Real World Heroes Do NOT Demand Attention

MANY have suggested that Edward Snowden’s background certainly indicates that he was neither smart enough to propel himself into a “classified” position nor smart enough to steal classified documents. There remains a question as to whether he was even capable of acting on his own, or was simply a puppet on a string. Why are we so quick to bestow a “hero” label upon somebody who obviously was not in this for the greater good of the country, but rather to massage his ego? Are we to be so easily deceived by the suave words of a pathological liar?

Eight things we OBVIOUSLY forgot about Snowden (which SHOULD have us opening our eyes a bit and questioning how, with absolutely no previous credibility, he was launched from “zero to hero”) include the following:

1. He did not graduate from high school. He quit, earned his GED, and undertook a “self-designed” college education through a patchwork of courses at various community, for-profit, and online schools. This included a “self-designed” syllabus at (supposedly) five different institutions without bothering to seek a diploma. And we are supposed to believe he had more than an Amoeba-sized grasp on the world of high-tech intelligence gathering?

2. His Army record showed that he attended Catonsville Community College in 2002 and attended Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland. Catonsville Community College actually became the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville in 1998. Hope Davis, spokesperson for CCBC says they have “no record” of a student with that name ever attending school there.

3. He stated that he took courses at Johns Hopkins University, which he did not, and stated that he was receiving his Master’s Degree from The University of Liverpool (not sure how he managed that without a college degree!), which he did not. A spokeswoman for John’s Hopkins University said they have “no record” of Edward Snowden every attending classes there.

4. Snowden said he enlisted in the Army in 2003 in an effort to become a Green Beret; however, extensive searches of his military records by Army officials at Fort Benning show that he did not enlist until May 7, 2004, and that there was no evidence that he had EVER reported for duty at the base.

5. He was a security guard at the University of Maryland.

6. He worked for Booz, Allen, and Hamilton for less than three months and reported his income to be around $200,000 when it was actually only $122,000. Not bad for a high school dropout with not even three-months of on-the-job experience.

7. The home in Hawaii in which Snowden lived had been empty for weeks (verified by the realtor) before Snowden fled the country on May 20, and yet Snowden still says he left on May 1. The Hawaii realtor said the owner wanted Snowden and his girlfriend out of the house by May 1 so it could be sold, but also that the police stopped by four days before Snowden outed himself to ask where the couple had gone. If Snowden had been planning his leak for months, as he claims, where did he stay for three weeks, and why did he stay in Hawaii?

8. Snowden NEVER had the authority to wiretap ANYBODY, even though he claimed “But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone: From you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal email.” Snowden was a low-ranking grunt, a contractor, and not a “data collector”.

As Kenneth Hess, with ZDNet points out:

“Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution has gone to great lengths to classify those who spill classified information to the news media. There are baskets: 1) the ego leak (for the purpose of self-aggrandizement); 2) the goodwill leak (a downpayment for a “future favor”); 3) the policy leak (“a straightforward pitch for or against” a certain proposal); 4) the animus leak (get back at the bastards); 5) the trial-balloon leak (self-explanatory); and 6) the whistleblower leak (generally deployed by career personnel frustrated by the lack of change).”

The bottom line is Edward Snowden WAS and STILL IS a loser. He didn’t feel important in his job with BAH and needed a way to make himself more important. Because he has an clearly inflated sense of importance, not only does he constantly need attention, but he has become a pathological liar who skews facts to fit his illusion of “self-aggrandizement”. (Wow! Edward Snowden pegged to a T!)  I am appalled by our readiness to bestow a “hero” label upon one whose character and shady past tarnish the real heroes of this world such as the first responders of 9/11 who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others, the firefighters who fought and lost their lives in the wildfires that ravaged California last year, all of those who acted quickly during the Boston Marathon bombing to secure the area and save lives, and most importantly all of our military heroes who have, and continue to, willfully enlist and die for the freedoms of the United States.  Edward Snowden is NOT a hero.  His actions are a black mark to the true heroes of the world.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive…

Following the “botched” execution of Clayton Lockett on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, social media was buzzing with cries of “torture” and “cruel and unusual punishment.”  Curious about the background of the crime, I read several articles and court documents on the history of the case (i.e., the murder of Stephanie Neiman by Clayton Lockett).  My conclusion?  Clayton Lockett was merciless and cruel when he shot and buried alive 19 year old Stephanie Neiman when she refused to cooperate and ‘keep quiet’ after Clayton and his buddies botched a home invasion. It is abominable that “bleeding hearts” believe that Lockett deserved a “peaceful” death, let alone “prayer” versus “punishment” for his wrongdoing.  I then consulted the Bible and referenced these phrases in relationship to how I felt about Lockett’s death:

Leviticus 24:17 ESV – “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.”

