Out of Many, One

There’s a phrase in my family that always brings a knowing smile anytime we hear it: “have you ever been to New York?” The phrase has its own back story but for our purposes today it means making judgments about a place without ever having been there. In other words, speaking without a full understanding of the topic being discussed.

It seems there’s a lot of that going around in America these days – people making judgments about places or people they know very little about. Millions of people lumped together into baskets of deplorables, for example. Value judgments that don’t rest on facts and experience, but on individual biases and prejudices.

We have a very incomplete view of America if we’ve only seen it from 40,000 feet en route from one coast to the other. A more complete understanding comes with a close-up ground-level view. When you travel by air you won’t see any “you’re now entering Nebraska” signs alerting you to the fact that you’re now in the airspace of the particular state miles below. When we travel over America and not through it, we’re not greeted by state mottos, slogans or people at the state lines and we can miss the richness and individualism that add color and understanding to the American Experience.

As hard as it is to imagine, the mainstream media that now either ignores or demeans middle America, once sent reporters into the red state heartland to take the cultural pulse of those living and working there – who were politically as well as geographically distanced from fellow citizens in blue coastal states. I fondly remember and looked forward to Charles Kuralt’s On the Road reports broadcast on CBS, and those came to mind when and Pam and I took recent road trips, first into the northwest: to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and then from southern California across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas before ending in Tennessee.

It was an education that brought an appreciation for those with callings and values rooted in an earlier time. We saw vast fields with fences and gates designed to protect and keep livestock in, not keep the unwelcome out as may be the case in more established and higher socio-economic neighborhoods.

No matter what day it was, we saw tractors in fields doing the work that would not wait until tomorrow.

We marveled at the seemingly endless trains that carried the necessities of life east and west to their destinations. To us.

And we saw trucks, endless streams of trucks, headed toward or away from the comfort of their own homes and families to transport the essentials of life to us. And we benefitted from the vast trucker support network of fuel, food and convenience stations selling virtually anything that could be needed. And then some.

Off the Interstates we drove through the business districts of what were once the centers of their regional communities. Buildings with architecture of a different era, some with boarded up windows and some with painted signs announcing the services still provided inside.

In each community we saw steeples, places of worship where the continuity of shared faith continues to be expressed as it has been for centuries, back to the time when people of common values joined together to form a new nation of United States.

And there were flags, lots of flags. Flags painted on buildings, flags flying on poles, flags rippling from the back of pickup trucks. Everywhere … flags … that expressed the values of people – Americans – whose viewpoints about the United States may be different from those in other regions, but who have equal standing to participate with those of different persuasions to create a blended American experience.

E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, One.

And as we drove and experienced new things, we imagined the stories they could tell. An unpainted, gray cinder block building, now abandoned, that once provided gasoline and clean windshields to travelers in northeastern New Mexico.

Weathered wooden homes and barns in Texas that have withstood decades of severe weather and now stand in disrepair as reminders of a different time. We wondered what kinds of celebrations had they witnessed when they were first built, or when the harvest exceeded expectations.

Then we walked on sacred battlefields in Tennessee, where Americans wearing both blue and gray prayed to the same Deity and died on the same blood-red soaked fields.

Can we look at our history today and make the necessary adjustments to preserve our future as United States? Can we, will we, learn before it’s too late, that the escalating tensions between Teams Blue and Red are a serious threat to those on both sides? And also to the world that will be catastrophically diminished if America’s lamp of freedom is extinguished?

Abraham Lincoln assessed the threat of his day with this warning: A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot permanently endure half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

George Washington, in his Farewell Address delivered in 1796, saw beyond the horizon of his generation to see the dangers that threaten our generations today.

For a nation to survive, its citizens must share common values, because conflict is the inevitable consequence of unshared expectations. I believe President Lincoln was correct: we cannot survive as a house divided, And I believe President Washington accurately foresaw the problems that jeopardize our continued existence as a nation.

Either we will become all one thing or all the other. Which will it be? Our choices will determine our future.

That’s all for now, but I hope you will watch for the next blog post when I review several of the specific warnings in Washington’s Farewell Address and discuss how they are relevant to the political and constitutional divisions that are facing Americans today.

By |2022-06-11T17:22:49+00:00June 11, 2022|Culture, Faith|Comments Off on Out of Many, One

A Time to Remember

Early in the morning of the week in 2014 that marked the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, I walked Omaha Beach with a friend and our wives. Only the four of us were present, and the peaceful silence was a stark contrast to the violent sounds that I imagined filled the air on the same beach on D-Day. Alone with our thoughts, we watched the empty sands and the tides ebb and flow untouched by human conflict.

