I simply do not understand all the fuss about the illegal immigrants.  These people are here, so we need to do something about it.  Like all problems, this one will not go away by our pretending that it is not there or by simply ignoring it.  Most problems are best dealt with by direct confrontation, starting with admitting that there is a problem and then seeking solutions to it.  One of the arguments being bandied about on the talk shows on radio and tv is that it would not be fair to give these people amnesty since they came here in a violation of the law.  But let me deal with that argument by pointing out that none of us get what we really deserve.  None of us is without sin.  None of us lead lives that are so pristine that we never do anything wrong, never violate the law in any single way, and, therefore, we deserve all the good in life that we get and deserve none of the hardships.  Of course, this is not true.  The Bible is very clear in saying that “there is none righteous, no note one” (Rom. 3:10).  So, all who have been worrying that these illegals will get something that they do not deserve, need to look in the mirror at their own lives and fix what is wrong there before they judge others and worry about what happens in someone else’s life.

This problem with the illegal immigrants has been going on for a few decades now, and it is time that we stop pretending or grousing about it and “man-up” for a change and do something about the problem.  Moreover, while we do need to do something about the borders, we should not hold these poor people hostage while we wait another few decades to deal with that other problem.  There simply must be a way of dealing with these people and starting some process of assimilation, making them legal members of our population so that they can make their fair-share contribution to our taxes, vote legally in our elections, serve on our juries, etc.  We should have compassion for these people in keeping with God’s law of love.  Don’t forget that we or our ancestors were once strangers in a strange land as well.  I’m sure that our ancestors or we ourselves, upon arrival to this land, were not treated as unkindly as we are now treating these newcomers to our land.  God would expect and does expect more from us in our treatment of these people, so we should stop “fooling around” and deal with this problem head on.

These people will not take anything away from us.  Like all new arrivals to our land, they will bring with them all sorts of new talents, cultural practices, and new ways of thinking that will enrich our culture and make our lives better, just as we and our various people groups have contributed to this country and made it better.  Many of these people are Hispanics.  They will certainly make an important contribution the way so many other Hispanic Americans have blessed our culture from the recent member of the Supreme Court, Sonya Sotomayor; to the various athletes such as Jose Canseco, Nancy Lopez, Oscar de la Hoya, and Sammy Sosa; to the members of Congress such as Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bob Menendez, and the big crop of new Hispanic members that started this year;
to the many entertainers such as Jennifer Lopez, George Lopez, and Carlos Santana; or even to the many soldiers whom I have served with.  I have served with many soldiers who were sacrificing for their country before they even had the full privileges of a citizen; soldiers already give up a lot and suffer a lot for their country, but how brave and unselfish it is to do so when you are not even enjoying all the privileges of a full citizen?  This is just a short list to give you a flavor of the many, many Hispanic Americans who have made great contributions to our country throughout its history and still contribute, making our culture so abundantly rich, so you know that these new arrivals will make their contribution as well.  It is time we welcomed these new members of our society with open arms and make a way for them to be fully contributing, legal members of our society.

I pray today that each of us will pray for these people and for our political leaders to do what is right by these new members of our society.  And I pray that you will enjoy your rights and privileges in your country and give thanks to God that we live in countries that are free. 

 
 
This posting finishes with the topic of truth that we discussed the last couple of days. 

This is the way God works.  He spreads His Wisdom, His Gifts, and His Talents liberally among the population of His children, wanting them all to have something valuable to offer each other in their unique contribution to the big tapestry of our culture.  And because each person is unique and has unique talents to offer others, he or she, therefore, is of infinite value to God and to others.  This is true of every single person.  This is one of the reasons that abortion is such an abomination to God.   Mankind is the crowning achievement of God in His Creation of all things.  People are, therefore, very special to God.  God is Love.  That is a central part of His Character, so He simply Loves naturally out of His Nature.  But He has placed a special focus of His love upon mankind because He Created man to be a unique creature in all of His Creation.  The Scripture tells us that He made man just a little bit lower than the angels, so man has a very exalted place of honor in God’s Creation.  He also made man in His Image, His Likeness.  He wanted man to be like Him so that He could enjoy fellowship with this unique creature. 

And He gave His Crowning Achievement free will so that people could choose whether to follow Him, whether to seek Him, and whether to Love Him.  This free choice to follow and love Him, absolutely without force or coercion, only His Gentle and Loving Enticement, brings Pleasure and Glory to God.  This means that we have a soul or spirit within us, a very intrinsic component of our makeup, and this spirit is like His Spirit.  Additionally, God gave man dominion over Creation, a very honorable and important position.  This comes with much privilege and much responsibility.  We are to be good stewards of His Creation and kind to the various creatures that God has lovingly placed here.  We should always be gentle and respectful with all animals, although we are allowed by God to take their lives for our nourishment, but even that should be done in a humane way, and while these creatures are alive, we should treat them humanely.  Moreover, as good stewards of His Creation, we should never be wasteful.  This is why we recycle in our house and always have once we got in the habit of it and learned of its value while we were living in Germany.  Moreover, recycling definitely fits within God’s principles of being a good steward of the various gifts and resources throughout the earth that He Generously Gives us. 

