Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Chat with General Hiram Ulysses Grant

I had a great conversation with the man enacting General Grant at the Appomattox Court House surrender reenactment. He looked a LOT like the pictures I have seen of the General.  General Grant talked a lot about this youth.  His father, who, from the General's viewpoint was pretty tough guy, called him, "Lyss", which I found endearing.

I asked the General about how he ended up at the US Military Academy, which also prompted the story of how his name got messed up.  Ulysses' Dad got in his mind that his son was very well suited to military life and command and decided he needed to go to West Point.  Unfortunately Mr. Grant was NOT on good terms with his local Congressman, and a Congressional appointment was, and is, still required for admission to the academies. But, somehow the senior Mr. Grant swallowed his pride and requested an appointment to USMA for his son.  The Congressman obliged, but NOT knowing Hiram U Grant's full name, assumed the son was Ulysses Simpson (his mother's maiden name) Grant- which of course gave his the appealing initials of "U.S." Grant.

Well, as soon as the appointment was set, that night at the dinner table, Lyss' father informed his son that he was headed to West Point for his education.  the young Grant took umbrage at this idea and informed his father that indeed he WOULD NOT go the USMA.  But... upon further reflection, the young Ulysses, whose name had been change unbeknownst to him, decided that perhaps he should indeed honor his father.

So,  on 1 July (the day and month I write) 1843 U.S. Grant graduated 21st in his class from USMA (out of 39 graduates). I might guess that this inauspicious beginning might have led me to predict that little would come of the military career of this "mid-pack" graduate, but once again, I would be bad wrong. Though he was perhaps NOT one of our greatest U.S. Presidents, he certainly distinguished himself in leading a war which preserved the Union. But even MORE REMARKABLY, General Grant was WISE enough to Treat the surrendered Confederate Army with extreme dignity.  This may have been his GREATEST achievement.

Think about it- showing grace and mercy could also be one of OUR OWN "greatest achievements".  May it be so! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Second Conversation with General Robert E Lee

In my last post I told about Brenda and me visiting the Appomattox Courthouse where the end of the US Civil war occurred.  It was a beautiful Saturday PM at Appomattox Courthouse and we absolutely loved seeing the reenactments and chatting with the re-enactors.  We could have stayed MUCH longer, but we had a dinner appointment back in Lynchburg.

I knew our time was growing short, and I wanted to get another chat with Gen. R.E. Lee. He had a free moment, but I knew it wouldn't last long.  So, I picked my #1 question.  "General Lee, why did you go to USMA?"
"Well," said the good General, my family was too poor for me to go anywhere else."

In case you might not know, the US academies are tuition free, plus room and board is free, as are clothes and books.  A pretty good deal, especially when you have no money.  In fact, the General's reason was exactly the same as the reason I went to the US Naval Academy.  My brother had discovered the academy, and my Dad's peak earnings were about $13k, with a wife and 5 kids.  Sooooo, that was my ONLY option.

In retrospect it was TERRIFIC!  They wore us out our plebe (freshman) year, but I got a terrific EDUCATION!!  I was essentially trained as an engineer, but the academic rigors were good for me and I loved learning.  Every night I left the chow hall (we all ate all meals together), and without sitting down in my room gathered my books and went to the library from about 6:30 PM to about 9:30 PM, came back to my room and went to sleep.

It was pretty spartan, but it fit me and my personality.  General Lee was, I believe, first in his class there.  I didn't do nearly that well, but did graduate with honors- which surprised me more than anyone.

General Lee is revered as one of the greatest Americans of his generation.  I think maybe what he learned at USMA had something to do with that.  I am glad I got to teach there in 1997-98.  As a non-historian, I have to admit, I love history.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Chat with General R. E. Lee

This past Saturday was 8 April.  This was the 152nd anniversary of the Weekend of the US Civil war surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  We live about 30 min from there, and LOVE historical things.
We didn't find out about it until the Friday before, but we had thought about going over anyway, so it was an easy decision.

It was fantastic... so fantastic I can't tell you about the whole day in just one blog post, so I'll make it a two-parter (or maybe 3).

This particular anniversary aligned exactly with the original event in terms of days of the week and proximity to Easter.  Though the original would be impossible to replicate, they did a marvelous job of setting things up.  All the BIG players were there:

  • General R.E. Lee
  • General H. U. Grant (more about his name next post)
  • General Joshua Chamberlain (a Professor)
  • General Rawlins
  • Major Spears
  • General Seth Williams
  • And lots more.
As you might imagine, if you know me, General R.E. Lee was the man I most wanted to meet.  Each actor was dressed appropriately right down to General Grant's mud-covered boots.

