Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Avalon Chronicles #33: "Bad, Sad, or Mad?"

by allenbclark@aol.com    www.combatfaith.com


     For thirty months (January 1979-June 1981) it was my privilege to be a political appointee in the administration of William P. Clements, Jr., the first Texas Republican governor since Reconstruction after the Civil War. When he became a candidate in the spring 1978 primary, I quickly signed up to help him because I had met him by sitting next to him at a head table when he addressed an audience in his position as Deputy Secretary of Defense. His business success and leadership experience at the Pentagon convinced me he would be an outstanding governor of Texas and that he was!
     As it evolved I was his first selection to help staff his office after he won a hard-fought uphill battle against a heavily-favored Democrat. I was hired on the staff of the outgoing Democrat Governor Dolph Briscoe in early December 1978 to assist in laying the groundwork for Clements' assumption of office in January 1979. He appointed me his special assistant for administration and when one entered the governor's office suite, if one turned right instead of left to his office, one entered my office. One of the unexpected responsibilities of my new position was to help screen the intermittent "characters" that were drawn as magnets to the governor's office. They were a diverse crowd of "bag ladies," recently released patients from state mental hospitals, paranoids who were being invaded by messages from outer space, CIA mind control victims, individuals seeking all sorts of redress of grievances at all levels of government, and even a representative of a "cultic" religion who said his leader could be the returned Messiah. It was my desire to derive some sort of perspective on this interruption of all the many other duties consuming my time.
     Eventually I requested a psychiatrist from the state's Mental Health Department to visit with me to impart some wisdom and equity to the approach I should follow to respond to these people from circles I was encountering for the first time in my life. He differentiated "challenged/troublesome" persons in three ways, "bad, sad, or mad." It was a simple manner of triage for those who presented themselves to our receptionist
and the Department of Public Safety security person in the Governor's Reception Room. The definition has always stuck with me and I tend to catalogue some people in one of those categories. Since I have had my own healing from Post Traumatic Stress after losing my legs in Vietnam, I have dedicated myself to helping combat veterans and active military heal also. Many troubled combat vets, who will admit issues from wartime, are in the "sad" mode, grieving from the emotional or spiritual wounds of horrific wartime experiences. Many suffer sadness from moral injury in the war from killing others, especially women and children in the fog of war, or when they did or did not do something which caused injury to others.
      Clint Eastwood starred in a 1966  movie, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." That title was apropos for my eleven months in Vietnam beginning in 1966. We recognize the "bad," serious criminals amongst us. Among the "bad" are also those "uglies" who hurt others through perpetrating or not performing actions that harm others emotionally, bodily, or financially through wrongful emotional or ethical actions. My manifestly  "good" Lord Jesus healed my "sads", and faith in Him can go a long way to healing everyone's "sads," and maybe also many of the "bads" that relate to wrongful and sinful behavior, and, who knows, maybe even some of the "mads," although those admittedly are best left to medical professionals.
     By faith in Jesus it is my definite belief that all who are "bad, sad, or mad," can perhaps obtain some relief, if not healing, through faith in Jesus with the transformational changes that only come through His teachings in our Bible. I tried it and liked it! It just may work for all of us and many we know.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Avalon Chronicles #32: "The Good Life"

By: allenbclark@aol.com
 www.combatfaith.com        www.combatfaith.blogspot.com

Ecclesiastes 3:13 "And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God." (KJV)

