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Heroes in the Alaskan Bush

I’m in the heart of Alaska in a cabin nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains.

They are majestic. But the real inspiration comes from the people I have the privilege to be with this week… the missionary families who live in the bush villages of Alaska.

They not only face the harshness of the winters and the darkness when the sun barely rises during the day, if at all, but they face the challenges of the bush village, where alcohol, drugs, abuse and suicide devastate the people they love. Often, tribalism and some justified skepticism toward the “white man” have created a wall that is sometimes impenetrable, leaving the missionary family in isolation.

Arctic Barnabas exists to provide spiritual and physical support to these dear folks throughout the year, and in the fall brings them together for a week of rest and renewal (a great ministry you should consider supporting).

This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to be with them and, again, wondering what in the world I have to offer these heroes of the faith. Personally, I really have nothing, but we are taking tours gazing upon the face of God and the “Crown Jewel” in His nature, refreshing ourselves with the criticality of divine relationships and how they are rooted in the social complexity of our Triune God.

Every session ends with a time of testimony and sharing from the missionary families. Each brought tears as we heard of the trials, the heartaches and the miracles where God had showed Himself mighty in a time of great need.

If you have a moment, please pray for them as they now head back to their villages. For some, it will take days, in bush planes and ferries, to get back to the reality of their call.

This was for their rest and renewal, but it always renews something in me. It reminds me to diligently pray for those who have been called to the hard places in the world. It reminds me of how much we need each other as we walk this road. And it reminds me of how much the enemy seeks to isolate us and destroy the relationships that God has designed.

In the bush, families are kept as an outsider, making it difficult to form relationships. But for the rest of us, it is plain self-centeredness that destroys relationships as we seek to satisfy our own desires. True, deep relationships require sacrifice and self-sacrifice is growing scarce in our culture.

And, of course, the smartphone sucks us deeper and deeper into the isolation of its screen. We “contact” others while we grow increasingly lonely. This will eventually lead to the demise of our culture.

The bush missionary families have a tough life, but I can tell you that their families are fully intact.  In this way, although they lack most of the physical niceties that we enjoy, they are more healthy spiritually and physically. Would that we might “disconnect” from the entertainment and smartphone vortex consuming us and reconnect with our families and with each other.

The Lord wants us in deep relationships; the enemy wants us atomized.

The former brings blessings and life; the latter, curses and death.

Choose you this day…

 

 


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The Three-Fifths Compromise: Shame on America?

230 years ago, this Sunday, marks the signing of the U.S. Constitution. It would later be ratified by the states as a “contract” or “covenant” under which the Federal Government was established. It was forged in the midst of the arguments from those who feared it would grant the Federal Government too much power and those who believed the current Articles of Confederation didn’t provide enough. It was therefore a document of compromise, primarily between these two perspectives. But, it was a document unequaled in the history of nation-states, establishing a Republic (“…if you can keep it” – Benjamin Franklin) in which the Federal Government was created by the States and kept in check by its strict boundaries believed to be essential by both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. For they both knew that the “king” would forever tend toward tyranny, amassing more and more power until the people were in its bondage.

It is not surprising, then, that 230 years later we sadly find ourselves with a Federal Beast who continually ignores many of those boundaries and therefore thumbs its nose at its covenant with the people and the states, reducing the latter to near meaningless redundancies in U.S. political governance.

Lacking people and Governors with vigilance and a backbone, the great fear of the Founders has sadly come to pass. I wish Constitution Day were deeply celebrated with placards and speeches—a day of instruction that we might “keep this Republic” and the liberty that has been the envy of freedom seeking people all over the world.

There was a compromise, however, in this Constitution, that wasn’t between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. It was a compromise between the slave states and the non-slave states.

In light of Constitution Day and the seething turmoil that continues to be fomented under the guise of racism, it seems appropriate for us to deal with the truth of this compromise.

I have run into this issue numerous times, especially in teaching college students. Recently, someone wrote in a comment to one of my posts, shaming the Founders because they established in the Constitution that “the African slave was only three-fifths of a human being”. He was referring to Article 1, Section 2, which does treat slaves as 3/5 of a person.

But does this mean that the Founders believed slaves were less than a human being, as the commenter implied, and as many of my university students have been taught in our academic day of “hate America…hate the Founders”?

If this were the case, and the argument was over whether or not a slave was a full human being or a non-human being, which way do you think the non-slave states and the slave states would have argued? If the current opinion were believed, then the slave states would have argued that their slaves were not really human beings at all and therefore justified to be considered as property. The non-slave states might have been arguing that the slaves were fully human.

