Peter's Choice

Youth Sunday School Lesson - November 1, 2009

During this quarter, we have been studying about making important spiritual choices and how they can affect our lives. We have been using examples from the Bible of others who made choices and we have learned how doing so changed their lives. Some of the choices were good (Daniel), some were bad (Adam), and some were somewhere in between (Martha). We should understand by this point that choices will always need to be made in our lives and it is up to us to use the wisdom we can gain from studying God’s Word to make our decisions valid and our judgment sound.

This week, we will cover the story of Peter in our class, and boy did he make a lot of choices! In one eight-hour period of his life he made several choices that ranged from very bad to very good. This should prove to us that we will never know when we will be called upon to make a choice; therefore we should always be prepared spiritually when called upon to do so.

Our story begins in Matthew 26, though it is mentioned in the other gospels as well. Jesus and his disciples were having the Passover dinner and during the meal Jesus tells them that they will all abandon Him very soon. He says that they will be ‘offended’ by Him. Peter immediately makes a choice to speak up and say that it will never happen, that “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” I believe that Peter meant this in his heart when he said it, but we should always be careful of what we say. We may think we are strong and that we will never stray from God, yet Paul warns us, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (I Corinthians 10:12) Peter thought he was strong – he had been following Jesus every day for three years! With his answer to Jesus, he is almost bragging about his spiritual courage and strength. To boast of your righteousness is never a wise choice, as we will find out later in the story.

During the night, Jesus is arrested and sure enough, the disciples all abandon Him - except for Peter. He makes a wise choice, sort of, because the Bible tells us that he followed them from ‘afar off’ to the place they were taking Jesus. Once there, while outside in a courtyard, we read that when asked about his relationship with Jesus, Peter denies that he knows Him three times. And the third time he begins cursing and swearing to those gathered around the fire. Obviously this is a bad choice. Peter could have fled with the other disciples. He could have remained silent when asked about his friendship with Jesus. The point is, he had other choices he could have made in this situation besides denying that he knew Jesus and swearing to prove his point. Would those choices have been better? We’ll talk about that in class on Sunday. In the meantime, please be thinking about it.

Just about the time Peter completes his outburst, he hears the rooster crow and sees Jesus looking at him as the soldiers are taking Jesus to the next court setting. Peter remembers bragging a few hours earlier and his heart breaks because he knows Jesus was right, but also because he is ashamed of how he has acted. The Bible says he left the courtyard, weeping (crying) bitterly. We read later that Peter repented and Jesus forgave him. Peter went on to work for the Lord and became a founder of the church, as Jesus also prophesied. The decision by Peter to repent is obviously a good choice. Sometimes we may fall in our Christian walk, but we should never give up. Jesus is ready to forgive us when we confess our failures to Him, and he will pick us up and put us back on the right path.

Peter made a lot of decisions during that night and early morning so very long ago. The Bible records these examples so that we can learn from them and possibly not make the same mistakes ourselves. We will always be called upon to make choices in our lives and some of those decisions will be spiritual choices. Sometimes we might have to make several decisions during a very short period of time. Using the examples provided to us by God’s Word will go along way towards preparing us to make the right choices when the time comes for us to do so.


Another year, another birthday, and it is good to be able to celebrate the date of your birth when you consider the alternative. But still, those days do not seem to mean as much now that I am older. The parties and gifts, the cake, the friends that met for a celebration when we were young seldom gather for the same as a person gets on up there in years.

I just re-read the above paragraph and I may be giving the wrong impression here – I am not lobbying for a birthday party! Quite the opposite: In many ways I would be pleased to see it pass as simply one more day on the calendar this year. Birthday parties are over-rated at my age. Come to think of it, in the Bible, there are only two ‘birthday parties’ mentioned at all and both ended in disaster. The first one recorded takes place in the book of Genesis in chapter 40, where Pharaoh’s birthday party concluded with the hanging of his chief butler from a tree. The second was a wild affair thrown to honor the birthday of Herod, as mentioned in the New Testament. It was during that raucous shin-dig that Herod’s own niece caught his eye with her dancing and demanded the head of John the Baptist as her reward.

Now, none of my birthday parties to this date have been that extreme; though I’ll admit there have been a few where things did not quite go as planned. These days I have a requirement to limit my sugar intake, and as far as gifts go I can think of nothing more important than simply having my family around me to acknowledge the event. When we all get together, and we will, there will be no make-shift gallows and the only head on a plate will most likely be my own.

A birthday should be a reminder - a yearly wake-up call to acknowledge that life is brief. Time flies and each day of our lives should be made to count as a result. It is hard to explain this phenomenon to a person in the midst of their youth, but the older we get the more we are able to grasp the concept of aging and of our own mortality. It stares back at us from the mirror each morning as we prepare for the day, and reminds us when we climb stairs or try to read the smaller print in a newspaper.

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

We are not promised a tomorrow that may never find us living in it. We do have today. Therefore, it is our duty and our obligation to do the best we can each day by living the life that God would have us live. His love should show through from the place that He resides within our hearts in everything we say and do. Solomon said it much better than I will ever be able to do when he put it this way: “If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.”

Those are true words, indeed. They are also something worth considering not only on my birthday, but every day that God allows me to continue to live on this earth. I have work to do this year…

Paths From Long Ago

Summer mornings were always incredible back then, especially if you were up early enough to do things before the heat of the day made its visit. Granny arrived in her old green car and a fishing trip had been planned between us. We got an early start; her car belching acrid blue smoke, on a morning that I was sure would last forever.

Across the road from our house was a small, country lane that led deep into the woods. I would later spend a lot of time there as I grew older, fishing and hanging out with my friends, but this was long before that time and I was a mere boy of eight or so. Granny weaved her car down the small, rut-strewn road, oblivious to the sound of tree branches inducing a scree-ee-ee sound on the sides of her car and leaving indelible scratches in the paint. As we drove deeper into the dense brush, the road narrowed further still, and finally reached a point where we had to dismount and continue on foot.

