When Life Doesn’t Fit

God is NOT in the box business! He does not build them and because He has not constructed your box, it is also NOT His responsibility that its construction is of shoddy workmanship or that it was built to specifications that are NOT His!

 

Have you ever had times when, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot make life fit into that perfect little box you have been constructing all your life? You know the box I’m talking about. Your parents and even your grandparents probably helped you build it. Certainly, in today’s world, the media helps you build it. Back in my day, shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and a dozen more fantasy television shows built the box that most of us in our WASP worlds saw as normal family life. Movies showed us patriotism and that things ALWAYS worked out happily ever after in the end. Even when you fall off a 150-foot cliff and an anvil slams down on top of you, you will be just fine; at least if you are Wile E. Coyote.

If you went to the kind of church many of us did, you also had neatly tucked into the back of your mind the list of Do’s and Don’ts that make for good people. Some churches would even give you a box to keep that list in! There was a definite line between good and evil. Such things were black and white. Why else would the good guys on the late-night westerns always wear a white hat and the bad guys a black one? It was all part of our box that we had so carefully constructed. We couldn’t even consider that our boxes could be made to come apart.

Is there a certain amount of pressure that, when applied to the box, makes things fit the way they should? Can that unknown amount of pressure cause the box to go flying into a gazillion pieces across the room?

It is difficult enough when the box you have with things sticking out in all directions that is starting to come apart is your own; but, what if that box you had built was one you had constructed for your child? You know, that precious wonderful child of yours, no matter what age, that you love more than life itself… you have in your mind, in your heart really, as to how their life will be so much more comfortable, less stressful, less hurtful than yours was and that all their wondrous dreams will come true. That is the special box you have built for them. Then, for what seems like no fair reason, nothing is fitting in that box. Your heart is absolutely crushed as you see your child now faced with a life that is nothing like you would like it to be. Sometimes, maybe it is because of their own bad choices; yet so often, it is because of someone else’s hurtful actions. Boxes can also be smashed by something even more difficult to get a handle on, a vicious disease that has grabbed hold of your child, sending your box careening across the room.box

Whenever our boxes get busted, there is a great tendency to blame just about everyone, including God. It took quite a bit of time for me to work through how my own box just couldn’t possibly hold all of what I expected life was supposed hold. I finally learned that much of what I thought was supposed to be in my box was just completely unrealistic, too much Loonie Toons and not enough 60 Minutes. Now that I’m pushing the door open on my sixth decade, I know that a portion the box busting was because of my own bad choices along the way too, although at the time I wouldn’t have seen it.

What about those times when your box starts breaking apart and it is because of the horrific actions of another? Is it better when there is someone to blame? Is it worse when there is just an organism or a genetic anomaly to blame and not a person? Does God take the heat even more when what appears as such a senseless hurt has no one at which to point your finger?

Certainly, there can be very real times when the grief caused by the bursting of one’s life expectations is the result of the sin or evil actions of another. Not a day goes by when there isn’t a crime committed by a person with no regard for life, whether his or another’s. The multiple boxes that can be shattered by that one person’s actions can result in a firestorm of anger and resentment and some of that will still be shoved on God. We shake our fist or scream out at God and demand to know why He allowed such hurt.

As I have studied the wondrous Scriptures with this question in mind, I have come up with one very profound truth. To be quite self-asserting, I don’t know that any student of the Bible, any theologian, great preacher or teacher of the holy book has ever found this particular bit of wisdom, at least not in the way I have discovered it! (Okay, I said all of that just to whet your appetite for what I am about to share… even Solomon once said there is nothing new under the sun!)

When we are ready to demand from God why He would so destroy our boxes, the truth that the Bible will make clear to us is: God is NOT in the box business! He does not build them and because He has not constructed your box, it is also NOT His responsibility that its construction is of shoddy workmanship or that it was built to specifications that are NOT His! It is true that Jesus was a carpenter, a very well-trained one to be sure. It is also true that He is the master creator of everything. God’s Word tells us in the book of John that without Him nothing was made that was made!

