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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Epiphany

Okay, so here it is (O-dark-thirty) – 0226, or 2:26 AM to be exact, and here I am typing, as opposed to sleeping, on a project that was never intended – well, at least I didn’t intend on it.  God?  Now, that is a distinct possibility.  In fact, I so believe it is God inspiring me to be up at this hour, typing this message, that I am actually doing it.  Trust me, the selfish side is yearning for sleep, but I shall not cave.  What’s it called?  Obedience?  Yes, indeed.  So, I know you must be asking, “What is it that is so important it can’t wait until tomorrow?”  Well, my friends, I had an epiphany.  Epiph-a-what!?!  Epiphany!  Yes, of course, I fully intend to explain.  Why else would I be up at this Godly hour?  God said jump.  I didn’t ask “How high?”  I just started jumping.

This all started sometime last evening – yeah, let’s see, that would be Friday night, ’cause this is now Saturday.  So, I was on Twitter – I don’t remember what time it was – but I ran across this ‘retweet’ [aka re-shared, or forwarded message – for those of you who aren’t Twitter(ers)].  The original tweet was from controversial author and political commentator Ann Coulter.  I know; I know.  Haven’t we been down this road before, Kevin?  Put down the politics and back away.  Yeah, well, another epic fail was imminent.  I won’t go into the petty details.  Let’s just say, I took the bait in addressing her provocative rhetoric.  Why do I let these people get under my skin?  Why!?!

Now, again, I did not use profanity, cuss her, etc.  I didn’t attack her, per se.  HowEver… I might have suggested she was behaving in a “despicable” manner.  In fact, I can’t say for sure – it’s kind of fuzzy and all – but I might have actually called her despicable.  Yes… I… did.  But, listen, you should have read what she… no, never mind.  It doesn’t matter.  Did she write about and perpetuate a provocative and utterly ridiculous narrative?  Yes she did.  That said, she wasn’t talking to me.  She doesn’t even know me.  She was simply doing – right or wrong – what political commentators do.  She’s not responsible for how I react, or don’t.  I am responsible for my own actions.  I cannot, and will not, blame her.  Besides, at the time I tweeted my response, I was feeling rather justified.  That bully, Coulter, wasn’t going to bully people around – not if I can stop her.  Someone had to put her in her place!

Alllllll-righty-then…

So, having successfully given her – Coulter – the “What for…” I wound myself back down, went to bed, and drifted off to sleep.

Bleep, bleep… buzzerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Yeah, that would be the annoying message-received notification on my cell phone… the one I forgot to silence when I went to bed.  Oh, goody, I got a reply from Jeannie Ortega (at 12:24 AM, no less).  “Jeannie Ortega?” you ask.  Yeah, I don’t know much about her, but I know she just debuted a new song I listened to last night.  I know that I really liked it.  And, I know that I tweeter her – earlier in the evening, when people were still awake in certain parts of the world – to tell her I thought her voice, the song, and the song’s message were beautiful.  How nice of her to thank me – at 12:24 AM.  Do I sound bitter?  You know, I actually was not – am not – at all bitter.  In fact, this is where the story gets good, interesting, whatever.

Miss Ortega’s song, Never Been Hurt, really – as I shared with her – struck a chord with me.  The message is clear.  She wants to “love” like Jesus.  Despite being hurt and scarred, she wants to move beyond the pain, and love, unconditionally, like Jesus did.  She wants to know and share the same love Jesus had for us when He asked The Almighty Father to “forgive” us, as He hung there on The Cross, in our place.  It is a powerful, powerful message, indeed.  So, lying there at 12-something, my mind began to race, drifting back to that ill-advised tweet.  Why could I not just let that go?  Why could I not have met her hate with love?  What is wrong with me?  Nothing like having a pity party at O-dark-thirty!  But, seriously, it was bothering me.

I laid there, relaxed, and began to collect my thoughts.  This is important.  It’s important I resolve this, once and for all.  Why am I so tempted, feel so compelled to intervene?  Why do I have this propensity for engagement, particularly on behalf of others when I see them as being or having been wronged?  This, I must answer.  Then, out of nowhere, it hit me.  I am hurting!  This is about me!  No, no, no…  That cannot be.  After all, I am the tough, broad-shouldered, thick-skinned guy, the one who charges in to defend the innocent, the weak, the oppressed.  I’m not the one who’s hurting.  I don’t have open wounds.  What scars!?!

