Ship Turning: A Perspective on National Course Correction

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You probably have heard the adage that goes something like this: The bigger the ship, the longer it takes to turn it around. A small ship can turn on a dime. A large vessel needs lots of time and careful preparations before making a shift in direction. While this is true as a whole, it also depends greatly upon the type of large ship we are talking about.

A cruise ship is designed primarily for the comfort of the passengers. Turning around in a critical situation would take several minutes and anything faster could create big problems, not only with the passenger’s comfort but with all the ship’s systems that are not equipped to handle sudden change. A cruise ship is a type of floating hotel. Tables and beds would be overturned. Passengers would be thrown off balance and fall. Injuries would probably ensue. Perhaps lives would be lost.

A battleship, however, can turn around much quicker, perhaps in several seconds, although even then it could cause some discomfort for the sailors and damage to equipment if it isn’t securely affixed. But these vessels are designed for war, where every second of maneuverability can mean the difference between life and death. Every man and woman on board is ready for this type of quick turnabout and is trained for it, plus, the logistics of the vessel are designed for the possibility that a sudden change may need to be taken. A battleship will suddenly change direction for strategic and tactical advantage, while a cruise ship would never have a similar reason for turning.

I think you may catch my drift here. As a nation, we have been accustomed for many years to being on a cruise ship. However, that is no longer the case. Whether you realize it or not, we are in a battle for the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It is a spiritual war primarily but with many earthly ramifications.

For many years, we have been making a beeline in a certain direction. It has been extreme. It has been purposeful. It has been mostly unchallenged and in many cases ignored. Its ultimate destination would have been deadly in regard to our identity and sovereignty as a nation.

Change was needed and needed quickly. It has come. Although we have been duly warned, even so, we are still shocked and rocking and reeling with the change. We are being thrown about the vessel and many have threatened mutiny.

Here is why I am still “on board” and not being tossed about the ship:

1. I am a nationalist. By this I mean, I support the concept of individual nations, not a global society where borders and boundaries are erased supposedly for the common good. By being a nationalist, I am NOT saying that I believe our nation is intrinsically “superior,” should suppress weaker nations, or have no regard for other nations’ concerns. However, nations cannot be nations if they do not have boundaries and borders. They are what make us distinct and yes, defendable. If you know my husband and me, you know of our great love for the people of all nations. You know we have supported the work of the church in many places around the globe. We, ourselves, were foreigners in another country for the first year of our marriage. In no way, is the love for our nation exclusive, but our first national loyalty is to the one that has given us so many freedoms and privileges for which we are ever grateful.

2. Someday, I will be a “globalist”…but that day has not yet come. As a Christian, my first and foremost loyalty is to another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. For now, this kingdom is primarily invisible and resides in the hearts of Christians. It is manifested to some degree wherever Christians abide and are “salt and light.” However, it is not here fully and will not be until Christ returns. On that day, there will be a “one world government,” and we will be a “globalist” society with a benevolent King. But in the meantime, we have nations. Individual nations each with a unique identity, purpose, and destiny.

3. Sadly, between the time of individual nations and the return of Christ, there will be another “globalist” society. One that is ruled by a man. This is prophesied in Scripture so we know it is coming. We will lose our national identity and sovereignty, as will all nations. It will appear as if peace and world harmony have come, but it will be a false peace. Does that mean we just accept it and go along with it? No, of course not. It will be a time of great wickedness unlike we have ever seen. But for now, we have a window of opportunity to turn our crash course around. Are you aware of it?

The national course correction we have embarked upon seems severe. It seems extreme. But if you look behind us, for several years we had been on another extreme path, one that I believe would have led to destruction. We have mercifully been extended an opportunity to turn it around.

Having said that, no amount of extensive, broad reading and listening to news will give you a complete picture of the true state of the affairs of our nation. It is partial and incomplete at best. We know in part and we prophecy in part. Likewise, no amount of Scripture study and knowledge will give you all the answers. In fact, you can probably find Scriptural reference for just about any stance and opinion you have. What is needed most is discernment, an understanding of the times and seasons in which we live.

Here are three ways to grow in discernment:

1. Hold to the “main and plain” things of Scripture. There are really only a few firm stances that I maintain in life that won’t budge. Most of these are contained in the Apostles’ Creed. Many other stances are loosely held and adjustable because they are preferences or opinions.

