The Chariot of Victory


Streams in the Desert has been a God-send in my life. I would like to quote a passage from today’s lesson, which is incredibly timely, this, the day before Easter:

“This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and one another: Lord, open our eyes so we may see. We are surrounded, just like the prophet Elisha was, by God’s horses and chariots of fire…[E]ven the smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair if we allow it. The difference then becomes a choice we make. It all depends not on the events themselves but on how we view them.”

If, today, you are in the right frame of mind – the place – to hear these words; to let these words speak to your heart and your very soul – then they convey a powerful message. It’s a two-pronged offense.

1. We are surrounded by God’s horses and chariots of fire! Forget a sleeping, peaceful angel – we are surrounded by power. There isn’t a sniper in the world who can compare to God’s protection. Even former Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown can’t provide the victory in the place of Christ. Imagine what Satan thinks and feels when he sees a godly person stand his or her ground, surrounded by God’s vengeful horses and chariots blazing.

It’s comforting and peaceful to think lovely thoughts about God. But we don’t need that facet of God when we are facing down Satan; facing down circumstances that threaten to plunge us into deep despair. We need a vengeful, avenging God, and we have it at our disposal every moment.

2. We have a choice. When we can only hit our knees in prayer, we have a choice in how things go forward. The baby we didn’t believe we were prepared to have until we lost it; the wife we took for granted until she left; the husband who was unfaithful and isn’t repentant; the child who broke our heart when she became addicted to drugs in high school; the job we lived for until we were fired; the loss of the parent who was our best friend; the day we can’t stand being beaten another moment; when we watched the Twin Towers fall and knew our wife was trapped inside – the possibilities are absolutely endless.

Not only that – the myriad ways they could play out are mind-blowing. I have figured out that this is one of many instances in life where the advice is simple and practically impossible to follow. At first. We have to choose to lay that baby at Christ’s feet and thank Him for it – and then for days and days and weeks and months we have to do it again and again, and thank Him for the doing of it! We have to choose to face that husband and either accept his leaving or offer forgiveness, day in and day out, for as long as it takes, and thank the Lord for His love and mercy and grace, and remember that time we were tempted to cheat on that man and didn’t – which doesn’t make us better than him – it only makes us understand how he got there in the first place. We have to choose to move forward despite the loss of our livelihood and we have to thank God for giving us the job and have hope that we will gain another just as great or better. And when money gets tight and the nightly glass of wine turns into two or three, or that lonely neighbor starts to pique your interest – in those moments, you have to choose to hit your knees, raise your eyes to heaven, rent your garments – but choose to believe in the hope of Christ.

There truly is nothing new under heaven. Human beings have been facing crises after crises just like these since the beginning of time. It doesn’t even have to be something monumental – it could just be the growing desire to do more with your life that has you down in the dumps. Maybe you’re bored with your spouse, or your job, or your friends, or your church, or just your life in general, and you know you need a change, and you feel so stuck. Maybe that just starts to eat away at you, day by day, until you have totally lost the person you once were. Little things, we know, can snowball awful quick.

It’s the choosing that’s so hard. Because it isn’t one choice – it’s choice after choice after choice, day after day after day, and no one can tell you how long you will have to do it! But if we do not choose to allow God to take us under His wing behind that blazing chariot, and consent to follow His will regardless of what our flesh is positively screaming to have or do, we have no hope.

That’s not true for you, is it? Oh no – because you have implemented control mechanisms into your life so that whenever something falls out of balance or goes sideways, you have something to hold on to. But guess what? That is the very thing God will take away from you if you persist. He will rip it painfully out of your life and leave you with nothing.

Right? Wrong! Oh, so wrong – because you will be in the position I was in, five years ago, as I knelt on the floor of my apartment with my two-year-old sleeping soundly in the next room. I was devastated. I was a single parent, didn’t have a job or way to support my child, and had never felt so alone in my entire life. I had no family there, few friends, and literally did not know what to do. So I made a choice –  to stay there on my knees until I was able to rise with hope and faith to overcome my fear.

It was in that moment that my “nothing” became something greater than I’d ever known – when that sense of nothing became a sense of purpose and peace and calm. Yes, of course – it had become God’s love and hope. That fear is still here, and I fight against it most of the time. Meaning, there are few moments in my life ever since that time when I feel at peace without having to work at it. I am married, have all I need, and have a great life. I have another beautiful child. I have a church home and have been working hard at mending some seriously dinged fences. But that fear surfaces often, and I have been hoping and believing God for a long, long time. It is a choice I make, and every time I have left that decision to choose up to chance, I have experienced extremely painful times of loneliness, despair, and anger.

