I said that to my father as he lay paralyzed on his left side from a stroke in a hospital bed in Lakeland, FL on the morning of 9/11. It was a day of loss and selfless sacrifice by 1st responders rushing into danger to try and save lives.
As we honor their sacrifices and remember the many who are departed, I wonder how many more times I would have repeated that phrase standing next to my pops as we observed events of the recent years. We have seen a callous and uncaring police officer kneel on a man’s neck until he expired. We have seen over a half-million of our countrymen pass from sickness. We saw the sitting president whip a crowd into a frenzy to prevent the certification of his successor.
The many selfless acts from that day 20 years ago have been replaced by so many selfish acts of today. The death of a man of color unjustly does not prompt outrage by all and some are more outraged by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The mandating of a life saving vaccine causes people to object to their individual rights being trampled instead of seeking to stop a pandemic. A large portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged because their guy lost despite no evidence to support their allegations. My way over others is most important.
John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Matthew 7:12 says “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” MSG
I bit the bullet and opted to reactivate my FB account. However, in doing so I chose also to reduce the number of “friends” as well. Having been unfriended myself without notice, I am certain their will be unintended hurt feelings. It is an odd thing how we allow people we have shared a common experience with at some point to have continued access to your life. Does being a classmate, coworker, sharing a common interest or bloodline mean I grant you continuous unending visibility of the details of my life?
If anyone is upset about no longer being a “friend” on social media, my apologies as that wasn’t my intention. I just realized I had allowed far too many people a window into my life. I spent a year away and during that time, only a handful made contact. Some on social media were only in my life for a short period and have not been a continued presence since our paths separated. I am still available should they decide they need to talk, but most didn’t miss me while in my exile.
If my life touched theirs in some significant way on our journey to eternity, it gives us so something to talk about at journey’s end. I am not pursuing large numbers of followers or friends and hope those that remain are there to contribute to my life and not just stand by and obseve.
Almost a year ago, I exiled myself and deactivated my Facebook profile due to the divisiveness and vitriol it was injecting into my daily life. I do miss seeing photos of family and friends as well as sharing in their triumphs or comforting them in times of loss. However, the stances some “friends” would have expressed over the wearing of masks, the election and subsequent insurrection are not missed.
I joined that social platform to reconnect with others and share things about our life such as birthdays, trips or prayer requests. I found myself confronted with views I found troubling and contradictory to the faith I live by. When I spoke to those contradictions, I was told I thought I was better than others and attacked. I do not think I am better than others, but silence on wrongs is something I should never do nor advocate others to replicate.
So I sit and ponder whether to reactivate my account on that platform or continue my exile. Do the pros outweigh the cons of doing so?
Giving a commitment to follow Jesus involves turning away from one’s past and embracing the promise of redemption through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. You pursue holiness and conformity to the message and lifestyle he demonstrated for us. You understand that it is through His pardoning of our sins that we are able to stand blameless before a Holy God. We have no ability to cleanse ourselves from the ugliness and corrosion of this world on our own. He cleanses and then empowers us to overcome as we rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.
Yesterday, we returned to visit the congregation that we met in when I was a GI and Renée was a high school student. It was a bit of a time warp and also a bit of a reckoning on how far we have traveled on this journey of faith. The message was one we had heard 30 years ago and the cultural influence was also dated. Although our faith sprang from that soil, it could not grow there now. There were political statements made that we didn’t agree with and mocking of Covid19 that was troubling as well. Add to that a pistol packing pastor and we all knew that we were making our only and possibly final visit amongst them.
An Indian missionary penned the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” which concludes with the line “no turning back.” I don’t think we can return to where we once were after committing to follow Jesus. We aren’t who we once were and cannot turn back the clock to do what we once did. Growth involves shedding of old ways and conforming to the image of the Savior.
“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Romans 12:2 AMP
When it comes to military service to this country, there is a significant heritage in our family. I was told growing up that on my mother’s side, I descended from John Paul Jones, father of America’s navy. Closer to my generation was my father and siblings service to our country.
My Uncle Jim served in the US Coast Guard while my Uncle Bill, Harry, Ray and Ed all served in the US Navy. My father chose to join the US Marines straight out of high school. He met my mother while stationed in San Diego and spent a year of my early life in Vietnam at Khe San during the Tet Offensive. He was reassigned to Barstow, CA where he exited the service and raised my brothers and I.
I chose to enlist in the US Army at 19 years of age to escape Barstow only to return twice to train at nearby Ft Irwin National Training Center. I also participated in the Cold War exercise REFORGER(Return of Forces to Germany) in 1987 to keep East Germany and the Warsaw Pact at bay. My younger brother would follow Uncle Jim into the Coast Guard and served 10 years while I left the Army after only 4 years to pursue ministry. Later in life, he joined the Oregon Air Guard as well.
