Friday, April 19, 2019

Why the Cross

The Colonel doesn't care near as much for Christmas as he does Easter.

The Colonel cares not one wit on which of Santa's lists his name appears.  If his name did happen to appear on the "good" list, the Colonel assures you that nothing in his own character and conduct landed it there.  The only redeeming quality of the man curmudgeoned before his time is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

And that's why Easter is the holiday that means the world to the Colonel.   

Like every other man who preceded, and will follow, him, the Colonel's sin and imperfection separates him from his Creator.  The Colonel fervently believes that his God is so Holy, so perfect, that He cannot allow sin and imperfection in his presence.  Nothing the Colonel could ever do in his own strength and personal conduct can ever bridge the great gulf that separates his sinful mortality from God's perfect and holy immortality.

The Colonel believes that God loves him despite his possession of the blackest, most sinful heart any man has ever possessed.  The Colonel can not, even in the wildest delusions about himself, come to any conclusion other than that he is just as imperfect and bent toward evil as any man who ever lived.  And yet, he can come to no other conclusion but that God loves him. 

Allow the Colonel to explain why he believes God still loves him in spite of his sinfulness. 

Man is God's greatest, most beloved creation.  God placed man at the head of His earthly creation -- privileged to the fruit and responsible for stewardship.  But, as beautiful as all of creation may seem to man, it is not perfect.  It is corrupt and transitory.  

So, why would a perfect God create imperfection?  

The Colonel doesn't pretend to know the perfect mind of God, but he believes that God created man for a relationship built on man's free will.  God didn't want man to love Him because he had to.   

When God selected Abram (and later renamed him Abraham), from whom to establish His People, He was not picking a perfect man to father a people special in their own right.  The only thing special about Abraham and his descendants is that they were chosen for one purpose and one purpose alone -- to reveal God to man. 

Abraham's descendants -- God's chosen people -- endured four centuries of captivity in Egypt.  At the time of their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were a nation of millions -- and still they needed a Savior God to free them.  It was the overwhelming power of a Savior God that liberated the Israelites, a people as stubbornly sinful and rebellious as any who ever existed.  God miraculously saved them from captivity and miraculously sustained them on their return to the land God had promised to them.

Look, for all the "flowing with milk and honey" descriptions of the land between the Euphrates and the Nile, the "Promised Land" isn't any more special -- in its own right -- than any other territory on this big blue marble.  The Colonel has trod on a goodly percentage of God's creation, to include the "Promised Land," and there isn't anything to recommend that sliver of land at the western end of the Mediterranean above any other.

Except that God chose it, and a people to populate it, to reveal Himself to man.   

On the way out of Egypt, God established a covenant with the people He chose for the express purpose of revealing Himself to man.  He provided His Law -- the Commandments -- as His expectations of the people He chose for the express purpose of revealing Himself to man.  

God expected man to follow His Commandments to the letter, but knew that he couldn't.

The Colonel knows that just don't make sense.  Not to man, anyway. 

Just as God chose Abraham's descendants to reveal Himself to man, He provided His Law to reveal His perfection and man's imperfection.  No man, save the human incarnation of God's Son, has ever perfectly kept the Ten Commandments. 

The Colonel hasn't even come close.  In fact, he has swung and missed at every one, in thought and deed (no difference in God's perfect vision), of the slow-pitch softball offerings of the Ten Commandments.

Seriously.  The Ten Commandments don't require anything that man would consider Herculean effort.  There's no requirement to slay dragons, no demand that one fly like an angel, no need to perform miracles -- just demonstrate by your actions that you love God and love your fellow man.

Search your heart.  What is your score?

(Rhetorical question.  Please don't tell the Colonel your failings -- he has more than enough on his own conscience to be burdened with yours as well.) 

One infraction of God's Law makes one imperfect and guilty of sin.  A sinful, guilty man cannot enter into God's presence of his own accord.  God just won't allow it.

So, all of mankind falls far short of the glory and perfection of a Creator God who loves them above all of His creations.  It doesn't make sense to this man.  And that's the point.  The Colonel ain't God.

From the very beginning of His relationship with man, God required a significant sacrifice to demonstrate a man's sincere remorse for his sin -- the life blood of the best of the beasts for which God made man responsible.  But, this atonement was always temporary and ultimately insufficient.

Why?  Because any sacrifice of even the very best, any lamb without outward blemish, of God's imperfect creation was..., well...,

...imperfect.

What's so imperfect about a lamb without any blemish?

Simple.  It is mortal.  It will not live forever.  If it was truly perfect, it would be immortal.

In God's perfect timing, He sent His perfect Son into the world as a human.  This was the Messiah, prophesied about and promised to His Chosen People -- again, not because they were special in their own right.  It was not the first time (nor the last) that God's Son would appear on Earth.  

