Saturday, January 10, 2015

Holocaust Deja Vu

In 2010 I was privileged to visit Paris briefly and Grenoble for a week.  Beautiful cities.

One of the sites we were able to visit in Grenoble was a Holocaust museum.  It provided an excellent look into the extreme troubles French Jews (and non-Jews who were sympathetic) suffered at the hands of an evil ideology, Naziism.  I was are of the atrocities in Nazi death camps and the horrific medical experiments which used Jews as guinea pigs, but didn't the history in France.

What happened in Europe under Hitler should never be allowed to happen again.  But prevention doesn't just happen.

Now at the hand of another invading evil it appears the Jewish population in France is experiencing déjà vu 75 years later.

When will we learn that a nation's way of life, if grounded in liberty, is worth defending "at the gates"?  If we don't learn from history we're doomed to repeat it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

When It is Time to Limit Someone’s Freedom

--> We've all heard it said, "Faith and politics don't mix".  I'm not so sure.

I believe that there are some points where faith (and for lack of a better term) political beliefs do intersect.  My understanding of my Christian faith is that it does and should guide all my other beliefs since it is so much of who I am.  So, for me and most folks who have any sort of religious convictions, saying we must separate our faith from our politics is quite difficult, if not unreasonable

This week’s terrorist attack in Paris – the latest in a string of Islamic induced atrocities – is one of those intersections. 

As an American who still believes in the basic foundations of our society as framed by the authors of our Constitution I am stronger than horseradish on our freedoms or rights guaranteed by that document.  Two of those freedoms - religion and speech - are magnified in a world where in the name of a god some men feel the right and obligation to squelch the rights of others…even if that squelching means their death.

I’ll defend your right to belittle my faith.  Likely we won’t have much of a social relationship if you do, but you have that right. Like it or not, our right of free speech endows us with the right to be offensive.  But if you are I won’t seek to kill you.  And why not? In this country and in western civilization such a right to kill is not recognized. 

Likewise, we are blessed to worship as we choose, not as the government chooses for us.  That’s the primary reason the Pilgrims exited the Old World.  In England they were told what church was legitimate, and because they chose to practice their faith differently they felt compelled to go somewhere where they might have religious freedom.  And for their daring and vision we should be grateful, whether we have adopted their views or not.  We benefit from their sacrifice.

But as free speech has limits – the SCOTUS says we cannot yell “FIRE” in a theater (for example) – so does the freedom of religion.  One such example of a limit is when a man’s religion tells him that it is somehow a “holy” thing to kill “infidels” (those who have another faith).  In a free country sometimes freedom has necessary restrictions to protect the rights of all.

If indeed, as some who know more about it than I, a basic tenet of Islam (as given in the Koran) is to destroy all “infidels” then should the practice of Islam be allowable as a religion in nations where men and women are free to choose?  If (and I believe there are) some Muslims who reject that tenet, are they aware of the “fanatics” among us who live to kill non-Muslims?  If they are, and they are covering up, whether out of fear or out of some sense of fraternity, are they not also guilty? 

I’m not sure how, in France for example, once the door is opened to all (regardless that they may hold to beliefs detrimental to the good of society) the door can be shut.  But it’s obvious that in some instances we all can’t just get along.  Maybe France will be stunned enough to realize what they have allowed in the spirit of liberty could spell the end if changes are not made. 

And I’m not sure we in America should wait for France, Britain or Germany to show us the way.  But we had better soon begin to realize that there are times to limit freedom when that freedom threatens to end our way of life.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When You Don't Understand, He Does

No one looks forward to disappointments, especially those whose occurrences interrupt our well-being via circumstances that are truly out of our control.  Like the quarterback being blindsided by the forearm clothesline of a blitzing linebacker, they can knock the wind right out of our sails and spin us until we’re dizzy…if we let them.  And if we’re not careful they will steal our joy and stunt our growth.

In the late 80’s I was hired by a contractor from Virginia Beach who was planning on moving into the booming building business here on the Outer Banks.  The company was well established in south Hampton Roads, and I was given the assurance that, “We’re planning on being there for the long haul.”  Yet, at the completion of their first project here the superintendent called me aside on a Thursday afternoon to tell me the next day would be my last.  They were pulling up stakes and heading back to Virginia.

He didn’t know it, but my wife and I were going to sit down that evening and fill out the paperwork to initiate the purchase of a home.  Buying that house (it would have been our first to own) was a big step and one we were looking forward to taking.  It was another move in our lives toward living the American dream.  But dreams aren’t reality and they don’t always come true.

I remember thinking, “What?  God, are you keeping track of me?  How could you let this happen?”  My conversation with my wife when I got home was, “You won’t believe this”, and “We can’t buy a house if I don’t have a job”.   To say we were perplexed is putting it mildly.

It would be great to say that the next day I got a call with a new job offer.  But I didn’t.  Instead I filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life and found odd jobs to earn some cash to supplement what I was receiving.  I guess I never knew from week to week how I would work to make ends meet. 

When we feel like we’ve been cut off at the knees and we haven’t been at fault our response boils down to two choices.  I’ll get bitter about it or I’ll get better.  I’ll retreat into rejection mode or I’ll look for the silver-lined cloud and see just how God is going to use this to change me for the better.  Either way it is my choice.  Circumstances can turn me upside down but they can’t ruin me.  If I’m ruined it’s because I chose to be rather than looking for the opportunity to overcome and advance to something new or different.

I’m not a believer that God will not give you more than you can handle.  Too many times I’ve seen that proven wrong.  Who made that up, anyway?  It’s not in the Bible.  Instead, God will allow the overwhelming in my life to bring me to total dependence on Him.  That verse in Romans 8 continues to ring true as it gives me hope that not only is God watching, He’s ultimately in charge and can find a way that I can’t see to turn what initially appeared a disappointing frustration into a grand blessing in disguise.

Maybe you’re very familiar with these words.  Maybe they’re new to you.  But here’s a promise from God to those who love Him.  “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”  All things.  Even the curve balls and the “I never saw that coming” shockers.  As I was taught years ago, “All means all and that’s all all means”.

Guess what?  2015 is going to bring some of those kinds of unpleasant surprises your way.  How you respond to them is your choice.  But if you kick and fight against what God may be doing to move you to the next level because you don’t immediately understand it you might just miss out on the best things to come.