Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Speak up!

Speak up!

Over the years, many have urged me to keep quiet—“You cannot say that”—some even to change my political affiliations. “Come over to the liberal side, and you’ll have more chances with women.”  I do not know how to be silent when my heart calls me. I cannot become a man whom I am not, even if it means I frustrate people, lose friends and have fewer companions at my dinner table. Tonight, though I would rather be in bed, I feel compelled to write, so write I must. I know no more disturbing subject to discuss than the Holocaust. Looking through the Shutterstock images under that title is almost more than I can bear. I just need two.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I urge you to speak up when you see injustice. Speak up while you still have a right. Speak up while you still have your voice. Never let anyone dissuade you from your truly-held convictions, no matter the promises, no matter the cost. It takes courage to take a firm stand when you are one of the few; it takes courage to take a firm stand when you are the only one. Stand you must, however, to avoid living what Henry David Thoreau referred to as “lives of quiet desperation.” Speak up, but keep your emotions in check in the same manner as one bridles a fine horse, not to break its spirit, but only to focus its exertions.

Listen. Listen first. Harness reason in all your arguments. Quietly persuade. Persist. My Late friend Charlie Maust, whom I knew for less than one year—age 89 to age 90—taught me an invaluable life lesson. One night, as we were preparing to attend a city council meeting to try to keep the proposed City Hall building off the Village Green, he suggested we ought to sit back and let everyone else talk first, believing that the majority of people would not have much worthwhile to say: “They don’t know what they are talking about, said he. “They love to hear themselves talk.” How right he was. Thank you, Charlie. Listening, I discovered, would arm one with all the ammunition one needed to make sound arguments, to defeat the enemy by carefully dismantling his arguments. Listen. Reason. Speak up! Persist. You can have all the guns in the world on your side, but without wisdom, without reason, like an unbridled horse—recklessly emotional, you will ultimately lose the battle.

On this sorrowful day, with profound reverence for all who fell victim to the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II, I cannot write more poignant words than those of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

April 12, 2018: I shall let these words stand for all those who whose voices were silenced.

shutterstock_237235849
Photo credit: Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The haunting, ghastly, ghoulish, ghostly nightmare of the Holocaust is over, is it not?  Yet, by our silence, sew we the poisonous seeds anew? 

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at top of page-photo collage: Giuseppe Crimini/Shutterstock)

What If?

shutterstock_712661815 (1)
Photo credit: Artit Fongfung/Shutterstock

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’

Billy Graham

shutterstock_702783115
Photo credit: Merlin Halteman/Shutterstock

What if you one day found yourself alone? What if—through no fault of your own—the family you were raised in drew away from you? What if your nieces and nephews, or your grandchildren, were too busy with their own lives to take the time to visit you, or even to call? What if no cards came from them at Christmas? What if all those friends who promised always to be there for you were too far away or too busy to spend an afternoon on your porch, share a meal, or to visit your house?  (Imagine a table for eight with seven perpetually empty spaces.) What if you couldn’t get to church because the weather was too bad, the snow was too deep, or you were too sick with a cold or the flu to risk exposing the congregation? What if you—despite your best efforts—always found yourself alone on every major holiday, every Easter, every Labor Day, every Christmas, and every New Year’s day, often even in a room full of people, friends and acquaintances? What if you were a Christian in an increasingly secular world? What if you suffered the soft bigotry of disassociation? What if the only other voice you heard in a single day was your own echo? What if every rock of your life suddenly turned to sand? What if your walk in life was a solitary one?

What would you do? From whom and from what would you draw the strength to get out of bed in the morning?  Whose hand would take yours every day, especially when you needed a reassuring grip? Who would listen to your troubles, joys, your blessings, your stories? Who would tell you some of his own? Who would keep your daily company?

On this Easter, I reflect upon the many millions of people who find themselves in this situation—so distant from their fellow man. Modern life, with its abundant distractions:  iPhones, iPads, headphones, podcasts, radio, and television, has almost perfectly engineered a pallid, prison-less solitary confinement.  I can experience it any day and every day, and I watch as others do the same.  No one, it seems, has time to talk, to be a true friend. I wonder sometimes if true friendship is a fanciful conception one outgrows in one’s childhood, at best by the time one graduates from college. I guess I didn’t. 

