Sunday, August 30, 2015

To Whom Do Lives Matter?

Black lives matter. All lives matter. These truths are understood by anyone who claims to possess a moral conscious.  Nevertheless, the issue of which lives are valued is hotly debated throughout the nation as unceasing episodes of violence seem to negate these foundational truths. Fingers point. Blame is cast. All are in dismay in the wake of a desperate and despairing state of affairs. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that this situation did not occur overnight. 

Perhaps what has not been considered enough is the historical context of our present reality.  We have not considered that the violent acts which have been carried out against a people for generation after generation in this land of freedom and bravery may have screamed in unmistakable tones,  "You don't matter!"  Some individuals have risen above the fray of violence and have ascended the mountain top of realized dreams and of ambitious accomplishment, thus overcoming this damning and devaluing message.  Others, however, have been stirred to not only receive the message, but to embrace it as they no longer possess the power to resurrect long dead dreams. They have become bewitched owners of a hideous message of death and destruction that contributes to the detriment of all people.  It is a message that has penetrated our societal layers so thoroughly that it's venom has even reached inside mothers' wombs! It is a message that demands, "Killing is the only option you have left to achieve any chance of significance.  Since you don't matter - They don't matter, no matter who the 'they' may be! Only in the mutual eventuality of death can you achieve equality."

These messages are lies. They have power, nevertheless, because they originate from hearts filled with anger, pain, disappointment, desperation, grief, sorrow and heartache.   Still, we must relentlessly fight these lies and recognize that to be controlled by them breeds an atmosphere prone to produce an anger that refuses to surrender to the mercy, forgiveness and grace of a loving a merciful God.  Resistance to God's grace and mercy inevitably leads to a lack of forgiveness and grace in the hearts of people and gives way instead to unrestrained hatred, anger, lawlessness and evil.  

It is critical to remember that these lies are of old, having an origin that is found among the earliest humans. We must be cognizant of the reality that while the Word of God declares that all have sinned it also teaches that all have been created in God's image and have intrinsic eternal value as His image bearers.  Because of our Divinely imposed value, we cannot allow poverty, injustice, hatred, being wronged or the frustration that stems from such crushing experiences to drive us to cheapen our view of anyone's  lives, including our own. We must recapture the perspective that truth and righteousness ultimately matter above all else. We must regain and reengage the values that are inextricably linked to those perspectives for everyone's good.  Perhaps then, and only then, will we arrive at a point of thorough understanding that allows us to see that our own lives matter and allows us to be sincerely committed for the care of
others to the extent that their lives matter to us well.

Pressing on for life,


Saturday, August 29, 2015

The True Story of how Chuck Norris Saved My Life!

In response to a personal request,  here's the story of how Chuck Norris saved my life.  Early in our ministry work, Luz and I served in the inner city of Cleveland where we started grass roots ministries among some very hard core folks and saw some amazing life changes take place. That ministry was supported by churches from all over, including Kentucky.  A group of churches there held a conference inviting missionaries they supported to rotate with speaking duties and presentations.  Sometimes,  churches request specific speakers to visit them. I was requested by a very old and established church near Paducah, but one that had called a new pastor. When I  drove up, the pastor was waiting for me on the steps. He ran up to me and shook my hand and apologized. I asked why. He stated that he felt that the church needed some barriers broken and looking at my experience,  I was the guy to take a hold of this "Jackie Robinson" opportunity.  I asked what he meant. He stated that the church had never had a person of color enter its doors for any reason...not one! Not for repairs, work, grounds keeping,  nothing! Even by showing up, I  had come farther than any person of color ever had. I looked back at the car thinking to make a run for it but he begged me to stay. Being a glutton for punishment and always looking for the sunny side of the street, I went in. If you've ever seen the scene from Blazing Saddles where the new sheriff arrives, the atmosphere was amazingly similar.  People shaking their heads,  glaring at me and the pastor, guys pulling back their jackets and revealing dark, shiny objects! The pastor cut immediately to the chase and began to introduce me. The congregation was stirring and I was earnestly praying! It was a Saturday night and I thought to myself, "Lord give me something to break the ice.  These are Christian people! There's got to be something you can give me to connect!" Not sensing an answer, I sighed and thought,  "Man, I could be watching Walker, Texas Ranger instead of going through this mess... wait! EVERYBODY loves Chuck Norris!  I'll lead off with a Walker story! Thank you Lord!  It's worth a shot!" When I stepped up to the pulpit,  there was an audible moan. I had a strong feeling that I shouldn't delay with the Walker angle. I opened my mouth and said, "My favorite TV show is Walker, Texas Ranger!" It was as if someone had waves a magic wand! The grumbling stopped, some people smiled. I made sure that literally every illustration was a reference to Chuck Norris - literally! By the end of the service, men who had brandished their fire arms were hugging me and slapping the pastor on the back! I entered being seen as an enemy and left being loved like a brother! If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Norris, I am going to thank him for literally saving my life!  Yes Brothers and Sisters,  Chuck Norris did it again! This time, for the glory of God! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Share Painful Posts?

