Monday, March 23, 2009

Let Us Remember

There are no words that will make this video clip any better. Please watch it and remeber...


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Dust Bowl

Pardon the expression, but I had to "dust" this story off and share it with you. It comes from my article writing days, which are long gone. It seems applicable now that we are facing hard times again. Maybe it will help us keep our circumstances in perspective.

The Dust Bowl

The years of the depression could be summed up in one word for so many of its victims: desperation.

You could see it coming as far as the horizon would permit. Soon, everyone’s windows and doors served only to hold back the fierce wind howling outside. Dust as fine as silt drifts in from every crack in the wall, filling the floor and cracks with sand deep enough to plant corn. Nothing could stop it. Children would sit in the floor and play with large piles of sand as the dirt blew in from outside. If bad luck were your fortune, it would rain while the sand was blowing and fall in the form of mud. The locals called them “dusters”, but everyone called them the worst thing to happen in farming history.

For the poor sharecroppers in Oklahoma, the dust storms of the Dust Bowl years were nothing short of a death sentence to their way of life. Most farms were foreclosed as banks began to call in notes; notes the farmers could not support. Slowly, one by one, then by the hundreds, Oklahomans abandoned their homes and went west to California, desperately seeking some way of making a living.

The dust meant much more to others. For them it meant completely changing everything they ever knew about life. They packed up their belongings and started driving west. Many people had to leave behind farms that their families had established some 70 years before. Old men cried as they left the home that had born their fathers, their children, and their grandchildren. For many, the trip was too much to bear and they died from broken hearts before they ever crossed the state line of Oklahoma. At night, they would eat fried dough while dreaming of chicken and dumplings. For many, beans and corn bread was a feast to remember. When they arrived in California to find no work available, they gathered into communes, sharing what they didn’t have to share. Instead of finding work, they found hostilities. For California had been overrun by those looking for a solution to their desperate problems. Local vigilantes, hating the Oklahomans for bringing their hard luck to California, burned out many times their camps. Their words, “brother, can you spare a dime?” became the national anthem as tough times got worse for so many. Honest, hard working people were reduced to beggars in order to survive. However, they did survive. They survived to go on and help build a bigger and better America.

For the strong, the tough times brought on by the dust storms amounted to insurmountable grounds for true bragging rights, lending testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit. “Why, where I come from, the dust was so thick that I had to chop my way to the barn with my ax just so I could tend to the cows.” And, “Shoot that’s nothing, it was so dusty at my house that when we jest got used to drinkin’ dust and bathin’ in durt.” Such folks just found a way to survive, despite the overwhelming odds against them. Their families still farm that same land today, with the same grim determination so appreciated by their fore fathers.

In only a few years, America was in the full throws of World War II, fighting to preserve their way of life; fighting to have the right to try their luck again just as soon as they get the chance. These people couldn’t be stopped by hard times. The hard times only made them more determined to survive.

Pay special attention to the photo of the man and the two boys running for cover as a dust storm started to blow in on an Oklahoma farm. What you will see is a desperate attempt to defy the odds and hold out just one day longer. You will see grim determination in the face of odds greater than any man should face. You will see great sorrow and great longing for better days. You will see the embodiment of everything great that is found in humanity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Robinsons


Paul and Suzie Robinson had been in their Siberian prison for months. They were arrested for smuggling Bibles through the airport at Moscow in 1982 and had been transported from prison camp to prison camp throughout the Soviet Union for 3 years. The US State Department tried repeatedly to negotiate their safe return, but failed. The Robinsons were destined to spend years suffering for their faith.

Throughout their captivity, they had been separated and had not seen each other once, but had heard each other crying out in pain, as they were tortured and humiliated. After each round of torment, the Communists would tell them that if they would simply deny Christ, then they could go free. The Robinsons were not prepared to do so.

One day, Suzie was surprised to see her cell door open and Paul shoved into the room. The door promptly closed and they were left alone for several hours. They cried together and prayed together, asking God to extend His mercy and grace to sustain them. They never asked why they were made to suffer, for they knew the answer. They were Christians; they were agents of change and were prepared to suffer the consequences for their choices. Throughout their journey, God sustained them and they never lost sight of who Christ was and why they loved Him. Their main concern was that their lives and deaths brought honor to God and helped advance the Kingdom of God. They only wanted to make a difference.