Rough and tumble from time to time, growing up at the beach on Fire Island in the summers, suburbia and a great big farm in the woods of Bucks County (The Farm) in the winters, Huckleberry Finn was my hero. I lost myself in Sunken Forest, the fields, woods and streams of the Farm. The kids with whom I attended grade school with were always eager for adventures—we always were—and they didn’t leave me behind, even when I came back from surgery.  No, they wheeled me all over town that day, so much so that my casts created quite a rash that evening. My best friend still is one from grade school Imagine that!  Hank, I have known him since I was five years old.  

shutterstock_197127548
Photo credit: Vasilyev Alexandr/Shutterstock

In ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.

Mark Twain

About to crash land into 60 years of age, I have so many elderly friends, men and women at least twenty years my senior to whom I have reached out and who have reached out to me for companionship, comradeship, kinship. I find it curious the average age of my friends is in the neighborhood of 75. Perhaps it has to do with complete acceptance of each other as we truly are. After all, it’s a bit late to stand on the youthful stage of pretense. Some can barely stand at all. Some are bedridden, delicately, ever so delicately crossing into their late 90s, some trundle along at church with canes and walkers. All have the most interesting, poignant, sometimes sorrowful, assuredly engaging life stories, especially the veterans, if one takes the time to listen. Listen.  Time to reflect and listen, truly listen. I am so grateful to each of them for what they have taught me along the way.  When one of them passes, as unfortunately happens from time to time, I erase his or her earthly address from my Outlook contacts and replace it with Heaven. Why not? I am quite sure not a one of them will not be there.

shutterstock_566461849
Photo credit: allstars/Shutterstock

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.
-Doug Larson

On this fine Easter morning—one so sunlit blue, bright and refreshing that I have the true feeling of spring—I reflect, as I think of the cardinals whom I spy daily all over this island, as I listen to their songs: I think of our risen savior, Jesus Christ, who gave his life that we might have eternal life. Has He not been my companion throughout my life? Has he not made himself known to each of my elderly friends? I reflect upon Christ’s lonely, agonizing journey to the cross, one burdened with the foreknowledge of the Hell He would have to endure on our behalf. Most of all, I reflect upon His precious gift to us, to each of us. He gave his life for you, for me: John 15:13 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

Just like my swift-winged friend the cardinal—a bird I have loved all my life—Jesus accompanies me daily and He has been with me throughout my journey, even in the depths of crushing despair.  So, on those mornings when I find myself alone, which is most of them, I reflect upon Jesus gift to me, the meaning of His life, His wisdom. His song.  Rather than immerse myself in self-pity, I understand I must reflect and listen. The drama of the cross occurred 2000 years ago; although its portent resonates throughout the ages, to find Christ in this cacophony one must quiet oneself.  Jesus is surely with me now, but He is quiet, discreet, unobtrusive: To see him, to hear him, I must reflect and listen. He might draw my attention to him with a cardinal’s flight or melodious song, but to hear it I must listen. 

Sandman

 

 

Kindness

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

I routinely go up to the altar to pray in church after I have listened to Pastor Eddie’s sermon and as the congregation is signing the last hymn. I use the time to pray for family and friends, Pastor Eddie, and the congregation, as well as to confess sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Often, my confessions and prayers lead to tears, as they did today. I am not embarrassed about my frailty in the moment; it is cathartic. I let the Lord lead me, as I did this afternoon.

For the past few months, I have been walking up to the altar feeling an uncomfortable weakness in my legs, a result, I am sure, of my having sat too long—months at a time—and exercised too little, not daily as I should have. Others may not notice it, but I feel it most definitely. My footfalls are increasingly tentative. Time will tell if I can rebuild my strength. For now, I will leave the situation in the Lord’s hands.

As I was walking up to the altar this afternoon, a bright young lady—in all senses of the word— arose from one of the pews across the aisle with the same idea in mind that I had. For whatever reason, she wished to take my hand and to travel as a pair until it was time to kneel. At first, I was taken aback by this most unexpected gesture on her part, not knowing what to make of it. I knew it wasn’t a romantic gesture as much as a courtly one. Be that as it may, the epitome of kindness will forever be represented in my mind by her simple desire to take my hand at that moment.  I will forever remember her smile and the contagious joy she radiated.

Sandman’s Fifth Rule of Chivalry: If pretty girl takes your hand, let her. (I’ll pass on the first four rules, as soon as I have written them down.)

