Category Archives: Faith/ Inspirational

The Day of the Son

Every year since 1997, people in North Korea have celebrated April 15th as “The Day of the Sun”. It’s apparently the most important holiday the nation has where they celebrate the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday.  He was the founder of North Korea and its former president, who—were he still alive and kicking—would be 105 years old.

The citizens of North Korea go all out for The Day of the Sun with a big parade where children get candy. But don’t look for floats made of paper flowers or clowns from the Shriner’s Club trying to get some laughs out of spectators by driving around in tiny cars.  This parade is highlighted by showing off its weapons of war.  Lots of them. Current president Kim Jong Un was there and he’s all about the fire power.

As all this took place yesterday, Christians here and around the world prepared to celebrate a different kind of power—the resurrection power of Jesus Christ—on this day, Easter Sunday.  After remembering his suffering and violent death on Good Friday, we wait through the silence of Saturday to get to the joy of Sunday morning.

What a striking contrast of two celebrations.  One that remembers a man who started a communist nation and celebrates by flaunting its military might that could wipe out millions of lives in mere moments.  The other, held in gratitude and remembrance for a man who was God in the flesh—Jesus, the Son of God.  Believers all over the world celebrate not so much the death of Jesus, but His life.  What makes it so different is the empty tomb.

The man celebrated by North Koreans this weekend died and he stayed dead.  His bones are still lying in his grave. But, with the power of God His Father, Jesus the Son rose again on the third day, and the Good News is—He’s alive and His Spirit lives in anyone who puts their faith in Him to forgive their sins.  Jesus, the One Who Saves, beat death once and for all…and because of Him, so can we.

Now that’s real power—and that’s something to celebrate.

Happy Easter!

For Christmas Geeks Only

It’s almost Christmas and nothing’s more fun than being with family, baking, eating and watching all those old Christmas movies.  In the spirit of the season, here’s some Christmas trivia, mostly from films, to impress/ entertain/ bore your friends and family over the holidays.

It doesn’t get much better than It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):  Proving that even a director with incredible talent can overlook some things, Frank Capra missed this one:  when Clarence is showing George Bailey what life would have been like without him, he takes him to his younger brother’s grave, telling him that Harry fell through the ice and died at the age of nine.  However, on the tombstone, Harry Bailey’s years of life are shown as 1911-1919, which means he could have been no older than eight when he died.

A Christmas Story (1983):  One of the most famous scenes from this classic film is when one of Ralphie’s school pals, Flick, is “triple-dog-dared” into putting his tongue against a frosty flag pole to prove that it will stick.  In order to make Flick’s tongue stick to the pole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal.  Another bit of trivia:  director Bob Clark makes an appearance as one of the neighbors who comes out to gawk at The Old Man’s “major award” in the hilarious unveiling of The Leg Lamp.  He’s the guy who says, “Damn, hell- you say you won it?”

…which brings us to Elf (2003) where Peter Billingsley, who played young Ralphie in A Christmas Story makes an uncredited appearance as Ming Ming, the Head Elf.  Also, if you ever thought, while you watched this movie, that certain things looked very familiar, you were onto something.  The design for Santa’s workshop, all of the elf costumes and most of the animals in the North Pole were mirror images of those from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the much-loved Christmas special that has aired every year since its debut in 1964.

But Rudolph’s story had been around since 1939 when it was created for an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward.  The song about Rudolph was first recorded by Gene Autry and hit #1 on Billboard’s pop chart during the week of Christmas in 1949.

Gene Autry recorded another Christmas classic, “Here Comes Santa Clause” that gets featured toward the end of Christmas Vacation (1989) when the Clark Griswold home is ransacked by the S.W.A.T. Team.  Earlier on, when Clark gets locked in a cold attic while everyone’s out shopping, he passes the time watching old films from family Christmases past.  Look closely and you can see the front of the house from the 1960’s series Bewitched in Clark’s home movie.

