A very surprising and sad story surfaced this week about animal abuse in Hollywood films. A story from the Hollywood Reporter revealed that, contrary to public relations portrayals and contrary to statements placed in films about cruelty to animals, there were indeed many animals hurt over the years in numerous films. The story lays blame on the American Humane Association (AHA) which is an organization founded in 1877 to protect children and animals (not to be confused with the Humane Society of the United States founded in 1954 which strictly focuses on the humane treatment of animals).
The American Humane Association (AHA) is an organization founded in 1877 dedicated to the welfare of animals and children. It was previously called the International Humane Association, before changing its name in 1878. In 1940 it became the sole monitoring body for the humane treatment of animals on the sets of Hollywood films and other broadcast productions. AHA is best known for its trademarked certification "No Animals Were Harmed", which appears at the end of film or television credits. It has also run the Red Star Animal Emergency Services since 1916. In 2000 AHA formed the Farm Animal Services program, an animal welfare label system for food products. The Association is currently headquartered in Washington D.C. It is a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
As a note of explanation, we should always keep the welfare of people highest on our priorities. And as I have often explained to my children during teaching moments, people always come before animals in priority (Matthew 6:26, Matthew 10:29). That said, we have an obligation to God to be good stewards of this earth and all in it since it is a gift from God (Genesis 2:15, Psalm 8:6-8, 1 Corinthians 4:2), especially since these poor creatures cannot speak for themselves and may be powerless to man’s inhumanity. Moreover, since God cares about the animals (not as much as He cares about us, but He still cares greatly about them and does not want them to suffer: Matthew 6:26, Matthew 10:29, Proverbs 12:10), then we should place a great deal of importance on the humane and kind treatment of animals. There may be a time and place when it is necessary to use animals for testing or other such things when the result may save human lives and when there is no other option. But when it is avoidable, when we can accomplish our purpose without bringing harm to or suffering to animals, then we should always avoid it.
Clearly, the harm that was brought to many of these animals in the story from the Hollywood Reporter was way over the line. If there is a story that cannot be produced on film without harming an animal, then that story is not important enough to violate an animal in order to produce the scene or the film. Clearly, this is unnecessary and gratuitous violence. Furthermore, at such a point, when we think that what we are doing is so important that we are permitted to break all rules in accomplishing it, then we have entered an area of moral compromise and willful sin. Even in occupations where violence to others is sometimes necessary (military and law enforcement) or in times when law has broken down or law enforcement officers are not available, there are always rules in place to make sure that we only use the exact amount of force to accomplish the purpose and only do so when it is not avoidable and will bring greater harm to ourselves or others if we don’t use that violence (or when we must protect ourselves and loved ones’ lives, persons, or (sometimes) property). But even in this last case (protecting property from people), we should tread very carefully since we are accountable God for all we do, and God may not be as concerned about our property as we are or as He is about that human life.
I pray that God will give you wisdom to be a good steward of all things that God has put into your hands, including your animals.
Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, a celebration with a long and deep history in our country and in the colonies that preceded our country. As a people, we have regularly participated in thanksgiving feasts since the first feast in 1621, a harvest feast at which Native Americans were honored guests. This first Thanksgiving feast “lasted three days, and it was attended by 90 Native Americans (as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow) and 53 Pilgrims.” The purpose of this feast was to celebrate the good harvest, give thanks to the God who made it possible, and to socialize with their Native American friends who were God’s instruments of assistance, teaching the Pilgrims many of their successful native farming techniques that ensured their survival and even success. There were other celebrations of thanksgiving prior to this celebration, but they were primarily religious services which did not include the feast which has become a traditional and essential feature of our Thanksgiving celebration in the United States.
While we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November, our Canadian neighbors to the north celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. We are not, however, the only two nations to celebrate such a holiday of feast and thanksgiving. Many nations around the world have such holidays each year, so it is likely a universal experience or event.
The concept behind Thanksgiving ceremony celebration, held with a massive zeal in every nook and corner of U.S., is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, Succoth in Jew, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India and Chusok in Korea. The list is endless. The only difference in the festivals is date, rituals and customs but the reason behind it remains the same, to thank God for a huge fruitful harvest.
