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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Have you forgotten why we send our best to stand in harm's way?


God speaks to us every day if only we'd listen. Often an amazing confluence of events that we like to call "coincidence" has a lesson to teach us. Today my lesson is humility, gratitude, and remembrance. You see above these words an iconic symbol. You see an American soldier limned in the resplendent light of the Sun or perhaps even the light of Heaven itself. He stands before this our utmost symbol of American pride, the American flag. When the wolves circle in the primeval night, it is he who stands as our guardian. He stands between us and the enemy who would do us harm if not for soldiers like this one. Is the soldier afraid? Yes, he's afraid! On the battlefield he's a taut bowstring that is thrumming with tension right to the edge of the snapping point. Is he proud? Yes, he's proud! He's been through hell already, and of all the men on Earth it is only he who stands athwart the evil design of the enemy. He's been trained and tested to a point that is incomprehensible to me, to most Americans. Only those like him, his comrades in arms, his fellow soldiers, his brothers and sisters could ever understand where he's been, what he's done, what he's capable of.

My wife—ex-Army MOS 77F—reminded me today of their sacrifice. So today I want to express my most humble gratitude—to you out there on the front lines especially. If you soldiers justifiably feel pride, know that your pride is reflected back a million-fold, because we Americans are even more proud of you. Thank you, and thank God, for you.

Last night on Netflix, I watched the final episode of a four part miniseries called The Stand. For those not familiar with the story, a super-flu has wiped out nearly everyone on Earth. A few people survive, but they must come to grips with a shattered society, and cities filled with rotting bodies. It's not really a story about a disease, although at first that's what you might think. It's a tale that succeeds in capturing the essence of the human spirit, our inherent greatness that comes out when things are at their very worst. It's a tale told by one of the great storytellers of our age, a tale spinner who with masterful ease, has so often kept an audience spellbound, caught shivering on the edge of their seats. It's mystery, wonder, spectacle and dread. The reason The Stand is so powerful is because it's something we've been expecting for nearly two-thousand years.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

—W.B Yeats
I find it amazing that there are so many Christians who proudly profess their belief in God, their love of Jesus, yet somehow they've forgotten that there is a pitiless enemy who waits and who longs for the end of us all. Satan has his claws sunk deep into this world. He waits and hatches his plots. Sandy Hook was the latest outrage in a long string of catastrophes designed to do one thing: break us, break our spirit, turn us one against the other. United we stand, divided we fall. The devil knows that those words are true and he works tirelessly to pull the fog of forgetfulness over our eyes.

I truly believe we are living in the days prophesied in Revelation. I'll tell you something that I bet you never thought of. It's harder to believe in God today than it ever has been in history. Never before in history have so many people worked so hard to prove that God doesn't exist. I wonder why that is? Could it be that we're down to the wire? Is the timer winding down? Is this incredible push to heap scorn on everyone who professes their belief in Christianity some kind of Hail Mary pass thrown by Satan to even the score in these our final seconds?

My wife this morning told me about a terrible outrage that occurred on a Delta flight:
On Dec. 13, 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown was leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he stepped on an explosive device that blew off both his legs, one above the knee, the other below his hip. He also lost part of his right index finger.

Last Sunday, almost exactly a year since those grievous injuries forced him to learn to walk on two successive pairs of prosthetic legs, Brown was “humiliated” to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.

Worse yet, according to retired Army Col. Nickey Knighton’s detailed “customer care” report to Delta, efforts by several fellow vets to shift Brown from coach to a first class seat offered by another flyer, were rebuffed by the crew. Flight attendants insisted no one could move through the cabin because the doors were being closed for takeoff, she wrote.
So here today I tell you of this incredible chain of coincidence that God has placed before me as though they were footstones set to guide my path in the dark of night.

Step one: Last night I cried as I watched The Stand. Four men set out with nothing but the clothes on their back to do battle with The Enemy. Theirs was a familiar story: a few men sent to battle the enemy on the enemy's turf. Sent because it was the right thing to do. Sent because this Enemy if left to work his designs will one day succeed in destroying everything and killing everyone. They were sent to do battle because evil must be battled. They were sent to die because sometimes God demands sacrifice, and of all of us they were the best, the strongest, the most courageous. They were sent to stand before the Evil Enemy because it was God's will that they do so.

Step Two: Last night my wife cried when she found out what had happened to a soldier named Christian. [How's that for a coincidence? The soldier's name is Christian!] He's a legless amputee on a Delta flight. He made his stand and the enemy cut him down. Now he no longer can stand. We ought to be grateful, don't you think? We ought to thank him with tears running down our faces; thank him for making his stand, for making his great sacrifice. Instead, he was deliberately humiliated. And if you don't think that this was Old Scratch himself working another of his evil designs, trying to break us down, split us up, divide us one against the other, then you haven't been paying attention. Wake up!

Step Three: After the disastrous 2012 election I turned off the TV for good. Satan has blinded so many of us with movies, with magazines and paparazzi and Honey Boo Boo Child, that we've forgotten why this country was founded. We came here because we wanted to be free. We wanted to be free, but today only a couple of centuries later we sit down on a comfortable sofa with a beer in our hand and we watch pretty lights come out of a box, while it whispers the lies of Satan right in our ears. The box teaches nothing but vulgarity, violence, jealousy, and hatred. If you wonder why you're here today in this world, I can promise you that it's not so you can voluntarily enslave your own mind and worship this abomination that is your own television set. Turn off the television set and open your eyes America! Wake up! I turned off my television last month, and this month I found Someone who I'd forgotten. I prayed for faith—in my loss and sorrow over the state of this dying country—and when I did, these strange coincidences started happening.

Step Four: my wife begged me to write about this strange epidemic of disrespect that is being shown to our soldiers: active duty, wounded, recruits, and retirees. She told me how she cried when she heard about what had happened to Christian Brown, and then she told me about all these websites she'd found that were hateful and openly disrespectful to American soldiers. She thought I could put into words what she was feeling, but as I write this, I must admit in all humility that I can't. I was never a solder. I can only imagine what being one is like. What I could never imagine is how I'd feel if my legs were sacrificed to protect a stewardess who would then go on to treat me like an old suitcase that wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment. No, I could never imagine how that would feel.

Nevertheless in spite of the spitefulness, in spite of the thoughtlessness of some of my fellow Americans, I too feel American pride. I too, feel fear at an uncertain and ever more dreadful seeming future. I too, well remember the day when the enemy attacked our twin towers. And I know too well, why our soldiers are sent—every day—to make their stand against this our implacable enemy.

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