Chevy Chase was just one of many actors considered for the part of Kevin McCallister’s (Macauley Culkin) dad in Home Alone (1990).  That part eventually went to John Heard.  In the scene where Kevin grabs his brother’s pet tarantula in order to scare bungling crook Marv (played by Daniel Stern), they were originally using a mechanical spider.  It was decided the fake bug looked too fake, so Stern agreed to do just one take with the real thing, which Kevin drops onto his face, causing him to scream like a girl.  Stern made the wise decision to mimic the scream so as not to spook the spider, and his scream was added in during post-production.

Perhaps no other story of Christmas has been told more often or in more ways than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  His tale of redemption just celebrated its 170th anniversary (it was published on December 19, 1843).  An interesting piece of trivia is that Dickens himself had some things in common with Mr. Scrooge.  Like the famous miser, Dickens lost his favorite sister Fanny, who died, not in childbirth as Scrooge’s sister did, but of tuberculosis.  Her son, Henry was crippled and was Dickens’ inspiration for the character of Tiny Tim.

What better way to close out this stocking full of Christmas trivia than with some tidbits from what many people, myself included, consider to be the most-loved Christmas special ever.  When its director saw a rough cut of A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), he was sure he had a flop on his hands.  There was no laugh track, as was typical of animated specials of the day, and director Bill Melendez had tried to get Peanuts creator Charles M Schultz to take out the Biblical references—particularly Linus’ speech from Luke 2.  Reportedly, Schultz won him over by asking, “If we don’t do it, who will?”   CBS executives were also nervous at the prospect of an animated Christmas special with such a blatant message.  In spite of all this, the message remained, and that scene with Linus has become highly acclaimed, with multiple generations still enjoying this classic year after year.  Only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can top it in longevity as far as television Christmas specials go.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

…and as Linus said, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Charlie Brown Christmas- 1965

A Charlie Brown Christmas- 1965

Out of the Ashes

The Cross at Ground Zero in June 2002

The Cross at Ground Zero in June 2002

On September 11, 2001 Sujo John sat at his desk on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. He could hardly believe what the past several months had brought. Having wed Mary in January of 2000, he was still a newlywed and she was four months pregnant with their first child.  Just six months before, the two had left their native Calcutta, India with only $50, a couple of suitcases and dreams of a better, more prosperous life in the United States. In that short time in America, the two had landed good jobs.  Mary worked nearby—on the 71st floor of the WTC’s South Tower.

As he sat typing an email to a friend from church, Sujo confided that he believed God wanted more for him. Having read the Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, Sujo wrote, “I’ve been chasing stuff in America. I want to be used of God.”  He finished his email and hit “send”.  It was 8:05 on a beautiful Tuesday morning, and it was time to start working. About 40 minutes later, Sujo was sending a fax and heard a huge explosion that we now know was American Airlines Flight 11 striking the North Tower between the 94th and 98th floors.

Down on his floor, Sujo watched as the world seemed to crumble around him- a huge hole allowed him to see ten floors up.  The building shook violently, walls started to fall apart and jet fuel from the planes caused fires to break out everywhere, making every minute more treacherous for those in the building. Sujo made his way to the stairs along with his co-workers and thousands of other workers in the building.  He remembers the people’s faces saying the “fear of death was written on the face of everyone.”

A short time later, he heard another loud crash when United Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower around the 81st floor, just ten floors up from where Mary worked.  Wondering whether he would get out alive, he was now more worried about what was happening with her.  Sujo tried to use his cell phone and those of people escaping down the stairs with him, but he couldn’t get through to her.  By the time he made it to the ground level of the tower, an area called The Plaza, the horrors of that day really hit Sujo.  Normally, The Plaza was a bustling, lively place, but what Sujo saw was beyond human comprehension.  He said, “This place of life, this place of just exuberance where life would be celebrated has now been turned into a place of death, a place of destruction, as I see hundreds of bodies of people that jumped out of those buildings, people who were in those planes.”

As time ticked away and he made his way through the chaos, away from the North Tower towards the South Tower, he felt the ground beneath his feet begin to rumble. Sujo described feeling as if he were being “sucked into a vacuum” as he heard the roar as the upper floors of the South Tower began to crumble.  He stopped momentarily and huddled with a group of 15 or 20 people and suddenly became very concerned of what would become of them if they all died without hearing about Jesus.