Although we now celebrate Thanksgiving annually, it has only been since 1863 that the holiday was a regular, annual event. That national day of Thanksgiving was instituted by Abraham Lincoln beginning in November 1863. He established this holiday in a proclamation signed October 3, 1863. From Wikipedia we learn: “In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863.”
Before that date, states would celebrate various thanksgiving days in their state, but only a few New England states had an annual Thanksgiving Day, which they had been celebrating since the 17th century. Over time, having such a holiday to celebrate and give thanks to God became more popular and more regularly observed by citizens of the colonies and, later, the states. Wikipedia tells us that: “Later in the 18th century, individual colonies would periodically designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a military victory, an adoption of a state constitution or an exceptionally bountiful crop. Such a Thanksgiving Day celebration was held in December 1777 by the colonies nationwide, commemorating the surrender of British General Burgoyne at Saratoga.”
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress would designate various days of thanksgiving and prayer. From the Library of Congress website, we learn that: “National days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" were proclaimed by Congress at least twice a year throughout the war. Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people. This agreement stipulated that they "should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.”
Such days of thanksgiving and prayer were, thus, considered not just a “nice thing to do” but rather as an essential event to maintain the type of national character that would result in our success and happiness due to our being a God-ly people.
In the same Library of Congress article, we also learn: “The first national government of the United States was convinced that the ‘public prosperity’ of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a ‘spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,’ Congress declared to the American people, would ‘make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.’"
This syntactic construction of that last phrase may befuddle most people since it uses an obsolete structure, but the bottom line is, such events of thanksgiving and recognition of God’s hand of providence were deemed necessary by our early national leaders in order to remind us to be the type people with whom God would be pleased and who would regularly do the right thing or at least attempt to when they realize their flaw or error. The result of our good character and behavior would, therefore, be blessings from God, and adversely, less than good or honorable character and behavior would result in God’s hand of blessing and protection being lifted from us, our families, our communities, our possessions, our health, our wealth, our daily endeavors, our nation as a whole, etc. Virtually no area of our life will be untouched when God blesses us and virtually no area will be untouched with misfortune when we do walk in a way that is displeasing to Him. We can certainly see the truth of this when afflictions have come upon our nation due to national sin. There are those who say that our current spate of natural disasters are God’s warning to us before He is required to get really serious and allow or cause widespread, heartbreaking tragedy to befall us just as He allowed Judah and Israel to fall for their sins and just as He has so judged many nations throughout history for their widespread sin.
So it is good to remember on this Thanksgiving Day that we owe all of our multitudinous blessings to our loving, generous, kind, gentle, patient, and compassionate God, but His patience has a limit, not because He is limited but because He does not want to see us waste the inheritance we have been given as we gradually lapse into moral and social decay, with all the fibers of our national institutions becoming unraveled. But even if He were not concerned about us as a loving Father, He certainly has the right to declare how we should live since He created us and gave us life, and He has the right to say how we should use the resources of this world and this universe since He created it and gave it to us for our responsible stewardship.
More on this tomorrow.
May God bless you and keep you this Thanksgiving Day.
These days, we can see for ourselves how accurate the various translations are by comparing different versions and by checking the original languages ourselves. For a word check, we can use one of the many wonderful Bible study resources such as one of the Strong’s concordances with Hebrew and Greek lexicon. There are so many great tools available for scholarship, and many such resources are even easily available on the internet these days. We have unprecedented access to information these days and can avail ourselves of various tools and knowledge that once was only available to scholars or was difficult to access through the libraries, universities, or the government. So much knowledge and wisdom is now freely available to the masses. More importantly, truth gets discussed more these days. Thanks be to God that truth does not depend on nor does it have its source in humanity. The very best truths that we could come up with on our own in our man-made religions and philosophies cannot compare with the marvelous, extensive, broad, deep, and sometimes even incomprehensible truths in the Bible.