Returning to the topic of taking the life of God’s Highest Achievement in Creation, man, the careless, flippant taking of a life for selfish reasons is an insult to God and an assault on His Plan for the betterment of all people.  He does make provision in Scripture for the taking of a life in justice for that person’s taking of another life, righteous payment of blood for blood, and He even tells us that we are not to pity the murderer (Det. 19:13).  But His Word also requires due process of law to prove that the person actually committed the murder, and that it was not done rightfully out of self-defense or done by mistake.  Otherwise, who are we to say that any human life, regardless of the circumstances under which it was conceived, is devoid of value?  This evil arrogance, usurping the authority of God to determine which life is valuable and which is not, sounds Satanic in its very conception.  So, I cannot conceive of any time in which abortion or euthanasia could fit with God’s Law of Love and His requirement that we respect all life. 

Such principles as the respect for all life and the way of life that is based in love are part of the ultimate Truth that is found in God.  And all knowledge that leads back to Him or makes life better and more enjoyable within the bounds of a righteous, loving life in the center of His Will are what we would call Wisdom.  All bodies of knowledge should lead us back to God.  Every body of knowledge that I have ever studied has told me something of our Creator.  Studies such as music and the various sciences should always lead to an understanding of the incredible order and complexity of all of Creation, and they should also lead us to understand that there is a Loving Creator behind all things and holding all things together under His Incredible Power.  It is possible to study a body of knowledge that does not lead back to Him.  There are various studies that are foolishness, such as the various disciplines in universities like “homosexual theory.”  People who study such things and try to view all of life through a very demented lens are what the Bible refers to when it says they are “ever learning but never able to come to the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

I pray that this study of Truth and Wisdom has been enlightening to you, and I pray that God’s Truth will be a part of your life every day as you draw closer to Him and allow His Love and Joy to fill your life.

 
 
I feel led to explain a little more about Truth.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, our understanding of Truth is darkened by sin in our natural state, before God intervenes, by first making us aware of the Truth, planting that tiny seed of understanding within us.  Then with that seed of Truth, we can make the clear choice to accept His offer of Covenant through Jesus or reject that offer preferring to maintain control of our lives in spite of the mess we have made of it.  God will not force any man or woman to choose Him.  Some like to believe in the idea of “irresistible will” in which, once God really, really makes us understand what He is offering in the covenant relationship and the abundant life that will eventually follow, we will not be able to help ourselves.  In their theory, we will thus feel compelled and will fall in line like lemmings.  But this is a very simplistic view that does not accord with Scripture or reality.  In reality, the human will is very strong and naturally resistant to God.  

Moreover, many people can be so committed to their sin out of pride, ignorance, desire for control, love of pleasure, love of glory, etc., such that, even when God plants the seed of understanding in them making clear their choices, they will still prefer their sin. The Bible is very clear in saying that rejection of God is a possibility and that many choose that possibility.  We all have choices in life.  It is a mystery to me why some would prefer sin to His Blessings, Love, and Freedom, but many use their free will to set the tendencies of their heart toward sin.  They desire the thrill of sin or the pleasure of sin or the various sullied fruits that sin offers.  But even if these people that are so committed to sin are brought to the realization of their need for salvation through the Holy Spirit’s revival of their sin-dead spirits, they will not be making the choice for or against salvation in a vacuum of perfect conditions.  Satan is always there, trying to keep them away from the antidote to their sinful lives, wanting to keep us in misery because he gets his jollies by trying to thwart God’s plan of salvation for mankind through Jesus or by thwarting His plans for our individual lives. 


Satan tries to keep us away from God with his various litany of lies such as:  you will lose so much if you choose God; you will have to give up so much; it won't be any fun; God won't accept you just like you are;  you've sinned too much, God won't forgive you; you're better off the way you are now, etc.
Additionally, Satan receives pleasure from our miseries, which is why he tries so hard to keep us away from God.  I know that he is very active in these Islamic countries that are going through revolution.  He’s always there in the mob, trying to whip up emotions to the point that they are no longer thinking, so if any poor, hapless person, such as the various female reporters happen into that volatile situation, they will most certainly be attacked as has happened several times already in Egypt.  Satan, feeding on the misery and terror of these poor women, will encourage his wicked Islamic followers to also enjoy the misery and terror of these women.  Situations such as these show clearly that there is no Truth in Islamic beliefs.  Their religion allows them, first, to denigrate women to a lower status than the male, which is a complete repudiation of God’s plan of equality for both sexes and for all peoples. Secondly, their Satanic religion uses that lower status as an excuse to abuse women.  It is a wicked religion of violent force, humiliation, cruelty, and tyranny. 

I guess I first had my eyes opened to how evil this religion was one day in a discussion with a very sweet and beautiful Jewish lady who was my officemate and friend while I was teaching at West Point the first time in the late 90’s.  Her typically liberal/progressive perspective of multicultural inclusion, which I have embraced as well since it fits with God’s main principle of love, took a sharp turn when we discussed Islam.  She was very direct and adamant that it was an evil religion.  This had a profound impact on me to see this sweet, compassionately inclusive lady react so strongly against it.  I knew there must be a reason for her strong reaction, and of course, there was as I would find out when I researched the tenets and history of Islam.  This conversation with my friend was one of the many situations which God has used to build up His Wisdom and Truth in me, bringing me into contact with so many people hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times as each person had something special to offer me in my education about life, a nugget of His Wisdom, some Truth that I did not yet have but needed in His training of me. 

