Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jerry Falwell Jr. was right. My take...


*Note: I'm a Liberty graduate, a Liberty dad, and a Liberty employee. These words are MY OPINION and not reflective of LU as an institution. 

So last Friday, Jerry Falwell Jr. made a short statement about concealed carry permits and eligible students, and staff carrying on campus.
and the whole world done lost it’s mind.
In the wake of yet another terrorist attack by peaceful Muslims, we were instantly force-fed more gun control rhetoric. The solution, to liberals, is to remove all guns (That is, all guns that you can find and confiscate, ignoring the fact, of course that you can’t possibly ever remove all guns) leaving only criminals to possess guns. The problem is that, in these shootings…it’s already a criminal who had the gun. Legally or not, he used it in a criminal method.
So the liberals say we should further disarm the populace in order to prevent mass shootings. Hmmm. Let’s look back at the mindset of these folks, shall we? These are the same people who hold that the way to produce better parents is to kill babies.
…Liberals lost they ever-lovin’ minds.  
These are the same people who want to take away guns because of shootings. But then, these are people who think the way to decrease the debt is to spend more money. Liberals aren’t logical to begin with, but I digress.
The point is, to restrict someone’s rights when it fits their narrative is just fine with them, but God forbid you try that with one of their sacred cows.
Back to last Friday…
Jerry Jr. stated what every one of us thinks already, i.e. the only slim chance you have in the event of a terrorist shooting is to return fire. Or as Clyde, the one-armed deputy from the classic movie “Unforgiven” so eloquently stated: “Well I just don’t want to be killed for lack of shooting back.”
Neither do I.
So my boss said it in a way that we all feel in our hearts anyway, but in a politically correct world run amok, nobody has the nads to say it. “If those Muslims ever come here, we need to be able to fire back.”
Those Muslims
That’s the term that has people losing their hair. Gee, Einstein, there was a mass shooting in California the day before, you think maybe he was referring to THOSE Muslims? Of course he was, but if you admit that, you have nothing left to be worked into a froth over so you can’t scream at Jerry. You literally have to TRY to see his words as “hate” and “bigotry” for them to add up to that. I never batted an eye when he said what he said, so you can see why I was mystified by the uproar.
But why should I have been surprised? This is, after all, what liberals do. They wait for one word and seize it and redefine it and push it down your throat until you suddenly see the word as something new…and dangerous. Don’t believe me? Look at the word “hate” now. As soon as you disagree with someone, they start accusing you of “hatred” and your logical rebuttal has now become “hate speech” and your whole life is examined to see what else you hate. You are a bigot, You are intolerant. If you disagree with the president, it can only be because you are a racist. These days you don’t dare disagree with a black man over anything because you might be labeled a racist forever.
Your favorite baseball player had better be Willie Mays and not Mickey Mantle and you had better roll your windows down and move to the rhythm whenever some 17 year old pulls up next to you with Kanye shaking the trunk lid of his lowered Honda Civic.
You better not even be a NASCAR fan because “racing” sounds close enough to “racist” these days.
Yeah, okay I’m adding my typical Yankee snark to this to make my point, but seriously…I’m not that far off and you know it.
Jerry Jr. didn’t say anything that anyone else wasn’t thinking and feeling and all these hurt feelings and gasping liberals are simply reacting in accordance with the company line. As Scrooge said, “An ant is what it is, and a grasshopper is what it is…”
And libs are what they are.
But there is another group that attacked President Falwell and that group is really where my wrath is aimed. The Neo-Evangelicals.
All I’ve read over the last three days was one limp-wristed, pasty-faced pansy / pastor (or “navigator” or “spiritual path guide” or whatever the heck else they call themselves except PASTOR these days) after another, attacking Jerry and flaying him open as a hateful, anti-Jesus. “Jesus would not hate!” They proclaim, ignoring the fact that Jerry never said he hated anyone. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Jesus never resisted the brutality of the crucifixion.
Correct…except Jesus came here for the explicit purpose of dying for my sins. I was not born with the same purpose and before you attack me for ignoring the command to “take up my cross…” you’d better understand that the cross Jesus spoke of in that verse was not necessarily the cross of physical death. It was death to self, and to the things you elevate above Jesus in your life. 