2. Look for discerning individuals and listen widely but with wisdom. Because we only have partial knowledge and understanding, we need to put the pieces together by listening well. No opposing views should be summarily dismissed as invalid but kept under consideration until proven otherwise.

3. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in you. Ask Him for discernment. One of His main purposes is to lead us into all truth. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” John 16:13

If you are a fellow Christian, we owe to one another a terrible loyalty as well. We are on the same team, not opposing ones. Most of this loyalty is expressed, not in the high places of speech and rhetoric, but in the trenches, in the low places of service as we walk out our citizenship in this great nation. See you in the trenches!

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Honor Works

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Honor Works

Are you an influencer? If so, you care passionately about communicating your beliefs, ideas, positions, concerns, and yes, even truths. However, in all our desire to influence, we can push aside the very thing that gives us the power to influence in the beginning. That is the dignity and honor in every human soul.

When we present our ideas, they should come as an invitation to others to think with us, to reason with us, to consider with us. As with any invitation, it automatically includes an R.S.V.P. In other words, the other person(s) can say yes or no or maybe. A true invitation does not include shaming, demeaning, degrading, or humiliating the invitee if they choose not to take you up on your invitation. Anyone should leave an interchange with you with their dignity as a human being intact or even elevated. They should not feel made “less than” you just because they do not see things your way. By leaving the choice with them in a winsome way, you are actually increasing your power to influence. By shoving, pushing, and cramming your opinions and beliefs, you are sadly diminishing the great gift you have as an influencer.

As you are well aware, in our society today there is tremendous pressure to polarize, divide, cast blame, point fingers, and name call, all in an attempt to present truth and win others to our side. It’s not working.

In the great arena of ideas, those that will excel and win are the noble ones, the ones that are grounded in truth. But they don’t stand a chance if they are presented in such a way that dehumanizes and even demonizes those who choose not to share them. This is my invitation for you to take a higher way. The way of honor. It works.

Summer Residue

Summer ResidueIn honor of the cooling temperatures and a heavy, much-needed rain last night, I broke out the first autumn candle and burned it. With the sweet, heavy scent released throughout the house, other August memories came flooding back. This time of year holds boughs laden with melancholy for me. Preparing the kids for back to school, squeezing every last drop out of summer with last minute drives to the beach, eating fresh Michigan peaches right out of the orchards, sticky juice dripping down my fingers. All of my heart cries, “It’s time! Time to wrap up another summer and begin a new season.”

Here is a little post from six years ago written as I sat on the deck on an August evening:

“I quietly step outside once again before night descends upon this late August evening. The air is subtly different now, unlike midsummer nights, signaling the upcoming change. The steady drone of cicadas remains unbroken, providing a comforting background for my evening rendezvous with the early stars. I inhale deeply and remind myself to memorize the moment to savor some dark, dreary December day. There is no turning back now. Summer silently slips away from Michigan’s grasp like sand through her fingers. Autumn quivers with anticipation behind the curtain awaiting her debut.”

Card-Carrying Couple

LoveBirdsI know of a couple, who on every wedding anniversary would stroll into a Hallmark store together. They would take their time and quietly browse through the rows of neatly stacked greeting cards. Every now and then, a smile would break out on their faces or a snicker escape from their lips. Eventually, they would meet up, grinning as if hiding a secret, both with a card in their hands. First, the husband would hand a card to his wife. “Oh, for me?” she would croon teasingly and open and read it and make some sweet remark. Then she would hand him a card, and he would laugh and do likewise. Then they would quietly place the cards back on the shelves and hand-in-hand exit the store. Mission accomplished. $10 saved. Off to Starbucks!

We are not that couple. And even with the advent of all the digital modes of communication, I still like to give and receive the real deal, a piece of light-weight, colorful cardboard with sticky sweet sentiments imprinted inside. One that I can discretely flip over and see the price. I don’t often visit the Family Christian Stores, purveyors of “jesus junk” or “holy hardware,” but when I do, it’s in search of the perfect anniversary card. Such was the case on this day a few years ago.