 
 
In one of the most memorable passages in the Bible, recounting the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate questions Our Savior to determine what law had been broken.  Jesus, Whose Wisdom is far above the wisdom of all kings, princes, and rulers combined throughout the ages, patiently and humbly answered Pilate’s questions even though He was God-in-the-Flesh, Immanuel, and did not deserve this challenge, nor did He deserve this farce of a political trial since He was Sinless.  So, considering Who Jesus Was and Is, being questioned by this self-serving, misguided politician and moral coward was an affront to His Dignity and Authority as the Most High God.  He could have easily called on the angels to intervene or He could have simply wielded His Incredible Power over All of Nature.  But this God-in-the-Flesh, out of His Indescribable Love, did not allow this encounter to play out that way.  In this, His First Incarnation, He was not here to express His Power, although He did reveal His Power on occasion simply to show all those around Who He really was.  In His First Incarnation, though, He had come by His Free Will and His Love, sent by the Father Himself, for a very humble mission with a tragically necessary end.  His mission was to communicate the Indescribable and Boundless Love of God, and to prove That Amazing Love by Sacrificing Himself on the Cross in Payment for our sins to reconcile us back to God.    

In Matthew 27, this interview with Pontius Pilate is recounted:  37  Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  38  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

This question from Pilate is, of course, very ironic.  Knowing what we know, that Jesus Himself IS Truth Embodied (John 14:6), so the Truth that Pilate was asking about was, as they say, “staring him right in the face,” we might, therefore, laugh at the irony when Pilate poses this question.  I’m sure he is being guided by Satan in this question, because he intended the question to be a rhetorical and satirical one, as if truth is elusive and unstable.  I’ve heard unsaved people before try to tell me that there is no real truth.  They would say that truth is relative because of such moral conundrums as the hypothetical lie to a Nazi soldier during World War 2 about whether you are hiding any Jews in your house.  Lies are normally wrong, but they would be right in this situation because you are protecting life, in particular, a Jewish life, the apple of God's eye, the people whom God has a special affection for and whom He has chosen to bless all of humanity in His Ultimate Plan.  In addition, you are opposing evil.  So the principles of protecting life, protecting His Chosen People, and opposing evil are all higher moral principles than the prohibition against lying, deceiving your fellow human.  This does not mean that the rule against lying is unstable and only true sometimes.  To the legalist, who lives by arbitrary sets of rules, then truth would appear to be relative, unfixed, not moored to anything sound or stable.  But we all know that Truth is a Fixed Point, as Truth Is Jesus, Himself.  Additionally, just because you have to apply moral reasoning, recognizing a hierarchy of moral principles, does not mean that there is no Ultimate Truth.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this would be to pose a hypothetical car accident in an intersection of two streets.  You have four witnesses standing on each of the four different corners of the intersection.  Due to their different perspectives, they would each have a different explanation of what happened.  Moreover, if they are of different ages, maybe one or two of them having more experience and more education, they might be able to render a more accurate description of the accident.  To the moral relativist, they would conclude, because all four people have a different rendition of the accident, that there was, therefore, no accident.  But that would make no sense.  Just because there were different versions of the accident does not mean that there was no accident.  In the same way, just because people have different perspectives of the truth does not mean that there is no real, stable truth.  One of our problems in understanding truth in this world is that we are flawed vessels, having sin in us.  So our understanding is darkened to perception of the truth from our very conception. 

The only way that we grow in understanding of truth is when we draw closer to God and gain more experience of Him, THE Truth.  As we are saved by Jesus, and God then works on us over a lifetime in the process of sanctification, we gain a clearer picture of what Truth is over time because we have more of His Truth in us and can, therefore, see Him (THE Truth) more clearly over time.  But to those who remain with a darkened understanding, lost in their sin, there is no perception of truth since there is no Truth in them.  So, Truth appears to be elusive and unstable, just as it did to Pilate.  All those who do not have the Truth within them, such as Pilate, can be excused somewhat for their ignorance since we are all ignorant in our natural state.  We don’t even understand His offer of salvation until His Holy Spirit awakens something in us and gives us understanding. 

Unfortunately, many resist the Truth tooth and nail.  They are willingly ignorant of the Truth (2 Pet. 3:5), resisting the Holy Spirit’s touch their entire lives, wanting to wallow in their sin and wickedness (Rom 1:28-32).  I believe that God strives with every man and woman most of their lives (Gen. 6:3), trying to get them to join His fold, but at a certain point, when certain people have seared their consciences shut (1 Tim. 4:2) and have committed themselves to wickedness, God will stop striving with them because He knows the future and can look ahead in their lives to see that they will never yield to His Call. 

I pray today and every day that He will shine His Light of Truth in your heart and build in you, ever greater over time, His Truth and His Wisdom. 

