For me, though, it still took the reality of a terminal illness and watching how such news affects my strong, yet fragile, wife and my fairly large family.
The words of the officiant reading ancient Scripture describing the union of two in marriage is often heard and disregarded as mere tradition. It takes some time, in my own case now over forty years of marriage, to see how there is more to that statement than even the most reflective may note.
Some, including this author, have said that married life can be like a rollercoaster ride. There are, no doubt, lots of ups and downs, twists, and turns but perhaps the rollercoaster isn’t the best descriptor.
In my own case it has taken multiple decades, the difficulties of my own children and their marriages. and the concerns that come in the way of grandchildren who have their own trials, some medical and some just life to bring me to where I am today. For me, though, it still took the reality of a terminal illness and watching how such news affects my strong, yet fragile, wife and my fairly large family.
After careful reflection, I am abandoning the visual picture of a rollercoaster and replacing it with the visual of a DNA helix. To survive the stresses of life, there cannot be a more important foundation than that of a strong Christ-based faith. Our faith must be in our DNA – informing everything we do and all that we are. With that are the dynamics of the helix. If the image is turned on its side and we see the curves more as ups and downs, one of the keys to success is timing. No matter our strength, there are days when I will be down and on those days I need my wife, my partner to be up. Then her strength and faith can help uphold me. There will days when my wife will succumb to the pressures of family life and an ill husband with a bleak diagnosis and have her down days. I must be refreshed and strong with my faith in tune to help her through her tough times.
Notice, too, on the helix, there are times when the bands cross. There will be days when, no matter how much faith we share, both of us will have down times. In addition to the Holy Spirit’s presence is how our family with their separate strengths can bring one another back to an even keel.
Thankfully there are times when those bands cross and we are both up. It certainly is not an even distribution that for every up there is a down. Many, in fact, currently most of our days are coming together for both of us to have up days. We should rest as best we can in knowing that all the twists are in the Father’s divine care and we, as with the roller-coaster analogy should remain buckled and ride with our hands and feet inside the ride until the ride comes to a complete halt!
I may have too many days in the past and not nearly enough days in the future, but one thing is certain, TODAY is a day I have been given and I don’t want a single moment to tick off the clock with a regret hanging on to it
As most of you know, I’ve been writing a blog journaling my ‘voyage’ on the Starship Genesis Two-Seven, the analogy being the journey I am now on as I have a diagnosis of a terminal lung disease known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. That journal of ‘The Passenger’s Log’ can be found at www.rossriggs.com/voyage. For the most part, the blog is an update on the most current medical info I have and the tests I’m going through. There are other issues though that come up I need to wrestle with as the voyage continues. When those get a bit long in their wording, I turn to a Ministry Minute to think (or write) it through. The writing is, for me, cathartic. I hope you will come along and comment as you feel inclined! This is one of those talk throughs…
One of my most precious crewmates, Ally, is in Children’s Hospital right now, over a week battling her own medical issues which she will survive, no doubt but her life will be changed. (My family, conscripted upon my Voyage are ‘crewmates’ and those of you who sign-on to be with us are ‘shipmates’ and I appreciate every one of you!)
As a Papaw, it would be easier, and my preference would be, to take on all that my precious crewmate is dealing with and free her from it. I know her parents and my first-mate feel the same way. It gives us a small reminder of how God must have felt when His own Son suffered so. Jesus taught His disciples, recorded in Matthew 7:9-11, “9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
It seems that God has had much to teach us this first half of 2021. I think perhaps one of the biggest tests has been our faith. Faith, not just in the fact that God is God and Jesus is exactly who He says He is and that the Holy Spirit is always present with us to help us with every moment of every day, of that my belief is solid. More so, it is the faith to stand for what we believe. I am reminded of our responsibility, particularly with government, to question when we see things that don’t make sense to us. Finally, when it comes down to it, what is really important in life and what is not. Living a ‘life sentence’ is actually something we all do but we don’t think of it that way and I find that, even now, I have days where it does not come to mind so frequently. Other days, I am reminded almost continually that sooner, rather than later, I will see my wonderful Savior, face to face. That brings an incredible clarity to life here. Still, I have every hope that God will override the doctors’ prognosis and whether through the use of a lung transplant or other miraculous act on His part, I will speed past the 3 to 5 years I’ve been ‘allotted’ by the human physicians and go on for many years, if not decades to come. Whatever God’s plan, it is perfect and I will trust Him totally.
About those responsibilities to stand for what we believe, that comes upon me because of the raucous and almost unbelievable age in which we live with governments at all levels dictating for the citizen the inanest rules. These rules come without the strength of a law behind them and the people fall in line as herds of cows to a cattle car. The end of the line for that car is only that, the end of the line. Like so many sheep without any sense of a shepherd, people blindly fall in and do whatever dictate is demanded by government. They all but roll over and play dead at the merest insinuation that ‘action will be taken’ against you or your business if you do not. Sadly, the same has been true for our churches. Under the fear of either governmental action or a mysterious virus that no one seems to be able to quantify nor clarify, they buckle under as if their only faith is in the government edicts and not the supreme Lord of the Universe. Many are driven by good intentions, not wanting to incite more fear or panic into their members. Some try not to create some split between those who will not stand for the unconstitutional edicts of government’s interference with religion in the name of public health and those who are dreadfully scared of the virus quoting Scripture to say we are to honor government. (That is a theological argument not meant for these few pages.)
This virus, although it has some lethality, is no more than annual visits of influenza we see every year. Additionally, citizens, businesses, churches kowtow to the demands the government has put upon the people, such as the wearing of microbe infested and virus breeding masks that do nothing to stop the spread of any virus but hamper the best possible filter the human body has for such filtration, the God designed human olfactory system. Such masks and shields are absolutely useless and more likely harmful. Still, people wear them when alone in their cars, outside for a walk in the fresh air and every other minute of the day, all fear induced. Just recently in an obvious political move, the Ohio governor has abolished all such rules minus long-term care facilities and nursing homes, still which makes no scientific sense but helps breed more germs. Anyway… that short stop atop the soap box brings me back to the purpose of this post and that is the clarity of living life after being notified that your allotted time is going to be apparently much shorter than you had hoped.
Tim McGraw wrote a song back in 2004 that really is powerful. I think I make the analogy between Tim McGraw’s song and the freedom that comes from such awareness of one’s mortality because in our current day we need to remember that we live in a country wherein God’s providential blessings are ours. We call them ‘inalienable rights’ which have been bestowed upon us by God and not government Those blessings are recognized as the highest law of the land, though not without detractors, of course. We have lived in a time recently where they have been forgotten or at least ignored. I suppose that is not surprising, so much of America’s ‘leaders’ seem to have forgotten or are ignoring God, much to their personal peril and to our nation’s death knell. For seventy years the National Day of Prayer has been hosted at our nation’s capitol building. Not this year. It was refused. Also, this was the first time there was no mention of the name Jesus Christ at the event.
When the narrative of Tim McGraw’s song is actually your own, it brings with it a freedom, and an urgency to act on that freedom. Although each of us lives under the diagnosis of death, excepting the return of Christ, few of us live like it. I know I have not and I, as The Passenger aboard the Genesis two-seven,can celebrate, in one sense, the freedom it brings now that I do.