The disciple with perhaps the closest relationship with God's Son incarnate preambles his gospel with the following revelation from God:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1: 1-5) 

Let's unpack that.  

God's Son -- His only Son -- has existed (and will exist) with God for eternity in either direction mortal man my look in time.  Man refers to Him as God's Son because there is no other way man can comprehend the concept.  There is no God Mother of God's Son -- none mentioned by God; none referred to by God-inspired scripture.  God's Son was with God at Creation -- indeed, He is the Agent of Creation.  

The Colonel's journey with his Savior God has led him to the following conclusion about the Bible's account of Creation -- it isn't about the Creation; it's about the Creator.    

God's Son is God's Agent of Eternal Salvation.  Outside of the Son, there is no eternal life -- no means by which sinful, imperfect man may escape the sentence of mortality and enter, completely pardoned of all sin, into the eternal presence of God.  

Remember the blood sacrifice requirement the Colonel mentioned earlier?  That sacrifice of a superficially "perfect" animal only temporarily atoned for a man's sin.  The sacrifice had to be repeatedly made, and still did not completely pardon a man's sin.

A truly perfect sacrifice was required.  And because imperfect man was (is) incapable of making a truly perfect sacrifice, Perfect and Holy God had to make that truly perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of His most loved creation.  The truly most perfect and greatest sacrifice God could make was to allow His Son to set aside His perfectly holy, most-high divinity and be made low. 

How great was that fall?  

God's Son is not only the Agent of Creation; He is the Commander of the Lord's Armies.  Check out the account of Joshua on his commander's recon in front of the great fortified position known as Jericho found in the fifth chapter of the book of Joshua.  

Moses is dead and buried on the eastern side of the Jordan River.  Joshua has taken command, led God's People across the Jordan, and now stands on the Plain of Jericho scratching his head and trying to figure out how his light infantry army is going to reduce and capture one of the most impregnable fortresses ever faced by a military force.  Joshua sees a resplendent warrior standing at a distance and cautiously approaches, asking, (the Colonel paraphrases) "Hey, soldier!  Are you one of my men, or do you belong to the army of Jericho?"

The resplendent warrior's answer is a curt, "No!"

The Colonel can only imagine the look on General Joshua's face at that answer.  The warrior saw the look and then changed it, "I am the Commander of the Lord's Army."

What does it mean to be the Commander of the Lord's Army?  It doesn't take a military genius to figure out that chain of command.  But, lest there be any doubt as to bona fides, the warrior facing Joshua commands him to remove his sandals because, "you are standing on Holy Ground."  That's the same thing God told Moses to do when He appeared as the burning bush.  Mere angels don't do that -- mere angels cannot and do not accept the worship of man. 

In the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelations, the Commander of the Lord's Army returns with the entire army of Heaven at his back.  The Colonel used to take a perverse pleasure in believing that he would be fighting in that final battle against evil..., until he realized that the entire army of Heaven doesn't lift a finger to help the Commander of the Lord's Army.  One word from the Son of God's mouth destroys the army of evil.

That's the nature of the sacrifice made by God, whose Son loves mankind with the same perfect heart of His Father.  The lamb offered by God was indeed perfect, but it was not just a lamb.  

The most familiar verse of scripture -- the eternal hope of mankind -- is John 3: 16, "For God so loved the world, that He sent his only begotten Son..."  But, when you realize that God's "only begotten Son" left heaven as a perfect, immortal, holy king (and the greatest warrior) to become mortal flesh in a form without any inherent social privilege, to live as a mortal man, and to (in the prime of life) willingly go to the cross..., well..., that's a true sacrifice.

And on that cruel cross, God's Son, made manifest in the body and soul of Jesus of Nazareth, gave up His sinless, perfect, holy life-blood to cover the sins of mankind...

Forever.

God created man for voluntary relationship.  God's requirement for that relationship is the voluntary acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son.

The Colonel is beyond grateful that his own earthly conduct has no bearing on his eternal salvation.                                        

         

Friday, April 12, 2019

Nothing More Than Feelings

The Colonel is a heartless creature, empty of empathy and short on sympathy.

You want him that way.

The Republic needs men and women like the Colonel -- cold, calculating, rational...,

...unfeeling.

While the rest of humanity pines for the ease of a life where the phrase "I feel that..." precedes all pronouncements of policy positions, there must be those hated few who keep the rest grounded in reality.

The Colonel's bride, best friend, and permanent life journey co-marcher -- the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda -- is a world-class "feeler."  She possesses a heart the size of Montana.

Why Montana?  

Because the Colonel likes to see his Texan friends pay attention, and slighting them is a sure way to accomplish that mission.

Works with Bama and LSU fans as well.

But, the Colonel digresses.