 
 
I wanted to pick back up on the topic I wrote about on January 16, 2013.

In that posting, I was discussing my jail ministry to the Juvenile Detention Center in Rankin County, Mississippi, in the early 90’s while I was stationed there, working at the Jackson, MS, Military Entrance Station.  As I noted in that posting, this ministry was sponsored by the Pearl chapter of the Gideons of which I was a member at the time.  The last paragraph of my posting from January 16th was discussing false religions such as New Age spirituality and the problem of pride in such religions.  Pride always points back to the father of pride, Lucifer.  His prideful attempt to become like God and his subsequent fall is recounted in Isaiah 14:12-21.  Also, Ezekiel 28 appears to be discussing Satan, giving him the title of King of Tyre.  The attempt by Lucifer to take the place of God was a foolish act.  He could not even come close to comparing with God since he is a created being himself, but this is what pride does to you.  It keeps you from seeing and thinking clearly.  The path to wisdom is always through humility.  When we humble ourselves and accept  Jesus’ sacrifice of His Blood on the cross, then He will wipe away all of our sin from God’s Eyes, Mind, and Heart so that He can see us as pure.  Then He can begin filling us with His Wisdom and His Power, although we will continue to be frail and prone to error, constantly still needing His Help, Power, and Teaching for spiritual growth.  Our continued frailty is a necessity to keep us close to Him and away from the paths of sin and error. 

But getting back to my original anecdote about my weekly ministry at the Juvenile Detention Center, at the end of my message to these boys, after I had led those who felt so inclined in the sinner’s prayer, no force (God wants us to come to him freely of our own will for the covenant relationship), I would then offer some practical advice for getting their lives back on track.  I would explain the importance of church attendance (so long as it was a good church that really followed Christ’s and the Father’s teachings of love and service). I would also explain the importance of choosing good friends and being around Christian people so that the right influences would impact their lives.  There is no denying that we are influenced by those we are constantly around, although the amount of influence depends on how strong we are spiritually, but it is better to be safe than sorry.  If we are led by God, He might bring fallen people around us when we are strong enough and full of His Power so that we can influence them.  Continuing with the lessons I taught the boys, I would discuss the importance of feeding one’s spirit with Bible reading and prayer and avoidance of impure media images which can pollute the heart and soul, especially when one is young and more impressionable, not yet experienced or strong enough to resist the wiles of Satan. 

Lastly, I would give each of them a small Gideon’s Bible with the New Testament and Psalms, supplied by my Gideon brothers from the Pearl, MS, chapter.  For those who might be unaware, Gideons is an international organization of Christian leaders in business, the community, the military, and government, etc.  Their main mission is to place Bibles into as many hands as possible as they believe in the Power of His Word, Scripture, given to us in the form of our Holy Bible.  If you’ve stayed at a hotel or motel anywhere in the United States and even in many places around the world, you can almost always go to the nightstand, pull out the drawer, and see a Bible placed there by the Gideons, as most hotels and motels still allow Bible placement.  This marvelous, amazing book surpasses all books ever written for its wisdom, artistic expression, accurate history, continuity, common sense for living, etc. 

The Bible is truly a miracle from the One True Living God Who gave us the gift of His Heart and Mind in graphic form. It is written by inspiration of God Himself, working through faithful, humble men of God who knew God’s Heart and His Ways already and lived by them.  Being good servants already, they were thus worthy instruments to use for His Purposes, to write down the Words as He dictated to them spiritually.  Thanks to their faithfulness, we have this Miracle so that we may study it and know exactly what God expects of us and how to live an abundant life of joy and service to all those we come into contact with.  This Book is not, as Satan tries to spin it, a book of legalistic demands that will squelch all joy in life.  Satan fights so hard against the Bible because he knows how much better it will make our lives.  A life lived by the principles in this Miraculous Book will always be successful, joyful, and meaningful, especially if we take the next step to actually enter into covenant relationship with God through Jesus and if we have regular fellowship with Him and study of His Word so that He can put His Power and Wisdom into us. 

Through this process of prayer and Bible study, He will develop our character, and expand our world, taking us to places and giving us successes that we never could have imagined.  He is an Amazing God, and anyone touched by Him becomes amazing as well.  It is no wonder that Satan has tried so hard to disparage and stamp out this Marvelous Book and to keep us away from prayer because he doesn’t want us to have the answers and antidotes to all of life’s problems. 


I pray that you will find the time today to study His Word and meditate on Him and His Ways, laying all your burdens on Him, thanking Him, and praising Him, so that you can be filled with His Power and Wisdom.  I pray that you will live the victory of an abundant life full of joy, growing a little more each day in His Joy. 
 
 
We’ve now been hearing about Manti Te’o for about a week now.  He was lampooned in a skit on Saturday Night Live.  Also, he’s probably been discussed by every talk show in the nation and has been covered by virtually every news organization in the country since everyone loves a good, salacious story, especially one that allows them to laugh at someone else and think, “Maybe I’m not so bad.”  But this comparative morality is worthless and tells you nothing about where you really stand against real moral standards such as set by our Creator in His Word.  Nonetheless, everyone now knows the story about the fake girlfriend, a very twisted hoax by some seriously demented people who apparently thought it would be funny to manipulate a young, somewhat naïve young man who seems to be just a humble, down-to-earth person.  He appears to be so honest that he just can’t conceive of dishonesty in another person. 

