Merry Christmas to all in the pit

The Major is in unknown territory.  In Five Characters in Search of an Exit, an episode of the 1960s science fiction program “The Twilight Zone”, he has just awoken in a barren room. He begins poking at the walls, trying to find a way out.

The Major soon finds himself in conversation with an annoying clown who comes complete with makeup, goofy attire and a snarky attitude. What’s worse, The Major doesn’t know who he is. Not only that, he also wonders about the identity of this nutty jester whom he discovered upon gaining consciousness..

“Wait a minute. Who are YOU? Is there a circus around here somewhere?,” The Major asks The Clown.

Laughing, The Clown responds,”Yeah. A clown. A circus. (Pointing at the major) An officer. A war. That’s logic, isn’t it? But it doesn’t figure at all.”

“Not at all?” The Major replies. “Why not?”

“Because there is no circus and there is no war.  You’re just like the rest of us,” says The Clown.

“The rest of us?” The Major asks. The Clown, sitting against a wall, points his foot out and three other characters appear: a hobo, a ballerina and a bagpipe player.

As they prance by in single file to a bagpipe tune,The Major freaks out. “What’s going on here?”, he bellows. ”Where are we?  Who are we? What are we?”

As the others stare at him blankly, The Ballerina replies, “None of us knows Major. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know where we are.  Each of us woke up one moment, and here we were in the darkness.”

“How could that happen?” The Major says with a look of astonishment on his face.

“That’s the question we asked ourselves,” The Ballerina says. “A question with no answer, Major.”

She describes their predicament succinctly. “We’re nameless things with no memory,” The Ballerina explains.”No knowledge of what went before. No understanding of what is now. No knowledge of what will be.”

“How long will we be here?” asks The Major incredulously.

“That’s a good question,” proclaims The Clown. “That’s the best question of all. But nobody knows the answer.”

“Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling calls the five  characters “a collection of question marks–improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness: no logic, no reason, no explanation. Just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness and the unexplainable walk hand in hand in the shadows.”

There are times when some of us wake up to find ourselves in our own pit of darkness, our own nightmare. We wonder how we got here. There is no rhyme nor reason to what has happened to us. We have lost our identity. Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought we would ever be in such a situation.

What galls is that many of us enter the Christmas season in such a state. The vexing part is that The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, excitement, romance and fantasy.

Instead of we are weighed down by extreme fear, terror, torment, anxiety, guilt and shame.

In the midst of our own horror story we find that all our societal, cultural and personal markers are askew.  The things that had once given life meaning are gone. The bottom has dropped out. We have a tons of questions but no answers. In sum, we are lost and have no idea where or who we are.

For this happen at Christmas causes excruciating pain, for others seem to be faring so wonderfully.

People all react differently when their world turns upside down like this. This is exemplified In Five Characters in Search of an Exit. 

The episode shows how some pour themselves into coming up with practical solutions to their problems, while others laze about in resignation. For instance, The Major is keen on finding a way out of the pit he is in.

However, his companions in the pit have been in this dreadful environment so long that they have given up. The Clown is so bereft of hope that he just wants to wallow in any amusement he can come up with. As he seeks to frolic he mocks the Major, whom He thinks is wasting time. He calls him an idiot for even trying to find a method to escape .

When caught in our personal hell, many of us also try to explain our circumstances away. The “Twilight Zone” characters are no different.

For instance, some of us turn to theology or fantasy to make sense of our environment. In Five Characters in Search of an Exit, The Major determines that they are in Hell. On the other hand, the Ballerina muses that perhaps that they on a spaceship or on another planet. “Or maybe we are all insane or this is a mirage or an illusion,” she adds.

The Hobo chimes in, too. “We’re dead. This is Limbo.”

We sympathize with these characters in this dungeon. They are just trying to cope.

The Major reiterates that whatever the explanation, their situation is indeed a nightmare. It is he that tries to find a silver lining in their horror, suggesting that someone must be aware of their existence and cares for them.

In a statement that brings to mind the existential angst of modern Millennials, who have recently been pictured in the media as people screaming at the heavens, The Major asks the others if they have shouted or pounded on the walls.

The Hobo responds by saying that they have tried The Major’s ideas but that they came to the conclusion that for all intents and purposes the little room was their universe. His inference is that they have determined that they are stuck in their bad dream and there is no way out.

Those in severe depression, especially during The Holidays, may also have given up, resigning themselves to spending Christmas in pain or dulling their emotions with addictions.

But a clanging noise, which The Ballerina suggests is a bell, provides evidence that the Major may be right. There in fact may be someone outside their “universe” in charge of things. He begins to shout at this “being”.

