Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly

Inset: Dodge Dart on a hill in winter (sorry, my shop skills are not leet)

The week before last I was on my way to work in the early morning hours and I got caught in a brutal downpour. I could not see much through my windshield wipers and traffic was crawling on the two lane road, which was fine with me. I was still concerned that someone else would not be playing it safe (River Ridge High is on that road) and was driving cautiously. It was then that a verse came to me. Now, we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

We humans tend to be pretty independent thinkers. We like to be self-reliant. It would disturb us if we seriously considered the idea that our vision, our hearing, our senses (of which a vehicles’ controls are an extension) are extremely limited. We don’t know the distractions that other drivers are dealing with as they hurtle past us in their 2+ ton vehicles at great speeds. In a similar vein, we don’t see the spiritual battles that are going on around us on nearly a daily basis. We remain clueless. Unaware. Ignorant. Dare I say blind? But that is the way we act- out of sight, out of mind. The blessings of God surround us. Which reminds me of a story; two of them in fact.

The year was 1984. I was in my junior year of a five year program now that I was at Liberty, taking Old and New Testament Survey, both year-long courses. I was dating a girl at the time named Dorrie, a cute greek thing that was out of my league. It was winter and we decided on a Saturday to go on a road trip to get away from the (it seemed at the time) oppressive campus atmosphere. So we filled out a dating permission slip from the office of student affairs (snicker) and headed out to the Blue Ridge Mountains in my trusty brown two tone Dodge Dart with the slant 6 engine.

Bessie was the name I had given to her. It was a good car for college, but had a brake problem that required one to pump the pedal once before the brake shoes engaged. No problem, right? So we enjoyed each others’ company and conversation on the trip out. We took a scenic route up some winding roads and I parked just on the opposite side of an isolated wood shrouded hill, turning the car around so it faced uphill on the white road.

We went for a nice walk in the winter wonderland of serenity, carefree and without the worries of courses, preacher boy RA’s and drama. After about an hour of walking, we came back to the car and prepared to go get dinner. There was a problem though. The white road on which I had parked was not snow. It was ice. The wheels were turning, but nothing was happening. I tried backing up a little, but there was no way that car was going anywhere. I was concerned because the road behind the car turned to the right, with a steep lightly wooded bank on the left side.

Dorrie asked to give it a try, and I said ok, reminding her that the brakes needed to be pumped. I was standing outside the car by the rear bumper on the drivers’ side. She put that thing in reverse and it started going down the hill faster than I anticipated. I don’t know how I did it, but as the car was passing me, I opened the driver side door, slung myself into the drivers’ seat shoving Dorrie off to the side,(it had a long seat across the front, not bucket seats) and yanked hard on the steering wheel to the left while pumping the brakes as we careened into the small ditch on the side of the road opposite the steep hill.

My left side mirror was ripped off by a passing tree, but aside from that, disaster was averted. The car was still stuck on the ice on the road, but we were many, many miles away from any form of assistance. I had to get traction to get up the hill, so I went to the trunk. An old tire iron was there. I used it to hack at the ice and it worked, chipping the half inch or so of slippery stuff away, revealing the road underneath. Two hours later I had two long tracks in front of my wheels heading up the hill. Vroom, vroom. We managed to make it back safely.

As I think back to that time, I shake my head in disbelief. How could we have managed to escape that situation? Easy. It was not blind luck. Not the laws of chance nor the splurge of adrenaline. I believe a guardian angel was with us that day. Thank you, Lord, for Your mercies towards us.

More recently, a few years ago, I was at the Kroger. I was stocking up on my favorite beverage, Diet Cherry Cola. A lean balding guy dressed in blue jeans and a jean jacket pointed at my cart, smiling, and said with enthusiasm, “Cherry Coke!”

“Yes, I suppose so.” I answered, mildly amused, wondering why such a thing would be of interest. I started to go but turned back around to say something… and he was just… gone. Nowhere. It was unreal.

Here’s the deal. The interventions of heaven are seldom recognized, but they are numerous. The miraculous surrounds us. God’s great love for us rains down on a daily basis, in a deluge of mercy and grace. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Favorite Essay

My Favorite Essay

Back in the days of my early teaching career, there was a certain 8th grader whom I shall call “Jerry.” Jerry was an incredibly gifted young man, with a quick wit and keen intelligence. He was also bored easily and as such, often times got into trouble in class. On this occasion, he was bad for a substitute teacher along with two other boys. Their punishment was to write an essay on why they should be good for a sub. Being the pack rat that I am, I saved this essay and now have the pleasure of presenting it to you, 18 years later. Note the return to the assembled themes at the end. Enjoy.

