Category: Lessons Learned

Unforgettable African-Americans

The following is something I have not shared with very many people. But it has been on my mind of late and I just want to put it down on paper, so to speak.

Lately, as I spend more and more time with African-Americans, I have come to see that everyone hates them. With Denver having a booming African population, it has become clear that even, and sometimes especially, Africans hate them. Naturally, this triggers my desire to defend them. But why?

Why do I love African-Americans so much? They aren’t my culture. We have very different lifestyles. There are some similarities in worldview, but once we leave the Gospel and Word of God, there is often a terrific break. My daughter loves the church and her friends there, but as she gets older, it’s going to be more and more difficult for her to live in both the white and black worlds. Yet I persist. Why? Why? Why? Why?

I’ll tell you.

So there I was. Balad, Iraq, ca. 2008 AD. It was my third of three deployments. My squadron–the aircrew at least–was exclusively male. The lone life support troop was often female. Can you imagine it? She’s half-way around the world, all by herself. Not all by herself, of course. She’s surrounded by men in their most primal environment. At this point in my story, you can probably guess that she was African-American. And she was Christian. I noticed this right away. The LORD was her rock.

One evening, she was with us at our dinner table. She ate quietly. The conversation was loose and the jokes were filthy. One of the more senior officers couldn’t seem to avoid vulgarities. Some might say he was in rare form with this woman present. It was like he was a fly and dick jokes were the light. He’d tell a story, and then the next would be worse. I kept looking towards her and I could tell she was not happy. I just wanted him to give it a rest. He didn’t.

When we returned from dinner, this woman went back to where she worked. There, for at least ninety nights, with no days off, she diligently cleaned and prepared all of our helmets, survival radios, vests, and most importantly the night vision goggles. She was the definition of mission-essential. She did this all by herself–save for when one of us would grace her with some attempted pleasantry.

Something inside me would not let the dinner scene go unaddressed. So I got off the couch and took a moment to walk over to where she worked and struck up a conversation. I said, fully expecting an explosion of gratitude, “If I was more of a man, I would have put a stop to the conversation you just had to listen to at dinner.”

Her response?

I remember her stony eyes more vividly than her words, but I do remember that with great resolve, she said, “Would you have?” Then she repeated it, “Would you have?”

What about you, reader? Do you possess enough penetration to see my mistake?

She didn’t want some empathetic friend. She didn’t want some “we’re all in this together” moment. She wanted righteousness. And the fact that I admitted that I knew it was wrong, made me more guilty, more unrighteous, than my boss.

This young woman had something most of us don’t recognize and are unable to do anything more than talk about if we do see.  It’s something only got by experience. It’s something that’s forgettable–but that would be a tragedy.

The more you hate on her, the more you kill it. And for what?

I don’t know. Maybe that might help you understand why I love African-Americans and think you should too.

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Quick Note

Well, now you see what a draft or work in progress looks like. And to think you didn’t have to wait until I passed on to glory or rummage through any paperwork begrudgingly. I must say it is odd how many likes the post garnered, but I’ll not linger on the implications.

School is back in session. Posts will likely be few and far between for a bit. But I will produce more Cain and Abel, yes, to include one from the perspective of Eve.

Commercial Break

We now pause our regularly scheduled programming (three more Cain and Abel re-writes on their way) to bring you some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best sentences.

From Treasure Island

Silver was roundly accused of playing double–of trying to make a separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.

From Prince Otto

(This first one hits strikingly close to home–perhaps ol’ Bob stumbled upon Ecclesiastes?)

Do you not know that you are touching, with lay hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells? Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders’ webs. All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers!

And this one (Prince Otto, too) persuades whatever inner-workings lie behind the long development of some men’s seemingly hard, dark faces to rush to just beneath the surface the brightest and rosiest hues of red.

There is nothing that so apes the external bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions.

Ummmmm, No

So I was at the gym last night, getting my “swole on,” as they say. I happened to notice some sort of drone racing on ESPN. Apparently there is a Drone Racing League, or DRL. Looks fun.

Then the announcer described the action and said, “Here you can see how the pilot has to…”

The pilot?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha—–

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

(Lifting up glasses to wipe tears away while slowing calming down)

Haha.

