Monthly Archives: December 2015

Turning point, or abyss?

Does history repeat itself?

I don’t care for political posturing. Unfortunately, we’re facing another presidential election where all the in-your-face bluster of the candidates filters down to us everyday people. You see it in our social media posts  — snide comments intended to rile, and passive-aggressive flooding of Pep rally“gentle” opposing views that provoke. I swear, sometimes it’s like a pep rally back in high school. Yells of “Slay the Gladiators!” and “Rip the Raptors!” versus sweet, lying tones of “Tigers Rule!” and “We’re the best!”

A few years back, I conducted a social survey among the members of a local Toastmasters chapter. We were facing a presidential election with an incumbent as one of the candidates. I asked this group of 35 potential voters a series of questions about how they felt on the hot button issues of the time. These twenty-five questions had a numerical value that matched the views and voting records of each candidate. I very carefully laid out the logic behind the methodology in simple terms. There was no confusion. Everyone agreed it was fair.

After we completed the survey, I conducted a straw poll to see who my Votefellow citizens planned to vote for. Imagine the surprise when results showed a 95% leaning toward one candidate, while the straw poll gave a slight vote advantage toward the candidate few had agreed with!

I allowed a few minutes of grumbling and watched as people began to shift uneasily in their chairs. When presented with the results of their individual questionnaires that showed the candidate their values were best aligned with, those 45% out-of-sync voters WERE NOT SWAYED.

“No way, I’m not voting for him!”

“I don’t care what the survey says, I’m voting for—”

“This doesn’t change anything.”

“You’re trying to trick me.”

“It doesn’t matter. I like this guy better.”

“I’ve already made up my mind.”

No trick questions. No magic. Hard, blunt, yes-or-no questions. My one intent with this exercise was to encourage people to register to vote and then get out and cast their ballot. In that regard, I succeeded. But the “You can’t make me change my mind” attitude has troubled me ever since. It smacks of fanaticism based on other than values.

I fear a great divide has split the people of this nation, a chasm that grows wider every year. Which tells me the winds of change are on the rise. Again.

This isn’t a jab at any one political party. The current attitude is rampant on both sides of the political fence. What one sees as morally (or constitutionally or ethically) right, the other sees as wrong, and vice versa. Both sides continue to put forth strong, valid arguments citing why their stance is the correct one – but neither side is willing to budge. (Can we say, The View?)

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, our nation experienced an epic stock market crash followed soon after by what has been termed The Great Depression. In the early 1930s,  ONE-QUARTER of all wage earners were unemployed. Poverty was  huge. The Plains states suffered the worst drought in history which led to 2.5 million people abandoning farms in Dust Bowl 1935the Dust Bowl. These were the years of prohibition and the devastating auto workers strikes. The resulting political war  inflamed the citizens, all looking to blame someone for their ills.

We were a divided, angry, defeated country … and then Pearl Harbor happened—”a day that will live in infamy.” But it pointed the country back to God. Gave us a common purpose. And solidarity. We united around a single cause, one more important to our future than any since the birth of the nation—survival.

Consider these words from George Santayana, esteemed essayist, philosopher, author, and poet:

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.

Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste nor condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion.

The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumor.

The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe.

My point? The best intentions in the world, the highest empirical evidence, and most persuasive arguments can’t make someone believe if they don’t want to. Heck, most of the time they don’t even listen to us! Of course, we don’t listen to them either.

Funny how all the issues, all the stories, all the problems point back to salvation. As Christians, all our eloquence won’t save a single soul. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart. What we can do, though, is tell them and tell them. Some turn violent. Some laugh. Some consider, but walk away. But if there is one in a thousand who will heed, we dare not stop.

I pray we as a nation find our way to unity against an increasingly 911dangerous threat to our beliefs and our way of life. I pray it won’t take another, more devastating 911 event to bring us together again. I pray idealists and cynics alike learn to listen. I pray the violent tantrums of the minorities and the passive-aggressiveness of the majorities come to terms with each other. I pray for respect, ethics, and personal responsibility to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this torn and broken country. I pray for the future of my children and grandchildren.