The Major screams, “LET US OUT OF HERE!”

When we are suffering, we not only get mocked or subjected to the ignorant suppositions of our acquaintances , but we also meet up with kind, sincere souls who will try to assuage our pain. In Five Characters The Ballerina tries to comfort The Major. “Don’t be afraid Major. It gets easier.”

She attempts the “misery loves company” approach. The Ballerina suggests that they aren’t alone in their nightmare. There has to be other “dungeons” for the unloved where their kind also have to suffer.

The Major responds emotionally to the Ballerina’s ideas. “We must have names,” he exclaims. “Someone must care for us,” he yells. This hope motivates him to press on.

“Somewhere, somehow, we have a life that has been cut away from us. We’ve got to get it back!,” says The Major.

He then begins to  try to dig a tunnel into the impervious floor.

SPOILER ALERT

The Major finally convinces his fellow inmates to try to help him escape. He emphasizes that if he can do so, he will come back to rescue them.

The four other characters follow The Major’s instructions. They stand on each others’ shoulders, forming a human tower so that one of them can reach the cusp of the pit. They all writhe in pain as the weight bears down on their shoulders. The Ballerina is injured when they collapse on the floor, but they try again, and the Major is able to climb out of the room.

After he does so, he screams and falls into what appears to be snow. Is he dead?

No. The viewer learns that he is in fact an inanimate doll. A woman is shown minding a Christmas donation barrel on a city street on a winter night, collecting donated dolls for an orphanage. She is clanging a bell to draw attention, a common Yuletide scene.

Meanwhile, in the pit, hearing the Major’s scream, The Clown tells the others that The Major may have been correct. They are in Hell. He predicts that The Major may indeed return, but not as a savior.

A child finds The Major in the snow. She shows him to the woman, who tells her to toss him back in the barrel. We then see all the characters all as lifeless dolls lying in their pit, staring into space.

Rod Serling concludes the episode with what he calls “one hopeful note.” As the camera shows the dolls in the barrel he says, “Perhaps they are unloved only for the moment. In the arms of children their can be nothing but love.”

Serling is on to something. There is hope  for those of us who are suffering.

We can indeed experience love that will give us life.  Someone does love us. This love could  come from children, or friends, or family. But we can’t count on it.

Humans are frail, fickle creatures. Like these dolls, we are made of plaster. We can just as easily break and turn on each other as we can provide assistance and love.

There is One, however, who is not a brittle doll or a weak facsimile of the human race. Jesus is as human as you and I, but also the all-powerful and omniscient God, and He loves us.

How do I know? Jesus took our form and actually entered our pit to save the human race. He suffered like we do, and even more so.

Jesus died for our sins.  The term “sin” is a foreign concept today. Yet, our sins are as real as the morning sun.

In biblical terms, “sin” is defined as rebellion against God. This rebellion deserves judgement from Him.

Yet, God Himself took our punishment.

The Good News is that He didn’t stay dead. He didn’t lay buried in the metaphorical snow life a lifeless doll. Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven.

Unlike  The Major, He will not return to participate in our ongoing Hell. He one day is coming back to our pit to reclaim both it and us. Then, Jesus will make all things new.

Five Characters in Search of an Exit reveals the futility of our own attempts at salvation. We can’t release ourselves from the pain.

Our intellect won’t save us. Theology, fantasy, philosophy or technology aren’t the answers to our personal nightmares. Our fellow humans, even friends and loved ones, aren’t the way out of our suffering. In fact, they may even become adversaries.

Charles Weigl learned this in his own horrific experience.

He was an effective 19th century Christian evangelist and hymn writer. Thousands came to faith in Jesus from his work.

But his loved ones turned on him.

“Adversaries are typical,” says Cox, “but the kind that Weigl would endure are the kind that try men’s souls.”

His wife came under the influence of family members who rejected Weigl’s ministry. He was accused of abandoning his family for it. Eventually his wife left him to seek after the pleasures of the world.

Weigl was devastated. Cox tells how his ministry apparently suffered because church’s were not too fond of a divorced preacher. Even so, God did not give up on Weigl. He began to heal him.

One day in Florida Weigl was so sorrowful that he was considering taking his life. But he recalled his own experience of putting his faith in Jesus when he was in his late teens. He heard a voice say, “Charlie. I care about you. I haven’t forgotten you. Let not your heart be troubled.”

He remembered that there is indeed Someone who cared about Him.