“Watch around those logs.” She would say, as the trail carried us down into a dense, brush-filled hollow, “Prolly a moccasin or two laid up under there.” I would instantly become of aware of the danger, despite being encumbered with trying to keep my fishing rod from becoming entangled in the thick branches overhead. Granny never seemed to mind and if she worried about snarling her own rod, she never acted as if she did so. Completing the traverse of the hollow, we ascended the next hill, and she would remind me again to “Watch those logs, ‘cause this is rattler country.” I never encountered a rattlesnake in that area, and still have not today, but I believed her all the same. That path brought home to me the meaning to the words of the psalmist as he uttered, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” Psalms 17:5

Gnats and horse-flies swarmed around my head, landing among the sweat drops that peppered my brow before buzzing off again, perturbed by my free hand that was constantly swatting at them. It was still early in the morning, but the heat was ramping up and the day promised to be a hot one. It is like that in the Deep South.

Finally, mercifully, the treacherous path opened onto the lake and our arrival at her fishing spot. The water was pristine, stilled as though a plate-glass covering had been placed upon it. With little or no fanfare we baited our hooks and began fishing. Granny cast out close to the bushes and remained stoic, almost taciturn as she watched her cork, never ceasing to amaze me with her uncanny ability to do so. Though I was young, I had learned not to test her patience by not providing at least a semblance of imitating her. Granny would not cotton to anyone casting bait next to her at more than a two to one ratio of her own casts. It scared the fish, she would explain. But she didn’t mind if you talked as long as it was in a low tone, and talk we did. I remember few if any of those conversations as that was a long time ago, but I am sure they were important - the things that we discussed.

I also remembered that if I strayed away from her a little, granny would hum or sing softly to herself. She never whistled tunes because that was unbecoming to a lady, and she reminded my sister on several occasions that ‘a whistling woman and a crowing hen, never did come to a very good end.’ But she would sing, and usually it was a hymn from church: Shall We Gather At The River or Count Your Many Blessings seemed to always be among her favorites.

It never took long to fill our strings with bass or bream because no catch was ever wasted with her. Fish I would be ashamed to admit I caught today were perfectly edible to her, and after all, that was what fishing was all about with granny. When the heat of the day came around, we would retrace our route up the worrisome path back to the car, and thence home to clean and cook our catch of the day.

Those were good times, the days I spent fishing with granny. Times that I muse about when today becomes hectic and my life becomes disheveled with adult problems and responsibilities. Maybe I could use a day in the deep woods, in an old car, following a delicate path that leads to a fishing hole as the preferred destination.

Slip Sliding Away

I like that old Paul Simon song; in fact, other than the early songs I first heard from him and his partner Art Garfunkel, it may be my favorite.

I was humming that tune while reading the news this morning, and I guess the worst thing I can do is begin a blog with a cliché - sorry! After all, a lot of good things happened this weekend – the Saints won again and I attended two family reunions back-to-back on Saturday. Church was very good and I enjoyed both services yesterday. The weather was phenomenal, as it usually is during this, my favorite time of the year. I have a birthday coming up this week and in celebration, I took a day off from work for this upcoming Friday.

But still.

I have a sense of foreboding concerning this once great nation of ours. You can feel it in the winds of change that are sweeping over us through each new bill that is debated in Congress along with the obligatory press conferences and speeches that follow them. You can sense it by watching the crime rates and unemployment statistics continue to rise. Our dollar continues to go into the tank as we are drawn perceptibly ever closer into a global monetary system. Things are happening quickly. Our best bet may be to continue watching television, follow our favorite sports teams, and squander our remaining intellect reading the celebrity columns. Because to pay close attention to what is really going on is simply too much for a person to handle right now. It is truly the best of times and the worst of times.

For me, the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty. The glass is broken; shattered by a faith in a god that cannot see nor hear. The god I am speaking of is the government, and the faith I mention is a belief that somehow, some way, they are going to solve all of the problems that beset us in the gloaming of what may very well be the twilight years of our nation. I see it in the apparent loss of shame in politicians and celebrities, as well as the common-man’s perceived lack of accountability to the things that are honest and forthright.

Am I a pessimist or a realist? I have my own answer to that question and these are my random thoughts on what I view to be a particularly dire Monday. There are those that say, “But yes, maybe we can have a revival and God will put off His return for a little while and things will get better.” I believe that God has a ‘set’ time for His return and will not be flexible about it. And today we may very well find ourselves in the ‘fullness’ of His time for our country, if not the world as a whole.

So what should we do, or better yet, what am I going to do? I’m going to get my affairs in order and double-check my faith in Him, as well as to ensure that I am living my life as He would have me to do so. You see, as I write these thoughts, I am reminded of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

I’m thinking that His coming is close; even at the very door. Meanwhile many of us appear to slumber and sleep, seemingly oblivious to the signs of the times.

Martha's Choice

Youth Sunday School Lesson – October 25, 2009

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Jesus taught us many things and performed many miracles while he lived on the earth. John tells us that there were countless things that were not recorded, because he said it would fill too many books to do so. So out of all of the various things that He did, why would this story, a mere five-verse snapshot, rank important enough to be passed down to us by the Bible?

In this story, Martha makes her choice to do what she believes with her heart to be all the right things. It is she who opens her home to Jesus in the first place, and then goes about preparing a meal for Him and His followers. Keep in mind that by this time Jesus probably had quite an entourage around Him on a daily basis – more than just the twelve disciples. So by her choice, her work was cut out for her. The Bible does not plainly say, but Mary may have lived with her although the house belonged to Martha, as mentioned in the verses. In either case, Martha wanted to honor Jesus by inviting Him into her home for a meal, and that speaks volumes about her heart and her spiritual condition.

Once they arrive at the house, we notice two things. Martha begins preparing the meal because she had a lot of guests to feed, and there were no electric ovens or microwaves back then – it took considerable effort on a woman’s part to feed everybody. The second thing we notice is Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him as He taught those gathered in the room. The phrase ‘sitting at His feet’ is a sign of humility. Something else to consider here is that women were not supposed to be taught the Torah (Hebrew Bible) and were instead supposed to be the keepers of the house, children, etc.

So Martha gets upset and goes to Jesus. Notice she doesn’t scold Mary; it is almost as if she is scolding Jesus instead. “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m doing all the work while Mary just sits here? Why don’t you tell her to come help me?” Also notice the tense that is implied by Luke, it appears as though Martha’s anger had been building – she probably wanted to hear what Jesus was teaching, too!