God doesn’t build boxes and He doesn’t design boxes either. People who are big on ‘RELIGION’ like to believe that their boxes are uniquely designed by God to make certain that His people do church the one right way. They are mistaken. One box may be three hymns and an offering or a sermon with three points and a prayer. Another box may be candles in the corners and censers flying in all directions while a low voice mumbles a liturgy that no one can hear and, even if they did, they wouldn’t understand a word of it because it is in Latin! Boxes like those into which people have stuffed their religion are usually rectangular and have a lid. It’s appropriate that they resemble a coffin.

God did provide us with a framework for how He would have us to live out our lives here and even about how to do church. The base boards are these: Love the Lord your God all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.  That’s for us as we seek to live in community with one another. As to how we are to pattern ourselves individually to please God, He gave us three side boards. They are: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. Then when it came to being useful as a Church body, He gave us two great handles for us to hold: Baptism and Communion. Finally, God knew that the living of life and the doing of church would often require us to bear some burdens, our own and one another’s; so, to the framework He gave us he added an axle by telling us to ‘GO’ and He added two wheels, evangelism and discipleship.

If LIFE doesn’t FIT in your BOX, try Christ’s push-cart instead.pushcart

 

On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

רָחַב and Psalm 4:1

It is God that does the pushing, the stretching, and the enlarging with the distress as His tool.

Rachab  Ra-kav’

to be or grow wide, be or grow large

  1. (Qal) to be widened, be enlarged
  2. (Niphal) broad or roomy pasture (participle)
  3. (Hiphil)
    1. to make large
    2. to enlarge

In the short letter written by James, the brother of Christ, he extols his readers to “count it all joy” when they face various trials. That is a lot easier to read than it is to live through. What is it about trials that can make it so? Can the exercise our faith encounters in the midst of such trials be the strengthening and stretching of our spirit that allows joy to enter when there is no room for much else?

Recently, I had a short devotional reading that focused on Psalm 4:1 and I noticed something that was such a minor point prior to the study, but became so relevant after. The words used in the translations other than the KJV were accurate in a general way but, they did not convey the meaning, I believe, the psalmist had in mind. In even the NKJV, Psalm 4:1 reads:

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.”

The word that I focused on was translated “relieved.” The inference was that God, when we are in distress, can be the relief we seek. It is true enough that such relief is often brought to us by the Holy Spirit; but, I kept thinking about how the psalmist. Even in this case, when it is believed to be King David; he did not have the always present indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did assist believers in the times prior to Christ’s post-resurrection ascension; but it was not a daily filling, not a fulfilled indwelling and certainly not all believers. So, what was it from David’s perspective that such trials brought to him that could lead him to worship God with such enthusiasm? The answer lies in the Hebrew word that the NKJV translates relieved. The best translation of the Hebrew Rachab is “to be widened, enlarged.” The verse becomes: “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”

Distress enlarges us. It stretches our faith and pushes us to the very brink of ourselves and drives us into something so much more than who we are in ourselves. We may have heard someone say that to go through difficult times will make you be a ‘bigger man’ for it or it will ‘grow you’ as you go through the difficulty.

That is exactly what King David is writing when he says that God has enlarged him when he was in distress. However, we must be clear that it is not the distress, the trouble or difficulty that enlarges the believer. It is God who does the pushing, the stretching, and the enlarging with the distress as His tool.

I cannot help but think of every veteran that I have ever spoken to concerning their basic military training. Every single one hated going through it.  The remarkable part is that those same veterans are unanimous that they would not trade that growing, refining of themselves for anything. That difficult time helped to make them into who they needed to be.

We will never long for the pain that comes with such hardship, but once we have experienced God’s stretching of us through it; we will never regret having been brought down that path. We come away enlarged, grown and grateful when we see our trials through God’s eyes.

cardiac

Right now a missionary couple is going through just that kind of stretching. Their stretching is taking place in 5B North, the Cardiac Services Nursing Unit in St. John New Brunswick. With some vessel surgery planned this week and a triple by=pass scheduled for next, Brad and Bethany are learning more about faith without even barely leaving the hospital floor even as they did as they traveled half-way across the world in the heart of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nothing can prepare a young married couple for such an ‘enlargement’ but God can hold them through it and we as brothers and sisters in Christ can uplift them while they are in the midst of it. Please remember them as you read this blog and take time with God in prayer to encourage Brad and Bethany in their time of stretching.

How Many Politicians Does It Take to Destroy a Country? A few thoughts on the untimely crash of Ukraine’s Parliament

And, the president of the country is trying to wage a war against a life-blood neighbor who is the second most powerful nation in the world, who controls Ukraine’s natural gas flow and must do so with not one single member of his own party in the Parliament.

