My Visit to the Holocaust Museum

A couple of weeks ago my family and I took a day trip to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments and take in some history. The last time I had gone for such a purpose I was on a class trip in junior high school and didn’t really appreciate it. I was mainly just happy I wasn’t sitting in math class. Being older and wiser this time, I was really able to drink in the history around me.

We went to see many of the monuments and took the typical tourist pictures including one of my daughter “holding” the Washington Monument between her two fingers. My favorite stop was to the National Archive where one can view the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It really is surreal to stand and view those two hand written documents and gaze over the signatures. I could certainly write a blog focused on these two pieces of American history, but that is not my purpose today.

The subject of this blog concerns our final sight-seeing stop; The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had been to this particular museum once before when I was in Washington on business and took some time for a little touring. Of course, the Holocaust Museum has its own unique atmosphere. No one is admiring displays or taking selfies. There is a somberness and a sobriety as one would expect. It is truly a place of contemplation.

We went through an exhibit entitled “Daniel’s Story” which took one through the life of a Jewish child named Daniel. It started off happy with memories of family and typical childhood antics. As one progresses through the story, however, invitation into the horrors of Nazi Germany are extended and one is taken through the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the Nazi Party) and their systematic shutdown of everything that contradicted their way of thinking. Soon we were shown the fenced-in ghetto where Daniel and his family were forced to move, and finally the concentration camp where Daniel was separated from his mother and sister never to see them again and the place where he would watch his father die. It was heart wrenching.

Growing up, my father was a bit of a World War II history buff, so I acquired better than average historical knowledge of the atrocities that went on in Hitler’s Germany. However, what one must always keep in mind is that these are not merely stories; people actually endured this evil. This was their life! To this day, I cannot fathom the depths of depravity that lead people to treat their fellow human beings with such absolute malice.

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I mentioned that the National Archive was my favorite place that we had visited in Washington D.C., but the Holocaust Museum was, by far, the most impacting upon my soul. I am still feeling its profound effects today which is why I am writing this particular blog post. We would hope that something this evil would never happen again, but the truth is that it still goes on this very day! One wonders why it isn’t top on our list of news stories.

I have found that such things only make the news if there is a political advantage to them. If there isn’t, they are happily ignored so that room can be made for celebrities and fools to make Nazi comparisons about anything they disagree with. Only days after our trip to the Holocaust Museum I read that some crusading celebrity was comparing eating meat to what was done to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, real Naziesque evils are taking place around the world and people are being slaughtered for nothing more than their ethnicity or their faith.

So, what is my point today? Merely contemplation. Don’t politicize it. Don’t try to liken it to your particular pet peeve. Simply sip a cup of coffee in a quiet place and contemplate it. What drives humanity to the depths of such evil? How can entire societies be duped into dehumanizing their fellow human beings to such levels that their lives become meaningless? It has gone on throughout history and despite all our technological and scientific advancements in this age, it continues today. Why?

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Politics and God

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The political atmosphere in our culture is so volatile right now, that any conversation over coffee that involves politics will be sure to keep your favorite brew piping hot. Firing memes at each other to stoke the bonfires of hate and anger seems to have replaced intelligent discussion and desire to understand one another. Each faction placing the majority of the blame on the other for hatred being fueled more and more, when in reality it is both sides often acting like petulant children.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are times where we must speak up and engage into the dialog of the day. However, I have witnessed way too much vitriol as of late. I have seen friends spew insults at each other simply over differing viewpoints. I myself have experienced friends who, being so consumed with their bitter position, have left conversation (even if it is a robust but respectful debate) behind and opted for childish attacks upon me on a personal level. Proverbs 18:2 – “The fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” Once we begin to veer onto that path, it’s a sign that we have been engaged too long into the mire and it is time to unwind until we can be pleasant and civil again.

The goal of each of the major political wings seems to be two-fold: 1) Be crowned as right 2) To make sure the other side is wrong. To achieve such goals often requires some sort of boost that will propel your side into the light of righteousness and simultaneously sink the opposing side into the depths of absolute evil. To destroy the opponent, tactics like comparing them to everything Nazi Germany are employed. I’ve always found this method detestable no matter who is using it. It reeks of desperation to try and make a weak point valid. If your position can’t stand strong without comparing your opponent to Hitler, then you probably don’t have a case. At the very least, you probably don’t know enough about your own position to present a convincing argument.

On the other side of obtaining the goals mentioned, one must make their side look like the personification of justice. It is not uncommon for God to be invoked for such a cause. I recently saw one of those man-on-the-street videos and one of the individuals being interviewed confidently exclaimed, “Jesus was a socialist.” My first thought was, “This guy needs to actually read a Bible and not just a few verses removed from context.”