Paul and Suzie found strength in their embrace in that cell and were renewed at the sight of each other. Paul had a beard from three years growth, and Suzie had lost more weight than Paul thought possible, but she was still his beautiful wife. Their hope in this reunion was that God had arranged their release. Yet, their hopes diminished when the Commandant entered their cell to discuss their latest offer of compromise. It was simple, if Suzie would agree to willingly bear the child of one of the guards, they would return their passports and send them home. Paul and Suzie rushed to answer and immediately rejected the offer. The Commandant advised them that they would die if they refused, but they remained adamant to their death. Paul and Suzie were made to dig their own graves and Paul was made to bury Suzie before he was killed. Their names were written in the Book of Martyrs and their deaths brought great honor to the Kingdom.

I realize this post is unpleasant, and I have hesitated to post it many times. However, this "could be true, but isn't" story is nothing short of reality for so many Christians throughout the world. I have hesitated to post it in the past because I was concerned how it would be received. But, after watching how our future is shaping itself, I feel it is important to tell stories such as this, lest we grow complacent. Earlier this week, a pastor was shot from the pulpit. He left his wife and two daughters wondering what happened. We are hovering on the edge of a potential prosecution. If America strays much farther down this road, I fear we won't be able to maintain life as we know it.

Now, I'm not an alarmist. I firmly believe in God's sovereignty, and I fully embrace that He is in control. If this is what God allows, then we will embrace His plan with faith that His will is best. If it comes, then let's pray we be found faithful. If God continues to spare us, let's not forget to pray for those who do face these dangers daily.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Illumination--The Finale

Adam, having decided to journey on his own, is now about to venture on his own path, based on the advice of Chicane. One might anticipate how well this will turn out...

Illumination, the Finale.

After a while, the forest started to close in on him, but enough light remained to stay on the path. Without realization, he traveled deep into the forest and deeper into the darkness. Adam continued without hesitation, for he was a man, and he could make his own way. The darkness had completely surrounded him, causing him to stumble as he fought to see the light. Before long, he was groping on hands and knees, searching for the way. He could not turn back, for back and front had long ago merged into the same. He was completely lost, without hope of redemption. He leaned against a tree and decided to wait until light came to him before continuing.

Something seemed vaguely familiar about his surroundings. Had he been in this place before? How could he know, for even his hands were unseen by him? If only he had a way to find the path. He leaned back to think. Once, long ago, he had met a man that offered to help him. What was his name? There had been two men. One had helped him and the other… He couldn’t remember. To great a time had passed and his memory seemed askew by the darkness. Adam forced himself to think, to remember the name of his friend. He was growing sleepy; maybe he should rest for a while before continuing. His eyes closed and he began to relax. Sleep seemed to beckon him, seducing him to let go. He began to drift away, to let go of his surroundings…

Caminero! That was the name of his friend. The thought of the name brought him out of his sleep. Had he been asleep, or only near it? He couldn’t be sure. Caminero. Such an odd name, one he had never heard before. It was on his lips and he spoke aloud before realizing that he had spoken. “Caminero.”

The darkness began to squeeze around him, causing him to loose breath, as if a chain was coiling about him, like a serpent. The darkness had fingers, sticky fingers that reached to subdue him. Terror seized his voice; he was unable to think. “Camin…” Words would not form on his lips. “Cam…” If only he could call for help. Perhaps it was too late, just as he was warned. Mustering all his strength, he cried out in a last effort, “Caminero!”

A light pierce through the darkness, causing the ebony around him to flee. A man stood before him with a lamp. It was Caminero! “My friend, you have come to me!”

“Of course. You only had to call out to me.” He held the lamp closer to Adam, “Can you see to walk?”

“Only by your light.”

“That is what light is for. Follow me; we have a long journey ahead.”

“But Sir,” Adam inquired. “What will I owe you for your help?”

“You owe me nothing that you can pay now. Come with me at once, lest you die in the darkness.”

