I Heard an Ignorant Man Speak

I heard an ignorant man speak yesterday.

A countryman, extolling the virtues and rewards of good living and the genius of America.

He spoke of our 235 years of history in which we came to rule the world through strength and technological ‘know how.’

He relentlessly mocked third world countries who live in mud huts and grass shacks, wondering why their thousands of years of civilization have not led to any technical advancement. And that in a mere two hundred some years, the United States has transformed the world.

He cursed the immigrants that invade our shores and live off our taxes.

He believes that HE IS the sum total of all America.

He seemed to believe that the Founding Fathers had come from Europe in loin cloths, using only sticks and stones to conquer the New World.   Then, and ONLY THEN did TRUE PROGRESS begin.

The first innovations were hatched and the first wheel turned.  Perhaps fire was discovered as well!

I tried not to listen and contain my contempt for this fellow American. As I continued my dinner with my German colleague, I hoped he wasn’t listening to that ignorant monologue.

I’m so very proud of my country and the tremendous blessings and accomplishments of our fathers.

I believe there is no greater country and I’m so very thankful for the freedom and liberty I possess.  But to some how hold the rest of the world in contempt for their lack of advancement is ignorant and disconcerting.

We are a people and a nation blessed beyond measure!

Thank Goodness for American ‘know how’ and ingenuity!

People from across the globe flooded our shores, built our roads and filled the landscape.

We are a nation of immigrants, united by freedom!

But to flaunt these blessings and to curse those that have not known the riches and freedoms of America, is to spit in the face of God.

Guard your words, oh Man, and cast not your arrogance against the face of the less fortunate.  For all that you possess and all that you treasure is a mere moment in time, acquired from the good grace and the hard work of those that came before us.

Count your blessings with fear and trembling, knowing that all that you have received. and all you possess can dissolve in a moment.

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Lift Me Not Too High

Lift me not too high, Lord, lest I fall in love with this life and hope in its endurance.

Keep my life with its bumps and barriers, so I seek your guidance and long for your comfort and presence.

Please don’t break my spirit, Lord, as I need hope near enough to press on.

Grant me some free and open road, Lord, with moments to sustain me.

But lift me not too high, lest I forget the road is narrow.

Show me the purity of Love, Lord, so I can long and strive to dwell there.

And give me just a glimpse, Lord, of what perfection looks like.

For the temporal is fading and the revelation is upon us.

Lift me not too high, Lord, lest I’m too glad to hope.

Treasure in the Fish’s Mouth…

So I’m in the US Army, in Afghanistan working at a Headquarters in Kabul.

It’s not the sexiest job in the world and I’m not expecting to see the movie version in theatres any time soon, but it’s a part I’ve been asked to play.

In fact, as I told a friend recently, “This is the job your mother wants you to have.”

I’m ‘fighting’ the war from a computer screen; collecting the data, attending the meetings and then passing the information to someone else.

Thankfully,  there’s been no shots fired in my vicinity and I haven’t been forced to seek shelter under the desk. 

No complaints.

However, every week or so I have a requirement to update a US Army General on the happenings at this headquarters.   It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lengthy report, just an update on relevent events.  Events that  may have an effect on his decisions.

It’s an update on changes in circumstances or the changing atmosphere in the headquarters.  Perhaps things he’s already heard about, which raises the stakes on providing a unique perspective.

You see, I know the General is the recipient of many reports and I feel he expects something a bit special from me.

As I contemplate my next offering and the stress level starts to rise,  I’m reminded of a Biblical story on paying a Temple tax.

In this story, Peter is questioned about paying a tribute tax at the Temple.   The tax collector says to Peter, “Hey, does your Master (Jesus) pay the Temple tribute tax?”

Peter probably wasn’t prepared to answer, but being that he’s Peter and tends to speak first and think later, he says to the tax collector, “What, you kiddin’ me!?  Of course he does!”

So Peter sets out to find Jesus to let Him know the trouble he has caused at the Temple with this tax guy.

But before Peter can confess or ask a question, Jesus says, “Peter, who do the Kings of the earth collect poll taxes from, the sons or strangers?”

Peter replies, “Strangers, of course.”

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus replies.  He continues, “But in order not to offend this tax collector, we should pay him.  Not because it’s some valid tax, but because we’ve got bigger fish to fry,” or words to that effect.  “So I want you to go down to the lake, throw your hook in the water and pull out a fish.  In the fish’s mouth you’ll find some coins, give them to the tax guy  for yours and my tax, so he doesn’t have a hissy fit.”