Additionally, I would meet and marry an Army brat whose father retired from the Army and was a member of rival unit where I was stationed at Ft Hood, TX. My best friend Jim enlisted in the Navy serving 30 years and retiring as a Command Master Chief.
Many of us have taken the oath pledging our lives to the defense and protection of our countrymen. Serving the United States of America is our heritage!
On November 7th, the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States was called by all major news outlets after it became clear he would secure the electoral votes necessary to be declared President-Elect. This signaled an end to the term of one of the biggest bullies to ever hold the office. This person denigrated so many people and mocked those that opposed him. He attacked anyone who dare to question his lack of leadership and even used the military to gas peaceful protesters to stage a photo op where he awkwardly held a Bible in front of a church he did not attend to pander to people of faith.
I have never liked bullies and have taken a stand against them many times in my life. I took on the biggest kid in my elementary school when he knocked my friend’s mouth into a water fountain. I cornered a kid who had been stealing my younger brother’s lunch money and ensured that stopped. Later as a teacher, I called out students who caused a boy with a learning disability to break into tears when they placed a lock on his locker. I also walked my son to the house of a neighborhood kid that threatened him with a knife to confront him in front of his parents.
The Bible is clear on how we are to treat others. The golden rule in Matthew 7:12 says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) The defeat of someone who in no way exhibited concern and kindness toward others has been a reason to rejoice for many. Sadly, there are many in the church that are mourning it. The character of our nation’s leader matters as many said during the term of his predecessor who committed infidelity while in office.
I have been a Republican since I began voting yet I have not voted for their candidate in several elections. That doesn’t mean I have voted for the Democrat candidate either. My faith informs who I vote for or who I don’t vote for. We are in the world, but not of the world. Christ said as much before Pilate after his arrest. People of faith should participate in elections, but never compromise on the standards heaven calls us to hold.
I hope and pray the incoming President will restore civility and kindness to the highest office that have been sorely lacking the last four years. I may not agree with every policy he implements, but I will welcome a change in tone and a departure from bullying.
It’s funny how your observation of the passage of time changes as you have more miles behind you than ahead of you. Growing up, you don’t spend any time reflecting on where you have been as you know you have so much more lying ahead on your journey. After reaching the half-century mark, dates on the calendar remind you of significant moments more frequently.
Today is the 27th of September and one month ago I had a heart attack although it went undiagnosed until the following day. I have changed my diet and have increased my physical activity. I have dropped a few pounds with a goal still to meet. Renee has been alongside every step of the way.
One year ago was the eve of my first day of work at Ogden School District. I worked as an Office Assistant at Bonneville Elementary School tracking attendance. I stayed in that position until Spring Break when I became Technology Site Specialist at Ogden High School. I now work for the Internal Revenue Service.
Six years ago today, I stood in front of my son and his bride leading them in their exchange of vows. Their relationship would end three years later and we now live with him and his daughter in Utah. We had no idea the heartache ahead of us that day, but we are so very grateful for the blessing their relationship brought into our lives in the form of the Precious. She brightens our lives each and every day we share with her.
I have no idea what this day may bring in the future, but I am glad to be with my loved ones to share this one. We have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We can’t change the past, but we can join arms as we go forward into whatever may come our way. Slip away if you must time, but we will keep our eyes upon the keeper of all time, the Lord God Almighty.
On August 27th, I was preparing to start my day of telework when I began to feel pain in my chest that radiated up into my neck and down my left arm. Knowing that my father had a heart attack at 38 and died after one at 67 (on this date 11 years ago), I promptly made my way down the hall to awaken Renee. She drove me to the ER where the pain intensified. I spent several hours there while the doctor ran multiple tests concluding that there was no evidence of heart damage. I was prescribed aspirin and nitroglycerin for emergency use. While picking up the prescriptions, we decided to get a flu shot as well.
The pain was less intense, but continued until the following morning. At that point, the pain disappeared and I felt like a rung out towel with very little energy. My BP which was normally around 130 over 90 was registering at 90 over 60 all that day. Renee consulted with a virtual nurse who recommended a return trip to the emergency room.
Upon arrival, the staff ran the same tests as the day prior. However, this time the reaction was much different as I was told to strip and was connected to IVs and had defibrillator pads placed on my chest and back. The electrocardiogram and blood enzymes now showed that I had suffered a heart attack. I also had a fever which puzzled the doctors who hadn’t considered the flu shot I had while having a heart attack the day prior. I was admitted and moved to the cardiac care unit.
The following morning, I was given an echocardiogram and saw Renee for a moment before being taken for an angiogram. The angiogram revealed that I had an artery that had closed causing the heart attack. The artery had reopened and the cardiologist decided to place a stent to restore proper bloodflow. There were also two arteries in another part of my heart with 60% closure.
