Life In General

Random D-Day Thoughts…

d-day-usa

 

June 6th, 1990. I had just graduated high school and was getting ready to move to Alabama with some vague plans of going to college. I was the kind of kid to sluff off and do just enough in school to get by, and my work ethic wasn’t much better. But hey… I was an adult now, right?

Eighteen, and I thought I knew it all. It never once occurred to me that, on that same date some forty six years previous, thousands of men — kids, really, kids MY age — had jumped out of perfectly safe boats to run headlong into the face of certain death, with the impossible hope that some precious few of them would make it through the storm of bullets to the most meager — and most temporary — of shelters at the inside slope of the beach, just long enough to catch their breath and brave the storm again, offering themselves upon the altar of battle as they fought to turn the tide against the Nazi scourge.

I was eighteen, and the worst I’d had to deal with was an alcoholic step-dad (who, incidentally, was one of the greatest role models I could’ve asked for, but you couldn’t tell me that at the time) and an uncertain future at college. Eighteen, and I was gonna live forever. Those brave souls in Normandy, many of THEIR eighteens didn’t see the end of the day.

Now here we are, on the seventy-third anniversary of D-Day, and eighteen year olds are still just as self-absorbed as ever — maybe even more so. I’d like to think that, as this country becomes more politically charged and more people realize just how BAD an idea having a strong central government is, maybe the eighteen year olds of today are “slightly” more aware of the value of liberty, and maybe, just maybe, a handful of them genuinely understand the terrible price that must be paid to keep it, as evidenced by their willingness, men and women alike, to follow in their great-grandfathers’ footsteps and brave the storm of bullets to advance the cause of liberty.

I’d like to think that. And I can even trick myself into believing it, so long as I don’t turn on the news or Facebook. My only alternative is to turn into my Grandpa, who would shake his head in disgust at the idiot teenager that I was, a teenager that looked NOTHING like the brave souls he grew up with and served alongside. I’d like to never get that cynical, but when I look at the world today, I can’t help but think that the Great Generation was perhaps the last time that we as a people WERE great.

Categories: Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Official Review of “The Shack”

the-shack-58b0586c0ab1c-e1492018494745

Yep. I watched it. I swore I wasn’t gonna. I was absolutely sure that the criticisms about it were accurate. But on my wife’s insistence that I form my OWN opinion, I suffered through it.

…and confirmed to myself, once again, that context is everything.

If you’ve read all the negative press from steadfast Christians and all the positive spin from the neo-Universalist crowd, you already have the gist of the storyline — a man who’s angry at God has an otherworldly experience that changes his entire view of God. Of course, some people get stuck on the representation of the Trinity as two women and a man, or about the notion that someone can get saved after dying as an unbeliever, but if you’ll bear with me repeating myself…

Context is everything.

As I said, I’d bought into the presumptions about the Shack, but I know my wife to be a wise and Godly woman — one who ABSOLUTELY AFFIRMS the holiness of God, such that He cannot suffer sin, nor submit His sovereignty to forgive the unrepentant — and she reminded me that a wise man LISTENS to the wisdom of others but does not DEPEND upon it. So if I were to form any rock-solid opinions about the Shack, I owed it to everybody — including myself — to actually watch it and see what was what. Which is what I did.

So… my thoughts…

The Shack, first and foremost, is NOT an evangelistic movie, and it never tries to be. Quite the opposite, I take the Shack to be a commentary on the Problem of Evil/Suffering — a philosophical argument that many atheists use to undermine religion in general and Christianity in particular.

As the movie progresses, you come to realize that the main character, Mack, is not an unbeliever per se — not the way many would understand the term. To the contrary, Mack believes that there is a God, and he nominally tries to please Him, but because of life experiences with his Dad, and of course the murder of his daughter, Mack has a very broken view of God. He “obeys” (in loose terms) God in order to avoid punishment, or to “do the right thing”, but none of it comes out of any actual “love” for God. He recognizes God as the Omnipotent, Omniscient Judge and Ruler of the Universe… but that’s ALL he sees God as. He can’t look at our world, with all its suffering, and equate an all-powerful God with a GOOD God.

This, ultimately, is where the main body of the movie takes place.

When Mack first meets God (called “Papa” in the movie, because that’s how his dead daughter always referred to God), he meets God as three distinct and separate people. Of course, some theologians will cry “modalism” at this, and there “might” be an argument to be made about that, but I find it an incredibly weak one.

See, the character of Papa is played, as you already know, by a little black woman. The thing is, the woman who Papa appears as in the Shack is the very same black woman who comforted Mack once as a child, after Mack’s father beat him. Given that Mack has a broken view of God, it makes perfect sense that if God were to CHANGE Mack’s view, He would meet Mack with that view in mind. So when God first appears to Mack, He appears as perhaps the only genuinely loving face that Mack has ever known — someone who Mack did not know, and who did not know him, but nevertheless showed him unconditional love. The fact that this “face of unconditional love” was a little black woman was entirely beside the point — it was a face that would put Mack at ease, and allow him to accept God as entirely DIFFERENT from the God that Mack expected.