Exodus 21:12 ESV – “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”

Numbers 35:30-31 ESV – “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death.”

Romans 13:1-14 ESV – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”

My brother, bless his heart, countered with:

Luke 6:37 ESV – “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Matthew 5:38-39 ESV – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

The details of Stephanie’s death are chilling.  She was beaten with the butt of a shotgun, gagged and her hands bound with duct-tape, and driven in her own truck (a graduation gift from her parents) to a dusty, country road.  Stephanie refused to cooperate with Lockett, stood her ground, and fully intended to report the crime.  Stephanie was forced to watch Lockett’s accomplice, Shawn Mathis, dig a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road.  Lockett then shot Stephanie once, but had to return to Stephanie’s truck when the shotgun jammed.  As he fixed the shotgun, Stephanie pleaded for her life and Lockett and Mathis joked and laughed about “how tough Stephanie was” before Lockett shot her a second time.  Lockett then ordered Mathis to bury Stephanie, despite the fact that Mathis informed him Stephanie was still alive.

As a mother, those details rock me to the core.  For Stephanie’s parents, the knowledge that their child, a promising, 19-year old with a lifetime of experiences and successes before her, was destroyed amidst the laughter and jokes of two individuals with such vile, selfish, callous for human life would leave me empty, cold, and heartless.  Even with the words of Jesus resonating within my heart and my head, forgiveness towards Lockett and Mathis would be unthinkable and unbearable.

In his book, Forgive and Forget, Lewis B. Smedes wrote:  “When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life.  You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself.”  The wounds caused by Stephanie’s murder festered within her family and the community for 14 years, 10 months, 25 days, and 43 minutes at which point Clayton Lockett was pronounced dead.  Today, 14 years, 10 months, and 27 days later, those wounds are still infected and festering.

How do we extend forgiveness when the act that begs forgiveness is so violent and abhorrent?  How do we forgive by faith, out of obedience to the Lord, when the atrocity of the trespass has destroyed our loved ones and our families?  How do we trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done so that the forgiveness can take place, let alone be complete?  And how do we continue to forgive by faith until the work of forgiveness (the Lord’s job) is done in our hearts?

Matthew 6:14-15 ESV – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Continued unforgiveness covets revenge.  Through unforgiveness, we take matters into our own hands and remove authority for vengeance from God.  We block God’s ability to bring about HIS wrath for the wrongdoer and to repay those who wrong us.  We remove our faith and our trust from our spiritual being and weaken the bond between our Lord and our own salvation.

Romans 12:19 NIV –  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Honesty is the Best Policy…

I’ve often been accused of being too opinionated or “negative” in my comments to others, and yet my own deep-rooted values, morals, and faith prevent me from sugar-coating any truth or fabricating any type of “feel-good” response that benefits neither myself nor the recipient of the response.  This tends to portray me as a bitter, prickly-pear cactus on many occasions, and sometimes results in hurt feelings rather than understanding of the origination of my comment.

I find it extremely difficult to demonstrate tolerance or bite my tongue regarding behavior and/or comments that are clearly put forth without any reflection on common sense.  The “ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people” and then “reasonably expect this behavior of nearly all people without any need for debate” has become as rare as the heavens raining fish and clearly headed towards a meeting with the Dodo Bird in the land of extinction.  Holding my tongue becomes even more difficult when stupidity permeates the actions of society in incidents ranging from a father KICKING his son down a skateboard ramp in an effort to teach him how to skateboard to Sharlene Simon, a 42-year-old woman, suing the family of a 16-year-old boy (Brandon Majewski) she “mowed down” in her SUV while he was riding home on his bicycle!  Her claim?  She “sustained serious and permanent injuries to important physical, mental, and psychological functions” and yet Brandon is DEAD!