Weigl clearly heard the voice of Jesus. It may not have been audible, but the form of His voice doesn’t matter. Out of this experience he wrote a well known hymn: “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”

J. Vernon McGee notes how the Scriptures describe Jesus’s voice as similar to running water, the kind one hears from a stream or waterfall.

McGee was once hiking in Yosemite Park in California when he heard his own name being spoken from a waterfall there. He said that people might think him crazy, but he believes the water was calling his name. “Try it some time,” he said.

McGee told this tale in the context of explaining how those who belong to Jesus recognize His voice. In his message the pastor said that believers in Jesus are described in the Bible as “sheep.” As this animal knows the voice of its shepherd, so those who belong to Jesus know His voice.

The Psalmist writes of the importance of listening to God’s voice in the midst of suffering.  He spoke to the people of ancient Israel, whom God had just delivered from awful slavery in Egypt:

Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it

God WANTS to give us abundance in this life. It may or may not be of the material kind, but we can count on Him to define this abundance, and sculpt it just to fit us.

In the same passage the Psalmist writes of how God had removed the burden from His people’s shoulders. It was not necessary for them to bear a crushing weight anymore. Yet, Israel did indeed continue to rebel against God.

The Psalmist’s warnings rings just as true as the bell of the woman collecting dolls. It’s ringing for us now.

We may be doing everything we can to cope with our personal pit, just as The Major did. In some ways, he is an admirable figure.

He figured that the horror he and his colleagues were experiencing was not reality. The truth lay outside of their own heads and beyond their own efforts.

Their pit was not their final destination. These dolls were meant for loving arms to hold during the Christmas season.

My prayer is that those who belong to Jesus as I do will hear His voice while immersed in the cultural noise around them during this season and be comforted.

For those who do not hear His voice, I would relay the teaching of McGee. He told his listeners that that a person who was deaf to the voice of Jesus did not belong to Him.

The way out of YOUR pit begins with putting your trust in Him to deliver you from it. I There’s no need to stay there.

This week a friend sent me an unsolicited Email. I had not heard from him for a while.

In this Email he warned me to not succumb to “Christmas-induced depression.” This kind of message from my pal was not typical of him, so my ears perked up.

I believe his exhortation was God speaking. I was in bed at the time, feeling miserable. Right then and there I determined to fight my malaise.

Merry Christmas to all  in the pit. May Jesus enter your realm and comfort and deliver you during this difficult time.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Guts; His glory: living an authentic life that is pleasing to God

In “Guts and Glory: Profiles in Courage from TV and Film”, I highlighted the motivations of two fictional characters which propelled them to take risks and pursue their passions, goals and dreams.

My foundation for such a quest seems out of place in this modern world. The chasing of personal goals is subsumed in a greater ambition: pleasing God. This means in practice I must listen to Him. The first thing I learned as a kid was that the Jesus portrayed in the Bible was not a fictional character, but the one true God.

In this day and age, when even prayer is mocked in the public domain, I fear that listening to God’s voice and making decisions on this basis might require courage of the kind these TV and film personalities displayed.  Like them,  I may have to risk being humiliated to actually seek answers from Him and do what He says.

Perhaps my trepidation is an exercise in overthinking. Ours is a time when people do what is right in their own eyes anyhow, so I may be worrying in vain about how people see me when I go against their grain. On the other hand, everything seems to be permissible today EXCEPT being a follower of Jesus, so I may indeed have a cause for concern.

What I have come to partially understand is the nature of how God  works in His dealings with humans. When He speaks, He is not a dictator. From what I grasp of Him, He is rarely loud nor does he yell. God’s voice is one that is of a kind that mainly whispers.

Furthermore, when he desires to accomplish His work through me, He does so through a man he created in His image, one He made with a certain distinctiveness.  God has no intention of violating my uniqueness. Indeed, he wants to form me from within and honor and set apart my motives, thoughts, plans and ideas in such a way that I am a real and authentic person

Despite the buzz I hear from others, I realize in my mind that opposition to the pursuit of this genuine “me” should not even be an issue with secular folks ? Historically, going after our human originality has been totally valid. For instance, the 16th century William Shakespeare called it being true to yourself.

The rub in modern society may be that I am chasing the honest “me” on the basis of what may seem like an  ethereal relationship with and obedience to a Supreme Being it knows little about. Our modern world doesn’t seem to have much use for the God portrayed in the Bible. Of the the billions of people inhabiting this planet, it is my perception that a relatively small percentage search out the truths found in this book.

The words from His Scriptures have been my foundation for living for a long time. They speak to my purpose in this world and how that is to play out for me as an individual personality. In fact, I began following Jesus in high school BECAUSE I discovered that my true purpose was found in Him.