As the movie progresses, we run into this theme several times — Mack presumes, God corrects. In many ways, the movie is NOT about revealing who God is, but about revealing that Mack is WRONG about who God is. It does this in a variety of ways — by challenging Mack’s notion that God is (directly or indirectly) the source of evil, that God is impotent to punish the “right” people, etc.

One particularly powerful scene is where Mack, who has deemed himself worthy to sit in judgment of God, meets the manifestation of Wisdom (who is arguably another manifestation of God, one that Mack might perceive as neutral) and is asked to decide which of his children will go to Heaven, and which he must send to Hell. When Mack balks, she tells him, “I’m only asking you to do something you believe God does.” She shows him his remaining daughter, who shuts him out, says hurtful things, etc, and contrasts her with Mack’s son, who she reveals is being disobedient, sneaking out, lying, etc.

The point of the scene is to ask, “If God’s intent is to judge, then who should get a pass, and who should be condemned?” It never questions that God judges, but rather, who are we to say that God is not judging RIGHTLY?

Mack, of course, does not want to judge EITHER worthy of Hell, and tries to refuse. But Wisdom tells him that he MUST choose, that he cannot step down from the responsibility. And so Mack speaks out in love — “Take me. I’ll go instead of them.”

The message of the Cross… and he doesn’t even realize it at the time.

The movie (and presumably, the book) is riddled with scenes like that, where God deftly maneuvers Mack through his presumptions to show him that he does NOT have a complete picture of God, so that when God’s nature IS revealed to him, he is able to accept it.

Now then, there is one scene in the movie that gives me pause — the scene where Mack meets his abusive father, who Mack poisoned as a child. In the scene, Mack (who has already seen how his grandfather had abused his father the same way that his father abused him) confronts the spirit of his father. His father breaks down and begs his forgiveness, and Mack gives it. They embrace, and it appears that the spirit starts to glow a little differently, possibly in healing of some sort.

Because we know so little about the circumstances of Mack’s father’s death (whether he repented, whether he even knew Christ or was broken and backslidden, etc), we have no way of knowing whether or not God had forgiven Mack’s father before his death. Because of this, it’s “possible” to see this scene as an argument for receiving salvation AFTER an unbeliever’s death, but after a bit of thought, I think that would be a mistaken assumption. See, the entire movie is about coming to know GOD — knowing Him as He is as opposed to how we expect Him to be, and coming to relationship with Him. If that is the CONTEXT of the movie, then Mack’s father receiving salvation at this point does not jibe with the rest of the movie, because the entire exchange was limited to Mack and his father — God was only there in the background. There is no message of restored relationship between Mack’s father and God, a theme which is otherwise CENTRAL to the movie. That being the case, and without any CLUE what happened regarding the father’s own redemption, the only SAFE assumption about this scene is that it’s all about Mack’s ability to forgive the unforgivable. To assume more than that is to possibly get it all wrong.

Now then… is this movie (or book) what I would call evangelistic? No, I don’t think so. It’s tailored for a specific mindset — that of one that believes in God, but can only see Him as judge, jury, and executioner. It won’t speak to people who don’t believe in God, nor will it necessarily speak to people who go into the movie with presumptions about what it is or what it should be (ironic, that LOL). What I WILL say is that the movie has the heart of a parable — it gives an incomplete picture of the truth because the truth is so much bigger than the parable can reveal. The purpose of this film is NOT to share the Gospel (though it could possibly do that), but to show how God can be both infinitely sovereign and infinitely merciful, without sacrificing either to satisfy the other.

Of course, I’m sure there are PLENTY of my friends who think that I’ve just gone heretic, blaspheming God in disagreeing with X theologian or Y preacher in their condemnation of the movie. I accept that. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve made my friends look at me sideways, and it probably won’t be the last. But those who know me know that I am anything BUT a heretic, that I have ZERO inclination to belittle the sovereignty of God.

To those who are open to it — I think the Shack has gotten a bum rap. To those who just feel the urge to pray for my correction, please do — I’d sooner be wrong about the Shack, AGAIN, than to get sideways with the Lord and not be given the opportunity to get right. But in EITHER case, I ask that before you pass judgment, see the movie first so that you are able to pass a KNOWLEDGEABLE judgment. Don’t rely on somebody else to form your opinion for you. Do your own legwork.

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Evolution As An Explanation, or “Even if I weren’t a Christian…”

With all the recent stuff about Bill Nye the ScieNazi Guy and NdGT talking about how religious people are ruining science, I felt obliged to weigh in. And as the title suggests, even if I were NOT a Christian (which I am) who takes the Bible literally (which I do), I would still have a big problem with accepting evolution as an explanation for the origins of life — or particularly, the origin of the human race. This is why.

As far back as Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, the scientific community has taken it as Gospel (pardon the pun, but they literally do have that level of devotion to it!) that all life on Earth originated from less evolved versions of themselves, which in turn evolved from lesser versions, going all the way back to a non-living puddle of primordial slime. Most directly relating to us humans, they are faithfully devoted to the notion that we evolved from ape-like primates, and that the only thing separating us and monkeys are a few missing links. Graphically, the argument looks like this…

evo1

Pardon the oversimplification, but it doesn’t get THAT much more coherent the more complex you make it, so I’m good with simple.