Believe me when I state this because I have studied religions and philosophies most of my adult life since I started my life-long academic journey in Spring 1983 at Kennesaw College (now a university), culminating in my B.A. at West Georgia in 1988 and my M.A. at Auburn in 1998 (a prerequisite for my tour of duty as an English professor at West Point). In my directed studies at college and through my extensive independent studies of countless subjects (I have an insatiably curious mind about everything), I have learned just how limited man-made religions and philosophies are in addressing the major important issues in life and even how dysfunctional they can be in application of their ideas and methods in an average person’s life. The truths of the Bible, on the other hand, have never failed me and have never failed to be successful in practical application during the chaos and whirlwind experiences of my life.
The Bible answers all the important questions in life and is a reliable guide for a happy and successful life. It’s easy to throw stones at it and to claim that the flaws in it render it useless or that the translations and interpretations of Scripture are unreliable, but every single critic of the Bible that I’ve met in life was speaking from second and third hand information rather than personal experience and research. And let me emphasize that, when someone has the audacity to express their opinion on a subject about which they know nothing and have studied nothing, their words are simply foolish ignorance. The world is full of foolish ignorance since man is so inherently flawed and so persistent and enthusiastic in pursuit of sin. And the world is full of people who are willing to give you 10 minutes more information than you were willing to listen to as they expound on their depth of ignorance in some subject or another. Lack of knowledge is no impediment to some people’s desire to talk. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not.
I pray that He would pour out upon each of you the riches from His treasury of wisdom and truth and that you would be filled to overflowing with His measureless, blissful love.
As noted in yesterday’s posting, the translators of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible were instructed by the English king (James I: 1566-1625) to consult the Bishop’s Bible, and to be guided by that translation first. Then, if consulting that version did not solve the translation conundrum, they were instructed to consult, in order of primacy: the Tyndale Bible (1526, 1534, and 1536), the Coverdale Bible (1535, 1539), Matthew's Bible (1537), the Great Bible (1539-40), and the Geneva Bible (NT 1557, NT&OT 1560). So there was some concession to political pressure in the translation of the KJV, just as there is some concession to prejudices, limitations, motivations, etc., in all translations of the Bible, bar none. However, just as with the KJV, this influence is infinitesimally small when the few words in question are measured against the immense body of text for the remainder of the Bible. Additionally, if you do the research concerning each version of the Bible as I have, you will find very intensive and careful study of the texts by the translators who are almost always very learned clergymen or scholars and whose work is checked and rechecked by other clergymen and scholars time and time again before the text is compiled and published.
In my studies of linguistics and the history of the various translations, I have found that these translations were always undertaken with the utmost care and attention to detail. I write this because there are often ignorant detractors in the media or blogosphere who claim that there is no certainty that the Bible was translated correctly. I can assure you that, in each step along the way, every single person who handled these scriptures did so with the highest respect, integrity, and sense of responsibility for what they were doing as well as a do-or-die commitment to getting it right. Furthermore, those that produced the early English translations from the 14th through the 16th centuries knew that they risked their freedom and their lives if they were caught. Some, such as William Tyndale, did pay that high price. As Josh McDowell has pointed out in many of his writings, no one would be willing to take that much of a risk unless they were absolutely convinced of the truth to which they had committed their lives, even unto death. Additionally, I can confidently say that those who know and follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit within them can easily discern the difference between the genuine text and “extra-biblical” texts that have been translated and passed along (whether by intention to deceive or by simple ignorance) with the real scripture. When you have truth within you, when you have studied truth all your life, and when you have committed your life to truth, you can easily discern that which is untrue. I know because I have studied the Bible extensively since my childhood, and the first time I read the texts of the Apocrypha, the differences between those texts and the real scripture were glaringly obvious even to me, a studious but not formally trained layman.