Someone once said that young men should always be concerned about dating a girl whose father is older because when a man reaches a certain age, the threat of a life sentence is not much of a deterrent. I am now at an age that allows me the freedom to do pretty much what I choose and to say what I feel without fear of retribution. My guiding restriction is to never do anything to grieve the Holy Spirit nor taint my testimony. Granted, burying a boyfriend with the John Deere or the Case in the back forty is probably not on the wise things to do list. I didn’t say it wasn’t on a list, just not on the wise list! However, with the added advantage of a small glimpse into the future, plus the freedom given me by age (read that: wisdom)… I can say and do most anything, within reason. Whether or not anyone listens is up to them.
Allow me to explain and I apologize in advance for the length of the post. If you choose not to venture on, I won’t be offended. I have a tracker on the blog so I know who actually reads all of this and who doesn’t, but don’t let that bother you. Feel free to drop out of the text anytime… I may notice but I won’t hold it against you… You may be mentioned in my eulogy someday but, hey, no worries…
Here is what Tim McGraw wrote in “Live Like You Were Dying”
“I was finally the husband That most of the time I wasn’t And I became a friend a friend would like to have And all of a sudden going fishin’ Wasn’t such an imposition And I went three times that year I lost my dad I finally read the Good Book, and I Took a good, long, hard look At what I’d do if I could do it all again
What kind of a world would we be living in right now if everyone lived each day with their last day in view?
There is a story told of W.C. Fields, on his deathbed I must share. First, you must know that Fields was a famous, if not, infamous, comedian of the early 20th century who was known for quips like, “I like children – fried.” “There’s no such thing as tough children, if you parboil them for seven hours, they always come out tender.” “Children should be seen and not heard from – ever again.” Supposedly, on his deathbed it was reported that he was seen carefully reading the Bible. When asked, “Why?” Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”
When it comes to having the real sense of freedom, I believe it can only come when you absolutely know and understand that each day you have in your hand is truly a gift and there is no guarantee of the next. Yes, I know we all say that, but we don’t live like we believe it. Recently I heard a man say, “Yesterday is dead. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Today is all you really have.” Worrying about what has been, is crazy because it’s gone. Worrying about what may be is crazy because it likely won’t be and if it is, do you really have any power to change it? And truly wasting the precious moments of today by worrying is crazy because when those minutes tick off on the clock, they are gone and you don’t get them back. Squeeze the life out of every single one of them! Wasting them on worry or on something that is sucking the joy out of life is hurting yourself and why would you, or I, want to do that?
I may have too many days in the past and not nearly enough days in the future, but one thing is certain, TODAY is a day I have been given and I don’t want a single moment to tick off the clock with a regret hanging on to it. Besides, regrets are messy and hard to clean up when they drip to the floor.
As I was finishing this post, a song came on the radio and the refrain pretty much says how I have decided to live in these days by God’s grace. The song is by Natalie Grant, titled In Christ Alone and the words are: “Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.” May you stand this day in the power of Christ. Do not allow some government politico to tell you what you can or cannot do without the strength of a moral law behind it. Trust in the Sovereign Creator of the Universe not a bureaucrat physician who hasn’t seen a human patient as a clinician in thirty years but sits behind a desk and generates Pablum for peasants rather than prescriptions for patients.
There is only the truth of God’s word. It is timeless and it covers every possible contingency.
There are times when I listen to a speech or sermon; even read an article, and I find parts of the message which are inconsistent appear clear to me. Inconsistencies within an article on the components of a spiritually filled life, such as trust in God for allthings has been troubling me. The article was all about trust and how we can completely, totally rely on God, the magnificent Creator. Yet, I look around at our society with the folks, those who claim a Christian faith, so terrified about being without a mask, searching for places to get their vaccine and even churches still doing only parking lot services and I am deeply concerned. I was beside myself! (Not literally, that would have been a violation of the six foot rule!)
I thought, who are we trusting? Is it God who created our bodies with our amazing immunity and a protection system of skin and noses with membranes and cells designed to stop infection or were we trusting some politician who was told something by someone, not a believer in Christ? We must not be trusting God because now we wear man-made masks not designed to prevent infection. Instead, these masks are more likely to hold onto germs and nasty things in the air so we can breathe them directly into our own lungs? It is not possible to believe what was being taught and rely on masks which are proven to do more harm than good. That was where I came down on the question. How would God respond to such a lack of faith? I began to chew on the spiritual questions here. Realizing that at least more than once in my life I have been wrong about something, I decided I needed to think and pray this through.
When it comes to the issues with COVID, I know all the data, the 99.5 plus percent that survive COVID, the numbers of people who are affected even worse by the flu, those mostly at risk being over 70 years of age, same as the flu. I was pretty certain I was on the correct side of the issue. We trust God, toss the masks, and get our churches open and running!
Then, Matthew 7:3-5 hit me like a wooden spike right through the eyes.
Years ago, my doctoral dissertation was titled, “In Times of Crisis: A Plan for Creating Contingency Management Teams in Missionary Sending Churches and Agencies.” Based on scriptural truth including the work of Nehemiah in rebuilding the temple with workmen and armed protectors working side by side, the entire concept is that God gives us the tools and ability to help ourselves while at the same time being completely in charge of all events in our lives. Our natural fears which prevent us from stepping in front of a train are part of God’s survival system for us. With the violence in our world and because of my experience as a police officer, now retired, I carry a firearm every day, everywhere. It provides me the capability of intervening on behalf of those at risk of serious harm. There are people within certain church circles who would say (and have said directly to me) that my contingency planning and other preparations are hypocritical. They say, God is in charge of all things so any preparation on our part is a sign of not trusting in Him. One mission agency leader staunchly opposed my arguments for preparation, and made his opinion quite clear. (Anyone who says Baptists don’t ‘ex-communicate’ don’t know how some organizations work!)
It was time for me to really get down into the desert and wrestle this one out. I already have severe hip pain so, here we go! Where is the line between using the tools God has given us to prepare and protect ourselves and others and ‘letting go and let God’?
I still maintain the truth worked out within my dissertation is correct. God is in charge of all things. The day we are to die is known to Him before we are born, as is every day of our life. From before time began He knew this of us. Nothing is outside His control. He also gives us the ability to protect ourselves and others. If this weren’t so, we would have no need of police. Jesus taught in some instances to go prepared for whatever might come and other times He instructed His disciples to go and allow God to provide completely for them. I believe God has given us gifted physicians and surgeons, researchers, and care-givers. God still determines our length of days, but these gifted persons help us preserve our quality of life, if not our quantity. The planning by Nehemiah was with God’s favor and the use of armed men guarding the workers was prudent because of the risk. Could God have totally protected them? Of course. Most often, particularly in today’s economy, He chooses to work through humans, often Christians. Could the guards have also been a ‘Linus VanPelt security blanket’ to ease the minds of those under the threats and with God’s approval? I believe the answer to that is also, ‘yes’.
So, what about the masks and opening services? I passionately believe they should be open and, if anyone feels the need to wear a mask, whether because of age or illness, they should do so without any awkward stares from folks who suddenly judge themselves as ‘more spiritual’ because they are ‘simply trusting God.’ Still, my time woodworking (or perhaps in the woodshed) was not finished. I still had some wrestling God wanted me to do.
There is an old story of a young farmer trying to get his mule to move. Pulling and tugging on the reins, screaming, and cussing at the mule were all to no avail. An old farmer stood watching with interest. He told the young farmer the only way to get the mule to move was to talk softly, lovingly, encouragingly to the mule. The young farmer scoffed and, handing the old farmer the reins said, ‘Go right ahead!’ The old farmer smiled, picked up a 2×4 and smacked the mule right across the head. The young farmer was shocked! “I thought you said to talk kindly and softly to him?” The old farmer replied, “You do, but first you have to get his attention!” Sometimes, I can be a mule in need of a 2×4. (More woodworking!)