American pastor and teacher J. Vernon McGee cites the following text from the Bible to support his teaching that God desires to work through His people so that they are normal and natural and not some automatons:
Stop assuming an outward expression that does not come from within you and is not representative of what you are in your inner being but is patterned after this age; but change your outward expression to one that comes from within and is representative of your inner being, by the renewing of your mind, resulting in your putting to the test what is the will of God, the good and well- pleasing and complete will, and having found that it meets specifications, place your approval upon it. (Romans 12:2 Wuest Expanded Translation).

In some fashion, I believe this passage says that God’s will must suit ME! The Bible actually tells me to approve His specs for me. Working with God to shape my life is not life having an autocrat for a boss.

Shakespeare likened humans to actors playing a part on the stage of this world. The director gives the players the script and they’re to recite it. McGee disagrees with the learned bard.

“This is not true of the believer,” he said. “He must be genuine because (God the) Holy Spirit is working from within.”

McGee indicates that I would actually be working at cross purposes with God and my own personhood if I do not remain true to myself.

“The minute you and I assume a pose, to be something we are not, it will be impossible to determine the will of God for our lives,” he said. “The will of God becomes good and fits the will of the believer exactly.”

Knowing how to ascertain and implement the plan of God for my life has not been easy over the course of my life. I have been confused at times and in retrospect, made mistakes.

This could be because I have acted like a participant in a game who tries to win without knowing much about the rules or how to play. As an avid board gamer in my youth, I know it’s important to understand the instructions.

Pleasing centers around two words that sound strange in this culture of independence..

One of these terms is ‘worship’. I was created for a relationship with Jesus, one that involves devoting myself wholly to Him. The term ‘worship’ should not astound us. After all ,we “worship” girlfriends, boyfriends and rock stars. Why not “worship”Jesus.

Another word that is bizarre for us but is crucial in following Jesus is the term ‘surrender’. Pastor Rick Warren in his best selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” reveals that surrendering to Jesus is at the heart of the worship of Him.

He explains that when a believer in Jesus comprehends the true meaning of “surrender”, they can be in a place to relinquish the fear, pride and confusion that can sometimes accompany following Him. In defining “surrender, Warren writes  that the term does not mean “passive resignation, fatalism, or an excuse for laziness.”

Warren notes:

“It may mean the exact opposite: sacrificing your life or suffering in order to change what needs to be changed. Surrendering is not for cowards or doormats.”

The people who I wrote about last time were definitely not cowards or doormats. But stories I watched said nothing about the roots of the courage they revealed in pursuing their hopes  and dreams. They only spoke of what those passions were. But they at least exemplified a brave pursuit of their fulfillment.

What I have learned from these fictional folks is that I need to determine what my current passions and hopes are. What should follow is to take what I learn to God with open arms and let Him help me live them out in a way that pleases Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, culture, Jesus Christ, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized

Guts and Glory: Profiles in Courage from TV and Film

A fewJessica Pearson has reached a crossroads, one that she hasn’t seen coming.

Standing in a courtroom, the high-energy attorney featured on the hit TV series “Suits” must decide if she will stay and defend a man who is on trial for his life, or leave for an emergency meeting to save her New York law firm.  In the past, her choice would have been a no-brainer.

Jessica is the founder and managing partner of her firm. She has already shown that she will do anything to maintain its position and her power.

The attorney has aided and abetted the fraud perpetrated by Mike Ross, an employee who has posed as a brilliant attorney for the firm, but in fact did not attend law school. Jessica has also chosen her job over her lover Jeff Malone.

(SPOILER ALERT)

But now she has found her soul. As she defends Leonard Bailey, a man who is to be executed for murder but has been given a new trial, Jessica recalls why she became an attorney. She remembers that she went to law school over the objections of her father in order to help people.

As a result of this epiphany, Jessica tells her other desperate partners, hovering in the courtroom to drag her to the meeting, to take a hike. She goes on to perform an astounding cross examination of a key witness that causes the judge to free Bailey.

When Jessica walks into the hall, a rival lawyer who has witnessed her defense tells her how amazing the cross was. She replies that she believes it is the pinnacle of her career.

Ironically, this admiring attorney had earlier attempted to poach Jessica from her firm, expecting it to crash. Jessica turned him down.

At the end of the episode, she announces to her partners that she is leaving the firm. She knocks on Jeff’s door that night to tell him that she wants to leave with him for Chicago, where he intends to begin a new job.

Walking away from a career with lots of power and money to pursue your true calling and the love of your life is not easy as it might seem.  It carries a big risk.

