Is it Well?

Until recently, I knew nothing of the events serving as impetus for the penning of one of history’s most influential Christian hymns – It Is Well With My Soul.  I have sung this uplifting anthem countless times, from pew and choir loft, ever inspired by author Horatio Spafford’s message of peace, hope, and gratitude.  While thanking, honoring, and glorifying his Savior, Jesus Christ, the author also sought to encourage the weary and heavy-laden, the troubled.  Indeed, I am quite certain Spafford’s words have soothed many a soul the last century-and-a-half.  Still, for those familiar with Spafford’s personal story, those words take on even greater meaning.

horatio_spaffordHoratio Spafford is believed to have written this historic hymn during a period of personal tragedy the likes of which most of us will never experience. Spafford, a successful Chicago attorney and real estate investor saw his life torn asunder in the span of about two years; ironically, at a time the nation in which he and his family lived was healing – from the Civil War. In 1871, Spafford and his wife, Anna, would lose their two-year-old son to scarlet fever, then see much of Horatio’s investments destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

In the wake of the fire, Spafford struggled to recover financially.  He had planned a getaway for his family and was set to embark for England with Anna and the couple’s four daughters late in 1873 but, held up on business, he sent them on ahead. Unbeknownst to Spafford, his daughters were lost at sea during the transatlantic voyage, when their steamship, Ville Du Havre, collided with a Scottish Clipper, the Loch Earn, and sank.  Upon reaching England, Anna sent a telegram to her husband who subsequently made the same voyage and joined his wife in England.

According to his daughter, Bertha – born in 1878 – it was along this journey her grieving father penned the hymn.  Hence, amid his sorrows, Spafford demonstrated profound faith in Christ, finding solace in He who loved and ultimately gave His life for – the sinner.

Incidentally, the Spaffords would lose yet another son, Horatio, in 1880.  He, too, fell victim to scarlet fever.  Yet, by all accounts, the Spaffords remained strong in their faith and, after moving to Jerusalem, engaged in philanthropy.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford. Indeed, I am reminded of Job, of Lot.  I recall numerous Biblical accounts of trials befalling one after another.  I am also reminded of members of my own family, many of my friends and acquaintances who have lost loved ones, careers, relationships, their health. When we face crises, regardless of magnitude, is it not difficult to find peace?  Hope?  Is it not a challenge, at times, to recognize those things for which we have to be thankful?

I, for one, have experienced heartache the likes of which seemed unbearable at the time. Even now, I would more describe my life circumstances as nearer the bottom than the crest of the valley.  Yet, even now, I find plenty for which to be thankful.  Oh, make no mistake, my feelings of gratitude for blessings – seen, and unseen – are challenged by my feelings of despair.  But when I read the words written by and recall the story of Horatio Spafford, a man who would otherwise have been crushed by the weight of his despair, I am inspired. I, for one, aspire to be ever more faithful, ever more grateful, ever more at peace in the love of Christ.

For me, it is well… And, in His mercy, love, and grace, you too shall find hope. You, too, will find all is well… It is well, with your soul.

From me, to you, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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Yellow Footprints

Twenty-eight years ago, I made a commitment – my first – when I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. It is easy for me to remember the date, because I enlisted on my eighteenth birthday.  Who does that?  Anyway, the following summer, I took the first step toward honoring that commitment, stepping off a bus and placing my feet squarely upon a set of yellow footprints.  I didn’t think much about the significance of those yellow footprints at the time – wasn’t exactly the yellow brick road – but I later realized they represented the beginning of a new path, a new course in my life.  Thirteen weeks later, I had earned the title – Marine.  Was I proud?  You bet!  But, more importantly, I was changed forever.  A new man.  More disciplined.  More honorable.  More principled.  Readied for whatever was just around the corner.  And, though I was discharged – honorably – in 1996, I never truly left The Corps, and The Corps certainly never left me.

Today, Marines around the globe celebrate “our” 241st birthday.  Every Marine knows the birthday and birthplace of our beloved Corps.  10 November 1775.  Tun Tavern.  The rest, is history.  And, what history we’ve made!

I love you all, my brothers and sisters, leathernecks, devil dogs, Marines one and all.  I salute those who have gone before us, those who are serving as I write this, and those who served and are still among us today.  I am honored to have stood with you on those yellow footprints.  I will never forget them.  I will never forget you.