“Sir, there are many dangers in the forest. A serpent almost killed me just now.”
Caminero held the lamp closer to himself and the light reflected off a long sword attached to his cloak. “Fear not, my friend, for I am skilled in the art of war.” He turned and walked into the darkness. “The way is very close.”

Adam did not hesitate to follow as closely as he could. The light was with Caminero, illuminating his every step; for him the path was clear. Adam could only follow with each step immediately following his guide. Suddenly, the woods cleared and they stood in a large meadow. Adam stopped in disbelief. “I have stood here before.”

“When you left me you returned to the dark path, rather than follow me into the light.”

Adam pointed ahead. “But I followed that path in the light. It’s a trick! I followed your direction after you left.”

“But you did not follow me, only where you thought I went.”

Adam surveyed his surroundings. “Are we alone?”

“Whom do you expect?”

“I am not sure, but I seem to remember another person. My memory is so dark, I can’t see clearly into my past. It’s a tangle of broken promises and deceit.”

“Then you are remembering yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

“Your heart is full of deceit, for you are a liar.”

Adam leaned forward, indignant. “My word is my bond, I have never told a lie.”
“Do you remember when I found you in the woods? You said that you would follow me as long as you have the means.”

Adam was silent for a moment. “Well, one lie does not a liar make.”

“Very well, then how many lies does it take in order to make one a liar? Ten? Twenty five? At what point is one no longer truthful? Are you truthful when you tell your first lie?”

“No, but…” Adam hesitated, looking down at his feet. “Sir, I can see that I am wrong. I did lie to you, but not with the intention of deceiving you.”

“No matter.” Caminero waved him off. “The lie was a matter of convenience for you. You might not have deliberately lied, but the truth was violated just the same.”

“I am truly sorry for lying to you. It won’t happen again.” He paused and sat on a large rock nearby. “Fortunately, that is the only time I wronged you, you are a hard one to please.”

“You also adulterated our relationship. You had fully devoted yourself to my service, yet you abandoned me to pursue your own wishes. In doing so, you chose to serve yourself. I see your selfishness as idolizing only yourself.”

Adam lowered his head. “Sir, I see that I am wrong, I am guilty of offending you. My heart is pierced with shame.”

“Then you have a choice to make. You have to make a commitment to me before we can walk in the light together. You must abandon your old path forever, never to return. Forever more, you can only walk where I lead you, and you can only move when I tell you. You are giving me your life. In exchange, I will give you mine. I will give you a pardon for violating my laws.”

“Sir, I have no knowledge of your laws.”

“Before you started your journey, I wrote the laws on your heart. Otherwise, you would not have felt guilt for those you violated.”

“Sir, I would not have violated your laws, except that I was lied to, I was deceived.”

“No matter. Only you have the ability to make the choice. You choose to either believe or reject a lie. You chose poorly last time; you were very selfish. Now you must choose again. Follow me at the cost of your life, or follow your own path at the cost of death.”

Caminero’s intense stare was penetrating Adam’s heart, his very soul. It was true. Adam was going to be required to sell his soul… “How can you expect me to give you my life? How can I continue?”

“You will pay either me or Chicane. If you pay me, then it will cost you your life. If you pay Chicane, then it will cost you death. You will die either way. Either die to yourself, or die to life. The choice is hard, for you have violated the law; a penalty must be paid. I will pay your penalty, but you must give me your life and become my servant.” Caminero looked deep into his eyes, but Adam had to look away. “When you give me your life, I will give it back to you.”

Adam had no argument. How was he to know that he was trespassing against a law he never saw in print? He had heard it said before, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Adam could see no way out, he had to commit his life to Caminero, or he would die in the darkness. “Very well, Sir. I surrender to you. I am unworthy of you paying for my crimes, but I am grateful for your benevolence. Where you lead, I will follow.”

Caminero produced a bag of water, which he handed to Adam. “I am sure that you thirst by now.”