Jesus was/is not a socialist, nor is He a capitalist, a democrat, a republican, a libertarian, or an environmentalist. If you feel the need to label the Lord Jesus Christ in such a manner then a better description of Him might be to call Him a kingdomist. Jesus Christ was first and foremost concerned with the Kingdom of God! Jesus constantly taught about the kingdom of God and even spoke to Pontius Pilate of His kingdom not being of this world when the Roman governor was trying to assess if Jesus posed a political threat to the empire. The kingdom of God, where absolute righteousness, justice, love, and holiness reign supreme. The kingdom in which Almighty God is Lord and His word (all of His word) is law. There isn’t a human government or political party on the earth that reflects the fullness of that kingdom of which Jesus constantly spoke.

Most people want to believe that God is on their side and that He supports their belief system. Therein lies the problem. We are supposed to be on God’s side! If we are not on God’s side, then we are wrong; that’s it! “So,” you may ask, “which political party is on God’s side exactly?” If you are asking that question you still haven’t understood the point of this post. None of them fully represent God. Therefore, we are left to vote and side with the political affiliation that we feel holds the most God-minded goals. Therein lies another problem; we’re biased.

Most people have already set in their mind that their particular party is “not perfect” but the other party is completely evil down to the core. If you cannot fervently call out sins on all sides, then you are not kingdom minded and therefore not on God’s side. Yes, we should vote and that means we will have to choose between the lesser of evils. However, if you spend your time, with great passion, pointing out the sins (or even supposed sins) of the opposing party yet sit quietly over the sins of your favorite party, then you are not on God’s side.

In the Old Testament, when Israel was split into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom was far worse in their morality (idolatry, sexual perversions, sexual license, killing infants, hatred, oppression of the poor, etc.) than the Southern Kingdom was, but both were turning from God, albeit at different speeds. Despite one being the lesser of two evils, God called them both out. Why did He do that? Because God is about His kingdom. God is not a man that He should be made to choose a side; it is mankind who must choose God’s side.

My challenge to you as you prepare for the weekend is to contemplate your political temperament… if only for the sake of your own mental health. If you are a follower of Christ, your passion should be in pursuit of the kingdom of God and the precepts of the Lord of that kingdom. You should be more aware than anyone that the coming kingdom of God is an everlasting kingdom that will abolish all other human-crafted governments. Beware that you do not push a caricature of that kingdom whereby you emphasize certain areas that may suit your political persuasion while deemphasizing others that do not fit your pet narrative.

If you are not yet a follower of Christ, I would still challenge you to evaluate your political temperament. If you find that you cannot be friends or be friendly to those who hold a different opinion, then the problem lies within you. I would advise you to disengage for a little while. Stop posting memes and visiting blogs and “news” sites that fuel your political fire. Instead, take someone out for coffee. Have a real conversation about life and kids and car troubles and funny moments. Learn to be and feel human again. And maybe, just maybe, have coffee with someone who knows about a better kingdom coming. I’m always up for sharing a cup.

As always, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

Coffee and Quiet

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Do you ever just long for a cup of coffee and some quiet? Not necessarily silence, but quiet. A peaceful moment with someone important while you both recalibrate your senses which have been scrambled by the noise of daily life.

Have you noticed that, in our present day, everyone seems to have something to shout into the face of other people? For all the talk of love, tolerance, and acceptance I have witnessed more disregard for these things than ever before. Pleas are made by individuals that the beliefs of others should not be shoved down their throats, but that is only so room can be made for that same individual to shove their particular beliefs down the throats of those to whom they just made complaint about. With all of this hostile noise, one needs to find some quiet.

Last week my wife and I decided to try out a little coffee shop we discovered nearby. We were looking for a quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee together. Life has brought some stresses upon us lately and we just needed a respite for the afternoon before heading into the fray once more. The place we found was small but nice. The coffee was a bit overpriced. The most unfortunate thing, however, was that we did not find our place of quietness.

The minute we entered the little coffee shop our ears were bombarded with the voice of a very loud talker. This woman was certainly friendly, but she had not yet discovered her “inside voice”. As she continued to speak with her friends, her booming vocal deliveries echoed off of the walls like a child making percussion instruments out of Mom’s cookware. We got our coffee and elected to sit outside at the little café tables. We soon began to chuckle because the woman’s voice was so loud that it was carrying outside through the café window!

