Fake News and Grandma’s Crochet Hook

I wasn’t sure what to expect as she pulled the string over my thumb, wrapped it around my forefinger, and put the little hook thingy in my hand. Grandma was about to teach her five-year-old grandson how to crochet. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, and at least gave me something to do. I was intrigued by the idea of learning this curious looking process, and since Grandma was pretty good at it, I figured I’d be cranking out all kinds of fancy looking stuff by dinner time—not my only misconception about the art of crocheting.

Grandma stuck with it until I learned, an effort for which I have since forgiven her. After all, she only had boys to work with, and she had probably already taught us all the ‘guy’ stuff she knew by that time. It didn’t hit me till later that I had been subjected to such a disgustingly classic ‘girl thing’. I should have Continue reading

Posted in Faith and Politics, In the News, Insights, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Climate ‘Accord’ vs. Christ’s Redemption

Lots of folks in the upper echelons of government, academia, and most importantly the world of news and entertainment media declare with absolute certainty these days that the human race is now doomed and are shocked and dismayed at this unexpected revelation. It’s sad that they think that this is news. Most of the rest of us know that God broke the story about the human race’s impending doom a long time ago (II Pet. 3:11-13). Maybe they missed a tweet or something.

Another Nuclear Meltdown ~
Regardless, since President Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate ‘Accords’, the leftists around the world are melting down faster than that Continue reading

Posted in Faith and Politics, Faith, Family, and Culture, In the News, Insights, Right Side Up | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

A Living Memorial – Or Just Another Pile of Rocks?

No summer day, not even Virginia’s notorious ‘dog days’ of August, ever intimidated my grandpa into wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Long-sleeved shirts were as much a trademark as his hat and that little half-smile he held in reserve for those rare incidents that were particularly hilarious. His tendency toward understatement and concealing things that didn’t need to be exposed was a characteristic that extended to every part of his life.

Not the Usual Kind of Picture ~
One of the very few physical things I inherited from my grandpa, who was in every practical way a father to me in my early years, was a picture. It wasn’t one of those pictures you often see of a guy from that era where he’s standing there rigid as a board with a deadpan, half-angry look, like maybe his wife tricked him into wearing his ‘funeral suit’ and he discovered too late that nobody had really died.

My picture was encased in a black wooden frame about 18 inches long and 8 inches high — the biggest, longest photograph I had ever seen as a kid. The 387th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army was standing at attention, shoulder to shoulder, and arranged on a set of bleachers so that everyone’s face would be visible to the camera. Their role as defenders of America was officially memorialized on that day, September 5, 1918, and my grandpa was on the second row. One click of a shutter captured that brief moment of his life nearly a hundred years ago, and now I have it. The sad thing is that I only have the memorial, not the memory. The photographic monument was passed along, but I was not allowed to inherit the meaning.

Something’s Missing ~
That picture was taken near the end of World War I, a global conflict that saw the death of some 9,000,000 combatants and 7,000,000 civilians. Sadly, I learned those facts about ‘The Great War’ from history books, not from my grandpa. Like all monuments, my picture was just a lifeless symbol with no capacity to add anything or transmit anything beyond its presence.

Monuments need more than that — they need memories. Monuments are dead things. Memories live. Monuments don’t experience life. People with memories do. Monuments don’t think, can’t feel, and are powerless to move on their own. Monuments neither love nor hate. Monuments can only assume their position and wait until some living person comes along to explain them.

A Peculiar Command with a Memorable Lesson ~
In bringing His people into the Promised Land, God highlighted their predicament when He issued this unusual command:

“Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them… And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:1-6 NKJV)

The rocks they picked up were just rocks, different shapes and sizes, and maybe some variation in color, but just rocks. They weren’t polished rocks, or engraved rocks, or rocks containing precious metals or valuable gemstones. They were just plain old, nondescript ‘bottom of the river’ rocks that happened to be exposed because of the miraculous events that occurred in their presence—events to which, by the way, they contributed nothing.

We don’t know what any individual rock looked like or what the finished monument looked like when they were all stacked up. Their only significance was that they were in the presence of a supernatural event. They didn’t observe anything, feel anything, or remember anything. They were just a lifeless part of the landscape, helpless to experience or explain anything about the astounding power of God.

God made His intention clear. He told His people to tell their children what those stones meant. The implication was that they were to bring them to that place, for that purpose. Those rocks alone explained nothing. Their silent sentinel could only prod their visitors to revisit that day, to watch again as the Jordan parted, to be amazed again at what God was doing, to remember the glory, and to re-tell the story. The rocks couldn’t remember, and none of them could tell the story. Without a ‘memory’ to share, the rocks are no longer a ‘memorial’. They’re just a pile of rocks.