Unbeknownst to her, I had wrestled with feelings of abject loneliness throughout the night, spinning in my bed from side to side all night long with Raleigh to the right of me and Georgia on a pedestal at the foot of my bed. Both cats, it seemed, were doing their level best to make sure that I knew they needed me. To be clear, this feeling wasn’t despondency, nor even close to what Pastor Eddie refers to as “the dark night of the soul.”  I just have to feel, and if I do, I am going to feel with an intensity which scares most, but not me.  I am glad I do. Feeling even profound sadness proves to me that I am still very much alive, and that I have a soul.

shutterstock_633766673
Photo credit: salmon-negro/Shutterstock

As the day began, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it through church without falling asleep during the sermon—as I had embarrassingly done last week.  Throughout the service, I sipped some iced tea, hoping the caffeine would provide enough of a lift to get me through to the end. Thankfully, our church secretary had asked me to read scripture, Mark 14: 32-42, and the fear of wanting to do it well also contributed to keeping me awake. (You can Google the scripture.)

I was struck by this beautiful young lady’s kindness toward me this afternoon, and I have thought about what she did ever since I left church. She made my day a happy and fulfilling one by shifting my focus. The first thing I wanted to do after church, if I had the chance, was to thank her, which I did.

How often do we go through our days so wrapped up in our own lives that we never stop to be kind to someone whom we don’t know or don’t know well enough?  How often do we bless others with our words and actions?

Thank you, my dear friend, for bringing joy to my heart today.

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at op of page-holding hands: lightpost/Shutterstock)

Parkland

shutterstock_159704105
Photo credit: Ahturner/Shutterstock

After a tragedy as horrific as the Parkland shooting, many among us wonder, “Where is our God?” A great friend of mine, a/k/a (“Curmudgeon”), posed just such a question in one of his morning emails. With his permission, I share it with you, as well as my reply:

I have been thinking a lot recently about the religious implications of the recent Parkland shooting. This in part was stimulated by watching a recent spot on TV showing Billy Graham looking heavenward, and saying with all the emotion he could muster over and over, “Jesus loves you… Jesus loves you.” I thought to myself, “How could this be? How could He allow those innocent children at Parkland and Sandy Hook to be slaughtered if he ‘loved’ them?”

Christians will always retort, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Well, that sure is a mysterious way in my book. If God wanted those children to be with him in heaven, then why not simply ascend them into heaven as was done with Jesus, so sayeth the Bible?

Anyway, I do not put these things forth as a challenge to you or your religious faith or beliefs. I thought to myself that this subject might provide a backdrop for one of your blog posts? I am sure that I am not the only one who has had these thoughts cross their minds. To me these horrible events simply do not mesh with the miracles recited in the Old and New Testaments.

Your friend,

The Curmudgeon

My reply—with some editing for clarity—was this: 

Dear Curmudgeon,
When horrible things like this happen, I always remind myself that however horrible they are, they are, after all, the acts of men.  Man has turned his back on God, and yet, always wonders where God is in moments like those of the Parkland shooting.  The Bible is replete with stories of man turning away from God—bad things happening—and then man turning back toward God.  As one who has spent the majority of his life making his living by interpreting both the letter of and the spirit of the law (you), I say it’s time to look to both the letter of and the spirit of God’s law. Were not the Ten Commandments, the original basis of all our laws? Our major universities have done a magnificent job of removing the fundamental pillars of the legal foundation of this country.  

Just look how far from the teachings of the Bible we have strayed: Look how few people go to church; how many divorced parents there are; how many broken families we have.  What about the births out of wedlock? How about our refusal to properly restrain our mentally ill? Look how cheap a value we place on the unborn. They are disposed of like scraps of meat, their organs sold for parts in an open market. All this is condoned by the majority of society, because it actively condones it, or it condones it by its silence. So when you say, “How could God let this happen?” (Paraphrasing.) The first thing I say is “How could man let this happen?” How can we let this happen? And yet we let it.  I can’t really write about this in my blog, because some of these ideas are not mine. They belong to a young man who was a summer intern at Sharon United Methodist church. He preached them to us in a sermon. At least, that is the way that I remember it. (On second thought, maybe I’ll just give him credit.) Thank you Spencer, wherever you are.

Look at what we have just learned about the sheriff’s department in Broward County. As it stands now, it looks like up to four deputies stood by and did nothing in the crucial moments during the shooting when they could have intervened, taken out the shooter, and ended the bloodbath.