I've been asked why at times I post articles written from a perspective of someone who is in great emotional pain? We live and process spiritual truth through the lens of everyday realities.  The emotions expressed by someone who is hurting often ring true with me as I have witnessed the struggles of others and had struggles of my own, even within the context of Christian community.  Those who deal with struggles need to know they're not alone in dealing with their heartaches and that there are others who care.  The reality of pain does not preclude overcoming in faith,  but it is important to face painful realities and not to ignore them if one desires to experience true healing and victory.  Our seeking to understand also provides a helpful for others who don't experience such struggles but who need to be exposed to the reality others experience so that they can be agents of healing and encouragement for those that hurt.  The positives we experience and the security we possess should not disuade us from listening to the pain of others, but rather inform our understanding so that we can encourage others and give others a better opportunity to share in the victory we experience! Jesus summed it up in this directive: "Bear one another's burdens!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Enemies Beware! Now Coming at you with Both Fists!

Women are now a part of the Ranger Legacy, adding their own legendary contributions to the great and illustrious Ranger story in the process. In an essay I wrote on the issue a few months back I stated that this school will always be tough! An example of how changes can be made while maintaining rigorous standards is seen in our militsry academies. Since the inclusion of women at the Academy,  I've yet to hear one person, male or female who attended since 1976, describe their West Point experience as "easy." Not one. Perhaps someone has, but I've never met them. I certainly wouldn't use those terms to describe my West Point experience!  This will be the case for Ranger School, BUDS training, Q course or any other elite level of military training. Some tweaking may occur for one reason or another, but any adjustments, if necessary,  will only give equal access to getting the hurt delivered in greater efficiency.  
The US military just expanded its butt kicking ability!  Enemies beware!  Drive on all y'all special warriors! May your tribe increase!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Political Identity

How does one respond to the neverending vilification of persons of one political stripe over the other? Here is my heartfelt take on the usefulness of labels we assign to professional politicians as I presented my thoughts on a friend's comment string:

The author's first point of clarification is, for me, his best [The author of a biting critique of a particular political persuasion begins his article with a scathing evaluation of politicians of every stripe]. The differences espoused by both parties publicly are surface differences, protecting hardened, deeply held core values that favor certain types of people over others. I am an independent because I  have grown to have an equal suspicion of professional politicians of all flavors. Humans crave power and tend to protect power at all costs once it is gained. Bones are thrown on occasion to "calm the natives" but I  am not naive enough to believe that politicians seek political influence to serve anyone other than themselves and those like them. All sides present those who agree with them as champions of the cause and voices of reason, but the reward is seldom beneficial for those who suffer and are oppressed on the whole. Divide and conquer remains the political weapon of choice. I lament to consider that our national political refrain will perpetually be best represented by that classic last refrain from the Who's classic "Won't Be Fooled Again": "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss!"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Love at First Sight

So I get asked a lot if my dad is my "real" dad and that's always been a sensitive subject for me because what I want to say is "Yes, absolutely!". We may not be blood but he is the only dad I have ever known and have ever loved. In fact, I feel like I'm a lucky girl because I got to choose my dad.

I love the story that my dad tells me of how we first met. He tells me that everyone told him to not be surprised if I don't warm up to him right away. Apparently, even then, I was always hesitant and guarded. But that wasn't how I acted. I ran to him with open arms and no hesitation. I'd like to think that was my moment of first love and whatever walls I had before just crumbled down.

In that little girl's heart, she knew that this man would be forever in her life and she was going to love him always with all her heart. I have my own family now with two special guys that I love so much. But a girl never forgets her first love. Thanks daddy for still making me feel special (like the text message I just received). I love you! 

Victory without Revenge! Finding Inner Peace in Turmoil and Conflict

The Bible instructs Jesus Followers to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God." This is a call in times of stress and struggle to pray, reflect, process, understand and respond intelligently so that one will truly be an agent of God for instruction, healing and godly justice rather than mindless vengeance, hasty wrath or hateful spite. Such an exercise of patience and spiritual discipline will lead one to ponder the situation, to pray for the offender and to pray for oneself to reflect God's character rather than one's own rage and disgust. This will further allow God to do a work in one's own heart that will enable one to appropriate God's grace for oneself and dispense grace for others on a consistent basis. "Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!  In His arms He'll take and shield you! You will find a solace there!"  When wronged, take the time to go to Jesus and to allow Him to come to you. You will be empowered to reflect his beauty and glory in every situation!