Once, and Always!  Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday Marines!

And, Tomorrow…

Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  Election Day.  Tens of millions of votes will be cast by days end – most, by living, breathing American citizens – and those votes, along with a myriad vote-2016of votes already cast, will ultimately reveal the president-elect who will succeed Barack Obama and be sworn in as 45th President of the United States this January.  It is indeed a big day – election day – and, though it may seem every general election is deemed the most significant in our nation’s history, the choices we make in electing our duly sworn representatives are not to be taken lightly.

Regardless of whether or not we believe this election bears any more significance than the last, we vote.  We vote because we are able.  We vote because we feel it is our duty. We vote to exercise our right, to stand and be counted.  Knowing we have a stake in the future of this nation, we vote.  We vote for any number of reasons.  Today… we vote. Then we wait.

We wait with bated breath, perhaps wringing our hands, in great anticipation of the results.  Tantalized throughout the day by exit polling data, the analysis of experts, we wait.  For some, perhaps many, varying degrees of anxiety may set in.  This anxiety is a symptom of one’s perception or true understanding of that which is “at stake” in a given election.  Our very way of life may indeed hang in the balance.

For others, there is no anxiety.  In fact, they may believe the results of the election are of little consequence.  Some would argue it makes little to no difference who is president, nor which senator or state representative is elected.  They are all corrupt.  They all seek power and would sell their respective souls to retain it.

So, what about you?  Do you believe this is a particularly critical election?  Do you feel there is much at stake?  Do you feel you have voted for the man or woman who would lead this nation in the direction of your liking?  You know what I think?  I would submit to you this is the single most consequential election since that of 1860.  Now, you may be nodding in agreement or shrugging in amusement, but before you presume we are kindred spirits or nothing of the like, let me explain how I arrived at such a bold conclusion.

Though the final results of this election are not yet known, one thing is certain:  This has been an extraordinary election cycle, the likes of which I have never experienced.  Think about it.  While every election comes with its share of allegations, mudslinging, punditry, etc., all “accepted” by many as “just politics,” have we ever seen anything like this?  Ever? I honestly cannot think of a conversation I have had with anyone regarding this election cycle that didn’t leave us both shaking our heads, bewildered.  I, for one, am exhausted, embarrassed – heck – horrified by what I have seen an heard.

If we’re being honest, and in spite of what President Obama claims, we were a deeply divided people entering this election cycle.  Ask yourself.  Have things gotten better, or worse, since we started this process?  In my opinion, the wedge was driven deeper during the primaries, and it’s only gotten worse.  This has brought out the very worst in us.  I have had to bite my tongue time and time again.  It hasn’t been easy.  I don’t like having to apologize for my behavior, but I have had my weak moments, indeed.  My weakness stems from my inclination to be prideful, and when I have been attacked – even by people with whom I would otherwise agree on most issues – I have wanted to counter. Now, I have gotten much better – I pray daily for humility – but, admittedly, I’ve wanted to ring some people’s necks, figuratively speaking, of course.

Friends… This isn’t us.  This isn’t who we are.  This isn’t America.  If it is, why in the world would anyone want to live here?  We are not a nation of vile, foul-mouthed, bully-ish heathens, are we?  If we are, is that truly who we want to be?  Christians attacking Christians?  Conservatives attacking conservatives.  Democrats hating their Republican neighbor, and vice versa?  Are we to be a nation with no moral compass?  Are we to fear our fellow citizen?  Trust no one?  Are we now a nation of selfish, prideful, contemptible fools, hellbent on looking only after ourselves, forsaking all others?  And, I might ask, where do we get off asking God to bless America, when we thank Him for nothing, demand He answer our prayers as we see fit, and refuse to do His bidding?  (Food for thought.)

Okay, so we voted.  We voted, and we await the results.  But… What about tomorrow?  If your candidate loses, what then?  Will you be filled with rage, ready to march on D.C. or your state capital with torches and pitchforks?  Say your candidate wins.  Will you gloat and mock your “enemy” (aka your neighbor, relative, spouse?)  Will you shamelessly patronize the losers and “encourage” them to find common ground – that ground, higher ground, on which you stand?