You Bible wizards forget the truth that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb, once. He rose from the dead as a King and his next appearance, as told in revelation, will find him riding on a horse with a sword coming out of his mouth (symbolism depicting his commanding an army) leading a charging army and killing everyone who stands against him. Yeah…it’s in Revelation 19: “11: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Call me crazy but that’s not some glaze-eyed, sissy-boy Jesus who sways back and forth at the latest Matt Redmon song. He’s not hip, and trendy, and wearing cool clothes and whining on his blog about social injustice in Poopistan. He comes riding on a fearsome horse, leading the charge, commanding an army with words of death.
That, my friends, is also Jesus.
That’s the “gentle baby meek and mild.” The same man who wept over Lazarus, got so angry at church money-makers that he made himself a whip and beat them violently and then turned over their tables. Remember when “Karl” found out his brother was killed by John McClain in “Diehard?” Remember when he flipped the desk over and said “I want blood!” Yeah…that’s pretty much Jesus in the temple courtyard that day.
Jesus was no pacifist. He was here for a specific time and for a specific purpose but his history throughout eternity is one of power, authority, and, sometimes, force.
Jesus does not hate Muslims. But Jesus does hate murder. He hates when families are torn apart by terrorist attacks at community centers. He hates the collective grief of 3000 people on 9/11. He hates murder of those four servicemen in Chattanooga.
Jesus also dislikes stupidity. How many times did he ask his disciples “Do you still not get it?” Jesus commands us to take care of our families. Paul wrote that if a man does not provide for his family he is worse than an infidel. Provision includes safety and protection. If you don’t want to carry a firearm, good on ya. But if we do have to answer for our deeds, I think that will include answering for being purposefully reckless.
Evil is here folks. Islam is the place where it lives and where it is nurtured. Does that mean all Muslims are embracers of evil? Of course not! It does mean that they all embrace a culture that embraces evil, which puts them one step away at best. The problem is I can’t tell which ones intend me harm and so I have two options…rid myself and the country of all Muslims –which would be unfair to truly peaceful Muslims- or prepare myself for the worst case scenario.
That I must do.
I am a dad. I have a daughter on this campus, besides being an employee and an alumni. I have to think about her safety all the time. She’s already at just about the safest place I could imagine for her college years. I have to do whatever else I need to do to ensure she gets through it all. In this world, maybe that includes carrying a gun, and, sadly, it includes being suspicious of anyone from certain groups. Suspicious. Not hateful. Not bigoted. Suspicious. Wary. Cautious.
As a Christian, I have to admit…it hurts to say those things. It hurts. Nobody wants to go around suspicious of anyone else. We all want peace. We want diverse friendships and cultural patchwork quilts…blah blah blah. But, I fear, there is no Arabic version of Kumbayaah. We apparently can’t all just get along. That’s reality, and it’s life and death now.
Jerry Falwell Jr. only said what realists already knew…that the threat is contained within Islam (notice I did not say the threat IS Islam…not yet anyway) He said what real people think in a way REAL people say it. Not couched and politically correct and sparing of everyone’s feelings. It is what it is.
You hipster theologians who think that having a pair is tantamount to being some hateful Neanderthal, I have one last parting gift for you. This is the real world now and you live in it. Jesus called us to die to HIM…not to Allah. Turning the other cheek means giving someone one more chance to make it right. Jesus did not call us to be chai latte sipping girl-boys, wearing skinny jeans and loafers with no socks while hiding our emasculation behind some faux-lumberjack beard.
He called us to be Davids. Men after God’s own heart, who snatched lions by the hair of their mane and charged headlong at giants with stones and slings and who lopped of that bugger’s head once we knocked him out! David wrote poetry and songs…some of which begged God to smash out the teeth of his enemies and bash their baby’s heads against rocks. David was a man. He had a temper. He got pissed sometimes.
If this picture bothers you…take it up with God. He is, after all, the one who loved that manly man so much that he made him the progenitor of the Savior himself. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there IS a time to kill and a time not to. There IS a time for harsh, often violent responses to humanity. That’s in the Bible too, along with the Beatitudes.  
Live with this, and more importantly…let ME live with this without calling me less of a Christian than you are. Get yourself a pair, bro!
Or to quote the late, great Dale Earnhardt…
“You’d better tie some kerosene rags around your ankles so the ants don’t crawl up your legs and eat your candy a**!”