I do not worry about whether the truths in the Bible are accurately translated. I know from personal experience that the God behind those words and miraculously embodied and empowered in those words is unshakeable, unchangeable, infinite, and eternal. Knowing Him as I do, I have absolutely no doubt about His truth as revealed in the Bible. In addition, I have lived out the principles contained in this miraculous book, so I know that they meet the most sure test of truth: they correspond with reality and with common human experiences. Moreover, God has taken me through some very serious trials in my life, to include some mind-numbingly stressful military assignments, a combat tour during the height of the Iraqi insurgency in 2005, my subsequent PTSD and the horrendous mental and emotional grief I wrestled with for several years after (some of which still lingers, simmering below the surface awaiting any trigger), several periods of separation from my family, and even a long period of persecution for speaking “truth to power” in a high level military organization that was supposed to be the epitome of military values of duty, honor, and country. Yet, despite all this, I have survived and won so many battles against seemingly impossible odds, learning the profound and intimate love and power of My Awesome God in countless daily struggles when I had lost hope and had no more strength to fight. Inevitably, in my bleakest, my most hopeless, my most grievous moments, my God always gave me a little more strength, courage, peace, wisdom, and comfort to go on just a few steps more, and He walked with me, showing me where to place my footsteps on the treacherous path through the valley of the shadow of death.
I pray that you will know intimately and profoundly the boundless love that God has for you, whoever you are, no matter what circumstances you are in. As St. Augustine so eloquently wrote, “God loves us as if there were only one of us.” I pray that you will know, receive, and accept the love that He so wants to pour out upon you and your life. May His peace be with you.
If you have a deeper interest in the academic study of the Bible, you will probably run across the terms “hermeneutics” and “exegesis.” Hermeneutics is defined as “the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures” or “the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.” Exegesis, in turn, means “critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible.” So in layman’s terms, exegesis would be more focused on understanding and explaining the text while hermeneutics would be more focused on how the text was translated. Primarily, exegesis is what you get from your pastor or your Sunday school teacher on Sunday, and hermeneutics is primarily what scholars might focus on during their studies at the theological schools and universities.
Prior to the turn of the 20th century, most texts were translated using an approach called “formal equivalence,” but since then, another approach has been gaining in popularity: “dynamic equivalence.”
From Wikipedia: “Dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence are terms for methods of translation coined by Eugene Nida. The two terms have often been understood as fundamentally the same as sense-for-sense translation and word-for-word translation, respectively, and Nida did often seem to use them this way.”
In an article on Yahoo Voices, Zachary Fruhling further explains these two terms as follows:
“Formal equivalence means that the translator has attempted to give a word-for-word translation from the original language into English, and has tried to capture the grammatical structure of the original language as well. The result in English can be very stilted and artificial, but the words, terms, and concepts have been rendered as faithfully into English as our language allows. Dynamic equivalence, by contrast, attempts to capture the intended meaning behind the original language as well as possible without overt concern for the original terms or structure of the source scripture. Most Bible versions will fall somewhere between these two extremes, combining elements of both translation methods; although most Bible versions can be placed generally into one or the other methods, to various degrees.“
The King James Bible would be a good example of a translation by formal equivalence, although the translators did, at some points, use dynamic equivalence when a word-for-word translation would have caused a significant departure from the original meaning. In order to find a balance between faithful interpretation of the original language while not losing sight of the important meanings inherent in the text, the translators of the KJV not only looked at the original texts in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), but they also checked to see how other translators handled certain passages. Many scholars believe that the KJV is primarily influenced by the Tyndale version judging by similarities between the two, but the translation team (47 scholars and clerics in 6 teams based at Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster Abbey) had been instructed to be guided primarily by the Bishop’s Bible. The reason for this is that King James wanted “to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England. Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church. For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word 'church' were to be retained and not to be translated as 'congregation'. The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy.”
I pray that you will feel the strength and comfort of God’s everlasting arms in your life today.
I recently revived a paper that I wrote for a linguistics class while in graduate school at Auburn. Friends of ours were discussing the issue of the King James translation of the Bible, and my wife mentioned to them that I had written a paper on the lasting influence of the King James Bible. I want to state at the outset that I am an enthusiastic fan of the King James version of the Bible because of the beauty of the language in which they translated this version (early modern English). However, I would not take a legalistic stance that this is the only acceptable version. My personal preference is to read, study, and memorize the KJV. Others must decide what version works best for them to fully experience the wonderful truths that God shares in this amazing book. In the end, the differences between the versions amount to very little, especially when compared to the incredible truths buried within which cannot be completely mastered within a single lifetime, no matter how much you study.