It was a time to remember, and a time to reflect on the extraordinary sacrifices that took place on the beaches of France in 1944. The beaches … they were so much larger than I had imagined they would be, there was so much empty land to be crossed before the relative safety below the bluffs, a safety that was just an illusion until the bluffs above could be scaled and secured.

It was hallowed ground, walked in reverence to the price that had been paid there.

Not far away, on the bluffs overlooking the beaches, we saw evidence of that price when we walked among the thousands of Crosses and Stars of David that marked the graves of those who paid the price with their lives. You cannot visit the American Cemetery in Normandy and not be challenged by the small white Lasa marble crosses, in perfectly aligned rows that contrast with the green, immaculately trimmed grass that blanketed the former battlefield. It was a time to remember.

For Christians, this week marks another time to remember, a special time to recall another battlefield, another cross, and another tomb. Jesus’ final week didn’t begin in a violent assault, but a triumphant entry for the Prince of Peace. It began with shouted Hosannas and being welcomed as King. He shared one last supper with his friends, washed their feet as a servant would, then agonized with his Father. Then he was betrayed, falsely accused, torturously beaten, mocked, and executed on a rough-hewn Roman cross.

Like those who reflect silently on Omaha Beach, it is impossible to imagine the horror of what Jesus endured to win the Battle for our Salvation. Even the savage imagery of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ cannot capture the evil of what surrounded Jesus execution. Perfection offered up, so that perfection could be offered us. The One who created the world came into the world and the world rejected him – it executed him. Think about that. Think about the price that was paid when the Perfect One became a sacrifice. For us.

Here, though, the parallel ends between Omaha Beach and Golgotha, between the white marble crosses in an American Cemetery and a single blood-stained wooden cross on Calvary. More than nine thousand bodies are buried above Omaha Beach but there is only an empty tomb to remind us of the victory achieved on that solitary cross.

This week is a time to remember, reflect, rejoice, and join our voices with the countless millions who have celebrated the victory of the empty tomb with this declaration: He is Risen. He is Risen indeed.

By |2022-04-11T21:56:25+00:00April 11, 2022|Faith|Comments Off on A Time to Remember

Speak Lord

The book of Mark records the following verse: Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’

Have you ever noticed that virtually all aspects of American life conspire to keep us away from being alone with Jesus? We’re bombarded with distractions. It can become impossible to hear his voice if we don’t intentionally take time to be away with him. When the disciples were so busy “coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat”, Jesus said this to them: Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Do you have a quiet time, a place to be alone with him? A time apart from the busyness of life where he can speak, and you can hear?

I’m married to a teacher and father of a principal. I’ve overheard them talk about classroom management and lowering the volume. When the noise increases, they don’t always raise their voices, sometimes they soften them to barely more than a whisper. They don’t try to shout over the storm, they wait for quiet so they can be heard. Maybe we need to do this with God. Maybe it just seems as if he’s not speaking, when in reality we just can’t hear him over the noise of life.

Did Elijah find God’s counsel in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire? Or was it in the gentle whisper after the calamities had subsided?

How will we hear the heart of God when we constantly live among texts, calls, or emails? When our questions are sent not to God but to Alexa, Siri or Google? Try this: choose a time, then get away. No mobile device, no distractions. Nothing. Get alone. Then, like Samuel, wait before the Lord with this petition in your heart: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

By |2022-04-02T14:42:01+00:00April 2, 2022|Faith|Comments Off on Speak Lord

A War on History

A nation separated from its roots will, like any plant, surely wither and die. That is the danger facing America today

Decades ago, extreme elements of American culture began infiltrating its mainstream institutions in an effort to separate America from its roots, and re-make it to their own liking. The goal was, and remains, to create a vastly different America than the one our founders envisioned, and in many different arenas today we see the evidence of their intentions and their successes.  Public schools usurp parental rights. Technology platforms restrict free exchange of ideas. Major corporations are hostile to cherished values. Media companies transitioned into leftist megaphones. Entertainment ceased entertaining in favor of indoctrinating. In the name of justice, injustice is imposed by the state. Government pierces the wall separating church and state, and public expressions of faith are threatened. Freedom of speech is under attack.

There are more examples, but this post focuses on the more strategic objectives underlying individual battles in what has become a War on History. America’s history is being systematically distorted, destroyed, and re-written. Why? Because the lack of historical context will prevent citizens from gaining an accurate understanding of the current issues they face. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and the lesson of history is that if we abandon our heritage, our future will be one of chaos and uncertainty.