The issue, of course, is that according to the theory of evolution, there should not be just a “few” intermediate species. Rather, there should be a MULTITUDE of them. Graphically, it should look a heckuva lot more like this…

evo2

Again, sorry for the oversimplification, but I think you get the picture. According to the theory of evolution, there should be MANY more intermediate species represented in the fossil record or, heck, even alive today. And yet, when you look at the varied living things on this planet, the things that look similar look very similar, and the things that look different look dramatically different. Evolution (the origins of life theory, NOT the scientifically proven and observable process) is presented as a rather straight line from previous life form to modern life form, but in actuality, each new “species” is the result of numerous mutations, such that each species is almost identical to it’s “next door neighbor”, such as how the varied human races are identical except for cosmetic differences.

Now maybe it’s just me, but given the diversity of life on Earth, I’d expect MANY more “next door neighbor” species to still exist, as survivability only depends on a small group of males and females. When life evolves, the previous form doesn’t necessarily die out unless circumstances demand it (eg. an animal with greater lung capacity is able to hide in a lake long enough for a predator to leave, unlike its cousin that comes up for air and gets eaten). So ultimately BOTH life forms — the original and the mutant — pass their genes down unless one dies, ending its bloodline… something that is less likely, the larger the family is.

As such, I’d expect FAR more diversity, and far more blurring of the lines between species. Using my expanded graphic as an example (featuring man and our “closest animal cousin”), I’d expect AT LEAST the last bracket to be more filled in, and certainly SOME of the previous brackets.

I’m not denying that there is great diversity of life on Earth, but I’m saying that if evolution — and not God’s intentional hand — is responsible for it, I’d expect evolution to play by its own rules, mutating without necessarily “killing off”. I’d expect much GREATER diversity than we have, specifically, a greater blurring of lines between species.

…and that’s my thoughts on the subject. And it being 0140, they might be a little muddled, but that’s the best you’re gonna get from me tonight 😉

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hacksaw Ridge: My Thoughts

hacksawridge

So I finally watched Hacksaw Ridge, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be

…and something else that I was not expecting. See, I know that Desmond Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist, and I do not agree with many of the doctrines — even CORE doctrines — of the church. So while I was certain the movie WOULD honor God, I didn’t go in expecting to see anything of a Gospel message in the movie.

But then the movie — the history — cut to the Maeda Escarpment, the area of Okinawa nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge”, and I watched Doss go into the thick of battle time and again, dragging people out.

It struck me that Doss didn’t just drag out fellow soldiers. He dragged out men who had beaten him bloody in boot camp for being a conscientious objector. He dragged out men who mocked his faith. He even dragged out enemy combatants. And I was reminded of a passage of scripture…

Romans 5:7-8 — For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

When Christ died for us, we weren’t just bloodied on the battlefield, needing rescue. We were those who had rejected God, and actively opposed Him. We were God’s enemies. And Christ died for us anyway.

Doss’ relationship with God may be different from mine, but I’m no fool — I’m CERTAIN that when I stand before Him, He’ll have a list a MILE LONG of all the things that I believed wrongly. But in the end, none of those things will matter. All that will matter is, did I accept Jesus as Savior? Did I bow to Him as Lord? When He said, “Follow Me,” did I follow? Wherever Doss places in God’s standards for believing the right things, his actions on the Maeda Escarpment are, without a doubt, one of the truest representations of Christ that I’ve ever seen in anybody that has ever claimed to follow Him.

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Prodigal Son, and Christmas

285bd276abb3ccd37a3c652aa5129ac0

In the Bible, there’s an account of a man whose son wanted to go out and see the world, to live life to its fullest, to live according to his own rules rather than the rules that others made for him. So he asked his father for his portion of his inheritance — now, rather than waiting on his father to die.

Of course, the father didn’t “have” to give his son his inheritance early. He was under no such obligation. And I’m sure he didn’t want his son to go. He very likely knew the ends of those pursuits, and that they’d lead to a lot of pain for his son. But he loved his son enough to let him make his own choices — his own mistakes.

Sure enough, when the son’s pursuits bore fruit, he found himself at rock bottom, working as a swineherd — an unclean job by Jewish standards, managing unclean animals that would be made into unclean food. Worse, he (born a rich kid) was so poor that he envied the food that the swine ate.

So he goes home. He didn’t have any presumptions that his father would treat him like a son. After all, he’d squandered his entire inheritance — the money that he would otherwise have gotten only when his father had DIED. In a very real way, the son had treated his father as if he HAD died, and his father similarly had nothing left of his son but memories. Their relationship was utterly broken.

So it was an utter SHOCK when the prodigal son comes home, and the father not only welcomes him onto the property — he welcomes him back into his life! He lavishes his riches on his son — a robe (signifying acceptance), a ring (signifying his authority, granted to his son), good food, a bed, the works. Far from the unclean heathen that he had become, his father treated him like the son that he had always been… even when the son didn’t think he was.