That’s how I see it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Web Page for my Carpentry Company

While I still work full time at Liberty University, I have returned to carpentry as a means to augment my income. (Daughters are expensive!)
Here is the web page I created for my business. Please share!

http://decksbycraig.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Playground in The Rubble. Trusting God when it's hard to trust God

A couple of weeks ago, Greta Van Susteran posted a picture on her Facebook page. It was a picture of Yemeni children, happily playing amid the bombed-out rubble that used to be their town. Greta remarked that she found it amazing that children can be so resilient, and able to find some measure of joy in the midst of absolute destruction.
The picture is here:


I was moved as well. I instantly thought about some of my favorite quotes from Brennan Manning, one of my favorite Christian authors, and a man who was well aware of the necessity of childlike faith. In Brennan’s book Ruthless Trust, He teaches about what it means to be childlike in our faith. I believe the photo above illustrates this perfectly. Brennan wrote:

 “Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of 
authentic discipleship. The supreme need in most
  
of our lives 
is often the most overlooked: an
  
unfaltering trust in the love of 
God no matter what goes down.
 
I think this is what Paul taught 
when he wrote in Philippians 4:13, "There is nothing I cannot 
master with the help of the one that gives me strength."

These are hard words to live by, and a difficult standard to bear. It’s hard to trust. It’s even harder to trust like a child trusts. Think about that. My daughter is seventeen now and well aware –too aware in my opinion- of the brittle, dangerous state of the world she is growing up in. She stresses over the news as I do. But when she was little, she didn’t have a care in the world. She had a dad who loved her immeasurably, who provided for her every need and almost every desire. She had a wonderful home in the country, two dogs she raised from puppies, a cat, a pony, a garden, sunshine, peace, contentment. Her life was never something she needed to give thought to. She could focus on just being a little girl, enjoying the love of her mom and dad (albeit in separate homes) and finding wonder and amazement in the everyday happenings of the world around her.
But she is an adult now. She has seen her daddy’s life implode because of the economy, she has watched her mom’s bad choice in remarriage explode in violence and terror until she finally escaped it by moving with me to Virginia. She has seen me rebuild on far less than I made in my heyday as a mortgage lender. She worries about the prices in the grocery store. She almost never asks me for clothes or shoes or basic necessities without the look of concern on her face, worried that I won’t have enough, or that I will have to go without so that she can have something.
Her childhood –and resulting child-likeness- ended prematurely in 2008 when my world collapsed. Around that same time, her mother’s husband began to reveal what kind of monster he really was and fear replaced her innocence.
My daughter has not been a child in five or six years now. That is heartbreaking for me in ways I cannot describe to you. I long for the days when only my word was needed to calm what few fears she held in her heart. When she never gave a thought to “'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31) When she fell to sleep at night, exhausted from a day of happiness, play, learning, excitement, safety, and deep abiding joy.
Now she is often restless at night. She worries, She frets. She has retreated into the safety of introversion and she has built walls around her to prevent anyone else from letting her down and hurting her.
As a dad it breaks my heart into tiny fragments. She is missing so much of the world around her simply because she is so afraid to drop her guard and see the joy that still remains in this world.
Morgan and I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. On any given clear day, the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding this region is stunning. Most evenings are ushered in with the most breathtaking sunsets I have seen in my fifty-two years. I work at the largest, most dynamic Christian University in the world. She has opportunity beyond anything she could have imagined and could have ever had back in Nashville.
Yet she only sees the risk. She only notices how she is going unnoticed.  She worries and frets and has scant few people to talk about it with. She is lonely by choice, because in loneliness and isolation there is, at least, safety. Nobody can hurt you if you never give them the chance to. And so she is torn between wanting to make friends and have relationships and open up about her life, and the dread of being wounded and hurt again. She just wants to be a kid again.
Like all of us.
I am the same as my daughter. Five years of brokenness and homelessness, and rejection and isolation left me hardened in ways I never was before. I was always a gregarious people-person, who enjoyed just being around other people. I excelled in my former career, not simply because I was a great mortgage man, but because I loved helping folks and seeing their dreams come true. I love solving problems for people and bringing happiness if I can.
But five years of failure and disappointment and rejection –especially the rejection- hardened a side of me. It drained my optimism and emptied me of my joy. And sadly…it all but exasperated my trust.
Just as my daughter began to have problems trusting that her dad would always have answers, and always be able to do what he had done, so I have those same problems.
With God.
I seldom pray for myself. I pour my heart out for my daughter, for my co-workers, my friends, my family. But almost never for me. I never sit back in the arms of a loving, doting Father and give Him my worries and my fears and the troubles of my soul.
Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe God, believe in me too” (John 14:1)
He also warned about “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:26) People losing heart because of the world disintegrating around them. I know I am. I am ashamed to admit it, but I lost my childlike trust years ago. I stopped “casting all my cares upon Him, because he cares about me” (I Peter 5:7)
I stopped asking Him for the answers first, and then trusting Him enough to not try fixing it myself.
First I stopped trusting, then I stopped asking altogether. I started seeing the devastation around me, and not the power of the Father who is above all this. I saw the rubble of my life and I only lamented the destruction.
And yet, little Yemeni children can make a playground in their rubble…
And so must I. I was talking with a co-worker about this over the last few weeks. The stress and concern and worry of just being a dad, and trying to be a provider and a protector, and a wise man and a good employee, and a friend, and in his case, a husband. We talked about how demanding this is and how hard it is for men to say “I don’t know the answer…will have to trust God.” For me, that is almost weakness. I am supposed to know. I am supposed to have the answer. I am supposed to be the rock in the storm. I can’t seem to do that when I am admitting I am (sometimes) none of those things and that I can only “pray about it.”
It’s not that I don’t trust God. It’s that I was born and raised to feel that I am still supposed to do something. Prayer and trust are great, but rolling up my sleeves and doing something…That’s what a man does. That’s what a dad does.
If my daughter applied that logic to me I would be hurt. If she refused to trust me to provide, if she refused to see my protection or my provision, I would feel like a failure. Yet I do that to God daily.
Fourteen years ago, I raced across town on the morning of September eleventh, to pick her up from her pre-school. Just like all the other parents that morning, I was scared. I was worried. I was wondering where we would really be safe.
I walked into the daycare center and there she was…playing happily with all the other kids who were as unaware of the world’s condition as she was in that moment. She had no idea that her whole life had just changed. She had no reason to. There was rubble in New York and Washington DC and in a field in Pennsylvania, but all she and her friends did was play.
I have to learn that. I have to get to that point again. I have to drop my self-consuming demands that I “fix this right now” and just let Him work. I need to do what I can and then let Him do what He is going to do. I need to start enjoying this life. I need to more frequently stare at the sunset on the mountains. I need to spend more time hearing the sound of birds, enjoying the job I have and the friends I have here. More time listening to that amazing voice God has gifted my little girl with.
I need to give Him the time to work these things out. I need to remind myself that He is always in control. Always. I need to remember that the problem comes not because He is not in control, but because I don’t let Him control it. Jesus said He came to give us joy. I need return to where I spend more time with Him.

