Monday, August 24, 2015

Simply Stellar

Spend some time around Soldiers and you’ll inevitably hear some of the funniest, most quotable quips ever. The combination of hardship and imminent danger are the perfect Petri dish for producing witticisms and wisecracks. Like the gallows, Army culture is a breeding ground for humor -- bringing a moment of levity to an otherwise lugubrious environment.  

The term “gallows humor” comes from the amusing last words uttered by those preparing to pay the piper – more precisely, death by hanging. Gallows are a structure that normally has a rope tied to a crossbar directly above a trapdoor upon which the condemned will stand. With the noose securely around the ill-fated individual’s neck, the trapdoor suddenly swings open, causing the miscreant to abruptly exit this world and immediately enter into the after-life for all eternity.

The first example of gallows humor I’ll cite involves that traditional contraption. Mass murderer William Palmer, while being led by the hangman to stand on the trapdoor asked, "Are you sure it's safe?" The second involves a more modern device designed to bring about the same end. After murderer James French was seated in the electric chair he asked, "How's this for a headline? -- ’French Fries'." Although the condemned may have met their end, their humor lives on. 

While not exactly “condemned to death”, the Soldier is well aware of the inherent danger in his chosen profession; fully recognizing the medicinal value of humor. Consider this Captain’s comments concerning landmines: “The lieutenant raised his hand and asked, ‘If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?’ The captain replied, ‘Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area.’” The levity the Captain conveys would likely be lost upon the Lieutenant’s mom, but laughed at by those in uniform.

A couple of the more cerebral quips I’ve heard, both communicating tremendous truths, came from men who both wore stars. My boss for my last few years, a three-star general once told me, “Man’s only natural enemy is his higher headquarters.” Oh the truth in that. The second was my Command Sergeant Major (CSM) describing the deportment of our Division CSM; “He talks loud but he doesn’t say much.” Guess he never got the memo about “speaking softly and carrying a big-stick.”

All that said, there is another who conveys His commands in a far different way. He does not shout and doesn’t depend on humor to transmit a deeper truth. Nor does He wear stars to establish his authority. Rather, He made the stars -- demonstrating His eternal, immutable and insurmountable authority. His handiwork is spread across the sky like a world-wide amber-alert for the lost. The skies silently scream, “Look up, and listen up!” 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

For some, the star filled sky is only ambient light. To the professorial-secularist who peers through telescopes and patronizes the planetarium, seeking to see what stars are made of, not their Maker; they completely miss the mark. For others, stars are merely a magical twinkle, simply inspiring them to wonder what they are. But for the person more concerned with one day meeting his Maker, more concerned with his fallen state than falling stars, their declaration of glory is great news.

The stars are a sign that gently whispers that we’re not forgotten and that our Deliverer wants us to look to Him for hope. Jesus said it this way, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Unlike that aforementioned Division CSM, the One who made the stars doesn’t talk loud nor say nothing. No, His voice goes out unto all the earth revealing knowledge. Such that, once we’ve drawn our last breath, entering through that proverbial trapdoor that all mortal men will pass, then we will instantly realize that ignorance of the sky is no excuse. 

Let everything that has breath, Praise the Lord! 

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