Jesus soothes her feelings in a personal way, He calls her name twice: “Martha, Martha”. He tells her she is bothered by many things, and the Greek word for ‘careful’ used here is merimna, which means to be ‘unduly concerned’. In the Greek, the word used for troubled is thorubazo, which means to be ‘distracted’. Then He says something we can’t be sure about when he states ‘one thing is needful’. I don’t know if He is referring to the food Martha is cooking and saying that instead of several types of food she should have only prepared one dish, or if He is referring to a Spiritual goal in Martha’s life. But in the end Jesus gently corrects Martha while affirming that Mary is doing the right thing. You see, Mary figured it out that listening to Jesus is the best way to honor Him, and is more important than any human action we could ever perform on our own to please Him.

Sometimes a good thing can be the enemy of the best thing. In this case, Martha’s choice to put on a big dinner in Jesus’ honor paled in comparison to Mary’s act of giving Jesus her full attention by listening to His Word and obeying what He taught with all of her heart.

It is a good and important thing to work in church. Someone needs to cook for socials, sweep the floors, change the light bulbs, and mow the yard. Somebody needs to teach Sunday School, take up the offering, and lead the singing. Church members should work as a team to make sure those things get done and always consider it as a service we are performing for God. But we should never neglect how much more important it is to worship God with our hearts, through our praise that we lift up to Him, and in the way we listen and heed His words in our daily lives.

A Restful Soul

“The army in our country is certainly not a desirable profession for any young man who has ability and perseverance to succeed in any other… I shall make a strong effort to leave it. My children require more attention than I have ever yet been able to devote to them. Unless they give me some position which will enable me to bestow some care upon my family, I feel I shall be obliged to resign. A divided heart I have too long had, and a divided life too long led. That may be one cause of the small progress I have made on either hand.”

This depressing statement was made by an officer in the U.S. Army well over a century ago. He had refused out of principle to use political influence or self promotion to further his career or achieve a higher rank in the army. A graduate of West point, it had taken him over thirty years to rise above the rank of Captain, and he felt that he had wasted his life and his time in achieving that goal. Around the time he made the above statement in a letter to his brother, Congress had voted to cut military pay, so he added remorsefully, “I was never poorer in my life, and for the first time I have not been able to pay my debts.”

What do you do when you reach the top of the ladder and realize there is no where else for you to go? Or worse, what if you realize you were climbing the wrong ladder to begin with? Another ten or twelve hour day is not going to change things, yet we try because we think it might. Just one more job, one more check, a few dollars more, but in the end we find ourselves much like the officer I quoted above, wondering where we went wrong and what was it all for anyway. Life is sometimes very much like a lottery – success is never guaranteed and failure seems to be always hiding just behind the door, taunting us.

Jesus understood our struggles and the frailties associated with our goals in life. He warmly invites us to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I especially like the part where he mentions ‘rest unto your souls’ as that portion of this often-quoted verse is seldom mentioned. For your soul to achieve a place or state of rest is a very good thing indeed. It is something worth considering for all of us.

I believe we are to try and do our very best in everything we attempt in life and that includes our careers. However, it is important that we find the correct alignment between our jobs and our families, and most importantly by a well-defined choice not to neglect our spiritual life in our process of balancing both. When we get out of balance in any of those areas, we may feel lost and disoriented, and worse, life itself can lose meaning and purpose.

God has a plan and a purpose for our lives; we are not accidents of nature. Therefore we should make our choices based on His will and not our own. He can see down the road and we can’t. He knows what is coming, and by following His will we can be assured that we will be ready for whatever comes our way – the good as well as the bad. When things look uncertain and disappointment sets in, we can rest easy in our souls knowing that it will be better once His plan for us comes to fruition. Besides, He has already promised us that His burden is light compared to the ones we have been toting around for as long as we can remember.

Oh - that officer I quoted? He was none other than Robert E. Lee, one of the most famous Generals of all time. His works, exploits, and strategies are still studied by our military men and women today at West Point as well as in our War Colleges. You see, in the end, he didn’t give up and he didn’t resign. He found a way to balance his career with his family, and as they say, the rest is history. By the way, General Lee was also one of the most Spirit-led military commanders to be recorded in the annals of history. Through reading his letters to his family and friends this week, it became obvious to me that he understood the meaning of finding rest for his soul.

No Apology

Apologetics – The branch of theology that is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines. Having the character of apology; regretfully excusing; Defending by words or arguments; said or written in defense. The defense of the Christian faith on intellectual grounds by trained theologians and philosophers. From the Greek [apologia], which means to make a plea for, or make a defense of whatever is in view.

Hence, the above definitions concerning apologetics composed from three on-line resources. Researching the word further, examples were given of apologists from Tertullian to C.S. Lewis, and many others in between. There is actually a group that is considered to be the leaders in the field of Christian apologetics. And I have to wonder, why? Is it just me? Am I the only one left that does not feel the need to somehow make the Bible legitimate by the use of science, archaeology, or philosophy?

I do not feel I need to defend my position on ‘climate change’ – the ones who are slanted to that belief are the ones that have to keep changing the term. Not too long ago, it was officially called ‘global warming’. When the globe stopped warming, oh, say ten years ago by the data, the term was changed. The Word of God tells me that every time I see a rainbow I am to be reminded that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” That is enough for me to believe in and there is no room within those words for it to be stated otherwise.

The world celebrates the bicentennial of Charles Darwin this year along with his theory of evolution. Yet that theory has been stuck for the last one-hundred and fifty years by a significant lack of proof as to the legitimacy thereof. Nothing is evolving; no changes have been observed or recorded, and absolutely no evidence has been put forth as proof. At best it remains simply a theory. Sorry. (Ok, maybe I have something to apologize for!)

Should a man be allowed to marry another man? Is homosexuality caused by a gene that is passed from one generation to the next? Are people born that way? Not according to the Bible and ironically, by Darwin’s own theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ as well. If there is any cotton to evolution, a gene that would prevent reproduction (men with men can’t!) would have long-since evolved out of our DNA as man ascended and established his supremacy.

So why a Christian would be required to “defend by words or arguments” their faith through the use of the field of apologetics is beyond me. Maybe I just don’t get it, but in my own mind I’m with Paul when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Maybe that is what is wrong with our churches and our faith in this day and age. Everything we as Christians believe is completely based upon faith, and specifically; a faith in things that cannot be proven.

