Saturday, August 30, 2014

Moses, Aaron and Miriam!

Many of you will remember those names from the Old Testament for they were siblings with Moses being the baby brother.  In Numbers 12 is an account of the Lord "dealing" with the two older siblings harshly for whining and jealousy of their baby brother Moses that led to Miriam having leprosy for seven days while the entire mass of Israelite slaves escaping Egypt remained encamped in the desert.  So what, you ask on this Saturday morning? Let me explain.
Last evening I conducted and preached in two back-to-back chapel services at a local county jail to a total of 62 inmates. I chose to use Numbers 12 for I had been reading it a few weeks ago. I did not go prepared to preach but it is amazing how God will bring the right things and times into mesh. The pastor scheduled to be there was not so it befell my lot to conduct the services fully; no problem! The men were especially attentive last night in both services and I saw many expressions in them with tears being an indicator that God's Word was being ingested.
I have begun a few months ago, when time avails at the end of the service, to have the inmates leave their seats and gather around me at the front of the chapel. I will take one man's hand, place it over my heart for him to feel it beating and have the rest of the men gather closely around me with everyone touching someone so there is a "circle of fire" it is now described by the inmates. It is a few moments of very interesting expression that blesses me each time I do that.
As we are all gathered closely together I have hands touching my head, shoulders, elbows and I get very quiet in expressing God's Will and plan for their lives and that I love them and seek the best for their lives and then say a very quietly uttered prayer before the deputies come in to return them.  Always there are quiet sobs and it is a few moments of very, very special closeness with men that have ruined their lives and the lives of many others. I tell them that the man with his hand over my heart that can feel my heart beating  and who is then being touched by several of the fellow inmates, that God is giving me life and breath to be there with them as their brother in Christ and that with each pump of my heart, God loves them even more and I plead with them to give their heart and lives to Christ.  When completed, there is much hugging by these men of each other, many tearful thanks given and you can see spiritual surrender to God's Will.  Many will scoff at these words and scenario but it is very real and very tangible and special.
Last night as the COs were taking them back to their cells, one of the young COs came to me asking me if I could take the time to go to the cell area to meet with an inmate that had asked to see me and that he had been charged with murder earlier that day. Of course I went. I took a Bible, signed it and wrote Numbers 12 as reference in the Bible and wrote, "God is Good ... All the Time" for this young man to see as I presented him his Bible. 
This same inmate had been in a service I conducted Monday evening and had to get very stern with him for talking during the service. I knew he did not like my insistence of not talking during the chapel but he complied.  So he had asked for me specifically to meet with him last night in light of this felony charge earlier that day.  As we sat for a few minutes he told me he respected me for caring enough about him to be frank and honest about this Monday evening event on the talking.  I held his hands and prayed for his life, his family, his future reaffirming God loves him and always will. When I presented him his new Bible and he read my words, I saw a man, hardened by the world and desperate, emotionally melt into tears thanking me for my words and time with him.
Why do I share that this morning? I share it for if you read the account of the Lord taking Miriam and Aaron to task for their jealous and callous posture with their baby brother, God's chosen leader, you see very quickly that when God calls you to a specific work, he will protect, care and open other doors for you. I believe that meeting with the inmate now charged with murder is example of God opening up a whole new set of opportunities to do His Will came as a result of the chapel services we conduct at the Stark County Jail by a large corps of dedicated men and women that know we are dealing with something society had just really assume is not there and could care less. We care!
So my blog this morning is dedicated to the men and women that follow God's Will in their lives to reassure God will provide, He will protect and He will open more and more doors of opportunity.  Moses was in God's Will and we see in Numbers 12 that when those, even family, begin to attack your motives and life,  God will sort that out if you remain in God's Will. I implore you to pray for these men and women that have ruined their lives but want a ray of light in their darkened lives. THAT is Prison Ministry and THAT is why I still am blessed with every time I am inside the bars with these men and women. I cannot explain it but I know it is very real.  For the people that dedicate so much of their lives to this work, I count myself blessed to be part of their family.
Read the account in Numbers. God is very real and He cares for His own!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Deafening Clash of Thunder