Moreover, by his explanation, the whole thing makes a lot of sense, when you realize he’s from a particular ethnic group, Pacific islanders, or Polynesians, and he's probably accustomed to a very different culture at home than the sea of mainstream Americans around him at Notre Dame.  Additionally, he was Mormon, so he wanted to socialize with a girl that shared his beliefs.  I don't have to tell you, but there are probably not very many Mormons at a Catholic university such as Notre Dame.  So, as you can imagine, he might have felt lonely or misunderstood and wanted to have an emotional connection with someone that understood his experience, someone who really "got him,” who could relate to his background.  Having served with a Hawaiian unit while in Iraq, I can tell you that they sometimes have a very different way of approaching life -- not bad, just different from my own experience.  I can remember a particularly ironic experience that illustrated the differences in cultures as I was out walking around our base in Iraq one night. 

The base was an old Iraqi air force training base, so there were various buildings to accommodate a large group of people, including a stadium that could seat maybe a couple of thousand.  As I walked around one end of the stadium, I suddenly noticed the dark shapes of a small cluster of people, congregated in one area of the stadium, sitting on the bench seats.  Then I caught the first sounds of what I thought was music.  As I got closer and confirmed that it was, indeed, music, I realized that they were all singing along with a ukelele player who was seated at the center of the group.  I knew that the Hawaiian unit had recently arrived at the base replacing another unit, and I guessed by the style of the music that the group was from that unit.  Of course, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing.  Soldiers come up with all sorts of ingenious or unusual ways to pass the time while they are deployed.  It was just very surprising to be walking in the middle of a base in a war zone with "full battle rattle" gear on and a loaded weapon on my side, in a country thousands of miles away from American culture, then to happen upon a group of people in a sing-along just like they were sitting on a beach. 

Again, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing.  So long as it makes them happy and helps them bear their combat tour a little better, I'm all for it.  It was just so ironic and unexpected.  In any case, it made me more aware of how our various cultures affect us, giving us different ways of approaching life and different ways of thinking.  That said, I’m just so amazed at the arrogance of American people who rush to judgment against this young man, and apply their legalistic, arbitrary standards against another human being, “casting the first stone” without a second thought as if their lives are so perfect and without flaw that they now are free to try fixing everyone else’s lives.  Of course, you know the answer to that one without even looking.  These stone throwers are no better than anyone else.  In fact, they might be attacking this young man in an attempt to divert anyone from noticing their flaws.  Fox news contributor and psychiatrist Keith Ablow even sharply critiqued this poor young man on a recent Fox program.  Normally Dr. Ablow seems to make a lot of sense in his analysis of human behavior, but he was way off the mark, overly harsh, in his criticism of Manti Te’o.  I’m somewhat surprised that so many people are treating this like it is so unusual.  Many people these days have on-line relationships of various levels with people whom they have never met in person. 

Moreover, having a relationship with someone you’ve never met in person is not a new phenomenon.  At one time, many people would have pen pals in other countries around the world, never having met these people, and developing emotional attachments to them as they shared deeply from their hearts over the course of years communicating with these people far away.   So, I’m not so sure that this situation is all that abnormal.  In any case, it’s a free country, as they say.  Americans love their freedom, and it is your God-given right to be a crank or to “march to the beat of a different drummer” in the famous words of Henry David Thoreau from his book Walden.  If you’ve read the book, you know that it is a report of his experiences living in solitude at Walden Pond over the course of a year during the 19th century, a lifestyle that some would have considered unusual.  There are so many lines from this book that are famous.  He even cites a case of civil disobedience in which he goes to jail because he objected to a tax and refused to pay it, subsequently causing his incarceration for his refusal.  There's nothing more American than civil disobedience.  So many of our black brothers and sisters used this form of free speech to fight for their rights during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's.

So, Thoreau most certainly marched “to the beat of a different drummer.”  But that is part of what America is about.  We are fierce individualists and believe deeply in our right to “pursue happiness” in whatever unusual or quirky method we so choose, so long as it doesn’t bother anyone else.  If you watch many reality tv shows, you see a veritable smorgasbord of individualists choosing some very unusual ways to live.  But who's to say that they are wrong.  That is your right as an American to choose your lifestyle.  Of course, I would add that it should also be done in a way that is still pleasing to our God, but even He gives us much latitude to choose our life, so long as we live in the ways of love, serving all those who come into our path with humility.  1 Peter 2:16-17 tells us:  "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
"

I pray that you will enjoy the many freedoms of our wonderful country this day, but that you will do so in the center of His Will and His Pleasure, serving your fellow men and women, and serving and enjoying Him every day. 