Now, we all know this story, and it does teach a lot about gratitude and love — particularly, the love of God for His rebellious creation — but rarely does this come across as a Christmas story. And yet, that’s exactly what I think this is. I know — when we think Christmas, we think of the virgin birth, the angels, the wise men, and of Linus Van Pelt reciting Luke 2 for Charlie Brown. But when you get right down to it, that’s all about how Christmas HAPPENED. The parable of the prodigal son is about WHY Christmas happened.

Through the parable, we see ourselves, coveting what rightly belongs to our Father, but brutishly rejecting His Will for us. Rather than abide by His rules, we go out and live by our own rules… to our detriment. He didn’t “have” to allow us the opportunity to rebel. He could’ve denied us the freedom to disobey Him, just as the father of the prodigal son could’ve denied him his inheritance. But God chose to allow us the room to mess up, not because He wants us to experience the pain that He KNOWS will result of our decisions, but because He loves us enough to allow us to make them. The result? We willfully squander what He has entrusted to us — as if it were OURS all along rather than His — and break our relationship with Him, becoming unclean before Him.

But though we deserve the ends that we bring upon ourselves, our Father is not content to leave us to them. Far from it, He has left the door open for us — sacrificed of HIMSELF in ways that He did not deserve in order to offer us a redemption that we did not deserve. In the Christmas account, God became flesh. He took the door that we slammed shut with our sin, and opened it again with a virgin birth. Not only is Jesus the answer to about a hundred prophecies in the Old Testament, but He answers a number of them merely by the circumstances of His birth — something that a mere man could never do.

When we say that Jesus is the ultimate Christmas present, it doesn’t do justice to the sheer miracle that is Christmas — where a sinless God took upon Himself the form of sinful man in an act that HE KNEW would end with His physical pain and death and, worse, REJECTION at the hands of the very creation He loved.

He knew the hatred of a king would drive Herod to murder a generation of babies in an attempt to kill the King of Kings. And yet Jesus came anyway, for God so loved the whole world… including Herod.

He knew that the scribes and Pharisees would proclaim Him a heretic — Him, God In The Flesh, a heretic!!! — but He came anyway, for God so loved the world… including those scribes and Pharisees.

He knew that Judas — His disciple, His friend, His bro — would betray Him to those who would have Him killed, but He came anyway, for God so loved the world… including Judas.

See, that really is the miracle of Christmas — not just that God would become a man so that He could save us, but that He would do so for a world that DID NOT WANT SAVING. Just like the father of the prodigal son, He didn’t “force” His love upon us, or make us make the first step. Rather, He did His part WITHOUT waiting on us to do ours, loving us while we still hated Him. And then He stood in the road, watching, waiting to see us come around the bend, so that He could lavish upon us a redemption that He had already paid for in full.

Christmas isn’t just about God loving us. It’s about God loving us while we were still unlovable. Remember that, the next time you sing about “God and sinners reconciled”, and about “peace on Earth, good will to men”.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless!

Categories: Blogroll, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Separation

I remember doing VIP (Volunteers In Preschool) when I was at my previous church, and these parents dropped their kid off with us. Sweet child but incredibly clingy (yeah, I know — insensitive; I’m a guy, deal with it hehe), so when the parents went on to the worship service, the kid started to scream bloody murder. Of course, he could only go full throttle for so long, so as soon as I found an opportunity, I distracted him. Worked for a while, but if he ever got a chance to think “Mommy and Daddy ain’t here”, he’d start back up again.

This, of course, was in stark contrast to the other preschoolers that were with us, instead of in Little Kid Church, Big Kid Church, or Grown-up Church. Yeah, some of them were kinda sniffly when Mommy and Daddy dropped them off — and maybe even a little ticked off that they would dare leave them alone — but they knew they’d come back.

I can’t say that I couldn’t relate. I remember when my Dad was in the Navy, and he’d go off on his ship and be gone for months on end. I hated to see him leave, but after the initial shock, I found myself just biding time until his first phone call from port or his first letter, when my missing him would kinda hiccup — go away for a moment, only to come back worse as soon as the phone call or the letter were concluded, followed by recover and then more waiting.

My kids still do this, particularly my son. They’re always wanting to go to the store with me… and not because Daddy buys them stuff. Far more often than not, the only thing they get at the store is a big fat NO. But they ask to go anyway.

See, the important thing isn’t that they get some special privilege, but because they got to go someplace with Daddy, la tee da, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What’s striking to me, though, is that so many people look at death as being so different from what those kids in VIP experienced, even though they grieve in very similar ways. As we lay my wife’s grandfather to rest today, I expect to see many of the same stages taking place, from overwhelming grief to grudging acceptance to bittersweet patience. I might even see some anger, but I kinda doubt it. Bill Harding Sr didn’t foster a whole lot of that in his kids and their kids.