Adam drank from the flask. Cold, clear water poured endlessly from the pouch. Adam drank, but could not be satisfied; yet, he could not be filled, either. He closed his eyes and drank. He had never been so thirsty in his life. When he opened his eyes, he could see the light; it was shining brightly on the path before him. Caminero motioned for him to follow. “Come, my brother, for we have a long journey ahead.” Adam followed his new master, grateful for the light on his path and the water in his hands.

The End

Illumination Part II

When we last saw Adam, he was emerging from the forrest, being lead into the light by his mysterious friend. Grateful for the the help, Adam pledged his life to his new master...


A rustling in the brush caused Adam to hesitate in his journey. Caminero continued without looking back, but Adam was curious. A man emerged from the woods and greeted Adam with a large grin.

“Hello, my name is Chicane, how are you?” He held out an eager hand to Adam, who politely received it. “What is your name?”


Chicane smiled warmly at him and paused to consider the name. “Adam.” He mused. “That is a fine sounding name if I have ever heard one. What brings you here?”

“I have lost my way while journeying. Caminero has graciously offered to help me find the way.”

Chicane glanced over at Caminero, who had paused a few feet away, and seemed to pay no attention to Chicane. Adam noticed that the two made a deliberate point not to stand too close together. “Caminero is it? I wondered what you were calling yourself these days.”

Caminero offered no response. Adam raised his voice. “You know each other?”

Chicane waved nonchalantly. “Of course. We are the only two that know the paths. No one knows them as we do. In fact, anyone that ventures this way will be guided by one of us. Only luck will determine who will guide the lost souls.”

Adam hesitated. Caminero had been very clear that only he knew the right path to take. Now Chicane was proclaiming the same.

Chicane peered deep into Adam’s eyes. “Ah, I see that you are confused. Caminero often misleads trusting souls. You won’t be the first.”

“The first what?”

He glanced at Caminero. “He has told other people that they can find the right path with his help, but he fails to tell them that they have a choice. That they have other options.”

There was something familiar about Chicane, as if they had met before. Adam stepped closer. “Tell me more. What other options?”

Chicane almost spoke in a whisper causing Adam to lean closer to him. “I imagine he told you that only he knew the right path, and that he established the paths.” Adam nodded in agreement. “Did he tell you that I also know the way?” Adam shook his head. “Did he tell you about the price you will pay to follow him?”

Adam stole a glance at Caminero, who was waiting patiently. “What price? I have nothing of value.” He imagined that he could trust Chicane. After all, he was telling him the truth, or at lest what appeared to be the truth.

“Ah, but you are wrong.” Chicane stepped closer to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Adam did not flinch. “You have your life, and you will pay with it when you reach the end. In fact, you will pay with your life before you reach the end.”
“But how is that possible?”

Chicane scolded his peer with pursed lips. “How could you lie to him like that? Adam is a trusting soul, and you take advantage of him.” He directed his attention to Adam. “It is similar to selling your soul.” He leaned closer to Adam. “Surely he told you that one path will lead to death?” Adam nodded. “Good, at lest that much he told you. There are two paths, but they are very close together. You have to be extra careful, or someone may trick you into following the wrong path and paying for your mistake with your life.” He stared intently at Caminero, who was ignoring him. “Did he tell you that you can learn to see the path on your own?”

“No, I was not told that I could learn to see for myself. However, after coming out of the forest, I can see the path much clearer now.”

“Good! You are a quick study. I like a man with a sharp, clear mind that can think for himself.” Chicane wrapped an arm around him as if they were friends. “I alone know the absolute truth regarding this path, you must be careful, or you will die. If I were you, I would tell this Caminero to take leave.”

Adam gazed hard at Caminero. Turmoil boiled within him, daring him to dismiss his friend. Caminero patiently waited for Adam to make his choice as if repeating a dance from long times past. Adam struggled to make sense of his new revelation. Had Caminero deliberately deceived him, or was Chicane now attempting to deceive him? After a moment of pause, Caminero spoke. “There is much darkness ahead, Adam. If you are going to make it we must leave now.”

Chicane leaned forward and whispered, “don’t you see what he is doing? You and I can both see the path. It is clearly laid out before us. You no longer need Caminero. Thank him for his services and send him on his way. Save your own soul, you should not have to pay so dearly for his help. A man’s life is too valuable to be wasted on trickery.”