 
 
Teenagers have gotten a bad rap throughout history and in our modern culture.  They’re always portrayed as moody, uncommunicative, and prone to rebellion.  The truth is that these are probably the most difficult years that they will ever endure in their lives.  Their bodies are changing, filling them with hormones, a condition that they are unaccustomed to, and they are drinking from the firehose of life, learning so many new things in such a short space of time.  All these things would be overwhelming for anyone.  Additionally, they are learning about relationships with the opposite sex, while unfortunately, so many of those relationships do not turn out well, adding to their pain and confusion.  Moreover, too many parents are confused about the many changes in their children who were once small and cute and easily manageable but now are young adults with their own opinions and desires that may run counter to what their parents want for them.  This is probably the source of much of the conflict as parents try to control them rather than gently guide them, and are more prone to criticize them rather than trying to understand them and support them through these difficult years.

If you do your job right as a parent, looking to God for guidance on how to work with your children, and depending on Him for power to do it the right way, then you will easily get through these years and develop deep and lasting friendships with your children.  But they need lots of patience and understanding during these trying years, and you should be constantly praying for them to have courage and peace for these times as well as being filled with His Spirit, His Love, and His Wisdom as they develop into strong Christians, seeking Him, serving Him, and glorifying Him in their lives.  One of the sources of trouble between parents and teenagers is that many parents are not growing along with their children, keeping at least a few steps ahead on this Christian walk through life, so that they have more wisdom, patience, and love to offer their teenagers for these years of trial.  Moreover, many people let up in their parenting efforts, thinking that these young ones are now self sufficient, not needing as much attention.  Or they simply stop lavishing attention on their teenagers because they are not so little and not so cute anymore.  But like all people, they need constant input of love and wisdom, just as we need it from our Creator.

It is important to remember during these years that they are not the only ones growing.  We should also be growing, ever learning more about life and God in this process of sanctification.  We are on the same road that they are on; we are just further along the road.  We are generally not much smarter than them or better than them.  We are just more experienced.  Keeping this in mind, we should always approach our teenagers humbly, with humor, and without judgment.  Sure, we have to guide them with as much wisdom as God has given us and to correct them when they get off the path, but we should always approach these situations humbly, patiently, and lovingly, remembering that we were once just like them.  It is important to talk to them daily as often as possible so that they know we love them and care about their lives.  But you have to get into their world – not just flit in, impatiently wanting to “get this over with.”  If your interest in them is feigned or superficial, they will catch on and will clam up, realizing that you don’t really want to know them, you just want to “do your duty as a parent” or you want to control them. 

True love will get into their world a little bit every day and discuss with them the things that they are involved in and have passion for, whether you understand it or not.  You just have to get in there anyway and empathize with them as best you can, sharing in their joys and pains.  When you are a true friend to them like this, putting in the effort to get to know them and what is important to them, then they will open up to you as they realize you truly care.  They will also be more likely to trust your wisdom.  Moreover, if you choose the path of love consistently in your life and spend time with your Loving Creator, you will more likely actually have some wisdom to share as you get infusions from God.  But you must have this one-on-one quiet time with Him so that He can put His Blessings, His Love, His Wisdom, and His Power into you. 

Raising teenagers is not rocket science.  Anyone can do it and can do it well if you are humble enough to do it God’s way and do it under His Power.

I pray that you will all be filled with His Wisdom, His Power, and His Love so that you will be the best parents possible for your children of any age and so that you will be an effective ambassador for your Limitlessly Loving God in Heaven. 

 

PTSD

01/24/2013

3 Comments

 
After my return from Iraq at the end of October 2005, I almost immediately descended into a very dark, lonely, and scary world.  My PTSD didn’t wait for my return, though.  I was already experiencing severe symptoms before I left Iraq.  Once I was out of that environment, the symptoms virtually exploded with the severe nightmares, the deep depression, the constant feeling of being on edge, of being unsafe, the feeling that disaster was going to strike at any moment, and the constant death wish.  I did so many crazy things in those days because I was not thinking straight.  Worst of all, it seemed that no one understood what I was going through.  I probably scared my poor wife and children, even though I tried to shelter them from the pain, as they sensed something was terribly wrong, but they didn’t understand what.  And I didn’t even understand it very well myself, so I couldn’t help others understand, at least, I couldn’t explain it to those that wanted to understand.  There were way too many that didn’t even want to understand.  Worst of all, the ones who were the least sympathetic were people in uniform around me.  Of course, their ignorance and apathy go a long way in understanding why there is an epidemic of suicide in the services.  Too many military leaders don’t understand and respond to the suffering of their soldiers with judgment instead of compassion.

Perhaps the scariest part of my struggle for those years immediately after my return was that the so-called experts, the mental health professionals, understood as little about my PTSD as the average Joe I might encounter in my daily life.  Their ignorance is absolutely inexcusable, but it is unfortunately very normal in our fallen world as all too many people are ignorant without God’s intervention.  This is why I finally turned to God in desperation and asked Him to be my psychiatrist and my healer to get me through this scary disease of the mind and body.  And it is a disease.  There is a spiritual and emotional component to it as it begins with an injury of the spirit and of the heart.  The injury comes from a violation of all that is right.  Anyone can sustain such an injury.  It is not exclusive to warriors.  Such a violation of what’s right, and the subsequent injury to your spirit and heart, can come from an observation of something terrible, or it can come from being in or committing something terrible, or it can come from something terrible being done to you, or it can even come from experiencing prolonged severe stress in a seemingly hopeless situation. 