We have experienced some thunder in our area of late and it always fascinates me  in trying to assess the distance from the time of the flash of lightning.  I learned that as a Boy Scout many years ago and then reinforced it in the military years later as part of learning to call artillery fire missions and the like.  These last few weeks I have been thrown back to my Boy Scout and young lieutenant phases of my life in ad nauseum watching the never ending lightning and thunder emanating from Ferguson.
As with many of you in which we agree, this is a a tragedy with many uncles.  But as I have watched this unfold and my favorite news source becoming far too much part of creating news and too involved in the day-to-day via all the African American commentators such as Don Lemmon thrown into the mix, making the situation incendiary seemed, to me at least, the real motivator for the type coverages we are being exposed to and frankly, it angered me.  What angered me was what I felt was very biased reporting and CNN allowed itself to become the beacon for all the venom of the 1960s rebirth of the "Movement" with very little factual coverage of the police officer but focusing night after night of looters and protesters mostly, they tell me from outsider. I heard yesterday that 120 were arrested and FOUR were Ferguson citizens. THAT speaks volumes to me.
From what I saw I felt the Police, Sheriff, and the State via the National Guard had no choice but to fill the streets in full riot gear and up armed materiel; I would have done the exact same thing.  Whoever created a war zone which required war zone tactics and weaponry. But still the drumbeat philosophers such as Jackson and Sharpton and the other relics of the past brought many cans of gasoline to the party and kept tossing them at the situation up to and including the Brown funeral yesterday.  Whey the Attorney General of the United States felt the need to go to Ferguson for a blatant photo optic visit still both astounds and irks me at the same time and the to see the miracle of calm the accompanied his visit was such a farce for it proved the outside agitators has won a great victory and the local law enforcement were made to look like third world pagans; such a shame and so unnecessary.
I expressed to my wife last evening in watching the funeral coverage with the inflammatory speeches still blaming the policemen for "executing" Brown was simply wrong on many fronts.  Now the prosecutor is being told to recuse himself simply because he is white. The Grand Jury is racist because there are not enough black son it. The Ferguson police force is not reflective of the population demographic.  Did anybody actually hear the Chief of Police at the upload of the debacle tell the cameras they had been unsuccessful for years with too few police candidates that were then unable to pass the police exam?  So then we should lower the standard of the exam instead of facing the blaring reality that the blacks that applied could not pass the test. The same ludicrous screams about the city council being so over tipped with whites versus blacks make the City Council racist. I would like to see the electoral list of candidates in the last ten elections for City Council to see how many blacks ran for that office and I a believe therein lies the core cause.
What events like Ferguson point blatantly is that there is a core of blacks, agitators and organizations that undeniably are seeking a race war in this nation; a nation already divided on too many fronts. I come from a simple belief ... if a person wants a job, they can find a job! There are vast majorities that I fear have become generational that it is not any one's fault for not having work but that the government is now responsible for more births, care from birth to death, free cell phones and laptops; all safety nets that preclude generating the energy to get out and find a job.  As I sat in two jail services last evening with close to fifty men with over forty being black, I marveled at how now it is even more impossible for these men to find gainful employment due to their criminal records but then to have people cast dispersions at business leaders and society at large that it is not the fault of these men but it is society's fault is simply wrong!!!!
If you want out of a hole, you have to stop digging the hole deeper and that is a choice for each of these men and women to make and yes, it is that simple.  I have listened to all the blowhards like Charles Blow, Sonny Hoskins, Don Lemmon, Anderson Cooper, etc, etc, dig the holes deeper instead of challenging these people, troublemakers, to step up and find and even seek employment and a better life. But not, it is not their fault for it is never their fault is it?  Mind you my comments are focused at red and yellow, black and white are culprits in this societal "ain't it awful" game that threatens to create civil war in this nation making us another Iraq. I believe we are closer to that now that I can ever remember just because of the biased media coverage.
Brown is dead and that is a tragedy.  The police officer is destroyed as well in the courts of hate fueled by rhetoric built only to incite; not to find the facts.  We saw Brown's behavior clearly in the store robbery and then heard the description of that same behavior a few minutes later with the police officer. Whey the number of shots? I have not clue for I was not there.  These are facts that will come out in a court of law. LET THE LEGAL SYSTEM WORK and stop this foolishness. The world is so disillusioned with America beginning at the White House, Congress, Supreme Court, lobbyists, money makes the choices, etc, etc.  No wonder we have lost our compass as the true north for the world. Is it any wonder? And just so very, very sad!

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Too Heavily Armed ..."

