Do You Wanna Get Away?

October 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | 1 Comment

Do you remember those Southwest Airline ads where things go horribly wrong for someone, and the narrator says, “Do you wanna get away?”  People have had the desire to fly away from tough situations for centuries, long before there was an airline claiming to make that possible.  There’s an example of that desire in Psalm 55.

In this Psalm, David expresses the trouble he is in with terms like “they drop trouble upon me,” “my heart is in anguish,” and “horror overwhelms me.” (vv3-5)  From out of that situation he expresses the get-a-way desire with “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness.” (vv6-7)  Then he adds here “Selah.”  I’ve mentioned before that my Old Testament poetry professor, the late Robert Alden, told us to read “Selah” as a musical interlude, which means, “Stop for a moment and think about that!”  David, who was called “A man after God’s own heart,” sometimes felt the need to escape from life!  “I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” (v8)  We are not the only ones who feel that way!

The next section (vv9-15) is a prayer about the enemies and friends who are causing trouble.  But in verse 16 the Psalm takes a turn as David adds these words:  “But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.  . . .  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old.  Selah”   Think about that!  The One who will save is the One who is enthroned from of old, the One who rules over all.  He is the One in whom we can find real refuge, whether we can physically get away or not.  That is why David, who could not fly away on Southwest, then adds “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (v22).

He said a similar thing in Psalm 11:1.  “In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’?”  Why do you tell me to fly away, he asks, when my real refuge isn’t getting away, it’s in fleeing to God?

Whatever trouble is raging around you, whatever circumstances may make you feel the need to get away, God is your true refuge.  Take your flight to him.  Mediating on these two Psalms (11 and 55) with a hot cup of tea would be a great place to begin.

The Killer Angels — A Book Review

October 18, 2012 at 10:22 am | Posted in Books and Movies | 1 Comment

I just finished reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  Wow – what a powerful book!  The Killer Angels, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1975, is about the battle of Gettysburg presented from the thoughts of selected officers on both sides.  Shaara researched the battle for six years before writing the novel, so the story he tells is accurate concerning battles, places and people.  The history is very interesting, but the inner thoughts of the men he highlights are what make the story so utterly fascinating.

Shaara presents the reasons for the US Civil War in the thoughts and discussions of his characters.  Being raised outside the South and in an environment where slavery was considered just plain wrong, I never understood why the Confederates were so adamant about fighting for it.  But Shaara’s Southern officers were not fighting to keep slaves, they were fighting to maintain a way of life handed down for generations – they couldn’t imagine freedom working without their way of life.  However, the people in the North believed it was for freedom of slaves that they fought.  My favorite character in the book is Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine; at one point he motivates his men, speaking about the cause of the war,

“This is a different kind of army.  If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some kind of loot.  They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing.  But we’re here for something new.  . . .  We’re an army going out to set other men free.” (p. 30)

These words came from Colonel Chamberlain not long after his thinking, “the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land.” (p. 27)

Apart from this book, I never would have thought about the nearness of the officers on opposite sides of the battle line, and the inner struggles it produced.  Many men were leading armies against those who, a few months before, were their friends or close associates.  Many of the officers were in school at West Point together, or had shared meals and social times together, and that affected they way they looked at the war.  They struggled over fighting people they loved for a cause which was supposedly higher; and they wrestled with breaking their vows to protect the land and people they now fought against.  One good example of this is Brigadier General Lewis Armistead of the South, who, just before the war, swore an oath to Major General Winfield Hancock not to fight against him.

“Well, the man was like a brother to me.  You remember.  Toward the end of the evening . . . it got rough.  We all began . . . well, you know, there were a lot of tears.”  Armistead’s voice wavered; he took a deep breath. “Well, I was crying, and I went up to Win and I took him by the shoulder and I said, ‘Win, so help me, if I ever lift a hand against you, may God strike me dead.’” (p. 258)

Going into the battle at Gettysburg was hard on Armistead because of that vow.  He said, “I thought about sitting this one out.  But, I don’t think I can do that.  I don’t think that would be right either.” (ibid).

According to Wikipedia, “The Killer Angels has been required reading, at various times, at the US Army Officer Candidate School, . . . and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,” besides numerous other military training institutions.  The article also reveals that, because of this book, the most popular monument at the Gettysburg battlefield is the 20th Maine memorial.  If these things are true, this book has had quite an impact.  I can understand why.

Well written, good story, powerful emotions, challenging and thought provoking too.  This one is a great read, deserving the accolades it has received.

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