Sonny Weaver learned that being true to yourself and your convictions can put you in jeopardy. In his case, he is under threat of losing his job as general manager of the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 film “Draft Day”.

Like Jessica, he has people hounding him at crucial times as he tries to make decisions about what players to pick during the NFL draft.  The biggest problem, though, is that his aging playboy owner wants him to “make a big splash” in order to put buns in the stadium seats. Defying him means obvious curtains for Sonny.

Furthermore, the team’s new coach, a Super Bowl winner for another team, carps at his general manager as Sonny wheels and deals during the draft. They appear to have major philosophical differences as to how construct the team.

In addition, current and aspiring players are lobbying Sonny during the day. Brian Drew, the Browns’ quarterback, trashes his office when he learns that his general manager has paid a king’s ransom to Seattle in order to gain the number 1 draft pick.

It is assumed that the Browns will pick a star college quarterback with the choice. That’s certainly what Sonny’s owner expects him to do. When that happens, Drew figures he is toast.

The coach hates this idea of a rookie quarterback taking over the reigns of the team, too. He believes Drew will run his offense better.

On top of his on-the-job issues, Sonny also must fend off his loved ones who want his time and attention during this critical period. His girlfriend, who is also the financial whiz for the Browns, announces that she is pregnant.

Sonny and her keep meeting in a closet to discuss their relationship during draft day. When he asks his girlfriend what she really wants, she says “I don’t want to be a secret.”

Furthermore Sonny’s mother Barb picks draft day to discuss the provisions of his father’s will. His Dad, a legend for the Browns, decided that he wanted his ashes placed at the 50 yard line of the practice field which is named after him.

Barb wants to do the ceremony then and there. Sonny is adamant that he won’t participate. This doesn’t stop Barb. She leads team personnel onto the field to distribute the ashes without her son.

Clearly it is complete chaos at Browns headquarters. In the midst of it all, Sonny keeps his head.

He does this because it is His dream to pick the players HE wants and to build the team HIS way. As he dickers with other team’s general managers he works toward that goal.

When the first pick is announced, Sonny has picked a linebacker whom he loves. He believes the hyped quarterback will be a bust, but that his choice will be a star.

The angry owner hops a plane from the draft site to go to Cleveland and fire him. Not only does he arrive at headquarters and say to Sonny “you’re a dead man”, but the coach also tells Sonny that he quits.

“I can’t coach a team that has no future,” the coach says. Sonny asks him to hold on.

He also tells his owner to give him five minutes. If he doesn’t like what he sees after that, then he can fire him.

Sonny then amazes everyone. He not only gets back all the picks he traded to move up to number 1, but also gets a star punt returner and drafts a stud running back, which pleases the coach.

The owner tells him, “Congratulations. You have some balls.”

At the end of the day everyone is happy. Sonny and his girlfriend have weathered their storm. His mother is pleased when she hears that she will have a grandchild.

The fictional stories of Jessica and Sonny tell this writer, this real life person, that if he is to imperil himself his confidence had better not be of the false kind. I had better have a clear foundation of beliefs that will help me to withstand the opposition to my choices.

In my next post I will explain what that firm ground is for me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film reviews, Sports, Television, Uncategorized

America has made a deal with the devil. Perhaps it’s not too late.

There is some thought that we are in the midst of a civil war in America. If we are, it’s not like the first one that occurred over a century and a half ago.

In 1861 there was a clear geographical demarcation in the War Between the States: the northern states were on one side and the southern states were on the other. There were some border states with mixed loyalties that officially stayed in the Union.

The nature of the war is different now. The conflict is between masses of individuals spread throughout the country in blue {“liberal”) states and  red “”conservative”” ones. A few are purple, meaning they could go either way during an election.

I  suppose there COULD be a geographical split, but I doubt any states that secede would join a confederation.  These states most likely would blue ones located on different coasts.

There are some similarities between the 19th century contest and our own. Both wars concerned political, ideological and cultural differences.  But the mixing of those who hold disparate views is so great now that it would be virtually impossible to have organized hostilities involving armies.

What is very different today is the spiritual nature of the struggle. Back in the 1860s Americans generally accepted that Christianity was the prevailing faith. Both folks in the north and their counterparts in the south accepted that our country was “Christian”.

This didn’t mean that everyone was a believer. It just meant that our national values leaned heavily on Biblical teaching and many Americans sought to live their lives by them. It was also generally agreed that violating Christian instruction regarding social mores was anathema.

This way of thinking is obviously not the case in the second decade of the 21st century. The Christian faith is still prevalent, but not as much as in the past. Furthermore, since the 1960s the nation has descended into what can best be termed a post-Christian era. In fact, we are probably way beyond such a period.