We are never going to convince the world that all of the things in the Bible are acceptable as truth. The things of God appear to be foolishness in the eyes of the world, and unless the Holy Spirit intercedes in their hearts (as we witness to them) it will remain as such. By apologizing for our faith through an attempt to provide physical proof, we are missing the point. And worse, in a very real way, we are conforming to the world instead of transforming our own hearts, which is what we have been called upon by God to do.

In The City

Have you ever been really scared in your life? Was there ever a time or place that you thought your time on earth was about to end, or in the very least you were going to face extremely painful bodily harm?

I lived in New York City back in the mid-1980’s, a country-hick turned loose in the big city for the very first time. I was on my own and had been left to my own devices, a sailor in the service of the U.S. Coast Guard that by chance happened to find himself stationed in the harbor on Governor’s Island. Oddly enough, I had very little trouble adjusting to my new surroundings, but I would not say that I thrived in that environment. The troubles I eventually faced, when they came around, were largely the result of growing up in the South and being extremely naïve as a result.

As a member of the military, we were allowed to go to baseball games at Yankee or Shea Stadium - for free. We could simply go to the press gate and show our ID card, and we’d be rewarded with a nose-bleed seat in the upper deck behind home plate. Being that the Mets were having a banner year and would win the World Series when October came calling; most of the games we attended were in Flushing Meadows. If the Mets were playing a series at home, we would scrape together enough change for a subway ticket and off we’d go to the ballpark. It was a lot of fun and gave us something to do that was cheap, as none of us ever seemed to have any money during that tepid summer.

One night a game went into extra innings, and I can’t be sure but I think it went fourteen innings before the contest ended. I do not remember much about the game other than the length, and I cannot recall who won. But I will never forget what happened after the game.

We took the subway back into Manhattan, and once there we had to switch trains for the trip down to the Battery and our ferry back to the island. We had performed that feat on many occasions, but this night was different. For some reason it seemed like a great idea to go up out of the subway and walk around Times Square, despite the fact that by now it was in the very early hours of the morning. I preached to my children while they were growing up that ‘nothing good ever happens after midnight’ and that wisdom was actually ingrained in me during that night in the city so long ago.

To make a long story short, my friend and I ended up being mugged at knife-point; he lost his wallet and I lost my money. I can almost see the robber’s face to this day, dark and foreboding, and very angry that between us we had very little money to steal. It was a hairy situation and I knew we were in trouble. I was shaking all over and physically sick – this was something that happened to other people or stuff they showed on television – no way it could be happening to me. On the verge of panic, suddenly a verse from Psalms came to my mind. I know that God sent His Spirit to remind me of it just when I needed it the most. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalms 56:3. Staring at the knife, I began repeating it in my mind like a mantra.

The criminal stopped threatening us with his knife and instead opened my wallet. He sighed and shook his head, (What time) then looked back down at me. (I am afraid) He took my ten dollars out of my wallet, along with my subway token, (I will trust) and then dropped my wallet on the ground at my feet. (In Thee) Smiling at me, which did not make me feel any better; he turned and ran back into the deep-black pervasiveness of the night. Still shaking and nauseous, I gathered up my wallet and noticed that my driver’s license, military ID, and lone credit card were intact as well as my pictures and belongings. Most importantly, I was alive and unharmed.

We had to walk from 42nd Street all the way to the Battery, which is quite a hike, especially at three AM in the morning. But we made it and we both learned a hard lesson. I did not report the crime because nothing would have been done about it and I felt pretty foolish about the whole ordeal. There was no way I was going to admit how hay-seed and gullible I had been to anyone in authority, because by then I considered myself a veteran of the city and thought I knew her ways.

In the end I was not harmed, other than the loss of an insignificant amount of money. But I took something of much more value than ten dollars from that experience – I acquired further proof that God is always there when I need Him most.

Sailing For Tarshish

I had a rude awakening the other day on how my will can sometimes conflict with God’s will and the things He wants me to do in my life. He did not ask me to go to Nineveh and preach to the heathen or anything like that. It was subtle, and yet when I finally stopped what I was doing and listened, I was not happy with what I heard.

It is easy to follow God’s will for my life when the path is simple and the message is plain. I can get up and go to church on Sunday morning with no problem at all. I can even say grace before I eat a meal and I often study my Bible. I’ve also made it a habit to pray a few times here and there as I go about my day. Living a Christian life in such a manner is part of being in a ‘comfort zone’ where the mundane can creep in and make things appear to continue on in the way they always have. As a Christian, I have a tendency to get fat and lazy in that situation and sometimes God has to step in and stir the pot a little.

“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”

Jonah, as an example, had that problem and I’m sure you know the story. He had a pretty straightforward life as a prophet and had probably been serving in that capacity for many years. We do not know any of his earlier work – the good things he did and the messages he delivered. All we know about is the time God asked him to break out of his own comfort zone and do something unusual for a change. When that happened, Jonah ran the other way. The Bible says he went ‘down’ to Joppa, and I believe there is symbolism to be found here. When I run from God’s will in my life, I am always going not only in the wrong direction, but I’m going down instead of up.

But saying that I’m stuck by living in a spiritual routine is maybe oversimplifying the matter entirely. My problem with not accepting God’s will in my life will usually revolve around my desire to be in control of my own life. I like to make my own decisions and set my own course, even if that course appears to be on a bearing that will end in the belly of a fish. I disregard His way and believe I know the right way – a careless victim of my own deductions and rationale. I’m proud to boast, “I once thought I was wrong, but I was only mistaken when I did so.” Voila! That’s me in a nutshell - that’s my problem. (Don’t you just love those French interjections?)

So what can I do during those times when I ponder on a situation, study it, and plot a course of action only to discover much too late that God’s will for me was leading in another direction? The answer is back at the beginning. I need to seek His will ahead of time, before I begin making plans and sorting through the details. I can guarantee success in nothing I undertake if I only base it upon my own wisdom and power. But He knows the way and the plans He has in store for me in my life. A total reliance on his guidance and protection will go a long way toward keeping me on the straight and narrow path.

That comforts me. It will also keep me from wasting a lot of money on a boat-fare to Tarshish.

Logically Speaking...

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned the western world today that we should not try and intimidate Iran with talk of sanctions and other methods of pressure. Unless you have been under a rock for a few years, you have probably heard by now that Iran is seeking to build their own stockpile of nuclear weapons and their leader has been threatening to annihilate Israel should they ever acquire them.