Last evening, the Colonel was ensconced in his comfy leather chair parked front and center of his far-too-small 50" flat screen (he means, c'mon there's room on that wall for at least a 75"), perusing the cable news opinion prattle.  The comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda was couch-side tending to her current quilting project and paying about as much attention to the discussion of politics and policy as an armadillo pays to traffic, when one of the talking heads said something that caused her to pause mid-stitch,

"That's not right."

The Colonel jumped at the sudden sound to his right, unaccustomed to any other sound during his nightly perusal of the cable news opinion prattle, save his own shallow breathing.  He turned to see the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda glaring at the far-too-small flat screen (seriously, the Colonel could easily fit an 80" on that wall), "What's that dear? Did you lose your needle again?" 

She pointed toward the far-too-small flat screen with her dainty chin (the Colonel loves that chin..., and seriously, if Vizio ever comes out with a 100" model...), "That's not right.  I don't feel that they should be able to do that."

"Your 'feelings' have zero bearing on the issue," the Colonel growled dismissively.

"Don't be dismissive with me, old man!" The comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda was no longer pointing her dainty chin at the far-too-small (see previous paragraphs) flat screen.  Her green eyes were flashing at the Colonel over her readers, "and, what's wrong with your voice? You sound like a puppy fighting over a bone." 

"Who you callin' a puppy? That was the Colonel's dismissive growl, developed during a career of interminable staff meetings, and meant to strike mortal terror in the hearts of staff weenies wasting the operators' time."

"Whatever..." Obviously the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda had realized the error of her ways and was now submitting to the intellectual superiority of...

"What's wrong with your face, knucklehead?  You've got that haughty Obama look going on."

The Colonel glared toward his beautiful bride, "That's the 'Colonel's haughty look.' Obama stole it from the Colonel." 

"Whatever..." (The Colonel has a very submissive wife.) "I just don't feel that they should be able to do that."

"Well...," the Colonel dropped his dismissive growl (puppy, indeed! -- she probably thinks Moby Dick was a minnow) and assumed his practiced pedantic pontification persona.  "There's no law against it."

"Well, I feel like there should be."

"It would be unconstitutional.  And..., nowhere in the Constitution of our great Republic is the concept of 'feelings' found." 

"How would it be 'unconstitutional?'" The comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda emphasized the last word in what the Colonel recognized as her mocking attempt to impersonate the Colonel's practiced pedantic pontification persona.  The Colonel might have been offended if..., well..., if he had any feelings.  

"Ever heard of the Bill of Rights, dear?  What you are proposing would violate at least two of the rights protected in the first ten amendments to our Constitution."

"Well," the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda huffed, "they need to change those amendments, then."

"First," the Colonel shifted into a whole 'nuther gear in his practiced pedantic pontification persona, "you can't 'change' an amendment to the Constitution.  In order to undo something in the Constitution, or an amendment thereto, you must ratify another amendment.  For example, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1919, outlawed the production, transport, and sale of alcohol.  It was superseded in 1933 by the 21st Amendment lifting this prohibition; but, the 18th Amendment itself was not changed and remains in the Constitution."

"Well, that's stupid.  Why do they do that?"

"In the Colonel's not-so-humble opinion, that's part of the overall genius of the U.S. Constitution -- leaving the language of the amended portions of the original Constitution and superseded amendments intact provides an historical road map for posterity."

"Yeah.  I know, I know. It's always about history with you isn't it?"

The Colonel didn't so much ignore the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda's jibe as much as took it as a compliment.  He continued, "The constitutional process for changing anything in the U.S. Constitution is prohibitively protracted." The Colonel was wound up and reveling in the opportunity to educate, "Article V of the Constitution provides for two means of proposing an amendment for ratification consideration.  One is via Congress -- either by a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate, or by a national convention called by Congress (which ain't likely to happen).  The other is what is currently being called "A Convention of States," where two-thirds of the states themselves call for a national convention."

The Colonel paused in a quick beseeching prayer, "Lord, if you love me -- and I don't doubt that you do -- you'll allow me to be selected as a state representative to the coming convention of states. Amen."

The Colonel noticed that the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda's patience was wearing ever-so-slightly thin and began to wrap up his practiced pedantic pontification, "Any proposed amendment must be ratified by two-thirds of the states in order to take effect.  So, you see, it ain't an easy proposition."

"Why is it so hard for you men to do anything?"

The Colonel ignored the overt sexism in the comely and kind hearted Miss Brenda's remark, "Because..., had it been easy, anytime somebody felt that a change should be made -- based on their heart and not their head -- the limitations and protections of the greatest form of government ever devised by man would have been erased and the Republic would have foundered within its first generation."   

"Well, I still feel like we should..."

The Colonel, empty of empathy, short on sympathy, and lacking even a modicum of tact, cut her off summarily.

"Yep, you and 150 million brainless socialists."     