As if it was important to test my thesis, before I finished writing this short article, I had to see the doctor to determine why I was having such extreme episodes of shortness of breath. The doctor’s visit turned into a CAT scan which led to appointments with a pulmonologist and in-home oxygen. As I write this I am waiting for a biopsy of my lung tissue to be scheduled. I’m told it’s not expected to be a cancer. It isn’t COVID. Could it be the remnants of an old Covid infection? Possibly. Still, though, there are a lot of variants that don’t fit that. I’m also told that if I get COVID now, the flu, or a similar infection; it could be life-threatening. Do I make sure I wear a mask now every time I go out? Which side of the faith fence does that fall on?
After much consideration of this new question, I can say to you I am 100 percent comfortable not wearing a mask anywhere. I am not afraid that I will get an infection and I totally trust God to do whatever He wants to do. However…
What about the oxygen? That becomes a common-sense method to help with quality of life, not quantity for me, at least.
There is yet another consideration. If my family, those I care for more than any, ask me to wear a mask and do other things to prevent the risk of any infection, what would I do? If the doctor, who is a born-again believer tells me to prevent infection of any kind I should mask up, what do I do? If I wear it to keep them comfortable and because I respect their wishes, but I know God knows my heart and He knows I trust Him, is it Okay? What if it impairs my Christian witness for others who do not know the back story, they just see me, “Mr. No-Mask” suddenly wearing one. Is my testimony hurt?
Sometimes a question doesn’t have an immediately clear answer. Sometimes, maybe there is more than one good option. That is where we can trust God’s word. You can be certain, there is only one truth. Regardless of what the Oregon school board believes, 2+2 still only equals 4. There is only the truth of God’s word. It is timeless and it covers every possible contingency. The truth is that God is in control. He will always do what is best and will bring glory and honor to Himself. If I can trust God with my every breath, I can trust Him to make certain my testimony is not damaged while I take the prudent course of action and do as I am asked by family and instructed by my physician. If I say that God has placed physicians in our lives to help us with our quality of life and then I refuse to follow their admonitions, I am not honoring God. I will do as I am told.
According to God’s word, every individual is responsible to God for his or her own actions, for the condition of their heart. That said, no one can dictate to you on an issue such as whether you are trusting God either by wearing a mask or by not wearing a mask. That is between you and God. He knows your heart and you can always ask Him to strengthen your faith. I am certain I will do that as I go through whatever lay ahead. I believe our churches need to open up and trust God and not allow politicians to push us by decrees that are not laws and are not passed in an open session of our legislatures (state or federal) to make laws, by votes of elected representatives. That, honestly, has always been my biggest sticking point regarding ‘mask decrees’.
If the governor decreed all Christians to wear a yellow crucifix sewn to our outer garment, would we do it just because he said so? Just wondering. If it is under the threat of death, would we? I am not judging any past groups of peoples. The Jews persecuted by the Nazi 3rd Reich showed incredible fortitude and no one can walk in their shoes today. But we, as a church, better decide now, before it happens, where do we draw our line in the sand? The time is coming when we will either hold that line or acquiesce. Prepare now to stand strong when it comes, not if it comes.
My time woodworking has been beneficial to me. I hope maybe it might help you think through some things for yourself. I’m not as ‘spiritual’ as I was before. Now, I am just thankful for each breath and I’ll keep on, one breath at a time.
A social media pass-along that was popular about four years ago is making its rounds again. I want to gratefully acknowledge the work of the original author and add my own perspective to it. The piece explains how the fake news and social media worlds have tried to redefine me. (That would be the corporate ‘me’ – all of us white, American, over-60 types.)
I will tell you up front I reject the new definitions and if you read to the end I’ll explain why. I still enjoy what he wrote because it is poignant and thought provoking. I’ll send a note of regrets to the author of the original monograph if I ever learn who it is because what he wrote is well done. I just think I need to add some qualifiers of my own. So here goes. My additions are italicized.
I Used to Be A Normal Person and I think I still am mostly normal, except when I make a joke and my young grandchildren just shake their heads or roll their eyes!
As a man, I used to think I was pretty much just a regular person, but I was born white, into a two-parent household which now, whether I like it or not, some define me as “Privileged”, a racist & responsible for slavery. Some say tax dollars should be taken from those who never owned slaves to pay reparations to those who never were slaves. The logic in that escapes me.
I am a fiscal & moral conservative, which by today’s standards, has folks try to define me a fascist because I plan, budget & support myself. I assume that has to do with fascism’s strict regimentation of society and the economy, but the rest of the connection escapes me completely.
I went to High School, paid my way thru college, earned a degree, & have always held a job. But I now find out that these same folks try to tell me I’m not here because I earned it, but because I was “advantaged.” I suppose I was advantaged that I lived in a country that permitted me to get an education if I chose to continue, even if I had to pay for it after the government gave me 12 or 13 years of ‘free education’. I was advantaged because I had parents who taught me to earn what I desired and not expect it be given to me and I saw my parents scrimp and save, sometimes ‘borrowing’ from our allowance in our piggy banks to buy milk a few days before their own pay day even when they were both working long hours to make ‘ends meet’. I always saw them pay back that which they ‘borrowed’ from us, too. I was advantaged because I had parents who loved me enough to go with me to church, often three times a week, regardless of the weather. So, to those who claim I was ‘advantaged’ – you are sort of correct but not in the way you think.
I am heterosexual, which according to some “gay” folks, now makes me a homophobe. In inserted the word ‘some’ because to say here, that all gay persons would think of me as a homophobe because I am heterosexual is as prejudiced and demeaning to all gays as it is to all non-gays. We may not always think and act as individuals, but we are responsible for what we think and do as an individual and should not be cast into any mass definition no matter what side of the issue one finds themselves.
I am not a Muslim, which now labels me as an infidel. If the actual definition of infidel is one who does not believe in the god of Mohammad, then I accept that moniker gladly. Does it mean I hate those who define themselves as Muslims? No, absolutely not! I absolutely adore and love some who profess the Muslim faith, or have it as their heritage, with whom I shared many life experiences. I long to see them again and I pray for them very frequently. Some of them are among the finest people I have known.
I believe in the 2nd Amendment, which pushes others to label me a Defacto member of the “vast NRA gun lobby” For many reasons I am a member of the NRA but I fight against and speak strongly against some of the things I disagree with in the organization. The NRA does much good; but they do not speak for me, nor does anyone else speak for me, excepting, the representatives who have been elected by majority vote to do so. Still, to those I regularly make my singular opinions known. My voice is my own, and if I do not choose to use it, the fault is mine not the systems’.
I am older than 60, who some would say makes me a useless person who doesn’t understand Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. That, to quote a television personality of the 1970’s, is ‘straight off the stable floor’. (Col. Potter, M*A*S*H played by Henry Morgan)
I think & I reason, and I doubt much of what the “mainstream” media tells me, which makes me a “Right-wing conspiracy nut” according to people whose opinions mean nothing to me.
I am proud of my heritage & our inclusive American culture, making me a xenophobe. Having spent over fifteen years ministering across Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the NearEast while also having an ‘adopted’ Filipino daughter and her family, also numbered in my grandchildren, that too is buffalo bagels.