So Peter goes to the lake, hooks the fish, removes the coins and pays the man.

Which leads me back to struggling to write my report for the General.  You see, the ‘tax’ is due every week and I’m usually a little short on ideas.  So off to the lake I run, to hook that fish and pull out the gems to ‘pay’ the General his tribute.

It’s a prayer actually, and it usually starts like this, “Oh Lord, it’s that time again…” and I proceed to seek His guidance.

The wonder and beauty of it all is that I always seem to produce something for the General to read.

I have no idea why the Lord sent Peter to fish for the coins, or why He used mud to heal a blind person – but what I do know is that the ‘Lord is kind and merciful…’ and I seek His guidance and direction often.  Not near often enough, but enough to know that God is Sovereign and there is no greater source of guidance and care.

In life’s daily challenges, it is the Lord that provides in my hour of need. 

So pick up that fishin’ line and cast it in the water.  You never know what treasures the Lord has for you in that simple act of faith.

Milk is for Children and War is for Men

War is for Men.

Young strappy lads who feel they’re invincible, able to leap tall buildings and eat lead.

War is for Men.

Breaking things and fixing things – it’s what we do and there’s lots of that in War.

War allows us to unleash our fury and determine our resolve.

Occasionally, we need to claim our rightful place as defenders of all that is good.

War is for Men.

To find what we believe.

To find what we love.

To find the resolve to live.

War is for Men.

War gives us the courage to defend one another;

to weep in tragedy and cry in despair.

Women can go to War – for sure – but it’s not for them.

It’s for Men.

Men have a need to set things right and War is the ultimate societal correction.

I don’t know what is FOR Women – I’ll not venture a guess here –

But Milk is for Children and War is for Men.

This is not the total sum of War, nor is it a validation or justification.

War is tragic, treacherous, cruel and unforgiving.

War is necessary and definitive;

It’s human.

War is exhilarating, rewarding and exhausting;

It’s sad, heartbreaking and horrific;

but when it comes…

and it WILL come…

It’s for MEN.

Me vs. God

I wrestled with God and I lived to tell the tale.

God threw my life into total chaos and left me hangin’.

There seemed no reason to continue the relationship on friendly terms.

As I prepared for my personal Armageddon, I called God out on everything I could think of that was wrong in my life. I had become utterly hopeless and completely defeated but mustered the strength to take on the Creator.

It’s possible you may not have read about a more famous man_vs._God  bought that occurred in the Bible. That particular match took place with a guy named Jacob. I’ll not tell it all here, but as the all night bought with Jacob drew to a close, God pulled a hip move on Jacob which I believe has since been outlawed by the UFC (except for Taiwan where anything goes). That move rendered Jacob crippled for life, as his hip was never quite the same.

Even so, it was ‘on’ with me and God!

We put on the gloves, rang the bell and I got after it.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Cool_Hand_Luke (“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”) you know exactly how the fight between me and God went. In the movie, Luke (Paul Newman) takes on the toughest guy in the prison, Dragline (George Kennedy), in a boxing match. Luke eventually punches himself into exhaustion and falls into Dragline’s arms and the big man carries Luke off the field.

I had a similar experience.

I thought I had God on the run with my convincing dissertation and self-righteousness when he pulled the Rope_a_dope. The Rope-a-dope is a fight move made famous in the 70’s by the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali. In this move, Ali stands against the ropes and allows the other boxer to throw punches while he covers up and absorbed the blows. The other boxer exhausts himself throwing useless punches and then Ali goes after him.

For a few days I remained completely engaged in this struggle. The ‘whys’ and the ‘whats’ are not important, but I let God have it with everything I could muster. All the mistakes He’d made in the course of my life, the wrong courses He’d put me on and the paths He didn’t let me pursue.

I know God never threw a punch in any of the rounds, but He let me punch myself into exhaustion. Any injuries I sustained in that bought were self-inflicted.

When it was over (when I got over myself) God blessed me with peace. It may have not been “A peace…that surpasses all understanding,” but peace, none the less.

Nothing resolved. Nothing new. Just peace.

I think we’re still working it out (I am anyway) and it’s not peaches and cream, but my Father listened and he didn’t condemn me, though He had every right to.

I’m not condoning an all out fight with God (He IS God you know!), but coming clean with your Creator on who and what you are, and what you think about how it’s going, may add some clarity and some relief.