Until this point in his life, Sujo described himself as a “closet Christian”, keeping his faith to himself and never sharing what he believed about Jesus Christ.  Now facing death, Sujo found a boldness he never had and began praying out loud, crying out the name of Jesus.  He then realized those people he was with were also joining him in unison as he prayed.  He went on from there, stumbling through the dust and debris, covered in soot and wondering what became of Mary.

After the dust settled somewhat, Sujo decided to try to crawl back to the group of people he had prayed with a short time earlier, only to find they had not made it, and had been crushed by the hurricane-force wind and debris cloud caused by the South Tower’s collapse.  Downhearted and questioning God as to why He would allow him to survive and not them, Sujo said he felt God’s presence and believed those people were at peace now.  After the North Tower followed its twin and imploded, Sujo was shocked and couldn’t believe he was still alive.  He found himself out in the street, certain his beloved Mary was gone.

After wandering into a shop, he met a young woman who helped pull bits of glass out of his hair and offered to call someone for him.  Just as he handed his phone to her, it began to ring for the first time in many hours.  It was about noon by this time, and the clerk handed the phone back to Sujo.  The caller ID said it was from Mary’s number, but he was certain it was going to be the worst news…that someone was calling from her phone to let him know she didn’t survive.

He was wrong.  When he answered, he heard Mary’s voice.  She told him she had wanted to get to work early that day, but ended up running late.  When they reunited that night, they made a vow to each other and to God that they would make every day of their lives count.  Sujo prayed for God to “rewrite the history of my life”.  He knew that he and Mary had not come to America just to make money, pursue success or have financial security.  He believed that what was important to God was people…all people.

Fifteen years later, Sujo and Mary live near Dallas with their three children and have started an organization called You Can Free Us.  This organization works to abolish the modern-day slavery of human trafficking by rescuing women and children forced into prostitution in the U.S. and around the world. As 21st century abolitionists, Sujo and Mary have made good on their promise to God and have taken their message of survival and hope to people of all ages all over the world.

Sujo, Mary and their children

Sujo, Mary and their children

Lost Ground Zero Flag Returns to NYC

Firefighters raise a flag at the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as work at the site continues after hijackers crashed two airliners into the center. (AP Photo/The Record, Thomas E. Franklin)

Famous flag finally home at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York   (AP Photo/The Record, Thomas E. Franklin)

In the 15 years since the terrorist attacks in New York City, northern Virginia and Shanksville, PA, many stories—real and unreal—have been told.  Over the years, we’ve been intrigued and inspired by stories of heroic actions, strange “coincidences” that kept people from going to work that day, conspiracy theories and miraculous tales of survival.

Perhaps one of the most amazing stories is the one behind the iconic photo of three firefighters raising the American flag among the ruins of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. What most people don’t know about that flag was that it disappeared just hours after it was put in place, only to be found more than a decade later and nearly three thousand miles from where that famed photo was taken.

On September 11, 2001, the three firefighters from Brooklyn—George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein—could never have known what their spontaneous display of patriotism would mean to the nation.  What was their private tribute to honor all of those whose final resting place was a multi-story pile of steel and cement would become an indelible scene that is now etched onto the collective memory of Americans of a tragic day long ago.  So moving was the photo, it was immediately compared to another momentous flag-raising in American history—the one at Iwo Jima during World War II. The photograph earned a Pulitzer Prize and inspired many artists and was captured on a US postage stamp.

The firefighters didn’t know that as they paid their respects and showed their love of country, photographer Thomas E. Franklin was standing nearby and took the photo late that afternoon for the New Jersey newspaper that he worked for at the time.  It appeared in papers all over the world the next day.

Oddly enough, the flag didn’t belong to any of the fire departments working at Ground Zero.  McWilliams had taken it off of a yacht that was docked nearby on the Hudson River—a vessel called Star of America that was owned by a woman named Shirley Dreifus.  He had sawed off the yardarm holding the flag and the three found a pole to display it about 20 feet off the ground.  It disappeared late that night, and no one knew who took it.  It was assumed that the city took possession of it, and a flag owned by the city and believed to be the flag from the photo was signed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki.