I believe in hard work, fair play, & fair compensation according to each individual’s merits, which today some say makes me an anti-socialist. I am against socialism as a political platform alongside Communism. I am also against socialism as an economic theory. I am for the caring for those who are least able to care for themselves, particularly widows, orphans and the infirm. It is the responsibility of individuals, families and the universal church, however, to provide for their care and not the ‘government’ I.e. taxpayer. If family members would meet their responsibilities to the best of their abilities and the local churches would heed the command of Christ to care for those, particularly those of the household of faith, rather than expecting the government to provide the safety net for all things; then the high prices of prescriptions and health care could be driven by the economic forces responsive to a capitalist structure rather than a no-price-is-too-high welfare system.
I believe our system guarantees freedom of effort – not freedom of outcome or subsidies which must make me according to some a borderline sociopath. Those who truly know me, know I am not ‘borderline’ anything. I am either all in or not at all. If I were truly a sociopath, there would be no question!
I believe in the defense & protection of America for & by all citizens, now causing me to be defined as a militant. Former President Obama became infamous for saying about those of us in the mid-west, “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Thus, we become either considered militant or just plain bitter. I saw an interesting quote recently concerning gun control. It said, to the effect of, “There are 393 million gun-owners in America. If we were the problem, you’d know it.” Bitter Militants would be a force with which a left-wing socialist dare not reckon.
I am proud of our flag, what it stands for and the many who died to let it fly, so I stand & salute during our National Anthem – so I must be a racist according to this myth woven by the ignorant unknown mass of society.
Here the original author wrote using sarcasm to make his point:
Please help me come to terms with the new me because I’m just not sure who I am anymore!
Of course, that isn’t true, or it wouldn’t be sarcasm. But in all honesty, I know exactly who I am and my sixty plus years so far have helped me to be more certain of it than ever. (This is the part I promised at the beginning).
I am a child of the One true God, creator of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The triune God who exists from eternity past and was not created but is Creator who exists as One God in three persons, God the Father, God the Son-Jesus Christ who came as Messiah and lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and resurrected completing payment for the sins of all mankind giving grace for forgiveness to all who believe and repent, who reigns on high for evermore, and God the Holy Spirit who indwells every born-again believer sanctifying them as they grow in their Christian walk and calls the unredeemed allowing those who are dead in their sins to know their sin condition and leads them to repentance. I am not perfect but am being made complete. I am positionally already in heaven so I need never doubt or question what will become of me when I die.
The original author wrote:
It all took place over the last 8 years of Socialist Democratic political control; (I believe he is referring to the Obama administration) it’s time to finally get rid of these fools. (He is referring to the quantifying of persons by some obtuse methods as he lists above. I’d prefer to be more specific on who to ‘get rid of’ and if he wants to use the term fool, I’ll let him, but I might have another term I’d use!)
He concludes in great sarcastic form:
If all this nonsense wasn’t enough to deal with, now I don’t even know which restroom to use… and I gotta go more FREQUENTLY!
If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?
In the last week I faced a tough question. Is it possible to face another surgery? The immediate public answer is, ‘of course!’ While Gunner (my Black Lab, Shepherd, Chow mix) and I were actively involved visiting patients at the local hospitals, I met a great many heroes. Lots of them are young children and have faced many more surgeries than me and are facing many more. They have an internal fortitude, often a faith, but each I met had a tenacity that was far and above my own. I tried to count the number I have had. It is somewhere around twenty. After breaking my leg (the left fibula just above the ankle) in October, wearing a cast for weeks, undergoing PT then learning that my bone was still as broken as it was on day one; I was scheduled for surgical repair this past February. Two weeks with a special cast then a regular cast and then a boot and finally… this past Wednesday, April 30th set free! The doc said all looked good and I was free to ambulate!
Freedom lasted about five hours until I tripped in my bathroom and twisted the same foot! It is possible I have torn one of the extensor tendons which run the length of the top of the foot. I will know this coming Thursday if it is torn and if it is, it will require surgery. Of course, as summer approaches, my Harley sits longingly in the garage and my bass boat cries out from storage for release. Those things are going to be put on hold yet again! I have been feeling like each recovery has taken some of the fire from my soul. I was all set to talk myself into a truly blue mood.
Then, news came from a dear friend, younger than me, who has been battling cancer and was hopeful that it was annihilated. The cancer remains, however, in a small tumor. It is not devastating news, but it is not the news we wanted. To be very honest, such news makes my entire first two paragraphs seems totally ego-centric and whiny!
Are they? Do we need to measure our hurts, anxieties, and stresses by considering what others bear? Each of us have been there, just not feeling well, being down in our spirit, aching for something we cannot describe and we long to lay it out before our Heavenly Father. Then we hear of a horrific battle being fought by another and we push all our stuff back into the box where we keep those hurts we don’t share with others. We paint a fake smile on our face and keep on going. Is that what God wants us to do or is it what He expects from us?
I think perhaps we have a true, two-sided coin. When we are facing a challenge, it can be an encouragement to us to see how others have battled and won. We can also put our own in a better perspective and it helps us be grateful for our blessings. Both of those are positive and can help us meet our own challenge with a renewed vigor, a fresh outlook and a deeper faith.
Pushing your own feelings back in the box and painting on a face, with an everything is Okay kind of look is what I call the ‘Sunday morning smile.’ We have all seen it and we have all done it. If you are a churchgoing, worship-gathering kind of person, it happens in those quick passes in the hallway with the ‘good morning’ greetings and ‘how ya’ doing’ questions. It is easier to just smile and say, ‘I’m better than a mosquito in a blood bank’ than to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m having a tough week and could use some prayer.’
If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?
Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) for he cares for you.” Notice the words… anxiety, your worries and struggles and the adjective ‘all’. Peter does not say, ‘Cast all the care you have that is important enough for God to consider’ or ‘all your care that is greater than everyone else’s care’, he writes all.[i]
Matthew writes, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[ii]
It appears to be about balance. We need to be encouraged by other’s victories and we need to be mindful we have much for which to be grateful. Gloomy-Gus Christians who can only moan about the burden of life without seeing any positives, feeling any grace or recognizing blessings need to spend some time in introspective prayer and Bible reading. Unbelievers who look toward Christ to bring them from the brink of despair and meet only the Christian so wrapped in their own misery will not find hope in such hopelessness.
Worse, though, are those who feel an obligation to not let anyone know they are struggling. Whether it is pride or their false persona of SUPER CHRISTIAN that keeps them silent, they are in for a rude awakening. For them, a Christian faces every storm and never has a moment of struggle or grief. Anyone who believes a real Christian must not worry and bottles up everything inside, is on a collision course with reality, is going to get hit hard and there is always collateral damage.
I knew such a man. (Spoiler Alert – if you are of delicate sensibilities, you may want to skip this paragraph) He kept up the persona of a great husband and father, community leader, business elite, everything neatly packed in his calf-skin briefcase and his never off-the-rack suits. One day I stood next to him, still in his expensive suit now soaked through with blood. His calf-skin briefcase had fallen open, the contents carried by the wind through the woods where he had walked before sitting at the base of a tree and eating the business end of his shotgun. Not a very pretty picture, is it? No one seemed to have any clue there was a problem brewing beneath his well-protected façade. I have no doubt his family would have gladly accepted a father who told them he was struggling and work with him to find help. It would not have made him less of a great dad. Certainly, the option he chose did not do anything to help his family.
