it, Piglet, played by Angus Lennie, ran straight for the wire fence and began to climb; the armed guards did what everyone knew they would and Piglet ended his time as a prisoner of war the only way he knew how. The opposite of becoming wire happy is to resign yourself to your circumstance and lay down your cards, choosing to fold rather than to play at all. This is perhaps the saddest of the three. There are so many things which could be part of Curly’s days. Though bed fast, he has the ability to read and write, to share stories, to send greetings, to take to heart the condition of others much worse off than he in the nursing home and send notes and cards and, more importantly, be a prayer warrior for them. But resigned to watching the hours go by through the flickering of a TV screen, lost in the vast emptiness of a near non-existence, that truly reflects the thinking of the hen named Bunty, voiced by Imelda Staunton, who pointed out that they hadn’t tried not trying to escape. (Bunty is pictured in the Chicken Run picture, wearing the blue bead necklace with her hand in the air. You didn’t know chickens have hands? You have much to learn from this movie!)

Our prayers continue to be with Curly that a fire will reignite and he and those around him will be warmed by its glow.

Ginger

That brings us back around to Ginger. Shortly after her fences speech, she confidently walked out of the coop and then, when alone began to cry. It was then, at her lowest point with the loss of support of friends, the sadness of trying to shoulder the whole responsibility for getting all the chickens to freedom that help came and hope was reignited. Ginger then made a common mistake. She placed all her hope in another person, or in this case, another chicken – a rooster. Humans, just like Rocky the Rooster, voiced by Mel Gibson, will disappoint us, betray us even. There is only One with whom we can place our hope and that is Jesus Christ. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”[iii] In Him is true hope for today, tomorrow and for eternity. He’s not a magic genie, you rub the lamp and get your three wishes. He said there will be hard times but those are the times when you can sense His presence the best. Focus your eyes on what He wants for you and you will never be disappointed. Eventually Ginger and her entire bevy of chickens, with Rocky and Fowler, an old rooster, military veteran – poultry division –voiced by Benjamin Withrow were able to succeed, but the group had to become inspired again, recommit to the plan. It was in the mud, the mess of despair where a glimmer of hope was shining.

Fowler

Do you know a Larry, a Moe or a Curly? Maybe you know a Ginger who tries to carry all the load herself. What can you do, right now, today, to encourage them? You have the option of reading this and to say, Yep, I should do something, then go on about your day, oblivious to the Larry, Moe, Curly and Gingers all around you. It isn’t your job to fix all of them; but you can encourage the ones with whom you are familiar. King Solomon, the wisest man ever born wrote:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.[iv]

The last line, a deviation from the two’s of the verse seems oddly placed. However, two friends, working together and following Christ’s plan for their lives, is a cord of three strands. Such a cord is strong enough to carry you through.

Three Stooges, 1937 L to R Larry, Curly, Moe

The chickens under Ginger’s care were unable to focus on anything but their trapped circumstances. They needed to stop looking around at the fences and start looking up to the hope that was within reach. Be an encourager for the stooges God brings across your path, and I say that with the greatest admiration for Larry Fein, Moe and Curly Howard.

May God richly bless you as you reach out to those around you trapped behind a fence.


[i] 1 Corinthians 13:13

[ii] 1 Peter 3:15

[iii] Hebrews 13:5

[iv] Ecclesiastes 4:9-12