Fighting For A Cause

On Memorial Day we remember those who have died in our country’s battles. We remember their courage even if they were afraid. We mark their place even if their life was lost in an unidentified spot. We honor their heroism even if they were simply one of many fulfilling an assignment. Governments are duty-bound to honor those who protect it from external threats.

We hope governments are good, but sometimes they are not. The horror of a bad government, an internal threat, resisted at a terrible cost bears our consideration, for our nation now faces a loud and strong clarion call to Socialism.

History is clarity’s friend, so let’s examine a few times when people of a nation succumbed to the allure of empty government promises. A nation is rarely suddenly killed from within. No, it’s crippled bit by tempting bit.

God’s moral laws are denigrated. When we dismiss God’s law, Government’s law will take its place, and things go horribly, predictably wrong. They’ve been going so wrong, in fact, that some of our population is  now struggling to know the distinction between male and female. Such an obvious difference has become a question. There is a blindness that goes beyond sight.

It is the obligation of the church to speak up. It’s tempting to let little things slide in the interest of making ourselves approachable. But when the church is silent – no matter the reason, whether out of concern to not offend or desire for popularity or misguided belief that it should not mix it up with politics (Elijah must have missed the memo) – it will be one of the first to taste destruction.

Citizens aren’t deceived by outright lies. They are deceived by half-truths, distortions, and duplicity. They are proverbial frogs in a kettle. The water has been on a slow boil for awhile already. First their economy is crippled, making it difficult for folks to meet financial obligations. Obamacare mandate, anyone? People exchange their free independence for regulated dependence on the government. History is rewritten, monuments destroyed. Weapons are taken away in the interest of safety, thereby removing citizens’ ability to defend themselves. Then words like “fairness” or “change” are used to lure the naive into a socialist ideology. Socialism is simply Communism lite. Lite doesn’t last. It is always replaced with the real thing. Constitutions are circumvented by declaring emergency law and order. Then the country is – bingo – under communist rule. No shots fired. That comes later.

But those advocating Socialism want to help the poor. They want to make it a fair playing field. They’re benevolent, right?

Let’s look at a few Communist rulers. Pol Pot killed between 1.5 and 2 million of his own people. Anyone who had allegiance to God or anything other than the State was tortured and killed. Prisoners were made to dig trenches, then ordered to kill the person next to them where the deceased would tumble into the trench. Friends. Family members. I’ll wager hope and spirit tumbled into those trenches, too.

Or how about Romania? Ceausescu hated the church so much he destroyed their buildings. His Government did not tolerate disloyalty and neighbor turned against neighbor as a matter of survival.

Stalin killed over 20 million of his countrymen in Russia. Hitler killed around 6 million Jews and 5 million others. Mao Zedong had over 45 million Chinese people killed.

While we memorialize our soldiers this coming weekend, let’s do one more thing. Let us resolve to keep the freedom for which they died. Even if we have to fight on our own land in our own way, big or small, to do it. Because citizens of resolve are a nation’s only hope for freedom. God be with us.

Revelation 22:2; Image: http-pixabay.com-en-eagle-america-flag-bird-symbol-219679.jpg

A Dusty Few Years

He picked up another piece of bread and stuffed it in his mouth as he looked at some of the ravens perching on the gnarled branches. Life was weird alright, but he’d always been one to accept that. In fact, he didn’t understand how most other folks insisted on life being the way they thought it should be. Should be! Really? Life was breath amidst delight and chaos. What did prescriptive insistence have to do with it? He deliberated over those who required people to fit into certain ideas of dignity or say things the way they imagined things should be said; over life’s roads taking particular turns at preordained times. Whose ideas of dignity? Whose way of speaking? Preordained by who? People had plenty of thoughts about him, he knew. They didn’t want to accept that God’s prophets were rough around the edges. But what was more important – their preconceived notions or the truth? A wry smile crossed his face. They had no idea of how improper and uncivilized God could be when He chose. He picked up the last piece of meat and turned it over in his hands, examining it. Holding it up, he toasted the onlooking birds, and finished his meal. Those people who said what others approved were too prideful to yield. He hoped they’d change, but even with a sign from heaven, he knew they wouldn’t. Their ideas about what was most worthy of worship were immovable and their hate for him was too strong. The sun blazed down as he slurped from the nearby brook. It was going to be a long, dry, hot, and dusty few years.

Story idea: taken from the life of Elijah – I Kings: 17:1-6; Image: Pexels.com

 

Come Back, Spring!

The pansy bowl sits, forlorn, on the floor

Searching for one beam of sun;

The sweaters I’d packed away with great hope

Again claim warmth second to none;

Thoughts of iced tea are now besotten;

Grass between toes? Imagination;

The smell of warm earth is nearly forgotten;

Neglected Spring left behind at the station;

It’s April the sixth in my northern state,

Outside, sparkling white, eight inches of snow;

I weep as I must be resigned to my fate,

With more in the forecast, or so we are told;

When will this nightmarish existence end?!