As I foraged through the cards, I became aware of a song being played in the background on a Christian radio station. Instantly, I recognized it. “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman. “Wow, that’s an oldie,” I thought to myself. Then it dawned on me. God knows what day this is! He arranged for this song to be played right at this moment while I’m in this store. This is His anniversary card to me. Soon I was scrambling through my purse for a Kleenex.

“Tomorrow morning if you wake up,
And the future is unclear
I will be here
As sure as seasons are made for change,
Our lifetimes are made for years
So, I will be here

I will be here and you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older,
I will hold you and
I will be here to watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

I will be here”

And when it was over, the announcer informed, “This song was played for many weddings over 20 years ago.” Yeah, I was pretty much a mess by this time. I found the card I was looking for and made a beeline for the counter, swiping at my cheeks.

Larry made good on those words to me.

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So Many Selves

LJ&AIt was a hot and humid August weekend in 1987 at one of the Yohnke family reunions. We had gathered for this happy and momentous occasion from five different states and converged in a tiny town in Iowa for the dedication and baptism of one of my nieces. It was the decade of the ‘80s, and all my brothers and sisters were having babies one after another! Every year someone else was announcing their pregnancy. In fact, most of my parents’ 15 grandchildren were born within the span of a decade.

Aaron was just 10 months old and was on the verge of taking his first steps. In fact, it was just days later, after we returned home to Michigan, that on tottering, chubby legs he stumbled into his daddy’s outreached arms and never looked back!

I’m sharing this photo as part of our wedding anniversary week-long celebration. Now this little tow-headed, plump-cheeked cherub of ours, whom we called Aaron David, is expecting his first child with his wife, Adrienne, this fall. Next year at this time, they will be holding their very own baby boy of about 10 1/2 months!

I love looking at this photo and remembering who we were then. By looking at our youthful faces, I think maybe I can recapture, even just for a moment, what it was like to be just starting out. We were full of hopes and expectations for our family. Every day brought some new discovery for Aaron and for us, as we marveled at our child’s growth. Mostly, we had all the energy and vitality we needed for any given day. Sure, there were fears and what ifs, but those were drowned in a sea of trust and optimism and “everything is going to be just fine.”

Recently, I was reading about a woman whose grandmother told her that getting old was like carrying all these different selves inside you. I thought about my 13-year-old self, all awkward and self-conscious. She’s still in there. My 20-something-year-old self just burgeoning with optimism, self-discovery, and new love. She’s still there when I look for her. My 35-year-old-self engulfed and swallowed up with the little ones I am raising. I remember her. My 50-year-old self, releasing and letting those same children go with a gulp and a sigh, first one and then the other, and wondering, “What I am going to do now?”

This grandmother said you carry them around inside you, collecting them along the way, all these different selves. She likened them to those nesting Russian dolls that are stacked inside one another. You open up one and discover another and then another and yet another, all inside the one.

I believe it’s the same way for a couple united in marriage. We establish our own new identity with our vows. We are no longer two, but one. Then we go about exploring and expanding upon this newly founded entity of Mr. and Mrs. The experiences and memories build up year after year. The good times, the hard times, the impossible times. All meant to forge us into an unbreakable union.

And then there are the anniversaries. Those occasions when you look back and remember who you were when your union was just one year old and then 10 years old, 20, 30, 40, and if you are so blessed, even 50 years. You break out the photo albums and gaze into the faces of who you were and realize you are still all of them. You are the couple so passionately in love with each other you can’t stand to be apart even for an hour. You are the awe-struck couple studying every little detail of your first newborn. You are the couple surrounded by a sea of children and can hardly remember when it was “just the two of us” but wouldn’t trade it for anything. You are the couple so proud and so exhausted with graduation after graduation. You high-five each other and whisper, “We made it!”

Your faces show the signs of aging now with little cracks and crevices. You realize you’ve come too far to ever turn back, to turn away from who you have become. It’s your anniversary, and you say, “Honey, let’s take a picture.”

Laughter Runs

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Laughter runs in the streets today
No opposing force can muffle
Breaking through the icy fortress
Conquering it in the scuffle.

Rippling, rushing, giggling, gushing
Melting every stony thing
Picking up winter’s debris
And tossing it with a fling.

Trickling, tripping, singing, skipping
Every stone along the way
Breaking down the grayish remnants
Laughter runs in the streets today! ~ jfm ~