And just like those kids — who, to varying degrees, were able to look past the fact that Mommy and Daddy ain’t here “now” but they will be here later — many of Grandpa’s loved ones will find a bittersweet peace, knowing that while the separation is painful, it has nowhere NEAR the permanence that some people would ascribe to it. As they grieve, they will grieve in the knowledge that they’re not grieving their lost loved one, but themselves, who now find themselves patiently biding their time until they can be reunited.

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How “compassion” is destroying America, or “Why I’m a libertarian”

Yes, there is a reason why that word is in quotes. First, though, a definition…

Compassion is actually a compound word, joining “com” (meaning “with” or “together”) and “passion” (meaning “suffering”). So, quite literally, the word means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together”.

Now, most people believe they know what compassion is. When they see someone hurting, they hurt. The most basic of them stop there and call that compassion. Not so much. Compassion moves us to action — to not just hurt from the sidelines, but to get involved in those who are hurting.

Those who “do something about it”… yeah, THEY’RE the ones who are compassionate!

Not so much. And that’s the part that’s destroying America. See, we’re johnny-on-the-spot in pointing out somebody else’s hypocrisy, but we’re kinda slow at recognizing our own, and nowhere is this as evident (to those who are looking for it) than in our politics.

See, I was discussing with some friends the concept of mandated vaccines. My position is that the government has no place to force people to get vaccinated, because that individual’s body is sovereign territory. Though the government does have the authority to protect an unwilling third party from this person’s “stupidity”, it does NOT have the authority to tell this person that they cannot be “stupid”. The subject of public schooling came up, and how unvaccinated students endanger the rest of the population, and that the only way that they could both protect the right of a student to be unvaccinated and the right of the other students is to deny unvaccinated students access to the public school system.

Yep. I totally agree.

I can just imagine the guy I was talking with turning blue and swallowing his tongue. “You’d deny a child an education? Don’t you care?”

My thinking, of course, is that while your body and your property are sovereign territories, as soon as you step out into public, you are in shared territories — places where your sovereign rights end where another person’s sovereign rights begin (thank you, Oliver Wendell Holmes). This is how I can stand against seat belt laws but support drunk driving laws, and support both the denial of vaccination and the denial of access to public education.

“Where’s your compassion? Those seat belts keep people safe. Those vaccines protect innocent children. That homeless person has no food. X person needs Y help. Don’t you care?”

Well, yes. I care deeply. But I don’t care so much that I’m going to deny your rights while I am fighting for theirs. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with America today — far too many people are unwilling to say that when it becomes inconvenient. It’s absolutely hypocritical.

Progressives see the suffering of the homeless, or the indigent, or the oppressed, and the hurt in their heart. Their response is to dig into public funds supplied by mandated taxes and seek to relieve that suffering — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by forcibly rolling those consequences onto somebody who didn’t sign up for them. They just can’t watch the suffering of someone who is disabled (or simply didn’t maintain their health), or someone who walks into a desert to cross a border illegally, so rather than letting them deal with the consequences of life, and rather than getting personally involved, they bail these people out of those consequences… by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Compassionate as heck to the person receiving the aid — not so compassionate to the taxpayer being forced to provide it. Their justification? “They don’t need/deserve compassion as much as X”.

Conservatives are much the same. They see the suffering that drugs and alcohol represent, that prostitution and gambling brings, and institute prohibitions. They see people struggling all over the world, abused by tyrannical regimes, and they send in the military to rescue them. Though their “compassions” are different, their response is similar — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by legislating against the actions that cause such pain and suffering. They just can’t bear to watch marriages fall apart due to Daddy taking time with a hooker, or babies being raised by drug addicted Mommies, so they make these things illegal. They can’t bear to see a people struggling under the weight of an oppressive government, so they “intervene”. Just like progressives, they cannot bear to witness people unjustly suffering the consequences of life, so they look for ways to prevent those consequences or mitigate them… not by getting involved personally, but by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Their justification? “It’s for their own good.”

The heart of this problem is that we as a nation do not understand the fundamental concept of compassion — again, which means to suffer with the suffering. That’s a natural side effect of compassion, a necessary CONSEQUENCE of it. But we don’t like consequences. We love to shift blame, to shirk responsibility, all while claiming credit for a job well done.

Oh, make no mistake about it, none of us want to see somebody else suffering… but we’re rather reluctant to share that suffering ourselves. So our response is either one of two things — to spread the consequences over the taxpayer base, or to prevent the actions that lead to those consequences. That way, no matter who we want to help with whatever suffering, we don’t have to suffer with them.

Makes perfect sense… as long as you don’t dig deep enough to find the hypocrisy. Because when we put this logic into practice, we find that we can’t forcibly spread our compassions to others without denying compassion to those we force our compassions upon. In other words, we can’t relieve suffering without causing suffering to others because we don’t want ourselves to suffer. Ultimately, we’re hypocrites.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bastions of true compassion left in America, of course. Churches. Soup kitchens (often church-funded). Foreign missions. Pro-bono clinics. GoFundMe and the like (for the most part). Charities, true charities, that operate NOT on taxpayer monies but strictly on donation. These are the people that are truly suffering with those who suffer. They get out their and they feel the pain that others feel. They provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and job placement, seeking to relieve burdens without themselves becoming a burden.