Wow… All these years fighting other people’s battles, and I’m the one who needs saving.  I was the one who needed to be defended.

(More on this to come – I assure you – in my Your Life Matters series.)

You know, I’ve had epiphanies before, but this light bulb was brighter than any I had ever seen.  It shone all around.  It illuminated and made clear that which had been buried in the farthest, darkest reaches of my mind.  It was troubling, but it was also liberating.  To think that while I was, my entire life, defending others, I was at the same time, exacting revenge and justice, vicariously.  To realize I had been harboring such resentment all these years.  Now, I could exhale.

Still, there is much work to be done.  While, as one of my new friends so articulately wrote, I have “named” that which ails me – now, the real trials begin.  I must now survey each of my wounds, each scar, and assess them.  I must confront my affliction.  I must ensure I have forgiven those who have injured me.  I must ensure I have forgiven myself.  If I truly want to “love” like Jesus, like I have, as Miss Ortega sings, “Never Been Hurt,” I must take up this yoke.

Friends, I apologize for this diversion from the path I asked you to accompany on.  I must admit, though I told you it was a journey and I, for one, was prepared to go wherever it might take us, I was surprised by this.  It truly was unexpected.

[Incidentally, I do recommend Miss Ortega’s song.  You can find it on YouTube.  I will attach a link later – but… I am tired.  Blessings, my friends.]

 

 

Sir John Dalberg-Acton, aka Lord Acton, famously posited, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Moreover, he added, “Great men are almost always bad men.”  To be sure, Lord Acton’s claim is bearish, even to the pessimist.  In these remarks, the baron affords us very little hope – might we call it an “eye of the needle(s)” chance – of rising to power without forsaking our virtue.  Well, if he is right, the obvious question is:  Why?  Why is it so difficult for one to attain power without succumbing to – its power?

It’s a common theme, is it not?  We rise, and we fall.  Countless authors, artists, composers, filmmakers, etc., have captured the torment, isolation, and exile that hounds the mighty, the powerful, amidst their nosedive into the abyss.  Given the fact – can we call it that? – this is so common, why have we permitted history to repeat itself?  Why do we acquiesce?  Is power simply too powerful for man to bridle?  Is it the ‘bronc that won’t be broke’?  Or, is it, perhaps, that we haven’t taken the right approach?  What do we need to control, or check power?  I submit, wisdom.  But not just any wisdom.  Source matters.

I found an answer, where I often do:  my Bible.

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  [James 3:13-18]

Your Life Matters – Pt. 1

If you haven’t already read “about” me anywhere else, you may not know I am both a veteran of law enforcement and my Marine Corps.  I will always feel privileged, honored to have served in those capacities, and thankful for having been physically and mentally able to do so.  There are many things which define me, and anyone who knows me – even those with whom I have had very little contact – will tell you “He’s a cop alright,” or “You know he was in the military.”  I know they will say that, because they’ve said it.  The tip-off, they say, is in how I “carry” myself, how I present myself.  But I digress.

The point is, people do tend to judge the proverbial book by its cover.  First impressions are everything, we’re told.  Well, let me stop you right there.  I’m living proof that’s not completely true.  The front I put on every day, is just that – a front.  I expend vast amounts of energy not revealing myself.  Most of who I truly am is bound up inside of me.  If I seem “calm, cool, and collected,” and “squared away,” it’s because I had to learn to “maintain my bearing,” as a police officer and jarhead.  Now, I’m not suggesting that’s not who I am, a proud public servant – it most certainly is – but it is only part of who I am.  The rest of me – the other me – I unleashed only a few days ago.

I introduced myself to… myself, after I started reading a stirring personal account written by one of my newest friends.  Again, she can tell her own story – which she has done – but thanks, in part, to her and others, I finally relented, and let God take – have control.  Thus, I embarked on my mission, that which I believe He has set before me.  [I am all in Father] S0, you might ask, “What’s this ‘mission’ God has supposedly charged you with?”