That flag made its rounds all over the world.  It was flown at New York City Hall, Yankee Stadium and aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  After its many adventures, the original owner of the Ground Zero flag—Ms. Dreifus—decided to officially turn it over to the city.  That’s when she noticed that the flag she thought came from her yacht was actually a different size than the one she had. She even started a website in an effort to recover her lost flag. CNN also aired a documentary in 2013 about the mystery of the lost Ground Zero flag.  It was during this filming where video evidence was found that confirmed the flag’s disappearance took place the night of 9/11/01 around 11 p.m.

Flash forward to the fall of 2014 when author, history buff and host of the History Channel’s “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” enters the picture. He did a story about the missing flag on the show’s first episode, offering a $10,000 reward to the person who had it to turn it in. A few days later, a man who said he was a Marine named Brian turned it in to a fire station in Everett, Washington–more than 2800 miles from Ground Zero.  That news just came out this week because Brian’s flag had to undergo rigorous testing to verify that it had in fact been the one from Ground Zero. After almost two years of experts conducting their research, it passed every test.

According to a report in the Everett Herald, Brian did not give the firefighters his last name when he turned the flag in and didn’t want the reward money.  He reportedly had gotten the flag from an unnamed worker with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, who had gotten it from one of the 9/11 widows.

Police in Everett have released a composite sketch of the big-hearted Marine named Brian and hope he comes forward to tell the rest of the story of the Ground Zero Flag. The flag was found as mysteriously as it disappeared 15 years ago and now takes its rightful place  at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York just in time for Sunday’s anniversary remembrance.

The History Channel will be airing another special on Sunday night (“America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise From the Ashes”)  hosted by Meltzer and will give all the details on the Ground Zero flag’s strange journey that took it across the country and how the experts were able to verify its authenticity as the flag raised by those three resolute firefighters 15 years ago.

Golden Girls

It’s been a long, hot summer full of tragedies and triumphs. Just when you feel like you can’t take another day of the latest presidential election news, scandals and lies told by politicians and their political cronies—along came the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio like a cool breeze off the water on a stifling hot day.

Even if you don’t particularly follow the games, it would be hard not to be amazed by the results of years of hard work these athletes from all over the world exhibit in their competitions. Sure, the Olympics in Rio have had their share of low points like the earlier reports of bio-hazardous pools and rivers and the fake hold-up story from last weekend involving American swim team members.

Aside from those, Team USA has certainly shown up and out:  as of now, US athletes have won the most medals of any nation—111 in all, including 40 gold. One of the most successful athletes from this Olympics is first-time Olympian Simone Biles, a 19-year-old gymnast. Her strength and amazing ability to do multiple twists, turns and flips seem to defy the laws of gravity. Biles will go home to Texas with five medals—four gold and one bronze—and most likely will be getting some lucrative endorsement opportunities as well.

That’s not too bad for a young lady who had a pretty rough start in life. Born to a drug- and- alcohol-addicted mother, Biles was raised and later adopted—along with her younger sister—by her maternal grandparents. Faith and family supported her on her path to gold, and during tomorrow’s closing ceremonies in Rio, Biles will have the honor of carrying the American flag.

Another medalist that made headlines was beach volleyball team member Kerri Walsh Jennings. A veteran of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics where she won gold medals, Walsh Jennings will leave Rio with a bronze medal. She raised the collective ire of liberal feminists everywhere—not an amazing fete—because she had the audacity to share with NBC during an interview that she was “born to have babies and play volleyball.”

Not only that, but Walsh Jennings gave credit to her children for inspiring her and giving her a new perspective saying, “It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.” Ouch…in the mind of some, you just don’t flaunt motherhood above your exceptional athletic abilities. Feminists lit up the Twitter universe complaining that NBC would run such an interview. Lefty online magazine Salon had one exasperated writer gripe “…I could do without upbeat stories on what great moms some Olympians are…” as she bemoans how female athletes are covered in the sports media.