That said, the KJV, as I discovered in my graduate school research project and reported in the accompanying paper, has an extensive influence on modern-day services, prayer books, hymns, and even modern translations which have adopted the KJV language and/or structures extensively, including the NIV. In turn, the KJV was influenced by prior translations which blazed a trail for the translation of texts which were previously in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin into the English vernacular. While KJV translators studied the earliest Greek and Hebrew texts that they had access to, they were instructed by King James to be guided by the Bishop’s Bible and then to consult other well-respected English translations next, starting with the most popular translation of the time, the Tyndale version. You can see the influence of the earlier versions by the inclusion of the early-modern English pronouns (thee, thou, and thy) which were no longer used by most Englishmen in common daily speech by the time the first version of the KJV was published in 1611.
At the time they translated the KJV, it was the “newest and most modern translation” which is what every version afterwards has claimed to be. Just as in our denominations and the various ways we worship God, most people believe that they have cornered the market on truth and that they are doing it right while everyone else around them or those preceding them are in error. If the truth be told, I’m sure we all have error somehow in our approaches to God. But He is merciful, generous, patient, and compassionate, so He accepts our flawed efforts just as we would accept with praise and gratitude a crude crayon drawing as a gift from one of our children, who probably believe at the time that they had produced a masterpiece. He knows our flaws and ignorance, and He knows that we can understand or do no better without His help, so He kindly accepts our flawed efforts on His behalf if our hearts are right and our intent is to do right.
I pray that His peace and love will shine upon you and fill your heart.
I apologize for my inability to post yesterday. You can rest assured that, I will always fulfill my obligation to post, if I have the ability and if there is no higher responsibility such as my family or something that God wants of me. I enjoy sharing from the treasury of God's wisdom as He reveals truth to me, and I enjoy sharing from my experiences if I feel that this information is useful to others who may possess fewer years, less education, or less experience than me. God has given me many wonderful gifts in my life, and ,I have often benefited in my life from others sharing of their gifts and wisdom, so I always want to be as generous with others as they have been with me and as God has been with me. Unfortunately, sometimes my desire is greater than my ability. I am still recovering from this illness that I have had for the past five weeks. I finally got aggravated enough and found enough time and opportunity to see a doctor about it. Unfortunately, the doctor was not much help, although I'm sure he meant well and did the best he could with his understanding of the situation and his limited body of knowledge.
However, as with most people, there was a point in which he was not listening to me anymore or was dismissive of or resistant to my viewpoint of the situation. Consequently, his diagnosis was off the mark, although he did provide me, at least, with something to alleviate the pain I have been experiencing. Since he did not accept certain information from me or deemed it inaccurate, he missed the complete picture. Or perhaps, he was predisposed to a certain approach or diagnosis based on the way he was taught at medical school or due to his own personal narrow-minded view of the world or skepticism about the knowledge and wisdom of other people. God only knows. In any case, I figured out that I would not receive any significant treatment of my illness and that I would be forced to endure the suffering or to pursue treatment through another medical venue. Or I would just have to “ride this one out,” enduring the pain for yet a couple more weeks until this illness finally petered out with my body eventually finding a way to fight off the invader, to heal the inflamed parts of my body, and to repair or replace the damaged cells.
But, God be praised, my healing was something that I could most certainly count on. Thanks be to God for the marvelous capabilities of the human body. As David so eloquently wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). God has made every single one of us with mind-boggling complexity and infinite uniqueness. If you doubt this truth, I recommend that you read the following article “40 Amazing Facts about the Human Body.” There are many more amazing facts about the incredible human body, but this will give you a little taste of the awesome work of God. We are, every one of us, a walking miracle, but many of us do not realize or appreciate this fact. Regardless of whether we are aware of this truth, it still remains true since real truth never changes. It is as infinite and eternal as the God upon whom it is built and out of whom it flows. And one of the most amazing truths is that God loves each one of us, as St. Augustine wrote, “as if there were only one of us.” He loves us with an all-consuming, limitlessly-compassionate, relentlessly-persistent, and uncompromisingly-sacrificial love. His love for us is too great and mysterious for us to ever completely understand, but then how can we ever understand anything in the heart and mind of such a great, majestic, holy, transcendent, infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent God. In a lifetime, we can only hope to scratch the surface of His boundless wisdom and only as He reveals it to us, saving us all from our own sin and ignorance. Thankfully, He has promised in His word to do precisely that, to save us from sin (1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:12, Romans 10:9,13) and ignorance (John 14:26,16:13).