I had two conversations with General Lee.  The first one I asked my most burning question.  An U of AL, American Studies professor had once remarked, "People so admire General Robert E. Lee and his expertise, but never consider that his military skill resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths."

Think about that.  A legitimate point?  Not really. I am certain the man making that bogus point had NEVER been even close to being a part of any military unit.

The US military does NOT make policy, pass laws, or decide who to battle- that is done by the politicians.  However, once it is decided, every military leaders goal is crystal clear:  keep your men alive and kill or capture the enemy.  The better you achieve those two simple goals, the better you have done your job.  My American Studies prof would never grasp that so I never bothered to explain it to him.

But, Saturday I posed this to General Lee.  He looked solemn and gave a similar reply.  His view was that the US Government was taking illegal action in dictating what states could/could not do.  The violation of what, to him, was clear legal US principles, gave him no choice but to resign his commission with the US Army and take up arms to defend what he felt to be Constitutional principles.  Every Officer of the US military swears to support and defend the Constitution of the USA, and General Lee was, without doubt, a man of honor.  He was fighting for what he believed in, and he was going to keep as many of his men alive as he could.

Enough said.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Los Benediciones (Blessings)

We are Blessed by G^d in many ways, many times, but quite often we fail to recognize what G^d is doing and HOW he Blesses us.  One of the great aspects of mission trips, especially those outside the USA, is that G^d’s Blessings are much more obvious.

Indulge us for a few minutes, whilst we list some of G^d’s Blessings that we have already seen:
·       Getting 8 people together from British Columbia, Oregon, California, Ohio, New York, Virginia, and Alabama, is no easy task.  With the airline’s outbreak of fights over seats, cancelled flights, diverted flights, and people disrupting flights, getting to your destination is NOT something to be taken for granted.  Thanks be to G^d for Blessing us with safe travels… all the way to Tegucigalpa.

·       Forming a working team from a bunch of strangers is also something NOT to be taken for granted. Our team, with an age span of almost 50 years, with different areas of expertise, and 8 unique personalities has melded extremely well. We enjoy each other, support each other, and work well together.  Thanks be to G^d!  The stressors can be high, so getting along well is a super Blessing!

·       The ministry has gone very well indeed.  The two Universities and the Olympic Training Center have been very enthusiastic in receiving our team.  We have given our testimonies to over 300, and many of those hearers have heard more than one testimony.  Many, many audience members have expressed an interest in learning more about Christianity and Athletes in Action.  What a BLESSING!

·       Our Cru AIA hosts have been extremely helpful and grateful. One of our goals is to build good will for the local missionaries, the Joya’s, who have worked here over 20 years and will be here long after we leave.  What a Blessing this family is to Teguchigalpa, to Honduras, to the Body of the Christ, and to us.  What a Blessing!

Thanks for praying!  G^d has Blessed us richly, and we pray he will Bless you, and you will clearly see those Blessings!  Bless you!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

End of an Episode

I am finally there- the end of my career of teaching in Higher Education.  It feels a bit funny.  For all of my life, since my teen years, I have worked, and typically worked quite hard.

G^d directed my path into University teaching, and it has been a GREAT career.  I have met wonderful people in my classes, worked with terrific people, and visited some great places.  The pay has been excellent, the travel top notch, and the career has given me lots of opportunity to TRY to influence the present and future leaders of the world.  Who could ask for more.

My emotions are obviously and expectedly mixed.  I am sorrow to be leaving this role, but happy to get a bit of a break.  My wife and others have asked whether I would miss teaching.  I don't think I will, because I will still get these opportunities.  I have offered to teach in several venues, and expect one of these will pan out.  I expect to teach Sunday School and give an occasional sermon.

I have lots of projects in mind.  Besides working with Cru Faculty Commons, I have some book ideas, a couple of inventions to perfect, and several other things I hope to finish.  The thought of finishing my Professor career is displaced by the thoughts of finishing several OTHER things that have been awaiting their time.

So, maybe it is NOT so much the end of an episode as it is a slight shift in theme.  Ultimately, the thing that matters is that I LISTEN to G^d and do whatever He directs.  Still looking forward to hearing,

"Well done thou good and faithful SERVANT"!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rejoice with me, for I have FOUND that which I had lost!

In the Parable of the Lost Coin (Jn 15), Jesus says this,
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Brenda and I have a WHOLE new appreciation for that parable now.  I am JUST back from a mission trip to Honduras with Cru. I'll say more about that later, but first the Lost Coin... or better the Lost Passport.

It is the last day of April 2017 and it dawns on me that I do NOT know where my passport is located.  When we got back from Japan last August, I took it out of its usual spot in my traveler backpack, so as NOT to lose it on a U.S. trip.  Well, 3 June I was scheduled to leave for Honduras.  The BIG CATCH was, we had packed up MOST of our VA clothes, household goods, books, and files. And, we had packed our passports somewhere in all those boxes!!