That writer would absolutely hate the story of one female track star who likely would have graced a medal podium but for the fact that she and her husband had an unplanned pregnancy that caused her to get a little behind in her training for the Olympics. As a result, she didn’t qualify for the Olympic trials in July. Had Sarah Brown been of the same mindset as the writer from Salon, she would have “taken care of business” and gone on with her training. She chose motherhood above the Olympics and ended up with a baby girl instead of a gold medal. Not a bad choice in my humble opinion, but it must be quite a blow to femi-nazis who get tired of upbeat mom stories.

Finally, 19-year-old Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal for Team USA during the 2016 Olympics. The chances are pretty good that Hillary Clinton and other liberal feminists won’t be tweeting about her accomplishments anytime soon since she won in the women’s ten meter air rifle competition. Thrasher had originally wanted to be a figure skater, but realized as a young teen that she just didn’t excel in that. She switched to shooting after going hunting with her grandfather, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Final Five of the US women's gymnastics team receive their gold medals in Rio.

The Final Five of the US women’s gymnastics team receive their gold medals in Rio.

Interview With a Songwriter- “One Nation Over God”

One Nation Over God grfx

As we celebrate the 240th birthday of the U.S.A., we’re standing on the brink of another presidential election, terrorist threats now loom regularly here and abroad, and many feel like there’s no reason to trust that God’s got this anymore. Have the American people—as a whole—declared their independence from what our Founding Fathers often referred to as “Divine Providence”?

Recently, Nashville singer and songwriter Stephanie Layne took a few minutes to answer some questions about a song she co-wrote titled “One Nation Over God” that talks about this very idea of our nation being much different than what the Founders had in mind in 1776.

Liberty Bell Blog: How did “One Nation Over God” come about?

Stephanie Layne: Heading into a presidential election year, we were discussing the political and moral climate in which we found ourselves. When we got around to throwing out potential song ideas, I said, “What do you think about One Nation Over God”?  It was one of those rare moments when there was no hesitation for any of us. That’s the song we wanted to write!  There are a lot of people in this country who have a growing sense of loss, sadness, and even outrage that the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded and became a great nation have slowly eroded– and now are even being brazenly cast aside.  We wanted to take a stand with Americans who believe we are headed down the wrong path. This song is our way of letting our voice be heard, but is also offered in the hope of stirring the voices of so many in this country who want to speak up and stand up for the ideals and values that have characterized America for almost two and a half centuries.

LBB: Who was involved with you in writing this song?

SL:  Debbie Hall, Jason Wyatt, and Monte King, all Nashville songwriters. I’ve been writing with these great friends and songwriters for years.

LBB:  What kind of reception has the song gotten so far?

SL: “One Nation Over God” resonated so much with the message of North Carolina Congressional candidate Chris Hardin’s movement that he adopted the song as an official campaign to rally supporters. Sadly, he recently lost in the primary.

LBBThere’s one part where it says “under-educated, making choices we can’t take back” that really stuck with me…I’d be interested to hear what inspired that part?

SL:  We were concerned about some of the bad choices our government has made that could jeopardize the safety and security of American citizens.  Also the school systems are not up to the standards of other countries.  Many Americans are uninformed, being taught political correctness and socialistic ideas rather than hitting on math and history, and especially ignorant of the U.S. Constitution.

LBBWhat do you hope will happen with this song?

SL:  This song is my ministry. Our goal is to make people think and understand that morally, spiritually, and ethically we’re headed down the wrong path…that we need to get back to being a country that is One Nation Under God. We would love a commercial country or Christian cut.  To hear it on the radio as a number one single would be an amazing dream come true.  The song has been pitched to Franklin Graham, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Chris Tomlin, Darryl Worley, and Andy Griggs.

LBB:  Any plans for a video? 

SL:  U.S. Congressional candidate Chris Hardin made a campaign YouTube video in his hometown that has received almost 9K views.  Jason Wyatt’s church in Texas made a lyric video that has received almost 8K views.  We have plans to produce our Official “One Nation Over God” music video in the near future.

LBBWill you be performing it this summer anywhere?

SL:  I will be performing it at the National Day of the Cowboy in Humboldt, Kansas this month (July 22-23).  RFD-TV show “Best of America by Horseback” will be on location and filming the event.  Horse enthusiasts from all over the country will ride the trails and enjoy western music from Del Shields—co-host of the show—and as I said I’ll be there too.