When did it become acceptable by ANY measure to put aside common sense and so readily conform to the evils and wrongdoings of society?  When did we so eagerly choose to wipe “human” out of “humanity” and allow circumstances to push us along like a leaf caught in the current?  At what juncture did honesty become the exception to the rule, instead of the rule?  At what point did we, as a society, unanimously agree that honesty, integrity, accountability, and responsibility, ALL properties upon which our nation was founded, suddenly ceased to matter in our daily relationships with others?

As I gain wisdom with age, I often reflect back on my years as a teenager and can see how exasperated my parents were in their efforts to balance the upbringing of a cohesive family with the immorality of society.  I see their struggles through much wiser eyes and, intermixed with my own experiences of raising my children, realize that for all of the rules and structure that were placed upon the household, I would not have had it any other way.  The strict upbringing, in conjunction with the shunning of societal behaviors that were clearly detrimental then and continue to be detrimental now, positively formed the foundation of honesty and integrity through which I have succeeded.

In the end, when the chapters of my life come to a close, I will rest peacefully upon the knowledge that “honesty was always my best policy.”

The Colors of the World

Genesis 1:3 ESV:  “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

As I drove into work this morning, the air was crisp and clean from heavy rainstorms yesterday.  A light mist hovered above the ground, especially in low-lying areas between the hills, and the sun sparkled off of dew-kissed leaves.  Privileged to be able to experience the sounds, smells, and sights of the morning, I began to think about how I could explain color to those who had never seen or experienced it.  How would I describe the blue of the sky, the bright yellow sunflowers, or the color of the mist in the fields?  What words would best describe the fluffy white clouds that dotted the sky?  What experiences could be put into words to detail the green of the grass?  And as I thought, I came up with a list of colors for which I could provide words to the blind so that they, too, might share their beauty.

Blue is the cool, crisp moisture of chilled ice-water as it caresses your parched throat or a gentle, rain that drenches your face on a warm afternoon.

White is the bitterness of a winter wind, its icy needles stinging your skin.

Yellow is the warmth of the sunshine as you bask in the sun, face turned to its rays.

Red is the tingling heat of a roaring fire or the pungent, musky smell of a rose in bloom.

Green is the feathery touch of a blade of grass, the smell of newly mowed lawns, and prickly needles of a pine tree.

Brown is the rough bark of a tree, the aroma of fresh coffee beans, and the taste of maple syrup.

Orange is the oily citrus of a peeled orange; the tart sweetness of a pink grapefruit; and the warm, tangy juiciness of a tangerine.

Gray is a fluffy cotton ball; the soft gentle whisper of a bird’s wings in flight; and the morning dew in the sunlight.

Silver is the cool, smooth surface of a refrigerator door or the gossamer, silken thread of a spider’s web.

Black is the empty, hollow sound of an amphitheater room or the fuzzy, hard surface of a sunflower seed.

Purple is the color of passion, a simultaneous, mixed-up feeling of both hot and cold; and yet purple is the unmistakable strong, “clean,” sweet fragrance of lilacs in bloom.

According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide.  Of those, 39 million are totally blind, and 246 have low vision.  When you stop to consider the implications of total blindness, thirty nine million individuals who have never seen color is a staggering statistic!  Even more staggering is the fact that so MANY of us take our sight for granted – we have always had sight, we wake up every morning able to see the sunshine, and we bask in the myriad of colors that belong to our rain-bowed world.  Yet, rarely, do we realize how our other senses capture the essence and beauty of the colors around us and how little effort is required to share that beauty with those less fortunate.

Why Doesn’t God Answer All of Our Prayers?

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks since my son, Christian, said he didn’t believe in God because Christian had said prayers that God hadn’t answered. At the time, my only comment was, “God only answers those prayers which He feels directly benefit us and help us grow.” I’ve done some more reading, some more thinking, and have come up with an expanded answer that might make more sense.