However, this is NOT what the compromise was about and it is exactly the opposite of what gave rise to the 3/5 compromise.

The truth? The slave states were arguing for the FULL counting of the slave and the non-slave states were arguing for the slave to be counted as ZERO.

Surprised? What is going on here?

The argument was whether or not the slave states were going to be able to count their slaves in order to determine how many representatives they would be apportioned for Congress. The slave-states, of course, wanted slaves counted so as to give them a third more seats in Congress. The non-slave states were, contrary to hate-America teaching, trying to limit slavery and therefore they didn’t want the slave-states counting their slaves in order to increase their political power. This attempt to limit slavery was also found in the Northwest Ordinance, one of the four organic documents of the United States. This was the criteria by which a territory must abide if they wanted to become a new state in the Union. The Northwest Ordinance forbade slavery in any new state. This was one of the ways they intended to limit and confine slavery.

So, the compromise was NOT one that reflected a belief that a slave was less than fully human, it was an attempt to reduce the power of the slave states by allowing them to count their slaves. In order to gain the support of the slave states for the new Constitution, the 3/5 compromise was reached. But, again, it had nothing to do with the humanity of a slave; it had everything to do with trying to limit slave-state political power at the federal level.

There is something a little ironic in this whole situation. Under both the Articles of Confederation and the latter ratification of the U. S. Constitution, there had been a proposed amendment that used the population of the states as a basis for taxation. In this set of debates, you can probably guess which way the argument went. The slave states did NOT want to count the slaves and the non-slave states DID.

So, when it came to crafting this portion of the U.S. Constitution, the framers bound the issue of representation and taxation together. This brought an incentive for the slave states to compromise, for they, on one hand didn’t want to count the slaves for taxation, but on the other hand they wanted to count them for representation.

Hence the 3/5 compromise.

It had nothing to do with the U.S. Constitution declaring that the slave was only three-fifths of a human being.

Unfortunately, many people, especially in our universities, are treated to a false history in order to bolster the “hip hate America” that is trendy on campus. I urge people not to read modern U.S. history books for they are full of this bias. Instead, read the original documents as much as possible or at least go back and read the history books that are pre-1900.

There is a lot of shame in the history of the United States: slavery, treatment of the American Native, Japanese internment, etc… including the shame of things that are going on today, such as the killing of more babies every day than the number of lives lost on 9/11.

Don’t pile on with stuff that isn’t true.

And, celebrate Constitution Day by reading it and instructing your children in its amazing wisdom and limitations on federal power.


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Total Solar Eclipse: Another Amazing Coincidence?

The light of naturalism’s lamp illuminates only the natural. Therefore, nothing outside of the material realm can be seen. But it’s not that naturalism then supposes there “might be” something out there... in the dark. No, it explicitly states that NOTHING exists outside of the material box.

Nothing.

Since the current scientific paradigm is wedded to naturalism, its lamp also illuminates only that which is material. Therefore, when postulating about causes, the current paradigm can only discover causes that are natural. Its lamp can’t illuminate anything else.

This is very unfortunate, because the current scientific paradigm is therefore shackled, with blinders, so that it can’t see design or purpose or intent, even if it were really there. The fire investigator would never suspect an arsonist and the crime scene detective would never deduce a murderer. Every effect would simply, by definition, have to come from a natural cause.

The problem is that most things look designed. Most things appear to have a purpose. The paradigm’s mantra is that there is no designer, no purposive forces, no supernatural causes in play here.

So when the moon perfectly eclipses the sun, philosophical science sees nothing but really, really amazing coincidences instead of the gracious design of a Creator who made the sun, the moon and the earth in such a way that we might see a total eclipse.

And when we do, it takes our breath away… and maybe even produces a few tears in the presence of such wonder and magnificence.

I just returned from Tennessee where I had that great privilege.

Two dear brothers and I drove to the Cumberland River bank, set up my tripod and my jury-rigged lens made up of a #14 welder's lens, a custom-cut block of Styrofoam, and 6 mini-bungee cords.

And then waited for the show.

And what a show it was… an astounding, phenomenal astronomical event.

We watched the moon as it slowly crept across the face of the sun and we felt the temperature drop. We heard the crickets and the cicadas start their chirping. We saw the strange phenomenon of the light becoming dimmer and dimmer. It wasn’t like what you experience with cloud cover or the evening dusk. It was something very different. It was a strange kind of darkness.