I can’t give up my faith. I’ll never give it up. I live by it, and faith in Jesus Christ has served me well.  Jesus is mine, because I claim him, and I am surrounded by his love. The first question I ask myself before any action is “Am I living more in accordance with the Lord’s Commandments?”  Just think how different society would be if more people embraced His teachings.  Even if one were to prove that God did not exist, and Jesus were a fantasy, how different would the world be if everyone’s first act was to love his God with all his heart, mind and soul and to love his neighbor as himself.

Have a blessed day,
Sandman

 

(Photo credit-top of page-Church: Betty Shelton/Shutterstock)

The Boob Tube

shutterstock_83933578
Photo credit: Preto Perola/Shutterstock

I have been thinking a great deal lately about television, “the boob tube,” as my brother Brian used to call it. I rarely ever watch it now. Other than Fox News, I haven’t watched it in ages, and even Fox cannot keep my attention for more than a few minutes.  Maybe I’ll watch an old movie on Turner Classic Movies from time to time, but even that is increasingly rare. I have seen most of the old movies about which I have heard.  Most of the good ones, in my humble opinion, I have purchased on DVD and have seen many, many times, among them, North by Northwest, Charade, The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 49th Parallel, and Stalag 17, just to name a few.

Seems strange because, you see, I grew up on television. Never missed The Little Rascals or a Bugs Bunny cartoon or two before school in the morning or Bewitched or I Dream of Jennie in the afternoon. In fact, when I was young, I rarely ever read a book. One memorable night I asked my father if I could stay up to watch Mutiny on the Bounty. We made a deal. I was to read the book, a Scribner’s copy specially bought for the occasion in exchange for that privilege. Boy, was he mad when I welched on my end of the bargain. At the beginning of every summer, when presented with a reading list, I would dutifully carry it home from school on the last day and never look at it again until just before my return to school, worried that I might be asked to write a report or comment upon one of the titles. Inc fact, I’d worry all summer, never enough to read a book on the list, though. To be fair, back in those days, I never watched television during the summer either. We didn’t have one at our place at the beach—it was a rarity then—only breaking that rule when my father brought a small color Sony television to watch Neil Armstrong land on the moon. I remember that night so vividly. Neighbors came from across the street and nearby to crowd around our small set on the upstairs porch. We were suddenly popular. As I recall, Dad had also purchased two Rand McNally globes of the moon to show us where the Sea of Tranquility was. You may remember what one looked like: http://omniterrum.com/globe-inventory/sold/c-1969-lunar-moon-globe-by-rand-mcnally-pre-apollo-11-landing/.

Back at home, I loved to play outside and would most every day, especially if a friend or two happened by. Then, with my sparkling green Pea Picker Sting Ray, I would be gone until dark.  If no one came or the weather kept me inside, I would play with G.I. Joes or Hot Wheels and watch the Sylvania black and white we had in the den. The den was my special place. I could play for hours in that room without ever being disturbed.

Moving to a farm in Pennsylvania was the end of television’s grip on me. Presented with acres of forest, streams and pastures to explore, the television was only turned on at night for Mash, if that, because, you see, I now had homework. By eighth grade, it was do or die. I had a teacher with a bit of a temper, Jim, and he expected substantial effort and results. Do the work and you had nothing to fear.  Screw up or mouth off and you might go deaf.  (He was one of the best teachers I ever had.)  I remember him lecturing some of the laggards in our class, “This is the last time anyone is going to teach you this stuff.” He was right. Elementary math, percentages, long division and the like, and diagramming of sentences would fall by the wayside. By eighth grade, one was expected to know these subjects. You would be expected to know them, and no one would ever again take the time to help you if you were lost. I still cannot spell, but the Millennials coming behind me cannot either from what I can see. As a corollary to that, ask one what Antidisestablishmentarianism means and you will most likely get a blank stare. I learned this word in eighth grade: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=15&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiKueC7_s_UAhWB6iYKHahmABMQFghtMA4&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.oxforddictionaries.com%2Fdefinition%2Fantidisestablishmentarianism&usg=AFQjCNHhEkgI47H2EowtXTfXkTibZLAUUg. What I learned was that it meant one was against those who were against the establishment, irrespective of its ecclesiastical meaning. We had the most beautiful girl in our class, Tary, and she would always remark to teacher Jim what the meaning was. (In eighth grade, all the girls are beautiful, but Tary was one of the most so.) Non sequitur, forgive me, author’s prerogative.  Best of luck Millennials!