The end result is that every man does what is right in his own eyes.  This could very well mean that Americans wittingly or unwittingly are making a deal with the polar opposite of Jesus, i.e. the evil being known as Satan, or the devil.

Oh, the accord with the angel of darkness may not be cut in stone in the human’s mind, but it is still an understanding. This compromise is similar in kind to my sports rooting.

Since none of my team’s win, I generally cheer from the negative. I pull for my teams’ rivals to lose.

Some unbelievers behave in the same fashion. They see Christianity as a losing proposition for them. They may not be that enthused about or even believe in the devil, but they get involved with his dark devices anyway by default. The resulting values and actions are not exactly “Christian” in tone.

Other people who are not followers of Jesus are in a worse fix. They have fallen hook, line and sinker into the abyss with Satan. They are making a clear and conscious choice to ignore and disobey God and walk with the devil.

This predicament can be detected in the America of today by observing the onslaught of lying in the media.Politicians and other leaders lie to our faces on TV, radio and the Internet. In addition, the purveyors of news are not only willing accomplices, but avid participants in the deception.

The source of this systemic falsehood is made known in the Scriptures. Satan has many names, but one of his monikers in the Bible is “The Father of Lies.” He’s the king prevaricator.

Such a decline as we see now  was perhaps possible in the 19th century, but not probable. Americans still had not thrown caution to the wind. Truth still mattered. Evil was at bay.

Soldiers

CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS FROM NORTH AND SOUTH AT A REUNION. A COMMON SET OF SPIRITUAL VALUES MADE RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE.

Because of our current beguiling, I was amazed to see the Christian faith of the time depicted on my television last night. Unfortunately, the show was one made almost 60 years ago, not recently.

One of my favorite Netflix pastimes is to watch old episodes of the science fiction/fantasy series “The Twilight Zone.” The one I saw last night involved a Confederate soldier who stumbles upon a bizarre scene in a Virginia town.

This Rebel scout found Union frozen in place in the streets of the place. They appeared as if they were people in a still photo, some in the middle of an action.

The Confederate, a man named Sergeant Paradine, at first thought the men were asleep. But he soon tossed that idea. He couldn’t wake them up, even though he shouted in their faces.

As he walked Paradine came upon an old man named Teague who claimed to have cast a spell on the Union soldiers. He showed the Confederate his book of witchcraft.

When Paradine didn’t believe him,the warlock froze him in place, too. However, the sorcerer left him with the ability to comprehend what was happening around him.

After releasing Paradine from the effects of the incantation, the old man told the sergeant that he could cast a spell on the entire Union army, but he wouldn’t because he knew he was to die that day. He gave the book to Paradine so the Confederate could do so himself.

Before reporting back to his commanding officer, Paradine froze some Union defenders in place on a ridge in the region. The state of these soldiers was confirmed by the attacking Confederate officer when the rebels were all together that night.

Paradine

PARADINE

What ensued was a debate over whether or not Paradine should go on and paralyze the entire US Army. He hesitated at first because while he was with Teague the sergeant felt the use of the book was unclean. The warlock also confirmed that the person conducting the witchcraft was in league with the devil. All this made Paradine uneasy.

At first Paradine’s commanding officer resisted the casting of spells, also. “It’s of the devil,” he said.

But Paradine regrouped and tried to convince his superior to let him use the book of witchcraft. “I don’t know much about Satan, he said, “but this cause of ours is dying right in front of our eyes.”

The officer then concurred and told Paradine to read from the book. However, when he did so he came across a passage that made him stop dead in his tracks.

“He calls upon us to revoke the name of God,” said Paradine. Despite exhortations from the others the sergeant couldn’t go on.

“What do we call em? Damn Yankees, don’t we, lieutenant?,” said Paradine. “If I read aloud from the book it is the Confederacy that will be damned.

“It’s the book or it’s the end,” he went on. “Then let it be the end. If it must come, let it come.

“If this cause is to be buried let it be put in hallowed ground. Let it be put in hallowed ground.”

The book of witchcraft was immediately burned in the campfire.

Would that men and women in America take the same stance against Satan instead of colaboring with him. The only way that will happen if we see the error of our ways as Paradine did. If we do, then perhaps we will have a spiritual revival in our nation.

Even if a large segment of our populace continues to make a deal with the devil, the people of God can still take a stand. They can actively oppose Satan’s playbook. This courageous activity may not save our country, but such a stance will at least please God and make our burial ground noble in His eyes.