“Why I Should Be Good for a Substitute”

Students should always respect a substitute because they are fragile and inexperienced. As a whole, I am sure we seem rather intimidating to a substitute teacher. He or she is merely trying to do his or her job the best he or she can to the best of his or her ability.

We, however, act as the classroom vampires, preying on the substitute’s inexperience and thriving on his or her insecurities. It is no surprise to me that substitutes have the hardest job in the scholastic range. We attack substitutes and literally mentally devour them. I pray to God that I will never be a sub and have to face my own 8th grade descendents of classroom evil. We must always try to be kind to subs, no matter how dysfunctional and poorly assembled they are.

I suppose as students, when we saw the sub our primal instincts let out and we became cavemen; thoughtless, careless cavemen. We must consider the fear the sub must have experienced when she saw our faces, deformed by malice and eager to humiliate her in front of the class.

I am sure God will punish us for our primitive actions. We must always remember that a sub is a human and is likely to display the human emotions which we, the caveman student vampires, do not have. At times we must learn to accept these emotions and be kind to the human substitute teacher.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Barack Obama is the Leader We Need for Our Time

Barack Obama is the Leader We Need for Our Time

I read an article recently which got my gears turning. It contains an extensive list of reasons why President Obama is America's most biblically hostile president ever to hold office. I was amazed at the man's... audacity to say the least. To be so anti-Jewish, anti-God, anti-Christian- by his actions in the office of the president- this is simply unfathomable to me; I shake my head even trying to contemplate it. Here's the link so you can read the article for yourself.

Among the numerous actions cited are deliberately omitting the Creator while quoting Declaration of Independence in public speeches, 7 times no less, as well as attempting to subvert the personal consciences of health care workers in the name of the state. But now we come to the premise of my unusual article. God Himself has placed Barack Obama in the chief executor’s office. The question is, why? Why would a Holy God who loves us all want us to have such a man as our leader? Does God want to punish our nation for our wayward ways? Does God agree that “fairness” is the clarion call that we must cling to?

I have written before that government is no substitute for our responsibility to our neighbors, in prayer, personal and financial obligation, for “in as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” With regards to the above questions I believe the answer is spiritual in nature.

When Jesus walked this Earth, Israel was under the domination of the Roman Empire. His fellow Jews were absolutely livid with the pantheistic, autocratic Romans who taxed their livelihood and passed laws which were in direct defiance with their deeply held beliefs. Sound familiar to some of you? How did Jesus react? ”Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” He recognized that Earthly power is temporary, that what matters is the spiritual. What happens here is a reflection of what is happening in the spiritual realm. By their fruits you shall know them.

So why would God want Barack Obama in the oval office? I believe he is a foreshadowing of what is to come. Scripture says that in the end times, man would revert to the ways they were in the days of Noah. If we take the decisions of our President and allow them to play themselves out to their ultimate conclusion, where do they lead? I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.

God is giving us an opportunity to see where our humanistic philosophies of enlightenment will ultimately lead. And yet, all we like sheep have gone astray, each and everyone to our own way. We need a shepherd. We need Jesus. That, ultimately, is why we need(ed) Barack Obama as president.


Armchair coach

Amateur historian

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Warrior Chapter One

The Warrior

For the many men who had no choice; for those who had no voice. This is for you.

Chapter 1

The warrior sat on his bed; tears mixed with his sweat and ran down like stinging drips of seawater from his squinting eyes. “How could this have happened?” he prayed, his lips curled in anguish. What a horrific joke, born from some black pit of hell. His soul like a cola which had been shaken came pouring out once more and he bent his head and clutched his hands as his body shook over and over again. Bent over from the waist, he retched dryly, trembling.

Coughing, he finally regained some semblance of self control, if it could be called that. The girl that he loved with his entire heart, his future wife, the mother of his child, the light of his life had…. He remembered their tense conversation.

“We need to talk,” she said, curling up on the couch, her legs underneath her. She glanced at him and brushed the rich brown hair from her pretty eyes.

