A Clash of Cultures

A small metal sign… drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there’s only a minute for ministry   

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Most of us might be surprised at the vast number of sub-cultures within our own culture. Some would consider the point so off-handedly that, even if these subcultures exist, all that is necessary is to be aware of them, nothing more. We certainly do not need another genre for which we must be politically correct. Already the current lists have made it to the far edges of ad-nauseum. Why belabor yet another category that seeks to be recognized, romanticized, eulogized, and deified?

This, however, is a culture that has been with us since the beginning of our great country, indeed throughout the history of civilization. Yet, the American version of this culture is one that does not seek recognition. Most of the time, this culture prefers to be unnoticed. A simple tip of the hat in recognition of their sacrifice is enough because there is little our supra-culture can do. Perhaps the only way to benefit this culture is to keep the virtue of our American culture at its very best.

Regrettably, I have been as little mindful of this sub-culture as most others, at least until recently. Recent events have driven home to me their existence. It was not in some grandiose presentation that I was pricked at my conscience, nor was it at some hall of heritage that I was alerted to their presence. It was, of all things, a small sign in the parking lot of a grocery store. I had never seen such a sign before and unless any American has a chance to go shopping at a PX or BX (post or base exchange) on a military installation, you will probably never see one yourself. A small metal sign that drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

The sign simply read: “Reserved Parking Gold Star Families” and reading it I was struck with such a sense of astonishment. I was astounded that I had never given so much as a passing thought to the thousands of families that carry on in day to day life, after the ceremonies, after the condolences, after the cards and visits have stopped. The ‘Gold Star’ families, those who have lost someone in combat, keep on with life, with shopping at the PX, with bills and car repairs and every day with a hole in their heart where a loved one, a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine lives now as a memory.

Praise God for Gold Star Families and may we be reminded of them every day. When we are, may we ask God to bless them as they carry on, living a life Reserved for Gold Star Families.

(For more information about the history behind the Gold Star, follow the link to Gold Star Mothers)

Our family proudly displays a ‘Blue Star’ emblem in our front window and a similar decal on my wife’s car. Praise God that it is now a Blue Star and if God should ordain that it ever be Gold, may we honor the work of these proud families with our own.

Big Enough

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there is only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin ~ “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

BIG ENOUGH

The precept, “there are no atheists in foxholes” may have been said by celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Chaplain William Cummings with a sermonette at the Battle of the Bulge or other possible war-time philosophers. Whoever it was, we owe them our thanks. It states aphoristically what perhaps escaped us by its simplicity that: When everything around us is totally out of our control, we long for someone or something that is bigger than us, able to restore order to the chaos! It is not until we come to grips with the truth of our own vulnerability to any number of external (and even internal) forces that we realize our neediness.

I was reminded of this by a letter I received from my son during his first week at Army basic training. During their first chapel service after an intensely grueling week, the platoon found they were unable to even get into the chapel. It was filled to overflowing; so… being the good, though neophyte, soldiers that they were, they adapted and had a Bible study instead. Two soldiers were saved by the grace of God. This first week had taught them that they needed something or someone bigger than themselves. Daniel, too, has found solace in scripture reading that he had not known before. By alluding to the statement by Mr. Pyle, or whomever; I do not doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of these soldiers’ prayers for salvation. My observation is simply that, an observation.  I believe the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh for two reasons, the first to remind him that he needed someone greater than himself to get through the days and the second, because he had not given Paul a wife!

Now, wait, before you throw rocks my way… (You know you smiled at that right?) But that is not exactly what I meant. The realization came to me just before I was to get married that suddenly I had the responsibility to care for this human being that I loved for the rest of my life and that I would be held responsible for how well I did that, by God! The feeling of inadequacy was matched four more times in such a strong epiphany; each time that I held a brand new baby for whom I was responsible. In the early years, that feeling was so overwhelming that I did a Jonah and ran from the responsibility. I tried to not think about that day when YHWH would demand of me an accounting for how well I had or had not fulfilled my responsibilities as husband and father. I am ashamed of my initial failures and I praise God for His grace and mercy.

Each and every human being on this earth must believe in something. If they claim to be atheists then they believe more in the non-theology of Karl Marx than the Word of God. The god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth, but still they believe in something.

 

Atheists shoving nothing in your face

 

 

“Father Mulcahy” of MASH played by William Christopher was once counseling a young man who was afraid that since he had survived his wounds, God would require him to take the vow and become a priest as he promised he would while in his foxhole begging God to get him through the ordeal. The good “Father” assured him that God understood and that “If everyone took the vow as they had promised in a moment of danger, it would be as if the priesthood had a population explosion!” He regretted his analogy shortly thereafter.

Peter required of us that we be always ready to respond when asked why we have hope; when all around us seems hopeless. That is a wonderful command. But I cannot help but wonder, for me and for Christians I know, in a time of crisis would someone who doesn’t know Christ look at us and see that we have hope? Would we be wringing our hands and ‘oh woe is me-ing’ along with everyone else? If we were in that foxhole, would the non-believer next to us be able to turn to us and ask, “Why are you so calm? What do you know that I don’t? What do you believe in?” God has given us an instinct of fear when we are in danger. That is a tool He gave us to help us stay alive. But to fear and fret uncontrollably without seeking the peace God offers, that is sin.

Everybody believes in something. What do you believe?

Would you pray with me between now and mid-September that as Daniel faces this time of stress and testing that he would find strength in God’s Word and that he would be ready to give a reason for the hope within him should he be asked?