Politics is a mess in our own country. Caught up in the struggle between the goals of the political left and the right appear to be a lot of things that are just not being accomplished. I can see the pros and the cons of healthcare, yet I also know by judging from past governmental performance in areas such as schools, welfare, and even the post office, that whatever they do will be rife with fraud and waste.

In Florida, three teens were sentenced to life in prison for raping a women and abusing her young son. When the verdicts were handed down, despite DNA evidence, fingerprints, positive identification by the victims, and one of the suspects turning evidence on the others; the courtroom erupted in bedlam as the defendant’s families went berserk over what they perceived to be the severe injustice applied to the teenaged boys.

Is there any logic to be found these days? Does Putin realize that Iran would be more than apt to use their nuclear arms should they be allowed to build them? The government appears to have no concept as to the limit of what the average tax-paying American citizen can leverage on his budget, or that yes, there is a finite supply of money in the treasury because the dollar must be propped up by something of value. If a group of boys have been convicted of a heinous crime, should they not be punished? And these were just a few things that caught my eye in the news today that defy logic – there were many more.

Ah, but you say Shannon, those are the views of a conservative. And you are correct. Not everyone thinks the way I do. We should be friends with and trust Iran, and ignore the costs of healthcare reform because it is a good thing. And possibly those young teenagers were misrepresented by their attorney – maybe he didn’t do a good enough job in the courtroom.

Whatever the case, in any article I read on the news today from politics to world events, I seem to be finding my manner of thinking more and more in the minority of opinion. You see, I adhere to Biblical principles and as such I can be dismissed as a dinosaur due to my logic and arcane beliefs. We seem to be so enlightened these days, what with our new-age way of thinking and our deep thoughts on all subjects; it is only a matter of time before everything will be beautiful once again. The world will be a better place as all of our problems are solved by science, technology, and secular humanism.

My problem is that I don’t really believe that. I don’t buy into it. The world is looking for answers that only God can provide, and society has made every attempt humanly possible to marginalize and discredit Him. Our very enlightenment removes our dependence on God, relegating our Creator to the shadows of the past and a time that has seemingly passed us by. With our expertise, our experience, our technology, and our thinking, we will go forward and build a world that will stand for the ages. We have become a modern-day Nimrod, peering into the dark, desert sky and proclaiming, “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

God dispersed Nimrod and his society to the four corners of the earth. I highly doubt He will allow our new-found logic and enlightened reasoning to escape a similar fate.

Office Space

Peter: I don't like my job, and, uh, I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.
Joanna: You're just not gonna go?
Peter: Yeah.
Joanna: Won't you get fired?
Peter: I don't know, but I really don't like it, and, uh, I'm not gonna go.
Joanna: So you're gonna quit?
Peter: Nuh-uh. Not really. Uh... I'm just gonna stop going.
Joanna: When did you decide all that?
Peter: About an hour ago.

This is one of my all-time favorite dialogs and it takes place during the film “Office Space”. It is a ridiculous chain of thought that defies logic; which is quite possibly the reason that I enjoyed the movie in the first place. I’ve identified myself with Peter on many occasions on how I can sometimes feel about my own job.

So what would happen if I stopped showing up for work each day? Or better yet, what if I came to work and did nothing – simply sat at my desk and either surfed the web or stayed on the phone all day with my wife or friends? I do not think it would take very long before I’d receive an invitation to come down the hall to my manager’s office for a little chat session.

Here’s another thought: What if I told my boss in that situation that it was alright because I signed the Employee Agreement for the office back on day-one, well over ten years ago? I mean, sure, I’m not working now, when I do show up, but I accepted the job in the first place and I even gave them my social security number for their records when I did so. Would that explanation hold any weight with an employer? No, it would not. My manager would not buy into that argument and I’d be foolish to believe otherwise. It would defy logic to retain an employee who arrived for work each day with that particular attitude.

But in many ways, as a Christian, I can sometimes live my spiritual life in much the same manner. I forget to pray. I do not witness to others. I find other things to do besides read my Bible and learn more about Him. To be honest, sometimes as a Christian I do not show up at all. I kid myself that God will be understanding and forgive my discrepancies in those areas because after all, I accepted Him as Savior back when I was a teenager and even have a baptism certificate in the closet as my proof!

Salvation is based on faith, not works, and the Bible is adamant about that. I also believe in the grace that came through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus with all of my heart. But does my salvation give me the privilege to live my life as I please even if it means disregarding the things that God would have me do? Can I, as a Christian, live a life wrapped-up and bound by sin?

Paul asked the same question in Romans 6:1. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Should a Christian continue to live in sin the same as he did before he accepted Jesus in his heart? He answers his own question in verse 2: “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” As a Christian, we are to be ‘dead to sin’. We are new creatures, with a new heart and a new soul, and we are to be led by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Sure we will fall on occasion and a slip is always imminent, but we should not thrive in a life of sin – that’s supposed to be behind us. We repented of sin when we accepted Him in the first place.

For the most part, I do a good job at work. I may joke about things, but I like my job and my career fulfills me and provides a purpose to my life. My job performance has no bearing on an agreement I signed a long time ago: I’ve forgotten what the paperwork actually said back then. In the same manner, I cannot base my spiritual life on a baptism certificate or an event that happened many years ago. My spiritual walk must be a daily event. It is all about what I do and the things I say, and how I handle sin in my life. Most importantly, my walk must revolve around my relationship with Him, the one who died for me.

In The Name Of Peace

First off, this is not a post about our President and the fact that he garnered a Nobel Peace Prize today for seemingly bringing about no change in that area so far during his tenure. I am sure the boys in Oslo have a method to their madness and as such I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt as to whether or not the award was merited.

This is a post you may or may not agree with, but I have been thinking about this and when something gets on my mind it will usually end up recorded this blog. Having said that, let’s move on...

There is a lot of thought in churches today on the end times that we seem to be living in, and speculation abounds as to the identity and arrival of the anti-Christ. He is prophesied in the Bible and that leaves no doubt, at least to me, that his appearance on the scene will be a sure-thing. The general consensus is that he will be a great leader and will come to power through his might, subordinating the world to his control in the process. I, too, believe that his rule will be absolute, but I also think that the manner in which he becomes ruler may not revolve around military implications. I think our society could be much easier led astray by one who would come to us in the name of peace.