And how do we respond to such glowing examples of humanity? We regulate their gifts of food through the Health Department, or permits and business models to (pre-emptively) protect the rights of for-profit industries. We dig into these charities and issue mandates on how they do what they voluntarily do… at the taxpayer’s expense. Rather than us physically share in the suffering of others — to actually work a soup kitchen or personally pick somebody up for a ride to a job interview or take missions trips ourselves to foreign lands to help liberate an oppressed people — we roll it over onto the taxpayer who has no choice but to shoulder part of our “suffering”.

America is DYING of a false sense of compassion, its liberties being sold cheaply because although we know how to “feel” compassionate, we refuse to ACT with compassion.

The single greatest example of true compassion, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ, but I dare say that this example is incomplete without the reality of Hell. See, without Hell, the sacrifice of Christ really has no meaning. “The Cross saves us!” Absolutely… but from what? Unless there are consequences to sin, and unless God is willing to allow us to suffer those consequences, then the Cross means nothing.

Of course, our progressive example would be “God is compassionate, so He will forgive whether we repent or not” — bailing us out of the consequences. Similarly, our conservative example is “God is compassionate, so He will make us to repent” — pre-empting the consequences. Truth is, though, God IS compassionate because He shared in our suffering… and allows us the opportunity to make that choice ourselves, KNOWING the consequences of our rejection and dreading them, but allowing them anyway. Out of love.

See, God hates the consequences of sin, just like we in America hate the consequences of life. But God demonstrates compassion by feeling pain with those who feel pain, and rolling up His sleeves and personally getting involved. We, unfortunately, are reluctant to love the way God loves. We steal liberty for the sake of granting liberty, stealing rights for the sake of granting rights, stealing compassion for the sake of granting compassion. We’re quick to point this out in others, but we turn a blind eye to it in ourselves.

So, plugging this into how “compassion” is destroying America, how do we fix compassion? Quite simply, to do it like God does it — to love like God loves. We get involved. We give of our own time, our own resources, and never expect or demand that somebody does our job for us. Our military is for national defense only — not for sending into a conflict that is not inherently ours. We stop regulating “help”, recognizing that our charities aren’t required to help in the first place. We allow people to make their own choices… and live with the consequences of them. Make no mistake, I’m NOT suggesting that we throw people to the wolves, but when we exercise compassion, we exercise honest compassion, suffering with those who are suffering — never creating suffering so that we don’t have to suffer as much.

Loving how God loves, in our politics just as in our everyday lives.

Categories: Government, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Has God Abandoned Our Nation…?

I’ve heard this question asked, and while I think the answer is pretty obvious — God is in the hearts of individuals, not in nations — the question is a valid one. Still, whether or not God has abandoned us, in my opinion, really isn’t the issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not WE have abandoned HIM.

We’re told in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that if God’s people, who are called by God’s name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land. We’ve heard that a million times, but I don’t think enough people actually take the time to pick this verse apart and actually READ what it says. God promises to heal the land of the people who do this, but who are these people?

1) They’re people who turn from their wicked ways — sure, we understand this. They’re people who forsake their sin, and choose obedience to God.

2) They’re people who seek His face. They don’t just assume God is there, but actively LOOK for God in their situation.

3) They’re people who pray — not just sending God their Christmas lists, but spending TIME with Him, CONVERSING with Him, doing their due diligence to find out what PLEASES God.

4) They’re people who humble themselves. They don’t assume that they’re in the right — even when they are. They’d sooner find their ERROR so they can CORRECT their error, because they know they HAVE errors that can’t be addressed until they FIND them.

Most importantly though…

5) These people are “My people, who are called by My name”. ALL of these things, all the prerequisites for God’s promises, are promised TO GOD’S PEOPLE. For God to heal a nation, He does not require that the nation humble itself, pray, seek His face — He only requires that HIS PEOPLE AMONG that nation do this.

If God isn’t healing a nation, if God has ABANDONED a nation, it’s not because of the conduct of that nation — it’s because of conduct of HIS PEOPLE WITHIN that nation. If we want to see God back in this nation, it won’t happen because we witnessed to the lost — it’ll happen because we straightened out the redeemed.8545373

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some not-so-random thoughts…

When in life, it becomes necessary for a people to politically “divorce” themselves from each other, and to reclaim a place that’s always been theirs — separate from their “divorcees” but equal to them, owning the exact same rights that God gave them all — common decency requires that these people should tell their former country what drove them to seek divorce.

We believe these truths to be common-sensical and irrefutable…

  1. That all people are inherently equal
  2. That our Creator gave us all certain rights that cannot be taken away, rights which fall generally into one of three categories…
    1. Life
    2. Liberty
    3. The pursuit of happiness
  3. That to protect these rights, people institute governments which have NO POWER of their own, except what power the people LOAN to them
  4. That whenever any government abuses its borrowed power, the people who loaned it that power have every right to either change the government or abolish it entirely, and to form a new government in its place, based on such principles and defining (giving AND limiting) such powers as would see the people’s rights once again protected.