There were wavy lines on the ground, called “shadow bands” and the horizon had a reddish glow, like a sunset or sunrise, but it was all the way around, 360 degrees.

And as the sliver of sun disappeared, we saw “Baily’s Beads”, tiny specks of light that were shining through the valleys on the outer edges of the moon, and then just one “bead” that became the “diamond ring”. I think that is when the first tear formed in my eye.

It was spectacular.

It was moving.

And then we had the precious seconds when the moon slid into a perfect match in front of the sun, and we could see with bare eyes the sun’s corona and then the amazing glow of the chromosphere. Wow! The only time you can see this is during a total solar eclipse. And we were seeing it.

Oh my!

The sun is 400 times the size of the moon. But the sun "just happens" to be 400 times farther away from a human observer on the surface of the earth. This is why the moon and the sun appear to be the exact same size. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t experience a total solar eclipse.

This means that the size of the sun, the size of the moon, the distance from the earth to the moon and the distance from the moon to the sun all have to be perfect in order for us to see this.

And when one considers that the sun needs to be the size it is for life…

And the moon needs to be the size it is for life…

And the distance between us and the moon and the sun needs to be what it is for life…

Oh, and all of these sizes and distances also just happen to be perfect for us to see a total eclipse…

Well, I suppose one could say that it is just another amazing set of coincidences along with a whole lot of other amazing coincidences like blood-clotting and hearing and vision and DNA and RNA and fingernails and bees and bombardier beetles and beauty and music and… well almost everything around us.

The lamp of naturalism has to suppose that all of these things are just incredible coincidences that somehow came into being from random, purposeless forces.

But, the lamp of Scripture reaches way beyond the material. It illuminates for us not only that there is design, but a Designer; not only purpose, but a Purposer; not only beauty, but the Beautiful One.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

We beheld that glory on a riverbank in Tennessee.

And, oh my, what a glory it was.

[I took this photo with a Cannon EOS 5D Mark II, 300mm, 2x, ISO 3200, f/6.3, 1/80; #14 welder's lens, 8/21/2017, 1318:47 CDT. Notice the stars in the backgound]


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The Unselfish Life: Tribute to Dennie Lewis, Fire Chief

I just attended the funeral of a dear friend in Kansas City. He was my brother-in-law, a dedicated husband, a faithful Christian and a fireman… specifically, a fire chief.

It wasn’t too long ago that this robust outdoorsman was diagnosed with ALS, a horrible disease that relentlessly destroys the body’s motor functions. It attacked his muscles until he was confined to a motorized wheelchair, maneuvered with the little mobility he had left in his right hand. He needed a hoist to get him from his chair to bed at night.

Yet, through all of this, he didn’t complain.

He was excited and looking forward to being with the Lord, but he was never focused on himself. Instead, he was always interested in the well being of others.

A woman attending the funeral came because Dennie had once saved her life… carrying her out of a burning building. What was remarkable about this was that no one in the family had ever heard the story.

Dennie never told it.

I think if I had saved someone’s life, I would probably find a way to bring it up in conversations. I would want people to know that I had been a hero, courageously charging into an inferno, risking my life, searching for the desperate, and valiantly fighting my way out carrying a helpless woman from sure death to fresh air and the breath of life.

I would probably tell people all about it. Over and over again.

But not Dennie.

He talked occasionally about the baby that he failed to save, but not the ones he did.

You see, from his perspective, life wasn’t about him. It was always about the other person.

Dennie and I married sisters and they both love to shop in the kind of stores that have the most detailed, intricate, artsy, craftsy doohickeys. You know the places I’m talking about. There are thousands of little trinkets in these stores… maybe hundreds of thousands or millions.

These are places that I can walk into and be done in less than a minute. If I stay in them any longer I get some kind of a sensory overload. My heart begins to race, my breathing gets shallow, and my vision begins to tunnel. It’s akin to rabid claustrophobia or morbid water torture.

I remember the first time the four of us were out together and we happened upon one of these horror chambers. The girls went inside and within a minute Dennie and I were sitting outside on the benches that every proprietor of these stores provides for husbands. I said something like “I hate these places.” And then I looked at Dennie and he had one of the biggest smiles on his face. He said,

“Oh, I love them!”

“You do?”

“Sure, because Elaine loves them and I really enjoy seeing her happy.”

That’s Dennie.

Happy making other people happy. Happy taking them to a trinket store or happy saving their life from a burning house.

Just another day living life right.

No big deal.