The warrior sat down next to her, brows furrowed with concern. It wasn’t often she used *those* words. He looked into her face with attention, absorbing every feature.

She looked down and after a pause whispered “I’ve had a miscarriage.”

Love poured out from him as he embraced her closely and held her to his chest. “Oh, honey,” was all he could say as he considered all the things her words entailed. Their baby, the product of their mutual love was lost, and she was in need of his support. She held on to him, her head down.

“Why didn’t you call me? When did this happen?” he murmured, rocking her gently.

“Yesterday,” she replied, allowing the first question to go unanswered. He stroked her head softly as she leaned on his shoulder, allowing his actions to speak for him in the silence. He inclined his own head on hers as they both cried.

After a while he leaned back again, wet eyes shining. “Have you been to see the doctor? I can take you,” he offered.

“No,” she replied softly, sniffling. The warrior puzzled over her answers. Usually she was so verbose that he had a hard time trying to get a word in edgewise. Yes, perhaps it was because of what had happened. That had to be it. Still. Something was not… quite… right.

Last week she had been talking with a friend at work. Women share things and in this she was no exception. Her colleagues there shared a mutual desire to achieve financial success through hard work and long hours at the company. She had been divided in her thoughts over her pregnancy though, both worried and happy at the same time. She and the warrior were both Christians, but she did not look forward to the social ostracism and talk that would be generated in the church when the news finally broke. Added to that was the time she would have to take off from her job. At lunch she shared her concerns with her friend.

“Oh sweetie, listen,” her friend began, flipping her wrist. “You want to hitch your wagon train up to *his*? The one with no career? What kind of future will you have? What kind of life will he provide? And you’re so young. I was in the same situation you were in, and I had it done. I was so glad afterwards that I was not permanently attached to that man.”

The friend did not mention any of the repercussions of her decision, because in order to do so, she might have to admit remorse or regret, and in doing that she might have to come face to face with the possibility that she was wrong in her decision. That was just not going to happen. “Trust me, it’s nothing,” she confided, playing with her jewelry. “You’re in and out in a couple of hours. You can still have a family later if you want to, and you are not saddled down with this guy. Plus, he never has to know.”

Her friend’s words echoed through her mind that week, like whispers in a canyon of doubt. No lifelong commitment. A lifetime of freedom to make other choices. He never had to know. Like the apple in the garden, it all made perfect sense. Thus, the seeds were planted which led to her fateful decision.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, tilting his head as he consoled her. It only took a moment, a glance between them for him to know something was very, very wrong. They had a connection where it did not take much for one to know the other’s thoughts. In that flicker of recognition there was hesitancy in her eyes. She was holding something back.

She did not respond to the question he asked, but she didn’t need to. The wheels were turning, and they led to an inevitable conclusion. “No,” he mouthed the word, unable to even speak, his chin wrinkled as his eyes opened wide in abject horror. She looked down and his world became numb. He shook his head and got up from the couch, steadying himself against the plush armrest. As if in a dream, he turned towards the door in slow motion.

“Wait!” she cried as he got up to leave. She wanted to talk now, but the repercussions of her unspoken revelation were too much to bear.

“Not now!’ he managed to rasp, making a cutting motion to the side with his forearm. His child, their baby, was gone. Dead. And with it, his hopes and dreams for their future life. He staggered out the front door, the enormity of it all just beginning to hit home. He cranked the engine and tore out of the driveway.

No birthdays. No first steps. No bedtime stories. No special occasions or moments of love shared. It was all gone. He reached down and turned off his cell phone. No need for that tonight. He nearly ran off the road on a sharp curve, the tires squealing in protest as they fought the car’s inertia against the pavement. He didn’t care. Smoke plumed in red-lit pinwheels behind the car as it tore off into the night.

The Warrior Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Back at his apartment, the warrior fell onto the bed and cried out to God. “Oh God, I feel so helpless! This whole thing is my fault…. I am to blame.” He struggled with his thoughts, angry with himself as his cries were answered with silence. The warrior reflected on the irony of the situation in his prayers. Before, the choice had been his, but afterwards the choice was not. His breathing filled the empty room and he felt utterly spent and alone. There was nothing he could do that would undo what had been done. The pain in his gut felt like someone had taken an ice cream scoop and removed his intestines.

