V A G A R I E S -- B Y P D M


AUGUST 15, 2016

I thought I was dying. No wait, I really believed that! My pain and suffering had exploded to a level I never dreamed possible. My body had puffed up like the Pillsbury Doughboy because I was bleeding internally and no one knew. A young nurse came into my room and saw what was going on and ran immediately to notify the doctors that I was in serious trouble. The doctor on duty that night dismissed it without investigating, saying, "His surgeon will be in in the morning." But the nurse was not deterred. She called the surgeon whose associate happened to be in the hospital.

I do not recall, but the nurse told me later that when she brought the surgeon to see me he said, "Help me get this man into the OR immediately." They opened me up and removed 3 liters of blood from my abdominal cavity. 3 liters! That's over 6
pints. My abdomen was bloated beyond belief, as were my feet and toes, hands and fingers.

Post-op, I was still in pain; the worst pain I had ever known, but I was conscious. As I lay there in the dark room a man appeared, out of the shadows, dressed in scrubs. I recognized him as someone who had been assigned to my case earlier. One of the other nurses told me about him. "He was once a Navy Seal," said she. "Now he is dying of inoperable cancer." It was the same man. About 6' maybe. Short cropped black hair, medium to thin build, black horn-rimmed glasses.

"Hi," he said. "How you doing?" His tone serious; concerned.

"Not so great," I replied.

"I know the feeling," said he.

There was a moment's pause while he just stood there looking at me, my breathing labored.

"I think you are the bravest man I ever saw." he said in a flat, unemotional tone. "I'm not on duty now, but I had to come in here and tell you that." He stayed only a couple of minutes and said a few other things. Don't remember much; words, maybe phrases like, "you're strong," "God is with you." "you're going to make it." Stuff like that.

"My name is Fred."

"I know," responding. "The other nurses told me about you." I didn't want to mention his cancer. Apparently, he didn't either.

"My problems are small compared to what you have been through." I wondered how a man dying of inoperable cancer could say such a thing.

"I'm not so brave," I mumbled, embarrassed at the flattery.

"I've got to go now," he said. "I'm praying for you. God bless you." And he was gone into the night.

Let me tell you plainly, I am no hero. He is, or -- he was. I can think of dozens of times in my lifetime that I have not been proud of the way I conducted myself. And while lying in that ICU hospital bed, flirting with the shadows of death, this man, to me, became an angel of light. God sent him. I swear, God sent him. God sent him because he wanted me to be reminded that my health, my welfare, my very life was in His omnipotent hands. And it still is. It will always be.

I have no way of knowing the circumstances or pain of those reading this. But for whatever they are, know this: God is aware of your circumstances and your pain. He has not left you alone, any more than he left Jesus alone on the cross. Your health, your welfare, your life is in His omnipotent hands, and it makes no difference at all whether or not you think you are brave. It makes all the difference that you believe you are loved -- because you are! You will always be! And when, or if, the time comes, you can be certain as certainty can be, that He will send you your very own -- visitor in the night.

-- PDM


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AUGUST 11, 2016


I have lived through and managed to survive the administrations of 13 Presidents, beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I remember the day FDR died in April of 1945. My Aunt Cuba came running down Second Avenue waving the newspaper exclaiming "the President is dead, the President is dead." Everybody who was anybody, was a Democrat back then. I was a child of 9. Aunt Cue's distress more deeply disturbed me than the newspaper headline.

Over the years of 13 administrations, I have learned that Presidents don't matter much -- except maybe to the media. News about the presidency makes them a lot of money. What does matter is the values of the electorate. You matter. I matter. When we enter that voting booth, the little lever we toss reflects who we, as Americans, really are. The kind of President we elect reflects our corporate values.

This year? 2016? Well, things are a little, well, weird. We seem to be faced with candidates nobody really wants. The choice is between a criminal who throws away patriots lives like used toilet paper, and a buffoon who can't put together an intelligible sentence without shooting himself in the foot. Democrats like Hillary -- or so we think. Bernie might have something to say about that. Republicans like Donald. Or do they? A remarkable number of Republican leaders are dismayed with their party's candidate.

Again, over my lifetime of American presidential administrations, the decisions we, the electorate, make may indeed be catastrophic. For 2016, the consequences of electing either candidate are seemingly more extremely adverse than that of any election during my lifetime.

Something happened to me roughly 11 years after FDR died. I became a new creature in Jesus Christ. I became one with our Creator. Needless to say, that impacted my values. Part of this "newness of life," was the fact that I wanted to be as much like Jesus Christ as was possible for someone, who, at age 20, had lived a pretty ragged life. (No need to go into that here.)

That was 60 years ago, people. 60 years! In other words, my "conversion" was no flash in the fleshpot. Not only has it endured, it grows stronger with each day I continue to live. Back then, I got busy memorizing passages in the Bible. Charlie saw to that. (Don't know Charlie? Remind me to tell you sometime.) I was called into ministry and subsequently went to school as a ministerial student, became a pastor, participated in the activities of large para-church organizations, in short; I became what some might call a "professional" Christian. God help me!