                

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Without a Clue

The Colonel is one Mississippian who is glad that the Union was saved.

He is an American, a citizen of the United States, and proud of it. 

But, more than pride, the Colonel feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude and privilege that he was born in the greatest, most free nation the world has ever seen.

He can make that judgement and feel that way about it because he has seen the rest of the world up close and personal.  We Americans take for granted the freedoms and opportunities about which the vast majority of the rest of humanity can only dream and for which they yearn wistfully.

The Colonel knows in his heart and head that if the Confederacy had won their independence 150 years ago, there today would almost certainly be no American superpower.  The world would be a far different one without the great nation that emerged from the crucible of civil war cleansed and re-united.  The dark ages that followed the fall of the Western Roman Empire would have have looked down-right bright and cheery compared to the darkness of a 20th Century without the United States.        

In the early days of his adulthood (and he self-refers as an adult with respect to age alone), the Colonel swore an oath of allegiance and defense to the Constitution of that Union — one to which he is bound until death. He likes to think that he would have remained loyal to that oath had he been a commissioned officer in the US Army in the spring of 1861. 

Had the Colonel been a student at Ole Miss then, he would almost certainly have joined the University Greys and gone to war as a Confederate -- almost every student did.  And, here’s the thing — he wouldn’t have had a clue about what he was really doing. Most young men don’t get a clue until late in their twenties. 

In distant retrospect, historians casually ascribe noble social and political motivations to the boys who go off to war.  The grim, nasty, horrible, stinking battlefield truth is young men don't go to war for some politician's agenda. They join, and remain in, the ranks, not out of any sense of higher purpose -- except for one... 

Each other.  

Their letters from camp are filled with yearning for home and lots of reference to the the nobility of their "cause," to be sure.  The Colonel knows, because he has penned hundreds of letters home, that what a soldier writes home is most often what he believes those at home want to hear.  But, what they don't put in writing is the one thing they find the hardest to put in words -- their love of their comrades in arms.

It is for each other, that young men fight.  Trust the Colonel on this.   

In the early years of the last century, as the American South crawled out from under a heavy blanket of bitterness and defeat to join the new day of American exceptionalism, the one over-riding emotion remained a great sorrow for the boys without a clue who had marched off to the stirring tunes of "Dixie" and the "Bonnie Blue Flag" and disappeared forever.  Southern boys without a clue  fell on battlefields and died in diseased camps far from family and loved ones who waited and watched in vain for their return.  

A southern boy without a clue who died on the battlefields of Shiloh, Antietam, Sharpsburg, or Gettysburg was often left on the field where he fell as his surviving comrades yielded the field to northern boys without a clue.      

Northern boys fell too, of course.  But, in victory, their remains were far more often buried and marked honorably.

A southern boy's grave was often a mass interment without any identifying markings.

When someone without a clue looks at a war memorial -- from any war -- what they often default to is their bias regarding the righteousness of that war.  But a war memorial is not a celebration of the war or its "causes."  A war memorial immortalizes the names of the mortal boys without a clue who advanced into the blazing guns -- not in response to a politician's speech, but in loving response to his comrade's simple "let's go."  

A vocal minority of the current crop of children -- young men and women without a clue -- matriculating at Ole Miss, stirred up by self-appointed social justice priests masquerading as teachers -- who themselves have not the first clue regarding what it means to serve in the ranks -- are agitating for the removal of the war memorial that stands prominently at the center of the campus.  

These same self-appointed social justice priests masquerading as teachers have been at the forefront of a decades-long insurgent campaign to strip the University of Mississippi of any reference to the history of the school that they deem -- in their infinitely tyrannical socialist, politically correct wisdom -- not progressive

Mascots, flags, and songs have fallen to their zeal to rid the world of anything they feel -- emphasis on the unlearned concept of "feeling" -- is offensive.  

Now, they find a memorial to southern boys who died in a war they didn't start offensive.  

They have crossed a line on the other side of which stands one infuriated United States Marine Colonel. 

They claim that the "cause" for which they marched and died was not just, demonstrating in their self-righteous, virtue-signally fervor that they have not the first clue about justice.  

The Colonel denounces them with every fiber of his being.  Were he still prone to the profanity that marked his former lack of self-discipline and resistance to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Colonel would easily make this post one that would make Patton's ghost blush.  

The statue on the campus of Ole Miss makes no claim as to any righteousness of the cause for which the Mississippi boys marched to war. It simply memorializes those who died and are mostly buried in unmarked (sometimes mass) graves far from home. 

The statue on the Ole Miss campus was paid for and erected, not by politicians, but by mothers and sisters whose last sight of their boys was their butternut blending into the ranks of their brothers.  Those mothers and sisters had no marked grave to visit.  We today have only this memorial to remind us, not of the cause, but of the effect of war.     

Leave the memorial alone — remember boys without a clue.