I need to stop writing posts. This is due to a commitment of attention, of energy, and of time that should go, now, in another direction.
I am grateful that so many of you read what I write, and I am particularly blessed by the relationships that have developed among us, which have arisen by way of comments, and by emails, and by other means.
Until further notice, you will not receive what have been my weekly posts, on Friday mornings at 11 eastern.
For those of you who are Subscribers, I hope you will keep your subscriptions open, so that, if I begin posting again, we may easily reconnect.
In the meantime, I encourage you to--
Live with and Attitude of Gratitude!
I used to publish politically oriented posts. During the past year, I’ve forsaken them in favor of posts that fall instead under one or another of the general topics GOD, LIFE, and WRITING.
This one is political, and it falls under LIFE. Life includes the political, especially when the point of the post is supported by ancient wisdom.
Have you seen the movie “Darkest Hour?” If you have not, please do.
Perhaps you have heard about it even if you have not seen it. It is the new Winston Churchill biopic, directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman among others.
The movie covers the month of early May, 1940, through early June. In early May, both France and Belgium fall to the German Nazi attack. With much of the British government disenchanted by the leadership of Neville Chamberlain, who favors appeasing Hitler, Churchill is brought out of relative obscurity—he is a disliked and maligned Conservative—and he is presented to King Edward VI.
The King, with teeth clenched, asks Churchill to form a government, as Prime Minister. Churchill agrees, and, as they say, the rest is history.
In early June, the Miracle of Dunkirk occurs, and the movie ends. But, historically, that’s the beginning of many, many dark hours.
Why should you see this movie?
First of all, it is brilliantly done, in terms of acting, directing, set design, makeup, cinematography, and script.
Second of all, it happened (not all of it: the scene in the Underground did not occur in actuality.)
Third of all, its event begins an historical triumph of freedom and of western decency as a Christian culture over Axis tyranny. I believe we MUST remember and embrace this history, or else we may go through the same darkest hour all over again.
Churchill set in motion the wavering hearts of the British public and galvanized his government to resist the Axis. Hitler was poised to invade Britain. In order to soften the county for his invasion, Hitler sent his air force to bomb London, particularly, and other locations, so the British would crumble before his army when it waded ashore. This began the Battle of Britain, an air war that stirred the hearts of the Allied world.
Here’s a snapshot--
Thursday, August 15, 1940
Blue skies over Britain.
Never before have more sorties of bombers been flown against the battered democracy in Britain than Hitler sends today.
Luftflotte 5 strikes northern England from its base in Norway. Luftflotten 2 and 3 hurl themselves once again across the Channel. It is high tide in the Battle of Britain, and Hitler’s invasion itself is only moments away. Britain is virtually bankrupt.
Despite the evacuation of 338,226 troops from France—the Miracle of Dunkirk—her army is toothless, nearly all of its weapons abandoned on the French shoreline.
Hitler owns Europe. His U-boats own the North Atlantic. The RAF is stretched too thin: every fighting plane—every spitfire and hurricane—is airborne. There are no reserves at all. The War Cabinet calculates that “pilot wastage” is running at a rate of 746 men per month, way more than are being trained.
When asked for his war plan, Churchill replies, “My plan is we survive the next three weeks.”
The question then, possibly the question which might emerge nowadays: Will the democracies consent to their own survival? A secret warrior, code named Intrepid, is even at that moment negotiating with President Roosevelt for the loan of 50 rusty, outmoded destroyers…anything, in fact, that might stem the tide. He’s the one who phrased the question above. Will the democracies consent to their own survival?
Three hundred twenty-four years before this, Shakespeare died. Here’s another way to ask that same question. Will the democracies be Hamlet, or Horatio? Will they dither and muse? Or will they—as bluff soldiers do—march across a stage strewn with the corpses of the better-notters…and survive?
Roosevelt can do nothing openly to help. The dithering American public will not allow it. This conflict on the far side of the world is not theirs.
Only twenty years before, they consented to pull Europe’s chestnuts out of the fire, and what good has that done? Now three massive tyrannies are spreading like cancers across the other side of the world--Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, Tojo’s—the capitalist system seems to be in ruins, and if there is any hope during this bloody century, it must be in the Soviet worker’s paradise (wherein a few eggs need to be broken to make an omelet, indeed, but Stalin should be given a tolerant pass about his tyrannous internal egg-breaking).
The question then, the question now: Will the democracies consent to their own survival?
That which is great is also that which is miserable. The greatest single idea of democracy is that the people rule; they have their say. The greatest single weakness of democracy is that, while the people are saying—on and on—the gray ideas will ensnare them, and they won’t see the black and the white.
What is the case today, in 2018? Hitler wrote Mien Kampf: he told the democracies what he planned to do, in advance.
Today, in Iran, in North Korea, and elsewhere, tyrants almost daily tell us what they plan to do, in advance.
Will the democracies consent to their own survival?