LBBIs there anything else you would want readers to know?

SL “One Nation Over God” is available on all worldwide digital distribution companies–iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, etc. Also, there are two versions of the song.  The male version was sung by my co-writer Jason Wyatt, with my harmonies.  I recorded the song on my newly-released album, Eclectic.

NOTE:  Stephanie Layne’s music is available at www.stephanielayne.com, all worldwide digital distribution companies, and—if you’re in the Nashville area—the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Store. Visit the “One Nation Over God” Official Website at www.OneNationOverGodSong.com.

Thanks to Stephanie and the other writers of this moving song for your hard work and inspiration. I encourage everyone to check it out, download it and share it. Have a Happy & Safe Independence Day!

 

Everyday Heroes

dadsday2

Fathers sometimes get the short end of the stick.  After more than a couple of decades where popular culture has often made them look like know-nothing chuckleheads, or an accessory—instead of a necessary part of a child’s life—the image of fathers has taken a beating. That could be partly because of the culture, and partly because of the fact that some people don’t have a positive experience with fathers.  Maybe they had one who was absent, either physically or emotionally.  After all, most men can father a child but not all men can be a Dad.

Those are the fathers that are celebrated this weekend:  the fathers and father figures in our lives, who raised us, guided us and protected us as we grew up.

Marine Captain Jeff Kuss was a father of two young children.  He grew up wanting to fly fighter jets and saw his dream come true.  He was a member of the Blue Angels, an elite team of Navy and Marine aviators who perform in airshows  A couple of weeks ago, while practicing for a Blue Angels performance for an airshow in Tennessee, his jet crashed and Capt. Kuss lost his life.  It’s believed that he did not eject himself from the aircraft on purpose in order to save the lives of innocent people on the ground.  The area of Smyrna, Tennessee where Capt. Kuss was flying was a heavily-populated area filled with apartments, offices and people who were just there to watch the Blue Angels practice.  In staying with his plane, as fighter pilots are trained to do when the possibility of hitting civilians exists, Capt. Kuss died a hero.  A dad and a patriot doing what comes naturally to dads—sacrificing and protecting.  But most would never call themselves heroes.  They’re just doing what good dads do.

Your dad may never have flown a fighter jet. Most likely, he earned his living doing things the world sees as less spectacular and less heroic than a Blue Angel.  If your dad was an accountant, a plumber or a farmer, it doesn’t matter.  Great dads and heroes can be found in humble places.

My dad wasn’t a pilot, though he did serve his country honorably in the Air Force during the Korean War.  But to me and my six brothers and sisters, he was a hero.  He worked very hard—at times working multiple jobs—to provide for us.  Later in life, once he got his first computer and taught himself to use it, he became a writer.  He never would have called himself a writer (I don’t think), but he wrote short opinion pieces to his local newspaper from a conservative viewpoint.

I always told my dad he should start a blog, but he wasn’t interested.  So after he passed away in 2012, I wanted to share some of his wisdom from those articles on the Liberty Bell Blog, and a couple of those have been posted here and here over the years.  I encourage you to read them because it’s amazing how much he could see of where the country was headed.  I have a notebook of my dad’s that he kept near his computer where he wrote down websites and notes on things he was researching.   But most of the pages in the notebook are filled with quotes from famous people, mostly of our nation’s Founding Fathers.  Here’s one from Samuel Adams that he must have found important at the time, and I think speaks volumes about where we are now:  “The general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.”

Dad’s notebook isn’t much to look at—it’s really only a part of a notebook that doesn’t even have the front cover on it, and slips of paper with other random notes falling out of it.  It could have easily been thrown away as a list of websites that may or may not still exist.  To me it’s priceless.  What makes it valuable is what’s inside, because it has things written in Dad’s own hand that were important to him:  his notes for his articles, websites he used for his research and ones he just liked to visit regularly…and the quotes.  Wisdom from the Founding Fathers that my father found noteworthy.  That reminds me of a t-shirt that he used to wear that had one of his favorite quotes on it from the Bible, from Ecclesiastes 10:2:  “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.”  Sounds like a conservative blogger to me.