Now, common sense dictates that people should NOT change or abolish their governments on a whim — and in fact, history proves this, in that people would rather suffer injustice (so long as they are able) than to rise up against the government that they are used to.

But when the government has a long track record of abuse, to the point where the people feel that they no longer own their own lives but are in fact owned by their government, it is their right — their DUTY — to abolish that government, and to create a new one in its place that WILL protect their ownership of their own lives.

***

I’m sure most of you realize this, but these words aren’t really mine at all. Rather, this is the first part of the Declaration of Independence, written and signed two hundred forty years ago this Monday. I realized that MANY people in the US today have little time or desire to sift through all the “these” and “thous” of the original language, so I thought it beneficial to put the thoughts of the Declaration into today’s terms, to demonstrate just how RELEVANT the Declaration is, even in this day when politicians are claiming that our rights change with the times.

As if.

1776

Categories: Government, Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Father’s Day 2016

When I think about this Father’s Day, of course it doesn’t take me long to think about how close I came to NOT being here for this one — how close I came to my kids MISSING their father on this Father’s Day. I’m constantly second-guessing my ability to do this job, but my kids still love me so I gotta be doing SOMETHING right 😀

What comes to mind, though, when I think about how my kids celebrate me, is what went in to me becoming the father that I am. See, I’m in a rather interesting position in that I’ve had not one, not two, but FOUR fathers (to varying degrees, and not counting God Himself — He’s in a class all His own 😉 ) throughout my life.

Of course, there’s my first father, Richard. He’s my biological father — half of the equation that explains why I’m here in the first place. Now, granted, he wasn’t there for the vast majority of my life, and even now our relationship is “distant” at best, but he gave me a few things that are vital to who I am.

He gave me my DNA, and through that, part of my Indian heritage, as well as a good portion of what makes me who and what I am physically. You wanna blame somebody for me being Chewbacca? Blame Richard 😉

He also gave me the blessing of perspective — not by his presence, but by his absence. For many years, I was angry at him for not being there… but it was an unjust anger. I didn’t know who he was, what prompted him to leave, why he stayed gone, what could be so repulsive about my Mom and me that he chose not to be my Dad. Never did I realize that, just like me, he’s human. He makes choices that he might later regret. Or not. More to the point, I made his leaving about me, or about him, or about Mom, never taking into account that sometimes, stuff just happens, and nobody’s to blame.

As an adult, I’ve learned how pointless it would be to be angry over his choices… because had he made other choices, my life would be absolutely unrecognizable. For one, my Mom would’ve never met my Dad — the next one I’m gonna talk about hehe — and had my sister Sharmeen. And Richard would’ve never met his wife, Jackie, and had my other siblings, Talitha, Tabitha, Tiva, Beth, Richard II, and Zeb. Considering how much has been ADDED, not just to my life but to the world, how could I possibly be mad at him for his choices???

Would I have preferred he had stayed? In a way. I would’ve gotten to know him as a father rather than as the friend and fellow artist that I’m coming to know him as now. I would’ve gotten the benefit of having a single, unbroken home. But I would have LOST so much as well. I wouldn’t have the family I have, the EXPERIENCES I’ve had. My personality would be entirely different. Had he stayed, I would not be “me” — certainly not any “me” that I would recognize. So I’m thankful to Richard, not for what he “deprived” me of (if I could even call it that), but for what he GAVE me.

Incidentally, one of the things that he gave me was the opportunity to know my Dad, George. Because of Richard’s absence, a void existed in my Mom’s life — a void that was filled (at least temporarily) by my Dad. They met in the Navy, where she was a single mom and he was a rebel without a cause. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different — she ordered and he chaotic, she responsible and he impulsive — but for a time, they worked.

Dad, of course, gave me the lion’s share of who I am. First and foremost, he gave me the love of a man who DIDN’T HAVE to be my Dad, and yet CHOSE to be anyway. Even when heartache came, he wanted ME in his life as well as my sister, his natural child. He could mess everything else in our relationship up, and mess it up BAD, and I’d STILL have nothing but admiration for the man, if only for that reason.

But he gave me more than just that. He also gave me my love of science fiction, fantasy, books, games, movies, entertainment in general. He showed me the value of my imagination, of asking “what if” and then actually trying to logic out the answer. He’s the reason I’m a gamer, and a writer. He’s the reason I’m writing this blog post, and why I’m so social on Facebook (funny, because he’s a veritable hermit hehe). He made sure I knew who God was, and helped lead me to Christ. And between my faith in Christ and my love of “what if”, Dad’s influence was instrumental in how I have GROWN in Christ, coming to know Him more and more even APART from those in the world and in the church that “claim” to know Him but fail to live up to Him when it matters.

But as I alluded, Dad’s personality quirks (which became MY personality quirks) clashed with Mom’s personality quirks (some of which I inherited as well, to be honest), so leading to their inevitable divorce, and Mom to my third father — Jim. Now, as much as Dad helped to build the kind of man I am, Jim helped to build the kind of DAD I am. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing, but for the life of me, it never ceases to amaze me how much my kids still love me in spite of it! Shouldn’t be surprising though — I loved Jim in spite of the very same.