I was surprised God let me go as long as He did. I felt so empty and defeated and I wasn’t sure anyone was going to catch me. I wallowed in self-pity, self-doubt and unrighteous self-justification!

In the end, none of my problems or life struggles were resolved, and yet I was victorious. Like Rocky Balboa after being defeated by Apollo Creed – in the original and best Rocky movie – Rocky realized he had won in life, regardless of the outcome of the fight.

I wrestled with God and won, though God was not defeated.

I have no idea how or why it worked out that way, but it did.

Some things are just not worth trying to explain.

Autobiographicalbunk

It’s pure fantasy to believe anyone could fully reveal their soul on the pages of a book  called an autobiography.

Are we to believe that these written words are somehow more true than the actions of the person that lived them?

If they lied through their lives, do we not fully suspect they will lie through the pages?

If they were honest and true, have they not  revealed themselves already?

We aspire to be heroes and martyrs; thieves and lovers; sinners and saints.

To believe a man has somehow fully come to terms with the all the thoughts that are his own is foolishness and folly.

Thoughts forgotten and abandon in fits of rage.

Thoughts lost in the daily struggle to find a purpose for our lives.

Thoughts that cannot be verbalized for the shame they bring.

Secret thoughts so coveted that we hope the grave will not reveal.

Thoughts of our own demise and the plans we made.

Moments  that words would tarnish.

Dreams that became realities and realities that became nightmares.

No, there is no  ‘tell all’ and no words to reveal who we truly are.

We are a prisoner to most of our thoughts; never revealed to any – unable and unwilling.

Our true biography can only be the life we’ve lead and never captured by a pen.

In the end, even that which we would reveal is but speck of dust gathered from the floor of our mind.

You’ll never know all that there is of anyone. 

Even if  they desired to have you know all that there is – the depth and breadth of a man cannot be documented with a pen or spoken in a word. 

What they wanted you to know, they hung on your heart and revealed through their eyes.

The rest are just words on a page, subject to the flame, bound by the limits of language and imagination.  No more or less truthful than the man who lived them.

Be sure to read the story of those you love while they remain.  

The story is written in every encounter.  In the words they speak and the deeds they do;  in a passing glance and a heart exposed. 

That’s our biography.  The tapestry of memories of all those you’ve ever known or touched. 

That’s our story, written on their hearts.

Evidence of Flossing…Oh The Joy!

 

So I’m in the bathroom the other day flossing my teeth.  

I haven’t always been a believer in flossing, but since I’m stuck in Afghanistan and I won’t get to see my dentist anytime soon, I figured I better start believing.

I’m not sure I know the correct order of this hygienic ritual, but I brush first then floss.  I figure the brushing takes care of a good portion of the cleaning and then the flossing is the refinement. 

Now this may get a little weird, but I figure if I’m gonna tell the story then I better tell the WHOLE story and not just skip to the good parts. 

After I finish brushing, I begin flossing on the uppers, rear, right side and work my way forward, completing the half circle of all my uppers with the left rear. 

(Here comes a weird part) – If there were any particles dislodged in this process I don’t spit them out (yet) and I don’t swallow them, because I’m saving  it as evidence. 

I now switch to the bottom, rear, right side and work my way around, careful to NOT eliminate evidence.  It’s important not to give in to spitting to soon. 

Now that flossing is complete, it’s time for the rinse.

A sip of water; a swish here, there and everywhere; pucker and…spit!

And there it is!  Evidence! Evidence that you did not completely waste your time or waste all that effort trying to find the grip on a waxed piece of string!

Evidence that with all the technology we possess, a piece of string is still one of the most useful oral hygiene tools!

And the fruit (perhaps literally) of your labor, is there on that porcelain surface!

It reminds me of those old-time gold panners looking for the treasure at the bottom of the pan!    

Now, don’t deny this, when you see particles of your dinner that you’ve dislodged from between those molars and incisors there is tremendous satisfaction! 

How can you not be thrilled with yourself for finding these ‘gems’ which would have been left to cause tooth decay and bad breath had you not flossed!?

Disgusting?  Perhaps.  But satisfying none the less.  

So have at that popcorn and enjoy that corn on the cob!  That little piece of string, waxed or unwaxed, flavored or not, is here to ensure  these treats don’t overstay their welcome!

The evidence is in the bottom of the pan sink!