So, what about this feeling I have that it is getting harder to bounce back from each additional surgery and recovery period? Do I face the possibility of another up-coming surgery with dread and a morose attitude? Do I bottle it up and put on my Sunday morning smile because others truly are much worse off than me? Do I step from the nearest phonebooth[iii] in my tight leotards with my flowing cape and the large C on my chest as SUPER CHRISTIAN who can withstand this, declaring, “HAVE NO FEAR SUPER C IS HERE”?
Perhaps, the best tack may be not worrying about tomorrow because, as Matthew writes, “…tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[iv] There is a good possibility this will be just a bad sprain and I will not even need surgery. If it is a tear, as my mom would have said, be glad the Bible says: ‘It came to pass’ not, it came to stay!
I have an amazing support team! All will be fine. If torn, it is a simple tear and not a life-threatening malady with beau coup complications.
Finally, with every surgery and resulting recovery, God has taught me something about myself and about others. In this too, there shall be a lesson. Will it stink to not be riding my Harley for a while or to have some restrictions on my fishing? Absolutely. I think I can survive.
I should also use this time to be reminded of those facing life-altering medical issues and seek to pray for them, encourage them and be ready to assist should the opportunity present itself.
It is also a great time to count my many blessings and thank my support team for all their awesome love and attention to caring for me even when I am at my most unlovable.
The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.
The dead of night is a phrase with which any night worker can relate. As a long-time night shift cop, there was a certain sense of foreboding with the true concept of the dead of night. The stillness of the air, the quiet eerieness that seems to put the astute officer on edge are all part of the deeper meaning wrapped in the dead of night.
Euphemisms are often thought of as a way to smooth over another statement that is too harsh such as downsizing for firing employees. For our purposes here, it is best defined as a literary tool which enables the writer to convey a deeper meaning more than is possible with a simple statement. It is not necessarily negative. Perhaps it brings a picture to mind that helps elaborate on a message, to give the icy chill on the back of the neck to the reader or causes one’s temperature to rise with his heart beat. In any case, there is a definitive image which brings with it a clearer understanding of the writer’s intent.
The dead of winter evokes a special meaning for those of us who despise winter! It holds a different, peaceful, crystal white stillness for those who love it. In either respect, there is something in the phrase which brings out a fuller, deeper, wider grasp of the winter season.
In a seminary class, we read a study in church growth titled, New Life from a Dead Stump. The concept was formed from the picture of a small sprout for a new tree emerging slowly from the apparently dead stump of a fallen, diseased and dead tree. The analogy was the dead stump as the remains of a body of believers, a church which had fallen through sin or some other disease. The tree had been robbed of life. Now after time, a new, fresh life was beginning to grow from the midst of that dead stump.
A new chapter, or at least a long footnote, for world and American history has appeared in the form of COVID 19. It includes shuttered businesses, travel suspended, individuals and families sequestered in their homes while trying to slow the spread of the deadly virus. Week upon week many find the ends of their ropes begin to fray as they struggle with unpaid bills and curtailed income. Children, unable to attend school, find themselves shut inside while weather, particularly in the northern states, precludes much outdoor activity. This has led to a combination of house fever and sibling rash brought on by constant irritation.
Church organizations are finding new ways to fulfill the admonition by the Apostle Paul to not forsake the assembling of themselves together. A unforeseen advantage of this new decentraized concept of worship is the re-discovery for many that church is not the building or the organization, the 501c3, or the pastor and staff; but, the church is the universal body of believers who do assemble for corporate worship, training, teaching, communal prayer and the observation of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper when it is possible to congregate. However, the necessary abondoning of corporate gatherings has pushed the church to function as it was intended. Believers, led by the Spirit, are spreading the Good News of Christ in their daily lives. Living out the Gospel by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and sharing the message of salvation has breathed life into the dead of church.
The first-century church in Jerusalem had become quite comfortable with their growth and glad times. Persecution forced it to spread new life in every direction as members of the church extended its reach to Judea, Samaria and the untermost parts of the earth.
My family is blessed to be part of a body of believers, a church, that defines its mission as making the most of Jesus to everyone, every day all the time and has developed a de-centralized ministry focus with MC’s (missional communities) which are small groups who gather for worship, Bible study and ministry. Other small groups gather by some other common denominator, all with the focus of living out the Gospel. Even so, the comfort of four walls and a Sunday routine have been replaced by live-streaming worship through social media resources. Every possible part of ministry has taken on new life forms. The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.
For me, at times this mandated time of slowing has been less of a be still and know that I am God and more like an extension of an already long recovery from breaking my leg last October and surgery on the leg in February. Just when I should be ready to fly, my wings got clipped! Still, though, with time to quiet my inner self and count my blessings, I know I am far more blessed than I could ever deserve. I am cherishing the time I get to spend with family and I am learning to be still in the presence of God.
For many who may struggle to heed the be still command, God finds ways to intercede into our storms to calm the seas for us. Satan would like to declare our time in these days, the dead of church. May we take these daysto grow and trust God. Let’s remember well this passage by Paul to the church at Rome:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5 ESV (Emphasis added)
As I write this it is the Thursday before Good Friday. In my sanctified imagination (a term I’ve borrowed from a seminary professor), I see it now being about the time Jesus and the eleven are headed to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The Last Supper completed, Judas has gone to sell out the Savior. Jesus speaks of the growth of the branches attached to the true vine even as they ascend the Mount of Olives. I have had the honor of standing in that garden, along the hillside overlooking Jerusalem. I can picture the path they walked. May I never forget what love and devotion it took for my Savior to walk that path. May I never whine about my lot in life; but, rejoice in the grace by which I stand.
One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes.
All good stories begin with Once Upon a Time, except the best story ever, it begins with “In the beginning…” Well, I can’t match the Bible’s story so, let’s start out with the classic line.
Once upon a time, in a land that would look very much like America today, there was a small town, in a vastly rural area in which some of the richest people in the world lived. They had so much of everything. Whenever what they possessed broke, they just bought new. They could go where they wanted and, pretty much, do as they pleased. They had to obey the laws and pay their taxes, but they were still very much free to do whatever they liked. One thing was certain, they believed that they were never going to have to answer for anything they did which may have been in some way wrong. They were masters of their fate.
One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes. The only thing you could see was long silver grey beard sticking out from under the hat. His hair was the shiniest silver grey anyone had ever seen. It was disheveled but clean and incredible to look at. His flowing beard was of the same lustrous silver grey and the mustache adorning his upper lip nearly covered his mouth completely, each end coming down and laying gently across his beard.
His clothes were certainly unique. He looked something like a cross between Indiana Jones and a motorcycle cop! His wore a tan shirt and jacket, a dark brown leather jacket to be precise. He carried a pouch slung across his shoulder, much in the Indiana Jones style and he carried along a worn backpack, the straps frayed and the canvas worn almost through in a couple of places. His ‘cargo’ style pants were tucked neatly into a pair of knee-high brown boots, the kind you might have seen a turn of the 20th Century motorcycle cop or maybe a ‘dough-boy’ cavalry soldier from WWI wear. He didn’t so much use a cane, as he did carry a stick that was also worn and well-marked from what must have been years of traveling by foot. His right hand gnarled and thick from hard work and long years clutched the crown of the stick that had the appearance of an eagle in flight.