I’ve already blogged about Jim, so you can go to that post and read all about him at your leisure, but for the sake of this blog, I want to focus in on how he has influenced me — namely, my expectations of my kids. Jim was an old Army hangover, concrete contractor, tough as nails, it’s-GONNA-get-done kinda guy. In fact, every time I have to get onto my kids, I hear Jim speaking in my voice — “You can either do X, or you’ll get Y punishment and STILL have to do X. Either way, I’m gonna get my way, so you might as well just make it easier on yourself.”

When I make my kids tow the line, it’s Jim. When I lose my cool and yell myself hoarse, it’s Jim. When I take the commonplace things we take for granted and turn them into profound life lessons, it’s Jim. He had an uncanny ability to see beyond the obvious, and to convey those things to his kids — very similar to how Dad taught me “what if”, only “thinking outside the box” on a much more practical level. Much of my work ethic is due to Jim. He knew that I’m lazy by nature, so he played specifically to that part of my nature to get through to me. Things like, “If you do a half-ass job, you’ll do it twice”, or the old laborer’s standby, “Measure twice, cut once”, to teach me that any job worth doing is worth doing once, and to the best of my abilities, so I don’t have to retread old ground (something a lazy person like me loathes).

Every one of these simple lessons had myriad applications in everyday life, and only VERY FEW of them specific to the context that they were given. When he taught me, he taught me on my level. He established a common ground that I would recognize — say, the hammer I was holding in my hand, or the shovel I was using to move gravel from this pile to that — and build his lesson from that point. Very abstract, and every valuable. It was a manner of teaching that helped me not only see life from perspectives not immediately apparent, but actually helps me to understand obscure things in scripture — specifically, parables. When Jesus taught His disciples, He spoke in the same way that Jim spoke to me — from a common ground that the disciples could readily identify with, to illustrate something that would otherwise be beyond their grasp. Nowadays, when I’m talking with my kids, driving down the road with them, working on the cars, mowing the lawn, or whatever I’m doing with them, I find myself doing the same thing Jim used to do — teaching, looking for new ways to explain the ordinary, so that the ordinary can be seen in an extraordinary (and often unexpected) light.

But love him or hate him (depending on the day), I was nevertheless deprived of him in 1998… which left the door open for my fourth, and presumably FINAL, father.

Like Jim, me and Bobby haven’t always got along. For all that Mom would suggest that Bobby’s personality is like Jim’s, it’s not. Nor is it like Dad’s or Richard’s. Bobby is Bobby. He has his own way of looking at things, his own value system, his own expectations. Where Jim was complex, Bobby is simple. Where Jim was quick-whitted and sharp with his criticisms and even insults, Bobby is (semi) respectful but blunt as a baseball bat. Bobby is similar to Jim in that they are both hard personalities, and they both have a tender underside, but it’s like they’re flip sides to the same coin — not opposites, but mirror images.

In that way, I guess, Bobby is doing exactly what Jim did with a younger me — pushing me along in who I’m supposed to be. Where Jim’s complexities drew me aggressively from my ignorance, Bobby’s one-track simplicity teaches the adult me to be steadfast, focused, unwavering unless it’s something that REQUIRES change. I don’t give Bobby NEAR the credit that he’s due. I have a nasty habit of saying that he’s my Mom’s husband, that “I’m too old to have a step-dad”, when in fact, that’s clearly not the case. I may not always think I need to learn something… but neither did I think I “needed to learn” from Jim, or from Dad, or from Richard. But however I think I need it or not, it happens all on its own.

And I’m not done. There are MANY fathers I’ve not named — grandpas, coworkers, friends, examples I see in life and on TV, people who’ve shown me a wisdom that I didn’t have before I met them, and whose wisdom has invariably wound up becoming part of the me I am today. As I look to today’s “me”, because of all the fathers that I’ve had in my life, direct or otherwise, I marvel at the Dad I am, and more, at the Dad I am becoming. How long before my Daddyhood is passed on to my kids — in how my boy emulates me, and how my girls measure the men that they will eventually tie themselves to? How long before the process that I’m in the middle of starts all over again in them?

Or has that process already started? I rather think so. I started to become me long before I can remember. I think about how I’m an unfinished product, unrefined, less than perfect, and yet I’m planting these flawed seeds in my kids’ lives, and the prospect worries me… but there again, I’m sure it did all of my fathers as well. To look back on them now, and see that I’m now OLDER than three of them were when they came into my life, I can’t help but think that they too were works in progress, unfinished and unrefined, planting flawed — yet incredibly valuable — seeds in my life.

And I love who I am because of it. For all THEIR flaws, I still turned out fine! So it gives me a great deal of peace that my kids will not suffer too badly because of all of MY flaws. They have an adequate teacher, because I had some excellent ones 🙂

Richard, George, Jim, and Bobby — Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being you, because you have made (and continue to make) me into me 🙂

fatherhood

Categories: Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.