Thanks for asking!  Well, I stated in On With It, Then my mission is to reach you, convince you Your Life Matters, and point you to One Who loves you more than anyone.  That’s the short of it, but if you want the full answer, I must ask you to accompany on that journey I mentioned.  Coming?

I accepted Jesus Christ as My Lord and Savior at the age of nineteen, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, He had called me to serve others.  Now, I realize, He calls each of us to be servants, but I mention this because I had a distorted view of what my “calling” was back then.  I didn’t fully understand God’s plan for me.  [Note to self – You still don’t]  Anyway, I was only 19 and a newcomer to Christ; consequently, my early sense of service was rooted in delusions of grandeur.  Yep, God had placed me here to “save the world.”  Had I possessed a more comprehensive understanding of The Bible and Christ’s teachings, I likely would not have been so misguided early on.  Unfortunately, the “soil” in which the seed of the spirit was planted – me, was fertile; yet, I lacked wisdom.  So, as the “weeds” grew up around me, they obstructed my view and muffled the sound of His voice.  It was difficult for me to grow straight and strong.  Yes, I grew, but askew of what I now believe was His intended path.  I only thought I knew which way He wanted me to go – no, I was certain of it.  I was to be a dashing superhero.

Of course, this didn’t help:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day – gorgeous day, in fact – I was sunbathing with friends at one of our “regular spots” nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada’s, a place we locals dubbed “Slick Rock.”  Slick Rock, or more formally, Three Rivers, was a nice place for adults to unwind, swim, and soak in a few rays.  That said, the waters of the river abruptly transitioned from shallow and tranquil to deep and treacherous.  Since I had been training hard subsequent to my enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps, I was in remarkably good shape.  I was also an avid and seasoned swimmer, so when I heard a desperate mother screaming for help, I didn’t hesitate in diving into the rushing waters to retrieve her struggling child.

The boy likely would have drowned, had I not intervened.  I know that.  My friends knew that.  Yet, there was virtually no acknowledgment from the mother.  Did that bother me?  Perhaps.  Frankly, I think I was more surprised than anything.  Moments earlier, she was screaming frantically for help, and now that I had likely snatched her boy from the jaws of death, my reward consisted of an indifferent “Thank you,” and half-hearted wave?  No, I didn’t feel I deserved more.  That’s not why I did what I did.  Still, it did feel somewhat inadequate.  In the movies, after all, she would have utterly squeezed the life out of me with a giant bear hug and kissed me on the cheek, tears streaming down her face.  Right!?!  But, alas, this was not Hollywood.

Truth be told, I didn’t need any recognition for what I had done, but I was perplexed by the mother’s reaction, or lack thereof.  Oh, my friends literally bowed in acknowledgment of my wondrous act of heroism.  I, encouraged them by accepting with a bow in return, and we had a few good laughs.  But, still, that woman’s inexplicable response confounded me.

I tried to rationalize the woman’s behavior.  She was in shock.  That’s it.  Or, maybe she hadn’t yet processed the gravity of the situation.  Perhaps, she was embarrassed, or angry with herself for not having learned to swim.  No, you know what it was, she was caught up in the moment, angry with her son for scaring her, but equally thankful he was alright.  She was focused on him.  Sure, that made sense.  Or, you know, maybe, just maybe, that’s how people treat “heroes” in real life.  Oh, now, I didn’t actually consider that at the time, but little did I know how true it can be.

As the lady – her son’s hand grasped firmly in hers – walked toward the parking area, the boy looked back at me, as if to offer a thank you of his own.  I waved, and in that moment I knew, God had placed me there, at that moment in time.  He had done so because I could and would rescue the boy.  And, sincerely, the gratitude I saw in the boy’s eyes spoke volumes – was more than enough thanks.

That, of course, is not the end of the story.  Well, yes it’s the end of that story, but not mine.  On the contrary it was just the beginning.  You see, there was a downside in all of this.  Remember I said, “this didn’t help.”  It actually made things worse, for this experience ultimately narrowed my perspective.  That day ended with we me feeling all the more assured God was calling me to be superhuman; when, in fact, He was calling me to be a humble servant.

[This is an ongoing series, Your Life Matters, set in order (i.e. Pt. 1, Pt. 2, etc.)  The next installment will be Your Life Matters Pt. 2]