The old man walked to the center of the city, strolling up to a bench in front of the magnificent city hall. There was just enough breeze to catch the flags and slap them against the wind. As he lay his pack on the bench, he took off his hat, running his forearm sleeve across his brow. He sat down with a sigh and began to gaze out across the city hall courtyard of marbled fountains and intricate stone-work patios. A valiant-looking bronze eagle was perched atop a design of the city’s seal which bore on it pictures of industry, farming and business. Yes, it was a fairly grand looking courtyard, the bushes neatly trimmed, the grass watered just enough and manicured so that no weed would dare poke its ugly head up to the sunlight. After a short time, it seemed the man dozed, but a curious thing was happening as people seemed drawn to come look at him. He had said nothing, was offering nothing; yet folks were hearing about him and coming, even from their homes, to stop by and stare at this old gentleman as he reposed upon the bench in the afternoon sun.
As the crowd grew, a hushed murmur was evident across the group, for it seemed no one wanted to disturb the gentleman in the flowing silver-grey hair now taken up residence in their city center. A slight hint of a smile seemed to cross his face, even as his eyes remained closed and his hands rested, crossed on top of the walking stick’s eagle crown. His eyes opened slowly and the smile grew brighter as he looked across at the crowd which had gathered to gawk at this strange sight of a man. And then, he spoke.
How long will you simple people continue to live in your simple ways? His question caught the townspeople off-guard. “What does he mean simple? We have some of the best technology money can buy!” Another remarked, “How dare he call us simple! Haven’t we got a fine university here and so many of our citizens are well-educated!” The old man was silent, looking out; his blue eyes seeming to pierce into the hearts of those who met his gaze.
“How long,” he said quietly, “will those who laugh and scorn others continue their derision and the foolish ones of you hate knowledge?” The townspeople were not sure whether to be angry at the old man or if he was just a simple-minded old man, off his medications and his mouth uttering whatever entered his feeble mind. The old man slowly began to rise from his bench, his right hand firmly grasping the cane for support.
“You should regret what I must say to you and you must turn from your pride and mocking and beg forgiveness to God for not taking time to understand His ways!”
Now the people began to think the old man was mentally off and maybe he could be dangerous! Someone thought the police should be called to control the old man and take him away if necessary. Still he spoke again. “I will be here and I will teach you the right way to live. None of you will listen, though. You will close off your ears and not pay attention to what I try to tell you. I will have no choice but to punish you for the way you are.” His last statement was said with a mixture of emotions. It was at once forceful and commanding and at the same time, so very sad. It was if his heart was breaking to say it.
Some of those standing near, laughed at the old man. Most laughed in a heckling way, while others, had just a bit of nervousness in their laugh. They called out to one another that the old man was mad and should be locked up and then they, too, laughed.
Now standing, his arm outstretched, the cane pointing menacingly at the crowd. “I will laugh,” he said, “when disaster, which I bring upon you, strikes you down and fills you with fear!”
Some of the people now backed away, but none could seem to just leave. They remained drawn to this old man dangerously threatening to strike them. He called out in a strong voice, “When disaster comes and blows away this majestic city and you cry out to me to protect you, I will not answer you.” The old man turned his gaze heavenward, then returning his eyes to the crowd, he declared, “You will search for me but you will not be able to find me.”
It was, as if, the sunny summer afternoon with the light breeze had turned ominous. The sky was now grey and clouds were gathering. The sun was blocked by growing clouds.
The old man looked, with pity, upon the young children standing there. As if to explain, he spoke gently to them. “They would not listen to me. They hated the knowledge I tried to share and they refused to even acknowledge how God has blessed them. Now, they must face what comes to those who do not know, honor and share God. It is their own foolishness that will destroy them.”
The children, unafraid, came closer to the old man as he sank back to the bench, exhausted. Some climbed up and sat next to him but all were staring longingly into his tired eyes. It was as though they hoped for good news from him after such bad.
Gently, the old man placed his hands on the heads of the children closest to him, leaning down, he spoke reassuringly to them. “Whoever listens to me will live safely and never have any fear of harm.” As he spoke, a hint of sunshine broke through the clouds and brightened the bench with its strange occupant and all the children sitting near. The old man slowly rose, slinging his pack onto his back, he started walking away.
“When will these things be? When will the disaster come?” some of the men hollered after the old man as he walked away. He just kept walking. Some of them laughed even more loudly, calling out insults to the old man as he left. Many more stood silent, lost in their thoughts as the figure of the old man faded from sight.
(The preceding was an adaptation of Proverbs 1:20-33)
For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion… of Iran’s nuclear capability…The second stick is… in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States.
Recently I posted a blog about a Bully… In it I wrote:
If there are any U.S. veterans or current military personnel out there not completely livid with the actions of this Congress to limit our military’s right to defend itself and our Commander in Chief’s right to exercise that military to protect others and America’s interests, I have got to hear from you… I look across the Middle East and I have to ask myself, who has allowed this 3rd world upstart of a country to gain such bully status? Although it is the second largest country in the Middle East, it is barely larger in square miles than our single state of Alaska!…
Iran has permitted the likes of the Taliban, ISIS, and al Qaeda while building a nuclear capability allied with North Korea, Russia and China.
Here is where we find ourselves on 10 January 2020… Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that ballistic missile attacks targeting U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq Wednesday morning were “a slap in the face” to the United States.
IRAN – the BULLY in the neighborhood… Why? Because we are allowing it. The ruling Ayatollah and those loyal to him are killing their own people, jailing those who object and it is morally wrong for those in Congress to hamper the legitimate efforts of our military and its Commander in Chief to do everything it can to protect the lives of American soldiers who are in harm’s way, American citizens and private individuals in Iraq and those in Iran who choose to stand against the ruling regime. The Ayatollah has vowed to pursue nuclear weapons with the only goal of striking against America and Israel. At what point will our Congress wake up rather than be ‘woke’?
And I put in this plea: Remember the name of each and every Representative and Senator who has voted to keep our military from being able to defend themselves when you go next to the ballot box.
I’ve been giving a great bit of thought to things even as the circus of impeachment continues and members of Congress are so far out of touch with America and its people, it is scary. There is another side of the Iran issue I think needs to be considered. Here are my ruminations on that subject.
So far I have considered the American side of the coin. We, (the royal we including most Western nations), own a good piece of the blame for allowing Iran to be the bully, to have the military, to threaten with nuclear weaponry… Certainly, other western countries can point their finger at America and say it is our fault, and they are partially correct. We have had the most capability to put a stop to it during past administrations and we haven’t. Still, there is enough blame to go around.
HOWEVER, a very large part of the blame (for lack of a better term) lies with the Iranian people. How long are they going to put up with these bullies in black robes? There is a point that lies vaguely out in the cosmos somewhere. It is the place where people either fix what is wrong or they refuse to right the wrongs of the government over them choosing to ignore the abuses of that government. Their non-action, or ineffective action, becomes collusion. No longer can they maintain innocent bystander status, if there even is such a thing in today’s world.
The Christian who is also a patriot to his country walks a fine line. His first allegiance is to Christ, everything else is second. Some Christians take the words of Jesus, “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” to mark the dichotomy between the two and it is an appropriate line. Others turn to Paul’s remarks in Romans, “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…” They then declare that any action taken against even an evil or oppressive government is wrong and we are to bide our time and let God deal with it.
How do we follow that thinking when faced with demonic rulers such as Adolph Hitler and the bullies we see currently in Iran? To be very open, I don’t know. Remember, when Paul wrote, Romans were killing Christians for sport. The Roman lions were the unbeatable opponent. Allow me to take a line from the United States’ Declaration of Independence.