Gracious, by the Lord picks me right back and up and sets me on those shaky feet! I look so forward to having no suffering, only perfect peace. Right now I have the peace that passes all understanding, and it is more than enough. Blessings to you and your loved ones this Easter season. Sunday’s coming! Be ready!

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Live as a Citizen of Heaven


Two verses I read recently made me really happy. You know how just reading  something lifts you up, right away? Makes you feel like you could do anything? They are both from the book of Philippians.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more…Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding…Live pure and blameless lives…be filled with the fruit of your salvation.” – Philippians 1: 5-11 (various.)

The other is from the same chapter, but verse 27: “You must live as citizens of heaven.”

Lately there is so much animosity going around between political parties. I knew I would not vote for the President, but I had my doubts about Romney as well. The future of our country is definitely uncertain, but then, how is that any different than what people said four years ago? Ten years ago? Two decades, or two hundred years, ago? It’s not! The future is uncertain – otherwise,  it wouldn’t be the future! We can make all the plans we want to. We can figure out how to fix the economy and in two years an act of God could destroy this country.

What good would our plans be then? I don’t pen this to say that we shouldn’t make plans to make our lives as a nation or an individual better. We should. That is the responsible part of life; that is Biblical. But the truth is that sometimes life hands us things that can’t be fixed in a timely manner. Meaning – on our timetable. Sometimes time is all it takes and it takes a lot of time!

So what should we do while we wait? Fret about who leads our country? Fret about our role in it? Seriously, what is your role? Is it to change the world? No! All our lives, we as Westerners have been taught that we as individuals can make a difference. Really? How? That is what I’d like to know, because I have wasted thousands of hours of my own life, if not millions, planning ways that I could make the lives of everyone around me better if I could just find the right words, or behave the right way, or be smarter or nicer or tougher or gentler. Ugh!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?  That one little light can shape the outcome of billions of people. But it is such an utter lie, I think. The only world we can change is our own – our own individual world. There is a period of time when we are in control of our children before they are old enough to say no. To do what we don’t want them to do. And that is all. For the better part of our lives, the only control we have is over ourselves. There is nothing I can do to fix the peace problem in the Middle East. There is nothing I can do to fix the United States government or to shape the outcome of an election.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? When Jesus came, so many Christians were pumped because they thought He was going to step up and take the place of oppressive government and make it work for everyone. But He had no desire to do that whatsoever. Why do you think that is? Because it wasn’t important? Because He didn’t care? No. It was important and He did care, but it wasn’t the point of His coming at all.

If everyone stepped out of politics, what would we have? A huge federal government existing solely for itself? Probably so. And how much more screwed up would it be than it is now?

I’m not telling people to avoid voting or debating, but I am advising people to live for eternity, not for the here and now. For example: abortion has always been a hot-button issue since Roe v. Wade. That’s not to say abortions weren’t being performed before that decision – they were. They probably took a lot less lives after the decision. The point is this: you or I cannot change the fact that until “Thy kingdom come,” people are going to want and have abortions. Debate it. Talk about how you feel. Let your opinion or experience help someone else to make a decision. But you cannot make that decision for another living soul. So all the hostility in the world will not change someone’s opinion; it will  just cause more animosity.

The world is chock-full of lost people! That is so sad to me. And there is a “tolerance gospel,” as I like to call it, that has gone a bit astray in trying to win hearts and minds for Christ. We are called to confront sin. We are called for other things as well, but we cannot forget this or wish it away because it’s hard and uncomfortable. But we cannot preach love to everyone if we hate them at the same  time. We cannot call everyone who disagrees with us ignorant or stupid or just plain wrong.

What can we do? We can do what the verses in Philippians say: Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding…Live pure and blameless lives…be filled with the fruit of your salvation. These directions aren’t about us and others – they are about ourselves. The world is full of hurting, lost, and mistaken people – for sure. And we are not supposed to silently watch – passively watch – people in those conditions go by in front of us. But there is a balance here that is totally out of whack.

We, as Christians, are called to be disciples of men. That is a hard pill for me to swallow. I do not at all feel comfortable discussing a stranger’s beliefs in God with him or her. But we can all be examples. We cannot change the world. We can only change ours. So whatever you are called to do, do it!! Do it with grace, mercy, honor, integrity, and excellence.

Small-Town Politics


I have a friend who grew up on a ranch in a small town in rural Alabama. She now lives in the suburbs of a large Southern city, but she knows of what she speaks. She spent most of her life there, and although she doesn’t want to go back to live there, she misses it terribly and wants what is best for all its occupants. She relayed this information to me and I thought y’all just might find this interesting and that you should spread the word. This coal ash needs to go – and so does Albert Tuner Jr. Don’t take her word for it? Then do the research yourself and come up with your own conclusions. I think my friend is right.