I spent 24 hrs more in the hospital before being discharged with new prescriptions and lifestyle changes to make. I was given two days off of work and told to avoid stress for two weeks. My manager allowed me to watch colleagues instead of diving back into my workload the 1st week after the heart attack. The following week, windstorm damage kept me from picking up a full workload. The building my phone was tied to was without power all week long.
A full two weeks after the heart attack, I resumed a normal workload. The 1st day seemed to go quite well. The 2nd morning I was to continue working brought about a very different outcome. Even before I could start my day, my nerves were on edge and I had a pit in my stomach. Anxiety began to consume my whole being to the point where my hands started to tremble. As someone who usually has very strong self confidence, this was out of character. Fortunately, I had a very understanding manager that gave me a day to relax and observe a colleague for the day. I had heard of heart attack victims suffering from depression, but this anxiety was highly unsuspected.
The next day I resumed a normal work schedule with the knowledge that anxiety like depression could be lying in wait for me. I got through the day ok again. I never considered that a physical distress might prompt a debilitating mental distress. There is a history of mental illness as well as heart ailment in the family tree.
I must now work on both my physical and mental well being as part of the recovery process I find myself living out. The Bible sheds light on my heart health and this new battle against anxiety. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV
I am a walking oxymoron. I don’t fit into others’ preconceived idea of what it means to be a Christian in the United States of America. Allow me to provide some background before addressing the crux of this post.
I came to faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour while serving in the US Army at Fort Greely, Alaska. After leaving the service and marrying my Army-brat bride, we attended a multi-denominational Charismatic Bible school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. We graduated with a Diploma of Practical Theology which later converted to an Associates degree. As a couple, we served as youth pastors in a non-Denominational church in a small white community outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. That church was highly involved in local and state politics.
Departing there with some GI bill money expiring soon, I returned to school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a private Charismatic school with a great degree of cultural and racial diversity compared to the small town we had just left. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts. My major was Church Ministries: Pastoral and minors in Church History & Systematic Theology.
I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was a Methodist school that aligned itself with the conservative wing of that denomination. While attending, we joined a church plant out of World Harvest Church. We began helping in Children’s church at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, Kentucky. I dropped out of seminary after a family illness and the financial stress seminary placed on my family. Eventually, we would lead two kid’s church services as well as my being the TV/Radio editor for the church.
We relocated back to my home state of California eventually attending the local Assembly of God congregation. While my wife worked in the nursery, I began teaching the Adult Sunday School class and taught an occasional Sunday or Wednesday night service. My wife would eventually become the Children’s church director and supervisor of the food pantry outreach on Fridays.
All of this is shared, not to inflate myself over others, but rather to demonstrate our participation in the body of Christ. We have been in the trenches and have taught believers from the cradle to the grave. I have gone to school for theology and have done practical ministry as well.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I see many believers in America ascribing allegiance to things of this world over the precepts of Christ. Some of the things which have contaminated the Christian faith in America and are cultural residue are guns, Republican devotion, personal rights over community concerns, and neglect of those suffering injustices.
The arming of Christians and their vapid defense of having firearms is in direct contradiction to the gospel. Jesus came to give hope and admonished Peter for taking up a sword at his arrest. A painting of our savior brandishing a firearm or assault weapon has no place in our places of worship yet many do bring firearms to worship regularly. We are to reflect His image to a hurting world, but what do we show them when we carry weapons of execution instead of extending arms open for embrace.
Devotion to the Republican party has weakened Christian impact on those around them. I am Pro-Life, but I am also Pro-Love, and Pro-Character. The current leadership of the Republican party lacks the compassion/character of our Savior and denigrates people regularly. They mock and instill fear as a way of securing votes. The current resident of the White House smiled while awkwardly holding a Bible after gassing protesters calling for an end to racial inequality.
The pandemic of Covid 19 has brought out a level of selfishness among Christians in America that is also astonishing. The Golden rule given by our Savior states “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Wearing a mask has become too much to ask for many believers. We want it our way instead of being selfless and sacrificing for the well being of others.
Finally, the continued disregard for the ongoing, neverending suffering of injustices by those whose skin color is not white is not a cause of concern for far too many American Christians. They get upset when someone says “Black Lives Matter” and respond with “All Lives Matter.” Jesus told of the shepherd who left the 99, to go and save the one. Nobody says all don’t matter, but people of color are hurting and affirming they matter should not offend. He gave all for all. Their pain is His pain and thereby, my pain too.
Lord, break the church in America free from the cultural bondage it has so willingly embraced. Help it to be a place of love, acceptance and caring for a hurting and needy world. May we once again be a beacon in the darkness. Amen.