And once the injury is done to your heart and spirit, then you will experience various physical symptoms beginning with the avoidance, numbing, or amnesiac response which is probably the first response as your mind, body, and emotions retreat from this horrific experience as a self-protective response.  But you cannot avoid the experience forever.  Sooner or later, it must be dealt with, so the second major grouping of responses in PTSD is the re-experiencing through thought intrusion, nightmares, or full-blown flashbacks.  The re-experiencing is your body’s way of trying to deal with the horrific memories.  If they are not addressed, they will simply simmer below the surface, forcing their way out in various dysfunctional behaviors.  The third grouping of responses to PTSD is the hyper-arousal or hyper-vigilance, the feeling of being on edge from the adrenaline surges that are usually triggered by bad memories or some stimulus (a sound, a smell, a visual of a situation similar to the one that caused the PTSD, etc.) that reminds us of the bad time or times that caused the PTSD.   Because of the adrenaline, there can actually be permanent damage to the brain over time. 


Moreover, the adrenaline may be complicit in the hard-wiring of your system that causes many of the symptoms of PTSD.  There are also some "minor" symptoms that go with PTSD, such as the deep depression as you try to cope with these scary reactions to your psychological/emotional injury.  Or there is also the constant death wish or the feeling of impending disaster, or the feeling that you have no future.  Regardless, it is a living nightmare, and one which can be very lonely since it seems that you bear this burden alone in this scary world, and since it seems that no one seems to understand, that you are some kind of freak, which you are not.  You are perfectly normal, and these symptoms are a normal reaction of a violation that goes far beyond the normal order of right and good.

In my desperation, I turned to God for help.  I would spend time in prayer for sometimes several hours in a day in some quiet place of solitude that God would lead me to, laying all of my burdens and all the horrific memories that drove my PTSD at His feet.  Most of the time, I would be inebriated because that was the only way I could stand the pain of the memories coming back up.  I know that so many warriors, like myself, suffer from PTSD, but now, in this modern age, we have the ability to access all sorts of medical literature, discovering that most people who deploy into serious combat will develop some symptoms of PTSD at some point in their lifetime, as do many civilians who experience something horrible.  Moreover, the very astute Jonathan Shay, an author and psychologist who treated vets at the VA, mostly from the Vietnam War, brilliantly pointed out in his book Achilles in Vietnam that the PTSD experience was one that hit warriors thousands of years ago, captured in Homer’s poem about the out-of-control Achilles who basically went berserk after the deep psychological and emotional wound of having his beloved friend Patroclus taken from him by death in battle.   I can truly identify with the deep emotional connection that warriors feel for a comrade in arms, a love that can even be more powerful than the love for a spouse because they shared in an experience that few others will have or will be able to understand.   And after my experience with PTSD, I can certainly identify with the reaction of Achilles.

I pray that today’s posting helps you understand if you or someone you love is going through this terrible injury of mind and body that is called PTSD.  I pray that you will find a good, compassionate counselor to help you through it and that you will find understanding of your own suffering and healing over time. 

 
 
Edmund Burke was an 18th century Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, philosopher, and politician, serving for many years in the House of Commons, the lower house of the bicameral legislature serving British citizens in their parliamentary system of government.  One of my favorite quotes from this very talented intellect concerns the responsibility that we all have to oppose evil in this fallen world:  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  I would, of course, add women as well to this quote, although I’m sure he meant to include them as well.  Evil in this world will always keep pushing tirelessly.  So, if we let up in our efforts to oppose it in our lives, the lives of our loved ones and friends, and the world around us, it will continuously gain ground.  And that evil will come from three main sources.  It can come from the untamed sinful nature of wicked people, doing evil, that which is completely natural to us without God’s intervention through salvation.  Or it can come the world system of governments and ruling authorities that is unconquered as yet by righteousness, although it will be when our Savior Comes again in His Glory.  Or evil can come from the spiritual powers and principalities that manipulate the world system and people for evil ends.     

The most insidious and tireless source of evil is Satan and his fallen angel followers.  1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring Lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”  But, while he and his demons may be more powerful than us, he is a mere gnat to the Glorious Power of Our Loving Father, His Majestic Son, and His Holy Spirit.  As this verse suggests, we become vulnerable when we are not vigilant against his schemes, and when we are not sober, deadly serious in our lives about opposing evil.  Of course, this does not mean that we are never to have fun or to laugh.  Indeed, as God builds up His Spirit in us through sanctification, His Perfect Love will lift our souls and hearts into ever greater joy so that it will be harder and harder for Satan to get his hooks into us by making us fearful, constantly worried, prideful, controlling, impatient, judgmental, wrathful with others, or selfish.  As we become more loving, sacrificially giving, humble in spirit, gentle, patient, compassionate of other’s burdens, quick to forgive – as all these spiritual gifts build up in us, it becomes ever harder for Satan to make his mischief with us, although he is tireless and will from time to time get to us in our most vulnerable areas.  