It is the subtle things in the Bible that I am referring to at the same time. In Revelation, John is told to ‘come and see’ and catches a glimpse of four horsemen. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Revelation 6:2. As a believer in the Bible as a book without error, with perfection in the Word, I also believe that every word has significance. This first rider is always translated as a description of the anti-Christ regardless of theological viewpoint. He rides forth as a conqueror, and that is exactly what the anti-Christ is expected by everyone who reads their Bible to do. Notice that he rides a white horse, which is a fake imitation of the appearance of Jesus later on near the end of the book when He makes His appearance at Armageddon. Satan tries his best to imitate God because he wants to be God, but that will never happen.

So this horseman, the anti-Christ, rides forth conquering. And he is imitating Christ in the process. Jesus warns in Matthew 24, “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Our best bet is not to be deceived, because if we know God’s Word, perhaps it will be less possible for us to fall for this imposter once he arrives on the scene.

But I notice something missing in John’s description, very subtle, but yet it is there and has been on my mind a lot these days. Notice the rider has a bow, but John does not mention arrows. What good is a bow in that case? If I went bow-hunting I would take a bow, obviously, but I would also have at least a few arrows. Maybe John didn’t notice the arrows, or he is trying to imply they were there? Maybe a bow means something else? I highly doubt this because as I have said before, the Bible does not mince words.

I’m seeing a new trend develop in our politics today, apparently born from a strong desire by others that we disarm our country. You cannot turn on the news without witnessing a story on proposed nuclear reductions or a discussion of military cutbacks. We are advised that we are going to do so in the name of peace. It sounds rational; it sounds like a great idea. But the empty political rhetoric reminds me of England's Neville Chamberlain in the years leading up to World War II, as he returned from Munich to proclaim that his efforts had brought about ‘peace in our time’. Within three years the same Germany he had bargained with had invaded Poland and the world was plunged into the chaos of a global war. Today, we are still clamoring for ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace’. (Jeremiah 8:11)

In the end we will probably disarm, effectively leaving us holding a bow with no arrows. What is going to happen at that point and what 'slouching beast' will that open the door for?


There is a day in my life that I will never forget due to what I didn’t do at the time. We were in the bleachers of the high-school football stadium, a bunch of guys, hanging out and waiting for our physical-education teacher to arrive. I do not remember how the conversation started nor do I recall the reasoning behind it, but the question came up as to who was the biggest Christian present in our class that morning. Several names were mentioned, but then someone pointed a finger at me and announced loudly to those present that I was truly the best example of a Christian among them.

Was it the proudest moment in my spiritual life? No.

Because I didn’t want to be considered ‘un-cool’ or a ‘nerd’, I immediately began vehemently denying it. Very loudly, in fact. The things I said that morning in an effort to prove I was not a Christian hurt me to even think about today. Although it happened many years ago, it haunts me, because I know I can never go back and make it right. Like Peter before me, I was forgiven for my denial. Yet I live with the guilt from that day so very long ago still buried deep within my heart.

One of the hardest dilemmas I’ve faced in my spiritual life is a problem I have in literally being hesitant about sharing my salvation with others. Part of it stems from the manner in which Christians are depicted in today’s society, and a lot of that is our own fault. When a well-known Christian falls, the news media can’t wait to report it along with all of the sordid details. The world we live in is quick to use stories of such incidents to ‘lump us all’ into the same category. To the world, it was just another religious hypocrite that was finally exposed for what we all are in their eyes – misguided charlatans of a faith that died a long time ago.

Another reason that I have a problem in this area is the fact that I am painfully shy, as I have mentioned earlier. My own meekness coupled with the fear of being pigeon-holed by others has resulted in many lost opportunities to express or share my faith. It is a sad state to find yourself in once you realize you are there. The guilt I feel because I know I could be sentencing my friends, and even family in some cases, to an eternity in hell is just one part of the problem. There is also a hidden guilt in knowing that I’ve let God down when I live my life in this manner.

Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38. Jesus repeats the same verse almost verbatim in Luke 9:26. These verses present a sobering thought to all Christians today, for we are certainly living in an ‘adulterous and sinful’ generation. I used the word ‘hesitant’ to describe my own shortcomings, but notice He used the word ‘ashamed’. Ashamed much better fits the situation, if you are asking me.

Being ashamed of the gospel and my status as a Christian is just another ploy that Satan uses to bring me under temptation and cause me to stumble in my faith. It is easy to be a Christian while in church on Sunday mornings, but the crux of the matter is how I live my life during the rest of the week. I still live in the world and as such I am surrounded by the people, and the things, of the world. Taking a stand for God may very well result in persecution, and looking at the way the world appears to be heading these days that persecution will apparently become worse and much more brutal.

I can no longer be ashamed of Jesus. He’s done so much for me in my life that I can give no legitimate explanations for taking Him for granted. Besides, after studying the verses I mentioned above – I understand the stakes are much too high. I do not want Him to be ashamed of me when He comes in the Glory of His Father.

After This Life

Christians do not own a monopoly on beliefs of what awaits us on the other side. Various cultures around the world have their own thoughts, most of them believing that the world to come will be in some way better than the one in which we reside. And of course there are those that scoff at the idea of an eternal soul, but I am of the firm belief that seventy or eighty years followed by a celestial dirt-nap will not be my final destination. I cannot be persuaded otherwise. What would be the adventure in that?

Regardless of what you or I think, there is an appointment with death that we all must keep – no one gets out of here alive. Are you looking for truth in the Bible? Try this one: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27. There may be no greater truth in the Bible that can be physically proven more so than this one.

I’ve noticed that we look on death in different ways, depending on our age. When I was young, I worried about death very little. There were so many people in my family and in my circle of acquaintances that were older than me. I had a full life ahead of me and everything to look forward to; death was certainly not waiting for me. I kept this mind-set well into my twenties, until I had children of my own. Then I worried enough to take out a life insurance policy because once you realize that others depend on you, you also comprehend that you may not always be able to be there for them.

So I bought a life insurance policy, but only to stave off the proverbial worst-case scenario. I did it for my wife and children – but nothing was going to happen to me. During my thirties, I watched as one by one, many special people in my life began to pass away. I began attending funerals for people I had known my whole life, and watched as their caskets were lowered into the ground. It is such a final moment when you witness it, and you come to grips with the fact that you will not be seeing them again in this life. They are gone; kept alive only in your heart by all of the fond memories they have left behind.