Those who would re-make America understand that they must first destroy the history of our founding, and the progress we have made since. Their strategic objective is to erase past truths and replace them with current ideologies. The Father of Lies puts a high priority on distorting and abolishing the past. The God of the Bible puts a high premium on truth and remembering. Here are three examples.

Paul told the early church in Corinth, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Since then, believers have remembered what Jesus did for them when his body was broken and a new covenant was established. They understood that the taking of the bread and the cup is only meaningful because they are connected to the historical realities of a crucifixion and a resurrection.

Joshua was the leader of ancient Israel when it finally left its wandering, crossed the Jordan River, and entered the land of promise. He directed that a memorial of stones be erected so when future generations asked about its meaning, they would be told what the stones meant and would be reminded of God’s covenant and promise. The memorial of stones was built for the benefit and education of all future generations who would see the stones, and remember. America has its similar reminder in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Then consider Jeremiah, who lived centuries later in an Israel that had ceased to follow God’s covenant. But not all disbelieved. In the midst of a rebellious nation being carried into captivity, in the midst of horrific things happening all around him, Jeremiah remembered. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” he said. Because of the Lord’s great love he would not be consumed. He remembered God’s faithfulness and knew that his compassions would never fail, but be given new every morning. He remembered, and his remembering provided him the larger and more truthful context that allowed him to declare “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him”.

We are called by God to remember, yet we are also pulled away and enticed by the Father of Lies to forget. Like ancient Israel, America shares a heritage that comes from faith in the Creator. If we ever desert this truth and cut ourselves off from our roots, we will cease to live in the freedom of his blessing and experience the tyranny of man’s oppression instead.

We must resist the systematic de-construction of the Constitution, the rejection of its values, and the cancelling of our history. We must see a larger picture and understand the strategic objectives of those who sow the seeds for America’s destruction, and then respond wisely and engage in the battles that must be won.

 

By |2022-03-17T04:56:44+00:00March 17, 2022|Culture, Faith|Comments Off on A War on History

The Common Good

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

In late April I’ll celebrate 76 years on planet earth. I’ve visited four continents and seen unbelievably beautiful sights. God does good work! Today, I want to share about one of those places – Utah’s Bryce Canyon. Shortly before the Covid shutdown in early 2020, Pam and I stood on an overlook there, with the blue sky and wispy white clouds looking down on snow-topped red and yellow sandstone pillars, called hoodoos. Splashes of green from stubby trees clinging to the canyon walls dotted the scene. Everything came together to form a magnificent expression of God’s creation.

Before leaving we bought a jigsaw puzzle that mirrored what we saw. Now, I’d like you to imagine “what if?” with me. What if we’d gotten home and some of the pieces were missing? What if our eye was not attracted to the whole, but the holeWhat if?

The Holy Spirit gifts each one of us, every one of us, so that working together we can demonstrate the common good intended by God, not just in his creation but in His Body.

We must never discount our role because our piece is too small or our shape is too irregular. We must not abstain from fitting into his plan because our piece is in the shadows and not the more prominent place in the blue sky that we so admire. And perhaps even covet.

It would be a shame if we opened the puzzle box and couldn’t duplicate the scene we remembered. But it would be a terrible tragedy if the world were unable to see God’s design because we withhold our portion from its view.

By |2022-03-08T16:09:09+00:00March 13, 2022|Faith|Comments Off on The Common Good

Danielian Faith

We’re not the first generation to live in a world increasingly hostile to the ways of God. We’re not the first to ponder “what if” as we pray and consider the consequences if God does not deliver.

What if there hadn’t been a ram caught in the thicket as Abraham prepared to sacrifice God’s Promise in obedience to God’s command?

What if the waters of the Red Sea had not parted and the newly freed Israelites had been slaughtered or drowned?

What if the priests that Joshua directed to set foot in the Jordan River had been swept away by flood-stage waters?

What if Esther had not been welcomed by the King when she entered his courts uninvited?

What if Gideon’s “army” of 300 was whittled down too much to win the battle?

What if David’s aim was off just a little, or God was asleep when Elijah was calling down fire?

We believe in a God who is able to deliver us, and will deliver us. But our prayers are offered in faith. Faith can be hoped for, but is not always seen. Our prayers are prefaced with “your will be done” and with trust that a sovereign God will answer according to what he has purposed.

The test of our prayers sometimes takes Danielian faith. It is the trust of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they declared that their God was able to deliver and would deliver … and then proved their trust with these words: but even if he doesn’t we will not serve your Gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

For their faith they were thrown into the furnace, only to be joined by a fourth man who looked like a son of the gods. Immanuel, God was with them.