A House Divided
A House Divided

Some have referred to Ukraine’s newest President, Petro Poroshenko as a man without a party because ever since his elevation to the position of President of the embattled Ukraine at the end of May; his own political party, the Solidarity Party, has not been represented in the Parliament. If it is difficult for any country’s leader to get legislation passed through a democratic process in which his own party is less represented to some degree, imagine being the president of a country and there is not one single representative in the entire parliament who sides with you! Poroshenko has had to rely on a shaky coalition of pro-Western politicians to prosecute the war.

Lincoln 1858
Lincoln 1858

In 1858, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that has been given the name, ‘The Nation Divided’ speech in which Lincoln quotes the Bible; Mark 3:25, in which Jesus admonishes the Jewish leaders, “…and if a house against itself be divided, that house cannot be made to stand.” (Young’s Literal Translation) Lincoln went on to say that he did not believe that this government could not any longer endure going on half free and half slave.

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution went about finding the right examples for a model of government, they opted for a republic, that being democratically elected representatives making the laws for the people. They decided on a two house system, an upper and a lower. The upper being the Senate with a set number of two senators from every state. To balance out the legislature based on population, the lower house, the House of Representatives was decided by a formula to determine representation by population.

The United States of America has a population in 2012 of 313.9 million citizens. (Sources include: United States Census Bureau, World Bank) Although there are six (plus an others category) of listed political parties; in the current Congress only three parties are represented and they are the Republican, Democratic and Independent parties. Of the Independent there are only 2 in the Senate and they have come alongside the Democrats to make a majority. In the House of Representatives only the Democratic and Republican parties are represented. (Wikipedia)
For a country as complex as the United States with a citizenry of 313.9 million and an estimated 37.5 million additional non-citizens living legally in the U.S. (2006 figure by migrant information.org) and another 11.7 million illegal immigrants. (Pew Research Center)
For a country as complex as the United States with a citizenry of 313.9 million and an estimated 37.5 million additional non-citizens living legally in the U.S. (2006 figure by migrant information.org) and another 11.7 million illegal immigrants. (Pew Research Center)
To complete this short history, geography, political and mathematics review, keep the figures simple that for a country of roughly 360 million people the federal law making branch of the government consists of 541 law makers. One hundred are Senators, four hundred and thirty-five are voting members of the House of Representatives and six are non-voting representatives include the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico and five delegates, District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the North Mariana Islands. (ballotpedia.org)
That brings the ratio of citizens to lawmakers to about 673,000 to 1.
Many Americans declare that Congress is broken, it never gets anything done correctly and so on, yet laws do get passed, a great many of them actually and an extremely large amount of business is handled. Also, very cleanly (relatively) and without violence (usually) at regular intervals every so many years, there is a peaceful introduction of those who the voters believe will do the job better than the last set. Then the process continues without skipping a beat.
America’s house may have a great many differences of opinion but we are not divided.
That brings up now the condition of Ukraine, the focus of this short essay. Once again Ukraine is politically in shambles. The country which follows (more or less) the president in Kiev is doing battle with a foreign invader, Russia – one of the most powerful countries in the world. Battling Russian separatists that are armed and aided by Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow, the battles go on. Now, in the midst of this crisis, the ruling coalition that is supporting the president is non-functioning and to be dissolved which could lead to early elections and now basically nothing will get done in a bureaucracy that wasn’t succeeding in doing much to begin with. Here is where the numbers and the mathematics become important.

Remember that America has 535 Congressmen (male and female) for 360 million citizens, a ratio of 673,000 to 1 and are divided basically into two parties. Ukraine, on the other hand, has 450 Parliamentarians for a country of 45.6 million citizens. Their ratio is approximately 101,000 to 1 (citizens to representatives).
Those 450 Parliamentarians are divided into 10 political parties
For a country whose population is 1/8 the size of the United States in population which would equate to roughly the populations of California and New Jersey together versus the entire US population, it has about the same number of law makers. However, instead of being more efficient and more personal because of the smaller person to legislature ratio, it is in complete disrepair because ten different political parties are all vying for power! And, the president of the country is trying to wage a war against a life-blood neighbor who is the second most powerful nation in the world, who controls Ukraine’s natural gas flow and must do so with not one single member of his own party in the Parliament. A nation divided against itself, will not stand.