I pray that He would open the eyes of all of us to see His constant displays of love all around us, every minute of every day.
I was unable to post yesterday due to a widespread internet outage in our area, but I'll pick up with the topic of my last posting.
So, while the progressive politicians may have had good intent in their diversion of the “peace dividend” to other programs after the Vietnam War, these defense cuts caused unintended consequences for the military forces leading to the “hollow force” which was attributed to Jimmy Carter’s watch. Moreover this systematic depletion of the Constitutionally-critical armed services had a devastating effect on fielding and maintenance of equipment, living conditions for the troops and their families, and on the troops’ economic parity with comparable civilian occupations. And believe me, you can never pay enough to these brave men and women for what they do on a daily basis, sacrificing their health, their lives, and even their families on the altar of devotion to duty, honor, and country. But the impact on the forces did not stop at the well-known, widely-reported, and easily-quantifiable financial detriment. In such an environment where people are making tremendous sacrifices and then receive the unmistakable message that the American people simply do not care (or at least the politicians speaking on their behalf do not care), you can bet that there will be a tragic and widespread malaise that will eat at the moral fabric of good order and discipline in all the services.
Sure enough, the troops received the message loud and clear. That, coupled with a pervasive failure in the professionalism of military leaders of that era, led to the ubiquitous, unbridled social problems in the military of the late 70’s and early 80’s. During that era, many military leaders focused on “careerism” and not on their moral and professional responsibility to the people they led. This is a subject that has been addressed by numerous authors, so I won’t go into it any further here, but suffice it to say that I was a first-hand witness to the “hollow military” since I served my enlisted tour of duty during that era (1979-1892). There were rampant drug use problems in many places in the services, partly a result of where our culture was at the time, but largely an outcome of the morale and leadership breakdown. And lastly but perhaps more importantly, although the military was one of the first professional institutions in our country to address racial integration, there was still much racial division and resentment between blacks and whites, and believe me, it went both ways. Racism is never a good thing.
This last issue probably bothered me most about military service during that era. During my high school days, while some (thankfully, not all) of my peers were learning about and participating in social exclusion, I had adopted the egalitarian attitude that was espoused by the hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s, picking it up from various friends and people I met while working at a restaurant and a grocery store. I considered everyone I met as my equal and as a potential friend. This attitude would define my career. I should say, at this point that, like all people, I have my flaws as well. There were a handful of times in my youth where I did not live up to those egalitarian and compassionate values, but in those times, God immediately convicted me of my un-Christian attitude and shamed me into ridding my mind and heart of any and all prejudice toward others. Of course, while I embraced the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people while I was still very young, God would still have to spend a lifetime ridding me of my lingering judgmental attitude toward others in various life situations such as driving. Unfortunately, this judgmental attitude is all too common for almost everyone, to some degree, until God reveals our ignorance to us and trains us out of it.
May God bless you and keep you safe in His loving arms this day.
Continuing with the topic of education, I finished high school with less than stellar grades, which made entry into college difficult, but God remedied that situation by building my reputation, leading me into the Army for a three-year enlistment. Moreover, to complicate matters further, I had dropped out of high school a couple of semesters early, although I immediately took and passed the GED. Regardless, after I had successfully and honorably served in the military, various doors of opportunity opened up for me. I found that colleges, as well as prospective employers, looked at my record much more favorably with a solid performance in the military to my name. Still, I did not yet possess full confidence in my abilities, so God would lead me in small steps to college. I knew that I could learn any course in technical knowledge because I had done so many times in the Army. So, after the end of my enlistment service, I went back to work at United Parcel Service (UPS), a fairly prestigious job and company, which I had worked at for a few months after high school, immediately prior to my military stint. But I started looking into various school programs for learning a technical skill. While I certainly did not mind any manual labor, I knew I did not want to be loading trucks the rest of my life, and I was not real enthused about the various professional tracks I could pursue at UPS -- nothing wrong with that industry or profession, but I knew it wasn’t for me.