It takes a mighty provocation for a democracy to fight and especially to fight to the death. Tyrants always get the upper hand right away quick: they don’t hold back. But the democracies cry, “Wait! Wait! Let’s talk. Surely, surely, we can talk this problem through.”
It’s what tyrants count on; it gives them time.
Which they need…because there’s this other thing about the democracies. As Victor Davis Hansen has pointed out, when the democracies are finally put to it, when they finally perceive the choice to be either black or white, at long last, free men and women stand up to be counted, and then the tyrants are toast.
Churchill, evening, August 15, 1940. The Battle of Britain lasted through mid-September, but this was the end of its last, worst days—before little Britain and her spitfire pilots banished the massive German air force from its skies:
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The picture is our son Sam showing his silver medal, which he won last Monday at the North Carolina Special Olympics winter games at Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock.
He looks pleased, doesn’t he?
Blowing Rock, NC, is a four-hour drive from our home in Roanoke, Virginia. Our SW Virginia contingent of athletes attended the games as a group. This was Sam’s and my second time at this venue.
Sam medaled there last year, too.
Last weekend’s event was fun for all, with a banquet and a raucous dance on Sunday night and then a rush to get off the mountain ahead of the coming “wintery mix,” which was due on Monday afternoon, to break the intense cold everyone in the US had experienced during the previous many days.
The drivers of our car pool of vehicles were not concerned about getting off the mountain. That would be easy.
We were concerned that the wintry mix was coming fast from the west, and we needed to stay ahead of it while we rushed eastward for 100 miles before we could climb the most difficult part of the road we would be on. We didn’t want to be caught on that difficult part of the road, slushing through any form of wintery mix.
This difficult part is famous among drivers on I-77 as a very steep and scary stretch, to be avoided in any sort of powerful weather. It has a precipitous drop, open to the south and the east, carries intense truck traffic, slams with powerful cross-winds, and it seems to be going either straight up or straight down (though of course it isn’t—it just seems so).
We were going to be going up. We were leaving the NC lowlands for Virginia’s mountains, and we would be crossing into Virginia at the crest—in a tiny town of fancy name—the town of Fancy Gap.
Yes, the wintry mix did hit us.
After 100 fast miles, it hit us just as we cleared the rise at Fancy Gap.
I wrote about Sam as a Special Olympian in a post in June, 2017, after his winning performance in the Virginia Annual State Swimming Meet. In that post I repeated a point made by my wife Channa. Sam competes in various team efforts, but he earns his best results in his two sports that are individual effort sports—swimming and alpine skiing.
In that post, I made a biblical point as well. I’ll make a small point this time, too. Devotional, not biblical.
But, really what I am most enthusiastic to communicate about last weekend is how pleased I was with Sam’s athletic effort and with his excitement about his result.
If you’d like, here’s the link to the earlier post.
Swimming and skiing are team sports, of course, but only in a general sense—the athletic competition is between single athletes and time. During practice runs and time trials Sunday and Monday, Sam showed he had mastered his turns—he never missed a gate. (Particularly, he never missed the third gate, which was the hardest to get round efficiently and neither lose speed nor get off track and thereby miss the fourth gate entirely.)
When the competition began, the issue was time. How fast could he do it?
You see the result in the picture above. (Taken by a friend, one of our team’s wonderful volunteers.)
Our team drove six hours round trip from our meeting place to the mountain…and Sam and I live an hour away from our meeting place, so he and I rode another two hours—that is, eight hours all together. For a day-and-a-half on the mountain.
Racing back ahead of the wintery mix, I was aware that we as volunteers and coaches were doing a lot of work—a lot of driving, burning of gas, wearing of tires, etc., etc.—just to spend a short time (as short as possible!) running gates on snow.
When we lived in Maine, we were only about 50 minutes away from a nice ski mountain where Sam practiced with his team and coaches weekly through the whole season. Competitions were held at one or the other of the two large ski mountains way up north in the state, each about two-and-a-half hours distant.
Here’s my question, relating to devotions--
Have you ever felt that you were going through a lot of work, expending a lot of effort, avoiding distracting storms, just to get to the point where you can do the thing that you had set out to do in the first place--which, in itself, is the point?
Have you ever wondered, then, whether the effort has been worth the result?
Sometimes the effort is greater—like getting to and from Blowing Rock—or sometimes lesser—like driving less than an hour to ski all afternoon. But still it’s an effort.
As for the result?
From a skiing perspective, observe Sam’s grin. Sam loves to know that he is a competent skier. He loves to go on any trips away from home, and ski trips with me are special favorites. He loves to display his medals, but his medals are not the point for him—for him, it’s the being there, the experience, and the joy.
From a devotional perspective, of course, you yourself must gauge your result.
Speaking for myself, I am too easily distracted by the effort of getting there, and pray—in 2018—for a more disciplined willingness to focus on the doing-of-it whatever the effort.
May it be so.