Dennie and I sat outside of doodad shops from the Caribbean to Alaska and he was always consistent, always thinking of Elaine, always thinking of the other person.

There were five fire engines outside the funeral home. Inside, a fireman guarded Dennie’s remains. A host of firemen were present, paying their respects to a highly respected man. They read the fireman’s creed and then rang the bell for the last time.

Well done good and faithful servant.

See you soon.

 

 

 


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A True American Hero: Hero Shiosaki

I recently returned from a trip to Idaho. This was where I grew up. I still consider it my home state.

While there, we visited a museum containing an exhibit on the Japanese Internment that occurred shortly after Pearl Harbor. Following an Executive Order by Franklin D. Roosevelt, nearly 120,000 people of Japanese descent were moved into interment camps. It was a shameful moment in our history, but there was a lot of fear… and hatred… for what had happened in the surprise attack that left 2,403 dead and most of our Pacific fleet at the bottom of the sea.

In a hallway of the museum, there was a tribute to famous Asian Americans of the 20th Century. There were astronauts, TV stars, movie stars, politicians, Nobel Prize winners… but as I read it, I knew that they had left the most important person off their list.

His name was Hero Shiosaki. And he had just passed away.

Hero was 22 years old, interviewing for a job in Blackfoot, when Pearl Harbor changed his life. He was an American citizen, but now reclassified as an "enemy alien". Soon after, many of the Japanese young men, even in the Internment Camps, volunteered to enlist and go to war. The Army formed a special unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised entirely of Japanese soldiers, including Hero. When Hero entered the war, his father, who had immigrated to America from Japan in 1896, told his son, “You go fight for America. And if you have to die for her, so be it.”

And die these Japanese soldiers did. The official casualty rate was 93%. They were the most decorated unit for their size in the history of American warfare. About 14,000 men served, earning over 18,00 medals, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 52 Distinguished Cross medals, 560 Silver Stars, 22 Legions of Merit, 15 Soldier’s Medals, 4,000 Bronze Medals plus 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters.

And… 21 Medals of Honor.

The 442nd would later be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Their motto was “Go for broke!” and their fight song included these words: “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor, as we did the Alamo…”. All of this even though most of their families were confined in the internment camps back home.

Hero was one of the 442nd survivors. He returned to Blackfoot where he became active in the American Legion, eventually serving as Commander. He was a successful businessman, but he spent a lot of his time speaking and encouraging young people to love this country and her ideals.

This is where Hero and I intersected. I was a Junior in High School and was nominated to be one of the attendees at a program called “Boy’s State”. It was sponsored by the American Legion and consisted of bringing together young men from around the state to “take over” the legislature for a week while the real Legislature was on recess. They taught us how state government worked, the principles of freedom and liberty, and gave us a chance to put it all in practice by crafting our own bills, arguing them before the “legislature” and eventually passing them into law or defeating them. It was a tremendous learning process. We even campaigned for political positions and had our own elections. I was elected Lt. Governor and eventually elected as one of two senators to attend Boy’s Nation later that summer in Washington D.C. where we did the same thing, but now at the federal level.

This was a Kairos summer for me. I will not go into all the details, but suffice it to say that it radically changed me and I believe it was critical for what the Lord wanted to do in the rest of my life.

But, it almost didn’t happen. In fact, the odds and circumstances were dead set against it.

When I was nominated, I was evidently close to the top of the list, based on my qualifications, but the selection committee wasn’t going to pick me… primarily because my family was an “outsider” in the community. It isn’t necessary to talk about why we were outsiders, but that was just the case. And that meant I was not going to be selected to go. But Hero weighed in so strongly and so forcefully, that they eventually gave in. And the Lord used it to transform a clinically shy kid into something He could eventually use.

You see, Hero knew what it meant to be an “outsider”. His family and friends had been thrown into internment camps because they were “outsiders”. But he didn’t let that dissuade him. He didn’t let that embitter him. Even after the war, with the “No Japs” and “Japs Go Home” signs, he loved this country and the principles upon which she had been built. In fact, he became, from my perspective, one of the greatest voices for this country and the freedom and liberty for which she stood. He believed in the American Dream even though he had felt the brunt of racism by some of her people.

And when he saw an “outsider” being thrown out, he stood with the same bravery that he and the other Japanese Americans showed when the fought and died for this country on foreign soil.

That is why Hero is my hero. He always will be.

I am looking forward to our reunion some day.

God bless you, dear sir.

Hero Shiosaki, August 8, 1919  -  June 26, 2017

 


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