…and let Him make a playground in my rubble.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Abraham Saw...(A birthday message)

Today I turned 52.
I have to introduce this entire story by telling you right up front…I hate my birthday. Absolutely, positively, despise the day. I try my best to ignore it and hope to God everyone else does. I hate the end of summer and with my birthday coming at exactly that time I hate it even more.
I don’t remember when I started feeling like this. Probably in high school, but I pushed it down inside because I didn’t understand some things. I had questions that would not have answers for a few more years.
This is going to sound like sour grapes, but that is not my intention. I decided yesterday to write this in the hopes that it might help someone else. I learned a valuable lesson at age twenty-nine and that’s the real reason I am writing these thoughts tonight.
The beginning is where we need to start.
52 years ago today, September 7, 1963, I was born in a neighborhood in Philadelphia to a 20 year old mother. My father was in basic training and by my first Christmas, would be neck deep in the hell that was Vietnam. They never married, and after he served two tours, and won numerous medals and commendations, he came home to find the mother of his now-four-year-old son was about to be married. Not much time was allowed for discussion or consideration. The offer was made to let this man raise me (an offer much more about eliminating another potential rooster from the hen house, and not at all about any desire to have me as a son) and my father took the deal.
That’s it. Plain and simple. I don’t pretend to grasp it nor do I desire to sugar coat it. I couldn’t have done it. I stopped trying to figure it out, about five years ago. It simply is what it is.
But it hurt. It hurt then and it hurts now. There was no bond between my mother’s husband and me. Being so young, and never having really met my father, I was told my stepfather was my father and without any prior knowledge…I had no reason to question it.
Except when I got older and there was no connection. In fact there was a connection vacuum. There could not have been a more opposite person in the world to me than her husband. He hated everything I loved. We had nothing in common. Even the scant things we did together, were more a means to an end. If he couldn’t get her permission to go deer hunting, or to the drag races he would simply take me along. That way she’d say yes. And so those two activities were all we ever did together, and when we did do them, it really wasn’t together.
The bond was noticeably absent especially at my birthday. My brother and sister had big parties, sometimes taking all weekend long. I remember only one party, my sixteenth. It took me a long time to understand why my birthday was never celebrated like my other siblings (his natural children with my mother) was. That is the real point to this story. It happened like this…
I was 21 when I found out about my real father. I could write for days about what that did to me. In this tech-driven world in which we live, I will explain it simply by saying this: it was like someone reached into my computer and pulled out the hard drive. I was left wondering who I was and why I was here and who really cared, and what family was I really a part of?
I went into my twenties with these questions growing louder in my ears and yet no answers. I was twenty nine when the answers came. And that’s what I want to share now.
I was attending Praise Assembly in Newark, Delaware. I had been there for about a year or so and I have to say, it was about the best church experience I have ever had. There were a lot of my school friends attending Praise back then and it was comforting seeing familiar faces right away as soon as I made that my church home.
One of those familiar faces was my friend Pam Owensby. I had known Pam since High School, having met at a summer camp. I knew her sister as well. Pam is one of the genuinely nicest, sweetest people you’d ever want to meet. She had already been married to her husband Fulton (“Fully”) for several years by the time I started going to Praise Assembly. As I reconnected with Pam and some others, and as we’d begun catching up with where our lives were by that point, I found out that Pam and Fully had been struggling to have children. It was something the entire church had been praying for on their behalf and, having reconnected, I was praying for them as well.
One day, the miracle news was announced…Pam was expecting twins. The church was thrilled. 400 or so people prayed and trusted and believed all through the difficult pregnancy. There were times when the twins surviving until birth was tenuous. But at last they arrived. A boy and a girl. Kelsey and Ryan. They were premature and it would be almost five months before the church family would actually get to see them. And that is where God began to teach me the lessons about my own birth, and my own special place in His world.
The day Kelsey and Ryan were dedicated was an incredibly special day for Praise Assembly. Pam and Fully and their families were beaming and happy. When Pastor Walters invited “anyone who wanted to pray” to come to the altar and gather around the twins and pray for them, at least half the congregation responded.
I sat in the back with tears flowing. Not tears of joy for my friends, as should have been the case, but tears of pain. I saw the joy on the faces at the arrival of these children. I saw Pam and Fully’s happiness. I saw two babies who were so beloved. So desired, So anticipated. And so cherished.  Then I saw my own life. I saw a single mom and a dad somewhere in a place half a world away; both scared and both fighting for their lives in their own way. I saw no smiling faces at my arrival. No one who was happy. No lives changed for the better.
I began to weep openly at the back of the church. I started to ask God, “God was anyone happy when I was born? Was anyone excited? Was I a good thing for anyone at all?
The pain was tearing at my heart. Amidst the sounds of joy emanating from the front of my church, I was feeling pain and hurt and emptiness. Then I heard God…
It was so simple it startled me. I asked Him again; “God was anyone happy about my birth?
His answer came in the form of one line from a song. One of my favorite songs from Rich Mullins:
“Sometimes By Step.” The line says “Sometimes I think of Abraham. How one star he saw had been lit for me…”
That was it. That’s all it said. I sang it to myself through sobs. Then I heard God whisper a verse in my ear. It is Psalm 147:3-4 “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
In the next instant, he reminded me of Genesis 15:5 “Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, "Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That's how many descendants you will have!"
Suddenly it was coming together. I saw Abraham as he tried –if only for a second- to count the stars. I saw God as He smiled at Abraham’s temporary foolishness. And it all came together.
I heard God, deep in my soul, asking me a question. “Why do you think it says that I “know each star by name?” I’d wondered that myself. Counting them I get…He is God. He knows the number before he even created them. But why would he name them. A claim he repeats in Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
Twice in scripture God tells us he names each and every star. Why? Because he made a promise to Abraham and he knew exactly how many stars would be needed to keep that promise. When God laid out the heavens on day four of creation, He already knew about me. He already knew I would one day accept the gift of his son. He knew I would choose the gift He offered and he set a star there so it would be lit on that night when Abraham saw a visible rendition of that promise.
I was a star that night.
Then God tied it all together. As moms and dads were celebrating their babies in the front of that church, for the first time, my Heavenly Father was celebrating me there in the back. I heard him speaking clearly now. “I placed that star there. I gave it a name. It’s not “Craig,” it’s the name by which you are known only to me. The name in Revelation 2:17. It’s the name I call you in my heart. The name I will call you in heaven one day. I longed for your arrival. I celebrated your birth by “dancing over you with singing and rejoicing.” I could not wait to be your dad.
I broke down in tears that day. Tears that are here now as I write this.
I don’t remind myself of this nearly enough. I needed to remind myself when I was homeless and broken and wounded. Sometimes I did. Sometimes when it was so cold that my tears froze to my cheeks, I looked out the window of the car I was sleeping in and saw stars and imagined that one of them “had been lit for me,” like Mullins wrote. But much of the time, I forgot this lesson. So I decided that I needed it this year. Things are difficult right now. My daughter is still adjusting to college life. I am still smarting from the damage of homelessness and loss. The relationship with my father has not changed. He does not budge. It causes difficulty with the rest of the family sometimes. It makes me feel “different” from them in a small but important way.
I needed to remember that there was a star place carefully in the heavens, thousands of years ago, and it was a placeholder for the promise to Abraham. It reminded God that I was coming, and once I got here it was a reminder that I was one of those promises.
My life has a plan. A plan that I have doubted more than trusted. A plan that I have resisted when surrendering to it would be so much easier. A plan designed by Someone I have not seen, but whom I know so well. There is a star out there, and If I will just look for it, I will be reminded again about the promise I am a part of. I was wanted. I was desired. I was longed for. There is a Father who sang and danced when I was born.
The same is true for you as well. You are not alone or unwanted in this world, no matter what this world will try to tell you. Whether you are living a full, rich, blessed life, or you are shivering in the darkness of homelessness as I was…God sees you, He sees your star, and he has a plan for your life. You matter to him. He knows you by name. A name only He knows.