But then, along about the time Mr. Clinton's sexual prowess became the national buzz, I became aware of something. That "something" had to do with my union with God through Christ, which, of course, had nothing to do with Mr. Clinton.

What happened was this: I became experientially aware of the sovereignty of God. I became existentially aware of it. In short, I began to live it. I began to realize that elections do not catch God by surprise. I learned that whoever (or whatever) is President, God will care for his own. He will protect them. He will provide for them. As I came to know this, the election of a President came to matter less and less. I had a divine insurance policy. It cost me nothing. It cost Him his life. To be sure, I vote. That is where I express my political opinions. That is where my values as a child of God are reflected in the person who might sit in the chair of the Oval Office. After that, que sera, sera -- and no matter which sera you choose, God is sovereign, and therefore in control. Knowing that relieves me of political frustration and pain. My faithfulness is directed toward him. My vote is directed toward Him. That gives me peace, no matter what happens to the America I love. So Donald or Hillary bring it on. Frankly at this time, what difference does it make? (Wait . . . wait, is that someone else's line?)




AUGUST 8, 2016

Me, or maybe You: Father, I need more discipline and clarity of thought. I need to work on the tasks I believe you have given me to do. I seem unstable and tossed about, reacting instead of acting. I need to be convinced that what I believe you have given me to do, that you really want me to do it. Sometimes, I think you don't. Sometimes, I think you would have me just relax and let you and the Holy Spirit minister to me. What a selfish thought. I have always believed, Lord, that as long as you lend me breath, that I should spend that breath in service to you. But the struggle is more than I can handle, or so it seems.

I want to get back to taking care of my body. I want more energy and less pain. It is probable Lord, that I have never served you as you would have me serve you. I don't think I have served you as I would have me serve you. This is a miserable feeling, Lord.

God: Perhaps you are too hard on yourself. What have I said about entering into my rest? Perhaps you set unrealistic goals, when you need not set any goals at all. You think I have forgotten about your labor in my veneyard? Have you forgotten?

Why do you weep? Why are you discontented? Have you no awareness of my energy in your life? Ask yourself. Why do you yet live? I love you. All you have to do is live and I will work through you. It is not up to you. It is up to me.

M/Y: Dare I think these words come from you?

G: See? There you go again.

SCRIPTURE: For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. -- Hebrews 4:10

It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. -- Philippians 2:13

M/Y: Perhaps I should just enjoy what I know you have given me to do. Perhaps I should just enjoy it.

SCRIPTURE: Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. -- Matthew 11:28-30


M/Y: Perhaps I should live by what I teach.

G: You are more concerned about your sinful condition than you are about my presence in your life. Your daily life. Are you not aware that every beat of your heart belongs to me? I will do with it what I will.

M/Y: Then my every breath is in your hands?

G: Yes

M/Y: Then I need to quit whining and leave my life to you.

G: Yes

M/Y: Good talk, Lord. Thanks.

G: You're welcome.


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AUGUST 7, 2016


Boko Haram now has a new leader who says that they are specifically targeting Christians and their churches. Reportedly, Abu Musab al-Barnawi is instructing his followers to plan on “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those [Christians] who we find from the citizens of the cross.”

Not a bad term, "citizens of the cross!" For that is exactly what we are. Our redemption stems directly from the death, burial and resurrection of the real and only Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This group (Boko Haram) is linked with ISIS, people for whom to live is death, torture and terrorism. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Just how are we supposed to do that with people whose prime directive is to annihilate men, women and children, elderly and newborn, by the most barbaric means possible; people who return our Christian love with violent, bitter hatred?

Since the Scriptures declare that "God is Love" (1 Jn. 4:8,16), it makes sense that we should view our enemies through the eyes of a loving God. It certainly is no stretch to conclude that this is what Jesus meant. Some think that an act of love is to kindly pat our enemies on the head and treat them with gentleness and compassion.

But isn't it also an act of love to punish and destroy Evil? Love for those we are obligated to defend and protect? Do we not do this with errant people in our society? It's called correction and punishment. That's why we put people in prison. That's the rationale for the death penalty. The death penalty was never meant to rehabilitate (obviously), it is meant to destroy Evil.

I would like to point out that while Jesus taught us to "love your enemy," he did not exempt himself from vituperative, insulting language toward his enemies (scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducess). It's in the Bible. Look it up. Further, Jesus told his disciples to arm themselves, viz.,

"Then said he unto them, 'but now, he that has a purse, let him take it . . . and he that has no sword, LET HIM SELL HIS GARMENT AND BUY ONE! And they said, we have two swords. And he said 'IT IS ENOUGH.'"


In arresting Peter from interference in his purpose, Jesus also said, "He who lives by the sword shall also die by the sword," he was referring to those who wear their antagonism and proclivity to violence on their shoulders like epaulets; these will die in the same manner in which it is their habit to conduct their lives.

But in our consideration of this, let us remember what Jesus himself did in the Temple with the moneychangers and sellers of merchandise. Let us remember how he responded to his critics during his ministry. Jesus was no pacifist. Nor did he oppose bearing arms.

So what does all this tell us about how we are to conduct ourselves toward terrorists like ISIS and Boko Haram?


Knock, knock. Is anybody there?