High school was even more challenging than eighth grade. Then came college. TV in the dorm? Forget it! Never would have turned one on. (I remember watching the Israelis invade Lebanon while walking through the campus center.)  Who had time?  Rigorous study was a seven day a week affair with time off on Friday and Saturday nights for house parties. For graduation, my dad bought the library carrel where I spent most of the time and gave it to me as a gift. I used to keep a copy of Soul on Ice on its shelf as a placeholder. Now, when members of my generation ask me about certain TV programs in the late 70s and early 80s, I haven’t got a clue. The Dukes of Hazard? Nice title!

Fast forward to today:  When I was a boy, we had a choice of the following channels 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), 5 (WNEW), 7 (WABC), 9 (WOR), 11 (WPIX), and channel 13 (WNET).  The last one was always in black-and-white for the longest time.  What I remember most are the movies on channel 7 in the afternoons and evenings (Creature Features in the spring), as well as the movies on channel 9: (Million Dollar Movie), which used the opening theme from Gone with the Wind.   You could always find a good one there, like PT-109.   Moving to Pennsylvania, we had similar channel arrangements; although, the numbers were all those that we did not use being in a suburb of New York: 3, 6, 10, and 12.  The programming pickings were a bit slimmer, but I watched TV less, so I didn’t care. Free time was spent doing chores, walking in the woods, swimming or visiting nearby neighbors.

Here at home I have at least 175 or more channels with my current package arrangement on DirecTV.  Out of all those, I only watch three: FOX News, CNBC and Turner Classic Movies. My total viewing time this past week amounted to something under an hour. Best of luck Madison Avenue. Who reports news anymore? As Rush Limbaugh once opined during the JFK Jr. funeral: “The coverage outruns the news in half an hour.” This leaves 23.5 hours to fill, paraphrasing Rush for that last sentence.  Mostly, it is just rather indelicate at times conflicting opinion, and for the most part, I already know what I think about any given issue.  Other than FOX, the rest of the on-air media has taken sides, embarking on a fool’s errand to pin Russian influence on the presidential election on Donald Trump, as many have stated in one form or another, “A cover-up in search of a crime.” Don’t waste my time.  If I want to know what is happening up to the minute, I consult Twitter or TweetDeck, then I log onto Fox or whatever the news source is. If it’s a big story, then I will head for the TV and tune in. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, you did it to yourselves. As for game shows and sitcoms—I like to play games—charades—with real people, and I don’t like my values, my patriotism, my country, or my religion disparaged and undermined.  Dysfunctional individuals and relationships fail to interest me. I can read the police blotter. I would rather read a book.

Read a book. Thank you Audible. Wish I had had that marvel in college!  In the past four weeks, thanks to Audible, I have read four books—Incendiary, The Operator, Agent 101 and The Great Crash of 1929—often with the same zeal I used to listen to WABC on my transistor radio under my bedtime covers. I can choose what I like best or what fancy strikes me and go anywhere—to any time period—for a refreshed and refined understanding of that period and the challenges its inhabitants faced. Wishing for an afternoon to revisit my childhood, I can read Winnie the Pooh.  As my brother’s bookplates say, “There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away.” (Poetry in origin by Emily Dickenson.) Then there are the online courses at Hillsdale College: American Heritage, Economics 101 and Introduction to the Constitution, just to name a few.

Back to The Story of Cape Fear and Bald Head Island….

Sandman

 

(Photo credit-top of page-television: dreamerve/Shutterstock)

 

David and Goliath

shutterstock_62045947-3874497314-1528907685357.jpg
Photo Credit: Anelina/Shutterstock

I feel that I am living in a time of manifest, engulfing evil.  Not that I’ve studied him, but the Old Testament god Moloch comes to mind. Rampaging, burning everything in his path, mercilessly devouring sacrificed children. Daily in the Middle East ISIS sacrifices Christian children, as well as those of other faiths. Yet the people in the West do not see it, or they simply turn their heads. We Americans, I would venture to say, are momentarily sun-blinded by our cell phones, our iPads, our Facebook friends. Every day, I ask, “Where is the outrage? Who stands against this in church?” At times, I feel like a voice screaming in the wilderness.  I hear the trees move above me, their branches scraping, the rushing wind, I even hear my own footfalls on the leaves. I walk the path God entreats, but where is my fellow man, my fellow Christian? When will he save his brother?