In the long run of eternity, this is more important. Siding with Satan is never right.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, culture, culture war, Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson, Desmond Doss, Jesus Christ, Media, politics, religion, Revival, Spiritual Warfare, spirituality, Temper of the Times, Truth, Uncategorized, United States, War

The Confusing Nature of the NFL Protests

Slow News Day

You can learn a lot about people, organizations and government by how they respond when they are threatened or in a crisis.

Look at the National Football League (NFL), the professional American sports league, for instance. The commissioner’s office and the owners are caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment.

It’s all over the news today, but if you left on Planet Nine this weekend, here’s a summary of the situation.  Teams were confronted with how to react to comments by President Donald Trump last week. The Donald said that an owner should fire a player who kneels instead of stands when the national anthem is played. Mimicking what this owner should say, Trump shouted “Get that son of a bitch off the field.” He added his signature line from his reality TV days: “You’re fired!”

The original protest of kneeling while the anthem is played…

View original post 776 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A college homecoming sheds light on the state of America

I’ve spent the last quarter century living in college towns, both in the US and overseas. One of the features of those burgs in America in the autumn is the homecoming parade.

If you’re American you know what that is. If you’re not, then it might require some explanation.

Homecoming is a college celebration focusing on the return of alumni to that school. Held on Fall weekends, the centerpiece is an American football game against a (usually) weaker opponent. (After all, losing would spoil the fun.)

There are other events surrounding homecoming as well. This morning my town had a run/walk happening which I wondered into on the way to getting coffee. My route to the shop was on the same road as this little fun run and the parade. In fact, I had forgotten all about Homecoming and was mainly interested in getting a cup of Java.

The coffee shop and the sidewalk in front of  it were packed with customers awaiting the parade.  I waited until the tidal wave of people dissipated and then went to get my caffeine fix. When I got to the cashier, she and another barista smiled at me and said, “Nice to see a familiar face.”

I returned to my table and caught the show. I was struck by how patriotic the parade was. American flags were everywhere. The first thought in my head was, “Nobody’s kneeling.”

received_10214858986410903 (1)

“Nobody’s kneeling.”

..

Like many Americans, I have been inundated by young folks kneeling when the national anthem is played and the  flag displayed. The scenes are so ubiquitous in the media that the impression is imprinted on my mind.

What I saw at homecoming conflicted with all the reports we have all viewed of late. I began to have some cognitive dissonance.  I also regained some pride in my country.

I must add a caveat. I live in a distinctly red state. Furthermore, although the local university is fairly sizable, the town only has about 60,000 inhabitants and is situated in the middle of farmland. This kind of community tends to be more traditional then the bigger metropolises.

That the nation is so consumed with “kneelers”, historically confined to worship services, is a huge change in my lifetime.  There was a period when youth burned the flag. It was common during Vietnam.

However, things settled down after that war ended and Ronald Reagan became president. We all were all back to trying to make a buck.

The era was typified by young Republican Alex P. Keaton of the fictional sitcom “Family Ties”. Saddled with left wing parents, Alex went after filthy lucre. much to the dismay of his father and mother.

Now we’re back to dissing the flag. The Swarthmore University Indigenous Students Association even resurrected the bygone method of torching our the Stars and Stripes on Columbus Day. But the go-to method now is to kneel when the flag is honored, and the technique is expanding. This week a young lady tasked with singing the national anthem at an NBA game knelt as she performed.

There’s a large disagreement among the populace as to the appropriateness of such demonstrations. One side thinks kneeling or tarnishing the flag is disrespectful and unpatriotic while the other believes our freedoms represented in that banner provide the right to manifest unhappiness with injustices in our land of liberty.

A  vexillologist will tell you that a national flag is meant to inspire. When certain elements of our people protest while it is honored is indicative of how disgruntled these folks really are.

This discontent makes EVERYONE unhappy. It’s not nice, and if there is any value that dominates American society, it is the expectation that we all be “nice” to one another.

Part of the problem with the airing of gripes during a flag ceremony is that this kind of grousing is thought to be an extreme form of dissent in most countries. My take is that not all Americans grasp this way of thinking. After all, it’s just a piece of fabric. NOT!

The New Zealand Flag Institute notes the importance of national flags to most people. It states:

A flag represents an idea, or an ideal. It is neither a mere piece of decoration, nor an object to be honored for itself. It is honored for what it represents. Many flags are held in high esteem for their history; for the sacrifices made by the people; for the qualities for which the country and people stand. 