So, how do we make sure that God’s gifts build up in us?  By meditating on Him and His ways and by reading/memorizing His Word; by praying, laying our burdens on Him and discussing all things with Him as we would a Friend, which He is.  It is primarily in daily prayer, meditation, and scripture reading and/or memorization that He places His power and wisdom into us, so these things are vital to our relationship with Him and to our spiritual growth.  But we must also be busy at His work because this is also necessary to our growth and is the proving ground for our developing spiritual character (the process of sanctification).  Moreover, when we are busy in acts of service and love, we are in the center of His Pleasure and His Will.  This is where He wants us to be, exerting His Will on earth just as His Will is done in Heaven (Mat. 6:10).  And His Will is the Way of Love.  His people, those whose hearts really belong to Him, will be known by their loving acts of service to others (Mat. 25: 31-46, Isaiah 58).     


I pray that you will all find time to be with Him and to read and meditate on His Word and His Ways so that He can put His Peace, Love, Wisdom, and other spiritual gifts into you in ever greater amounts. 
 
 
Growing up in the southern U.S. during the 70s, you generally had to have a car to be cool.  Cars were part of the whole masculine thing, knowing how to work on them and knowing how to drive very fast.  And, of course, they were indispensable if you wanted to get to a job, so you’d have money for girls and other forms of entertainment, as well as being critical for getting to friends’ houses and to parties.  On Friday nights, one game me and my friends played a few times with our cars was a game of “hot pursuit” in which one car would be chased, with the pursuing car flashing a blue light that one of the boys had ordered from J. C. Whitney or some other car parts company.  It was a fairly harmless game, and we didn’t go very fast, but it was worth the looks on people’s faces for our general amusement as we passed through their neighborhoods.  I guess it was better than some of the other things that growing southern boys would get into like fighting, which I did a fair number of times in junior high and high school.  It was probably less harmful than doing drugs, which some of us also did, most often smoking marijuana when we had it.  It was probably less harmful than getting stinking drunk which we also did a number of times.  Yes, we did all those things, but remember, it was the wild and wooly 70’s when we were growing up, so this behavior was not unusual.  But our mischief didn’t end with these things.  We also occasionally pulled pranks on various people that we did not like, such as rolling their yards. 

Rolling yards, if you are unfamiliar with this custom, was a veritable rite of passage for youth of my generation.  It would prove that you were cool, and that you had nerves of steel, risking getting caught and whatever trouble you might get in as a result of that.  To roll a yard, you would get dozens of rolls of toilet paper and a group of ill-mannered friends together.  Then you would pick a suitable target, preferably an adult that no one liked, like perhaps an assistant principle at your school, whose job usually entailed disciplining unruly students; hence, they would be an ideal target for a good rolling of the yard.  Once you picked your target, then you would need to wait until a very late hour to ensure that the residents were in bed and deep in sleep.  Then, you would park the car or cars that transported you to the target house a few houses away to avoid alerting the inhabitants of the target house.   Moreover, even if you did get caught or almost get caught, most likely you would be easily able to outrun the adult in the house who tried to nab you and get to your car and escape before he could get there and take down your license plate. 

Once arriving at the yard, you would post lookouts watching the most likely exits from the house, and you would then pull off a long tail of toilet paper from the roll and subsequently toss the rest of the roll up into the branches of the various trees in the yard of the chosen target’s house.  This process would continue until every bit of the toilet paper from the roll was unraveled and hanging nicely from the branches of the trees.  Then you would grab another roll and repeat the process until all the rolls that you brought with you were now up in the trees of the target’s yard.  This process created a quite impressive visual effect once daylight came.  Moreover, the paper would remain in the trees for quite some time since it was very difficult, if not impossible, to get all the paper out of the trees, thus giving all the surrounding neighbors and the passing cars endless visual enjoyment.  Additionally, once it eventually rained, the paper would stick to the branches even worse so that you would have to wait for nature to eventually wash it away weeks down the road. 

When I look back on these things that I did, I have to thank God that I survived those years.  I know that He must have been watching over me constantly and trying to keep me from serious harm to myself or others from my antics.  I’m amazed that I stayed out of jail, but then that was probably the Protective Hand of the Lord as well, keeping me safe until I would grow out of these things and eventually turn to Him.  As with many other things that I got into or pursued after in my youthful ignorance, they fell one by one in my life until there was only One Thing left standing in my life, and that was God.  I had finally arrived at the same place that Peter did in John 6:68, when Jesus watched other disciples depart from Him when His Words of Truth were too heavy to bear; they apparently did not want to give up control and submit to His Lordship as many in life do when confronted with His Truth.  When Peter and the other disciples were questioned as to why they did not also depart, Peter answered:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”  When we get to the end of all the gods that we chase and find that they are false, and we turn once again to the Master for Answers, for Peace, for Meaning in Life, and for Real Truth, we also find out as Peter and the other disciples did that there is no one else in life that holds these things except for our Loving Father, His Majestic Son, Jesus, and His Holy Spirit. 

I pray today that you will all know Him personally and find your Only Truth in Him.

 

    Author

    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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