This reality of death was finally brought home to me when I lost my oldest sister a few years back. We were a year apart in age and grew up together, hay-seed kids living out in the country. She was tough as nails as a result, and I have the scars to prove it. We were close growing up, but we drifted apart as we grew older due to our own families and children, and as a consequence of her having moved away to another town. When she died, it was not the weekend or holiday visits that I remembered while attending her funeral. It was not a harsh word or two that we may or may not have passed to each other at some other point in time. I remembered her and me playing in the fields and woods around our house when we were kids. I remembered the time she taught me to drive, and many occasions when she ratted me out for things I thought mom would never find out about. I thought about the time I liked this girl in 6th grade and did not have the courage to tell her, so my sister told her for me. Then she threatened my life if I did not go and talk to the girl - I recall her exact words were ‘stop being so shy, stupid!’ When we were young and I had a problem with bullies in school, she was always there to take care of them for me. These are the memories of her that I will keep – memories of a time when we were young and long before our adult lives got in the way.

She’s gone now, and sooner or later my own time will come. Because of my faith, it does not worry me in the least. I’m assured of where I am going and how I will spend eternity. I believe it is important to have that comfort as well as the security that comes through your faith, because I can’t imagine how life could be bearable without it. I’m not looking to encounter Nirvana or Valhalla when I reach the other side, because I believe it will be better than that. Paul writes: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

It won’t be so bad.
Me and Danna

The Truth

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax –
Of cabbages -- and kings.”

A promise of a better life. A promise of excitement and an escape from the mundane. A promise that I will be fulfilled with the result, and the only cost involved will be an acceptance on my part. A promise that there is no reward for doing the right thing, but then again, no consequence for doing the wrong thing, either. A promise that sin is only relative to the person that commits it. A promise that I will, in the end, get the good things in life that I so richly deserve.

Satan makes so many promises to me, and yet he keeps none of them. And despite this, I often simply follow along, much like the oysters in the Lewis Carroll poem posted above. He distracts me with a lot of talk that may seem perfectly logical; filling my heart with reasons why I need what he alone seems to be able to offer. He talks so much. He says so many things. He flatters me with the things that in my fallen state I long to hear. In so doing he lulls me to sleep, unaware that I have been taken down the dark, wrong path yet again. And it is then that I realize it is all of my own doing. It is merely a trap but usually it is much too late when I discover it to be so. Once again, I find myself filleted on the beach and wondering what happened to me.

Jesus, on the other hand, has a still, soft voice. Sometimes it is hard to hear Him over the noise in my own life and the world I in which I reside. To hear his voice I have to stand still and remain quiet. It requires a time for me to be alone in prayer and in the meditation that comes from reading His Word. Jesus does not make empty promises just to see me stumble and fall; he offers me truth. His truth.

Though we may not realize it, there is inside each of us a hunger and a desire for the things that are truthful and honest. And despite our natural, fallen state, it is so. No one wants to be ‘taken for a ride’ by a friends, a co-worker, a spouse, their children, or even Satan himself. When someone proves themselves to be chronically untrustworthy, we shun them. At the very least we are less apt to believe what they tell us later on. This can also become a problem for us when we realize that we have a tendency to be less than honest ourselves. As the years roll by, we can end up much like Pilate, wondering aloud, “What is truth?”

As a Christian, I understand the grace that comes from knowing Jesus personally in my heart. I love that grace even though I can scarcely understand or barely comprehend it. His grace saved me from my sin and has prepared a way for me to be righteous before God. Because of His grace, He has prepared a place for me in Heaven one day.

But there is even more to Jesus than the grace he so abundantly delivered to us: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:2

Jesus brought grace to mankind and the blessing of salvation that comes with it. But He also brought truth. Without that truth, His promises would be nearly as empty as the ones put forth by Satan that I mentioned above. It was a package plan: Without truth, there can be no grace, and without grace, there can be no truth.

Jesus is the truth. I do my best to ponder upon that when the voice of Satan begins ‘talking many things’ to me, making those empty promises that I know he will never keep.


There are so many religions out there to choose from, and each one offers some method of proof as to why they are the true religion one should follow. The Hindu religion seeks a better way to live for all of us. Islam is a study of The Prophet via the Koran, and through them both we learn that what we do in this life will affect us in the life that is to come. Christianity has the Bible and offers salvation from the coming judgment of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The Jews have a unique religion of their own based on an observance of the Law of Moses as taught by the Torah.

There is a Wiccan religion that revolves around ‘white magic’ and a study of nature with a belief in the ‘earth mother’. Even atheists, though they would never admit it, choose to follow a form of religion of their own. By their very denial of a higher being, they appear to have found one in evolution, science, and secular humanism.

I know there are many more, but you have probably caught my drift here. And as a modern society we are told that we must be tolerant of each individual’s belief-system. It also appears to be a common thread today that there are, in fact, many different ways to get to Heaven. In that regard we are advised to be non-judgmental in discussions of such, or face the consequences of being dismissed as a ‘bigot’ or far worse.

As a Christian, I’ve also noticed that tolerance is specifically required of Christians, but need not apply to other religions. Why? It is because Christians are supposedly narrow-minded and are described as such by the media, politicians, and others in authority. We believe in only one way to Heaven, as promised by Jesus, Himself, in John 14:6. By trusting in the Bible we have drawn the ire of a society that prides itself on being able to accept any alternative belief as well as no belief at all. And as a result, our country now finds itself no longer ‘One nation under God’ but a nation under many gods. Allah is not God, nor is Buddha or Vishnu. Satan is not God, and neither is our government. Though they all may be worshipped as such, in the end they offer little hope and no answer for what we see taking place in our nation today.

Thinking on this subject, I have a mental picture of what it must have been like on Mount Carmel a long time ago. It was a time for sacrifice; a nation was in trouble due to unusual weather patterns, threats of invasion, and political corruption. The people met on the mountain to request help from a higher being during that perilous time. Altars had been set up, the people were ready, and the priests of false gods were making their rounds and exhorting the people into an emotional frenzy. But there was one prophet of God on the scene, facing all of those priests that were arrayed against him. His voice boomed out across the dry valley, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” The Bible says that when he said this, the ‘people answered him not a word.’ They no longer knew who to follow by this time in their history. Things were that bad in Israel back then – almost as bad as they seem to be in our own country today.