Tonight, I stood on a stile on south beach by the club facing the southwest. The wind must have been blowing at least 25 to 30 knots. I thought of walking the beach around to the next beach access, but then I realized my cries for help, if such were uttered, would go unheard, die unanswered. My voice would carry only into the next breaking wave, then to be scattered with bits of blowing foam on the beach and into other turbulent breakers. As it was just twilight, I thought I would save my trek for a calmer day.  Sound preparation in body, mind and spirit is the steel of valor.

I am thinking of one man in particular as I write this blog.

This, I reflect, is the year of cancer. Almost everyone whom I know has either had it, or has it, or is in the process of vanquishing it.  One cruel, wily, often merciless opponent.  Cancer killed my father and my best friend, Dusty.  I never really understood the pain until my Aunt Jo Anne had suffered from metastatic breast cancer which resurfaced in her spine. She was brave, even on morphine, she was oh so brave. Like many who have endured radiation and chemotherapy, she had trouble eating. Food was tasteless to her and she, in particular, couldn’t stand the smell of turkey—too much like her chemotherapy said she, but she did love a tasty, tender filet mignon!

What of this cancer? This Dad killer, this Dusty killer? I pray about it. I pray for Jesus healing hands to rest upon the shoulders of those afflicted whom I know. I have even asked God if I could trade places with some of my friends, if I suspected they had it. When you love someone that much, you’ll give your life for them.  I remember praying that prayer once for a girlfriend and minutes later almost choking on my lunch.  It was as if God were testing me, saying, “Did you mean what you said?  Never forget that I, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, can seize your life from you in an instant.”

As I think of this latest friend, a Marine’s marine and Vietnam vet who now struggles with Agent Orange-induced cancer, I am 700 miles away powerless to help him. Many days I have pondered tactics: “What other treatments should he consider? What other courses of action? “When should I go to see him?” I have beseeched the Lord on his behalf, but no miracle prayed for miracle has presented.   The only thought I have over and over is this: “The Lord often saves his bravest warriors for his toughest battles.” If you knew my friend, you’d know this fits him to a T. I have seen this with my father, with Dusty, with Aunt Jo Anne, with Dana and many, many others.  Some, like my dear friend Marie, have beaten cancer, this scoundrel, this wrecker of lives at least three times. I have often wondered how she did it:  Special DNA? Tough German stock? (Sorry P. C. zealots, you’ll find none your free speech suicide pills here.)  Bravest warriors? Toughest battles?  I think back to the story of David. David and Goliath which I reread again today.

Goliath strode onto the battlefield supremely confident of his power, his prowess in battle. Heavily armored, he terrified the Israelites, 1 Samuel 17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.  David came as a hum ble servant of the Lord: 1 Samuel 17: 26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? For the Lord had prepared him well for this day, this battle, unpretentious shepherd though he was. The Lord had prepared him well. He had fought both a lion and a bear to free a purloined lamb from their clutches: 1 Samuel 17: 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David displayed the confidence of the Lord’s will with him such that Saul allowed him to go into battle to save the Israelites from certain slavery and servitude under the Philistines.  Think of it: the once mighty, now fearful king trusted the fate of his kingdom with a mere shepherd: 1 Samuel 17: 37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. David invoking the spirit of the Lord, together with his “sling” and his “five smooth stones” confronted Goliath using even the same language that Goliath had in describing what would be his end. In that instant, I can hear the subtext—David in effect saying, “I am your equal”: 1 Samuel 17: 45…I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 1 Samuel 17: 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

So today I think of my friend battling cancer and heart disease with “his sling” and his “five smooth stones,” the love and grace of the Lord, Jesus miraculous power to heal which assured David victory against Goliath on the battlefield: 1 Samuel 17:  47 … the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands. My friend must summon the same courage David drew upon if he is to be victorious. In this last valiant effort, twirling the sling of the might of the Lord above his head, he must draw upon the exquisite power of the Holy Spirit with steadfast aim to lead him to sure victory.

As I reflect upon the cancer that threatens to take my friend from me, the Iran nuclear deal’s passage in the Senate this afternoon, the murderous wrath of ISIS and even the anniversary of 911 attacks here in the United States and abroad, I humbly ask the Lord to confer upon my great friend and also upon me the courage of David knowing “1 Samuel 17: 47…the battle is the Lord’s.”

Sandman