Come as you are…

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Single Dad and his Single Arrow. A father sends his daughter off to college...

           




                                 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 
                              4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 
                                     5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”                                                                                  

                                     -  Psalm 127:3-5                                                           

Solomon wrote those words about 5000 years ago, or thereabout.

I have always loved the analogy of children being arrows. This makes their dad the archer of their souls. In Biblical times, an archer made his own arrows. He fashioned them from sometimes wild and unruly saplings. To get them to straighten and take shape, he soaked them in oil for weeks. Then he fastened them in a rack until they were as straight as pins. Then he carefully smoothed the surface, sanded it, shaped it and made it ready. He attached the fletching in the exact pattern he knew would be needed for the purpose he had in mind for those arrows. Some were for hunting. Some for warfare. Some for target practice. He knew the specific characteristics of each arrow and when he was finished with them, he marked them individually, so that anyone who came across one, would know it was his arrow.
This is rich with metaphor for parenting. I have only one child…only one arrow. I have spent seventeen years crafting her as best I could. I have shaped her, anointed her with the oil of my love, attention, wisdom and, especially, prayers. I have taken note to what her purpose is, and while I am not definitely, positively, certain yet, I know it will involve music and the arts. I know she will use those wondrous gifts of hers to communicate her heart, and the heart of Jesus to this world. Here's an example of her breathtaking talents: 

                               Morgan singing "Let it Die"