Ukraine Political Parties
Ukraine Political Parties

In conclusion, to answer the question posed in the title of this essay: “How many politicians does it take to destroy a country?” The answer is, one – if the people let him get away with it.

THE WRONG COLOR RED: Radicalism Comes Home

We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

Image

ON THE HOMEFRONT

ImageGilles de Kerchove,the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator declared before a UK Parliamentary hearing that the return of high risk, highly volatile Islamic extremists from Syria to the United Kingdom is “unprecedented. … All the reports I have seen suggest that it is becoming increasingly acute.” According to the Langley Intelligent Network, the British Home Office warned, “Dealing with terrorism in Syria is a very significant challenge due to the numbers of people fighting with the many Syria based terrorist groups, their proximity to the UK, ease of travel across porous borders and the ready availability of weapons.”[i]

What does this mean for the United States and its foreign policy particularly when it comes to dealing with international issues of terrorism and political unrest?

The current situation in Ukraine unveils the Russian bear, Vladimir Putin again showcasing the vulnerability of the United States and the weakness of this administration. It is a case in point of the inability of national governments to function effectively when leadership fails to adhere to the standards by which a citizenry can live in peace. There is no excuse that the citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula of Crimea are suffering without water or electricity because their homeland has been invaded by an opposing army and no one has checked the violence brought by criminal elements acting under the direction of Vladimir Putin. A nation’s leadership will set the bar for its vulnerability whether international terrorism, crime or attack by foreign forces.

The same is true now for Great Britain. Parliament failed to act decades ago to stem the tide of Islamic extremists pouring across the borders, overwhelming communities, and degrading the legal and political system to their own advantage. The political correctness police have brought the British society to the point of near annihilation. Several British nationals have shared that they cannot even recognize London as their own any longer.

Feckless has become a term equated with the inability of the current Obama administration to be able to do anything to stand up against those forces that spit in the face of America. Recently, Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North was quoted as making this very clear statement, “We don’t need a head of state who draws a phony red line with a pink crayon.”

Image

What will it take for societies – that value freedom, democracy and, (whether they now admit it or not), have a foundation of Judeo-Christian values; to stand-up strong for those values that once made them great?

There has been a lot of blood spilled, not just over the centuries, but in these last two decades all in the name of Islam. If the hardline followers believe it to truly be a religion of peace, then how do they explain its resulting hardship, pain and grief particularly for their own people? Their own leadership has succeeded in embittering their people and reducing their lives to a struggle to survive. Never has there been a generation of harmony and peace between them and their neighbors for they define peace as only the total rule of Islam  with total subjugation to their own rule, where no persons may live under another faith.

The African sub-Saharan is a primary example of the extremist mindset. Thousands of non-Muslim people, men, women and children are murdered in the most brutal of ways, without any shred of human dignity or compassion.

This piece is not, however, primarily a piece on the logic or the fundamentals of Islam. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies (as Paul described him); never forced Himself on anyone. But, you say, in the ancient times the God of the Bible ordered entire populations killed in order to preserve His people ‘of the Book’, the Hebrews. I can only reply that in those instances, God, as sovereign with total right to reign over His creation, I believe knew the heart of every individual soul that perished and none were punished eternally that God was not fully aware of what was taking place and it was necessary for righteousness of His creation. Does that mean that children died naturally and were eternally separated from God? I believe that as God is a God of compassion and grace, no one was separated from Him eternally that was not fully capable of choosing to deny His grace.

God, Jehovah, was very clear that His people were not to allow themselves to be drawn away by other religions or gods; nor were they to allow those who taught such religions to take root within their communities. God’s people were (and are) to live among them in peace and if by the lives of the believers that they might win some, (those are Paul’s words). That was a good thing but to allow those who degraded and derided their faith, God would not allow for that. His patience is longsuffering and His grace sufficient but it is not without end. There will be a day when the doors shall be shut and the chances have run out.