By |2022-03-08T16:18:41+00:00March 8, 2022|Faith|Comments Off on Danielian Faith

A King Like No Other

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi

What King would leave his throne to elevate his subjects to positions of royalty? What person of influence would abandon the benefits of their position and assume instead the posture of the least? What force is powerful enough to create not just the stars we can see on a moonless night, but galaxies and solar systems far beyond our capacity to measure? Yet also offer sight to the blind, healing to the leper, and forgiveness to the prostitute?

What subject would not swear allegiance to such a King? Who among the least would not express gratitude for the mercies lavished on them by the influential? Just as David questioned how God could be mindful of him, how can we not be mindful of the God of the Universe? The King of Creation? The Sacrificial Lamb? The One who restored Man’s relationship with Man’s Creator?

How can we fail to recognize the Master Designer when we examine the intricacies of the eye? Or the over-looked but critical function of the thumb? Who are we, Lord, that you should be mindful of us? You are the One who grants insight into the mysteries of DNA and directs us in the morality of how we should live. You give us commandments to benefit not just us, but our neighbors as well. And you remind us that all are our neighbors.

You have shown us what is good, and what you require. That we should act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. With you. We know what is good, just, merciful, and humble because these are your attributes, and we have seen them expressed in the perfect example of your Son.

By |2022-03-08T16:03:09+00:00March 8, 2022|Faith|Comments Off on A King Like No Other

Houston, We Have a Problem

On April 13, 1970 America’s Apollo 13 space capsule was about 200,000 miles from earth when mission commander James Lovell sent a message that caused the world to stop, look up, and pray. An oxygen tank explosion threatened the on-board life-support systems and the original mission was scrubbed and replaced with an unprecedented rescue operation. It was only by the prayers of millions and the extraordinary efforts of countless dedicated workers, that the three astronauts returned safely to earth after four cold, dark, long and anxious days in their crippled ship.

Apollo 13’s problem was that the support module lost its integrity. It was no longer whole but broken, and the damage done meant it could no longer accomplish what its designers intended. It would be nearly a year before the next Apollo mission would be launched and then only after a thorough review of what went wrong and all the needed corrections were made.

America today has an integrity problem. We are no longer whole but broken, and in our present condition we can no longer accomplish what our designers intended.  Without integrity there will be no trust, and on many many levels America has lost the trust of its own citizens and citizens of countries that once looked to us for hope and courage.

How did this happen? We disconnected ourselves from the life-support systems that nurtured us at our founding and strengthened us as we matured. Self-evident truths are being discarded. The unalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator are being overwritten by edicts from a government not by the people and for the people, but over the people. Like the Apollo astronauts we find ourselves in a position of grave danger.

How did we get here? We have replaced God’s wisdom with Man’s whims. Objective truth is no longer recognized. Centuries of proven and time-tested lessons are trampled in a rush to re-invent America in a foreign image. Our lawmakers pass laws yet don’t follow what they themselves have enacted. Our “leaders” lie and deceive in order to win votes, with no intention of fulfilling the promises they’ve publicly made. Honesty has taken a holiday.

There is little desire for truth if it will cause one faction or the other to lose power. Professional “spin doctors” concoct elaborate stories to persuade but, when stripped of all the cleverness, only deceit remains. News and Fake News battle daily and it is nearly impossible to distinguish which is true, since the once-trusted voices that report the news have themselves compromised their integrity and lost the trust of the people they are supposed to serve.

We were once a nation of laws, and proudly so. But look around, can that be said today when the powerful and privileged are seemingly immune from legal sanctions? When undisputed perjury at the highest levels of authority is ignored, or worse, is encouraged if it advances the desired narrative or outcome?

Washington, we have a problem. With you. You cannot continue to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and then ignore or trample it. You cannot expect our trust when you repeatedly act with deceit. America’s life-support systems are at risk, and a course correction is desperately needed.

So, what can we do? How can we find our way back from here? There’s a formula that was once prescribed for the benefit of another nation that had lost its way: if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins, and heal their land. Those words, and that path, would be readily recognized by the founders of America; my prayer now is that America’s current rulers would seriously heed this counsel, and that you, and I, and every American, would do the same.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

By |2022-03-05T15:08:18+00:00March 5, 2022|Culture, Faith|Comments Off on Houston, We Have a Problem

Too Much Hooey, Not Enough Wisdom. Part 2

This is the second half of a two-part post. Taken together these posts were written to support the Reflections presented in an earlier blog titled A Critical Crossroads.