I have done my best to pick the right fletching (the feathers that keep an arrow flying straight) so that she would fly true and hit her targets. I did my best to leave my mark in her heart somewhere, so that when people see her, they know she is my daughter, that I spent these last seventeen years getting her ready, and that I am proud of her and she flies with my blessing.
It all came and went too quickly. Being divorced only made it go by faster and being homeless for most of the six years between 2008 and 2014 even more so. It was hard to do the job of being her dad while I was sleeping in a truck and going to college, and working, and trying to rebuild. But we made it together. It has been a joy to have her with me since May 2014 when we got to Lynchburg from Nashville and began this adventure.
Monday begins the hardest step for me yet.
Just as Morgan has been preparing as an arrow, so I have been preparing my skills as an archer. Throughout the years I have increasingly set her to flight toward ever more distant targets. I have given her a little more room to fly with each one, even as I blinked back tears while I drew back on my bow. I have prayed more for her than for anything in my life. I have studied my fatherly archery, I have begged God to make sure I aimed for the right target. I have held my shot when letting her go would have been easier.
Monday morning, I will send her off on the first really big flight, toward her first really big target. Monday she begins her life as a college freshman and I take another step back from her, and let her fly with more freedom.
She is beginning her studies here at Liberty University, my alma mater, and, for the next four years, her future.
Thursday afternoon I walked in the front door carrying her box of school books. I did not tell her I was bringing them home. I thought I’d surprise her. When she saw me come in, and saw the white “Barnes and Noble / College” logo, she broke into a big smile. I hadn’t seen this sort of smile from her in several years. She’s been through so much and she has lost faith in good things happening for her. She had been holding her breath on this college thing for months now. It took work, right up to the very end, getting all the paperwork done and all her records forwarded and especially paying for the portion of her education that I have to pay for. Working for Liberty, I get her tuition paid for, but I still pay fees, and buy her books etc. It adds up and we’ve been stretched since my car broke down and I’ve had to fix it.
Thursday night none of that was a factor. She was happy. She smiled and opened the box and carefully went through each book like it was sacred. She gets that from me. When I was homeless and finishing my degree through LU Online and studying in my car most nights, I would have my books shipped to a PO Box I was using in the Franklin Post Office. Each semester when my books arrived I would open them like I was opening the Ark of the Covenant itself. I still have every book from every class. I love to read, but I love books themselves. I love the shape and the feel. My daughter is like that as well.
She got her ID card on Friday and went to a freshman orientation, and ate in the dining hall, and walked around with the different perspective that comes from finally being here as a student, and not just as the daughter of a guy who works in the IT department.
This mountain is special. It’s almost sacred to me and to most of the alumni I went here with. Dr. Falwell used to tell us all the time that prayer moves mountains. But here at Liberty, the mountain does some moving of its own. You learn faith here. You learn heritage here. You leave a piece of your heart here and whenever you come back it reaches out to you and makes you feel complete somehow. This mountain was reshaped by the faith of a giant of a man, and somehow, the mountain does reshaping of its own on every student who comes here.
She is here for that now. It’s her turn.
My arrow is set against my bow once again. Monday, I’ll draw her back, bend that bow with all my might, try to see the target through tears, try to hold my hand steady while my heart breaks and races all at once.
And I’ll let her fly.
The targets get bigger from here on out. Farther away with every flight. One day, she’ll make the last flight from my bow. She’ll outgrow this archer. That day will be bittersweet, like this Monday will be.
I am so glad that the next target is Liberty. I am so glad I can set her to flight here, knowing that the other arrows she flies with come from the same careful archers, for the most part. I’m so thankful knowing that everyone here, from Jerry Falwell Jr. –our president- on down to my friend Vernon who is in janitorial, work here with one goal in mind: to help archers launch arrows, and help those precious arrows hit their targets.
A large part of my fatherhood is complete now. I did what I could, given the circumstances. I poured myself into her and held nothing back. In every storm, dark night or bright day, she knew beyond a doubt that her dad loved her. She knows she flies with my blessing, and with God’s.
…and now her flight begins.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Donald Trump and Bumper Sticker Politics...is THIS a leader?