Adam’s mind blurred. He was unable to think rationally. His mind told him that he was able to continue on his way without help. Yet, his senses told him that there was much darkness ahead. Danger, possibly death would become his companion if he continued without guidance. At long last, Adam made a decision. “Caminero, thank you for your help. I will be fine from here.”

Caminero spoke without moving. “The choice is yours, and I will abide by your decision. However, know this. When you are surrounded by darkness, simply call out my name and I will be there. There will be a time on your path when you can no longer call out to me, for I will not be found.”

“When will that moment be?”

“At the end, when it is too late.”

Adam hesitated. Chicane stepped forward and stood between them. “Have you forgotten that his fee for help is very costly? I will offer the same help but will charge much less.”

“Oh? Go on.”

“I will charge you nothing. In fact, I will point you in the right direction and allow you to make your own way, like a man. You won’t need me to hold your hand as you make your own path, for you are not a child, you don’t need help. When you arrive at your destination, you won’t have to pay with your life.”

Adam nodded in approval. “Yes, I like that. I am a man and I can find my own way. Thank you, Caminero. I appreciate your help.” He waved a salutation at him, summarily dismissing his former host. Caminero turned and continued in the direction they had been walking.

“You have made a fine choice, Adam. You don’t need anyone holding your hand; you will make it on your own.” He pointed with a crooked finger at the path. “The way is clear. If it seems right to you, then take it. You can see well enough now, and the light only grows stronger the further you go. I now bid you peace and luck.”

“Before I depart, Caminero offered me some water. I am very thirsty, do you have water?”

“I do in fact.” He handed Adam a skin of water. Adam didn’t see where the skin was hidden within Chicane’s clothing. He almost seemed to produce it from nothing. He greedily drank from the vessel, but stopped after a few gulps. “This water… It doesn’t taste right.”

“I assure you that it is pure.”

“It is the same as the water Caminero offered me?”

“It is reasonably similar.”

Adam drank again. “Funny, it seems to be a little bitter.”

Chicane waved the concern away. “Don’t worry, the more you drink, the better you grow accustomed to it. Drink up! You have a long journey ahead.”

Amazingly, Chicane’s prediction was true. The water almost tasted sweet after a few more sips. Adam shook Chicane’s hand and thanked his new friend, continuing on his way. The path was clear and he had no trouble find his steps. How could he miss the path? Everything was so clear to him. He hummed as he walked. He was at peace with the world.

To Be Continued--one more time!

Illumination Part I

Illumination is, you will find, as complicated as any story I write. I first envisioned it after reading Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This will be a three part story, so pace yourself. I won't stretch it out too long, so try to enjoy the story. Trust me, it's worth staying with it to the end.


In the darkness, somewhere around the beginning, two roads diverged in the woods. Originally, the path was made straight, but the darkness caused the way to become obscure. The journeyman stood at the edge of the light, pondering how he had missed the path. He did not know how, but he knew that he had to find his way again, or he would be doomed to wander the darkness, aimlessly searching for the way. He could not find the clues he needed, for the darkness was overwhelming, like a cloak that could not be removed, confining him from the light. He had no staff with which to prod the darkness, so he found himself searching on his knees, his hands stretched out in front of him, groping, searching. Finding nothing recognizable he leaned against a tree, waiting for the light to come to him.

“What’s this, a lost stranger?” A voice jolted him from his sleep. He looked and vaguely saw a man standing before him; this one held a staff.

His reply was humble and polite. “I have lost my way, I cannot continue in my journey until I discover what happened to my path.” He waited while the stranger seemed to accept his plight.

“Come with me, my friend, for I have walked this path many times before. In fact, I have stood in the same place you are now, looking for the way.” He paused and stroked his bearded face, then spoke without seeming to move his mouth. “I have walked this path so many times that I am the path. I am so familiar with every part of the path, down to the very pebbles lining its edge, that I can traverse it blindfolded.”

The journeyman spoke. “I am waiting for light before continuing on my way, for I am lost, and wish not to be lost even more than I am now.”