Teehee.

Ha.

Ummmm, no.

BerryPics025[1]

Nothing Eclipses This Foolishness

I wish I was kidding. Actually, I wish I didn’t notice things like the following anymore. They drive me crazy. In any case, when I was back in KC a few weekends ago, I noticed that an entire section of the Kansas City Star was devoted to the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse. Apparently it’s a unique one. And apparently somewhere in nearby Missouri the duration and totality of the eclipse is going to be singular, so folks are already planning on how to best view it.

I am at a loss for how to explain to all the ultra-educated science nerds who take behavioral cues from the sun that their (and my) primitive ancestors used to do this. The thing is primitive people used to do it while also worshiping wood and stone–which nearly all today see as backwards in every sense of the word. Yet, it is forever in the history books that early man used to worship wood and stone.

Not all of them of course–the patriarchs of my faith didn’t. Moses–who actually spoke with the LORD–talked about this nonsense all those years ago when he warned his people, The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.

There’s more. These self-same contemporary leaders of knowledge insist that because of their calculations (new AND improved wood and stone) they can be certain that Jesus Christ did not resurrect from the dead and that my prayers are meaningless and unheard etc., and yet they have no trouble joining the masses of humanity–past, present, and certainly future–who have denied the Living God His due Glory even as they wonder at His creation.

But I’m not finished. Here’s the kicker. In one such article about the upcoming August 21st eclipse, the writer commented that even the animal kingdom is affected by the event. You read that right. Many members of the human race are already making travel plans (two months out!) to see the eclipse and it’s news that the animals change their behavior? Is anyone else’s head spinning? It’s probably a good idea to hold onto to your child’s hand a little tighter at this point. You never know when the sun god will require a child in exchange for rain. Sheesh!

By all means, enjoy the eclipse. Just let it be an arrow in your brain that points to the LORD; let the temporary darkness bring to light a response like David’s, whom the LORD sought because he was a man after His own heart.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 

What is man that You take thought of him?

And the son of man that You care for him?

…O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

 

A Visit To Soopers: Getting It Right And Getting it Wrong

I don’t know about your town, but in mine the main grocery store has become a very large employer of special needs folks. The spoiled rich kids call these people “specials” for short and because they have enough wealth to not have to understand things like life on planet Earth. Given that I was the spoiled rich kid too, I was embarrassingly uncomfortable when I saw this hiring trend. But over the last year or so, I have come full circle with such force that I am often dizzy. I didn’t do it by choice. It took the Word of God. But I think I now see what Jesus meant when He said, So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 

Despite what the world often tells us, the goal is not homogeneity–the goal is the glorifying God our Father through building the Kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

Here’s another thing. As an adult, I still produce the thought, “I just am uncomfortable because I don’t know how to act around them.” H- has never evidenced that she has of yet had that thought. Don’t misread me. It’s not that she has “acted” perfectly around all people, it’s that she just acts. H- is a child. Jesus also said, truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

My point: Our problem is we do not readily discern between child-like, dogmatic, immovable, and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and NOT child-like, dogmatic faith in the things that we build on this foundation. But the distinction is real. And now is a good time to start making it. Jesus also said, therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock

Now for some fun. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this display just now at the store. Transformers will always have a special place in me because my helicopter was the first transformer in the first movie. But that place just got smaller and more remote. Could they get it more wrong? When I need a recommendation for which razor-maker is doing the best these days at ensuring I don’t accidentally bleed-out next time I shave, it will only and ever be accepted from man-flesh. Sorry, Prime.

TF

Excerpt from Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans

I couldn’t help but perk up when I heard my pastor mention “London” as he led us in prayer this morning. My folks are in London vacationing. I just figured he misspoke, but then he also mentioned Manchester. Having not checked the news since early yesterday, I inquired of my pew-mate. Then I cried. My parents are fine. But this scene from Cooper’s classic came to mind.

****

So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he descended, and, moving silently through the throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he had selected for his meditations. After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader to take some distant and momentous flight. 

A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body, and then turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and blazed trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his girdle and leggings, and with one–half of his fine features hid under a cloud of threatening black.

A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be “blazed.” The term is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white mark.

Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of birds––and then, by sudden and startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy. The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior’s object, and terminating as they commenced with an acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might read something like the following: “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou! Manitou! Thou art just. “In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see Many spots––many dark, many red: In the heavens, oh, I see Many clouds. “In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear The whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the woods, oh, I hear The loud whoop! “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I am weak––thou art strong; I am slow; Manitou! Manitou! Give me aid.”

At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well–known and terrific war– whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his dance.

At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce–looking and menacing visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed his own battle cry.

****

And these scriptures.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Pray for mercy. Preach Christ.

Impin’ Ain’t Easy

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, X, viii-x.

Not long ago, a certain boy found himself curiously free from the normal assault that accompanied the end of the school day. His walk home began no different than any day before. While always a bit like a gauntlet, on this day he made his way down the hallway with no interruptions. The uneventful moments were filled with the buzz of weekend plans, clangs of locking metal, and worshipful snickers other boys directed towards Billy as he downed a shooter and lit up before even leaving the building.

****

Teachers puzzled over the boy. He turned in flawless homework, and proved it was his own with perfect in-class test scores. But he would not speak while at school. The walk home, however, was a different matter altogether.

The boy had Christ in his heart, in his mind, and was not afraid to summon Him when necessary. The Devil knew this and called one of his Imps over to him.

“But we are powerless against that Name,” the Imp responded when challenged.

“I didn’t ask about your weaknesses, you fool!” the Devil seethed. “I gave you an order. Now go!”

****

“I’ve tried that!” Billy said. “I told you I’ll do what you ask, Imp, but I will not strike the boy. He has done me no harm. I like being able to use your powers, but this boy doesn’t seem affected by the curses you gave me. His Chri-”

“-Don’t!” the Imp interrupted violently. “Do not say that name. Ever! Do you not know what would happen to us? I’d be done for, and you’d be as powerless as you were when I found you unable to fight off your drunken father.”

Taking a swing at the Imp, Billy screamed, “Say one more thing about my dad and I’ll kill you!”

Leaning back to avoid the attack, the Imp’s eyes lit up as he watched Billy feed on rage. He feigned, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Just don’t ruin this, kid.”

“Okay, okay,” Billy said. “What’s the plan this time?”

“You’ve tried breaking his things?”

“Yes. I’ve broken and torched just about everything he has brought to school. He just replies, ‘You-know-who says, Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...'”

“You’ve tried insulting him?”

“Yep. He just says, ‘You-know-who says, Blessed are you when people insult you.‘ I’m telling you, Imp, this boy is not like the others.”

The Imp and Billy sat and thought.

Visibly impatient, the Imp began, “Wait a minute, we’re working too hard. Let’s get lazy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Next time, instead of directly challenging the boy, I want you to give him something that will take his voice away.”

“Huh?”

“Yes,” the Imp whispered, as if to himself. Growing louder, he continued, “We’ve been going at this one all wrong. What’s the newest mirror-like thing that all your kind looks at?”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“ANSWER ME!” the Imp screeched. “That thing you all stare at when you are with each other? Your kind never used to do that. What’s it called?”

“My phone?”

“Yes,” the Imp said. “Your phone. Does the boy have one like yours?”

“I think so, but he doesn’t seem to care about it.”

“Fine, fine. Here’s what you do. Call him over to you and make friends with him. Tell him you’re sorry and you’d like to be his friend. Do what you have to to get him to look at his phone more and more. We’ll simply silence him.”

“Oh, I see your game now. Silence. Yes, I can do that. I even know just what will work.”

“He’ll be working against himself soon enough. Maybe I can even get that vacation I’ve always wanted,” the Imp fantasized.

****

“Hey, boy!” Billy said, “Can I get your number? I want to text you later about this Bible app my aunt installed on my phone.”

****

“No, no. Stay there another week. Enjoy yourself. The next round is on me. You earned it. Brilliant, I tell you. The boy went from three hundred mentions to just a single mention each week,” the Devil delighted. “The best part,” the Devil paused, wiping a tear as he laughed, “The best part is he thinks we’re losing!”

Foolishness

It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.

Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.

Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.

Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.

To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.

Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.

Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God. 

If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

Amen.