He waited for God to strike him down, but it would not be forthcoming. Tiny spots on the wall and ceiling stared back at him as he finished his prayers. One thing he knew he did not want was for his girlfriend to arrive. He was not ready for that. She had betrayed him! Cheating with another guy, dumping him, anything would have been better than this. He wondered if God felt as hurt by his choice as he did by hers. He grabbed a jacket and headed for the door.

The warrior left his apartment and began walking. He needed time to sort out his thoughts, and some physical exertion to assist with that. Being a blue collar guy he was used to pushing his body, so he set off into the night. No stars were out; the sky overhead was an overcast darkness. He pushed himself, alternately jogging and walking, with no destination in mind.

Hours passed and the rain began to fall. He gasped with exhaustion as he neared the center of town, the exercise briefly minimizing his deep anguish. The rain soaked his clothes like pain soaked his soul. Bleary eyed, haggard and disheveled, he sloshed under the streetlights, the sky now turning to a dull gray with the approaching morning.

And there in front of him across the street emerged a three story brick building, Spartan in its barren, utilitarian appearance. Black letters near the door clarified through the rain as he approached. “Women’s Health Center,” they read.

The realization of where he now stood startled him. He fell to his knees in the wet grass and began to pray once more, head bowed as tears from heaven poured over him. His thoughts this time were private, personal; shared only between himself and his Creator. Even if his thoughts could be known, words would not suffice to express them. Time passed.

Rufus padded through the wet mud, the earthy wetness of the dim morning alive in his nostrils, fur matted against his body like the hair of a 6 year old schoolboy. He panted with joy- how fun it was to get out of the back yard! As he rounded the corner next to the yard where the warrior kneeled in prayer, something alerted him. He skidded, splishing to a halt- ears straight up, haunches tense. Deep brown eyes darted about. “Ain’t me, baby!” he might have said if he could speak, as his fight or flight mechanism kicked in and he bolted away.

Unknown to the warrior, unseen things were set in motion. Orders were sent. Spiritual forces were dispatched. Angels engaged in silent, invisible combat, the nature of which we lack the capacity to understand on this earth. Inhuman spirits were forced back finally fleeing, but they would return.

The patrol car pulled up to the curb. “Great,” the officer thought as he shifted into park. “There’s another nutcase that does not know how to stay off private property.” He retrieved his clipboard and got out of the vehicle, flipping on the blue strobes. He figured he would take care of it before the workers arrived and had to call to have the trespasser removed.

Tiny particles of concrete separated from one another. Metallic steel bonds also stood aside cleanly dividing. It was such a small thing- although it was certainly not natural. The process continued in a fraction of a second, as molecules of clay, long hardened, became soft along a single plane as thin, transparent forces passed through them.

“Hey buddy. Get up,” the officer ordered, approaching. The warrior did not respond, remaining penitent in his silent cry to God. He did not know it was a police officer addressing him, not that it would have mattered much to him right now. The deputy tapped the clipboard against his free hand- it appeared as if this punk wanted things to go down the *hard way.* He sighed, getting out his handcuffs, ready to give the guy one last chance. He hated filling out paperwork first thing on a shift.

The angels, surrounded by piercingly bright spheres of light well beyond white, sheathed their crystalline swords, their assignment nearly complete. It wasn’t often they were ordered to use them on physical objects. Great wings unfurled as they spread out to protect those nearby.

A deep rumbling came from the building as both the officer and the warrior looked up. The ground all around trembled as if a massive bass speaker was hidden just beneath it. Water puddles in the grass leapt up in small waves as the walls started falling outwards. Detached ceilings and floors crashed down in a mighty implosion of metal, glass, equipment and furniture as a concussive wave of wind and debris forced the men back into the ground. A second later the four outer walls of brick and masonry slammed into the yard with the force of a minor cataclysm. Water sprayed out explosively like a thousand stinging needles. Fortunately, the men were in the 90 degree corner arc away from the building, and escaped the falling wall of destruction.

The officer was stunned, but had enough mind to jump on the warrior, wrestling his hands behind his back as he attached the cuffs. He punched the button on the mike at his shoulder. “Code 999 Bravo. I repeat, code 999 Bravo. The Women’s Health Center has been destroyed. Officer needs assistance. Suspect in custody.”