Rocks with Broken Hearts?
If those rocks had been granted the ability to feel, their hearts would have been broken, because God’s people eventually stopped bringing their kids, stopped telling the stories, and ceased to re-live His power in their lives. They weren’t really a memorial anymore – just a lifeless bunch of stones. If we strip Memorial Day from its memories, then its monuments mean nothing. Our symbols have no voice of their own; and whether it’s a cross hanging around our neck, or a statue in a park, or the picture of a loved one in a uniform, if we stop telling the stories, then they’re not really memorials anymore. If we reduce Memorial Day to no more than another reason to grill hotdogs, then we’ve turned it into just another meaningless ‘pile of rocks’.

© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

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Posted in Faith, Family, and Culture, Insights, Memorial Day, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Caution – Bumper Stickers Ahead

Driving to work can be a life-threatening exercise in multi-tasking. We go speeding along in a musically-enhanced, comfort-controlled environment as we do an assortment of important things, like putting the finishing touches on our oral hygiene and adjusting our hair while belting out a crowd-pleasing karaoke rehearsal of our favorite song and checking our email.  But sometimes all that gets interrupted because our minds get caught up in unique kind of road hazard that our GPS can’t warn us about — bumper stickers.

Like Mosquitoes at a Barbeque ~
In addition to the ever-present threat of death and dismemberment on the road, there is the peril of an unanticipated assault on our sanity and emotional equilibrium caused by somebody’s bumper sticker. The ‘bumper sticker version’ of that old adage, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is, ‘Whatever idiotic bumper sticker fails to drive you totally insane makes you less likely to commit vehicular homicide’. Bumper stickers are like mosquitos at a barbecue; they attack without warning, and by the time you realize that you’ve been penetrated, it’s too late.

The incomprehensible stickers are easy enough to dismiss, but then there are those that are so ridiculously irrelevant that putting them on your car ought to be sufficient motive to revoke your license. For instance, I saw one that declared to the world, “This is My Car”. It stuck in my head like one of those songs you hate, but that your mind decides to torture you with for days.

I couldn’t let it go. What if the driver isn’t even the owner? What if the car was stolen? Maybe the statement is a total lie, and nothing more than a bad example of someone ‘trafficking’ in ‘fake news’ (sorry… couldn’t help that). What if the Washington Post is behind it all in an effort to discredit Donald Trump? Maybe they found some ‘unnamed government sources’ who once heard somebody say that a guy in Trump’s administration put that sticker on the car right after he bought it from a dealer whose third cousin married a Russian transvestite who once spoke to Vladimir Putin? What if there was collusion between Trump’s guy and the dealer with the Russian cousin-in-law to lie about the sale price just to lower the tax on it. . . , and what if James Comey’s nephew worked in the service department and leaked the scheme to the FBI? See what stupid bumper stickers can do to you?

Explore the Message Before Embracing the Platitude ~
They can certainly mess with your mind, and caution is always warranted because like other forms of social media, the news we get off the rear deck of someone’s car may not be the most reliable, especially if it’s proclaiming some spiritual insight. Those who apply them might have good intentions, but if our grasp of some important piece of Biblical truth is based on something we got off an ’89 Mazda while stuck in gridlock, we could be in trouble. On the other hand, if we think about the validity of the message before adding it to our repertoire of catchy things to say about Jesus, bumper stickers may not be a bad thing.

Let me illustrate. I recently encountered one that said, “Jesus—the Power is in the Name”. It’s a positive sounding phrase, but is it true? Is the “power” really simply “in the name”? While I don’t take the use of Jesus’ name lightly, just speaking it doesn’t release some mystical, spiritual force. There’s deeper truth involved than that.

Where the Power Really Lies ~
On His last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus looked at the city from the Mount of Olives and made this grief-stricken statement, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NKJV). The picture is simple, and the truth it illustrates is powerful and relevant.

Imagine a mother hen named ‘Bertha’, and suppose her chicks were taught this phrase: ‘Bertha—the Power is in the Name”. Then suppose a snake comes slithering up to make them his next meal, and they boldly confront the snake peeping out as sincerely as they can, ‘Bertha’… ‘Bertha’. Well… the chicks would soon discover that the power they needed wasn’t just in Mama’s name—it was in her—more accurately, it ‘was’ her.

Those defenseless little chicks in Jesus’ picture had no power to save themselves. Their only hope was that the one who brought them into the world would put her own body between them and whatever predator might threaten them. The ‘power’ that protected them was the willingness of the mother hen to face death rather than give them up.

It’s Not About Chickens ~
Jesus wasn’t grieving over chickens as He looked at Jerusalem. We’re the ones at risk, the ones who play around in dangerous places thinking we can subdue the serpent by spouting catchy slogans and quoting bumper stickers. Chickens would have known where to run.

© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

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For Mom – Reflecting Again on the Brightest Morning Ever

As some of you know, last year the Lord escorted my mother out of this world and introduced her to that place He had gone to prepare for her so long ago. Shortly after that, I shared some reflections surrounding that event. As Mother’s Day arrives, I’m especially aware of those whose mother is no longer with them and feel compelled to offer these thoughts again in honor of Mom – and in recognition of them.

Some Moments Seem Frozen in Time ~
It was one of those ‘frozen in time’ moments as I stood at her bedside looking down at Mom’s little frame. Others had stepped out and for a few minutes, there were just the two of us. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was kind of shallow as her exit from this life drew nearer.

