Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Adullam*

When he saw the blood, repentance and worship ensued. 

Upon entering the dark cave, our eyes catch a distant, flickering light.  It is unclear just how we are able to arrive there so quickly during the night.  A full moon has certainly aided our journey.  Drawing near the light, the men who we’d left to guard the king are alerted to our approach.  

Our bodies are exhausted beyond belief.  My ankle is severely swollen, and the pain is intense.  Eleazar has a shattered forearm from a severe blow he absorbed during the fight.  Most bloodied amongst us is Shammah, but it seems his dark stains are mostly those of other men.  Being steadied to walk only by the support of the extended arms of these men, we are a hobbled mass of cuts and bruises.

“Where is the king?” I inquire of the men. 

“He sleeps,” is the reply, “just beyond the light, behind that rock to the left.”

“Wake him, and meet us at the fire,” I instruct them. 

Awakened, the king walks towards us anxiously, and we bow, offering the basin of water before him.  At first, he begins to laugh, almost uncontrollably.  He shouts words of gratitude and praise.  He raises his arms in triumph, as we have seen him do so many times before.  Our countenance is lifted.  

He draws nearer.  His eyes see the basin, and he rejoices with shouts of praise yet again.  But by the light he more clearly begins to discover our faces - dirty, bruised, scraped and bloodied.  His countenance is quieted.

He stands before us but is now unable to speak.  With his mouth gaping open, his gaze lowers to see our blood soaked garments.  His body trembles, and slowly, he drops to one knee, then the other.  He sobs uncontrollably, it seems.  His hands cover his face.  

“My lord,” I offer after only a short time, “the Almighty One has spared your servants…”

“Our strategy was sound,” I continue, “but a young shepherd boy discovered us soon after his stray lamb found us hiding under a pile of brush as we awaited nightfall.  We spared the boy and instructed him to return home.  Having then moved our position, we waited even longer than we’d first planned.  Finally, we maneuvered slowly, cautiously.  How they knew our objective was the well, we are unsure.  The ambush started just after we had filled the basin.  Of those who attacked us, none were spared.  But they were many, and narrow was our escape.  The shepherd boy reappeared as we fled.  He aided our escape as we hid in his father’s barn the next day, while soldiers searched for us and swarmed the gate.”

Suddenly, our king rent his garment, sternum to shoulders.  He then covers his face with ash he gathers from the nearby fire.  

“Salach,” he cries, arms extended upwards.  “Salach!  Salach!”  He begs now of us, posturing for a response.

“My lord, we forgive you if you insist,” I reply.  “Please, my king, take and drink your water from the basin.  May it comfort your mind and restore your soul.”

A moment passes.  His gaze is fixed upon the basin.  He approaches it and lifts it high over his head.  Although indistinct to our ears, he murmurs what seems to be a prayer.  He overturns the basin, pouring the water on the ground before us.  We are stunned in disbelief. 

At last, he speaks.  

“Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this.  Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?”  

And with his praise offering of the water, we embrace.  Our tears are mixed with laughter.  Our king breaks out in the familiar chorus, and we join him, singing:

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, 
and I am saved from my enemies…”

Several days later, after mending our wounds, we depart the cave and return home to our families.  Pondering that late night by the light of the cave, I am enlightened.  It wasn’t our loyalty, bravery or courage that moved him.  He knew this about us before we were sent.  What moved him to repentance was the sight of our blood.  Our blood drew him out of his own lust.  Our blood brought him to his knees.  Our blood led him to pour out the costly, pure water as an offering.  

When he saw the blood, repentance and worship ensued.

*Partly imagined and partly transcribed, this account is inspired by the historical events of 2 Samuel 23:13-17

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Why I'm "Throwing Away" My Vote




I'm not voting for Donald Trump.

I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton.

I'm not voting for Gary Johnson (pro-abortion platform).

I'm not voting for Jill Stein.

I'm "throwing away" my vote . . . 

 . . . so say many friends whom I love and respect, and whose "right" to vote as they please, I support.