I keep that t-shirt and the unassuming, partial notebook written by my hero who’s now in heaven…  but I would have kept it even if it had only been a list of websites that may or may not still exist.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

The United Colors of Light

prism copy

Today is Flag Day.  Instead of seeing the colors of Old Glory waving proudly, on this Flag Day, most flags are flying at half-staff due to the events at an Orlando nightclub Saturday night when a lone terrorist used a gun to kill 49 innocent people and injured more than 50 others before being shot by police. It was the worst terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.

Fort Hood. Boston. Chattanooga. San Bernardino.  Orlando. Will it ever be time to take Islamic extremists at their word when they say “crazy” things like “Death to America!”?  Or when they promise us after every attack in Europe that they’re coming here to do the same?  When they tell us they are and will continue to infiltrate themselves into the populations of oppressed refugees that legitimately fear for their lives in their homelands?  Why do those who think they know better than us always brush these hate-filled words under the carpet, then whine about needing more gun laws to prevent such tragedies?  As if more laws (instead of enforcing the ones we already have) were the answer.  It wouldn’t have kept the Orlando terrorist from doing what he did.

Some people are even trying to blame Christians for the attack due to The Pulse nightclub being a gay bar. A nut from the ACLU claimed that all of the bills in various states coming out in recent months to protect Christian businesses from lawsuits when they don’t want to participate in same-sex “weddings” are to blame for ratcheting up the hatred against homosexuals.

It’s not about guns…or wedding cakes…it’s not even about being gay (though in this particular incident, that’s the likely motivation for picking this target).  It’s about those who hate our way of life so much, they want it to disappear.

The Elephant in the Room is this:  evil exists and it seeks to destroy.  Just because you refuse to acknowledge it as such doesn’t make it go away. All Westerners– whether here in the US, in Canada, Europe or wherever—have a real enemy in political Islam and those who practice it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian, Jew or a Muslim who isn’t the right kind of Muslim.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight or what color skin you have.  It is about radical Islam, though you’ll never hear the president use that phrase.  We may not be at war with them, but they sure as heck are at war with us. .  All you have to do is take them at their word.

Here’s an example. In April of this year, WFTV 9 in Orlando broke a story about an Islamic imam who was coming to speak at the local mosque. A little investigation into this imam found that he had some pretty radical beliefs and was caught on tape back in 2013 expressing those views.  That imam, Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, is on tape saying how he would deal with homosexuals:  “Death is the sentence. We know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this, death is the sentence…We have to have that compassion for people, with homosexuals, it’s the same, out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”

Now why didn’t that get any national news coverage back in April?  Given the events of Saturday night/Sunday morning, it seems particularly chilling and is not unlike what Adolf Hitler said of them back in his day.

The guy who shot up The Pulse nightclub saw the world through a prism of hate.  Twisted, disturbed, inhumane.  The only thing that can conquer this kind of darkness is light. The homosexual movement uses the rainbow colors as their flag of solidarity.  When the colors of the rainbow pass through a prism, what comes out the other side is pure, white light—focused and sharp as a laser.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to be that light–to focus more on what we have in common and stand for one another’s right to live, to be free, to speak our minds without fear of being made into some sort of hate-monger.  Unless, of course, like the previously-mentioned imam–you are a hate-monger who talks about killing people.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but can we not at least agree that all lives really do matter, and that the time is coming—and may already be here—when we need to stand together against darkness?

The people who died in Orlando were somebody’s daughters and sons. Whether they were gay or not doesn’t make a difference, just as such things as political party, sexual orientation or skin color didn’t matter in the days after the Twin Towers fell.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sacrifice

Arlington

Some women veterans of World War II who had been denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery are now allowed that honor.  Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill permitting female pilots—known as WASPS—the high honor of being buried in what really is sacred ground.

According to Stars and Stripes, members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots have been working to right this wrong since the Army last year reinterpreted a law from the 1970s that banned them from Arlington burials as a way to deal with the increasingly limited space there.  These brave Fly Girls were trained pilots who transported combat aircraft from 1942-1944, but were not considered active-duty service members at the time.