To what end does this bring us? Here is a list: National governments who prey on and destroy their own people like Bashar al Assad and his cronies, even to the point of chemical weapons and mass murder. Egomaniacal dictators like Vladimir Putin whose demented mind at the age of a young teen even longed to be a KGB agent to strike fear into the hearts of those who trusted him. Inept novice rulers, like those atop the Ukrainian political rubble. Parliamentarians who have leaned so far left in the desire to be politically correct they have allowed themselves to be blinded to the eroding away of the very fabric of their Kingdom.  Then there is the United States with a socialist president who believes that re-setting buttons with Putin, bowing before Middle Eastern royalty, backing down from countries like Iraq and Syria, turning his back on our only allied democratic nation in the Middle East who also happens to have the divine promise for those who aid Israel and the curse for those who fail to do so. And finally, the people of the United States who have stood back and allowed it to happen.

This is the list of the culpable. It is time to put a stop to the madness. Every citizen of each of the countries named here and, for that matter, every  citizen of each of the countries not named here, should realize the important role – the absolutely critical role – that they have to set and maintain the standard for democracy, independence, and true freedom of religion. That means that each citizen may not only worship, in a house of worship as they choose (these are the limitations the Obama administration seeks for religious “freedom”) but to live out their faith within community. This requires, of course, that the Muslim has as much right to choose to live out his or her faith in peaceful accord with the remainder of society as does the Southern Baptist. I mentioned earlier that God required His people not to syncretize their faith with that of the other religions. But, Christ also modeled the ability to love people where they were and by love, show them the true faith.Strong, yet compassionate. We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

 

[i]http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/UK-Threat-Radicals-Returning-From-Syria.aspx?ns_mail_uid=4703528&ns_mail_job=175366_04282014#ixzz30WceLmyA

 

Deepest Blue

Never before in our history has one group sought to cast aside our Constitution as strongly as those who label themselves ‘Progressives” nor has there ever been, in our history one President so inflated of ego, bewitched by socialism, and so flagrant at dismissing the rule of law by which he is to govern.

 

There is something to be said for bright sunshine across a frozen field covered in snow. The brightness of the white is brighter than ever before and the blue of the sky is the deepest blue, so deep that you feel like it goes on beyond forever. A weather phenomenon, new to me in my nearly sixty years, lies across the frozen field. The weathermen called them snow rollers. They look as though someone started to make a snowman and then after rolling for a little while, gave up and walked away; although there are no footprints near them. The weather folks say that this only occurs when three weather variants come together at the precisely the right moment. The air must be a frosty sub-zero, the snow an exact balance of moisture and snowflakes and just the right cross wind blowing along an open stretch of land. Snow rollers are born! Honestly, they do not do much after they are born, they just sit there in the field, looking like the bottom of a snowman someone gave up on! Some of the larger farm fields around here this week have hundreds of these round wonders and some are quite large! If the gods of Mount Olympus decided to have a snowball fight, this is where they would come.

Beyond that dazzling white snow though and those amazing snow rollers, is that amazingly blue sky. The poets call the color, azure. The uniqueness of the name fits the stunning quality of the color. Color is an incredible connection to the senses. It stirs the soul at times and can open the heart to a bravery it never knew it had. Two pictures come to mind when I consider that color. One is on my office wall and shows an eagle majestically perched on a high mountain precipice with that stirring blue behind him to the horizon. Beneath is an edited quote originally from 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, Stand, Be Strong” is beneath the eagle. The Young’s Literal Translation quotes the actual passage as:  “Watch ye, stand in the faith; be men, be strong.”The next photo I have is included here, also of an eagle, his talons clutching the rock crag as he scans the horizon for danger or sustenance. Below him is the following poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

The Eagle

He grasps the crag with crooked hands,

Close to the sun in lowly lands.

Ring’d with the azure world he stands.

Eagle on Summit
Eagle on Summit

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls,

He watches from his mountain walls.

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

At one point in our American history, our forefathers considered the turkey as our national bird. Without disparaging the turkey, I’m glad someone suggested the eagle in her place. The majesty of her, whether in flight or at rest; she is a magnificent creature, strong, valiant and with a great deal of character. Everything we want our nation to be. An old bumper sticker piece of wisdom once said, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, they had more than their share of trouble. The Christians of the first century were maligned by the religious East; seen as suspicious by the rough people of the northern regions, particularly the mountain ranges that travel up through what is now Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and the Christians were hated by the decadent Romans who controlled the world with their vast armies; corrupt officials and cruel provincial governors. It was wise for Paul to solicit them to be watchful, standing in their faith, and strong of character. Americans as a people and Christians who are also Americans should be able to empathize with the Corinthians and we should heed Paul’s words, perhaps now more than ever in our history.