When will my socks no longer be wet?

When? When? When? When? When? When? When? When? When? When?

How much more miserable can it get?

Spring, if by some unknown, unintended breach;

We’ve carelessly, needlessly frightened away;

Or taken for granted green, pink, red, or peach;

Forgive! And come back for an extended stay!

Image: pexels.com

Turning Back Our Clocks to Good Friday

We turned our clocks back one hour a few weeks ago. It makes it seem like the day has more light; that night doesn’t come so soon. On Good Friday we turn our clocks back 2000 years to the day when the source of light was killed, when – from noon to three in the afternoon – light was quenched. When there was an earthquake and tombs were opened. When the curtain at the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. When Jesus was crucified.

The nation of Israel celebrated the Passover meal every year as a way to remember when God freed them from slavery to the Egyptians. They still do. They remember the sorrow of slavery. They remember the urgency of leaving their familiar bondage and taking risks to get to freedom. They remember. And it is this meal that Jesus and His apostles celebrated at what we call the Last Supper. Indeed, it was the last meal Jesus ate.

Remembering is time travel. When Jesus said Remember Me, He invited us to be part of the very first communion time – the Lord’s Supper, the Last Supper.

And while they are eating, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

They are very sad and begin to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Surely. Not. I.

James 2:10 tells us For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. There can be no hypocrites at the Lord’s table, because whoever partakes admits their own sin and their need for Jesus’ sacrifice.

Surely not I? No, It is me. And it is you. We are the reason for this terrible night.

After the Passover Supper, the friends sing a hymn. We sing with them. Then they walk to a familiar garden called the Garden of Gethsemane. We walk with them. It is quiet and fragrant with the scent of olive trees, and is one of Jesus’ favorite places. No wonder he goes there to fight a battle with his own will, knowing the greatest battle of all will be won on the cross.

And Judas, one of Jesus’ friends, an apostle, steps out from among the crowd pushing its way into this quiet retreat and greets Jesus with a kiss. With that kiss Judas sealed for all time his traitorous place in history. Such a small act. Such an eternal consequence.

The Jewish leaders are fed up with Jesus. They don’t like His message. They feel threatened. Now they’ve finally found a way to bring him to trial. It takes two stages: a religious trial and a civil trial.

They begin with a religious trial, and take Jesus to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders are assembled. There’s a problem finding anyone who can give evidence against Jesus.

Of multiple charges, none can stand save one. Asked if he is God’s Son, he answers with the truth. Truth is the charge for death.

They bring him before Pilate who sees no basis for the charges against Jesus.

Pilate sends him to Herod who, along with his soldiers, ridicules and mocks him. He has Jesus dressed in an elegant robe in order to make fun of him and sends him back to Pilate.

And Pilate, who knows there isn’t any reason for Jesus’ death, tries to reason with the mob.

“I can have him punished, then release him.”

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”, the mob shouts.

“Do you want me to release Barabbas instead?”

No one in their right mind would want Barabbas released. He’s in prison not only for sedition, but murder.

But the crowd yells, “Yes! Release Barabbas!”

Pilate knows an out-of-control mob when he sees one. They might begin breaking things, destroying property. They’re on the verge of a riot.

Pilate’s wife is upset. Pilate wants nothing to do with this mess. So he calls for a bowl and washes his hands in front of the crowd.

“I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he says. “It is your responsibility!”

We are there at the cross. Soldiers jeer, making fun of Jesus. Do you see them? There they are, gambling for his clothing. They don’t care about suffering. They don’t care about betrayal. They care about winning a game.

We turned our clocks back one hour a few weeks ago. It makes it seem like the day has more light; that night doesn’t come so soon. On Good Friday we turn our clocks back 2000 years to the day when the source of light was killed, when – from noon to three in the afternoon – light was quenched.

And now we must remember one more thing: It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Scripture: Matthew 26-27; image: pexels.com

One Answer Among Many

What do we do when death seems to win the day?

Even Then

She laughed until she was gasping for air and wiping her eyes. Doubled over, she grabbed the back of the park bench to help her sit before she lost her balance. She looked up, her twinkling eyes still wet, and tried to talk, but couldn’t.

“I’m telling you the truth. He actually did that.”

The laughter began again.

“Twice!”

“Stop!” she breathed, “I feel like I’ve done a hundred sit-ups already.”

He sat beside her then and pulled her into his arms.

“I love your laugh,” he murmured into her hair.

“Oh now you’re just making excuses for my nearly wetting my pants.”

He chuckled.

“Even if,” he said, “Even then it would be small payment for the sound of your laugh. I could listen to that music every day of my life.”

A small smile crossed his lips as he remembered. Then the steady rhythm of the heart monitor pulled him back to the present. She lay there under the white blankets, as still as the dawn on their first day of married life, as soft as her whispers each night before they both drifted to sleep.

“Don’t go,” he choked, “Don’t leave me. I’ll tell you a million funny stories every single day if you’ll just stay.”