Have we burned too many bridges, this time?  I fear we have.  I fear there may be no coming back from this.  And, if so, that is truly a shame.  Then again, we were perhaps never more divided than we were during the Civil War.  We came back from that.  America, the thought of America, the idea of America, the American Dream… all these are contingent on We, The People.  If America indeed falls, it is because we are a fallen people.

My friends, please join me in taking a long hard look in the mirror, doing some legitimate soul-searching, because no matter what happens today – tomorrow is coming.

[In tribute to Walter Cronkite, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday, today.]

“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.” — Walter Cronkite

To Trump, or Not…

324px-Thurgoodmarshall1967Do you recognize this man?  Yes?  No?  Give up?  For those of you who are stumped, that is Thurgood Marshall.  For those of you now asking, “Thur-what, who?” His Honor, Justice Marshall, was the 96th justice appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  More notably, he was the first African-American, or black man, if you prefer, to hold said position.  He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in June 1967, and on August 30 of that year, he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.

So, I’m relatively certain many, if not most of you, are now muttering, “I thought I was going to be reading about presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.”  Trust me, I will afford Mr. Trump plenty of space in this post.  That said, this post really isn’t about Donald Trump, nor Justice Marshall for that matter.  This post is about me, Kevin B. Thiele – nobody special, not Hon. Thiele, not The Thiele… just plain ol’ Kevin… and a “monkey on my back” called principle.

My purpose here, in joining the debate on whether or not to cast a vote for Trump, is to state my personal position and the rationale behind it.  First, for those of you who don’t, you need to know a few things about me.

As soon as I reached the legal age to vote, I registered, and I registered Republican.  I did so because I was proud and grateful to live in a nation where I was free to do so.  I felt it was not only a duty and honor, but a tremendous responsibility.  I chose to register Republican because I more closely identified with the GOP platform.  That same year, I enlisted in The United States Marine Corps. [Semper-freakin’-Fi!  Ooh-Rah!  Corps to my core!  Like that last one?  I just made it up!]  I  must apologize for the intrusion by my “alter-ego.”  He gets a little wound up sometimes.  Shortly thereafter, at the age of 19, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior while attending a bible study in college.

You are probably starting to get the picture.  Yes, I am a Christ-following Constitutional Conservative who cries just about every time our National Anthem is played.  One of my proudest, most patriotic experiences was having an opportunity to present a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.  I recall being so moved and honored to be a part of that ceremony.  Thank Heaven I was able to maintain my bearing on that occasion.

I went on to serve 8 years in The Corps, was called to active duty in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and later served 13 years in law enforcement.  I served in both capacities with honor and distinction.  But, then again, according to Susan Rice, so did Bowe Bergdahl.

I say all that not to boast, but to illustrate just how much the “Patriotic American” I consider myself to be.  And I do so, not to insult anyone who is not “the way I am,” aka leans left, as somehow “Un-Patriot American,” but to squelch those of you on the right who may later attack me as liberal, leftist, ‘commie’, democrat, GOPe, progressive, or whatever other colorful label you might have in store.  No, I am about as far right of center as one can be – probably just a tad left of “loony.”

So, with that, let me tell you my position on Trump, and explain what Marshall has to do with this.  [Drum roll please…]

At present, I vehemently oppose a Trump presidency!  I currently identify in social media circles as #NeverTrump.  How many of you just flipped your lid?  Okay, if you will indulge me – and, many of you won’t – I will explain.

The man pictured above, Justice Marshall, was a man of principle.  And while he and I would likely have disagreed on virtually every matter of consequence, I have no doubt we could have had a civil, even cordial discussion, respectfully and attentively listened to one another’s arguments and, at the end of the day, shaken hands, exchanged pleasantries, and departed with our honor and principles intact.  While I would have been displeased with the positions he chose to take, I would have admired him and respected him greatly.

That, my friends, is who we used to be.  Who are we today, and what are we to become?

In all of this that has become a media-frenzied circus of an election process, I have sought even the remotest of silver linings.  I may have found one.  If nothing else, Trump’s run at the nomination has prompted many of us to do some serious soul searching.  I, for one, have not taken this lightly.  I have long dwelled upon the seemingly inevitable prospect of being left with little choice but to vote for one who is the antithesis of everything I seek in a leader.  I have asked myself, time and again, “Can I do that?”  Up till now, the answer has been, unequivocally, “No.”