The shadow of ungodly Communism and Socialism is being cast across this nation from Washington D.C. and westward. Never before in our history has one group sought to cast aside our Constitution as strongly as those who label themselves ‘Progressives” nor has there ever been, in our history one President so inflated of ego, bewitched by socialism, and so flagrant at dismissing the rule of law by which  he is to govern. A popular quote of unknown origin, simply states that “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This, my fellow Christians and my fellow Americans is NOT the time to do nothing. Rather, we must ‘Watch’ – keep aware of what the enemies of freedom and democracy, of our very Republic are doing; stand in Faith – knowing that God is on His throne, He is holy and righteous and will not be mocked, we should bow in repentance before Him; be men – men of character who stand for values, who lead their families, who work hard and pray harder; be strong – strong in the Lord, living in His strength, fighting the good fight with the Gospel armor in place, the Word upon our hearts and a prayer upon our lips.

Barack Hussein Obama will not be the cause of the fall of America, if she falls. Good Americans who did nothing will be to blame. What do you choose your legacy to be?

A phrase first known to be used in 1650 to describe someone as faithful and devoted is – True Blue. When we look upon that amazing sky that God has provided over us, may we recommit ourselves to be true to our faith, our families, and our country.

When Your Elephant Drops

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come… I knew when my elephant dropped it was time to get back to work.

 

 

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. That is a wise piece of sage advice that I made up just a few hours ago. I have no doubt it will last for centuries and grace the finest of Chinese cookie emporiums the world over, especially those whose home base is somewhere in upper New Jersey.

“What brought me to this amazing revelation? You ask. Okay, so you didn’t ask; but you are curious enough to keep reading. Perhaps you know my legendary wit; well, half-wit. Maybe, you are hoping that if you read this all the way through you can help my family get the evidence they need for a permanent commitment. Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to read on. I believe it will be worth it.

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. A very simple piece of logic really. All of us need a cue to know when it is time to move on in life. Maybe we need to move on to a new job, a new home, or perhaps, a new fiancé’ (I’d be careful on that one). It might not be something nearly as earth shattering as that. You may need to move on from one normal, everyday task to another in order to try to accomplish as much as possible before the day winds down unto its coming night. No matter the size of the task, it is important to know that when the elephant drops, that is your cue to move on.

Wisdom, the Bible tells us can be found with many counselors. It can be found with age and experience. Sometimes wisdom is born of trial and error, with the emphasis on the error. I have found, over time that I learn much deeper lessons from my mistakes than from my successes. Success seldom requires a review, a debriefing to understand the why of it. Although it is a good idea to do such an evaluation, normally, we accept the fact that if we were successful it is because we were right or good and as long as we are our amazing self then we will continue to be successful. At least that is the reason I don’t re-evaluate a great many of my successes, at least not like I evaluate my failures. The failures I prefer to limit from happening again; so, I evaluate my process to learn how to avoid the same mistakes a third or fourth time. (I did not say, ‘second’ because I usually don’t decide to re-evaluate until I have failed at least twice. My first failures are always accounted to ‘the wrong part’, ‘the wrong instructions’, ‘the wrong day of the week’ – certainly not anything I could have done! After the second failure I grant, begrudgingly, that perhaps it might be something I am doing incorrectly.

Yes, wisdom comes from a multitude of sources. I have found, as a grandfather now for nearly eight years, that wisdom comes to me through the eyes, the insight, the lives of my grandchildren. I don’t think I learned nearly as much from my children for two reasons. First, I still thought I knew a lot about life and things. Second, I was just trying to keep up with them most of the time. The song, “It’s a Wonderful World” sung best, I think, by Louis Armstrong; allows us to see life through the eyes of the song writer and looking at the children, he says, “They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know…” and that is so true. So, our grandchildren can teach us once we have reached an age where we realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. They can teach us, too, when life has slowed enough for times of introspection and taking stock of where one is in life’s journey.  Sometimes such lessons are prompted by a statement, bluntly spoken by our grandchildren. Recently, my eldest told me that I can really take on the role of Santa now that my belly has gotten as big as it has. Good, honest, tongue-biting truth. It’s great!

