Posted July 01, 2010
FINAL TAPS AND THE BIGGER PICTURE
The mountain you see through this tunnel vision shot is Lookout Mountain located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Buckle of the Bible Belt, Southern States, USA. Coming over the ridge cut of Missionary Ridge on Interstate I-75 never ceases to take my breath away. I've seen that mountain my entire life and if I relocated to another city, that image would be forever imprinted on my forehead beneath my Tennessee bangs.
It's the same mountain where you can see crystal clear water from Ruby Falls running deep inside a cool-dark damp place, Rock City's famous Swinging Bridge outside, and the place where I get claustrophobic - Fat Man's Squeeze. It's also the same place where the famous Incline Railway runs from the bottom of the mountain to the top, the same place where hang gliders come from all over the world to test their bravado and soar like red tail hawks circling for rabbit. But the biggy - it's the same mountain that General Ulysess S. Grant and the Union Army scaled to defeat the Confederates in the midst of a fight for Chattanooga during the Civil War. Called "The Battle Above the Clouds," my ancestors who lost loved ones and those who fought beside the soldiers and lived to tell about it would tell you today there wasn't the first civil thing about that war - some colorful belles of bygone days calling it that Horrible Misunderstanding and the War of Northern Aggression.
This is one of the mystic views from the Chattanooga National Cemetery. I used to visit this revered plot of land before gathering my children from school nearby if I arrived early. I have friends and family buried here. It's always been a peaceful place for me to come even though sadness permeates the hallowed ground. One of the most memorable times caught me during the beginning of an enchanting whirlwind snowstorm with some of the fattest snowflakes that had ever passed between my lips. I'm a sucker for snow cream.
A friend of mine who graduated from nearby McCallie High School remembers the time when he'd walk outside the classroom and couldn't see the mountain in the background due to smog. I, too, remember when Chattanooga was so polluted, I couldn't see the top of Lookout unless it was a crystal clear day. We girls not only had bad hair days, we had BSH - bad smog-hair days. Now that we are one of the top green cities in the nation - don't all ya'll pack up your quilt racks and move here - the view is incredible, even if our surroundings are some of the bloodiest battle grounds of that barbaric brotherly war.
I recently heard a young man say, "Jesus was all about love and wouldn't want us fighting each other. We're commanded not to kill." The young man thought war was wrong. In an ideal world that's true, but unfortunately, none of us live in an ideal world. Not everyone owns a WWJD bracelet - What Would Jesus Do? And there are those of us who might own one to match every outfit - I'm not putting myself on a pedestal or claiming to own a WWJD bracelet - who sometimes forget to turn the other cheek when the gauntlet has been thrown. Though the Lord knows I try. Oh, how He knows! I'm skyping him every day - he can see and hear me but He just doesn't come in clearly enough on my end to suit.
The Bible teacher pointed out to the young man, "In the Hebrew, the word used translates murder, not kill. In the Old Testament, King David and his best friend Jonathan were soldiers. God gave strength to the Israelites to defeat their enemies." God also promoted David when he killed Goliath in battle - choosing him to be king instead of the disobedient King Saul. Man being man, God knew there would always be wars and rumors of wars until the last King - His Son - took the throne.
But what about the War Between the States - the so-called Civil War? Surely Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, both stalwart Christian men, knew that slavery was wrong - no man should be held in bondage - and they both knew God's Word. They knew the Bible from front to back and not piecemeal as some are fond of reading it today, never understanding it's true meaning, only taking out the bits and snippets they feel suit them on any given hallelujah Sunday. Heaven help them if they crack their Bibles and point to Matthew 27:5 and read, "And he went away and hung himself."
The Civil War was more complicated than most. It wasn't only about slavery, it was about the bigger picture. States Rights - a form of freedom - played a huge part in why men of their caliber went to war in the first place. Just like people today knowing adultery is wrong, of course back then they knew permanent slavery was wrong. Men had been selling themselves into slavery since the beginning of time as indentured servants allowing them to work and buy their way out of servitude after serving approximately seven years. That's what enabled so many of our Scot-Irish ancestors from across the Big Pond to migrate to North America since they had no money to pay ship's passage during hard times. And of course, the African American slaves were captured and sold to the slave ships by other tribes in Africa during their own tribal wars. Mankind has always thought up ingenious ways to profit from another piece of flesh. This was nothing new and is not new now. Slavery still exists in foreign countries and sometimes here though hidden.
But in the heart-depths of Lee, Stonewall and others, they knew perpetual slavery was wrong. They also knew that a state's loss of freedom was a danger. And soldiers and their loved ones on both sides were praying to the same God for victory during a time when Christianity was rarely questioned in this country because the leaders founded the United States of America on Christianity.
I don't pretend to know all of the answers or the motivations fueling people's intentions - the Civil War has always torn at my heartstrings and I've studied it extensively. However, I do believe God is in total control and allows certain things to happen for a reason. We must stand strong. "Those who know your name will trust in you, for You Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." (Ps 9:10 NIV) There was a time when God's people went to war at His command against their own because of a horrendous atrocity but didn't win the first two battles. Upon further inquiry, He then told them to go back and fight again and the battle would belong to them. That was during a civil war between brother Israelites. Precious lives were lost.
And looking back, I wonder if the Israelites realized that wandering in the wilderness was all about obedience and learning to depend on God instead of worrying if their shoes matched their pocket books. Back then, the women didn't have to worry about different sizes and styles for business-day shoes, church-day shoes, party-dress shoes, fat-day shoes, pregnant-day shoes, plantars faciatis-day shoes, or bad bunion-day tenni-pumps. Ladies, are you out there! Can I get a witness! They all wore sandals that miraculously never wore out. I'm sure after forty years the message sunk in. Obey me. They could never have taken the Promised Land if they'd all been doing their own thing with the mantra It's All About Me! Obedience was crucial.
And when I read the Bible from front cover to back cover from a writer's perspective, there's no way dozens of authors could have written a book that long over several centuries and it all fit together like a giant puzzle, each chapter falling into perfect place. God begins from the beginning of Genesis and tells the reader exactly what's going to happen. Knowing this, if a competent general had access to a fool proof Battle Plan from the Commander-in-Chief of his army, plus access to the battle plan from the opposing army's commander, wouldn't he read both to gain strategic knowledge to out-fox the enemy and win the ultimate victory?
Most people use the excuse that they've lost their faith because of what they experienced or witnessed in their churches while growing up. And that could be true, however, what's stopping them from reading the Battle Plan at home? So many are foundering in the dark without their spiritual armor and swords. They're missing out on the key to activating their spiritual swords that's hidden smack dab in the middle - the WORD.
I urge everyone to begin at Genesis and not give up while battling through the begats until you reach that final battle scene. Once you begin to read and understand, you'll no longer see the mountain top through tunnel vision, the entire tree will be removed as you begin understanding more. It's crystal clear, with no pollution to it, who will be winning the final battle and where that mountain top will be located and that no earthly general's army will be able to scale it. Hint: It won't be in the Bible Belt and there is no Swinging Bridge nor a Fat Man's Squeeze. It's then you'll understand that though we dread hearing final taps and mourn our loved ones, no life lost for freedom and God's Plan is lost in vain.
When the last final taps are played, we won't be worrying about BSH - bad smog-hair - or looking through tunnel vision at only part of the picture. We'll be able to see an entirely bigger vista stretched out before us. I hope to meet you one day on the Mountain Top.
Happy July Fourth and enjoy those hamburgers and hot dogs and save room for the watermelon and homemade strawberry ice cream. Of course if you're from across the state line - Georgia - yours will be peach!
Scripture reference for the Israelites fighting against their own brothers in a civil war against the Benjamites: Judges 19-20 (God ordained battles - the first two were lost before God gave the final victory. As long as they kept their eyes on Him and stayed focused, even though they lost thousands of men, they won the final victory.)