“…all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”
The point is made here that people are more likely to continue to permit suffering rather than get rid of the familiar as long as the suffering is tolerable, (more likely that it is on someone else’s front porch and not my own). How much stronger is the desire to not go against the authorities when the authorities claim divine position and to go against them is to assure oneself of hell? This is particularly true when the religion being so used has been inculcated into their very DNA since they were born.
I must choose how to correctly interpret what Paul’s words meant to the people of his day and how that applies to people today. After much soul-searching and prayerful consideration, I determined that if I must err, if it is an error, I choose to stand on the side of protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. When any person, organization, political body, government or military does evil against any person, particularly those most vulnerable, the weak, infirm, the widows and orphans, the children, then I must stand between them and that evil. I believe the weight of the biblical evidence supports such action. I pray and thank God that He continues to have mercy upon me when such decisions must be rendered. I encourage anyone who might read this to determine for yourself where you stand. There will be no time to contemplate it when the time comes. The following poem by Martin Niemoller says it best. It’s titled, First They Came for the Jews.
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me. Martin Niemöller
Will there be a time when the people of Iran have heard enough lies and seen enough abuse, felt the crush of unbridled power to that undefinable point and take a stand to demand there be revolution? In a bold move recently, rather than face a possible showdown with the IRGC, (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Ayatollah Khamenei played a slick card trick. He has moved to declare those who were killed by Iranian forces in the street riots over the past few weeks as martyrs. What does that mean? It means the families of those killed are set financially for life. They have an honored status now in Iran. What better way to quell a rebellion than buying off those responsible for it.
Israel apparently has decided to allow the U.S. to take the lead in actions against Iran. Strategists suggest that as long as the U.S. is pushing back against Iran, Israel will be able to allow the U.S. to take the lead and perhaps ease the threat against itself for a short time. Still others believe it is only a matter of time until Tehran acts against Israel again.
“So, now what?” In the movie, Big Jake, (you knew it was coming, right?), John Wayne is an absentee father now reconnected with two of his sons to retrieve a kidnapped grandson. Events make the sons believe their father stole the $1M meant as ransom and when they challenge him, he towers over them, hands on his hips and defiantly says, “So, now what?” The sons had a choice to make. Do they challenge or cower?
Does the United States wait for Israel to act? Do we wait and encourage the Iranian people to act? To think that U.S. resources are not currently in place creating incentives for insurrection is to be going about with one’s head in the sand. Will government changes at the top in Moscow make a difference?
Iran has threatened just this week that if the Western countries open the Iranian nuclear file before the U.N. Security Council, they will leave the non-proliferation agreement… Whoopi! As if anyone believed they were following it anyway!
For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion and development of Iran’s nuclear capability. If they approach weaponization, all deals are off and the Iranian people need to know they are in a time crunch for acting in their own best interests. When that line is crossed, there is no doubt there will be collateral damage. Notice, I did not say of innocent bystanders because, at some point, inaction becomes collusion. If nothing else, they should remove themselves from harm’s way for their children’s sake if not their own. The children, sadly, will be at risk because of their parents’ choices.
The second stick is best visualized in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States. When he and his brothers are fired upon, the green flag is down, the gate is up and America responds for as many furlongs as it takes.
In every smallest detail, we pray. We pray for peace in the region. We pray for the safety of our troops. We pray for the salvation of every individual in Iran and beyond and we pray for divine guidance for our leaders, particularly for wisdom for our Commander in Chief.
I thank God that He has allowed me to be a citizen of this great nation which I have sworn to defend. I thank Him all the more that He sought me out to be a citizen of His heavenly kingdom and may I never do, say or write anything to tarnish His Name.
“I solemnly swear… I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States… against all enemies foreign and domestic…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…so help me God.“
Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems?
It is just the beginning of the rush hour and you are needing to be on the far side of the local mall in time for your grandson’s basketball game. The person in front of you must have last driven in heavy traffic a minimum of seventy years ago in places where the speed limits were no more than 40 miles per hour or so it seems. The aggravation boiling up in you along with your high blood pressure is not affecting the driver in front of you one iota. It is all your issue and not his. In actuality, the driver is driving the speed limit, you are just upset he is not driving ten or more miles per hour over the limit like you would be if you could. It is your perception which has colored your interpretation of the difficulty. In fact, there truly is no difficulty; even driving the speed limit, you will arrive in plenty of time for the basketball game.
Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems? Okay, let’s imagine you have the capability of eliminating ten thousand temporary problems. Sound like a type of scam or old-time medicine show selling snake oil to cure you of every malady known to man from colon cancer to postnasal drip? Stick with me for just a bit before you abandon the reading, thinking my A-train has slipped off the track and is plummeting down a 1000-foot ravine.
I used to have a small sign in my study which read: TWO RULES of a STRESS-FREE LIFE: 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2. It’s all small stuff. Okay, that sounds trite; but, there is more depth there if you scratch at it for a bit.
Aiden Wilson Tozer, better known as A.W. Tozer, born 1897 and died in 1963, was an American pastor, author of multiple books, and editor of a Christian magazine. He is known for his depth of thought, clear understanding of scripture and his ability to share those cumulative thoughts on theology with the general public in a way the wisdom was well understood by his readers.
Referring to A.W. Tozer, Dr. Ron J. Bigalke[i] writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual.” Bigalke quotes Tozer’s writing in The Knowledge of the Holy. “A person’s faulty concept of God ‘is the cause of a hundred lesser evils.’ However, the one who believes in God as He truly is will be ‘relieved of ten thousand temporary problems.’” There you have it! The equation for ridding yourself of thousands of temporary problems can be showed as:
A = A faulty concept of God
B = Life
Cx = Temporary Problems
A + B = Cx
The equation indicates that a faulty concept of God plus life results in temporary problems exponentially multiplied.
To reverse the process, more than just subtracting A, add to the equation the inverse of A or 1/A so that:
(A-A) + 1/A + B = C0or the elimination of a faulty concept of God plus a proper understanding of God plus life results in temporary problems to the power of zero, or nil. A caveat is in order. As my children were growing and needing help with homework (and now the same for my grandchildren), if their questions involved history, government or language arts, they came to me. If their questions involved the sciences or mathematics, they went (and still go) to their mother. That I have included a mathematical equation to better express a concept, do not expect it to be a new revelation in complex calculus. Had it not been for a friendly high school senior who sat next to me, a lowly freshman in Algebra 1 back in 1971, I would probably still be in that class!
Jesus, quoted by John in John 16:33, said that we would have trouble in this world; but, He had overcome the world and because of that, we can have peace.
Let’s return to the statement by Tozer. The person who believes in God as He truly is “will be relieved of ten-thousand temporary problems.” Can Tozer make such a statement and back it up scripturally or is it simply a panacea? It makes us think of bumper sticker theology which can be all warm and fuzzy but it really isn’t theologically sound. It sounds too good to be true, getting rid of ten-thousand temporary problems.
There are many scriptures which declare the omnipotence of God such as Psalm 24:1-2.
The King of Glory and His Kingdom
A Psalm of David.
24The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the [a]waters.
1/A is having a proper understanding of God. Psalm 24 shows us the magnificence and supreme authority of the divine God.
There was a Christian children’s program several years ago which had some great theology in its music. The following is a line from one of their songs:
“God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla, or the monsters on TV.
Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man. And He’s watching out for you and me.”[ii]
De-escalating the effects our problems have on our lives is to grasp they are temporary. Just as life itself is short, so are the problems we face during it. The biblical author James provides a handle.