It was a showdown on the mountain; Elijah and the God of Abraham versus four hundred and fifty prophets and a god called Baal. The story is found in I Kings chapter 18. In the end, it was God who answered with fire from Heaven, and caused it to rain afterward for the first time in three years. Baal and his prophets proved they had no power, and thus they were exposed in front of all of Israel that day.

Somehow, my mind keeps returning to Elijah’s challenge to the people, and how it still applies to us today. If God is God, then we, as a nation, should follow and put our trust in Him. But if these other gods, like Allah, Vishnu, or even Satan hold the key, then we should follow them. Either way, a choice must be made. Because God will not share His glory with another god; and we cannot ride the fence as a people, a nation, nor even as individuals.

If Elijah were here and broadcast the same challenge to us today, how would we respond? Would we simply stare at him dumbfounded, unable to comprehend what he was saying as a result of our acclimation to our so-called religious tolerance over the years? Or would we stand with him and shout as Israel did later that day, proclaiming that “The Lord, He is the God?”

It is definitely something worth thinking about.

The Inspection

How about one more story of a time when I had a bad haircut? I’ve had my share of them. I have a good stylist (hate that word!) that cuts my hair these days and she does a great job, so I have all-but-adopted-her into my family. You can do that when you find one that does an almost perfect job; it is allowed in my book. But back to the bad haircut…

My time spent in the military was not all that difficult for me. I was good at taking orders because I always figured that if someone was placed in a position of leadership, then they knew what they were doing. That may sound naïve, but sooner or later we all have to trust somebody. I think it was probably early June in 1987 or so, but the person in charge of our group advised us that our base was going to have a special visit for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend – an Admiral from Washington DC of considerable notoriety. Sea-stories abounded of how ruthless he could be when performing dress inspections. It was said that not only would he spend several minutes meticulously going over each person in formation, but in the past he had gone as far as to remove a credit card from his wallet and slide it under the heel of a sailor to ascertain if his shoes were worn beyond specifications. We were admonished not to waste time polishing our brass belt buckles, but to purchase new ones. And we were also told to buy chlora-fram shoes because no amount of polish would ever be enough to escape the judgment of his keen eye. Our group leader reported that the Base Commander had upped the ante by ordering that anyone who failed the inspection would be required to stay on base and perform work details during the holiday. As you can probably guess, we were dismissed from muster that morning with a sense of impending doom surrounding our thoughts and conversations.

For me, the plan of action was obvious. With the trust of a child, I decided that I was going to do exactly as I had been instructed. I went by the exchange and bought a new brass belt buckle and a belt. I also purchased a pair of the recommended, ultra-shiny shoes. My dress uniform was almost new and had been worn only a few times, so I decided I was covered. But as an extra precaution, I dropped the uniform off by the cleaners and had it professionally-pressed, complete with starched creases at all the right locations on the shirt and pants. I may have spent fifty dollars or so (that was a long time ago!), but I could rest easy in knowing that I was fully prepared.

As the weeks went by, more and more rumors began to surface and each new tale seemed to have the ability to top the last one. I began to worry that maybe my extra preparation would still not be enough, and one of my friends was in the same frame of mind. So the week before the scheduled inspection, we drove over to the Navy base, specifically for the purpose of allowing a barber for ‘the few and the proud’ to cut our hair. Words cannot describe the result of our actions even to this date. Of course we were the objects of derision when we returned to our station, and the butt of not-a-few jokes. Our heads were almost shaved, and I believe that the length of our hair was even shorter than it had been back in boot camp. This was all well and good for my partner – he lived on base. I was still living in my hometown and life there was worlds away from my day-to day activities as a member of the Coast Guard. My family was shocked, and I specifically remember that my younger sister cried. She said she ‘felt sorry for me’. I guess I did look pitiful. By the way, there are no surviving pictures of that time in my life - I've managed to destroy the evidence.

A day or so before the scheduled arrival of the Admiral, several things happened that set the rumor-mills spinning around our base yet again. There was trouble in a small country called Grenada, and a big meeting had been planned in Washington involving all of the higher-up brass and muckity-mucks of the military services. It was rumored that the Admiral was not coming, and instead planned on sending one of his staff members to perform the inspection. We breathed a sigh of relief; except for those of us that had gone the extra mile in preparation. I was despondent, thinking that I had spent money and my time preparing in vain and would also have to live with the haircut for quite a few months. All that morning I accepted good-natured slaps on the back and ribbing from my friends because they ‘did not panic’ as I apparently did.

The morning of the inspection dawned hot and humid, as we made our way into formation on the levee behind the Base Office. Through the towering oak trees we watched the front gate, anticipating the arrival of the Admiral’s poge (desk-jockey) who would shortly arrive and inspect us by proxy. Afterward a bar-b-cue had been planned, and then we were all going to be allowed to leave work early and begin the holiday weekend with our families and friends. Morale was high that morning, and everyone spoke of their plans and what they were going to do for the Fourth. It was shaping up to be a good day.

In front of the base, a motorcade appeared on Urquhart Street, and the formation grew silent as we watched it approach. Security did not detain them as they drove straight through the front gate, and an audible moan emanated from our formation as we noted the Admiral’s flag flying from a limousine. He was here, despite the rumors and reports that he was not coming. Ironically, from where we were located, you could see the store-window of the Base Exchange. And located in that window, within our sight and on display, just happened to be brass belt buckles along with shiny new shoes. A journey of fifty-feet or less could have placed any of us inside the store and at the counter, but it was simply too late to take that walk. The Admiral had arrived, he was here on base, and he meant business.

Out of seventy-six sailors in formation that morning, forty-six were gigged for various uniform infractions. Of those forty-six, twenty-five failed the inspection altogether. I passed and if I remember correctly, he barely spent any time on me at all other than to turn to his note-keeper and state ‘ET Petty Officer Johnson, good job’.

But then again, I was prepared for his visit.

There is another inspection coming up for all of us. I am spending my time getting prepared for it now and I hope you are, too. The One who is coming will be much tougher than a mere Coast Guard Rear Admiral, and His verdict will be final once His judgment has been passed. There will be no pleas for clemency, and no second chances will be awarded at that time. How sad it would be to face that day with a pocket-full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. Are you ready?

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelations 20