                                        
It’s only August 2015. The Presidential Election is over a year away.
And we are in big trouble.
I suppose it’s best to re-visit a few basic facts before I get into this article. It’s necessary for context.
I am 51 years old. I am a single dad. I am the grandson of immigrants on both sides. Three of my four grandparents were born in Europe, two in Italy and one on the boat from the Ukraine. The only one born here was born not long after her family arrived. So I have the love for this country, and the pride in her history that comes from knowing how much she gave to my family.
The promise of freedom. The potential that being free –and only being free- offers. I love this country dearly, and as I get older, I see that this is a trait that a lot of people have lost. They think they love her, but they don’t want what is best for her. Not if it isn’t what they want.
What do I want? I want greatness. Greatness in our nation as an entity and greatness in our people. I want that greatness demonstrated from the top down. I want my president to be great.
Not good. Not better than most. Not clever and charismatic yet lacking depth. I want character. I want someone who doesn’t just love this country for what she offers him, and wants her to survive in order to keep his lifestyle…I want someone who loves her for what she is.
I want someone who feels as I do, that this country is part of my soul and I die just a little each day when she is anything less than she could be and should be.
Being president of the greatest country on earth, means that you represent each and every citizen of that country. It means that your heartbeat is theirs. It means that your words and deeds, every one of your words and deeds, are a shining example of the soul of the nation you lead. That’s what I believe. That’s what I want from a president. That’s why I absolutely despise Barack Obama. Because he so obviously hates this country and he demonstrates his loathing for it in everything he says and does.
And it’s why I cannot support Donald Trump.
I wasn’t in Trump’s camp to begin with, but he was getting my interest with his sound-bite driven statements. It was early in the process. He was saying the things I felt inside. Hearing him make a bombastic statement about border security, or economic policy, or Israel, pumped me up and made me feel rejuvenated. But then nothing else happened.
That’s essentially what a bumper sticker does. Donald Trump is a bumper sticker.
A bumper sticker says something in two lines and it engenders a reaction. You’ll either pull up beside the driver, honking wildly and giving the thumbs-up and flashing a big smile, or you’ll flip him the bird and mouth “#@!% YOU!” as you cut him off. But whatever the topic was that the bumper sticker addressed, that thing didn’t get resolved. The bumper sticker simply said what you feel –or what you hate about people who feel that way- and it got you riled up.
Just like Trump.
Trump speaks in 140 character Tweets. He says a lot of nothing. It’s early, and I was going to allow that seldom do candidates reveal their unique ideas for solving problems this early in the game, because they suddenly become not-so-unique.
So I was watching Trump with a distrustful, jaundiced eye, but I had not yet made up my mind.
Until the debates last week and his unspeakably boorish, narcissistic behavior afterwards.
I admit I didn’t support his candidacy to begin with. My opening paragraph explains why. I want a leader. I want someone who moves me to tears with patriotic pronouncement or with bold ideas.
I want someone I can look up to because he is a better man than I am. I want to look at my president and think to myself, “I’m a good man…but that is a leader!” I want to get tears in my eyes when I think of how he (or she) loves this land and I want someone who has taken the time, and exercised the care to have lived a life worthy of that office. Not just for the last few years but for his entire life.
Trump is not that man. I don’t respect Donald Trump. I don’t respect his accomplishments, because they came at the cost of four bankruptcies and three marriages. I try not to judge people solely on their mistakes. But when there is a pattern, only a fool ignores it. But that alone is not why I dislike him as a presidential candidate.
He is a game show host. You can call “The Apprentice” a reality show or something else, but ultimately it’s a game show. It’s entertaining but I don’t want entertainment.
I want statesmanship.
I want a man who instills fear in our enemies, not because he is a hot-head who spouts off if you cross him, because that can be played against him by a shrewd adversary. I want a man who instills fear because he commands respect. Because he knows the depth of his power and wields it effectively. I want a leader who can dismantle a despot with his mind or his fist, but who knows that the latter is a last resort. I want a President who keeps his commitments. All of them. Especially the most sacred.
I want a leader who embodies the best of America and inspires something even better down the road.
Right now we have a narcissistic, divisive, arrogant, hateful, entitled, pompous, smug, dismissive, vengeful, self-aggrandizing, emperor in the White House.
And we have one trying to take his place.
Donald Trump is Barack Obama.
The only difference is that Obama has yet to hold a job. And maybe a few policies.
Imagine what Trump’s ego could do with Executive Orders. Imagine “I have a cell phone and a pen” in the hands of a man who steamrolls through decisions and leaves rubble behind when his ideas fail and he has to pay the check. You can’t declare bankruptcy in the White House. You can’t get divorced from your responsibility. You can’t look at the Speaker of the House or the Majority leader of the opposing party and say “You’re fired!” with a smirk on your face.
And you shouldn’t take to Twitter and call people names and make menstruation comments when a news anchor / debate moderator gets under your skin.
Nobody owes you respect. You earn that. And if Megyn Kelly doesn’t respect Donald Trump, the man, then maybe he needs to look inside himself and ask why.
I don’t know if Kelly went too far. I do know that nobody else is going to be any easier on Trump, and if this is how he is going to react, he will be out of the race by Christmas. Nobody, not even the most ardent “I will vote for whoever can beat the Democrats” Everyman, will stomach that behavior for very long. It’s funny now (for some) it’s meat to the lions for the moment. But if Trump’s history tells us anything, it tells us that he will not drop this. He will be ranting against Fox and Megyn Kelly on Twitter this time next year, when he gets a mind to.
Ranting on Twitter.
Think about that. The potential future president of the United States, ranting on Twitter.
You’re okay with that? You admire that and look up to that? You’d teach that response to your children the next time someone in school doesn’t pick them for kickball, or makes the football team in their stead?
That’s a leader? That’s a statesman?
Sometimes the reaction is more important than the infraction. I played hockey up to and including college. I coached high school hockey for nine seasons. I told my boys over and over, “The ref will almost never see the cheap shot from the other player. He will see your reaction. You will get the penalty. So play smart, let it go, and make him pay by winning the game.
Donald Trump would spend his entire life in the penalty box. Not only can he not let go of a slight, he needs to…he needs to seek vengeance. He is a narcissist. A narcissist can never abide an offense. He has to get in the last word. He has to revenge his wounded pride. He has to pound you for daring to even look at him crossways. He can never be wrong and he can never accept responsibility. Trump did this all week. Endless Twitter rants and press statements crying foul and proclaiming his superiority and threatening Fox News and claiming the center of the political universe. He was the reason for the big ratings, he was the star, and he is the next anointed one. Don’t you dare question him, challenge him, or dim the glare of the light on him?
Is that Reaganesque? Would Reagan have responded to a debate commentator the way Trump did? Can you imagine Reagan making crude menstruation comments about a female moderator? Can you?
Sometimes the office of the President demands that the man who holds it swallow his pride and keep his mouth shut because it’s best for the country. George W. Bush demonstrated this during the Iraq war. They found those WMD’s. Long before the NYT admitted to it, they found them. But they hadn’t found them all yet and if Bush had come out and said so, every Islamic group in the world would have been combing the Syrian Desert looking for them. So he kept silent and bore the brunt of endless attacks, all of which were far more vicious and far more vile than anything Megyn Kelly said to Donald Trump on Thursday evening. He could have declared how he was right all along. But for the good of the country, he took the beating. Because sometimes that’s what presidents do.
Trump will never be able to do that. Not ever.
I have a daughter. She’s seventeen. How could I ever justify giving my vote to a man who can sink to the lowest common denominator and attack a woman for her womanhood, simply because she got under his skin in a debate. For my daughter’s sake, I won’t eat at a Hardees because they use women in seductive advertising to sell cheeseburgers, you think I’m voting for Trump? The first time Angela Merkel stands up to him, is he going to Tweet about how she “just needs to get some?”
We’ve been in a mess since 2008. We’re overrun by vermin in the White House. I don’t want to solve that problem by electing the best rat. I want an exterminator.
You know who I want? I want this: When I bore my daughter with stories about how great this land was when I was a kid, and when I tell her about what it was like when her great-grandparents got here, and when I tell her how Americans used to think, and behave, and believe, and conduct themselves, I want to point to the man in the White House and say “They were just like him.”