Well, we systematically opened and inspected EVERY single box! No luck.  So, a second time,
we systematically opened and inspected EVERY STINKING box!  No luck.  

Now, passports get LOST often, so the State Dept has procedures for reporting them lost, and for issuing replacements... but at a VERY steep charge and not all that fast.  I was leaving the USA on 3 June, and 3 May was rapidly approaching- a key deadline.  I was worried, very worried, and missed some sleep that night.

So, I came home from work early the next day and it was raining off and on.   Brenda had suggested we PULL OUT all the boxes from the garage into the driveway to facilitate our THIRD search, but the rain killed that idea. So, we looked in all our suitcases first (about a dozen of them). Then we started searching boxes. It was about the 3rd box when we found Brenda's jewelry box, where I recalled I had stashed them. We were OVERjoyed!! But when I opened it, not a trace of anyone's passport!! Joy diminishes somewhat- but at least we know where it isn't.

Hmm, well, I must have accidentally packed the passports when I packed my clothes, since the passports were in a clothes drawer. Well, about 5 bags of clothes later- NO luck. I went back into the garage seeking another clothes bag... and there was a little blue NAVY bag, and as soon as I opened it I saw Brenda's Passport holder!! I knew next to hers, was mine!


I know how the angels feel now!  "
"'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin (means PASSPORT in Aramaic) that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We spent the next couple of hours rejoicing!  Rejoice now with us.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hmm, Why haven't I ever Thought of That Before??

We are in our local Men's Bible study at 0645 in Chik-Fil-A, and we are talking about the Transfiguration of the Christ.  As I am looking at the Scriptural texts that deal with this wonderful event it occurs to me that in Jesus ALL the spiritual gifts are fully, perfectly, incorporated.

Which gifts?  In Romans 12 we get this list:

  • Prophecy 
  • Serving
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation 
  • Giving 
  • Leading
  • Mercy.

In I Corinthians, we see these other ones:

  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Distinguishing of spirits
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues.

In us, we may have one or even two or three gifts.  We tend to feel superior to others without those particular gifts, but "God has allotted to each a measure of faith."  It is not ours, but G^d's gift to us.  He, and He alone, determines our gifting, and all of our gifts OUGHT to work together.

But The Christ exemplifies ALL of these.  What a Savior!!  Let's endeavor to be MORE like Him!!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Graduation Speakers- A few Thoughts

President D. Trump spoke at the LU graduation on 13 May.  I just looked at a long list of famous people speaking at Universities around the country.  The U of AL was NOT on this list.

I know who spoke at UA the weekend before, without asking.  NO one!

YES! In one of the smartest moves in the hsitory of Hihger Education, the U of AL decided many years back to invite NO ONE to speak at commencement.  Great call.


Why do people GO to graduation?  They do NOT go to hear a great speech by a great speaker.  They go to receive a diploma or cheer on someone receiving said diploma. NOT rocket science here.

Several years back the U of A president, Dr. Bob Whitt, invited some famous person who happened to hold quite liberal political views.  The speaker was standing up in front a very large crowd, enjoying the attentinon. Feeling a bit full of himself, I guess, he decided to tell folks what THEY should tink about some polictial issue.  This is the deep South, mind you.

The audience booed, and booed loudly.  This is bad for the speaker, for Pres. Whitt, for the graduates and even for the booing crowd.  But is is resolved fairly easy in the future- NO SPEAKERS.

Again, no one, interested in graduation, comes for the speaker- so WHY have one?

See, some problems are not so hard to solve!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

So What's the Point?

Ever find yourself asking that question, "So what's the point"?

I ask it a lot, though typically it's a question I ask myself. I am fortunate to hear Bible teaching and Spiritual lessons very often. And those sometimes provoke that question.

I see speakers, athletes, musicians, even magicians giving sermons, lectures, testimonies, and I often ask that question. I prefer NOT asking it.  I prefer when the point is loud, clear, and relevant.

I get, on occasion, to move to the other side- to be the one giving the talk. I ask myself, "So what's the point?"  I always HAVE a point, though sadly it may be much more clear to me than to the listener. I do endeavor to make the point, make it multiple times and multiple ways. But, I am pretty sure that I FAIL at this effort, far too often.

And, perhaps more important, when I have a point to make, is it WORTH making? I teach, and I THINK that what I teach will matter, much, to these students. There isn't enough time to teach the stuff that likely won't matter. And, in the end, it is strictly up to me, and my judgement is flawed.

I ask myself, in 100 years what will matter? If not, then maybe the point isn't worth too much. But, the souls of man DO endure, for eternity. So some points DO matter.

So what's your point?