By now, the number of surgeries I have had in the past fade in memory, overtaken by the pain that arthritis can bring to those same areas that surgeons fixed so effectively decades ago. A police service related shoulder repair, now needing to be a shoulder replacement has enough arthritis to keep Bayer in production; except that a previous perforated ulcer make aspirin a no-no. My spinal fusions from police related injuries and the bone taken from my hips for those repairs now provide plenty of opportunity for creaking and popping as I try to move stealthily through the night on my way to the bathroom for the fourth time, trying not to wake my wife or the dogs. To interrupt either is not good. If I wake the dogs I have to take them outside in the cold and wait for them. If I wake my lovely wife, she doesn’t get enough rest with as hard as she works now without me waking her; so I try to let her sleep whenever she can. Then there is the arthritic knee that the ‘Doc’ recently told me has to be replaced. I tell you that to say that if I could find a way to do all of my work and social engagements, business meetings, phone calls and meals within the confines of my Jacuzzi, I would.

Warm (to boiling) hot water is the only real relief. I am very thankful for the medications and all the other things that are done to keep me functional; but it is the escape in the warm water where my brain is freed up to think. Our thirty year old Jacuzzi hot-tub downstairs gave up the ghost some time back so I am relegated to our garden tub Jacuzzi in our bathroom; for which I am eternally grateful. It is, however, garden sized. As my grandson will tell you, I am built something more like a “Horse pasture –long in the inseam, wide across the shoulders (and belly) with the pasture taken in just a little around the hay feeder” – I will use the garden tub as long as I can fit in it and get out of it. Silly us to allow the design of our bathroom to include steps up to the Jacuzzi tub. When we built it no one needed hand rails or maybe a floor level entrance to step in and out of without trying to go over it like a high hurdler at the Moscow Olympics. Still, if there was a Nobel Prize for pain relief, Jacuzzi get s my vote and that is where the elephant comes into the story.

I share my Jacuzzi with an elephant. I know that sounds a little crazy but, I also share it with two ducks, one rubber one plastic. The elephant, too, I should clarify is a one piece plastic mold elephant about the same size as the rubber duck. I don’t get much time to play with them but from time to time one of my grandchildren will ‘visit’ with me while I am catching up on my Weekly Standard, National Review or NewsMax. I also do many of my Bible devotional readings there, too. As I said, if I could, I would work throughout the day there. Electronics however do not fare well in warm water. Even my revered Weekly Standard et al., have succumbed to the water on more than one occasion.

When my grandchildren pay me a visit and it becomes ‘grab a bathing suit and sit with Papaw in the Jacuzzi,’ invariably along with the rubber duck, out comes the plastic elephant. Known best for his ability to spring to the surface after being held at the bottom, he is an all-around favorite. If we had a large swimming pool, I fear they would want a real elephant to see if he, too, would spring up from the bottom of the pool! When the grandchildren are not around, the elephant stands guard at the edge of the Jacuzzi as if looking forward to the time that the children play with him again.

Elephant

It would be too easy to escape my on-going pain by keeping myself as long as possible in the Jacuzzi guarded by my trusted elephant. However, there comes a time when all of us have to step out of our comfort and be about the business to which God has intended us.

The disciples and others loved to listen to Christ teach. His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew was a time of great spiritual learning, encouragement and challenge. Eventually, though, they all had to come down from the mountain and be about the ministry set before them. It is a true joy, at times, to remove ourselves from the hectic world of ministry or other life challenges that come before us; work, family turmoil or illness, difficulties with finances, friends, even schooling and preparation for future ministry. All of these things take a toll on us. They can, too, take a toll on our relationships; particularly those involving close family members. Retreating from the daily stressors is sometimes absolutely essential for us to be able to carry on and to prepare to meet the next challenge. The temptation to not re-enter the fray is high. Some of us have the option to completely step away from some of the areas that cause us the most difficulty. Sometimes that is what God intends for us to do but, most of the time, God intends for us to recharge, regroup, and regain our hold on the reins and be about our Father’s business.

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come. For me, today I knew it was time because, my elephant dropped. I never saw him move on his own, but somehow, that little gray plastic elephant worked his way to the edge of the Jacuzzi and plunged trunk first into the water. I knew that when my elephant dropped, it was time to get back to work.