Although I have known a few Christians with convincing liberal and libertarian convictions, most of my friends are staunch conservatives. The latter are my critics.

They have one argument they think "trumps" all others:

Supreme Court appointees.

So, for them, Trump is the only choice. They'll hold their noses and vote for "the Donald."

Not me. 

I could never trust him any more than I could trust Hillary.

I don't like him at all, and I certainly don't respect him. 

I cannot follow him as my leader, and I would not want my sons to follow him as their commander-in-chief.

Even though I ferociously oppose abortion, the Supreme Court argument is not enough to convince me to vote for Donald Trump. That argument is shaky at best, based on a candidate whose "convictions" have wobbled worse than Jude's wandering stars.

No, I'm "throwing away" my vote . . . casting my ballot to the wind . . . 

Why?
  • Because I will not vote for an unprincipled candidate, which characterizes both the Democratic and Republican candidates.
  • Because neither party deserves my vote. 
  • Because my conscience forbids me to vote for either of the major candidates.
Instead, I am voting for a write-in candidate, someone who I think is a morally good and politically wise person, a statesman, and at this moment, more likely a stateswoman.

I am casting a protest vote.

I am casting a principled vote.

I am casting a conscientious vote.

I am casting a vision, not just a vote, rejecting what our nation is, and who its leaders are, casting a vision of what our nation and our leaders should be.

I am casting an idealistic vote. I am an idealist. I believe in ideals. Both candidates offer me ideas, not ideals; in fact, both candidates offer me antitheses of ideals. I do not and will not accept that, or them.

Most of my friends will disagree with me, and some of them will even criticize me.

Disagreement is fine, criticism is fine.

You can even say that I'm wasting or "throwing away" my vote.

But I ask you to please consider the fact that my conscience may actually and forcefully forbid me to vote for either major candidate for moral, political, and philosophical reasons.

That is actually the fact.

I hope you'll respect that.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Driving Through 1,000 Shadows


Today, I drove through 1,000 shadows. 

Maybe more. 

Maybe 100,000 shadows. 

Maybe a million.

Leaving work on my commute home and heading due north, I was perpendicular to the western sun that had just begun to cast shadows across my side of the two-lane highway. I decided I would count the shadows through which I passed. I had a decision to make, though: 

Do I count every shadow? 

"Vapid thought," I soon concluded - too many shadows already and flying by too fast even at 55, especially too many dark clumps of countless shadows that covered hundreds and thousands of feet of concrete, yet broken up so frequently by golden slivers of sunlight that it was impossible to count them all. So I counted the big clumps of light-broken shadows as one.

I also counted the little lonely shadows, like the power-line shadows that fell straight across the road, and the partial shadows cast by the fast cars that said hello to my windshield. brushed against my fender, and then waved goodbye in my rear-view mirror. Every time I passed through a shadow, I would count. 

Of course the shadows were deeper and thicker in the valleys, and shallower and thinner on the hilltops.

But after only a few miles I was weary with counting shadows. I stopped counting after passing through a thousand.

I re-learned a few things today on my home-bound journey passing through those shadows.

For instance, shadows won't muss your hair, not even a single hair. 

Shadows won't wrinkle your pants like a puppy or ripple your shirt like the wind.

And you don't feel shadows. 

I mean, your eyes feel their effect and that's pleasant on a ninety-five degree autumn afternoon in East Texas, but shadows are not the things they represent. The substance of shadows doesn't touch you. No leaf touched me, no massive tree trunk, not even two tons of speeding steel whizzing by. I didn't feel a thing. It was only shadows, and I just drove right through them, every single one.

I also re-learned that on the other side of every shadow is a shaft of golden light that paints the waiting world anew in vivid colors bright.

Light begins where shadows end.

Heck, shadows couldn't even exist without light; in fact, shadows are the proof of light, as is darkness.

Plato knew that.

Again, I thought to myself: "I wonder if that other guy was thinking about this, thinking about the harmlessness of shadows, the painlessness of shadows, the swiftness of shadows, and the certainty of golden light beyond the shadows' edge when he wrote these words,"

"I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, . . . "

I thanked God.