This is the new clamor from the terrible reality in the St Louis suburb that the issue is that the police are too heavily armed, too militaristic, too harsh, too, too, too.  As I listen to that clamor I am reminded of a lone gunman in California that single handlely heavily armed gunman held dozens of LA policemen in fear of their lives for he was so far outgunned more than they; the police. Some were killed and it took hours to finally take this criminal out. I remember the cries of needing to up gun our police, better equipment, higher calibre weapons, more devastating ammunition and better tactics.
Please know that for me, I think the up gunning of the police has been a great thing and utilizing the surplus armored equipment We the Taxpayers paid for in Iraq and Afghanistan now in police units is a great investment for it protects the lives of those we pay to defend our lives; the police.  I am in no way condoning what has happened in Ferguson for, frankly and as usual, we do not yet know what exactly happened but the media circuses have again managed to inflame an already terrible situation. Please do not blot out the mass looting reminiscent of post Hussein looting in Iraq. Private property destroyed, goods blatantly stolen and carried down main street in front of the people, the Police, paid to prevent such things from happening. 
I have watched the local and county police demeaned and demonized and their officers made to be nothing but thugs. Perhaps some are or even perhaps this is all a band from the Sopranos ... who knows but what I am seeing unfold it a terrible tragedy made far worse when the mouths of a by gone era begin to pontificate to the cameras, footage of by gone times are brought out to make comparative comments and the police become the enemy and not the core issue.  This proves, to me at least, that the real victim in this and the other similar cases is our civilization.  So to put that comment on the opaque projector, the projected view is that we are still a nation of uncaring, hating people massed together to find ways to hurt others of different colors, languages and beliefs.  I find that repugnant and sad but that is what the world via our media see and that sickens me.
A young man is dead and that is sad. A young man was probably where he should not have been doing what he probably should not have been doing with people he should not have been associating with. that is what I believe will ultimately learn but before that reality is assessed, another time of hate will be ushered into the history books for our grandchildren to see how awful our culture supposedly is.  Do not forget, I remember Birmingham and Selma and the Neshoba County killings; all very real and very terrible.  In my heart I do not believe we live in those times today but listening to the great voices of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, cynicism intended, it just irks me to see how the cameras glisten with their unintelligible clamoring which only adds to the noise.  IGNORE THE NOISE is a great piece of advice I would offer that I stole from Coach Bill Bellichek.  Too much noise shades truth and facts.
I do not believe the police politics have handled this matter well by any stretch. But please do not castigate and demean a whole police force for being too well armed and equipped; that is ludicrous to me for you cannot allow police to fall victim to criminals that are better gunned for it is we the citizens that bear the brunt in that reality. I admire and respect the role of police and their leadership as we all should.  Look at Baghdad shortly after it fell when the police left and we saw raw chaos for police protect the citizenry.  Shame on us if we undercut the weaponry and equipment of our police for the criminals are watching you can know!

Friday, August 8, 2014

When You Pray ...

Good morning from still dark Ohio and have awakened in a reflective mood. The chorus of an old song is shown below and the YouTube link I want you to watch is at:  I heard this song several years ago and it touched my heart in a very special way and in seeing this video again a couple of days ago, my heart was again touched with the simplicity yet truthfulness of the song's message. 
This week I have been taken aback by friends that have been taken from us far too soon, teenagers suddenly dying, atrocities mounting in Iraq, the Middle East again seemingly seeking to kill each other and heightened worries now that jihadis are entering, reentering America to trigger jihad here in our nation, Ebola has become a newly uttered dread by millions; and the list goes on.  I have been educated once more on the terrible state of our nation dating back forty years with the anniversary of the Nixon debacle of Watergate.
In the midst of the ocean of torrent, loss and worry, I am reminded of some simple truths; if you want to know what God wants us to do and not to do, read His Word which I do every day. If you want clarity and direction in your life, talk to God daily via prayer; which I do daily.  If you want to lift others around you, share what you are learning through sharing with others about your reading and conversations with God.  With that thought planted as context to my blog this morning, in singing this song last night the power of prayer came rushing back to me.  I love it when somebody will come up to me telling me they have prayed for my family, my ministry, my health, me! Why, for I know how much I need God's love and care in my life.  That is why this simple song is so touching and especially in the last few hours as so much is unfolding around me and the rest of the global family. 
The deep concern I feel about the rapid erosion of our values in the society now with the full weight of the three branches of our Government seeking to force Biblical doctrine and truths out of our daily reality causes me great concern for generations to come. This will not go unanswered for in reading my Bible from Genesis 1:1 and now into Chronicles, you see clearly God will cause people to heed His word. Our nation is well overdue for a correction on the scale of Noah I believe and I do not consider myself a wild man running in the woods shouting at the moon in stating that.
Never in my life can I recall so many things happening in our world such as skyrocketing divorce rates, abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriages, murders, addictions, etc each of which chew away at the very fabric of our national founding and values.   Watching the celebrations of another state legalizing same sex marriage just makes me want to throw up for the Bible is blatantly clear on how wrong that is and the same exasperation comes over me with each "victory" when a state or national law seeks to make a wrong a right which can never been accomplished in God's Eyes. 
So on this now lightening morning to a new day, we know bad will happen somewhere, friends will be taken from us and the Wrongs of the world will seemingly over-weigh the Rights of this world.  Knowing that will be the case, and it will, think this day about the chorus of that great song. Reading the words even this moment lifts me.  Pray is the key to heaven but Faith unlocks the door is another great song of truth.  So this day, please:   

When you pray, will you pray for me
For I need His love and His care
When you pray, will you pray for me
Will you whisper my name in your prayer?