The basic storyline is that a few years ago, coal ash from the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) began to be moved via rail through Birmingham, AL to Uniontown, AL. This ash is highly toxic. The majority of the good people of this town and county did not want it, but they lost. This is the poorest county in the state of Alabama. Some have even called it “environmental racism” since the premise is that minorities who are also poor are either used as guina pigs for testing the hazzards of dangerous materials or are considered stupid and taken advantage of by those who want to, literally, dump their problems off somewhere else.

The campaign to bring it there was spearheaded by Albert Turner, Jr., a local “character” – that’s Southern code for jackass. He has threatened numerous county council members (he sits on the council) as well as ordinary citizens  who criticism him. The following tripe can be found in an article on black politics in Alabama from al.com:

“This is their school they built,” Turner says with contempt as he drives past Marion Academy, the private school that many of the county’s white children attend. NOTE: Public schools in Perry County, AL are notoriously dangerous. White children’s parents pay, for them,  an exorbitant amount of money to send them to very small private schools for safety’s sake.

The Marion bank has never had a black loan officer, he says. Judson College, the Baptist women’s school and one of the county’s largest employers, has one black professor and no black administrators. NOTE: Having attended Judson College for one year myself, and having visited its campus many, many times prior to that, I think I speak with enough authority from experience to say that finding qualified blacks who actually want to come back to Perry County to live and work is next to impossible.

“There is no integration here,” Turner says. NOTE: This county has one  major import and export – drugs.  Crack, cocaine – these are some of the biggies. Knife fights and gunfights in the street are commonplace. I once worked downtown in a major Southern city and witnessed several drug deals made openly on the streets. My very first thought w as, “My, how homesick I am!” There may not be as much integration there because it’s a safety issue, but I assure you there are PLENTY of good, white people who want what is best for the county and it has nothing to do with racism.

It galls Turner that Judson’s president, David Potts, mainly employs blacks in the kitchen and on the janitorial staff, and yet he says Potts constantly meddles in city and county politics, trying to control the majority black government. “His involvement in local politics is going to be the death of that school,” Turner says. “A school like that can’t stand the heat that the black community can bring.” NOTE: You are a gangster. A thug. You have sold out your “own people” for money and are inciting them to violence. I happen to know this delightful fellow,  David Potts,  and he is doing nothing of the sort. The real”‘heat” is coming down  on ABJ and he is the one who must see the end is in sight.

I want you to read the information regarding the coal ash problem but I also want to get the word out that gangsters like Turner need to be investigated by the State of Alabama. He has committed criminal acts and should be held accountable for them – criminally. He is guilty of harassment, assault (one-on-one and via his radio show), and Lord knows what else. He needs to be stopped.

What Would You Do?


If I have heard, “These illegals have ruined our hospital system with free healthcare,” one time, I’ve heard it a thousand times. For the record, I am not one to be caught saying that, although I do understand where it comes from.

Also for the record, I have to say that it’s not like illegal immigrants use it like a doctor’s office. Most of the time it’s for emergency care, just like us good ‘ole taxpayers use it.

Photo courtesy of thehispanic.blogspot.com. Is this how you feel about illegal immigrants? You’re not alone.

But it isn’t just about healthcare. It’s about paying taxes, free education, free lunches, and taking our jobs.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of twincities.com. A basic run-down of immigration statistics in America.

However, there’s a big caveat here, because the jobs they are taking are the ones that only they would work anyway. The rest of us wouldn’t work for less than the minimum wage even if our very lives depended on it, which is a problem for us, not them.

So, in case you haven’t figured this out by now, I have a lot of sympathy for illegal aliens of any race, although if we’re being honest, the most complaints we have are about those of Latino origin.

Usually I tell people that if I were a mother or father living in Mexico and I had the chance to cross a river to give my kids a better life, I’d swim it quicker than a wink. But they don’t seem to get it. I mean, they can understand it on some level, but they’re more concerned with their financial health than the safety of others. I know it’s not a race thing, because the people I know have friends and family members of differing races.

But it is easy to live our middle-class or upper-middle-class lives with decent jobs, affordable healthcare (meaning we can go to the doctor if we need it), and good food, along with great housing, and condemn others for wanting that chance. For wanting their children to get that chance. To me that is so wrong I don’t even know where to begin. By the way, it might help to remember that we were born into possibly the most privileged country in the WORLD. So many people out there struggling to survive were not.

And spare me, please, the song and dance about churches fulfilling the obligations of the poor and discarded, rather than the government. That is a TERRIFIC idea in theory. In fact, that is what Jesus would had have us do. I believe that with all my heart. But in reality many churchgoers don’t even tithe what they should, much less want to spend their money on giving to the poor!