So, if the answer is no, how then do I reconcile not voting for the presumptive republican nominee, when the other option – whomever the democrats nominate – will be no more principled and will push a party platform that turns my stomach like buttermilk?  Well even my alter ego didn’t have the answer for that.  So, I went to the Only One Who could help – I went to The Lord in prayer.  Not once.  Not twice.  Every single day.  I have talked to family members, friends, my pastor, and I have prayed incessantly.  The result?  I have arrived at the following – for now.

I cannot bring myself to support, nor cast a vote for Trump.  How many of you are now seething with anger, wanting to call me all the aforementioned “names” and many more we can’t print here?  I get it.  I really do.  And, honestly, I don’t begrudge any of you.  But my vote is mine.  How I vote, or do not, is between me and God.  I answer to Him, not you, not Trump, nor anyone else.  There is simply no way I can justify, in good moral conscience, voting for a man who has given no indication he is a principled Constitutional Conservative of sound moral character.  No, not even to block a Hillary Clinton presidency, as disastrous as that would inevitably be.  “But why!” you beseech me to make sense of this.  I am “wasting my vote,” or worse, “voting for Hillary by default.”  Nonsense.

Many of you who disagree with me on this, would agree with me, I believe, that God is ultimately in control.  Hence, Trump’s election does not hinge on my vote.  I know that God has allowed for men of poor or, at least, questionable character to rule, and that He has done so in order to carry out His plan.  That said, after thoughtful prayer, I, personally, do not believe God has ordained The Donald to be Leader of the Free World.  Rather, I believe we are at a tipping point in history, where a majority of citizens has turned its respective backs on God and placed their faith in man – a man, a ruler – rather than The One Who breathes life into us, sustains us, loves us, forgives us.

Earlier, I indicated I currently identify as #NeverTrump.  The truth is – and, no, I’m not hedging here – it would probably be more accurate to describe myself as #VeryHighlyUnlikelyEverTrump.  Reason being, it is a long way to November, and there is still time for Trump to “change my mind.”  That said, it may take nothing short of a miracle.

Consequently, and henceforth, I will stand to be counted among those, however few, who refused to compromise principles for the sake of winning.  I will stand for my Father, and all of His Goodness.  And I believe I will one day be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes and say I was on the right side of history – I was on God’s side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[This week’s Words of Wisdom and Quote of the Week are given in tribute to the third President of The United States, Thomas Jefferson, on his birthday (13 April 1743)]

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truth without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” — Thomas Jefferson

 

Prayer Request

The Soloist_TX PaintbrushFriends, I’m going to level with you.  I started this blog with every intention of remaining steadfast in producing consistent, uplifting content, in glorifying God.  That said, I would be lying if I told you anything other than this has become increasingly difficult.  It would appear satan – little “s” – has once again taken to delighting in his attacks upon me.  The attacks did not begin with the inception of this blog, but they have certainly intensified.

What you don’t know, because I haven’t shared it, is I am currently unemployed.  I lost my job – a good one – just after Christmas, this past year.  At first, I had high hopes of quickly landing another position.  “I have years of experience,” I thought.  “Someone out there needs what I have to offer.”  In addition, I believed then, and still do, God closed that door intentionally.  Like I said, it was a good job (i.e. it more than paid the bills), but truth be told, I was miserable.  He knew that.  He also knew I would never quit.  So, He intervened.  And, while I know He has opened another door, I have yet to see it – so far as I know.  I am just not sure what it is He wants me to do.  He knows what I want to do – serve Him and others all the remaining days of my life.

Consequently, I have spent much time in prayer and searching for jobs.  But… I think I may be spending too much time working on my dream, and not fulfilling my responsibilities.

So, while I remain here/there for you – and I mean that very sincerely – you may not see as much output from me for a while.  No, I will not relent, and you are still among my top priorities, but I think I need to focus more intently on finding meaningful and gainful employment.

If you need me for anything, please do not hesitate to reach out.  I love you and will keep you in prayer, and I will always make time for you.  I would just ask that you pray for me, as well – for my job search, yes, and a number of  other tumultuous disturbances which have emerged of late.

Oh, I’m not going anywhere – just changing gears for a bit.

Remember:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)