The stranger nodded with approval. “It is a wise thing you have said, but come with me, for the light is growing stronger even as I have arrived.”

The journeyman surveyed his surroundings; indeed the light was growing brighter. A new day was dawning. He arose from his tree and followed the stranger, who had not waited for him before continuing. After matching his stride he spoke softly, not wanting to violate the quiet still air. “My name is Adam, I believe that I am the first to journey this way.”

“I am called Caminero. I have journeyed this way on many occasions, you are not the first.”

“But I have seen no sign of others, where are they? Those that have gone before, I mean.”

“There are many things you do not know.”

“But where are they?” His question was not impolite, but he regretted the tone it imposed.

Caminero shuffled in his step, but never slowed pace. Adam found it difficult to maintain this speed in the darkness. When Caminero showed no intention to answer the question, Adam repeated himself.

“You ask many questions, Adam.”

“I have many questions in my mind that I wish to be answered. For instance, who are you?”

“I am only here to help you find your way in the dark, it is my job. I establish justice for those that are lost; I guide them to the path.”

“Of whom do you speak?”

“Of those who are lost. Every man’s life will lead him along this path. Only their steps are different, but the end of the path is crucial. Therefore, you must be sure to be on the right path at the end.”

“Who made this path? The one that we are on is now seems well traveled; some one must have gone before us. How do you know this is the right path?”

“When you are in the light, you can plainly see the path that is before you. When you are in the darkness, you can’t see clearly to follow the path.”

“Tell me, Caminero, why do you talk in riddles?”

Caminero laughed with genuine humor. “Do I speak in riddles, or do you hear in them? Perhaps my speech is regular and you hear backwards. On this path there are many things that seem right, but are not.”

“Tell me more about this path.”

“There are two paths, this one and the other. There is a path that seems right to everyone, but the end of that road is...” His voice trailed off.

“The end of the road is what?”

Caminero sighed. “Death.”

Adam considered that. Caminero was genuinely distressed by his own words. “What does that mean?”

“Every person that has gone before you has walked along this very path. There is a time in each life when there is only one path. Shortly after the beginning the paths grow separate, but many people do not realize that there are two paths. Few of those who realize they are one the wrong path will find their way back to the right one.”

“How do they find the right passageway?”

“They must be guided by me. I alone know the path that must be taken, for this road will lead to death.”

“What does that mean, ‘this road will led to death?’”

Caminero continued without appearing to grow weary of the questions. “As I have said before, there is a path that leads to death, for there are many pitfalls on this road. The end of this path is a dead end. However, at the end, there is not time to turn around, for the darkness pays its laborers with death. Many dangers await you ahead, many opportunities to fail.”

“But how can I know that you truly know the way?”

Caminero laughed again. “I have told you that I alone know the way. I established this path, and the other, long before you started walking.”

“Where are we going now?”

“I am leading you into the light, it is not far ahead.”

“What happens when we get to the light?”

“Let us get there, first. Many don’t make it that far.”

“And if I do?”

“Then I will give you water, for surely you will be thirsty by then.”

Adam stopped walking. “Sir, if you have water, I pray that you will give it to me now, for I am about to perish from thirst.”

“You must wait until you are in the light, for you cannot see to drink in the dark.”
Adam walked in silence for a time. He found the road difficult to follow without stumbling. Yet, Caminero walked with ease and never snagged a toe, moving like a lion on the hunt. Adam noticed that Caminero seemed to have more light around him than did he. In fact, the light seemed to follow Caminero, while avoiding Adam.
Suddenly, the woods thinned and they stood in a large meadow. The path they were on was plainly seen and continued over the rise. Adam noticed that the light intensified as they emerged from the forest. He could see much clearer now.

“How far is the right path?”

“Every step takes us closer. Stay close to me and you will see it soon.”

“What happens when we get there? How will I know the way?”

“I will stay with you to the end; I will guide you until you reach your destination. Be patient, the path is just ahead. You must trust me, for I alone know the way. We must not stop, for there are many dangers ahead.”

“Sir, you have proven your worth to me, I will devote my life you as long as I have the means. After all, you brought me from the darkness.”

To Be Continued...