An ancient proverb says this: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” If we’re going to survive as a people and as a nation, our decisions must be founded on wisdom. But are they? Does the trajectory of our nation  suggest that we are headed in the right direction? Or does it seem like just a bunch of hooey?

James 3:13-18 has guidelines that are helpful in answering these questions.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

When you hear our leaders speak, ask yourself: are their actions consistent with their words and do they reflect an attitude of servant leaderships, or do they display a bitterness, arrogance and self-centered ambition. William Barclay gives four characteristics of these people:

  • They are fanatical and violently hold to views that are unbalanced and without principled conviction.
  • They are bitter and seek to annihilate opponents rather than persuade them.
  • They are supremely selfish and more eager to win than they are to see truth prevail.
  • They are arrogant and show pride only in their own knowledge rather than with humility that there might be some things they are still in need of learning.

These characteristics don’t reflect God; they are manifestations of those who have rejected God’s supremacy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. James continues with this caution: where these kinds of wisdom prevail, we will find disorder and every evil thing.

Look around, it’s not difficult to see that the order of the past is being overturned and replaced with disorder, while time-tested truths are replaced with every evil thing. Insanity is being emboldened and enthroned.

But there is another option open to us – we can choose a wisdom that is pure, considerate, full of peace and mercy, willing to yield its rights to another, undivided in mind and without hypocrisy.

Each of us must determine which characteristics we would like to have define our lives, and the life of our culture itself. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln assessed what his United States was becoming, and judged that a house so divided could not stand. Either it would become all the one thing, or all the other.

We stand in a similar place today; we cannot remain a nation so divided. We need to pause and assess our own lives, then determine if we like what we see, and whether what we see reflects the characteristics of God or of his adversaries. Mercy and a pursuit of truth? Or a deeper descent into disorder and every evil thing?

God help us to choose wisely.

By |2022-03-02T23:17:12+00:00March 2, 2022|Culture, Faith|Comments Off on Too Much Hooey, Not Enough Wisdom. Part 2

Too Much Hooey, Not Enough Wisdom. Part 1

Today’s post continues the thoughts started in the earlier post – A Critical Crossroads.

In the musical presentation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables, the character of police inspector Javert is confronted with a reality that is beyond his ability to comprehend…he is shown mercy. In response he blurts out these words: “The law is inside out, the world is upside down.”

I can’t think of a better description of our present day than Javert’s – the law is inside out and the world is upside down.

At this critical crossroads in our history our leaders seem to be incapable of knowing right from wrong. They solve the problem of crime by not enforcing or re-writing laws so that wrongs magically become rights. They abandon the science and constants of genetics and biology in favor of anything-goes proclamations about what constitutes male and female. In athletics, men identifying as women are rapidly erasing and rewriting the record books, while women’s rights groups sit silently by. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights is suddenly filled with irredeemable wrongs that must be canceled, while centuries of milestone events are erased from our history and from our collective consciousness.

Why is this happening? Because the leaders of the current revolutionary moment have only hooey to offer. Hooey means nonsense. These self-proclaimed authorities don’t know the first thing about wisdom because the starting point of wisdom is this: the fear of the Lord. Without an objective standard beyond ourselves our society is reduced to following the latest pronouncement of hooey.

Nearly 3,000 years ago the biblical King Solomon made this request: “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”  Solomon became known for his wisdom, and it is a certainty that his wisdom was indistinguishable from his ability to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. It was, and is, an absolutely essential quality in governing justly.

Without the ability to know right from wrong as objective truth, we live now in a time when truth is not consistently and universally recognized. Instead, it is refashioned to be whatever is desired, by anyone, at any time. Everything is fluid; nothing is unchanging. Or at least that is the hooey that today’s thought leaders would have us believe. Unfortunately for them, however, wisdom will never be extinguished because the consequences of hooey are increasingly recognized for what they are – unacceptable nonsense. Wisdom will never be extinguished because it has been established by an Authority immune to mankind’s quest to be its own god.

When we embrace hooey, it leads to fanatical consequences expressed in all kinds of hatred and divisions. When we act upon wisdom, however, it produces a different and far better set of consequences. The characteristics of both will be explored in part two of this post.

I concluded the Critical Crossroads post and podcast with this question: which consequences will we bequeath to the generations that follow? The answer will be found in our willingness to decisively reject the hooey, and demand that our leaders act in wisdom.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back later with part 2 of this post to explore the characteristics of different kinds of wisdom that lead either to nonsense or wisdom, disorder or order.

By |2022-02-24T16:15:29+00:00February 24, 2022|Culture, Faith|Comments Off on Too Much Hooey, Not Enough Wisdom. Part 1
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