     Last weekend I journeyed to the northeast to visit my younger daughter, her husband, and two grandchildren. Friday we drove to Hershey, PA to enjoy Hershey Park for the day. Enjoy is too mild a word to describe the experience. The exuberance, wonder, and simple joy exhibited by young children is indeed a sight to behold. All over the park were young families, grey-headed grandparents (with me in that group), young couples, teenagers, all partaking in "the good life" for the day. The smells of chocolate permeated from the shops, the tastes of many delicacies were satisfied over and over again, and the sounds of thrills on the roller coasters were always in the background. All walks of life and styles of clothing were evident and cute little children clinging closely to older siblings or parents were constantly in view. For the day it definitely was "the good life" in America, our special and "exceptional" place on this planet in the August sun and I drank it in in big gulps.
     At my daughter's church on Sunday the pastor's topic was "the good life." He made reference to the above quote from Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon. In my King James Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House Publishers) the book's introduction states, "Grasping the sweet things-possessions, experience, power, and pleasure-they find nothing inside. Life is empty, meaningless...and they despair." Hershey Park that day and definitely for me was a place of pure pleasure, full and meaningful with no despair evident. The attendees with the admission charges, vendors, and numerous places of culinary delights were enjoying the good of someone's labor and it was all "the good life." The end of the day for all could have been nothing but full of peace and contentment. It was a day when I marveled at this example of America's "exceptionalism" in a purely physical environment. The pastor and Solomon, "...affirms(ed) the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure; but only in their proper place. All of these temporal things in life must be seen in the light of the eternal."
     Eventually at the end of the day for sure and always in life, the tastes are no more, the squeals of delight of the children are quieted, the bright lights are turned off, and the carousel stops its circling. For many life is meaningless. But, for those of us who know that Jesus is the Son of God, who entered our physical world two thousand years ago, we can partake fully in all these fleeting pleasures knowing that eternity awaits us. Perhaps in Heaven God will provide carousels and Hershey Kisses if those are important any longer.
     We finished the day at the water park area where I patiently waited while my daughter and her children lazily floated on inner tubes around a water way. By myself my eyes took in the peace, tranquillity, and enjoyment before my eyes, but my mind wandered to the order by the president the night before to provide humanitarian aid to the thousands of minority Iraqis besieged by the fanatics to reestablish their caliphate by means of barbaric terror. The contrasts with my eyes and the thoughts in my mind were unsettling. Ecclesiastes 3:2 states, "A time to be born, and a time to die,..." Park attendees that day were born to revel in the well-deserved pleasures of that oasis. Also that day for some it was a time to die in all the strife and warfare all over the rest of the world. My prayer is that sometime somewhere all that feel that "the good life" goes on forever will recognize that it is ephemeral and that by ensuring their place in eternity with its lasting "existence"  is the only "forever" there can truly be.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avalon Chronicles #31: "The Magna Carta"

by Allen Clark       allenbclark@aol.com
www.combatfaith.com       www.combatfaith.blogspot.com

     In November 2013 on Linda's and my trip to southwest England we toured Salisbury Cathedral, defined as "Britain's finest 13th century cathedral." We had two very delightful and instructive guides, one a retired Navy captain aviator and a retired Army major, who had been an advisor to the Abu Dhabi Army. Some of my favorite conversations on our trip were with former military men.
     One very distinct feature of all the cathedrals we visited is that they have memorials dedicated to their military. At Salisbury there were several windows and a plaque dedicated to the Wiltshire Regiment that had been in the British Army invasion of Washington that burned our White House in the War of 1812. The guides did not impart that fact with any degree of relish and I had a lack of enthusiasm upon learning about it, but this was their history and I accepted it. They have a decided degree of pride in their local units that serve in their army. A very poignant plaque, dedicated to the Burma Campaign of 1941-1945 is quoted thusly, "When you go home, tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today." Very fitting words for America's youth and those protected in America by our own military.
     The most compelling sight to view at Salisbury Cathedral is that is home to the best preserved of four surviving original Magna Carta sealed by King John on June 15, 1215. On one of my previous trips to England I had gone to the site on the Thames River outside Windsor Castle at Runnymede where this monumental document was signed. According to the cathedral's pamphlet, "...the document set down the relationship for the first time between the king and his subjects and their rights." It inspired our own Constitution. The Magna Carta was most significant to the western world because by its signing, a significant end came to the "divine right" by which the English King John and other monarchs before him had ruled. King John had been such an oppressive king that his barons and knights forced him to sign the Magna Carta.
     It has had tremendous influence in the United States. Russell Kirk wrote in The Roots of American Order that the Magna Carta "...became the rock upon which the English constitution was built. It is the principle of the supremacy of law....it is the root of the Declaration of Independence." This document laid the foundation all these many centuries ago for the freedom and liberty enjoyed today by us in America.
     In The Light and the Glory Peter Marshall and David Manuel wrote about the situation in our land that contributed to our own Revolution, "Americans were now being taxed for the mother country's own revenue and at the same time denied the basic right of all Englishmen to representation in the government which was levying the taxes...For the King to ignore this right which was guaranteed by the Magna Carta, meant that he was putting himself above the law and that settled it." Besides this cause of our Revolution it must be recalled that a major impetus to securing our freedom was due to our Christian ministers. "Thanks to the Great Awakening there was now a new generation of committed clergy salted throughout America." (Marshall and Manuel).
     It is easily said that the foundations of  our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution had their roots in that document which by 2015 will have been signed 800 years ago to curb the power of a king who had run roughshod over his subjects.