Desperately wanting to find that quiet place, my wife and I decided we were up for a second cup of coffee so we drove to another coffee shop on our list of places to try. That’s right. We went to two different coffee shops in a row. Don’t judge.

Our second attempt was a winner. The coffee was good, the service was very friendly, the décor was all coffee themed, the chairs were comfortable, and best of all, it was quiet. We were finally able to sit and talk and decompress. We were able to process some of the stresses we were facing without those stresses hammering us on the head. We enjoyed our coffee together, engaged in conversation, shared some laughs and stayed off of our phones!

Sometimes, we just need to get away to somewhere quiet. A place to regain some perspective and perhaps some humanity. I would encourage you to find that place and try to get to it often enough to strengthen your mental and emotional health. Don’t fret. Your stressful situations will still be waiting for your attention. However, you will be better equipped to handle them.

I am reminded of the Lord Jesus Christ who was constantly pressed by the needs of others and assailed by the attacks of those who wished to silence Him. Jesus had a habit of making time to get away to a place of quietness. Jesus didn’t go to a coffee house, however. He would get away to commune in prayer with His Father. My point being, if Jesus thought it wise to get away and recharge in a quiet place, then why should we deceive ourselves into thinking we shouldn’t?

I have personally found prayer to be the greatest of quiet places. The place of prayer is where one gets answers and true perspective. I’m not talking about a place of meditation. I’m talking about real time with the real living God! That’s what Jesus practiced. That is where He found peace, strength, and direction to face the road ahead. Not by simply being still, but by active communion with God. If, through Christ, you have been given access to the throne room of God, then I encourage you to take more advantage of it.

My wife and I have had a very busy week and have a full day planned tomorrow (which is the reason this blog is being posted a bit early this week). This means that our “French Press Friday” may have to wait until Saturday. The week following also promises to be very hectic in addition to some of the other issues we are currently facing. With all of this tumult, we will have to make timeto find a quiet place together during the week and each of us will have to make daily timeto spend in prayer with God. If we don’t purpose to do these things and see them as valuable, we will be much worse for the wear when it’s all said and done.

I urge you to contemplate that for your own week ahead. You may not findthe time (as though it is freely laying around) but you can makethe time (carve it out of your schedule and make it happen). Keep in mind, no one is going to applaud you for being the busiest, most stressed out person of the month, so make that oasis of quiet happen at some point.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

Thinking About Freedom

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It’s the week of Independence Day. I suppose like many holidays; the Fourth of July has lost much of its meaning in the hearts of its celebrants. It could, likely be renamed “National BBQ and Fireworks Day” and not miss a beat. However, forgotten or not, Independence Day still stands as the anniversary of the United States of America’s declaration of freedom from the tyranny of Great Britain.

Now, over two-hundred years later, we love our freedom. We also sometimes abuse our freedom and take our freedom for granted. There are those who have no comprehension of their freedom because they have never experienced being enslaved or have not ventured outside the world of their own little bubble. But, regardless of how one may view their freedom, in the final analysis, human beings long to be free.

I have observed, however, that mankind’s greatest longing for freedom is not freedom from tyrannical governments, but rather, freedom from the consequences of our freedom. You see, freedom carries with it a thing called responsibility. When we are given the freedom to choose, we are also burdened with the results of our choice. Even the simplest of freedoms carries the responsibility of consequences. For instance, I am free to place a few scoops of soil in my French Press instead of coffee grounds. However, I should in no way expect that a cup of mud will not be the result. What human beings seem to desire most is the freedom to make the most outrageous and selfish of choices whilst simultaneously being free of producing a “cup of mud”.

I’ll make the statement once more; freedom carries with it, responsibility. Freedom has worked in this manner since the first freedom to choose was given to mankind.

“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” – Genesis 2:16-17.

I have had the question posed to me from time to time, “Why did God put the tree there if they weren’t allowed to touch it and He knew that they would?” That is a fine question and one with a simple answer. God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden for freedom’s sake.

You see, without a choice to disobey the Lord, mankind would have not really been free. We would have been trapped in a world where we would have no other recourse but to obey God. Adam and Eve were granted freedom, but the freedom they really wished for was the freedom to disobey and not suffer the consequences of that disobedience. That is not a freedom either of them were afforded.

Centuries later, mankind still continues our desperate quest to obtain freedom from the undesirable consequences of our choices. The quest is absolute folly. We may be successful in sometimes delaying the consequences, but eventually the bill comes due, and with the delay it often comes due with interest.

Freedom is precious, but it is inexorably attached to responsibility. I invite you to contemplate that truth over a cup of coffee. Then consider, “How will I handle the responsibility of freedom in my life?”

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.