Just as I did not desire to work in the package processing industry, I also did not desire to make a career of the military. It was ironic that this is precisely the path God would lay out for me over the course of a few years, contrary to my expectations and desires at the time; at the time, I had no intention of ever returning to the military after my three years and would emphatically tell this to anyone who asked. I was glad that I had served our country for a tour, had seen more of the world than my hometown, had met many wonderful friends from all over our great country, and had successfully negotiated one of the hardest jobs in the adult world: a military occupation. But I thought that the military was definitely not in my future after my three-year tour. There was much that I enjoyed about the military, and it had certainly given me many tools for success such as bulldog determination, iron self-discipline, and an unshakeable confidence in my ability to do almost anything. However, I did not like the constraint on my freedom which I had newly acquired in the process of growing up.
Moreover, the military of the late 70’s and early 80’s was an environment fraught with many social problems, partly as a result of unintended consequences from short-sighted, doctrinaire politicians (and their enablers who allowed it to happen) using the military as a political cash cow to fuel their various progressive, utopian dreams (some of which were good and some bad), the so-called “peace dividend.” But, in a twist of irony, these same politicians would probably make the application of the new all-volunteer force (which they had pursued so zealously) more difficult to implement by constricting funds to the military, which would have a ripple effect that is common to large organizations when undergoing financial restriction, causing repercussions to other parts of the organization that had not been foreseen or intended.
More on this tomorrow.
I pray this blessing for all of you on this day that He has created: "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV).
I’ve written before about the value of an education, but some lessons are so important that they bear repeating. Education and knowledge were always highly valued in our house when I was growing up, as exemplified in my father’s impressive collection of books and his very respectable education level (a master’s) . Subsequently, I just assumed that, at some point, I would attend college, walking in my father’s footsteps, which turned out to be true. There was a time, however, when my college attendance did not seem likely. I made a good-faith effort to gain entry to the storied United States Military Academy, better known by the historical location and name “West Point.” My cousin, Marc Chambers, gave me assistance with the required photo for the admissions packet. I had to tie back or slick back (can’t remember which) my long “hippy” hair (as my cousin Hope calls it).
That was one of my first lessons in setting goals, making plans, and attempting to conquer life’s large obstacles (eating the metaphorical elephant one bite at a time), although God had probably trained me in successively greater steps how to do these things through the various jobs I held. Had I known what I know now, I probably could have won that battle for entry to West Point, but things did not turn out the way I had envisioned. They turned out much better over time. I didn’t know it at those moments, but God had a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and He was implementing that plan, even if I did not know He was at work and even if I did not “seek His face” (1 Chronicles 16:11) on a regular basis. In time, I would find out about those plans and would benefit immensely from His better, wiser ways than the ones I would have chosen.
There were a number of obstacles in my path to West Point (and other prestigious institutions to which I had applied). My grades were not that great, pulled down by personal problems that consumed my emotional energy. This, it turns out, was the sticking point of my entry to West Point. I did not know at the time about the United States Military Academy Preparatory Shool (USMAPS). Perhaps if I had known, I might have gained entry to West Point through that avenue, but it was not in God’s plan, so this door closed. But God lovingly and generously gave me victory in that area years later as I would eventually become a professor of English for a total of five years (in two tours) at this amazing, historical school. I would first have to enlist in the Army as a private and work my way up through the ranks to sergeant. Then, after completing a successful and respectable military enlistment of three years, I would leave the Army for a period and gain entry into the academic realm down a path which only God could have figured out.
More on this tomorrow.
I pray that His love and peace will fill you and that His truth will light your path.