Thank goodness that was remedied, and the WASPS have since been given the Congressional Gold Medal and veteran benefits for their service.  They stepped into roles outside of the norm for women, and should be recognized for that.  This really has nothing to do with the controversy over women in combat roles.  I don’t personally believe that’s the proper role for women, but they do have a place if they choose to have one within the military.

I once knew a guy who was a veteran who used to refer to female Marines as “WOMAN Marines”.  But he said it with a certain amount of disdain in his voice as if their service was somehow less than his own.  I got the impression he didn’t see them as fellow Marines who just happened to be female.  It’s like the ignorant boss who looks down on his secretary without getting a clue that she (or he for that matter) makes his job easier (if he or she is good at what they do).

I give that above example just as a way to explain that all veterans—male and female—have given something of themselves to preserve the ideas of the American experiment.  They just do it in different ways.  Most gave at least some of their time in their youth, their innocence; some lost limbs, sanity or relationships…others gave their lives.  Even those who served in situations where they weren’t in danger should have our gratitude so long as they did it with honor.

There’s a sign outside of a veterans’ hospital in the area I grew up in that  has this statement:  “The price of freedom is visible here.”  It can’t be said too often that freedom isn’t free—it always costs someone something.  That’s true if we’re talking about the freedom we have within our nation, and the freedom we need within ourselves.

Today is Good Friday.  Many Christians remember an even greater sacrifice that was made for all people of all times by the only One who could have made it.  It wasn’t to save men from the clutches of an evil dictator or repressive government, but to save people from ourselves and the consequences of the sin we were all born into.  Jesus died once for all of us to save us from an eternity apart from Him.

It didn’t take an act of Congress to do it…we just need to believe it.

Price of Freedom

Look Up

The Christmas Moon won't be back until 2034

The Christmas Moon won’t be back until 2034

Christmas these days seems to stress people out more than give them the joy that it was meant to give. As people get busier and busier, they find themselves always looking down: at the next text message, the next email, the next status update on Facebook. What has all this racing around, looking down at some electronic device done? Could it be that the stress so often accompanying this time of year is of our own making? It’s made us forget times that were simpler…Christmases past that seemed to hold more magic, more beauty, more imagination.

Maybe it’s time to stop looking down for a while and start to notice things again. Today we have a Christmas Moon—a rare event– a full moon on Christmas Day. It’s the first time in nearly four decades that that has happened, and it won’t happen again for another 19 years.   The sky was beautiful last night, and the moon was bright. It’s not politically correct any more to say “Merry Christmas” or to even use THAT WORD in some places (like our public schools), but last night’s sky, at least where I was, reminded me of that first Christmas that gave us this opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ every year.

Even though we don’t know the exact date of the Savior’s birth, it still started with a starry night and Wise Men from the East who had been observing the nighttime skies and studying ancient prophesies for quite some time before they noticed one star in particular. It seemed to be different from the others—bigger, brighter, and more magnificent. So they followed it, for what may have been as long as 2 years after the actual birth. When they found the Young King and His parents, they presented him with precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Regular folks like shepherds found Him too (even sooner than the learned mean of means did)…and the Bible tells us the child’s mother treasured all of these things in her heart. She took nothing for granted, and I can imagine that every year that went by as he grew into a boy, then a man, that she looked back with awe and fondness on the Holy Night when she first held her child in her arms.

It’s often said, “Christmas is for kids”. How wrong people are who say that. I don’t think you can really appreciate all that this season and this day has to offer until you have some wisdom of years behind you. You may not remember every gift you got for Christmas over the years, but you most likely will recall the stories of Christmases past—funny or poignant moments that you talk about together around a table full of good things to eat. Stories that are told year after year and they never seem to get old—some get even better with each retelling. Like the young woman Mary of the manger scene, you’ve been storing up those treasures of memories in your heart. They don’t get old, wear out, need batteries or fall apart after 3 days.

If you’ve been stressed out for the last several days or weeks because you were preparing for this day, consider trying something new next year: re-focus on what Christmas really is about. Before this becomes Christmas past, set aside the distractions and look around you. Return to the manger, Follow the star.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!