The heart monitor quickened, then settled again to its rhythmic pace.

He wandered over to the closet where only her bare essentials were. How did life distill to a few things in a plastic bag? He pulled out her purse and rummaged through it. Lipstick, a comb, her billfold. He opened it. Ten dollars, her license with the picture she hated, two credit cards. There. There was a slip of paper folded and refolded. He pulled it out. Her handwriting danced across a page that held only the faintest scent of her. He held it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. Then he read: Dearest, This is in case I don’t make it. Maybe sometime soon, I’ll be rummaging through my things and find this note and we can both have a laugh over my dramatics. But even if . . . even then I want you to know I love the way you make me laugh, so don’t cry too much. It’ll make your nose red. On the hard days, just listen until you hear something that reminds you of the good times. Of my love. And, if you insist, my laugh. Someone said: “Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

The rhythm slowed, and he hurried to her bed and grabbed her hand.

“Thank you,” he said.

And all sound stopped except the echo of her laughter.

Quote: attributed to William Penn, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or R.W. Raymond; I’ll Be Seeing You: Words by Irving Kahal and Music by Sammy Fain, 1938, Sung here by Frank Sinatra

Lovers, Fighters, Icons, and the Rest of Us

I read something about someone who was described as an accidental icon. Wouldn’t that lend excitement to your days?!

Most of us don’t set out to be icons, but we don’t propose to live accidentally either. We have plans that we follow rather lazily or like gangbusters depending on our age, energy, and personality.

And then there are those who seem to cut a path that puts the rest of us to shame. Too often those individuals are renounced, diminished, or just plain cut out of a story that, but for their influence, would have a very different ending. We do well to read their autobiographies or, sans that, their biographies if said biographies are written by dependable authors.

Winston Churchill is a large figure in post WW II history. A recent movie about him received justifiable accolades. He was a man in power during a time in which history’s hinge would swing one way or the other. He stood strong and unyielding when giving in to political pressure would have made his life easier. He said, If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. He was a fighter. Everyone loves a lover, but sometimes a fighter is what is needed.

A four page government memo was released today. It reveals deceit and duplicity among those who were supposed to be trustworthy and straightforward. The crimes were committed not by the many hard-working members of the DOJ and FBI. They were committed by a powerful few, and not once, but repeatedly. I suspect the path of the memo will lead to names we all know and people who believe they are untouchable. Now we wait to see if they will get away with it because of their power and connections. I hope not.

One wonders what role those of us without prominence or power play. We don’t have the influence some others do. But still we can take a page from someone we admire. After all, citizens of good character who stand straight and strong and who do whatever it is at their hand to do with honor and care are more likely to hold a nation up than bring it to its knees. We’re not just a thousand points of light. We’re a thousand steel beams, a thousand iron plates, a thousand rivets and bolts.

Iris Apfel, the accidental icon referred to at the beginning of this post has said, You have to try it. You have only one trip. You’ve got to remember that. 

Have a great day! Me? I’ll be doing my best to stand straight and strong, to do whatever is at hand to do as though I’m doing it for God, Himself, as I keep walking the path. I hope to see you on the way!

Quote: Rick Lowry in the New York Post, 12/28/17; Quote: Winston Churchill; Memo:  http://static.foxnews.com/pdf/370598711-House-Intelligence-Committee-Report-On-FISA-Abuses.pdf ; Quote: George H.W. Bush; Photos: Pexels.com; Quote: Iris Apfel

2017 Year In Review

Something New

The house had been cleaned from top to bottom. Candy canes hung in ribbon above the windows and the tree was resplendent with ornaments of sentimental value. The scent of gingerbread filled the kitchen as she began rolling out sugar cookies while she thought about it all. If only everything could be washed clean and made new. If only . . .

For, you see, something new crossed her path every day. Normally that would be a good thing. Something new meant something fresh and exciting! But now the something new was stomach-churning. Every day. And the season which had before brought beauty and sweetness, sparkle and peace had been tarnished with unrelenting tales of deception, perversion, and anger. It was as though a spider of darkness was determinedly spreading its sticky web over the season of light.

But people’s hearts seemed impossibly hard and the enormous amount of disgusting behavior seemed darker than a black hole. How could such contempt for what was right be turned around? How could those who allowed themselves to wallow in a gutter mindlessly covered by glamour and status or blame and suspicion be redeemed? How could both accused and accuser find peace? It was hopeless! What was needed was a miracle. An unconscious sigh escaped her lips.

 

And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Gory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

In evil times to desperate people comes One who makes everything new and redeems those willing to be saved. It is an astounding miracle that crosses time and space to every culture and generation. It is offered to a multitude and available for a single soul. And that is the best miracle of all.

Luke 2:7-14; Softly Now He Comes by Connie Miller Pease, https://www.jwpepper.com/Softly-Now-He-Comes/10686074.item#/submit, Image: pexels-photo-713494.jpeg; christmas-935456_960_720-CC0-Public-Domain.jpg