Sometimes, no answer may simply be nothing more than a delayed answer. In God’s timeline, our human “day” does not necessarily represent His day. Other times, God does not answer because He has something better in mind for us and is waiting for the right opportunity to bestow it upon us. Furthermore, depending upon our prayer, we simply sabotage ourselves by lacing our prayer with attitudes and actions that to us seem logical, and yet to God are reflections of traits that He looks upon as sinful – sin (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 14:10–12), disobedience (Poverbsr 28:9), hypocrisy and insincerity (Isaiah 29:13; Malachi 1:7–9), wrong motives (Matthew 6:5–6; Luke 18:11–14; James 4:3), lack of faith (Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6) and even marital problems (1 Peter 3:7).

Ultimately, we are all capable of choosing right versus wrong. God permits us to make sinful choices and reap the consequences of those choices either to help us grow spiritually or to beget an outcome more beneficial to us as an individual or for the good of the many. Most importantly, it is up to each of us to weigh our thoughts and motivations to discern whether or not we’re going to God in prayer with the right heart and for the right reason (James 5:17 – “The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”).

The Search for God

This morning, I asked my son why he had become so anti-Christian considering his upbringing and his love for God when he was younger. His response to me was, “Because God doesn’t exist.” I asked him why he felt that way and his response was, “Because he never answered me when I asked him for things when I was younger.”

As a parent, my logical response to this is: “As a child, when you ask your parent for things merely because you ‘want’ them, do you always get them? When your parents do not respond to your ‘demands’ or choose to say ‘NO’, do your parents suddenly cease to exist because they have said ‘NO’?” As children of God (our Father), the same holds true. When we make “empty” (i.e., not from the heart) demands of our Father for things that are of no or little value, our Father responds as a responsible parent. When we, however, ask from the heart, patiently WAIT for a response, and open ourselves to actually HEAR that response, our Father is gracefully giving.

I have many friends and family members who are not Christians. That is their choice. As a Christian, it is NOT my responsibility to chase those individuals and force them to believe as I do, nor is it my responsibility to SAVE those individuals. My responsibility ends when I deliver our Father’s message. And while it makes my heart ache fiercely to see so many of those I love wandering aimlessly, emptily, and randomly in a mortal life with a PROMISE of eternal life just dangling like a carrot on a stick, I can neither force those individuals to reach out and take the carrot nor to LISTEN with their heart to find the truth.

I am a Christian. I believe in God. Your choice to not believe does NOT make my Father instantly cease to exist. I have a mortal mother and a father, both of whom are now deceased. Just because my mortal mother and father are dead does not mean that they never existed. If I were ever to tell somebody that their loved one did not exist just because that loved one were dead, I’d have a major fight on my hands and possibly a lifelong enemy! Just because you choose to deny that your eternal father does not exist, does not mean that he does not exist for me. I would NEVER dare to tell you that your parents do not exist. The point is, just because we can’t physically see or touch something does not mean it does not exist. The spirit sees all, while the narrow view from the mind hides most of it.

We cannot see the air we breathe, yet we KNOW it is there and we breathe it to survive every day. We cannot “see” music, and yet we know it is there because we CHOOSE to hear it. Even those who are deaf CHOOSE to hear it through the vibrations they FEEL. We cannot see the viruses that make us ill unless we use a high tech device to enable us to do so, and yet we know they exist. We know those viruses exist because we CHOOSE to know they exist. We feel a vast array of emotions, but we cannot SEE them or TOUCH them. And yet we never once deny their existence. We go through a lifetime existing in a world with hundreds, even thousands, of “things” that we cannot see or touch, and yet we never ONCE deny their existence – atoms, subatomic particles, electromagnetic waves, freedom, the edge of the universe.

Not one of us can deny the inner drive to discover our purpose, to live a life that means something and will be remembered, or to make a difference on the world in which we live. For once, I ask you to stop and consider this question, “Do you honestly think it is by ‘chance’ or by ‘destiny’ that humans are the only species capable of abstract thought and complex creation such that we have the unique ability to drive cars, program computers, perform complex surgeries that save lives, travel to the moon, create test tube babies, and so many other amazing feats that are beyond the capability of the billions of species that co-inhabit this earth?” Those abilities were granted not “by chance.”

“IT IS ONLY WITH THE HEART THAT ONE CAN SEE CLEARLY . WHAT IS ESSENTIAL IS INVISIBLE TO THE EYE”. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery