The ramblings, rants, and observations of an Orthodox Reactionary. Feel free to look around!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Kuwait.

Left Mississippi a few days ago. The plane ride wasn’t half-bad. It started poorly—the 767 had engine problems, so despite waking up at 2am, we didn’t take off until 4pm that day. That ride was a bit crowded, but I had decent company. And I slept.

We had a layover at JFK international airport. We weren’t allowed in the airport proper with our weapons, so we had to stay sequestered in our own terminal. When we were given leave to roam about the airport, we had to leave folks behind to watch the weapons. Thanks Bloomberg, you statist, immature, sexually and emotionally stunted hoplophobe. I have a God-given right to self-defense anywhere and everywhere I go. Simply because I’m in your crime-ridden city and you don’t trust your own citizens (or subjects, shall I say?) enough to allow (as if you can, in an act of noblesse oblige, amend or abridge the Bill of Rights at your whim) them to protect themselves (and you don’t really want them to- let’s face it, you and your ilk wish to rule over a nation of children- with you as the loving progressive parents) doesn’t mean that I- a free man by action and choice- must submit myself to your immoral laws.


Anyhow, I really have to alter my opinion of New Yorkers. I admit to being prejudiced towards them. When we started to travel around the airport, I reflected to my medic that we were unlikely to be singled out in a positive fashion in New York; to wit, I said to him, “Hey Wooz- I bet you five dollars that we don’t get one ‘thanks for your service’ while we’re here.” He absolutely agreed, and refused to take a losing bet. Not ten minutes later, some thin and weathered fellow pulling a rolling suitcase stopped us both and shook our hands. “Thank you for everything you do for our country.” I stood corrected. However, we both agreed, he was likely from somewhere else.

Sometime later, Wooz and I headed to McDonalds to grab a bite to eat. We were standing in line when some quick-talking lady with an obvious New York accent offered to buy our dinner. “I know you guys are headed over and I want to do this for you,” she said. So that’s two for two, I guess.

A couple of observations about JFK airport: The prices. A 20oz drink from a vending machine is $2.75. A hamburger from Mickey D’s that costs 89 cents in Kentucky costs $2.39 at JFK/New York. My Southern Chicken sandwich meal cost $7.89 on the menu. When I asked if they had a dollar menu, the cashier laughed- laughed! What a horrid place. I realize that people will argue ‘cost of living’ and all that. But you have to factor in taxes. In fact, the taxes levied in an area directly affect the cost of living. Same thing with minimum wage- which, by the way, (and this is a fact backed by the numbers) hurts the lowest income demographic, and in that demographic, hurts blacks the most, and in the black community, hurts teenage males worst of all.

The point of all this is to imagine what the cost of living in New York would look like if there was no minimum wage, and the city’s taxes were limited. Or, and this is a handy solution to the whole “IOT keep New York running you have to smother the people in taxes!” argument. What if each borough was taxed separately, and according to the mean income of that borough? That way, those who want to live in a Manhattan penthouse would have to shoulder directly their share of the financial burden for Manhattan, allowing the people in the poorer sections of the city to avoid paying for the astronomical expenses of downtown; IOW, they would be directly taxed for the amount they use, and no more.

Another thing about JFK. There was an EL Al (the Israeli airline) flight stopped over in town, and there were a bunch of Jews running around there. One thing I noticed: You would see the hottest Israeli girls pushing baby carriages next to really subpar Israeli guys. Like, seriously. Ugly. I’m an average (possibly below average) American male. Compared to these guys, I might as well be a bodybuilder or a Greek God. Bear with me here. Based on the cross-section of Israeli guys displayed in JFK, an average-looking American guy could seriously head over there and clean house. Probably be beating the women off with a stick. You heard me gents. Go forth!

After JFK, we went to Leipzig Germany—home of Johann Sebastian Bach. Then to Kuwait- population 2.5 million; 1.4 million of which are non-Kuwaiti, predominantly Catholic Filipino. That’s a religious/race war waiting to happen, since 1) Muhammad declared (and therefore Muslims believe to the death) that the Arabian peninsula would forever be a peninsula on which Allah alone would be worshipped, and 2) because of that, Kuwait and other peninsular nations have dhimmi laws which practically outlaw all other faiths. (And CAIR whines when the star and crescent isn’t displayed next to nativity scenes…)

So we’re sitting in Kuwait, wasting time. It’s pretty cushy here, which I don’t like. Too many fast food chains; too many places to waste money (huge PX, Harley-Davidson/Ford store, etc.) I wish I could go back to a FOB like Orgun-E. Nothing but barracks, an MWR, and and a chow hall. But I’m not deploying to Afghanistan again. And the new ROE for Afghanistan requires the enemy to engage in “hostile action” even if US troops have positive identification (also known as PID) before they can be engaged. Can’t win a war that way—so I won’t even have the option of visiting Afghanistan as a tourist. And I did kinda want to.

Finished reading Hosea. Awesome, awesome book. The more I read the Bible, the more smitten I am with God’s love for us. The basic outline of the book is that Yahweh tells Hosea to take a prostitute named Gomer as his wife. This story of the relationship between Hosea and Gomer mirrors the one between Yahweh and his people. I’m not sure, having just finished reading it, how much of the unfaithfulness God speaks of Israel actually applies to Gomer vis-a-vis Hosea, but its still great. Listen to chapter 11, where God is talking about his people:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called my son. But
The more I called Israel, the further they went from me[…]
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them
By the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

God speaks of the wayward Northern Kingdom as if they were a beloved son—can you see a giddy toddler being taught to walk by its father in verse three, his fingers gently holding up his child “by the arms”? It’s a beautiful picture also in verse four. “I bent down to feed them.” I see a loving Daddy with a tiny spoon in his hand, feeding that same toddler; now wiping the excess off his child’s chin. It is with such images in mind that verse five: …will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? And six: Swords will flash in their cities… and put an end to their plans—sound less like a judgment (although that’s what it is, we mustn’t forget) and more like a heartbroken father that can see the coming pain their wayward child is too blind to see.

But look at verse eight now:

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?[…]
My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and
Devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
The Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

Yahweh recalls the past, and His love wins out over judgment. He saves Israel from the consequences of their actions “For I am God, and not man”—by his supernatural power. In a way, this can be a foreshadowing of that ultimate act of love: the work of Christ upon the cross. Through Christ’s death we were saved from the consequences of our actions. Eternal death, according to Paul in Romans chapter 3. He goes on to say, in verse 25

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

How could God do this? How was it possible for God to allow Christ to pay this price for us? Because “I am God, and not man.” Good enough for me.

Back to Hosea. You know, I really want to get to know these people better. There are so many unanswered questions about the people involved. Did Hosea love his wife when he was commanded to marry her? Did his heart break when he held little Jezreel (or Lo-Ammi or Lo-Ruhamah) and thought “This is not my child”? Gomer was a prostitute. How often did she ply her trade? Did people watch Hosea walk down the street and say “That poor, poor man. Why is he still with Gomer? He certainly deserves better”? How did he react to other people’s pity or scorn? What was running through Gomer’s mind when she cheated on him? Did she enjoy sex for sex? Was she broken, somehow, on the inside? Did she love Hosea at first, or only at the end? How in the world did Hosea work up the nerve to stride into where Gomer was “working” and buy her back? What did Hosea think of the God who allowed him to feel this pain? He spoke the word of the Lord; surely there was some other way to get the point across? How often did Hosea sit in a dark corner of his home, away from the kids, away from prying eyes, and pour out in tears the hurt he must have felt?

There is much omitted about who Hosea was and the circumstances of his life. But there is enough there to paint a brief but vivid picture. Hosea was a man of remarkable moral strength. He was obedient, if nothing else. And I like to think that he had faith—that the God who could redeem and heal the people of Israel was big enough to redeem and heal his wife. I sincerely hope Hosea had his “happily ever after”, don’t you?


“Therefore I am going to now allure her;
I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
And make the Valley of Trouble
A door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of
Her youth,
As in the days she came up out of
- Hosea 2: 14-15

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Learning Love

So, I’m getting ready—still—to go over to Iraq. Any time now… :)

I want to explain what God is doing in my life. Cause it is incredible and awesome. You see, I’ve been out of the loop concerning my relationship with God for quite some time now. Granted, I had my moments—and they usually included getting hurt really badly by people I care deeply about—but they weren’t permanent changes, just moments of being in touch with God.

So God wasn’t really getting what he wanted out of me: a relationship. I was the friend who came by to cry on His mighty shoulder, taking comfort in His presence, and when He had picked me up, I merrily treated Him like crap and went off on my way. (I didn’t realize all of this until very recently. I had been that “lifesaving flotation device” before for other people, but never thought that what others did to me, I was doing to God.) Sure, I called him my Father; called him my Savior—but my actions didn’t line up with what I professed. Like a husband who beats his wife and then tells her he loves her, there was a disconnect between what I said and what I did; between who I claimed to be and who I really was. (I’ve recently begun to understand the vital nature of belief+action, and how the two relate. More on that later.)

I think, being a Puritanical, honor-bound male, I tended towards legalism. I know I tended towards legalism- I think that was the reason. I have always valued honesty, loyalty, keeping your word, working hard, treating others fairly, all of that. And all of those are good and decent things. But if you pay attention, you will notice all of those things have something in common.

Do you see it? Look a little closer, and think.

All those positive traits I listed are either 1) actions, or 2) dependent on action. (They also are displayed by action, but so is everything else. As I will explain in a later post, humans are physical creatures. Therefore, they manifest everything physically. To the degree that something isn’t displayed in action, it isn’t believed. Oops, I’m digressing…) So of course, if my morals emphasize action, I would find myself slowly drifting towards legalism.

I once explained to a friend (speaking of another friend who disparaged Mosaic Law) that sometimes I liked the Law, because it was a last ditch safety net. Even though my entire body and fallen nature screamed to do something, I held back *because I knew it was wrong*. Spoken Like a true Pharisee, eh? The Law can point toward righteousness, but it cannot lead there. It took me falling to my lowest depths before I realized how ethereal that safety net was.

I started reading God’s Word, and praying a little bit. And then I read a really cool book. It’s called “So You don’t Want to go to Church Anymore.” And yeah, it was fiction, but there was still a bit of truth in there. What really struck me about the book was how the authors, through the protagonist’s conversations with a guy named John, emphasized- over and over- God’s love and the relationship He sought with every single one of us. About halfway through I put the book down and picked up my Bible. I went to the Gospels, and I reread John. And the love of this amazing man, Jesus, who was also God, seemed to leak through every single syllable. I lost count of how many times John mentioned love*, or used the “L-word”. (Hehe.) Only a God of love would heal the lame and give sight to the blind. Only a God who sought every single one of us like a husband seeks his bride would talk with a Samaritan polyamorist, or tell the adulterous woman “I don’t condemn you. Go, and don’t sin again.” Only a God who loves us enough to get His hands dirty would willingly walk to the Cross. Of the Crucifixion, John says “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”

As I read all this, I finally understood with my heart that my sins were forgiven. I had the knowledge, but one can know something and never act on it. I had always carried around in my mind a personal scorecard- good deeds vs. bad deeds- and I would unconsciously grade myself every day. Looking back, how could I not be silently miserable? Even the times when it seemed I pulled ahead, that was only a brief respite before my legalistic heart was pulled back into sin. When you compete against your own ideal- or God’s, for that matter- you can’t win.

What came after that realization was a hunger. A hunger to know this God that had forgiven me, who wanted to be my best friend. My little flame of faith picked up strength and began roaring, growing into an actual fire. I started praying and reading my Bible- things I had done before, things that on the outside looked the same as it always had- but with a difference. You see, my heart had shifted. I was doing the same actions, but with new motivations.

And it’s awesome. I prayed to God that He would keep revealing Himself to me, and that I wanted to chase Him with everything I had. Also, I began to understand (slowly) that If I pursued Him with all of my heart, everything else would begin to fall into place. I loved others, but instead of trying to love them under my own power, as I had been doing for so long with mixed results, I began letting Christ love them through me.

So I’m forgiven. And so are you. And Christ earned forgiveness for us because God wanted to know you and I intimately. If you honestly pursue Him- if you wrap yourself in His love- you will find yourself becoming a better person. Not through action, though your actions will change to show others the love you feel. But a better person than you could ever become on your own. And you might discover, like I did, that the person you are becoming is the person you wanted to be all along, but you didn’t know it.

(* Wouldn't that be cool? To go through the original Greek and count how many times the word "love" appeared in John? I certainly think so.)

"God doesn't ask us to sacrifice our dreams in the coventional sense. He doesn't throw them away. He gives them back to us, redeemed."