Is there a “peace that passes all understanding?

I don’t know if I’m normal … or even what normal is. I just know that every morning, from the moment I wake, my head buzzes with thousands of thoughts, ideas, regrets, wishes, hopes, plans, uh-ohs, reworked conversations, edits of everything I read, lists, and prayers. Lots of prayers. You see, I’m a writer. And writers write. All the time. Especially in our mind.

Some days I find this buzz overwhelming. Some days I need an escape, to shut down, and reboot. I need a refuge. My journey has taken years, decades even, but I’ve found that by seeking my refuge first thing upon awakening, that my days go much smoother.

Like many others, I start my mornings with quiet time. Some people fill their quiet time with prayers and Bible study, communing with Jesus, ordering their day and balance. I do all of the above … and then some. But the journey hasn’t been smooth.

PeaceAt first I visualized an idyllic mountain meadow. Picture if you can a narrow path through dark woods. Just when you think you’re lost forever, a light ahead beckons. The trail opens onto a clearing where golden sunlight spills down. You lift your face and feel the warmth as you make your way to the center of the glen. Green grass and knee-high wildflowers abound. You drop to the ground and watch a caravan of puffy clouds sail across the sky. A gentle breeze stirs an earthy mix of verdant soil, sweet blossoms, and clean, rarified air. You’ve found it. Tranquility. Peace. Contentment … and an itch. Something digs into your back. You scratch. Brush away dirt. And remember the overflowing laundry hamper. The dermatology appointment you still need to make. The meal you promised to a sick friend. Your mind is off to the races.

I tried for a long time to make the remote glen idea work but finally gave up. Thinking a more familiar place might work better, I traveled in my mind to the beach—a remote, Caribbean island. Barefoot under the blazing sun, but the sugar-white sand doesn’t burn. (Imagination always trumps reality!) Turquoise water that sparkles with cool promises. Peace - 2Frothy waves lapping at the shore. A sea breeze stirs the air, redolent with the scents of coconut, lush vegetation and the briny smell that only comes from the ocean. A small slice of heaven. And then a crab crawls by. Clumps of dead seaweed wash up on the beach. An alert lifeguard stands from his ten-foot-tall white watchtower to peer out at the expanse. He raises binoculars to his eyes. Blue paste coats his nose. He wears a whistle around his neck. Alert. Diligent. Protective. Because there are riptides. Undertows. Dangerous sea creatures. And predators hiding in the deep. No calm here.

I tried another place. Somewhere remote. Somewhere pure and free from Peace - 3the world. A winter wonderland decked out in a blanket of pristine snow. Cold no germ could survive. But I could—in a warm parka with a hood trimmed in fur. Gloved and booted, I revel in the beauty of an untouched paradise. Until I fell through the snow. Buried. With no sense of direction. And no one to save me.

I’ve stored a whole library of such reveries, all lessons learned over the years until I finally found the real refuge. The only refuge. You see, our world is beautiful—just look around you. But sin afflicted all of mankind, all of the earth, including the animals and vegetation. Just as Esau forfeited his birthright, so too did Adam trade away our heritage in a moment of rebellion. Satan now holds dominion over an earth God bequeathed to man. There is no refuge for us here. Especially not in our minds.

I looked in all the wrong places for the peace that passes understanding only to realize at long last that it doesn’t exist here on earth. Now, I go to Jesus—to His throne room in heaven where His glory spreads a Peace - 4warmth and light so much greater than anything the sun can produce. Where multitudes crowd around Him singing praises. I creep into my niche at the rear of the throng, grateful to just be allowed in. It’s where I feel Him. And then He seeks me out in my little corner, takes my hand, and raises me up. I’m filled with His indescribable and unexplainable peace. Restored. Refreshed. Strengthened. For a little while, all is calm and perfect. When I leave His perfect presence, all I have to do to get through the rest of the day is remember my time with Him, remember His words, and call upon His name.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you  …” ~John 14:27