So what is the solution? I don’t like mentioning a problem without proposing a solution. I don’t think the answer is to send troops or American dollars to Mexico and straighten them out. For crying out loud, we have got to learn to deal with the problems we have here, first, unless there is some extreme loss of life on hand, like genocide. That’s not what’s happening in Mexico, although you might think differently if you lived there with the drug cartels running everything.

Much as I am loathe to admit it, I think President Obama and his recent  immigration rules are spot-on, because let’s face it – we certainly don’t need to use the resources we have hauling all the immigrants across the border. A lot of them were children when they were brought here. They shouldn’t be punished for an illegal decision by their parents. This plan of Obama’s might actually work. The good news is, it keeps serious criminals out. I think it’s a win-win for everyone.

I know we should be concerned about our health care system. I know we should be concerned about jobs in America being overtaken by people who didn’t enter the country legally, although we’d never work those jobs ourselves. Frankly, I’m more concerned about terrorists flying in from all over the world than I am about migrant workers and the like crossing the Rio Grande.

Could Manufacturing Save the U.S. Economy?


This morning I read yet another article on the decline of manufacturing jobs, this time in Spain. I’ll admit that the idea of Spain having a problem with jobs of any sort boggles my mind a bit, mostly because I think of Spain more as a vacation destination than a world leader in the industrial sector.

There is a vast majority of U. S. citizens who believe that if we moved our industrial jobs back to this country, it would be a huge boost in the economy. Not overnight, mind you. I am so sick of reports of monthly woes, as if history is played out one month at a time. It isn’t. It’s over the course of years, hundreds of years, thousands of years. Yet we live in a consumerist society where instant gratification is the goal we seek. I know – you’ve heard all this before.

photo courtesy of zazzle.com

President Obama promised change, and yet his first order of business was to try to save the economy from complete destruction and a second depression in this country that, in my opinion, we could never have survived as a whole. Today’s society is not adept at sacrifice, at survival. Whining, complaining – yes. A country boy can survive, as my dear singer Hank Jr. once sang, but the United States is not the substantially rural country it was back then. There aren’t enough country boys or girls out there to keep it going.

I also think that Obama did a good thing in bailing out the banks. I’m not saying the banks deserved it; they did not. The American people, however, were just as guilty as the banks and other corporations who abused wealth and power; the American people signed their lives away on homes, cars, boats, vacations, credit cards – you name it. Therefore, since the average American could not survive a depression that already crippled this country, Obama did what he had to do to prevent that.

The question is, now what? How do we not only save the economy for the next ten years or so, but how do we build America into what it used to be, as far as industry is concerned?

We do exactly what no politician or businessman in his or her right mind would do – we take back the jobs we send to China and India, Taiwan and the Philippines – we hurt ourselves to save the country from collapse.

We complain about the power China has, both financially and militarily – and yet we gave it to them! Corporations knew the Chinese would work for next to nothing, so they sent jobs there and saved a boatload on their spreadsheets. And if China workers would do it, what about those Indians and small countries? Bring on the big bucks!

So, I decided to do a little research because I’m fully aware I’m not an expert. There’s the government’s take, which, well, you can take with a grain of salt as far as I’m concerned! Something interesting I found is that according to the U.S. Census Bureau it looks like our entire manufacturing exports are based on food and livestock! At least, almost entirely, because there were no other areas mentioned. Wowza.

The Wall Street Journal published a story three days ago about an “uptick” in U.S. manufacturing, but wasn’t pleased with this: “The celebrated revival of U.S. manufacturing employment has been accompanied by a less-lauded fact: Wages for many manufacturing workers aren’t keeping up with inflation.”

Um, duh! How many of you out there in whatever job you have feel that your salaries are keeping up with inflation? Hmmm….none of you? Here’s another tidbit from the article that would have made me chuckle if it wasn’t so ridiculous: “”The U.S. has held manufacturing wages in check while there has been strong wage growth in China and moderate wage growth in Mexico,” says economist Gordon Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, referring to two of the U.S.’s biggest lower-wage competitors.”

China and Mexico could increase their wages and it still wouldn’t compete with what workers were making in the United States just ten years ago. They had better benefits than many of us with a college education, and often higher pay as well. I know kids who worked in a mill near where I went to college because it paid better than any other job in town. They were a lot more well-off than I was, even when I was working two jobs and going to school full-time. So, I’m very sorry, Mr. Hanson, but your reasoning sounds really stupid to me.

Here’s a tip: why don’t we build up manufacturing jobs here in the U.S. and then, over time, as the economy improves, increase wages for workers?