In my opinion…that can never be Donald Trump.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The butchery of Planned Parenthood and why a man cares so much...

I only have one child.
I have a daughter. She just turned seventeen and she starts college this fall. That was without a doubt the fastest seventeen years of my life. It’s a blink.
It was made even faster because her mom and I divorced when my daughter was only eighteen months old. I was 34 when she was born and turned 36 just before I became a single dad. I had less than two years of tucking her in every night. Cooking breakfast. Birthdays and holidays as a family. I quickly became a once-a-week-and-every-other-weekend dad. I had a job that allowed flexibility so I often went to her daycare and later to her school to have lunch with her. On the surface it looked like it was for her, but it was for me. Wednesdays and every-other weekend was never enough. I am a daddy at heart and I needed to do the things that daddies do.
I loved my little girl from the very moment we found out we were pregnant. We were only married seven months at the time and we’d been practicing birth control like religion. But God had a plan…and still does for my little girl.
I carried the first ultrasound picture around in my wallet until she was born. I planned and dreamed and counted the days.
I had one habit that I started around the third month of my ex-wife’s pregnancy: I took a paper towel tube and pressed it against her belly every night as we were going to sleep. I said the same thing every night…”Hi Morgan, it’s your Daddy! I love you and I can’t wait to see you!”
Every night.
One night, around the sixth month or so, we were lying in bed and I pressed the tube against her belly and started my routine. “Hi Morgan,” I said, “It’s your Daddy…” And she kicked! I never even got the rest of my usual speech out. She recognized my voice and she kicked hard enough that it was visible to both of us.
It was a special moment for my wife and I and I’ve never forgotten the wonder of realizing that life begins long before the child enters this world.
She was about six months in the womb.
That’s the age at which these babies are being crushed and their precious little bodies sold off piece by piece so that these soulless monsters can enjoy big lunches and joke about buying Lamborghinis. My daughter…who knew my voice, was the same age as these little angels put to death in such brutal fashion. There is no difference between the two. Those little children were just as precious, just as beautiful, just as fearfully and wonderfully made as my daughter was.
I have been vociferous in my attack against Planned Parenthood for this latest despicable exposure into their inner workings. I’ve been applauded, for the most part, for the picture I posted on Twitter a few days ago. Here it is:



But I have also been viciously attacked. And it’s always the same rhetoric…I am just another man who wants to control women, and take away their rights…blah blah blah. I want to enforce my Faith on everyone else. I watch too much Fox News and listen to too much Hannity. They’ve even gone so far as to say “You probably beat your wife and control her too, don’t you?” Not knowing that I’m divorced, and that the divorce crushed me so badly that I never took the chance again. I just spent the next 16 years devoted to my daughter and trying to survive after losing my whole life in the 2008 crash.
I chose to still be her dad, even if I couldn’t be her mom’s husband anymore.
When this news broke and these two horrible videos surfaced, I was literally sickened in my soul. I mourned. I wore a heavy heart like a holocaust cloak. I knew that part of it was the sheer callousness of the two individuals. I knew it was the shock of the blatant despise for the life of those little babies. Not just disregard…despise. But it was a day or two later before I connected the dots and realized that the little babies they were discussing were the same age as my daughter that night she recognized my voice and kicked in joy.
I wondered if any of these little ones had ever come to recognize their daddy’s voice as well. I wondered if only a few nights before…maybe even the very night before…one of them had kicked for joy at hearing that voice and the voice of her mommy. I wondered if that little life was wondering where that daddy was when the horror began and her little body was being dismantled by a savage with no soul.
In all those abortions that happened last year and the years before in Planned Parenthood offices, there had to have been one. And one would be enough for me.
It’s personal to me. That could have been my daughter. Had my wife and I decided to go to PP and end her little life, that very same precious little angel who kicked when she heard my voice, could have been disassembled like a toy doll and the people “providing the service” would never have blinked.
The little leg that kicked in happiness because she’d heard the voice she’d come to expect, would have been torn off and sold for a few dollars.
For me, it’s personal.
Now you know why.

God help us.