“13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow [h]we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”(NKJV)
Bigalke writes that the Bible “reminds one that even the worst problem is only temporary; yet God is eternal and His glory is what endures forever.” What begins to be clear is that understanding the divinity of God and His eternal nature is critical to our perception of our problems as they compare to God’s power. Remember the quote on page 1? Let’s finish Bigalke’s thought. Bigalke writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual. Humanities greatest problems are the result of an inadequate understanding of who God is.” (emphasis added)
Go back to your drive to your grandson’s basketball game. All of the problems you had with the driver in front of you were because of your perception not your circumstances. It was not that you were actually going to be late. It was not that the driver in front of you was going slower than the speed limit. Your mis-perception of the time it takes you to get to the game and your perception of the driver’s speed were the cause of your aggravation.
If we understand every single trial or adversity which we are undergoing is temporary, it will change our view of each problem. Imagine a person in a gulag for his faith, with no expectation he will ever be released. If he can truly grasp the situation, even if life-long is only temporary as compared to eternity, it will change his view of the circumstances of his life. None of us are very likely to face a life-sentence to a gulag; but, perhaps our circumstances are horrific in human terms. How can knowing those horrific circumstances are only temporary and heaven is our eternity change how we deal with them?
How does truly understanding God’s power and divinity help us face circumstances which are not likely to change in any short period of time? Can we not just place those circumstances in God’s hands and ask Him to deal with it on a daily basis? Our hearts are hurting and breaking over a loved one’s pain. Can we help both ourselves and our loved one by re-focusing our perception of God’s divine power over our circumstances? I believe it will help everyone involved.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “I take refuge in the fact that although I don’t know everything, I do know someone who does.”
[i] Bigalke, Dr. Ron J., Midnight Call magazine, The Work of Christ: Messianic Psalms, Dec. 2019
This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.
Strategies for Coping When You desire to Serve but Cannot
Not long after my fall and the subsequent fracture of my fibula, a friend, who is also an aficionado of wearing western (cowboy) boots as an everyday and only shoe, took me to task for not having my boots on! And right he is! Had I been wearing any of my pairs of trusted boots, I most likely would not have slipped on the wet grass and fallen.
Most of us know the
term ‘died with his boots on.’ It is a way of relating how someone kept doing
the work they knew to do right up until the Lord called them home. The fellow
who ‘dies with his boots on’ is content with life. He always perceived himself useful
and respected for his work.
In the great movie “The Man Who
Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard in competition with
John Wayne as Tom Donophan for a lovely
young woman’s affection. Until Stoddard, a tender-foot new lawyer shows up in
the small old-west town, Donophan is the big man, well liked and respected.
They vie for the love of Hallie (Vera Miles). Because Stoddard believes in the
rule of law not violence, he is forced to face Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) in
a show-down. It’s a lopsided duel with Stoddard not sure from which end of the
gun the bullet comes out. Stoddard is certain to be killed. Donophan shoots Valance from the shadows
making everyone believe Stoddard was the victor. He won not only Hallie, but a
lifetime as Senator in Congress.
Donophan believed he was without a purpose in life. He existed in self-imposed isolation.
THE LESSON: Don’t
believe everything you tell yourself.
Donophan’s funeral, Ransom and Hallie found him to be a forgotten man, destined
for a pauper’s grave. Ransom looks in the coffin and sees Donophan doesn’t have
his boots on. The undertaker argues ‘they were almost brand new, almost never
worn.’ Ransom demands Donophan’s boots be put back on him. About to be buried without his boots, Donophan
is the image of a man who died believing he had no purpose, useless. Stoddard shared the whole story with the newspaper
reporters and they threw it away. An iconic line of the movie is the editor’s
response to Stoddard’s request. “When the legend becomes fact, print the
I’ve always worn
boots, since my Air Force days and then as a cop. Off-duty it was western boots
and they remain my favorite of all shoes. I have probably gone through
countless pairs over the years. Most of them eventually became useless, worn
out and not good for anything unless you wanted to make a flower garden
decoration out of them! Many of them are still lying about in a closet or a
hallway. I just can’t get myself to throw them in the trash. Some, sure. Most,
I just can’t. Those old boots are retired, their initial job finished.
Because those boots are inanimate objects, they feel no despair over becoming retired and even unusable. In today’s society, however, trauma and stress affect individuals from feelings of a life mission not completed to being pushed away by younger men or women. Some may believe they can do it better and have no need of an older person’s input. The same is true for believers who agonize over ministry unaccomplished because age, infirmity, or simply discrimination have blocked paths for many of these folks. Some studies show over 70 percent of pastors report depression over such stress. (www.charismanews.com) What are some of the causes of our pain over retirement or simply being shut out of a ministry? How can individuals learn to cope?
This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.
There are a great many people who find retirement particularly difficult. If their profession was one in which they took a great deal of appropriate pride and it remains part of who they are, then separating from it is not easy. A study by the National Institutes of Health show suicide rates for career police officers are statistically higher for police within five years of retirement suggesting a correlation between suicide decisions and depression based on pending retirement. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) As a retiree, it is important to fight the empathy one feels toward those old boots; to feel like you’re just lying around the closet. Find ways to cope.
Grandkids are a great
remedy for such malaise! Some say they keep you young. I say they keep
you alive! In family, the retiree is still needed and, if your family is like
mine, you best keep those boots on because you could be rolling out anytime for
something critically important in the moment.
THE LESSON: Family
is a great way to make sure you keep your boots on.
If there were
western style boots in the first century, no doubt Paul and Timothy would be
wearing them or a reasonable facsimile thereof! They were ready for anything at
any time. First-responders in first century ministry, Paul and Timothy were the
template for today. Remain in ministry, in whatever way it is defined for you,
until the Lord calls you home. Even if debilitated, there is still some
ministry function; becoming a prayer warrior is one example, through which God
will use you.
THE LESSON: Be always ready to do whatever the Lord calls you to do.
There may be those
who find no place for your work in a ministry they oversee. This is one of the
most difficult hits to take. Even though you are not aware of any trouble
between you and the person or a ministry team, to be disregarded is never pleasant.
If the doors are closed to you within a group where you desired to work; this
can become a serious struggle. As disheartening as it might be; hold true to
what you know. Paul wrote to Timothy and advised him to let no-one criticize
him for his youth. The reverse can be true. Pray for all those involved in
ministry no matter their actions or attitudes toward you. Give grace.
THE LESSON: Be ready in all seasons to give an account for the hope that is within you.
A story is told in
Ukraine about why the crosses on Ukrainian believers’ graves are at the feet of
the deceased’s plots and not the heads, which may have a small identifying
marker. A reference is made to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24. He instructed His
followers to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’. The belief is that on that
day when the dead in Christ are raised with immortal bodies, as they step out
of their graves, they will be able to reach down and pull up their
cross and follow Him. I have no authoritative source for the story; but it does
provide a good analogy for how prepared we are to be… always ready to follow
Christ along whatever path He is directing us.
Retirement from a
job or profession can be a wonderful new chapter in life. Ministry is not a job
description. It is what happens when people who love God allow themselves to be
His hands and feet. Everything we do can be ministry if we do it with the right
heart. For too long Christians have left Ministry (capital M) to the “professionals.”
Today, there is a greater awareness of the intimate connection between loving
God and doing what He asks. If you have
made yourself available and then were overlooked, ask God to help you understand
His plans and to accept by faith what you cannot understand through reasoning.
The last LESSON for
ministry in retirement…
Work when you can,
advise only when you’re asked, pray unceasingly and