Such respect does not depend on the aesthetic appeal of the design, or on it attempting to represent visually the people or politics of a country. If it represent anything tangible, a national flags generally symbolizes the unchanging characteristics of a nation… In democracies they do not generally represent political affiliations.

Like everything else in American life, the honoring of the Stars and Stripes has been politicized. As a result, the ceremony appears to  have taken on a different meaning for some.

What is disconcerting is that there may be something more spurious at work. Those remonstrating during a time when they should be honoring the flag might have deeper issues.

“To fly the national flag is a sign of pride and patriotism,” says the National Flag Institute. “It a positive affirmation of loyalty and commitment.”

It marks out a country that has confidence in itself, and is comfortable with its place in the world, its history and its future.”

What is worrisome is that the tidal wave of howling at the flag as a dog does at the moon could denote a nation where a significant amount of the citizens don’t care for its history, present or future. Yet, there are folks like who I saw today who seem to be just fine with the America we have.

The celebration included whites, African Americans, those of Spanish descent and even internationals. This local march gave me the impression we are still one nation indivisible.

I hope this weekend’s homecoming parade bore the earmarks of the true America, no the one I see in the media every day. If it did, the country is in good shape. If not, we might be coming apart at the seams.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, culture war, politics, Temper of the Times, Uncategorized

Rebirth Day

On October 17, 1781 Lord Cornwallis, the commanding officer of 8,000 British troops at Yorktown, Virginia asked his opponent George Washington for terms of surrender. On October 19 the Redcoats marched in defeat before the Yankees and the fruits of revolution had bloomed. On October 18 not much happened.
However, October 18 is an important date for me. I was born that day in the city of Baltimore. This particular birthday I am experiencing my own revolution of sorts.IMG_20171018_092837_356 (1)
Yesterday a close friend told me that he thought a weight was being lifted from my shoulders. I wrote back this morning. This is what I told him:

It’s funny you should say those things about weight being lifted from my shouders. I just got a note wishing me a happy birthday from a Christian life coach I did some writing for, a guy now in Australia. He told me at the end of the note that “you are a good man.” Don’t hear that much.

I told him that I was coming out of a dark place spiritually and circumstantially but that it has taken good men to help me do it. You of course are one of them, and probably the prime mover.


As you are well aware when God sends you connecting patterns you had better be alert. So it was yesterday with the “arrows of the Lord” metaphor. (Note: I had told my friend that I felt like Job, who said “for the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.”)
I am reading the memoir of Steven Curtis Chapman, the singer/composer. He was 30 miles from here over the weekend and I really wanted to see him. But I couldn’t make it.
Anyhow, in the book he says he was able to connect with the ministry of Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint, one of the missionaries killed by Auca Indians in South America in the 1950s, along with Jim Elliot. (Eliot was the husband of Elizabeth Eliot, who wrote their story in “Through Gates of Splendor”.)  Chapman went down to the tribe and met the murderers, all who had become Christian believers.
 
A documentary was being filmed outside the hut they were in. Kimo, one of the converted Indians said, “That’s the sound we heard.” Steve Saint said,”What? You heard music?”

The Indians had indeed heard music when the missionaries approached their area on a nearby beach. The Indians had never heard music. “Yes, it came from the trees and the skies,” Kimo replied.

 

Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote the following in commenting on what the Indian had told Steve Saint:

 

Whether it was the sound of angels we will never know. But I couldn’t help wondering if Kimo’s revelation answered the often-asked question, “Where was God when this horrible thing happened?”. When his messengers were attacked, when the spears were plunged into their flesh, when their bodies were dumped into the river. Was the sound in the trees and the skies an indication that God’s presence had been there even as the spears were run through the missionaries? I felt I knew the answer.”

 

Kind of blew me away that God was in the midst of all that has happened to me in the last few years. But I think I am getting the message. As you said to me recently, God thinks outside of our evangelical box.

 

So, I am optimistic about the future. This is something for me to say that. Last birthday I tried to forget all about it. At Christmas I holed up in my apartment and just waited for it all to be over.

 

Not this year. Today I am celebrating my birthday, i.e “life”. Went to a coffee shop first thing, and will go to see a movie later. I might even buy myself a cake. On the way I met a Gideon who gave me a Bible. I don’t think that was  accidental.
I later wrote my buddy and told him I had read Psalm 118 out of that Gideon Bible. Some verses immediately spoke to me. “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free…the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation…I shall not die but shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord…This is the Lord’s day, it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Another passage to sum of the meaning of my own little revolution just came to mind. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy God told the Israelites: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (30:19)
This birthday I have decided to care, whether others do or not. I have decided to choose life. It’s an important day for me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, religion, Uncategorized