She was so small and frail now, so weak, so isolated from the hectic world outside, and as far as that world was concerned, altogether irrelevant. Compared to the vibrant, capable, strong, creative, and energetic woman who brought me into the world so many years ago, and who had fought her way past more obstacles and endured more pain than I could even imagine, the image before me was more than a contrast—it was a blatant antithesis.

A Frustrating Cliché ~
I thought about where her journey had brought her in these recent months, about how long and dark her path had become. I stood there groping for some profound thing to say, some deeply moving insight to grab onto that would be worthy of the implications of this scene. All the most basic and vital realities of life and faith were unfolding before me, and at that moment, I had nothing. The only thought that penetrated the rubble in my mind right then was an irritating, out-of-place cliché … ‘It’s always darkest just before the dawn.’ “Well,” I thought, “It’s certainly dark enough, but I don’t see much of a dawn for her right now.”

Scenes from happier days flooded in. Our family didn’t fit the cultural mold of the Bible Belt in my early years because we weren’t ‘church people’. But not meeting all the local social standards wasn’t surprising because we were, after all, ‘Yankees’—immigrants from up north. Moving to a little tight-knit southern Virginia town from some place as foreign as Ohio brings a stigma with it that isn’t easily erased, so nobody expected us to blend in but so well anyway. The fact that I was actually later born there didn’t help much, either, because I couldn’t escape what they called my ‘northern’ accent. Rolling with the punches was not new to Mom, and she worked hard to help us adapt.

A Life-Changing New Routine ~
Before I reached that age where guys notice girls transitioning from being just another irritant, like mosquitoes and chiggers, to becoming curiously intriguing, Mom developed a new routine. Every morning before getting up she would lie there in the bed listening to a radio evangelist named Oliver B. Greene. He preached passionately about God’s love, telling her every day how she could have eternal life through faith in Christ. One morning, after hearing another of his daily appeals, she knelt beside her bed and gave her heart and life to the One who had given His for her.

Mom was different after that. She didn’t suddenly become perfect, as all of us who had intimate contact with her can attest, and she didn’t become ‘weirdly religious’, but the faith she extended to Jesus Christ that day remained an indelible part of who she was from that time on.

Mom had never had much money and even now after all these years of hard work, she would not have been able to buy much even if she had the strength. Most of her life had been a struggle just to get by. Her family had shared the financial hardships that were commonplace during the aftermath of the ‘great depression’ when survival meant learning how to scrimp and cut corners, and when that failed, it meant learning how to do without. What a lesson in values she was to me that day—poor, but possessing something that the combined currencies of the world would not be able to buy.

The frail little person lying there struggling to breathe had lost personal control over almost everything. Dementia had taken away her capacity to make any significant decision. Age and disease had ravaged her physically and made her totally dependent for even the most basic care. The only thing left that Mom had absolute, unchallenged, and unassailable ownership of was the promise she received from the lips of her risen Savior as she knelt beside another bed so many decades earlier. Age and disease might have taken control of her mind and body, but it couldn’t take away that promise. Legal documents might have stripped her of the right to make important decisions, but no court could nullify that promise. Every value system that the world had to offer was failing her right now, but their collapse couldn’t touch that promise.

Not Alone ~
As I looked down through the tears and frustration from having no way to help and nothing to offer her, I realized that we weren’t alone. The One who had come to meet her in that other bedroom years ago was here looking down on her again. When He first met Mom she was strong and vibrant, not frail and destitute like now, but she was willing to give up everything to have Him. Now, when everything else was really gone, she was still His, and He was here.

In the midst of my helplessness and heartache, the One who gave that promise to Mom back then said quietly, but with absolute authority, “Don’t worry—I’ve got this. It’s only dark a little longer, and the dawn that’s coming is like none she’s ever seen. Your mom’s going to wake to the brightest morning ever.”

© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

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Posted in Forgiveness, Insights, Mother's Day, Right Side Up | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Put the Lid Back on the Sewer!

It seems like God keeps sending us wake-up calls and we keep hitting the snooze button. It’s understandable, because quieting the irritating reminder that it’s time to get up and get busy is certainly the easier option, and the easy option is always appealing because it’s, well… easier. The problem is that our pattern of hitting the snooze button way too often has gotten us to the point where the things we’re trying to avoid are getting more and more unavoidable.

Funny Garbage or Just Garbage ~
Most of us who have access to conservative news sources are aware of Stephen Colbert’s filthy, anti-Trump tirade unleashed on the ‘Tonight Show’ last Monday night. It wasn’t the first time that profane garbage has been dumped on the public in the name of humor. That disturbing practice has been in place for a long time, but Colbert’s performance took the progressives’ lame excuse for comedy to a disgusting new level.

My intent here is not to condemn Stephen Colbert. His own mouth does a much more impressive job of that than I could ever manage to do. Continue reading

Posted in Faith, Family, and Culture, In the News, Insights, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , | 5 Comments